Friday, December 28, 2018

Audio Ammunition's Best of 2018

Every year I take a peek at major music publication's year end best of lists, just to see whats happening on the surface. Just so that I don't loose total connection to society. This year by far has been the worst year for rock n roll in the main stream. There was Parquet Courts, Courtney Barnett who are alright but that was about it. Everything else to me sounded like the most trite, passionless, uninspired drivel I've ever heard. I want to personally thank each and every one of you out there that plays in a rock n roll band, that releases or sells records, and that help spread the word. Without you all, I'd be in a serious rut. This may sound like a big cheese wheel, but music gives me life. It's what helps me get by. Good music is still out there and I'll keep fanning the flames as long as I have to until more people realize it. Cheers! - Jay Castro

1. Tommy & The Commies - Here Come... LP (Slovenly Recordings)
This record pushed all the right buttons at the pleasure control panel of my brain, and I do mean ALL. These guys sound like they would have been right at home on the Good Vibrations label back in the day. But just because they’re influenced by older bands, it pisses me off when I see people call these guys “retro.” To me, this label just puts them in the “throwback, nothing new to see here” category and that’s total BS. Great Rock N’ Roll will always be relevant, especially since it’s in such low supply these days!

2. Fashionism – Come on My Baby 7” – (Drunken Sailor/Neon Taste)
Just a two banger but these songs are so good it still propelled this record to the top side of the list. How can ANYONE not like this band, I mean come on! Their brand of The Jam/Generation X by way of Teenage head style of music is delivered with such punch and charisma it’s almost too much, almost. This band has been one my radar since they released their first 7” back in 2015. I just wish they’d tour the states. I’d be in the audience looking like one of those screaming teenagers in those old Rolling Stones film reels.

3. Swingin’ Utters – Peace and Love LP (Fat Wreck Chords)
I honestly don’t know how these guys do it. Their 10th (or so?) studio recorded LP and it still has as much passion and gusto as if it were their debut.  The band has had lineup changes throughout the years but the Bonnel/Koski core has remained and apparently that’s where it counts. These two have been doing their brand of Billy Bragg meets Stiff Little Fingers punk for decades now but still manage to make it sound fresh with every release. Swingin’ Utters are Punk Rock’s true warrior poets.

4. Please Stop – Built to Die 7” (No Front Teeth)
This little 7” record actually contains 11 songs on it. Sounds kind of gimmicky I know, but it isn’t at all believe me! Former Ills members crank up the chaos with a blistering brand of minimalist Olympia style Riot Grrrl punk that’s so ferocious it’ll leave scorch marks on your turntable pad.  The songs are all just slightly over 1 minute long, but with this much explosive energy compressed into each one that’s about all you can take without properly hydrating in between each one!

5. Faz Waltz – Double Decker LP (Spaghetty Town/Contra/Gods Candy)
These guys have been around for a while now and have a number of LP’s under their belt. However I am of the belief that with this here release Faz Waltz have finally perfected their outstanding style of blusey/boosey glam and bovver Rock n’ Roll into weaponized form. I’m pretty sure every song on this record has crammed into it the maximum amount of guitar hooks allowed by the Surgeon General without needing a warning label on the cover. This album is just a good time pressed on to plastic and I appreciate that very much.

6. Future Girls – Motivation Problems LP (Dirt Cult)
This Halifax NS band refers to themselves as “bummer punk”, however I actually find them quite engaging. Hmm what does that say about me? This is Future Girl’s debut LP and they already sound like veterans. Their music is similar to bands like J Church, Jawbreaker, Weston, Superchunk and Discount. So basically like those high energy pop punk bands that were around in the late 1990’s who wore their hearts on their sleeves. I find Future Girls to have a refreshing sound for sore ears.

7. Freak Genes – Qwak Qwak LP (Drunken Sailor)
I haven’t heard this much satirical wit in punk rock since the heydays of Boris the Sprinkler (R.I.P.) back in the mid 1990’s. Freak Genes music is so wonderfully amusing, bizarre and irreverent that it sounds as if the Monty Python guys had formed a punk band instead of a sketch comedy group. The music I suppose can fall into the “Post Punk” pigeonhole if you need it to go somewhere. Most of the songs on this record fall somewhere between Mark E Smith and Billy Childish.  

8. Crom/Dam – Black Nylons 7” (Screen Test)
I was a huge fan of this band when they were Line Traps and now that they’re a duo, they’ve morphed into the dystopian Chrom/Dam (short for Chromosome Damage). This band has a dark, anarchic feel to their music which reminds me of groups like Stalin Video and Lost Sounds. Imagine if you lit a pile of your Devo records on fire then ran them over with a tank. That noise coupled with the sound of your nerd friends screaming in agony will get you close to what the mighty Chrom/Dam will do to your soul.

9. Velveteen Rabbit – Mind Numbing Entertainment 7” (Hozac)
Do you guys remember that band The Jeanies and how marvelous they were? Well now they’re Velveteen Rabbit and the parade of splendor continues!  First of all, just the amount of swagger and charisma that radiates off this record is unbelievable.  If you can try to imagine a band that’s equal parts Bowie, Bolan, Faces and Kinks, then you get a partial idea of what this band is capable of. There are nods to all of those bands I mentioned above but these guys have a walk all their own and it’s something to truly behold. 

10. Cold Stereo – Demo 2018 (Self Released)
One of the coolest parts about having a blog is that people send you their songs that you otherwise wouldn’t get to hear. Cold Stereo’s amazing demo shouldn’t be a demo at all, and I’ll bet it won’t be for very long. This Cincinnati OH band sounds like they could have been from NYC in the mid to late 1970’s. They don’t sound like any one particular group mind you but on the fringe you can taste Television, Talking Heads, Heartbreakers, Suicide, artsy, grimy stuff like that but with hooks and personality. Sounds pretty good? Well it is! 

Honorable Mentions!  

Other releases that came out this year that brought me happiness in my life! I only had time to write about so many, otherwise I would have given all of these phenomenal records their due!  

Number Ones - Another Side of... 7" (Static Shock) 

Telephone Lovers - Two Dollar Baby 7" (Disconnected)

Maniac -  Dead Dance Club LP (Dirt Cult)

The Whiffs - Take a Whiff LP ((Drunken Sailor) 

ANMLS - S/T LP (Slovenly) 

Ravagers - Drowning in Blood 7" (Spaghetty Town/No Front Teeth)

The Sueves - R.I.P. Clearance Event LP (Hozac) 

Bad Sports Constant Stimulation- LP (Dirtnap)

Morons Morons - Indecent Exposure 7" (Slovenly)

Neighborhood Brats - Claw Marks LP (Dirt Cult)

Nasty Rumours - Straight To Your Heart LP (Wanda) 

After much debating, I came up with this list. As usual, I picked from the band and label submissions that we received at the Audio Ammunition compound. I also didn’t put my choices in any numerical order ranking from one to ten. While we were not as active as years passed, I am grateful for all the bands, labels and PR personnel that take their valuable time to actually send us their songs and releases to review. - Ed Stuart

Dee Rangers – No Need Tonight LP (Low Impact)
This LP was sent as a submission from the band and I’m glad they decided to send it in. Dee Rangers, from Stockholm, Sweden, play a pop melodic brand of ‘60’s garage pop/R&B/rock n’ roll mixed with ‘70’s era Flamin’ Groovies. Dee Rangers is like a modern day Sonics. Yes, the band has been plugging since the early ‘00’s, but if you’re new to them No Need Tonight is a great place to start. Dee Rangers play fun upbeat ‘60’s garage that even though it’s not reinventing the wheel; you won’t care because you’re too busy dancing along.

Hakan – III LP (One Chord Wonder)
Hakan, a Turkish word, is the name for this Italian punk-garage-pop band. Hakan has been putting out steady releases since 2015. III is not radically different from its two predecessors, which is a good thing. Hakan plays punk-pop that relies heavily on Ramones meets Marked Men catchy ’77 style harmonies, melodies and songwriting. This band does play in a crowded space dominated by more popular bands, but Hakan easily holds their own.

Neighborhood Brats – Claw Marks LP (Dirt Cult)
You knew it would be here so don’t act so surprised. This LP will be on many year end lists and that’s it’s because it’s good. Jenny and George rallied the troops and returned to their own band’s roots to create the stunning Claw Marks. Neighborhood Brats have lost none of the power and gained a little bit of pop (check “Night Shift”) in the process. Claw Marks proves you can be tough and aggressive sounding without posturing attitude and ridiculous amounts of power distortion. 

The Number Ones – Another Side Of The Number Ones 7” (Static Shock)
Writing an EP of numbers ones isn’t easy, but the Numbers Ones did just that and made their three year break between recordings seem like an extended holiday. This is Good Vibrations 2018. This band mixes classic UK power-pop with Northern Ireland influences (looking at you Protex) with bits of Exploding Hearts. Another Side Of The Numbers Ones will go down as a classic and if you’ve been listening to the band, you’re not surprised.

The Ravagers – Drowning In Blood 7” (Spaghetty Town/No Front Teeth/Gods Candy)
Some bands only need two songs. Atlanta’s Ravagers, featuring members of RMBLR and Dino’s Boys, is another punk rock powerhouse from a city that keeps putting out some of the finest bands of the last decade. “Drowning In Blood” is the rocker and “Suzi (Has An Uzi)” is the punker of the two. Backyard Babies/Black Haloes meets the early Biters.

Ruler – Ruler 7” (Secret Mission)
Ruler rules. Yes, I went it there. Sadly, the Raydios are gone, but Ruler has arisen in its wake. Just like a western myth of the cowboy returning to his roots, Fink has come home. Ruler is Fink and Co. doing what they do best; playing and writing raucous ’77 KDB meets Saints songs that are catchy as hell. Fink is a pro, been doing it for years, but still makes it sounds fresh just like he just figured out this songwriting. Yes, Ruler had another 7’ this year too, but I went with the debut that signaled Fink’s homecoming and new arrival.

Sore Points – S/T LP (Deranged)
Canada, oh Canada has done it again. Sore Points featuring members of Nervous Talk, Isotopes and Pure Mania take punk back to its rudimentary first wave status. Stripped down ’77 KBD meets DOA meets working class UK punk like Cockney Rejects/Blitz. These Vancouver boys may look too cool for school, but they have cut the fat from their punk diet to give us listeners this catchy, no frills, lean, mean blasts of ’77 to ’80 punk.

Sweatshop Boys – Two Men LP (Rockstar)
When I say Israel, what comes to mind? Is it punk-pop? Probably not, but it should be should be thanks to Sweatshop Boys. Two Men is the right blend of punk and pop. It’s heartfelt, a little messy, a little sloppy, but genuine enough to make it one the favorite releases of the year. Sweatshop Boys has more in common with bands like Steve Adamyk Band and Sonic Avenues who both draw on a mix of Ramones meets ’77 UK punk. One of the great things for the global meeting place is to be able to find out about little gems of bands like this.

Tommy and The Commies – Here Come LP (Slovenly)
I know the turntable purists will hate this, but I’m glad for the digital age. This way when I press repeat, it means the computer will do it for me and I don’t have to physically turn the record over. Lazy, yes, but I would have spent most my of time doing this flip and repeat like deranged short order cook flipping burgers while listening to Here Come. Tommy and The Commies were definitely on repeat many times a week, day and hour this year. Here Come is amazing, ’77 punk like Buzzcocks, and The Jam with a healthy mix of pub rock. So many good songs drenched in ’77 glory.

The Whiffs – S/T LP (Drunken Sailor)
Yes, the first thing you’ll notice when looking at the Whiffs logo is how eerily similar it to the Stiffs records logo. Homage? Nostalgia? When listening to their S/T LP, you’ll notice The Whiffs LP is easily one of the best of the year. These eight songs would have placed the band firmly on the Stiff roster in their heyday. A mix of ‘70’s American power-pop ranging from Big Star/Dwight Tilley to Nerves. Their three part harmonies are magical and melodic all at once, but that is just one key component of their deceptively simple yet subtle songwriting that both nods to and references their heroes.

Honorable mentions:
Black Heart Breakers – Rotting Out EP (Self-Release)
Corner Boys – Love Tourist 7” (Dirt Cult)
Dark Thoughts – At Work LP (Drunken Sailor)
Dusk – The Pain of Loneliness 7” (Dirtnap)
Knifey – Beached LP (Self-Release)
Maniac – Dead Dance Club LP (Dirt Cult)
Telephone Lovers – Two Dollar Baby 7” (Disconnected/Burger)


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Wednesday, September 12, 2018

Corner Boys Interview

Corner Boys

Canada’s Corner Boys are in love with ‘70’s punk and power-pop. The band pulls, most notably, from Irish bands like Protex and Rudi, but adding in Simpletones energy and a love of obscure one-release wonders. Corner Boys, like the boys dealing in The Wire, will be hanging around your brain long after listening to their brand of infectious power-pop.

by Ed Stuart

Who’s answering the questions?
This is Patrick Bertrand.

Who is in the band and what instrument do they play?
There’s three of us. I play drums, Joel Butler plays bass, and Wade Connor plays guitar. We all sing, but I sing lead most of the time.

Give us the band’s origin story, some other bands the members have played in and currently do play in?
Corner Boys started in spring 2016 when Wade asked me to play drums with him. I hadn’t played drums in more than 5 years at that point so it was kind of like learning from scratch again. We wrote together with a few bass players and singers but nothing ever felt right, so Wade and I practiced as a two-piece for most of the first few months. Joel Butler “retired” from music after his previous band Nervous Talk ( ) broke up, but it only took me six months of bugging him to play bass with us until he finally agreed in November 2016. We played our first show in January 2017.

In addition to Corner Boys, I play in a band called Chain Whip
( ), as does Joel. Wade also plays in a band called Puritans ( ).

Describe the band’s sound in 20 words or less.
Happy sounding sad songs played by brat little brothers.

Where did the band name Corner Boys? Is the band name from the book, Corner Boys?
A corner boy is a troublemaker. It’s old slang for someone loitering, usually up to no
good. It’s in the song Rat Trap by The Boomtown Rats
( ).

What bands did you have in mind when starting this band?
We all love late 1970’s punk and power pop bands that released one 7” then faded into obscurity. At our first show, we covered The Speedies - Let Me Take Your Photo, and The Simpletones - TV Love. Add Protex and Rudi to that mix and those were the reference points we had from the start.

In a previous interview, the band stated “First wave Canada will always have a
place in my heart, but no one played power pop in the ‘70’s better than the Irish.” What makes Irish power-pop/punk so special?
Whenever I read about the troubles in Ireland I’m blown away by the fact that a bunch of kids could write love songs as well as they did. I think there’s a kinship between countries like Ireland and Canada. We’re both stuck beside influential countries that have all the spotlight. We’re defined more by not being something than what we are. It’s a terminal uncool that I think levels the playing field for people to write music. Check out releases on Good Vibrations Records and Rip Off Records both from Northern Ireland.

Corner Boys seemed to get noticed due to the original demo that was posted on Bandcamp. So, did Drunken Sailor approach the band about putting out the debut 7” or was the band sending the demo to labels?
We put the demo up on Bandcamp and posted about it a bit on social media. It had pretty good legs and a few labels reached out to us, but they wanted us to pay to press it as a 7” on their label. Julian at Drunken Sailor reached out a bit later and asked if we were going to record more, because he wanted to hear it if we did. We did another session with Jeffrey McCloy (Tranzmitors, Fashionism) and sent the tracks to Julian, and that became the Just Don’t Care 7”. The demo did eventually come out as a tape through Flo at Trapdoor Tourz in Germany.

How you the band hook up with Dirt Cult?
I’ve known Chris and Lizzie at Dirt Cult for a few years through doing my own label
Hosehead Records. Chris got a hold of me a few days after Drunken Sailor did and asked to do a 7” as well. Rather than do a split release we decided to do two 7”s. The next batch of songs became the Love Tourist 7”.

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?
You can listen to anything at absolutely any time. It’s an ultimate convenience that makes it impossible to make any waves. 99% of the time when I listen to music it’s on vinyl at home. Unless it’s a super rare KBD single and I can’t afford it, then I just listen to it at Josh from Chain Whip’s house.

What are some the band’s favorite shows they have played?
We recently played a show with Mike Krol and Swearin’ and that was a really good time. We all like playing in Victoria, BC, which we’ve done twice now. Our US shows have been a lot of fun as well, Portland and Seattle. I’d like to play more down there.

What are some of the Vancouver bands that people should be checking out?
We often play with Sore Points ( ) and Fashionism, both of which are a pleasure to see. Necking and LiƩ are also great.

When not playing music, what does the band like to do?
We’re usually watching old horror and sci-fi and challenging each other to eat really spicy things. We all ride bicycles a lot too.

Where can people hear the band?
All our stuff is on Bandcamp first and foremost, but also iTunes, Spotify, and possibly Youtube. If you like it, please support Dirt Cult Records in Portland, or Drunken Sailor Records in the UK by buying it on vinyl.

What’s next?

Debut LP out 2019 on Drunken Sailor Records. Ideally a European tour to follow.


September Reviews

Back To Basics – Shaded Eyes 7” (Secret Mission)
If you have been paying attention to Secret Mission over the years, you would know they are all about Japanese punk. Recently, they’ve re-issued both Firestarter LP’s and now have given Back to Basics their first exposure to the U.S.. Back To Basics, featuring members of Louder and First Alert, has been around for over a decade, but only releasing Japanese releases. Shaded Eyes leans more to First Alert than to Louder. Back To Basics is punk with rough pop edges. “Shaded Eyes” is the punker of the two songs on this release while “Not Different” showcases more of the bands poppier side.  – Ed Stuart

Chain Whip – Chain Whip 7” (Dirt Cult/Neon Taste)
Chain Whip is members of Corner Boys, Fashionism and Nervous Talk playing like early D.O.A.. What? No, that wasn’t a misprint. Originally, Canada’s Chain Whip released Christmas Demo last year, which contains three of the songs on this self-titled 7”. The opener “Self Destruct” is no frills hardcore, but the band shines more on songs like “Overstimulated World” and “6 Day Weekend” where they find their Circle Jerks/D.O.A. roots and play harder punk that relies more on ’77 than hardcore. – Ed Stuart

Character Actor – S/T 7” (Dirt Cult)
Character Actor is Jeff from The Ergs! and Brian from Night Birds playing upbeat Lookout style pop-punk. The genesis for this Character Actor is both Jeff and Brian had become fathers in a recently short span of time and both of their bands were on a temporary hiatus. In the meantime, Character Actor was born and this 7” is the result. Four songs in as many minutes that could have fit at home on Lookout’s roster before the label imploded. – Ed Stuart

Dark Thoughts – At Work LP (Drunken Sailor)
Ramones mania meets Spits with a touch of Marked Men and Queers. At Work, is the follow up to 2016’s well received S/T LP. Honestly, Dark Thoughts hasn’t changed that much, but either did the Ramones and they have legions of fans. These Philly punks know where their bread is buttered and don’t stray far from it. Dark Thoughts play short songs with minimal chords and catchy hooks, which is always a good recipe. – Ed Stuart

Dfactor – Nostalgia For Now LP (Self-Release)
The one man Anthemic Pop Wonder or better known nowadays as Dfactor is back with Nostalgia for Now. Most recently, Dfactor Dave has led the Action Jets from Phoenix and he might be the one of the only of the power-poppers in the state. Nostalgia For Now is where Dave plays all the instruments and pulls from all his influences. These influences range from The Kinks, Guided By Voices, ‘60’s garage and ‘70’s American rock n’ roll to create a more personal vision.  – Ed Stuart

Mad Caddies – Punk Rocksteady LP (Fat Wreck)
This is definitely one of the more accurate LP titles you’ll ever read. Mad Caddies take Fat Mike’s handpicked 12 covers and remake them as if they had originally written them. Punk Rocksteady features covers/re-workings of Bad Religion, NOFX, Against Me!, Descendents, Misfits, Operation Ivy and Propaghandi songs. Mad Caddies play the songs with more of a ‘90’s ska sound than their original predecessors, which makes sense they have been around 20 years now. Mad Caddies have shown with careful rearranging any song has another version hidden inside. – Ed Stuart

Outer Spacist – Illness Is A Creepin’ On A Come-Up LP (Heel Turn)
Outer Spacist is writing the lo-fi soundtrack to the alien abduction. These Columbus, Ohio band plays psychedelic space proto-punk. Illness is A Creepin’ On A Come-Up pulls from ‘70’s proto-punk like Pere Ubu, Captain Beefheart, Electric Eels and ‘60’s psych like 13th Floor Elevators. – Ed Stuart

The Ringleaders – Bi-Coastal Blasphemy LP (Hound Gawd)
Larry from Candy Snatchers and Born Loose has a new ‘90’s influenced punk rock n’ roll mayhem outfit. If you are familiar with Larry’s previous bands, Ringleaders will not be a surprise at all. Larry enlists members of Death By Stereo, Hollywood Hate and Hellbenders. The Ringleaders remind me more of early Humpers, New Bomb Turks and Electric Frankenstein on Bi-coastal Blasphemy. – Ed Stuart

Aaron Troyer – Lone Offender LP (Self Release)
Ex-Day Creeper and current Outer Spacist member, Aaron Troyer has released his solo LP, Lone Offender. Troyer, in his solo career, focuses on ‘70’s rock n’ roll in the melodic Stooges/Velvet Underground/Television style. Troyer, on Lone Offender, you’ll notice he doesn’t strive for volume, but melody on tracks like “Store” to get his point across. Sometimes being in a band can be a collaborative experience and sometimes it can be pigeonholing to live and die by a recognized sound. Now Troyer can spread his solo wings to show what he can do when he is on his own.  – Ed Stuart

Various Artists – Wassup Rocker Radio Presents: Sick Sounds Digital (Self-Release)
Wassup Rocker Radio a radio station run by Alex Kish out of Ohio that plays bands like Crazy Squeeze, Criminal Kids, Faz Waltz, Devious Ones, Gino and The Goons and much, much more. Alex and Wassup picked thirty-two songs for this compilation and made it a free download for your ears. For fans of ’77, power-pop, punk, and garage from all over the globe are covered are available for free. So, if the bands I mentioned are ones you listen, go ahead download it. – Ed Stuart