Tuesday, July 29, 2014

Your F & L Crazy Squeeze primer!

If I had to list my top five favorite present day bands, The Crazy Squeeze would definitely make the cut. This Hollywood supergroup was one of the first bands I ever reviewed for this blog, and the ensuing years have brought us a number of fine recordings from Johnny, Frankie, and the gang. Of all the bands out there playing trashy glam/rock n' roll, The Crazy Squeeze to my mind delivers the best combination of amazing songs, musical chops, and devastating handsomeness. Sometimes with "all star" bands, chemistry is a question. But these guys sound like they were born to play together. Admittedly, my Crazy Squeeze coverage has been somewhat inadequate since that first post back in 2011. I reviewed two singles but failed to inform the populace of a debut LP for the ages. I have let you down, planet Earth. The good news is that said LP is still in print and can be yours for just ten bucks. And with a brand-new single on the way, The Crazy Squeeze is again poised for world domination. With that in mind, I now present a complete listener's guide to The Crazy Squeeze. Use it prudently.

"Gimme A Kiss" b/w "I Need A Witness" single (Rapid Pulse/No Front Teeth, 2011) 
The classic debut single featuring Johnny Witmer (The Stitches) and Frankie Delmane (Teenage Frames) on guitar, Chris B. (Richmond Sluts) on bass, and Johnny Sleeper (ex Stitches and Superbees) on drums. The A-side is super catchy punk rock n' roll with the most magnificent guitar hooks this side of Thunders/Sylvain. And with the band being so heavily inspired by the intersections of glam, pub rock, and early punk, the Cock Sparrer cover on the B-side was a perfect choice. And they nailed it! I believe this title is out of print - but you still win since both songs are on the album! 

The Crazy Squeeze self-titled LP (Vinyl Dog/Wanda Records, 2012)
Had I actually heard this release before the end of 2012, it may have been my album of the year. Combining glam, pub rock, and '77 punk influences with power pop hooks and red hot rock n' roll guitar, this is one of the true classic albums of recent memory. It's just pure sonic excitement - and every track is a hit! "Sexual Activity Girls" is so catchy and fun that it ought to have inspired a worldwide dance craze (perhaps it still will). I'm pretty convinced at this point that it's the greatest song of the last ten years. "Boys Are Gonna Be Here Soon" sounds like the baby the Beach Boys could have made with the New York Dolls. "Outta My Head" is one of the best Heartbreakers rips ever. I could go on all day! This album is your pre-game soundtrack for glorious nights of drinking, dancing, and marathon shagging. If you dig the rock n' roll, stop whatever you're doing and go buy this thing!

"Younger Girl" b/w "Terminal Love" single (Rapid Pulse/No Front Teeth Records, 2013)
The long-awaited second single. The A-side is the best song The Boys never wrote, and the B-side is one The Boys did write. Honest John Plain himself guest stars on "Terminal Love"! Both tracks are on the CD version of the album, but "Terminal Love" is not on the vinyl LP.

"Red Rosie"/"The Lonely Ones" single (due out this fall on Pure Punk Records)
Although not yet out on vinyl, this single can be streamed in full over at The Crazy Squeeze's ReverbNation page. This might be the band's best single yet - and the first to feature current bass player, the electrifying Dat Ngo (ex Superbees). "Red Rosie" is a rip roaring shot of glammy boogie woogie with vocals that sound like Wolfman Jack risen from the dead. Taking cues from Mott the Hoople and vintage Bowie, "The Lonely Ones" is a bona fide fists-in-the-air rock anthem. Look for the band to debut it on a nationally televised stadium performance. Okay, I'm just kidding. But wouldn't that be something?

Your one-stop shop for Crazy Squeeze merchandise is http://www.thecrazysqueeze.bigcartel.com/. There you can order T-shirts and all in-print Crazy Squeeze releases. New single is due out in September. Get crazy! 



Friday, July 25, 2014

Meet Departure Kids!

