Friday, August 18, 2017

Patsy's Rats - Roundin' Up

In the two years since I first raved Patsy's Rats, the Portland duo has released another EP and now three more singles. The band's newest single, "Roundin' Up", is the first 7" released by Dirtnap Records in three years. The title track, in my humble opinion, is the band's strongest since "Rock & Roll Friend" blew so many of our minds in 2015.

For this release, Patsy and Christian have enlisted Steve and Jon from Mope Grooves to play bass and drums. And the band sounds great! "Roundin' Up" is the perfect song for a 7" format. It's a total hit and definitely a track that will compel repeated spins. Style-wise, this one is right in Patsy's Rats' wheelhouse: punchy indie pop with Patsy's likeable vocals and some stellar lead guitar work really standing out. Be wary: this song is liable to get stuck in your head to the point where you may require medical attention. I can't stop playing it! If you can bring yourself to flip the record over, B-side "Little Rat Charm" is another ace tune. This song features Christian on lead vocals and starts out with a really mellow vibe to it. But stick with it, because that chorus is totally worth waiting for. What a hook! This is a little bit of a different sound for Patsy's Rats: like an updated version of '80s new wave pop. I had to double check to make sure it wasn't a cover of some obscure song from the soundtrack to a John Hughes movie!

Without a doubt, "Little Rat Charm" could have been an A-side in its own right. If Ken Dirtnap was going to get back into the 7" game, it seems appropriate that he waited for an opportunity to put out a single this good! No longer mere up-and-comers, Patsy's Rats are an absolute must-hear for anyone who's fond of well-crafted guitar pop. Bachelor Records will be releasing a singles collection later this year, and there's more new music on the horizon as well. For now, enjoy this terrific single - easily one of the year's best.


Thursday, August 17, 2017

Retro Reviews: Los Primos/Andy G & The Roller Kings- recorded output

Review by Rob Sheley

I would like to do this as a 2-fer. It makes the most sense because it covers all of Andy G's post-Devil Dogs recorded output. Sadly there is a limited but very essential amount of material; it is also listened to with a hint of what might have been.

We will start with Los Primos - of which there only are five songs. Los Primos was basically the Devil Dogs without Steve Baise. Sonically they were a continuation of what the band was doing around the ...Stereodrive! record. The prominence of saxophone as the lead instrument is what differentiates the two bands. Andy was moving towards almost a Little Richard type sound (without piano) mixed with the run-off-the-rails fury of the Devil Dogs. Think the immediacy of Saturday Night Fever with a lead sax, and you have Los Primos. While Steve Baise was in Norway working on the Vikings record, Andy was creating this project with Mighty Joe Vincent on drums, Candy Del Mar (Cramps) on bass, and Pete Linzell (Raunch Hands) on sax .

Crypt & Sympathy For The Record Industry both stepped up to the plate when Andy came around with his new project. In 1995 Crypt released Los Primos' "On My Floor" 7", which was Andy's 1st post-Devil Dogs recordings. The A-side is "On My Floor", a trashy, two-minute, rollicking, scorching original. The B-side is a clean, jangly cover of Manfred Mann's "Pretty Flamingo". One year later in 1996, the band released its second and final single on Sympathy. It follows the same format as the first: original A-side, cover on the B-side. This one may up the ante because the B-side is even better than the first. "Summertime Girls" follows the same trashy, sax-filled, adrenalized sleaze that you would expect from Andy G. The B-side is the Beatles' "Hard Day's Night". As a music fan, garage fan, Beatles fan, or Devil Dogs fan, get the single just for that. Wailing sax and a wall of NY sound create one of the best Beatles covers ever recorded, completely essential. In late(r) 1996, a compilation CD was released celebrating the famous NYC rock club Brownies. The disc features The Waldos, Turbo A.C.s, and Pillbox. The lost Los Primos track "Here She Comes" is included on the comp. With that release, the band was finished. Joe Vincent left to form The Prissteens, and Andy reloaded for his next phase.

