Tuesday, October 20, 2015



Acting Strange – Night On The Tiles EP (In Black)
Night On The Tiles sounds in a way as both lost tapes and homage to early Beatles and even ‘60’s Nuggets style pop. The lo-fi production on the EP fits Acting Strange’s songwriting, which is filled with pop sensibilities hidden under bluesy-tinged folk rock n’ roll. “Oh No” sounds like an early Beatles or Dylan where the harmonica takes center stage playing the harmonic lead. “Dreaming Away” is a very early-Beatleseque ballad. These folk rocking cousins from Scotland recorded Night On the Tiles in a cherished Uncle’s store and the sentimentality is not lost in the songwriting.   – Ed Stuart

Atlantic Thrills – Bed Bugs 7” (Almost Ready)
Much like a bed bugs infestation, Atlantic Thrills new single “Bed Bugs” will get under your skin for all the right reasons. “Bed Bugs” floats somewhere between lazy-party punk anthem much like New Swears or a more sophisticated Mean Jeans and pop filled garage-y rock n’ roller. The B-Side is a cover of The Archies classic, “Sugar Sugar,” which really sounds nothing like the original and plays more like the Velvet Underground is covering this loaded on heroin. – Ed Stuart

Baby Ghosts – Maybe Ghosts LP (Drunken Sailor)
A breath of fresh air from the Great Salt Lake! Don’t get me wrong, I love what we do here at Audio Ammunition, but the amount of doom and gloom in a lot of the music we get here, well let’s just say it’s enough to scuff a Care Bear’s soul. Baby Ghost’s Karly, Katrina, Chaz and Bret play a unique yet at the same time familiar brand of loud, upbeat, rag tag, indie pop with hints of bands like Yo La Tengo, Superchunk, and even some Imperial Teen sprinkled around here and there. The band describes themselves as “sad and cute at the same time” which made me laugh, it’s true but there is much more here. This is the band’s 2nd full-length release I believe, following the equally excellent Let’s Always Hang Out Together, Okay? that came out in 2012.  A great band that seem to have a big bag full of hooks, harmonies and hi-jinks slung over their shoulder and aren’t shy to use them.    - J Castro

Bad Meds – Bad Meds Cassette (Maple Death Records)
The first song “Hoax Apocalypse” from this Liverpool trio sounds like it could be a lost early Mudhoney track! Singer/ guitarist Paul Rafferty exudes his own brand of ‘90’s snotty slacker vocals that sound right there next to Steven Malkmus or Mark Arm himself. Bad Meds encapsulate killer melodic sludge with guitar hooks strong enough to make their way out of the pools of fuzz for gasps of air from time to time. The rest of the songs off of this EP range from early grungy sludge punk and wander into Daydream Nation era Sonic Youth and back around again. The third song “Release The Bees” goes into a surrealistic slow whirlpool of darkness that’s barely held together by the nearly dead snare drum beat. Then the band springs right back with a roaring tune called “The City Against Itself.” With the last song on the EP: “It’s Grim Up North,” Bad Meds lets you go gently, and relatively unharmed as they bid you farewell.
- J Castro       

The Basement Benders – S/T 7” (Drunken Sailor)
This band includes members of these other musical outfits: This Bike is a Pipe Bomb, Hidden Spots, Future Virgins, Black Rainbow and more. If this is helpful to you, to be perfectly honest, I haven’t actually heard any of these bands; some of the names are familiar though. To me (and the band is probably going to cringe at these comparisons) sounds like a cross between Blake Schwarzenbach from Jawbreaker’s other project Jets to Brazil and Stiff Little Fingers. It’s really melodic, hard hitting with a sincere working class, down to earth quality woven throughout. The first song “Native Tongues” sets everything up and the record just keeps rolling, gaining momentum until it hits the wall hard and engulfs into flames with “Train Song” and winds you down with “Voices,” a bit more of a mid-tempo tune that caps the record off perfectly. Great release, it’s one of those records where all of the songs sound like they were meant to be together instead of just thrown into a compilation bucket.   - J Castro

Ben Katzman’s Degreaser – Venus in Pisces LP (BUFU)
This New England gang plays loud, rude, in your face glam/metal rock with white fringe all down the sides of their black leather pants. I hear traces of Dictators, Hanoi Rocks, The Sweet, and Dead Boy’s wild style delivery flying all around as I’m playing this record. One thing is for sure; it’s not predictable, at all. It’s like watching a Tarantino film. You’re sitting there thinking I really like this character, only to find he gets killed soon after you think that. But then new characters take their place so you’re not sad anymore. For Venus in Pisces it starts off with the all-instrumental intro that’s a full on fret board exercise. That leads to the brash number “Real Life Is So High School,” then in my opinion the most all around rocking song “You Shred (But You’re Really Just Playing Me) Baby.” It’s got a monster hook that will grab you by its teeth, hold you and then eat you alive like a great white shark. Then there’s this hilarious spoken word piece about the new Van Halen album. This record is meant to be played from start to finish, so you can get the entire roller coaster ride experience.   - J Castro

