Friday, July 27, 2018

Lovesores - Gods of Ancient Grease

THIS IS HOW YOU DO IT! Following six EPs dating back to 2012, Portland, Oregon's Lovesores finally present their debut LP on Dead Beat Records. I appreciate that there was never a big hurry to get a "proper" album out. Lovesores were hell bent on releasing great rock n' roll records, and it didn't really matter if that meant 7 inches, 10 inches, or 12 inches. At some point you're bringing it so hard that a couple more inches aren't going to make much of a difference. Previous EPs such as Bubblegum Riot (2013) and Rock and Roll Animal (2016) burned as hot as punk rock n' roll gets, and that's the same standard that Gods of Ancient Grease lives up to.

Produced by Portland punk rock legend Thee Slayer Hippy, Gods of Ancient Grease makes little attempt to "progress" or "update" the Lovesores sound. What you're getting here is wild, furious, and 100% from-the-heart rock n' roll steeped in the sleaze and swagger of 1970s American punk. If there's a fountain of youth, Scott "Deluxe" Drake drinks from it copiously on a daily basis. The charisma and unrepentant fuck-all attitude that ooze from his vocals ought to be the envy of every teenage screamer in the business. And as always, Saul Koll and Adam Kattau bring the fire on dual guitars. Add one of the most underrated rhythm sections going (Alex Fast and Boz Bennes) to the mix, and you've got yourself a world-class rock n' roll band! But I suppose you knew that already! If anything, Gods of Ancient Grease finds the band clinging the closest it ever has to its '77 punk roots. Songs like "Exquisite Kicks", "Planet Nein", and "Blue Suede Collar" are vintage Lovesores - coming on with ripping guitars, locking into a mid-tempo groove, and then socking you in the mouth with a huge sing-along chorus. The title track, quite honestly, is one of the most powerful testaments I've heard to the eternal glory of rock n' roll. And then there's the Dead Boys thievery on "Good Girls Don't Scream", which is blatant and highly appreciated! While none of these eight tracks veer far from what you've come to expect from the Lovesores and Scott Drake, I enjoy the creative songwriting touches shown on both of this album's side-enders. "Wednesday Monkeys", with its overt melody and interesting production techniques, is like a rock epic minus the excess. And appropriately enough, "Mission To Mars" gets a little spacey.

I know that "highly anticipated album" is a phrase guys like me often overuse. But it most certainly applies to Gods of Ancient Grease! I used to say that Loveosres were the greatest existing band without a full-length album. Well now they finally have a full-length album, and it's something else! Would I sound a little overzealous if I proclaimed it an instant classic of punk rock n' roll? Of course! But I dare you to listen to this thing and tell me I'm wrong!


Monday, July 23, 2018

The Anxieties - Buried Alive

In preparing this review, I was shocked to discover that it has been four and a half years since I've written about The Anxieties! Where does all the time go? I know that real life issues have led to some extensive periods of inactivity for The Anxieties, but I appreciate that they've never thrown in the towel. This band is way too cool to not exist! I'm notoriously lukewarm on horror-themed punk music, but I absolutely love The Anxieties. That's probably because they mix the horror with a whole lot of sci-fi/dystopia - which is way more up my alley.

I recall The Anxieties' Buried Alive EP being in the works a couple years ago, and I am happy to report that those songs have finally seen the light of day. Those tracks have been packaged with the three songs from the Lab Rats EP, the two-song The Quarantine digital release, and one comp cut to make one ten-song CD that plays like a full-length. The four new songs feature the band's most recent lineup, and they sound fantastic. "Destination Dystopia" reminds me of early Anxieties - mixing spazzy poppy punk with old school California punk influences. Listening to the lyrics about how we're well on our way to an actual dystopia, you might think this song is a response to recent current events. But I'm pretty sure this song was written a few years back. That confirms something I've long suspected: The Anxieties are actually from the future! "Buried Alive" is an Adolescents/Agent Orange inspired ripper that cleverly employs a horror metaphor for the hopelessness and desperation of working a miserable job. "I Don't Wanna Go" is the perfect mix of horror and sci-fi, and it's just mysterious enough to let your imagination run wild. Seriously: where are they taking him?! In the best way possible, I am creeped out! Musically, the vibe is straight-ahead catchy punk with killer melodic leads. For the first time, I can hear The Anxieties' channeling their alter egos Jabronis. Or maybe it's more like the Buzzcocks binge watching Black Mirror! Speaking of songs that leave a great deal to the imagination, "Experiments in the Basement" is a very well done surf/punk instrumental. Even with there being no words, it's easy to picture this song appearing in a movie about....experiments in a basement!

