Wednesday, March 31, 2021

The Reducers - Live: New York City 2005

The Reducers are a must-hear band for any follower of this blog. Just as punk music was shifting in the hardcore direction in the early to mid '80s, The Reducers were fully embracing old style punk rock with roots in pub rock and roll. In the '90s and 2000s, The Reducers fit right in with the burgeoning garage punk movement and the newer generations of traditional punk rock bands. The joke about The Reducers was that they were the best band you'd never heard. Except in our world, they were heard by plenty! The group existed for nearly 35 years with one constant lineup: Hugh Birdsall and Peter Detmold on vocals and guitar, Steve Kaika on vocals and bass, and Tom Trombley on drums. The Reducers LIVE: NEW YORK CITY 2005, originally released as a New Year's treat for fans, is now getting a proper digital release on Rave On Records. The album captures The Reducers' live performance at Arlene's Grocery in New York City from June 4, 2005. Longtime fans will definitely enjoy this set -- which features songs from all of the band's LPs along with some non-album tracks and a few choice cover selections. And if you're not yet familiar with The Reducers, this album would be a perfectly good place to start. It captures a vintage Reducers performance. There's very little fooling around or idle banter -- just great high-energy rock and roll delivered by a tight band in top form. The band knocks out 16 songs in 47 minutes, and the quality of this soundboard recording is top-notch. The material runs the gamut from the early classics ("Let's Go", "Out of Step", "Bums I Used To Know") to more recent favorites ("Nothing Cool", "I Don't Mind"). And the cover choices (The Boys, Chris Spedding, Rolling Stones, Teengenerate) give you a great feel for the variety of musical influences that informed The Reducers. If you like what you hear, you should definitely check out all of the other Reducers releases available from Rave On Records. In particular, the best-of collection Redux is essential listening for any fan of old school punk and pub rock. The Reducers LIVE: NEW YORK CITY 2005 is indeed a treat for old fans -- and an opportunity for new fans to become acquainted with one of the best bands ever!

Saturday, March 27, 2021

Lesser Creatures - Issue One

The first time I heard Lesser Creatures (on Mike Patton's radio show The Radiant Radish), my instant reaction was, "Hey, this is the best Screeching Weasel song in years!" I quickly learned that it was actually Lesser Creatures, a duo comprised of Nick Spoon from Ramonescore Radio Records and Zac Buzzkill from The Radio Buzzkills. I swore to god that I was forever burned out on any band that reminded me of Screeching Weasel. But give credit to Lesser Creatures, for they've made a liar out of me! I would describe the band's debut full-length Issue One as exactly the kind of record I would have tried to make 25 years ago if I had had the musical talent to pull it off. It's pop-punk by the book, carried off with tremendous enthusiasm and energy. It's odd that nine out of ten albums that sound like this would bore the hell out of me, yet somehow this one hits the sweet spot. The influences are obvious. Clearly these guys have worn out their treasured copies of Boogadaboogadaboogada! and My Brain Hurts. In spots, I'm also reminded of The Vindictives, Sloppy Seconds, and early Connie Dungs. This is what you call a tried-and-true formula, and Lesser Creatures pump it full of life with simple catchy tunes and engaging lyrics that range from goofy to thoughtful. And the execution of the formula is top-notch. As far as Weasel rips go, "Negative Nick" is pretty close to perfect. Elsewhere, songs cover everything from pop culture references ("The Office Drinking Game", "Jim Lahey") to love & relationships ("Nowhere With Me", "Stephanie Jean") to social commentary ("Reset The World") to wanting to go to Germany ( "SV Meppen") to living with depression ("Smartest People"). There are also really cool covers of Tom Petty's "Don't Come Around Here No More" and The Proms' classic "Spike-A-Da-Punch". 

All in all, Issue One is a really fun record. If you don't like pop-punk, this is not an album that's going to cause you to reconsider your position. But if you can never get enough pop-punk, you're gonna freaking love Issue One! As someone who came to the world of reviewing music way back when due to my excitement over the early '90s pop-punk scene, I hear this album and am quickly reminded of why I got into all of that stuff in the first place. Get it now from OUTLOUD! Records!

