Thursday, February 25, 2016

The Fur Coats - Short-Brain 7" - Green Vinyl (/300)


Drunken Sailor / Rad Girlfriend (2015)

Drunken Sailor threw in this Fur Coats 7" with the most recent order I had placed with them.  I encourage more labels to do this.  If you don't send me records to review because I already buy a lot from your label, cool.  I'm happy to give my money to support your stuff.  But if you wanted to toss in things that I'm not already buying, even cooler.  I'll certainly get around to reviewing it at some point.

Anyway, from what I've read The Fur Coats are fronted by one of the dudes that runs Johann's Face records. Marc Ruvolo.  It is also said that this fellow is a big fan of bands like Naked Raygun and The Smoking Popes.  I can definitely see that.  There's a simplistic charm to these three chord (at times only two chord) poppy punk songs.  The guitar has that unmistakeable 1990's Chicago buzzsaw sound and the hooks are built up pretty nicely.

Vocally, things sound a little odd to me at times. Ruvolo sounds like a cross between the singers from Fear Of Lipstick, Toys That Kill and the guy who sung that old novelty song "Dead Puppies Aren't Much Fun."  While I wouldn't say the vocals are bad or even detract from the songs, they'll definitely be an acquired taste for some as it took me a few listens before I everything clicked for me.  All in all it's a solid little 7".

The Fur Coats - Short Brain 7"

Wednesday, February 24, 2016

Marvelous Mark - Crushin' LP - Yellow Vinyl (/100)


Drunken Sailor (2016)

We're pretty deep into February at this point and you may have noticed that there has been a severe lack of new releases featured on this website.  I'm not sure if the year is off to a slow start in general, or if I'm just being extra picky this year.  It's probably a combination of the two, but I can say without hesitation that this Marvelous Mark record is the first really great album that I've heard this year.

Marvelous Mark used to play in one of my favorite bands, Marvelous Darlings.  Though they are sadly missed I can take solace in the fact that Mark has churned out a pretty great little record on his own.  While Marvelous Mark is missing some of the balls to the wall energy and the swagger of Marvelous Darlings, he appears to have won custody of all of the hooks.  

Each song on this record is a perfect little guitar pop masterpiece.  Though everything is pretty mid tempo, the album has a perfect lazy Sunday afternoon vibe to them.  If I had a porch and a lawn chair, all I would need is a glass of lemonade and this record and you could color me a happy dude.

This record reminds me a bit of some of that 90's major label rock that I like so much; the slower moments of Fig Dish or maybe even Pluto with a fuzzier sound and a smaller recording budget.  No matter the reference you want to throw at Crushin', it can simply be said that this is a very good record and one that I've been listening to pretty nonstop since I picked it up.

Marvelous Mark - Crushin' LP:

Tuesday, February 23, 2016

A House Safe For Tigers - S/T LP


Headless Actor (2015)

I am really leery of bands that are described as, or describe themselves as chamber pop.  The first time I heard that phrase used was to describe the band Matt Pond PA.  And let me tell you, I really hate Matt Pond PA.  Talk about a band with nothing to say.  Anyway, the point is that whenever I see that to describe a band, I just automatically assume I won't like it.  After getting this record in the mail to review, I trotted over to the A House For Tigers Bandcamp page and looked at the tags, sure enough: fucking chamber pop.

I guess chamber pop is an accurate description.  This isn't the most exciting band in the world.  The songs are slow, somewhat boring and have a lot of whimsical instrumentation in the background.  You know, things like keyboards, xylophones and all the rest of the sort of atmospheric nonsense bands use when they're trying to add depth to songs that are lacking it.

This isn't awful.  In no way does it create the sort of rage I feel towards Matt Pond PA.  That being said, this just isn't the sort of thing I would listen to.  It's just too sleepy and lacking oomph for me.  The thing I want out of bands more than anything else is that I want to feel their passion and their enthusiasm coming from their songs.  When I listen to this record, I just feel tired.

