Friday, February 16, 2018

The Connection - "In The End"

Yippeee, we've got ourselves a new Connection song! "In The End" is actually the first original song The Connection has released since the summer of 2015, so it's with tremendous excitement that I receive this teaser for the band's forthcoming album Wish You Success! The album doesn't come out until the end of April. But if "In The End" is any indication, we are all in for a real treat with this fourth Connection LP. I'm not gonna waste any time today over-analyzing this track (there will be plenty of chances for that when I review the album!). I'll just say that if you love rock n' roll, you need this song in your life. It'll get your toes tapping and leave you wanting more. Oh my god, that lead guitar! Dang it, do we really have to wait two months for the rest of the record?!


Wednesday, February 14, 2018

Dboy- Prove Your Love (Live in Belem)

Releasing today is the excellent debut long player from Welland, Ontario's Dboy. On the surface this may appear to be a fake live album. But aren't all the best live albums fake? Besides, "fake" is such a harsh term. In Dboy's case, it's more like pro wrestling kayfabe. If you choose not to believe that Dboy live under secret identities and only communicate with the public via their Moscow-based spokesman Kirill Kutchokokov, you're totally spoiling the fun! The band's web site even contains a "13-point program to end sonic austerity" (my favorite is Point 5: "Dboy is a rite of passage, minus the 'p'") and offers fans the opportunity to apply for membership in the Official Dboy Scout Order. Most importantly, the music will more than justify anyone's commitment to the cause. This is some great straight-ahead catchy punk rock n' roll that takes absolutely nothing seriously except its mission to melt your face off. Think Hex Dispensers or Misfits (minus the horror) with the spirit of early Turbonegro. The band tears through 12 songs in under 25 minutes, and it's a ripping good time to the very end. And while song titles like "Born With A Hard-On", "Fecal Alcohol Syndrome", and "Dboy Balls" are in no way misleading, it would be going too far to dismiss this as a joke record. Especially on killer tracks like "Three Piece Band" and "Prove Your Luv", Dboy demonstrates that any underlying gimmicks are secondary to the music itself. If you enjoy ballsy garage punk with hooks, I wholeheartedly recommend checking out this mysterious power trio from the land of Cal Clutterbuck. Neckerchiefs sold separately!


Monday, February 12, 2018

Various Artists - Scrap!

I've said it many times, but it's a message worth repeating. If you're an American fan of Japanese punk music, you've got to be extremely appreciative of what Secret Mission Records has been doing over the past few years. The label has released music from The Raydios, Louder, Dials, Boys Order, P.C. 2, Beatseekers, Car Crash, The Geros, The Fadeaways, and Ruler. These are bands whose records would have otherwise only been available as pricey Japanese imports. Taken as a whole, SMR's recent catalog affirms that Japanese punk rock continues to thrive just as it did in previous decades. Assembled by Mangrove Records, the Scrap! compilation is an additional showcase for some of the finest bands associated with Japanese punk in recent years. Secret Mission has partnered directly with Mangrove to make this compilation available in the United States. It features top-tier material from six different bands. So basically, it's like getting six singles for the price of one album...minus the import price tag! 

I like that Scrap! was put together to document both the quality and variety of sounds that have been been coming out of Japan's punk scene over the last few years. The first thing that often comes to people's minds when you talk about Japanese punk rock is the garage/trash stuff, and you certainly get some of that here with three great tracks from KBD inspired crazies Car Crash. But the bands here run the gamut of punk styles, from the mod meets jittery new wave of Dials to the blistering sing-along '82 punk of Centipede to the dark post-punk of Middle Edge to the thumping three-chord punk stylings of Black and White to the pure snotty fury of Loudmouth. It's clear that Mangrove insisted on "A" level material from these bands, and that's what makes this compilation so worth the while. There are no throwaway tracks here, and I can honestly say I am looking forward to hearing a lot more from all of these groups. I was especially pleased to be so into Centipede and Middle Edge - bands who bring something a little different to sub-genres that I'm generally not a huge fan of. Over the course of just three tracks, Middle Edge manages to bring to mind The Wipers, Swedish post-hardcore, and Joy Division! My fave cut out of the 17 is Black and White's "One Way Street", which gave me a similar feeling to hearing The Registrators for the very first time back in the day. Honestly, though, I believe that six different people could listen to this comp and identify six different favorite bands from it.

I don't wanna catch anyone talking about how Japanese punk rock "used to be" so great. It still is, and Scrap! proves it!


Thursday, February 8, 2018

Down and Outs - Double Negative

Is there anything better about doing a music blog than discovering new bands? How about discovering not so new bands?! Double Negative is already the fifth album from Liverpool based punk outfit Down and Outs, yet here I am just hearing the group for the first time (and enjoying it very much)! Releasing next Wednesday on All In Vinyl, Yo Yo Records, and Waterslide Records, Double Negative continues a recording history for this band that goes all the way back to 2004. Where in the hell have I been for 15 years?! The sound is melodic punk with gruff vocals, something that tends to be hit or miss with me. Luckily, it's a hit in this case. You can hear the influence of bands like Leatherface and One Man Army, but spiritually this music is undeniably Clash-inspired.

I always love a band that aspires to write anthems, and I can think of no better word to describe the majority of these songs than "anthemic". And that's really what separates Down and Outs from a lot of similarly styled bands. These songs are so genuinely rousing that they continually have me out of my chair and pumping my fist as if the band were right there in front of me. Mark Magill has written some very serious songs about a variety of subjects, and he really has a way of imbuing these songs with a passion that's palpable. While not fully a "political" record, Double Negative does contain a number of songs that speak to our present condition. The folk anthem "You Can Have This Country Back" is specifically about the state of affairs in a post-Brexit U.K. Yet it's remarkable how everything this song rails against is just as pervasive and problematic on my side of the pond as well. "What Did You Do In The Culture Wars?" reflects on how recent political events have emboldened those who revel in intolerance. It's based on a real-life encounter that Magill had with an individual who advocated the banishment of disabled people. As you can imagine, he did not stand silent!   