Friday, March 26, 2021

Dany Laj and The Looks - "Don't Keep Me Guessin'"

Near the top of my list of 2021 album releases I'm most excited for is Ten Easy Pieces, the third LP from Dany Laj and The Looks. The album will be out in June, and its first single "Don't Keep Me Guessin'" was recently released digitally. Clearly 2020 was a tough year for all bands and musicians. But for Dany Laj and The Looks, who absolutely live to tour, it must have been excruciating. Laj spent much of 2020 writing new songs and reworking old ones -- continuing a process that dated back to the previous year. Eventually he had enough material for three albums. But, no, it's not time for the triple LP just yet. Ten Easy Pieces will feature 12 of the best songs Laj and his bandmates have worked on over the past two years. I can tell that "Don't Keep Me Guessin'" was a fine choice for lead single because every time I play it, I end up listening to it four or five times. One play always leaves me wanting more! This is a very significant song for Laj personally. He wrote it ten years ago after he first met his life partner and bass player Jeanette Dowling. Musically, it's classic Dany Laj and the Looks. While broadly classified as power pop, this is a band that never limits itself in terms of musical style. You can't really put this song into a genre. It sounds a little like Irish folk, a little like bluegrass, and a little like pop. I like that there was a real-life happy ending to "Don't Keep Me Guessin'", but there is a cool contrast here between the uncertainties expressed in the lyrics and the lively, happy feel of the music. This is a song you can't help singing along with, and for sure it will make you wanna dance. You know it will be a crowd favorite once it's safe enough for Dany Laj and The Looks to get back out on the road! For now, you can download "Don't Keep Me Guessin'" from a variety of digital platforms. And watch out for Ten Easy Pieces, which releases June 11 on Toronto-based label We Are Busy Bodies!

The SUCK - Boris Sprinkler

Somehow the world made it through all of last year without any new music from the SUCK. Man, that was a rough go. Fans were so distraught that a great many went as far as to proclaim 2020 the worst year ever. Fortunately, the unbearable wait is almost over. Boris Sprinkler, the second album from these Mid-Atlantic street rock champions, will officially be out next weekend on Mom's Basement Records. 2019's In​-​Cog​-​Neat​-​O surely set a standard that the SUCK would be hard-pressed to maintain. What would it take for the band to concoct another batch of tunes as massively rocking, supremely amusing, thoroughly unoriginal, and brilliantly stupid as the eight songs that comprised In​-​Cog​-​Neat​-​O? These secrets have never been revealed, but I believe Boris Sprinkler is the fruit of much deep reflection, excessive drinking, and deep reflection under the influence of excessive drinking. 

Having already perfected a formula for what a SUCK album ought to be, the band took great care to not disappoint the fan base. Eight of Boris Sprinkler's ten tracks clock in at under two minutes, and the songwriting continues to strictly adhere to the tenet that no band needed to exist after the Ramones, except maybe HEAD. There are certain things we all demand from a SUCK album, so let's go ahead and run Boris Sprinkler through the checklist. Is there a song about drinking? There are actually multiple songs referencing drinking, but "Fantasy Beer League" is THE song about drinking and an instant classic in the SUCK canon. For a guy who loves sports, I am surprisingly terrible at fantasy leagues. But I feel like I could be a contender in this one! Is there a party song on this record? Why yes: "Who Brought The Tits" chronicles a basement hang so epic that a six-foot sub was fully consumed and The Dunk started throwing chairs. Check! Does the band manage another song as wrong and inappropriate as the last album's "Vape Store"? Why, yes: "You're Not Home" is way more wrong and way more inappropriate! Is there a cover of some unheralded pop-punk classic that's not nearly as good as the original? For sure, and this time it's The Proteens' "I Told You So". Does the album end with a devastating tale of heartbreak and despair exacerbated by modern technology? Why, yes: "J Prozac on a BMX Bike" is even better than its last album counterpart "The Catfish" and a reminder that the SUCK could be a top-rate pop-punk band if they ever lost the physical wherewithal to rock the streets. Elsewhere, there are songs about Dungeons & Dragons, suave secret agents, and, uh, jugs. The SUCK are nothing if not renaissance men. 

