Thursday, October 18, 2018

Sam & Dave - Soul Men LP


Stax / Rhino (2017, Reissue)

I'm out of Wilson Pickett records for the time being, but I'm going to keep going through some older soul records every other Thursday until I completely run out.  Luckily I either picked up (or received as gifts) quite a few records that fit the bill towards the end of last year.  This week's entry is Sam & Dave.

Sam & Dave were one of the very first bands I learned about stemming from my love of the Blues Brothers as a kid.  They were the original artist responsible for the Blues Brother's biggest hit, "Soul Man."  I remember as a kid watching some Atlantic Records anniversary TV special and Dan Aykroyd came out to sing the song with Either Sam or Dave, I don't remember which (I suppose I could look it up, but I'll just keep the memory warm and fuzzy as opposed to finding footage of it that makes it seem less magical). Since John Belushi had passed when I was about 4, this special was one of the only 'new' Blues Brothers events that happened.

Anyway, I've always had a Sam & Dave greatest hits CD.  But, like with Wilson Pickett, I thought it was time to pick up some of their actual albums.  Soul Men is the first and only one I have so far.  I want to get more, but the record buying budget is currently a bit tighter than it's been in a while.  Luckily this album has "Soul Man" on it in addition to some other incredible songs like "Broke Down Piece of Man" and "Hold It Baby."

I just love all of these old Stax record.  They're very much a part of the building blocks that made me love music to begin with, but they still sound as fresh to me as they did the very first time I heard them.

Sam & Dave - "Soul Man":

Sam & Save - "Broke Down Piece of Man":

Wednesday, October 17, 2018

Hateman - Radio Hate CD


1000% D.I.Y. (2018)

As most people who bother reading this website know, I am pretty obsessed with Japanese pop punk bands.  They have been an obsession of mine for over twenty years and I always want to hear as much as I possibly can.  That said, when Kazu at Waterslide asked me if I wanted to buy a CD from a band called Hateman, I wasn't immediately sure it was something I would be interested in.  When bands get too loud or too screamy, I tend to lose interest pretty quick.  Surely a band called Hateman would be end up being more of the hardcore side of punk rock, right?  Wrong.

This CD is unbelievably great.  I can't even wrap my head around how much I love it.  It's almost a distillation of every style of Japanese pop punk that I love.  There are poppy songs like "Heartache" and "Change Your Jive" that are catchier than anything a band like Popcatcher ever wrote.  Then you have faster, noisier songs like "Dancing In The Darkness" and "Radio Hate" that lean much more towards the more melodic moments of the Snuffy Smile side of the punk spectrum.  And then you'll hit a song like "Summer Rain" that doesn't have a super obvious comparison, but it just blows your goddamn mind with how catchy and incredible it is.

I've gotten so many great bands from Kazu, but this might be one of the very best.  The band has a few other releases, 7"s and CD demos and that sort of thing (some of these songs appear to be from those other releases, though I'm not entirely sure) and I really want them all.

Hateman - Radio Hate (Two of the album's twelve songs are streaming):

Tuesday, October 16, 2018

Spells - Loose Change, Vol. 1 LP - Red Vinyl


Snappy Little Numbers / Anxious & Angry (2018)

I've let this LP linger in the to-do pile a little longer than I probably should have.  It certainly wan't because I wasn't excited about the record, I've been writing about Spells for a few years and I have never had anything but wonderful things to say about them.  That trend continues with this record, though I already knew I liked a handful of these songs going in.

Loose Change, Vol. 1 is a singles compilation from Spells, but only two songs are from an actual Spells 7".  Aside from "Take Time" and "Slice Away" everything else on this album was either from a compilation, a digital only release or relegated to cassette hell.  If you're keeping track at home, that's fourteen songs making their way to vinyl for the first time.  And thank goodness for that, these songs are way too good to just disappear into the ether or be eaten by someone's shitty Sony walkman from 1989.

I've always made Rocket From The Crypt comparisons when writing about Spells.  It's not because I think they sound similar, it's always been more about the attitude and energy that the band is able to harness on their records.  They just have a way of writing songs that capture a certain sort of party vibe, without being overtly silly.  It also doesn't hurt that the songs are super catchy, so that's a big part of the reason I've always liked them so much.

This is a really good starting point if you want to check out Spells.  It's mostly early material from the band, but since so little of it had a proper release before It's not going to end up getting replaced if you decide to go all in and track down their entire discography.  Hell of a band, hell of a record.

Spells - Loose Change, Vol. 1

Monday, October 15, 2018

Record Store Visit: Creme Tangerine - Costa Mesa, CA - 09/26/18

I had to go out to Costa Mesa, CA for work a couple weeks ago (it's looking like I'll be out there again soon as well).  Though I was only there for a couple of days, I had to hit a record store while I was there.  After all it's a city I've never been to before, so I always try to get to at least one record store when I am in a new town.  At the recommendation of my friend Casey and with the help of my other friend Chris, I managed to get out to Creme Tangerine.

This record store is located in an "anti-mall" called The Lab.  I guess the gimmick is that it's supposed to be a bunch of cool stores that you won't find in a traditional mall.  While I did think it was a pretty neat place overall and had several interesting looking stores, the presence of an Urban Outfitters in it kind of kills the gimmick a little bit.  Despite that, Creme Tangerine still ranks as one of the wackiest record stores I have every been to.

The whole store is an old trailer.  Gutted out, filled with records and parked next to Urban Outfitters.  I will give them points for originality, that's for sure.  Selection-wise it was a decent store.  It seemed to be all used records with a definitely lean towards older 60s and 70s albums.  Not that there wasn't some newer stuff, there was but your more likely to find a Rascals record here than a newer indie rock band.

I didn't end up getting anything while I was there, but Chris picked up a Turtles LP.  If I was local it's definitely the sort of place I could see myself popping into every so often to see if anything interesting came in, but it's not the sort of place I could see being able to consistently supply you with the latest goods.

Thursday, October 11, 2018

The Mr. T Experience - Shards Volume Two LP - Red Vinyl (/200)


Sounds Rad (2018)

This is the second of two LPs of Mr. T Experience songs that had no real home on any albums or EPs.  It will also be another instance where I write about this band and aside from this sentence will exclusively refer to them as The Mr. T Experience and not MTX.  For reasons I cannot explain, but will attempt to describe, the use of the three letter abbreviation as the defacto band name has always kind of bugged me.

When I worked in the music 'biz,'  I worked at the company that did the college radio promotion for Yesterday Rules when that album came out.  Lookout insisted on using the abbreviation for the promo materials and on the CD itself and how the album was listed in the trade charts.  When I asked them why they were burying a band name with almost twenty years of history at that time - who were also, by the way one of my very favorite bands - I was given some sort of non-committal answer about it being hipper and for 'the kids' and to definitely not mention it to Dr. Frank when he came to our office to say hi.  I didn't mention it.  I've always wondered what would have happened if I did as it was the only thing on my mind the entire time he was in our office.  Oh well.

Back to the matter at hand, this is a compilation of a lot of random Mr. T Experience songs from a lot of different eras of the bands existence.  Some are great and I've always loved like "Hello Kitty Menendez" and "T Shirt Commercial," both from influential compilation albums I had as a youngster.  Others are somewhat newer to me like "We Are The Future People Of Tomorrow" and "Crash."  These are also from compilations, but I didn't have those when they originally came out, so I don't have the preexisting connection and nostalgia.

Lastly, it also includes one of my very favorite songs, "How'd The Date End?"  But, it's not the same version as the one that's on the Tapin' Up My Heart 7".  This one has an extra part with more lyrics that wasn't on the 7" version, but I just don't like it as much.  That 7" version has a certain roughness and energy to it that has always connected with me and I have loved it just the way it is for the last twenty-four years.  Part of me thinks that it is kind of humorous that all these years and rereleases later, it is still sort of the hidden gem you can only get on that specific 7", but then the other part of me wonders how many people have never heard the version of the song I like the best.  I also wonder why on earth I would possibly care?  I still have the 7" and the song, why does it matter what anyone else hears?  I do not have answers to quandaries like this.

