Monday, April 25, 2016

New one from Kris Rodgers!

When Kris Rodgers isn't busy laying down knockout keyboard tracks for some of the best rock n' roll bands in the world (The Connection, The New Trocaderos, Kurt Baker Band), he's fronting an incredible band of his own. His talent for singing and songwriting make him a true triple threat, and no fan of '70s pop/rock should miss his recordings with the Dirty Gems. His last single, "Can't Spend Another Christmas (Without You)", ought to be played on the radio year round. 

Rodgers & The Dirty Gems have offered us a sneak peak of a new album due out later this year in the form of a single called "Rock N' Roll Radio". No, the A-side is not a Ramones cover. But as you'd expect, it's a celebration of the classic music of yesteryear and the joy of listening to the all-time greats on a turntable. This is a song that definitely has a lot to say about how the digital age has altered the experience of listening to music. But it's not so much a call to turn back the clock as it is a reminder that all of those great records are still around for us to enjoy. With lyrical nods to the likes of Little Richard, Jerry Lee Lewis, and Buddy Holly, you know exactly where Rodgers is coming from. Musically, the song is right in the Dirty Gems' wheelhouse - recalling the rocking side of Elton John's heyday. And, damn, what a hook! You could sneak this tune onto any "classic hit" radio station's playlist, and no one would suspect that it wasn't recorded in the '70s!

B-side "Let Go" is the perfect classic rock complement to the AM gold of "Rock N' Roll Radio". Again it's a well-crafted pop song- but with more bar band/blues rock muscle behind it. It's the kind of song that you'd describe as an AOR radio hit if AOR radio still existed. I love it when Rodgers really lets loose that big voice of his, and he does that here for sure. And boy, does Tom Hall ever kill it on lead guitar!

"Rock N' Roll Radio" is available as both a digital download and a CD single via Rodgers' Bandcamp. Look for the new LP Losing the Frequency out this fall!


Thursday, April 21, 2016

New Maniac 7"!

Hey! How about a brand spanking new 7" record from one of the best bands in the powerpop/punk universe? Maniac, L.A.'s favorite gentlemen punks, authored one of the finest albums of recent memory in 2014's sizzler Demimonde. And the singles they've released since then just keep getting better. New 7" "Midnight Kino", issued by Modern Action Records, continues in the band's signature style. The title track is a fast and frantic stormer with top-tier hooks and wonderfully strange lyrics that I can only describe as genius. While by no means the only band walking the fine line between first wave punk rock and the herky-jerky new wave of the same period, Maniac always manages a fresh take on these classic sounds. Zache Davis is one of the most underrated songwriters out there, and James Carman is an absolute ball of fire on drums. I also love the way Andrew Zappin and Justin Maurer combine their talents on guitar. If Wire crashed a party thrown by the 1977 Ramones, it would sound like the last 45 seconds of "Midnight Kino".

On the B-side, "Precision Accuracy" slows the pace a tad and really lets those melodies breathe. The guitars are as punchy as ever, but you can really hear some '60s California pop sensibilities bubbling under. I'm reminded just a little of L.A. Drugz - which is hardly a surprise given the incestuous relationship between the two bands (now featuring three members in common).

Last year, I credited Maniac with having one of the most outstanding singles of 2015. Take it to the bank that the band will also be in the running for top single of 2016!


Monday, April 18, 2016

New Gaggers single!

Yes, you read that right. Today's post concerns a new Gaggers single! And when I say new, I mean new for real. These aren't old songs that the band had lying around and decided to release. These are two brand-new songs for 2016. I know: you thought The Gaggers were broken up. So did I! But now they're back, and they're not going away anytime soon. You didn't think they'd let the world off that easy, did you?!

My first impression of this new single "Don't Follow Me" is that The Gaggers are showing quite a musical progression from their earlier releases. Every great punk band struggles with the question of how to move forward over time, and rarely is it the right move to keep making the same record over and over. The Gaggers seem to have found the perfect recipe for sustaining themselves as a punk band - updating their sound without fully abandoning their roots in Jabbers/Pagans/Dead Boys degeneracy. Marco's vocals are as snotty as ever, and the energy level is still at a 10. But I'm hearing way more going on in these songs - especially in the sophisticated guitar work and slick backing vocals. "Don't Follow Me" mixes elements of '77 punk and '80s new wave in a way that's highly creative yet still true to the band's identity. That guitar solo is something else! On the flip side, "1000 MPH" has a dark, desperate feel to it - demonstrating that "maturity" for a punk band need not come at the expense of intensity.

