Tuesday, September 18, 2018
Secret Mission (2018)
This is the second 7" by Ruler that Secret Mission has sent over to me. I'm really grateful that they are putting out these records as it's a window into a Japanese punk scene that I'm just not very familiar with. Sure, I know Fink from a prior band he was in, Teengenerate, but there's so much of this garage-y style rock that isn't on my radar.
The first song on the 7" is "Jeanie Jeanie Jeanie." Of all the Ruler songs I've heard so far, it's probably my least favorite of the bunch. It's not a bad song, but I think the vocals are a bit off putting for me. There's a little too much growl in the delivery that distracts me from the otherwise fun guitar chugging.
The B side is the sort of song that is more my speed. "(It's Not) Saturday Night" has a much more obvious power pop edge to it and the growling vocals are significantly more subdued than they are on "Jeanie." There's great stutter stops in the breaks of the verse and a really catchy chorus. This is the best song I've hear by Ruler so far and I hope I'll be able to hear more from them in this vein.
Ruler - Jeanie Jeanie Jeanie 7"
Monday, September 17, 2018
Big Neck (2017)
This Fire Heads LP is my first exposure to this band, despite the fact that they've been going since 2012 under various other incarnations and even another name. That said, I am slightly more familiar with one of their guitar players, Bobby Hussy and his work in The Hussy. So I thought I had something of a frame of reference for this album.
One thing I can say is that this is a pretty dynamic record, blasting you in the face with noisy chaos like "Dirty Body" and "Next To Nothing" one minute only to drastically shift to bouncier poppy songs like "Dad's Theory" or "Park Walker" the next. For me, I favor the poppier songs and while I'm certainly one that likes their recordings a little loose and fuzzy, I think that the songs where Fire Heads shine the most are the ones that have a little more polish to them.
I don't love this record, but it's got a few pretty good songs on it that I think are probably worth checking out. Though, if you like scuzzier garage rock a bit more than power pop leaning bands, this LP may be more suited to your needs.
Fire Heads - S/T LP:
Thursday, September 13, 2018
Sideways is the second album by Hard Feelings, though it's the first I've heard from them. It's a really eclectic record that at times sounds like the one of the best bands I've ever heard and at other times leaves me scratching my head a little.
I will say this, the highs on this record are really high and absolutely make it a worthwhile pickup. Opener "Tomorrow Never Knows" and others like "Don't Know You" and "Evildoers" see the band as a fast paced, melodic punk powerhouse. Channeling crunchy guitars and midwestern basement show vibes into a potent blast of hooks. The band is firing on all cylinders and this side of their sound is pretty flawless.
When the band strays from that formula, the results are a bit more scattershot. There are huge successes like "Vision" that brings in a Marked Men meets A Giant Dog vibe. You could argue this is the best song on the album and it's a sheer delight to listen to.
But then there are songs like "Morality" and "Black Skies" that are glammy in a way that reminds me of the aforementioned A Giant Dog as well as the band Napalmpom. These songs really jump out when you're listening to the record and not always in the best way as they sound so different than what came before. I give a ton of credit for making a diverse record with surprises around every corner, but there are songs where, for me, it doesn't come together as well.
Still, the successful songs far outnumber the ones that I don't like as much and Sideways is a bold, inventive record that warrants multiple listens. Each time out it makes a little more sense to me.
Hard Feelings - Sideways
Wednesday, September 12, 2018
Self Released (2017)
I was really excited when Kazu from Waterslide Records told me he had the 2 Sick Worry demo CD for me. They were one of the bands that played the Waterslide/PopKid show that I got to go to when I was in Tokyo at the very beginning of 2017. 2 Sick Worry were one of the highlights of that show, so I've been looking forward to finally hearing more from them.
This demo CD contains three songs, two of which are just incredible, though criminally short. The first song is "Drawn" starts off at a million miles an hour until they reach the breakdown right before the chorus that emphasizes the incredible hook they've managed to cram in here. The other highlight is the third song "Change Of Rain." This one has a slightly (and I do mean slightly) slower tempo, but conjures the very best of bands like Navel or Skimmer. I'm particularly reminded of those bands when it comes to the vocals.
While the second song on this CD, "Heartache" doesn't soar quite as high as the other two, I'm really curious to see what 2 Sick Worry come up with as they keep writing and recording. After all, this is just a demo and the fact that they're so good already makes me thing great things are coming in the future.
2 Sick Worry - Demo:
Tuesday, September 11, 2018
Punk Fox / Speedowax (2018)
The first band on this split 7" is Deadcuts. A band that I really feel like I should be listening to more of, since they feature two members of the mighty Senseless Things. But every time I've tried to give them a listen, it just hasn't grabbed me like those old Senseless things records do. I realize it's tough to compare a band releasing music right now to records that that I really love from twenty five years ago, but if I know there's dudes from Senseless things in the band, I go in with a certain set of expectations, fair or not.
So by that measure, the two Deadcuts songs on this split 7" leave me a little flat once again. I think it's because they're just not pop enough. Both songs are more goth inspired, Cure sounding affairs with big swirling guitar sounds and raw, dark vocals. There's just nothing I can sink my teeth into as far as hooks go so once again, I feel like I'm missing something.
In stark contrast are Diablo Furs on the other side of this 7". This is a band that is nothing but hooks. I'd reviewed a 7" of theirs a few years ago, but the two songs on this split are infinitely better than what I've previously heard. "The Pressure Don't Stop" is bouncy with an older 80s mod-ish influence and is essentially a nonstop singalong chorus. It's simple, but endlessly catchy. "Hearts In Motion" is a more well rounded pop number with "whoas" in the right place and it drives relentlessly forward with energy and enthusiasm.
So while I don't really care for the two Deadcuts songs on this split, the Diablo Furs songs are definitely keepers.
Deadcuts - "Single":
Deadcuts - "The Less I Want The Less I Need":
Diablo Furs - "Pressure Don't Stop":
Diablo Furs - "Hearts In Motion":
Monday, September 10, 2018
Waterslide (2017, Reissue)
I feel like I've known the name of The Wimpy's for a really long time, but from what I can tell, I only have one compilation record that they appear on in my collection and nothing else. That compilation was a tribute album to the band Bum and The Wimpy's contribution of "Why Go Out Of Your Way" (from the Bum split 7" with Fifi and the Mach III) also makes an appearance on this CD as one of seven bonus tracks. It's really great.
But I'm getting ahead of myself. The main portion of this CD is a rerelease of the 2002 debut Wimpy's length album, Do The Wimpy's Hop. This is an album that you can kind of judge a little bit by its cover. I look at the cover artwork and I tend to think that this will be pop punk in the vein of the Ramones. Putting on the album, I found that I was correct. This is upbeat and catchy power pop punk that draws from the simple chord progressions of The Ramones and mixes them with Beach Boys style harmonies and backing vocals.
In some ways, I see similarities to the Hum Hums, but The Wimpy's have more of an older school 60s influence mixing with their Ramonescore tendencies. There's a little bit of a garage feel that you can hear manifest as lead guitar riffs in the breaks and a general energy that keeps this album cruising along.
I'm shocked that this album is twenty three tracks long and has a one hour and eight minute duration. It just flies by. Every song is so catchy that I can't help but think they must be an amazing live band. The songs have that sort of energy where I imagine the band plays everything twice as fast live and everyone in attendance is dancing and singing along. Sounds like a show I would want to be at.
The Wimpy's - Do The Wimpy's Hop:
Thursday, September 6, 2018
Atlantic (2013, Reissue)
This reissue of Wilson Pickett's first album for Atlantic came out a few years ago. This particular version came out on Red Vinyl and while it wasn't my absolute first choice for reissues (there was a 180g version from 2014 that I had my eye on), I was happy to discover that this red vinyl one was also a repress of the original mono mix.
