Reviews

Kenny Kaos

The Courettes Want You! Like a Cigarette / Night Time (The Boy of Mine) 7”

I’ve always loved that the Scandinavians have a real appreciation for music history. The music they put out rarely exists in a vacuum. Female-fronted garage rock’n’roll, this one has a real feel for the girl vocal bands of the early ’60s. It’s got the harmonies, the handclaps, the melancholic vocals and lyrics. And while the focus is on the vocals, it’s not at the expense of the finger-snapping garage fuzz that carries it all. I find the production nicely balanced; it’s nicely done, but not overdone. They knew what they were trying to achieve and they achieved it.

Pretty Voices American Curls CD

While these guys are clearly talented musicians, this record isn’t knocking my socks off. Musically, it’s a sort of mix-up of power pop and garage rock. I don’t know why, but I’m reminded of CHEAP TRICK. It’s all just a little too overdone for me. Within songs, the cadence changes and they employ that stop/start thing that can drive me crazy. The vocals seem affected, like Mark Smith of the FALL. Too much lead guitar. They can’t help it if they’re from Florida.

Jenny Stupid Band 12″

We’re getting off to the right start with this one. I like power pop and I like harmonies. And I really don’t mind when my punk rock is a little pretty. This one reminds me of things like the PRIMITIVE HEARTS and IT’S GLITZ, though at a slightly calmer pace. All five tracks are winners, not least the acoustic number they finish with that features a little country twang, “Song for Sadie,” a song previously done by SUSPECT PARTS. (Your homework is to figure out the connection.) This one is worth looking for.

Jiffy Marx She’s My Witch / Warning Sign 7″

This record delivers two terrific power pop numbers that take me right back to 1979. The A-side is a mellow, sort of funky little tune, with a bass line that draws you in and won’t let you go. It makes even an old dude like me feel like he’s got soul. The flipside is equally as catchy and also mid-tempo. It’s got a somber feel to it and leans heavily on the “pop” in power pop. You really owe it to yourself to go out and look for this one. Snappy Little Numbers is firing on all cylinders these days.

Charlie Continental & Heaty Beat We’re Getting Fixed (The Grawlix Saves the World) 7″ flexi

Holy shit, thanks to Snappy Little Numbers, it seems it’s flexi-disc month here at MRR. This one has the original version of the song and a remix featuring a rap break (HEATY BEAT) in the middle. This one definitely fits into the category of snappy little number. Mid-tempo and catchy as all hell, if you’ve got a pulse, you’ll find yourself bouncing your head and/or tapping your toes to this one. I’m a fan. Limited to 100 copies if you want the flexi.

Gallows Birds Quaranteenage Kicks CD

The title of the CD will forever tie this one to 2020 [let’s hope! –Ed.]. One song in and I’m thinking of the QUEERS with even more BEACH BOYS influence. On the off-chance that means nothing to you, think pop punk with a heavy side of surf. If the QUEERS wrote songs mostly about girls, GALLOWS BIRDS also write songs about the beach and cars/scooters. It’s catchy and for sure well done.

Outtacontroller Sure Thing LP

I’ve always been a fan of Alien Snatch Records. They consistently put out not just stuff that I like, but quality stuff. This one is no exception. I suppose I’d call this power pop, but it’s more than that. It’s catchy for sure, but it’s also got a fair amount of distortion that gives it some meat. I also find that vocals (and harmonies) give it a certain texture that elevates it above just being another decent power pop record. As I finish up listening to it, I’m struck that it’s a good record the first time through, but it’s also a certainty for me that it’ll just get better and better as I listen to it again. This is worth looking for.

The Animal Steel Smooth Jazz Chords 7″ flexi

It’s not often you see a one-sided flexi disc come along. This is an interesting one. It’s sort of hardcore, sort of emo and has that disjointed rhythm section thing going on. The vocals remind me in an odd way of PEGBOY, but the sound is “heavy” and more FUGAZI. This stuff can be very hit or miss with me and honestly, I’m still trying to figure out if this one was hit or miss. Let’s give it another roll. Clocking in at over five minutes, you’re almost bound to lose my attention. Still, I’m on the fence, though I will admit to leaning towards hit, rather than miss. It looks like the physical release was limited to 100.

Ex-White / LASSIE split cassette

LASSIE starts things out with three cuts, which remind me of early DEVO in many ways; they’ve got an electronic element, they’re catchy, and they’re a tad bit odd. I also like all three tracks quite a bit. Make no mistake about it, this is punk rock. EX WHITE follows things up with four cuts of their own. Faster paced and without the same level of electronics, they’ve got a similar sound in the sense that it’s a tad bit odd and it’s extremely catchy. This is definitely worth looking for, but the Bandcamp page indicates that it’s sold out.