A House Safe For Tigers - S/T LP:

Monday, February 22, 2016

Empty Heads - Deceiver 7"


Debt Offensive (2015)

Debt Offensive sent me a few records to review along with a note that said "Not sure any/all will be up your alley."  I can definitely appreciate that my taste in music can be a little weird.  I'll like some bands that folks would automatically think I'd hate, but then I won't like others that seem like they should be my cup of tea.  I can absolutely understand why this note was included with the first of the records I'm listening to, this Empty Heads 7".

This is a loud, somewhat abrasive band.  The vocals are buried under a mountain of fuzz and the guitars are muddy and thick.  These are descriptors I would typically use as I would launch into an unfavorable review, but for whatever reason I really dig this 7".  I think it all comes down to the fact that even though the band is loud, even though they are real distortion mongers, even though I really can't understand a word they are singing about, they never abandon the hook of the song.

Each of the 7"s four songs are deceptively catchy.  The band isn't just making noise for the sake of it.  Hidden in each mess of a track is a wonderful little pop song just begging to rip out from the chaos.  It's a surprisingly fun listen and I'm not positive I would have really given these guys a chance had the record not been sent to me.  This is worth checking out, as long as you can handle a little noisy insanity.

Empty Heads - Deceiver 7":

Thursday, February 18, 2016

Boat - Setting The Paces LP - Orange Vinyl


Magic Marker (2009)

Since discovering Boat through their tremendous album Dress Like Your Idols, I've been gradually working my way through their back catalog.  This was gradual on purpose.  There have been times where I was so enamored by a band that I went out and bought a bunch of their earlier records all at once.  The result tended to be that I would end up so overwhelmed by sheer amount of music, nothing would really stick.  Don't believe me? Come over and I'll show you the seven Screamfeeder CDs that I haven't listed to since 1998.

Setting The Paces is the third Boat album that was released and it is now the fourth one of theirs that I've checked out.  It's kind of a cop out to say this, but really, if you've heard and enjoyed any of their prior records, it's a pretty safe bet you'll dig this one as well.  Most Boat songs just reek of 1990's indie rock in the absolute best possible way.  There's copious amounts of high pitched guitar interplay and shifting rhythms. The vocals have a Doug Martchs meets Stephen Malkmus vibe and the lyrics are quirky, but still manage to suck you into the story.

It looks like there's only one more Boat record that I don't have and that is 2007's Let's Drag Our Feet.  Seems to be CD only at the moment, but I'm hopeful someone will kick up a vinyl reissue.  Otherwise, I'm going to give Setting The Paces some more time to sink in and then I'll spring for that CD.  Of course the best case scenario is a new batch of Boat songs.  The band has been quiet for a bit.  Hopefully they'll start making some noise again real soon.

Boat "Lately":

Wednesday, February 17, 2016

Unlikely Friends - Solid Gold Cowboys CD


Jigsaw (2015)

While I don't have nearly the ill will towards CDs that I have towards cassettes, I still don't really like buying them anymore.  It just doesn't really feel like I own the record the way I do when I pick up something on vinyl.  That being said I have so many CDs, many of which never came out on vinyl, so it's not like Unlikely Friends are going to be lonely on the shelf they end up on.

This is the only record that ended up on my Absolute Best Records Of 2016 list that I hadn't reviewed prior to sharing the list.  They reason?  Because it only came out on CD.  I kept putting off buying the record in the hopes that eventually someone would press it on vinyl.  It was available as MP3s.  Then as a cassette.  Then as a CD.  I figured that vinyl should surely be just around the corner, but it never happened.  Maybe it will someday.  If it does, I will buy immediately because I love the record.

Featuring members of another favorite band of mine, Boat, Unlikely Friends are plugging away with a similar stain of catchy and quirky indie rock.  Kind of like Pavement, Archers of Loaf and Built To Spill all mixed up into an upbeat guitar pop.  The lyrics are somewhat irreverent, the vocal melodies soar and musically the band branches out and takes chances, but they never sacrifice the hook while trying to do something weird.

