Tuesday, February 26, 2019

Gulag Beach - Potato Mash Bash

Berlin-based Gulag Beach are many thousands of miles from the American West Coast, but everything about their music just screams California. Out on Germany's Rockstar Records, Potato Mash Bash is already the fourth LP from these old school beach punk destroyers. By now, the Gulag Beach sound is well established. And the band does not veer from it here. Think surf-tinged melodic punk with anthemic choruses, Rikk Agnew inspired guitars, and some top-notch rapid fire drum work. I'm hearing the influence of everyone from Youth Brigade ("DINTE, pt. 1") to The Adolescents ("Dollar Hero") to the far more recent Bodies ("Ode To Capitalism", "Generation Maybe"). This isn't anything you haven't heard before, but these guys pull off the textbook Cali-punk sound exceptionally well. There will always be a place for punk bands like this one that bring tremendous conviction and genuinely strong melodies to the table. And at a time when the world needs punk rock anthems more than ever, Gulag Beach sure endeavors to write them. These songs ought to get you fired up to take on the powers that be or...at least jump in the circle pit. Another excellent release from Rockstar! 



Sunday, February 24, 2019

Psychotic Youth - 21

Well this blog definitely lived up to its name with the stuff I reviewed this past week! And perhaps that's the way it ought to be. But fear not: I have by no means turned my back on the poppier stuff. And when it comes to poppier stuff, does it get any better than Psychotic Youth? Jörgen and company are still going strong after 34 years, and new album 21 absolutely sounds like vintage Psychotic Youth! For real: this is one of the greatest power pop bands of all-time still operating at the peak of its craft.

After an 18-year gap between the band's classic LP Stereoids and the triumphant comeback The Voice of Summer, we only had to wait two years for 21. And this album is everything you would expect from Psychotic Youth. It's a whole lot of power pop, a little bit of garage, a little bit of punk, and a little bit of surf. The harmonies are to die for, and as always Jörgen absolutely excels at writing about matters of the heart. He will devastate you with his songs about loss, longing, and relationships gone sour - and then turn around and write something like "You're The One" that reminds us of why we bother to endure all of that heartbreak in the first place. I always have to chuckle when people criticize pop-punk or power pop bands for writing love songs and not tackling more "important" topics. Seriously? The quest for love has defined our species and its art for thousands of years. What could be more important than that?! I think we become even more aware of this as we get older, which explains why Jörgen is writing some of his most powerful material in his 50s.

21 is the work of a songwriter and band that are aging like fine wine (I know: a terrible music reviewer cliche, but still undeniably true!). I would honestly put this album up there with anything Psychotic Youth has ever done. It has everything from snappy punky pop ("Nr 1 In My Heart") to Ramones inspired goodness ("Wither Up and Die") to tear-out-your-heart balladry ("If Not For You") to vintage Psychotic Youth wall of guitar power pop ("Dreams"). Jörgen Westman belongs to the masters class of power pop songwriting, and it is a treat to hear him still at the top of his game. Do not miss the CD bonus track cover of Marshall Crenshaw's "Cynical Girl" - a tip of the cap to an obvious influence!



Friday, February 22, 2019

Betty Machete and the Angry Cougars - "Stay In Your Lane"

Whew! If you feared that after all of these years, Betty Machete and the Angry Cougars might have mellowed-out a little or settled comfortably into "musical maturity", you can breathe a little easier today. If anything, the passage of time has only deepened the rage and ferocity driving this Ohio outfit's recorded output. It's as if they're siphoning all of the rancor and discontent that's in the air and using it to acquire musical super powers. "Stay In Your Lane" is the Angry Cougars' 7th EP, and it's every bit as fierce and pummeling as the band's first. Ms. Machete still sounds like an individual you do not want to mess with, and behind her the band remains in permanent attack mode. As always, it's tricky to categorize the music beyond calling it loud and aggressive rock n' roll. The title track is a fast and furious Motörhead inspired punk ripper, while "Who Dies First" slows the pace but dials up the heaviness in a big way. "Grudge Match" comes on with thunderous, AC/DC caliber arena riffs, then turns on a dime to blazing and supremely pissed-off hardcore punk. Track four, exclusive to the vinyl, is a cover of Iggy and the Stooges' "I Got A Right" - arguably the first ever punk song.

