Sunday, July 30, 2023

Benny J Ward - "I Didn't Mean It"

I'm going to keep this one short and sweet like the song itself. If you're a regular reader of this blog, Benny J Ward's new single needs to be in your music collection. Ward, the singer/guitarist for Perth power pop standouts Rinehearts, has just released his fourth solo single in four months on Cheersquad Records & Tapes. It's called "I Didn't Mean It," and it's 107 seconds of pure energy and earworm hooks. It's a little bit garage, a little bit punk rock, and a little bit power pop. That sounds like something you'd be into, right? Of course it does!

Phantom Intrusion - The Invocation

The Invocation, Phantom Intrusion's debut EP, takes me back to the '90s in an entirely good way. Phantom Intrusion is based in Binghamton, New York and features the vocals and songwriting talents of Maddie Novak. Kevin (bass) and Adam (drums) round out this trio. Lyrically, The Invocation is a very intense experience. And the music reflects that, as these songs fall on the rougher side of the pop-punk spectrum. I'm hearing bits and pieces of everything from late '80s/early '90s East Bay punk to old East Coast standouts like Plow United to the manic punk rock of The Vindictives to what they used to call emocore back in the day. Think melodic punk with an aggressive, chaotic edge. The artwork and band name bring to mind horror punk, and there's a little bit of a horror theme in a couple of these tracks. But for the most part, these songs are built around Maddie's intensely personal reflections on what it's like to go through life with depression and crippling anxiety as your constant companions — fighting to navigate a day-to-day existence when you literally "feel awful all the time." Hearing lyrics like "I shook myself awake last night/And I was crying in my sleep/It hasn't been an easy life/ And sometimes I forget to breathe," I'm deeply moved in a way I rarely am by another person's art. I'm blown away by Maddie's artistic courage. It takes guts to share this kind of suffering with the world in such an honest and intimate way. And for people listening who are going through mental health struggles of their own, they'll know they're not alone. Phantom Intrusion has a pretty unique vibe for a pop-punk band. This EP makes me nostalgic for all-ages punk shows in the '90s and dancing in the pit. Yet it's not really retro or obviously derivative. There was something about these songs that grabbed me from the get-go, and I am pleased to hear that another EP is in the works. I did have to chuckle when I saw the price listing at $6.66!

Saturday, July 29, 2023

Classic Pat - La Bamba

Now this was a super cool idea! Classic Pat (guitarist in one of my favorite bands, The Putz) has covered the La Bamba movie soundtrack in its entirety! It's the second installment in his Why Not? series (he previously covered Tiffany's self-titled album from 1987). The La Bamba soundtrack was an absolutely crucial album in my musical education. In 1987, I was 16 years old and still a classic rock/metal kid. After purchasing the La Bamba tape and listening to it daily, I became fanatical about listening to oldies radio and learning about early rock n' roll (the rest is history, I suppose). And of course I became a huge van of Ritchie Valens, who remains one of my favorite first generation rock and rollers. Because I listened to that soundtrack so many times, returning to it now is like catching up with an old friend. Classic Pat does a great job with these songs. His renditions are faithful, yet they've also been punked up a little. And that makes perfect sense when you think about the way '50s rock n' roll and doo wop influenced so many pop-punk bands. As groups like The Beatersband are demonstrating today, pop-punk and early rock n' roll belong together (pun fully intended). And Pat's interpretation of this material acknowledges that. His version of Valens' "Donna" fits in just as nicely alongside The Young Hasselhoffs or Vista Blue as it would on an oldies playlist. I've often claimed Buddy Holly as the true father of pop-punk, and this album's version of "Crying, Waiting, Hoping" evidences that idea fully. Pat's take on "La Bamba" (which, as arranged by Valens, would massively influence garage rock and punk) is totally killer. While "Why not?" may be the concept, this album is no joke. If you grew up on the La Bamba soundtrack (and movie) as I did, this version will give you warm feelings. But anyone who loves timeless and tuneful rock n' roll should enjoy the heck out of this release. 

