Tuesday, March 31, 2020

Mäsh - "I Don't Want You"

You know I love my '77-style punk rock, and I know I can always count on Wanda Records to deliver it! Next up on the Wanda hit parade is Mäsh, a five-piece outfit from Berlin. New single "I Don't Want You" offers up a pair of smokin' tunes that marry Detroit rock/proto-punk to glammy '77 punk by way of '50s rock and roll. The title track pairs some red-hot lead guitar with a beat that'll instantly have you shaking your ass. It kinda has a Teenage Head feel, which is a-ok by me. On the flip, "Wisper" is similar but a little more bubblegum/glam influenced. I dig! Both of these songs hit that sweet spot where old style punk and early rock and roll intersect. "Songs with dynamite balls, straight outta the junkshop bin," says the label description. How can you not be enticed?! Highly recommended if you like New York Dolls, The Joneses, Humpers, etc.!



Monday, March 30, 2020

Parasites/Lone Wolf - Passport Split Series Vol​.​ 4

For a while now, Mom's Basement Records has been doing a series of splits featuring bands from all over the world. With Mom's Basement being one of the world's preeminent pop-punk labels, it's no surprise that previous volumes of the Passport series have featured heavyweights of the genre like The Windowsill, Neon Bone, Grim Deeds, and The Putz. Well for this fourth volume, John has really upped the ante and delivered new recordings from the legendary Parasites! Some of you oldtimers may recall that I was an obsessed Parasites fan circa the later '90s, and I would still put this band in any holy trinity of pop-punk I ever concocted. Here Parasites share space with Dutch punk rock supergroup Lone Wolf, and I must instantly declare this as the most essential installment yet in the Passport Split series!

So how do new songs from Parasites sound? Very much like old songs from Parasites! My god, "No Sleep Tonight" sounds like a missing track from Punch Lines! It's everything a pop-punk tune ought to be: full of catchy melodies, heartfelt vocals and lyrics, and guitars that pack a serious punch. Nobody writes 'em quite like Dave! "Nowhere Near Me" is faster-paced and punkier - yet still full of those vintage Dave Parasite airings of grievances that you'll surely relate to if you've ever had bitter feelings towards an ex. One thing that always drew me to Parasites was how Dave could write about completely miserable experiences yet still find twisted humor in them. Here he is still doing that in 2020. Listen to a master at work!

You'd get your money's worth on this split just from the Parasites tracks alone. But the Lone Wolf  side of this release turns out to be just as good if not better! Featuring members of The Apers, The Bat Bites, Accelerators, Giant Eagles, and The Windowsill, Lone Wolf belie their three-chord pop-punk pedigree with a sound that's a great mix of indie rock, power pop, and punk. The band just released a really great LP on Stardumb Records that I should have known about (I mean that literally - I just found the email from Stefan dated last August 13th!). Here Lone Wolf turns out two more fantastic tracks. "Meet Me In The Middle" is great upbeat pop-leaning punk with keyboards. Even though the lyrics are intensely emotional, this song possesses the kind of triumphant energy that can immediately turn your day around. And with what the world is going through now, a lot of us may need our days turned around on an hourly basis. "After Dark" is another emotion-packed number that really plays up the outstanding chemistry Merel and Ox have as co-vocalists. What a fine tandem! While still fitting perfectly within the Mom's Basement universe, Lone Wolf are a band you might dig even if you don't like pop-punk. I'm hearing traces of everything from the Marked Men to Dirt Bike Annie to melodic post-hardcore to '90s indie/alternative. 

Sometimes split records are where bands' shitty material goes to die. So I must commend John from Mom's Basement for securing top-notch tracks from two great bands. Here we've got perhaps the best Parasites songs I've heard in more than 20 years along a pair of top-tier tracks from one of the finest new punk groups out there. Of course I was pumped to hear new music from Parasites, and I was not disappointed. But I've come out of this split with a new band to love in Lone Wolf. Which band wins the split? I'll happily call it a tie!



Sunday, March 29, 2020

The Merinuks - EP 1

As you may have already gathered from the cover art, The Merinuks named themselves after the legendary artist Darren Merinuk - who has been cool enough to design the band's logo and artwork! This trio from Hamilton, Ontario has been at it since 2018 and just released a debut EP that is an absolute hoot. When you say "garage punk", that usually just implies trashy, low-budget punk rock. But in the case of The Merinuks, it's more like garage rock with a punk attitude. Palpable influences range from The Who to The Stooges to the Stones to Teenage Head. These guys play loud, thumping rock and roll that very much aligns with the artistic spirit of their namesake. About 30 seconds into "Real Cool Love", I was like, "This reminds me of The Dictators!". Of course I was hooked from there. "I Still Love Detroit Rock City" is a song about how awesome it was to be a KISS fan growing up in the '70s - which I can certainly relate to as a '70s kid myself. "Hurry Hard" kind of brings to mind a less obnoxious Angry Samoans. Whether you call it garage or proto-punk or just plain kick-ass rock and roll, "Driver" is an absolute smasher. All in all, this EP is the most fun that $4 could possibly buy you. It's got all the classic stylings of garage rock with the lyrical and musical edge of punk rock. And I love how these fellas inject their humor and personality into their songs. I bet they are a blast to see live. EP 2 already in the works!



