Friday, March 24, 2023

The Trouble Seekers - NERVOUS​/​SCREAM

The Trouble Seekers — Kevin McGovern and Hillary Burton  — are back with a new single called NERVOUS​/​SCREAM. This is already their fifth single and seventh release overall. This strikes me as a bit of a conceptual release since the title evokes a particular sensation while also referring to two distinct songs. As always, Kevin and Hillary bring you the punk/new wave sound of the '80s — the 2080s! I usually find myself kicking and screaming in resistance to any attempts to push the punk genre into the future, but I can't help but love what these two are doing. While almost every other post-punk band is playing checkers, The Trouble Seekers are playing chess and controlling the pieces with their minds. Both of these tunes put the punk back into synth-punk. If you love the way these two create their own unique vision using synthesizers, drum machines, deadly sharp guitars, and awesome dual vocals, these two songs will not disappoint. King Ralph has rightfully appointed "SCREAM" the band's best song yet. I love the way this song musically resembles its lyrics. This is the sound of going nowhere fast towards inevitable combustion. "I lost my mind/It feels alright" is truly a mantra for the new age. What a crackling pairing of songs this is! Digital tracks are available for download now. Preorders are also open for a special cassette version (available only in the United States) which tacks on the entirety of the band's 14 track debut LP along with an alternate mix of its single "Mistake." Supplies are limited to 100 copies; smash that "Buy Cassette" button sooner rather than later!

Thursday, March 23, 2023

Matweeds - Hooligans In The Vestibule

Behold a veritable unearthed treasure from the heyday of Boston punk rock n' roll! Matweeds formed in 1987 from the ashes of two legendary bands: The Dogmatics and Stranglehold. This band was co-fronted by Jerry Lehane and Jim Keough and featured a star-studded cast of players from Boston's garage/punk scene. Hooligans In The Vestibule, the band's sole recording, went unreleased for 36 years. Rum Bar Records has proudly given this EP an official release on glistening compact disc. 

Far from a mere historical artifact or "only for super fans" novelty, Hooligans In The Vestibule is a terrific little EP that's more than worth ten of your hard-earned dollars. In this band, Lehane and Keough shared singing and songwriting duties. Influences run the gamut from Stones/Faces rock n' roll to rhythm & blues to garage rock to hard rock. The band's secret weapon was saxophonist Nate Bowditch. His playing adds something very vital to all of these songs, and it never sounds out of place. Also on board were lead guitarist David Fredette (Titanics), rhythm guitarist Richie McKenzie Hughes (Stranglehold, The Oysters), bassist Frank Schact (Last Stand), keyboardist John Goetchius (Mighty Mighty Bosstones), and drummer David Collins (X-DYS). This EP captures the excitement of a new band still working out its musical identity and having one heck of a good time in the process. The Lehane-penned barroom anthem "Stay" is more than a little reminiscent of The Dogmatics and truly a lost classic of Boston rock n' roll. Honestly it's as good as anything in the Jerry Lehane songbook. "I Can Feel the Fire" is a rollicking rendition of Ronnie Wood's 1974 solo hit. "Devil's Knocking" is a quintessential blues rock party starter. "Your Love Is Worn" is a sincere Stonesy ballad featuring the legendary Rich Gilbert on pedal steel. "What's Your Name" is a more than passable stab at '60s garage/psych. "Fear and Whiskey" and "Kiss" sound like '80s glam metal by way of early Aerosmith. This EP is exactly what you'd expect it to be based on the title and cover art, and it's hard to believe it went unreleased for so long. Clearly this was a band that was on to something good. 

No doubt, Hooligans In The Vestibule is a time capsule of the later '80s Boston rock underground. But the songs more than hold up to the passing of three and a half decades. If you're a regular Rum Bar customer, this one is not to be missed.

Monday, March 20, 2023

The Unknowns - East Coast Low

There have already been some monster LPs released in 2023, and the sophomore album from The Unknowns just might be the best of the lot. The Brisbane-based then-trio released one of the greatest punk albums of the roaring twenties (so far) with Nothing Will Ever Stop back in late 2020. Now a foursome following the addition of The Chats' Eamon Sandwith on guitar, The Unknowns have returned with an even better follow-up. East Coast Low manages to take most of the musical genres I hold dear and mash them together in the most delightful way. Basically the sound is classic punk rock with a ton of energy and catchy tunes (what else would you expect from Australia?). Yet at the same time, this album aligns beautifully with modern-day garage punk, power pop, and straight-up rock n' roll. East Coast Low packs ten tracks of punchy sing-along punk rock into 23 and a half minutes of pure fun. Songs like "Dianne," "Rid of You," "Thinking About You," and "I Don't Know" prove once again that there's a certain kind of itch that only old school punk rock n' roll can scratch. These guys are doing nothing new. But man, they do it so freaking well! If we're talking about the cream of the contemporary Aussie punk crop, The Unknowns have earned a place in the conversation.

Sunday, March 19, 2023

Dave Strong - self titled

Portsmouth, New Hampshire & Portland, Maine–based songwriter Dave Strong (The Pinheads, The Guts, Wimpy Rutherford & The Cryptics) has been playing punk rock music for decades. He has released an absolutely fantastic debut solo album which has been co-released by Phameless Records and This Is Just A Record Label. These songs were previously released as digital singles on Laptop Punk Records, and now they fit together perfectly on an album that blends the best elements of pop-punk and original era rock n' roll. The album features new versions of a couple songs Strong wrote for the Guts ("Katie is a Chainsmoker," "Still Thinkin' About You") along with a slew of catchy, rockin' tunes and great cover versions of Eddie Cochran's "C'mon Everybody" and the Ramones' "She's the One." As a fan of pop-punk bands that trace their sound back to early rock n' roll, I naturally dig Strong's mix of influences. His style leans a little more rock n' roll, and that's perfectly fine with me. As a songwriter, he skillfully combines the simplicity and sing-along hooks of old school pop-punk with the energy and attitude of '50s rock n' roll & rockabilly. These ten tunes are sure to get your toes tapping and your head bobbing. Strong plays many of the instruments himself, but several tracks feature Terry McNulty on upright bass. Fans of Strong's fellow New England mafiosi Kurt Baker, Geoff Palmer, and Brad Marino are sure to dig choice tracks such as "It's Alright" and "Little Girl." And what can I say about a guy who has the balls to cover one of the best Ramones songs and 100% pull it off? No doubt about it, this is a super enjoyable and undeniably strong debut album! CD and cassette versions are available now from This Is Just A Record Label. Vinyl, due out this summer, can be preordered here!

