Monday, October 30, 2017

The Control Freaks - "No Action"/"Don't Mess With Jessica"

It pretty much goes without saying that The Control Freaks are the best thing to happen to garage punk music in a long time. The band's debut album on Slovenly was absolutely the instant classic I expected it to be. If you don't have it yet, go get it! If you do have it and crave more, The Control Freaks have followed up with a double shot of new singles on Bachelor Record Company. Of course this shit is hot, and it's all previously unreleased!

I think it has to be intentional that The Control Freaks' initial releases have been with two of the labels most responsible for keeping real garage-punk alive in the 2010s. If you go to order the new singles from the Bachelor store, you'll see a totally spot-on rant about what most people think "garage punk" is in 2017 versus what it meant in the '90s. That line about Ty Segall made me laugh so hard that I almost snorted unsweetened tea through my nose. The Control Freaks are the genuine article, and both of these singles are essential additions to the catalog of Greg Lowery fronted bands. "No Action" throws it all the way back to the budget rock stylings of Supercharger. It's catchy and rockin' without going overboard on the tempo. What a banger! I will not judge you if you decide to call in sick and play the song on repeat all morning. It's definitely the kind of tune that will make you wanna dance around the house in your underwear. Once you're finally ready to flip the record, a robust version of Protex's "I Can Only Dream" awaits on the B-side.

The second of the two singles is called "Don't Mess With Jessica". Again, this is a perfect example of garage punk the way it ought to be. Right down to the primal three-chord thumping and exuberant co-ed vocals, this could legitimately pass for a long-lost Rip Off Records track circa the mid-to-late '90s. Once you make it through this song, you will have abandoned any lingering temptations to mess with Jessica. And how about another cover from the heyday of punk/powerpop? The Control Freaks have at The Rousers' "Rock N Roll or Run", and I have a feeling thay a lot of people will now be heading off in search of the original.

So I guess you could be a cheap skate and buy one of these two singles based on which A-side you like better. But come on. It's The Control Freaks. Buy both and listen often! Make garage punk trashy again!


Wednesday, October 25, 2017

Suspect Parts - Self Titled

After a decade as a band, the international supergroup Suspect Parts finally has a full-length album to its credit.  And it's an absolute must-buy if you're a fan of powerpop/punk! The band is Justin Maurer (Clorox Girls, Maniac) and James Sullivan (Ripchord) on guitar and vocals, Chris Brief on drums, and Andru Bourbon (Radio Dead Ones) on bass. With Maurer's name on this project, you would not be wrong to expect music influenced by the poppier side of first wave punk rock with a particular emphasis on southern California. But this band is a true collaborative effort that highlights the talents and influences of all of its members. Musically and lyrically, Maurer and Sullivan both bring phenomenal songs to the table. And all in all, Suspect Parts really set themselves apart from most of the bands playing this kind of music today.

Suspect Parts describe their music as "a cotton candy meets razorblade concoction that goes down surprisingly smooth". If you're thinking that sounds like something I'd be totally into, I'd say you're very correct! But while Suspect Parts completely hit the sweet spot for powerpop/punk, they bring something really unique to the style. They're far more '60s-inspired than just about any band you'd think to compare them to, and they manage to take all of their influences and bring them into the now. Out on Taken By Surprise Records in Germany and Oops Baby Records in the U.S., the band's self-titled debut LP is without question one of this year's finest. The album sets a tone with a terrific 1-2-3 punch of textbook powerpop/punk ("Madmen With Guns",  "Electrify Me Honey", "Live Over There"). But just when you think you know exactly what this record is going to be, it starts to take wonderfully surprising turns. "Alright With Me" and "Run For Your Life" dial back the punk influence and prove that Suspect Parts can craft finessed pop songs as well as anyone. The latter just might be the high point of the album - a song that manages to feel epic even with a running time under three minutes. "Change Your Mind" is a perfectly executed stab at a punked-up Beatles, while "Out of Place" delivers the heart-racing jolt you'd hope to get from a band with a Briefs and Clorox Girls pedigree. And "No One From Nowhere" has a neat new wave vibe and features some of the most honest and powerful lyrics I've heard in quite some time.

Two Americans, a Brit, and a German walked into a recording studio on a sub-freezing January day in east Berlin: sounds like the start of a joke, right? But actually it was the start of something special. I would imagine it's difficult for a band to get together when its members are separated by oceans. But I'm glad these gentlemen went to the trouble to get an album made. This release may have been a long time in the making, but it sure delivers the goods! Is this punk rock for people who love pop, or is it pop for people who love punk rock? I'm not quite sure! Those of you in Europe should be sure to catch the band on tour beginning tomorrow!


Friday, October 20, 2017

Corner Boys - "Just Don't Care"

Holy smokes, do I have a banger for you today! Back in March, I identified Corner Boys as a band of considerable promise based on their demo tape. Little did I know that Drunken Sailor Records was already on the case, and today we have an official release from this formidable Vancouver trio. It's a knockout debut and quite possibly the best punk EP I've heard all year.

With me having spent a great deal of my career touting bands that do newer versions of '70s punk, there was just no question that Corner Boys were my kind of group. But honestly, Corner Boys sound less like a 2017 update of Canadian powerpop/punk circa 1979 and more like the genuine article. Listening to this EP, I'm half-convinced that it really was recorded in 1979! There's just something about the production and the tone of the vocals that brings to mind the likes of Pointed Sticks and Young Canadians - or even Irish counterparts like Undertones and Rudi. This is punk rock just the way I like it: charmingly unpolished and brimming with youthful energy, but still chock full of hooks. Each of these three tracks could have been an A-side in its own right. The highest compliment I can pay to "Joke of the Neighborhood" is that I thought it had to be a cover when I heard it on the demo. It sounds that much like a long-lost classic. So if it seems well-positioned as the third track on this EP, that tells you how good the other two songs are! On any given day, I'd say that "Just Don't Care" is the clear "hit". And then on the next day, I'd change my mind and go with "Be Seeing You"!

"Just Don't Care" is a darn near perfect punk record. I love the sound, I love the energy, and I love the songs. Corner Boys are my favorite new band of the year by far!


Wednesday, October 18, 2017

Various Artists - Neon Maniacs

I'm usually not nuts about various artist compilations. Too often you wind up with bands' crap songs that they didn't like enough to put on a real record. Or you get a ton of previously released stuff - which seems pointless. That's why the annual Girlsville comps are something I look forward to. They are always filler-free and comprised almost entirely of exclusive tracks. Neon Maniacs, like its predecessors Stupid Punk Boy and The Wild Angels, was released in conjunction with Cassette Day. Neon Maniacs is a co-release with Nerve Centre Records - another one of my favorite labels. Given that these two labels have similar musical visions, fans of the two previous Girlsville comps should not fear any drastic changes. Again you can expect a whole lot of primo garage cuts along with plenty of punk, indie pop, post-punk, and power pop goodness. Girlsville regulars Purple Wizard, The Prissteens, Coachwhips, and Mr. Airplane Man all make appearances along with Nerve Centre's own Red Cords, Murph and the Gazorpos, and The Hipshakes. From outside of these two labels' rosters, you also have the likes of The Darling Buds, honeychain, Germ House, Zig Zags, Virvon Varvon, The BV's, and many more. All in all, you get 18 tracks from 16 different bands.

I've been fired up for Neon Maniacs for months because I knew it was going to include honeychain's cover of Material Issue's "Going Through Your Purse". Considering that the original is my favorite song by one of my favorite bands of all-time, I knew that nothing less than a knockout version would impress me. But I've got to say: honeychain really nailed this song! I was not disappointed. Similarly, the legendary Darling Buds have a go at "Our Lips Are Sealed" and do an amazing job of it. Inspired by Sonic Youth's cover of The Carpenters' "Superstar", this is a creative and fully unique interpretation of the Go-Go's/Fun Boy Three classic (probably more similar to the latter's version). Other highly interesting covers on this comp include Zig Zags tearing into M.O.T.O.'s "Choking On Your Insides" and the mysterious Nuclear Brown tackling Devo's "Mongoloid".

As for the original songs on this release, there are several really good ones. Murph and The Gazorpos again light it up with some red-hot power poppin' rock n' roll. Virvon Varvon's "Trouble" reminds me how much I like post-punk when it's done really well. The BV's hit the shoegaze/dream pop sweet spot with "The Sheep Look Up". Stix Champion & His Trophy Band deliver some budget proto-punk on "Be A Kid When You're a Kid". "Stormy Weather" is a gem of a demo from The Prissteens' later years. And The Red Cords' "Supermarket Horror" is an absolute crackler from one of the U.K.'s best current garage/punk bands.

At just $7 for a download, Neon Maniacs is a great way to discover a lot of cool bands for not a lot of money. If you're into cassettes, Girlsville and Nerve Centre have just 75 copies each for sale in the U.S. and U.K. respectively. I also recommend digging deeper into both of these labels' catalogs. So click the links below and discover some great music!


Saturday, October 14, 2017

The Prissteens - Demos and Rarities Volume 2

I never dreamed there would ever be a sequel to last year's completely essential Prissteens Demos and Rarities collection. Yet here I am at this very moment staring at Volume 2. Christmas came early this year!

I suppose it would be more correct to refer to volume 2 as a prequel. Volume 1 was largely made up of demos for songs that were intended for that second Prissteens album that never came to be. Volume 2, on the other hand, features demos the band recorded in advance of Scandal, Controversy, and Romance- its first (and sadly, only) album. More polished versions of a couple of these tracks wound up on the LP, while a few of these songs are being heard for the very first time after 20 years in the vaults. Girlsville is once again responsible for unearthing these lost treasures, and Courtney did an amazing job of combing through the demos and selecting only the absolute cream of the crop. What results is an all-killer, no-filler affair packaging the best of The Prissteens' pre-album demos with the B-sides from the band's early singles and a Christmas song that was previously available only as a download.

Was the "big" production of Scandal, Controversy, and Romance ill-suited for The Prissteens, or was it exactly what the band needed? While fans seem to be divided on this point, there's not much denying that the difference between indie era and major label era Prissteens is like night and day. This collection bridges those two eras. If you've ever wondered what the songs from the album would have sounded like if they'd been produced like the earlier singles, demo versions of  "Someday" and "I Don't Cry" will provide a definitive and satisfying answer. If you weren't familiar with the Prissteens and just heard "I'm A Mess", you might think you were encountering forgotten garage rock greats from 50 years ago. And after one listen to "You're Gonna Lose", I was immediately baffled as to how this song could have been lost to the world for two decades. It's the absolute perfect mix of punk rock and girl group inspired pop. As I listen, I imagine that the ghost of Joey Ramone is smiling beside me and imploring me to turn it up louder.

The Prissteens were one of New York City's finest punk groups of the '90s - or any decade for that matter! If you're looking for a proper introduction to the band, either volume of Demos and Rarities is a fine place to start. Volume 2 is the leaner and meaner of the two and comes with essential bonuses like the Richard Gottehrer produced "Christmas Is a Time for Giving" and the band's wonderfully NSFW treatment of the Undertones' "Teenage Kicks". If you own volume 1, you're gonna need to have volume 2 as well. Otherwise I'll just tell you to quit screwing around and go buy 'em both!


Friday, October 13, 2017

Indonesian Junk - Stars In the Night

I've mentioned it before that Indonesian Junk's second LP was one of my most highly anticipated albums of 2017. Between the long wait since the first album (released 20 months ago) and Malibu Lou's continued guarantees of face-melting greatness, I had good reason to expect a great deal from Stars In the Night. With the album now officially out, I can tell you that I was not disappointed. In fact, I'd say my expectations were actually exceeded. This is up there with the top three or four albums of a really great year. If you dig the same type of stuff that I dig, I imagine that you will be quite keen on this release as well.

It's not that there's anything radically different about Indonesian Junk this time out. The Milwaukee trio continues to mix glam, power pop, and old New York punk influences in such a way that doesn't sound like any other band out there. But man oh man, Daniel James and company have absolutely knocked this record out of the park! This release was far more "professionally" recorded than the last one. That could have been a good thing or a bad thing, but it definitely turned out to be the former. And in an entirely good way, this album really plays to Daniel's knack for writing terrific pop songs. If anyone is still questioning whether or not it's possible to create poppy punk rock that sounds genuinely tough, Stars In the Night will show you how it's done. Propelled by irresistible guitar hooks and a chorus you just have to sing along with, "I Would Never Treat You Like That" is as catchy as anything you'll hear all year. The same could be said of "I'll Run Away" - a number so energetic and hook-laden that any resultant head-bobbing may lead to severe neck injuries. "Tonight" is the closest Indonesian Junk has ever come to a pure power pop song, and "Turn To Stone" is first class solo Stiv Bators worship. But while the poppier songs on this album are amazing (good luck getting "Why Did I Call You" out of your head anytime soon!), that's only the half of it! "Stars" is a loving tribute to Nikki Sudden and quite possibly the best song Daniel has ever written. "Nosferatu" will have you going from "What the fuck is this?!" to "This is goddamn brilliant!" within one listen. "Slow Down"  is like a sonic teleportation to the hey day of Max's Kansas City. "On The Run" is a wonderful closing ballad that brings to mind '70s Stones and Johnny Thunders.

There's honestly no other band out there quite like Indonesian Junk. In a scene full of way too many sound-alike artists, Daniel James is one of those rare genuine originals. He's good real personality, a flair for quality songwriting, and insane guitar skills. The very first time I heard his self-recorded demos for Indonesian Junk, I knew he was onto something good. And the records have continued to get better and better. With bassist Johnny Cyanide and drummers Mike Mattner and David Barootian, James has found the perfect musical partners in crime. Stars in the Night is everything I love about '70s punk, glam, pop, and good old filthy rock n' roll all rolled together and spat out in a wonderful and totally original way. Lou, you were right as always!


Wednesday, October 11, 2017

The Dahlmanns/The Stanleys - split 7"

Any time we have the "best band in the world" conversation, The Dahlmanns have got to be in it. I can't name a single release from these Norwegian national treasures that I don't flat-out love. That very much continues with the band's latest release - a split 7" with Aussie power poppers The Stanleys. This is The Dahlmanns' third single on Beluga Records and whopping 11th overall.   

The Dahlmanns' contribution to this split is "Conny Converse" - which is nothing less than the total pop smash you would expect it to be. Line's voice is in lovely form as usual, and those harmonies are just so on-point. Top it all off with an absolute gem of a guitar solo, and you've got yourself a hit! It takes a truly formidable band to be able to hang with The Dahlmanns, and The Stanleys prove to be very much up to the task. They play an ultra-punchy, super high energy brand of power pop that's practically their birthright as Australians. Their contribution to this split, "Amy", sounds like a radio hit from a time when they still played radio hits on the radio. The song is also available on the band's brand-new debut album - which I plan to review in the very near future.

This Dahlmanns/Stanleys split is such a treat because it brings together two of the top bands in all of power pop. They sure make a perfect pair! Order the split directly from Beluga Records. "Conny Converse" is also available in digital form from Apple Music and Spotify! 


Tuesday, October 10, 2017

The Safes - Tasty Waves

Having been one of America's great rock n' roll treasures since the early 2000s, The Safes are one of those bands you can always count on. There is no such thing as a bad Safes record, and the band's rep as a live powerhouse has been hard-earned and well deserved. This is one of the few bands I can name that has remained in peak form throughout each of the last two decades. And so with the recent release of The Safes' fourth album Tasty Waves on Hidden Volume Records, I braced myself to be wowed. I was not let down.

The Brothers O'Malley - Frankie and Patrick- have been constants in The Safes lineup since day one. The current incarnation of the band is rounded out by Dex Fontaine (drums) and Curt Schmelz (bass). While the band still occupies that general space where garage rock and power pop intersect, Tasty Waves definitely continues the '60s-inspired songwriting direction of 2014's outstanding Record Heat. And here's what I love about this band: while the influence of the Beatles, Beach Boys, Kinks, etc. is all over Tasty Waves, this is not even close to a "revivalist" record. It's modern-day garage pop with classic inspirations. 

While The Safes are particularly known for their high energy live shows and guitar-heavy recordings, it's really the songwriting that steals the show on Tasty Waves. Frankie O'Malley wrote nine of the ten tracks and co-wrote the other with his brother Patrick. With this album, I've really taken notice of his skill as a lyricist. His wordplay is clever and often highly acidic/satirical. In other spots ("Crystal Ball", "Mind Of Its Own"), he comes off genuinely reflective. And "Streets and Sanitation" is some of the most compelling lyrical poetry I've come across in a while. While the melodies are strong enough to make even casual listening enjoyable, there's a lot to be gained from sitting down with the lyrics and digging deep into these songs. I don't think there could be a more spot-on lyrical couplet for 2017 than "I'm the guy whose eyes are not glued to his phone/And I'm so glad to know that I'm not alone".

With this particular set of songs, we get a Safes album that feels quite different from its predecessors. I'm not sure I want to use the dreaded "mature" description, but the absence of any obvious full-throttle rockers really emphasizes craft over crackle. Of course there's more than enough punch in the band's attack, and the songs remain lean at a total running time of 22 minutes. But standout tracks like "Hometown", "Crystal Ball", and "Nobody Cares Anymore" are true triumphs of skillfully woven melodies and highly creative songwriting. I'm especially impressed with the subtle touches that bring timeless '60s pop into the modern age. Front to back, The Safes have never delivered a better collection of songs. And the album just sounds amazing - the band working with producer Brian Deck to achieve a warm and wonderfully rich fidelity. Tasty Waves, like everything else The Safes have done, is an essential purchase.


Monday, October 09, 2017

Cheap Trick review series: One On One (1982)

Review by Mike Kimmel

I'm frequently amazed at how quick some folks are to pan a song or an album or a band because what they've done just doesn't quite fit with what that person wants or expects. It amazes me even further (and removes a good deal of what little credibility some major music mag reviewers might have once had) when it's obvious that the previously mentioned dork hasn't even listened to the song/album/band.

This is a Cheap Trick review, but the first example that jumps into my head was when KISS members released their simultaneous solo albums years ago. Paul Stanley had a song on his solo that was titled "Love in Chains", which the reviewer claimed, was "…another typical KISS bondage tribute…" or something to that effect.

Oh yes he did, and oh no it wasn't.

After browsing my Cheap Trick archives in search of the next release to discuss, I found my attention directed to the release immediately previous to 1983's Next Position Please – 1982's One On One. This was the first album to feature Jon Brant on bass to replace the recently departed Tom Petersson. After briefly reinstating bassist (who was actually a guitarist, but who's counting) Pete Comita, who had been a band member years previous, he was canned… AGAIN… in favor of the somewhat well-known Chicago area bassist Brant.

I never got to see Cheap Trick in concert with Brant. But I DID get to an in-store record signing for One on One, and Brant was there with Nielsen, Zander, and Bun E. Carlos. For the record, Nielsen and Carlos were somewhat aloof, shall we say, while Zander and Brant were very friendly and accessible; Zander actually took time to pose for a few pictures away from the rest of the band.

Now Brant is recording with Cheap Trick, and One On One is released. Zander is often accused of screaming his way through some of the songs on the release. On the opening track "I Want You", yes he does – quite a bit.


Talented vocalists can pull off a variety of different sounds just as guitarist and bassists, etc., can. Robin Zander is arguably one of the best singers in rock and roll, and though he's lost some of his hair to age, he hasn't lost a whole lot of that range. He can do an amazing range of things with his voice, and occasionally screaming is one of them.

Spoiler alert! He does the same thing on track five ("Looking Out For Number One") and track nine ("Love's Got a Hold On Me"). He maybe doesn't do it to quite the same degree as in "I Want You", but maybe what the song needed was different?

By the way… Do you know how many other musical endeavors have been titled "I Want You"? I did a very brief search and came up with 155 songs with that title. Well, 148 with that title in English, one in German, one in French, one in Spanish, one in what appears to be Czech, and three in an Asian font.

That's not counting six albums with that title (one each by Booker T., Marvin Gaye, Wilson Pickett), three films, and 11 tunes in which the title starts with "I Want You". Maybe they wanted THEIR version to stand out from the crowd!

Not that I'm defensive or anything.

Second track is the title track and features an oft-cited lyric used to bash the Tricksters: "Reputation is a fragile thing". Having been together for 40+ years as the same band (one glaring omission set aside for another time), releasing 18 studio albums, two EPs, six live releases, appearing on 17 compilations and 21 movie soundtracks, releasing 57 charting singles and seven videos/DVDs, I'd say their reputation is fairly safe.

One of those singles was "If You Want My Love". Featuring a break that could be a first cousin to that of "While My Guitar Gently Weeps", it peaked at #11 on the US Rock chart and number two on the Australian charts. It's one of the slower ballads the band has done, and like the majority of them, it charted. It didn't hit as high as "The Flame", which reached number one on the US charts. But #11 ain't bad either.

"Oo La La La" follows, and it's a kinda short little semi-nonsensical rocker that can hang with the best that the band has done and, as with many of them, I have no idea what this one is about but it's fun to listen to.

"Lookin' Out For Number One" is another one where Zander screams the lyrics on occasion, so if you find that off-putting consider yourself warned. "I got hot but never got burned" is one of the interesting lyrics in the fifth track, which is describing another relationship malcontent. The next verse expounds further: "When I'm hot she says she's not. Don't get too close, she's over the top. Think by now, well, I would have learned. She's all talk. I really got burned."

"She's Tight" follows at track number six and is not only one of my favorite songs from this release – it's one of my favorite Cheap Trick tunes. "You floated in. We floated up. Through the window and down the hall. I had a smoke and went upstairs. Turned the door and I opened the key. She spoke… 'I'm on my own. Home all alone.' So I got off the phone!" Yep. Still love it!

The shortest song on the album follows at number seven. "Time is Runnin'" clocks in at only 2:20 and features… Wait. Really? No lead part for anyone? I do like the verse that says "Here comes the night. Gone are the days, yeah, when we could just sit here and talk for hours. Didn't have much to say".

For those keeping track, the eighth cut – "Saturday at Midnight" - is only the second weirdest track on the album ("I Want Be Man" takes that trophy home all by its lonesome.). "Saturday at midnight. See you at the red light (bad scene, man). Don't wanna be alone." It's a little odd, but that only reinforces the fact that you're listening to a Cheap Trick album, right?

Another Zander screaming fit! Hold on to your earlobes! "Love's Got a Hold On Me" is another rocker in the best Trick style, and it's another tune that gets going, gets the job done, and then it's on to the next track. Only 2:36 in duration, the band packs a good deal of rock as they roll through track number nine.

I mentioned that "Saturday at Midnight" wasn't the strangest tune on the One On One release from Cheap Trick. No, they saved that distinction for the tenth track of the 11 on the album, and that diagnosis goes to "I Want Be Man". 

After the opening where the odd, modulated drums frame the muffler, staccato guitar and the chorus of "I want be man. I want be man. I want be man. I want be man", you have a description of (what I think is) sometime in the future when there are robot servants, illustrated by lyrics like "I don't like living inside this metal plastic shell".

Things are changing based on the desires of the masters. "Hey I don't like livin' in this fleshy human shell. As much as I abuse it, it's really gone to hell."

Then there's an exchange of thoughts between human master and robot servant. It's kind of a lengthy lyric quote here, and I apologize but it's entirely necessary and pretty much fun. Besides, I really don't have any trepidation when quoting lyrics in a review. While it's true that good music can make bad lyrics tolerable, it's also true that interesting lyrics can move a marginal song onto your favorites list.

The "marginal" thing doesn't apply here. "I Want Be Man" is a fun song, and as I've said before… I've come to be entertained and not convinced!

"I'd rather be a robot so I don't have to think. 'Cause then I could be programmed where I don't have to dream. I'd rather be a man, instead of a machine. Flesh and blood life and death. It's a mystery. Nothing to be programmed. Nothing is for sure. And least there's a reason… A reason for my life. I want be man. You want be me."

The album winds down with "Four Letter Word". Another relationship quandary in which someone screwed up big time and now has to come groveling back. Part of the reasoning involved is "It's alright; it takes two to make it love. Cause love can be just a four letter word. A four letter word". 

I've seen some folks list this release as their favorite Cheap Trick studio album. And though I can't count myself among them, it's a respectable effort and is 100% Cheap Trick. Many of those choose One On One specifically over Next Position Please. Again, I can't count myself in that group.

Of the six Cheap Trick releases in the 1980s, One On One would likely be listed as either my second or third choice as favorite from that decade. Next Position Please would have to be the first favorite, followed by either One On One or All Shook Up – and that order would probably swap positions for #2 or 3 depending on my mood at the time.

-Mike Kimmel

Saturday, October 07, 2017

The Next Big Thing 40th Anniversary Issue

Being one who came up in the world of do-it-yourself print zines, I have tremendous affection for those venerable publications that paved the way. Of those, Lindsay Hutton's The Next Big Thing was one of the first and without doubt one of the most legendary. It was certainly the first U.K. fanzine to be largely inspired by American punk rock. Named, of course, after the opening track from The Dictators' debut album Go Girl Crazy!, The Next Big Thing debuted in April of 1977. It eventually spawned a record label and continued as a print fanzine for an amazing run of 20 years. The entity lives on today over at If you're looking for a good feel for what the magazine was about, consider that the premiere issue featured extensive write-ups on The Dictators, The Damned, Blue Oyster Cult, and Television in addition to an article on the musical origins of punk rock. Over the years, Hutton championed standouts of the punk, new wave, and rock n' roll scenes - many of whom were largely unknown by the masses. In today's world where information about independent bands is so readily available on The Internet, it's easy to forget how vital fanzines like TNBT were to punk music in its early days. Imagine coming across an issue in the late '70s and having your life forever changed by seeing a Ramones record review or an ad for Bomp! Records!

With this year being the 40th anniversary of the debut of The Next Big Thing, Hutton endeavored to mark the occasion in a special way. He revived both the zine and the label, releasing The Dahlmanns (with Andy Shernoff!) "Forever My Baby" 7" and an anniversary print edition of TNBT. I had the pleasure of reviewing the 7" back in March, and I still maintain that it's the best single of 2017.

As for the print mag, it's really a delight to hold it in my hands. I stopped doing print zines over a decade and a half ago - in part due to the enormous expense involved and in part due to my reluctant adaptation to changing technologies. But I have to admit that there's just something incredibly cool about print (even in this age when our "devices" make digital publications equally portable). Hutton opens the issue by stating his concern that it might come off like a once great band's lesser "new stuff". But essentially this issue is classic TNBT - replete with a heartfelt opening rant, a nifty four-page spread on The Dahlmanns, an autobiographical piece by Amy Rigby, a feature on the Funtastic Dracula Carnival music festival, a previously unpublished short story by J.D. King, a write-up on The Schizophonics by Long Gone John, and a few pages of reviews. The 2017 version of TNBT very much resembles its younger self - with its focus on bands and artists who are highly worthy of attention yet unlikely to ever receive it from the "proper" press. The passion that went into this issue is palpable. 

This special print issue of The Next Big Thing proved to be a great success, with all 300 copies already gone. A few (packaged with the 7") remain available from Soundflat's on-line store, so move fast if you want one! I admire that Hutton wanted this issue to only be available as a print magazine, and its warm reception says a great deal about the enthusiasm of our international punk rock community. Hutton was never going to profit financially from this endeavor, yet he went ahead and did it because he really wanted to. For 40 years, he's done what I attempt to do myself - spread the gospel about great music and hopefully turn people on to bands they'll come to love. I was honored and humbled that he thought me worthy of a promo copy. If you're not doing so already, I highly recommend you follow his activities via his blog and check out the digital archive of TNBT back issues. It's incredibly fascinating to go back and read Hutton's coverage of 1977 punk music that was written just as this music was coming out. Below I've embedded Hutton's recent appearance on John Cavanagh's Soundwave - which is required listening in my book!


Friday, October 06, 2017

The Hipshakes - "Shot"

The Hipshakes are on a roll! After going a good number of years without any new singles from these longtime standouts of U.K. garage punk, we were treated to one last year and two more in short order this year. Hot on the heels of that double A-side affair on Crocodile Records ("Listening" b/w "Outside Lines"), "Shot" arrives on Charlie Murphy's Nerve Centre Records. This, to me, is the best yet of this wonderful new lot of Hipshakes singles. Like the rest of the band's more recent releases, it embraces pop, post-punk, and '77 punk influences without losing touch with the group's garage roots. That, to me, has been the recipe for the band's longevity (16 years and counting!). Certainly The Hipshakes have updated their sound over the years, but ultimately they still sound like...The Hipshakes! A-side "Shot" could not be any more up my alley. Think the thrashing minimalism of Pink Flag era Wire, except way poppier. Of course I love it! On the flip, "Samba" enters fist-pumping territory and demands the full capacity of your volume control. This is urgent and anthemic punk rock all the way, with just enough new wave quirks to keep you on your toes. If this one doesn't get you fired up to break out of your monotonous day and go live life, you may be a hopeless case!

With these last few Hipshakes' singles, there has clearly been a great deal of thought put into the song selections. You're never stuck with two songs that sound the same, and it certainly can't be an accident that the B-sides have been just as good as the A-sides. Perhaps outside of the U.K., this band might have fallen off of some people's radar in recent years. But The Hipshakes are clearly still going strong - perhaps stronger than ever! Murphy has already released some really great music by his own bands on the Nerve Centre imprint (if you don't own and love A Little Reaction by Murph & The Gazorpos, I don't know if we can be friends). He couldn't have picked a better band than The Hipshakes for his first "outside" release! This is a top-notch effort from one of the best bands out there. I've got more exciting news related to this label coming very soon, so stay tuned!