Friday, July 28, 2023

Kurt Baker - "Rock 'N' Roll Club"

Woo hoo! We've got another smoking new single from Kurt Baker'! "Rock 'N' Roll Club" is the title track from Baker's new album, which will be out September 29th on Wicked Cool Records. The song was written by the late Kip Brown, an absolute legend of Portland, Maine rock 'n' roll. You may recall that the Brown-penned banger "Sends Me To Mars" was the leadoff track to Baker's third album Play It Cool. "Rock 'N' Roll Club" is the same caliber of song, and again Baker has the honor of sharing his beloved friend's songwriting talents with the world. If you like it when Baker and the boys rock out, this tune will be up your alley. Accompanying the release of the single is a music video directed Wyatt Funderburk. It was shot during the Kurt Baker Band's tour of Spain earlier this year. I really dig the way the video captures the vibe of the song. It includes footage from some actual clubs that totally lives up to how I imagine live rock 'n' roll being in Spain! What a tune, and what a great freaking band! This album is gonna be a monster. Click here to pre-order!

Thursday, July 27, 2023

The Lemon Drop Gang - "I'm Done!"

Well this was a very nice surprise! I come home from vacation to discover that Rum Bar Records has dropped a new single from the Lemon Drop Gang that I didn't even know was coming out! It's like Lou sent me a welcome home present! Already responsible for my #1 ranked single of the year, Tucson's finest are back with another legitimate double A-side garage pop extravaganza. "I'm Done!" finds the band on the punk rock side of the garage door. Featuring a thrillingly furious vocal from Steph O'Halloran, this song conveys what it feels like to be 100% fed up with someone and not taking any more shit ever. In typical LDG fashion, this tune manages to transcend genre even as it brings to mind nearly every genre I love. Who doesn't love an angry song that you can dance to all day long? "Johnny is a Jerk," the virtual flip side, is a hilarious response to Lesley Gore's iconic hits "It's My Party" and "Judy's Turn To Cry." It was co-written by the band and Bradford Trojan. In a musical style very much in line with the songs it sends up, this track states what many of us have been thinking for decades: that Johnny sure was a piece of shit! What kind of man feels good about breaking girls' hearts? And why did so many '60s pop songs glorify jerky guys? Here the LDG has great fun imagining Johnny's comeuppance and satirizing '60s teen pop tropes (see if you can spot references to additional songs of that era). In addition to being funny as hell, the lyrics are super on-point and more than a little relevant to modern times. I don't see how anyone could listen to this song and not conclude that Steph O'Halloran is an absolute star. And musically, this is perfect '60s-style pop with a pinch of the LDG's signature desert twang. It certainly didn't hurt to have the great Matt Rendon playing drums on this track! Rendon recorded this single and co-produced it with the band. Behold another one of the year's top singles, and it's a free download! On that oh-so-loaded Rum Bar roster of talent, the Lemon Drop Gang continues to stand out as one the label's finest bands.

Saturday, July 22, 2023

Kid Gulliver - Kiss & Tell

This is a milestone post for this blog and Kid Gulliver. Today, the Boston power pop standouts join the F & L ten-timers club — which is especially impressive considering that my first KG review was only a little more than three years ago! Basically this means that this band has released a lot of great music over the past few years, and that continues with a new mini-album called Kiss & Tell. As you may recall, "Kiss & Tell" was also the name of an excellent single released early this year. The album release coincides with a brand-new single titled "Because of You." 

