Monday, October 25, 2021

The Amplifier Heads - SaturnalienS


SaturnalienS
, the third full-length album by Boston's The Amplifier Heads, has been rightfully described as a "graphic novel for the ears and head". It's a throwback to a time when you'd put on your headphones and just sit there getting lost in a rock and roll record. Does anyone still do that? SaturnalienS was written and produced by singer/guitarist Sal Baglio, who has been writing rocking, hook-laden tunes for 40 years plus with bands such as The Stompers and the recent supergroup The Peppermint Kicks. With Baglio, you always know you're getting a highlight reel of the coolest sounds in the history of rock and roll. Running the gamut from roots rock and roll to the British Invasion to garage rock to glam to '70s arena rock, SaturnalienS launches these classic sounds into a fantastical outer space odyssey full of ghost stars, rocket boys, earth girls, young dolls, and beheaded amps. SaturnalienS plays like the hottest-selling album in the solar system -- garnering rave reviews and heavily rotated airplay on every rocket ship, space station, and extraterrestrial watering hole from the moon to Uranus. Those of you who couldn't get enough of Baglio's contributions to The Peppermint Kicks' debut album will be delighted to find that SaturnalienS is in a very similar vein. Needless to say, glam rock is at the center of this sonic adventure. "GlamoRama" is that rare tribute song that can stand toe-to-toe with the iconic music it celebrates. "Bat Shit Crazy" will have humans and aliens alike clapping and stomping with whatever appendages they may possess. "On the Moon" evokes the spirit of David Bowie in epic fashion. But in typical Amplifier Heads style, this album dishes out a tremendous variety of amazing rock and roll tunes. "Ghost Star Rider" is a surf rock instrumental gone to space, while "Earth Girls on the Loose" is the ultimate in wild, high energy rock and roll. "Peppermint Kicks" will scratch your itch for classic riff-driven hard rock. "The House of Young Dolls" is upbeat, jangly pop straight out of 1964. 

As cool as its concept may be, SaturnalienS succeeds on the strength of its tunes. Baglio's affection for the heyday of rock and roll is not mere nostalgia. He and his bandmates appreciate the timeless art of two-to-three minute rock and roll songs with roaring guitars, memorable melodies, and choruses made for the radio. In a modern world full of bands filling ultra-specific niches, The Amplifier Heads still aim to be a great rock and roll band, period. On this planet and beyond, such a thing will never go out of style. SaturnalienS is out now on your home of the hits --- the mighty Rum Bar Records!

Friday, October 22, 2021

The Airport 77s - "Losers Win"



Look who's back! On the very first day of 2021, The Airport 77s self-released Rotation -- which remains one of my most highly rated albums of the year. This fantastic power pop trio from Silver Spring, Maryland recently signed with the legendary JEM Records. Now there's a match made in heaven! Out today, the band's JEM debut is comprised of two digital tracks -- "Losers Win" and "The Illustrated Book of Cupid". Written by guitarist Andy Sullivan, both songs highlight this band's flair for harmony-laden power pop with big hooks and witty lyrics. My first reaction to these tracks was that they totally rock! If you like your power pop with equal parts power and pop, you should already be cranking up "Losers Win"! I dig the way this song builds slowly to a knockout chorus that's gonna be stuck in my head for the rest of the year at the very least. Somehow this song squeezes a novel's worth of storytelling into three and a half minutes. Check out this snippet:

He's got a photo with Sammy Hagar
And a tattoo says, Aloha
He's got a scar that runs from his elbow to his watch
Hung up on the baby sitter
Stepping in your kitty litter box
He got it in his socks

Now that, my friends, is true poetry! 

On the digital "flipside", "The Illustrated Book of Cupid" is a clever & hard-rocking love song that worships at the sacred altar of Cheap Trick (How stoked are Airports 77s to be on the same record label that first imported Live At Budokan to the U.S.? ). Is it just me, or do I hear cowbell and handclaps? Never underestimate the importance of percussion!

It was a tremendous surprise to discover that The Airport 77s had joined forces with one of my favorite record labels. And "Losers Win" sure does not disappoint! Whether you consider this one two-song single or two separate singles (Who can really tell these days?), this is a formidable pair of songs from one of the hottest up-and-coming bands on the power pop scene. If you're headed to International Pop Overthrow in New York next month, you can catch The Airport 77s on night three with label mates The Grip Weeds and the Anderson Council!

Thursday, October 21, 2021

The Mitochondriacs - Antonymous Mitochondrial Release


For those you who take the "All that shit sounds the same!" position on Mutant Pop Records, I present to you a Mutant Pop release that doesn't sound like anything else on the label (or any other label, for that matter!). The Mitochondriacs are a punk rock supergroup from Chicago comprised of the legendary John Jughead, Sex Dream's Maria Surfinbird, and Eddie & Marky from The Kobanes. Surprisingly, the band fronted by Screeching Weasel's guitarist has turned out one of the least Screeching Weasel sounding releases to ever come out on Mutant Pop! Antonymous Mitochondrial Release, out now as part of Mutant Pop's short-run compact disc series, is comprised largely of digital singles previously released by Laptop Punk Records. The singles were designed so that each "side" contained a concept that was the opposite of the concept on its counter side. Antonymous Mitochondrial Release adds another pair of contrasting song ideas to create a single concept album. Musically, this release is hard to pigeonhole. It's mostly straight-forward punk rock in a late '70s/early '80s style, but it also veers off into frenzies of noise and dashes of brilliant weirdness. On vocals, Mr. Pierson is far more reminiscent of Johnny Rotten or Jello Biafra than he is of any iconic figure in pop-punk. With its Anthem for a New Tomorrow vibes, the wonderful instrumental "Happily" is the one instance of fan service on this release. Otherwise, The Mitochondriacs are nothing like you'd expect them to be (unless you expected them to take a delicate folk tune and abruptly turn it hardcore). This is intelligent, interesting punk rock that has a great deal to say about the inherent opposition in human existence. The CD comes with a lyric sheet which is well-worth inspecting closely (My favorite line: "Sometimes I want my pants and a pair of socks to be their own country"). In his liner notes, Timbo calls this album a "work of art". I'd say that hits the nail on the head. This is exactly the kind of release that deserves to exist in a tangible form. For those of you who are not fans of compact discs, the album is also available from The Mitochondriacs' Bandcamp -- with all digital profits being donated to worthy charities. Not bad for a bunch of membrane-bound organelles!

