Monday, March 25, 2013

It's Thee Mighty Fevers!

Credit Mr. Greg Mongroll, Faster & Louder's head talent scout, for this tremendous find. He posted a song from Thee Mighty Fevers on my Facebook wall a few weeks back. My immediate reaction was, "Holy shit! Did Teengenerate get back together?!" And this was before I even knew they were from Japan! Needless to say, I was blown away. Sure enough there have been quite a few Japanese garage-punk bands on the scene in recent years. However, it's been quite a while since I've heard one that was legitimately at the exalted level of Teengenerate or early Registrators. But Thee Mighty Fevers out of Kobe have stepped up as true heirs to the throne. Their debut LP is out on the venerable Dead Beat Records, and you can catch a four-song preview on their Bandcamp page.

Kicking up a crackling, warp-speed variation on '70s American punk, Thee Mighty Fevers take me back to the days when garage-punk was king. The way they describe themselves pretty much says it all: "Fully fledged musicians creating sounds to get the blood pumping. Simple, fast, Rock'n'Roll... Endless freedom." How awesome is that band bio?! Who can't get behind endless freedom?! Fuck'in Great RnR is the title of the LP, and I'd call that truth in advertising for sure! Songs like "Bad Party" and "High-school Riot" are everything punk music should be: fast, wild rock n' roll delivered recklessly and furiously. These guys tear through every frenzied note as if their lives depended on it. They've got a raw, tough sound with killer songs to boot! Back in the day, they totally could have had a record on Crypt or Rip Off Records. Thankfully we still have great labels like Dead Beat that know true greatness when they hear it. And while you wait expectantly for the LP to show up in the mail, you can stream the band's first EP in its entirety. If these guys don't get your juices flowing, it might be time for you to switch to "adult alternative". 


Friday, March 22, 2013

Music for Pleasure

I've decided that our next house will have to have a record room. This room's sole function would be to give me a place to sit and listen to music. I've realized that I don't spend nearly enough time these days just sitting and listening to music. When I was a little kid and first got into rock, that was the way I listened to music. I bought records, and I sat in my room and played them. I taped songs off the radio and played them back. I'd lie in bed all night listening to the latest hits. Now it seems I'm too "busy" to actually spend undivided time with records. If I listen to music, it's usually while I'm in the midst of "multitasking". I listen to the majority of my music while I'm working on the computer. I frequently listen to music while I'm driving. I play the radio in the morning while I'm getting ready to go to work. But rarely do I reserve the time to concentrate only on listening to music. I'd like that to change.

I've heard stories of friends' dads who'd come home from a hard day of work and retire to their designated area to listen to records. One guy listened to Harry Chapin. The other guy played Bee Gees records. Both of them drank beer while they enjoyed their tunes. It seems that that older generation has it all figured out. My old man was the same way back in the mid-'70s. He had an "office" in the basement of our split level suburban home. He'd put on his robe, lie in his recliner, and jam to Jim Croce records on the turntable. I still love Jim Croce to this day.

I envision a similar set-up in my own future. I need a pimped-out lair of rocking. Our brave new world of downloads and streaming tracks certainly has a lot going for it, but I have to admit that no amount of instant gratification can ever replace the satisfaction of music in tangible formats. There's just something cool about holding an album cover and reading the lyrics while you listen to the record. I'll want an old school stereo system with turntable and large speakers in my record room. I'll have shelving to store my vinyl. I'll procure a comfortable chair and perhaps even a small fridge for quick access to liquid refreshment. The walls will be adorned with Clash and Stones posters from back in the day. I may even convert an old shower into a state of the art listening booth. 

Of course, even in my present living situation there is opportunity for me to modify the way I listen to music. The beauty of the iPod is that you can take it anywhere. I have a recliner in my man cave. That's usually my seat for watching TV. Instead of always coming home and turning on the TV, I could sit back in my chair and play an album. And by all means, I could go buy myself a new record player for the man cave. The one I have now is left over from the late '90s and sometimes doesn't operate at the completely correct speed. The needle hasn't been replaced since Bill Clinton was president. I'm due for an upgrade.

I suppose what I don't like about all of this technology today is that I allow myself to get so distracted all the time. I'd like to get lost in listening to an album instead of needing to check my email and Facebook every two minutes. I can't sit through two minutes of commercials during a hockey game without changing the channel 16 times and checking my phone for messages. And I don't blame the technology. I blame myself. I've cultivated a significiant attention deficit entirely through habit. Breaking these habits, while a daunting task, will be a highly fulfilling experience. I'm going to make myself relax and listen to music. No distractions will be allowed. My iPhone will remain upstairs. My laptop will remain shut. I won't take notes. I'll just listen and enjoy. Maybe I'll even start taking walks so I can listen to music on foot. Lately I've been doing a special exercise where I stay in bed after the alarm goes off in the morning, listening to music instead of getting up and being productive. These "sessions" have been known to last 45 minutes.

Oh, the extreme sacrifices we must sometimes make to enrich our lives!


Tuesday, March 19, 2013

Third, but not least!

So the third Steve Adamyk Band album sounds quite a bit like the second, and I couldn't be happier about that! There's often a Catch-22 type situation with all these punk/powerpop/garage bands. If you stick to the formula, you get slagged for making the same record over and over. If you change your sound, people will say that they liked your old stuff way better. What's a band to do? I think Steve Adamyk has done a damn good job of "evolving" his music without switching up the recipe. New album Third holds proudly to the '70s pop/punk playbook, but there's no way I can deny that it's an even better record than last year's terrific Forever Won't Wait. Perhaps this time it's a little more punk and a little less powerpop, but the difference is very subtle. If you're this good at what you do, why mess with a winning formula?

Even with a re-vamped rhythm section, Steve and the gang continue their tight execution of dizzying and utterly infectious poppy punk rock. Seven of 12 songs fail to cross the two-minute barrier, and the frenetic pace by no means obscures all those ultra-catchy melodies. For me, what pushes this record slightly ahead of the last two is that it sounds both a little edgier and better produced. And the guitar hooks, such a staple of this style of music, are absolutely hot! If you're not bobbin' your head and tappin' your feet within the first 15 seconds of "Not A Witness", you may be clinically dead.

Given the great number of truly excellent bands currently doing this style of music, it would be very easy to take Third for granted. But that would be a huge mistake. I cannot emphasize enough what a tremendous record this is. It very much deserves a place on your album shelf alongside your Dickies and Buzzcocks titles. In my book, it can't possibly be a bad thing that my favorite sub-genre of music is flourishing. This is a really great time to be a fan of the punk/powerpop stuff. It's not just that a lot of bands are doing this type of music, but also that they're all doing it so well. And is it just me, or does Ottawa totally have it going on right now? White Wires, Mother's Children, Steve Adamyk Band? And how about those Sens?! Looks like they're playoff bound! Put another one into the win column for Dirtnap.


Monday, March 18, 2013

Party Hardly

A peculiar and little-known fact about me: I don't like to party. Seriously. I hate parties. I am not comfortable in any social situation that involves more than four people. I don't think I've enjoyed any party I've ever been to in my entire life. Basically a party is just a bunch of people you don't want to talk to behaving in such ways that completely justify why you don't want to talk to them. Plus the beer is terrible and the music almost always sucks. Unless your names are Bill S. Preston, Esquire and Ted Theodore Logan, you can't get away with using the word "party" in your everyday vernacular without sounding like a complete douche bag.

