Sunday, April 28, 2024

Rich Ragany - "A Pleasant Fiction"

What can I say about Mr. Rich Ragany that I haven't already said before? This guy is one of the greatest songwriters in present-day rock 'n' roll, and he has been on some kind of roll. On six occasions, he has authored one of my top ten albums of the year. And the chances of that number increasing to seven in a few months are literally 100 percent. Following a couple of huge-sounding efforts with his band The Digression, Rags wanted to take a simpler approach with his forthcoming solo album You Can Get Dark with Me. Every song on the album was home-recorded on the day it was written and later fully developed in the studio. This technique was meant to capture the original solitary inspiration of the songs while still allowing for each track to grow to its full potential. The album will be out on Barrel And Squidger Records June 14th, and pre-orders are open now. With your order, you will immediately receive a digital copy of the album's first single "A Pleasant Fiction," which features Ken Mochikoshi-Horne of The Bronx guest-starring on guitar. The formidable rhythm section of Simon Maxwell and Ricky McGuire also appears on the track. Rags describes it as "black and white cinema with a rush of colour chorus." The song is a reflection on the emotion of addiction — in Rag's words — "where it leaves the person struggling through it and where it leaves that person's loved ones." It's an incredible song from an incredible album, and I urge you to reserve your copy of You Can Get Dark with Me today! 

Silicone Values - How to survive when people don't like you and you don't like them

Out on Paris-based label SDZ Records, How to survive when people don't like you and you don't like them is a proper LP compilation of digital singles from Bristol's Silicone Values, who play original, fiercely intelligent music that brings to mind the more adventurous & experimental side of first wave UK punk. Mick Fletcher maintains that this band has not received the attention it deserves, and I wholeheartedly agree (while admitting I've been one of the guilty parties). These singles go back to 2020, and I have no explanation whatsoever for how I missed the boat on all of them. Can I blame COVID brain fog? This album title is absolute genius, and the songs more than live up to it. Across 15 tracks, the band opines on the sad state of the world with candor, insight, and dark humor. And the tunes are brilliant all the way through. Behold your soundtrack to the apocalypse! If the Wire/Fall/Swell Maps wing of first generation punk gets your heart racing, Silicone Values are your next favorite band. But you knew that already, didn't you? 

Sunday, April 21, 2024

The Amplifier Heads - Songs from They Came To Rock

Songs from They Came To Rock
, the fifth album by The Amplifier Heads, is the most essential soundtrack album to be released in a good while. They Came To Rock, Norty Cohen's immersive rock opera about an alien invasion of the most unexpected kind, debuted in Nashville in 2021. Sal Baglio, who wrote many of the songs which appear in the theatrical production, recently got together with a whole bunch of his talented friends and made a proper rock and roll album out of They Came To Rock. The concept for the story is the stuff of genius: in 1947, the birth of rock and roll brought aliens to our planet in search of these wondrous sounds they were picking up on their radios. 

It makes complete sense if you think about it. Alien civilizations with the advanced technology and brain power required to defy what we believe to be the laws of physics would not likely have been impressed by our centuries of human achievements — but then they would have heard rock and roll, and that would have been a mind-blower. What extraterrestrial society wouldn't be seduced by this miraculous form of music  — which immediately ignites the soul of any sentient being and provokes a frenzy of dancing and singing and uninhibited joy? Of course the aliens would have wanted in on the action! They would have marveled at how these tiny-brained Earthlings could have created something so sublime. Combining alleged true events with pure fantasy, this collection of songs tells the story of what happened when those little green men from galaxies far away came here with one single motive: to rock! The album mixes in various audio "transmissions" to give context to the songs, and I can't help thinking that I would have totally freaked if I'd heard something like this when I was six years old and space-crazed. It's like War of the Worlds meets "Let There Be Rock," and I am here for it! 

