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. 

Saturday, August 28, 2021

Louisville Burnouts - "Bloated Desperation"/ "Stuck on Autoplay"

Formed in 2008 in Cape Breton, Nova Scotia, Louisville Burnouts were intended to be the new garage punk band featuring Tyler and Pete from Teenage Hurricanes. In a very un-punk manner, Louisville Burnouts' almost immediate breakup was caused not by infighting or destructive behavior or unforgivable betrayal, but rather by geographical constraints. The world was denied an exciting new chapter in Boularderie garage punk...until now. After 13 years, Louisville Burnouts have reformed just briefly enough to finally record the debut single their fans had been so long demanding. Also on board for the reunion are Tanner Leudy and Nathan Richards. So what we've got here is a real deal Cape Breton punk rock supergroup. I still cannot conclusively state that I ever reviewed the Teenage Hurricanes demo, so I feel as if my best effort on this particular review is required. On that note, "Bloated Desperation" and "Stuck on Autoplay" are both formidable tunes -- sounding closer to TJ Cabot & Thee Artificial Rejects than they do to Phone Jerks. Both tracks rip in a Stooges meet murder punk sort of way. The guitars sound ferocious, Tyler spits fire as usual, and Pete's drumming is absolutely insane. I'm surmising that a vintage 2008 Louisville Burnouts practice tape would not have sounded nearly this tight! And while this was intended to be a one-off reunion, you never know if some enthusiastic fan mail and generous cash donations could change that. Do geographical constraints even exist in a post-COVID world? Fans of Maritime punk and garage punk in general should take note!

Bambies - Summer Soon

Well, my friends, we’ve got ourselves another serious album of the year contender! I first heard Bambies two years ago when Reta Records released their debut single. I was instantly hooked by the band's catchy, energetic, and rocking sound. This Montreal trio has built on the promise of that first single and delivered a debut album that is a perfect combination of almost everything I like in music. Out on Wanda Records in Europe and Spaghetty Town Records in the U.S.A., Summer Soon ironically arrives just as summer is wrapping up. But worry not: when this record is playing, it's an eternal summer! On this 12-track long player, Bambies blend the furious energy of garage punk rock and roll with the melodies of power pop, the classic stylings of '70s punk, and the spirit of party rock. From start to finish, it's nothing but bangers. No tracks go beyond three minutes, and most clock in at under two-and-a-half. With these songs, there's no waiting around to get to the "good part". The trio keeps it fast and fun all the way through, and you just might wear yourself out tapping your toes and bobbing your head to these hooky, rockin' tunes! I reviewed the advance single "Dirty Taint" a few months back, and that was a nice taste of what to expect from the whole album. Rippers like "Party", "RNR With You", and the electrifying title track are very much in the same vein. I also dig the more power pop leaning "Stuck With You" and the '77-style slammer "Tear Off My Face". 

Summer Soon was recorded in Mexico City by Diego Mier and Carlos Gonzales, and it sounds absolutely amazing. Production-wise, it manages to take a big step forward from the band's earlier recordings without taking any of the edge off of Bambies' sound. It's a perfect record to crank loud whether you're hanging out with friends or just itching to dance around your room all by yourself. There are few bands that would be equally at home on the Spaghetty Town and Wanda rosters, but there's no denying that Bambies fall into that category. In spirit, I'm reminded of a lot of the great Canadian garage meets power pop bands that were tearing shit up when I started this blog a decade ago. The North is bringing the heat again!

Friday, August 27, 2021

Nick Piunti & The Complicated Men - "Heart Inside Your Head"/"One of the Boyz"

