Sunday, October 02, 2022

Guerrilla Teens - "Halfway To Maybe"


Guerrilla Teens first came to our attention back in the year that cannot be mentioned, releasing numerous socially-distanced recorded demos throughout the year. This was an exciting moment for the rock and roll world as this new band featured some prominent ex Humpers/Lovesores and a couple more Portland punk rock luminaries. Those digital releases were made available with the caveat that they would soon disappear. And disappear they did. Now Guerrilla Teens have delivered their proper debut release, a ripper of a single called "Halfway To Maybe." The demos were promising, but this is what we were all expecting from Guerrilla Teens. Out come those guitars in full fury. In comes Scott "Deluxe" Drake bellowing, "Can't make up my mind to save my life/Indecision's such a pointless crime/Remember how they said 'If not now, when?'/Well tell me what to do, and I'll lose again." Then that chorus hits, and you're shouting along, fist thrust forcefully in the air. Yeah, kids, this is rock and roll! You know the magic happens when Scott Drake and Jeff Fieldhouse make tunes together, and "Halfway To Maybe" is the perfect re-launching point for their songwriting partnership. On the B-side, "The Other End of the Leash" is a raging shot of American-style '77 punk rock and roll. It's a thumping, gritty number that builds to a chorus that smashes you in the teeth. Drake is in prime form here — fully channeling the wrath of a chained animal. And it's a thrill to hear the righteous guitar racket that Fieldhouse and Saul Koll can kick up as a tandem. Ably driving this rock and roll machine is the formidable rhythm section of "Anna Bananas" Anderson and "Teenage Tim" Connolly. What a lineup. What a band! 

"Halfway To Maybe" is coming out soon as a 7" record, but you can grab the digital version now from Bandcamp for $3. If all you punk rock and roll fanatics aren't already going ape over Guerrilla Teens, you will be soon!

Saturday, October 01, 2022

More Kicks - Punch Drunk


The second album from More Kicks arrives nearly three years after the first, yet somehow it seems like it's been longer that. That's easily explained. More Kicks came out in November 2019 — just a few months before the shit hit the fan for the entire world. In "pandemic time," it's as if we haven't heard from More Kicks in half a decade. So what a wonderful return Punch Drunk is. It's being said that this album (out now on Stardumb and Dirtnap Records) is a significant departure from the more straight-forward power pop of the band's debut. In many ways, that's very true. It would be an injustice to try to nail this record down to any specific genre. Yet if you think of "power pop" as a broad, non-restrictive concept, Punch Drunk just might be the ultimate power pop record. It sure is pop, and good lord is it ever powerful! 

I've had the pleasure to follow the career of James "Sulli" Sullivan over a number of years now, and I consider him to be one of the finest songwriters going these days. He was on a bit of a hot streak at the time COVID hit, and there's no denying that he took it hard when he suddenly found himself unable to play shows or even properly rehearse with his band-mates. He ended up making the brilliant solo album Light Years, but you knew he was itching to finally get the band back together. The title Punch Drunk refers to Sulli's state of mind as he was putting this new record together in what he calls a "horrible moment" for himself and the world. And yet the feel of this album is triumphant and energized. You can sense the excitement Sulli, bassist Paolo Mantovani, and drummer Kris Hood had in finally being able to (in the near words of Ray Davies) rock out and have fun again. This album hits harder than any More Kicks recording ever has — when it wants to. And sometimes it goes softer than the band has ever gone before. Palpable influences range from Brit-pop to noisy indie rock to first wave punk to the Replacements/Paul Westerberg. Yet it all sounds familiarly like More Kicks. 

Sulli as a songwriter and singer has an immediately recognizable style. With this album, he's added a pinch of what worked so well on Light Years to More Kicks' established power trio sound. Nobody is going to hear this album and protest about it being too different. All the different is good different. It's like the band thought, "Let's make an album that rocks harder but is also more pop...and noisier and punkier." Somehow Punch Drunk manages to be all those things and more. Tracks like "Hurts Like Hell" and "Come Home" are on the punk side of power pop, which is always a sweet spot for me. "Color Me Stupefied" is quintessential Brit-pop and magnificent at that. "Seven Ways," which is rough and raw yet still fundamentally pop, brings to mind the golden age of college radio. If you looked up "perfect pop song" on a search engine, new single "Terminal Love" ought to show up. I heard "Rest of Our Lives" and immediately jotted down the words "vintage Sulli." But when this album veers from the hard pop style, it veers significantly. The recent single "Animal" sounds like a post-punk band did a mash-up of "My Sharona" and Pete Shelley's "Homosapien." It's quite possibly the best song More Kicks have ever done. With its loose charm and brilliantly self-effacing lyrics, "Phoney Middle Aged Art" is wonderfully Westerbergian. "Got Lucky" is intimate and reflective  — just a guy pouring his heart out over sparse keyboards and a drum machine. "Goodnight Goodnight" is literally and figuratively a marriage of solo Sulli and the full band rock and roll of More Kicks. I hate to keep making Replacements references since I find the influence to be more spiritual than stylistic. But there's definitely that similarity here where the ballads/slow songs end up being high points of an album. 

This was supposed to be the part where I assured you all that you will love Punch Drunk. But because I'm a terrible slacker and now a couple weeks late on this review, I might as well just say that I already know you love it! I've seen the rave reviews, and I concur with them fully. This is the work of not just an exceptional songwriter but also a truly fantastic band clicking on all cylinders. The pandemic had More Kicks down but never out. They've come roaring back with the album of their lives. I suppose we can say this for COVID and More Kicks: it took the sophomore slump off the table! If you follow this blog, you need to own Punch Drunk.