My love/hate relationship with the musical genre known as "Ramonescore" tends to mirror my love/hate relationship with IPAs. Overall I find the style to be overdone and largely full of indistinguishable clones. But the handful of exceptions are truly magnificent. I'll gladly take a Troegs Perpetual any day of the year. And the SUCK is the Troegs Perpetual of its world. It seems fitting that the SUCK is on the same record label that has released music by The Vapids and NECK. If you like those bands, you will also like the SUCK. In fact, you probably already like the SUCK if you like those bands! Boris Sprinkler is a bigger and better follow-up to its formidable predecessor. The Alien and The Dunk have again turned out some of the hottest-sounding guitars in all of the land. The Cola remains a unique and charismatic vocal presence -- as convincing boasting about the stun gas in his key chain as he is pining over the girl who broke his heart years ago. And the Problem and the Basement continue to do all of the unappreciated work of keeping everything simple and tight (notice that on the album cover, they appear ready to start playing at a moment's notice, while The Dunk looks like he may have just murdered a man with his guitar). As a lifetime Pennsylvanian, I am proud that we get to count the SUCK as one of our own. Although I believe that 20% of Delaware may be eligible to claim the SUCK as well. I'll need to get a ruling on that. Boris Sprinkler officially releases the day after April 1st -- because the SUCK doesn't fool around! 

Thursday, March 25, 2021

Goin' Places - Save The World

Continuing its established pattern of releasing an album every decade, beloved Staten Island pop-punk trio Goin' Places is back with the wonderful Save The World. Out on Mom's Basement Records, Save The World is the band's first album in nine years and just its third album overall. It's hard to believe that Goin' Places has now been a band for 20 years. But the numbers sure don't lie! It's a tricky proposition for a pop-punk band to "grow up". One hand, you know you can't go on forever strictly writing songs about the teenage experience. On the other hand, you risk losing the entire appeal of the band if you "mature" too much. Goin' Places have navigated this transition brilliantly. 

Save The World is an album guaranteed to satisfy longtime fans. As always, Richie, Victor, and Frank stick close to the Green Day/Queers/MTX playbook with deeper roots in the harmony and melody driven rock and roll of the 1960s. They've made a pop-punk record for people who love pop-punk -- and you would not expect anything different from Goin' Places. But that doesn't mean that Save The World is a total copy of its two predecessors. Lyrically, it's far more serious and thoughtful than previous albums. This is a record full of songs about getting older, confronting disappointment and failure, reflecting on the past, and figuring out what lies ahead. Some of the album's finest tracks ("4:04", "Live Those Times", "Message In A Dream") reflect that the band members are in a far different place in life than they were when they made Girl Songwriting 101. Yet even with all of that deeper thinking involved, the songs remain steeped in the trio's old standbys: catchy melodies, tight harmonies, and Richie and Victor's likable tag team vocals. Fear not, though: Goin' Places may have gotten more serious, but they still aren't taking themselves too seriously. On "This Song Is Not About A Girl", they have a great time poking fun at themselves and almost every other pop-punk band out there. Meanwhile, "Listen To My Love Song" and "Across The Room" actually are about girls and are absolutely great! Elsewhere the band isn't above throwing in a couple of crowd-pleasing numbers ("I'm Gonna Steal Your Girlfriend", "Cell Phone Girl") that embrace nearly every teenage pop-punk cliché in the book, much to our collective delight. 

Save the World begins with the premise that there's too much hate and divineness in our world, and that maybe some fun pop songs could bring people together. That's a cause I can fully endorse, and Goin' Places are more than up to the task. Save The World, although it features an older, wiser Goin' Places, is still tremendous fun and a reminder that sometimes great pop is exactly what we need. While these guys were already qualified to write a college course on girl songwriting a couple decades back, now they've clearly graduated to teaching the masters class.

