Friday, July 29, 2022

The Keefs - "Dim City Nights"


Delaware's finest punk rock and roll band is back with its first new music in eight years! The Keefs were one of the handful of bands that inspired me to start writing about music again back in 2011. After hearing the 444 EP, I was blown away by the band's gritty yet melodic brand of old school punk rock. 2014's Better Late Than Never LP remains an overlooked gem of modern-day American punk rock. Sadly its release coincided with the band calling it a day, and I feared that The Keefs would be forever relegated to "should have been huge!" status. So it was to my utter delight that I recently discovered that The Keefs have a brand-new digital single out called "Dim City Nights." I love that this two-track release shows two different sides of the same band. You've got the rock on the A-side and the pop on the B-side -- and both tunes are equally good. The title track is a straight-up rock and roll ripper with a massive shout-along chorus and righteous lead guitar work from the legendary Randy America (channeling Wayne Kramer in full glory). Bass god Vince mentions that The Keefs have finally found their "real" sound after all these years, and you can hear that direction on this track. This is a grade-A banger! If the Dead Boys, Backyard Babies, and early D Generation are your cup of tea, "Dim City Nights" ought to get your heart racing. On the virtual B-side, "The Fall" is more on the melodic side but still punchy as hell. I love how Dave's vocal is gutsy and packed full of emotion. For some reason, this track brings to mind Grant Hart fronted Husker Du even though it still sounds totally like The Keefs. This is essential listening for anyone who likes pop-influenced punk with balls. "Dim City Nights" is a truly triumphant comeback, and I hear there's more on the way. The world gets another chance to appreciate The Keefs. Don't mess it up, folks!

Tuesday, July 26, 2022

Geoff Palmer - "Emergency"

For his third full-length release, Geoff Palmer has made the surprising and fascinating choice to cover Dee Dee King's 1989 album Standing In The Spotlight in its entirety. Of all the albums in the Ramones universe, Dee Dee Ramone's rap album is probably the most polarizing. To this day, opinions vary on whether Standing In The Spotlight is an epic fail or an overlooked gem. Geoff Palmer would take the latter position, and his version of the album (out September 18 on Stardumb Records) comes from a place of deep love. "Emergency," the first single from the album, is sure to change the minds of more than a few Dee Dee King skeptics. This track is pure gold! Palmer's signature style is present in the vocals and arrangement, but the spirit of the original version is by no means lost. If you didn't know this was a Dee Dee King song, you might think this was a just great new Geoff Palmer tune! As I listen back to the original, I can totally hear how it may have influenced multiple generations of pop-punk bands. Granted, "Emergency" is one of the best tracks on Standing In The Spotlight. I am intrigued to hear what Palmer does with the rest of these songs. But if "Emergency" is any indication, we should expect very, very good things from the full album. Click here for all of your pre-ordering options!

Saturday, July 23, 2022

Bob Burger - The Domino Effect

You may know Bob Burger as a founding member of power pop band The Weeklings -- who have been one of JEM Records' flagship bands since the legendary label made its triumphant return several years ago. You may also know Bob Burger as a longtime fixture of the Jersey Shore rock scene and an accomplished solo artist. Out now on JEM, The Domino Effect is Burger's fifth solo album and largely a departure from the music of The Weeklings. Yet I doubt any fan of The Weeklings will be disappointed. Much like his label mate Nick Piunti, Burger belongs to the master class of pop-rock songwriters. With The Domino Effect, he focuses on a style of music that I'm always happy to encounter: straight-forward classic rock steeped in the tradition of the three-to-four minute pop song. 

As a member of a very prolific band, Burger had to put his solo career aside for a while. But as more free time became available during the pandemic, he was able to complete The Domino Effect. The album, which features support from New York/New Jersey scene veterans Jimmy Leahey (guitar), Jerry Gaskill (drums), Lisa Sherman (background vocals), Arne Wendt (keyboards), John Merjave (guitars), and Plink Giglio (keyboards), is loosely based on the concept of how our lives can be changed forever by one event or decision. The concept is nicely framed by the opening and closing tracks. "The Suicide King," which marries a waltz to jangly pop, is an ode to acting in life without fear of consequence. Whether that's a good thing or a bad thing is left ambiguous, which is half the fun of the song. Closing track "Rock & Roll Band," one of the album's most "power pop" sounding numbers, is far more conclusive. Here Burger celebrates his choice to pursue a musician's life. The lifetime of hard work and struggle is worth it for all the good it brings. So many of you reading this now will relate, no doubt. How different would your life be if you'd never picked up a guitar? In between these two songs is a wonderful and varied selection of splendidly-crafted pop songs. "Impression" sounds like it should be playing on the radio in an eternal 1982. "Even If You Don't" hits that Eagles/Jackson Browne 1970s light rock sweet spot. Burger throws a bone to his power pop loving fan base with the clever and relatable "Pain in the Ass." "The One Eyed Jack" unintentionally recalls an iconic Tom Petty riff but is otherwise 100% original. Call it MOR, adult alternative, soft rock, or whatever you like: "Merely Beautiful" is a melodic gem seeking the substance beyond a surface attraction.

Bob Burger is the very definition of class. He's a masterful songwriter who remains in fine form decades into his career. In The Domino Effect, he has managed to create a pop-rock record that sounds timeless but not retro. Certain influences (Beatles, Tom Petty, Elvis Costello) are fundamental to his craft, yet this album just sounds like Bob Burger. We've come to expect albums of this style and quality from JEM Records, and The Domino Effect definitely fits the bill. By the way, JEM has something very special in the works to commemorate its 50th anniversary. I'll be back in a couple weeks to tell you more!