Saturday, March 18, 2023

The Decibels - When Red Lights Flash

Four years ago I remarked how wonderful it was that Sacramento power pop greats The Decibels were still in vintage form in the year 2019. It's even more of a joy to be able to make the same observation in 2023. When Red Lights Flash is The Decibels' fourth album of original material. It arrives 26 years after their first and five years after their third. It was already a work in progress in early 2020, but the band ended up putting the album on hold until last year due to the pandemic. As work resumed on When Red Lights Flash, the band members found themselves notably changed by the pandemic. And thus the album itself changed. The liner notes nicely sum up the difference by saying that if 2018's Scene Not Herd "was the Decibels in 1965, then When Red Lights Flash would be the Decibels in 1967." The implication, of course, is that decades' worth of musical progression were crammed into the two-year jump between 1965 and 1967. One might argue that 2020-2022 was equally revolutionary for society as a whole. 

While The Decibels have not exactly gone full psychedelic on us, When Red Lights Flash does feel weightier and more sophisticated than its predecessors. That said, The Decibels still sound like The Decibels. If anything, I'd say they've never sounded more like a pure pop band. I'm always fond of bands that achieve longevity because it allows them to become better versions of themselves. It's neat to hear these same four players (Brent Seavers, Dean Seavers, Brian Machado, Joe Pach) still doing what they've always done but with the benefit of increased musical skill and decades of added life experience. When Red Lights Flash does not fundamentally change the way The Decibels write songs and play music. But it finds them doing what they do better than they have ever done it before. While I've long romanticized the importance of the band's debut album Create Action! on the modern power pop revival, I have to admit that When Red Lights Flash is a significantly better album. Across these 12 tracks, the band leans into a punchy, melody-driven style of songwriting that's reminiscent of the 1960s yet truly timeless. This is classic Decibels and classic pop defined: ringing melodies, tuneful guitars, dynamic drumming, and hooks for days. While many of these songs were likely written pre-2020, there's little doubt that the seriousness and deep reflectiveness of some of these lyrics were influenced by the pandemic. 

While not quite their "COVID record," When Red Lights Flash is an album The Decibels likely could not have made three or four years ago. This master class work of melodic guitar pop is available now in digital and compact disc formats. Vinyl coming later this year!

Thursday, March 16, 2023

The NAGGS - self titled EP

So I've been absolutely flipping out over the debut EP from The NAGGS! And I think a lot of you will be doing the same within moments. The NAGGS are five women from Düsseldorf who play catchy  punk/powerpop/rock n' roll that's chock full of energy and personality. While three-fifths of the band's self-titled debut is cover material, I don't think that's a minus at all. The cover selections give you great insight into what The Naggs are all about musically. On this release they take on a mega-classic from the almighty Teenage Head ("Picture My Face") along with a couple of golden oldies from the world of powerpop/punk: The Meanies' "It's True" and The Amber Squad's "Can We Go Dancing?" All three covers are performed with maximum enthusiasm and infectious charm. The two originals hold their own alongside such illustrious material. In particular, "Not Her Fate" is a stone cold jam! If this song doesn't fill you with joy and excitement, you are likely a robot. All in all, this is a super-fun debut and a must-hear if you dig rockin' poppy punk. I don't know a whole lot about The NAGGS just yet, but I do know that they've left me wanting more!

Tuesday, March 14, 2023

Golden Richards - "Take a Chance"

You know spring is finally coming when Golden Richards drops a new single. Keeping with their annual tradition of releasing new music in March or April, Gil Golden, Billy Richards, and friends throw it back to the heyday of Van Halen and KISS on the big hooky rock anthem "Take a Chance." Living in that space where hard rock intersects with power pop, "Take a Chance" captures the vibe of summertime adolescent fun circa the late '70s or early '80s. This is the type of song I've been wanting Golden Richards to do for a while, and it totally suits the band's talents. Call it hard power pop or poppy hard rock if you want. But more than anything else, this is just rock n' roll. Billy really gets to show off his pipes, and there are guitar solos all over the place. The song depicts the sort of fun that I always imagined the older kids having when I was a child: driving around in a Pontiac Firebird in search of pretty girls and cheap beer while Van Halen plays in the tape deck. There's even a dance party at the local water tower! As you would expect from a Golden Richards song, there are huge hooks to go with all of that rock. This song romanticizes summer love even as it reminds us how short-lived it inevitably is. How many of our best memories would not exist if we hadn't, uh, taken a chance? If you've liked the direction Golden Richards has taken on recent singles "Shake Your Hair" and "Will I Be Cool," you're gonna love "Take a Chance"! It's ironic to be typing this in thirty-some degree weather with the wind howling, but warm weather is right around the corner. "Take a Chance" will sound great as you cruise the streets with the windows down — even if you don't drive a Firebird.

