Friday, June 28, 2024

Unicorn Dogs - Age Typical Junk Behavior

Back in March, I predicted that Unicorn Dogs' debut full-length Age Typical Junk Behavior would join the growing list of  "A+ pop-punk albums" released this year. For once, I turned out to be right about something! To recap, two-thirds of Baltimore-based Unicorn Dogs used to be two-thirds of Charlie Brown Gets a Valentine. But while there's some similarity between the two bands, Unicorn Dogs are miles beyond what CBGaV was. There's nothing particularly novel or complicated about what Unicorn Dogs do, but perhaps that's the whole point. They play gritty, straight-forward pop-punk, and they put tremendous heart & soul into it. Their songs are simple in terms of both structure and the approach to recording. Yet you won't find a band with catchier, more memorable pop-punk tunes. I appreciate that there are two songwriter/vocalists, and I like them equally. That's a little reminiscent of Husker Du for me, and I would guess that Husker Du is somewhat of an influence on Unicorn Dogs. You can feel the passion and energy that went into these songs, and the lyrics are thoughtful and super-relatable. This, my friends, is pop-punk for grown-ups —and it's freaking amazing. Was I practically in tears the first time I heard "You Would Have Known Better"? Of course I was! Surely I can relate to "Screwed Together" way more deeply than I can relate to any pop-punk song I liked 25 years ago. Age Typical Junk Behavior is an absolutely perfect pop-punk album. Only one song exceeds two minutes, and every track makes me want to pump my fist and shout along like my life depended on it. Over the course of this album, the band reflects on topics such as revenge, parenthood, work, marriage, overcoming adversity, the shortcomings of humanity, alienation, and the inevitability of death. To reverse-paraphrase Morrissey, the music Unicorn Dogs play says a lot to me about my life. 

Loose Lips - self titled

First The Prize and The Unknowns hooked up for a split 7". Now we've got members of both bands literally joining forces to form a new project with a Chubby and the Gang member in tow. Yes, please! The band is called Loose Lips, and its debut release is a four-song cassette EP that's sure to melt your face off. Suffice it to say that if you're a fan of The Prize and The Unknowns, you're gonna lose your shit for Loose Lips. The sound is punky power pop meets '70s pub rock 'n' roll, and it's executed to perfection. These cats aren't fooling around: they tear through four tracks of toe-tapping, booty-shaking, sing-along goodness with hooks a plenty and a raw, quintessentially Australian edge. What's not to love? Get in on this action now! 

Thursday, June 27, 2024

Brad Marino - Hot Rod Rampage

Anything Brad Marino does is gold in my book, but he's really hitting a sweet spot for me with his new EP Hot Rod Rampage. This release is an homage to one of the most iconic styles of American rock 'n' roll: early '60s hot rod & surf. Since I wasn't born until the '70s, I've often imagined what it would have been like to have been a teenager circa 1963-64 — spending your summers driving around in a hot rod, hitting the beach, and listening to rock 'n' roll on the radio. Marino describes that era of surf rock as "Chuck Berry with some sweet harmonies," and that particular influence has always been palpable in his songwriting. It was what first drew me to The Connection, one of the bands that most influenced my evolving musical tastes in the 2010s. So it's no surprise that Marino has been wanting to do a hot rod record for 15 years. He just never got around to it: until now! The lineup for this release is incredible. Craig Sala is on drums and saxophone. Dave Strong and Bobby Davis play guitar. Kris Rodgers plays piano on one track. You won't find a better hot rod rock 'n' roll band! The track list includes covers of three classics along with Marino's original instrumental "Tripwire." Effectively, this is also a mini-tribute to songwriters Gary Usher & Roger Christian. The songs covered are "D-Gas Chevy" from The Super Stocks' 1964 album Thunder Road, "Wax, Board and Woodie" from The Surfaris' Hit City 64, and "Shut Down" from the Beach Boys' 1963 release Surfin' U.S.A. These are all great versions. Marino, Strong, and Davis all shine on lead guitar, and Marino's work layering all those harmonies is masterful. There's nothing in the world that goes together better than driving, summer weather, and rock 'n' roll; so you know the timing of this release was no accident. Download these tunes and hit the road! 

