Wednesday, June 30, 2021
I first wrote about Bambies back in 2019 when the Montreal trio released "Red Guitar" -- the second-ever release on Reta Records! From the start, I was absolutely floored by this band's super fun mix of punk, pop, and high energy rock and roll. Now Sami, Franki, and Feli are back with "Dirty Taint", a new single that teases their forthcoming album Summer Soon. According to the band, the song is about "answering the call of invisible forces, internal chemistry or whatever it is that brings you to the right place, at the right time to have a perfect night". That's a vibe I can totally dig! "Dirty Taint" is the kind of song you crank up loud when you want to feel really great about being alive. It's rare to hear a band sound this poppy while still maintaining an aggressive punk rock and roll edge. But that's exactly what Bambies have pulled off here! Summer Soon is due out in August on Spaghetty Town and Wanda Records -- and somehow Bambies manage to be a perfect fit for both labels! I am so pumped for this album!
Tuesday, June 29, 2021
The Idolizers are back! Less than a year ago, this New York City based punk group released a terrific debut EP on Rum Bar Records. ConCretins, the follow-up, builds off of The Idolizers' foundational sound but also shows considerable growth. Paired down to a power trio (MikeDee ThrillSergeant on bass and lead vocals, Jon Pozzuto on guitar, and Tommy Brimstone on drums), The Idolizers continue to exemplify New York style punk rock and roll. Out on Rum Bar Records, ConCretins features seven tracks of gritty, high energy rock and roll steeped in the sounds of '77 and its musical progenitors (Stooges, New York Dolls, MC5). From the opening strains of "Action!", it's apparent that The Idolizers remain faithful congregants of the church of the Dead Boys and Johnny Thunders. However, this release finds the band branching out a bit and incorporating some power pop influences into its glam/punk/rock and roll attack. Songs like "Riot Radio" and "Until Then" are hooky, sing-along numbers with plenty of hop in their step. Elsewhere, the band brings the thunder on the blistering "All the Way" and tears into some timeless old style punk rock on "All Night Long". The very essence of New York City comes oozing out of every note these guys play. This, my friends, is real deal punk rock and roll. Crank these tunes loud and let the world know that you are not to be messed with!
Sunday, June 27, 2021
We've arrived at that time when the great full-lengths albums of the year are really starting to pile up. And while I've struggled to keep up with all of them, my intention is to make sure I hit all of the most essential titles sooner or later. It sometimes feels like I've been writing about Neighborhood Brats forever. It's actually been just short of ten years. It's kind of hard to believe, then, that the band's new LP Confines of Life is only its third full-length album! Out on Taken By Surprise Records in Europe and Dirt Cult Records in North America, Confines of Life is the Neighborhood Brats' most stylistically diverse album yet -- and also its most urgent! On this release, vocalist Jenny Angelillo, guitarist George Rager, drummer Nick Aguilar, and bassist Mike West continue to operate under the influence of first wave California punk and early '80s punk/hardcore -- while also adding elements of pop, surf, post-punk, and modern punk rock. Angelillo and Rager -- who have kept this band going through multiple lineup changes over the years -- have found another dynamite rhythm section in Aguilar and West.
Confines Of Life, which blazes through 12 tracks in 22 and a half minutes, matches its furious musical power with a message that comes through clear as day. Neighborhood Brats aren't pulling any punches: they have no patience or tolerance for racism, sexism, transphobia, xenophobia, fascism, the patriarchy, or misogyny. On this album, they rage against many of these things while lamenting a world besieged by environmental crisis, systematic oppression, and economic inequality. Songs like "Who Took The Rain" and "Transitional Housing" find the band embracing a pop sensibility like never before, while "Migraines" is a perfect example of what "post-punk" music ought to be. "Signs and Semantics", which is all at once dark, melodic, and intense, is the kind of song that nobody could pull off quite like Neighborhood Brats do. And with this being a Neighborhood Brats album, you know to expect your fair share of raging and pissed-off hardcore tracks. "FFBF" and "Harvey Weinstein Is A Symptom" are two of the best songs this band has ever done in that vein, and they should be played excessively loud while you scream along to every lyric.
Is there a better punk rock band in existence than Neighborhood Brats? Honestly, I can't think of one! This band has it all: musical chops, a powerhouse singer/lyricist, excellent songwriting, and something (actually lots of things) to stand for. While Neighborhood Brats have not veered far from their original musical blueprint, they have continually progressed through their early EPs and each of their full-length albums. Confines of Life manages to be a vintage Neighborhood Brats album even as it finds the band taking another step forward. Even with all of the wonderful styles of music that exist in this world, there are times when nothing but kick-ass punk rock will do. If you find yourself in that situation, I highly recommend Confines of Life.
