Thursday, June 2, 2016

April/May 2016 Record Reviews Part 1

Airship – Get Out, Take Your Mother With You 7” (Meanbean)
First off, I want to start by saying to you all that if you haven’t heard of Meanbean Records, they’re a label that works hard to unearth 70’s and 80’s power pop, new wave sometimes with a punk-y edge types of records.  Quite often improving the original releases with better picture sleeves and new comprehensive liner notes, sometimes written by the original band members themselves!  Oh and PS, they rarely suck!  Take for instance this here record from UK’s Airship.  A two banger that originally came out in ’79 and was the band’s only release.  They have (or “had” I should say) a sound similar to Eddie & The Hot Rods.  Get on the Meanbean train now before you’re left at the station!  - J Castro

Betty Machete & the Angry Cougars – Angry Cougars LP (Break Out)
Get out of the way weaklings, Betty Machete and her Angry Cougars are back!  Columbus OH’s resident bruisers return with more broken bones and bloody spit.  This bland plays a blazing combination of Poison Idea mixed with the Supersuckers type of break face punk.  Have you ever been jumped by so many people that they’ve got you on the ground and you’re getting kicked and hit so much you can’t even tell where it’s coming from anymore?  Well put this record on and you’ll experience a similar sensation.  Betty Machete must brush her teeth with gasoline and gargle with fiber glass!  This band reminds me a lot of one of my favorite Phoenix locals called Scorpion vs Tarantula.   I think they must both enter Thunderdome!   - J Castro  

Cold Callers – Alright Girl 7” (Wanda)
Yet another Gaggers off shoot band but this time featuring members of Los Pepes, another tremendous band out of London.  Cold Callers offer up two songs of rough, raggedy power pop as played by really punk dudes.  It’s got a lot of Doo Wop influenced hooks and Teenage Head/Vibrators style riffs being crammed together in a pressure cooker and what finally bursts out is in fact as glorious as you can possibly imagine it to be.  In addition to all of this, the flip side of this nefarious disc is a tune titled “Spying on Me” which is all that was mentioned above with some Adam & The Ants/Boomtown Rats style new wave peppered in to the chorus which tosses this tune into the stratosphere.  This record is in fact a certified stunner!  - J Castro

Divers – Hello Hello LP (Sabotage)
These guys play a style of supped up muscle care Americana similar to Gaslight Anthem and at times also reminds me of the Old 97’s and newer Replacements stuff.  The problem I had with Gaslight Anthem is they didn’t seem to have the charisma, or swagger if you will, to pull of what they were trying to do and because of that, a lot of their songs sounded flat.  And in my opinion The Replacements stumbled by way too long on swagger alone.  Let’s face it Westy and the gang haven’t had a good album since 1987’s Pleased to Meet Me.  But Portland’s Divers seem to be able to pull off this punk rock Springsteen spiel pretty well and this is their debut to boot!  They got the personality and the chops to pull it off, kudos fellas hope to hear more really soon!     - J Castro

Dowsing – Okay LP (Asian Man/Dog Knight)
Wow, big time release that’s already made the rounds through the likes of AV Club, Stereogum and their taste making ilk.  Apparently this is the band’s third LP and after their last one, front man and Chicago resident Erik Czaja’s entire band petered out on him so he went and put together a whole new crew for this record.  They sound remarkably tight and solid on this effort.  The songs seem incredibly personal and they’re played with an impressive amount of passion.   It brings to mind all those bands back in the early 90’s that played “emo” before it became a marketing tool.  Bands like Crimpshrine, Monsula, and J Church all come flooding back into my consciousness when listing to this.  - J Castro 

