Wednesday, July 31, 2019

Hidden Spots - New Me / New You LP - Pink Vinyl (/100)


Dead Broke (2019)

I bought the first Hidden Spots album on Mauled By Tigers back in 2009.  I liked it, but it predates this website by a few years and was even before I started taking pictures of records on my Flickr account.  It was a fun record, but not one that I can say I went back to over and over again as the years went by.  That said, I did like it enough to pick up this posthumous album that apparently has been sitting around for years before finally getting a release from the fine folks at Dead Broke.

New Me/New You is great.  It's better than their 2009 LP and really makes me think of the old Davis, CA band Playground.  There's a gruffness and an obvious Jawbreaker worship going on, but it's not a cover band or a copycat.  It's a band taking the inspiration and using it to create stellar songs. Much how Playground did.  (In all seriousness, you really should check out the unreleased Playground album No Angel.  The band put it up on Bandcamp a few years ago and it's just unbelievably good).

This Hidden Spots record is really worth checking out.  If you're into Off With Their Heads or Iron Chic, these guys will probably fit in your record collection quite nicely.

Hidden Spots - New Me/New You:

Tuesday, July 30, 2019

The Pointed Sticks ‎- My Japanese Fan 7"


Sudden Death (2007)

The Pointed Sticks are a band whose name I've been hearing for years, but are also one that I never got around to buying any records by.  I know they are lauded power pop agents from the late 70s and early 80s.  I also know that in more recent times they've gotten back together and put out new music.  This 7" appears to have been the first of those latter day releases.  I picked it up at a record store in Tokyo when I went in 2017, mostly because it looked cool and seemed like an appropriate record to buy at the time.

In general both songs are good, but they don't blow me away.  "My Japanese Fan" is sweet and I can certainly get behind the sentiment of the song.  But it's also kind of simplistic and never really bangs out the huge hook that it seems to be building.  The B side "Found Another Boy is slower and is an OK song, but there's nothing really special or particularly interesting about it.

The paragraph above is one of the main reasons why it's taken me two and a half years to write about this record.  It just isn't all that exciting.  Both songs are good, but that's all they are to my ears.

The Pointed Sticks - "My Japanese Fan":

Monday, July 29, 2019

Slow Cooker - Do a Kickflip Cassette


Drug Party (2019)

Another tape in the mail.  I get a lot of tapes from the upstate New York area for some reason.  But as I haven't been buying as many records as I usually do lately, I have time/space to write about random tapes and records that have been piling up for a while.  This Slow Cooker cassette is certainly random.

The little note sent with the tapes compared the band to the Dead Kennedys meets the B-52s.  That sure did sound like a terrible combination to me and these guys kind of live up to the billing a bit.  I hate the the vocals.  In fairness, I hate Dead Kennedys vocals as well.  And Sleater-Kinney.  They all have this affected warble that does absolutely nothing for me.

This sounds a lot more professional than a lot of the tapes that I get sent.  It's well recorded and the songs have definitive structures and aren't just chaotic noise.  But Slow Cooker are just not writing songs that I like at all.

Slow Kicker - Do a Kickflip:

Thursday, July 25, 2019

J. Robbins - Un-Becoming LP


Dischord (2019)

I discovered the world of J. Robbins much later than most other folks my age.  I was very lucky that Jawbox was one of my wife's favorite bands, so that inspired me to give them another listed after I had pretty much written them off in the 90s.  The fact that I ended up liking Jawbox as much as I did led me to digging into other bands like Burning Airlines and Channels. With a body of work as large as Robbins has, it's difficult to talk about his newest release without calling back to prior triumphs.

The good news is that if you have liked J. Robbins other bands, there's essentially no way you won't also love Un-Becoming.  As a whole, I find that it leans to the catchier side of his previous bands.  Song like "Anodyne" and "Abandoned Mansions" seem like they could probably have fit in with Burning Airlines pretty easily.  But, Un-Becoming still has plenty of moments where Robbins takes detours into songs significantly less straight forward,

"Our Own Devices" is built off of a guitar riff that is frankly kind of bizarre, but the rest of the song coalesces around it making it one of the best songs on the album.  "Kintsugi" is a sort-of electronic soundscape that pops up at the end of side one.  While I don't really like it that much as a standalone song, it makes sense within the context of the album and allows for a chance to catch your breath before diving into the second half of the record.

