Monday, September 26, 2022

the SUCK​/​Johnny Terrein And The Bad Lieutenants - split 7"

I kind of don't like Ramonescore  — except for when I totally love it! There are a handful of bands in existence that can pull off this very specific genre of music. More often not, for reasons no one can possibly explain, these bands are Canadian. So it makes sense that a Canadian record label would put out a really good Ramonescore record. Faster and Louder Records out of Ontario is responsible for a split 7" pairing London's Johnny Terrein and the Bad Lieutenants with the SUCK from Harrisburg, PA (717 represent!). Of course the SUCK is at a disadvantage in lacking Canadian citizenship. But given that three different American states are in conflict over being able to claim the SUCK, the band's geographical ties are still up in the air. The concept of this release is that each band covers one of the other's songs and also contributes an original song. The headline is that Johnny Terrein and the Bad Lieutenants had the balls to cover THE BEST song by the SUCK: the street rock anthem "Partytown USA." The second headline is that the SUCK's second-best song is on this very record! That's right: I'm going to jump "Cult of the Fonz" over "Fantasy Beer League" on my big board of SUCK songs. It was not an an easy decision, but I carefully considered it over many beers and evenings. I feel like "Cult of the Fonz" is much bigger than just a song. It's practically a way of life. It should be an actual cult. Can you imagine gangs of middle-aged dudes running around in leather jackets? What would that be like? 

Each band here does a very credible job of covering the other. I wasn't sure I could accept any band but the SUCK performing the hallowed "Partytown USA." But Johnny Terrein and the Bad Lieutenants pretty much crush this song! Their original, "Prisoner," is excellent as well. Perhaps the lesson here is that you can never go wrong with pop culture references. I also like that both of these bands are Ramones-inspired without being Ramones clones. If you like simple and solid no-bullshit three-chord punk rock, this record and these bands are well worth your attention. The 7" officially releases October 1st (the same day the SUCK plays its first-ever live show at Mom's Basement Fest in Youngstown, Ohio!). Blue vinyl is limited to 101 copies, and black is limited to 202. Faster and and Louder Records has no affiliation with this blog — other than that we both had the good sense to steal from the best.

Friday, September 23, 2022

Candy Snatchers - "Shame Shivers"

Installment #5 in the "Detroit cover" 7" series from I-94 Recordings is something truly special: the first new recordings from the legendary Candy Snatchers in 12 years! On the A-side, "Shame Shivers" is an absolutely blazing track that finds Larry May and company in vintage form. Hans Molnar (of The Hellbenders) is on guitar, capably stepping in for the late, great Matthew Odietus. Doug "Goose" Duncan and Sergio "Sgt Stash" Pone pick right up as one of the greatest rhythm sections in modern-day punk rock. And Larry May is...well, Larry May! It would be an understatement to say that he has not mellowed over the years. He still hollers with fury, and I love how fired up he sounds on this blistering number. If you're craving some fast and ferocious punk rock and roll, you've come to the right place! Clocking in at just 76 seconds, "Shame Shivers" will pummel you senseless before you even know what hit you. It leaves you wanting more, but at least you can keep dropping that needle and play it over and over. In keeping with the theme of this 7" series, the B-side had to be a cover of a Detroit artist. The Candy Snatchers chose "Must Be the Cocaine" by the mighty Trash Brats. Talk about a classic! Larry May has referred to the 7" version of this tune as "the greatest song of all-time," so there were certain expectations that these guys would do a great version. I mean, come on: if ever a band was born to cover "Must Be the Cocaine," the Candy Snatchers are it! And now they've gone and proven that on record. This version does not disappoint. I don't want to say they've topped the original, but they've sure made it a Candy Snatchers song! 

"Shame Shivers" is an absolute must-have. It's the freaking Candy Snatchers, man! The single is selling fast, with nine of the colored vinyl variations already gone. You know what to do!

Thursday, September 22, 2022

Geoff Palmer - Standing In the Spotlight

I must admit that when I first heard that Geoff Palmer was covering Dee Dee Ramone's rap album in its entirety, I thought it was a pretty insane idea. But the more I thought about it, the more I warmed up to the concept. Standing In the Spotlight, released in 1989 under the moniker Dee Dee King, is certainly one of the most polarizing albums in the punk rock canon. Not everyone likes it. A great many hate it. But those who love it really love it. Fans of this record will argue that within the Ramones universe, it's highly underrated. Palmer would go as far as to call it a classic, and his version (out now on Stardumb Records) comes from pure love. And that's what has really won me over. A lesser artist may have treated this project like a joke, but Palmer was determined to pay genuine tribute (he even released the album on Dee Dee's birthday). The vocals, arrangements, and musicianship are of the same high standard you'd expect from any Geoff Palmer album. And as a rapper, Palmer can more than hold his own. Palmer clearly has affection for these songs, yet he manages to interpret them in his own unique style. Obviously the target audience is people who are already huge fans of Standing in the Spotlight. But I'm thinking more than a few people will hear this release and give the original another chance — or maybe even listen to it for the first time. 

Typically, I approach a Ramones cover album expecting to love it but ultimately just find myself wishing I were listening to the original. I've had a different experience with Geoff Palmer's Standing In the Spotlight. I kind of thought I might not like it. Then as I kept listening, I thought to myself, "This is actually really good!" Of course Palmer and friends hit "Baby Doll," "Emergency," and "The Crusher" out of the park. But I love what they do with some of the album's less-celebrated tracks. "Mash Potato Time" is tremendous fun and features special appearances by Hayley Crusher Cain on backing vocals, Reid Cain on glockenspiel, and Mass Giorgini on sax. "Poor Little Rich Girl" is a genuinely successful mashup of rap and pop-punk. "German Kid," featuring excellent vocal performances from Hallie Bulleit and Kurt Baker, is a funky and infectious delight. 

