Tuesday, June 28, 2022

Dropped Out - Get Lost

My stripped-down review of Dropped Out's new album Get Lost would read like this: pop-punk done right. That will entice some of you and send others running for the hills. But I think you all catch my drift. Austin-based trio Dropped Out makes no claims of reinventing the wheel. These guys are all about '90s pop-punk, and they execute the style exceptionally well. Out now on Otitis Media Records, Get Lost is full of tight, well-crafted songs with likeable vocals and lyrics. Influence-wise, I'm picking up on everything from Screeching Weasel to Green Day to Teen Idols to Parasites. So this band is definitely in my sweet spot for pop-punk. Some songs touch on classic pop-punk themes of heartbreak and relationship woes. Others exhibit a self-deprecating sense of humor. I like that these 10 tracks deliver a nice mix of really poppy mid-tempo tunes (definitely my cup of tea) and fast-paced '90s style melodic punk numbers (not always my cup of tea, but surprisingly pleasing to my ears in the case of this band). If you're cynical about pop-punk as a genre, Dropped Out is not going to turn you to the dark side. That said, Get Lost is everything a good pop-punk record ought to be. It's fun, catchy, and relatable to love and life. If I could somehow go back in time and play "Nicola" for 1996 me, he/I would have absolutely flipped!

Sunday, June 26, 2022

The Battlebeats - You Don't Know Me

Boom! The greatest '90s garage punk band of the 2020s continues soothe our ears with its gloriously thumping racket! Out now on the legendary Big Neck Records, "You Don't Know Me" is the third 7" release from Bandung, Indonesia's The Battlebeats -- and the second of three singles due out from this band in 2022. In the same vein as the recent EP Killed By Boredom, "You Don't Know Me" updates The Battlebeats' primitive budget rock assault with a tougher edge and a higher quality of production. While Teengenerate and '90s Goner Records remain the obvious reference points for Andresa's songwriting, these tracks also dig back into the primordial ooze of '70s American punk rock and old school garage rock. These are killer tunes -- some of Andresa's strongest yet in terms of both composition and performance. This is the kind of record that Big Neck would have been proud to have released 25 years ago. How fortunate we are to have this label still going strong at a time when bands like The Battlebeats are on the rise! If you're looking for some real deal garage punk rock and roll to rip through your earhole, this is the noise you need!

Saturday, June 25, 2022

Norcos Y Horchata - Forever Disheveled

There's nothing more rewarding as a music fan than watching super talented people blossom into true artists. Amado Movado (Devious Ones, Bump-N-Uglies, Bill Bondsmen) has long been one of the finest guitar players in the modern punk rock world. In the early stages of the pandemic, he started the solo recording project Norcos Y Horchata as a means to hold on to his sanity. Before long, his pals Dougie Tangent and Roman Wonsul joined in. And just like that, Norcos Y Horchata was a real band! Recorded last summer with Jim Diamond, Forever Disheveled is the band's debut album and the first-ever release made up entirely of songs written and sung by Amado. Essentially this album is Amado's rookie effort as a frontman, and it's quite spectacular! 

I previously raved about "Almost Lost My Thumb (to the Pinewood Derby)," a delightful sing-along tribute to Amado's grandfather. That was such an amazing song that I had to wonder: did Amado have more songs of that caliber in him? The answer is a resounding YES. Forever Disheveled is an absolute treat for anyone who likes catchy punk rock with a whole lot of grit. Amado takes quite well to being the face (and voice) of a band. His gruff everyman style perfectly suits lyrics that are honest, heartfelt, and down to earth. Musically, Norcos Y Horchata inhabit the shared space between the more tuneful side of street punk and the tougher side of rock and roll. Forever Disheveled conveniently arrives in this first week of summer and is best enjoyed in the company of good friends and the coldest, cheapest beer you can find. Over the course of these 10 tracks, Amado reflects on the consequences of his choices ("Forever Disheveled," "Clutter, Debt & Disarray"), dispenses some solid life advice ("There's Always Something New," "Oysters"), and laments a human race gone terribly wrong ("Chords Against Humanity," "...Out For Smokes"). Of course Amado has a knack for writing appealing and catchy three-chord rock tunes. Better yet, he's the kind of songwriter you can't help relating to. As he confronts his failures and shortcomings on the album's title track, he could just as easily be describing most of us. And on the timely "...Out For Smokes," he puts into words the thoughts that bring distress to almost any rational human at the moment:

It's like the whole world got dropped on its head/
Dropped on its head all at once/
And now it’s looking like some contest/
To crown the biggest dunce

We talk about COVID silver linings all the time, and Norcos Y Horchata is yet another example. This band may never have existed if Amado Movado hadn't found himself on the verge of losing his mind two years ago. He started writing these songs because he had to. Yet in spite of its despairing origins and moments of hard-to-swallow truths, Forever Disheveled is a really enjoyable and uplifting punk rock record. These are songs that are fun to sing along with -- perhaps even more so because they say something genuine about the present human experience. Amado the amazing guitarist is now Amado the amazing singer/songwriter, and we are all better off for it. LP ships in early August!