"Don't Follow Me" is available in three different versions from No Front Teeth Records. It's also available in the U.S. from Rapid Pulse Records - in a limited release of 60 copies. Wherever you may reside, don't sleep on this release. This is incredible new music from perhaps the greatest punk band of the present day. It's gonna go fast. Snag a copy here or here!


Friday, April 15, 2016

Angry Cougars: the debut album!

With four ripping singles to their name, Columbus, Ohio's Betty Machete and the Angry Cougars already had the blueprint for a great debut album. All they had to do was keep being the Angry Cougars, and there was no way they could screw up. History has taught us that that there's just no stopping a true force of nature. And thus I'm delighted to report that that the debut album Angry Cougars (out on Break-Up Records) is precisely what it ought to be: a short and swift sonic assault laden with profuse airings of grievances and threats of physical violence that you can ignore at your own risk. It's truly the classic debut we've all been waiting for since 2012! 

In case you feared the possibility of the Angry Cougars embracing ballads, string sections, jazz influences, yodeling, rap interludes, drum machines, or songs about yachting on this nine-song LP, I can assure you that there is no sign of any such missteps. This is your textbook case of a band starting up the steamroller and just flattening everything in its path. As always, the Angry Cougars bring it hard and fast - tearing through these tracks in a style that teeters between pummeling Midwestern punk and blood and guts rock n' roll. The guitars are louder, the drums hit harder, and Ms. Machete sounds more pissed off than ever! A full two-thirds of these songs clock in at under two minutes - highlighted by ill-tempered burners like "Bullshit" and "Bullet". Not content to just re-package songs from the singles, the band has come through with almost entirely new material (although it is great to hear the old favorite "Mexico" re-worked for 2016 and sounding more ferocious than ever). And while there's plenty to like here if you favor the tried and true, closing track "Kill It" shows that there's more to the Angry Cougars than 90 seconds and a cloud of dust. The "epic" of the album at three minutes and 41 seconds, this thundering dirge is so over the top in its bleakness that it has me wondering if this is the Angry Cougar's Spinal Tap moment. But it's executed so well that I just can't be sure. If this band really wanted to go down the path of doom metal, you can't deny they have the chops to pull it off!

Alright, citizens of Columbus and surrounding communities! Angry Cougars hits local store shelves tomorrow for Record Store Day! Every copy was personally hand screened by Mr. Pat Dull himself! You can find the album at Elizabeth's Records, Spoonful Records, Lost Weekend Records, Used Kids Records, Records Per Minute, and Magnolia Thunderpussy Records. Also out on Break-Up tomorrow is the 2016 edition of the Columbus Blood series - a compilation LP featuring 12 standout bands from the Columbus independent music scene. Head on over to Facebook for further details!


Wednesday, April 13, 2016

Stiletto Boys: When Wolves Emerge!

Yeah, man! I am so pumped about an amazing new compilation CD from Zodiac Killer Records and the legendary Stiletto Boys! When Wolves Emerge collects the Stiletto Boys' early studio recordings from 1996-98 - featuring the tracks from the band's three seven-inches along with several songs that never made it to an official release. For a lot of younger fans, this is a great opportunity to discover one of the greatest punk bands ever. And if you own some of the group's albums but aren't familiar with its classic early material, this collection is absolutely essential. Best of all, it's for a wonderful cause - with all profits going to defray the costs of brain surgery for guitarist Eric Benner's son Quinn. 

All the way up through 2013's power pop masterpiece Liberator, the Stiletto Boys have continually raised the bar with every new release. They've topped themselves again and again. Yet I will always save a special place in my heart for their earliest, rawest, '77 style punk recordings. And that's what you're getting on When Wolves Emerge - the fruits of the band's 1996 and 1997 sessions in Rich Sexton's basement along with the songs the boys recorded at Sound Cage studios in 1998. This includes the band's highly acclaimed first two seven-inches on Zodiac Killer ("8-Track" and "Attitude Adjuster"), the "All Alone" 7" released by Screaming Apple Records, the tracks from the unreleased "Five Finger Fury" 7", and three additional songs from the Sound Cage sessions. It's great to have a single collection that documents this era of the Stiletto Boys - which combined the best of '77 powerpop/punk with the blistering fury of bands like the Dead Boys and Radio Birdman. This compilation includes many of my favorite Stiletto Boys songs of all-time (like the original versions of "Killing Me", "8-Track", and "Don't Stop"). And you won't want to miss ultra-rare covers of the Gigantor theme song and The Beatles' "I Feel Fine"!

