Monday, February 26, 2018

Murph & The Gazorpos - Too Scared To Rock 'N' Roll

Charlie Murphy is one of my favorite people in rock n' roll. Even if he went out and started an a cappella quartet or a Haircut 100 tribute band, I would want to own every record he made. I first came to know him from his dynamite power pop project Murph & The Gazorpos, but I've quickly become a huge fan of all of his other bands as well. I'm hearing that the next Freak Genes album is gonna blow all of our heads off! While we await that LP, we now get to enjoy what could be the last Murph & The Gazorpos release for a while. Charlie is stepping away from this project to focus on other things, so as a parting gift he's given us a six-song digital EP that is the band's best yet in my humble opinion. Too Scared To Rock 'N' Roll wonderfully combines all of the things I love about Murph & The Gazorpos. It's chock full of A-grade power pop hooks, hyper-caffeinated punk energy, heartfelt vocals and lyrics, and enough scorching rock n' roll guitar to power a major metropolis. Just push play, and it's instant happiness! The title track was a standout of the recent Nerve Centre/Girlsville Neon Maniacs compilation. But even if you own that already, the remaining five tracks make this EP well worth the £6. Songs like "All Or Nothing" and "Wolf" are first-rate numbers walking those oh so fine lines that separate punk and pop and good old rock n' roll. "Another Beat" evokes the Exploding Hearts' "I'm A Pretender" without coming off like an inferior copy. "Picking Up The Pieces" makes me wanna jump up and down on my bed until I either break it or collapse from sheer exhaustion (sounds like a great way to spend a morning!).

I know I've said this two or three or seven times before, but I urge each and every one of you to purchase the entire Murph & The Gazorpos discography from the Nerve Centre Records Bandcamp. That will cost you a grand total of like $15, and that's an investment that will bring endless joy to any fan of peppy, punchy pop. Seriously: how could you not love this band?!!!


Wednesday, February 21, 2018

Brad Marino - "C'Mon C'Mon C'Mon"

Check out my favorite song of 2018 so far! Seriously, how can you go wrong with a title like "C'Mon C'Mon C'Mon"?! Considering that The Connection is the most-reviewed band in the history of this blog, it's pretty obvious that I'm a big Brad Marino fan. I've known for a while that he was working on some solo stuff, but I wasn't quite sure what to expect (beyond Mike Chaney assuring me that it was going to be killer!). The debut Brad Marino solo EP will be releasing later this year, but first we get the "C'Mon C'Mon C'Mon" digital single. I was wondering if solo Brad Marino was going to be more like solo Mick Jagger or more like solo Keith Richards. Well, actually, it's more like Nick Lowe fronting The Ramones in 1979! This is just a great upbeat power pop/rock n' roll song that will have you bobbing your head and clapping your hands almost immediately upon contact. We are getting close enough to spring for me to envision myself blasting this tune while I drive with the windows down! In true solo fashion, Marino authored the song and played all the instruments on the track. His pal and bandmate Kris Rodgers mixed the recording. The full solo EP is slated to arrive this summer following the release of the new Connection album. If you're a fan of The Connection and/or Brad Marino, this is shaping up to be a really great year!


Monday, February 19, 2018

K7s - Take 1

Alright! This one is for the pop-punk fans! Take 1 is the debut album from Spanish super-trio K7s. I can only describe it as music for lovers of pop-punk made by lovers of pop-punk. If you're on the fence about pop-punk or outright hate it, this album won't turn you to the dark side. But if you're nuts about the 1990s Lookout! Records catalog and the generations of bands it inspired, Take 1 will send you straight to your happy place. My first impression of this album was, "This ought to be on Stardumb Records". Then I did a little digging. And sure enough, Stardumb is one of three labels (along with Rum Bar Records and Jolly Ronnie Records) collaborating to release this LP!

K7s are Luis Sanchez (Los Reactivos) on guitar and vocals, the great Kurt Baker on bass, and Jose Andres Albertos (Airbag) on drums. That's an awful lot of star power from the worlds of garage and power pop, but these guys had something far more specific in mind with this project. Take 1 is the kind of record that reminds me why I was so hooked on pop-punk in the days of my youth. Without apology, K7s knock out one perfect two minute pop song after another that worships at the altar of the Ramones, Screeching Weasel, Queers, and Green Day. This, my friends, is pop-punk by the book. You like buzzsaw guitars? Melodic leads? Sticky sweet melodies? Heart on sleeve lyrics? Take 1 delivers all of that in abundance, with tremendous production from Wyatt Funderburk that accentuates the pop and the punk. Sanchez is a likable presence on lead vocals who can pull off lovelorn and snotty with equal effectiveness. He really has a knack for writing these simple yet impossibly catchy pop songs. And as a musical trio, these three are as tight as it gets!

What I appreciate about Take 1 is that although it's a classic pop-punk record, you can't say that every song sounds the same. It's got everything from the textbook pop-punk of "Running Back To You" to the power pop leaning "All About Me" to the darker-sounding "Go Away" to the totally sappy "Your Lips Met Mine" to the punk rock kick in the nuts of "It's The CIA". Funderburk did a great job of letting the hooks shine while still playing up the inherent punch of this trio's attack. With a record like this, you don't really want to mess with the formula. What you do want to do is execute it to perfection, and that's what K7s have done so well. If you're looking for new ground to be broken, this is not your band. But if you desire a record that's a whole lot of fun and sure to have you singing along for weeks on end, Take 1 is hard to beat.


Friday, February 16, 2018

The Connection - "In The End"

Yippeee, we've got ourselves a new Connection song! "In The End" is actually the first original song The Connection has released since the summer of 2015, so it's with tremendous excitement that I receive this teaser for the band's forthcoming album Wish You Success! The album doesn't come out until the end of April. But if "In The End" is any indication, we are all in for a real treat with this fourth Connection LP. I'm not gonna waste any time today over-analyzing this track (there will be plenty of chances for that when I review the album!). I'll just say that if you love rock n' roll, you need this song in your life. It'll get your toes tapping and leave you wanting more. Oh my god, that lead guitar! Dang it, do we really have to wait two months for the rest of the record?!


Wednesday, February 14, 2018

Dboy- Prove Your Love (Live in Belem)

Releasing today is the excellent debut long player from Welland, Ontario's Dboy. On the surface this may appear to be a fake live album. But aren't all the best live albums fake? Besides, "fake" is such a harsh term. In Dboy's case, it's more like pro wrestling kayfabe. If you choose not to believe that Dboy live under secret identities and only communicate with the public via their Moscow-based spokesman Kirill Kutchokokov, you're totally spoiling the fun! The band's web site even contains a "13-point program to end sonic austerity" (my favorite is Point 5: "Dboy is a rite of passage, minus the 'p'") and offers fans the opportunity to apply for membership in the Official Dboy Scout Order. Most importantly, the music will more than justify anyone's commitment to the cause. This is some great straight-ahead catchy punk rock n' roll that takes absolutely nothing seriously except its mission to melt your face off. Think Hex Dispensers or Misfits (minus the horror) with the spirit of early Turbonegro. The band tears through 12 songs in under 25 minutes, and it's a ripping good time to the very end. And while song titles like "Born With A Hard-On", "Fecal Alcohol Syndrome", and "Dboy Balls" are in no way misleading, it would be going too far to dismiss this as a joke record. Especially on killer tracks like "Three Piece Band" and "Prove Your Luv", Dboy demonstrates that any underlying gimmicks are secondary to the music itself. If you enjoy ballsy garage punk with hooks, I wholeheartedly recommend checking out this mysterious power trio from the land of Cal Clutterbuck. Neckerchiefs sold separately!


Monday, February 12, 2018

Various Artists - Scrap!

I've said it many times, but it's a message worth repeating. If you're an American fan of Japanese punk music, you've got to be extremely appreciative of what Secret Mission Records has been doing over the past few years. The label has released music from The Raydios, Louder, Dials, Boys Order, P.C. 2, Beatseekers, Car Crash, The Geros, The Fadeaways, and Ruler. These are bands whose records would have otherwise only been available as pricey Japanese imports. Taken as a whole, SMR's recent catalog affirms that Japanese punk rock continues to thrive just as it did in previous decades. Assembled by Mangrove Records, the Scrap! compilation is an additional showcase for some of the finest bands associated with Japanese punk in recent years. Secret Mission has partnered directly with Mangrove to make this compilation available in the United States. It features top-tier material from six different bands. So basically, it's like getting six singles for the price of one album...minus the import price tag! 

I like that Scrap! was put together to document both the quality and variety of sounds that have been been coming out of Japan's punk scene over the last few years. The first thing that often comes to people's minds when you talk about Japanese punk rock is the garage/trash stuff, and you certainly get some of that here with three great tracks from KBD inspired crazies Car Crash. But the bands here run the gamut of punk styles, from the mod meets jittery new wave of Dials to the blistering sing-along '82 punk of Centipede to the dark post-punk of Middle Edge to the thumping three-chord punk stylings of Black and White to the pure snotty fury of Loudmouth. It's clear that Mangrove insisted on "A" level material from these bands, and that's what makes this compilation so worth the while. There are no throwaway tracks here, and I can honestly say I am looking forward to hearing a lot more from all of these groups. I was especially pleased to be so into Centipede and Middle Edge - bands who bring something a little different to sub-genres that I'm generally not a huge fan of. Over the course of just three tracks, Middle Edge manages to bring to mind The Wipers, Swedish post-hardcore, and Joy Division! My fave cut out of the 17 is Black and White's "One Way Street", which gave me a similar feeling to hearing The Registrators for the very first time back in the day. Honestly, though, I believe that six different people could listen to this comp and identify six different favorite bands from it.

I don't wanna catch anyone talking about how Japanese punk rock "used to be" so great. It still is, and Scrap! proves it!


Thursday, February 08, 2018

Down and Outs - Double Negative

Is there anything better about doing a music blog than discovering new bands? How about discovering not so new bands?! Double Negative is already the fifth album from Liverpool based punk outfit Down and Outs, yet here I am just hearing the group for the first time (and enjoying it very much)! Releasing next Wednesday on All In Vinyl, Yo Yo Records, and Waterslide Records, Double Negative continues a recording history for this band that goes all the way back to 2004. Where in the hell have I been for 15 years?! The sound is melodic punk with gruff vocals, something that tends to be hit or miss with me. Luckily, it's a hit in this case. You can hear the influence of bands like Leatherface and One Man Army, but spiritually this music is undeniably Clash-inspired.

I always love a band that aspires to write anthems, and I can think of no better word to describe the majority of these songs than "anthemic". And that's really what separates Down and Outs from a lot of similarly styled bands. These songs are so genuinely rousing that they continually have me out of my chair and pumping my fist as if the band were right there in front of me. Mark Magill has written some very serious songs about a variety of subjects, and he really has a way of imbuing these songs with a passion that's palpable. While not fully a "political" record, Double Negative does contain a number of songs that speak to our present condition. The folk anthem "You Can Have This Country Back" is specifically about the state of affairs in a post-Brexit U.K. Yet it's remarkable how everything this song rails against is just as pervasive and problematic on my side of the pond as well. "What Did You Do In The Culture Wars?" reflects on how recent political events have emboldened those who revel in intolerance. It's based on a real-life encounter that Magill had with an individual who advocated the banishment of disabled people. As you can imagine, he did not stand silent!   

When it's not political, Double Negative is deeply personal and extremely emotional. "Astoria" is a break-up song that's about as gut-wrenching and cinematic as you can get in 91 seconds. In other spots, Magill pours all he's got into songs about death and grief. Even "Heartbreak Radio", a song ostensibly about mixed tapes, digs deeper into the things from which we're often trying to escape when we turn to the healing power of music. I appreciate the amount of heart and intelligence that went into these songs. But what really brings it all home is how fervently the band sells each track. Magill sings his guts out, and the band powers through every note like it really means it. The energy is undeniable, and man do those choruses ever deliver! All in all, an absolutely brilliant album!


Monday, February 05, 2018

Tommy and The Commies - ...Again

I've got another one for you I think you're all gonna love! What is it with all of these great powerpop/punk bands out of Canada?! Tommy and The Commies hail from Sudbury, Ontario and have just released their second tape titled Tommy and The Commies...Again. "Devices" is the first track from that tape, and it could easily pass for a lost gem from the late '70s heyday of pop-influenced punk rock. I am blown away and totally pumped to hear more tunes from this tape! In the meantime, the band's first tape is also excellent and can be downloaded in its entirety via Bandcamp. I've got a feeling that I'll be writing about Tommy and The Commies many more times in the near future!


Friday, February 02, 2018

Telephone Lovers - Two Dollar Baby

I've got a good one here to kick off the month of February! I was a big fan of Telephone Lovers' debut album, and now they've followed that up with a single that's even better! A split release between Disconnected Records and Burger Records, "Two Dollar Baby" finds this LA band embracing a 7" format that was tailor made for power pop. And when I say power pop, I'm talking old school. I admire that Telephone Lovers make no attempt to sound "modern" or "original". They still sound like they just stepped out of time machine that they boarded in 1978. Both tunes here straddle the fine line between mid-to-late '70s power pop and straight-up rock n' roll. "Two Dollar Baby" sounds SO 1970s in an entirely good way. It's got riffs and licks a plenty, and that chorus really brings it all home. I really love what the piano adds to this tune! If you dig Dwight Twilley, Flamin' Groovies, etc., this one should be right up your alley. On the flip, "Real Action" has that classic LA power pop feel that seems to be this band's calling card. You could easily slide this track on a mix between 20/20 and the Paul Collins Beat and have a perfect fit.

Telephone Lovers are definitely one of the best new bands going in power pop today. And perhaps that's because they don't sound like a power pop band of today. Teddy Too Much may wear his songwriting influences on his sleeve, but he absolutely has the talent to honor them well. He's joined by a stellar cast of players including Billie from Black Mambas, Pat Salway from Dr. Boogie, and top-notch power pop drummer James Carman (Images, Maniac, LA Drugz). Vinyl for "Two Dollar Baby" will ship early next month. Via Telephone Lovers' Bandcamp, you can buy the digital version of the single or pre-order the 7". Man, this is really shaping up to be a great year for power pop!