I can say that it is nice to have all of these songs compiled into one nice and easy LP.  I will also echo a point I made from the last Shards review and that is I really hope that somewhere along the line, an actual singles compilation with every 7" and EP song gets released. That's what I would most like to see next in the Mr. T Experience reissue project anyway.

Once again I can not find a version of this album to listen to online to point you towards aside from a Spotify listing.  If that's your thing, you can give it a whirl here:

Wednesday, October 10, 2018

Part-Time Lover - Kelly Cruise Kelly 7"


Just Because (2017)

Part-Time Lover is a band I was not previously familiar with prior to Just Because sending me a copy of this 7" to listen to.  While I do get a chuckle out of the band name, the music isn't really anything that stands out as being particularly interesting to me.

A side "Kelly Cruise Kelly" starts out with a lead guitar riff that sounds so similar to the opening of "Pleasant Valley Sunday" by The Monkees that I had to double check at first to make sure it wasn't a cover song.  Unfortunately "Kelly Cruise Kelly" doesn't have the same sort of pop hooks that the Monkees were able to churn out.  The song is somewhat psychedelic in nature with swirling guitars and echo-y vocals.  But again, aside from the similarity in the opening guitar riff to a song I actually do like, this one by Part-Time Lover just doesn't go anywhere.

"Shee-Ra" is the B-side and is remarkably even slower than the A side.  It's dreary and kind of depressing.  Not the She-Ra I'm used to.  Again, Part-Time Lover just meanders through the song, never turning it into anything interesting aside from briefly making it more annoying with a crummy keyboard solo.  If you're into dreamier sounds, this might be up your alley, but it's not for me.

Part-Time Lover - Kelly Cruise Kelly 7":

Tuesday, October 9, 2018

Big City - S/T CD


Self Released (2017)

Following up on the Big City EP that I wrote about yesterday, this self titled CD is the first full length release from the band.  They build off of the early promise of that EP and in almost every way exceed expectations.  This album is a big leap forward in songwriting and production, while still hanging on to the passion and energy that made the EP so thoroughly enjoyable.

The first thing I notice about the songs on this album is the increased fidelity of the production.  Everything sounds a little more polished and the songs themselves are just a touch slower.  Often times this is where bands start to lose the charm that made them fun to listen to in the first place, but for Big City it is exactly what the band needed.  Like their first EP, you can hear the connection to bands like The Urchin and Dillinger Four.  That said, this time out there are more melodic tendencies.

I hear similarities to bands like RVIVR and Iron Chic, especially when it comes to the choruses and backing vocals.  There's a definite increase in anthemic singalongs.  But the way they combine this with the faster paced, driving energy that's more in tune with the Japanese scene they call home, the end result is a mix unique to Big City.

Big City - Big City:

Monday, October 8, 2018

Big City - 4 Songs CD


Self Released (2016)

This four song CD EP is one of two CDs that I have from Big City.  I will actually review the other one tomorrow, rather than hang on to it for a later date.  This EP is one in a pretty big pile of Japanese punk rock CDs that I've acquired over the past two years that I haven't been able to write about.  In some ways, I feel like I will have a pile like this forever, especially since Kazu is already making another pile in Japan for me to buy at some point.

On their EP, Big City rushes out of the gate with a fast paced pop punk sound that makes me think of bands like The Urchin and Dillinger Four right away.  They have just the right mix of powerful aggression and catchy hooks. For me that's always been one of the main reason I gravitate towards Japanese punk bands.  There's just a little something extra in the energy department, I always feel like everyone in the band believes in every single note they play and every word they sing.  Passion.

This EP is a solid introduction to Big City.  Fast and catchy is the best way to describe things.  The EP is good, but the full length I'll write about tomorrow is even better.

Big City - Four Songs CD:

Thursday, October 4, 2018

Wilson Pickett - The Sound of Wilson Pickett LP


Atlantic (2014, Reissue)

This is the last of the Wilson Pickett Reissues that I've added to the collection over the past year.  It doesn't seem that the reissue campaign extended past The Sound of Wilson Pickett.  I'm not exactly sure why (not being as familiar with his non-Greatest Hits output as I would like to be), but I'm definitely going to be looking around for decent condition copies of The Midnight Mover and I'm In Love.  I can't imagine his work falls off a cliff over the span of a year.

Back to The Sound Of Wilson Pickett.  First off it has one of my absolute favorite Wilson Pickett songs on it, "Funky Broadway."  When I was a little kid, there were times that my dad would take my brother and I to a little lake where they had a pseudo 'beach' and swimming.  He'd set up at a picnic table with his little hibachi-style grill that could cook two hamburgers at a time and break out one of his three mix tapes on his little portable tape deck.  One of those mixes had "Funky Broadway" on it (Another had "All I Need Is A Miracle" by Mike & The Mechanics, but we'll not talk about that one).  "Funky Broadway" always felt like a missing Blues Brothers song and I truly feel that had John Belushi not died, they would have eventually recorded a version of it.  I just love this song.

The rest of the album is just as great if I'm being honest. From slower crooning jams like "I Found A Love" (both Parts I and II) to uptempo hits like "You Can't Stand Alone" there's no filler on this album.  I'm not sure it's ultimately quite as strong as some of his other full lengths like The Exciting Wilson Pickett or The Wicked Pickett, but it's pretty damn great.

Wilson Pickett - "Funky Broadway":

Wilson Pickett - "You Can't Stand Alone":

Wednesday, October 3, 2018

The Drolls - Follow That Dinosaur 7" - Purple Vinyl (/300)


Top Drawer (2018)

I have been waiting for this 7" ever since I first got word that it was in the works many moons ago.  Having previously heard The Drolls' contribution to the 14 Soda Punx compilation and being lucky enough to have seen their performance at the Seattle Pop Punk Festival back in January, it seemed pretty safe to assume this debut 7" would be top notch.  I assure you, top notch it is.

It's impossible to write about this without mentioning that Denny (and now Josh on drums, though not on this recording) was in Sicko.  Sicko are one of my all time favorite bands and when I listen to this 7", it's hard to not draw comparisons to Denny's past work.  I can say that if you liked Denny's tunes in Sicko, it's inconceivable to me that you wouldn't like these two Drolls offerings.  At the same time, they don't sound exactly like Sicko as there's something unique about what The Drolls are bringing to the table.

"Follow That Dinosaur" starts out with a bouncy, driving rhythm in the verse that eases into one of those trademark Denny choruses.  Equal parts punchy and catchy, this sounds exactly the direction I would have hoped Denny would have gone on a fifth Sicko album.  "Alternate Timeline" starts off immediately making me think of one of my favorite Sicko songs, "Little" off of Chef Boy R U Dum.  It's got a similar quiet/loud/quiet dynamic and man does that make the hook feel even more powerful when it kicks in.  But again, though there are elements of Denny's prior work, these songs go off in their own direction and stand on their own.

These songs are perfect.  I love this record so much.  If I have one complaint it's that there are only two songs instead of twenty.  I hope this is the first of many, many Drolls releases in the future.  Especially hopeful of a full length real soon.

The Drolls - Follow That Dinosaur 7":

Tuesday, October 2, 2018

Down And Outs - Double Negative CD


Waterslide (2018)

Sometimes I don't know what's wrong with me.  I've been aware of Down And Outs for years and have always liked what I heard.  But for whatever dumb reason, I've never bought any of their albums.  None of them.  I could try to justify that by saying they were usually imports, costly postage, blah blah blah, but let's be honest.  I've just been stupid. Sure, I have one split 7" of theirs, but to not own any of their full lengths...I have no excuse for that.

