Scary Songs To Sing In The Dark. Both are inspired by the Alvin Schwartz's book series. This EP, in fact, adapts the stories "Wait Till Martin Comes" and "The Slithery Dee" straight from the books. The concept is simple. The songs are all based on urban legends - and those things can be scary as hell since they are purported to be based in truth! If you enjoy Vista Blue's buzzing pop-punk but aren't into a lot of the subject matter the band often sings about, perhaps songs about slaughtered babysitters, giant murderous cats, sea monsters, and escaped killers attacking teenage lovers will be more up your alley. It's remarkable that Vista Blue continues to release so much music yet manages to consistently delight with each new release. The band has been very generous in making a lot of its releases free. In the case of More Scary Songs To Sing In The Dark, it's well-worth the $3 to support this project. I'll never think of Blues Traveler's "Hook" the same way again...
Wednesday, October 31, 2018
Friday, October 26, 2018
If you blinked, you probably missed Gino and the Goons' LP Rip It Up earlier this year. As far as I know, it never had a digital release and the vinyl copies were gone in a jiffy (Can you hear it on YouTube? I would say you can!). In that spirit, I would move fast on "She Was Crushed" while supplies last. You will not be disappointed...unless of course you hate rock n' roll. Did I mention this was the best EP of the year?!
Tuesday, October 23, 2018
Positively... is positively fun and ought to be cranked at maximum volume at your next house party or while you're driving with your friends in search of a good time. But don't let the silly band name fool you - these guys are talented songwriters who've done their homework on the history of guitar pop. When it comes to garage pop bands in 2018, Jacques Le Coque is up there with the very best of 'em!
Friday, October 19, 2018
Having come of age as a young punk rocker in the '90s, I have a certain emotional attachment to demos. There's just something really awesome about hearing a band on its way up, and I love that the technology exists for bands like Cold Stereo to share their demo recordings with the world. And come on, what do you have to lose? This is free music! A certain amount of mystery surrounds Cold Stereo, and I kind of like it that way. I don't have to worry about being influenced by what other people might have written about this band. I don't know much about Cold Stereo besides recognizing Todd Uttley's name from the equally awesome SUBSETS. But I must say that I like what I'm hearing! Cold Stereo doesn't really sound like any other band. There's a plus right off the bat! They can actually pull off punk rock with keyboards, which is something not a lot of bands can do. A lot of these songs kinda walk that fine line between punk and new wave in a manner that would be satisfying to fans of either. Right away, "We're Gonna Take This To Heart" has a great energy to it. It's upbeat and fun and instantly worthy of blasting loud. "I Need A New Head" seems like a message that most of us can relate to. "The People Are Going Bananas" ought to be the new national anthem. "Run From the Sun" is post-punk that pays just as much attention to the "punk" as it does to the "post".
So here's your opportunity to get in on the ground floor with Cold Stereo! If it drives you crazy with guilt to download free music, you could certainly toss the band a few bucks. Or maybe you could just pinky swear to buy Cold Stereo's debut record in the near future. I will have my eyes and ears primed for further updates from Cold Stereo HQ. 17 likes so far on Facebook? I foreee that number reaching at least 20 by the end of the weekend! Ohio. Always. Wins.
Thursday, October 18, 2018
RunHideFight's debut single will delight fans of '60s garage rock, but it also brings an element of originality that you don't often hear in three-chord rock n' roll. Simon plays a custom-made double neck 24 string guitar/sitar - which serves as a dual homage to her Indian heritage and her guitar hero Rick Nielsen. RunHideFight draws inspiration not just from the legendary bands of '60s garage/psych/mod, but also from the classical Indian music that influenced a lot of those bands. Add in a love for '70s punk and early Cheap Trick, and you've got a band that I am very excited to follow in the coming years! "He's a Jerk" is a straight-ahead garage ripper that ought to get you dancing regardless of where you are or what you're doing. Simons absolutely nails the vocal with some first-rate howling a la Joan Jett or Paula Pierce. I love that that riff is catchy and super tough. And how great is that solo?! On the flip, "Because I Love You" slows the pace a tad but really shows what RunHideFight can do with garage rock. It starts off sounding like Thee Headcoatees if they re-wrote "Kicks", then swings half way across the world to India, and then dives back into some fuzzy '60s garage riffs. It's almost like three songs in one, yet it works beautifully. I love the sinister tone of the song, and those backing vocals are just glorious!