The Prostitutes - the last two

This is my 11th time reviewing The Prostitutes for this blog, and it looks to be the last. The last two is the title of the latest single from The Prostitutes -- signaling a defined ending to a 27-year institution of American punk rock. And if these really are the last two Prostitutes tracks, it's great to hear this band going out exactly as it came in: with absolute fury. Even with its modern edge in production and guitar tone, "Sick to Death of Myself" has the feel of a classic Prostitutes song. Let me correct myself: it is a classic Prostitutes song. It knocks my head off in the same way that songs like "1-2-3 GO," "Twenty-Two," and "Living Wreck" did back in the day. This is raging, explosive punk rock from a true master craftsman of the form. From Pennsylvania to Ohio to Long Beach, California to Pennsylvania again to Baltimore to Ohio again with an ever-changing supporting cast, Kevin McGovern has kept The Prostitutes going strong for two-and-a-half decades plus. And now is the right time for him to close the book on this musical entity as he moves on to other things (most immediately the truly excellent Trouble Seekers). And so these last two tracks (recorded in 2020) complete a discography that includes two full-length albums, five 7" singles, 12 digital singles/EPs, and one un-released album. If you have somehow been living under a rock since 1996 and never experienced The Prostitutes, I can't recommend the Complete Recordings 1995-1998 compilation enough (in my book, Can't Teach Kids Responsibility is a top five 1990s punk rock LP). For those of you who are longtime fans, I assure you that you will find the last two to be a fitting swan song. Tonight I will drink to the storied legacy of The Prostitutes -- and to new beginnings for the force of nature that is Kevin McGovern!

Thursday, June 23, 2022

Tina and the Total Babes - She's So Tuff (20th Anniversary Vinyl Release!)

Just a quick public service announcement: the 20th anniversary reissue of Tina and the Total Babes' classic album She's So Tuff is now available on the LP format! If you want to own one of the greatest power pop albums ever made on gorgeous 180-gram vinyl, hop on over to the Surfin' Ki Records webstore and order away! While supplies last, the album is available on black, gold, blue, clear orange, and clear yellow vinyl. You can also order a test press with a pink cover. Super-super-fans might want to spring for the full bundle: all six versions of the record for 89.99€! I know for my American friends, postage on this thing is gonna be murder. But man, what an incredibly cool release this is! This is perhaps THE most significant album of the modern power pop revival, and you know these LPs are gonna go fast. CD and digital are still available from Rum Bar Records!

Sunday, June 19, 2022

Proton Packs/Zoanoids - Split 7"

If you're gonna do a split, this is the way to do it! Hey Pizza! Records, Mom's Basement Records, and I Buy Records have their united their superpowers and released a split 7" featuring two of the top pop-punk bands on the planet: Zoanoids and Proton Packs. Zoanoids out of Kalamazoo, Michigan took the pop-punk world by storm with their debut album in 2020. Here they return with two more top-notch tracks of gothic pop-punk. I'm usually not much of a death-punk guy, but I've got to admit that this band has pulled me to the dark side. When it comes to writing songs, executing a sound, and owning a distinctive style, Zoanoids are as good as it gets in this genre of music. A "feelgood" horror song sounds like a contradiction in terms, but "Cemetery Nights" is exactly that. What a smash! Italy's Proton Packs, the founding fathers of ecto-punk, have been standouts in the Euro pop-punk scene for 15 years plus. Their sci-fi/conspiracy theory brand of darkness is a little more up my alley. In any case, they make ideal partners for Zoanoids on this split. "Follow the Protocol" is more on the pop side of things and one of the catchiest tunes you'll hear all year. "The End of Everything" is textbook pop-punk done right. I imagine that any super-fan of modern-day pop-punk would already be familiar with both of these bands and probably own this record already. But if you've been living on a faraway planet or recently became undead, here are a couple of bands you really ought to check out. Vinyl copies on blood red and slimy green are going fast!

Tenement Rats - Sods Law

Following three killer singles released 2016-18, Los Angeles punk trio Tenement Rats finally release their debut LP. And it's a doozy! Out now on No Front Teeth Records, Sods Law features ten tracks of snotty '77 punk rock that take inspiration from both sides of the Atlantic. This is what you'd call a vintage No Front Teeth release: a non-stop barrage of three-chord punk bangers full of attitude and aggression. No track surpasses two-and-half minutes, and song titles like "Decease and Exist," "Exterminator," and "Nerve Gas Love" give you a great idea of what to expect. This is old school punk rock in its rawest and most exciting form. As always, the lineup features Jonny Watkins on guitar & vocals and Shaun Clark on drums. Tsubasa Muratani from Rough Kids plays bass. Together these guys tear into these tunes with power and ferocity. If you have a soft spot for the more pummeling side of '77 punk rock, you need these filthy rodents in your life!

Lorne Behrman - "A Little Midnight"

Last fall, I had the great pleasure to write about Lorne Behrman's debut solo EP When I Hit The Floor. Building on the momentum of that EP, Behrman will release his debut album A Little Midnight later this year on Spaghetty Town Records. The album will be made up of ten New York City vignettes blending street poetry with Behrman's punk rock roots. Behrman, who was played with the Dimestore Haloes, L.E.S. Stitches, The Dead Tricks, and The Sweet Things over the years, continues to shine as a guitarist while also proving himself to be a songwriter of remarkable talent. Anyone who knows him would not be surprised by his brilliant lyrics, but his emergence as a soulful poet vocalist in the Lou Reed/Bob Dylan mold has been a tremendous inspiration for all of us who aspire to be late bloomers in life. 

