Wednesday, November 22, 2017

The Blues Brothers - Soul Man 7" (Japan)

Untitled

Atlantic (1978)

I'm going to put up this Blues Brothers 7" a day earlier than usual as this will be my last review of the week.  Tomorrow I'll be far too busy eating turkey to write another record review.  This record is the last Soul Man picture sleeve 7" that I have left.  There are a couple of other variants that I haven't tracked down yet, but we'll move on to other Blues Brothers 7"s in a couple of weeks.

This Japanese version is one of my favorites.  Yeah, they are just reusing the Briefcase Full Of Blues artwork again, but the addition of the Japanese text really make the artwork pop I think.  Especially with the white border that goes around it.

And interesting thing is that the artwork isn't a sleeve that you put the record in.  It's a single piece of paper that sits in front of the record, no pocket.  On the reverse is some basic info about the release plus the lyrics to "Soul Man," which I think is a pretty neat little bonus.

As usual, the B side is "Excusez Moi Mon Cherie."  To the best of my knowledge, there are four Japanese Blues Brothers 7"s.  I've tracked down three of them (reviews of the others will be coming over the next few weeks), but I do still need to find the Japanese "Gimme Some Lovin'" 7", so if you see it, let me know.

Blues Brothers - "Soul Man":

Blues Brothers - "Excusez Moi Mon Cherie":

Tuesday, November 21, 2017

Sweet Knives - S/T LP - Gold Vinyl (/500)

Untitled

Big Neck (2017)

I was pretty excited to receive a pack of records from Big Neck to review.  The one that immediately jumped out at me was by Sweet Knives.  Something about the band name and the bright yellow artwork.  After reading a bit about them, it was interesting to learn that Sweet Knives spawned belatedly from the ashes of the Memphis based band Lost Sounds, familiar to some as one of the myriad of bands that Jay Reatard was in prior to his stint on Matador.  In fact, Sweet Knives are playing songs from the Lost Sounds catalog and are even named after a Lost Sounds song.

Where Lost Sounds were known for their dark synthy punk, Sweet Knives has brightened things up to wonderful results.  Sure, there's a little synth percolating here and there, but this is a guitar rock record through and through.  The album showcases the songwriting chops of Lost Sounds and really showcases a mastery of pop hooks that may not have been immediately recognizable when cluttered by some of the distorted synth chaos and Jay's manic vocals in Lost Sounds.  

Things are a bit more subdued with Sweet Knives and to my ears, it's a rousing success. With Alicja Trout handling the vocal duties the band is able to show a broader range of emotions and moods.  Songs like "Isolation-Deprivation" come close to sounding vulnerable when lighter vocals mix with the fuzzy guitar to craft one of the albums many highlights. 

I liked most of the bands Jay Reatard was involved in to some extent.  I can't say that Lost Sounds was my favorite band he was involved in as I tended to favor his poppier solo stuff.  Sweet Knives, however, is much more up my alley and was a really great surprise.  I recommend checking it out regardless of your feelings on Lost Sounds, these songs more than stand on their own.

Sweet Knives - S/T LP:

Monday, November 20, 2017

Skimmer / The Hum Hums - Split CD

Untitled

Fixing A Hole (2016)

This split CD pairs up one of my long time favorite UK punk rockers, Skimmer, with one of my more recent favorites from Japan, The Hum Hums.  It's a perfect match as both bands are attacking the same types of pop sounds, but they're approaching it from two different directions.

Skimmer has been kicking around since the 90's and all of these years later they are still churning our their brand of ragged pop punk.  The tunes are rough and powerful and the band has always been able to capture a real palpable energy with their fast buzzsaw guitars and high pitched vocals.  All three songs on their portion of the split are short, fast and insanely catchy.  It's comforting that all of these years later, you can still count on Skimmer to deliver the goods.

The Hum Hums take a different take.  Their sound is more of a mix of mid 90's Lookout records meets the Beach Boys.  It's a bit more melodic than Skimmer and boy oh boy can these guys crank out some incredible vocal harmonies.  The guitars are loud and crunchy and everything the band does is tight and precise, forgoing the rough around the edges approach and instead relying on their ability to write absolutely perfect pop tunes.