I'm sure a lot of people assume that Palmer made this record for shits and giggles. Nothing could be further from the truth. He's a Standing In the Spotlight super-fan, and he took seriously the task of celebrating the album even as he made it his own. He loves this record and hopes you'll love it too. I'm not sure if Palmer will manage to bring any Standing in the Spotlight haters over to the dark side. But if you're like me and were on the fence with this album, Palmer's version just might have you reconsidering your stance. Sweet t-shirt, dude!

Wednesday, September 21, 2022

Protex - Wicked Ways

Protex has released an excellent new album that hardly anyone seems to be talking about. I'm rather shocked by the lack of fanfare for what is truly a top-notch release from a band that helped define power pop/punk music as we know it. Wicked Ways, which was released earlier this summer on Bachelor Records, was recently made available on Bandcamp. If you're a fan of Protex or power pop in general, you really need to hear this album. While Aidan Murtagh is the only original member in this current lineup, Wicked Ways is 100% a vintage Protex release. It finds Murtagh teaching a master class in power pop/punk songwriting. There's nothing fancy going on here: just one near-perfect punchy three-minute love song after another. Who would expect (or want) anything different from Protex? And this is not one of those cases of "It's pretty good for an old band." This album can hang with the best of what's out there in today's power pop world. Murtagh might be the last man standing from the golden era of Protex, but he has definitely found the right players to keep the band going strong. Don't sleep on Wicked Ways!

MOM - Fun 'N Games

Now here's a match made in power pop heaven: Malmö, Sweden's MOM, premiere pop hitmakers of the modern day, are putting out an EP on the illustrious Snap!! Records next month. Titled Fun 'N Games, the new EP will be available soon on 7" vinyl. It's available for digital purchase now through Bandcamp. These four tunes feature the classic MOM sound: mega-catchy bubblegum pop with a new wave edge. One of these tracks, "To the Beat," was released as a free digital single earlier this year. The other three are all-new and most definitely of the style and quality we've come to expect from Donny, Luke, Frank, and Spike. In particular, "Dreaming" and "Now Until Forever" are new high marks of the MOM hit parade. This is infectious, feelgood music full of melodies and choruses you'll be humming and singing all day long. When it comes to writing a great hook and laying down sugar-sweet harmonies, MOM just can't be beat. Any of these songs could pass for a forgotten pop hit from the '70s or early '80s, yet there's something about this band's energy that makes them feel new. MOM makes music for teenage romantics — and their cool parents. In what kind of sick world is "Now and Forever" not all over the radio? You know you're doing something right when Snap!! Records comes calling. The 7", limited to 300 copies, will be available October 14th!

Friday, September 16, 2022

Lorne Behrman - A Little Midnight

A Little Midnight
, the debut full-length album from Lorne Behrman, fulfills the considerable promise of last year's wonderfully surprising EP When I Hit the Floor. After decades as a premiere punk rock guitar slinger, Behrman found himself in uncharted territory as a singer, songwriter, and lead artist. Yet he stepped comfortably and confidently into this new phase of his career, producing a debut EP crafted under the influence of Bob Dylan, Lou Reed, and vintage New York City punk rock. A Little Midnight has a similar poetic punk feel but broadens Behrman's musical palette. It is, as he says, the "full span" of who he is as a musician. These are the songs that were always in his heart and mind, now finally captured on record. In spots, he embraces the simplicity and efficiency of punk rock in its purest form. In other spots, he proves himself a formidable and powerful balladeer. And of course he delivers a few tunes that will bring to mind the heyday of Television, Richard Hell, and Jim Carroll. 

Listening to A Little Midnight is a "best of both worlds" type experience: you get tremendous depth and sophistication in the music, yet the songs come and go long before they wear out their welcome (total running time for ten tracks is just 21 minutes). Behrman is the kind of songwriter who's unafraid to cut himself open, and certainly the ten New York City vignettes that comprise this album were largely inspired by his own life. The songs' protagonists face setbacks, heartbreaks, disappointments, and loss. They are haunted by the past and struggle to find their way forward. Yet in the end, hope prevails and better things await. As fellow humans, we can relate to these songs because we have similar stories. I'm not sure what specific qualities a singer/songwriter has to have to make you want to root for them. But whatever they are, Lorne Behrman has got them. And while it goes without saying that the lead guitar work on these tracks is absolutely fantastic, it's a joy to hear the other aspects of Behrman's craft coming into their own. He has taken that half-spoken style of singing and fully made it his own. And in terms of writing songs with strong melodies, he has made a huge leap forward on this album. Just listen to the quintessential New York City rock and roll of "Monday Morning Rain" or the stunning ballad "You Won't Live In This Past" — this is the work of a real songwriter, not just a guitarist writing songs. 

If When I Hit the Floor had you hoping that Lorne Behrman would continue his journey as a solo artist, A Little Midnight will make you glad that he did. It brings you everything from punk rock jolts of energy (the title track and "Love Stumbles By") to soulful Stonesy rockers ("Harlem River Serenade") to Dylan-esque ballads ("Further On Down the Road") to gospelized spoken word exercises ("Well, I Can't Hold You"). Working with drummer Hector Lopez (Alejandro Escovedo/The Sweet Things) and veteran producer Matt Chiaravalle (who also plays bass and keyboards), Behrman has created his magnum opus. It's in spirit a definitive NYC punk rock album, yet it's so much more than that. It's the work of a gifted, immensely human songwriter who wears his love for New York on his sleeve. Buy it now on compact disc from Spaghetty Town Records for just five dollars plus postage!