Chances are, if you like Jawbox or Burning Airlines, you probably have this record already if you know that it came out.  But if you're not familiar, this would be a pretty decent starting point to get a well rounded look at the styles of songs J Robbins is a master at creating.

J. Robbins - Un-Becoming:

Wednesday, July 24, 2019

Abolitionist - Ugly Feeling LP - Purple Vinyl (/269)


1859 Records/No Time Records/Between The Days/Different Kitchen (2019)

I have a lot of Abolitionist records.  They just keep coming and coming and this is the 5th full length album of theirs entering my collection.  Luckily, they are pretty consistent with their records and all of them harness an incredible amount of fire and fury.

If anything, Ugly Feeling might be the harshest of the bunch.  These dudes are pissed and have been getting more and more pissed off as the years go by.  Watching the news for thirty seconds, I can't imagine why that would be.  Things seem so stable and normal...  I think that this album probably has the least amount of obviously catchy songs on it.  They definitely veer towards harshness and less toward the pop hook.

That said, there is definitely a subtle catchiness baked into the album, but it's much more subtle than some of their past records.  Abolitionist is a band that I always thought seemed like would have fit right in on an early 2000s No Idea.  There's an inherent gruffness in everything they do and you can tell they are extremely passionate about the message they are trying to get out into the world.

Abolitionist - Ugly Feeling:

Tuesday, July 23, 2019

Wild Animals - The Hoax CD


Waterslide (2018)

I really liked the last Wild Animals record Basements: Music To Fight Hypocrisy.  It was a record that caught me by surprise and one I've subsequently spend quite a bit of time with.  They had high expectations to live up to when they released their follow up, The Hoax, but they've met those expectations and then some.

I still think the best comparison to make would be to bands like Silver Scooter, though with much fuzzier guitars and significantly better vocal harmonies. The record starts off with an ode to traveling to Japan, "Lost In Translation," which makes me yearn to go back myself.  From there, The Hoax is off to the races with song after song of catchy indie rock with just enough pop punk influence to keep things moving along nicely.

I really dig this record a lot.  It's every bit as good as their last album and there are moments where it even exceeds it.

Wild Animals - The Hoax:

Monday, July 22, 2019

The Half Hearts - S/T Cassette EP


Snappy Little Numbers (2019)

The Half Hearts have an energy about them that I really like.  They are a duo on this EP, just guitar and drums.  While I think bass guitar would flesh things out and make the songs sound fuller, they still have managed to create four really solid pop songs.

The band that comes to mind when listening to The Half Hearts is Title Tracks, in particular the first Title Tracks album In Blank.  It's a combination of the way the vocals are recorded and how crammed full of hooks the songs are.  I love In Blank, so having a band like The Half Hearts leaning in that same direction is something I can totally get behind.

This EP is a really cool introduction to The Half Hearts.  They are definitely onto something.  With a bass player, more songs and some vinyl, they could be a band really worth paying attention to.

The Half Hearts - S/T:

Thursday, July 18, 2019

Crocodile God - Thirteen LP - Orange Vinyl


Brassneck / Crackle (2019)

It's pretty darn exciting that there's a new Crocodile God album.  Even more exciting is the fact that it's the early Crocodile lineup from their run of classic 7" singles on Crackle Records from the 90s.  Another neat thing is to see that Crackle Records logo again, proudly next to the logo of the mighty Brassneck records.  Everything about this album is a reminder of probably my favorite time in music from my favorite scene in the world.

I've been listening to Crocodile God for close to twenty five years at this point.  They, along with Broccoli, Chopper, Hooton 3 Car, Reverse and Skimmer, were part of a crew of mid 90s bands from the UK that managed to release some of my favorite records of all time.  To this day, I'll hold up the Crocodile God song "Ladders" next to anything released that decade.  It's a perfect song. 

Thirteen sees the band in top form once again, cranking out song ofter song of their trademark buzzsaw guitar pop gems.  The vocals of Mark "Guitar" Murphy are probably less gravely than Broccoli on the gravely vocals scale, but still have that sort of gruff, but melodic tone that is part of so many of my favorite bands. I am also steadfast in my quest to make people call him Mark "Guitar" Murphy.  That should be mandatory when talking about the band.

There's a good mix of songs from Croc on this record.  Some blast by at a million miles an hour with super fast drumming, while others have a more subdued pace.  It's in these slightly slower songs where I think the songwriting of Crocodile God really shines. "Drunk" in particular is my favorite song on the entire record.  Even songs with drumming a little more gallop-y than I typically prefer always seem to have a killer breakdown in the chorus.  It's a such a fun listen and reminds me so much of being on vacation in England in 1997 digging around record stores hopping to find that next gem.

Crocodile God - Thirteen:

Wednesday, July 17, 2019

Gauche / Joyero - Split 7"


Merge (2019)

This split 7" came along with the acoustic Superchunk album AF as part of the Merge 30th subscription series.  Born Under A Good Sign has been pretty scattershot for me personally.  While I realize I haven't subscribed to a series of Superchunk records, I do wish I liked more of the bands that have had records be part of this subscription.

Gauche is kind of middle of the road, jangly guitar rock.  It's mid tempo and mid good.  I don't really like the vocals much at all, though they are the only thing that really stands out when you listen to the song.  Unfortunately, they don't stand out in a good way.

Joyero is even less up my alley.  "Evacuate" is built off of synth sounding 80s electronic drum beats and strained, reverb drenched vocals.  I don't listen to New Order, but they are who I thought of when this song was playing.  Except this Joyero is even slower and more forgettable.  Hey, at least there was a Superchunk record in this package.

Tuesday, July 16, 2019

The CSS - What A Coincidence! CD


Waterslide (2018)

The CSS is another in a long line of great bands putting out releases on Waterslide records.  There are several albums on Waterslide that use the same sort of artwork layout as the old Mutant Pop 7"s, but almost every one of the bands on Waterslide are better than most of those old Mutant Pop records. (Well, except for Underhand maybe, those are some of my favorite 7"s ever).

The CSS most remind me of The Hum Hums.  Both band have a bubblegum pop lean to them and both have outstanding backing vocals and harmonies.  Where CSS differs for me a bit is that I feel like they have more guitar chord progressions that remind me of older Lookout bands like Squirtgun.  But The CSS are so much better than Squirtgun ever was.

The golden era of pop punk in America was definitely in the 90s, but Japan continues to carry the torch today.  The CSS are just the latest band that I've heard playing the sort of music that I've always loved.  It's wonderful.

The CSS - What A Coincidence!

Monday, July 15, 2019

Nato Coles and the Blue Diamond Band / State Drugs - Split Cassette


Motorcycle Potluck (2019)

Minus three points for being on cassette.  OK, now that I've gotten that out of the way, lets talk about this split cassette release from Motorcycle Potluck.  It has five songs and two bands.  One band I'm familiar with and the other I haven't heard before.

Nato Coles and The Blue Diamond Band are the band I've heard of before.  I have a split 7" of theirs with Your Pest Band and I'm super familiar with one of Nato's older bands, Modern Machines.  I really liked the Modern Machines and I was reasonably into Nato's next band, Used Kids.  There hasn't been anything that he's released as Nato Coles and the Blue Diamond Band that has really struck a nerve with me.  It's just a little too rootsy and Springsteen-ish for my personal taste.  It's certainly not bad, but it kind of feels like old people music to me.  Yes, I know I'm old, but there's that 80s rock sound that Bruce champions and I'm not really a fan of it.

State Drugs are more my speed.  Even though you can still hear something of an Americana influence (Tom Petty is the reference that comes to mind), they're playing it faster and more dynamic.  None of the three State Drugs songs sound like they are trapped in the past.  The inspiration is there, but the band is using it as a jumping off point to create their own sounds.  These songs are pretty decent and I would check out more from them in the future.

Nato Coles and the Blue Diamond Band / State Drugs - Split Cassette:

Thursday, July 11, 2019

The Pretty Flowers - Golden Beat Sessions CD


Self Released (2019)

In case you haven't been paying attention, The Pretty Flowers released not only one of the best records of 2018, but one of the best records of the last five years when they put out Why Trains Crash.  If you don't already have that album, stop what you are doing and go buy it immediately.  Once you are back we can discuss their newest release, an eight song CD of covers they've released themselves.

The Golden Beat Sessions has The Pretty Flowers and their take on songs by groups as diverse as The Wipers, Teenage Fanclub, Thin Lizzy and Warren Zevon.  While the source material is pretty diverse, once they are run through the Pretty Flowers filter, they come out the other side feeling like a complete, congruous album.  In fact, you could probably stick just about any one of these songs into the middle of Why Trains Crash and I don't think I'd bat an eyelash at it.  Rather than serve up carbon copies of the originals, Pretty Flowers make these songs their own.

