Friday, May 31, 2019

Geoff Palmer - Pulling Out All The Stops

I believe we've found our album of the summer! If you're like me, you heard all of Geoff Palmer's digital singles last year and thought, "Damn, these songs are WAY too good to not be on an actual record!". Well, a couple of pretty swell label guys were thinking the exact same thing. And in relatively short order, Geoff Palmer's solo debut album has been willed into existence. Out today on Stardumb Records in Europe and Rum Bar Records in the U.S.A., Pulling Out All The Stops is the pop-punk album for people who usually only listen to power pop. Or is it the power pop album for people who usually only listen to pop-punk? Either way, it's one of the best albums we'll hear this year. This all started out as a fun project for The Connection singer/guitarist Palmer. He wrote some solo songs and recorded them with pals like Brad Marino, Adam Cargin, Craig Sala, and B-Face. For good measure, he set out to cover songs by everyone from The Invalids to The Vapids to Gino and the Goons. Once these tracks started hitting the old Internet, even Palmer's biggest fans were blown away by how good they were. We all had to wonder why Palmer had taken so long to reveal his magnificent solo artistry to the world!

If Pulling Out All The Stops had just been a vinyl pressing of Palmer's digital singles, nobody would have complained. But Palmer took it a step further. Pulling Out All The Stops of course features smash hits such as "This One's Gonna Be Hot" and "Velcro Shoes". But even if you already heard all of the singles, a lot of the songs on this album will be new to you. 8 of 14 tracks are previously unreleased. We got a little taste of the new songs thanks to recent videos for "Giving In" and "All The Hits". The former is a big, slick power pop number that brings to mind Palmer's pal Kurt Baker. The latter finds Palmer digging deep into his pop-punk roots and goofing on classic bands that load their live sets with the dreaded "new material". The rest of the new songs are of the same caliber and run the gamut from punky power pop ("Cha-Ching") to kick-ass Ramonesy punk ("Everything Is Cool") to British Invasion/'60s pop goodness (the Michael Chaney co-write "Paper Heart") to pop-rock worthy of late '70s/early '80s radio ("Make It"). This might seem like a weird thing to say about the guy who co-fronts the best damn rock n' roll band on Earth. But this album demonstrates to me that Geoff Palmer is an immensely underrated songwriter! As much as I've praised his bands over the years, I don't think I've ever given him enough credit. He just has a knack for writing really great pop songs, and he has a particular flair for lyrics that are both funny as hell and totally on-point. If the likes of "Velcro Shoes" and "I Like Murder Too" have you chuckling because they hit a little too close to home, I can assure you that you're not alone!

In a day and age of pronounced divisions between the pop-punk, garage, and power pop camps, Geoff Palmer has delivered an album that makes all of that seem really stupid. Of course the pop-punk faithful will go totally nuts for these songs. But I bet Little Steven heard "Paper Heart" and cried tears of joy. I really dig the idea of an album where covers of Sinkhole and Gino and the Goons fit in equally well! While Palmer wears his Ramones/Queers/Beach Boys loving heart on his sleeve, he also draws inspiration from just about every great era of rock n' roll. Even if you usually hate pop-punk, this could be the album that turns you to the dark side. Download is just four bucks via Bandcamp. Vinyl and CD are available from the fine establishments linked below!


Wednesday, May 29, 2019

No Collusion - Sticking Sets

I am always a sucker for '77-style punk, and here we have a new band from Northern Ireland pulling off the style brilliantly! No Collusion is a young trio from Derry that just recently released a debut EP called Sticking Sets. I've seen some comparisons of this band to The Chats - which seem spot-on given No Collusion's penchant for amusing storytelling and fondness for regional slang. "Aw Naw", which recounts the unfortunate tale of some stolen controlled substances, is sure to be one of the punk rock smashes of 2019. I'm not quite sure what's going on in "Jim" - but it sure sounds like a good time will be had by all. "Shams" tells the story of how No Collusion started out as a shitty band and quickly became a not-so-shitty band. "Fuck Politics" might be a specific commentary on Brexit, but on a deeper level it's about how governments screw over the people they are entrusted to serve. That's sadly true regardless of which side of the pond you find yourself on.

All in all, this debut from No Collusion is tremendously promising. Fans of first generation Oi! and the rawer side of '77 UK punk should be very interested! 