When Wolves Emerge is the perfect complement to the rest of the Stiletto Boys catalog. If you start with this collection and then listen to all three studio albums in sequence, you truly hear the growth and full maturity of an extraordinary band. But I must admit that there's nothing quite like the jolt I get from this early stuff. It's just so raw and exciting and full of the spirit of the original punk rock movement. I consider the late '90s an overlooked golden age of punk rock, and the Stiletto Boys had a lot to do with that. Get When Wolves Emerge directly from the Zodiac Killer web site!


Monday, April 11, 2016

New album from The Gee Strings!

I will always list '77 style punk rock up there with all of the best things in life. Nothing puts me in a happier place than hearing this style of music played well. And I can always count on Germany's Gee Strings for some top-notch '77 punk. At it since 1994 and sounding better than ever, The Gee Strings have returned with their first full-length album since 2006. It's called I Am So Gee!!, and its release is a collaboration between Adrenalin Fix Music and Strychnine Records out of France along with Ghost Highway Recordings and KOTJ Records out of Spain. Founding members Ingi and Bernadette are two of the best in the business - the latter a red hot guitarist in the Steve Jones/Johnny Thunders/Cheetah Chrome mold and the former sounding like the love child of Joan Jett and Iggy Pop. While very much sticking to the band's roots in Pistols/Thunders/Ramones worship,  I Am So Gee!! is far from predictable or repetitive. Showing its experience and maturity, the band pulls from a wide variety of songwriting influences within the early punk realm. I like that these songs are built around a combination of classic punk riffs and really strong hooks. The straight-up '77-style slammers (like "Trying To Forget" and "Have To Say") are quite good. That's no surprise. At the same time, I'm hearing some new things from The Gee Strings. "Can't Call It Love" and "I Will Get You" fully embrace the melodic/power pop side of '77 punk, while the playful and peppy "The Punk" could almost pass for a long-lost Rezillos song. Closing track "Punk Rock Heart" is something very close to a ballad, and I really feel the passion and sincerity coming through. It's always a little bit of a risk for a punk band to try a "slow" song, but The Gee Strings genuinely pulled it off!

Without a doubt, The Gee Strings have made an album that plays to their strengths. This band is a punk purist's dream, and its influences remain obvious and unassailable. A fine cover of Slaughter and the Dogs' "Situations" makes that perfectly clear. But befitting a band releasing its first LP in a decade, The Gee Strings sound fully re-energized and more evolved in the songwriting department. I like a band that gives you a whole lot of what you expect but also a little bit of what you don't. More than anything else, you can tell that playing punk music is fun for The Gee Strings. I Am So Gee!! just puts a smile on my face, and it's a great reminder of why I came to love punk rock in the first place.


Thursday, April 07, 2016

Meet TV Crime!

I must salute Mick Fletcher for his personal recommendation on TV Crime out of  Nottingham, UK. It was immediately apparent to me why Mick thought I'd like this band. Consequently, I imagine many of you will dig TV Crime as well! While I've heard lots of bands in recent years that are a combination of garage punk and power pop, most of them lean more towards the latter. TV Crime, on the other hand, is truly the best of both worlds. The band's sound is punchy and rough around the edges, yet totally melodic and crackling with energy. A debut single called "Hooligans" is now available from TV Crime's Bandcamp, and both songs are total bangers. If the title track doesn't get your toes tapping and your head bobbing, you might want to check yourself for a pulse! If you're craving some thumping poppy garage punk along the lines of a rawer Marked Men, ya gotta check out TV Crime! Send your thank-you notes to Mick! 


Monday, April 04, 2016

New England's Newest Hit Makers: the reissue!

It's official: this blog has been around so long that I'm now writing about reissues of albums that I first reviewed when they were new! To celebrate the fifth anniversary of The Connection's New England's Newest Hit Makers, the mighty Rum Bar Records has re-issued this classic debut album on compact disc. This title, released by the band as a limited 12" in October of 2011, sold out in a week. Rumble Records (Spain) and SP Records (Japan) also released versions of the album in early 2012. CD and LP copies have been out of print for several years, so now fans will get another chance to own New England's Newest Hit Makers in a tangible format. As a bonus, you also get the tracks from 2012's Seven Nights To Rock EP!

A little history on The Connection: Brad Marino and Geoff Palmer formed the band in March 2011, and from there things moved really fast. By May, the band was in the studio working on New England's Newest Hit Makers. The album was completed in June, and The Connection started playing shows that summer. New England's Newest Hit Makers had its digital release in August, and I reviewed it a month later. Little did I know then that The Connection would eventually become my favorite band. But I was impressed enough to give the album an "A+" review! While The Connection has only gotten better with each subsequent release, I'm struck by how well its debut album holds up after five years. Even before Brad and Geoff had fully figured out what they wanted The Connection to be, their musical chemistry and talent for penning timeless rock n' roll songs were undeniable. Some bands are just born with it, ya know?

New England's Newest Hit Makers sounds like some long lost treasure from the early to mid '60s - largely inspired by the British Invasion and early Beach Boys via Chuck Berry. Straight-up rockers like "It's Alright" and "Stop Talking" remain signature songs for The Connection. "All You Gotta Do" and "I Want You" demonstrate that it's hard to go wrong replicating the '62-'63 Beatles. And on tracks like "Learn Your Game" and the Dee Dee Ramone/Chesterfield Kings cover "Baby Doll", The Connection quickly established themselves as key players in a new generation of garage rock.

With the Seven Nights To Rock tracks tacked on, this reissue of New England's Newest Hit Makers is a great look back at the early years of The Connection. I love reliving that magic moment when Kris "Fingers" Rodgers became part of the Connection equation on keyboards. And covers of the Ramones and Real Kids acknowledge influences that would become especially significant on later releases. Get the CD for just ten bucks from Rum Bar Records!


Friday, April 01, 2016

Introducing Beebe Gallini!

Hello, world! Meet Beebe Gallini - your new favorite garage/soul girl group! Formed by longtime friends Sally Sweet (The Blue Up?, The Cave Gurls, Runes Av Vaskeri, Sally and the Sallycats) on organ and Lynn Zecca (Moody Daughters, Kinda Kinky) on bass, this Twin Cities foursome is rounded out by Emily Cahill Ruiz (The Jim Ruiz Set, Walker Kong and the Dangermakers, Wild Things, The Latchhook) on drums and the fabulous Miss Georgia Peach (The Gloo Girls, Speedway, Rhinestone Chassis, The Short Fuses, Nikki Corvette and the Stingrays) on guitar and lead vocals. That's one heck of an impressive lineup, and the band does not disappoint! The original Beebe Gallini may have been a real piece of work, but her rock n' roll namesakes just want to show you a good time!

Beebe Gallini formed in January of last year - cultivating a live repertoire focused on garage, girl group, mod, and bubblegum favorites of the '60s. The band sticks to that niche on its debut album Need All The Help I Can Get. These ladies tackle (mostly) covers of soul classics, garage rock obscurities, and girl group standards - paying homage to the original source material while also putting their own signature on it. MGP is a total powerhouse on lead vocals, and this band suits her talents so well. If you don't make a regular practice of dancing around your house like a maniac, this release just might compel you to start! And ya gotta love that organ! Standout numbers include the Lee Hazelwood penned title track (first recorded by Suzi Jane Hokom in 1966), the Ohio Express/Rare Breed shaker "Beg, Borrow, and Steal", O.V. Wright's "That's How Strong My Love Is" (famously covered by both Otis Redding and the Rolling Stones), Lesley Gore's 1965 B-side "No Matter What You Do", and The Equals' should-have-been smash "Softly Softly".

Need All The Help I Can Get was mixed by the great Travis Ramin, and it's a name your price download over at his Bandcamp page. If you've played your Girls In The Garage and Nuggets compilations to death, Beebe Gallini is definitely the band for you. Who says that nothing good in life is free?!