Friday, January 19, 2018

Teenage Frames - Still Pissed

For the first time in five years, we have new music from the Teenage Frames releasing today! In my book, this is one of the preeminent bands in the entire realm of punk inspired power pop. The group's recording history dates back to 1996 and has continued with infrequent but consistently great releases over the past decade or so. In fact, I'd say the band's last three EPs (including this one) are its finest releases to date. And while the band was on a lengthy hiatus for a number of years, the Frankie Delmane/Eric Vegas songwriting partnership always manages to pick right up where it left off. Still Pissed is the name of the EP as well as its lead track, and that sure sounds like a mission statement to me! Anyone living on this planet in 2018 would have plenty of reasons to be pissed. That can either get you down or totally fire you up, and clearly the Teenage Frames have chosen the latter option. "Still Pissed" is unashamedly Ramones-inspired and a true declaration that this is a band that still has something to say and a whole lot to offer. Then comes "She Knows"- a pop song so perfect that I doubt it will be topped by anyone in 2018. It pretty epitomizes everything I love about this band, coupling driving upbeat music and an irresistible sing-along chorus with bummer lyrics that just about anyone can relate to. "So Mean" is a little more on the rockin' side but still boasts a knockout hook. And to finish the record, "Don't Tell Me What To Do" is more great power pop/rock that ought to have you singing along instantly.

Ever since the turn of the century, the Teenage Frames have concentrated entirely on releasing music in small doses. That "all killer, no filler" approach really suits the talents of a band so skilled at turning out brilliant pop songs. Essentially this is one of the great singles bands of my generation. If you went over to Bandcamp and bought the band's three most recent EPs, you could compile them into a single album that rivals just about any power pop LP from the last ten years. Between Still Pissed and the new Number Ones EP, the bar for great pop in 2018 has been set very high!


Monday, January 15, 2018

Stiff Love - Trouble

Any time there's a band recommendation in my inbox from Greg Mongroll, I am absolutely paying special attention. Over the years, he's turned me on to everyone from The Cry to Mystery Date to Patsy's Rats. So when he advised me to look into Stiff Love, I knew I was not going to be disappointed. Trouble is actually the second release from this foursome out of Olympia, Washington. The band also released a really fantastic tape last year titled For the Whole Family. If you're unfamiliar with Stiff Love as I was, you may be pleased to discover that Xtine from Beta Boys and Lysol is on guitar/vocals and Claudia from The Vitamens is on drums. Rounding out the lineup are Dahlia on guitar and Elysa on bass. I freaking love this record! It reminds me of what I always imagined punk rock should be back before I really knew what it was. I love the rawness of these songs, and that guitar tone is just perfect. The title track is an absolute breakneck ripper, while "Up In Your Room" is another standout propelled by tremendous urgency and really interesting guitar work. If you're looking for some straight-up killer punk rock, this EP along with the aforementioned tape are mandatory purchases. Do not miss the track "I Don't Mind Committing Crime". An instant punk classic!


Friday, January 12, 2018

Bikini Cops - Three

Drunken Sailor Records just can't stop firing out the hits! At the rate it's going, this label will eventually sign every great punk band on the planet! As if the new Booji Boys record wasn't already enough, the latest release from Perth's Bikini Cops will give you an ear-ramming you won't soon forget. Three is the band's third EP, and it comes at you with six quick hits of fast and ferocious punk rock that beg to be played at wall-shaking volume levels. There are no doubt hints of the Aussie punk tradition in these blazing tracks. But first and foremost I'm catching the influence of early Black Flag. The band brings it hard and furiously, with five of six songs not even coming close to the two-minute mark. I dig hearing a band that plays like it's intent on destroying anything and everything in its path. Combine that with a singer who yells every word like he really means it, and you've got yourself some essential hardcore punk. Ya gotta love it!


Wednesday, January 10, 2018

The Number Ones - Another Side of The Number Ones

What a tremendous pleasure it is to have new music from The Number Ones! The Dublin foursome was the toast of the power pop world from 2012-14, releasing two perfect singles and a brilliant debut album. It has been a long three year wait for new recordings from The Number Ones, but now we happily receive a new EP called Another Side of The Number Ones. I had to wonder what the 2018 version of the band would sound like. The group nailed that Good Vibrations Records scruffy powerpop/punk sound so splendidly on its original run that there was no point in settling for more of the same. Fortunately, musical progression for The Number Ones did not involve turning away from timeless power pop. The band's command of radio-worthy choruses and memorable melodies has never been sharper. Lead track "Lie To Me" has been live on Bandcamp for a few weeks. As soon as I heard it, I knew that The Number Ones were as devoted as ever to crafting the kinds of songs that you wish they still played on the radio. "Lie To Me" reminds me quite a bit of the mighty Exploding Hearts as well as modern-day pop greats like The Cry. In a just world, it would be a massive hit. On "Long Way To Go" and "You're So Happy I Could Cry", you can hear the band turning to the classic sounds of the '60s for inspiration, yet still finding a way to make it all sound fresh. To close the EP, "Breaking Loose" is a textbook slice of power pop: strong on hooks, with the punch to match.

Another Side of The Number Ones is available from Static Shock Records in the U.K. and Sorry State Records in the U.S.A. It's a very fine addition to an already stunning discography. I appreciate that The Number Ones have managed to mature as an outfit without having to fundamentally change what they're about. And what are they all about? Great pop songs! Let's hope that they will keep writing them for many years to come!