What could be better than a brand-new single from Nick Piunti & The Complicated Men? How about two brand-new singles from Nick Piunti & The Complicated Men! Out on the legendary JEM Records, "Heart Inside Your Head" and "One of the Boyz" is a double-shot of pop greatness from one of my favorite present-day songwriters and his complicated band-mates Jeff Hupp, Ron Vensko, Kevin Darnall, and Geoff Michael. You always know what to expect from a Nick Piunti song: stunning melodies, massive hooks, and thoughtful lyrics. Both of these songs deliver all of the above and more. "Heart Inside Your Head" is the reigning Coolest Song in the World on Little Steven's Underground Garage. It's a vintage Nick Piunti pop-rock number that pulls you in with a solid melodic verse and then hits you with a total knockout chorus. I love the way this song makes liberal use of synthesizers to complement the crunch of the guitars. And the production (courtesy of Michael at his Big Sky Recording studio) sounds like a million bucks! "One of the Boyz", in my humble opinion, is every bit as good as "Heart Inside Your Head". Clocking in at well under three minutes, it's a punchy power pop tune propelled by a killer guitar hook. The lyrics cover familiar territory, but they do so in an insightful and powerful way. And for the second time this month, I am noticing how much I enjoy glockenspiel in a pop song. Bring on the glock revival! 

I quickly ascertained why Nick Piunti & The Complicated Men chose to release two singles instead of one two-song EP. Each of these tracks is a hit in its own right and should be enjoyed as a singular creation. Not including last year's holiday track "Christmas Morning", this is the first new music from this band in 15 months. And it does not disappoint. Amazing cover art is by Megan Piunti!

Tuesday, August 17, 2021

Sister Suzie - "Don't Want To"

Andrea and the boys are back! "Don't Want To" is the second 7" release from Edmonton's Sister Suzie and the sixth release from the fabulous Reta Records. A co-release with Surfin' Ki Records, "Don't Want To" quickly follows "What's the Deal", Sister Suzie's debut single on LSM Vinyl. Again, Sister Suzie tears it up with its perfect mix of junkshop glam, Bovver rock, and bad-ass rock and roll. On the A-side, "Don't Want To" is a mid-tempo glam rock anthem about rejecting a boring life spent chasing riches and respectability. I mean, come on: who wants to live a devoid of fun? Break some rules, play your music loud, and ignore anyone who questions your life choices. "Don't Want To" is a foot-stomping, head-bobbing good time! The B-side kicks it up a notch with the appropriately-titled punk ripper "Claws" and the swaggering, sleazy rocker "Are You Gonna (Give Me A Kiss)". There's nothing subtle or sneaky about these tunes. Sister Suzie wants to rock hard and have a great time doing it. This band has the tunes, the chops, and the attitude required to execute that noble mission. And Rob Lawless, who recorded, mixed, and mastered these tracks, clearly gets what Sister Suzie is all about. The Reta release of "Don't Want To" is limited to 150 copies each on gold, blue, and black vinyl (plus 50 split color which are exclusive to Green Noise). You know they'll go fast! The Surfin' Ki version ships in September but can be pre-ordered now. OBTW: if two singles from Sister Suzie have still left you wanting more, be sure to check out the killer track "Destruction Desire" on the new Rum Bar Records compilation XOXOXO Volume One

Sunday, August 15, 2021

The Chelsea Curve - "Drag"

I think I may have found my new personal anthem! Out on Red On Red Records, "Drag" is the fifth in a monthly series of singles by Boston-based power pop/mod/punk trio The Chelsea Curve. It's a song about remaining optimistic when all seems so hopeless and "everything and everyone's at war". That sure sounds familiar! Linda Pardee's lyrics advocate looking to the brighter side of things. That's a position I will wholeheartedly endorse. The hook line to the song astutely points out that "everything is such a drag" -- and you won't find a more bang-on summation of life in 2021. All of the singles in this series have been remarkable, but "Drag" is something special. When that chorus hits, it's absolute magic. And the lyrics knocked me out before I even got through the first verse. If catchy mod-pop with tons of smarts, big hooks, and amazing vocals sounds appealing to you, all of these Chelsea Curve singles are essential downloads. And it's all leading up to what will surely be one of the year's best albums. Next single will be out in ten days!