Believe it, kids: "Stay In Your Lane" kicks ass! It's tremendously satisfying to hear Betty Machete and the Angry Cougars sounding as committed as ever to slaying anything in their path - six years after they unleashed "Book of Hate" on an unsuspecting world. I can't think of another band that hits the spot quite like BMATAC when you're mad as hell and not going to take it anymore. If you're a strictly digital person and have thus far missed out on the wonders of this band, the time for catching up has arrived. Angry Cougars are now on Spotify! Your enemies and friends alike ought to be on notice.



Wednesday, February 20, 2019

Tiger Touch - "Hawthorne Boogie"

How about some righteously crank-worthy ROCK AND ROLL! Based in Portland, Oregon, Tiger Touch is a band comprised of former members of West Coast outfits The Gimmicks, Black Furies, Bonneville Power, and People Electric. And let me tell you: these dudes aren't screwing around! "Hawthorne Boogie" is the band's second 7", and it's a double dose of high energy action rock that kicks you straight in the teeth. These two tracks definitely bring to mind '90s Scandinavia via Detroit 1970, but what I enjoy about Tiger Touch is that there's even more going on than that. This band's sound is a potent cocktail of punk, glam, garage, heavy rock, and just good, old-fashioned '50s rock n' roll. These guys know their rock n' roll history and have absorbed their lessons well. And man, can they ever play: you've got three guitars raging like fire and a rhythm section that's as tight as it is relentless. The title track is MC5 worship done right - with thundering riffs, thumping drum work, and no shortage of epic soloing. On the flip, "Berlin City" hits with comparable power and even punches the pace up a tad. Turn up the volume and let the energy flow through you!

Even if you don't ordinarily go in for the "rawk" thing, Tiger Touch just might sway you to the dark side. And if you do, "Hawthorne Boogie" will have you in air guitar heaven. When it comes to punk rock n' roll, this is how you do it!



Monday, February 18, 2019

Priors - "Call For You"

Bam! Fresh off of the sense-numbing assault that was their brilliant New Pleasure album, Montreal's Priors hit us hard and fast once more with a crackling new EP on Slovenly Recordings! With New Pleasure being such a shock-and-awe moment in recent-day garage punk, Priors really needed to come strong to keep the fire burning. Well, they've done just! In terms of both intensity and quality, there's no letup on these three killer tracks. Hearing the band tear through "Call For You" (a relative epic at two minutes, 47 seconds!), I might be inclined to say that this 7-inch format is the best way to take in the relentless sonic fury of Priors. This is some premium high-speed punk bashing, perhaps with even more rancor and madness in the vocals than usual. Doesn't that sound like a recipe for awesomeness?! Push play on this one, and it'll give you a jolt that no energy drink on earth can match. The aptly-named "Destroyer" is a near-perfect bite of what Priors have been cooking for a while: noisy, forward-looking garage-punk played at a hardcore pace. "Swelter" fires away in the same manner - powered by raw-as-fuck guitars and a general sense of going off the rails. If these three tracks don't leave you feeling dazed and battered, you've got the volume set way too low!

Clearly a band on a roll right now, Priors sound like nothing less than a force of nature on this latest EP of theirs. Be glad it's only three tracks - your heart might not be able to take any more!



