Thursday, October 29, 2015

Hungry Tiger - S/T LP - Blue Vinyl


Sex Sheet (2015)

When I got a package of records in the mail from a label called Sex Sheet, I had pretty low expectations.  I am certainly guilty of a little pre-judgment here and there when it comes to band names and things like that.  Sex Sheet didn't sound like the sort of label that would really be putting out records that I would be into.  Still, when someone sends me something to review, I feel something of an obligation to listen and write about it.  I did hold out some hope for Hungry Tiger as I thought the artwork looked pretty cool.

Turns out, I love this record.  I was completely floored by how great it is.  This is probably not going to sound like a compliment, but to me they sound like one of the late, great, failed guitar pop bands of the mid '90s.  I'm talking of amazing bands that never got their due like The Figgs, Pluto, Treble Charger, Fig Dish, Flop and the rest of the champions of the 1990s dollar bins.  These were bands that were great, but for whatever reason, never caught on the way they should have.

I hope the same fate doesn't fall on Hungry Tiger (though not being on a major label in 1996 is probably a good start).  They have everything I'm looking for in a band.  All of the songs are tight and punchy.  Catchy verses lead into even catchier choruses.  They have great backing vocal harmonies and huge, full sounding guitars that maintain the band's obvious melodic leanings while providing enough crunch to keep things from sounding over produced.  The singer reminds me a lot of the guy from the old Canadian band Punchbuggy.  Especially the My Norwegian Cousin incarnation of those guys.

Hungry Tiger is a band that may not be on your radar, but man oh man they should be.  This is in the running for the absolute best thing I've ever received unsolicited as a review.  I am thrilled that it has snuck its way into my collection and have been playing it pretty non-stop for a few weeks now.  Go get it!

Hungry Tiger - S/T LP:

Wednesday, October 28, 2015

Iron Chic - Ys 7"


Poison City (2015)

Maintaining a complete discography by a band can be an expensive proposition sometimes.  This is especially the case when you start factoring in buying different variants of the same record.  Luckily, I never got sucked into that level when it comes to Iron Chic, but I do try to maintain a complete collection of at least one copy of each of their records.  The first thing I ever bought by this band was their 2008 demo tape, so I kind of feel like I have a responsibility to keep up.

The expense comes in as this particular 7" comes from Poison City records from Australia.  The cost of importing it was a bit prohibitive, so I waited patiently in the hopes that an American distro would pick up a few copies.  This did eventually occur, but the cost of the 7" was still pretty high.  It's not really a complaint, I understand the distro had to cover the cost of shipping and it was probably for the best that I didn't have to worry about the post office destroying the package all the way from Australia.

As usual with Iron Chic, musically this 7" was absolutely worth the wait and the cost.  At this point, you can almost say that this sounds like Iron Chic.  I tend to use them as my standard bearer for this kind of passionate, melodic punk rock.  They are band with the biggest anthemic choruses in the world and as a result, I usually compare everyone else to them.  The two originals on this record, "Ys" and "The Dreaming And The Waking World," are everything I want out of Iron Chic songs.  Verses that build up into that trademark punchy chorus.  They stand shoulder to shoulder with anything the band has released previously.

The third song, "Dog Bite," is a Dead Kennedys cover.  I'm not as into this as the originals.  It's a good enough version of the song, but I honestly can't say that I've ever like The Dead Kennedys quite as much as a lot of other folks do.  Regardless, the originals are as great as ever and I think are worth grabbing, if you were on the fence about picking up this 7".

Iron Chic - Ys 7":

Tuesday, October 27, 2015

The Rubs - The Rubs Are Trash LP - Pink Vinyl


Tall Pat (2015)

You could make an argument that the color of this record is actually orange, not pink.  Or maybe you could get fancy and say it's grapefruit colored, but something tells me Joey Rubbish is not the sort of guy sitting around on Sunday morning eating grapefruit.  Rather he strikes me as the kind of guy that on Sunday morning still hasn't stopped partying from Saturday night yet.

Is party garage a genre yet?  Because that's the vibe I get from The Rubs album.  Purveyors of a boozy good time at your favorite local dive bar.  It has got the hooks and it has got the songs, but rather than deliver you a clean little pop nugget, each song is wrapped in fuzzed-out static and the sound of every needle in the recording studio being buried in the red.

At its most frantic The Rubs Are Trash reminds me a bit of the first Yolks record, but it also brings in the sounds of some early 60's trash-rock bands.  The Rubs have crafted a record that is both laid back and at the same time deceptively urgent.  You'll want to jump around screaming at the top of your lungs, but you'll also keep listening to it on the way to the Sunday brunch you're heading to after Saturday night's debauchery.