Saturday, August 14, 2021

Alvilda - Négatif

Oh man, here's a band you're all gonna flip over! Alvilda is Nina, Mélanie, Eva, and Sandra. This foursome out of Paris has just released its debut EP on the venerable Alien Snatch Records. Négatif features four tracks of classic style power pop with '60s pop and girl group influences. I love the perfect simplicity of this release: each song is a one-word title and clocks in somewhere between two and two-and-half minutes. From the melodies to the harmonies to the hooks to the energy of the music, this EP delivers everything you could want from power pop. Even if you don't know a single word of French, Négatif is sure to have you dancing around the house and humming along in no time flat. Pop music doesn't get much catchier than this! For its first 7" release in a few years, Alien Snatch sure picked a good one. Snag a copy while you still can! 

Friday, August 13, 2021

Hayley and the Crushers - "She Drives"

A new single release from Hayley and the Crushers is always a blessed event! Out now on Josie Cotton's Kitten Robot Records, "She Drives" continues the band's amazing run of recent singles which began last summer. While all devotees of the Crusherverse (me included) are eagerly awaiting a new full-length album, the single format really suits this band well. I love digging into one song at a time and savoring every note. I'm reluctant to invoke that dirty word "maturing", but I'll at least say that Hayley and the Crushers are growing in their craft and getting better with each new release. And it certainly doesn't hurt to work with a legendary producer like Paul Roessler! One aspect of this band that's sometimes underrated is what a tremendous writer Hayley Cain is. Anytime I see any of her music-related articles, I find myself wishing I could write like that! She brings that exceptional way with words to her lyrics as well. Musically, "She Drives" is a sunny shot of new wave pop that could easily be slotted on a playlist between The Go-Go's and Holly and the Italians. It's a super fun tune, and the music video is an absolute hoot! But lyrically, this is a song full of heart and substance. It's a very serious reflection on how we can never outrun (or outdrive) our problems as much as we may try...and inevitably we do try! 

"She Drives" is available now from all of your favorite carriers of digital music. Crank it loud while you enjoy what remains of the summer. Behold the majesty or Dr. Cain rocking the glockenspiel! And yes indeed, a new Crushers album is currently in the works!

Thursday, August 12, 2021

The Yum Yums - "Shoog Shoog (Sugar Baby)"

The Yum Yums, one of the greatest pop bands this planet has ever known, are still fresh off of releasing their best album to date in last year's For Those About To Pop! If that album left you wanting more (as it did for me!), bonus material has arrived in the form of The Yum Yum's latest vinyl single. "Shoog Shoog (Sugar Baby)" is out on the German label Partysprenger Records and limited to 500 copies. The A-side is a cover of a 1973 single by U.K. (pre) teen-boppers James Boys. It's no surprise that Morten Henriksen is a fan of this somewhat obscure bubblegum classic. Here The Yum Yums hold to the spirit of the original but also punch it up quite a bit. If you didn't know any better, you would mistake it for a Yum Yums original! If B-side "A Little Bit of Everything" sounds like it picks up where For Those About To Pop! left off, well that makes perfect sense. It's an outtake from the same album sessions and has a similar bubblegum power pop feel to it. You know you're a special kind of band when even your leftover tracks are better than most bands' A-sides! If you dig the Yum Yums or just great pop in general, this single is well-worth tracking down!

Rum Bar Records presents XOXOXO Volume One

I can't remember the last time I was this psyched for a compilation album! Set for release on compact disc next week, XOXOXO Volume One is comprised of 24 tracks of amazing female-led music featuring bands and artists from the Rum Bar Records family. In classic Rum Bar style, this collection covers everything from garage rock to power pop to punk rock to alt country to rhythm & blues to straight-up rock and roll. The digital version of this release is available now as a free download from Rum Bar's Bandcamp. Talk about a nice price! 