Essentially this is just one of the best indie rock records of the 1990s that came out in 2015 by mistake.  I hope this doesn't signal the end of Boat, because I would hate to see those guys stop putting out records, but I'm happy to get some more Unlikely Friends records as well.  Though they really should do vinyl next time.

Unlikely Friends - Solid Gold Cowboys:

Tuesday, February 16, 2016

Nervous Twitch - I'm Sorry That I Made You Cry 7" - Tri Color Vinyl


Punk Fox (2016)

Punk Fox graces the pages of this website once again with the second Nervous Twitch 7" they've released.  You may or may not remember that the first Nervous Twitch 7" was the one that finally broke the streak of me not really liking any of the records Punk Fox had sent me.  For the most part, this new 7" keeps that on track.

The obvious highlight of the record is lead track, "I'm Sorry That I Made You Cry."  It's got an upbeat tempo and those jangly guitars that I love so much.  Very reminiscent of Baby Shakes to my ears; it's just a fun slab of rock and roll.  On the B-side is the mid tempo, surfy instrumental "East Coast Rumble."  As far as surfy instrumentals go, it's no better or worse than any other I've ever heard.  If nothing else, it sort of acts as a palate cleanser between the other two songs.

Unfortunately, the 7" kind of ends on a downer as "A Little Self Discipline" is the least enjoyable of the three songs and of anything I've heard by Nervous Twitch.  It's intentionally slow and deliberate, but I just get the feeling that I'm being scolded while listening to this.  The vocals are very direct and not particularly melodic.  Honestly, it kind of sounds like a different band than the one on the prior two songs.  I like the band of those first two songs much better.  Still, "I'm Sorry That I Made You Cry" is a strong enough song that this is still a 7" worth looking into.

Nervous Twitch - "I'm Sorry That I Made You Cry":

Monday, February 15, 2016

Mr. Lif - I Phantom LP - Clear w/ Splatter Vinyl


Mello Music (2015, Reissue)

If I hadn't seen a picture of this reissue on Instagram (courtesy of @4maldehyde, thanks!), I would have had no idea that it was out.  It would have been a real bummer to miss out on this record because in addition to looking pretty snazzy, it's one of my favorite hip hop records.

I Phantom was originally released in 2002.  During that time I was going through a phase not too dissimilar from what I am going through right now.  I had essentially given up on hip hop.  Let's preface this by saying in the 80's & 90's I listened to a LOT of hip hop.  It started with folks like Boogie Down Productions & Public Enemy and it peaked when Del The Funky Homosapien, Tribe Called Quest, Souls of Mischief and groups like that were pumping out records.  Then all of a sudden, hip hop got pretty shitty very quick.  

In 2002 I was paying almost zero attention to that world, but by chance I heard Mr. Lif and was blown away by this record.  The beats are intense and full, with interesting choices and the kind of creativity that I hadn't heard in ages.  Mr. Lif has a gravely voice that is especially suited to the sort of heady, newscaster/storyteller vibe he takes throughout the album.  I Phantom has a vague concept album feel to it in that each song flows into the next and each story presented is somewhat influenced by what preceded it.  

It's a high water mark for hip hop albums and it eternally bums me out that since 2002 Mr. Lif has only release one additional proper album.  Right now, in 2016, I've again all but given up on hip hop.  Aside from the years where Del releases something new, I don't really pay attention at all.  I'm sure there's something worthwhile out there, but until someone like Mr. Lif puts out an album as drop dead fantastic as I Phantom, I probably just won't notice.

Mr. Lif - "A Glimpse At The Struggle":

Mr. Lif - "Live From The Plantation":

Mr. Life - "Earthcrucher":

Thursday, February 11, 2016

Defect Defect - My Life Is Like Death 7"


Snuffy Smiles / Dirt Cult (2015)

From reading the little description for this 7" on the Dirt Cult Bandcamp page, it looks like these songs were the result of one last recording session before Defect Defect called it a day.  The reason?  Seems that the band was asked by Snuffy Smiles to tour Japan.  I can absolutely see how that will make you delay your break-up for a bit.  I would do the same.  Heck, I'd join Defect Defect for a chance like that.

