Wednesday, July 29, 2020

Thee Evil Twin/The Missile Studs - 10 Piece Feed

In this shit year 2020, there's nothing better than a little traveling back in time. Aussie bands Thee Evil Twin and The Missile Studs have teamed up to unleash 10 Piece Feed - a ripping punk rock record that takes me back to 1997 via 1977. I've written about Sydney trio Thee Evil Twin before. The band is fronted by Adam Caine (Radio Reelers, Trust Fund Babies, The Shrinks, etc.), so you ought to know what to expect. Thee Evil Twin's five cuts on this release are by far its most killer songs to date. If these tracks had come out 20 years ago, they would have been released on Rip Off Records and had you all going bonkers. This is how you do garage punk rock and roll, man: tons of energy, rockin' tunes, and funny/tongue-in-cheek lyrics. If you dig The Rip Offs and Devil Dogs, this ought to be your new favorite band! The other half of this release proves to be just as good, as Adelaide's The Missile Studs tear into five tracks of snotty '77 punk that'll have you pogoing all day long. In sound and attitude, these songs bring to mind everyone from the Sex Pistols to Eater to Menace to Slaughter and the Dogs. I don't hear many bands with that type of sound these days, so I'm really getting a jolt out of songs like "Missile Studs Theme" and "Doomsday Girl".

I know a lot has been made about how many great punk bands are coming out of Australia these days. In my book, these two groups need to be part of that conversation. I'll go as far as to say that 10 Piece Feed is the best Aussie punk album of 2020 so far. Thee Evil Twin and The Missile Studs each have their own thing going on, but they complement each other perfectly on record. If you love your punk music loud, dumb, and fun, these ten tracks will bring you 21 minutes of total enjoyment. Get 10 Piece Feed from No Front Teeth Records, Dirtyflair Record Company, and Evil Tone Records!


Saturday, July 25, 2020

Indonesian Junk - A Life of Crimes (singles and rarities 2009​-​2018)

Well here's the compilation you were dying for! Indonesian Junk has been one of planet Earth's top punk rock rock and roll bands for several years now, releasing a trio of fantastic albums in Indonesian Junk (2015), Stars In The Night (2017), and Spiderbites (2019) on the always fabulous Rum Bar Records. The precursor to Indonesian Junk was the Daniel James Gang, who released two singles back in 2009-2010. In case you desired a one-stop shop for all of Indonesian Junk's non-album recordings as well as the super rare Daniel James Gang tracks, Rum Bar Records proudly presents the decade-spanning collection A Life of Crimes. This essentially functions as a fourth Indonesian Junk album. Like the other three, it's a killer mashup of street tough '70s punk, glam-inspired hard rock, and big hooky power pop with an additional touch of darkness and gloom. No other band gives you all of that at once!

The material on Life of Crimes spans the years 2009-2018. It features the entirety of the Daniel James Gang singles "Nothin' I Can Do and "In This City", Indonesian Junk's 2015 7" "Crimes", the KISS cover "C'mon and Love Me" from 2018's Darkness Calling EP, and four previously unreleased tracks. As is often the case with these kinds of collections, the cover songs are feature attractions. If your introduction to Indonesian Junk turns out to be a KISS cover, well that's kind of awesome! Daniel and company cut a great version of The Joneses' classic "Pill Box" back in 2017 which somehow was never released. Well now you finally get to hear it! There are also covers of "Situations" by Slaughter and the Dogs and "Outfit" by Starz. The fact that one band would cover KISS, The Joneses, Slaughter and the Dogs, and Starz tells you a lot about Daniel's musical vision! But don't sleep on the originals. "Crimes" is one of Indonesian Junk's signature songs. "Now That It's Over" blurs the lines between heartbreak and a complete mental breakdown. "Nothin' I Can Do" and "I'm So Bored" hold up as well as anything from the 2010 punk/power pop/rock and roll universe. If you're already a fan of this Milwaukee trio, A Life of Crimes is an essential purchase to complete your collection. And if you've yet to be inducted into the Junk Army, your next move should be to head on over to Bandcamp and explore the band's full criminal history!


Friday, July 24, 2020

The Yum Yums - For Those About To Pop! (Rum Bar Records issue!)

Way back in mid-June, I did an advance review of The Yum Yums' new album For Those About To Pop! While the album was released on vinyl by Screaming Apple Records on July 1st, only a few tracks had been available for streaming on Bandcamp. Well that changes today! For Those About To Pop! has been officially released in the U.S.A. on Rum Bar Records, and you can go listen to the whole darn thing now via Rum Bar's Bandcamp! In my book, this is the best record that Morten and The Yum Yums have ever made. It's the best of power pop and punk and glam rock and bubblegum blended into a non-stop parade of oughta-be hits. It's one of the most "pop" albums ever made and the ultimate summertime record. So hop over to Bandcamp, treat your ears to a pop explosion, and buy yourself a CD or digital copy for your permanent enjoyment. Do we really live in a world where "Baby Baby" isn't a multi-million selling radio smash?


