Thursday, July 27, 2017

The Blues Brothers - Expressway To Your Heart 7"


Atlantic (1980)

This 7" is another in my (for now) failed jukebox experiment.  Until I move into a new place that I can get the jukebox in, it's relegated to storage in the garage.  While I was gathering some Blues Brothers 7"s for it, it has kind of lit a fire under me to start tracking down some of the other 7"s of theirs that have picture sleeves.  Most of them aren't from America, but none of them seem particularly expensive.  From what I can tell, this one has no picture sleeve equivalent, so I'll write it up as is.

When I was a little kid (we're talking three to five years old) I had two Blues Brothers records; Briefcase Full Of Blues and Best Of The Blues Brothers.  While there was some overlap between the two, Best Of gave me the songs from the movie that I didn't have at the time.  I wouldn't get the soundtrack to the movie for quite a few years later, maybe not until I was nine or ten.  Best Of The Blues Brothers also had one song from the Made In America album (that I wouldn't get until I was probably a teenager) and three songs not on any other record.  Two were different recordings of songs from other albums, one was exclusive to this Best Of release.

"Expressway To Your Heart" is the exclusive song from that album and the A side of this 7".  I have always loved the Blues Brothers version of this song.  The loud chunky piano, horn accompaniment and the insane Duck Dunn bass just resonates with me so much.  I also love the way the the vocals work in the "I was wrong/it took too long" part.  Just great.  

The B side on this is "Rubber Biscuit."  The version of "Rubber Biscuit" is from the Best Of album and is different from the one found on Briefcase Full Of Blues.  I prefer the one on Briefcase and it has been my favorite Blues Brothers song forever.  That being said, I do really like this version of the song as well.  It's a bit longer and has a cool drum beat over the breakdown at the end of the song.  I think the lyrics (if you can call them that) are better and more clear on the Briefcase version, but both are A-OK by me.

The Blues Brothers - "Expressway To Your Heart":

The Blues Brothers - "Rubber Biscuit" Best Of Version:

Wednesday, July 26, 2017

Shipyards - 見つかった CDEP


Self Released (2010)

Shipyards is a band that has quickly become one of my very favorites in a Japanese punk scene that has more than a few amazing bands already.  I have both of their full albums and while I was in Japan I was able to find this CD EP of a demo of theirs.  Of course I had to pick that up for the collection.

This demo predates Shipyards' first album and two of the songs from the CD would end up on that full length.  Both "Bad Illusion" and "Someday in the Rain" are so great, even in this early form.  Sure, the recording is a little fuzzier but the way this band has captured the energy of these songs on this disc is something to behold.  It just seems like the band was formed and they were instantly great.

The two other main songs on this release are also fantastic and I don't believe that they've been released on anything else, but I could be mistaken.  I always seem to stumble across Japanese releases that I had no idea existed.  "Devil Comes" and "No Way" show how this band has taken an obvious appreciation for Leatherface and mid 90's UK punk rock and put their own spin on it.  The rhythm section is fast and punchy and the guitars create a powerful and dynamic blast.  The fact that these songs are so good on a demo is pretty impressive.  The fact that their full lengths are even better is damn near terrifying.  Shipyards is a great band.  I want more!

Shipyards - "Bad Illusion" (This is the version from their first full length, I can't find anything from the demo online):

Tuesday, July 25, 2017

Your Pest Band - Old Springhead 2xLP


Snuffy Smiles / Brassneck / Dead Broke (2017)

Over the last few years, Your Pest Band has been one of the most prolific and consistently great bands from Japan.  To the best of my knowledge, I have everything they've released and will continue to buy everything they put out.  That being said, Old Springhead isn't my favorite of their records, but it's still pretty great.

If there's one criticism I have with Old Springhead it's that it is just a little too long.  I'm not sure that Your Pest Band needed to do the double LP here.  Trim off a few songs and put out a 7" or two in addition to this LP would have kept the album a little tighter.  I'd also be remiss if I didn't point out that the fifteen plus minute long "Swell" is pretty tough to get through.  My favorite Your Pest Band songs are the ones that are catchy and blast in and out again.

