Thursday, January 31, 2019

Pale Lips - After Dark

Aww yeahh! After Dark release day has arrived! Shouldn't this be an international holiday? I fully expect to see people celebrating in the streets! You know After Dark has been playing on repeat all morning here at Faster and Louder HQ! This sophomore long player from Montreal foursome Pale Lips was without doubt my most highly anticipated album of this year. I know I said almost the exact same thing about the last Pale Lips album. But while I still love Wanna Be Bad, I'm here to tell you that After Dark blows it out of the water! It's definitely the best album I've heard in a couple of years. Out on Alien Snatch (Germany), Spaghetty Town (USA), Gods Candy (Canada), and Waterslide Records (Japan), After Dark doesn't veer far from the Chuck Berry by way of the Ramones blueprint of its predecessor. But while I probably could have identified two or three obvious "hits" on the last album, this one is basically nothing but hits. I have a new favorite track every day! Pale Lips have proven once again that rock n' roll still satisfies in a way that no other style of music possibly can. And you just won't hear music more joyful than this. Put this album on, and you've got yourself an instant party wherever you may be. If you're not dancing and singing along within the first minute, there may be no cure for whatever ails you. And don't bother asking me for tips on how to get these songs out of your head. No such means exist.

After Dark finds Pale Lips doing what may seem impossible: taking the hot sounds of 60 years ago and making them feel fresh and current in 2019. You can hear a song like "Some Sort Of Rock N' Roll" and easily identify the influences. Yet Pale Lips add something to the mix that is uniquely their own. It's not just the bad-ass guitarist and the super-likable singer and the cool, no-nonsense bass player and the unsung, rock-solid drummer. It's the way these four manage to insert their unique personalities into their music. I'm not saying your granddaddy won't like this record; it's just that your ten-year-old niece will like it too. And so will your next door neighbor, so do not hesitate to play it loud in the name of spreading the gospel. While throwaway lyrics are allowable or sometimes preferable in rock n' roll, that's not how Pale Lips operate. This band writes some of the smartest, funniest, and most quotable lyrics you'll ever come across. Lead single "You're A Doll", in addition to being more fun than the law should allow, is a profound statement on gender stereotypes. "Hiding From The Moon" is probably the best song ever written about the drawbacks of dating a werewolf. "All My Baby Brought Back Was The Blues" is the latest in a long line of Pale Lips songs that had me laughing out loud in multiple spots. "I'm A Witch" is a direct response to "The Witch" by The Sonics...a response worthy of a mic drop!

While for the most part sticking to Pale Lips' signature style of upbeat poppy punk rock n' roll, After Dark is not without its surprises (which I suppose I'm about to ruin). You'll hear a few musical instruments outside of just guitar/drums/bass. And a couple of the "riskier" song choices contribute to this being an even better album than Wanna Be Bad. "That Old Ghost Don't Lie" is beautiful and haunting and just a completely stunning pop song. "Cosmic Love", quite literally, takes Pale Lips' sound to outer space. You know that feeling you get when your favorite band releases a new record and it's so totally great that you wanna tell everyone you know about it? That's basically where I'm at right now! Witches, aliens, and ghosts: oh my! I probably won't go out in public and demand that people stop what they're doing so I can play them "I'm A Witch". But if I should witness other individuals doing exactly that, my year will be made.


