Saturday, January 29, 2022

Hakan - Hakan Manifesto

It's hard to believe it has been almost seven years since I reviewed the first of Hakan's three self-titled albums. When I wrote about Hakan III in 2018, I expressed hope that a Hakan IV would be forthcoming. Well the Italian trio has switched things up and actually given its fourth album a proper title! Hakan Manifesto, out on Striped Music and One Chord Wonder Records, will disappoint no one who loved the band's first three albums. As always, the group dishes out mega-poppy punk rock with a contemporary garage edge. This has become a signature sound for Hakan, who pull it off so well that it never grows tiresome. Songs like "Just One Kiss", "Ruined Day", "I'm Burnt", and the earworm title track are vintage Hakan numbers that storm your senses with melody and infectious energy. In its usual style, the band approaches its songwriting with a great mix of humor and inspired stupidity. In a wonderful interview with Hayley Cain for New Noise Magazine, the band reveals that songs on Hakan Manifesto concern topics such as "bees, riding bikes, smashing things, and a girl who can turn her head 360 degrees". What's not to love? And while this is a "classic" Hakan album in every sense, you can also hear the band embracing more of a pure pop side on songs like "Stezzanism", "Number One", and "Here With You". These guys are writing the manual on how to make similar albums over and over without making the same album over and over. In a recent email, the band told me, "Even in these crazy times, here's a new Hakan record." I will rephrase that and say that in these crazy times, we really needed a new Hakan record! If you want to get out of a bummer headspace for the next 22 minutes and just enjoy some catchy and fun pop/punk songs, Hakan Manifesto is just what the doctor ordered. Now how do I get my hands on some Von Wu? 

Friday, January 28, 2022

Shanda & The Howlers - It Ain't Easy

If you sometimes find yourself listening to your favorite soul and R & B records from the 1960s and lamenting that nobody makes music like this anymore, I'm here to tell you that at least one band does! It Ain't Easy, the third album from Las Vegas based foursome Shanda & The Howlers, releases today on  on compact disc on Rum Bar Records. The CD looks uncannily like a miniature version of an LP from 55 years ago (the only thing missing are liner notes on the back!). The music, I'm thrilled to say, fully lives up to the packaging. 

Malibu Lou genuinely loves every single piece of music he releases. But he's not one to blow smoke. So when he told me last year that It Ain't Easy was the best album he'd heard in ten years, that got my attention. I didn't need much convincing to begin with. Shanda & The Howlers, authors of two albums that have placed in my year-end top ten lists, were already one of my favorite bands. But Lou was right: this new album is a monster! It Ain't Easy is the perfect marriage of the pop appeal of the band's debut Trouble and the old school rawness of follow-up Hurt For Me. On Hurt For Me, you could hear the band beginning to stretch beyond its roots in Motown/Stax soul. It Ain't Easy takes that progression to another level. It's at its core a rhythm and blues record, but it embraces a wide variety of other influences from mid-century American music.

What makes It Ain't Easy such a home run is that it's exceptional in all of the necessary departments: vocals, musicianship, songs, and production. Shanda Cisneros is unquestionably one of the best singers I've ever had the privilege to review (my god, that tone!). The creative chemistry she has with bassist and songwriter Luke Metz is something special. She sings Metz's lyrics as if they were coming from her own soul. And Metz has pulled off something that a lot of modern musicians struggle to do: crafting a collection of songs that his musical heroes would have been proud to have written. You could fool almost anyone into believing that "Miles and Miles", "Please Come Home", and "Used To Call Me Baby" are long-lost R & B chart hits from the '60s. "Whatcha Gonna Do Now" would sound perfectly in place on a compilation of classic girl group hits. But this album is every bit as good when The Howlers stray from their wheelhouse. Taking full advantage of Cisneros's powerful pipes, the Sonics-style garage rocker "Want You Anyway" is nothing short of electrifying. "Won't Be Back No More" sounds like it should be spinning on the turntable in James Bond's bachelor pad. "That Boy" (a duet with the Delta Bombers' Chris Moinichen) is an upbeat jazzy number that's sure to get you up and dancing regardless of what you may be doing at the moment. The title track is a gritty shot of traditional blues propelled by a vocal that will knock your socks off. 