Old Springhead has plenty of great songs that lean on the strengths of Your Best Band.  The title track "Old Springhead" is a picture perfect example of what I love about this band.  A catchy lead guitar riff, a fast paced drum beat and a killer vocal melody combine to make it a true highlight.  There are so many great songs on this album from the 50's tinged "Found Out" to the bouncy pop of "Nothing" to "Exits," maybe the best song on the entire album.  This is truly a great record, I probably would have just preferred it be a little shorter, that's all.

Your Best Band - Old Springhead:

Monday, July 24, 2017

J Church - Racked 7"


Vagrant (1995)

"Racked" is the song that got me to give J Church another chance recently.  Prior to hearing "Racked" it was the combination of an intimidating discography and having heard mediocre songs by them when I first became aware of the band that kept me from really pursuing any of their records.  "Racked" was such a perfect song that it made me give them another try, and I'm quite glad I did.  Arbor Vitae has become a frequently played LP and I'm starting down that dark path to pick up a few more of their records.  While I don't think I'll ever have the courage to tackle their entire discography (it really is insane), I am going to search out the highlights.  

I wasn't even planning to get the Racked 7" yet, but a friend of mine was purging it from his collection and I figured it would be a great addition to the jukebox project.  Sadly that project is on hold, but at least I have a few new J Church songs.  The way "Racked" combines the upbeat chorus, palm mutes and harmonics in the solo, it really is just an amazing two minutes.  I would encourage everyone to start there if you aren't familiar with the band.

On the B side we have two more songs.  The first is "Mary's Moving Out."  This one is a smash hit as well.  A blisteringly noisy guitar squall starts things off, giving way to a fast paced and dynamic verse.  It's a really short song, but it's excellent.  The last song on this 7" is "You Fucking Trick."  This one isn't your standard J Church pop punk, it sounds more like one of those noisy, sludgy songs Fluf would sneak onto their albums.  It's not awful, but it isn't for me.  Still, just for the first two songs I'd recommend checking this out, especially if you've been looking for an easy entry point into the vast J Church discography.

J Church - "Racked":

J Church - "Mary's Moving Out":

J Church - "You Fucking Trick":

Thursday, July 20, 2017

Needles//Pins - Good Night, Tomorrow LP - Coke Bottle Clear Vinyl (/100)


Dirt Cult / Mint (2017)

I've been a pretty big fan of Needles//Pins for quite some time.  From trying desperately to get their first record label to actually mail me the LP I ordered (I'm pretty sure the band had to intervene on my behalf to finally get me said record) to their newest LP on Mint and Dirt Cult, this is a band I've been all in on.  I think I've mentioned before that the record that I first hear about a band tends to be my favorite of theirs.  Needles//Pins breaks that mold as Good Night, Tomorrow is their best yet.

While the band still has the sort of embedded Canadian pop energy shared by many of their peers, Needles//Pins takes a bit of a turn with their sound on their latest.  It's a little more punk than power pop.  Vocally they're really embracing their gruffness, eschewing some of the nasally inclinations of the past.  The result is an album that leans sonically closer to early Leatherface than Bum or Steve Adamyk Band.

Another change in the band is the overall tempo of the songs.  Things are slowed down a bit on Good Night, Tomorrow to great success.  It gives every chord and riff more meaning and it lets everything breathe a bit.  While the songs on this album aren't slow by any means, taking thing down just a notch has let the band really find their stride and they churn out hit after hit as a result.  It's a pretty great and one of the better records I've heard this year.  Worth checking out for sure.

Needles//Pins - Good Night, Tomorrow:

Wednesday, July 19, 2017

Dog Hotel - Dance On The Cake 7"


Debauch Mood (2012)

I picked up this Dog Hotel 7" as part of my vinyl haul from the record shops of Tokyo.  I had originally heard of Dog Hotel from one of those multi-band compilation 7"s that Snuffy Smiles used to put out every so often.  I haven't seen one of those in a bit, but they were a good way for me to hear some of the new sounds of Japanese punk rock.  For whatever reason, Dog Hotel didn't cross my radar again until I was actually in Japan.

I'm so glad I picked up this 7" as it is pretty damn great.  Dog Hotel is playing an interesting hybrid of old school 90's pop punk smashed together with more modern garage-y power pop sounds.  The result is a band that kind of plays like the Marked Men at times, but can venture out more into less strict musical territory.