Saturday, March 11, 2023

The New Brutarians - Don't Want To Know Your Secrets


Hot on the heels of its dynamite debut album Hysteria and in advance of an already-written follow-up, everyone's favorite Florida-based lo-fi pop art minimalist glam punk rock n' roll duo has treated us to a surprise mini-album featuring some of its strongest songs to date. Adam T. and Christina Wright, collectively known as The New Brutarians, have gone back to their roots on the six-song release Don't Want To Know Your Secrets. With inspiration striking, these new songs came to be. Rather than wait to record them later, the duo cut them live in all their glorious rawness. In contrast to the (relatively) produced sound of the LP, these tracks have a looser, more spontaneous feel that's reminiscent of the band's debut single. Yet in terms of the quality of the songwriting, these tunes are miles ahead of what The New Brutarians were doing back in the year that cannot be mentioned. "I Don't Want To Know Your Secrets" is "vintage" New Brutarians and a perfect choice for a leadoff/title track. Adam channels his inner Stiv Bators on this Velvets inspired lo-fi toe-tapper, and the keyboards add a whole new dimension to the song. "In My Next Life" is my pick for the "hit" here. It features some of Adam's best-ever lyrics and a melody you can hum all day. Depending on your point of view, it's either folky punk rock or punky folk rock. Is there really a difference? "Enterprise" is one of those songs that slowly works its way into your soul and becomes unshakeable. With its kiss of saxophone and avant garde feel, "Delta Blue" sounds like it should be emanating from someone's New York City apartment at 3:00 AM. "Hollywood" could almost pass for a missing track off G N' R Lies. In keeping with The New Brutarians' history of standout cover songs, the album closes with a spooky and artistic interpretation of Bob Dylan's modern classic "Standing in the Doorway." 

If you're like me and consider The New Brutarians one of the freshest and most exciting acts in today's underground rock n' roll scene, you will not be disappointed with Don't Want To Know Your Secrets. Certainly it's going to be some time before the duo's next full-length sees the light of day. This excellent mini-album is an unexpected treat in the interim. And how great is that cover art? This release is available for your listening pleasure from YouTube, Apple Music, and Spotify. Look for a limited edition cassette pressing coming soon on Bandcamp!

Saturday, March 04, 2023

The Fastbacks - "A Quiet Night"

Well, this is kind of a big deal. The mighty, legendary Fastbacks have released a new single — the band's first new recordings in over 20 years! "A Quiet Night" is a brand-new song and "vintage Fastbacks" in every respect. "Outer Space" is a gorgeous and altogether extraordinary cover of The Muffs' late '90s pop gem. What else needs to be said? This is the triumphant and unexpected return of one of the greatest bands to ever put music to tape. They've given us a long-awaited new tune and paid a truly beautiful tribute to Kim Shattuck. Buy and rejoice!

The Whiffs - Scratch 'N' Sniff

Alright, power pop fans: this is the one you've been waiting for. The Whiffs are back with their second full-length release, and they aren't messing with a winning recipe. Scratch 'N' Sniff finds the Kansas City–based foursome sticking to a classic sound rooted in '70s power pop and the timeless melodies of the British Invasion. Rory Cameron, Zach Campbell, and Joey Rubbish continue to split singing and songwriting duties. And with all that talent involved, you know to expect one great tune after another. Remember how in the heyday of power pop there would often be a discernable drop-off in quality or an unsuccessful stylistic shift between a band's first and second album? The Whiffs suffer from no such sophomore jinx. They're still pop-rock classicists, and they're in top form. Packed full of tuneful melodies, tight harmonies, punchy guitars, and big hooks, Scratch 'N' Sniff is basically an even better version of 2019's Another Whiff. If you keep going back to The Nerves, Big Star, The Raspberries, Shoes, etc. and lament that "nobody makes music like this anymore," I can assure you that The Whiffs absolutely do. The term "power pop" means different things to different people. The Whiffs' style of power pop, to me, is rock and roll in one of its purest forms. Scratch 'N' Sniff is like comfort food for the ears, and it can hold its own with just about any of your go-to '70s power pop long players. Get it from DIG! Records!

Friday, March 03, 2023

Ryan Allen - The Last Rock Band

Out today, Ryan Allen's new solo album The Last Rock Band was originally conceived as the third Extra Arms album. The concept for The Last Rock Band was inspired by one simple question: "What if there were only one rock band left on Earth?" It was the middle of February 2020. There was not a trace of real rock and roll anywhere near the pop charts. As Allen pondered the long-debated "Is rock dead?" question, he began crafting a narrative of a fictional rock and roll band — literally the last one in existence. And then you-know-what happened. There were no more band practices, live shows, or recording sessions. A song cycle pondering the death of rock and roll may have suddenly felt way too real. The project was shelved. When it became possible for Extra Arms to make music again, there were more pressing issues to write about. New songs were written, and they became the excellent album What Is Even Happening Right Now?. Yet it always bothered Allen that The Last Rock Band remained unfinished. So he went into Big Sky Recording with producer Geoff Michael and recorded the album one-man-band style. And now here it is. 

An important aspect of The Last Rock Band as a concept album is that even if you removed the concept, it would still be a terrific pop rock and roll record. These are really good songs. I also appreciate that the album ties a fictional tale together with Allen's personal story of coming to love music. While the narrative traces the rise, fall, and re-birth of an imagined band, one gets the sense that a lot of these songs are very personal to Allen. "Discovery" describes some musical discoveries of his youth (Public Enemy and Nirvana are directly referenced) that were literally life-changing. It may be coincidence, but the turn of events that take place between "Bought a Computer" and "Second Act" parallel Bob Mould's retirement from rock and eventual triumphant return. The whole album is essentially a love letter to critical bands in Allen's musical universe, and thus it jumps around quite a bit stylistically. Allen conceived the album as something akin to a mixed tape, and that really comes through in the songs. I'm hearing echoes of everyone from The Who ("Start a Band") to the Ramones ("Like the Ramones") to the Replacements ("Wrong Place Wrong Time") to AC/DC ("Second Act") to David Bowie ("We Have Returned") along side power ballads ("Stop the Train"), synth-pop numbers ("Bought a Computer"), and arena rock anthems ("Because I Have To"). In a way, this album is a logical successor to Allen's 2021 release What A Rip. Allen as a solo artist has never rocked harder; one can easily imagine this being an Extra Arms album. So if the loud pop side of Ryan Allen is your thing, this release ought to be up your alley. 

