Friday, April 17, 2015

Angry Cougars are back!

Back with their third and fourth singles, Betty Machete and The Angry Cougars just keep on killing it. For Record Store Day 2015, these Columbus, Ohio maulers are offering up an ace new single called "Guts" along with a split with hometown mates Hexers. "Guts" finds BMAC slowing the pace down a little but hitting even harder (if you can imagine that!). Think less hardcore punk and more straight-up ferocious rock n' roll - with thundering guitars and a positively menacing vocal from Ms. Machete. The brilliance of this song is that you can't tell if it's a metaphor or if she literally intends to disembowel someone. And as always, this band really excels at coming up with that perfect little hook that you never see coming until it's already stuck in your head. If you soon find yourself horrifying friends and neighbors by repeatedly singing the line, "There's no escaping/Because I love your guts!", take comfort in knowing you won't be the only one.

"Guts" is backed with an absolutely raging cover of The Soft Boys' "I Wanna Destroy You". If you've been waiting all these years for an angry punk rock version of this alt-rock classic, BMAC have finally made that a reality. Seriously, this rendition eats the Circle Jerks' version for breakfast! From the first note, this is a band hell bent on destruction. That "I'll come picking at your bones" line, coming out of Betty Machete's mouth, has never sounded more convincing.

On the BMAC/Hexers split, the two bands take turns covering one of the other's songs. Hexers re-imagine "Damnation" as a saxophone-driven r & b shaker. I bet you never knew this was a party song! BMAC tackle "Kill For Fun" and definitely make it their own. The way the band blasts through this hard/fast ripper, it seems impossible to believe that they didn't write it! The download that comes with the record also includes the original versions of both songs - allowing you to appreciate both bands' formidable interpretations.

If you live in or around Columbus, you will find both of these new singles at area record shops starting tomorrow. Buy or be sorry!


Thursday, April 16, 2015

Return of The Decline!

Long Beach punk greats The Decline are celebrating their 20th anniversary in style - with a brand-new single on Hostage Records! I first reviewed this band back in 1998 - when their debut EP The Loaded Gun was Hostage issue #8! I was blown away by the band's TSOL/CH 3 inspired sound and couldn't wait to hear more. Fast forward to 2015. Hostage remains THE SoCal punk rock label, and The Decline sounds as powerful and urgent as they did all those years ago. "Radio Revolution" is a tribute to all the legendary bands of punk rock's first wave - who came out of nowhere to change the world forever. With its raw energy, hot bass lines, and anthemic chorus, it suggests what The Clash might have sounded like if they'd been from southern California. You know I love the '77 sound, and this tune totally nails it. Whether you're 16 or 66, "Radio Revolution" will remind you of how exciting it was when you first discovered punk rock.

On the flip, "Loser Machine" is a harder, nastier blast of punk rock n' roll, SoCal style. Slot it between Bonecrusher and The Humpers on your next mix, and you will be unstoppable! It sometimes sounds disingenuous to claim that both sides of a single are equally good. But in this case, I can't imagine anyone arguing with me! While The Decline have not been heard from on record for a very long time, they never really went away. They just kept on representing for Long Beach punk rock. And when it came to the business of releasing new music again, there was little doubt they'd be bringing it hard! These are two incredible songs from a band and label that never miss. And a bonus download card gets you access to a 15-song collection of demos and lost tracks - a nice consolation for anyone who wishes The Decline had released more music over the years. Limited to 550 hand-numbered copies, this title ought to demand your immediate attention. Here's to many more years of The Decline!


Wednesday, April 15, 2015

The Prava Sessions: American Pinup

It is my great pleasure today to spotlight an amazing band and an extraordinary endeavor from Prava Creative Studios in nearby New Holland, Pennsylvania. The Prava Sessions feature live recordings from bands of varying musical styles. The concept is simple: the studio invites bands it likes to come record live. There are no overdubs, no autotune, and no pitch correction. These are 100 percent real live recordings. Each episode features 4-5 songs broken up with interview footage of the band. The studio treats these sessions like they're making real records - minus any technical trickery. It's like a modern-day Peel Sessions. All of the recordings are fully mixed and mastered, then released on iTunes, Spotify etc. Streams/purchases from these sources support the bands and the show directly. 