Tuesday, January 29, 2019

Stiff Richards - Dig

Wait: is this another face-melting punk act from Australia?! You best believe it! Stiff Richards hail from the Australian South Coast and kick up a racket so forceful and ferocious that you'd swear these guys have been listening to Raw Power since birth. Dig is the group's second album, and it will be out on vinyl early next month. In the meantime, the digital version is available via Bandcamp if you're craving some first-class raucous noise. There's nothing fancy going on here: just raw, savage rock n' roll that kicks you straight in the teeth and comes back for more. These gentlemen have definitely absorbed the lessons of the Detroit and Aussie rock of yore, and they manage to invigorate that sonic tradition with an energy that's off the charts. You've got guitars firing at full fury, a punishing rhythm section, and a madman howler on lead vocals who probably literally spits fire. "Do It Right Now" may be as blatant of a Stooges homage as you'll ever hear, but it's also one of the best. Play it at max volume, and you will feel indestructible! And while Stiff Richards are especially satisfying in short, fire-hot doses ("Bad Disease", "Ostentatious"), they sound no less thumping in full-on heavy rock mode. "Dig", which delivers monster riffs and transcendent maniacal screaming from deep within Wolfy's loins, opens the album with a proverbial bang. "PEA", with its call to arms of "Power! Energy! Action!", might as well be Stiff Richards' theme song.

It's always a cliche to credit a band with capturing a "live" energy in the studio. But if Dig sounded any more live, you would be able to smell the sweat and spilled beer. These guys play every note like they're trying to blow the roof off of the joint. Something tells me they've succeeded on more than one occasion.


Saturday, January 26, 2019

Lisa Marr with the Tranzmitors - self-titled 7"

Dream project alert! If you had told me that Lisa Marr would team up with the mighty Tranzmitors to cut a record for a charitable cause - and that a Fastbacks cover would be involved - I would have said that that could not miss! And of course I would have been right! Out on Top Drawer Records, the 4-song 7" from Lisa Marr and The Tranzmitors features three covers and one brand-new song. All proceeds will be donated to Girls Rock Camp Vancouver - a non-profit society that builds self esteem in girls and non-binary children aged 8-17 through music creation and performance. Leading off is a wonderful cover of The Fastbacks' classic "In The Summer". This track is exactly what you would expect from the blending of the musical talents of Lisa Marr and The Tranzmitors with the songwriting genius of Kurt Bloch. This is pure sonic joy, my friends! The next two tracks are new versions of beloved cub songs. "Magic 8 Ball" from the Box of Hair album is nicely punched-up, and I like how Lisa and Jeff sing it as a duet. The adorable "Pretty Pictures" off of Betti-Cola gets re-worked as well. It was a terrific song to begin with, but its transformation here from twee to full-blown powerful pop suits this project perfectly. To finish, "Salvation" is probably the most enticing piece of this collaboration - the first (and hopefully not last!) original number from Lisa Marr with the Tranzmitors. It does not disappoint! It's upbeat and immediately hummable, with backing keyboards hitting all the right notes. If you find yourself in public view gleefully singing the lines "And I wanna go/Where the snowbirds are", do not be ashamed.

What's not to love about this debut from Lisa Marr with the Tranzmitors? Literally nothing! If you're a cub fan, you'll love it. If you're a Tranzmitors fan, you'll love it. If you're a Fastbacks fan, you'll love it. And if you are a fan of none of the above, how can we possibly be friends?! I like that the charitable nature of this release pertains to both physical copies and digital downloads. Buy this EP in any format, and you will be supporting a great cause. Order the vinyl record here


Thursday, January 24, 2019

The Ponches - Quit

The first new release from The Ponches since 2015's Hum is a rather bittersweet moment for pop-punk fans. After a 13-year career as a band that produced two full-length albums and several EPs, The Ponches called it quits last year. Appropriately titled Quit, the Italian foursome's new LP is its last-ever release. It's coming out on Moms Basement and One Chord Wonder Records on a very limited one-sided 12" record. Quit is at least a fine way to go out - displaying the powerful guitars and generally tough sound that made The Ponches stand out in the modern-day pop-punk world. Lillingtons and Riverdales remain solid reference points, but The Ponches could never be dismissed as just another pop-punk clone. There's a sophistication and refinement to the songwriting here befitting a fully-matured punk rock band. I'm even picking up major Descendents vibes on "216", which is a win in my book. Just about any other pop-punk band that wrote a song called "What A Shame (Jani Lane)" would try and make it into a joke. The fact that this band did not is admirable. If The Ponches had to bow out, they've sure done so on a high note.


