Sunday, November 29, 2020

Nick Piunti & The Complicated Men - "Christmas Morning"


When I heard that Nick Piunti & The Complicated Men were releasing an original Christmas song on JEM Records, I knew we were all in for a treat. Any song featuring Nick Piunti is music to my ears! Sure enough, "Christmas Morning" instantly gets added to my list of annual holiday favorites. Having spent several months inactive due to the pandemic, Piunti and the Complicated Men reassembled at Big Sky Recording in Ann Arbor back in October and laid down this delightful track with their go-to producer Geoff Michael. It's a bright, melody-driven rocker that brings the holiday cheer in under three minutes. Piunti, as always, delivers a warm vocal and melody in abundance. The Complicated Men (Jeff Hupp on bass, Ron Vensko on drums, and Kevin Darnall on piano and glockenspiel) kind of channel the E Street Band on this cheerful little ditty. I'm generally a fan of Christmas music, but this song in particular really hits the spot for me. It's got the holiday sentiment this sort of song requires, but not in a super sappy way. It's a well-crafted pop song first and Christmas song second, which is exactly the way it ought to be. If you've yet to purchase the band's recent album Downtime, you are missing out on one of the year's best long players. And if you're already a huge Nick Piunti fan, "Christmas Morning" will not disappoint!


Friday, November 27, 2020

The Cavemen - "Euthanise Me"

At a moment in our lives when we're wildly desperate for normalcy, The Cavemen have come through for us bigtime. Is there anything left to believe in if The Cavemen aren't clubbing us in the skull with some violent and utterly repugnant rock and roll? "Euthanise Me," out today on Slovenly Recordings, is the latest EP from these world infamous savages. They come out swinging on the title track, bringing the fury and aggression as Paul Caveman screams his guts out. Now there's a lead singer who's committed. Or perhaps he just needs to be committed? Only The Cavemen could broach the subject of euthanasia as a means to ease into far less comfortable topics. But sure enough, "Eat Your Heart & Wear Your Face" really ups the ante. It's fast and mean. But in a totally perverse way, it makes me want to dance. I love the old school punk feel of this track. If you're going to wax poetic about murder and cannibalism, you sure ought to make it catchy! "Nightmare" is equally fierce and infectious - the perfect primer for activities ranging from illicit sex to binge drinking to the commission of felonies (or perhaps all three if you're a multi-tasker). "Over You" is a damn fine love song. But it's such a bitter, miserable love song that it's more like a hate song. If you like your hooky punk super tough or your tough punk with hooks, this one will leave you fully satisfied. The Cavemen have given us a vintage Cavemen release, and this is exactly what we all needed. It's a sign that a shit year is coming to an end and that rock and roll will deliver us back to the light. You are more than encouraged to crank this EP loudly enough to terrify your neighbors and nemeses. Just make sure to courteously remain at least six away. 

Thursday, November 26, 2020

Beebe Gallini - East Side Story


If it seems like I've reviewed Beebe Gallini's "East Side Story" before, well that's because I have. "East Side Story" was originally released as a 7" record on Ramo Records back in March of 2018. It was the vinyl debut from Twin Cities garage rockers Beebe Gallini. The band at the time consisted of Miss Georgia Peach on vocals & guitar, Travis Ramin on lead guitar, Amy Larson Pearson on bass, and Chris Audette on drums. Miss Georgia Peach and Travis Ramin also make up two-thirds of the mighty Short Fuses - who recently teamed up with Rum Bar Records to release the must-have long player Dawn of the Deaf. Now through a partnership between Ramo Records and Rum Bar Records, "East Side Story" is getting a deluxe digital reissue that expands it from two songs to five!

The title track, of course, is a cover of a song that was a regional hit for Bob Seger back in 1966. The vinyl B-side here, "The River Flows", was written by Amy Larson Pearson and is the only original song on this release. I once referred to this song as a "psychedelic spiritual", and I will happily stick with that description. It still gives me chills. The "bonus material" here consists of killer cover versions of lesser known later '60s garage rock sides. "Open Up Your Door" was originally recorded by New Jersey based Richard and the Young Lions in 1966. "Hipsville 29 BC (I Need Help)" was a minor hit for Texas garage band The Sparkles in 1967. "Nobody Loves the Hulk" was written by Roz Rogoff and recorded by The Traits in 1969. Beebe Gallini's version was recorded in 2018 as a tribute to Stan Lee and a celebration of the original song's message of empathy and acceptance. 