Even if you already own all of the remastered bonus tracks, Buried Alive is well worth picking up just for the four new songs. Otherwise, this is kind of like getting a whole new Anxieties album! This is definitely the perfect band for our times: influenced equally by the fun of '50s/'60s B-movies and the not-so-fun of our modern reality. Fingers crossed for more music from these guys soon!


Friday, July 20, 2018

Nick Piunti - Temporary High

Nick Piunti's name has become synonymous with the finest in melody-driven guitar pop. With that in mind, you know exactly what to expect from his latest effort. Out today, Temporary High is Piunti's fourth album in six years (and his second on Marty Scott's Jem Records). It's absolutely the kind of record we've come to expect from Piunti - grounded in gorgeous melodies and smart, thoughtful lyrics. Again Piunti has worked with Andy Reed & Donny Brown as his rhythm section and Geoff Michael as his co-producer. Another frequent collaborator, Ryan Allen, co-wrote two of the tracks. This album definitely applies the principle of not fixing what isn't broken, and I applaud that fully!

In typical Piunti fashion, Temporary High doesn't leave you waiting long for the "hit". The title track is in the lead-off position, and it's vintage Piunti power pop/alternative/dad rock goodness right down to the punchy guitars and stick-in-your head chorus. And I love the coupling of immensely pleasing melodies and serious, hard-to-swallow lyrics. We can probably all think of someone we know that resembles the lyric "Last in the line but first with your hands out", but Piunti shows a deft touch in building from tough love to genuine sympathy. Elsewhere, Piunti runs the gamut of crunchy, mid-tempo power pop ("You're Perfect and I'm Not"), ultra-mellow alt-rock/pop ("Deep Freeze"), upbeat jangly pop ("No Return"), and pure singer/songwriter fare ("If This Was Right", co-written with Allen). The common thread across the album's ten tracks are stellar hooks, silky smooth harmonies, and melodies you're bound to find yourself whistling all day. And while this album has its share of songs exploring the doomed/ill-fated side of romantic relationships, what strikes me is how many of these songs take the brighter view of love. You'd perhaps expect sarcasm from a song titled "You're Perfect and I'm Not"; instead the sentiment is genuinely sweet. Finally an anthem for all of us married men who never forget how lucky we are! And how great of a line is "You stood by this wreck of a train passing by"! Similarly, "No Return" and "Contagious" are tributes to enduring adult love, crafted with humor and eloquence.

It's always an immense pleasure to come across a new record from Nick Piunti. I am not adverse to the idea of Piunti trying new things (check out the drum machines and keyboards on "Headphones"). But ultimately, I know he's never straying too far from the tuneful pop craft he's mastered. He's just so good at what he does, and the quality and consistency of his songwriting is the same with every new album. He continually writes songs about meaningful things and delivers them with indelible melodies. Four albums in six years certainly qualifies as a creative roll. I can only hope he stays on it for many more years and albums to come!


Tuesday, July 17, 2018

Ravagers - "Drowning In Blood"

One of my favorite labels going these days is Spaghetty Town Records. I dig the label's unrelenting commitment to trashy rock n' roll, and I'm continually impressed with the talent it manages to recruit. With the likes of The Sweet Things and Dr. Boogie already on board, Spaghetty Town has added the mighty Ravagers to its formidable roster. This band, of course, features Hagen from RMBLR and Gabs from Biters. "Drowning In Blood" is the first we've heard from this Baltimore foursome in three years, and it does not disappoint! The title track puts the ROCK in punk rock. Those guitars are absolutely on fire, and Hagen's vocals are straight-up ferocious. What a ripper! On the flip, "Suzi (Has An Uzi)" is more on the pure punk side with a nasty Dead Boys style edge to it.

