Saturday, November 25, 2023

The Family Township - 20th Century Wasters

Earlier this year, I reviewed an absolute smash of a single from The Family Township called "Cross the Line (Oh Andrea)." That song and ten others make up The Family Township's new album 20th Century Wasters. This long-running Boston-based band is made up of Marc W. Pinansky on vocals and guitar, John Sheeran on bass, Peter MacLean on drums, Alejandro Necochea on guitars and backing vocals, and James Rohr on keyboards and backing vocals. I would characterize The Family Township as a real rock band — something most people assume no longer exists. On its 7th full-length album, The Family Township is here to show you that big hook arena-style rock very much still exists and is, in fact, going strong. I usually refrain from quoting directly from a press release because it seems like lazy reviewing, but I can't help repeating the band's description of these songs: "Bristling with the fury and frustrations of the modern age, longing and love, layers of melody ebb and flow as each song reveals more of itself upon repeated listens." I literally could not have said it better than myself. You can tell that this band lives in the world of classic rock but isn't just trying to make something that sounds like the best rock album of 1978. If you could play and sing like these guys (Pinansky can freaking belt it!), you'd want to rock out too! Sometimes these guys go for an "FM radio hit of yore" vibe ("Youngblood," "Straight to Your Heart"). Other times they rock hard and over the top ("(It's a) Heartbreak," "Out of Control"). In all cases, they play with tremendous passion and without a trace of irony. The Family Township is a tight and powerful band with a boatload of killer tunes. If old school AOR radio still gets your blood pumping, give 20th Century Wasters 40 minutes of your time.

Friday, November 24, 2023

The Scunthorpe Yobs - We Are The Yobs

I absolutely flipped out when I was looking over the new releases from No Front Teeth Records and saw a debut album from a band formed from the ashes of Bladder Bladder Bladder. Bladder Bladder Bladder were one of my favorite punk rock bands back in the '90s, and I was always a bit outraged that they weren't absolutely massive. So it's a thrill to come across The Scunthorpe Yobs — who represent the next chapter in the Bladder Bladder Bladder saga. The mighty Mick Bladder can still shout and offend with the best of 'em! Also on board are some heavy hitters from the last 25 years of California punk rock. The band's lineup features past and present members of Oil!, The Generators, The Randumbs, Gross Polluter, The Feelers, Trust Fund Babies, Smash The Granny, Outsiders, and The Shrinks (just to name a few). Now that's a supergroup (or at least a super group!). On their debut long player, We Are The Yobs, The Scunthorpe Yobs tear through a dozen loud-and-proud shout-along Oi! anthems in the Sham 69/Angelic Upstarts/Blitz mold. While based in Los Angeles, the band plays songs reflecting life on the streets of Scunthorpe. This is the classic Oi! sound: boisterous and hard-hitting yet still catchy as hell. If you fondly recall Bladder Bladder Bladder (is there any other way to recall them?), you'll find much to like about The Scunthorpe Yobs. Similarly, fans of any of the bands referenced above will want to get their hands on this LP (many of them already have, so don't dilly-dally!). You'll be holding a pint with one hand and hoisting your fist with the other as this record plays at an obnoxiously loud volume. We Are The Yobs is a next generation street punk classic!

