Monday, January 16, 2017

One Way Ticket: the debut album!

And now here's something swell from France! One Way Ticket is a Besançon-based trio that works a classic power pop style while also tipping its cap to mod and Brit-pop influences. Out on the French label Production Impossible Records, And Life Just Simply Moves Along is the band's debut album following an EP released back in 2015. The snap and jangle of "In The Upper World" and the first class Jam worship of "All Change" start off the record auspiciously, but what impresses me as the album progresses is the band's ability to slow the tempo and really let those melodies shine. "Magical Springs", "Miss Grievous", and "Finger Snap" are fine examples of power pop with an undercurrent of melancholy. And "Beside You" fully embraces the dramatic possibilities of a good ballad. This may be a funny observation, but I like hearing this style of music sung in a French accent. All in all, the band does a great job of taking tried-and-true influences and creating something that feels fresh and current and genuinely original. If you like mod/powerpop, this ought to be right up your alley. Vinyl LP releases this coming Friday!


Wednesday, January 11, 2017

Meet Surf Cassette!

The first 2017 release I've heard is a really good one! Surf Cassette is a trio from Milan, Italy doing a super cool mix of garage, surf, and pop. The band's self-titled debut release came out last week via Bandcamp, and it's a free download that's well worth checking out. I love the idea of an Italian band in 2017 finding inspiration in "waves, Californian girls, dreams and seasides". These guys have a minimalist/lo-fi aesthetic that definitely falls under the garage umbrella, but at heart they're a melody-driven pop band. Leadoff track "Wasted" is surprisingly unlike the rest of the tracks - coming on with big crunching power pop moves and a killer chorus. But starting with second track "Lust For Life", the band really settles into a dreamy/beachy/surfy groove that channels the Beach Boys via the Jesus and Mary Chain. The harmonies on "Mess In My Head" and "Rebel" are spot-on, and overall the quality of the songwriting is top-notch. I like how the band can go from an attitude-laced rocker such as "Maybe I'm Not Sober" (reminiscent of early '90s punky Brit-pop) right into a song as sparse and pretty as "Summer's End". Every aspect of the production of this album took place in the band's rehearsal space, and such simplicity suits these songs very well. Having had so many wonderful experiences with Italian bands over the years, I must say I've encountered another winner in Surf Cassette!


Tuesday, January 10, 2017

Introducing Rinehearts!

I've got a short and sweet post for you today! Rinehearts hail from Perth, Australia and have a six-song debut EP out on No Front Teeth Records. This is something a little different for NFT: late '70s style power pop that worships at the altar of guitar jangle and ringing melodies. It goes without saying that I'm a big fan of the style, and Rinehearts sure do it well. Play "Try Your Luck" for just about anyone, and you could totally pass it off as some forgotten A-side from the heyday of The Records and Incredible Kidda Band! I feel like I should be playing this EP while I stand in front of the mirror and fix my skinny tie just right. There's quite a rich history of Aussie power pop, and Rinehearts seem poised to become part of it. Order the 7" from No Front Teeth! 


Monday, January 09, 2017

Unfinished Business: Death By Unga Bunga - Fight!

Concluding my series of posts on releases I should have reviewed in 2016, we come to a band that I'm thoroughly embarrassed to have only recently discovered! Norway's Death By Unga Bunga are everything I love in music. And their latest EP Fight! is essential listening for anyone who follows this blog. Call it power pop with actual power. Call it garage rock with hooks. Call it whatever you want! Ultimately what we have here is loud, catchy rock n' roll that's 110 percent fun! The title track is like the best song Cheap Trick never wrote! Good god: how in the hell did I miss four albums from this band?! The best I can do is cop to my failure and vow to pay extra close attention to all future releases. Listen and love!


Friday, January 06, 2017

Unfinished Business: Nervous Triggers - Demo 2016

Continuing my series of posts on releases I should have reviewed in 2016, we come to a write-up that I've had sitting on the back burner for months. 2016 was a great year for hot demos from new punk rock bands (e.g. Sore Points, Grit, The Vitamens). And Nervous Triggers were definitely part of that elite group. What really sets the band apart is the exceptional quality of its lyrics - which can largely be attributed to the extensive musical and life experience these four pals from the Jersey shore bring to the table. These fellas have been slugging it out in the New Jersey punk and hardcore scenes for years - with members having played in such bands as $H!TFiT, Teen Wolves, The Insults, brick mower, Secretary Legs, Black Wine, Hunchback, Psyched To Die, Backpocket, and Sun Puddles. The band name is a reference to a lyric in the Clash song "Groovy Times", and so it's no surprise that Nervous Triggers have a lot to say about government, society, and how our individual struggles fit into the equation. Given how corny and cliched most "political" punk music ends up being, it's a pleasant surprise to hear a band express these types of ideas with such intelligence, insight, and intense conviction. It might be lazy journalism to suggest checking out Nervous Triggers if you like Night Birds. But unquestionably, these two bands share extensive spiritual DNA. Head on over to the group's Bandcamp page where you can stream the entire demo and read all of the lyrics. Look for a debut EP soon called Do the Drool - easily one of my most highly anticipated punk releases of 2017!

