Friday, January 29, 2016

Nine Random Thoughts

If there's one big difference between me in my late 20s and me at age 44, it's that I no longer feel the need or desire to bash the "popular" music of today. While I don't particularly enjoy the music that the masses are currently buying, I don't suffer any delusions that the bands I like are somehow "superior". I think people should be able to like the music they like without being judged for it. And at a time when so many good bands can be heard via on-line streaming, podcasts, YouTube, etc., it seems kind of pointless to whine about the state of mainstream music.

Speaking of YouTube, how in the world did we ever live without that thing? Remember back in the day if you wanted to hear an out of print record, you had to hope and pray that you could track down a physical copy and then pay through the nose to acquire it? I remember a time when I would have killed to own rarities like The Brat's Attitude EP and the first Killjoys single. Now I can listen to either with just a quick Google search. YouTube has become the world's greatest jukebox.

It's still hard for me to believe that Nirvana's Nevermind, Teenage Fanclub's Bandwagonesque, Screeching Weasel's My Brain Hurts, and Material Issue's International Pop Overthrow are all turning 25 this year. It's like a quarter century passed in the blink of an eye.  

Things I don't like that most people like: video games, cake, the John Lennon song "Imagine". 
Things I like that most people don't like: chopped liver, low-scoring football games, the comedy of Gilbert Gottfried.
If you're new to this blog and have been thinking, "This guy gives everyone a good review!", you are 100 percent correct. By design, I only write about music that I like. For many years in my younger days, I fancied myself a "critic" and would review everything that was submitted to me. But let's be real. I'm not qualified to critique music. I prefer to think of myself as someone who merely spreads the gospel. I used to love turning friends onto new bands by making them mixed tapes. I like to think of this blog as my mixed tape to the entire world.

If you could time travel back to any year to see bands, which year would you pick? I'd opt for 1979. That would be something to see The Clash in their prime and AC/DC with Bon Scott! 

For all of those individuals wondering when the heck I'm finally going to review the band Wyldlife, I promise that this is the year!

Last year, I did not get the chance to do a "top ten albums of 2005" post. Here, then, are my favorite 10 albums from '05:
1. Unlovables - Crush*Boyfriend*Heartbreak
2. The Fevers - Love Always Wins
3. Zodiac Killers- Radiation Beach
4. Chaz Matthews - Amazing Graceless
5. Red Invasion - I'm Not Too Young To Die
6. Kevin K - Perfect Sin
7. The Sweethearts- Looks Could Kill
8. Real Losers - Music For Funsters
9. The Flakes - Back To School
10. M.O.T.O. - Raw Power 

Reviews I have planned for February: Indonesian Junk, Jabronis, Crazy and the Brains, Nasty Rumors. I might sneak in a couple more if I have the time.


Thursday, January 28, 2016

Pagans v. The Guillotines!

Holy fucking hell! If you long for the days when American punk rock was dirty and dangerous, I've got a record that's gonna blow your head off! Set for release on Just 4 Fun Records out of Sweden, this is a split 7" teaming up the almighty Pagans with Houston, Texas's The Guillotines (a new-ish band featuring former Pagan Bill DeGidio {aka Robert Conn} on guitar and lead vocals). 

You may recall that Mike Hudson regrouped the Pagans a few years ago and made an excellent album called Hollywood High (the first Pagans full-length in 31 years!). Working with a revolving cast of supporting players, Hudson continues to grow the Pagans legend. And on this split, we get the appropriately titled "Hopped Up". Featuring the blistering guitar work of Richie Duguay (The Hellhounds, Duff McKagan) and Capt. Ben Reagan (The Feederz, Richie Ramone), this old-style smasher sounds 100 percent like CLASSIC Pagans. Close your eyes, and you'll be instantly transported to the mean streets of Cleveland circa 1978! Hudson sounds like a man who's traveled to hell and back and lived to tell the tale. He's a one of a kind performer and a true national treasure. Long may he reign! 

DeGidio/Conn did multiple stints with the Pagans back in the day, and he's also well-known as a member of Cleveland punk greats like The Defnics and AK-47's. He eventually relocated to Houston, and a couple years back he formed The Guillotines with Jewels (Chelsea Hotel) on vocals and bass, Curtis De Gidio (Chrome Kickers, The Velostacks) on guitar and vocals, Glenn Gilbert (Vanity Crimes) on lead guitar, and Stevie Ryder (Root) on drums. The Guillotines are very much in the spirit of the Pagans but are by no means a straight copy. Instead think of a modern version of 1970s Cleveland/New York punk rock. The band's contributions to this split, "8-Pack Day" and "She's All Alcohol", are from the soon to be released album Heads Are Gonna Roll. And, boy, do they ever rip! If you like sleazy, high energy rock n' roll formed from the primordial ooze of The Stooges, MC5, and (of course!) the Pagans, you're gonna go wild for these songs!

The digital release of the Pagans/Guillotines split EP is available now from Just 4 Fun's Bandcamp. Don't miss out. This is one of the most killer punk records I've heard in a long, long time. The vinyl releases next month, and you can place your pre-order here!


Wednesday, January 27, 2016

New from Fuzzy Vox: No Landing Plan!

Today I have the pleasure of offering a sneak peak at what will surely be one of 2016's best LPs. No Landing Plan, due out February 26th, is the sophomore album from French garage rockers Fuzzy Vox. Tasked with following up 2014's dynamite debut On Heat, Hugo and the gang have pulled out all the stops and delivered a truly electrifying rock n' roll record! The band traveled all the way to sunny southern California to record with veteran studio men Ryan Castle and Andy Brohard. The trio also enlisted the legendary Howie Weinberg to master No Landing Plan. Clearly Fuzzy Vox spared no expense in pursuit of an amazing sounding album. Just as importantly, the band entered the studio with a fantastic batch of songs!

Like On Heat, No Landing Plan marries the raw energy of garage rock n' roll to the big hooks of power pop. On early tracks like "Explosion Of Love" and "Distracted", Fuzzy Vox returns to its "younger cousins of The Hives" blueprint - tearing out of the gates with loud guitars, frantic drumming, and a beat that's sure to get you up and dancing. If you're looking for a jolt of energy to jump-start your day, this is even better than caffeine! But just when you think you've got a handle on this record, it takes some unexpected and enjoyable turns. "Grow Evil" alternates between jumpy power pop in the verse to screaming grunge rock angst in the chorus. I haven't heard a pop song this bi-polar in a whole lot of years - and the best part is that it actually works! And when the album reaches its middle part, it truly hits its stride with several songs that show off Fuzzy Vox's considerable development as songwriters. The snappy and infectious "I Got A Girl" brings to mind Look Sharp era Joe Jackson, while "Don't Leave Me Behind" is the radio-ready power pop smash I always knew this band was capable of creating. "They Shot Charlie" is the best Fuzzy Vox song yet - a bold mix of serious social commentary and triumphant, irresistible hooks. And closing track "A Reason To Love" is completely different from the rest of the album - suggesting late '60s Stones/Kinks jangle with a modern makeover.

No Landing Plan is an album that firmly establishes Fuzzy Vox as one of the top garage rock n' roll bands going. While the production is of the highest quality, it has an edge to it that really suits the band's strengths. Having previously worked in the studio with the likes of Jet and The Hives, Castle and Brohard are the rare professional engineers that truly "get" rock n' roll. When you're recording a band with a red-hot rhythm section and a first-rate howler on lead vocals, your first task is to not get in the way of the rock! No Landing Plan moves Fuzzy Vox's music in a more melodic direction without sacrificing any of the band's signature energy. This is as fun and infectious as garage rock gets. And if you're looking for a band that puts the power in power pop, this trio is absolutely for you! Shine up your dancing shoes and set your volume knob for extra loud!


Wednesday, January 20, 2016

It's The Goodbye Johnnys!

There are few things in life that I love more than '77 style punk rock. So when I hear '77 punk done well, I'm always a happy camper! On that note, I offer my ringing endorsement of the latest album from The Goodbye Johnnys out of Z├╝rich, Switzerland. It's called Disaster Control, and it was originally released on vinyl in 2015. Just last week, the band made it available as a free download via Bandcamp. It's the kind of record I can never get enough of: slamming three-chord punk rock built on a love for The Ramones, Clash, Johnny Thunders, and (especially) The Saints. I dig the songs, I dig the energy, I dig the sound. And no track is longer than two minutes and 46 seconds! While it's easy to pick out the influences, The Goodbye Johnnys are not doing a straight copy of any of those bands. How refreshing it is to hear a band that knows the difference between a Ramones influence and a Ramones imitation! These fellas do what more bands ought to do: revisit a classic musical style yet still make it sound vital and exciting in the year 2016. If, like me, you're wild about first wave punk, check out Disaster Control. You can't deny that the price is right!


Tuesday, January 19, 2016

More from Impo & The Tents!

If you read my review of Impo & The Tents' latest LP, you know I'm crazy for these Swedish ambassadors of powerpop/punk. Again working with Alien Snatch Records, the band has released a follow-up EP called Anxious Times that picks up right where that last album left off. And you know what that means: fast, catchy, and unstoppably exuberant pop songs that will put a huge smile on your face and have you dancing around the house like a child on a sugar binge. Why mess with a winning formula? As always, these gentlemen hit that Dickies/Undertones/Pointed Sticks sweet spot right on target. And I love the added '80s new wave vibe that comes from Lars' peppy organ work. The first two tracks here are pure dizzying fun (how about those harmonies on "Do The Things You Wanna Do"?!). Then on the back end, the band takes the foot off the pedal a little and really shows off its songwriting chops. "Summer's End" is exactly what the title suggests - a throwback to '60s surf & pop with just a touch of melancholy to it. Barracudas fans, take note! And to close out the record, "Stay The Night" is pretty much perfect power pop. What a damn fine EP! If you love powerpop/punk the way I do, you need to get your mitts on Anxious Times (along with all of Impo & The Tents' stuff)!


Tuesday, January 12, 2016

Lexxi Vexx and The Modern Gentlemen return!

It's been well over a year since I first reviewed Portland, Oregon's Lexxi Vexx and The Modern Gentlemen, and I've been craving new material like mad ever since. This is definitely one of the most exciting new bands to come down the pike in recent years - a punk/rock n' roll powerhouse with an absolutely dynamite lead singer. While it still may be a while before we finally get a debut album from LV & TMG, the band has given us a nice little treat to tide us over through the cold months ahead. Snow Madness is sort of a Christmas record and sort of not. I prefer to think of it as a "winter record". After all, Christmas music isn't really useful past New Year's. Winter songs, on the other hand, remain relevant for 2-3 more months!

If you're not yet familiar with Lexxi Vexx and The Modern Gentlemen, think good old Pacific Northwest garage rock n' roll meets hard-charging '70s punk with strong, soulful vocals. Snow Madness features the title track plus covers of Murder City Devils' "364 Days", The Damned's "There Ain't No Sanity Clause", and Motorhead's "Rock & Roll". The latter selection was chosen due to Lemmy's birthday being on Christmas Eve. In the wake of his death, it becomes a wonderful tribute. The band did a great job of picking cover material that fits both the spirit of its music and the theme of the record. You hear this EP, and right away you know this is a band that would be a hell of a lot of fun to see live! All three covers are totally killer, and the original "Snow Madness" kicks things off in style. It's great straight-up rockin' punk that highlights both blazing guitars and Ms. Vexx's powerful pipes. If you're already a fan, Snow Madness is guaranteed to please. And if this is your first time hearing Lexxi Vexx and The Modern Gentlemen, check out the band's first EP as soon as possible!


Friday, January 08, 2016

Unfinished Business: Royal Headache's High

Concluding my series of posts on releases I should have reviewed in 2015, I take a look at a record that just might have been my 2015 album of the year if I'd only heard it sooner. Royal Headache's sophomore LP High is a rare case of the mainstream press (NME, Spin, Rolling Stone, The New York Times) actually going nuts for an album that isn't total shit. How about that! Arriving four years after the group's acclaimed debut album, High found Royal Headache making the leap from a very good band to a genuinely great one. These Aussies did not veer far from their signature blend of garage-punk and soul, but they stepped up the songwriting and production in a major way. High delivers one stunning song after another, and Shogun is a stone cold star on lead vocals. By turns reminiscent of the Buzzcocks ("Another World"), The Reigning Sound ("Need You"), The Replacements ("Carolina"), and the New Wave of New Wave ("High"), these songs are a wonderful mish-mash of everything I've ever loved about punk, soul, garage, indie rock, and Brit-pop. Seriously: how many bands are capable of both the '77 punk adrenaline of "Electric Shock" and the brilliant blue-eyed soul balladry of "Wouldn't You Know"? No "best band on earth" conversation is complete at this point without mention of Royal Headache. There were a number of albums from 2015 that I expect to be listening to for years to come, and High is definitely one of them.