Thursday, November 23, 2023

Cindy Lawson - Don't Come Crying To Me

Cindy Lawson is without a doubt a legend in the Minneapolis music scene. Yet it would be hard to deny that she's making by far the best music of her life today — nearly four decades into her recording career. Out on Rum Bar Records, Don't Come Crying To Me is Lawson's second solo EP in two years and an absolute gem of a pop record. Again working with producer Steve Price and a super-talented cast of Twin Cities–based musicians (guitarist Jerry Lefkowitz, bassist Dave Randall, drummer Mark Devaraj), Lawson has turned out an all-killer, no-filler collection of songs inspired by '60s pop, garage rock, and a myriad of other influences. Right off the bat, her voice grabs you. She's one of the finest singers in today's independent music scene, but she's also a terrific writer of melodies and a formidable lyricist. Any of these six tracks could have been the "hit," but certainly the title track was no-brainer choice for the EP's lead single. It's an absolutely ripping garage rocker with timely lyrics about the inevitable consequences of dishonesty. Paired with the scorching-hot "Screamin' White Jezus," it kicks off the EP with a bang. "Go Find Another Heart to Break" finds Lawson seamlessly blending her classic '60s pop sensibilities with Matt Pahl's stellar saxophone. "I'll Be Around" pairs powerful vocals and lyrics with an irresistible rhythm & blues inspired beat. "What if She Followed Him to Nashville" is gorgeous country-pop that has me reflecting on the way our lives are defined by our choices (Jon Duncan from Trailer Trash guest stars on piano and takes the song to a whole other level). Bringing the EP to a delightful conclusion, "I Don't Want You Anymore" is a super-fun kiss-off that channels classic girl group pop with a punk rock edge.  

It would not be accurate to call Cindy Lawson a "late bloomer." Instead she's more like a fine wine, inspiring all of us who refuse to accept that our best years are behind us. She and Price have the perfect artist/producer relationship and have now collaborated on two flawless collections of rocking pop songs. Credit Miss Georgia Peach for hearing New Tricks last year and knowing that Malibu Lou would want to put it out. As they say, the rest is history. And now people all over the world have had the good fortune to enjoy Lawson's music. My only criticism of Don't Come Crying To Me is that it leaves me wanting more. But let's be real: that's not actually a criticism! Any time I'm sad the EP is over, I can just listen to it again. And I have a feeling that more new music from Cindy Lawson is forthcoming. If you want to hear a fantastic singer with fantastic songs backed by a fantastic band, you too will feel blessed to have Don't Come Crying To Me leave you wanting more.

Tuesday, November 21, 2023

Ralphie's Red Ryders - "I Didn't Say Fudge"


Ralphie's Red Ryders, America's favorite A Christmas Story themed pop-punk band, is back with a brand-new single! And on this release, Ralphie, Flick, and Schwartz pay homage to one of A Christmas Story's most iconic scenes. The song is called "I Didn't Say Fudge," so you know exactly which scene I'm talking about. It's quite surprising that RRR had already released 14 songs but had not yet waxed poetic on Ralphie's uttering of the queen mother curse word. I was excited to hear how this song would turn out, and all I can say is that these guys nailed it. It's pure buzzing energy with a chorus worthy of a major award. Even Miss Shields would grade this as A+ pop-punk. On the virtual B-side, "Notafinga" pays tribute to the greatest furnace fighter of them all: Old Man Paker. The song is 65 seconds of genius fake cursing. You'd swear you're hearing the Old Man himself, although he does sound suspiciously like Reese from Vista Blue. Having been schooled by my own father in the fine art of profanity, I've always had a soft spot for the furnace scene. You have to love the way these two songs connect to one another. Ralphie's Red Ryders only release music once a year, but they always make it worth the wait! 

Vista Blue - Christmas Every Day

Every year I wrestle with the question of how soon is too soon to alienate my handful of readers with reviews of Christmas music. November 21st does seem a little early to commence F & L's Christmas season, but I couldn't resist acknowledging the special occasion of Vista Blue's double Christmas release. For the first and perhaps only time, Vista Blue and its alter egos Ralphie's Red Ryders have simultaneously released music today. If they can go to the trouble of releasing two EPs at once, surely I can go to the trouble of posting two reviews at once. It's remarkable that Vista Blue can manage to be so incredibly prolific yet still delight me with every single release. Clearly these guys are due for a misfire just based on the pure math of it all, but somehow they keep beating the odds. Their 2023 holiday release Christmas Every Day is a must-hear for all who love pop-punk, Christmas, or both. Leading off is "It's Christmas Time" — perhaps the most traditional Christmas song Vista Blue has ever done. It's everything a Christmas song ought to be: instantly memorable, cheerful, and full of lyrics about people coming together to celebrate the season. If you think that's sappy, well that's the whole point! Had it not been for the references to Rodney Bingenheimer and Christmas ales, I might have mistaken this song for an old standard that the band rearranged. "What Are You Gonna Get?" is a sweet song about getting good presents ("You deserve something great, like 10s and 20s and real estate"). I'm surmising the title track was inspired by the William Dean Howells story, and it's absolute gem of a song. "The Rain Washed the Snow Away" is exactly what the title suggests — adding an amusing and realistic twist to the "songs about snow" Christmas trope. 