Friday, February 15, 2019

The SUCK - In-Cog-Neat-O

You all have had your little taste of street rock. Are you finally ready for the main course? You better be! I've been teasing/promising/threatening the arrival of a full-length debut from the SUCK for a while now, and finally the wait is (almost) over. In-Cog-Neat-O is up for pre-order today over at the magnificent Moms Basement Records. I gotta tell you that this thing is gonna have smoke coming out of your ears! Lean and mean at eight tracks with only two of 'em daring to eclipse the mostly forbidden two-minute mark, In-Cog-Neat-O brings on the next phase of street rock - the one that will bring hope to humanity and have young and old alike pledging allegiance. While by all means inspired by/allied with the HEAD/NECK/Vapids axis of Ramones worship, the SUCK very much has its own thing going. Packing such explosive power that its membership had to be spread across three contiguous states, this gang really brings the rock on this debut long player. For real: these dudes aren't afraid to make a punk record that actually sounds good! Those guitars pack a mega-punch, and you'll swear they enlisted an army to record some of those backing vocals. And while this album obviously owes a great deal to the Ramones and pop-punk, it also earns high marks in the originality/uniqueness department. Given that my stance on humor is "the darker, the better", the SUCK and I are definitely on the same wavelength. The closest thing to a "love song" on this record is about a guy who gets catfished. "#youredead" is a feelgood hit about threatening murder over social media. "Death Machine" is literally about building a contraption for killing people. "The Vape Store" concerns the plight of unemployed grown men who hit on teen girls. These songs are so very wrong - yet somehow so right! Elsewhere the band addresses some of the burning topics of our time: Mexican bogeymen, the ruthlessly competitive sport of flip cup, and the tangled web of love interests complicating the plot of the Twilight franchise.

Coming off a massively acclaimed self-titled EP and the instant classic web single "Party Town, USA", the SUCK had the pop-punk and Ramones-loving communities pumped for an absolute ripper of a debut album. I am confident in guaranteeing that nobody is going to be disappointed! The SUCK has come out and crushed this one. You've got The Dunk and The Alien cranking up the guitar thunder, The Basement knocking the snot out of his drums, The Problem laying it down like Dee Dee, and The Cola bringing a voice to this band's unique sense of humor and unwavering pursuit of fun. And as for the short running time...that just gives you more chances in a day to listen to the album! While leaving little doubt about its influences, In-Cog-Neat-O finds the SUCK carving out plenty of territory for itself. It's a little bit Ramonescore, a little bit party punk, a little bit pop-punk, and a whole lot of street rock! Your prayers have finally been answered. East Coast, represent!



Wednesday, February 13, 2019

Van Dammes - Risky Business

Here's one I think regular readers of this blog will really dig. Van Dammes hail from Helsinki, Finland and fall towards the poppier end of the garage-punk spectrum. Out now on Germany's Rockstar Records, their latest EP dishes out the perfect mix of melody, rawness, and pure energy with a touch of organ to boot. It all makes for one highly infectious cocktail! This is super-catchy stuff, yet it's got a scruffiness to it that might appeal even to people who aren't ordinarily into power pop or pop-punk. The title track reminded me of The Kidnappers, and I was basically hooked from there. It's rare to hear a band play with this much speed and force and still keep all of that melody in tact. And the enthusiasm fueling these songs is palpable. These guys must be a blast to see live! Thankfully "I Don't Like Music Anymore" is just a song title and not a statement of intent. The six killer tracks on Risky Business have sure left me wanting more!



Tuesday, February 12, 2019

The Raws - Duvara Dur Diyen Demir Yumruk

I'm pretty sure I've never reviewed a band from Turkey before. And if I have, it certainly wasn't one that sang in its native tongue. There's a first time for everything, isn't there? Out now on Slovenly Recordings imprint Mondo Mongo, Duvara Dur Diyen Demir Yumruk is the new EP from Istanbul punk veterans The Raws. D.D.D.D.Y. roughly translates to "smash walls with an iron fist". Now that's a sentiment that's awesome in any language! Both the EP title and the band name are spot-on: this is some raw-as-fuck punk rock capable of smashing any wall you aim to build. Those of you who know Turkish will get even more out of these songs than I do. But from the opening strains of "Yedi Kuru Dal", I found myself totally digging The Raws' mean, scuzzy groove. I have "Hala Açız" pegged as "the hit". And by "hit", I mean it will hit you upside the head! If you like your punk music dirty and aggressive, you just might find yourself shouting along without really knowing what they're saying. "İntikam Peşinde" is another highlight - as perfect of a minute of blistering chaos as you could ever hope to hear. To finish, "Tepelerin Arkasında" is a high energy punk basher you can almost dance to. I say "almost" because I imagine the kind of dancing this song might inspire would not be for the faint of heart! Regardless of your familiarity with the Turkish language, this is an essential purchase if you crave some raw and ripping garage punk. Is there any language more universal than the language of music? D.D.D.D.Y. indeed!