Snuffy Smiles is a co-conspirator on this 7" along with Dirt Cult.  I can't say that I love this 7".  It's alright for a band that leans towards the hardcore punk rock spectrum of things; they don't scream nearly as much as a lot of bands do.  There's some gruff, angry sounding vocals, but it never breaks down into unintelligible yelling.  So that's a plus from my point of few.

The other side to the coin is like a lot of hardcore leaning bands they seem a bit trapped in a box.  The guitars are playing their chords, the drumming is intense and powerful and the bass is thumping along, but it never really feels inspired and the songs are all a little predictable.  More than anything it just sounds kind of old to me.  I realize that probably sounds like some major league bullshit coming from the guy so obviously obsessive of the rock and roll sounds of the 90's.  Defect Defect seems to be throwing back to a time earlier than those golden years.  I guess that's a time and a sound I'm just not as enthralled with.

Defect Defect - My Life Is Like Death 7":

Wednesday, February 10, 2016

Custody - Stitches Are All I Have 7" - Red Vinyl (/73)


Brassneck (2015)

Custody hails from Finland and I feel that is worth mentioning as it's been a while since I featured a band from this part of Europe.  In the 90's and early 2000's, there were a slew of bands from the Sweden, Norway and Finland region that were in constant rotation.  Starmarket, Chester Copperpot, Manifesto Jukebox, Him Kerosene, Beezwax, the list goes on and on.  Then something happened.  I'm not sure if the music scene changed over there or if I gradually fell out of touch as I got old.  If anyone out there knows of great bands from this area that I have been overlooking, please get in touch and let me know.

Anyway, back to Custody.  These guys are playing a really great version of melodic punk rock.  So much of this kind of music can be traced through influences that will eventually lead you back to Jawbreaker or Leatherface.  As a super generic comparison, I'd say Jawbreaker is a more appropriate starting point, but to me Custody really falls into the branch of punk rock that bands like Iron Chic and to some extent RVIVR are existing in.  The vocals are impassioned and somewhat gruff.  There's a heart-on-your-sleeve vibe here that never falls into schmaltzy emo trappings, but makes the songs more engaging and feel more honest.

Musically, there's guitar octaves in all of the right places, some stutter stops in the breaks and most important to me, giant catchy choruses.  It's a great introduction to Custody and I'm very eager to hear some more out of these guys.

Custody - Stitches Are All I Have 7":

Tuesday, February 9, 2016

Malos Modales - Cronicas Terrestres 7"


Drunken Sailor (2015)

I find Drunken Sailor to be a very trustworthy label.  I tend to pick up most everything they release (though they do a lot of split releases, so often I grab those from the American label to save on postage).  When they give their stamp of approval on a band, the odds of me enjoying that band are pretty high.  When they announced this Malos Modales 7" and gave a brief description, I knew pretty much immediately it was a record that I would be picking up.

These guys certainly didn't let me down.  Malos Modales sounds like something of a combination of Fix My Brain era Marked Men crossed with There Are No Answers era Something Fierce.  They've got a ferocity in their guitar riffs and a mastery of catchy hooks that so few bands can combine.   The vocals are all in Spanish, so I only have a small understanding of what they lyrics are about, but let's be honest; I'm not much of a lyrics guy and don't really have any idea what the Marked Men are singing about either.  I'd be surprised if that would really affect your enjoyment of these songs, it certainly doesn't make me love these songs any less.

The Drunken Sailor description of this 7" mentions that it's the best EP they had heard in ages.  I'll alter that slightly and say that this is far and away the best debut 7" I have heard in a long, long time.  It's so instantly memorable and just so great.  I really hope that Malos Modales is working on some more records because rest assured, I will be buying those the very second they are available.

