Wednesday, August 31, 2016

Danger Signs - Reset LP


Big Neck (2016)

I think one of the reasons I still do this silly website is because I still read reviews and buy records because of them.  It's definitely not like it was when I was younger, but I still find value in the opinions of others.  That is how I discovered Danger Signs as I found the review of Reset on Razorcake.  The description seemed up my alley, so I decided to pick it up.  There wasn't anything I was able to find online to check out any songs, so I had to just rely on the written word.

I'm glad I took the chance as this is a pretty great record.  If anything, my biggest complaint is that it didn't come with a download code so I had to make my own MP3s of it in order to listen to it on the go.  Regarding the music itself, this is the sort of punked out, garagey stuff that I love.  If you imagine the fastest and loudest Marked Men songs, Danger Signs' slowest songs are a bit faster than that.  They are constantly in the red, tearing through song after song.

Occasionally, they go a little too fast for their own good and sacrifice the hooks and melodies for speed and a bit of shouting.  It's only a few times over the course of the record, but those are my least favorite moments.  I tend prefer the songs where Danger Signs are only playing at ridiculous speed as opposed to ludicrous speed.  These are guys that really know how to punch a hook into the middle of a song.  They will be chugging along when suddenly you are listening to the god damn catchiest thing you ever heard.

If you are into bands like The Marked Men, Chinese Telephones or maybe to a lesser extent The Carbonas, Danger Signs is worth checking out.  Unfortunately, you'll probably have a hard time finding a way to check them out and you may have to just take a chance on the record like I did.  I actually did find one song from the record on their Bandcamp, but that appears to be all that is out there.

Danger Sings - "Little Late":

Tuesday, August 30, 2016

Shallow Cuts - Empty Beach Town LP


No Idea (2016)

I have to admit, I was pretty excited to receive this album to review.  I have an older 7" by the band that I really like, so it was nice to finally be able to check out the band's debut full length.  Shallow Cuts is one of those bands that's not quite a band all the time.  The members live in different parts of the country and only get together a few times a year to work on music.  It kind of sounds like the same situation as the drummer I play with.  Except he lives in the same area as the rest of us but still only bothers to show up a couple of times a year.

Anyway, back to the matter at hand.  Empty Beach Town is a really strong release from Shallow Cuts.  The album has that feel of older punk rockers that are starting to slow things down a little bit.  They're taking a bit more time constructing their songs and building their hooks.  They're starting to let some rootsy Tom Petty and Springsteen influences subtly creep into their songs.  

In many ways I feel like this a record aimed square at my demographic; someone in their late thirties or early forties with a lot of Leatherface records in their collection.  Let's be honest, that is my demographic to a T.  And while I certainly wouldn't mind if Shallow Cuts had a little more of a bite to some of their songs, this is still a pretty great record and a really great listen when you're crashed out on the couch on a Sunday afternoon drinking a root beer.

Shallow Cuts - Empty Beach Town:

Thursday, August 25, 2016

The Urchin - 25 Complaints Beside 18 Years CD


Waterslide (2016)

I think I can say pretty easily that this CD is the best record I've ever been sent for review.  It probably doesn't hurt that The Urchin have long been one of my absolute favorite bands from Japan.  They haven't put out an album since their 2001 masterpiece Another Day, Another Sorry State, but I have always held out hope that they were going to release something new.  That's mostly because I saw that they have still been playing in Japan all of these years.  The bad news is that this CD isn't a new full length album, but the good news is that it compiles all of their non album songs into one place.  And hot damn are these songs great.

To me, The Urchin always felt like the Dillinger Four of Japan.  Every song they've ever released has been tight and catchy, with the sort of ridiculously hooky choruses that so few bands are capable of.  They've got so many amazing songs from their various 7"s they've been putting out over the past eighteen years.  Their entire run of Snuffy Smile 7"s are present as are various other splits, the songs from a self released CDEP, several compilation songs and even a couple that were previously unreleased.  Despite having hunted down as many records of theirs as I could find, there were still a few songs on this that I had never heard before.

