Tuesday, December 31, 2019

F & L Best of 2019

It's New Year's Eve, so you know what that means: my annual best-of-the-year write-up! Amazingly, this is the ninth time I've done this with this particular blog. I never imagined F & L lasting eight years...or even five! Yet here we are. 2019 was another banner year for new music - to the point where I could not possibly limit myself to a top 20 albums list. So I've extended it to a top 25, and even then I had to make some very painful cuts. On that note, let's go ahead and dive in to my fave stuff of the year. Streaming links (if available) have been provided so you can listen for yourself!

Top 25 Albums of 2019

25. The Short Fuses - Dawn of the Deaf
Georgia, Justin, and Travis are back after a 16-year hiatus with a full-on epic rockout of an album. A modern-day protest record fueled by an affinity for horror. What could be more perfect?

24. The Cavemen - Night After Night
Branching out from their scuzzy and vicious core sound, The Cavemen pay homage to their '50s/'60s rock and roll influences on this surprisingly catchy garage/punk record.

23. PlasticHeads - Nowhere To Run
Snotty '77 punk smashing head-on into early '80s hardcore, featuring Jon Sharron (Brutal Knights/Career Suicide/Chokehold).

22. The Safes - Winning Combination
When The Safes promised that something different was coming, they weren't kidding! For this album, the Brothers O'Malley assembled a veritable orchestra of cousins, nieces, and nephews and crafted a whimsical gem of baroque pop.

21. Moral Panic- self titled
19 minutes of blistering garage punk by way of late '70s American Midwest. It was no accident that they covered the Pagans!  

20. Los Pepes - Positive Negative
On their fourth album, these Brits finally nail down the "Motörhead gone power pop" sound they've been aiming for all along.

19. Freak Genes - III
Andrew and Charlie go all-in on synth-pop on their delightfully weird third album. This band has made me fall back in love with new wave and post-punk music. 

18. Corner Boys - Waiting For 2020
Sadly, these guys are already broken up. They sure left us on a high note! Poppy, bratty punk that sounds straight out of 1979 with lyrics lamenting our doomed modern world.  

17. Extra Arms - Up From Here
Extra Arms' second album as a full band is surprisingly punk-influenced, but still in that classic '90s loud alt-rock vein. Having laid his soul bare writing a record about a trying year in his life, Ryan Allen has achieved his finest moment as an artist. 

16. Amyl and the Sniffers - self titled
The hype is massive. That doesn't mean it's not a great record. It's awesome to hear young folks stoked on Aussie hard rock and punk records made long before they were born create something new and exciting. "Gacked On Anger" is the next great generational anthem.

15. Indonesian Junk - Spiderbites
Yet another fine album of glam-punk power pop trash awesomeness from this criminally underrated Milwaukee outfit.    

14. Sweet Things - In Borrowed Shoes, On Borrowed Time
The kings of boozy rock and roll finally deliver an LP, and it's epic. Exile On Main St. meets the streets of New York!

13. Geoff Palmer - Pulling Out All The Stops
Solo debut from the Connection singer/guitarist takes a deep dive into his pop-punk roots. A pop-punk album you're sure to love even if you don't like pop-punk. 

12. TV Crime - Metal Town
The eagerly anticipated debut from Nottingham's finest did not disappoint. An album chock full of pub rock/power pop/'77 punk hits! 

11. Trampoline Team - self titled
This album is an absolute steamroller of trashy, snotty punk rock.  

10. More Kicks - self titled
London trio featuring James Sullivan (Suspect Parts) debuts with one of the best pure pop albums you'll ever hear. 

9. The Control Freaks - She's The Bomb
If I describe this record as the perfect combination of Supercharger, The Rip Offs, Infections, and Zodiac Killers, am I just stating the obvious?

8. Beach Patrol - Levity
Domenic and Preston made the long trek from Green Bay to the Philly suburbs to record this terrific little album with Pete Donnelly (who also filled in on bass). This just might be Beach Patrol's best album yet! Check this one out if you want to hear a great songwriter at the top of his game. 

7. Gino and the Goons - Do The Get Around/Off The Rails
I'm kind of cheating here by allowing two records to share one spot. Isn't that mathematically impossible? Nothing is impossible in the world of Gino and the Goons - one of the greatest rock and roll bands going.

6. Nato Coles and The Blue Diamond Band - Flyover
The long awaited second LP from America's most beloved heartland rock and roll bar band is a stunning collection of rockers, ballads, and anthems.

5. Midnite Snaxxx - Music Inside
The Snaxxx take a creative and delightfully adventurous turn on their brilliant third long player. Early LA punk, post-punk/new wave, and '90s DIY influences come together for a new and original sound. 
4. The Whiffs - Another Whiff
Instant power pop classic from the American heartland! 

3. Brad Marino - Extra Credit
Joey Ramone and Chuck Berry walk into a bar and run into the Rolling Stones.

2. Natalie Sweet - Oh, By The Way...
Backed by an all-star cast of players (Travis Ramin, Morten Henriksen, Devin Jorgenson), the former Shanghais lead singer delivers 13 tracks of fab-o punky power pop for fans of the Ramones, Blondie, and everything in between.