Saturday, June 26, 2021
Following its amazing run of singles in 2020-21, Kid Gulliver has finally given us a bigger taste of its musical talents. The Boston-based pop group has released a four-song EP called Gimme Some Go! on Red On Red Records. What I like about this release is that it shows multiple sides of Kid Gulliver. It leads with a cover of the Bee Gees' classic "I Started A Joke". It's pretty ballsy to take on a song as perfect as "I Started A Joke", and I have to hand it to Kid Gulliver here. Rather than try to top the original (impossible!), the band chose to completely transform it. If you were not aware of the Bee Gees version, you could easily mistake this for a Kid Gulliver original! It's got a new wave/power pop feel to it, and Simone Berk's approach to the lead vocal is unexpected in the most wonderful way. This, my friends, is how you do a cover song! The video for the song (embedded below) is a real hoot. It's a throwback to all of those old school "performance clip" music videos, and there's a very special guest star appearing on bass!
Having set such a high bar for the rest of the EP, Kid Gulliver follows through with three excellent original songs. The haunting "Lila Dreams" brings to mind early '80s U.K. indie rock and weaves a sad tale of quiet despair. The interplay between David Armillotti's guitar and Lee Harrington's bass on this track is nothing short of stunning. "Gimme Some Go!" is the real surprise of this release. Who knew Kid Gulliver could do ska -- and do it well?! To close out the EP, "Stupid Little Girl" is a jangly power pop number that you might describe as "vintage" Kid Gulliver. Let it be said that the world can always use more pop songs which illuminate the imprudence of falling in love with a serial killer. Being a particular fan of well-crafted dark humor, I find myself in awe of Armillotti's lyrics and Berk's matter-of-fact treatment of them. In a just world, this song would be all over the radio!
I must concur with Ralph Rivera -- Kid Gulliver somehow manages to get better with every new release! Gimme Some Go! is full of pleasant surprises and truly splendid songs. Armillotti and Berk as a songwriting and vocal tandem are on some kind of roll. More, please!
Friday, June 25, 2021
It seems appropriate that The Randells would release an album just in time for the summer. This trio from the south of Sweden creates an eternal summer with its music. Even if it's below freezing outside, a Randells record always transports you to a world of warm weather, abundant sunshine, picturesque beaches, and pretty girls. Following a great run of singles in 2020, The Randells have hooked up with the labels Monster Zero, Waterslide Records, and Memorable But Not Honorable to release a dynamite full-length album called Kicks. Over the course of 12 tracks, The Randells execute their patented mix of pop-punk, bubblegum, and surf to ear-pleasing perfection. You know what you're in for: buzzing guitars, sticky-sweet melodies, and lyrics ranging from sentimental to silly. The legendary Perry Leenhauts mixed and mastered the album, so of course it sounds like a million bucks!
When I think about my longtime fondness for European pop-punk, bands that immediately come to mind are Travoltas, The Yum Yums, and The Hawaiians. I'd put Randells in the same category. The influence of the Ramones and Beach Boys is obvious, but this band offers its own fresh take on that storied musical tradition. Kicks really is a perfect pop-punk album -- satisfying on both the pop and punk sides of the equation. It's on the bubblegum side of pop-punk, but for sure it absolutely rocks! Play it now as you soak up the summer. And when the temperatures turn cold and the sky grows dismal, this album will take you back to the beach in spirit.
Based in Phoenix, Arizona, French Girls are fronted by Che Beret (aka Chela from The Peeps and Hell on Heels). Chela is an alumnus of some of the coolest record labels this planet has ever known: Bomp!, Dionysus, Sympathy for the Record Industry, and Lipstick Records. You can now add Rum Bar Records to that formidable list. Out today on Rum Bar is the first full-length album from French Girls -- which kicks out ten tracks of exhilarating garage punk in just 21 minutes. Joining Chela (bass, vocals) are guitarist Jean Jacques Clouseau III, guitarist Michel Ouioui, and drummer Chiffon Baton (let us take a brief moment to applaud the sheer brilliance of those stage names!). Musically, this band totally hits that sweet spot where garage rock intersects with punk rock. That may seem like an obvious definition of garage punk, but these days you can't be too sure. French Girls bring us the real deal stuff: simple trashy pop tunes that are full of energy and attitude and straight-up fun to listen to. This band doesn't believe in any sort of musical excess. None of these tracks go too far past two minutes, and you never have to wait long for a hook. My first thought after popping this disc into my car player was, "This sounds like it could have come out on SFTRI a couple of decades ago!". The modern-day garage scene is sorely missing more bands like this, and I will gladly deign to cliché and call this album a breath of fresh air. "No Morals" is an instant garage punk classic. "Summertime" merits permanent placement on your "essential summer songs" playlist. "Aerobicise", re-recorded from the band's 2013 debut EP, is one minute and 45 seconds of pure energy and excitement. These ten tracks always fly by in what seems like a flash, and then I just push play and re-start the fun! If you, as I, fondly recall the late '90s/early 2000s heyday of garage punk, this debut long player from French Girls will be music to your ears.
