Tuesday, November 29, 2022

Dany Laj & The Looks - "You Should Know"

Installments in the I-94 Recordings "Detroit covers B-sides" 7" series have been arriving regularly and impressively. Release #7 in the series comes from some great friends to this blog — Dany Laj & The Looks. I'm always excited about new music from Dany and Jeanette. "You Should Know" and "I'm So Glad" are their first new tracks in nearly a year and a half. Back when Ten Easy Pieces came out, I actually thought the Flyers had a Cup-contending team (take whatever time you need to cease laughing). Man, things can sure change in a hurry! But one thing that will never change is being able to rely on Dany Laj & The Looks to deliver the goods. Dany and Jeanette recorded this release with pals Anna and Mike Mernieks-Duffield. That makes this particular iteration of the band a collaboration of two couples, and you can feel that dynamic in the warmth of the title track. 

"You Should Know" is one of the most traditional rock and roll songs that Dany Laj & The Looks have ever done. It's a very simple song, yet it's executed wonderfully. Doo wop and girl group influences are front and center, and I'm also catching serious Buddy Holly vibes. Fine details such as the backing vocals and twangy guitar tone are immediately pleasing to the ear. But ultimately this song works because of its genuine sentiment and timeless melodies. What a catchy tune! It seems redundant to say that this is a terrific little pop song when this band is all about terrific pop songs. But I think you'll understand what I mean. Drop the needle on this track, and you'll be transported to the late '50s or early '60s. For the B-side, the Laj time machine stops off in 1967. The Detroit cover is essentially a cover of a cover. "I'm So Glad" was originally written and recorded by Delta bluesman Skip James in 1931. Detroit's The Scot Richard Case had a regional hit in '67 with a psychedelic rock version of the song. That recording was the inspiration for the B-side of this very record. Laj & The Looks definitely put their own twist on the song. But if I didn't know any better, I would think this track was actually recorded in the late '60s. It sounds that authentic to they heyday of psych rock. I'm usually very, very "meh" about the psych thing, but I can't deny that I'm impressed with this take on "I'm So Glad." It totally rocks, and the musicianship is out of this world. 

Most people have their story about the first fun thing they did when lockdown ended. Dany Laj and Jeanette Dowling hung out with a couple of dear friends and eventually had them come down to make a record in the middle of a May heatwave. And now we can all enjoy the fruits of those sessions! "You Should Know" is available now from the I-94 Recordings web site. As usual with this series, there are many different sleeve variations and vinyl colors to choose from. Quite a few are already sold out, so hop on over to the site and check out the tantalizing options that still remain. And look for Dany Laj & The Looks to be touring everywhere in 2023!

Sunday, November 27, 2022

The Beatersband - VOL​.​TRE


Back with the third installment in a series that began with 2019's VOL UNO, Italian trio The Beatersband delivers eight more fantastic covers of 1950s and '60s pop and rock and roll standards on the newly released VOL​.​TRE. The concept is simple yet so perfectly executed: The Beatersband revisits timeless oldies, adding a modern pop-punk touch but never messing with the essence of the original versions. Half the fun is the band's selection of material, which is once again absolutely impeccable. Donatella, Leonardo, and company always choose the classics of the classics. Yet even though you've heard these songs countless times, The Beatersband re-does them in a way that makes you delighted to hear them again. VOL​.​TRE finds the band tackling the Arthur Alexander/Elvis Presley favorite "Burning Love," the Ronettes' beloved "Be My Baby," Del Shannon's iconic "Runaway," Dusty Springfield's 1963 hit "I Only Want to Be With You" (my favorite song of all-time!), Eddie Cochran's essential rocker "C'mon Everybody," the Wild Ones/Troggs classic "Wild Thing," Conway Twitty's 1958 rock and roll smash "It's Only Make Believe," and Jackie DeShannon's oft-covered masterpiece "When You Walk In The Room." That's an untouchable set of songs, and the success of The Beatersband is in not trying to do too much. What we have here are punched-up yet completely faithful versions of perfect songs. The singing and musicianship are top-notch, and you can feel the love in every note. 

I always love pop-punk bands that acknowledge the roots of the genre, and The Beatersband takes that mission very literally. VOL​.​TRE, like its predecessors, is a true celebration of rock and roll and the timeless songs that have brought joy to several generations. Some listeners will hear these songs and want to seek out the original versions. Others will hear these tunes and have warm recollections of the music they grew up with or were introduced to by their parents or grandparents. It's such a music reviewer cliché to talk about what a marvelous thing rock and roll is, but hearing this album makes me want to shout it from the rooftops anyway. I hope this album series continues for a long time to come! 