In my mind, I like to think of Beebe Gallini as America's premier cold weather garage rock party band. I picture them playing to packed crowds at ski lodges, ice skating rinks, and winter festivals as fans dance the night away and double fist hot chocolate. Sadly, there will be no Beebe Gallini live shows anytime soon. But you can still get in the spirit by downloading this EP, donning your best winter hat, and having your own private cold weather fest. "The River Flows" is amazing, and all of the covers are as crackling as the Midwest winter wind. If you're a garage rock fan, you need some Beebe Gallini in your life!


Wednesday, November 25, 2020

Romero - "Troublemaker"

It's hard to believe it was only nine months ago that Melbourne-based Romero burst upon the power pop scene with its stunning debut single "Honey". February 2020 now seems like a lifetime ago. Oh, how innocent we all were! While the world has changed drastically in the intervening months, one thing that's remained constant is Romero's flair for perfect three-to-four minute pop singles. The band offers up new single "Troublemaker" as some relief from the despair and struggle of this wretched year - a "record to sing along to even when the shower runs cold". Romero again proves to be the quintessential guitar pop band while sounding utterly unlike any other guitar pop band you could name. This is music that taps into the angst of the moment and somehow harnesses it into something sublime and joyful. No matter how bad things get, a Romero single always delivers a moment where there's a reason to hope and an occasion to dance. Proceeds from digital sales of "Troublemaker" will be donated to Pay The Rent.


Tuesday, November 24, 2020

Sal Cannestra - Plenty Of Music

After fully embracing his sensitive singer/songwriter side on his proper solo debut Easiest Thing To Do in 2017, Sal Cannestra vowed that "the next one will rock". And on the Pete Donnelly produced Plenty of Music, this New York indie rock and roll lifer delivers on his promise. Cannestra (Sleeper/Serpico, The Gerunds) was most recently heard fronting The Thirteen, a terrific Philly-based pop/rock and roll outfit that released albums in 2008 and 2013. For this particular release, Cannestra recruited a whole bunch of talented friends. Donnelly, in addition to producing, plays bass and keyboards. Peter Santa Maria (The Thirteen, Jukebox Zeros), Jim Balga (Blockhouses), TJ Quatrone (Hurricane Kate, Sleeper/Serpico), and Jason Victor (Dream Syndicate, Matthew Sweet, Skull Practitioners) are also featured players. Here Cannestra explores a great mix of the musical styles he's been associated with over the past quarter century plus. He tries everything from power pop to indie/alternative rock to ballads to poppy punk. I would describe this overall as a good, honest rock and roll record. If you liked The Thirteen's Lift-Off!, you will almost certainly find Plenty of Music to be a logical progression from that album. Songs like "Daisy and Dani", "The Heart Of It", and "A Little Dumb, A Little Cruel" are punchy pop songs with smart lyrics and great hooks. With its vivid imagery and memorable refrain, "All This Will Be A Park Someday" just might be Cannestra's crowning songwriting achievement. Elsewhere, tender love songs ("By Any Other Name"), kick-ass rockers ("Listen Up"), and epic ballads ("Soft Sunrise") fall perfectly into place. 

Plenty of Music manages to be both a satisfying rock record and a quintessential singer/songwriter effort. Cannestra assembled a dream team of backing players, and this album has got the oomph of full band rock and roll. But the songs themselves leave plenty of space for Cannestra to tell stories, impart wisdom, and reflect on his life. If you've never heard of Sal Cannestra before, Plenty Of Music will tell you a lot about who he is. All money he makes from this release will be donated to the Center for the Integration and Advancement of New Americans