In addition to Spaghetty Town, No Front Teeth and Gods Candy Records are also involved with the release of "Drowning In Blood". It's great to finally hear new stuff from Ravagers, and I was stoked to discover that a full album is coming soon. If you like your punk music tough and hard, turn it up and enjoy!


Sunday, July 15, 2018

An Interview with Rich Ragany!

Photo by Dean Unsworth
I rarely do interviews. But when presented with the opportunity to interview Rich Ragany in advance of his debut solo album Like We'll Never Make It, I jumped at the chance! In my book, Rich Rags is one of the truly great songwriters in rock n' roll today. Fresh off of three albums in three years with his amazing band Role Models, Rags is working with PledgeMusic to release Like We'll Never Make It later this year.

F & L: Hi Rich! I've got to say I'm really excited about your new solo record. Tell me how you ended up deciding to do a solo release after all of this time. Can we expect something a little different with this record?

RR: Hello Lord Rutledge! Great to be talkin' to ya! Well, after doing the three Role Models albums in three years, the subsequent shows and tours, I just started writing and was noticing a shift in how I was approaching lyrics. Even though I write all the Role Models material, this stuff was getting far more personal. Musically, I felt it would be great to have a different interpretation. Build them on a different foundation. That coupled with the fact my brothers in Role Models were having kids and getting busy with other things, I thought, well, I don't feel like stopping!

F & L: You've worked with the PledgeMusic platform several times now. How has that experience been for you?

RR: The PledgeMusic platform allows me to record and release music straight to people who want to listen without having someone tell me when or how. It has been really successful with the Role Models stuff and progressing great on this new venture!

F & L: Can you talk about some of the talented people you have playing on this new record?

RR: Yes! This band is something I am very excited about. Let's start with Gaff on guitar. He has been in bands like The Glitterati and Dedwardians. I saw him in the latter years ago and loved his playing. He came across as someone who really loves to play and believes in rock 'n' roll. A friendship ensued, and he was an obvious choice to me. He ended up a real righthand man on this and is a real important ingredient to the sound. I look forward to writing more with my new partner! You all have another Bon Jovi/Sambora on your hands, so look out! We'll be "out on the streets"! Hahahaha!

Talking about partners, there is my man Andy Brook. There is not a note that I've recorded in the UK that hasn't had his production paws all over it. He is family. Plain and simple. And now he's also on the other side of the glass and playing with me on this. It's about time.

Simon Maxwell is playin' the drums. The drummer in Role Models. To say we have a bond is putting it lightly. Had to have him along. Had to.

Kris Rodgers from the mighty Scott Sorry Band on keyboards. When RM toured with those beautiful creatures, it was like immediate animalistic love. Smelly and real. A bond was forged and I love those guys! To say I didn't notice the blinding talent in our pal Kris would be a lie worthy of jail time. What he has done on these songs has spun me dizzy. I like it that way!

Kit Swing is someone who played in Mallory Knox in London and is just a great singer. She joined Role Models on the song "Obituary Writer", off of Dance Moves, and on stage, most notably when we toured with Michael Monroe. She has also been a very close friend for years, and it's about time we got to do this together.

Then there's Ricky! Ricky McGuire. He plays bass in The Men They Couldn't Hang and has some great history as a teenage member of UK Subs back in the day. I met him at a Men's show, and we ended up hangin' out all night playing records. His playing is phenomenal. Taking the songs into real beautiful, melodically tough territory. Just don't give him whisky. Anything else is okay though, hahaha!

F & L: I'm blown away by how prolific you've been at creating music. You did three albums in three years with Role Models, and now you've got Like We'll Never Make It in the works. How have you managed to turn out so much quality material so quickly? Are you writing new songs literally all the time?