Saturday, November 26, 2022

Sino Hearts - Lightening the Darkness

One thing that frustrates me about doing this blog is that there's so much great music coming out that I just don't have the time to properly keep up with. For example, I've been sleeping for months on the latest album from Sino Hearts, which is by far the band's best release yet. So in the way of taking care of some unfinished business on this holiday weekend, I must offer a few words on Lightening the Darkness. I suppose you could call this Sino Hearts' "COVID" album. It was recorded during lockdowns in Beijing from 2020-21. And while the songs aren't necessarily about the pandemic, you can sense the darker feel in the lyrics and even some of the music. Like all of us, songwriter/lead singer Zhong lived through this time when isolation, fear, and an overwhelming sense of restriction took hold. Consequently, Lightening the Darkness is reflective of the times in which it was created. It cuts deeper than previous releases without losing the catchy hooks. 

As the title suggests, this is far from a gloomy album. There's light and dark in these songs, and ultimately Zhong and his band mates don't stray that far from their signature power pop punk style. But on this album, you can hear Sino Hearts broadening their sound and pulling in influences ranging from classic post-punk to modern indie rock. This gives the album a mellower feel at times, yet Zhong's flair for tuneful melodies has never been stronger. This is by far Zhong's best batch of songs. And the production (the album was mixed and mastered in Bergamo, Italy by Bruno Barcella and Riccardo Zamboni) is absolutely spectacular. You could view Lightening the Darkness as a departure from its predecessors, but I prefer to think of it as the album where Sino Hearts fully come into their own. From the modern, melodious strains of "Passing Shades" to the warm power pop of "Stranglehold on My Heart" to the straight-up power pop rock and roll of "Falling Out of Love" to the snappy pop of "Commotion of Love" to the vaguely Weezer-ish "2020," this release is packed with top-notch tunes. I know I'm several months late to the party on this one, but I knew I couldn't start drafting my top albums of 2022 list without placing Lightening the Darkness into consideration. It's still available in the U.S. from Otitis Media Records and in Europe from Topsy Turvy/Soundflat Records.

Friday, November 25, 2022

the SUCK - The America 2021 EP

The SUCK could never be accused of making music that says nothing to me about my life. Its 2nd (or, more properly, second and a half) 7", The America 2021 EP, arrives today and includes three songs in which the consumption of beer looms large. In the case of "America 2021," beer is a mechanism integral to coping with the unprecedented shittiness of pandemic life. In the case of "The Pond Diver" and "Playing Swords," the beer consumption gets a little out of hand. Before you know it, people are falling into ponds or finding themselves alone at home entertaining themselves in the most juvenile ways. Playing swords all by yourself may seem like great fun, but remember that the SUCK are trained professionals. Don't try this at home! 

For your convenience and because the SUCK are morally opposed to writing B-sides, all three of these tracks are on one side of the record. You can let the whole record play through without having to put down your beer. These guys thought of everything! Essentially this EP is everything you've come to expect from a SUCK release. There's no fooling around going on: just three tracks of blistering punk rock with guitars at full blast and lyrics so dumb that they're actually smart. Adhering to the most sensible guidelines for good living (listen to HEAD, emulate The Fonz, and never learn a fourth chord), the SUCK continues to give us something to believe in during uncertain times. And from the Dunk, I've learned that every loss is just a reason to get excited about the next win. The latest release on the Problems' venerable imprint Route 13 Recordings, The America 2021 EP spins at 45 RPM and comes with a big hole just as God intended. It is available for purchase now from The Ragpicker Merch. "What would Dunk do?" t-shirts are sold separately (yeah, really!)

The Young Hasselhoffs - Life Got In The Way

Is it possible for a quintessential teenage pop-punk band to fully grow up without losing the charm and appeal of its younger self? That's precisely the magic trick The Young Hasselhoffs have pulled off on their fourth album Life Got In The Way — releasing today on compact disc on Melted/Rum Bar Records.

Nearly a quarter-century has passed since Omaha, Nebraska's The Young Hasselhoffs released their classic debut full-length Win A Date With. They were barely out of high school when that album was written and recorded. Now they're in their 40s. And rather than carrying on like they're still teens, they've made an album that reflects the more serious considerations of adult life. In doing so, they've shattered all notions that pop-punk as a genre is inherently juvenile. Life Got In The Way still sounds like a Young Hasselhoffs album — yet you can hear the progression in craftsmanship and lyrical content that you'd expect from an older, wiser version of the band. 