Monday, November 23, 2020

Mud City Manglers - Give Me The Hammer

The Mud City Manglers ending up on Spaghetty Town Records has to be one of the most perfect marriages of a band and label ever. You're talking about THE label for dirty punk rock and roll releasing the first album in 20 years from the definitive dirty punk rock and roll band! It's hard to believe that it's been two decades since Pittsburgh's Mud City Manglers unleashed their classic full-length debut Heart Full of Hate. Give Me the Hammer, a split release between Spaghetty Town and European labels Beluga Records and Ghost Highway Recordings, is the long-awaited sophomore release from these legends of grimy and gutsy rock and roll. The good news is that the Mud City Manglers still sound like the Mud City Manglers. They are a veritable sonic bulldozer on this 11-track release - tearing through track after track of ferocious rock and roll that meets at the intersection of Motörhead, AC/DC, and the Dead Boys. On this particular release, the band brings a harder, tighter sound than ever. Fierce, pummeling songs like "Hangover Hurricane", "Bring It Down", and the title track are what all "action rock" should aspire to be. And on the moody slow-burner "Better Off Dead" and blistering heavy rock cover of  Harry Nilsson's "Jump Into The Fire", these guys show creative chops that are seldom encountered in this genre. It may be a tad premature to declare that the Mud City Manglers have delivered another classic. But let's just say that Give Me the Hammer will disappoint absolutely no one.



Sunday, November 22, 2020

Sweet Time RNR Comp!

Wow, Sweet Time Records has just released the best punk rock compilation I've heard in forever! You know how sometimes comps are dumping grounds for lesser songs that bands just happened to have lying around? Well that's most definitely NOT the case with the Sweet Time RNR Comp! This 26-track extravaganza collects high-quality songs from some of the best bands from today's international punk/garage/rock and roll scene. A global pandemic made it impossible for the Sweet By Sweet Time festival to be held this year. This compilation is a response to that. All payments over the set minimum on physical sales and all proceeds from digital sales will be distributed to the music venues in Nashville that would have hosted Sweet By Sweet Time 3. 

It goes without saying that many of the bands appearing on this compilation would have performed at this year's festival. But even if you have no prior connection to Sweet Time or the Nashville rock and roll scene, you can appreciate this comp as a showcase for the amazing punk and garage music that's now coming from all over the planet. While featuring a great variety of bands from all over the punk rock spectrum, Sweet Time RNR Comp! definitely hits the sweet spot for me with lots of garage punk, trashy rock and roll, and catchy old style punk rock. A few of these bands (Midnite Snaxxx, Mononegatives, Sick Bags, Lifters) have been featured before on this blog. And then there are others that I'm hearing for the first time (I had absolute wow moments with Love Collector, Daddy Sisters, and Primary Sound!). Across these 26 songs, you get a taste of everything from the bad-ass old school punk rock and roll of Ladrones to the poppy garage of NightFreak to the crazed lo-fi hardcore of Schizos to the '60s garage rock stylings of Thee Fine Lines to the raging trash of Modern Convenience to the DIY glam rock of Brower. And the quality of the selections is strong all the way down the line. Some of these songs were previously released, but many of them are exclusive to this album. While this comp gives you a great feel for the kind of music that Ryan is all about, it doesn't really come off like an advertisement for Sweet Time. It's more of a representation of how great punk rock music still is in 2020. You just might spend hours discovering new bands and hopping around the Internet trying to find out more about them. Trust me - I speak from experience! 

Justine's Black Threads - "Angels We Have Heard On High"

A few days ago, I wrote about the launch of Justine Covault's brand-new record label Red on Red Records. This label, which has already assembled a roster including the likes of Kid Gulliver and The Neighborhoods, will of course be releasing new music from Covault's own bands Justine and the Unclean and Justine's Black Threads. Red on Red just released a pair of holiday singles this past week. One of them is "An Irishman For Christmas" by Berk/Lehane, which I reviewed a few days back. Today I'm reviewing the other - a wonderful interpretation of the revered Christmas carol "Angels We Have Heard On High" performed by Justine's Black Threads in their patented bluegrass meets rockabilly style. As usual, the Black Threads lineup features Covault on vocals and guitar, Johnny Sciascia (Eilen Jewell, Cranktones, Jittery Jack) on upright bass and harmony vocals, and Jim Scoppa (T.H. and the Wreckage, Stan Martin Band) on guitar. It's hard to go wrong covering songs from the '60s, although in this case we're talking about the 1860s (with the melody dating back an additional 120 that's old school!). This is a lively and rollicking version that nonetheless holds faithful to the traditional hymn. Covault's lead vocal is absolutely terrific, and she and the rest of the Black Threads breathe new life into a centuries-old classic. Fans of Covault and/or Christmas music will not want to miss this one!