Saturday, March 28, 2020

The Dents - "Last One Standing" (Remix)

Man, you're all gonna get really tired of me talking about these new releases from Rum Bar Records (yeah, I know: some of you are well past that point already!). But in all seriousness, this recent slate of Rum Bar releases (many of them free downloads) has been pretty phenomenal. And I haven't even gotten to the new Watts and Muck and the Mires yet! I've been mentioning how Malibu Lou has been using his super powers to feature many of the shining stars of the Boston punk/garage scene. On that note, it seems so perfect that it's Rum Bar that will be bringing us new music from The Dents for the first time in 13 years! The Dents are legends in the modern lore of Boston punk. Their 2005 album Time For Biting is a must-hear for fans of kick-ass catchy punk with a '60s girl group influence. It was released on Abbey Lounge Records - which was of course co-owned by none other than Malibu Lou! So The Dents and Lou have gone full circle, and you can expect a full EP coming this summer on Rum Bar! Jennifer D’Angora has released some outstanding music with her backing band The Deelinquents over the years. But something special happens when she and Michelle Paulhus join voices and play punk rock. Available now as a free digital single, "Last One Standing" is a remix of one of the band's classic tracks, originally recorded in 2006 by Ed Valauskas. It's a high-energy shot of hooky punk that'll just about rock your face off. While longtime fans are very familiar with this song already, I'm hoping that this single will grab the attention of younger folk and people outside of Boston. Man, The Dents shoulda been huge. Maybe they still will be!



Friday, March 27, 2020

Vista Blue - Rock Acrostics

You had to know that social distancing + America's most prolific band was going to equal a new Vista Blue release! For Mike and Mark, "stay at home" basically means "make a new record". But here's the thing that gets me: I'm now on my 23rd Vista Blue review (really!), and I'm still blown away by the way this band maintains such a high standard of quality even with such a crazy volume of output. At the rate this band works, you could forgive them for occasionally disappointing a la Kyle Schwarber's 2017 season. But every single time, these guys manage to deliver! Leading off Rock Acrostics, we have "This One's Not About You". This is vintage VB all the way: a delightfully catchy tune full of fuzzy guitars, golden oldies harmonies, and clever/funny lyrics that will put an instant smile on your face. The joke here is that after writing dozens of songs about the same girl, our protagonist endeavors to finally write a song that's not about her - which of course, is totally about her! It was less than 10 days ago that I hailed a Mike Patton lyric as my favorite of this year, but he's already topped himself with the line "I wrote a song called 'Pulchritudinous' to describe how you look". Oh my god, I'm dying! "I Think Cathy Is Crazy (About You)" pulls back on the guitar distortion and brings to mind the earnest, charming pop of MTX or solo Dr. Frank with a touch of Travoltas harmonies. Lyrically, this is a timeless tale of a boy who likes a girl who likes someone else. This very theme could sustain the pop-punk genre forever, and here Vista Blue demonstrates how it ought to be done. To finish, "I Wanna Be A Huntington" is a song Mike first wrote for his band The Robinsons way back in 2002. It's basically a follow-up to the Huntingtons' classic track "I Wanna Be A Ramone". For a variety of reasons, The Robinsons never got around to recording it. The fact that Mike was inspired to dust off this song 18 years later is a tremendous testament to the staying power of the Huntingtons' music and a reminder that there are always cool new bands worthy of our adoration. Who will write the song "I Wanna Be In Vista Blue"?

Rock Acrostics, like much of the Vista Blue catalog, is a free download over at Bandcamp. It's an amazing thing that in our high-tech modern world, a band can record an EP and have it officially released two days later. I suppose that might be a bad thing if a band were putting out crap. But Vista Blue never disappoints, and Rock Acrostics is one of its strongest titles and definitely its most straight-forward pop-punk release since ...And You Have a Pizza. If you've noticed me geeking out over pop-punk on Facebook lately, I'd say new music from The Putz and Vista Blue has had a lot to do with that!



Thursday, March 26, 2020

Aborted Tortoise - Scale Model Subsistence Vendor

What's this? Another killer punk group coming out of Australia? You're goddamn right! Perth's Aborted Tortoise has released its third EP Scale Model Subsistence Vendor on the legendary label Goodbye Boozy Records. And lemme tell you: this thing is ripping! Aborted Tortoise tears through four smashing tracks that meld modern-day garage punk in with elements of surf, early '80s hardcore, oddball post-punk, and typically pummeling Aussie punk rock. Connor Lane sounds absolutely on out of his mind on lead vocals, and behind him is a band that plays with tremendous force and reckless intent. These songs are loud and raw just the way you like it, but they've got a noisy/spastic thing going as well that will really grab your attention. You know how sometimes you'll put on a punk record and be like, "Yeah, it's alright, but nothing I haven't heard before"? That's not happening with this one! This band is as formidable as any Aussie punk group of recent memory. And this is its best record by far. To quote the illustrious Mick Fletcher, "Expect to be blown away".



Wednesday, March 25, 2020

The Putz - Shut Up!

