Monday, October 22, 2018
Fixing A Hole (2017)
I few weeks ago I wrote about another Headsparks album called Beastro. This time out, we've got the band's most recent release, Vs. The Metric System. As I said last time, it seems insane to me that this band has existed for as long as it has without me being aware of it. I've said in the past that I'm probably slipping a little as I get older, I think Headsparks are Exhibit A in that argument.
Vs. The Metric System is another amazing album of the kind of melodic, UK punk rock that I've been going crazy for the last twenty-five years. Headsparks manage to isolate everything that I love about the 90s era of Hooton 3 Car style punk, but it a way that never sounds dated or pandering for nostalgia. The songs on this album are immediate and urgent sounding, with blistering guitar blasting its way throughout. The hooks are incessantly catchy and honestly I just can't say enough about how great each of the songs are.
If anything, the only thing I wish were different would be for there to be a vinyl version of this album. I'm very happy to have the CD in my collection, but there's a warmness to the sound of Headsparks that makes me think would sound even better rocking out from my turntable. Still, no matter the format, this is great, great stuff.
Headsparks - Vs. The Metric System:
Thursday, October 18, 2018
Stax / Rhino (2017, Reissue)
I'm out of Wilson Pickett records for the time being, but I'm going to keep going through some older soul records every other Thursday until I completely run out. Luckily I either picked up (or received as gifts) quite a few records that fit the bill towards the end of last year. This week's entry is Sam & Dave.
Sam & Dave were one of the very first bands I learned about stemming from my love of the Blues Brothers as a kid. They were the original artist responsible for the Blues Brother's biggest hit, "Soul Man." I remember as a kid watching some Atlantic Records anniversary TV special and Dan Aykroyd came out to sing the song with Either Sam or Dave, I don't remember which (I suppose I could look it up, but I'll just keep the memory warm and fuzzy as opposed to finding footage of it that makes it seem less magical). Since John Belushi had passed when I was about 4, this special was one of the only 'new' Blues Brothers events that happened.
Anyway, I've always had a Sam & Dave greatest hits CD. But, like with Wilson Pickett, I thought it was time to pick up some of their actual albums. Soul Men is the first and only one I have so far. I want to get more, but the record buying budget is currently a bit tighter than it's been in a while. Luckily this album has "Soul Man" on it in addition to some other incredible songs like "Broke Down Piece of Man" and "Hold It Baby."
I just love all of these old Stax record. They're very much a part of the building blocks that made me love music to begin with, but they still sound as fresh to me as they did the very first time I heard them.
Sam & Dave - "Soul Man":
Sam & Save - "Broke Down Piece of Man":
Wednesday, October 17, 2018
1000% D.I.Y. (2018)
As most people who bother reading this website know, I am pretty obsessed with Japanese pop punk bands. They have been an obsession of mine for over twenty years and I always want to hear as much as I possibly can. That said, when Kazu at Waterslide asked me if I wanted to buy a CD from a band called Hateman, I wasn't immediately sure it was something I would be interested in. When bands get too loud or too screamy, I tend to lose interest pretty quick. Surely a band called Hateman would be end up being more of the hardcore side of punk rock, right? Wrong.
This CD is unbelievably great. I can't even wrap my head around how much I love it. It's almost a distillation of every style of Japanese pop punk that I love. There are poppy songs like "Heartache" and "Change Your Jive" that are catchier than anything a band like Popcatcher ever wrote. Then you have faster, noisier songs like "Dancing In The Darkness" and "Radio Hate" that lean much more towards the more melodic moments of the Snuffy Smile side of the punk spectrum. And then you'll hit a song like "Summer Rain" that doesn't have a super obvious comparison, but it just blows your goddamn mind with how catchy and incredible it is.
I've gotten so many great bands from Kazu, but this might be one of the very best. The band has a few other releases, 7"s and CD demos and that sort of thing (some of these songs appear to be from those other releases, though I'm not entirely sure) and I really want them all.
Hateman - Radio Hate (Two of the album's twelve songs are streaming):
Tuesday, October 16, 2018
Snappy Little Numbers / Anxious & Angry (2018)
I've let this LP linger in the to-do pile a little longer than I probably should have. It certainly wan't because I wasn't excited about the record, I've been writing about Spells for a few years and I have never had anything but wonderful things to say about them. That trend continues with this record, though I already knew I liked a handful of these songs going in.
