Thursday, August 27, 2015

Taking a break....

Alright, everyone! This will be my last post for a while. I'm going to take a break from the blog during the month of September while I get acclimated to the rigors of taking college courses on top of a full-time job. I'm going to minimize distractions and try to get a feel for just how much free time I can expect to have during any given week. And with football season about to start, a lot of that free time has already been claimed! I want to find a way to keep the blog going - even if that means more of a focus on sharing music and less of a focus on writing about it. If all goes well, F & L will return in October with shorter and more infrequent posts. I intend to return in style with a review of the new Kurt Baker album. Speaking of Mr. Baker, please enjoy this video for his forthcoming single on Hidden Volume Records!


Wednesday, August 26, 2015

A full album from Lunch!

Back in the beginning of 2014, I raved about an EP from a post-punk band out of Portland called Lunch. Generally speaking, I don't review a lot of post-punk stuff. But when I hear something truly great, I am more than happy to make exceptions. Lunch is one of those bands that never fails to blow me away. So here we go again!

What's impressed me about Lunch's new album is that it's quite a bit different from the band's previous output. With Let Us Have Madness Openly (great title!), Lunch delivers a full-length debut reminiscent of classic albums from Echo and the Bunnymen, The Cure, and Chameleons. The sound is goth-leaning mid-'80s UK post-punk all the way - right down to the chillingly exquisite guitar work and haunting bass lines. And while Lunch is hardly the only group of the present day to explore this particular set of influences, it's been a long time since I've heard a band do it this well. The songwriting, musicianship, and production are absolutely bang-on. Truly, any of these tracks could be slipped into regular rotation on SiriusXM First Wave without anyone suspecting a thing. "Pouring Light" is the next best thing to discovering a never-before-heard Joy Division song. And you can still hear Lunch's punk roots informing the shorter song lengths and nervous tics of tracks like "Bad Cut". This is that rare post-punk album good enough to make me want to wear black and embrace gloom. It's out now on Mass Media Records and will be available soon in Europe on the always dependable Taken By Surprise label. Check it out!


Monday, August 24, 2015

Role Models: the debut album!

If I had to name my single favorite song of the last couple years, my choice would be "Lost In The City" by Role Models. It's truly one of the best songs I've heard in my entire life. No joke! Needless to say, I was over the moon when Dom from Glunk Records told me he was releasing the long-awaited debut album from Role Models. I was reminded of what it felt like to be a music-obsessed kid and how I'd literally count the days until a band I loved was releasing its next album. There was nothing like finally getting my hands on that record, retreating to my bedroom, and completely immersing myself in great music. That's pretty much how it went a few weeks back when Role Models' The Go-To Guy magically appeared in my inbox. I let out a shriek of sheer delight, canceled all my appointments, locked the doors, put on my headphones, and proceeded to savor every note of the album. Then I listened to it again. And again. The Go-To Guy was everything I hoped it would be. In a year full of fantastic LP releases, it's up there with the best of the best.
Role Models are a London-based band led by singer/songwriter/guitarist Rich Rags (The Loyalties). He's joined by Daniel Husayn (Red Dons) and his Loyalties band mate Simon Maxwell. Another Loyalties member, Rich Jones (Black Halos, Michael Monroe Band), stepped in to play guitar on this release. But don't expect this record to sound like The Loyalties. There are certainly some shared influences (Hanoi Rocks, Johnny Thunders) between both bands. But Role Models are more hook driven - mixing glam-punk with power pop and straight-ahead rock. As a songwriter, Rich Rags is cut from the same cloth as guys like Tom Petty, Paul Westerberg, and a young Peter Case. He's got a keen ear for melody, a natural flair for storytelling, and a real knack for tugging at your heartstrings. And what makes him a personal favorite of mine is his understanding of what a great song can mean in our lives. Don't we all have that memory of a perfect moment from our younger days and the song that was playing at the time? Every time we hear that song, we momentarily become teenagers again. Rich Rags writes songs like that - those transcendent pop anthems that happen to turn up on the radio while you're driving around with your friends on a warm summer night and basking in the unlimited promise of youth. The way he's able to imbue these simple pop songs with just the right mix of melancholy, nostalgia, and wide-eyed optimism is really something special.

