Friday, April 28, 2017

New album from Los Pepes!

Los Pepes have been one of my favorite bands for a number of years now. Their first LP Los Pepes For Everyone was my third-ranked album of 2014, and last year's All Over Now was my 14th-ranked album of 2016. But it's with the arrival of the band's third full-length Let's Go! that we finally get a studio recording that properly captures the thundering power and sheer loudness of the London foursome's smashing live shows.  

Los Pepes For Everyone, in my opinion, stacked up favorably with many of the classic albums of late '70s English and Irish pop/punk. With All Over Now more or less repeating the formula, a change-up was probably in order for the band's third LP. And so now we get Let's Go! - which is considerably harder-rocking than its predecessors but no less hook-laden. This album puts the power in power pop, from the blistering punk rock n' roll of "The Trap" to Ben's mighty Daltrey-eqsue vocals on "I Ain't The One" to the Real Kids style energy of the title track to the sweetly thrashing "You Don't Get Anything". "Perfect World" is what every power pop song should aspire to be - coming on with thumping drums and air-guitar worthy riffs, then building to a knockout chorus sprinkled with spot-on backing vocals. When the band retreats to songs reminiscent of previous releases ("Give Me Problems", "Can't Be Told"), these tracks really stand out and remind us that Los Pepes are titans of the brand of punk rock that walks hand in hand with pop.

Even with a number of great LPs already in the books for 2017, Let's Go! is a stone cold lock for my year-end top ten. It's available now in digital form via Los Pepes' Bandcamp, with a vinyl release expected any day now from the band's longtime label home, Germany's Wanda Records. In true Los Pepes fashion, the band is celebrating the release of the album by steamrolling its way through Europe for the next three weeks. Enjoy the new album, and be sure to catch these gents in their natural habitat if you get the chance!


Saturday, April 22, 2017

It's a new Radio Days single!

The last time I had reason to mention Radio Days, I proclaimed the Italian trio's LP Back In The Day album of the year for 2016. So you can surmise that I was very happy to discover brand-new music from Radio Days just yesterday! Released on Surfin' Ki Records in conjunction with the band's upcoming tour of Japan, the new 7" single "Haruka" is limited to just 300 copies. On the A-side, "I'm In Love With You, Haruka" is as gorgeous and melodious as you could ever hope for a pop song to be. It ought to be a #1 smash in 57 different countries. The B-side is a cover of "Teenage Kicks". And while no band is ever going to out-do the original, I think any fan who has seen Radio Days perform the song live will be excited about them releasing their version on record!

Radio Days are one of the very best things going in power pop today, and "Haruka" will only reaffirm that. The band is currently offering a sweet deal on its Bandcamp page: a signed copy of the single along with a limited edition CD, a poster, a pin, and a sticker for 10 euros! Get on it while you have the chance! 


Friday, April 21, 2017

Hiccup's debut album!

I can't believe it has already been two years since my first post on Hiccup! Since then, the New York trio has released a cassette single and a supremely delightful full-length album on Father/Daughter Records. The album, Imaginary Enemies, arrived last month and has been a fixture in my daily routine for quite some time. Hallie Bulleit (bass, vocals) has been a favorite songwriter of mine since the moment I encountered The Unlovables' demo tape 15 years ago. You may also know her and Hiccup band-mate Alex Clute (guitar, vocals) as members of The Chris Gethard Show's house band, The LLC. Drummer Piyal Basu completes the trio. And while Hiccup doesn't stray far from the clever, punky pop of The LLC, there are clearly advantages in having the freedom to write songs that exceed 30 seconds in length!

Built on a foundation of upbeat catchy tunes, tight harmonies, and the likable dual vocals of Hallie and Alex, Imaginary Enemies is pure peppy fun with a lyrical depth that may surprise you. This is exactly the kind of music I envisioned Hallie creating at this stage of her career: still rooted in pop-punk but also heavily inspired by late '80s/early '90s indie rock. "Lady MacBeth & Miss Havisham" - probably my favorite song of 2017 so far - is a perfect example of Hallie's ability to mix profound & serious lyrics with utterly joyful melodies. I've made a habit out of playing it on repeat - although on any given day I might actually conclude that "Whoa Baby" is "the hit" on this album. While I'm partial to a lot of the songs on which Hallie sings lead ("Better", "Yeah"), the harmonized vocals on tracks like "Austin" and "Dad Jokes" are well-executed and wonderfully appealing. And I appreciate that this band is the sum of what all of its members bring to the table. It's hard not to love a record that runs the gamut from the Belle and Sebastian style goodness of "Enemies of Friends" to the breakneck punk rush of "Neverwhere".

With no songs over three minutes long, Imaginary Enemies wastes little time getting to the hooks. It's an album I can recommend to both diehard pop-punk fans and anyone who fondly recalls the glory days of indie/alternative/college radio. It's just one of those records that is bound to put a smile on your face! The lyrics totally knock me out, and those harmonies could not be any more spot-on. I would no doubt consider The Unlovables one of my favorite bands of all-time, and I've got to say I enjoy Hiccup every bit as much. As 2017 continues to throw great LPs our way, I'm sure not complaining!


Thursday, April 13, 2017

Meet Moron's Morons!

The definition of "garage punk" has expanded to such an extent that I'm not sure what it even means anymore. But hearing Moron's Morons out of Warsaw, I must say that this band is exactly what I think garage-punk ought to be. If you like it raw and trashy, well it doesn't get any rawer or trashier! And how can you not love a band with a singer named Philo Phuckface?! Moron's Morons occupy the nastier realms of the garage punk world, with a wild & blown-out sound that mixes choice elements of Teengenerate, GG Allin, the Dead Boys, Dwarves, and Reatards. The band has made its Trash Can Glory demo tape available via Bandcamp as a name your price download. And No Front Teeth Records has released seven (!) different versions of the group's self-titled debut 7"! If you dig snotty garage punk that's "no frills, just thrills", Moron's Morons is the band you've been waiting for. Order the single here!


Monday, April 10, 2017

How about a Wyldlife review, finally!

I've been getting the same question for years, posed by everyone from regular readers to my butcher to my priest: "When are you finally going to review Wyldlife?!" Well how about right now! I've been fully aboard the Wyldlife bandwagon for a good while now, and I vowed to pen a glowing review once the band put out a new album. That album Out On Your Block arrived earlier this year on Steven Van Zandt's Wicked Cool Records. I've been meaning to say a few words about it since it came out, and today I'm finally getting around to it!

Wydlife has really risen to the challenge of following two of the best rock n' roll albums of the present decade. Out On Your Block is by no means a straight copy of its two predecessors, but it makes no attempt to fix what ain't broke. It's everything you could want from a Wlydlife record: big hooks, a fun attitude, and energy that never lets up. The style is still '70s punk meets power pop meets straight-up rock n' roll, and the spirit of the great city of New York emanates from every note. I hear echoes of the legendary Ramones and Dolls as well as more contemporary torchbearers such as D Generation and the Star Spangles. "Desperate Times" kicks it all off with a thundering blast of rock, and then "Teenage Heart" is a quick turn into new wave territory. From there, the album really hits its stride as the band knocks one track after another straight out of the park. In what kind of crazy backwards world are we living where songs like "Keepsakes", "Deadbeat", and "Bandida" aren't massive radio hits?! My god, those hooks! "Suburban Fever" recalls the gritty street swagger of '70s Rolling Stones, and "Get Loud" is exactly the kind of anthem/mission statement that every great rock n' roll album ought to close with.

Faced with the decision on how to approach that "difficult" third album, Wyldlife wisely chose to double down on what it already does so well. The group aspired to just go out and make a totally fantastic rock n' roll record, and I'm left wondering why more bands don't follow suit. Little Steven, who has such a great ear for what's new and exciting in rock n' roll, was bound to "get" it. You can download Out On Your Block from iTunes, Spotify, Amazon, etc. or get the vinyl directly from Wicked Cool. And if like me you were a little late to the party on Wydlife, head on over to Bandcamp to explore the back catalog!


Friday, April 07, 2017

New Cyanide Pills album!

Now seems like a good time to start catching up on some essential releases from this year that I haven't yet had time to review. Sliced And Diced is the third LP from Leeds, U.K.'s Cyanide Pills - and the band's first album in four years. This is a prime example of a release that was totally worth the wait. Cyanide Pills have outdone themselves on this whooper of a long-player, turning out an amazing 18 tracks with not one clunker in the bunch. This, to me, is the culmination of what this band has been working towards for years: an album fully deserving of a spot next to all of your classic 1977-78 U.K. punk titles. There are a number of bands out there that do the snotty '77 punk thing really well, and there are others that do the power pop meets punk thing really well. But Cyanide Pills are that rare band that genuinely excels at both. Sliced and Diced is everything I like about The Buzzcocks, Clash, Sex Pistols, and Boys combined into one record. Songs addressing power-abusing institutions and the generally rotten state of society ("Stop and Search", "Government") could not be more relevant in 2017. And as always, the band specializes in exceptionally bitter love songs ("Alone Tonight", "Razorblade"). Containing everything from all-out cracklers like "Still Bored" to the perfect pure pop of "Big Mistake" to the street-tough rock n' roll of "Cut Me Loose", Sliced And Diced could not be any more up my alley. We've got ourselves a serious album of the year contender!


Thursday, April 06, 2017

Easy Money: the definitive collection!