This album has many more Wilson Pickett songs that I was previously familiar with than the last one I wrote about, It's Too Late. First of we have the absolute classic title track. That is one of songs that's just been ingrained in my brain as long as I can remember. As a kid getting my musical education from The Blue Brothers, songs like this immediately jumped out at me when I heard them back then.
But this album's greatness is not limited to its most famous single. Other incredible, soulful songs like "Take A Little Love," "That's a Man's Way" and "Don't Fight It" make this album an absolute treat to listen to. It's a record that sounds so fresh and exciting even though it's fifty three years old. The real insane thing to think about is that when I first heard these songs in the early 80s, they were not even 20 years old. That's less of a time gap than if I go back and listen to Pavement records now. This music (like the music of Pavement) is simply timeless and no matter how far in the rear view the release date gets, it is still as impactful as it ever was.
Wilson Pickett - "In The Midnight Hour":
Wilson Pickett - "Don't Fight It":
Wednesday, September 5, 2018
All In Vinyl (2018)
This split 7" finishes up the current All In Vinyl subscription series. It took a little longer to get everything out than previous volumes, but I sure could make an argument that it was their best series yet. To me it's been worth the wait, especially when closing out with a split this strong. This last 7" features a band I already know and love and another that I'm not particularly familiar with. To me, that's always the mark of a great split 7".
I've been listening to Needles//Pins since their first album 12:34. Watching their progression over the years has been nothing short of astounding. That first record sounds like a 33 1/3 LP played back at 45 in comparison to their more recent releases. This 7" is more akin to the band's recent album Good Night, Tomorrow. Both of the songs on this split feature gruff vocals over a mid tempo, but still very powerful base of melodic punk rock. The band really excels at this and their songs are significantly more dynamic than that first record.
Epic Problem is a band I'm not as familiar with for some reason, though for the life of me, I can't figure out why. Their name was super familiar and looking online I see that they put out records on Brassneck and Rad Girlfriend, so I really couldn't say how I don't have any of their other records. Honestly it makes no sense to the point where I went digging around in my 7" boxes to make sure I didn't have something hiding that I forgot about. No dice. Hopefully the songs on this 7" are as good a place to start as anywhere else. Both are the sort of UK working class punk rock that I think ultimately always spawns from Leatherface. Epic Problem are a bit more straightforward, perhaps owing more to the No Idea lineage of the sound. Both songs are top notch and a nice companion to the two Needles//Pins songs on the flip side.
Needles//Pins / Epic Problem - Split 7"
Tuesday, September 4, 2018
Self Released (2018, Reissue)
Back in 1988, Treepeople released a cassette only album called No Mouth Pipetting. This was back before Guilt, Regret, Embarrassment. I never had this cassette and only became aware of its existence a few years ago when I found it on Discogs. A little creative searching online led me to MP3s of the tape, but I never held out much hope for tracking one down. Then the band decided to start playing some shows again. And went on a short tour. And rereleased the whole thing on limited edition white vinyl. Crazy times.
Once I found out about this, I went a little nuts trying to track a copy down, finally locating one on the online shop of a record store in Boise. It's a little easier to get one now if you're looking as the band put their leftovers up on eBay. So go grab one before they're gone. I'll wait.
Back? This record is really great. Yes, the recording sounds a little dated and sure, in particular the drum fills sound really tinny. But that doesn't change the fact that the songs are still powerful and Doug Martsch & Scott Schmaljohn seem to have had a real chemistry with their guitar playing right away. For what is essentially a demo, Treepeople very obviously had their shit together pretty early on. The LP sounds a lot better than the files that were ripped from the original cassette that I had found online, but at the end of the day it is a self released record from 1988, so it's never going to sound like something recorded yesterday.
I'm thrilled that this album was released on vinyl. Now I don't need to looks for that original tape anymore and if there's one thing that my life doesn't need any more of, it's cassettes.
Treepeople - "Pack of Lies":
Treepeople - "Fish Basket":
Thursday, August 30, 2018
Headsparks are a band that remained a secret to me for far longer than it should have. Considering that the band features Andy from Donfisher, Ohno Express and GAN(!). I can't believe they've been around for years and had released three albums before I had caught wind of them. I'm doing my best to make up for lost time with the records I have of theirs now and the first one I'll write about on here is their album Beastro.
This particular version of Beastro is the version they sold on their 2017 tour of Japan. From what I've read it's a remastered version of an album they released in 2016. In addition to the new mastering, there's also new bass on every song from a new bass player who wasn't around for the original recording of the album. Having not heard the original version, I can't compare the two, but what I can say about this version of Beastro I have is that it's pretty damn great. And the bass sounds very nice.
Headsparks are playing the sort of melodic UK punk rock that's just about been my favorite kind of music since forever. They definitely highlight the melodic part of the equation and I find their songs to have the intricacies of some of the latter Leatherface records while still having the same sort of catchy urgency that you'd hear from Hooton 3 Car at the height of their powers. Every song on this album is a crackling with energy and super dynamic guitar work. It just creates a whirlwind of noise that still allows the melodies and hooks to shine through.
It's a hell of a record. I wish I had been paying attention to these guys all along, but I'll certainly be keeping track of them now. I have their most recent 2017 record, Vs. The Metric System, as well and I'll be writing a little bit about that one sometime in the next few weeks.
Headsparks - Beastro:
Wednesday, August 29, 2018
Secret Mission (2018, Reissue)
This LP is a reissue of a nearly twenty year old album from the Japanese band Firestarter. I can't say I know much about them. Honestly my knowledge of Japanese punk rock has always been more focused on the poppier, melodic side of things and I've never paid much attention to the Japanese garage rock scene. Admittedly, I know that scene is huge and way more visible to our side of the ocean than the pop punk that I like, but I've never really listened to much of it.
I'm not sure I'm going to do that deep dive now, but I will say that if I hear of any other bands like Firestarter, I'm certainly going to pay a little bit more attention. Yes, this definitely has a garage vibe to it with the sort of lead guitar riffs here and there that you'd expect. That said, more than anything this is a pop record. Pop in the way that you'd expect from Marvelous Darlings or The Barreracudas. Sickly sweet melodies and hooks blasted in your face as loud as they can get their guitars to go.
Songs like "Trashy Dreams" have that perfect combination of catchy guitar riffs with a killer chorus amplified further with perfect backing vocals. Amazingly it can segue directly into a song like "Flex Your Muscle." That one is just a straightforward, short explosion of tough guy guitar. Yet the two songs live side by side perfectly, giving the album a dynamic flow. This is one of two Firestarted reissues that I have and rest assured I'll be firing up Livin' On The Heat real soon. I wanted to spend more time getting familiar with their debut before I moved on to the other, but if it's half as good as this one is, I'll be pretty excited.
Firestarter - First Album:
Tuesday, August 28, 2018
Debt Offensive (2018)
Supercrush has really managed to tap into a very specific vein on 90s nostalgia for me with the four 7"s they've released over the past few years. There aren't many bands playing the sort of warm and fuzzy pop tunes that Supercrush seems to churn out effortlessly. Everything I love about bands like Poole and Super Deluxe is encapsulated in the perfect pop nuggets that Supercrush have been releasing.
The two new songs on this 7" are no exception. The band hasn't strayed from their winning formula, but they are focusing on the mellower side of their songwriting with these two songs. Both "I Can't Lie" and "Walking Backwards" are slower and more deliberate. But with the slower tempo, the band is able to conjure up such lush harmonies and really capture the essence of a lazy Sunday afternoon in the summer, with their tunes providing the cool breeze you are so desperately craving.