Tuesday, March 23, 2021

Local Drags - Keep Me Glued

It's hard to believe it's been almost two years since I reviewed Shit's Lookin' Up, the debut full-length album from Springfield, Illinois's Local Drags. Time flies when the world's going through hell! I am happy to report that Local Drags have released a terrific second album titled Keep Me Glued on Stardumb Records. On this release, singer/guitarist Lanny Durbin is joined by his Starter Jackets bandmates Fred Malcom and Carter Bibb. With Luke McNeill from Starter Jackets producing the album, the strong connection between these two bands is quite clear. But whereas Starter Jackets inhabit a perpetual early '80s new wave universe, Local Drags continue in the vein of Midwestern indie rock/power pop circa the later '80s and early '90s. Keep Me Glued has a reflective, melancholic vibe to it while still packing plenty of punch. The influence of Cheap Trick, Tom Petty, and The Replacements remains foundational to Local Drags - along with touches of '90s college radio power pop. And on this album, I'm reminded quite bit of the poppier side of D Generation. This is a really enjoyable set of mid-tempo power pop songs. Durbin knows how to write a solid tune with a hook, and the feel of this record is just perfect for an emerging spring. It makes me wanna crack open a can of cheap beer and sit on the porch contemplating my life. I love that this album is available on "chemical lake blue" vinyl! Order your copy from Stardumb Records in Europe and The Machine Shop  in the U.S.A.!

Friday, March 19, 2021

Beebe Gallini - Pandemos

Pandemos is the long-awaited debut album from Beebe Gallini -- a band I've been exceptionally fond of going back to those ancient times of five years ago. The band recorded these songs in December 2019 strictly as demos. But then 2020 happened. Live shows and even proper band rehearsals were suddenly out of the question. Life gave Beebe Gallini lemons, and Beebe Gallini went ahead and made delicious lemonade! An album's worth of demos were sent off to Geza X for mastering. And today, Pandemos releases on the mighty Rum Bar Records! 

First thing's first: Pandemos absolutely sounds like a "real" album. Sometimes "demo" translates to "rough" or "unfinished", but in this case the rawness of the recordings gives them a live (and lively!) energy. The lineup for this particular album is Miss Georgia Peach on vocals and guitar, Amy Larson Pearson on bass and vocals, and Travis Ramin on drums and lead guitar. These tracks were originally recorded as a way to share material with new guitarist Monet Wong. Now the whole world gets to enjoy them! 

What's exciting to me is that I finally get to hear a large selection of original songs from Beebe Gallini. To this point, this band has been best known for its fantastic cover versions of garage and rock and roll songs from the '60s. Pandemos certainly does not lack for crackling cover tunes. The band's version of Randy and the Radiants' 1965 Donna Weiss-penned single "My Way of Thinking" is rock and roll at its most joyful and electrifying. And after hearing the band's take on the Bee Gees classic "To Love Somebody", the only response my brain could muster was wow. But can these folks write originals to rival the covers? You bet they can! Pandemos features six songs written by Miss Georgia Peach and another three written by Amy Larson Pearson. Running the gamut from high energy garage rock ("Little Sister") to glammy hard rock ("Mean Mama") to hopped-up rhythm & blues ("Busy Izzy") to straight-up red-hot rock and roll ("Danny"), these original songs fit in so well that you might suspect that they are covers! This is an album that builds on Beebe Gallini's previous musical identity. Of course you can throw on this album once it's safe to host your next garage rock house party. But I like how some of these songs reveal added dimensions to the Beebe Gallini experience. The heavy rocker "Bad Man" could almost be a Short Fuses song, while "Dusty" fully engages the band's pop side. And I love the way the album ends, with the sweet & heartwarming "Poppington Station" flowing straight into the band's thundering version of Roz Rogoff's anthem of empathy and acceptance, "Nobody Loves the Hulk".   

Had Beebe Gallini chosen to sit on these '19-'20 winter demos, we certainly would have gotten a debut album eventually. But no doubt the band played back these tracks and knew it already had an album the world would want to hear. And it certainly it didn't hurt that the band had Geza X on hand to work his mastering magic! The old joke about a singer being so good that you would listen to them "sing the phone book" certainly applies to Miss Georgia Peach. But luckily, there was already an album's worth of material in the can. I can't imagine how big that Twin Cities phone book must be. It would probably take a box set to get all of that down on tape. Pandemos is a royal treat for fans of garage rock and rock and roll in general. All the kids are telling me that these tunes have a good beat and you can dance to 'em. Let us look forward to future recordings from Beebe Gallini's current lineup and eventually live shows. In the meantime, be sure to check out the Pandemos release party event this Sunday night! And dig the amazing music video (embedded below) for "My Way of Thinking" created by Wendy Norton from Norton Video. If we ever need to explain rock and roll to visitors from another planet, this video will do the trick!

