Saturday, December 27, 2008

Friday, December 26, 2008

The Paisley Umbrella's Top Ten for 2008

The Paisley Umbrella's Top Ten Albums of 2008,


Out of nearly 90 reviews this year, here's my top 10. I thoroughly enjoyed listening and writing about everyone, but a whole list would be a little too much. Enjoy.

The Stems

Heads Up!
Shock Records
Available in the US and Canada through Get Hip Distribution

The Stems made some great neo garage music in the mid '80s and then broke up to form other bands such as The Someloves, Chevelles, DM3, and a few others. Heads up! finds Dom Mariani, Richard Lane, Julian Matthews,, and Dave Shaw doing something that's brillaint and seems effortless for them. Guitar driven, melodic powerpop, but much edgier. For some, Heads Up! is a reminder of how much we missed. For others, an introduction to the incredible talents of Dom and Richard. Seeing them live and getting a chance to meet them at South By Southwest this year was a life changing event. For many of you who were lucky enough to see them or at least, heard them for the first time this year, you might feel the same. Go Here for a full review of Heads Up!


The Contrast

Perfect Disguise: Introducing The Contrast
Wicked Cool Records

Middleborough's The Contrast occupy their own space. It's hard to say what they sound like. One hears traces of early REM, Tom Petty, and Paul Weller with their six-string Rickenbacker sound which is so central to the music, but the song timing is odd at times (especially evident on previous releases like Forget To Tell The Time, the song structures different, and on top of that, it's highly polished powerpop. The result is that The Contrast are incredibly distinctive and don't really "sound" like anyone else, but the music remains catchy and accessible. The Contrast is well off the beaten path. Read the original review of Perfect Disguise here.


John Doe

A Year In The Wilderness
Yep Roc Records

I couldn't figure out why I loved this so much. This one really gets a hold of you and pulls you in. It works as a whole piece of work. John Doe is simply incredible, but his history sets the backdrop for his music: L.A. Punk, American music, incredible songwriting. "Hotel Ghost" is haunting, "Golden State" is strangely uplifting but not optimistic, "The Meanest Man In The World" is a pure illustration, "Darling Underdog", which had lyrics that Exene contributed, is just beautiful. A Year In The Wilderness rocks with pure heart and soul. Amazing.


The Fleshtones

Take A Good Look
Yep Roc Records

2008 was the year of The Fleshtones. These guys invented Super Rock, a genre of loud, fun rock 'n' roll that's takes roots from just about every influential three chord rock band and made it fun again. Their songs range from loud and fun ("Shiny Hiney") to a deep Kinks feel ("This Time Josephine") and still retain a sound and feel that's pure Fleshtones. They toured endlessly to support Take A Good Look. Hopefully, most of you finally did. For a full review of Take A Good Look, Go Here.


The Shake

Tripping The Whole Colorful World
Flor Y Nata
Available in the US and Canada through Rainbow Quartz Records

Gijon neo garage rockers The Shake are relatively unknown compared to other '60s inspired bands from Spain. Tripping The Whole Colorful World is a true gem of psychedelic '60s pop that's both melodic and basic at the same time. One hears a lot of Beatles For Sale on the album, but with stronger hints of psychedelic and a heavy soul base. This is a Wonderful find for anyone who loves '60s rock/soul and early psych. At the present time, their new album is complete but release is delayed for unknown reasons. Once you hear Tripping The Whole Colorful World, it will open up a new world. Let's hope we hear more from The Shake in 2009. Go here for their full review.


The Love Me Nots

Detroit
Atomic A Go Go Records
Also
Available in the US and Canada through Get Hip Distribution. Also available in "Farfisa Cream" Vinyl (inquire about availability before ordering)

The Love Me Nots are an ultimate combination of mod, surf, and cool. It's loud! Michael Johny Walker wails some seriously loud surf guitar, Nicole Laurienne packs a vocal dominance that will not only force people to listen, but will make you hang on her every word. Current band members Kyle Rose Stokes on bass and Vince Ramirez (former members Christina Nunez on bass and Jay Lien on drumes for the album recording) on drums round out a top notch combo that's perfect fuzz and farfisa go go, but much louder and tighter than expected. Jim Diamond at Detroit's legendary Ghetto Recorders puts in the knob duties that round out Detroit into an ultimate mod garage tome that's pure mod/surf/garage perfection. Additionally, they've turned down offers from popular garage rock labels in favor of controlling their own destiny, but that's no surprise once one hears them. They're too good to be held down. Check out the full review of Detroit here.


Los Peyotes

Cavernicola
No Fun Records as well as Get Hip Distribution

Listening to Los Peyotes is as much fun as once could possibly have listenint to music. Although originally released in 2005, Cavernicola is now available for the first time in the US. Not only that, but it's available in vinyl and it's worth it just for the vintage type album cover. Los Peyotes are loud cavemen that wield surfy, loud garage rock in all its primitive glory. Not to be passed up.


Paul Collins Beat

Ribbon of Gold
RockIndiana
Get Hip Recordings in the US and Canada

Great, simple, catchy songs that have their own voice and are instantly likeable created by a powerpop icon. Plenty of hints at brilliance from the guy who wrote "Hanging ON The Telephone" on "I Still Want You" and "She Doesn't Want To Hang Around With You", slices of jingle jangle Americana on the title track, and much more. There's no such thing as powerpop without Paul Collins Beat
Go Here for the full CD review.


Thee Vicars

Back On The Streets
Dirty Water Records
Available US and Canada through Get Hip Distribution

Thee Vicars are the undeniable truth of the statemaent "Look what you've created!" They're as much the bastard children of Pete Shelley as they are of Iggy Pop, Billy Childish, and '60s garage rock bands like The Chocolate Watchband. Heavy garage rock played through the brains of teenagers bent on playing loud and snotty. Thee Vicars will take over the world. Read all about them here.


The Ugly Beats

Take A Stand With
Get Hip Recordings

Austin's The Ugly Beats create an infectious mix of up and midtempo hits that lie somewhere inbetween the garage/powerpop forebearing sounds of the legendary Easybeats, some vintage surf, and the more subdued, melodic sounds of The Byrds and L.A. folk rock heroes Love. Take A Stand With is as close as one might get to real '60s rock and this band has made its mark on great rock 'n' roll for years to come. Go Here to meet Jason, Joe, Jeanine, Jake, and JSteve. With the great music in their veins and pouring out of them, it's no wonder that they're the darlings of Get Hip Recordings.



NOTE: Narrowing nearly 90 reviews down to ten was not an easy task. There are so many of you out there that I had the chance to listen to and write about. For those of you not on the list, I can't thank you enough for contributing, but if I name one, I'd have to name everyone and that's a very, very long list! For the most part, I've lived up to my goals. However, there are a few of you out there who I owe reviews to for this year, such as The Hosts, The Jungle Rockers, The Luxury Sweets, and a handful of others. I want to thank those of you not reviewed yet for your patience and understanding. I've written at least 2 reviews per week since I started reviewing in February. It's a hobby and I love doing it, but for a host of different reasons, not everyone got their say yet. This is it for 2008, but I'll have a month or so to catch up with everyone listed as well as some material from great artists that I've recently received. Starting in mid-February, the focus will shift to bands playing the 2009 South by Southwest Festival. The number of reviews I've done combined with those yet to be done is proof of what I've said all along: The Best rock 'n' roll is being made today! The Paisley Umbrella is here not only to spread the word about it, but to catch as many bands as possible and write about them since our information age produces such an overload that a lot of great things fall outside of people's radars. I hope many of you have discovered not only great new bands, but older ones that you might not have had a good listening to the first time around. I love writing about great rock 'n' roll and am lucky to have a growing number of readers and friends. I'm taking a well earned break until January. May you all have a Paisley/Psychedelic/Garage/Rock 'n' Roll, but most of all, a very Happy New Year!


Cheers and Thank You,

Michael from The Paisley Umbrella

Thursday, December 25, 2008

Thee Vicars Are Back On The Streets!

