Wednesday, March 27, 2019

Los Pepes - Positive Negative

WHAT?! I wake up today and suddenly a new Los Pepes album has popped up seemingly out of nowhere?! This is almost too much joy for one man to handle! For five years now, I have been closely following the musical progression of the "loudest power pop band on earth". After perfecting Good Vibrations Records inspired powerpop punk on its first couple of albums, this London outfit has proceeded to inch closer and closer to the blistering sonic fury it's known for on stage. If you're not ready to have your ears blown clean off of your head, you should be very careful laying that needle down onto Positive Negative!

If your knowledge of Los Pepes precedes 2017's Let's Go!, you might be taken aback by how less "poppy" Positive Negative sounds than the band's first two LPs. What we've got here, my friends, are 11 tracks of ripping rock and roll taking equal cues from '60s mods and '70s punks. This, to me, is the "Motörhead gone power pop" sound Los Pepes were going for from the start. There's still plenty of pop in the equation, but here the band leans just as much toward the tougher side of '77 punk (Testors, Dead Boys) and the thundering energy of early Who. The band hits the ground running with "Still Belong To Me" and "Positive Negative" - a 1-2 punch firmly establishing this as a balls-out rock and roll record. You can easily imagine these guys playing your local watering hole and tearing the roof off of the place (I think that's actually happened a few times). Those guitars are pure fire! Those two along with "Aint Life Easy" and "We Need It" are definitely the most ferocious studio tracks Los Pepes have ever committed to tape. Elsewhere, the band puts the power in power pop on "Think Back", summons the spirit of Slaughter and the Dogs on "Frustration", and revisits its earlier pop/punk sound on the excellent "Medication". And to close the album, "Action" is a great cover of legendary NYC punks The Knots. 

Positive Negative is that rare record that ought to have the old school punks, garage freaks, pop geeks, and rock and roll purists in a unified state of elation. If no power pop is ever powerful enough to suit your tastes, Los Pepes might have finally won you over. Their best album in years!


Sunday, March 24, 2019

Dboy - "Dboy for President"

I have heard grumblings from numerous individuals about a lack of inspiring candidates for president. Well if you can't get inspired about Dboy for president, there's just no pleasing you! You may recall me reviewing Dboy's full-length record last year. My endorsement was earned without collusion or coercion, and instead through the sheer power of transcendent rock and roll. "Dboy for President" is a collaboration between the Performance and Recreation Council and Dine Alone Records. It's an extension of the thirteen-point program set out in Dboy's official manifesto ("10. Dboy take on the laborious task of developing novelty and shock so you don't have to"). Through its spokesperson Kirill Kutchokokov, Dboy has stated that this new release is "the single for the modern free world". A vote for Dboy is a vote for an advanced future. That is something we can all stand behind. And how many other presidential candidates proclaim to write rock and roll "because rock and roll is what matters"?

The Performance and Recreation Council has released a video (embedded below), outlining a hostage situation that occurred in the run-up to Dboy's present campaign for office. Click play, and you too will be a true believer and perhaps even find yourself persuaded to join the Dboy scouts today. If your commitment to the cause demands a physical product, yellow vinyl copies of "Dboy for President" are available via Bandcamp and include a poster of these three wolves for further adoration. Support the new era of aesthetic ingenuity!



Saturday, March 23, 2019

The Chats - "Pub Feed"

So we got new singles from Amyl and the Sniffers and The Chats in just the space of a couple weeks? It's as if Australia is opening up its massive arms and engulfing the world with awesomeness. Not that it's a competition...but of the two, the new Chats is the one I'm feeling more. Just when I thought the instant cult classic "Smoko" could never be matched, The Chats have returned with a song that could very well be my new personal anthem. What I love about this track is that it treats the craving of pub cuisine as if it's the most important thing in the world. Which, of course, it is! I just might need the lyrics to this song engraved on my tombstone! "Pub Feed" is available on 7" from Bargain Bin Records. Ordering information is available at The Chats web site. These guys already won over my heart by immortalizing their love for beer in their web addresses. Now they've taken it to another level with "Pub Feed". I can only imagine what's coming next. I'm with Mick Fletcher in hoping that a full album will be following in short order!