As always, new music from Kid Gulliver means we power pop fans are in for a treat. I continue to be blown away by the way songwriter/guitarist David Armillotti and lead singer Simone Berk excel as a creative partnership. It can't be easy to trust another person to voice your deepest, darkest thoughts. And it can't be easy to sing another person's words as if they were your own. Yet for these two, this creative approach produces pure gold. Both artists do their finest work yet on this album. While I won't quite call this a concept album, a lot of Armillotti's lyrics are brutally realistic and deeply reflective in examining the trials and tribulations of adult love. There are not a lot of "uppers" on this album. But let's be real: if romantic love always went smoothly, power pop music might not need to exist! This is an album filled with wonderfully bitter pop songs which are fully realized musically, lyrically, and vocally. Songs like "You're Gonna Cry" and "You've Lost Your Shine" are pretty much what you'd expect based on the titles. "Because of You" is the complete opposite. It has to be a sweet love song, right? To the contrary, it's about regretting the person you've become due to love. This track, which alternates between a driving power pop verse and a dreamy chorus, was a fine choice for the album's third single (following "Kiss & Tell" and "Nothing But Trouble"). What really ties the album together, though, is that Armillotti is a master at writing perfect pop songs and Berk is a master at singing them. If you like well-crafted, melody-driven songs with plenty of guitar punch, you have come to the right place. "I've Got a Picture of You" is jangly power pop at its most beautifully bittersweet. "I Like Your Hair" could pass for a long-lost Bangles hit. If there were actually a power pop textbook, "(You're a) Living Lie" would be in it. 

Self-produced by Armillotti and Berk, Kiss & Tell is a nifty little album from one of the power pop world's most prolific and consistent bands. I look forward to writing another ten Kid Gulliver reviews and then some!  

Sunday, July 16, 2023

Rad Max - "So Convenient"

The latest single from Portland's Rad Max is another new wave smash. "So Convenient" is the foursome's first release in a year, following up last summer's anthem "Extraterrestrial Radio." On the surface, "So Convenient" is a celebration of the cultural phenomenon that is the American convenience store. Where else on Earth can you purchase beef jerky, enormous sugary beverages, lottery tickets, and freshly grilled hot dogs in one stop whilst witnessing the finest in local color at any hour of the day? But in verse two, the song takes exactly the futuristic/modern dystopian turn you'd expect from Rad Max. With its mix of humor and spot-on social commentary, this song totally hits a sweet spot for me. Bouncing back and fourth between post-punk and pure pop music, "So Convenient" has got an '80s feel for sure — and of course I'm talking about the 2080s. The little bit about the brain freeze really made me laugh because I recently suffered from such an affliction (and yes, it was brought on by overzealous slurpee consumption). One of my major life goals is to someday hear this song at a convenience store. For now, you can download the track for the very low price of free and save your spare change for that single roll of TP.

Saturday, July 15, 2023

Chinese Junk/The Vains - split 7"

Well here's another great split for the garage punk faithful! Chinese Junk and The Vains are two bands I've recently featured. I will gladly gobble up another platter of punk rock goodness from each! Chinese Junk from the U.K. is one of our best modern-day budget rock bands, and The Vains are an all-star international collaboration between the artist known as T.J. Cabot and the Connecticut punk rock institution Mitch Kramer. Brassneck Records & Big Neck Records (it's a meeting of the necks!) have gotten together to release a 7" record featuring these two most excellent bands. Fortunately, none of this is half-assed throwaway material. Chinese Junk recently released one of the best albums of the year, and their three contributions to this split are in their signature style of Rip Off Records meets early Ramones. You would expect nothing less from the undisputed kings of pound shop rock. "Bugged Out" is the hit here. With its lyrics about being fed up with the human race, it's definitely an anthem for our times. The next track is called "My Neighborhood is Killing Me." I'd say that's pretty self-explanatory. "I Think I'm Gonna" is a Loli and the Chones cover and a nod to an obvious inspiration. On their side, The Vains continue to turn out an old school punk sound that combines rock and roll influences with an aggressive edge. Imagine early Black Flag playing Angry Samoans songs with Johnny Thunders on guitar. Tyler's vocals are super ferocious, and he goes into some awesomely dark territory with the lyrics. If my math is correct, The Vains have now released all but one of the tracks they recorded. So if you're like me and want more releases from these guys, start sending fan mail and writing checks. 

If you're gonna do a split 7", this is how it's done: bring together two equally great bands with similar but far from identical musical aesthetics. If you dig one of these bands but weren't familiar with the other, now you have a new band to love! Vinyl is limited to 250 randomly-colored copies, so get busy buying!