If I hate anything more than parties, it's songs about parties. That shit makes my blood boil. Every time I see the Bud Light "Don't Stop the Party" Pitbull commercial, I consider throwing something heavy through the TV screen (and not just because the Flyers are usually losing at the time). There is no greater musical atrocity known to man than the calculated "party anthem". It's the worst kind of pandering. It's a cheap ploy to win over the masses by appealing to their lowest common denominator. If I could wipe just one song away from the annals of recorded music, it would be "Party Rock Anthem". If you're giving me two more, let's get rid of "(You Gotta) Fight For Your Right (To Party!)" and Pink's "Get The Party Started". I have no objection to songs that became party anthems through no fault of their creators - like say, "Louie Louie" or "Blister In the Sun". Hell, even "YMCA" is okay by me. But any "artist" who intentionally writes a song about partying should be publicly beaten. Some bands, like the Black Eyed Peas, have made entire careers out of this sort of nonsense. It would be a tremendous public service if that group's entire recorded output were forever obliterated by an electromagnetic pulse (except for perhaps "My Humps", which I will certainly recognize as an artistic achievement of the highest order).

What about party anthems recorded by credible artists - like "Ain't Nothin' But a Houseparty" by the J. Geils Band? I can't stand that one either. "Celebration" by Kool & the Gang? I have loathed that song since I was nine years old. I'm okay with Eddie Murphy's "Party All the Time" - primarily because the song is essentially a cautionary tale on the destruction that excessive partying can inflict upon a relationship. The awesome "Partied Out" by Kurt Baker similarly laments the negative effects of partying. The closest I'll come to liking a true party anthem is "1999" by Prince. But its apocalyptic sub-text clearly makes it an exception.

Your mission, dear reader, is to think of a party anthem that I can't possibly denounce. There's got to be at least one, right? Surely I'm overlooking or forgetting a party anthem that's completely unassailable. Does "Dancing in the Streets" count? I do like that one. How about another one? What do you think? I prevail upon your expertise!


Friday, March 15, 2013


"So, Josh. When are you gonna review some post-punk?" Good question. How about now?!

Far too often, self-described "post-punk" is just dull indie rock with post-modern pretensions. Sorry: not my cup of tea (and I do enjoy tea!). My idea of post-punk is full-bore punk rock that happens to lean in an arty direction. I don't hear nearly enough of that sort of thing. So when I stumble upon post-punk bands that genuinely get it right, I'm always thrilled. Columbus, Ohio's Nervosas draw from the kind of post-punk I can really get into (Wire, Wipers, Mission of Burma) and add the proverbial unique touch. Yes, sir: here's a band that's anything but dull! They've got the clanging guitars, chunky bass, gloomy undercurrents, and hyper-anxious vocals down pat. Clearly they've listened to all the right records, and from a musical standpoint the chemistry is impossible to deny. Most importantly, there's an urgency and manic desperation in this band's music that's quite rare in this genre. Here's a band that sounds exactly like its name, and that's freaking cool!

Formed by Columbus couple Jeff Kleinman (vocals/bass) and Mickey Mocnik (guitar), Nervosas have released two full-length tapes and one 7". Thankfully, you can hear it all on the group's Bandcamp page. Latest full-length Descension (sounds like it should be a Joy Division album title!) is limited to 100 copies and surely deserves an exponentially larger audience than that. Powered by the dyanamo drumming of Nick Schuld, the first two tracks are veritable atomic bombs of art-punk. You'll search far and wide to find a better 1-2 punch to kick off an album than "Like Trash" and "APAB". And it's not like things go downhill after that, either. "Uncanny" might bring Greg Sage to tears of joy. The hard-hitting "Less Than Human" is what Fugazi would sound like if I actually liked Fugazi. "Waste of Time" and "x(n)" are so blazing and intense that they blur the lines between post-punk and hardcore/KBD. It's easy to overlook the songwriting because these three are so bang-on with "the sound". But ultimately, I think it's the superb quality of the material that really vaults this band to the head of the class. Best post-punk band I've heard in years. Check out Descension or be sorry!


Wednesday, March 13, 2013

The Dawn

 So back in December, I promised that early 2013 would bring a great new album from Miss Chain & the Broken Heels. And here it is! You had to know I wasn't going to steer you wrong! Given that this is already the third time I've written about this band for F & L, it's no secret that I'm a huge fan. So are at least eight of my Facebook friends. 2010's On a Bittersweet Ride is one of my favorite albums of the last several years, and these esteemed Italians were not going to have an easy time topping it. But The Dawn, out now on the illustrious Bachelor Records, demonstrates that Miss Chain and company were completely up to the task. It's by far the band's best record yet. And perhaps more gratifyingly, it proves that "serious" music can still be great fun to listen to. 