Christmas Every Day is not just the best Vista Blue Christmas release yet. It's one of the band's best releases, period. These guys put a lot of love into this EP, and it shows. You might ask yourself, "How can Vista Blue possibly get any better?" Well, Vista Blue is always better when Richard Bates is featured on lead guitar. And he absolutely kills it on this EP. I know some of you aren't ready for Christmas music two days before Thanksgiving (or ever!). But if Christmas tunes are your thing, Christmas Every Day is not to be missed.

Monday, November 20, 2023

Shiverlane - "Aeroplane Driver"

It was just a couple weeks ago that I wrote about a terrific power pop single from Boston-based foursome Shiverlane. Wasting no time whatsoever, Shiverlane already has another terrific power pop single out called "Aeroplane Driver." I really dig the idea of a rock 'n' roll tune about a jetfighter pilot. The lyric "living on jet fuel and steel" is quite memorable, and it could almost be describing the song itself with its booming guitars, hyperactive drums, and soaring sing-along hook. I also appreciate the way the song ends, with silky harmonies lifting the chorus skyward as thunderous power riffs propel you to burst into air guitar heroics. Ya gotta love a band that knows how to stick a landing.

Sunday, November 19, 2023

Autogramm - Music That Humans Can Play

Time goes by so quickly that I had not realized Autogramm hadn't released new music in over two-and-a-half years. The band's second album No Rules came out in April 2021 — still prime pandemic time. A follow-up, recorded in the summer of last year, has finally made its way into the world. Listening to Music That Humans Can Play is like catching up with an old friend you haven't seen in a while and picking right up like you had just talked yesterday. The title hints at the wonderful irony surrounding Autogramm. Here's a band that relies heavily on synthesizers yet still writes some of the warmest and mostly deeply human songs you'll ever come across. In its early days, the band occupied the new wave side of power pop and existed in what seemed like an eternal 1979. While still a pop band at heart, the now foursome has grown more sophisticated in its craft and deftly propelled its time machine into the 1980s. Having lived through the golden age of MTV circa 1981–83, I find it remarkable how authentically Music That Humans Can Play captures the sound of those times without coming off like a calculated recreation. Much of that has to do with the myriad of inspirations in the mix. Autogramm isn't trying to sound like one or two particular bands. Rather it's channeling an entire era of popular music, and what results is a blending of new wave, synth-pop, power pop, new romantic, and pure pop influences that evokes the spirit of the early '80s in a way that still feels current. It certainly doesn't hurt that four different band members are all injecting their own style and point-of-view. And above all else, Autogramm distinguishes itself from the modern new wave pack (if there really is such a thing) by writing genuinely great songs.   