Thursday, September 15, 2022

Bart and the Brats - self titled

Following a 10", a 7", and a split 7" with Take the City, France's Bart and the Brats have unleashed their proper debut LP via two of the greatest punk record labels ever: No Front Teeth and Big Neck Records. And as expected, it's a smashing slab of wax! Bart and the Brats are the solo project of the prolific punk musician Bart De Vraantijk (Pneumonias, Wild Zeros, Teenage Hearts, The Janitors, etc.). With this project, Bart hones in on the classic '77 punk sound — taking equal inspiration from both sides of the Atlantic. If you dig The Kids, Zeros, the first two Ramones albums, and the tougher/snottier side of early U.K. punk, then Bart and the Brats will be right up your alley. You know I'm always a sucker for the classic '77 sound, and Bart really hits the sweet spot on these 12 ripping tracks. He knows how to write a rockin' punk tune that will get your head bobbing and your toes tapping. There's no fooling around here: every song gets the job done in two minutes or thereabouts, and then it's on to the next one. With this being a Bart De Vraantijk project, you know you're getting a little of that garage/budget rawness in the production and performance. But stylistically, this album is all about the sound of '77. Bart is a master at writing catchy tunes that are chock full of attitude, and he has delivered the goods on this self-titled release. If ever an album existed that needed to be co-released by Big Neck and No Front Teeth, this is the one!

Tuesday, September 13, 2022

Hayley and the Crushers - Modern Adult Kicks

Hayley and the Crushers were already one of my favorite bands. So it feels a little strange for me to say they've made an album that completely blows away everything they've done before. But sure enough, Modern Adult Kicks (out today on Kitten Robot Records) is a next-level step for the now Detroit-based Crushers. This album, my friends, is everything. Remarkably, the band has managed to make a very serious album without losing the fundamental joy of the Crushers experience. If you're putting on this record with expectations of punk, pop, and fun, you will not be disappointed. But it's a different kind of fun on this record — one that the band has pulled off marvelously. 

As the title suggests, Modern Adult Kicks finds Hayley and the Crushers fully embracing maturity. That can be the kiss of death for a punk-pop band, but the "grown-up" Crushers are truly the best version of themselves. Of all the pandemic inspired albums I've heard over the last two and a half years, Modern Adult Kicks is definitely my favorite. It's not necessarily about the pandemic, but it was inspired by all the heavy real-life stuff the band members went through post-COVID. Songs on this release address themes such as isolation, disappointment, addiction & co-dependency, longing, disillusionment, and just general angst. At a time when almost all of us have been "going through some shit," this album has the feel of the Crushers giving the world a great big hug and telling us that it's okay to not be okay (but to always keep dancing!). As I ponder how I've largely suppressed my own pandemic anxieties for the past 30 months, I find myself really feeling Modern Adult Kicks. I was either going to have this album in my life or one day randomly have a breakdown in the cereal aisle at Target. 

One thing that I appreciate about Modern Adult Kicks is how perfectly the Crushers' recent singles ("Cul de Sac," "She Drives," "Click and Act Now!") fit in with the album as a whole. I remember hearing "Cul de Sac" for the first time and thinking, "Wow, this is an amazing new direction for the Crushers." Now I'm hearing the fulfillment of this direction on Modern Adult Kicks, and I'm blown away. Working with legendary producer Paul Roessler, the band has achieved a timeless yet modern new wave pop-rock sound that demonstrates that a punk band can grow up and still be, you know, punk! And with Roessler's support, Hayley Cain has elevated her singing talents to new heights. Vocally, she taps into emotions ranging from sorrowful to angry to tender to wistful to wicked to feisty  — and every note rings true. Hayley and the Crushers have always had a knack for writing those immediately catchy pop songs, but Modern Adult Kicks is full of tunes that slowly and sneakily get into your bones. The album's absolutely perfect side 1 culminates with two such songs: the intensely emotional "Broken Window" and the deeply yearning "I Fall." The aforementioned "Cul de Sac" and "She Drives," exceptional singles in their own right, take on a new power within the flow of this album. 

As serious of an album as Modern Adult Kicks is, it's not without its lighter and brighter moments. "Click and Act Now!", which hilariously skewers late night TV infomercials and shady product pitchmen, will have you starting a mosh pit in your own living room. "California Sober" pokes fun at people who get high and call it "spiritual." "No Substitute" is a wonderfully uplifting cover of The Shivvers' power pop cult classic. "Overexposed" is a reflective and nostalgic recollection of the heyday of online chatrooms. Altogether, this album is as advertised. It finds Hayley and Dr. Cain navigating growth, change, and the sometimes unpleasant realities of adult life in this post-pandemic world. And yet that light that Hayley and the Crushers have always emitted shines as brightly as ever. They are here to remind us that when real life knocks us down or sets us back, our best choice is to keep grinding and hold on to hope. The irony of 2020-21 being such a tough spell for the Crushers is that it was also when Josie Cotton recognized their talents and welcomed them to her record label. The Crushers have benefited greatly from working with a label and producer that fully "get" them. Combine that with a heavy dose of real-life inspiration, and you've got a formula for something special. I can't even name a favorite song off this record because I have a different one every day. If "maturity" for Hayley and the Crushers means such things as emulating Pat Benatar and writing songs inspired by Ira Levin novels, then I am all about it. Get your Modern Adult Kicks on blue-raspberry vinyl while supplies last!

Friday, September 09, 2022

The Prize - Wrong Side of Town

And now with the best debut release I've heard in 2022 (so far), we have a crackling four-song EP from Melbourne's newest power pop sensations The Prize. Out on Anti Fade Records, Wrong Side of Town features three fantastic original songs and a killer cover of the Incredible Kidda Band's 1979 single "Fighting My Way Back." Drummer Nadine Muller and guitarists Carey Paterson & Joseph Imfeld were previously in the also-excellent Mr. Teenage. The newer band's lineup is rounded out by guitarist Austin Haire and bassist Jack Kong. I really liked Mr. Teenage, but I absolutely love The Prize. This band is straight up my alley, playing prototypical Aussie power pop with a punk influence. The title track is truly a perfect punky pop song. And that Kidda Band cover manages to take a power pop classic and double the power! If you like catchy melodic tunes featuring loud guitars (three of 'em, in fact!) and maximum energy, you're gonna go wild for The Prize! A first pressing of Wrong Side of Town has already sold out, but a second pressing will be available at month's end. Get your preorders in!

Thursday, September 08, 2022

Muck and the Mires - "Beat Revolution"

Now here's a political campaign we can all get behind! Muck and the Mires are rallying the troops to mount a beat revolution. The mission, co-sponsored by Dirty Water and Rum Bar Records, is simple enough. If you wanna listen to the sounds you've been missin', you are qualified to join Muck's army. The enemy is soulless corporate pop music. The end goal is real music on the radio to get the masses dancing and singing along. Your role in the revolution is easy enough: all you gotta do is tune in to their station! Given the importance of this endeavor, Muck and the Mires have launched a promotional video for recruitment purposes. "Beat Revolution" features the signature Muck sound — recalling '64 era Beatles if they'd somehow time traveled into the future and heard the Ramones. This song and video leave no doubt as to what the Beat Revolution is all about. Sign me up! The Bill of Rock protects our rights to hear great music! Full album coming soon from Dirty Water Records!

Monday, September 05, 2022

The Trouble Seekers - self titled

Well that sure didn't take very long! Back in March, I mentioned that The Trouble Seekers were hoping to connect with a like-minded record label and do a full-length album release. Ruined Records ended up being that label, and the band's self-titled full-length release is now on the street! This duo made up of Kevin McGovern (The Prostitutes) and Hillary Burton (honeychain, The Pandoras) continues to prove there's plenty of room for originality and innovation in punk rock. Seriously: there's nothing out there in the world of music that sounds quite like this band's blend of synth-punk, dark new wave, dystopian soundtrack, and post-modern rock and roll. 

Shockingly, this is the first 12" vinyl that McGovern has released since The Prostitutes' Can't Teach Kids Responsibility came out 25 years ago. He shared with me that The Trouble Seekers, in some warped way, feels like the proper follow-up to Can't Teach Kids Responsibility. Way back in 1998, he was envisioning a new direction for The Prostitutes that would have involved the addition of synthesizer, female vocals, and moody tempos. Lacking the right collaborators to make this happen, he put this vision on hold and never really got it back until last year when he and his friend Burton decided to make music together. And once these two got together, everything clicked. McGovern and Burton work perfectly together — not just as co-vocalists but also as complementary creative forces. The Trouble Seekers' 15-track debut album retains the snarl, sharp edge, and pure intensity of The Prostitutes' recordings. But it moves that energy in new and exciting directions. The Trouble Seekers are moodier, stranger, and far more experimental than even the later Prostitutes were. Yet this isn't just experimentation for experimentation's sake. This is creativity without restriction in fulfillment of a vision. These are your most troubling nightmares set to music you can dance to on the apocalyptic ruins. 

So here we have the record that Kevin McGovern wanted to make 24 years ago. Would the world have been ready for this in 1998? Would he have been ready for this? I'm usually lukewarm on the whole idea of synth-punk, and perhaps that's because it rarely comes out this good. These tunes, while definitely "out there," are exceptionally well-crafted and sneakily tuneful. And I like that I'm hearing two familiar voices coming together to create something that's even more than the sum of its parts. Sometimes leaning more punk rock ("Beautiful Doom," "Falling in a Dream," "Cruel Summer"), other times leaning more new wave ("Out of Order," "Endless City"), and other times adhering to no conventions whatsoever, this album manages to be informed by new wave era reference points even as it drags them kicking and screaming into the 21st Century. A case in point are the album's two cover songs: hyper-imaginative re-workings of Cheap Trick's "He's a Whore" and Madonna's "Borderline" that will just about blow your mind. Priced right at just 15 bucks plus postage, this face-melting debut from The Trouble Seekers can be yours if you hit up the Ruined Records web site!

Sunday, September 04, 2022

Kevin Stevenson - Reality Alley

One of the very finest songwriters to come out of the '90s/2000s punk rock scene, Kevin Stevenson is a legend in his native Lowell, Massachusetts and criminally overlooked just about everywhere else. That may change with the release of the former Shods front-man's debut solo album Reality Alley on Rum Bar Records. Originally released digitally this past June, Reality Alley now exists on shiny compact disc — one copy of which has been in heavy rotation in my car player for weeks. 

It has been a long time since we've heard new songs from Stevenson, and unsurprisingly Reality Alley is loaded with inspired material. Given the diverse musical offerings of any given Shods album, it seems almost unnecessary to say that Reality Alley covers a lot of ground. But seriously: it covers a lot of ground! This album is informed by sounds ranging from rock to punk to pop to reggae to rhythm & blues to folk to jazz. There's even a nod to Grandmaster Flash! The album was recorded while Stevenson was living in the Exarchia neighborhood of Athens, Greece. This afforded him the opportunity to work with top-notch veteran producer George Priniotakis and a superb cast of studio musicians. Compared to the relatively low-key productions of a Shods record, Reality Alley sounds massive. On these songs, Stevenson is supported by a dynamite horn section (Yannis Karagiannakis, Kostas Staikos, Aggelos Tzamatias), a chorus of back-up singers, keyboards, and even a little Theremin (courtesy of Eddie Dyer). If you had told me this album was recorded for a major label in the '70s, I wouldn't have doubted it! All this stellar musicianship works because it serves an exceptional set of songs. The raw material was clearly there, and it's a joy to hear Stevenson flesh out these tunes to the highest possible degree. 

Even with its warm, polished sound, Reality Alley retains the grit and down-to-earth personality of its creator. Over the course of 15 tracks (not one of them a dud), Stevenson reminds us all of who he is: a gifted storyteller, a masterful and deeply human songwriter, and an immensely likeable, one-of-a-kind character. You hear that voice, and you immediately know whom you're listening to. "Lowell Night," a vivid portrait of the town's local color, has the feel of a pub ballad of yore. "Torr Skoog" is intensely personal and absolutely heartbreaking. Songs like "50 Bucks" and "Death Jackets" wrap super-dark lyrical content into vibrant and alluring musical packages. Tracks such as "We Know Everyone," "Jack Daniels," and "Drug City USA" highlight Stevenson's flair for huge, indelible choruses. With its hummable melody and invigorating energy, "Brand New Day" immediately feels like a song I've known my whole life.  

As I've watched Malibu Lou bring more and more of the finest-ever Boston-area punk/garage talent into the Rum Bar family, I found myself wondering who would be next. The answer is Kevin Stevenson, who makes a perfect addition to the Rum Bar roster. Reality Alley was a good while in the making, and you know Stevenson has had a few of these songs in his head for a long time (as this video filmed in 2016 attests). It's an absolute treat for all of us that Reality Alley is now out into the world and reaching ears across the globe. When the likes of Boston Groupie News and Greg Lonesome are dishing out rave reviews, you know you're getting into something special. Whether you are a longtime Shods fan or simply crave music with heart and guts, this is an album well worth your attention.

Friday, September 02, 2022

The Airport 77s - "One Good Thing About Summer"

The Airport 77s, authors of one of my favorite albums of last year, are set to release a new LP titled We Realize You Have A Choice on the illustrious JEM Records. I first heard The Airport 77s in January of last year, which for some reason now feels like a million years ago. Since then, the Maryland-based power pop trio has released a couple of singles for JEM and contributed to the label's recent tribute to Pete Townshend. In advance of the new album, the band has a brand-new single out called "One Good Thing About Summer." In keeping with the band's clever lyrical style, "One Good Thing About Summer" proceeds to list a litany of things about summer that actually suck (and it's hard for me to disagree with most of them!). Yet at a deeper level, this is an exceptionally sweet love song. You have to love a tune that manages to tug at the old heartstrings and make you laugh out loud. This song could easily be mistaken for some hidden gem of early '80s power pop that you never heard before. Legend has it that The Airport 77s formed over a shared love of The Jags' "Back of My Hand" and 20/20's "Nuclear Boy." "One Good Thing About Summer" would slot perfectly between those two songs on a playlist. That hook is a thing of beauty: so simple yet so undeniably, unstoppably catchy. It will make you wanna buy the full album, which you will have the opportunity to do starting on September 30th!

The Sorels - Love Your Rock N' Roll


Surely it would have been premature of me to have rated The Sorels as one of the best bands in the world when they had only released four songs. But that changes on this glorious day on which The Sorels double their recorded output with the release of their third 7" Love Your Rock N' Roll. The math teacher in me has spoken: eight is enough! The Sorels can no longer be denied their rightful place in the top tier of present-day rock and roll bands. If you're not yet hip to Canada's tiniest and toughest girl gang, you are depriving yourself of hours of joy and excitement. 

Another fab co-release between the world-renowned labels Reta Records and Surfin' Ki Records, Love Your Rock N' Roll delivers four tracks of glam-punk rock and roll goodness that will have you clapping your hands, stomping your feet, dancing in delight, singing along at the top of your lungs, and getting frisky with your significant other. While it didn't debut until the middle of August, the title track is 2022's song of the summer, hands down. You simply won't hear music more exuberant, catchy, and rocking than this. As you and your friends seek to fill the remaining weeks of summer with as much adventure and good times as humanly possible, "Love Your Rock N' Roll" ought to be your soundtrack. If The Shangri-Las had been reborn as a glam rock act in 1973, they might have produced a song this good! But this EP is no one-song wonder. The absolutely wonderful "The Jerk" finds The Sorels digging deep into their '60s girl group influences. "Make Me Party" is the kind of song that makes The Sorels special: it takes elements of glam rock, soul music, and straight-up rock and roll and creates something new and unique. The lead vocal on this track is one of the best I've heard in a long time (Jo Jo has powerful pipes and the charisma to match). And you've got to love that sax! Love Your Rock N' Roll closes with a powerhouse version of The Hello's 1973 single "Another School Day" that fits perfectly with the rest of the EP. 

The Sorels have followed two dynamite singles with by far their best release to date. I would challenge anyone to listen to Love Your Rock N' Roll and say with a a straight face that rock and roll is dead. Jo Jo, Jill, and Jennifer absolutely smashed it with this release. This EP has got everything you could want from a rock and roll record: amazing songs, incredible vocals, perfect backups & harmonies, smoking guitars, arena-sized drums, and a bad-ass attitude and unstoppable life force that come pouring out of every note. How can you listen to music like this and not feel happy to be alive? This release is limited to just 300 copies on bubblegum blast, red, and black vinyl. And as they say in the ads, supplies are running out! Hit up Reta Records on Bandcamp and the Surfin' Ki web store to get your orders in!