With the end or demise of Los Primos, Andy kept the core of Los Primos: himself on guitar & vox, Candy on bass, and Pete on tenor sax. He added a baritone sax player named Steve Greenfield who previously worked with The Fleshtones. The exit of Joe Vincent opened the door for drummer Ron Salvo, and Andy G & The Roller Kings are born. Debuting four years later on March 25th, 2000 at NYC's famous Continental Club, the band would once again tap Long Gone John from Sympathy to do its first release. That Kings County Sound was released as a CDEP & 10" in 2001. Five songs (three new originals, one re-record, one cover), and the Roller Kings hit the ground running. Expanding on the Los Primos sax driven garage trash, The Roller Kings sound is bigger and more refined (but only slightly). It is still trashy with a '60s New York Dolls flair, what you'd expect from Andy. The addition of the baritone sax adds some bottom end that helps the overall sound. "Dance Last Night", "Feelin' So Good", and "My GTO" are the three originals you'd hope for from the mind of Andy G. "Summertime Girls" from the second Los Primos 7" is the re-record. There was nothing wrong with the original version. I would rather have any other song, be it an original or cover. There was no need to re-cut this track. The EP closes with a cover of Dusty Springfield's "Stay Awhile". It is not the first time Andy dipped into the '60s girl group cannon. The Devil Dogs covered The Ronettes' "Best Part Of Breaking Up" on their first record to similar success.

The band toured a bit outside of NYC shortly after the release, so very few people saw this incredible band slay audiences in the same way the Devil Dogs did. The band was relatively silent as far as releases go. It reemerged in 2005 on a Gun Club compilation called Salvo Of 24 Gunshots. The track the band chose to cover was "Bad India". The rest of the comp includes Dirtbombs, Come Ons, Demolition Doll Rods, and plenty of other good stuff. Later in 2005, the band released its final track called "Party Shoes" on the Rapid Pulse Records compilation Let's Have Some God Damn Fun! Just like that, the band was done. Nothing has been re-released since, and nothing has surfaced. It is a total shame.

As an epilogue to this story, Andy G & The Roller Kings did do a live session for WFMU on June 7, 2001. It is archived on the WFMU site under the show Three Chord Monte. They did an interview and played live on the radio. The live performance does include two songs not available anywhere else: "No Good Annie" (1910 Fruit Gum Company) and "Dead End Street" (Lou Rawls). Both songs are perfect choices to cover: sax driven songs easily adapted to Andy G's unique interpretation.

Between both bands, it is only 14 songs counting the WFMU live stuff and 12 if you don't. It is the great mystery on what happened, especially since the band was together at least five years. I would have to think with that amount of time together, there is an album's worth of material or a few singles that got recorded but couldn't find a home due to the band breaking up, not wanting to tour to promote them, or the changing of the industry in the mid-2000s. If there is something that exists, I hope that it comes out sooner rather than later. Andy G is one of the few artists that there are no bad songs that have his imprint on them. He really is that good and that important to garage music and music in general. His style has spawned countless bands, some better than others but none better than the original. God Bless Andy G.

-Rob Sheley

Wednesday, August 16, 2017

The Putz - Clinically Inane

The Putz is a pop-punk band for people who love pop-punk. While that might sound like a statement of the obvious, you probably get what I'm driving it. The Putz isn't trying to re-invent a genre of music or mess with a successful formula. If you hate pop-punk, this is not a band that will turn you to the dark side. What the Indiana trio does do is carry the torch for the kind of pop-punk that I (and perhaps you) loved back in the '90s - when every new album from Screeching Weasel or The Queers was an event not to be missed. As far as I'm concerned, the best pop-punk never strays far from the Ramones' master blueprint. Of course that can be a double-edged sword. No one wants to listen to a straight-up copy of the Ramones. But if you can take that basic influence and put your own stamp on it, it's hard to go wrong. The Putz is one of those bands that totally gets what makes pop-punk great. Its new album Clinically Inane is out on Eccentric Pop Records - pretty much THE label for today's premiere pop-punk bands. And with Joe Queer producing the record, you know exactly what's coming!