No Rules was a really fantastic album and a fine example of a good band finding its footing and becoming something even better. 31 months later, Music That Humans Can Play arrives with considerable expectations. And it delivers in a big way. Joined by new guitarist Lars Von Seattle, Jiffy, The Silo, and CC sound more adept than ever at turning out well-crafted, hook-laden songs that somehow manage to sound timeless even as they recall a very distinct moment in music. With its opening 1-2 punch of "Born Losers" and "WannaBe," this album comes flying out the gates with anthemic aspirations. As so many reviewers have commented, these songs sound like they were made for '80s movies soundtracks. And I love the positive vibes here. With the state the world's in now, we should be using our strength to lift others up rather than pulling them down. "Born Losers" would be goofy if it weren't so darn genuine, and there's a special genius in being able to write a song that walks that sort of tightrope. "WannaBe," which advocates unconditional love for others based on who they are underneath all the surface manifestations of being, delivers a beautiful message for these times and all times. "Be my alien" is a mantra we should all live by. As the album continues, the hits keep coming in different styles. "Hey Allie" and "Love Is for Fools" are fully on the pop side of new wave and could pass for forgotten radio hits from four decades ago. "Why Do We Dance?" sounds a little like Devo venturing into dark wave, and I dig every second of it. The bouncy "Plastic Punks" walks the line between punk and new wave circa 1977 and sounds like the best song Jeffrey McCloy never wrote. The stunning "(Always Gonna) Be My Girl" manages to be gloomy and beautiful all at once. "Dive Right In" finds the album ending the way it starts — reminding us to embrace failure rather than being dismayed by it.  

I can't help thinking that the good vibes of Music That Humans Can Play are a reflection of Autogramm's own emergence from the pandemic. It confronts failure and disappointment but looks for the brighter light ahead. Lyrically, the band is taking things deeper than ever. Yet that doesn't mean that the songs can't be fun. These are very serious songs that you can sing along with and dance to, and ultimately this album is exactly what the title suggests. Available now from Stomp Records in Canada and Beluga Records in Europe, this third album from Autogramm is one of the year's best.

Wednesday, November 15, 2023

Geoff Palmer - An Otherwise Negative Situation

On his latest full-length album, Geoff Palmer works in his familiar territory of pop-punk leaning power pop. Or is it the other way around? Following up 2021's Charts & Graphs and 2019's Pulling Out All the Stops, An Otherwise Negative Situation completes a formidable trilogy of fun, hit-laden punky pop albums. Palmer is such a dependable and consistent songwriter that it would be easy to take him for granted. But no one should make that mistake. There's nothing easy about writing memorable and catchy pop songs —  Palmer only makes it seem that way. Out on Stardumb Records, An Otherwise Negative Situation is another lean affair at just ten tracks. It's similar to Charts & Graphs in the respect that it mixes up musical styles, and it's similar to Pulling Out All the Stops in the respect that every song sounds like a single. Palmer has cultivated a musical style that transcends genre, and you could land on any of these tracks and immediately know exactly whom you're listening to. I remember hearing "Give It Up" for the first time and thinking it was "too short." Dozens of spins later, I recognize it as one of Palmer's best songs and a master work of efficient songwriting. If you Googled "anthem," a link to "We Run" ought to turn up. "Surfin' Nebraska" is ten-out-of-ten pop-punk. "Dark Thoughts," which reminds me a little of The Replacements but mostly just sounds like vintage Geoff Palmer, is truly a perfect pop song. If it's not the best song on the album, it's only because "FOMO" is. "Stuck With You" is earworm pop-punk on the Beach Boys' end of town — always a sweet spot for Palmer. "Backseat Driver" is a stone cold gem of traditional jangly power pop. Sometimes ballads to close albums feel like unnecessary tack-ons, but this album would not be the same without the powerful and poignant "Like a Dove." 

An Otherwise Negative Situation finds Palmer forming a top-notch power trio with his pals Kurt Baker and Zack Sprague. Baker and Sprague also contribute as songwriters on several tracks. Is this Palmer's best album yet? I'd say there's no question about it. Geoff Palmer will always sound like Geoff Palmer, but the growth (especially lyrically) from Pulling Out All the Stops to An Otherwise Negative Situation has been truly remarkable. I know I'm a little late to the party on this one. But holy cow — what a great freaking record!