1. Pale Lips - After Dark
And finally we arrive at the big one...my album of the year! This selection is not likely to shock anyone. After Dark was sitting in the #1 slot at the start of the year, and for nearly 12 months it has warded off all challengers. You know Pale Lips are my favorite band, right? After Dark is the best thing they've released in their five year existence. This has been the one album of 2019 that I just can't stop listening to. It gives me a lift when I'm feeling blah and heightens my mood when I'm feeling good. These songs are catchy and fun to listen to, but they're also full of substance and smarts and tremendous humor. "I'm A Witch" should have been a smash hit on seven continents. Nearly a year after I first heard it, "That Old Ghost Don't Lie" still gives me chills. This album is recommended to all fans of great music as well as anyone with an interest in witches, ghosts, werewolves, aliens, and boys. Vinyl still available in case you've been snoozing all year!

Honorable Mentions
Baby Shakes - Cause a Scene
Mikey Erg - Waxbuilt Castles
Proto Idiot- Find Out For Themselves 
Johnathan Pushkar - Straighten Up 
The Yoohoos - Up Goes The Rocket

Top Five EPs of 2019

5. The SUCK - In-Cog-Neat-O
Is this an LP or an EP? I see 12 inches of vinyl, I think LP. I see 8 tracks in 14 minutes, I swing to EP. Maybe I'm just rigging the field to the benefit of a local band. Ah, the spoils of having your own blog! Don't call it Ramonescore - it's street rock! Finally you get that record you've been waiting for with songs about Mexican bogeymen, death machines, the ruthlessly competitive sport of flip cup, creepy dudes at vape stores, and the tangled web of love interests complicating the plot of the Twilight franchise. Spencer still believes he was dating Katy Perry...

4. The Smart Shoppers - self titled

From Green Bay, Wisconsin, The Smart Shoppers do a punked-up version of goofball new wave. New record coming in 2020!

3. The Cheap Cassettes -
See Her In Action
When Chaz and Kevin from the Dimestore Haloes first formed The Cheap Cassettes, this was generally considered to be their "power pop" band. But you could already hear some power pop in the last Haloes album, and you can often hear the glam-punk/rock and roll bleeding into the Cheap Cassettes. This is the Cheap Cassettes release that most reminds me of the Dimestore Haloes. 

2. Vista Blue - Hit The Floor!
For Vista Blue's first ever recording in a "real" studio, the band went all-in and recorded at the legendary Ardent Studios in Memphis. VB often hovers somewhere between pop-punk and power pop, but this release swings all the way to the latter. "Big Stars" is nothing short of magical.

1. Phone Jerks - 10 x 10
At ten songs, this might have qualified as an album. But it's a ten-inch, so let's just call it an EP. A little bit meaner/tougher sounding than last year's LP, but still a must-listen for any fan of late '90s/early 2000s Rip Off Records. The 100th release from Alien Snatch Records! 

Top Five Singles of 2019

5. Devious Ones - "She's Waiting For Me"
Devious Ones have been longtime favorites of mine, and I love how they can continually surprise me! "She's Waiting For Me" is like nothing they've done before: a heartfelt breakup song with a pub rock edge. On the flip, "The Straggle Is Real" is pop with a capital P!  

4. The Prostitutes - "Nineteen"
23 years after their debut single, Kevin McGovern still has the Prostitutes going strong. A perfect example of how punk music can "grow up" and still be full of power and intensity. 

3. The Sorels - "She's In The Gang"
The debut single from both The Sorels and Reta Records. "She's In The Gang" is an instant smash of '60s girl group pop by way of the Ramones and New York Dolls.

2. The Reflectors - "Teenage Hearts"
Ex members of LA power pop band Images debut with an absolute gem of a single. 

1. The Speedways - "Seen Better Days"
A classic power pop 45 from Matt Julian and his mates. A-side is a remixed version of the best track from the band's brilliant debut album Just Another Regular Summer.  B-side is an amazing take on the Kirsty MacColl classic "They Don't Know". New single coming next week!

Best 2018 Album Released on Vinyl in 2019
Jordan Jones - self titled
Originally released on tape last year by Burger Records, the debut solo album from Jordan Jones received a proper vinyl release from Beluga and Spaghetty Town Records in 2019. One of the best power pop records of the last several years! On that note....
Best Song of 2019
Jordan Jones - "Rumors Girls"
This would have been a #1 smash hit if they still played real pop songs on the radio.

Masters Class Album of the Year
Psychotic Youth - 21
I give this award every year to the best album by a band that's 25 years or more into existence. 21 finds one of the greatest garage rock/power pop bands sounding in peak form. After 34 years, Psychotic Youth still sounds like Psychotic Youth! 

Best New Album of Old Music
Candy Snatchers - Moronic Pleasures 

Rescued from the dustbin of history by super-fan Jake Starr, Moronic Pleasures was the Candy Snatchers' rejected follow-up to their classic debut album. Many of these songs eventually turned up on the Human Zoo LP, but Moronic Pleasures blows that record away. If you want to hear one of the greatest '77-style punk rock and roll bands of the '90s at its most filthy and ferocious, check this record out. Thanks to Hound Gawd! Records, this album finally exists on vinyl!  

