Thursday, April 28, 2016

Bent Shapes - Wolves of Want LP - Pink Vinyl


Slumberland (2016)

I'm not sure that there is a label in the world whose email updates I rely on more than Slumberland.  Even though I don't like everything they release (some bands tends to be a bit sleepy for me), they do have several bands that I do enjoy so I always read about their new releases to see if the next one is something more up my alley.  When the description of this Bent Shapes album ended up in my mailbox, it seemed like my cup of tea.  

Wolves of Want is just a wonderful blend of clean, peppy guitar tones, upbeat rhythms and such great vocal harmonies.  Bent Shapes hit it out of the park with this one. These hooks just get stuck in my head for days at a time.  There's enough energy and enthusiasm to keep me engaged, but they never sacrifice the melody just to play a little fast or louder.  The melody is the key and the songs are built spectacularly around that.  

The only time things get a bit wonky for me is during "USA v. POR."  It's slow and there's this odd spoken word thing going on that sticks out a bit from the rest of the album.  But truthfully, the song is short, not inherently bad or anything and provides a nice little break from the rest of the songs.  I don't think it's as clever as maybe some other folks do, but it doesn't really hurt the album.

Other than that it's just hit after hit on Wolves oif Want.  Bent Shapes have put out easily one of the best records of the year so far.  I'm very thankful Slumberland keeps sending out those email updates.

Bent Shapes - Wolves of Want:

Tuesday, April 26, 2016

Divers - Hello Hello LP


Rumbletowne (2015)

Divers weren't a band on my radar until they ended up on a Snuffy Smiles 7".  I had liked what I heard enough to grab their LP from last year as well.  It's ended up being something of a mixed bag as there are songs that I like and others that just kind of bore me.

I will say this, when Divers are playing their faster songs they really hit that sweet spot between Tom Petty and Bruce Springsteen.  Rootsy and earnest, but still having enough pop hooks and rock and roll chops to keep things from ending up in a weird Americana place.  Songs like "Blood Song" and "Tracks" are true standouts and are really fantastic.  If Hello Hello was full of songs like this, I would probably be much more enthusiastic about this record as a whole than I've ended up being.

My main issue is that there are far too many slow songs.  These slower ones just don't have the energy and passion that the band shows when they speed up the tempo a bit.  Large swaths of this record are taken up by slow, meandering guitar, barely there vocals and gentle drumming.  A song or two like this would be a fine change of pace, but when they end up being the majority of your record, things get a bit dull.

Still, the highs on this record are pretty darn high and there aren't really any bad songs, just a few too many that are a bit boring to me.  It's probably worth picking up if you see it, but I wouldn't go too far out of my way to hunt it down.

Divers - Hello Hello:

Monday, April 25, 2016

The Thermals - We Disappear LP - Clear Vinyl


Saddle Creek (2016)

We Disappear is the seventh album by The Thermals and at this stage, one thing is very clear: The Thermals know how to put out a good record.  Although there are some that I don't like quite as much as others, these guys simply do not know how to write a bad record and they have thirteen years worth of releases to back that up.  My only issue is that for the last ten years, they just haven't been able to manage a great album.

In my opinion, the first two Thermals records, More Parts Per Million and Fucking A, are the band's flat out classics.  I never thought that they managed to capture the energy of those records ever again.  Maybe it's because drummer Jordan Hudson left the band?  Maybe it's because their third album The Body, The Blood, The Machine was the one that really gained them the notoriety they had been deserving all along?  I'm not really sure, but all I know is that after thinking their first two records were flawless masterpieces, I've just thought every record since then has been good.

Thats not really a knock, I've bought them all and have enjoyed each one in its way.  We Disappear is the same.  Lots of great, catchy songs with strong hooks and Hutch's trademark vocal yelp.  This record is packed full of really good songs.  I'm just missing the 'fuck the world' energy of the first two records.  I miss going to their shows and jumping up and down while screaming along until I'm blue in the face.  We Disappear is a good record; at times a very good record.  I just wish it was great.  

The Thermals - We Disappear:

Thursday, April 21, 2016

Preacher & The Bear - Can't Afford No Train 7" - White Vinyl


PinkBox (2016)

I'm not sure where to begin with this one.  Preacher And The Bear's 7" was sent to me all the way from the UK to review, so I'm sure it cost a little bit to send it to me.  I'm appreciative that they took the effort, but man, I don't like this.

It's somewhat sloppy, questionably recorded "blues" music.  They kind of sound like a bunch of drunk old guys who got together at a bar to play a song, only for some reason the singer is trapped in some sort of metal box that he's shouting in.  The band yells over and over again on this 7" that they "can't afford no train."  It doesn't sound like they can afford no microphones either.  

I think the band is aiming to be the sort of cool, throwback blues band like Ballantynes.  The problem is that the Ballantynes write awesome songs, play them flawlessly and record them nicely.  I can't say that Preacher & The Bear do any of that.

Preacher & The Bear - "Can't Afford No Train" (This is a live version of the song, I couldn't find the 7" version anywhere.  The 7" version is a bit faster and does sound better than this at least):

Wednesday, April 20, 2016

Divers - Achin' On 7" - Clear Vinyl (/100) & Black Vinyl


Dirt Cult / Snuffy Smiles (2016)

I'm not sure if it's all that noticeable, but despite the crazy amount of records I buy, I try not to get too caught up in the variant hunt.  Sure there are a handful of bands where I do feel the need to have every version of every record, but for most part I'm perfectly content just having one copy.  Though admittedly, I do always want the most limited version.  Well, in addition to the few bands I will go variant crazy for, I also want to try to have a complete collection of Snuffy Smiles 7"s, so when this Divers 7" popped up, I had to pick up both versions.

The A-side, "Achin' On" is a nice little slab off Tom Petty inspired rock and roll.  It has a pulsing bass line and some subtle hooks.  I definitely hear some similarities to the band Nude Beach, but Divers seems to be a touch more melancholy.  It's a great song though.  B-side "Can't Do That" is a Dead Moon cover.  While I'm not familiar with the original, The Divers version is a low key, somewhat murky track.  Pretty good, but I dig the A-side more.

I did like these songs enough that I also orders the Divers full length from last year.   I'll write something up about that in the next week or so as well.

Divers - Achin' On 7":

Tuesday, April 19, 2016

Bob Mould - Patch The Sky LP - Clear Vinyl


Merge (2016)

For the third straight album, Bob Mould is on an absolute tear.  Like Silver Age and Beauty & Ruin before it, Patch The Sky is a tremendous collection of aggressive pop songs that prove once again that when he's in his element, no one can touch Bob Mould.

It's been so great to see Bob Mould embracing this kind of heavy guitar rock again.  Once upon a time, I was working in the music biz and had the opportunity to promote a Bob Mould record.  He came into the office and was nice as you could imagine.  We talked about what he wanted to accomplish with his current record and even took some time to chat about pro wrestling and the time he spent working for WCW in their dying days.  Unfortunately the album I had to promote was Modulate, his foray into sort-of electronic music.  The record wasn't very good and it didn't do very well.  I felt bad for Bob because he was such a nice guy, but he just wasn't playing to his strengths.

Patch The Sky plays to all of Bob's strengths.  It's even better than Beauty & Ruin and comes awfully close to the level of perfection that Silver Age reached.  Song after song of loud, crunchy guitar mixes with Bob's signature vocal howl.  The songs are all spectacularly catchy and for the third straight album, Jon Wuster provides some of the punchiest and most dynamic drumming you could ask for.  His percussive attack has really been a driving force in the resurrection of Bob Mould and and his importance on these last three records cannot be overstated.

So far, Patch The Sky is the best record I've heard all year.  It's everything I love about Bob Mould on record and as far as I'm concerned, he can keep putting out albums like this every other year for the rest of his life.  I will buy every single one.

Bob Mould - "The End Of Things":

Bob Mould - "Voices In My Head":

Monday, April 18, 2016

Snuff - Demmamussabebonk LP - Yellow Vinyl


10 Past 12 (2016, Reissue)

It's kind of crazy to me that Demmamussabebonk is twenty years old this year.  Snuff has been one of my favorite bands in the world for over two decades and this album has been in my top five albums of all time ever since I thought about trying to rank albums like that.  A lesser know fact about Demmamussabebonk is that there were two versions of it released back in 1996.  The version on Fat Wreck in the US and the UK version that came out on Deceptive records.  Fat Wreck rereleased their version as a limited colored vinyl run a couple of years ago.  For its twentieth anniversary, Snuff has rereleased the UK version on their own 10 Past 12 records.

In my opinion, the UK release has always been the superior version of the record.  For starters, the track listing is in a different order and the album comes storming out of the gate with "Martin."  If that's not a perfect opening track, I don't know what is.  For the life of me, I can't understand why Fat changed that.  Also, the mix of the record is completely different from the Fat Wreck version.  It's a rougher mix that doesn't sound quite as slick.  It just feels like it has more energy and really encapsulates what Snuff is supposed to sound like.  The new reissue also comes with a CD of the demos that Snuff recorded for the album.  It's an interesting listen for sure and contains all of the songs from Demmamussabebonk as well as demos of the B-sides from this era of the band.

When I first opened this reissue, I thought the artwork looked a little strange.  Sort of like when some band does a reissue and they don't have the original art files so they try to scan in a copy and use that.  I thought the pictures of the toys on the cover looked a little washed out.  Well, it turns out it's not from the pictures being reused, it's from the toys getting older.  They retook the pictures on the cover using the same toys 20 years later.  The clear plastic of the scooter has started to cloud up over time and Happy Clock is also fading a bit.  

Once I figured out what they had done, I actually really liked the concept of recreating the art twenty years later.  After all, we've all aged a bit since this record originally came out.  But even though Demmamussabonk is twenty years old, it still sounds as fresh and exciting to me as it did the very first time I listened to it.  My highest possible recommendation.

Snuff - "Martin":

Snuff - "B":

Snuff - "Sunny Places":

Thursday, April 14, 2016

Spoilers - Stay Afloat 12" - Blue w/ Splatter Vinyl


Brassneck / Boss Tuneage (2015)

Let me tell you something, when Spoilers are clicking for me they're at the very top level of current punk rock bands that I like.  The only issue that I have is that as far as my taste in music goes, Stay Afloat has its moments that veer sharply into territory I don't like as much.

There are two main reasons I didn't pick this up right when it came out.  The first was postage related and I was waiting for the chance to bundle it up with some other records that I wanted from the UK.  The second reason is that I just don't like the lead track on this EP, "All For One."  It flies by at two thousand miles an hour, leans heavily on that galloping drum beat that I really don't care for and has biting, shouted lyrics.  It's kind of a perfect storm of tthings that turns me off of bands.  Spoilers don't play this style of music poorly or anything, it's just not the kind of thing I like to listen to.

Once you get past that opening song though, the next two songs on side A are simply tremendous.  They're much more in line with the sort of middle tempo, organ fueled pop that Snuff has mastered late in their career.  The vocals are super melodic, a stark comparison to the prior song's shouting, and they've worked in hooky choruses in all the right places.  I couldn't ask for two better songs, truthfully.  

When you flip over to side B, we have the exact same scenario.  The first song is too fast and loud for me, but the next two are essentially perfect.  It's and interesting situation.  Six songs, two of which I don't like, but four that are among the best UK punk songs I've heard in quite some time.  Those four are great enough that I recommend this 12" without hesitation, but I definitely hope the band goes in the direction of their more melodic work as they move forward and put out more records.

Spoilers - Stay Afloat 12":

Wednesday, April 13, 2016

Mind Spiders - Prosthesis LP - Clear Vinyl (/500)


Dirtnap (2015)

To me it's impossible to write about Mind Spiders without bringing up Mark Ryan's past band The Marked Men.  It's also difficult to not compare Mind Spiders in some way to the band Radioactivity (which Ryan is also a part of).  While Radioactivity has become the more logical evolution of The Marked Men's brash and poppy rock and roll, Mind Spiders have been morphing into something else completely and that is no more evident than it is on Prosthesis.

Now, there are still hints of the Marked Men, and for sure that is what keeps drawing me back to this band time after time.  There's some sneaky hooks hidden in the songs along with some big, chunky power chords that occasionally rear their heads.  But at its essence, Prosthesis is a completely different type of band.  They're kind of quirky, with stuttering rhythms like a truly bummed out Devo.  There's liberal use of synth (usually the kiss of death for me), but they're not used in a way that seems frivolous or gimmicky.  The keyboards here really add to the texture of these songs, giving them a darker feel.

Do I like Mind Spiders as much as I like The Marked Men or Radioactivity?  No I don't.  But it's such an unfair comparison as Mind Spiders are really forging their own way and creating some unique and interesting sounds.  I don't listen to a lot of bands that go down this path, but the ones that I do listen to all do it exceptionally well.  Mind Spiders absolutely fit in that category.  After all, I don't typically buy four full length albums by a band that I don't like. 

Mind Spiders - Prosthesis:

Tuesday, April 12, 2016

Future Virgins / Good Grief - Split 7" - Blue Vinyl (/300)


All In Vinyl (2015)

This is round two of the All In Vinyl subscription series.  This particular split pairs two bands that I see the names of quite often, but I've never really spent that much time with.  As a result I have to plead guilty to not really knowing very much about either, despite owning records by at least one of them.  I know that sounds kind of weird, but let's be honest.  With the amount of records I buy, there's going to be some 7"s that might not get played as often as I'd like.

I had a Future Virgins split 7" with Toys That Kill.  Toys That Kill were the band that drove that purchase, but I do remember thinking that Future Virgins were pretty good and worth diving further into their catalog.  I never really got around to that, so they are still pretty much a new band to me.  The two songs on this split are pretty good.  I enjoy the music side of their equation quite a bit.  It's straightforward and catchy with hooks in the right places.  I'm not digging the vocals as much.  We all know I like some raspy/gruff vocals, but it's taken a bit to far here.  The vocals sound strained and I kind of want to check to see if the singer needs a cough drop.  These songs are pretty good, but I'm not liking it as much as I would if the vocals were slightly more melodic.

Good Grief is another band that I've seen around when buying records.  I actually thought I had something else by them already, but I guess I never bought that split of theirs with BUZZorHOWL (or at least I can't find it right now).  Good Grief lean more towards the indie rock side of the punk rock spectrum.  The vocals are clean and there are some pretty stellar backing harmonies thrown in for good measure.  The vocals remind me of The Vacant Lot and that's never a bad thing.  There's a nice amount of fuzzy guitar and catchy riffs.   Honestly these two songs are great, I really should try to find more by these guys, but there seems to be another band called Good Grief that advertises themselves as classic rock...with an edge!  I'll figure it out eventually.

Future Virgins - "No Black Cars":

Good Grief - "I Don't Know What To Say":

Thursday, April 7, 2016

Make It Plain / Deep Pockets - Split 7"


Dead Broke (2012)

I've had this 7" kicking around for quite awhile.  The fine folks at Dead Broke had tossed it in with an order I had placed with them at some point.  I couldn't tell you exactly what I had ordered in that package, but it's always nice to get a little bonus.  For one reason or another, I just didn't get around to listening to this split 7" until very recently.  It's about time that I did.

First up we have Make It Plain.  I'm very impressed by the two songs that they contribute to this split.  Make It Plain has a really distinct Silver Scooter, but with female vocals vibe to them.  The first of the two songs, "Fresh Start" is the more upbeat and catchier of the two.  It's definitely the one I prefer.  "ICU" is no slouch either.  It's not as fast and more deliberate, but despite its slower pace the song has strong energy and, to me, kind of veers into Boys Life like territory a bit at the end.

The other half of this record is a band called Deep Pockets.  As much as I dig Make It Plain, Deep Pockets is the real star of this 7".  On "Cyclone Cellar" Deep Pockets blast through with fuzzy guitars and a singer that really has a Lou Barlow type delivery.  This is real Bakesale era Sebadoh style rock in the best possible way.  "I Like To Have Dinner Every Night" is a little weirder.  The guitars are more muted and the vocals are pretty much just spoken.  The lyrics are someone odd talking about things like going to Ikea and getting into a fight with Randy Savage.  I don't know if I love it, but it's interesting if nothing else.  Still, "Cyclone Cellar" is so damn good I am absolutely going to dig up some more info about these guys.

Make It Plain / Deep Pockets - Split 7":

Wednesday, April 6, 2016

Sabertooth - Spaces Between LP


Debt Offensive (2015)

Sabertooth hail from Calgary, Alberta Canada, and just like fellow denizen Lance Storm I would make the argument that they are under appreciated for just how good they are. On Spaces Between, the band brings a hyper attack that's part Dear Landlord and part Plow United.

I love it when bands are able to play really fast, loud poppy punk without the drummer having to rely on that crummy NOFX galloping drum beat.  That's one thing that really sets Sabertooth far ahead of the pack, their drummer is simply phenomenal laying down tight rhythms with super dynamic fills and transitions.  On top of that foundation, we've got some buzzsaw guitar riffing and impassioned gruff vocals.  Throw in big hooks in the chorus and really, how could I not like this band.  They're singing my song.

A little blurb on the Debt Offensive Bandcamp page mentions that this could be Sabertooth's final release.  I sure hope that doesn't end up being the case.  Spaces Between is far too good to be anyone's swan song.

Sabertooth - Spaces Between:

Tuesday, April 5, 2016

Stay Clean Jolene / Does It Float - Split 7" - Red Vinyl (/300)


All In Vinyl (2015)

When done properly, I sure do love a good singles series.  While I've been a part of quite a few that fizzled out and disappeared into the night, All In Vinyl is still going strong with their singles club, which is entering its fourth year.  Once again, the quality of bands they've brought on board this year is pretty stellar.

Volume 1 starts off with Stay Clean Jolene, one of my current favorite punk rock bands from the UK.  Everything you would want from these guys are featured on their two songs.  Raspy, impassioned vocals over loud and brash guitar riffs.  They manage to straddle the divide between heart on your sleeve punk like Iron Chic (with those big, big sing along choruses) and the full throttle, driving style you've come to expect from bands like Leatherface.  I've yet to hear a Stay Clean Jolene song I haven't liked, and these two are no exception.

On the other side is Does It Float from Japan.  These guys fully encapsulate what I love about a good singles series.  I'd never heard of this band previously, but man these two songs just knocked my socks off. They could so easily fit in with the very best bands on Snuffy Smiles.  In particular, they really remind me of the slightly slower, more thoughtful Japanese punk of bands like Three Minute Movie or Lovemen.  Two absolutely spectacular songs.  If anyone can point me towards any more of their records, please get in touch.

Stay Clean Jolene - "Red Salt":

Does It Float - "Speak For My Secret":