Thursday, June 22, 2017

The Schizophonics - Ooga Booga 10" - Orange Vinyl

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Pig Baby (2017)

I don't review nearly enough 10"s on this site.  It's one of my favorite wacky formats, but it's not used nearly as often as it could be.  As someone that's put out records and price checked the cost of the 10" format, I completely understand why.  It's just as expensive as putting out a full length, but it's tougher to justify the cost to the rest of the world for fewer songs.  Regardless, I applaud those that take the leap and I'm happy that Pig Baby records decide to send over a copy of this Schizophonics EP.

I've been hearing about The Schizophonics for quite some time from some friends out in California.  The consensus is that they put on one hell of a live show.  If the high angle suplex the guitar player appears to have given himself on the cover of this 10" is any indication, it seems like it would be an interesting show.  I'd only previously heard the band's contribution to the Swami Hardcore Matinee compilation, so it was nice to finally hear some more from them.

The band definitely has a late 60s/early seventies rock and roll vibe.  We're talking the gritty MC5 type stuff.  A more modern comparison that I see is The Dirtbombs.  The guitars are fuzzy and the vocals have the sort of howling in a cave distortion that really works when applied just right.  I'll always give extra credit to bands that throw in "wooos" and "uhhs"as exclamations during song fills.  

The highlight for me is "Venus Transit."  It has a super catchy escalating chord progression that only lets up briefly for the chorus or the occasional nasty guitar lick.  Ooga Booga is a fun EP and a nice introduction to the band.  I'm curious to see what else they have out there.

The Schizophonics - "Two Thousand Seventeen":

Wednesday, June 21, 2017

Ned Garthe Explosion - Flashlight Tan LP - Red Vinyl

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Sad Pad (2017)

This was another album sent to me to review.  I was struck by the artwork when I opened up the package, particularly the prevalent use of primary red.  It's very eye catching.  The quality of the packaging is quite nice too.  Thick cardstock, hefty opaque vinyl and nicely done insert.  You can tell a lot of thought and effort went into it.  As far as the sounds contained in this package, it's more of a mixed bag.

Things start out with "Smooth Escalator."  Over a very "Billie Jean"-esque bassline, this little funk outbreak plays like a joke that I'm not in on.  Maybe as an album closer it could have worked but it seems odd to lead off the album with a song that sounds so unlike the rest of the album that follows.   Once you've cleared that hurdle, the bulk of the album plays like a pretty interesting punk/garage guitar showcase.  The songs are tight, snappy and don't overstay their welcome.

Vocally Ned Garthe Explosion remind me a bit of Needles//Pins especially when the choruses kick in.  I can't go so far as to say I really dig this, but it's totally fine rock and roll.  Aside from the first track and the song "Flashlight Tan" that closes out the album, it's a pretty good listen.  The two bookends strike me as a weird way to start and end and record full of crunchy guitar rock, but the middle bit is perfectly serviceable.

Ned Garthe Explosion - Flashlight Tan:

Tuesday, June 20, 2017

Beasteater - Beasteater LP - Green Vinyl

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Big Neck (2016)

I've been letting a few review records pile up, so I'm going to try to clear those out over the next few days.  I haven't been dragging my feet on them for any reason other than I just have had so many records from Japan to get through.  Just a warning, I'm no where near close to done with those either.

Beasteater was sent to me by the folks over at Big Neck records.  I was pretty excited to get a package from them as I had really enjoyed the Danger Signs album they had put out.  I wasn't familiar with Beasteater prior to putting the record on, so I wasn't exactly sure what to expect.  I definitely don't think I was expecting something so loud, though I guess with the word beast in their name I should have been expecting some sort of roar.

The album starts off with "The Night Air," which I can only describe as fury crammed into two minutes.  The sheer chaos and energy of this opener was pretty eye opening, not just for the ferocity, but because the song still managed to retain some semblence of a hook that drives the song forward.  It reminded me a bit (just a bit) of some of the noisier, freakout moments of Rocket From The Crypt.

From there, the band takes their foot off the gas, just a little.  I don't think an entire album's worth of songs at the level of "The Night Air" would be healthy.  Beasteater churns out a respectable set of songs that are on the noisier side of the garage rock spectrum.  Primitive pounding drum beats mesh with thick, chunky guitar riffs with wailing vocals guiding everything.  If you're into some of the noisier things I write about from time to time, this would be up your alley.  

Beasteater - Beasteater:

Monday, June 19, 2017

Zapiain - Giantnormous LP - Blue Vinyl

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All In Vinyl / Bombed Out (2017)

From the very second album opener "My New Home" starts off, it's immediately apparent that Giantnormous is going to be my kind of album.  I could really use one too as 2017 has been stultifyingly mediocre over all for new records.  I'm not saying there hasn't been anything worthwhile, but as a whole we're way behind on the amount of good records that have been released at this point in the year than I can recall in a very long time.  Luckily Giantnormous shakes things up a bit.

Zapiain is plying the trade of my UK punk rock heroes.  A little Hooton 3 Car mixed in with some Leatherface and maybe just a bit of the Great St. Louis join together into a potent blast of melodic rock and roll.  Each of the albums first four songs blast forward with a scorched earth guitar blast tempered ever so slightly by the sheer amount of toe tapping hooks crammed into every chorus.  Once we get to "Shotgun," the band takes it down a notch showing a mastery of a slower tempo song similar to how Broccoli was able to do with one of their masterpieces "Defence."

From there Giantnormous just keeps rolling along and building momentum.  It's absolutely my kind of punk rock and I couldn't be more thrilled that it was sent over to me to check out.  The best part is that it's the band's second album, so now I have an older album to go hunt down.  It's worth your time to listen.

Zapiain - Giantnormous:

Wednesday, June 14, 2017

Dulac - Four Summers 7"

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It's A Sic Life (2015)

This is the third Dulac release I've reviewed on this site.  I think I now have everything the band has released, but I thought that before only to find a rogue 7" I didn't know about.  Previously, I'd compared Dulac very favorably to bands like The Estranged and Red Dons.  I'm not sure exactly what has happened on this release, but those comparisons are out the window.  Gone are the dark, chunky downstrokes, replaced by a cheerful jangly guitar chime.

At first, I was taken aback by this change in direction.  However, I think Dulac really took the title of this 7" to heart and have cranked out three summer appropriate hits.  Make no bones about it, these are great songs.  They're full of the sort of catchy and breezy pop hooks that make you really want a glass of lemonade.  "Summertimin'" starts things off with a catchy melody and bright upbeat chord progressions.  Again, very different from prior Dulac songs, but every bit as good.

When we move on to "Drawing Blanks" the band adds in the soothing tones of Hammond style organ to mix in with their sunny tune.  Lastly we have "Street Scene"  It's probably my least favorite of the bunch as I'm not as into the vocal melody, but it still has a lot to offer with its big drum fills in the bridge and harmonica laden solo.  At the end of the day, I probably like it more when Dulac is playing music that's a bit faster and fuzzy.  Though if the next Dulac full length was full of songs like this, I'd buy that too.  They just have a knack for writing great songs.

Dulac - Four Summers 7":

Tuesday, June 13, 2017

Sleep Like A Log - Sleep Like A EpiLog CD

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Fixing A Hole (2012)

I don't know quite as much about Sleep Like A Log as I would like.  They're one of those bands that existed at the edge of my knowledge of Japanese punk rock, but I had a harder time keeping tabs on them than some of the bands that would wind up on Snuffy Smiles or other labels I was more familiar with.  I had their split 7" with Rumspringer and their third CD demo, but that was all until I went to Japan and was finally able to find more of their records.

Sleep Like A EpiLog is a compilation of their non album tracks.  It includes the aforementioned split 7" and demo along with the bands two additional CD demos.  Ten songs in total and what a batch of songs it is.  Fast and blistering guitars mix with melodic vocals and hooks everywhere you look.  While they certainly fit in quite well with their compatriots on Snuffy Smile, Sleep Like A Log, to me, is a bit closer to UK style melodic punk with a sound that reminds me of Hooton 3 Car, but with a bit more of an edge.

No matter how you want to mix your "sounds like" adjectives, one thing that's undeniable is that this is a great record.  Every time I hear an album like this I'm exhilarated and a little bummed out at the same time.  Exhilarated because it's another amazing record to listen to.  Bummed out because there are so many bands in Japan playing the exact kind of music I want to listen to.  It feels like the scene I enjoy the most is just going on without me a little too far away.  At least I have the records.


Monday, June 12, 2017

Charly Bliss - Soft Serve 7"

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Father/Daughter (2014)

After being so completely and utterly blown away by the Charly Bliss full length, I wanted to jump backwards and pick up their only other release, this three song 7" from 2014.  Being so much older than their new record, I was wondering what I was going to think as I've read a few times that the band made a pretty significant change in sound while working on Guppy.

I can report that this older 7" is still pretty good.  It does not reach the heights of what they eventually achieved with their album, but it contains two pretty solid and catchy songs.  "Love Me" has a strong hook and some pretty good melodies, but it's much fuzzier and more raw than anything on the album.  Usually I would prefer that in most bands, but Charly Bliss is one of those rare animals that benefits from a cleaner, more polished sound.

On the B side, "Urge To Purge" falls in line more with their recent hits.  It brings a huge wallop of 90's nostalgia with a big chorus and some dynamic guitar work.  "Strings" is a total outlier as it's not sung by usual singer Eva Hendrix, who is relegated to backing vocals on this one.  I can't say it works as it's probably the weakest song I've heard by the band.  It just sort of plods along and doesn't have any of the band's usual barely contained energy.  As a whole, the 7" is a fun listen, but it doesn't come close to what the band achieved on Guppy.  Start there if you're new to the band.

Charly Bliss - Soft Serve 7":

Thursday, June 8, 2017

Against Me - Stabitha Christie Spicture Disc 7" (RSD 2017)

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Total Treble (2017)

Let's face it, I've drastically lost interest in Record Store Day the past few years.  It's not so much that I lost interest in waking up at 3am or standing outside of a record store for 5 hours before it opens, but the releases themselves haven't been very interesting in a while.  You've got your lazy cash grab reissues and your overpriced exclusives.  Bands that I care about seem to be giving up on the day, so my enthusiasm has waned.

I could say similar things about Against Me.  Since the album New Wave, I've been losing interest.  Each record being less engaging than the one before.  It's not to say any of them are bad, they're not and I own them all, but I don't really go back to them repeatedly like the first few.  So many bands get like that after a while so it's even not a criticism leveled exclusively at Against Me.  Nonetheless, it really felt like I was just going through the motions when I went over to Vintage Vinyl at the crack of four pm this year and picked up this record.

That being said, this Against Me Record Store Day 7" is pretty good all things considered.   Despite it's stupid song title, "Stabitha Christie" is a bouncy little song with an old time rock and roll bassline and a surprisingly poppy hook.  To the surprise of no one, I have always gravitated to the poppier Against Me songs.  B side "First High of the Morning" isn't quite as strong.  It's a little slower and more reflective, but it's totally fine.  Worth a nine dollar picture disc?  That's debatable, but there's a better chance of me going back to this 7" than some of the other Against Me records in the pile.

Against Me - "Stabitha Christie":

Against Me - "First High of the Morning":

Wednesday, June 7, 2017

Skimmer - Baby Dinosaur CD

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Waterslide / Heroic Failure (2015)

When you talk about glory days or musical scenes that were influential to me, there are few that have been as impactful as the mid-late 90's punk rock scene in the UK.  Based around Crackle records, this first batch of Leatherface and Snuff influenced bands blew my mind when I was younger.  This crew of bands like Broccoli, Chopper, Hooton 3 Car, Crocodile God, Travis Cut and Skimmer jumped out at me like few bands have before or since.  That Skimmer is still putting out records all these years later is a wonderful thing to me.

This was another album picked up while in Japan.  I have to admit that I haven't kept up on Skimmer quite as much as I once did.  They fell off my radar a bit and I didn't realize this album had come out.  I'm happy to report Skimmer is as great as they've always been and their new songs are every bit as good as the ones they put out in those aforementioned glory days.

It's tough for me to describe Skimmer by comparing them to other bands as they are often the band I would compare others too.  I suppose there's certainly a slice of Mega City Four and Senseless Things buried in there as Skimmer has a way with melody very reminiscent of those bands, but Skimmer has a full bore fuzzed our guitar attack guiding them through their songs.  They're soul mates with Japanese bands like Navel, but still have elements that are wholly unique to them.  Chances are if you've listened to Skimmer in the past and enjoyed them, this record will be right up your alley.  If you've never heard them before, this is album is as good an album as any to start with.  Oh, their singles compilations Compitoenail should be next on your list.

Skimmer - "October Flowers":

Skimmer - "She's Gone Again":

Tuesday, June 6, 2017

Ron Ron Clou - First Album LP

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K.O.G.A. (2003)

While in Japan, my number one record shopping goal was to pick up the three Ron Ron Clou LPs.  I'm not sure why I set that as my top priority (aside from obviously wanting the records), but I ended up only finding one of the three.  This lit a fire under me to track down the other two at all costs.  For whatever reason, as soon as it seems like I can't have something, it just makes me want it even more.  Luckily I was able to find a kind soul on Discogs who not only had both LPs I was looking for, but was also based in America.  I managed to pick them up at a nice price and didn't have to pay for shipping them overseas.  Bonus.

Of the three Ron Ron Clou albums, I think First Album is the strongest.  It has a very clear Odd Number-esque mod-pop vibe. Cross that with some Vacant Lot style hooks and you've got an album I can really sink my teeth into.  I really love the little things about this album like the backing vocals and "oohs" in album opener "Annoying Kids Are" and the quick guitar riff wedged into the breaks of "It's Not Everything."  

I would have never heard of Ron Ron Clou if it weren't for the split 7" they did with Samantha's Favourite that came out on Snuffy Smile many years ago.  That may be why I especially gravitate to the song "Stage" which appears on this album, but was also on that split 7".  It's probably my favorite Ron Ron Clou song and I just can't get enough of the melody and energy the band has wrangled into it.  It was worth the wait tracking down this album.  It has been a long hunt, but finally being able to sit back and put it on the turntable is such a rewarding thing.


Monday, June 5, 2017

Color TV - Demo 7"

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Drunken Sailor (2016)

This 7" is the vinyl pressing of a demo tape I reviewed about a year and a half ago.  I'm pleased it was released on vinyl as I can only take so many cassettes in my life.  Although I did miss the colored variant, I was able to pick this up through a US distro.  Sometimes you have to weigh postage vs. colored wax I guess.  Postage won this battle.

The reason Color TV first came across my radar was because I was trying to find more information about the band W.H. Walker.  Sadly, they had split up, but Color TV is carrying on the tradition of creating good music, even though it's not particularly similar to WH Walker.  Color TV is a much more straightforward catchy punk band.  They remind me a bit of the Marked Men, but with a heavier lean on garage-y sounds and guitar leads.

The four songs on this 7" are all strong, with lots of fast paced, downstroke heavy riffs and upbeat choruses.  I'll admit to missing the party vide of W.H Walker, but judged on their own merits, Color TV is a tight little combo cranking out some big tunes.

Color TV - Demo 7":

Thursday, June 1, 2017

Treepeople - Guilt Regret Embarrassment Promo LP - Clear Vinyl

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Toxic Shock (1991)

This LP is another fun oddity I pulled from a friend's collection that he was downsizing.  I've had other versions of this album for quite some time.  Both the full artwork LP on Toxic Shock and the original CD version on Toxic Shock that had a bunch of extra songs from 7"s that weren't on the K records reissue.  As a lot of people did, I started trying to listen to Treepeople albums because I was a big Built To Spill fan.  What I've learned over the years is that Treepeople's output is more than enough to stand on its own.

I could make the argument that Guilt Regret Embarrassment is the best Treepeople album.  It certainly has the most upfront presence of Doug Martsch, but it also has two of my very favorite songs leading off this album.  "No Doubt" into "Andy Warhol" is the sort of one-two sonic punch that other bands would kill for.  Killer pop sensibilities mixed with ultra dynamic guitar work and blistering solos that never dip into feeling like self indulgent wanking.  

Those two songs on their own are reason enough to pick this album up, but the entire thing is packed with great songs.  Even simpler, straightforward punky songs like "Transitional Devices" have a little extra something that keeps them above the fray.  Just a great, great album.  This particular version seems to be a promo LP of some sort.  It's in a black DJ sleeve with little paper cutouts of the artwork glued on.  It does come on clear vinyl, which is a nice little treat as well.  I can't say I know too much about it and the internet isn't a ton of help, but it's a cool version to add to the collection.

Treepeople - "No Doubt":

Treepeople - "Andy Warhol":

Treepeople - "Transitional Devices":