Friday, September 30, 2022

The Streetwalkin' Cheetahs - All The Covers (And More)


I often talk of how 1995 was my 1977. The late '90s revival of '70s punk rock is a subject near and dear to my heart and one I may someday write a book about. Those bands were my gateway to all the first wave punk rock I now consider to be the greatest music ever made. One band from that movement that has held up particularly well is L.A.'s Streetwalkin' Cheetahs. Maximum Overdrive, a compilation of the band's debut album and early singles on Alive/Bomp! Records, is an essential purchase for fans of '70s style punk from the '90s. It combines a gritty and roaring Stooges/Dead Boys punk rock and roll style with some seriously underrated melodic songwriting. Still going strong after 27 years plus, the Streetwalkin' Cheetahs have never lost sight of their mission to fill the world with high energy rock and roll. And they've never ceased to wear their influences on their sleeves. On their two-disc set All The Covers (And More) (out today on Rum Bar Records), they show the love to all the bands that inspired their very existence. 

Featuring extensive liner notes by singer/guitarist Frank Meyer, All The Covers (And More) is a deluxe package comprising 38 covers of punk, proto-punk, and rock and roll classics. Essentially, these are the songs that made the Streetwalkin' Cheetahs. This album is a window into the soul of the band. It features both studio tracks and live cuts. I'm not always a fan of covers albums or live recordings, but I've got to say that I've been enjoying the hell out of this release. It makes me nostalgic for a time in my life when I was first discovering so many of the bands covered here. I can remember what it was like when I first got my hands on records by the Stooges, MC5, Dead Boys, Radio Birdman, Saints, and Dictators and had my mind totally blown (To this day, I can't hear any version of "Sonic Reducer" without screaming along until I'm hoarse). I'm envious of anyone who might be introduced to these bands through this release. The Streetwalkin' Cheetahs are providing a road map for a formal education in punk rock! And the cover selections go beyond the obvious choices. The band pays homage to its more "pop" influences with two Cheap Trick covers and a rousing take on The Boys' "Kamikaze." There are also nods to greats from the worlds of hard rock/metal (Motley Crue, Iron Maiden), glam punk (Hanoi Rocks, Smack, Dogs D'Amour), and classic L.A. punk (X, Fear). The performances, both live and in the studio, properly capture the powerhouse energy and wild aggression of the songs' original versions. Standout cuts for me are The Runaways' "Cherry Bomb" (featuring Cherie Currie on lead vocals), the aforementioned Dead Boys "Sonic Reducer" (featuring Jimmy Zero), X's "Los Angeles," Cheap Trick's "Hot Love" (featuring the B-Movie Rats), Motley Crue's "Live Wire," The MC5's "Kick Out the Jams," and (of course!) The Dictators' "Faster and Louder." 

I appreciate that the Streetwalkin' Cheetahs didn't just want to do a covers album. Instead they wanted to release all their covers in one shot  — which provides a complete picture of the varied influences that formed them. Some of the vital influencers (Wayne Kramer, Sylvain Sylvain, Deniz Tek) even make appearances on this collection. It seems weird to say that this album could be a perfect introduction to the Streetwalkin' Cheetahs. But honestly, it just might be! The band will surely be playing a lot of these songs as it tours the West Coast in support of All The Covers (And More) in November and December. Featuring over two-and-a-half hours of music, this two-disc set is an absolute treat for fans of both the Streetwalkin' Cheetahs and old school punk rock and roll in general.

The Airport 77s - We Realize You Have a Choice


I didn't want to make any puns about The Airport 77s "taking flight" or "reaching new heights" on their new album We Realize You Have a Choice (out today on the world-famous JEM Records). But then I read the press release about how this album "finds the fly boys of power pop spreading their wings" and thought, "Yeah, that totally nails it!" The Airport 77s (guitarist Andy Sullivan, bassist Chuck Dolan, and drummer John Kelly) have graduated to four-stripe status on their proper full-length debut. If you didn't already know there was more to this D.C. area trio than new wave nostalgia and hilarious costumes, you'll find out soon enough once you push play. We Realize You Have a Choice is packed with hits from front to back. I feel it would be reckless of me to say that this is the best album JEM has ever released. So I'll show some proper restraint and just say that JEM has never released anything better than this. 

The name of the album is funny largely because it's true: the choices for a music consumer in 2022 are literally limitless. There's so much music out there competing for your time, attention, and disposable income. You will be well-served to give all of the above to We Realize You Have a Choice — one of the finest power pop/rock albums to come out in quite some time. This release proves that the best way to make a power pop album is to not make a power pop album. Don't get me wrong: this release features a couple of perfect power pop songs. Latest single "One Good Thing About Summer" has been tearing up the indie radio charts for weeks, and "All Torn Up Over Tina" (co-written by Kelly and the great J.P. McDermott) could pass for a lost classic from the early '80s. But rather than supplement these A+ power pop songs with lesser power pop songs (as many, many bands do), The Airport 77s have elected to apply their mastery of hummable melodies, clever wordplay, and earworm choruses to a variety of musical styles. Are you feeling some '80s AOR pop-rock? Could you dig a synth-pop dance track? How about a little arena rock, lounge pop, indie rock, hard rock, and even a birthday song? The Airport 77s can fly you anywhere you want! 

We Realize You Have a Choice is that rare album where there's no drop-off from a great single. The aforementioned birthday song, "Birthday Girl," has all the makings of a new standard. One part sweet love song and one part party anthem, it's destined to become a staple of birthday girls' nights out everywhere. I love how the song comes on unassumingly enough and then just knocks you out with that chorus! Bar owners: get this song on your playlist, and you will sell drinks galore! "Losers Win," which packs an entire short story into three and a half minutes of massively catchy rock and roll, also highlights the band's flair for epic choruses. "Somebodies," with its stacked lead vocals and anthemic feel, sounds like something that could have been on the radio back in the '80s — when pop music still moved small-town kids to dream big. That line "I'll never be nobody with somebody like you" could have been cheesy, but The Airport 77s make it sound genuinely inspirational. Plus it models how to properly use a double negative. "The Way She Moves" takes things into full-on hard rock territory and is genuinely awesome. "Bad Together" would not sound out of place on the Valley Girl soundtrack. "Alone Together" has made me a believer in jazz-influenced power pop (Yeah! Really!). Back in storytelling mode, "Drinking Alone" finds its heartbroken protagonist spiraling towards rock bottom — but bouncing back to a regular shaving routine and a steady diet of wheatgrass smoothies and spinach shakes. Did I mention something about earworm choruses? Bonus points must be awarded for an REM reference that doubles as a DC–adjacent geography joke. 

With We Realize You Have a Choice, The Airport 77s have made a rock album for people who love power pop. Or is it a power pop album for people who love rock? This release has it all: should-be radio hits, arena-sized rockers, and even some stellar deep cuts ("Since the Circus Left Town" snuck its way into my brain and has been residing there for weeks). It captures the essence of classic music from the '70s and '80s without getting itself stuck there. If you'd like to hear some great pop-rock made by stellar musicians and singers, you'll want to book your reservation in short order. Every seat on this flight is first class.


The Melmacs - Good Advice


I've been teasing it for months, and now it's finally out! Good Advice, the knockout debut album from The Melmacs, releases today through a collaboration between Wanda, Barkraufarfita, and Tape Or Die Records. The punk/powerpop world has given us many excellent LPs this year, and Good Advice is without doubt one of the very best of the lot. The Melmacs have been releasing absolutely wonderful music since early 2019 — which means I failed you all for three long years by not alerting you of this awesome band's existence. The shame I carry is considerable. For penance, I will binge-watch ALF all weekend. This foursome based out of Leipzig and Dresden, Germany plays old school power pop punk rock and roll that will make you wanna jump up and down, sing along with the utmost enthusiasm, and forcefully launch positive vibes into the universe. As advertised, the band delivers the perfect mix of "jab jab guitars, jub jub keyboards, pow pow drums, and boom boom bass." This is the epitome of a fun band, and Good Advice is a fun record through and through. Yet at the same time, The Melmacs have a special talent for filling their upbeat, catchy tunes with true lyrical substance. Lead track "Good Advices" is about the wisdom people gain from learning from their mistakes. Elsewhere, the band tackles topics such as bigotry ("Watch Out"), fear ("Stage Fright"), crippling regret ("Retrospective Life"), and the power of persistence ("Carry On"). The Melmacs promised some good advice, and they have delivered. They know how to be really serious without ever taking themselves seriously, and that's the magic recipe for meaningful music.    

A royal treat for any punk/powerpop fan, Good Advice offers up a nice variety of musical selections. Songwriters Bimmi, Remo, and Max complement many energetic punk rock numbers with some pure power pop ("Retrospective Life", "Carry On"), lighters-up arena sing-alongs ("Saturday Night"), and a rousing finale that channels '60s girl groups ("Planet Melmac"). To celebrate the release of Good Advice, today the Melmacs have released the fifth single/music video from the album, "Low Life." Be warned that if you listen to this song, you will most likely need to listen to it dozens of times. It's that catchy. Before you know it, half your day will be gone. But what a way to spend half your day!  

Unfortunately the vinyl has been delayed, but Good Advice is available now from all the major streaming platforms. My good advice is to stop whatever else you're doing and go listen to this album now!

Monday, September 26, 2022

the SUCK​/​Johnny Terrein And The Bad Lieutenants - split 7"


I kind of don't like Ramonescore  — except for when I totally love it! There are a handful of bands in existence that can pull off this very specific genre of music. More often not, for reasons no one can possibly explain, these bands are Canadian. So it makes sense that a Canadian record label would put out a really good Ramonescore record. Faster and Louder Records out of Ontario is responsible for a split 7" pairing London's Johnny Terrein and the Bad Lieutenants with the SUCK from Harrisburg, PA (717 represent!). Of course the SUCK is at a disadvantage in lacking Canadian citizenship. But given that three different American states are in conflict over being able to claim the SUCK, the band's geographical ties are still up in the air. The concept of this release is that each band covers one of the other's songs and also contributes an original song. The headline is that Johnny Terrein and the Bad Lieutenants had the balls to cover THE BEST song by the SUCK: the street rock anthem "Partytown USA." The second headline is that the SUCK's second-best song is on this very record! That's right: I'm going to jump "Cult of the Fonz" over "Fantasy Beer League" on my big board of SUCK songs. It was not an an easy decision, but I carefully considered it over many beers and evenings. I feel like "Cult of the Fonz" is much bigger than just a song. It's practically a way of life. It should be an actual cult. Can you imagine gangs of middle-aged dudes running around in leather jackets? What would that be like? 

Each band here does a very credible job of covering the other. I wasn't sure I could accept any band but the SUCK performing the hallowed "Partytown USA." But Johnny Terrein and the Bad Lieutenants pretty much crush this song! Their original, "Prisoner," is excellent as well. Perhaps the lesson here is that you can never go wrong with pop culture references. I also like that both of these bands are Ramones-inspired without being Ramones clones. If you like simple and solid no-bullshit three-chord punk rock, this record and these bands are well worth your attention. The 7" officially releases October 1st (the same day the SUCK plays its first-ever live show at Mom's Basement Fest in Youngstown, Ohio!). Blue vinyl is limited to 101 copies, and black is limited to 202. Faster and and Louder Records has no affiliation with this blog — other than that we both had the good sense to steal from the best.

Friday, September 23, 2022

Candy Snatchers - "Shame Shivers"


Installment #5 in the "Detroit cover" 7" series from I-94 Recordings is something truly special: the first new recordings from the legendary Candy Snatchers in 12 years! On the A-side, "Shame Shivers" is an absolutely blazing track that finds Larry May and company in vintage form. Hans Molnar (of The Hellbenders) is on guitar, capably stepping in for the late, great Matthew Odietus. Doug "Goose" Duncan and Sergio "Sgt Stash" Pone pick right up as one of the greatest rhythm sections in modern-day punk rock. And Larry May is...well, Larry May! It would be an understatement to say that he has not mellowed over the years. He still hollers with fury, and I love how fired up he sounds on this blistering number. If you're craving some fast and ferocious punk rock and roll, you've come to the right place! Clocking in at just 76 seconds, "Shame Shivers" will pummel you senseless before you even know what hit you. It leaves you wanting more, but at least you can keep dropping that needle and play it over and over. In keeping with the theme of this 7" series, the B-side had to be a cover of a Detroit artist. The Candy Snatchers chose "Must Be the Cocaine" by the mighty Trash Brats. Talk about a classic! Larry May has referred to the 7" version of this tune as "the greatest song of all-time," so there were certain expectations that these guys would do a great version. I mean, come on: if ever a band was born to cover "Must Be the Cocaine," the Candy Snatchers are it! And now they've gone and proven that on record. This version does not disappoint. I don't want to say they've topped the original, but they've sure made it a Candy Snatchers song! 

"Shame Shivers" is an absolute must-have. It's the freaking Candy Snatchers, man! The single is selling fast, with nine of the colored vinyl variations already gone. You know what to do!

Thursday, September 22, 2022

Geoff Palmer - Standing In the Spotlight


I must admit that when I first heard that Geoff Palmer was covering Dee Dee Ramone's rap album in its entirety, I thought it was a pretty insane idea. But the more I thought about it, the more I warmed up to the concept. Standing In the Spotlight, released in 1989 under the moniker Dee Dee King, is certainly one of the most polarizing albums in the punk rock canon. Not everyone likes it. A great many hate it. But those who love it really love it. Fans of this record will argue that within the Ramones universe, it's highly underrated. Palmer would go as far as to call it a classic, and his version (out now on Stardumb Records) comes from pure love. And that's what has really won me over. A lesser artist may have treated this project like a joke, but Palmer was determined to pay genuine tribute (he even released the album on Dee Dee's birthday). The vocals, arrangements, and musicianship are of the same high standard you'd expect from any Geoff Palmer album. And as a rapper, Palmer can more than hold his own. Palmer clearly has affection for these songs, yet he manages to interpret them in his own unique style. Obviously the target audience is people who are already huge fans of Standing in the Spotlight. But I'm thinking more than a few people will hear this release and give the original another chance — or maybe even listen to it for the first time. 

Typically, I approach a Ramones cover album expecting to love it but ultimately just find myself wishing I were listening to the original. I've had a different experience with Geoff Palmer's Standing In the Spotlight. I kind of thought I might not like it. Then as I kept listening, I thought to myself, "This is actually really good!" Of course Palmer and friends hit "Baby Doll," "Emergency," and "The Crusher" out of the park. But I love what they do with some of the album's less-celebrated tracks. "Mash Potato Time" is tremendous fun and features special appearances by Hayley Crusher Cain on backing vocals, Reid Cain on glockenspiel, and Mass Giorgini on sax. "Poor Little Rich Girl" is a genuinely successful mashup of rap and pop-punk. "German Kid," featuring excellent vocal performances from Hallie Bulleit and Kurt Baker, is a funky and infectious delight. 

I'm sure a lot of people assume that Palmer made this record for shits and giggles. Nothing could be further from the truth. He's a Standing In the Spotlight super-fan, and he took seriously the task of celebrating the album even as he made it his own. He loves this record and hopes you'll love it too. I'm not sure if Palmer will manage to bring any Standing in the Spotlight haters over to the dark side. But if you're like me and were on the fence with this album, Palmer's version just might have you reconsidering your stance. Sweet t-shirt, dude!

Wednesday, September 21, 2022

Protex - Wicked Ways


Protex has released an excellent new album that hardly anyone seems to be talking about. I'm rather shocked by the lack of fanfare for what is truly a top-notch release from a band that helped define power pop/punk music as we know it. Wicked Ways, which was released earlier this summer on Bachelor Records, was recently made available on Bandcamp. If you're a fan of Protex or power pop in general, you really need to hear this album. While Aidan Murtagh is the only original member in this current lineup, Wicked Ways is 100% a vintage Protex release. It finds Murtagh teaching a master class in power pop/punk songwriting. There's nothing fancy going on here: just one near-perfect punchy three-minute love song after another. Who would expect (or want) anything different from Protex? And this is not one of those cases of "It's pretty good for an old band." This album can hang with the best of what's out there in today's power pop world. Murtagh might be the last man standing from the golden era of Protex, but he has definitely found the right players to keep the band going strong. Don't sleep on Wicked Ways!

MOM - Fun 'N Games


Now here's a match made in power pop heaven: Malmö, Sweden's MOM, premiere pop hitmakers of the modern day, are putting out an EP on the illustrious Snap!! Records next month. Titled Fun 'N Games, the new EP will be available soon on 7" vinyl. It's available for digital purchase now through Bandcamp. These four tunes feature the classic MOM sound: mega-catchy bubblegum pop with a new wave edge. One of these tracks, "To the Beat," was released as a free digital single earlier this year. The other three are all-new and most definitely of the style and quality we've come to expect from Donny, Luke, Frank, and Spike. In particular, "Dreaming" and "Now Until Forever" are new high marks of the MOM hit parade. This is infectious, feelgood music full of melodies and choruses you'll be humming and singing all day long. When it comes to writing a great hook and laying down sugar-sweet harmonies, MOM just can't be beat. Any of these songs could pass for a forgotten pop hit from the '70s or early '80s, yet there's something about this band's energy that makes them feel new. MOM makes music for teenage romantics — and their cool parents. In what kind of sick world is "Now and Forever" not all over the radio? You know you're doing something right when Snap!! Records comes calling. The 7", limited to 300 copies, will be available October 14th!

Friday, September 16, 2022

Lorne Behrman - A Little Midnight


A Little Midnight
, the debut full-length album from Lorne Behrman, fulfills the considerable promise of last year's wonderfully surprising EP When I Hit the Floor. After decades as a premiere punk rock guitar slinger, Behrman found himself in uncharted territory as a singer, songwriter, and lead artist. Yet he stepped comfortably and confidently into this new phase of his career, producing a debut EP crafted under the influence of Bob Dylan, Lou Reed, and vintage New York City punk rock. A Little Midnight has a similar poetic punk feel but broadens Behrman's musical palette. It is, as he says, the "full span" of who he is as a musician. These are the songs that were always in his heart and mind, now finally captured on record. In spots, he embraces the simplicity and efficiency of punk rock in its purest form. In other spots, he proves himself a formidable and powerful balladeer. And of course he delivers a few tunes that will bring to mind the heyday of Television, Richard Hell, and Jim Carroll. 

Listening to A Little Midnight is a "best of both worlds" type experience: you get tremendous depth and sophistication in the music, yet the songs come and go long before they wear out their welcome (total running time for ten tracks is just 21 minutes). Behrman is the kind of songwriter who's unafraid to cut himself open, and certainly the ten New York City vignettes that comprise this album were largely inspired by his own life. The songs' protagonists face setbacks, heartbreaks, disappointments, and loss. They are haunted by the past and struggle to find their way forward. Yet in the end, hope prevails and better things await. As fellow humans, we can relate to these songs because we have similar stories. I'm not sure what specific qualities a singer/songwriter has to have to make you want to root for them. But whatever they are, Lorne Behrman has got them. And while it goes without saying that the lead guitar work on these tracks is absolutely fantastic, it's a joy to hear the other aspects of Behrman's craft coming into their own. He has taken that half-spoken style of singing and fully made it his own. And in terms of writing songs with strong melodies, he has made a huge leap forward on this album. Just listen to the quintessential New York City rock and roll of "Monday Morning Rain" or the stunning ballad "You Won't Live In This Past" — this is the work of a real songwriter, not just a guitarist writing songs. 

If When I Hit the Floor had you hoping that Lorne Behrman would continue his journey as a solo artist, A Little Midnight will make you glad that he did. It brings you everything from punk rock jolts of energy (the title track and "Love Stumbles By") to soulful Stonesy rockers ("Harlem River Serenade") to Dylan-esque ballads ("Further On Down the Road") to gospelized spoken word exercises ("Well, I Can't Hold You"). Working with drummer Hector Lopez (Alejandro Escovedo/The Sweet Things) and veteran producer Matt Chiaravalle (who also plays bass and keyboards), Behrman has created his magnum opus. It's in spirit a definitive NYC punk rock album, yet it's so much more than that. It's the work of a gifted, immensely human songwriter who wears his love for New York on his sleeve. Buy it now on compact disc from Spaghetty Town Records for just five dollars plus postage!

Thursday, September 15, 2022

Bart and the Brats - self titled


Following a 10", a 7", and a split 7" with Take the City, France's Bart and the Brats have unleashed their proper debut LP via two of the greatest punk record labels ever: No Front Teeth and Big Neck Records. And as expected, it's a smashing slab of wax! Bart and the Brats are the solo project of the prolific punk musician Bart De Vraantijk (Pneumonias, Wild Zeros, Teenage Hearts, The Janitors, etc.). With this project, Bart hones in on the classic '77 punk sound — taking equal inspiration from both sides of the Atlantic. If you dig The Kids, Zeros, the first two Ramones albums, and the tougher/snottier side of early U.K. punk, then Bart and the Brats will be right up your alley. You know I'm always a sucker for the classic '77 sound, and Bart really hits the sweet spot on these 12 ripping tracks. He knows how to write a rockin' punk tune that will get your head bobbing and your toes tapping. There's no fooling around here: every song gets the job done in two minutes or thereabouts, and then it's on to the next one. With this being a Bart De Vraantijk project, you know you're getting a little of that garage/budget rawness in the production and performance. But stylistically, this album is all about the sound of '77. Bart is a master at writing catchy tunes that are chock full of attitude, and he has delivered the goods on this self-titled release. If ever an album existed that needed to be co-released by Big Neck and No Front Teeth, this is the one!

Tuesday, September 13, 2022

Hayley and the Crushers - Modern Adult Kicks


Hayley and the Crushers were already one of my favorite bands. So it feels a little strange for me to say they've made an album that completely blows away everything they've done before. But sure enough, Modern Adult Kicks (out today on Kitten Robot Records) is a next-level step for the now Detroit-based Crushers. This album, my friends, is everything. Remarkably, the band has managed to make a very serious album without losing the fundamental joy of the Crushers experience. If you're putting on this record with expectations of punk, pop, and fun, you will not be disappointed. But it's a different kind of fun on this record — one that the band has pulled off marvelously. 

As the title suggests, Modern Adult Kicks finds Hayley and the Crushers fully embracing maturity. That can be the kiss of death for a punk-pop band, but the "grown-up" Crushers are truly the best version of themselves. Of all the pandemic inspired albums I've heard over the last two and a half years, Modern Adult Kicks is definitely my favorite. It's not necessarily about the pandemic, but it was inspired by all the heavy real-life stuff the band members went through post-COVID. Songs on this release address themes such as isolation, disappointment, addiction & co-dependency, longing, disillusionment, and just general angst. At a time when almost all of us have been "going through some shit," this album has the feel of the Crushers giving the world a great big hug and telling us that it's okay to not be okay (but to always keep dancing!). As I ponder how I've largely suppressed my own pandemic anxieties for the past 30 months, I find myself really feeling Modern Adult Kicks. I was either going to have this album in my life or one day randomly have a breakdown in the cereal aisle at Target. 

