Monday, August 28, 2017

Please Stop! - Power Suit and Dead Bodies

With a debut 7" out on the ever-dependable No Front Teeth Records, Minnesota's Please Stop! ought to be on the radar of anyone on the lookout for some in-your-face punk rock. Veterans of the modern-day Midwest punk scene, lead singer StaySee and guitarist Danimal have formed Please Stop! with  bassist Cheetah and drummer Reckless Jane Danger. Power Suit and Dead Bodies jams eight songs onto one little slab of vinyl - delivering the literal bang for your buck that we've come to expect from the best hardcore punk 7"s. As the title suggests, these songs tackle some pretty dark subject matter. StaySee, a first-class punk screamer, has a knack for bringing out everything that's troubling, uncomfortable, or straight-up bleak about these lyrics. Behind her the band lays down a properly punishing attack. Danimal's guitar sounds super raw and totally punches you in the face. And that rhythm section can thump with the best of 'em. All-out rippers like "Let's Hear It" and "Paint Them Up" hit hard and fast, annihilating all that's in their path. But on the "longer" (meaning somewhere north of a minute and a half!) tracks, the band shows a range beyond light speed hardcore. Whether it's the thunderous sludge of "Sweetie", the dark surf tones of "High Horse", or the barely restrained menace of "Bites", there's plenty here to demonstrate that Please Stop! are far more than a one-trick-pony. "Bites", as a matter of fact, is the one track that I keep going back to. It's one of those songs that just grabs you by the throat. "You should come with a warning," hollers StaySee. "'I bite, I bite, I bite.' You should know this about me - I bite, I bite back!" Never has a vocal sounded more believable!

Both vinyl and digital editions of Power Suit and Dead Bodies are available for purchase at Please Stop!'s Bandcamp. Those who support the group on Bandcamp will receive three bonus tracks as well. One of those is "I've Never Seen That", a delightfully thrashing number inspired by one of the great cinematic masterpieces of all-time: The 'Burbs. I highly recommend going all-in and getting your figurative mitts on the bonus tracks. No one has a better ear for what's good in punk music than Marco at No Front Teeth. This debut from Please Stop! keeps the NFT hot streak very much in tact! 


Friday, August 25, 2017

Retro Reviews: The Vice Principals – After School With...

Review by Rob Sheley

The (sorta) lost record or the prospect that never was fully realized, After School With the Vice Principals was released in August of 2000 on Sympathy For The Record Industry, only two years after the Humpers ended. The upside is the band included Scott Deluxe Drake, Billy Burks, and for the first time officially playing with Scott, his brother Jeff Drake (from The Joneses). The downside is that this is all that exists from this magical union of the brothers Drake.

If you have Scott & Billy in your band, it's gonna sound something like the Humpers. This band was no different, but it did expand upon their sound and songwriting with Jeff in the band. Jeff brought a more '60s Stones vibe to the band; specifically the band drew from Between The Buttons (check out "Miss Amanda Jones", "Complicated", & "Let's Spend The Night Together"). Take that '60s pop sound the Stones created mixed with the fury of the later Humpers, and you get a pretty good feel for what the Vice Principals created.

The record is a flamethrower, clocking in at 33 minutes with only two of the 12 songs clearing three minutes (very Ramones style). The album opens with a cover of "Jack the Ripper" by the great Screamin' Lord Sutch, and Scott Drake is spitting fire. Peppered in are back-up vocals delivered by his brother. Moving through the record, the original songs are of the quality you would expect from what would have been the Humpers record following Euphoria, Confusion, Anger And Remorse. "When Girls Collide", "Hostility", and "Satellite Dish" are a 1-2-3 punch in the gut of Long Beach punk rock & roll. "Splitsville USA" sung by Jeff Drake is a nice break in the action. That is not to say that the track is slow, weak, or a throwaway. It is merely a welcomed break in the pace of a relentless record. Be it due to timing or purpose, in addition to "Jack The Ripper", the record adds a few more choice covers to broaden the band's palette. All are delivered in the band's signature sound, devoid of the originals' sound or arrangement. "Price Of Love" (Everly Bros) and "Glad All Over" (Dave Clark Five) show the depth of the Vice Principals' record collections. And despite having a Rolling Stones influence, it was nice to not have one of their songs on the record. They also included a reworking of an older Scott Drake composition from his pre-Humpers band Suicide Kings. Originally recorded in 1990, "Switchblade" and the rest of the record were never touched as song options for this or the Humpers. But the sound wasn't that far off of what you know as the band's distinctive sound. It was nice to see this resurrected to a wider audience. It is a shame they didn't mine some of the other tracks from that release for this project.

The Vice Principals were so very short lived (two, maybe three years) and never did a country wide tour. The only other recorded output by the band was a lone 7" "Wolfman Amadeus Jackboot" b/w "Showdown" (Archie Bell & the Drells cover). That's it. But if you don't have them, get 'em both. They are killer thru & thru. Scott went on to do two solo records before forming The Lovesores. Sadly, Billy Burks and Jeff Drake have yet to resurface in additional projects.

