Sunday, February 27, 2022
It seems like just last year that Lesser Creatures released their debut album Issue One. That's because it was just last year that Lesser Creatures released their debut album Issue One! Exactly 11 months following my review of Issue One, I have the tremendous pleasure to review the follow-up, Issue 2. With a little help from his friends (such as Zac Buzzkill, Ruben Patino, and Black Russian 666), Nick Spoon has turned out another album of textbook pop-punk. With this release, he has essentially created his musical diary for 2021 -- which turned out to be one of the best years of his life. This is a nice change-up from the usual misery of "pandemic" releases. Now that doesn't mean that every song is happy-go-lucky. But taken as a whole, this is an album about making the most of your circumstances and living your best life. I heard "Nobody's Keeping Score" last year at a time when I felt particularly discouraged by the rising tide of extremism, conspiracy lunacy, and general toxicity in modern-day society. This song offers a perspective on that issue that really lifted my sprits. Simply put, life is too short for you to let that shit -- or anything else -- drag you down. You don't have to worry that the bad guys are winning if you simply realize that there is no competition. Throughout Issue 2, Nick applies that same general philosophy to various aspects of his life. Just because it was a great year, that didn't mean it was a perfect year. But through all the trials and tribulations, our hero emerges triumphant. Let's hear it for the good guys of the world! Musically, this is everything you would expect from a Lesser Creatures album. Nick wears the influence of Lookout! era Screeching Weasel on his sleeve but still puts 100% of himself into these songs. He can write a catchy tune like nobody's business. And even though this set of songs is extremely personal, it's still great fun. Cleverly released on 2/22/22, Issue Two is highly recommend to any superfan of '90s pop-punk. It's available on compact disc from the mighty OUTLOUD! Records or in digital form from Lesser Creatures' Bandcamp. Amazing cover art is by Paulinho Tscherniak!
Saturday, February 26, 2022
Ohio's reigning champions of psychedelic, art-damaged, post-apocalyptic space punk have returned! Foil Landscape is the third release from Youngstown-based Wild Wings. This four-song 12" is the band's first vinyl release and the debut release on the brand-new label Color And Time Tonight. This label intends to specialize in punk rock, hardcore, noise, psyche, and outsider rock. Wild Wings could be categorized as all of the above and then some. Foil Landscape is a formidable follow-up to 2018's tour de force SHOWBIZZZ. The promotional material recommends it to fans of My War, Chrome, Acid Mothers Temple, and The Germs. I couldn't have said it better myself! Wild Wings cook up a mind-melting concoction of Rust Belt proto-punk, '80s hardcore, and heavy rock which they launch into the deepest realms of the universe. As always, Kenny Halbert's songwriting acknowledges familiar influences even as it fully disregards convention. I always love a band that can write a three-minute song that feels epic (imagine, then, what they can do in five minutes!). If you crave sludgy hard rock, spastic hardcore, and a mind-fuck trip through space and time, it's all on the menu -- sometimes all within a single song! In so many cases, music this adventurous and creative is just that. But in Wild Wings' case, it all comes together perfectly. Foil Landscape plays like a psychedelic punk symphony in four movements. It's not just original -- it's fucking great! The songs are top-notch; the playing is powerful and dynamic. This is music that goes through your bones and transports you to new worlds.
For five decades, Northeastern Ohio has lent itself to a particular aesthetic within the punk rock universe. Wild Wings embody that aesthetic in every way. If you are an Ohioan punk historian or simply someone who longs for that moment in time when hardcore was forging a bold new path for itself, Foil Landscape is the album for you. Hit up Color and Time Tonight's online shop to order a copy on clear vinyl. And be on the lookout for upcoming releases from TV Drugs, Sacred Hate, and Vaxer!
Tuesday, February 22, 2022
Now this is how you avoid the sophomore jinx! Ingrates, a duo from the California desert, burst onto the scene last year with a debut single that could have passed for a long-lost punk rock 45 from 1977 U.K. I was blown away by the band's righteous blend of energy, rawness, and killer hooks. This set high expectations for a follow-up release, and I'm here to tell you that those expectations have been met. New single "Kickin' Down The Doors!" is nothing short of an anthem. If you're looking for a song to get you pumped up to take on whatever challenges await you today, this is it! This tune manages to be poppy and supremely rockin' at the same time. I love that vintage '77 punk guitar sound, and these guys could write the manual on how to turn out a sing-along chorus. To my ears, the production sounds a little tighter and cleaner on this go-around, but it's still plenty raw. On the virtual flip side, "Learn To Love It" adds a pinch of classic glam rock influence to Ingrates' punk/power pop sound. Again, the energy level is off the charts. This single, like its predecessor, was recorded as a duo. However, Ingrates are assembling a full band with live shows in mind. That is a very good thing since two singles from this band leave me wanting more!