One thing that I appreciate about Modern Adult Kicks is how perfectly the Crushers' recent singles ("Cul de Sac," "She Drives," "Click and Act Now!") fit in with the album as a whole. I remember hearing "Cul de Sac" for the first time and thinking, "Wow, this is an amazing new direction for the Crushers." Now I'm hearing the fulfillment of this direction on Modern Adult Kicks, and I'm blown away. Working with legendary producer Paul Roessler, the band has achieved a timeless yet modern new wave pop-rock sound that demonstrates that a punk band can grow up and still be, you know, punk! And with Roessler's support, Hayley Cain has elevated her singing talents to new heights. Vocally, she taps into emotions ranging from sorrowful to angry to tender to wistful to wicked to feisty  — and every note rings true. Hayley and the Crushers have always had a knack for writing those immediately catchy pop songs, but Modern Adult Kicks is full of tunes that slowly and sneakily get into your bones. The album's absolutely perfect side 1 culminates with two such songs: the intensely emotional "Broken Window" and the deeply yearning "I Fall." The aforementioned "Cul de Sac" and "She Drives," exceptional singles in their own right, take on a new power within the flow of this album. 

As serious of an album as Modern Adult Kicks is, it's not without its lighter and brighter moments. "Click and Act Now!", which hilariously skewers late night TV infomercials and shady product pitchmen, will have you starting a mosh pit in your own living room. "California Sober" pokes fun at people who get high and call it "spiritual." "No Substitute" is a wonderfully uplifting cover of The Shivvers' power pop cult classic. "Overexposed" is a reflective and nostalgic recollection of the heyday of online chatrooms. Altogether, this album is as advertised. It finds Hayley and Dr. Cain navigating growth, change, and the sometimes unpleasant realities of adult life in this post-pandemic world. And yet that light that Hayley and the Crushers have always emitted shines as brightly as ever. They are here to remind us that when real life knocks us down or sets us back, our best choice is to keep grinding and hold on to hope. The irony of 2020-21 being such a tough spell for the Crushers is that it was also when Josie Cotton recognized their talents and welcomed them to her record label. The Crushers have benefited greatly from working with a label and producer that fully "get" them. Combine that with a heavy dose of real-life inspiration, and you've got a formula for something special. I can't even name a favorite song off this record because I have a different one every day. If "maturity" for Hayley and the Crushers means such things as emulating Pat Benatar and writing songs inspired by Ira Levin novels, then I am all about it. Get your Modern Adult Kicks on blue-raspberry vinyl while supplies last!

Friday, September 09, 2022

The Prize - Wrong Side of Town


And now with the best debut release I've heard in 2022 (so far), we have a crackling four-song EP from Melbourne's newest power pop sensations The Prize. Out on Anti Fade Records, Wrong Side of Town features three fantastic original songs and a killer cover of the Incredible Kidda Band's 1979 single "Fighting My Way Back." Drummer Nadine Muller and guitarists Carey Paterson & Joseph Imfeld were previously in the also-excellent Mr. Teenage. The newer band's lineup is rounded out by guitarist Austin Haire and bassist Jack Kong. I really liked Mr. Teenage, but I absolutely love The Prize. This band is straight up my alley, playing prototypical Aussie power pop with a punk influence. The title track is truly a perfect punky pop song. And that Kidda Band cover manages to take a power pop classic and double the power! If you like catchy melodic tunes featuring loud guitars (three of 'em, in fact!) and maximum energy, you're gonna go wild for The Prize! A first pressing of Wrong Side of Town has already sold out, but a second pressing will be available at month's end. Get your preorders in!

Thursday, September 08, 2022

Muck and the Mires - "Beat Revolution"


Now here's a political campaign we can all get behind! Muck and the Mires are rallying the troops to mount a beat revolution. The mission, co-sponsored by Dirty Water and Rum Bar Records, is simple enough. If you wanna listen to the sounds you've been missin', you are qualified to join Muck's army. The enemy is soulless corporate pop music. The end goal is real music on the radio to get the masses dancing and singing along. Your role in the revolution is easy enough: all you gotta do is tune in to their station! Given the importance of this endeavor, Muck and the Mires have launched a promotional video for recruitment purposes. "Beat Revolution" features the signature Muck sound — recalling '64 era Beatles if they'd somehow time traveled into the future and heard the Ramones. This song and video leave no doubt as to what the Beat Revolution is all about. Sign me up! The Bill of Rock protects our rights to hear great music! Full album coming soon from Dirty Water Records!

Monday, September 05, 2022

The Trouble Seekers - self titled


Well that sure didn't take very long! Back in March, I mentioned that The Trouble Seekers were hoping to connect with a like-minded record label and do a full-length album release. Ruined Records ended up being that label, and the band's self-titled full-length release is now on the street! This duo made up of Kevin McGovern (The Prostitutes) and Hillary Burton (honeychain, The Pandoras) continues to prove there's plenty of room for originality and innovation in punk rock. Seriously: there's nothing out there in the world of music that sounds quite like this band's blend of synth-punk, dark new wave, dystopian soundtrack, and post-modern rock and roll. 

Shockingly, this is the first 12" vinyl that McGovern has released since The Prostitutes' Can't Teach Kids Responsibility came out 25 years ago. He shared with me that The Trouble Seekers, in some warped way, feels like the proper follow-up to Can't Teach Kids Responsibility. Way back in 1998, he was envisioning a new direction for The Prostitutes that would have involved the addition of synthesizer, female vocals, and moody tempos. Lacking the right collaborators to make this happen, he put this vision on hold and never really got it back until last year when he and his friend Burton decided to make music together. And once these two got together, everything clicked. McGovern and Burton work perfectly together — not just as co-vocalists but also as complementary creative forces. The Trouble Seekers' 15-track debut album retains the snarl, sharp edge, and pure intensity of The Prostitutes' recordings. But it moves that energy in new and exciting directions. The Trouble Seekers are moodier, stranger, and far more experimental than even the later Prostitutes were. Yet this isn't just experimentation for experimentation's sake. This is creativity without restriction in fulfillment of a vision. These are your most troubling nightmares set to music you can dance to on the apocalyptic ruins. 

So here we have the record that Kevin McGovern wanted to make 24 years ago. Would the world have been ready for this in 1998? Would he have been ready for this? I'm usually lukewarm on the whole idea of synth-punk, and perhaps that's because it rarely comes out this good. These tunes, while definitely "out there," are exceptionally well-crafted and sneakily tuneful. And I like that I'm hearing two familiar voices coming together to create something that's even more than the sum of its parts. Sometimes leaning more punk rock ("Beautiful Doom," "Falling in a Dream," "Cruel Summer"), other times leaning more new wave ("Out of Order," "Endless City"), and other times adhering to no conventions whatsoever, this album manages to be informed by new wave era reference points even as it drags them kicking and screaming into the 21st Century. A case in point are the album's two cover songs: hyper-imaginative re-workings of Cheap Trick's "He's a Whore" and Madonna's "Borderline" that will just about blow your mind. Priced right at just 15 bucks plus postage, this face-melting debut from The Trouble Seekers can be yours if you hit up the Ruined Records web site!

Sunday, September 04, 2022

Kevin Stevenson - Reality Alley


One of the very finest songwriters to come out of the '90s/2000s punk rock scene, Kevin Stevenson is a legend in his native Lowell, Massachusetts and criminally overlooked just about everywhere else. That may change with the release of the former Shods front-man's debut solo album Reality Alley on Rum Bar Records. Originally released digitally this past June, Reality Alley now exists on shiny compact disc — one copy of which has been in heavy rotation in my car player for weeks. 

It has been a long time since we've heard new songs from Stevenson, and unsurprisingly Reality Alley is loaded with inspired material. Given the diverse musical offerings of any given Shods album, it seems almost unnecessary to say that Reality Alley covers a lot of ground. But seriously: it covers a lot of ground! This album is informed by sounds ranging from rock to punk to pop to reggae to rhythm & blues to folk to jazz. There's even a nod to Grandmaster Flash! The album was recorded while Stevenson was living in the Exarchia neighborhood of Athens, Greece. This afforded him the opportunity to work with top-notch veteran producer George Priniotakis and a superb cast of studio musicians. Compared to the relatively low-key productions of a Shods record, Reality Alley sounds massive. On these songs, Stevenson is supported by a dynamite horn section (Yannis Karagiannakis, Kostas Staikos, Aggelos Tzamatias), a chorus of back-up singers, keyboards, and even a little Theremin (courtesy of Eddie Dyer). If you had told me this album was recorded for a major label in the '70s, I wouldn't have doubted it! All this stellar musicianship works because it serves an exceptional set of songs. The raw material was clearly there, and it's a joy to hear Stevenson flesh out these tunes to the highest possible degree. 

Even with its warm, polished sound, Reality Alley retains the grit and down-to-earth personality of its creator. Over the course of 15 tracks (not one of them a dud), Stevenson reminds us all of who he is: a gifted storyteller, a masterful and deeply human songwriter, and an immensely likeable, one-of-a-kind character. You hear that voice, and you immediately know whom you're listening to. "Lowell Night," a vivid portrait of the town's local color, has the feel of a pub ballad of yore. "Torr Skoog" is intensely personal and absolutely heartbreaking. Songs like "50 Bucks" and "Death Jackets" wrap super-dark lyrical content into vibrant and alluring musical packages. Tracks such as "We Know Everyone," "Jack Daniels," and "Drug City USA" highlight Stevenson's flair for huge, indelible choruses. With its hummable melody and invigorating energy, "Brand New Day" immediately feels like a song I've known my whole life.  

As I've watched Malibu Lou bring more and more of the finest-ever Boston-area punk/garage talent into the Rum Bar family, I found myself wondering who would be next. The answer is Kevin Stevenson, who makes a perfect addition to the Rum Bar roster. Reality Alley was a good while in the making, and you know Stevenson has had a few of these songs in his head for a long time (as this video filmed in 2016 attests). It's an absolute treat for all of us that Reality Alley is now out into the world and reaching ears across the globe. When the likes of Boston Groupie News and Greg Lonesome are dishing out rave reviews, you know you're getting into something special. Whether you are a longtime Shods fan or simply crave music with heart and guts, this is an album well worth your attention.

Friday, September 02, 2022

The Airport 77s - "One Good Thing About Summer"


The Airport 77s, authors of one of my favorite albums of last year, are set to release a new LP titled We Realize You Have A Choice on the illustrious JEM Records. I first heard The Airport 77s in January of last year, which for some reason now feels like a million years ago. Since then, the Maryland-based power pop trio has released a couple of singles for JEM and contributed to the label's recent tribute to Pete Townshend. In advance of the new album, the band has a brand-new single out called "One Good Thing About Summer." In keeping with the band's clever lyrical style, "One Good Thing About Summer" proceeds to list a litany of things about summer that actually suck (and it's hard for me to disagree with most of them!). Yet at a deeper level, this is an exceptionally sweet love song. You have to love a tune that manages to tug at the old heartstrings and make you laugh out loud. This song could easily be mistaken for some hidden gem of early '80s power pop that you never heard before. Legend has it that The Airport 77s formed over a shared love of The Jags' "Back of My Hand" and 20/20's "Nuclear Boy." "One Good Thing About Summer" would slot perfectly between those two songs on a playlist. That hook is a thing of beauty: so simple yet so undeniably, unstoppably catchy. It will make you wanna buy the full album, which you will have the opportunity to do starting on September 30th!

