Wednesday, March 30, 2016

Another killer Raydios 7"!

In a review last summer, I dared to pose the question of whether or not The Raydios are approaching the greatness of Teengenerate. My verdict was something along the lines of "The signs point to yes." And now, in the wake of yet another fantastic single from The Raydios, I'm all in. For real! In my humble opinion, The Raydios are making records right now that stack up with the best of Teengenerate. If you think I've lost my mind, I am perfectly okay with that. Teengenerate was arguably the greatest band of the '90s. But The Raydios are absolutely on fire right now, and I highly advise snagging their recent output while it's still in print!

"Craps", the latest Raydios single, came out on Secret Mission Records at the end of 2015. 500 copies were pressed, and very few remain. This release continues the direction taken on last year's "Brand New Kid" 7". Basically, Fink has taken that jolt of energy he got from playing those Teengenerate reunion shows and injected it into the music of The Raydios. For me, the band is hitting the best of both worlds: the wild and trashy spirit of Teengerate meets classic '70s punk a la Ramones/Dictators. If you've previously dismissed The Raydios as sounding too "tame" in comparison to Teengenerate, "Craps" ought to change your mind. It's a ripper! And B-side "Teacher's Pet" is vintage Raydios: chock full of hooks, yet super tough. 

Hit up Secret Mission Records to grab a copy of "Craps" while the getting's good. And if you still don't own The Raydios "Brand New Kid"" 7" on Slovenly Recordings, you need that one as well! Don't miss out on one of the best punk rock bands on the planet!


Wednesday, March 23, 2016

Meet Tom Baker & The Snakes!

In the grand tradition of Boston rock n' roll, Tom Baker & The Snakes love guitars so much that they need three of them going at the same time (or four if you count the bass!). That's a whole lot of loud - something I wholeheartedly endorse! Featuring members of bands like Worshipper, Watts, Township, The Dirty Truckers, and Gymnasium, this Somerville, Massachusetts outfit recently released a digital EP on Rum Bar Records in advance of a full-length album due out later this year. The EP is called 4 Stars, and it's well worth checking out if you like no-bullshit barroom rock n' roll in the Rolling Stones/Faces mold. From the full-on sonic blast of "Waitin' For Nothing" to the hints of a softer side on "Doll Eyes" to the glorious Replacements worship of "High And Tight", 4 Stars shows multiple facets of Tom Baker & The Snakes. It's the perfect EP to blast on your front porch this spring while you sip a cold one and enjoy the weather. My only real complaint is that I'm left wanting more. I guess that's not really a complaint at all! Expect a full-length album this fall!


Thursday, March 17, 2016

New Ricky Rat record!

Ricky Rat is an all-time great in my book. When melody in punk music was all but dead in the late '80s, his legendary Trash Brats kept the faith with a first generation punk sound forged under the influence of glam and power pop. Detroit's favorite sons, Trash Brats were at the forefront of the '77 and glam punk revivals of the '90s - releasing the classic albums The Joke's On You and Out of the Closet. Two decades later, guitarist Ricky Rat hasn't altered his musical mission in the slightest. As a solo artist, he remains fixed on that sweet spot where the Ramones, Generation X, and New York Dolls intersect. Joyful Rage, his brand-new 12" EP, is his finest solo work to date.

Recorded with the best backing band in the Midwest (Max Colliva, Brian McCarty, Troy Toma), the six-track Joyful Rage is vintage Ricky Rat. It's punk rock for people who love pop, and it's pop for people who love punk rock. All the songs play to Rat's strengths- his melodic style of guitar playing and undeniable flair for writing hook-laden punk songs. Lyrically, this release leans towards personal reflections on the past that will definitely strike a chord with most fans. "Hey Remember" is an anthem for all of us '70s kids who grew up on cool music, while the brilliant closing track "Bad Pictures" makes a wonderfully profound observation about life. Even when the songs are pretty much pure pop (like "Virtual Kiss"), Rat's everyman vocals and undying belief in the power of three chords keep things firmly in the spirit of first wave punk rock. I really don't have to tell you why Ricky Rat is one of my favorite guitar players - these songs make the point far more eloquently than I ever could! Joyful Rage is guaranteed to delight old fans...and win over a whole lot of new ones as well! Hit up Bellayache Records to order a copy on pink or black vinyl! 


