Wednesday, June 26, 2013

The Throwaways rock your summer!

Hey there! Shake! Records has issued a Throwaways singles collection on cassette tape! Around this time last year, I reviewed the Calgary trio's fantastic self-titled EP. Now Shake! has packaged those songs with the band's tracks from its 2010 split with Spastic Panthers - just in time for the summer! If your car has a tape deck, you are in for good times! Roll down the windows, crank up the volume, pick up some friends, and have yourself a sing-along road party! And if you can't listen in your car, the same experience can be replicated in your bedroom. Don't forget to order a pizza!

Combining the best qualities of garage-punk and pop-punk, The Throwaways take me back to the late '90s heyday of female-fronted teen trash. Listening to these songs, I'm somewhat shocked that this band isn't "bigger". Only 151 likes on Facebook? Really?! Let's see if we can boost that figure a little! If you're like me and fondly remember collecting singles from cool labels like Lipstick and Super*Teem! back in the day, I guarantee you will love The Throwaways. You get all the hits here - like "Friday Date", "Mikey Erg", and "Summer Song". And the nastier, more "punk" tracks (e.g. "Got A Problem" and "Irksome") totally rule as well. I just love what these three manage to achieve with just a couple of chords and cheap, minimalist production. They understand what makes punk music fun. Just as importantly, they understand what makes a good song! There are only ten total songs here, and the whole thing's over in less than 15 minutes. But that's okay, because you'll want to play it four or five times in a row. Check it out - and let's hope to hear more from The Throwaways real soon!


Wednesday, June 19, 2013

New one from Neighborhood Brats!

Damn! Neighborhood Brats just keep on bringin' it! Birth Right is their third 7" in less than a year and fourth release overall. And just when I thought that their last single could never be topped, they come back with a new one that totally blows it out of the water! If you are a fan of classic female-fronted punk rock and/or early '80s California hardcore, you've got to hear Neighborhood Brats. Like their East Coast counterparts Night Birds, Neighborhood Brats are genuinely as good as the legendary bands that inspire them (think Black Flag, The Lewd, Legal Weapon...). If I hopped in a time machine with a copy of Birth Right and made my way to Southern California circa 1982, nobody would suspect that I was playing them music from "the future". People would just ask, "Who is this incredible band, and when do I get to see them play?" I'm pretty sure some of you will have the exact same reaction if you push that play button!

Recorded during the band's transition from San Francisco to L.A., Birth Right doesn't switch up the style much from previous releases. It's still urgent, high-speed hardcore with a dark undercurrent and impassioned vocals from Jenny Angelillo. But this is the best-produced record that Neighborhood Brats have made, and that really brings out the power and and aggression of their music. The title track is the band's finest moment yet - propelled by phenomenal lyrics and superb guitar work from George Rager. It leaves you wanting more, and then gives you exactly that in the fast, frantic "Party Going Nowhere". A great cover of Youth of Today's "Break Down The Walls" and breakneck closer "Exit Strategies" make the B-side equally as exhilarating. Of course Neighborhood Brats get points for playing such a classic style of music, but what's more important is that they're a flat-out incredible band. Angelillo has star charisma, Rager is the quintessential California punk guitarist, and that rhythm section is tight! If you're currently unfamiliar with Neighborhood Brats, you'll also want to check out the compilation No Sun No Tan - which collects their first three EPs along with two previously unreleased tracks. Now is the time to get caught up. A new album is in the works, and you can bet it's gonna be mind-blowing!


Thursday, June 13, 2013

Fuzzy Vox rocks!

Alright! Who's up for some high-energy garage rock n' roll?! Fuzzy Vox brings us precisely that all the way from Paris! The French trio plays a mix of garage rock and power pop that's fun and highly infectious, and their grasp of varying styles of rock n' roll keeps their music from getting overly repetitive. They are currently on tour in support of their latest EP, Technicolor.

While Fuzzy Vox does combine elements of power pop and '60s style garage rock, Technicolor leans more towards the latter. The title track is definitely "the hit". I love the way that simple guitar riff gets stuck in your head, and Nico attacks his drum kit like a reincarnated Keith Moon. The lyrics and vocals are great too. It's not that I object to rock n' roll songs about drinking and screwing. But I do think it's cool to hear this kind of music used to convey serious existential longing. Hugo sings every word like he really means it!