The Sorels - Love Your Rock N' Roll

 


Surely it would have been premature of me to have rated The Sorels as one of the best bands in the world when they had only released four songs. But that changes on this glorious day on which The Sorels double their recorded output with the release of their third 7" Love Your Rock N' Roll. The math teacher in me has spoken: eight is enough! The Sorels can no longer be denied their rightful place in the top tier of present-day rock and roll bands. If you're not yet hip to Canada's tiniest and toughest girl gang, you are depriving yourself of hours of joy and excitement. 

Another fab co-release between the world-renowned labels Reta Records and Surfin' Ki Records, Love Your Rock N' Roll delivers four tracks of glam-punk rock and roll goodness that will have you clapping your hands, stomping your feet, dancing in delight, singing along at the top of your lungs, and getting frisky with your significant other. While it didn't debut until the middle of August, the title track is 2022's song of the summer, hands down. You simply won't hear music more exuberant, catchy, and rocking than this. As you and your friends seek to fill the remaining weeks of summer with as much adventure and good times as humanly possible, "Love Your Rock N' Roll" ought to be your soundtrack. If The Shangri-Las had been reborn as a glam rock act in 1973, they might have produced a song this good! But this EP is no one-song wonder. The absolutely wonderful "The Jerk" finds The Sorels digging deep into their '60s girl group influences. "Make Me Party" is the kind of song that makes The Sorels special: it takes elements of glam rock, soul music, and straight-up rock and roll and creates something new and unique. The lead vocal on this track is one of the best I've heard in a long time (Jo Jo has powerful pipes and the charisma to match). And you've got to love that sax! Love Your Rock N' Roll closes with a powerhouse version of The Hello's 1973 single "Another School Day" that fits perfectly with the rest of the EP. 

The Sorels have followed two dynamite singles with by far their best release to date. I would challenge anyone to listen to Love Your Rock N' Roll and say with a a straight face that rock and roll is dead. Jo Jo, Jill, and Jennifer absolutely smashed it with this release. This EP has got everything you could want from a rock and roll record: amazing songs, incredible vocals, perfect backups & harmonies, smoking guitars, arena-sized drums, and a bad-ass attitude and unstoppable life force that come pouring out of every note. How can you listen to music like this and not feel happy to be alive? This release is limited to just 300 copies on bubblegum blast, red, and black vinyl. And as they say in the ads, supplies are running out! Hit up Reta Records on Bandcamp and the Surfin' Ki web store to get your orders in!

Sunday, August 28, 2022

The Melmacs - "Saturday Night"


The Melmacs continue their carefully-scheduled teasing of their soon-to-be-released blockbuster debut album with the debut of the new single and music video "Saturday Night." The fourth single off of the forthcoming long player Good Advice, "Saturday Night" is a little bit of a change of pace from the bouncing powerpop/punk of the previous ones. Here The Melmacs slow things down and deliver a reflective sing-along anthem on what happens when a Saturday night doesn't quite live up to expectations. I love that the song shows us a different side of The Melmacs, and now it's certain that live audiences will be showing up with lighters in tow expecting to hear it! The music video, which takes some inspiration from Queen's iconic "Bohemian Rhapsody" video, is a real delight. Well, my friends, we're getting closer. Just one more month to go before Good Advice hits the streets and becomes your favorite album of the year. Smash that pre-order link if you wanna be at the head of the line!

Saturday, August 27, 2022

Hayley and the Crushers - "Taboo"


Concluding a remarkable run of singles leading up to their forthcoming album Modern Adult Kicks, Hayley and the Crushers have released the wickedly tantalizing "Taboo." Since signing to Josie Cotton's Kitten Robot Records last summer, the Crushers have continued to surprise and delight with each new song they've released. That continues with "Taboo," a song that blasts like an early '80s pop-rock radio smash yet retains a cool, modern edge. This is a sinister song with a sinister hook. By the time you realize how catchy "Taboo" is, you're already caught. Reliable sources tell me this song is written from the perspective of a snake eating its prey, but at a broader level it's about chasing forbidden desires. Who can't relate to that at some level? The band is openly channeling a Pat Benatar energy on this track, which tickles me since my nine-year-old self played Crimes of Passion to death (on 8-track tape, no less!). I don't want to spoil too much about Modern Adult Kicks since I have a full review to write in a couple of weeks. But I will say that as I've listened to the album, I've been struck by how amazing Hayley Cain's voice sounds. Perhaps it's the emotional range of the material on the album. Perhaps it's having a producer who fully "gets" the band. Whatever it is, I feel like I've never fully appreciated what a powerhouse voice Hayley has. If "Taboo" came on the radio, you'd definitely stop and think, "That's a star!" 

The Crushers have released a music video for "Taboo," and it's absolutely bonkers. Say what you want about technology's impact on the world of music. One thing that has to go in the plus column is that the social media age has revived the music video as a vital art form. A video isn't just a promotional tool -- it's a means for bands like Hayley and the Crushers to show the world who they. If you stumbled upon this clip, you would immediately understand what it means to exist in the Crusherverse. Like the song itself, the "Taboo" video is captivating, wonderfully weird, and a whole lot of fun. It also allows the Crushers to celebrate their new home base of Detroit. Modern Adult Kicks will be out on limited blue raspberry vinyl September 13th on Kitten Robot Records. Head on over to the Kitten Robot store to pre-order!