I don't think I'm spoiling anything by saying The Last Rock Band ends on a positive note. "Because I Have To" is another song where the real Ryan Allen weaves his way into this mostly imaginary rock opera. Here he finally answers the "Is rock dead?" question definitely. Of course rock is alive. The very existence of this album (and many more like it releasing every year) proves it. As I listen to this album, I envision a kid in his bedroom recording songs off the radio and listening to mixed tapes. I don't know if I'm seeing myself or Ryan Allen. Perhaps that's the point. In 2023, we have digital playlists instead of mixed tapes, and there's not much on commercial radio worth recording. But modern technology has given us an access to new and exciting sounds that the young Ryan Allen or Josh Rutledge could have only dreamed of. Pop charts be damned — all those people discovering life-changing music at this very moment are the living heartbeat of rock and roll.  

Rich Ragany & The Digressions - What We Do (To Not Let Go)

What We Do (To Not Let Go) is the remarkable third album from London-based rock and roll outfit Rich Ragany & The Digressions. It highlights not only one of contemporary music's finest songwriters but also one of its most extraordinary bands. Rags as a creative force has now authored six full-length albums in less than nine years — each subsequent release undeniably better than the one that preceded it. I've been fortunate enough to chronicle this progression from the very good glam punk influenced power pop of the first Role Models album to the genre-transcendent brilliance of the newly-issued What We Do (To Not Let Go). Even as I endeavor to reign in my longstanding propensity for overstatement, I cannot help but describe this latest release as a masterpiece. Suffice it to say that if you love great music of any kind, you need Rich Ragany & The Digressions in your life. 

In the case of Rich Ragany & The Digressions, numerous reviewers have already pointed out some of the major influences at play. They'll bring up Tom Petty, the Replacements, the Rolling Stones, Johnny Thunders, and Bruce Springsteen (just to name a few). I don't disagree with any of that. But more than anything else, Rich Ragany & The Digressions sound like themselves. The band (Rags on vocals and guitar, Gaff on lead guitar, Kit Swing on guitar and vocals, Andy Brook on keyboards and guitar, Ricky McGuire on bass, Simon Maxwell on drums) possesses a blend of talent and chemistry that is nothing short of special. After recording 2019's solo release Like We'll Never Make It with all these gifted players, Rags realized he had found magic and made the band a permanent entity. 2021's Beyond Nostalgia & Heartache took things to another level, and now What We Do (To Not Let Go) has done the same. Across these 14 tracks, you'll hear hints of everything from classic rock to folk music to country rock to power pop. The album beautifully traverses moods and styles with its mix of sing-along rockers, haunting ballads, and gorgeously melodic gems. Uniting the entire collection are the pure heart of these songs and the majestic hooks that have become a Rags signature. 

In the aftermath of the widescreen sounding Beyond Nostalgia & Heartache, Rags set out to capture a less layered, more live sound on What We Do (To Not Let Go). What results is an album that allows all of these musicians to shine individually even as they come together as a singular, tight-knit band. If Gaff is not already a world-renowned guitar hero, surely he will be soon. And no doubt more than a few bands in the upcoming years will attempt to recreate the "Kit Swing backing vocal" sound. Yet even with a less grandiose approach to recording, there's still something undeniably epic about this album. The songs truly soar, and Rags has a way of making these tunes feel uplifting even if (or perhaps because) he's singing about super-heavy stuff. This is not an album I recommend for passive listening or background music. It's a collection of songs you'll want to experience while you're sitting back with a cold beverage or taking a long solitary walk. These are meaningful songs that come from a place deep in Rags' heart and are brought to life by a vibrant and exciting rock and roll band. It's hard for me to single out individual tracks on what is such a consistent and splendidly flowing album. But I will say that the album's softer, more reflective moments ("Highgate Sun," "Shade of Shameless") are every bit as enjoyable as its anthemic rockers (such as the title track, "Til I'm On My Feet Again," and "One Last Thing To Prove"). This album, like its predecessor, is a reminder of music's power to bring people together. We're all in this thing called life together, and we all have no choice but to keep going through struggle in loss. What We Do (To Not Let Go) is the kind of record that will lift you up when your day has gone to shit and inspire you to embrace hope wherever you can find it. If there's any justice, it will sell in the millions and necessitate an arena tour. Pick a copy today from Barrel And Squidger Records.

Sunday, February 26, 2023

The Bings - Power Pop Planet (The Lost Tapes)

Here's something you won't come across very often: a new release of early '80s style Los Angeles power pop that's actually from the early '80s! The story of The Bings' new CD Power Pop Planet (The Lost Tapes) is pretty unbelievable. These songs were recorded over 40 years ago. The master tapes, seemingly lost forever, were rediscovered in a bedroom filing cabinet during the 2020 lockdown. The band members, who had long assumed that these recordings had been taped over, suddenly found themselves in possession of a literal time capsule from the golden age of power pop. Around the same time, The Bings' 1981 single "Please Please Please" (the band's only official release) became a hot collectors item on Discogs. With there being renewed interest in the band and free time on people's hands due to the pandemic, the next logical step was to bring these recordings back to life. The original masters were restored and digitalized. And now all of these songs exist as an official release available on compact disc as well as on YouTube and all the major streaming platforms. Power pop fans, lend me your ears! 

