Wednesday, December 31, 2008
The Ticket formed in Brisbane during the year 2002, consisting of Ben Hoddinott (vocals, guitar, keyboards, piano), Robert Fowden (guitar), Darek Mudge (bass guitar, keyboards, recording and production), Kell Monro (drums, percussion, electronics) and Daniel Judge (bass guitar).
Their music, propelled by strong melodies and accompanied with an assemblage of effects driven guitars, is created and recreated in their live performances, providing a truly elucidatory experience, often evoking comparisons with bands such as; Sigur Ros, Radiohead, Echo & The Bunnymen and Bloc Party. -The Ticket
The album is available to purchase for $15 + postage, just email on firstname.lastname@example.org if you would like a copy.
The Ticket - Handdrawn Villains - 2008
Thanks to friend of PPO John!!
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Sunday, December 28, 2008
Hey! One of my favorite readers and a great frienf of PPO, "Silversuit" has waded in with his top 10 list for this year and it is excellent! Thanks "Suit"!!
Deep Sea Arcade– Crouch End
Sydney’s Deep Sea Arcade haven’t release an album yet, however this band has to get a mention in my top 10 list for 2008. Since hearing it for the first time in July I have played this tune over and over and over again. It’s like someone has got The Beatles, Elliott Smith and I am Kloot all together, in some awesome alternate reality, and they’ve wrote the best ever spooky song to freak out your ex – ‘Nobody knows, Nobody knows that my grave is under your house’. That’s right up there with John Bramwell’s ‘There’s blood on your legs. I love you’ for me. Hunt them down and see them play live! Hopefully we hear a lot more from these guys in 2009.
– Long Gone and Nearly There Julie Ocean
This is a quality power pop record from the
combo who (going by their myspace site) is unfortunately, already history. It’s a shame really – this short ten track set is a pearler. Packing in the Velvet Crush, Undertones, Lemonheads, Teenage Fanclub, Silversun, the album is over before its barely started– clocking in at just over 25 minutes. It is short, snappy, uncomplicated and to the point. Ten Lonely Words is so catchy it kept me from sleeping for 3 nights straight. A gem - Here Comes Danny unfortunately pushes it further down my list. Washington DC
Key Tracks: Ten Lonely Words, My Revenge
8. Pete & the Pirates – Little Death
Pete & The Pirates are popsters from
and this debut album has had some serious repeated listens earlier this year. They are a like a mix between the Mystery Jets, The Shins and The Arctic Monkeys with similar angular guitar hooks to The Cribs. It’s a great pop-indie album which doesn’t get boring, ‘heavy’ or complicated. There’s loads of fun to be had with this, a definite top 10er for 2008. Reading
Track Picks: - She Doesn’t Belong To Me, Bright Lights
Orchid Highway– The Orchid Highway
Orchid Highwayfrom released this nugget back in May. Its mid period Beatles, Brian Wilson, Love and all the best bits from your favourite mid 90s Britpop bands. There are some really clever lyrics in here. “She asked me if I want to lose this crowd. She said you know that I'd make love to you here, but I don't think it's allowed” – great stuff. Some awesome vocal harmonies, psychedelic guitars, flutes, and Vancouver organs; it’s all here. In a ‘just’ world this album would be over commercial radio like a rash. Hammond
Track Picks: - Sofa Surfer Girl, Pop Tart Girl
6. Even – Even
Even, ah my beloved Even. They just pip the Ice Cream Hands at the post as my favourite Australian band. ‘Less is More’ and ‘Come Again’, their first and second albums respectively would have to be in the top discs ever pressed. Their self titled fifth album, while nowhere near reaching the heights of those first two, is still an amazing record by Ash, Matthew and Wally. ‘I Am The Light’, ‘Walk on’ and ‘Rainbows’ could stand proudly alongside ‘Stop and Go Man’ and ‘Tell me How” on an Even ‘Best of’. As much as I love Ashley Naylor the choice of (the appalling) ‘Sister Rock’ as a single from this album was a very poor decision. Still, easily in the top 10 for 2008. ‘I know what im worth and you can never afford me’. Keep on burning boys.
