Sunday, May 28, 2023

Les Lullies - Mauvaise Foi

Woooooo! On Mauvaise Foi, their second full-length album, French punks Les Lullies rip it up with ten of the catchiest, most rocking tracks you'll hear all year. Out now on Slovenly Recordings, Mauvaise Foi finds this Montpellier-based foursome in truly fine form. If you're offering my ears some old school punk rock and roll with hints of power pop, you know I'm always going to be receptive. And Les Lullies execute this style better than most. From the opening chords of the title track to the final strains of "Animal," Les Lullies bring the energy, the attitude, and hooks to spare. It matters little that I have no idea what they're singing about most of the time. I still wanna bob my head up and down, sing along, and make a mess around the house just for the fun of it. If your favorite '77 punk bands were the ones that just essentially played rock and roll faster and more furiously, tunes like "Mauvaise Foi," "Soirée Standard," and "Zéro Ambition" will be music to your ears (literally). "Station Service" reminds me of first album Clash, you know I'm not complaining! A cover of the Jackie DeShannon classic "When You Walk in the Room" is totally excellent and quite complementary to the album's original tracks. You've probably been hearing quite a bit about Mauvaise Foi lately from the finest blogs and radio programs. You wanna know why? Because it's freaking awesome!

Saturday, May 27, 2023

Nervous Jerk - Ugly Losers Club

It was way back in September 2019 when I raved about a punk trio out of Christchurch, New Zealand called Nervous Jerks. I know that was less than four years ago, but it seems like an eternity on the pandemic time scale. Fortunately, no pandemic could kill Nervous Jerk. The band is back with a new album called Ugly Losers Club that builds on the promise of its prior releases. Coming in at a lean ten tracks, Ugly Losers Club is the kind of top-quality straight-up punk rock and roll record that I'm always pumped to encounter. I really dig the band's crackling energy and simple yet skilled songwriting. If we're having a conversation about all the fantastic punk groups coming out of Australia and New Zealand these days, Nervous Jerk needs to be in the discussion. Not content to be pigeonholed into any particular sub-genre, Tom, Brad, and Johnny show they can do it all on this smashing new full-length. "Mission" is killer catchy punk rock that will get your toes tapping and fist pumping. "Bad Babysitter" hits that sweet spot where early punk meets the dawn of hardcore. "Rips" is quintessential modern-day garage punk and fully lives up to its title. Also living up to its title is the raw & energetic "Short Song." "Coco Monday" is kind of poppy without necessarily being "pop-punk." Elsewhere, the band channels early '90s slacker rock on the brilliant "U.R." and cooks up a Saints meet western vibe on the powerful closer "Hard Come, Easy Go." All in all, this is an incredibly impressive album that is sure to be one of my highest-rated punk long players of the year. Get it from Dust Up! Records while supplies last!

Thursday, May 25, 2023

Kurt Baker - "Anchors Up"

Summer has not yet arrived, but I've already got a reason to look forward to the fall! Kurt Baker's new album Rock N Roll Club will be releasing September 29th on Wicked Cool Records. The album's first single, "Anchors Up," came out yesterday — and it's pretty terrific! The single is accompanied by an absolutely brilliant music video which Baker's guitarist Wyatt Funderburk conceptualized and directed. 

"Anchors Up" started out as an upbeat pop song written during lockdown days. Baker took some honest feedback from Steven Van Zandt about the song being too "happy" sounding and collaborated with Geoff Palmer to rewrite it. What results is something quite extraordinary. "Anchors Up" uses a variety of nautical references as metaphors for navigating a life full of pain and hardships. It's a very serious, reflective song, yet it's still rocking and hook-laden in that distinctive Kurt Baker way. This is really relatable stuff from Baker and Palmer. Sometimes life deals you drunk captains, and you have to figure out for yourself how to stay afloat. This track features the talents of one of the planet's finest power pop rock and roll bands: Baker on bass, Funderburk and Palmer on guitar, Kris Rodgers on keyboards, and Craig Sala on drums. All these guys do their part to make "Anchors Up" a bona fide hit. Having already had a successful go at a disco song last year, Baker now has his yacht rock anthem! 

Available now in digital form, "Anchors Up" will also be released on blue vinyl this summer. Non-album B-side "Sweet Alice" was co-written by Mark O'Flaherty (Baker's bandmate in The Gold). It's a glammy pub rocker featuring a wonderfully surprising bridge and some righteous guitar soloing. Backing Baker on this track are O'Flaherty and Ola Ersfjord on guitar and Jesus Alonso on drums. Pre-orders for "Anchors Up" are now open via Bandcamp. And be sure to check out the "Anchors Up" video. It will have you ready to set sail!

Monday, May 22, 2023

The Trouble Seekers - "Crazy"

Back with their sixth single and third of this year, The Trouble Seekers have unleashed their most "pop" song yet. Of course I'm not talking about power pop or pop-punk or Taylor Swift (not that I don't enjoy all those things). But I could be talking about early '80s California punk/new wave or the soundtracks to Pretty In Pink and Some Kind of Wonderful. You know: that kind of pop. When I first heard this song, the words "John Hughes movie soundtrack" started running through my head. Kevin has confirmed that that was indeed an influence. I can practically smell the hairspray. With this single, Kevin and Hillary continue to hone their vision for a genuinely new sound influenced by old sounds. With its moody feel and controlled pace, "Crazy" manages to rage without going a million miles an hour. This is a definitive slow-burner. Some may be surprised to hear Kevin properly singing on the early verses — although by song's end, he works himself up to his usual state of fury. Hillary's chorus is an absolute earworm. Long after the song stops playing, that lyric "Every time you talk/You turn me off" will be running through your head. As always, the way Kevin and Hillary play off of each other vocally takes the song to another level. This is brilliant stuff from a truly dynamic duo. If you dig moody pop with an edge, you will be well-served to seek out The Trouble Seekers.

Sunday, May 21, 2023

The Melmacs - "Balls"

Back with their second new single in three weeks, The Melmacs continue to kill it with their great new track (and music video) "Balls." The Melmacs have been one of my favorite bands for a while now, and their new tunes suggest that they're only going to rise in my personal rankings. What I love about The Melmacs is that they never waste an opportunity to say something important in a song. With every new single they release, there's a message to the song which is clearly explained in the video description. In the case of "Balls," the band is raging against the scourge of toxic masculinity and rejecting the notion that gender roles have to be binary and traditional. The band's passion for this topic is palpable, but first and foremost this song is a total banger. With The Melmacs, the music is never secondary to the message. "Balls" is an exciting & irresistible number that blends the band's patented powerpop/punk style with some old school riff-driven hard rock and roll. This song has something quite serious to say, but it's still a whole lot of fun. With its killer riff, driving beat, pounding piano, and girl gang backing vocals, "Balls" is a ball of fire in a musical sense. And how fierce is Bimmi's lead vocal? The song's music video is a work of art in its own right. I'll reiterate what I've said before: If you're not into The Melmacs, you're missing one of the best bands out there right now!

Thursday, May 18, 2023

Taxi Girls - "Sunshine"

Today is a date I've had circled on my calendar for months: debut single release day from heavily-anticipated Montreal punk sensations Taxi Girls. Jamie, Vera, and Lynn have taken Montreal by storm in recent months. Today, they emphatically introduce themselves to the whole wide world. Spoiler alert: you're gonna love 'em! Clocking in at less than a minute and a half, debut single/video "Sunshine" is a leave-them-wanting-more type tune by design. And indeed, this song will have you begging and pleading for additional tracks from Taxi Girls. Luckily, this song is part of a full EP titled Coming Up Roses that will be releasing in July. For now, you can just keep hitting that repeat button and take pleasure in what is a truly perfect summertime punk-pop song. If you like super high energy punk rock and roll with irresistible hooks, "Sunshine" is sure to be your jam. The track sounds great too, with guitars blasting at full force and my favorite rhythm section on the planet turning in a truly crackling performance. Jamie plays the coolest Mike Dirnt style bass line of recent memory, and Lynn literally crushes her drums. What an incredibly catchy song — and the band's exuberance is totally infectious! Having written this song in the midst of a brutal Canadian winter, Vera was able to imbue this upbeat number with a healthy dose of aggression and frustration. Wanna fall in love with punk rock music all over again? Just push play. 

Tuesday, May 16, 2023

The Sensibles - Dino Nuggets

Finally out after many years of fan anticipation is The Sensibles' mini-album Dino Nuggets! Based out of Milano, Italy, The Sensibles were one of the best pop-punk bands of the 2010s and are honestly one of the best pop-punk bands I've ever heard. Dino Nuggets was recorded back in 2015 and partially released in the form of a couple 7" records in 2015-16. Now the whole album is available from Spotify, Bandcamp, etc., and it's an absolute delight! Featuring songs about animals, food, friends and life, this album is an essential purchase for pop-punk fans aged 4 to 84. Clocking in at just under 17 minutes, Dino Nuggets is a quick listen that will leave you wanting more. Heck, this band's entire discography has left me wanting more! To me, The Sensibles are everything that's great about pop-punk as a musical genre. And Dino Nuggets perfectly exemplifies that. If you're into sugar-sweet melodies with a hard candy crunch, amazing vocals, and super-endearing lyrics, this is the album for you. This is music that puts a smile on my face and makes me feel proud to be a human being. In my book, "Bibi" is a modern classic of pop-punk. Hearing it with fresh ears in 2023, I love it more than ever. "Ice Cream Man" is pure aural joy, and who can't appreciate "Strawberry Cake"? You simply won't hear music catchier than this — or with more heart. If you missed out on this band the first time around, now is a great time to get caught up. And if you fondly recall The Sensibles' releases, Dino Nuggets will make you a very happy human.

Sunday, May 14, 2023

Local Drags - Mess of Everything

Having previously reviewed the first two albums by Local Drags, I would be remiss in not showing some love to the third as well. Stardumb Records commander-in-chief Stefan calls Mess of Everything an all-time top five Stardumb release. You're talking about a label with over 100 releases that was the preeminent post Y2K pop-punk label and currently features some of the finest bands and artists in all of underground music on its roster. So that's some seriously high praise. And with Mess of Everything getting rave write-ups from two of the music reviewers I respect the most, I knew I had to check it out. 

Springfield, Illinois–based Local Drags are essentially a one-man-band. Lanny Durbin writes and sings the songs and plays most of the instruments. For this release, he enlisted the help of Neal Klein (lead guitar), Alyssa Currie (harmony vocals), and Schy Willmore (pedal steel). Luke McNeill, Durbin's Starter Jackets bandmate, produced the album at Capitol City Recording in Springfield. On 2021's Keep Me Glued, you could sense that Durbin was beginning to step outside the boundaries of basic power pop/punk and move towards becoming a more broadly-appealing, less genre-specific singer/songwriter. Mess of Everything completes this transition. Broadly, it's still a power pop album. Yet in some funny way, it lives up to its title. On these ten tracks, Durbin's melody-driven pop-rock approach owes more than a little to the influence of alt-country, '80s/'90s indie rock, and great American heartland rock. And that is no way a bad thing. Much has been made of this being a "different" sort of Local Drags record. But even with its wider stylistic range and more matured artistry, Mess of Everything still plays to what Lanny Durbin does best: writing tuneful, well-crafted songs with honest, relatable lyrics. No doubt, this is Durbin's strongest collection of songs to date. While the country-ish "Call You a Baby" and elegant "Good For Nothin" stand out for being atypical Local Drags tunes, they stand out more for their heart-on-sleeve lyrics and memorable melodies. Unquestionably, they are two of the best songs Durbin has ever written. The tracks that are typical Local Drugs songs, such as "Heard About It" and "Totally Down," remind us what an underrated figure Durbin is in the power pop world. Falling somewhere in between, the likes of "On the Slide" and brilliant closer "Better Now" demonstrate that songwriting maturity doesn't have to come at the expense of strong melodies or good, old-fashioned loud guitars. 

