Sunday, January 28, 2024

Brad Marino - Ramones and Stones EP

The man is back! Brad Marino releases his first new tracks since his album Grin and Bear It on a new 7" which features his 2023 digital smash "Ramones and Stones" and three brand-new songs. Essentially, this is the sequel to Marino's 2022 Ramonescore album Basement Beat. All four of these songs are in the style of early Ramones. And Marino continues to be an exception to my rule that no mere mortal has any business trying to sound like the Ramones. I don't know what it is about Marino, but he has a real talent not just for pulling off Ramonescore but also truly thriving at it. Perhaps it comes down to this guy just being a damn good songwriter who can put his own personality into a tune even when he's worshipping at the altar of the almighty Ramones. 

The title track is one of Marino's signature songs — a proclamation that there are really only two bands in all of history that he truly needs in his life. This was too good of a song to only exist in the digisphere, and now you can own it on orange vinyl thanks to Ghost Highway Recordings. It's backed by three more quality cuts. "Theodora" hits the pure pop side of the Ramones and could almost pass for a missing track off Rocket to Russia. I always like it when Marino channels his inner Joey Ramone, so of course this track is a favorite. "A.D.H.D." is a total thumper worthy of a position on the top shelf of Ramonescore. "Teenage Monstrosity" has that raw first album Ramones feel and would have fit right in on Basement Beat. Amazingly, this EP is almost a one-man show. Bobby Davis plays bass on two tracks. But otherwise, Marino plays everything and does a stellar job of recording himself. All in all, this is a perfect EP and a must-own if you're a Marino fan. Copies from Marino's Bandcamp are sold out, but this vinyl is well-worth tracking down. Just when I thought I was out on Ramonescore, Brad Marino pulls me back in!

Josie Cotton/Hayley and the Crushers - Split 45 RPM


Now here's one of the coolest projects I've ever had the pleasure of reviewing! Kitten Robot Records' first-ever split 7" release pairs the label's founder Josie Cotton with the mighty Hayley and the Crushers. When Hayley and the Crushers joined the Kitten Robot family a few years back, I couldn't get over what a perfect union that was. Josie Cotton and Hayley and the Crushers together encompass multiple generations of incredible pop music fronted by strong, inspiring women. Josie Cotton was surely an influence on Hayley and the Crushers, and no doubt Josie Cotton found Hayley and the Crushers to be kindred spirits. Those who love Hayley and the Crushers would be well-served to check out Josie Cotton's catalog. And those who grew up on Josie Cotton are sure to be into Hayley and the Crushers. So now these two musical entities finally share a piece of vinyl, and it does not disappoint. 

Josie Cotton's contribution to this split is "Day of the Gun," which originally appeared on the album of the same name. Somehow in one three-minute pop song, Ms. Cotton manages to summarize her entire philosophy on the history of the world. Reminiscent of both '60s pop music and spaghetti Westerns, "Day of the Gun" is both haunting and intoxicating. It finds a masterful artist at the top of her game, and her voice has never sounded better. I somehow missed the full album last year, but I've found it now and can't recommend it enough. It's extraordinary.

Hayley and the Crushers' contribution to this split is their cover of Iggy Pop's "Lust for Life," which was released this past fall as a digital single through Kitten Robot. The band recorded the song as a tribute to the city of Detroit, a community which has been incredibly welcoming to them. It's a tremendous rendition of a classic. You can sense the love for the original version, but of course Hayley and Dr. Cain put their signature style on it as well. You can hear the fun they had recording the song, and the energy level is off the charts. As I've previously stated, I don't think I ever fully appreciated the gonzo brilliance of the song's lyrics until I heard Hayley and Dr. Cain sing them. It made me want to go back and listen to the original again, and I suppose that would be an artist's primary goal in covering a song. 

The Josie Cotton/Hayley and the Crushers split is a hit! The world is a better place now that bedroom turntable parties and dive bar jukeboxes can include these two songs. The 45 officially releases on Kitten Robot Records this Tuesday, but pre-sale is already live on the label's web site. Go get it!