Monday, February 21, 2022
After a decade in hibernation, the illustrious Bancroft Records has been reestablished in Durham, North Carolina (this label goes from one beer mecca to another...is Germany next?). I always associate this label with a golden era of Midwestern garage and punk (although not all of its acts were Midwestern or American at all!). Algoma, Wisconsin's Hue Blanc's Joyless Ones would have fit right in with the Bancroft roster back in the day. They were even set to do a 7" with the label -- which for various reasons never materialized. No worries, though. All these years later, Hue Blanc's Joyless Ones remain one of the finest musical acts in all of the American Midwest. And their self-titled fourth album (and first full-length in seven years) has turned up on the relaunched Bancroft imprint. All is right with the world!
Friday, February 18, 2022
Now here's a real blast from the past! Rum Bar Records has reissued The Clams' second single, which was originally self-released back in 1987. This is a major treat for anyone who enjoys garage/pop/girl group rock and roll. The Clams were Cindy Lawson (guitar, lead vocals), Patty Jansen (bass), Karen Cusack (drums), and Roxie Terry (lead guitar). They were mainstays of the Twin Cities club scene in the later '80s -- releasing two singles and an EP along the way. Lawson, a music legend in Minnesota, has recently joined the Rum Bar family. In May, the label will be reissuing her solo EP New Tricks and releasing a full Clams discography titled The Complete Clams. But up first, we have this dandy 7" featuring the tracks "Crazy Boys" and "Train Song". Both songs are high energy blasts of raw and catchy rock and roll. To say that The Clams fit right in with the Rum Bar roster would be a severe understatement. It's not hard to hear the shared musical DNA with the likes of French Girls, Pale Lips, The Sorels, Beebe Gallini, Hayley and the Crushers, Natalie Sweet, and many more amazing Rum Bar artists. The label is even offering a special deal that bundles this Clams 7" with singles by Beebe Gallini, French Girls, and The Short Fuses for just $22 (Hurry: supplies are running out!). You may notice that the digital single flips the order of the original 7" -- promoting "Crazy Boys" to A-side status. Honestly, it makes little difference. Both tracks are hit-worthy. The Clams are one of those bands that fall into the "shoulda been huge" category, and I'm stoked that their material is about to be introduced to new generations of fans along with anyone who may have missed out the first time around. Can you imagine what it would have been like to have been a fly on the wall at clubs like 7th Street Entry or The Uptown Bar back in the '80s? "Crazy Boys" will give you a little taste of that!
Thursday, February 17, 2022
Sunday, February 13, 2022
The trilogy continues! Dream Diary Of A Madman is the second in a series of digital EPs featuring demos recorded at home by Speedways singer/guitarist Matt Julian. In preparation for a new Speedways album, Julian set himself a goal of writing & demoing two songs a week back in January. He hit his target and was able to lay the best three songs aside for the new LP. The five remaining demos became Dream Diary Of A Madman, which is currently a name your price download from Bandcamp. As was the case with Only Trouble Is, Gee Whiz, these recordings are all works in progress. Julian literally recorded them on his bed using a Tascam 4-track, a keyboard, and a couple of guitars. This makes for a more intimate listening experience compared to the more polished product of a Speedways record. You're getting the direct inspiration here. These songs are straight from the heart and soul of a talented songwriter without any outside input. And in this raw state, Julian's songwriting is never bound to any particular genre. These are the kinds of recordings that we sometimes never hear until an artist is dead and a record label is looking to make a buck. So I applaud Julian's generosity in sharing these songs with the world. I categorized Only Trouble Is, Gee Whiz as being for Speedways super fans only, but now I'm changing my tune. I'd actually recommend these demos to anyone who wants to hear one of our finest contemporary songwriters in the most stripped-down setting imaginable. 99% of power pop songwriters would envy being to classify "Strawberry Jeans" and "Angel Street Guitars" as "leftovers". "I'll Still Be Waiting For You" and "10th of the 10th" fully epitomize the title of the EP. The lovely "Daylight" convinces me that a Matt Speedway acoustic album would be absolutely worth buying.