Being such a huge fan of "Lost In The City", I did wonder if I was going to judge the songs on The Go-To Guy against it. But once I played the album, I knew that was a non-issue. Now the only question is how Rich Rags is going to top these songs! In a better world, the likes of  "Nowhere" and "The Jerk" would dominate commercial radio and appear on major movie soundtracks. "Cherry Dear" boasts the kind of perfect hook that some songwriters spend their lives trying to write. "Saturday Night Sailor", featuring guest bass work by the legendary Sammi Yaffa, ought to be slotted on a mixed tape between Generation X and Tommy Stinson. And while the prevailing vibe of the album is mid-tempo pop, there are some nice surprises as well. Loyalties fans will go nuts for the Supersuckers meet Dead Boys fury of the title track, while the emotional ballad "Leave Tonight" leaves the kind of lasting impression I always look for in an album closer.

With their earliest recordings dating back to 2011, Role Models were long overdue for a full-length album. But The Go-To Guy was 100 percent worth waiting for. It fully realizes the potential of those previous EPs and firmly establishes Rich Rags as one of the best songwriters on the planet. It's definitely the A+ power pop record I was hoping for, yet it totally rocks as well. The production is plenty ballsy, and you just can't beat the two Riches' dueling guitars. Albums this good are what make me want to write about music. You can order the CD directly from Glunk Records. Visit Role Models' Bandcamp for a preview of The Go-To Guy and a free download of all the band's EPs!


Wednesday, August 19, 2015

The New Trocaderos make an album!

Last month I stopped just short of handing album of the year to The Connection. Truthfully, it was hard for me to fathom an album better than the spectacular Labor Of Love. But still I had my suspicions that those Connection guys were going to get edged out - by themselves! And that's exactly what has happened. The New Trocaderos were formed in 2013 by Brad Marino and Geoff Palmer from The Connection along with international heartthrob Kurt Baker. I've been raving about these guys for over a year and a half, and I long envisioned their debut album blowing me away. Now that the album has arrived, I am delighted to report that it's everything I was expecting and then some! Thrills & Chills - featuring a lineup rounded out by The Connection's Rick Orcutt and Kris Rodgers - is a lock for album of the year. Hell, let's just call it album of the decade! Buckle up and enjoy the ride!

Thrills & Chills delivers 12 more outstanding tracks from songwriter Michael Chaney. It's all new material: no covers and no re-recordings of songs from previous EPs. As always, The New Trocaderos put their fresh twist on the timeless rock n' roll of the 1960s. But over the course of a full album, you get a real appreciation for the range of this band's talents and the variety of its repertoire. Certainly it doesn't hurt to have three great lead singers with three distinct styles. And this album adds new dimensions to the band's sound with the inclusion of harmonica, slide guitar, sax, trumpet, and guest backing vocals from the all-star trio of Kim Shattuck, Palmyra Delran, and Line Cecilie Dahlmann. Of course you can expect nods to Dave Edmunds ("What The Hell Did I Do?"), the Rolling Stones ("I'm So Bad"), and Beatles ("Crazy Little Fool") right out of the gate. If you loved "Money Talks" and "Dream Girl" from the earlier singles, you'll go wild for the sing-along raver "By The Balls" and the British Invasion inspired pop gem "She Don't Know". But Thrills & Chills proves that there's more than just two sides to The New Trocaderos. From the Elvis-y doo-wop of "Love Anymore" to the 12-bar blues of "Business To Tend To" to the country-tinged jangle of "Like An Angel", the new ground covered on this album is considerable. And every time this band tries something new, it totally works! "Midnight Creep", featuring a standout vocal from Baker, is moody and mysterious and completely unlike anything the New Trocs have done before. If I were forced at gunpoint to name the best song on the album, "Midnight Creep" would be it.