Sunday, November 12, 2023

The Young Rochelles - Kicked to the Curb

As someone who has liked pop-punk for a very long time, I tend to be picky about the bands I get into but also very open to embracing new favorites if they strike my fancy. I liked The Young Rochelles' first album well enough, but it was drummer/singer Ricky's 2021 solo album So Far So Good that made me a true believer. I was hoping The Young Rochelles' second album Kicked to the Curb would have a similar appeal: building off the classic '90s pop-punk sound yet pushing a little more towards the pop side of the tracks. I must say that I have not been disappointed. Ricky, Rookie, and Rocky put a lot of work into this release, and they have knocked it out of the park like Pete Alonso jumping on a hanging curve. Kicked to the Curb is A+ pop-punk by the book, fulfilling the band's quest to top their previous releases with "bigger vocals, more powerful lyrics, and killer hooks." 

As these songs were being written, Ricky Rochelle was experiencing the downs and ups of life and love, and what results are songs reflecting a rollercoaster of emotions. Rocky's contributions fit in so well that you might not even have noticed there were two primary songwriters. Style-wise, all the obvious influences are palpable. But after ten years as a band, The Young Rochelles have found a way to put their own signature on the tried-and-true pop-punk sound. Kicked to the Curb really leans into the pop side of the genre — with smooth harmonies, hooky choruses, and Ricky's melodic vocals standing out in a big way. Perhaps my favorite thing about the album is that Ricky really wears his heart on his sleeve as a vocalist. The band isn't just turning out songs to satisfy some pop-punk checklist (which we know some bands do — ha!). This is powerful real-life stuff, starting with "Chameleon," where Ricky acknowledges that embracing change is the first step in getting yourself into a better place in life. In a somewhat similar vein, "Today is a Beautiful Day" puts an optimistic twist on the typical breakup song — reflecting on lost love as an opportunity to gain something far better. Who won't be able to relate to "Used To Sleep"? "Breezy" is instantly one of the best pop-punk songs ever written. This is a song deeply personal to Ricky Rochelle, yet it gives me chills because I recognize the feelings it articulates. If your tastes lean more to the cynical side, "Fractured Fairy Tale" is a truth bomb of epic proportions. It takes some balls in the pop-punk world to attempt a song called "You Broke My Fucking Heart," but The Young Rochelles manage to pull it off. 

Out now on Sounds Rad!, Kicked to the Curb is a pop-punk album for people who love pop-punk. If you love this type of music, you won't hear any band execute it with more skill, energy, or heart. And if you don't love this type of music, there's no way in the world you've read this far. Once or twice a year, a band reminds me why I still love pop-punk. This is one of those times. It's not quite fair to classify The Young Rochelles as late bloomers, but they seem to be just hitting their peak a decade into their existence. King Ralph has declared Kicked to the Curb the pop-punk album of the year. And even with a killer Jagger Holly double record floating out there, all I can say is that of course he's right!

Friday, November 10, 2023

Juniper - "I Was Thinking About You"

Juniper has been one of the most exciting new talents to emerge in the indie pop world this decade. This first-year college student already has two delightful albums under her belt — the most recent of which is destined to land in my year-end top ten list. Now she's back with a new single that is perhaps the best representation yet of her musical appeal. While quite reminiscent of '70s AM radio pop on the production end, "I Was Thinking About You" sounds remarkably contemporary. In all honesty, this song could be on commercial radio right now. Its creation was inspired by Juniper playing some Harry Styles songs for her father Michael Shelley — and Michael then trying his hand at writing something in a similar vein but from his musical point of view. What results is one of 2023's most memorable and irresistible singles. 

