Saturday, June 16, 2018

Maniac Interview

(photo by Mandy-Lin)

The Gentlemen punks are back with their new LP, Dead Dance Club, and it’s available for all the bored and thirsty ears. If you’ve read this blog, you’ll realize the Maniac is no stranger to its digital pages for good reason. These CA natives/Pacific Northwest transplants have taken their brand of Briefs meets Dickies meets Weirdos into the sordid LA back alleys and made something entirely catchy and memorable. Listen up, turn on your ears and you shall not be disappointed.

Interview by Ed Stuart

Who is answering the questions?
This is Justin Maurer, guitar and vocals

Who is in the band and what instrument do they play?
Zache Davis - bass, vocals
Andrew Zappin - lead guitar
James Carman - drums, vocals
Justin Maurer - guitar, vocals

Give us the band’s origin story, some other bands the members have played in and currently do play in?   
Me and Zache played in bands in the Pacific Northwest in the early ‘00’s. Zache played in The Girls and Cute Lepers from Seattle. I played in Clorox Girls and Red Dons in Portland. Maniac was born in L.A. in 2012. Zache and Andrew worked in West Hollywood at a fetish shop, which is how they met one another. Ardavon Fatehi was the store manager.

Ardy played in Portland, Oregon’s Goons of Destruction and went to high school with the Exploding Hearts guys. He’s currently working on a documentary about them. Ardy was extremely busy working as a gaffer on some adult movies in the Valley, and I ended up replacing him as the rhythm guitarist.

Maniac’s original drummer Richie Cardenas played in Plastic Letters, Clorox Girls, Rough Kids, and Neighborhood Brats. James Carman from Images and LA Drugz replaced him. We’ve had this current lineup since about 2013. Fortunately, Ardavon stuck to filmmaking and DJing underground fetish parties. He’s also DJing our record release party this Saturday. Richie now works as a mechanic at the Post Office and is a rabid LAFC fan. Final note, Andrew officiated Richie's wedding as the padre, and I interpreted the ceremony in Spanish. Padre Zappin and I were a pretty damn good 1-2 punch so if anyone wants a wedding in English and Spanish, I still have the script in the trunk of my Honda Civic. Maniac is also available for weddings, bat mitzvahs, and quinceaneras.

(photo by Zach Mcaffree)

Describe the band’s sound in 20 words or less.
Cheap Trick and Wire meet all of our previous bands in a bar. David Lee Roth shows up with his entourage. We all have a wild night on the town spearheaded by Diamond Dave.  The night becomes a 3 day bender that is part feminist snuff film, part homoerotic fever dream set in the industrial wastelands of Los Angeles. We purgatory our torsos night after night with dreams, drugs, alcohol, cock, and endless balls. Sorry, I think that was over 20 words.

Some bands have a musical game plan when starting. For example, we want to sound like Buzzcocks meets The Jam. Did Maniac have any plan ahead of the time or did you just starting writing songs?
We all bring our own individual influences as ingredients into the Maniac kitchen and then prepare an exquisite hearty meal.

A lot of interviews, I have read have made note of the band having four songwriters. Sure, the band will never run out of song ideas, but how do you decide which writer’s songs get on the LP?
The best songs make the cut!

(photo by Kasey Elliot)

To piggyback of the last question, I think one of the secret weapons of Maniac is that the band has the three vocalists. It’s kind of like The Boys or a punk rock Beatles. On “City Lights” this multi-vocal attack works great. How do you figure who sings which songs? Or is it “I wrote it, I’ll sing lead and everyone joins in during the chorus.”
The second thing you said! Although it’s important to note that Andrew comes up with a lot of the original riffs too, and he only sings in the shower.

Why the decision to re-record some of the previously released songs like “Midnight Kino,” “Calamine” and “Precision Accuracy?”
Because after we played those songs on tour in the US, Canada, and Europe they sounded a lot tighter and tougher.

Maniac has been described as quintessentially a Los Angeles band. How do you feel about this considering LA is the adopted home of half of the members?  Before moving to California, did you have any preconceived ideas about the people or the state?  
¾ of Maniac were born in California. Andrew was born in Ohio but has lived in CA for about 20 years. I think people perceive Zache and I as being “from” the Pacific Northwest because we both lived there and started our music “careers” up there, but Zache was born in Oakland, me in LA, James in Carson. I moved to the northwest when I was 11. Moving back to LA 9 years ago was a trip, it was interesting to get a completely fresh perspective on the place as well as connect the dots on this massive sprawling map and how they related to the ghosts of my childhood.

Maniac is a friend to many labels. The band has worked with La-Ti-Da, Modern Action and No Front Teeth. At this point, do labels come to you with offers or does the band still send out new songs to labels?  How did you get together with Dirt Cult and Hovercraft?
We had to shop our stuff around. It’s real hard as most independent labels have their next 1-2 years of releases already committed. “Dead Dance Club” is a split release with Dirt Cult and Hovercraft. Our friends who play in the Portland band Piss Test had some really positive things to say about Chris at Dirt Cult and they were right. Clorox Girls and LA Drugz both worked with Tim and Mark at Hovercraft in the past, hopefully we have a winning combo! It’s fantastic to have both Chris and Tim in our court.

With a zillion digital avenues presented to musicians nowadays (Bandcamp, blogs, Spotify, YouTube, etc.) what do you feel are the best parts and worst parts of these digital avenues?
The best part is that people from around the world can hear your music. The worst part is over saturation. People don’t have much of an attention span these days and it’s very hard to get people to check out your music or get excited about your message. It's ironic because new music is easier to listen to than ever, but it's much harder to get people to take the time to listen.

There is a little trend going on with bands opting to hire a PR agency and self-release their songs through Bandcamp instead of sending songs to labels in hopes of a release. Some bands have had some success using this method, which have led to proper re-releases by labels. Maniac seems to operate in a more traditional method of label release, play live, tour. Can you talk about the reasons to stick to the more traditional method?
Hiring a PR is usually prohibitively expensive, so more power to the bands that can afford to hire one. It’s generally a solid investment, but like I said in the last question, the over saturation of underwhelming Internet bands these days is completely overwhelming. Every online music publication receives a gazillion emails per day from not only PR’s, but the bands themselves, labels, etc.. A lot of press coverage seems like it’s done as a favor, mutual back scratching. That’s how the world works!

More power to any band who has any success using any method! I think 95% of bands lose money, about 4% break even, and 1% or less actually make any money. The poverty line in the US is about $12K per year. For a band of 4 to break even and pay each member in their band a poverty line wage, they'd have to make $48K as a band per year after expenses. That is a pipe dream by far for most people. I personally lived under the poverty line as a touring musician for many years.

As far as the traditional approach: write a song, rehearse, play live locally, record in a studio, label release, then tour, We’re following in the tradition of our grandfathers. From Black Flag, Minutemen, and X touring in a Ford Econoline, to Sam The Sham and the Pharaohs touring in a hearse, to Van Halen playing backyard house parties in Pasadena. I know I’m getting long-winded here, but a band is like a political campaign, in order to get people excited about your message, you have to go to their town. Some politicians put millions of their own dollars into their campaigns and unfortunately substantially more impoverished musicians do the same. That’s why a lot of touring bands coincidentally happen to be trust fund kids. Maniac pays for our touring by working like 10 jobs between 4 guys. This band could be your life, but be glad that it’s not!

How has touring shaped the band’s view?  
This is a pretty vague question! :-) Touring is hard on the body and mind and expensive, but it’s usually fun, especially international touring! It'll knock a few years off of your life, but at least you'll have some stories to tell.

What are some of the best places/best shows the band has played?
Germany, Spain, and Canada I’d say are the highlights of Maniac’s tours so far.

(photo by Niffer Calderwood) 
When not playing music, what does the band like to do?
Eat, Drink, and be merry! Wine, women, and song! Andrew is a photographer, filmmaker and writer. Zache has studied lots of languages and is a fan of the Dodgers and Raiders. James and I both like playing pick-up basketball. A bunch of us are going to go see LAFC on Wednesday. LAFC games are a bunch of inmates running the asylum. I think it’s fair to say that we all are fascinated with women and their mysterious ways. James digs the ganja and recently has been engineering some bands in his home studio called IMG HQ AKA Carson Drift Studios. I’m a sign language interpreter, dig Latin languages, classic film, and all of the fucking amazing food you can find in LA… just watch the Jonathan Gold documentary “City Of Gold” and it will make you want to try every hole-in the wall restaurant in LA.

Where can people hear the band?
In a shitty bar, in your car, at home, on your phone, on your laptop, on Spotify, Bandcamp, on Jonesey’s Jukebox, Henry Rollins’ radio show, in a Carl’s Jr. Superbowl commercial, on endless loop in Urban Outfitters, and on your analog record player.

What’s next for Maniac?
We’re going on a west coast tour later this month, maybe an east coast tour in the fall. Probably Europe next year, hopefully Japan and Australia sometime in the near future! Also, our brand new tunes are sounding pretty bitchin’!  We’ll probably record ‘em at some point. Our demos at Carson Drift Studios sound killer so far.

Thank you very much Ed and Audio Ammunition, and thank you for reading! Be excellent to each other!