Sunday, August 28, 2022

The Melmacs - "Saturday Night"

The Melmacs continue their carefully-scheduled teasing of their soon-to-be-released blockbuster debut album with the debut of the new single and music video "Saturday Night." The fourth single off of the forthcoming long player Good Advice, "Saturday Night" is a little bit of a change of pace from the bouncing powerpop/punk of the previous ones. Here The Melmacs slow things down and deliver a reflective sing-along anthem on what happens when a Saturday night doesn't quite live up to expectations. I love that the song shows us a different side of The Melmacs, and now it's certain that live audiences will be showing up with lighters in tow expecting to hear it! The music video, which takes some inspiration from Queen's iconic "Bohemian Rhapsody" video, is a real delight. Well, my friends, we're getting closer. Just one more month to go before Good Advice hits the streets and becomes your favorite album of the year. Smash that pre-order link if you wanna be at the head of the line!

Saturday, August 27, 2022

Hayley and the Crushers - "Taboo"

Concluding a remarkable run of singles leading up to their forthcoming album Modern Adult Kicks, Hayley and the Crushers have released the wickedly tantalizing "Taboo." Since signing to Josie Cotton's Kitten Robot Records last summer, the Crushers have continued to surprise and delight with each new song they've released. That continues with "Taboo," a song that blasts like an early '80s pop-rock radio smash yet retains a cool, modern edge. This is a sinister song with a sinister hook. By the time you realize how catchy "Taboo" is, you're already caught. Reliable sources tell me this song is written from the perspective of a snake eating its prey, but at a broader level it's about chasing forbidden desires. Who can't relate to that at some level? The band is openly channeling a Pat Benatar energy on this track, which tickles me since my nine-year-old self played Crimes of Passion to death (on 8-track tape, no less!). I don't want to spoil too much about Modern Adult Kicks since I have a full review to write in a couple of weeks. But I will say that as I've listened to the album, I've been struck by how amazing Hayley Cain's voice sounds. Perhaps it's the emotional range of the material on the album. Perhaps it's having a producer who fully "gets" the band. Whatever it is, I feel like I've never fully appreciated what a powerhouse voice Hayley has. If "Taboo" came on the radio, you'd definitely stop and think, "That's a star!" 

The Crushers have released a music video for "Taboo," and it's absolutely bonkers. Say what you want about technology's impact on the world of music. One thing that has to go in the plus column is that the social media age has revived the music video as a vital art form. A video isn't just a promotional tool -- it's a means for bands like Hayley and the Crushers to show the world who they. If you stumbled upon this clip, you would immediately understand what it means to exist in the Crusherverse. Like the song itself, the "Taboo" video is captivating, wonderfully weird, and a whole lot of fun. It also allows the Crushers to celebrate their new home base of Detroit. Modern Adult Kicks will be out on limited blue raspberry vinyl September 13th on Kitten Robot Records. Head on over to the Kitten Robot store to pre-order!

Friday, August 26, 2022

Natalie Sweet & Brad Marino - "Second Time"/"Over My Head"

You can probably imagine how excited I was when I heard that Natalie Sweet and Brad Marino would be collaborating on a new single. These are two of my favorite people in music joining forces to make a record with my two favorite labels. I knew this was a huge deal, and the resulting release does not disappoint. Out today on Reta Records and Rum Bar Records, "Second Time"/"Over My Head" features brand-new smash hits from both of these amazing artists. But this is no ordinary split single -- it's a true collaboration! Sweet and Marino each came to this project with a new song idea and then benefited from having the other add parts to it. Each track is in the signature style of its lead artist, but the input of both songwriters is easy to hear. That says a lot about the talent of these two individuals, but it also says a lot about how well their musical styles complement each other. 

If you're a fan of the punky new wave power pop that Sweet specializes in, "Second Time" will have you shouting in delight. I love the way Sweet and Marino have crafted a massively-catchy and musically upbeat tune that tackles a bummer theme: getting dumped...twice. Songs about heartbreak are the lifeblood of power pop, and this one doubles down on the formula. Perhaps you'll relate due to personal experience. Perhaps you'll be moved by Sweet's genuine storytelling. Either way, you'll be dancing and singing along in no-time flat. In some alternative universe where it's eternally 1982, this song is already rocketing up the charts! Storytelling also looms large in the Marino/Sweet duet "Over My Head." With the two singers trading parts, you get immensely differing points of view of the same romantic entanglement. In fact, it seems the male character is slow to realize that it even is an entanglement. That is the source of the tension -- and joy -- in this song. Somehow "Over My Head" ends up being both hilarious and relatable -- quite a winning combination. Marino has a knack for writing songs like this that recall the pure pop side of the Ramones, and Sweet's additions put this tune over the top. 

It all started with Natalie Sweet seeking connection during the pandemic. She went looking for cool people to write songs with, and Brad Marino answered the call. I knew these two would make an awesome record together, but "Second Time"/"Over My Head" is even beyond what I was expecting. These are two of the best pop songs of this year or any other. Sweet and Marino make a formidable duo, and it will be a major disappoint if they don't record together again. If you wish to own a vinyl copy (three versions are available!) of "Second Time"/"Over My Head," you are advised to hit up the Reta and Rum Bar Bandcamps sooner rather than later! Seriously: do it!  