Friday, July 14, 2023

Danny The K - Cigarettes & Silhouettes

Danny The K, a co-author of what is still my #1 ranked album of 2023, is without a doubt one of the best songwriters out there. Oddly enough, he'd never done a solo release — until now! Out today on Rum Bar Records, Cigarettes & Silhouettes finds the Watts/Shang Hi Los/Peppermint Kicks rock superstar devoting himself fully to a pure pop sound. His knack for big hooks and earworm melodies has long been on display in the hard rock, punk, and garage rock songs he's best known for. But on Cigarettes & Silhouettes, he goes all in on pop and creates the ultimate soundtrack to summer. I'm tempted to describe this EP as "AM radio pop," but that reference would be 45 years out of date. Still, a lot of you will probably get what I'm saying. 

Cigarettes & Silhouettes is a solo endeavor in the truest sense. Danny sings all the lead and harmony vocals, plays all the instruments, and even mixes in some keyboards and electronic beats. He recorded and mixed the whole record himself. In a way, these are vintage Dan Kopko songs. In another way, they're unlike anything he's done before. The vibe and the sound of this release are just so smooth. I'm not talking yacht rock smooth; I mean more like Malibu lemonade by the pool smooth. These five songs are built on a foundation of easygoing melodies, silky harmonies, and sweet, sticky hooks. Danny's love for '70s radio is as apparent as ever, but he excels here with a softer touch. I hear these songs and can't help imagining them emanating from the amusement parks, skating rinks, and drive-ins of my youth. Lead single "Roller Derby Girls" seemed like it would be hard to top, but "Sugar Rush" just might be THE hit. If you could bottle everything you loved about summertime and turn it into a song, this would be that song. "The Skateaway" has more of a melancholy feel as it reflects on summer glories coming to an end. That hook has been latched to my noggin for weeks. The title track has a reflective, mellow vibe to it — demonstrating that a pop approach to songwriting doesn't have to mean lightweight. In the hands of a lesser songwriter, a song called "Met You in an Elevator" could have been unbearably cheesy. But Danny the K totally pulls it off, dialing up a gorgeous, stick-in-your-head melody along with lyrics that melt the hearts of the eternal teenagers in all of us. It's also an outlier on this release in the respect that it sounds very much like contemporary pop music. Hopefully some teen star will cover this song and make Danny filthy rich on royalties. 

While Danny the K has been a major creative force in the underground rock and roll world for a long time, Cigarettes & Silhouettes is his first creation that's 100% his baby. The vision and the execution were entirely in his hands, and he knocked it out of the park. This EP is guaranteed to please longtime fans, but it also allows Danny to try things that might never have fit in with his bands. This is a great little pop record from a true craftsman of the style, and your summer will not be complete without it.

Thursday, July 13, 2023

The Ape-Ettes - Simply The Ape-Ettes

Out today on two most excellent labels (Reta Records and Snappy Little Numbers) is the first vinyl release from Sudbury, Ontario's The Ape-Ettes. The Ape-Ettes are Julie (guitar, vocals), Melanie (drums), and Andrée (bass). They released a really fantastic album back in 2017 which I'm just now discovering and totally loving. The new 7", titled Simply The Ape-Ettes, is an absolute treat for anyone who enjoys punk-influenced garage rock (that's just about all of you reading this, right?). It delivers four songs that are all equally good in different ways. "Trampoline" is a straight-ahead rocker and a good, old-fashioned breakup song. With its punchy guitars, clever lyrics, and bad-ass vocal, it has the feel of a song that would be a radio hit if they still played real rock and roll on the radio. "Rémi" is more of a high energy power pop rock and roll number. It's a real toe-tapper and a super fun song in general — with lyrics that are an affirmation for cool moms everywhere. "Inner Child" is a groovy psychedelic pop song about the importance of self-love. Who can argue with that? Bringing it all home is "Hearing Protection," a punky garage pop anthem pondering the importance of aging gracefully and the literal hearing risks of playing in a punk rock band. What a delight this record is! These are thoughtful, profound songs, and they'll get you dancing to boot! Simply The Ape-Etttes is simply a smash! The 7" is extremely limited and comes in two gorgeous variants: sky blue vinyl and clear vinyl with red and sky blue splatter. Get yourself a copy while the getting's good!