Loose Change, Vol. 1 is a singles compilation from Spells, but only two songs are from an actual Spells 7". Aside from "Take Time" and "Slice Away" everything else on this album was either from a compilation, a digital only release or relegated to cassette hell. If you're keeping track at home, that's fourteen songs making their way to vinyl for the first time. And thank goodness for that, these songs are way too good to just disappear into the ether or be eaten by someone's shitty Sony walkman from 1989.
I've always made Rocket From The Crypt comparisons when writing about Spells. It's not because I think they sound similar, it's always been more about the attitude and energy that the band is able to harness on their records. They just have a way of writing songs that capture a certain sort of party vibe, without being overtly silly. It also doesn't hurt that the songs are super catchy, so that's a big part of the reason I've always liked them so much.
This is a really good starting point if you want to check out Spells. It's mostly early material from the band, but since so little of it had a proper release before It's not going to end up getting replaced if you decide to go all in and track down their entire discography. Hell of a band, hell of a record.
Spells - Loose Change, Vol. 1
Monday, October 15, 2018
I had to go out to Costa Mesa, CA for work a couple weeks ago (it's looking like I'll be out there again soon as well). Though I was only there for a couple of days, I had to hit a record store while I was there. After all it's a city I've never been to before, so I always try to get to at least one record store when I am in a new town. At the recommendation of my friend Casey and with the help of my other friend Chris, I managed to get out to Creme Tangerine.
This record store is located in an "anti-mall" called The Lab. I guess the gimmick is that it's supposed to be a bunch of cool stores that you won't find in a traditional mall. While I did think it was a pretty neat place overall and had several interesting looking stores, the presence of an Urban Outfitters in it kind of kills the gimmick a little bit. Despite that, Creme Tangerine still ranks as one of the wackiest record stores I have every been to.
The whole store is an old trailer. Gutted out, filled with records and parked next to Urban Outfitters. I will give them points for originality, that's for sure. Selection-wise it was a decent store. It seemed to be all used records with a definitely lean towards older 60s and 70s albums. Not that there wasn't some newer stuff, there was but your more likely to find a Rascals record here than a newer indie rock band.
I didn't end up getting anything while I was there, but Chris picked up a Turtles LP. If I was local it's definitely the sort of place I could see myself popping into every so often to see if anything interesting came in, but it's not the sort of place I could see being able to consistently supply you with the latest goods.
Thursday, October 11, 2018
Sounds Rad (2018)
This is the second of two LPs of Mr. T Experience songs that had no real home on any albums or EPs. It will also be another instance where I write about this band and aside from this sentence will exclusively refer to them as The Mr. T Experience and not MTX. For reasons I cannot explain, but will attempt to describe, the use of the three letter abbreviation as the defacto band name has always kind of bugged me.
When I worked in the music 'biz,' I worked at the company that did the college radio promotion for Yesterday Rules when that album came out. Lookout insisted on using the abbreviation for the promo materials and on the CD itself and how the album was listed in the trade charts. When I asked them why they were burying a band name with almost twenty years of history at that time - who were also, by the way one of my very favorite bands - I was given some sort of non-committal answer about it being hipper and for 'the kids' and to definitely not mention it to Dr. Frank when he came to our office to say hi. I didn't mention it. I've always wondered what would have happened if I did as it was the only thing on my mind the entire time he was in our office. Oh well.
Back to the matter at hand, this is a compilation of a lot of random Mr. T Experience songs from a lot of different eras of the bands existence. Some are great and I've always loved like "Hello Kitty Menendez" and "T Shirt Commercial," both from influential compilation albums I had as a youngster. Others are somewhat newer to me like "We Are The Future People Of Tomorrow" and "Crash." These are also from compilations, but I didn't have those when they originally came out, so I don't have the preexisting connection and nostalgia.
Lastly, it also includes one of my very favorite songs, "How'd The Date End?" But, it's not the same version as the one that's on the Tapin' Up My Heart 7". This one has an extra part with more lyrics that wasn't on the 7" version, but I just don't like it as much. That 7" version has a certain roughness and energy to it that has always connected with me and I have loved it just the way it is for the last twenty-four years. Part of me thinks that it is kind of humorous that all these years and rereleases later, it is still sort of the hidden gem you can only get on that specific 7", but then the other part of me wonders how many people have never heard the version of the song I like the best. I also wonder why on earth I would possibly care? I still have the 7" and the song, why does it matter what anyone else hears? I do not have answers to quandaries like this.
I can say that it is nice to have all of these songs compiled into one nice and easy LP. I will also echo a point I made from the last Shards review and that is I really hope that somewhere along the line, an actual singles compilation with every 7" and EP song gets released. That's what I would most like to see next in the Mr. T Experience reissue project anyway.