This stupidly kicked me square in the face when Kazu from Waterslide records sent me the CD version of Double Negative.  It's so damn great.  It's UK punk rock that shows a debt to Stiff Little Fingers and Leatherface, but also has so much in common with the Swedish band Smalltown.  The way Down And Outs combine their working class lyrics, melodic punk rock and catchy hooks is pretty much perfect and for the life of me I can't figure out what I don't have more of their records.

I need this record on vinyl.  And the rest of their records on vinyl.  I'm still paying off plumbing bills and other crazy house expenses, but once I get my finances back in order, getting my hands on some more Down And Outs records is at the top of my to do list.

Down And Outs - Double Negative:

Monday, October 1, 2018

Clearance - At Your Leisure LP - Clear w/ Blue Splatter Vinyl (/100)


Top Shelf (2018)

I've been waiting so very patiently for this new Clearance LP.  Ever since the band's debut album topped my 2015 year end list I've just been craving more.  For At Your Leisure, Clearance has changed their label to Top Shelf and from what I've seen has gotten a lot of advanced press for this record.  The weird thing is, while reading this press I've noticed is most people seem to be allergic to saying the word Pavement.

I have freely said that Clearance sounds a lot like Pavement to me, both due to their jangly guitar sound and the laid back vocal delivery.  This record does feel like a slight update in sound from their last LP.  The songs are a bit more straightforward and less likely to meander off into instrumental explorations.  But everything is still quite catchy while capturing a vibe that is calming and exciting all at the same time.  That said, they still give off a really strong Pavement-y vibe at the end of the day and I will always love them for that.

With a gun to my head, I would probably say that I liked Rapid Rewards a bit more than At Your Leisure.  It's a little rougher around the edges and charming as a result.  Plus I've been listening to it pretty nonstop for the past three years, so there is a built in familiarity that gives it an advantage.  At Your Leisure is a strong follow up that's packed with great songs.  Definitely one of the better records I've heard this year.

Clearance - At Your Leisure:

Tuesday, September 25, 2018

Scaries - Missing You 7"


Self Released (1997)

Quite a while ago, my buddy Jim was downsizing his record collection and before he made the trip to the used record store, he had me take a look through it to see if there was anything that I needed.  As luck would have it, there were a few things I wanted, one of which was this Scaries 7" that I never had.

As I had written about previously on this website, I had picked up the Scaries record Over You back when it came out and then traded it to a friend in Japan who was helping me hunt down some Snuffy Smile records I was chasing.  After I traded it away, thinking I could easily replace it since I was in America, it was nearly fifteen years before I was able to track down another copy.  I wasn't expecting that, but at least it was able to work out in the end.  I mention that album as two of the four songs on this 7" also appear on the Over You full length, "Anymore" and "Never Fade Away."  A third song, "Disappear" also appears on another Scaries full length called Wishing One Last Time.

The only song exclusive to this 7" is the title track "Missing You" and it's a hell of a song.  Fast and punchy like Superchunk mixed with Walker (I have made this comparison before, but it really captures the sound I think), stutter stop palm muting in all the right places and a big anthemic chorus.  Everything I wanted in 1997 and to be honest, it's what I still look for in 2018.  Sadly a band that is probably somewhat forgotten (except in Japan for whatever reason), but one that should be in ever respectable pop punk collection.

Monday, September 24, 2018

V/A - TOTY Split Series #1 7"


Trace Of The Youth (2017)

I haven't bought many records lately.  I recently moved into my first house and money is a bit tighter than usual.  There's only been a few sporadic new things coming in over the last few weeks.  But as I dig around to find records to write about on this website, it's amazing how much of a backlog I have of Japanese CDs and 7"s that I haven't gotten to yet.  Some are still from my trip to Japan nearly two years ago and others are from various mailorder acquisitions since then.  The point is, I'm not running out of things to write about anytime soon.

This compilations 7" features two songs each from three different Japanese bands.  On the record, they're arranged kind of haphazardly, but for the sake of this review, I'll write about each band's songs together.  Summer Months gives us "Before We Fall Asleep" and "Nothing."  "Before We Fall Asleep" is slower and reminds me a little bit of Boys Life.  They have the mid 90s midwestern vibe down pat while still keeping the chorus upbeat and catchy.  "Nothing" is a shorter, faster burst of energy.  Not as intricate as "Before.."is, but it's even catchier.

I was already familiar with the band Bows before I got this 7" and if I'm being truthful, they're the main reason I picked it up.  Their two songs are just what I've come to expect from this incredible band.  They have the I Excuse/Manifesto Jukebox version of dynamic punk rock perfected and both "Other Town, Other Light" and "Time Waits For No One" showcase wild guitar noise channelled into hooky choruses.  One of the more overlooked bands out there right now.

Finally we have Gremlin.  Like Summer Months, I hadn't heard of them prior to picking up this 7".  I should have expected yet another pretty great band.  Really, no one does pop punk better than all of these great bands from Japan.  Gremlin manage to fit right in with the other two bands on this compilation, while still sounding completely unique.  They have some similar elements that you can hear in Bows and Summer Months, going back and forth between fuzzy guitar chords and jangly guitar leads.  However, the way the structure these parts into their two great songs stand out as being different. 

V/A - TOTY Split Series #1 7":

Thursday, September 20, 2018

Wilson Pickett - The Wicked Pickett LP


Music On Vinyl (2014, Reissue)

The Wicked Pickett along with The Exciting Wilson Pickett are the two albums that have the most songs that I had been familiar with prior to building up my Wilson Pickett collection.  I had grabbed a Record Store Day version of The Exciting Wilson Pickett a few years ago, so I won't be writing up anything new about that album, but The Wicked Pickett is new to my collection and a welcome addition it is.

This album is full of some of the best Wilson Pickett songs out there,  "Mustang Sally" is the sort of hit that's just a part of the fabric of music at this point and there is no surprise as to why.  It's a pretty damn perfect song. Then we have "Everybody Needs Somebody To Love."  For me, this will always be a Blues Brothers song as I don't remember a time in my life where it wasn't a part of it.  But the original Wilson Pickett version is every bit as good and exciting as the Blues Brothers rendition that's so special to me.

There are other songs that I'm not as familiar with, including Pickett's versions of songs that had more notoriety from being performed by other bands.  Most people are probably more familiar with the Gary US Bonds version of "New Orleans," but man the Wilson Pickett version is on fire. I can't believe I've never heard this before.  He also does an incredible interpretation of the Eddie Floyd classic "Knock On Wood."

Pretty much everything on this album is essential.  It's kind of silly that took me as long as it did to get these records.

Wilson Pickett - "Mustang Sally":

Wilson Pickett - "Everybody Needs Somebody To Love":

Wednesday, September 19, 2018

The Autumn - Edge of Shallows CD


Narrow Gauge (2017)

The Autumn are another in what seems like an endless list of great melodic punk rock bands from Japan.  This is yet another album recommended to me by Kazu from Waterslide.  I really don't know what I'd do without him.  There is absolutely no way I would be able to keep up with the never ending deluge of releases that are coming out over there. I just wish I had the money to buy even more than I do.

The Autumn definitely put the emphasis on the melodic side of the melodic punk description.  I wouldn't go so far as to say they have emo tendencies, but the songs are slower in tempo and more deliberate in their execution.  That doesn't mean that there are any shortage of great guitar riffage or catchy hooks, you're just not going to find the same sort of thing that you would find in one of the poppier punk bands that I tend to like.

In a lot of ways, the songs reminds me of the slower songs on the Leatherface album The Stormy Petrel.  The vocals are obviously completely different, but the tone of the songs have similarities in structure and their overall emotional weight.  There's something about The Autumn, much like Leatherface, that just feels important.

The Autumn "Reflection" (This is a live version, I can't find any album tracks streaming anywhere)

The Autumn "The Physical Principle" (This is a live version, I can't find any album tracks streaming anywhere)

Tuesday, September 18, 2018

Ruler - Jeanie Jeanie Jeanie 7"


Secret Mission (2018)

This is the second 7" by Ruler that Secret Mission has sent over to me.  I'm really grateful that they are putting out these records as it's a window into a Japanese punk scene that I'm just not very familiar with.  Sure, I know Fink from a prior band he was in, Teengenerate, but there's so much of this garage-y style rock that isn't on my radar.