Tuesday, May 28, 2019

The Prostitutes - "Cheap Highs"

Can I name another band besides The Prostitutes that I've been touting for the entire span of my years reviewing music? I don't think so! My first review of The Prostitutes dates back to 1996 (it was the band's debut 7" on Pelado Records). The Prostitutes would go on to become perhaps my favorite punk band of the '90s. And although I left them for dead a time or two or three, Kevin McGovern has managed to sustain this veritable institution of American punk rock through numerous changes in personnel and relocations from the East Coast to the Midwest to the West Coast and back to the East Coast. And even with all of those changes, the one thing that remains the same is that The Prostitutes still sound like The Prostitutes! The band's most recent EP Don't Want A Future (2017) is one of the strongest releases in its catalog. Now with new band-mates JR Matthew (guitar) and Barry Jewels (drums), McGovern has The Prostitutes back and sounding as good as ever. A new EP is in the works, as is a split 7" with the mighty Pegs. "Cheap Highs" is a little taste of what's to come - recorded earlier this month in the band's current home base of Baltimore with Don't Want A Future producer Tim Schock. I'd describe this track as "classic Prostitutes" with that modern edge to the guitars that Schock is so skilled at capturing. You hear that voice, and you immediately know what band you're listening to. And with lines like "self destructive pose/the midnight show/an image that always cracks", you're getting the sort of poetry that could only have come from the mind of Kevin McGovern. If you're a longtime fan, you should be so stoked for this song! And if The Prostitutes are still new to you, you would be wise to dive into the Bandcamp page and discover one of the greatest punk bands of the last 25 years. Stay tuned for more!


Sunday, May 26, 2019

Amyl and The Sniffers - self titled

I know some of you may be alienated by the hype over Amyl and The Sniffers. But I've never been one to blame a band for its press clippings. And I've certainly never held success against any band. I wish the same thing for every group I write about: the opportunity to sell a lot of records and play shows to large, appreciative crowds. If a band from our world can "make it", more power to 'em! It's not like Amyl and The Sniffers made some sort of calculated stab at mainstream recognition. I mean, come on: worshipping at the altar of the Cosmic Psychos, sharpie rock, and Aussie murder punk would be one of the least likely paths for a band gunning for the big time! Whatever bizarre circumstances led such a band to Dave Matthews' record label, Gucci campaigns, and mega features in NME will by no means dissuade me from enjoying its music. And if esteemed colleagues of mine like Mick Fletcher and Alex Kish are touting a band, that's a wagon I want to be riding!

The way I approach Amyl and The Sniffers' debut album is to put any hype or expectations completely out of mind. Based entirely on its own merits, it's an exciting and tremendously enjoyable blend of punk and hard rock in the storied Aussie tradition. Clearly this is a far less raw-sounding version of Amyl and The Sniffers. Yet a more "produced" sound actually beefs up the band's attack. Producer Ross Orton really seems to understand what this band is all about. He elicits a tougher, more powerful sound that really plays up the Sniffers' love for '70s rock riffs. Just listen to how much harder the album version of "Cup Of Destiny" hits compared to last year's single (which I also loved)! And given the elapsed years between the recording of this album and the previous EP Big Attraction, it's no surprise that the band shows considerable growth on this release. "GFY" is raging, pissed-off punk rock at its finest. It's the perfect song to crank loud in the car as you vent your frustrations after a shit day. In a similar spirit, the pummeling "Gacked On Anger" is a veritable anthem for a generation of young people who are underemployed, broke, and at their wits' end. The aptly-titled "Punisha" is a swift kick in the teeth, NWOBHM style. On the other end of the spectrum, it's hard to imagine the Amyl and The Sniffers of two years ago being able to pull off songs as overtly "pop" as "Angel" and "Got You". And "Shake Ya" is the kind of sing-along hard rockin' anthem that I've been dying to hear on the mainstream airwaves for the past 25 years!

Having been such a big fan of the more straight-forward '77 style punk of Big Attraction, I did question whether I'd be as enthusiastic about the direction the band was taking with this album. But I have to say I like this record a lot. Inspired quite obviously by multiple generations of Aussie bands, the Sniffers combine punk and hard rock in a way that feels totally natural. I suppose Amy Taylor's vocals are something you either love or hate. For me, they will always be the very best thing about this band. Everything else flows out of her charisma, sass, and sheer force of personality. I don't think it would be possible for Amyl and The Sniffers to be anything other than a punk band. They certainly have not gone mainstream. The mainstream has come to them. In the meantime, they'll just keep on tearing the roof off of every pub, club, and basement venue that will have them. This really is one hell of a band. Let's enjoy them.


