Thursday, April 27, 2017

Summerman - Temperature Is... LP (/200)


KiliKiliVilla (2015)

One of the most amazing times I've ever had was at the PopKid/Waterslide show that happened while I was in Japan.  I've written about it over the course of some of the reviews I've done since I've been back.  This album is another direct result of that show.  While there I was able to meet so many wonderful people who were in bands I already admired and some who were in bands I hadn't previously heard of.  One of those bands I hadn't heard of before was Summerman.

A very kind fellow was nice enough to give me a Summerman live cassette.  While I haven't written about that yet, I will be in the future.  But that cassette inspired me to dig around for some more information about Summerman and I found out that not only had they released a full album, but it was actually on vinyl too.  I picked up a copy right away.

Temperature Is... quite simply is wonderful.  I absolutely love this record.  It's exactly the sort of thing I like to listen to.  The bulk of the album is breezy guitar pop with jangly guitars and lots of harmonies in the choruses.  There are parts of songs that remind me of the song structures of Beezewax but with a fuzzy dose of Superchunk tacked on for good measure.

The entire album is fantastic, but the true peak is a song called "青春" (On the band's Bandcamp page it's called "Youth" and Google translate comes up with the same thing when I type in 青春).  To put it plainly, this is one of the best songs I have heard in a long, long time.  I can't think of many songs that I love as much as this one.  From the way the guitars slowly build up at the beginning, to the main lead guitar riff blasting in, to the impassioned vocals that get even fuller and more dynamic as the song progresses, I love every single second.  I don't say this often, but "青春" is an absolutely perfect song.  Perfect.

A friend in Japan said the band is working on some new songs and I couldn't be happier.  I really want to hear as much as possible from Summerman, a great, great band.  

Seriously, go listen to "青春" right now.

Summerman - Temperature Is...:

Wednesday, April 26, 2017

Jim and the French Vanilla - Afraid of the House LP - Yellow Vinyl (/200)


Dirtnap (2017)

Jim and the French Vanilla is a spin off project by Jim Blaha, more famously known as one half of the Blind Shake's Blaha brothers.  Those boys in the Blink Shake have stockpiled so much good will with me over the last few years that it was a no brainer to pick this up.  I'm not sure exactly what I was expecting from this, something a little more poppy and traditional I think, but Afraid of the House defied my expectations.

I guess the most surprising aspect of this album to me is how much it sounds like pieces of the Blind Shake.  The jagged downstroke guitars are there as are the otherworldly solos and the drowned surfer vibe that has been creeping in on their more recent records.  These comparisons aren't complaints.  If anything, I'm kind of happy to have something with a similar vibe to Blind Shake to listen to.

I think where Afraid of the House really stands on its own is how varied it is within the context of the world it has created for itself.  Yes, most of the songs have signature sounds and tones that are consistent from song to song, but there is a lot of variety on this album.  You've got a faster paced rockers like "I'm Just Sitting Here," slowed down ones like "Not Even War" and frantic pounding on songs like "I Have to Slow Down."  It is the very definition of a good record.  I like all of the song and it's just something that's fun to listen to.  It is missing that certain something that would make it a drop dead great album, but it's absolutely worth checking out.

Jim and the French Vanilla - Afraid of the House LP:

Tuesday, April 25, 2017

Smalltown - Stuck 7"


Dull (2000)

Sorry about missing yesterday, it was one of those days where I just woke up and didn't feel like writing.  I was going to write about another Odd Numbers 7", but now it's Tuesday, so I'll just save it for next Monday.  Today I have another 7" from the same batch of records I bought on Discogs, the first Smalltown 7"

This band crept onto my radar the way a lot of bands do, they released some records on Snuffy Smile.  The big one of which was a singles compilation called The First Three Years.  All of the songs from this 7" also appeared on that CD, but it took nearly fifteen years to finally track down the 7".  Now truthfully I'm not going to pretend that I was scouring the globe nonstop every day looking for this record, but I always had my eye out for it, hopeful to score a copy.

The songs are among my favorite that Smalltown released.  I'll always be partial to that first CD of theirs that I picked up.  They have a way of merging a bouncy mod sound like The Jam or even The Odd Numbers at times with a grittier punkier rock that made them fit in on the Snuffy Smile roster.  It's the right mix of catchy and gruff and I'm pretty excited to add this one to the piles.  From the same order I also grabbed another 7" that appeared on that comp CD, so I'll post that one soon as well.