In my book, The Putz is one of the best pop-punk bands out there. It's been a while since The Indiana trio's last release, the phenomenal Mad Monster Party EP. Billy, Patrick, and Dougie have done us all a solid and made their new EP available as a free download over at Bandcamp. In terms of the pop-punk fan base, Shut Up! has a little something for everyone. It leads off with the upbeat "One and Only", a feelgood love song made even brighter by Cassie Oh's jubilant keyboard contributions. This is my favorite track of the bunch - which is no surprise given the way I lean to the pop side of pop-punk equation. "Suit and Tie" is quintessential buzzsaw pop-punk that reflects on the importance of not wasting your life on soul-crushing endeavors. That seems like a very timely message at the moment. At just 73 seconds, it gets the job done with zero excess. "Shut Up, Kory" is bang-on snotty punk in the Screeching Weasel/Queers vein - something The Putz always does exceptionally well. And of course you know "Swallow My Pride". Sure, you could argue that covering the Ramones is a tall order since it's literally impossible to top the original. But honest to goodness, The Putz do a really cool and satisfying version of a classic here. When I finished listening to this EP and took off my headphones, I shouted "That was fun!" - which I suppose would have been perfectly acceptable behavior if there had actually been another person in the room. But that pretty much sums up this record. It's a blast! Shut Up! reminds me of the days when I would run to the mailbox in hopes that a new 7" from Mutant Pop Records had arrived. If you love pop-punk, this EP will be an absolute treat. And if you don't like pop-punk, there's no way in the world you've read this far! Where did I put my leather jacket?



Tuesday, March 24, 2020

Mammals - Look Around You

It's always a pleasure to spread the word about really good power pop bands. John Buckwalter recently recommended Mammals as a band I might be into. He was right! Mammals are a garagey power pop trio from Chicago who have been releasing music for a few years now. New single "Look Around You" is already the band's third. I like that this band takes inspiration from multiple eras of melody-driven guitar pop and manages to craft its own unique sound. They take bits and pieces of '60s rock and roll, classic era power pop, and even some modern garage and punk and mold it all into something that's uniquely theirs. Here the opening track surprises with a lengthy instrumental intro before settling into a mellow psychedelic groove a la later '60s Kinks/Who or even early '80s Paisley Underground. You can hear the influence of '60s garage jangle on the and haunting (and very catchy) "In The Darkness". To finish, "Expanding Heart" is a snappy and melody-rich number that kind of reminds me of a punched-up Simon and Garfunkel. This is a really cool record that puts some interesting twists on the standard power pop formula. It revisits the classic sounds of '60s pop music without coming off as consciously "revivalist". If you like what you hear, be sure to also check out the tracks "The Hours" and "No Easy Way" from Mammals' previous singles. All three singles are available from Mammals' Bandcamp, so go check 'em out!



The Hi-End - "The Way She Moves Me"

Something I really love about Rum Bar Records is that in addition to putting out great music from all around the world, Malibu Lou has made his label a home base for the ever-thriving Boston punk/garage/rock and roll scene. Since my earliest days writing about music, there was always something different about Boston. You seemed to have punk bands that weren't afraid to rock and rock bands that weren't afraid to embrace punk. I think that has a lot to do with that great city's musical heritage, and it continues to this day. Just on Rum Bar Records alone, recent releases from the likes of Watts, Duck & Cover, Dogmatics, Tom Baker & The Snakes, and Justine and the Unclean have exemplified the spirit of Boston punk rock and roll. Now you can add The Hi-End to that list. You can tell these guys love everything from The Stooges to AC/DC to Chuck Berry. Their m.o. is high energy rock and roll with hooks, which is something I'm obviously into. In the way of a preview of The Hi-End's forthcoming album Class Kicks, Rum Bar has released the free digital single "The Way She Moves Me". This song, as the kids say, is a banger. It literally has me dancing in my computer chair as I write this. It's got an unstoppable beat, dueling high-powered guitars, and a good old sing-along chorus. What's not to love? These dudes bring the rock AND the roll, and I am super pumped for a full album! Enjoy this free single now, and be on the lookout for Class Kicks arriving in May!



Monday, March 23, 2020

OC Rippers II

It was just this past December when I reviewed the first demo tape from Ocean County, New Jersey's OC Rippers. Well the Rippers are already back with a second demo, and as expected their sound is tighter and harder this time around. Rob, Kris, Lyle, and John continue to tear out raw and fierce old school punk rock on these five killer tracks. "Late Night TV Lover" is especially blistering, but I also dig the way "I Need Noise" detours into some heavy duty jamming before roaring back into straight-up aggressive punk territory. You get four originals here plus a raging cover of Nervous Eaters' "Just Head" that seems like a no-brainer choice for this band. And in a day and age when punk bands often put out "demos" that sound like slick studio recordings, it's nice to hear these tracks exuding a genuine "made in the garage" rawness. If you dig the tougher side of early punk and proto punk, now's a time to get hip to one of the top rising bands out there. East Coast represent!



Sunday, March 22, 2020

The Peawees - Walking The Walk (Reissue)

If 2001's Dead End City was The Peawees' first step into greatness, 2007's Walking The Walk was the huge leap forward that solidified the Italian foursome's status as a world-class rock and roll band. And now this classic LP has been remixed, remastered, and re-issued by Wild Honey Records in Italy and Rum Bar Records in the USA. Building off of the rockabilly meets '70s punk approach of Dead End City, Walking The Walk found Hervé Peroncini's songwriting expanding to embrace soul music, the compositions of Ennio Morricone, and the roots-inspired punk rock of The Clash circa London Calling. The lineup assembled for this release (Riccardo La Lomia on bass, Carlo Landini on guitar, and Livio Montarese on drums) was at the time the band's tightest and most talented yet. Listening to Walking The Walk, you hear a powerhouse rock and roll band with chops for days. And while the album still has its moments of Devil Dogs worship (nothing wrong with that at all!), you can really sense the shift to a more rhythm & blues based style in both Peroncini's original compositions ("Tomorrow I'll Be Done", "Cloudy Vision") and the cover selections (Otis Redding's "I'm Depending On You" and The Shirelles' "Please Go Away" - both great!).