More than just a breakup song, "I Was Thinking About You" describes what it's like to have an ex living in your head rent-free and the toll that can take on your day-to-day life. Of course the hook is pure gold, but literally everything about this song hits the spot. Juniper's laidback vocal is absolutely perfect for the song, and her tone will just about give you chills. Steve Goulding (Mekons, The Rumour, Nick Lowe) on drums, Guillermina Pagano on saxophone, Dave Amels on harmonium, and Isaac Holmes on lead guitar all elevate the song with fantastic musical performances. The lyrics, which mix humor with heartbreak, will surely connect with individuals who've lived a story similar to the one the song tells. There's no denying it: "I Was Thinking About You" is a stone cold hit! On the virtual flipside, "Ride Between The Cars" is an alternate version of a song from Juniper's latest album She Steals Candy. This version with acoustic guitar and a slower rhythm was initially scrapped after one take, but it has been resurrected for this single with some added keyboards. The original was one of my favorite songs from She Steals Candy, but I must admit I like this version even better. Clearly the Shelleys knew they had something in this alternate take, and they were wise to bring it back to life. There's something in the instrumentation here that really suits the tenderness and melancholy of the lyrics and vocals. While "I Was Thinking About You" is a digital-only release, it's designed like a classic pop 45. If you're a Juniper fan, I don't think there's any question that you will love this single.

Wednesday, November 08, 2023

Wyatt Funderburk - "November"/"You'll Know"

When it comes to the modern-day power pop scene, there's no songwriter more underrated than Wyatt Funderburk. As a solo artist, songwriting collaborator with Kurt Baker, and front man for the amazing Second Saturday, he has been responsible for some of the most extraordinary pop songs of the past two decades. It has been a long time (a decade to be precise) since he last released solo material, but a new album titled Fleeting and Finite is slated for release next year. In advance of the new album, Funderburk has chosen to release two of its tracks as a digital single. Both songs tease a more accomplished, beautiful pop sound from this veteran tunesmith. 

"November" is exactly what it seems to be — an ode to the very month we're experiencing now and the powerful sensations it elicits. There's a certain feeling that's in the air on a later fall day, and "November" evokes it beautifully. The song is soft and soothing with very pretty melodies and vocals. The vibe is something akin to Big Star meets Brian Wilson, and I'll take that all day long. Speaking of Brian Wilson, Funderburk goes full-on Pet Sounds on the gorgeous ballad "You'll Know." This is a song about what it's like to fall in love. Now clearly that's a topic that has been tackled tens of thousands of times in the world of pop music. Nine times out of ten, a song like this might come off as oversentimental, cliched, or contrived. But Funderburk absolutely nails it, crafting a song that's as beautiful and breathtaking as the experience it celebrates. "You'll Know" reflects on that moment when you realize this person has been on the earth your whole life yet you're just now getting to meet them. As Funderburk says, "It seems unfair and also like winning the lottery." That's so dead-on. I've been known to get teary-eyed over a Wyatt Funderburk song (e.g. "What If" & "If I Wanted Easier"!), but "November" is at a whole other level. This is pure chills — like somehow Funderburk got into my head and extracted magical memories I could never do justice to with words. Of course Funderburk is a master of pop melody and a magician with harmonies. But perhaps his greatest talent is that he manages to write about love in way that is real and relatable and straight from his heart. 

Funderburk's talents as a vocalist, musician, songwriter, and producer all shine on these two tracks. Working with drummer Todd Patton, Funderburk is practically a one-man orchestra, playing everything from guitar to piano to synthesizer to Glockenspiel. He's in total control of his artistic vision, and it's no surprise that both of these songs are so beautifully realized. Having had this little taste of Fleeting and Finite, I expect the album to be nothing short of stunning. I just noticed that you can purchase Funderburk's full digital discography on Bandcamp for less than $13. That is a deal and a steal. If you love great pop, do yourself a favor and take advantage.

Sunday, November 05, 2023

Norcos Y Horchata - "Live, Laugh, Toaster Bath"

Ahead of a Midwest fall tour that's commencing later this week, Detroit's Norcos Y Horchata have dropped a surprise single that ought to have you all dancing in the streets. "Live, Laugh, Toaster Bath" was recorded in Fort Wayne last month. It's a bonus track of sorts from the same sessions that produced the band's next 7" (due out early next year). In typical NYH fashion, this song is an anthemic shot of energetic sing-along punk rock 'n' roll with lyrics perfectly suited to my pitch-dark sense of humor. What a banger! I've got a feeling this song will be a crowd favorite on this upcoming tour, which will find the band going through Chicago, Minneapolis, Iowa City, St. Joseph, Missouri; Lawrence, Kansas; Carbondale, Illinois; Louisville, St. Louis, and Indianapolis. If you enjoyed NYH's fantastic 7" Aloha Motherfuckers, "Live, Laugh, Toaster Bath" is a mandatory purchase that's more than worth three of your hard-earned dollars. Hit up the band's social media for tour dates! 