The rest of the record is of similar quality and very much in the same spirit. "Same Old Story" is just great balls-out rock n' roll, while "I'll Be Gone" sounds like a vintage Shel Talmy recording. The aptly titled "Hurricane" has a hot-rod rock n' roll feel without sounding like cliche. And the record closes with an absolutely killer cover of "Great Balls of Fire"! All in all, this is a terrific EP. There's not a weak track in the bunch, and I love the energy and passion of the playing. You can tell that these guys get what rock n' roll is all about. Their sound is classic, but by no means dated.

I highly recommend checking out the band's Soundcloud page - where you can dig into lots of free music including primo power pop songs like "Wasted Years" and "Kids My Age". If these guys can generate this much excitement on record, they must kill live! Those of you residing in Europe should not miss Fuzzy Vox on tour! Check the Facebook page for dates.


Wednesday, June 12, 2013

Meet Smartboys!

Wow. Here's a new band that's totally up my alley! Mike and Jonah from Fucked Up started writing songs for this project eight or nine years ago, but they could never find the right singer to make it work. But last year, they finally got their guy in Tim Westburg (Slim Twig, US Girls). And now Smartboys are a band! Their first single is out on Deranged Records, and it could easily pass for some lost U.K. punk/new wave treasure from 1979.

As you'd expect from a band that got its name from a Starjets lyric, Smartboys create a just-right mix of pop and punk. The guitars crunch, the drums thump, and Westburg's Bowie-ish vocals are remarkably true to the era they're re-creating. If The Professionals had been more "new wave", they might have done a song like "RSVP". I also hear hints of The Vapors - one of my all-time favorite bands. Having stockpiled a large number of songs over the years, these guys clearly were not hurting for A-grade material. This is an absolutely superb debut. I think the B-side, "Cutting Through Life", might actually be the hit! If you geek out over '70s pop/punk the way I do, this one is not to be missed!


Sunday, June 09, 2013

F & L Second Anniversary Special

Can you believe it's been two years since this blog started? One year ago, to mark the first anniversary of F & L, I listed my picks for the greatest rock n' roll songs of all-time. I was going to re-do the list again this year, but I decided against it since I've made no major changes. I've still got "All Kinsda Girls" by the Real Kids slightly ahead of "Stay With Me" by the Dictators. So for the second anniversary, I had an idea for a new list. I looked at every album I've reviewed since F & L began and endeavored to rank the ten greatest. I decided not to count anything released this year since I haven't had sufficient time to absorb those particular releases and figure out their proper place in the hierarchy. Some of my choices will be surprising, while others will be predictable. And since the year 2011 was technically the start of a new decade, this top ten is sort of my "Best albums of the decade so far" list. Here we go!

10. (tie)
Youthbitch- Don't Fuck This Up! (2012)
Randy America- F*ck Vision (2012)
See what I just did there?

9. The Connection- New England's Newest Hitmakers (2011)
Somehow I neglected to put this album in my year-end top ten for 2011. I have been regretting the error ever since.

8. Gentleman Jesse- Leaving Atlanta (2012)
This was cruising to an album of the year title for much of last year until Kurt Baker and his fabulous hair got in the way.

7. The Dahlmanns- All Dahled Up (2011)
I literally started writing about this band on day one of this blog. Without The Dahlmanns, there may not have been a Faster and Louder.

6. Kidnappers- Will Protect You (2010)
Possibly my favorite band of the early-to-mid 2000s, The Kidnappers came back from a long hiatus to deliver another punk/powerpop classic.

5. Kurt Baker- Brand New Beat (2012)
Is it too soon to refer to this as one of the all-time great power pop albums?

4. Night Birds- The Other Side Of Darkness (2011)
My god - wait until you hear their new album!

3. The Cry! - self titled (2011)
Released late in 2011, this album didn't get an F & L review until early 2012. Had I heard it just a few weeks earlier, it probably would have been my #2 album of 2011.

2. Missing Monuments- Painted White (2011)
This was only at #4 on my 2011 year-end top ten. Clearly I was out of my mind when I made that list.

1. Something Fierce- Don't Be So Cruel (2011)
One of the main reasons I started this blog was so I could write about this album. And the rest is history! The long-awaited follow up should be out later this year.

Wow- I've been doing this blog two years now, and not once have I lost interest or threatened to quit. That's a far cry from my Now Wave days! It sure makes a difference when you only write about music that you like. Thanks for reading!


Thursday, June 06, 2013

Get The Ills!

When I'm reviewing a band for the third time, it's pretty obvious that I'm a huge fan. Iowa City's almighty Ills are back with another killer EP, and they have not strayed in the slightest from their commitment to "no friends, no talent, and no songs over a minute and a half". They've outdone themselves this time - the longest track runs just 59 seconds! And boosted by greatly enhanced fidelity, the band's hate-fueled attack has never hit harder.

Get It! is the perfect title for a record that you absolutely have to have. References to Rip Off (Spastics/Loli and the Chones/Spoiled Brats) and Dangerhouse Records (X/Bags/Germs) are still pretty much on the money. But at this point, The Ills just sound like The Ills. And in case you were worried that The Ills were going to outgrow their misanthropic inclinations and start writing songs about yoga poses and yachting life, song titles like "Total Dick" and "Yr Ugly Face" should totally warm your heart. It seems a little too early in this band's career to employ the phrase "classic Ills", but that's exactly what this record is. You get six quick blasts of pissed-off punk rock featuring Erika Ebola's fantastically choleric vocals. There is nothing better in life than reaching the end of a really bad day and cranking a song such as "Like U Done 2 Me" at an excessively loud volume while you scream along 'til you're hoarse and flip off any passersby who dare to look at you disapprovingly. If someone asked me what punk rock sounded like, I would surely include The Ills on their mixed tape.


Wednesday, June 05, 2013

Teen-Age Vice!

Back with three more blasts of their "wild 'n' frantic teen-age rock n' roll", Portland's No Tomorrow Boys are burning hotter than ever. And with an LP on the way, these cats are poised to tear up the F & L charts this summer!

Out on Eli's Mile High Records, Teen-Age Vice is the best release The No Tomorrow Boys have delivered to date. They're still combining supercharged '50s rock n' roll with the primitive whomp of bands like The Sonics and the crackling ferocity of all those '90s garage-punk greats. But they've definitely kicked their racket up to the next level. Their take on Neil Sedaka's 1959 hit "I Go Ape" is an absolute ripper of a tune propelled by a feral lead vocal and an irresistible backbeat. It sounds a little like early Saints by way of Eddie Cochran - they sure ain't lying about the "wild 'n' frantic" thing! "Other Girls" brings a different kind of energy - it's more of an upbeat dance floor number to get you up and moving. It'll put a jolt into your system and leave a melody dancing in your head. Even Ace Face would have to admit that these rockers have got it going on.

Seriously: if this record doesn't "do it" for you, I'm not sure you and I can be friends. The No Tomorrow Boys do what few other bands can genuinely pull off - being faithful to the sound and spirit of early rock n' roll while still making it fresh for today's punk/garage fans. Sometimes I wonder: what is the difference between "timeless" and "retro"? And I think what it is is quality. When rock n' roll is delivered with this much passion and conviction, and the songs are this good, you don't care whether it was recorded 55 years ago or 55 days ago. You just crank up the volume and savor the thrill of being alive. Bring on that album, guys!


Tuesday, June 04, 2013

The Beast Bites

The Socials have been a band for 19 years and have just released their first 7". That's got to be some kind of world record. Somebody call Guinness. Better yet, somebody get me a Guinness. This heat wave is taking its toll.

Okay, so it's not like The Socials have never put out music before. They've released two CDs as well as numerous demos in various formats such as 8-track tape and answering machine micro cassette. But all that stuff's long out of print. And since it's hardly a stretch to refer to The Socials as legends of Cincinnati punk rock, it's imperative that some of their music be available for purchase at all times. The future of civilization is riding on it. I can't tell you how The Beast Bites compares to the band's "classic" recordings of the '90s. And that's because I never heard any of those recordings. Up until the early 2000s, The Socials were a band that I often heard of but never actually heard. I thought they might have been pure urban legend, like Chupacabras or gerbiling. But if I had to guess, I'd say that The Socials are one of those bands that's managed to continually improve its entire career. The "glory days" of The Socials are still ahead of them. Perhaps they're just late bloomers, or maybe they were simply too far ahead of their time. In any case, I'd say The Beast Bites is a perfect introduction to The Socials. It sounds like...victory. How fitting that it's out on the legendary Centsless Productions - the same label that immortalized The Slobs, Archie and the Pukes, and the Syphilitics on vinyl. Cincinnati ├╝ber alles!