-Rob Sheley

Wednesday, August 23, 2017

Justine and the Unclean- Love Got Me Into This Mess

Ever notice that almost every band to come out of the Boston garage/punk scene could be considered a supergroup? There are just so many amazing musicians in that town, and it seems like they've all played in tons of bands! Add Justine and the Unclean to the long list of killer Boston bands with formidable pedigrees. Justine is Justine Covault (Malachite, Grand Theft Auto, Quest For Tuna). She's on guitar and lead vocals. She's joined by her Malachite bandmate Janet Egan King (Heidi, Swank, Tulips) on bass and backing vocals. Charles Hansen (Rock Bottom, Tom Baker & the Snakes, Gymnasium, The Handymen) is on lead guitar. And the legendary Jim Janota (Upper Crust, The Bags, Rock Bottom) is on drums. With a lineup like that, Justine and the Unclean are a perfect fit on a Rum Bar Records roster that already includes a number of Boston heavyweights! In advance of a full album due out later this year, a free digital single has arrived to properly whet our appetites. I must say that I'm very impressed! Both tracks really hit my sweet spot of punky power pop (or is it power poppy punk?). And Justine has a really cool voice that's totally unique yet also perfectly suited to this kind of music. "Love Got Me Into This Mess" brings to mind the Buzzcocks, but with more of the hard rockin' edge you'd expect from a Boston bar band. "Passive Aggressive Baby" is another terrific tune that combines all of the best elements of pop, punk, and rock. Justine sure knows how to write a hook, and I'm quickly sensing her flair for wonderfully bitter insights on the topic of love & relationships. If you like power pop that doesn't skimp on the power, I imagine this single will leave you wanting more!


Tuesday, August 22, 2017

Devious Ones - Rust Is Imminent

Devious Ones have been one of my favorite bands for a couple of years now, so naturally I was stoked to discover that they were giving us a preview of their forthcoming LP. This arrives in the form of a digital single for the album track "Rust Is Imminent". It has been released on Bandcamp in conjunction with the tour the band is finishing up right now. I have to say that "Rust Is Imminent" is the band's best song yet, and the opportunity to own it today in advance of the album release is totally worth the three bucks. Musically it's right in the Detroit foursome's wheelhouse of poppy old school punk, but with an anthemic quality that caused my pal Shawn Abnoxious to ask if Devious Ones might be an American Cock Sparrer. This is a true anthem for the Midwest - celebrating the values and unique character of its residents. There isn't a single line of the song that doesn't hit the mark, and in a perfect world this tune will ring out from stadium PAs from Cleveland to Minneapolis for decades to come. The second half of this digital single is exclusive to this release and features guitarist Amado stepping up to handle lead vocals. It's called "Norcos Y Horchata", and anyone who's ever had one of those days where everything just felt off from the start will be able to relate. "Feel like a toy store on December 24" is my new favorite lyric of 2017! And there's a killer little guitar solo that brings to mind all of those classic Buzzcocks 45s.

With their long-awaited debut album now recorded, Devious Ones are poised to take their place among the top tier of today's punk/powerpop bands. I have had the good fortune to hear a few of the LP tracks, and I must say the band has totally outdone itself. This thing is gonna knock your head off! In preparation for the album, download "Rust Is Imminent" and crank it loud (whether you live in the American Midwest or not)!


Monday, August 21, 2017

Narco States - Temples Into Tombs

If I close my eyes while listening to the new Narco States album, I can just about convince myself that the band is ripping it up on stage right in front of me. That level of energy and immediacy are somewhat the product of home-recorded fidelity but more likely a testament to a band with seriously hot chops. Out on Piñata Records, the Minneapolis outfit's excellent sophomore LP Temples Into Tombs forges a three-headed monster out of '60s garage, psychedelic rock, and proto-punk influences.

Temples Into Tombs comes out guns a blazing on its opening tracks - sounding like what I imagine would have happened if Iggy Pop had fronted an American garage/psych band circa 1966. Propelled by Aaron Robertson's standout electric organ and Robb Lauer's powerhouse drumming, "Met Tet", "Fascist Fashionistas", and "Generation F" will get your heart pounding and your booty shaking. Meanwhile Michael MacBlane-Meyer on vocals channels Iggy at his most wild and primal - adding an attitude and edge that are generally missing from standard garage rock revivalism. This band really smashes it up! But just when you think you've got Narco States figured out, things start to get very interesting. The title track takes a slower, more mysterious turn - as much Doors as it is Stooges. The nearly seven-minute long "Ahemait" delves into acid rock/heavy psychedelia a la Iron Butterfly or Blue Cheer - allowing for deep sonic explorations but never ceasing to rock. That leads seamlessly into "Jealousy"- by far the most "accessible" track on the album and a fine example of straight-up psychedelic rock. Album closer "Fang Decay" carries on in a similar manner for nearly two minutes before departing on a long strange trip of its own.

What I really appreciate about Temples Into Tombs is that it doesn't lose steam after those first three or four relentlessly rocking tracks. If that was all that Narco States had to offer, the album would be worth hearing but perhaps not nearly as memorable. I love that the band matches its pure energy with great creativity in songwriting and musicianship. "Ahemait" and "Fang Decay" are not just excuses for the band to jam out for five minutes plus. They're interesting, formidable songs that show a whole other side to Narco States. "Jealousy", buried all the way down at track 7, would have to be considered the "hit". If, in the digital age, you wonder why bands even bother making albums anymore, it's worth noting how well these nine tracks fit together. This is one you'll wanna have on vinyl!


Friday, August 18, 2017

Patsy's Rats - Roundin' Up

In the two years since I first raved Patsy's Rats, the Portland duo has released another EP and now three more singles. The band's newest single, "Roundin' Up", is the first 7" released by Dirtnap Records in three years. The title track, in my humble opinion, is the band's strongest since "Rock & Roll Friend" blew so many of our minds in 2015.

For this release, Patsy and Christian have enlisted Steve and Jon from Mope Grooves to play bass and drums. And the band sounds great! "Roundin' Up" is the perfect song for a 7" format. It's a total hit and definitely a track that will compel repeated spins. Style-wise, this one is right in Patsy's Rats' wheelhouse: punchy indie pop with Patsy's likeable vocals and some stellar lead guitar work really standing out. Be wary: this song is liable to get stuck in your head to the point where you may require medical attention. I can't stop playing it! If you can bring yourself to flip the record over, B-side "Little Rat Charm" is another ace tune. This song features Christian on lead vocals and starts out with a really mellow vibe to it. But stick with it, because that chorus is totally worth waiting for. What a hook! This is a little bit of a different sound for Patsy's Rats: like an updated version of '80s new wave pop. I had to double check to make sure it wasn't a cover of some obscure song from the soundtrack to a John Hughes movie!