Nervous Triggers on YouTube

Thursday, January 05, 2017

Unfinished Business: Mikey Erg - Tentative Decisions

Continuing my series of posts on releases I should have reviewed in 2016, we come to my most unforgivable omission. Mikey Erg is one of my favorite singers and songwriters of all-time, and his proper solo debut Tentative Decisions is his first album of original material since The Ergs released Upstairs/Downstairs ten years ago. While the man is a pop-punk legend, I've never met an individual with a greater passion for music of just about every imaginable genre. Tentative Decisions, while immediately recognizable as the creation of Mikey Erg, shows what this formidable talent is capable of when he doesn't limit himself to just pop-punk. Forays into folk/Americana ("Scenic Turnout"), straight indie rock ("Waiting Out The Weekend"), jangle-pop ("Song for New Britian"), and droning noise rock ("NyQuil and Sudafed") prove genuinely successful. And while it ultimately doesn't stray that far from the sound Mike is known for, Tentative Decisions is a record that genuinely transcends genre. Its appeal lies not in musical style but rather in Mike's heartfelt vocals, bittersweet lyrics, and ever-pleasing melodies. It's just a freaking amazing album - and easily one of the best released by anyone in 2016. Better late than never, I now give it its due! 


Wednesday, January 04, 2017

Unfinished Business: First Base - "Together Again"

Like I did last year, I am starting the new year off with some posts on releases I should have reviewed in 2016. Of course I'm never going to have the time to review every essential release in the punk/powerpop/garage realm. But sometimes my failings are so egregious and unthinkable that I find it necessary to make amends. Consider the latest single from First Base, released on La Ti Da Records way back in September. To say that it's totally up my alley would be the understatement of the year. A lot of you are probably reading this right now and thinking, "How in the hell did he miss this one?!" Seriously: if I'd known about it sooner, it might have ended up my Single of the Year for 2016! Falling somewhere in between the best of '70s power pop and the Ramones circa Road to Ruin, here's the magnificent "Together Again".


Tuesday, January 03, 2017

So What's debut album!

So What, the originators and international ambassadors of the hard 'gum sound, have released their long-awaited debut album. What's it called? Hard Gum, of course!

Hard 'gum, obviously, is short for hard bubblegum. Think late '60s/early '70s bubblegum pop meets classic era U.K. junkshop glam forged under the heavy influence of perhaps the most underrated rock n' roll band of all-time - The Equals. So What's first two singles were nothing short of fantastic, and for sure I had high hopes that the Oakland foursome would deliver an equally strong LP. Hard Gum, a split release between singer/guitarist Jason Duncan's venerable Just Add Water imprint and Italy's Surfin' Ki Records, is absolutely the hand-clapping, foot-stomping extravaganza I was hoping for! The existing A-sides "What You Do To Me" (re-recorded for the album) and "Why Can't I See You Tonight" bookend a stellar collection of rockin' and massively hook-laden tunes. This is probably the most fun you can have with your pants on (although I don't think that's necessarily a requirement). And while So What is just one of many modern-day bands to draw from glam rock and bubblegum influences, I don't think anyone does it with greater authenticity or a more thorough appreciation for the history of these genres. For one thing, the sound is totally spot-on. If you're looking for big drums and fuzzy guitars with just the right touch of Moog synth, So What has got it! It would be easy to convince just about anyone that this album was actually recorded in 1973! Just as importantly, Duncan is a fine songwriter with a terrific grasp of what a three minute pop song ought to be. The new take on "What You Do To Me" burns even hotter than the single version- kicking off the album with such a bang that you just know the whole thing is gonna be great! Tracks such as "Don't Wanna Come Back To You" and "Where We Goin'" sizzle in a similar vein, while that Equals influence really comes through in riff-tastic booty-shakers like "What You Said" and "Don't Come Back".  The '50s flavored "Untouched By Life" brings to mind label mates Juvie, and the teen hooligan anthem "My Life Is Tight" puts the "hard" in 'hard gum!

I can't think of a better way to kick off another year of F & L than with this post on Hard Gum! This is one of those albums that was just made to be enjoyed. I don't see how you can listen to this record and not wanna dance around like crazy while you tear it up on air guitar. If you dig super-catchy pop with balls, no one's doing it better than So What!