The beauty of garage rock is that it lends itself so well so the single format. RunHideFight has debuted with a pair of killer tracks that you'll want to spin over and over. The only down side about being left wanting more is that you're...left wanting more! The good news is that RunHideFight recorded several songs for The Key Studio Sessions earlier this year. You can hear those songs and read more about the band here! I'm not just being a partisan Pennsylvanian here: If you love rock n' roll, this is a band you need in your life!
Tuesday, October 16, 2018
Moving Target is the first Peawees LP to feature the current rhythm section of Fabio Clemente and Tommy Gonzalez, who have been on board since 2013. The band has never sounded better, and Peroncini has written a tremendous batch of songs. The massive, wall-of-sound production (courtesy of Brown Barcella and Alessio Lonati at TUP Studio in Brescia) has nearly every one of these tracks sounding like a lost radio hit from the late '70s or early '80s. I was instantly blown away when I heard lead single "Stranger" back in April, and I'm happy to report that it was no fluke. The Motown-inspired opening track "Walking Through My Hell" is every bit as good and really kicks off the album with a bang. "Christine" is a '50s rock n' roll meets new wave bopper a la Dave Edmunds or today's The Connection/New Trocaderos. "Justify" is a great mid-tempo soul/pop number that sounds like something Graham Parker might have written in his prime. "As Long As You Can Sleep" has that big, anthemic feel of Springsteen circa The River. And to pull it all together, "Til My Mojo Works" shows that The Peawees can still do raucous, high energy rock n' roll with the best of 'em.
I'll apply this metaphor since The Peawees are big Clash fans: if This Is Rock 'n' Roll and Dead End City were their self-titled, these last couple of albums are more like their London Calling. More than two decades into their existence, The Peawees are at the absolute peak of their powers. And they've cultivated a sound that melds rock n' roll, punk, pop, soul, and garage into one cohesive ball of fire. In a year packed with essential LP releases, Moving Target is one of the most essential.
Sunday, October 14, 2018
When presented with the opportunity to record this single for American Laundromat Records, the brothers O'Malley jumped at the chance. They are huge fans of Juliana Hatfield and the label as well. The involvement of Ted Ansani, Mike Zelenko, and Albini was just a (really cool) bonus! For this project, they chose to cover "Universal Heart-Beat" from 1995's Only Everything and "I See You" from 1992's Hey Babe. I appreciate that The Safes managed to put their own signature on these songs while still remaining largely faithful to the original versions. "Universal Heart-Beat" is a bona fide alt-rock classic, and The Safes don't mess with it too much. I like the cool, Lou Reed-ish vocals, but otherwise the original style of the song is followed to a T. There's just no point in playing around with that chorus - one of the catchiest and most memorable of its time. And I love that little sprinkling of Wurlitzer. In preparation for this review, I went back and listened to the original several times. What really strikes me is how well it holds up after 23 years and just how underrated Juliana Hatfield is as a songwriter. "I See You" goes back even further to Hatfield's first solo album. I would say it's a hidden gem of her catalog. But being huge fans, The Safes were well aware of that! Again they follow the general melody and structure of the original, but they really do put a Safes stamp on the song. The original sounds so innocent and bubbly, whereas the O'Malleys give it a more mature and modern reading. If you didn't already know this was a Juliana Hatfield song, you could easily believe this was something The Safes wrote themselves. And of course after multiple listens to both versions this week, what really sticks with me is what an earworm that melody is! If you didn't know it already, know it now: Juliana Hatfield writes damn good pop songs!
A Tribute To Juliana Hatfield is available only on vinyl from American Laundromat Records, and it's limited to just 500 copies. Given that these are songs from twenty-some years ago, this might be an opportunity for a whole new generation to discover Hatfield's back catalog. And certainly some of Hatfield's fans might end up coming to love The Safes - in my opinion one of the greatest American rock n' roll bands going. Hatfield herself was thrilled with these two tracks, and no doubt she sensed the tremendous affection the O'Malleys have for the original versions. This whole project is all about a genuine love for music, and that's something I can always get behind. Did I get goosebumps hearing those drums and bass? You betcha!
Saturday, October 13, 2018
III is exactly what I want from a Hakan record: fast, tuneful punk with only two of 13 tracks exceeding two minutes. And I can honestly say that it's as good as I and II. If you were a fan of those first two albums, you can expect much more of what you liked. If you've never heard Hakan before, this is as good of a place to start as any. As always, I appreciate that the band can write lyrics that make me chuckle. While "TV Mood" is hardly the first song to lament humanity's enslavement to the television medium, it seems especially on-point in this era of binge-watching. The lines "Stop calling me on the phone/My fingers pushing buttons/Remote control/Got a fridge full of beers and tacos" describe my own life all too well! Meanwhile, the drunken visions in "I Saw God" reveal this about the maker of the universe: "He wears a peacock suit and long white hair/He's a Mod". For fans of the conceptual side of Hakan, songs like "King of Edoné" and "Pita for Breakfast" continue the story-line that goes back to the first album. The band has actually furnished cartoons to help explain the songs, which you can find on its Facebook page.
Clocking in at less than 21 minutes, Hakan III keeps you whistling along and tapping your toes without ever wearing out its welcome. There are no real surprises or attempts at progression, and yet to the band's credit I still find myself wanting more. I could probably go for another four or five installments in the Hakan saga, and I'd still be offering rave reviews. It's doubtful they'll ever take it that far, but I've at least got my fingers crossed for a Hakan IV!
Friday, October 12, 2018
Depending on how you look at it, Headacher is either the fourth Extra Arms album or the very first. "Extra Arms" was originally a humorous nod to Ryan Allen serving as his own backing band on his solo endeavors. Allen, former singer/guitarist for Thunderbirds Are Now!, made three solo LPs using the Extra Arms handle. Then something really cool happened: the backing band Allen assembled to play live shows in support of his last solo album Basement Punk clicked so terrifically that a new permanent band was born. And just like that, Ryan Allen and His Extra Arms became...just Extra Arms! The band members are Allen, Michael Gallacher (guitar), Ryan Marshall (bass), and Sean Sommer (drums). Headacher, then, is the debut release from Extra Arms. It retains many of the characteristics of Allen's solo albums. But with this album, you definitely get the sense that you're listening to a proper rock band. And sonically, that lifts Extra Arms fully into the realm of mid-to-late '90s alt-rock/power pop.
If Basement Punk was Allen's nod to early '90s college radio, Headacher pushes forward a few years to the cleaner, crunchier sound of alt-rock greats like Sugar and Superdrag. The guitars are cranked way up, and the band elicited an absolutely massive sound from producer Geoff Michael and mixing/mastering superstar Paul Miner. But at the heart of the album are the same qualities that made Allen's solo records so appealing: memorable melodies, meaningful lyrics, and tremendously likable vocals. None of these things are lost amidst the wall of guitars and pristine backing vocals. If anything, the added oomph of a tight, powerful band heightens the impact of these songs. "Why I Run" is the type of song Allen has always done so well: taking something meaningful to his life and allowing you to feel its importance. But with the full force of Extra Arms behind it, "Why I Run" comes off like a pump-up song for the ages. Even if you're not a runner, you can easily relate this song to anything in your life that brings you purpose and exhilaration. I'm adding this one to my gym playlist for sure! Elsewhere songs address topics ranging from cultural ("Done To Death") to personal ("Honey Brown") to even political ("Push the Button"), and it's all don well. For me personally, this is an album that takes me back to a time when alternative rock was just freaking awesome. The moment those Superchunk-ish guitars kicked in on "Headacher", I knew I was in for a treat. The influence of Bob Mould is all over "Done To Death", and that can never be a bad thing. "You Make The Life You Want" sounds like a missing track from Goo Goo Dolls' Superstar Car Wash. "Honey Brown" brings to mind the melodious guitar pop of Teenage Fanclub or even Allen's buddy Nick Piunti. "The Last One" may set off your "token sensitive acoustic number" alarm, but you'll have a hard time denying that it's an absolutely magnificent song.