Friday, November 20, 2020

McLovings - "This guy's not doing you good"

It's been a couple years since I last reviewed McLovings out of San Sebastián, Spain. "This guy's not doing you good", the band's sixth single, was just released yesterday on Bandcamp. This is by far my favorite release from McLovings yet. These two songs, while still firmly rooted in punk and rock and roll, really hit that classic power pop sweet spot. And at a combined three minutes, 53 seconds, these two numbers don't waste any time getting to the hooks. If you like catchy pop tunes with punchy guitars, this single and this band ought to require your further inspection. Spain never lets me down!


Wednesday, November 18, 2020

Berk/Lehane - "An Irishman For Christmas"

Red on Red Records has been officially launched! Red on Red is the newest venture from Justine Covault (Justine and the Unclean, Justine's Black Threads, WhistleStop Rock). Red on Red has already assembled a fantastic roster including The Neighborhoods, Nightspell, Kid Gulliver, The Chelsea Curve, Cold Expectations, and of course Covault's bands Justine and the Unclean and Justine's Black Threads. The label has also signed Berk/Lehane, a collaboration between Simone Berk (Kid Gulliver, Sugar Snow) and the legendary Jerry Lehane (The Dogmatics). 2020 continues to be the year of Simone Berk - which is one of the few good things that can be said about this year! Red on Red has just released Berk/Lehane's single "An Irishman For Christmas" . Sure, the title brings to mind one of those cheesy Hallmark movies that I can never stop watching. But I can assure you that there's nothing cheesy about this song! Co-written by Berk and Lehane, this song is properly described as "Boston-Irish-interfaith-romance-folk-punk".  It tells the story of a girl transplanted from Cleveland to Boston who dreams of a very special Christmas gift - an Irishman to call her own. If "romance-folk-punk" is an actual genre, that's yet another genre for me to embrace! And Berk/Lehane are supported here by a star cast of Boston musicians: James Young, Ed Riemer, Billy Loosigian, and Norm Hartley. I've jokingly stated that my disinterest in "modern" Christmas music includes anything recorded after 1970. But honestly, "An Irishman For Christmas" is an absolute delight and instantly joins the list of songs I will look forward to playing every year at Christmas time. Was there ever any doubt that a collaboration between these two individuals would turn out amazing? If Hallmark ever does come calling for the movie rights, I hope Simone, Jerry, and Justine hold out for the highest possible compensation!

"An Irishman For Christmas" is just one of two singles that Red on Red has rolled our for the holidays. I will be posting on the other later this week. Also of note, Red on Red will be celebrating its launch with a virtual showcase at ONCE VV this coming Saturday, November 21. The streaming show will feature exclusive, best-of, and rarely seen videos from its artists, including two live videos of The Neighborhoods, new videos for best-of-catalog songs by Kid Gulliver, Cold Expectations, and Justine and The Unclean, special guests appearances by The Dogmatics and Mess Around co-hosts Jay Allen (with his band the Archcriminals) and Tom Baker (with his band The Dirty Truckers), and culminating with the exclusive premier of the Red on Red theme song and video!!  The song was recorded by Justine with David Minehan, Lee Harrington, and Jim Janota, and the video showcases all of the label roster artists and its creative partners. The show wraps with a live chat/interview with label head Justine and some of her roster artists, hosted by DJ JoEllen Saunders Yannis of WMFO's On The Town With Mikey Dee. For more information, check out the Facebook event page or sign up here

Tuesday, November 17, 2020

Tim Schweiger & The Middlemen - "Red Coyote"

Here's a quick little post that you all ought to enjoy! Milwaukee-based rock and roller Tim Schweiger has been releasing cool tunes with his band The Middlemen for a whole lot of years now. New single "Red Coyote" is the third release this year from Schweiger & The Middlemen (not including the best-of collection The Good Stuff). I highly recommend checking out all of the band's releases. But "Red Coyote" is certainly a great place to start. If you're into rootsy Midwestern rock and roll with a pop sensibility, this swinging tune should be very much to your liking. Schweiger recorded this track in Pete Donnelly's home studio in Haddonfield, New Jersey. Schweiger sings lead and plays guitar and drums while Donnelly plays guitar and bass. You can tell these two had great fun rocking out this number in the studio. What a perfect slice of infectious rock and roll! For good measure, Schweiger called in Wisconsin indie/punk luminaries Justin Perkins (mastering) and Amos Pitsch (artwork) to add crucial touches to this dandy digital single. If you like what you hear, be sure to dive deeper into the full catalog from Tim Schweiger & The Middlemen!