Once again I can not find a version of this album to listen to online to point you towards aside from a Spotify listing. If that's your thing, you can give it a whirl here: https://open.spotify.com/album/2bJPJUnzxI2QTNH8JNHbGY
Wednesday, October 10, 2018
Just Because (2017)
Part-Time Lover is a band I was not previously familiar with prior to Just Because sending me a copy of this 7" to listen to. While I do get a chuckle out of the band name, the music isn't really anything that stands out as being particularly interesting to me.
A side "Kelly Cruise Kelly" starts out with a lead guitar riff that sounds so similar to the opening of "Pleasant Valley Sunday" by The Monkees that I had to double check at first to make sure it wasn't a cover song. Unfortunately "Kelly Cruise Kelly" doesn't have the same sort of pop hooks that the Monkees were able to churn out. The song is somewhat psychedelic in nature with swirling guitars and echo-y vocals. But again, aside from the similarity in the opening guitar riff to a song I actually do like, this one by Part-Time Lover just doesn't go anywhere.
"Shee-Ra" is the B-side and is remarkably even slower than the A side. It's dreary and kind of depressing. Not the She-Ra I'm used to. Again, Part-Time Lover just meanders through the song, never turning it into anything interesting aside from briefly making it more annoying with a crummy keyboard solo. If you're into dreamier sounds, this might be up your alley, but it's not for me.
Part-Time Lover - Kelly Cruise Kelly 7":
Tuesday, October 9, 2018
Self Released (2017)
Following up on the Big City EP that I wrote about yesterday, this self titled CD is the first full length release from the band. They build off of the early promise of that EP and in almost every way exceed expectations. This album is a big leap forward in songwriting and production, while still hanging on to the passion and energy that made the EP so thoroughly enjoyable.
The first thing I notice about the songs on this album is the increased fidelity of the production. Everything sounds a little more polished and the songs themselves are just a touch slower. Often times this is where bands start to lose the charm that made them fun to listen to in the first place, but for Big City it is exactly what the band needed. Like their first EP, you can hear the connection to bands like The Urchin and Dillinger Four. That said, this time out there are more melodic tendencies.
I hear similarities to bands like RVIVR and Iron Chic, especially when it comes to the choruses and backing vocals. There's a definite increase in anthemic singalongs. But the way they combine this with the faster paced, driving energy that's more in tune with the Japanese scene they call home, the end result is a mix unique to Big City.
Big City - Big City:
Monday, October 8, 2018
Self Released (2016)
This four song CD EP is one of two CDs that I have from Big City. I will actually review the other one tomorrow, rather than hang on to it for a later date. This EP is one in a pretty big pile of Japanese punk rock CDs that I've acquired over the past two years that I haven't been able to write about. In some ways, I feel like I will have a pile like this forever, especially since Kazu is already making another pile in Japan for me to buy at some point.
On their EP, Big City rushes out of the gate with a fast paced pop punk sound that makes me think of bands like The Urchin and Dillinger Four right away. They have just the right mix of powerful aggression and catchy hooks. For me that's always been one of the main reason I gravitate towards Japanese punk bands. There's just a little something extra in the energy department, I always feel like everyone in the band believes in every single note they play and every word they sing. Passion.
This EP is a solid introduction to Big City. Fast and catchy is the best way to describe things. The EP is good, but the full length I'll write about tomorrow is even better.
Big City - Four Songs CD:
Thursday, October 4, 2018
Atlantic (2014, Reissue)
This is the last of the Wilson Pickett Reissues that I've added to the collection over the past year. It doesn't seem that the reissue campaign extended past The Sound of Wilson Pickett. I'm not exactly sure why (not being as familiar with his non-Greatest Hits output as I would like to be), but I'm definitely going to be looking around for decent condition copies of The Midnight Mover and I'm In Love. I can't imagine his work falls off a cliff over the span of a year.
Back to The Sound Of Wilson Pickett. First off it has one of my absolute favorite Wilson Pickett songs on it, "Funky Broadway." When I was a little kid, there were times that my dad would take my brother and I to a little lake where they had a pseudo 'beach' and swimming. He'd set up at a picnic table with his little hibachi-style grill that could cook two hamburgers at a time and break out one of his three mix tapes on his little portable tape deck. One of those mixes had "Funky Broadway" on it (Another had "All I Need Is A Miracle" by Mike & The Mechanics, but we'll not talk about that one). "Funky Broadway" always felt like a missing Blues Brothers song and I truly feel that had John Belushi not died, they would have eventually recorded a version of it. I just love this song.
