Thursday, February 4, 2016

Keeping up with Nasty Rumors!

It's been over a year since I first reviewed Bern, Switzerland's Nasty Rumors. Having released three more singles since then (including two brand-new ones), this group is rapidly climbing my list of favorite present day bands! Nasty Rumors hit my sweet spot in terms of their sound: English style '77 punk with a considerable power pop influence. And their two new singles are their best releases yet! "Dilemma" is out on Germany's Wanda Records and teams a punchy title track with a B-side that brings to mind The Boys or even current label mates Los Pepes. "All Alone" was just released by No Front Teeth Records and hearkens back to the anthemic Brit-punk of The Clash, Professionals, and Chelsea. It goes without saying that you need both of these singles! If you're a collector type, there are regular & limited versions of both seven-inches still available from Nasty Rumors' Bandcamp. If you're not a collector but love old school punk with melody, I highly recommend downloading all four of the band's singles immediately! Will we soon be a getting a full album from Nasty Rumors? I sure hope so! 


Wednesday, February 3, 2016

Jabronis Change The Dial!

Generally speaking, Ramones-core bands follow two sacred rules:
1. No band will ever be as good as the Ramones, and even the best of their imitators must bow down and acknowledge that they are unworthy.
2. When paying tribute to the Ramones, it is only acceptable to draw from the first four albums (or just the first three if you're orthodox Ramones-core).

Portland, Oregon's Jabronis are one of the few existing Ramones-core bands I find interesting enough to write about. I especially appreciate the band's blatant disregard for Ramones-core Rule #2 (it goes without saying that they adhere strictly to Rule #1). On their 2013 album Hit The Road, Jabronis definitely hinted at an interest in the more pop-oriented side of the Ramones. And on their new album Change The Dial, they've done what no other Ramones-core band has ever tried before: to draw very specifically from the early '80s Ramones albums. Drummer G.G. Jabroni describes the album as "an attempt to make a stripped down End Of The Century and a harder edged Pleasant Dreams, smashing them together and harkening back to the first three Ramones albums at the same time". I think this is a super cool concept for a Ramones-core album, and it makes total sense. After all, what Ramones fan hasn't wondered how much better End of the Century would have been if it had been produced more like the first four albums? Don't most of us believe that Pleasant Dreams could have been a great Ramones album if Joey and Johnny hadn't been at odds? And considering that even the Ramones' lesser albums are better than 99.9 percent of all records ever made, Jabronis' fondness for End of the Century and Pleasant Dreams is 100 percent sincere.

Supplemented nicely by textbook Ramones-core blasters like "Shark Bait Baby" and "I'm A Schizo", Jabronis' attempts to channel the '60s pop obsessions of early '80s Ramones are genuinely successful on Change The Dial. The terrific "Nothing I Won't Do" sounds largely inspired by "Do You Remember Rock 'n' Roll Radio?", while "I Don't Want To Want You Anymore" suggests a toughened-up Pleasant Dreams. "Maybe Tomorrow (She's Mine)" reminds us that Phil Spector was far more important to the Ramones as an influence than he ever could have been as a producer. And "Just In Case The Sun Don't Shine (Tonight)" brings to mind the kind of pure pop song that Joey Ramone had always had a knack for writing.

Ultimately Change The Dial is exactly what Jabronis intended it to be. It takes the influences behind End of the Century and Pleasant Dreams and brings them more in line with the spirit of the Ramones' earlier albums. By no means are Jabronis trying to "out-do" early '80s Ramones. But at the very least, they have great fun getting us to think "What if?". I'm already looking forward to Jabronis' next album - which will be 100 percent influenced by later (mid '80s to mid '90s) Ramones!


Friday, January 29, 2016

Nine Random Thoughts

If there's one big difference between me in my late 20s and me at age 44, it's that I no longer feel the need or desire to bash the "popular" music of today. While I don't particularly enjoy the music that the masses are currently buying, I don't suffer any delusions that the bands I like are somehow "superior". I think people should be able to like the music they like without being judged for it. And at a time when so many good bands can be heard via on-line streaming, podcasts, YouTube, etc., it seems kind of pointless to whine about the state of mainstream music.

Speaking of YouTube, how in the world did we ever live without that thing? Remember back in the day if you wanted to hear an out of print record, you had to hope and pray that you could track down a physical copy and then pay through the nose to acquire it? I remember a time when I would have killed to own rarities like The Brat's Attitude EP and the first Killjoys single. Now I can listen to either with just a quick Google search. YouTube has become the world's greatest jukebox.

It's still hard for me to believe that Nirvana's Nevermind, Teenage Fanclub's Bandwagonesque, Screeching Weasel's My Brain Hurts, and Material Issue's International Pop Overthrow are all turning 25 this year. It's like a quarter century passed in the blink of an eye.  

Things I don't like that most people like: video games, cake, the John Lennon song "Imagine". 
Things I like that most people don't like: chopped liver, low-scoring football games, the comedy of Gilbert Gottfried.
If you're new to this blog and have been thinking, "This guy gives everyone a good review!", you are 100 percent correct. By design, I only write about music that I like. For many years in my younger days, I fancied myself a "critic" and would review everything that was submitted to me. But let's be real. I'm not qualified to critique music. I prefer to think of myself as someone who merely spreads the gospel. I used to love turning friends onto new bands by making them mixed tapes. I like to think of this blog as my mixed tape to the entire world.

If you could time travel back to any year to see bands, which year would you pick? I'd opt for 1979. That would be something to see The Clash in their prime and AC/DC with Bon Scott! 

For all of those individuals wondering when the heck I'm finally going to review the band Wyldlife, I promise that this is the year!

Last year, I did not get the chance to do a "top ten albums of 2005" post. Here, then, are my favorite 10 albums from '05:
1. Unlovables - Crush*Boyfriend*Heartbreak
2. The Fevers - Love Always Wins
3. Zodiac Killers- Radiation Beach
4. Chaz Matthews - Amazing Graceless
5. Red Invasion - I'm Not Too Young To Die
6. Kevin K - Perfect Sin
7. The Sweethearts- Looks Could Kill
8. Real Losers - Music For Funsters
9. The Flakes - Back To School
10. M.O.T.O. - Raw Power 

Reviews I have planned for February: Indonesian Junk, Jabronis, Crazy and the Brains, Nasty Rumors. I might sneak in a couple more if I have the time.


Thursday, January 28, 2016

Pagans v. The Guillotines!

Holy fucking hell! If you long for the days when American punk rock was dirty and dangerous, I've got a record that's gonna blow your head off! Set for release on Just 4 Fun Records out of Sweden, this is a split 7" teaming up the almighty Pagans with Houston, Texas's The Guillotines (a new-ish band featuring former Pagan Bill DeGidio {aka Robert Conn} on guitar and lead vocals). 

You may recall that Mike Hudson regrouped the Pagans a few years ago and made an excellent album called Hollywood High (the first Pagans full-length in 31 years!). Working with a revolving cast of supporting players, Hudson continues to grow the Pagans legend. And on this split, we get the appropriately titled "Hopped Up". Featuring the blistering guitar work of Richie Duguay (The Hellhounds, Duff McKagan) and Capt. Ben Reagan (The Feederz, Richie Ramone), this old-style smasher sounds 100 percent like CLASSIC Pagans. Close your eyes, and you'll be instantly transported to the mean streets of Cleveland circa 1978! Hudson sounds like a man who's traveled to hell and back and lived to tell the tale. He's a one of a kind performer and a true national treasure. Long may he reign! 

DeGidio/Conn did multiple stints with the Pagans back in the day, and he's also well-known as a member of Cleveland punk greats like The Defnics and AK-47's. He eventually relocated to Houston, and a couple years back he formed The Guillotines with Jewels (Chelsea Hotel) on vocals and bass, Curtis De Gidio (Chrome Kickers, The Velostacks) on guitar and vocals, Glenn Gilbert (Vanity Crimes) on lead guitar, and Stevie Ryder (Root) on drums. The Guillotines are very much in the spirit of the Pagans but are by no means a straight copy. Instead think of a modern version of 1970s Cleveland/New York punk rock. The band's contributions to this split, "8-Pack Day" and "She's All Alcohol", are from the soon to be released album Heads Are Gonna Roll. And, boy, do they ever rip! If you like sleazy, high energy rock n' roll formed from the primordial ooze of The Stooges, MC5, and (of course!) the Pagans, you're gonna go wild for these songs!

The digital release of the Pagans/Guillotines split EP is available now from Just 4 Fun's Bandcamp. Don't miss out. This is one of the most killer punk records I've heard in a long, long time. The vinyl releases next month, and you can place your pre-order here!


Wednesday, January 27, 2016

New from Fuzzy Vox: No Landing Plan!