In advance of A Little Midnight, Behrman has released the title track as a single and music video. Compared to the heaviness of When I Hit the Floor,  "A Little Midnight" feels a little more upbeat on the surface. Clocking in at just one minute, 47 seconds, this is the most straight-forward punk song Behrman has recorded so far as a solo artist. It's short, punchy, and really fun to sing along with. But upon serious inspection, this song is anything but light. It's about being overwhelmed by problems in life and having to find the strength to pull through. Finding this track to be an ideal tone-setter for the full album, Behrman has chosen to release it a few months in advance. I love the message here: that even if you have struggle and sadness in your life, you can still have hope. The video, directed by David J Baron and featuring How Tragic singer Paige Campbell, was heavily inspired by the Replacements' classic "Bastards of Young" music video. The full album releases September 16 and promises to be something special. In the meantime, "A Little Midnight" is available from Bandcamp and all the major streaming platforms. A little midnight does you right. 

Saturday, June 18, 2022

Creem Circus - "Those Shoes"

I'm not one to judge a band by its name, but I had very hopes when I received an email from Philadelphia's Creem Circus. The only possible downside about naming your band after the two coolest rock magazines of the '70s is that you have a lot to live up to. But that's no issue for Creem Circus, who have just released the best 1974 hit single of this summer. I always love a band that owns its influences, and Creem Circus wears its love for Slade, Mud, T. Rex, and Ziggy-era David Bowie on its glittery sleeve. How could I not be into a band that's all about "tandem lead, sparkle-faced riffs," "chocolate covered choruses," and "glamtastic outfits"? The band has just released a video for its song "Those Shoes" which visually resembles an old Hanna-Barbera cartoon and musically recalls the foot-stomping '70s glam updates on '50s rock and roll. With its thunderous drums, hard candy hooks, and righteous guitar solo, this song is quintessential glam. But it doesn't stop there. Clearly Creem Circus endeavors to recreate the entire glam rock experience right down to the showmanship and over-the-top fashion. That might be off-putting if these guys took themselves too seriously, but instead they fully embrace the utter silliness of what they do. In these dark times, I love the idea of a band that wants to put on a fun show so you can forget your troubles for an hour or two. Just as importantly, Creem Circus understands that there is no show if the tunes aren't killer. If you find "Those Shoes" up your alley, you can purchase Creem Circus's most recent album The Glitterest Sladest, Rockinest Ladiest, Overtime-Paidest, Boogiest Band in Town from the illustrious Creep Records!

Friday, June 17, 2022

The New Brutarians - Hysteria (Streaming Release and LP Preorder)

Now it can be told! It has been a well-kept secret for a while that The New Brutarians will be releasing their debut LP on my favorite record label of all-time, the mighty Alien Snatch Records. The band has officially opened preorders for the vinyl release via Bandcamp. The LPs will be shipping next month. If you absolutely can't wait to hear this glam-punk blockbuster, it's now up on Spotify and all major streaming platforms. Otherwise, you can now order a copy of Hysteria on black or solid gold vinyl directly from the band. The vinyl release contains an exclusive track called "Stop! In The Name of Art." While I'm going to save my full review for the official release next month, I will say that Adam and Christina have outdone themselves on their full-length debut. Long delayed by the international vinyl pressing crisis, Hysteria is finally arriving and proves to be well worth the wait. For a nice little taste of what to expect, check out the official music video for "New Muse" below!

The Melmacs - "Watch Out"

I am beyond pleased to share another advance single from what is sure to be one of the best albums of 2022! German foursome The Melmacs will release their debut album Good Advice this fall on Barkraufarfita Records, Wanda Records, and Tape Or Die. Album preorder is now available via Bandcamp, and a video for new single "Watch Out" premiered this morning. "Watch Out", which The Melmacs describe as their "official announcement against all queer-phobic, sexist, right-wing, trash talking, energy-sucking Eiernacken," again finds this band living in that wonderful space where '77 punk, power pop, and rock and roll meet. This band's ability to write super-fun songs about really serious topics is a true gift. And I can assure you that the rest of the album is just as good as the singles. The best advice I can offer you is to preorder Good Advice today!

Los Recuerdos - Entre Macca y Juan Gabriel

One thing I love about great pop is that it transcends language. Madrid-based foursome Los Recuerdos has released a new EP called Entre Macca y Juan Gabriel which is an absolute treat for anyone who loves power pop. I can't tell you anything about the lyrics since they're all in Spanish. What I can tell you is that Los Recuerdos write amazing songs with huge hooks and play them with an enthusiasm and energy that are positively contagious. If you're looking for tunes for your summer playlist, I offer my highest possible recommendation to "Una Idea Genial"! With influences ranging from the British Invasion to '70s mod & punk to contemporary power pop and beyond, Los Recuerdos are everything you want a guitar pop band to be. Entre Macca y Juan Gabriel is tremendous fun and full of songs that are destined to get stuck in your head. Be sure to also check out the band's excellent self-titled EP from last year!

Wednesday, June 15, 2022

Life Forms - self titled

I'm always a big fan of anything Charlie Murphy does. He's one of the most talented individuals in the modern punk rock universe. I've favorably reviewed six different bands of his, and today I'll make it seven! Life Forms, his newest band, began as a lockdown recording project. Life Forms have since become a proper band, and a debut EP is now available from Bandcamp for just £1. Murph recorded these songs with drummer Matt Cleave, his bandmate in The Red Cords. So right away, you know you're in familiar (yet somehow different) territory. What results is an EP that combines the best elements of all of Murph's projects. These songs are high-energy garage punk rippers with a post-punk edge, a touch of pop, and other-worldly lyrics. Songs range from fast and frantic ("Green Glare") to decidedly poppy ("Night Light Jellyfish") to wonderfully weird ("It Glows"). All throughout, you get a feel for what Murph does so well: write brilliant punk songs that make you wanna thrash about even as you uncover their hidden depths. Post-COVID life has filled all of our minds with disturbing thoughts, and luckily Murph channeled some of his into these most excellent songs. Now with a couple of gigs under their belt, Life Forms are a band of considerable promise. I'd advise you all to get in on the ground floor!  

Sunday, June 12, 2022

Breaklights - Wind Down

It's hard for me to believe that Austin-based foursome Breaklights is just now releasing its debut album. I started writing about this band in 2016, and its releases have been consistently excellent over the years. But sure enough, Wind Down (out now on Wiretap Records) is Breaklights' first full-length release following three terrific EPs. While a Breaklights debut album may have been a long time coming, Wind Down sure does not disappoint. Splendidly produced by Deedle Lacour, this ten-song long player finds Breaklights doing what they do best: putting a modern spin on 1990s "big label" pop-punk. The selling point for this band has always been how silky-smooth Charlie is on lead vocals. Well guess what: Breaklights now feature two smooth voices as guitarist Dan has stepped up to write and sing three tracks on Wind Down! Sometimes adding a second singer to the mix can mess with a band's mojo. But in the case of Breaklights, this move into dual front-man mode has absolutely strengthened the band. Dan contributes three of the album's best tracks, and his vocal style blends perfectly with Charlie's (We'll let them fight amongst themselves as to which one is the Bob Mould of the band and which one is Grant Hart). This is definitely the best Breaklights release yet in terms of song quality. I would struggle to identify a single sub-par track out of the ten on the album. If you're looking for vintage Breaklights massive-sounding melodic punk, songs like "Dream On," "Crushed," "Sixty Five," and the album's lead single "When You Talk" are guaranteed to satisfy. If you're looking for something a little different as well, Wind Down has got you covered. "Illinois" and the extraordinary "Aging Well" are rare pop-punk acoustic ballads that aren't throwaways. And album closer "Fairview, 1991" is a true epic that will absolutely tear your heart out.  

When it comes to modern-day punk rock, Breaklights are the definition of class. This band's gimmick is that it has no gimmick. These guys write fantastic songs full of genuine emotion and quality hooks. They take inspiration from past pop-punk greats without trying to straight-up copy them. Wind Down manages to push all the right buttons for my '90s pop-punk nostalgia while still keeping this form of music vital and current in 2022. Transparent lime green vinyl copies are still available if you act fast!

Monday, June 06, 2022

MOM - "To The Beat"​/"​Scary Mary"

Look who's back! Donny, Luke, Frank and Spike, collectively known as MOM, return with another digital slab of bubblegum power pop gold! In the same vein as previous singles "Tonight" and "Don't Leave With My Heart," new single "To The Beat" will have all the kids dancing into the night while their moms sing along. These Swedish sensations sure know how to turn out an irresistible hook. If this song were any catchier, all of Europe would be back in lockdown. The virtual B-side, "Scary Mary," is another total earworm. Is this song actually scary, or is it a love song? Like all the best love songs, it seems to be a little bit of both. Good luck shaking that chorus! In some alternate universe where it's eternally 1976, this song will be blasting poolside from transistor radios all summer. All bow to the pop royalty that is MOM!

Sunday, June 05, 2022

The Recoils - "Breakdown"

Today I've got something special for all of you who love great American punk rock and roll. The Recoils are a new band based out of my neck of the woods (Pennsylvania, U.S.A.) but featuring members from various locations. The lead singer is Greg Lonesome, host of the legendary Rock N Roll Manifesto radio show. El Flyin', his band mate in The Lonesome Kings, is on guitar. Christopher "Preacher Boy" Watkins, the godfather of alt-blues, is on guitar, bass, and organ. Rounding out this super group is Zack Olsen (Slow Gherkin) on drums. With a lineup like this, you might expect blues or rockabilly. But The Recoils do more of a straight punk rock thing (I guess you could call it garage punk; I'll just call it punk). "Breakdown," the band's debut single, released yesterday -- probably not coincidentally on the anniversary of Stiv Bators' death. The title track is literally about what it feels like when you're on the verge of a complete breakdown. I love how the music and vocals truly capture the sensation of being overcome by anxiety and knowing you're about to break. El Flyin's work on this track demonstrates the power a killer guitarist has to take a ripping punk tune over the top. "Breakdown" is truly an anthem for our times. It's well-paired with "Grifter," a song that laments a nation ravaged by mass apathy, rampant misinformation, and the cult of science-denial. Sadly, this song is not a work of fiction. Political punk rock songs are a tricky thing to pull off in 2022, but "Grifter" shows how it ought to be done: with passion, guts, and a blistering energy. 

"Breakdown" finds The Recoils delivering a debut punk single in the classic style. Both tunes smoke, and we're all left wanting more. An extremely limited run of lathe cut 45s sold out almost instantly. But even if you missed out on the vinyl, the digital version is a must-have. These are raging tunes for desperate times. Play loud and let those demons loose!

Saturday, June 04, 2022

Extra Arms - What Is Even Happening Right Now?

