Wednesday, December 13, 2017

La Femme and Band-Maid

Review by Mike Kimmel

Not exactly sure what's going on here. It's a bit confusing. Even though I've previously proclaimed a growing love for French rock bands (in addition to my existing affection for Australian and Canadian rock bands), three of the last five CDs I've purchased don't have English vocals.

To be fair, one of the CDs is by Hawkwind (Warrior on the Edge of Time – purchased because it has the last tune Lemmy wrote for the band and where his later band's name came from: Motörhead). So that might be in a foreign language, but no one can really tell for sure.

Well, it's actually four of the last six CDs I've bought if you count the Mireille Mathieu Chante Piaf CD that I bought just for background to an upcoming Sparks piece (already in progress).

Two CDs by a French band named La Femme and one by an all-girl Japanese band named Band Maid. Which to do first? Which to do first? How about the two CDs by the French group La Femme?

Good idea! This surprised me quite a bit for two reasons. First, it seems at first blush that the music is kind of dance/trance. Something about the samples on convinced me to look a bit deeper into the band. And the more I listened, the less I could resist.

The music is described as synthetic and hypnotic on their page at Wikipedia. OK! I wasn't far off with the dance/trance thing, right?

Maybe. Maybe not. That page goes on to list their influences as the Velvet Underground (always been something of a Lou Reed fan), Kraftwerk (loved Autobahn years ago), and a mixture of coldwave, punk, and yéyé. Elsewhere they're described as "French psychedelic rock group La Femme".

GREAT! I just figured out what shoegaze was. Now they spring two more genres on me without even asking. For anyone unfamiliar with coldwave and yéyé (as was I): coldwave is further explained as post-punk, and yéyé is a poppish category with similarities drawn to Beatlesque tunes and their "Yeah, yeah" leanings.

I ordered the MP3 version of the CDs – for two reasons, actually. I'm running out of room on my CD rack, which is about 6' by 6' of CDs. That's after removing all of my various artist collections to make room for all of my other CDs. Next, I'm cheap. I wasn't sure that I'd like them enough to make room in the collection for them.

"Où va le monde" is the third track from Mystère (Translates to "Where the world goes"). This track, as well as other spots through both releases, sounds almost psych/surf. Some is near dance-type music. Much is rock or pop-ish.

All of it is good. No matter what genre, the lyrics are sung in French. And there are male and female vocalists. I've discovered that I have a much easier time listening to females singing/speaking in French. Perhaps that's due in large part to a brief interlude about 2:11 into "The Funky Western Civilization" from the Life in the Foodchain release by artist Tonio K. See if you can catch it here:

"The Funky Western Civilization"

The Tonio K. reference above is a bonus "best music you've never heard" tip provided absolutely gratis! I would heartily encourage you to listen to several of the other tunes you'll find on that page. You may have never heard of Tonio K., but if you remember the tune "Nobody Lives Without Love" from the Batman Forever soundtrack, Tonio K. is credited on that track. He's also written songs that have been recorded by Al Green, Aaron Neville, Burt Bacharach, Bonnie Raitt, Chicago, Wynonna Judd, Vanessa Williams, and many others.

Finally, my last shameless plug for Mr. K. – He is good friends with Charlie Sexton and has co-written several songs WITH Sexton as well as several songs FOR Sexton releases. Sexton occasionally refers to "…my close friend, Tonio K…." during live performances.

Back to the original topic. For a better idea of the band La Femme, here are videos of a couple of my favorite tracks so far:



The rating of "favorite tracks so far" is, of course, subject to rapid and frequent change without notice.

Be advised that you may find the videos odd. I found them interesting. I know it doesn't hurt that I'm also enjoying the music. But watching a non-cookie-cutter music video is refreshing any way you look at it.

On to the next CD release with mostly non-English lyrics. The title is Brand New Maid by the Japanese band Band-Maid. I've mentioned repeatedly that I have a proclivity for paying attention to female bands or female led bands. I think I do so for similar reasons that I've developed an affinity for Canadian, Australian, and now French bands.

As for the female/female-fronted bands, I  think it has to do with the respect I feel they're due for sticking with it long enough to overcome the obstacles thrown in their paths. I have to admit, the CD cover is an attention-getter as well:

From the opening track of the CD, I was impressed. Actually, from the 30-second snippets provided by, I was impressed. Once I had the CD, I started to enjoy it quite a bit. In fact, I liked it enough that I tracked down and bought another of their CDs – Just Bring It.

