I scrolled through some year-end lists this week to see if I missed any good records this year. In Louder Than War’s Top 50 I came across the name Mick & The Mellotronics at no.27, unknown to me but described as a ‘classy, intelligent art-school guitar band’. At Bandcamp I was immediately enthusiastic about the cool art work: a pigeon with an Elvis wig! The music and lyrics are so captivating that it pays to spend your time on them; the LP gets 9/10 reviews for a reason. The debut album ½ Dove – ½ Pigeon is available via Landline Records.
“I titled the record ½ Dove – ½ Pigeon because I thought it was an honest reflection on how most people see themselves.” – Micko Westmoreland
Remember Third Wave Ska, the grandchild of the genre that originated in Jamaica in the ’60’s, bred on a steady diet of punkrock, trumpets and trombones? Remember Reel Big Fish? Less than Jake? Dance Hall Crashers? The Mighty Mighty Bosstones? For a short window in the second half of the nineties, ska was kind of a big deal. Major labels signed the bands, MTV played the video’s, bands sold out the shows, and kids bought the cd’s…or downloaded the tunes. And just as sudden, ska disappeared from the limelight and returned to its natural state: the underground.
Funded by a kickstart campaign, Pick It Up documents this period. It’s all there: the sound, the dance moves, the clothing, the challenging group dynamics of touring with a band of eight human beings instead of the standard three or four, and the cognitive dissonance associated with selling out – or lack thereof. It’s a fun thowback to the heydays of 90’s ska, with many of the main players featured. To be honest, not all of these bands hold up as well, but there are plenty of ska comps and bands that I still enjoy (Bosstones! Hepcat!). I have sweet memories of seeing a lot of these bands live, even though I was more into (hardcore)punk. For a little while, ska made the punk scene more fun and diverse, it made school band geeks cool (well, sort of…), and like comedian Benji Aflalo says in the film: “skankin is so mechanically easy, it gave every awkward kid a chance to move.”
Pick It Up is a documentary very much about nineties ska, though it’s respectful to its history- there is a short animated feature section on ska’s roots narrated by Rancid’s Tim Armstrong, that is an absolute treat. In the end, this is a fun and well executed documentary, and a must watch if you were part of that scene or a fan of 90’s alternative music.
True, these 5 songs have been available for 2 months now, but I’m only discovering them now (thanks Shindig! Magazine!) and this debut EP is too good not to share. The 4-peace consists of members of Bottomfeeders and Jeff the Brotherhood and they play driving guitar rock with garage-psych and glam influences that could have come straight from the 70s. The Out Of The Darkness EP is out digitally via Third Man Records and the label promises a self-titled full-length LP for 2021. Yeah!
For obvious reasons, far fewer new albums are released in December than in other months, but luckily there is still some notable new work. Most interesting this week imho is Slacker Paint, the debut LP of The Mary Veils. It turns out to be not really a new album, because the American garage rock band self-released it back in 2017. Apparently most music lovers missed that at the time, the album was not even on Discogs yet, but PNKSLM Recordings now shares it with a wider audience. The second full-length album is due for release next year, but let’s dive into this first; there is much to discover in these varied tracks.
The Sweatys released two demo’s in 2020: Warm Up and Stretch. Because why make yourself an easy google search, right? I know nothing about this band, but I hope to hear more. They play fast and raucous punk, and show quite the potential. Check out my favorite song of each demo below.
Interesting to follow how Night Beats slowly but surely changes from a psychedelic / garage rock band into a soulful R&B party. On new single That’s All You Got, the shoegaze-like raw, dark edges have disappeared, exchanged for a polished sound carried by an organ (click here for the video on YouTube, in which founding member Danny Lee Blackwell strolls through an abandoned city). On the B side, screeching guitars predominate, listen below. Both songs are a collaboration with Robert Levon Been of Black Rebel Motorcycle Club, whose biggest hit is applicable to Night Beats’ development: Whatever Happened To My Rock ‘N’ Roll? Blackwell explains: That’s All You Got is a reminder that at the end of the day, we’ll always have the SOUL.” Point taken. The 7″ is out now on Fuzz Club Records.
There are a number of iconic bands that almost everyone seems to be a fan of. Kraftwerk for example. I probably shouldn’t say it, but I don’t feel it. However, if you replace the electronics with guitars, you can hear how strong their work is, but in a style that appeals to me more. That’s exactly what the Russian surf trio Messer Chups did with Kraftwerk’s classic Das Model on their new digital album New Wave or Surf Wave. On this EP you can also hear covers of, among others, Enjoy The Silence (Depeche Mode) and Love Will Tear Us Apart (Joy Division).
I totally forgot about Veronica Bianqui. So, when I heard the opening track of her just released self-titled debut, two things came to mind. One, I freaking love this song. And two, I know this song! I am referring toIf Love’s a Gun, a song she released 5 (!) years ago. What took her so long? In this Buzzbands.lainterview she talks about finding her voice, and dealing with personal loss and heartbreak, In spite of these struggles, this is a very confident sounding debut. Veronica’s songs are instantly likeable, but leave plenty to discover upon further listens. Veronica has an amazing voice, and these songs are pop enough and strong enough to katapult her into stardom.
Update: Almost Halloween Time Records has a limited edition of 50 copies with individually designed and hand drawn sleeves.
Lead singer, songwriter en multi-instrumentalist Justin Angelo Morey taught himself how to play the guitar, bass, and drums by the age of 12. After a career in a few bands (The Black Hollies, Sunshine & the Rain) and establishing his own chocolate line (J. A. Morey Artisan Chocolates) he is now trying to make it as a solo artist. After digital single I Want Your Love / Waving Hello there last October this is a new fine track from his hand, (Tell Me) What’s Your Name, one that you immediately sing along. Out now through Silent Stereo Records. Why don’t they play such songs on the radio?
‘Anna took your order // You wanted chicken parm // And in that moment // I thought you could be the one’
I’ve been thinking about Lookout! Records quite a lot this year. It’s probably because I finally read Larry Livermore’s fascinating account of the rise and fall of the legendary Bay Area pop punk label. Of course, there was Pavid Vermin’s excellent tribute to the infamous Lookout! comps. There were several compilations and reissues of classic Lookout! bands as well, including Mr. T Experience, Groovie Ghoulies, and that hard to get first Donnas LP. And then there are the new acts who are clearly inspired by the classic Lookout! sound. Case in point: Teenage Woman. It’s a sideproject by Grath Madden (Steinways, House Boat), with Miranda Taylor (Full of Fancy) on vocals. They just released a sweet three song single that would fit perfectly on Lookout’s nineties roster. Check out the one-minute I Feel Fine, and see if you agree.
Lookout! Records is dead. Long live Lookout! Records.