Friday, December 31, 2021

F & L Best of 2021

Well that sure went fast! It seems like only yesterday that we were all so eager to push 2020 out the door. And now another whole year has come and gone! I was so busy with real life in 2021 that I completely overlooked this blog reaching its ten-year anniversary in June. I can't tell you exactly how long I envisioned Faster and Louder lasting when I first started it. But the idea that I'd still be doing it after a decade would have been unfathomable at the time. Yet here I am compiling my 11th annual end-of-year best-of list. I attribute such longevity entirely to the thriving state of the music scene I promote in this space. This blog has always been about the music. If there weren't tons of great bands out there making amazing punk rock, power pop, and rock and roll records, I'd literally have nothing to write about. So tonight I will drink to another fantastic year of tunes and look forward to more of the same in 2022. Let's get to it! 

Top 30 Albums of 2021

30. Night Court - Nervous Birds! One
Vancouver punk super group debuts with 13 catchy tracks of lo-fi post-punk pop goodness.

29. Randells - Kicks
Bubblegum punk & power pop extraordinaire from the south of Sweden.

28. Real Sickies - Love Is For Lovers
If you like pop, punk, or any combination of the two, this album is for you!

27. The SUCK - Boris Sprinkler
Somehow as I become increasingly bored with Ramonescore, I become increasingly enamored with the SUCK. All hail the Mid-Atlantic street rock champions and esteemed founders of the Fantasy Beer League!

26. Goin' Places - Save The World
How can pop-punk music grow up and still sound like pop-punk? Goin' Places have discovered the secret. The lads who once aced Girl Songwriting 101 are now teaching the master class.

25.  Jackson Reid Briggs & The Heaters - Waiting In A Corner
Powerhouse rock and roll that's got The Saints and Radio Birdman embedded in its DNA yet still sounds right at home in the modern-day world of garage and punk.

24. The Peppermint Kicks - self titled
Co-fronted by Dan Kopko (Watts, The Shang Hi Los) and Sal Baglio (The Stompers, The Amplifier Heads), The Peppermint Kicks rock like the '70s never ended.

23. Friends of Cesar Romero - War Party Favors
I know almost every band I write about could qualify as "underrated". But the lack of attention for J. Waylon Miller's long running solo project Friends of Cesar Romero is truly criminal. If you like power pop with a punk influence, War Party Favors belongs in your music collection.

22. The Bambies - Summer Soon
When I started this blog, Canada seemed to be the world's epicenter for the garage/punk/power pop sound. Seems like nothing has changed!

21. Mononegatives - Apparatus Division
This instant synth-punk classic is the soundtrack to our modern-day dystopian nightmare.

20. Amyl and the Sniffers - Comfort To Me
I've seen all the hot takes on social media about how this band is overhyped and overrated. Nonsense!

The greatest '70s arena rock record of the 2020s.

18. Dany Laj and The Looks - Ten Easy Pieces
A feelgood summer release that holds up just as well in the dead of winter. The best release yet from Northern Ontario's most beloved power poppin' singer/songwriter and his truly excellent band.

17. The Pulsebeats - Lookin' Out
From Santander, Spain comes this fresh mix of '77-style punk, power pop, garage punk, and straight-up rock and roll. American release on Rum Bar Records coming in one week!

16. Civic - Future Forecast
Following a handful of great EPs and singles, Melbourne's Civic delivers a full-length debut for the ages. The vintage Aussie sound with a modern garage punk edge.

15. Beebe Gallini - Pandemos
While not originally recorded with the intention of being released, Beebe Gallini’s '19-'20 winter demos became a proper album in the wake of the unexpected cancellation of 2020. And the world is better for it! A great mix of '60s garage classics and similarly-styled original songs.

14. Neighborhood Brats - Confines of Life
The first album since 2018 from this California punk rock powerhouse does not disappoint! This is music with passion!

13.  Indonesian Junk - Living In A Nightmare
Fourth album from Milwaukee's glam/punk/power pop/hard rock sensations is a stone cold ripper. "Livin' In The USA" is the greatest protest anthem of the year. 

12. Autogramm - No Rules
While still obviously obsessed with late '70s/early '80s new wave, Autogramm successfully expands its sound on this excellent sophomore long player.

11. The Smart Shoppers - DORKWAVE
So is it punk rock, or is it new wave? It's DORKWAVE!

10. The Missile Studs - With Love From The Missile Studs
You know I'm a sucker for a pure '77 punk sound, and nobody pulls off that style better than The Missile Studs. Great snotty fun from down under! 

9. Los Pepes - The Happiness Program
Fifth album from London's punk/pop/rock and roll powerhouse is all killer and no filler!

8. Geoff Palmer - Charts & Graphs
If you were expecting more fun poppy punk rock from Geoff Palmer, Charts & Graphs will not leave you wanting. But it also features a bunch of fantastic songs in a variety of musical styles. This guy's just a damn good songwriter, period!

7. Radio Days - Rave On
Another classic-style power pop album from Milan's finest!

6. Rich Ragany & The Digressions - Beyond Nostalgia & Heartache
With a little help from his friends, Rich Rags has delivered his masterpiece. This 12-song release is built around a theme of finding strength and celebrating life throughout heartbreak and loss. What could be more relevant these days?

5. The Airport 77s - Rotation
This album came out last New Year's Day and has been in constant rotation (pun fully intended) in my home ever since. Inspired by '70s power pop and featuring some of the smartest and funniest lyrics you'll ever hear, Rotation is a must-own debut. It features the should-have-been #1 single, "(When You're Kissing On Me Do You Think Of) James McAvoy".

4. The Reflectors - Faster Action
You know what you're getting with The Reflectors: vintage 1980 power pop with a touch of old school punk/pop influence. First Impression was a debut that seemed impossible to match, but Faster Action is every bit as good.

3. Brad Marino - Looking For Trouble
If any of you require proof that rock and roll is alive and well today, just go buy everything that Brad Marino has ever released.

2. The Exbats - Now Where Were We
Always a really, really good band, The Exbats have become a truly great one on the remarkable Now Where We. They’ve delivered a classic '60s pop album that somehow feels perfectly in place in 2021. This is that rare pandemic record that I can honestly characterize as life-affirming, and already I can't wait to hear what this band does next!

1. The Control Freaks - Get Some Help
The third album from The Control Freaks is everything I've loved about all of Greg Lowery's bands combined into one perfect garage punk album. It's got the catchiness of the Rip Offs, the '70s punk feel of The Infections, and the attitude of Zodiac Killers. The press release for this album hailed it as a "future classic", and I feel as if it would be rude (and wrong) to argue. If you don't own this record, you need to...get some help.

Top 25 Singles of 2021 
I usually just do a top ten for this category, but the singles action was hot this year! So here's my top 25 -- presented without commentary. 

25. Rabbit - "Gone"

24. Hayley and the Crushers - "Click and Act Now!"

23. JENNY - "Trajinero"

22. Sister Suzie - "Don't Want To"

21. Slow Faction - "Bubble Gum For Josh"

20. Midnite Snaxxx - "Contact Contamination"

19. Kid Gulliver - "Boy in a Bubble"

18. canine 10 - "Real Fake Love"

17. Natalie Sweet - "Video Phone"

16. Miss Georgia Peach - "You Blow My Mind"

15. Nick Piunti - "Heart Inside Your Head"

14. The Chelsea Curve - "Top It Up"

13. The Airport 77s - "Losers Win"

12. The Prostitutes - "Shapeshift"

11. Nasty Party - "People On The Street"

10. The Dictators - "God Damn New York"

9. Hayley and the Crushers - "Cul-de-sac"

8. The Dogmatics - "Automat Kalashnikov"

7. Andrea Gillis - "Leave The Light On"

6. The Shang Hi Los - "Plymouth Rock"

5. The Sorels - "Spring Break"

4. Hayley and the Crushers - "She Drives"

3. The Cheap Cassettes - "She Ain't Nothin' Like You"

2. Lee Harrington & Lynda Mandolyn - "Real Love"

1. The Chelsea Curve - "Drag"

Top Ten EPs of 2021 

10. Vista Blue - Stealing Signs
I always feel like I'm betraying the pop-punk side of Vista Blue when I praise the band's more power pop leaning releases. Well, Stealing Signs is an example of a pure pop-punk release from this band that I totally love. And no, this is not a baseball-themed release!

9. Alvilda -  Négatif
Debut release from this Paris foursome features four tracks of classic style punky power pop with '60s pop and girl group influences. More, please!

8. The Jacklights - Drift
'90s style melodic punk done right!

7. The Cudas - Alien Vacation
Inspired by an actual vacation to the Space Coast region of Florida, Alien Vacation is the perfect summertime outer space pop record!

6. Linnea's Garden - Nowhere Friday Nights
Extraordinary debut EP from Boston band fronted by Linnea Herzog, formerly of PowerSlut. Great hooks and great lyrics! If music saved your soul during COVID lockdown, "Friday Night" will give you chills.

5. Neon Bone - I Wanted You To Know
Sometimes I wonder if I'm losing interest in pop-punk. But then I'll hear Neon Bone, and those doubts go away.

4. Dead Meat - II
Second and final EP from this London punk supergroup delivers four blistering tracks that meet at the intersection  of '70s punk and early hardcore.

3. The Speedways - Borrowed & Blue
One of my favorite bands decided to cover a bunch of its favorite songs, and the resulting EP is a blast! Borrowed & Blue features songs by Hanoi Rocks, ABBA, Kirsty MacColl, Billy Ocean, and Roky Erickson done Speedways style!

2. Kid Gulliver - Gimme Some Go!
On this exceptional EP, Kid Gulliver covers the Bee Gees (brilliantly) and delivers original songs in styles ranging from indie pop to ska to power pop.

1. The Shang Hi Los - Kick It Like A Wicked Bad Habit
I had high expectations for this Boston super group fronted by Jen D'Angora and Dan Kopko after going crazy for the band's debut track "Sway Little Player" last year. Kick It Like a Wicked Bad Habit proves that The Shang Hi Los are no one-hit wonder! "Stay" is a stunning new wave pop song, and the Shangs' cover of "Saturday In the Park" is a must-hear. A full-length debut is coming in 2022, and I am so pumped!

Masters Class Album of the Year
Teenage Fanclub - Endless Arcade
I give this award every year to the best album by a band/artist that's 25 years or more into its recording career. Endless Arcade, the Fannies' tenth LP, finds these pop legends aging like the mellowest fine wine.

Top Record Label of 2021  
Red On Red Records
This was an easy call. Justine Covault launched Red on Red Records in November of last year and hit the ground running with a roster featuring some of the best punk rock, power pop, garage, and indie rock bands from Boston and beyond. In this calendar year alone, Red on Red has over 25 releases to its credit including three of my top ten EPs of the year and five of my top 20 singles. The label's first year of existence was documented on the remarkable compilation CD Red On Red Hots. A lot of labels would be happy to release a career retrospective as good as this!

Best compilation album of 2021 (Single Artist)
Kid Gulliver - Kismet
Officially the first Kid Gulliver full-length release, Kismet compiles the Boston band's amazing run of 2020-21 singles plus a few more "greatest hits" to make one dandy power pop album. It may be an an upset that The Koopas' In Reverse did not take this award, but I bet even Poppy Robbie himself will agree with this selection!

Best compilation album of 2021 (Various Artists)
XOXOXO Volume One (Rum Bar Records) 
From the always great Rum Bar comes this 24-track collection of female-led smash hits. Digital album is a name-your-price download, and no less of an authority than Natalie Sweet has proclaimed it a "disc of rippers"! 

Top Digital Reissue of 2021
I've been waiting for this album to come to Bandcamp for years, and now the time has come! Originally released in 1999, this Andy Shernoff-produced album is a classic slab of New York City punk rock. Rumor has it that a Kowalskis retrospective may be in the works for 2022!

Best Debut Release of 2021
The Chelsea Curve - The Singles Scene
I like to give an award for best debut release rather than for "best new artist" since debut releases are often the product of years of hard work. Here we have a case in point. Already an established standout of the Boston rock and roll scene, The Chelsea Curve finally introduced its music to the world at large in 2021. The band ambitiously decided to release a new single every month over an eight-month period. From "Girl Cavedog" through "Top It Up", each of these singles was a power pop/mod/punk rock gem. I was left wanting more, but luckily I will not have long to wait. The entire Singles Scene project will be remastered and comprise the core of the band's debut album due out early in the new year on Red On Red Records. I've got myself an early contender for album of the year 2022!

Best Album of Late 2020
Muck and the Mires - Greetings From Muckingham Palace
There's always that one album that gets overlooked because it comes out in the last few days of the year. If Greetings From Muckingham Palace counted as a 2021 release, it would have made my top albums list for sure. The mighty Muck and company deliver 14 sensational tracks of garage rock, power pop, and British Invasion worship!

Best music site of 2021 
Add To Wantlist is the best music site out there. Run by brothers Dennis and Niek, ATW has a passion and general musical taste similar to this blog's, but with much greater knowledge and far more content. These guys have their ears to the ground and are uncovering the best in new music. There's even an "upcoming releases" section that is always mandatory viewing. If you're into garage, punk, power pop, and indie rock, ATW should be your bible!  

Well there you have it, folks: another year is in the books. Feel free to let me know about all of the great releases from this year that I didn't mention. I'm sure there are many! I wish you all health and happiness in 2022! 

Wednesday, December 29, 2021

Stiff Richards - self titled (European Pressing)

My final review of 2021 is of a reissue of an album from 2017 that's coming out in 2022! What could be more perfect? I first wrote about Stiff Richards in January of 2019, and since then the Melbourne-based outfit has ascended to the cream of the crop of present-day Aussie punk rock. There are so many great punk bands coming out of Australia right now, but in my book Stiff Richards and Civic are the very best of the lot. Drunken Sailor Records, who released the European pressing of Stiff Richards' most recent album State of Mind, is reissuing the band's 2017 self-titled debut album on January 21st. Considering what a face-melting record State of Mind is, you might think that Stiff Richards' debut long player would pale in comparison. Well, it certainly does not! If you had heard this album in 2017 (I sure didn't!), you would have instantly identified Stiff Richards as a rising force of nature in the garage/punk/rock and roll universe. This ten-track scorcher rages in the grand tradition of Aussie punk rock and roll. The sound is raw and blistering, Wolfgang's vocals are pure fire, and songs like "Little Creature" and "Layla" more than hint at the brilliance to come. The beauty of this record is that it doesn't try and reinvent the wheel. This is thumping Aussie punk rock in the grand tradition, yet it's executed with such force and fury that it reignites the sheer thrill of hearing punk music for the very first time. Originally self-released by the band in 2017, this album was reissued by Legless Records last year. Now thanks to Drunken Sailor, this crackling debut will be getting its first release outside of Australia. Silver and gold pressings are already sold out, and the black vinyl isn't likely to last long either. Hit up Drunken Sailor on Bandcamp to reserve yourself a copy of this contemporary classic!

Monday, December 27, 2021

Werecats - Are a Very Colourful Band

2021 has brought us plenty of good and plenty of bad. On the good side, this year will be remembered for the relaunch of Mutant Pop Records. Unafraid to try and sell CDs through mail order in this age of downloading, Timbo has revived his short-run compact disc series with a fine mix of old favorites (The Peabodys, Wallys, McRackins) and current pop-punk standouts (The Mitochondriacs, Vista Blue). Hands down, the coolest release of the lot so far has been a compilation of songs from London foursome Werecats. To the best of my knowledge, Werecats Are a Very Colourful Band is the band's first release on an American label. It's also the very first Mutant Pop release of a band outside North America! This disc collects the entirety of the band's self-released debut EP (2014) as well as its Monster Zero 7" My Boyfriend's A Werewol(2016) along with the rare comp cut "Murder Beast". Listening to these songs, I am shocked that this band was not on my radar already. I mean, come on: harmony-laden punky power pop featuring two women singing fun songs about monsters and bad boyfriends could not be any more up my alley! The obvious comparison is Rezillos/Revillos, and I doubt that will be a turn-off for anyone! Timbo originally planned this release to just be a reissue of the first EP, but then Kevin from Monster Zero graciously allowed the tracks from My Boyfriend's A Werewolf to be included as well. I love this collaboration between pop-punk superpowers! While Werecats are going through some changes with the recent departure of singer/guitarist Cil and drummer Mike, singer/bassist Pippa and guitarist Sebby do plan to keep the band going. In the meantime, Are a Very Colourful Band is a wonderful representation of the original lineup's delightful early output. I can't believe I've missed out on this band all of these years! You can find all of Werecats' releases on their Bandcamp page. Or if you're old school, you can stuff some cash in an envelope and send off for this disc the old-fashioned way. A very colourful band indeed!

(CD available for $5 plus $3 postage from Mutant Pop Records, 5010 NW Shasta Ave., Corvallis, OR 97330)  

Sunday, December 26, 2021

Pointed Sticks - "Pessimist's Son"

Well here is a wonderfully pleasant surprise to end 2021: a brand spanking-new single from the legendary Pointed Sticks. "Pessimist's Son" is actually the second in a series of "digital 45s" planned by the band, following this past October's "Here Again". If you're expecting the Sticks to sound anything like they did 40 years ago, you may be disappointed by "Pessimist's Son". But if you're open-minded about a band evolving and maturing over the decades, you will be pleased to discover that this venerable pop group is in fine form on these two tracks. "Pessimist's Son" has a bit of a Graham Parker feel to it as the band opines on the troubling state of contemporary society. The lyrics, while brutally on point, hint at some hope that we're not completely doomed. "Snapshot", featuring guest saxophone from Johnny Ferreira, is an homage to Nevil Shute's apocalyptic novel On the Beach. My goodness, this band sure has come a long way from "Somebody's Mom"! This is a pair of thoughtful and splendidly-crafted pop songs from a band that clearly has something to say and much to add to its legacy. I look forward to many more installments in this singles series!

Animols - Due

I always love a good theme band, and Animols are one of the most delightful theme bands I've come across. The concept behind Genoa-based Animols is that they play Ramones-inspired punk rock songs that are all about -- you guessed it -- animals! Due, the band's second EP, is a split release between Monster Zero and El Topo Records. It features songs about cheetahs, turkeys, mermaids, penguins, and bears -- all sung in Italian. Even if you don't speak a word of Italian, these are still super fun tunes to sing along with. This release is part of a special project called Super Involved launched by Kevin from Monster Zero in the wake of Austria's fourth COVID lockdown. The idea behind Super Involved was for Kevin to support newer and unknown bands in any way he could. One part of Monster Zero Super Involved was to make a promotional push for a few releases that came out earlier in the year and may have gotten lost in the shuffle of the craziness of 2021. Well, it sure worked in my case! Super Involved turned me on to Snotty Cheekbones' excellent album Avanti, and now I'm enjoying this latest release from Animols. Due is sure to delight animal-loving punk rockers of all ages and nationalities! 

Saturday, December 25, 2021

Outtacontroller - "Parts Unknown"

Here's a Christmas gift for all of us: a brand-new free digital single from the mighty Outtacontroller! This Halifax, Nova Scotia based foursome has been one of the best garage/punk/powerpop bands going for a decade now. The band's fifth album, Come Alive, is due out in 2022. The title track was released as a single early this year, and now Outtacontroller ends 2021 with another sneak preview of the new record. If these two singles are any indication, Come Alive is going to be a considerable progression from previous albums. "Parts Unknown", like "Come Alive" before it, finds the band pushing its melody-driven punk rock style into a whole other level of sophistication and originality. In a totally good way, this is as "modern" as Outtacontroller has ever sounded. Rather than hitting you over the head upon first contact, the song's melodies and vocals win you over slowly and subtly. Give it three or four spins, and you'll be convinced that Outtacontroller has never sounded better. The list of albums to be excited about in 2022 continues to pile up!