Dysnea Boys – Forgot How To Read LP (Take It Back)
We did an interview with these guys a while back and our love for ‘em has not faltered since!  Ferocious, white knuckle 80’s Southern California style skate punk/hardcore (the only kind of hardcore matters in my opinion, well other than D.C. I suppose) from Berlin Germany by former Social Unrest (yes THAT Social Unrest) and Black Haloes folks, so yeah these dudes know how to throw a party!  So how did a Canuck and a SoCal resident end up in Germany and start a band like this over there you ask?  Read our interview!  If you miss the glory days of T.S.O.L., Los Olvidados and The Circle Jerks, then bust out that old skateboard, drag out the old ramp to the middle of the street and shred it like it’s the Reagan administration all over again!  – J Castro

The Gaggers – Don’t Follow Me 7” (Rapid Pulse)
So are they broken up or not?  Is this a comeback or a swan song?  I’m so confused, The Gagger’s dry British humor is really doing a number on my hedonistic American brain!  This marks yet another turn in the Gagger’s sound if they are in fact back together.  You can kind of tell the singer’s stint fronting Miscalculations has had quite an influence on him.  He now leads the band into a slower, more shadowy era as evidenced here by these two songs.  The tunes here are still killer and this record still has Marco’s trademark super snotty vocals, but they’re writhing, more lurking and the music dare I say, even more sinister than before.  The guitars are tighter strung and the drums fuel these two slow burners steadily.  I’d just like to conclude by saying:  long live The Gaggers and long live Rapid Pulse Records!   - J Castro 

Heavy Times – Dancer EP (Randy)
The opening song and title track starts up with a Gary Numan style synth sneak attack, then the Johnny Ramone buzz saw guitars kick in, followed by some cold stoic vocals.  This song also reminds me a little of The Faint only far more charismatic.  I always thought The Faint were a good band but somethings missing from their music.  It’s like they just don’t have the presence to pull off what they’re trying to achieve.  This band has found that missing ingredient.  Heavy Times are also more rocking and less dance-y.  The second tune picks up the tempo and we’re off and running to a fantastic EP!  The last song “Edge of the Night” is a perfect closer.  It winds things down just right with the guitars taking the reins with a dark and dashing riff.    - J Castro  

Hex Dispensers – III LP (Alien Snatch)
Oh gee willikers, what can I say about this long running Austin TX punk band that hasn’t already been blabbered by some more eloquent writer for Pitchfork or Paste magazine?  I’m not sure but I’ll give it a whirl: Alex Cuervo (meaning Raven in Spanish) and his band of grim garage ghouls unchain their third (hence the title III) LP upon this unsuspecting dimension.  This macabre (a word I feel isn’t used nearly enough) mob continue to inject their love of horror and sci-fi into a brand of punk that to me is similar to The Ramones and early Misfits.  The Hex Dispensers are one of my favorite bands and listening to this record reminds me why.  Hex Dispensers are still tapping the well for songs that are shadowy, fun, and catchy as a catastrophic contagion.  - J Castro

Janelle – Fault Lines LP (FDH/Rockstar)
Philadelphia PA’s Janelle is a 3 piece band that play breezy, anxious, shoegaze that crawls around the room on a bed of trippy, foggy, almost atmospheric synthesizers.  This is the bands 3rd release (2nd full length) and first on vinyl.  Apparently their previous two releases have been on Suicide Bong Tapes (which is a subsidiary of FDH that puts out limited edition cassettes of Philly bands).  But now they’re ready for their close up Mr. DeMille.  I can’t really compare these guys with anyone to help you get a better grasp on their sound because, well I can’t think of anyone else that really sounds like them.  They have a video for their song “Hate” on Youtube.  Check it out and put the pieces of your shattered psyche back together for yourselves.    - J Castro

Les Suzards – Same LP (Wanda)
The hits don’t stop coming for Wanda Records lately!  Les Suzards are a French band that play punk/new wave/rock n roll style songs that are reminiscent of The Boys with a little bit of the glam band some of those guys had before called The Hollywood Brats.  Yet for something a bit more recent, think something along the lines The Tranzmitors mixed with The Devil Dogs. From what I can tell, this is the band’s debut LP.  They had an EP they released last year titled Pour votre santé, écoutez The Suzards which according to Google Translate is For Your Health, Listen to The Suzards.  It was far more raucous, more Fun Things meets Eater and it too was a mind melter, just like this record.   - J Castro