Birds of Paradise (with Slates) – Ghosts of a Lover 7” (Zaxxon)
The Montreal duo of Hannah Lewis and Roy Vucino (also of Red Mass and PyPy fame) make up Birds of Paradise; an experimental country, folk, psych dream factory. On this release they joined forces with Edmonton’s organic punk quartet Slates. The title track is a fantastic country kissed, blues flavored folk tune with some noisy guitars thrown in. It’s the kind of song that resonates in your head as a car finally pulls over after you’ve been thumbing for a ride for hours and as you’re getting in you start to remember the people and the places you’re leaving behind out of desperation. The B-Side is a cover of the old Suicide (yes it’s Martin Rev and Alan Vega’s Suicide) slithering electro funk tune of urban excess “Diamonds, Fur Coat, Champagne.” Only it’s been deconstructed and reassembled into a slow burning folk tune that penetrates my soul far more than the original ever did for me.  - J Castro

The Black Cheers – Sick Gun LP (Self-Release)
Has it really been two years since Black Cheers released The Cat, The Bat, The Rat, The Dog? Sick Gun is tougher and more straight-ahead than their previous EP. While Black Cheers still have traces of rock n’ roll like Humpers and New Bomb Turks, they have also embraced harder edge punk sounds much like Dillinger Four. I’m a little surprised a label hasn’t rolled the dice on them yet. – Ed Stuart

The Boys - Live in China CD (Action Records)
From what I understand The Boys had a tour in China booked and ready to roll out. When they got there however, they were told that the Chinese Government had canceled the entire tour. That’s when I would have said “OK well, thank you and goodbye” but not this band! The Boys set up a series of small secret gigs promoted only by word of mouth. This CD was recorded at those back alley and basement gigs and the 13 tracks featured here span their entire career; from hits like “Sick on You” and “Brickfield Nights” to deep album cuts like “You Can’t Hurt a Memory” and “T.C.P” to “Punk Rock Girl” and “I’m a Believer” that are off of their latest album Punk Rock Menopause. The recordings thoroughly capture the intensity, wild energy and danger of the situation. After all, anyone at these gigs risked imprisonment just for attending, so The Boys got to play intimate gigs for their biggest fans in China.  - J Castro       

Century Palm – Valley Cyan 7” (Deranged)
In it’s original release, Valley Cyan is a 7-inch single, with “Accept” as the B-side, but when the single was sent to us for review it came with 6 other songs which contain two from a previous White Light single. Let’s get down to what you are really reading for. Century Palm is a new wave/post punk band from members of Ketamines and Zebrasser. On Valley Cyan, Century Palm brings together bits of Eno, Television, Devo, Ultravox and Wire to make a cool batch of songs. – Ed Stuart

Century Palm – White Light b/w New Creation 7” (Symbolic Capitol Industries)
We are graced with yet another 7” this time around from the Toronto quintet. The A-Side is a killer fast moving melodic tune that for me, is really hard to pin down the direct influence, which I love when that happens. It reminds me of “She Sells Sanctuary” by The Cult a little bit maybe and a little bit like The Alarm and Echo and The Bunnymen. It’s definitely a rockin’ tune with a decent velocity to it and the guitars are playing a mighty catchy hook. Both songs have elements of punk, post punk, and new wave brilliantly woven throughout. It’s obvious this band didn’t have their eyes on someone in particular’s prize and set out to be the next whatever, but instead they take what they know and love, mix it in a pot, put it in the oven and laid out what came out for all of us to partake in. Terrific record by a fantastic band, I went and listened to the rest of their stuff after hearing this and it’s all great!  - J Castro

Destruction Unit – Negative Feedback Resistor LP (Sacred Bones)
This band has been gaining such incredible momentum since their conception. They’re constantly on tour and thus have been getting a lot of press. Everyone from Rolling Stone magazine to Henry Rollins have thrown roses at this band. One of the funniest things I read about Destruction Unit was some paper describing them as “If Pink Floyd were a Texas biker gang.” That actually made me laugh out loud, but the more I thought about it, it was kind of true.  Personally, I think they have more in common with The Germs or Motorhead at times than with Pink Floyd, but that element is sprayed on their songs. Destruction Unit’s music is a hurricane of shadow, aggression, anxiety, and chaos; this new record is no different. The most impressive part about this band is that none of those elements is done randomly. It’s all a calculated assault on your senses and you’re subconscious. For fans of Pissed Jeans, Metz, Ice Age, and I guess choppers and 60’s progressive/psychedelic bands from London.  - J Castro

The Diamond Age – Sleepwalking Single (Self-Release)
The Diamond Age is in the same ballpark as modern bands like The Drums, but has its musical roots in bands like Depeche Mode, Human League, New Order and others of this mid-80’s UK post-punk/new wave ilk. Sleepwalking has the nods to dream-pop and showcases this UK two-piece’s ability to write songs that you can literally and figuratively fall into. Someone should really hit up The Diamond Age to write some movie soundtracks. – Ed Stuart

Downtown – S/T Cassette (Shake!)
Downtown is from Victoria, Canada. This is one of the bands from Shake!’s splatter series. It might be best to let Downtown describe themselves, which they do aptly on Facebook page as a “pop creep band.” On their S/T release, Downtown plays an eerily brand of pop that leans way more to psych and weirder indie than it does to traditional verse-chorus-verse-chorus pop.  – Ed Stuart

Dri Hiev – S/T Cassette (Shake!)
A dark, destructive, burned out, smoldering musical wreckage and yet somehow through all of that is still oddly melodic! Try to imagine playing a record that is a cross between the pre Joy Division band Warsaw that got melted on to the first Damned record because you somehow left them both in your car in the summer and somehow in the same sleeve (c’mon just play along), while someone in the next room is playing Jesus and Mary Chain’s Psychocandy really loudly.  This is killer minimalist, dark, punk rock executed with a dull heavy sword. You can sense the danger and desperation of the band as if they were playing in a sinkhole while it’s being covered in sediment made of reverb and static noise. All of this and you get it on a cool yellow splatter cassette (part of Shake! Record’s splatter series.) They call Calgary, Alberta one of the cleanest cities in the world; obviously the tourist bureau hasn’t gotten wind of these guys!   - J Castro

Everyday Things - S/T EP (No Front Teeth)
I had to double check what label this was really on, it sounds like it should say La-Ti-Da on the bottom right corner but nope, it comes to us from those acid for blood, teeth ground to sharp points, wild eyed punks at No Front Teeth! I think it’s great that they’ve been moving in new directions in the last couple of years and been putting out some of the most enjoyable music on the planet. Edmonton’s Everyday Things just adds to their fantastic roster. They play really terrific jangly mod power pop, in a similar spirit to bands like Secret Affair, Squire and Circles used to.  No Front Teeth compares them to The Other Kids, The Scruffs and Quincy. Those are pretty darn close comparisons as well. This is Everyday Things first release but the band has members of Nervous Wreck and Let’s Dance so you know they know the score. Comparisons aside, this is some unbelievably well done, feel good rock n’ roll with mile high hooks and soaring melodies that are perfect for your sunny Sunday ride through the serene cityscape on your 1966 Piaggio Vespa.  - J Castro

The Fur Coats – Short Brain 7” (Drunken Sailor/Rad Girlfriend/Make That A Take)
Short Brain is four pop-punk band blasts from Marc Ruvolo (No Empathy, Johann’s Face Records). Ruvolo has been in the game for a long time. The Fur Coats sounds like a mix of Buzzcocks with the Smoking Popes and in a lot of ways remind of more ‘90’s stuff like Moral Crux. – Ed Stuart

The Hunches – Demos 7” (Almost Ready)
From what I understand, Almost Ready went and unearthed the Portland troublemaker’s early recordings from way back in the early ‘00’s. It doesn’t seem like that long ago, but a lot has happened since then, especially in modern/mainstream music. But to those of us that have had their ear to the ground for a while, The Hunches’ records have been cranking parties up to respectable levels since. Apparently these tracks that the band recorded back then never saw the light of day or barely did but only in compilations, never in an official release or anything, until now that is. The Hunches songs on this record have a more Replacements meets Young Fresh Fellows flavor to them. They hadn’t quite yet experienced the werewolf like transformation into the full throttle flaming train wreck most people know them as and that is documented in their first record Yes. No. Shut It. The thing that always stood out to me about the Hunches was Hart Geldhill’s vocals. They were sung/screamed with such honesty and desperation, to a degree and magnitude that remains a rarity in rock n’ roll.   - J Castro

Hush Pup – Waterwings Cassette (Shake!)
This Victoria, British Colombia trio don’t seem to play their instruments at all like you picture most bands doing but rather they just stand there with them in hand, softly caressing them and letting the gentle sound waves these instruments emit slowly wash over and into your ears like low tide on a secluded beach. The record starts off with the dream like tune “Thailand” with a slow whirlpool of synths and the vocals coming in like faint familiar echoes. Then Hush Pup pick up the pace just a bit on the second song “Swimming,” that features a steady electro heartbeat. After that the band quietly and steadily start to slow things down as you begin to see the exit sign.  Hush Pup’s music is greatly influenced by Cocteau Twins with a more lush and swirling dream pop sound with electrical pulses illuminating the edges. Like dark thunderclouds with lightning strikes too high to hear their thunder but can be seen around the edges. Think M83, Goldfrapp with hints of Air and The Postal Service.   - J Castro