The big hit on this record is "In The Hole."  Somehow, Dog Hotel has taken the weirdest, most bent sounding guitar riff I have ever heard and managed to contort it into the hookiest thing I've listened to in ages.  I can't even really do justice to it with a description, just click play below and be blown away by its insanity.  Some digging around has shown that Dog Hotel has at least one split 7" out there that I don't have.  If anyone else can point me to more records by these guys, I will buy them immediately.

Dog Hotel - "In The Hole":

Tuesday, July 18, 2017

Superchunk - I Got Cut 7"


Merge (2017)

One morning a few weeks ago, I woke up to find an email in my inbox from the Merge records mailing list.  It let me know there was a new, limited Superchunk 7" being released to benefit Planned Parenthood.  There was a black vinyl version and an even more limited one on pink vinyl.  Despite ordering it super early in the morning, I wasn't quick enough to snag the pink vinyl version.  That being said, though I do try to maintain a complete Superchunk 7" collection, I've never hunted variants for them and I'm totally fine with the black vinyl version.  Especially since it benefits a good cause.

The A side "I Got Cut" is a new Superchunk original.  Starting off with a squeal of feedback, the guitars quickly sync up with the pounding drum and we're off to the races.  It's a pretty classic Superchunk song, evoking all of those same feelings as when I first started listening to the band.  When they keep things upbeat and energetic, is there a better band?  This one may be a little heavy on lead guitar riffs, but not enough to spoil the good time.

On the B side is "Up Against The Wall."  This is a cover of a song originally done by the Tom Robinson Band.  I'm not particularly familiar with them or this song, so the Superchink version is my first time hearing this.  It's pretty obvious that the source material is tried and true late 70's UK punk/power pop.  Superchunk's version is great with a driving rhythm section and bouncy guitar riff.  In fact, I may prefer it to the A side as it has an innate catchiness that just makes my head start nodding every time I listen to it.  This is a really strong single and I hope it means that Superchunk is off somewhere working on a new full length as well.

Superchunk - I Got Cut 7":

Monday, July 17, 2017

Ron Ron Clou - Second Runner LP


K.O.G.A. (2003)

Second Runner is the second full length release by Ron Ron Clou and it's the third album of theirs that I've written about on this site.  Sadly, this will be the last one.  Well, it'll be the last full length anyway, they do have a couple of 7"s out there that I don't have, so you may not have heard the last of these guys.

Second Runner starts off with "Merry Go Round." "Merry Go Round" leads with a stuttering guitar riff that's really similar to the "I Want The Moon" by Leatherface, but it quickly shifts to what Ron Ron Clou does best; straightforward mod influenced pop.  I still think they have similarities with bands like Odd Numbers or The Vacant Lot, but they definitely put their own spin on things keeping each song energetic and upbeat.

Another song that leaps out at me is "The Golden Country."  It has a full on pop vibe that reminds me a lot of another older Japanese band called Popcatcher.  I have a bunch of CD singles by Popcatcher and let me tell you, those are some good pop songs.  I think if forced to make a choice I like Ron Ron Clou's debut, First Album, a bit better, but only slightly so.  Second Runner is also pretty great and I'm happy to have all of the band's full lengths in the collection finally. 

Thursday, July 13, 2017

The Blues Brothers - Soul Man 7"


Atlantic (1978)

Recently, my wife and I were gifted a jukebox from the early 80's.  It's a beast of a machine that holds one hundred 7"s.  While we were plotting its delivery to our place, I started picking up a few 7"s for it.  I wasn't going to put any records from my personal collection in it, the plan was to buy duplicates of some key records.  I also figured it was a no brainer to put in a few Blues Brothers 7"s.  I actually didn't own any of their singles, as I've had the full lengths for a millions years.  Unfortunately, I put the cart before the horse and the movers weren't able to get the jukebox up the stairs.  By luck, we do have a garage so it has been moved there for storage.  We'll probably move out of our currently place in a year, so I'm hopeful this is just a temporary fix.

However, I've amassed a bit of a Blues Brothers singles collection (along with a couple of other odds and ends) so I'll write up a few of them here.  "Soul Man" seems like an obvious place to start.  This is probably the song most associated with the Blues Brothers, though as the years go by I think people are becoming more familiar with the songs from the movie rather than their big hit single from 1978.  The version on this 7" is the same as on Briefcase Full Of Blues.  It's simply a classic; one of my very favorite songs.

