Friday, September 17, 2021

The Reflectors - Faster Action

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

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

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

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

Sunday, September 12, 2021

MOM - Pulls A Fast One

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

Friends of Cesar Romero - War Party Favors

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

Friday, September 10, 2021

Christopher Peifer - The Social Distance

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

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

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

Monday, September 06, 2021

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

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

Sunday, September 05, 2021

Brad Marino - "Monkey Man"

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

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

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

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

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

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

Friday, September 03, 2021

New singles from Ricky Rat and Brian McCarty!

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

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

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

Tuesday, August 31, 2021

Smart Shoppers - DORKWAVE

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

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

Sunday, August 29, 2021

Kurt Baker - "Keep It Tight"

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

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"!

Tuesday, July 27, 2021

The Glad Machine and Golden Richards - Summer Blast Split Single

The title pretty much says it all! Out on Chicago power pop label Big Blast Records, Summer Blast Split Single is meant to be played in the car with the top down or cranked up loud by the pool. If you're not yet familiar with Big Blast, the two bands featured here will give you an instant feel for what this label is all about. Up first is The Glad Machine with a track called "Baby, It's You". This song falls somewhere between late '70s power pop and the more contemporary stylings of Jellyfish. Those melodies will hit your eardrums and quickly make their way to all of your pleasure centers. With its strong lead vocal and majestic harmonies, this the definitive melodic pop song. Golden Richards, a band I've reviewed a few times already, follow with what is easily their best track to date. "C'mon C'mon (The Makeout Song)" is, as advertised, a song to make out to! This is a fun, sunny pop tune with an absolutely massive hook. It tells a tale of a chance encounter on the beach with the girl who got away -- and you know what ought to happen next! Golden Richards really went all-out here to craft a Grade-A pop hit. This song has got it all: a classic sing-along chorus, a definitely summery guitar riff, a sweet bridge, a nifty outro, and even dueling guitar and keyboard solos! It's a timeless summertime rocker that appeals to the eternal teenager in all of us. 

Summer Blast Single is a blast indeed. Just push play, and you've got yourself an instant good time! Both of these songs would be fine additions to your summertime pop playlist. And if you don't have a summertime pop playlist, what in the world are you waiting for?

Sunday, July 25, 2021

Vista Blue - Back to the Summer Olympics

Sequels are almost never as good as the original, but every so often they are. Five years ago, Vista Blue released "At the Summer Olympics", an absolutely magical ode to the 2016 Rio Games. And now with the 2020 Summer Olympics in full swing, Vista Blue is back with a sequel appropriately titled "Back to the Summer Olympics". It's the lead track off of the band's new EP -- which you can download for free from Bandcamp. In preparation for reviewing the sequel, I revisited the original and judged it to be in the top tier of all Vista Blue songs. But I've got to say that "Back to the Summer Olympics" belongs in that rare category of sequels that equal or even surpass the original. It's got everything you could want from a Vista Blue song: a tuneful melody, strong harmonies, endearing lyrics, and an absolute earworm of a chorus. You even get a keyboard solo! And without spoiling anything too much, I'll just say that you should listen to this track before you dismiss it as just another Vista Blue "sports song". How does this band manage to be so incredibly prolific yet still delight me every single time? Rounding out the EP are a couple of splendid tracks. "Hey Anthony" clocks in at just a couple ticks past a minute-and-a-half and finds Vista Blue worshipping at the church of the Ramones. It's not easy to write a song this simple and still have it be so catchy and irresistible, but that's exactly what Mike and Mark have pulled off here. To say this track lends itself to singing along would be the understatement of the year! If a song like this had existed when I was six years old, I might have actually started listening to punk in 1977! "It's Summertime Again" is a song that Vista Blue originally contributed to the Ramonescore Radio Records compilation 20 Original Summer Hits. This is the ultimate summertime track. It's an upbeat tune about having fun in the sun, listening to music, and destressing after a difficult year (a very pertinent message for this particular summer!). Did I hear a Zatopeks reference?! If you dig this track, I recommend checking out the full compilation, which features a whole slew of today's top pop-punk and power pop bands. 

I have it on very good authority that several more Vista Blue releases are due out by the end of this year. I say bring 'em on! "Back to the Summer Olympics" is the "Let's Twist Again" of pop-punk!