Friday, May 24, 2019

The Sweet Things - In Borrowed Shoes, On Borrowed Time

Holy crap! After waiting four years for New York's Sweet Things to put out a full-length debut, I expected a really great album. But I don't know if I was quite anticipating this! Out today on Wendigo Productions NYC and Spaghetty Town Records, In Borrowed Shoes, On Borrowed Time absolutely blew me away upon first contact and has only gotten better with subsequent listens. Ladies and gentlemen, The Sweet Things have made themselves a goddamn masterpiece!

Spiritually, you could say In Borrowed Shoes is The Sweet Things' Exile On Main St. It runs the stylistic gamut from trashy rock n' roll to blues to country to soulful ballads - striking a perfect balance between Saturday night debauchery and Sunday morning regret. The band really pulled out all of the stops to make this a grand-sounding affair. Session players include Rob Clores (Black Crowes, Jesse Malin) on piano and keyboards, members of the Uptown Horns (James Brown, Rolling Stones) on horns and sax, Brian Hurd (Daddy Long Legs) on harmonica, and Liza Colby & Alejandro Escovedo on backing vocals. Yet the heart of this album is an amazing set of songs and tremendous performances by the members of this band (Dave Tierney on vocals and guitar, Lorne Berhman on guitar, Sam Hariss on bass, and Darren Fried on drums). Tierney, in my book, is one of the finest singers in today's rock n' roll. Much of the ragged, boozy spirit of the band's music emanates from his raspy pipes. And at an even deeper level, his vocals are full of heart and soul and a character that I find rare.

Certainly this album raises a bottle to '70s Stones and Johnny Thunders. But The Sweet Things definitely have their own sound which they've been honing for quite a few years now. I love that "Liquor Lightning" comes on like a drunken mess, takes a somewhat bizarre turn, then explodes into a sing-along party for the ages. And that guitar solo: wow! If you like good, straight-forward Stonesy rock n' roll, "Dead Or Worse" and "Almost Faded" will not fail to satisfy. Elsewhere, the band delivers stunning country rock gospel soul on the title track, an absolutely ripping rocker in the wonderfully over-the-top "Coke'n", sloppy Thunders-inspired brilliance in "Fix To Kick", and a true grand finale in the heartfelt ballad "Feed My Dog". The absolute highlight for me, though, is the band's new version of "Through the Cracks of the City". I didn't think there was anything wrong with the old version - until I heard the new one! These guys really worked out how to take a killer song and make it even better. From the vocals to the lead guitar work to the chorus, this song is the essence of sleazy rock n' roll!

Dave Tierney had a very interesting quote when he was asked about the process of making In Borrowed Shoes. "I like listening to music," he said. "But sometimes when I'm listening to an album, I think, 'Wow this is cool, but it'd be even cooler if it was better.' So we decided we would do that, make an album but make it better." That seems like such an obvious approach, but clearly The Sweet Things worked very closely with producer Matt Chiaravalle (Debbie Harry, Warren Zevon) to get everything about this album 100 percent to their satisfaction. And the results are stunning. I can go back to the previous singles and hear a really good band - one with the potential to be great. In Borrowed Shoes, On Borrowed Time, on the other hand, is the work of a truly exceptional rock n' roll band firing on all cylinders. The legacy of great bands from New York City is a rich one, and The Sweet Things have put themselves in that conversation. My friends in the U.K. can catch them on tour in just over a week!


Tuesday, May 21, 2019

Internal Credit - II

Who says all sequels suck?! Falmouth's Internal Credit return with their second EP, which turns out to be every bit as crackling and frenetic as its predecessor. Our second dose of Internal Credit arrives just four months after the first - a testament to both the roll this band is on and the more sublime possibilities of our digital age. Again these guys are really pushing the tempos. At a running time of just two minutes & ten seconds, opening cut "Find You're New" is the "epic" of this set. Otherwise, tracks are whizzing by in well under two minutes. I would still describe the sound as garage/post-punk with an emphasis on the punk, but with poppy hooks and a speed approaching hardcore. That's a whole lot of cool stuff going on, but the execution is thrilling in its simplicity. Within seconds of pushing play, I find myself running wildly around the house and pumping my fist in triumph. Internal Credit just sounds like a band that has tremendous fun playing punk rock, and not surprisingly that leads to music that's tremendously fun to listen to. When I first checked in on Internal Credit, they were still preparing for their first gig. Now they've got gigs under their belts, t-shirts for sale, and a second EP to their name. Blink and you might miss a feature film and triple album!