Thursday, July 23, 2020

The New Brutarians - "Living In Isolation"

Some of you may have had your fill of topical songs this summer. But I still can't get enough. To me, one of the major points of art is that you can create something of value inspired by our shared human experience. And right now, humans are sharing an unprecedented experience. The New Brutarians, America's favorite new glam rock pop art proto-punk duo, have just released the ultimate 2020 anthem in their new track "Living In Isolation". Produced by Gino Bambino at SunWray Studios, "Living In Isolation" just might be the best New Brutarians song to date. There's something just a little "off" about the fidelity of the recording that gives this song a surrealistic feel. And that's totally perfect for a song about the present state of the world. I love the complexity of what this song is. One one hand, it's dark and apocalyptic. On the other hand, it's really catchy and upbeat enough to get you tapping your toes. Adams's lyrics are remarkable. He's written about a pandemic-stricken world with honesty and bleak realism, but with a glimmer of hope still flickering. The lines "Every song I hear tonight/Sounds like shite/The words real trite/But I'll spin it again tomorrow when the sun is shining" absolutely blow me away.

In addition to "Living In Isolation", The New Brutarians also recently released "The Warrior Song" from their quarantine recording sessions with Gino Gambino. This track has a rawer, fiercer sound than most of the band's existing tracks. For the lack of a better term, I'll say it's the band's "punkiest" song yet. It reminds me a little of Adam's old band The Beatings. Again, the lyrics are totally fantastic and well worth your inspection. Both "Living In Isolation" and "The Warrior Song" can be streamed from The New Brutarians' Bandcamp and SoundCloud pages. And be sure to check out the music video the band just made for its killer 7" track "A Little Hit of You"!


Tuesday, July 21, 2020

Juniper - self titled

In the midst of all the bleakness of 2020, the debut album from Juniper brings the world some much-needed sunshine. Juniper is the 15-year-old daughter of singer/songwriter, WFMU radio personality, and pop true believer Michael Shelley. In collaboration with her dad (who produced the album and wrote most of the songs), Juniper has created the rarest of things: an album in the style of '60s and '70s pop that sounds genuinely current in the year 2020.

A list of Juniper's primary musical inspirations (Beatles, Beach Boys, Zombies, Muffs, Fountains of Wayne) tells you a whole lot about the kind of record she has set out to make. Yet at the same time, she cites Taylor Swift and Selena Gomez as big influences on her vocal style. It's that mix of the old and new that makes her such an appealing artist. Regardless of whether the term "pop" makes you think of the timeless hits of the '60s, home-recorded indie tunes, or contemporary radio hits, this is a debut album that ought to delight you to no end. As a singer, Juniper possesses a mixture of charm, sincerity, and immense likeability that ought to make her a star. And while Michael Shelley wrote most of the lyrics, Juniper was given full veto power in the event that any word did not ring true. These are timeless sounding songs from the perspective of melody and production. Yet they feel so "now" because Juniper is singing about what it's like to be a teenage girl in the modern world.

Song topics on Juniper's debut album cover everything from magical days at the shore with boys to secret crushes to real teenage heartbreak to neighborhood garage bands to best friends trying to move in on your boyfriend. In this age when it often feels like romance is dead, many of these songs come off as refreshingly old-fashioned...but not in a way that feels dated. The Brian Wilson inspired ballad "Girls Just Want A Boy To Rest Their Head On" is an absolute thing of beauty - and a reminder that young hearts still dream of love that goes way beyond surface attraction. "Sticking With My Henry" celebrates those nice, reliable guys who are so often overlooked. Michael Shelley and Juniper really excel at combining their talents to tell really great stories. "Kids On My Corner" condenses an entire short story into two minutes of pure joy (The line "The other kids in the cul-de-sac/Wouldn't like The Beatles if they came back" is priceless!). "Everybody's Got A Crush On Chad", about a boy who captivates everyone for no easily identifiable reason, just feels like real life. Haven't we all known our own version of Chad?