Will fans of Ryan Allen's solo releases love Headacher just as much? I have no doubt! But it's with good reason that Allen's name is no longer attached to the Extra Arms moniker. Headacher, far from one man's creative vision, is the collective effort of an exceptional rock band. These guys wrote and recorded this record together, and they absolutely knocked it out of the park (what's the appropriate running metaphor? Lapped the field?). Headacher releases today on Get Party! Records. Save it some prized shelf space next to your well-worn copies of Regretfully Yours, File Under: Easy Listening, and The Colour and the Shape.
Monday, October 08, 2018
Don't let the cover art fool you into thinking Dead In The Face is some sort of horror punk type deal. It's very much a similar album to In The Back of Your Heart, but I think the band really stepped up its game for this release. Again Mandates are the missing link between The Boys and Dead Boys, with some Sweet/Slade worship thrown in for good measure. Invite some friends over, put on this album, and you've got yourself a party for sure!
Saturday, October 06, 2018
|Photo by David Greenfield|
When it comes to garage punk in the year 2018, The Control Freaks are showing everyone how it's done. Double Dose of Hate is their fourth single - and in my opinion their best yet. I say this because of the impossible time I'm having trying to determine which of these two tracks is "the hit". One song can be played at max volume while you curse the name of significant others past and present. The other will feed your abhorrence for just about everyone else. Arguments over which track is superior could very well lead to drunken fist fights and ruined friendships. Do we really want that? So let's just call it a tie and agree that a double dose of hate is exactly what this world needs. Pre-order here!
Friday, October 05, 2018
The Kids Still Don't Like It is based on one of the coolest concepts I've ever heard. The idea is to present "kid friendly" songs that adults can also enjoy. Mike references the likes of They Might Be Giants and Ralph's World as inspirations. What I appreciate is that this essentially sounds like any Vista Blue record. If you're a fan, this release is everything you've come to expect from the band. The blueprint is upbeat, sing-along poppy punk. Yet for sure, the subject matter will fully appeal to young children. My eight-year-old self would absolutely have dug songs about really tough school teachers and taking family vacations to outer space! "Four Seasons" is educational and totally fun at the same time - like Sesame Street gone pop-punk. "My Dad Listens To The Ramones" made me chuckle since the Ramones really ARE the dad rock of our indie/punk world. A really cool touch was Mike enlisting his kids to help with the lyrics for "Five Nights". It doesn't get any more authentic than that!
...And You Have a Pizza is the Vista Blue release that pop-punk purists have been waiting for. In a way, it's a response to the perception some people have of Vista Blue being a "baseball band". I've never really thought of the band that way. Sure, they've done baseball records. But they've also done records about curling, Christmas, the summer Olympics, Halloween, basketball, and the fall. I like that this band can write songs about literally anything (and I don't just say this in hopes they someday do a recorded tribute to Coach O eating gumbo on the recruiting trail). So with this release, the band has gone back to the basics of pop-punk/oldies-core with five songs about adolescent love. You'll hear a heavy Beach Boys influence and an actual Beach Boys song ("It's OK", the highest-charting BB single of the 1970s) too boot. "We're Back Together" is a totally sweet ode to innocent teen romance, while the likes of "I Just Spilled My Drink On The Prom Queen" and "Vaping In the Gender-Neutral Bathroom" show off the band's signature sense of humor. And if your favorite (soda) drinking game is spotting pop culture references in Vista Blue releases, be aware that that last track is a spoiler!
Vista Blue a baseball band? Nah! I prefer to think of them as one of our finest pop-punk bands who happen to be enthusiasts of baseball. So if I didn't already scare you away with nearly an entire first paragraph referencing baseball, I offer my highest recommendation to this stellar pair of EPs. Geaux Tigers!
Thursday, October 04, 2018