Friday, December 24, 2021

Record Roulette Club with DJ Henry

One of my New Year's resolutions for 2022 will be to spend more time listening to podcasts and online radio shows. I'll have plenty of opportunities to make good on this endeavor since I've got a half decade's worth of episodes of Record Roulette Club to dig into. It seems like everyone's got a radio show or podcast these days, and they're all competing for your time and attention. Where do you even start? Well, I highly recommend Record Roulette Club with DJ Henry. I will go as far as to proclaim it essential listening! DJ Henry is Dan Henry aka Rock Bottom from the legendary Dummies. He co-hosted a really great radio show with Travis Ramin called Jazzed Up and Bonkers that I reviewed a few years back. Record Roulette Club has a very similar "Dr. Demento meets the Underground Garage" feel to it, but with more rock and less talk. DJ Henry describes the show as "Kind of like taking your parents' record collection and getting drunk in a Radio Shack." If that doesn't make you want to listen, nothing will! This music-based program plays a great mix of garage rock, punk, R & B/soul, girl groups, and rock and roll oldies with a heavy lean into the '60s. DJ Henry is super smooth behind the mic and very reminiscent of a disc jockey of yore. But as I said, this program is about the tunes first and foremost (along with lots of amusing sound clips that are creatively worked into each set of songs). The track selection mixes obvious classics with plenty of lesser-known and/or overlooked treasures and the occasional oddball novelty song. The latest episode, #150, features artists as varied as The Shangri-Las, the Ramones, La Lupe, Bobby Fuller Four, The Remains, The Rolling Stones, Descendents, Mary Wells, Dick Jordan, Garland Jeffreys, Harry Belafonte, and The Lyrics. That may seem a little all over the place, but it totally works! If you can listen to any episode of this program and not discover at least one great song you never knew existed, you are truly an encyclopedia of popular music! If you're looking for something cool to listen to while you're working, walking, cooking, exercising, or drinking, consider Record Roulette Club!

Thursday, December 23, 2021

Dials - self titled

I've got a good one for you today! From Portland, Oregon, Dials are Laura, Alex, Mary, Rose, and Shauna. They've just dropped a two-song digital single on Bandcamp that absolutely blows me away. These tracks are off a 7" coming out soon on Black Water Records. The sound is punk rock with post-punk influences. Both songs, "Slow Walk" and "Chance Man", are A-side worthy numbers. I'm notoriously lukewarm about "post-punk" as a genre, but Dials are a band that get it right. These songs offer up an ideal mix of energy and creativity. I'm reminded a little of Midnite Snaxxx, one of my favorite present-day punk bands. If you like punk rock music that manages to sound original and contemporary, this is a band you need to check out! I'm sure we will be hearing much more from Dials in 2022. For now, enjoy this brilliant debut!

Tuesday, December 21, 2021

Dany Laj and the Looks - RetroSpectacle

Hot on the heels of their rightfully acclaimed album Ten Easy Pieces, Sudbury, Ontario's Dany Laj and the Looks have reached back into the vaults to assemble a new collection of the best tracks from all of their previous releases. Available now from the illustrious Spanish labels Kick Out The Jams and Snap!! Records, RetroSpectacle collects songs from the full-length releases Word on the Street (2016), Alive and Kicking (2017), and Everything New Is New Again (2019) along with a couple non-LP tracks to form an absolutely bulletproof compilation of power pop rock and roll hits. With the original releases now out of print, this is a great way for fans to own some of the band's most essential tracks on vinyl (and very soon on CD!). 

Laj and his partner in life and music, Jeanette Dowling, are the two constants here across these 12 tracks. They're joined by a host of drummers and keyboardists who've helped give life to these fantastic songs. I've been on the Laj train since 2017 and am pleased to find many of my favorite tracks here such as "Sweet Pretender", "Mister Screaming Attitude", "Hold For Love", and the terrific 2018 single "Left To Right One". I've also discovered a couple of old gems in "I Know You Want Out" and "Best Thing In Town" that have immediately ascended to my favorites list. While "power pop" broadly describes this band's music, I've always appreciated how Laj has never limited himself to a specific genre. He's a singer/songwriter first and foremost, and his songs reflect the influence of everything from punk to folk to indie rock to classic pop & rock and roll. There's more than a little Nick Lowe and Elvis Costello in his musical DNA! 

RetroSpectacle nicely sums up the "early years" of Dany Laj & The Looks. By no means does it make the purchase of the albums unnecessary (I especially recommend Everything New Is New Again). But if you've discovered this band through Ten Easy Pieces and now find yourself wanting more, RetroSpectacle is a convenient way to catch up on the very best of the group's prior output. And if you've never heard Dany Laj and the Looks, this is certainly a fine place to start! A North American release on compact disc is due out early in the new year from Rum Bar Records. The Rum Bar release tacks on a couple of digital bonus tracks ("Annie" and "My Head") which KOTJ and Snap!! have released separately as a limited 7" single. Whether you're a longtime Laj supporter or just a fan of guitar pop with heart, RetroSpectacle is well worth your time. Follow the links below for all of the pertinent details!

Sunday, December 19, 2021

The Dummies/Gargoyles - split 7"

I generally don't write about a release if I can't provide you all with clear information on how to purchase it. That's kind of the point of this blog, right? I write about music, and if you dig it you can click a link and go buy it. But I must make an exception for a new split 7" released by the legendary Swedish garage punk label Ken Rock Records. This single features "new vintage" early '90s cuts from The Dummies and Gargoyles. The Dummies (1990-96) were Pennsylvania's greatest garage punk band before their relocation to New York. They released music on some of the top punk rock labels of the day such as Get Hip, Bag of Hammers, and Empty Records. In Central Pennsylvania, they remain the stuff of legend. Gargoyles (1989-95) hailed from San Francisco and were at the forefront of the '90s revival of '77 punk rock and roll. They had several releases on the iconic Sympathy For The Record Industry. Lead singer Tim Storm went on to be in the very excellent Reclusives. Somehow Ken Rock has managed to unearth a pair of lost gems from both of these fabled bands. Seriously, these are both primo tunes! Gargoyles' "5 Million Years To Earth" could almost pass for an outtake from Raw Power. This is OG action rock! The Dummies' "Roundtop Rock" is a furious blast of trashed-out degenerate rock and roll that ranks up there with the band's most essential songs. The Cliff Mott cover art, set at the The Dummies' old home base in Lewisberry (a former gun shop), depicts a true life incident involving excessive drinking and an inflatable raft being set on fire. For the legal protection of everyone involved, I will say no more. Longtime fans will be delighted to hear this track. And if The Dummies were before your time, "Roundtop Rock" is as good of an introduction as any! Unfortunately, I do not possess any ordering information for this record at the moment. Ken Rock strangely has no Internet presence at all: no web site, no social media, and no web store. But if you should happen to encounter this split release while perusing a record store, you should definitely buy it! In the meantime, you can purchase The Dummies' one and only LP from the Get Hip Recordings Bandcamp. And be sure to like Gargoyles' Facebook page! Happy hunting, folks. Additional info will be provided as it becomes available! 

Friday, December 17, 2021

Ralphie's Red Ryders - "Pulverized"

I knew I couldn't promise I was done with the Christmas posts until I tackled the latest release from the greatest pop-punk trio to ever come out of 1940s Indiana. Ralphie's Red Ryders continue to impress with their knack for memorable hooks and uncanny ability to imitate the distinctive sound of Vista Blue all the way down to the most minute details. Hot off the virtual presses, new single "Pulverized" is a buzzing toe-tapper of a tune that waxes poetic on the serious consequences of playing with toy firearms and the invaluable nature of protective eyewear. Who can't relate to that? Over the past year, Ralphie, Flick, and Schwartz have been busy drinking their Ovaltine, meticulously crafting their themes, and triple dog daring each other to produce a strong follow-up to their excellent debut album You'll Shoot Your Eye Out. With "Pulverized", they've delivered a track worthy of a major award. A recent cassette release of You'll Shoot Your Eye Out on Memorable But Not Honorable was such a smashing success that the label quickly sold out its entire stock of copies. Rumor has it that a few copies on red and green cassette may still be available from the Radiant Radish Records web store if you're seeking nifty stocking stuffers. And on that note, I'm officially done with Christmas posts for the year...unless Joe Strummer comes back from the dead and The Clash records "White Christmas" in the style of "White Riot". Happy holidays! 

Tuesday, December 14, 2021

Nervous Triggers - "Radiation Suit"

With their latest single, New Jersey's Nervous Triggers have offered up a cleverly on-point take on Cold War nostalgia. Often one to view the modern world's most grim and troubling truths in a wickedly humorous light, Jay Insult has perfected this concept by penning the apocalyptic new wave anthem "Radiation Suit". For individuals of a certain age (myself included), 1980s childhood memories are closely tied to a moment when popular culture was undeniably cool and the fear of nuclear annihilation was very real. "Radiation Suit" ties those two aspects of the '80s together, facetiously heralding the revival of the atomic age on this exuberant Devo-inspired sing-along. The plot twist is that the despised super villains of yore are now getting elected to the highest offices. The band delivers this song with such supreme gusto that I just can't help bobbing my head and singing along to the deliciously satirical chorus "Now the future's so bright/I gotta wear a radiation suit". Nervous Triggers just might have a smash hit on their hands! If this song were any catchier, half the population would deny that it exists. The B-side, created by J Nixon's side project, Blankside, is an instrumental version of the track that ought to have all you retro gamers geeking out in a major way! 