Supporting Juniper and her dad in the creation of this debut album was a star-studded cast of indie/power pop musicians. Marshall Crenshaw, Dennis Diken (Smithereens), Chris Geddes (Belle & Sebastian), Jay Gonzalez (Drive By Truckers), Steve Goulding (Mekons, Nick Lowe, etc.), Ira Kaplan (Yo La Tengo), Chris Collingwood (Fountains of Wayne), Mark Spencer (Son Volt), and Greg Townson (Los Straitjackets) all appear on this record. There are also songwriting contributions by Tommy Dunbar (Rubinoos) & Kyle Vincent, Kim Shattuck & Lisa Marr, and Francis Macdonald (Teenage Fanclub). If that sounds like a pop lover's dream, well that's how I would describe this album in the first place. Musically it references everything from '60s girl groups to '70s bubblegum to kitchen sink indie pop to modern-day punky pop. It's pure pop music for fans of all ages and musical interests. God, I love this record! It's not easy to feel upbeat at the present moment. But I don't think it's possible to listen to Juniper's debut album and not smile. If you're dying to go to a happy place right now, let this take you there.


Sunday, July 19, 2020

Muck and the Mires - "Take Me Back To Planet Earth"

In a summer that's been full of topical songs, Muck and the Mires have given us perhaps the ultimate commentary on the craziness of life in 2020. "Take Me Back To Planet Earth" is the brand-new single from these Boston garage rock legends. It arrives in advance of a six-song EP of the same name, which will be releasing this fall on Rum Bar Records. The EP was written under the influence of COVID isolation. And while it might not fully qualify as a concept album, several tracks address the unusual existence we've had to adjust to in recent months. "Take Me Back To Planet Earth" is a vintage Muck and the Mires upbeat garage rocker that will immediately get you moving and shaking. Yet there's some real substance and cleverness to the lyrics. The song is really about feeling alienated from modern life in general, but its themes are all the more poignant at this moment that requires us to live much of our lives "virtually". If you've felt like you've been living in an alternate reality or perhaps even on another planet in recent months or years, this will be your new favorite song. The rest of the EP is currently being mixed and mastered by Jim Diamond. You can pre-order the whole thing today, or you can  download the title track by itself for $1.50.

Muck and the Mires, who live to tour and get crowds dancing, are surely daydreaming about a time when they get to play these songs live. And I'm sure their fans can't wait to hear these songs live! In the meantime, "Take Me Back To Planet Earth" is perfect for your solo, small group, or socially distant dance parties. Play it loud, move around a little, and get yourself pumped for all the fun things you'll do when this shit is behind us!


Friday, July 17, 2020

Cocktails - Catastrophic Entertainment

Who's in the mood for a really good power pop album? You know I always am, and the third LP by San Francisco's Cocktails definitely hits the mark. A co-release between Alien Snatch and Wizards + Potions Records, Catastrophic Entertainment is a perfect summertime pop record. Cocktails find that sweet spot where '70s power pop, early '80s new wave, and '90s indie/alternative become one. They're all about melody, hooks, and crafting great songs. That seems like such a simple concept, but rarely do you hear a band that pulls it off this well. Catastrophic Entertainment is full of the kinds of songs you wish they still played on the radio. Tracks like "Nobody's Going To The Movies" and "Love Is Gone" are pure power pop. In other spots, the band touches on everything from pub rock ("Washoe County") to glam ("Janeland") to Weezer worship ("Take It Back") to the Teenage Fanclub/Fountains of Wayne strain of indie rock ("Never Be Alone"). All the way through, the songs are gold and the hooks reign supreme. This is timeless stuff! Much of what you usually do in the summertime is off limits this year. But you can still get in your car and crank the tunes as you soak in the summer sun and relive all your triumphs and losses in love. Catastrophic Entertainment is an album to play while you do just that.


Thursday, July 16, 2020

The Uppers - Get Down With...

Today I've got something super awesome for my fellow '77 punk fanatics! The Uppers are a band out of St. Louis, Missouri who've been around since 2017. They put a demo up on Bandcamp around two-and-a-half years ago but have not shared any music online since then beyond the occasional live clip on YouTube. But they have now released a debut 7" on Boulevard Trash in the U.S.A. and No Front Teeth Records in the U.K. The name of the record is Get Down With The Uppers, and it features four tracks of high energy punk rock and roll with a touch of power pop. If you're only familiar with the demo tracks, you may be surprised by how much poppier this 7" is. But that pop influence is still mixed with a really tough and snotty punk rock sound. "Oh Boy" is the perfect jolt of energy to kick off the record. It manages to remind me of The Briefs and early D Generation at the same time. In other spots, I'm catching a RMBLR meets Wyldlife vibe (it's no surprise that The Uppers had a track on a Spaghetty Town comp!). If you like your '70s punk sleaze with a side of pop hooks, "Bad Dog Pound" and "To Be King" ought to be right up your alley. All in all, this is a record that will make you wanna run around like a maniac while you pump your fist and shout along to the choruses. There's no indication that these tracks are going to be released in any digital format. So if you want some Uppers in your life, you're gonna need to go about it the old-fashioned way and buy a record! If you require a sample of the goods, check out these vids from the Boulevard Trash Facebook page:

Look for another collaboration between Boulevard Trash and No Front Teeth coming very soon: a brand new full-length from Cold Callers!