Malos Modales - Cronicas Terrestres 7":

Monday, February 8, 2016

The Jones - Gravity Blues LP - Blue Splatter Vinyl


Boss Tuneage (2015, Reissue)

It took me a little while to realize that this album had actually been released on vinyl, but I couldn't begin to tell you how thrilled I was to discover that it was.  The Jones is arguably the most under appreciated band to feature Dickie Hammond.  I'm not sure if it just got lost in the shuffle and not enough people heard it, but whenever I read anything about the great albums that Dickie was a part of, I never heard this mentioned.

It's a bit of a shame as aside from Leatherface, The Jones could be my favorite thing that Dickie ever did.  Just give the opening track "Monotone" about forty-five seconds.  With its searing guitar riff in the verse, the slowed down, hook filled chorus and impassioned vocals from Golly (also from HDQ like Dickie), you'd be hard pressed to find a more impressive song in Dickie's arsenal.  But it's not the only one.  The album is nearly perfect in execution with song after song of incredibly dynamic guitar work.  It's kind of crazy to me that more people don't know and love this album.

For this vinyl reissue the fine folks at Boss Tuneage have also tacked on two 7"s that preceded the Jones full length.  The Stokoe 7" and Fatty Jones 7" both featured Dickie and Golly, but each had a different cast of characters supporting them on other instruments.  Fidelity wise, the three Stokoe songs stand out a bit from the rest, but as far as song quality goes, they are every bit as good.  

Again, I couldn't be more excited to finally have these songs on vinyl.  Maybe The Jones isn't quite as well known as Leatherface, HDQ or even Doctor Bison; but they should be.  Every song on here is incredible and this is absolutely a record you should go out of your way to pick up if you don't already own it.

The Jones - Gravity Blues:

Thursday, February 4, 2016

Gleam Garden / Chestnut Road - Split 7" - Green Vinyl (Japanese Cover)


Snuffy Smiles / Brassneck (2015)

This is the Japanese version of the Gleam Garden / Chestnut Road split 7".  The songs are the same as the UK version, so you can click on yesterday's review of this 7" for more details about the music.  In a nutshell, both bands are insanely good and you should buy this 7" immediately if not sooner.

Also, in case you missed it yesterday, PopKid will be joining these fine labels (Brassneck & Snuffy Smiles) and we are going to be putting out the new Chestnut Road full length album very soon.  We're just waiting on a few more things and then you'll be able to hear this great, great record.  In the mean time, we have one song from that album "Handshake," streaming over at the PopKid Bandcamp page.  Check it out and let me know what you think:

Chestnut Road - "Handshake":

Wednesday, February 3, 2016

Gleam Garden / Chestnut Road - Split 7" - Green Vinyl (UK Version)


Brassneck / Snuffy Smiles (2015)

Now we're really talking.  A split 7" by two bands that I already have a bunch of records by and two bands that I just love.  Plus, with the addition of Brassneck records as a label co-conspirator, we get a rare Snuffy Smiles 7" on green vinyl.  This 7" was made with two covers.  The one is pictured above is of the Brassneck version.  Snuffy Smiles has their own exclusive cover for this record, but I'll post that picture tomorrow.

We'll start up with Gleam Garden.  A wonderful Japanese band that have been cranking out tremendous records for the last few years.  They've managed to pull from the influences of older Japanese pop punk bands like Blew or Husking Bee, but still keep things interesting and fresh.  Both songs on this record are just picture perfect examples what Gleam Garden is capable of.  "Empty Night, Empty Cry" is an upbeat and ultra catchy rocker in the best possible way.  "Stop The World" slows things down just a bit but still maintains the energy that the band is known for.  The closing moments of the song, in particular, are just perfect.

The other band on this record are from France.  They are Chestnut Road and if you've been reading my website for any length of time you know how much I love this band.  Even though they are from a completely different country, they are carrying the torch of my favorite music scenes ever, the mid 90s melodic punk rock of the UK.  The most obvious comparison is to the band Broccoli, but you can certainly hear how the band has been influenced by other bands from that scene as well as some of the great Japanese bands of the 90s like Lovemen or Blew.  Their two songs on this split are just as good as anything the band has ever released.  I just adore this band and encourage you to buy anything of theirs you can get your hands on.

And now an unpaid message from PopKid Records:

Speaking of which, I like Chestnut Road so much, I'm going to help people get their hands on at least one of their records.  There's a little something up on the PopKid Records website as well, but I'm thrilled to announce that PopKid will be releasing the new Chestnut Road full length in a few weeks. It's the first new record we're putting out on PopKid in about ten years.  I couldn't be more excited and I can't wait to tell you more about it and start selling these records.  We're not going to do a preorder because we hate those. Once the records are in hand, they will be for sale.  You will be able to get this new record in the US from PopKid, in Europe from the wonderful Brassneck Records and In Japan from the legendary Snuffy Smiles.  We're streaming one song from the record on our Bandcamp page, so go check it out here:

And publicly, please let me thank Scott from Brassneck, Yoichi from Snuffy Smiles and everyone in Chestnut Road for letting us be a part of this album.  We couldn't be more excited.

Gleam Garden / Chestnut Road - Split 7":

Tuesday, February 2, 2016

Your Pest Band / The Invisible Teardrops - Split 7"


Snuffy Smiles (2015)

This split is another in the never ending stream of Snuffy Smiles split 7"s that have been coming out of Japan for over 20 years.  These days, I think you can safely say that Your Pest Band are the standard bearers of Snuffy Smiles.  They are insanely prolific and have constantly been putting out new records, but their home base has always been Snuffy Smiles.

The two Your Pest Band songs continue their descent into a spaced out mix of traditional Japanese pop punk and a more melodic, garagey sound.  There's a little echo going on in the vocals and the guitar riffs will get stuck in your head for days.  No matter what Your Pest Band releases, it's always deeply rooted in a catchy, if not sometimes warped, pop hook.  Both songs on their side of the split are perfect additions to their rapidly expanding catalog.

On the flip side is a band called The Invisible Teardrops.  Prior to getting this 7", I had never heard of them.  I find it fascinating that Yoichi from Snuffy Smiles always manages to get his hands on relatively unknown bands from America before the rest of the world catches on.  On "Shiver," The Invisible Teardrops ease through a nice mid tempo pop song with a tiny bit of twang, reverb tinged vocals and a little keyboard.  Definitely the highlight of their side of this record.  The second song "Shoaly" is a bit slower, but still pretty good.  You'll need to be patient though as there's a reasonably long intro/drum thing that seems like an odd way to start off a song to me.

Definitely better than yesterday's split, you really need this 7" for the Your Pest Band songs.  The Invisible Teardrops are just a nice bonus.  As usual, you can't really find anywhere to stream Snuffy Smiles releases, but this is worth going out of your way to pick up.

Monday, February 1, 2016

Holy Shit / Groaning Groove - Split 7"


Snuffy Smiles (2015)

It's always a wonderful time when I can take a few days and review a handful of 7"s from Snuffy Smiles, perhaps the greatest record label in the history of the earth.  I could certainly make an argument for it anyway.  That being said, with over a hundred and thirty 7"s in their catalog, they are not all going to be slam dunks for me.  This is one of those 7"s that doesn't quite hit that bar that Snuffy Smiles sets so high.

First up we have the band Holy Shit.  They've put out other records through Snuffy Smiles, so they are not a new addition to my collection.  Typically, I listen to their songs once as a courtesy (or to review) and then I never really go back again.  I picture that being the same for their side of this split.  Holy Shit is playing a super fast style of short hardcore songs.  They've crammed seven songs onto their side of the record that have insane drumming and way too much yelling for my taste.

On the other side is Groaning Grove.  While not playing the sort of hardcore that Holy Shit is going through, there is still quite a bit more shouting on their songs than I really want to listen to.  Musically, they lean more towards an abrasive and fast garage sound.  There are definitely some interesting riffs and a general enthusiasm that I can get behind, but when the singer starts up I immediately tune out.  I would buy this 7" no matter what in order to keep my Snuffy Smiles 7" collection complete, but I cannot recommend it if you want to pick it up and actually listen to it.  Unless you like yelling a lot more than I do.