As a massive fan of Canadian punk rock both old and new, I'm tickled pink that Hosehead Records and Neon Taste Records have collaborated to rescue the recorded output of Easy Money from the dustbin of history. Hailing from Victoria, British Columbia, Easy Money released two terrific singles on Richard's Records in 1980 and was never heard from again. Those singles - "Standing In Your Shadow" b/w "No Stranger To Danger" and "Getting Lost" b/w "High Fashion" - are true hidden gems of Canadian punk in the new wave era. All four songs now return to print on the self-titled Easy Money collection, joined by nine high-quality two-track demos that have been largely unheard for decades. And while the 7" cuts may be the prime attraction, a lot of the demos are just as good (check out the Jam-inspired "It's Not Funny" and the infectiously jittery "Pretty Modern"). This album is a perfect demonstration of why I love the late '70s/early '80s era of punk music so much. It brings together the best elements of punk, power pop, new wave, and the mod revival in such a way that these songs could only have been created at the dawn of the '80s. If you're a Canadian punk rock history geek like me or just enjoy top-notch power pop, this compilation is one you ought to own. Hats off to all of the principles involved in collecting these songs and getting this compilation made. 35 years after the band's breakup, Easy Money finally has an album out!


Monday, April 03, 2017

Vista Blue: new baseball album!

Just in time for opening day, we get an all-new baseball album from Vista Blue! This is, by my count, the band's fifth baseball-themed release - the first one dating back to opening day two years ago. With me having reviewed Vista Blue an amazing six times last year, there's no mystery as to what this band is all about. The nine-track Wonderband stays in the vein of pop-punk by way of '90s alt rock power pop, and it's a buzzing good time from start to finish. This is what you call a solid lineup from one through nine! With songs about once-promising injury-plagued pitchers, triple AAA shortstops lobbying for a chance to start in the majors, the plight of the professional DH, marginal major leaguers hindered by unfavorable umpiring, Bruce Springsteen's lack of fundamental baseball knowledge, the good fortune of making a great catch with a borrowed glove, Roy Hobbs' mythical bat, the absurdity of "wins above replacement" as a valued statistic, and the importance of a good pick-off move, there's something here to interest any fan of America's pastime. Vista Blue continues to serve the community of baseball-loving pop-punk fans while also perhaps swaying some additional hardball devotees to the pop-punk dark side. This release even comes with liner notes by Mark Hughson - easily the finest literature I've seen accompanying a musical release in a long time. Download Wonderband for free today, and give it a spin or two while you converse with your friends about the merits of "WAR" and whether or not David Ortiz should go into the hall of fame (of course he should!). And seriously, what in the hell is a "speedball"?


Sunday, April 02, 2017

MAMA/Private Interests split!

In some alternate universe where Faster & Louder is a glossy print magazine available at gas stations and drug stores everywhere, Private Interests would be gracing the cover decked in Cold War era attire - the photo positioned under the headline "Hottest New Bands of the Year!". I've been psyched to hear more music from this Minneapolis foursome since its outstanding debut EP arrived this past fall. And as luck would have it, I did not have to wait very long. Private Interests has teamed up with Chicago's MAMA to give us a split 7" EP uniting two of our greatest Midwestern cities under the banner of power pop worshiping at the twin-guitar altar of Thin Lizzy.

MAMA's two contributions to the split were taken from the band's short-run Eye in the Sky cassette, and they were fine choices to be preserved on the vinyl format. "Lazer Lover" is the "hit" here - a full-on '70s arena rock rager that would not sound out of a place on a playlist sandwiched between Nazareth and The Nuge. You've got two guitars taking it straight over the top and a singer who can really belt it. I can't help imagining myself in a darkened arena in 1978, and suddenly the lights come on and this is the song that ignites a triumphant night of rock. BAM! The terrific "Girls Next Door" slides nicely into the Big Star/Raspberries corner of power pop, but with clear nods to Cheap Trick and Lizzy as well. This is a best-case scenario for a split: I was drawn in by the presence of one particular band and ended up liking the other one just as much. I will definitely be checking out the rest of MAMA's releases!

On its half of the split, Private Interests continues to show why it's one of the most promising up-and-coming bands out there. "Livin' In The City" is a really pleasant surprise: the band's first foray into straight-up classic power pop a la The Nerves and 20/20. The verse rides a wave of melancholy on the strength of Cameron's vocal, and then that chorus punches hard. I love the amazing lead guitar work and the satisfying thump of the drums! The equally good "Finest Hour" bears all of the trademarks of a Johnny Eggerman song: more of a mid-tempo vibe with a plaintive vocal and dual guitar lines intersecting in perfect harmony. Coming from a town where Karl-Anthony Towns and Andrew Wiggins exemplify the complementary forces of power and finesse, this pair of songs could not be any more satisfying. Private Interests is quickly zooming up my list of current favorite bands!

I wanted to post on this EP as early as possible due to the extremely limited nature of this vinyl release. Just 300 copies were pressed, and only 30 of those were made available for PiƱata Records to sell to the public. The remaining copies went straight to the bands to sell at shows. So if you're nowhere near these bands and want a vinyl copy, you better move fast! This record is a perfect representation of all of the great rockin' pop that's currently emerging from the American Midwest. Get on it!