Wednesday, July 12, 2023

Stef + The Sleeveens - "Give My Regards To The Dancing Girls"

On their debut record, Nashville's Stef + The Sleeveens thrill with a pair of infectious & life-affirming rock and roll tunes. Stef is Dublin-born songwriter Stefan Murphy (The Mighty Stef). The Sleeveens are Ryan Sweeney (Cheap Time, Hans Condor, Sweet Time Records) on drums, Eli Steele (Sweet Knives) on guitar, and Jamie Mechan on bass. "Give My Regards To The Dancing Girls," out now on Sweet Time Records, features an A-side that is hands down one of the year's best songs. I was intrigued by the idea of a single clocking in at over five minutes. That intrigue quickly turned to pure delight once the music started. "Give My Regards To The Dancing Girls" is an epic rocker inspired by the pandemic — a moment in time when the very idea of dancing in public spaces and living joyfully seemed under great threat. This song is nothing less than an anthem. Murphy sings with tremendous passion and conviction while The Sleeveens rock out like there's no tomorrow (holy cow — that lead guitar!). I can't help getting teary-eyed hearing lyrics like these:

Give my regards 
To the dancing girls
And all you dancing people 
All over this world 
May you reap ten times the love
The love that you sow
And may there be sweet music 
Every place you go

Are those words to live by, or what? If you believe in the power of rock and roll to lift the soul and bring deeper meaning to human existence, this is absolutely the song for you. Combining Murphy's poetry and vocal presence with the driving energy of a first rate punky rock and roll garage band proves to be a winning recipe. On the B-side, the mid-tempo punk-pop tune "Small Talk With Jonathan" is literally about hanging out with Jonathan Richman after a show. I'm assuming it's based on a true story, and it's every bit as fun and uplifting as you'd expect a song about Jonathan Richman to be. If this record doesn't make you smile, you are most definitely dead inside. Mechan engineered and produced these tracks at his 302 Sounds studio in Mt. Juliet, Tennessee, and they sound totally amazing. You can't ask for a better debut record than this. It's good to know a full-length album is coming in 2024!

Saturday, July 08, 2023

Guerrilla Teens - Under The Dagger

Here it is, my friends: the long-awaited debut album from Portland, Oregon's mighty Guerrilla Teens. Comprised of Scott "Deluxe" Drake on vocals, Jeff Fieldhouse on guitar, Saul Koll on guitar, Tim Connolly on drums, and Anna Andersen on bass, this is one of the most impressive band lineups you'll ever come across in the world of rock and roll. Just as Lovesores were never The Humpers, Guerrilla Teens are not Lovesores. This is a new band for a new time. But if you've followed the career of Scott "Deluxe" Drake over the decades, you should have a pretty good idea of what to expect from Guerrilla Teens. This band first surfaced during lockdown times and released several demos on Bandcamp which have long since disappeared. Last year saw the band's first official release, a superb 7" called "Halfway To Maybe." And now the long player Under The Dagger has been unveiled, with CDs available soon and a vinyl release from Sioux Records also in the works. 

The album's ten tracks were co-written by Drake and Fieldhouse — one of the most legendary songwriting duos in the history of punk music. While the sound of this record is definitely more polished and refined than anything ever released by The Humpers, it still lives in that sweet spot where '70s punk meets sweaty, raucous rock and roll. Drake still hollers with a conviction and venom that most punk screamers half his age could only hope to muster up. You hear that voice on record, and you know exactly who it is. And my god, Fieldhouse and Koll form a guitar tandem that just can't be beat in the punk rock universe. In comparison to previous Drake–fronted albums, Under the Dagger is probably the most mature but by no means tamer. Pure blistering speed has given way to a controlled, slow-burning fury that will consume anything in its path. I remember a few of these tracks as demos. And sure enough, they're way better as finished products. You can tell the band worked hard to perfect this material and produce a recording they could be proud of. There are certain songs (e.g. "Concrete Face" and "Black Weather") that will surely have longtime Drake fans screaming for joy. Other tracks hint at a more melodic sensibility without sacrificing any of the grit or ferocity. I won't quite say that "Tell Me What To Do" is "pop," but it's undoubtedly tuneful. "Tell It to the Wind" reminds me quite a bit of The Saints, and I'm sure not complaining. The title track, to me, can hang with just about any song that Drake and Fieldhouse have ever co-written. 