The CD release of Life Got In The Way is a full circle moment for The Young Hasselhoffs. Nearly 25 years ago, Young Phil sent Malibu Lou a hand-written letter along with a cassette tape of the band's recently recorded songs. Before long, Lou had booked the band's first tour, and the songs on that tape became the signature Melted Records release Win A Date With. The band members eventually parted ways in the early 2000s but briefly reunited in 2011 to record their absolutely splendid third album, The Obsolete Man. Threatened legal action over the band's name (yeah, these guys were Hasseled by the Hoff!) halted the album's release for a decade. For a long time it seemed The Young Hasselhoffs would never be heard from again. Luckily, Young Phil was able to convince Matt Stansbury and Jason Baywatch to give it another go. I say "luckily" because those of us who love pop-punk are fortunate to have this band back in our lives. Nearly two years in the making, Life Got In The Way finds The Young Hasselhoffs coming home in spectacular fashion.  

Even in their earliest days, The Young Hasselhoffs had more refined pop sensibilities than most of their peers in the pop-punk scene. They were one of the earliest bands to connect the dots between the modern pop-punk sound and the tight harmonies and timeless melodies of doo-wop and early rock and roll. So it's no surprise that Life Got In The Way finds the band leaning into its mastery of melodies and harmonies. Stansbury, now based in Colorado, is no doubt one of the finest songwriters in the pop-punk world. With the songs he has written for this new album, he has inched this band closer to a pure pop sound while still retaining just enough of that punk edge. 

Perhaps this is the advantage of writing albums once every ten years, but you can hear the huge forward leap the band took between Get Dumped and The Obsolete Man and again between The Obsolete Man and Life Got In The Way. These new songs won't necessarily clobber you in the head upon first contact, but they'll slowly and surely pull you in with their masterfully-crafted melodies and sophisticated vocal arrangements. Stansbury shows the confidence to experiment with his craft, trying everything from the fully stripped-down "Sweet Matilda" to the almost jazzy "When I'm Gone" to the epic "Pull Me Out of the Scene" (which is practically a pop-punk symphony). But it's the big hooky pop songs that remain his bread and butter. The chorus to "Babydoll" will likely be stuck in my head until the end of time. "Wish You Well" is the kind of song I've been waiting for Green Day to write the past 15 years. "Eugene McCray: Ex-Guitar Hero" is so rousing and anthemic that it practically soars out of your speakers. "Barbara Part 2" is a sequel to a song off of the last album and, true to form, better than the original. The real show-stealer is "Quiet," which features a surprise appearance from Barbara Stansbury on lead vocals. In my book, it's the best tune that Matt Stansbury has ever written. And Barbara's vocal suits the song so perfectly. I've hit the repeat button on this stunner countless times over the past few weeks. 

I had the fortune of seeing The Young Hasselhoffs on their 1998 tour. They were still kids; I was a twentysomething whippersnapper. They quickly won over the crowd with their youthful enthusiasm and genuine love for pop music. What a joy it is to be able to sit here in 2022 and write about those friendly kids from Nebraska — now approaching middle age and cementing their position at the head of pop-punk's master class. I'm sure there will be some odd dissenters who will wish this band were still writing songs about pretty girls and teenage romance. But for most fans of The Young Hasselhoffs, Life Got In The Way will be a delightful reminder that your favorite bands can grow up with you and still remain great. Don't get me wrong: I still consider Win a Date With one of the best and most definitive '90s pop-punk albums. But it was merely a precursor to what this band would later achieve. Touching on such topics as marital love, deferred dreams, and compromised ideals, Life Got In The Way is an album this band might have not been ready to make 20 or even 10 years ago. Mom's Basement Records will be releasing a vinyl edition very soon. Pre-orders are now open via the label's online store

Monday, November 21, 2022

Tommy Ray! - "Every Way I'm Moving"

Tommy Ray!, whose music I last reviewed in May of last year, has a recent single out on the digital platforms that is well worth the attention of anyone who enjoys power pop. I have been an admirer of Ray's talents since the earliest days of this blog — which shockingly now date back to 11 years ago. As great of a band as The Cry! was, I'm finding the Tommy Ray! solo stuff to be at a whole other level. Ray has always had a flair for a memorable melody and a perfect hook. But lyrically, he's really hitting his stride with songs that absolutely nail what it's like to be a young adult struggling to figure out life. It was Paul Westerberg who famously wrote about missing "the whole first rung" on the ladder of success. Tommy Ray! seems to be living that life, and I continue to be blown away by his brutal honesty and keen self-awareness. He's never afraid to cut himself open in a song. The new single "Every Way I'm Moving" is typical of a Tommy Ray! song in the respect that it's a bitter pill to swallow lyrically yet so musically intoxicating with its sweet melodies and gorgeous guitars. If you've ever felt like you were going nowhere while everything was falling apart around you, you'll be feeling lyrics like these:

I can't stand the pain/
If you turn and walk away/
I got one food in the grave/
And the other's in the way/
Of every thing I'm doing/
And every way I'm moving 

Wow, that's powerful stuff. Elsewhere Ray ponders that "it's easy to laugh at a day's gone past when hindsight's in your face" before asking the musical question "What would you do if it was you stuck here in my place?" And that's spot-on. No matter how times many people assure you that things will ultimately get better, that's little solace when the short term is so hard to bear. While far from a "feelgood" song, "Every Way I'm Moving" is perfect pop in just about every respect. Every time I get to the end of the song, I want to play it again. Sometimes we don't need music to make us feel good. Sometimes we need it to make us feel less alone in the world. While "Every Way I'm Moving" is a song very personal to Tommy Ray!, it's sure to strike a chord with a whole lot of people.

Sunday, November 20, 2022

The Kickboy - "Kids"

Brand spanking new from Delaware-based The Kickboy, "Kids" is the kind of song that reminds me why I keep coming back to punk rock again and again after decades and decades. When it hits the spot, there's nothing in the musical universe more thrilling and invigorating than punk rock. And let me tell you: "Kids" hits the spot! If you love ripping old school punk rock, this missile of a tune will be music to your ears. One fan's description was "Like Gang Green playing early L7," and that hits the nail on the head. To my ears, this also sounds like early California punk meets The Stooges. The lineup on this recording is Bobbi Kaeppler on vocals (accurately described as a "female Kevin Prostitute" by the great Troy Canady), Vincent Kilpatrick (The Keefs, Negative Zeros) on bass, Thom Lennon on guitars, and Lennon UK on drums. This tune has attitude and energy for days. The sound is raw and muscular with a crackling vocal and a lead guitar break that will melt your face off. I urge my influential friends to play "Kids" on the their radio shows and give it a shout-out on their blogs. This band is the real deal. A full-length album is expected next year!

Friday, November 18, 2022

Ralphie's Red Ryders - "Triple Dog Dare"

There is a sizeable contingent of humans who would consider it a breach of etiquette for a music blogger to review Christmas music before American Thanksgiving. For that very reason, I'm holding off on a writeup of a Christmas song that I believe should become a new holiday standard. I take my etiquette breaches seriously. And thus today I present my dedicated readers the latest single from Ralphie's Red Ryders, which is about a breach of etiquette. Some will call me out for trying to trick them into Christmas creeping, but I will forever maintain that "Triple Dog Dare" transcends the holidays. It's a cautionary tale of what happens when the hasty neglect of established norms amplifies peer pressure. People get hurt. Fire trucks show up. And the guilt you feel is far worse than any punishment you might receive. Having long ago requested that Ralphie's Red Ryders record a song about a triple dog dare, I am most pleased that this song now exists. And I couldn't be happier with the way it turned out. In the patented musical style of their beloved 2020 debut album You'll Shoot Your Eye Out, Ralphie, Flick, and Schwartz recount the tale of the world's most famous triple dog dare. That chorus is so simple yet so perfect. And I believe Miss Shields would consider this theme worthy of at least a B+. Long after the Christmas decorations go down and holiday cheer gives way to seasonal affective disorder, "Triple Dog Dare" will still be relevant. For as long as poles remain frozen and kids remain uneducated on the thermal conductivity of metal, even the slightest breach of etiquette can have dire consequences. Trust science, kids. 

The Speedways - Talk of the Town

Talk of the Town is the third album by The Speedways and one of my most eagerly awaited releases of 2022. It lives up to its expectations and then some. This release on Snap!! Records, Hurrah Musica, and Beluga Records is the third album in a trilogy that began over four years ago with Just Another Regular Summer  — Matt Julian's love letter to a special moment in his life. It was designed as a one-off solo project, and I lamented falling in love with a new band that was essentially over as soon as it started. But then Julian reconsidered the dissolution of his one-man project and recruited Mauro Venegas, Adrian Alfonso, and Kris Hood to join him in making The Speedways a proper band. The masses rejoiced, and 2020's Radio Sounds became one of those rare sequels that are even better than the original. I named it my #1 album of 2020. A global pandemic sidelined the band for the better part of two years, but now The Speedways return with part three of their love story. Every word of it is true, and every note is a delight. 