Tuesday, January 22, 2019

An interview with Pale Lips!

As a general rule, I don't do interviews. But I've been known to make exceptions. And of course I'm making an exception for my favorite band! Pale Lips have a new album called After Dark coming out next week and will be embarking on an extensive tour of Europe next month. In anticipation of these exciting events, the band and I exchanged some questions and answers.

Pale Lips are:
Jamie - bass
Ilona - guitar
Lynn - drums
Jackie - vocals 

F & L: Hello! 2019 looks to be an exciting year for Pale Lips. Of course that starts with your new album. Tell us a little about this new record. Might it be a little different from the previous one?

Ilona: It is a lot different, in my opinion. There's more variety on this album, because more of the songs originate from Jamie and Jackie this time.

Jamie: We are so proud of this record. I think you can definitely hear a difference. There is more "variety" because we also kind of grew a lot as songwriters and became more comfortable sharing our ideas with each other. Yeah, what Ilona said! The studio process with Ryan (Battistuzzi) was really really fun and gentle. Lots of coffee and snacks and giggles. Jackie also played the keys on this album, which was super neat!!

Lynn: I think it sounds more complete since we did get some pre-production and worked with someone very special (Ryan) to help us complete the songs with a great intro and great ending.

F & L: What was the creative process like for writing the new album? Was there any pressure to top what you'd already done?

Ilona: More of the same. One of us will introduce an acoustic demo, and we build the tune together. A lot of "strokes of genius" happened while in the studio, too.

F & L: You must be excited about touring Europe in support of the new record. I know this blog has a lot of followers in Europe. If they turn up to see Pale Lips, what should they expect?

Ilona: A good time! We are 100% committed to funzo, on or off the continent of North America. Get ready!

Lynn: we are a fun bunch, we do our thing, we are who we are and enjoy sharing a good time, ''ROCK n' ROLL''

Jamie: Ugh, yeah! We love having fun. While we are playing but also before and after a show. Please come and say hi and don't be shy! We also made a lot of fun, one-of-a-kind hand-made merch for this tour!

F & L: The dreaded "background" question! How did Pale Lips first come together as a band? And looking back, did you imagine it would turn out the way it has?

Jamie: Ok. We get asked this question ALL the time, but we are always happy to share it. Lynn had the idea of a band full of girls for a while, I think. She saw Ilona playing in her band Dagger Eyes and approached her to play guitar. I think that Ilona hesitated at first but eventually agreed. I met Lynn one night at a party. Chance (who is now Jackie's husband!) was a mutual friend of both Lynn and I. In a very drunken taxi ride to an afterparty at Lynn's house, he yelled that Lynn and I should talk because I play bass and Lynn was looking to start a band. We had a lot of fun that night. Lynn, Ilona, and I met for breakfast shortly after that and all got along super well. We decided to start jamming at a place in Montreal appropriately nicknamed The Stinky Place. I think we jammed once and figured out that we badly needed a singer. Jackie was a mutual friend and we kinda figured that since she was a Karaoke Queen and all-around babe and badass, we should ask her. We did, and the rest is history!

Lynn: I didn't expect this band to do as well as we are and to accomplish a second album and to be taking off for a second time tour in Europe!

F & L: Your songs are always so much fun, but at a deeper level you have some of the funniest and most insightful lyrics I've heard. Is there any particular message or lyrical theme that you try and put out there? How would you like your music to be perceived?

Ilona: I like writing clever lyrics with double entendres and loads of winks and nods to the bands and musical styles that influence my tunes. I also like nonsense too. I hope people find our music unique and non-punishing.

Lynn: I think the 3 girls in the band do a great job with their lyrics. And coming from 3 of them, they are so different but it all works out. I hope to at least write a couple tunes in 2019.

Jamie: Aw! Thank you!! Most of the songs that I write are about boys. I try to be clever and simple and always think "What Would Dee Dee Do?".

F & L: Beyond the new album and tour in Europe, what else do Pale Lips have planned for 2019 and beyond?

Lynn: Get a 3rd album out ASAP, tour the U.S.A, and maybe another country.

Jamie: We have a few new very adorable new songs that we will probably record this year. Hopefully play some fun festivals and do a US tour.

After Dark releases January 31st on Alien Snatch, Spaghgetty Town, God's Candy, and Waterslide Records. Click here for further details on Pale Lips' upcoming European tour! 


Monday, January 21, 2019

Wild Zeros - "She Knows"

It was just last year that I reviewed the "comeback" record from Bordeaux and La Rochelle France's Wild Zeros. This trio had been unheard from for several years before re-emerging to commemorate its ten-year anniversary. The Motormouth EP on Nerve Centre Records was a much welcomed return for fans of real deal garage punk and wild rock n' roll in general. And now we have more from Wild Zeros on another fine UK label. Out on the always-dependable Crocodile Records, "She Knows" is the hottest track I've heard from this band in years. It's actually a re-do of a song from the band's first EP, but it doesn't take long to understand why they wanted a second crack at this one. This totally blows away the previous version! It's more up-tempo this time, with a rawer, tougher, and way more rockin' sound. While not nearly as blown-out sounding as, say, Teengenerate, it definitely possesses the same spirit. I bet ya this would sound so killer coming out of your turntable (which is pretty much the point of this being a vinyl-only release)! On the flip, the band tempts fate by covering Pack's unfuckwithable classic "Nobody Can Tell Us". It was a ballsy move to take on a song that literally cannot be improved upon. But honestly, Wild Zeros come through with a faithful and very credible version of this song. They honor a band that is clearly an important influence. And if this causes just one person to go back and discover Pack, then mission accomplished. Another smasher from the Crocodile hit factory! 


Friday, January 18, 2019

Vintage Crop - Company Man

There are certain songwriting topics that are so eternally tied to our shared human experience that they will never go out of style. At no point in human history, for example, will people not be able to relate to songs about heartbreak and lost love. If there's any other subject that rivals the love song for relevance to the human condition, it would have to be the plight of the dissatisfied worker. How many billions of people on this planet hate their jobs with a passion and dream of a time when they won't have to devote half their waking hours in service of someone else's profit?

Contemplating how many famous songs that are about broken hearts and how relatively few there are about miserable employment, I would say that's a gap that needs to be closed. Melbourne-based Vintage Crop is doing its part with its brand-new EP release Company Man. Out on Anti-Fade and Drunken Sailor Records, Company Man is practically a mini rock opera devoted to the trials and tribulations of life in a suit and tie. It manages to cram just about everything that's stifling and absurd and soul-destroying about the corporate environment into four sharp punk tunes that will have you wishing you had the cojones to rise up against The Man. Vintage Crop, yet another one of the remarkable punk groups to emerge from Aussie land in recent years, comes on here with a jagged, jumpy sound that falls somewhere between modern-day garage punk and early UK post-punk. The lyrics are sarcastic as hell and completely on-point, and they're sung with a conviction that could only have come from very unfortunate personal experience. I love how the title track builds to a feverish intensity and the ultimate sing-along moment. Play it at max volume on the drive home from work as you fantasize about the foul things you'll say to your superiors the day you finally walk out that door on your own terms. "Stock Options" is so savagely, wonderfully scathing that it just might be the anti-anthem for our times. The restlessness and anxiety surging through these songs could not be any more fitting. Whether you are miserable in your own job or just a general opponent of greed and unchecked corporate power, Company Man is sure to get you fired up in that way that only great punk music can. Don't do anything rash...or maybe you should! 


Wednesday, January 16, 2019

Watts - Breaking Glass

The best hard rock n' roll band going is back with another digital single to get you juiced up for a new album due this spring! "Breaking Glass" is a free download from Rum Bar Records, and it features Tim McCoy taking a turn on lead vocals. McCoy, who co-wrote this number with Dan Kopko, has a cool raspy voice that perfectly fits the tone of the song. This is definitely what you'd call a riff-driven number, and I've gotta say that that riff is bad-ass! Remember those days of rock yore when a cool riff was every bit as important as a memorable chorus? Watts sure do! And how wicked good is that guitar solo?! Along with "Breaking Glass", this three-song download includes "Queens" and "The Night The Lights Went Down". The former is a riff rocker anthem worthy of '70s KISS. The latter, featuring drummer Johnny Lynch on lead vocals, is arena-sized barroom rock n' roll right out of the Stones/Aerosmith playbook. What's not to love?! The last time Watts made an album, I called it "the greatest classic rock record of the decade". I stand by those remarks but fully expect Watts to outdo themselves with this new full-length coming out on Rum Bar. Blout and Kopko as a guitar tandem and songwriting partners are as good as it gets in rock. But I love hearing the band's incredible rhythm players getting some creative input as well. This is a true band in every sense. A wise man once posed the musical question "Who will save rock n' roll?". Watts just might - or at least die trying!


Monday, January 14, 2019

The Putz - Mad Monster Party

You could say I'm a little late getting to this Halloween soundtrack from The Putz, but wouldn't that imply that horror should only be a seasonal pleasure? To quote the Dead Kennedys: "Why not every day?!"

I'm not always a fan of "horror" punk, but I sure am a fan of The Putz. This is my third time reviewing this band, and Mad Monster Party has helped me realize why I'm not a big horror punk guy. A lot of horror punk explores the darker side of the horror genre, whereas I'm more into the goofy/fun side. I like monsters the best when they're drinking and dancing instead of murdering. The Putz have fully explored the fun side of horror on their latest EP. Basically these are typical pop-punk songs, except the protagonists are monsters instead of people. The title track is like a pop-punk version of "The Monster Mash" - an upbeat ode to all of your favorite creatures getting down. Come on: who wouldn't want to party with Dracula, The Mummy, The Wolfman, and Frankenstein's monster? Elsewhere, songs cover such topics as The Invisible Man's girl troubles, The Creature From the Black Lagoon's tremendous surfing prowess, and vampires needing to maximize their partying time. Yes, this is the type of horror that I can relate to! Thematic as it may be, Mad Monster Party is pretty much in line with every other Putz record. This is Ramones/Lookout! Records influenced pop-punk done to complete perfection. If you can make it through even half of "Mad Monster Party" without wanting to sing along, you just might be dead inside. And of course a song about an aquatic creature had to be Beach Boys inspired! Ya gotta love it! The Putz in my humble opinion are up there in the top tier of present-day pop-punk bands. And with Matt Drastic producing, there was no way Mad Monster Party wasn't going to be totally great! I wholeheartedly recommend it for your year-round listening pleasure.


Friday, January 11, 2019

Priors - New Pleasure

I did not include this review in my "unfinished business" series, mainly because I consider an album that came out less than two months ago to still be a "new" release. But I cannot close the book on punk music in 2018 without addressing the ripped out earhole I was left with after experiencing the sophomore LP from Montreal's Priors. Released on Slovenly Recordings, New Pleasure is next-level stuff as far as garage punk is concerned. The band powers through track after track of fast & furious punk rock that aims to figuratively bash your head in. Yet there's so much more than that going on here. Priors' musical attack is not just ferocious but also jittery, weird/creative, and noisy in all the right ways. If running around screaming and breaking stuff sounds like a fun day to you, this album would make the perfect soundtrack. I'm often okay with garage punk bands who sound like other garage punk bands (hell, I've been known to praise a lot of them for exactly that). But I find myself quite pleased to hear Priors and note that they're genuinely doing something I haven't quite heard before. I always like an album that takes me from "What in the hell is this?!" to "This is goddamn brilliant!" in just a matter of moments. Don't be fooled by the opening track into believing this album is going to be some sort of synth-pop type deal. Otherwise, you will be unprepared for the racket "Got In Me" is poised to kick up. And any letup after that is purely temporary. It all makes for a punk rock album that is truly exciting (imagine if Wire and the New Bomb Turks made a baby and sent it on a rocket to outer space). Priors have come to pummel your eardrums, and you're gonna love every last minute of it! 


Thursday, January 10, 2019

Nato Coles and the Blue Diamond Band/State Drugs - split

We've been waiting how long for new music from Nato Coles and the Blue Diamond Band?! Numbers don't lie: it's been five and a half years since Promises To Deliver came out. Promises To Deliver has since become my most listened-to album of this decade, and I've found myself starving for new material. Well today I finally eat, and I must say the eating is good!

Taken from the same 2017 recording sessions that produced the band's forthcoming album (yay!), "Dangerous" and "Midnight In Memphis" represent a truly triumphant return from Nato and company. Seriously: if two songs this good did not make it onto the album, I can't wait to hear the songs that did! This pair of tracks would have made a hell of a 45, and perhaps someday it will. But for now these tunes come to us on cassette - one half of a split release with State Drugs out now on Motorcycle Potluck Records. Honestly, State Drugs are a band I would otherwise not be writing about. Self-described as "grown up punk", this Denver foursome is pretty much exactly that. The group plays a melodic and somewhat mellowed-out brand of punk music with ultra-sincere vocals. You might have called this "emo" 15 years ago. But given the unfortunate evolution of that particular term, I'd say "grown-up punk" is far more fitting. On the band's three contributions to this split, what struck me most were the lyrics (which are excellent) and the lead guitar work (also excellent). And the songwriting is definitely solid. I'm not much of an authority on modern-day post-hardcore, but State Drugs sound pretty good to my ears.

Both tracks on the Nato side of this split run well past four minutes - but that's hardly uncharted territory for the Blue Diamond boys. "Dangerous" is vintage fare for this group - a soulful, anthemic rocker with lyrics so epic that I just might say Nato has written his own "Born To Run". Check it out:

"Dangerous stakes and gambles/
If we leap we better never ever ever look down/
There’s no tomorrow in this apocalypse of hearts/
So darling … what do you wanna do now?"

All in all, "Dangerous" has the makings of a classic Nato Coles and the Blue Diamond Band number - powered by an impassioned vocal, Luke Lecheler's hot work on keyboards, and a knockout guitar solo from Sam Beers. And how often do you hear a nearly five-minute song that leaves you wishing it were longer?! "Midnight In Memphis" is not a Bette Midler cover but rather a Blue Diamond Band live favorite that has finally been committed to tape. Without a doubt, this is one of the best songs I've ever heard about the often lonely life of a touring musician. This one's a straight-up ballad. There's nothing fancy going on musically, allowing the song to be driven by Nato's words and voice. Here he really shines as a storyteller and poet, and it's damn near magical when he sings the lines "If I close my eyes/ I can hear the river washing them lonely souls down". A really well-done ballad is hard to pull off, but Nato and the boys may have reached an all-time high note with "Midnight In Memphis". Those lyrics are just magnificent, and this song absolutely transports me to the scene it depicts.

Even if Nato Coles and the Blue Diamond Band weren't already one of my favorite bands on Earth, "Dangerous" and "Midnight In Memphis" would have made me an instant fan. I figured the band's first new material since 2013 would be impressive, but this is beyond even what I was expecting. I am so stoked for the new album!