 XOXOXO Volume One provides an extensive sampling of spectacular releases from the likes of Hayley and the Crushers, Beebe Gallini, The Dents, Pale Lips, The Lemon Drop Gang, The Short Fuses, The Shang Hi Los, French Girls, Shanda and the Howlers, Heatwaves, The Sorels, and so much more. What a lineup! Even if you're a frequent purchaser of Rum Bar releases, there might be a few tracks here that are new to you (I definitely need to go back and give further attention to Spanking Charlene!). There are also some special treats here that should entice even Rum Bar completists. As I mentioned last week, the compilation leads off with Natalie Sweet's brand-new smash hit single "Video Phone". It also features "Do You Know What Love Means?", a brilliant country tune from the illustrious Miss Georgia Peach. On this song, she's backed by an all-star band comprised of Travis Ramin and Nine Pound Hammer/Nashville Pussy alums Ruyter Suys, Blaine Cartwright, and Mark Hendricks. "Do You Know What Love Means?" is a preview of MGP's forthcoming solo LP -- which I can't wait to hear! To the best of my knowledge, "Living And Love Collide" is a previously unreleased track from Jenny Dee and the Deelinquents. And of course it's great! Another highlight is The Kowalskis' original recording of "I Love You Baby But I Hate Your Friends" -- a song that became an underground hit for The Dahlmanns a decade ago. Cowritten by Lindsey Anderson and Andy Shernoff, "I Love You Baby But I Hate Your Friends" had been out of print for a decade and a half. While I love The Dahlmanns' version, you just can't beat the original. Rumor has it that we might be hearing more from The Kowalskis on Rum Bar in the future! Another gem from the vaults is the kick-ass rocker "Stumbleina" by Sourpunch, the Rhode Island trio fronted by Jenn Lombari. I was blown away by this track and quickly ascertained that the whole Sourpunch album rips. You can buy it from Bandcamp for just seven bucks. 

XOXOXO Volume One is far more than a mere label sampler. It's a showcase for some of the most talented women in today's underground rock and roll scene. Every track is killer, and the whole compilation has a really satisfying flow to it. It's not often that a 24-track album leaves you wanting more, but this one absolutely does! If you feel a little guilty about downloading all of this incredible music for free, you will have ample opportunity to dig deeper into all of these bands' catalogs. CD version will be out next Friday!

Sunday, August 08, 2021

The Jacklights - Drift

Boston melodic punk trio The Jacklights, who delivered the definitive winter single of 2021, send out more summery vibes on their terrific new EP Drift. As always, the band captures the essence of '90s melodic punk and pop-punk in a way that still feels contemporary. Compared to previous Jacklights releases, Drift is a little more polished in the production department. And I mean that in an entirely good way. While Nilagia McCoy's lyrics remain eloquent and thoughtful, the overall feel of this EP is warm and upbeat. Opening track "Beach" is wonderfully bittersweet in a way that only the best pop-punk can be. "Cold Feet" instantly transports me to a 1990s all-ages mosh pit. "Monster Love" is sweet, sad, and deeply human. "Cheap Date" demonstrates how to pull off a grand, romantic song in a totally non-cheesy way. 

Out on Red On Red Records, Drift is highly recommended to anyone who loves punk rock with lots of melody and heart. It's full of passionate, hook-laden tunes that are perfect for warm summer evenings. McCoy, along with bassist Michael Allen and drummer Steve Patton, execute this musical style beautifully. They manage to take influence from bands like The Descendents while still having their own sound. While Drift may stir up teenage or twentysomething memories for many of us, The Jacklights are by no means a band stuck in the past. They genuinely make these old sounds feel new again. In 25 years when I'll be 75 and undoubtedly still writing reviews of punk rock music, I'll hope to hear bands that remind me of The Jacklights! 

Saturday, August 07, 2021

Natalie Sweet - "Video Phone"

Back with her first new music in two-and-a-half years, the fabulous Natalie Sweet has delivered an anthem for these times in her new single "Video Phone". Co-written and performed with AA Wallace, "Video Phone" is a super-catchy new wave/power pop tune with a cool glam rock edge. At this moment when our personal and professional lives have become so dependent on one particular technology, the lyrics to this song could not be any more relatable. Sweet delivers them with her usual charm and charisma. And that spoken part is so on-point! "Video Phone" isn't just relevant -- it's great fun! It ought to be a smash hit! 

"Video Phone" is available now as a digital release from Natalie Sweet's Bandcamp. It will also be the leadoff track on a very special compilation called XOXOXO Volume One which will release later this month on Rum Bar Records. XOXOXO Volume One will officially be out on CD on August 20th, but the digital version is a free download available now. I'll have much more to say about that in the very near future. Your summer 2021 will not be complete without "Video Phone"!