Thee Vicars

Back On The Streets
Dirty Water Records
Available US and Canada through Get Hip Distribution


Along come Thee Vicars, a band not yet out of their teens from the shit town Bury St. Edmunds. They're loud, snotty, and play loud garage punk rock 'n' roll! That's enough for you to go get it, but I'll tell you a little more. Their Dirty Water Records debut Back On The Streets is a celebration of controlled rock 'n' roll noise from start to finish. Although one would hasten to call it garage punk, but garage and punk. It's garage rock with an obnoxious, '70s punk rock attitude. Truthfully, that sounds too academic. "Introducing Thee Vicars" is a chaotic free-for-all of surf guitars, crashing cymbals, and howls from the depths. If ideas of what is good rock 'n' roll can actually be set to music, this is a perfect illustration. Not hard, but finally, someone has the guts to do it. Leave it to the kids to remind us that we're too old! The title track is raw and highlighted with a lot of tasty r & b styled guitar riffs from lead guitar Reuben Kemp. "Why Have You Changed" is just raw and dirty. It would have been cool to hear Mike Whittaker's vocals a little louder, but it's rock 'n' roll that sounds live, setbacks included instead of studio manipulation. "Mindless Squares" is classic garage rock with a short beat, but the tambourine and occasional crashing cymbals from Jasper Kemp range from inventing one's own add-ins to the beat to something out of the book of Animal. "Budget Rock" is great! It's got a faster beat and bass from Mike Whittaker to make the song feel like nothing less than a good '70s British punk kick in the ass, only with more distortion, which results in the rebellion being music, not a message. "Small Town Blues" is almost minimalist with its searing guitar solo and not much blues, but more of a "fuck you!"

"Back On The Streets" has 16 songs. I'm not going to go through all of them, but the overall impression is that Thee Vicars have to be the most talented bunch of obnoxious, snotty kids to come along, but the recording is a little schizophrenic as a stereo recording done in low fidelity, as if Thee Vicars are too fucking good musically but don't want to admit it. However, the sound itself feels like a live show. As much as so many bands over the years have attempted to duplicate the live sound, the distortion on the recording actually does sound live because it's so static and the compromises in hearing what Mike whittaker is trying to say or Reuben's lead guitar sounding louder on tracks like "They Lied To You" just aren't important, although the refrain on it is just perfect! The honest truth is that maybe Thee Vicars have come to play and they don't care if you can hear what they're saying since your ears are going to be too occupied with them already. Besides Mike screams like Iggy did and hasn't done since "TV Eye". The album also has plenty of songs where everything comes together like the double fuzz guitar wail of "I'll Hunt You Down" or the bass heavy "I Don't Wanna Be Like You", which could be a long awaited response to those who used to think "I hope I die before I get old." It's telling many of us that we are old. Sigh.

This is a great time for rock 'n' roll. There is a greater number of awesome garage rock bands out there, but Back On The Streets feels like a warning that Thee Vicars are here, they don't need to be schooled, and they're just getting started. Older, more experienced bands will love them too, but knowing that these guys are going to replace them. Afterall, rock 'n' roll is rebellion, it's for the young. Rock 'n' roll has some simple requirements: It should be loud and it should piss off your parents. So when was the last time we heard something that did those things? A long time, right? Everything is a target market. Punk is for profit. Rebellion is packaged. You can buy Clash shirts at the mall (we miss you, Joe Strummer (21 August 1952–22 December 2002)). In truth, very few things come along these days that grab us by the yarbles and shake us furiously out of ourselves. That's what rock 'n' roll should do. Thee Vicars do that louder than anyone I've heard in a long time, but the beats are way older and the melodies basic on songs like "The Dreaded Day Job" that it's garage rock with straight punk rock attitude and volume. There's no mod coolness here, just older, basic garage rock songs that have more volume, distortion, and rebellion in the noise than anything out there considered "garage rock", but the talent is undeniable. Even on songs like "Leavin' Here" (not the cover), which has a familiar melody that's been duplicated by many for years, Thee Vicars throw it on the floor and take turns kicking it into submission as their own invention.

Back On The Streets is rock 'n' roll. Loud, obnoxious, based on old stuff beaten up in to something new. It's music to piss off your parents, although most of us don't live with them anymore (I hope). Buy it anyway. You'll want your parents to hear it just so you can feel young again.

I Don't Wanna Be Like You









Back On The Streets









Absinthe with Thee Vicars

Back On The Streets is available from Dirty Water Records
and the US and Canada through Get Hip Distribution

Saturday, December 20, 2008

"Tis The Season For Cavernicola!

Los Peyotes

Cavernicola
No Fun Records

One just can't get enough of Los Peyotes! Fuzz, surf guitar, pure caveman garage rock all the way; teeth necklaces included! Luckily, not only did they release Introducing Los Peyotes(Go here to read the review), a fine collection of recordings from 2001 to 2008 on Dirty Water Records, Their 2005 dubut Cavernicola has been reissued and available for the first time outside of Argentina by No Fun Records! Additionally, it is the first time Cavernicola! is available on vinyl. The opening "I Caveman And You" is garage punk in all its frenzy: A simple blues base, a farfisa, lots of fuzz, and lead screamer David Peyote singing like an obsessed madman driven by only a basic urge to get with a girl. Primitive indeed! "Fuego" (Arthur Brown) is a little more basic, but Victor "La Pantera" takes lead with an all out '60s organ and enough swirls of it to make anyone spin in a frenzy. "Cry Baby" is slow and shares more of a '60s garage tone taken from The Seeds with plenty of fuzz. "Mocker" intoduces an older, basic garage rock sound with harmonica, but the tempo changes are impressive and Rolando Bruno's guitar ranging from tight and surfy to full garage punk chords is nothing less than impressive. In fact, everyone in Los Peyotes sound like garage rock/punk experts that it's really hard to make distinctions on who takes lead roles because everyone is loud and taking the lead. This is kind of a rare thing since great garage rock is all about the beat, being noisy, and having fun, but Los Peyotes deliver the '60s can of goods better than most. Although there's an overemphasis on Electric Prunes style fuzz is on "Satanic Rite", one could equally say that the organ sets the mood or that Pablo Bam Bam lives up to his name by taking every opportunity to play along with each musical part instead of just the beat, which was also something said often about Keith Moon.

One of the two songs on Cavernicola that made it onto Introducing... was "El Humo Te Hace Mal", which effortlessly encourages crowd participation to sing along, but the song also has guitar that's closest to surf guitar with lots of tremolo and David screams and howls his way in perfect time, even down to the first refrain, where his cough really sounds like it belongs in the song! Inevitably, debut albums have their share of covers. Among those on Cavernicola is the Mancini/Lord Sutch "Jack The Ripper", which is the best take on the the song to date with it's ghoulish laughs, fuzz, and Oscar Hechomierda's almost punk bass intro. "Te Pegare" has a Latin beat hint as well as some fancier flamenco style electric guitar playing, but it's still garage rock in all its troglodyte glory of howls and beats, while "The Brotherhood" is a nothing less than primitive r & b garage punk. In fact, that's what one always gets with Los Peyotes. They're proof that '60s garage rock is here to stay and they do it better than most. I'm sure every garage band started off trying to play "Wild Thing" and "The Witch", so it's no surprise that Los Peyotes would have one of those songs on their debut. The tempo is faster and the vocals are desperate, but it's in a slightly higher key than the original and it's a lot more fun to sing along to, even if some of they lyrics are indecipherable from the original song, which only make it sound more fun. Also, there's a b movie type, eerie keyboard track at the end of the cover that further illustrates the band's mastery of all things '60s garage punk. The bonus track is another Sonics song, Psycho. The addition of Farfisa on the song give it a good '60s go-go groove and is more than an honorable interpretation.

For all the cliches and standard instruments, look, feel and sound that epitomizes '60s garage rock and punk, Los Peyotes are it. They're authentic but sound never serious, which makes the music loud and fun. If anything Cavernicola is proof that the best garage rock and punk is being made today. Their stuff is simply essential in its mix of '60s garage like The Seeds, The Electric Prunes, some darker elements that lean towards The Fuzztones and other '80s neo garage acts, and some loud and lonely r & b. Los Peyotes are just too fucking good for anyone to pass up. Additionally, it's got great cover art and the inside cover painting of the band is worth the price alone for the vinyl version. However, Cavernicola on vinyl is selling pretty fast right now.


Fuego









Jack The Ripper









When I Arrive









Cavernicola is a available directly from No Fun Records as well as Get Hip Distribution

Friday, December 19, 2008

The BAcksliders: You're Welcome. Texas Rock 'n' Roll

The BAckliders

You're Welcome
Unsigned

Texas has a long history as a home for rock 'n' roll that dates back all the way to Buddy Holly. Although it's not always easy to pin down, a lot of bands from The Lonestar State sound uniquely Texan, no matter what genre they or others choose to categorize them in. In many cases I can think of, the "Texas Sound" has to do with adding key elements of genres together. Buddy Holly could be the primary example of playing rock 'n' roll that had a country base to it. Dallas band The BAcksliders are a good case in point: Powerpop, but still Texan. Their new release You're Welcome is a good showcase of Powerpop mixed with classic rock and blues elements. It's not too much of a stretch for powerpop since a lot of it is rooted in what can be generally termed as American Music, so it's not a confusing mix of elements, but a very cohesive one. The BAcksliders came to existence out of vocalist Kim Pendleton from Vibrolux, her husband Chris Bonner from Sons of Sound, and backed with a solid rhythm section made up of Nolan Theis on bass from Little Black Dress and Taylor Young on drums from Young Heart Attack and Polyphonic Spree. The resulting The BAcksliders is a band that has a solid sound that lacks rawness due to the professional experience of their members, but it also results in a solid approach to powerpop that shares elements of new wave, British Invasion, and just a hint of blues. The opening "You're Gonna Miss Me" falls somewhere between Elvis Costello's once controversial "Radio Radio", but with a catchy, repetitive chorus in the vein of "Dreaming" by Blondie. Kim's voice veers from smoothness to a rock 'n' roller's seasoned slight scratchiness, but the background vocals create a fun, new wave feel. "Typically I Don't Mind" takes Chrissy Hynde's style of a strong, faster beat and keeping the guitar as secondary to everything else. That style is perhaps one of the basic styles that defined new wave by re-emphasizing the beat and rhythm that cause many to consider certain new wave bands as making rock 'n' roll fun again. You're Welcome sticks to that basic approach mostly on songs like "I Got Mine". Other offerings such as "Under The Moonlight" take a Smiths take hear and there with a deeper guitar intro and powerchords, but it's a little bit refreshing in steering clear of MOrissey's self loathing. One thing noticable about You're Welcome is how the songs don't have gaps, which results in a certain continuity and given that the songs are so short and keep a basic approach, it's hard sometimes to make out where the songs end until the tempos change. One of the results is that "Under The Moonlight" goes right into "Now They Know", but the initial impression is that it's a melody change and chorus as an end to the previous song.

"Pass On All Your Fears", the first slow song, is a modern rock/blues tome that sounds like it was meant for everyone's moments of post breakup self loathing and solo drinking in a dark and smokey bar. Another surprise is "Fat Girls", with a hint of southern swagger that beats along to "Jumpin' Jack Flash" that's sure to please. The following "Disguise" is a strong, pumping song with flashes of The Gift era Jam, but a bass melody that's a little deeper and took a while to pin down and reminiscent of "Don't Go Back To Rockville". The material is pretty basic and familiar, but it's solid and fun. Despite strongly reconized formulas for You're Welcome, it doesn't mean that The BAcksliders lack originality. We all know how music styles have their basic formulas, so when one has a group of seasoned veterans doing a particular style, it's likely to end up sounding a lot like well known influences, which results in no big surprises, but a guarantee of good rock 'n' roll, nonetheless. The Texan in The BAcksliders comes straight through on the acoustic/country of "someone Has Broken". It's a little of a diversion, but a good one.

You're Welcome is full of strong rock songs that continue with "Serves You Right", which stands out a little more than other songs on the album in that it cannot be placed anywhere, but if there's one thing that many agree on, it's just fun rock 'n' roll with plenty of hooks and a beat you can dance to. One even catches Memphis Blues and echoes of Roy Orbison on "Cry" that is familiar and great. If one loves rock 'n' roll, one just "gets it" and doesn't pay much attention to something being punk, classic, new wave, garage, or whatever. There comes a time just to let it go, see some rock 'n' roll, and have fun. The BAcksliders don't fit into anything but rock 'n' roll. They're powerpop, classic rock, and hints of blues. Not earth shaking, but it will definitely catch you with your guard down and dancing along. They're playing December 19th at Austin's legendary Hole In The Wall, a dive that lives up to its name in size and atmosphere, which has seen everyone from Mojo Nixon, Drive By Truckers, Sons of Hercules, and even Laika and The Cosmonautspass through their doors. It's a place where the college crowd mixes with the old townies and all types. Nobody really cares about distinctions there. They want to hear some rock 'n' roll and kick back a few pitchers. The BAcksliders will fit in perfectly.

Fat Girls





CDs available at www.thebacksliders.com

Tourdates:

Dec 19 2008 10:00P Hole in the Wall Austin, Texas
Dec 20 2008 10:00P Double Wide with Hello Lover and White Drugs (Denton) Dallas, Texas
Dec 31 2008 9:00P New Years Eve at Lee Harvey’s Dallas, Texas
Mar 7 2009 9:00P VZD’s Oklahoma City, Oklahoma

Saturday, December 13, 2008

Gerry Alvarez (Gruesomes) Odyssey: Candy Prankster is Colorful Fuzz!

The Gerry Alvarez Odyssey

Candy Prankster
Ricochet Records and USA through Get Hip Distribution

Who knew that a punk fuzz purist would go completely psychedelic? Founding member/guitarist/singer for Canadian garage kings The Gruesomes created Gerry Alvarez Odyssey and made Candy Prankster in between time with them, and it's quite a contrast. The album has hints of psychedelic pop intertwined with dense, upbeat melodies. The title track has a heavy fuzz riff as an intro, but it's psych rock done with mostly chords. It's really interesting that there's little "psychedelic" effects, and no 12 string guitars. Just a basic song with a good fuzz riff and some great rhythm guitar that's both melodic and fuzzy. In compliment to the guitars that punch in like alternating bursts of colors, one's only left to consider the meaning of "Ratty desert is so dry, hushback clouds are in the sky, candy prankster takes you high". It's not really a trip, but an alternate reality without the hassle of the traveling. "The Prophet" is a little less of a freakout, but it has some nice licks that seem to be an inspiration from George Harrison's "Something". It's easy to say a song sounds like the Beatles, but George was the better guitarist of them, so it's more than complimentary. Can psychedelic rock be a bad trip? Not really. If it were, it would be called crap and not psychedelic rock. "It's Only Just A Dream" breaks the mold because it gives a vivid description of what sounds like a bad trip with "The sky is melting, slowly, it catches in the rainfall, a crowd is standing lonely, the hang their heads inside behind the wall", but the music has plenty of rough fuzz that alternates into acoustic refrains during the chorus, which also has great vocal harmonies. This one's pretty special, but hints start to come in of playing tapes backwards that are obviously Revolver inspired. Then again, we know how this works. Great rock 'n' roll steals from the past, but it's done right when it's stolen from the best. Additionally, it's been an awful long time since someone had the ambition to do that. Great song.

"Fly By Night" takes a little of a straightforward approach, but it relies on the overall theme of Candy Prankster of melodic fuzz songs that are both hard with a pop edge. That's a lot to say. I'm not sure anyone else created something out of those elements. Other standouts are "Urban Shaman", which is lush, but has a slight air of droning much like later works from The Church. "Heaven" is amazing! One is going to feel the obvious inspiration from "Tomorrow Never Knows", but Gerry deeper voice sounds better and has an air of authority. Not only that, but the solo guitar is great and the rhythm guitar feels like a droning, Tibetan chant, which John Lennon originally intented on "Tomorrow Never Knows", but "Heaven" is more convincing in using the effect that's it's hypnotic and mesmerizing, although it might carry a stronger attraction than it's inspiration since the perspective is Western instead of Eastern. Gerry Alvarez also shows a talent for deeper, electric folk music on "Universal Man", which relies on a more country like guitar at times that eventually intertwine with full powerchords to become a loud but still slow rock song. "In The Garden" is obviously similar to "I Am The Walrus" but with stronger vocal harmonies and a background that's psychedelic and instrumental, but the strings aren't as prominent.