Track Picks: - Rainbows, Walk On
5. The Young Knives – Superabundance
Superabundance is the Leicestershire band’s second album and after taking several weeks to grow on me, this has become a staple in the cd-player. Just like their debut –the anger, cynicism, hip-indie-kid pleasing chops and hand-claps are there. But this time there are added tunes and nicer production. Overall, it’s the lyrics that do it for here in a big way. "Sitting in the front seat. Turning on the motor. Sucking on the hosepipe. Keep it turning over". Its all dreary, desperation and distain (and its great). “I got dressed up, up to the nines. I took a look in the mirror, I wish I was thinner then everything would be fine”. Play it at maximum volume on a Friday night when you’re drunk, at home, alone and your copy of ‘Hatful of Hollow’ has worn out. Love it.
Track Picks:- Counters, Up All Night
4. Junipers – Cut Your Key
I have only heard this album in its entirety just recently – thanks to our favourite webmaster ;-) Though it has had such a profound effect on me I had to add it into the top 10 – top 5 no less. It’s a beautiful album which reminds me a lot of
’s Zygotic Mynci’s 90’s masterpiece Barafundle. Its early Bee Gees, McCartney, Emmit Rhodes – packed full of hooks and summer time bliss. With more listens this could have easily been my 2008 number 2. It’s an incredible record. Gorky
Track Picks:- Song That Fades Away, Out My Pocket
3. Cheeksters – Movers and Shakers
This is a really fun album with lots of hipster, mod 60s and 70s style brit-pop and girl- group style tunes rolled up into your best summertime record ever. Movers and Shakers are the husband and wife union of Mark Casson and Shannon Hines. It’s the happiest, positive and most upbeat record I’ve heard since The Grapes (Ashley Naylor / Sherry Rich) released their self-titled record back in the late 90s. The title track ‘Movers and Shakers’ is a gorgeous, honky-tonkish, rag-time gem. “Cut my hair cut down at the barber shop. It looks good but I think that they cut too much off” – its the best Herman’s Hermits song you’ve never heard.
Key Tracks: What the Pretty Girl Did, Movers and Shakers
2. Everyone Loves a Villain – Captain Wilberforce
How this guy isn’t top of the
singles and album charts in 2008 is beyond me. Anyway, Captain Wilberforce is the multi-instrumentalist and vocalist Simon Bristoll from UK Leeds. Forget your Kaiser Chiefs rubbish, Captain W. is the business and the 11 songs on this lp are of incredible quality. The tunes are kind of hard to describe – dark, melodic, poppy, polished but cynical and very intelligent. There is a hint of Ian Broudie and Neil Finn about his vocal delivery too which is great. Perfect song writing throughout, superb guitar lines, sweet expansive production and a hint of something seedy makes this a modern classic for me. An easy number 2 for my 2008 list.
Key Tracks: No Strings or Ties, Confetti,
and Roses Champagne
1. Arms and Legs – Everything Is Gonna Be Okay
Turn up the sirens and bang your drums as loud as you can for this. This is a ‘proper’ record. It is just incredible. Im not even sure if this was ‘actually’ released in 2008 or late 2007 as there doesn’t seem to be a lot of information readily available on this record. Anyway it’s easily my favourite album of 2008 and definitely (not maybe) in my top ten of the ‘naughties’. As far as I know a certain ‘Scott Daly’ makes up Arms and Legs in its entirety and on this fantastic record he is channelling ‘The Zombies’ visa-vi Elliott Smith. From what I have read certain naysayers say this album is too much of an Elliott rip-off to be taken seriously. Granted, on tunes such as ‘Bars All Closed’ and ‘Alright.Okay’ you can convince yourself you are listening to ‘Either/Or’, though there is way more to this album than Elliott worship (which there is nothing wrong with by the way). ‘Loser (In Love)’ is possibly the greatest break-up song that you will ever hear. ‘Alright.Okay’, ‘Let Go’, ‘Lye Around’ are all genius. It’s a heartbreaker of an album which will have your staring into your pint glass in tears. A genuine five stars. ‘Anna Marie – one day you’ll be mine”.
Track Picks: Loser (In Love), Lye Around
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Saturday, December 27, 2008
A great riend of PPO and axe-man extraordinaire Eric Knox of the "The Mighty Gordinis" has provided us with his best of 2008. Dig It!!