In style and sprit, the songs from They Came To Rock resemble what extraterrestrials actually would have heard if they'd be tuned into Planet Earth's airwaves in the mid–20th century. You'll hear everything from rhythm & blues to country to first generation rock and roll to '60s beat and garage rock to out-of-this-world '70s glam. Part of Baglio's brilliance was in picking the right vocalist for each song. Any aliens hearing Barrence Whitfield belt out the title track will immediately be scheduling return trips to experience the thrill of Earthling rock and roll. The legendary Allen Estes gives "They Heard My Radio" classic country vibes. "Dead Star" sounds like a song that Dan Kopko was literally born to sing. "That Girl Betty" succeeds in recreating the Phil Spector wall of sound for a variety of reasons, but mostly because of the extraordinary vocal talents of Jen D'Angora and Samantha Goddess. I'm such a fan of Jen D'Angora as a songwriter and musician that I sometimes don't fully appreciate what a great singer she is. Her lead vocal on the old school rocker "Something Went Down" is something special. Baglio is no slouch on vocals either, breathing extraterrestrial cool into "Bienvenue" and perfectly mimicking Elvis Presley on "The Moon Rocks." "Space Cadette" brings to mind dancing aliens on spaceships jetting across the galaxy. 

For They Came To Rock to succeed, the songs were going to have to be convincing. The premise doesn't work if you don't hear these tunes and believe that aliens would hear this stuff and totally lose their minds. Thankfully —  as this Amplifier Heads' soundtrack album demonstrates — these songs totally deliver. Songs from They Came To Rock can stand alone as a great spacey garage rock album and companion piece to The Amplifier Heads' third album SaturnalienS. On another level, you might find yourself getting lost in the story and eagerly awaiting a revival of the theatrical production. Get the CD now from  Rum Bar Records, your intergalactic home of the hits!

Monday, April 15, 2024

The Reflectors - Going Out Of Fashion

Well if you know, you know: most of you don't need me to tell you that The Reflectors are one of the greatest power pop bands currently in existence. When a band of this caliber releases a new record, you buy first and ask questions later. That said, I think The Reflectors' third album Going Out Of Fashion (out now on Neon Nile) will surprise you a little. At the very least, it surprised me. With power pop bands, a sophomore jinx is rare. On the other hand, that third LP can be problematic. If your third album sounds too similar to the first two, people get bored. But if your third album sounds too different from the first two, people are disappointed. On Going Out of Fashion, The Reflectors have navigated this situation marvelously. Far from succumbing to the junior jinx, they've made their best album yet. They've accomplished this by going back to their punk rock roots but also progressing to a more mature style of songwriting. That almost sounds like a contradiction, but trust me, it's not. Going Out Of Fashion is by far the band's punkiest record, and as a result, its sound has been highly energized. This is a "Play loud or else!" type of record. You can hear the influence of classic first generation punk-pop coupled with the modern power pop sound that The Reflectors have helped define. At the same time, you can hear that the band's songwriting has not stagnated. Several of these tunes are more lyrically and musically sophisticated than anything these guys could have written a few years back. And I love the variety of this record. Vintage Reflectors songs like "All the Way Down," "I Gotta Run," and "Living in a Dream" will be crowd-pleasers in power pop circles. But just as good are more "grown-up" pop songs like "I Don't Know Anymore" and the extraordinary "Time Is All I Have." In the other direction, punk-influenced songs like "Limitation" and the stone-cold banger of a title track bring a much harder edge to The Reflectors. "Losing My Mind" is pure punk rock that will just about melt your face off! 

Resisting the temptation to just make Faster Action, part 2, The Reflectors have really stepped it up with Going Out Of Fashion. This is a fantastic album in every sense: the songs, vocals, production, and musicianship all knock it out of the park. This is still essentially a Reflectors album, but it's far from a copy of the band's previous efforts. In a world where melody, stellar hooks, and great songs are timeless, the title of this album certainly does not describe this truly excellent band. 