Joey Pinter – S/T LP (Self-Release)
Joey Pinter cut his teeth at Max’s Kansas City playing with The Knots (a band that released one of the more hard-sought collectible singles in “Heartbreaker”), The Dogs and most notably with the Waldos. Pinter has released his solo LP, which is heavy on New York Dolls, Johnny Thunders, Rolling Stones style rock n’ roll that Pinter has been playing most of his life, which still hasn’t lost any of the bite.  – Ed Stuart

Kim Gray – S/T Cassette EP (Shake!)
This here cassette contains four of Trevor Gray’s songs filled to the brim with sloshing surf kissed lo-fi ditties. Trevor Gray is also the guitarist/vocalist for Vancouver’s Skinny Kids.  Although the songs here don’t differ too radically from Skinny Kid’s tunes, they do seem more “lazy Sunday afternoon at the beach underneath the pier,” if you know what I mean. There is a video for the first song on the EP titled “On Top” that pretty much embodies the vibe and feel of this release. It features Gray easy rollin’ down to the record store with a box of discs in hand when he suddenly takes a nasty spill on his skateboard, busting up some records. He gets a bit agitated but then quickly dusts himself off and proceeds to having a good day. Stopping on the way and eating some pizza and ice cream, only to have his records he takes to the record store thrown in the trash by the hipster punk lady behind the counter! At first listen, Kim Gray reminded me of Alex Zhang Hungtai’s Dirty Beaches only with a little less David Lynch. 
-       J Castro

L’Assassins – Fire of Love 7” (Pinata)
L’Assassins play a mean surf/rockabilly/’60’s rock n’ roll and look more like vixen bad girls Suzi Quatro and Joan Jett and like they could of stepped out of a John Waters movie. “Fire of Love,” the A-side on this 2 song single, was written specifically for the band by Chan Poling (The Suburbs). “Liar” is more of L’Assassins brand of Thee Headcoatees meets The Cramps. – Ed Stuart

Lab Coast – Walking On Ayr Cassette (Shake!)
Walking On Ayr was one of the last releases by the now defunct Mammoth Cave Records. In Shake!’s quest to release as many Canadian bands as possible, they have put out a cassette version of Lab Coast’s Walking On Ayr. Lab Coast plays indie pop heavy on dream-pop guitar melodies with some shoegaze and a touch of experiment that sticks right under the two-minute mark.  – Ed Stuart

Life On Mars – Facedown on the Pavement EP (Braindead)
When you read hardcore as description, you never really know what to expect anymore. Is it going to the growling vocals or the old school Minor Threat? Life On Mars is more of early 7 Seconds and early Thrasher Skate Rock tapes comps sound. For the person who hated PE in school, “All Sports Suck,” might be your mantra. Facedown on the Pavement is ‘80’s punk/hardcore that was raised on the Faction from ex-members of Al Bundie’s Army. – Ed Stuart

Martha/Benny The Jet Rodriquez – Split 7” (Drunken Sailor)
On the surface, there doesn’t seem like these bands have a lot in common other than both bands having girls in them. Martha is a band from a small English town that plays very catchy pop (think Jam/Shivvers/mod-punk), which they proved on their LP Courting Strong. On this split, they roll out one original and their cover of Masshysteri’s “Dom Kan Inte Hora Musiken.” Both songs are instantly addicting and catchy. On the flipside is Benny The Jet Rodriguez. BTJR is one of the Recess crew from San Pedro. BTJR up their pop quotient for this split (maybe because of Martha being on the other side?), but still hide it in a lo-fi cover that fans of their debut will be more familiar with.  – Ed Stuart

Marvelous Mark – Bite Me 7” (Drunken Sailor)
Who is this Mark fellow and why does he have the audacity to call himself “marvelous” you ask? Well apparently that’s him on the cover in that stoic, humorless photo that made me smile when I saw it, just because it’s so devoid of any sort of jubilance whatsoever. He was also a member of one of our favorite bands here at Audio Ammunition; Toronto’s The Marvelous Darlings, who existed for only a few short years around 2007 – 2010ish. So that’s who Marvelous Mark is. The songs on his new record Bite Me have a melodic power pop feel played with a shoegaze pose similar in sound and feel to early Teenage Fanclub, The Posies, The La’s and even some Oasis; and THEIR influences include Big Star, The Hollies, The Zombies and all those great bands with loud guitars and soaring melodies. Mix all of that up, perhaps turn up the volume a bit and you’ve got somewhat of a feeling of why Marvelous Mark should be marveled.   - J Castro       

Mass Lines – Personality Cult 12” (Hot Salvation/Rip This Joint)
Mass Lines, while billed as a punk band, is probably closer to punk in attitude than it’s actual musical sound. Personality Cult is full of socially and politically charged lyrics, think more Fugazi than Crass. Speaking of Fugazi, Mass Lines does have bits of their influence, but more Hot Snakes and Fall that keeps the energy and earnestness of Mass Lines high.  – Ed Stuart

Mr. Clit & the Pink Cigarettes – Wet Willy 10” (Heel Turn)
Grungy blues-punk and mid-90’s alternative comes to together in a very demented way. At times, this reminds of a musical circus especially “What’s Inside Your Lunchbox.” At other times, this reminds of Am Rep style stuff like Jesus Lizard or Halo of Flies that tended to lean more weird than muscular. If you like punk with some heavy Captain Beefheart, Wet Willy has what you need.  – Ed Stuart

New Swears – Junk Food Forever, Bedtime Whatever LP (Dirt Cult)
Dirt Cult is bringing this gem to the states. Previously, Junk Food was released on Bachelor. Is New Swears a party band? Yes. So what do they bring to the party? Besides endless beers, these Canadians bring some of the catchiest tunes you may hear all year. The band seems to present itself as lazy, but songs like this don’t comes from laziness. New Swears are bit of garage-pop-power-popish cocktail with fun as a chaser. – Ed Stuart

Nogoods – Let’s Be Friends Cassette (Shake!)
Lo-fi garage punk from Victoria, BC that has maybe more in common with Sebodah and/or other bedroom tape bands than it’s does to ’77. Nogoods is from Canada and Let’s Be Friends is their debut release. Nogoods mixes lo-fi garage punk, think Supercharger, along with some early, albeit slower-paced, Thermals. – Ed Stuart

No Sir I Won’t – Shit EP (Drunken Sailor)
If you’re not into politics, No Sir I Won’t will not be your band. If you are, No Sir plays a politically charged punk much like Crass, Conflict and early Chumbawumba. Shit packs a musical melodic punk punch in addition to a lyrical one. A mix of guy/girl vocals that will have you asking questions, like much of their politically inclined forefathers did. – Ed Stuart

Novel – Discrete Noise Cassette (Shake!)
Sharp, jittery, 60’s garage influenced songs that sound like they were recorded in a dark cave with bats on the ceiling and everything. The music oozes out of your speakers with a thick coat of reverb and somehow from the moment it leaves the radio to the second it enters and begins to roll down your ear canal, it gathers all sorts of fuzz and lint on it. Some of the songs here are quick pop numbers that will get your toe tappin’ and your hips shakin’ and are in and out like the wind. Others are a tad more atmospheric and linger in the air and in the psyche for a while longer. From what I can tell, this is the debut release from this Victoria, British Columbia band.  A standout track for me is “More Like You;” it has a neat ominous guitar riff like an old spy movie soundtrack and the chorus has a herky jerky Gang of Four meets Devo flavor. Novel takes all these influences and cooks them up well so that everything stays together, barely.   
- J Castro

Pale Heads – Headless LP (Poison City)
Four Melbourne guys from bands like Harmony, and Batpiss make some of the dirtiest, fuzziest punk that comes from the Land Down Under. Headless, the band’s debut does not come out the gate lightly. It’s scuzz punk mixed some mid-90’s indie/alternative Am Rep leanings makes for one tough debut. – Ed Stuart

Party Lights – I See The Lights LP (Self Released)
So what if New York’s Party Lights released a brightly sparkled, sunny day at the beachy type of a record in October! Here where I am it’s still bright and sunny so it sits just right with me.  Besides, even if you’re in snow and dreariness, records like this serve as a warm cup of cocoa with marshmallows on top. It has the power to thaw out your cold cruel heart. On the band’s Facebook page their description reads as “The bastard children of Cheap Trick and The Go-Go's” and “worshiping at the altar of The Knack and The Real Kids.” I know that sounds really great, and it’s also pretty spot on.  I’d throw in a little Blondie or Nikki and The Corvettes in there too. The first time I heard of this band was with the EP they had a couple of years ago on No Front Teeth records. Party Lights also shares personnel with the marvelous Recordettes, who also had an EP on NFT! Party Lights has less of a campy vibe than the Recordettes did though, their music is more propulsive, more driving in a Ramones sort of way.  Standout track: none,   They’re all equally great!   - J Castro

 Phylums – Phylum Phyloid LP (Dirtnap)
While Phylum Phyloid is an exercise in alliteration, listening to the Phylums is no exercise at all. The Phylums are a fun ‘60’s garage influenced pop band that feature members of The Goodnight Loving and Jaill. Phylum Phyloid is like Trashmen meets ‘60’s California beach pop with some clean tone surf riffs thrown in on top. I realize a lot of garage now is just cover for psych, but Phylums are not that at all. Songs like “Stutter Bug” showcase their fun pop while “I Gotta Know” is more trashy, but catchy as hell. Phylums are Milwaukee, but after listening to this LP, you would think they hang out at the beach all day.  – Ed Stuart