I referenced The Departure Kids last month while I was reviewing Tomy And The Cougars. It seems these two bands are at the heart of a burgeoning power pop scene in Marseille, France. Like Tomy & The Cougars, The Departure Kids have seemingly been weaned on Nerves and Paul Collins Beat records. Nothing wrong with that! These French teens imbue their particular sound with '60s beat and mod influences along with touches of punk and garage. On The Go, a split release from French labels Howlin' Banana and Requiem Pour Un Twister, is the band's debut album. And it's a good one! Particularly in its first half, this LP shows impressive songwriting chops for such a young band - with tracks like "Wanking Too Hard" and "Left On Earth" turning out instantly memorable choruses and melodies you can whistle all day. And like all the best power pop bands do, these guys manage to make music that's great fun yet still tinged with melancholy and heartbreak. All in all, I love the band's mix of '70s power pop, Beatle-esque melodies, punchy Who/Jam musicianship, and rough-edged garage delivery. And the album delivers a nice variety of high energy rockers ("Suit It Up"), gentle ballads ("Pas Besoin De Toi"), and classic mid-tempo power pop numbers ("Right Now {Tell Me About It}"). With one foot in mod/powerpop and another in garage rock, On The Go sounds like the kind of record that might have come out in the glory days of Screaming Apple Records. This is a delightful and highly promising debut from a band that will only get better. If you enjoy making power pop mixes for your friends, "Wanking Too Hard" merits a prime place in your next volume. Check these kids out!



Tuesday, July 22, 2014

Sugar Stems are back!

Every time I sit down to write up an "official" list of my favorite bands, Sugar Stems are always somewhere near the top. The last time I composed such a list, I had them at #2. So it comes as no surprise that I would be raving about the Milwaukee outfit's new album - out today on Dirtnap Records. But while I usually laud bands for adhering like glue to tried-and-true formula, Sugar Stems have won me over by doing exactly the opposite. The band's debut LP was textbook bubblegum power pop - and a true classic of its form. I would not have complained about another album or two in a similar vein. But this band has never been content to repeat itself, and it was 2012's Can't Wait that started to give us an idea of who Sugar Stems truly were. Now the band has fully come into its own on the stunning Only Come Out At Night. No longer defined by influences or genre, this is a band we all love because of its unique talents and remarkable flair for perfect melodies. Sugar Stems, at this point, sound like Sugar Stems. Betsy is one of the best songwriters out there - and a superb and distinctive singer on top of that!

Only Come Out At Night is the full realization of everything that was promised on Can't Wait. It feels like such bad form to use the term "masterpiece" to describe an album that was just released 20 minutes ago. But, you know, it actually is a masterpiece! Not only has Betsy written the best songs of her life, but she's written so many of them that one might mistake this album for a greatest hits collection! And from a production standpoint, this is the best-sounding record I've heard in quite some time. While the band name still conjures thoughts of lighthearted cutesy fun, for the most part this is a far more serious and mature record than you're probably expecting. And I mean that in an entirely good way. This is an album that proves that power pop can "grow up" without losing the things that made it great in the first place. The hooks are bigger, the melodies are more beautiful, and just about every song ought to be a hit (seriously, why isn't "The One" all over the radio?!). Betsy sings about real life issues we can all relate to - her fears, her frustrations, her hopes and dreams. And her voice, while still sweet as punch, resonates with a confidence and power that could not have been foreseen a few years ago. And the band as a whole has never sounded better - propelled by Jon's dynamic drumming and strengthened by the addition of Andy Harris (ex Goodnight Loving) on keyboards.

Opening with the pretty, refined pop tracks "Baby Teeth" and "I Know Where I'm Going", Only Come Out At Night wastes little time in showcasing the maturity of Betsy's songcraft. But just when you think you've figured out exactly what kind of record this is going to be, it proceeds to surprise you with wonderful, unexpected turns. This album, it turns out, has a little bit of everything - from the '60s girl group splendor of "Some Might Say" to the rootsy rock n' roll of "Haunted" (featuring Drew on lead vocals) to the racing adrenaline of "Run Run Rabbit" to the crunching pop-rock of "Radio Heartthrob" to the lush acoustic radiance of "Million Miles". It's the kind of album that satisfies immediately - yet becomes even more enjoyable after repeated listens. And while it has the hooks and melodies to win over power pop diehards in a heartbeat, it's not strictly a genre record. I would wholeheartedly recommend it to anyone who loves melody or great music in general. The band has made a free stream of Only Come Out At Night available, and I think that's a brilliant idea. People are going to hear this album and want to own it - along with gift copies for various friends and family. I think I've got my album of the year front-runner!