Wednesday, June 26, 2024

The Wynotts - Way Back Now

On the very first day of this year, I reported on the reformation of The Wynotts — a Boston-based band that originally formed in 2007 and broke up in 2009. The group disbanded with a lot of recorded material in the can, and those tracks now see the light of day a decade and a half after they were recorded. A few songs were released digitally late last year, but now the full album Way Back Now is available on compact disc with distribution from the mighty Rum Bar Records. There's an old joke about how most bands in Boston qualify as "super-groups." But it's hard to not call The Wynotts a super-group! Bob Cenci (Jerry's Kids, Hellcats From Outer Space), Michele Kish (The Killer Abs), Peter DeVincent (Underball), and Ivahna Rock (The Downhauls, Petty Morals) are all mainstays of the Boston-area garage/punk scene. Cenci and Kish are the primary songwriters, but all four band members contribute material. Each songwriter has their own style, yet it all comes together in a cohesive and complementary way. It ought to be illegal to have this much talent in one band! Simply put, The Wynotts sound like a classic Boston punk rock band. They write great pop songs and deliver them in a hard-driving three-chord rock 'n' roll style. If you dig old school powerpop/punk, this is definitely the album for you. The songs are fantastic all the way through, and even after 11 tracks, I'm left wanting more. I'm amazed that these songs went unreleased for 15–16 years, but the I suppose the good thing about that is that the band members had plenty of time to realize they had an album that the world really needed to hear. And heck, if this album had come out in 2009,  I would have missed it since I was not writing about music at the time! Ultimately, this is a great album in any year and hands down one of the best long players of 2024 so far. The Wynotts working with Malibu Lou is truly a match made in heaven! 

Angry Adults - Lust for Punk

The Helsinki-based trio Angry Adults is back with another 7" record that brings to mind the heyday of Mutant Pop Records. The front cover of Lust for Punk is a clear homage to the original version of Moral Crux's Victim of Hype EP. Musically, the most obvious Mutant Pop comparison is The Automatics. With their raw, snotty, and stripped-down approach to pop-punk, Angry Adults bring back an aesthetic that just screams later '90s DIY. With cheap gear and zero regard for proper production values, they blast through four buzzsaw punk tunes in less than six minutes. If you've generally dismissed pop-punk as too wimpy or polished for your tastes, let Angry Adults turn you to the dark side. 

Sunday, June 23, 2024

Hoverborg - The Good Stuff

This is one of the few times in my life when I've found it worthwhile to completely re-write a post. The bombshell that no human beings sing or play music on Hoverborg's The Good Stuff necessitated some further reflections. First things first: I won't retract my general assessment of the music. The Good Stuff remains a fantastic alt rock/power pop album that evokes a special time in popular music. I have no objections in principle to fictional bands and even referenced Josie and the Pussycats in my original review. These songs, while apparently performed by robots, were written by an actual human with considerable talent. The humor and humanity in these songs is very real. If part of this experiment was to discover if people would not be able to detect that it was an AI creation and would in fact love the album, then it's hard to deny that it was a successful endeavor. It was immediately well-received by me and several other people whose musical tastes I trust. I'll be totally honest: if I had known this album was an AI project, I would never have listened to it. Knowing what I know now, my reaction is not entirely negative. It's a mixture of being creeped out by the capabilities of this technology and surprised that the music came across so genuinely human. I mentioned how the joy that went into these songs was palpable. How hilarious is that observation now? In retrospect, so many things make sense now. We can understand why this band seemed to come out of nowhere, why those harmonies are so flawless, and how effortlessly Hoverborg managed to channel the sound of that dog., Letters to Cleo, Veruca Salt, etc. Has this made me less judgmental about bands/artists making some use of AI in the studio? Absolutely. But when it comes to being open-minded about AI bands, I'm still not there yet. What's for certain is that this technology is not going away, and it's going to have some place in music in the future.  