Top Reissue of 2019
Protex - Strange Obsessions

The legendary Protex recorded a debut album back in 1979/80 that was slated for release on Polydor Records but ultimately shelved. Sing Sing Records finally gave the album a proper release in 2010, but it sold out almost instantly. Thanks to Bachelor Records, Strange Obsessions is back in print. Get it while you can!

Top Label of 2019
Alien Snatch Records
What is this, 2003?! Alien Snatch celebrated its 20th anniversary by regaining its crown as the king of garage/punk record labels. It released my #1 LP and EP of 2019 along with two more albums in my top 25 and the immensely underrated Hay Fever by Real Tears. If you ever feel like entering a wormhole of endless Internet pleasure, I highly recommend perusing the Alien Snatch Bandcamp page!

Top Radio Show of 2019
Wassup Rocker Radio
Alex Kish broadcasts this weekly show out of Toledo, Ohio and plays the best punk, garage, and power pop from all over the world. Check out the WRR Facebook page for all the info on where to listen. Archived shows available here!

Well that's another year of great music in the books! Happy New Year, everyone. See you in the next decade!  


Sunday, December 29, 2019

My Ten Favorite Bands of the 2010s

As a companion piece to my recent post on my ten favorite albums of the 2010s, I thought it would be fun to also list my ten favorite bands of the decade. Of course you can expect some overlap between the two lists. But rather than focusing on individual albums, I'm looking at total body of work for the decade. And on that note, let's get on with it. Bandcamp links have been provided so you can hear the music for yourself!

10. The Shanghais
This is the only band on this list that never released a full-length album (although Natalie Sweet's recent solo debut was created largely from songs intended for the first Shanghais LP). Natalie and friends released three EPs full of power pop/girl group/bubblegum punk goodness that remain very much worthy of your attention. The entire discography can be had for 12 bucks from Bandcamp, and that's a (no pun intended) sweet deal!

9. Vista Blue
Come on! How was a band I've reviewed 20 times not going to make this list? Vista Blue is my favorite pop-punk band, but they lean far enough in the power pop direction to interest people who don't always listen to pop-punk. Among the band's incredible 32 releases available on Bandcamp, the vast majority are free downloads. If you've written VB off as a baseball band or a horror band or a Christmas band, well...Can they really be all of those things?

8. Phone Jerks
I spent much of the first half of this decade bitching about all of these so-called "garage" punk bands that had nothing to do with garage or punk. I found myself longing for the days when "garage punk" meant Teengenerate and Supercharger. Finally Phone Jerks answered my prayers.  

7. The Dahlmanns
What a decade of music from The Dahlmanns! By my count, there have been 13 EPs and one album...and all of it gold. This band is what power pop music is all about, and you won't regret a cent you spend tracking down as much of the discography as you can! 

6. Night Birds
I listed Born To Die In Suburbia as my third favorite album of the decade, but honestly I could just as easily have gone with Mutiny at Muscle Beach. And I'm still somewhat perplexed that last year's brilliant EP Roll Credits went so under the radar. Night Birds brought early '80s West Coast hardcore and surf punk to the eastern shores and ultimately became the top punk group of the decade. It's stunning how prophetic "Left In the Middle" proved to be.

5. Nato Coles and the Blue Diamond Band
My thoughts on this band have been well-documented of late. Play loud!

4. The Cheap Cassettes  
I've raved about this band's debut album, but honestly that was just the beginning. The Cheap Cassettes have done their best work on their three EPs released in recent years. The best in power pop meets first wave punk and rootsy rock and roll from these ex Dimestore Haloes and friends. 

3. Midnite Snaxxx
Dulcinea Gonzalez, in my book, is her generation's most underrated punk rock songwriter/vocalist. The ex Loudmouth formed Midnite Snaxxx in the early part of the decade and navigated multiple lineups and a staggering musical progression over the course of three great albums. This band has touched on everything from garage to power pop to post-punk to old school California punk, and I've loved all of it!

2. Pale Lips
Definitely my favorite band of the latter part of the decade, with two great LPs and three terrific singles in the books since 2015. I remember first hearing about this band from Mick Fletcher. I swear the check's in the mail, mate! 

1. The Connection
True story: I was a little out of the loop when I started this blog. Looking for bands to review, I noticed that my friend Dave Getzoff had played The Connection on his radio show. So I reviewed The Connection for the first of 13 times. And this ultimately led me to Kurt Baker, The New Trocaderos, Kris Rodgers, and so much more of my favorite music of the decade. The Connection would come to influence the musical direction of this blog over the years - combining my beloved punk and power pop with the timeless sounds of late '50s/early '60s rock and roll.

So there you have it! Hopefully I can do this again in another ten years!