Four 7"s in and Supercrush continues to delight. I wonder if they will ever commit to a full album or if the plan is to keep with the 7" format. I would love to hear a full album by these guys, but as long as they keep the songs coming, I'll take them however I can get them.
Supercrush - I Can't Lie 7":
Monday, August 27, 2018
Dead Broke (2018, Reissue)
The start of a reissue campaign for Fifteen is giving me the opportunity to catch up on a band that I shamefully neglected until very recently. Despite my love of all things Crimpshrine for as long as I can remember, I never followed Jeff Ott to Fifteen. I'm not sure if I was totally aware of the link back in the 90s or if it was just another one of those times where the ability to buy everything I wanted to hear was hampered by finances. I certainly bought a lot of records back then and spent essentially every extra penny I had trying to find new sounds, but there was just so much coming out, it would have been impossible to get everything.
In hindsight, Fifteen is a band I should have found a way to scrape together a bit more cash for. As much as I like their records now, I feel like if I had heard these songs during those formative mid 90s years, they would have hit me just as hard as Crimpshrine did. Thus far The Choice Of A New Generation is the best Fifteen album I have heard. It's more energetic and catchy than the also great Swain's First Bike Ride. Everything also seems tighter, while still having that unmistakable fuzzy charm of those early Lookout records.
I'm really happy that Dead Broke started rereleasing these Fifteen albums. It sparked me to give them a try all these years later. I'm not sure where things go after this album. Once the band left Lookout they hopped around to a bunch of different labels and there doesn't seem to be a clear path, reissue wise. Looks like I might need to start tracking down some older records to keep my Fifteen journey going.
Fifteen - The Choice Of A New Generation:
Thursday, August 23, 2018
Since I'm out of Blues Brothers 7"s now, I figured I'd tackle some other records I've had building up for a while. My love of The Blues Brother first led me to Wilson Pickett. They called him out by name on the version of "Everybody Needs Somebody To Love" that appears on Best Of The Blues Brothers. "Land of 1,000 Dances" was used during the end credits of The Great Outdoors. My dad also had his song "Funky Broadway" that was on some mix tape of his that he'd play a lot. I thought what I heard sounded so much like the Blues Brothers and wanted to know more.
I've had a few Wilson Pickett best of's since I was a kid. I also had grabbed the reissue of The Exciting Wilson Pickett on Record Store Day a few years ago, but last year I decided I wanted to get the rest of his full length albums (at least to a point, I'm not interested in everything he did once we hit the 70s). As many had been reissued over the last few years, my wife picked me up some for my birthday and Christmas last year.
One that wasn't among the more high profile reissues was his first album from 1963, It's Too Late. I ended up scoring a sealed copy of the 1969 reissue that came out on Up Front records (based out of Linden, NJ if you're curious). I'm pretty shocked that the condition of this thing is so good. Maybe it's a more recent reissue than from 1969, but it sure seems like it's of that era to me based on the artwork and packaging.
The only song on this album that I was previously familiar with was the first track, "If You Need Me," which appears on a greatest hits album I've had since I was a kid. Everything else are songs that are new to me. They do sound like something from really early in his career. They're missing a little bit of the polish and the energy he'd manage to capture later. That said, there are still some incredible songs on here like "I'm Gonna Love You," "Baby Call On Me" and "I Can't Stop." Not sure this is one that I will listen to as much as some of his other albums, but some of these songs are stone cold hits.
Wilson Pickett - "If You Need Me":
Wilson Pickett - "I'm Gonna Love You":
Wilson Pickett - "I Can't Stop":
Wednesday, August 22, 2018
Bad Horror (2018)
My buddy Jason in Baltimore said I needed to check out Stayawakes from Southsea in England. There are times when Jason hasn't always been spot on with his recommendations, but man did he hit this one out of the park. Stayawakes' debut album is exactly the sort of thing that's right up my alley and I bought the UK import LP after listening to one and a half songs on their Bandcamp page. Hell, it's really the sort of thing we'd want to put out on PopKid, to be completely honest. The album is pretty perfect.
The easiest comparison for me to make, and the one that will make you understand why I think this would fit on PopKid, is that I find so many remarkable similarities to the band Beezewax. These guy could be their long lost doppelganger band. The way they weave Posies-esque melodies and harmonies into punchy Superchunk level energetic songs like "Keepsakes" and "No Shame" is comparable to my favorite Norwegian band. But they have an equal mastery of slowing down the pace and really sinking their teeth into a slower, beautiful song like "Sophie."
Each of the album's ten songs are amazing and build off of each other throughout the course of the record. This one is absolutely one of the best albums I've heard this year. And let's not forget they extra points they earn for the Ghostbusters reference album title. This is everything I would want from a band. Don't miss out.
Stayawakes - Dogs And Cats / Living Together LP:
Tuesday, August 21, 2018
Self Released (2015)
I had mentioned the other week that as soon as I had listened to The Pretty Flowers insanely great debut full length, Why Trains Crash, I immediately bought everything else they were selling on their Bandcamp page. That was a T shirt and two 7"s. This is their debut 7" that came out back in 2015. I can't believe this thing has been out in the world for three years and wasn't in my record collection. That's just wrong.
This 7" starts off with an early version of a song that ended up on their full length called "My Alchemist." Even this version, which is a bit more stripped down and is missing some of the backing harmonies and guitar flourishes, you can tell what a perfect, well written song it is at the very core. I just love it, not even sure what else to say. It's melodic and beautiful and catchy. I can't get over how great this band is.
The two songs on the B side are exclusive to this 7". The first is "In The Summer." It's a fast paced, pretty straightforward pop song. It once again showcases the bands incredible knack for writing hooks. It may be a little simpler than some of their other songs, but it punches above its weight.
Lastly we have a cover song; "Panama." No, not that shitty Van Helen song. This Panama is a J Church cover from their Tide Of Fate 7". I'm admittedly not as thoroughly knowledgable on J Church's vast discography as a lot of folks are, but I know this song. I'm not sure where from, because I have a lot of J Church catching up to do, but this Pretty Flowers version is definitely not the first time I've heard this song. The Pretty Flowers version is great too. What can I say, everything they touch turns to gold.
The Pretty Flowers - My Alchemist 7":
Monday, August 20, 2018
Red Eyes is the 2nd full length album from Thirsty Chords and it's their third release that I've written about since I became aware of the band. I had first discovered them as their name had come up more than a few times while I was looking for some more information about the equally great band Bows. They seem to be kindred spirits, and I'm really glad that the searching led me to Thirsty Chords. Red Eyes, like their other releases, is simply fantastic.
Thirsty Chord's version of melodic punk rock often reminds me of fellow countrymen Minority Blues Band, although I find Thirsty Chords write poppier songs with bigger hooks. Where I see the most similarities with Minority Blues Band is how Thirsty Chords' songs are bursting with energy to the point where it sometimes seems like the song may come unglued at any moment. But Thirsty Chords never lose it, their chaos is controlled as the verses ball themselves up and let loose with super catchy choruses.
There are so many great melodic punk rock bands in Japan. If you enjoy any of the bands I've written about like Gleam Garden, Short Straw Fate, Bows or anything on Waterslide or Snuffy Smile, I can't imagine you not digging Thirsty Chords just as much. Red Eyes is just as great as anything those bands and labels have released.
Thirsty Chords - "Lenticular":
Thursday, August 16, 2018
I Hate Smoke (2018)
This five song CD was recently released on I Hate Smoke records, a label I've become more familiar with over the past year or so and one that I'm starting to trust just seeing their logo on a release. The Sensations are another band that's new to me, but I'm pretty impressed by this first encounter.