Wednesday, March 20, 2019

Gentleman Jesse & His Men - "Bryan"

WHAT?! There's a new Gentlemen Jesse record? Well, "new" is a relative term. "Bryan" and "Hate To See You Stay" were both recorded back in 2009 as part of the Leaving Atlanta sessions. Jesse and company recorded over 20 tracks in hopes of having enough material to make a really great album. They did, of course, make a really great album. So it's no surprise that some of the leftovers from those sessions are of a very high quality. The surprise is that it took 10 years for any of them to see the light of day! But here we are. Italy's Wild Honey Records has stepped up to release "Bryan" as a single, and the title track is an absolute gem. It's a nice snappy number recalling the classic era of new wave power pop. If you've forgotten how much Jesse ruled the power pop world circa the mid-to-late 2000s, this track will remind you in a hurry. It stacks up quite nicely with some of his previous A-sides like "I Don't Wanna Know" and "She's A Trap". Unhappy with the original title "Dianne", Jesse switched it to "Bryan" in honor of his best pal and owner of Douchemaster Records! On the flip, "Hate To See You Stay" came so close to making it onto Leaving Atlanta but was ultimately pulled in favor of "Rooting For the Underdog" (no complaints there: that song ruled!). Now the world gets to hear it, and that's quite fortunate. It's the perfect song for a B-side. It has a lot of feeling behind it, and that sneaky-catchy chorus really sticks with you. It's easy to see why it was intended for inclusion on the album.

Kudos to Wild Honey Records for making this record a reality. If you're a power pop fan, you ought to be jumping for joy! Can you believe these tracks have been in the can for a decade?!


Monday, March 18, 2019

Steve Adamyk Band - Paradise

When you think of powerpop/punk in the 2010s, the Steve Adamyk Band ought to be one of the first bands that comes to mind. Adamyk was there at the beginning of the decade, and he's still here at the end. Out on Dirtnap Records, Paradise is now the sixth SAB album (and first in three years). It's the first to feature the band's most recent three-piece lineup with Pat Johnson of The Acorn and Johnny O of Uranium Comeback backing singer/guitarist Adamyk. Spoiler alert: it rocks!

First things first: Paradise sounds like a Steve Adamyk Band record! No one's going to hear this album and be like, "Whoa! They really changed their sound!". And thank God for that. I'm not saying that Steve Adamyk invented powerpop/punk, but he was one of the individuals most responsible for defining what that genre would become in the present decade. A Steve Adamyk Band record that deviated from the basic formula of power pop influenced punk rock would just seem...wrong! Certain SAB albums have leaned more "pop" or "garage", but the band has never wavered from its general musical style. Paradise, for the lack of a better term, is quite possibly the "punkest" of the band's six albums. Recorded by Mike Bond and mixed by Jesse Gander, this is a huge-sounding album that really punches up the guitars and vocal harmonies. Locked in tight with his latest rhythm section, Adamyk just sounds like a guy who's super inspired to play some fast and tuneful punk rock! There's a palpable Ramones influence propelling "In Death" and the ripping title track. The band has never sounded more powerful or purposeful as it does on "Waiting To Die Part 2". "No Help", in the vernacular of the modern-day punk rock reviewer, is positively crackling! But don't go thinking that Adamyk has come to the table without some goodies for you pop people as well. "Take It To The Top" is powerpop/punk played right down the middle: the sort of song that Adamyk should never stop writing since he's just so damn good at it! "When I Was Gone" and a fine cover of The Kidda Band's "Get Off The Telephone" swing all the way to the power pop side and are total crowd pleasers. "Left In Pieces", which manages to mash the Beach Boys and new wave pop into the band's core sound, is one of this record's true gems.

There are few better than Steve Adamyk at turning out high quality poppy punk tunes. And my takeaway from Paradise is that his passion for creating this type of music has never been stronger. It goes without saying that anyone who has bought all of the band's previous albums will love Paradise as well. But I'll take it a step further: if the sixth Steve Adamyk Band album is somehow your first, it will make you want to own the other five!


