Thursday, August 16, 2018

The Sensations - Dig Your Own Grave CD

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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:
https://ihatesmokerecords.bandcamp.com/album/dig-your-own-grave

Wednesday, August 15, 2018

Dirty Few - Volcom Sessions 7" - Purple Vinyl

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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:
https://snappylittlenumbers.bandcamp.com/album/volcom-sessions-ep

Tuesday, August 14, 2018

Twin Guns - Imaginary World LP - White Vinyl

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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:
https://bigneckrecords1.bandcamp.com/album/twin-guns-imaginary-world

Monday, August 13, 2018

Trash Knife / Dumb Vision - Split 7"

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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"
https://kitschyspirit.bandcamp.com/album/trash-knife-dumb-vision-split-ep

Thursday, August 9, 2018

The Blues Brothers - Collection 2 Medley 7" (Spain)

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WEA (1992)

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

Fastkiss - S/T CD

Untitled

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":
https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=PRLZL25Hn4A&feature=youtu.be

Tuesday, August 7, 2018

Superchunk / Wye Oak - Split 7" (/300)

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Merge (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

The Because - Get Out Through The Back Door LP

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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

The Pretty Flowers - Why Trains Crash LP - Yellow Vinyl (/100)

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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:
https://theprettyflowers.bandcamp.com/album/why-trains-crash
 

Wednesday, August 1, 2018

Bug Sneakers / Just A Fine Slope - Split 7"

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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.