Friday, July 18, 2014

Meet Latex Squad!

Whoa! I've got a good one for you today! Latex Squad's bio says they are "a German '77 punk band that formed in a cold and stinky band practice room in March 2014." And that's it. The bio, like the band's music, is stripped down to the barest essentials. You might wonder how a band could have just formed in March and already had a record out by June - but Latex Squad has totally pulled it off! And although this is Germany 2014, it sounds quite a bit like England 1977...mixed with early Rip Off Records. Co-released by the great German labels Wanda and P.Trash Records, Latex Squad's debut EP is an absolute smoker! None of the four tracks come close to hitting two minutes, and the material (especially "Pest Is Black" and "Powerwalk") is top-notch for such a new band. This is how I like it - fast, raw, and catchy punk rock that makes me want to sing along and pogo like a fool in my bedroom! This is a band that understands that having really simple material and bargain basement production doesn't mean you have to sound like crap. When I think of the great bands of Germany, The Kidnappers and Modern Pets come to mind. Latex Squad fit it quite well with those two bands, and I hope we will be hearing much more from this trio in the near future. In the meantime, enjoy this crackling debut!



Monday, July 14, 2014

Dial Tone!

So prolific and consistently good that he's sometimes taken for granted, Steve Adamyk seems to be a victim of his own excellence. Maybe if he only managed one album every five years, the arrival of a new one would be cause for mass celebration and perhaps even a national holiday in Canada. But Dial Tone, out now on Dirtnap Records, is the fourth Steve Adamyk Band album in five years. Perhaps it's just my perception, but it seems like these last couple of albums have not been fully appreciated. The things Adamyk sometimes gets criticized for (e.g. too many songs sound the same, he's "only good at one thing") are exactly the things I like about him! If you feel the same way, you'll be happy to discover that Dial Tone is very much in the same vein as all previous albums from the Steve Adamyk Band. But if you think that Steve Adamyk just keeps making the same record over and over, you're not paying very close attention.

Granted, Steve Adamyk's "thing" is that he writes catchy power pop punk songs and plays them really fast. But I like that each album takes a little bit of a different angle. 2011's Forever Won't Wait went in more of a pop direction, while last year's Third was racing punk rock adrenaline. And now with Dial Tone, Steve and the gang offer a record that should go over great with today's garage crowd. The album was recorded by Matthew Melton (Warm Soda/Bare Wires), who definitely put his own stamp on it. If Warm Soda often comes off a little too laid back for my tastes and the Steve Adamyk Band could sometimes afford to give its hooks a little more room to breathe, then it goes to figure that this collaboration would strike the perfect balance. And it does! Dial Tone is a classic Steve Adamyk Band album with the muffled fidelity of a Warm Soda record. There are a few tracks (like "Suicide" and "Mirror Ball") that actually start off sounding like they might be Warm Soda songs - but then the vocals come in and you know exactly which band you're listening to! The light speed tempos maintained throughout Third have been dialed back just a little - resulting in an album that's not quite as dizzying but still snappy and energetic. Adamyk is a master at crafting punchy, hook-laden pop tunes - and front to back this is as good of a collection of songs as he's ever delivered. "Careless", "Last In Town", and "Empty Cause" are the kinds of songs Steve Adamyk has been turning out for years - and will hopefully continue to turn out for years to come. And perhaps because there aren't as many super fast songs on this record, breakneck numbers like "Waiting For the Top" and "Anne" really crackle.