Without a doubt, "Little Rat Charm" could have been an A-side in its own right. If Ken Dirtnap was going to get back into the 7" game, it seems appropriate that he waited for an opportunity to put out a single this good! No longer mere up-and-comers, Patsy's Rats are an absolute must-hear for anyone who's fond of well-crafted guitar pop. Bachelor Records will be releasing a singles collection later this year, and there's more new music on the horizon as well. For now, enjoy this terrific single - easily one of the year's best.


Thursday, August 17, 2017

Retro Reviews: Los Primos/Andy G & The Roller Kings- recorded output

Review by Rob Sheley

I would like to do this as a 2-fer. It makes the most sense because it covers all of Andy G's post-Devil Dogs recorded output. Sadly there is a limited but very essential amount of material; it is also listened to with a hint of what might have been.

We will start with Los Primos - of which there only are five songs. Los Primos was basically the Devil Dogs without Steve Baise. Sonically they were a continuation of what the band was doing around the ...Stereodrive! record. The prominence of saxophone as the lead instrument is what differentiates the two bands. Andy was moving towards almost a Little Richard type sound (without piano) mixed with the run-off-the-rails fury of the Devil Dogs. Think the immediacy of Saturday Night Fever with a lead sax, and you have Los Primos. While Steve Baise was in Norway working on the Vikings record, Andy was creating this project with Mighty Joe Vincent on drums, Candy Del Mar (Cramps) on bass, and Pete Linzell (Raunch Hands) on sax .

Crypt & Sympathy For The Record Industry both stepped up to the plate when Andy came around with his new project. In 1995 Crypt released Los Primos' "On My Floor" 7", which was Andy's 1st post-Devil Dogs recordings. The A-side is "On My Floor", a trashy, two-minute, rollicking, scorching original. The B-side is a clean, jangly cover of Manfred Mann's "Pretty Flamingo". One year later in 1996, the band released its second and final single on Sympathy. It follows the same format as the first: original A-side, cover on the B-side. This one may up the ante because the B-side is even better than the first. "Summertime Girls" follows the same trashy, sax-filled, adrenalized sleaze that you would expect from Andy G. The B-side is the Beatles' "Hard Day's Night". As a music fan, garage fan, Beatles fan, or Devil Dogs fan, get the single just for that. Wailing sax and a wall of NY sound create one of the best Beatles covers ever recorded, completely essential. In late(r) 1996, a compilation CD was released celebrating the famous NYC rock club Brownies. The disc features The Waldos, Turbo A.C.s, and Pillbox. The lost Los Primos track "Here She Comes" is included on the comp. With that release, the band was finished. Joe Vincent left to form The Prissteens, and Andy reloaded for his next phase.

With the end or demise of Los Primos, Andy kept the core of Los Primos: himself on guitar & vox, Candy on bass, and Pete on tenor sax. He added a baritone sax player named Steve Greenfield who previously worked with The Fleshtones. The exit of Joe Vincent opened the door for drummer Ron Salvo, and Andy G & The Roller Kings are born. Debuting four years later on March 25th, 2000 at NYC's famous Continental Club, the band would once again tap Long Gone John from Sympathy to do its first release. That Kings County Sound was released as a CDEP & 10" in 2001. Five songs (three new originals, one re-record, one cover), and the Roller Kings hit the ground running. Expanding on the Los Primos sax driven garage trash, The Roller Kings sound is bigger and more refined (but only slightly). It is still trashy with a '60s New York Dolls flair, what you'd expect from Andy. The addition of the baritone sax adds some bottom end that helps the overall sound. "Dance Last Night", "Feelin' So Good", and "My GTO" are the three originals you'd hope for from the mind of Andy G. "Summertime Girls" from the second Los Primos 7" is the re-record. There was nothing wrong with the original version. I would rather have any other song, be it an original or cover. There was no need to re-cut this track. The EP closes with a cover of Dusty Springfield's "Stay Awhile". It is not the first time Andy dipped into the '60s girl group cannon. The Devil Dogs covered The Ronettes' "Best Part Of Breaking Up" on their first record to similar success.

The band toured a bit outside of NYC shortly after the release, so very few people saw this incredible band slay audiences in the same way the Devil Dogs did. The band was relatively silent as far as releases go. It reemerged in 2005 on a Gun Club compilation called Salvo Of 24 Gunshots. The track the band chose to cover was "Bad India". The rest of the comp includes Dirtbombs, Come Ons, Demolition Doll Rods, and plenty of other good stuff. Later in 2005, the band released its final track called "Party Shoes" on the Rapid Pulse Records compilation Let's Have Some God Damn Fun! Just like that, the band was done. Nothing has been re-released since, and nothing has surfaced. It is a total shame.

As an epilogue to this story, Andy G & The Roller Kings did do a live session for WFMU on June 7, 2001. It is archived on the WFMU site under the show Three Chord Monte. They did an interview and played live on the radio. The live performance does include two songs not available anywhere else: "No Good Annie" (1910 Fruit Gum Company) and "Dead End Street" (Lou Rawls). Both songs are perfect choices to cover: sax driven songs easily adapted to Andy G's unique interpretation.

Between both bands, it is only 14 songs counting the WFMU live stuff and 12 if you don't. It is the great mystery on what happened, especially since the band was together at least five years. I would have to think with that amount of time together, there is an album's worth of material or a few singles that got recorded but couldn't find a home due to the band breaking up, not wanting to tour to promote them, or the changing of the industry in the mid-2000s. If there is something that exists, I hope that it comes out sooner rather than later. Andy G is one of the few artists that there are no bad songs that have his imprint on them. He really is that good and that important to garage music and music in general. His style has spawned countless bands, some better than others but none better than the original. God Bless Andy G.

-Rob Sheley

Wednesday, August 16, 2017

The Putz - Clinically Inane

The Putz is a pop-punk band for people who love pop-punk. While that might sound like a statement of the obvious, you probably get what I'm driving it. The Putz isn't trying to re-invent a genre of music or mess with a successful formula. If you hate pop-punk, this is not a band that will turn you to the dark side. What the Indiana trio does do is carry the torch for the kind of pop-punk that I (and perhaps you) loved back in the '90s - when every new album from Screeching Weasel or The Queers was an event not to be missed. As far as I'm concerned, the best pop-punk never strays far from the Ramones' master blueprint. Of course that can be a double-edged sword. No one wants to listen to a straight-up copy of the Ramones. But if you can take that basic influence and put your own stamp on it, it's hard to go wrong. The Putz is one of those bands that totally gets what makes pop-punk great. Its new album Clinically Inane is out on Eccentric Pop Records - pretty much THE label for today's premiere pop-punk bands. And with Joe Queer producing the record, you know exactly what's coming!

Clinically Inane is The Putz's third LP and first since 2014. If you were expecting the band to sound older, wiser, and more musically evolved after all of this time, you don't know The Putz! The band is back with 14 more tracks of wonderfully stupid three-chord punk that you'll be itching to crank loud and sing along with. This record is just pure fun from start to finish. And with an average song length of less than 1 minute and 45 seconds, these guys sure aren't messing around! No, The Putz isn't offering you anything new here. But if you have a soft spot for textbook pop-punk executed to perfection, this is the record for you. Billy's vocals are the perfect mix of snotty and likable, while Dougie is one of those drummers who was seemingly born to play this kind of music. And with smooth vocal harmonies being such a crucial component of quality pop-punk, I appreciate that The Putz have those down pat. With material ranging from classic Ramonesy sing-alongs ("I Don't Wanna Go") to upbeat buzzsaw pop ("My Baby and Me") to blistering fuck-yous ("Blast Off!", "Glue Your Mouth Shut") to apocalyptic tales of love ("When The World Ends") to clever odes to dumbness ("My Missing Mind"), this album runs the gamut of the styles and themes that are essential to the pop-punk genre.

If I had heard Clinically Inane when I was 25, I would have run out into the street screaming for joy. The present-day version of myself is only slightly less stoked. This record stacks up quite well with the pop-punk albums I so dearly loved in my youth. While the quantity of bands playing old school pop-punk may have dwindled over the past couple of decades, the quality certainly has not. Good on Eccentric Pop for providing a home for the next generation of true believers!


Monday, August 14, 2017


Having played a considerable part in the rise of the English garage scene in recent years, London's THEE MVPs seem poised for a major breakout. The band's new 7" on Bachelor Records is a perfect transitional record - featuring two formidable shots of loud indie-ish pop along with two covers that tip the cap to the band's straight-up garage/punk roots. It's hard to pinpoint exactly what kind of band THEE MVPs are at this point, and that's surely a good thing. Call "ELH" power pop, garage, alternative rock, Brit-pop, or just plain rock n' roll. Either way, it's an anthemic number with hooks for days and really heartfelt vocals/lyrics. It comes off like a modern update of '80s/'90s alt-rock, bringing to mind the heart-on-sleeve heroics of the Replacements, the crackling guitars of Dinosaur, Jr., and the timeless melodies of Guided By Voices. "Big Pussy (Snitches In Ditches)" shares similar pop sensibilities (I love that simple, sing-along chorus!) but with a decidedly post-punk/modern rock slant. I saw the title and hoped the song was about the Sopranos character. Of course it is! The two covers are The Damned's "Neat Neat Neat" and the Billy Childish banger "Lie Detector". The latter is 100% faithful to the original, while the former adds just enough of the band's own touch to be very worth your while. These two covers really tell you a lot about who THEE MVPS are. They may aspire to write great pop songs, but at heart they're still all about music that's direct, exciting, and a whole lot of fun to play. Fans of Royal Headache and Tenement take note. We just might be witnessing the ascension of our next great modern-day band!


Friday, August 11, 2017

Phone Jerks - ...Can't Stand The Maritimes/No Funswick

So Phone Jerks just might be my favorite new band of the year. Well, actually "new" band is not really an accurate term. This Moncton, New Brunswick foursome has been in existence since 2014 and did release an all-covers digital EP last year. But it wasn't until this year that Phone Jerks put out original material. And let me tell you: this shit is HOT! ...Can't Stand The Maritimes is the band's first vinyl record - a short and not-so-sweet one-sided 45 released by the always fantastic Goodbye Boozy Records. The group has also put out a limited (as in only 30 copies!) cassette called No Funswick. If you long for the glory days of garage punk/budget rock/lo-fi trash, you need to get over to Phone Jerks' Bandcamp and download everything the band has released so far! This is a band that totally hits the mark for garage punk - right down to the blown-out fidelity, primitive & furious musicianship, and take-no-shit attitude. You can hear the influence of classic bands like Teengenerate and Supercharger along with a mean streak rivaling newer acts such as Sick Thoughts and The Cavemen. It's really cool that all four band members take turns on lead vocals. You have a total group effort here, which shows in an abundance of killer tunes. The single is an absolute ripper, and I have to expect that there will be a few more of those coming our way in the very near future. In 2017, the term "garage" means a lot of different things to a lot of different people. To me it means raw and trashy, and I've been eagerly awaiting more bands along those lines. Phone Jerks are exactly what I had in mind!


Thursday, August 10, 2017

Chuck Berry - CHUCK

Review by Mike Kimmel

Not only did Chuck Berry finally make another record (his first in 38 years are the logistics, I believe), but he also had his first "strictly music video" released. It was for the song "Big Boys" from his last album– CHUCK – released in early June, 2017. Mr. Berry didn't live to see the video actually air anywhere, but I've been led to understand that he HAD seen the final product and heartily endorsed it.

If you've been involved in music for any period of time over the past six decades, not only is it quite likely that you've heard of my most recent visitor, but also one of his songs is likely one of the first you ever attempted. I haven't done any research into the subject, but of the two most-often first-learned rock and roll tunes, "Johnny B. Goode" by Chuck Berry must be right up there with the narrow company of Deep Purple and "Smoke on the Water" as the first learned .

What's the difference? Well, one is rock and roll and the other is much heavier. It's still rock and roll, just heavy enough to polish itself if you will.

Number one starts out with some gorgeous harmonica in the tune "Wonderful Woman". It's really a cool idea for the opening track on his first release of original material in 38 years. Here he describes a second-row romance a-brewin', but he only describes it from his point of view (and, of course, that would be the point of view of the performer) and it ends when the show ends. She leaves, and he knows he'll never see her again. A different type of lyric set from Chuck Berry; but not only is it a really good tune, he sounds very much at home doing it!

"Big Boys" is track two and also the first (and, unfortunately, last) music video we'll ever see with Chuck Berry's participation. It starts off with the oh so familiar Chuck Berry riff that every guitar player and wannabe guitar player, bassist and wannabe bassist can walk through in his/her sleep. Interesting that the second track is a sort of a "coming-of-age" tune by a man who had been in the business for six decades!

"You Go to My Head" is one of the surprising tunes on the album in that it seems designed for a high class lounge singer. You know the type I'm talking about, I'm sure. A polished-up baby grand being played by a suit and tie clad sophisticated looking gentleman.

Seated (perhaps "lounging" would be a better word) is an attractive female with an evening gown of sorts. Lots of glitter is a prerequisite. She's smoking a cigarette using one of those eight-inch long cigarette holders. In my fantasy, er, I mean vision, the singer is Michele Pfeiffer, though it could be more than one host.

The drums would be a simple set. In fact, the drummer may have only three drums and perhaps one or two cymbals. The bass is upright, and the other guitars know their place (s) and occupy them without fail. That leaves our host (or hosts) for the next hours front and center.

Speaking of the drums…Well, speaking of the rhythm section in general, that is comprised by Jimmy Marsala (bass for Chuck Berry for the last 40 years) as well as Robert Lohr and Keith Robinson (piano and drums, respectively) who have been part of Mr. Berry's backing back for over two decades of shows at St. Louis's Blueberry Hill.

Son Charles Berry Jr. plays guitar in his father's band, and his daughter Ingrid on harmonica rounds out the six-piece.

"3-4 Time (Enchiladas)" is a good track with some of the humor Berry has been known for over the years. Songs like "My Ding-A-Ling" and others show he can hold his own with a guitar, a vocal, a lyric, or just a joke.

This one is a bit bittersweet, though. One of the lines – speaking of life – is "One thing's for certain; ain't none of us getting out of here alive". Then he mentions that sometimes he stays up all night writing songs. "I know it ain't good for me. I hope it don't end too soon".

"Darlin'" spends its time again singing of the fleeting nature of the good times, thinking of how quickly his daughter changed from sweet sixteen. I certainly don't want to seem as if I'm trying to paint your opinions of the songs from the album CHUCK with a sad, blue brush. I'm not, and I sincerely hope you see that.

What Chuck Berry did all of his life was to sing about what was happening to and around him at that time of his life. The man was 90 years old and had been a major part of the music industry for around 60 of those 90 years.

Number six is "Lady B. Goode".

"They want to do a movie 'bout my livelihood and I want you to play the part of Lady B. Goode".

Need I say more?

Following the Lady is track seven; "She Still Loves You". I'm going to have to listen a few more times to this one. No, not because I don't know if I like it or not. I REALLY like this one (as well as the vast majority of the rest of the album). I just can't tell if someone is telling someone that "…she still loves Chuck…" or if someone is telling Chuck that she still loves some other guy.

Listen to it as many times as it takes to figure it out. You won't get tired of it, I promise. I got the CD June 10th and have been listening to it as a major part of my regular playlist since then. I've had an interruption or two. Vertebral fusions will do that to you, but I still can't figure out which direction this one is flying.

Number eight rolls up on the Chuck playlist, and now I've got to deal with an enigma. The song title is "Jamaica Moon". The issue with which I'm dealing feels almost improper. I mean, normally I try to exercise a kinder, gentler pen while attempting to rate or to render an opinion of a piece of art that someone has created.

Years ago I read a book of poetry by Leonard Nimoy. I wish I could find that book again. Over all, it was very good. There was one piece in particular that has stuck with me over the years. To briefly paraphrase Nimoy's work, he says something to the effect of "…be gentle with him, people. He is an artist. He is showing you his heart."

Having said that and still giving much credit to Chuck Berry (and much credit is truly due the man), "Jamaica Moon" is the only song on the CD that I don't particularly care for. It's not that the tune isn't done well, because it is!

The man is waiting for his lady to arrive as regularly scheduled by ship, and the ship is late. While waiting for her, the time gets later and later and he starts drinking the rum he'd gotten to share with his date.

Ah, but as luck would have it, the rum was apparently very good and pretty effective, because the next thing the guy in the song hears is not the voice of his lovely date, but rather the sound of the ship's horn waking him up as the ship upon which she was traveling was leaving him alone and hung over at the port.

"Dutchman" is next to last on the track list. It's a story of one of those comfortable, casual bars everyone knows about because every town has one. All those bars are filled with regulars who never seem to run out of things to talk about, and it's a rare instance when someone none of the regulars know walks in.

That's how things start off here. Then a great tall man none recognized entered. The bartender offered him a drink, but there was apparently a red head regular who didn't think much of the new stranger.

"Sic him, Fido! Show him the street!"

The dog obediently jumped up and trotted toward the stranger, but when he reached the man, Fido just licked the man's hand and then lay down at the stranger's feet.

The stranger then regaled those in attendance with the story of a young man who learned to play guitar well enough that he could keep his family in "…shrimp and beans and rice…"

You may have guessed that the boy in the story was born in Louisiana, near New Orleans. In fact, it was back up in the hills north of New Orleans among the evergreens. The stranger finished his story and then told The Dutchman (the bartender) he was ready for that drink he'd been promised.

"The Dutchman" may be my favorite track from the CD. It's got tough competition from "Big Boys" and a couple of the other tracks that are awfully darned good tunes.

Mr. Berry had one more trick left in his magic bag, however, and when you listen to the final track of Chuck Berry's final album of original music, you realize that you had been entertained for thirty two minutes and twenty nine seconds.

In the last two minutes and twenty six seconds of the album – the duration of the song "Eyes of Man" – you will be given a lifetime of experience and education. You'll have to just listen to the tune; it's that good. I'm not going to assume I can do it justice with any description I might develop. I'll give you one line from the song – hopefully it'll pique your interest and you'll look for more on your own.

I'll end with that line, though. Chuck Berry's last release of original material is aptly entitled CHUCK. Seems it might have been an attempt at a musical autobiography in just a bit more than a half hour's time. The only way you could listen and NOT get the message, well, ya must be playin' with your own ding-a-ling! Here's the line I mentioned/promised earlier. The line that is a part of the gospel according to Chuck:

"Those who do not know and do not know that they do not know are foolish. Avoid them."

-Mike Kimmel

Wednesday, August 09, 2017

Retro Reviews: The Vikings – Go Berserk

Review by Rob Sheley

For my opinion, there is a big five of '90s garage rock & roll. Everything these five bands did and what they morphed into is necessary in every collection. They are The Devil Dogs, New Bomb Turks, The Humpers, Lazy Cowgirls, and The Dirtbombs. No five more perfect bands from that era have existed in similar friendly competition, each release more essential than the last. I will eventually focus on them. But as you know, all good things must come to an end. So I'm interested in focusing on their next big things.

Enter The Vikings, originally conceived as a two single side project that morphed into a more complete (albeit short) project with some of Norway's finest. When the Devil Dogs toured Norway in 1991, bass player Steve Baise met Morten Henriksen of the Yum Yums. Morten convinced Steve to come over and do some shows as a pickup band called the Devil Frogs. The band would do Devil Dogs songs and some choice covers. By 1993 Steve made a return trip, and Morten recruited two new members to the band to do five shows and record four songs. Those members were Happy Tom (Thomas Seltzer) on drums and an 18-year-old second guitar player named Euroboy (Knute Schreiner) - who of course went on to join Turbonegro a few years later. They cut the singles (one original & three covers) for two separate releases on Sympathy and Screaming Apple and changed their name to The Vikings. Released in 1994 to great reviews, the Vikings' "Rock All" & "Savage" singles were perhaps the warning signs that may have ended the Devil Dogs. By early 1995, the Devil Dogs had called it a day. Steve had eight songs (that would have been the next Devil Dogs record) and a budding relationship with a girl and new band in Norway. He took his songs and a bag full of covers to record what would become The Vikings' lone album Go Berserk.

Go Berserk is a flawless album. It is everything that is great about garage rock in general. A great formula to make a killer record is a balance of strong originals and a few covers (famous or obscure) peppered in. The trick is to interpret the covers in your style so that no matter how iconic the song, it becomes yours. Look at the early Stones, Beatles, Little Richard, Jerry Lee, Elvis (both of them), The Sonics, and Otis Redding. All were great writers and great interpreters. The Vikings followed that similar path of blending influences with originals; it gives you as a listener a spyglass look into the band's record collection and how they craft their songs and their sound. I'm a big fan of covers and how bands choose those covers, how they change or play them straight and how well they fit. As a side note, The Dirtbombs' Ultraglide In Black exemplifies this point. But that is another entry altogether.

Released in 1995, Go Berserk was a monster of record. The power of the band jumps off the record with the first track, "My Friend’s Little Sister". Clocking in at two minutes, it is the best song that the Devil Dogs never recorded. Big drums, crisp cutting distortion, and immediate vocals propel the record forward at a very live aggressive pace. Similar to the way the Devil Dogs made records, but this is different and not a copy of what they did. In hindsight, you can hear the power pop leanings of the Yum Yums and the best parts of what made Turbonegro great coming through in the performances - making this a unique entity unto itself. "Bad To Be Good", "Hard Knox High", "Strikeout King", "Summer of Hate", "Stop It", "(5-4-3-2) Baby You're The 1", and the debut single "Rock All" are everything that one would expect from Steve Baise as a songwriter. Catchy, fast, and big hooks that get stuck in your head. It takes great skill to write songs this good and this consistent.

The other story on this record is what is brought to the table by way of covers. None of the covers are big hits (with the exception of "Surrender" by Cheap Trick). I would say that they are more unique rather than completely obscure. An astute collector would know most if not all of the bands but not necessarily the song choices by those bands. "It's Cool To Rock" by the Accelerators is the one cover that could be mistaken for an original because they stay rather faithful to the original. There was no need to improve upon the original; it is just that good. "Let's Go" by Bay City Rollers is a WTF moment, but it works perfectly, played at triple speed of the original. It takes on a very Slade-like feel and removes all of the schmaltz you may be thinking it would contain. The back to back of "The Fly" by Chubby Checker and "Push & Stomp" by Joan Jett are rollicking versions of the originals, a double paring of songs about dancing that is a very nice touch. The record closes with a triple threat of goodness: "Surrender" followed by the Nervous Eaters' "Just Head" and closing with "Savage", one of the four lone songs by Australia's Fun Things. The opening verse says everything you need to know. "I am the rock & roll kamikaze, and you know that I'd die for you. When you're paying your bills to see me, I gotta do what you want me to." Pure rock & roll poetry and a perfect ending!