Plastick – S/T Cassette (Shake!)
Another band that was featured in Shake!’s splatter series earlier this year. Plastick is a goth/minimal post-punk band that features members of The Slabs and Hag Face. Plastick plays a mix of Bauhaus with pieces of Warsaw minimalism that features guitar parts that remind me of SST-era Sonic Youth on their S/T release.  – Ed Stuart

 worshipping at the altar of the Knack and the Real Kids worshipping at the altar of the Knack and the Real Kids  Brooklyn quartet doesn't see a problem with worshipping at the altar of the Knack and the Real KiPredator – Drag 7” (Total Punk)
Predator; Atlanta, GA’s long running, battle scarred band of malcontents play simple heavy punk rock that’s loaded with gloom, cynicism, and paranoia. The music also has hints of those lesser-known British punk bands from back in the late ‘70’s. Groups like some of the ones on the Short Sharp Shock CD compilation like The Now mixed with something heavier like Filth or early Pain of Mind era Neurosis. The first song “Drag” has some sharp angularities to it with a slightly new-wave-y/Devo feel to the verses. The song has an overall feeling of despair and bleakness to it though; it’s fantastic! The B-Side, a ditty called “First to Know,” is a slow moving bulldozer of a tune that pushes its way into the folds of your brain like a hydraulic press. This isn’t peppy pop punk or you’re trendy “now sound” noise band. Predator explores the darker parts of life and of the human spirit. What you hear is a reflection of what they see and it isn’t pretty, but that doesn’t make it any less true to life, at least for those with their eyes open. 
- J Castro

The Prettys – Empty Heads Cassette (Shake!)
The Prettys are a mix of ‘70’s pre-punk meets early garage. After reading the description, I was expecting more glam, but instead what I heard was early-Rolling Stones, Back To The USA MC-5, and Real Kids style rock n’ roll, but without the production budget so it leans to the lo-fi of a ’74-’77 production sound. – Ed Stuart

Pronto – S/T LP (Slovenly)
There was always a really distinct quality about old Australian punk. It hits a little harder in the gut it seems, more so than the early British and American bands but it doesn’t lose any of the melody or groove. Pronto take a lot of the old ‘77 punk and early Aussie influences, but throws in late ‘70’s/early ‘80’s street punk in there, some of the choruses even have a shout along Oi! feel to them. Try to imagine the raw ferocity of The Pack and The Kids mixed with the power of say early Sham 69 or Menace and you have a good idea of the utter ruthlessness and savagery that is Pronto. The production adds even more to the ambience of this release. It’s recorded in a way that it makes all the instruments and vocals come together in a unified attack on your eardrums as opposed to a crystal clear production that only dilutes rock n’ roll and turns it into something safe to play at grocery stores and dentist offices.  If you’re a fan of this kind of music, this is absolutely essential. One of my favorite releases of the year!    - J Castro

Raw Pony – S/T 7” (Heel Turn)
Columbus, OH’s Raw Pony deliver some raw, sweaty rock n’ roll that sounds like it was recorded in the back of a delivery truck that’s stuck in heavy traffic with all the mics on the outside. This is the band’s first official first release, and what a way to make an entrance! When listening to this EP, I think of Memphis, TN’s Nots mixed with The Mummies and a whole heap load of Back from The Grave. It’s a chaotic song with a simple hard strummed guitar lick with vocals running all over the place but controlled by the hypnotic hard pounding drums that beat everything into submission. The B-Side is a little ditty titled “Shattered.” The Bass takes the wheel on this one, laying a solid foundation for everything to blast off from. This one is a bit slowed down but it wrenches your guts twice as much. Solid debut from these Ohioan girls.  Can’t wait for the LP’s that are coming down the pipe!  - J Castro

The Red Daggers – Opium Clouds EP (Self Released)
Ottawa’s Red Daggers play true-blue psychedelic music, the kind I really like. The kind where I can still hear the rock n’ roll in it, like the stuff Sky Saxon did. What I mean to say I guess is that they’re unlike most bands that play this style of music right now because they’re not nauseatingly boring! Much like Seattle’s Night Beats or Minneapolis’ Narco States (both of whom I adore); The Red Daggers play psychedelic rock n’ roll with a purpose. A lot, and I do mean A LOT of the bands I hear that clam to be “psych” bands are spineless, directionless puddles of useless goo that just splatter outside the mighty gates of the Audio Ammunition Underwater Volcano Stronghold. These are the kinds of bands where I can’t help wonder; “Why are you even doing this?” Your band needs a purpose boys and girls, you need drive. Find out what the bands you listen to listen to and then what they listened to and so on. Keep digging and you will find many treasures, I promise.  - J Castro

The Role Models – The Go-To Guy LP (Glunk)
Upon first note of Go To Guy, I was instantly reminded of Beat Angels. Beat Angels was an amazing band that was unfortunately, for them, ahead of their time, but Role Models is playing the same glam kissed power-pop rock n’ roll that is being championed today. Go-To Guy is for all the fans of Beat Angels, Replacements, D Generation, Cheap Trick, Johnny Thunders solo stuff and American Power-pop. If you want punk, it’s there. If you want power-pop, it’s there. If you want rock n’ roll, it’s there.  – Ed Stuart

The Sick Livers – Mid Liver Crisis LP (Glunk/Baldy Longhair)
This is Punk Rawk! Raunch N’ Roll? Well whatever you want to call it, these 5 Brits can rock pretty hard. The music is loud, fun and full of really catchy hooks that blaze by you at 100 MPH.  Imagine Michael Monroe’s flair (listen to the first track “This is my Denim”), Dead Boys ferocity (check out “Sorry, Thank You, Fuck You”), Johnny Thunder’s chops (listen to the opening riff on “Dark Dangerous and Delicious” for all the proof of this you’ll need), and all of this wrapped in Dictators type sense of humor and you got yourself a nibble of the Sick Livers experience. This also reminds me of a few other bands that put the rock ahead of the punk like Electric Frankenstein or Jakkpot. From what I’ve read, they’re quite a force to be reckoned with live and I hear we Americans may get a taste of this soon. Glen Matlock (yes THAT Glen Matlock) said “Sick Livers? Hate the condition, love the fuckin’ band” Can’t argue much with that!    - J Castro

Stay Clean Jolene – S/T LP, EP or 7” (Dead Broke/Rad Girlfriend/Drunken Sailor/Eager Beaver)
When I think of melodic punk, I tend to think US first, but Stay Clean Jolene follows the path trailblazed by other UK band Leatherface. Stay Clean Jolene also throws in bits of early Samian, Jawbreaker, Husker Du and Replacements to round out the mix. Currently Stay Clean Jolene could be right at home with a band like Unwelcome Guests. Melodic punk works best when it’s delivered honestly without pretense and on their S/T debut, Stay Clean Jolene does just that. – Ed Stuart

Stiletto Bomb – In The Dark CDEP (Mooster)
This is the official debut record from this Westfield, MA band that’s made up of veteran punk musicians from that area. The group’s songs have a tough as nails approach and are layered in melodies and loud guitars with male/female vocals that trade off and back each other up nicely.  The band’s overall sound is like it straddles the fence between pop punk and street punk, kind of like New Jersey’s Bouncing Souls. The record starts off with a guitar shredding instrumental called “In The Dark” that is capable of melting the face off of Eddie Van Halen himself! It then kicks the doors in with the punk rock battle cry of “Fight the Fight” and doesn’t let up from there! Not until the panic inducing paranoid schizophrenic sledge hammer that is their closer titled “Freak Out.” Not the most original style of music out there, Stiletto Bomb ain’t the first or the last and they know it. What does matter is the guts and the pursuit of glory, and this band’s got that in spades!   - J Castro

The Stops – Nameless Faces LP (Dirt Cult/Sabotage)
If you haven’t been following Dirt Cult and Sabotage, you are really missing out on some good releases and now they have combined to release The Stops. On Nameless Faces, The Stops take Adolescents blue LP, Wipers and Go-Go influences and play it like T.S.O.L. Dance With Me/Beneath The Shadows era would. Nameless Faces is both darkly melodic and filled with songwriting that reminds in parts of the first Adolescents. The Stops play a highly catchy blend of dark ‘80’s So-Cal punk riffs and hooks by members of Red Dons, and Pataha Hiss.  – Ed Stuart

The Suburban Homes – Conformity in the U.K. 7” (Total Punk)
Cool, tightly wound melodic and minimalistic punk tunes from these sassy Brits that is made to rattle the rocks in your head out of complacency. The singer reminds me of Dick Lucas from the Subhumans or Nikki Sudden but with a Mark E Smith deadpan delivery. The instrumentation on this release is kept to an absolute minimum, a guitar with no feedback or distortion that I can tell is playing one simple toe tapping riff and same goes for the drums, and the vocals don’t go off in any kind of screaming tangent anywhere, not a lot of flash here, but they get the job done. The songs are still solid not hollow or lacking in anything by any means. What this bare bones approach does do is spotlight the vocals and the lyrics. The A-Side is about, well the title kind of says it all here doesn’t it? The B-Side, a song called “Television Spies” is a sweet gloomy bedtime tale of narcissism and paranoia. In other words, Total Punk!  - J Castro

Twin Guns – Last Picture Show LP (Hound Gawd!)
Looking at just the cover, I thought there might me a lot of Guitar Wolf warship packaged in here, but I was wrong, well not completely. NYC’s Twin Guns mix the sights, sounds and textures of bands like Birthday Party, Gun Club, Velvet Underground, The Phantom, and The Cramps (who Twin Gun’s drummer “jungle” Jim Chandler used to play for). The record was produced by Matt Verta-Ray (of Heavy Trash, Speedball Baby, and The Madder Rose fame) and mastered by the Grammy award winning Michael Tudor who’s worked with everyone from The New York Dolls to Moby and even worked on soundtracks for films like Party Girl and American Psycho. So yes, this record sounds great. Twin Guns music provides the perfect soundtrack for a dark, foggy night on the beach while you sit there looking out at the vast ocean waves and start to plot your revenge.  - J Castro

