J’s Top 20
It’s that time of year once again, time to pick our favorite records of the year. This task is never easy for me mind you, I sweat it out every year. This time around though, I couldn’t bring myself to actually number my list and put it in any order like last year. Before I get started, I just wanted to take the time to thank all of the hard working bands and labels who put out this fantastic music and those who have taken the time to sit down and do my corny little interviews. Our one and only goal here at Audio Ammunition is to help spread the word as far as we possibly can about the kind of music we love. To help shine a light in the dimmer corners of the world and help people discover how much inspiring music is still out there. So here’s to good old fashioned blood and sweat soaked rock n roll. I’ll attest to you that it’s still out there and we’ll do our best to help you find it.
Nerve Button – S/T LP (Wanda/Shake!)
If you’re a fan of The Saints, Radio Birdman, Stooges type of tough as nails 70’s rock that throws punk punches or if you just dig good old fashioned stout hearted rock n roll, then New Brunswick’s Nerve Button are going to be your new favorite band!
Mike Bell and The Movies – Room LP (Lame-O)
Fast tempos, catchy as a cat’s claw guitar riffs and vocals that can sound both heart felt and snotty all at once. The band describes themselves as “Power Pop through the lens of Pop Punk.” I couldn’t have said that any better myself.
The Lippies – S/T LP (Red Scare)
The ghosts of bands like Tilt and The Avengers burned bright in this now defunct Grand Rapids Michigan punk band. The Lippies songs were scrappy, melodic and tough as nails. I will miss them so.
Flesh Rag – Stay Away 7” (Schizophrenic)
Another face melter from this Hamilton, Ontario trio. If anything the songs got darker and meaner. What Flesh Rag delivers here are three more songs of Dead Boys, Stooges, Saints riff riddled punk rock n' roll. I love ‘em dearly for.
First of all, the amount of charisma these dudes radiate is amazing. They’re from New York and they play smooth, hook filled '70’s style power pop. This kind of Raspberries/Big Star type of power pop, that when done right, is one of my favorite kinds of music.
The Vitamens – S/T EP (No Friends)
Phenomenal 90’s style lo-fi garage punk that would have been right at home on the Rip Off Records legendary roster. They got the aggression, the hooks and the sass similar to The Spoiled Brats, Loli & The Chones and The Spastics.
TV Crime – Hooligans 7" (Static Shock)
Songs with a sensational chewy power pop center covered in a hard shell of punk rock crunch. Nottingham’s TV Crime blasts off the ground hard and fast with two killer tracks on a their phenomenal debut!
Earth Girls – Wanderlust LP (Grave Mistake)
Earth Girls music isn’t so syrupy sweet you gag and fall into a diabetic coma. The sharp guitar licks cut up your ear canal which allows for quicker absorption of the music into your bloodstream. The music falls somewhere between early Muffs, early Donnas and Cub.
The Gaggers – Don’t Follow Me 7” (Rapid Pulse)
The band moves into a slower, more shadowy era as evidenced here. These tunes are still killer and this record still has Marco’s trademark super snotty vocals, but they’re writhing, more lurking and the music, dare I say, even more sinister than before.
Michael Kane & The Morning Afters – S/T EP (Cassettes On Record)
With a sound that’s part Pogues, Stiff Little Fingers and part Tom Waits, this band runs the gamut with blazing working class punk tunes and softly strummed introspective numbers. All their tunes boast solid songwriting put together with real human emotion.
The fearsome Montreal foursome return with one wrecking ball of an LP. Everything you loved about them before turned up to 11! What's that you ask? Imagine sweet, cherry, candy coated rock n' roll with razor blades in the center.
Low Levels – S/T Cassette (Shake!)
This band successfully captures the angst of 60's garage rock, the sharp guitar angularity of post punk, the vulnerability of power pop and the snotty temperament of punk to create some truly explosive music.
Slick guitars on top of some top notch melodies will propel these songs right through your thick skull where they will get lodged for days. Vancouver's First Base make some of the catchiest, most enjoyable power pop influenced punk songs I’ve ever heard.