The first song on the 7" is "Jeanie Jeanie Jeanie."  Of all the Ruler songs I've heard so far, it's probably my least favorite of the bunch. It's not a bad song, but I think the vocals are a bit off putting for me.  There's a little too much growl in the delivery that distracts me from the otherwise fun guitar chugging.

The B side is the sort of song that is more my speed.  "(It's Not) Saturday Night" has a much more obvious power pop edge to it and the growling vocals are significantly more subdued than they are on "Jeanie."  There's great stutter stops in the breaks of the verse and a really catchy chorus.  This is the best song I've hear by Ruler so far and I hope I'll be able to hear more from them in this vein.

Ruler - Jeanie Jeanie Jeanie 7"

Monday, September 17, 2018

Fire Heads - S/T LP


Big Neck (2017)

This Fire Heads LP is my first exposure to this band, despite the fact that they've been going since 2012 under various other incarnations and even another name.  That said, I am slightly more familiar with one of their guitar players, Bobby Hussy and his work in The Hussy.  So I thought I had something of a frame of reference for this album.

One thing I can say is that this is a pretty dynamic record, blasting you in the face with noisy chaos like "Dirty Body" and "Next To Nothing" one minute only to drastically shift to bouncier poppy songs like "Dad's Theory" or "Park Walker" the next.  For me, I favor the poppier songs and while I'm certainly one that likes their recordings a little loose and fuzzy, I think that the songs where Fire Heads shine the most are the ones that have a little more polish to them.

I don't love this record, but it's got a few pretty good songs on it that I think are probably worth checking out.  Though, if you like scuzzier garage rock a bit more than power pop leaning bands, this LP may be more suited to your needs.

Fire Heads - S/T LP:

Thursday, September 13, 2018

Hard Feelings - Sideways LP


Dirt Cult / Lost Cat (2018)

Sideways is the second album by Hard Feelings, though it's the first I've heard from them.  It's a really eclectic record that at times sounds like the one of the best bands I've ever heard and at other times leaves me scratching my head a little.

I will say this, the highs on this record are really high and absolutely make it a worthwhile pickup.  Opener "Tomorrow Never Knows" and others like "Don't Know You" and "Evildoers" see the band as a fast paced, melodic punk powerhouse.  Channeling crunchy guitars and midwestern basement show vibes into a potent blast of hooks.  The band is firing on all cylinders and this side of their sound is pretty flawless.

When the band strays from that formula, the results are a bit more scattershot.  There are huge successes like "Vision" that brings in a Marked Men meets A Giant Dog vibe.  You could argue this is the best song on the album and it's a sheer delight to listen to.

But then there are songs like "Morality" and "Black Skies" that are glammy in a way that reminds me of the aforementioned A Giant Dog as well as the band Napalmpom.  These songs really jump out when you're listening to the record and not always in the best way as they sound so different than what came before.  I give a ton of credit for making a diverse record with surprises around every corner, but there are songs where, for me, it doesn't come together as well.

Still, the successful songs far outnumber the ones that I don't like as much and Sideways is a bold, inventive record that warrants multiple listens.  Each time out it makes a little more sense to me.

Hard Feelings - Sideways

Wednesday, September 12, 2018

2 Sick Worry - Demo CD


Self Released (2017)

I was really excited when Kazu from Waterslide Records told me he had the 2 Sick Worry demo CD for me.  They were one of the bands that played the Waterslide/PopKid show that I got to go to when I was in Tokyo at the very beginning of 2017.  2 Sick Worry were one of the highlights of that show, so I've been looking forward to finally hearing more from them.

This demo CD contains three songs, two of which are just incredible, though criminally short. The first song is "Drawn" starts off at a million miles an hour until they reach the breakdown right before the chorus that emphasizes the incredible hook they've managed to cram in here.  The other highlight is the third song "Change Of Rain."  This one has a slightly (and I do mean slightly) slower tempo, but conjures the very best of bands like Navel or Skimmer.  I'm particularly reminded of those bands when it comes to the vocals.

While the second song on this CD, "Heartache" doesn't soar quite as high as the other two, I'm really curious to see what 2 Sick Worry come up with as they keep writing and recording.  After all, this is just a demo and the fact that they're so good already makes me thing great things are coming in the future.

2 Sick Worry - Demo:

Tuesday, September 11, 2018

Deadcuts / Diablo Furs - Split 7" - Purple Vinyl (/250)


Punk Fox / Speedowax (2018)

The first band on this split 7" is Deadcuts.  A band that I really feel like I should be listening to more of, since they feature two members of the mighty Senseless Things.  But every time I've tried to give them a listen, it just hasn't grabbed me like those old Senseless things records do.  I realize it's tough to compare a band releasing music right now to records that that I really love from twenty five years ago, but if I know there's dudes from Senseless things in the band, I go in with a certain set of expectations, fair or not.

So by that measure, the two Deadcuts songs on this split 7" leave me a little flat once again.  I think it's because they're just not pop enough.  Both songs are more goth inspired, Cure sounding affairs with big swirling guitar sounds and raw, dark vocals.  There's just nothing I can sink my teeth into as far as hooks go so once again, I feel like I'm missing something.

In stark contrast are Diablo Furs on the other side of this 7".  This is a band that is nothing but hooks.  I'd reviewed a 7" of theirs a few years ago, but the two songs on this split are infinitely better than what I've previously heard.  "The Pressure Don't Stop" is bouncy with an older 80s mod-ish influence and is essentially a nonstop singalong chorus.  It's simple, but endlessly catchy.  "Hearts In Motion" is a more well rounded pop number with "whoas" in the right place and it drives relentlessly forward with energy and enthusiasm.

So while I don't really care for the two Deadcuts songs on this split, the Diablo Furs songs are definitely keepers.

Deadcuts - "Single":

Deadcuts - "The Less I Want The Less I Need":

Diablo Furs - "Pressure Don't Stop":

Diablo Furs - "Hearts In Motion":

Monday, September 10, 2018

The Wimpy's - Do The Wimpy's Hop CD


Waterslide (2017, Reissue)

I feel like I've known the name of The Wimpy's for a really long time, but from what I can tell, I only have one compilation record that they appear on in my collection and nothing else.  That compilation was a tribute album to the band Bum and The Wimpy's contribution of "Why Go Out Of Your Way" (from the Bum split 7" with Fifi and the Mach III) also makes an appearance on this CD as one of seven bonus tracks.  It's really great.

But I'm getting ahead of myself.  The main portion of this CD is a rerelease of the 2002 debut Wimpy's length album, Do The Wimpy's Hop.  This is an album that you can kind of judge a little bit by its cover.  I look at the cover artwork and I tend to think that this will be pop punk in the vein of the Ramones.  Putting on the album, I found that I was correct.  This is upbeat and catchy power pop punk that draws from the simple chord progressions of The Ramones and mixes them with Beach Boys style harmonies and backing vocals.

In some ways, I see similarities to the Hum Hums, but The Wimpy's have more of an older school 60s influence mixing with their Ramonescore tendencies.  There's a little bit of a garage feel that you can hear manifest as lead guitar riffs in the breaks and a general energy that keeps this album cruising along.

I'm shocked that this album is twenty three tracks long and has a one hour and eight minute duration.  It just flies by. Every song is so catchy that I can't help but think they must be an amazing live band.  The songs have that sort of energy where I imagine the band plays everything twice as fast live and everyone in attendance is dancing and singing along. Sounds like a show I would want to be at.

The Wimpy's - Do The Wimpy's Hop:

Thursday, September 6, 2018

Wilson Pickett - In The Midnight Hour LP - Red Vinyl


Atlantic (2013, Reissue)

This reissue of Wilson Pickett's first album for Atlantic came out a few years ago.  This particular version came out on Red Vinyl and while it wasn't my absolute first choice for reissues (there was a 180g version from 2014 that I had my eye on), I was happy to discover that this red vinyl one was also a repress of the original mono mix.