Candy Prankster makes no bones about it's inspiration in John Lennon and his early psychedelic period, but the album somehow remains nearly "all about the fuzz" and therefore, has a heavy guitar chord base that is almost always loud and takes the lead, as in reminding one that it's still a culmination of '60s garage influences set to possibly more thoughtful songwriting, although the sky takes a common theme not only on "Is It Just A Dream" and "Heaven", but also "Open Up Your Mind" in its spaceship effects that are definitely somewhere off the ground, while "Time In Motion" causes the thought of anticipating the opening lyric "When the rain comes", but it suddenly feels more abrasive and eventually only shares the affinity to "Rain" with its prominent bass melody. It's also less pop friendly than "Rain" in that it has just a hint of being a little bit disturbing. "The Trail" is a perfect ending in it's gentler tempo that almost sings the listener "goodnight" by the image of riding off into the sunset that has a greater expanse as "a deep, dark ocean." Gerry Alvarez Odyssey take a big leap on Candy Prankster by putting the fuzz into deep psychedlic rock. In truth, "the fuzz" has always been a crucial ingredient to psychedelic rock more than garage rock. In conclusion, they put the fuzz BACK into it! The result is a creative, rock 'n' roll landscape deep in psychedelia but minus the 12 string Rick-o-sound. It's simultaneously basic and heavy pure fuzz all the way. After all, one can't take The Gruesomes out of a Gruesome, but The Gruesomes have a few tricks up their sleeves and Gerry Alvarez Odyssey will get you fuzzed up with Candy Prankster! Like anything great and fuzzy, turn it up to get the full effect.

Candy Prankster





Candy Prankster is available directly from Ricochet Records in Canada and USA through Get Hip Distribution. There's a free download of the companion pressbook The Gerry Alvarez Odyssey: Traveller's Vision, that has photos, articles, and so much more. Even better is the book Candy Prankster: A collection of short stories, drawings, lyrics, poems, and photos that's available as a hardcover book.

Other Gruesomes members Bobby Beaton and John Davis have their own side project, Fuad & The Feztones. Their music is r & b/early fratrock, Boogaloo your socks off music that's as fun as their name suggests. If you'd like to learn more about them and join in on building The Beeramid, there's more info Here. It's also available available directly from Ricochet Records in Canada and USA through Get Hip Distribution.

Friday, December 12, 2008

The Fleshtones: Stocking Stuffer and Vindicated: A Tribute To The Fleshtones!

The Fleshtones

Stocking Stuffer
Yep Roc

It's hard to write an introduction for The Fleshtones since by now, these hardworking guys from Hitsburg are getting their due and gaining the growing number of fans and praise that they always deserved. However, many of those numbers are the new converted who are likely kicking themselves over not knowing about them for the 26 or so years they've existed. Not only are The Fleshtones among the best, if not the funnest live act, but they have an extensive catalog, most of which is out of print, although one can always add a comment to the bottom of this review begging for those great albums to be given new lives in reissues. Not to worry, though. The past few years have definitely been the second coming for these Super Rock heroes, so as a holiday treat to all of us, we get the second release of the year in the nine song hurrah of Stocking Stuffer, a collection of originals and holiday covers that's nothing short of all the great stuff that we expect from The Fleshtones. Afterall, with that name, we all know it's gonna rock!

The opening "Hooray For Santa Claus" from the 1964 motion picture Santa Claus Conquers The Martians is loud and elated. One's sure to be singing along to the "We Spell" cheer by the second call. However, the movie is known by some to be the worst movie ever made and on par with the work of Ed Wood. Leave it to The Fleshtones to give a song from a C movie into something great. The followup to that is major: The Australian Xmas song Six White Boomers was recommended by Hoodoo Gurus co-frontman Dave Faulkner and includes the phone query to him "Well, what the heck is a boomer, Dave?" His recorded response is funny and a perfect omen for the song with it's powerchords added by Ross The Boss from The Dictators that put the sound right in the middle of the mid '80s Aussie garage rock scene, but with a great dose of AC/DC added. To bridge the inevitable cultural divide since nobody here connects boomers or joeys with Christmas, the sleighbells give out a truly rockin' Yule vibe! The original "Super Rock Santa" is probably the first song about how a saint can be cool with the line "Ho Ho Ho, Whaddya Know?' Peter Zaremba pulls on his crooner shoes for "All I Want For Christmas", which is a great song, but Peter Zaremba's deep, smooth voice on it can open up a can of whup-nog on any crooner out there.

The Keith Streng penned "Champagne Christmas" is a bit confusing. Like the liner notes say, it paints an intimate portrait. That's the confusion. Portrait or description of what many of you out there might be doing with just themselves and a bottle of bubbly on the holiday? Come to think of it, it sounds like a fun thing to do if you have to spend the night alone! Besides, the holidays and even more so this year's season give us constant reminders that things could be worse, such as "Champale And Christmas" or "Boone's Farm and Christmas". The lesson is if you're alone, grab yourself a bottle of semi good stuff and drink up! Like the song says "I got everything, everything I need, champagne Christmas tonight". Ken Fox makes a notable contribution in "Canadian Christmas", a longing for an authentic Christmas somewhere out of the Canadian cities, in the damn under freezing countries where Canadian Christmas is a 'Winter Wonderland". I guess this is a great example of why I'm thankful not to be of the dominant religion in this hemisphere; someone else can go out there and freeze their asses off in a Winter Wonderland, for crying out loud! However, it's still a great tune and I didn't hear "eh" once!

"Mr. Santa Claus," a rousing song from soul/r & b singer Nathaniel Mayer is sung by Keith Streng with all his soul. His scratchy but still toneful voice is a perfect compliment to the song and the person who originally sang it. Unbeknownst to most, Nathaniel Mayer died after having multiple strokes on November first of this year, which was after the Stocking Stuffer was pressed.

The Fleshtones take an approach that's purely youthful with bygone nostalgia on "Christmas With Bazooka Joe" that invokes images of silly fun found in those small comics. Definitely, a cool novelty. There's also a rocking version of "Run, Rudolph, Run". It's no surprise about it "rocking" since it was popularized by Chuck Berry. In fact, the opening guitar sounds like a Chuck Berry tune. Although the tune has been covered by many acts, including Dave Grohl with Billy Gibbons, Reverend Horton Heat, and many others, The Fleshtones distinctive old and new Super Rock treatment is the most complimentary to the song's heritage. In a related note, the song was co-written by Johny Marks, a Jew who also wrote "Rudolph the Red Nosed Reindeer". Additionally, Irving Berlin wrote "White Christmas". So on one hand, Jews have written some very famous Christmas songs while Adam Sandler wrote the only rock 'n' roll Hannukah song. Lou Reed, Mick Jones, and Paul Westerberg, just to name a few notables of 'The Chosen People', but no Hannukah rock songs? I'd say one is over due.

The Fleshtones recently claimed that they're writing better songs now than they ever have. The originals on Stocking Stuffer are proof of that, with the final song "I Still Believe In Christmas", a great sing along done in their true sing along style with cool keyboards and a swingin' sax. Plenty of rockers do Christmas tunes, but when we think of Christmas albums, the knowingly less rockin' types are known for Christmas albums. I won't name them. You know them already because your parents probably own at least a few and you have to hear it when you go visit them. Stocking Stuffer is Yuletide Super Rock with great originals and some wonderful covers. It's no surprise that it's great, or that Keith, Peter, Ken, and Gordon all play at the top on it since they'd never settle for anything less. It's a damn good thing, too. Stocking Stuffer is the first great rock 'n' roll Christmas album. Besides, it's The Fleshtones! Their name is enough to know it's a great album.