Maniac – Midnight Kino EP (Modern Action)
Gentlemen Punks? Rowdy Mod Upstarts? Call them what you will, but when these dudes, who are all in other really great bands, all get together, greatness erupts. A dash of LA’s Zeros and Redd Kross, some nods to Generation X and other old pop inspired punk influences run amok!
Brat Kings – Hypnopedia LP (Dirt Cult)
Brilliant collection of really catchy yet really dark, dystopian tunes from members of First Base and Sonic Avenues. To me, it sounds like something in the realm of Hex Dispensers crossed with The Stops.
Lutheran Heat – Louder from the Other Side LP (Pinata)
Loud, raggedy, ramshackle rock with hopelessly catchy hooks. I hear Dinosaur Jr., Guided by Voices, Superchunk, The Replacements, etc.. However, this band has enough talent of their own to be able to sit pretty and quite deserving among all those mentioned above.
Real Tears – Too Cool To Rock LP (Snask)
Another volume of Buzzcocks, Dickies, and Toy Dolls style punk rock from former Impo & The Tents boys. Even though this is the band’s debut LP, I say “another volume” because it picks up right where Impo and the Tents left off! And I’m oh so happy about that!
The Rejecters – She’s So Fine EP (Solid Sex Lovie Doll)
Former Irritations, Daylight Lovers and Vomit Squad members crank out some outstanding lo-fi punk rock n' roll. It’s super contagious yet hard hitting and ragged around the edges. Everything a great rock n' roll record should be!
Richmond Sluts – 60 Cycles of Love LP (Rock Box)
San Francisco’s glam punk monsters return with their first LP in what, 16 years!? With this new effort, the Sluts slowed their roll just a bit and are now adding some more psych style production and a little Doors L.A. Woman noir into the mix with glorious results!
Drakulas – Raw Wave LP (Dirtnap)Apparently this is somewhat of a concept record with each song telling a separate story. Drakulas is a collaboration of veteran punk dudes who unleashed a monster of a debut LP! Dark, anxiety filled punk rock that still somehow provides plenty of sharp hooks to snag your psyche.
Ed's Top 20 of 2016
As usual making this list was both a joy and a pain. Scouring through the year’s submissions to pick out a list of favorites is tough especially when having to eliminate bands from the list because of either gut feeling, close calls or both. 2016 was another stellar year for punk music and all it’s related sub genres. At the Audio Ammunition isolated mountain castle, we are very appreciative of all the bands that choose to send us their efforts for review. Now, here is the list.
Color TV – Demos 7” (Drunken Sailor)
Color TV hail from Minneapolis and have members from Welcome Home Walker, Retainers and Cheap Time. Demos is ’77 punk-pop blasts recorded a little dirty and played at Marked Men style pace without forgetting it’s Buzzcocks power-pop and Saints punk.
Dark Thoughts – S/T LP (Drunken Sailor/Stupid Bag)
If this was ever a band, besides the Ramones, which subscribed to the KISS (Keep It Simple Stupid) method, Dark Thoughts is the band. Sometimes you only need one idea to be done really well and it pays off. Yes, Dark Thoughts took the early Ramones formula and sped it up a notch to Spits level, but so have a lot of bands. The difference is Dark Thoughts got it right and the others are still figuring it out.
Dead To Me – I Wanna Die In Los Angeles 7” (Fat Wreck)
It’s been five years since Moscow Penny Ante. In that time, rumors where swirling around of Jack’s (Toy Guitar/One Man Army) rejoining Dead To Me after leaving eight years ago. It was a little like a prodigal son parable. I Wanna Die In Los Angeles is Chicken’s (bass/vocals) story of his life going off the rails due to an out of control drug addiction and his eventual sobriety. More importantly, it shows what a powerful combo Jack and Chicken make. These two were at the beginning of the band and are back together. I Wanna Die In Los Angeles is full of the band’s melodic punk with dual vocal attack and sing-along choruses. This is the follow-up a lot of people were waiting for after Little Brother.