Talk of the Town is a difficult record for me to describe. In a way, it's the perfect power pop record. In another way, it finds The Speedways moving past the bounds of power pop. So here's how I'll put it: if you loved Just Another Regular Summer and Radio Sounds, you'll love Talk of the Town. That's a guarantee. But there are also people who might not generally describe themselves as fans of power pop or who have never even heard of power pop who will love this record as well. This is an album for anyone who enjoys melody-driven pop and rock and relates to songs about love, loss, jealousy, and heartbreak. Yes, it's a vintage Speedways album. But it delivers a sound that's bigger and (in the words of the band) more cinematic than ever. In terms of musicianship and production, this album far exceeds its predecessors. This would have been a major label release a few decades back. It's also a total group effort featuring songwriting contributions from three members and lead vocals from both Julian and Venegas. Like Radio SoundsTalk of the Town is so stacked with pop gems that it's hard to identify which songs are the hits. The rocker "Dead from the Heart Down" is that stone cold killer leadoff track that every great album needs. "Secrets Secrets" would be a chart-topper in some alternate universe where they still play great pop songs on the radio. The 7" cuts "Shoulda Known" and "A Drop In The Ocean" still have Speedway fans brawling in pubs over which of the two is better. "Weekend 155" and "Monday Was The Start Of The Stars (To Forgive & Forget)" deliver widescreen drama in spades. "A Song Called Jayne & A Lie Called Love" features a hook that will be stuck in my head until the end of time. With its funky rhythm and intricate guitar work, the title track finds The Speedways exploring new territory to brilliant effect. If we don't someday hear "Wrong Place Wrong Time" playing over the closing credits of an epic romance movie, it will be a terrible shame. Stop me before I mention every song on the album! 

As I consider their existing trilogy of albums, I find it remarkable how seamlessly The Speedways have evolved from a DIY solo project to an internationally beloved rock and roll band. One man's artistic vision has become the shared vision of four exceptional musicians with complementary styles and talents. Regardless of who's writing or singing, each of Talk of the Town's 12 (or 13) tracks sounds familiarly like The Speedways. Talk of the Town doesn't dramatically alter the band's approach, but it continues a progression that's been evident with each new release. You can still count on The Speedways to churn out timeless three-minute love songs with hooks for days. But I love that these guys are mixing in everything from Thin Lizzy guitars to '80s synths to Dexys homages and making it all sound like it was meant to be. Perhaps it was. The title track — perhaps Julian's crowning achievement as a songwriter — came to him in a dream. Is it possible to make a crowd-pleasing power pop album even as you're pushing the boundaries of what the genre can be? The Speedways have shown us that the answer is yes! Talk of the Town releases this coming Monday in the digital and CD formats. Vinyl will be out next month. Pre-orders are live now, so hop to it!

Thursday, November 17, 2022

Nasty Rumors - Bloody Hell, What A Pity!

Nasty Rumors are definitely my cup of tea. This particular tea is a Swiss import with a distinctively British flavor. And let me tell you, it's a premium product! There is nothing I love more in music than 1977 U.K. punk rock. Bloody Hell, What A Pity!, the new album from Bern's Nasty Rumors, sounds like a long-lost U.K. punk LP from 1977 or '78. And I am here for it! What a thrill it is to hear this style of music carried off not only faithfully but also brilliantly. If you took all the best parts of the Lurkers, Boys, Vibrators, Buzzcocks, and Generation X and mixed them together with a pinch of the Ramones, you'd basically have Nasty Rumors. This band has been on my radar going back to 2016, but Bloody Hell takes things to another level. Out on the always-dependable Wanda Records, this album is a 12-track blitzkrieg of sing-along pogo punk goodness. The band's approach runs the gamut from snotty to poppy to anthemic, which makes for a tremendously satisfying selection of songs. There was a time in my life when I traversed miles and miles trying to track down albums like this one. These guys have nailed the style and delivered top-quality tunes to boot. Bloody Hell has absolutely earned a spot on my record shelf next to the classics. If you want to hear the sound of 1977 in 2022, there's no one doing it better than Nasty Rumors!

Saturday, November 12, 2022

Ingrates - "Don't Be a Stranger"

As a couple of my like-minded and far more talented associates have already reported, the new Ingrates single is a must-hear. On "Don't Be a Stranger," its third single, the now-trio from California's High Desert continues to sound like some long-lost glam-tinged first wave UK punk band. Again the analog approach gives the band's recordings an old school feel that nicely dirties up its pop sensibilities. I could sneak one of these tunes onto a playlist of obscure '77 punk A-sides, and few people would be able to tell. One thing I'm noticing about Ingrates is that they truly aspire to write anthems. The title track here is downright inspirational — urging the listener to remain resilient, fearless, and determined no matter how hard life gets. That's some solid life advice, and Ingrates dispense it with tremendous conviction. Man, this song makes me wanna go out and kick some ass! The lead guitar sound and general pacing of the song acknowledge a big glam/bovver influence. Like Mick Fletcher, I'm catching Cock Sparrer vibes. And there's nothing wrong with that at all! On the B-side, "I Don't Care" is a faster and more straight-up rockin' number with lyrics exploring how insufferable our public discourse has become in the age social media. Check out this verse:

Everyone's got an opinion
They wanna tell you what they think
But they can't tell their ass from their elbow
When they're pissin' in the bathroom sink

My god, that's hilarious....and so completely true! 

Now with three excellent singles to their name in less than a year, Ingrates are officially a force to be reckoned with. I'd say it's about time for an album! 

Rabbit - good love is a hot chip

Rabbit, a foursome out of Hobart, Tasmania, debuted last year with one of the most promising punk rock singles of recent memory. A year later, Rabbit has fulfilled that promise with a truly exceptional debut album. Out now on cassette on Hobart's Rough Skies Records, good love is a hot chip follows in the grand tradition of Aussie punk rock. Bookended by the perfect punky power pop of "Sunday Best" and last year's debut stunner "Gone Gone Gone," good love delivers plenty of what we had hoped for from a Rabbit debut album along with some pleasant surprises. The band proudly wears its Australian punk lineage across nine excellent tracks — delivering a splendid mix of tuneful punk rippers, super-tough power pop tunes, and epic ballads. The two ballads, running a total of 13 minutes, are well-placed in the middle of the set. This gives the album a satisfying flow. It comes on with a jolt of energy ("Sunday Best" and "Safeguard" are as good of a 1-2 leadoff punch as I've heard on any album this year) before giving way to the softer reflections of "The Path Now Passed" and "The Bones of Kinder Things." And then just like that, "Yanya" ushers in a thrilling sprint to the finish. Even with the pair of six minute plus numbers included, this album feels lean and always leaving me thinking, "Wait, is that all?" The songs are superb all the way through, and the band is truly formidable (vocals, guitar, drums, and bass are all freaking great!). The lyrics are really good as well. Listening to "Gone Gone Gone" again, I can understand why I was so instantly won over by Rabbit. If you wondered whether the band could sustain that sort of quality over a full album, we now have our answer. good love is one of 2022's best long players, and I'm sure many of you eagerly await a proper vinyl release!

Friday, November 11, 2022

The Battlebeats - Get Lost

The dissolution of Phone Jerks has created a power vacuum in the budget rock universe which has left many of us lost and confused. How can one get out of bed in the morning knowing that the title of best garage punk band in the world has been vacated? It is at this trying moment that I look in the direction of Indonesia and ask Andresa Nugraha to don the championship belt. His apprenticeship began three years ago in his bedroom with just a Jaguar guitar, a 15-watt amp, a floor-snare, and a tambourine. By the time COVID shut down the world, his one-man-band The Battlebeats had produced an instant classic debut EP and a crackling full-length album that eventually found its way onto the venerable Alien Snatch Records. Andresa has been putting in the work. He's been practicing his guitar, taking his vitamins, exercising his middle finger, and playing his Teengenerate records until his ears bleed. It is time to proclaim The Battlebeats the kings (or is it just king?) of lo-fi trash. 

The Battlebeats' latest 7", Get Lost, is its second release on Post Party Depression Records and third and final single of 2022. If you missed out on this year's previous two singles (on Otitis Media and Big Neck Records), you'll definitely want to grab this one since it's the best of the whole lot. Andresa describes Get Lost as a "1000% total fuck-you punk rock record," and he's not wrong. 999% would have been more than enough, but he didn't stop until he'd given that last percent of fuck-yous. Now that's commitment to a craft! On this EP, he tears through four tracks of raw & wild buzz-saw punk rock and roll that scorch with attitude but never fail to get your toes tapping. In particular, the bookend tracks "Get Lost" and "I Don't Like You" are everything that garage punk ought to be. All these tunes rip with pure energy and maximum force. It's wild that someone this young could be so in tune with what made trashed-out budget punk so awesome back in the '90s. But thanks to the wonders of modern technology, Andresa was able to discover this music and bring it back with a vengeance. Hail to the king!