Vindicated: A Tribute To The Fleshtones
Dirty Water Records
UsA through Get Hip Distribution


Tribute albums are usually hit and miss. Some of it's great, some isn't. That's not good enough for The Fleshtones. Their catalog is just too good. As a band, they take the cake for having the largest number of rock 'n' roll songs that are just perfect and give you the feeling that THEY ARE ROCK 'N' ROLL. So chances are, almost anyone can do a good cover since the material is just too good to work with. Again, not good enough for The Fleshtones. Instead, Vindicated: A Tribute To The Fleshtones takes the best garage rock bands from all over, although not known by most, to cover in tribute of super rock that can only be The Fleshtones! From Spain comes Los Chicos with their stripped down, bass thumped cover of 1991's "Living Legends". The powerpop production of Dave Faulkner is replaced with heavy doses of guitar and bass fuzz. What a perfect song (and title) to mark paying tribute to the eternal rock 'n' roll teenagers! The other contribution from Spain is the 1998 tune "Better Days" covered by Dr. Explosion, the band fronted by Jorge Explosion, the head of Spain's garage rock analog studio paradise Circo Perotti, not only home to an incredible vintage instrument collection and analog only recording studio, but also the studio where most of today's great garage rock bands native to Spain record. Philadelphia's legends The Cynics also recorded their recent release with Jorge at the studio. Whereas the original is almost frozen in time as either an acceptance of sad times for someone else or possibly a lament mirroring The Fleshtones status in the music business at the time, the cover communicates hope with it's louder sound recorded in mono. It's no suprise that Spain is represented here. It's a current hotbed for garage rock and has grown bigger in the past five years as a home for rock 'n' roll.

In greater proof of The Fleshtones status as international garage icons, Italy is represented with The Psychotones singing "Hitsburg U.S.A." in dual guitar, hot rhythm glory that tells the world where to go for rock 'n' roll! The U.K. joins in with Scotland's The Primevals adding their special ghoulish touch to "Screamin' Skull" from the 1983 release Hexbreaker, a song that was originally interpreted by Rolling Stone Magazine's Parke Putterbaugh as being about popping pills in East L.A. You be the judge of that. It's guaranteed that you'll be singing along with the first chorus. The other contribution from The British Isles is Richard Mazda with "Hope Come Back" from 1982's Roman Gods. It's on the "crunchy" guitar side with some suprising loud solos and a few synth/keyboard effects that fit quite well with the song's basic r & b base.

A garage rock invasion from Sweden has been taking place under our noses for quite some time now. The Maggots live up to their name by pumping up the Farfisa and clapping along with added guitar distortion, infecting the gloriously silly, repetitive lyrics with an almost nasal tone that brings home the youthful, amateur and fun sing-a-long quality of the 2005 song that ultimately celebrates self acceptance as pure joy. The Turpentines throw their hat in the ring on "The Girl From Baltimore" by lending a powerpop/metal guitar sheen, extended harmonica that brings out the vintage rock feel to the song, but adds a perfectly timed, Spike Jones like stutter resuperrocks a classic that one never tires of. As if to outdo everyone, the legendary Nomads take on American Beat in all its glory with heavier drumming and the anthemic "Can you hear the American Sound?". The added vocal harmony is great, but Handsome Dick Manitoba adds his traditional, over the top self promotion that only he can do and can never be topped or undone.

One doesn't think of rock 'n' roll when they think of France, but the French kids seriously one-upped their American counterparts when it came to The Fleshtones. Having little recognition in The States, they're long time rock stars in France. In fitting recognition of their support, there are four contributions from France. The Slow Slushee Boys turn "I've Gotta Change My Life" into a nugget with an organ led melody and some near pyschedelic vintage guitar that sound like a Vietnam War, Motown hinted self introspective. There's also the minimalist approach but simple chord super rock of Les Playboys "En Balade Avec Les Playboys". The other French Language song is Tony Truant's "La Fille du Noctambule". It just sounds cool in French! The unlisted fact that The Fleshtones are the backing band, but the drumming is heavier and the chords are fuzzier, giving it a more garage rock sound than the original recording. The final French contribution is more of an international coalition with France, Germany, and the U.S. with Snax Featuring Halloween Jack doing "Good Good Crack". It's techno! It's bizarre. The immediate impression is "What the fuck is this doing on here?", but the song topic deserves a pretty "out there" treatment. After all, it's only fitting that one hears techno while hearing "I need it need it, got to have that good good crack!"

We love The Fleshtones over here too, but instead of them elevating to super rock status, they always have and continue to serve as the blueprint of a great band that never gives up, stays true to what rock 'n' roll really should sound like, but also recreate what it should feel like night after night in small clubs and with small, but very happy crowds all across the country. The Fleshtones travel down the same roads and play in the same places every year, bringing back the whole ideal of great rock 'n' roll. Every time they play, one not only gets to see one of the best live acts ever, but ends up with an intimate connection to them as a result of a small crowd. After all, great rock 'n' roll is found in the small dives, punk clubs, and other crowded spaces, not the arena or stadium. Therefore, The Fleshtones are an ultimate guide for bands that are in it just to play their hearts out, regardless of the insignificant, small monetary gain, if there is one. Almost half of Vindicated: A Tribute To The Fleshtones is devoted to American acts. There's the classic garage stomp of "Watch This" recreated by The Havox, the very shakin' and psychedelic freakout of "I Wanna Feel Something Now" from The Insomniacs, the minimalist, Texas Hillbilly approach on "Whistling Past The Graveyard" by Hans Frank, "Headlock On My Heart" from the 2003 release Do You Swing faithfully rendered with blaring guitars and a great lead vocal from The Slickee Boys, desolate surf mixed with Cramps like buzzsaw chords of The Hate Bombs, the brash saxophone lending a '60s spy movie soundtrack feel on "Legend Of A Wheelman" from The Immortal Porpoises, and the Ramones/bubblegum resurrection on "Dreaming About Work" by The Subway Surfers. A special standout is the "Way Down South" by Florida's The Four Shames because it's the only track with a female voice, but it's awfully good and will make one crave for more fried chicken and all sorts of cholesterol laden Southern faire. A final American contribution comes from The Woggles, the Southern garage/soul counterparts of The Fleshtones on "The Theme From 'The Vindicators'.

Finally, Vindicated: A Tribute To The Fleshtones wouldn't be complete without a contribution from longtime friend, and one time producer Dave Faulkner and his hard and soft hitting powerpop legends themselves, The Hoodoo Gurus on "Pickin' Pickin", a super happy romp full of pop style that's always challenged by guitarist Brad Shephard's 'AC/DC Trigger fingers' that hearken back to another rock legend, The Flamin' Groovies.


Three Decades, 19 albums, and here we are. We love The Fleshtones! It's been quite a year for them with two new studio albums and endless touring accross the pond and back, throngs of new fans and regained old ones, and a chance to finally receive some of the praise (and profit) that they so much deserved for so long as among a chosen few bands to never put down the torch of rock 'n' roll in all its teenage dance party glory. 2008 was The Year of The Fleshtones. However, their extensive catalog is mostly out of print. The few copies available of such staples as Powerstance Hitsburg, Angry Years and others are only found on ebay for $80 or more being sold by obvious scum out to make money off of someone else's hard work. Roman Gods and Hexbreaker have about as much of a likelihood being found as Bigfoot! So The Fleshtones are left with a growing number and new and returning fans hungry for Super Rock: "Hitsurg USA", "American Beat", "Screamin' Skull", we all wnat to hear them, but at least for the present time, everything besides their four Yep Roc releases are out of print. It's time for Vindicated: A Tribute To The Fleshtones. They've earned it and as the legend has its long awaited growth spurt, we all want more of The Fleshtones.

It's a lot to take in, but the following \gives the perfect summary:

Feel that the beats back and play it that it happened that way
But you know that to us it was always there anyway
In Boston or New York or way out like in L.A.
Can you hear the American sound
Have your heard the American sound
Don't want to hear you put it down
I'd like to hear it on the radio in my home town

Every summer there's a number that I wanna hear the DJ play
In my room or at the shore man you know it's gonna sound OK
From Boston to Miami or way out in Malibu Bay
Can you hear the American sound
Have your heard the American sound
Don't want to hear you put it down
Hear it on the radio in my home town


Written by Peter Zaremba. Published by My Idea Music.

Tuesday, December 9, 2008

The Branded Make The Swampiest Garage Punk On Their Debut!