Even with its top shelf material and Melton's nifty production touches (a handclap here, a sprinkle of synth there), Dial Tone would not be the record it is without such a tremendous performance by the band as a whole. The revamped four piece lineup that energized the band's sound on Third has found another gear on Dial Tone - tearing into these tunes with confidence and purpose. On the heels of great albums from Sonic Avenues and Mother's Children, Dial Tone reaffirms what a huge difference a killer rhythm section can make with this kind of music. This album essentially combines the best aspects of the previous two with additional hints of things to come (a couple songs nearly hit the three-minute mark!). I think it's by far the band's best album to date. There may be a time when Adamyk abandons the Buzzcocks/Ramones/Dickies songwriting template and stuns his fans with something completely different. But I'm in no hurry for that to happen. If you play this kind of music yourself, you know how hard it can be to write really simple songs. Adamyk seems to do it effortlessly - and his gift should be celebrated.



Thursday, July 10, 2014

Piss Test Returns!

Piss Test's phenomenal debut EP was no fluke! A year and a half after exploding on the scene with one of 2013's most essential 7" releases, the Portland punk trio has come through with a debut album so epic that they had to give it two titles - LP1 out on Jonnycat Records and Biggest Band In Europe out on Germany's Taken By Surprise Records. No word yet on a North Korean title.

To recap: Piss Test is Zachary (Red Dons, Scott Baio Army, Soda Pop Kids), Samantha (Dottie Attie), and Rodrigo (Red Shadows). Zachary is described as "Portland's angriest man", and he more than lives up to that billing on this 13-song smasher of an album. In its willingness to opine on numerous matters of the day without any regard for political correctness or common decency, Piss Test recalls classic punk bands such as Fear and the Angry Samoans. But if you've previously written Piss Test off as a "joke band", LP1 will swiftly correct that misconception. Sure, there's still much hilarity to be heard in songs like "Nico Goes To Goth Night" and "Don't Let Nazis Do Your Taxes" (excellent advice, actually!). But with this release, Piss Test show that they're not always joking. The band has some very serious things to say about topics such as urban gentrification, poverty, the travails of aging punks, and the extreme sacrifices you have to make if you desire a life in music - and on vocals Zachary puts forth those ideas with ferocity and conviction. He sounds genuinely worked-up, and at times even maniacal! Musically, the band continues to combine the best elements of Killed By Death comps and early '80s punk/hardcore with hints of late '90s garage trash. And with ripping sing-along anthems like "Macy's", "Everybody", and "Rob Starts A Class War", Piss Test will delight oldsters like me and younger punks alike. There was a time in punk music when being angry didn't necessarily equate to being humorless- and Piss Test are true throwbacks to those days. They sound like they could have stepped out of a portal from 1981 - yet the subject matter they tackle is completely relevant to what's happening now. As long as there's still so much in this world to rail against and/or make fun of, we will always need groups like Piss Test.

The last time I wrote about Piss Test, I referred to them as the "best new band of the year". And since then, they've stepped up their songwriting and delivered a truly great debut album. The interplay between guitar and bass sounds amazing, and Zachary is quickly becoming one of the best punk singers out there. And hats off to Maus Merky (recording) and Hajji Husayn (mastering) for their outstanding work in the studio! If you, like me, wish there were more bands these days playing straight-up snotty punk rock, I hereby command you to acquire a copy of LP1!



Tuesday, July 08, 2014

Ladies and gentlemen, The Shanghais!

You know how I called this the summer of power pop? I wasn't kidding! And not all of it is coming from Canada! The Shanghais hail from Oakland, California and make perfect summertime power pop rock n' roll! With a new 7" out on No Rules Records plus another one out today on the great Italian label Surfin' Ki, The Shanghais ought to be ruling the turntable at your backyard barbeques and pool parties all summer long. And if your friends don't appreciate such fine music, get some new friends!

The Shanghais' sound is classic bubblegum punk informed by '60s girl groups and the Ramones by way of the Beach Boys. Yeah, I know that sounds awesome! On lead vocals, the talented Natalie Sweet brings the ideal blend of exuberance and spunk. And musically, the Shanghais are high energy and pure fun all the way! What's not to love? Combining minimalist production with high spirited harmonies and a veritable sugar rush of melodies, the still-new "Pretty Mean" EP will delight fans of Nikki and the Corvettes, Super*Teem era Donnas, and early Bobbyteens. Your summer 2014 playlist better include "Missed Connection" - otherwise it sucks! And as the video for "Sick Of You" (see below) indicates, the Shanghais have even better things in store for us with their second single! Check out their Bandcamp page for free streams of both EPs along with super smash bonus track "Too Cool To Cry". And check in with Surfin' Ki Records for ordering info on the very limited "Sick Of You" vinyl. Woo hoo! I just might have a new favorite band!



Monday, July 07, 2014

Retro Reviews: Jackie Brentson - The Mistreater

As far as "retro" reviews go, it doesn't get much more retro than this! Jackie Brentson's claim to fame is having written and sung lead on (arguably) the very first rock n' roll song - 1951's "Rocket 88". Granted, it's hard to dispute that "Rocket 88" is the shining star of Brentson's catalog. Yet he deserves better than to be remembered as a mere footnote in music history. While hardly worth the exorbitant price tag it's fetching on Amazon (somewhere in the neighborhood of $50), Rev-Ola Bandstand's 24-track retrospective The Mistreater is well worth owning if you can nab it for a decent price.

The story behind "Rocket 88" is legendary. It was March 1951, and a 19-year-old Ike Turner traveled with his Kings of Rhythm from Clarksdale, Mississippi to Memphis to record with a young Sam Phillips. This was a year before Phillips founded Sun Records - when he was still leasing his studio's recordings to labels like Chess and Modern Records. It was Phillips who insisted that the recording session go on in spite of guitarist Willie Kizart's damaged amplifier. A quick fix was to stuff some paper in the amp cone - and in that instant the distorted fuzztone guitar sound of rock n' roll was born by pure happenstance. The band recorded a number of songs - some featuring Turner on lead vocals and some featuring second sax player Brentson on lead vocals. The prize of the session was "Rocket 88" - essentially a rewrite of Jimmy Liggins' 1947 jump blues number "Cadillac Boogie". Phillips unscrupulously credited the track to "Jackie Brentson and his Delta Cats" and sold the masters off to Chess Records. Turner, with great justification, was pissed. "Rocket 88" went on to become a massive hit - going to #1 on the R & B charts. With its pounding piano, driving beat, wailing sax, and raw vocal, it's viewed by some as the precise moment in history when up-tempo blues became rock n' roll. Sadly, stardom would be fleeting for Brentson. His second single "My Real Gone Rocket" - an attempt to re-create the magic of "Rocket 88" - was a total flop. He soon parted ways with Turner and had little success on his own - issuing three more failed singles on Chess. By 1953 he was a side man again, playing saxophone for Lowell Fulson. Brentson reunited with Turner in 1955 as a salaried sax player. He did sing lead on two singles with the Kings of Rhythm, but Turner forbade him from singing "Rocket 88" on stage.

Brentson would remain in Turner's employ until 1962. After a couple more failed attempts at solo hits, Brentson more or less gave up on his musical career by 1963. He returned to Clarksdale, found work as a truck driver, and faded into oblivion. He passed away in a veterans' hospital in Memphis in 1979 at the far-too-young age of 49. The Mistreater, which includes not just his Chess singles but also those later Federal sides, reminds us that Jackie Brenston was far more than a one-hit wonder. "My Real Gone Rocket", in spite of its failure to chart, was a raucous cut and a formidable sequel to "Rocket 88" (Turner on piano was likely a big influence on Jerry Lee Lewis). And Brentson's 1956 sides with The Kings of Rhythm are all overlooked gems. "Much Later" and "Gonna Wait For My Chance" compare favorably with Little Richard's early hits, while "What Can It Be" is doo-wop gold. It's the inclusion of those particular tracks that separates The Mistreater from earlier Brentson collections that only compile his Chess sides. No doubt his best work was done in collaboration with Turner, and there's no telling what the two of them might have been able to achieve together if old Ike hadn't carried such a grudge. Far more than a mere journeyman, Brentson was a fine singer and more than a bit player in the rise of rock n' roll. If "Rocket 88" is all you know of him, there's more to be heard.


Thursday, July 03, 2014

Return of The Putz!

If The Putz seems like the perfect name for a pop-punk band, then it makes total sense that this Indianapolis trio has made one of the best pop-punk albums of recent years! Out on Eccentric Pop Records, Knock It Off throws it back two decades to the heyday of leather jacket punk. Building on a foundation of thumping power chords, two-part harmonies, punchy bass lines, and eternal Ramones worship, The Putz prove that pop-punk will never need to be reinvented as long as it's flawlessly executed. Billy, Tyler, and Dougie are one hell of a tight combo, and they bash out those three chords with thundering power and crisp precision. By all means this is a band following in the footsteps of The Queers and Screeching Weasel - a legacy these guys fully embrace without coming off like uninspired copycats.  
Knock It Off is great fun for a couple of reasons. First of all, the energy and enthusiasm of The Putz's buzzsaw attack could win over all but the most fervent haters of pop-punk. And perhaps even more importantly, the material is so genuinely good that refraining from singing along becomes a near impossible task. If you can resist the urge to join the chorus to "That's Okay" or "Lunatic", I might have to ask you to turn in your Chuck Taylors. With songs topics such as fast food, procrastination, crazy girls, and malfunctioning brains, The Putz have clearly endeavored to make a textbook pop-punk record. Yet I don't get the sense that I've heard this album 500 times before. The Putz add their own style to the mix - and there's something distinctly Midwestern about these guys' humor and unpretentious attitude. Even when the influences are obvious ("Two Strikes"), I don't feel like I'd be better off just listening to my well-worn cassette copy of My Brain Hurts.

Sometimes a good record is just a good record, and sometimes a good record makes you want to go out and see a band live. I'd definitely put Knock It Off in the latter category. I can just tell that The Putz are the kind of live band that will put a huge smile on your face. They will be touring extensively across the U.S.A. this month in support of this new album - and you will not want to miss them if pop-punk is your thing. If your record shelf is full of titles by bands like the Riverdales, Teen Idols, and Lillingtons, Knock It Off belongs right there with 'em. Vinyl is limited to 250 copies, so hop to it!



Wednesday, July 02, 2014

Needles//Pins for the win!

Surely a number of you have been wondering for quite some time why in the heck I've never reviewed Needles//Pins. Even to me, the answer remains largely a mystery. If you figured I would go berserk for this Vancouver trio within seconds of first contact, you figured right! Somehow the band's 2012 debut album managed to evade my detection until a recent reissue on La Ti Da Records - along with a number of truly outstanding singles. Here I've been touting all these ace Canadian power pop bands all these years - and I just might have omitted the very best of the lot! For shame! But before I had the opportunity to become fully consumed with disgrace over my prior ignorance of Needles//Pins' greatness, I shifted my attention to the band's fantastic new album Shamebirds (out on Dirt Cult Records). On the heels of Mother's Children's super great LP Lemon, Needles//Pins have stepped up to make this the summer of power pop!

I think what I like about Needles//Pins is that they're only a genre band on the surface. From a purely stylistic standpoint, they've got that Undertones/Pointed Sticks classic '79 pop/punk thing down to a T. And of course that hits me right in my sweet spot. But once singer/guitarist Adam Ess opens his mouth, there's no mistaking which band you're listening to. In a scene full of sound-alike punk/garage/powerpop bands (many of which I like), Needles//Pins are the proverbial breath of fresh air. With a snot-nosed vocal tone that falls halfway in between King Louie Bankston and B.A. from Sloppy Seconds, Adam is not your typical pop singer. He's a true original, and as a songwriter he has quite the knack for articulating the agonies of breakups and damaged relationships. He goes where so many other artists have gone before, but he's such a unique and likable character that it all feels fresh. And listening to the heart and passion that he pours into these songs, you cannot question that they've come from a very real place. What a great singer!

Shamebirds does what a lot of great pop records do - take downer subject matter and somehow turn it into great fun! Propelled by an air-tight rhythm section (Macey Bee on drums and Tony X on bass) and Adam's punchy, melodic guitar, these songs will quickly have you bobbing your head and humming along to their impossibly catchy choruses. You'll need a truck load of antibiotics to avoid getting infected by the opening title track - perhaps the most perfect slice of power pop punk I've heard all year. I've hit the repeat button so many times that I might have to replace my computer mouse! Quite a few of these tracks remind me a lot of Missing Monuments - and not just because of the vocal similarities. Adam is an amazing storyteller, and so many of these songs come off like musical vignettes on the miseries men and women inflict upon one another. And it's a credit to the band that all of these songs are just as good musically as they are lyrically. "Only Call Me When You're Drunk"- which has the soul of an old country song and the hooks of a classic pop/punk jam - is an instant smash. And I'm pretty sure that that "I wanna resent you/But I'll hold you now" line from the great "What's His Face" will be stuck in my head until the end of time. 