1) THE YUM-YUMS: « Whatever rhymes with baby »
a) Rock and Roll Tonight
b) Let’s Rock and Roll
2) SHAKE SOME ACTION: “Sunny days ahead”
a) Get it together
b) Who do you love?
3) THE GUTS: “Let it go”
b) Cold Sweat
4) THE METHADONES / THE COPYRIGHTS: “Split”
a) On the clock
5) THE SHAMBLES: “20 explosive Hits”
a) Happy Together
b) Nadie Te quiere ya
6) PRIMA DONNA: “After Hour”
a) Soul Stripper
b) Stray Doll
7) TEENAGE HEAD WITH MARKY RAMONE
a) Some Kinda Fun
b) You’re tearing me apart
8) the : "Cool Ways"
a) She’s got the look
b) Cool ways
9) THE CHEVELLES: “Barbarella Girl God”
a) Stacey loves Cocaine
b) Angelina Jolie
10) BRIMSTONE HOWL “We came in peace”
a) A million years
b) Shangri La
Interesting reissues that did not make the list :
Blue Ash : No more no less"
Nick Lowe : "Jesus of Cool"
Friday, December 26, 2008
Friend of PPO , Mick from "Bucketfull of Brains" has posted his top 10 of 2008, Enjoy!
The Pillbugs - Everybody Wants A Way Out
A friend of mine recently said, “You can always count on the Pillbugs” and it’s true. The fifth in a run of brilliant albums Everybody Wants Away Out is as always chockfull of brilliant melodies and invention, beautifully played, produced and arranged by the pop genius Mark Mikel and the boys. Like all their previous albums, effortlessly my album of the year.
- Life As It Happens 2. Do You Really Want To Go To The Centre of the Sun
Winterpills - Central Chambers
From the moment I first heard the opening track on the debut album by The Maggies, through a pair of golden honey drenched solo albums and now this third album by his superb combo Winterpills I have always been utterly smitten by the heart stoppingly beautiful music of Philip Price. Wistful and wise lyrics wrapped in cascading pop melodies, happy, sad and always real. Price is a musical treat for the heart and ears.
- Secret Blue Thread 2. Beesting
Class Three Overbite - Horses For Courses
A late contender this one, I’ve only had it a week but already I’m bowled over by the sheer power pop class mastery of Class Three Overbite. Think Jellyfish detail with Imperial Drag brashness mixed in with Rundgren/Beatles melodies. An album that twinkles as it fills your ears. The sort of album that makes you go Wow!
- Storm’s Comin’. 2. Sunshine
Dora Flood - Dream Out Your Window
five piece Dora Flood have been delivering up class shoegaze psychedelia for over ten years now, shimmering depth filled joy wrapped around great dreampop songs that never fails to delight the mind and ignite the ears. Masterful stuff. California
1. Never To Forget 2.Nothing Became Something
Waz - The Sweet Bye and Bye
Best friend and one time guitarist for Pete Yorn, Waz’s debut album has been along time coming and much anticipated by anyone familiar with the passionate joy of his 2002 ep Mine To Remember. The Sweet Bye Bye certainly delivers the goods. Waz has pockets stuff with magestically lovely melodies, a voice like honey spread on velvet and imaginative musical chops to spare. A perfect album in everyway.
- Why Cant We 2. What She Needs
Paulusma - I Record
Jelle Paulusma was lead vocalist and (along with Anne Soldaat ) songwriter for Dutch masters Daryll Ann, in my book one of the greatest bands to ever walk the earth. While their subsequent solo careers have shown that Soldaat was the main musical force in DA (Anne has just recorded his second (trust me, brilliant) Do The Undo album in LA with Jason Falkner to be released next March) Jelle still has that golden voice and an ability to write one beautiful spine tingling song after another.
- Ready To Go 2. Ship Of Fools
Adam Merrin - Have Another One
Merrin is this keyboard player with The 88’s and this nine track solo album (up for free download here http://www.last.fm/music/Adam+Merrin/Have+Another+One) is a romantic majestic pop treat from start to finish. Think Chris Holmes mixed in with Jon Brion. Classy melodic and beautifully assured.
- Closer To You 2. Fallen For You.
Augie March - Watch Me Disappear
A magical Australian combo held close to my heart like The Mutton Birds or Trip Shakespeare, there’s no one quite like Augie March with their literate passionate songs and magestic strange pop invention. That said their forth album is by far their most straight ahead and immediate, not necessarily a good thing but the genius is such that it still burns brighter than most
1. Watch Me Disappear 2. Mugged By The Mob
The Swimmers -Fighting Trees
One Star Hotel recorded two superb and neglected albums of later period Jayhawks tinged pop country that displayed dazzling musician ship in spades. What made them really special though was the dynamite melodic songwriting and pop suss of Steve Yutzy-Burkey. Qualities he’s carried over into his new band The Swimmers. Leaving the country behind in favour of a brit tinged eclectic pop, this fine combo delivers up an album to be savored
- Its Time They Knew 2. Home
Ike - Where To Begin
Since the long lost days of The Caufields John Faye has had his finger on the power pop pulse and never let go. With the departure of Cliff Hillis Faye has been left as the main man of the every excellent Ike and fortunately he’s got a big box full of great pop songs and insanely addictive hooks to fill the Hillis void effortlessly. A Joyful buzz of an album from a master of the pop trade.
1. We like Sugar 2. Atomic Rose
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Thursday, December 25, 2008
I am sitting here up to my ass in snow thinking about the great music that has been presented to us this year and I am finding it difficult to come up with just 10!!
So many talented artists and groups, It is hard to make a decision! I am basing my list on the fact that most of these discs were in heavy rotation at home, work and in my car.
Well, here you are...
10. The Pop Project - Stars of Stage and ScreenNow that's my list, give me yours! I would like to see them. Just leave them in the comments section, maybe there will be something that we missed this year!
9. The Explorers Club - Freedom Wind
8. The Pickpockets - Underworld
7. The Pillbugs - Everybody Wants a Way Out
6. Jordan Zevon - Insides Out
5. The Favorites - Bright Nights, Bright Lights
4. The Gurus - Now
3. One Lone Car - North, South, East And The Rest
2. The Parties - Can't Come Down
1. Telepathic Butterflies - Breakfast in Suburbia
Merry Christmas -PPO Top 10 for 2008 pt1
Merry Christmas -PPO Top 10 for 2008 pt2
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Wednesday, December 24, 2008
The Tucson, AZ-based Resonars are essentially a talented one-man band by the name of Matt Rendon, even though three other members -- vocalist John Rendon, bassist Michael "Mick" Huxley, and drummer Keith Lopez -- of the supposed four-piece combo are listed on the CD credits. Don't look to the liner notes to reveal any clues about the band, however, as they're penned by Rendon posing as producer Alfie McNabb. (Scott Moody, owner of Star Time Records, thought it would be funny to have an Andrew Loog Oldham/Kit Lambert-type character named Alfie McNabb posing as his A&R guy and house producer, and so now McNabb's name appears on all of his label's releases.) In the notes, McNabb claims that Resonars are on "a mission to play vibrant, exciting music that can shake the world and still make the girls smile," which is as good a reason to go on a mission as any. Rendon had originally begun work on Lunar Kit in 2000, after the Get Hip release of 1999's Bright and Dark, but he eventually retired the group's moniker and moved to Seattle. There he joined the Vultures, playing drums for them under the name Mickey Finch. In fact, only one track on this album -- "Everything You Said" -- was recorded after he returned to Tucson in early 2001. As before, Rendon played all of the instruments and sang all the vocals, four-tracking himself at his Coma Cave home studio. Rendon also remixed two psych garage tracks -- "Why Does It Have to Be So Hard?" and "A Slice of Today," which had appeared on a CD that accompanied the last issue of a Philadelphia-based fanzine, The Bob, in the fall of 2001. ("A Slice of Today," incidentally, appeared as an unlisted bonus