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

Tuesday, October 19, 2021

The Hard-Ons - I'm Sorry Sir, That Riff’s Been Taken


Sometimes we set the bar a little lower for classic bands putting out new material. We're often happy if they simply manage to not embarrass themselves. It's as if we want to congratulate them just for still existing -- which is not unreasonable, actually! But no such curve grading is required for the latest album from legendary Aussie punk rockers The Hard-Ons. I'm Sorry Sir, That Riff’s Been Taken, the band's first release with new singer Tim Rogers (You Am I), isn't just a really good album for an old band. It's a really good album, period! Honestly, this is a vintage Hard-Ons recording. It would have sounded good 20 or 30 years ago, and it sounds good now. The album title could not be more perfect. After nearly four decades as a band, The Hard-Ons have made it obvious that they're never really going to change. And why would you want them to? These folks were playing pop-punk before the genre even had a name. They were putting metal riffs into punk songs years before the world had ever heard of grunge rock. They came on the scene at a time when melody was fading from punk music and helped bring it back in a major way. I'm Sorry Sir.. easily rates as a top-notch Hard-Ons album. Bringing in Rogers on lead vocals sure seemed like a match made in heaven, and it's quickly obvious what a perfect fit he is for the band. Alternating as usual between straight-forward punk-pop songs ("Hold Tight", "Shoot Me In the Back"), ferocious punk rock rippers ("Back Pack Sweat", "Humiliated/Humiliator"), metal-influenced rockers ("Fucked Up Party", "Pucker Up"), and songs that remind us that this band helped define modern alternative rock ("Lite as a Feather", "Needles and Pins (sic)"), The Hard-Ons are in top form across these 12 tracks. If you've never heard The Hard-Ons before, this is not a bad place to start. And if you're a longtime fan, you will not be disappointed. The album is available now from Cheersquad Records! 

Saturday, October 16, 2021

Lorne Behrman - When I Hit The Floor

I have been  an admirer of Lorne Behrman's musical talent for 25 years. As a member of the Dimestore Haloes, Dead Tricks, and The Sweet Things, he has made immense contributions to music I've raved about both in print and online. After thirty plus years as a premiere guitar gunslinger, Behrman has finally stepped into the spotlight as a lead singer and songwriter. His first solo EP When I Hit The Floor has just been released on the ever-reliable Spaghetty Town Records. Knowing what an excellent writer Behrman is, I had high hopes for his debut as a lead artist. But I must say that this EP exceeds all expectations. These are truly powerful songs, and I am absolutely blown away by the honesty & fearlessness of Behrman's narrative voice. 

When I Hit The Floor takes you straight into Behrman's soul. It plunges into the dark places he's gone to as well as the light that led him out. He puts it all out it in the open here: his struggles with alcoholism, surviving sexual abuse as a child, and enduring a period of time when he wasn't sure he wanted to go on living. Over the course of this EP, he confronts his pain and ultimately arrives at hope and salvation. As the one-sheet brilliantly states, on the closing track "Oh Lord, Give Me Time", "Lorne gets as close to a come-to-Jesus-moment as a Jewish NYC rock n' roller can." Musically, this EP comes off like a love letter to 1970s New York City. These songs summon the spirits of Lou Reed, Johnny Thunders, Jim Carroll, and Robert Quine (among others). It's poetry meets punk rock with a touch of that '70s Stones sensibility that is permanently embedded in Behrman's musical DNA. From the old school art-punk vibes of the title track to the intensely haunting "Sandcastles" to the anthemic "I Won't Fade Away" to the soulful Dylan-esque ballad "Oh Lord, Give Me Time", this EP shows us sides of Lorne Behrman we've never glimpsed before. Of course his guitar playing is fantastic, but he also proves to be a natural at crafting sophisticated rock and roll songs with many dimensions. While Behrman is responsible for all of the guitars and lead vocals on this release, he did enlist a formidable ensemble of supporting players including veteran producer Matt Chiaravalle, drummer Hector Lopez (Alejandro Escovedo, The Sweet Things), keyboardist Rob Clores (Jesse Malin, Black Crowes, Alejandro Escovedo), and singer Dana Athens (Jane Lee Hooker). The production and musicianship on this release are truly top notch. The care and attention to detail that Behrman put into this EP over the past two years have fully paid off. 

When I Hit The Floor is inspiring on multiple levels. It's one thing to preach about how surviving the dark times can lead you to the light. It's another thing to live it. Behrman has lived it and bravely bared his soul on record. He has accomplished one of the most noble goals of art: taking the pain of human experience and turning it into something that generates hope and makes others feel less alone. And with this stunning debut, Behrman has set a fine example for some of us who've reached a certain age and wrongfully assumed that we've squandered our creative powers. It's never really too late to be a late bloomer. Bouncing back from his rock bottom moment, Lorne Behrman has rediscovered hope and happiness and life and come into his own as a musical artist. I hope I'll be writing about him for another 25 years at least.