On the B side is a song that wasn't on the album, "Excusez Moi Mon Cherie."  This is the only non album, Blues Brothers B side that exists.  I had no idea that it was out there as a kid.  The first time I ever heard the song was when I picked up a Blues Brothers CD that compiled every song they ever released about a dozen years ago.  The main reason I bought that CD was for this song.  

Despite not being a part of the full album, it's a song that is definitely of the era.  As usual the band is absolutely on fire, with a driving Duck Dunn bassline, rag time piano and potent horn blasts.  Jake/John whips through the song with his usual passion and it's just a thing to behold.  While it's a little weird that I never heard this song as a kid, there's something really neat about finding a relic from that time to listen to with grown up ears.  It's the closest thing the band has to a lost song and I'm really glad it's out there.  I'm even more glad that it's in the collection properly now.

Blues Brothers - "Soul Man":

Blues Brothers - "Excusez Moi Mon Cherie":

Wednesday, July 12, 2017

Warm Soda - I Don't Wanna Grow Up - Clear Blue Vinyl


Castle Face (2017)

I Don't Wanna Grow Up is being advertised as the final Warm Soda album.  It looks like Matthew Melton is moving on to his new psych band Dream Machine.  I'm glad that Warm Soda was given a last hurrah as I've listened to a handful of Dream Machine songs and I will not be following him to that band.  Dream Machine is not for me, but Warm Soda had a solid run of four pretty great albums.

I will say that I'm not as blown away by this last Warm Soda record.  Don't get me wrong, it's good, but it feels a little flat after how great 2015's Symbolic Dream was.  In a lot of ways, I Don't Wanna Grow Up reminds me a lot of the band's second album, Young Reckless Hearts.  It's good, but can't quite live up to the one that came out before it.

That's not to say that I Don't Wanna Grow Up doesn't have it's share of highlights.  Very few people can pull off the breathy AM radio power pop like Matthew Melton.  Album opener "Young In Heart" sets the stage with an upbeat, jangly guitar and octaves in all the right places.  "Don't Leave Me For Another Guy" showcases the band's ability to mix 50's pop themes with modern day power pop.  

Let's face it, there isn't a bad song on the record, but if I'm ranking Warm Soda albums, I Don't Wanna Grow Up would be on the bottom half.  Still, it's up against a couple of pretty stellar releases and it does have its share of hits.

Warm Soda - I Don't Wanna Grow Up:

Tuesday, July 11, 2017

Bear Trade - Silent Unspeakable LP - White/Brown Split Color Vinyl (/200)


Dead Broke / Everything Sucks (2017)

I'm a sucker for split color vinyl for some reason.  I just think it's the coolest looking variant you can have.  This particular split of brown and white (or 'Chips & Gravy' as they're calling it) is one of my favorites I've seen.  I think it's a great combo and it matches the blown out photograph on the album cover quite well.  Good job all around on the artwork.

Luckily this isn't just a pretty package with no substance, Bear Trade's sophomore LP serves up another dose of their working man's punk rock.  There is also a vibe from this band that is so quintessentially British that you'll never have any doubt as to where these guys call home.  In addition to carrying around the influences of some of the UK's best like Leatherface or Hooton 3 Car, they also manage to paint stories in their songs that really drive that feeling home. 

Comparing Silent Unspeakable to the band's last album Blood & Sand, it seems to me that the songs are slower over all, with more emphasis on storytelling and less concern about being fast or loud.  The album has a cohesive feeling as if each song is building on the one that preceded it.  In some ways it reminds me of the last Arrivals record.  As a whole, I think Silent Unspeakable is the best of Bear Trade and should be a must listen for anyone into melodic UK punk.

Bear Trade - Silent Unspeakable:

Monday, July 10, 2017

Lack Of Sense - Small Lights Over There CD


I Hate Smoke (2014)

Even though it's been six months since I've been in Japan, I still have a stack of CDs by Japanese bands that I haven't written about yet.  This is likely not going to be helped by the fact that another pile of them is currently on its way across the ocean to me right now.  Lack Of Sense is a band that I can't say I had heard of when this record originally came out a couple of years ago, but I'm sure glad I've been able to listen to them now.

Lack Of Sense will appeal to folks that are interested in the Dillinger Fours and Iron Chics of the world.  It's tough, working class punk rock that walks a tightrope between melodic singalong choruses and the sort of razor sharp hooks that you can count on from D4.  There are a good amount of anthemic "whoas" in many of the album's songs.  It's always the sort of thing that makes me think the band would be a lot of fun to see live, with everyone singing along and raising an arm during these parts.