Indonesian Junk - Living In a Nightmare

On its fourth LP, Milwaukee's Indonesian Junk continues to blend the best parts of punk, glam, power pop, and arena rock into one singularly awesome sound that no reasonable human being could possibly resist. IndoJunk singer/guitarist Daniel James wrote Living In a Nightmare in May and June of last year. He and his bandmates Johnny Cyanide (bass), Mike Mattner (drums), and Adam Turetzky (guitar) recorded the album over a weekend in October with Shane Hochstetler at Howl Street Recordings in Milwaukee. 

The timing of this album's creation might lead you to believe that the title is a reference to 2020 and the Coronavirus. But the nightmare being referenced here is systematic racial inequality in America -- and the grim realization that half of the country either denies its existence or simply doesn't care. For this release, James has written a pair of powerhouse protest anthems in "Livin' in the USA" and "Policeman". Both songs rage furiously against this unacceptable state of a nation. Yet what makes them so riveting is that they are killer tunes first and foremost. "Livin' in the USA" is a scorching punk tune that for some reason reminds me a little of Demolition 23. And "Policeman" is the very definition of an anthem -- its catchy sing-along chorus doubling as a rallying cry against injustice. It takes a skilled songwriter to craft an album where tales of heartbreak can logically co-exist with songs addressing important social issues. Yet James has pulled off that very thing here. And it feels so authentic to him. He's a passionate guy, and Living In a Nightmare is essentially his heart on a plate. 

Living In a Nightmare, to me, is the best Indonesian Junk album because it gives you a little bit of everything that makes this band so cool. It's a record full of big hooks, catchy tunes, loud guitars, and ripping solos. "Type of a Girl" and "One More Try" is an opening 1-2 punch that would be the envy of most power pop bands. "I Don't Mind" sounds like the best song that Richard Hell and the Voidoids never wrote. "Tracy" could be a long-lost Joneses song. At nine minutes plus, "Bawlin' My Eyes Out" is the epic closer every great album ought to have. Whether you're a punk lifer, a glam rocker, a power pop geek, or just someone who waits patiently for Thin Lizzy or Cheap Trick to come on when the Boomer FM channel is playing, there's something on this album for you. It releases today on compact disc on Rum Bar Records. Vinyl will be available this summer on Spiderbite Records!

Wednesday, March 17, 2021

Blowers- self titled

Melbourne's Blowers have released one of the year's most essential punk rock long players. Out on Spooky Records (Australia) and Chaputa Records (Portugal), this 15-track, self-titled smasher brings to mind the 1990s heyday of blown-out budget punk trash. This is the real deal lo-fi garage punk sound: raw, rude, and catchy as hell. That may seem like such a simple musical style, but rarely have I heard it executed in such an immensely satisfying way. These tunes will have you tapping your toes, bobbing your head, and extending your middle finger in the direction of everyone who pisses you off. If you find most of the garage punk of today to be sorely lacking in foul language, sick humor, and general savagery, Blowers will fully restore your faith in humanity. An absolutely brilliant debut!

Sunday, March 14, 2021

Dead Meat (II)

Last year I went absolutely wild over the debut EP from London punk supergroup Dead Meat. This band hits that sweet spot where the tougher side of '70s punk rock meets the roots of hardcore. The good news is that Dead Meat is back with a second EP on No Front Teeth Records -- again recorded by Ben Perrier. The bad news is that this is the final release from Dead Meat. As you can imagine, band rehearsals are challenging to arrange with members living in different countries and some even residing on different continents! But given the Killed By Death vibe of Dead Meat's recordings, it seems rather appropriate that their final output will be measured by just two EPs. Dead Meat's second EP is very much like the first one. It includes four ripping tracks which all run well under two minutes. The tunes are raw and mean but also catchy as hell. If you like punk tunes that make you wanna bob your head even as they punch you in the mouth, this is definitely the record for you! While this will be the final release from Dead Meat, Adrian and Fisher are working on a new band in a similar vein. And Vince and Jake will continue to assault the world's collective eardrums with the mighty Kool and the Gang Bangers and The Cavemen. Standard copies of Dead Meat II will be spray-painted on a leather sleeve by Marco NFT himself. That means that no two copies will be alike -- record collectors are gonna go crazy! Supplies are limited, so get your orders in! 

Saturday, March 13, 2021

Brad Marino - "Even The Score"

We are now just seven weeks away from the release of Brad Marino's new album Looking For Trouble! Ahead of this upcoming full-length release on Rum Bar Records, Spaghetty Town Records, Beluga Records, and Ghost Highway Recordings, Marino has given us another sneak peak with his new single "Even The Score". Backed by his Connection bandmates Craig Sala and Bobby Davis, Marino delivers the goods on this twangy mid-tempo rocker. The cool blend of Marino's slide guitar and Davis's acoustic guitar gives this tune a country rock tinge that brings to mind peak-era Rolling Stones. And Marino's lyrics are fantastic has always. "Well you can keep trying to dig my grave/I got a head start already" is gonna be a hard line to top in 2021! You can grab a download of "Even the Score" for $1 from Bandcamp or stream it on Spotify. What a killer tune! I am so pumped for the full album!

Wassup Rocker Radio Presents: Sick Sounds 3

Sick Sounds 3
is the third installment in Wassup Rocker Radio's on-going series of free digital compilations. Every week on Wassup Rocker Radio, Alex Kish plays the best in new punk rock, garage rock, power pop, and rock and roll from all over the globe. His Sick Sounds compilations always feature a great selection of some of his favorite current bands. Volume 3 is no different. If you dig punk, garage, and power pop, you are sure to find much to like among these 20 tracks. A number of these bands are big favorites of mine as well. I have raved about Radio Days, The Yum Yums, The Putz, The Lemon Drop Gang, Self-Cut Bangs, Goldie Dawn, Sister Suzie, and The Linda Lindas all within the past year. But thanks to this comp, I've discovered some new favorites that were not previously on my radar. Highlights for me are songs by Aussie punk trio Dennis Cometti, Brooklyn-based bands Fun Time Objects and QWAM, and Boston "peri-apocalyptic glam punk" group Linnea's Garden. Kish did a great job assembling this comp. At only 20 tracks, it's "leaner" than the two previous volumes. But every track is killer, and I appreciate that these musical selections cover ground ranging from pop-punk to hardcore to post-punk. I also like that with each volume of Sick Sounds, you get an entirely new group of bands. These comps are a great way to discover awesome new music for free. And if you like what you hear and want to support these artists, you can click on the "more info" link next to each track for information on where to buy the music. For more details on how you can listen to Wassup Rocker Radio, check out its Blogger and Facebook pages linked below! 

Friday, March 12, 2021

Sister Suzie - "What's Your Deal"

"What's Your Deal", the first vinyl release from Edmonton's Sister Suzie, is an exciting double shot of catchy, kick-ass rock and roll. Out on LSM Vinyl (a division of Pirates Press), this 7" features two of the strongest tracks from Sister Suzie's digitally-released debut album Don't Want To. Stylistically, this band brings to together the best elements of junkshop glam, traditional rock and roll, and glam-influenced old style punk rock a la Cock Sparrer & Slaughter and the Dogs. "What's Your Deal" is a straight-up rock and roll anthem. It's got that foot-stomping, big guitar glam rock sound with huge, sticky hooks and shouted-out backing vocals. Andrea has rock star charisma out front, and behind her is a band with tight, rockin' chops. That guitar solo is bad-ass! On the flip, "Automaton" is punkier and not quite as sleazy --- but still likely to get you up and shaking what you got. And be careful: that hook will stick in your skull! 

After nearly six years as a band, Sister Suzie are poised for a huge 2021. The group will be following "What's Your Deal" with a second single coming out soon on Reta Records! Vinyl copies of "What's Your Deal" can be ordered here! Digital versions are available from both the Sister Suzie and Reta Records Bandcamps!

Sunday, March 07, 2021

The Gold Needles - What’s Tomorrow Ever Done For You?

Another in a string of truly excellent albums to be released in early 2021 is the third LP from Hull, U.K.'s The Gold Needles. Out on JEM Records, What’s Tomorrow Ever Done For You? follows up 2019's acclaimed release Through A Window. The Gold Needles are very typical of the talent on the JEM roster right now in the respect that their sound is grounded in a timeless devotion to melody. You can hear obvious influences from the '60s -- but probably just as many from the '70s and '80s. The band -- made up of Simon Dowson (guitar), Dave Burbage (guitar, keyboards), Mark English (keyboards), and Carl Slaughter (bass) -- recorded What’s Tomorrow Ever Done For You? while under COVID lockdown last year. 

Across 12 tracks, What’s Tomorrow Ever Done For You? explores numerous musical styles falling under the larger umbrella of psychedelic pop. If you just heard the title track and noted that the album features covers of The Hollies' "Have You Ever Loved Somebody?" and The Beatles' "If I Needed Someone", you might assume that The Gold Needles have taken up permanent residence in the mid-to-late '60s. But while the Byrds-like majesty of "What's Tomorrow Ever Done For You?" is a true pleasure to behold, it's just one facet of the musical experience The Gold Needles have in store for us. The band proves just as comfortable occupying the lane of psych-tinged post-punk/new wave on the brilliant "I Get The Pressure" and a fine cover of The Sound's "Counting The Days". Elsewhere, the band rocks out on "Susie Is Sorted (She Doesn't Care)", channels early '80s FM power pop on "The Story of My Life", and travels to the darker realms of prog rock on "Realm of the Black Dog". It's an eclectic mix of songs for sure, yet it's tied together nicely by the band's penchant for beautifully-crafted melodies and  splendidly-executed harmonies. This is simply a class effort from a class band. "What's Tomorrow Ever Done For You?" and "I Get The Pressure" is an opening 1-2 punch to die for. "Billy Liar" might have the catchiest chorus of any song this year. And while three cover tunes might seem like a lot for one album, they are all fantastically suited to this particular set of songs. I had to admit I was slightly skeptical when I read a list of the album's influences including The Moody Blues, Asia, and the Beach Boys. But now that I've heard the album, it actually makes perfect sense! Another big winner from JEM!

Saturday, March 06, 2021

Death By Unga Bunga - Heavy Male Insecurity

As we've moved into the third month of 2021, I've fallen a little behind on some of the really good full-length albums that have been released so far this year. I'll start playing catch-up with the fifth LP by Norwegian rockers Death By Unga Bunga. Heavy Male Insecurity does include the four songs the band released as singles last year. So you already have an idea of what to expect: big catchy arena rock with power pop hooks and garage/punk roots. If you liked the band's last couple of albums, you'll love this one! 

While not fully a concept album, Heavy Male Insecurity does explore at length the very hot topic of modern-day masculinity. The lead track "Modern Man" is a true anthem for our times. It employs touches of humor to make a very serious statement about what it ought to mean to be a man in today's world. The hooks on this track are massive! While you're pumping your fist and shouting along, you're joining Death By Unga Bunga in defining a more contemporary, less toxic brand of masculinity. The band's modern man is in touch with his emotions, caring and considerate, and willing to fight against injustice and prejudice. He also enjoys baking and makes an effort to eat less meat. I might have to work on that last part, but I can dig what the band is saying here. "Egocentric" revisits the same theme by exploring the antithesis of the modern man: the overgrown child who fully lacks empathy. Elsewhere "All Pain, No Gain" hits very close to home as it pokes fun at dudes like me who are in the gym every day obsessing over their "gains". Maybe I should feel personally attacked, but I find this song quite funny and very much on-point. And what a banger this track is -- taking the "action rock" genre straight over the top and even going full-on Iron Maiden in the guitar solo! 