What I like about The Socials is that they don't sound like any other band. Sometimes they don't even sound like themselves. Who else out there is doing garage rock n' roll meets '77 punk meets minimalist art-core meets post-punk meets Killed By Death with female vocals and a dystopian/sci-fi angle? I think The Socials are possibly time travelers - or robots. I believe they may have formed in the year 2525 and honed their craft in London circa 1980. Full of lyrics about government, war, technology, and the future, The Beast Bites is your soundtrack to impending apocalypse. "The Future Has Let Me Down Again" brings to mind SST era Sonic Youth with sludgy Melvins guitars, while "Hot Tips" is straight-ahead catchy punk that you could compare to X-Ray Spex (or Bikini Kill if you're under the age of 40). "GoVermont" mixes an overt political message with an upbeat new wave sound and a sing-along chorus. I expect it to go to #6 on the dance charts. "Nouvelle Technologie" is slower and kinda creepy- which I believe is supposed to be the point.

Compared to what I have heard previously from The Socials, this record is at another level entirely. Musically and lyrically, they're hitting it like Joey Votto. Credit producer Andy Slob for really pushing the band to make a great EP. And clearly any old jokes about these individuals lacking talent or musical skill will have to be back-dated a decade or two. Mrs. Communication, Shawn Abnoxious, and Juice by Jerry have achieved the kind of chemistry that can only come from playing together for a very long time. The guitar/bass interplay on "The Future Has Let Me Down Again" is absolutely magnificent, and I really like the creativity of the song structuring. You think "Hot Tips" has ended, and then suddenly it rises from the dead and starts anew. That's kind of a metaphor for this whole group - which has outlasted all the bands it used to play with and will probably outlast most of the ones it's playing with now. By the time they release their true magnum opus, it will probably be downloadable directly to a computer chip in your brain. Shit's about to get weird - don't say The Socials didn't warn you.


Monday, June 03, 2013

Big Eyes rock!

As punky and poppy as ever - but sporting a bigger, fuller sound - Big Eyes have delivered a truly great sophomore LP. The Seattle trio was already knocking on the door of my personal top ten. With Almost Famous, they've busted that door down and taken their rightful place in my super six. They will be receiving their medallions in the mail shortly.

I've been a sucker for bands like Big Eyes my whole life. You know: big guitars, big hooks, a gutsy female singer. But the difference with this particular outfit is the exceptional talent infused into the familiar style. Almost Famous takes everything that was already good about Big Eyes and makes it even better. Kate Eldridge has written her finest and most personal collection of songs to date, and the trio has seamlessly incorporated a '70s arena rock influence into its melodic blend of punk and pop. And while a lot of bands end up losing their "edge" when their records are more carefully crafted and cleanly produced, Big Eyes have never rocked harder. This is the sound of a band fully coming into its own.

Eldridge likes to write songs about "anger, sadness, heartbreak, and dark thoughts" - but Almost Famous is anything but a bummer. One of the things that makes her such a fantastic songwriter is her ability to channel her sufferings and frustrations into relatable, highly enjoyable material. While some may view this as a "darker" Big Eyes album, to me it's simply more powerful and emotional. Eldridge will probably be forever saddled with comparisons to certain iconic women of punk, but she's a unique personality in her own right with a genuinely likable vocal style. And as a guitarist, she has a knack for coming up with simple riffs that you just can't get out of your head. She and her bandmates (drummer Dillan Lazzareschi and bassist Chris Costalupes) have really hit their stride as a confident power trio, and they've delivered an 11-song album that's strong the whole way through. Seriously: there's not anything even close to a weak track on this record.

Almost Famous has its share of "classic" Big Eyes songs ("Being Unkind", "Half The Time") as well as beefed-up versions of the same ("Can't Catch A Break"). And the rock influence is especially palpable on crisp, crunching tracks like "Nothing You Could Say" and "Ain't Nothing But the Truth". Hearing a song like the thunderously hooky "You Ain't The Only One", I get the feeling that the tongue-in-cheek album title is actually quite fitting. Big Eyes make music that anyone could like, and they've turned out a record chock of full of potential hits. I'm giving them temporary possession of the album of the year crown. Some degenerate label mates of theirs may end up taking it from them, but we'll cross that bridge when we come to it.