Junior Varsity - "Back To Reno"

Mighty Joe Vincent (The Prissteens, The Swingin' Neckbreakers, The Devil Dogs) needs no introduction on these virtual pages. He's an absolute legend and without a doubt one of the greatest drummers the garage/punk/rock 'n' roll world has ever known. And now he's back with a new band that all the cool cats are talking about. Mighty Joe has recruited a whole slew of super-talented friends (Paul Bertolino, Mike Dudolevitch, Mike Fornatale, Dave Lieb, Alec Morton, and Tom Lucas) to bring some of his new songs to life. The band is named Junior Varsity, and its first single is called "Back To Reno." It's out on Rum Bar Records as a free download. "Back To Reno" is something a little different from Mighty Joe's past projects — it's got a '70s classic rock feel a la the Stones, Faces, Humble Pie, etc. This tune features an arena-sized vocal from Bertolino, totally smoking guitars, and (of course!) an irresistible beat. And how could you not love a line like "No matter how much I lose, it ain't never enough"? Vincent's songwriting chops have been well-established. But with Junior Varsity, he's showing a new side of himself. He co-wrote and produced this track, which was recorded by Lucas and then mastered by Kurt Bloch. And it sounds like a million bucks! Clearly this was a case of a songwriter finding exactly the right musicians to bring his vision to life. This, my friends, is rock n' roll! There's more to come from Junior Varsity, so stay tuned. In the meantime, step up to the bar and get "Back To Reno"! 

Saturday, June 22, 2024

Friends of Cesar Romero - Last Summer A Year From Now

You know I'm always pumped for new music from Friends of Cesar Romero. J. Waylon is one of the finest songwriters in the present-day garage/pop/rock 'n' roll universe, and the way he manages to be a prolific artist yet never turn out a sub-par release is beyond impressive. FoCR's new EP Last Summer A Year From Now (How's that for an amazing title?) is installment number 42 in the Doomed Babe Series. And yet as deep as we are into this series, none of these installments have felt unnecessary or redundant. Any time I hear the latest installment, I'm already looking forward to the next one. Part of that is the timelessness of the subject matter. Who can't relate to themes of heartbreak and obsession and doomed romance? Another part of it is how well J. Waylon writes about this sort of stuff. He has lived these songs, and he's gifted at putting all that doom into eloquent words. This new EP finds him mixing up musical styles in a most satisfying way. "Kinetic Threat" is a crackling opener that brings to mind the early 2000s heyday of modern garage rock. "Purple Hearts Hardly Bruise" is ultra-energetic poppy punk and quite the toe-tapper. The title track is scruffy power pop par excellence. "The Long Drive To You" takes it back to the garage vein and begs to be blasted loudly. Closing it out, "Simple Little Love Song" is textbook power pop. There's something on this EP for everyone, and there's nothing on this EP that will disappoint longtime fans. And if you're not a longtime fan, this would be a perfectly good entry place into Friends of Cesar Romero fandom. Grab a free download while you can, and be sure to dig into that treasure trove of a back catalog if you like what you hear!

Friday, June 21, 2024

The Shang Hi Los - "Morganatic Panic"

I can say with nearly 100% certainty that The Shang Hi Los are the first band in history to write a power pop song about Edward VIII's abdication of the British throne in the wake of his engagement to divorced American socialite Wallis Simpson. But given that it touches on love, passion, scandal, intrigue, and sacrifice, this story is absolutely the perfect subject matter for a three-minute pop song. It's no shock that the Shangs have churned out an indie chart smash in "Morganatic Panic." They are a hit singles machine. The band has never rocked harder, and they're channeling Cheap Trick more than a little on this rollicking earworm. There's enough guitar power on this track to shake a packed stadium. On the toe-tapping scale, this song rates a 12 out of ten. Once that "You'd better run, run Teddy/Run, run Teddy" refrain hits, resistance is futile. You are hooked, and everyone within earshot of you for the next several hours will be too. A constitutional crisis with a whiff of sex is sure to arouse anyone's interests, and the Shangs have given Edward and Wallis an anthem worthy of their world-altering romance. Get this song of the summer contender now from your home of the hits, Rum Bar Records! 

Sunday, June 16, 2024

J Prozac - Obsession

The Rum Bar Records Summer of Pop-Punk is in full swing! New albums from J Prozac, The Cretins, and Pavid Vermin dropped this past Friday; the American release of The Yum Yums' Poppin' Up Again and a new EP from Boris the freaking Sprinkler are set for July 5th. Twentysomething me would be geeking out. Present-day me is super-stoked to realize that this sort of music has held up remarkably well when subjected to the test of time. 