Sunday, February 10, 2019

Internal Credit - Internally Credited

My New Year's resolution to write about more new bands is not so challenging when I come across music this good! Internal Credit is about as new as it gets. From what I can gather, this digital EP Internally Credited is the band's first release. This is some truly great punk stuff from Falmouth, UK! Charlie Murphy, one of my favorite people in music, is part of the lineup. But the rest of the band was already playing together before he joined, so you won't want to classify this as another "Charlie project". The full lineup is Rob Camp on bass, Jo House on drums, Morgan Mathews on guitar/vocals, and Charlie on guitar/vocals. I would describe Internal Credit as garage punk with the emphasis on punk. I just love the rawness and energy of these six tracks. For the most part, the band plays fast and furiously, with absolutely tremendous enthusiasm. I wouldn't call this "pop" punk, but all of these songs are quite tuneful and seemingly crafted for the purpose of singing along. Songs like "Paint Flakes" and "Other Ways" barrel along with a hardcore urgency and just might leave you catching your breath. You can hear the old Charlie Murphy influence rearing its head on "Today, Alright" - and that's never a bad thing! "Need To Turn" is definitely "anthemic" punk rock that will have you shouting along at home (or at the gig!). "Grey Photograph", with its chaotically poppy charm, kind of takes me back to the heyday of bands like The Real Losers and Hipshakes.

Internal Credit is the best new punk group I've heard in a good while. After twenty-some years of writing about music, I still get excited hearing punk music stripped down to its essence and played with maximum gusto. Listening to Internally Credited, I can't help envisioning what the band's live performances are like. I imagine kids dancing like crazy, shouting along, and just having a generally wild time. Those of you in southwestern England can find out for yourselves when Internal Credit plays with Youth Avoiders in Bristol on April 18th. Might as well familiarize yourself with the songs now!



Friday, February 08, 2019

The Cavemen - Lowlife

Well here they come again! Last year, The Cavemen dropped one of the fiercest and most delightfully pummeling rock n' roll long players of recent memory with the appropriately-titled Nuke Earth. If these New Zealand neanderthals weren't already recognized as the planet's premier slingers of savage rock n' roll, Nuke Earth certainly settled the matter emphatically. So prolific is this gang that I actually missed out on the subsequently released single "Burn Out For Love". Points off for me! Next up from The Cavemen is "Lowlife" - out today on Slovenly Recordings. The title track was recorded amidst the band's recent raid of Brazil, and it captures this road-tested crew at peak ferocity. Here The Cavemen sound every bit like fellas capable of tearing the roof off of any venue that will have them. "Lowlife" cranks like some unholy hybrid of raunchy rock n' roll and full-on Stooges savagery. The sound is blown-out and positively filthy, with earsplitting guitars not quite overpowering some hopping bass lines while Mr. Paul Caveman screams out his guts per usual. Ya gotta love it! "Baby I'd Do It For You" is actually an outtake from the Nuke Earth sessions, but it sure doesn't sound like a song any band would care to discard. A la the best tracks on the album, this one manages to be fast and furious yet still catchy as fuck. It will have you head-bobbing like a maniac for a solid minute, so prepare accordingly. To finish, "Drownin'" may be this EP's most enticing attraction to longtime fans. It's a song the band recorded back when these guys were still in high school! It's raw as hell and may surprise a lot of people. I'm talking grimy budget rock blues - pretty far from what this band ultimately became! Yet it holds up quite nicely, and I think the Cavemen faithful will be really stoked to hear it. Man, can you imagine what The Cavemen were like in high school?! Sounds like the premise for a movie!

Like always, The Cavemen have come out swinging on "Lowlife". This is just one of several 7-inch records releasing on Slovenly today. But I figured I ought to start with this one since I know it's gonna be a fast mover. You better be a fast mover yourself if you want a copy on purple vinyl!



Thursday, February 07, 2019

Beach Patrol - Levity

Is there anything more rewarding in music fandom than following a band's journey from very good to truly great? I've been touting Beach Patrol since 2006 - when the Green Bay then-trio debuted with a release I ultimately named my album of the year. A full decade later, Eudaimonia was one of my favorite long players of 2016. The band's growth over that ten-year period was staggering. It was Eudaimonia that convinced me that Domenic Marcantonio had become one of our finest present-day songwriters. I knew he would be challenged to top those songs. But here comes the new album Levity, and all I can say is wow!

Levity was recorded back in October 2017 at Westmont Station - Pete Donnelly's home studio near Philadelphia. Taking Donnelly up on a long standing offer to record Beach Patrol, Domenic and drummer Preston Ely made the long drive to the East Coast and knocked out the album in just two days. With Donnelly producing and filling in on bass, Levity was recorded entirely in single takes with no overdubs. At a lean eight tracks, this easily stands as Domenic's strongest collection of songs to date. The irony is that if you heard Beach Patrol back in 2006, that is when you might have suspected Pete Donnelly was producing! Here Donnelly's influence is more limited to his recording expertise and always-stellar work on the bass. Beach Patrol has honed its own style and sound over the years, and Levity is the work of a seasoned rock n' roll band at the peak of its craft.  

If I was going to compare the songwriter Domenic Marcantonio was back in the earlier 2000s to the songwriter he's become today, that would be easy to summarize. Back then, he wrote great power pop songs. Now he just writes great songs, period. He can still write a hook like nobody's business, and he remains faithful to the timeless art of the three-minute pop song. Yet what is most impressive is how he uses this musical form to truly say something. He never writes a throwaway. Every song offers something clever or insightful or pertinent to his life experience. On this release he comes off a little like a modern-day counterpart to the Elvis Costello/Graham Parker/Joe Jackson triumvirate. Except he's not so much angry as he is full of practical wisdom. "Don't Panic" is upbeat rockin' pop serving essential life advice. The Parker-esque "Get It Together" is a reminder that complaining about our problems often blinds us to our many blessings. Domenic revisits a similar theme on the self-reflective "Nerve" - the ultimate statement of a band that has come to accept and truly appreciate its place in the world. And the music on this album proves to be every bit as engaging as the ideas. Opening track "Clown" pairs an instantly classic lyrical couplet ("I'd be a clown for you, baby/But please do not mistake me for a fool") with a melody you'll be humming for weeks. "Just As I Suspected" ought to have you lookin' sharp and heading for the dance floor, with Donnelly ably playing the Graham Maby to Domenic's Joe Jackson. Donnelly even pulls out the standup bass on the dramatic and soulful ballad "Hands At Love". This is the album's high point - a showcase for just how far Domenic has come as both a songwriter and a singer.

Listening to Levity, I'm somewhat stunned that it was all recorded in single takes. It doesn't sound rushed, and the band could not be any tighter (there are certainly advantages to a guitarist and drummer playing together for nearly half their lives!). I've never found a Beach Patrol recording to be lacking energy, but Donnelly's recording approach probably gave the band even more punch in the studio than usual. This was the first record where I really noticed what incredible chops Domenic has developed on guitar. Just about every song on this record is driven by a unique and memorable guitar riff. I just love how the rockin' and melodic sides of Beach Patrol work in such perfect harmony here. It's not every day that a band has the chance to make a record with one of the greatest pop/rock n' roll minds of our time. Clearly these guys seized the opportunity. Hands down, this is the best Beach Patrol album yet! Credit to Paula Mortimer for allowing the band to use her "Beautiful Lake Winnie In Quinney American Flag Sunset" photo on the cover. Isn't it amazing?!