Friday, October 15, 2021

Rabbit - Gone


When it comes to the Aussie variant of power pop, the power is almost always in abundant supply. That is certainly true in the case of Rabbit, a new foursome out of Hobart, Tasmania. Out on Hobart's Rough Skies Records, Rabbit's debut EP Gone delivers three tracks of loud, hooky pop that owes just as much to old school Aussie punk as it does to new wave radio hits. This is one of those bands that falls into the category of "It's pop and punk, but not really pop-punk". You've thundering guitars and thumping drums, killer hooks, strong vocals from Maggie Edwards, and energy out the wazoo. All three tracks here are gems, and the EP will definitely leave you wanting more. Rabbit is that rare power pop band that achieves a sound that it is both original and classic. Vinyl is limited to 150 copies, so you ought to pounce if you're interested!

Thursday, October 14, 2021

The Wallys - Give It Back


Now here's a real throwback Thursday for you: I'm going to review a release that is only available on compact disc and cannot be streamed, downloaded, or even purchased online! When was the last time I closed a review with a label's mailing address? The triumphant return of Mutant Pop Records is in full swing, and Timbo has revived his short-run compact disc series in a major way. For my first Mutant Pop review in two decades, I'm tackling The Wallys' Give It Back. This 12-track release was recorded in 2001 and is just now seeing the light of day. Luckily these songs hold up extremely well. I don't recall ever being a huge Wallys fan, but Give It Back totally makes me a believer! With its blend of '90s pop-punk stylings and more traditional rock and roll and pop influences, it's very much in line with the kind of pop-punk I enjoy today. It checks off so many boxes for me: super-catchy tunes, rawer production, endearingly dorky vocals, amusing lyrics and song topics. I also appreciate that I can listen to it in its entirety on my 14-minute drive to the fitness club. "Give Me Back My Radio" kicks off with a riff that channels Moral Crux by way of The Clash. I heard that song and was instantly hooked! I'm always a sucker for songs about listening to rock and roll on the radio! "Bad Breath" brings to mind The Automatics in their "Golden Greats" mode. "Jody is a Cannibal" manages to live up to its intriguing title. "My Girlfriend is a Rock" is a really cool cover of the Nervebreakers classic. And I can't help but love a band that can go from the near-hardcore of "No Sleep" right into a song about soda pop. This is just a super fun album from a band I clearly underrated back in the day. 

The success of the Mutant Pop relaunch hinges almost entirely on one essential question: Do people still buy CDs? When I asked Malibu Lou how he sells so many CDs with his label Rum Bar Records, he told me that the label's over-50 demographic still listens to music on that format. The average Mutant Pop fan is probably closer to late 30s/early 40s, but I hope that the same principle applies. And I have to admit that there's still something incredibly cool about getting an actual mail order catalog from a record label! If you've read this far through a Wallys review, I would imagine you're already receiving the catalogs. But if not, you can email your street address along with the message "I love CDs!" to MutantPop@aol.com to get on the mailing list. A lot has changed in the world since Mutant Pop's heyday, but Timbo's aesthetic has not. In more ways than one, Give It Back is a vintage Mutant Pop release. It can be yours for $5 plus $3 postage!

(Mutant Pop Records, 5010 NW Shasta Ave., Corvallis, OR 97330)  

Friday, October 08, 2021

Scrimshanders - Songs That Never Were


One of the things that makes Rum Bar Records my favorite label is the way Lou likes to bring new life to music he's passionate about. A case in point is the new album by John Magee & Scrimshanders. Songs That Never Were is essentially a compilation of choice material from the Boston band's two albums (2000's Longneck and 2008's The Way You Never Are) rounded out by a couple of unreleased tracks. Back in the first decade of this century, Scrimshanders were one of the best bands going in the alt-country & Americana universe. Well here we are already in the third decade of the century, and the time seems right for the legend of Scrimshanders to spread to younger generations and wider audiences. Featuring Magee's distinctive singing voice and formidable, down-to-earth songwriting, these 12 songs write the book on how to blend country music with roots rock and roll. "SXMW", a true classic of modern-day underground country, was the perfect choice for a leadoff track. Those lyrics, and the way Magee sings them, give me chills every time. But as songs such as "Hard To Find", "The Way You Never Are", "No Angel", "Cheap Wine and Nicotine", and the haunting "The Man You Want To Kill" demonstrate, Scrimshanders are no one-hit wonder! 

I'm sometimes loathe to invoke the term "alt-country" because it brings up visions of boring middle of the road drivel championed by aging hipsters. So I'll just call Scrimshanders a really great country rock band with a catalog of songs that will rip your heart out. Jamaica Plain, Massachusetts may be a long way from Middle America, but spiritually Scrimshanders are as heartland as it gets. Songs That Never Were ought to be a fixture on every dive bar jukebox across the nation...and beyond!

The Heartdrops - Three Songs


Of all of the great bands from the '90s punk rock scene, few merit reexamination under a modern-day light more than The Heartdrops. The New York City trio released two albums and several singles between 1995 and '99. Mixing '50s rock and roll influences with the best elements of The Clash and Ramones, The Heartdrops were the undisputed kings of greaser punk in the pre millennium years. No band was better at bridging the divide between the garage, punk, pop, and rock and roll crowds. Along the way, The Heartdrops appeared on some of the coolest DIY labels of the '90s (Stiff Pole, Break-Up!, Melted Records) and tore up live venues great and small all across the U.S.A. It's criminal to me that this band is not more talked about, but perhaps that will change next year when Rum Bar Records releases the definitive Heartdrops retrospective. In the way of a teaser, Rum Bar has released a free digital EP featuring three non-album tracks from the band's heyday. The Heartdrops were the flagship band of the Melted Records roster, so now it all comes full circle as they again work with Malibu Lou. Grab this EP for free and prepare for the full retrospective arriving early 2022  -- which will be remastered by Justin Perkins and perhaps even include some unreleased material!

Sunday, October 03, 2021

Oi!l Change - Voices of the Past E​.​P.


