If you like my previous post on GG King’s Remain Intact, there is a good chance you will dig this one as well. Recorded late 2019, mastered mid 2020, and released early 2021, the self-titled debut by Toads is finally here. Toads features members of Midnite Snaxxx and Icky Boyfriends and their sound harkens back to the early days of punk. There are eight old school punk songs on the LP with only one song passing the two minute mark. My favorite track is Not An Artist.
GG King sang in the mighty fine pop edged punkband Carbonas, played in powerpop band extraordinaire Gentleman Jesse & His Men, and released a solo record seven years ago called Unending Darkness. The follow up to that record has a slightly more positive title (Remain Intact) and has just been released by Total Punk Records. Rehearsal versions of several of the songs on Remain Intact already surfaced online in 2019, but it took some time to record and release this record – I think GG King is less bothered with efficiency and speed, but the quality of his output. Remain Intact sounds like a major step up from Unending Darkness. This is still very much a punk record, but there is more melody, more harmony and GG King has a knack to time those dashes of nuance and poppy choruses well, making them quite effective. Basically, Remain Intact provides more to enjoy if you, like me, prefer your punk authenthic but don’t mind some sort of accessibility. Songs like Remain Intact, Melt With You, Sad And Crazy For A Long Time are instant hits for me. #addtowantlist
Big Stir Records emerged from a monthly concert series in LA back in 2016. The label has been releasing weekly digital singles for quite some time now, featuring some excellent poprock and powerpop bands. This week they put out number 120 of the series, and I believe it’s the best one they released this year. It features two new songs by Popular Creeps full of great guitar driven powerpop that fans of Nada Surf and Fountains of Wayne will enjoy. The A-side (do A-sides actually apply to digital singles?) is particularly strong. It’s an uplifting song in spite of its melancholy lyrics about loss. To be specific, it’s about the death of one of the band member’s cat (“If you could talk what would you say, I wish we had just one more day”), but don’t be cold-hearted and cynical about that, it’s a heartfelt great song.
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At the start of the new Portabella record, we overhear a discussion between its two band members Will and Jason: “We’re all gonna play our best, if people don’t like it, that’s okay, it’s not for you then.” Should we interpret this as management of expectations, a coping mechanism to mask insecurity? Or is it a disclaimer that this record is something different, and won’t be for everyone? My conclusion after listening to Return To The Fountain Of Olive? It’s definitely the latter. The record is full of experimental rock and psychedelica and quite the trip. No scratch that, it’s pretty weird. It’s probably further from my comfort zone than any of my other posts here. And yet, even though there are several songs that I don’t particularly enjoy, the record kept pulling me in. Album opener Angelic Super Slide (video below) offers a great taste of what to expect. It is arguably the most accessible songs on the record. Other cool tracks areThe Wrong Way, Nothing Left, Nothing, Insufferable Glow Boy and Earthworm Parachute. Out now on tape at the San Francisco label Paisley Shirt Records.
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Smirk is a solo project of Nick Vicario. He also plays (or played) in hardcore acts Autistic Youth, Crisis Man and the guitar heavy postpunk act Public Eye – make sure to check out their 2020 LP. Sonically, Smirk has the most in common with his work in Public Eye. Still, this is very much a distinct musical project. A little bit more punk and lo-fi oriented, and a tad more groovy and hypnotic. Whereas the album title could not be more generic (‘LP’), the music is basically the exact opposite. I particularly love how Vicario efforlessly brings styles from different eras together. For example listen to Violent Game, which sounds like a Stooges and Stones mashup, and out of nowhere features a bass and drum interlude that harkens back to a whole different era.
LP is compiled of the two Cassette EPs Vicario released in 2020. With a little help of the ever reliant Feel It Records and Drunken Sailor Records, it’s now available on vinyl. Speaking of Feel It Records, they just announced two early april releases that also look to be winners: Waste Man and Spread Joy. Is that fair? Can they do that? Of course they can! Music is not a competition right?
Warm Exit are a synthpunk band from the capital of Belgium (and the EU), Brussels. Their new self-titled EP is quite the trip through a mixture of ideas and styles, despite its brevity – 4 songs, a playing total of ten minutes. The band integrates breakneck speed garagesynthpunk with (old movie?) samples, and yet, underneath there is plenty of melody. Usually, I apply the term ‘eclectic mix’ for records I don’t really get or understand, but that does not apply here. In spite of, or should I say because of the chaos, Warm Exit make these songs work. Seven inch single out now on Drink and Drive Records!
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“Imagine that in the late 70s, Bob Marley crossed paths with the Ramones at the CBGB counter and they decided to make a record together. Here is the result: 10 rasta classics with punk rock sauce 1-2-3-4!” When I read this introduction to Bobby Ramone’s Rocket To Kingston and saw the album cover, I hoped it would be fun yet feared it would sound terrible. Two songs in, I just had to share this with you, because THIS IS FREAKIN’ FUN and well executed. I’d never expect that I could enjoy songs like Get Up Stand Up, Stir it Up, and One Love this much. Even the song titles get the Ramones treatment, as they are now called I Don’t Wanna Stand Up, Stirring In My Room, and Today One Love, Tomorrow The World. What’s not to like? Vinyl available at Guerilla Asso.
According to the band’s website, Linnea’s Garden play glampunk you can dance to. I am not sure if that is true, but that may be due to my limited dancing abilities. To my ears, Linnea’s Garden sound more powerpop with a touch of soul than punk on their EP Nowhere Friday Nights. The lead single Non-Dramatic Breakup Song sounds like a lost hit by Milwaukee powerpop legends The Shivvers. It is an instant classic.
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Simplicity, in all its ramshackle glory, is one of the charms of garage rock. That appeal can wear off quickly though when a band’s songwriting is subpar and/or the execution is poor. The Sueves new record is the perfect example of how rewarding it can be when a band challenges itself; when a band is not afraid to go beyond self- or other-imposed boundaries of the genre; when a band invests a little more time in writing and recording music. On Tears of Joy, The Sueves sound more layered, diverse and dynamic than most garage bands, but also in comparison to their past selves. They do so without sacrificing any of the energy and excitement of their earlier work. Mop Bucket is a modern garage rock classic. Short and fast songs like Alexxxa, Find The Right Fit and Stare will draw in punk fans. Other songs (e.g., Deflect The World) move into The Stooges territory. To be sure, the Sueves have created their own enterprise, and never sound like copycats.
Overall, Tears of Joy is a thrilling listen, a kick to the nuts of those who complain that guitar music nowadays is redundant. I am pretty confident that the allure of the record is more likely to expand than wear off upon further listens. That leaves us with one concern. Now that the band has ran out of primary colors for their album covers – red for their debut, blue for their second one and yellow for Tears Of Joy, what will they do next? Based on this record, the Sueves are just getting started.
UK jangle pop veterans Model Village open their fourth record (World Of Carp) strongly with Insufferable. It’s a welcoming indie pop track that will instantly make your head bop on its bouncy rhythm. Other standout tracks on World of Carp include the upbeat Oslo and Find It Out, and the Belle and Sebastianesque Roll It Over. Singer Lily Rose has the ability to draw you into these songs while making her singing sound effortless. She has just the right touch of melancholy in her voice, not unlike Tracyanne Campbell of Camera Obscura and Elizabeth Morris of Allo Darlin. Musically, fans of those bands will enjoy this record as well. Out now on Kingfisher Bluez (Canada) and Towed By The Ghost (UK)!
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