Friday, December 27, 2019

The Stiffies - Rub It In

For my final record review of the decade, I have the pleasure of writing about an album that really takes me back to my roots in punk music. I've often said that 1995 was my 1977, and I will forever be attached to the later '90s incarnation of '77 punk rock. Straight out of Tulsa, Oklahoma, The Stiffies play snotty '77 meets West Coast punk that would have been right at home on record labels like TKO, Pelado, and Radio Records circa the late '90s/early 2000s. Rub It In is the band's debut album, and it's out now on No Front Teeth Records. NFT is one of my go-to labels for '77 punk and one of my favorite labels, period. If it's on NFT, you know it rules! I love this sort of pure old school punk, and I'm a bit nostalgic for a time when I could review two or three bands like this every month. But nostalgia be damned - I like stuff like this because it's a timeless sound! I could throw a song like "My Baby Ain't Fun" or "I Don't Wanna Be Your Friend" on a mixed tape with everyone from The Stitches to The Trust Fund Babies to The Randumbs, and it would all fit together perfectly. I can definitely sense a kindred spirit relationship (and perhaps some overlapping membership?) with another Tulsa band The Wheelz. The Stiffies' sound has a little bit more of a punk rock and roll edge to it, but there's that some snotty attitude and penchant for catchy, sing-along tunes. Rub It In was made to be played at obnoxiously loud volumes while you guzzle beer with one hand and flip somebody off with the other. If you like old school punk by way of '90s California, this album will make you damn glad that bands like this still exist. As always, you'll want to hit up No Front Teeth Records for info on the alternate versions of the LP - which will be long gone if you snooze too long!



Wednesday, December 25, 2019

Jagger Holly/The Windowsill - Saving The Genre, And You Know It​.​.​.

While the title of Jagger Holly's new split 10" with The Windowsill is obviously a joke, there's definitely a kernel of truth in there. Simply put, these are two of the best pop-punk bands out there right now. I'll go as far as to say that Jagger Holly is the best pop-punk band of the last ten years. And Rotterdam's star-studded The Windowsill ain't far behind! Saving The Genre, And You Know It​.​.​. is a split release between Shield Recordings and Hey Pizza! Records. Hey Pizza! is the new Wisconsin-based label that released The New Rochelles' excellent cover version of the Ramones' Animal Boy I reviewed last month. I think the reason I love these two bands is that they are all-in on the pop side of pop-punk. They really honor the genre's rock and roll roots. Jagger Holly's four cuts here are all first-rate tunes bursting with catchy melodies, amazing guitar hooks, and lyrics that speak to the lovelorn teen in all of us. Jay is simply the most likeable vocalist in pop-punk, and boy can he ever write a damn fine pop song! On its half of the split, The Windowsill continues to favor Beach Boys influenced buzz-saw pop a la Travoltas or The Queers circa Don't Back Down. These songs display exquisite attention to melody and all of the hallmarks of classic pop going back to the '60s. While 98% of the people who've read this far are surely familiar with both of these bands, I highly recommend that the other 2% check out The Windowsill's latest album MYOKoM and Jagger Holly's modern classic The Last of the International Playboys. Vinyl for this split can be ordered from Hey Pizza! in the states and Shield Recordings in Europe. Pop-punk probably doesn't need to be saved. But if had to be, these two bands would sure be the ones to do it!



Tuesday, December 24, 2019

My Ten Favorite Albums of the 2010s

This is the time of the year when I'm always busy finalizing my year-end top tens. But before I unveil my selections for 2019, I thought it would be fun to reflect back upon this entire decade. I'm not saying these are the "greatest" or "best" albums of the 2010s. They're just my personal favorites. These are the albums I keep going back to again and again - the ones I'll probably still be listening to in another ten years. Many of these were albums I highly acclaimed as soon as they came out. Others have grown on me. Let's get to it!

10. Sugar Stems - Can't Wait (2012)
Wisconsin's Sugar Stems were one of the top American power pop bands of the early 2010s. This, their second album, was originally released on Screaming Apple Records before getting an American release on Dirtnap Records. I enjoy all of this band's albums, but Can't Wait is where Betsy captured her greatest magic as a songwriter.

9. Pale Lips - After Dark (2019)
If I measured these releases purely based on how many times I've played them, this one would be at a disadvantage since it just came out this year. But I've got a feeling it will rise up these charts over the years. If After Dark is one of my top ten favorite albums of the decade, it has to be my #1 album of 2019, right? I would never reveal such things before New Year's Eve!

8. Something Fierce - Don't Be So Cruel (2011)
This was my first-ever album of the year for this blog. It still holds up. Kind of like what later Clash could have been.

7. Kurt Baker - Brand New Beat (2012)
I love all of Kurt's stuff. But something special happens when he and Wyatt Funderburk get together and write pop songs.

6. Midnite Snaxxx - Chew On This (2017)
Perhaps the finest modern-day example of how to do '77-inspired garage punk with power pop hooks. 

5. The Cheap Cassettes - All Anxious, All The Time (2014)
Chaz and Kevin originally released the bulk of these songs one at a time on their Bandcamp, so it was like we all got to experience the making of an album together. Great rootsy, punky power pop from these ex Dimestore Haloes.