"Radiation Suit" is only available on Bandcamp for a couple more days. This Friday, it releases on Spotify and all the major streaming services. You can pre-save the track on Spotify here or grab it for the next two days on Bandcamp. Who ever said doomsday couldn't be tremendous fun?

Sunday, December 12, 2021

Numbskull Action - More Action

While I'm probably not done posting Christmas music, I am just as happy to celebrate bands who go out of their way to release decidedly non holiday music in the month of December. Given how aggravated I get when I'm sent so-called "garage punk" releases that are neither garage not punk, the blown-out, ultra-primitive thumping of Woking, UK's Numbskull Action is glorious music to my ears. The band asserts that the 12 tracks comprising More Action were "lovingly crafted in only the most dank surrounds with zero attention to audio fidelity or professionalism by musical luddites". Now that sounds like something I could truly get into! The band even came up with the tag line "More Garage, More Punk, MORE ACTION!" to sum up this release, and they absolutely get top marks for truth in advertising! What else of any real substance could I even hope to add? This is brilliant stuff! Limited edition cassette copies will make great stocking stuffers for the budget trash enthusiasts in your life.

Saturday, December 11, 2021

Ingrates - "Don't Wanna Work"

Well here's a new release that hits me right in my sweet spot! Ingrates are a duo from southeastern California who play '77-style punk rock with a touch of power pop. They've debuted with a digital single called "Don't Wanna Work". If I didn't know these guys were from the Mojave Desert, I might have pegged this track as a genuine artifact from the U.K. circa 1978. It's got an old school pub-rock inspired British punk sound with a really raw production that totally fits the song. And it's topical too -- celebrating the financial benefits of unemployment in COVID times. On the virtual flip side, "Leather Lover" is an ode to a stolen leather jacket. It leans a little more to the power pop side and reminds me quite a bit of the Exploding Hearts' demo tape. It makes me feel all warm and fuzzy inside when I realize that new bands are still worshipping at the altar of the almighty Hearts. I don't hear bands of this style as much as I used to, so I am quite grateful to have been introduced to Ingrates. I'm my record collecting days, I would have flipped my shit if I came across a single like this in the 7" bin. Well-done, gentlemen!

Friday, December 10, 2021

The Dogmatics - "Automat Kalashnikov"

Well here was a pleasant surprise! It's no secret that The Dogmatics are my favorite of all the great garage/punk/rock and roll bands from Boston. Releasing today on Rum Bar Records is a brand-new Dogmatics single titled "Automat Kalashnikov". This is the first new music released by the band since 2019, and it's the first Dogmatics song ever to be written and sung by Peter O'Halloran! My immediate response to this track was that it sounds like vintage Dogmatics. If you told me this was recorded 35 years ago, I wouldn't doubt you for a second. You could slip in this song anywhere on the EST 81 compilation, and it would not sound out of place! It's the kind of punk rock tune that will hit you with a jolt of energy and then quickly get stuck in your head. Seriously: what an earworm! The single is being released on CD (available next week) and orange flexi vinyl (available February 28) with The Dogmatics' classic "You Say" on the B-side. Stay tuned for much more new music from The Dogmatics in 2022!

Thursday, December 09, 2021

Snotty Cheekbones - Avanti

Snotty Cheekbones, who were major players in the powerhouse European pop-punk scene of the early 2000s, are back with their first new music in 15 years. Avanti, the Swiss band's fifth long player, has been released on 10" vinyl by the illustrious Monster Zero. I've grown very picky about pop-punk in recent years, but I have to say that Avanti really hits the sweet spot for me. It successfully blends '90s pop-punk influences with '70s punk rock influences. It's well-produced but doesn't sound overly slick. Lyrically, it's intelligent and full of substance. Most importantly, the songs are well-crafted and catchy as hell. With pop-punk music, the point is never to reinvent the wheel. But Snotty Cheekbones have managed to deliver a record that doesn't sound like something I've heard 10,000 times before. Avanti is a fresh take on a classic style and a great reminder of why I'm so drawn to the European variant of pop-punk. Vinyl is limited but still very much available!