Martha – Blisters In The Pit of My Heart LP (Dirtnap)
From the historic city of Durham, England which is said to have a history of settlement dated as far back as 2000 BC!  That is crazy!  And home of the famous Durham Castle, I’m a big fan of castles, no joke I am completely enthralled by them.  Anyway I digress, Martha the band is undiluted radness.  The band is made up of four fine looking young people that judging by their promo pictures, really enjoy each other’s company.  Which leads me to believe they haven’t toured much (har har).  The songs are short n’ scrappy pop tunes with a punk edge that radiate a wide eyed zeal that only young people can exude.  The band really swings for the stars on this effort, there are some bona fide hits on here that in a just universe would catapult Martha to widespread acclaim.  - J Castro

Nasty Rumors – Dilemma 7” (Wanda)
The only complaint I have about this Swiss band is that they only keep teasing us with their brilliance with just two song spurts at a time!  Just when you’re getting into them the record is over and you have to flip it around over an over because Nasty Rumours make songs that are so addictive, you can’t just listen to them once and toss the record aside.   The title track is the bruiser of the two.  It’s heavier but slick, the guitars propel this beast right through your thick skull where it will get lodged for days.  The B-Side is a tune called I Need You and it’s seriously one of the catchiest, most enjoyable straight up power pop songs I’ve ever heard.  Only two songs yes, but a colossal record none the less!  - J Castro

Nerve Button – S/T Cassette (Shake!)
If you’re a fan of The Saints, Radio Birdman, Stooges type of tough as nails 70’s rock that throws punk punches or if you just dig good old fashioned stout hearted rock n roll, then New Brunswick’s Nerve Button are going to be your favorite find of the year.  And yet another comparison to picture in your pea brains is try to imagine Handsome Dick Manitoba fronting The Real Kids!  I’m telling you I can’t get enough of this record.  I even put it on extra loud when I had to use the loo so I can hear it over the flushing.  You can’t just “pause” a record like this in mid song, there are reproductions for such insolence.  Another highlight: a cover of one of my favorite songs ever: Bay City Roller’s “Saturday Night”.  I cry brilliance!  - J Castro

Poison Boys – Headed for Disaster 7” (No Front Teeth)
In case you didn’t catch our creature feature/spotlight interview with this band’s front man early last month, let me explain to you all who these new cats in the alley way are exactly.  Poison Boys are a four piece band from Chicago that play super sleazy, super snotty, and super catchy rock n roll in a similar way that Stiv and the Dead Boys did or Johnny and his Heartbreakers did back in the late 1970’s.  This is their debut record and what a way to start thing off!  All of the songs on Headed for Disaster ooze desperation, disease, delinquency and all around displeasure.  I could swear that the smell of Schott Perfecto perfumed the air as I took the record out of the sleeve!   - J Castro

Red Dons – Dead Hand of Tradition LP (Deranged)
I have heard this band and heard their music here and there but I had no clue of their back story.  Apparently they’re a musical collective of sorts.  The bands two founding members, Douglas Burns and Hajji Husayn moved to Chicago and London respectfully, but still manage to tour and record.  The band has also counted TV Smith (The Adverts) and Jesse Michaels (Operation Ivy) as one time band members/co-conspirators.   Red Don’s music is shadowy but not but not depressing, the lyrics are thought provoking but not pretentious at all.  You put those elements together and mix it up with heart pounding drums, hard driving angular guitars and you’ve got yourself one seriously intriguing record.   - J Castro

The Remedials – Four Song EP (Meanbean)
This re-issue from Meanbean gives us the one and only EP released by Montreal’s The Remedials that originally came out in 1981.  The momentum of this record starts building from the very first song and spills on to the B-Side that starts off with a killer power pop tune called “Lifetime”.  This one sounds like something John Felice could have written back in the day!  The last tune “You Make It” is yet another tough, guitar driven anthem.  I’m not sure if this band meant to get as close to punk rock as they did or if they were just pissed off and playing rock n roll.  On the cover they look like a bunch of factory workers that just got their pay cut yet expected to work the same ten hour days!  Scratch yet another win for Meanbean!  - J Castro 

Road Rage – Beware of the Monkey LP (Self Release)
Road Rage are a five piece outfit made up of bearded, pissed off men playing hard rock/metal out of Hadamar, Germany.  Their music sounds like it’s heavily influenced by Stockholm’s The Hellacopters and German heroes Rammestein.  You can tell the band all knows how to play their instruments well and the singer can carry a tune straight into heavy crossfire.  The songs are very well produced and have a strong metal edge to them which is hard for me to call it punk at all like the bands Bandcamp page says.  But that’s not a bad thing, I don’t know why so many bands want to be considered punk anyway.  Why has this become such a badge of honor?  Do you really want to be lumped into a category where most people put Blink 182 and Sum 41?  - J Castro 

The Shapers – Reckless Youth 7” (Self Release)
From Toulouse France come The Shapers, a three piece consisting of three scruffy dudes belting out some mid-tempo, aggressive yet on the melodic side alterna-rock tunes.  Think maybe Foo Fighters, or even Soul Asylum back in the days when Dave Pirner and his hair were MTV stars.  They have a video for a song on here called “Can’t Forget”.  It features a lot of smoke bombs a waterfall flowing upwards and people running around in rubber animal masks.  Perhaps there’s some profound hidden meaning or metaphor that eludes me in all of that, I’m not sure.  The band does describe themselves as “pop punk” but I don’t hear much in the way of that here.  It’s a well-made record, just not my particular cup of joe.    - J Castro

The Sharp Shadows – Small Victories LP (Self Released)
Cool debut LP from this hard rocking Brooklyn trio, which is their second release not counting their demo.  Their music is a bit too loud and rowdy to really be called “power pop” but the melodies make it too vulnerable to push it into the punk rock realm.  Plus their lyrics are too good for punk goons anyway.  They’ve got some elements in their music that reminds me of The Replacements or Athens GA’s The Whigs as well.   Like the Replacements, I can hear some Americana roots in the background of their songs.  The Sharp Shadows are solid rockers with that likeable underdog personality who in the movies, you’re hoping will get the girl and the rest of the school will finally see what terrific fellas they all really are.  - J Castro

Suspicious Beasts – Might Die Tomorrow LP (Alien Snatch)
Fantastic Japanese band produced by Jeff Burke of Radioactivity and Marked Men fame.  I could be wrong but this sounds like a band that started out loving the Ramones but started digging deeper into what influenced them and started falling in love with Phil Spector, Tommy James, and all those R & B British Invasion groups in the late 1960’s that later morphed into Psych.  Not to put to fine a point on it, but this record is brilliant, I’m digging it A LOT.  The songs are tight and focused and there are some unbelievably radiant melodies woven in that will make your jaw drop.  These guys mean business, they walked in swinging for the fences and they did in fact knock it out of the park.  - J Castro

Tomy & the Cougars – This Is Porn EP & No Way Out EP (Surfin’ Ki)
Young French boys pounding out awesome 70’s style power pop/punk amalgamations and doing it the right way on the other side of the Atlantic!  Let’s start off with 2014’s stellar No Way Out EP.  Three songs that have an unbelievable melodic grab with a Jam/Buzzcocks composure to the songs.  The newer This is Porn EP consists of six exceptionally executed Undertones-ish type punk pop snappers only this time with some Toy Dolls irreverence splattered about.  Just look at the cover, it’s got all them nice Cougar boys just pumpin’ and a sweatin’ all over the place!  This band goes very well with London’s Los Pepes and Södertälje, Sweden’s Impo and The Tents, two other personal favorites of mine.   - J Castro

Tommy & the Rockets – Beer & Fun & Rock n’ Roll LP (Self Released)
This group features the song writing contributions of Mr. Mike Cheney, same guy that had a hand in writing those New Trocaderos records for the last few years but is now collaborating with Danish rock n’ roller Thomas Stubgaard . This record, like EVERYTHING the New Trocs released is an absolute delight.  Tommy & The Rockets bring to mind those buoyant, upbeat melodies that Buddy Holly and Brian Wilson penned back in their prime.  This also reminds me of a less cartoon-y Beatnik Termites or a less cheeky The Queers during their stellar Don’t Back Down era.  Make no mistake, this is a guitar driven rock n’ roll record that is sure to send the “Summertime Blues” scurrying back under the sand for a while.  - J Castro 

Tough Shits – Action Breeze 7” (Oops Baby)
Like a lot of great labels that have a diverse roster, you never know what you’re going to get with Oops Baby (and from a band called Tough Shits for that matter) so I tend to brace myself when I put on certain records for the first time.  But much to my surprise what came out of my speakers was one of the most welcoming guitar intros I’ve ever heard in a non-Alex Chilton band.  It literally took me by the sweaty, fist clenched hand and led me to a time when guitar driven rock bands with a knack for writing great melodies like Cheap Trick and Thin Lizzy ruled terrestrial airwaves.   Apparently it’s been four years since this band has released anything but wow, if you’re already a fan let me tell you this is worth the wait.  Killer jagged and ragged, unpretentious, 70’s era power pop rock n roll.  - J Castro 

TV Crime – Hooligans EP (Self Released)
Another, yes ANOTHER terrific band putting together songs with a sensational chewy power pop center covered in a hard shell of punk rock crunch.  Nottingham’s TV Crime blasts off the ground hard and fast with two killer tracks on what I believe to be their debut and what I’m hoping is only the beginning so I haven’t missed anything.  Although TV Crime share a lot with Tomy & the Cougars, this band tosses a little more Johnny T/Heartbreakers guitar muscle in their songs.  It really reminds me of this great band from way back called The Heartdrops from New York but I doubt anyone remembers those guys so I should stop talking about them now.  If you do remember congrats that makes two of us! – J Castro  

Wicked Bears – S/T EP (Hidden Home)
Wicked Bears are a band from Salt Lake City, UT, yes that Salt Lake City in THAT Utah.  But wait, don’t leave yet!  Wicked Bears are a tremendous three piece band that play intense, explosive melodic punk rock.  Just the passion and earnestness you hear in the vocals is enough to entrance you.  I hear tons of my favorite bands from the mid 1990’s in Wicked Bear like Pinhead Gunpowder, Samiam, and Face To Face all echoing throughout the rugged cavernous walls of this EP, which I think is their debut.   The guitars roar, the drums pound vigorously and the vocals clearly command the mighty vessel through all six songs of this record which I also might add is produced very well.  Hidden Home, with records like this you may not stay cloaked for long!  - J Castro

Zerorodent – S/T LP (Alien Snatch)
First off, killer cover artwork!  It reminds me of the original The Twilight Zone shows!  Ok, back to the music.  This is first and foremost a full frontal, fire all of your guns at once, pedal to the metal punk rock record.  It’s in your face, raw, and tightly wound up ready to explode like a can of trick snakes.  The band compares themselves to the Thought Criminals and The Scientists, so these guys definitely know their history and I certainly hear those influences in their music too.  Some of the tunes also remind me of The Simpletones minus the adolescent humor or the Dils. This is a great example of a band paying tribute to the music they love without being shameless counterfeiters.   - J Castro

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