The Melmacs - "Stage Fright"

Oh yes! The Melmacs continue to delight with the extended lead-up to their forthcoming album Good Advice! The Leipzig/Dresden-based foursome came up with the wonderful idea of releasing five singles/videos from Good Advice over the course of this summer. "Stage Fright," the third of these singles, released yesterday. This song is yet another fist-pumping blast of power pop punk rock goodness that no human with a soul should be able to resist. In typical Melmacs style, "Stage Fright" is a super-fun song with a very serious message. It examines the way we sometimes allow fear to hold us back from doing the things we want in life. I love a song like this that I can totally relate to on a personal level even as the music makes me wanna dance around the house and sing along at the top of my lungs! Pre-orders for Good Advice (a co-release between Wanda Records, Barkraufarfita Records, and Tape Or Die) are open now on The Melmacs' Bandcamp. I can assure you that the singles are no fluke. This is going to be one of the best albums of the year and one of the best power pop/punk releases in quite some time. If you like punk music that's fun and catchy but also full of heart and substance, The Melmacs ought to be your new favorite band. Luckily, the summer of The Melmacs is far from over: two more singles are coming, and the second of the two will coincide with the official release date of the LP, September 30th. Best summer ever!

Wednesday, July 20, 2022

The Hi-End - "Scene Queen"

Rum Bar Records is on fire! Hot on the heels of yesterday's surprise early release of Kevin Stevenson's sing-along anthem "Saturday Morning Coming Down," Malibu Lou has turned loose another essential shot of rock. "Scene Queen" is the brand-new digital single from Boston's high octane rock and roll machine The Hi-End. This is the band's first new track in over eight months, and boy is it a doozy! "Scene Queen" is a good old-fashioned shake-the-walls rocker featuring killer riffs, a simple catchy chorus, and another knockout vocal from Mr. Johnny Carlevale. The Hi-End are no strangers to this "AC/DC with a punk influence" type sound, but here they've nailed it like never before. It sure didn't hurt to have Mike Mariconda on hand to master the track! If you like riff-tastic rock and roll, this is about as perfect as it gets. Those guitars sound amazing! "Scene Queen" is being released in conjunction with The Hi-End's only show of the summer. Locals can catch the band tomorrow night at The Square Root with The Dents and Carissa Johnson. More information is available from the show's event page on Facebook!

Doe St - "The Old Guard"

From Mick Fletcher's lips to my ears! Well-aware of my fondness for Aussie punk bands, Mick was quick to recommend Doe St. As we say in the States, that was a solid pick! Rye-based Doe St has released a new single called "The Old Guard" on Legless Records. The title track is an impassioned attack on the politicians that have left Australia in turmoil. It's a crackling protest song that couples its rage with hope for a better future. The Saints influence is very upfront -- so much so that the band chose to cover "Lost and Found" on the B-side to honor one of its primary inspirations and pay respect to the recently deceased Chris Bailey. "Lost and Found" is practically a sacred text in punk music, so covering it is quite the tall task. But I'll give Doe St credit for an inspired and loving rendition of a classic. Chris Bailey would have been proud! In addition to this new single, Doe St also has a seven-song EP out which is very different from this single but still quite excellent. This is a promising band indeed. Good call, Mick!

Tuesday, July 19, 2022

Kevin Stevenson - "Saturday Morning Coming Down"

The longer I keep joking that Rum Bar Records will eventually work with every great artist from the Boston garage/punk scene, the less it seems like a joke and the more it seems like an inevitability! The latest feather in Malibu Lou's cap is the addition of Kevin Stevenson to the Rum Bar family. Longtime leader of Lowell-based greats The Shods, Stevenson will be releasing his first-ever solo album, Reality Alley, on Rum Bar this fall. Stevenson, one of the finest songwriters of his generation and one of the world's greatest ambassadors of the "Boston sound," has not released new music in quite some time. The worldwide rock and roll community is blessed to have him back in the game! Reality Alley was recorded with producer George Priniotakis while Stevenson was living in the Exarchia neighborhood of Athens, Greece. It was completed at Wonka Sound in Lowell. In advance of the forthcoming CD release, Rum Bar has issued the digital single "Saturday Morning Coming Down." Malibu Lou emailed me this track this morning, and since then I've been playing it over and over and over. In classic Kevin Stevenson style, "Saturday Morning Coming Down" is a gritty anthemic rocker with amazing lyrics and melodies to die for. And I love the way the horns add so much to this track. My god, this is like a lost song off London Calling! The full album is already available digitally from Stevenson's Bandcamp (spoiler alert: it's amazing!). The CD will be out in September and feature all-new cover art by Glenn Robinson. "Saturday Morning Coming Down" is a name-your-price download from Rum Bar's Bandcamp and a mandatory add to your summer playlist. Go grab it! 

Sunday, July 17, 2022

The Right Here - "Reckless Kind"

Every release in I-94 Recordings' "Detroit cover" 7" series has been an absolute home run, and that continues to be the case with the latest installment from Minneapolis foursome The Right Here. The concept of the series goes like this: each artist pairs an original A-side number with a cover of a Detroit band or artist on the B-side. Previous installments have featured Ricky Rat, Brian McCarty, and Pat Todd & the Rankoutsiders. The Right Here has no problem hanging with such exclusive company. A-side "Reckless Kind" is what I'd call a vintage Right Here track: an anthemic heart-on-sleeve rocker in the grand Midwestern tradition. Jim from I-94 has been a fan of this band since Stick To the Plan came out in 2016, and his request to have the band join the Detroit covers series was met with great enthusiasm. This installment, like all the others, works because each side of the record is equally important. "Reckless Kind" is a grade-A rocker that definitely falls into the "recommended if you like The Replacements" category. For its Detroit cover, the band went a little outside the box and chose Sponge's 1995 hit "Molly (16 Candles Down the Drain)". The Right Here's interpretation of "Molly" is quite remarkable -- transforming this vintage slice of '90s alt-rock into a melancholy country rock heartbreaker. If the ultimate goal of a cover is to make a song your own, The Right Here gets a ten out of ten here. If I didn't know any better, I'd think this was one of the band's originals! 