Having done the best they could with socially-distanced recording methods in pandemic times, clearly Guerrilla Teens were raring for the smoke to clear so they could hit the stage again and properly record some music that would capture their essence. Under The Dagger definitely captures their essence, and it's a master class effort of real deal punk rock and roll. If these ten songs don't get your heart racing, you may need to consult a medical professional. 

Friday, July 07, 2023

Bart and the Brats/The Battlebeats - Chickpea Records Presents An International Garage Split: Vol. 7

Volume 7 of Chickpea Records' International Garage Split series is a budget rock geek's dream come true! It finds France's Bart and the Brats teaming up with Indonesia's The Battlebeats. These are two of the best garage punk bands on the planet, and both are represented with top-notch material on this slab of wax. The Bart and the Brats side contains four tracks from the same sessions that produced the new album Assorted Cuts. These tracks seem to have been hand-picked for this project. They're a little faster and trashier and wouldn't sound out of place on a Rip Off Records singles comp. "Can't Stand the Beatles" is an absolute ripper and perhaps Bart's most convincing attempt yet to create his own Killed By Death cut. "Can't Complain" and "Ferme Cette Porte" perfectly capture the snottier, more ferocious side of Bart and the Brats (think more '99 than '77!). "Cold Beef" is also on the LP, but I'm more than happy to hear it again. On The Battlebeats side, Andresa continues to ride the hot streak from his recent singles on Big Neck, Post Party Depression, and Otitis Media Records. He's still channeling the spirit of '90s lo-fi trash, but he continues to push the boundaries of The Battlebeats' sound. "Surrender To You" is vintage Battlebeats and absolutely scorching. "Absolute Zero" approaches hardcore intensity — suggesting a budget rock Black Flag. "Pull It Off" is pure rock and roll and brings to mind bands like The Spaceshits. "You Don't Love" me is a brilliant display of punk rock songwriting efficiency — the musical equivalent of a one-punch knockout. "Matilah Kau" finds Andresa singing in his native tongue and worshipping at the altar of The Oblivians.  

When I heard that Bart and the Brats and The Battlebeats were joining forces on a split, I had high, high hopes. Chickpea Records Presents An International Garage Split: Vol. 7 more than lives up to my expectations. This is great stuff from two of the bands keeping real deal garage punk alive and well in 2023!

Thursday, July 06, 2023

Taxi Girls - Coming Up Roses

Coming Up Roses, the debut EP from Montreal-based trio Taxi Girls, was almost certainly my most highly anticipated release of 2023. It's no shocker, then, that it has turned out to be my favorite record of the year so far. What Jamie, Vera, and Lynn have done with this band is to remind me of the excitement I felt when I first discovered punk rock music. It's not like I've ever lost that thrill in the decades since, but Taxi Girls renew that feeling in a very big way. 

Co-released by Dirt Cult Records and Wild Honey Records, Coming Up Roses is a perfect EP in the respect that every track is essential. Not one second is wasted. Even with two singles having been released in advance, fans have plenty to dig into since all five of these songs could have been singles. I have struggled to identify the "hit" simply because I have a different favorite track every day! And since each song sounds very different from the rest, it's all the more difficult to pick a standout. But why even bother picking a standout? Coming Up Roses is basically five A-sides packaged together, and Taxi Girls have done us a great service by not making us wait months for each new song to come out! At a time when so much punk music is crafted to fit into a sub-genre of another sub-genre, I'm pumped to hear a band like this that's just pure punk rock (and pure energy). This is the kind of record that kids will hear, and it will make them want to pick up a guitar or buy a drum kit and start their own bands. And I can't help but hear a '90s punk feel in a lot of these songs that takes me back to when I was a young pup coming up in the punk zine world. "Good Grace" sounds a little bit like The Muffs if they'd tried to rock your face off. "Sunshine" has me recalling a time when Green Day was carving out an exciting future for rock and roll. The urgent garage rock anthem "Hands Off" is reminiscent of the '90s heyday of fierce & fiery feminist punk rock. Yet nothing about this EP sounds dated or derivative. Producer Ryan Battistuzzi has done a fantastic job of giving these songs a huge, powerful sound that punches up the guitars while still highlighting that amazing rhythm section and some stellar harmonies. 