Friday, June 1, 2018

May Reviews 2018

Amyl and The Sniffers – Big Attraction/Giddy Up LP (Homeless)
Amyl and The Sniffers are the hot shit, mullet wearing, mullet cutting, garage punks from Melbourne, Australia. Big Attraction/Giddy Up is a combination of the band’s first two EP’s. Amyl and Sniffers play a rudimentary ’77 influenced punk that leans more towards the Lurkers than the Saints. According to the many written stories, the first EP was written and uploaded to Bandcamp in a four to twelve hour session after work. Big Attraction shows off the Sniffers style sound, “’70 Street Munchies,” while Giddy Up tries to grow it up, “Mandalay,” slightly. In the last two years, the band has garnered a lot of attention and 2018 should be a big year for the band.  – Ed Stuart

Archie and The Bunkers – Songs From The Lodge LP (Dirty Water)
Is organ punk a thing? In this endless sub genre world of underground music, I’m not really sure, but I’ve seen it used to describe Archie and The Bunkers. The Bunkers, actually two brothers from Ohio, are a two-piece band that only features organ and drums. Songs From The Lodge mixes ‘60’s garage, psych, and blues with Stranglers, Screamers and Cramps influences throughout. Archie and The Bunkers even cover “122 Hours of Fear” on their second release. There are parts of me that misses a guitar and bass especially on a song like “Laura”, but on other songs like “Bill’s Bad Day” the other instruments aren’t that missed at all. – Ed Stuart

Broadway Lafayette – Subway Zydeco LP (Hound Gawd)
This is a bit of a left turn for Hound Gawd. Usually, Hound Gawd deals with bands like Lovesores, No Tomorrow Boys and Born Loose. Broadway Lafayette features Mick Collins of Dirtbombs with members of Heavy Trash and Mama Resin. Subway Zydeco goes straight into the Creole heart to bring back true zydeco music back. If you’re a fan of Gogol Bordello or want to step outside punk, but not leave it’s periphery, Broadway Lafayette could be for you. The band sings in several languages and features traditional zydeco influences along with early ska/reggae as well. – Ed Stuart

The Cavemen – Nuke Earth LP (Slovenly)
No one should really be surprised that a band named The Cavemen is primitive garage. Nuke Earth, the band’s third LP, mixes 50’s rock n’ roll, Stooges, Cramps, Back From The Grave punk and ‘90’s era Rip Off Records in one raw scuzz filled bag. Most of the time the songs are fast, wild and loose with the notable exceptions being “Thug” and “Jenny.” It sounds like this record was recorded direct to cassette 4-track. The Cavemen are all about energy and rock n’ roll abandon and the boys from New Zealand capture that on Nuke Earth. – Ed Stuart

CROM/DAM – Black Nylons EP (Screen Test)
Art damaged synth punk from Victoria, Canada. CROM/DAM are a two-piece band from former Line Traps members. Black Nylons is a lo-fi homage to Screamers, Los Microwaves and Normal run through scuzz, grime and other non hi-fidelity means. The EP is three songs of unrelenting synth punk from this boy/girl duo.   – Ed Stuart

Dusk – The Pain of Loneliness 7” (Dirtnap)
While Dusk may be lead by Amos from Tenement, Dusk is not in the musical background as them. Yes, both bands hail from Appleton, Wisconsin and contain members of the expanded version of Tenement, but that is where the similarities stop. This 7-inch features the band’s mix of early Stones, honky-tonk, alt-country, blues and ‘70’s singer/songwriter influences. “Pain of Loneliness (Goes On and On) encapsulates this musical concoction from its sweet slide guitar to Badfinger vocal harmonies. The B-side “Go Easy” is steeped in the same musical stew, but showcases the more breezy side of ‘70’s singer/songwriter duties with Tyler taking over vocals instead of Amos. Dusk is part of the new Wisconsin focus of Dirtnap since the label moved from the Pacific Northwest to the Midwest. Dusk has an LP coming out later this year, which hopefully will be as good as the single.  – Ed Stuart

Favorite Things Band – Coming Clean LP (Self-Release)

The Twin Cities seems to be carving out a sound all their own. Minneapolis scene musicians decided to form back in 2014 and create The Favorite Things. Coming Clean, the band’s debut, is full of later Replacements meets later Husker Du with a heaping of alt-country, Americana and bits of old R.E.M. Favorite Things have put the melody at the forefront of Coming Clean and have created songs that would have challenged for the charts in the ‘90’s indie, guitar pop world.  – Ed Stuart

Faz Waltz – Double Decker LP (Spaghetty Town)
Now, I’ve reviewed Faz Waltz a few times over the years and the band definitely has stuck to its guns. Double Decker, the band’s sixth LP, is what Faz has been doing best for the last decade. Faz has taken the sounds of ‘70’s glam and Bovver rock and brought them to the modern era. Now, one thing I’ve noticed with Double Decker is the slower songs like “Is this The Way” and “Sleepy Head” definitely have a real “Cosmic Dancer” feel. What about the rest of the LP? Faz is strutting their glam rock riffs as if punk never happened and the show Marc was never went off the air.  – Ed Stuart

The Fritz – S/T LP (Drunken Sailor)
Short songs for short attention spans? The Fritz hails from Indiana and feature members of The Liquids, CCTV, Pentas and Punkoid. This S/T debut is the ballpark of early ‘80’s punk hardcore played by a minimalist no frills band. It’s like Killed By Death meets parts of Circle Jerks, 7 Seconds and sped up Posh Boy punk recorded lo-fi.  – Ed Stuart

Kensington Hillbillys – Belly of The Beast LP (Boppa Do Down)
Punk meets country might be the best way to describe Kensington Hillbillys. The Hillbillys have been kicking around Toronto for fifteen years and building a following in that time. Hillbillys do like their punk as evidenced by their Clash covers LP, The Crooked Beat. Belly Of The Beast is not the wild abandon of the first Gun Club. The guitar distortion is geared to the twangy sound of country, but infused with punk spirit. “Down In the Dirt” is a good example of this. I wonder if the band switched out their Telecaster sound for a Les Paul sound what would happen?  – Ed Stuart

King Kong Blues – Make Rock N’ Roll Again LP (Le Passage)
King Kong Blues or KKB is a three-piece rock n’ roll blues driven band out of France. If you’re thinking class power trio, you will have to make a modification. KKB has two guitar players, no bass and drums. Make Rock N’ Roll is guitar driven rock heavy on big riffs and big chorus that are yelled a little more than sung. KKB sings in three languages on this LP, French, Spanish and English. The majority of the vocals is sung in French, which will make it difficult to join in the sing along or shouts unless you speak French. KKB is probably closer to a better playing White Stripes mixed with ‘70’s rock. – Ed Stuart

Knifey – Beached LP (Self-Release)
California influenced beach punk pop by way of Toronto. What? That’s right, you read that correctly. Knifey fuses early Weezer, surf leads, Pixies, ‘80’s alternative and punk-pop into one glorious package. Beached really is a surprise, mainly that’s it’s self-release and has got so much press. Your first thoughts about a band named Knifey are not melodic surf-pop, but in this case it is. The band reminds of the Chinchees a lot and eventually a label gave Chinchees a proper release. Its not like Canada is short of good bands, but here is another to add to the list. – Ed Stuart

Impotente – Demonstrative Opnamens 7” (Drunken Sailor)
Impotente is a two-piece lo-fi band from Montreal that sings in Dutch. The members have been in the Nodes and Omegas. Demonstrative Opnamens is rudimentary lo-punk that has been described by others as ugly. If you were looking for melody, I would search elsewhere. This 7-inch is a re-release of the Swollen City cassette.  – Ed Stuart

Lawrence Arms – We Are The Champions Of The World LP (Fat Wreck)
Twenty years and these Chicago mainstays are still kicking around. We Are Champions Of The World serves as introduction, compilation and testament to the band. We Are Champions pulls from all their releases, six LP’s and five EP’s, on Asian Man, Fat and Epitaph that range from 1999 - 2014. Lawrence Arms play a Midwestern pop-punk that features dual singing styles of clean and throaty/raspy. Lawrence Arms sound has always blended more traditional rugged straight-ahead pop punk “The Devil’s Taking Names,” with Jawbreaker/Get Up Kids melodic influence “Alert The Audience” to their advantage.  – Ed Stuart

Maniac – Dead Dance Club LP (Dirt Cult)
Round two for the oft-described Gentleman Punks. Now, you probably have read in the past, in the abandoned halls of this blog, that Maniac has been on many of the top year-end lists and if you listened to the band, you’ll understand why. Dead Dance Club, LP two, is a transition record, but the transition is slight at best. It’s like growing up from 21 to 27.  This time around is less “Hello, alcohol. Keg handstands are a great idea because beer is my new water” to “Sure, I can sit at the bar to order drinks with my friends and get to work tomorrow.” Maniac still has the elements of what makes them Maniac. The frantic high energy, wild abandon, Briefs/Dickies/Weirdos ’77 LA sound with group vocals is still there on “Midnight Kino” and “City Lights,” but ‘80’s influenced songs like “Modern Love” and “Neutral Libido” find a home on Dead Dance Club too.  – Ed Stuart

Neighborhood Brats – Night Shift 7” (Taken By Surprise)
The Brats are back after a hiatus, so enjoy it because it might be for a limited time. Neighborhood Brats had called it quits after their LP, but have decided to get back together to bring the world Night Shift. I don’t think there was really any danger that this wouldn’t be any good. I think the surprise may of how good this is. It reminds me more of the earlier Brats material. They seem light and carefree and less influenced by ‘80’s hardcore and more by ’77 LA punk instead. Maybe it’s a guitar switch or the attention to the melodic riffs. It sound like riffs are played on Telecaster or just more favoritism given to the treble then I remember in previous releases. Night Shift is classic Brats. Brats are notorious for delivering amazing singles that required repeated listening because the songs are so good.  – Ed Stuart

The Scaners – S/T LP (Dirty Water/Adrenalin Fix/Casbah Records/Dangerhouse Skylab/ Strychnine Recordz/Teenage Hate Records/Trokson Records)
It would be easy to dismiss Scaners as a synth punk band and leave it at that, but there is a lot more going under the hood. Yes, this a global release and a stellar effort of collaboration if you read the label list. Scaners, from France and with one n, mix Spits, Dickies, Screamers, Devo and Epoxies mayhem in a ’77-’79 blast of camp and punk with all phasers set to fun. There is a definite B-movie sci-fi aesthetic running through the LP, but it doesn’t get in the way of the songs. Scaners may “Want To Talk To Your Leader” on a “Checkpoint Planet,” but what they really want to do is have fun. – Ed Stuart

Saturday, April 7, 2018

April 2018 Reviews

April 2018 Reviews

Beta Boys – Brick Walls 7” (Total Punk)
Total Punk certainly does live up to its name and Beta Boys is no different. Beta Boys plays a Germs style primitive punk and drags those songs through the scuzz and mud. “Brick Walls” is a slow grinder, think of the breakdown in a hardcore song, but the entire song is that breakdown. “Littered Streets” is the punk/hardcore song that the breakdown came from, but never got added. After releases on Goodbye Boozy and Neck Chop, Beta Boys don’t seems to be stopping anytime soon. For fans of early LA punk meets ‘80’s punk/hardcore check it out.  – Ed Stuart

Bundles – Deaf Dogs LP (Gunner)
Boston’s Bundles are here with their debut LP, Deaf Dogs. I first heard Bundles on an earlier split with Dan Webb & the Spiders. Bundles exists somewhere between Avail, Long Island punk and a touch of Midwest. Deaf Dogs, pulling from a few different sources, seems to be set up with a rocker and followed by a Long Island influenced heartfelt number. This is emotional melodic punk, without the emo stigma, that isn’t afraid to do either. – Ed Stuart

The Carousels – Sail Me Home, St. Clair LP (Kool Kat/Sugarbush)
The Carousels are really a throwback to an earlier era. What era, you ask? Sail Me Home, St. Clair is a mix of folk, Americana, alt-rock country and ‘60’s California pop, that was turning radio dials in the ‘60’s/’70’s. The Carousels are from Scotland, which isn’t the hotbed of alt-country Americana, but maybe there is a burgeoning scene there. Sail Me Home is the second LP from the Scottish band that picks up where their debut, Love Changes Like The Seasons, left off. It’s like Neil Young and The Byrds moved to Scotland or the city of Keith (where the Carousels are from) got transplanted to California.  – Ed Stuart

Cold Leather – Past Remedy 7” (Sabotage)
Following 2016’s demo, Cold Leather has their first proper release with Past Remedy. Berlin’s Cold Leather features members of Pretty Hurts and Cult Values. Past Remedy is billed as early Dangerhouse punk meets ’81 Berlin, but I don’t really get that feel from Cold Leather. Instead the band mixes ’77-’79 punk and post-punk with a knack for angular guitar riffs. – Ed Stuart

Faz Waltz – Julie 7” (Spaghetty Town)
The more I think about it, this marriage of Faz Waltz and Spaghetty Town makes total sense. Hot off the heels of Dr. Boogie, Spaghetty Town releases Faz Waltz. Faz Waltz hail from Italy and graduated from the Bolan Academy of Music. Julie keeps this tradition going with adding touches of Slade and Sweet guitar driven glam-pop. Faz Waltz are veterans of this scene, sound and style and its shows since both tracks ooze ‘70’s glitter sleaze so effortlessly.  – Ed Stuart

Jeff Rosenstock – POST- LP (Polyvinyl)
After his critically deemed magnum opus, Worry, was released two years ago some have waited with baited breath for Rosenstock’s follow up. Instead of releasing POST- in a storm of hype, Rosenstock dropped the LP silently by just posting a link. Some have deemed Rosenstock as a millennial pop-punk lifer, which seemed arguably skewed considering he is thirty-five. Is POST- Worry part 2? No. POST- does tackle some of the same topics, but it’s more politically focused and than Worry. While, Worry, was more or less a pop-punk LP with seconds long songs as interludes, POST- is a meatier affair. Rosenstock has bookended this musical sandwich with two songs that total nineteen minutes while the middle is filled with his trademark pop-punk meets Weezer with touches of ‘80’s/90’s indie rock. “Yr Throat,” “Melba” and “Beating My Head Against A Wall” leads the pop-punk charge while “9/10” goes for more introspective. The long songs are a bit labored and seem a little out of place. POST- is a sandwich where I would get rid of the crust and just focus on the middle to keep you satisfied. – Ed Stuart

Mean Jeans – Jingles Collection LP (Fat Wreck)
What happens when a punk band decides to write jingles? First of all, they get turned down by several of the companies they decided to honor with a jingle. Second, they start getting a lot press for their failed efforts. Third, Fat decides to package all their attempted jingles into an LP. So there you have it. Songs about brands like “Sizzler” to “Skoal” and “Mountain Dew.” Mean Jeans channel the Queers pop-punk and play these jingles with tongue firmly planted in cheek. – Ed Stuart

The Number Ones – Another Side Of The Number Ones 7” (Static Shock)
Number Ones may be the closest band to Good Vibrations sound playing today. Does it help they are from Dublin? Sure, but it’s their sound and their songs that really make the difference. Their S/T LP introduced the world to their Protex meets Undertones meets Northern Ireland sound. Another Side Of The Number Ones, released three years later, shows that band hasn’t lost a step at all. Sure you could argue they have an Exploding Hearts rough and toughness to hide the sugary pop underneath. “Lie To Me” is phenomenal and so are the rest of the songs. Number Ones have announced they are back and started off power-pop 2018 with a one hell of release.   – Ed Stuart

Ruler – Ruler 7” (Secret Mission)
Yes, The Raydios are done and dusted, but that didn’t mean Fink decided to take any time off. He’s back with his new band, Ruler. Ruler has Fink, duh, plus members of The Raydios and Intimate Fags. Ruler is closer to Teengenerate than Raydios, which won’t cause a lot of complaints. If you have liked Fink’s bands over the years, then Ruler is a must have. Ruler is a ’77 barnburner of razorblade guitar riffs played with KBD meets garage meets early Kids intensity.  – Ed Stuart

Silent Era – O Horizon LP (Sabotage/Last Hour)
Tilt meets early Samhain with touches of early Christian Death and T.S.O.L. Silent Era, hailing from Oakland, brings back an older East Bay sound that I haven’t heard since the early ‘90’s. The dark tinged melodic guitar is upfront and stands out through O Horizon. The guitar does a lot of heavy lifting but it measured by the steadily driving rhythm and female vocals.  – Ed Stuart

Spanish Love Songs – Schmaltz LP (A-F)
According to a couple of articles I read, Los Angeles’s Spanish Love Songs are either sad or grouchy punks. I wasn’t sure those were punks categories, but I guess everything is up for grabs in the sub-genre world of music. What about nostalgic? Schmaltz at its core seems like ‘90’s emo-punk, Get Up Kids mixed with later Menzingers. The vocals are drenched in emotion; remembrance and the stop-start hallmarks of emo/’00’s punk are ever present. – Ed Stuart

Telephone Lovers – Two Dollar Baby 7” (Disconnected/Burger)
Telephone Lovers have been honing their sound and chops in LA’s watering holes for a couple of years. The Lovers, led by Teddy Too Much, feature a cast of characters from Dr Boogie, Black Mambas, Maniac and Images. Two Dollar Baby shows more of the Lovers Real Kids rock n’ roll side without their tough pop. Telephone Lovers forsake their Plimsouls touches for the pop grit of The Beat. “Two Dollar Baby” is steeped in classic ‘70’s riffs that it could of followed Dwight Tilley or Flamin Groovies on the radio. This 7-inch is being billed as a double A-side which I can see after hearing “Real Action” the pop to the power of “Two Dollar Baby.”  – Ed Stuart

Terminal Mind – Recordings LP (Sonic Surgery/Super Secret)
With the amount of stuff coming out of the so-called punk vaults, they better rent out a few storage lockers. This time around it’s Terminal Mind from Austin. True to form with other release of this nature, Terminal Mind’s heyday was 1978-1981, but this isn’t an LP lost to time. Recordings are a mix of the band’s only release EP, unheard demos and live recordings. Terminal Mind played shows with early TX punks like the Huns and Big Boys, which the drummer would join later. Terminal Mind is a mix of Wipers style punk, Pere Ubu and touches of early Wire with deadpan vocals.  – Ed Stuart

Tres Oui – Poised To Flourish LP (Shrimper/Revolver)
Right off the bat, Tres Oui reminded me of ‘80’s – ‘90’s UK ranging from Smiths to Ride. I guess now it’s called jangle-pop, but it’s very melodic guitars with upbeat drums. Tres Oui is made of members of Literature. Poised To Flourish, the band’s debut, songwriting sounds heavily influenced by Johnny Marr and early Robert Smith, which isn’t a bad thing at all. Tres Oui does a fine job of not being ‘80’s worship and incorporates touches of newer indie bands without losing their infinity for their UK heroes. – Ed Stuart

Various Artists – Spring 2018 LP (Rockstar)
Rockstar has issued another free compilation featuring many of the label’s bands both past and present. Compilations are always a little hard to pinpoint especially when there isn’t one clear direction or theme. Rockstar has no obvious theme other than showcasing bands. One thing about Rockstar is they do like musical diversity in bands. The comp starts out with new band Chiller and few songs later has a song from Chip Hanna’s solo effort. Rockstar has put out releases from known bands like Toys That Kill and Miscalculations and smaller bands like Modern Pets. Rockstar has put a together of bands that range from ’77 punk to arty UK ’79 to pop-punk. – Ed Stuart


Monday, February 5, 2018

2017/2018 Reviews

Acrylics – Structure/Gluttony 7” (Drunken Sailor)
This band is apparently from Santa Rosa, CA but sound like they’re from the most remote area of the frozen Siberian wasteland, they’re so cold and dark.  The music sounds like its writhing and struggling manically like someone that’s been tied up and thrown into a dark pool of water in the everglades.  The tempos are fast and straight though and the production doesn’t sound tinny with too much reverb.  Acrylics do and a layer of fuzz over everything but the songs here still manage to sound heavy.  They can still relocate your head quite efficiently with a direct hit.   Drunken Sailor claims Acrylics have no peers and they’re probably right but I get a similar vibe listening to this as I do Cellulite or Stalins of Sound.  All of these bands have the same feel as the disconnected stare of a troubled sociopath staring at you from a still corner of a party.  – J Castro

Autogramm – Jessica Don’t Rock N Roll 7” (Party Products)
This band consists of three globetrotting fellows that have all played in many other bands for a long time and finally seemed to have converged in Vancouver to record some songs together.  The two songs on this here 7” are synth heavy, mid-tempo New Wave-y tunes that remind me of something that could have been on the Cars Panorama LP.  The “A” side is about some girl that a band notices has mysteriously stopped going to their shows.  The “B” side is a tune called “Walk Don’t Talk 2 Me” which sounds like Gary Numan covering the Bryan Adams classic “Run to You.”   If you miss the days when bands like Split Enz and Ultravox roamed the earth in top form, then Autogramm have come to answer you desperate pleas. – J Castro

Average Times – Seconds LP (Self-Release)
I agree with Lord Rutledge (Faster Louder blog) that Seconds, Average Times’ second LP, should have come out with more of a bang. I’m also surprised a label didn’t put this out considering the debut was well received. Anyway, Average Times is back, three years after their debut, and they still have it. Average Times plays a ’77 punk-pop like the Buzzcocks fighting between their hits and their other songs. After a while someone in the band says, “Why don’t we just combine both styles?” and everyone agrees. Seconds has the same energy and over caffeinated songwriting of its predecessor with all its garage-y production charm. – Ed Stuart

Tim Barry – High on 95 LP (Chunksaah)

For those of you who may not be familiar with Tim Barry, he used to be the singer for 90’s punk heroes Avail. Their music always had a very earnest, down to earth quality to it.  So when I heard Tim Barry started making country/folk style music, it wasn’t much of a surprise.  I hesitate to use the word “country” in fear of conjuring up images of people like Billy Ray Cyrus or Toby Keith.  High on 95 is as country as Bruce Springsteen’s Nebraska is I suppose.  Tim’s voice retains that grounded/rootsy element as well as that heartfelt aspect I mentioned before.  So much so that I was quite taken back by it when I listened to the opening track.  There are a couple of videos from this album on Youtube. Go checkout the title track “High on 95” and one for the song “Slow Down” if you want to see what Tim is all about now.  This is the first time I’ve heard Tim Barry’s solo stuff, but it’s definitely not going to be my last.    – J Castro

Bee Bee Sea – Sonic Boomerang LP (Dirty Water)
These riff happy Italians definitely are here too keep the rock movin’ and groovin’. Hailing from a small town in Italy, Bee Bee Sea takes the ‘60’s garage rock influence and takes their songs in a Ty Seagall, Stooges and Black Lips direction and just lets the tape roll. Sonic Boomerang is about the experience and it seems like they want the fans to enjoy the party. Is the LP one whole garage rock party? No, not necessarily. Songs like “Psycho Babe” and “I Shouted” show off the band’s poppier, arguably Strokes-y, side too.   – Ed Stuart

Black Mambas – Moderation LP (Disconnected)
Well now, this is a bit different.  Last time I heard the bouncing boys from Bell Gardens they had more of a Devil Dogs thing going on in their Self-Titled 2013 debut CD on Wild Records.  Now they’re on this new label, add half a decade and they’ve sprouted a snottier 77 style British sound!  And this style fits them tighter than a pair of sweaty leather trousers!  Maybe the new sound has something to do with the fact that Johnny Witmer (of The Stitches) produced this record, who knows and you know what – I don’t give a shit.  This is a phenomenal punk rock record and that’s what the world needs more of dammit!  The band hasn’t totally abandoned their Rock N Roll roots though, see the song “Lusty Lady.”   I loved the Mamba’s first record and I love this one even more.  – J Castro

Booji Boys – Weekend Rocker LP (Drunken Sailor)
Most bands live and die off one single LP, Sex Pistols come to mind, but not Booji Boys. Weekend Rocker is their third release this year and second LP. These so called Weekend Rockers from Halifax have brought their maniacal mix of raw ’77 meets Marked Men/Spits trying to get a deal on Rip Off Records while channeling the Undertones, Ramones and Wipers. It’s fuzzy punk-pop and they pull it off. It’s really no wonder why this band and Weekend Rocker was so highly anticipated by so many. Short songs are packed to the gills with hooks; listen to “Love Was Strange.” Booji Boys won’t give you a long time to soak in the riffs and hooks because by then they’ll have moved on to record number three which you’ll now to need to buy after picking up the first two.  – Ed Stuart

Botox Rats – Nasty Business LP (Wanda)

Botox Rats are back!  This came out of nowhere for me and I was so happy to see this!  Their first LP, 2009’s Modern Ceasars is one of my favorite pieces of music to come out in the last 10 years!  Nasty Business picks up right where the last record left off too!  There are a couple of previously released songs on here from a couple of their 7”’s but the rest are brand, whip spankin’ new!  And even those songs have been re-recorded for this LP.  Try to imagine what a band back in the late 70’s would have sounded like if Johnny Rotten were singing in a band with Johnny Thunders on guitar and the Damned’s rhythm section backing up those two blowhards.  And now throw in some New York Doll’s strut and sleaze and you’ve got yourself a Botox Rats record!  I’m not playing around either, these guys are that fantastic.  Go buy this record now!  – J Castro

Boys Order – Do The Wild Cat LP (Secret Mission)
Boys Order is a very perky trio from Osaka, Japan. Members come from Radio Shanghai, Thee Bossmen and Teenage Lust. Do The Wild Cat, led by Chihiro (vocals/bass) sounds like a mix of ‘80’s new wave and Rezillos/Revillos/Toy Dolls spunk. The rest of the band on Do The Wild Cat backs these distinct vocals with hyper, quirky, energetic new wave/punk songs. In a lot of ways this reminds of early Epoxies where the band was just fun, high energy and pulled from a lot of ‘70’s/’80’s influences.   – Ed Stuart

The Celetoids – Pupal Stage 12” (Drunken Sailor)
It likes the UK Subs crossed with KBD ’77 influenced punk. Some others have compared them Neon Piss, which wouldn’t be far off either. Celetoids, from Croatia and made up of Mostly Delusion members, are playing straight ahead no-frills punk on Pupal Stage. Drunken Sailor has taken their previously cassette recording and breathed new life into it. If you were wondering what a celetiod is its “A person who is famous for a brief time; a short-lived celebrity.” Even though the band isn’t attacking celebrities every song, they write songs that are short and do last a brief amount of time. – Ed Stuart

Channel 3 – Put ‘Em Up LP (Wanda)

Hey, they’re back!  Yes, it is in fact THAT Channel 3 punk band from the early 80’s back in action.  The raw sound of their first records on Posh Boy and No Future remain a thing of the past, this new record has more in common with their 1985 LP Last Time I Drank which is way underrated in my opinionSure it’s no “I’ve Got a Gun” but it has its own thing going on that I feel is still rockin’ in its own right.  Put ‘Em Up is more polished but it has the same loud, mammoth hooks to their music and I’ll be damned, these guys still have a youthful snap in their step!  Channel 3 guys play with the heart of a band that believes that music still matters.  As long as you’ve got that passion, it doesn’t matter how old you are.  You’re band will sound relevant and Channel 3 prove that point with this record.    – J Castro

Choke Chains – Trace Amounts 12” EP (Heel Turn)
These Michigan creeps are back with another release, their fourth if I’m keeping track correctly.  This band boasts former members from bands like Bantam Rooster, Dirtbombs and Chinese Millionaires.  Does any of that matter?  Nope, those other bands are dead. Choke Chains are very much alive and they’ve got a loaded gun with the hammer cocked and the barrel pointed straight at your fat face. The first part of the record is slow and dark but the guitars still crank out catchy riffs.  But the record soon fires up the funny car engines, crashes into the wall and the pieces fly everywhere. Choke Chains don’t disappoint here, they never have on any of the records I’ve heard.  If you cry yourself to sleep every night over the fact that Rip Off and Estrus records are no more, rest easy friend – Choke Chains are on the way.    – J Castro

The Condors – Joie De Vivre EP (Big Stir)
The Condors are a power pop band (emphasis on the pop) from Los Angeles CA fronted by a man by the name of Pat “Pooch” DiPuccio.  You can tell Pat knows his power pop history too, you can hear traces of 60’s Bubblegum like Ohio Express, 1910 Fruitgum Co. as well as 70’s stuff like Dwight Twilley, The Raspberries and hints of Big Star in The Condor’s tunes.  The Condors have three albums under their belt but this is actually a collection of reworked songs from Pat’s former band called Blow Up that apparently never saw the light of day.  Whatever the reason these songs got scrapped back then is unclear to me.  The six songs on here are actually really solid and by no means are these cutting room floor fodder.  If you like any of the bands I mentioned above, you should definitely check these guys out.  – J Castro

Corner Boys – Just Don’t Care 7” (Drunken Sailor)
Drunken Sailor has given these Canadian power-pop wizards their first proper release. Drunken Sailor has been combing the demo world to find gems and give them a shot. Earlier in the year, Corner Boys had released a self-titled demo, which was amazing. Guess what, Just Don’t Care is just as good. Both releases contain the monster “Joke Of The Neighborhood,” but this release contains two different songs from the demo. Is there a Northern Ireland part of Canada? Corner Boys are the Canadian version playing in a Protex/Undertones/Rudi style that is heavily influenced by the region without forgetting their Canadian forefather Pointed Sticks and Modernettes.  – Ed Stuart

