Check out my favorite song of 2018 so far! Seriously, how can you go wrong with a title like "C'Mon C'Mon C'Mon"?! Considering that The Connection is the most-reviewed band in the history of this blog, it's pretty obvious that I'm a big Brad Marino fan. I've known for a while that he was working on some solo stuff, but I wasn't quite sure what to expect (beyond Mike Chaney assuring me that it was going to be killer!). The debut Brad Marino solo EP will be releasing later this year, but first we get the "C'Mon C'Mon C'Mon" digital single. I was wondering if solo Brad Marino was going to be more like solo Mick Jagger or more like solo Keith Richards. Well, actually, it's more like Nick Lowe fronting The Ramones in 1979! This is just a great upbeat power pop/rock n' roll song that will have you bobbing your head and clapping your hands almost immediately upon contact. We are getting close enough to spring for me to envision myself blasting this tune while I drive with the windows down! In true solo fashion, Marino authored the song and played all the instruments on the track. His pal and bandmate Kris Rodgers mixed the recording. The full solo EP is slated to arrive this summer following the release of the new Connection album. If you're a fan of The Connection and/or Brad Marino, this is shaping up to be a really great year!
Alright! This one is for the pop-punk fans! Take 1 is the debut album from Spanish super-trio K7s. I can only describe it as music for lovers of pop-punk made by lovers of pop-punk. If you're on the fence about pop-punk or outright hate it, this album won't turn you to the dark side. But if you're nuts about the 1990s Lookout! Records catalog and the generations of bands it inspired, Take 1 will send you straight to your happy place. My first impression of this album was, "This ought to be on Stardumb Records". Then I did a little digging. And sure enough, Stardumb is one of three labels (along with Rum Bar Records and Jolly Ronnie Records) collaborating to release this LP!
K7s are Luis Sanchez (Los Reactivos) on guitar and vocals, the great Kurt Baker on bass, and Jose Andres Albertos (Airbag) on drums. That's an awful lot of star power from the worlds of garage and power pop, but these guys had something far more specific in mind with this project. Take 1 is the kind of record that reminds me why I was so hooked on pop-punk in the days of my youth. Without apology, K7s knock out one perfect two minute pop song after another that worships at the altar of the Ramones, Screeching Weasel, Queers, and Green Day. This, my friends, is pop-punk by the book. You like buzzsaw guitars? Melodic leads? Sticky sweet melodies? Heart on sleeve lyrics? Take 1 delivers all of that in abundance, with tremendous production from Wyatt Funderburk that accentuates the pop and the punk. Sanchez is a likable presence on lead vocals who can pull off lovelorn and snotty with equal effectiveness. He really has a knack for writing these simple yet impossibly catchy pop songs. And as a musical trio, these three are as tight as it gets!
What I appreciate about Take 1 is that although it's a classic pop-punk record, you can't say that every song sounds the same. It's got everything from the textbook pop-punk of "Running Back To You" to the power pop leaning "All About Me" to the darker-sounding "Go Away" to the totally sappy "Your Lips Met Mine" to the punk rock kick in the nuts of "It's The CIA". Funderburk did a great job of letting the hooks shine while still playing up the inherent punch of this trio's attack. With a record like this, you don't really want to mess with the formula. What you do want to do is execute it to perfection, and that's what K7s have done so well. If you're looking for new ground to be broken, this is not your band. But if you desire a record that's a whole lot of fun and sure to have you singing along for weeks on end, Take 1 is hard to beat.
Yippeee, we've got ourselves a new Connection song! "In The End" is actually the first original song The Connection has released since the summer of 2015, so it's with tremendous excitement that I receive this teaser for the band's forthcoming album Wish You Success! The album doesn't come out until the end of April. But if "In The End" is any indication, we are all in for a real treat with this fourth Connection LP. I'm not gonna waste any time today over-analyzing this track (there will be plenty of chances for that when I review the album!). I'll just say that if you love rock n' roll, you need this song in your life. It'll get your toes tapping and leave you wanting more. Oh my god, that lead guitar! Dang it, do we really have to wait two months for the rest of the record?!
Releasing today is the excellent debut long player from Welland, Ontario's Dboy. On the surface this may appear to be a fake live album. But aren't all the best live albums fake? Besides, "fake" is such a harsh term. In Dboy's case, it's more like pro wrestling kayfabe. If you choose not to believe that Dboy live under secret identities and only communicate with the public via their Moscow-based spokesman Kirill Kutchokokov, you're totally spoiling the fun! The band's web site even contains a "13-point program to end sonic austerity" (my favorite is Point 5: "Dboy is a rite of passage, minus the 'p'") and offers fans the opportunity to apply for membership in the Official Dboy Scout Order. Most importantly, the music will more than justify anyone's commitment to the cause. This is some great straight-ahead catchy punk rock n' roll that takes absolutely nothing seriously except its mission to melt your face off. Think Hex Dispensers or Misfits (minus the horror) with the spirit of early Turbonegro. The band tears through 12 songs in under 25 minutes, and it's a ripping good time to the very end. And while song titles like "Born With A Hard-On", "Fecal Alcohol Syndrome", and "Dboy Balls" are in no way misleading, it would be going too far to dismiss this as a joke record. Especially on killer tracks like "Three Piece Band" and "Prove Your Luv", Dboy demonstrates that any underlying gimmicks are secondary to the music itself. If you enjoy ballsy garage punk with hooks, I wholeheartedly recommend checking out this mysterious power trio from the land of Cal Clutterbuck. Neckerchiefs sold separately!
I've said it many times, but it's a message worth repeating. If you're an American fan of Japanese punk music, you've got to be extremely appreciative of what Secret Mission Records has been doing over the past few years. The label has released music from The Raydios, Louder, Dials, Boys Order, P.C. 2, Beatseekers, Car Crash, The Geros, The Fadeaways, and Ruler. These are bands whose records would have otherwise only been available as pricey Japanese imports. Taken as a whole, SMR's recent catalog affirms that Japanese punk rock continues to thrive just as it did in previous decades. Assembled by Mangrove Records, the Scrap! compilation is an additional showcase for some of the finest bands associated with Japanese punk in recent years. Secret Mission has partnered directly with Mangrove to make this compilation available in the United States. It features top-tier material from six different bands. So basically, it's like getting six singles for the price of one album...minus the import price tag!
I like that Scrap! was put together to document both the quality and variety of sounds that have been been coming out of Japan's punk scene over the last few years. The first thing that often comes to people's minds when you talk about Japanese punk rock is the garage/trash stuff, and you certainly get some of that here with three great tracks from KBD inspired crazies Car Crash. But the bands here run the gamut of punk styles, from the mod meets jittery new wave of Dials to the blistering sing-along '82 punk of Centipede to the dark post-punk of Middle Edge to the thumping three-chord punk stylings of Black and White to the pure snotty fury of Loudmouth. It's clear that Mangrove insisted on "A" level material from these bands, and that's what makes this compilation so worth the while. There are no throwaway tracks here, and I can honestly say I am looking forward to hearing a lot more from all of these groups. I was especially pleased to be so into Centipede and Middle Edge - bands who bring something a little different to sub-genres that I'm generally not a huge fan of. Over the course of just three tracks, Middle Edge manages to bring to mind The Wipers, Swedish post-hardcore, and Joy Division! My fave cut out of the 17 is Black and White's "One Way Street", which gave me a similar feeling to hearing The Registrators for the very first time back in the day. Honestly, though, I believe that six different people could listen to this comp and identify six different favorite bands from it.
I don't wanna catch anyone talking about how Japanese punk rock "used to be" so great. It still is, and Scrap! proves it!
Is there anything better about doing a music blog than discovering new bands? How about discovering not so new bands?! Double Negative is already the fifth album from Liverpool based punk outfit Down and Outs, yet here I am just hearing the group for the first time (and enjoying it very much)! Releasing next Wednesday on All In Vinyl, Yo Yo Records, and Waterslide Records, Double Negative continues a recording history for this band that goes all the way back to 2004. Where in the hell have I been for 15 years?! The sound is melodic punk with gruff vocals, something that tends to be hit or miss with me. Luckily, it's a hit in this case. You can hear the influence of bands like Leatherface and One Man Army, but spiritually this music is undeniably Clash-inspired.
I always love a band that aspires to write anthems, and I can think of no better word to describe the majority of these songs than "anthemic". And that's really what separates Down and Outs from a lot of similarly styled bands. These songs are so genuinely rousing that they continually have me out of my chair and pumping my fist as if the band were right there in front of me. Mark Magill has written some very serious songs about a variety of subjects, and he really has a way of imbuing these songs with a passion that's palpable. While not fully a "political" record, Double Negative does contain a number of songs that speak to our present condition. The folk anthem "You Can Have This Country Back" is specifically about the state of affairs in a post-Brexit U.K. Yet it's remarkable how everything this song rails against is just as pervasive and problematic on my side of the pond as well. "What Did You Do In The Culture Wars?" reflects on how recent political events have emboldened those who revel in intolerance. It's based on a real-life encounter that Magill had with an individual who advocated the banishment of disabled people. As you can imagine, he did not stand silent!
When it's not political, Double Negative is deeply personal and extremely emotional. "Astoria" is a break-up song that's about as gut-wrenching and cinematic as you can get in 91 seconds. In other spots, Magill pours all he's got into songs about death and grief. Even "Heartbreak Radio", a song ostensibly about mixed tapes, digs deeper into the things from which we're often trying to escape when we turn to the healing power of music. I appreciate the amount of heart and intelligence that went into these songs. But what really brings it all home is how fervently the band sells each track. Magill sings his guts out, and the band powers through every note like it really means it. The energy is undeniable, and man do those choruses ever deliver! All in all, an absolutely brilliant album!
I've got another one for you I think you're all gonna love! What is it with all of these great powerpop/punk bands out of Canada?! Tommy and The Commies hail from Sudbury, Ontario and have just released their second tape titled Tommy and The Commies...Again. "Devices" is the first track from that tape, and it could easily pass for a lost gem from the late '70s heyday of pop-influenced punk rock. I am blown away and totally pumped to hear more tunes from this tape! In the meantime, the band's first tape is also excellent and can be downloaded in its entirety via Bandcamp. I've got a feeling that I'll be writing about Tommy and The Commies many more times in the near future!
I've got a good one here to kick off the month of February! I was a big fan of Telephone Lovers' debut album, and now they've followed that up with a single that's even better! A split release between Disconnected Records and Burger Records, "Two Dollar Baby" finds this LA band embracing a 7" format that was tailor made for power pop. And when I say power pop, I'm talking old school. I admire that Telephone Lovers make no attempt to sound "modern" or "original". They still sound like they just stepped out of time machine that they boarded in 1978. Both tunes here straddle the fine line between mid-to-late '70s power pop and straight-up rock n' roll. "Two Dollar Baby" sounds SO 1970s in an entirely good way. It's got riffs and licks a plenty, and that chorus really brings it all home. I really love what the piano adds to this tune! If you dig Dwight Twilley, Flamin' Groovies, etc., this one should be right up your alley. On the flip, "Real Action" has that classic LA power pop feel that seems to be this band's calling card. You could easily slide this track on a mix between 20/20 and the Paul Collins Beat and have a perfect fit.
Telephone Lovers are definitely one of the best new bands going in power pop today. And perhaps that's because they don't sound like a power pop band of today. Teddy Too Much may wear his songwriting influences on his sleeve, but he absolutely has the talent to honor them well. He's joined by a stellar cast of players including Billie from Black Mambas, Pat Salway from Dr. Boogie, and top-notch power pop drummer James Carman (Images, Maniac, LA Drugz). Vinyl for "Two Dollar Baby" will ship early next month. Via Telephone Lovers' Bandcamp, you can buy the digital version of the single or pre-order the 7". Man, this is really shaping up to be a great year for power pop!
The name of the record tells you everything! Released just in time for the 2018 Winter Olympics, Songs About Curling is to my knowledge the first ever curling-themed music recording. It's about time that this sport had a proper musical tribute. I know I can't be the only one who checks the TV listings for Olympic coverage every day just to find out what time curling is on. If you appreciate skill, strategy, and teamwork in sports, you just can't beat curling. John Shuster is an American treasure! Songs About Curling is a collaboration between the legendary hockey-themed band The Zambonis and baseball-loving F & L favorites Vista Blue. If a record about curling was ever going to get made, these were certainly the two bands to do it! They both excel at articulating the passions and joys of sports fandom, and that remains every bit as true as they turn their attentions specifically to curling. Zambonis' bass player Mike Sembos is actually in a curling league with his wife, and the two co-wrote the lead track "Sweep Me Over the Hogline". I don't think there's anything I enjoy more than a sports song that's actually a love song. Or is it a love song that's actually a sports song? Either way, the metaphors work beautifully on this laid-back country rocker. The Zambonis follow it with "Curling Girl", a psych-pop dazzler about a young lady who truly has it all. The Vista Blue side of the split opens with the sing-along anthem that the sport of curling truly deserves. "Curling All Around The USA" is a Beach Boys inspired bopper that heralds curling as the next big American sensation. That's exactly the kind of positive thinking we need if our nation is to ever rival the mighty Canadians and Swedes on the curling sheet. To wrap up the EP, "Girl Who Can Curl" was written primarily by VB bass player Mark and his wife Beth. It puts a neat twist on girl-crazed pop-punk. Seriously: who could ever blame a young man for desiring the affections of a gal who knows how to handle a stone?
Since no other label was willing to commit to releasing Songs About Curling on a tight deadline for the Olympics, Mike from Vista Blue ended up putting it out on his own label Radiant Radish Records. I love that Mike went to the trouble to get this record made. And I love that The Zambonis were so enthused to be part of this project! This is no joke record. Both bands brought top-notch contributions to this split. It works as a celebration of curling, and it works as terrific pop music. This is a limited vinyl release with a total of 300 copies (in several colors) available. You can order it here. Curling at the 2018 Olympic Games starts next Thursday, so cue up these tunes and get yourself ready!
Alice Cooper's 27th studio release is one of his best in a while – and I loved Welcome 2 My Nightmare. This one (Paranormal) reveals his "Paranoic Personality"; or, in other parts, his "Personoic Paranality".
There are plenty of the typical Cooper plays on words, twisted phrases, comments that at first don't seem to belong together. Think about them for a minute or two (or more likely, sometime just before the tune ends), and you suddenly find yourself thinking "Oh! I GET IT!"
In addition to that, he's got more background vocals going on than I remember in previous Cooper releases. Well, he's always had background vocals, but they were done by folks who were actually background singers. On Paranormal,it sounds like he uses the rest of the band for the backups; and it fits so well that you'll wonder why either he hadn't done it before or you hadn't noticed before.
Speaking of the band, personnel on Paranormal includes Neal Smith, Dennis Dunaway, Michael Bruce, Larry Mullen Jr., Roger Glover, Billy Gibbons, Tommy Denander, Tommy Henriksen, Steve Hunter, and a cast of thousands!
Well, a cast of thousands on the live tracks that are included. The live cuts still sound tremendous. I guess sometimes it just might take an artist like Alice Cooper to breathe some OLD blood into younger musicians. Frankly though, it doesn't sound like these guys needed much help and they do the Alice Cooper thing to a T.
A nice, clean, slow-picked chord to start the opening track; the title track "Paranormal", and then it kicks into gear starring Cooper as the condemned paranormal being haunting some young lady. He's "…condemned to the long, endless night…", so she’s gonna suffer too.
Staccato drums accompanied by an equally staccato guitar/bass combination kicks off "Dead Flies". "Please watch your step, dear. The world is out to beat you. Don't you know there's cannibals designed to kill and eat you."
"And they'll kill you with their bible full of psychobabble vomit till they make you drink the Kool-Aid and you ride up on that comet. All lies! We're dead flies!"
Surely you catch the Jim Jones/Guyana reference there. Seems like perhaps a bit of a history lesson?
Then, as if to allay my fears (NOT!), track three fires up. "Fireball" isn't a paranoic's most reassuring message. "On a dark desert night. Lookin' to the sky. Something ain't right – a fireball."
People holding on to each other for support, reassurance, etc., etc., not that it's working or anything. A mass inquiry; "Almighty God… Is it today?" or "Almighty God… The city's in flames."
I generally despise it when reviews turn into political commentaries, and I ain't a-gonna do that. Well, except for one tiny comment about some Asian leader who actually had a desk brought out to a runway so he could sit in an "official office" while watching a test of a nuclear missile. Right or wrong, good or bad makes no difference – I think you have to admit that the "desk-on-the-runway" thing (novel and/or original as it may have been) is just a tad out there!
Which brings us back to track three. Another very good tune. Interestingly, the effect applied to the vocals of Uncle Alice makes him sound much like the vocals are coming over a low quality FM radio – as if in a newscast. Here's hoping the current, uh, disputes between countries of the world isn't about to become a history lesson.
But by now I'm beginning to think this project is a description of things going on in the world today. A long-time mantra of mine has been "Complete paranoia is perfect awareness". Well, that and "Just because I'm paranoid doesn't mean they're NOT out to get me."
That train of thought runs me straight down the track and into "Paranoic Personality".
We start out with the ballsy, sexy distorted bass I wish I could get (my T-Bird comes close, but so far no stogie). The tune is slower than, say, "School's Out", but the bass is vaguely similar with the short walk and then a slide. Where "School's Out" just drops, "Paranoic Personality" mostly climbs but climbs and drops from mid-song on.
If you LUVS you some Billy Gibbons guitar, check out track five: "Fallen in Love". First off, let me say I love the chorus; "My baby's love is hard. My baby's love is tough. If I was anybody else I'd have had enough. She treats me like a dog, not a cute little pup. I've fallen in love and I can't get up!"
You figure out what he's talking about there. Meanwhile, just enjoy the heck out of the song – it's one of the best from the album.
Alice Cooper - Fallen In Love - YouTube
Another compliment to the rhythm section coming up. I mentioned the Billy Gibbons guitar. Pop on the headphones and give it a spin. The Dusty Hill-like bass and Frank Beard-like drums combined with Gibbons make it seem like Cooper is doing a guest vocal on a ZZ Top album. If you like Cooper and you like ZZ Top, you'll LOVE track five.
Does anyone else find it odd that Frank Beard is the only member of ZZ Top who doesn't have a beard?
Next is a strange contrast. "Dynamite Road" is probably my least favorite song from this release, and it's a really good song. Not to spoil the story or anything, but the ending is humorous. "I can understand why he forced the band to take their final breath. But did he have to trash my Cadillac, man? I loved that car to death."
Ever feel like you were going to have some sort of breakdown? Ever feel like you were already having some sort of breakdown? Finally, do you s'pose you can plan or schedule said breakdown? Yeah, probably not so much. So track seven is about his "Private Public Breakdown".
"I feel what's real just slip away. I hope you like my... I hope you love my… I hope you see my private public breakdown. The secret service? I make them nervous."
It's one of the slower-paced tunes on the album, but it has plenty of interesting lyrics and the yes, I've come to expect it guitar from an Alice Cooper release – I'm not talking about smooth or even chunky. We're talking extra chunky here! Bass? Drums? Steady, as expected. They provide a perfect rhythm section for Cooper's lyrics and the guitars setting them off. It's extremely interesting (well, to me, anyway, and some would say I'm a bit odd) how the drummer uses a cowbell in the tune.
"I don't need meds to tie me down. Or squads of feds to stand around. 'Cause I'll have floated off the ground. So welcome to my... I hope you like my… I think I love my private public breakdown."
HORNS?! ON A COOPER ALBUM?!?! Well, it's really not that unusual at all. He's shown over the past many years he's really not afraid to try anything, and he's not exactly shy, either. "Holy Water" keeps the hits a-happening on Paranormal.
The bass in "Holy Water" is tremendous! The horns, drums, and vocals are really way in the foreground on this track. The guitar is relegated to providing occasional accentuation, and the bass is pretty background, as well. That doesn't stop either of them from adding so much to the song.
"She is an angel. Her name is Tiffany. She kinda strange though, but my epiphany. I wouldn't change, yo! Cause she's a gift to me."
The ninth track of the 18 in this release is my favorite. Once again, my feets jis' won't be still. "Give the Rats what they want. Give the rats what they want. Open the cage. Give the rats what they want."
"Give 'em the cheese, the grill and the ride. Some bling and some sex and they glow inside."
"Let them run the maze. Let them ring the bell. Let 'em chase their tails. Let 'em go to hell. Let them multiply – that's what they do. You better give 'em what they want or they're comin' for you."
A minute 54 into it the tune, it sounds like it's ending. And that is downright depressing. It's not a long song, anyway, and at 2:38 it's over for real. Trust me, this one will let you know if your seat squeaks or not, because you won't be able to keep still.
Alice Cooper - Rats - YouTube
Ha! A song about rats, and I said "squeak". Unintentional at first, but… I KILL ME!
"The Sound of A" brings us to the 10th and final new studio tune with Cooper's current band from the Paranormal CD basic release and is the slowest track on the album. But it, too, is a really good track. "The sound of A is in the air. The sound of A is everywhere. Meaningless noise is everybody's toy."
There's some very interesting stuff going on with the keyboard in this cut as there is with the vocals, as well. Probably best experienced (again) using headphones.
We're back in the studio again, but this time we're accompanied by Coop and members of his original band (with the exception of Glen Buxton - RIP).
"Genuine American Girl", written by Cooper, Neal Smith and Bob Ezrin, is the first of two brand new songs with his brand old band, and it is spectacular, vintage Alice Cooper rock and roll. The old guys have still got it! As a genuine rock and roll fanatic I have to say that… Well, let me just come out and say it, OK?
THIS TUNE GIVES ME GOOSEBUMPS!
Genuine American Girl - YouTube
It's got basically everything you have ever wanted from a Cooper tune, let alone expected. The bass. The drums. The guitars. Good grief, man! The lyrics.
"I do my hair. I paint my nails. It pours outside. It never fails. So the makeup runs down my pretty face. I'm a muddy mess. A mac disgrace. But when I hit that floor tonight I'm gonna look and feel alright because my mama says the world's an oyster and I'm the pearl."
"I look in the mirror and what do I see? An immodest little goddess looking back at me. The boys all whistle when I walk by so I toss my hair and wink my eye."
"So come and dance with me. Come take a chance with me. I'm only 30 out of 50 shades of grey. A feminine fatality."
Things might have headed back toward the history lesson (or lesson in pending history – I think probably one of those two) with the second original track by the original Cooper band. Cooper, Dennis Dunaway, and Ezrin teamed up again to write "You and All of Your Friends".
"We're burnin' down your city. The message has been sent. Angels without pity. We hold you in contempt. And this is how it all ends for you and all of your friends."
"It’s righteous conflagration. It's our way of paying you back for plundering our nation and painting heaven black. So this is where it all ends for you and all of your friends."
"And when the sun goes down tomorrow we will no longer be your slaves. And it will be the end of sorrow, 'cause we’ll be dancing on your graves. 'Cause this is where it all ends. Too late to make amends. For you and all of your friends."
I just realized I may have typed the vast majority of the lyrics for the song, which I'm not sure the laws of review-writing allow you to do.
That's OK, though. I mean, if it was the first rule I'd ever violated, I guess it'd be a more remarkable event. Further, your honor, when the lead/solo-type part of the song kicked in, so did my goosebumps again. Guess what, kiddies. The fossils still got it! (Maybe playing in a band with your grandfather could teach you a thing or two, eh?)
The two tunes with guitarist Michael Bruce, bassist Dennis Dunaway and drummer Neal Smith finish things up on the standard release. If you have been paying attention over the past few months, you know that IF there is a deluxe version of a CD you are considering for purchase THAT should be the version you get.
Oddly enough, Cooper's Welcome 2 My Nightmare was the release that really drove that point home for me. To try and put the Paranormal CD into some sort of perspective. I absolutely LOVE Welcome 2 My Nightmare. I think it's a fantastic idea, and it builds on and is as enjoyable as the original Welcome to My Nightmare. In fact, I think I might like 2 a bit more than the original.
I like Paranormal more than I like either of the Nightmares, and as you just read, that's going quite a distance. The review isn't even over yet! I haven't addressed the six live tracks (recorded on May 6, 2016 in Columbus, OH) done by Cooper and his current band, who I've also already mentioned are by no means any slouches at all!
But rather than going through each of the live Cooper classics included, I think I'll just enumerate them and sum them up as a collection. I mean, after all… There's a better-than-average chance you've heard each of these songs and may already have an opinion one way or the other.
The six classics are "No More Mr. Nice Guy", "Under My Wheels", "Billion Dollar Babies", "Feed My Frankenstein", "Only Women Bleed", and of course, "School's Out". They're all better live than the studio versions of the same tunes. His current band rocks them home as convincingly, as enthusiastically, as talentedly (is that even a word?), and as "true-to-the-original" as Cooper's original band. -Mike Kimmel
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