Monday, January 22, 2024

Wisconsin Anger Team - Archie

Wisconsin Anger Team is a band that's quite mysterious to me. The band has no social media presence as far as I can tell, and I have no knowledge of who's in the band or exactly what part of Wisconsin the group hails from. But I can tell you that the band has released four excellent albums in less than four years. A rave review from Nick on Add To Wantlist drew my attention to the band's new album Archie, and I was instantly hooked onto the full Wisconsin Anger Team catalog. Stylistically, this band is generally in poppy punk territory, yet its sound is a little rawer and noisier than what usually passes for "pop-punk" these days. I'm sensing influences of '80s melodic punk and old East Bay punk, yet at the same time there's something distinctly Midwestern about Wisconsin Anger Team (go figure, right?). If you dig tuneful, well-crafted punk songs with a DIY edge, Archie should be very much to your liking. From what I can gather, these 12 songs essentially comprise a biography of Archibald Butt — a military advisor to Presidents Roosevelt and Taft who famously died in the sinking of the Titanic. As far as ideas for concept albums go, this is about as original as it gets. This is almost like a punk rock Hamilton, and the story is every bit as interesting. Yet what I truly appreciate is that all these songs are excellent in their own right even if you remove them from the larger narrative. Archie (along with the rest of the WAT catalog) is a free download from Bandcamp. It's a terrific album from a band more people ought to be talking about!

Sunday, January 21, 2024

Ricky Rochelle - Cannibal Island Resort

Ricky Rochelle has been on some kind of roll over the last couple years. With his band The Young Rochelles and as a solo artist, he has put his name on two of the best pop-punk albums of 2022 and 2023. Now he treats us to another excellent solo effort, an EP called Cannibal Island Resort. If you are looking for something a little different from the typical love song–based approach to pop-punk, you are in luck. 

Cannibal Island Resort, of course, is a sequel to The Young Rochelles' classic 2013 EP Cannibal Island. Every track is a sequel to a song from Cannibal Island. And fortunately, Cannibal Island Resort is an exception to the rule that sequels are never as good as the originals. I suppose we could broadly call this release "horror punk." Yet while I usually am not a fan of things horror-related, I love Cannibal Island Resort. The title track in particular appeals to my very dark sense of humor. If there really were a resort run by cannibals, this song describes the sort of unique vacation experience you could expect. Spoiler alert: it would be a trip to die for. I'm probably a sicko for finding this song so hilarious, but I know I'm not alone! "S.L.O.T.H. X"  considers the grave repercussions of science going too far — quite the poignant message in the year 2024. "Mommy's Dirty Laundry" is the sequel to "I Need My Mommy To Do My Laundry." If the relationship between the song's narrator and his mother was slightly disturbing a decade ago, well, let's just say that things have escalated. Mommy is now on trial, and Ricky leaves the exact nature of her crimes up to our imaginations. And speaking of escalation, "Ugly Afterlife" continues the narrative of "Ugly Life." The song's protagonist thought it was bad when his life was a living hell. Well now he's actually in hell. Man, when Ricky Rochelle goes dark, he really goes dark! 

Ricky teamed up with Gregg Gavitt (who plays guitar, bass, and keyboards) for this EP, and that gives it a different feel from a Young Rochelles release. Cannibal Island Resort doesn't try to copy Cannibal Island, and that's part of why it's such a success. Rather than just go for a Ramones-core approach, Ricky shows a more sophisticated touch on these four tracks without straying too far from the fundamentals of pop-punk. Critical Mass Music and Little Lost Girl Media have teamed up to release Cannibal Island Resort on vinyl, CD, and 8-track tape. Grab a copy before they're all gone!

Saturday, January 20, 2024

Kryye - Pop Punk Burgermag

Kryye's debut full-length Pop Punk Burgermag is the best pop-punk album I've heard in a few years. Sometimes pop-punk bands stand out to me with originality or inventiveness, but in the case of Kryye, it's all about taking a timeless musical style and executing it to perfection. This South African foursome tears through 10 tracks in 14 minutes, and the band's enthusiasm for this type of music is truly contagious. This is music that wears a smile on its face and is sure to put one on yours. I first fell in love with punk music due to early '90s pop-punk, and Pop Punk Burgermag has me feeling that same kind of excitement all over again. A lot of that has to do with the charm and likeability of Blessing Hendricks on lead vocals, but you just can't deny this band's knack for writing songs that are super-fun and instantly catchy. If you like fast, snappy punk tunes with buzz-saw guitars and melodies for days, you need Kryye in your life. Beau Basement produced Pop Punk Burgermag, and his ear for what makes a great-sounding pop-punk record sure was bang-on. In terms of physical formats, this album is a cassette-only release from Hey Pizza! Records. Get it while you still can!