track on that particular CD.) "Under Garden" sounds like it may have been inspired by the Hollies circa Butterfly. Another Hollies-inspired track, the harmony-drenched "She's in Love With Her," shows up midway, along with its flip side of the Star Time single from 2000, the freakbeat romp "Floor Lamp Eyes," while an even older track, "Funny Old World," features a great freakout on the drums. The jangle-riffic title track, a Byrds-ian folk-rock "Lunar Kit," is positively swimming in echo and highlighted by early Who-style drumming, towering multi-tracked harmonies, and a twangy guitar. "Everything You Said" sounds inspired by Fontana-era Manfred Mann or even Outrageous Cherry. The album ends on a odd note, with Rendon trying his hand -- and succeeding -- at a boogie tune, "Little Spoiled Baby." -AMG
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Shots From a Cold Nightmare is a catchy batch of radio-flavored rock &roll, even though Martin's songs can seem to get a little too serious when it comes to the perils of infidelity, which is what most of them are about. While Martin comes through on the somewhat creepy-sounding "Paid Killer," the well-written "Night Thoughts," and on "Victim of Romance," there are still a couple of the album's songs that were bettered by other artists. "Cadillac Walk" sounds more stimulating coming from Mink DeVille on his self-titled release from 1977, and Robert Palmer managed to make a Top 20 hit out of "Bad Case of Loving You" a year after it appeared on Martin's album. Although Palmer and DeVille improved upon these two cuts, Shots From a Cold Nightmare remains one of Martin's most pleasing efforts, equal to 1979's Escape From Domination in its accommodating vocal form, but much stronger than both of his releases from the '80s, Street Fever and Mystery Ticket, which fail to relinquish the same amount of Martin's personality or distinctness both lyrically and vocally. -AMG
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Tuesday, December 23, 2008
On more than one occasion, Peter Case has said rather pointedly that he never considered either the Nerves or the Plimsouls to be power pop bands -- as far as Case was concerned, he was playing pure and simple rock & roll, and one spin of One Night in America proves the man's point better than words ever could. No one seems to know how, when, or where One Night in America was recorded (Case guesses it was somewhere in Cleveland in his liner notes, and the set list suggests it was sometime after the release of Everywhere at Once), but the tape speaks for itself as far as the Plimsouls' strengths are concerned. One Night in America is the sound of a rough and rowdy rock & roll band conversant in blues, the British Invasion, and straight-ahead barroom boogie, and on this night they were firing on all cylinders, and if the recording quality is a bit shaky in spots, these 12 songs demonstrate a power and streetwise swagger the Plimsouls didn't always achieve in the studio. Eddie Muñoz and Peter Case's guitars cut like switchblades, David Pahoa and Lou Ramirez are a rhythm section with a swing like Joe Louis, and Case sings like a man possessed, making everything from "A Million Miles Away" to "Dizzy Miss Lizzy" sound like it could hold the keys to the universe. As good as the Plimsouls' original two studio albums were (and they were very good indeed), One Night in America truly captures the band in its element, rockin' out on the stage of a club somewhere, and if you subscribe to Keith Richards' theory that on any given night nearly any band could be the greatest rock & roll band on Earth with the right mixture of passion, sweat, and inspiration, chances are on the nameless and dateless night when these tapes rolled, the Plimsouls held the title for 40 glorious minutes. Dig it. -AMG
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The Plimsouls - One Night In America - 1988/rs
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If groups such as Cheap Trick, Shoes and Enuff Z'Nuff hadn't already made you wonder, I submit The Drysdales self-titled debut as proof positive that the bands coming out of Chicago have turned the place into the new Liverpool.