Dig Your Own Grave is very much a fun, Japanese pop punk record. It's got a slicker style of production and at times the gang vocal harmonies (and the slight amount of ska that creeps into the songs "Time Flies" and "Keep Your Rough") remind me a little bit of the Beat Crusaders (and you know how much I love the Beat Crusaders since PopKid put out one of their records). Another thing about this EP that really stands out is the dynamic drumming, running the gamut from fast paced to lower rumbles with super smooth fills and transitions every time.
While I wouldn't necessarily rank The Sensations as one of the greatest things I've heard in my entire life, all five of these songs are fun, catchy and the EP just breezes on by. It also goes out on a high note as it closes with it's strongest song, "Feel Like Yesterday." It has much in common with the various Snuff "Nick" songs from over the years. Mid tempo, a bit soulful and catchy as can be. It's a keeper.
The Sensations - Dig Your Own Grave:
Wednesday, August 15, 2018
Snappy Little Numbers (2018)
My only previous exposure to Dirty Few was via a split 7" they did on Snappy Little Numbers a few years ago. I dug those songs quite a bit, and felt like they sounded somewhat like Randy, specifically of the Welfare Problems era. These new songs don't sound like that at all. Luckily they're still good, but it's a pretty big shift from what I was expecting.
Where their songs from the split were tightly wound, energetic explosions, the four songs on this new Volcom Sessions ease off the throttle quite a bit. The band is taking their time, letting their songs breathe and just sort of relishing in a slower, boozy vibe. While they show they can still punch with the best on the more energetic "Die High," the other three seem like the band has taken more inspiration from The Replacements, though with a much higher propensity to mention partying in the lyrics of their songs.
This is a solid 7". It's not a super great, can't miss sort of release like a lot of the things that Snappy Little Numbers releases, but it's a totally enjoyable four song affair. It's also possible that I just don't party often enough to really appreciate the genius of these songs. But I'm old and tired.
Dirty Few - Volcom Sessions:
Tuesday, August 14, 2018
Big Neck (2018)
From the first moments of the album opening title track, it's pretty obvious that Imaginary World has a vibe to it. What that vibe is, can be a little tougher to lock down as the band does tend to wear a lot of different hats throughout the course of this record. The song "Imaginary World" has a slow, deliberate pace with a punk meets dark western feel to it. It sounds like the sort of thing they would play on that TV show Westworld. Though I've only seen the first episode of that show, so use discretion on how accurate that claim may be.
As the album progresses, the tempos change and the melodies evolve, but there always is a certain darkness to it and a feeling like the song was pulled out of some foreign cowboy movie that was really depressing. That might read like I'm taking a shot at or saying something bad about this record, but I'm not. I actually like it quite a bit oddly enough. It's just different enough from everything else out there that it really stands out and the songs are really impactful.
It probably also helps that there are moments where I can connect Twin Guns to other albums in my record collection. If I listen hard enough I can hear elements that remind me of The Estranged or even the Red Dons, it's that same sort of fight against the bleakness that I can get behind. I'm not sure this is the sort of album I could see myself listening to all the time or anything, but on a rainy Sunday morning or on a particularly down commute home from work, this is the sort of record that helps cope with those sorts of moods. This isn't something I would have likely picked up had Big Neck sent me a copy to review. I'm not sure it would have been on my radar, but it's worth checking out.
Twin Guns - Imaginary World:
Monday, August 13, 2018
Kitschy Spirit (2018)
I'm not sure exactly what I was expecting when I first got this record in the mail from Kitschy Spirit. It didn't really look like the sort of thing I would be into. I kind of pegged for a noisy slab of hardcore that I would end up gritting my teeth through. While I would not go so far as to say I really like this all that much, I definitely misjudged the book due to it's cover.
Things start off with Trash Knife, a band that I actually think I might like a bit if they could sort out the recording and levels of everything. The music itself, is fast and powerful, reminding me of a treble heavy Royal Headache, but played at double speed. The vocals are what keep me from really enjoying it. They're buried so deep into the mix that you can barely hear them, and the parts that you can hear sound kind of strained. There's potential, but this particular batch of songs does them no real favors.
On the flip we have Dumb Vision. They're playing a kind of sloppy, garage tinged batch of Ramones-y songs. They're fast and moderately catchy, but again, the vocals are totally obscured by the guitar fuzz. They're mixed a little bit better that Trash Knife, so I can hear what's going on more, but it hurts what otherwise sounds like three pretty decent songs.
I'd be curious to hear more by both of these bands, but what they've churned out on this specific 7" isn't really for me.
Trash Knife / Dumb Vision - Split 7"
Thursday, August 9, 2018
This 7" is just like the one I posted about a couple of weeks ago, except with different songs and worse artwork. Like the first Collection Medley 7", this one has the same song on both sides. That song is a medley of a minute or so of 3 Blues Brothers songs mashed together. This time we have "Who's Making Love," "Soul Man" and "Gimme Some Lovin'." All three are obviously great songs, but I still just don't see the purpose of this 7" or what circumstances it would have ever been useful under.
This 7" also marks an odd ending to my trend of highlighting a Blues Brothers 7" every other Thursday. I've finally run out and don't have any more. There are a few more picture sleeve 7"s out there that I haven't tracked down yet, so I'm hopeful I'll have more someday, but as a regular recurring thing, this looks like the end.
I have to say that I never realized just how many different Blues Brothers 7"s were out there. This has been a fun little mission and I just wish I could have tracked down those last few before I ran out of the ones I do have. I do have a few with no artwork, but those aren't very interesting as I've already written about the ones that have artwork versions. The last few I have are meant for my jukebox, if I can ever get around to having that fixed.
Below are the last few I am hunting for. If you ever see them, please let me know:
Soul Man 7" (Netherlands)
Everybody Needs Somebody 7" (France)
Gimme Some Lovin' 7" (Japan)
Old Landmark/Think/Shake Your Tailfeather 7" (US Promo)
Wednesday, August 8, 2018
Self Released (2015)
Once again I'm indebted to Kazu from Waterslide for showing me yet another great band that I probably wouldn't have come across on my own. I've felt this way for twenty plus years, but it's become more and more obvious every day that as far as music (and professional wrestling) goes, my heart is in Japan. I just wish I could be there more going to see great bands like this play and shop for more records. Also, the G1 Climax is going on right now so pretty much the best pro wrestling of the year is currently happening. But alas, I'm far too poor for another trip to Japan at the moment, so I'll have to let albums like this help me get by.
Fastkiss has turned in nine songs of upbeat, 90s style pop punk and I love it. It's not gruff and fast like a lot of the other Japanese bands that I tend to enjoy. Instead, they have more in common with bands like The Hum Hums who seem to be inspired by the more pop focused side of the Beach Boys.
There's just great melodies on this album from start to finish, with each song fueled by punchy guitar chords and complimented by excellent backing vocals and harmonies. Some of the songs are sung in English and others are in Japanese, but no matter what language the song is in, Fastkiss put their all into each and come out with endlessly catchy tracks. This one might be kind of below the radar, but it's definitely worth checking out.
Fastkiss - "きみはFREE":
Tuesday, August 7, 2018
One morning I received an email stating that there was a new, limited Superchuck split 7" that was being released in conjunction with the record store Rough Trade. Not to want to risk having an incomplete Superchunk 7" collection, I immediately stopped what I was doing and went right to the Merge website to grab a copy. While I'm certainly glad I got one, maybe I didn't need to be quite so fast acting as it looks like a month later, they do still have this for sale despite it being limited to only three hundred copies.
