Friday, April 20, 2018

Fashionism - Come On My Baby/Smash Singles

Fashionism, being one of my favorite bands, needs no introduction to any regular viewer of this blog. Of course I was stoked to discover that the band had hooked up with Drunken Sailor Records - probably the best record label going right now! To make it all even better, Fashionism's first single on Drunken Sailor is by far it's most "pop" to date. You had to know I'd have no complaints about that! "Come On My Baby" is already the band's fifth single. If you have greatly disappointed me and failed to purchase the previous four, you can now get caught up in a hurry. Drunken Sailor has compiled all of them onto one handy dandy collection called Smash Singles. The album releases today along side "Come On My Baby".

"Come On My Baby" is one of Fashionism's strongest A-sides to date. It has a bouncy new wave vibe to it that really hits the spot. This is the closest Fashionism has come to sounding like the Tranzmitors - and that's not a bad thing at all. The song is great upbeat punky pop that will have you tapping your toes and singing along in very short order. Play loud and enjoy being alive! The single takes a decidedly melancholy turn with the B-side "Baby She's Gone". Here Jeffery and company show that they can do soul-inspired pop with the best of 'em. I dig the piano and tender vocals, and all in all this one really tugs at the heartstrings. Even with this being such a bummer love song, I often find myself whistling that melody for hours on end. It's just a damn fine pop song. This is what The Style Council should have sounded like!

Smash Singles is exactly what it appears to be. It compiles all of the tracks from 2015's Smash The State (With Your Face) and Quit Looking At The Time, 2016's Subculture Suicide, and last year's Back In the Day. As a "bonus", you get the aforementioned "Baby She's Gone" and a (to my knowledge) previously unreleased number called "Weekend". The latter is not a cover of The Boys' power pop/punk classic, but it's very much in the same ballpark. Will Fashionism ever put out a "proper" album? As long as they keep producing such tremendous singles, I'd say a true LP is not even necessary. Smash Singles essentially plays like an all-killer, no-filler full-length. If you enjoy 1977-80 U.K. punk and power pop and are not yet familiar with Fashionism, this purchase is a no-brainer. As for the band's existing fans: you'll wanna get your mitts on "Come On My Baby" as soon as possible. And Smash Singles on dark green vinyl would sure be a neat thing to own! Fashionism record release day ought to be an international holiday. Let's all get dressed up in sharp outfits and go dancing in the town square!


Thursday, April 19, 2018

Freak Genes - Qwak Qwak

Well that didn't take very long! Less than 10 months after the release of their brilliant debut album Playtime, Freak Genes are back with another long player that will disappoint absolutely no one! Out on Drunken Sailor Records, Qwak Qwak picks up where Playtime left off and quickly surpasses it. The men behind the masks, of course, are Andrew Anderson (The Hipshakes, Proto Idiot) and Charlie Murphy (Red Cords). Freak Genes began with a fun premise: what would happen if these two guys took some of the crazy, rejected ideas from their other groups and made a whole new band out of it? What happened was one of the best punk albums of 2017 or any recent year for that matter. Qwak Qwak still finds Freak Genes straddling the quirky/experimental and poppy sides of early U.K. punk. But the real advancement here is the introduction of synthesizers and drum machines to the duo's arsenal. Limited only by their own imaginations, Andrew and Charlie flutter between punk, new wave, synth-pop, garage rock, and post-punk over the course of 17 filler-free tracks.

If you enjoyed the Wire meets early Buzzcocks vibe that was so prevalent on Playtime, the first two songs "At Odds With You" and "On The TV" will quickly have you on board with Qwak Qwak. The latter is surely one of the most essential punk tracks of the year. But there was no way a band with Freak Genes' origins was ever going to allow itself to become predictable. With this record, you never quite know what's coming. These guys prove so adept at synth-pop that I would absolutely have believed that "Give Way" and "Read The Papers" were original recordings from 1980. "Destroy" sets aside the band's usual playful disposition and goes full-on scary future post-punk. "Layers", on the other hand, is delightful Kinks/Who derived pop that will have you whistling on your way to work. And then there's the wonderful "Talk 2" - which sounds like a song Robyn Hitchcock would write to play at a bar in the Florida Keys.

One spin through Qwak Qwak will suggest influences as disparate as Syd Barrett ("Anonymous"), Gary Numan ("We Want Trouble"), and Devo ("It's Not There"). And there are certainly tracks ("Not Quite Enough", "Drainage") that bring to mind Andrew and Charlie's other bands. What's remarkable is how well the whole thing flows. It's weird to say this about a band that is only on its second record, but the one thing that's consistent throughout 17 tracks is that it all sounds like Freak Genes! These are two extremely talented individuals, and their chemistry is undeniable. Their willingness to entertain almost any musical idea is what makes them unique. Their ability to do so while still aspiring to write great pop songs is what makes them exceptional. I look forward to their next 20 albums!


Tuesday, April 17, 2018

ANMLS - self titled LP

Man, there's nothing that gets the blood flowing quite like a great hardcore punk long player! It has been a good while since I've heard a hardcore record as thrillingly ripping as the 10-song debut from Santiago, Chile's ANMLS. Straight-up, this album hits you in the mouth. And I LOVE it! These guys are clearly huge fans of Black Flag - both the early ("No Quiero Estar Contigo", "Vamonos de la Ciudad") and later ("Instrumental", "Mierda") eras. But there's a lot more to ANMLS than that. "Canto en el Infierno" and "Pacos" integrate surfy SoCal punk influences, while "Odio" brings to mind the darker melodic strains of modern-day Scandinavian hardcore. Any way you shake it, this an absolute monster of a record. The tunes are killer, and the band powers through each one with a ferocity that's off the charts. And with mastering by the almighty Tim Warren, you know this thing is primed to test the capacities of your volume knob! All of the lyrics are in Spanish - largely delivered in the gang vocal style. Does having no idea what they're saying lessen my enjoyment? Not in the slightest! A co-release between Slovenly Recordings and Algo Records, this debut from ANMLS is an essential purchase for fans of old school hardcore, fast n' tough garage-punk, political dissent, and all of the above. A+!