What Is Even Happening Right Now?, the third album from Detroit indie rock/power pop foursome Extra Arms, is truly a release for these times. Out now on Chicago label Forge Again Records, this ten-song platter was recorded in the midst of an historic pandemic and lyrically inspired by the non-stop insanity that was 2020-21. But rather than fixating on the darkness, What Is Even Happening Right Now? moves at full force towards the light at the end of the tunnel. Singer/guitarist Ryan Allen used much of his COVID downtime to record and release music of various styles. But there's nothing quite like rocking out arena style with a kick-ass band. And while the making of What Is Even Happening Right Now? was difficult and time-consuming, its arrival feels celebratory. That's no accident. This album radiates positive energy. It features songs that are informed by bleak times yet profoundly triumphant -- as if these guys took all of their frustrations from the last couple of years and used them as fuel to rock harder than ever. As a longtime Extra Arms fan, I was looking forward to this album anyway. But the themes of this record (looking out for our own mental health, striving to become a better human) really speak to me at this moment in time. Essentially this is an album about accepting how messed-up things are and just saying, "Fuck it: I'm not going to be defeated by all of this!" That's a wonderful message, and it's delivered with Extra Arms' usual blend of crushing guitars, pummeling drums, and massive hooks. 

While What Is Even Happening Right Now? follows Extra Arms' general blueprint of Midwestern power pop running straight into '90s alternative rock, it's definitely the band's most varied release in terms of influences. It tips the cap to everyone from The Cars ("Feeling Alright") to Elvis Costello ("Click Wars") to Jawbreaker ("In Control") to The Who and Kinks ("Big Dogs") to Randy Rhoads ("Falling Into Place"). And while the band isn't afraid to get overtly political ("Click Wars", "Denial"), the majority of these songs are vigorously life-affirming. This is particularly true of the album's bookend tracks: the big rocker opener "Fun Guy" and the anthemic closer "I Don't Wanna Die." It seems redundant to describe an Extra Arms album as "energetic," but What Is Even Happening Right Now? has the feel of an unstoppable force. I'm guessing these guys were listening to a lot of punk rock when this album was being written and recorded. It certainly didn't hurt that mixing/mastering guru Paul Miner was on hand to make this record sound massive! 

What Is Even Happening Right Now? features more special guest stars than a Love Boat episode. Matthew Caws (Nada Surf), Bob Nanna (Braid/Hey Mercedes), Gregory Macdonald (Sloan), Lily (the Plastic Beach), Scott Allen (Thunderbirds Are Now!), Chris Hatfield (Love Axe), and saxophonist Matt Jones all lend their talents to this powerhouse of a record. Fortunately, all of that star power was not wasted on a mediocre set of songs. What Is Even Happening Right Now? is one of those old school big hooky rock records that hardly anybody makes anymore. While the word "bangers" should not be in any 51-year-old man's vocabulary, I can't come up with a better word to describe each of these ten songs. The world may continue to be a train wreck, but at least Extra Arms have given us a killer soundtrack. As a very wise man once said: "It's really good to see you rocking out and having fun."

Holly: An unauthorized seven disc career retrospective

Given that I do this blog to share cool music you can buy, why in the world would I review a release that is literally not for sale? The answer is simple: we're talking about the great Holly Beth Vincent -- an icon of power pop rock and roll and a massive influence on a great many bands and artists I write about today. Holly: An unauthorized seven disc career retrospective was assembled by the mysterious Albanian bootlegger and new wave enthusiast Merkush Murat. It compiles tracks from out-of-print releases covering the years 1982 to 2009. By design, it omits Holly and the Italians' classic LP The Right To Be Italian -- which is still in print on compact disc. In a way, this is fitting. Anyone interested in Holly Beth Vincent should start with The Right To Be Italian -- one of the greatest power pop albums ever made. But if you're a longtime fan or merely want to take a deeper dive into the work of some true rock royalty, Holly is an invaluable collection. I am blown away by the amount of love and work that went into this extensive curation. Clearly this is the work of the biggest Holly fan alive. And although this set cannot technically be purchased, I hope a few copies wind up in the hands of other Holly super-fans. 

For those who are unfamiliar with Holly Beth Vincent's musical output post-1981, Holly fills in the gaps nicely. Disc one, Cool Love, features select tracks from Holly's 1982 solo album (which was confusingly titled Holly and the Italians). Disc two, Here Comes Another Day, includes demos recorded in 1988 plus one track from 1987. Discs 3 and 4, Crush and Sound of My Soul, contain tracks from Holly's brilliant 1993 album America, released under the band name The Oblivious. Disc 5, Carousel, predominantly features songs from 2007 to 2009. Disc 6, Rita Hayworth, includes album tracks from a rare CD-R release called Minnesota-California. Disc 7, Live NYC 1988, is an audience recording of a live performance. To say that every song on every disc is essential would be ludicrous. But that's not the point. What Holly demonstrates is that even if The Right To Be Italian had never existed, Holly Beth Vincent's discography would still be highly impressive. 

One of my favorite things about Holly is that it casts her 1982 solo album in a favorable light. Upon its original release, Holly and the Italians was largely rejected by both fans and critics. Recorded with session musicians to fulfill a contractual obligation, this artsy new wave record was a dramatic departure from the punk-influenced power pop of The Right To Be Italian (Ira Robbins, one of the album's most notable fans, described it as "If Joni Mitchell and Ronnie Spector mated with Nick Cave and Leonard Cohen"). The album quickly vanished from the face of the Earth. Cool Love, Merkush's personal edit of the album, finds the best songs from this release holding up quite well in 2022. I remember being obsessed with owning this album circa 2000 and then not knowing what quite to make of it when I finally got my hands on a copy. Now I listen to these songs and can't believe how musically closed-minded I was in my 20s. This is brilliant stuff. Once you get past the whole "This isn't power pop at all" thing, you'll discover some of Holly's finest songs such as "Cool Love," "Honalu," and "We Danced." And rather than omitting Holly's wonderfully strange cover of "For What It's Worth," Merkush subs in a nearly seven-minute extended version and makes it track one! 

If there's an obvious highlight to Holly, it would be discs 3 and 4. America (released on Amy Ray's Daemon Records) was one of the most underrated alternative rock/power pop albums of the early '90s. It stands next to The Right To Be Italian as a crown jewel of the Holly catalog. Merkush doesn't fool around here: he includes 12 of the album's 15 tracks over two discs. The music video for "Crush" is embedded below. Some of you may recall that The Dents recently and brilliantly covered "Homeless."

Holly is a magnificent and lovingly-created package. Each disc is hand-made and numbered and comes with cover art and a track list. Extensive liner notes cover the life and career of Holly Beth Vincent and reflect on the importance of her music. This set is not intended to be the definitive Holly retrospective, but it would be a great thing if its existence inspired the powers-that-be to produce one. If you're a Holly fan and would love to own this not-for-sale set, it appears that Merkush has handed over copies to Mutant Pop Records to give away. You can most likely score a free copy (while supplies last!) if you purchase something from the Mutant Pop mail order catalog (like, say, that amazing new Trevor Blendour album!). Email Timbo at MutantPop@aol.com for more information! 


Wednesday, June 01, 2022

Mala Vista - Ruthless & Toothless

Let's kick off meteorological summer with some scorching hot '77-style punk rock and roll! Ruthless & Toothless is the debut LP from New York City's Mala Vista -- a band that made a promising debut in 2019 and has since proceeded to take things to another level. Ruthless & Toothless, which will be released on vinyl by No Front Teeth Records later this summer, features seven new songs (recorded last year) along with six tracks from the band's debut EP. While that first EP was really good, these new songs are even better. They're more melodic & better-produced, yet they rip just as hard. Put together, these 13 tracks make for a crackling debut album. At a time when so few newer bands are playing this traditional style of punk music, it's exciting to hear a band like Mala Vista totally nail it! If you took the best elements of The Clash, Dead Boys, Heartbreakers, and Ramones and updated them for modern times, it would sound an awful lot like this. It's always a joy to hear music with this kind of heart, passion, and grit -- and great hooks to boot! There's nothing better than punk rock permeating the summer air, so crank these tunes loud and enjoy. Keep checking No Front Teeth's monthly updates for news on the vinyl release!

Monday, May 30, 2022

James Domestic - Carrion Repeating

With today being a holiday here in the U.S.A., I am seizing the opportunity to write about an album I've been enjoying for several weeks now. Carrion Repeating, the new full-length recording from James Domestic, is described as "post punk pop music for weirdos." Domestic, well-known for his screaming brilliance in a multitude of teeth-smashing hardcore punk bands, has taken a very different route with this solo endeavor. You could say that Carrion Repeating doesn't quite fit with the music I usually review. But that's because it doesn't quite fit with any other music, period. It's in a category of its own. 

As I try and pinpoint what makes this album so appealing to me (beyond the obvious uniqueness and creativity), I keep coming back to one thing. Carrion Repeating is not just a musical creation with the feel of a work of literature -- it's a musical creation that is a work of literature. Lyrically, these 11 tracks read like the  most fascinating and wonderfully disturbing diary entries you could ever hope to come across. Yet the music is never an afterthought. Although Domestic speaks most of the lyrics, this isn't a spoken word album. The music for each track seems meticulously crafted to match the tone of the vocals and lyrics (or is it the other way around?). Musical influences range from post-punk to dub to new wave pop to reggae to krautrock to soul to Brit-pop, yet the greatest influence is the twisted mind of James Domestic. He has created something rare in this day and age: a true album as opposed to a mere collection of songs. 

In the hands of a lesser artist, this mish-mash of musical styles might come off disjointed or ill-conceived. But Domestic pulls it off splendidly, crafting weird songs that are genuinely enjoyable to listen to. The musings, observations, stories, and ravings which comprise this album create a bleak but bang-on picture of human existence: we are pitiful creatures living out disappointing, pointless lives which we are almost entirely powerless to change. "Are you a right fucker or just a fuckee?" is about as good of an opening line as you'll ever hear on a record and certainly the perfect tone-setter for this one. By turns humorous, angry, and matter-of-fact, Domestic's delivery of these songs is what really makes this album. Whether he's passing judgement on joyless tourists, lashing out at soulless bean-counters and cold-hearted exes, or painting a vivid metaphor out of human viscera, he does so with a unique and strangely likeable style. If you only know of James Domestic from the various bands he fronts, you may be surprised by what you hear. One of the year's finest LPs! 

Sunday, May 29, 2022

The Young Rochelles - Interstellar Communication

It's always a pleasure to hear new music from The Young Rochelles, one of the best pop-punk bands going. Interstellar Communication, the New York trio's new 7", has just been co-released by Hey Pizza! Records, Endless Detention Records, I Buy Records, and Dumb Records. That makes four record labels in four different countries collaborating to release an EP that's literally out of this world. You've got to love it! On these four tracks, The Young Rochelles take flight into outer space -- hopping the planets, evading Martians, frolicking on the Moon, venturing beyond the Sun, and pondering the enormous cost of E.T.'s cell phone plan. Musically, this EP is representative of what The Young Rochelles do so well: bookending a pair of really poppy mid-tempo tracks with a couple of fast-paced punky tunes. And while this is a super fun record, it's not without depth. "Beyond the Sun" offers some serious social commentary (Who wouldn't want to get the heck away from Earth right now!), and "Fantasy World" educates on the effects of living beyond gravity. Pop-punk as a genre most often appeals to my inner 16-year-old, but I keep thinking that seven-year-old me would have loved Interstellar Communication! With The Young Rochelles, you know you're getting world-class pop-punk. Maybe I should rephrase that and say galaxy-class instead? Vinyl is available in two versions: alien green and moon rock grey. Hit one of the links below to order!

Friday, May 27, 2022

Abbie Barrett - I Will Let You Know

I was probably joking when I said that the Rum Bar Records roster would eventually include every great Boston band or artist. But at the rate Lou is bringing local talent into the fold, I just might have been right! Out now on Rum Bar is I Will Let You Know, the latest album from Abbie Barrett. As a solo performer, Barrett has been a fixture of the Boston music scene for a decade and a half. An extraordinary vocalist and a fantastic songwriter to boot, Barrett is backed by some of the most stellar players in the Boston scene: Mike Oram on guitar, Ed Valauskas on bass, and Rice Edmonston on drums. I want to say that Barrett joining the Rum Bar family is a big deal, but that feels like an understatement! 

In typical Abbie Barrett style, I Will Let You Know delivers great song after great song in a way that transcends genre. It's comprised of songs which were originally released as singles between 2018 and last year. Put together, these tracks make for one nifty mini album. This release comes out blazing with a pair of stone cold hits in the title track (featuring Greg Hawkes-ish keyboard work from Greg Hawkes himself!) and "Better Machine" -- both songs imbuing classic new wave pop influences with a rocking & modern edge. If "Reconcile" reminds me of Jenny Dee & The Deelinquents, that's hardly surprising considering Barrett and Valauskas' involvement in that band. But just when you think you've stumbled upon the best new wave record in years, I Will Let You Know takes some wonderfully surprising turns. "Dirty Work," a cover of the Steely Dan classic, manages to capture the warm '70s vibes of the original even as Barrett transforms it in her own unique way. "Blood & Bone" is a soaring modern rock epic. The introspective and haunting "The Light" is surely the first song I've ever heard that uses actual frog trills as percussion (quite effectively, I must say!). Fans will recognize closing track "Here To Stay" as the opening track from 2014's The Triples. This newer version of an old favorite brings this album to a powerful & anthemic conclusion. 

Far from just one of Boston's local treasures, Abbie Barrett is one of the most talented singers and songwriters in the contemporary indie rock world. Her back catalog, available from Bandcamp and Spotify, is well worth tracking down. I Will Let You Know is your perfect starting point. It's yet another essential release from the best record label out there!

Wednesday, May 25, 2022


There's nothing better than hearing a really cool demo and knowing straight off that the band is gonna be great. Los Angeles foursome FRIENDZY has just dropped its "Faze 1" demo, and I'm confident in declaring that any regular reader of this blog needs to hear it! I figured this band would be good since Troy Canady (Cheap Thrills, Mickey) is on guitar and vocals. Also on board are Natalie (bass and vocals), Paul (guitar and vocals), and Doug (drums). The instant I pushed play, I knew that FRIENDZY was my kind of band. These eight tracks live in the space where punk rock, power pop, and new wave hang together. I like that this is a true demo. It's clearly not intended to be a finished product, but it gives you a feel for this band's sound and highlights the quality of the material. Many of these songs will likely turn up on official releases in the future, but already you can hear the potential. This band understands how to write punchy songs with great hooks. There's also an excellent cover of The Vibrators' "Whips & Furs" that nicely complements the original songs. FRIENDZY is gonna be a hot band in the power pop world. Get in on the ground floor with a name-your-price download of this demo!

Tuesday, May 24, 2022

Andrea Gillis - "About a Girl"

Andrea Gillis, who released one of the best singles of 2021 on Red On Red Records, has done it again in 2022! The Boston-based singer has long been one of the finest rock and roll vocalists and live performers on the East Coast (or any other coast, for that matter). Her recent output proves that she's far more than just an electrifying frontperson: she's also a brilliant songwriter and a true artist. I wasn't sure if "Leave the Light On" could be topped, but one listen to "About A Girl" (out today on Red On Red) left my jaw dropped to the floor. This is a song that commands your attention from the very first note. It's haunting pop music of the highest quality. In the liner notes, Gillis is very open about the meaning of this song. As she puts it, she wrote the song "for all the girls that never really wanted to do the whole 'gotta be sexy so people will pay attention' thing." The song contrasts the freedom of being a young girl and making your own rules with the reality of growing up into a world that expects you to "have the right shoes and pants and such." Like the aforementioned "Leave the Light On," "About a Girl" sounds massive and triumphant -- a testament to Gillis's vocal prowess, the formidable talents of her remarkable band (a veritable all-star team of Boston rockers), and the magic production touch of both David Minehan and Pat DiCenso. And to put this song over the top, Gillis enlisted the great Tanya Donelly to sing on the track! In a year full of exceptional singles, "About a Girl" is destined to be one of the very best. If you like great songs made by incredibly talented people, you'll never find a better way to spend a dollar.

Saturday, May 21, 2022

Cindy Lawson - New Tricks

Eight days ago, I wrote about The Complete Clams, a 15-track retrospective on one of the most criminally underrated rock and roll bands to come out of Minneapolis/St. Paul in the later 1980s. This was just the first half of a duology of releases that fully welcomes Cindy Lawson to the Rum Bar Records family. It was followed yesterday by New Tricks -- the long-awaited solo debut from Clams vocalist and Twin Cities legend Lawson. 

New Tricks is the first set of original songs recorded by Lawson since her old band Whoops Kitty released its self-titled CD in 1996. A quarter of a century later, Lawson's voice sounds as amazing as ever -- or perhaps even more amazing than ever. Within the first 30 seconds of my first contact with "How It Feels," her voice had sent chills down my spine. You can go back and listen to The Complete Clams or the Whoops Kitty album and hear a young talent of tremendous promise. After a long period of semi-retirement from the music biz, Lawson is back to completely fulfill that promise. To these songs, Lawson has brought decades of experience in life and music. And her songwriting skills clearly never left her. The well-named New Tricks incorporates many of Lawson's long-held influences (such as '60s pop and girl groups) while still sounding fresh, original, and modern in the year 2022. The album was superbly-produced by Steve Price (of the excellent '90s Twin Cities band Rex Daisy), who knows a thing or two about what a rocking pop record ought to sound like. From the crunching pop-rock of "How It Feels" to the sultry bounce of "I'm Not the Only One" to the garage rock inspired thump of "You've Got Quality" to the girl group majesty of "Dream Baby" to the hard-rocking grit of "I'm Loaded," this album covers a lot of ground without ever having to veer too far from the timeless structure of the three-minute pop song. A couple other tracks will be of great interest to long-time fans. The old Whoops Kitty song "Let's Pretend" gets quite the modern makeover. "Nope" is a loving tribute to its author -- the late, great Lori Wray. Both songs fit perfectly on the album. 

Listening to the fabulous New Tricks, one might be tempted to curse the music gods for depriving Cindy Lawson of the stardom she so deserved. But who says it's too late? Far from a post-script on Lawson's musical career, New Tricks represents its rebirth. It's the work of an artist whose best days still lie ahead of her. She's got wisdom, she's got talent, and she's got that voice. All over the world, people are hearing tracks from New Tricks on underground radio shows and saying, "Wow, who is that?!" Malibu Lou spoke to me earlier this year about how blessed he is to work with some of the best singers out there today. He mentioned a few names in particular (Shanda Cisneros, Miss Georgia Peach, Jen D'Angora) which I absolutely agreed with. I must add Cindy Lawson to this select group, and I am sure Lou will concur! Locals will not want to miss Lawson's performance this coming July 15 at the Amsterdam Bar & Hall in St. Paul: a Rum Bar Records showcase event that will also feature Beebe Gallini and The Dogmatics! Wow and wow!

Friday, May 20, 2022

Nick Piunti & The Complicated Men - Heart Inside Your Head

This is my fifth time reviewing a Nick Piunti album. I never get tired of listening to this man's music, and I never get tired of writing about it. He's a master craftsman of melodic pop-rock who's making the best music of his life five decades into his career. Out today on Jem Records, Heart Inside Your Head is Piunti's sixth album since 2014 and his second with his band The Complicated Men (Jeff Hupp on bass, Ron Vensko on drums, Kevin Darnall on keyboards, and Joe Daksiewicz on guitar). With this release, you can really hear Piunti & The Complicated Men coming into their own as a proper rock band. While this album fits perfectly well under the banners of power pop and indie rock, it's full of songs that sound like honest-to-goodness radio hits. It's accessible to anyone who likes pop, rock, or any form of melody-driven music. The production (courtesy of Geoff Michael and the band) is absolutely top-of-the-line. The musicianship is extraordinary. And from start to finish, the songs are stone-cold gems (no pun intended). 

Piunti's "thing" has always been his ability to write super-catchy pop songs that run surprisingly deep lyrically. He and The Complicated Men continue that approach on Heart Inside Your Head, but with a broadened stylistic range. If you're looking for power pop, "My Mind (Plays Tricks on Me)," "One of the Boyz," and "Keys to Your Heart" will hit the spot in a big way. Songs like "Slave To It" and "Hopes Up" are the kind of middle-of-the-road pop-rock earworms you used to be able to count on hearing in the finest dentist offices and banks. "Trying Too Hard" sounds like it belongs on a "1998 alternative hits" playlist smack dab between Semisonic and The Wallflowers. "Nothing New" is such a perfect slice of old school adult contemporary balladry that I can imagine Peter Cetera and Richard Marx fighting to the death for the rights to record it. Speaking of ballads, "I Want Everything" and "Gloves Come Off" just might be the two high points of this album. It has been my experience as a longtime fan of music that ballads are something I'm usually just willing to tolerate. But in my daily listening to Heart Inside Your Head, "I Want Everything" and "Gloves Come Off" are songs I always look forward to hearing. If you're going to work with a formidable rock band and a top-flight producer, these are the kinds of tunes you should aspire to write: sophisticated & deep yet timelessly melodic. Michael has a gift for being able to make a record sound massive and pristine but not overproduced. He is the perfect collaborator for Nick Piunti & The Complicated Men. 

Nick Piunti has always half-jokingly described his music as "dad rock." Well, then. If well-crafted and immaculately-produced pop-rock is dad rock, Piunti & The Complicated Men have just made the best damn dad rock album in years! I remember putting Heart Inside Your Head on for the first time. Every time I thought I had arrived at the "hit," the next song would come along and make me reconsider! It's usually utter nonsense when dopes like me pronounce a certain artist's newest release as their "best one yet." But repeated listens to Heart Inside Your Head have me convinced that Nick Piunti has just released the best record of his life. Of course he didn't do it alone, so let's have three cheers for The Complicated Men! If the powers that be ever allow artists over 25 to be played on contemporary hit radio again, this band will be all kinds of huge!