Friday, March 15, 2019

My Top 20 Favorite Bands: 2000 to Present

I fully acknowledge it's weird that after spending so many years touting new music, my list of all-time favorite bands is still comprised almost entirely of artists from the '70s. So I got an idea: what if I wrote a massive list of my all-time favorite bands and then deleted everything that was pre year 2000? What would that look like? It was an easier exercise than I expected. I had no trouble coming up with a long list of bands from the present century that I totally love and still listen to on a regular basis. For bands that were active prior to 2000, I only considered their post-2000 output. For more recent bands, I had to factor in that their recordings may have not yet been subjected to the "test of time". With all of that in mind, here we go! 

20. Phone Jerks
I know what you're thinking. "Didn't their first album just come out?!" Fair enough. But in a world without Teengenerate and Loli and the Chones, Phone Jerks are the next best thing. Plus there was no way I could write a list like this and not represent multiple bands from Canada.

19. The Cry!
First album is a bona fide power pop classic. Second one isn't bad either! I anticipate we will finally get a new album from this band in 2019.

18. Something Fierce 
Don't Be So Cruel still sounds like the best album that the 1980s Clash never made. Rumor has it that Something Fierce is now on the verge of releasing new music for the first time in eight years. 

17. The Dahlmanns 
I've reviewed this band on seven occasions. It actually seems like more than that! The gold standard for the marriage of pop and punk. 

16. Sugar Stems
Super underrated extra awesome power pop group. I highly recommend all three of their albums. Does pop music get any better than "Love You To Pieces"? 

15. The Figgs - As the '90s turned over into the 2000s, The Figgs were at the top of their game. I probably listen to Sucking In Stereo as much as I listen to any Figgs album. Badger is my favorite Figgs EP by far. The early stuff gets all the love, but this band's post 2000 output is no less impressive.

14. The Unlovables
Crush * Boyfriend * Heartbreak is one of the greatest pop-punk albums ever made.

13. Nato Coles and the Blue Diamond Band
Promises To Deliver is my most most listened-to album of this current decade. 

12. The Kidnappers 
A decade before it was fashionable, The Kidnappers concocted a peanut butter cup mashup of garage punk and power pop, peaking with the "Spanish Girls" single and Neon Signs LP. I have enjoyed the twins' more recent outfit Küken, but I must admit I still miss The Kidnappers!  

11. Night Birds 
For my money, this is the best punk group of the last ten years. Favorite album: Born To Die In Suburbia. Second favorite: Mutiny at Muscle Beach. If you like old school hardcore punk with brilliant lyrics and a ton of melody, you need to own this band's entire discography. Little-known fact: I have consciously inserted a Seinfeld or Larry David reference into four different Night Birds reviews. I'm saving "These pretzels are making me thirsty" for the next full-length.

10. Bobbyteens
This band would have ranked higher if I'd allowed myself to consider its early singles and debut album from the late '90s. Still, top ten ain't too shabby! 2000's Not So Sweet is my favorite of the band's albums - a definitive mixture of the Ramones, girl groups, and power pop.

9. Midnite Snaxxx 

Is there any punk musician of the last 25 years more under-appreciated than Dulcinea Gonzalez?

8. The Connection
I've referred to The Connection as "America's best rock n' roll band", and I think that sums it up pretty well. 

 7. Beach Patrol
 I've been a huge fan of this Green Bay outfit since 2006, when I named its full-length debut my album of the year. Over time, the band has only gotten better. Domenic has become one of our finest songwriters. The recent Levity is, in my opinion, the best album he's ever written.

6. Pale Lips
It seems like only yesterday that I was hearing this band for the very first time. It was actually four years ago! Pale Lips' debut LP was officially listed as my #2 album of 2016, and the band's latest is almost certain to be my #1 for 2019. Definitely my favorite active band.