Today I have the pleasure of offering a sneak peak at what will surely be one of 2016's best LPs. No Landing Plan, due out February 26th, is the sophomore album from French garage rockers Fuzzy Vox. Tasked with following up 2014's dynamite debut On Heat, Hugo and the gang have pulled out all the stops and delivered a truly electrifying rock n' roll record! The band traveled all the way to sunny southern California to record with veteran studio men Ryan Castle and Andy Brohard. The trio also enlisted the legendary Howie Weinberg to master No Landing Plan. Clearly Fuzzy Vox spared no expense in pursuit of an amazing sounding album. Just as importantly, the band entered the studio with a fantastic batch of songs!

Like On Heat, No Landing Plan marries the raw energy of garage rock n' roll to the big hooks of power pop. On early tracks like "Explosion Of Love" and "Distracted", Fuzzy Vox returns to its "younger cousins of The Hives" blueprint - tearing out of the gates with loud guitars, frantic drumming, and a beat that's sure to get you up and dancing. If you're looking for a jolt of energy to jump-start your day, this is even better than caffeine! But just when you think you've got a handle on this record, it takes some unexpected and enjoyable turns. "Grow Evil" alternates between jumpy power pop in the verse to screaming grunge rock angst in the chorus. I haven't heard a pop song this bi-polar in a whole lot of years - and the best part is that it actually works! And when the album reaches its middle part, it truly hits its stride with several songs that show off Fuzzy Vox's considerable development as songwriters. The snappy and infectious "I Got A Girl" brings to mind Look Sharp era Joe Jackson, while "Don't Leave Me Behind" is the radio-ready power pop smash I always knew this band was capable of creating. "They Shot Charlie" is the best Fuzzy Vox song yet - a bold mix of serious social commentary and triumphant, irresistible hooks. And closing track "A Reason To Love" is completely different from the rest of the album - suggesting late '60s Stones/Kinks jangle with a modern makeover.

No Landing Plan is an album that firmly establishes Fuzzy Vox as one of the top garage rock n' roll bands going. While the production is of the highest quality, it has an edge to it that really suits the band's strengths. Having previously worked in the studio with the likes of Jet and The Hives, Castle and Brohard are the rare professional engineers that truly "get" rock n' roll. When you're recording a band with a red-hot rhythm section and a first-rate howler on lead vocals, your first task is to not get in the way of the rock! No Landing Plan moves Fuzzy Vox's music in a more melodic direction without sacrificing any of the band's signature energy. This is as fun and infectious as garage rock gets. And if you're looking for a band that puts the power in power pop, this trio is absolutely for you! Shine up your dancing shoes and set your volume knob for extra loud!


Wednesday, January 20, 2016

It's The Goodbye Johnnys!

There are few things in life that I love more than '77 style punk rock. So when I hear '77 punk done well, I'm always a happy camper! On that note, I offer my ringing endorsement of the latest album from The Goodbye Johnnys out of Z├╝rich, Switzerland. It's called Disaster Control, and it was originally released on vinyl in 2015. Just last week, the band made it available as a free download via Bandcamp. It's the kind of record I can never get enough of: slamming three-chord punk rock built on a love for The Ramones, Clash, Johnny Thunders, and (especially) The Saints. I dig the songs, I dig the energy, I dig the sound. And no track is longer than two minutes and 46 seconds! While it's easy to pick out the influences, The Goodbye Johnnys are not doing a straight copy of any of those bands. How refreshing it is to hear a band that knows the difference between a Ramones influence and a Ramones imitation! These fellas do what more bands ought to do: revisit a classic musical style yet still make it sound vital and exciting in the year 2016. If, like me, you're wild about first wave punk, check out Disaster Control. You can't deny that the price is right!


Tuesday, January 19, 2016

More from Impo & The Tents!

If you read my review of Impo & The Tents' latest LP, you know I'm crazy for these Swedish ambassadors of powerpop/punk. Again working with Alien Snatch Records, the band has released a follow-up EP called Anxious Times that picks up right where that last album left off. And you know what that means: fast, catchy, and unstoppably exuberant pop songs that will put a huge smile on your face and have you dancing around the house like a child on a sugar binge. Why mess with a winning formula? As always, these gentlemen hit that Dickies/Undertones/Pointed Sticks sweet spot right on target. And I love the added '80s new wave vibe that comes from Lars' peppy organ work. The first two tracks here are pure dizzying fun (how about those harmonies on "Do The Things You Wanna Do"?!). Then on the back end, the band takes the foot off the pedal a little and really shows off its songwriting chops. "Summer's End" is exactly what the title suggests - a throwback to '60s surf & pop with just a touch of melancholy to it. Barracudas fans, take note! And to close out the record, "Stay The Night" is pretty much perfect power pop. What a damn fine EP! If you love powerpop/punk the way I do, you need to get your mitts on Anxious Times (along with all of Impo & The Tents' stuff)!