Saturday, April 13, 2024

Cola Cubes - "Bold Street Beach" b/w "Dream Come True"

Well here's another release that will have most of you going nuts! Cola Cubes are a trio from Liverpool, and their debut single sounds like an unearthed treasure from 1980. "Bold Street Beach" lives at the intersection of power pop, punk, and surf, and it's a stone cold smash. It's catchy, rocking, and totally fun. This track is sure to get your heart racing if Nikki and the Corvettes and early Go-Go's are your jam. Backing "Bold Street Beach" is a really great cover of Dolly Mixture's classic "Dream Come True." What a way to make a first impression! Cola Cubes refer to themselves as "your new favourite band," and I can't say they're wrong! A physical release of "Bold Street Beach" on cassette tape is up for pre-order now.

The Yum Yums - Poppin' Up Again

When I first heard The Yum Yums' new album Poppin' Up Again, I was blown away — not because it was anything unexpected, but because it was everything I had expected yet somehow far more than I had expected. The Yum Yums are one of those rare bands that can get away with making the same kind of album over and over — it would, in fact, be a tremendous disappointment if they didn't! If Morten Henriksen ever began playing jazz riffs or started writing seven-minute songs about late stage capitalism and the inevitability of death, the world would be a far bleaker place. So Poppin' Up Again basically sounds like a Yum Yums album, and of course that's a good thing. But what's remarkable after thirty years plus of this band is that there hasn't been even the slightest decline in quality. 2020's For Those About To Pop! was arguably the best album the band had ever released. For Morten to come back with another batch of songs that's every bit as good is pretty incredible. This is an all-time-great power pop band doing its thing as well as it has ever done it. If you like sugary melodies, crunching guitars, earworm hooks, and timeless lyrics about sweet girls, falling in love, and falling in love with sweet girls, Poppin' Up Again will take you to auditory heaven. How many bands wish they could write 14 songs this good in their entire career? If you want a master class on bubblegum power pop punk rock 'n' roll, school is in session, and your professor is Morten Henriksen! 

The Yum Yums' first album Sweet As Candy was a game-changer for me. It was my gateway from the Ramones to the Raspberries and Paul Collins Beat, and ever since then, power pop and pop-punk have lived in my mind as twin siblings with slightly different fashion aesthetics. Little has changed with The Yum Yums in the ensuing 27 years. If anything, this band is an even better version of what it once was — aging like the sweetest fine wine. Poppin' Up Again is a perfect power pop record, and we would expect nothing more or less from the mighty Yum Yums.

Friday, April 05, 2024

Kate Clover - The Apocalypse Dream

You've probably been hearing a lot about Kate Clover's new album The Apocalypse Dream. Believe what you're hearing: this thing is an absolute treat for anyone who loves first wave punk rock, powerful pop, modern garage rock, or all of the above! If you enjoyed Clover's last LP Bleed Your Heart Out, you can count on The Apocalypse Dream being everything that album was and much more. Any reader of this blog will find Clover's musical approach still hitting their sweet spot, but with this release her songwriting rises to another level. It's quite a task to channel classic punk & new wave in a way that feels genuinely current in 2024, but Clover manages to do exactly that. She oozes cool without even trying (which is really the only way to ooze cool!), and her songs offer just as much in lyrical substance as they do in intoxicating hooks. Of course the pre-album singles have been amazing, but there are plenty more gems on the record — such as the pandemic-inspired title track, the perfect punk-pop tune "You'll Be the Death of Me," and the anthemic new wave throwback "L.A. Prayer." No doubt this album will have you flipping out if grew up on Blondie and the Buzzcocks. But your Gen Z relations are gonna love it too!