Friday, July 23, 2021

Geoff Palmer - Charts & Graphs

Geoff Palmer has been a favorite of mine since the earliest days of F & L. With The Connection, The New Trocaderos, and Kurt Baker Band, he's been a huge part of several albums that have influenced the musical direction of this blog. As a a solo artist, he's been one of the brightest stars of contemporary pop-punk and power pop. Last year, he and Lucy Ellis almost managed to redeem 2020 with a delightful collection of duets titled Your Face Is Weird. So when I heard that Palmer was releasing a new LP this year, it immediately became one of my most looked-forward-to albums of 2021. Out today on Stardumb Records, Rum Bar Records, and Memorable But Not Honorable, Charts & Graphs is Palmer's second solo LP. And it does not disappoint! 

Like 2019's Pulling Out All The StopsCharts & Graphs rolls together power pop and pop-punk in a way that's pleasing to fans of either genre. And much like Your Face Is Weird, this album finds Palmer expanding his core sound with songs in a variety of musical styles. If you're craving "vintage" Geoff Palmer punky pop tunes, songs like "Many More Drugs", "Don't Be", and "Tomorrow" are guaranteed to satisfy. But some of the true gems of this album are more unexpected. The title track, written by Emma Tobin, is a poignant breakup song that's both clever and devastating. The country rocker "Count Me In" pairs an upbeat, hard-driving energy with highly philosophical lyrics about the nature of the afterlife. "What Would Paul Westerberg Do" has a lot to live up to based on its title, but it proves to be a satisfying homage in every respect. And I'm totally obsessed with "This Monkey", a song Palmer co-wrote with Zack Sprague. It's unlike any song Palmer has ever recorded before. It's kind of poppy, kind of modern rock-ish, and so sneaky catchy that it'll be stuck in your head before you even know what hit you. The vocal exchanges between Palmer and Sprague on this track are pure gold! 

Charts & Graphs is everything I wanted it to be and more. It shows the many sides of Geoff Palmer while still embracing his roots in pop-punk. In a modern-day power pop punk scene that can sometimes get a little "samey", Palmer is one of the true originals. When you hear one of his songs, you know it's him. His personality comes shining through on Charts & Graphs. Whether he's recounting amusing tales of misheard song lyrics, reflecting on the importance of not being an asshole, lamenting love gone wrong, or pondering the upside of eternal damnation, he's super likeable and always great fun to listen to. For my money, he's one of the best songwriters in rock and roll today. I highly recommend Charts & Graphs to all fans of good music!

The Peppermint Kicks - self titled

So you like the pop side of rock and roll, but you still need it to really rock? Well then The Peppermint Kicks are the band for you! Co-fronted by Dan Kopko (Watts, The Shang Hi Los) and Sal Baglio (The Stompers, The Amplifier Heads), The Peppermint Kicks are a throwback to the days of CREEM magazine, Don Kirshner's Rock Concert, $7 arena shows, and band posters all over your bedroom wall. The band's self-titled debut album releases today on the mighty Rum Bar Records. This ten-song long player would not have sounded out of place on your teenage turntable alongside T. Rex, Cheap Trick, the Ramones, and The Who. Equal parts glam rock, power pop, first wave punk, and big hooky classic rock, The Peppermint Kicks sound has been likened to "a cool drink of strawberry lemonade, with a sprig of mint and a gut-punch chaser". Yum! Kopko and Baglio are both longtime fixtures of the Boston rock and roll scene. Combining the musical visions of both of these artists (much of it shared), you get a killer rock and roll band steeped in the timeless traditions of pop songwriting. What could be better?

I love that The Peppermint Kicks have come out big! The band kicks off its debut album (and entire discography) with a full-on rock anthem in "When Rock & Roll Met Your Dad". An epic love letter to rock and roll, this is the perfect introduction to The Peppermint Kicks and what they're all about. It's immediately followed by "Hey Fanzine!", which takes us back to the glory days of the rocking power pop radio hit. Building off such an auspicious start, the album proceeds to take you on a whirlwind tour of the coolest sounds of rock and roll's heyday. "Strawberry Girls" is a snappy, melodic tune that sounds like it could have sprung from the later '60s U.K. "I Don't Hear A Single" is a timeless pop song that ironically a single! "Johnny D's (Play It Again)" is a vintage Danny The K fists-in-the-air sing-along rocker. "Shag '72" is an old style rock and roll toe-tapper with hooks for days. "Stooge" channels peak-era Rolling Stones. To my absolute delight, "Rock & Roll Rampage" embraces nearly every arena rock cliché in the book. 