Oi!L Change has me fondly recalling the '90s heyday of street punk. On its debut release Voices of the Past E​.​P., the Grand Rapids, Michigan based trio blasts out four tracks of tough and powerful punk rock with strong melodies and anthemic sing-along choruses. This is a timeless sound done right, with songs that'll have you hoisting a beer with one hand and pumping your fist with the other. I like that the vocals are aggressive without being cartoonish, and there is tremendous substance to the lyrics. If you dig The Business, Blitz, and Sham 69 along with the subsequent generations of bands they inspired, you'll want to check out this E.P. for sure. What a debut! 

The Chelsea Curve - "7000 Hours"

"7000 Hours" is the seventh in a monthly series of singles released by Boston trio The Chelsea Curve this year. All of this is leading up to a debut album slated for release on Red On Records early next year. Well based on all of these singles, it seems like we've established an early contender for best album of 2022! Month after month, Linda, Tim, and Ron continue to deliver memorable mod-inspired punk-pop tunes with big hooks and stunning lyrics. July's release "Drag" is currently holding the #1 position in my "best singles of 2021" tally (Yes, I'm already drafting my end-of-the-year lists!). With its calm, bittersweet feel, "7000 Hours" was clearly intended to be a fall release. Arriving on the heels of bouncier tracks like "Inconceivable" and the aforementioned "Drag", "7000 Hours" is a wistfully gorgeous little number. Linda Pardee's lyrics employ a space travel metaphor to convey the loss of a loved one. The Chelsea Curve is frequently compared to the Pretenders, and the similarity between the two bands is especially undeniable on this track. Pardee's vocal is in perfect harmony with an absolutely beautiful melody, and Tim Gillis channels James Honeyman-Scott on guitar. Whomever or whatever you're longing for at the moment, this track is sure to hit the spot. A digital purchase of "7000 Hours" is just about the best use of a dollar that I can think of. It, along with all previous Chelsea Curve singles, is available anytime from Red On Records!

Saturday, October 02, 2021

Kid Gulliver - Kismet


Now here is a wonderful idea: following its amazing run of six digital singles/EPs dating back to early 2020, Kid Gulliver has packaged all of this material onto a nifty compact disc! Out on Red On Records, Kismet is officially Kid Gulliver's debut album after seven years+ as a band. You can call it a singles compilation, a greatest hits collection, or a "How I spent the global pandemic" project. Regardless, it's a neat thing for all of these tracks to finally appear on a physical release that you can hold in your hands and pop into a CD player. The album consists of the entirety of KG's recent Gimme So Go! EP plus the digital singles "Susie Survived Chemotherapy", "i wanna be a popstar", "Carousel", "Beauty School Dropout", and "Boy in a Bubble". It's rounded out with a couple of deep cuts from earlier EPs for a total of 11 tracks. Taken as a single album, Kismet is a wonderful showcase for how great of a band Kid Gulliver is. I'm not a format snob by any means, but there is still something really cool about having a physical release from a band you really like. So when you're conversing with your friends about the best present-day power pop bands and you want to make your case for Kid Gulliver, all you have to do is pull out this CD and let the music do the talking! It's hard for me to pinpoint standout tracks since most of these tunes were stand-alone indie radio hits. But I will say that the band's cover of The Bee Gees' classic "I Started a Joke" continues to take my breath away. And the brand-new music video for "Stupid Little Girl" is an absolute hoot! If catchy power pop with smart, funny lyrics and exceptional vocals sounds good to you, now is an optimal time to hop on the Kid Gulliver bandwagon!

The Feels - "Twice (No Age At All)"


This is the fourth occasion on which I've had the pleasure to write about The Feels. As a huge fan of Christian's previous band The Tattle Tales, I was naturally enthused to hear he had created a one-man band back in 2016. But as much as I love all of those old Tattle Tales recordings, it's become clear to me that The Feels are way better. Christian is an even better songwriter now than he was 10-15 years ago, and with a solo project he has the freedom to explore any style of music he wishes without having to worry about how it "fits" the band. His recent single "She's Probably Not Thinkin' Of Me" was a perfect power pop track and one of my most highly rated singles of 2020. Now he's come out with a new single "Twice (No Age At All)" that absolutely blew me away. Christian is a pop guy through and through, but on this track he fully embraces the rock! The guitars and vocal phrasing bring to mind the louder side of '90s alternative rock. From the production to the musicianship (oh man, that solo!) to the vocals to the melodies, everything about this song is stellar. Christian's lyrics are exceptional and featured prominently in the song's music video created by Jess Tapia. Yes, this song is dark. But much of our greatest art does come from a place of pain. If you dig this track and have yet to hear the The Feels' brilliant full-length Dead Skin, I highly recommend that album! I had the privilege of interviewing Christian on the latest episode of Born Too Late -- the podcast I recently started with Jay Castro. Check it out if you're interested in a thoughtful conversation on life and pop music!

Tuesday, September 28, 2021

Killer Hearts - Skintight Electric


Out on Spaghetty Town and Dragstrip Riot Records and also sponsored by the Rock N Roll Manifesto, Skintight Electric is an absolute ripper of a debut album from Bayou City, Texas based punk rock and rollers Killer Hearts. It has been a couple of years since Killer Hearts exploded onto the scene with their fantastic self-titled debut 7". And while Skintight Electric reprises a couple of tracks from that release, it finds the band going all-out to sound bigger and better than ever. At its core, this is a quintessential high energy glam-punk rock and roll record. But Killer Hearts aren't above layering on a sick amount of bells and whistles (keyboards, handclaps, backing vocals, extra percussion). And it works! Producer Don "Demon Boy" Cilurso (Texas Terri and the Stiff Ones) doesn't hold back on imbuing this album with a pronounced '70s arena rock swagger. Landing on the rock side of the New York Dolls, Johnny Thunders, and Dead Boys, Skintight Electric is an over the top affair in the best way possible. It's loud, wild, and a whole lot of fun. The marriage of sleazy '70s punk and ripping rock and roll is hardly new territory, but Killer Hearts pull off this sound as splendidly as any band has in recent years. Of course these guys have the attitude and the look down pat. More importantly, they've got serious chops and (no pun intended) killer tunes. The Rock N Roll Manifesto version of this release is extremely limited, so move fast if you're interested! 

Friday, September 24, 2021

Miss Georgia Peach - "You Blow My Mind" b​/​w "Do You Know What Love Means?"


I've got some good stuff for you today! Back in August, I mentioned that Miss Georgia Peach had a new solo album in the works. The good news is that the album has been completed and is slated for release on Rum Bar Records. It's gonna be a country record, and I'm so pumped to hear it! Georgia and her total babe husband Travis Ramin recorded the album with Blaine Cartwright and Ruyter Suys from Nashville Pussy. With Mark and Scott from Nine Pound Hammer also featured on this release, it's no exaggeration to say that MGP has assembled a supergroup! In advance of the album, "You Blow My Mind" b​/​w "Do You Know What Love Means?" has been released as a teaser single. Both of these tracks are in right in my '60s/'70s sweet spot of classic country music. The latter, an exuberant sing-along, was previously featured on Rum Bar's XOXOXO Volume One compilation CD. The former, a rollicking & punkified duet with Cartwright, justifies your chosen purchase price even if you already own the comp. MGP is not just one of the greatest voices in contemporary music -- she's also one of the most versatile. Whether she's singing garage rock, heavy punk rock and roll, or old school country, Georgia is always a force to be reckoned with. If these teaser tracks are any indication, the full album is gonna be hot!

Tuesday, September 21, 2021

The Cheap Cassettes - "Endless Summer Ends"


Well here we are on the last day of summer 2021. Just thinking of that gives me a tinge of melancholy. I feel as if another summer has slipped by without me making the most of it. Being the clever cats that they are, The Cheap Cassettes timed the release of their new single & music video "Endless Summer Ends" to coincide with this very occasion. "Endless Summer Ends", the Seattle trio's first new song in nearly two years, is a teaser for the band's forthcoming album Ever Since Ever Since. Suitably, "Endless Summer Ends" captures the wistful vibes of end of summer reflections. It's a thoughtful, mellow pop song that saunters past the four-minute mark without wearing out its welcome. As you would expect from The Cheap Cassettes, this is a quintessential power pop tune. That hook just might stay stuck in my head until next summer rolls around! The Cheap Cassettes are part of my holy trinity of favorite bands, and I would surely give them a glowing review even if they covered "Achy Breaky Heart" with kazoos. But I've got to say that they've really delivered something truly special with "Endless Summer Ends". This is music with heart, grounded in timeless melody. And the video, filmed & edited by Anna Parkhurst, is absolutely fantastic. Look for Ever Since Ever Since releasing on Rum Bar Records this December!

Monday, September 20, 2021

The Prostitutes - "Headcase"

Now here's a great way to start a week! "Headcase" is the brand-new digital single from the legendary Prostitutes. Kevin has kept this band going strong through 26 years and moves from Central Pennsylvania to Columbus, Ohio to Long Beach, California back to Central Pennsylvania to Baltimore, Maryland, and now back to Columbus. The locations and supporting players change, but the constant is that The Prostitutes represent punk rock music at its very best. Part of what's made Kevin a success as a veteran punk rocker is that he's never settled into a rut where every release or song sounds the same. He's managed to sustain a progression and evolution in the music of The Prostitutes while still keeping it sounding like...The Prostitutes! He describes "Headcase" as "A Different Kind of Tension meets China White experimentation". Name one other band out there that's trying that! "Headcase" is a raging punk tune with a cool modern edge. The lyrics are quite minimal and classic Kevin. You can grab "Headcase" right now as a name your price download on Bandcamp. And be sure to pick up the recent and totally essential EP Shapeshift if you haven't already!

Sunday, September 19, 2021

Blunt Bangs - Proper Smoker


Blunt Bangs manage to be a 21st Century indie rock supergroup who tap into my nostalgia for the sounds of the late 20th Century. Featuring co-songwriters Reggie Youngblood (Black Kids) and Christian DeRoeck (Woods, Deep State), this Atlanta-based trio finds the sweet spot where power pop converges with '90s indie/alternative rock. The band's debut album Proper Smoker is a satisfying collection of loud/noisy pop tunes mining the Weezer/Teenage Fanclub/Superchunk corner of the musical universe. Yet even with the obviousness of the influences, this band seems to be modernizing the sounds of '90s college radio more so than it's simply reviving them. Youngblood and DeRoeck both show a devotion to a timeless craft of pop songwriting. But as you would expect given these guys' past work, this is still very much a contemporary-sounding record. You could call Proper Smoker indie rock for people who like power pop, or maybe it's power pop for people who like indie rock. Either way, it's an excellent debut full of well-crafted earworms.

Saturday, September 18, 2021

The New Brutarians - "Barter Baby (I'll Trade You My Heart)"


2021 has been the year of delayed records. The pressing plants are so bogged down that albums recorded now just might see the light of day before a human lands on Mars. The New Brutarians, a band I'm quite fond of, must now wait until spring of next year for their debut album Hysteria to come out. Some bands will just say, "Screw it!" and release the music on other formats. But The New Brutarians seem poised to wait this one out for another half year or so. In the meantime, Adam and Christina have turned loose an outtake from the Hysteria sessions called "Barter Baby (I'll Trade You My Heart)" . This track kind of channels the Rolling Stones by way of the Velvet Underground -- or maybe it's the other way around? As always, I dig the lo-fi glam/proto-punk vibe. Lyrics are always a highlight of an Adam T. composition, and they're absolutely brilliant on this track. I got through one verse and was like, "Man, I wish I could write like that!". While "Barter Baby" didn't make it onto the album, it's no throwaway. The song is a staple of the band's live set and would probably have been released as a single at some point. Enjoy it now, and look forward to Hysteria next year!

Friday, September 17, 2021

The Reflectors - Faster Action


Now here's an album I was eagerly awaiting! Last year, The Reflectors released First Impression - one of the best albums of 2020 and one of the best power pop releases of recent memory. James, Nick, Ryan, and Johnny are now back with their sophomore long player Faster Action. The album is being co-released by Beluga Records in Sweden, Time For Action Records in Germany, and SNAP!! Records in Spain. It officially releases one week from today, but it's already available in digital form from the SNAP!! Records Bandcamp. Faster Action is a real fan-pleaser, sticking to the formula that worked so well on First Impression. If you like classic L.A. power pop or Buzzcocks-style punk-pop, well The Reflectors are the best of both worlds! Again the band worked with engineer/producer extraordinaire Jonny Bell to create an amazing-sounding power pop record that's chock full of hits. Quite a few of these songs were featured on The Reflectors' KXLU live broadcast, and the studio versions do not disappoint. Ralph Rivera has proclaimed "Radio Signals" the "best power pop song in forever", and he's not wrong! This album strikes a great balance between perfect pop songs like "Can't Sleep Tonight" & "Dial Tone" and punchier, punkier tunes like "Messin' Around" and the title track. And in typical Reflectors fashion, the album seems to finish even stronger than it starts. There's no filler to be found here, my friends! 

Coming off the magnificence of First Impression, The Reflectors could not have been blamed for succumbing to the sophomore jinx. But instead, they've come through with the best album of 2021 so far. Check the links below for ordering info. No joke: the TFA vinyl version actually plays inside-out!

The Hi-End - "Actions Speak Louder Than Words"


Are you ready to be blasted with some rock and roll? The Hi-End is back with its first original song in nearly a year-and-a-half. Out on Rum Bar Records, the digital single "Actions Speak Louder Than Words" packs enough energy to replace your morning coffee for a week. These boys from Boston aren't fooling around. "Actions Speak Louder Than Words" is four minutes of thundering proto-punk rock and roll excitement. The guitars rip, the drums smash, and Johnny nails the vocal. And that lead guitar work is epic! Combining Detroit rock with an East Coast roll, this is a rousing and triumphant tune that begs to be played on repeat. Crank this song up loud, and you will feel invincible. Locals can experience this action in the flesh next Saturday the 25th with Stop Calling Me Frank, The Idolizers, and Shang Hi Los sharing the bill. More info here!

Sunday, September 12, 2021

MOM - Pulls A Fast One


Swedish bubblegum pop sensations MOM have literally pulled a fast one! Donny, Luke, Frank, and Spike got together in July and banged out a surprise new EP in just a couple of weekends. Pulls A Fast One includes six cover songs performed in MOM's signature style. Some of these songs (especially ABBA's 1974 European chart smash "Honey Honey" and Marshall Crenshaw's 1982 hit "There She Goes Again") acknowledge obvious influences. Others are wonderful surprises. The early Whitney Houston hit "How Will I Know" is brilliantly transformed into bubblegum gold. The Prince classic "When You Were Mine" could probably pass for a MOM original if you didn't know any better! What a fun little EP from an always fun band! It's a free download via Bandcamp. If you still haven't picked up MOM's instant classic long player Pleasure Island, it's now available on both vinyl and CD. Who doesn't love MOM?!

Friends of Cesar Romero - War Party Favors


As the strong full-length releases of 2021 continue to pile up, here's another one to add to the conversation. War Party Favors is the latest of many albums by Friends of Cesar Romero -- the long-running solo project from J. Waylon Miller (ex The Reddmen). On this release, J. Waylon basically did it all. He sang, played all of the instruments, and produced the album. And from start to finish, War Party Favors is stacked with absolute gems. If you dig power pop that takes it cues from garage rock, the '60s classics, modern-day indie pop, and even a little pop-punk, you'll find much to love here. This is just a really great album that should go over well with almost anyone who regularly visits this blog. J. Waylon knows to turn out a killer hook, and his songwriting style is steeped in the timeless traditions of the two-to-three minute pop song. Snappy Little Numbers has released the album on CD and also offers a pay-what-you-want download. If you like what you hear, you could very well spend all day on the Friends of Cesar Romero Bandcamp digging into the back catalog. Check it out! 

Friday, September 10, 2021

Christopher Peifer - The Social Distance


Don't call it a sequel, but Christopher Peifer has followed his excellent debut solo album Suicide Mission with a quite similar and equally strong effort titled The Social Distance. Peifer (The Kowalskis, SiR, Frances Farmer My Hero, Blockhouses, etc.) is quickly establishing himself as a solo artist of note after decades in the New York rock and roll scene. While Suicide Mission was described as "art and love in the time of Coronavirus", The Social Distance is Peifer's definitive "COVID record". It was written and recorded entirely during pandemic times and reflects what was going through his mind as he and the rest of the world battled through a year unlike any other in our lifetimes. 

Written in Fort Wayne, Indiana and recorded at Todd Giudice's Roots Cellar Studio in Cold Spring, New York, The Social Distance is an album that deals with loss, change, and upheaval on both a personal and political level. Yet it's also full of optimism, hope, and a highly contagious positive energy. Musically, Peifer continues to work in the medium of two-to-three minute pop-rock songs. Most of these ten tracks meet at the intersection of timeless power pop and 1980s indie rock. Peifer excels at writing songs with simple, appealing hooks. Yet beneath the surface, these songs are heartfelt, relatable, and quite profound. Here Peifer largely responds to the trials and tribulations of a pandemic year by looking forward to better times ahead. The title track is full of hope for reuniting with loved ones in person, while the Replacements inspired rocker "Meet Me At the Bar" is just as much about the bonds of friendship as it is about the joys of drinking. Spiritually inspired by Patti Smith's "People Have the Power" and Curtis Mayfield's "Power to the People", "Something To Believe In" is Peifer's humble stab at a rallying cry for positive change. "The Infernal Racket" is kind of like Peifer's own "Left of the Dial" -- a celebration of indie radio stations and the underground rock and roll bands they so steadfastly support. A Paul Westerberg influence looms large again on album closer "Can’t Dance At All" -- a song that encourages the pursuit of joy wherever one may find it. And of course this would not be a Chris Peifer album without a little bit of storytelling. A skilled chronicler of the rock and roll life, Peifer crafts real-life tales that are both heartbreaking ("The Ride") and highly amusing ("Let's Get the Band Back Together").   

Like its predecessor, The Social Distance hooked me with well-crafted pop songs, but it has the staying power to keep me coming back for more. A good solo album should make you feel like you know the artist, and that is definitely the case with The Social Distance. On the excellent track "Midnight Radio", Peifer romanticizes long distance driving with music as a sole source of companionship. He has, no doubt, crafted an entire album that will enhance your enjoyment of any solitary pursuit. In a year full of excellent LPs, this is one of the very best.

Monday, September 06, 2021

Tuff Talk - "Shelly"​/​"Never Say Die"


Tuff Talk has launched a debut single that lands dead center in the sweet spot for this blog. The digital two-fer "Shelly"& "Never Say Die" follows a demo from 2019, and both tracks are textbook shots of powerpop/punk. I can't even decide which song is the "hit" -- as they're both A-side worthy. Late '70s/early '80s power pop seems to be the biggest influence, but there are hints of modern-day punk-pop as well. The guitars pack a serious punch, and the production is first rate. Especially considering the price (free), these tunes are well worth checking out. I'm stoked to hear more! 

Sunday, September 05, 2021

Brad Marino - "Monkey Man"


Brad Marino, one of my favorite recording artists of present day, has just released an exceptional track that's more than worth the asking price of $1.49. You surely recognize "Monkey Man" as an iconic song by the Rolling Stones. Marino got together with his talented pals Craig Sala and Kris Rodgers and recorded an amazing cover of "Monkey Man". It was just released last week in memory of Charlie Watts. It's a really cool take on a classic that features Marino on slide guitar and superb work from Rodgers on organ and Rhodes piano. On drums, Sala honors Charlie Watts in the ultimate way by holding the entire song together. If you're a fan of Brad Marino, the Rolling Stones, or just great music in general, you'll wanna give this a listen. Sweet artwork by Glenn Robinson!

The Koopas - In Reverse: A Complete Retrospective 1999​-​2002


The Koopas are cherished in pop-punk circles as the best band that was almost on Mutant Pop Records (twice). Now -- nearly two decades after their untimely demise -- they have the distinction of being simultaneously released by the two greatest present-day American pop-punk record labels. A joint venture between Mom's Basement Records and Something To Do Records, The Koopas' In Reverse compiles every track this southeastern Texas trio released in its short run of existence -- plus 11 more that it didn't! 

Coming in at a total of 27 tracks (all meticulously remastered at Mindrocket Recording Studio by John Roman), this collection serves as a wonderful time capsule of a late '90s/early 2000s pop-punk scene that I still hold closely to my heart. In 2001 when The Koopas came on my radar, my interest in pop-punk had shifted from the "bigger" bands of the scene to the newer ones that were self-releasing music or working with smaller labels. The Koopas, by necessity, ended up self-releasing their 7" When Opposites Attack on their own small label, Top Five Records. That release was my introduction to the band (to this day, I feel like a poser Koopas fan for not being on board from the Sex, Lies, and Videogames days). I took to the band immediately. They sounded like the lovechild of Screeching Weasel and the Mr. T. Experience. I dug that they weren't afraid to write sappy love songs. I dug that they were into High Fidelity. I dug that they were fans of the serial comma. But mostly, I dug that they were clearly on the pop side of pop-punk -- so much so that the singer/guitarist called himself Poppy Robbie (How different would The Koopas have been if they'd been fronted by Punky Robbie?). In print, I heralded the band as a sign of renewed life in American pop-punk and declared that they combined the musical chops of Rocket To Russia-era Ramones with the soul of the Modern Lovers. Sadly, the band would not last even another year. A follow-up to When Opposites Attack called New Wave of an Old Sound was recorded in early 2002 but ultimately went unreleased after Mutant Pop Records went on hiatus. The Koopas took their place in the "Remember them? They were so good!" annals of pop-punk history. Charlie and Tron continued in their other band Joe Jitsu and later Breaklights. Robbie became a solo recording artist and a pop artist. And in my mind, I always associated The Koopas with how much fun it was to be into pop-punk during those early Millennium years. 

Over the years, I've often wondered: Were The Koopas really a good band, or was I just crazy? The Mom's Basement/Something To Do seal of approval seems to settle the former question, while the latter is still up for debate. John at Mom's Basement and Matthew at Something To Do know good pop-punk. If they're putting their butts (and money) on the line to release In Reverse, you know it's an essential release for any fan of Lookout!/Mutant Pop era pop-punk. The band itself had originally prepared this collection as a homemade CD-R to distribute to friends, family, and musically inclined adversaries. Tim at Mutant Pop helped spread the word by adding it to his mail order catalog. And now here we are: In Reverse exists on glorious compact disc. As promised, it documents this short-lived band's recorded output in reverse order. It begins with the never-released, should-have-been smash hit New Wave of an Old Sound, moves into the beloved When Opposites Attack, and concludes with the rawer Sex, Lies, and Videogames. In between, you'll find studio outtakes and other choice unreleased recordings. Tracks like "Miami To Malibu" and "Milkshakes and You" make me grateful that the New Wave of an Old Sound recordings have been rescued from the dustbin of history. Although they date back nearly 20 years, they sound very much in line with Mom's Basement's current roster of pop-punk and Ramonescore standouts. "Math of Love" manages to sum up the entire genre of pop-punk in under 30 seconds. "Those Three Little Words" and "Shut Up" hold up as classics of their time. "Let Me Go (Before You Fade Away)" offers a hint of the future greatness that was in store for the artist formerly known as Charmin' Charlie. A cover of "Maybe Baby" honors the true granddaddy of three-chord pop. 

I'll say about In Reverse what I've said about numerous other releases: you'll hate it if you hate pop-punk, but you'll love it if you love pop-punk. And if you've already read 779 words about The Koopas, there's no way you hate pop-punk! You can order the CD here for just ten bucks. Digital version is available directly from the band for $8. I would say that those are '90s prices, but you would actually have paid way more back then. Be the first person on your block to jam to "Koopa Troopa Beach" on Discman! 

Friday, September 03, 2021

New singles from Ricky Rat and Brian McCarty!



What's the next best thing to a new single from the late, great Trash Brats? How about new singles from Ricky Rat and Brian McCarty released simultaneously on I-94 Recordings! This double release will disappoint absolutely no one. The concept was for each of these guys to record an original song along with a cover of an iconic Detroit artist. Backed by the Jen-U-Wine Faux Diamond Band, McCarty gives off Trash Brats vibes with "Hamtramck Jukebox" -- his tribute to Lili Karwowksi and her beloved bar Lili's 21. Ricky Rat guests on guitar, and the song's references to the likes of The Mutants, Bootsey X & the Lovemasters, and The Junk Monkeys will certainly bring back fond memories to anyone who frequented shows at the Trash Brats' favorite hangout. If you were hoping for upbeat glam rock and roll with a touch of pop, "Hamtramck Jukebox" is precisely that. On the flip, McCarty does a rootsy rock and roll version of Stevie Wonder's "A Place In The Sun" that is an absolute blast. The legendary Jimmie Bones makes an appearance on piano, and of course he steals the show!

For his single "She Feels Like a Good Thing", Ricky Rat teams up with Laura Mendoza on bass and Joe Leone on drums. The A-side dishes out some old school glam-punk with catchy hooks: exactly what you'd expect from the longtime Trash Brat and recent Dead Boy. It has been five years since Ricky Rat last released solo tracks, and "She Feels Like A Good Thing" is right in line with that material. On the flip, he tackles The Rockets' early '80s number "Born in Detroit" in a style that can only be described as anthemic. Once again, Jimmie Bones turns up on piano and rips it up! 

Whether you witnessed the 1980s and '90s Detroit punk rock and roll scene first hand or simply admired the Trash Brats from afar as I did, these two new singles from Ricky Rat and Brian McCarty & the Jen-U-Wine Faux Diamond Band are must-have items. Each single delivers a top-notch original song and a revved-up version of a Detroit classic. Jim at I-94 really went all out and pressed these records on a multitude of colors of vinyl. A few of the colors are sold out, but most are still available. Have at it!

Tuesday, August 31, 2021

Smart Shoppers - DORKWAVE


Here it is: the long-awaited debut album by Green Bay, Wisconsin's Smart Shoppers! When I last checked in with Joey Shops, Aaron Smart, and Jash Thrift nearly two years ago, they had recently released a debut 7" and added local and intergalactic legend Rev. Norb to their lineup. The four-piece Smart Shoppers now make their recorded debut with DORKWAVE -- a 16-track long player that's set to spin at 45 RPM once the records finally come off the presses. And because these guys are such staunch advocates of smart shopping, they've also made the album available on CD for the bargain price of ten bucks. Smart Shoppers continue to cultivate a sound that's the perfect mix of goofy, hyper, and just plain weird. And I mean that as a supreme compliment. As you listen to these songs, you might find yourself wondering what in the world you're listening to. Is it punk rock, or is it new wave? The answer, of course, is yes

Because I've already internalized it as a modern classic, "Bevo (Out Of Bounds)" seems like it's been in my life for 42 years instead of just two years. Newer tracks like "Smart Kart", "Subscription", and "Auto Naughts" are of the same caliber. With songs covering a range of topics from strange vehicles to impossible inventions to devout bargain hunting, this is the album that the supermarket robots dance to at night when no one is around. Vinyl should be available in November. Shop smart and get the digital tracks with your pre-order!

Sunday, August 29, 2021

Kurt Baker - "Keep It Tight"


Can you believe it has already been ten months since Kurt Baker released his most recent album After Party? Time flies when you're waiting for a pandemic to end! "Keep It Tight", Baker's new single on Wicked Cool Records, will be his first physical release since After Party. Due to a worldwide delay in the manufacturing of vinyl, the actual record won't be available until November. But the digital version and vinyl pre-order went live a couple of days ago. For this release, Baker has served up a real treat to power pop fans. "Keep It Tight" and "Get Away" feature the same lineup from After Party: Baker, Wyatt Funderburk, Geoff Palmer, Kris Rodgers, and Craig Sala. Both of these songs are covers of what you might call "forgotten classics" of 1980s power pop. The former was a minor hit for Virginia-based new wave band Single Bullet Theory - peaking at #78 on the Billboard Hot 100 in March of 1983. The latter appeared on Julian Leal's 1985 self-titled debut album -- a self-released cult classic of Midwestern power pop. "Get Away"'s major claim to fame is that it was featured on American Bandstand's Rate-a-Record segment in January of 1988. Baker has done a great service in bringing attention to a couple of buried treasures from the world of power pop. Just as importantly, he and his bandmates have done fantastic versions of both songs that are both faithful to the originals and imbued with the spirit of Baker's original songs. Those backing vocals are massive, and Rodgers kills it on the keyboards! If you loved After Party, "Keep It Tight" will make an essential companion piece.