4. The Dahlmanns - All Dahled Up (2011)
Ramones-inspired punk meets power pop carried off to perfection. To this day, this remains the only Dahlmanns full-length album. True story: I was listening to a Dahlmanns song on Little Steven's Underground Garage one day in 2011 and it dawned on me that I needed to start writing about music again. The rest is history.

3. Night Birds - Born To Die In Suburbia (2013)
THE punk rock band of the decade. All of their albums are great, but this is the one I'm most likely to put on when I'm in a Night Birds state of mind.

2. The Cry! - self titled (2011)
A classic power pop album by way of '50s/'60s pop and rock and roll. Hard to believe all of these guys were under 21 when this record was made. A huge influence on the subsequent powerpop/punk of this decade.

1. Nato Coles- Promises To Deliver (2013)
I've been a longtime Nato fan, but I think it was the Rum Bar Records reissue of Promises To Deliver that caused me to realize I loved this album even more than I realized. I first popped the CD into my car player four years ago, and I've never really stopped playing it. The best of Midwestern punk and heartland rock combined into one band. If I were a ball player, the title track would be my walk-up music.

Honorable Mentions:
Stiletto Boys - Liberator (2013)
First Base- Not That Bad (2017)
The Number Ones- self titled (2014)
Shanda and the Howlers - Trouble (2017)
Missing Monuments - Painted White (2011)

Bonus: Favorite Song of the 2010s

Doing a list like this, I can really see my true power pop colors coming out. But the above is definitely a nice overview of the sort of stuff I've enjoyed over the past decade. Man, there sure were some amazing albums that came out in the past ten years! If we bring singles collections into the conversation, I'd say it would be a fierce battle between Sheer Mag self-titled and Fashionism's Smash Singles for the top of that category. I think what I've loved best about this decade of music is the same thing I've loved the least: there's so much good stuff out there that it's literally impossible to hear all of it. To sum up the 2010s, I'd say this was the decade where I stopped complaining about mainstream music being such crap. I mean, come on. It's almost 2020. Who cares what they're playing on the radio?! If you like good music, this is a damn fine time to be alive.


Sunday, December 22, 2019

Frankie Delmane - Street Penetration

Well I believe we've just seen the ultimate in songwriting quality control! I've written a great deal about Frankie Delmane over the years with many rave reviews for his bands the Teenage Frames and The Crazy Squeeze. You may also recall that he tackled an ambitious solo endeavor throughout 2015: releasing a solo track/music video for every day of that year. Well he ended up using those songs as the basis for his new album Street Penetration. 365 songs were paired down to the 18 tracks that appear on the album. Can you imagine having material prepared for an album and literally less than 5% of it makes the cut? Well, you sure would know that you were putting your best songs forward! I was blown away already that Frankie had the creative powers to write 365 songs in a year's time. But I can barely imagine how exhausting and labor intensive it must have been for all parties involved to go through all of those tracks and compile this album. Yet here we are. Frankie has delivered us a nifty holiday gift!

Some of you might think of Frankie Delmane as primarily a power pop/punk rock guy. But his interests in music cross every derivative of rock and roll and beyond. He's one of my generation's most insightful analysts of music and popular culture (his recent social media crusade in defense of The Irishman ought to be a book in its own right). I must admit I've been intrigued for a long time to find out what he could do with an album of his own. His 365 songs in 365 days project found him working in a variety of musical styles and further defining his unique voice as an artist. It all comes together here with an album that allows Frankie to channel his inner David Bowie/Lou Reed/Ian Hunter. This album has a little bit of everything: proto-punk, synth-pop, hard rock, garage rock, minimalist pop, and quite a few exceptional ballads. But overall Street Penetration has the raw, sleazy feel of a classic glam rock record. "This Sick Beat" is like Marc Bolan riding the Sunset Strip. "Time Is Gonna Strangle You" summons the Velvets via the Stones. The sexy "Street Penetration" is the centerpiece of the album, literally and figuratively. And in keeping with the spirit of the aforementioned greats, it's the ballads ("Here With You Tonight") and rawest emotional cuts ("When the Silence Breaks The Sound") that surely shine the brightest.

Having admired Frankie Delmane as a musician and writer for many years, I'm tickled pink that he's finally made his great solo album. If you only know him from the Teenage Frames and The Crazy Squeeze, you may be pleasantly surprised to hear him fulfill a musical vision completely independent of those bands. Others will not be surprised at all - just happy that these songs have finally hit the street (no pun intended). This is likely an album that will come to define Frankie Delmane as an artist. It's his master work, and a wonderful display of the talent and personality that make him the most interesting man in West Hollywood. And I love the lo-fi/DIY nature of these recordings. When you can write songs this good, you don't need to hide behind fancy production. Street Penetration is a brilliant solo effort that I hope will be followed by many more albums from the superlegend Frankie Delmane!