Anyway, I'm definitely glad that I picked up this Lack Of Sense album.  I don't think that the band has released anything else since this album, so I hope they're still around.  I would definitely be interested in hearing more from these guys.

Lack Of Sense - "Just Time Now":

Lack Of Sense - "Take Me Out There":

Friday, July 7, 2017

Not Wonk - This Ordinary LP


Kili Kili Villa (2016)

I really enjoyed the first Not Wonk record that I picked up while in Japan, so it was a no brainer to grab their second album as well.  This Ordinary is a slight evolution from the band's last album Laughing Nerds And A Wallflower.  While the real core of this record is based off of an obvious appreciation for 1990's UK rock like Mega City Four and Senseless Things, There are some noticeable changes this time out.

Most noticeable is the Not Wonk's movement towards an even poppier sound.  It's a little bit Brit pop, but I think a more accurate comparison would be to say they're starting to stake out the same sort of sonic territory that you'd usually associate with bands like The Posies or Beezewax.  Throughout the album, Not Wonk show a real mastery for crafting the sort melodic songs that get stuck in my head so very easily.  They tend to fall mostly on the mid tempo side of things, but always have an energy that pushes the song forward always driving towards that giant chorus.

I think at the end of the day I'm still a bit partial to Laughing Nerds And A Wallflower. That album has a rougher side that I think makes it a perfect introduction to the band.  With This Ordinary, the band is building on that framework and pushing their songs into new territory.  It's just as good, but in a somewhat different way.  You should pick up both, but maybe start with their debut.

Not Wonk - This Ordinary:

Thursday, July 6, 2017

Diablofurs - Sweet Janine 7" - Red Vinyl


Punk Fox (2016)

This is another record that was sent to me to review that I let sit around for much longer than I should have.  Apologies for that to Punk Fox.  I wish I could say it was worth the wait and a gushing review is about to be written, but sadly that isn't the case.  On the plus side, I didn't hate it either.

Diablofurs are a band that's mashing together a bunch of rock and roll influences with mixed results.  A side "Sweet Janine" has a really fuzzy, yet somehow slick guitar sound.  In some ways it reminds me a lot of Ash, but only from a tone perspective.  While I do enjoy the main guitar riff and the music in general, the vocals don't really do it for me.  They also employ a fuzzy distortion that doesn't really work for my taste.  That being said, it's not bad at all, I just don't see it being the sort of thing I'd listen to very much.

Of the flip side is "Flowers To Burn."  I don't like this one as much.  The fuzz is still there, but it's not as catchy as "Sweet Janine."  The song moves along at an okay clip, but for me it kind of falls off a cliff at the end where the band just keeps shouting "Flowers to Burn" for a while.  Perhaps if you're into some mid eighties style fuzz-punky throwback, this might be up your alley.  I think I can only throwback to the 90's without adverse side effects.

Diablo Furs - "Sweet Janine":

Wednesday, July 5, 2017

Mrs. Magician - You'll Fall In Love 7" - 3 Versions


Thrill Me (2016)

It's taken me way longer to review this 7" than it probably should have.  Let's get the pressing information out of the way first.  It's a pressing of 500 overall.  200 are on Black vinyl, 200 are on Coke Bottle Clear vinyl and 100 are on Doublemint vinyl.  The Doublemint in particular is pretty sharp looking.  It's an awesome color choice.

It's no secret that Mrs. Magician are just about my favorite current band.  There is very little they can do wrong in my book and this 7" is a perfect example of all of the things they do right.  The A side "You'll Fall In Love" is an upbeat and catchy entry into the Mrs. Magician catalog.  The guitars are clean and jangly and I absolutely love the way the chorus closes out the song with the overlapping vocals. 

On the B side we have "Spiritual Awakening."  This one is soaked in reverb and slow surf melodies.  I am, of course, partial to a faster pace, but when Mrs. Magician slows things down they have a real knack for keeping things interesting.  They have a way of layering melodies and tones that keep me enthralled.  At this point I'm all in on Mrs. Magician.  There's very little that they do that I don't love.  This 7" is no exception.  Two more fantastic songs to add to their already impressive resume.

Mrs. Magician - You'll Fall In Love 7":