The Cowboy – The Cowboy Album LP (Drunken Sailor)
Ex-Homostupids and Pleasure Leftist members make one of the rawest LP’s of the year. It’s like Dead Boys, some Total Punk, Gizmos and other pre-punk madness. The Cowboy Album is a guitar driven LP and you’ll make no mistake about it. The Cowboy, hailing from Cleveland, has no shortage of KBD riffs and volume in short musical spurts. This is punk that is too the point and doesn’t waste time.  – Ed Stuart

The Crazy Squeeze – Savior Of the Streets LP (Wanda/Disconnected)
LA’s supergroup is back for round two and they are deeply entrenched in the pub. Crazy Squeeze features members of The Stitches, Teenage Frames, Gaggers and The Superbees, but they aren’t interested in living off pure pedigree alone. Savior Of The Streets features everything from Eddie and The Hot Rods, Boys, Slade, Chuck Berry, Flamin’ Groovies, Bovver comps and more influences than I have space to write about. Crazy Squeeze works like a boxer’s one-two punch where Witmer and Delmane trade off vocals and songs like a smoothly executed left-right punch combo that you didn’t see coming. – Ed Stuart

The Darts – Me-Ow LP (Dirty Water)

The Darts consist of 4 ferocious females that play 60’s influenced rock n roll with hints of psychedelia and a dash of spooky surf vibes.  The songs are mainly driven by an organ which is also played by the lead singer Nicole from the (now defunct?) band The Love Me Nots.  Which is a damn shame because there are only about half a dozen bands worth a fuck to me here in Phoenix and they were one of them.  But it seems like The Darts will fill their shoes quite nicely.  To me, the thing that separates this band from a lot of the others doing a similar thing is that The Darts play the shit out of their instruments.  The guitars and keys are always driving in the hooks, the bass provides a solid backdrop and the drums inject the fuel to keep the whole thing rocketing forward.   – J Castro

Day Creeper – A Mirror To The Fire LP (Heel Turn)
Jonathan Richman and Lou Reed fronting a ‘80’s college rock band. Day Creeper, from Columbus, has just released their third LP, A Mirror To The Fire. There is Modern Lovers, Lou Reed, Television, basement pop and ‘60’s psych influences all throughout this LP.  – Ed Stuart

Dead Hero – La Vida Continua LP (Sabotage)

From Bogota, Colombia comes the fantastic band Dead Hero!  I just have to say that this record had me from track one, a number called “MTL BTA.” It’s an instrumental with monster Blitz style Oi!/Street Punk hooks.  You know the kind, the ones that are so damn anthemic it makes your heart swell. As the record progresses I’m also reminded of groups like Oxymoron.  Dead Hero would have also fit in well on the GMM Records roster alongside bands like Those Unknown and Hudson Falcons that have a working class vibe but also incorporate 77 punk into their arsenal.  Dead Hero sing in Spanish with a female vocalist which makes this kind of music so much more appealing to me as opposed to having to endure the usual macho douchebags that tend to front bands like this.  La Vida Continua is a phenomenal record from start to finish, I highly recommend it.  – J Castro

Direct Hit/Pears – Human Movement split LP (Fat Wreck)
Oh the split LP, a not much used device in the annals of records releases anymore. Fat has revived the format for this Direct Hit/Pears release. Usually with the splits, there was a connecting element which on this release is each band covering a songs by the other. Direct Hit and Pears had toured together and found out musically they had more common than you would think. Direct Hit moves closer to Pears territory than Pears do the other way. Direct Hit opens up the split with the blistering “You Got What You Asked For” which has the band play with hardcore abandon before settling into the pop-punk songs that you know them for. On the flip side, “Ardous Angel” is the closest Pears gets to Direct Hit style song except for their cover. For the rest of their side, Pears just does what Pears does, heavy riffs, hardcore breakdowns, stop/start explosive bursts with melodic hardcore touches. – Ed Stuart

Dirty Fences – Goodbye Love LP (Greenway)
If there were ever a “Don’t judge a book by its cover” metaphor in play for a band, that band would be Dirty Fences. First look, “these guys are definitely a party punk/rock band” and you could be arguably right by the media attention that surrounds them. That’s the one thing with music though is that we don’t just stare at band photos; we also listen to their songs. If you stop at the image, you would really miss out on the fabulous songwriting. Goodbye Love, much like it’s predecessor Full Tramp, is like the tough kid trying to hide his sweet center. Dirty Fences are Heartbreakers, Dictators, Ramones with bits of Kiss thrown in. What did those bands do best? They didn’t shy away from their pop hearts when crafting songs. Fences do just the same thing. On Goodbye Love,  they’ve made the pop more apparent inside those meaty punk n’ roll riffs.   – Ed Stuart

Downtown Boys – S/T 7” (Drunken Sailor)

It’s like what Miles Davis once said about music – “The note is only 20 percent.  The attitude of the motherfucker who plays it is 80 percent.”  This couldn’t ring truer than with Rhode Island’s Downtown Boys.  This record is a reissue of their debut 7” that Drunken Sailor is putting out into the world once again.  This band plays some slopped up, pissed off punk fucking rock.  The obvious things to compare them to is stuff like X-Ray Spex (they employ a female singer and a sax) or even Bikini Kill.   Those comparisons wouldn’t be wrong though but I hear some of that old East Bay squatter punk in Downtown Boys as well.  Bands like Blatz, Jack Acid and even Spitboy pop out of my brain when I listened to this.  Good stuff, this band is worth their hype and that’s a rare thing these days.  – J Castro

Dr. Boogie – She’s So Tuff 7” (Spaghetty Town)
There aren’t many bands in the punk world playing rock n’ roll. “What are you talking about? There are a lot of bands playing rock n’ roll.” What I mean is straight ahead ‘70’s rock n’ roll like what Dr. Boogie is playing on She’s So Tuff. Dr. Boogie is playing from their Rolling Stones gut without speeding up the tracks. Don’t get wrong, I really enjoy the quicker shorter paced songs, as previous reviews will attest too. Dr. Boogie gets the sound and tone right on this slab of wax like they did on their LP. “She’s So Tuff” comes complete with backing horn track, which reminds of Exile On Main Street and “Peanut Butter Blues” hits the same sweet spot.  – Ed Stuart

Enamorados – S/T LP (Sabotage)

The word “Enamorados” is, as you may have guessed “enamored” in Spanish.  And if you’re still a little lost, the word “enamored” means “be filled with a feeling of love for.”  So with that being said, Barcelona’s Enamorados aren’t going to be singing about killing your political opponents or hating anyone with a different set of beliefs as you.  Oh no, these Spaniards keep it light and breezy in a pop punk vehicle that takes to the road quick but eases up on the curves.  But these guys aren’t all sappy and love obsessed either.  If you like Ramones and Undertones inspired contemporary pop punk, then you’re on the right track to utter delight with this record because Enamorados do this type of music up right!   – J Castro

Eroders – S/T EP (It’s Trash)
The Eroders have a little bit for everybody. “Doctor Says” opens the EP with a bit of a Gun Club meets lo-fi Saints meets Stooges style riff. Eroders have a lot of the It’s Trash staples, raw production, Stooges meets Midwestern proto-punk influences all over it, but they don’t stop there. “Soup Kitchen” is a Cramps meets Drags with a touch of slow guitar burn. While “Lose Your Mind” is a little Wipers style number with Fall/art rock style middle part. This song is not as dirty as the other three songs preceding it, but fits nicely.  – Ed Stuart

Fatal Figures – You Are A Monster LP (Blak Skul)
Ex-Blowtops and Towpath combine to create Fatal Figures. You Are A Monster is a hyper arty noise rock with a dual blown out guitar sound. Fatal Figures sounds like an early Helmet, Jesus Lizard and other Am Rep bands and even early Sonic Youth. You Are A Monster is the follow up to 2012’s Caterwaul. Fatal Figures are for fans of this era alternative and those who aren’t afraid of audio texture. – Ed Stuart

First Base – Not That Bad LP (Drunken Sailor)
There is so much bubblegum you can’t help stepping in it. Grab some scissors and just prepare to cut it out of your hair or bring a second pair of shoes. First Base loves bubblegum as much as the makers of Hubba Bubba. This is record is so good, I’m sure it will end up on many year-end lists. First Base, from Toronto, takes Beach Boys influenced Ramones adds some summer fun and created Not That Bad. First Base has been kicking around for about six to seven years and Not That Bad is their follow-up to 2013’s, First Base. For a band that’s closest body of water is a lake, they sure have written the endless summer beach soundtrack. Even when they stray from the Ramones momentum on “Busboy Job” and “Not That Bad” they still produce magic and tracks that could rival any ’79 UK power-pop. First Base throws in bits of T. Rex, Undertones and 1910 Fruitgum Company for fun to create a record that is enjoyable from start to finish.   – Ed Stuart

Forty Nineteens - Good Fortune LP (Kool Kat)

The Temecula CA Rock N Rollers are back with their 2nd LP.  The Forth Nineteens sound like they’re really nice guys.  I don’t know them at all mind you, but they seem like the kinds of guys that if you let them crash at you house after a gig, you don’t have to quickly thumb through your record collection the morning after they leave.  These guy’s sound tosses Johnny Thunders/Keith Richards swagger on the same boat already loaded with Smithereens, Dramarama and similar loud and harder rocking acts from the mid to late 1980’s.  Little Steven’s Underground Garage radio show has already caught wind of these guys, it’s about time you do too.  After all, you really want to argue with Silvio Dante?  I didn’t think so.   - J Castro 

Fox Face – Spoil + Destroy LP (Dirtnap)
Dirtnap moves to the Midwest and their first release since the move is Milwaukee’s Fox Face. Fox Face is female fronted force that does not shy away from making social and politically points or turning up the distrortion as the backdrop for their message. Spoil + Destroy mixes surf, Black Sabbath, garage, punk and mid-’90’s alternative with lyrics that cover a variety of topics that predominately affect women like sexual assualt. Fox Face isn’t above being tongue-in-cheek either as they do a version of Britney Spears “Toxic,” but make it their own.  – Ed Stuart

The Geros – Razor Dog 7” (Secret Mission)

Killer garage punk from Osaka Japan!  On the “A” side and title track, the band plays blazing rock n roll with guy/girl vocals which makes them sound similar to bands like the Spastics and The Spoiled Brats.  The “B” side is a song called “The Geros” and this one is toned down a little.  But just a smidge mind you and it has a cool spy rock riff to it that gives it a cool swagger. This is the band’s second release but first here in the U.S.  Their first 7” was released on Killer Boy Records in Japan and limited to 333 hand numbered copies, so good luck on that one.  If you liked the way the bands sounded on Rip Off Records back in the 1990’s then grab this 7”quick before it’s goes the way of Shane White!   – J Castro

The Guests – Red Scare EP (Sabotage)
At first listen, you are transported back to those post-punk days of early Cure, New Order, Psychedelic Furs, and Echo and The Bunnymen. The Guests play their influences well, so well that you might think the band is from across the Atlantic (London or Berlin), but they are not. The Guests are from Philadelphia and feature members of Sheer Mag. Red Scare is a combo of two separate EP releases both called Red Scare. The Guests really have this sound down. Listen to “Have U” and it’s like listening to The Smiths with Ian Curtis singing. What makes The Guests more unique is the focus on the guitar to provide the melodic leads instead of relying so heavily on synth to do so.   – Ed Stuart

Guitar Gangsters – Sex & Money LP (Wanda)
And speaking of bands that have still “got it” first we had the Channel 3 comeback LP in this batch of records and now I come across the new Guitar Gangsters LP.   The difference is, I don’t feel like this band ever really went away.  London’s Guitar Gangsters have been releasing solid records since 1988.  Their new one, Sex and Money shines on the fact that this band has no signs of petering out anytime soon either.  They still crank out socially conscious melodic punk rock in a similar way as Cocksparrer and Still Little Fingers did back in their heyday.  I’d easily put these guys up there on the top shelf with those bands.  Also if you like bands like Swingin’ Utters or The Beltones, you won’t be disappointed by this record.   – J Castro

Gutara Kyo – S/T 10” (Slovenly/Black Gladiator)

Slovenly Recordings is one of the most constantly great labels out there.  They scour the globe for killer bands to bring to our attention over and over with marvelous results.  And they’ve done it yet again with Gutara Kyo, a band from Kobe Japan that sounds like Teegenerate on Cocaine smashing their instruments with sledgehammers by the light of a full moon.  Things slow down for just a tad on the song “Romantic” which clocks in at 2:56 and is by far the longest track on the record.  Most of the songs are an average ear pummeling 1:30!  The other eight songs on the record will make you feel like someone just drove a crowbar through your head ear to ear.  And when it’s over you’ll immediately get up, flip the record and beg for more.   – J Castro

Hand & Leg – S/T LP (Slovenly/Black Gladiator)

Really cool record from this arty guy/girl duo from Athens, Greece.  This is the band’s debut LP (other than a digital single, I believe) and it sounds like something that would have fit in really well on Dischord or Kill Rock Stars record labels back in the early to mid 1990’s.  Hand & Leg can go seamlessly from quick tempo/rabbit punch type of songs to slow churning, spaced out number that sometimes remind me of Memphis TN’s Nots at times.  The whole record has a Velvet Underground vibe to it as well.  I know what you’re thinking and yes, a lot of bands can’t pull this off and end up failing spectacularly and laughably.  But Hand & Leg manage to capture that similar atmosphere well and that’s no easy thing to do.  – J Castro

Heavy Lids – Final Days 12” (Blak Skul)
Any city that exists below sea level has to have some strange stuff going on. In New Orleans, Heavy Lids is there to fill a void. Final Days at some points sounds like a Spits/Lot Sounds hybrid and then at other times is a psych influenced electronic exercise. “Into Your Mind” is a good mix of these ideas. The first three minutes is keyboard atmosphere and the last two minutes bring out the synth punk. Sometimes I wonder if Heavy Lids cut the chaff would they have a formidable Spits/Screamers style band?  – Ed Stuart.

Hightower – Club Dragon LP (KROD)

Now these guys offer a drastic change of pace here!  Paris, France’s Hightower play some top shelf early aughts style of pop punk.  The kind that was birthed from mid-90’s emo like Yellowcard, Motion City Soundtrack and Taking Back Sunday.   Another way of seeing it is that it’s basically the kind of music Warped Tour catered too that ended up killing it and dumping the carcass in a dried up ravine.  These guys knock it out of the stadium with the energy levels though.  Even if you’re not a fan of this style of music you have to admire that aspect.  I can hear the music on this record is played with a lot of heart and the band puts a lot into it. The fact that there are some people walking upright on this earth right now that are calling this type of music “nostalgic” pretty much makes me feel as old as paper.  – J Castro

Iron Chic – You Can’t Stay Here LP (Side One Dummy)
Long Island seems to be an entirely different animal then it’s New York City neighbor. While NYC, gets all the press and attention, Long Island has been putting out music with a strong scene for years. Iron Chic is a testament to this scene. It’s funny how a short distance can make so much difference. There was a big question surrounding You Can’t Stay Here. The question was would Iron Chic continue? Prior to recording, their founding guitar player died at the young age of 36. Iron Chic decided to soldier on and use this record as a way to work through the emotions they had. A lot of the Iron Chic staples are there like enormous sing-a-long chorus that sound like the whole neighborhood did backing vocals. There are also the songs that build into those big choruses. Iron Chic has at time had bits of Springsteen, Jawbreaker, ‘90’s emo punk and alternative thrown into the mix. You aren’t getting a 1:30 minute pop song with these ex-Latterman guys. Iron Chic is a like a tea kettle that takes a while to heat up your water, but it’s worth the wait in the end. – Ed Stuart

Klazo – Embarrassed of Living LP (It’s Trash)
DAMN this record rocks hard!  I mean there’s no let up on this LP, it’s a steady succession of face pummeling.  I keep waiting for a clunker song so that I could compose myself and it just never came.  Klazo are a two piece punk band out of London, Ontario that will make you want to kick the ass of any wanker you hear at a party that says “punk is dead” or “there just aren’t any more good bands around anymore.”  Klazo sound like some fantastic band you find on an old Bloodstains comp only better because they’re still here!  They’ve got Lurkers style licks jammed into a murky production and it’s all tied around a Jay Reatard manic attitude that’s both invigorating and refreshing to hear.  Definitely one of my favorite LP’s of 2017.  – J Castro

Darius Koski – What Was Once Is By and Gone LP (Fat Wreck Chords)

First off I want to say how much I love the title of this record, it sounds so Tolkienesque.  Now for those of you that have been living in the wild or stranded at sea up until recently: Mr. Darius Koski has been one of the creative forces in one of my favorite bands since I was a pimply faced High School student in the Swingin’ Utters.  So this guy can literally flatulate into a microphone, record it, then sell it to me and I’d sleep with it under my pillow.  This is quite dissimilar to the Swingin Utters though.  Usually you can hear a trace of a solo artist’s other projects in their music but this is way different.  Darius Koski picks up an acoustic guitar here and goes all Billy Bragg on this record.  You can tell these songs are very close to Darius’s heart by the way they’re so delicately executed.  Listening to this record is like peering straight into someone’s soul.  – J Castro

The Last Gang – Sing For Your Supper 7” (Fat Wreck)
Orange County’s The Last Gang have been honing their chops since late ‘00’s. Sing for Your Supper is a teaser 7-inch for upcoming LP in the future. Last Gang are a heavily influenced ‘00’s era punk band with thickly produced guitars, big choruses that put them closest to a female fronted Rancid or Distillers. The B-side “Turn The Record Over” sounds like a lost Rancid track from the Let’s Go era. Interesting enough, it was their cover of Rancid’s “Cocktails” that brought the band to people’s attention. Last Gang will fit nicely on the Fat roster and this single is a good introduction to the band.  – Ed Stuart

The Lillingtons – Stella Sapiente LP (Fat Wreck)
In the late 90’s, the Lillingtons put out two LP’s that put them on the pop-punk map, Death By Television and Shit Out Of Luck. Both of these LP’s were heavy in the Queers/Screeching Weasel/Face To Face territory and a lot of people liked them for it. Then a decade or so went by and The Lillingtons didn’t record or tour. Now in 2017, the band is back with Stella Sapiente. According to Fat, they have pined over the band for a while and finally got their wish. Stella is still at heart a pop-punk LP. You can argue the Death By Televison template is still there, but now the Lillingtons show a lot more melodicism, better production, with nods to rock and alternative.   – Ed Stuart

Malos Modales – Cultas Occultas LP (Buen Dia)
I must say at first I was surprised listening to Cultas Occultas. I had gotten used to the sound of Chronicas Terrestres, which was full of energetic, melodic punky-pop, that I had to double check this was the right band. Malos Modales has dropped a lot of the punk-pop influence and adopted more Brit-pop alternative ‘90’s song structures. While “Nada Es Real” is more akin to the previous EP, “Siempre Pasa Igual” sounds like a lot like My Bloody Valentine. In some ways, I feel like there should have been a couple of LP’s in between for transition purposes. Cultas Occultas is a good starting point if you haven’t heard the previous EP’s. – Ed Stuart

Merda – Descarga Adrenergica LP (Spaghetty Town)
Merda, from Brazil, has been playing punk/hardcore since the late ‘90’s and have been carving out a name for themselves ever since. Twenty years later, Merda have released Descarga Adrenérgica, which might be their first record to make it to the US. Prior releases were only released in South America. Merda plays ‘80’s punk/hardcore sung entirely in Portuguese that is about quick bursts of energy, twenty-two songs in as many minutes should give you a clue. – Ed Stuart