Thursday, January 07, 2016

Unfinished Business: The Hex Dispensers III

Continuing with my series of posts on releases I should have reviewed in 2015, I turn my attention to Austin, Texas standouts The Hex Dispensers. Their latest album, III, was released this past summer on the world-renowned Alien Snatch Records. And let me tell you: this thing will melt your face off! The Hex Dispensers are one of the most unique punk bands of the past decade - and also one of the very best. This is what all "horror punk" bands should aspire to be - a group that grounds its dark sensibilities in a foundation of incredible songwriting and insidiously tuneful melodies. This band manages to combine the best aspects of The Ramones, Wipers, and Misfits and adapt them to the world of modern-day garage punk in a way that's both exciting and completely original. And while the band's lyrics are intriguing and wonderfully disturbing, I don't think you need to be a horror punk fan to appreciate The Hex Dispensers. You only need to have a taste for poppy punk rock with balls - which probably describes the majority of individuals who follow this blog! To me, III is one of those albums that you'll love regardless of how you approach it. You can delve deeply into the lyrics and really experience all that death and depression, or you can just blast the volume and bob your head to some of the catchiest punk rock you could ever hope to hear. What an awesome record! Vinyl and CD are still available from Alien Snatch!


Wednesday, January 06, 2016

Unfinished Business: Baby Shakes' Starry Eyes

Continuing with my series of posts on releases I should have reviewed in 2015, we come to a band I've been touting for over a decade. Seriously: how did I manage to not be aware that New York City's fabulous Baby Shakes released a new album this past August (their first in six years!)? That's just nuts! The 11-track Starry Eyes reminds me of why I came to love this band in the first place. In no way at all have Baby Shakes attempted to "mature" or mess with a winning formula. They've stuck with what they're so very good at: high energy power pop/rock n' roll in the vein of Nikki and the Corvettes. Starry Eyes is the quintessential summertime record - which makes it ideal listening in frigid January. I just close my eyes, and suddenly I'm beach bound in a convertible on a sunny 83-degree day. These songs are just so catchy, and you know I'm a sucker for those girl group harmonies! This is the best Baby Shakes album yet - and an absolute must for any fan of power pop!


Tuesday, January 05, 2016

Unfinished Business: The Barreracudas' Can Do Easy

Continuing with my series of posts on releases I should have reviewed in 2015, I turn to what was probably my most inexcusable omission. I've been a fan of The Barreracudas for a number of years. They had my #6 album of 2011 and my #1 single of 2014. Somehow, these Brooklyn/Atlanta based greats released a sophomore album last year without me realizing it. Shame! Shame! Anyway, Can Do Easy would definitely have made my top ten for 2015 if I'd heard it sooner. It's 100 percent essential listening for anyone who follows this blog. The album is exactly what you'd expect from The Barreracudas: fun rock n' roll inspired by '70s power pop, The Ramones, and the Cheap Trick/Thin Lizzy strain of classic rock. What's not to love?! The hooks on this thing are enormous, and there's not a dud track to be found! This is the kind of record that speaks to the sex-crazed teenager that still exists within all of us. Crack open a cold one, crank up the volume, and enjoy the hell out of life!


Monday, January 04, 2016

Unfinished Buiness: Slow Faction

2015 was another fantastic year for punk rock, garage, and power pop music. And I only covered a small fraction of it! I'm deeply embarrassed that I missed so many amazing releases last year. So my first order of business for 2016 is to try and catch up on a lot of stuff I should have reviewed in 2015. First up is London's Slow Faction - true heirs to The Clash in both a musical and lyrical sense. Having already released an album and an EP in 2014, Slow Faction followed up with an outstanding two-song demo this past May. The songs are titled "Under Heavy Manners" and "In God's Name", and the sound is classic '77 style U.K. punk. Think anthemic & hook-laden punk rock with a powerful political message. That, my friends, is my kind of music! After hearing Slow Faction, you will surely be wondering why I haven't been all over this band for the past two years. I wish I had a good answer for that! Enjoy!