Sunday, August 21, 2022

Kurt Baker - "Electric Fire"

Back with his first original track with his full band since the highly tremendous After Party LP came out two years ago, Kurt Baker totally brings the rock on his brand-new Wicked Cool Records single "Electric Fire." Co-written with Geoff Palmer, "Electric Fire" tackles one of the most enduring themes in popular music: that rock and roll is the best cure for whatever ails you. Born out of the frustrations of the last few years, this song celebrates the healing and life-affirming powers of the greatest form of music ever invented. A rock and roll song about rock and roll is most definitely a hit-or-miss undertaking. Luckily, "Electric Fire" totally hits. The style and personality of both the song's authors come shining through on this upbeat and insanely catchy track. Baker and Palmer have managed to inject a punk/power pop/rock and roll stomper with an Elvis influence, and it works like a dream. If you like big hooks, ripping guitars, and the most righteous rock and roll piano this side of Little Richard, you need some "Electric Fire" in your life! I love that the lyrics embrace numerous ridiculous rock and roll clichés in the most awesome way imaginable. 

I've never seen Kurt Baker play live, but I have this perception of him as this super-energetic performer who realizes that people come to rock and roll shows to forget about their troubles and experience pure joy. "Electric Fire" is a reminder that he's a fan as well as a performer and that the energy he brings to the world is the same energy that feeds him. The song takes the best parts of the last 67 years of rock and roll and creates something new and exciting to lift your spirits. If you've been having a bad day or a bad year or a bad three years, Kurt Baker's got a sure-fire prescription for your soul!

Friday, August 19, 2022

Ricky Rat - Ghosts of Isolation

Ricky Rat is a legendary figure in glam-punk and Detroit rock and roll. The longtime Trash Brats and Lovemasters guitarist has played with everyone from the Dead Boys to Kevin K to Mike Skill. He has also had a great run as a solo artist over the past decade, which continues with his terrific new album Ghosts of Isolation (out now on I-94 Recordings). Ghosts of Isolation can be properly described as a vintage Ricky Rat recording. It exists in a world where glam rock, punk, power pop, and boozy rock and roll are not separate genres but rather complementary facets of a distinct musical aesthetic. Behold the master at work! 

Ghosts of Isolation is one of those albums that has something for everyone. The title track is a punk rock anthem with one foot in power pop - the sort of song that has been a Ricky Rat specialty for decades. Elsewhere Ricky goes all-in on power pop on the sentimental numbers "Lakepointe Nights" and "Dream That Can Never Be," hits the old school country sweet spot on "Bottom of My Heart," tears into some quintessential trashy rock and roll on "I Can't See Shit," and puts his signature stylings on the Jimmy Cliff classic "Sitting In Limbo." And as was often the case on Trash Brats releases, it's the deep cuts that really make Ghosts Of Isolation. Songs such as "Glow of Gabriel's," "When We Were the Boys," and "Singing with Angels" find their author pouring out his heart and shining as a storyteller and songwriter.  

Ricky Rat takes his solo artistry to another level on Ghosts of Isolation. He has never put his name on a finer collection of tunes, and this album has the feel of an autobiography. Over the course of ten tracks, he reflects on lost love, old friends, good times, and a life in rock and roll. Backed by Joe Leone and Laura Mendoza (as well as special guest stars Jimmie Bones, Jackson Smith, Brad Elvis, and Chloe Orwell), he has delivered an album imbued with the beating heart of the great city of Detroit. It's available now on black and silver vinyl from the I-94 Recordings web site!

Thursday, August 18, 2022

Rad Max - "Extraterrestrial Radio"

Rad Max is a band that always puts a smile on my face. No matter how depressing this world gets, it's impossible to not feel good when a Rad Max song is playing. The Portland-based new wave foursome is a ray of sunshine in today's music scene, and new single "Extraterrestrial Radio" is a perfect example of that. While there are numerous '80s pop culture references in the cover art and lyrics, this is probably Rad Max's most "contemporary" song yet. It's a heartfelt tribute to independent radio stations and the DJs who support all of those underground bands we love so dearly. It's also an astute commentary on the soulless nature of modern-day corporate radio. Check out these lyrics:

I don't heart your radio/
You've got your algo in my rhythm/
Give me music by aliens/
So I can rock out with 'em

Did they hit the nail on the head, or what? I love the metaphor of this whole big beautiful underground music scene of ours being a community of aliens. And in typical Rad Max style, "Extraterrestrial Radio" radiates a special kind of energy that will have you dancing and singing along in no time flat. The song is available now from all the streaming sites. And if you listen to a lot of independent and underground radio, you'll surely hear it in regular rotation. Indeed, give me music by aliens!

Sunday, August 07, 2022

The Speedways - "Shoulda Known"/"A Drop in the Ocean"

Well this was a very nice surprise! I was fired up to write about a brand-new Speedways single at the end of this month. And then just like that, said single popped up on Bandcamp a few weeks early -- accompanied by a shiny new music video. On that note, let us welcome to the world the first new original songs from The Speedways in over two years! It's no secret that The Speedways are one of my favorite bands (perhaps even my singular favorite band at this point). I've been waiting a long time to hear these tunes, and they do not disappoint. "Shoulda Known"/"A Drop in the Ocean" will be available soon on vinyl from Snap!!/Hurrah Musica & Beluga Records. These two Matt Julian/Mauro Venegas compositions are vintage Speedways songs in both style and theme. "Shoulda Known" is two minutes and 53 seconds of power pop bliss featuring a knockout chorus and a typically impassioned lead vocal from Julian. As Speedways songs tend to do, "Shoulda Known" laments the devastation of heartbreak -- in this case, one that would have seemed inevitable to any clear-thinking person. But rarely do we as humans think clearly when it comes to matters of the heart. Your head tells you one thing, but your heart tells you another. And as you invariably find yourself picking up the pieces, you thank the heavens that Speedways songs exist. Shot & produced by Jez Leather, the music video for "Shoulda Known" is a fantastic-looking performance clip filmed on location at The Lexington in London. 

While I sometimes struggle to type the words "double A-side" with a straight face, the phrase is unavoidable in the case of this single. I've been so stymied trying to decide whether "Shoulda Known" or "Drop in the Ocean" is "the hit" that I've thrown my hands in the air and called it a tie. With "Drop in the Ocean," The Speedways have managed to churn out a radio-worthy ballad of such grandeur that it somehow makes me nostalgic for 1980s school dances that I never actually attended. Matt Julian always sings these epic tearjerkers like he means it. His secret is that he really does. And that melody is to die for. What kind of shit world are we living in where a song like this is not all over the radio?

"Shoulda Known"​/​"A Drop In The Ocean" is an absolute must for power pop fans. It arrives in advance of The Speedways' forthcoming LP Talk of the Town, which is due out in November. You can pre-order the vinyl single at The Speedways Bandcamp. That cover art looks familiar, doesn't it? Call me if you figure it out.

Saturday, August 06, 2022

More Kicks - Animal

More Kicks are big favorites of this blog's readership, and that will certainly continue with the release of the great new 7" EP Animal on legendary labels Dirtnap and Stardumb Records. The title track, a preview of the band's forthcoming LP Punch Drunk, sounds like nothing this band has ever done before. Yet it's another reminder of why James Sullivan is one of the most highly-regarded songwriters in the punk/garage/power pop universe. "Animal" is a pop song, no doubt -- but one with a hard, angular edge and brutally self-aware lyrics. You always expect this band to deliver the goods, but this is next-level stuff. The song opens with a riff that brings to mind a post-punk band trying to play "My Sharona," and there are echoes of Pete Shelley in Sulli's phrasing. If you like catchy riffs, catchy choruses, and catchy everything, you need "Animal" on your summer playlist. I'm absolutely fascinated by these lyrics. When Sulli sings, "But the human world to me it seems too full/I'd rather jack it in to be an animal," I can't decide whether we're supposed to fear him or want to join him. Exclusive to this 7" are the two B-side tracks. "The Wind Up" is in the band's usual wheelhouse of consummate crunching power trio pop but with slightly noisier leanings. "10 Miles High" is a lovely little acoustic number that leaves a perfect melody floating in your head. If these gentlemen can leave songs this good off the album, you know the album is going to be something else! Punch Drunk releases September 16th. Click here for complete pre-ordering information!

Friday, August 05, 2022

JEM Records Celebrates Pete Townshend

It delights me that the JEM Records Celebrates series is turning into an annual event. Previous editions honoring the songs of John Lennon and Brian Wilson have set the bar for what all tribute albums should aspire to be. Producer/director/label president Marty Scott has found the formula for success: turn to one of the finest label rosters in the power pop world and trust these talented bands and artists to creatively interpret some of the best songs ever written. Out today on vinyl, CD, and digital formats, JEM Records Celebrates Pete Townshend is another smashing success. It's also a wonderful full circle moment for Marty Scott, who came up with the idea to start importing records while he was searching for a copy of The Who's Direct Hits during a trip to England. The rest, as they say, is history!

As much as I appreciate the greatness and importance of John Lennon and Brian Wilson, I have an emotional connection to this installment of the series that I didn't have with the previous two. In my youth, The Who was by far my favorite classic rock band. And as a lifelong power pop fanatic, I consider The Who to be foundational to the genre (Townshend himself coined the term). If these JEM artists had managed to screw up a Pete Townshend tribute, I would not have been reluctant to air my grievances. But my only grievance with this album is that it has left me wanting more! Right off the bat, Lisa Mychols & Super 8 turn in a stunning and completely unexpected arrangement of "Baba O'Reilly" that is the first of many "Wow!" moments on this compilation. Others include the same band's jazzy rendition of "I Can't Explain," The Grip Weeds' masterful take on "A Quick One," and The Airport 77s' successful mashup of "Substitute" and "Won't Get Fooled Again." With this being a JEM release, I was hoping for a few of these bands/artists to deliver the goods power pop style. I was not disappointed! In particular, The Midnight Callers ("Let My Love Open the Door"), Nick Piunti ("The Seeker"), and The Anderson Council ("Mary Anne With The Shaky Hand") turn in inspired, punched-up versions of Townshend-penned classics. Elsewhere, The Gold Needles transform "So Sad About Us" into the best '80s radio hit that never was. And Johnathan Pushkar ("The Kids Are Alright") once again shows that he can make any song sound like something he wrote! 

What I love about JEM Records is that it represents the best of the current generation of power pop and melodic rock. With that in mind, I can't think of another label better suited to properly pull off a tribute to Pete Townshend. The ten bands/artists included on JEM Records Celebrates Pete Townshend are keeping the influence of bands like The Who alive and well in 2022. The music being made by these artists isn't "retro" -- it's timeless. They all must have been incredibly excited to contribute to this release, and it shows. This is truly a first class production featuring musicianship, singing, and creativity worthy of this exalted material. It delivers a great mix of the types of tracks I was hoping to hear and some truly wonderful surprises. Best of all, this album makes me want to go back and listen to all my Who records! This collection coincides with the label's 50th anniversary, and I can't think of a better way to celebrate five decades of JEM. Whether you're a Who freak like me or just a huge fan of JEM's formidable roster of talent, you should consider JEM Records Celebrates Pete Townshend an essential purchase.