Monday, May 21, 2018

Kurt Baker Combo - Let's Go Wild!

Seeing the title Let's Go Wild!, you can quickly surmise that the new Kurt Baker Combo album is not exactly heavy on ballads. When I reviewed the Combo's last album In Orbit back in 2016, I talked about it being the most rockin' Kurt Baker release to date. Well apparently that was just a warm-up for Let's Go Wild! 

I had read somewhere that with this album, Baker was heavily influenced by contemporary bands like White Reaper and Death By Unga Bunga. That got me very intrigued, because that big hooky rock thing is something I particularly enjoy. And with a high energy garage rock n' roll force like the Combo backing him, Baker was in perfect position to kick up the rock another notch or two. Lead single "So Lonely" (a cover of a 1980 B-side by Swedish band The Radio) will thrill the garage purists who've come to love the Combo in recent years. It sounds like the 1964 Beatles stepping off a time machine to meet up with Elvis Costello and The Attractions. It's a thrilling, joyful jolt of rock n' roll (even with the sad lyrics). In the past, Baker has proven that he's not afraid to open an album with a cover. That works again here so well. What a way to kick off a record! "Foolish Stuff" follows in a similarly dance-inducing manner, then the tuneful hard rock of "No Fun At All" suddenly finds The Combo ready for the arena. From there, the album offers up plenty of variety with no shortage of hooks. "Beg to Borrow" finds Baker unleashing his inner Phil Lynott, while "Let's Go Wild!" is The Combo's stab at a stomping glam rock instrumental. "Don't Say I Didn't Warn Ya" and the terrific "Sick Of Waiting" are the big crushing power pop numbers I was hoping to hear on this album. They do not disappoint! Perhaps the best track of them all is "Yesterday Today" - an infectious pop/soul shaker that really highlights the Combo's instrumental chops.

Let's Go Wild! is just awesome! What I love about the album is that it fully captures what the Kurt Baker Combo is all about. It's a high-spirited and thoroughly enjoyable rock n' roll record. Put it on, and immediately you get a feel for what it's like to experience the Combo live. It's got plenty to offer fans of garage rock and power pop while also tapping into Baker's love for bands like Cheap Trick and Kix. This is definitely the Combo's best album yet! Get it today from Steven Van Zandt's Wicked Cool Records!


Friday, May 18, 2018

Devious Ones - Plainview Nights

There are few things in life better than getting totally floored by an album that you've been looking forward to for a really long time! I've been a huge fan of Devious Ones going back to 2015, and the Detroit foursome's debut full-length was one of my most-highly anticipated LPs of this year. True to form, the band has stepped up to the plate and knocked it out of the park! A co-release between Hold Fast Vinyl in the U.S. and No Front Teeth Records in the U.K., Plainview Nights sets the bar for what power pop influenced punk rock ought to be in 2018. This album couldn't be any more up my alley, and song-wise this is Devious Ones' best stuff to date.

On the heels of three seven-inches and a self-titled cassette, Devious Ones could have taken the easy way out and re-recorded a whole bunch of old songs. Instead, they chose to go almost entirely with new material. "Djarum Summers" is the only 7" track to reappear on Plainview Nights. The rest of the tracks are previously unreleased with the exception of last year's digital-only single "Rust Is Imminent". It's no secret that I'm a huge '77 punk and power pop guy, and this album is a perfect example of what that musical style sounds like when it's done well. These 10 tracks brim with energy and pack a tremendous punch - with knockout hooks to boot. From the songwriting to the production to the sheer tightness of the band, everything about this record is on point. If you're craving great straight-forward powerpop/punk, songs like "Eyes Off You" and "Young Relic" will totally hit the spot. Elsewhere the band works elements of garage rock ("GarbagePicker"), '60s pop ("My Romance [In Somnambulance]"), and rootsy rock ("Southwest Sunrise") into its catchy punk attack. The high point for me is the title track: a four-and-a-half minute toe-tapper that merits instant anthem status. I first heard this track two weeks ago, and I've been whistling that melody and singing that hook ever since. If this album is Devious Ones' love letter to Detroit and the Midwest, then "Plainview Nights" is clearly its centerpiece. And the equally anthemic "Rust Is Imminent" adds the exclamation point.

Devious Ones are that rare band that can pull off first wave inspired punk without making their influences too obvious. They don't really sound like any other band. Heck, they don't even sound like any of their own bands! It has been a pleasure to follow Devious Ones' ascension from promising up-and-comers to truly one of the best punk groups on Earth. Plainview Nights is the band at the very top of its game, delivering an A+ debut album. The American LP release is limited to 500 copies and can be ordered here. Locals can pick up a copy at the LP release party tomorrow night at Sanctuary Detroit in Hamtramck. Doors open at 8:00!


Monday, May 14, 2018

The Peawees - "Stranger"

I am super stoked on this new single from the legendary Peawees! After more than two decades in the game, this Italian foursome only gets better with age. Its most recent album Leave It Behind (2011) was by far its best to date, and a new one titled Moving Target is slated for release in September. Out on Wild Honey Records, "The Stranger" gives us a preview of the new LP. It's exactly what you'd expect from a world-class punk rock n' roll more! I'm really digging the piano and '60s girl group inspirations, and all in all this song is chock full of the things that make The Peawees so great. The killer songwriting, formidable musical chops, and top-notch vocals from Hervé are all there in abundance. What a tune! If this is an indication of what's coming on the new album, we're all gonna be floored! The B-side is a really cool cover of "Reach The Rock" by Paul Simonon's post-Clash unit Havana 3AM. It's a great rendition that really fits The Peawees's musical aesthetic.

With both The Peawees and Wild Honey Records, you can always count on quality. "Stranger" lives up to any expectations you'd have for this band and label. It's one of the year's best singles for sure. I can't wait for the new album!


Wednesday, May 9, 2018

Häxxan - The Magnificent Planet of Alien Vampiro II

The Slovenly Recordings winning streak remains very much in tact with the terrific sophomore LP from Israeli trio Häxxan. A title like The Magnificent Planet of Alien Vampiro II promises something pretty remarkable, and the album delivers just that! While Häxxan generally fits the garage/psych genre of music, this is one of those releases that cannot be properly categorized. It's all over the place in an entirely good way. On "Intro", the band comes on like a heavy riffing power trio with chops for days (that drumming is unreal!). A single lyric is repeated over and over: "Open up your mind/What you gonna find?" I'd say that qualifies as a mission statement, and it's damn good policy in the year 2018! The band takes a quick turn towards straight-ahead hooky punk on "Jeff Casanova", then nails the indie rock thing with the loud/soft dynamics and sneaky catchy melody of "Silkworms". Up next is "Circle Of Quantum", an instrumental so rocking and riveting that words would have ruined it. So now I've mentioned the entire first half of the album, and none of these tracks are quite what you'd expect from a psychedelic garage band. I like that! Fear not, though. The back half of the album offers up plenty of garage and psych for you to sink your teeth into. "Nothing Ever Changes" is a snappy number that ought to have Black Lips fans bobbing their heads in approval (no complaints about that chord progression reminding me of "Sonic Reducer"!). And the band's musical chops shine again on the nine-minute epic "Hunter" - a plunge into deep psychedelia that seems to take as much from Black Sabbath as it does from Ty Segall.

With Häxxan being so well recognized as a live force, there will always be the question of whether or not its recorded output measures up. In the case of this release, I'd say it absolutely does. If you've never seen Häxxan live, The Magnificent Planet of Alien Vampiro II will make you wish you had. On tracks like "Intro" and "Circle Of Quantum", it feels like the band is right there in the room with you and kicking all kinds of ass. Other songs highlight a songwriting prowess that is clearly a cut above. Of course I could pitch this album directly to the garage crowd, but it seems more appropriate to recommend it to anyone who wants to hear some wonderful rock n' roll. Big thumbs up!


Monday, May 7, 2018

BBQT - Let's Go!

No Front Teeth Records doesn't generally release a large volume of full-length albums. So when you do get an LP from NFT, you can expect it to be a crackler! The debut album from BBQT is no exception. BBQT is Gabbie from The Bam Bams doing '70s style glam rock with big, radio-worthy hooks. Let's Go is the name of the album, and it's a wonderfully satisfying throwback to the heyday of Suzi Quatro and Joan Jett. The title track kicks off the party in style, setting the tone for 10 tracks of hand-clapping, foot-stomping fun. Gabbie Bam Bam not only writes damn fine rock n' roll songs but also has that swagger that's necessary to make this style of music fully convincing. Listening to this record, I choose to imagine that she's singing these songs to an arena full of diehard rock n' rollers who are shouting along to every word and having the time of their lives. I dig the variety of the material, which covers everything from '50s inspired revved-up rockers ("Golden Twenty", "All Day Night") to catchy power pop leaning numbers ("Inmate", "Angel Sweet") to vintage glam stompers ("Tuff'n Up", "Play Rock N Roll"). And it's all top-notch stuff. There's not a dud track to be found on the album!

If you're looking for a great summertime rock n' roll record, Let's Go is absolutely it! It's the perfect soundtrack for whatever good times you plan on having. Gabbie Bam Bam doesn't just play rock n' roll. She IS rock n' roll! Digital album is available from BBQT's Bandcamp. Click here for the scoop on how to order yourself a vinyl copy!


Thursday, May 3, 2018

Geoff Palmer - "This One's Gonna Be Hot"

Last week I promised you all some solo Geoff Palmer. So let's get to it! "This One's Gonna Be Hot" is the first in a series of digital singles that The Connection guitarist is doing with various friends of his. This track was recorded with his pal Adam Cargin, and man oh man is it ever a banger! Here Geoff dusts off his pop-punk chops and delivers the ultimate party song. It sounds like Mike Love fronting The Ramones, and it's pretty much the best thing ever! Before I even heard this song, I assumed it was gonna rule just based on the title. I was not wrong! In a perfect world, this tune would be a top ten smash on every continent of the globe. 

Eventually all of these solo Geoff Palmer tracks will be compiled onto an actual record. But you won't wanna wait that long to own "This One's Gonna Be Hot". This is the ultimate warm-weather driving song - one that's guaranteed to get you primed for countless nights of good times. It's everything that's fun about rock n' roll distilled into two glorious minutes. Play it often, and play it loud!


Wednesday, May 2, 2018

Ditches - 1000 Elephants

Today we've got more great stuff from Sweden! Ditches are a newer band out of Stockholm who released their debut cassette last year. Sound-wise they walk a fine line between garage punk and power pop punk. Out now is their first 7" called 1000 Elephants, and you're likely to notice it was mixed and mastered by Jeff Burke and Mark Ryan. Of course it's a little reminiscent of bands like Marked Men and High Tension Wires, but it also has those darker undercurrents that make it sound uniquely Scandinavian. I enjoy the back and forth between the breakneck-paced punk tunes ("Isolated State", "My Head") and the less-hurried, power pop leaning numbers ("Running Out Of Time", "Under The Sun"). I really like what I'm hearing: this is a tight band with some impressive songwriting chops. I've always enjoyed this type of sound, and Ditches do it really well. This five-track EP definitely leaves me wanting more. The digital version is very reasonably priced over at Bandcamp. Vinyl will be available for sale on-line soon!