Several things leap to mind. As a bass player, please allow me to say that I HATE THEIR BASS PLAYER! The girl plays a five-string bass better and with more imagination than I play a four-string! The drummer has to have calves and thighs like a linebacker with all of the bass drum work she does.

As you'll see in the videos, they're all more than at home in front of an excited crowd, and the lead singer knows how to get the most out of them.

Some folks might claim that "…we've heard it all before". I don't think that's the case at all. However, even if it does sound a bit like this band and maybe a little like that one (there are times, for the record, they remind me something of a young Iron Maiden), that's not a disqualifier. There's even one song (honest to goodness) that sounds like a metal version of a rock tune a band I was with in the mid-'80s wrote.

OK, yes, it's a heavier and more talented version with Japanese lyrics, but the second track on the CD – "Look At Me" – sounds a bit like what we did years ago with our song "Barn Burner". Yeah, there are more tempo changes than we had as well. Sue me.

Check a few of the videos of the band and see if you agree. I think you'll enjoy it – the music is good, they include an English lyric sheet in the CD, and they just look like they're having a blast being a band.



"Look At Me" 

The band consists of the same five members who started in 2013. There have been a few songs released. As far as CD releases, Brand New Maid is the second release of 2017. The first, back in January of this year, was titled Just Bring It.

Here's the first track from the Just Bring It release titled "Don't You Tell Me".

I've heard that there's also a DVD in existence, and I can't help but think that would be interesting to say the least.

The five members, as near as I can guesstimate, are in the area of 20 or so years of age. Interestingly, the members knew each other through the "six degrees" concept. The singer knew the guitarist, who knew a drummer, who had been in a band with the bassist, and so on.

If you'd like, you should have an opportunity to see them live. March of 2016 saw them perform in their first ever U.S. concert in Seattle, Washington. Later that year (November), they embarked on a tour that took them through Mexico, parts of Europe, and Hong Kong, China, before returning to Japan to finish. It looks like their plans include expanding their touring territory.

-Mike Kimmel 

Tuesday, December 12, 2017

Hyness - "Choke"

One of my favorite things about doing this blog is being able to hear exciting new bands. In this digital age of music, it's entirely possible for a band to record a song and immediately share it with the world. You could argue that that's not always a good thing, but to me the positives of this situation far outweigh the negatives. Take, for example, Hyness out of Kitchener, Ontario. I'm glad the world didn't have to wait months or even years to hear this band's amazing song "Choke". This is without doubt one of my favorite songs of the year, and I can understand why the band is so excited to release its first EP. Remember alternative rock when it was still cool? That's what "Choke" brings to mind. With its dense guitars and shoegazy vibe, it practically transports me to 1993. Man, those guitars sound amazing! And the lyrics are really good and dark in a totally fascinating way. I could easily have slotted this song between Sugar and The Breeders on one of the mixed tapes of my youth. This is absolutely a download worth spending a dollar on. I can't wait to hear more!


Monday, December 11, 2017

Dr. Boogie - "She's So Tuff"

When I reviewed the new Sweet Things single last month, I mentioned that Spaghetty Town Records would be following that release with yet another killer 45. I was talking about a new single from L.A.'s Dr. Boogie - another band that perfectly fits Spaghetty Town's sleazy rock n' roll profile. "She's So Tuff" is the band's second 7" and makes a great addition to a discography that also includes a self-released CD EP and an LP on Dead Beat Records. The A-side is chock full of glam/hard rock swagger and boasts a hook I just can't get out of my head. The tune clocks in at just a hair under four minutes, but don't let the moderate tempo fool you. This one's a rocker! Those guitars are absolutely ripping, and Chris delivers a hard-edged vocal that's perfectly suited to the song. My first impression was that I was reminded of Rose Tattoo. That can only be a good thing! B-side "Peanut Butter Blues" is more in the band's Stones/Dolls inspired signature style, and it will be well known to fans. It was originally released earlier this year as a digital-only single, and now it finally makes it onto record. So this is literally a single with two A-sides!

In recent years, Dr. Boogie has received considerable acclaim as one of the bright new hopes for real deal rock n' roll. I would not argue with any of the rave reviews, and now I gladly enter one of my own. If you're looking for a nice taste of what Dr. Boogie (or Spaghetty Town Records) is about, press that play button and prepare to be rocked!