While I'm not a huge fan of EPs at the best of times, when you are doing a project like this of all cover songs, I'm going to have a different opinion than if you served up an EP of original songs.  Now, while I think that something like this is just begging to be released as a 10", I take solace in the fact that there's at least a CD version and I didn't have to buy a cassette.

The Pretty Flowers -  Golden Beat Sessions:

Wednesday, July 10, 2019

Sista Brytet - Hjärtat i Handen LP


Luftslott (2018)

I bought this Sista Brytet LP (and a 7" I wrote about a few weeks ago) because of a review I read in Razorcake.  Razorcake still is my go to source for trying to find new bands that are interesting to me.  I have a type to be sure, and Sista Brytet fits those parameters quite nicely.

All of the songs on this LP bristle with the sort of dynamic energy that makes me think of The Marked Men, but if they were crossed with the Randy album Welfare Problems.  There are singalong choruses and downstroke heavy guitar riffs played by a band that feels like they have a chip on their shoulder and are out to prove just how damn good they really are.

The songs on this LP are primarily sung in Swedish, so I can't really comment on their lyrical prowess.  Ultimately, I don't really care too much about what they're saying when I slap this on the record player.   I'm only concerned with incredible punk rock blasting out of my speakers.

Sista Brytet -  Hjärtat i Handen:

Tuesday, July 9, 2019

Black Dots - Everything Has Gotta Change 12" - Orange Vinyl (/285)


Snappy Little Numbers (2019)

What's the deal with single sided 12" vinyl?  I don't get it.  Why doesn't everyone wait for a few more songs and put out a full length?  This is likely one of my weird opinions that I'm projecting out into the world.  I like LPs and I like 7"s singles, but the five to eight song EP is something I find kind of frustrating for whatever reason.  It didn't bother me so much when I was younger, making mix tapes to listen to in my station wagon, but these days it's one of those things that irks me for whatever reason.

I really like these Black Dots songs.  I think the fact that they are so good is one of the things that heightens my annoyance of the fact that there's only eight songs on this 12".  Black Dots are playing that gruff, working class punk rock that I always seem to like.  You can hear a little bit of Eternal Cowboy era Against Me along with the lower key moments of Dear Landlord, but I also find Black Dots to be more melodic than either of those bands.  They've got the hooks and a good amount of grit that keeps the songs relatable.  The fact that they have song names that reference Spaceballs and Three Amigos only makes them more lovable.

Everything Has Gotta Change is a fun listen, if only I could flip the record over and hear more.

Black Dots -  Everything Has Gotta Change:

Monday, July 8, 2019

Sprocket Wheel - 1992 - 1997 Best of Shits 2xCD


Sweft (2000)

I wrote about a Sprocket Wheel 7" a few weeks ago and mentioned that I had found another interesting release at the same time.  This double CD is the release I was talking about and it's one that I found in a 7" bin while record shopping in Tokyo during my trip a few years ago.  I didn't really know what it was at the time that I bought it (I was buying a lot of records and in some ways not paying total attention to what I was buying), I just knew it was a Sprocket Wheel release I didn't have.

When I got back to the hotel to review my bounty, I realized this was a double CD full of Sprocket Wheel songs and from what I can tell now, it appears to be a complete collection of their entire discography.  It has all of the songs from both of their full lengths.  It has songs from their split 7"s with Goober Patrol and Less Than Jake along with the 7" I wrote about a few weeks ago.  It also contains every compilation song that I am able to find as well as a few demos.  What I'm getting at is that it's very complete.

I have a lot of these songs already, but I'll admit that it is nice to have everything compiled in one place, particularly all of those compilation songs.  Now if I want to sit down and listen to all of the wonderfully fast and melodic punk blasts that these guys released in the 90s, I don't have to tear apart my entire CD rack to accomplish that.  This Sprocket Wheel compilation is similar to a Lovemen compilation that I have..  Now if someone would put one out for Blew, I'll have the trifecta of the three biggest Japanese bands that I listened to when I first started buying records from Japan.

Sprocket Wheel - Five songs from 1992 - 1997 Best of Shits:

Monday, July 1, 2019

Summer Vacation

Taking a week off from reviews since it's a short work week as well.  I'll be back on Monday 7/08.