Thrills & Chills is an album in the truest sense - a diverse collection of songs inspired by the classic LPs of the Beatles, Stones, and Kinks. No doubt, the songs all sound fantastic in isolation. But when they're put together in this specific order, the whole becomes even greater than the sum of its parts. I love how the ass-kicking rockers and the pretty little pop songs complement each other so perfectly. At no point on this album will you feel like you've heard the same song twice. As the title suggests, this is a record made to be enjoyed. It's full of fun and humor and melodies that will be stuck in your head for weeks. Chaney has a real talent for combining a killer hook with clever and instantly memorable lyrics. He mixes storytelling reminiscent of Ray Davies with more traditional odes to teenage romance, heartbreak, and bad boys living for trouble. And for sure, a songwriter could not ask for a better band to bring his visions to life. The boys tear into these tunes with confidence and enthusiasm - Marino, Palmer, and Baker putting on a clinic in rock n' roll guitar while Rodgers channels a young Jerry Lee Lewis on the keys. And with Shattuck, Delran, and Dahlmann knocking those harmonies out of the park, this album definitely brings a little something extra compared to the singles. Straight up, Thrills & Chills is the classic record I knew The New Trocaderos had in 'em. Almost any band would kill to come up with 12 songs this good in a lifetime. Whether you're 8, 80, or any age in between, this album will have you smiling and singing along and reaching for the repeat button again and again. CD and downloads release tomorrow on Uncle Mike's RnR. Vinyl is coming this fall on Ghost Highway Recordings and KOTJ Records out of Spain!


Friday, August 14, 2015

Meet Everyday Things!

So, does the nation of Canada have a monopoly on high energy powerpop/punk? No, it only seems that way! Say hello to the latest example, Edmonton's Everyday Things. This band features members of Let's Dance and Nervous Wreck and has a debut 7" out on No Front Teeth Records. The band name is a Plimsouls reference, but I'm hearing more of a kinship to Canadian standouts of the past (Pointed Sticks, Modernettes) and present (Fashionism, White Wires). Do you like loud guitars and crashing drums and catchy tunes that make you wanna get up and dance? Me too! My neck is sore from bobbing my head so vigorously! Just give "All Day All Night" a listen, and then hop on over to the No Front Teeth web site to order the record! I get the feeling I'll be talking a lot more about Everyday Things in the future!


Monday, August 10, 2015

Ravagers rip it up!

The one thing I've learned from doing this blog is that it's impossible for me to know about all of the great music that's out there. Sometimes I'll "discover" a band that's already been killing it for several years, and it makes me feel like an idiot! Take Ravagers. Here's this amazing band operating less than 60 miles from my house, sounding like the new millennium's Dead Boys. Sounds like something I should know about, right? Well, somehow I missed the boat on a phenomenal EP called Livin In Oblivion that dates back to 2013. Woops! To atone for my failures, I hope to be one of the first from the blog ranks to herald the arrival of the new Ravagers EP. It's called Natural Instinct, and it's out on Rock&Rule Records. Rock& Rule is a new label from the makers of Pork magazine. If this label was hoping to launch itself with a bang, Ravagers were the perfect choice for a debut release! This EP absolutely rips!

Hailing from the great city of Baltimore, Ravagers play a dirty, street-hard brand of punk rock n' roll that combines pure aggression with a strong sense of melody. Natural Instinct blasts off with a couple of all-out smashers in "Just Another Rat" and the completely ferocious title track. If you like your punk music with a whiff of danger and mean street attitude, this is the noise you've been craving! Subsequent tracks like "Termination" and "Lost Cause" slow down the pace a little but hit just as hard. If you're a Dead Boys/Thunders/Stooges freak like me or dig newer bands such as The Disconnects, you ought to be majorly pumped for a sonic kick in the teeth from Ravagers. This, my friends, is first class sleaze! And if you missed out on Livin In Oblivion like I did, that's a completely essential purchase as well. Get on it!


Friday, August 7, 2015

New Louder single!

When I reviewed that Car Crash 7" a few weeks back, I talked about how a lot of the newer Japanese garage punk bands have been leaning in a power pop direction. Even though I'm a big power pop guy, I tend to be a purist when it comes to garage punk. My sweet spot is that trashy lo-fi '90s sound by way of The Damned, Stooges, etc. I like speed, fury, and minimal musicianship. So I get really pumped when I hear bands like Car Crash and The Raydios representing for Japan in the old school fashion. Not so coincidentally, both of those bands have done releases with Secret Mission Records. And so has Louder - whose latest release is a killer 7" out on Secret Mission. "Tear Me Up" is the A-side, and it's totally what I'm into. I'm talking really catchy '70s style punk in the classic style. No doubt, the band lives up to its name with guitars that will knock your head off. But there are hooks all over the place. Moving things in a less melodic direction, B-side cut "So Alone" is a straight-up scorcher that brings to mind that glorious heyday of Japanese garage punk. It's fast, ferocious, and over before you even know what hit you. If you dug Louder's excellent LP on Sorry State Records, this single will give you more of what you crave. And if you've yet to hear Louder, this is a great place to start!