Even as it finds it author mostly leaving his punk rock roots behind, Mess of Everything is a perfectly logical (and superior) next step from its two predecessors. Durbin reaffirms his status as a rock-solid and deeply likable songwriter. Still a quintessentially Midwestern rock and roll band, Local Drags remain worthy of recommendation to anyone who subsists on a steady diet of The Replacements, Tom Petty, and cheap American lager.

Thursday, May 11, 2023

The Chelsea Curve - "How Can I (Resist You)?"

Releasing its first new music since its amazing album All the Things came out in March of last year, Boston trio The Chelsea Curve has wowed me yet again with "How Can I (Resist You)?" — its brand-new single on Red On Red Records. Could it be possible that the band that released my #1 single of 2021 and my #5 album of 2022 is actually getting better? "How Can I (Resist You)?" brings more of everything I love about The Chelsea Curve and then some. As always, this trio manages to avoid tying itself down to any one musical genre even as it hovers in the vicinity of nearly every genre I love. 

"How Can I (Resist You)?" is a quintessential punchy pop song that rocks hard and sinks its hooks into you from the get-go. Songwriter Linda Pardee characterizes it as "a song of longing and desire, of pining from afar, of an obsessive love." This is classic subject matter for a rock and roll song, but Pardee really ups the intrigue by making the object of all this desire a total mystery. We'll likely never know who (or perhaps what) this song is about, and that makes it all the more exciting! Listen to the song, read the lyrics, and draw your own interpretations. Musically, The Chelsea Curve has never sounded better. The band (Pardee on bass, Tim Gillis on guitar, Ron Belanger on drums) is a well-oiled machine as a result of relentless gigging. The guitars and drums are loud and crisp, and Pardee's lead vocal will give you chills. Together, the music and vocals intensify in the most satisfying way as the song rushes to a thrilling finish. Pardee acknowledges an '80s influence on the song's melodies, but ultimately "How Can I (Resist You)?" just sounds like The Chelsea Curve. If you loved the band's early singles and All the Things, you will not be disappointed with the direction of this new single. I can happily report that more new music is forthcoming later this year. For now, "How Can I (Resist You)?" makes me a happy fan of The Chelsea Curve. What can I say? I'm obsessed!

Sunday, May 07, 2023

Heatwaves - Heatwaves #4

Spain's Heatwaves, well-known for their '60s girl group meets new wave pop sound, have been quiet for a few years. But that changes with the release of their new EP, simply titled Heatwaves #4. It arrives four years after Heatwaves #3. And while the time between releases has been long, Heatwaves #4 proves to be well worth the wait. Lead track "Don't Say No," co-written by Luis Sanchez and band pal Kurt Baker, is nothing short of magical. It's a timeless shot of Motown-inspired pop that ought to be the song of the summer (C'mon, the band name is the Heatwaves!). With its infectious beat, majestic hooks, and gorgeous vocal from Ana Beltrán, this song sounds instantly familiar yet genuinely fresh. I choose to imagine it emanating from swimming pools, backyard cookouts, beach parties, water parks, sporting events, and car players all across the globe for several months to come. "Take Back," which channels '60s girl groups by way of Blondie, is darn near as good. "Nothing New Under the Sun" has a groovier '60s vibe to it, while "C'est le bonheur" is sublimely upbeat and laden with harmonies to die for. This, my friends, is a record made to be played over and over! 

Heatwaves #4 is available now from Family Spree Recordings. If you love this record (and you will!), be sure to snag the band's Complete Recordings (2017-2020) as well!

Motormouth - self titled 7"


Motormouth, a new trio out Brussels, has debuted with a four-song 7" that should excite any fan of old school punk rock. Comprised of Angelo from Warm Toy Machine, White Fangs, and Permanentz and Morgan and Mathieu from Immigrants, Motormouth doesn't fool around on this self-titled release. The band smashes through four blistering tracks of snotty three-chord punk rock in just under seven minutes. The band's attack is fast & aggressive but certain to keep your toes tapping. "Code Brown" is practically hardcore, and "Too Tough" will go over nicely with the pop-punk crowd. But all in all, Motormouth falls into the category of pure punk rock. These guys aren't reinventing the wheel, and we thank them for that. This thrilling release is available now from Madrid's Take the City Records and Frantic City Records' new subsidiary Roaring Blood.

Saturday, May 06, 2023

MONONEGATIVES - Crossing Visual Field

Having already proclaimed MONONEGATIVES the very best of the newest wave of post-punk/synth-punk, I did not imagine this London (Ontario)–based outfit had left itself room to make a second album twice as good as its first. Knowing that Crossing Visual Field was coming out, I figured I'd like it a lot, write a quick paragraph of effusive praise, and have the rest of my day to drink beer. But then I put the record on, and within moments found myself genuinely blown away. Not content to rest on their laurels, Rob Brake and company have upped their game on Crossing Visual Field. I heard the first song and was like, "Holy shit, how can they top this?" Then the same thing happened with the second song and every song until the end. I realized I was taking in an extraordinary work of art. 

Like 2021's Apparatus DivisionCrossing Visual Field is a record that puts the punk rock in synth-punk. Brake's chilling, apocalyptic synthesizers work in perfect harmony with sharp guitars, anxious rhythms, and vocals which are simultaneously robotic & anguished to create a soundtrack to our modern-day dystopia. Yet this particular album stands out because the songwriting is far more complex and accomplished this time around. It seems weird to describe music of this nature as "melodic," but I can definitely hear more developed and alluring melodies in this set of songs. And from start to finish, there's not a single sub-par track in sight. The thing about a MONONEGATIVES record is that you can always count on variety — sometimes even within a single track. Wherever your tastes on the synth/post-punk spectrum may lean, there's something on Crossing Visual Field for you. The album flows seamlessly between punk rippers ("Neutral Solution," "Outcome Unknown"), quintessential synth-wave numbers ("North Carolina Atomic Bomb," "Testing Capability"), and moodier tracks ("Disappearing Architecture," "Bel-Pre") that bring to mind the 1980s heyday of dark post-punk. Brake's ascent into synthesizer genius status (already made obvious on the new Telegenic Pleasure album) continues here. His compositions are creative and enthralling, evoking images of space warfare, factories of the apocalypse, and machines growing sentient. Yet in every case, these synthesized creations serve the song first and foremost. Could "Living in the Future" be any more of an anthem for our times? Crossing Visual Field sets the bar even higher for what contemporary synth-punk ought to be.

The Family Township - "Cross the Line (Oh Andrea)"

Yes, we have another smash hit from Red On Red Records! Justine Covault continues to build one of the most extraordinary label rosters in the world of underground music which features (but is not limited to) so many of the amazing bands and artists that call Boston their home. The Family Township, the latest addition to the Red On Red family, has been beloved in Boston since 2006. The band has released several albums and EPs. The band members are Marc Pinansky (vocals, guitar), Alejandro Necochea (lead guitar), James Rohr (keys), John Sheeran (bass), and Peter MacLean (drums). The band's debut release for Red on Red, "Cross the Line (Oh Andrea)," is the perfect single for the rapidly approaching summertime. This true-life love story penned by Pinansky is the kind of song that will get your heart racing and your fists pumping. With its anthemic energy and unabashed romantic sensibility, this track could easily pass for a deep cut radio hit from the late '70s or early '80s. I'm always a sucker for big hook classic rock, and I'm always a sucker for an uplifting love song. Put those two together, and it's not surprising that I loved this tune from the opening note. Pinasky puts on a clinic on how to write a great chorus, and the musical performances are stellar across the board. And those! "Cross the Line (Oh Andrea)" reminds me of all those soaring heart-on-sleeve pop anthems I heard when I was 9 or 10 years old that made me want to grow up and fall in love. The fact that it's autobiographical makes it all the more powerful. This tune is a must-have for your summer playlist. If you like what you hear, you can dig deeper into The Family Township's discography via Bandcamp.