"Reckless Kind" is such an extraordinary single that it makes me want to immediately revisit The Right Here's most recent album Northern Town. The 7" is available now from the I-94 Recordings website in many varieties of colors. Previous installments in the Detroit covers series are still available as well. Additional installments from the Candy Snatchers and David Bierman Overdrive are due out this summer with many more in the works! Hit up the label's web site to order records and catch up on all the latest I-94 news! 

Kurt Baker - Brand New Beat: Complete

Dear god, are we already celebrating the ten-year anniversary of Kurt Baker's Brand New Beat? It seems like only yesterday that that album was released! I guess it's true that time flies when you're having fun! Brand New Beat was an album of great importance to me and this blog. On the date I reviewed it, I had only been doing F & L for a little over a year. Baker became one of my go-to artists to write about and remains so to this day (by my count, this is the 27th time I've reviewed a title by him or one of his bands). I named Brand New Beat my album of the year for 2012, and I now consider it a landmark of modern-day power pop. In commemoration of its ten-year anniversary, Wicked Cool Records has released Brand New Beat: Complete, a two-disc set which includes the original 2012 album remixed and remastered along with the subsequent collection Brand New B-Sides remastered with bonus tracks. While Brand New Beat was not Baker's first LP, it was the first in the trilogy of albums he co-wrote with Wyatt Funderburk. Certainly I'm a huge Kurt Baker fan in general, but I have a special place in my heart for his collaborations with Funderburk and the rest of The Party Animals (Kris "Fingers" Rodgers on keyboards, Geoff Palmer on guitar, and Adam Cargin & Craig Sala on drums). So I was eager to put on Brand New Beat: Complete and listen to all of these songs with fresh ears. I wondered about a couple things: (1) Would I still like this album as much a decade later? and (2) Would I be impressed enough by this reissue package to recommend you spend your money on it? The answers turned out to be yes and yes! 

As I started to listen to Brand New Beat: Complete, a couple things came to mind. One was that it was always the nostalgia talking when I'd rank Brand New Beat as a cut above its two successors Play It Cool and After Party. I honestly think that Baker and Funderburk got better at their craft as they advanced through the trilogy. That said, my reacquaintance with Brand New Beat confirms what I've always believed: it is one of the greatest power pop albums of the 21st Century and clearly deserving of modern classic status. For anyone who's new to the music of Kurt Baker, this album remains the best place to start. It's a rocking power pop record with roots in pop-punk that exudes the "Have a good time all the time" spirit that has always been central to the Kurt Baker experience. With its mix of should-have-been radio hits ("Don't Go Falling In Love," "Everybody Knows"), party rock anthems ("Hit the Ground," "Weekend Girls"), and tearjerker love songs ("I Don't Wanna Cry," "How Many Times"), it checks off every box for a perfect power pop album. Ever the perfectionists, Baker and Funderburk limited the album to just the best ten songs out of the nearly 20 they'd recorded. They essentially left on the cutting room floor a whole other album  -- which was released in 2014 as Brand New B-Sides

Listening to Disc 2 of Brand New Beat: Complete, I still feel the same way as I did eight years ago: Baker and Funderburk had the right instincts on which songs to leave off of Brand New Beat, but even the leftovers from those sessions made for a very good album. The new wave power pop gem "Lost In Translation" seems the most questionable exclusion from the original album. "Quit Dancing With My Girl" hits the sweet spot where power pop and pop-punk intersect -- always a Baker/Funderburk specialty. "On the Run" is essentially the best song Thin Lizzy never wrote. "Think It Over" carries the early Elvis Costello leanings of Brand New Beat into the Get Happy!! era. "Christmas in the Sand," in my book, has risen to the level of a new holiday standard. The bonus material includes some top-tier odds and ends such as Baker's brilliant 2012 7" track "I Want You Around," the splendid Dan Vapid co-write "Keep Away," and a cool new wave-ish take on Costello's "High Fidelity." All in all, the drop-off from disc one to disc two is remarkably slight. How crazy talented do you have to be to have the luxury of leaving a song like "Emma Stone" off an album?

The obvious question is this: If you already own Brand New Beat and Brand New B-sides, why should you fork over your hard-earned cash for Brand New Beat: Complete? My answer is that it's a decade later, and a lot of you reading this today might not own either album. With the original CDs out of print, being able to snag them both in a single package with bonus material for $19.99 is a swell deal indeed. If you've come to discover Kurt Baker more recently through his stellar releases on Wicked Cool, this collection is the ideal introduction to his earlier solo work. Brand New Beat: Complete places Baker's prime "power pop era" in a larger context along side his later work with The Kurt Baker Combo and bands such as The Bullet Proof Lovers, The New Trocaderos, and The Gold. I usually dismiss ten-year anniversary reissues as being premature (kind of like ten-year high school reunions!), but I have to make an exception for Brand New Beat, one of my favorite albums of all-time. I'll be stoked to review it again in another ten years!

Saturday, July 16, 2022

Crankees - "Punch the Boss"

As I was just saying about Aussie punk bands, it's never a surprise when another one comes along and knocks my socks off. But it's always a pleasure! Crankees hail from Sydney and most definitely live up to their name. They're cranky dudes channeling their frustrations into loud and bruising punk tunes that aim to smash you in the mouth. They've made their recorded debut with a single called "Punch the Boss" on the fantastic label Evil Tone Records. Before you even hear the A-side, you can deduce what it's about. A majority of humans on this Earth will relate to the sentiment of the song. And fortunately, this is exactly what a song about wanting to cause physical injury to your boss ought to sound-like. It's the feelgood hit of the summer, and I fully expect it to top the charts all over the globe. On the flip side, "Down the Coast" slows the pace a tad but hits just as hard. I love that the song is plenty cranky but also shows genuine emotional depth. Clearly this band is no one-song wonder. I'm picking up on some Cosmic Psychos worship, and, hey, that's a church I'd gladly join! 

Crankees have done what every band ought to do on a debut single: deliver two perfect tracks that will leave everyone wanting more. You can grab a copy on black or blood-splattered vinyl now from Evil Tone and join me in eagerly awaiting what's coming next!

Friday, July 15, 2022

Split System - "Demolition"

So many of us in other parts of the world marvel at the magnificence of the current wave of Aussie punk rock bands and try to hypothesize what this nation's secret is. But the secret is that there is no secret. Aussie punk rock has been this way since the beginning of time. And by "beginning of time," I mean that singular moment in 1973 when Messieurs Bailey, Kuepper, and Hay entered that shed together and changed the course of music history. At this point it's not even surprising when another Aussie band comes along and blows me away. And yet every single time, it's no less exciting. Split System looks to be one of the very best of the new Aussie punk groups, and that makes sense when you consider the personnel. The group features Jackson Reid Briggs (Jackson Reid Briggs & The Heaters) on vocals, Arron Mawson  (Stiff Richards) and Ryan Webb (Speed Week) on guitar, Deon Slaviero on bass, and Mitch McGregor (No Zu) on drums. The band's debut EP on Legless Records has been one of 2022's truly essential punk rock releases, and a full album will be arriving by year's end. In the way of a preview, Split System has released the track "Demolition." If hearing this track doesn't have you absolutely super-mega-stoked for the release of the LP, you may want to check yourself for a pulse. "Demolition" is a scorching number that encapsulates everything that's been great about Aussie punk for five decades. Look for the album in December on Legless and Drunken Sailor Records!


The Legendary Swagger - Gypsies, Junkies & Thieves

Gypsies, Junkies & Thieves, The Legendary Swagger's new album, delivers a perfect mix of '70s punk rock and roll and classic Southern California punk influences. Lead singer/saxophonist Geoff Yeaton and guitarist Skot Pollok first met while playing in bands in the Orange County punk rock scene. The lineup on Gypsies, Junkies & Thieves reads like a who's who of modern-day LA/OC punk. Pollok and Yeaton are joined by their JJ & The Real Jerks band-mates Joe Jennings and Richie Mendez. Yeaton and Dino Everett are well-known for their membership in the mighty Streetwalkin' Cheetahs. Yeaton and Jennings both also play in The Magnificent, the Hollywood soul revue I reviewed just last week. Gypsies, Junkies & Thieves is out today on compact disc Rum Bar Records with a vinyl release coming this fall on Punk Media Research. This album, my friends, is the real deal. It combines the driving energy, melodic songwriting, and tight backing vocals of vintage SoCal punk with a heavy dose of no-nonsense rock and roll and hints of The Clash and The Saints. Now that's a recipe that works for me! If you like gritty vocals, powerful guitars, and thoughtful songwriting sprinkled with some hot sax, you are in for a treat with this album. Rarely will you hear a more perfect song than "She." Gypsies, Junkies & Thieves is a definitive work of SoCal rock and roll and a first-class affair in every respect. I always love a band that sounds like its name!

Wednesday, July 13, 2022

The Dummies/Gargoyles split: now available in the U.S.!

Fans of budget rock and lo-fi trash, lend me your ears. Late last year, I reported on a truly incredible development: a 2021 vinyl release featuring vintage 1990s cuts from two legendary bands: The Dummies and Gargoyles. Released by Re-Ken/Ken Rock Records, this split features The Dummies' blistering garage punk anthem "Roundtop Rock" and Gargoyles' Stoogey thumper "Five Million Years To Earth." I cannot emphasize enough how important of a band The Dummies were to Central Pennsylvania punk rock and '90s garage punk in general. Your Dummies collection is not complete without this split! I promised that ordering information would be provided when it became available, and today it is my pleasure to share some news! Sgt 6 himself is selling the record here in the States. He's doing a package deal of the 7" plus a newly-pressed Dummies t-shirt for $24 post-paid. Now that is a deal and a steal! If you're interested in purchasing this combo, you can email Sgt 6 for further details. For your listening pleasure, the YouTube clip for "Roundtop Rock" has been embedded below -- and is soon to be embedded in your skull for a glorious eternity. 


Monday, July 11, 2022

The Master Plan - "Ooh Baby Ooh"

Just announced today as The Coolest Song in the World this week in The Underground Garage, "Ooh Baby Ooh" is the work of garage rock supergroup The Master Plan. If you heard the track and wondered how you could buy it, I am pleased to tell you that it's available now from the one and only Rum Bar Records! As you may already know, The Master Plan features members of The Dictators (Andy Shernoff), Fleshtones (Keith Streng and Bill Milheizer), and Waxing Poetics (Paul Johnson). Also appearing on this track is world-renowned keyboardist Josh Kantor. "Ooh Baby Ooh" was first recorded back in the '50s by doo-wop/R & B legends The Hollywood Flames. The Master Plan's version is spiritually faithful to the original while also infusing the song with a touch of surf and a powerhouse garage rock and roll energy. Produced and engineered by Michael Giblin (Cherry Twister, The Split Squad), this is the ultimate goodtime summer rock and roll anthem. What a lead vocal by Keith Streng! How often in life can you have this much fun for just two bucks? Crank up this bad boy, and you'll feel 16 again!