This album has many more Wilson Pickett songs that I was previously familiar with than the last one I wrote about, It's Too Late.  First of we have the absolute classic title track.  That is one of songs that's just been ingrained in my brain as long as I can remember.  As a kid getting my musical education from The Blue Brothers, songs like this immediately jumped out at me when I heard them back then.

But this album's greatness is not limited to its most famous single.  Other incredible, soulful songs like "Take A Little Love," "That's a Man's Way" and "Don't Fight It" make this album an absolute treat to listen to.  It's a record that sounds so fresh and exciting even though it's fifty three years old.  The real insane thing to think about is that when I first heard these songs in the early 80s, they were not even 20 years old.  That's less of a time gap than if I go back and listen to Pavement records now.  This music (like the music of Pavement) is simply timeless and no matter how far in the rear view the release date gets, it is still as impactful as it ever was.

Wilson Pickett - "In The Midnight Hour":

Wilson Pickett - "Don't Fight It":

Wednesday, September 5, 2018

Needles//Pins / Epic Problem - Split 7" - Purple Vinyl


All In Vinyl (2018)

This split 7" finishes up the current All In Vinyl subscription series.  It took a little longer to get everything out than previous volumes, but I sure could make an argument that it was their best series yet.  To me it's been worth the wait, especially when closing out with a split this strong.  This last 7" features a band I already know and love and another that I'm not particularly familiar with.  To me, that's always the mark of a great split 7".

I've been listening to Needles//Pins since their first album 12:34.  Watching their progression over the years has been nothing short of astounding.  That first record sounds like a 33 1/3 LP played back at 45 in comparison to their more recent releases.  This 7" is more akin to the band's recent album Good Night, Tomorrow.  Both of the songs on this split feature gruff vocals over a mid tempo, but still very powerful base of melodic punk rock.  The band really excels at this and their songs are significantly more dynamic than that first record.

Epic Problem is a band I'm not as familiar with for some reason, though for the life of me, I can't figure out why.  Their name was super familiar and looking online I see that they put out records on Brassneck and Rad Girlfriend, so I really couldn't say how I don't have any of their other records.  Honestly it makes no sense to the point where I went digging around in my 7" boxes to make sure I didn't have something hiding that I forgot about.  No dice. Hopefully the songs on this 7" are as good a place to start as anywhere else.  Both are the sort of UK working class punk rock that I think ultimately always spawns from Leatherface.  Epic Problem are a bit more straightforward, perhaps owing more to the No Idea lineage of the sound.  Both songs are top notch and a nice companion to the two Needles//Pins songs on the flip side.

Needles//Pins / Epic Problem - Split 7"

Tuesday, September 4, 2018

Treepeople - No Mouth Pipetting LP - White Vinyl (/250)


Self Released (2018, Reissue)

Back in 1988, Treepeople released a cassette only album called No Mouth Pipetting.  This was back before Guilt, Regret, Embarrassment.  I never had this cassette and only became aware of its existence a few years ago when I found it on Discogs.  A little creative searching online led me to MP3s of the tape, but I never held out much hope for tracking one down.  Then the band decided to start playing some shows again.  And went on a short tour.  And rereleased the whole thing on limited edition white vinyl.  Crazy times.

Once I found out about this, I went a little nuts trying to track a copy down, finally locating one on the online shop of a record store in Boise.  It's a little easier to get one now if you're looking as the band put their leftovers up on eBay. So go grab one before they're gone.  I'll wait.

Back?  This record is really great.  Yes, the recording sounds a little dated and sure, in particular the drum fills sound really tinny.  But that doesn't change the fact that the songs are still powerful and Doug Martsch & Scott Schmaljohn seem to have had a real chemistry with their guitar playing right away.  For what is essentially a demo, Treepeople very obviously had their shit together pretty early on.  The LP sounds a lot better than the files that were ripped from the original cassette that I had found online, but at the end of the day it is a self released record from 1988, so it's never going to sound like something recorded yesterday.

I'm thrilled that this album was released on vinyl. Now I don't need to looks for that original tape anymore and if there's one thing that my life doesn't need any more of, it's cassettes.

Treepeople - "Pack of Lies":

Treepeople - "Fish Basket":

Thursday, August 30, 2018

Headsparks - Beastro CD (Japan Tour 2017)


Fixing A Hole (2017)

Headsparks are a band that remained a secret to me for far longer than it should have.  Considering that the band features Andy from Donfisher, Ohno Express and GAN(!).  I can't believe they've been around for years and had released three albums before I had caught wind of them.  I'm doing my best to make up for lost time with the records I have of theirs now and the first one I'll write about on here is their album Beastro.

This particular version of Beastro is the version they sold on their 2017 tour of Japan.  From what I've read it's a remastered version of an album they released in 2016.  In addition to the new mastering, there's also new bass on every song from a new bass player who wasn't around for the original recording of the album.  Having not heard the original version, I can't compare the two, but what I can say about this version of Beastro I have is that it's pretty damn great.  And the bass sounds very nice.

Headsparks are playing the sort of melodic UK punk rock that's just about been my favorite kind of music since forever.  They definitely highlight the melodic part of the equation and I find their songs to have the intricacies of some of the latter Leatherface records while still having the same sort of catchy urgency that you'd hear from Hooton 3 Car at the height of their powers.  Every song on this album is a crackling with energy and super dynamic guitar work.  It just creates a whirlwind of noise that still allows the melodies and hooks to shine through.

It's a hell of a record.  I wish I had been paying attention to these guys all along, but I'll certainly be keeping track of them now.  I have their most recent 2017 record, Vs. The Metric System, as well and I'll be writing a little bit about that one sometime in the next few weeks.

Headsparks - Beastro:

Wednesday, August 29, 2018

Firestarter - First Album LP


Secret Mission (2018, Reissue)

This LP is a reissue of a nearly twenty year old album from the Japanese band Firestarter.  I can't say I know much about them.  Honestly my knowledge of Japanese punk rock has always been more focused on the poppier, melodic side of things and I've never paid much attention to the Japanese garage rock scene.  Admittedly, I know that scene is huge and way more visible to our side of the ocean than the pop punk that I like, but I've never really listened to much of it.

I'm not sure I'm going to do that deep dive now, but I will say that if I hear of any other bands like Firestarter, I'm certainly going to pay a little bit more attention.  Yes, this definitely has a garage vibe to it with the sort of lead guitar riffs here and there that you'd expect.  That said, more than anything this is a pop record.  Pop in the way that you'd expect from Marvelous Darlings or The Barreracudas. Sickly sweet melodies and hooks blasted in your face as loud as they can get their guitars to go.

Songs like "Trashy Dreams" have that perfect combination of catchy guitar riffs with a killer chorus amplified further with perfect backing vocals.  Amazingly it can segue directly into a song like "Flex Your Muscle."  That one is just a straightforward, short explosion of tough guy guitar.  Yet the two songs live side by side perfectly, giving the album a dynamic flow.  This is one of two Firestarted reissues that I have and rest assured I'll be firing up Livin' On The Heat real soon.  I wanted to spend more time getting familiar with their debut before I moved on to the other, but if it's half as good as this one is, I'll be pretty excited.

Firestarter - First Album:

Tuesday, August 28, 2018

Supercrush - I Can't Lie 7" - Pink Vinyl (/100)


Debt Offensive (2018)

Supercrush has really managed to tap into a very specific vein on 90s nostalgia for me with the four 7"s they've released over the past few years.  There aren't many bands playing the sort of warm and fuzzy pop tunes that Supercrush seems to churn out effortlessly.  Everything I love about bands like Poole and Super Deluxe is encapsulated in the perfect pop nuggets that Supercrush have been releasing.