Monday, November 16, 2020

Proto Idiot - FUB

As I've found myself with much less free time of late due to professional obligations, the frequency of my blog postings has taken a bit of a dive. But in a way, that's been a blessing. As I sometimes have work tasks that do not require full concentration, I've had the opportunity on some occasions to play music while I work. If I've had any regret about the time I've invested in this blog over the last nine and a half years, it's that I don't listen to music for pleasure as much as I used to. I'll listen to something because I want to review it. Then I'll listen to something else for the same reason. And it goes on and on like that, with me rarely finding time to put on a record purely for the sake of enjoying it. On that note, I must remark that I've really been enjoying Proto Idiot's new album lately - purely for the love of the music. Sure, I knew I probably would review it eventually. But I decided to take the time to get to know it first. I made the conscious decision to not take notes or research anything. I just put on the record and dug in. I have gone back to FUB again and again over the last few weeks, and it never fails to please. It's one of my favorite albums of 2020 and a prime example of why I'd call Proto Idiot one of the best independent rock bands going. And at a download price of £7 (equivalent to roughly $9 here in the USA), it would be a fine and affordable addition to anyone's music collection.  

Typical of a Proto Idiot album, FUB doesn't conform to any obvious musical category. I suppose you could call it "post garage punk", but even that doesn't quite suffice. Influences range from psychedelic rock to new wave to synth-pop to art-punk to garage rock to experimental music to timeless British pop. No two songs sound alike. What drives this album is not adherence to a musical style, but rather Andrew, Mike, and Callum's wonderfully creative songwriting and undeniable vocal charms. There are few songwriters better at tapping into the spirit of conventional pop songwriting yet doing so in a completely unconventional way. In many ways, these guys are their generation's Colin Newman or Robyn Hitchcock. Yet it seems that FUB is informed just as much by the likes of Syd Barrett and Ray Davies. It's simply a wonderful record - one featuring remarkable, creative playing; stylistic innovations; and utterly fantastic songs. "Difficult Questions" is about as good of a pop song as anyone's done in 2020. "I Can't Tell You" is like a lost new wave hit from 1980-something. "Well" is wonderfully weird and a tremendously sophisticated composition for a song clocking in at less than a minute. "Mountain" is way out there - even by Proto Idiot standards. "Try To Be Good" is modern indie rock meets Mister Rogers. "I Like the Way You Look At Me" is a foray into country rock that somehow still sounds like quintessential Proto Idiot. Listening to this album is like unpacking the contents of a mystery box loaded with peculiar and surprising items. You're never sure what you're going to get, but every time it's a perfect little delight. Head on over to the Rigmarole Records Bandcamp and discover for yourself!


Friday, November 13, 2020

The Merinuks - EP 2

Check it out: a sequel that's even better than the original! How often does that happen? The Merinuks made a big splash debut with their EP1 earlier this year. But Donn, Larry, and Adam have absolutely outdone themselves with the newly released EP2! To recap, these Hamilton, Ontario goofballs named themselves after the legendary artist Darren Merinuk - who was so honored that he ended up designing the band's logo and cover art! The Merinuks' music is a great mix of punk, garage, and rock influences with a snotty but totally fun attitude. If EP1 was a little more on the garage rocking side of things, EP2 swings farther in the punk direction. Think early Canadian punk meets The Replacements circa 1981! "Gary's In Trouble" is an 87-second shot of pure punk rock energy that ought to have you shouting along and hoisting your beer in the air. "I'm Mean" and "Bent Outta Shape" are catchy punk tunes rooted firmly in sloppy rock and roll. "King Merinuk", the "epic" track on this release at just a few ticks over three minutes, is great campy fun in a Cramps sort of way. And for an added touch of uniqueness, Thea Faulds plays Theremin on a couple of tracks! All in all, this is a completely killer release from a band we're going to be hearing a lot more from. And I mean that literally since another EP is already in the works!