Soul music made by contemporary artists usually falls short for me in one of two ways: either it's tainted by modern influences and production, or it's just not good enough to rival the legendary records it emulates. Shanda & The Howlers have managed to avoid those pitfalls and produce three of the finest rhythm & blues albums of recent memory. It Ain't Easy is by far the best of the three, and it finds The Howlers back at home on Rum Bar! I'm not one for putting numerical ratings on art, but it speaks volumes that It Ain't Easy has remained in constant rotation in my car CD player for the last seven weeks. I just can't enough of these songs! The album's production by John Fallon and Joe Lawless with Luke Metz is warm and crisp, never getting in the way of all the exceptional musical and vocal performances. And I love that the album is bookended by two different versions of "Miles and Miles" -- one reminiscent of a Motown hit and the other a tender lullaby. Music this timeless is exactly what the modern world needs more of! It Ain't Easy is available now from Rum Bar Records and all the major streaming & digital platforms!

Wednesday, January 26, 2022

Norcos Y Horchata - "Almost Lost My Thumb (To The Pinewood Derby)"

I've got a punk rock smash hit for you today! Amado from Devious Ones started Norcos Y Horchata as a quarantine solo project. At some point, Dougie (also from Devious Ones) and Roman joined in. Now Norcos Y Horchata is an actual band with an LP on the way! Given Amado's track record, there was never any doubting that this band would be awesome. "Almost Lost My Thumb (To The Pinewood Derby)" is the band's second digital single, and it's sure to have you singing along in no time flat. Who doesn't love a song that tells a story? In this case, it's a true story and a wonderful tribute to Amado's grandfather. This tune is tremendous fun, and there's a lesson to be learned about the dangers of using sharp knives without adult supervision. Enlisting a chorus of kids to sing the backup vocals was a stroke of genius! If this song were any catchier, they'd need a vaccine for it. The full album Forever Disheveled is expected to release this summer, and I can't wait!


Saturday, January 22, 2022

Miss Georgia Peach - "The Back Side Of Dallas"

We now have a release date and pre-order link for Miss Georgia Peach's new album Aloha from Kentucky! On March 18th, the album will release on compact disc on Rum Bar Records -- with an vinyl release to follow this summer! To celebrate, Malibu Lou has leaked another advance single. It's a cover of Jeannie C. Riley's legendary 1969 single "The Back Side Of Dalllas". You've got to have some kind of voice to even think about covering this song, but of course MGP is up to the task! She absolutely crushes this song, which she and her all-star supporting cast rock up quite a bit. This, my friends, is how you do a cover tune! For those unfamiliar with "The Back Side Of Dallas", I won't spoil the song for you. I'll just say that if you hate newer country music because it's too lightweight, this should be way more to your liking! And with the '60s/'70s era of country music being my favorite, I'm psyched that it's going to be such a big influence on Aloha from Kentucky! $1.50 will get you the digital track, or you can spring for the pre-order now and get two more songs. It's a long way to Dallas for a small town girl from the middle of Tennessee...

Friday, January 21, 2022

The Ergs! - Time and the Season

I've been tampering my expectations for 2022 after 2021 turned out to be nothing more than a bad sequel to 2020. That said, any year that affords me the opportunity to write about The Ergs! (at least) three times sure seems promising. Out today, the 7" Time and the Season finds The Ergs! back on Dirtnap Records, the label that released their second studio album and first compilation album. It's also the band's first new release since 2016's triumphant comeback EP Goddamn Death Dedication. So basically, this is a really big deal. Public displays of elation are well within reason and ought to be expected. 

