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 (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!