Thursday, February 27, 2014


Chain Letters – Bad Reflection b/w Boulevard Girls 7” (Pogo Time Records)
Superior power-pop punk by former front lady of Young People With Faces; the band also featured a No Tomorrow Boy as well, if I’m not mistaken. Chain Letters have warm female vocals laid gently like a soft blanket a top of melodic buzz saw guitars. Chain Letters drum up some super fantastic Ramones-y sing-a-long songs about love and longing. Is there a greater subject to sing Rock N’ Roll songs about?  - Jay Castro

Chain Letters exists in two cities Los Angeles and Toronto. So I’m guessing the time travelling between the two cities is giving the band time to write catchy hooky songs. Chain Letters features a very cool mix of Avengers, Zeros, and Ramones style bubblegum punk pop that never goes out of style. The band features ex-members of Young People With Faces and Tyranna and is a band to definitely keep your eyes and ears on.  – Ed Stuart

Ballantynes - Liquor Store Gun Store Pawn Shop Church EP (La-Ti-Da Records)
As you know by now, Canada is full of some of the best power-pop bands right now ranging from Sonic Avenues to Needles//Pins, but if the Ballantynes have their way, Canada will be spearheading the new Northern, geographically as well as musically, Soul wave. When it comes down to it, I probably should be wearing a sharp, slim Merc suit just reviewing Liquor Store Gun Club Pawn Shop Church. Ballantynes have both sides of the Northern Soul/Motown sound equation down. One part is the classic mid-to-up-tempo swing with choppy guitar rhythm that had those late ‘60’s kids dancing on a song like “No Love.” The other part is the slower soulful sound fueled by organ and packed with emotional resonance like “Night Gospel” and “Black Magic.” Liquor Store is a gem of an EP and required listening for fans of this genre. - Ed Stuart

Finally we have more than a two song 7” by the fabulous Ballantynes! What you get here are six magnificent songs of rowdy yet smooth, heartfelt mod/soul music to delight your spirits. When I say smooth, I mean Motown heyday Smokey Robinson smooth! The Ballantynes make you want to sit up straight, put on a vintage suit and soak it with sweat from dancing in it all night long. I don’t dance mind you, but this band have come the closest anyone ever has to make me want to.  - Jay Castro

 Strange Attractor - Back to the Cruel World LP (Mammoth Cave Recordings/FDH Records/Resurrection Records)
This is the third LP from Ontario’s loud, feral 1960’s style garage punk band Strange Attractor.  It’s reminiscent of that era’s more energetic acts like The Sonics or the Monks with some contemporary influence like Seattle’s Makers and even some Lost Sounds thrown in there to make things even more on edge. At times it also reminds me of Shane MacGowan’s Nips/Nipple Erectors or even Billy Childish at his most manic. Guitar is loud, drums set to garbage lid bashing tone, and vocals are at shrill level. I like this record more and more every time I hear it!  - Jay Castro

Strange Attractor is equal parts Angry Samoans and Wire’s Pink Flag era with the, one take is all we need to record our songs in the studio, spirit of The Fall. Sparse guitars, minimal riffs with short sharp song lengths, none clocking in over two minutes. Back To The Cruel World is wholly reminiscent of when punk was stripped down to its core, songs over with over four chords were tossed and attitude meant everything. – Ed Stuart

The Black Cheers – The Cat, The Bat, The Rat, The Dog LP (Self Released)
The Black Cheers are the type of band that isn’t afraid to add the rock part of punk rock into their sound equation. Think New Bomb Turks, Humpers, Devil Dogs, Dillinger Four and even hints of early Rocket From The Crypt. Ironically, Black Cheers have a song called “1998” on The Cat, The Rat, The Bat, The Dog, which seems to be the era that influenced their sound. This is no frills punk from guys who believe in punk rock in equal measure and mixture. – Ed Stuart

So you know that feeling you get when you hear the first 5 seconds of a record and you know it’s going to knock you off your easy chair? That’s what I got when I heard Boston’s Black Cheers. It sounds like a mixture of 1990’s Chicago pop punk heroes The Vindictives and Vancouver’s Black Haloes. They’ve got a brilliant mix of melodic pop punk guts fused with a gritty back alley temper. The singer sounds like he gargles Kerosene with bits of glass in it as a morning ritual! Great record!  - Jay Castro

Headspins – Spinster LP (Self Released)
From the windy city came this wonderful LP that blew the doors off of the Audio Ammunition stronghold. Superb ear pleasing power-pop with punk jabs peppered throughout. The music has hints of The Muffs and The Fastbacks.  Their Facebook page says they formed in 2005 but this is their debut record.  I surely hope there are more tunes lying in wait out there ready for us to ferociously gobble up!  - Jay Castro

Headspins band description describes them as “70's punk rock tunes laced with Ace Frehley style lead guitar[,]” which really isn’t a bad description except that I hear more late 80’s-90’s punk influence than ‘70’s. Spinister is a mix of Muffs, Toy Dolls, early to mid period Lookout bands like Screeching Weasel, The Queers and Mr. T Experience, specifically come to mind. If this is your scene, this is your band. – Ed Stuart

Voice of Addiction - Modern Day Meltdown EP (Self Released)
If Voice of Addiction were around twenty years ago, they most likely would have had a deal with Epitaph or Fat Wreck Chords, but that doesn’t stop them from incorporating that era into their sound. Modern Day Meltdown is the fifth release from this Chicago trio. The title track “Modern Day Meltdown” sounds like a lost Bad Religion track with pieces of Rise Against thrown in for good measure. Voice of Addiction is a politically minded punk/melodic hardcore from the Bad Religion/Rise Against/Pennywise camp that is filled with lyrical angst and frustration. For fans of the aforementioned bands, Modern Day Meltdown won’t disappoint.  – Ed Stuart

This Chicago three piece delivers melodic brawny rock punk with thick guitars, dueling lead vocals and lots of oohs and aahs in the background. Anyone that reads my reviews knows I am not a fan of bands that force feed their political agendas down people’s throats. VOA however is not entirely like one of those groups.  The lyrics do have a socially cognizant theme, but the songs on this 7” talk about staying young at heart and finding the strength to survive the daily grind. These are timeless subject matters that anyone with a pulse can relate to. - Jay Castro

Vegas With Randolph – Rings Around The Sun LP (Caged Giant Records)
From Washington, DC comes the third record by Vegas With Randolph and it’s a power-pop paradise.  It's so pressure packed with tremendously catchy melodies and amusing lyrics that I found myself immediately replaying this record as soon as it was over. I hear ‘90's power pop influences like Material Issue and Jellyfish as well as The Knack and The Beat, which gives some of the songs a more Rock N’ Roll kick to them. Audio Ammunition didn’t do a year’s best records list for 2013, but if I did, this record would have easily been one of the top! - Jay Castro

Rising Around The Sun is the third LP from the ever-prolific Vegas With Randolph. On Rising, Vegas With Randolph writes an LP of power-pop songs, but not of the 1977-1981 variety, but of the ‘90’s variety. Rising Around the Sun is an ode to bands like Matthew Sweet, Guided By Voices and Fountains of Wayne even New Pornographers. Bands that wrote pop songs filled with hooks and a clean production sound that leans more towards the slick than the raw. – Ed Stuart

Adam Widener – Vesuvio Nights LP (Speakertree Records)
Ex-Bare Wires bass player, Adam Widener has released a hidden gem with Vesuvio Nights. Widener much like Rikk Agnew before him has recorded this LP all by himself, but that is where the similarities between the two end. On Vesuvio Nights, Widener has crafted an LP full of ’79-’80 era power-pop with hints of Merseybeat/Mod revival and garage sprinkled throughout. A refreshing mixture of bands like Paul Collins Beat, The Toms, The Modernettes, Circles and others from the This Is Mod compilations. Widener’s debut is the kind of stepping stone that might get him the same attention level as another ex-Bare Wires member who went on to form Warm Soda. – Ed Stuart

This debut album from the San Francisco singer/songwriter gives us a glimpse of what Wavves or The Jacuzzi Boys would be like if they listened to late ‘70’s British mod revival bands. Adam Widener musically captures the similar sounds of fellow Bay Area psychedelic garage rockers Thee Oh Sees and Ty Segall with the song structures and melodies of Paul Weller tacked on. Pretty good stuff I must say. After all, what bands wouldn’t benefit by sprinkling some second wave maximum rhythm and blues in their tunes! - Jay Castro

Big Itch Club Compilation 7” (Bachelor Records)
A marvelous compilation put together by Austrian record label Bachelor records!  According to the press release it was put together to celebrate a music club in Dublin Ireland that gets together and listens to records and sees live bands. It starts off with 2 gems by The # 1’s, a melodic ruckus of mod Rock N’ Roll bliss. Next up is September Girls doing fun, catchy ‘60’s jangly garage pop. Bringing it all home is the Faux Kings presenting to us a rollicking hillbilly stomp-o-rama called “Luchadora,” which sounds a lot like The Ramones “Ramona,” but highly entertaining none the less. If this is an example of what those Irish cats get together and listen to, how do I go about starting an AZ chapter of a Big Itch Club! - Jay Castro

The idea behind the Big Itch Club Compilation single is to celebrate The Big Itch Club bar in Ireland and some of the bands that play there. Three different bands, The #1’s, September Girls, and Faux Kings, give us a total of four songs to listen to. First off are The #1’s, who get the entire A-side of this compilation and I can see why on the strength of their song “16.” “16” is a spot on ode that could have a rightful place on the late ‘70’s Good Vibrations compilation and had them open up for The Undertones or Rudi. “Tell Me Why” is a slower punk-pop equally influenced by The Boys and The Undertones. Second band on this Compilation is September Girls. Their song “Gay Bar” starts off with a Go-Go’s style intro before it launches into a fun garage-pop that sounds like early B-52’s. Last are Faux Kings with “Luchadora” which is equal parts surf, rockabilly and ‘50’s Rock N’ Roll soaked in treble and reverb. Overall, Big Itch Club has done what every compilation aspires to which is for it’s listeners to go out and search for other material by each band that is a part of it. – Ed Stuart

Teledrome – Teledrome  (FDH/Mammoth Cave Recording Co./P. Trash Records)
It would be easy to write off Teledrome as a mid-80’s throwback band and give them no further attention, but then you would be missing out on one surprise of an LP. Yes, Teledrome at its core are synth-pop, but the path they choose is that of Ultravox, Joy Division, The Normal and Tubeway Army. Teledrome has learned the lessons of those bands too. Teledrome is full of catchy pop hooks without losing its dark rhythm and otherworld atmosphere and charm. If you liked songs like “Cars” and “Warm Leatherette,” then Teledrome should be given a listen. – Ed Stuart

WOW, what a great record from start to finish! Synth-pop, new wave sounds with New Romantic melodies thrown in there. Some of their older releases have a rawer production; this LP here is a bit more produced, which is totally fine. Both sounds suit the band quite well, which is pretty unusual. The band does have some punkier sounding numbers found in the middle of the disc like the songs “Antenna” and “Blood Dips.” If you love bands like Echo and The Bunnymen, Human League or even Duran Duran, then this record is going to put a big smile on your face for sure, it did to me!  - Jay Castro

Mad Doctors - Fuzz Tonic EP (Self Released)
This Brooklyn, NY trio set free rowdy and thick, lo-fi Rock N’ Roll. Judging by the album cover and their Facebook profile, these guys don’t take themselves too seriously.  However with songs slathered in this much swagger and downright charisma, it’s hard for a listener not to. Some of the songs lean into a swampy blues sound and also into sludgy psychedelic, but wherever these guys may roam they never falter from their Rock N’ Roll roots and the good times are sure to follow! - Jay Castro

If you want fuzz, you got it. The Mad Doctors a garage, punk, surf, psych, and fuzz machine complete with reverb guitar, effected vocals, and interspersed audio clips. Fuzz Tonic provides a good introduction into what The Mad Doctors are all about. Mad Doctors combine all those aforementioned genres, but with the production of a late ‘90’s budget rock band, think Rip Off Records. If you crave this kind of music, The Mad Doctors definitely have the cure. – Ed Stuart

The Cry Dangerous Game LP (Top Shelf Records/Taken by Surprise Records)
On the first day of the year, Lord Rutledge, of Faster Louder fame, proclaimed Dangerous Game to the album of the year and he is definitely on to something. Now, I’m not making that kind of bold prediction, but I’m pretty sure this will end up on quite a few “Best of” LP lists at the end of the year. The Cry!, on Dangerous Game, have solidified their claim as The Exploding Hearts heir apparent. They effortlessly mix The Boys, Sweet, Slade, Cheap Trick, glam, glitter, and power-pop with enough hooks that they probably have a hook stockpile that they could loan some out to other bands. Their recent Banana Stand performance only proves that live, The CRY! are just as entertaining as live as they are on wax. My only wonder is why a bigger label hasn’t jumped all over this band yet, looking at you Dirtnap. – Ed Stuart

These Portland, Oregon lads seem to be everywhere right now. This is the band’s second LP and these young guys really know how to hit the PR trail for themselves. The band plays a version of infectious glam, glitter, Rock N’ Roll that typically has a sleazy, shady undertone to it; see Biters. However these four guys play like a Bay City Rollers version of it. Which is not a bad thing by any means; it lends their music a wonderful and unique quality. Sleaze you can fake, a true and honest heart is an impossibility to counterfeit. 
- Jay Castro

The Rebel Set – How To Make A Monster LP (Silver Hornet/Burger Records)
The Rebel Set unleashes their second LP on us and it’s everything I was hoping it would be.  Much like their last LP Poison Arrow, it’s a tapestry woven with swirling surf guitar and lo-fi frenzy set in the background of a 1950’s noir crime movie.  The music has an element of fun and danger, but manages not to get cartoon-y. Lesser folk would drop the ball juggling so much into a Rock N’ Roll band, but Joe Zimmerman and his band sound like they’re quite comfortable surrounded by the bedlam.  - Jay Castro

The Rebel Set is a hot commodity right now. How To Make A Monster! is one of Burger’s new releases, which, if previous releases are any indication, Burger’s Twitter army will be all over this release and with good reason. Rebel Set takes their surf, garage sound to the party, adds a full-time keyboard player for this LP and the result is something special. On How To, the guitar and keys don’t compete for the main stage, but work in a musical call and response while the bass and drums keep it simple and moving. The guitar player always had a knack for channeling both Dick Dale and Link Wray reverb soaked riffs without being a knockoff. How To Make A Monster! could be the game changer for Rebel Set creating a lo-fi, surf, dark wave sound that is both memorable and catchy at the same time.  – Ed Stuart

Scorpion Vs Tarantula – Claim To Fame LP (Self Released)
On their third full length, SVT continue their path of destruction all around the Phoenix metropolitan area, stomping on all of us puny humans like the Hulk on a rampage. They distribute their brand of bold Rock N’ Roll loud and fast: like a cannonball shot to the chest. Monster guitar hooks are still plentiful, drums and bass still set at thunder clap levels and the vocals are once again violently spewed all over your face. Raging Rock N’ Roll that will surely crack earth beneath the feet of where ever you happen to be listening to it!
- Jay Castro

What if Joan Jett fronted the Dead Boys? If you have ever wondered the answer to that question, Scorpion vs Tarantula just might be answer. Claim To Fame, the third LP by SvT, is full of raw Rock N’ Roll energy, which is combination of the first two Dead Boys LP’s with some Bon Scott-era AC/DC thrown in for good measure. This band is the brainchild of ex-Chinese Millionaires guitar player and the singer, who looks like a Mad Max extra on stage, but together they lead the charge for this Rock N’ Roll foursome that clearly goes for the throat. – Ed Stuart

Toy Guitar – S/T EP (Adeline Records)
Toy Guitar is Jack from One Man Army and Dead To Me new band and this might be his best one yet. Yes, you read that right One Man Army fans. Toy Guitar is a stunning mix of Ramones, The Boys, Rezillos and Buzzcocks punk-pop with guitar and vocal melodies lifted from ’79 power-pop bands to seal the deal. Jack has left behind the street punk leanings of One Man Army and went straight for the catchy simplicity of ’77 Saints style punk and added pop, which makes this, albeit hyped, a very well done debut. – Ed Stuart

I first heard of this band when Johnny “Peebucks” Bonnel mentioned them as one of the current bands that inspire him. So when I looked them up, I expected good, but not colossally brilliant! Jack Dalrymple of One Man Army recruits some Bay Area buddies and shoots out some of the catchiest punk rock I’ve heard in a long time. It’s hard to pinpoint direct influences, but there are hints of late ‘70’s punk bluster, ‘60’s garage stomp fun, and power-pop energy. This would be right at home on Dirtnap Records. - Jay Castro

The Monsters - Nightmare 7” (Bachelor Archives/Bachelor Records)
This record contains some campy fun Monster Mash style ookie spooky tune-age ready to coax the Bat-tootsy out of your next Halloween party guests. The Monsters were a boisterous garage, trash, rock-a billy band from Bern, Switzerland and this record originally came out in 1988. Bachelor has reissued it to a 300-copy run. So if you’re a fan of 1960’s retro/vintage style Rock N’ Roll with an injection of The Cramps thrown in, you better act fast!  - Jay Castro

From the Bachelor Archives comes this re-issue of The Monsters first single Nightmare. The Monsters originated from Sweden in 1986 and originally released this single in 1988. The Monsters are/were a garage/trash punk band who sound is born from the sounds of early Stray Cats, Cramps, rockabilly, swamp, and those underground ‘50’s and ‘60’s Rock N’ Roll/early punk compilations like Back From the Grave. This single is full of ‘50’s raw guitar treble and twang that could appeal to fans of No Tomorrow Boys. It’s a shame these guys weren’t around five years earlier to possibly open up for Stray Cats when they toured Europe. Nightmare is a solid debut from a band that could have possibly been forgotten, but has the chance to be re-discovered again.  – Ed Stuart

The Bloodtypes – Johnny 7” (Bomb Pop Records)
After reading The Bloodtypes bio, I learned the band has two missions. First, to keep new wave alive in a city, Portland, probably more known for it’s bearded indie scene than it’s wonderful punk/power-pop/new wave scene. Second, to save everyone “single-handedly, one new-wave-garage punk song at a time.” While, I can’t monitor the progress against the bearded folk, I would say The Bloodtypes have a good start on the second goal. On first listen, this reminded me of the Epoxies and it would make sense because one of the Epoxies ex-members is in the band. Imagine Kim Wilde singing with members of Rezillos and Devo as her backing band. – Ed Stuart

There is such an appealing quality about this band that grabs you upon first listen to their record. I will attempt to explain. Female singer Schnek Tourniquet has a sparkling charisma to her new wave style vocals, fun yet urgent, the guitars are turned up loud and peppered with fuzz tone, and all the while the rhythm section booms away in the back.  Think The Go Go’s, blended with The Pretenders and cut with The Avengers. 
- Jay Castro

Makeouts - Back to Sleep LP (Bachelor Records)
This is the 2nd LP from this Stockholm band on Bachelor Records. This is high-quality Rock N’ Roll wax that sounds like it was recorded by a bunch of fun drunken rogues! It ranges from hard quick tempo beasts to slower, a tad more introspective numbers and a lot of times the songs fall in between even that. Apparently they’ve played in Europe with a virtual who’s who of American garage acts like No Bunny and The Dirtbombs. Hope they make it over to the States soon where I’m sure they will be welcomed with open arms. - Jay Castro

The self-described “worst band ever,” has just made one hell of a garage-pop record. Back To Sleep, nominated for best rock LP in Sweden, might be on to something, a hodge-podge mish-mash of several influences to make one LP. This idea is nothing new, but Makeouts are able to pull it off effortlessly on Back To Sleep. Songs like “Bringin Out The Stars” is unabashed power-pop smothered in lo-fi garage pop production. Makeouts mix of ’77 punk, new wave, lo-fi, garage and power-pop begs the question how can an LP this good be made by the “worst band ever?” – Ed Stuart

The Ladykillers - Introducing The Ladykillers LP (No Front Teeth Records)
Ladykillers were originally a 4-piece rockabilly influenced band who had opened up for the likes Jim Jones Revue and others, but Introducing The Ladykillers has the band moving towards early Hives territory which sound good to me. Frankly, I missed the early Hives and I’m glad someone has decided to take up the mantle of simple catchy, lo-fi, garage Rock N’ Roll. This release is a re-issue, but NFT has released it in 7 inch packaging for a twist. If this full-length, originally released in 2012, has your interest piqued, the band has since released three singles of the same caliber.

No Front Teeth Records have such a great reputation of putting out brilliant punk records.  A label that I will just blindly buy whatever they put out. This record easily falls in with that luminous reputation. This punk rock fire-breathing beast comes at us out of London, and it sounds like it’s from Cleveland, OH. There is a certain sound that defines Midwest punk and this record is slathered in it. Tough, bold and melodic: much like their forefathers The Pagans or Dead Boys/Rocket from the Tombs.   - Jay Castro

Plain Dealers – Terminal Darkness 7” (No Front Teeth Records)
This record nearly melted my speakers into mere puddles of smoldering plastic!  Ferocious late ‘70’s style Killed By Death type roaring punkers. Plain Dealers lie a bit more on the melodic side of peripheral punk bands of the late ‘70’s like the criminally underrated German punk band PVC mixed with the nasty temperament of say The Jerks or The Rotters. Great tunes, but beware: stuff will get stolen or broken when this record gets played, and yes somehow this happens even when you're listening by yourself! 
- Jay Castro

Plain Dealers are pure Cleveland and punk Rock N’ Roll. They are the kind of band that believes in the power of it; it’s not a passing fad. On their song “Terminal Darkness,” they have fused the high energy of the Pagans with the Rock N’ Roll grit of the Dead Boys to create one white-hot song. The B-side, the more melodic “Die With Me” is a gritty melodic tune that holds its own against anything the Dead Boys, Stiv Bators or Thunders ever wrote. Dagger, who used to be the singer for Teenage Knockouts, or TKO’s, along with the rest of The Plain Dealers are in top form on this single. – Ed Stuart

Brandy Row/Brandy Row & Truebadours - Split 7” (No Front Teeth) 
Right out at the bell comes the new Brandy Row song The Drifter swingin’ at you like an old Johnny Thunders tune or even a Jessie Malin style acoustic jam with that suave vagabond sheik feel.  On the B side we got The Truebadours, an all star gaggle of Brit punks from The Gaggers, Rick C Quartet and a few other bands in the NFT roster.  This song is called Dirty Street and it’s a more up tempo Pogues influenced jangly number.  It has a similar vibe as the wise, philosophizing barroom patron with the dark, traveling carnival worker mystique.  Perfect songs for the weary rock n roller that just wants something to wind down.  - Jay Castro

In a way, this really is tale of two different sides with one common denominator, Brandy Row. On one side, Brandy Row, of Gaggers fame, is performing under his own name, while on the other side; he has a backing band alongside him. If you might be thinking this single will sound like any band you have heard Row play in, Gaggers, Seminals, and The Hateful, you will be dead wrong. This is a whole other side of him. “The Drifter” is a reminiscent of Thunders solo stuff, while “Dirty Street” takes heavy Pogues influenced and mixes an early Dexy’s Midnight Runners for good measure. Personally, I like the “Dirty Street” side better and think Row should do a full time band with The Truebadours, which I believe is a collection of his London/NFT buddies. The ramshackle new coming of The Pogues is so catchy and has so much energy, I think Row and gang can pull it off. – Ed Stuart

Miscalculations - Asbestos City 7” (No Front Teeth)
Asbsetos City is a great example of the A-side of a single being so good, I almost didn’t care what the B-Side sounded like. In some ways, this could have been a one-side single and I would have been fine. “Asbestos City” is a Devo meets Epoxies meets Tubeway Army meets The Normal winner. Don’t get wrong “Live With Myself” is a cool song too, but is more a straight ahead ’77 punk than the keyboard infused “Asbsetos City.” Miscalculations are Terminal Gagger and Shaun from The Ladykillers new band, which already has a new split single and LP in the can. This is only the beginning and so far, so good – Ed Stuart 

Miscalculations capture the electro punk angular desperation of late 1970’s San Francisco bands like The Units and Screamers rather terrifically.  These London inhabitants however add some of their own lo-fi agitation into the mix.  This record sounds like something that was recorded after the bombs all dropped, half the world is dead or dying, and some anxious youths found a 4track recording device beneath a pile of smoldering rubble and begin to do their thing.  Start fortifying your vehicles and grabbing whatever provisions you can carry, this record will validate your post apocalyptic angst! - Jay Castro

Instigation -  No Way Out 7” (Self Released)
The energy starts burning out of this record the very moment your measly listening device registers what you’re trying to cram through its scrawny copper wires.  Blazing fast and shouted in your face punk rock with a capitol P!  I hear elements of British Oi! & Street Punk like Abrasive Wheels and Varukers mixed with the speed and primal ferocity of early 80’s American Hardcore.  Songs about desperation, anarchy and a Reagan Youth cover (Degenerated), all of this under 7 minutes.  This record will make you take your shirt off and start slamming into whatever passerby happens to be in your vicinity! 
- Jay Castro

Instigation is Japanese punk/hardcore that are in the same ballpark as Regulations, Henry Fiat’s Open Sore and Reagan Youth, which makes since Instigation covers “Degenerated.” No Way Out is no nonsense ‘80’s punk/hardcore full of frustration and fury. No Way Out is the band’s second release and the recipe is still the same as it was on the first single, high energy sonic blasts that frequently don’t pass the ninety-minute mark. – Ed Stuart

Dot Dash - Half Remembered Dream LP (The Beautiful Music)
This Washington, DC quartet exist in a time capsule where ‘80’s melodic post-punk never ended. Dot Dash, comprising of members from Youth Brigade, Julie Ocean and Saturday People, are from the school of Echo and The Bunnymen, Jesus and Mary Chain, Psychedelic Furs and the soundtracks of John Hughes movies. Half-Remembered Dream is the third LP in two years from this ever-prolific band. In the ‘80’s, Dot Dash would be a contender for radio staple, but now they are just living in a post-punk pocket where the melody hooks never end. – Ed Stuart

With their third album, Washington DC’s Dot Dash graciously offers us a set of beautifully constructed 1980’s post punk style dark and delicate songs.  This band consists of former Youth Brigade and Saturday People folks.  For those of you that remember DC’s Saturday’s People:  Dot Dash’s formula doesn’t stray too far from that.  DD throw in some Psychedelic Furs and Darklands era Jesus and Mary Chain for a highly enjoyable collection of songs radiating melody and melancholy.  - Jay Castro

Average Times – S/T LP (Hosehead)
Well look who comes waltzing into the room thinking they own the place?!  These lads boldly parade on in with a dazzling debut LP.  Monumentally catchy and loud punk rock bursts in the tradition of The Briefs with some Descendents bratty-ness thrown in for even more entertainment. The song I Hate Tomato Juice and I Hate You pretty much sums it all up!  It’s so rare that a band can come out with a tremendous debut record that exudes both confidence and well crafted songs.  It sounds like Average Times know exactly what they want and have the capacity to achieve it.   - Jay Castro

Recently, wrote an article 17 Canadian garage punk and power pop bands you should listen to, which featured Average Times and after listening to their debut LP, I can see why. Average Times picks up were Jay Reatard and The Oblivians left off. Keeping the aforementioned bands tradition of mixing blues, garage, raw distortion and spreading it over a simple pop song hidden underneath. Average Times are not content to stop there as they take on Ramones/’77 punk-pop inspiration with a sing-a-long party feel much like Mean Jeans do too. Is there no part of Canada that isn’t red hot with punk and power-pop bands right now? Not sure, at this point, but Ottawa is covered with Average Times. – Ed Stuart

The Elsinores – Dreams of Youth (Dead Tank)
Dreams of Youth definitely has a wide range of influences from Husker Du to Echo and The Bunnymen to Joy Division to Dinosaur Jr. to mid-period Dischord bands. The Elsinores have culled those influences, picked and chose what they wanted to make a sound that has is uniquely melodic and dark. Imagine the late ‘80’s/90’s alternative bands that used to populate shows like 120 Minutes. – Ed Stuart

Out of Lexington KY comes to us yet another release by brooding rock quartet The Elsionores.  A lot of the band’s other media reviews compare them to a pop punk sound.  Although the band’s songs are definitely rooted in punk and post punk, I hear a lot of early 1990’s Sub Pop influence in here.  I detect hints of bands like Seaweed and Afghan Whigs woven through this record’s cavernous and slightly washed out production.  Whatever their influences may be, they create some solid songs and package them together for a consistently enjoyable record through and through.   - Jay Castro

Jesus Sons – Jesus Sons – (Mock Records)
Listening to this record makes me want to sit in a dimly lit, smoke filled bar with wood floors in the middle of nowhere Texas. Always keeping one eye peeled out the window for the local sheriff and keeping one hand on that six-shooter. Just in case any of the local patrons make you and decide to be do-gooders. That’s the kind of atmosphere this music conjures up. This album is a rollicking, dark and ominous country/ blues bonanza of greatness. It’s dark but not depressing with an ever so slight hint of psychedelia thrown in some songs. Imagine if Roky Erickson, Johnny Cash and Greg Allman had been band mates, this might get you a tad closer to Jesus Sons sound. Here’s hoping that “Johnny Law” never catches up to Jesus Sons! – Jay Castro

Jesus Sons look like they time warped to the present from 1969. For all I know, they could have been at Altamont judging by the band’s look and sound. Jesus Sons is a late ‘60’s Rock N’ Roll cocktail with blues and garage as a chaser. Jesus Sons is already on a few “bands to watch” lists so the future seems to be looking bright for a band that has one foot firmly rooted in the past. – Ed Stuart

Thursday, February 6, 2014

Rev Norb

     The first time I heard Boris the Sprinkler, my brain melted.  Sure I’ve heard wit, sarcasm and humor in Rock N’ Roll songs before but never put together so meticulously and sung with such ferocity.  I remember thinking the same thing when I first read Norb’s monthly column in Maximum Rocknroll. Norb now fronts another band called The Onions with former members of Last Sons of Krypton and The Tantrums. Just when you think you’ve heard it all, the good reverend is now also producing his own podcast called Bubblegum Fuzz. A punk rock jack-of-all-trades, he injects his trademark mixture of charm, pop culture wisdom and manic energy into everything he does. So prepare to get tie dyed, deep-fried, pie eyed and Shanghai’d tonight with the voice of geek America himself! 

Interview by Jay Castro

You are known throughout this land as being a bit of a Rock N’ Roll enthusiast.  At what age do you remember first being moved by music and what band or musician motivated you to want get a band together and write your own songs?
When I was a little kid, I always thought the Monkees were cool, because they lived in a cool house on the beach together and just hung out all day and played music. Same for the Archies, they just drove around Riverdale in their jalopy and then all of a sudden, hey, they’d be playing music together. My mom says she knew I was going to be a musician because of my enthusiastic reaction to the scene in The Aristocats where the zany Parisian cats are playing jazz in their run-down squat, but I don’t think the full real-world weight of it all hit me until I was in about fifth grade, and I went to go see Bob Hope at Lambeau Field with my family, which would have been about 1976. There were a bunch of opening acts on the bill that night, like, Duke Ellington’s son and I can’t remember who-all else, largely a bunch of old-timey orchestras and vocalists and such, playing in the middle of our football stadium. Midway through the night, they announce the next act: “Dr. Bop And The Headliners featuring The White Raven!” It’s this 50’s cover band – wholly un-unique by contemporary standards, but kind of novel back then, as this is right when all that 50’s nostalgia like Happy Days, American Graffiti, Sha Na Na is really kicking in – and the band is already set up at the 50 yard line and playing some intro music. All of a sudden, this dude in a white tux and tails comes sprinting out of the tunnel in the south end zone, the same end zone in which Bart Starr won the Ice Bowl in 1967! It’s pouring rain, but the guy is just running all over the field, playing air guitar, a completely novel concept at the time, like a nut. It is, apparently, the White Raven, I guess “Dr. Bop” was their drummer. This guy is just running around, playing air guitar in the rain all over Lambeau Field while his band plays on, and the crowd is going nuts. He eventually gets to the stage, and they blast through a bunch of 50’s standards like “Barbara Ann” et al. It was great! I was like, “Holy crap, you can just run around in the rain like a nut and play music and have an entire football stadium going crazy for you? Sign me up!”

The first time I heard Boris The Sprinkler I felt three things simultaneously, primed up, hilarity and intimidation. Intimidation because of the fact that for every pop culture reference I caught 7 more soared past me at light speed. Do you ever worry about your writing referencing such obscure subjects that you might become like an Andy Kaufman type, where you would be the only one in on the jokes? 
Not really, because the songs weren’t really set up that you had to understand the references to “get” the songs, I thought it was more like, I dunno, free association or something. Like, I don’t think one’s enjoyment of the song “((Do You Wanna)) Grilled Cheese?” is severely impacted by whether or not the listener knows what “Schrödinger’s Cat” is, or that “got a record collection that’s as big as a whale” is a reference to that line about a Chrysler as big as a whale in “Love Shack” by the B-52s, or that “got the law on my back” is a reference to the line “Law on my back! Pressure’s always on!” in the song “Pressure’s On” by Red C and/or the song “Police on my Back” by the Equals. I suppose it would be helpful to know who Christopher Pike is. I always hated bands like NOFX where you had to really follow the lyrics in order to get the joke; I thought they were kinda stupid.

You just released a new 7” with your new band The Onions.  A band that already had some releases prior to you coming aboard.  How did you end up joining the band?
At one point in time, they were doing a few covers by a few of my old bands: “I Object” by Suburban Mutilation, “I’m Not A Date ((I’m an Alcoholic))” by Depo-Provera, and “West of the East” by Boris, so I would occasionally sing guest vocals with them when they’d do those songs live. They also recorded “I’m Not a Date” and “West of the East” for their album, so I went over and sang vocals on those as well. Around Halloween last year, they asked me if I wanted to sing lead vocals on a Dickies tribute set they were doing at a number of Halloween shows, so we played about four shows we me singing Dickies covers with them. That was fun enough that we started doing it full-time.

I know you are also a bit of a comic book/sci-fi enthusiast as well. What do you think of the mainstreaming of “geek” culture with huge budget movies based on Comic Book characters and TV shows like The Big Bang Theory? Which of these movies did you think actually did a good (or decent) job at adapting these characters and stories to the big screen?
I think the Big Bang Theory does a really nice job of working in comic book geekery, it’s all pretty authentic when they talk about comic books or go to the comic book store; as opposed to earlier, less careful portrayals of comic books in mass media like, say, Robocop, where the liquor stores somehow only stock the shelves with multiple back issues of Iron Man from the 1970’s? As far as mainstreaming goes, it is pretty odd to see some hip-hop looking chick walking around in an Avengers t-shirt, especially when knowledge of superheroes above and beyond Superman/Batman/Aquaman/Wonder Woman/Spider-Man/Hulk was wholly outsider knowledge when I was a kid, you had to belong to a sort of secret brotherhood to know who the Avengers were, or Iron Man, or Captain America, or Thor. I thought Spider-Man 3 did a really good job of that bang-bang Silver Age story progression that’s been lost in comics since the 60’s, which seemed to me to be the most like a comic book come to life. And, like most other people, I think that Robert Downey, Jr., is pretty much the best Iron Man for which anyone could hope. I’m also pissed that Christian Bale didn’t say “Somedays you just can’t get rid of a bomb!!!” when the Batplane was toting that nuke out to sea at the end of the last Batman movie.

The book The Annotated Boris: Deconstructing The Lyrical Majesty of Boris The Sprinkler (and other tales as the need arises) came out a year or so ago.  I also read that you are putting together a collection of some of your old columns.  Have you ever thought about writing any fictional books or even screenplays?
If you heard that I am putting together a collection of my old columns, you didn’t hear it from me. I’ve considered it, but I dunno. I don’t know that that stuff was really written with posterity in mind, plus I don’t even think I saved all my files…and the ones I did are on floppy discs, in Quark 3.11 or something, for Mac. I’d probably have to re-type the stuff…I dunno. Maybe. Every once in a while I think about writing fiction, but I never really have any particularly great ideas. I don’t really know how to do it, so I wonder why I should bother. I guess you just rip off The Hero’s Journey and go from there. I don’t know that I would be any good at things like plot and character development; if I was to write a work of fiction, I’d worry that it would just wind up being a bunch of characters just standing around saying funny things. As far as screenplays go, I have never held one in my hands, so I don’t have an abstract idea of what they entail, what they feel like, how long are they, etc. It seems like other people would be more qualified for this that I am.

I read about the time you gave TSOL a bad record review and there was a rumor that Jack Grisham wanted to cause you bodily harm.  Do you ever remember writing about a band in a negative light and 6 months or so later saying to yourself “I was kind of wrong about this”?
I dunno, but I do remember writing a bad review of the New Bomb Turks Drunk on Cock EP, right before I met and became friends with them. I think I’ve had changes of heart about bands in general, but probably not about records in specific, because why would I even bother to go back and listen to a record I already know I don’t like?

You started the Bubblegum Fuzz podcast where you play your favorite tracks, both new and old. Is there anything you listen to that you think would not fit in at all in your Podcasts and may cause some Rev Norb fans to gasp in disbelief?
I don’t think I’ve ever been particularly secretive with my likes and dislikes, so it’s hard to imagine what I could play that would take anyone by surprise. I did play an Elvis song on one episode, and a Beatles song on another; I don’t know if that’d surprise anyone or not. I don’t completely hate classic rock from the 70’s, some of which I liked, before they invented punk rock, so I could see playing some lost nugget by Aerosmith or Nazareth on the show, maybe, if the songs were off the radar and rockin’ enough to not make a mockery of the show’s principles, whatever they are. I’ve also developed a fondness for real early reggae, ca. 1968, so maybe I could toss an old reggae song in there to piss people off. I live to serve.

If you could assemble an ultimate band for yourself comprising of musicians throughout Rock N’ Roll history, a sort of Justice League of bands so to speak, who would be in it?
On the drums, Ringo Starr! On the bass, Sammy from Teengenerate! On guitars, Rick Neilsen of Cheap Trick and Stan Lee of the Dickies! Then I would hire Allan Clarke, Graham Nash and Tony Hicks of the Hollies to sing backup vocals, and Jerry Lee Lewis to play piano. Then I’d hire Peter Noone to sing lead vocals and demote myself to t-shirt seller dude.

I don’t remember Boris The Sprinkler ever touring much, are there any plans on taking The Onions on the road?
Boris actually did tour a little bit; we toured the East Coast thrice, the South, West, and Europe once each. The Onions, I dunno, the economics of touring is a lot more daunting these days. We’ll do what we can without having to break too much of a sweat.

What’s the best way for people to keep up on all of the upcoming Rev. Norb releases, both printed and musical?
KEEP YOUR EYES TO THE SKIES! I’m big on skywriting. Otherwise just track me down on Facebook, I’m a notorious self-promoter.