It is 100% safe to say that any fan of Watts or The Amplifier Heads will love The Peppermint Kicks. You get the best of both bands here. Kopko and Baglio both sing, play guitar, and contribute some piano and percussion. Lead songwriting duties are split 50/50. Legend has it that the ghost of Little Richard commanded these two individuals to join forces. I, for one, do not doubt that narrative. This band and this album are a celebration of a moment in time when rock was king. Every song is a hit -- unless it's an anthem. And while no one is getting rich these days writing rock and roll songs with great hooks, you know you've made it when the likes of Palmyra Delran and Genya Ravan are singing your praises. Whether you were a teenager in the '70s or simply wish you could have been, this pop-rock cocktail ought to hit the spot!

Pale Lips and The Sorels - Do The Rumbar Rumble

The latest chapter in the momentous alliance between Pale Lips and Rum Bar Records is a very special split CD release. Do The Rumbar Rumble pairs of two of Canada's biggest rock and roll sensations in Montreal's Pale Lips and Winnipeg's The Sorels. Now sadly this is not new material from either band, but it does compile the tracks from each band's long out of print first two seven-inches. The first three Pale Lips tracks date all the way back to 2015's debut single Got A Sweet Tooth. I had not listened to these songs in a long time. Upon revisiting them, I've found that I still really like them! These were the songs that made me a Pale Lips fan. They're definitely a little rawer compared to later recordings, but I kind of like that. From the start, the band's smarts, sense of humor, charm, and flair for fun catchy tunes were simply undeniable. If you're out and about and see some crazy person in headphones joyfully singing the lyrics, "I'm dreaming of killing you", it's probably just me. The progression between that first single and 2017's Should've Known Better! is quite striking. "Don't Take Your Switchblade to New York" remains an essential Pale Lips track (and essential life advice!).  

The four Sorels tracks on Do The Rumbar Rumble are the only four songs that this band has officially released. These songs originally came out on two singles co-released by Reta Records and Surfin' Ki: 2019's "She's In The Gang" and this year's "Spring Break". And since those two records sold out before you even had time to blink, this CD is your best hope of procuring these tunes in a tangible format. Both of the A-sides mix pop hooks with punky rock and roll energy and classic girl group influences. The B-sides, "School Girl Blues" and "Palo Santo", find the band embracing its tougher-edged glam and rock side. Just you wait until The Sorels release an're all gonna go nuts! Join the fan club now before the lines get too long! 

So who wins this rumble between two of Canada's finest? That's easy: we all do! It just makes sense for all of these songs to be on the same album. Pop this disc into your CD player, and you've got yourself a party for the next 23 minutes. And that artwork? Oh my god!

Saturday, July 17, 2021

JENNY - "Trajinero"

As you may know, JENNY is the solo project of a great friend of this blog -- Justin Maurer (Clorox Girls, Maniac, Suspect Parts). "Trajinero" is JENNY's debut Spanish language single and second release overall. It will be coming out as a 7" record on Wanda Records in Europe and Dirt Cult Records in North America. "Trajinero" is something a little different from Maurer. He recorded the track with Jacobo Fernandez (Las Bruscas, Les Tragiques, Desobedientes) and Gabriel Lopez (Espectroplasma, Sonido Gallo Negro) in Mexico City in November of 2020. Co-written by Maurer and Fernandez, the song is loosely based on the plot of Emilio "El Indio" Fernández's 1943 film Maria Candelaria. Its protagonist is a lovelorn working-class trajinero who commits a crime of passion and must face the consequences. In just a few lines, the song tells an epic tale. Yet even with such dramatic themes, this is an immensely fun song that ought to have you dancing and singing along in short order. Man, I love those keyboards! A truly amazing music video for "Trajinero"  (embedded below) was animated by Miguel Jara and Celestial Brizuela. 

"Trajinero" is backed with "Kids of Today", which Maurer recorded in Los Angeles with his former LA Drugz bandmates Cezar Mora, James Carman, and Johnny "JD" Reyes. The track is a classic shot of power pop punk in Maurer's signature style. What a powerhouse single! The digital release of "Trajinero" is available now from JENNY's Bandcamp. Hit up Wanda Records or Dirt Cult Records to pre-order vinyl!