Comprised of five tracks running at just under 12 minutes, Coming Up Roses is totally satisfying but will still leave you wanting more. And isn't that exactly the way a debut release ought to be? I love that Jamie, Vera, and Lynn use the art form of punk rock to say some important things, yet they understand that above all else, this kind of music is supposed to be a whole lot of fun! All these songs were seemingly made for you to sing (and dance!) along with. I envision a lot of people hearing these songs today and contemplating how amazing they'll sound live. If you're already a fan of these women from their other bands, you'll recognize the talent but also discover that Taxi Girls are something entirely new and original. From the racing summertime punk rock of "Sunshine" to the furiously rocking call to action of "Hands Off" to the quintessential power pop punk of "Stay With Me," the range of material is impressive and immensely promising. These three are formidable musicians and songwriters, and on top of that they've got the one thing that makes us truly fall in love with a band: personality. Vinyl release on Wild Honey is a one-sided 12", and it's gonna go fast! Dirt Cult is doing a limited edition cassette release. If you want a physical copy of this EP, do not mess around!

Tuesday, July 04, 2023

The False Positives - "Leaves a Mark"

It has been a while since we've heard from Dave Harrison and his band The False Positives. New single "Leave a Mark" is Harrison's first collaboration with Todd Erickson (Holy Smoke, Shake the Faith) from Rock Garden Records. Musically, this is very familiar territory for the False Positives: powerful pop by way of Boston garage rock. But this track is a big step forward production-wise. Produced by Erickson (who also plays bass and sings backing vocals), "Leaves a Mark" sounds bigger and cleaner than previous False Positives recordings. Lyrically, it's a remarkable song about trauma and the way it can damage a person irreparably. All the influences which have informed Harrison's approach to songwriting come together here. If you like punchy guitars with slick backing vocals and a heavy dose of organ, this tune will be well worth checking out. And since the lyrics are so significant, it's good that they're included on the Bandcamp page. This song has a great hook, but just importantly, it has heart. Great stuff from Boston! 

Bart and the Brats - Assorted Cuts

Less than a year after the release of Bart and the Brats' full-length debut on No Front Teeth and Big Neck Records, a superb follow-up is out courtesy of the same two labels. Assorted Cuts again finds Bart De Vraantijk (Pneumonias, Wild Zeros, Teenage Hearts, The Janitors, etc.) powering through track after track of trashy '77-style garage punk that's brimming with energy & masterful in its simplicity. If you like first album Ramones, Killed By Death comps, and '90s budget punk, then Bart and the Brats ought to be your musical spirit animals. Short and sweet at a running time of just under 23 minutes, Assorted Cuts is the kind of record you'd play for extraterrestrials to demonstrate what Earthling three-chord punk rock is supposed to sound like. A touch of keyboards gives this album a slightly different feel, but the musical approach remains grounded in thumping punk minimalism. If it ain't broke, don't fix it! Bart's knack for writing high quality stripped-down punk tunes is on display as always. "And Then I Drink" could be my personal anthem. "Cold Beef" kicks the living daylights out of what usually passes for "Ramonescore." "Masochistic Pigs" is truly an anthem for our times. "Kicked Out of the Webelos" is a ripping, fully Brat-ified cover of The Queers' classic. Recorded, mixed, and mastered by Lo' Spider at Swampland in Toulouse, Assorted Cuts is another crackling effort from the remarkably prolific Bart and the Brats. If you want to snag a limited edition vinyl copy, be sure to hit one the links below for ordering information!