Tuesday, March 15, 2016

Introducing Cold Callers!

Supergroup alert! Cold Callers feature Marco from No Front Teeth Records, The Gaggers, Miscalculations, Disco Lepers, etc. teaming up with members of Los Pepes (one of my five favorite bands of the moment!). The band recently released its debut single: "Alright Girl" b/w "Spying On Me". I continue to marvel at how Marco can have dozens of projects going at the same time and still manage to have them all sound a little different. Cold Callers are one of the most unique bands I've heard in a while. Essentially they're playing '60s inspired jangly power pop, but there are hints of post-punk and psychedelia coming through as well. The A-side takes it back to the roots of power pop - bringing to mind early to mid '60s Who and Brit-obsessed American garage bands like The Choir. I dig! "Spying On Me" is in a somewhat similar vein but more overtly post-punk influenced. I'd describe the mood of the song as alluringly creepy. It's haunting yet quite beautiful. This could almost be a Miscalculations song!

All in all, this is a fantastic debut single from Cold Callers. Both songs are really sticking in my head. Get the vinyl from Wanda Records!


Monday, March 14, 2016

The Loblaws/Vista Blue split CD out now!

Update! Last month I featured some fantastic new recordings from the Nashville power pop band Vista Blue and mentioned that they were slated to appear a split CD with The Loblaws (Mike and Todd Patton's band pre Vista Blue). I am very happy to announce that the digital album is now out on Radiant Radish Records - with a CD release expected in May. All in all, you get seven Loblaws songs, four Vista Blue songs, and three Loblaws songs recorded by Vista Blue. The Loblaws were one of the best pop-punk bands around circa the late 2000s (the unreleased "Banana Stand", included here, is a lost classic of the genre). F & L favorite Wyatt Funderburk was in the band, and he has songwriting credits on three of these tracks. While this release is technically a split between two different bands, it flows like a single album. You get to hear the subtle evolution of Mike Patton as a songwriter. The Loblaws, heavily influenced by both the modern alt-pop of Weezer and the harmonies of early rock n' roll, were by no means a generic pop-punk band. And I'd describe Vista Blue as a power pop band that very much embraces its pop-punk roots. Simply put, you should buy this album if you like pop! It celebrates the legacy of one band while declaring a bright future for another. And a $6 download for a collection this good is a downright steal! Stay tuned to Vista Blue's Facebook page for further news on the CD release!


Wednesday, March 09, 2016

Juvie: the debut album!

Woo! On the heels of the great Travis Ramin assembling a treasure-laden Bandcamp page late last year, we have more exciting news from Travisland! His latest band, Juvie, has just released its first full-length album! It's called You Ain't Gonna Rock And Roll No More, and it's out on Italy's Surfin' Ki Records. Ramin (Tina and the Total Babes, The Fevers, The Short Fuses, Nikki Corvette and The Stingrays) has been a shining star of the garage and power pop scenes for two decades. And Juvie is up there with the very best of his bands. This Minneapolis outfit takes its primary inspiration from '70s music that sounded like '50s music (think Dave Edmunds, Gary Glitter, Sha Na Na). I've always had a soft spot for that "'50s in the '70s" genre of rock n' roll, and Juvie totally does it justice on this cookin' slab of wax. Stylistically, the album hops back and forth between bubblegum glam ("53rd & 4th"), power pop ("Love Crunch"), and good old rock n' roll ("Something Ain't Right"). And the songwriting is so spot-on that any of these tracks could pass for a cover of some forgotten golden oldie. Dave Edmunds himself would be proud to call "Hot Lisa" his own. "Tomahawk" and "Greaser's Fraud" just might launch a worldwide revival of the rock n' roll instrumental. "Little Diane" sounds like a track Shadow Morton might have cut with Dion or Del Shannon. "Go Wild, Go Really Wild" comes off like a number that got cut from the Grease soundtrack for being a little too dangerous.   