After many years of study and deliberation, I have reached the conclusion that The Ergs! were the greatest pop-punk band of the 2000s. And it's not even close. The Ergs! were the Cadillac Eldorado, and whoever was #2 was a set of steak knives. At the peak of their game (in my estimation, The Ben Kweller EP through dorkrockcorkrod), The Ergs! were the best band on the planet. And so it delights me that Time and the Season reminds me so much of that "classic" period of The Ergs! The press release mentions it's "like they never went away", and that is 100% on-point. "Ultimate Falsetto Book" instantly takes me back to those good old days of the early to mid 2000s. Imagine, if you will, a world in which telephones were used for talking and people could agree that Nazis were bad. And if you were a girl-crazed lonely dude desperately looking for love, it was as if Mikey Erg was singing straight from your soul. I am pleased to discover that the formula holds up splendidly well to my 50-year-old ears. Another original, "Half Empty Strip Mall", employs quite the poignant modern-day metaphor in service of a vintage Ergs! number. The fact that this EP is 50% covers shouldn't dissuade anyone from making a purchase. The Ergs! have always excelled at covers, and here they tackle a couple of stone-cold classics from the 1960s. "Say You're Sorry" was originally recorded by The Remains, one of the most underrated American rock and roll bands of all-time. And of course you would hope that a band that once wrote a song called "Rod Argent" would eventually have a go at The Zombies' "Time of the Season". If you didn't know any better, you could mistake "Say You're Sorry" for an Ergs! original. "Time of the Season" is a little bit more of a straight cover, but the "they make the song their own" cliché certainly applies. And if this rendition leads just one person to discover that Odessey and Oracle is one of the greatest albums ever made, it'll be mission accomplished! 

It feels so good to be reviewing The Ergs! again! And this is just review number one of three! In the near future, I will have much to say about the band's new country EP Renovations and the long-awaited vinyl release of its second compilation album Hindsight is 20​/​20, My Friend Vol. 2: OK, Enough Reminiscing (on the legendary Creep Records!). I would have been happy with any new Ergs! music, but Time and the Season isn't just any Ergs! release. It's a freaking excellent Ergs! release! I'll delve further into where "Ultimate Falsetto Book" ranks in the Ergs! canon when I review Hindsight is 20​/​20, My Friend Vol. 3 in ten years.

The Roxies - Don't Wanna Dance Because I'm Told To (Album Premiere)

I am beyond stoked to premiere the long-awaited debut LP from The Roxies! I had the privilege of featuring this Berlin-based foursome (with an English lead singer!) twice in 2020. Back then I mentioned that the band hoped to record a debut album later that year. Well here we are in 2022, and that album is finally a reality! A co-release between Dirt Cult Records in North America and Family Spree Recordings in Europe, Don't Wanna Dance Because I'm Told To is exactly the record you would expect from one of Europe's most fun and energetic punk rock bands. The album was recorded and mixed by the legendary SmaiL ShocK at his analog studio in Berlin, and it sounds absolutely crackling! If you like high energy punk rock and power pop with infectious hooks, these 11 tracks will hit you just where you like it. Dirt Cult recommends this album to fans of The Briefs, Fashionism, and Clorox Girls, and I totally concur! According to the band, its lyrics focus on "contemporary life, personal demons, and social and political problems whilst also getting ready for a party". How can you not love a band with a mission like that? Running the gamut from the sing-along punk of "Underdog" and "Catcaller" to the perfect pop of "Bad Parenting" and "Down" to the new wave brilliance of "Filmriss", these songs are sure to lift your sprits and get you up and dancing. Chris from Dirt Cult has graciously provided a full album stream for me to share with you today. So give this a listen or three and discover your new favorite band! Vinyl available from the order links below!  

The Trouble Seekers - "Cruel Summer"

Super duo alert! Kevin McGovern (The Prostitutes) and Hillary Burton (honeychain/Pandoras) are two of my favorite people in the world of music. Now they've come together to form a new and exciting project called The Trouble Seekers. I would describe the band's general aesthetic as "experimental punk rock". Influences range from Killed By Death comps to new wave to power pop to the artsier side of punk music. If you dig the direction The Prostitutes have been taking with their more recent releases, The Trouble Seekers ought to be right up your alley. They have an album in the works which will be released this year by Rock N Roll Manifesto Records. Debut single "Cruel Summer" gives you an idea of what to expect. It's a perfect execution of the "punk rock with keyboards" concept, and these two formidable talents sure sound great singing together! One track leaves me wanting more, and that's clearly the point. This gives us yet another album to look forward to in '22! Cover art and band logo is by the supremely talented Rob Sheley!

Tuesday, January 18, 2022

Matt Ellis - Everything Sucks

Hamilton, Ontario's Matt Ellis was one of the many musical artists who helped get me through 2020 lockdown with my sanity intact. Those were crummy times, but the music sure was good. That spring/summer, Ellis released some of the most inspired Ramones-inspired recordings I've ever heard. Sadly, it's nearly two years later and we're still dealing with this COVID shit. So it's hard to argue with the sentiment of Everything Sucks, Ellis's new digital single. On this release, he tears into two blistering songs about having no hope for the human race and hating everything. Would you expect anything less from the author of hits such as "Rat Fucker" and "It Stinks Like Shit"? As always, his execution of this musical style is flawless. He takes an already stripped-down musical approach and strips it down even more to the barest bones. Both of these tracks are 100% DIY homemade efforts -- played and recorded entirely by Ellis. These are 60-second anthems of the times and well worth your two bucks! I should also add that Full Moon Fever, the LP which compiled all of Ellis's 2020 recordings, is still available and about to be repressed. Get it from Surfin' Ki Records or directly from Ellis's Bandcamp! 

Saturday, January 15, 2022

Ricky Rochelle - So Far So Good

Now this is exactly what I mean when I talk about digging the pop side of pop-punk! Ricky Rochelle is the lead singer and drummer for the Young Rochelles and of course also a member of the New Rochelles. So Far So Good, his first solo album, was premiered one track at a time over a ten-week period late last year. It was officially released yesterday and is now available from all of the major streaming sites. While Ricky's bands are among the very best in today's pop-punk scene, on this solo release he flexes his pop chops even more than usual. And I'm not complaining! These tunes are catchy, cleanly-produced, and unapologetically sweet in their melodic style. I don't know for sure if So Far So Good was fully intended as a concept album, but to my ears these songs tell a love story: beginning in heartbreak, moving into the promise of new love, and culminating in marital bliss. As a veteran of marital bliss, I find this album really hitting a soft spot for me. Happy love songs are so much harder to pull off than bitter love songs, so it's commendable that Ricky Rochelle has succeeded at making an album that features several of the happiest love songs you'll ever hear. Part of that is because he's just so darn likeable, and part of it is because these are just really terrific songs. And while this album doesn't shy from grand romance (particularly on closing track "You Are My Heart"), I appreciate how songs like "Brighter Trails" and "The Best Damn Feeling" hone in on those smaller, more routine moments that truly define what it means to be in love. Those tracks give me goosebumps. Elsewhere, songs about Yetis, jackrabbits, and monkeys add a lighter touch without disturbing the flow of the album (although I swear "Speedy Jackrabbit" actually fits the narrative!). 

I enjoy the bitter side of pop-punk as much as anyone, but I've got to hand it to Ricky Rochelle for creating the ultimate feelgood pop-punk record. At a time when there is so much ugliness and despair in the world, Ricky Rochelle has delivered a debut album that gives us all a reason to smile. Physical release coming soon on Eccentric Pop Records!

Friday, January 14, 2022

Hayley and the Crushers - Fun Sized (Cassette Edition)

The record will show that I previously reviewed Hayley and the Crushers' wonderful Fun Sized compilation in February of last year. There's no need for a second review, but I wanted to get the word out about a special cassette release of Fun Sized on the very cool tape label Memorable But Not Honorable. The thing about a MBNH release is that you can't sleep on it. These releases are limited and always sure to sell out very quickly. So if you're a Crushers fan and would enjoy owning a special edition of Fun Sized on pink or yellow cassette, hop on over to MBNH's web store immediately! There are only 50 copies of each color in stock. This release comes with four unreleased live studio bonus tracks! And by the way, the CD version of Fun Sized is still very much available from Rum Bar Records!

The Cheap Cassettes - Ever Since Ever Since

I'm starting to suspect that The Cheap Cassettes have been ingesting performance-enhancing substances in recent years. The Seattle power pop trio (with Boston roots) is currently over a decade into its existence and making by far its best music to date. The run of greatness that began with the "Kiss The Ass of My Heart" and "See Her In Action" singles continues today with the release of the brilliant new album Ever Since Ever Since on Rum Bar Records. I liked the band's debut album All Anxious, All The Time so much that I reviewed it twice. But Ever Since Ever Since makes All Anxious, All The Time sound like a demo tape!

The first thing that struck me about Ever Since Ever Since is that it's a true album. All of the songs would be great in isolation, but clearly they were meant to be heard together in the band's chosen sequence. The flow of this album brings to mind mid-period Replacements, and that can never be a bad thing! The songs (mixed and mastered by Kurt Bloch) pack a serious punch but still leave themselves plenty of room to breathe (six of the 11 tracks run longer than four minutes). The album certainly has its share of should-be radio hits ("She Ain't Nothing Like You" is an actual radio hit, now in rotation on Little Steven's Coolest Songs In The World!). But complementing the more instantly-catchy pop songs are some absolutely fantastic deep cuts. This album highlights Charles's maturity as a songwriter without veering from what The Cheap Cassettes do best: great American rock and roll with big hooks. In my book, the tearjerker rocker "Red Line Blue" is one of the best songs that Charles has ever written. "Endless Summer Ends" just keeps growing on me and growing on me with no end in sight to my amazement. "Cold Sunday" is like Charles's own "Here Comes A Regular".

I'm pretty sure you could ask 11 Cheap Cassettes fans to name their favorite song off of Ever Since Ever Since and receive 11 different responses. I'm struggling to identify a single lackluster track. I might peg "She Ain't Nothing Like You", "Malnutrition", and "How I Got What I Wanted" as the obvious "hits". But there are gems to be found all the way through the album. "Your I's Are Too Close Together" is a better-than-the-original cover of The Elevators' 1980 cult classic single. Kevin's "Wishing The Sun Away" instantly transports me to the early '90s heyday of Pacific Northwest alternative power pop. The jangly "There Goes That Girl" could almost be a Smithereens song. Ever Since Ever Since is one of the finest examples I've heard of what "mature" power pop ought to be. Hooky choruses and memorable melodies abound, but there's a soulfulness and emotional depth to these songs that is quite rare for this genre of music. Decades ago, Charles told me that he aspired to have a band comparable to The Plimsouls. Well, my friend, I'd say you've done it! 

Clearly it's too early to start making album of the year proclamations (especially considering that Malibu Lou will be dropping another bomb in two weeks!). But Ever Since Ever Since sure does set a high bar for the rest of 2022. CD and digital release today. Vinyl is coming later this year!

Wednesday, January 12, 2022

Meet Wasted Pretty!

I'm definitely late to the party on Marinette, Wisconsin's Wasted Pretty. But there's never really a bad time to discover cool new bands! Wasted Pretty (you can never go wrong taking a band name from a Figgs song!) came into existence in response to 2020 pandemic life. Bored with COVID isolation and online school, twins Ginger and Joey decided the best solution was to start a punk rock band. By the summer, they had already released their debut single (mastered by legendary engineer Brooke Delarco!). Three more releases have since followed, and twice the band has received airplay on Rodney on the Rock! Wasted Pretty, to me, is what punk rock is all about: kids picking up guitars and writing songs about their real-life frustrations....and having great fun doing it! "Sucks Being Underage" is an instant classic of adolescent punk rock -- the kind of song that only real kids could convincingly pull off. "Where Are You?" poses a musical question that has puzzled the world for five decades: what really happened D.B. Cooper? "Cherry Bomb" is a robustly punked-up rendition of the Runaways' signature song. "Vampires and Lip Gloss" and "Look Out" represent the new generation of horror punk. I dig this band's enthusiasm, energy, and sheer personality. But these kids also possess considerable talent along with an innate flair for making a decades-old musical style feel fresh and exciting. They are currently working on a debut album with Wisconsin music legend pAt mAcdonald. Be sure to check out Wasted Pretty's YouTube channel channel which features cool animated videos for several of the band's songs!

MILT - The Days of Milt

Come on, Australia: now you're just showing off! As if the current crop of Aussie punk rock bands wasn't already stacked enough, along comes this absolutely insane debut album from Melbourne-based MILT. The Days of Milt is a killer mash-up of ferocious garage punk and wonderfully odd post-punk delivered with an ideal mix of rage and humor. Songs range from savage rippers like "Procrastinator" and "White Collar Crime" to edgy post-punk bangers such as "9 to 5" and "Rising Inflation". Along the way, MILT takes the time to wax poetic about dead cats, educate you about insects, recite Ben Stiller's filmography, and spectacularly cover the Wiggles song "Fruit Salad". And an instrumental titled "Dawn of Shit" nicely sums up the state of the world. Who knew that a punk rock record could be so enlightening? A truly brilliant debut!

Sunday, January 09, 2022

The Drolls - The Puget Sound

The honor of my first 2022 album review goes to The Drolls, a Seattle-based trio with quite the pedigree. This band is comprised of Denny and Josh from the late, great Sicko and Julie from Chinchilla and Drip Tank. Holy '90s, Batman! You would expect a band featuring two-thirds of Sicko to be awesome, and The Drolls do not disappoint! The Puget Sound, the band's debut album, is a delightful long player that walks a fine line between pop-punk and later '80s/early '90s college radio. It's certainly an oversimplification to say this album sounds like a Sicko record with only Denny's songs. But if you loved Denny's Sicko songs, you are guaranteed to love The Puget Sound. The album features 12 tracks of catchy, clever, and charmingly geeky pop songs that will put a smile on your face. Tunes like "Getting Old", "Nobody Move", and "Worse Things" summon the same magic that made Sicko one of the greatest pop-punk bands of the '90s. Even the more "indie rock-ish" tracks ("Sad Little King", "Alternate Timeline") are super fun and chock full of hooks. If "Mythology" suggests that the members of this band have worn out multiple copies of The Lemonheads' It's a Shame About Ray, about 99% of us will fully relate! And you have to love the humor of The Drolls re-doing Sicko's  "Rehashed" and calling it "Rehashed Rehashed"! 

The Puget Sound is available now from Snappy Little Numbers Quality Audio Recordings -- who are graciously selling the digital version (with a bonus cover of Big Country's "In a Big Country"!) for the bargain price of free. Or if you prefer, you can purchase the Puget Sound blue galaxy vinyl while supplies last. The Puget Sound is a truly brilliant album title, and thankfully the music is just as good!

Saturday, January 08, 2022

Brad Marino - "Girl, I Want You"

Boy, the new tunes for 2022 are coming in hot! Out now is a brand-new single from one of my favorites, Mr. Brad Marino. "Girl, I Want You" was co-written with Marino's frequent collaborator Michael Chaney. The idea was to write an homage to the early Kinks. And if that's what they were going for, they sure nailed it! Marino wrote the music, Chaney wrote the lyrics, and here we are with the first great song of the new year. This sounds like the single The Kinks might have released immediately after "All Day and All of the Night" in early 1965. It's got an infectious chorus, a super-catchy riff, cool lyrics, and a totally smokin' guitar solo. Joining Marino on this recording are Bobby Davis on bass and Craig Sala on drums. Together, these guys kick up some righteous garage rock racket that ought to have you tapping your toes, singing along, and rocking out on air guitar. Look for this song to appear on a split 7" with Tommy Ray later this year on Bickerton Records. For now, "Girl, I Want You" is available from Spotify and all the other major streaming platforms. Good lord, what a banger!

Friday, January 07, 2022

Pete Donnelly - Anthem of the Time

Any year that begins with new music from Pete Donnelly promises to be very good! The longtime Figgs co-frontman has just released Anthem of the Time, a five-song EP done almost entirely "one man band" style. The only exception is the title track, which features Matt Beck on guitar and Tony Reyes on bass. The song is Donnelly's stab at some "power pop goodness". And while Donnelly's work over the decades transcends categorization, there are few living individuals in his class when it comes to crafting perfect three-minute pop songs. The hook line "We all need love/We all want some" has never been truer. "Anthem of the Time" is an anthem for all times. Donnelly keeps the DIY tracks lively by integrating such instruments as Wurlitzer, drum machine, synthesizer, and double bass. "Play Music" and "Keynote Sparks" are nods to the home-recorded pop of yore. The latter rides the timely lyric "Go get yourself deleted", while the former rests on some life philosophy we can all stand behind: When you don't know what do, play music! "The Opposite Side" is an outtake from Donnelly's most recent album The Perpetual Twist, and "Half the Time It Takes" is a whimsical little acoustic guitar instrumental. New tunes from Pete Donnelly are always a cause for celebration, and Anthem of the Time exudes a joyful looseness that stands in contrast to some of his more "serious" work. Even legends sometimes enjoy releasing music for the sheer fun of it!


Thursday, January 06, 2022

J Prozac - "Building Blocks"

Look who has joined the Rum Bar Records family! J Prozac, leader of one of the 21st Century's best and most prolific pop-punk bands and one of the most solid dudes in the underground music community, has a new solo album in the works that seems poised to follow the same autobiographical path as 2014's superb Here Is My Heart. Jay and Malibu Lou have known each other for well over 20 years, and now they are working together to bring you the finest in pop-punk! Lou assures me that the new album will be "pop-punk serenity", and I don't doubt that after hearing the advance single "Building Blocks". It's a monster hit! A free download from Rum Bar's Bandcamp, "Building Blocks" is heartfelt, profound, and massively catchy. This, my friends, is grown-up pop-punk done to perfection. Did I mention that it's free? Add another selection to the "albums I can't wait to hear in 2022"! 

Monday, January 03, 2022

Matt Speedway - Only Trouble Is, Gee Whiz

I must preface this post by saying this is for Speedways fans only. But I would imagine that there are more than a few Speedways fans who regularly visit this blog. In advance of an anticipated "Speedways songwriting blitz", Matt Julian has placed a new demos collection on Bandcamp for our listening pleasure. Only Trouble Is, Gee Whiz is sub-titled "The Travelodge Tapes" as these songs were actually written in various Travelodges this past fall. He recorded these tracks on a Tascam 4-Track with a Casio keyboard and two guitars. And when he calls them demos, he's really means it. These are essentially "rough drafts". But they all flash great potential, and I would hope that at least some of them will be properly arranged and recorded in the future. If not, anyone who enjoys Matt's songwriting will enjoy these recordings. I like that these songs show some different sides of Matt as a songwriter. "She's Got a Melted Heart & A Frozen Mind" is perhaps the most "Speedways-ish" of these five demos. A title like that was was far too good to be lost to history! "In the Liverpool Rain" strikes me as the true gem of the lot. It's like a short story in song form. And while the Casio may have simply been a necessary tool to bring these songs to life, it seems willed by the musical gods on this achingly beautiful track. Matt channels his inner Johnny Marr on "Ronnie Spector & The St. Pancras Redemption", while "I Used To" conjures the spirit of Buddy Holly. Closing out the EP is a splendid version of KISS's "Beth". As the recent EP Borrowed & Blue attests, cover songs have always been a strong suit for The Speedways. Here Matt strips this iconic rock ballad down to its core, and his simple arrangement gives the song a sadness and sincerity I've never felt from the original.  

The songs comprising Only Trouble Is, Gee Whiz are essentially works-in-progress and should be treated as such. That said, they're really amazing songs. For us fans who have been eagerly awaiting new Speedways songs, these tracks will help tide us over. If these demos prove anything, it's that Matt Julian's talent is undeniable even when he's turning out homemade recordings. If you're a Speedways fan, this is must-hear stuff. And you can't deny that the price is right!

Sunday, January 02, 2022

The Lorrainas - Party 'Til It's Dark

Who remembers The Lorrainas? This band out of Hamilton, Ontario played fun poppy punk rock and roll which met at the intersection of the Ramones and Runaways. They self-released a debut album in 2005 that never came out on vinyl...until now! A collaboration between Mom's Basement Records, Surfin' Ki Records, and Mr. Jimmy Vapid, Party 'Til It's Dark is an enhanced vinyl reissue of The Lorrainas' debut CD Fast Kitties. It features four additional tracks and skillful remastering by the illustrious Geoff Palmer. Most importantly, it's really freaking good! In a style reminiscent of The Bobbyteens, Eyeliners, and early Donnas, The Lorrainas had one foot in poppy punk rock and the other in bad-ass rock and roll. The style is so timeless that you could easily compare this band to several staples of Surfin' Ki's current roster (not to mention several staples of this blog!). And the songs, which were recorded nearly 18 years ago, really hold up! Based on the early sales numbers, it seems I'm not the only one who believes that songs like "Peroxide Suicide", "Kiss My Ass", and "Johnny" are forgotten classics that the world needs to re-discover. The four unreleased songs, highlighted by the super-energetic "Superman Garbageman", fit in perfectly with the original 10 tracks. Party 'Til It's Dark is the hottest new old album out there! Those of you in Europe can pre-order a vinyl copy from Surfin' Ki's webstore. In the U.S.A., vinyl is available from Mom's Basement Records. Don't sleep on this one, folks!

Saturday, January 01, 2022

Black Russians - Feel The Christmas

Well I promised you no more Christmas posts in 2021, but I didn't say anything about 2022! The mighty and mysterious Black Russians have released a Christmas-themed EP just in time for Russian Christmas next week. The idea behind this digital release on Monster Zero was to give fans a taste of new album Communist Dudes, which will almost certainly be delayed due to the current vinyl-pressing logjam. "Winter" is the first single from the new album, and it's an absolute ripper! It's interesting to me that a lot of the great "Christmas" songs are really just songs glorifying winter, yet everyone stops playing them after Christmas...when winter is just getting started! Well Black Russians have stepped up to the fill the void, and "Winter" could very well be your personal anthem to survive the next two months. Elsewhere, the band celebrates the time-honored holiday themes of murder, terror, and the brutality of the KGB. If you had certain expectations for what a Black Russians Christmas record would be, you will most definitely not be disappointed! I can't decide if "It's Always Christmas At My House" (featuring guest lead vocals by Jason V) is the ultimate anti Christmas song or actually the ultimate Christmas song!

When it comes to pop-punk these days, I seem to have reached the point where I either love it or hate it depending upon the band. Black Russians are one of the bands I love. They manage to create a sound that's somehow both harder and catchier than what's typical for pop-punk. And then the wonderfully dark humor of their lyrics takes things to a whole other level. I've never cared much for party anthems, but Communist Party anthems are another thing entirely. Feel the Christmas is the party record you and your friends need while you're carousing under the stars in sub-freezing weather!