The Branded

(Self titled)
Dirty Water Records


For our final look into Sweden for the month, we end appropriately with the debut full length release from The Branded, a bare bones garage rock trio based in Maimo that includes Brit Lee Tea, former member of garage/booze thugs Thee Exciters. Recorded in mono, this stuff is so raw and basic that it sounds old in a good way. The opening "I Do As I Please" is nothing less than vintage garage punk with Lee's scratchy voice and little more than a few chords, but there's some Keith Moon madness from drummer Anders Hanson that's over the top. "The Thang" can't be called anything else. Superfuzzed out, howling dive bar garage that's easy even for the uninitiated and sober to sing and shuffle along to. Although their music style is so tried and true that it's easy to note who they sound like, that's still complimentary. The Branded sound like they were reared on strict '60s garage r & b and nothing afterwards. "Dirty Old Me" pulls a louder step from Nuggets like Cuby & The Blizzards while "Shattered" is nothing less or more than growing up with nothing but The Sonics. Although we're not stretching it here, it's no less original. The honest truth is that there's nothing better than some simple garage rock trio pounding out great tunes that one drinks, sings along with, and stomps their feet to simultaneously. Although tried and true, it's only really good if one puts all they have into it and doesn't give a fuck about what anyone thinks. Although many garage rockers do great performances, their recordings often fall short by missing the live vibe. The real proof of greatness is when the band can emit that from a recording. The Branded succeed much more than most acts on this front.

"I'm A Mean Tomcat" is more lowdown and dirty than Chuck Berry's rap sheet, but nobody's a victim except for one's ears. Lee's guitar playing picks up some classic r & b style derived from early greats like Link Wray and Bo Diddley. It's the kind of stuff that early Rolling Stones cut their chops on as the dirty Beatles. Some pysch with a lot of fuzz creeps into the picture with "Black Gold", a faster, garage punk tune, but the fuzz just dominates! A hint of monotonic Easybeats creeps up on the caved-out "Voodoo Love", except the harmony is basic and the song is much more raunchy. The obvious anthem "I'm Branded" makes no bones about it's seedy origins in r & b. Although it's an original song, it sounds and feels like something would would have heard in some little pre-integration blues joint in the deep American South! The Blues is about being down but feeling good about letting it out. With early blues talents being considered to have a deal with "The Dark Side" and good ole' sin, there's nothing more descriptive than being "branded" emotionally, but the physical act points to the earlier origins of those who invented The Blues. It's an honest compliment to the originators in its ability to communicate through the most basic simplicity.

"You Got The Hurt Now" is among the tracks where Lee's voice is clearer and more commanding. However, bassist John Krantz and drummer Anders never take a backseat. Athough lead singer's are usually frontmen, Lee's voice is serves as an important vehicle to communicate the music and thus, the singing is a component, as great as it is. This is obvious on the 1-2-3-4 standard beat of "I Need A woman", the bass is a near drone in contrast to Lee's brighter guitar and Anders' drumming, while the Added vocal's of "I need a woman" provide an echo that's true to common sentiment. "Mother Packed Bag" is a brilliant album ender that's part skiffle, then settles into a nasty and vintage '60s Brit interpretation of The Blues, but ends with a 2nd tempo and melody change as a closer. The ending hoots and dialog give it a great, unrehearsed, live feel that seems to include the listener as an honored guest.

Dirty Water Records has created its own niche in the garage rock pantheon with bands like The Branded, who dip into the earliest past of r & b/garage rock to pull out the rawest bones and bring it into the future. The Branded are a perfect example of this ethos. They're loud and raunchy, but never come accross as anything less than great rock 'n' roll. What makes The Branded notable in the modern state of so many great garage bands in current existence is their full dive into the original influences of garage rock, r & b and its earlier, lonely incarnation in blues. If down and dirty, r & b based rock 'n' roll is your thing, The Branded, full length debut is nothing less than a must own.


The Branded: Voodoo Love




The Branded as well as other Dirty Water Records acts like Thee Exciters, Spanish wildmen The Hollywood Sinners, Argentina's primitive beat Los Peyotes, a few choice others, as well as the essential Vindicated: A Tribute To The Fleshtones, is available in the US through Get Hip Distribution and in The U.K. and Europe directly from Dirty Water Records.

Friday, December 5, 2008

How Does One Write About Stupidity? (It's another review, dumbass!)

Stupidity

I Need You...Like A Hole In My Head
Go Fast Records

So it's getting cold. Of course, one can always go to Sweden! We'll be here a little while longer. For some odd reason, this place is just full of incredible bands. After all, it's so fucking cold up there that there might not be much more to do. Stupidity is a bit enigmatic in that they're somewhere right in between '60s garage and rockabilly. It's a strange combination of music with little similarity. It works for them well on their debut I Need You...Like A Hole In My Head. "Too Bad" is a straight up mod punk but vocal lead Ernis Orniz/Lundqvist has this burned up biker rasp that's more narrative than singing. The following "Lost" is more a rockabilly guitar melody with a great beat from Tommy Boy Sjostrum that packs more energy into the song, but the line "Sitting on my sofa with nothing to do, thought I'd go to Texas, that's what I should do" is not something you'd hear in a garage rock tune, despite the state's well known place in garage rock history. Even Pa's guitar riffs in the middle are rockabilly. The song burns in enough ways that it'll drive itself to Texas or Hell; whatever comes first.

Miss Anna Palmer's bass on "Wow-Wow-Wee" come straight from Bruce Foxton while Erniz's voice goes low and smooth. The additional horns give it a little bit of lift, which is perfect for the subject matter of going nuts over a girl that's really cute but out of your league. Something that makes Stupidity stand out is the songs are simply 'fun.' It's some weird combination of musical timing with the beat, or maybe the drumming being the lead instrument, that just makes the songs sound cool. This could be all wrong, but this trait seems seems to be prevalent in other garage based bands from Sweden and it definitely makes the music rock hard while having a certain youthful elation in its rebellion of just being loud and fun. This is well illustrated on the Underground Garage Coolest Song in the World "A Girl Named Moe." Ornis/Erniz goes from zombie scratch then to creepie ghoulishness in the ending phrase "I got a girl" that's just cool and eerie while PA's three chords (mostly one) are perfectly simple and straight ahead with the exception of his solo brought on by Ornis/Erniz's command "Guitar!," but Tommy Boy's drumming pounds its way into his own solo parts. It must be the timing. Everything has this feel of sounding perfect in arrangement.

One even finds a touch of dark blues with some great heavier guitar on "Last Night" that seem to shed light (or darkness) as a louder and edgier tribute. The album's title track has Anna's Flying V Bass just thudding away while Mr. Lundqvist let's his voice scratch, carry off into the distance and then approaches Dave Vanian's late gothic Damned phase without sounding as serious or out of place like that forgettable period for The Damned. In many ways, I Need You...Like A Hole In My Head is modern garage rock. It's '60s garage rock basic songs mixed up with neogarage The Cramps and The Fuzztones with a punk drive like 999. This is clear on the rockers "Headache" and "Out of Bounds", although the latter has a little fuzz and some horns thrown in that combine with vocal desperation akin to "Final Solution" by Pere Ubu. There's also a great update of The Standells classic "Sometimes Good Guys Don't Wear White" with a screeching guitar, handclaps, and a slightly faster tempo. With a song title like "California", one would likely think surf, but it's only a beginning on its way to hints of louder Flamin' Groovies, which is awfully cool. "I'm Walking Away Now" is more a simple British Beat based song. Is this the same band? It is. Like any really good garage band, they know were to rob from, only they take a broader approach by drawing from r & b, garage, garage punk, rockabilly, and 70's punk. The result is a strong rock 'n' roll base that's harder to pin down. There's even a strong trace of The Count Five "Psychotic Reaction" on "Move A Little Closer", but it also gets caught up in Billy Childish and The Medway Sound.

"Pure Stupidity" is almost tribal garage beat but throws in harder edged punk guitar and Ornis/Orniz takes lead in scratched up vocal scowling. Lundqvist seems (and sounds) like the slightly older guy who can only rock with young punks because the old ones can't keep up with him! There are so many things going on with I Need You...Like A Hole In My Head that one's not sure what they're hearing, only that it's loud and fun rock 'n' roll that's different enough that one would enjoy hearing it often. That's a good definition for a great rock 'n' roll record. One really couldn't ask for more.