One of things I appreciate about The Prava Sessions is that the studio only invites bands it genuinely loves. And it only invites bands that can hack recording live with minimal takes. The bands cover genres from punk rock and power pop to singer/songwriters, Americana, and psychedelic. The next episode, launching April 21st, should be of particular interest to readers of this blog. White Plains, New York's American Pinup has released two full-length LPs, another EP, and a split album with Lost In Society. I've always been a sucker for female-fronted pop/punk, and American Pinup offers an energetic and highly original take on the style that adds elements of indie and alternative rock. Below I have embedded a sneak peak at the band's Prava Sessions episode. Give it a look, and you'll see that this band is the real deal all the way. "Shelter" originally appeared on the 2013 album Change Machine. This live take sounds every bit as good as the studio version. And it's very clear that Lauren West's powerhouse voice requires no technological enhancement! I should add that the lyrics to this song completely blew my mind. If one of the major objectives of this series is to feature bands with actual talent, then American Pinup is a perfect fit.

The audio EP version of American Pinup's Prava Sessions can be ordered here. Going forward, Prava plans to release a new episode of these sessions every three weeks. You can access all existing episodes at the studio's web site. And if you've never heard American Pinup before, you can listen to and buy all of the group's excellent releases over at its Bandcamp. Go check 'em out!


Monday, April 13, 2015

The Easy Lovers make an album!

Having first gotten into punk rock largely due to an obsession with the Ramones, Queers, and Screeching Weasel, I'm always pumped to hear newer bands that take me back to the excitement of those times. Hailing from Norman, Oklahoma, The Easy Lovers play ballsy pop-punk with a sick & twisted sense of humor. What's not to love about that?! Get A Job, the band's long-awaited debut album, has me feeling like it's 1995 all over again. Seriously: I can close my eyes and smell the leather jacket of my youth! And while The Easy Lovers definitely fall into that familiar style of pop-punk, I don't get the feeling that I've heard this band a hundred times before. These guys take what I've always loved about this genre of music and add plenty of their own personality. You've got bratty lead vocals in the neighborhood of Sloppy Seconds or Needles//Pins, slashing guitars a la Johnny Thunders, Clash-like shout-along choruses, and lyrics I can only describe as hilariously inappropriate. I've always maintained that the best pop-punk groups are rock n' roll bands at heart, and The Easy Lovers further confirm this theory.

In a word, Get A Job is just fun. You can't have a completely bad day if this record's on your turntable. You sometimes think pop-punk and assume it's going to be a bunch of sad-sap songs about lovelorn shy guys and the girls who don't know they exist. But judging from some of these songs, I'd say that girls are well aware of these fellas' existence. And some of them probably regret it! But while the "I can't believe they went there!" effect of "Dirty Secret" or "Minute Man" is a large part of The Easy Lovers' appeal, this is far from a joke band. The awesome "Fall For You" proves that these guys can do a straight love song when they want to, while "Pills For Pills" strikes me as a pertinent commentary on our over-medicated society. And if you've ever struggled to find a niche for your band in a bar/club scene dominated by assholes and crap music, you will surely relate to the fist-pumping anthem "Blacklist".

Adding elements of '77 punk, power pop, and good old rock n' roll to the tried-and-true three-chord formula, The Easy Lovers give modern-day pop-punk a much needed kick in the pants. If I had heard Get A Job when I was 24, I probably would have run out into the street and screamed for joy until the authorities hauled me away. My actual reaction at age 44 was only slightly less excessive. Have I just made an addition to my top ten list of favorite bands? I believe so!


Thursday, April 9, 2015

New Mad Parade 7"!

Probably the most underrated of all the great southern Californian punk bands, Mad Parade has stayed true to its classic sound for over thirty years. The legends from the San Gabriel Valley are back and sounding better than ever with a new single on the almighty Hostage Records. What I like about "The Fool" is that it demonstrates why Mad Parade is such a significant band to SoCal punk rock. This is not a case of a group resting on its laurels or trying to cash in on what it used to be. If you know nothing of this band's past, hearing this record will make you wish you did! And for those of you who are longtime fans, you will not be surprised to discover that these two songs totally kill! Mad Parade, like so many veteran punk outfits, benefits from decades of musical and life experience. This band is a well-oiled machine with profound insights into life and the world we live in. But unlike so many of its contemporaries, Mad Parade has never found the need to "outgrow" the fire and fury of its early days. "The Fool" is the absolute definition of anthemic punk rock - a powerful, driving number built around a massive sing-along chorus. Even listening in my basement, I'm jumping out of my chair and pumping my fist every time that chorus hits. It's a true thrill to be able to shout along to lyrics that truly speak to me. And Billy sounds great! On the B-side, "Lovers & Strangers" is the consummate SoCal punk blaster - right down to the melodic lead guitar and stirring backing vocals. This is the vintage Mad Parade sound: aggressive and tuneful, with the kind of chorus that will make you wish you could run up on stage and join the refrain.