No doubt, there's been something amazing brewing in the Canadian power pop scene in recent years - a wave of incredible bands that people will look back on in a few years and say, "Man, those were the days!" Needles//Pins typify that whole scene, but they also manage to transcend it. And even at a time when there are so many good powerpop/punk albums coming out, Shamebirds is something special.  




Tuesday, July 01, 2014

The Gaggers blame you!

Not all of the great 1977 U.K. punk albums came out in 1977. A few came out in '78 or even '79, and I can think of one that arrived 34 years after the fact - The Gaggers' smashing debut Rip You Apart. It definitely merits a place on your record shelf next to your well-worn copies of Never Mind The Bollocks, Damned Damned Damned, and Eater's The Album. It really is that good - and even the more modern acts it's drawn comparisons to (Stitches, Briefs) are similarly devoted to the original sound of punk rock. If you don't already own this album, I'm giving you one week to acquire a copy before I'm forced to intervene for your own good.

Needless to say, The Gaggers had a lot to live up to on their much anticipated follow-up to Rip You Apart. I would have been perfectly happy if these Londoners had, in the grand tradition of '77 punk, delivered a sophomore album that was 80 percent as good as their debut. But in all honesty, they've really outdone themselves. New album Blame You was three years in the making and totally worth the wait. It'll blow your head off! What I like about this effort is that The Gaggers still sound like The Gaggers - yet you can hear an obvious progression in both their sound and their approach to songwriting. The slashing guitars and snotty vocals are still there - and the vitriol emanating from Terminal Gagger's filthy mouth has not lost even the slightest edge. But the band shows plenty of new ideas and infuses slight touches of art-punk/new wave/whatever you wanna call it into its razor sharp attack. I don't think "maturity" is quite the right word to describe what they've done with this album. But there has definitely been an evolution in their sound over the last few years. A couple songs even cross the four-minute mark - and they're among the best tracks on the album!

Blame You is exactly what it needed to be. Far from a mere rehash of Rip You Apart, it's the logical next phase of The Gaggers' sonic destruction mission. It's better produced and more thoroughly thought-out than its predecessor. The band comes out swinging with the snot-drenched belter "Steal Your Girl" - as pure of a blast of punk fucking rock as you could ever hope to hear. Terminal Gagger sounds like his head might explode, and Dagger Gagger channels Johnny Thunders and Cheetah Chrome in one fell swoop. Once these boys get that first punch in, you just know it's on. Tracks like "Raw Nerve" and "Deface Me" are every bit the smashers their titles promise, while the stinging "Instant Low" immediately joins the short list of all-time great Gaggers tracks. And if every great punk album needs a brilliant closer to leave a proper lasting impression, "Make A Mess (Outta You)" definitely fits the bill. Even a happy-go-lucky fellow like me can't help wanting to kick someone in the head after listening to this song! Having left a calling card like this, you know The Gaggers aren't about to mellow out anytime soon. And the world is far better for it. 

While it did take three years for Blame You to see the light of day, you certainly can't accuse The Gaggers of being unproductive. The band's latest single, "Instant Low", is already its 7th (and already sold out!). If you're able to track down a copy somewhere, do it for the great non-LP B-side "Gagging For You" (which, as you can probably guess, is not a love song). And if, like a lot of people, you've missed out on a few of The Gaggers' 7" releases (they usually sell out in two blinks of an eye), Wanda Records has issued a dandy singles compilation called Rip You Off that features a killer selection of out of print material from 2009-12. If you've been dying for a second chance to own classic tracks like "Two Fingers Down My Throat" and "Outta Your Mind" on vinyl, your dreams have come true!

Two years ago, I suggested that The Gaggers were the best punk band on the planet. And Blame You only strengthens my case. Love it or shove it!