The two new songs on this 7" are no exception.  The band hasn't strayed from their winning formula, but they are focusing on the mellower side of their songwriting with these two songs.  Both "I Can't Lie" and "Walking Backwards" are slower and more deliberate.  But with the slower tempo, the band is able to conjure up such lush harmonies and really capture the essence of a lazy Sunday afternoon in the summer, with their tunes providing the cool breeze you are so desperately craving.

Four 7"s in and Supercrush continues to delight.  I wonder if they will ever commit to a full album or if the plan is to keep with the 7" format.  I would love to hear a full album by these guys, but as long as they keep the songs coming, I'll take them however I can get them.

Supercrush - I Can't Lie 7":

Monday, August 27, 2018

Fifteen - The Choice Of A New Generation LP - Metallic Silver Vinyl (/119)


Dead Broke (2018, Reissue)

The start of a reissue campaign for Fifteen is giving me the opportunity to catch up on a band that I shamefully neglected until very recently.  Despite my love of all things Crimpshrine for as long as I can remember, I never followed Jeff Ott to Fifteen.  I'm not sure if I was totally aware of the link back in the 90s or if it was just another one of those times where the ability to buy everything I wanted to hear was hampered by finances.  I certainly bought a lot of records back then and spent essentially every extra penny I had trying to find new sounds, but there was just so much coming out, it would have been impossible to get everything.

In hindsight, Fifteen is a band I should have found a way to scrape together a bit more cash for.  As much as I like their records now, I feel like if I had heard these songs during those formative mid 90s years, they would have hit me just as hard as Crimpshrine did. Thus far The Choice Of A New Generation is the best Fifteen album I have heard.  It's more energetic and catchy than the also great Swain's First Bike Ride.  Everything also seems tighter, while still having that unmistakable fuzzy charm of those early Lookout records.

I'm really happy that Dead Broke started rereleasing these Fifteen albums.  It sparked me to give them a try all these years later.  I'm not sure where things go after this album.  Once the band left Lookout they hopped around to a bunch of different labels and there doesn't seem to be a clear path, reissue wise.  Looks like I might need to start tracking down some older records to keep my Fifteen journey going.

Fifteen - The Choice Of A New Generation:

Thursday, August 23, 2018

Wilson Pickett - It's Too Late LP


Upfront (1969)

Since I'm out of Blues Brothers 7"s now, I figured I'd tackle some other records I've had building up for a while.  My love of The Blues Brother first led me to Wilson Pickett.  They called him out by name on the version of "Everybody Needs Somebody To Love" that appears on Best Of The Blues Brothers.  "Land of 1,000 Dances" was used during the end credits of The Great Outdoors.  My dad also had his song "Funky Broadway" that was on some mix tape of his that he'd play a lot.  I thought what I heard sounded so much like the Blues Brothers and wanted to know more.

I've had a few Wilson Pickett best of's since I was a kid.  I also had grabbed the reissue of The Exciting Wilson Pickett on Record Store Day a few years ago, but last year I decided I wanted to get the rest of his full length albums (at least to a point, I'm not interested in everything he did once we hit the 70s).  As many had been reissued over the last few years, my wife picked me up some for my birthday and Christmas last year.

One that wasn't among the more high profile reissues was his first album from 1963, It's Too Late.  I ended up scoring a sealed copy of the 1969 reissue that came out on Up Front records (based out of Linden, NJ if you're curious).  I'm pretty shocked that the condition of this thing is so good.  Maybe it's a more recent reissue than from 1969, but it sure seems like it's of that era to me based on the artwork and packaging.

The only song on this album that I was previously familiar with was the first track, "If You Need Me," which appears on a greatest hits album I've had since I was a kid.  Everything else are songs that are new to me.  They do sound like something from really early in his career.  They're missing a little bit of the polish and the energy he'd manage to capture later.  That said, there are still some incredible songs on here like "I'm Gonna Love You," "Baby Call On Me" and "I Can't Stop."  Not sure this is one that I will listen to as much as some of his other albums, but some of these songs are stone cold hits.

Wilson Pickett - "If You Need Me":

Wilson Pickett - "I'm Gonna Love You":

Wilson Pickett - "I Can't Stop":

Wednesday, August 22, 2018

Stayawakes - Dogs And Cats / Living Together LP - Pink/Yellow/Green Tri Color Vinyl


Bad Horror (2018)

My buddy Jason in Baltimore said I needed to check out Stayawakes from Southsea in England.  There are times when Jason hasn't always been spot on with his recommendations, but man did he hit this one out of the park.  Stayawakes' debut album is exactly the sort of thing that's right up my alley and I bought the UK import LP after listening to one and a half songs on their Bandcamp page.  Hell, it's really the sort of thing we'd want to put out on PopKid, to be completely honest.  The album is pretty perfect.

The easiest comparison for me to make, and the one that will make you understand why I think this would fit on PopKid, is that I find so many remarkable similarities to the band Beezewax.  These guy could be their long lost doppelganger band.  The way they weave Posies-esque melodies and harmonies into punchy Superchunk level energetic songs like "Keepsakes" and "No Shame" is comparable to my favorite Norwegian band. But they have an equal mastery of slowing down the pace and really sinking their teeth into a slower, beautiful song like "Sophie."

Each of the album's ten songs are amazing and build off of each other throughout the course of the record.  This one is absolutely one of the best albums I've heard this year.  And let's not forget they extra points they earn for the Ghostbusters reference album title.  This is everything I would want from a band.  Don't miss out.

Stayawakes - Dogs And Cats / Living Together LP:

Tuesday, August 21, 2018

The Pretty Flowers - My Alchemist 7" - Blue Vinyl (/300)


Self Released (2015)

I had mentioned the other week that as soon as I had listened to The Pretty Flowers insanely great debut full length, Why Trains Crash,  I immediately bought everything else they were selling on their Bandcamp page.  That was a T shirt and two 7"s.  This is their debut 7" that came out back in 2015.  I can't believe this thing has been out in the world for three years and wasn't in my record collection.  That's just wrong.

This 7" starts off with an early version of a song that ended up on their full length called "My Alchemist."  Even this version, which is a bit more stripped down and is missing some of the backing harmonies and guitar flourishes, you can tell what a perfect, well written song it is at the very core.  I just love it, not even sure what else to say.  It's melodic and beautiful and catchy.  I can't get over how great this band is.

The two songs on the B side are exclusive to this 7".  The first is "In The Summer."  It's a fast paced, pretty straightforward pop song.  It once again showcases the bands incredible knack for writing hooks.  It may be a little simpler than some of their other songs, but it punches above its weight.

Lastly we have a cover song; "Panama."  No, not that shitty Van Helen song.  This Panama is a J Church cover from their Tide Of Fate 7".  I'm admittedly not as thoroughly knowledgable on J Church's vast discography as a lot of folks are, but I know this song.  I'm not sure where from, because I have a lot of J Church catching up to do, but this Pretty Flowers version is definitely not the first time I've heard this song.  The Pretty Flowers version is great too.  What can I say, everything they touch turns to gold.

The Pretty Flowers - My Alchemist 7":

Monday, August 20, 2018

Thirsty Chords - Red Eyes CD


Shirafu (2014)

Red Eyes is the 2nd full length album from  Thirsty Chords and it's their third release that I've written about since I became aware of the band.  I had first discovered them as their name had come up more than a few times while I was looking for some more information about the equally great band Bows.  They seem to be kindred spirits, and I'm really glad that the searching led me to Thirsty Chords.  Red Eyes, like their other releases, is simply fantastic.

Thirsty Chord's version of melodic punk rock often reminds me of fellow countrymen Minority Blues Band, although I find Thirsty Chords write poppier songs with bigger hooks.  Where I see the most similarities with Minority Blues Band is how Thirsty Chords' songs are bursting with energy to the point where it sometimes seems like the song may come unglued at any moment.  But Thirsty Chords never lose it, their chaos is controlled as the verses ball themselves up and let loose with super catchy choruses.

There are so many great melodic punk rock bands in Japan.  If you enjoy any of the bands I've written about like Gleam Garden, Short Straw Fate, Bows or anything on Waterslide or Snuffy Smile, I can't imagine you not digging Thirsty Chords just as much.  Red Eyes is just as great as anything those bands and labels have released.

Thirsty Chords - "Lenticular":

Thursday, August 16, 2018

The Sensations - Dig Your Own Grave CD


I Hate Smoke (2018)

This five song CD was recently released on I Hate Smoke records, a label I've become more familiar with over the past year or so and one that I'm starting to trust just seeing their logo on a release.  The Sensations are another band that's new to me, but I'm pretty impressed by this first encounter.

Dig Your Own Grave is very much a fun, Japanese pop punk record.  It's got a slicker style of production and at times the gang vocal harmonies (and the slight amount of ska that creeps into the songs "Time Flies" and "Keep Your Rough") remind me a little bit of the Beat Crusaders (and you know how much I love the Beat Crusaders since PopKid put out one of their records).  Another thing about this EP that really stands out is the dynamic drumming, running the gamut from fast paced to lower rumbles with super smooth fills and transitions every time.

While I wouldn't necessarily rank The Sensations as one of the greatest things I've heard in my entire life, all five of these songs are fun, catchy and the EP just breezes on by.  It also goes out on a high note as it closes with it's strongest song, "Feel Like Yesterday."  It has much in common with the various Snuff "Nick" songs from over the years.  Mid tempo, a bit soulful and catchy as can be.  It's a keeper.

The Sensations - Dig Your Own Grave:

Wednesday, August 15, 2018

Dirty Few - Volcom Sessions 7" - Purple Vinyl


Snappy Little Numbers (2018)

My only previous exposure to Dirty Few was via a split 7" they did on Snappy Little Numbers a few years ago.  I dug those songs quite a bit, and felt like they sounded somewhat like Randy, specifically of the Welfare Problems era.  These new songs don't sound like that at all.  Luckily they're still good, but it's a pretty big shift from what I was expecting.

Where their songs from the split were tightly wound, energetic explosions, the four songs on this new Volcom Sessions ease off the throttle quite a bit.  The band is taking their time, letting their songs breathe and just sort of relishing in a slower, boozy vibe.  While they show they can still punch with the best on the more energetic "Die High," the other three seem like the band has taken more inspiration from The Replacements, though with a much higher propensity to mention partying in the lyrics of their songs.

This is a solid 7".  It's not a super great, can't miss sort of release like a lot of the things that Snappy Little Numbers releases, but it's a totally enjoyable four song affair.  It's also possible that I just don't party often enough to really appreciate the genius of these songs.  But I'm old and tired.

Dirty Few - Volcom Sessions:

Tuesday, August 14, 2018

Twin Guns - Imaginary World LP - White Vinyl


Big Neck (2018)

From the first moments of the album opening title track, it's pretty obvious that Imaginary World has a vibe to it.  What that vibe is, can be a little tougher to lock down as the band does tend to wear a lot of different hats throughout the course of this record.  The song "Imaginary World" has a slow, deliberate pace with a punk meets dark western feel to it.  It sounds like the sort of thing they would play on that TV show Westworld.  Though I've only seen the first episode of that show, so use discretion on how accurate that claim may be.

As the album progresses, the tempos change and the melodies evolve, but there always is a certain darkness to it and a feeling like the song was pulled out of some foreign cowboy movie that was really depressing.  That might read like I'm taking a shot at or saying something bad about this record, but I'm not.  I actually like it quite a bit oddly enough.  It's just different enough from everything else out there that it really stands out and the songs are really impactful.

It probably also helps that there are moments where I can connect Twin Guns to other albums in my record collection.  If I listen hard enough I can hear elements that remind me of The Estranged or even the Red Dons, it's that same sort of fight against the bleakness that I can get behind.  I'm not sure this is the sort of album I could see myself listening to all the time or anything, but on a rainy Sunday morning or on a particularly down commute home from work, this is the sort of record that helps cope with those sorts of moods.  This isn't something I would have likely picked up had Big Neck sent me a copy to review.  I'm not sure it would have been on my radar, but it's worth checking out.

Twin Guns - Imaginary World:

Monday, August 13, 2018

Trash Knife / Dumb Vision - Split 7"


Kitschy Spirit (2018)

I'm not sure exactly what I was expecting when I first got this record in the mail from Kitschy Spirit.  It didn't really look like the sort of thing I would be into.  I kind of pegged for a noisy slab of hardcore that I would end up gritting my teeth through.  While I would not go so far as to say I really like this all that much, I definitely misjudged the book due to it's cover.

Things start off with Trash Knife, a band that I actually think I might like a bit if they could sort out the recording and levels of everything.  The music itself, is fast and powerful, reminding me of a treble heavy Royal Headache, but played at double speed.  The vocals are what keep me from really enjoying it.  They're buried so deep into the mix that you can barely hear them, and the parts that you can hear sound kind of strained.  There's potential, but this particular batch of songs does them no real favors.

On the flip we have Dumb Vision. They're playing a kind of sloppy, garage tinged batch of Ramones-y songs.  They're fast and moderately catchy, but again, the vocals are totally obscured by the guitar fuzz.  They're mixed a little bit better that Trash Knife, so I can hear what's going on more, but it hurts what otherwise sounds like three pretty decent songs.

I'd be curious to hear more by both of these bands, but what they've churned out on this specific 7" isn't really for me.

Trash Knife / Dumb Vision - Split 7"

Thursday, August 9, 2018

The Blues Brothers - Collection 2 Medley 7" (Spain)


WEA (1992)

This 7" is just like the one I posted about a couple of weeks ago, except with different songs and worse artwork.  Like the first Collection Medley 7", this one has the same song on both sides.  That song is a medley of a minute or so of 3 Blues Brothers songs mashed together.  This time we have "Who's Making Love," "Soul Man" and "Gimme Some Lovin'."  All three are obviously great songs, but I still just don't see the purpose of this 7" or what circumstances it would have ever been useful under.

This 7" also marks an odd ending to my trend of highlighting a Blues Brothers 7" every other Thursday.  I've finally run out and don't have any more.  There are a few more picture sleeve 7"s out there that I haven't tracked down yet, so I'm hopeful I'll have more someday, but as a regular recurring thing, this looks like the end.

I have to say that I never realized just how many different Blues Brothers 7"s were out there.  This has been a fun little mission and I just wish I could have tracked down those last few before I ran out of the ones I do have.  I do have a few with no artwork, but those aren't very interesting as I've already written about the ones that have artwork versions.  The last few I have are meant for my jukebox, if I can ever get around to having that fixed.

Below are the last few I am hunting for.  If you ever see them, please let me know:

Soul Man 7" (Netherlands)

Everybody Needs Somebody 7" (France)

Gimme Some Lovin' 7" (Japan)

Old Landmark/Think/Shake Your Tailfeather 7" (US Promo)

Wednesday, August 8, 2018

Fastkiss - S/T CD


Self Released (2015)

Once again I'm indebted to Kazu from Waterslide for showing me yet another great band that I probably wouldn't have come across on my own.  I've felt this way for twenty plus years, but it's become more and more obvious every day that as far as music (and professional wrestling) goes, my heart is in Japan.  I just wish I could be there more going to see great bands like this play and shop for more records.  Also, the G1 Climax is going on right now so pretty much the best pro wrestling of the year is currently happening.  But alas, I'm far too poor for another trip to Japan at the moment, so I'll have to let albums like this help me get by.

Fastkiss has turned in nine songs of upbeat, 90s style pop punk and I love it.  It's not gruff and fast like a lot of the other Japanese bands that I tend to enjoy.  Instead, they have more in common with bands like The Hum Hums who seem to be inspired by the more pop focused side of the Beach Boys.