Saturday, May 18, 2019

The Decibels - Scene, Not Herd

It gives me immense pleasure to report that it's 2019 and The Decibels still sound like...The Decibels! This Sacramento foursome was one of the first "new" power pop groups I ever got into back in the '90s. The band's 1997 debut album Create Action! remains my favorite non major label power pop album of the '90s. I dug through my archives to see if I still had a copy of the review I wrote 21 years ago. Sadly, I do not. That's probably for the better since I find everything I wrote in my 20s cringe-worthy. Heck, I even find things I wrote in my early 40s cringe-worthy! Suffice it to say, I owe my love of power pop partially to The Decibels. And after a taking a long break from 2003-2017, this band is back and sounding great!

The Decibels have two recent albums out on Screaming Apple Records with plans for a new 8-song release this year and another album album next year. Scene, Not Herd is the latest LP - the band's first album of original songs since 2003. As expected, it's a power pop fan's delight. These guys haven't changed much from their mod power pop by way of the British Invasion beginnings. The formula remains very much the same: ringing melodies, punchy guitars, and classic '60s inspired pop songwriting. But what I appreciate is that they've made the kind of record you would expect from an older, wiser version of The Decibels. A lot of the lyrics are reflective of the wisdom we gain as we become proper adults and discover what's truly important in life ("And I wish that I could cancel/Due to lack of interest/All the things I thought of aloud" is one of my favorite lines of recent memory). I doubt the 1997 version of this band could have written a song like "Hey Emily" - which is tender and heartbreaking, yet ultimately full of hope. If anything, The Decibels have become even greater students of power pop and its musical origins. Over the course of this album, you'll hear the influence of everyone from the early Who to The Beatles ("Misery") to The Byrds to classic power pop bands like Shoes and The Nerves. "Stupidity" reminds me a little of Material Issue, which you know is positive in my book! If you were concerned that Dean, Joe, Brent, and Brian might have lost some of that old magic after a decade and a half apart, you will be happy to discover that they've picked right up where they left off. The band's melodies remain exquisite, and there's not a single dud among these 12 tracks.

The Decibels recently created a Bandcamp account to share their music with old fans and hopefully plenty of new ones as well. If you're a longtime Decibels fan, you should be thrilled to sink your teeth into Scene, Not Herd and its companion piece Big Hits (plus 12 more!) - a collection of covers that gives you a glimpse at the band's musical inspirations. And if you've lost your old copies of Create Action! and The Big Sounds of The Decibels, you can purchase digital versions of those as well! The Decibels will be heading up to Seattle this coming Friday May 24th to play with my pals The Cheap Cassettes. Be there or be square!


Thursday, May 16, 2019

Moral Panic - self titled

Alien Snatch Records just keeps on killing it! Out now on the legendary German label is the second self-titled album from Moral Panic. It follows up the band's 2017 debut on Slovenly Recordings, and I must say that this Brooklyn trio sounds even better the second time around! Formed out of the ashes of the absolutely terrific Livids, Moral Panic plays scorching garage punk smashing head-on into late '70s Midwestern punk rock (the band even covers "Not Now, No Way" by the almighty Pagans!). What's not to love about that?! The label makes a Carbonas comparison, and I will not argue with that at all. Hot damn, is this album ever a face-melter! In just 19 minutes, it delivers 10 blistering tracks chock full of pissed-off vocals, red-hot guitar leads, and legit catchy tunes. And Jeff Burke's magic touch with mixing and mastering sure doesn't hurt. If you're into fast and furious punk with hooks, this is about as good as it gets!


Tuesday, May 14, 2019

The Real Boys - Teenage Shitheads

One thing I love about the Bandcamp platform is how I can stumble upon something super awesome that I would otherwise not be aware of in a million years. I can find no evidence anywhere that The Real Boys from North Bay, Ontario actually exist. Yet there's the EP streaming on the ole' Bandcamp and downloadable for free! It's called Teenage Shitheads, and it sounds exactly like you would expect it to given that particular title. I'm talking snotty and fantastically dumb punk rock in the old school style. Opening track "Population Control" reminds me of Fear, and I was pretty much hooked from there! "Outta Place In The Human Race" is a song that just about everyone ought to be able to relate at one time or another. "Toxicity" might as well be the theme song for planet Earth in 2019. I like the rawness and pure raging energy of this release. I'm reminded of the days when you would unexpectedly come across some punk band's killer demo tape and play the hell out of it. I suppose streaming demos are the new demo tapes! If you dig early '80s hardcore or snotty punk rock in general, this one is worth snagging. My love affair with Canadian punk rock continues!


Sunday, May 12, 2019

Guitar Gangsters - "Being Stupid"

Yeah, you read that right: London's Guitar Gangsters are still at it! Out on the ever-dependable Wanda Records, new single "Being Stupid" is the latest installment in a recording career that dates back 30 years. And if you appreciated that Guitar Gangsters were one of the few punk acts in '89 that were still keeping the faith to the spirit of '79, you ought to be very happy about what they sound like in 2019! Now as always, the Ley brothers are all about the classic melodic punk of late '70s Britain. And they show they can still craft a damn catchy tune. "Being Stupid" is a nice snappy number recalling The Jam by way of The Kinks. If you're looking for a strong melody or a hook to grab ya, this song should do the trick. On the flip, "The Losing Side" burns with an urgency that most younger bands would be wise to emulate. I'm always a sucker for an anthemic chorus, and this song delivers exactly that! How can you not admire a song that can get you pumping your fist and still leave you with a melody you'll be whistling all week?

I always turn to Wanda Records for the best in new '77 punk, and "Being Stupid" sure makes a fine addition to the catalog. A tremendous showing from a veteran band that has never gotten enough credit!


Friday, May 10, 2019

Weird Numbers - Minotaur Dreams

With me being such a big fan of Zache Davis and his wonderful band Maniac, I was of course eager to check out his new project Weird Numbers. Davis formed Weird Numbers in 2017 with his former Girls band-mate Colin Griffiths and Ethan Jacobsen (Griffiths' band-mate in Tourist). These three have been friends going way back to the early 2000s, and Weird Numbers may make some of you nostalgic for the Seattle punk scene of that era. Out on Dirt Cult Records, Minotaur Dreams is the band's excellent debut EP. I'm really digging these five songs - which make a fine mashup of new wave, post-punk, and power pop influences. The Zache Davis style of songwriting is immediately recognizable. I might describe "Dolphin Encounters" and the title track as Maniac-like, but even more "pop". In a good way, "Switching The Code" sounds like it could have been a modern rock hit in 2006. "Uzis and Bikinis" takes a deep dive into post-punk with exquisite angular arrangements and a melody that will haunt you. This is how I like my post-punk: mixed with a generous portion of well-crafted pop! And Davis, one of the most interesting and imaginative lyricists out there, continues to shine in that respect. Vinyl available here!


Wednesday, May 08, 2019

Justin Maurer - "Falling on Deaf Eyes"

Justin Maurer (Clorox Girls, Maniac, Suspect Parts) has been a favorite of this blog for many years. Today I want to feature something he is doing outside the realm of music. He has written and produced a play called "Falling on Deaf Eyes" that will be premiering next month at Hollywood Fringe Festival 2019. "Falling on Deaf Eyes" is an autobiographical comedy about a single Deaf mother raising a family of teenage punk rockers in a small town. This production incorporates music, sign language, storytelling, and theatrical visuals along with a team of sign language interpreters to ensure access to the Deaf and Hard of Hearing. The play is being directed by Jevon Whetter and will feature the performances of a talented cast of actors and musicians. I had the pleasure of discussing "Falling on Deaf Eyes" with Maurer. Here's what he had to say! 

F & L: "Falling on Deaf Eyes" must be an extremely personal project for you. Have you written about your mother's experiences raising you and your siblings before? How did it come about that this story became a stage production?

JM: The title "Falling on Deaf Eyes" is a play on what my mom used to call her "Deaf eyes". She wouldn't miss anything because her vision was so astute. I remember one time, I walked into the room and she turned her head. I asked her how she knew I was in the room because she couldn't hear me. She said, "I saw the curtain move in the corner of the room...Deaf eyes!"

I did write a few true stories in some chapbooks that were published. I had my dad thrown in jail when I was 16 for assaulting my sister, and I've written a little bit about that. It's a therapeutic experience to just let stuff like that go, and by writing about it, you can also hold the responsible parties accountable. We ended up getting a restraining order against him and moving into low-income housing. My mom was a part-time ASL teacher at the high school, and sometimes we had to eat canned food from the local food bank. Punk rock was a very important outlet for me at this time. And going back and looking at the strength of my mom, I wanted to write something that could show her resilience during this time.

As far as this becoming a stage play, I realized that punk can have a limiting audience, and book readings can have a limited audience. I also realized by working as a freelance ASL Interpreter that many of my performances weren't accessible for the Deaf and Hard of Hearing community. I wanted to put together a show that everyone could enjoy, and to also try something new. I've been recording and touring with punk bands since I was 15. I'm 35 now and wanted to give myself a new challenge.

F & L: You are working with some tremendously talented individuals in this production. How did you go about bringing these people into the fold?