Wednesday, December 6, 2017

Cheap Trick review series: All Shook Up (1980)

Review by Mike Kimmel

The '80s were arguably the heyday for that l'il ol' band from Rockford; Cheap Trick. During that decade, the band released six LPs: All Shook Up, One on One, Next Position Please, Standing on the Edge, The Doctor, and Lap of Luxury.

We could try to sneak Dream Police in with them, as it was released on September 21, 1979; just a little bit before the decade we shall refer to as "the '80s", mainly because that's what they were.

Since the Cheap Trick review series here at Faster and Louder has already discussed Next Position Please and One on One, pick number three is in the batter's box and the #4 selection is in the on deck circle.

The album cover was simply, psychotically cool. I can't think of another way to put it. An airborne train some feet above an airborne train track are the initial eye-catchers, but closer inspection reveals a few additional facts.

Rick Nielsen is opening the door that allows the train to enter. The gap implies that the train is emanating from the nose on the face of a woman whose head appears to be about half as tall as our heroes. Robin Zander is straddling the tracks and appears concerned.

Tom Petersson is dressed in a white suit, and Bun E. Carlos is in a hat and hapless detective trenchcoat-type attire. What does this have to do with the content of the album? I'm, ahhh, not sure.

For openers we have "Stop This Game". Again with the relationship stories, eh? ("Eh." That's a hockey term.) His relationship with her was like music. "I changed. You didn't. And I can't stop the music. I could stop it before. Now I don't want to hear it. Don't want to hear it no more."

Track two – wherever he was, he was apparently there for far too long, but now he "Just Got Back". Through the tune “It wasn’t my idea…”
A. Didn't pull the trigger.
B. Didn't point the finger.
C. What the doctor figured.
D. All of the above.

The correct answer is D. It's a really good song. And like many of the Cheap Trick quick-hit rockers, it's short.

Actually, on the original release of All Shook Up, there were 10 tunes and combined they accounted for 33 minutes and 53 seconds of your life. Not near long enough for the quality of the songs you were likely to encounter. Details of the reissue to follow the description of track 10 here!

Robin Zander handles the vocals again, and again he's all over the place. With a range like that, why in the world would he NOT be? Just trying to warn anyone who might object to an occasional screamed lyric (SPOILER ALERT! I'll be talking about that again this time around, too!).

Having just gotten back seems an appropriate time to rediscover the fact that "Baby Loves to Rock". More and more he's thinkin' 'bout love, but love ain't all he's thinkin' of.

"More and more I'm thinkin' bout s-s-s-sex. The more I get, the worse it gets." But then Zander assures us that his baby loves to rock and describes where – and where NOT.

"In the morning, in the evening. In the summer, in the winter. In my car, in the night, in an airplane. Not in Russia!" You might recognize the sound and mention of "airplane" while listening to your balalaikas ringing out and keeping your comrade warm.

"Can't Stop it But I'm Gonna Try" is about him leaving her or her leaving him…or him finding out about her and her new boyfriend; maybe all of them. This tune – from 1980 – uses the phrase "long time comin'". Their 2017 CD We're All Alright not only borrows the title phrase from the ending of "Surrender", it also recycles the "long time comin'" phrase from a mere chorus inclusion to a full-fledged song title on the 2017 release.

Yes, a lot of people think I'm weird for picking out things like that, so go ahead and pile on if you'd like.

"World's Greatest Lover"? Yes, same thing here. Think back to one of the first songs for which Tom Petersson did the vocals – "I Know What I Want" (from the immediately previous album Dream Police). "You're the world's greatest lover…" That just struck me as odd as All Shook Up was the last album on which Petersson appeared before he left the band for his solo effort.

It's the same theme here but different verbiage. He's been on the road, and now he's coming home to the world's greatest lover in his word.

"High Priest of Rhythmic Noise" is really odd. It has the really processed robot voice for most of the vocals, a psychotic keyboard running loose in the background, and some extremely cool lyrics.

"If the song don't change the choir won't sing. Won't sing the same song forever." I think here he's talking about the fact that he's just a singer in a mind choir (I hope Nielsen's mind choir has a psychiatrist traveling with them).