While they each have their own take on punk rock, both Skimmer and The Hum Hums are incredible.  They each take punk rock and cram in pop hooks and killer songwriting.  The only thing I wish was that this split EP was even longer, three songs by each band just isn't enough.

The Hum Hums - Split CD:



I couldn't find the Skimmer songs anywhere online.

Thursday, November 16, 2017

The Woolly Bushmen - Arduino LP - Gold Vinyl

Untitled

Pig Baby (2017)

I'll be honest, I was a little leery about this record because of the cover artwork.  While I am a big fan of wood panelling, I always get nervous when a band decides to put a big old picture of themselves on their record sleeve.  I have no real explaination why I don't like this, it's just one of those Larry David-esque rules I have for bands.  I'm sure there are plenty of people that don't understand it, just like I don't understand why some people say bands can't wear shorts on stage.  To each their own.

Anyway, the record itself is exactly the kind of record you'd expect a band called The Woolly Bushmen to make. This is a wonderful homage to the sort of rough and rugged rock and roll bluster of the 60's.  Lots of reverb on the guitars, a stomping rhythm section and a singer that alternates between melodic vocals and pained howls into the night.  I could do with a little less keyboard personally, but overall it's a fun, upbeat listen.

Pig Baby is becoming the go to label for this sort of rock and roll.  They're just not letting these vintage sounds die and that's admirable.  But, they really need to start tossing in some download codes with their records.  After all, we're in the future now.

The Woolly Bushman - "Something New":

Wednesday, November 15, 2017

Ted Leo - The Hanged Man 2xLP

Untitled

Self Released (2017)

It's been quite a while since there was a new Ted Leo album out.  I was more than happy to contribute to his Kickstarter campaign to fund The Hanged Man.  In fact, I actually went in for the 7" box set version with the fourteen extra b-sides.  That hasn't arrived yet, but once it does, I'll write up that as well.  Point is, I'm a huge Ted Leo fan and have been ever since the day I heard the second Chisel album played in a New Jersey record store.  You can have your Bruce Springsteens and Bon Jovis.  For me, Ted Leo is the best musician to come out of New Jersey.

That's not to say that The Hanged Man would be a guaranteed smash hit with me.  When you have a musician like Ted Leo, there's always a chance he might explore his way out of me liking a song and that does happen a few times on this latest album.  That's mostly because this is a very diverse set of songs.  Right from the opening song "Moon Out Of Phase," Teddy's throwing curveballs.  The song starts of very slow, to the point where it's a little monotone.  But it seems to be gearing up to build into something frenzied, not unlike an older Chisel song "On Warmer Music."  Only problem is that big release never comes.  The song stays consistently slow and then just ends.

There's a few other songs like this, where the tempo never picks up and I'm left wanting more.  "William Weld In The 21st Century" is kind of as boring as the song title suggests, "The Nazarene" has a schlocky NPR vibe to it and "Gray Havens" is insanely slow until a completely off beat and very weird drum machine loop just drops in on top of the song.  For me, it doesn't work.

That being said, when Ted Leo is on and writing the sort of tunes that I tend to favor, there are few better.  "Used To Believe," "Run To The City," "Anthems Of None" and "You're Like Me" are all smash hits in the more traditional Ted Leo meets Elvis Costello mod pop style that is prevalent on the earlier Ted Leo records.  These songs are incredible and in some ways they shine even brighter when there are murkier moments during other portions of the album. 

While I can't say that The Hanged Man is likely to replace The Tyranny Of Distance as my favorite Ted Leo album, it's still very good as a whole.  There are parts that don't appeal directly to my sensibilities, but it's always obvious that like all great songwriters, Ted Leo has a story to tell.  This time out, there's a few more stories that require a slower pace to tell than usual.