Monday, April 16, 2018

Melted - Thin Skin

Hailing from Long Beach, Melted takes me back to the 1990s heyday of Southern Californian melodic punk. That sub-genre has always been hit or miss for me, but in the case of Melted it definitely hits! The trio's new album Thin Skin is a co-release between the legendary Stardumb Records and four other labels (Programme Sounds, Open Door Records, Celebrity Punkhouse, and Astro Lizard Records). This is a different kind of release for Stardumb. It reminds me of something I would have mail-ordered from Dr. Strange Records in 1994! The band's sound is catchy and energetic in that familiar SoCal way, but it also packs one hell of a punch. Jonny Bell's stellar production cranks the guitars way up and achieves an ideal mix of aggression and melody. I like that the band's stated influences (e.g. Jawbreaker, Descendents) make sense but aren't entirely obvious from listening to the record. Melted is known for the frenzied energy of its live shows, and that genuinely comes through on the album. I'm envisioning a room full of kids going nuts while the band members frantically jump around and drive themselves to exhaustion. Singer/guitarist Justin Eckley has a somewhat familiar vocal style for this type of band, but it's the conviction of his delivery that really stands out. He absolutely pours his heart into every song - always saving a little extra for that climactic sing-along moment. 

One thing that works so well for Thin Skin is that Melted is really adept at switching things up. Songs like "Most Days" and "Alright" are textbook SoCal pop-core, but then these guys can turn around and absolutely rock your face off ("Stay Away", "Thin Skin"). And then on a slower song like "Low", the band even shows some Weezer-ish qualities. I would cite "Low" as one of the standout tracks on the record.

Thin Skin was an album several years in the making, and it successfully highlights Melted's songwriting maturation while still kicking a whole lot of ass. Stardumb will be sending the band to Europe for a tour later this year. Given the well-documented enthusiasm of European crowds, I'd say those shows are gonna be a blast!


Thursday, April 12, 2018

Civic - New Vietnam

How about another killer band from Australia! And when I say killer, I mean KILLER! Hailing from Melbourne, Civic picks up the Dead Boys/Saints torch and burns down everything in its path. You may know some of these individuals from their turns in groups such as Leather Lickers, A.D. Skinner, Drug Sweat, Pregnancy Scares, Whipper, and Cuntz. On its debut 12" New Vietnam, Civic comes hard with seven blistering cuts mixing the timeless style of '70s punk with the wildfire aggression of Detroit rock. The influences are obvious, but who cares?! This is old school punk rock n' roll done right! If you appreciate ripping leads, pummeling riffs, hard-hitting drums, and a singer who can really holler, this is definitely the band for you. I love how everything sounds so raw and loud! They really managed to get that "live" energy captured on tape. The opening 1-2 punch of "Nuclear Son" and the title track will rock you into next week, and the band's attack doesn't really slow from there (except on the Lou Reed inspired "Street Machine Dream", which I totally dig). I'm left wanting more, which is exactly the way it should be on a punk band's debut release. Truly hot stuff! New Vietnam is available on vinyl and CD from the Aussie label Anti Fade. Get the 12" while you can!


Wednesday, April 11, 2018

Wild Wings - Showbizzz

Wild Wings, northeastern Ohio's reigning champions of psychedelic, art-damaged, post-apocalyptic space punk, are back with their second full-length album. Showbizzz is the band's first release since 2015's World War Wild Wings, and it's nothing short of a tour de force. Over the course of a full album and sometimes just a single track, Wild Wings can fluctuate between spastic thrash, thundering grunge, bruising noise rock, archetypal Midwestern punk, and way out-there sonic experimentation. A laboratory analysis of Wild Wings' musical DNA would reveal ancestral connections to everyone from Chrome to Blue Cheer to The Pagans to Sonic Youth to Hawkwind to Devo to Black Flag. You'd have to travel six galaxies over to find anything close to a comparable band, and what's even better is that all of this genuinely works! Singer/guitarist Kenny Halbert's compositions are full of unique ideas and unconventional turns, yet every song is brilliantly constructed and perfectly executed. Every risk brings a reward. And even with all of the avant garde tendencies, this is still very much a punk rock record in every way that really matters. Really, this album had me with the opening song title "Hamburger Ice Cream". I'd order that flavor any day of the week! But it only gets better from there. "Failed Design For Living" is the sonic experience of the year: like what would happen if you were listening to a long-lost Killed By Death cut, and an alien species suddenly broke in with a ten-minute transmission from a quadrillion light years away. This is just one of those albums that will have going from "What the fuck IS this?" to "This is the best thing ever!" in very short order. Grab some headphones, load up on your mind-altering substance of choice, and prepare yourself for a musical trip to an unknown dimension (or Youngstown, Ohio...same difference). Showbizzz is available on CD and cassette, and you can order it here


Friday, April 6, 2018

The Cavemen - Nuke Earth

Can you believe I made it through the first three months of 2018 without talking up a single release as a potential album of the year? That is so unlike me! But that all changes today. Nuke Earth, the phenomenal third LP from New Zealand miscreants The Cavemen, is out on Slovenly Recordings. The bar for punk rock albums in 2018 has definitely been set!