"Don't stand up, shut up, sit down. You're strange – that's what I like."

"Love Comes A-Tumblin' Down" is supposed to be a tribute of sorts to Bon Scott – the frontman of AC/DC up to the Back In Black album, who had recently died. Cause of death is debated, but the lyrics here claim "Not a pretty picture when the body was found".

"I Love You Honey But I Hate Your Friends" has more of that damned Zander screaming stuff in it. Y'know, I find it terribly odd that some complain about that with Zander, but in some of the Cheap Trick tunes (like this one BIG time!), he'll do a screaming sort of vocal and he sounds like some singers who actually built very successful careers on just that type of vocal. Singers like, oh, say… ROD STEWART!

In fact, "I Love You Honey" is really reminiscent of the Stewart tune "Hot Legs", which came out in 1977 – three years before All Shook Up was released.

"I love you, honey, but I hate your friends. I love you, honey, but they'll be the end of me. Oooo yeah! I love you honey, but I hate those friends!"

"Let's see, there's Miss Tique and Miss Informed. General Disaster, Mister Know-it-all. Missus A Lot and Private Stock. Corporal Punishment 'bout to blow his mind. Mister Mock, Mister Completely, Miss de Plot, Miss Story…"

She's got even more friends with odd names, and he hates 'em all.

"Go For The Throat (Use Your Own Imagination)" is, I suppose, as opposed to using someone else's imagination.

Nielsen uses the title of the Stranglers tune "(Get A) Grip (On Yourself)" partway through, and then "I do it alone (you just give me idle conversation)." You'll have to decide what it's about.

For the original release, the last track is the Bun E. Carlos-penned tune "Who D'King". Marching band drums, excited marching band and crowd noises in the background, and the repeated lyric "Who d'king of de whole wide world?" Description does not do the song justice. It's actually a pretty toe-tapping l'il ditty.

In 2006, All Shook Up was reissued with five new songs in the lineup.

First up is "Everything Works if You Let It" from the Roadie soundtrack. Back in the days when vinyl was king, the only way I knew of to get this was on a 12" EP. Yes, of course I had it! Now, it's nice to have it included on a CD so you don't have to juggle things just to listen to one tune.

Cheap Trick also released an entry into the 10" "Nu-Disk" sweepstakes. The Nu-Disk was supposed to be the next big thing because it gave the fans something more than was available on just a 7" 45RPM single, but didn't cost as much as a full 12" LP. At one point as a rabid vinyl collector, I had about 30 different Nu-Disks. But that's all I could find. They never took off like they were supposed to. Of course the arrival of the CD didn't help the 10" marketing maneuver very much, either.

But Cheap Trick and their 1980 release Found All The Parts was a part of my near-10,000 LP collection at one time. It had only four tracks; two slower tunes, one remake, and one that sounded like it might have been a remake.

The live, shorter version of The Beatles' "Day Tripper" appears on Found All The Parts. It's very good, and it's the live version, but it's only 3:41 long. Some of us Cheap Trick purists like the lengthier take better.

"Can't Hold On" is up next. I'm trapped in a conundrum here. One of my all-time favorite bands is, was, and probably always will be Cheap Trick – and that's stood since 1977. From their Nu-Disk, I like one song, sorta like one, and kinda dislike the remaining two. No idea why, but here's the ranking:

I already mentioned that I enjoy their remake of "Day Tripper", so that surprise was spoiled.

I don't care for "Can't Hold On". It's not really bad. It's kinda of a foray into the blues, it's a live track, and you can tell it's Cheap Trick. It's just not a style for which I particularly care.

The fourth track from the Found All The Parts Nu-Disk, "Take Me I'm Yours", is in similar dire straits. Definitely Cheap Trick and definitely talented, but I don't care for the style.

"Such A Good Girl" rounds out the release (actually as track number three), and it's a good tune and very much a Beatle-esque effort.

No, I'm sorry. I wish I could come up with a shorter and less annoying way to reference a Beatles similarity, but I can't. Trust me. I've tried!

If you're interested in adding All Shook Up to your collection, be sure to look for the reissue. That way, you'll kill three birds with one stone: the album, the EP from the Roadie soundtrack, and the Nu-Disk.