RR: I am writing all the time. But in way that's different to how I did it years ago. Where before I may have wandered gypsy like day-to-day writing whenever I felt like it, I now have some structure. And I found it suited me down to the ground. When my boy was diagnosed with autism, it became apparent we needed someone at home, to be there for him. My wife and I are a real team, we do what we need to and support each other. Me being at home with both our children means I look at my day, see a window of opportunity and act upon it. For example, I soon realised doing the dishes wasn't a mundane chore. It cleaned up the kitchen and crockery for my loved ones, ensuring no one gets some bacterial sickness AND gave me the chance to organise my thoughts into lyrics. I can play guitar when I get a flash of inspiration around my daughter because she loves it. I use my time as wisely as I can. Then collapse and watch Star Trek re-runs, hahaha.

F & L: Are you looking to get out and do some solo shows in support of this album? If so, what should people expect if they turn up?

RR: Yes. There are some great shows already booking up. Sharing the stage with some great people. We got August 8th at The Slaughtered Lamb in London with the amazing Steve Conte of the New York Dolls and Michael Monroe. My pal! Love that dude! 12 September at Aces and Eights London with Rob Carlyle of The Compulsions, Darrell Bath of Crybabys, Dogs D'Amour, and Vibrators. And Honest John Plain! The main songwriter in powerpop legends The Boys! And 20 October at The Lounge with The Dirty Strangers and The Brutalists featuring Nigel Mogg of the original Quireboys! And a couple of really special gigs that I can't share yet! You can expect rock n roll with big heart and a big sound.

F & L: I think it's awesome that funds from this project will be used to help out Scott Sorry. I know you guys have been friends for a long time. Can you talk a little about your history with Scott?

RR: Scott and I met years ago when he was in The Wildhearts. Introduced by our mutual friend and brother Rich Jones. He played at the Astoria, and we all went 'round to Jones's' afterwards. We bonded pretty hard that night. The start of an enduring friendship. He and I are there for each other, giving support and advice pertaining to our lil' autistic dudes. He has been there for me when I needed someone. So I try to be there for him. Also we shared the same constitution when it came to recreation years ago, so we have some great stories. A past with a thousand smiles and some very real hilarious and touching moments. He is a tough dude with a heart so big ya begin to wonder if he keeps it remotely somewhere. So yeah, I'm gonna try and help.

F & L: Like We'll Never Make It will be your first solo release. I'm guessing it won't be your last! Have you thought about what's coming down the pike in the upcoming years? Can we expect to hear more from Role Models as well?

RR: I am on a high with this band. Already writing the follow up. Gaff and I got a little space in front of his washing machine that is gonna be a very busy and creative place. Then I realise "Look out! I have some gigs to play with Role Models." I go and re-acquaint myself with the material and... can I just say I feel very lucky to be able to create and perform music with all these people? I know we spend a little time on this ol' rock twistin' the night away through space. I get the feeling I need to do more, say more, and listen more. Look at this right here. I get a chance to talk to a real believer in rock n roll. You. That fills my chest with the right kind of oxygen, man. And I want to keep these relationships alive. So you can say there will be more. As much as I can. Thanks so much for your time! All hail Lord Rutledge!

Head on over to PledgeMusic for details on how to pre-order Like We'll Never Make It. And be sure to check out the Role Models’ Bandcamp page if you haven't already!