The Matt Speedway demos trilogy will conclude next month with another five-song installment called The Sincerest Form Of Flattery. And with the new album now in the early rehearsal stage, this is looking to be a big year in the Speedways universe. If these are the cast-off tracks, the actual album is going to be something else!
Saturday, February 12, 2022
Just in time for Valentine's Day, Trevor Blendour has released the ultimate album for pop lovers...and all other kinds of lovers! Trevor Treiber has been fronting Iowa-based pop-punk band The Blendours for over a decade. Falling In Love, his solo debut, leans deep into power pop and early rock and roll in a way that's hardly surprising. Over the course of 13 tracks, he covers all the bases: falling in love, being in love, having your heart broken, losing the girl, winning back the girl, getting dumped, and finding love again. These have been fundamental themes of songs since the beginning of time, but they are especially tied to the golden age of rock and roll. The influences behind Falling In Love are not hard to spot. Treiber wears his love for Buddy Holly, the Everly Brothers, early Beatles, doo-wop, and late '50s/early '60s teen idol pop on his sleeve. He builds his songs on a foundation of silky-smooth harmonies, candy-sweet melodies, and lyrics that appeal to the eternal teenager in all of us. And those are things that will never ever go out of style.
Holy smokes, do we ever have a ripper here! Brace yourself! London, Ontario duo Klazo plays fast & ferocious punk rock that meets at the intersection of early hardcore, post Reatards garage-punk, and old school Rust Belt punk rock. A co-release between Big Neck and No Front Teeth Records, its new album 'Demik Dementia is a goddamn classic upon arrival. This is truly a vintage Big Neck Records release! The one-sheet summarizes it as "blaster tracks with compulsive yelling amplified by fire, alcohol and carbon monoxide poisoning," and it would be futile for me to try and come up with a better description. How can just two people kick up a racket this enormous? On this release, Rob and Jesse tear through 11 tracks that smash everything in their path. And while the sheer force and manic energy of the music are undeniable, what separates Klazo from so many other bands of this style is that they've got songs. And I love how the band complements all the killer original material with unbelievably awesome covers of a couple of classics: PACK's "Nobody Can Tell Us" and Electric Eels' "Jaguar Ride". Those cover selections give you excellent reference points for what Klazo is all about, and the band totally crushes both songs.
'Demik Dementia is reminiscent of a whole lot of great records that came out in the early-to-mid aughts. But as the title suggests, it's fully imbued with the anxiety, despair, and rage of this unprecedented moment in our existence. If you love garage trash, Killed By Death comps, or just great punk rock in general, you need to be all over this release!
Sunday, February 06, 2022
Pat Todd teaming up I-94 Recordings is what you'd call a match made in heaven. Here we have two veritable institutions of great American rock and roll collaborating to bring you an essential slab of wax. Pat Todd & the Rankoutsiders have been going strong now since 2004 and recently released another great full-length album called "…There's Pretty Things In Palookaville…" Out now on I-94, new single "Tell Us All a Story" is vintage Pat Todd: a blistering no-frills rocker that condenses that last 67 years of rock and roll into two minutes and 44 seconds of pure sonic energy. And while Todd and his bandmates are an absolute musical powerhouse, it should not be ignored that the lyrics to this song are remarkably profound -- cutting to the essence of everything that's messed up about the world today. You get bang-on social commentary and a rocking good time in one shot. That's the way to do it! I-94 has adopted a cool format for its 7" releases: an original song on the A-side and a cover of a Detroit artist on the flip. For this release, Todd chose to cover "Prison of Love" by late '60s/early '70s garage band Früt (nee Früt of the Loom). Todd had been wanting to cover this track since the '70s, so it was an easy choice when he signed on to cut this record for I-94. He and the Rankoutsiders rock the hell out of this number while still showing great love for the original.
Pat Todd never writes a bad song. "Tell Us All a Story" is an especially inspired tune that's perfect for the 7" format. It's available now on black, red, and glow in the dark vinyl. Head on over to I-94's web site and snag yourself a copy!
Saturday, February 05, 2022
Early Times, the new free digital compilation from Rum Bar Records, is exactly what the title suggests. It compiles tracks from Rum Bar's earlier releases along with songs Malibu Lou released with his previous labels Abbey Lounge Records and Melted Records. In that respect, this is an early history and a pre-history of the best record label out there. And this will be the easiest studying you've ever done: just grab yourself a tasty beverage, hit play, and enjoy 27 premium shots of garage, punk, and underground rock and roll hand-picked by the man himself! Hearing Watts' "Flash of White Light" and The Connection's "Don't Talk To My Baby" brings back fond memories of my earliest days of reviewing Rum Bar releases (hard to believe that was eight years ago!). Also turning up are tracks from many of the label's flagship artists (Muck and the Mires, The Dirty Truckers/Tom Baker, The Cheap Cassettes, Shanda and the Howlers, Indonesian Junk) as well as overlooked gems by the likes of Los Breakdowns, The Phantoms, and ZipGun Bomber. A big draw for me are the additional selections from the Abbey Lounge (The Dents, The Marvels, The Downbeat 5, Coffin Lids) and Melted (The Heartdrops, The Young Hasselhoffs, Electraluxx, 30 Amp Fuse) catalogs. Obviously, Rum Bar diehards will be familiar with most of this material and already own much of it. But with there being 27 tracks here dating from 1996 to 2017, there are sure to be some songs in the bunch that you might have missed (as Lou puts it) "the first, second or third time around"! And for those of you who are not yet familiar with this label and its 172 titles currently available on Bandcamp, this free sampler will be a perfect point of entry. Class is in session for Rum Bar 101: just download Early Times, and you get an A!
While we eagerly await a new Extra Arms album (which is coming this summer!), Ryan Allen has continued to treat fans to some truly excellent home-recorded solo releases. What I've enjoyed about these releases is that they have allowed Allen to dive deep into his multitude of musical influences. Song Snacks Vol. 1 was a nod to some of the sprawling indie rock epics of the 1990s. What A Rip was a love letter to 1960s pop and rock and roll. Digital Hiss celebrated the loud/fuzzed out side of indie rock. And now on his latest release I'm Not Mean, Allen finds himself inspired by the heyday of jangly indie pop. Without copying any artists in particular, he taps into the general vibe of The Smiths, early R.E.M., and the collective output of Sarah and Slumberland Records. It has been well-established that Ryan Allen can rock with the best of 'em, but these four tracks are all about finesse. From the guitar tone to the harmonies to the general fidelity of these recordings, the devil is in the details. "Count With Me" is as warm and bright as spring sunshine. Simply put, it's perfect pop. "To Be A Journalist" doubles down on the jangle but still sounds like a vintage Ryan Allen song with amazing lyrics and indelible melodies working hand-in-hand. Allen goes full twee on the title track, melding simplicity and sheer beauty like he's the second coming of Bobby Wratten.
Friday, February 04, 2022
Stories, the second album from Paris trio The Suttles, could not be any more up my alley. It meets at the intersection of power pop and '77 punk rock with additional touches of mod and new wave. You may recognize Fred, Julian, and Max as three-fifths of Jon & the Vons. And these guys have been in plenty of other cool bands such as Opération-S, Protokids, Les Braqueurs, and Les Terribles. These three formed The Suttles in 2019 and have already gotten two full-length releases out the door. Stories follows the same blueprint as last year's self-titled debut on Les Disques à Rebours. The songs are tuneful and energetic, and they're influenced by all of your favorite records from 1977 through 1980. "I Wanna Get That Girl" is quintessential punky power pop and a great tone-setter for the whole album. "First Time" is not a cover of The Boys' song, but it sure reminds me of The Boys! "Papercut" and "Arrête de Penser" are straight-up '77-style punk bangers. "It's Alright" is textbook power pop. "Seul" is bang-on Jam worship. "Bad Time" is a killer cover of the classic tune by the old British beat group The Roulettes. Punk/powerpop is always a go-to genre for me, and The Suttles have once again totally nailed that sound. Order Stories now from Topsy-Turvy Records!
Thursday, February 03, 2022
Now here's a true New Jersey punk rock super group! The Sad Tomorrows are Jeff Schroeck, Mike Hunchback, J Nixon, and Brian Gorsegner. That lineup encompasses membership in Night Birds, Psyched To Die, Black Wine, Hunchback, Nervous Triggers, The Ergs!, and too many other bands to mention. With this band, these Garden State scene veterans have honed in on a musical aesthetic that's near and dear to my heart: the intersection of punk-pop and late '80s/early '90s indie/alternative rock. The Sad Tomorrows are in many ways similar to Character Actor, Schroeck and Gorsegner's excellent indie-pop project from a few years back. The Sad Tomorrows refine the concept of Character Actor, introducing a new favorite band for those who can't get enough of Husker Du, the Lemonheads, Soul Asylum, ALL, early Goo Goo Dolls, etc. The band's debut EP has already sold out a full pressing of 100 cassette tapes but is still available in digital form from Don Giovanni Records. Recorded by Chris Pierce and mastered by Stephen Egerton, this EP sounds like it could have come out on cassingle on a major label 30 years ago. It recalls that brief but glorious moment of indie rock leaping into the mainstream before it all turned to shit. I especially like the crisp melodic punk of "Long Vibration" and the vintage '92 alt rock power pop of "Unsustainable Practices". Any time Jeff Schroeck is writing and singing songs, I am here for it. With this band, he and his pals are really hitting a sweet spot for me. Fingers crossed for more Sad Tomorrows!
Wednesday, February 02, 2022
Fast forward to 2021: the legendary (at least in these parts!) Creep Records determined that there actually is a market for a (semi) defunct band's second odds and ends LP. At this very moment, I hold in my hands a vinyl copy of "Okay, Enough Reminiscing." Hindsight Is 20/20, My Friend Volume Two. I'm not usually a format geek, but I've got to say it's really freaking cool to have this album on vinyl! I'm staring at Jay Insult's beautiful cover art depicting a scene from Dirty Work -- one of the true cinematic masterpieces of modern times and the official favorite movie of The Ergs! It makes me sad that Norm Macdonald and Bob Saget have recently departed us just as this LP finally receives a proper release. In that respect, this album is a tribute to their immense talents.
Remarkably, The Ergs! were able to fill a 22-track album largely with songs that were released after their breakup. "Okay, Enough Reminiscing." contains the entirety of 2008's That's It...Bye 12", four of the five cuts from 2010's Thrash Compactor 7", the band's tracks from splits with Teenage Bottlerocket and The Measure, a whole slew of hard-to-find compilation tracks, songs from the band's aborted project Experimental Test Pavement, and a couple of live tracks. Listening to this collection again a few years later, I'm still impressed that a band with a double LP compilation of non-album tracks already under its belt was able to assemble a sequel compilation and not have to fill it with crap (And, no, I definitely would not consider a 24-second hardcore song about Johnny Rzeznik deserving a beating to be anything close to filler)! Of course this is not anyone's ideal starting point for The Ergs! But it was never supposed to be. If you're a fan, you will want this album in your collection. Quite a few of these tracks ("Anthem for a New Amanda", "Encyclopedia Self Destructica", "Blah Blah Blah, Fuck You, Blah Blah Blah") are in my estimation essential Ergs! songs. And covers of the likes of Egghead., Sicko, Parasites, Devo, and The Minutemen acknowledge the wonderful variety of influences that made The Ergs! what they were/are (If you're an Ergs! fan who has never heard Egghead., I'm giving you two months to acquire a copy of Would Like A Few Words With You...there will be inspections!). Joe Keller's liner notes are a super cool touch. If you were curious about where these songs came from or how this album came to be, all the juicy details await in fine print!
It's kind of strange the way technology continues to change the face of underground music. Five years ago, I might have agreed that a vinyl version of "Okay, Enough Reminiscing." would likely meet with lukewarm sales. But what I've noticed in our community in recent years is that technology isn't replacing the experience of buying records --- it's facilitating it. People in our world still love records. They hear about cool releases via social media, podcasts, blogs, etc. and can go right to a label's Bandcamp or webstore and order the vinyl. On that note, you can hit up the Creep Records online shop today and order a copy of "Okay, Enough Reminiscing." on a mystery color of vinyl! I'm no expert on punk rock vinyl marketing, but I've got a feeling that Creep will have no trouble moving a full pressing of this stellar comp. I hope they saved a copy for Artie!