-Mike Kimmel

Monday, December 4, 2017

Justine and The Unclean - Get Unclean

It was still the scorching summer when I first teased the debut album from Justine and the Unclean. Now here we are just three weeks from Christmas, and I am happy to report that the album is out on Rum Bar Records. I must say it's every bit as good as I expected! To review: Justine and the Unclean are comprised of major players in Boston's garage/punk/rock n' roll scene. Justine is Justine Covault (Malachite, Grand Theft Auto, Quest For Tuna) on guitar and lead vocals. The rest of the band is Janet Egan King (Malachite, Heidi, Swank, Tulips) on bass/backing vocals, Charles Hansen (Rock Bottom, Tom Baker & the Snakes, Gymnasium, The Handymen) on lead guitar, and the legendary Jim Janota (Upper Crust, The Bags, Rock Bottom) on drums. The story behind this record is that Covault went on a year-long songwriting binge and entered the studio with over 50 songs - many of them love songs of the particularly painful variety. Just nine of them ended up on the album, which was recorded by Dave Minehan at Woolly Mammoth Sound in Watham, Massachusetts and mastered by the illustrious Danny the K. With all of these principles involved, Get Unclean is a true testament to the immense musical talent that Boston rock currently enjoys.

Get Unclean largely follows the blueprint of the previously-heard tracks "Love Got Me Into This Mess" and "Passive Aggressive Baby" (both included on the album). Imagine your favorite Buzzcocks songs with a harder edge and sassier singer! If you like punky pop songs with big hooks and fantastically bitter lyrics, you should be all over this record. But there are a couple of additional things that this band brings to the table. One is Covault's singing voice, which is really unique and tremendously appealing. On top of that, the band has serious rock chops which Minehan wisely played up in his production. Songs like "Bring Me Fire" and "Worry Stone" kick some serious arena rock ass (Joan Jett fans will dig!). Elsewhere those blazing guitars and thundering drums (I mean, come on, it's Jim freaking Janota!) allow the band to put the power in power pop. "Can't Pretend I Don't Know" is the pop/punk/rock track of your dreams, while "I'm In Love With You, Jackass" incorporates some country twang in a most wonderful way.

All in all, Get Unclean is a terrific debut album from a band I hope we haven't heard the last of. Covault is a fine songwriter with smarts and likability to spare. And boy, does her band ever bring the rock! That Rum Bar winning streak remains very much in tact.


Friday, December 1, 2017

First Base - Not That Bad

With exactly one month to go until the end of 2017, my album of the year picture just got way more complicated. I sure am not complaining! Not That Bad is the second LP from First Base, out now on Drunken Sailor Records. And that title is the understatement of the year! You'd have to look far and wide to find an album that's more up my alley than this one. It's the perfect union of pop and punk, emphasizing the former without skimping on the latter. This album is about as pop as it gets - but in an entirely kick-ass way. It's as if the past 35 years never existed and First Base took its cues directly from the almighty Ramones. If you ever wished that Teenage Fanclub had taken copious amounts of speed and decided to be a punk band, Not That Bad is definitely the album for you. The hooks just keep on coming and coming, with no song surpassing three minutes. Tracks like "Crybaby", "Eastchester Avenue", and "Dumber By the Day" are super-satisfying blasts of buzzsaw punk with bubblegum melodies. If the Undertones were the Irish Ramones, "Judy" has me thinking that First Base might be the Canadian Undertones! And when the band slows it down and goes for more of a straight power pop sound ("Sandra", "Not That Bad"), the results are spectacular.

Whether you call it poppy punk or punky pop, Not That Bad is the best album of its kind I've encountered in a damn long time. I will be giving it heavy consideration for album of the year. And label of the year is looking like a stone cold lock for Drunken Sailor!


Monday, November 27, 2017

Watts - All Done With Rock n Roll

Today we've got a free single from Watts titled "All Done With Rock n Roll". Thankfully, Watts is most definitely not all done with rock n' roll! Here Watts accept that the glory days of rock n' roll bands packing stadiums and selling millions of records have long since passed. Fittingly, the song brings to mind a time when thundering guitars and a big chorus were the perfect recipe for commercial success. This is up there with the catchiest songs Watts has ever written. That hook is so simple, yet impossible to resist. And I love those Queen-like stacked vocals at the end!

If you love classic rock and lament that music like that isn't being made anymore, treat yourself to this free single from Watts and consider checking out the band's full catalog. Rock n' roll didn't die - it just went underground!