The Peawees are an unusual band in the respect that they've really taken their time getting records made. That creative patience has paid off well. Subsequent releases Leave It Behind (2011) and Moving Target (2018) are arguably the best two albums the band has made. And you can really hear all of that taking shape on Walking The Walk. This was the transitional record between the garage punk rock and roll Peawees and the modern-day, soul punk Peawees. Whether you're working your way from the reissues up to the more recent releases or starting with Moving Target and working your back, Walking The Walk is an essential purchase. It's one of the finest punk rock and roll releases of the past 20 years and a true showcase for the criminally underrated songwriting talents of Hervé Peroncini. To quote another Peawees album title - this is rock and roll!



Saturday, March 21, 2020

Zach Jones - "Like The Tide"/"Yesterday of No Return"

I've had the pleasure of reviewing a couple of remarkable albums by Zach Jones in the past. And while it has been several years since Jones released his stunning long player Love What You Love, he recently launched a series of singles that continues with the newly-issued "Like The Tide". Hailing from Portland, Maine and now based on the West Coast, Jones is a singer/songwriter of great talent and exquisite taste. He draws from the timeless melodies of '60s pop and soul music while still incorporating many modern influences and his own creative vision of pop-rock. "Like The Tide" is the third single in the series Jones began last October. Honestly, I love the idea of releasing music in small batches like this. As a fan, I like being able to focus more on individual songs and really savor each of them. "Like The Tide" was written with the intention of showing the influence of Western music. While not deliberately a "country rock" song, it came out very Byrds-like to my ears. It's simply a gorgeous pop song, and Jones' vocal is absolutely radiant. I love the small touches as well, such as the use of harmonica and handclaps. The song reflects on the way we often measure our lives by the passing of years. As we think back to our triumphs and setbacks, the friends we've gained, and the friends we've lost, it can often get overwhelming. In comparing these constant changes in our lives to the phases of tides, Jones shows great perception of the human experience. The second track "Yesterday of No Return" has a similar theme but a slightly different musical style. Here Jones goes the psychedelic/baroque pop route with definite shades of The Zombies. He really shows his skill for crafting songs built on a foundation of melody. This is a pretty little number with a hopeful message about leaving the past behind and moving towards a brighter future.

For this latest single, Jones has expanded the audio package with demo versions of both tracks and a full podcast explaining the entire story behind the creation of "Like The Tide". He takes you through the conception, writing, demoing, and production of the song. I found this account fascinating, and I will be thrilled if Jones continues to do this with future singles. It really gives you an insight into his creative process and the way one little idea can blossom into a fully realized pop song. Having been an '80s kid, I fondly recall staying up late at night and listening to syndicated "rockumentaries" where recording artists would talk about their craft and the inspiration behind their music. The Behind The Tunes: "Like The Tide" podcast reminds me of that. Especially now when the importance of music in our lives has been heightened, this is the sort of thing I really enjoy. I love digging deep into a piece of music and appreciating every marvelous detail. It's tremendously cool to get an artist's personal perspective on a song and what it means to them. 

All three installments in Zach Jones' singles series are available via his Bandcamp. In addition to "Like The Tide", I also highly recommend last fall's "October's Almost Over". It's a beautiful song and a perfect example of what all "soft" rock should aspire to be. Let's hope that there any more singles to come in this series!



Friday, March 20, 2020

The Roxies Are Coming!

The Roxies Are Coming! is a great title for a record because you don't know if it's a warning or a promise. I would say it's the latter based on what I know about this (mostly) German band. The Roxies strike me as a band that loves nothing more than to get out to the live crowds and deliver a high energy, fun-filled punk rock show. And while the world will have to wait a while to again dance to The Roxies in person, the band's debut 7" will give you a nice taste of that live energy. The Roxies Are Coming! was recorded and mixed by the legendary Smail Shock at his analog studio in Berlin. Three of The Roxies are from Berlin, while singer Matthew Conway is from Barnsley/Yorkshire/northern England. I instantly became a fan of the band when it was mentioned that any money earned on its recent tour of England went to "the next (expensive) beer". Now there's a band that speaks straight to my heart! A-side "The Beat of the Street" is an upbeat jolt of catchy '77 punk that had me furiously tapping my toes upon immediate contact. If you love old school poppy punk, this track is guaranteed to please. You can have your own little punk rock dance party listening to this one! On the flip, "Down" slows the tempo quite a bit with some jangling Brit-pop vibes. I'm reminded a little of later '90s Supergrass/Ash type stuff, which is definitely a good thing in my book. I like that the two sides of this record show two sides of The Roxies. You've got the instant punk smash backed by the tuneful pop grower. The Roxies released this 7" on their own, which you can buy through the Wanda Records mail order. The group also made a video for their song "Stereo", which was recorded in the same sessions that produced the 7" tracks. Check out the video here. I dig this one too. It brings to mind a poppier Clash! Digital versions of all three tracks are available from The Roxies' Bandcamp. Check 'em out! This is a band that really lifts my spirits in these dark days. All I can say is thank God for music!