If you cut open J Prozac, he would bleed pop-punk. He's a lifer and true believer. His longevity in this genre is a testament to the room he has left himself to grow as songwriter. On his new release Obsession, he continues to balance a deep love for pop-punk as a near-perfect musical form with his personal evolution as a singer, songwriter, family man, and human. Obsession doesn't stray far from the J Prozac signature sound you know and love, but lyrically it goes super deep. In fact, Jay has never gone deeper. This is a pretty dark record that finds Jay confronting a lot of his demons. Many of these songs come from a headspace where darkness is descending upon you and everything around you seems to be falling apart. With tremendous openness and honesty, Jay reflects on struggle and pain and a hopelessness that can consume you if you let it. Ultimately, this collection of songs sees the light at the end of the tunnel without sugar-coating reality. The worst thing you can do when you find yourself in a dark place is to keep it all bottled in and never let anyone know you're struggling. J Prozac, who has put some of his deepest, darkest reflections into song, is an inspiration. He has also proven that you can still write love songs as a proper grown-up if you make sure they cut deeper. A hopeful song like "That Feeling" is all the more powerful because you know it's not bullshit. It's real and raw and straight from the heart. "When That Day Comes" is a Prozac specialty: a heart-on-sleeve anthem that would be unbearably sappy in the hands of most songwriters but is nothing but chills coming from Jay. There are some real curveballs on this record (such as "The Bitter End" and "No One Else"), but overall the vibe here is quasi-mainstream '90s/2000s pop-punk. It sounds a little like the best album Fat Wreck Chords never released. It's more conventionally pop-punk than 2022's Won't Let Go yet still feels like a progression for J Prozac. 

At some point as a pop-punk songwriter, you probably have to let go of an adolescent perspective and get into some heavy adult shit and hope that your audience grows with you. Decades ago, I would have scoffed at the idea of adult-oriented pop-punk. But now I'm hearing the likes of The Young Hasselhoffs and J Prozac, who were real teenagers in the '90s when I was still pretending to be one, making the best records of their lives a quarter-century later, and I don't see any reason for this ride to end as long as we're all still breathing. Vinyl copies of Obsession are super-limited, so get cracking while the cracking's good!  

Saturday, June 15, 2024

Wasted Pretty - self titled

Twins Ginger and Joey formed Wasted Pretty in Marinette, Wisconsin four years ago in response to boredom with pandemic lockdown and online high school. By the summer, they had released their now-classic debut single "Sucks Being Underage" b/w "Don​'​t Care." The pandemic eventually died down, but Ginger and Joey's passion for punk rock did not. After going through more drummers than Spinal Tap, the twins finally found their permanent third piece in current thumper Joe. No longer teenagers, Ginger and Joey have grown their 2020 lockdown project into one of the most exciting young punk rock bands of the present day. They just released their long-awaited debut album, and it's a proverbial breath of fresh air. You don't run into a lot of 20-year-olds who would cite the likes of The Runaways, Stooges, Sex Pistols, and Romeo Void as musical favorites or have named their band after a Figgs song. Yet there's something distinctive about the way a band of this age interprets old school influences. The attitude and energy can be traced back to recordings from decades ago, but Wasted Pretty is putting a modern, fresh twist on the style. Ginger as a lead singer is both the quintessential punk vocalist and a genuine original. Simply put, she's bad-ass. The album was produced by pat mAcdonald, a legendary figure in Wisconsin rock music. Impressively, mAcdonald's production is light-handed and shows a tremendous understanding of the kind of music Wasted Pretty wants to make. He doesn't try and polish away the band's raw edge like so many big-name producers might have. Clocking in at just under 19 minutes, this ten-track album exemplifies teenage (or post-teenage) punk rock. Songs are simple in structure and carried off with tremendous force and enthusiasm. There' s a bit of an Alice in Wonderland theme at play here — another reminder that the twins have an appreciation for the classics. I imagine if you were a tween or teen and heard this record, it would make you want to pick up a guitar or drum sticks and start your own band. And for the rest of us, it's nice to be reminded of why we came to love punk rock in the first place.