I can't say that I'm particularly familiar with Wye Oak's other work, but I also can't really say that their contribution to this 7" is really up my alley. They've put forth an amalgamation of gently plucked acoustic guitar, minimal electronic sounding drumming and vocals that, to my untrained ear, reming me of Bjork. I did go and listen to the non-acoustic album version of this song, just so I had something to compare the 7" track to, and I will say that of the two, I do like the version on this split better.
Superchunk's contribution to the split is an acoustic version of the song "Break The Glass" from their last album. It's actually one of my favorite songs from that album, and the translation to an acoustic track is very successful. It really highlights Mac's excellent vocal melody. That being said, no matter how good it is, it's still is something of a novelty and I'm not sure how often I'm really going to pull this out to listen to. Still, it needs to be in the Superchunk collection, so I'm happy to file it away with the others.
Monday, August 6, 2018
Debauch Mood (2018)
This LP is a perfect example of something that I would like to see become a trend in Japan. Back in 2008, The Because self released this album on CD. Now, ten years later, Debauch Mood have stepped up and rereleased it on vinyl. I think that Debauch Mood should do this many more times in the future. If they need a list of records that should be released on vinyl, I'd be happy to give them one. Let's start with those old Blew and Lovemen CDs.
Anyway, back to The Because. I never had their self released CD that this LP is a rerelease of, but I do have all five of the bands 7" appearances, the bulk of which were released on Snuffy Smiles. While in the past I never thought their songs stood out quite as much as some of the other bands that they were sharing those releases with, hearing the band in the context of a full album only containing their songs has really opened my eyes to just how good they are.
There are times where The Because remind me a little bit of Smalltown, particularly the gruffness of the vocals (except for when the bass player is singing) and the similar way that their songs are structured. But where Smalltown sometimes leaned towards a Clash-y style here and there, the because leans more towards the sort of 90s melodic punk rock that Snuffy Smile made me love. The Because put out a hell of a record ten years ago. I'm just glad it's now on vinyl and finally in my collection.
Thursday, August 2, 2018
Dirt Cult (2018)
Let's cut to the chase. This record is phenomenal. Go buy it right now. If you are wondering if there is a great record out there that's slipping below your radar, this is the one you're worried about. Stop what you are doing and go buy it immediately.
I can't possibly say enough good things about this album. The Pretty Flowers have created a perfect storm of fuzzy guitar riffs, incredibly catchy hooks and lyrical melodies that are impossible to get out of your head. From the opening salvo of "Cream Of Canvas," you are instantly drawn into to its big Weezer-esque guitar solo (Blue album era Weezer, not that stuff they're doing on one of those recent Weezer albums that you didn't even know came out). The guitars keep building up until that flawless chorus hits. It's a killer song and only the first of many that await.
Let's move on to track three, "Some Girls." I can say without a bit of trepidation that this is the best non-Hot Snakes song that has come out all year. It's fucking perfect. Once again, a short lead guitar riff punctuates the hook, and the vocals are constantly rattling around in my head, made even more impactful with the harmonies that kick in on verse two. I have probably listened to this song a hundred times since I got this record (I've likely listened to the whole thing about fifty times or so). It gets better every single time I hear it.
The rest of the album continues this excellence. Whether the song veers towards a mellower Weakerthans vibe like on "Chip My Paint" or if they're blasting into full on Built To Spill guitar insanity like on "Temple of Gunpowder," The Pretty Flowers hit every single song out of the park.
In a year where John Reis didn't put out an album, Why Trains Crash is almost a shoe in for album of the year. Even with a Hot Snakes record on heavy rotation, I've been playing this Pretty Flowers album kind of non-stop the last few weeks. After hearing this, I immediately ordered the band's other two 7"s and a T shirt from their Bandcamp page. Anything I can do to support them and hear more music. This is that kind of band, the one where you hear their record and you just know you're probably going to be listening to it for the rest of your life. Go buy this now.
The Pretty Flowers - Why Trains Crash:
Wednesday, August 1, 2018
Dynamo / Pop Ball (1998)
I've said it before and I'll likely say it a hundred more times, but going record shopping in Tokyo with Kazu from Waterslide records was just one of the best days of my life. The incredible stores we went to, the insane records that were at each of them and the great conversation all day long was really a highlight of a trip that had its share of highlights.
Throughout the day Kazu would point me towards records that I wouldn't have even known I needed if it weren't for his recommendation. This split 7"is one that I picked up because I thought it looked like 90s pop punk and Kazu confirmed for me that yes, in fact it was.
Bug Sneakers have three songs on their side of the split, two bouncy and catchy originals and a Ramones cover of the song "Oh Oh I Love Her So." The two originals are both great examples of quintessential 90s pop punk. It's not as loud or fast as the sort of thing you'd hear on Snuffy Smile, but it takes a much poppier path and more fits in with some of the bubblegum type stuff that Lookout was putting out in the mid to late 90s.
Just A Fine Slope have two songs on their side and they're certainly a bit faster than the Bug Sneakers songs. "Sunday" is built on a blazing guitar riff and thousand mile an hour drumming, but the vocal harmonies keep everything grounded in pop. "Have A Nice Summer Day" is just as good and reminds me a little bit of the faster moments of the band Walker. The Just A Fine Slope songs are rougher around the edges than Walker ever was, but they both have a similar pop song structure that I just love.
Both of these bands have other records out that I don't have. I definitely need to get my hands on them, especially the Just A Fine Slope full length that I found out about while searching on Discogs. It feels like there's always going to be a never ending supply of amazing Japanese punk rock records to buy. I wish I could go back to Japan to look for them tomorrow.
Tuesday, July 31, 2018
Snuffy Smiles (2016)
I've been sitting on this 10" for a really long time. I don't know exactly why it's taken me so long to review it. I think it has something to do with the fact that every time I pick it up to review, I try to figure out where all of the songs have come from before and that ends up taking up too much time so I just waiting until another day.
Well that other day is today. I think I've finally figured it out. Of the eight songs on this 10", five of them were previously released on a split cassette with Tony's Bite, two were released on a split 7" with Chestnut Road and one of them was on a split flexi with Car10. I don't have that Car10 split, so if anyone knows where I can get one of those, please let me know.
I've been listening to Gleam Garden for years. They are one of the best punk rock bands in Japan and the eight songs on this 10" just prove that even more. These songs are poppy and straightforward and perhaps a bit less noisy than some of their older releases. But don't worry that's actually a compliment as they've still managed to maintain the energy of the past records, with a tighter focus on hooks and vocal melodies. These are some of the best songs they've released in my opinion.
I haven't heard much from these guys since this 10" came out, but rest assured I will continue to pick up everything they release. Provided I know it has come out. (Seriously, if anyone can get me that split flexi with Car10, I'm buying.)
Gleam Garden - S/T 10" (Four of the eight songs are on this Bandcamp page)
Monday, July 30, 2018
I'm trying to make a concerted effort to tackle some of the backlog of records that I've had for a while, but haven't written about on this website yet. More than half of that backlog is 7"s and since I just bought a house and have way less money than I normally would have to buy records with, now seems like a really good time to work my way through this pile.
I honestly have no clue why it has taken me this long to write up this Broccoli 7". Broccoli is one of my favorite bands in the entire world and I was so very excited when they announced that they were getting back together for a tour of Japan in 2016. This 7" was released for that tour and contains songs from 2 radio sessions. The word 'Peel' is missing from the artwork, though I'm reasonably confident that is the type of session that spawned these recordings. Hope I haven't alerted some sort of Google search police now that I've strung the words, Peel, Broccoli and session together on the same page.