There's just great melodies on this album from start to finish, with each song fueled by punchy guitar chords and complimented by excellent backing vocals and harmonies.  Some of the songs are sung in English and others are in Japanese, but no matter what language the song is in, Fastkiss put their all into each and come out with endlessly catchy tracks.  This one might be kind of below the radar, but it's definitely worth checking out.

Fastkiss - "きみはFREE":

Tuesday, August 7, 2018

Superchunk / Wye Oak - Split 7" (/300)


Merge (2018)

One morning I received an email stating that there was a new, limited Superchuck split 7" that was being released in conjunction with the record store Rough Trade.  Not to want to risk having an incomplete Superchunk 7" collection, I immediately stopped what I was doing and went right to the Merge website to grab a copy.  While I'm certainly glad I got one, maybe I didn't need to be quite so fast acting as it looks like a month later, they do still have this for sale despite it being limited to only three hundred copies.

I can't say that I'm particularly familiar with Wye Oak's other work, but I also can't really say that their contribution to this 7" is really up my alley.  They've put forth an amalgamation of gently plucked acoustic guitar, minimal electronic sounding drumming and vocals that, to my untrained ear, reming me of Bjork.  I did go and listen to the non-acoustic album version of this song, just so I had something to compare the 7" track to, and I will say that of the two, I do like the version on this split better.

Superchunk's contribution to the split is an acoustic version of the song "Break The Glass" from their last album.  It's actually one of my favorite songs from that album, and the translation to an acoustic track is very successful.  It really highlights Mac's excellent vocal melody.  That being said, no matter how good it is, it's still is something of a novelty and I'm not sure how often I'm really going to pull this out to listen to.  Still, it needs to be in the Superchunk collection, so I'm happy to file it away with the others.

Monday, August 6, 2018

The Because - Get Out Through The Back Door LP


Debauch Mood (2018)

This LP is a perfect example of something that I would like to see become a trend in Japan.  Back in 2008, The Because self released this album on CD.  Now, ten years later, Debauch Mood have stepped up and rereleased it on vinyl.  I think that Debauch Mood should do this many more times in the future.  If they need a list of records that should be released on vinyl, I'd be happy to give them one.  Let's start with those old Blew and Lovemen CDs.

Anyway, back to The Because.  I never had their self released CD that this LP is a rerelease of, but I do have all five of the bands 7" appearances, the bulk of which were released on Snuffy Smiles.  While in the past I never thought their songs stood out quite as much as some of the other bands that they were sharing those releases with, hearing the band in the context of a full album only containing their songs has really opened my eyes to just how good they are.

There are times where The Because remind me a little bit of Smalltown, particularly the gruffness of the vocals (except for when the bass player is singing) and the similar way that their songs are structured.  But where Smalltown sometimes leaned towards a Clash-y style here and there, the because leans more towards the sort of 90s melodic punk rock that Snuffy Smile made me love.  The Because put out a hell of a record ten years ago.  I'm just glad it's now on vinyl and finally in my collection.

Thursday, August 2, 2018

The Pretty Flowers - Why Trains Crash LP - Yellow Vinyl (/100)


Dirt Cult (2018)

Let's cut to the chase.  This record is phenomenal.  Go buy it right now.  If you are wondering if there is a great record out there that's slipping below your radar, this is the one you're worried about.  Stop what you are doing and go buy it immediately.

I can't possibly say enough good things about this album.  The Pretty Flowers have created a perfect storm of fuzzy guitar riffs, incredibly catchy hooks and lyrical melodies that are impossible to get out of your head.  From the opening salvo of "Cream Of Canvas," you are instantly drawn into to its big Weezer-esque guitar solo (Blue album era Weezer, not that stuff they're doing on one of those recent Weezer albums that you didn't even know came out).  The guitars keep building up until that flawless chorus hits.  It's a killer song and only the first of many that await.

Let's move on to track three, "Some Girls."  I can say without a bit of trepidation that this is the best non-Hot Snakes song that has come out all year.  It's fucking perfect.  Once again, a short lead guitar riff punctuates the hook, and the vocals are constantly rattling around in my head, made even more impactful with the harmonies that kick in on verse two.  I have probably listened to this song a hundred times since I got this record (I've likely listened to the whole thing about fifty times or so). It gets better every single time I hear it.

The rest of the album continues this excellence.  Whether the song veers towards a mellower Weakerthans vibe like on "Chip My Paint" or if they're blasting into full on Built To Spill guitar insanity like on "Temple of Gunpowder," The Pretty Flowers hit every single song out of the park.

In a year where John Reis didn't put out an album, Why Trains Crash is almost a shoe in for album of the year.  Even with a Hot Snakes record on heavy rotation, I've been playing this Pretty Flowers album kind of non-stop the last few weeks.  After hearing this, I immediately ordered the band's other two 7"s and a T shirt from their Bandcamp page.  Anything I can do to support them and hear more music.  This is that kind of band, the one where you hear their record and you just know you're probably going to be listening to it for the rest of your life.  Go buy this now.

The Pretty Flowers - Why Trains Crash:

Wednesday, August 1, 2018

Bug Sneakers / Just A Fine Slope - Split 7"


Dynamo / Pop Ball (1998)

I've said it before and I'll likely say it a hundred more times, but going record shopping in Tokyo with Kazu from Waterslide records was just one of the best days of my life.  The incredible stores we went to, the insane records that were at each of them and the great conversation all day long was really a highlight of a trip that had its share of highlights.

Throughout the day Kazu would point me towards records that I wouldn't have even known I needed if it weren't for his recommendation.  This split 7"is one that I picked up because I thought it looked like 90s pop punk and Kazu confirmed for me that yes, in fact it was.

Bug Sneakers have three songs on their side of the split, two bouncy and catchy originals and a Ramones cover of the song "Oh Oh I Love Her So."  The two originals are both great examples of quintessential 90s pop punk.  It's not as loud or fast as the sort of thing you'd hear on Snuffy Smile, but it takes a much poppier path and more fits in with some of the bubblegum type stuff that Lookout was putting out in the mid to late 90s.

Just A Fine Slope have two songs on their side and they're certainly a bit faster than the Bug Sneakers songs.  "Sunday" is built on a blazing guitar riff and thousand mile an hour drumming, but the vocal harmonies keep everything grounded in pop.  "Have A Nice Summer Day" is just as good and reminds me a little bit of the faster moments of the band Walker.  The Just A Fine Slope songs are rougher around the edges than Walker ever was, but they both have a similar pop song structure that I just love.

Both of these bands have other records out that I don't have.  I definitely need to get my hands on them, especially the Just A Fine Slope full length that I found out about while searching on Discogs.  It feels like there's always going to be a never ending supply of amazing Japanese punk rock records to buy.  I wish I could go back to Japan to look for them tomorrow.

Tuesday, July 31, 2018

Gleam Garden - S/T 10"


Snuffy Smiles (2016)

I've been sitting on this 10" for a really long time.  I don't know exactly why it's taken me so long to review it.  I think it has something to do with the fact that every time I pick it up to review, I try to figure out where all of the songs have come from before and that ends up taking up too much time so I just waiting until another day.

Well that other day is today.  I think I've finally figured it out.  Of the eight songs on this 10", five of them were previously released on a split cassette with Tony's Bite, two were released on a split 7" with Chestnut Road and one of them was on a split flexi with Car10.  I don't have that Car10 split, so if anyone knows where I can get one of those, please let me know.

I've been listening to Gleam Garden for years.  They are one of the best punk rock bands in Japan and the eight songs on this 10" just prove that even more.  These songs are poppy and straightforward and perhaps a bit less noisy than some of their older releases.  But don't worry that's actually a compliment as they've still managed to maintain the energy of the past records, with a tighter focus on hooks and vocal melodies.  These are some of the best songs they've released in my opinion.

I haven't heard much from these guys since this 10" came out, but rest assured I will continue to pick up everything they release.  Provided I know it has come out.  (Seriously, if anyone can get me that split flexi with Car10, I'm buying.)

Gleam Garden - S/T 10" (Four of the eight songs are on this Bandcamp page)