Hakan – II LP (Drunken Sailor/One Chord Wonder)
Andrea from the Snookys has done it again. Last year Hakan released I and it snuck under the radar. This year the sequel is picked up by Drunken Sailor and recorded by Jeff Burke of Radioactivity. II is Hakan on top of their game, playing a punk-pop like a faster Protex. Hakan is an Italian band that seems fascinated by Turkish culture, but when your band plays a top notch ’77 power-pop/punk you will get a lot of converts.
The Jeanies – Amilee 7” (Hozac)
The Jeanies are from Brooklyn and must have a time machine. Amilee, sounds like a lost single from the era of Big Star, Twilley, and “Shake Some Action” era Flamin’ Groovies. Yes, it falls under the power-pop, but The Jeanies clearly focus on the pop. Their attention to melodic detail is so wonderful and the vocal and guitar melodies on this single are sparkling, you can just sit back and drink it all in.
Jonesy – S/T 7” (No Front Teeth)
In an era of micro aggressions, I’m a little amazed this single hasn’t blown up the Twitter-o-sphere for all the wrong reasons. While these song titles aren’t opening pick-up lines, “(I Wanna) Bang Bang You” and “(I Wanna) Cum On Your Face” are two of the catchiest ’77 Heartbreakers/NYC punk rock n’ roll songs you’ll hear this year. It’s like the Dead Boys mixed with power-pop hooks.
Los Pepes – All Good Now LP (Wanda)
Los Pepes are quality. For the last few years, they have putting out top quality punk-pop-powerpop. All Good Now starts with two punk-pop blasts and then nestles into Undertones/Buzzcocks territory. Los Pepes is a power-pop/punk one-two punch with all the pop in the right place to soothe all the punk bite marks.
Lovesores – Rock N’ Roll Animal 10” (Hound Gawd)
Lovesores open Rock N’ Roll Animal with a drum intro that is a nod to Gary Glitter’s “Rock N’ Roll Part 2” and then take you on a trip into rock n’ roll mayhem. Lovesores pick pieces of MC5/NY Dolls/Thunders/Chuck Berry rock n’ roll and form them into fireballs of songs. Drake leads a group of rock n’ roll believers who spend time honing their craft in dive bars and who write songs that rival their heroes.
Malos Modales – Cronicas Terrestres 7” (Drunken Sailor)
If there was ever a reason to be learning Spanish, other than the possible pay increase, this is it. Malos Modales (Bad Manners in English) is from Mexico and plays a garage pop punk sung entirely in Spanish. For the non-Spanish speaker, the music is so enjoyable you probably won’t miss out on not knowing the lyrics. Cronicas Terrestres sounds like the melodic pop punk of Snuff/Guns N’ Wankers minus the horns.
Maniac – Midnight Kino 7” (Modern Action)
Don’t act so surprised, you knew Maniac would be on this list. Why? Just take a listen to any of their releases and you’ll understand. The Gentlemen Punks are back with Midnight Kino which showcases their love of ’77/Dickies meets Weirdos meets Briefs style. Maniac doesn’t believe in writing B-sides so enjoy the double A-side.
Martha – Blisters In The Pit Of My Heart LP (Dirtnap)
Martha is a very clever band. They know people don’t want to hear someone else’s politics shouted at them which the dullest of political punk bands have failed to realize for years. Martha knows music comes first. If you hide topics (Emma Goldman, employment, universality of love) inside sweet hooky pop punk with sing-along choruses more people will listen. Blisters In The Pit Of My Heart is proof. Martha has written a remarkable LP that is so infectious, memorable and musically sweet you want to call up old friends and talk about old times.
Mean Jeans – Tight New Dimension LP – (Fat Wreck)
Mean Jeans arrival on the music scene was as a bunch of three-chord party driven animals writing songs like “Steve Don’t Party No More” with a faster Ramones loving abandon. Parties are fun, but waking up every morning to last night’s party aftermath gets old and unless you have a maid, sucks to clean up. After two LP’s and several singles, Mean Jeans have followed a Queers style direction, think Don’t Back Down, by turning up the pop hooks and focusing more on the songs and a tiny little less on rowdiness. Instead of shot gunning beers and smashing the cans on their head, Mean Jeans now can enjoy the beer and put it in the trash.
Pkew Pkew Pkew – S/T LP (Royal Mountain)
If you watch their video for “Mid 20’s Skateboarder,” you’ll get the mindset of Pkew Pkew Pkew. In the video, the band spoofs Tony Hawk Pro Skater by combining beer with skateboarding to get added points. Pkew Pkew Pkew, which is the sound of gunshots, combine early Rocket From The Crypt and Teenage Bottlerocket pop-punk. The gang style vocals make topics like pizza, hanging out, starting a band and skateboarding sound serious. S/T is a fun LP that isn’t re-inventing the wheel, but either is Wavy Lays and they taste good too.
Real Tears – Too Cool To Rock LP (Snask)
If the singer from Dickies fronted a band made up of Kids, Undertones and Dickies members, you would get a good idea of Real Tears. The guys from Rotten Mind found their Kids, Dickies and Undertones records and decided to make a band. Boy, what a band they made. Too Cool To Rock is a high-energy mix of ’77 punk and power-pop. You can finish this LP in the time it takes to watch a Seinfeld re-run. Real Tears write songs are short, catchy and full of pop hooks.
Role Models – Forest Lawn LP (Glunk)
“Radio” takes five seconds to hook you with one of Forest Lawn’s numerous giant hooks. Role Models pull off a Godfather II where the sequel is the arguable better of the original. Role Models is heir apparent to the Dragons who were a rock n’ roll band on the surface, but underneath so much more. Role Models effortlessly blend rock n’ roll/’77 NYC/Generation X/Replacements and Hanoi Rocks with bits of power-pop and early Tom Petty. Forest Lawn is a reference to the Calgary neighborhood singer/songwriter Rich Rags grew up in, but instead is an ode to a world of musical influences and classics that Rags cut his teeth on.
Steve Adamyk Band – Graceland LP (Dirtnap)
Steve Adamyk is one of the most prolific songwriters on the planet. It seems he writes an LP every year. Graceland is the band’s fifth LP without any signs of slowing down. Adamyk is a like a short order cook who works in the mom and pop diner cooking eggs and hamburgers and making every plate taste good. Its clear Adamyk loves what he’s doing and his trademark punk-pop is proof.
Terminal Licks – S/T 7” (It’s Trash)
Terminal Licks first release is unfortunately their last. Drummer Vassil Mester passed away before S/T was released. It’s a shame because Terminal Licks, much like another band that was taken too quickly, plays a dirty power-pop tinged rock n’ roll. In some ways, it’s Thunders jamming with Cheap Trick and in other ways it’s Exploding Hearts.
Tommy and The Rockets – Beer & Fun & Rock n’ Roll LP (Ghost Highway Recordings)
Tommy and The Rockets is a good mix of bubblegum, surf leads, ‘50’s rock n’ roll, and power-pop. A lot of the descriptions mention Beach Boys meets Ramones, but it’s more than that. I think of Beer & Fun & Rock n’ Roll as a LP Rockpile would have pulled off. A band that could effortlessly blend power-pop and ‘50’s-‘60’s rock n’ roll with relative ease. If you like fun summer music about girls, this is the record.
Tough Shits – Action Breeze 7” (Oops Baby)
It’s like the Wipers with the guitar player from Jags playing all the leads. On the A-side “Action Breeze,” Tough Shits play a guitar driven power-pop that has no shortage of hooks. The B-side, “Adult Fantasy” sounds like the Wipers. What makes Tough Shits Action Breeze so good is that songs are full of different influences like Television, Replacements, Wire, Wipers, ’77 power-pop and ‘70’s pop.
TV Crime – Hooligans 7” (Static Shock)
Self described with killer tunes and a shitty attitude, I can only vouch for one. TV Crime open this single with a monster track, “Hooligans” and follow it with one of equal size in “Wild One.” TV Crime reaches back for Professionals/Stiff Little Fingers glory days of epic style anthem songwriting without forgetting its pop core. Throw in ’77 NYC/UK influences like Thunders, Dictators and Rich Kids and you can taste the era. TV Crime makes the sound of the punk and street punk so alive on this wonderful debut, you wish they had more than just two songs.