Thursday, February 25, 2016

Introducing The Graffiti Crimes!

Hey! I've got a good one for you to close out the month! The Graffiti Crimes are a newer band out of Toronto that you're surely going to be hearing about a lot over the next few months. "Favourite Loser" is their debut on-line single, and it's a terrific collision of punk rock, power pop, and straight-up rock n' roll. Almost from the instant I pushed play, I knew I was going to dig this song. It's a stone cold hit! Clearly this band knows how to write a killer tune, and Becca Chambers sounds like a formidable talent on lead vocals. Check "Favourite Loser" out for yourself and stay tuned for more from The Graffiti Crimes. Thanks to Greg Mongroll for the hot tip on this band!


Thursday, February 18, 2016

Indonesian Junk: the debut album!

"Big hooks and big riffs is what Indonesian Junk is all about. Hailing from the land of Lenny, Squiggy, and the Crusher, this Milwaukee ménage à trois takes the best elements of glam, punk, power pop, and heavy metal; ditches the fluff; and cranks out 10 tuff street-pop shakers. They're sleazy and sincere, pairing their hymns of damaged love with dangerous guitar heroics on their full length debut."

The above quote is taken directly from the Bandcamp bio for Indonesian Junk's debut album. I've always maintained that if bands can describe their music far more articulately than I can, I should let them! I first reviewed Indonesian Junk two years ago - writing about a demo that singer/guitarist Daniel James (Chinese Telephones, Ramma Lamma) had recorded entirely himself. At that point, James had just recruited a rhythm section and made Indonesian Junk a "real" band. The group's debut EP, Crimes, arrived last year. Now we have the band's self-titled debut full-length, out on Rum Bar Records (CD) and Some Weird Sin Records (vinyl LP). And I've gotta say that I love this record! In my opinion, it's THE release of 2016 so far. It's exactly what James was going for - trashy glam/punk with the soul of power pop. You might hear tracks like "Indonesia" and "Out Of Love" and think you're hearing some long lost band from the heyday of CBGB (an impression strengthened by a faithful cover of Jayne County's "Fuck Off"). But then these guys turns around and hit you with everything from Stiv Bators-ish power pop (the magnificently creepy "Malibu") to sludgy metal ("So Alone") to '77 pogo punk ("You Messed Me Up"). No two songs sound the same, and I'm hard pressed to think of a track that I don't thoroughly enjoy. James is really good at the "super tough music with wimpy lyrics" thing, and I like how he mixes in songs about spacemen traveling into black holes and gigantic lizard monsters dancing the nuclear holocaust away. I was happy to discover that a few tracks from the original demo were re-worked for the album. "Shake It With You" is a great way to kick off the record, while "Shelly Shelly (Don't Break My Heart)" reaches the heights of pop greatness that the original version promised.

The most telling thing about Indonesian Junk's debut album is that it's been living in my car CD player for the last few weeks. I just don't get tired of these songs! And given my upbringing in metal and classic rock, it's no surprise that I'm so enamored with James' guitar heroics! If you like punk rock with hooks but crave something different from another sound-alike power pop/punk band, this could be the album for you!


Wednesday, February 17, 2016

More from Crazy & The Brains!

About  a year ago, I wrote a rave review of the latest album from Crazy & The Brains. Now I'm going to review the band's follow-up single, and you can probably deduce that high praise is in order. Of course! "Brain Freeze" seems to be kind of a sequel to the album hit "Ice Cream" - except it might be even catchier! Really! Give it a listen, and both the melody and the chorus will be running through your head all day long! And while Crazy & The Brains are a perfect example of the kind of music I enjoy, they don't really sound like any other band I've written about before. Seriously: who else out there is doing xylophone-driven poppy punk party rock with harmonies recalling pre British Invasion rock n' roll? As their Baldy Longhair bio hilariously puts it, these guys are "the Atlanta of New Jersey"!