This year got off to a great start with singles, but I was still waiting for a full-length record to really make an impression on me. Well Nuke Earth more than made an impression - it just about knocked my head off! This is absolutely the full-force garage-punk rock n' roll kick in the teeth I've been craving. And while that's not particularly surprising given the quality of The Cavemen's prior recorded output, they have really blown me away with this particular batch of songs. The band sounds as savage and scuzzy as ever, with frontman Paul screaming his guts out while his band-mates gleefully pound your eardrums into submission. Kicking off with the storming 1-2 punch of "Lust For Evil" and "Criminal Love", The Cavemen come out raring to flatten anything in their way! They could have padded the rest of the album with xylophone instrumentals and Right Said Fred covers, and it still would have been an essential purchase. But beginning with the third track, "Janey", the album shows off a side of The Cavemen that often goes unappreciated. While still as boisterous and frenzied as a Cavemen tune ought to be, this one is downright catchy! The band's love for '50s rock n' roll really comes through, and you might want to check yourself for a pulse if you're not singing (or more likely screaming) along by the close of the first chorus. This, my friends, is a genuinely great rock n' roll song. So if it hasn't been said before, let it be said now: The Cavemen are damn fine songwriters! And throughout this album, they skillfully mix up musical styles to avoid the "sameness" that can sometimes afflict rowdy punk n' roll records. "Batshit Crazy" brings to mind a '60s garage rock party if it took a highly demented and severely drug-addled turn. "Concrete Town" is punk rock n' roll so dirty and vicious that you'll swear the '90s never ended. "The Night Jimmy Savile Died" comes on with a dirgy, Stooges-like intro, then erupts into a blaze of pounding, maniacal fury. "Elvis Is Alive" sounds like the best song The Replacements left off of Stink. "Don't Wanna Hang" could easily have come out on Rip Off Records in 1995. The psychobilly-ish "Gimme Beer Or Gimme Death" beautifully articulates my primary philosophy of existence.

Aren't most bands supposed to be in their "mature" phase by the time they make their third album? Thank god that's not the case with The Cavemen! In terms of ferocity and pure wild fun, Nuke Earth is right there with its two predecessors. If this release doesn't immediately compel you to engage in dangerous and possibly illegal activities, you probably need to turn up the volume louder. But The Cavemen have far more going for them than just unsavory reputations and an unquenchable thirst for mayhem. They have songs too. Nuke Earth is all hits and no shit! Avoid at all costs if you can't handle some real rock n' roll!


Wednesday, April 4, 2018

Dany Laj and The Looks - Left To Right One

We have a brand-new single from Dany Laj and The Looks, and I am loving it! Dany, Jeanette, and company have been touring all over and turning out some of the finest power pop in the land for quite a few years now. Released just in time for the arrival of spring, "Left To Right One" is a high-energy, life-affirming rocker that's tailor-made for singing along loudly in your car with the windows down. It's both a feelgood love song (the best kind in my opinion!) and an exuberant celebration of a life devoted to rock n' roll. Recorded at The Midwest Sound in Rockford, Illinois by Jeremy Koester and Dan McMahon, this track damn sure puts the power in power pop! A vinyl release is coming next month in the form of a split with Pink Beam. In the meantime, the digital version is available now for just $1. That's gotta be the best dollar you'll spend all year! Dany Laj and The Looks will be touring this spring with quite a few shows in the U.S., so be sure to check out the band's Facebook page for more info! It will make my day if someone pulls up next to me at a stoplight sometime and they're cranking  "Left To Right One" at full blast. Let's see if we can make that happen!


Wednesday, March 28, 2018

Neighborhood Brats - Night Shift

With Neighborhood Brats being one of the finest punk bands of the early 2010s, it was a major bummer when they announced an indefinite hiatus a few years back. Thankfully that hiatus did not turn out to be permanent. It's with great excitement today that I review Neighborhood Brats for the first time in nearly four years! The band's brand-new EP Night Shift is out on Taken By Surprise Records, and it's exactly what you would expect from Jenny, George, and the gang! What we have here are three killer tracks drawing from that 1977-80 golden age of punk. There's no fooling around here - the band simply kicks ass and leaves you wanting more! With a rhythm section (on this release, bassist Tony Teixeira and drummer Mike Shelbourn) that's fully up to the task, Neighborhood Brats have picked up right up where they left off. You can hear a little more of a Saints/Radio Birdman influence in George's slamming guitars, and that can only be a good thing. Jenny, as usual, sings with a power and conviction perfectly suited to the band's blistering attack. "Comfort Women" is the highlight for me - a powerhouse track that rails against the patriarchy both past and present. This is a true punk anthem for our times, and I hope people everywhere will be blasting it loud and heeding its message.

Night Shift is everything I could have hoped for from a new Neighborhood Brats record. If you like aggressive but tuneful punk music, you just won't find anything better. In celebration of the band's return, Taken By Surprise Records has also re-pressed the band's classic 2013 EP Total Dementia (arguably its best record!). The band will be touring Europe in April and May in support of both of these new releases. Click here for tour dates!


Monday, March 26, 2018

Wild Zeros - Motormouth

If you didn't know it already, know it now: Nerve Centre Records is one of the rising stars in the world of punk record labels! The label may have begun as a vehicle for Charlie Murphy to release his own bands' music. But having also put out singles by The Hipshakes and now Wild Zeros, Nerve Centre is quickly becoming one of my go-tos for quality punk rock.

Wild Zeros, from Bordeaux, France, recorded Motormouth to celebrate the tenth anniversary of the band's formation. It's the first time we've heard new music from this trio since 2011! Recorded in Toulouse by the great Lo'Spider, these four tracks find Wild Zeros sounding as good as ever. The title track is some good straight-ahead garage punk rock n' roll to get you grooving and shaking. Never mind asking if Wild Zeros can still manage to capture their 2007 sound. They're still stuck in 1997, and thank god for that! That guitar solo is a thing of trash rock beauty. "Damage Your Health" is a cover of late '70s U.K. mod-punks The Cigarettes, done in a style reminiscent of The Infections' version. "Squid Balls" is something you don't hear as much as you used to: a budget rock instrumental! I like it. To finish off the record, "Bare Facts" is probably my favorite track of the four. It's got this trashy '77 punk style that's right up my alley - with handclaps and snotty vocals that really drive it home!

Is it wrong to call Motormouth a "comeback"? Either way, this is killer stuff from a damn fine garage punk band. You get four tracks, and each one stands out in its own way. Those of you in the southwestern part of England should look for a release show in April!


Saturday, March 24, 2018

Vista Blue - "Why Doesn't Jimmy Wanna Play?"