The Rubs - The Rubs Are Trash:

Monday, October 26, 2015

Casual - Casual LP - Clear Vinyl (/100)


Dead Broke / Square Of Opposition (2015)

Back when I was in high school, I listened to a lot of hip hop.  In particular, I loved Del The Funky Homosapien and pretty much everyone in his Hieroglyphics crew. In 1994 there was a rapper from this crew named Casual and he put out what is probably one of my top three favorite hip hop albums of all time, Fear Itself.  While that Casual has been around for quite some time and has put out several other albums, I don't think he was ever truly able to capture that lightning in a bottle perfection of his first album.  I still throw it on from time to time and am just as big a fan of it now as I was twenty one years ago.

Fast forward to 2015 and we have a band, from New Jersey no less, also called Casual.  Right away I'll admit to being concerned as they used a band name that was kind of already being used, albeit, not by an actual band.  I will also admit that I've been pretty tough on bands from my home state over the years and can't say too many have ended up in my collection.  That being said, I trust Dead Broke so I picked this up.  While I can't say I was knocked out of my chair like I was when I hear Casual the rapper for the first time, this Casual has put together a pretty strong album of gritty, but melodic punk.

To me they sort of sound like a cross between the gruff punk of bands like Iron Chic and the kinetic guitar rock of Sundials.  Vocally, they definitely lean closer to Sundials, with yelping vocals that are enhanced with some female backing vocals to produce some nice harmonies that really elevate some of the songs.  I wouldn't plant my flag and proclaim this one of the tip top best albums I've heard this year or anything, but if you like your punk poppy (which I do) and enjoy when a band is bristling with energy and hooks (check) then Casual is absolutely worth giving a whirl.

Casual - Casual LP:

Thursday, October 22, 2015

The Barreracudas - Can Do Easy LP - White Vinyl (/100)


Oops Baby (2015)

The Barreracudas are another refugee from the sadly missed Douchemaster records.  They have paired up with Oops Baby records for their sophomore album Can Do Easy.  It's a very strong follow-up to their debut, with more party-garage anthems and buckets and buckets of hooks.

While their sound is definitely rooted in a poppier garage rock, the band shows some real diversity on this album.  From the pogo punk blast of "Playliens" to the Tom Petty style rambling of "Cut Me Loose" to their tried and true pop of "Promises,"  Can Do Easy certainly covers more ground than they did on their first album.  It's just hit after hit, though I will say one thing has started to stick in my craw a bit about the lyrics to "Promises."

I probably should have mentioned this when I reviewed the "Promises" 7" a few weeks back, but I've listened to this album many more times than that 7".  Part of the lyrics to "Promises" go: "I've got a pocket full of quarters now/and I'm your Donkey Kong."  I don't know what that means.  If the singer is the actual Donkey Kong, why would he need a pocket full of quarters for anything?  If the singer is the game Donkey Kong, first off, where would these pockets be? And again, to what end would having a pocket full of quarters benefit him?  If he wanted someone to 'play him' wouldn't they need the pocket full of quarters?  I'm probably trying to read way to much into a line that just fit in the rhyming pattern, but every time I hear the songs I start thinking about this now.

Anyway, Donkey Kong confusion aside, Can Do Easy is a top notch Barreracudas album.  It has so many catchy songs and good times; it was absolutely worth the wait.

The Barreracudas - Can Do Easy LP:

Wednesday, October 21, 2015

Dan Sartain - Dan Sartain Sings LP - Screened Cover (/110)


Slice Of Wax (2015)

What we have here is the follow up to yesterday's review of this album.  While yesterday's talked about the standard versions of the record, in both black and white vinyl, this version has a completely different cover.  It's limited to 110 copies and screened black on white.  You probably can't really tell from this picture, but the black that is making up the image is actually text that says "Dan Sartain" over and over again.

It's a pretty neat little effect.  The vinyl color is technically different as well.  Even though it looks white based on my picture, it's actually white with some gray swirling.  It's subtle, but it's there.  Musically, this is the same exact alum as yesterday, so you can read my thoughts on the record there.  In a nutshell; it's great and I like it.

I think this screened cover version is sold out on the label's website, but they still have the other two variants in you need to complete (or start) your Dan Sartain collection.

Dan Sartain - Dan Sartain Sings LP:

Tuesday, October 20, 2015

Dan Sartain - Dan Sartain Sings LP - White Vinyl (/165) & Black Vinyl (/265)


Slice Of Wax (2015)

The fine folks over at Slice Of Wax record have stepped up and made Dan Sartain's first ever, cassette only album available for the first time.  They've made three different versions and unlike some other labels, they actually cut me a deal to order all three rather than jack up the price and charge an unnecessary premium.  I actually hadn't planned on buying all three as the variant game is becoming a little overblown for me, but I couldn't pass up the deal and at the end of the day, I do want everything.

I'll take a picture of the third version tomorrow as it warrants an individual shot, so what we have today is the standard black vinyl version and the more limited white vinyl.  The quality of this reissue is pretty impressive.  Thick card stock on the album cover, super high quality paper on the printed inner sleeve and a big old fat slab of wax.  Quality is job one over at Slice Of Wax.  Considering what the One Little Indian vinyl reissues of Dan's other records came out like, this is just stellar.

Musically, it's an early feeling Dan Sartain album.  It leans a little more towards the darker country and rockabilly stylings and is not at all out of place grouped with Romance In Stereo or Crimson Guard.  Dan Sartain Sings is probably not quite as realized as those two, but it's a strong precursor and shows Dan at an early age when he was still pulling his influences and ideas together.

It's just another fun listen as is virtually everything in Dan Sartain's catalog.  I'm pretty thrilled that Slice Of Wax made this available on vinyl as now I can finally say I have a vinyl version of every Dan Sartain album.  And that's a good feeling.

Dan Sartain - Dan Sartain Sings:

Monday, October 19, 2015

The Flatliners - Division of Spoils 2xLP - Gray & Splatter Vinyl


Fat Wreck (2015)

Prior to seeing The Flatliners open up for Rocket From The Crypt in Chicago a couple of years ago, I had never really paid much attention to them.  They impressed me so much that night I started to keep tabs on them a bit more.  This is only the second record of theirs that I have picked up since that night, but every time I hear more buy these guys I become more of a fan.

Division of Spoils is a two LP collection of singles, comp songs and etc.  While there are some great, great songs on here, I will admit that this is a really big chunk of music to try to get through in one sitting.  An hour and ten minutes of any one band can be a bit much at times and I definitely show some fatigue whenever I pop this guy on.  While I do think that a singles compilation is the one time where you can be more of a completist and err on the side of putting in too much, at about the fifty minute mark, it does feel like you've listened to more than enough.

Still, there are killer songs on this album.  The band plays a super energetic style of punk rock.  It owes a debt to a Social Distortion style greaser vibe at times,  but it's also equally as steeped in the Dillinger Four tradition of explosive hooks and huge choruses.  Plus they even cover one and a quarter Rocket From The Crypt songs, so you're always going to get some bonus points from me for that.  

If you already like the band, it's a no brainer of a pick up.  I'm not so sure that it's the best place to start off with The Flatliners for the first time.  All I have from them so far is a 7" and this singles compilation. It's probably about time that I actually pick up one of their full length albums.

The Flatliners - Division Of Spoils:

Friday, October 16, 2015

Red Dons - The Dead Hand Of Tradition LP - White Vinyl (/200)


Taken By Surprise (2015)

To say that I was excited that there was finally a new LP by Red Dons would be a drastic understatement.  Their last LP, Fake Meets Failure, was such a perfect slice of dark, driving and melodic punk rock I could hardly stand the five year wait.  Sure there have been a few 7"s here and there, but there's nothing quite the same as a new full album.

The Dead Hand Of Tradition is simply a great album.  I will admit that my expectations were perhaps unrealistically high.  I loved Fake Meets Failure so much, I couldn't help feeling slightly disappointed in the new album the first couple of times I listened to it.  I'm not sure what I was expecting exactly and I couldn't tell you what I felt was missing, but I didn't like it quite as much as their prior record.

Those initial feelings have been swept away the more I listen to this album.  I'm not sure if it's a grower or if it's just easier to appreciate now that I'm more familiar with it.  The Dead Hand Of Tradition really an essential album and one of the better records to have been released in 2015.  The band is still churning out their Wipers style downstroke heavy punk rock.  It's catchy, but deadly serious and if you have even passing interest in bands like The Estranged or Hot Snakes, you really need to give these guys a shot.

Taken By Surprise had pressed up a limited amount on white vinyl which seem to be sold out now.  I normally like to put the number of colored vinyl in the title of my review, but digging around I can't seem to find how many came out on white.  If you happen to know, pop me a line and I'll update this review.  If nothing else, I try to document this sort of thing for the other nerds like me out there.

Update: There were 200 on white vinyl.  100 sold by the label and 100 sold by the band on tour.  Thanks for the info Michl!

Red Dons - The Dead Hand Of Tradition LP:

Tuesday, October 13, 2015

The Bingers - Gonna Get You 7"


Tall Pat (2014)

I slacked and fell behind on some of the Tall Pat records releases that had been coming out.  On my recent trip to Chicago I corrected that and picked up everything I had been missing.  I've got quite a few to get to, but I'll start out with this 7" from The Bingers.

I'll admit that I'm not always up for this sort of slower tempo, scuzzy guitar rock, but The Bingers have found a way to make 4 songs worth of it that I really enjoy.  I think it has a lot to do with the great bass playing on the record.  It goes from hypnotic snake charmer on songs like "Fukishima Hornets" and "Motorbike Cha Cha" right into a practically Silver Scooter-esque melodic pop on "Hideous Heart."

"Hideous Heart" is probably my favorite song on the record.  It is the most upbeat and catchy of the songs and that pleases my simple caveman brain.  Plus. I really dig the reverb heavy surf-guitar.  The Bingers are definitely on to something here and I'm curious to hear more from these guys.

The Bingers - Gonna Get You 7":

Monday, October 12, 2015

Get Bent - Discography LP - White Vinyl (/100)


Dead Broke (2015)

I've said before that Dead Broke is one of those record labels that I trust more often than not.  While I can't claim to buy every single record they put out, I sure seem to pick up most of them.  The fact that they released this Get Bent discography LP is one of the reasons I trust them. 

I already have two Get Bent 7"s in my collection, the Dead It 7" on It's Alive as well as their split with Jean Claude Jam Band that came out on Kiss Of Death.  I knew what I was getting into buying this LP and I was aware that I already would have some of the songs.  Still, it's nice to just have everything in one place and all of the songs work really well as a full length album.

Get Bent is playing the style of melodic punk that I most often associate with bands like Iron Chic, Spraynard and to a lesser extent, RVIVR.  Catchy shout along choruses, biting lyrics and a rough around the edges presentation.  Get Bent are so good at this style of music, you start to wonder how they ended up kind of forgotten.  By any rights they should have been just as popular as any of the bands I mentioned earlier.

Regardless, it's awfully nice to be able to put on one record and hear everything they released.  Maybe with this discography LP, they'll finally get some of the notoriety that they deserved all along.

Get Bent - Discography LP:

Saturday, October 10, 2015

Happy Birthday Scream Dracula Scream

Interscope / Headhunter (1995)

Another big 20th anniversary today. Happy Birthday to Rocket From The Crypt's Scream Dracula Scream.  A huge record in an incredible catalog of music from the greatest band of all time.

I bought my first copy of this record a couple of months before it came out. I picked up an advance copy from a creepy guy selling promo CDs on a blanket dumped down on the sidewalk at the Dover Flea Market in NJ.  That is how much I couldn't wait for this album to come out.  It was everything I had hoped for and more. 20 years later it is every bit as great as it was the first time I listened to it.

"We hope you can relate to our desire to rock and roll. punk is dead."

Friday, October 9, 2015

High Hi - Calm Down Sir 7" - White w/ Splatter Vinyl


Punk Fox (2015)

I have a somewhat complicated relationship with the Punk Fox record label.  On one hand they were one of the earliest supporters of my dumb little website, sending me review copies of records before almost anyone else.  They're also incredibly loyal, having sent me every single record they've ever released.  Additionally, I've got to give it up for a small UK label trying to make their way in the world releasing vinyl with little to no web presence.  With Snuffy Smiles and Rugger Bugger being at the very top of the list of record labels I respect, seeing someone else take a similar path is exciting.

The complicated part of the relationship comes in because I haven't really liked most of the records they've put out.  Not all of them, there's been a few that were pretty good, but the bulk just haven't been up my alley.  This brings us to High Hi, a band that I feel just as conflicted about.  

On one hand, it's really not bad at all.  A-side "Calm Down Sir" is instrumental for the first 3 minutes or so, with crunchy guitars and a leisurely tempo.  The energy gradually builds throughout the song and when the vocals kick in, it's pretty triumphant.  On the B-side is "Tommy" which is a more traditional and straightforward song.  The guitars are a bit more swirly and the vocals a bit more structured and pointed.  

That's the one hand.  The other hand is that even though these songs are alright, I don't really like them all that much either.  Again, they aren't inherently bad or anything, but this sort of thing just doesn't really do anything for me.  I like my rock a bit punchier I guess and every time I listen to this record I tend to start zoning out. I'm sure there are folks that would like this, though I'm not positive they'd turn to my website for recommendations...

High Hi - Calm Down Sir 7":

Tuesday, October 6, 2015

The Atom Age - Hot Shame LP - Yellow Vinyl


Asian Man (2015)

A couple of years ago I came across The Atom Age.  They were billed as a band that owed a great debt to the sound of Rocket From The Crypt.  To the point where many of the Rocket faithful dismissed them as a copycat band.  I could see their point, though if there's a band that you're going to ape, I could think of worse bands than Rocket to try to emulate.  I thought both of the band's prior records were good, though perhaps not essential additions to anyone's collection.  Still, I was excited to hear that The Atom Age had a new album out this year.

First things first.  There is way too much fucking keyboard on this record.  It's all over every single song and it rarely adds anything.  More often than not it is just a distracting noise whizzing in the background.  If you removed the keyboard from this album completely, it would instantly get 23% better.  Unfortunately that's not the only thing that makes Hot Shame a disappointment.  

Rather than keep with the big guitar and wailing saxophone that their first two records were built on, the band has taken a hard detour into a 1960's, Question Mark And The Mysterians sort of sound.  While that isn't an inherently bad direction to go, it doesn't really help when your singer's only range is shouting at the top of his lungs.  

If The Atom Age are still trying to live up to Rocket From The Crypt, this record is an attempt to mimic songs like "When In Rome" or "Venom Venom."  Unfortunately, they just don't have the chops for this sort of diversity.  If anything, they should stick to the loud, fast and catchy songs they had been writing up to this point.  And seriously, lose the keyboard.

The Atom Age - Hot Shame:

Monday, October 5, 2015

Ash - Kablammo LP


E.A.R. (2015)

A few weeks ago I was listening to the Ash record 1977 and wondered what the band was up to these days.  A quick search on line and I discovered they actually had a new record out.  I'm not sure if that says that I'm not able to pay attention as closely as I once was, or if Ash's new record isn't being met with that much fanfare.

I've really liked Ash for quite some time, but over the years they've been a frustratingly inconsistent band.  Well, it's probably more accurate to say they've been consistently frustrating as every other record of theirs is good, while the follow up isn't so much.  Starting with the first album I had, the aforementioned 1977 which is great.  Its follow-up Nu-Clear Sounds was a pretty big let down.  After that we had Free All Angels, which I thought was a thousand times better, but that high was brought back down by the next record Meltdown.  The band was back on form with Twilight of The Innocents next.  

Then the band decided to abandon the album format and release twenty six one sided 7"s each representing a letter of the alphabet.  Though I guess not an album proper, those songs effectively make up a full length (albeit a long full length) that really wasn't very good.  I actually gave up on picking up all of the 7"s as it is hard to get motivated to spend so much money on songs you don't really like.  I would like to finish up the set for nerdy completist purchases one day, but that will have to wait.

All of that back and forth leads us to the band's newest; Kablammo.  Lo and behold Ash is back to making another pretty great record.  There's no goofy experimentation, there's very little in the way of ambient electronica swooshes and noises in the background.  What the band decided to do was record and release a bunch of catchy rock songs.  Perfect.  Please Ash, just keep doing this.  Keep giving me songs as great as "Cocoon" and "Headonism."  I have no problem with the occasional slower song mixed like "Free" within the context of an album like this.  It all works together.

I feel that inevitably the band will do something wacky with their next record, it's just what they do.  But, at least I can enjoy Kablammo for right now and take solace that the band always seems to come back to writing great guitar pop songs once they get those weird ideas out of their system.

Ash - "Cocoon":

Ash - "Hedonism":

Thursday, October 1, 2015

Century Palm - Valley Cyan 7"


Deranged (2015)

Valley Cyan is the second Century Palm 7" that I received for review (the first was reviewed yesterday, in case you missed it).  As with their debut, there is a definite new wave lean to these songs, with even more liberal use of synth this time around.

The title track "Valley Cyan" has a steady groove fueled by ringing out guitar strumming and sitar-like accompaniment from the synthesizer.  It's pretty catchy and just as good as either song on the band's first 7".  Though I will say it has a heavier lean towards the new wave sounds of the 1980's than anything else the band has released so far.

I'll admit, I'm not sure what to make of the B-side "Accept."  It sort of sounds like the kind of song that would be playing in the background of an early John Hughes teen movie while the main hero contemplates their sadness at the low point of their story arc.  It's slow and for reasons I can't explain, the vocals take a severe turn from the lighter side to full on, baritone Leonard Cohen style brooding.  It's my least favorite thing I've heard from the band so far, but it's also something of an outlier, so I couldn't say if this is the sort of thing we'll hear more of in the future.

Regardless, three pretty strong songs out of four over the course of two 7"s is a pretty solid start for a new band.  Digging around online a bit, it looks like the band has more records in the works.  I'm looking forward to hearing what comes next.

Century Palm - Valley Cyan 7":