Thursday, November 10, 2022

Miesha and The Spanks - "I Can't Wait"/"Dig Me Out"

The latest in an on-going string of smash hits from the illustrious Reta Records is a brand-new 7" which collects a pair of fantastic digital singles released earlier this year by Calgary duo Miesha & The Spanks. I can rarely type the words "double A-side" with a straight face, but in this case it would be a slight to not invoke that very description. Miesha and The Spanks are Miesha Louie and Sean Hamilton. Together they rock harder than any two people have a right to. Their sound is hard to pigeonhole. It's anthemic rock and impassioned punk and infectious power pop all at the same time. Influences from punk's past lay a bedrock foundation, but all in all this band sounds super fresh and totally "now" in 2022. And without a doubt, Miesha Louie is one of the best singers I've heard in today's music scene. She's got an incredible vocal tone which she uses like a force of nature. 

Produced by the Buzzcocks' Danny Farrant along with Paul Rawson, both of this single's tracks sound like they could revive alternative rock radio in all its glory. Originally released in July, "I Can't Wait" is the ultimate feelgood summer song. Its re-release in the middle of November feels like a gift from the music gods. Forget those winter blahs  — they've been canceled! Coming on with massive hooks and an unstoppable, contagious energy, this is a summer jam that hits the spot any day of the year. From the killer riff to the knockout vocal to the explosive chorus, this song is three minutes of non-stop awesomeness. The other hit here has a very different vibe but is a song that the world needs to hear. Originally released in April, "Dig Me Out" is a powerful and deeply emotional reaction to the discovery of 215 child remains at the Kamloops Residential School last year. It's both a passionate indictment of an unspeakable injustice and an empowering anthem for the survivors of residential schools. At a time when the music is sometimes an afterthought in political songs, "Dig Me Out" demonstrates how truly inspired music can enhance the power of the message. Miesha's vocal will give you chills. I urge you all to watch the music video which details the horrific history of North American residential schools. This song and video will get you worked up, and that's a good thing. 

Jamie from Reta Records has again shown her impeccable taste with the addition of Miesha and The Spanks to her star-studded roster. Reta has already released the best EP of the year. Might the label also claim the best single of 2022? We shall see! Following up this single, Miesha and The Spanks have a new album in the works. If these songs are an indication of what's to come, we're in for something special. The new 7" just went up for sale today and is limited to 50 copies hand-cut by Robyn at Red Spade Records. Move quickly if you want in on this action!

Sunday, November 06, 2022

The Vains - My Ammunition

Well here's something new and exciting: The Vains are what happens when New England, U.S.A. meets New Brunswick, Canada. They are like the Franklin Delano Roosevelt Memorial Bridge of punk rock. On vocals is Maritimes garage punk maestro and former baseball great TJ Cabot, taking a much-needed break from his strained relationship with disgruntled bandmates Thee Artificial Rejects. In The Vains, he joins Connecticut-based punk rock luminary Jeffrey Thunders and friends to form your favorite new garage punk group. If you were thinking The Vains might sound like TJ Cabot and Thee Artificial Rejects with better musicianship and production, you're not far off. Out now on Die Hipster! Records, The Vains' debut EP My Ammunition smashes through five tracks of lo-fi punk rock and roll in less than seven minutes. While not quite as "budget" as the TJ Cabot releases, this EP draws from similar influences (Angry Samoans, Saints, Crime) and rips just as hard. Clocking in at just 45 seconds, the title track walks the line between garage punk and hardcore. "Worn Out On You" is exactly what I would have expected from a Cabot/Thunders collaboration, and I love it! "Pinched Nerve" cranks like a long-lost Rip Off Records 45. "Quit Dragging Me Down" recalls some super-tough American punk rock of yore, which is no surprise considering the principals (and principles) involved. Rumor has it that these folks travel to band rehearsal by boat and record in international waters. They are too fierce for one country. The world never heard of The Vains until yesterday, so now you've got a chance to be a founding member of the fan club. Remember this review when you're literally fighting your friends to get your hands on this band's record in a year or two. 

Christopher Peifer - Sacred & Profane

It was a little over two years ago when I first wrote about Christopher Peifer as a solo artist. His debut album Suicide Mission was an unexpected delight that left me publicly hoping for more. And as it turned out, I got what I wished for. Peifer's newest effort Sacred & Profane is his third album in as many years, and it brings into completion his remarkable COVID years trilogy. While still active in several bands (Joy Buzzer, Steve Shiffman & the Land of No, Todd Giudice's Pig Iron), he has established himself as one of the most dependable solo artists in today's power pop scene. He has quickly honed a signature sound built on tuneful melodies, sincere vocals, and relatable lyrics. The essential influences (Elvis Costello, The Replacements, Big Star, etc.) have remained constant, yet Peifer has achieved a wonderful progression across these three releases. In trying times, these albums have been like comfort food for the soul. They've traced our collective journey into the darkness and ultimately back into the light. 

In Peifer's own words, Sacred & Profane explores themes of "love, loss, isolation, reconciliation, reunion, and forward motion." It was written in New York City, Indiana, and the Berkshire mountains of western Massachusetts and recorded in the Hudson Valley with Peifer's frequent collaborator Todd Giudice. Sticking to a winning formula, Peifer has again crafted a quintessential melodic guitar rock album. He's not trying to reinvent the wheel, but he's just so good at writing hooky rock songs that come from the heart. Like the previous two albums in this series, Sacred & Profane is full of autobiographical sketches and personal reflections. Song topics cover everything from unrequited love to the emotional ups and downs of living through unprecedented times to the yearning to return to a simpler life. I have to admit that I got a little choked-up listening to "Best Around," which is a sequel to Peifer's song "The Social Distance." In celebrating that experience of reuniting with loved ones, it reminds me of how far we've come in two years. Elsewhere, "Nowhere Fast" humorously details the frustrations of job hunting in a post-pandemic world. A couple of these tunes feature some of Peifer's finest lyrics to date: "The Long Goodbye" is an eloquent love letter to the city of New York, while "Ruthless Charm" finds its protagonist cleverly ruminating on an ages-ago crush from high school Spanish class. "Wide Receiver," which reflects on the joy of kicking back with an adult beverage and listening to records, makes me wish I did more of that sort of thing. It seems like I'm always listening to music while doing something else (driving, working, shaving, folding laundry, writing). Life is too short to not make time to just listen to music. 

In a way, it seems like only yesterday that I first became aware of Chris Peifer's solo career. But in another way, it seems like a lifetime ago that Suicide Mission greeted my ears for the very first time. How has COVID come and (almost) gone in a flash yet managed to age us all ten years? Closing out with the lines "Dream of now and forever good," Sacred & Profane leaves us with the sense that we've finally turned a corner. Peifer has plans to finally tour in support of his three solo albums next year. He's also teasing some new singles due out in 2023. Sacred & Profane, like its two predecessors, is a reminder that even in an ever-changing world of music, well-crafted pop-rock will never go out of style. Now excuse me while I pour myself a tasty ale and savor these songs.

Friday, November 04, 2022

David Bierman Overdrive - "She Don't Love You"

 I-94 Recordings is on an absolute roll with its "Detroit B-side covers" 7" series. David Bierman Overdrive's "She Don't Love You" is the sixth installment in the series and the fourth to be released this year. It's also the third to feature a Detroit-based band. You may remember David Bierman from his time leading Junk Monkeys — one of the greatest American indie rock and roll bands of the late '80s and early '90s (any fan of this blog would be well-served to track down a copy of the 1992 full-length Bliss). Bierman stepped away from the music business for two decades but resurfaced in 2014 with his new band David Bierman Overdrive. On board were some of the finest musicians in the Detroit rock and roll scene: bassist Kevin Perri (Junk Monkeys, Brian McCarty’s Big Bad Beat), keyboardist Dave Feeny (American Mars, Blanche), guitarist Stephen Palmer (High Strung, Back in Spades), and guitarist Jim Faulkner (Blueflowers, Beggars). This lineup has remained constant since the band's inception. "She Don't Love You" is the band's second single and first new release in five years. The A-side is vintage David Bierman Overdrive — a Replacements-style mid-tempo melodic rocker with a pinch of alt-country. I won't ruin it for you entirely, but I will say the song is far from the total downer you'd expect based on the title. For its Detroit cover on the B-side, the band took on "Nope," a song from Outrageous Cherry's 1997 album Nothing's Gonna Cheer You Up. The original put a noisy '90s spin on classic '60s pop. The DBO version honors the song's timeless melodies even as it remakes it in its signature style. I love that this cover will shine the light on a really great but often overlooked Detroit band. 

With this on-going series of 7" releases, I-94 Recordings celebrates Detroit and also showcases some of the finest bands and artists in today's rock and roll underground. If this is your introduction to David Bierman Overdrive, you can dig deeper into its catalog over at its Bandcamp page. As is the case for all the installments in the series, "She Don't Love You" is available in many, many different colors of vinyl. Head on over to the I-94 web site to purchase a copy or a bundle of the entire series!