Friday, December 20, 2019

Tom Baker - Dirty Snakes

Whether he's fronting the Dirty Truckers or playing with his band The Snakes, Tom Baker writes songs that ought to be staples of barroom jukeboxes everywhere. Informed by everything from the Stones to The Replacements to alt-country to heartland rock, Baker's brand of everyman rock and roll is always from the heart and full of hooks. For his new solo EP Dirty Snakes, Baker has enlisted the services of both of his bands. The Snakes (John Blout, John Brookhouse, Charles Hansen, and John Sheeran) play on two of these tracks. The Truckers (John Lynch, John Brookhouse, Jamie Griffith) play on the other four. Combined, that's a veritable all-star team of Boston rock and roll! Dirty Snakes is slated for imminent release on compact disc by Rum Bar Records. It's a vintage Baker assortment of boozy rockers ("Cancel It"), tender ballads ("Pushin' You Away"), country rock jams ("On Your Device"), and Westerberg/Stinson flavored ragged pop gems ("Out of Focus"). When Malibu Lou asked for my take on "Weird Romance" a while back, I said "Kind of like newer Bon Jovi, except actually good!" Baker is just a damn fine songwriter with a knack for turning out solid middle of the road rock tunes. And it's very telling that even when he does a "solo" record, he makes sure that the tremendous players backing him get their due credit. Coming in lean at six tracks, Dirty Snakes is packed with first rate material from one of the most underrated talents in all of rock and roll. It goes great with cold, cheap beer  - which no self-respecting rum bar will be adverse to stocking.



Isolation - self titled

Well you know I like my post-punk to lean a little a more towards the punk. And if that's the case, Falmouth's Isolation is definitely my cup of tea. This band is actually 3/4 of Internal Credit (Rob, Jo, Charlie, to be exact), and there are certainly similarities between the two groups. You can still hear that high energy raw punk sound in Isolation, but with darker post-punk influences mixed in. This sounds like the kind of band that would have existed right at the dawn of post-punk: when the lines between punk and "post" punk were blurred. I'm reminded quite a bit of Warsaw, and I'm figuring that the group taking a Joy Division reference for a band name is a clear nod to that. Driven by Jo's propulsive drumming, these songs have the power and vigor to satisfy any modern-day garage punk fan. Yet their bleak undercurrents are palpable and (sadly) suited to our present state of affairs. A truly great debut - and you can download it for free!



Thursday, December 19, 2019

Real Tears - Hay Fever

What a 2019 it's been for Alien Snatch Records! The legendary label, celebrating its 20th anniversary, has been responsible for a whole bunch of my favorite releases of the year (Pale Lips, Phone Jerks, TV Crime..I could go on and on). One I have not yet mentioned is the terrific second album from Sweden's Real Tears. I was a big fan of the band's first album, which I reviewed back in 2016. The follow-up Hay Fever is every bit as good. On this 13-song long player, Real Tears sound like they're intent on making the best Dickies album in decades. These guys play super fast punk rock with pop hooks, as songs alternate between mega-hyper ("These Unwashable Hands of Mine", "Dumsterdivin'") and just plain hyper ("Crooner Steel", "Little Things"). Only one track exceeds two minutes, so there's no waiting around for any of these songs to get to the good part. As a big fan of poppy punk rock, I've gotta say this album hits me in all the right spots. The tunes are catchy, the playing is tight, and the energy level is infectious. Real Tears basically formed out of the ashes of Impo and the Tents, and you can certainly hear the similarities between the two bands. Real Tears are probably a little punkier, but still with hooks out the wazoo. If you're burned out on Ramonescore, maybe it's time to give Dickies-core a try!



Tuesday, December 17, 2019

The Livermores - self titled

(Guest review by Johnny Problem)

Leather jackets & spilled beer, Mosrites & ripped Levi's. You can hear it in your head already, can't ya? Buzzsaw guitars and a 4/4 beat, stripped of any unnecessary bullshit. The Livermores get it. They understand rock n' roll. Be Buddy Holly on speed. Originality is overrated. Punk rock's blueprint was perfected decades ago, and today's bands (well the good ones anyway) are just putting their stamp on the sound. Keeping the legacy of the four cretins from Forrest Hills alive. This is their first 12 inch slab. 13 songs, 21 minutes, get in and get out before the buzz wears off or the cops show up. Like that fella said "don't bore us/get to the chorus". From track to track their mission is clear: steal back the airwaves for rock n roll radio. "The Sixth Rule", don't know it? You'll learn. Get hip to "Copacabana". No, not that one, Barry Manilow is a wimp. "Easter Island H.E.A.D." in search of Ree Ree, Touch & Tulu. "I Love Her (She Don’t Care)" they never do. "48 s." is 43 seconds long, perfect. "Bay California" second verse different from the first. "GK Commando" guitars as assault weapons. You dig what I'm sayin? It's an A+ report card signed by Principal Togar. Absolutely bulletproof. 1234.