The 7" tracks alone ("Please Please Please" and "Oh No!") would justify a purchase of Power Pop Planet. They are bona fide artifacts of classic LA power pop and would fit perfectly on a playlist alongside the likes of The Knack, The Beat, and 20/20. While I'm always eager to discover new bands that sound like this, there's something about a genuine early '80s power pop recording that can never be duplicated. This is, as they say, the real deal. I can't get over how well restored these tracks sound! The album as a whole is very comparable to most power pop LPs released in that era. None of these songs would sound out of place on one of the Valley Girl soundtracks. The wonderful "Don't Stop Dancing" is another A-side worthy cut, while "Close Your Eyes" and "Hold On" demonstrate that The Bings had plenty of solid power pop tunes in reserve. If "Just a Child" sounds like a long-lost new wave hit, that's because it literally is. Elsewhere, the band mixes in some ballads ("There She Goes"), rockers ("She's Got the Power"), and rootsy pop rock numbers ("Billboard by the Highway") to make this an enjoyable, well-varied release. How many hours of my life have I spent combing through record store bins in search of albums exactly like this one? Luckily, you won't have to work that hard to acquire Power Pop Planet. Compact disc and digital purchases can be made through Bandcamp, and you can find the album on just about every streaming site. Follow the links below to read the complete story of The Bings!

Friday, February 24, 2023

The Streetwalkin' Cheetahs - One More Drink (Deluxe Edition)

Hot on the heels of the The Streetwalkin' Cheetahs' epic two-disc compilation All The Covers (And More) comes Rum Bar Records' deluxe reissue of the band's most recent studio album One More Drink. Originally released by Dead Beat Records in 2021, One More Drink wasn't just the Cheetahs' first proper album in 20 years. It's also one of the band's very best albums — probably the most essential thing the Cheetahs have put out since the release of Overdrive in 1997. In my book it's the one release that's most representative of what The Streetwalkin' Cheetahs are all about: combining the primordial ooze punk style the band is best known for with elements of power pop and classic hard rock/metal. Lots of bands claim to transcend genre, but the Cheetahs walk the walk on this release. "Ain't It Summer" sounds so much like Cheap Trick that I'm still not sure it isn't Cheap Trick. "Fast, Fucked and Furious" is what you'd call "vintage" Streetwalkin' Cheetahs, while "Bad Vacation" nails that poppy '77 punk sound that I'll never tire of. "We Are The Ones (We've Been Waiting For)" brings to mind the mid-'80s heyday of British new wave/classic alternative. "The Rejected" is old school SoCal punk and even features Rikk Agnew on guitar. "Rumblin' Train" is pummeling Motörhead-inspired rawk at its absolute finest. You'll find yourself wondering if there's anything The Streetwalkin' Cheetahs can't do. And that's just the first side of the album! 

As I listen to One More Drink, two things hit me. One is that The Streetwalkin' Cheetahs are really underrated as songwriters. Songs like "Ain't It Summer," "Bad Vacation," and "We Are The Ones" demonstrate that the Cheetahs' melodic side not only exists but it is also a strength. My second big takeaway is that this current lineup (Frank Meyer on vocals and guitar, Dino Everrett on bass, Bruce Duff on guitar, Mike Sessa on drums, and Geoff Yeaton on sax) is a total powerhouse. As the band embraces its '70s/'80s hard rock influences like never before, it definitely has the chops to pull if off. If you're going to worship at the altar of peak era AC/DC, you better have some monster riffs, killer solos, and tight grooves in your bag of tracks. "Warzone" delivers all of that and then some. As a lifetime AC/DC fan, I happily give this song my seal of approval. The final two tracks of the original LP clock in at a combined 12 minutes, yet there's not a dull second in either song. 

While "bonus tracks" on a reissue can often amount to a whole lot of nothing, the songs newly added to One More Drink make a great album even greater. "Escape From New York City" and "Fuck The Future (I Want Now)" (both from a single released in 2014) are blistering shots of punk rock and roll adrenaline. The Red Kross-ish "Victim of the Service Industry," exclusive to this release, is truly an anthem for these times. Altogether, One More Drink is a perfect blend of punk rock, powerful pop, and kick-ass rock and roll. There's something on this album for everyone. The title track is my favorite song ever from The Streetwalkin' Cheetahs. It features a guest appearance from Dramarama's John Easdale, one of the greatest living songwriters in American rock and roll. It manages to be a little reminiscent of Dramarama's "Last Cigarette" without being a copy. And honestly, that same level of songwriting is sustained all throughout the album. There are bona fide hits all over the place. If you've never heard The Streetwalkin' Cheetahs before, One More Drink would be a fine place to start.

Wednesday, February 22, 2023

Rimmingtons - Rocket To Rimtown

I don't write about pop-punk as much as I used to. Perhaps that's because bands like Rimmingtons set such a high standard that just about anything else in the pop-punk world seems lackluster in comparison. Rocket To Rimtown is the debut full-length album from this Sydney-based trio, and it's a classic pop-punk album all the way. It's Ramones influenced, but it's not "Ramonescore." It's a throwback to '90s pop-punk, but it's not trying to clone The Queers or Screeching Weasel. I'm reminded more of bands like Teen Idols, The Young Hasselhoffs, Darlington, and early Lillingtons. The recipe is nothing new: write catchy three-chord pop songs with buzz-saw guitars and lyrics about girls. Yet somehow Rimmingtons make the formula exciting again. They understand that what they're doing isn't rocket science (no pun intended), yet they also realize what it takes to write a perfect pop song. Rocket To Rimtown is a super-fun album from start to finish. The band's execution of the pop-punk style is powerful & tight, and I love how these songs perfectly mix heart and humor (How can you not love a band that writes a love song to a burger?). "Wasted Time" is honestly one of the best "happy" love songs I've ever heard. There's nothing original whatsoever about Rimmingtons' sound, and I mean that as the highest possible compliment. If Rocket To Rimtown had shown up in my mailbox in 1996, I would have run into the street screaming for joy. I can't do that sort of thing anymore now that all the neighbors have cell phones. The album is available on LP from Endless Detention Records and Hey Pizza! Records, on compact disc from DUMB! Records, and on cassette from Memorable But Not Honorable!