JM: You're right! I'm very lucky to have them all on my team. I met Jevon Whetter as he was a striking Deaf teacher during the L.A. teachers' strike. I was friends with his brother Del who told me how experienced Jevon was at acting and directing plays for the National Theatre of The Deaf and Deaf West Theatre. Since this is my first time writing and producing a play, I wanted someone experienced, and also wanted a pair of Deaf eyes on the play to make sure that it's also entertaining for a Deaf audience. Jevon suggested Deaf actor Lisa Hermatz for my mom's character. She is very charismatic, and I think she's perfect for the role. Voice actor Jann Goldsby will be voicing for Lisa. We have Canadian singer/songwriter STACEY writing an original score on piano for the play, and she will be playing it with us live for all of the performances. We also have some very talented ASL interpreters George Balayan and Andrew Leyva working with us. Del Whetter is producing.

This thing all seemed to come together pretty effortlessly. Now we need to put the work in and put some finishing touches on the script and rehearse quite a bit for the four weeks leading up to the show!

F & L: What is your previous experience with stage productions?

JM: In high school on Bainbridge Island, Washington, where the play is set, I worked with the legendary Bob McCallister. He had been in loads of music videos, directed and wrote many plays, and was an all-around inspiration. I remember I was too broke to buy or rent a suit for our high school prom, and he let me borrow a suit. I was in a bunch of plays with him in high school, and since then have not set foot on a theatre stage. I have written quite a bit, though, and all of these mediums are related - scripts, short stories, books, treatments, etc. Luckily for me, I have some very experienced theatre folks on my team who will help bring this vision to fruition.

F & L: Aside from the entertainment value of this production, are you anticipating this being a highly educational experience as well? What would you like people to learn about American Sign Language?

JM: Sure, I'd like hearing people to be aware of the Deaf and Hard of Hearing American experience. They're often a voice that isn't listened to or disregarded. I would like people to expand their curiosity about American Sign Language, but also be aware that along with a language, there's a very rich culture. Storytelling is an important part of this culture as well as performances in ASL. Hopefully we do it justice.

F & L: You've received a great deal of recognition for your work as an ASL Interpreter for the LA teachers' strike. What was that experience like for you?

JM: It was an incredible experience. It was emotional. It was tense. It was inspiring. 32,000 teachers picketing and marching for six days in the rain was a real sight to behold. The rallies had around 50,000 people attending, and included musical performances from groups like Ozomatli, Wayne Kramer, Aloe Blacc, and Tom Morello from Rage Against the Machine. Being up on that stage in front of city hall with all of the teachers screaming and chanting, it was something else, man. I won't forget it for the rest of my life. It was such an honor to be a part of, and I have so much respect for all of those teachers who put everything on the line for their students and their communities. As far as the recognition, I was just doing my job. It was an emotional moment, so many of the speeches were filled with passion and emotion. My interpretation reflected this emotion. It was my job to provide equal access to communication for all of the Deaf educators on strike as well as the Deaf and Hard of Hearing parents and students at home who were watching on TV for updates. The strike affected millions of people, and there's approximately 800,000 Deaf and Hard of Hearing people in Southern California, many of them in LA County, with kids in the LA Unified School District. An interpreter should never be the center of attention. But as I was on TV interpreting the press conferences, and was up there on stage interpreting the speeches and musical performances, I did end up getting some attention. I think it's important to note that I was there to provide equal access to the Deaf Community, not for any other reason. I'm so fortunate to have been able to have been a part of that inspiring movement.

F & L: How did the experience of growing up with a Deaf single mother inform you as an artist?

JM: My mom could feel music, but being profoundly Deaf, she couldn't hear it. She loved feeling the bass in the car. So I could blast music driving around with her. She was supportive, although she wished I would spend more time studying or doing school work rather than spending endless hours playing guitar and drums. She also saw punk fashion as being directly related to people who used drugs. She also was confused by the bondage thing, spiky hair, mohawks. She didn't really understand that part of it. She was ostracized her whole life for being different; she just wanted to fit in. Having kids with green mohawks certainly didn't help that ambition of hers. But that said, she let us have band practice in the basement, she let us throw shows in the basement. So she was cool as a mom; she was supportive of us in that way. God bless her for putting up with us.

F & L: I see you have seven performance dates scheduled for this production. Do you envision continuing this production again in the near future?

JM: Yes, there are seven shows as a part of the Hollywood Fringe Festival. I would love to tour with the show. We've gotten a little interest up in Seattle, where this show is set. So I'd love to go up there and do it. I also found out that the Bainbridge Island Museum is doing an exhibit on Bainbridge Punk and Youth Culture. This show is set on the 1990s on Bainbridge Island, so I would personally love to do a performance on Bainbridge as well as in Seattle. It's amazing that the museum up there is legitimizing all of the trouble we caused as a legitimate form of art 20 years later. Back then the cops would shut down many of our shows. We'd have to hide in the bushes 'cause we were drinking underage. Neighbors would call the police on our band practices and our shows. It's nice to see the adults on Bainbridge now perhaps changing their perspective on the music we made and the shows we threw. We created something out of nothing. Kind of like this play.
More info and tickets to "Falling On Deaf Eyes" are here: 

IG: @fallingondeaf
IG: @maurerjustin
Twitter: @justinmaurer17

Tuesday, May 07, 2019

Black Russians - Death By Communism

Good god, has there ever been a lot of great pop-punk stuff coming out lately! Those of you who are connoisseurs of the genre are probably wondering what took me so long to get to this killer debut album from Black Russians. Well, you know: I was very busy renovating my nuclear war bunker. Out on the fabulous OUTLOUD! Records, Death By Communism is 13 tracks of ripping pop-punk rock n' roll that never wavers from a Soviet Union/Cold War theme. If you're looking for something different from the usual "songs about girls" motif, well this ought to do it for you! In some totally twisted way, this album actually makes me nostalgic for the Cold War days. And given my professed love for dark humor, there was just never a doubt that Black Russians would be right on my wavelength. Some of these songs had me absolutely rolling. But the band gimmick would not be worth much if the songs weren't so freaking good! Black Russians really know how to write catchy three-chord pop songs, and I really dig the band's tough, hard-hitting execution of the pop-punk style. There's even a metal/hard rock influence integrated into a few of these tracks that takes me back to my own Cold War era adolescence.

It's remarkable that in this age of information leaks, the identities of Black Russians 1 through 4 have remained a well-guarded secret. And isn't it much better that way? I choose to believe that the '80s never ended and this band still lurks behind the Iron Curtain. Even if you completely took away the concept of Death By Communism, you'd still have a kick-ass pop-punk album! Jump on this one if you dig Lillingtons, Connie Dungs, Sloppy Seconds, et al.!


Monday, May 06, 2019

The Dick Dastardly's - ブラック魔王 - Burakku Demon King

If there's one thing I often find myself craving more of from today's punk rock, it's dirtiness. So when the email came in on Italy's The Dick Dastardly's and mentioned them being "one of the dirtiest bands around", I knew I needed to pay some attention! Out on Slack Records and S.F.A. Records (both from the east coast of Italy), ブラック魔王 - Burakku Demon King is the debut album from this Talacchio-based five-piece. These guys sound like they cut their teeth on the entire Crypt Records catalog - most specifically The Pagans and New Bomb Turks. Throw in a touch of Zero Boys/DOA proto-hardcore, and you've got yourself some filthy punk rock n' roll that you can really sink your teeth into! If you saw this album on a store shelf, you'd probably be like, "What the fuck is this?!". But a quick glance at song titles like "Hard Drugs" and "Peepshow" will give you a clearer idea of what The Dick Dastardly's are all about. They keep it fast and raw, tearing through ten scuzzy tracks in just 18 minutes. And if they seem to be stuck in the '90s ("Third rule is don't listen to ska!"), I would be very happy to be stuck there with them! This is the way I like my punk: ripping and chock full of attitude - yet still catchy enough to get the old toes tapping. Crypt Records forever!


Friday, May 03, 2019

Vista Blue - "I Keep Hitting On Girls (They Just Keep On Hitting Me)"

After going an inexcusable five months between Vista Blue reviews, I am back on the program with my second post in ten days. "I Keep Hitting On Girls (They Just Keep On Hitting Me)" is of special interest to me because it's part of the Something To Do Records digital singles series "Something To Do Music For Something To Do People". I am a big fan of this series - which month by month is bringing us the best in today's pop-punk. I feel like once you've made it into this series, you've truly made it in pop-punk! If you're old school Vista Blue fans, you may recognize the song title from The Robinsons days. You can quickly deduce that this is a song about bad pickup lines, and man is it ever funny! If you're unfamiliar with Vista Blue's already massive catalog, this song perfectly captures the charm and appeal of this Nashville trio. It's well worth downloading for a buck, and of course I recommend checking out all nine volumes in the series. Note that this is the first-ever Vista Blue release to feature a band photo! Isn't that alone worth a dollar?!


Thursday, May 02, 2019

The Peawees - Dead End City

I generally don't review reissues, but I have been known to make exceptions. I will definitely make one for The Peawees - one of the world's greatest rock and roll bands for a couple of decades running. Dead End City, the band's classic third album, was originally released in 2001 on Stardumb Records. Three years ago, Stardumb celebrated the album's 15th anniversary with a vinyl reissue that included three bonus tracks. Now Rum Bar Records has stepped up to issue Dead End City on CD for the first time in 16 years. This also happens to be the first time this album has EVER been released in the U.S.A.! I vaguely recall reviewing this LP upon its original release. But hearing it with fresh ears 18 years later, I don't think I initially appreciated what an absolute monster this album is!

Dead End City was The Peawees' step into greatness. Over the years, they've only gotten better: refining their musical chops and expanding their sound with the incorporation of garage, soul, and pop influences. But by 2001, Hervé Peroncini had fully blossomed into an exceptional songwriter. In playing '50s/'60s inspired rock and roll by the way of '70s punk, The Peawees were not doing anything inherently groundbreaking. But Hervé's ability to write amazing songs with memorable hooks allowed the band to truly stand out in a somewhat crowded punk rock n' roll scene. Dead End City sure sounds like an album made under the influence of bands like the Devil Dogs and Spaceshits. And with both of those bands long gone at that point, wasn't it time for someone to carry the torch? The Peawees were more than worthy heirs to the throne, and years later scorching tracks like "Road To Rock 'N' Roll" and "Ready To Go" thrill me as much ever. In the light of 2019, I'm probably most enamored with the likes "'Cause You Don't Know Me" and "In My Heart Tonight" - mid-tempo rockers that are great pop songs first and foremost.

Listening to Dead End City now, I'm struck by how nicely it fits the scope of this blog. That whole poppy rock n' roll meets '70s punk thing is pretty much my sweet spot. The Peawees, a band loved equally by garage punks and pop-punk kids, were forerunners to so many of the bands I champion today. The early Peawees would have been right at home on Malibu Lou's Melted Records. So it just seems right that they would eventually end up joining the Rum Bar family. If you put on this album without even knowing who the Peawees were, you'd be like, "Damn right, they ought to be label mates with The Connection and Nato Coles!". I won't even argue that this is the band's most essential release. But it was the start of a remarkable run that has continued for nearly two decades. You can start with last year's Moving Target and work your way back. You can start with Dead End City and work your way forward. But sooner or later, you're gonna want to get your hands on everything this band has ever done. If you're looking for the vinyl reissue of Dead End City, Stardumb still has it!


Wednesday, May 01, 2019

Corner Boys - Waiting For 2020

Sometimes all you can say is "Wow!". Corner Boys have been one of my favorite current bands since I came across their most excellent demo two years ago. Since then, they've already released two fantastic 7-inches and now a full-length album. The quality of those singles really set a high bar for the album. Anything less than an absolutely stunning debut LP would probably have been a letdown. So how did Corner Boys approach that challenge? They went out and made a record that's even better the singles! The album of the year conversation just got real!

Out on Drunken Sailor Records, Waiting For 2020 is absolutely the hook-laden, pogo-worthy collection of poppy punk hits I was hoping for. Again Corner Boys put a modern twist on the classic sounds of Good Vibrations Records, the seminal punk/powerpop of Pointed Sticks, and the snotty punk rock of The Simpletones. But beyond that, this is an album that seems tailor made for the tenor of our times. From the album title to the cover art to lyrics favoring horror and social commentary (which, at this point, are basically the same thing), this just feels like the record we need to be listening to in 2019. This album makes feeling bad feel oh so good! It kicks off with "Norman" - a toe-tapping ode to MIT's psychopath robot. "Spit At You" is either the angriest poppy song or poppiest angry song I've heard in ages. "Waiting For 2020" is the feelgood apocalyptic anthem we've all been waiting for. Inspired by the cult flick Dead and Buried, "Don't Come Back" will have you gleefully singing along as you contemplate unimaginable horrors. While Corner Boys may be the closest thing out there to a modern-day Undertones, they are not exactly writing songs about chocolate and girls!

With so many killer tunes in their existing body of work, Corner Boys couldn't have been blamed for wanting to re-record a few of them for Waiting For 2020. But besides "Joke of the Neighborhood" (which had to be included!), this debut album is made entirely of new material. And that material is strong! The likes of "Norman" and "(I'm Such A) Mess" would have made fine singles in their own right. You just won't find ten catchier songs anywhere. Waiting For 2020 is the best of punk rock and power pop mashed together perfectly and dished out with a contagious enthusiasm. Clearly this is a band with something meaningful to say. Yet they get their message across in an engaging and immensely fun way. If this is the latest punk rock soundtrack to the real-life dystopia of 2019, at least it's one that ought to have you humming memorable melodies and pogoing to your heart's content. LP releases Friday on Drunken Sailor. Order here!