Heavy Male Insecurity complements Death By Unga Bunga's outstanding 2020 singles ("Egocentric", "Not Like The Others", "Live Until I Die, Trouble") with some of the band's strongest material to date. This album delivers a great mix of radio-ready power pop hits ("Like Your Style"), epic arena numbers ("White Lies"), and big hooky rockers ("My Buddy and Me"). This whole "'70s hard rock meets power pop with a punk influence" genre is hardly a new thing, but Death By Unga Bunga pulls it off better than almost anyone else. This is a band that knows how to write quality tunes with legit hooks. These guys come off like they'd be super fun to hang out with, and their music manages to reflect that. I don't see how anyone could watch the music video "Egocentric" and not totally love these guys! If you're looking for a contemporary and enlightened take on the arena rock of yore, you cannot go wrong with Heavy Male Insecurity

Friday, March 05, 2021

The Sino Hearts - Rock 'N Roll Hurricane

Welcome to America, The Sino Hearts! Having already released two excellent albums in Europe, Beijing's finest power pop punk rock and rollers now have an album available in the United States! Out on Otitis Media Records, Rock 'N Roll Hurricane is essentially a collection of the best tracks from the band's previous long players Leave the World Behind (2018) and Mandarin A Go​-​Go (2020). Featuring the singing, songwriting, and instrumental talents of Zhong (ex DeeCracks), The Sino Hearts form a bridge between modern-day pop-punk and the classic powerpop/punk of the Buzzcocks, Boys, and Ramones. Of course I sense in Zhong a kindred spirit in terms of musical taste. But with The Sino Hearts, it's not just about the influences. It's about how Zhong interprets these inspirations and creates a unique sound within the pop/punk world. The music of The Sino Hearts is, above all else, great fun. It's energetic, catchy, and deeply ingrained with an innocence and romanticism that trace all the way back to early rock and roll. The style is familiar, but Zhong gives it a rhythm and feel that is immediately recognizable as his own. He's a likeable vocalist and one heck of a guitar player as well. The song selection for Rock 'N Roll Hurricane was spot-on. If this is your first purchase of a Sino Hearts album, you are getting all of the essential cuts -- such as "Teenage Rebel", "Back to the Sentimental Club", "Out of Fun", "Loveless Nights", and "Mandarin A Go-Go". And it all flows like one single album. Rock 'N Roll Hurricane is highly recommended to eternal teenagers, guitar romantics, and anyone who enjoys pop-punk with deep roots.

Wednesday, March 03, 2021

Radio Days - "Till the End of the Night"


One of my most highly anticipated albums releases of 2021 is the forthcoming long player from Milan-based outfit Radio Days. Rave On! will be out May 21st on Screaming Apple Records, Ammonia Records, Rock Indiana, Sounds Rad, and Wizzard In Vinyl. To whet our appetites for the album release, Radio Days has previewed a couple of tracks as singles. The latest, "Till the End of the Night", is the perfect complement to the lively power pop of last November's hit "I Got A Love". "Till the End of the Night" is less rock and more pure pop -- an elegant and very pretty tune featuring exquisite melodies that you'll be whistling all day. I'm hearing a big Paul McCartney influence on this track, and that can never be a bad thing! It's hard to believe it's been five years already since Radio Days released Back In The Day. That was an incredible album. But based on the tracks that have been leaked so far, it seems likely that Rave On! will be even better. The wait is almost over!



Tuesday, March 02, 2021

canine 10 - "Real Fake Love"

Released just in time for Valentine's Day, canine 10's "Real Fake Love" is the ultimate cynical love song. On this wonderfully bitter digital single, the Philadelphia foursome sounds more than ever like a geekier, Americanized Buzzcocks. The title track is classic canine 10 --- blending jaded lyrics about the inevitability of romantic dysfunction with hummable melodies, a cool guitar riff, and a chorus that's bound to be stuck in your head for days. It's actually the second track on the digital release. But if this were a 45, "Real Fake Love" would almost certainly be the A-side. I'm aware that we are well past Valentine's Day at this point. But if you're lonely and miserable, it's never too late to take comfort in knowing that many coupled individuals are equally miserable. If there was any question about canine 10 being modern masters of the anti love song, this track ought to seal the deal! The peppier, punkier "I Know You Know" is a treat in its own right. I hereby declare canine 10 the most underrated pop group on the scene today -- and I myself have been guilty of much of that underrating. My failure to list the band's album Nonsense! in my top 30 albums of 2020 has kept me awake at night and might even be a criminal offense here in the Commonwealth of Pennsylvania. "Real Fake Love" is definitely the top single of 2021 so far!