Go Berserk was released in 1995 on Sympathy on CD. The CD includes both the "Rock All" (also on Sympathy) and "Savage" (originally on Screaming Apple) singles. The record was released a year later on vinyl by Roto records out of Spain. In 2005, Just Add Water Records re-released Go Berserk as a double CD called Best Head Ever. It includes everything from the Sympathy release and four more songs from a 7" called High Time on Hit Me! out of Norway. It includes a very early version of "Good Head" - later made famous by Turbonegro. The two-CD set also includes a 12-song live record from Oslo. To the best of my knowledge, that is everything they recorded.

Though short lived, The Vikings are a crucial sign post of '90s garage rock. Even if the members never recorded another note, this still would rank as a masterpiece. It is surprising that more bands from both the states and Scandinavia didn't pick this up as a copycat project and do something similar in terms of sound and the blend of covers and originals. I implore you to track this down and make it one of your favorites; I assure you that you will not be disappointed in the least. You will only wish you could have discovered it to sooner to have the pleasure of enjoying it longer.

-Rob Sheley

Monday, August 07, 2017

The Cult of Percolation- Elegant Interactions Laboratory

"When you listen to this, I love you. All these songs are about surviving. Maybe that's what makes them feminist; they're about being told you aren't worth anything, and then surviving. Or flourishing even. Or just killing everything that's ever hurt you. And rising from the blood-soaked earth. You're listening to an epic battle between me and all my demons, in whatever intergalactic forms they come in."
-Mary Allen 

Sometimes artists can articulate the meaning of their craft so beautifully that I prefer to let them speak for themselves. The above quote from Mary Allen is all you really need to know about her band The Cult of Percolation. How can you read those words and not want to hear the music? I can tell you that I've never heard a band in my life that sounds quite like The Cult of Percolation - a Minneapolis outfit so "out there" that you just might believe this really is a soul band from another galaxy. Out on Piñata Records, TCOP's new album Elegant Interactions Laboratory finds Allen exorcising her demons in lockstep with a band that's dialed in to groove. Somehow this is an album that feels timeless and wildly experimental all at once. Allen is of course at the center of the action, but each player in the band proves to be essential. That rhythm section (comprised of Ian Stemper and Ike Hartis) is absolutely on-point, and there are a number of moments where organist Tanja Anđić or guitarist Eliot Gordon puts a crucial touch on a song. There's such a sense of adventure to this album that it's a little surprising to discover that most of the songs clock in right around the three minute mark. That groove has plenty of room to breathe, yet no song wears out its welcome. All of this works perfectly in support of Allen, who genuinely sounds like she has summoned her vocals from a place so deep down that it could very well be outside of this earth. At a purely visceral level, you could cue up any of these songs and just enjoy dancing to the music. At a deeper level, these are songs you can really immerse yourself in and fully experience. The intergalactic R & B of "Heavy" and stellar garage/soul of "A New Way" make a fine 1-2 punch off the bat, but this is an album that really hits its peak on the back stretch. "Lovin a Van" is the closest this record gets to "conventional" soul music, and it's positively electrifying. "Moon Girls" and "Love Drug" feature extraordinary vocal performances from Allen. Closing track "Indigo Children" incorporates influences that could be considered either psychedelic or interplanetary depending on your viewpoint. It puts a powerful exclamation on a powerful album.

No doubt Elegant Interactions Laboratory is a little different from the music I typically write about. And I must admit that I didn't quite know what to make of it the first time I heard it. Yet I'd be hard-pressed to think of another group that's more representative of the true essence of rock n' roll. And there's just no denying that Allen is a rare and formidable talent. The Cult of Percolation has traveled from light years away to deliver a message of love and hope to our planet. I'd say they've arrived just in time.


Friday, August 04, 2017

Thee Evil Twin - self titled 7"

How about some real deal punk rock n' roll?! Thee Evil Twin is the latest band from Adam Caine of Radio Reelers fame. Now wreaking havoc in Sydney, Australia, Adam is back in the saddle and heading up this red-hot trio. The band's second 7" is out on No Front Teeth Records and fully reignites the rip-roaring garage/punk/rock n' roll action of the Radio Reelers, Trust Fund Babies, The Shrinks, etc. "MFers All" is every bit the sing-along anthem you'd expect based on the title, and "Howlin'" is a jolt of energy strong enough to keep you wired for hours. To bring it all home, "Don't Wanna See Your Band" is the snotty garage punk smash you've been craving. Without spoiling it for you, I'll just say that most of you will really relate to this one!

With this new EP from Thee Evil Twin, you get exactly what you'd expect from an Adam Caine fronted band: three rockin' tunes that hit you quick and leave you wanting more. This is right up there with the best releases from any of Caine's previous bands. It really takes me back to the late '90s/early 2000s glory days of Bay Area garage punk. Digital tracks are available from the band directly, and No Front Teeth has two versions of the vinyl for sale. Grab a copy while you still can!


Wednesday, August 02, 2017

The Hellacopters – Payin' The Dues (20th Anniversary reissue)

Review by Rob Sheley

It was (almost) 20 years ago today; October 1 actually, that Sweden re-entered the mainstream as a musical force. It was around this same time that Sal from Electric Frankenstein coined the term "punk rock & roll" for a band that loved and was influenced by punk but also heavily influenced by early KISS, MC5, The Stooges, Radio Birdman, and Motörhead. No other band exemplifies this label more than The Hellacopters.