Smalltown - "Stuck":

Smalltown - "One Day At A Time":

Thursday, April 20, 2017

Dulac - Must Be You 7"


Access X Denied (2013)

A few years ago, Dulac put out a fantastic record called The First of the Last Chords.  It was a hit and I've been waiting to hear more from them.  Oddly enough it ended up being an older 7" of theirs that I didn't know existed that recently came across my radar.  Released in 2013, this four song 7" appears to be the vinyl version of the band's first cassette release.

If nothing it's a reminder of what a fierce and energetic band this is.  Channelling bands like Red Dons or early Estranged, they have the fast and melodic downstroke wizardry down pat.  But you really need to mix that with the pop sensibilities of a band like Statues to have a clearer picture of what Dulac brings to the table.  Each of the 4 songs on this 7" are just perfect; they've fast, loud and catchy - just how I want my music to sound.

A day or two after I bought this record, I stumbled across another newer Dulac 7" that had been released.  That one has been ordered and is on its way to me as well.  Look for that soon and hopefully the band is working up on a follow up full length.  I know I will buy it immediately.

Dulac - Must Be You 7":

Wednesday, April 19, 2017

Clearance - Are You Aware 7"


Tall Pat (2016)

The elephant in the room about Clearance is that it's virtually impossible to write about them without at least making a passing reference to Pavement.  I'm sure there will come a day (if it hasn't already come) that the guys in Clearance will get pretty sick of that comparison. For now it's still an apt reference point, especially for those that may not have yet heard of this wonderful band.

What really makes Clearance stand out is the breezy way they cruise through their songs while still projecting a laid back intensity that lets you know they're not just going through the motions.  The churning guitars in A-side "Are You Aware" propel the song forward.  It lurches into a screechy and jagged guitar solo before jumping right back on track, only to be derailed by a sleepy, but absolutely perfect, mellowed outro.

On the B-side "Owner/Operator" the vibe is a more laid back as the vocals glide over jangly chord progressions.  Things come to a head with the hooky chorus full of noodling guitar dynamics and a super catchy melody.  The download that comes with this 7" gives two additional bonus tracks.  Both are nice, but neither are on the 7".  It's good to have more songs from these guys, but I do hope they end up on wax at some point.

Clearance - Are You Aware 7":

Tuesday, April 18, 2017

J Church - Arbor Vitae LP


Rugger Bugger (1995)

Where to begin with J Church?  I guess I'll start by saying I was never really all that impressed with them way back when.  I had Camels, Spilled Coronas and the Sound of Mariachi Bands and I thought it was OK.  I went to see them play a show at the Pipeline in Newark, NJ and thought they were pretty good.  Over the years I've accumulated about a dozen J Church split 7"s, all bought for the band on the other side of the record.  It's not that I didn't like them, but nothing ever struck me as special and there seemed to be a lot of filler.

Let's not even start on how completely freaking intimidating their discography is.  I don't know if it would ever be possible to track it all down, so I was content just letting them exist in the background.  Then enter my buddy Alan who wanted to learn and play a J Church cover in the pseudo band we mess around with every so often.  He sent me the song "Racked."  Hot damn what a great song and it totally opened my eyes to the possibility that I've been overlooking these guys.

I picked up Arbor Vitae as it's the album with "Racked" on it.  The fact that the vinyl version came out on Rugger Bugger, an all time favorite label, just made it easier to pick up when I was digging around on on Discogs. I can't stress what a great song this is.  Chugging palm mutes in the right places, big catchy chorus and even some harmonics in the very brief guitar solo.  It's just a blast of sugary 1990's pop punk and I love it.  It's the clear highlight on the album, but everything on the record is really strong, especially the A side with "Cigarettes Kill," "Drinking Down" and "Your Shirt" really standing out as killer songs.  

This album is certainly not the sort of thing that would make me try to hunt down the entire J Church catalog.  I know that's a silly idea with my prior experiences with the band, but Arbor Vitae has opened my eyes and I'm certainly up for checking out some more of their albums if anyone out there has recommendations.

J Church - "Racked":

J Church - "Drinking Down":

J Church - "Cigarettes Kill":

Monday, April 17, 2017

The Odd Numbers - Thrift Shoppin' 7"


Sessions (1999)

I am getting closer to wrapping up the pile of Odd Numbers 7"s I recently picked up.  This is a later era one that came out of Sessions records.  Like many of their 7"s, you can also find these two songs on a full album as well, this time the songs are also on The Trials And Tribulations Of The Odd Numbers.  That's a record of theirs I'l admittedly not familiar with.  I don't own it and honestly, I didn't even know it was out there.  It'll have to be a pick up at some point.

That being said, for the first time I've been writing about The Odd Numbers both songs on this 7" are new to me.  "Thrift Shoppin'" is a pretty standard fast paced Odd Numbers songs.  Building over a bass line that rises and falls, it has a bit of a bouncy break before the hooky chorus kicks in.  A strong song for sure, even if the 'oohs' in the chorus sound a little silly.  

B-side "Dee Major Tom" is a bit choppier, though still retains the mod vibe that really is the hallmark of The Odd Numbers.  The song isn't much shorter than "Thrift Shoppin'" but for some reason it feels like it blows by so quickly.  I can't say that either of these really rank with my all-time favorite Odd Numbers songs, but both are respectable entries into their catalog.

The Odd Numbers - "Thrift Shoppin'":

The Odd Numbers - "Dee Major Tom":

Thursday, April 13, 2017

Hero Dishonest - Liha Ja Teräs LP


Peterwalkee (2016)

Over the past few months, I've received a few records to review.  Not too many, but a handful that I haven't really spent much time with as my record collection is still swelling from the influx of all the great Japanese records I bought in Tokyo.  Those, plus some excess older 90's things I picked up from one of my buddies and I've just had a lot on my plate.  I'm going to make a conscious effort to try to get caught up and this Hero Dishonest LP is my first attempt.

Unfortunately, I don't have a lot to say about this record.  It's one of those head scratchers that make me wonder why it was sent to me.  It's loud, fast, screaming hardcore from Finland.  Is it good hardcore or bad hardcore?  I don't know that I'm really qualified to say as I just don't like this sort of punk rock.  You have your punk, I have mine.

I'm pretty sure the lyrics are in Finnish, though they could be Swedish or even English and I still don't think I'd have any idea what the band was talking about.  Whatever it is, they sure seem upset about something.  I don't know.  Take a listen if you like this sort of thing, but it just gives me a headache.

Hero Dishonest - Liha Ja Teräs:

Wednesday, April 12, 2017

Ruby - Deadlock 7"


Rockstar (2017)

I was pretty excited to stumble across this Ruby 7" (along with a one-sided 12" that I'll be writing about soon enough).  Ruby is fronted by Andi, who was also in favorites of mine like Blank Pages and Idle Hands.  I was bummed when each of those previous bands split up, so it was good to see a new project come forward.  The best part?  Ruby essentially sounds the same as Blank Pages, who pretty much sounded the same as Idle Hands as well.

I realize that's a sloppy comparison, particularly as one of the songs has a completely different singer and there are a lot more backing vocals and harmonies than either of Andi's previous bands.  The truth is I love all three as they bring the sort of fast paced, jangly guitar sort of power pop that I go crazy for.  Imaging the hooks and downstroke madness of the Marked Men, but peel away the guitar distortion and you've sort of got Ruby.

I did have to order this and the 12" from overseas, so the cost is a bit higher when you factor in postage, but this is definitely one of the better 7"s I've heard this years.  It's worth picking up and I hope that I'll be hearing more from Ruby very soon.

Ruby - Deadlock 7":

Tuesday, April 11, 2017

Egotrunk - Letter CDEP


Nodevans (2005)

I've said before that I was very lucky to have Kazu from Waterslide records as a guide while record shopping in Tokyo.  For starters, he was invaluable helping to find some of the stores that were off the beaten path.  But where he really became indispensable was in the stores themselves, helping find things and recommending a slew of albums I would never have bought otherwise.  Egotrunk was one of his selections.

I'd never heard of the band prior to Kazu handing me this CD, but I was taken by the artwork right away.  The CD comes in a small envelope and the art itself is printed on a piece of transparent paper, the kind your teacher would have used on an overhead projector in the eighth grade in 1991.  It's a striking little package that really grabs your eye.  But once you've opened the envelope, it's the music that grabs your attention.

Starting things off is a slower instrumental intro song.  It's weaves and drifts through gently played guitar and reminds me quite a bit of Boys Life.  Once the rest of the songs kick in, the volume goes up.  There's still a bit of a 90's emo vibe to things, again with Boys Life being a good comparison, but that mixes with loud stuttering guitar riffs and catchy vocal melodies.  Nothing about this is the sort of mopey complaining a lot of people think of when you typically drop the "E" word.  This is much more akin to the sort of punchy songs you'd expect from Eversor or Rusty James.

Perusing the internet, it looks like Egotrunk have at least one more CDEP as well as a split that I'm going to have to track down.  If those songs are as good as these, it'll be worth the hunt.

Monday, April 10, 2017

The Odd Numbers - Easy Life 7"


Detour (1995)

I've still got a few more Odd Numbers 7"s to get through, so there's several more Mondays dedicated to their records coming up.  Today we have The Easy Life, a 7" of theirs from 1995.  I bought this one on Discogs along with a handful of other records a couple of weeks ago, mostly looking to fill holes in my collection.

The two songs on this 7" also make appearances on the Odd Numbers album A Guide To Modern Living.  When it came out, I was kind of disappointed in that album.  I didn't like it nearly as much as I liked Jazz Cigarettes so I honestly didn't listen to it all that often.  In fact, I didn't even end up keeping the CD of it as I must have sold it off during one of the purges of my CD collection.  Listening to it again, as I've gotten older, I actually like it a lot more than I did back then. 

The versions of the songs on this 7" are different than the album version.  Both seem a little muddier with a bit more fuzz and distortion on the guitars.  In particular, "The Easy Life" is a toe tapper and I find myself bobbing my head along to it as I listen.  But the version on the album is much cleaner and catchier.  "Clubbin'" is a little longwinded and meandering for me.  It's not really the Odd Numbers' best work if I'm being honest.  Still I wanted to lock down all of the Odd Numbers 7"s, so this was one that needed to be added to the pile.

The Odd Numbers - "The Easy Life":

The Odd Numbers - "Clubbin'":

Thursday, April 6, 2017

Crocodile God - Two Days 12"


Big Fella (1994)

You may remember several months ago I reviewed the 7" version of this single.  That was a really big deal to me as it had been at the very, very top of my wants list for nearly twenty years.  I always put more emphasis on finding the 7" version of this release, but I knew that in time, I'd need to hunt down the 12" version as well.

I first heard of Crocodile God from the Best Punk Rock In England, Man compilation compiled by Sean from Rugger Bugger and released on Snuffy Smile records.  That is also where I first heard of this release as in the liner notes Sean had mentioned the pressing plant did the second pressing of the 7" as a 12" by mistake.  At least I assume it was supposed to just be a repressing of the 7", though maybe Mark "Guitar" Murphy can chime in with the rest of the story. Regardless, a variant was born and while it has been an interesting hunt over the years, it's pretty satisfying to finally have both in the collection.

My opinion of the songs remains the same as the 7" review.  Not as fully realized as their next few 7"s, but solid songs that are on the buzzsaw side of UK punky pop.  I also still think the "Oi oi's" are kind of funny in "Kamarrah."  But more than anything, I'm just thrilled to own this piece of my punk rock history.  Croc God has a new split 7" out as well.  That is currently making its way across the ocean to me, so you'll be hearing more from them soon enough.

Crocodile God - "Kamarrah":

Tuesday, April 4, 2017

Shipyards - Night of Fire CD


Waterslide (2013)

Night of Fire is another album I picked up while in Japan.  before the trip I had been listening to the first Shipyards album About Lights quite a bit.  If you read the review I did of that album, you'll know that I absolutely loved it.  While in Japan, I really wanted to make sure I grabbed whatever else of theirs I could find and the first off that list was their debut full length Night of Fire.

In many ways Night of Fire is a pretty obvious precursor to About Lights as the two records have a pretty similar sound.  Shipyards is crafting the same sort of super energetic punk rock that made me fall in love with other Japanese punkers like Snatcher or International Jet Set.  The strained vocals convey a sense of urgency while the guitar interplay keeps everything sounding fresh and exciting.  But of course the real key for me is how catchy these songs are and how I immediately start tapping my foot whenever I put this album on.

I really wish I had been able to see Shipyards play when I was in Japan.  Their songs contain the sort of infectious energy and sing along choruses that I know would be an absolute blast to see in person.  It wasn't to be during my trip in December.  I guess that's just another reason why I need to go back to Japan some day.  In the meantime, I'll just keep listening to both Shipyards albums on repeat.

Shipyards - Night of Fire:

Monday, April 3, 2017

The Odd Numbers - From Cradle To Grave 7" - Green Vinyl


Eight One Nine (1992)

Another Monday, another Odd Numbers record.  This time up we have thew band's second 7".  As with a great many of Odd Numbers singles, all four of these songs are also on other releases.  Every song from this 7" is on the Retrofitted For Today album and the title track "From Cradle To Grave" is also on Jazz Cigarettes.  

We've got four classic Odd Numbers tracks on this one though. All four are upbeat mod rockers with great melody in the vocals and the sort of bouncy energy that sounds like late era Chisel or peak The Jam.

I do love this band and while I'm excited to add so many new singles to the collection, I do wish there were more songs that weren't already on other albums.  Still, they are great songs.

Odd Numbers - "From Cradle To Grave":