The Monsieurs – Deux LP (Slovenly/Black Gladiator)
Try to imagine playing a Troggs record on your stereo when suddenly a semi-truck runs over your player, dragging it and finally spitting it out of its spinning tires.  If that record and player still miraculously work, the sound you will hear from the scratched up, gravel embedded record and the barley functional record player now with electrical shorts in the speakers will sound pretty much like The Monsieurs.   This band consists of two lovely ladies and one sexual tyrannosaurus of a lead singer.  The music is mushroom cloud of sexual tension manifested into rock n roll form with a thick fire blanket of fuzz covering the flaming wreckage.  The Monsieurs also get playful at times, reminding me of early Donnas or the Brentwoods too.  Cool record, now this is my kind of shit!  – J Castro

Neo Neos – The Hammer of Civilization 7” (It’s Trash)

Another explosive release from the It’s Trash recording label out of London, Ontario. This must have scorched the earth when the box first kissed land.  The sound on this is set to maximum snotty and swirled with a really sludgy production but it’s loaded with catchy, primal riffs that come pounding through the murk.  From the little information I can gather on this release, this is all done by one person and it was spawned somewhere around the Minnesota area of North America.  Like Klazo, Neo Neos sound like something that would come shining through a Bloodstains or Killed by Death comp but also reminds me of FYP or the Quincy Punx.  It’s got a similar tongue in cheek, irreverent quality to it.   – J Castro

Please Stop! – Power Suit and Dead Bodies 7” (No Front Teeth)
These Minnesota punks definitely know how to get the most bang for the buck by packing eight songs for the price a single 7-inch. Please Stop! play a loud, snotty and raw mix of ‘80’s punk and hardcore. Singer StaySee leads this charge and the band is equally up to the challenge. This is not your polished punk LP, this is raw and rough like swallowing razorblades.   – Ed Stuart

Proto Idiot – Leisure Opportunity LP (Slovenly)

Now Slovenly takes us to Manchester, England for this one! This record has been getting a lot of press coverage as of late and I can certainly see why.  Proto Idiot are pretty great, allow me to try to give you a glimpse of the impressions I get when listening to this record.  I hear bands like Wat Tyler, Rezillos, Swell Maps, but totally indirectly mind you.  These guys take so much in, swish it around and spit it back out all over your shoes. You can’t see big chunks of anything mind you, everything has been well digested. Instead of wiping it off immediately though, you’ll want to rub it all over yourself. This is the kind of record you can listen to over and over and not get bored with it.  If I had done a top 10 of 2017 this record would have probably made top 3 maybe even have taken the top slot.  – J Castro

Pura Mania – Cerebros Punk 12” (Sabotage)
Pura Mania is from Mexico City and Vancouver. From what I could find out is Pura Mania have called it quits and Cerebros Punk is their last will and testament. Pura Mania plays a hard charging UK ’82 Blitz/Exploited style attack, but adds in post-punk and indie touches so they are/were not a one trick pony. The songs are sung in Spanish and with a great deal of intensity. I think what separates Pura Mania apart from their ’82 brothers is their bass player, who is not satisfied with holding root notes and at times plays like he’s on the first Kids LP. – Ed Stuart

Rat Parade – S/T EP (Self Released)

I think its funny how a lot of people as soon as they hear a melodic punk band they automatically toss it into the pop punk barrel.  That’s what some other reviewers did with this band’s EP.  I wouldn’t call Stiff Little Fingers or Cocksparrer pop punk bands.  If you do you’ve got something coo coo going on in your cabeza amigo.  These guys play a flavor of punk rock that has a more melodic street punk essence to it.  Which is odd for a young band because guys this age usually steer toward a garage punk sound or a Screeching Weasel thing.  This here EP though, which I assume is their debut has more of a Swingin’ Utters feel but with a youthful gusto dusted on to it.  The guitars are laid on thick, the choruses are melodic and the production is pretty good for the style of music that this band is going for.  Standout tracks for me are “Don’t Look Down” and “Hate Your Guts”.  – J Castro

Razor Boys – Atlanta 1978 LP (Hozac Archival)
Another band lost to the annals of time. It’s another story of wrong place, wrong time or too far ahead of its time. Razor Boys are a bit of both. Razor Boys hail from Atlanta, which at the time was mired in Allman Brothers, Lyndrd Skynrd southern rock, never stood a chance. Atlanta 1978 is the long lost LP that never saw the light of day. Who are the Razor Boys? They are glam/proto-punk band with touches of ‘80’s pop metal. Basically they were too late for the NY Dolls glam party and to early for the LA Sunset Strip debauchery era. It’s arguable to think which scene they would of fit more seamlessly into. Razor Boys sound is a dirty, NY Dolls/Billion Dollar Babies­-era Alice Cooper glam/punk n’ roll with Teenage Head punk and played super raw with touches of early Hanoi Rocks. As far as re-issues go, this is one of the better ones. Too many times re-issues are one good song and the rest is filler. Not here, Razor Boys are good all the way through. You could probably pass Razor Boys off as a current band considering the ATL scene of Dino Boys, Barracudas, RMBLR, and Biters that has been happening the last few years. Each scene has it’s own band like this, Hollywood Brats (UK), Brats (NYC), but this is Atlanta’s turn to shine in the southern sun and Razor Boys certainly do, even if it took forty years to get there. – Ed Stuart

RMBLR – Territory 7” (Fat Possum)
The cover art does warn you that you are entering RMBLR (pronounced Rambler) territory and they were right. The proclaimed “Filthy Few” are made up of Dinos Boys and Sleigh Bells. RMBLR were actually the touring version of Dinos Boys. Yes, Chase Tail (Heart Attacks/Dinos Boys) fronts this 4-piece. RMBLR, hailing from Atlanta and Baltimore is NYC punk rock n’ roll all the way, think NY Dolls meets Stooges meets Chuck Berry ‘50’s rock n’ roll. “Cannibals,” one of the coolest songs of 2017, only needs one word, Cannibals, and 58 seconds, to make the opening glam infused punk anthem. “Name Game” is a demented back alley tour take on the Shirley Ellis classic of the same name played with ‘50’s Chuck Berry riffs over Ramones rhythms. Territory is a solid EP and a definite for fans of the recent crew of ATL bands like Dino Boys, Barreracudas and many others. Speaking of Barreracudas, according to the band’s Bandcamp, Adrian from the Barreracudas has joined the band too as if you needed more ATL glory for this band. Down, dirty, tough ‘70’s punk that never pretends to be anything else.  – Ed Stuart

Rob Clarke & The Wooltones – Better Times 7” (Wooltone)
Rob and his Wooltones are back with their new single, Better Times. If memory serves me correctly, and in the later years sometimes it does not, the Wooltones had a similar system of releasing a vocal and an instrumental of the same song. On Better Times, The Wooltones have done it again. “Better Times” is a jazzy, mod, Beatles-esque number that would fit on a relaxing Sunday afternoon or long ride down to Brighton Beach. The instrumental version is much the same except instead of the vocal, audio clips have been inserted instead. – Ed Stuart

Role Models – Dance Moves LP (Glunk)

Wow what a great band, my day is made!  This is my first time hearing these guys and I seriously feel like the last few years of my life would have been better if I had known these guys existed.  London’s Role Models effortlessly blend the feel of early Tom Petty with Cheap Trick’s guitars, the glam strut of the New York Dolls and the energy of Hanoi Rocks.  Oh yeah, I know it sounds like a tall ass order but believe me when I say these guys somehow do it and they do it like it’s no big fucking deal!  This also reminds me of bands that were around in the mid to late 1990’s like Material Issue and The Beat Angels.  Dance Moves is a rock n roll, power pop extravaganza the like of which I will never grow tired of and The Role Models are a band I will never forget.  Now I have to go fish around for their previous two LP’s!  – J Castro

The Safes – Tasty Waves LP (Hidden Volume)
The Safes have been crafting their pop universe since the early part of the decade. Tasty Waves, the band’s fourth LP, was going to be entirely something else. At one point, the band had already recorded another LP with all different songs, but Patrick O’Malley, one half of the brother led band, kept coming back to these songs his brother wrote and decided to go with these songs instead. The Safes are arguably a modern day Big Star mixed with early Kinks and Beach Boys with touches of Nick Lowe/Stiff Records. There is so much ’60’s pop all over Tasty Waves, you would think summer never ended. If you are looking for pop with tremendous amounts of melody packed in quick doses, this is your destination.  – Ed Stuart

Slow Faction – Under Heavy Manners EP (Self-release)
Socially and politically minded punk from London. Slow Faction is ’77 era UK punk/street punk that tackles issues concerning banking, war for profit, consumerism and others without browbeating and pointing fingers. Under Heavy Manners, influenced by Billy Bragg, Give ‘Em Enough Rope Clash and Imflammable Material and Go for It era Stiff Little Fingers, strives for an actual conversation instead of the piss and rage method.  There aren’t a whole lot of bands with politically charged lyrics that don’t have an easily identified agenda. Slow Faction does this well using chunky guitar and big choruses to keep the conversation going. – Ed Stuart

Smogtown – Switchblade New Wave/Porno Beach 7” (Rapid Pulse)
If anyone of you out there aren’t familiar with Smogtown, these guys were the hottest shit in the late 1990’s early 2000.  They did the Beach Punk thing like The Crowd or the Adolescents only poured gasoline on it and lit it up to raging bonfire levels.  These two songs here are in fact previously released but they capture a phenomenal band in their prime. The song “Switchblade New Wave” appeared on the amazing 10” Smogtown did with the Teenage Knockouts who were really great too.  And “Porno Beach” was on the Old Skars and Upstarts comp that came out it 1998.  I’m pretty sure both the split 10” and the Comp are long gone.  So if you want to killer tracks for just a few bones, then I highly recommend this slab of wax.  You won’t be disappointed.  – J Castro

Spider – S/T EP (Crypt Central)
This band is from Long Beach, CA and sounds like it too!  Not that it’s a bad thing by any means.  Spider is a band that’s been around for a while but from what I gather hasn’t been active lately.  But now they’re back: older, wiser and sound solid as fuck.  If you dig that Beach Punk/Posh Boy records sound like D.I., The Crowd, or Simpletones then baby strap in because this is your luck day!  This also reminds me of that slew of great bands Hostage records were putting out in the late 1990’s and early 2000’s like Smogtown, The Bodies, and The Pushers.  Spider have that perfect blend of snotty vocals mashed with hard a hitting bass and drums section and coated with loud catchy guitars.  Fantastic release, let’s hope these guys stick around longer this time around!  – J Castro

The Stanleys – S/T LP (Off the Hip/Rock Indiana/Pop Detective)
“Unashamed Power-pop” is how The Stanleys describe themselves and I would say this is an apt description. I know the mere mention of power-pop takes the listener to the golden era of ’70’s/‘80’s era bands, but the ‘90’s had their share too like Material Issue and some would argue early Weezer and Matthew Sweet. The Stanleys take Material Issue and combine it with Raspberries and Plimsouls style melodies and glam touches to make a sound their own. Imagine if The Raspberries had been recorded in the ‘90’s for alternative radio airplay. The Stanleys, from Australia, have a good thing going on this LP writing catchy anthems like “Kid’s Gonna Rock,” which hopefully will help them find more like minds in the power-pop community. – Ed Stuart

Sterile Mind - Lift The Mask 12” (Sabotage)

Holy Hell!  From Oakland CA comes the debut LP from the dark, brutal sounds of Sterile Mind.  These guys play some throat blistering hardcore in the same destructive ways as Dead and Gone, Rice, and Neurosis did.  Yes my hardcore references are dated I KNOW!  I don’t listen to this kind of music by choice much but I do like it when a friend puts it on or I’m in a record store that’s blasting it.  Most of all I appreciate the sheer savage force that this type of music creates and Sterile Mind raise it to a very high magnitude.  Sterile Mind must be quite formidable live as well.  I’d be surprised if any space these guys perform at isn’t reduced to rubble after they finish their set.  Like I said, I feel like I don’t appreciate this kind of music enough and bands like Sterile Minds remind me that I really should.   – J Castro

Surfbort – Bort To Death EP (Hozac)
Surfbort play a rough around the edge punk that pulls from KBD, Pagans, a stripped down Avengers and riot grrl bands. Bort to Death is noisy, musically in your face and that’s the way Surfbort seem to like it. “Back To Reaction” is actually a call to action when the normal stance is reaction. “Hippie Vomit Inhaler” is waking up, presumably after a night of partying or a straight bender, and wondering where everything went. – Ed Stuart

Suspect Parts – S/T LP (Taken By Surprise/Oops Baby)
It seems Justin Maurer only is part of all-star bands, Maniac, LA Drugz and now with the rebirth of Suspect Parts. Suspect Parts features members of The Briefs, Clorox Girls and Red Dons. This is not just all-star, but international groups as various members live across the globe. Now after the heavy build-up, I’ll get to the S/T LP, Suspect Parts are a mix of ‘70’s American Power-pop and ’77 punk/pop. Basically, it’s Los Angeles (Nerves, Plimsouls) meets UK (Buzzcocks), but Suspect Parts doesn’t just live there because there is a lot of ‘60’s California pop infused throughout. Living across the globe has made it difficult for the band to produce music on a fairly regular basis, but when they do it’s worth the wait.  – Ed Stuart

Sweet Things – Slather 7” (Spaghetty Town)
Somehow the blues got blues-ier and the sleaze got sleazier on this New York City band’s sophomore release.  These two tunes carved out here on this 7” sound like they could have been plucked out of The Stone’s 1970’s grade “A” material!  In fact Liza Colby’s (The Liza Colby Sound) guest vocals and Rob Clore’s (Black Crows/Jesse Malin) keys give the tunes such an Exile on Main Street feel it’ll make the hair on your arms stand at attention!  The Sweet Things play a style of rock n roll that not too many bands play anymore and if they do, I guarantee you aren’t as good as these guys!  The Sweet Things are the kinds of guys at the corner booth of a crowded smoky bar with their boots up on the table just kicking back watching the parade of trendy fools stroll by and having a good time doing so.  Because Rock n Roll fads come and go, but like Levis denim and Schott leather jackets the kind of rock n roll music Sweet Things play is eternal.  – J Castro

Tiger Touch – Rabbit Grab 7” (Tyrannical Volts)
Tiger Touch will come kicking the doors in and blowing the windows out of your house with the “A” side and title track to this two banger 7”. This song is a fist full of tough guy, rock-punk with a heavy Stooges stance and a Dead Boys delivery.  It’s the perfect song to put in your car stereo while you’re being chased by the cops.  The “B” side is a song called “Can’t Make It On Time” which has a very L.A.M.F. vibe to it and boasts a killer bluesy, booze soaked guitar lick. It sounds like something that could have come oozing out of Johnny Thunders amplifier in the late 70’s.  This also reminds me a lot of The Humpers and Electric Frankenstein. Pretty cool record here, I’m going to keep my peepers peeled for an LP from these guys.  – J Castro

Richard Turgeon – In Between the Spaces LP (Kool Kat)
Richard Turgeon is a San Francisco resident that describes himself as a “suburban dad who writes, performs, and records original rock songs.”  I suppose you can fit what Richard Turgeon does into a Power Pop cubby hole, but it’ll end up spilling out by the time you finish listening to this record.  The music is guitar heavy pop tunes with a rock edge but can also get pretty breezy at times too.  It sometimes reminds me of a less sarcastic Weezer when they were still good, like around the time they released the “Blue” or “Green” albums or maybe a little bit like The Parasites.  There’s a pretty funny Twister Sister like video on Youtube for the song (and arguably the standout track) “I Don’t Need You” that has Richard wearing a wig and looking like one of the guys in Head (the band not the movie with The Monkees) while his yoga hoser brother makes fun of his sexless lifestyle.   Good, well written record.  I’ve got to tip my hat to the guy for getting out there and doing his own thing. 
– J Castro

Unmanned Brain – S/T EP (Self Released)
From the serine album cover, I had absolutely no idea what to expect when I started listening to this record.  I know the old saying goes “don’t judge a whatever by it’s cover” but let’s face it, you kind of can.  I think a lot of bands wand you to know what kind of music they play so they make the cover a certain style so you’ll get the hint.  This is especially true of curst and hardcore bands.  But there is something to be said for the element of surprise, even in this day and age.  That being said Unmanned Brain definitely launched a sneak attack on my psyche.  This three piece band is from Uppsala Sweden and they rock fairly well.  The first two songs fire out in a melodic classic hardcore style like Adolescents or T.S.O.L. and the last tune on here titled “Yellow Tubes” is the slow burner of the bunch.  Good stuff from Unmanned Brain’s debut!  – J Castro

Unwelcome Guests – Anything You Want LP (Dirt Cult)
Is jangle-punk a thing? What about college punk? I know jangle-pop is, but I’ve never heard the other terms. Unwelcome Guests on their third LP, Anything You Want, refuse to be pigeonholed and it shows. The band pulls from influences like Big Star, early R.E.M., ‘70’s pop, melodic Husker Du, Samiam and Gaslight Anthem. Listen to the single, “Outta My Way” or “Villian” to get the idea. “Handle” is more of an older Unwelcome Guests melodic punk pop song. “Don’t Remind Me” is like early R.E.M played at punk speed. Anything You Want shows Unwelcome Guests haven’t changed their mission and don’t really intend to.   – Ed Stuart

Various Artists – Killed By Meth #2 LP (It’s Trash)
Round two of this It’s Trash compilation series that features bands from the Rust Belt area of Canada and the Midwestern and Northeastern U.S.. Killed By Meth, a play on the Killed By Death comps from the 80’s, also makes a social commentary on an area where Meth is becoming an increasing problem. It’s Trash specializes in razor edge, gritty, punk n’ roll and this compilation is no different. I won’t go track by track, but if lo-fi, dirty, raw punk n’ roll that draws from The Stooges and other mid-western punk and proto-punk is your drink of choice, then this is a comp worth checking out.   – Ed Stuart

Wicked Bears – Turning Out LP (Hidden Home)
Salt Lake City’s Wicked Bears crank out some no frills, high energy, straight up pop punk.  The way you hear it in your head when someone tosses out that term, which has been pulled and stretched out so far now days.  The guitars on this record are mixed just right so that they’re front and center and sound in your face.  The hooks will grab you by the hair, the melodies are soaring up to the stratosphere and the choruses are so ultra-catchy you’ll find yourself subconsciously bopping your head to them. The singer belt’s these songs out with an almost unmatched gusto which reminds me of the first Face to Face record.  Last but not least the rhythm section pounds it all out nice and smooth so that it floats down your ear canal with the greatest of ease like a luge.   For fans of bands like Masked Intruder and The Copyrights.   – J Castro

Zorton and The Cannibals – Unfavorable Offerings EP (Self-Release)
‘60’s Psych/garage/surf hailing from our neighbors to the north, Canada, more specifically Toronto. Zorton is a fun band all around and can easily have a home in the garage world. Despite what the cover art shows, nicely illustrated by the way, Zorton is about fun. When you listen to “Oogey Bogey,” which is a little close to “Monster Mash,” and ends in somewhat of a light T. Rex, Zorton still places fun first. If you’re a fan of early B-52’s meets Swamp Thing meets B-movies and ‘60’s camp movies, check out Zorton and The Cannibals.  – Ed Stuart