Here we are at that time of year where we can always expect a new baseball-themed release from Vista Blue. Well VB does indeed have something special coming for you baseball fans next week. But in addition to that, the band has released what I believe is its first-ever basketball-themed song to commemorate March Madness. Hard to believe that by the end of the day tomorrow, we'll be down to the Final Four! Especially with my team still in the mix after a formidable test last night, there's little doubt that I will be spending much of this weekend glued to the couch watching basketball. If you too are pumped for some college hoops, Vista Blue's new Hoosiers inspired track "Why Doesn't Jimmy Wanna Play?" ought to hit the spot while you're pre-gaming. Often this band teeters on either side of pop-punk and power pop, but with this track VB is fully in pop-punk territory. The guitars are cranked way up, and there's probably something physically wrong with you if you're not tapping your toes within ten seconds. When those backing vocals come in towards the end of the track, there's just no mistaking which band you're listening to. This is a top-notch Vista Blue tune that every pop-punk fan will want to own. For the very reasonable price of free, you can download it and make it part of your Elite Eight festivities. Go Nova!


Friday, March 23, 2018

Uriah Heep - Live Show Review

Review by Mike Kimmel

Tuesday, March 6, 2018 at 8:30PM – Delmar Hall in St. Louis.

The night was proof positive that my new favorite bumper sticker is entirely accurate:
"I may be old, but I got to see all the cool bands!"

I'm one of the oddballs (there's a shocker, right?) who doesn't really give a great grey rat's rump whether or not anyone knows my actual age or what opinion they may have about folks of that age.

Age issues aside, the good thing is that anyone within eyeshot of this concert summary can also STILL see one of the coolest bands around: Uriah Heep.

Just for a bit of my history: When I was much younger, I often bought an album because I liked the title or the cover art was very cool. I mean, it had to be of a genre in which I was at least halfway interested, but that left things fairly wide open for purchases. It also paved the way for me to accumulate nearly 10,000 LPs before I jumped on the CD bandwagon with both feet. YOU try moving a few times with that many records!

Demons and Wizards came out in 1972, and I thought the cover art was fantastic. Hadn't heard of these Uriah Heep folks. But they were supposed to be rock, and the cover looked great. So I bought it. The album was better than the cover art, and I fell in love with a band that many reviewers likened to a "plodding dinosaur".

All these years later, a lot of those reviewers probably aren't around anymore. But Uriah Heep is still putting out albums and still touring – and still sounding great.

Anyway, a few years later I went to college; and the college newspaper was looking for writers. The only things I cared enough about at that time to write about were hockey and music.

Fortunately for me, Uriah Heep had just released Innocent Victim. Ah! A band I knew a bit about and could submit a review of a new release as my application.

The paper printed it, and when I saw "by Michael G. Kimmel", it was all over but the writing. For some reason I've never been responsible for the article title, and I DID NOT write the title for this story about Innocent Victim! I have, however, saved (as far as I am aware) anything I've ever written that wound up in print somewhere. Here's the article that started it all for me. It has led to YEARS of writing; writing that, thanks to Lord Rutledge (my mortal NHL enemy), I'm able to continue here.

So now, ladies and gentlemen…On to the show. Take a look at the set list (yes, I take notes when I go to concerts). There are some of the better known old tunes with some of the stuff from newer releases. "One Minute" and "The Law" are from the band's 2014 release Outsider, which features the same lineup as the one currently touring the U.S.

That lineup consists of the only original member (from 1967) Mick Box on guitars and vocals along with Bernie Shaw (vocals), Phil Lanzon (keyboards, vocals), Russell Gilbrook (drums, vocals), and Davey Rimmer (bass, vocals).

Rimmer replaced Heep's long-standing bassist Trevor Bolder in 2013/14 after Bolder lost a battle with pancreatic cancer in May of 2013. You might also remember Bolder as the bassist in David Bowie's backing band, The Spiders from Mars.

If you were lucky enough to be in the central west end of St. Louis on March 6, you were in for a treat. And here are the pieces that comprised said treat – an hour and 45 minutes to time travel through five decades of Uriah Heep. Take a look at the set list:

The set opened with the first track from their first release (...Very 'Eavy, Very 'Umble) – "Gypsy". It's a great tune, great story; and I think that's probably why I managed to NOT start recording it until a bit into the song, so that recording just goes straight to my archives.

A guy falls in love with a gypsy queen, and the queen's father is none too pleased about that. So the king has a few henchmen drag the poor love-struck kid into a shack where he's chained and whipped until he passes out. He manages to escape but vows to return for the girl.

"One day I will go to him
Strong enough to fight and win.
The kind of a man
That he'll understand."

A couple of cuts from their third album (and the second album they released in 1971) entitled Look At Yourself. The two tracks were the title cut and then "Shadows of Grief". "Shadows" is a very good song, but put side by side with a classic like "Look At Yourself"…Well, it's just not a fair fight. "Look At Yourself" is one the Heep's best.

Then, as if to add insult to injury, they sandwiched "Shadows"… between that and, well, this one:


"Stealin'" was followed up by another track from Outsider, "The Law". Again, it's a great tune in the best of the Heep tradition. It amazes me that you can take a band like Uriah Heep and a tune such as this one - a LOT of keyboard going on, active bass, Mick Box signature guitar, Gilbrook beating his drums into submission, and Shaw's vocals, listen to how they all come together so well - and still have no problem picking one out of the mix over any other. All distinct parts and all distinctly apparent.

Ah yes. Another of my favorite Heep songs. "Sunrise", from 1972's The Magician's Birthday (which, incidentally, was the second release for Heep in '72. Four albums in two years!). I have to admit I was a bit surprised that they did "Sunrise" and "The Magician's Birthday" from the album of the same name but didn't do "Sweet Lorraine". No matter. They did a great job on both of them.


"Sunrise" was followed by "The Magician's Birthday", and then by "The Wizard", from the Demons and Wizards album released in 1972.

 "The Wizard"

That only temporarily ended our trip through 1972 as the band dove headfirst into another track from Outsider: "One Minute".

"I'm looking for connections
A friendly face to say
You've got to give it one more minute
An hour, one more day."

A single cut from their 1998 release Sonic Origami follows here, and it's the first track from that album – "Between Two Worlds".

Fun fact about Sonic Origami! Track 11 – "Across the Miles" – was written by Jim Peterick and Frankie Sullivan of Survivor.

They left the stage after "Lady In Black", another one of my all-time favorite Heep tunes with more lyrics that even though they were written in 1971 sound like they might have some basis in today, as well.

"I begged her 'Give me horses to trample down my enemy.'
So eager was my passion to devour this waste of life.
But she would not think of battle that reduces men to animals.
So easy to begin and yet impossible to end.
There is no strength in numbers. Have no such misconception.
But when you need me be assured I won't be far away."

Yes, I just gave myself goosebumps again! It's a simple but GREAT song!

"Lady In Black"

The band members all came to the front of the stage and took their abbreviated bows that let you know that with luck the show wasn't over. Stage lights went down, but the house lights never came up.

EXCELLENT! At least one more, I hope.

Of course there was one more song as they time traveled back to 1972 again for a little "Easy Livin'".

 "Easy Livin'"

After the first and only encore performance, Uriah Heep took their for real "end-of-the-night" bows, shook hands with a lot of fans, and joked around a bit with each other. Mick Box came to the front of the stage and handed out guitar picks to several folks at the front.

They did say they'd be back in St. Louis next year. Good Lord willin' and the dam don't break, I'll be there when they show up!

 -Mike Kimmel

Tuesday, March 20, 2018

The Fritz - self titled

Not only does Drunken Sailor Records appear to be methodically collecting all of the best punk rock bands (Fashionism and Freak Genes join the roster next month!). It also has the best one-sheet writer in the business in Will Fitzpatrick. He penned a particularly brilliant line for this new album from The Fritz: "The Damned dancing on a circular saw?". Seriously! If that doesn't make you want to listen to the album, I don't know what will! The Fritz hails from the great state of Indiana and features members of Liquids, CCTV, Big Zit, Ooze, Pentas, Scabs, and Pukeoid. Liquids, of course, are already part of the Drunken Sailor family. Now The Fritz joins the fun! If you like Liquids or Drunken Sailor label mates Booji Boys, The Fritz's debut long player should be right up your alley. Think snotty Midwestern punk ripped out hard and fast with trashy lo-fi production. 10 of 12 tracks clock in under two minutes, but don't mistake the band's blistering minimalism for a lack of quality control. These tunes are as catchy as they are raging, and overall this is one of those releases that reminds me why I fell in love with punk music in the first place. Tracks like "Creative Death" and "No I'm Not Alright" accomplish so much in 60 seconds that any further lengthening would seem downright excessive. Drunken Sailor seems to have a particular affinity for these bands that overlap the worlds of garage, '77, and hardcore punk. I'd put The Fritz right there with the best of those. A killer debut!


Monday, March 19, 2018

The SUCK - self titled EP

After months of rumors, speculation, titillating mystery, and zealous anticipation, it is just about time for the world to behold the almighty street rock of the SUCK. Who are the SUCK? What is street rock? We finally have answers!

Based in Harrisburg, PA (a mere 25 miles from Faster and Louder HQ), the SUCK is a veritable supergroup of Ramonescore/pop-punk. You may recognize famed personnel from the likes of The Lebowskis and Saturday Night Kids. Some of these guys have been in the game so long that I might have been writing about their bands as far back as 1995 (remember Explosive Kate? Aliens and Strangers?). The SUCK brings to mind HEAD if they were obsessed with the popular culture of the late '70s and early '80s. You can call it pop-punk or Ramonescore, and you wouldn't be wrong (these guys even cover the NECK classic "Lights Out"). But "street rock" most perfectly describes what the SUCK is all about. Upon hearing the band's smash hit "Biff", I envisioned a gang of teenage hoodlums parading through urban ruins in 1979 vintage Technicolor. I was able to get an advance listen to the band's full debut EP (let's just say that I know a guy...), and I have to say that the rest of the record is of the same caliber. "Drinking" combines two of the great themes in pop-punk: heartbreak and, uh, drinking! If you're into the tougher-sounding side of pop-punk, you'll dig this one! The cover of "Lights Out" is great. I would ordinarily say that I hope this version will compel people to seek out the original. But honestly, I think most people who are going to like the SUCK are already well-aware of the greatness of NECK! "All We Know" was co-written by Jimmy Vapid and is the most "pop" song on the album (that's a good thing!). It really closes the EP in a triumphant/anthemic fashion. And just like that, the SUCK leave you wanting more! Yes, we all know what kind of music this is. These guys wear their influences on their (leather jacketed) sleeves. But when it comes to this style of band, I've not heard many that do it as well as the SUCK. The songs are genuinely memorable, and I'd be hard-pressed to name anything I've heard lately that's more fun to listen to. Makes me feel like I'm 22 again!

Ellie and Johnny Problem are reviving their Route 13 Recordings imprint for the release of the SUCK's debut EP. Pre-ordering information will be posted soon on the band's Facebook page. So be sure to like it and follow if you dig "Biff". Street rock is poised to take over the world!


Friday, March 16, 2018

Beebe Gallini - "East Side Story" b/w "The River Flows"

A lot has happened since I first reported on Beebe Gallini back in those innocent times of 2016. The band has gone through some lineup changes, and its fine debut recording has mysteriously disappeared from cyberspace. The wonderful news is that the band now has a really spiffy web site and has just released its first single that you can listen to on a record player! The always amazing Miss Georgia Peach is still out front on guitar and vocals, and boy is she sounding great! Our man Travis Ramin, who needs no introduction, is now on lead guitar. Amy Larson Pearson (Brits Out of America, Strumpet, Mexican Taxi, Brownstar) is on bass, and Chris Audette (Karma Sluts, The Goochers, Devil's Kettle) is on drums. So what we have is a new lineup but still the same Beebe Gallini. If you're in the vicinity of the upper Midwest and want to catch some goodtime garage rock with soul and girl group inspirations, this band needs to be on your must-see list.

I like this debut single because it highlights the band's dual mastery of crowd-pleasing covers and first-rate original songs. A-side "East Side Story", of course, was the first regional hit for a fella named Bob Seger way back in 1966. Beebe Gallini's version here is mostly faithful to the original, but Georgia's powerhouse vocal definitely adds a lot. This is some straight-up dirty garage rock to get you up and moving, and that guitar solo is wicked! On the flip, "The River Flows" is an original number penned by Amy Larson Pearson. It really slows down the tempo and works the band's soulful side. This is a really unique sounding song for a garage band - almost like a psychedelic spiritual or something like that. The band shows off some hot chops, and I believe every word of that vocal. The song is so well-written that I wouldn't have argued if you'd told me it was some long lost gem from 1967. But that's essentially the appeal of Beebe Gallini - they make '60s covers sound fresh and write original songs that sound like they could be '60s covers! I highly recommend this single and also suggest perusing the band's web site. I love that they're selling Beebe Gallini pom pom hats - truly a brilliant idea for a band based in frigid Minnesota!

$1 gets you the digital version of this first single from Beebe Gallini. Buy the actual record, and you also get a download card for a couple bonus tracks! Either way, it's a win for everyone. Dance!


Wednesday, March 14, 2018

Midnite Snaxxx - "Greedy Little Thing"

It's no secret that Midnite Snaxxx is one of my favorite bands. So you can imagine that I was more than a little excited about a brand-new single from this Oakland foursome! The screaming and dancing in the street on my part were quite alarming to the neighbors. Perhaps I went too far in setting off those fireworks. I'd been looking forward to this release since the start of the year, and I must say it does not disappoint! Coming out at the end of this month on the always great Goodbye Boozy Records, "Greedy Little Thing" features two original songs recorded by Bart Thurber and cover art by Xerox The Kidd. In typical Snaxxx style, both songs clock in at well under two minutes. Each of these two tunes would have fit in perfectly on the band's brilliant 2017 LP Chew On This. The title track is great straight-ahead catchy punk rock n' roll featuring some tasty lead guitar work. On the flip, "Turf War" is fast, frantic, and fun. Dulcinea's vocal is just terrific, and there are some really neat things going on with the guitars that you don't always hear in the world of garage-punk. I like both songs a lot, but I think I have to give it to the B-side here!

Limited to just 260 copies, "Greedy Little Thing" might not be so easy to come by. It officially releases on March 30th, and the band has already blown through the copies it had available for sale via its Bandcamp page. The digital release is available now and will give you your $2 worth and then some. Another essential release from the Snaxxx!


Monday, March 12, 2018

SUZES - "Resuscitate"

One of the best and most overlooked albums of last year was the full-length debut from Düsseldorf-based pop trio SUZES. Lee Jones (ex Solicitors) has been one of my favorite songwriters for a number of years, and his work with his latest band is some of his strongest to date. Available now via Bandcamp is a brand new single from SUZES. Again Jones demonstrates a flair for exceptionally clever lyrics and radio-worthy hooks. Just as importantly, I love how these two tracks really highlight the talents of rhythm players Roman & Tomo. This is a band clicking on all cylinders, and you would probably have to go back in time 35 years to hear new wave pop done better than this!

"Resuscitate" would be a massive hit if rock radio were actually worth a damn. When that hook comes in, it's absolute magic. The bitter breakup song is something of a Lee Jones specialty, and this one is up there with his very best. It's definitely worth paying close attention to the words. "I've lost all the feeling in my heart" is a line for the ages, and it's just one of many gems in this song. If Elvis Costello and Weezer made a baby, it would sound like "Resuscitate"! "Surplus To Requirements" is another brilliant pop number that could probably be described as sounding like "classic alternative". It definitely has me recalling black-clad days of yore listening to The Cure and New Order, but still with a lot of those Lee Jones songwriting signatures. It's a cool, crisp tune that nicely balances quality hooks with some nifty playing. I could listen to that guitar solo all day!

If you're a new wave/power pop person and are not yet hip to SUZES, this is a band you really need to check out! I highly recommend both the album Fragile Development and this brand new single as additions to your digital music collection. Be warned, though. Once "Resuscitate" gets stuck in your head, it's staying there!


Friday, March 9, 2018

Radio Days - El Delfin Y El Varano

Radio Days, authors of my 2016 album of the year, always make me happy when they release new music. El Delfin Y El Varano is the Italian trio's newest release, an EP out on Clifford Records. It's the band's first new release since last spring's "Haruka" single. Having already made a truly perfect power pop album in the above-referenced Back In The Day, Radio Days really have nowhere to go but forward. With this EP, they show they can branch out from their base style but still sound like that same band we've always loved. Clearly they've been inspired by the 1960s portion of their record collections, and that's not a bad thing at all!

"Time Is Over" is a straight-up garage rocker to open the record. It's a nice jolt of energy to get you up and dancing. That leads into "Sometimes", which takes us back into the pop territory where Radio Days always excel. Of course this band has previously been known to worship at the altar of the Beatles. But with this song, think more 1966-67 Beatles as opposed to '64-'65 Beatles. Here Radio Days affirm what a tremendous pop band they are, slowing down the tempo and really letting their melodies shine. This is beautiful, sophisticated pop done splendidly. Similarly, a cover of the Ramones' "I Wanna Be Your Boyfriend" is so elegant and dreamy that it's barely recognizable from the original. What a wonderful interpretation! Then to close the EP, "El Delfin Y El Varano" is a top-notch surf rock instrumental that highlights this band's formidable musical chops.

Not content to just stay in the power pop lane, Radio Days are really showing the talent and musical skill to transcend genres. It's one thing to try new things, but genuinely succeeding at them is something else entirely. El Delfin Y El Varano is an absolute success for Radio Days. "Sometimes" is one of the best songs these guys have ever done, and that Ramones cover is a stunner. Bring on the next album!


Wednesday, March 7, 2018

Amyl and the Sniffers - Big Attraction & Giddy Up

Hearing Melbourne's Amyl and the Sniffers for the first time, I was blown away like I hadn't been in a long time. This is definitely the best new punk group to come down the pike in a good while, and clearly I'm not the only one who has noticed. The band's debut 12", just released in January, has already sold out! If you are unable to track down a vinyl copy, the digital version is an absolute must-own. This release compiles the tracks from the band's first two EPs, released in 2016 and 2017 respectively. If you like old school Aussie punk (hell, who doesn't?!) and aren't yet familiar with Amyl and the Sniffers, you are in for a major treat! The band takes inspiration from both the punk and rock of '70s Australia, bringing with it an energy and attitude that could not sound fresher in 2018. These ten tracks are everything punk music should be - raw, blistering, and beyond all else exciting. The songs are top-notch, and Amy Louise Taylor is a dynamo on lead vocals who will remind you of countless greats of the past. Standout tracks like "I'm Not A Loser", "Mole (Sniff Sniff)", and "70's Street Munchies" absolutely thrill the '77 punk purist in me. But then on songs like "Balaclava Lover Boogie", you can definitely sense the band's love for good old dirty riff rock. Ten tracks leave me wanting more, but fortunately a proper debut album is slated to arrive later this year. I can't wait!


Tuesday, March 6, 2018

The Hangups - self titled EP

When it comes to pop-punk in the last couple of decades, Europe has been where it's at. Kevin Aper has had a lot to do with that, and today he runs the Austrian-based label Monster Zero Records. Monster Zero has released 65 records from mostly European bands - including some I've previously featured (e.g. Bat Bites, Barbecuties). I'm not fully sure how to explain why pop-punk continues to thrive in Europe. But I'd say it has something to do with Europeans being open to the idea that sometimes all music needs to be is fun. With a Monster Zero release, you know you're going to get tried-and-true pop-punk. That's certainly the case with the label's latest release from Malmö, Sweden's The Hangups. These guys are all-in on the Ramones, Lookout! Records, and the idea that "poppunk is the law". The band's self-titled EP is pop-punk by the book, and it's eight minutes, 25 seconds of head-bobbing good times. These tunes are catchy as can be, and they've got plenty of balls as well. The influences are obvious, but so what? If "Addicted" doesn't put you in a supremely wonderful mood, then you clearly hate pop-punk and should back away from this review before your day is entirely ruined. All I know is that if I had heard this record when I was 25, I would have immediately gotten a Hangups tattoo and booked a plane ticket to Sweden. This is pop-punk done faithfully and done really well. If you can appreciate that, The Hangups are definitely your band!


Monday, March 5, 2018

The Top Ten 2018

It's an annual birthday tradition of mine to make a list of my favorite bands of all-time. The idea was always to see how this list changes as I grow older. Honestly, there has been little in the way of major movement since I started making these lists. And my #1 band hasn't changed in over 20 years. But with this year's top ten, I can see some reflections of my tastes evolving over time. I used to think of myself as a guy who loved '77-style punk and power pop. Yet today I gravitate a little less toward those two as separate genres and a little more towards bands that combined them. You'll see the Undertones and Real Kids entering my top ten and the Ramones moving up higher on the list. With me currently taking such an interest in bands that blur the distinctions between punk and power pop and rock n' roll, that has influenced the way I look at classic bands as well. At the end of the day, it's all just rock n' roll. You may also notice that my musical tastes remain mostly stuck in the '70s. But come on - that will probably still be true 20 years from now!

On to the list:
1. The Clash
2. AC/DC (Bon Scott era)
3. Husker Du
4. Ramones 
5. Material Issue 
6. Undertones
7. Rolling Stones
8. Dictators 
9. New York Dolls   
10. Real Kids 


Friday, March 2, 2018

The Jackhammers - Your Problem Now

How about some PUNK ROCK today?! The Jackhammers hail from Glasgow, and their long list of band interests includes such things as belligerence, wanton destruction, auto-erotic asphyxiation, and public executions of bankers. Clearly this is not a group of sensitive singer/songwriters! Considering that these guys have cool names like Jim Shit, Andy Drankit, and Horace Cockpuppet, they certainly give themselves a lot to live up to. Well no problem, because their music rips! Your Problem Now is the band's latest 7", out now on the eternally dependable No Front Teeth Records. If you like raging old school punk rock with a nasty streak, the only thing that really needs to be said is that you need this record. What a crackler! Should you require any further hints about where these fellas are coming from, consider that they cover "Not Now No Way" by the almighty PAGANS and absolutely crush it! Get your mitts on this record, blast it obnoxiously loud, and piss off the neighbors. What else could you possibly need in life?!


Thursday, March 1, 2018

The Dirty Truckers - "Best Of"

The Dirty Truckers are a band I've referenced a few times, both in reviews of Tom Baker and the Snakes and the Rum Bar Records reissue of the Tiger Stripes EP. I consider The Dirty Truckers to be one of the great American rock n' roll bands of recent times, and I was psyched to hear that Rum Bar was honoring the group with a deluxe best-of compilation. Simply titled "Best Of", this 22-track CD release collects material from all three Dirty Truckers albums: 2001's Bush League Romance, 2006's Washed and Ready, and 2008's Loose In The Joints. It also features cuts from Tiger Stripes, released in 2012. With the above albums only available today in digital formats, "Best Of" is a cool way to own most of the band's essential tracks on a single disc. If you enjoyed Tom Baker and the Snakes' album Lookout Tower last year, I think you'll find The Dirty Truckers to be very much in the same spirit. Nothing fancy here: just solid roots rock n' roll that draws just as much from the Stones and Steve Earle as it does from the Replacements and Soul Asylum. Close your eyes, and you can practically taste the cheap beer and smell the cigarette smoke. Given the international influence of a label like Rum Bar, this is a great opportunity for the rest of the world to discover one of the best-kept secrets of Boston rock n' roll. 22 songs for $10 is one hell of a bang for your buck, and the quality of this collection is just as impressive as the quantity. It really showcases what a fine songwriter Baker is. If you relate more to the rock n' roll side of alt-country, this one's well worth further exploration!

Monday, February 26, 2018

Murph & The Gazorpos - Too Scared To Rock 'N' Roll

Charlie Murphy is one of my favorite people in rock n' roll. Even if he went out and started an a cappella quartet or a Haircut 100 tribute band, I would want to own every record he made. I first came to know him from his dynamite power pop project Murph & The Gazorpos, but I've quickly become a huge fan of all of his other bands as well. I'm hearing that the next Freak Genes album is gonna blow all of our heads off! While we await that LP, we now get to enjoy what could be the last Murph & The Gazorpos release for a while. Charlie is stepping away from this project to focus on other things, so as a parting gift he's given us a six-song digital EP that is the band's best yet in my humble opinion. Too Scared To Rock 'N' Roll wonderfully combines all of the things I love about Murph & The Gazorpos. It's chock full of A-grade power pop hooks, hyper-caffeinated punk energy, heartfelt vocals and lyrics, and enough scorching rock n' roll guitar to power a major metropolis. Just push play, and it's instant happiness! The title track was a standout of the recent Nerve Centre/Girlsville Neon Maniacs compilation. But even if you own that already, the remaining five tracks make this EP well worth the £6. Songs like "All Or Nothing" and "Wolf" are first-rate numbers walking those oh so fine lines that separate punk and pop and good old rock n' roll. "Another Beat" evokes the Exploding Hearts' "I'm A Pretender" without coming off like an inferior copy. "Picking Up The Pieces" makes me wanna jump up and down on my bed until I either break it or collapse from sheer exhaustion (sounds like a great way to spend a morning!).

I know I've said this two or three or seven times before, but I urge each and every one of you to purchase the entire Murph & The Gazorpos discography from the Nerve Centre Records Bandcamp. That will cost you a grand total of like $15, and that's an investment that will bring endless joy to any fan of peppy, punchy pop. Seriously: how could you not love this band?!!!


Wednesday, February 21, 2018

Brad Marino - "C'Mon C'Mon C'Mon"

Check out my favorite song of 2018 so far! Seriously, how can you go wrong with a title like "C'Mon C'Mon C'Mon"?! Considering that The Connection is the most-reviewed band in the history of this blog, it's pretty obvious that I'm a big Brad Marino fan. I've known for a while that he was working on some solo stuff, but I wasn't quite sure what to expect (beyond Mike Chaney assuring me that it was going to be killer!). The debut Brad Marino solo EP will be releasing later this year, but first we get the "C'Mon C'Mon C'Mon" digital single. I was wondering if solo Brad Marino was going to be more like solo Mick Jagger or more like solo Keith Richards. Well, actually, it's more like Nick Lowe fronting The Ramones in 1979! This is just a great upbeat power pop/rock n' roll song that will have you bobbing your head and clapping your hands almost immediately upon contact. We are getting close enough to spring for me to envision myself blasting this tune while I drive with the windows down! In true solo fashion, Marino authored the song and played all the instruments on the track. His pal and bandmate Kris Rodgers mixed the recording. The full solo EP is slated to arrive this summer following the release of the new Connection album. If you're a fan of The Connection and/or Brad Marino, this is shaping up to be a really great year!


Monday, February 19, 2018

K7s - Take 1

Alright! This one is for the pop-punk fans! Take 1 is the debut album from Spanish super-trio K7s. I can only describe it as music for lovers of pop-punk made by lovers of pop-punk. If you're on the fence about pop-punk or outright hate it, this album won't turn you to the dark side. But if you're nuts about the 1990s Lookout! Records catalog and the generations of bands it inspired, Take 1 will send you straight to your happy place. My first impression of this album was, "This ought to be on Stardumb Records". Then I did a little digging. And sure enough, Stardumb is one of three labels (along with Rum Bar Records and Jolly Ronnie Records) collaborating to release this LP!

K7s are Luis Sanchez (Los Reactivos) on guitar and vocals, the great Kurt Baker on bass, and Jose Andres Albertos (Airbag) on drums. That's an awful lot of star power from the worlds of garage and power pop, but these guys had something far more specific in mind with this project. Take 1 is the kind of record that reminds me why I was so hooked on pop-punk in the days of my youth. Without apology, K7s knock out one perfect two minute pop song after another that worships at the altar of the Ramones, Screeching Weasel, Queers, and Green Day. This, my friends, is pop-punk by the book. You like buzzsaw guitars? Melodic leads? Sticky sweet melodies? Heart on sleeve lyrics? Take 1 delivers all of that in abundance, with tremendous production from Wyatt Funderburk that accentuates the pop and the punk. Sanchez is a likable presence on lead vocals who can pull off lovelorn and snotty with equal effectiveness. He really has a knack for writing these simple yet impossibly catchy pop songs. And as a musical trio, these three are as tight as it gets!

What I appreciate about Take 1 is that although it's a classic pop-punk record, you can't say that every song sounds the same. It's got everything from the textbook pop-punk of "Running Back To You" to the power pop leaning "All About Me" to the darker-sounding "Go Away" to the totally sappy "Your Lips Met Mine" to the punk rock kick in the nuts of "It's The CIA". Funderburk did a great job of letting the hooks shine while still playing up the inherent punch of this trio's attack. With a record like this, you don't really want to mess with the formula. What you do want to do is execute it to perfection, and that's what K7s have done so well. If you're looking for new ground to be broken, this is not your band. But if you desire a record that's a whole lot of fun and sure to have you singing along for weeks on end, Take 1 is hard to beat.