Seriously: how can you not love a band that comes up with a song called "You're Gonna Look Like A Monkey When You Get Old"?! The key to succeeding with this kind of music is to tap into the spirit of the '70s rock n' roll revival without crossing over into the dreaded novelty band category. That's no easy feat, but Juvie nails it. Of course the band is setting out to have great fun, but these songs are just too damn good to be dismissed as cruise ship nostalgia. Juvie, I'd say, fits perfectly on a label roster that includes the likes of Radio Days and Baby Shakes. The band's debut album is by no means an attempt to bring back rock n' roll. Rather it's an assertion that it never went away in the first place! Somewhere Bowzer is flexing his arm in admiration.

Note: order the album here! Surfin' Ki, hilariously, prices its Bandcamp downloads at over $1,000 each!


Monday, March 07, 2016

New Slow Faction EP!

A couple months ago, I had to admit to the world that I had just gotten hip to Slow Faction. Hearing the London outfit's most recent demo and prior recordings, I definitely had a "Where has this band been all my life?!" moment. So of course I was paying attention to make sure that no further releases escaped my detection! On that note, I offer my highest recommendation to the band's brand-new EP This Machine Kills Fascists. Slow Faction is a band carrying on the good fight of The Clash - right down to the tried-and-true '77 style punk sound and lyrics that have insightful things to say about society and contemporary politics. As the band so astutely points out, the clampdown The Clash foresaw is happening right now. It's as true on Slow Faction's side of the pond as it is on mine. Now more than ever, we need those bands that ignite the flames of dissent and stick their necks out for what they believe is right. And while "political punk" is often heavy on the politics and light on quality tunes, Slow Faction understands that the message resonates more powerfully when the songs are great. Isn't that the lesson we learned from Angelic Upstarts, The Alarm, Stiff Little Fingers, etc.?

Throughout this outstanding EP, Slow Faction has a great deal to say about the state of the world. Whether the band is railing against the objectification of women ("Stupid") or skewering a culture that makes a televised spectacle out of manufacturing pop stars ("D-Lister"), its message is on-point and driven by genuine conviction. And the songwriting and production are top-notch. I love a band that aspires to write anthems, and lead track "Woody Guthrie" is precisely that. It's not just a tribute to the greatest protest singer that humanity has ever known - it's also a call for a new generation to rally against the forces that oppress. The band delivers its point with passion, urgency, and a chorus that was seemingly made for mass sing-alongs. If this song doesn't get you fired up to go out into the world and make a difference, I don't know what will! Woody and Joe would be proud.


Friday, March 04, 2016

The Top Ten 2016

I have a birthday tradition of updating my top ten list of all-time favorite bands. I think it's been interesting to track how this list does or does not change from one year to the next. I've even learned some things about myself. For example: I've always considered myself a big power pop guy. Yet the only power pop band on this list is Material Issue. A full 40% of my top ten is comprised of first wave punk bands. And that doesn't even include the Dictators and New York Dolls - bands that a lot of people would lump in there with '70s punk. So when push comes to shove, I guess I'm still more of a classic punk guy than a power pop guy. 

I could probably update this list every year until I'm 90, and it still wouldn't change much. Perhaps some older bands would start showing up more often (I've been on a huge Who kick lately, hence the entry at #10). But truthfully, I'm pretty well set in my ways. The list I've come up with at the age of 45 isn't too far off from the one I would have come up with at 25. Even if I expanded the field to 20 bands, it would still be predominantly '77 punk and '60s/'70s classic rock. Ultimately I base these selections on which bands I listen to most often - although I also factor in each group's importance in my life. Does a band from this century finally crack the top ten next year? Probably not, but you never know! 

On to the list:
1. The Clash
2. AC/DC
3. Husker Du
4. Material Issue 
5. Dictators
6. Ramones
7. New York Dolls
8. Sex Pistols
9. Generation X
10. The Who 


New Beach Patrol album!