Monday, December 16, 2019

Gino and the Goons - Off The Rails

And now the other shoe has dropped! It was just a month ago when I promised that the fourth album from Gino and the Goons would quickly be followed by a fifth. And here it is on Big Neck Records - an absolutely legendary label for real deal punk rock and roll! The Gino/Big Neck alliance was truly a match made in heaven, and Off The Rails does not disappoint. I already made my case for why anyone who loves rock and roll needs Gino and the Goons in their life. I'm going to direct this particular review to those who are already fans. My message is simple: you need this goddamn record! Off The Rails is similar in spirit to the recently released Do The Get Around. This is the Goons at their loudest and loosest - the group powering through ten smoking tracks of wild '50s rock and roll meets blistering Stooges sleaze meets sloppy '70s punk meets '90s garage punk trash extraordinaire. But the band's secret weapon for this release was the one-and-only Jim Diamond, who was enlisted to mix and master these songs. I didn't think it was possible to make Gino and the Goons sound any wilder and crazier, but this production has done just that! The album title says it all. Gino and the boys absolutely tear it up, and from the first note it's sonic wildfire. This is the perfect combination of music that makes you wanna dance and music that makes you wanna raise hell. And isn't that just about everything that rock and roll should ever aspire to be?! Capturing the essence of live rock and roll on record is easier said than done, but I swear that if you close your eyes you'll actually think you're at a show. You can practically smell the sweat and cheap beer. "On My Way" and "She Can Take It" have already been previewed online, and honestly the whole album is of the same caliber. "Got No Friends" is THE rock and roll anthem of 2019 - a song that's sure to have people everywhere gleefully shouting along to the line "I'm annnnnnnnti-social!". If you already finalized your top ten albums of the year list without accounting for the imminent arrival of Off The Rails, you might as well tear the whole thing up. Gino Gambino for president!



Friday, December 13, 2019

Boris The Sprinkler - Vespa To Venus

It is my fervent hope that some individuals are reading this now and wondering, "Who in the hell is Boris the Sprinkler?!", which would be quickly followed by them pushing play and asking "What the fuck is this?!" Otherwise it would be totally unnecessary to say anything about the band's reunion album Vespa To Venus beyond that it sounds exactly like a Boris the Sprinkler record and that you will be either delighted or horrified by such information. But if you were living in a cave or perhaps not yet born in the 1990s, this may be your first exposure to the Midwestern punk rock institution that is Boris the Sprinkler. On that note, I would ask you to envision some unholy progeny of The Dickies, Generation X, and Rezillos if they'd been dropped on their heads repeatedly as infants and educated solely through comic books and bad sci-fi movies.

It has been 19 years since Boris the Sprinkler released its last album Gay, and the unexpected arrival of new material has caused me to reflect on how well the entire back catalog holds up at the doorstep of the '20s. If you took away Norb's shtick, puns, jokes, really stupid song titles, corny banter, and obsessions with punctuation, what's left of Boris the Sprinkler? Well that's a trick question. If you took away Norb's shtick, puns, jokes, really stupid song titles, corny banter, and obsessions with punctuation, it wouldn't be Boris the Sprinkler! But you'd still have high quality '77-style pop-punk that doesn't sound quite like any other band in existence. As soon as I heard the thumping three-chord sing-along crunch of "I Tell Ya! Tonight! Tonight!", I knew that Boris was back all the way. There are zero concessions made here to the past two (or better yet, four) decades of musical progress. Vespa To Venus arrives courtesy of Beer City Records, and it features what is considered to be the band's "classic" lineup (Norb, Paul #1, Ric Six, Paul #2). With songs ranging from the vintage '77 punk pop of "Gamma Ray Girl" to the goofball instrumental dance number "Bippy" to the glam-flavored "Rock & Roll Tangerine" to the erudite "My Cock's On Drugs", this album compares favorably with whatever Boris record is your favorite (Saucer To Saturn or Mega Anal, most likely). It's tremendous fun. As always, the band attains a highly unique mix of dorky, poppy, silly, and just plain weird. You would probably need some sort of book to understand all the references. If you're not amused, well then you were probably never amused in the first place. 

How long has it been since Boris the Sprinkler released new music? 2003? Aaron Rodgers was a first year starter at Cal, and YouTube hadn't even been thought of yet. We were all still listening to CDs. Those were the wilderness days, I'll tell you! Perhaps it's just a case of absence making the heart grow fonder. But I'm really enjoying hearing Boris the Sprinkler again, and I still concur with the past acclaim I've thrown in the direction of this band. Maybe there's nothing here quite as valuable to humankind as "Drugs and Masturbation" or "(Do You Wanna) Grilled Cheese", but I'd say Vespa to Venus easily slots as no worse than the fourth best Boris album. A decidedly above-average comeback!


Vespa To Venus on YouTube 

Thursday, December 12, 2019

Andrew Anderson - Clean Yerself

It's always a tremendous pleasure to encounter new music from the creative mind of Andrew Anderson. Clean Yerself is the third album I've reviewed this year that has prominently featured his songwriting talents. It's clear that Andrew is a prolific artist. But it's the quality of his output, not the quantity, that I most admire. Clean Yerself, his new solo effort, is essentially an album that came to be by accident. Andrew had written and recorded a bunch of songs that didn't quite fit his other bands Proto Idiot and Freak Genes. He put those songs on a playlist, gave it a listen, and quickly realized he had himself a solo album. So here we are! If you like Proto Idiot and Freak Genes, you will like this album. If you like eccentric but well-crafted pop songs, you will like this album. If you like synth-pop by way of indie rock, you will like this album.