Tuesday, January 08, 2019

Klackers - self titled

What was I just saying about Moncton? There's got to be something in the air or the water or the Timbits that is producing so much amazing music up there. Up next out of Hub City is Klackers' debut album - released as a limited-edition red glitter cassette designed and packaged by the band. What I love about this release is that it's not really possible to pigeonhole it in today's terminology. It's minimalist and lo-fi, but maybe not quite "garage". It's got a great pop sensibility, but it's certainly not "pop-punk". It's probably too punk to be "indie rock". There are even keyboards! This album definitely has the spirit of something that might have come out on Kill Rock Stars in the '90s with a hint of Radio X Records to boot. It essentially inhabits the world where do-it-yourself/budget punk and lo-fi pop converge, and yet it couldn't sound fresher in 2019. The songs are super catchy, and they're carried off with an attitude and exuberance that are totally infectious. A cover of the Bratmobile classic "Gimme Brains" acknowledges an obvious influence, while "Sleepover" is an absolutely delightful re-imagining of an Adicts song you might know. I feel like if you were 15 and you heard this album, you'd be inspired to start your own band. It creates a "Yes, you can do this too!" type excitement that has me fondly recalling countless punk records I purchased in my youth. DIY lives!


Monday, January 07, 2019

Unfinished Business: Bad Shadows - Voices In The Dark

Concluding my series of reviews that are long overdue from 2018, we have the debut album from a band that I've actually written about before...kind of! Back in 2015, I reviewed the debut EP from a foursome out of Portland, Oregon called The Furies. The Furies, who had evolved out of The No Tomorrow Boys, have since morphed into Bad Shadows. And none of this is related to the Furies I reviewed yesterday. Confused yet? Voices In The Dark includes the songs from the first EP plus several new tracks. I love this band's sound and style, which is a perfect mashup of garage rock, power pop, surf, and late '50s/early '60s rock n' roll. Impressively, Bad Shadows are able to take all of this inspiration from mid 20th century music and still come out sounding like a fully contemporary band.

Hearing the newer songs along side the older ones, I can get some sense of the musical identity Bad Shadows have developed over the last couple of years. The title track and "Ghost" stack up nicely against just about any neo garage rock band you can name, except they lean more rock n' roll than psych. "I Believe" is in a similar vein but with more power pop influence coming through. "Tonight", with its jangly pop meets old school rock n' roll feel, epitomizes what Bad Shadows do so well. That surfy power pop vibe that was so palpable on the previous EP resurfaces on the wonderful "Beach", yet overall the tone of this album is a little different. The older songs fit in just fine ("Kim", an absolute pop gem, is more than worthy of another listen). But with a complete album to their name, Bad Shadows have fully solidified what they're all about. And what are they all about? Garage rock n' roll with the emphasis on rock n' roll, built on a foundation of timeless melody-driven songwriting. You could go broke trying to buy all of the 2018 albums I've recommended. But Voices In The Dark sure sounds to me like something a lot of you would totally dig. What a damn good year! 


Sunday, January 06, 2019

Unfinished Business: Furies - self titled

Continuing on my quest to cover some of the essential releases I missed in 2018, we head on over to Madrid and meet a mighty trio called Furies. The band's debut album only supports my contention that on a per capita basis, Spain might be the most "rock n' roll" nation on the planet. What we've got here are 10 tracks of straight-forward rock n' roll taking its cues from '70s glam rock, Vanda & Young/early AC/DC, and the mighty Ramones. How can you go wrong with a blueprint like that?! All the Suzi Quatro and Runaways comparisons are pretty on point, and I would say that Furies are definitely kindred spirits with contemporary bands like Giuda. If you like tough guitars, a simple driving beat, and big hooky choruses, this album ought to be right up your alley. I appreciate that these songs were formed out of a love for the deep history of rock n' roll. That's apparent not just in the original numbers but also in the choice of covers (Bob Seger's "Get Out of Denver", Ike and Tina's "Nutbush City Limits", both well done!). This is some real deal rock n' roll, my friends. This album, available from Contra Records and the Italian label Teenadelic, is a hell of a lot of fun. Stomp your hands, clap your feet!