Thursday, March 19, 2020

Mononegatives - Sure Shock

Ready to have your ear-hole ripped open?! Mononegatives have a new 7" called Sure Shock on No Front Teeth Records that will slash at your senses and catapult you to the darkest recesses of your mind. The Canadian trio (featuring members of Isolation Party and Klazo) delivers five tracks of raw punk meets new wave/synth-punk on this high-anxiety smasher of an EP. There's definitely a pronounced Screamers/Tubeway Army vibe here, but it's mixed in with a modern-day ripping lo-fi punk sound. All in all, this is a highly original and fascinating take on punk rock meets new wave. It's dark and discordant yet also full of bouncing energy. It's punk as fuck yet weird as hell. And I dig it! This is like what '70s punk would have been if the robots had taken over! Currently the 7" is available in the U.K. from No Front Teeth. A North American release is expected very soon as well. In the meantime, all of Mononegatives' digital releases can be purchased for cheap via Bandcamp. Don't miss the instant classic track "5 Second Future"!



Wednesday, March 18, 2020

Ralphie's Red Ryders - "They Traded Bullfrog"

It somehow feels perfect that a band inspired entirely by A Christmas Story would release its debut single in the spring. It seems that Ralphie, Flick, and Schwartz have formed their own pop-punk trio, and they sound uncannily like Vista Blue. Who knew that Vista Blue was so popular in 1940s northwestern Indiana?! "They Traded Bullfrog" was set to be released on opening day of baseball season. Well who knows at this point when opening day will even be happening? On that note, Ralphie's Red Ryders have unleashed their music upon the world. "They Traded Bullfrog" is of course an ode to Old Man Parker's dismay over the White Sox dealing away their best player in exchange for that two-bit utility infielder Four Eyes Shottenhoffer. This song serves as a reminder that many baseball fans must suffer disappointment even in the off-season - a sentiment wonderfully articulated in Mike's Ralphie's vocals. 10-year-old me, still reeling from Ryne Sandberg being "thrown in" to a deal to acquire a shortstop with a sub-.200 batting average, takes great comfort. The B-side is a demo for a song called "I Can't Put My Arms Down". If you've seen A Christmas Story, you clearly know what this song is about. And if you haven't seen A Christmas Story, I can't believe you've read this far! "I hate meatloaf/But I can't put my arms down" is my new favorite lyric!

A full album from Ralphie's Red Ryders is due out on Outloud Records! in time for next Christmas season, and it will surely be worthy of a major award. The possibilities for song topics are practically endless. In particular, I've got my fingers crossed for songs about malfunctioning furnaces, triple dog dares, and the "I Like The Wizard of Oz!" kid. For now, you can grab "They Traded Bullfrog" as a free download over at Bandcamp and daydream about flashing forward to next Christmas. Be sure to drink your Ovaltine!



Tuesday, March 17, 2020

The Exbats - Kicks, Hits, and Fits

I have had the pleasure of acquainting myself with the full Exbats catalog over the past several months, and I must conclude that the Arizona trio is one of our greatest present-day rock and roll bands. I bet my mate Mick Fletcher would concur! Featuring the father/daughter duo of guitarist Kenny McLain and drummer/vocalist Inez McLain, along with Bobby Carlson on bass, The Exbats pull off the nearly impossible task of drawing faithfully from the beloved rock and roll of the 1960s yet creating something that sounds genuinely fresh and current in 2020. Some of that is owed to the band's commitment to writing the sort of timeless pop songs that hardly anyone bothers to write anymore. A larger part of it is that Inez McLain is a real deal rock star with a voice and charisma that you just don't come across every day. Kicks, Hits, and Fits is The Exbats' third album and best one to date. Imagine your parents' (or even grandparents') record collection shaken up with the vigor of youth and the attitude of punk rock. That is essentially The Exbats. If you can listen to the final verse of "I Got the Hots for Charlie Watts" and still doubt that there's a bright future for rock and roll, then clearly you've given up.

The McLains write songs very much in the style of their musical heroes. You never have to wait long for a hook, and songs rarely go too far past three minutes. You can hear the love for The British Invasion, '60s girl groups, and of course The Monkees. But that affection for the sounds of yesteryear is reflected through the lens of present-day realities. Inez sings of love and life in the modern world. She's fierce, outspoken, and unwilling to take any shit from anyone. This can apply to jerky exes who won't take a hint (the brilliant opening track "You Don't Get It [You Don't Got It]"), club doormen who hassle her at her own shows, or the patriarchy at large ("Try Burning This One"). Elsewhere "Wet Cheeks" offers some gentle encouragement to people who need to do their part to lift themselves out of despair. "Put Down Your Fights", while inspired by very specific experiences in Kenny's life, conveys a broader, hopeful message about moving on from toxic personal conflicts.

There have been particular songs on past releases ("Hercules", "2027", "I'm A Witch") that made it clear that The Exbats had something special cooking. But Kicks, Hits, and Fits takes all of that to another level. It's hard to identify a standout track because literally every song sounds like a hit. This is an album for all ages and tastes. If you grew up on '60s rock and roll, you'll love it. If you grew up on modern-day garage and punk, you'll love it. The songs are catchy and fun to sing along with, but they have meaningful things to say about the world we live in (check out "Hey Hey Hey" for some brilliant social commentary served up with a spoonful of sugar). This album has it all: upbeat pop songs, feisty punk tunes, heartfelt ballads, and straight-up rockers. I love how "I Got the Hot for Charlie Watts" begins as a tribute to the most dapper man in rock but ends up as a love letter to rock and roll itself. It's a wonderful reaffirmation that this music we love is going stronger than ever. And while sometimes the whole "rock and roll will never die" shtick comes off as corny cliche, that all goes away once you hear music this joyful, wonderful, and full of life. This is what Don McLean was talking about when he asked, "Can music save your mortal soul?". It's some kind of happy accident that Kicks, Hits, and Fits arrives exactly at a moment when our world needs to be uplifted. If you're looking for something to give you a reason to smile and dance merrily around the house, this album ought to do the trick. I hope for a day when The Exbats are the biggest band on the planet!