When it's not political, Double Negative is deeply personal and extremely emotional. "Astoria" is a break-up song that's about as gut-wrenching and cinematic as you can get in 91 seconds. In other spots, Magill pours all he's got into songs about death and grief. Even "Heartbreak Radio", a song ostensibly about mixed tapes, digs deeper into the things from which we're often trying to escape when we turn to the healing power of music. I appreciate the amount of heart and intelligence that went into these songs. But what really brings it all home is how fervently the band sells each track. Magill sings his guts out, and the band powers through every note like it really means it. The energy is undeniable, and man do those choruses ever deliver! All in all, an absolutely brilliant album!


Monday, February 5, 2018

Tommy and The Commies - ...Again

I've got another one for you I think you're all gonna love! What is it with all of these great powerpop/punk bands out of Canada?! Tommy and The Commies hail from Sudbury, Ontario and have just released their second tape titled Tommy and The Commies...Again. "Devices" is the first track from that tape, and it could easily pass for a lost gem from the late '70s heyday of pop-influenced punk rock. I am blown away and totally pumped to hear more tunes from this tape! In the meantime, the band's first tape is also excellent and can be downloaded in its entirety via Bandcamp. I've got a feeling that I'll be writing about Tommy and The Commies many more times in the near future!


Friday, February 2, 2018

Telephone Lovers - Two Dollar Baby

I've got a good one here to kick off the month of February! I was a big fan of Telephone Lovers' debut album, and now they've followed that up with a single that's even better! A split release between Disconnected Records and Burger Records, "Two Dollar Baby" finds this LA band embracing a 7" format that was tailor made for power pop. And when I say power pop, I'm talking old school. I admire that Telephone Lovers make no attempt to sound "modern" or "original". They still sound like they just stepped out of time machine that they boarded in 1978. Both tunes here straddle the fine line between mid-to-late '70s power pop and straight-up rock n' roll. "Two Dollar Baby" sounds SO 1970s in an entirely good way. It's got riffs and licks a plenty, and that chorus really brings it all home. I really love what the piano adds to this tune! If you dig Dwight Twilley, Flamin' Groovies, etc., this one should be right up your alley. On the flip, "Real Action" has that classic LA power pop feel that seems to be this band's calling card. You could easily slide this track on a mix between 20/20 and the Paul Collins Beat and have a perfect fit.

Telephone Lovers are definitely one of the best new bands going in power pop today. And perhaps that's because they don't sound like a power pop band of today. Teddy Too Much may wear his songwriting influences on his sleeve, but he absolutely has the talent to honor them well. He's joined by a stellar cast of players including Billie from Black Mambas, Pat Salway from Dr. Boogie, and top-notch power pop drummer James Carman (Images, Maniac, LA Drugz). Vinyl for "Two Dollar Baby" will ship early next month. Via Telephone Lovers' Bandcamp, you can buy the digital version of the single or pre-order the 7". Man, this is really shaping up to be a great year for power pop!


Tuesday, January 30, 2018

The Zambonis/Vista Blue - Songs About Curling

The name of the record tells you everything! Released just in time for the 2018 Winter Olympics, Songs About Curling is to my knowledge the first ever curling-themed music recording. It's about time that this sport had a proper musical tribute. I know I can't be the only one who checks the TV listings for Olympic coverage every day just to find out what time curling is on. If you appreciate skill, strategy, and teamwork in sports, you just can't beat curling. John Shuster is an American treasure! Songs About Curling is a collaboration between the legendary hockey-themed band The Zambonis and baseball-loving F & L favorites Vista Blue. If a record about curling was ever going to get made, these were certainly the two bands to do it! They both excel at articulating the passions and joys of sports fandom, and that remains every bit as true as they turn their attentions specifically to curling. Zambonis' bass player Mike Sembos is actually in a curling league with his wife, and the two co-wrote the lead track "Sweep Me Over the Hogline". I don't think there's anything I enjoy more than a sports song that's actually a love song. Or is it a love song that's actually a sports song? Either way, the metaphors work beautifully on this laid-back country rocker. The Zambonis follow it with "Curling Girl", a psych-pop dazzler about a young lady who truly has it all. The Vista Blue side of the split opens with the sing-along anthem that the sport of curling truly deserves. "Curling All Around The USA" is a Beach Boys inspired bopper that heralds curling as the next big American sensation. That's exactly the kind of positive thinking we need if our nation is to ever rival the mighty Canadians and Swedes on the curling sheet. To wrap up the EP, "Girl Who Can Curl" was written primarily by VB bass player Mark and his wife Beth. It puts a neat twist on girl-crazed pop-punk. Seriously: who could ever blame a young man for desiring the affections of a gal who knows how to handle a stone?

Since no other label was willing to commit to releasing Songs About Curling on a tight deadline for the Olympics, Mike from Vista Blue ended up putting it out on his own label Radiant Radish Records. I love that Mike went to the trouble to get this record made. And I love that The Zambonis were so enthused to be part of this project! This is no joke record. Both bands brought top-notch contributions to this split. It works as a celebration of curling, and it works as terrific pop music. This is a limited vinyl release with a total of 300 copies (in several colors) available. You can order it here. Curling at the 2018 Olympic Games starts next Thursday, so cue up these tunes and get yourself ready!