Shiverlane - I Get Nervous

I've got a good one for you today! Shiverlane is a newer (formed in 2020) Boston-based foursome featuring members of The Rudds, Thinner, Preacher Roe, The Rationales, Fat Randy, Ringtail, and Tom Baker's Double Down. "I Get Nervous," the band's new single, follows the David Minehan–produced EP In Bits and precedes another single called "Aeroplane Driver." I know that "perfect pop song" is one of my most frequently-used phrases, but it definitely applies to "I Get Nervous." What I love about this song is that it's power pop in a broad sense but doesn't necessarily fall under the constraints of a single genre. It's got great hooks and punchy guitars, but it's also clever, unique, and at times quite surprising. In some alternate universe where 1994 never ended, this song would be in heavy rotation on alternative rock radio formats! I highly recommend checking out In Bits as well ("Surgeon General's Warning" is my new personal anthem). Shiverlane doesn't really sound like any other band, but spiritually they're on the same wavelength as The Airport 77s. "I Get Nervous" was slated for release on Red on Red Records. Justine Covault was a huge fan and great friend to Shiverlane. I can think of no better tribute than to continue to celebrate the bands she loved and the Boston music scene she worked so tirelessly to champion. Shiverlane is one of the most promising new bands I've heard in a long time, and I'll have more to say in a couple weeks!

Friday, November 03, 2023

Brad Marino - Grin & Bear It

It's no news flash that a new Brad Marino album is something I would be excited about. Marino has authored two albums that ranked #3 on my year-end lists, and today he releases another one that's gonna be way up there. Out on Sioux Records on vinyl and Rum Bar Records on CD, Grin & Bear It is another stone cold gem of three-chord pop rock 'n' roll. Within three seconds of "Back Again" kicking off, you just know you're listening Brad Marino. Once again, Marino manages to deliver killer tunes that have the style and spirit of early-to-mid '60s rock 'n' roll without coming off consciously "retro." The earworm title track dispenses essential life advice and red-hot guitar work. If aliens came to our planet and asked you what Brad Marino sounds like, you'd play them "Up and Up." The Kurt Baker–penned "Hung Up" is pure '60s pop — sounding like the second hit The Wonders could have had. "Looking Then" channels poppy Ramones and tells a relatable story about a faded beauty. "I'm Broke," a Marino/Baker co-write, is a mega-catchy rocker that brings back memories of The New Trocaderos. Marino puts so much of his own style into the Rolling Stones' unreleased track "She's Doing Her Thing" that you might mistake it for one of his originals (I know I sure did!). Marino also has at the Bobby Fuller Four classic "Another Sad and Lonely Night" and totally smashes it. 

Marino enlisted a slew of talented friends to help make Grin & Bear It. Geoff Palmer, Kris Rodgers, Craig Sala, Zach Sprague, Bobby Davis, and the aforementioned Baker all play on the record. Joe King sings backing vocals on "Another Sad and Lonely Night." All that formidable musical talent is in service of 11 absolutely fantastic songs. Brad Marino as a singer, songwriter, and guitar player represents everything that's great about rock 'n' roll. For this release, he has written some smash hits and mixed in a few covers that fit the album perfectly. If rockin' pop tunes are your thing, Brad Marino is your man. The Sioux LP is on white 180-gram vinyl and limited to 300 hand-numbered copies, so you'll want to jump on that while supplies last. Compact discs are available from your home of the hits, the mighty Rum Bar Records!