A Girl Named Moe








Too Bad









I Need You...Like A Hole In My Head is available in the U.S. at cd baby. Although there's another internet retailer out there in the US, cd baby only sells music that's sent directly from the artist. The artist also gets up to six times more in return than they would get with a distribution. They have a multitude of sites for Europe. Go to Stupidity for that list.

Saturday, November 29, 2008

The Surfites Go Stellar on Escapades In Space!

The Surfites

Escapades In Space
Double Crown Records

Surf music is all about movement on a seemingly endless substrate. As a logical progression, Sweden's The Surfites take their reverb out of the confines of the waves into a more precarious environment of space on their second album Escapades In Space. It's a new concept, but the attitude of this band make the trip into a a laid back cruise much like surf music make the often unforgiving waves into a cool place to hang. Although not the surf music expert, prerecorded non instrumental parts in surf music are new to me, so the opening 4, 3, 2, 1, Fire! opener on the aptly named "Launch Pad" is an exciting introduction for surf music. What follows is a song so full of reverb to persuade one to envision floating above the earth in their space station/bachelor pad while sipping lots of bubbly. The Following "Comets" tail is a little faster and has the occasional sound of something cruising fast overhead while leaving a trail of fuzzy guitar in its wake, but the keyboard melodies are subtle and perfect. "Space Mover" is a total boss tune that trades off some simple but great tremolo with Henry Karlsson's keyboards, so although it's surf music, it borders on hanging in the martini bar; in one's jams, of course. The Surfites demonstrate a strong ability to musically describe their song titles in creative ways. "Moon Buggy" is definitely a layin' low hotrod track with a strong retro sound and the occasional guitar noise signifying the buggy throwing up clouds of Moon dust on a joyride. "Little Rocket Mill" finds the stellar tour in full swing mode with some tremolo that will bring your tiki hut into full swing should you find yourself without a space vehicle. If one needs further proof of dancing in space, look no further than the hula vibes of "Rainy Day In Space" that moves itself nicely into slight psychedelia.

"Around The Galaxy" is a strong beat track that envisions parties taking place in the exact locations of the song's name while mixing up tremolo with an near sitar sounding reverb, but the beat is boss. It's not all fun and games up there: "Danger Ahead" is a hotrod dream filled with nasty fuzz and some screams that can only be from a rough ride through 'Dead Man's Asteroid Belt' and is the loudest song on this 15+ track offerring. In making itself otherworldly, the cool but kitsch muted reverb dominance on "Space Encounter" is definitely one of the third kind. One thinks they get where The Surfites are going on this Escapade In Space, but the organ breaks and Gunnar Lindholms cool jazz tapping on "Far and Beyond" might take you back to your grandparents' mid century house, complete with the ranch inspired lamps, full bar and cool clock (I'm dreaming. We should all be so lucky), while "Marching Robots" moves along in mechanical fuzz and eerie high notes from the Fjellgren brothers. Although monotonous as the title suggests, it has a neat Twilight Zone feel.

The fun and games on Escapades In Space pick up again on "Mercurian Surf Stomp" that's so full of wet reverb and the occasional tremolo digs to bring out the most primitive of aliens ready to fly through the vacuum of space. The ending phaser shot hints at how that activity might end. "Space Coach" is maybe the closest thing to traditional surf on Escapades In Space with an equal emphasis on reverb and tremolo, but the tremolo combined with the beat have a stronger spaghetti western take that stays well grounded. The remaining tracks "Moon Made" and "Planetary Stroll" are also unique and fresh with the first having a heavier beat while the latter is what it sounds: A nice stroll puncuated by bright tremolo orbs and strumming.

Make no mistake, Escapades In Space is a surf album. The songs all clock in at under two and a half minutes and it's recorded in glorious MONO that helps to accentuate the activity and motion of the waves, only they're somewhere up there. The Surfites are spaced out and focused on their Escapades in Space while not being 'spacey.' The Surfites have succeeded in "Going where no SURF has gone before and have not only prevailed musically, but the packaging artwork and concept is second to none. As if the front album cover isn't worthy enough of cool '60s retro art, the remaining cover art is amongst the most impressive with a full color shot of a Mercury(?) rocket, a foldout of what looks like a nuclear reactor control room with a cartoon version of the band pasted in, and some beautiful vintage black and white shots of a Lunar Lander in a staging area modified with cartoon images of The Surfites, a rocket engine diagram, a great shot of a Moon Buggy on The Moon with a guitar pasted in, as well as a frontal shot of it, although the photos on the CD version are so small that one can't make out if the driver has a drum in front of him, which provides stronger motivation for Double Crown Records to release a vinyl version.


Space Mover




Escapades In Space is available both at Double Crown Records and from Get Hip Distribution

Thursday, November 27, 2008

Raw Guitar? Feedback? Female Vocals? You've Got To Hear The Avatars!

The Avatars

Never A Good Time
No Fun Records

Aaah. Finally! Something that is loud and abrasive, but swinging, catchy, and bubblegum at the same time! Ann Arbor's The Avatars take '60s girl groups, the beat and fun of The Ramones, hints of '80s powerpop like Nikki Corvette (maybe Josie Cotton too), and some seriously loud guitar from X with tons of feedback. They've got a powerpop sound but it's louder and harder at the same time. Not an easy feat. "Honey Do" is a good, catchy powerpop tune that treads on familiar powerpop territory with more guitar fury from axmen Charlie Lorenzie and Chris "Box" Taylor that is always loud and never predictable. In fact, it's hard to imagine a guitar or pair of them sounding better. "Somethin' To Say", the second track, has a raw bass and guitar fury that musically hints to X's legendary debut Under The Big Black Sun. Serious chops indeed, but some extra feedback at the end is toe curling.

Out of all this loudness arises many great memorable songs. The title track "Never A Good Time" has a strong Ramones but includes vocals from lead Mariah Cherem that are both smooth and strong and perfectly compliment an essentially loud rock sing a long. The gears chane on "There Was A Time" to a hand clapping, '60s girl group groove that nicely provides some bass and drums only reprieves for Mariah's voice to really shine. Eric Stollsteimer The Elevations, Mondo Mod) adds some cool vibraphone, too. As if to break one from their own nostalgia, the followup "Revolution Revival" punches in with a faster beat and enough guitar mayhem to damage the ears of a garage rock purist. "Wait" is a classic take on The New York Dolls and other basic but loud glam punk. The songs are loud, they rock, but they're so damn fun. At this point, 5 songs is enough to make one conclude that they'd be an incredible live experience.

"Hey Girl" throws in some great organ courtesy of guest artist Johny Hentch (SSM, The Hentchmen) that lend an older feel again to mix in with a girl's rock anthem. "Sooner or Later" hits a stronger chord with a punk anger in its warning of "You better stop forgiving all the lies that I've been living." "Warm 44" is a shocking surprise as a fast beat dance song with slide guitar and Theresa Keiffer's bass that would be at home on Nick Cave's "The Curse of Milhaven." The rockabilly beat from drummer Claudia Leo does little dissuade this feeling initially, but the crashing cymbals and tempo changes add some impressive complexity. The listed ender "Wondering Why" has a sensibility hits into earlier Pretenders territory back when Chrissie Hynde used to go barhopping, but a saxophone courtesy of Jeremy Abbey (Superdot)? If The Fleshtones can do it, it's worth a shot. Perfect touch, actually.

There's a hidden track that's different from the rest, is really good, and can't talk about it out of not wanting to give away all the secrets of The Avatars Never A Good Time, but this quintet has an album of songs that combine raw garage rock guitar and more ambitious noisy feedback into into crafty but never contrived full buzz rock 'n' roll fronted by a powerful female voice and an equally top notch rhythm section. Every song is just loud fun, but they're all memorable and really, really good songs, too. As if no surprise, Never A Good Time was recorded by Jim Diamond at the legendary Ghetto Recorders. The Avatars are impressive, but one full listen to Never A Good Time is just so good that it will cause the listener to wish they could see them live. Hopefully, that opportunity to do so outside of Michigan will come soon.


Wonderin' Why








Never A Good Time is available on CD & LP from No Fun Records as well as from the home of all great rock 'n' roll, Pittsburg's Get Hip Records

Friday, November 21, 2008

Believe A Word. The Clutters Are It

The Clutters

Don't Believe A Word
Chicken Ranch Records

I've said it before. I'll say it again. There's tons of great rock 'n' roll out there being made in so many places. However, that means that there's great stuff coming out of places where you'd least expect it. The Clutters are a perfect illustration of that. They're from Nashville! One could come up with all kinds of explanations, but in large cities, maybe access to good music and more competition drive people to create great music. In the case of a less likely locale, maybe one has to be so damn good that they make people stand up and take more notice. The Clutters fit the latter description. Their about as loud and raunchy and fun as it comes, but very distinctive. Unfortunately with all this great music out there, one always doesn't catch wind of it while it's "new", but the great thing about rock 'n' roll is if it's that good, it's going to sound new no matter how long ago it was made. Don't Believe A Word came out in late Spring last year. However, there's always really cool stuff that flies under your radar and you end up kicking yourself that you didn't hear of it earlier. I've been kicking myself an awful lot lately.

Don't Believe A Word is a serious shot in the arm. "9999 (Ways To Hate Us)" is primal garage punk guitar overlayed with Farfisa that sometimes sounds like '60s garage and other times, drifts into '80s new wave/punk with an almost Devo based quirkiness. This is only enhanced by the vocals that pull out one's soul because it sounds nerdy. However, the album doesn't list vocal credits. The smart high school reject (that's me. I hope that's most of you, too) got a band together that rocks harder and is just too damn good for the popular masses. I wish it were that simple. It's not. "Radio" is a perfect new wave offspring of '60s garage with it's distorted powerchords and an infectious chorus that I challenge you to get out of your head, but the keyboard melody is atonal and will automatically draw up the same Devo reference out of it's weirdness but with a loud attitude that went against musical convention and therefore, turned less individualistic tastes off. At the same time, we now recognize a real genius in that because it's a style that very few people did because it's a challenge not only to do it right, but to one's ears unless they really want to hear something different. Although they don't sound anything like them, early Oingo Boingo comes to mind because they were pioneering in adding that musical wierdness of seemingly discordant keyboard and guitar melodies into clever and catchy songs. One's quickly and violently thrown away from that after "Radio." The rest of the album is some of the most abrasive and raunchy garage rock party music one could be subjected to.

"Living Thing" rocks like Detroit with it's buzz guitars and beat heavy onslaught with blues tinges. "Rockaway" offers up a great critique of the rock mainstream that we can all identify with

We came to get down, we came to get down
We heard the word, it was all over town
She said
I want to know what rock 'n' roll was
'cause all you ever gave me was a bit of a buzz

This is of course followed up with a lot of Ramones fun 'Hey Heys' that I can only say are yelled "with feeling." "Fire" is a bit of an oddity with all it's tempo changes and it's slow blues moments followed by fast beats and screams, but then with the lyrics and the overall tone, I felt a sudden hard lump in my throat after realizing it could have been a song that The Gun Club would have been very proud of. One thing that one really can't escape with with The Clutters Don't Believe A Word is that tempo changes, hard beats, and guitars that alternate between throbbing chords and abrasive screeches is Pixies territory, but like it was previously noted, a well known rock 'n' roll style that moves around a center but goes in different directions is very hard to duplicate. Everyone loves The Pixies, but almost nobody can play their basic rock 'n' roll in a loud and obnoxious form that is also complex, so they've had many admirers, but very few duplicates. The Clutters are expert in that approach, but the farfisa/keyboards and heavier drumming make them a lot more fun by adding a much needed breath of fresh air into the whole garage theme. Besides "Temperature" is filled with the loudest, fuzziest bass one could stand to listen to, and it's damn good.

Most songs are surprises on Don't Believe A Word. The styles and influences mentioned above are a good illustration of that. It might not be something that everyone can really understand, but there's a good way of summarizing the approach. If one understands a hint of where someone like Mick Collins is coming from when he plays his special brand of fuzzed out rock 'n' roll that draws in everything from Motown to obscure pop like The Sparks and makes it all his own, one would definitely understand and revel in how great The Clutters are. However, there are plenty of those out there who absolutely love his music but not the influences like he does, so if one just wants to have super '60s garage fuzz with a stronger punk abrasiveness and like to scream out songs and rock out, Don't Believe A Word is perfect for that, too. Otherwise, you'll end up kicking yourself like me for not giving them a better listen to earlier. If you don't take my word, there are plenty of notables who expressed the same emount of shock and enthusiasm on The Clutters.

Don't Believe A Word is available on CD at Chicken Ranch Records and from the label/distributor that has just about every great current indie garage label stuff, Get Hip Recordings.

"9999 (Ways To Hate Us)








"Fire"





Saturday, November 15, 2008

Can't Get Enough Dirtbombs? Have You Tried Ko?

Ko & The Knockouts

Wicked Cool Records


I know, I know. Four full length releases, a double CD of covers, rarities, outtakes, plus a whole lotta vinyl, limited release singles, concert-only merch and you just can't get enough of The Dirtbombs. The economy and yours personally is in the crapper, too. Right? Of course, if you really are that into The Dirtbombs, then you probably have the self titled debut from their ever awesome fuzzy bass woman and her band, Ko & The Knockouts since it was originally released in 2002 on Sympathy For The Record Industry. If not, the kids at Wicked Cool Records reissued it a while back and since nobody gets talked about unless they got a new thing out, I'm going to change that, especially since we're approaching the end of the year and I"ve got a lot of choice stuff that people sent me that I'm going to write about in time for you to expand your CD collection. After all, you can invest in CDs and beer and it's a better return than one of those 401K thingies right now.

Ko is just cool. She rocks, she plays a fuzzy bass in The Dirtbombs. She plays a regular one, too. But a girl's gotta work and Ko & The Knockouts ain't goin' anywhere while Mick Collins is dragging her and the rest of his sweaty band all over creation for a good part of the year wowing us all with some serious rock 'n' roll, but most other members of The Dirtbombs past and present either play in other bands some of the time, so you might see a review sometime of a long past release by other Detroit rockers such as The Come Ons or you might not, but good rock 'n' roll is there to be discovered and rediscovered, ain't it?

It's a little surprising on a few levels. If you haven't noticed, Ko is this sweaty but super cool rocker who plays so loud that she can definitely match up on the fuzz register, but the album is pretty clean. Loud, but clean. Powerpop clean, one could say. British Invasion inspired? Maybe, but still Detroit. Songs like "Cry No More" are catchy, fast, and fun. Others like "Wasted All Those Years" sounds like Diana Ross and The Supremes backing up really early Who with frantic guitar and drums in tact. Another good pick with a more 'shakin' rhythm is "You're On My Mind." If you like punchy guitar chords and singing along, this album's for you. It's not without its surprises. "You Did It" is a swaying lament with more of an r & b feel, for example.

What's really impressive is that Ko packs a powerful voice that's always smooth and has an amazing range. The quickness, timing and simplicity of the songs on Ko & The Knockouts can really hit the heart of a Ramones fan, although with so few chords, the same progression of many of them are in hundreds of songs from others, so much like The Ramones remind one of all their influences, songs like "If I" with its handclaps and harmonies channel "Sheena Is A Punk Rocker" and "Do You Wanna Dance?" at the same time. "I Really Hate You" could probably be remade as a twangy country hit based on its lyrics alone, but the song is more of a stomping, hootenany beat. Good stuff. We even get some good distortion on "I Wanna (See You Again)."

If it hasn't been emphasized by Mick himself enough, the whole 'garage' thing is an ethos instead of a genre. Likewise, Ko & The Knockouts are also NOT garage rock: It's rock 'n' roll. Detroit Rock 'n' Roll. Motown, some blues, r & b, guitars that buzz, churn, and occasionally sputter like the town's namesake "The Motor City," but like all good rock 'n' roll, it's the beat. Yes, rock 'n' roll is meant to be danced to. In fact, "Twistin' Postman" will force you to move. If that doesn't get you moving, nothing else will. Besides, Jim Diamond produced and played on it. That alone is enough encouragement.