MONONEGATIVES - Counterclockwise Interjection

The last time I checked in on MONONEGATIVES, these London, Ontario based synth-punk sensations had just released their incredible album Apparatus Division. Somehow I slept on three additional singles last year and was determined not to miss another one. Well, I kind of did: MONONEGATIVES' new single on Dowd Records,  Counterclockwise Interjection, sold out in the 7" and 3" vinyl formats almost immediately upon its release. However, this single is very much still available in digital form and features two of the best tracks MONONEGATIVES have ever done! One of these songs, "Consumer Trust," was meant to be vinyl-only. But after the incredible response to the vinyl release, the band decided to have Tremendo Garaje premiere the song digitally on its YouTube channel. Lead man/creative genius/architect of the madness Rob has declared "Consumer Trust" his legit favorite MONONEGATIVES track ever. With that in mind, Tremendo Garaje took the liberty of reversing the order of the tracks on YouTube. "Consumer Trust" truly is a remarkable track. I love the way this song uses the synthesizer not just as background but as a true artistic tool to create a tone and mood. If you want to hear a full realization of what the genre of synth-punk ought to be, both of these tracks are highly recommended. The strange future is now the present, and MONONEGATIVES have provided the soundtrack!

Sunday, July 10, 2022

New Brutarians - Hysteria

After much, much, much delay, the New Brutarians finally have their debut LP out into the world! Out now on the illustrious Alien Snatch Records, Hysteria is every bit the lo-fi glam-pop proto-punk rock and roll masterpiece I was hoping for from this Sunshine State duo comprised of Adam Turkel (vocals, guitar, bass, and keys) and Christina Wright (drums and vocals). It has been two and a half years since I first wrote about this band -- although it feels like much longer given what's been happening in the world over that time! Hysteria is full of scrappy pop songs crafted under the influence of glam rock, pop art, and early punk rock. If you love Johnny Thunders, Television, Lou Reed, Leonard Cohen, Nikki Sudden, the Only Ones, and '70s Stones, you've just found your new favorite band. Hysteria includes some of the New Brutarians' stellar singles from the last couple years such as "A Little Hit of You," "(Rock Me) I'm A Dadaist" (easily the greatest song title of all-time), the truly marvelous "New Muse," and the COVID anthem "Living In Isolation." The half of the album I had not heard before proves to be every bit as formidable. "16 Savior" is nothing short of pop perfection. The Velvets-inspired "The Prettiest Girls (Sing the Saddest Songs)" is the first New Brutarians song to feature Christina Wright on lead vocals -- and hopefully not the last! "I Know Where Richey Edwards Lives" and "Stop! In the Name of Art" (featuring Treasure Island) are classic shots of '77 glam-punk. "Butterfly" is something we rarely hear these days: a really great old school punk rock ballad.  

Recorded by Adam Turkel, Billy Summer, and Gino Gambino in the midst of the great pandemic, Hysteria arrives triumphantly in the summer of 2022. It was recorded in dark, desperate times, and its release was delayed for over a year by bottlenecks at pressing plants. The fact that you can now hold this vinyl record in your hands seems like great cause for celebration. Together, Adam and Christina make music that affirms anew the healing power of rock and roll. Their influences, while obvious, are absorbed and interpreted with a style and personality that are uniquely theirs. Hysteria's existence on vinyl enables it to be enjoyed the old-fashioned way: you can drop the needle on the vinyl, relax, and read the lyric sheet as you fully experience each song. If this album proves anything, it's that Adam T is not just a tremendous pop artist and righteous screamer but also one of his generation's true punk rock poets. Hysteria is limited to 500 copies. It's available in the States from the New Brutarians' Bandcamp and in Europe directly from Alien Snatch. Don't miss one of the year's best LPs!

Saturday, July 09, 2022

The Magnificent - Monolithic

The Magnificent, the hottest soul revue on the West Coast, features two legendary front-men, six distinguished musicians from Southern California's modern-day garage/punk/rock and roll scene, and two go-go dancers. But even if California is a little outside of your do-able range of travel, you can still experience The Magnificent's transcendent rhythm & blues dance party through the magic of compact disc. Out now on Rum Bar Records, the band's debut album Monolithic is jam-packed with prime cuts of late '60s/early '70s R & B which have been re-worked with full-on garage rock gusto. The lineup will knock your socks off. You've got Mighty Manfred (The Woggles) and Nathan "The Deacon" Long (MI6) joining forces on lead vocals. Kent Holmes (The Brutalists) is on guitar. Bruce Duff (The Streetwalkin' Cheetahs) is on bass. Erik Szabo (Park Bench Prophets) is on keys. Todd Westover (The BellRays) is on drums. Joe Jennings (JJ & the Real Jerks/The Legendary Swagger) and Geoff Yeaton (The Legendary Swagger/Streetwalkin' Cheetahs) are on sax. With that set of players, you know you're not just getting vanilla renditions of old favorites. This is no run-of-the-mill cruise ship soul revue, son. This is a world-class rock and roll band putting its exciting twist on some stone-cold classics (and playing some originals as well). Highlights for me include crackling versions of Johnny Daye's 1967 Stax side "Wat'll I Do For Satisfaction," the Etta James/Sugar Pie DeSanto party-starter "In the Basement," The Vel-Vets' northern soul standard "I Gotta Find Me Somebody," Chuck Bridges' 1966 hip-shaker "Don't You Make Me Cry," and the Eddie Floyd/Janis Joplin classic "Raise Your Hand." Any super-fan of '60s/'70s soul will have to admit that the song selection is indeed magnificent. And when it comes to executing a timeless rhythm & blues style with real deal rock and roll energy, you simply won't find a more capable band. These guys themselves are super-fans of classic soul, and that love comes fully through on this blockbuster of an album. 

Monolithic was tracked  by Paul Roessler at Kitten Robot studio and mastered by the legendary Rodney Mills at his Masterhouse lab in Atlanta. No doubt, The Magnificent's live show is a true audio-visual spectacle that needs to be witnessed in person. But the band proves to be pretty great on record as well. Of course you will want to seek out the original versions of these songs (no doubt the band intended that). But as an album onto itself, Monolithic is tremendous fun and a first-rate work of garage soul. The party starts the instant you push play!

Friday, July 08, 2022

Dammit Records - Dam-Nations subscription

While I've been a massive Bandcamp user for over a decade, I just came across something on the platform I'd never seen before: a label subscription. Not a bad idea! Dammit Records is a punk rock label out of the UK that has several releases on Bandcamp. The label realized that there are lots of bands out there that might not yet have enough material to release a full album or EP but still have some amazing tracks to offer the world. This led to the idea of a subscription service. For a small monthly fee, Dammit Records gives you access to all the tracks from its ever-growing roster of "un-heard" bands. While the label says its submissions will be of a wider genre compared to what it usually releases, at least for now the Dammit sound can be generally described as old school punk. And you know I love old school punk! Listening to the tracks currently available via the Dam-Nations subscription, I feel like I'm experiencing a really good punk rock compilation from back in the day. Remember how we used to discover new bands like that? 

My initial interest in Dam-Nations was due to the inclusion of the first officially-released tracks from Negative Zeros and (The) Kickboy -- two new bands featuring Vince from The Keefs (Yes, the band that was the subject of this blog's very first post!). But I was pleased to discover that there are a ton of other killer bands in the mix as well. Negative Zeros' "You Make Sick" is a perfect shot of primordial ooze punk rock and roll for fans of The Stooges, Misfits, and Dead Boys. In my humble opinion, (The) Kickboy's "Abrupt Drug Holiday" alone justifies the purchase of a subscription. This band nails that classic California punk sound. Think Avengers/X/The Brat with a touch of early Black Flag. Several other Dam-Nations tracks caught my attention in a big way. Offering up the super-fun "Fanny Pack," The Lousekateers remind me quite a bit of fellow New Yorkers The Kowalskis. "Answers" by Bad Blood is great snotty punk rock meets early hardcore. Wrecked's "Die Alone" scratches my itch for some hard-edged sing-along street punk. Aubrey Eels and Punky Ruckus both specialize in old school punk rock with tongue planted firmly in cheek. 

I really dig the concept that Dammit Records is going for with this subscription service. The label is focusing on up-and-coming bands in the punk world and helping them get their music heard. And while you're taking a leap of faith in committing to a subscription, the tracks available so far indicate that this label has a really good ear for quality punk music. The label is making no money out of this: everything gets re-invested into promoting and supporting the bands on the roster. For more information, check out Dammit Records on Bandcamp

Thursday, July 07, 2022

TJ Cabot - King Grove EP

I know I brought many of you and your loved ones to tears by suggesting that TJ Cabot would be permanently separating from Thee Artificial Rejects. It seems, for now, that my speculation was correct. Minus a crack team of supporting hooligans, TJ Cabot resumes the role of solo artist on his new EP King Grove. Millhouse Deville does make a guest appearance on one track, but word on the street is that he has committed himself full-time to his new metal band. Maggie and James McKaskill have been spotted peddling counterfeit Quebec Nordiques merch in abandoned shopping centers. Father Angus McMullen is now serving as spiritual counsel on the competitive donair eating circuit. Whatever happened to Skookie Tobin? Apparently you have to watch one of those Netflix true crime shows to find out. Left to his own devices, TJ Cabot brings the heat on this triumphant return to action. Comprised of four recent demos plus an amazing cover of Eric's Trip's "Need," King Grove EP is a perfect little slice of DIY budget punk. The influences are hard to miss: Rip Off Records, Killed By Death comps, early Boston/New York punk, Devo, murder punk, The know, a whole lot of unassailable stuff! You've got to love an EP that can go from the lo-fi Real Kids vibes of the title track straight into the full-on savagery of "Tumbleweed (Lining Up the Dominoes)." And did I mention that the Eric's Trip cover is amazing? This is all great stuff, and it's still hot off the presses (recorded in May & June). TJ Cabot continues to crank out some of the finest home-recorded garage punk out there. I am frustrated to discover that this EP has been out for five days, yet I only became aware of this fact today (Thanks, Niek!). How did my Facebook algorithms fail me so miserably? I can't even engage in an offline conversation about how much more valuable sex robots would be if they could double as private chefs without getting sponsored ads for sex robots and private chefs. Yet somehow TJ Cabot's grand announcement of new solo material was kept from my feed. Imagine how much better my weekend could have been! Just you watch: the ads for donair joints will begin popping up momentarily. 

Froggy & The Ringes - Ringe Rock Pond Scum

Ringe Rock Pond Scum, the debut album from the mysterious U.K. outfit Froggy & The Ringes, is far more than just the best amphibian-fronted punk album I've ever heard. It's one of the most brilliant punk records of recent memory, and you will be doing yourself a great disservice if you dismiss it as novelty. This, my friends, is garage punk music in all its primitive glory. Mix one part wild & thumping garage rock with one part obnoxious punk rock. Add a pinch of hardcore, some budget synth, and lyrics which one esteemed scholar has properly termed "batshit." This is a recipe for greatness. If you enjoy hooting & hollering, filthy guitars, and the sound of an individual trying to beat a drum kit to death, this album will take you to your happy place. Granted, the lyrics are frog-centric. But isn't it logical to expect a man-frog to write about what he knows best? From the opening strains of "Ringe Rock," I knew this album was going to be bonkers in a totally good way. "Pond Scum," an ode to the most disreputable crew in town, is a fiery anthem for all pond scum both literal and figurative. Smash hits such as "One Chord Frog," "Being Louche Is Not A Crime," and "Fuck You, Kermit!" prove to be every bit as raging and raucous. "Good Livin'" is Froggy's life manifesto and a crackling slice of Childish-inspired primitive rock and roll. "Do the Frog" is guaranteed to get the dance floor hopping. Never settling to be a one-dimensional front-frog, Froggy channels an American evangelical preacher on "Growin' Grapes" and works himself into an epic frenzy on the positively blistering "Tadpoles." 

Ringe Rock Pond Scum has reportedly been flying off the shelves since its release last week on Kibou and Amok Records. All the punk rockers and garage fanatics know this record is no joke. I have not heard this style of music executed this perfectly in quite some time. Musically, lyrically, and spiritually, this album is what all garage punk records should aspire to be. It begs to be played loud while the drink flows. Order a copy while you still can!

Monday, July 04, 2022

Danny Despicable - All the things I wish that I could say

Seldom in life does it work out that when you're left wanting more, you actually receive more. But in the case of Danny Despicable's new EP, I have been fortunate to have more than doubled my exposure to this exceptionally talented songwriter. Danny Despicable is Daniel Seliski, guitarist in Breaklights. On Breaklights' new album Wind Down, Dan wrote and sang three tracks. I was especially blown away by the songs "Aging Well" and "Fairview, 1991" -- two of the album's standout numbers. Immediately I found myself looking forward to more "Dan" songs on future Breaklights releases. Much to my delight, it was brought to my attention that no waiting was necessary since Dan has released a solo EP as well. All the things I wish that I could say marks Dan's triumphant return after a 15-year hiatus from writing and singing his own songs. As he struggled adjusting to pandemic life in 2020, he found solace in writing new material. A few of those tracks ended up on Wind Down, but another five became All the things I wish that I could say. The title pretty much says it all: these are Dan's deepest thoughts and emotions conveyed through song. Listening to his songs on Wind Down, I was blown away by Dan's honest reflections on dealing with life's disappointments and unexpected turns. I was hoping for some similar songs on the solo EP, and I was not letdown. So if any of you enjoyed Dan's contributions to Wind Down as I did, I highly recommend checking out All the things I wish that I could say as well. A couple of tracks are straight-forward pop-punk, but my favorite songs here are in what you'd call a "singer/songwriter" style. I like the intimate feel of songs like "Everything I've Got" and "Better Or Worse." The arrangements are simple, and Dan focuses on pouring out his heart. On "Everything I've Got," he agonizes over what could never be. "Better Or Worse" could almost be a companion piece to "Aging Well." One of Dan's strong suits as a writer is in confronting how life rarely unfolds as planned. This can be true for an individual or for two people growing and changing together. 

While officially a Danny Despicable solo effort, All the things I wish that I could say also features the contributions of Steve Lopez, Mark Reed, Bryan Bush, and Tron Carter. Dan has written more songs for this project and intends to make it a full-time band by the end of 2022. The "rockers" on this EP (especially "Norway Bound") are great fun, but for me it's the three ballads that justify the price of admission. I'm not usually a big ballad guy, but these ones are tremendously well-done and really moving. You can stream this EP from Apple Music or order a copy on compact disc from Otitis Media Records!

Saturday, July 02, 2022

The Bishop's Daredevil Stunt Club - Please Stand By

I have had the pleasure of reviewing a few singles from The Bishop's Daredevil Stunt Club in the recent past, and today I get to dig into a full album from this Chicago-based power pop group! Please Stand By is the band's first album since 2019. The title is an amusing nod to the lull between albums precipitated by an unprecedented global pandemic. Weren't all of us trapped in "please stand by" mode at some point over the last couple of years? For a while, it was uncertain if this band would even live to make another record! But here we are in the summer of 2022, and The Bishop's Daredevil Stunt Club is ready to resume its regularly-scheduled programming. Singer/guitarist William Giricz wrote 27 songs for this release, giving the band plenty of material to choose from as it assembled this 12-track long player. What results is an album very typical of The Bishop's Daredevil Stunt Club: a collection of hooky, rocking tunes overlapping the worlds of power pop, '70s arena rock, and '90s alt-rock. This release worships at the altar of a certain band from Rockford, and that can only be a good thing (especially when you've got a singer with pipes like Giricz!). 

If you missed out on the BDSC's superb run of singles over the past year ("Tremor Control II," "Hold You Up," "Fifty Foot Woman"), you're in luck: they're all included on the album. Other obvious hits include the big rocking opener "Pony Up" (a song which dares us all to go out there and live it up), the textbook power pop of "Joni, It's Not Like That," the frenetic glam rock of "Silverball," and the unabashedly Cheap Trick-ish "Taking A Dive." Giricz and powerhouse drummer Dave Boenzi put on a rock clinic over the course of these 12 tracks, treating us to a tasty selection of should-be radio hits and premium deep cuts (on "Bah Bah Bah (Sing Along Song)," Giricz summons his inner Freddie Mercury to delightful effect). An album three years in the making, Please Stand By has a triumphant feel to it. The Bishop's Daredevil Stunt Club has been un-paused and turned loose to rock. This is a perfect album for the mid-summer and a highly recommended release for those who like their power pop with plenty of power. It's available now from Bandcamp, Apple Music, and Spotify!

Friday, July 01, 2022

Mikey Erg - Love At Leeds

After listening to Mikey Erg's new album Love At Leeds, all I could say to myself was "Holy crap!". It's not that I'm surprised that Mikey Erg made a great record. It was 22 years ago that I wrote my first rave review of an Ergs! release. I have consistently referred to The Ergs! as THE greatest pop-punk band post-2000, and I have not been disappointed whatsoever with Mikey's recent run of solo albums. That said, Love At Leeds is next level stuff. Of course I'd be burying the lede if I didn't mention that this release fulfills Mikey's life-long dream of recording an album with Steve Albini. With his talented Tentative Decisions players (Jeff Rosenstock, Alex Clute, and Lou Hanman) in tow, Mikey headed out to Chicago last year to make a record with the legendary sound engineer. Mikey had always wanted to capture the "Steve Albini sound" on record (Nirvana's In Utero is one of his favorite albums), and he fully realizes that ambition on the extraordinary Love At Leeds. Does that mean that this is Mikey's "grunge" record? Not quite. This still sounds very much like a Mikey Erg album -- albeit one sonically influenced by '90s indie/alternative rock. It continues the direction of Tentative Decisions and 2019's superb Waxbuilt Castles -- occasionally dipping its toes into the pop-punk pool but also drawing from Mikey's myriad of influences in the larger worlds of pop and rock. 

It's necessary to mention that Love at Leeds sounds amazing. This was Mikey Erg's first-ever all-analog recording, and the results do not disappoint. I don't know if this is a "power pop" record per se, but it's very powerful and very pop. The guitars and drums in particular sound like a million bucks. Yet what matters the most is that this is as strong of a batch of songs as Mikey has ever written. Songs like "Caroline Told Me So" and "Almost Like Judee Still" reaffirm that this guy is a master of the pop-punk craft. But this album hits its high points when Mikey strays from formula. "Always Like This" is dark, hard-rocking, and packed with raw emotion. "Goodnight Vienna" is pure pop done to perfection. The standout "Landmines" manages to acknowledge Mikey's love for Nirvana without trying to be Nirvana. "On a Carousel" is exactly what a Hollies cover recorded by Steve Albini ought to sound like. 

You have to wonder if the Mikey Erg of 22 years ago ever dreamed that someday an album of his would be recorded by Steve Albini and mastered by Chris Bellman at Bernie Grundman Mastering. He's probably still pinching himself to make sure this is all for real! From the moment I first heard the likes of "Thinking With My Heart" and "Blue" all those years ago, I knew Mikey was destined for great things. He really is one of the finest singer/songwriters in the modern-day pop word, and he's only getting better at his craft. Love At Leeds is his crowning achievement to date. Get it now from Don Giovanni Records! 

Vista Blue - Stay Gold

One of my favorite bands has done a full-length tribute to a classic work of American literature? Sign me up! Stay Gold, Vista Blue's tribute to S.E. Hinton's 1967 novel (and later Francis Ford Coppola's motion picture) The Outsiders, has just received its digital release in advance of physical releases expected late this year or early next year. If you love The Outsiders (who doesn't?) and/or love Vista Blue, you just can't go wrong with Stay Gold. As you would expect, the band shows tremendous love for the book and the movie. You can tell this album was made by Outsiders super-fans. Just as importantly, Vista Blue has made a record that truly does justice to this iconic tale. A lame Outsiders tribute would have been a bitter letdown. But this just might be Vista Blue's very best out of 50+ releases so far! The songs loosely follow the plot of the story, and the lyrics are inspired by quotes from the novel (OF COURSE an album about The Outsiders would have to start with a song called "Paul Newman and a Ride Home"!). Stylistically, this is vintage Vista Blue stuff: think buzzing guitars, stellar harmonies, and choruses that will take you straight to pop heaven. But I love how this album stretches beyond pop-punk in ways that seem suitable to a tale set in 1960s America. Featuring vocals by Reese Chism and red-hot lead guitar from Chris Billiot, the rock and roll ripper "We Turn It Up" is a delightfully unexpected turn from Nashville's pop heartthrobs (best lyric: "We think the Beatles are rank/but Elvis is tuff"). The band fully flexes its power pop chops on the Mike and Andy Miller penned "So Tuff." "Marcia," guest starring the great Jeff Schroeck on lead guitar, would slot nicely on a playlist between The Everly Brothers and Buddy Holly. As you would expect and hope for from a pop-punk-ish Outsiders homage, there's a smash hit titled "Cherry" and a track called "She's a Soc." Perfectly, the album concludes with the 1-2 punch of "Rumble at the Vacant Lot" and the epic "In the Country." I'm not crying -- you're crying! 

Out of Vista Blue's many brilliant ideas for themed releases, Stay Gold is easily one of the most inspired. The Outsiders is a beloved piece of American popular culture and a tale well-suited to Vista Blue's musical and lyrical style. It's kid-friendly but equally relatable to adults. Seriously: what could be more "pop-punk" than songs about teenage gangs, loud music, and unattainable girls? This was a wonderful concept for an album, and its execution could not have been better. I would most definitely rank tracks like "Friday Night," "Rumble at the Vacant Lot," and of course "Cherry" in the highest echelon of Vista Blue songs. I have a feeling this release will lead more than a few people to read (or re-read) The Outsiders. So now you've got something to add to your summer playlist and your summer reading list. Stay Gold is currently a free download from Bandcamp!