Like "Brain Freeze", B-side "Good Boy" is catchy as hell and bound to leave you wanting more. It's probably my favorite Crazy & The Brains song to date - a pure rush of pop/punk adrenaline crackling with the spirit of golden oldies rock n' roll. This is definitely one of those cases where the B-side is so good that it could have been a single in its own right.

The "Brain Freeze" single is available in the U.S. from Baldy Longhair Records, in the U.K. and Europe from Glunk Records, and in Canada from Chisel Records. The 7" comes in three varieties: yellow vinyl, black vinyl, and purple vinyl with yellow splatter. Cassettes are green, super limited, and include 6 bonus tracks. Get your mitts on this single if you enjoy quality music!


Tuesday, February 16, 2016

Meet Vista Blue!

Oh, boy! I've got a good one for you pop lovers today! You may remember The Loblaws as one of the better pop-punk bands of the late 2000s. They had a really excellent 7" out on Mutant Pop Records when the label had a brief revival in 2008. You also may recall that the great Wyatt Funderburk was a member of the band. While The Loblaws eventually split, brothers Mike and Todd Patton regrouped last year under the name Vista Blue with a series of baseball-themed releases.

Based in Nashville and Cincinnati with roots in New Orleans, Vista Blue is essentially a more "pop" continuation of The Loblaws. Think classic pop-punk (Ramones, MTX) meets modern power pop (Weezer, Fountains Of Wayne) with a heavy Beatles/Beach Boys influence. In anticipation of an upcoming Vista Blue/Loblaws CD on RTTB Records, the band has released Betsy Took My Baby Away - an EP comprised of songs that were originally intended for release on Mutant Pop before the label called it quits in 2009. It sounds like classic Mutant Pop fare - bringing to mind unheralded greats of the label like The Proms and Ruth's Hat (with hints of early Lillingtons in the vocals). These tracks began as Loblaws songs and were completed by Vista Blue - creating a perfect bridge between the two bands. The title track, inspired by Hurricane Katrina, imagines the experiences of two people on the eve of Hurricane Betsy in 1965. It's pretty much an instant classic of harmony-laden pop-punk. "When She Cries" and the Funderburk co-write "Maybe Tomorrow" are great as well. The CD will feature these three songs along with the seven completed Loblaws recordings and the entirety of Vista Blue's brand-new Jamie Lee EP. The new EP is a little more in the power pop vein - yet similar enough for it to make sense for all of these songs to be on the same album.

Essentially Vista Blue blurs the already thin line between power pop and pop-punk - adding add in early rock n' roll harmonies for good measure. I love the songs, I love the vocals, and I love this band! I can't wait for the full CD! If Buddy Holly was the granddaddy of this sort of music, we've definitely met the grandchildren! 


Wednesday, February 10, 2016

Meet Aerosol Burns!

As you may have gathered from my sudden infrequency of posts, I am knee-deep in a new semester at school on top of a day job. But I wanted to pop in with a quick review of a new single that each and every one one of you needs to hear. Seriously: if you don't like Aerosol Burns, there's something wrong with you.

Aerosol Burns are the latest creation from Chris Parker - the guitarist/songwriter for Chain Letters and proprietor of Pogo Time Records. Aerosol Burns are comprised of two members of Chain Letters (Parker and drummer Violet X) along with longtime F & L favorite Matt Mayhem (No Tomorrow Boys, The Furies, Young People With Faces) on bass and lead vocals. Needless to say, Aerosol Burns are very similar to Chain Letters. Think catchy as hell poppy punk rock with some real balls to it. If there's a slight difference, it's that Aerosol Burns swap out some of the early L.A. punk influence in favor of a more straight-ahead late '70s power pop punk sound. On the band's debut single, Parker's guitar tone is recognizable right off the bat. Although these are only the third and fourth songs he's ever released, he has totally mastered the buzz-saw guitar sound and minimalist songwriting that made first generation punk music so timeless. "Afraid of the Phone" also benefits from a knockout lead vocal courtesy of Mr. Mayhem. Fans of Buzzcocks, Pointed Sticks, etc. should be very excited to check out this second release from Pogo Time Records! And be on the lookout for another Chain Letters 45 due out later this year!


Thursday, February 04, 2016

Keeping up with Nasty Rumors!

It's been over a year since I first reviewed Bern, Switzerland's Nasty Rumors. Having released three more singles since then (including two brand-new ones), this group is rapidly climbing my list of favorite present day bands! Nasty Rumors hit my sweet spot in terms of their sound: English style '77 punk with a considerable power pop influence. And their two new singles are their best releases yet! "Dilemma" is out on Germany's Wanda Records and teams a punchy title track with a B-side that brings to mind The Boys or even current label mates Los Pepes. "All Alone" was just released by No Front Teeth Records and hearkens back to the anthemic Brit-punk of The Clash, Professionals, and Chelsea. It goes without saying that you need both of these singles! If you're a collector type, there are regular & limited versions of both seven-inches still available from Nasty Rumors' Bandcamp. If you're not a collector but love old school punk with melody, I highly recommend downloading all four of the band's singles immediately! Will we soon be a getting a full album from Nasty Rumors? I sure hope so! 


Wednesday, February 03, 2016

Jabronis Change The Dial!

Generally speaking, Ramones-core bands follow two sacred rules:
1. No band will ever be as good as the Ramones, and even the best of their imitators must bow down and acknowledge that they are unworthy.
2. When paying tribute to the Ramones, it is only acceptable to draw from the first four albums (or just the first three if you're orthodox Ramones-core).

Portland, Oregon's Jabronis are one of the few existing Ramones-core bands I find interesting enough to write about. I especially appreciate the band's blatant disregard for Ramones-core Rule #2 (it goes without saying that they adhere strictly to Rule #1). On their 2013 album Hit The Road, Jabronis definitely hinted at an interest in the more pop-oriented side of the Ramones. And on their new album Change The Dial, they've done what no other Ramones-core band has ever tried before: to draw very specifically from the early '80s Ramones albums. Drummer G.G. Jabroni describes the album as "an attempt to make a stripped down End Of The Century and a harder edged Pleasant Dreams, smashing them together and harkening back to the first three Ramones albums at the same time". I think this is a super cool concept for a Ramones-core album, and it makes total sense. After all, what Ramones fan hasn't wondered how much better End of the Century would have been if it had been produced more like the first four albums? Don't most of us believe that Pleasant Dreams could have been a great Ramones album if Joey and Johnny hadn't been at odds? And considering that even the Ramones' lesser albums are better than 99.9 percent of all records ever made, Jabronis' fondness for End of the Century and Pleasant Dreams is 100 percent sincere.

Supplemented nicely by textbook Ramones-core blasters like "Shark Bait Baby" and "I'm A Schizo", Jabronis' attempts to channel the '60s pop obsessions of early '80s Ramones are genuinely successful on Change The Dial. The terrific "Nothing I Won't Do" sounds largely inspired by "Do You Remember Rock 'n' Roll Radio?", while "I Don't Want To Want You Anymore" suggests a toughened-up Pleasant Dreams. "Maybe Tomorrow (She's Mine)" reminds us that Phil Spector was far more important to the Ramones as an influence than he ever could have been as a producer. And "Just In Case The Sun Don't Shine (Tonight)" brings to mind the kind of pure pop song that Joey Ramone had always had a knack for writing.

Ultimately Change The Dial is exactly what Jabronis intended it to be. It takes the influences behind End of the Century and Pleasant Dreams and brings them more in line with the spirit of the Ramones' earlier albums. By no means are Jabronis trying to "out-do" early '80s Ramones. But at the very least, they have great fun getting us to think "What if?". I'm already looking forward to Jabronis' next album - which will be 100 percent influenced by later (mid '80s to mid '90s) Ramones!