I love it when an old favorite band becomes a new favorite band! A decade ago, a young group out of Green Bay came seemingly out of nowhere to capture my album of the year award for 2006. That band was Beach Patrol, and that debut LP It's Only Greener 'Til You Get There remains one of those albums that I always go back to. If I have any regrets about my "retirement" from music reviewing circa 2008-11, it's that I missed the chance to spread the word about Beach Patrol's second and third albums (both excellent, by the way). Luckily, I now get a shot at making up for lost time. Beach Patrol recently released a new album called Eudaimonia on Barely Standing Records, and I think it's by far the best thing the band has ever done. 

Over the course of a decade, Beach Patrol has progressed from a very good band to a genuinely great one. And that process culminates on this album - a remarkable effort that I hope will finally place Domenic Marcantonio in the thick of the "best songwriters out there" conversation. Beach Patrol hasn't outgrown its power pop roots so much as it as expanded off of them. While Eudaimonia is immediately recognizable as a Beach Patrol record, it's clear that the band benefits from a wider array of musical influences and the wisdom of added life experience. You get the best of two worlds on this release: the heart of a singer/songwriter and the guts of a Midwestern bar band. Marcantonio has always possessed a keen ear for melody and a deft touch with hooks. But what strikes me about these 12 songs is how much of himself he has put into them. He's telling his own story in such a way that listeners will relate it to their own lives. And that, to me, is the true mark of a great songwriter. 

While I wouldn't quite call Eudaimonia a "concept" album, I believe the title is very significant. If there's an underlying theme to these songs, it's that positive actions contribute to happiness. You can just feel the narrative working its way towards a triumphant conclusion. But don't think for a second that this album gets bogged down in philosophy. First and foremost, Beach Patrol is a rock n' roll band. And the group has never rocked harder! Musical influences encompass everything from '60s pop to soul to country to heartland rock to roots rock n' roll. This is one of those rare albums that starts off great and just keeps getting better - highlighted by superb mid-point tracks like "Flower In The Dark" and "Motor". And the record saves three of its very best songs for an awesomely climactic stretch run. "The Big If" is a punchy barroom rocker that will have you singing along and bobbing your head like a fool, while the terrific lead single "I Am Smiling Because I'm Happy" marries Memphis soul to '70s Stones. A turn to pure pop melody on the lovely "This Is Happening" further evidences the impressive range of the band's repertoire. Given that this is the first Beach Patrol album in six years, I expected Marcantonio to deliver a strong batch of songs. And, boy, did he ever! 

At this point, it's looking highly probable that I will be honoring Beach Patrol with another album of the year title. Eudaimonia is darn close to a flawless record. It's gonna take something special to top it! The album is available now on CD from Barely Standing Records. Vinyl will be out soon. If you're still unfamiliar with Beach Patrol, be sure to check out the band's first three albums via its YouTube channel. This is a band you don't want to miss!


Tuesday, March 01, 2016

New Radiohearts 7"!

Another  7" from Radiohearts already?! This must be my lucky year! Arriving hot on the heels of the excellent No Front Teeth issued Lot To Learn EP, Tell You is yet another collaboration with the world's finest punk rock record label. And very quickly, Radiohearts are positioning themselves to become the new kings of '77 punk/powerpop! This Long Beach foursome continues to throw it back to a time when first wave punk bands and skinny tie power pop groups were truly kindred spirits - and writing a song with a hook didn't make you any less "punk". The title track combines the best elements of bands like Generation X with hints of more recent greats like the Dimestore Haloes. It's a short and punchy number that totally leaves me wanting more - and I love how the song ends in a flurry of melodic lead guitar. What a great touch! I can't decide if this song is the "hit" of the record or if the honor should go to "My Heart Has An Obituary". It doesn't get any catchier than the latter - a song that suggests what might have happened if Pete Shelley had written lyrics for Moral Crux.

Tell You is by far the best Radiohearts release to date - and proof that it is possible to combine punk and pop in a way that fully honors both. From the songwriting to the guitar tone to the lead vocals to the bass lines, this band just hits all the right notes. With four outstanding EPs in the books, Radiohearts ought to be due for a proper album. Let's hope it happens!