Monday, March 16, 2020

Moron's Morons - Looking For Danger (Album Premiere)

Looking for some good news finally? I've got you covered! Your pals Philo Phuckphace, Turd Awesome, John Pauly Shore II, and Lawless Dick Stingher have returned with a 13-track assault on your delicate eardrums and all things decent. Warsaw's Moron's Morons have been tearing it up for a few years now with their wild and furious brand of filthy punk rock. They have done EPs with top labels like Slovenly Recordings and No Front Teeth Records and dutifully slugged their way to heavyweight status in the garage-punk world. Slovenly won the wrestling match for the opportunity to release the band's debut album, and now here it is. And I literally mean here! Looking For Danger releases this Friday on Slovenly, but you can stream it below and delight in the savage brilliance of songs like "You Put Hot In Psychotic", "Fuck You", and the sure-fire top 40 hit "Addicted To Homicide". Fans of the band's EPs will be glad to hear that Moron's Morons have taken their existing formula and simply doubled down on it. They haven't stepped far from their original Germs/Dwarves/Pagans/GG inspirations. As the title of the album suggests, they have set out on a mission of pure sonic destruction. And while many of these songs recall a time when punk music reveled in its capacity to be offensive, anti-social, or just plain wrong, this is no novelty record. Moron's Morons, first and foremost, write killer punk rock tunes. From the opening notes of "Rise With Me", the band conjures a musical violence that sends chills down the spine. Songs like the raging "Wonderlust" and "Garageman" scorch on a level I haven't encountered in the garage-punk scene since label mates The Cavemen first wreaked havoc upon an unprepared world. "Rate Your Teacher", re-recorded from the last EP, just might be powerful enough to raise Darby Crash from the dead. "Sidewalk Service", with its Stoogey snarl and primal keyboard strains, demonstrates that Moron's Morons are expanding their repertoire. And just in case you were still unsure about this band's exact place in the punk universe, covers of Pure Hell and Cosmic Psychos make the Moron's Morons m.o. crystal clear. This is primitive and scuzzy punk rock at its very finest, and of course Slovenly Recordings was going to be all over it. "Fuck You" is sure to become the anthem of social distancing 2020. Listen...if you dare!



Sunday, March 15, 2020

The Ratboys - Click

When two of my favorite record labels collaborate on the same release, there's a very high probability that I'm going to be into it. Sure enough, the new Ratboys album co-released by Rum Bar and Wanda Records is a Lord Rutledge special! Legend has it that The Ratboys formed as a result of Eric St John running into his old friend Vincenzo D'Aguanno at a festival headlined by The Kids, Buzzcocks, The Sex Pistols, and New York Dolls back in 2008. The duo quickly came up with the idea of starting a '77-style punk rock band, and within a couple years The Ratboys released an album called Cash, Gas And Trash. The band disbanded shortly after the release of the album but finally re-grouped last year with guitarist James Neligan and drummer Reno Aerts jumping on board. So after a ten-year hiatus between albums, Click arrives as the Belgian foursome's second LP. This album epitomizes what you might call the "classic punk" sound. It's built on decades of affectation for the Ramones, Pistols, Dolls, Stooges, and every other staple of first wave punk rock. The delightful "Everybody Loves The Ramones" and "Summer School Girl" pay loving homage to the greatest band to ever walk the earth. "Sonic Boy" and "Listen Closely To Your Heart" marry the pop-leaning '77 punk of The Vibrators to the powerhouse guitars of Steve Jones and Johnny Thunders. "Come On Baby Turn Me On" hits that sweet spot where pub rock crashes into '70s glam rock. Songs like "Motor City Rock'n'Roll" and "Golden Age of Trash" leave no doubt about The Ratboys' revivalist mission. These guys aren't trying to give us anything new. They are punk rock classicists with a particular fondness for pop hooks and roaring guitars. The influences are obvious, and the whole album is great fun for '77 punk enthusiasts like me. Click, in a word, is a blast. If you're not pogoing in your pajamas by the time you get through two tracks, you've got the volume too low!



Saturday, March 14, 2020

Lucy and the Rats - "Dark Clouds"

The arrival of a new Lucy and the Rats record is always a beloved event for power pop fans. The London foursome was assembled by Lucy Ellis from The Spazzys after her relocation from Melbourne a few years back. Stardumb Records and Dirty Water Records UK have teamed up to release "Dark Clouds" - the band's fourth single. You may recall that last year's single "Stick To You" was a bit of a departure for the band as guitarist Joe Tolosa temporarily assumed lead vocal duties and the group fashioned a much punkier sound. With "Dark Clouds", the band gets back to its signature pure pop sound with a couple of bittersweet melodic gems. It gives me chills to hear Lucy constantly refining her songwriting talents as she grows into a true master of the pop craft. "Dark Clouds" is her finest work to date - a sad, heartfelt, and absolutely beautiful pop song that brings to mind something that would have been all over the radio in the early '80s. I love the way she weaves together a stunning, plaintive melody and a vocal that pulls at the heartstrings without a hint of affectation. That chorus is irresistible, and honestly you'd have to have a stone heart to not be moved by the words coming out of Lucy's mouth. Then there's some wicked good lead guitar work to ice the cake! On the flip, "Get Down" is another pretty, melancholy number that pairs the sweetest melodies with somewhat despairing lyrics. If you choose to really pay attention to the lyrics, there's a powerful statement to be experienced. But even if you don't, that melody will stay with you. Lucy continues to push her songwriting to greater depths, and the band absolutely has the chops to make this material soar. That guitar solo is almost at a Johnny Marr level!