Clinically Inane is The Putz's second LP and first since 2014. If you were expecting the band to sound older, wiser, and more musically evolved after all of this time, you don't know The Putz! The band is back with 14 more tracks of wonderfully stupid three-chord punk that you'll be itching to crank loud and sing along with. This record is just pure fun from start to finish. And with an average song length of less than 1 minute and 45 seconds, these guys sure aren't messing around! No, The Putz isn't offering you anything new here. But if you have a soft spot for textbook pop-punk executed to perfection, this is the record for you. Billy's vocals are the perfect mix of snotty and likable, while Dougie is one of those drummers who was seemingly born to play this kind of music. And with smooth vocal harmonies being such a crucial component of quality pop-punk, I appreciate that The Putz have those down pat. With material ranging from classic Ramonesy sing-alongs ("I Don't Wanna Go") to upbeat buzzsaw pop ("My Baby and Me") to blistering fuck-yous ("Blast Off!", "Glue Your Mouth Shut") to apocalyptic tales of love ("When The World Ends") to clever odes to dumbness ("My Missing Mind"), this album runs the gamut of the styles and themes that are essential to the pop-punk genre.

If I had heard Clinically Inane when I was 25, I would have run out into the street screaming for joy. The present-day version of myself is only slightly less stoked. This record stacks up quite well with the pop-punk albums I so dearly loved in my youth. While the quantity of bands playing old school pop-punk may have dwindled over the past couple of decades, the quality certainly has not. Good on Eccentric Pop for providing a home for the next generation of true believers!


Monday, August 14, 2017


Having played a considerable part in the rise of the English garage scene in recent years, London's THEE MVPs seem poised for a major breakout. The band's new 7" on Bachelor Records is a perfect transitional record - featuring two formidable shots of loud indie-ish pop along with two covers that tip the cap to the band's straight-up garage/punk roots. It's hard to pinpoint exactly what kind of band THEE MVPs are at this point, and that's surely a good thing. Call "ELH" power pop, garage, alternative rock, Brit-pop, or just plain rock n' roll. Either way, it's an anthemic number with hooks for days and really heartfelt vocals/lyrics. It comes off like a modern update of '80s/'90s alt-rock, bringing to mind the heart-on-sleeve heroics of the Replacements, the crackling guitars of Dinosaur, Jr., and the timeless melodies of Guided By Voices. "Big Pussy (Snitches In Ditches)" shares similar pop sensibilities (I love that simple, sing-along chorus!) but with a decidedly post-punk/modern rock slant. I saw the title and hoped the song was about the Sopranos character. Of course it is! The two covers are The Damned's "Neat Neat Neat" and the Billy Childish banger "Lie Detector". The latter is 100% faithful to the original, while the former adds just enough of the band's own touch to be very worth your while. These two covers really tell you a lot about who THEE MVPS are. They may aspire to write great pop songs, but at heart they're still all about music that's direct, exciting, and a whole lot of fun to play. Fans of Royal Headache and Tenement take note. We just might be witnessing the ascension of our next great modern-day band!


Friday, August 11, 2017

Phone Jerks - ...Can't Stand The Maritimes/No Funswick

So Phone Jerks just might be my favorite new band of the year. Well, actually "new" band is not really an accurate term. This Moncton, New Brunswick foursome has been in existence since 2014 and did release an all-covers digital EP last year. But it wasn't until this year that Phone Jerks put out original material. And let me tell you: this shit is HOT! ...Can't Stand The Maritimes is the band's first vinyl record - a short and not-so-sweet one-sided 45 released by the always fantastic Goodbye Boozy Records. The group has also put out a limited (as in only 30 copies!) cassette called No Funswick. If you long for the glory days of garage punk/budget rock/lo-fi trash, you need to get over to Phone Jerks' Bandcamp and download everything the band has released so far! This is a band that totally hits the mark for garage punk - right down to the blown-out fidelity, primitive & furious musicianship, and take-no-shit attitude. You can hear the influence of classic bands like Teengenerate and Supercharger along with a mean streak rivaling newer acts such as Sick Thoughts and The Cavemen. It's really cool that all four band members take turns on lead vocals. You have a total group effort here, which shows in an abundance of killer tunes. The single is an absolute ripper, and I have to expect that there will be a few more of those coming our way in the very near future. In 2017, the term "garage" means a lot of different things to a lot of different people. To me it means raw and trashy, and I've been eagerly awaiting more bands along those lines. Phone Jerks are exactly what I had in mind!


Thursday, August 10, 2017

Chuck Berry - CHUCK

Review by Mike Kimmel

Not only did Chuck Berry finally make another record (his first in 38 years are the logistics, I believe), but he also had his first "strictly music video" released. It was for the song "Big Boys" from his last album– CHUCK – released in early June, 2017. Mr. Berry didn't live to see the video actually air anywhere, but I've been led to understand that he HAD seen the final product and heartily endorsed it.

If you've been involved in music for any period of time over the past six decades, not only is it quite likely that you've heard of my most recent visitor, but also one of his songs is likely one of the first you ever attempted. I haven't done any research into the subject, but of the two most-often first-learned rock and roll tunes, "Johnny B. Goode" by Chuck Berry must be right up there with the narrow company of Deep Purple and "Smoke on the Water" as the first learned .

What's the difference? Well, one is rock and roll and the other is much heavier. It's still rock and roll, just heavy enough to polish itself if you will.

Number one starts out with some gorgeous harmonica in the tune "Wonderful Woman". It's really a cool idea for the opening track on his first release of original material in 38 years. Here he describes a second-row romance a-brewin', but he only describes it from his point of view (and, of course, that would be the point of view of the performer) and it ends when the show ends. She leaves, and he knows he'll never see her again. A different type of lyric set from Chuck Berry; but not only is it a really good tune, he sounds very much at home doing it!

"Big Boys" is track two and also the first (and, unfortunately, last) music video we'll ever see with Chuck Berry's participation. It starts off with the oh so familiar Chuck Berry riff that every guitar player and wannabe guitar player, bassist and wannabe bassist can walk through in his/her sleep. Interesting that the second track is a sort of a "coming-of-age" tune by a man who had been in the business for six decades!

"You Go to My Head" is one of the surprising tunes on the album in that it seems designed for a high class lounge singer. You know the type I'm talking about, I'm sure. A polished-up baby grand being played by a suit and tie clad sophisticated looking gentleman.

Seated (perhaps "lounging" would be a better word) is an attractive female with an evening gown of sorts. Lots of glitter is a prerequisite. She's smoking a cigarette using one of those eight-inch long cigarette holders. In my fantasy, er, I mean vision, the singer is Michele Pfeiffer, though it could be more than one host.

The drums would be a simple set. In fact, the drummer may have only three drums and perhaps one or two cymbals. The bass is upright, and the other guitars know their place (s) and occupy them without fail. That leaves our host (or hosts) for the next hours front and center.

Speaking of the drums…Well, speaking of the rhythm section in general, that is comprised by Jimmy Marsala (bass for Chuck Berry for the last 40 years) as well as Robert Lohr and Keith Robinson (piano and drums, respectively) who have been part of Mr. Berry's backing back for over two decades of shows at St. Louis's Blueberry Hill.

Son Charles Berry Jr. plays guitar in his father's band, and his daughter Ingrid on harmonica rounds out the six-piece.

"3-4 Time (Enchiladas)" is a good track with some of the humor Berry has been known for over the years. Songs like "My Ding-A-Ling" and others show he can hold his own with a guitar, a vocal, a lyric, or just a joke.

This one is a bit bittersweet, though. One of the lines – speaking of life – is "One thing's for certain; ain't none of us getting out of here alive". Then he mentions that sometimes he stays up all night writing songs. "I know it ain't good for me. I hope it don't end too soon".

"Darlin'" spends its time again singing of the fleeting nature of the good times, thinking of how quickly his daughter changed from sweet sixteen. I certainly don't want to seem as if I'm trying to paint your opinions of the songs from the album CHUCK with a sad, blue brush. I'm not, and I sincerely hope you see that.

What Chuck Berry did all of his life was to sing about what was happening to and around him at that time of his life. The man was 90 years old and had been a major part of the music industry for around 60 of those 90 years.

Number six is "Lady B. Goode".

"They want to do a movie 'bout my livelihood and I want you to play the part of Lady B. Goode".

Need I say more?

Following the Lady is track seven; "She Still Loves You". I'm going to have to listen a few more times to this one. No, not because I don't know if I like it or not. I REALLY like this one (as well as the vast majority of the rest of the album). I just can't tell if someone is telling someone that "…she still loves Chuck…" or if someone is telling Chuck that she still loves some other guy.

Listen to it as many times as it takes to figure it out. You won't get tired of it, I promise. I got the CD June 10th and have been listening to it as a major part of my regular playlist since then. I've had an interruption or two. Vertebral fusions will do that to you, but I still can't figure out which direction this one is flying.

Number eight rolls up on the Chuck playlist, and now I've got to deal with an enigma. The song title is "Jamaica Moon". The issue with which I'm dealing feels almost improper. I mean, normally I try to exercise a kinder, gentler pen while attempting to rate or to render an opinion of a piece of art that someone has created.

Years ago I read a book of poetry by Leonard Nimoy. I wish I could find that book again. Over all, it was very good. There was one piece in particular that has stuck with me over the years. To briefly paraphrase Nimoy's work, he says something to the effect of "…be gentle with him, people. He is an artist. He is showing you his heart."

Having said that and still giving much credit to Chuck Berry (and much credit is truly due the man), "Jamaica Moon" is the only song on the CD that I don't particularly care for. It's not that the tune isn't done well, because it is!

The man is waiting for his lady to arrive as regularly scheduled by ship, and the ship is late. While waiting for her, the time gets later and later and he starts drinking the rum he'd gotten to share with his date.

Ah, but as luck would have it, the rum was apparently very good and pretty effective, because the next thing the guy in the song hears is not the voice of his lovely date, but rather the sound of the ship's horn waking him up as the ship upon which she was traveling was leaving him alone and hung over at the port.

"Dutchman" is next to last on the track list. It's a story of one of those comfortable, casual bars everyone knows about because every town has one. All those bars are filled with regulars who never seem to run out of things to talk about, and it's a rare instance when someone none of the regulars know walks in.

That's how things start off here. Then a great tall man none recognized entered. The bartender offered him a drink, but there was apparently a red head regular who didn't think much of the new stranger.

"Sic him, Fido! Show him the street!"

The dog obediently jumped up and trotted toward the stranger, but when he reached the man, Fido just licked the man's hand and then lay down at the stranger's feet.

The stranger then regaled those in attendance with the story of a young man who learned to play guitar well enough that he could keep his family in "…shrimp and beans and rice…"

You may have guessed that the boy in the story was born in Louisiana, near New Orleans. In fact, it was back up in the hills north of New Orleans among the evergreens. The stranger finished his story and then told The Dutchman (the bartender) he was ready for that drink he'd been promised.

"The Dutchman" may be my favorite track from the CD. It's got tough competition from "Big Boys" and a couple of the other tracks that are awfully darned good tunes.

Mr. Berry had one more trick left in his magic bag, however, and when you listen to the final track of Chuck Berry's final album of original music, you realize that you had been entertained for thirty two minutes and twenty nine seconds.

In the last two minutes and twenty six seconds of the album – the duration of the song "Eyes of Man" – you will be given a lifetime of experience and education. You'll have to just listen to the tune; it's that good. I'm not going to assume I can do it justice with any description I might develop. I'll give you one line from the song – hopefully it'll pique your interest and you'll look for more on your own.

I'll end with that line, though. Chuck Berry's last release of original material is aptly entitled CHUCK. Seems it might have been an attempt at a musical autobiography in just a bit more than a half hour's time. The only way you could listen and NOT get the message, well, ya must be playin' with your own ding-a-ling! Here's the line I mentioned/promised earlier. The line that is a part of the gospel according to Chuck:

"Those who do not know and do not know that they do not know are foolish. Avoid them."

-Mike Kimmel

Wednesday, August 9, 2017

Retro Reviews: The Vikings – Go Berserk

Review by Rob Sheley

For my opinion, there is a big five of '90s garage rock & roll. Everything these five bands did and what they morphed into is necessary in every collection. They are The Devil Dogs, New Bomb Turks, The Humpers, Lazy Cowgirls, and The Dirtbombs. No five more perfect bands from that era have existed in similar friendly competition, each release more essential than the last. I will eventually focus on them. But as you know, all good things must come to an end. So I'm interested in focusing on their next big things.

Enter The Vikings, originally conceived as a two single side project that morphed into a more complete (albeit short) project with some of Norway's finest. When the Devil Dogs toured Norway in 1991, bass player Steve Baise met Morten Henriksen of the Yum Yums. Morten convinced Steve to come over and do some shows as a pickup band called the Devil Frogs. The band would do Devil Dogs songs and some choice covers. By 1993 Steve made a return trip, and Morten recruited two new members to the band to do five shows and record four songs. Those members were Happy Tom (Thomas Seltzer) on drums and an 18-year-old second guitar player named Euroboy (Knute Schreiner) - who of course went on to join Turbonegro a few years later. They cut the singles (one original & three covers) for two separate releases on Sympathy and Screaming Apple and changed their name to The Vikings. Released in 1994 to great reviews, the Vikings' "Rock All" & "Savage" singles were perhaps the warning signs that may have ended the Devil Dogs. By early 1995, the Devil Dogs had called it a day. Steve had eight songs (that would have been the next Devil Dogs record) and a budding relationship with a girl and new band in Norway. He took his songs and a bag full of covers to record what would become The Vikings' lone album Go Berserk.

Go Berserk is a flawless album. It is everything that is great about garage rock in general. A great formula to make a killer record is a balance of strong originals and a few covers (famous or obscure) peppered in. The trick is to interpret the covers in your style so that no matter how iconic the song, it becomes yours. Look at the early Stones, Beatles, Little Richard, Jerry Lee, Elvis (both of them), The Sonics, and Otis Redding. All were great writers and great interpreters. The Vikings followed that similar path of blending influences with originals; it gives you as a listener a spyglass look into the band's record collection and how they craft their songs and their sound. I'm a big fan of covers and how bands choose those covers, how they change or play them straight and how well they fit. As a side note, The Dirtbombs' Ultraglide In Black exemplifies this point. But that is another entry altogether.

Released in 1995, Go Berserk was a monster of record. The power of the band jumps off the record with the first track, "My Friend’s Little Sister". Clocking in at two minutes, it is the best song that the Devil Dogs never recorded. Big drums, crisp cutting distortion, and immediate vocals propel the record forward at a very live aggressive pace. Similar to the way the Devil Dogs made records, but this is different and not a copy of what they did. In hindsight, you can hear the power pop leanings of the Yum Yums and the best parts of what made Turbonegro great coming through in the performances - making this a unique entity unto itself. "Bad To Be Good", "Hard Knox High", "Strikeout King", "Summer of Hate", "Stop It", "(5-4-3-2) Baby You're The 1", and the debut single "Rock All" are everything that one would expect from Steve Baise as a songwriter. Catchy, fast, and big hooks that get stuck in your head. It takes great skill to write songs this good and this consistent.

The other story on this record is what is brought to the table by way of covers. None of the covers are big hits (with the exception of "Surrender" by Cheap Trick). I would say that they are more unique rather than completely obscure. An astute collector would know most if not all of the bands but not necessarily the song choices by those bands. "It's Cool To Rock" by the Accelerators is the one cover that could be mistaken for an original because they stay rather faithful to the original. There was no need to improve upon the original; it is just that good. "Let's Go" by Bay City Rollers is a WTF moment, but it works perfectly, played at triple speed of the original. It takes on a very Slade-like feel and removes all of the schmaltz you may be thinking it would contain. The back to back of "The Fly" by Chubby Checker and "Push & Stomp" by Joan Jett are rollicking versions of the originals, a double paring of songs about dancing that is a very nice touch. The record closes with a triple threat of goodness: "Surrender" followed by the Nervous Eaters' "Just Head" and closing with "Savage", one of the four lone songs by Australia's Fun Things. The opening verse says everything you need to know. "I am the rock & roll kamikaze, and you know that I'd die for you. When you're paying your bills to see me, I gotta do what you want me to." Pure rock & roll poetry and a perfect ending!

Go Berserk was released in 1995 on Sympathy on CD. The CD includes both the "Rock All" (also on Sympathy) and "Savage" (originally on Screaming Apple) singles. The record was released a year later on vinyl by Roto records out of Spain. In 2005, Just Add Water Records re-released Go Berserk as a double CD called Best Head Ever. It includes everything from the Sympathy release and four more songs from a 7" called High Time on Hit Me! out of Norway. It includes a very early version of "Good Head" - later made famous by Turbonegro. The two-CD set also includes a 12-song live record from Oslo. To the best of my knowledge, that is everything they recorded.

Though short lived, The Vikings are a crucial sign post of '90s garage rock. Even if the members never recorded another note, this still would rank as a masterpiece. It is surprising that more bands from both the states and Scandinavia didn't pick this up as a copycat project and do something similar in terms of sound and the blend of covers and originals. I implore you to track this down and make it one of your favorites; I assure you that you will not be disappointed in the least. You will only wish you could have discovered it to sooner to have the pleasure of enjoying it longer.

-Rob Sheley