Wednesday, May 27, 2015

The Beltones back in print!

I am delighted to announce that Jason Duncan has revived Just Add Water Records a decade after its last release. It's awesome to see one of my favorite labels of all-time back in action. And I'm particularly pleased with the way Duncan has chosen to re-launch JAW. He has decided to reissue his favorite release: The Beltones' classic 1996 single "My Old Man". That happens to be my favorite JAW release as well!

I could not name many musical acts more worthy of a reissue than The Beltones - one of the best bands to come out of that '77/street punk scene I so avidly touted in the late '90s. While The Beltones (now based in Austin, Texas) are still around and playing shows, they have not released new music in 14 years. I'm so pumped that a whole new generation of fans will have the chance to discover this amazing record. And for those of us who fondly recall owning the 7" back in the day, the good news is that it holds up phenomenally well after 19 years. While the original version backed "My Old Man" with "Fuck You Anyway", the new release adds a third track in "Juvenile Delinquent" (from the 1996 compilation I Can't Believe It's Not Water). All three songs were later re-recorded for the band's 1998 EP On Deaf Ears. And while I love On Deaf Ears, you just can't beat the original versions of these songs. "My Old Man", in my opinion, is the best 7" The Beltones ever made. It demonstrates that this band had way more going for it than the Stiff Little Fingers influence that reviewers constantly brought up. Bill McFadden was (and probably still is) an exceptional songwriter. He never got enough credit for the humanity of his lyrics or the sheer passion in his voice. Who else, in a '90s punk scene dominated by formulaic love songs and political rants, was writing about the repercussions of alcohol abuse and the misfortunes that drive men to drink? And the wisdom that "Juvenile Delinquent" imparts to young people looking to find their way is truly timeless.

If you're a longtime Beltones fan or just someone who'd like to own a fantastic record, head on over to the new Just Add Water store to reserve your copy of "My Old Man". 300 copies are being pressed on black - plus 100 each on red and blue. Hurry: the colored vinyl is already nearly sold out! 


Tuesday, May 26, 2015

New EP from Glenn Robinson!

Glenn Robinson is a longtime fixture of the Rhode Island/Massachusetts punk scene who released a terrific solo album called Modern Mistakes in 2013. He's been a standout drummer for numerous bands going back to the late '90s. But he's also a fine singer and songwriter. As a solo artist, he blends elements of power pop and pop-punk into his own power pop punk style. Listen to his song "Wavelengths" and tell me it's not the best Descendents/ALL tune of recent years! Before he started work on a new solo album, Robinson decided to release a few odds and ends that he had recorded last year. And so we have a new EP called Everything Is Stupid - on which Robinson played everything except for a couple guitar solos by Chris Piquette. And I have to say: these are some top-notch tunes! A lot of artists might have just saved these songs for their next album, but clearly Robinson didn't want to wait that long! "Hold My Gold" is full of bright melodies and clean, crunching guitars - like a dream mash-up of Green Day and Kurt Baker. And after the super-fast "Rear Ending A Hearse" pours on the punk rock aggression, we get a true power pop gem in "Waste No Time". I'm always a sucker for a "you and me against the world" type love song, and this track is pretty much the perfect example of that. It's so uplifting and anthemic that you'd expect to hear it playing over the end credits of a feelgood cinematic love story. Then you'd walk out of the theater, and the song would be stuck in your head for the rest of the day! This is what "commercial" pop-punk would sound like if it were actually, you know, good

I regret missing out on Modern Mistakes when it first came out. You can be sure I won't miss Robinson's next album! In the meantime, Everything Is Stupid is a stupid good value for $3. All downloads come with a super secret bonus cover track!


Thursday, May 21, 2015

The Gaggers' final single!

My fourth time posting on The Gaggers will unfortunately be my last. The Gaggers - probably my favorite punk band of the last few years - recently called it quits. But while London's snot-punk kings will be severely missed, not all the news is bad. The silver lining comes in the form of the long-awaited release of the "missing" tracks from the Rip You Apart recording sessions. That's right: we get one last Gaggers 7", and it's a total killer! "Bad Taste", "Summer Of Hate", and "Grown Up Fast" date back to 2008 and feature the band's original three-piece lineup with Busy Signal on drums. These songs were supposed to be on the band's debut LP but were left off in the interest of keeping the album lean and mean. But by no means are they "lesser" tracks compared to the rest of Rip You Apart. I mean, come on. There's no such thing as a second-rate Gaggers song! 