Monday, November 09, 2020

Pavid Vermin - The Beach Boys Never Surfed!

The latest release from the ever-dependable Jarama 45rpm Recs. also happens to be the latest release from the equally dependable Pavid Vermin. Now there's a dream team! After four albums in less than two years, Pavid Vermin has established itself as one of the best pop-punk bands going. And by "band", I really just mean Glenn Robinson making records by himself in his basement. If this year in music has proven anything, it's that homemade recordings don't necessarily have to sound like homemade recordings. After much trial and error, Robinson/Pavid Vermin has really nailed down how to make home-recorded pop-punk music sound like a million bucks. The Beach Boys Never Surfed! features four tracks which are (to the best of my knowledge) exclusive to this 7". Of course the title track is the "hit" here. It might not be common knowledge that the Beach Boys (or least most of them) were not surfers. If hearing this news has you feeling bitterly disillusioned and questioning everything you ever thought you believed, then you will relate to this song well. And even if you're fully okay with some of our greatest American icons being total fakes, you can still appreciate what a kick-ass pop-punk tune this is. Along similar lines, "Take Me To Your Leader" is about being so disenchanted with the world that you're literally looking for a new planet to live on. Talk about an anthem for 2020! The aforementioned tracks are a little more on the pop side of the equation, and balanced nicely here by the faster-paced & punkier "Electric Blue Carpet" and "Give It A Rest". As always, Pavid Vermin is a great band to listen to if you wish more pop-punk bands were a little less into Screeching Weasel and a little more into The Descendents. Vinyl should be out at the end of the month. If you like what you hear, be sure to check out more from this band and record label on Bandcamp! 

Sunday, November 08, 2020

The Favourite Ones - Anthology Of Love

Hey, pop people! I've got a good one for you today! The Favourite Ones are another one-man-band featuring the talents of Bandung, Indonesia's Andresa Nugraha (The Battlebeats). But The Favourite Ones are miles away from the Teengenerate/Reatards inspired low-fi trash of The Battlebeats. On this project, Andresa (vocals, guitar, bass, kazoo, keys, drums) explores his love for classic power pop by way of doo wop and early rock and roll. Anthology Of Love features six tracks of well-crafted and deeply romantic pop songs. And while The Favourite Ones and The Battlebeats prove to be very different projects, I am happy to report that Andresa is just as well-suited to power pop as he is to garage punk. He knows how to write a good pop tune with a hook, and I like that this EP is full of little love stories that ultimately form a larger love story. His main reference for this project is definitely '70s power pop, but he's also tracing it back to Buddy Holly and all the melody-driven vocal groups of the '50s and early '60s. This is a very successful foray into a pure pop sound for Andresa! Within the first ten seconds of "Julia", I knew I was going to love this EP! And how many of us will relate personally to "Telephone Bill" (I'll tell you, these kids these days don't know the pain of literally not being able to afford a long-distance relationship!)? Cassette copies are available from Chickpea Records. Hit up Discogs for ordering info!

Monday, November 02, 2020

Psychotic Youth - Forever and Never

After 35 years, Psychotic Youth still sounds like....Psychotic Youth! The legendary Swedish band has just released its 14th album Forever and Never. In the same vein as the band's 2017 comeback album The Voice of Summer and last year's superb 21, Forever and Never has all the hallmarks of a vintage Psychotic Youth record. It features 15 tracks of classic power pop with touches of punk, surf, and garage rock. Again working with Norwegian super producer Christian Jacobsen (The Yum Yums, The Dahlmanns), singer/guitarist Jörgen Westman has put on another master display on how to write three-minute pop songs that would top the charts in a better world. Also on board are longtime band members Ulf Abrahamsson (guitar), Anders Nordstrand (bass), Gunnar Frick (organ), and Kent Sjöholm (drums). Four of these five have been with the band going back to the very beginning in 1985. Yet after three and a half decades, these guys remain as faithful as ever to their original punky pop blueprint. And the eternal teenager Westman has never stopped writing perfect little songs about the highs and lows of romantic love. 