Friday, July 13, 2018

The Cheap Cassettes - Kiss The Ass Of My Heart EP

I hereby retract any prior proclamations I may have made about the song of the summer 2018. The Cheap Cassettes, whom I've championed fervently since the infancy of this blog, have unleashed a surefire international smash titled "Kiss The Ass Of My Heart" that's poised to own this summer and perhaps the next couple of seasons as well. Could any song live up to a title that astoundingly great? This one, I'm pleased to say, absolutely does. When popular demand requires The Cheap Cassettes to tour every watering hole and concert hall from Kahului to Khabarovsk, "Kiss The Ass of My Heart" will surely be the band's most requested song on a nightly basis. Even those who don't ordinarily go in for the Seattle foursome's brand of loud, hook-laden pop are bound to find themselves feeling this song. What could be more cathartic than telling off that certain person who brought misery and heartbreak into your life? This is a song you'll want to play at maximum volume while you imagine singing it to your ex. Or perhaps if you're feeling feisty, you can play it at maximum volume while you actually sing it to your ex. I was going to say that this song ought to be all over the radio. But does anyone really listen to the radio anymore? I suppose the true hit songs of today are the ones that make it onto TV ads for Mexican beer and Apple products. A song called "Kiss The Ass Of My Heart" sure sounds like marketing gold to me. That hook could sell everything from lipstick to monogrammed underwear!

"Kiss The Ass Of My Heart" and "Black Leather Angel" come from the same recording sessions that produced The Cheap Cassettes' 2017 debut single "Hieroglyphics In Lipstick". In a genius move, that single was released only on cassette. Now Rum Bar Records has issued all four songs on one stellar EP. This is actually the first vinyl release from The Cheap Cassettes, and it's a perfect representation of what this band is all about. These tracks were recorded at Egg Studios last summer with the legendary Kurt Bloch producing, and as expected they sound freaking amazing! This EP is proof that high quality production does not necessarily have to neuter a rock n' roll band's attack. This, to me, is what all power pop should aspire to be. These songs have melodies and choruses for days, but they don't skimp on big guitars and hard-hitting drums. Of course I had "Kiss The Ass of My Heart" pegged as a hit since I first heard a rough demo a couple years back. "Black Leather Angel" ain't too shabby either. This snappy rocker pretty much perfects the sound Charles and Kevin have been working towards for the last 15 years. It's timeless guitar pop born out of a love for '70s punk and great American rock n' roll. Once you let that chorus worm its way into your brain, good luck getting it out of there!

Having admired Charles Matthews's tremendous talent and consistently superb hair since 1996, I can genuinely say his songwriting has only gotten better with time. The same can be said of his singing voice. His creative partnership with Kevin Parkhurst has brought forth a band that is like the best parts of Material Issue, Cheap Trick, The Figgs, and Replacements all rolled into one. If The Cheap Cassettes are not my clear cut favorite band on Earth, it's only because I can't decide between them and The Connection (I swear Malibu Lou did not pay me to say that, although I will not refuse any shipments of New England IPA). And while I really like the band's full-length, I absolutely love this new EP! In edition to the vinyl release, "Kiss The Ass Of My Heart" is available on tape for all of you who prefer to listen to The Cheap Cassettes on cassette. You can order now from Bandcamp, and locals can pick up the new EP tomorrow night when the band plays a release show at Darrell's Tavern. The Tripwires and Yes Masters will be on the bill as well. Doors open at 8:00. It's gonna be yuge!


Saturday, July 07, 2018

Back To Basics - Shaded Eyes EP

Secret Mission Records continues to bring the finest in Japanese punk rock to American shores! Back To Basics have been around for a decade. They have two singles and an album to their credit - all of it released only in Japan. Shaded Eyes EP is their third 7" and quite possibly their "punkest". This band features Shintaro from First Alert and Tomoaki from Louder in its lineup, so you probably know what to expect. This release isn't quite as trashy or frenzied as some of the SMR titles, but it still has that high energy Japanese garage punk feel along with a touch of pop. "Shaded Eyes" is clearly the punker on this EP. It's jumpy and upbeat with some jerky rhythms and very excited vocals. If this track doesn't have you pogoing around your room, I will be very surprised! On the flip, "But Not Indifferent" is more on the power pop side but still punchy as hell. It's really typical of the brand of power pop that comes out of Japan - new wave influenced, with guitars and bass going crazy. Reminds me a little of The Tweezers or (obviously!) First Alert.

With Back To Basics having emerged as one of the top punk/powerpop bands in Japan, it's wonderful that the band's music is finally available in the States. I wholeheartedly recommended the Shaded Eyes EP to fans of Japanese garage punk and just great catchy punk in general. Vinyl is still available from the Secret Mission Bandcamp!


Friday, July 06, 2018

Character Actor - self titled EP

The only thing I love as much as the story behind Character Actor is the New Jersey outfit's actual music. This project began as a creative outlet for three longtime friends who had had all become dads around the same time. It started with Jeff Schroeck (Black Wine/The Ergs!) and Brian Gorsegner (Night Birds) retreating to the garage to "write some loud, fuzzy pop songs". With the addition of Evan Kiel (Forward To Death), Character Actor solidified as a trio. The band's debut EP was recorded in January, and it's out now on Dirt Cult Records. Musically, this could not be any more up my alley. Catchy pop tunes with noisy guitars? Sign me up! Surely Chris from Dirt Cult heard these songs and immediately knew Character Actor had to be on his roster!

Jeff Schroeck wrote these songs, which absolutely bear his style. When you hear his voice and guitar playing, you immediately know who it is. And I can't think of a lyricist who is more clever or literate. His words always blow me away while still leaving lots of room for interpretation. How many other bands have introduced themselves to the world with a line like "We're all warm chairs/To those seeking heat"? Literature and popular culture have always been frequent inspirations for Schroeck's songwriting. That continues to be the case on songs like "What I Learned From Righteous Cowboys"("The tall man, gun with a pearloid handle/He can shoot the flame off a Mexican prayer candle") and "Rubicon Beach" (which does reference the Steve Erickson novel). The tempos are for the most part snappy, although that gets dialed back some on the thoughtful, laid-back "72 Paperbacks". There is pretty much zero chance that fans of Black Wine and Ergs! won't love Character Actor. And it's fun to be reminded that the lead singer of the world's greatest punk band is also a sick drummer! If you long for the 1980s heyday of indie rock and college radio, this is a band that really captures that spirit. Is this what dad rock has become in 2018? If so, I endorse it fully!


Wednesday, July 04, 2018

Dark Thoughts - At Work

When it comes to the best present-day punk bands, Dark Thoughts are up there near the top. The band's 2016 debut album managed to breathe new life into Ramones-inspired punk rock while still remaining entirely faithful to the style. That's almost impossible to do, but somehow these guys pulled it off! Dare I say they've followed it up with an even better record?! The band's second album At Work is out on Drunken Sailor Records, and it doesn't stray far from what worked so well last time. If you're looking for a "progression", well I suppose you could note that a whopping four of these tracks inch past the two-minute mark. But essentially, this is Dark Thoughts doing what Dark Thoughts does so well. I'm talking buzzsaw punk rock with hooks that stick to your skull like glue. As always, the band knows how to get in and out before you have the chance to get bored. And while there are certainly a few nods to the mighty Ramones, Dark Thoughts add enough of their own thing to avoid sounding like just another clone. A lot of that comes down to these fellas knowing how to write damn good songs! Dark Thoughts don't take themselves very seriously, but you'll find some surprising lyrical substance if you pay close attention. At Work is the kind of album that you'll put on, enjoy the hell out of, and immediately want to hear again as soon as it's over. In what is turning into an epic summer for LPs, this one is as essential as any!


Sunday, July 01, 2018

Geoff Palmer - "Got The Skinny"

And now we have installment number three from Geoff Palmer's on-going series of digital singles! Having unleashed back to back smash hits with the first two, he was certainly in perfect position to make the third one a cover. And I love the choice in material here. "Got The Skinny" is a song I consider a modern classic of rock n' roll. It's the opening cut off of Gino and the Goons' 2014 LP Shake It! If you don't own that album, stop reading this right now and go buy it! For this recording of "Got The Skinny", Palmer worked with Rodger Shosa and the legendary B-Face. This is exactly my idea of what a cover song should be. It's very much in the spirit of the original, yet Palmer found a way to put his signature on it. So whether you're into trashy garage-punk or straight-up poppy rock n' roll, you're gonna love the hell out of this track. While you never really know what to expect from these Geoff Palmer singles, you always know to expect something great! Keep 'em coming, man!