As Hostage releases often do, "The Fool" is selling fast. Jump on this bad boy while supplies last! In addition to these two all-new smashers, you get a download card for 10-song collection of demos, outtakes, and lost tracks from various points in Mad Parade's glorious history. This is an incredible value for $5 - an absolute treat for hardcore fans and a must-own for anyone who loves the SoCal punk sound. And with another new 7" coming out on Record Store Day, Mad Parade is totally owning 2015!


Thursday, April 2, 2015

Hot new Born Loose single!

Having recently released the Lovesores' phenomenal 10" Focke-Wulf Vs. Spitfire, Germany's Hound Gawd! Records has returned with yet another essential slab of real deal punk rock n' roll. It's like 1996 never ended! "I Loathe You" is the fourth single from Born Loose - by many accounts the best band going in New York City these days. Seeing a lineup comprised of Larry May (Candy Snatchers/The Crums), Suke (Snuka/Iron Prostate/Candy Snatchers), Shane Konen (Live Ones/Ghetto Ways), and Eric Robel (Heroin Sheiks/Nova Express), you'd assume that Born Loose has to be an incredible band. And you'd be completely correct! "I Loathe You" is an absolute ripper - a veritable hurricane blowing through your speakers. And the B-side, "Today's The Day", could have been a monster single in its own right!

If you long for the days when the likes of The Humpers, New Bomb Turks, and Candy Snatchers tore apart beer-soaked dives from coast to coast, "I Loathe You" will have you rejoicing in a great new era of Stooges/Dead Boys inspired punk rock sleaze. Hound Gawd is quickly establishing itself as a label that gets the best material from the best bands, and that's certainly the case with this fireball of a single. Larry May - in my opinion one of the greatest punk vocalists to ever shout into a mic - has never sounded better. If you're going to sing a song called "I Loathe You", you have to really mean it. And, boy, does he ever! Right off the bat, he lets out a scream that will have you questioning his mental state and/or the immediate safety of anyone in his vicinity. Then he launches into his vocal and proceeds to rip someone a new asshole. Ya gotta love it! Meanwhile, you've got lead guitars going crazy and a rhythm section propelling the action like a reckless driver aiming for a pole at 100 miles per hour. This, my friends, is the gold standard of pissed-off punk rock!

"Today's The Day" dials back the pace a little but hits just as hard - with Larry turning out another raging vocal and Suke employing his guitar like a weapon of mass destruction. I'm pretty sure that that chorus could inspire even the most mellow soul to start breaking shit and knocking heads! The song doesn't even reach two minutes, yet it leaves you out of breath and wondering what in the hell just hit you.

To the point: this is the best punk rock single I've heard in a couple of years. Procure it by any means necessary.


Wednesday, April 1, 2015

Küken makes an album!

Here is the entire Bachelor Records press release on Küken's debut album:
"Punkrock from Hamburg. Loud, fast and simple = good. Take a sip of this if you dare." 

Given my wish to attain greater brevity in my writing, I think that's a brilliant one-sheet. And more importantly, it totally gets it right! Küken is the new band featuring Chris and Philipp, the twins from The Kidnappers. I've been a huge fan of these guys going back to the late '90s, and I continue to be one now. Imagine The Kidnappers stripped of all their powerpop tendencies, but retaining their knack for memorable tunes and solid hooks. That's Küken. The whole band seems to be a tribute to simplicity - right down to the minimalist cover art and songs that almost never exceed two minutes. So of course the album is self-titled! I definitely sense an effort to get back to the basics of punk rock - more of a three-chord '77 type sound meets '90s garage punk. Personally, I never found any fault with The Kidnappers' musical direction. But I can't deny that Chris and Philipp sound fully energized by this return to their roots. The tougher, nastier sound really suits their talents - and they power through these 11 rippers with an energy and enthusiasm that will remind you why you fell in love with punk rock in the first place. This is an album that's very much at home on the world's premier garage punk label. The song titles alone ("5$ Trick", "House Horse Pig", "Stickmeat") make it clear that Küken is a very different band from The Kidnappers. But that's totally okay by me. Sometimes you just feel like putting the powerpop records aside and blasting the first Ramones and Saints albums until the walls shake! If you dug The Kidnappers' first LP or thought their last one could have benefited from more songs like "Nothing's Gonna Change", you're gonna love Küken!

I had very high hopes for Küken's debut album, and the boys have come through with an A+ effort! Loud, fast, and simple does equal good. Küken - alongside Needle Exchange and Modern Pets - leads a new holy trinity of German punk rock.