"Dark Clouds" arrives in advance of a forthcoming Lucy and the Rats album titled Got Lucky. While I'm stoked for the album, I would urge you to grab the single now. Lucy and the Rats are one of those bands that really excel in the singles format where you can savor the music in these perfect little bite-sized portions. Both of these tracks are outstanding, and "Get Down" could just as easily have been the A-side. Order your copy from Stardumb Records in Europe and The Machine Shop in the U.S.A. Dirty Water has the digital release!



Friday, March 13, 2020

The Vapors - "Crazy"

Oh my god, I'm reviewing the freaking Vapors! I have publicly proclaimed The Vapors' New Clear Days to be my favorite album of all-time, and my position on that record has not wavered in decades. I long admired David Fenton's decision to walk away from the music industry at the height of his success rather than compromise himself as an artist. But when he reunited The Vapors on his terms a few years back, I was delighted. And now finally we have new music from The Vapors - for the first time in 39 years! I wasn't sure what to expect. A lot can change in four decades, and it was inevitable that Fenton would have evolved as a songwriter over those many years. But from the opening strains of new single "Crazy", I could immediately sense that that old Vapors magic was never lost. This absolutely sounds like it could be a missing track from New Clear Days! Fenton's singing voice is practically unchanged. His lyrics remain clever and thoughtful (although far less cynical, which is hardly a bad thing). On this song, he has crafted an instantly memorable melody and a knockout chorus. Call it whatever you want: new wave, mod, power pop. The Vapors did it as well as any band of their era. And while New Clear Days has always held a certain nostalgic appeal for me, it has aged so well because it was so timelessly crafted. David Fenton was and is a brilliant songwriter. I am excited to hear how the band's new album Together turns out. If "Crazy" is any indication, I would say you should expect vintage Vapors! Click here to buy the single. Pre-orders for the album are available here!



Wednesday, March 11, 2020

Wassup Rocker Radio Presents: Sick Sounds 2

Who says sequels are never as good as the original?! Alex Kish runs Wassup Rocker Radio - one of the best radio shows going and an absolute go-to for the best in punk, garage, power pop, glam, and underground rock and roll. In 2018, WRR released a free digital compilation called Sick Sounds to highlight many of the great bands it plays. Now we get the follow-up in Sick Sounds 2, which features 25 bands from all over the world. This comp gives you a free sampling of many of my favorite bands/artists of the moment. Hayley and the Crushers, The Sorels, Los Pepes, Pale Lips, Natalie Sweet, More Kicks, Bambies, The Speedways, and The Whiffs all make appearances with songs from recent releases I have favorably reviewed. There are also some killer tracks from bands I wasn't previously familiar with. I especially dig the old school power pop of Josephine, the L.A. glam boogie rock of Hammered Satin, the super-awesome pop-punk of Grumpster, the wild garage punk action of Les Lullies, and the snotty proto-hardcore stylings of World War IX. There's also an unreleased gem from Midwestern bubblegum standouts ABC Gum. All in all, this is a tremendously well-assembled compilation. There's not a sub-par track out of the entire 25, and this is a wonderful way to hear a whole bunch of really great bands for free. If you like what you hear, you can follow the links to these bands' official releases. And of course you'll want to check out Wassup Rocker Radio on Facebook and Mixcloud. If you enjoy this blog, you need to be listening to WRR!



Tuesday, March 10, 2020

Outtacontroller - Sure Thing

Outtacontroller has been around so long that it's kind of hard to believe that its new album Sure Thing is only its third full-length. The Halifax, Nova Scotia foursome was at the center of an incredible wave of Canadian-based powerpop/punk bands in the early 2010s. And while the band has customarily gone several years between albums, it has never really stopped being the quintessential buzz-saw punk/pop group. Longtime mainstays of the illustrious P. Trash Records (RIP), Outtacontroller have now turned up where almost every great powerpop/punk band eventually lands: Alien Snatch Records! Sure Thing does not mess with a winning formula. It sticks to Outtacontroller's signature style of power pop meets garage punk meets the almighty Ramones. The band delivers ten tracks of thumping punk pop that ought to be cranked loud in the car en route to a night of fun times. Sure Thing offers up a solid mix of Ramones-inspired punk tunes ("Glassy Eyes", "You For You"), powerful pop numbers ("Too Soon", "Operator"), and big hooky rockers ("Don't Need It") to get your head bobbing and your toes tapping. Singer/guitarists Terry A'hearn and James O'Toole handled the production themselves, and the record sounds absolutely great. Of course I'm a huge fan of this musical style, and Outtacontroller have put on a clinic on how to pull it off. Sometimes you don't need a band to reinvent the wheel. If you like good, simple punk tunes executed with energy and enthusiasm, you will be inclined to say that this is an album that very much lives up to its title.