5. Exploding Hearts 
I don't think much explanation is required here.

4. Kung Fu Monkeys
The creation of a Kung Fu Monkeys Bandcamp page officially remains the best thing to ever happen to The Internet. I recently decided to put on School's Out, Surf's Up, Let's Fall in Love to see if it still holds up after 18 years plus. Boy, does it ever! There's never been another album quite like this. It's like pop-punk meets twee meets meets surf meets kiddie pop meets bubblegum meets '60s teenage dance party, propelled by James Cahill's seemingly impossible vocal range and a rhythm section that plays as if it's hopped up on Pixy Stix. Music more joyful than this has never been produced by humans. The early 2000s saw the band moving into its "mature" phase, which produced several less punky yet still totally delightful 7" releases. More recently, 2012's Son Of... The Incredibly Strange Case Of The Mysterious Mystery 7" arrived seemingly out of nowhere and delighted longtime fans with some gorgeous and masterful baroque pop. 

3. Stiletto Boys
Yeah, I know this band had a home field advantage. But I would have been a fan even if they'd been from thousands of miles away. It's funny how time changes your impressions of things. When the Stiletto Boys made their first album, I was like, "I love it, but I kind of miss the rawness of the singles". When their second album came out, I was like, "I love it, but I kind of miss the rawness of the last album". Looking back all of these years later, I am awed by the way the Stiletto Boys pushed themselves to get better and better with each new release. I can still put on A Company of Wolves and find myself stunned by its greatness. Sean Wolfe was so driven to make Liberator perfect that he was willing to scrap a completed album and start over. It ended up being 13 years between albums. And it was worth it. Liberator (2013) proved to be the band's masterpiece - a must-own for fans of power pop influenced punk rock with insightful and intensely personal lyrics. If you lost track of the Stiletto Boys after the year 2000, you've got some serious catching up to do. R.I.P. Sean.

2. The Ergs 
If you want to see me when I'm angry, call the Ergs a generic pop-punk band. Sure, they were Descendents fans. They were also into hardcore, jazz, and obscure indie rock. They were unabashed music and book geeks, which I related to on a personal level. They fully understood that Dirty Work is one of the true cinematic masterpieces of our time. How can you not appreciate a band that releases a single called "Blue" and backs it with a cover of "Blew" by Nirvana? Only a person well-versed in the road signage of northeastern Pennsylvania interstates can appreciate the humor in writing a song called "Ashley Sugarnotch". Most importantly, the music still holds up. Dorkrockcorkrod is an all-time top five pop-punk album in my book. f'n remains one of the most impressive demo tapes I've ever heard. And don't even get me started on the singles. On my Mt Rushmore of New Jersey rock, I have The Boss, The Shirelles, Dramarama, and The Ergs!

1. Dimestore Haloes
The Haloes coming in at #1 will surprise no one. Granted, I had to remove their first two albums from consideration. But their last two albums are actually their best, in my humble opinion. The Ghosts of Saturday Night was the perfect transition between what the Haloes had been and what The Cheap Cassettes would later become. Wait, you don't own it yet?! Get on over to Bandcamp and rectify that immediately!

So there you have it. There were quite a few other bands that just missed the cut (too many to mention, in fact). But I'm pretty satisfied with this list, and I plan on updating every year!


Wednesday, March 13, 2019

Wild Zeros - "Teenage Lifestyle"

I raved about a new single from Wild Zeros a little while back. But actually that was just one of two new 45s from this veteran band out of La Rochelle and Bordeaux, France. Out on Chickpea Records, "Teenage Lifestyle" of course leads with a cover of the classic track from Syracuse, New York garage punk legends The Penetrators. Why make a cover tune an A-side? I say why NOT make a cover tune an A-side?!

One thing I like about Wild Zeros is their choice of cover material. They have a tendency to cover powerhouse songs from bands that ought to be household names in punk circles but are still unknown to a lot of people. Taking on "Teenage Lifestyle" (first released in 1979), Wild Zeros don't try and out-do the original (that would be impossible). Their rendition is faithful to The Penetrators' version, but with that special Wild Zeros touch. It sounds wild...and French! This track is from sessions recorded by Lo'Spider at Swampland in Toulouse a couple years back, and it totally rips! It is my fervent hope that more than a few people will hear this and immediately want to own the original version on record (Luckily you can still get the re-issue of The Penetrators' Kings of Basement Rock LP from Slovenly Recordings!). To finish off this one-sider, Wild Zeros turn out an original called "Vampire Girl". It's exactly what you've come to expect from this band: trashy garage punk rock n' roll done right! It's like the '90s never ended! Copies of this single are limited, so head on over to Discogs if you want to buy the vinyl. These tracks - and the rest of the Wild Zeros catalog - are available digitally via Bandcamp!


Saturday, March 09, 2019

Freak Genes - III

The always wonderful Freak Genes are back with what is already their third album in 20 months. On Qwak Qwak, you could hear Andrew and Charlie flirting with electronic instrumentation. III (out on Drunken Sailor Records) finds them all-in on synth-pop. Think more 154 era Wire, less Pink Flag. That's quite a leap for inside of two years, but in my business we call that a "natural progression" (Wire themselves did the same thing!). Everything that was charming, wonderfully weird, playfully non-conforming, and non-conventionally catchy about the duo's first two albums remains fully in tact. Perhaps the more cohesive synth-pop sound makes this particular album feel less all over the place. But I can assure you that it is still somewhat all over the place! The one-sheet promises "garage rock meets Gary Numan", and tracks like "Get Ready To Go" and "Strange Light" deliver exactly that. You can pick up the influences immediately yet still recognize distinct qualities of these guys' other bands. They are never afraid to experiment, but they always come back to writing memorable tunes with hooks. Meanwhile songs such as "Breach" and "Now It's Done" demonstrate that even synth pop era Freak Genes have not totally left post-punk behind. And if your favorite part of every Freak Genes album is coming across a song that makes you go "I don't know what the hell this is, but I sure like it!", "Stitches" and "Close Up" are oddball tracks that you will surely enjoy. There will never be such a thing as two Freak Genes songs that sound the same. Is it just me, or could "Nothing In Between Us" pass for one of The Cure's "poppy" songs?!

I can't fully put my finger on what delights me so much about Freak Genes. I think it's that they've made me fall in love with post-punk and new wave again. This was music I grew up on, yet I've been mostly lukewarm on its modern adherents. Charlie and Andrew take those influences and actually have fun with them. Even if there's a dark turn or two on III, it remains a joyful musical creation that's an absolute pleasure to listen to. Originally inspired by the idea of recording misfit songs, Freak Genes have become a misfit band (and that's a lower case "misfit"....these guys are probably 20 albums away from attempting horror punk). And I hope that's what they continue to be forever.


Wednesday, March 06, 2019

PlasticHeads - Nowhere To Run

You know I can never make it more than a couple weeks without talking up another band from Canada. And today I've got a band from Toronto for you that just might blow your head off! PlasticHeads is the latest outfit from the legendary Jon Sharron (Brutal Knights/Career Suicide/Chokehold). He's on guitar and vocals along side the likes of Ellis from Flesh Rag and Erik from School Jerks. PlasticHeads are pretty much what you'd expect given the involvement of the above individuals. Think snotty '77 punk smashing head-on into early '80s hardcore. Nowhere To Run is the band's ripper of a debut album, and it's set for a vinyl release on the venerable Ugly Pop Records. If you've been desiring some real deal punk fucking rock in your life lately, these ten tracks are exactly the kick in the pants you need. The band tears through these songs hot and fast, with seven of the ten tracks clocking in under two minutes. Musically and vocally, the intensity is relentless. Yet the songwriting is definitely rooted in '70s punk - always a sweet spot for me personally. Could there be a more fitting soundtrack for our modern day dystopian reality than "The End Is Near"? And how many people will quickly adopt "I Can't Sleep" as their personal anthem? If you dig Zero Boys, DOA, early Black Flag, or anything that Jon Sharron has ever been involved in, you're gonna go nuts for this record!


