After a pleasant summer in the mouth of madness, playing Russian roulette with the the vast opportunities that breathe within instant gratification, problematic self-admiration, and self-loathing, I finally found the motivation to reconnect with some incredible new music after making a deliberate effort to disconnect from writing about anything, period. Getting lost in the winding waves of anonymous highways, dizzying displays of lights, and rechargeable personalities that wander like ghosts provided an opportunity to spark and drown in the rise and fall of summer 2015. Where does one go after such a thing? Fate decides that or spontaneous decision-making, whatever you want to call it. Two brand new releases caught my attention in the last two weeks that gave my nervous system a much-needed jolt of garage born electro-shock rock.
Radiohearts – Lot To Learn (No Front Teeth)
The brand new EP by Long Beach, CA’s power-punk-mod kings rages and roars like the bastard child of the Buzzcocks’ Singles Going Steady and the Damned’s Machine Gun Etiquette, staying out past curfew and stealing the neighbor’s car, running it straight into the ocean. Last year the band released the very solid Nothing At All EP, showing off their Clash inspired power-pop prowess. However, their latest offering is by far their best to date. The band’s sonic assault is more aggressive and cohesive in its delivery with the guitars up front and Ed Stuart’s vocals displaying moodier nuances than on their previous outings. With the rhythm-section providing a dirty and menacing pop swagger, bass lines twist and the percussion bounces in a volatile but sophisticated fashion that makes the band rank high among their fellow pop-rock noisemaking peers.
This four song collection wastes no time in delivering its infectious creations, I’m talking straight and no chaser. It’s pretty impossible to stop listening to the first two tracks “Lot To Learn” and “Decisions” (my pick for the “hit song” here). These two are a classic single in themselves with punky chord crunching and contagious hooks that dance and slice with the perfect bite. The two closing tracks “Heartbeat” and “Let Them Know” continue the razorblade-sugar assault with slick verse-chorus combos bringing to mind the intelligence of vintage Blondie and sharp attack of early Generation X. Kill the future and free your mind, you need this band. It’s hot and it’s happening now.
Jukebox Zeros – Count To Ten (Rankoutsider Records)
The long awaited full length from these infamous Philly garage-rock demons has finally arrived and it was definitely worth the wait! Produced by the legendary Dean Rispler, this album is a monster. A fun-filled terror train crashing through the streets of Philadelphia at 2 a.m., this Molotov cocktail of cheap booze, prescription pills, and rock n roll angst terminates everything in its path. Search and destroy is the mission and this record accomplishes it and even more. The Zeros have upped their game with Peter Santa Maria delivering unforgettable vocal performances on all the tracks, emphasizing melodies while using syncopated punk snarl to burn the house down. A heavy dose of pissed off punk infects the proceedings and the band heavily utilizes its secret weapon, powerhouse drummer Justin Lee. Lee pounds the drums like there’s no tomorrow and adds a whole new dimension to the garage-punk genre with his combination of thunderous floor tom bashing, pounding surf grooves, and 4/4 grind. The band dynamics blend in perfectly, explosive and trashy, this kicks ass.
“Snot Rocket”, “Hey Now! Oh My!” and “B Train” take the genre of punk rock n roll to dizzying new heights. “My Love” and “Green Wave” show off the power-pop chops of the band with sleazy guitar finesse and insidious surf stylings. “Drama Queen” and “Insomniac” are classic Jukebox Zeros with an enhanced 2015 venom that puts this band in a category of its own. Before you have your next nervous breakdown, drink a 40 oz. or three, shoplift some frozen pizzas, and tear the town up with this impressive and memorable powder keg of punk rock fury.