Sunday, January 07, 2024

Owen Adamcik - The Owens

Owen Adamcik has been self-releasing home-recorded power pop and poppy punk stuff at a prolific rate for a couple years now. He has titled his latest EP The Owens, and he's definitely going for a classic power pop sound on these five tracks. The cover art makes The Nerves influence obvious, and the songs confirm it. Adamcik takes a very minimalist, DIY approach to that spirit of '79 sound and genuinely pulls it off. None of these songs last much longer than a minute, yet they are all tuneful, well-crafted, and convincingly heartfelt. Adamcik is literally a one-man band here. He plays all the instruments and produces and still manages to achieve a warm, clean sound that will appeal to power pop enthusiasts. The inspirations behind these songs are no great secret, but Owen Adamcik shows that he's seriously talented and a person with a bright future in power pop. 

The Sleeveens - "Aretha Franklin"

Is it premature to proclaim the debut album from The Sleeveens the early front-runner for 2024 album of the year? Of course! But The Sleveeens did release my #1 single of 2023, and reliable sources have tipped me that the full album is one of the best things to come down the pike in punk music in years. The album comes out on Dirtnap Records February 9th, and Ken has been swell enough to treat us to one little taste. The teaser/advance single is called "Aretha Franklin," and it's another '77-style pub punk rock 'n' roll banger with hooks for days and freaking amazing lyrics. The band describes "Aretha Franklin" as "a song of resistance to all the wickedness, greed, inequality and apartheid in this world." Now that's something I can get behind! If you're a Chiswick/Stiff Records fanatic, you need to be all over this Sleveens album. The song titles alone have me seriously geeking out! Pre-order is live at Dirtnap's Bandcamp!

The Dee Thees - self titled

The pandemic is the gift that keeps on giving, musically-speaking. When the whole world shut down, musicians went and did what they were born to do: make music. Some of that music was released instantly, and some of it was saved for physical releases which have been making their way into the world over the past few years. The self-titled EP from The Dee Thees is a pandemic project that finally sees the light of day nearly four years after it was recorded. It's a collaboration between four friends who were bored under lockdown and wanted something fun to do. The Dee Thees are The Alien and The Cola from the SUCK along with Andrea from Ratbones and drummer Derek Smith. The concept was to home-record covers of songs these guys loved. In the end, it turned out well enough to merit an official release on cassette tape and compact disc. Knowing the way the SUCK sell out records, I figured it was important to get this review out there while physical copies were still available for purchase. Now this EP doesn't exactly sound like the SUCK, but it doesn't necessarily not sound like the SUCK. The Cola could sing the phone book, and I would probably give it a positive review. But he's not singing the phonebook here. He's singing The Primitives' "Crash," The Spazzys' "Action City," and The Go-Go's' "The Whole World Has Lost Its Head" (which certainly fit the tenor of the times in 2020!). The fourth cover is a rendition of the Brock Tyler/Justin Trudeau pandemic hit "Speaking Moisty." The idea of covering "Speaking Moistly" will sound either incredibly stupid or positively genius depending on your point of view. Obviously I lean more towards the latter. Of all these tracks, "Speaking Moistly" is the most SUCKy sounding. 

The fact that this Dee Thees EP was recorded as a pandemic project but holds up well enough to merit release in 2024 is a testament to the talent and impeccable musical taste of the band members. This EP, as it was created to be, is a whole lot of fun. If you're a fan of the SUCK and Ratbones or just love lo-fi poppy punk, you are sure to dig this release. It's available from Bandcamp via Space Race Records (now there's the answer to a trivia question "Which record label did I review in 1995 and 2024?") in digital and cassette formats. You can also purchase a limited CD or tape version from the Mom's Basement Records store. Don't mess around on this one!

Saturday, January 06, 2024

The Trouble Seekers - "Not Like U"

If the impending dissolution of Hall & Oates has left you questioning whether life is still worth living, perhaps you just need another duo to believe in. The Trouble Seekers, Kevin McGovern and Hillary Burton, return with what is already their ninth single. In the duo's patented style, "Not Like U" mixes together elements of dark new wave, experimental synth-punk, and jagged-edged pop to create a retro-futuristic concoction that sounds like nothing else that's out there. As always, both artists succeed in merging their singing voices and creative visions. "Not Like U" sounds like something you might have heard in a 1980s dark waver dance club if you had stepped through a portal into the future. I love the atmosphere this song creates in just a little over three minutes. It builds an air of gloom and anxiety, yet it also delivers plenty of punch and high-quality hooks. And how amazing is that artwork? If you're seeking some dark wave/post-punk that's a cut above, I urge you to track down "Not Like U" and the entire Trouble Seekers discography.