Linnea's Garden - "Chaotic Bisexual Summer"

When I heard that Linnea's Garden new single was going to be called "Chaotic Bisexual Summer," I knew the song would be epic. Knowing Linnea Herzog's talents as a songwriter and this band's consistently delightful output, I couldn't help but be a little excited. And sure enough, "Chaotic Bisexual Summer" is a summertime smash. The song, in its author's own words, is "a celebration of pride, visibility, and finding home within yourself by living an authentic life." Musically it's vintage Linnea's Garden — poppy, indie/punk-ish, and danceable but not limited by the boundaries of genre. The song was inspired by Linnea's first girlfriend and subsequent coming out experience ten years ago and what that set in motion in terms of personal growth. Lyrically, this is some of Linnea's most extraordinary work (the first verse alone is hall of fame worthy!). This song is full of vivid, memorable reflections, and any human with a heart can relate to the journey towards finding love as your true self. "Chaotic Bisexual Summer" is a serious song, but it's a fun one too. There's a joyfulness to the way this song is performed that really fits its lyrical themes. One of Linnea's greatest gifts as a songwriter is the ability to write from an autobiographical perspective and still create something that's universally relatable. This may be the first time I've ever seen a band quote Albert Camus in liner notes, but it 100% makes sense in the context of the song. I would urge you to read the quote and listen to the song and make your own connections. If you've got a summer playlist, "Chaotic Bisexual Summer" needs to be on it! 

Wednesday, June 12, 2024

Golden Richards - "Doctor K"

I'm always delighted by the arrival of new music from Chicago-based power pop rockers Golden Richards. In my book, any Golden Richards single is a hit single. "Doctor K," the band's new single, is full of '80s summertime power pop vibes — but with quite the twist! Doctor K was the name Gil Golden used when he recorded a locally popular rap track back in his high school days. This song tells the story of a young man who runs into an ex-girlfriend and believes he can win her back if she learns that he is the rapper Doctor K. That's a pretty amazing concept for a song, and "Doctor K" is everything you would expect from a Golden Richards tune. If you've ever pined for a lost love and fantasized about becoming so incredibly successful that they'd have to come back to you, you'll really be feeling this song. This is kind of like The Great Gatsby except more fun and far less tragic. The hooks are super-sized, and Billy really pours his heart into the vocal. What girl could possibly say no to Doctor K? The surprise (which is now no longer a surprise since I'm telling you about it) is that "Doctor K" turns out to essentially be three songs in one and concludes with an old school rap a la Sugar Hill Gang and Kurtis Blow. The rap is pretty hilarious and manages to reference everything from Bewitched to Three's Company to the Rolling Stones. I have no idea what the original Doctor K track sounded like, but it's hard to believe it could have been any better than this! This is legit good! "Jump on the Doctor K cloud/He ain't no GP, he's specialty now" just might be the lyric of the year! "Doctor K" is something a little different from Golden Richards — a veritable power pop rap opera! In a perfect world, all the cars in the Friendly's parking lot would be cranking it! 

Tuesday, June 11, 2024

Hayley and the Crushers - "Alleyways"

Back with their second single from their forthcoming EP Unsubscribe from the Underground, Hayley and the Crushers are really hitting me where I feel it. Hayley Cain wrote "Alleyways" as a remembrance of her favorite teenage hangout spot and the local punk rock scene that meant everything to her. So many of us have cherished memories of being part of a punk rock community and basking in the freedom, excitement, and pure fun that came with it. With "Alleyways," the Crushers manage to capture that spirit in song. I sensed on the last single "Unsubscribe" that this band has really gotten back to its punk rock roots, and that feeling goes double for "Alleyways." The song is snappy & high-spirited while also having that wistful touch you'd expect when you're reflecting on memories that are now a couple decades old. Above all else, this song taps into the fundamental joy of punk rock as a way of life. This joy is palpable in the playing and the singing, and it comes through in the music video as well. Hayley and Dr. Cain have really done a remarkable job of growing their sound while still holding on to those qualities that make their band so special. And of course this new lineup is hot! I've got a feeling that fans are gonna go absolutely wild for "Alleyways"! Instantly, it becomes one of my favorite Crushers songs ever. If you have precious memories of DIY punk shows and the friends & connections you made there, you'll be feeling this song too. The full EP will be out in September on Kitten Robot Records! 

Monday, June 10, 2024

Rich Ragany - You Can Get Dark with Me

I know this is around the 20th time that I have championed the songwriting talents of Mr. Rich Ragany, but I have to say that ole Rags has truly outdone himself with his new album You Can Get Dark with Me (out this Friday on Barrel And Squidger Records). In the aftermath of What We Do (To Not Let Go), his arena-sized swan song with his band The Digressions, Rags wanted to go in a more intimate direction with his next release. But rather than simply going the typical homemade "unplugged" route, Rags had a more interesting idea: he would "deconstruct to reconstruct." He recorded all these songs at home on the very day they were written. The tracks were later fleshed out in the studio with producer Andy Brook and the Digressions' rhythm section of Simon Maxwell and Ricky McGuire. Rags also traveled back to his hometown of Calgary to work on a few tracks with his pal Russ Broom. Notably, the final mixes of these tracks still include Rags' original homemade recordings. The whole point of this approach was to capture the spur-of-the-moment solitary inspiration of the songs while also highlighting how they blossomed into something even better. Sometimes songwriters try and simplify things. Other times, they try and stretch themselves. Here Rags has done both, creating songs that sound meticulously-crafted without losing their direct, personal feel. You might guess that all those guitars were overdubbed in the studio. Nope, that's actually Rags in his bathroom with an acoustic guitar. I kid you not!

Music reviewers (myself included...ha ha) are sometimes full of it when they hail every favorite artist's new release as their best yet. But there's no way I can't say You Can Get Dark with Me is the best album Rich Ragany has ever put his name on. He has been on quite a run over the past decade, releasing three albums with The Role Models, three with The Digressions, and now his proper solo debut. All of these previous records were excellent and among the best long players of their year. But Rags has never delivered a more powerful or consistent collection of songs than the one he will drop on Friday. You Can Get Dark with Me contains 10 songs, and every single one of them would have been a standout track on any of Rags' previous releases. To call this album "filler-free" is an understatement. What stands out to me is how seamless Rags' growth as a songwriter has been — building off his roots in punk rock and power pop yet very quickly transcending genre. It's very hard to put a label on You Can Get Dark with Me because it simply sounds like Rich Ragany. And who says we need to label music? Rags put his soul into these songs. His voice, his flair for melody, his knack for anthemic hooks, and his relatability as a songwriter are the stuff of a genuine original. And after three decades plus of slugging it out in the world of rock 'n' roll, he's just now hitting his creative peak. I promise to call him out if his next record sounds like Warrant, but something tells me I won't have to worry about that. 

Of course the album title is worthy of mention. It was inspired by something Scott Sorry said to Rags, and it speaks to what so many of these songs are truly about. When it comes to friendship (or any kind of close relationship), some of our most meaningful interactions stem from hard times. We support our friends when they struggle, and we use our strength to lift them up. Other times our friends do this for us. Sometimes this leads to dark conversations, but those dark conversations can be lifelines for us or the people we love. The people willing to get dark with you are the people you need in your life. It goes without saying that You Can Get Dark with Me gets a little dark, but it's dark in a way that's honest and intimate and invigorating for the soul. Rags has a way of writing about topics such as trauma, addiction, grief, alienation, and self-doubt as if he's talking directly to a friend. If you don't know him, you'll feel like you do after you listen to this album. Surely that's one of the marks of a great songwriter. Singling out individual tracks is a difficult task on an album as strong as this one. That said, "You Can Get Dark with Me" is a powerful ballad worthy of its inspired title. "Sierra Bonita," redolent of '80s new wave and post-punk, meets every possible definition of an anthem. "Tragic Celebration" is deeply-moving and inspiring — and quite possibly the best song Rags has ever written. "Worth," which passionately justifies all the struggles, sacrifices, trials, and tribulations that go into a life of a musician, puts an emphatic end mark on an extraordinary album.  

Due to the way it as created, You Can Get Dark with Me is a very unique album. It does come off as more intimate and personal than What We Do (To Not Let Go), yet it's no less anthemic. It's a great album to listen to while you're taking a long walk or sitting alone on the porch reflecting on the meaning of life. These songs will hit deep in your soul, but they'll also make you want to pump your fist, sing along, jubilantly dance in public, and relish feeling alive. Now four paragraphs deep into this piece, I'm surely preaching to the choir if I proclaim Rich Ragany one of the best songwriters out there. But if you do need some convincing, You Can Get Dark with Me is the album to listen to. Order it here!

Sunday, June 09, 2024

Lesser Creatures - Entertainment System

On their new album Entertainment System, Lesser Creatures continue to be an exception to the rule that I'm totally over "snotty" pop-punk. Nick Spoon and his new bandmates Tyler Adams and Lilly Koloski take me back to the mid-'90s when DIY pop-punk was exploding and you had all these bands who obviously loved Screeching Weasel but were still really rad because they were young, scrappy, and enthusiastic. It was a super-fun time to be into music, and I fondly recall combing the pages of fanzines in search of new pop-punk bands to check out. Thirty years later, Lesser Creatures recapture the spirit of that scene. On Entertainment System, Lesser Creatures totally lean into their '90s pop-punk influences. They're not trying to break new ground, and they're not going to try and change your mind if this type of music isn't your thing. But if want to hear tried-and-true pop-punk that's catchy as heck and played with tremendous enthusiasm, this is the album for you. Nick Spoon may sound like you took Ben Weasel, Joey Vindictive, and B.A. from Sloppy Seconds and tossed them in a blender, yet his approach doesn't come as affected or overly labored. I think that's just what he sounds like, and I have to admit I kind of love his vocals! As a songwriter, he adds his own clever, creative, and often humorous lyrical flair to this familiar musical style, and what results are songs that are genuinely fun to listen to. With this version of Lesser Creatures, we have three true believers in pop-punk. And we need true believers in music just as much as we need innovators. If you ever played your cassette copy of My Brain Hurts daily for months or lived for the moment when that Mutant Pop Records envelope showed up in your mailbox, Entertainment System will be music to your ears. 

Saturday, June 08, 2024

CB Kiddo - CB Kiddo Explodes!

It's one thing to release one of the year's best singles, but CB Kiddo has already reached hat trick status less than halfway through 2024. New single CB Kiddo Explodes! is the most fun you can have for free in three minutes without violating any laws or long-standing moral codes. Without question, Emily has one of the best voices in punk rock, and now she's filling the world with insanely catchy lo-fi poppy punk songs and pictures of adorable pups. If you're not already in the fan club, what in the world are you waiting for? In my book, there are maybe five or six legitimate silver linings to the world having to live through a deadly pandemic, and one of them is the existence of CB Kiddo. These new tunes, "Explode" and "Out of My Mind," are every bit as good as the previous tracks. Emily knows how to bang out a hooky punk tune with perfect efficiency. I'm shocked that some world-renowned record label hasn't already dispatched representatives to Moncton to sample the finest donairs and secure a deal for a CB Kiddo vinyl release. It's only a matter of time, right? 

Friday, June 07, 2024

Premiere: Moron's Morons - "Slash Dance" b/w "I'm Afraid You Will Die"

I am honored to premiere the new single from Moron's Morons, Warsaw's most dangerous punk rock 'n' roll band! "Slash Dance" b/w "I'm Afraid You Will Die" will be releasing next week on Sweet Time Records, a label which has been absolutely killing it over the last couple years. And speaking of killing it, these two new tracks from Moron's Morons are not for the faint of heart! I've always admired this band for its commitment to keeping some shock value in punk rock yet never letting that be secondary to writing great songs. This new record just might be the best thing the Morons have ever put out. It's a raging double shot of blood & guts '70s punk rock 'n' roll that's tailor-made for the 7" format. "Slash Dance," with its wonderfully demented vocal, buzzsaw guitars, and powerhouse drums & bass, is seductive in the most sick & twisted way. Ya gotta love it! On the B-side, the blistering "I'm Afraid You Will Die" absolutely lives up to its title. If you're a longtime fan, you know you're gonna need this record. And for anyone interested in the very best of today's garage/punk/rock 'n' roll, I highly recommend this release along with the full catalogs of Moron's Morons and Sweet Time. Stay tuned to Sweet Time's Bandcamp for updates! 


Sunday, June 02, 2024

The Putz - On and Up and Out

With the exception of a Christmas single in 2022, The Putz had not released new music in four years. So it's a joy to have a new EP from one of the best pop-punk bands in the business — with more to come very soon! On and Up and Out is almost a concept record. So much of pop-punk as a genre exists because people break up with their significant others and want to wallow in misery. On this EP, Billy's songs essentially flip that idea upside down. On and Up and Out explores the silver linings of relationships meeting their demise. The cliché in the aftermath of a breakup is to say, "It was for the best." And that's usually bullshit. But sometimes it's not. Sometimes a bad breakup is an opportunity to reclaim your life and your freedom. Sometimes it's an escape from a toxic situation. Sometimes being alone is less miserable than being with someone who makes you miserable. The Putz is one of those rare bands that can get away with sticking to a defined musical style, and these four songs demonstrate why. This is pop-punk by the book — executed to perfection and (as the liner notes say) "guaranteed to get your toes tapping and fingers snapping." What more do you need! Enjoy these tunes now, and be on the lookout for a new Putz full-length coming soon on Mom's Basement Records!

Pavid Vermin - Brutality Is My Only Friend

It's not often I use the word "genius" to describe a rock 'n' roll record, but what Glenn Robinson has done with his latest Pavid Vermin album is absolutely, positively a work of genius. A few years back, he was goofing around with a death metal song title generator. Then he got the idea to actually write songs based on these titles — but to make them sound like '50s and '60s rock 'n' roll! This might have been a jokey project if he had just written one song or gone through the motions with the songwriting. Instead, he worked for a few years to really perfect the material  — making sure the songs were legit good and up to his usual standards. Pavid Vermin for several years has been one of the most dependable "bands" in the pop-punk world. With this new album Brutality Is My Only Friend, we get the familiar spirit of Pavid Vermin. But this is not really a pop-punk record. It's an oldies-influenced pop rock 'n' roll record that is about as musically upbeat as it gets — creating quite a contrast to the absolutely brutal lyrics. Of course I was laughing the moment I heard the line "We'll all be dead in a couple of days" delivered as if it were the happiest phrase ever uttered. But the joke never wears thin since these songs are just so catchy and well-crafted. Essentially, Pavid Vermin has given us songs about murder, torture, dismemberment, and cannibalism that we can dance to. "Excremental Feast on the Decomposing Remnants of Humanity" is an infectious garage/beat party-starter. "Sacrificed by Cannibals at the Bottom of the Stairs to the Church of Blood" sounds like Elvis Costello and the Attractions if they'd gone really dark. "Baptized in Searing Acid in the Cesspool of the Necrotic Slaughterhouse" has a swinging '60s feel. "Tormented Corpse Exsanguination" could almost have been on the American Graffiti soundtrack! 

I suppose some people will check out this album and be like, "Man, that's messed up." But isn't that the whole point? Dark humor has always been a sweet spot for me, and the level of commitment to dark humor on this record is beyond impressive. These are genuinely some of the best songs in the Pavid Vermin catalog. The novel aspects of Brutality Is My Only Friend will grab your attention, but the quality of the execution will keep you coming back. The digital album is available now. A limited vinyl release is available from Memorable But Not Honorable Records. A CD release is coming June 14th on Rum Bar Records — which will be kicking off its summer of pop-punk by also releasing new albums from J Prozac and The Cretins on the very same day! Pre-orders are open, so step up to the bar!

Saturday, June 01, 2024

Radar - self titled

Nearly four years after its debut EP, New York City punk rock band Radar releases its first full-length record on Dead Broke Rekerds. Radar — a band which features members of Meltaways, Adult Magic, Giant Peach, and Back-up Plan — plays rockin' poppy punk with a distinctive NYC flavor. That's a sound that it timeless to me, and the band's self-titled long player is a ripping great time. Only three of the 12 tracks exceed two minutes in length, and from start to finish, this record is an energetic, upbeat, and hooky affair. This is one of those albums that just seems to fly by. You get to the end and can't believe it's already over. So you just push play and start it over! If you like pop-punk with a fun attitude and some real guts to it, Radar is the band for you. I hope music like this never dies!