Ted Leo - The Hanged Man:
https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=bfxdtCIA84E&list=PL1N_9O6op4yrlrGifqE1nHRyRbmmhQ-wJ

Tuesday, November 14, 2017

The Lillingtons - Stella Sapiente LP - Green w/ Splatter Vinyl

Untitled

Fat Wreck (2017)

I can't ever proclaim to be a Lillingtons super fan or anything like that.  I picked up their vinyl box set a few years ago and give those records the occasional spin.  Some are pretty good, others are just OK, but I think it's always good to see another take on the sort of poppy punk rock that I tend to favor.  I grabbed Stella Sapiente as soon as it was for sale as I knew that I'd want that limited colored vinyl.  But after listening to the record a few times, I'm not sure this is going to end up being much more than collection padding.

The Lillingtons have always flirted with a darker edge and some bleak storytelling in their past songs.  This is something they are embracing full force on Stella Sapiente.  The lyrics focus on darker themes littered with occult and religious iconography.  From a music side, there are times where Stella Sapiente sounds like a straight up 1980's goth album.  Heavy on The Cure.  Some may enjoy, but that scene was never for me.  I like to keep things moving and there are sections of the album that are just too slow and plodding.

I respect that The Lillingtons went out of their comfort zone for their reunion LP.  I'm always in favor of trying to keep things interesting, but when a band strays too far from their signature sound, inevitably they end up losing me.  Not sure where The Lillingtons go next, but where ever it is I hope there's more pop punk there.

The Lillingtons Stella Sapiente LP:


Monday, November 13, 2017

Shoplifters - Forgiver 7"

Untitled

PopKid / Brassneck / Waterslide / Bartolini / White Russian (2017)

This is the third entry in the I Buy Way Too Many Records Dot Com / PopKid Records conflict of interest posts.  Once again, I'm writing about a record that I love, but also that I'm releasing through PopKid records.  There is bound to be some bias, thought if I didn't love this record, it sure wouldn't be coming out on PopKid.  Needless to say, I think these are some pretty incredible songs.

Shoplifters are from Serbia and to be honest, I don't think I've ever heard a band from Serbia before.  I like to think I have my ear open to the whole world when it comes to finding excellent rock and roll music, but this is a country that hasn't been on my radar before.  I'm not sure that I would have heard of them if it wasn't for Kazu at Waterslide records who hipped me to their outstanding full length album Believe.  I reviewed that a few months ago and to summarize, it was incredible.

Fast forward a bit and Scott from Brassneck Records had mentioned that he was involved in putting out the new Shoplifters 7".  He sent over the songs and there was just no way that we could pass up having this record on PopKid as well.  It's everything I love about music.  Chances are, if you agree with my taste in music when it comes to the records I write about on this website, you'll probably like this Shoplifters 7".  Particularly if you are a fan of the mid 90's UK scene.

While I know it's not a comparison that will probably move a lot of records, what I hear most in these four new Shoplifters songs is an uncanny similarity to primo, early China Drum.  What's even more fascinating to me is that I was alerted by the band that they hadn't ever listened to China Drum until very recently when this similarity was mentioned to them.

The four songs on this 7" build off of the Snuff meets Big Drill Car sound of their last album, but they have managed to weave in tighter hooks and bigger melodies, calling to mind the aggressive, but still extremely poppy sound that defined early China Drum. Add in some wild guitar dynamics and vocals that remind me of the sort of thing Bob Mould has built his career on and you'll start to see the picture that Shoplifters are painting.  They're taking the influences of the 90's, but they're interpreting them in a way that's clearly their own.

Opener "High And Dry" sets the stage with with it's driving dark pop verse that lurches into a huge chorus with the sort of vocal harmonies that just drive me crazy.  But for me, the highlight of these songs is "Instant Forgiver."  With its driving rhythm, big hooks and supremely placed handclaps, I can't help but air drum along every time I hear it.  It's just such a killer song, and it's only one of the four.  I'm don't know what Shoplifters have planned next, but I sure want to hear it. I hope you do too.

Purchase the record from our webstore here: 

http://popkidrecords.bigcartel.com/product/popkid-7-s 

Stream both songs and buy the digital version on our Bandcamp page here: 


PopKid is the lucky label releasing this record in North America.  If you are from another land, there may be a label close by that is co-releasing this great 7" with us:

Available in North America from PopKid Records 
Available in the UK from Brassneck Records 
Available in Japan from Waterslide Records
Available in the Netherlands from White Russian Records 
Available in Spain from Bartolini Records 

Custody - Blistered Soul 7":
https://popkid.bandcamp.com/album/shoplifters-forgiver-7

Thursday, November 9, 2017

The Blues Brothers - Soul Man 7" (France)

Untitled

Atlantic (1979)

I'm nearly through posting all of the different Soul Man 7"s I've collected, though I certainly have quite a few more Blues Brothers 7"s after Soul Man is completed.  This one is from France and as far as the artwork goes, it's probably one of the least interesting examples out there.

There's isn't much to differentiate it from the Briefcase Full of Blues artwork.  Same photo, it's not cropped or altered in any way.  They even use the same font for the words Blues Brothers on the cover.  The addition of the names of the A side and B side songs are the only real changes.  Even the back of the picture sleeve uses the same picture.  

Like pretty much all of the Soul Man 7"s, the B side is "Excusez Moi Mon Cheri."  If the goal is to collect all of the Blues Brothers picture sleeves, this one needs to be picked up.  If I'm ranking them, this one is kind of low on the list.

Blues Brothers - "Soul Man":

Blues Brothers - "Excusez Moi Mon Cherie":

Wednesday, November 8, 2017

Iron Chic - You Can't Stay Here LP - Clear w/ Splatter (/800)

Untitled

Side One Dummy (2017)

I use Iron Chic as a reference point for other bands so often that I almost don't what to say now that I have to write about them.  You Can't Stay Here is the third Iron Chic full length.  While they've certainly come a long way since I bought their first demo tape because I thought they had a fun band name, there are aspects of the band that have remained consistent and reliable for the past ten years.

Iron Chic are better than most and building a song into a giant, shout along chorus.  If you go to a show of theirs, you will see a lot of people in black T shirts with their fists in the air shouting along.  In some ways it's a little predictable, but in others it's comfortingly familiar.  You could say the same thing about You Can't Stay Here.  It certainly sounds like Iron Chic.  The songs are all energetic and sung with a super intense passion.  The singalongs are just as catchy as they've ever been and it's easy to get caught up in the choruses.

That being said, the album doesn't have a ton of variety from song to song.  If I'm listening to this at work or while I'm doing something else, it has the tendency to fade into background music.  That's not to say it's bad, but sometimes the songs have a tough time standing out from each other.  Still, it's a very good record and one that I would always add to the collection.  If you like Iron Chic, you'll like this record.  If you don't, there's probably not going to be anything on here to change your mind.  Luckily, I like Iron Chic.

Iron Chic - You Can't Stay Here LP:

Tuesday, November 7, 2017

Racquet Club - S/T LP - Red Vinyl (/400)

Untitled

Rise (2017)

I'm definitely seeing something of a late surge of great records as the year starts to wind down.  We had Remnants yesterday and today we have Racquet Club.  While you may not know the band name Racquet Club quite yet, you probably have heard of the main players in the band.  Blair Shehan (Knapsack, The Jealous Sound) and Sergie Loobkoff (Knapsack, Samiam) are back together and they've created a real beast of an album with Racquet Club's debut.

I actually think it sits somewhere in the middle of Knapsack and Jealous Sound.  The album doesn't quite hit the emotional heights of Knapsack.  There isn't as much heaven shattering screaming and it's generally a bit more low key.  That being said, it's miles better than Jealous Sound, delivering significantly more intensity and passion, particularly when it comes to the vocals.  While he doesn't yell quite as much as I would like, Blair does unleash those pipes from time to time when the song calls for it.

The album is consistently mid tempo for the bulk of the duration, but the band is still able to capture that lightning in a bottle energy. The songs are all tremendously constructed bringing together a knack for pop hooks, while keeping things serious and kind of bleak.  It's a really interesting balance and I'm not sure many bands would be able to pull it off.  If it's not clear from my ramblings, I really love this record.  It will certainly vying for the top spot in my album of the year list when I finally start putting that together. 

Racquet Club - S/T LP:

Monday, November 6, 2017

Remnants - True Places Never Are LP

Untitled

Tour Van / Different Kitchen / Emily (2017)

Looking for a record to fill out your top ten albums of the year? Look no further than True Places Never Are.  I picked this up after reading a positive review of it in Razorcake and I have been playing it on a nonstop loop ever since.  Remnants are one of the best discoveries I've made all year.  While as a whole, I have been thinking that 2017 has been a little lackluster for great albums, Remnants pretty much kills that argument with ten amazing songs.

The comparison that made me check this out was to Superchunk.  While I do hear the influence, particularly in the vocals, the band that they remind me of the most is that old 90's band Walker.  Just fantastically catchy, hook filled punk rock straight out of the RIYL Lookout records bin.  

Things start off slow with opener "Bummer."  It's the very definition of an opening album track; short and kind of slow - but bristling with energy just below the surface.   By the time the opening riff of "Less Irony" kicks in, the album just explodes to life and never looks back.  Incredible song after incredible song follow and I freaking love this record.

True Places Never Are is absolutely one of the best records I've heard all year.  I'd say easily top five, though I haven't started laying out this year's releases yet.  I think this could really end up under the radar for some, so don't miss out on it.  This truely is an incredible record.

Remnants - True Places Never Are LP:

Thursday, November 2, 2017

Nervous Twitch - That Weird Guy 7" - Yellow Vinyl

Untitled

Punk Fox (2017)

I hadn't heard anything from Punk Fox in a while, so I'm glad to see they're still at it.  Though I don't always like their records, I can certainly appreciate the desire to keep putting out the records you enjoy.  Even better is that this Punk Fox release is by Nervous Twitch, the one band of theirs that I tend to like the most.

While this is still a fun little 7", I can't say that it's been my favorite Nervous Twitch 7" to listen to.  I feel like they've turned the sneer way up in the mix this time.  The songs are still poppy and the guitars are still jangly, but the vocals are a bit more defiant than on prior records.  It's fine and I'm not even saying it as a complaint, I just tend to favor vocals that lean towards the melodic side a bit more.

Two of the three songs on this 7" will also appear on an upcoming full length that the band has coming out.  I'd be curious to see if the rest of the songs are similar in style to this new batch, or if they also still have some melodies hidden somewhere.

Nervous Twitch - "That Weird Guy":

Wednesday, November 1, 2017

Stuntman - S/T LP

Untitled

Gravy Lane (2017, Reissue)

I'm not exactly sure why, but I was pretty surprised to see that the first Stuntman album was being released on vinyl for the first time this year.  Don't get me wrong, I was pleased as punch, but something told me this may not be as sought after a reissue for some.   Stuntman wasn't exactly a household name back in the mid 90's. 

I think the best chance most have for knowing these guys is from their split 7" with Knapsack that came out on Alias.  Some others may know them as being the other band that splintered off from Treepeople that wasn't Built To Spill.  Regardless, Stuntman certainly deserves more recognition than they receive and maybe this LP is the start of that.  It's difficult to not be impressed with this gem of an album.  From the blown out bass sound that lurches into the guitar blast of opener "Bleed" to the gentle, but kind of weird, acoustic fade out to album closer "Good Enough," this is an album that grabs your attention and never lets go.

This is a quintessential 1990's indie rock record.  I don't think it could have been made at any other time.  There's just something very comforting to me about the way the guitar is both intricate and somewhat sludgy at the same time, not to mention the scattershot rhythms and rough vocal yelps.  It's got an imaginative streak to it that seems missing from much of today's music.  Plus these guys have the chops to pull of the chaotic guitar solos that inevitably creep into a large chunk of the songs.

I wouldn't go so far as to call the first Stuntman record a forgotten masterpiece; but it's a great record and certainly one that deserves to be remembered more than I think it in.  Oh and this vinyl reissue was limited to 273 copies, so you may want to grab it before it's gone.

Stuntman - S/T: