Thursday, July 31, 2008

Overwhelming Colorfast - Overwhelming Colorfast - 1992

From the opening chords of the frenetic and furious "It's Tomorrow," the self-titled debut by Overwhelming Colorfast bears an obvious Hüsker Dü influence, with Bob Reed's voice at times resembling Bob Mould's. Like Hüsker Dü, this quartet churns out catchy tunes powered by abrasive guitars and impassioned vocals. Influences aside, Overwhelming Colorfast proves quite adept at draping its lively melodies with layers of fuzzy guitar on tracks like "Totally Gorgeous Foreign Chick," My Trip," and "Arrows." The band also delivers a solid cover of the Beatles' classic "She Said, She Said," injecting the song with a little more muscle than the original version. The album's emphasis on a thick guitar sound could be attributed to the fact that Butch Vig produced the record, shortly before presiding over sessions for the Smashing Pumpkins' similarly crunch-heavy Siamese Dream. Though certainly not a groundbreaking album, Overwhelming Colorfast will easily satisfy fans of brisk, post-punk rock & roll. -AMG

If you like "Overwhelming Colorfast" get it here!

Wednesday, July 30, 2008

The Dials - Flex Time - 2005

Formed in 2002, Chicago-based indie rock outfit the Dials fuse new wave and punk into a rowdy, melodic, and street-smart tonic that echoes the great girl groups of the '60s turned up to 11. Relying on the talents of Rebecca Crawford, Patti Gran, Emily Dennison, and Chad Romanski, the band released its debut EP, Sick Times, in 2003 to critical acclaim, both local and national. The group's first full-length album, Flex Time, was released in 2005 on the Latest Flame label. -AMG

If you like "Flex Time " get it here!

Tuesday, July 29, 2008

Nick Lowe - Jesus Of Cool - 1978

On the cover of his solo debut album Jesus of Cool, Nick Lowe is pictured in six rock & roll get-ups — hippie, folkie, greasy rock & roller, new wave hipster — giving the not-so-subtle implication that this guy can do anything. Nick proves that assumption correct on Jesus of Cool, a record so good it was named twice, as Lowe's American record label got the jitters with Jesus and renamed it Pure Pop for Now People, shuffling the track listing (but not swapping songs) in the process. As it happens, both titles are accurate, but while the U.K. title sounds cooler, capturing Lowe's cheerfully blasphemous rock & roll swagger, Pure Pop describes the sound of the album, functioning as a sincere description of the music while conveying the wicked, knowing humor that drives it. This is pop about pop, a record filled with songs that tweak or spin conventions, or are about the industry. Only a writer with a long, hard battle with the biz in his past could write "Music for Money" and much of Jesus of Cool does feel like a long-delayed reaction to the disastrous American debut of Brinsley Schwarz, where the band's grand plans at kick-starting their career came crumbling down and pushed them into the pubs. Once there, the Brinsleys spearheaded the back-to-basics pub rock movement in England and as the years rolled on the band got loose, as did Lowe's writing, which got catchier and funnier on the group's last two albums, Nervous on the Road and New Favourites of Brinsley Schwarz. -AMG

If you like "Jesus of Cool" get it here!

Monday, July 28, 2008

The Insomniacs - Switched On! - 2004

David Wojciechowski and his fellow light-sleepers in the Insomniacs aren't offering anything strikingly new and different on 2004's Switched On!, but in the great tradition of "it's not what you do, it's how you do it," their blend of garage rock swagger and power pop jangle still sounds fresh and full-bodied, and they throw in enough variety along the way to keep things interesting. From the Byrds-ian 12-string chiming of "Somewhere" and the sitar-fueled Eastern accents of "Leave" to the organ swirls on "The Pudding Club," the Insomniacs have a good notion of when to throw in a left-turns into their classicist garage bluster to keep listeners on their toes, and even the relatively straightforward numbers are committed to tape with enthusiasm and commitment. Dan McKinney's engineering put just the right amount of meat on the bones, and his keyboard contributions are smart and well executed. Garage loyalists will love this, and a few of the unconverted might even go for it if it ever crosses their path. -AMG

If you like "Switched On!" get it here!

Saturday, July 26, 2008

Various Artists - Come and Get It - A Tribute To Badfinger - 1996

Badfinger deserve a tribute album a lot more than most, because few modern rock fans know them. Their four Top 15 singles for the Beatles' Apple label, from March 1970 to April 1972, all rank in anyone's Top Ten of the greatest post-Beatles, heavy power pop songs. Sing the choruses of "Day After Day" (done here by 20/20), "Baby Blue" (Aimee Mann), "No Matter What" (the Knack), and the Paul McCartney-penned "Come and Get It" (Adrian Belew), and the response invariably is, "I know that song! I love that song! That's Badfinger?" Likewise, their four LPs for Apple (before their two so-so Warner Bros. releases) contain many special moments. But a more loving tribute than Come and Get It: A Tribute to Badfinger would be hard to imagine. All 22 artists exhibit the sort of reverence Badfinger once had for the Beatles! The dais is a bit strange: no quibble with Mann, whose "Baby Blue" is really crisp, the Loud Family, the Rooks, the Salteens (Ken Stringfellow from the Posies in disguise), and a few others. And it's nice to see '60s guru and Zombies' champion Al Kooper, who once sat in with Badfinger in the studio (as he'd already done with Bob Dylan and the Who), take a turn. But the Knack? 20/20? Belew? Dwight Twilley? The re-formed Plimsouls (albeit with hot Blondie drummer Clem Burke)? Can you say '70s new wave party? Completely conversely, too many acts here are no-names with the scent of studio project, a common tribute album disease, however (in this case) enthusiastic. Such baby bands are overmatched by Badfinger's talent and soulful interplay. Where is all the cream of indie talent? Still, whatever attention these too-old and too-new fans draw to Badfinger is welcome, and in the end, miraculously, there isn't a single total stinker! -AMG

If you like "Come and Get It - A Tribute To Badfinger" get it here!

Friday, July 25, 2008

Broken Hearts - Want One? - 2003

In 1985, a number of years before Mike Mazzarella started The Rooks, he formed a nice little power pop unit called the Broken Hearts. Along with guitarist Tom Bittel, bassist Jamie Beckett, and drummer Pat Yourell, this spunky quartet recorded Want One? in December/January '84/85 and released it—as was then the fashion—on vinyl. Reissued on Paisley Pop in 2003 on CD, the original nine songs have been augmented with 11 extras. Perhaps the first thing that calls attention to itself on Want One? is how non-pretentious and fun these songs are. Pieces like "You Won't Find Me" and "Play That Song Again" will remind the listener of the best of '60s pop, bouncing happily along for two or three minutes to the jangle of electric guitars, a steady backbeat, and an ever-present bass. The odds and ends that make up the extras help to fill the album out a bit. The energy level—raw and hyped up—on songs like Circle of Fools" and How About That" burns even brighter than the studio cuts. There's also a longer version—a prototype—of "Just Love Ya'" that includes an extended, surreal jam in the middle. The last two tracks ("Not Really in Love" and "Fool for Love") were recorded in 1986 and steer, interestingly enough, toward country-rock. Want One? provides a nice portrait of four young men finding their muse, and will be of interest to Rooks' fans and anyone who loves good, energetic pop music. -AMG

If you like "Want One" get it here!

Thursday, July 24, 2008

The Hellacopters - Rock & Roll Is Dead - 2006

Just why would an album be titled Rock & Roll Is Dead when the contents within are good old-fashioned rock & roll? Undoubtedly, it's because one of Sweden's most popular rock acts, the Hellacopters, is displeased with the state of rock music. So it would be a highly logical guess that the title is aimed at all the homogenized rock acts running amok on the charts. While most "retro rockers" have no problem replicating the sonics of yesteryear, it's when it comes to penning memorable tracks like their heroes that they usually run into a stumbling block. But the Hellacopters are one of the exceptions — as evidenced here by such standouts as "Monkeyboy," the very Stonesy "Leave It Alone," and "Murder on My Mind." And as with most modern-day garage revivalists, the Hellacopters can't resist slipping in a few "bash and wail" numbers as well ("Bring It on Home," "Put Out the Fire," etc.). For those seeking garage rock patterned after late-'60s rock & roll (MC5, the Stooges, a dash of the Stones, and the Amboy Dukes), Rock & Roll Is Dead may just be your choice album of 2006 — although it was issued a year earlier in the Hellacopters' homeland. -AMG

Wednesday, July 23, 2008

Dorian Gray - The Sounds of Dorian Gray -1999

Dorian Gray plays melodic, guitar-based pop/rock in a style derived from Anglo-American bands of the mid-'60s, even if singer/lyricist Torben Freytag heard much of it secondhand through '70s new wave groups like Blondie. Producers David Myhr and Anders Hellgren have given those guitars a shimmering sound that sustains through the songs, lending a confectionery tone to Freytag's lyrics, most of which concern the dichotomy between ordinary life and stardom in the entertainment business. This theme is introduced in the opening track, "Daydreamer," in which the singer addresses a companion named Sheila, exhorting her to give up her waitressing job, remember their "master plan," and accompany him in leaving for a place where they may be able to realize their dreams. That those dreams concern fame as an entertainer is made clear in later songs such as "She's With the Band" and "We Could Be Stars," the latter making things explicit in lines like this: "Life is tragic in a way/at least for those who never make it." So far, however, Freytag seems to have a better sense of ordinary, mundane life than he does of life in the fast lane, as he devotes other songs to such subjects as watching the news on television ("Delirious") and juvenile delinquency ("Running With the Dogs"). He only occasionally betrays his origin in these English-language performances, now and then coming up with an awkward combination of words or singing something with an odd emphasis. For the most part, however, he is buoyed along by the surging music. It's not clear that the American music market of 2000 is looking for an eager, energetic power pop band, but if so, Dorian Gray stands ready. -AMG

If you like "The Sounds of Dorian Gray' get it here!

Monday, July 21, 2008

The Shazam - Godspeed the Shazam - 1999

Taking cues primarily from early Cheap Trick and Electric Light Orchestra, The Shazam mold hard rock that, initially, sounds out of place on the Not Lame label, which focuses entirely on power pop. However, on repeat listens it becomes obvious why this group is so often lumped in with fine pop acts; their hooks are remarkably strong and melodic. While they're clearly out of step with the times (The music here is entirely steeped in the late '70s, and while it may have sold millions then, it is unlikely to go past "cult" status now), Godspeed the Shazam is an excellent hard rock pleasure. Many of these songs sound like lost classics, especially the excellent "Super Tuesday" (an anthemic rocker on the lament of the loser of a presidential election) and "Gonna Miss Yer Train." The Shazam also occasionally dip into glam, especially on "Sunshine Tonight" and "The Stranded Stars" and, not surprisingly, they make that work too. It all amounts to yet another gem on the Not Lame label. -AMG

Sunday, July 20, 2008

The Krinkles - Revenge of... - 1998

Having known each other since they were tiny infants, the Krinkles men share an intense chemistry on and off stage. Having grown up in Detroit Rock City, the guys never had any problems finding great music to hear and play. Lured by the bright lights and beautiful creatures of Chicago, the brave young men made the move some years ago. Inspired by the city’s rich history of great Rock ‘n’ Roll acts, such as Cheap Trick, The Krinkles were soon formed.The Krinkle sound relies heavily on the songwriting team of Henry Krinkle (rhythm guitar, vocals) and Dan “The Fox” (lead guitar, vocals), along with the snap-crackle-rock rhythm section of Jerry O (bass) and Matty (drums, vocals). 2007 will see the release of their third CD “3 - The Mordorloff Collection”. Finally, they were able to capture the raw explosive power that The Krinkles legendary live shows are known for. With influences ranging from Badfinger to Kiss and all rock in-between, The Krinkles have a sound harkening to the glory days of Rock ‘n’ Roll with crisp vocal harmonies and delicate melody. This “hit you over the head without leaving a mark” approach is undercut by thunderous drums, pounding bass and thick crunchy guitars, giving The Krinkles a sound and future that continues to grow.

If you like "Revenge of..." get it here!

Saturday, July 19, 2008

Showbag - The Town We Loved In - 2004

Produced by the incredibly talented Michael Carpenter, you can take that as a stamp of quality assurance----such is the case with Showbag. "Beautiful, sweeping pop from outta Western Australia way. They always manage to come up with the goods and this full lengther is no exception. The gorgeous melodies of Perish Union, with its perfectly harmonised dual vocals and sad, sad chorus launches the bitter-sweet slab of pop nibblies, ahead of the aerated simple snappiness of Break It and the slightly tougher guitar stance of Bandy....Mean To You has Jodie Bartlett leading the vox department sweet, soft rhythms that blossom slowly, before East Or West scorches it up a notch ahead of the swirling carousel that is Goodbye Friend. Beginners is sheer killer pop in all its simplicity. Catchy, passion-draped and an instant hook! Never Get There dishes up more of the sameawesome in every sense of the word, with some beautiful harmonies to boot. If you love your pop, then you gotta get your flappers around one of WA`s finest exponents of the ilk. Simple, beautiful stuff."-RedBackRock. The lushness of REM, the lyric smart of the Go-betweens, thoughtful, heartfelt, angry and joyful. Set in the fictitious Australian town Perish Union it tells 14 tales, which, through a tapestry of girl/guy vocals, piece together the story of broken relationships, and how these coincide with the deterioration of the town In many ways this collection of songs feel somewhat like a disguised autobiography. Like reading somebody`s diary, telling tales of illness, ballads of love, hope and fear, and of the painful sorrow of saying goodbye. At times, delivering their tunes upbeat and at times almost silent, when you hear the album it feels like Showbag is sitting in the room reflecting with you - The lyrics hit you with such raw emotion you can reach out and feel the reality of the songs. -Not Lame

If you like "The Town We Loved In" get it here!

Friday, July 18, 2008

Sparkle*Jets U.K. - Bamboo Lounge - 2002

You can only come out of left field once, and the Sparkle*Jets U.K. had already managed to stretch their novelty by following up their irreverent debut with a full-fledged tribute album to themselves. So the band wisely decided not to replicate In, Through and Beyond and took a different approach entirely with Bamboo Lounge. Susan West is utilized more directly here; while her off-kilter character added variety to the debut, now she's brought front and center. The production on her tracks makes her vocal growl sound like her DNA was lifted from Heart's Ann and Nancy Wilson. And her material ups the ante, too — instead of being ambivalent about the death of a controlling boyfriend, she's now a caterwauler at a square dance where the participants will all be shot dead (yes, really). And Simmons responds by turning out a set of songs that are more faithful to power pop conventions than anything on the debut, such as the gorgeous "Sorry." There are no covers this time and they are missed, but to replace them the band makes a few liberal lifts from '70s classics like "Rock & Roll All Nite" by Kiss (in "She May Be Nice") and Elvis Costello's "Alison" (in "Beautiful Girl"). And the package is rounded out by a lounge instrumental, a twisted children's song, and album packaging that resembles the drink menu at a Chinese restaurant. Adoration of junk culture has never been as silly or as fun as this. -AMG


Thursday, July 17, 2008

Eugene Edwards - My Favorite Revolution - 2004

There's nothing fancy about Eugene Edwards' debut record, My Favorite Revolution. Powered by simple guitars, bass, and drums, influenced by power pop from the '60s to today, and firmly in the classic verse-chorus songwriting tradition, the record could have been a cookie-cutter nonentity. Certainly, in the wrong hands this kind of guitar pop can come off as studied and dull or, on the flip side, frivolous and camp. Edwards makes it work by being deadly serious. There are no winking asides, no arch tributes to pop icons, and not a drop of silliness. Every note sounds like it matters to Edwards and every note sounds real, and it gives the record an authenticity that most modern power pop records lack. Of course, authenticity isn't worth a dime unless it is backed up with tunes. Edwards delivers in fine fashion, whether he is making you smile nostalgically ("It Doesn't Get Better Than This," "Not That Kind of a Girl," "It's All About You"), breaking your heart ("The Next Time You Go," "Shattered Flower"), or just rocking you ("My Favorite Revolution," "At Your Place"). Edwards' voice is lively and pleasantly rough, reminiscent at times of Marshall Crenshaw or early Elvis Costello (without the sneer). His playing (and he plays everything on the album except the drums) is fiery and the production is tight and sharp without being slick, featuring nicely jangled guitars and smooth vocal harmonies. In fact, everything sounds note-perfect, and there isn't a wasted note or a bad idea anywhere. Impressive for a debut from out of nowhere, My Favorite Revolution is quite a pleasure. Of course, it is a pleasure that will likely only appeal to a small band of guitar pop enthusiasts unafraid to take a chance on an unknown, but that isn't Edwards' fault. All he has done is craft the kind of record that, if it had come out in 1977, would be talked about now in the same reverent tones as Dwight Twilley's debut or Tom Petty's first couple of singles. It isn't quite at that level, but it comes a lot closer than anyone else has lately, and for that, My Favorite Revolution deserves all the praise it gets. -AMG

If you like "My Favorite Revolution" get it here!

Wednesday, July 16, 2008

Superscope - Torpedo -2003

Superscope are the quintessential (i.e great one) post Beatles, post garage, post mediocre pop band. Sweet and hard. . . . somewhat like. . . .a lollipop. Quintessentially Australian, the rich, loud open chord that echy here will remind listeners of classic bands like DM3, The Chevelles and Pyramidiacs. After releasing many EP`s over the last 6 years, their full length is here! Woo-Hoo and it`s cause for celebration for pop fans worldwide. This is pure adrenaline infused power pop. Muscular workouts with happy guitar-based melodies and hooks that exquisite may just bring a tear to your eye. -Not Lame

If you like"Torpedo" get it here!

The Kicks - Hello Hong Kong - 2004

The Kicks return with Hello Hong Kong, a second album that actually plays more like a revamped version of their debut: seven songs — more than half the album — originally appeared on The Kicks. This is somewhat excusable, considering that Hello Hong Kong is the Kicks' major-label debut and the Kicks had a lot of hooky songs that make for a good introduction to the band. However, some of these songs seem to have suffered a bit during their major-label makeovers; Butch Vig's trademark shiny production tends to make the band's already radio-friendly melodies and hooks sound slick and generic instead of appealing. While the most urgent songs ("Radar") cut through the sheen and the poppiest ones ("Satellite," "Mir," and "Pop Star Radio Crown") work with it, the tracks that fall in-between these extremes sound even more in-between than they did before. As for Hello Hong Kong's new songs, "What Do I Have to Do?" is one of the better offerings, with a desperate, bordering on pathological chorus that is equally catchy and creepy. "12 Steps" flirts with emo earnestness, and "The Exorcist"'s wry but vulnerable look at relationship woes recalls Pinkerton-era Weezer (as does "Ninety-Nine," an "I'm into her, but she's into girls" rant that could be a rewrite of "Pink Triangle"). Indeed, Hello Hong Kong's main flaw is that it sounds like a block of modern rock radio programming all by itself; while the Kicks are adept at sampling from power pop, punk-pop, and emo, crafting something truly distinctive-sounding from those influences still eludes them. Even the album's most unique moment, a mix of crooning, faux-British vocals, cheesy synths, and big guitars known as "Pretty One," doesn't feel convincing as anything other than a crafty pastiche. Hello Hong Kong isn't at all a bad album, but it does suggest that the Kicks might be too competent at sounding like other bands for their own good. -AMG

If you like "Hello Hong Kong" get it here!

Tuesday, July 15, 2008

Brent Cash - How Will I Know If I'm Awake - 2008

It's the sound of endless summers and good vibrations. “From the start, multi-instrumentalist Cash decided to record his songs like "they did it back then," hiring the best musicians in town and assembling a mini-orchestra featuring strings, brass and even a harp. The results are simply stunning. From the opening chords of "Everything That's Grey," we enter melody wonderland, a place where major 7 chords rule and beautiful vocal harmonies dazzle your mind. "Digging The Fault Line" is full of Byrds guitar jangle, sounding like the perfect soundtrack to cruise into golden California sunsets (with a great Wes Montgomery-like guitar solo along the way). "Only Time" explodes with 100 % fat-free youthful euphoria -- Roger Nichols meets The 5th Dimension. Music made the way it was meant to be heard. -Not Lame

If you like "How Will I Know If I'm Awake" get it here!

The Jam - All Mod Cons - 1978

The Jam regrouped and refocused for All Mod Cons, an album that marked a great leap in songwriting maturity and sense of purpose. For the first time, Paul Weller built, rather than fell back, upon his influences, carving a distinct voice all his own; he employed a story-style narrative with invented characters and vivid British imagery à la Ray Davies to make incisive social commentary — all in a musically irresistible package. The youthful perspective and impassioned delivery on All Mod Cons first earned Weller the "voice of a generation" tag, and it certainly captures a moment in time, but really, the feelings and sentiments expressed on the album just as easily speak to any future generation of young people. Terms like "classic" are often bandied about, but in the case of All Mod Cons, it is certainly deserved. -AMG

If you like "All Mod Cons" get it here!

Monday, July 14, 2008

Michael Carpenter - Rolling Ball - 2004

Michael Carpenter produced some of the best singer/songwriter rock & roll records around the turn of the millennium, but until 2003's Kings Rd. Works he was handling most of the instrumentation, recording, and production entirely himself. It seemed that having a full band in the studio with him would provide an extra dose of power and energize his normally humble efforts, but for some reason the end result was a record that sounded more constrained than his prior work and came off as a bit of a disappointment. He retrenched with the follow-up, 2004's brilliant Rolling Ball, a dizzyingly diverse record that borrows from a cornucopia of styles and bursts with enthusiasm. Rolling Ball doesn't represent a break from form so much as an increase in focus: this is still the same Michael Carpenter who's been releasing rootsy and earnest pop/rock records since 1999. It is a return, at least to some extent, to the sound of Carpenter's first (and best) record, Baby, but not self-consciously so. Instead, Carpenter has shattered the "next Tom Petty" tag and realized that his many influences, which he has always tended to wear on his sleeve throughout his records, can merge to create a record that sounds like his own work, and that part of that process is to actually allow them to seep through fully. Essentially, Rolling Ball is where Carpenter decided to stop recognizing the boundaries of his influences and to instead fully integrate them, and the end result is excellence: the title track and "Emily Says" recall classic bubblegum, "The Ache" nods toward the twang of the Byrds' Sweetheart of the Rodeo without cribbing too liberally from the source material, ballads like "Good Enough" and "Everyday" resonate in a way that his slower material didn't before (especially on Kings Rd. Works, where they were the obvious Achilles' heel), and he also creates some of the most complex and dizzyingly diverse songs of his career, in particular the neo-psychedelic "The Day Before." Building from tense and foreboding verses, the song bursts into an anthemic, chunky classic rock-styled chorus before sinking again into the pulsating depths of the Nuggets-inspired verses. It's one of the best examples yet put to tape of just how much this artist is capable of achieving, and stands as the centerpiece of his brilliant return to form. -AMG

If You Like "Rolling Ball" get it here!

Michael Carpenter - Rolling Ball - 2004 pt1
Michael Carpenter - Rolling Ball - 2004 pt2

Owsley - Owsley - 1999

Alabama born multi-instrumentalist Will Owsley followed a career path not unlike Sheryl Crow's, by backing up big mainstream pop artists, collecting the rewards and channeling them into his own solo work. Owsley plied his wares in the bands of Shania Twain and Amy Grant in the mid-'90s, then recorded his own material at home, and offered the finished product to record companies on a take-it-or-leave-it basis — just like Tom Scholz did with the first Boston album, Owsley notes. Giant Records took it, and released Owsley's debut in 1999. Another of Owsley's old bands contained Ben Folds, and their like-mindedness is hard to miss; this album's "Zavelow House" and "Sonny Boy" are practically Ben homages. While both craft pop hooks which make similarly instant impressions, Owsley toughens them up with meatier singing and crunching guitars, avoiding the occasional maudlin sensibilities of Folds' stuff — the "wimp factor" is wisely absent here. Owsley's power-chord crunch and serviceable soloing amplify matters in songs like "Oh No the Radio" and "I'm Alright." Owsley's sonic references originate in the '70s: there's Todd Rundgren's keyboard melodicism, the offbeat arrangements of 10cc, and even a throwback to the stylized country-rock of Dave Mason. In terms of amplitude and attitude, though, this album is a direct product of the late '90s. Owsley is about as ideal as pop solo debuts get; like Jason Falkner Presents Author Unknown and the first Folds album, it introduces expert tunesmithing and by an unassuming musical personality. Smart, tasty and guilt-free. -AMG

If you like "Owsley" get it here!

Sunday, July 13, 2008

Hollywood Brats - Hollywood Brats - 1980

The Hollywood Brats announce their presence on their self-titled album, re-released in 1999, with a plinky piano that drips with campy fun — especially the last wrong note hit before a wave of guitars washes away the tinny sound with a full rock & roll barrage. And these wink-wink touches are layered onto the album thicker than the blusher caked onto the boys who played on it. "Courtesan," has a slinky go-go dance beat, over which a nasally croon warns of, "the girl with the dollar sign eyes." They deliver an amped up version of "Then He Kissed Me," complete with a gender-bending interpretation, and the hint of an exhibitionist's thrill at doing something naughty. These boys could give the New York Dolls a run for their money, and both would be evenly matched in their towering platform shoes and flying feather boas, although their songs lack some of the raunchy punk and dirt under your press-on fingernails sound of their New York boyfriends. They were forming across the pond at the same time in the early '70s, though, when a disgust with the bloated redundancy of popular rock and the cotton candy emptiness of disco caused all the fabulous freaks of punk rock to let out a squeal. The songs were recorded in 1973 but were not released in Britain until 1980, when Cherry Red Records did the honors. And the Hollywood Brats definitely bring to mind the hair bands that followed them, especially the way that Hanoi Rocks flirted with both street credibility and over the top drama, and an echo of their sound can be found in Motley Crue's cow bell. Of course, it's not just light songs about skipping school and cross-dressing — they do let their inner punks out to play. "Sick on You" is the ultimate break up song, flaying a now tiresome six week romance with "if I'm gonna puke, Babe, I'm gonna puke on you." While this album does inspire a few giggles, for anyone who likes the tradition of electrifying bluesy R&B-based rock, and delivering it with both a sneer and a dusting of glitter, this album is a worthwhile score. -AMG

If you like "Hollywood Brats" get it here!

The Red Button - She's About To Cross My Mind - 2007

The pop record all the indie-popsters have been afraid to make for the last decade.... Instead of the haze of fuzzy logic and hipster cred, The Red Button write refreshingly direct, buoyant odes to loves lost and found without a hint of irony...They’ve earned their “Beatle-esque” sobriquet without reservation...The most immediate, arresting hooks of any record that will come out in 2007 give the Red Button a leg up on all contenders to the power pop throne... I didn’t think they made records like this anymore. -Trip McClatchy, Teen Kicks

If you like "She's About To Cross My Mind" get it here!

Saturday, July 12, 2008

E - A Man Called (E) - 1992

Prior to fronting the '90s experimental indie rock band the Eels, a man called E (born Mark Everett) was making heavenly pop music on his own. This debut solo release contains typical quirky melodies and mind-boggling lyrics, but E hits upon lush harmonies similar to the likes of Elton John, the Beach Boys, and Paul McCartney. He is a perfectionist, playing every instrument and orchestrating all the material found on A Man Called E.He's a love-sick puppy, a hopeless romantic, and a daydreamer. Such drama is captured in album highlights "Hello Cruel World," "Are You and Me Gonna Happen?," and "E's Tune." His lyrical poetry is his therapy, a common talent found in later Eels material. But you have to appreciate E's effort. He's thoughtful and almost touching. He's real. Now that's pretty refreshing. -AMG

If you like "A Man Called (E)" get it here!

Halogen - Save the Ones You Love - 2006

Halogen shows us why they are Australia's brightest up and coming band with this perfect slice of avant-pop. "Save the Ones You Love" changes their status from a band to watch to a band to listen to. Their debut is an assured piece of songwriting magic. Recorded and mixed in Perth by Shaun O'Callaghan (Eskimo Joe, John Butler Trio, Muzzy Pep) this is an exciting and mature debut which shows a band, which can write both highly contagious pop songs and tracks of delicate beauty and depth. 11 tracks of beautiful songs, sung magically by Jasmine Yee, believe us when we tell you, you will love the sounds of Halogen!

If you like "Save The Ones You Love" get it here!

Halogen - Save the Ones You Love - 2006

Friday, July 11, 2008

Jesse Valenzuela - Tunes Young People Will Enjoy - 2002

Gin Blossom's songwriter and guitarist, Jesse Valenzuela, releases his first solo album, opening the floodgates of personal, creative alchemy in rushing, churning, rootsy Americana pop that undoubtedly washes over the senses. Like a brainstorming session without a referee, his muse spills forth into elemental, pleasantly-unrefined songs that stir the most basic needs in the self. This is the kind of music that appeals to the core personality hiding behind the persona. Not to be missed -CD Baby

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The Winnerys - ...and The Winnerys - 2004

The Winnerys' first widely distributed album is spirited, competent power pop, though hardly as epochal as its influences. It's thick with guitar-dominated songs with vocal harmonies, perhaps with a greater Merseybeat influence than most such bands bear. The songs, most likely to the surprise of no one, are mostly about feeling good and being in love, with a hearty optimism charging even the songs about heartache and longing. They like to go into the upper vocal register, but they're not Paul McCartneys or even Allan Clarkes (of the Hollies) in that regard, sometimes showing some strain at the top of the arc, though not ear-gratingly so. Some lyrics reflecting a modern attitude do slip in that likely would have not found a place on pre-1970s recordings, like the note that "I was so f*cking busy" in "The Guy With Two Houses," and the intro couplet "I'm writing this song for the girl that I love, she owes me my records, I owe her my soul" in "Even More Than Myself." As on a lot of power pop records, while superficially Beatlesque music may be at the center, there are passing references to different sounds — the Who, the Byrds, the Hollies, Badfinger, even a bit of early-'70s Rolling Stones in "The Guy With Two Houses." And "Little Dark Cloud" has a bit of a Kinks-like ironic, wary bounce, standing out as one of the more memorable tracks by virtue of its difference among more amiable surroundings. -AMG

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Thursday, July 10, 2008

Various Artists - Pop Scenes From Perth - 2008

A great 11 song collection that gathers up some well-known Australian pop bands(Superscope, Chevelles and Jack and Beanstalk) and finds some excellent new arrivals onto the scene that will leave pop fans of Down Under music anticipating future releases from the likes of Evil Knievel, Showbag, Spencer Tracy, Mink, Autopilot and many more. There`s a lot to discover here and feel renewed in the fact that, let`s face it, there`s something special about Australia that never gets old or tired and will always deliver great music. -Not Lame

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Various Artists - Lost Weekend 2003 - 2003

Another celebration of Australia`s Independent Pop scene and representation of a touring festival Down Under. These 23 songs contain a lot of strong new faces on the scene and new finds. Old friends include: Michael Carpenter, Ice Cream Hands, Chevelles, Even, Challenger 7, Lynchpin, The Innocents, Pyramidiacs, but new faces that merit excitement include: Starky, Adam Power, Magneto, City Lights, Sarah Sarah, Spency Tracy, Danny McDonald, Treetops, Groundswell, The Kubes, Shifter and many more! -Not Lame

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Wednesday, July 9, 2008

Cosmic Rough Riders - Panorama - 2000

Deliverance was content to find a groove and ride it for all it was worth, but Daniel Wylie and Stephen Fleming just happened to find a fabulous groove, steeped in the laid-back ease of '70s California folk and country-rock. Panorama, however, shows considerably more variation — both in influences and in sound — and the result is an impossibly dynamic masterpiece, irresistible and breathtaking in its accomplishment. As striking as the debut was, Panorama is a far more stunning achievement. Some of the same sonic touches remain. Light-as-air vintage Byrds harmonies bloom throughout, particularly on songs such as "Have You Heard the News Today?" and "The Pain Inside," as do chiming guitars straight out of Mr. Tambourine Man, while Jayhawks harmonies buoy the wonderful country ballad "Afterglow." But gone for the most part are the overt country-rock inflections and in their place are even more resonant touches of rural psychedelia and a sound dense with strummed acoustic guitars and tangibly cosmic undertones. California is still an unseen Mecca for the duo, but even when they do reference familiar elements from its rock and pop past — the surf-insistent Beach Boys harmonizing that opens "Value of Life," for instance, or the expansive hung-over quality of the opening "Revolution (In the Summertime)" — they place them in contexts so far removed from the original intent that it creates an entirely new dynamic. "You Got Me" begins to explain the progression in musical terms. The song has the same country-folk lilt that many of the songs on the debut had, but there is something deeper in the mood it creates, a trippy quality that colors the song more otherworldly, and more emotionally stirring in the process. Some of the touchstones hit closer to home this time around, including Beatles and Rolling Stones touches and an Eastern ambience. The brief mystical blast of "Brothers Gather 'Round" wrenches Brian Jones' sitar-like tones out of an acoustic guitar, while the guitars on "Can't Get Any Closer" could have walked out of Aftermath. But "The Gun Isn't Loaded" is the most convincing exposition of the band's huge growth between albums. The melody is a grafting of Middle Eastern modality and the echoes of traditional Celtic folk (while managing to also sound like XTC), and the mood falls somewhere between "Norwegian Wood" and "Tomorrow Never Knows," Indian music and psychedelic folk-rock. As on their previous album, though, it is too easy to simply use allusions to get at the essence of what makes Cosmic Rough Riders such a phenomenal band. Panorama on its own terms is an album of sweeping scope and poignancy, mindful of the heritage that it continues, but so brilliantly executed that it feels like a quantum leap into uncharted waters, full of genuinely glorious moments of epiphany. -AMG

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The Len Price 3 - Chinese Burn - 2005

Weaned on the raw, passionate two-minute tunes of the Who, the Kinks, and the Clash, the Len Price 3 are a high-energy garage combo from the Medway district of North Kent in the United Kingdom. Comprised of Glenn Page on guitar and vocals, Steve Huggins on bass, and Neil Fromow on drums (yes, no one in the band is named Len Price), the Len Price 3 got their start at a bar in Maidstone where bands could pay for the privilege of rehearsing in front of the drinking customers; when the trio was banned for playing too loud, they simply changed their name and booked another gig under the new moniker a few weeks later. Eventually, the band found an audience for their revved-up, no-nonsense sound, and found themselves sharing stages with a wide variety of noted acts, from the Libertines to the Buff Medways (featuring British garage icon Billy Childish). In 2005, the Len Price 3 came to the attention of the Australian label Laughing Outlaw Records, who signed the band and released their debut single, "Christian in the Desert" b/w "Dorolea," as well as their first album, Chinese Burn. The album received strong reviews and the band toured extensively in the United Kingdom, as well as coming to America for the first time to play the 2006 South by Southwest Music Conference. In 2006, the Len Price 3 signed with Wicked Cool Records, a new label founded by garage rock maven Steven Van Zandt; however, cross talk between the group, Wicked Cool, and Laughing Outlaw prevented their second LP, Rent a Crowd, from reaching stores until May 29, 2007. - AMG

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Tuesday, July 8, 2008

The Tripwires - Makes You Look Around - 2007

The Tripwires are a Seattle semi-supergroup; drummer Mark Pickerel was a member of the Screaming Trees, bassist Jim Sangster played with the Young Fresh Fellows, guitarist and singer John Ramberg also works with the Minus Five, and guitarist Johnny Sangster has served as a producer, engineer, and studio player for the likes of Mudhoney, the Supersuckers, and the Posies. But if you're expecting the Tripwires' debut album, Makes You Look Around, to sound like some sort of Pacific Northwest Super Session, you'll probably be a bit disappointed, though not for long — this is a first-rate example of smart pop, loaded with killer hooks, cool melodies, and concise guitar interplay. Ramberg wrote the songs on Makes You Look Around (except for a stripped-down cover of Chuck Berry's "Tulane"), and while one can hear faint echoes of the influence of the Young Fresh Fellows in his flashes of off-kilter wit, for the most part his tunes deliver plenty of no-nonsense rock & roll that moves with a sure, insistent feel and a spunk that's part Merseybeat, part New Wave, Skinny Tie Division (though there's a vague twangy undertow to "Lessonpony" and "Sold Yer Guitar Blues," while "Big Electric Light" reveals an unexpected psychedelic influence). Scott McCaughey contributes guest vocals to several songs on this album, but he doesn't steal the show away from the band, which sounds solid and enthusiastic throughout while making the most of Ramberg's fine songs; hopefully, these guys can take time out of their respective schedules and cut another album like this some fine day. -AMG

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The Tripwires - Makes You Look Around - 2007

Monday, July 7, 2008

The Heaters - The Great Lost Heaters Album! - 2007

In the late '70s and early '80s, the Heaters! played to sold out shows in their home in Los Angeles and across the country, gaining loyal fans, who sang along with the band's exciting musical blend of rock, pop, Motown, British Invasion, New York underground and a dash of Tin Pan Alley. Featuring singer Theresa Robertson on lead vocals, sisters Missy Connell on bass and vocals and Maggie Connell on keyboards and vocals, Jamnes Demeter on guitar and Phil Cohen on drums and vocals, the Heaters! were a hard to classify but easy to love rock and roll whirlwind.Now for the first time, you can hear the Heaters! as they sounded in their prime. Combining completed re-recorded and re-mastered tracks from the band's ill-fated album on Ariola America and other selected tracks from the group's vaults, including 3 live tracks, this is the album the band always intended for people to hear.So give a listen. Guaranteed to brighten your day, get your feet moving and have you singing along before you know it! Put On The Heat! -CD Baby

The Exploding Hearts - Guitar Romantic - 2003

At first glance, the Exploding Hearts seem like mere revivalists. From the pink and yellow cover to their 1977 looks to their influences, it would be easy to dismiss them. But you need to hold the phone a minute and listen, because the Exploding Hearts are the best punk band to come along in a long time, maybe since the original wave. About those influences, here is a partial list: the early Clash if Mick Jones wrote all the songs and the Only Ones or Buzzcocks at their emotional best, but also classic power pop sounds like a (much) tougher Rubinoos, rock & roll like a tighter and sober New York Dolls, and the lo-fi approach of Billy Childish. Guitar Romantic is an amazingly raw and melodic debut, fully realized and original despite the obvious debt to the punk past. It is difficult to pinpoint just what it is about the band that helps overcome their idol worship. Maybe it is the love and authenticity that they pour into the worship, the raw production that smashes the guitars and bass into a whirling mess of tuneful noise, or the wonderfully tough but tender vocals. Most likely it is the songwriting. Too many bands that seek to re-create a sound or an era don't have the tunes to back it up. Not the Hearts. Every song on Guitar Romantic makes a bid to be the best on the album: "I'm a Pretender" is a jaunty kick in the head, "Sleeping Aides & Razorblades" is an ultra-catchy doo wop-inspired ballad with a brilliant guitar line, "Thorns in Roses" is a rollicking '50s-influenced ballad, "Throwaway Style" melds a lovelorn lyric to a Motown beat (the same one the Strokes heisted for "Last Nite") to great effect. There isn't a weak song here, not a single one that isn't on par with the best punk-pop. If you don't have this album and have even the slightest affinity for poppy punk rock or punky pop/rock, you are missing out on something special. -AMG

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Sunday, July 6, 2008

Somerdale - Friday Nite In America - 2006

Debut full-length by this New Jersey 3-piece formerly known as The Shags! "Old school power pop done with new school spirit and verve. Definitely a band to watch out for!" - David Bash They’ve toughened up their sound and have maintained their sweet vocal harmonies! They take you on their personally guided “musical history tour” of guitar pop (that exhibits a plethora of influences – The Beatles, Elliott Smith, The Rubinoos, The Who, The Rolling Stones, The Raspberries, Free, and Artful Dodger immediately come to mind) that begins with “FM Liberation” delivered with “Street Fighting Man”-like power chords, Keith Moon-like drumming, and John Entwhistle-like bass lines! “She Reminds Me” combines “All Right Now” riff crunch with sugar sweet “ooh and aah harmonies! “Oh Nicole” could be an Artful Dodger outtake! “Gravity” is Raspberries-like! You get the idea! -CD Baby

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The Lambrettas - Beat Boys in the Jet Age - 1980

The Lambrettas, featuring Jez Bird (guitar/vocals/keyboards), Doug Saunders (guitar), Mark Ellis (bass), and Paul Wincer (drums), jumped on the Jam-inspired mod revival bandwagon of the late '70s, dressing in matching mohair suits and naming themselves after one of the mod-favored motor scooters. Although decidedly derivative, the Lambrettas proved to be one of the most fondly remembered bands of the mod revival. The band formed in the mod mecca of Brighton and, under the leadership of Bird's catchy songwriting, proved to be more than just Jam sound-alikes, leaving behind mod-life arrogance/elitism in favor of a pure pop sensibility. The band signed to Elton John's Rocket Records in 1979 and after one failed single, "Go Steady," had a U.K. hit with their cover of Leiber and Stoller's "Poison Ivy." The follow-up singles "D-a-a-ance" and "Another Day (Another Girl)" also charted in the U.K. The latter (originally titled "Page Three"), with its not-so-thinly veiled jabs at The Sun newspaper's practice of placing photos of topless women on page three, earned them some notoriety when the newspaper threatened legal action. Beat Boys in the Jet Age, their debut LP, released in 1980, collected the early singles and other similar-sounding originals. Though it did make it into the British charts, the mod revival fad had pretty much run its course. Subsequent singles and a second album, 1981's Ambience, were commercial flops despite efforts to break from the mod mold. The band called it quits in 1982, playing their final gig in London, on April 14, 1982. Bird regrouped the band in the '90s, playing small venues in England, and recorded several demos for a new album which never saw the light of day. -AMG

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