Sunday, February 19, 2023

Miesha & the Spanks - "It's My Year"

Coming off a single on Reta Records that was one of my favorites of last year, the fantastic duo Miesha & the Spanks is poised to release an amazing new album this spring. And when I say "amazing," I mean minds will be blown. In advance of the album release, Miesha and Sean have unleashed another smash hit single called "It's My Year." With it still only being mid-February, we can all take something meaningful from this song about the endless possibilities lying ahead of us in 2023. And even if you're cynical about New Year's resolutions, you'll find this song's message to be far more universal than that. It seems weird that I'd mention the lyrics first, but I don't think you can separate the music from the lyrics. "It's My Year" is a song about overcoming personal struggles, self-doubt, and that feeling of not fitting in. It starts out with a haunting verse, and then a huge sing-along chorus propels the tune out of the darkness and into the light. What begins as a bummer song turns into an anthem of optimism and determination. This is a theme as old as time itself. But with Miesha & the Spanks selling it, I'm totally buying all of it. Time to break out the bucket list and start checking off boxes! "No, I will not stand in my way" is a valuable mantra for all of us. Perfectly in line with the music and lyrics, the music video tells a story that reinforces the message of the song. If you like heavy guitar garage rock with a punk influence, you're gonna go crazy for the new album Unconditional Love In Hi-Fi (releasing April 14 on Mint Records). For now, enjoy "It's My Year" and remember it's never too late to demand more out of life.

Street Sweeper - Mama I Can't Do No Time

How about another great new band from Australia? Perhaps I need to hold on to the previous sentence so I can re-use it as needed. Something tells me I'll be breaking it out again repeatedly! Street Sweeper hails from Melbourne and has just released its first single — a straight-ahead pub rock banger called "Mama I Can't Do No Time." While many of the hottest Aussie bands of the moment are more on the punk side of things, Street Sweeper leans more in the direction of pure rock and roll on this high energy debut track. On the strength of an irresistible driving beat, a gutsy vocal, and lead guitar work that's pure fire, this tune emphatically announces the arrival of a band that's poised to be a force. The single is available now from Legless Records' Bandcamp as a name-your-price download. What are you waiting for? Go get it! 

Wednesday, February 15, 2023

Moron's Morons - High​-​Tension Situation (Album Premiere)

It is my pleasure to premiere the brand-new (and best-yet) album from Warsaw's garage punk rock and roll destroyers Moron's Morons! Releasing next Friday on Sweet Time, High​-​Tension Situation is an absolute monster of a record which oozes attitude and energy from the first note of "Knife at Your Throat" to the final strains of "You Make My Nightmares Wet." This album delivers everything you've come to expect from a Moron's Morons record: speed, aggression, a killer beat, and lyrics so wrong that they have to be right. The vibe here is a perfect mix of dark and deviant, but the songs themselves never take a back seat to the edginess of the lyrics. Moron's Morons is a freaking great rock and roll band firing on all cylinders. High​-​Tension Situation rolls together all of this band's stylistic influences ('60s garage rock, '70s punk, '80s hardcore, and '90s trash) to create one of the most savagely thrilling garage punk albums of recent memory. Just listen to songs like "Psychosis Diagnosis" and "Fueled By Hate." Those would be ripping tunes even if they singing about weather patterns or cat food. Surely you can surmise that "Possessed To Fuck" is not a ballad. I'm picking up a lot of Damned/old school death punk influence on this record as well, which is especially palpable on the terrific "Nightvisions" and a great cover of TSOL's "Nothin' for You." Sweet Time has graciously provided a full album stream below. Give it a listen. If you like what you hear, you can pre-order High​-​Tension Situation on vinyl or CD. The album will be officially out February 24th! 

Sunday, February 12, 2023

Dross - Nightmare World

This blog doesn't often live up to its name, but today's post ought to do the trick. You may recall I was crazy about a band called Dead Meat back in lockdown times. The London-based foursome released two great EPs of Bloodstains/Killed By Death style punk/hardcore and then called it a day. Band members Adrian Alfonso and Fisher announced the intention to start another group along the same lines. A couple years later, Dross has emerged from the ashes of Dead Meat. Adrian and Fisher found the perfect partners-in-crime to sustain the musical vision that began with Dead Meat. On vocals is the mighty screamer Paul Froggatt from The Cavemen. Cunha from the brilliant Trash Culture is pounding the skins. On its debut release Nightmare World, Dross kicks up a sound so bleak and ferocious that it makes those Dead Meat records sound like easy listening. Meeting at the intersection of trashy punk and early '80s hardcore, Nightmare World races through ten blistering tracks in less than 19 minutes. Froggatt, one of the most extraordinary punk vocalists of contemporary times, is fully in his element singing these songs about despair, misery, rage, violence, and the utter hopelessness of modern existence. The song titles alone ("End It Tonight," "Drug Fucked," "Losing My Grip," "Hateful Hellhole," "I'm Worthless") tell you pretty much everything you need to know about this album. And in case there was any doubt about Dross's modus operandi, a faithfully raging cover of Tapeworm's classic Killed By Death cut "Break My Face" makes it all crystal clear. Oddly enough, Dross will already be playing its farewell gig in less than two weeks as Froggatt readies a move to Melbourne. Nonetheless, Nightmare World is a thrilling debut that is absolutely for you if fast, scuzzy, and super-intense punk rock gets your heart racing. A vinyl release is coming later this year on No Front Teeth Records! 