Tuesday, August 18, 2015
Lunchbox is like the pleasure-seeking orphan of the Weezer Blue Album, ditching the prom with their date to go hang out in the local graveyard, dancing on the burial sites of Nick Lowe and The Simpletones. Fusing the fuzziest nuances of pop with a careless and playful fever, while burying their own inhibitions, new sounds with familiar echoes are brought to life. The kids aren't alright and the world's a mess, ground zero for reckless summer fun. "Smash Hits" is 13 minutes of pure indie pop-punk bliss with the just the right amount of dirty ambiance to let the raw guitar and trashy drums highlight its five star tunefulness. The 7" format fits this extended song collection perfectly. The packaging includes a nice homage to the 90s with its cool front cover, featuring a reel-to-reel recorder and the classic back cover "footwear" photo, not to mention the perfect "slacker" font style. Six look-sharp blasts on one small record, perfect brevity.
The record fizzes with a wild aloofness and briskly cruises into overdrive producing a saccharine concerto of noise-pop wizardry. The EP kicks off with “Heaven”, a sweet Phil Spector by way of the Ramones inspired number. It’s followed by the scorching “Paws of Destiny”, which is reminiscent of the great singles that Shredder Records used to assemble on its classic CD compilations. The tracks “Friends” and “Flatland” provide punchy anthems replete with Rich Kids guitar style and garage rock aplomb. If you have any doubts about the rock prowess of this band, check out the kick ass “(It’s Your) Lovesong”. “Most Unlikely to Succeed” ends this collection with its self-deprecating Beach Boys harmonies and Queers style chord progressions. An essential addition to your vinyl or digital collection, my only complaint is that this classy noise-bomb of trashy pop goes by too quick, leaving you wanting more. Actually, that’s a good thing, this band plays hard to get, just the way I like it.
Monday, August 3, 2015
The Washington, DC based duo of Blue (Vox and Bass) and Aissa (Noise and Guitar) is an entity that achieves high art while avoiding genre at all costs. A revolution of sound that meticulously dismembers and reconnects Bjork, Brooke Candy, and vintage Suicide, forming a passionate-vengeful symphony of unsettled pulse. Concise and non-linear, the sequence begins with an evil-tinged broken apart piano that invites a lush vocal and scattered sonic rhythm. The sound waves flow with a circular ambience producing an esoteric composition entitled “Dream”. “Interlude” quickly follows with its distinctive solo vocal non-arrangement. The angst-ridden melody has a beautiful soul-poisoned flavor that comes and goes much too fast. The notes enrapture and traumatize with their short-lived perfection.
The walls begin to crack and the alarms go off as the electro damaged hip-hop drone of “Rodeo” begins its malicious assault on the senses. This irresistible trajectory of anger and indictment captivates and compels with its contagious rhythm and sharp-tongued wordplay. The loudest volume possible is a pre-requisite for this track of ear-catching terror. The riot escalates with the volatile mood swinging “Gun”, smashing windows, and burning institutions with its machine-like groove that maniacally gyrates, holding the listener hostage with a hypnotic post-punk melody. Finding Release viciously breathes with four songs on the A-side and three freak-scratched remixes on the B-side (courtesy of infamous noise mongers Tunabunny and Bastards of Fate). The remixed versions provide a perfectly warped reinterpretation of Noon:30’s attractive madness. Join the revolution and get your freak on, an essential storm of luxurious discontent for the unpredictable times we live in. The vinyl version has an intense blast and shudder that only adds to the production of this unique work of art.
Saturday, August 1, 2015
After 15 years, the band has returned to the studio with October and legendary band fixtures James Stevenson, Nic Austin, Mat Sargent, and Lee Morell. Why? Because life is just not right without a new Chelsea album to sink your teeth into and get your proper punk rock fix. Other bands from that era do not have the chops that October continues to wield throughout the tumultuous decades the band has survived in its own cool and confident pattern of existence. Impressive indeed, this new collection infuses the melodic ferocity of Alternative Hits with the introspective grit of Billy Bragg. October’s voice is in prime form and the musicianship is more dynamic and expressive than ever. Unlike other “reunion records”, this full length is relevant and vibrant in its delivery and execution. Spirited anthems for the current disgruntled generation, certainly present in the stellar tracks “Fuck All”, “It's About Time”, “You Never Ever Listen”, and “Johnny Has No Respect”. The real standout that displays their songwriting chops is the acoustic laden and hook filled “Saturday Night Sunday Morning”. Overall, this very solid outing will instantly grow on you with repeated listens, as a proper album should.
I remember the punk revival that occurred in the mid-1990s. I was really digging on bands like the U.S. Bombs, The Stitches, Stiffs Inc., and the TKO Records roster. I kept hearing the name Chelsea repeatedly in reference to these bands, it all seemed so new and alive to me. Later on in the decade, my own band played a Friday night show completely annihilated at a hotel in Allentown, PA. We were met with an awkward response due to our insane debauchery before and during our set. We decided to lay low in our rented van parked out front before we played instead of hanging out at the bar with the locals. We weren’t trying to be snobs, but were more concerned about getting busted with our conspicuous consumption of all things illegal in order to give the show that “extra bang”.
Extra bang indeed, and the following morning I woke up with my handy bottle of Bombay Sapphire to chase away the blues from the outlandish after show party. We headed to Lancaster, PA’s infamous Angry, Young, and Poor, downed a few beers before going inside and I went on a CD/record shopping spree with a recently acquired credit card (back when they just handed them out to anyone working at least 30 hours a week). Low and behold, I saw Chelsea’s The Punk Singles Collection 1977–82. I snatched up a copy, passed out on the van ride home, fell out of the van seat, hit my head on the door after nodding off, and woke up in my bed with a gnarly headache.
The first thing I did even before grabbing a glass of water and a sedative was getting this collection loaded onto my stereo. The speakers blasted with an uncanny power and fury, like the first time you hear Beethoven's "Ode to Joy". I was hooked for life. How could a band have an output like this, where every song is great? Only Gene October would know that secret. I’ve been following them ever since and they are always a mainstay in my playlist only with the Sex Pistols and Johnny Thunders LAMF. Saturday Night Sunday Morning is a worthy addition to my playlist, and I’m a tough customer when it comes to my favorite bands releasing new records. This extremely memorable affair will outlive another tumultuous decade and if October continues to march on, we can look forward to another unforgettable outing in the near future.
Thursday, July 23, 2015
Bunnygrunt was a band that almost ended before it even began in the hazy fog of mid 90s indie music. However, while they were there and slid into the future, the band left behind five full lengths and countless vinyl singles. Bunnygrunt has arrived again, fashionably late, and kicks out their own ephemeral and enigmatic jams in a reckless trash rock fashion that permeates with a grimy elegance. An interesting move for a band that made a name for itself with a sound that was firmly rooted in indie pop understatement. In the peculiar case of Bunnygrunt, it is the dawning of a new era. If you firmly close the door to the St. Louis band’s eclectic past, the new full length Vol. 4 is their first release.
A slurred speech of Wild Gift era X, Sonic Youth and the Fastbacks relentlessly inebriates its compulsive blur throughout this eight song power-garage blast bender. Vol. 4 is the cracked Rosetta Stone of teenage slacker ingenuity. Making out while blacking out, the desperation you feel when you’re stuck between the ages of 18 and 21. The sound of vandalizing your best friend’s apartment complex while popping ecstasy with the girl next door in an uneasy euphoria. An addictive and unnerving journey with trace evidence of the Rezillos, Vaselines, and Hüsker Dü scattered along the dark path to wherever you want to go. Fade in or fade out but the angst ridden background boom will drown out the silence of people living in silence.
The track “I Quit, Mr. White” is an exceptional standout among this eccentric and euphonious chemical rearrangement of modern music. It has one of those melancholy melodies that rocks and haunts you at the same time. “Open My Eyes” and “Still Chooglin” cruise into overdrive with diabolical verse and chorus combos that crack like a lit match on lighter fluid. “The Book that I Wrote” and “Just Like Old Times” deliver solid hooks and crunchy instrumentation with the outcome being disheveled and instantly memorable. “Frankie is a Killer” is a choice cut among this collection for the sheer fact it sounds exactly like one of those obscure punk tracks from the infamous Killed By Death volumes.
On a final and tastefully stinging note, the band deviously sneaks a post-punk opus on the listener entitled “Chunt Bump”. At a duration of 7 minutes, you would expect some kind of pretentious filler. This track rocks purely and intelligently with harmonious disarrayed chords and tempo changes that actually blend into a beautiful lament of days gone by, insatiable cravings, and the state of being stuck. The composition builds into a Tubeway Army like finale and uses a repetition of eerily pretty notes to burrow its way into the center of your mind. After all, isn’t that what reality is? What exists in the center of our minds? Our memories and our perception define all, whether it really happened or not. The facts don’t matter but this record certainly does. Five stars out of five stars.
Sunday, July 12, 2015
The venomous surf swing of opening track “Groove’s Too Shallow” explodes with Sonics aggressiveness and a crushing vocal that stays soulful but beautifully menacing. “Love Like Crazy” comes next and hits with a classic Shangri-Las bebop that delivers the hooks and sophisticated grind of a musician in her prime. Jessica takes on electric bass duties for this recording after serious time plucking the upright with the legendary Dirt Daubers. In her first solo outing, she never flinches and the beat never gets stale.
One of my favorite cuts is the grindhouse go-go rocker “Lone Wolf”. The slicing punkabilly of Los Straitjackets guitar hero Eddie Angel is on fine display here and all throughout this sacrilicious Friday night high school dance of decadence. Closing tracks “Go Ahead Baby” and “Something’s Goin’ On” provide the perfect roadhouse finale with dirty luster, edgy melody, and a twisted pretty twang. This five song collection is a must-have and restores my faith in real down and dirty rock n roll that never forgets its swamp born evil blues roots. Jessica recently took the time to do an interview with me about her music and life. Check out her hot new video and read the interview below.
Who is Jessica Lee Wilkes and how would you describe yourself to someone unfamiliar with your illustrious background?
Well, I've been touring around the world with my other band, JD Wilkes & The Dirt Daubers, for the past five or six years and I've just recently stepped out on my own with this new EP. I'm writing, playing bass, and singing Rock 'n' Roll music. That's about it!
After playing in the Dirt Daubers for a solid amount of time, is it liberating or intimidating to be doing a solo act?
A little bit of both, but it feels like the right time for me. I don't know that I would have been ready before now. Playing in the Dirt Daubers has been a great education. I got to play on stage with some of my favorite musicians. That only makes you better.
How does the title of your record “Lone Wolf” describe your own attitude?
Aside from the obvious "solo career" thing, I guess you could say it sums me up! It's a bit cliche for an artsy-type to describe herself as an introverted loner, but, in my case, it's true! I was a weird little kid and I mostly kept to myself. It's kind of an anthem for me in that sense. It's difficult to be alone like that as a kid. As an adult, I've not only embraced it, but I'm making a living writing about my experiences. It's kind of redeeming.
When I heard “Groove’s Too Shallow”, it stopped me dead in my tracks with its menacing grind and edgy vocal. What inspired you to go for a more aggressive approach?
Well, cool! It's a fun tune to play! I never really made a conscious decision to take an "aggressive" approach. I just write and play what comes naturally. Maybe that means I have some deep-seated rage issues to deal with? Haha!
When did you first start playing bass, was it your first instrument of choice?
I've been playing bass for a little over two years. I started on the upright. It really was more out of necessity. The Dirt Daubers needed a bass player at the time so I bought an upright, and two weeks later I was playing it on stage. I don't recommend that, but we got through it!
What artists shaped your perspectives and style growing up?