Monday, January 01, 2024

Classic Pat - "Sadie Hawkins Dance"

One cool thing that happened to me in 2023 was that I got really stoked on pop-punk again. Of course I've always liked pop-punk. This was the type of music that got me into punk rock in the first place way back when. But this past year, it just felt like I was into pop-punk way more than I'd been in a long time. And that momentum carries over into 2024. Classic Pat has released a couple teaser singles for his forthcoming solo album on Mom's Basement Records, and I am totally obsessed! I guess this is not surprising since his band The Putz has been a longtime favorite of mine. But man oh man, this latest single "Sadie Hawkins Dance" is what I live for: pop-punk that's super-poppy but also heavily influenced by traditional rock 'n' roll. Plus you have to love a song that tells a story! I imagine John from Mom's Basement laughing like a diabolical cartoon super villain when he heard this — realizing that he had one of the greatest pop-punk songs ever written in his possession. Hit up Classic Pat's YouTube channel to hear "Sadie Hawkins Dance" and "She Don't Care," which sounds like the best Queers song in years. The full album will be out soon! 


The Von Dread's - Gotta Go!

Hailing from Valencia, Spain, The Von Dread's play high energy '70s-style punk rock 'n' roll with the emphasis on the rock. What's not to love about that? Gotta Go!, the band's debut EP, will be out later this month on Madrid's Snap!! Records. It's a ripper! The American punk influences (Dead Boys, Dictators, Real Kids) are obvious, but there's a discernible Aussie punk flavor to these tracks as well. If you dig snotty vocals, smoking guitars, and a rhythm section that refuses to adhere to the posted speed limit, you are in for a treat. Any way you slice it, this is very well-done punk rock 'n' roll with attitude and energy to burn. It's 2024, and bands like this still exist. I'll drink to that!


The Wynotts - Way Back Now

Who's ready for a quintessential Faster and Louder style release? The Wynotts are a new group who are actually an old group. The band, featuring members of Jerry's Kids, Underball, The Downhauls, and The Killer Abs, formed in Boston back in 2007. The band broke up in 2009, leaving behind an album's worth of unreleased recordings. Finally this past year, The Wynotts re-formed. And now we get to enjoy the band's debut EP, which features contributions from songwriters Bob Cenci, Michele Kish, and Peter Devincent. This, my friends, is my kind of music: classic power pop punk rock n' roll, Boston style! These songs were recorded in 2009 but still sound fresh as can be in 2024. If you like guitar-driven pop songs that hit hard and deliver big hooks, you will surely enjoy Way Back Now. A physical CD is coming soon!

Vista Blue - Somebody's Favorite Band

Let's launch this blog's 14th year and Vista Blue's tenth year with one efficient post! Vista Blue is back with a brand-new single, and it's essentially a love letter to the underground music scene. I can't think of a more perfect way to kick off 2024. Vista Blue sometimes leans more pop-punk and other times leans more power pop, but the band finds the perfect blend of both styles on new single "Somebody's Favorite Band." 

The concept behind "Somebody's Favorite Band" is simple: every band out there has to be at least one person's favorite band. There are hundreds of thousands of bands out there pouring their hearts and souls into what they do. 99.9% of them will never get rich or famous doing it. Yet they persist because they love it, and at least someone out there derives joy from their music. "Somebody's Favorite Band" tells the story of one imaginary band that never quite "made it" but surely brought happiness to at least one person. A reliable source tells me that the part about the forgotten bass drum is a true story! The virtual B-side here is "Make a Record" — which pokes fun at an online "critic" who likes to post negative reviews of indie bands. While the song isn't about a real person, I think we all know people like this fictional music reviewer. The idea of the song is that instead of passing judgment on other people's creations, this dude ought to start his own band and contribute something to the music scene he purports to care so deeply about. The payoff is that the people in the bands he rags on would most likely be super supportive if he released his own music. Now that's community! I must admit that the lines "You're like the Kerouac of critics/You're the Twain of telling us what's so rad" made me think of myself when I was young and pompous. This song does an excellent job of explaining why I quit being a "critic" a long time ago! Although I will say that the world was better off with me never having made a record. 

Exclusive to the Bandcamp version of this release is a perfect bridge between "Somebody's Favorite Band" and "Make a Record" — a cover of The Queers' "Debra Jean" (which the band recorded for Little Lost Girl Media's upcoming Debra Jean compilation). Now Vista Blue is sometimes known for doing pop-punk versions of non pop-punk songs. But here they go the opposite direction and create an arrangement of a pop-punk classic that sounds nothing like pop-punk. I think this rendition of "Debra Jean" will surprise people in an entirely pleasant way. Vista Blue didn't just cover this song — they transformed it! 

You know, I don't know if I actually have just one favorite band. It's probably more like four or five co-favorites. But Vista Blue is on that shortlist, and more than a few others would have them on theirs as well. Cheers to a decade of Vista Blue! Geaux Tigers!