Friday, March 06, 2020

Hakan - Drunk Dial #6

Having reviewed Hakan not once or twice but rather three times in the past, I was stoked to discover that the Italian trio was the latest band to participate in Drunk Dial Records' 7" series. The mission statement behind this label is so clear and concise that it bears being repeated in full: Get artists into the studio. Get them drunk. Have them write and record an original song and then cover a classic. We release the results on 7". Hakan, well recognized for their skill at crafting high quality garage-leaning poppy punk tunes and imbibing premium Italian beer, are clearly on board with Drunk Dial's mission. "Tempuras Never Come", the band's original contribution to this single, is vintage Hakan. It's fast, upbeat, and full of melodies that will positively invade your brain. When it comes to catchy punk rock, it rarely gets catchier than Hakan. "Tempuras Never Come" is one of those songs that ends way too soon. But I'm a fan of that sort of thing on a 7". If you're left wanting more, you can just play it again. And again! On the flip, the band takes on Devo's classic "Mr. DNA" and essentially transforms it into a Hakan song. This track doesn't even make it to the minute and a half mark, but it's 79 seconds of toe-tapping, party-starting joy. I can't say that any inebriation involved in the creation of this single impaired the band's performance. And all in all, this is a highly recommended purchase for anyone who has enjoyed Hakan's three LPs. Check out the Drunk Dial Bandcamp for info on this installment and all previous editions of the Drunk Dial 7" series!



Tuesday, March 03, 2020

The Battlebeats - Search And Destroy

Andresa Nugraha is back with an entire album of garage-punk trash smashers! His one-man project The Battlebceats released its debut EP last August. Now we get a full long player from The Battlebeats called Search and Destroy. Just like last time, Andresa plays everything on his own - working with a guitar plugged into an overdrive pedal and a 15-watt amp, a floor tom-snare drum set, tambourine, and no bass. He makes no attempt to hide what The Battlebeats are all about. Search and Destroy was recorded under the heavy influence of The Reatards, Teengenerate, and Persuaders. In fact, Andresa traces the very existence of this band to his hearing Teengenerate's "Get Me Back" online back in 2013 and his subsequent effort to download the band's entire discography! The sound here is raw and ferocious, with songs alternating between the wild, blown-out rock and roll of tracks like "You're My Wild One" and "I Wanna Break Away" and the snot-drenched rage of "She's So Overrated" and "You Stabbed Me In The Back" (re-recorded for this album!). This is exactly the way lo-fi garage punk ought to be: cheaply-recorded, brimming with untamed energy, and stripped to the essence of three-chord simplicity. Songs for the most part clock in under two minutes - and even at 17 tracks, the album leaves me wanting more. Crank up the volume and make like the '90s never ended!



Sunday, March 01, 2020

The Suitesixteen - Mine Would Be The Sun

Unrequited adolescent love, often dismissed as a "lightweight" topic, is actually a subject that has inspired epic works of art for centuries. Rob Nesbitt has created his own epic work of art based on his personal experience with this very matter. As a member of Victoria, B.C. foursome BUM, Nesbitt was an essential contributor to one of the greatest power pop/punk albums ever made, 1993's Wanna Smash Sensation. Most of the songs Nesbitt wrote for BUM were about the same girl: a teenage love of his who could never reciprocate his feelings. Even after his departure from the band, even after he found himself happily married, he continued to write songs about the same girl. His obsession over this singular disappointment in his life eventually became a creation onto itself. Using the band name The Suitesixteen, Nesbitt crafted an album with the feel of an epic novel. He spent 16 years writing the album and five years recording it - working meticulously to ensure that every word and every note were executed exactly as he wanted it. Every bit as much attention was paid to the details of the packaging - a triple gatefold sleeve containing two LPs and a 52-page book that connects the songs and the stories. And after all of that work, Mine Would Be The Sun now exists. This surely would have been a worthy undertaking just for the fact that it healed a wound that Nesbitt had been trying to free himself from for decades. But the bonus is that this album is absolutely brilliant.

It would have been somewhat of a letdown if Rob from BUM had made a record that didn't remind you at least a little of BUM. Fortunately, there is much about Mine Would Be The Sun that brings to mind Nesbitt's contributions to BUM. Nesbitt is still working in that area where pop-punk and power pop overlap, although with this album it's far more of the latter than the former. Palpable influences range from Cheap Trick/Big Star roots power pop to the '90s strains of Superdrag and The Posies to the defining punk-pop of the Descendents and Parasites. This is a mature work of power pop punk which reflects back on adolescent despair with adult wisdom. In a wonderful interview with Grant Lawrence of the Vancouver Courier, Nesbitt articulates how this concept record about his own teenage heartbreak takes on a deeper, more universal meaning: "As the project grew in scale, I realized I was talking about the nature of love itself. People tend to dismiss adolescent emotional experiences, or at least diminish them. I feel the opposite. During that time of life one is on the precipice of everything for the first time. First time experiences are almost always the most impactful, the most formative."

I've actually had a number of people approach me about Mine Would Be The Sun and make sure it was on my radar, which I appreciate since this is so totally my kind of thing on many levels. Nobody appreciates the "song about a girl" motif more than I, and this case 16 songs all about the same girl really works. It's not the bummer of an album you might expect, and ultimately these songs are just as much about Rob Nesbitt as they are about the girl who once spurned him. This is his story, but it's a relatable one. Few things unite us as humans quite like our shared heartbreaks, romantic letdowns, and obsessive quest to fully figure out what went wrong. And musically, Mine Would Be The Sun is a splendid example of what rocking melodic guitar pop ought to be. It's got punky moments and aching ballads alike. The songs offer just as much in melody as they do in lyrical substance. And with Rob Nesbitt having been very much missed on the power pop punk scene for a quarter of a century, it feels great to have him return in such an epic manner. He invested 16 years and literally his life savings into getting this album made, and what results is nothing short of a power pop masterpiece. The venerable Eric Anderson says it's the best album he's heard in 25 years, and who am I to argue?!