As with most people, I listened to my parents’ record collection growing up. It was mostly classic rock stuff, The Rolling Stones, The Doors, etc. The one that really stood out to me was a John Lee Hooker record my dad had. It stopped me in my tracks and I started seeking out more blues music like Howlin' Wolf, and Muddy Waters. Those were the earliest influences on me.
What is the most intense form of music you listen to and what is the mellowest?
Well, it depends on what you mean by intense. If you mean heavier rock stuff, I dig AC/DC, ZZ Top, which I realize isn't that intense for most people. If by intense you mean in an emotional sense, I'd have to say soul singer, Lee Moses. His music breaks my heart. I consider that a pretty intense experience! As far as mellow goes, lately I've been digging on Steve Allen with Jack Kerouac. That's some pretty mellow stuff, right there!
Having spent so much time on the road, do you prefer life on tour or at home?
I need both in order to stay sane. If I'm home for too long of a stretch, I'll drive both myself and my poor husband crazy! If I'm on the road too long, it just wears me out and I'll start to hate it. It's definitely a balance thing.
Are there any current trends in modern music that bother you?
Well, aside from the overall lack of melody in most of what I hear on popular radio, I really can't stand the overly produced quality, i.e., vocoding and overuse of auto-tuning. I can even forgive that if there's a good, catchy, pop song underneath it all, but it's becoming very rare.
Is this just the beginning of your solo career or is it a one-time project?
It's just the beginning! I'm in it for the long haul.
Do you write all of the music and lyrics, where do most of your ideas come from?
Yes, typically. As far as the writing process goes, most of my ideas come in weird little fragments. I'll get a catchy melody line in my head, and then the lyrics seem to follow. I often wake up in the wee hours of the morning with an idea that I'll record on my phone. Sometimes it's terrible, other times it winds up as a song on the record. I'd say about two thirds of the song writes itself and comes together rather naturally. When it's time to record I'll sit down and start to arrange things, I might add a bridge, etc. It just depends on what the song needs.
If you could have one wish come true this year, what would it be?
Hm...I probably should say something that isn't completely selfish, but no, I wish for a moderate amount of success with this record. Nothing crazy, just enough traction to keep moving forward with this whole "touring musician" thing.
Where can fans find your new record and follow you online?
I'm on all the usual forms of social media:
Facebook as Jessica Lee Wilkes
Friday, June 19, 2015
Wrapped in Plastic wraps its smooth electro legs around you with an impulsive sexual ferocity. Like a mind blowing encounter with a mysterious woman you met a day ago that has to abruptly leave to catch her flight home. She obviously didn't tell you her secret and you're too caught up in the stranglehold-high to even care. Dark erotic melodies and grinding disco-dark waves drag you into a turbulent sea of lust, euphoria, and sultry contemplation on the latest full-length from the band known as BLiNDNESS.
Hesitant sordid fragments of feedback and sonic six string scratches breathe heavy within these mood altering alterations of modern song. Kicking and playfully screaming from start to finish, the seductive and wary vocals of Beth Rettig pull you into the sweet ruptured noise. She hones a twisted tone that combines Sleeper and The Stranglers into a steamy design of volatile unhinged harmony.
The band doesn't relent in its heavy post-punk bashing, keeping the core beat focused on heady rock grooves that pound with a static drenched street intelligence. This collection of instant erotic vertigo will make itself a mainstay on your playlist if you let yourself shoot up the uncut forbidden fruit of its dark wave death swing.
With a delicate influence of Siouxsie Sioux and My Bloody Valentine, Beth Rettig, Emma Quick, and Debbie Smith( Echobelly, Curve ) have created a feverish nine-song sleepwalk into the darkest pleasures of an endless summer night.
"No One Counts"
"Serves Me Right"
(available on Saint Marie Records July 24, 2015)
SAINT MARIE RECORDS
-Kevin McGovern (FEAR/LOATHING)