On this release, you can hear many of Andrew's signature influences come together: the quirky pop of Soft Boys, the punk goes to art school stylings of early Wire, the quintessentially British songwriting of Ray Davies, and the early '80s synth-pop that so clearly informed the most recent Freak Genes album. Clean Yerself is a wonderful little record. It exudes a spirit of experimentalism and playful creativity, yet it also embraces the minimalism of punk rock (average song length is one minute, 49 seconds). This is definitely not an album lacking in catchy pop tunes. The upbeat "It's Not For Me" could not be any more of an earworm. "You Know Me Too Well" sounds like a song Vince Clarke might have written for The Cure 35 years ago. Elsewhere, Andrew plays around with all sorts of intriguing ideas. "Baroque", appropriately enough, sounds like baroque pop on acid. The 20-second burst "You're Too Close" is like hardcore punk with synthesizers. "Uncertain Jazz" is a whimsical and wonderfully weird instrumental. "Cannot Repeat" sounds like a song Andrew might have sneaked into a church in the middle of the night to perform - and yet for all of its quirks, it's beautifully-written and genuinely profound.

Clean Yerself is available as a free download from Rigmarole Records, but don't go dismissing this material as mere odds & ends. These are brilliant songs that fit together remarkably well considering the entirely unplanned nature of this project. It's got to be hard to objective about your own art, but Andrew had the right instincts to hear these songs and know they needed to be an album. I highly recommend taking advantage of the opportunity to own this delightful creation for free. In a world that's more divided than ever, getting clean is certainly a cause we can all stand behind.



Wednesday, December 11, 2019

The Exbats - "I'm A Witch"

For the past four years, Madrid's Jarama 45RPM Recs. has made a name for itself as one of the most dependable labels on the planet. Bernardo only releases 7" records, and he sure knows how to pick the hits! His latest release features Arizona trio The Exbats, who have been standouts on the Burger Records roster since 2016. If you live outside the U.S.A., Exbats releases might be hard to come by. That changes with the arrival of "I'm A Witch" - the band's first European release. For this project, Jarama 45RPM selected a couple of essential tracks from The Exbats' 2018 cassette I Got The Hots For Charlie Watts along with a brand new song called "Doorman". If you're already a fan, "Doorman" alone makes this a worthy purchase. If this is your first exposure to The Exbats, these songs will have you wanting to hear everything the band has ever released! This is a band that perfectly fits the general vibe of Jarama 45RPM - playing fun three-chord punk rock inspired by the songwriting structures of '60s pop and bubblegum. Drummer/vocalist Inez McLain has the attitude, charisma, and genuine personality that puts her in the top class of punk singers. She's been honing The Exbats sound for several years with her dad, guitarist Ken McLain. A-side cut "I'm A Witch" leans to the jangling and (appropriately) spooky side of '60s garage rock, with bad-ass lyrics about hexing some dude who surely deserved it. "2027" is both a righteous party punk anthem and an insightful political statement. "Doorman" is one minute and twelve seconds of pissed-off punk goodness: an exuberant sing-along that surely gets a rousing response at live shows (although maybe not from the doorman!). This release is limited to 300 copies from Jarama 45RPM, and it's available from the label's Bandcamp. Look for a new Exbats album next year!



Monday, December 09, 2019

The Cavemen - Night After Night

Ah, the mighty Cavemen are back! Except this time, they're not just swinging clubs and cracking skulls. On their fourth album Night After Night (out now on Slovenly Recordings), New Zealand's most notorious neanderthals have demonstrated that they can do just about anything. Of course it wouldn't truly be a Cavemen record if it were completely lacking in scuzzy and pugnacious rock and roll. On that note, raging cuts like "Snakeskin", "Can't Resist", and "Knife Fight" will more than satisfy your appetite for mayhem. And "Slave" is a thumping Stoogey freakout of the highest caliber. But elsewhere, the group dives deeper into its '50s/'60s influences and shows itself to be a damn fine rock and roll band, period. "Don't Know Why" is pure pop through and through - proof that The Cavemen are fighters and lovers! "Boyfriend" leans into doo-wop and early rock and roll, bringing to mind a delinquent Dion and the Belmonts. Listening to the title track, I briefly considered that someone had managed to sneak a Los Pepes song onto a Cavemen record. Man, this is how you do power pop with balls! "Are You Lonely" channels the young, savage Rolling Stones, while "Belgian Holiday" shares bubblegum and primitive punk touchstones with raw, first album Ramones. "Guess I Know It's True" has me thinking The Cavemen are grand-babies of The Troggs, which sure seems fitting enough. 

All in all, Night After Night has a little bit of everything: some punk, some garage, some pop, some blues, even a little wild west for you. It was a perfect way for The Cavemen to show some range and progression and still sound like, you know, The Cavemen! You can still find plenty of cuts here suitable for frightening the neighbors at earsplitting volumes. But Night After Night also puts this band's very underrated songwriting chops on full display. This is garage punk meets garage rock, and as such it is perfectly at home on the Slovenly roster. I'm telling you "Don't Know Why" is a pop smash. We just might be looking at the #1 teenage heartthrobs of 2020!