Even though they haven't put out a new record in fifteen years, it would still be hard for you to convince me that The Urchin is not the best band in Japan.  The songs on this record reminded me just how much I love this band and if I have to wait another fifteen years for a new full length, so be it, I'll keep waiting.  Though, I would prefer to not have to wait that long if possible, so let's get some new songs recorded!

The Urchin - 25 Complaints Beside 18 Years:

Wednesday, August 24, 2016

A Giant Dog - Pile LP


Merge (2016)

Pile is the third album from A Giant Dog and the second one that I have purchased.  I think I should probably go back and pick up their first album as well because this makes two stellar albums in a row for the band.  Much like their last record Bone, Pile is a tour de force of powerful guitars, dark harmonies and spectacular hooks.

The vocals are mainly held down by Sabrina Ellis, with big time help in the backing and harmonies department by guitarist Andrew Cashen.  These two create a whirlwind of powerful howling into the night.  With tales of death, drugs and rock and roll, reading the lyrics alone you'd sometimes question what they heck you were actually listening to.  But this band has a way of disguising their dark themes within one of the most energetic and flat out rocking bands on the planet.  Sure, they might be able to "watch you die and not feel a thing," but you're not going to be all that upset since they've shared this information in the context of one of the best songs of the year, "Creep."

The album is consistently rocking from start to finish.  Sure, there are some minor variations.  Some songs drift into poppier territory while others have more of a glam hint to them.  There's a few garagey stompers and even a tender acoustic moment, but the entire time you just get the feeling that you are in the presence of a mighty powerful rock and roll tornado, bearing down on you at breakneck speed.  A Giant Dog really stand alone in today's world.  I can't think of too many bands that sound much like them, but they are essential listening for anyone that wants to have the doors blown off by a fierce rock and roll band.

A Giant Dog - Pile:

Tuesday, August 23, 2016

Beck - Mellow Gold LP - Purple Smoke Vinyl (/2016)


Bong Load (2016, Reissue)

I can say, without hesitation that Mellow Gold is both one of my favorite and one of the most important records I bought back when I was in high school.  Even though I've had the original pressing of this forever (the one with the alternate version of "Pay No Mind" on it), I still had to pick this new repress up for a few reasons.  First, I'm certainly a sucker for limited variants of all time favorite records (this is numbered out of two thousand and sixteen copies). Second, I wanted a copy of Mellow Gold on vinyl that had the regular version of "Pay No Mind" on it.  Lastly, I wanted a version that I could play without care and figured a remastered, 180 gram version of it would probably be the way to go.  I was correct in thinking that.

This pressing sounds spectacular.  Everything is crisp and clear.  The bass is warm and satisfying and even the more sparse acoustic songs just sound full and rich.  Comparing it to my original pressing, it actually sounds a little cleaner I think, but both are quite good.  I'm not sure exactly what they tweaked during the remastering process, but it certainly wasn't anything that changed the record other than making it sound great on vinyl.

The music on this record it some of the most influential I've listened to.  Listening to Beck made me start learning how to play guitar.  It was the first time I listened to something and felt I could maybe play some of that.  I first heard Mellow Gold from my friend Scott in high school, on cassette in the tape deck in his Dodge Sundance.  "Loser" wasn't really on my radar at all and the first Beck song I actually ever heard was "Soul Suckin' Jerk."  I liked it right away as I thought it had a cool Beastie Boys vibe to it.  As we went through the record, I was just dumbfounded on how varied the songs were.  By the time we got to the screaming chaos of "Motherfuker" I was sold.  I went out and bought my own copy right away.  

Then I figured out there were other Beck records out like Stereopathetic Soulmanure and One Foot in the Grave. Then I started buying all of the singles.  Then the import singles and from there on out it was a full on obsession.  Trading bootleg tapes with other fans was essentially the first thing I ever used the internet for.  

All of this started to wind down for me when Odelay came out.  Not that it isn't a great album, but Beck never felt the same to me after that.  He always felt more polished than he had when I was first getting into him.  He went from this insane misfit throwing shoes on TV to someone that people were suddenly taking very seriously.  It was never as much fun after that.  Though I've still bought and enjoyed every other record Beck has released, he was never able to recapture that lightning in a bottle of the Mellow Gold era for me.  Twenty two years on, I still listen to the kazoo solo at the end of "Steal My Body Home" and wonder how on earth he tricked a major label into releasing this wonderful mess as his debut full length album.  Genius.

Beck - "Pay No Mind":

Beck - "Nightmare Hippy Girl":

Beck - "Whiskeyclone Hotel City 1997":

Thursday, August 18, 2016

Bonehead - You 7"


Miss 45 (2016)

This is another 7" that was sent to me to review.  Artwork wise, I figured it had potential.  Though after listening to it, I'm pretty underwhelmed.  In the accompanying photocopied letter the person behind Bonehead, Alexandra, refers to herself as a "songwriter, producer, musician."  Maybe it's just the world I come from, but that sure seems like a weird trilogy of descriptions to lead with.  What's wrong with 'I made a record?' Anyway, the silly letter isn't the real problem with this 7".  The real problems are the songs and the recording quality.

The 7" starts off with "You." It's a really stripped down and basic song with a slinky bass line and low key vocals.  It has a real 60's vibe, that isn't necessarily bad, but it's nothing very memorable.  What really drags it down is the rudimentary drumming.  I'm not saying I could do better or anything, drums go off beat just with me being in the room sometimes, but I'm also not recording and releasing my own 7" with me drumming on it.

We then move on to "Gone Girl."  It sounds so completely different, recording wise.  The vocals are totally blown out and echo-y which kills any melody.  At least the drumming is a little better, well until the entire song goes completely off the rails during a really weird guitar solo.  Wrapping things up on the B side is "Take Out The Trash."  Again, the recording quality and volume shifts wildly.  The vocals are super compressed the way a cliche 80's song would be (think of that cover of "Money (That's What I Want)" by The Flying Lizards).  Oh, and there's a quick solo played by pushing buttons on a telephone.  Bad news.

Bonehead - You 7":

Wednesday, August 17, 2016

Lovemen - 1993 - 2000 CH. 2 CD


Waterslide (2015)

Today we have the companion release to yesterday's Lovemen CD.  Chapter two includes a lot of my very favorite Lovemen songs including the songs from their split 7"s with Hooton 3 Car, Eversor, Servo, The Tone, a couple of compilations as well as my favorite of their full lengths, Children Eat a Nightmare.  Also included as a bonus disc is Lovemen's second demo tape along with a song from a cassette only compilation.

As with chapter one, I have owned the vast majority of these songs for quite a few years.  The split 7"s are the records that got me interested in Lovemen originally and Children Eat a Nightmare is perhaps one of the best albums that Snuffy Smile had ever released.  Like everything from yesterday's CD, these records have been out of print forever, so it's so great to have these songs all compiled and available again on Waterslide records.

As far as the songs go, this is a masterclass in melodic punk rock.  Lovemen were very much inspired by the Snuffs, Leatherfaces and Mega City Fours of the day, but I never felt like Lovemen was trying to sound like one of these bands.  They took these influences and crafted something that was unique to them.  That along with the ability to unleash so much energy into their songs, regardless of how fast or how slow they are playing is what always drew me to this band.  I just want to ball my fist up, throw it in the air and shout along to everything coming out of my speakers.

Listening to all of these songs together, especially the 7" songs which I admittedly haven't played in quite some time, it really struck me just how amazing this band really is.  Just like with chapter one yesterday, this is just an essential release if you are interested in Japanese punk rock.

Lovemen - "Drive Back":

Lovemen - "Line":

Tuesday, August 16, 2016

Lovemen - 1993-2000 CH. 1 CD


Waterslide (2015)

Waterslide records from Japan sent me a package of CDs to review and I couldn't possibly be more excited about it.  Long time readers will probably know that Japanese punk rock is one of my absolute favorite things in the world.  It really started for me with Snuffy Smile records and the split 7"s they have been releasing since the 90's.  I think the first time I had heard of Snuffy Smile was when they put out the Goober Patrol/Sprocket Wheel split 7", but it was very soon after that they started a string of 7"s featuring some of my favorite UK bands like Broccoli, Skimmer, Travis Cut and Chopper.

At first the Japanese bands were just these other bands that happened to be on the records I was buying, but it didn't take long for these bands to start being the highlights.  Two of the first to really make an impact with me were Blew and Lovemen.  This Lovemen CD is the first chapter of a two part set compiling everything they released.  This first set includes the band's debut album December, the two tracks from their split 7" with Exit Condition, four compilation songs and a bonus disc containing their first four song demo tape. 

Now, I am a pretty huge Lovemen fan and I did already have the bulk of the songs on this set, but even for a completist like me, there we still new and interesting discoveries to make.  Lovemen created such a distinct sound in their day, melodic as can be with scratchy vocals that clawed their way into my heart.  The songs are incredibly dynamic with interesting chord changes and tempos.  They can throw down a straight ahead burner just as easily as they can slow things down and get really complex with their song structure.

To have everything compiled on this album is such a crazy thing to see for someone who spent so much time trying to hunt down these records in the dark ages of the 90's.  It's especially great as the vast, vast majority of these records have been out of print for ages.  If you have even the most passing interest in Japanese punk rock, this is an essential collection from one of the most important bands in the early days of the Snuffy Smile scene.

Lovemen - "Believe In Me":

Thursday, August 11, 2016

The Brokedowns / Direct Hit - Split 7"


Red Scare (2016)

I was sent this split 7" for review by Red Scare records.  They've never sent me anything before and I'll have to admit, I wasn't all that familiar with either band before listening to this 7".  Considering that the artwork struck me as being a little cheesy (ahem), I was actually pleasantly surprised that I ended up liking this as much as I did.

We'll start with The Brokedowns, a band whose name I have certainly seen around a lot .  Though, aside from a split 7" with Wide Angles that didn't really strike me as anything special, I haven't heard much by them.  Their 3 songs on this 7" are all totally fine.  They definitely have a midwestern punk vibe with vocals that have the same sort of urgency as the Paddy songs from Dillinger Four.  The hooks are nowhere at the level of D4, but all three songs are totally serviceable fast, gruffy vocal punk rock.

On the other side is Direct Hit.  They're a band I don't really know anything about.  Even though they sound eerily similar to The Brokedowns, they still manage to serve up two songs that are pretty good.  While The Brokedowns probably hold the edge in vocals, Direct Hit had the advantage when it comes to big catchy choruses.  Again, if you're into Dillinger Four or the mid 2000s No Idea records sort of bands, you may want to check these guys out.  Maybe this record isn't a blow away must own, but all in all, it's a solid little split 7".

The Brokedowns - "Hing Of The Dust":

Direct Hit - "Chemical Ability":

Wednesday, August 10, 2016

Rocket From The Crypt - Don't Drop The Baby 7" - 2 Versions


Swami (2016)

So this is pretty momentous, a new record by Rocket From The Crypt.  What's even more exciting is that unless this is a really obscure cover song that I can't find any information about, this is the first proper new Rocket song since the band got back together a couple of years ago.  I could not be more excited about this, if the world needs one thing right now, it's new Rocket From The Crypt music.

The story of this 7" is a little convoluted. Originally, the intent was to only have this available at the ill fated Drive Like Jehu curated All Tomorrow's Party.  When that festival shit the bed, this turned into a record that was being sold at some recent Rocket From The Crypt shows.  It started out in Denver Colorado and was sold as a one sided 7" with only the hand stamped artwork.  A good friend picked up a copy for me and I am forever grateful to him.

A few weeks later this 7" reappeared at the band's Chicago shows and then made the rounds on the East coast, stopping at New York City, Asbury Park and Boston.  This time around, in addition to the hand stamped cover, the blank B-side was replaced with the fancy screen printing that you see on the right.  This did two things.  First, it made the 7" about seventy three percent cooler than it already was.  But the second thing it did was create a rarer version without the screen print that seems to have been only sold at the Denver show.  Kind of neat and definitely keeps in line with Rocket From The Crypt's sprawling and complicated discography.  One of the toughest bands in the world to collect, I assure you.

Oh, and on top of everything else, the song is a sure fire hit single.  Chugging start/stop guitars, huge backing vocals and to sort of big hook that only Speedo can dish out.  It's a great song and leaves me thirsting for more.  All I can do is hope that this 7" is part of some sort of master plan to bring a new Rocket album into the world.  The fact that they are working on new material at all is cause for celebration, I just hope it leads to more.

Can't seem to find this song online anywhere at the moment, aside from as part of a radio show on WFMU, that also has a Rocket live set, so it's worth a listen:

Tuesday, August 9, 2016

Good Shade - Breakfast CD


Gut Genug (2016)

CD's do still have a place in my world.  Sure, I'd never buy one if there is a vinyl version available, but I'd rather buy a hundred CDs than one cassette.  At this point I can't imagine it's more expensive to do a cheapo CD than to do a cassette.  I haven't price checked either, but you'd think the CD duplication process would be a lot easier.  Regardless, even though I wish this new Good Shade album had been released on vinyl, I'm glad they avoided the tape route and went with a good old fashioned CD.

Good Shade is a band that is flying way under the radar and that's a damn shame because this is the second straight album they've released that just rips from start to finish.  Good Shade is the brain child of Shane Natalie and he plays all of the instruments on this album.  He was also in Tight Bros, a band that I really dig.  I'm not sure if they're still together though.  Anyone know?  Anyway, Breakfast is a non stop attack of hooks and buzz saw guitar.  A little bit Marked Men and a little bit Sonic Avenues.  I could certainly see this album on Dirtnap and it definitely deserves that kind of exposure.

2016 has been something of a lackluster year for new albums so far, especially truly great, fun pop albums.  This is the sort of record that turns your entire year around.  Breakfast is a top tier punked out pop album and it really should be picked up at all costs (and actually the cost is ridiculously cheap on the Good Shade Bandcamp page, so there's really no excuse).  Oh, there's also a little note in the CD artwork that just says "1 of 3" with no other info.  Could that mean Lunch and Dinner albums are on the way? I sure hope so.

Good Shade - Breakfast:

Monday, August 8, 2016

Liquid Breakfast - Let It Be 77 Again 7" - Yellow Vinyl - Variant Covers


Still Unbeatable (2015)

Still Unbeatable records from Germany sent these over to review and I was particularly interested in the fact that they sent me both versions of the same record.  To me, that shows there's a decent chance they might actually read this website unlike a lot of other records that randomly get sent over to me.  I especially like the Japanese cover variant, but the music doesn't live up to expectations.

Honestly, I'm not sure exactly what I was expecting.  The 7" is called Let It Be 77 Again after all. But this doesn't feel like a tribute to a time gone by, it feels like a hokey grab at fleeting memories from someone that can't move on.  I will be the first to admit that I have no idea who anyone in this band is, so if they're former members of some really important, yet obscure power poppers from the past; they're too obscure for me to know.  

There is a lot that bugs me about this record.  The singer sounds like a cartoon leprechaun.  The lyrics for "Let It Be 77 Again" are cliched at best and silly at worst.  The dual layered lead guitars on B-side "We Won't Do It More" sound like they were pulled out of the worst Castlevania game imaginable.  It's as if this band had the recipe for a couple of good songs, but then dumped in all of the wrong ingredients.  

If you really, really like everything and anything that sort of sounds like power pop and came out in the late 70's or early 80's or if you're just a gigantic fan of Lucky Charms cereal, it's possible you might dig this record.  Personally, I don't like marshmallows very much.  Or this record.  

Liquid Breakfast - "Let It Be 77 Again":

Thursday, August 4, 2016

Laika's Orbit - No Matter What It Takes LP


Total Negativity (2016)

This is one of the few instances where I can flatly say that I have no idea where I heard about this band.  Somewhere in my online record shopping excursions, I must have stumbled across this album and made a mental note to check them out at some point.  I flicked through a few songs on the Laika's Orbit Bandcamp page and then ordered the LP.  I wish I could thank whoever had drawn my attention to this record, because I absolutely love it.

This is the sort of perfect, medium-fi, bouncy pop record that I could listen to a hundred times a day.  Upbeat and energetic with killer vocal melodies and so many hooks that I'm almost tempted to write a bad analogy to compare the record to something that has a lot of hooks.  The first reference point that I immediately hear is the band Title Tracks, who coincidently had put out one of my favorite LPs of the past several years back in 2011.  I also think that fans of The Yolks would be into this, though Laika's Orbit strikes me as much catchier.  Did you like White Wires? Probably a good idea to check this record out.

I love everything about this album from the jangle of the rhythm guitar to the slight fuzz of the vocals to the perfect drumming and the bouncing bass lines.  This is absolutely, no questions asked one of the top five records I've heard this year.  Probably top three really.  I can't recommend it highly enough, especially if you are into any of the bands I mentioned way back in paragraph two.  Seriously, go buy this right now.

Laika's Orbit - No Matter What It Takes:

Wednesday, August 3, 2016

Notches - High Speed Crimes LP - Red Vinyl


Young Modern (2016)

When I reviewed the Notches 7" a couple of weeks ago I had mentioned that the songs were strong, but I thought the recording had ended up making things sound a bit flat.  They still showed a ton of potential and that potential is absolutely realized with their first full length album, High Speed Crimes. 

The first thing that leaps out at me is how much Notches are able to capture a real chaotic, but still supremely catchy, energy on this album.  They're able to combine higher pitched, melodic vocals and a fuzzed out, crunchy guitar sound that is always on the bleeding edge of being in the red.  Combine that with a drummer that sounds like he is beat the absolute shit out of his drum set and you've got yourselves a potent little band.  Notches remind me so much of early Rumspringer and that's high praise from me as I love that band (Side note: does anyone know if Rumpringer is still a band? Haven't heard anything out of them in quite some time).  

I say this in the most endearing way I possibly can: Notches are the absolute best kind of sloppy pop.  If you long for the days of bands like Corduroy or if you've taken a shine to something a bit more current like Hooper, I really can't imagine that Notches wouldn't also be right up your alley.

Notches - High Speed Crimes:

Tuesday, August 2, 2016

Toys That Kill - Sentimental Ward LP - Blue Vinyl (/200)


Recess (2016)

I was very late to the party with Toys That Kill.  I pretty much just started listening to them through their last album, Fambly 42.  I will say, that was a pretty amazing introduction to the band and I was primed and ready for Sentimental Ward.  While I don't think it's quite the earth shattering experience that Fambly was, Sentimental Ward is still a hell of a little record.

The thing that really strikes me about Toys That Kill is how much milage they can get out of repeating just a handful of chords.  Just like Rocket From The Crypt is able to own the world with repeating the G chord on "Sturdy Wrists," Toys That Kill can craft a supremely catchy and powerful song using only a handful of notes and chord changes.  I actually think it speaks to the talent of the band to be able to be so economical, yet still churn out hit after hit.

I do feel that 2016 has been a little all over the place with records this year.  Don't get me wrong, there's been some pretty tremendous albums so far, but there's also been some let downs.  Sentimental Ward is a very strong entry for the year.  While I don't anticipate it being a slam dunk top ten or anything, it's an easy top twenty and absolutely worth checking out if you're unfamiliar with the band.

Toys That Kill - Sentimental Ward:

Monday, August 1, 2016

Gutter - Rut 7" - White Vinyl


Speedowax / Punk Fox (2016)

I always approach any record I'm sent with some trepidation.  This Gutter 7" was sent over by Punk Fox who, though I have not liked quite a few of the records they have released, have kind of been on an upswing for me.  Plus it was co-released with Speedowax records, a label I have known and trusted for many years.  So maybe my hopes were a bit higher than they should have been or perhaps I just really had no idea what I was about to listen to, but I am absolutely not the target demographic for this record.

Gutter have that really slick sheen that I don't like on punk rock.  These guys sound like they're making a run to be on Equal Vision or one of those other labels that put out the sort of schmaltzy punk rock crooning that has never done anything for me.  It's not particularly dynamic and is really cookie cutter punk.  I could see it appealing to the younger folks that have taken over the Vinyl Collective message board, but it doesn't work for me.

I like my punk rock a little rougher around the edges,  I like things a bit catchier and I need to really feel like the band is excited about what they are doing.  Maybe the guys in Gutter love every one of these songs, but that enthusiasm just doesn't show through the recording.

Gutter- Rut 7":