Tuesday, January 9, 2018

Proto Idiot - Leisure Opportunity

My quest to acknowledge the best releases I didn't get around to reviewing in 2017 could last for months if I really went all-out. But if I had that kind of time, I would have already reviewed all of this stuff in the first place! With that in mind, I'm trying to focus on the releases from last year that I'm most embarrassed to have missed. In that category is Leisure Opportunity, the latest album from Manchester, U.K.'s Proto Idiot. It was released in November on Slovenly Recordings, so I suppose this review could qualify as "almost" timely. Proto Idiot features Andrew Anderson of The Hipshakes on guitar and vocals along with Callum Darley (drums) and Michael Seal (bass). Anderson's work in this band allows him to step a little outside of the garage realm and really embrace a fondness for the arty side of '77 Brit-punk and musical strangeness in general. On this album, Anderson again proves himself to be a witty lyricist and a wonderfully playful songwriter. Songs like "Better Way of Life" and "Do It the Same" hit that Wire/Buzzcocks minimalist punk sweet spot, while "What Is My Purpose?" suggests what Devo might have sounded like if they'd been English. I like that "Yes Yes Yes Yes" is super weird yet totally irresistible. And "Angry Vision" is a definite highlight, sounding like a weirdo punk re-write of Vicki Sue Robinson's disco smash "Turn The Beat Around" (yeah, really!).

You may already be familiar with Freak Genes - Andrew Anderson's brilliant collaboration with Charlie Murphy. If you liked the Freak Genes record, you'll dig Leisure Opportunity as well. These "side" projects really show different dimensions of Anderson's musical talent, and that growth seems to be bleeding a little into The Hipshakes' music as well. If you like your punk music full of quirks and distinctively British humor, you're about to discover a real gem!


Monday, January 8, 2018

Boys Order - Do The Wildcat

Do you love pop? I mean, do you really love pop? If so, Boys Order is definitely the band for you! This trio from Osaka, Japan has released its long-awaited debut album on Secret Mission Records. It's called Do The Wild Cat, and it's a full half-hour of the catchiest and most unrelentingly fun music you could ever hope to hear. Boys Order have a significant pedigree in the Japanese garage/punk world, with singer/bassist Chihiro Isadora having previously played in Radio Shanghai and Prambath. The band also features members of Thee Bossmen and Teenage Lust. It was back in 2014 that Secret Mission released the band's fantastic debut single, which created quite a build-up for this full-length debut. I have to say that Do The Wild Cat is everything I hoped for and more! Boys Order are very up front about what they're about. They're as pop as pop can be, exhibiting a particular fondness for the punk/powerpop/new wave of the late '70s and early '80s. Think Nikki and the Corvettes, Rezillos, The Stripes, etc., and you're totally in the ballpark. Boys Order take those influences and add their own touch - with a delivery that's jagged and frantic enough to align the band with the best of modern-day Japanese garage punk. Do The Wild Cat will have you bouncing off the walls from the get-go, with energy to burn and hooks in abundance. Songs like "Midnight Triangle", "Party! Party! Party!", and the high-spirited title track fire off like bubblegum-fueled rockets. Even the most cynical and joyless person in the world would be hard-pressed to resist cracking a smile and tapping the old toes upon hearing "Blue Blue Red". I'm not sure what "Kill Old Self" is about, but I have been singing it to myself for days. And when the band pulls back a little on the pace, songs like "Riverside Walk" and "Out of Sight Out of Mind" prove to be wonderful examples of pure pop, new wave style.

There's something about Japanese power pop bands that sets them apart from their counterparts throughout the world. And I'm not just talking about the obvious vocal differences. I cannot quite put my finger on the distinctive characteristics of Japanese power pop. But Boys Order exemplify them well. This is a band with very obvious inspirations, but what it does with them is absolutely unique and wonderful. Buy Do The Wild Cat and prepare to get hopped up on pop!


Thursday, January 4, 2018

The Red Cords - "Gonna Find My Baby"

Now is that time where I try and catch up on some great stuff from last year that I have not yet reviewed. For this particular piece of unfinished business, I will tackle perhaps my most egregious omission of 2017. The Red Cords are the pride of Falmouth, U.K. "Gonna Find My Baby" is, I believe, the band's third single. Given my admiration for Charlie Murphy's other musical endeavors (Freak Genes, Murph & The Gazorpos), it's no surprise that I had "Gonna Find My Baby" earmarked for review this past fall. But then I kept putting it off and putting it off, and here we are nearly eight months after the release date. Shame! But it's never too late to discover great music, and the digital version of this release is still a red-hot bargain at £2! "Gonna Find My Baby" is wonderful primitive rock n' roll straddling the worlds of garage and punk. It's everything a great trash-rock A-side ought to be: wild, catchy, and guaranteed to set you off on a spree of furiously hyperactive activity. You'd probably need a couple of energy drinks to equal the jolt this tune provides. Potential side effects include dizziness from excessive dancing and ear damage from cranking up the volume so loud. On the flip, "Bad Moon Brain" is the closest you can get to first album Ramones without trying to sound like the Ramones. Brilliant! At a total running time of two minutes, 51 seconds, this single demands to be played over and over.

"Gonna Find My Baby" is available from Murphy's own Nerve Centre Records. It may very well have been my #1 single of 2017 if I had paid attention just a little bit sooner. On the list of the great failings of my adult life, my procrastination on this review ranks way up there. What a perfect punk record!