Tuesday, February 05, 2019

The Flesh Of The City - self titled

Strangely, yet another killer band from the Gaggers/Shanghai Wires/Miscalculations/Disco Lepers family tree has arrived with seemingly zero press. I figured that ought to change! With Marco Palumbo's lead vocals so immediately recognizable, you probably have a pretty good idea of what to expect from The Flesh Of The City. The band name alone makes it quite apparent that you're not in for any easy listening! In the most satisfying way, The Flesh Of The City manages to be the perfect combination of all of the bands referenced above. On this full-length debut, Marco and company deliver eight tracks of menacing punk rock blending snotty vocals, sharp guitars, and bleak visions of a world in despair. Songs like "Visceral Jolt" and "Inside You" lean a little closer to The Gaggers, while "Patron Saint" and "Other Peoples Ideas" would sound perfectly in place on a Miscalculations release. "Flesh of the City", the album's masterful centerpiece, is the best of all of Marco's projects condensed into a single song. I appreciate that the identity of this band is less about a particular musical style and more about the exploration of Marco's dark worldview. A brilliant artist in many regards, he crafts these depictions of life that are disturbing yet incredibly compelling. And the instant he opens his mouth to sing, he's got you hooked. If you long for a time when the lines between punk, post-punk, and new wave were virtually non-existent, this may be the album for you. Get it from No Front Teeth Records in the UK and Dirtyflair Record Company in Australia!



Sunday, February 03, 2019

Natalie Sweet - Oh By the Way...it's

Super Sunday? You bet it is! When Travis Ramin described Natalie Sweet's solo debut as a "slammin' power pop album somewhere between Rocket To Russia and Parallel Lines", you had to know my ears perked up! Especially given my fondness for Sweet's past musical endeavors and all of Ramin's productions, I knew this was something I needed to hear. Yet not even that kind of build-up could have prepared me for the OH MY GOD! moment of actually hearing this record. My jaw dropped to the floor within the first 30 seconds of the opening track. Soon I was dancing around my basement in joyful celebration. The whole album left me feeling like a little kid on Christmas morning. If I could have dreamed up the perfect power pop album and had an unlimited budget to hire the best people to make it happen, I still couldn't have topped this. 

I was a big fan of Natalie Sweet's previous band The Shanghais, and I was kind of bummed that that they were no more. Thankfully Sweet's solo debut retains a lot of the qualities of The Shanghais (and some of the songs as well). For this solo release, Sweet has assembled a veritable power pop/punk all-star team. Ramin produces and plays drums, Morten freaking Henriksen (!) plays guitar, and Devin Clark Jorgenson (Color TV) plays bass. Sweet, so impressive as a snotty punk vocalist on the Control Freaks album, returns to a more pure singing style on this release. She's really the perfect singer for this kind of music. A la a Debbie Harry or Holly Beth Vincent, she's the ideal combination of tough, tender, and just straight-up cool. You believe her tales of heartbreak, and you want to join her when she's out there having fun. Her collaboration with Ramin on this project is so strong that you can hear both of their signature styles all over this record. And that's no surprise considering their long friendship and many shared influences (new wave power pop, girl groups, '50s doo-wop and rock n' roll, the Ramones). Comparisons to previous Ramin productions like Candygirl and Tina and the Total Babes are not unwarranted, yet this could equally be described as the great Shanghais full-length that never was. Production-wise, this album sounds like a million bucks (although I feel like that number may need to be adjusted for inflation). It is tailor made for radio airplay, or at least radio airplay in 1980. Seriously: are those backing vocals not to die for?!

Kicking off with the best new wave pop song in decades, "Lip Service", Natalie Sweet's debut album is a must-own item for any fan of punky power pop. Shanghais fans will recognize "Good Love", which has been given the old TravoRamo makeover for this release. I'm usually not one for trying to fix what isn't broken, but damn if they didn't find a way to make this song even better! "I Still Want You" exquisitely channels the pure pop side of the Ramones (Dare I say more Road To Ruin than Rocket To Russia?). "I Don't Want To Need You (Tonight)" takes on the always welcomed Shangri-Las gone punk theme and totally knocks it out of the park. "Do The Shanghai" would not sound out of place on the Nikki and the Corvettes album. "Pizza Man" is a cover from National Lampoon's Lemmings (penned by Christopher Guest!). Yet in the hands of Sweet, Ramin, and co., this song doesn't mock the silliness of '50s teen tragedy songs so much as it fully embraces it. 

Is it too early to hand Natalie Sweet album of the year for 2019?! This one's gonna be hard to beat! Probably the only person who freaked out more than me upon hearing this album was Carlo from Surfin' Ki Records. So it's hardly a surprise that Surfin' Ki will be releasing it on vinyl. The CD is coming out in Japan on the legendary Wizzard In Vinyl - rebooting a label that has been inactive for over a decade! Pop people, rejoice!