The seven-second opening sample to the first song on their first LP Suppershitty To the Max! sums it up best: "These are other kids, this is just an accident, just a couple of wild punks out rasin' hell". You are then hit with a sledgehammer of Humpers influenced onslaught on "(Gotta Get Some Action), Now!", and you realize these guys are no joke. Payin’ The Dues was released a year and four months after that (Swedish) Grammy winning debut. It has a much sharper focus, better production, better recording, and just more muscle than the wild recklessness of the debut. It also stretches out the Hellacopters' influences and shows more of what the band brings to the table. Their debut was recorded in 26 hours and is more of the Damned, Motörhead, punk influence. A year later, they were able to blend the punk and rock influences to create a perfect mix of what Sal describes as "punk rock & roll".

Opening with the tidal wave force of "You Are Nothin'", the album kicks off in the same way the debut did: loud, direct, and in your face. It is a similar experience to the first time you heard "Search & Destroy", "Kick Out The Jams", or "Overkill". It is a relentless two minute blast that chugs like a train. The twin guitar attack from Nicke Andersson (Entombed, Imperial State Electric) and Dregen (Backyard Babies, Michael Monroe Band) is a modern version of the bob and weave that was last and really only found with Wayne Kramer & Fred "Sonic" Smith. If the opening track was not enough to raise your blood pressure, then the brooding opening bass riff and wall of feedback of "Like No Other Man" are bound to do it. It carries the same thrust as Motörhead's "Bomber", but it is more in the red and more in your face and helps set the tone for most of the record in terms of how aggressive the performances are recorded. Track three is the best track that was never on a KISS record. "Looking at Me" has the riff, it has the groove, the solo, and all that it is missing is the make-up. It really is almost The Hellacopters taking the best parts of KISS's "All American Man" and making it their own. "Riot On The Rocks", "Hey", "Soulseller", "Where The Action Is", and "Twist Action" blaze through the next 13 minutes with Damned-like reckless abandon: nothing mid-tempo, all full speed ahead. These are the songs that make up not only the guts of the record, but these are the songs from the record that are perennial live staples and have been played at almost very concert since they were written. The album closes with "Colapso Nervioso" & "Psyched Out and Furious", two songs that are longer than anything else on the record and are more Sabbath meet MC5 than Damned meets Motörhead. It does provide the breather to give the rest of the record space to exist after being pounded relentlessly for 6-7 tracks prior. It is a similar palate cleanser that allows Payin' The Dues to breathe as the mid-tempo songs on Raw Power enhance the furious energy contained in the rest of the record. Going full bore on every song tires you out as a listener; you need something to let you get your bearings before diving back in.

Payin' The Dues was originally released on White Jazz in several pressings of both LP & CD. The label is still mysterious; I think it is the band's label with some friends, but they have put out several releases that are non-Hellacopters. All of their releases are great; take some time and explore White Jazz. In October 1999, Sub Pop released the US version with an extra disc/LP that was a live show from May of 1999 from Canada. The record was re-released this year for Record Store Day in Sweden and is very much in print on both vinyl and CD. The vinyl version of any pressing includes their cover of "City Slang" by Sonic's Rendezvous Band. Check out for anything coming from Scandinavia. They are easy to deal with and very fair. Their website can be converted to English and US dollars.

One must remember, and it is a point that is hard to grasp, that in 1997 the internet was still in its very infancy. Amazon existed in concept, eBay was just getting started, they had no international presence, email with friends was just barely a thought, Google wouldn't even form for another year as a company, and Napster was still two years away from moving music you only heard about to it becoming something that was virtually tangible. Any band that was on a small label from another country may as well have been making music on the moon. It was years before the world shrunk and you could search and find what your collection has now become. Finding something like the Hellacopters was work and a labor of passion more than love. I found my copy in 1997 by a tip from a friend in Pennsylvania to call a store in L.A., talk to a French guy who owns the place, he was doing imports at the time, and he might have it. I called the number, and this very kind Parisian took my credit card info and said he'd ship it out. Six days later, a new music door swung open and it was not Sub Pop Rock City, it was Stockholm Rock City. And like the Gold Rush of 1849, I was out to use all my abilities and contacts to discover everything that Scandinavia was churning out. It is a journey I continue today.

-Rob Sheley 

Tuesday, August 01, 2017

Cheap Whine - self titled

So when a Canadian powerpop/punk/garage supergroup makes a full-length debut on one of the best labels going, you can be sure I'm going to take notice! Cheap Whine features that veritable force of nature Steve Adamyk along with Eric French from Feral Trash and Jordy Bell from Crusades. The band's self-titled album, out on the U.K.'s Drunken Sailor Records, is a must-hear for all of you who dig garage punk by way of '70s punk and power pop. Of course this is totally my cup of tea. But what I appreciate about Cheap Whine is that it's not just the Steve Adamyk Band with a different name. Yeah, you're still getting fast & furious tempos, punchy guitars, and a truckload of catchy melodies. But overall, there's a much darker feel seeping into these songs. And there are some different things going on, like the cathartic raging vocals on "Unnoticed", the psychedelic thrashing of "Cut It Out", and the almost Weezer-ish appeal of "Withdrawl". This is really one of those albums that has something for everyone. The terrific "Kasumi" is powerpop/punk by the book, which is something that Adamyk does better than just about anyone. "Where Are You Now" and "All The While" might very well set your hair on fire, while the band's pure pop side comes out on the anthemic "Best Times" and the rousing closer "Letter To J".

I don't think Cheap Whine's debut album could be any more satisfying. It has the energy and the hooks that you would demand from any decent power pop/garage-punk hybrid, but the creative input from all three band members turns this into something a little different from all of these guys' other groups. When I first got the email from Drunken Sailor alerting me to this album's existence, I had a really good feeling off the bat. And I must say that Cheap Whine did not let me down. This album is an inspired effort and a splendid example of why I so thoroughly enjoy modern-day powerpop/punk. Canada does it again!