Tuesday, March 05, 2019

The Top Ten 2019

It has been an annual birthday tradition of mine to list my top ten favorite bands of all-time. Every year, I reflect on how this list might have changed over the past 12 months - based on which bands I still listen to the most and connect to the most on a personal level. Analyzing this latest list, I offer the following notes:

  • My musical tastes for the most part seem to be permanently stuck in the '70s. That maybe has something to do with me being born in '71. Or maybe there was just a lot of great music in the '70s.
  • While I consider myself a fan of many genres of music, there's still nothing that lights my fire like '77 punk.
  • The Ramones keep rising on these lists. It's not like I ever didn't appreciate the greatness of the Ramones. But the more I go back to all of those records, the more awestruck I am by how well they hold up. 
  • Still nobody on the list from post 2000. Maybe I need to do a separate write-up for that sometime.  
  • I'm kind of surprised that there aren't more power pop bands on this list. Material Issue is holding it down! 
  • Bands that just missed the cut: Undertones, Sex Pistols, The Who, Kinks, Real Kids.

On to the list:
1. The Clash
2. AC/DC 
3. Ramones
4. Material Issue
5. Buzzcocks
6. Husker Du 
7. New York Dolls 
8. Rolling Stones 
9. Generation X   
10. Dictators   

With each advancing birthday, I used to wonder if a window was closing for me doing this blog to be "age appropriate". In more recent years, it has occurred to me that it always be age appropriate for me to write about rock n' roll. With any luck, I'll still be reviewing records when I'm 90. And I'll probably still be stuck in the '70s.


Sunday, March 03, 2019

Rum Bar Records Winter 2019 Label Sampler

I suppose I need to squeeze this one in while it's still winter! And with the snow accumulating at this very moment, there's no time like the present. I'm well-known to be a fan of Rum Bar Records. And who isn't a fan of free stuff? So of course I'm going to be pushing free stuff from Rum Bar Records with the utmost enthusiasm!

I'll be the first to admit that I didn't do the best job of keeping up with Malibu Lou's multitude of releases last year. Counting digital-only releases, he put out over 30 titles in 2018 alone! That's a lot of moving and shaking! I feel like he's reached the point where he may need to move Rum Bar HQ into a multi-story office building. I'm envisioning something like the Capitol Records Building, but with colder weather and a much better drink menu. Anyhoo, the label's 2019 winter sampler compiles 19 tracks from 19 Rum Bar artists. Most of these tracks are taken from existing Rum Bar releases, and a few are from forthcoming releases (I gotta tell you that the Brad Marino solo album is gonna have you all jumping for joy. It's sooooooo good!). The sampler is a free download from Bandcamp, or you can buy a hard copy on CD for five bucks. Either way, it's a sweet deal. You get ace tracks from artists I've touted before (The Cheap Cassettes, The Peawees, Justine and the Unclean, Indonesian Junk, Watts) plus many more from bands I'm just discovering myself. "The Next One", a teaser track for the upcoming Cromm Fallon solo album, has me really looking forward to that particular release. Tad Overbaugh and the Late Arrivals make a fine addition to the growing heartland rock wing of the Rum Bar roster. "Good Enough" finds veteran garage rockers Muck and the Mire flirting heavily with power pop.

Covering styles ranging from garage to punk to glam to Americana to psychedelic rock to swamp-pop, the Rum Bar Records Winter 2019 Label Sampler is a great way to familiarize yourself with one of the best record labels out there. And if you like what you hear, more from all of these artists can be obtained at the Rum Bar Bandcamp. Now can winter please be over?!


Friday, March 01, 2019

Conmen - Get Loose

Yeah! Conmen have finally made an album! Out now on Rock N Roll Disgrace, Get Loose is the Boston outfit's first new release since its debut 7" came out four years ago. This album is a massive treat for anyone who loves the pop side of old school punk. It's definitely "cleaner" sounding than Conmen's 7" and demo - but not in a bad way. This is just great back-to-basics fun three-chord punk. The songs are short, snappy, and catchy as hell. These guys summon the spirit of the early Ramones without coming off like strict copyists, while some tracks (particularly "You Were Dancing") lean more towards The Undertones. You know I ain't complaining! This is a really enjoyable record to throw on when you're in an upbeat mood or want to get into an upbeat mode. Clocking in at just under 23 minutes, these 11 tracks practically beg for repeat spins. This is yet another one of those records that will remind you why you fell in love with punk rock in the first place. I was starting to think Canada had a monopoly on bands like this, but it looks like Boston has staked its claim!