As always, Astrid "Miss Chain" Dante shines on the strength of her lovely voice and amazing songs (co-written with guitarist Disaster Silva). The band's repertoire has expanded dramatically, but no one will deny that they've got the talent to tackle any style of music they want. Broadly speaking, this record is every bit as "pop" as previous efforts. It's just that the band has stretched beyond its garage/power pop roots and found a sound that's all its own - a surprisingly contemporary melding of Beatlesque melodies, '60s French-pop radiance, old style country/western twang, fluid classic alt-rock guitars, and dreamy psychedelic soundscapes. Conceptually, this is an album about a girl becoming a woman. The lyrics are full of introspection on all facets of this coming-of-age experience. Echoing real life, the album is neither "dark" nor "bright" but rather quite a bit of both. Recorded over a two-week period at T.U.P. Studio in Brescia with producer Pierluigi Ballarin, The Dawn is sophisticated and meticulously crafted - yet thoroughly enjoyable to the very end.

While Miss Chain & the Broken Heels started out as kind of a solo project, they've become a band in the truest sense. Who doesn't love the bang-on rhythm section of the Barcella brothers (also of Nikki Corvette & The Romeos)? And with his brilliant work on lead guitar, Disaster Silva has become a true co-star of this group. I can't help hearing a Chrissie Hynde/James Honeyman-Scott type chemistry between lead singer and guitarist. And some of the songs, like "There's A Ghost" and "Don't Look Back", actually remind me a little of early Pretenders. Now in her later 20s, Miss Chain does sport a noticeably "matured" voice - which really enhances the emotional power of a lot of these songs. Tracks like the Western-styled "Calcutta" have a haunting vibe to them, while the spooky "It's Gone" could almost pass for a Terrible Feelings song. In the completely opposite direction, "Let Us Shine" is pure simple beauty. Then there's the upbeat "Little Boy", which will please old fans and win over new ones. And like many of my favorite albums, The Dawn is bookended by its two finest songs - the punchy pop gem "The Dawn Is Me" and the powerfully reflective "Rainbow".

If you go back and listen to all of Miss Chain & the Broken Heels' previous recordings and then play The Dawn, you may be staggered by the progression. Is this really the same band that made "Common Shell"? But what I like best is that this kind of growth has been achieved without the band turning away from the things that made it so appealing in the first place. Miss Chain and Disaster Silva have by no means abandoned their pursuit of the perfect pop song, and their considerable talents have only grown stronger over the years. They manage to draw from the past yet still make music that sounds current and distinctly their own. The Dawn's warm production and '60s influenced melodies are throwbacks to so many beloved rock records of a bygone era. Yet it doesn't feel "retro" or "old-fashioned" in the least. This is very much a band for now - hitting its stride with confidence and breaking free of stylistic pigeonholes. I can't say I'm surprised that they made an album this good, but I sure am pleased!


Friday, March 08, 2013

Lovesores' big ten inch!

I'm just gonna come out and say it: the new Lovesores 10" ranks up there with any record that Scott "Deluxe" Drake and Jeff Fieldhouse have ever played on. I know: that's some mighty big talk considering that The Humpers were one of the greatest bands of their era or any other. But as they say, the proof is in the pudding. Listen for yourself if you don't believe me!

Out now on Rapid Pulse Records, Bubblegum Riot is vintage Drake/Fieldhouse flamethrower punk rock n' roll. And it freaking kills! If you thought that a quarter century in rock n' roll would have mellowed Scott Drake, you thought wrong! He's as full of fire and fury as ever - as if he's been guzzling whiskey straight from the fountain of youth. And let's face it: nobody plays punk rock n' roll guitar like Jeff Fieldhouse. He's like Chuck Berry, Johnny Thunders, and Cheetah Chrome all rolled into one bad mofo! By no means are Drake and Fieldhouse trying to sound like The Humpers. This is a new band, not a franchise reboot. But when these guys put the pedal to the metal and blast the rock n' roll, you know you're getting the goods. If you liked The Humpers, you're gonna love the Lovesores!

With Boz Bennes and Adam Kattau (of Fast Takers) and Alex Fast (of LSD & D) rounding out a red-hot lineup, the Lovesores are truly a force to be reckoned with. They really do fill a void that's been glaring since The Humpers called it a day. The moment "Bubblegum Riot" kicks in, you're immediately transported back to the mid '90s by way of 1977. It's pure energy and steamroller power right out of the gates, and the guitars are on fire! And Drake pours on the vocal piss and vinegar like no one else. "Pull up your pants, girl, you're attracting geese!" has got to be the best line of the year. The EP's six tracks really mix things up nicely, with full-throttle scorchers like "Flamethrower Chic" and "82nd Avenue Breakdown" blending awesomely with the '50s flavored title cut and the anthemic closer "Theme to the Lovesores". Last summer's debut single "Fast Friends" really got this band off on the right foot, but clearly they've taken it to another level in a hurry. I'll put songs like "Her Majesty's Ass" and "Theme to the Lovesores" up there with the truly classic songs of the Humpers' heyday. And having heard so many bands of recent years attempt this style of music to varying degrees of success, it's a thrill to once again hear it done to perfection. How many times can I repeat the phrase "rock n' roll" in one record review? I think you all get the point. You need this record. Get it from Underground Medicine!


Wednesday, March 06, 2013

In love with L.A. Drugz!

If you know me, and you know L.A. Drugz, I'm sure you could have predicted that I was going to go bananas for this band. Hell, you probably wonder what took me so long! This is definitely the quintessential "Rutledge band": super poppy punk with plenty of '77 oomph behind it. The lineup is star-studded, featuring Justin from the Clorox Girls, James and Johnny from Images, and Cezar from Bad Machine. And based on the tracks the band has shared on-line, their forthcoming LP is gonna be a must-have!

"Outside Place" (video below) seems to be "the hit". It's a punchy gob of catchiness in that cozy Buzzcocks/Ramones wheelhouse. The formula is nothing new, but you can hardly object when it's done this well. If you loved Marked Men, FM Knives, and (duh!) Clorox Girls, you'll be as crazy for this song as I am. And that's pretty crazy. "Vampire", with its no-frills production and sublime guitar hooks, has kind of a Spiral Scratch feel to it. Nothing wrong with that! And I'd say my favorite L.A. Drugz song so far is "Marina", which veers off the '77 punk course in favor of a classic Southern California power pop sound. Talk about catchy! This song's been in my head since I first heard it, and it just won't leave. Not that I want it to anyway!

Admittedly it's a small sample size, but what we've gotten from L.A. Drugz so far has been pure gold. Sometimes these "super" groups are total letdowns. This one, however, has all the markings of greatness. I would not be shocked if this were my favorite band by year's end. Stay tuned to Hovercraft Records for the skinny on their LP!


Tuesday, March 05, 2013

The Top Ten

I often reflect on how little my musical tastes have changed since my mid-20s. So on the occasion of my 42nd birthday, I think it's time that I come up with a list of my all-time favorite bands and see how it compares with the list I might have made in the late '90s. So here goes! My all-time top ten favorite bands as of 3/5/13:

1. The Clash
2. AC/DC
3. Husker Du
4. Material Issue
5. Ramones
6. Replacements
7. Sex Pistols
8. Stiff Little Fingers
9. Buzzcocks
10. Undertones

So what does this tell me? That for the most part, my musical tastes have been stagnant for at least a decade and a half. This list would have been nearly identical in 1998. Generation X or The Boys would probably have been in there instead of Material Issue, who I didn't "discover" until 1999. But besides that, it's pretty much the same. Clearly, I've never really gotten past the '77 punk thing.