Wednesday, July 15, 2020

Matt Ellis - Halfway To Insanity/Never Was, Is And Never Shall Be

Matt Ellis (The Vapids, PlasticHeads) has been pumping out digital EPs at a rate of once a month since the start of the pandemic. He's been recording them in his bathroom and donating all sales to worthy causes. The latest two, Halfway To Insanity and Never Was, Is And Never Shall Be, have seemingly concluded this "COVID blues" series. Compiled together, all four EPs make for one really great album of Ramones-inspired punk rock. I appreciate that Ellis has managed to stick to the basics of three-chord budget punk, and yet somehow these EPs never grow tiresome or feel pointless. The takeaway here is that this sort of music doesn't need to be innovative or original if it's executed perfectly. The songs never go too far beyond a minute and a half, and the lyrics are highly relatable and just plain cool. While several bands/artists have crafted their own soundtracks to the shit year of 2020, Ellis has done it better than most. Could "PigHead" be any more of a song for this moment? I highly recommend downloading all four EPs and blasting them in succession whenever you come down with your own case of the COVID blues. And if you're not yet familiar with any of these EPs, you ought to get a real hoot out of the titles and cover art Ellis has come up with. All sales from Never Was... will be donated to The Aboriginal Heath Centre - whose mission is improving the health of indigenous individuals, families, and communities through holistic indigenous, traditional, and western health care. All sales from Halfway To Insanity will be donated to Willows Place in Hamilton, Ontario - which provides safe housing for multiply-marginalized women experiencing homelessness, precarious housing, and social isolation.


Sunday, July 12, 2020

honeychain - Pocket Full Of Good Luck

The terrible year 2020 continues to be one of our best years in recent memory for music. Joining  a superb slate of 2020 album releases is the second long player from Los Angeles trio honeychain. Pocket Full Of Good Luck is the band's first release on Die Laughing/Golden Robot Records. It was recorded, produced, mixed, and mastered by singer/guitarist Hillary Burton. It follows 2017's CRUSHED, which in my book is a modern classic of power pop.

A lot of you know Burton as the drummer in The Pandoras, but she's been releasing music under the honeychain name since 2013. The current lineup, which includes Andre Tusques on bass and Loye Aubrey Jr on drums, sounds awesome. Over the years, Burton has developed a signature style of songwriting that incorporates influences from numerous eras and genres. While honeychain is definitely a classic Southern California sun-soaked punk pop group, the band's sound owes just as much to early '90s alternative rock, the pure pop of the '60s, and modern day garage rock. I would have had zero complaints about a repeat of CRUSHED, but Pocket Full Of Good Luck does not settle for just more of the same. It's a fine example of how a great pop band ought to progress. It takes everything I liked about honeychain and adds so much more. Songs like "Go Away" and "Great Big World" capture the vintage honeychain punky power pop sound in all its glory. On the other hand, songs like "Spaceman" and "Flee Los Angeles" take the heavy guitar '90s alt-rock inspirations of the band's previous releases and push them front and center. "Flee Los Angeles" in particular will rock you straight back to 1993! This album is such a pleasure to listen to because it gives you a little bit of everything. "Beautiful Now" is haunting and gorgeous. The title track is a punk rock thrill ride. "Chemtrails" is bittersweet pop at its absolute finest. "289" is pure garage rock and an absolute blast. And then there's the stunning "Late Night Movie Show", which Burton co-wrote with her dear friend Kim Shattuck. It closes the album in a beautiful and memorable manner. It's just so heartfelt, sweet, and moving in a completely unpretentious way. I find myself focusing on the significance of every word Burton sings. As I imagine every other honeychain fan listening to this song with me, there won't be a dry eye among us.

With now two great albums to its name, honeychain has established itself as one of the finest pop/rock bands of the present day. And Hillary Burton is such an amazing songwriter! Pocket Full Of Good Luck picks up where CRUSHED left off and moves several steps forward. It's all the best of pop, rock, and punk mixed together in cool and creative ways. It sounds like a million bucks, and the songs are fantastic all the way through. Click here to listen or buy!

Digital purchase link
CD purchase link  

Saturday, July 11, 2020

Guerrilla Teens - Dillinger Red

Alright, kids: ya better get cracking on this one! Six days from now, the first two demo tracks ever released by Portland, Oregon punk rock and roll supergroup Guerrilla Teens will be disappearing from the Internet. They will literally self-destruct in the blink of an eye. And lemme tell you, these tracks are HOT! It won't take you long to identify that this mysterious band is fronted by the mighty Scott "Deluxe" Drake (ex Humpers, Lovesores). He's joined by a couple of old partners in crime along with some star players from Portland's formidable punk rock scene. If the breakup of Lovesores had you shedding a tear (trust me, I feel you!), the arrival of Guerrilla Teens will quickly fill that hole in your heart. Oh man, "Dillinger Red" is pure fire! From the ripping twin guitars to the slamming drums and bass to Drake's powerhouse vocal, this song has got everything you could ever desire from punk rock and roll music. It's paired here with "Super Aces (Bonus Poker)", a primal slow burn that's super sleazy in the best possible way. I could say more, but there's no time to monkey around! Cough up a dollar and get these songs downloaded today. Two brand-new demos will be taking their place on Bandcamp next Friday, and I'm sure they won't be around long either. You have been warned!


Friday, July 10, 2020

Jerry Lehane - self titled

What was I just saying about Rum Bar Records having become home base for the best of Boston rock and roll? It doesn't get any more "Boston rock and roll" than The Dogmatics. And today Rum Bar releases the debut EP from Dogmatics singer/guitarist Jerry Lehane. Incredibly, these recordings had gone unreleased for 29 years until today. Talk about an unearthed treasure!

These five tracks were recorded over a three-day period in 1991 at the Cars-owned studio Synchro Sound. Lehane made a special deal with sound engineer Tom Hamilton that allowed him to record the EP on the cheap by going in after midnight. Lehane, who was between bands at the time, enlisted the services of several talented friends to play on his debut solo record. This included Charlie Chesterman (Scruffy the Cat, Harmony Rockets, the Motorbikes), Chris Doucette (The Galley Slaves, Witch Doctor, Hotbox), Danny Coughlin (Children of Paradise, Lazy Susan, Eric Martin & the Illyrians), Chris Erikson (Sacred Cows), Randall Gibson IV (Scruffy the Cat, The Flies, the Illyrians), Lance Hewitt (Timmys), and Scott Seiver (Ted Leo, Tenacious D, John Legend, Pete Yorn). It's just so cool to envision all of these amazing musicians gathering late at night to cut a record! At this point, you may be wondering why it took almost three decades for this EP to see the light of day. There does not appear to be a good answer to this question. Thankfully, Malibu Lou heard these songs and immediately wanted to release them. The original plan was for Lehane to record three brand-new songs with Ed Riemer and create a mash-up of old and new. But then came the pandemic, and all of that went out the window. So what we have here are five tracks out of the 1991 time capsule that really hold up. If you're expecting a Dogmatics feel, well there's certainly a little bit of that. You'll hear the guitars that open "Kiss My Tattoo" and instantly know who you're listening to. And the rocking and rolling "Fish" could easily pass for a lost Dogmatics track. But over the course of these five songs, Lehane covers a good deal of musical territory. "Kiss My Tattoo" is high energy garage rock, Boston style. "Runaway With You" is a Stonesy barroom ballad that Lehane's current label mate Tom Baker would be proud to have written. "All I Can Do" is twangy, aching, and reminiscent of the Replacements. 

Several of the songs on this EP, including the raging "Kiss My Tattoo", were written in the aftermath of a painful breakup. It has to be a little weird for Lehane, now happily married for over two decades, to hear these songs and relive that particular moment of his life. But in purging himself of some unpleasant memories, he created some remarkable music. And then there's the excellent "Feel Like Dying" - a song about a soldier heading off to the Gulf War. That might seem very specific to 1991, but the themes of the song are every bit as relevant and impactful today. It's amazing how a 29-year-old EP fits in so seamlessly with the rest of the music coming out on Rum Bar Records today. Then again, that kind of makes sense. There's a long list of current Rum Bar artists who would consider The Dogmatics and Jerry Lehane to be huge influences on their songwriting and musical style. Hopefully by next year, we'll hear those new solo tracks. Jerry Lehane is a national treasure! Be sure to check out this recent interview he did with Anngelle Wood!


Thursday, July 09, 2020

WhistleStop Rock - "Queen of the Drive​-​In"

The WhistleStop Rock Festival has spawned its own supergroup! WhistleStop Rock was created last year when nine of New England's top punk/power pop/rock and roll bands united to form a woman-empowered concert festival. The bands are The Chelsea Curve, Cold Expectations, Field Day, Heather Rose In Clover, Justine and The Unclean, Kid Gulliver, The Knock Ups, Linnea's Garden, and Tiger Bomb. The festival has also featured special guests such as Tanya Donelly, Joyce Raskin White, Seana Carmody, Lockette, and The Shang-Hi-Los. The WhistleStop hit several New England towns earlier this year. Even after the pandemic arrived, the festival has continued with virtual shows.

Recently the women of WhistleStop made the leap from playing shows together to making a record together! They were exchanging stories about good times they'd had at drive-in movies (hint: they were totally unrelated to the movie!). Justine Covault (Justine and The Unclean, Justine's Black Threads) thought that sounded like a great song idea. Within a day, Simone Berk (Kid Gulliver, Sugar Snow) and Linnea Herzog (Linnea's Garden, PowerSlut) had co-written the perfect summer pop song. And just like that, WhistleStop Rock was a band! Joining Berk (lead vocals) and Herzog (guitar) for the recording of "Queen of the Drive-In" were Covault on guitar, Linda Bean Pardee (The Chelsea Curve) on bass, Sandy Summers (Kid Gulliver) on drums, Heather Rose on stylophone and backing vocals, Lynda Mandolyn (Tiger Bomb, Crystal Canyon) on backing vocals, and JoEllen Saunders Yannis (Cold Expectations) on backing vocals. What a group!

"Queen of the Drive-In" is exactly the power pop/rock and roll smash you'd expect given the contributions of all these talented individuals. In the grand tradition of musical odes to the drive-in, this song is very, very naughty! Berk's lyrics are hot, hilarious, and totally fantastic. In the interest of keeping this blog PG rated, the only line I will quote is "What did we see? I'm not paying attention". Berk delivers a perfectly dirty-sweet vocal, and you will not hear a catchier song this summer. The single is already available from Bandcamp, but the women of WhistleStop Rock have something special planned for the official release of this single. Each performer on "Queen of the Drive-In" appears in a music video produced by Daniel Ouelette. The video will premiere tomorrow night as part of a virtual WhistleStop Rock show on Facebook. All of the WhistleStop bands will be performing, as will special guests A Bunch of Jerks and The Shang-Hi-Los. The show will be live tomorrow from 7:30-9:30 Eastern time. In the meantime, give "Queen of the Drive​-​In" a listen. And check out all the cool bands I've linked below!


Wednesday, July 08, 2020

Autogramm - "Working Man"

Here's something fun for you today! Vancouver new wave trio Autogramm has released a cover of Rush's "Working Man", which the band recorded while all members were in pandemic lockdown. While "Working Man" is no doubt a Canadian rock classic, you might consider it an interesting choice for a synth-pop/power pop band. And that's the whole point! Autogramm transforms this legendary heavy rock tune into a catchy pop song with a Devo meets Gary Numan feel. There's nothing "ironic" about this cover choice. I sense that the band has genuine love for the original and wanted to put its own signature on it. Autogramm is releasing this song as the first single in advance of its sophomore album - due out next year on the Los Angeles label Nevado Music. All proceeds from the sales of this track are going to local non-profit RAVEN Trust (Respecting Aboriginal Values and Environmental Needs), a legal fund that defends Indigenous rights in Canada. You can check out "Working Man" and the rest of Autogramm's catalog over at the trio's Bandcamp!


Tuesday, July 07, 2020

Breaklights - "Second To None"

Wow, time really flies! As I sat down to review Breaklights' new 7", I was surprised to discover that it's been four years since I last wrote about this Austin, Texas based band. "Second To None", out now on Otitis Media Records, is actually the band's first 7" following a couple of EPs. On this release, Breaklights retain their signature sound rooted in '90s/early 2000s melodic punk and pop-punk. I like to call it "pop-punk for grown-ups": powerful, melody-driven music with mature lyrics and a nice mellow vibe. This release was produced by FILMAGE director Deedle LaCour, and it sounds amazing. Breaklights have always sounded to me like a punk band from the '90s that would have been on a major or bigger indie label. They fully embrace big hooks and a polished sound, but that punk edge is still there. "Second To None" pairs Charlie's warm vocals and heartfelt lyrics with punchy guitars and a soaring energy. Although this song does not even reach the three-and-a-half minute mark, it has a grand, anthemic feel to it. The band does something a little unconventional with the arrangement of the song towards the end. I won't spoil the surprise other than to say that I enjoyed this little twist. "Overdue" is the flip side (literally) to the feelgood vibe of "Second To None". With an opening line like "Hanging around someone like you/Is a real bad time for two", you know exactly what you're in for. This is an honest analysis of how things can go wrong between two individuals, and I think a lot of people will relate. Again, this is a perfect example of how pop-punk can sound fully "mature" and still pack a serious punch. This is a great-looking 7" and a top-notch pair of songs from Breaklights. If you missed the band's 12" EP Don't Try So Hard from 2018, that's really great as well and definitely work checking out!


Monday, July 06, 2020

Sweet Reaper - Closer Still

It seems like every time I turn around, Alien Snatch Records has released something new and awesome! Closer Still is the vinyl debut from Ventura, California trio Sweet Reaper. What we have here are 11 tracks of fuzzy garage pop that would be equally at home on the beach or at the cemetery. On the continuum of all things Alien Snatch, this band slides neatly between Radioactivity and the Hex Dispensers. Think catchy, lo-fi tunes that manage to be really upbeat and a little haunting at the same time. Sweet Reaper originated as the album Sweet Reaper by Seth Pettersen in 2015. That solo project soon turned into a proper band, and Closer Still is the second of the group's two full-length releases. It sounds like something that Dirtnap Records might have put out circa 2003, but with a little more of that modern-day Southern California flavor. You can call this a party record, but only if you're comfortable partying at a haunted house on the beach. Actually that sounds kind of awesome. Red vinyl is limited to 100 copies - you know what to do!


Sunday, July 05, 2020

Vista Blue - "The Senator's Daughter"

Here it is: my 25th Vista Blue review! I feel like I should be awarding the band something silver to celebrate this occasion. Baseball bats? Scooters? Faster & Louder varsity jackets? I'll have to see what's in the budget. You may have noticed that Vista Blue has been a little less prolific than usual this summer. That's because their alter egos Ralphie's Red Ryders have been hard at work on a full-length album that will be coming out on this Christmas on Outloud Records. In the meantime, the band has released an EP of odds and ends centering around its recent cover of the Fountains of Wayne classic "The Senator's Daughter". Those of you who are Fountains of Wayne fans are probably familiar with this track already from the wonderful free tribute album that Radiant Radish released back in May. If for some bizarre reason you are not a Fountains of Wayne fan, perhaps this song will be new to you. I love how this interpretation honors the original version yet still sounds very much like a Vista Blue song. It's terrific! "Colt Cabana #1" was originally recorded as a perk from the Kickstarter campaign that funded Vista Blue's curling-themed split with The Zambonis. The band pledged to record an entire EP of songs about professional wrestler Colt Cabana, and now you get to hear one of those tracks! "Cactus!" was written for the Phone Losers of America prank call network and was actually played as intro music on an episode of The Snow Plow Show. I never imagined that repeating the word "cactus" for 24 seconds would yield such brilliant results. But man, it totally works! "Four Seasons" is the original demo for the lead track off of The Kids Still Don't Like It, the kid-friendly record the band released back in 2018.

I like that "The Senator's Daughter" is a release for Vista Blue super fans. And if you’ve read this far, a Vista Blue super fan is exactly what you are. As a fan, I love that this band is willing to do fun things like make entire EPs for kids, write songs about pro wrestlers on demand, and submit unsolicited theme music to prank call podcasts. If you've never heard Vista Blue before, start with Hit the Floor! and work your way through the catalog from there. For the rest of us, "The Senator's Daughter" is tremendously satisfying fan service. I can't wait for the next 25 reviews! 


Saturday, July 04, 2020

TJ Cabot & Sonic Hz - "Overcompensation"

So it had to happen that two of Moncton, New Brunswick's most celebrated musical entities would join forces. All of Atlantic Canada has responded with shock and awe. On the surface, this seems the most unlikely of marriages. You've got the retro synth wave of Sonic Hz crossing paths with the DIY trash-punk of TJ Cabot. It's like Vangelis meets hardcore Devo, or The Screamers giving Jan Hammer shock therapy. Details on how this collaboration came about have been suppressed due to an ongoing contractual dispute between TJ Cabot and his band-mate Millhouse Deville over the rights to several unreleased tracks and a Rollie Melanson rookie card. However, the message board chatter indicates that TJ Cabot and the artist known as Sonic Hz were seen congregating at an abandoned '80s shopping mall and exchanging ideas about a shared musical vision that no one ever dared to anticipate. "Overcompensation" turns out to be the perfect fusion of two disparate musical worlds. It's as if TJ Cabot's '70s robot punks climbed aboard one of Sonic Hz's '80s spaceships and created a soundtrack for a movie that would only be available today on VHS. This song is something very different for TJ Cabot (it would not be the same track without the synths), and it's totally unlike anything you've heard from Sonic Hz. And at three minutes, it's twice the length of the average TJ Cabot track. So you're getting more bang for your buck (actually the track is free, so really it's more bang for no bucks). If this song is not already being piped into retail stores, public parks, and medical facilities all throughout the greater Moncton area, it is up to you citizens to submit your requests.


Friday, July 03, 2020

Lucy and the Rats - Got Lucky

This has been one of the best weeks ever for new album releases! We already had The Speedways on Monday and The Yum Yums on Wednesday. Last but certainly not least is the absolutely stunning sophomore long player by London-based foursome Lucy and the Rats. A co-release between Stardumb, Surfin' Ki, and Dirty Water Records, Got Lucky builds on the promise of the band's 2018 debut album and ultimately exceeds it by leaps and bounds.

As a singer and songwriter, Lucy Ellis (ex Spazzys) has been responsible for some of the finest pop music of recent years. She crafts beautiful melodies and sings with a tenderness and vulnerability that bring to mind the 1960s heyday of girl groups and Brill Building pop. While known primarily for their punk bona fides, band-mates Joe Tolosoa (Los Perros, Johnny Throttle), Manu Santos (Thee Tumbitas, Johnny Throttle, Raw Fun, Michael Jackson), and Liam Brody (The Gaggers, Johnny Throttle, Scraps) have proven to be exceptionally accomplished players in a pure pop style. If I had any complaints about the debut album, it's that I would have liked to have heard a song or two that picked up the pace a little and exercised the band's punk chops. And that's where Got Lucky really hits the mark. It delights with a nice mix of moods, tempos, and musical styles. It has got plenty of the dreamy, bittersweet pop songs that this band is so well known for. "September" is wistful, beautiful, and exquisite in every way. "On Fire" sounds like a lost girl group classic and will absolutely tear your heart out. It takes a special songwriter and singer to make a ballad work, but "Lucky" is truly extraordinary. I've been going back to this song again and again, and it makes me smile every time. But while the softer side of Lucy and the Rats remains fully intact, the punkier side also comes out on this album. Uptempo numbers like "Real Thing" and "Time To Time" really put the power in the pop. "Sorry" and "Jelly Baby Baby" are perfect pop-punk songs. "Pinch Myself" is pure '77-style punk along the lines of last summer's "Stick To You" single.

If you're going broke buying all of this music I've been touting lately, I apologize (okay, not really). But I hope you've got a little more saved up for Got Lucky. When I heard the advance single "Dark Clouds" this past spring, it was clear to me that Lucy and the Rats had turned out the finest song of their existence. I am happy to report that the entire album is at that same level. If you love power pop with a punk influence, Got Lucky is an album you need to own. Lucy Ellis is a tremendous songwriter and as likable of a singer as you'll ever hear. And this band as a whole is everything that power pop ought to be. Vinyl is available now from Stardumb and Surfin' Ki Records in Europe and The Machine Shop The Machine Shop in the U.S.A.!


Thursday, July 02, 2020

Jay Allen and the Archcriminals - Fun Is Fun, The Trilogy Is Done.

With Rum Bar Records having become home base for the best of Boston punk, garage, and rock and roll, it was never in doubt that Jay Allen and the Archcriminals would be a big part of that. Jay Allen (Quest for Tuna, Thumbcramp, Bosley) is a legend in the Boston punk scene going all the way back to the '80s. Backed by the Archcriminals, he has delivered the new album Fun Is Fun, The Trilogy Is Done. on Rum Bar. This eight-song long player follows Fun Is Fun But This Is Unsanitary (2003) and Fun Is Fun But You Gotta Be F'n Kidding Me (2010). In true Jay Allen fashion, this is a unique and entertaining creation influenced by '70s punk, garage rock, old rock and roll, and even a little pop. Jay Allen is a genuine original. When you put on one of his albums, you immediately know who you're listening to. What does Fun Is Fun... sound like? Well that changes from track to track! Opener "Cry A Little Tear" (featuring Emily Grogan on backing vocals) is an on-point homage to doo wop and early rock and roll. I've never heard anything quite like this before. It's like Sha Na Na meets Elvis meets The Dictators, and it's just so damn good! "Little Daggers" brings to mind label mates Indonesian Junk - think trashy '70s punk with a pop heart. This song really hits me hard. I love the raw emotion in the vocals and lyrics, and man that chorus is sticking to my skull like glue! "Grow Some Stones" is great straight-forward pub rock and roll not unlike The Dogmatics. "Big Lie" and "Beautiful Chaos" are rough-edged pop songs with a little bit of a Replacements feel. "I'll Be Damned" is some rip-roaring cow-punk to get you up and moving. And then there's "Chopped Liver". Who else would ever think to write a song about heartbreak with a backdrop of Jewish cuisine, and then throw in a shout-out to Fred G. Sanford for good measure? Jay Allen is a freakin' genius! If you're a fan of Boston punk/garage or the Rum Bar label in general, Fun Is Fun... needs to be on your radar.