From the snappy power pop of "Come On (And Give Me Something)" to the garage rockin' "Takes You Down" to the '50s inspired "Goodbye Summer" to the sweet & sentimental "Before You" to the ripping punker "Detention", Forever and Never has something for just about everyone. Along the way, the band treats you to some textbook Psychotic Youth numbers ("Don't Be Like That", "Sucker for a Bliss") and a couple of dandy covers (Secret Service's "Ten O'Clock Postman" and The Messengers' "That's the Way a Woman Is"). Not just due to Jacobsen's production touches, Forever and Never ought to appeal to anyone who loves the most recent Yum Yums album. Behold the sweet spot where power pop and bubblegum punk converge. Now as always, Psychotic Youth is the gold standard!

Sunday, November 01, 2020

Ralphie's Red Ryders - You'll Shoot Your Eye Out!

I realize that I may be courting controversy by writing about a Christmas album on the first day of November. To that point, I will say two things. Firstly, we probably deserve a lengthened holiday season in a year as wretched as this one. Secondly, Ralphie's Red Ryders are not so much a Christmas-themed band as they are a Christmas Story themed band. And A Christmas Story transcends the season in which it is set. A Christmas Story is one of our greatest American films inspired by the writings of one of our greatest American humorists. You may perceive it as the tale of one boy's yearning for the most awesome Christmas present ever. I prefer to think of it as a story about learning profanity from your father, confronting bullies, honoring triple dog dares, pondering the relative toxicity of Lifebuoy soap, suffering the consequences of not securing your home against the neighbor's hounds, triumphing over faulty home appliances, and realizing to your bitter disappointment that advertising is everywhere in American society. Exploring a few of the above themes as well as many others from A Christmas Story, You'll Shoot Your Eye Out! is the 12-song debut album from Ralphie's Red Ryders - the Hohman, Indiana pop-punk trio that sounds suspiciously and uncannily like F & L favorites Vista Blue. For those of you who choose to keep your Thanksgiving season pure, it does not release digitally until Black Friday. But this OUTLOUD!/Radiant Radish Records split release is available starting today on compact disc. 

You'll Shoot Your Eye Out! brings that signature Vista Blue sound that never leaves me disappointed. It's buzzing pop-punk with sprinkles of power pop & the Beach Boys. Songs range from the band's punkiest ever ("Hey Scut, You Suck", which suitably channels Wimpy era Queers) to one of its poppiest (the sublime "I'm Gonna Get An A+ On My Theme"). Topics cover everything from decoder rings to being overdressed for the cold weather to shopping at Higbee's to major awards to those darn Bumpus hounds to (of course!) Red Ryder, carbine action, 200-shot, range model air rifles. For those of you outside of the United States who might have no idea what I'm talking about, this is still as good of an album as Vista Blue has ever made. If you are familiar with the movie, you probably don't need to be told what the epic closing track "Electric Sex" is about. Suffice it to say that the song is everything I thought it would be and more. It's... it's... it's indescribably beautiful!

When I first discovered that Ralphie's Red Ryders were recording a full album of songs about A Christmas Story, I knew they were facing a tall order. You could easily write a triple album of Christmas Story themed songs and not run out of quality ideas. It's probably not possible to make a record like this without infuriating a few diehards because favorite characters or scenes of theirs were left out. But as far as I'm concerned, any unexplored song topics are simply opportunities for Ralphie's Red Ryders to record again someday. All the absolutely mandatory topics are covered here, and the band's attention to minutiae ("They Traded Bullfrog", "I Got A Zeppelin") is truly commendable. In true Vista Blue Ralphie's Red Ryders fashion, the lyrics will make you laugh and have you feeling nice and warm on the inside. Neither fans of A Christmas Story nor fans of the band will have any reason to be disappointed. 

If it goes against your deeply held principles to acknowledge anything Christmas related between now and Thanksgiving, check back on the 27th when the digital release of You'll Shoot Your Eye Out! goes live. Otherwise, put your CD order in now and get a download code right away. And while you're at it, be sure to check out the new season of Snow In Southtown - the Christmas movie and music obsessed podcast featuring Mike from Vista Blue and his pal Rusty! I don't know how I went from refusing to turn on the heat to opening my arms to Christmas cheer in a matter of days. Was it Ralphie's Red Ryders or was it those movies on Lifetime and Hallmark? I don't know, but clearly I have passed the point of no return!