Thursday, June 17, 2021
How about another perfect summertime pop record! Based in Cape Town, South Africa, The Cudas are the creation of singer and multi-instrumentalist Reinhard van Biljon. He writes the songs, plays all the instruments, and performs all the vocals. Alien Vacation, The Cudas' new EP, was inspired by an actual vacation to the Space Coast region of Florida. Alien Vacation is a classic celebration of summertime fun at the beach -- but with a really cool sci-fi/outer space twist! Musically speaking, this hits all the sweet spots for power pop: huge hooks, crunchy guitars, and soaring harmonies. With synthesizers adding a distinct new wave feel, I'm ready to book an alien vacation myself! As you climb into the car and head for the beach (or beyond!), these four tracks will make the perfect soundtrack. "Autorama" just might be the song of the summer!
Wednesday, June 16, 2021
Well I can definitely say that in my long "career" of writing about music, this is the first time that a band has ever dedicated a song to me! I must say it's an honor! This all started when I wrote, "Slow Faction doesn't write songs about bubblegum and pretty girls". Born from that joke is a brilliant new demo titled "Bubble Gum For Josh". What I appreciate about this song is that it's an impassioned reflection on Slow Faction's purpose and singer John Youens's growing sense of alienation from a culture that has become desensitized to injustice. Essentially this song explains why Youens doesn't write songs about bubblegum and pretty girls. It's not that he's a miserable human or some kind of Debbie Downer. Simply put, his songs reflect the world as he sees it.
Tuesday, June 15, 2021
Dans Ton Rétro is the debut full-length album from Pogy et les Kéfars -- a delightful power pop/punk band based in Marseille, France. A co-release between Crapoulet, Bitume Rugueux, and No Front Teeth Records, this 9-track long player is so tuneful and infectious that it transcends the language barrier. The lyrics are in French, so I have no idea what the band is singing about. But ultimately, that just doesn't matter! Dans Ton Rétro is just a super fun album. It's got energy, hooks, and a spirit that brings to mind the late '70s/early '80s heyday of punk rock, new wave, and power pop. At a lean nine tracks, this album is filler-free and chock full of hits. If you're a regular reader of this blog, Pogy et les Kéfars are definitely a band for you!
Monday, June 14, 2021
The mighty Reflectors are back with another pair of splendid power pop tunes! Having released one of the finest power pop albums of recent memory in last year's aptly-named First Impression, this Los Angeles foursome is now set to release a follow-up titled Faster Action. The new album's first single, "All Made Up", is out now on Time For Action Records. Again The Reflectors are in classic power pop territory. "All Made Up" brings to mind the vintage LA sound circa 1980 and could practically pass for a lost 20/20 song! With its punchy guitars, huge catchy chorus, and thoughtful lyrics, it's every bit on level with the best songs off of First Impression. On the B-side, "Every Time" is exclusive to this release. It's on the punkier side of power pop -- with more than a little Buzzcocks influence coming through. In typical Reflectors fashion, this song will have you tapping your toes and humming along in no time flat!
Sunday, June 13, 2021
When it comes to all of the things that are cool about music blogging, it does not get any cooler than having the opportunity to write about the almighty Prostitutes in the year 2021! I came up in the later '90s era of punk rock and will forever insist that The Prostitutes were the greatest punk group of that period. After the band's first and second breakups, I lamented that this musical force of nature had been silenced forever with so much more left to give. But with the tenacity of a cockroach, Kevin McGovern has re-grouped The Prostitutes time and time again in different locales with different lineups. And the one thing that has remained unchanged through it all is the quality and the power of the music. Out on Last Punkers Records, the band's new EP "Shapeshift" is its first vinyl release since 2009. It took six months to record and probably even longer to be pressed due to COVID-related delays. But it was well worth the wait and will disappoint absolutely no one.
Friday, June 11, 2021
Ten Easy Pieces, the fourth album by Sudbury, Ontario's Dany Laj and The Looks, has been a fixture in my car CD player for a couple of weeks now. While it's most definitely an album for all seasons, Ten Easy Pieces is the perfect summertime rock and roll record. It's well documented that I was a big fan of the band's previous two albums Everything New Is New Again and Alive & Kicking. But with zero hesitation, I'll say that Ten Easy Pieces is the best album yet from Dany Laj and The Looks. With the previous albums, there were obvious "hits" that stood out. This time through, it's hard to pick a standout track since they're all so good. And the feel of this album is a little different as well. While it certainly has its serious, more melancholic moments, the overall vibe is joyful, energetic, and just plain fun. This is music that puts a smile on my face!