Monday, April 01, 2024

CB Kiddo - "Running to You"

A couple weeks back, I tipped you off to the arrival of your new favorite band. Anyone reading this who hasn't already downloaded CB Kiddo's first demo and mailed in their fan club application is either a robot or a Red Hot Chili Peppers fan. Emily could have retired from music right then and there and still had the coolest single of 2024. But luckily she has not retired from music, and she quickly got to work on topping the lo-fi punk-pop magnificence of her debut. No less of an authority than Mick Fletcher has proclaimed that CB Kiddo graduates from the halls of the very good and enters the realm of greatness on this new single titled "Running To You." Perhaps I'm being influenced by the cover of the Forgotten Rebels' "Tell Me You Love Me" on the virtual B-side, but there's just something about these recordings that is quintessentially Canadian. Clearly there's something in the air or the water or the pizza dough up North that couldn't be replicated elsewhere. If someone pressed these tunes onto a 45 and claimed they were recorded during a Maritime blizzard in 1980, no one would have any reason to suspect that was a lie. "Running to You" is a scruffy powerpop/punk earworm that will have you pounding that repeat button until half your day is shot. And the cover of "Tell Me You Love Me" is outrageously good. If you didn't already know the song was a classic, you will now. Emily Williston has been one of the best punk vocalists going for a number of years, and now her songwriting talents are really getting the chance to shine with CB Kiddo. If you're into glammy, garagey, old school pop-punk, you should be running in direction of "Running to You."

The Bacarrudas - "You Can Have My Love If You Want It, OK?"

Wow: The Bacarrudas sure knew how to pick the perfect debut single! Excuse me while I go pick my jaw off the floor. Notice I said The Bacarrudas, not  The Barracudas or Barreracudas. The Bacarrudas are a '60s-style frat rock band from Bucks County, Pennsylvania. As fellow citizens of this commonwealth, they are entitled to free admission to any music fests I will someday arrange along with complementary Faster and Louder varsity jackets. Technically, their debut single was a Christmas release which came out at the end of last year. But for their first proper single, The Bacarrudas treat us to a preview of Pool Party, their forthcoming debut album on Mom's Basement Records. Now this is no ordinary garage rock band. This is a garage rock band featuring the god-like singing and songwriting talents of Mr. Adam Rabuck.  "You Can Have My Love If You Want It, OK?" has more energy than a 1980s exercise video, and it is sure to promote the burning of even more calories. If the song were any catchier, your school nurse would have warned you about it. Push play and get dancing! The full album drops May 3rd!

The Streetwalkin' Cheetahs - Call the Dogs/Crazy Operator

Well it's April 1st, but I'm not fooling around. Today I've got not one two new EPs for you from one of the best rock 'n' roll bands out there. With these two new releases, The Streetwalkin' Cheetahs pick up right where they left off on 2021's killer long player One More Drink. Call the Dogs is a ten-inch record out on Warsaw's Heavy Medication Records. Crazy Operator is a 7" out on Madrid's Ghost Highway Recordings and limited to 250 copies. Both of these releases were timed to coincide with the Cheetahs' tour of Europe — which is still ongoing with several gigs in Spain over the next few days. Altogether, this is eight tracks of the Cheetahs doing what they do best: high energy rock 'n' roll in the classic punk style with hooks for days. Call the Dogs kicks off with a title track that's vintage Cheetahs. Channeling the primoradial ooze of punk music, this rocker is every bit the ass-kicker the title suggests. The band's recent digital single "Victim of the Service Industry" is next, making its vinyl debut. It's truly an anthem for these times. "'80s Baby" is a total ripper for fans of blood and guts '77-style punk. "Long Haul" closes things out on a slightly poppier note with hints of classic Bowie. Crazy Operator comes roaring out of the gates with the scorching title track, followed by the hooky glam rock 'n' roll of "Wake Up" and a wonderfully creative arrangement of Pete Shelley's synth-pop hit "Homosapien." "Let's Dance," an old Cheetahs' favorite, is pure fire and a perfect closer for this EP.  Needless to say, you need both of these records if you're a Streetwalkin' Cheetahs fan. Closing in on three decades as a band, the Cheetahs have never sounded better. They are the definition of aging like fine wine. They've got some hot tunes for us here — with many more to come in the near future!