The Drysdales brand of melodic power pop is heavily British-invasion inspired rock 'n' roll. They even brought in Raspberries' bassist Scott McCarl to add his vocals and guitars to all 12 tracks on this album. The key inspirations for a very diverse, distinctive sound are The Beatles, The Kinks, The Raspberries and Del Shannon (who headlined over The Beatles in England at the height of Beatlemania folks!). McCarl wrote the intro to the CD booklet. He also sings lead on and cowrote "Lost In Your Smile," which I deem to be the best power pop tune of the past year. According to McCarl's liner notes, the band wrote the tune the way bands used to do things before corporate America took the art and fun out of making music --- they wrote it spur of the moment on a greasy pizza box. McCarl wrote the tune with the three Drysdales (Patrick Potts, Steve Potts and Ron Fox) and Mike Konopka (who co-produced and engineered the album with Fox). It's like a time machine to "Beatles' '65" with an uptempo bass line from McCarl, Ringo-would-be-proud drumming from Steve Potts, jangly guitars (they grab you like The Byrds' "Turn! Turn! Turn!" or The Beatles' "Ticket To Ride") and sweet as chocolate harmonies:
There isn't a bad track on the album. Fans of British Invasion music from the '60s or the '70s power pop movement (Raspberries, Cheap Trick, Badfinger) and the '90s pop explosion (Posies, Fastball) will adore this album. -Don Krider
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Monday, December 22, 2008
Five years after their flirtation with major labels came and went with the release of 2000's King James Version, Seattle punk-popsters Harvey Danger return to active duty with a few new musical wrinkles but all their smarts (and hooks) intact on their fourth album, Little by Little.... While Harvey Danger still display a healthy amount of energy on these ten tunes, their emphasis has shifted a bit as the arrangements lean less on guitars and more on keyboards, with less punk and more classic pop structures in the formula. The piano-dominated melodies of "Little Round Mirrors" and "Moral Centralia" are clean and satisfying with just the right amount of bite around the edges, and "Happiness Writes White" sounds like the work of a post-millennial version of the Merry-Go-Round, while Sean Nelson's firm but flexible tenor is well suited to the new material. Producers Steve Fisk and John Goodmanson have just the right handle on this music, giving the tunes just the right amount of gloss without letting this stuff get too slick, and the band responded well to their treatment. And thankfully, the guys haven't forgotten how to rock out, either, with "Cream and Bastards Rise" strutting its stuff with just the right amount of bile, and the acoustic but nervy "Cool James" takes on its targets with a liberating anger and passion. Left to their own devices, Harvey Danger have made a smart and compelling pop album that proves they have plenty of life (and talent) left in 'em; this is as good an album as the bandmembers have ever made, and that "new musical direction" has thankfully taken them someplace worth visiting. -AMG
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Sunday, December 21, 2008
Richard Hell was one of the first men on the scene when punk rock first began to emerge in New York City as an early member of both Television and the Heartbreakers (he left both groups before they could record), but his own version of punk wasn't much like anyone else's, and while Hell's debut album, Blank Generation could play fast and loud when they wanted to, but for the most part this group's formula was much more complicated than that; guitarists , remains one of the most powerful to come from punk's first wave, anyone expecting a Ramones/Dead Boys-style frontal assault from this set had better readjust their expectations. "Love Comes in Spurts" and "Liar's Beware" proved the VoidoidsRobert Quine and Ivan Julian bounced sharp, edgy patterns off each other that were more about psychological tension than brute force (though Quine's solos suggest a fragile grace beneath the surface of their neo-Beefheart chaos), and while most punk nihilism was of the simplistic "Everything Sucks" variety, Hell was (with the exception of Patti Smith) the most literate and consciously poetic figure in the New York punk scene. While there's little on the album that's friendly or life-affirming, there's a crackling intelligence to songs like "New Pleasure," "Betrayal Takes Two," and "Another World" that confirmed Hell has a truly unique lyrical voice, at once supremely self-confident and dismissive of nearly everything around him (sometimes including himself). Brittle and troubling, but brimming with ideas and musical intelligence, Blank Generation was groundbreaking punk rock that followed no one's template, and today it sounds just as fresh -- and nearly as abrasive -- as it did when it first hit the racks. -AMG
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Say Seattle outside of Washington state, and the inevitable response is Pearl Jam, Soundgarden, and Nirvana. But besides those Emerald City rock monsters, the city has also hosted pop heroes the Posies and a thriving punk scene, as MXPX fans will quickly acclaim. Young guns the Lashes fall somewhere between these two latter musical threads, "stroppy pop for now people." They certainly attack their songs with all the fervor of any self-respecting punk band, but their arrangements are much denser and rock-flecked, hailing back to the halcyon days of the late '70s, when surly pop-rockers like the young Tom Petty and even wacky Cheap Trick could lay claim to punkdom or at least to riding the new wave. Following up on their much acclaimed debut EP The Stupid Stupid, the Lashes now return with their first full-length, Get It, and indeed you should. Storming across 11 songs, well nine, really -- "Dear Hollywood" is more downbeat, "Sometimes the Sun" more effervescent -- the group slam out a stream of rich melodies, driving rhythms, and catchy choruses. From the punky opener "New Best Friend" through the Big Star-like closer "Wanna Girl," the Lashes run riot through the rock realm. Cheap Trick inspires a clutch of numbers, but there are echoes of so much else -- the Clash, the Romantics, even Acid Eaters-era Ramones, and the Cars are included.But as power pop-flecked and new wave-ish as that all may suggest, the band never really sound retro. Tight, exhilarating, edgy, and infectious, Get It has got it all -- a superb debut. -AMG
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Saturday, December 20, 2008
Brash, melodic, and imbued with a more-than-healthy sense of British rock tradition, the Fratellis and their debut album, Costello Music, come across almost like a caricature of bands like the Libertines, Dirty Pretty Things, and Arctic Monkeys -- but at least it's a flattering one. The Fratellis take themselves a lot less seriously than some of the other laddish bands popular in the U.K. in the late 2000s, and emphasize hooks and fun rather than samey-sounding rock. Songs like "Baby Fratelli" and "The Gutterati" have a singalong simplicity, and it feels like the band puts as many "la la la"s and "ba da ba"s into each song as they can -- and then try to cram in a few more. Costello Music's best tracks go even farther with the band's fun-only agenda; it's easy to hear why "Flathead" -- which switches between grinding, aggressive verses and a downright giddy chorus with more of those "ba da bop a dah" hooks -- was picked to soundtrack a fittingly day-glo, kinetic iPod TV commercial. The outstanding single "Chelsea Dagger" is just as vibrant, a swaggering glam rock nugget with pints-aloft choruses. "Henrietta"'s loopy catchiness owes a debt to vaudeville or musical comedy, and not just because Jon Fratelli sings "wa wa wa waaaahhh" along with the guitar solo; "For the Girl," meanwhile, has a melody so strong, it could've been a hit anytime between the '60s and the '90s. Elsewhere on Costello Music, the Fratellis show off their knowledge of other corners of rock history: "Vince the Lovable Stoner" is appealing faux country-rock; "Doginabag" adds some blues and grit to their sound; and "Creepin' Up the Back Stairs" nods to '50s rock and skiffle. Even when the band gets a little more complex, as on the darkly twangy "Got Ma Nuts from a Hippy," they keep the focus on rapid-fire rhythms and air guitar-ready solos. Indeed, Costello Music is so high-energy, it's almost too much to take in one sitting. Then again, this music wasn't made for sitting, it was made for dancing yourself silly. They might not have the cultural or historical impact of some of their peers, but the Fratellis are a lot of fun in the moment -- whenever that moment is. -AMG
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Produced by Keith Cleversley (Mercury Rev, Flaming Lips), Sparkler's debut album Wicker Park is an engaging amalgam of swirling guitars and sunny melodies. While the songs aren't always cohesive, Sparkler has a charming, appealing sound that falls halfway between the Lips and Mercury Rev, which means that Wicker Park is a worthwhile listen, even with its faults. -AMG
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Friday, December 19, 2008
A hugely loaded (30 tracks!) retrospective of singles, compilation appearances, outtakes, and demos, Hamburger is as entertaining as any of the Muffs' "proper" CDs. Covering all phases of the band's existence, from their punky early days as Kim Shattuck and Melanie Vammen's new band following the death of their fellow ex-Pandoras Paula Pierce to their more polished but no less assertive later era as a Shattuck-led pop trio with stalwart bassist Ronnie Barnett and ex-Redd Kross drummer Roy McDonald, the non-chronological songs on Hamburger with influence-proving stops at along the way. It's possible that some of the solo are alternately sloppy, goofy, heartfelt, and as exciting as rock & roll got in the '90s. Best among the lot has to be 1992's "New Love," the group's first single and flat-out one of the finest indie singles of the entire decade, and a whopping one-third of the album is covers, ranging from a thrashing version of the Pandoras' early gem "You Lie" to a silly remake of Kim Wilde's "Kids in America,"the Saints, Elvis Costello, the Troggs, and the Paul Collins BeatShattuck guitar and voice demos could have been dropped, but they don't impede the flow of the album much. Essential for fans, although newcomers should probably start with Blonder and Blonder or Alert Today, Alive Tomorrow. -AMG
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The Shakes' self-titled full-length is a true-to-form power-pop record - crunchy rhythms, jangle-y guitars, slightly off-key, but passionate vocals, and an overall feeling of happiness bopping along with every note. The songs swim around in your head, the guitars have enough juice to make you want to rock, and the sugary center is quite the treat. -In Music We Trust
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The Shakes - The Shakes - 2002/rs
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