Okay, so perhaps "stagnant" isn't the right word. I prefer to see myself as a person who simply knows what he likes. I am not a "greener pastures" type. I tend to find the things that make me happy and stick with them. This is neither good nor bad - just something I've observed about myself. I crave comfort over adventure. I tend to focus more on enjoying where I'm at than I do on figuring out where I'm headed next. I live in the same town I was born in. I've had only one favorite baseball team since I was eight years old. Committing to one woman for the rest of my life was the easiest thing I've ever done.

What I'd like to do is make this list an annual tradition. It's not likely to change much, but it could be fun to see if it does. It's not that I'm closed-minded or afraid to try new things. I have, over my life, listened to just about every kind of music there is. I do try and check out what's new and "cool". But I've still yet to find anything I like better than punk rock. I suppose that's why I can do this kind of blog. I never grow "weary" of punk music. Will I be cranking "White Riot" when I'm 90 years old and shaking my cane at the no-good kids flying their spacecrafts over my lawn? I think so. I'll probably go through a "mature" phase in my late-'70s when I'll only listen to free jazz and computer simulations of ocean tides. But by age 85, I'll go back to punk. Maybe you will too. Meet me in the Old Country Buffet parking lot, and we'll jam to "No Time To Be 21"!


Friday, March 01, 2013

The Ten Greatest Punk Albums of 1993

I love doing these anniversary lists! This year I've already listed my picks for the best punk albums of 1983 and 2003. Today we go back 20 years to 1993, and I've got to say this particular year was one for the ages. Nearly every album on this list is a classic! The whole '77 revival thing was still a year or two away from really taking off. But garage-punk, punk rock n' roll, and pop-punk were in their absolute days of glory. If you were still stuck on the alterna-grunge bandwagon back in '93, here's some of what you missed...

10. (tie) Fastbacks - Zucker  
Mr. T. Experience - Our Bodies Our Selves
You know it's a great year when these two legendary albums are holding tenth place! Zucker, in my opinion, is one of The Fastbacks' best albums. And amongst the highly impressive MTX back catalog, I've always had a soft spot for Our Bodies Our Selves. "Even Hitler Had A Girlfriend" is the best song Dr. Frank ever wrote.

9. Moral Crux - ...And Nothing But The Truth
I've never heard a Moral Crux album I didn't love. But this one I especially love. It contains some of the band's best songs - like "Beat of Despair", "Soldier Boy", and "Democracy (From the Barrel of a Gun)". Phenomenal pop-punk with political lyrics.

8. Bad Religion - Recipe For Hate
This was Bad Religion in its absolute prime, expanding on the streamlined melodicore of Generator with an album made to thrill and enlighten punk's rapidly growing audience. Accept no imitations.

7. Devil Dogs - Saturday Night Fever
Yeah, I know. It seems like a grave injustice that this is only #7. It's a tough field.

6. Screeching Weasel - Anthem For A New Tomorrow
Probably the last of the classic Screeching Weasel albums, Anthem is like a pop-punk panic attack. This is one of the albums that was instrumental in making me want to write about music. I still often catch myself singing along to "Falling Apart" in a mock Ben Weasel voice.

5. The Muffs - self titled
Still my favorite Muffs album by far. In almost any other year, this would have been #1.

4. Supercharger - Goes Way Out
The gold standard of lo-fi garage trash.

3. The Humpers - Positively Sick on 4th Street
Long before it was "cool" to play in the style of down-and-dirty '70s punk rock n' roll, The Humpers were doing it. And nobody ever did it better.

2. The Queers - Love Songs for the Retarded
With its seamless blend of snotty punk rippers, sappy songs about girls, and three-chord Ramonesy pop gems, Love Songs for the Retarded set the bar for '90s pop-punk. It would never be topped - not even by The Queers themselves! Pretty much every song is a classic.

1. New Bomb Turks - !!Destroy-Oh-Boy!!
Not just the punk album of the year, but also one of the greatest punk albums of all-time. Ohio always wins.

I always used to think that 1997 was THE year for '90s punk rock. But based on the above list, '93 appears to have the crown. It's not even close! Let the revisionist historians babble on about the "post Green Day punk explosion". The rest of us know that things had already been exploding for years.