Saturday, February 11, 2023

Erotic Devices - This World Is Not For Kids

On their third full-length album, Berlin's Erotic Devices take an "If it isn't broken, don't fix it" approach to their tried-and-true '77 style pop-punk sound. Out on Wanda Records, This World Is Not For Kids dishes out 14 tracks of sing-along three-chord punk rock all running under three minutes. Opening track "I Want More" tells you exactly what to expect from the rest of the album. And chances are that once you hear the song, you will want more. I sure did! All these songs are fun, catchy, and played with maximum gusto. These guys don't take themselves too seriously, but they are seriously good at writing simple punk rock songs in the timeless style. Thank goodness that Wanda Records is still around to fill the world with music like this. If the Ramones, Lurkers, Boys, and Dickies are staples of your record collection, Erotic Devices are a band you're likely to enjoy. Be careful Googling that band name.

Friday, February 10, 2023

Civic - Taken By Force

Wow. On its sophomore full-length album Taken By Force, Melbourne-based punk quintet Civic has just about knocked my head off. A follow-up to 2021's remarkable Future ForecastTaken By Force finds Civic as locked in as ever to its high-powered, timelessly Australian punk rock and roll style. With force, fury, and conviction, the band continues to carry the influence of The Saints, Radio Birdman (Rob Younger produced the album!), Celibate Rifles, etc. fully into the 21st Century. If you're craving classic Aussie punk rock, you can't do much better than songs like "End of the Line," "Fly Song," and "Time Girl." These songs practically explode out of your headphones or speakers! Just as Future Forecast did, Taken By Force supplements the raw power of its more raging tunes with some impressive deep cuts. The brooding slow-burner "Trick of the Light," cryptic muscular rocker "Neighbor Sadist," and powerful pop track "Blood Rushes" are all successful detours from the band's otherwise blistering approach. The dark, post-apocalyptic feel of the album is no accident: the band retreated to the middle of nowhere (Elphinstone, actually) to record these songs in eerie isolation. Fittingly, the album begins with the sound of creepy sirens and ends with bleak synthesizer playing over the sound of ocean waves. This vibe imbues even the album's straight-ahead punk tracks with a deeply innerving sensation. In collaboration with living legend Younger and mixing & mastering guru Mikey Young, the band has realized its biggest, punchiest sound to date. The guitars sound massive; the drums hit so hard that you'll feel it in your bones. And those solos are pure fire! In typical Civic fashion, these songs burn hot without any diminishment of melody. Taken By Force is an exciting, absolutely great punk rock record inspired by the past yet equally in tune with the present. Get it now from ATO Records and Cooking Vinyl Australia!

Tuesday, February 07, 2023

Tee Vee Repairmann - What's On TV?

Some friends of mine have been heavily touting the debut album from Tee Vee Repairmann for several weeks now — promising that it was going to be something special. They weren't wrong! I put this album on, and I was hooked instantly! Out on Computer Human Records in Australia and Total Punk Records in the U.S., What's On TV? is the first full-length release from Tee Vee Repairmann, aka Ishka Edmeades (Satanic Togas, Gee Tee, etc.). What I love about this album is that while it touches on numerous musical styles, at its essence it's simply a great catchy punk record. And that's the sort of thing that never goes out of style. It reminds me of something that might have been released on Dirtnap Records in the early aughts, yet it's very much in line with the best of modern-day budget punk. TV recorded this album in his living room on a Tascam 488 MK1. But if you didn't know any better, you would probably not expect this was the work of a one-man-band. All the way through, the songwriting is terrific. These tunes are loaded with killer hooks, awesome guitar work, and appealing everyman vocals. A few tracks ("Out of Order," "I Can't Figure You Out," "Bus Stop") are as good as anything you'll hear in the current power pop world. Elsewhere, TV turns out his latest Devo-inspired gem on the fantastic "Checkout Queue." In a more straight-ahead punk style, "People (Everywhere I Go)" is truly an anthem for our times. What's On TV? (great title, by the way!) is no doubt one of the best punk albums of recent memory. You'll hear bits and pieces of power pop, garage punk, "weirdo" punk, new wave, etc.; and yet it all comes together perfectly thanks to Ishka's unique talent and vision. If you're a regular reader of this blog, this album should be very much up your alley!

Screeching Weasel - Anthem For A New Tomorrow (30th Anniversary Edition)

I rarely review reissues. But within moments of discovering the 30th anniversary edition of Screeching Weasel's Anthem For A New Tomorrow in a Rum Bar Records care package, I knew I'd have much to say. It had been at least 25 years since I'd even played this album, yet these songs were so instantly familiar to me that it was like I'd just heard them yesterday. And my first impression was to think to myself, "My god, this album really holds up!" 

It still seems impossible to me that 1993 was already 30 years ago. When you're the age I was when Anthem came out, you think music from just ten years prior is "old." Now I still think of this thirty year-old album as one of the bona fide classics of "modern" pop-punk. I'd go as far as to say this album was instrumental in spawning pop-punk as a genre onto itself. Some would argue that Green Day's Dookie in the following year was the real game-changer. But in my book, the last three decades of pop-punk largely trace back to two albums released in 1993: Anthem for a New Tomorrow and The Queers' Love Songs for the Retarded. These two very different records perfected the recipe, which has since been copied by literally hundreds of bands with varying degrees of success. As I listen again to Anthem, I'm struck by how influential it turned out to be. Just listen to Ben Weasel's snotty vocals, John Jughead's lead guitar style, and the Ramones-based chord progressions. Regardless of what you think of the countless imitators (and I like a lot of them), you'd have a hard time denying that the Weasel/Jughead/Vapid/Panic era of Screeching Weasel produced some of the greatest pop-punk ever made. And while the preceding efforts My Brain Hurts and Wiggle are also worthy of classic status, Anthem for a New Tomorrow was next level stuff. Re-reading the liner notes about sensory overload, the overmedicated masses, and the emptiness of modern existence, I'm struck by how prophetic Ben Weasel's vision was. And the music, while not quite as radical, was visionary in its own right. Anthem was the '90s answer to Wire's Pink Flag — a sprawling yet remarkably efficient expansion of the punk rock form. Why make a pop-punk record or a hardcore record or a Ramonescore record or a pure pop record or a modern punk record when you can put all of that on one album in a way that makes perfect sense? 

In the wake of this latest reissue, I've heard a lot of people identify Anthem as Screeching Weasel's very best album. And I would absolutely concur. There are so many songs on this record that I'd describe as "classic Screeching Weasel," and none of them sound the same. "I'm Gonna Strangle You" is vintage "snotty" Screeching Weasel. "Falling Apart" is perhaps the band's finest pop song. "I, Robot" combines textbook Ramones worship with a critique of American society that's grown even more spot-on over the ensuing decades. "Totally" is a song you'd play for aliens to explain what pop-punk is. On the surface just a silly song poking fun at a sitcom episode, "Peter Brady" dispenses a valuable and now-more-than-ever relevant lesson about bullying and human cruelty as facts of life. "Claire Monet," a thoughtful meditation on how one can be the epitome of cool one day and boring & ordinary the next, hits me way harder in my 50s than it did in my 20s. The lovely instrumental "Talk to Me Summer" has always been one of the songs I most closely associate with this album, and it remains a standout. It inserts two minutes of serenity into an album otherwise designed to simulate a panic attack. And yet it does not sound out of place. 

Remixed by Mike Kennerty and mastered by Justin Perkins, this 30th anniversary reissue of Anthem For A New Tomorrow is a joint venture between Monona Music and Rum Bar Records. If at some point over the last 30 years, you ended up selling off your Screeching Weasel albums, this one is definitely worth re-purchasing and experiencing anew. If you never bought this album because you had it in your head that you hated pop-punk, this release just might turn you to the dark side. Or if you're like me and have forgotten how good this album was, listening to this reissue will be like reconnecting with an old friend. Screeching Weasel in the early '90s was perhaps the most critical band in making me want to write about music (you have them to blame, ha ha). Listening to Anthem for a New Tomorrow today, I can hear what twentysomething me was so excited about. But I think fiftysomething me has a far greater understanding of what makes this such a remarkable record. And isn't it wild that the CD is only $13— no more than what you would have paid in 1993? Anthem for a New Tomorrow is one of those albums that just sounds like the '90s. Push play, and it's like you're hopping on a time machine. But nostalgia aside, it's one of the greatest albums of its kind ever made. If you love pop-punk, this is one of those releases you need to own. 

Friday, February 03, 2023

The Prostitutes - Alternates: 2017​-​2021

I'm always grateful to have an excuse to write about The Prostitutes. This is one of my favorite bands of all-time and to me one of the greatest American punk groups of the modern era. I feared that my previous review of The Last Two would be my final statement on this musical entity that has been a fixture of the punk rock scene since 1996. But an odds-and-ends collection titled Alternates: 2017​-​2021 has turned up out of nowhere, and I will jump at the chance to add another chapter to my book on The Prostitutes. Kevin McGovern, who for all intents and purposes is The Prostitutes, put together this collection largely to give these songs a second life. What results is the closest thing we've gotten to a Prostitutes full-length album in 14 years. Recorded between 2017 and 2021, all these tracks are alternate takes of songs released as singles over the last four years. Most of these songs were originally released in the peak pandemic years, and they may have been overlooked (as digital singles sometimes are these days). As an album, they fit together remarkably well. With the release of the track "Shake Rattle Die" in April 2020, The Prostitutes' turn to a more modern, experimental sound became apparent. Six of the remaining eight tracks on Alternates were originally released from 2020 to 2022, making this album the perfect bridge between "classic" Prostitutes and McGovern's current band The Trouble Seekers. If you missed these songs when they were singles, now you can conveniently own them in the form of one last excellent Prostitutes album (probably). 

The phrase a "second life" is very fitting in the case of the songs on Alternates. Hearing these nine tracks together gave me a new appreciation for this material. This is not just a treat for super-fans. This is a really great 21st Century punk album that fully captures the darkness and despair of the COVID era. If this were your first time hearing The Prostitutes (and perhaps it will be), you'd definitely want to hear more. McGovern as an artist concluded that he took The Prostitutes as far they could logically go, and certainly he was right. The Trouble Seekers are a remarkable, visionary band, but they are something new entirely. Yet this last gasp of The Prostitutes was a brilliant precursor, and that's captured fully on this album. It's bookended by "Shake Rattle Die" and "Nineteen." It would be fitting for the last-ever Prostitutes track to be "Nineteen," which reflects on the suburban dread and chemical abuse that inspired so much of McGovern's youthful songwriting. "Nineteen was so lame," he screams, bringing perfect closure to a quarter century of The Prostitutes. Perhaps it's the different studio takes, but the whole feel of this album is more edgy and post-modern  — yet still totally punk rock. The guitars get denser and more complex. The vocals are distorted just enough to sound surreal. Synthesizers are used judiciously. I think the reason I'm usually so lukewarm about "post-punk" music is because it almost never sounds like this. Even in middle age, McGovern has lost nothing in terms of vocal fury or sharp lyrical edge. The aforementioned tracks plus the likes of "Shapeshift," "Needle in the Red" (think angrier Psychedelic Furs), and "Sick To Death of Myself" are among the best songs McGovern has ever written and definitely merit being heard with fresh ears. 

As I listen to Alternates, I find it astounding that one could acquire music this good without paying a cent. Has the overwhelming abundance of new music constantly dropping into the digisphere finally taken the shine off of free music? I would hate to think so. How can you pass up a deal this good? The Prostitutes were the best, most exciting punk band to come out of Pennsylvania in the 1990s, and even this last gasp of output holds its own against the group's most celebrated releases. Most of the band's releases (including its undisputed masterpiece, Can't Teach Kids Responsibility) are name your price downloads from Bandcamp. If you do elect to pay a little something for these downloads, your kind donations will be used to recover the cost of a busted car transmission. And lord knows transmissions aren't cheap.