The rest of the album is just as great if I'm being honest. From slower crooning jams like "I Found A Love" (both Parts I and II) to uptempo hits like "You Can't Stand Alone" there's no filler on this album. I'm not sure it's ultimately quite as strong as some of his other full lengths like The Exciting Wilson Pickett or The Wicked Pickett, but it's pretty damn great.
Wilson Pickett - "Funky Broadway":
Wilson Pickett - "You Can't Stand Alone":
Wednesday, October 3, 2018
Top Drawer (2018)
I have been waiting for this 7" ever since I first got word that it was in the works many moons ago. Having previously heard The Drolls' contribution to the 14 Soda Punx compilation and being lucky enough to have seen their performance at the Seattle Pop Punk Festival back in January, it seemed pretty safe to assume this debut 7" would be top notch. I assure you, top notch it is.
It's impossible to write about this without mentioning that Denny (and now Josh on drums, though not on this recording) was in Sicko. Sicko are one of my all time favorite bands and when I listen to this 7", it's hard to not draw comparisons to Denny's past work. I can say that if you liked Denny's tunes in Sicko, it's inconceivable to me that you wouldn't like these two Drolls offerings. At the same time, they don't sound exactly like Sicko as there's something unique about what The Drolls are bringing to the table.
"Follow That Dinosaur" starts out with a bouncy, driving rhythm in the verse that eases into one of those trademark Denny choruses. Equal parts punchy and catchy, this sounds exactly the direction I would have hoped Denny would have gone on a fifth Sicko album. "Alternate Timeline" starts off immediately making me think of one of my favorite Sicko songs, "Little" off of Chef Boy R U Dum. It's got a similar quiet/loud/quiet dynamic and man does that make the hook feel even more powerful when it kicks in. But again, though there are elements of Denny's prior work, these songs go off in their own direction and stand on their own.
These songs are perfect. I love this record so much. If I have one complaint it's that there are only two songs instead of twenty. I hope this is the first of many, many Drolls releases in the future. Especially hopeful of a full length real soon.
The Drolls - Follow That Dinosaur 7":
Tuesday, October 2, 2018
Sometimes I don't know what's wrong with me. I've been aware of Down And Outs for years and have always liked what I heard. But for whatever dumb reason, I've never bought any of their albums. None of them. I could try to justify that by saying they were usually imports, costly postage, blah blah blah, but let's be honest. I've just been stupid. Sure, I have one split 7" of theirs, but to not own any of their full lengths...I have no excuse for that.
This stupidly kicked me square in the face when Kazu from Waterslide records sent me the CD version of Double Negative. It's so damn great. It's UK punk rock that shows a debt to Stiff Little Fingers and Leatherface, but also has so much in common with the Swedish band Smalltown. The way Down And Outs combine their working class lyrics, melodic punk rock and catchy hooks is pretty much perfect and for the life of me I can't figure out what I don't have more of their records.
I need this record on vinyl. And the rest of their records on vinyl. I'm still paying off plumbing bills and other crazy house expenses, but once I get my finances back in order, getting my hands on some more Down And Outs records is at the top of my to do list.
Down And Outs - Double Negative:
Monday, October 1, 2018
Top Shelf (2018)
I've been waiting so very patiently for this new Clearance LP. Ever since the band's debut album topped my 2015 year end list I've just been craving more. For At Your Leisure, Clearance has changed their label to Top Shelf and from what I've seen has gotten a lot of advanced press for this record. The weird thing is, while reading this press I've noticed is most people seem to be allergic to saying the word Pavement.
I have freely said that Clearance sounds a lot like Pavement to me, both due to their jangly guitar sound and the laid back vocal delivery. This record does feel like a slight update in sound from their last LP. The songs are a bit more straightforward and less likely to meander off into instrumental explorations. But everything is still quite catchy while capturing a vibe that is calming and exciting all at the same time. That said, they still give off a really strong Pavement-y vibe at the end of the day and I will always love them for that.
With a gun to my head, I would probably say that I liked Rapid Rewards a bit more than At Your Leisure. It's a little rougher around the edges and charming as a result. Plus I've been listening to it pretty nonstop for the past three years, so there is a built in familiarity that gives it an advantage. At Your Leisure is a strong follow up that's packed with great songs. Definitely one of the better records I've heard this year.
Clearance - At Your Leisure: