Monday, August 22, 2016

Here are Tenement Rats!

There are few things I love more in life than '77 style punk rock. I'm especially pumped when I hear a band do the style so well that I can't believe the record wasn't actually made in 1977! Tenement Rats are a current band out of L.A. that sound so much like a real deal punk group from the '70s. I'm talking raw, primitive, and snotty as fuck punk rock that delivers a nasty attitude and killer tunes in equal abundance. The band's ripper of a debut EP is a new release on No Front Teeth Records, but it sounds like something that ought to be sandwiched in your vinyl collection between old 45s from The Users and Killjoys. Song titles like "Baby I'm Nauseous", "Do the Death Drug", and "Cold War Shithole" promise a certain kind of band, and boy do they ever deliver the goods! Seriously: this is the punk rock kick in the teeth that you've been waiting for! It comes as no surprise that members of No Front Teeth standouts Radiohearts and The Gaggers are involved with this group alongside singer/guitarist Jonny Watkins. I'm a huge NFT fan, and this is the best thing the label has released in a while...a must-have for fans of Eater, Slaughter and the Dogs, and GG & The Jabbers!


Friday, August 19, 2016

Lutheran Heat: the debut album!

There's nothing I love more than hearing a band that's totally in my wheelhouse yet somehow completely transcendent of genre. Out today on PiƱata Records, Louder From the Other Side is the full-length debut from fab Minneapolis foursome Lutheran Heat. It's a record that I can recommend not just to the garage/punk/power pop crowd, but really to anyone who appreciates exceptional songwriting and music with soul. Likability is one of the great intangibles of music, and Lutheran Heat just has it. Louder From the Other Side sounds a little like that next great album I've been waiting for X to make since the late '80s. Garth Blomberg and Sara Pette are dynamite on dual vocals - excelling individually but making their real magic when their voices combine. They write songs that speak to what's meaningful in life, and they sing them with heart and sincerity.

Having had a few years to develop an impressive repertoire of songs and a strong identity as a band, Lutheran Heat has managed to deliver an unusually accomplished debut album. Musically, the band is all about catchy and well-crafted pop songs - with the additional influence of rootsy rock n' roll, country, soul, indie rock, doo-wop, and the very spirit of Minneapolis itself. These tunes have a way of hooking you not just with melody, but also with the stories they tell and the feelgood vibes they create. Kicking off with the idyllic stunner "About a Summer", Louder From the Other Side proves to be one of those rare albums that delights from start to finish. The hits just don't stop. "Keep Comin' Back" brings to mind something along the lines of Van Morrison fronting a '60s girl group. "Now Ya Know" is full of folksy country goodness that will have you smiling into next week. "Stay Cool" delivers an indelible melody that you'll find yourself whistling at seemingly random moments. "Who Ya Cryin' For?" could get even the dead up and dancing. And "Wire, X, and Heart" is an anthem for those of us who associate many of our most cherished memories with the music that was playing at the time. 

Louder From the Other Side, far more than just a fine collection of songs, is an album in the truest sense. And it's a fantastic one at that. Drummer Justin Nelles totally nails it when he says, "These songs will make you wanna toss some beers in your bag and ride to your favorite porch or river spot and drink 'em all with your buddies." It's a perfect release for these final weeks of summer - as we strive to savor all of the good times the season has left for us. I could say that you should buy this album if you like rootsy power pop and garage stuff. But somehow that would be selling it short. So to put it more accurately: you should buy this album if you love music!


Tuesday, August 16, 2016

Nerve Button: the debut album!

It has been, what, 42 days since I last reviewed a punk band from Canada? You had to know that I had a little something up my sleeve! Hailing from Moncton, New Brunswick, Nerve Button is the latest in a seemingly endless succession of dynamite punk groups from Up North. The band just released its self-titled debut LP on Germany's Wanda Records, and it's pure trashy fun in the Canuck tradition of Teenage Head and the Forgotten Rebels. Essentially Nerve Button takes Johnny Thunders inspired '77 style punk rock n' roll and mixes in a touch of junkshop glam along with tongue-in-cheek lyrics of often questionable taste. The result is "maritime sham glam" - a pioneering musical genre that will have you chuckling all day long and bobbing your head until it snaps. I think we can all agree that there's not nearly enough sleaze or bad attitude in today's punk music. Nerve Button feels our pain and has decided to take matters into its own hands. Politically incorrect punk rock is an art form worth preserving, and we just might have met its new kings. 


Monday, August 15, 2016

Girlsville presents: Stupid Punk Boy!

It sucks that real life gets in the way of me writing about all of the really good music that I come across. If I tried to go back and tackle all of those reviews that I just never got around to completing, I'd run out of time long before I ran out of stuff to write about! But in some circumstances, I just have to say "better late than never" and run a review many months past the date of a release. Stupid Punk Boy is a tape compilation that Girlsville released for Cassette Day last October. And although it's almost time for the label to release another comp for this year's Cassette Day, I can think of a number of reasons to justify a (very) late review of Stupid Punk Boy. For one thing, it was the best compilation I heard last year. Additionally, profits from the release have been donated to a wonderful cause (Chicago House's TransLife Center). And finally, Girlsville is a really cool label that deserves your attention. So here we go!

Featuring 24 tracks from 21 bands, Stupid Punk Boy is the perfect introduction to what Girlsville is all about as a label. It's full of garage, girl group, and trashy punk goodness - along with some noisier indie/post-punk selections that fit in splendidly. It has the feel of a comp from the pre-streaming days of the '90s and early 2000s - when releases like this were the best way to discover amazing new bands. A few of these bands are no longer around, but all of these songs were previously unreleased. When you're compiling exclusive material from this many bands, it would be excusable to allow a few throwaways. But honestly, there's absolutely no filler on here. All of the songs are good, and a lot are great. A number of well-known bands (Black Time, The Ettes, Coachwhips, Dum Dum Girls, Mr. Airplane Man) contribute high-quality material, while many of my favorite tracks feature groups I had never heard before (Candy Highway, Bruce and Carl, The Red Cords, Teamsters). Highlights include a 35-second trashy garage punk thrill ride from Candy Highway ("Mad Glad Blah"), a magnificent Love cover from The Ettes ("Live and Let Live"), a top tier number from the mighty Hipshakes ("Pass The Pan"), high energy budget rock from The Red Cords ("Not A Punk"), an obscure Equals cover from Bruce and Carl ("Michael and the Slipper Tree"), wonderfully abrasive punk from Commiserations ("Poorslaw"), a Kinks-y rave-up from The Teamsters ("Love Again"), and not one but two breathtaking cuts from the late great Purple Wizard! If you're a fan of garage and punk music, you will find so much here to love!

You may recall that Girlsville released that phenomenal Prissteens compilation back in June. This is one of the best new labels out there, and Stupid Punk Boy gives you a great idea of what you can expect from future releases. A few copies of the cassette release still remain, and a full download remains available from Bandcamp for just six bucks. Check it out and stay tuned for Girlsville's next compilation The Wild Angels - which releases in October!


Friday, August 12, 2016

Nato Coles & The Blue Diamond Band: the live album is here!

I'm usually pretty "meh" about live albums. I get why they exist: to capture what a band really sounds like in concert and perhaps even make you wish you'd been there in person. But for whatever reason, live albums rarely do it for me. Nine times out of ten, I'd rather listen to studio recordings. So it's surprising and exciting to finally encounter a live album that I'm totally into! Live At Grumpy's captures Nato Coles & The Blue Diamond Band in their proverbial element - a dive bar in downtown Minneapolis. This happens to be one of my favorite bands, which really raised the stakes for potential disappointment (after 20 years, I still wish I could have back the $12 I spent on the Parasites' Nyquil-Fueled Rock Armada). But I had a hunch that this live album would be different, and I was right!

As great as their records are, anyone who's seen Nato and the boys live will tell you that this is a band you have to witness in person. And while no recording can fully duplicate the experience of actually being there, a great deal of what makes Nato Coles an enthralling and engaging performer comes through on these live tracks. He has a way of working a crowd that fully conveys his passion for entertaining - and that brilliant off-the-cuff spoken portion of "An Honorable Man" alone justifies the purchase price of this album. It's clear that if you plunk down some hard-earned cash to see Nato Coles & The Blue Diamond Band play live, you're gonna get treated to a show! The sound quality here is actually pretty decent, and the song selection avoids excessive overlap with the band's existing LP Promises To Deliver. In addition to album favorites "You Can Count On Me Tonight" and "Econoline", Live At Grumpy's features new material ("Standing on the Corner Alone"), songs from Nato's prior bands ("An Honorable Man", "Coffee Cup"), one of the cuts from the King Friday split ("Sweet Baby"), and a rousing cover of largely unknown Minneapolis garage punkers Cortez The Killer ("I'm A Shark").

A live album from Nato Coles & The Blue Diamond Band is such a brilliant idea that it's almost hard to believe it took this long to happen. And it sure doesn't disappoint! In the words of Malibu Lou, this album captures a "truly spiritual and uplifting rock n roll performance". There's no denying it: this is a band with some serious live chops! If you've had the pleasure of seeing the band perform, Live At Grumpy's will bring back fond memories. And if you've yet to experience Nato and the gang in concert, this album will make you want to go see them as soon as possible! The rendition of  "An Honorable Man" documented here could prove to be Nato's own "I Want You To Want Me" or "Maybe I'm Amazed" - a live take that is ultimately recognized as the definitive version of the song. And if you're like me, you'll soon be searching for any information you can find on Cortez The Killer! Out now on Rum Bar Records, Live At Grumpy's is a must-have for any fan of Nato Coles & The Blue Diamond Band. And don't miss the band on tour this month! 


Thursday, August 11, 2016

A deal and a steal from Midnite Snaxxx!

In my book, Dulcinea Gonzalez is a punk rock all-time great. She fronted The Loudmouths - one of the most kick-ass and criminally underappreciated punk bands of the late '90s. Her current band Midnite Snaxxx has been going strong since 2010 - originally a trio with Renee Leal and Tina Lucchesi and now featuring the talents of Chris (guitar), Camylle (bass), and Sammy (drums). If I were listing the top ten bands of this present decade, Midnite Snaxxx would definitely make the cut. Everything this group has released has been gold - and that runs the gamut from those garage/power pop/girl group influenced earlier releases to the straight-ahead '70s punk fury of its most recent single "Don't Wake Me Up". A fine documentation of the band's existing recorded output is now available on cassette. It's called Snaxxx Traxxx 2010-2015, and it can be purchased from Bandcamp for just six bucks. It includes all of the band's self-titled LP from 2012 along with four singles on Total Punk, Goner, and Raw Deluxe Records for a total of 20 songs. If you like playing music on cassette, this is an incredible deal! And even if you aren't a cassette person, you can still download all of these tracks from Bandcamp for less than $20. For a number of years, all of this material was only available on vinyl. I kept holding out hope for a digital release of the Snaxxx catalog, and I am elated that that has become a reality!

Looking at the music that Midnite Snaxxx has produced thus far, it's pretty much everything that great punk ought to be: raw, tough, and perfectly constructed for sing-along fun. The self-titled LP is in the running for punk album of the decade. And with a new long player called Chew On This slated for release in the fall, this is a great time to get caught up on all the older stuff. Snaxxx Traxxx cassettes are limited to 150 copies, so hop to it if you want one!


Wednesday, August 10, 2016

New single from The Breakdowns!

With plenty of summer still left to go, the latest single from Nottingham, U.K.'s Breakdowns ought to be cued up in your car and set to play loud! I last reviewed The Breakdowns (sometimes billed in the States as Los Breakdowns) at the beginning of 2015, and since then the band has released two more EPs along with a new single called "Your Hand In Mine". And while the band's musical style generally covers the full spectrum of garage/glam punk/power pop, "Your Hand In Mine" turns its focus to the pure pop side of The Breakdowns. Needless to say, I'm not complaining! "Your Hand In Mine" is a truly fine example of what a three-minute pop song ought to be: exultant, hook-laden rock n' roll celebrating the breathtaking magic of young love. I will always appreciate a band that can deliver a line like "Nobody's gonna tell me ever/We weren't born to be together" and genuinely sell it! While no doubt informed by punk rock and power pop, this song is most deeply rooted in the timeless sounds of the '60s. It leads perfectly into a cover of "When You Walk In The Room" - Jackie DeShannon's splendid 1963 single that was famously re-done by The Searchers a year later.

"Your Hand In Mine" is a formidable addition to The Breakdowns' catalog - a winning homage to the timeless pop singles of yore and a true treat for the eternal teenager that exists within all of us. This is great music for steamy makeout sessions, slow dancing with your sweetie, or just general fun in the sun. All of The Breakdowns recent releases are quite good, so head on over to their Bandcamp and stream away!