On the A side, we have two songs from a 1996 session (though the internet contends this was a 1995 session, so maybe I'm incorrrect about what sessions these are?) including "Blue" and "Neglect It." ("Relent" and "Cherry Drop Club" were the other two songs recorded that day, for the curious). The B side contains two songs from a 1998 session, "Broken" and "Television" ("Constance" and "Fido" rounded out that original recording).
Now all of these songs are incredible and it's especially interesting to hear live versions of them. In particular, this version of "Neglect It" (which happens to be my favorite Broccoli song), really shines from the energy of the band playing live, with the drums sounding particularly intense. That said, all of these songs sound great as you'd expect because they're great songs. I do kind of wish they had done two separate 7"s, each containing the whole session for that year, but I will never not be excited about a new Broccoli record to add to the collection. Now if only they'd get together again to write some new songs...
Broccoli - In Session 7" (Side One):
Broccoli - In Session 7" (Side Two):
Thursday, July 26, 2018
I'll be the first to admit, I'm scraping the bottom of the barrel with Blues Brothers 7"s at this point. We're left with the weird and the pointless now. I would say this 7" neatly fits into both of those categories as it is kind of weird and it is definitely pointless.
I imagine this is a promotional release, though for the life of me I can't figure out what they were trying to accomplish with this promotion. This 7" has the same song on both sides and that song is a four and a half minute medley of four different Blues Brothers songs mushed together. There's about thirty to forty-five seconds of "Do You Love Me," "Going Back to Miami," "Everybody Needs Somebody" and "Jailhouse Rock" blended together in a really bizarre fashion. They use the crowd noise as cover for their cuts from song to song and really, it's just the freaking weirdest thing.
I don't know where this would ever be useful or where it would be played or why anyone would ever need it. Then again, on top of all of that, I did buy it so maybe I'm the real asshole in this scenario. Oh, and there's a second one of these out there, but we'll talk about that in two weeks.
Wednesday, July 25, 2018
I Hate Smoke (2017)
I picked up this Starvingman CD at the recommendation of Kazu from Waterslide records. He rarely steers me wrong and once again, he's shown me another incredible band that I don't think I would have found on my own.
Now, I need to say up front that there are a few songs on this album, including on the opening track "向かい風" where there's some accordion and flute. In some ways it's kind of a nice incorporation of folksy melodies into modern punk. But in other ways it kind of sounds like the Dropkick Murphys and that's just not my scene. Luckily, the vast, vast majority of this album is top notch melodic pop punk.
The riffs are punchy with just the right amount of palm muting that leads into giant sing along choruses. There are aspects that reming me a little bit of the poppier moments of Blew, but everything is a little bit slicker production-wise. The hooks are incredible throughout the album and in particular the title track "Sound of Sirens" and its immediate follow up "Do The Right Thing" (not the Leatherface song) are two of the highlights on this CD. This is the band's second album, so if anyone sees their first one, I need that.
Starvingman - "Do The Right Thing":
Starvingman - "タックスヘイブン":
Tuesday, July 24, 2018
Big Neck (2018)
This Baseball Furies LP contains a previously released 10" and 7" onto one convenient piece of vinyl. Having not heard of the band prior to receiving this in the mail from Big Neck, I'm not familiar with the original formats so these songs were all brand new to me.
I have to say that while this is better than many other bands of this ilk, I don't think it's really for me. The positives are in the music. The guitar riffs are fast and furious, with explosive garage energy and just the right amount of lead guitar licks. There's a little bit of a trashy 60s vibe to a lot of the songs, mixed with a more modern sensibility, but vocally it doesn't hold up for me.
The vocals are really blown out and distorted in that way where the singer sounds like he's shouting from the confines of a cave. Sometimes this works, other times it doesn't and for my ears, there's just too much yelling on this album. If the vocals were taken down a notch, I think I'd be much more into this than I am. But again, this is a lot better than some of the other garden variety garage revival bands out there.
The Baseball Furies - All American Psycho:
Monday, July 23, 2018
This 7" is another one of that I picked up while in Japan last year. Yes, here we are a year and a half later and I still have a pretty large pile of records from that trip that I haven't written about yet. Honestly, there are still so many that by the time I get through them I actually might be able to afford to go back to Japan again.
I wasn't familiar with Badge 714, but from what I can tell, they were a band that was active in the mid 90s and this version on Killi Killi Villa is a reissue of a long out of print 7" that came out way back when. It's funny that when listening to it, while it still has a 90s vibe to it, if you didn't tell me it was almost twenty five years old, I don't think I would have realized that. The band has a female vocalist, Wakako Uemura, who has such an incredible grasp of melody and a really powerful voice.
In some ways I'm reminded a bit of Cigaretteman, but only just a bit as Badge 714 is much more melodic and the songs tend to be more relaxed. The two songs on the record itself are accompanied by two extra songs on the download. I'm not sure why they weren't on the record itself but if Discogs is to be believed they both originally appeared on compilation albums. They are both excellent and I do wish they were on the actual record. Luckily my favorite of the bunch, "Mama Made a Face at the Cloudy Sky," is on the 7" and it's really a hell of a song.
I don't think there's much else out there by Badge 714, but if anyone else knows something about other records they have out, let me know so I can start looking around for them.
Badge 714 - "Tearless":
Badge 714 - "Mama Made a Face at the Cloudy Sky":
Thursday, July 19, 2018
This bootleg, one sided 12" has been kicking around for a few years, occasionally popping up on Discogs or eBay at a ridiculous price. I'm not sure where they came from or why someone would be bootlegging anyone, let along Rocket From The Crypt, these days. But in an effort to keep the collection complete I did pick up a copy when I found one that dropped to a semi reasonable price.
The songs on here haven't ever been released on vinyl before, so that's a plus. The record starts out with the song "My Silverhead." This is one of those Rocket tracks with a mysterious pass. For the longest time, the rumor was that this song was preloaded on some wacky MP3 player that was sold in the burgeoning days of that technology. I have no proof that this is the case, but the song has been circulating on the dark web ever since. The version on this 12" sounds way better than the MP3 that I have, so I'm pretty pleased that this is on here.
The next three songs are three of the four extra tracks that came on the expanded Circa Now
+4 reissue that came out on Swami a while ago. I'm not sure why they left off "Flight of the Hobo," but since that expanded version of Circa Now didn't come out on vinyl, I don't mind having these songs on that format. But again, why wouldn't you put on all four? The bizarre choices one makes when illegally releasing records I guess...
+4 reissue that came out on Swami a while ago. I'm not sure why they left off "Flight of the Hobo," but since that expanded version of Circa Now didn't come out on vinyl, I don't mind having these songs on that format. But again, why wouldn't you put on all four? The bizarre choices one makes when illegally releasing records I guess...
The 12" finishes up with two live cover songs. These seem to be taken from an in store performance. When Group Sounds came out, Rocket played a few afternoon in stores before their real show later that evening. They were loose and low key and the one I went to at Tower Records in NYC was a blast. The two songs here are covers of "Down In The Boondocks" and "Blue Cowboy." Both are fun and the sound quality is pretty good all things considered.
While I would prefer an official vinyl release for all of these songs, this 12" is still a decent little addition to the Rocket collection. They made a few odd choices with track selection and the track list on the sleeve itself is totally wrong ("Lambs For Sale" anyone?), but the sound quality of the vinyl is pretty good and the songs are, of course, pretty damn great.
Wednesday, July 18, 2018
Fixing A Hole (2018)
This CD out on Fixing A Hole in Japan pairs 90s UK punk stalwarts Crocodile God with Japanese newcomers The Corpse. A split with a UK band on one side and a Japanese band on the other is something that I've loved since I started buying Snuffy Smile 7"s back in the mid 90s. While the concept of a split CD is still a little weird to me, this release brings me back to the glory days of discovering incredible new bands.
Crocodile God is a band I've been listening to for over twenty years. Their brand of fast paced and catchy punk rock is one I'll never get sick of. Though on this release, two of the three songs included are also on their split 7" with Not Tonight & The Headaches. Both songs are still as good as they were on that 7", but for me at least, they aren't new to this release. What is new is an acoustic version of their song "Ladders." This has always been my favorite Crocodile God song ever since I picked up the 7" it was on that Crackle put out. Hearing it in an acoustic context really highlights what a damn perfect vocal melody they came up with for this song. It's a little slower than the original (which is typically the case with acoustic versions of punk rock songs), but it's just as excellent.
The Corpse turned in one of the highlights of the recent Tribute To Broccoli CD with their version of "Chestnut Road." I'm happy to report that the three original songs on this split are just as great if not better than their Broccoli cover. All three songs are perfect example of the sort of melodic punk rock I like to listen to. There are times where they remind me of some of the classic Snuffy Smile bands of the past, but at the same time they elevate their songs with more complex arrangements that remind me a little bit of Summerman, though with the distorion turned way up and the tempo much faster. In all honesty, these three songs are some of the best I've heard all year. I really hope The Corpse puts out some more records really soon.
The Corpse - "Continue To Existence":
Crocodile God - "Spinning" and "Entomoligist Eyes":
Tuesday, July 17, 2018
Dirt Cult (2018)
I recently picked up a batch of new records from Dirt Cult, a label that I implicitly trust with their releases (except those really fast hardcore leaning ones, they're not my bag so much). There were several highlights, others that I'll be writing about soon, but I wanted to start out with this fantastic 7" from Character Actor.
While the players have previously been in bands like The Ergs, Black Wine and Night Birds, Character Actor have more in common with the sort of fuzzy guitar punk that bands like Fear Of Lipstick or The Creeps have released. The first three songs all clock in under two minutes long and are quick bursts of punchy guitar and energetic vocals. There's some great hooks in here and part of me wishes the band wasn't quite so economical with their time.
The final song on the 7", "72 Paperbacks," changes things up a little bit, slowing down the tempo and extending the length of the song. It still manages to be just as impactful as the prior three with a lower key, but still driving rhythm section and some minimal, but very effective lead guitar riffs. All in all a great debut, hopefully this isn't the last we hear from these guys. I would absolutely pick up a full length.
Character Actor - Out Of Hands 7"
Monday, July 16, 2018
The Instant is the third album by Abolitionist that I've been able to write about on this website. Over the years I've watched them start out as an exciting band that I hadn't heard of before to a group that I can count on to churn out a pretty strong record every time.
I was a little concerned when the album starts off with the title track as the drumming is in full on gallop mode with the song careening by at a thousand miles an hour. But this is something of a false start as by the very next song, "Trouble," Abolitionist takes things down a notch and settles into a slightly slower and certainly more melodic pace for a good portion of this album. In fact I'd venture to say this is probably the album of their's with the least amount of blazing fast songs and I really think they benefit from that. There are plenty of fast, uptempo songs on The Instant, they just don't pass that speed limit where we start venturing into NOFX territory.
Many times throughout the album I'm reminded of Dead Mechanical, primarily in the vocals, but also in the way that the bands construct their songs. They achieve maximum catchiness, but never sacrifice the underlying angst or pissed-off-ed-ness that are fueling the songs. All of their albums are solid, but The Instant may be the best of the bunch.
Abolitionist - The Instant:
Thursday, July 12, 2018
I'm actually just about through all of the Blues Brothers 7"s that I have. At this point all that is left are a few that are kind of weird and of course the handful that I haven't tracked down yet. This one is a Blues Brothers 7" although if anything it's kind of like a split 7" with Aretha Franklin.
Aretha gets top billing with her version of "Think" from the Soundtrack of the Blues Brothers movie. Always a longtime favorite of mine, Aretha's pipes are on full display here as she careens through an incredibly energetic version of the song. It's one of the most memorable scenes in a movie that has its fair share of memorable scenes.
On the B side is the Blues Brothers version of the theme from "Rawhide." Again, from an iconic scene in the movie, the whole section from Bob's Country Bunker is one of my very favorites and I've always been partial to the song, even though it's from the soundtrack and is a slightly different and longer version than what is played in the movie. I think that I like "Rawhide" so much because it is one of the few songs out there that Elwood sings. And since he's always been my favorite Blues Brother, I've just dug this since I was a little kid.
This is definitely one of the more unique Blues Brothers 7"s I have, it has unique artwork with pictures that miraculously have not been recycled from other releases. It's even got a funny, fake newspaper clipping show review of the Bob's Country Bunker show by the Good Old Blues Brothers Boys Band from Chicago. Quality stuff.
Aretha Franklin & The Blues Brothers Band - "Think":
The Blues Brothers - "Theme From Rawhide":
Wednesday, July 11, 2018
Sub Pop (1994)
When I went to the Seattle Pop Punk Festival in January one of the bands that played was K Streets. A band featuring multiple members of the Fastbacks, playing Fastbacks songs. For whatever reasons, The Fastbacks were never a band that I had listened to much, if at all, over the years. They embarrassingly just weren't on my radar and I never bought any of their records. K Streets, however, blew my goddamn mind and I knew right then I had to go buy every Fastbacks record I could possibly get my hands on.
At the recommendation of my buddy Alan, I've started with their 1994 album Answer The Phone, Dummy. The dual vocals of Lulu Gargiulo and Kim Warnick coupled with the insane guitar pyrotechnics of Kurt Bloch create a real firestorm of catchy songs that have an unbelievable energy to them. Guitar solos are not always my favorite things at the best of times, but the way Kurt weaves them into these songs, they never feel like self indulgent wanking, they are always in service to the hook and the song.
There are so many incredible songs throughout this album. Crazed fast rockers like "Went For a Swim,"slower more introspective ones like "Old Address of the Unknown" and flat out pop masterpieces like “On The Wall” and "I Found The Star." Every song has something unique to offer but still work in the context of the album as a whole.
Again, it's borderline ridiculous that it took me until 2018 to realize that the Fastbacks are great and that I should be listening to their records. I'm well over twenty five years behind the curve on this band, but now that I've seen the light my hunt begins to track down the rest of their large and very intimidating discography. If anyone has a recommendation of the next one to pick up, let me know.
The Fastbacks - "I Found The Star":
The Fastbacks - "Trumpets Are Loud":
Tuesday, July 10, 2018
Road Trip (2017)
This album came out at the very end of last year and Kazu from Waterslide recommended that I check them out as he though they'd be up my alley. He was absolutely right so I bought this CD when I made my most recent bulk purchase of punk rock from Japan. Revolution For Her Smile is another amazing band in what seems to be a never ending string of amazing melodic punk rock bands from Japan.
Throughout the ten songs on this album, Revolution For Her Smile turn in some amazing moments. From the bouncy and upbeat opener "Small Riots" to the more straightforward rocker "Waking Life" to the more subdued, but no less catchy "Three Chord Song" this is a band that knows the value of a high caliber hook. There are parts of the album that remind me of the equally excellent Summerman, but in general Revolution For Her Smile leans a bit fuzzier with their guitars and a bit louder overall.
I'm not sure what it is, but sometimes I really feel like Japanese bands create the best punk rock in the world. Revolution For Her Smile is another incredible band in that tradition and I can only hope that A Compilation Of Rad Youth is the first of many fantastic records that they'll put out.
Revolution For Her Smile - A Compilation of Rad Youth:
Monday, July 9, 2018
Drunken Sailor / Rad Girlfriend (2016)
I'm not exactly sure why it took me two years to pick up this 7". I'm actually not positive that I knew it was out, though that seems weird to me. Anyway, I grabbed it while looking for something to help qualify for free shipping while grabbing some records from Green Noise. This split popped up and it fit the bill perfectly.
First up on this split 7" we have Raging Nathans. A few years ago I wrote about their album Losing It and I definitely enjoyed that. The two songs on this 7" seem to reflect a somewhat rougher version of the band as they barrel through three chord, pop punk style riffs at blazing speed. Both songs are short, economical and cram a ton of energy into their brief run times. "Good For You" is my favorite of the two with it's bouncy, super catchy chorus. These guys also have a new album out this year called Cheap Fame, but I haven't picked that one up yet.
On the other side of the 7" we have Wonk Unit, a band that I was really late to the party for, but one that I've been trying to make up for lost time with. "We Came Together" starts thing of with a jangly guitar riff, that feels like something that might be on a deep cut of a Vacant Lot album, but with a slight ska lean to it. "Candy" showcases Wonk Unit's ability to craft a simple, sparse song that still contains all of the energy of the loudest punk thrasher you can think of. Their ability to keep things unique, but still cram their songs full of hooks is on full display during both songs.
Raging Nathans / Wonk Unit - Split 7":
Thursday, July 5, 2018
Reviewing compilations is a pain in the ass. You have to try to write about a bunch of different bands all playing different songs and it's often difficult to tie everything together in a way that makes any sense. For that reason, I've been sitting on 14 Soda Punx for a few months. Even though there's a nice, built in talking point of my trip out to Seattle to see many of these bands play at the Seattle Pop Punk Festival (it was actually reviewing the Four Lights album the other day that spurred my on to finally tackle this one) it's still tough to navigate compilations.
I'm not going to be able to write something about every band, but I'll hit a few. The album starts off on side A with a band called Sucesss who have a song called "Kurt Bloch." That was confusing at first. It's actually a pretty good song, even though the lyrics are kind of silly. Coyote Bred have a song called "Pile" that's catchy and poppy, with a little bit of a Social Distortion twang to it. Burn Burn Burn's drummer plays too fast. I don't really like Choke The Pope, though I did enjoy the song on here more than I expected to.
"Leave You Guessing" by Four Lights starts off the B side and is as good as anything on their recent full length, so that's a highlight. The Botherations have a great contribution with "Amor Perdido," that kind of has a darker pop punk feel, like the Red Dons. The Drolls has Denny from Sicko in the band and "Getting Old" is probably my favorite song on the album. Dude sure can write a hook. Date Night With Brian has Ean from Sicko and "Get It In" is indie pop fun. Really dig this song. Dude can sure write a hook.
13 Soda Punx was one of my favorite compilations of the 90s. It had Sicko, Mr. T Experience, Bum, Stand GT and a slew of other pretty great bands. 14 Soda Punx is a pretty solid sequel. The highlights for me tend to be some of the bands that sound like they could have been on the first comp, including the bands that have people that were in bands on the first compilation. But there are plenty of new sounds to discover on this one and really, isn't that the point of compilations?
V/A - 14 Soda Punx:
Wednesday, July 4, 2018
This was a record I picked up while in Tokyo. Actually, I mistakenly bought it twice, so I have two copies of it. This was a Record Store Day 2016 release, so I guess in Japan, like in America, a lot of Record Store Day releases end up being around long past the original release date.
The Practice was a band that put out a few 7"s on Snuffy Smiles many years ago. I loved those 7"s, but then the band kind of fell off my radar. I know they put out a few CDs that I never was able to pick up, but those Snuffy Smiles 7"s were pretty much all I have heard. The four songs on this 7" are, in general, pretty good, but they feel a lot cleaner and not as immediately attention grabbing as those earlier 7"s I have.
The 7" starts off with "Yuck Fou," A song that is big and anthemic and sure does have a lot of swearing in it. It's the very definition of a fist pumper and even though the guitars are jangly and somewhat in the background of the mix, you can definitely feel the energy. "(Super Dirty) Old Town" has a bouncy bass line and is pretty organ heavy you can hear The Clash for sure, but the chorus reminds me of Snuff a bit.
"Another Measure" is the slowest of the bunch with a borderline reggae style drum beat. It's not my favorite of the four. "Tragedy" closes the 7" and is my favorite this batch of songs. With a driving rhythm section and a really catchy chorus, it's the the most straightforward song on the 7" and I think, the best. While I don't think this 7" as a whole is as good as the other Practice records I have, these are still solid songs that I dig. I'm not sure I need two copies of it, but I'm happy to hang on to one of them.
The Practice - "Yuck Fou" (I could only find a live version on YouTube):
Tuesday, July 3, 2018
Four Lights hail from Seattle and they actually played at the incredible Seattle Pop Punk Festival that I went to in January. There were a ton of great bands that played that weekend and it was pretty cool to have this album show up in the mail. Whatever magic Four Lights had as a live band that weekend has absolutely transferred to this album. It's a gigantic ball of energy from start to finish.
To my ears, Four Lights has successfully threaded the needle between bands like Samiam and Superdrag. They have the big, crunchy guitars and pounding energy you'd come to expect from the Samiams of the world. But, they manage to incorporate the sort of hooks, song structures and harmonies that one might expect from some of those Superdrag level bands that snuck onto some major labels back in the 90s (only to end up in the used CD bins of the world for all eternity).
That isn't to say Four Lights is destined for the used bin. Quite the contrary, this is an album filled with songs that get absolutely lodged into your cranium. Whether the band is blasting forward full steam on songs like "ComRAD" and "We Got Em"or when they slow things down as they do on "Scene of the Crime" and "Jimmy's Song Part 2" (which reminds me a ton of the band Hospital Job) they always deliver on a big fat chorus that you'll be humming for days afterwards. I'd not heard of Four Lights prior to the Seattle Pop Punk Festival, but I'm sure glad I did as Kobayashi Maru is good stuff.
Four Lights - Kobayashi Maru:
Monday, July 2, 2018
Fixing A Hole (2017)
Going to Japan last year was more than just a great trip, it also stoked the fire I have for the Japanese punk rock scene. Over the last few years I had been trying to pay more attention to things over there, but since that trip all I want to do is buy more Japanese records. Luckily, Kazu from Waterslide records has been there to help me find some things I've been looking for and also to recommend some bands that I might have missed on my own. Kenny Baker was one of his picks for me last year and I am so thankful I listened to him and bought a copy of this CD.
Out of There, Out of Time is practically a perfect melodic punk rock record. Kenny Baker channels the sort of melodies and hooks that you'd hear from Doughboys or perhaps the more upbeat moments of Senseless Things, but they enchance these hooks with the sort of vigor and energy you'd expect from a band like Samiam or Blew. Kenny Baker has managed to take some of my favorite sounds of the 90s and put their own stamp on it, creating ten absolutely fantastic songs.
If it's not obvious, I love this album. I only wish I had gotten it last year when it came out so I could have put it on my list of the best records that came out in 2017. There's no way Out of There, Out of Time wouldn't have at least been in the top five of the year. It's one of the best records I've heard in a while. Now I just have to try to find their other EPs that came out back in the 90s and hope they are already working on a new record. Seriously, this is the best.
Kenny Baker - "Heavy Moon" (I can't find anything streaming, but Fixing A Hole has an MP3 of this song up):
Kenny Baker - "I Just Want To Say Something To You" (Also an MP3):