Monday, July 03, 2023

The Dictators - "Crazy Horses"

Yes, you read that right: it's the almighty Dictators covering The Osmonds! "Crazy Horses" is The Dictators' first new single since 2021. And honestly, it's freaking great! This is, I believe, the band's first recording to feature Keith Roth on guitar and vocals — who joins Andy Shernoff, Ross the Boss, and Albert Bouchard in this latest 'Tators lineup. This is a fantastic version of a song that was well ahead of its time five decades ago — its environmental message truly chilling in the light of the 2020s. The band sounds great, and its arrangement of the song will rock your face off. Listen to Ross the Boss tear it up on guitar like no one else can! "Crazy Horses" has been digitally packaged with three of The Dictators' greatest tracks ("Who Will Save Rock and Roll?", "New York, New York," and "Stay With Me") to form a damn fine EP that's a deal and a steal for $4. Check it out!

Friends of Cesar Romero - "Cold East Coast Shoulder" b​/​w "Greenway Thunderbird"

I again find myself awed and appreciative as J. Waylon continues to release some of our finest present-day power pop/punk/garage music with his prolific project Friends of Cesar Romero. Cold East Coast Shoulder, already the fourth FoCR EP of the year, is #37 in the band's Doomed Babe Series. The title track finds J. Waylon doing what he does better than almost anyone: writing a breakup song that will intoxicate you with its hooks even as it tears out your heart. The song title alone is a stroke of brilliance, and the lyrics are some of J. Waylon's finest. Seriously, just read that second verse:

You needed someone to fill the void/
But somehow now baby you’re annoyed/
I wrote these words down in a poem/
Then I burned it all down like Ancient Rome

It seems that even as it nears its 40th installment, the Doomed Babe Series is still picking up steam! "Cold East Coast Shoulder" is a stone cold gem from a songwriter/band that should be on every power pop fan's radar. "Greenway Thunderbird" is another fresh blast of top-quality pop, and "Don't Look Back" is a very lovely cover of a Teenage Fanclub classic. All in all, this is another stellar EP out of many produced by Friends of Cesar Romero over the years. If you like what you hear, be sure to also check out the punchy '60s-style rocker "You Really Had Me" which was released in May (#36 in the Doomed Babe Series!).

Sunday, July 02, 2023

Zero Boys - "Don't Shoot, Can't Breathe"

Installment #9 in I-94 Recordings' Detroit covers 7" series features Indianapolis, Indiana's legendary Zero Boys. "Don't Shoot, Can't Breathe" is the band's first physical release of new music in over a decade. The title track was a digital-only release back in 2018. Now it sees a well-deserved vinyl release, and its message about social injustice is sadly more relevant than ever. 

Zero Boys are one of those bands who've managed to make a successful transition from early '80s hardcore heroes to elder statesmen of the modern-day punk rock and roll scene. Original members Paul Mahern (vocals) and Mark Cutsinger (drums) are still at it. And the "new guys," guitarist Dave Lawson and bassist Scott Kellogg, have been in the band since 2012. "Don't Shoot, Can't Breathe" is nothing short of an anthem. It's an impassioned, furious number that typifies Midwestern punk rock and finds the Zero Boys as socially conscious as ever. It's a thrill to hear one of the greatest American punk groups of all-time in such fine form — and still with something important to say. The music video for the song (directed by Eric Ayotte) is quite powerful and well worth taking the time to watch. I appreciate the thought that the band put into their choice of a Detroit cover for the B-side. They take on Alice Cooper's classic Love It To Death track "Long Way to Go" and give it the proper punched-up Zero Boys treatment. In pairing these two songs together, they reiterate what is painfully obvious in society today: indeed we still have a long way to go. The cover art references the Detroit riots of 1967 but could just as easily depict what's happening in our cities today. Of course this entire 7" series has been brilliant, but this installment is especially essential. There are a few colors of vinyl already sold out, but many remain in stock. Hit up the I-94 web site to order your copy of "Don't Shoot, Can't Breathe" along with any remaining installments in the Detroit covers series you have not yet procured. And if you haven't kept up with the Zero Boys in recent decades, you can explore most of their catalog on Bandcamp!