Friday, June 04, 2021
Well Johnathan Pushkar has gone out and squashed the sophomore jinx! The Nashville-based pop tunesmith is back today with Compositions -- his second album on the legendary Jem Records. I described his 2019 debut Straighten Up as "the Wonders album that never was". And while Compositions remains largely in that same British Invasion/'60s pop lane, it is by no means a mere repeat of its predecessor. On this release, Pushkar really comes into his own as a storyteller. Each song presents a self-contained story. And while the subject matter largely pertains to love and relationships, these songs do reflect Pushkar's personal growth over the past couple years. Like so many others, he found himself changed by the events of 2020. What results is a more mature and well-rounded sophomore release from one of the pop world's most charming and impressive young talents.
Written from the perspective of a young man eagerly anticipating a long-awaited reunion with his sweetheart, "Any Second Now" sets an optimistic tone that does bring Straighten Up to mind. And a song like "Can't Get You Out of My Mind" reminds us that the Johnathan Pushkar we first fell in love with is not completely going away. But what makes Compositions so appealing is how it runs through such a wide range of emotions and human experiences. The Beach Boys inspired "Does What She Does" spins a tale of a girl who lives to breaks hearts, while "Just Friends" dives deep into the pain of unrequited love. "Alexandra" is a sinister story about a girl who never wants to leave your side -- literally. "Making Plans" is about spending a summer apart from your true love and pretty much just wanting to be miserable the whole time (sounds like something I would have done!). Elsewhere Pushkar crafts tales of destined love ("Red Eye") and abandoned dreams ("No One Ever Said You Had To Stay") that are practically novels condensed into three-minute pop songs. For me, the high points of the album are "Gonna Be Alright" and "Love Will Save the Day" -- where Pushkar reflects on the trying times of the past year and ultimately offers reassurance that things will get better. It's as if he's giving the listening audience a giant virtual hug. I, for one, welcome that very much!
Complementing Pushkar's 11 original songs is one very special cover of Paul McCartney's "Junior's Farm". Pushkar's version features drummer Geoff Britton -- who played on the original recording! Dan Ealey appears on the track as well, playing the same Rickenbacker bass he famously lent to Paul McCartney!
Compositions, like Straighten Up, was produced by Wyatt Funderburk. I would be hard-pressed to name a more perfect union of artist and producer. Both of these guys are all about timeless guitar pop, and together they create magic. The influences driving Compositions range from Buddy Holly to the Beatles to the Beach Boys to modern-day power pop, yet there's never a doubt that you're listening to a Johnathan Pushkar record. His voice and style are unmistakable. His innate likeability, which was already undeniable on Straighten Up, has reached another level on Compositions. Listening to this album is like spending time with a good friend. Compositions is a big step forward for Johnathan Pushkar, yet it still satisfies on a pure pop level. You know how sometimes you'll hear an artist's sophomore release and call it "different" because you can't say it's better than the debut? Well there's no need for the D-word in the case of Johnathan Pushkar's sophomore long player. Compositions is considerably better than its predecessor and an absolute treat for all of you who love guitar-driven pop music.
It was always my belief that The Dents should have been huge. I know I say that about a lot of bands, but it's especially true in the case of The Dents. In the middle 2000s period of punk rock, The Dents were one of the best bands going. They had killer tunes, a blistering live act, and two powerhouse vocalists/songwriters in Michelle Paulhus and Jennifer D'Angora. They were beloved in their hometown of Boston but never properly recognized across the globe. The band released a criminally underrated debut album called Time For Biting in 2005 -- which sadly turned out to be the only LP the group would make in its original run circa 2003-2007. Fast forward to today: The Dents have been back together a while and are primed to take the world by storm. Out today on Rum Bar Records, The Dents' self-titled EP is their first official release in 14 years. Three of these tracks were released digitally in 2018, and opening cut "Last One Standing" is a remix of one of the band's signature songs from back in the day. Altogether it makes for a terrific package. There are four songs on the CD plus three digital bonus tracks. Listening to these songs, I'm struck by how much the world still needs a band like The Dents in 2021. The sound is melodic but hard-edged, bolstered by rocking musicianship and top-notch production. Paulhus and D'Angora are exceptional vocalists both individually and in harmony. There was a time in the not so distant past when you could hear music like this on your favorite "alternative" radio station.