Vamos – Spiderbait LP (Maximum Pelt)
From Chicago, IL comes Vamos, a trio of hard partyin’ rock n’ rollers that love to dress up their music in all things fuzz and reverb! The band sites The Animals, Iggy and The Stooges and Nirvana as influences. I think that pretty much sums it all up right there. They also name Jets to Brazil as an influence, which is a bit odd I think but I was pleasantly surprised to see this since they are one of my favorite bands, but I digress. This is Vamos first full length from what I can see, following a trio of EP’s. If you like young bands like Wavves, No Age, Cloud Nothings or Fidlar, you’re going to want to immerse yourself in Chicago’s Vamos. Or even if you don’t, you’ll like Vamos better. They sound leaner, meaner and hungrier than those hipster rock stars.  Plus, I’d be willing to bet that these guys can drink any of those other bands under the table, no contest!   - J Castro

Various Artists – We’re Loud: 90’s Cassette Punk Unknowns (Slovenly/Black Gladiator)
I use “Various Artists” as the title of this review, but it’s largely one artist, with different collaborators/backing bands. This is a collection of a mere fraction of the music recorded by rock n’ roll vagabond Jamie Paul Lamb. As the man traveled around the southwest he’d meet new people, get into adventures that apparently would spark new musical endeavors wherever he went. For the most part, the music collected here by Slovenly ranges from Pagans, Germs type stuff to Dead Boys, Suicide and back around to The Seeds and Question Mark and The Mysterians. Pretty much any form of rock music that’s dark, chaotic, disturbing, fractured and screams “Help me, I’m in pain!” This double LP features 1 to 3 tracks from 19 of Mr. Lamb’s bands that vary in quality from really good to really great. I can’t help but wonder what would have happened if Jamie had met and collaborated with Jay Reatard. The result would have either been glorious or it would have ended quickly with someone smashing a light fixture over the other ones head.   - J Castro

Various Artists – Shake Sampler III Cassette (Shake!)
Who is Shake! Records you may wonder? What are they all about you may ask? Well if you read this blog with any frequency at all you don’t have to wonder at all, you know the deal. But if there are some newcomers out there or if you are still not convinced Victoria, British Colombia’s Shake! Records is one of the best labels on the planet earth, then you need to treat yourself to one of their samplers and it will quickly sway your vote. This has it all. Shake! don’t stick to one particular “sound” or “scene.” If it’s good and if it sways and stirs the brain juices, then the Shake! street team is on it like a crime scene. You’ve got loud rowdy garage (The Pretty’s), electro-dream pop (Hush Pup), mean ‘ol, dirty punk (Repossessors), relaxing Sunday afternoon indie rock (Girlfriend), and sunny ‘70’s power pop (Napalmpom). Jump on the Shake! train, grab a private seat, lean back and relax, Shake! has got your jam and it will be right up!  
- J Castro

Various Artists – Vancouver Connection LP (Big Smoke)
What we have here is another label compilation, this time from Vancouver’s young indie label Big Smoke records. This is a collection of well-executed, well-produced modern rock from bands and musicians located in the Vancouver area. It varies from the subdued sounds of Reef Shark, Avid Walker and The Good in Everyone to the slightly louder and faster paced tunes of Dead Soft and Woolworm. If you enjoy smart, organic indie rock like Stars, Belle and Sebastian, or Camera Obscura then you’d thoroughly enjoy this record. The record is available from the label website (bigsmokevancouver.com): 300 hand numbered 12” 150g deluxe black vinyl or from the label’s Bandcamp page. It’s nothing too loud or bombastic, just a good record to put your feet up, enjoy your coffee on the back patio and watch the world roll by.  - J Castro

Winter Passing – A Different Space of Mind LP (6131/FITA)
Winter Passing is form Ireland and takes a lot of musical cues from more pop-punk emo bands like Get Up Kids and The Anniversary. A Different Space of Mind features Winter Passing’s trademark boy/girl vocal trade off set against an indie and pop-punk backdrop. Winter Passing slowly builds melodic songs that the listener needs to be patient for much like a slow cooked meal. – Ed Stuart

Wonk Unit – Pwoison Idea aka Feel the Wonkness LP (Drunken Sailor)
Based in London, England, these four cheeky chaps play heavy, ultra-melodic punk rock that sounds like it would fit really warm and snuggly tucked in the current Fat Wreck Chords roster along with bands like The Flatliners, Masked Intruder, and even The Copyrights. Some of these British bands leave me in a total state of confusion sometimes. I remember buying Wat Tyler records back in the early ‘90’s and the covers were so bizarre and comical yet their music and lyrics seemed so sincere and sometimes dare I say, passionate. The same goes with Guns N’ Wankers (name kind of explains what I’m talking about all by itself), British wit knows no bounds I suppose. This here Wonk Unit release marks the band’s first vinyl release and it consists of previously released and now re-mastered tracks that span the band’s entire catalog.  So if you’re a fan of any of the bands I mentioned above, this is THE perfect place to kick start your wonk obsession!  - J Castro    


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