Listening to these tunes, I'm quickly reminded of why I went so crazy for The Gaggers in the early days of this blog. These songs are vintage Gaggers - filthy '77 punk with throat-slashing guitars and snotty as hell vocals from the inimitable Terminal Gagger. Think Jabbers, Pagans, and Dead Boys with an English point of view. "Bad Taste" can instantly be added to the list of classic Gaggers tracks. Right off, I'm pumping my fist in the air and shouting along to that scathing chorus. And "Grown Up Fast" proves to be the real gem of the lot - a true punk rock anthem and a fitting way for this great band to bow out.

No Front Teeth Records proudly offers three versions of the "Bad Taste" 7". There's the regular version with the multi-colored sleeve, a limited version with a red-toned sleeve, and a super limited version with comic cover art and Gaggers postcards designed by Jackie Sudden from Jet Comix. Order any or all of these versions while supplies last! What a run this band has had over the last seven years: nine fantastic singles, two superb albums, and a leading role in England's most formidable wave of punk groups in three decades. The release of "Bad Taste" is a wonderful thank-you to fans. And we fans, in turn, thank The Gaggers for all the amazing music!


Tuesday, May 19, 2015

Baby Shakes are back!

Oh. My. God. A new Baby Shakes single just came out! It's been a long time coming! New York City's queens of power pop/rock n' roll/bubblegum punk, last heard on record six years ago, have made a triumphant return on Surfin' Ki Records out of Italy. The new single is called "She's A Star", and it's a dandy! The A-side is vintage Baby Shakes: upbeat sugary pop chock full of the bubbliest girl group harmonies this side of 1964. If you were worried that Baby Shakes were going to resurface after all these years with a more "serious" approach to music, "She's A Star" will put those fears to rest in a heartbeat. This is the kind of song that puts a smile on your face and makes you want to dance. And, really, nobody does that sort of thing better than Baby Shakes. On the flip, "Gimmie Gimmie Gimmie Gimmie Gimmie Your Love" is a punkier number in a Nikki and The Corvettes/early Donnas vein. Once again: classic Baby Shakes. What a way to come back!

Given that "She's A Star" was nearly sold out before it was even released, I recommend moving extremely fast on this single! There are 150 copies on white vinyl and another 150 on red. And then it's gone. So get shopping! And look for a new album from Baby Shakes coming soon! 


Monday, May 18, 2015

New Mandates!

Summertime, for me, always starts with the arrival of the first "summer album" of the year. After a long, cold winter, nothing cleanses the soul like cranking some catchy, high-energy tunes in the car on a warm, sunny day. There is nothing better in life. Last year it was Mother's Children who ushered in my summer in the most awesome way imaginable. Now it's their pals Mandates doing the honors with the release of their sophomore LP. In The Back Of Your Heart, a split release between Hosehead and Taken By Surprise Records, was one of my most highly anticipated albums of 2015. And let me tell you: it doesn't disappoint! I'm sure my fist pumps out the car window have been amusing my fellow motorists.

I thought that Mandates' 2013 debut album was easily one of the most underrated punk records of recent years. But In The Back Of Your Heart totally blows it away. Building off of the '77 punk and early 2000s power pop influences of their first album, Mandates have fully come into their own on this exciting and totally rocking long player. The Calgary foursome takes a familiar powerpop/punk style and gives it a rock n' roll kick in the ass - confirming that the "Suspicion" single's nods to Cheap Trick and AC/DC were no fluke. Coming off of that single, In The Back Of Your Heart is every bit the hook-laden feelgood record I was expecting it to be. It's truly the perfect album for the summer - crackling with infectious melodies and youthful energy. Certain songs bring to mind label mates like Mother's Children ("Maryanne") and The Cry! ("Katie Katie Katie") - or fellow Canadian greats like the Steve Adamyk Band ("Not My Problem"). Yet Mandates have their own sound all the way - propelled by the ripping dual guitars of Brady K and Matt Sickens. The album was recorded in Portland, Oregon with the legendary Pat Kearns - who elicited a tighter, beefier sound that suits these songs so well.

What I love about In The Back Of Your Heart is that it doesn't necessarily conform to what a punk record is "supposed" to be. You don't often hear of punk albums with long guitar solos or songs running 4-5 minutes. Yet Mandates totally pull that off here without it seeming cheesy or excessive. If you like three-minute pop songs, this record has some great ones ("Messin' Around", "Wastin' Time"). But I find it very cool that the five-minute "Phantasmagoria" is one of the highlights of the album. And knowing my fondness for epic album finales, you won't be surprised that I'm really digging the power ballad-ish closer "I Got Eyes (In The Back Of Your Heart)". This album takes so many things I like ('77 punk, glam, power pop, classic rock) and mashes them together into a singular rockin' sound. Clearly these guys had a game plan for In The Back Of Your Heart. And in collaboration with of one of the best producers in the business, they executed it to perfection. It's always a pleasure to hear a good band become great. And even in a Canadian scene stacked with amazing bands, Mandates stand out as one of the best.


Thursday, May 14, 2015

Here are Brain Traps!

With so much music that's neither lo-fi nor trashy being labeled "garage" these days, my cravings for genuine lo-fi trash are at an all-time high. You know what I'm talking about: three-chord rock n' roll, played super primitively, and recorded on cheap equipment. And so we have Brain Traps - a band out of  Cologne, Germany bashing out a brand of garage punk that throws it straight back to the early '90s. Alien Snatch Records - my favorite record label of all-time - proudly presents not one but two new releases from Brain Traps. One is the band's self-titled LP, and the other is the third volume of the label's Teen Trash series - an installment that was a whopping 13 years in the waiting!

So we'll start with Teen Trash. The series began in 1999 with the intention of promoting the next generation of Supercharger/Teengenerate/Rip Offs disciples. The Highschool Rockers (future Kidnappers) were the first to be featured, followed by the Teenage Rejects in 2002. Given that those first two volumes are now considered to be garage punk classics, it made sense that Daniel couldn't do a third volume until he found the perfect band. Mediocrity would not do! So he waited and waited, holding out hope that he'd come across another group worthy of the Teen Trash brand. And, finally, Brain Traps are it! Teen Trash Volume III consists of four early Brain Traps tunes from 2013, recorded on 4-track and taken to another level by Rip Off Records mastering whiz Jim Kuczkowski. If you long for the days when you never missed a new release from labels like Rip Off and Radio X, you're gonna go apeshit crazy for these four lo-fi smashers! This is garage punk as nature intended: raw and wild, yet catchy as hell. If "Radical Bongo" doesn't melt your face off, you're probably wearing fireproof headgear.

While not nearly as "crude" sounding as the EP, the full-length is still plenty lo-fi and plenty trashy. And more than anything else, it's fun! Perhaps Brain Traps have refined their instrumental and songwriting skills just a little bit over the last couple of years. And it seems they've been listening to a lot of classic '60s garage rock in addition to the '90s stuff. The result is a ripper of an album that's equal parts garage and punk. Tracks like "Another Euro" and "Shoot My Baby" suggest the second coming of Supercharger, while the likes of "So Sad What's Left In My Head" seem straight out of 1966. And how can you not love a band that opens and closes its debut album with songs called "It's Alright"? Without a doubt, Brain Traps have given us the garage punk party record of 2015. And if you're not already throwing garage punk parties on a regular basis, Brain Traps have given you a damn fine reason to start! 


Tuesday, May 12, 2015

More from Los Pepes!

So who's my #1 favorite band on the planet? I'd say it's a close contest between a handful of candidates. I haven't had an "official" favorite band in a while - possibly because there are just so many amazing groups out there right now. How could I pick just one? But I will say that on the strength of their new EP, London's Los Pepes are meriting serious consideration for that top spot and the numerous glories it entails.

Having already released one of my favorite albums of recent memory, Los Pepes are back with four more songs that would have fit in splendidly on that record. It's like they weren't satisfied with making a perfect powerpop/punk album and decided a proper encore was necessary! "And I Know"/"Say Goodbye" is the name of the new EP. You can stream it now over at Los Pepes' Bandcamp, and it will soon be available on vinyl from Wanda Records. Again the band combines the sweetest pop melodies with a primal rush of loud guitars and smashing drums. What more do you need in life? The influence of the Buzzcocks ("And I Know") and Undertones ("Popular Rules") is immediately recognizable, and surely this record could be mistaken for a buried punk treasure unearthed from the vaults of 1979. If these songs were any catchier, the World Health Organization would have issued a warning sticker. "Say Goodbye" is probably the most pleasantly surprising track - its slower tempo and gorgeous harmonies channeling the best of early '70s power pop. That guitar solo is a thing of beauty!

Alright! If you enjoy high-energy powerpop/punk that you can dance to all night long, Los Pepes need to be on your radar. And I urge all my European friends to catch these gentlemen on tour later this month. You, too, might discover your new favorite band!