Friday, January 04, 2019

Unfinished Business: Hayley and the Crushers - Cool/Lame

Continuing on my mission to attend to the releases I should have reviewed in 2018, I now turn to the fantastic second full-length from San Luis Obispo, California's Hayley and the Crushers. Cool/Lame was released on Eccentric Pop Records in September, and I can't think of any other situation in the world where ten bucks will buy you this much fun! There are a lot of ways that reviewers have described Hayley and the Crushers, but the band's own "poolside glitter trash" is probably the most apt summation. Taking musical inspiration from surf, sunny '60s pop, oldies rock n' roll, and of course the almighty Ramones, Hayley and the Crushers sound like the band you wish were playing your next beach party. They inhabit a spirit not just of pure fun, but also of embracing weirdness and individuality. And who can't get behind that?! This band may never be able to shake the Go-Go's comparisons - especially not if they keep writing amazing songs like "Small Lives"! Elsewhere this album delivers a delightful mix of bubblegum punk, cool surf rock, and straight-up fun rock n' roll. But while the music draws obvious inspiration from the legacy of beach culture, Hayley's lyrics steer clear of cliche and bring a smart, modern perspective. How many other party bands out there are writing songs about the dark secrets lurking under the perfect sheen of suburbia or romance blooming against a backdrop of apocalypse?! Are Hayley and the Crushers the ultimate California surf-punk band? I'd say they're more like the Bizarro World version - which is way cooler in my book!


Wednesday, January 02, 2019

Unfinished Business: Hood Rats - Trash Party

Continuing on my quest to catch up on the releases I most regret not reviewing in 2018, we stay in Canada with The Hood Rats. I recall hearing some early recordings from this Montreal trio a couple years back and thinking there was some real potential. But I was not prepared for the difference that a few months (and a quality recording!) could make with this band. Released by Girlsville this past August, Trash Party is the band's cassette-only debut album. It's 10 tracks of raging punk rock inspired by early '80s hardcore, a little Motörhead/NWOBHM, and the trashy spirit of modern-day garage-punk. For this type of music, Hood Rats have absolutely nailed the ideal sound. They play fast as hell, with ripping guitar leads and a singer who screams every word like he means it. Lyrically, these songs smartly mix themes of urban nihilism with anti-capitalist, anti-government outrage. Could "Off Drugs & Miserable" be any more of an anthem for our times? If you like aggressive punk music that's also catchy as hell, this is a band that's not to be missed. I'm ashamed that a blog calling itself "Faster and Louder" is so late to the party! I believe Girlsville still has some copies of the tape, so get on it!


Tuesday, January 01, 2019

Unfinished Business: Chiller - self titled

Before I could even think about writing about new music in 2019, I wanted to go back and look at the releases from 2018 that I most regretted missing. Up first is an album that I'm nearly a year late getting to. It's the debut from Moncton, New Brunswick's Chiller, released in February of last year by Dirt Cult and Rockstar Records. It was personally recommended to me by Daryl Buote, who had it as his #1 album of the year. I was able to really sit down and spend some time with this release over my Christmas break, and I must say that I was absolutely wowed by it! This thing is a stunner!

Chiller is Ilisha and Eric from Feral Trash essentially doing a continuation of Feral Trash. With this band, Ilisha moves from drums to guitar and the lineup is rounded out by Erin from Black Tower and Tim from Mother's Children. As you would expect, this album is not too far off from Feral Trash. It's dark melodic punk with the expected reference points (Wipers, Masshysteri). That sort of thing is sometimes to my liking and far more often not. In the case of Chiller (what a fitting band name!), I'm really into it. Part of that is that they pay just as much attention to the "melodic" part of the equation as they do to the "dark". These are well-crafted songs that are hummable in a totally sinister way. Perhaps more importantly, I'm struck by how this band achieves a sound that is so very dark yet so often quite beautiful. There are truly amazing things going on with those guitars. And even with the songs mostly staying under three minutes, there's a level of sophistication and texture to these tracks that goes way beyond punk. This is the perfect album to listen to on your headphones as you take a long walk on a cold, gloomy day and reflect on your life. I can see why a February release was so ideal. If you're starting to suspect that there's something in the air in Moncton that produces amazing music, well I'd say that's pretty much scientific fact at this point.