The Neptunas Mermaid A-Go-Go CD

I’m not sure why I dig this sort of shit, but I really do. They start off with a nice surf instrumental that has hints of spaghetti western sprinkled about. It’s got a casual tempo and just kind of puts you at ease. For the second track, they come out with a number that makes me think of the French pop of the ’60s, like FRANCE GALL. Maybe it’s the female vocals. Or maybe because some of the lyrics are actually in French. In the end, it’s a mixture of instrumentals and songs that feature vocals. All are done extremely well and, as I said earlier, it all comes with a certain calming element. Simple, straightforward, enjoyable.

V/A Rock n’ Roll Manifesto 7″ Series Vol. 1 EP

One cut each by TIGER TOUCH, FRET RATTLES, JJ AND THE REAL JERKS, and MISSILE STUDS. This 7” appears to be the first in a series of records we can expect from the Stamp Out Disco label, a name that is presumably a tip of the hat to RAZAR and their classic tune. This one features four real rockers. All are certainly punk, but each also clearly draws from their rock’n’roll roots. The one thing that I think they’ve all got in common is that they’re straightforward, melodic, and pretty catchy. Each of the four tracks is worthwhile, and to find them on a single slab of vinyl is a treat. This really is an excellent record.

Stop Worrying and Love the Bomb Fake Nature LP

I reviewed their first album Noun when it came out many moons ago, and then proceeded to wear that shit out. I still love that record. Similarly, this one comes out of the gate throwing punches, just driving right at you. It’s relentless. There’s a piercing quality in the strings, and the drums carry the energy. It’s rough. And the vocals (female and male) aren’t pretty, but they’re strong and not at all unpleasant. There’s nothing cute about this. At the same time, it seriously is catchy as hell. It’s got a poppiness to it. I love bands that can pull that off. And, as with most any record that takes it to the next level, there’s an undeniable sense of urgency here. They even slow things down a little on the last track. This is worth searching for.

Foxycontin This Time You’re On Your Own LP

Reading their own description of the band, you’ll see words like “pop punk” and “power pop.” I’m not going to argue with them, but those weren’t the first things that jumped into my mind. I’d have said “rock’n’roll” or “punk’n’roll.” I’d say there’s also a gritty slice of Americana in there, and certain Celtic influences. It’s mid-tempo and catchy, and they convey a certain authenticity. You get the impression that these four are just doing what they enjoy doing and are sort of unapologetic about it. They remind me of BOUNCING SOULS without really sounding much like them, though they do bring that energy. And they like the fact that they’re from Philadelphia, an awesome city.

Brad Marino False Alarm EP

I really do love good power pop, which is sometimes mistaken for pop punk. And while some bands may blur that line between power pop and pop punk, this is a great example of power pop and something that wouldn’t easily get mistaken for pop punk. Not only that, it’s pure goodness. It’s melodic and mid-tempo and it’s so catchy that I’m trying to draw a COVID comparison. Too soon, I know. There’s also a HOODOO GURUS cover, for those who are interested. This is the first time I’ve heard of BRAD MARINO, but if you look on his Bandcamp page, he’s got quite a bit of stuff out there. I’m looking forward to hearing some of the others.

The Yum Yums For Those About to Pop! CD-R

I’ve been a fan of the YUM YUMS ever since they released their first 7″ Girls Like That on Screaming Apple over 25 years ago. We’ve had a good run. Their first LP Sweet as Candy is still one of my favorite pop records of all time. For the last few years, it seems they’ve put out a record every six years or so. When I’ve been a fan of a band forever and you see a new release coming out 26 years after their initial release, I get a little anxious. There’s no chance it’ll be as good as the first record. I’ve enjoyed everything they’ve put out, but in my mind there is for sure a chance that this will be complete shit. I don’t want that to happen. From Norway, it seems these guys are still delivering faster-paced, infectiously catchy pop with RAMONES-like guitar riffs. But it’s not just pop or even power pop, it’s also bubblegum, but not in a terrible way, and even glam and for sure rock’n’roll and possibly even just a tad bit of country and surf. Fourteen cuts and I’m pretty sure every one of them is about a girl. This didn’t disappoint on any level. What an impressive track record.

Indonesian Junk Spiderbites LP

So funny, the other day in the car a RED PLANET song came up on my mix. I thought, “Jezus, these guys really remind me of CHEAP TRICK.” And now? INDONESIAN JUNK sort of reminds me of RED PLANET. That said, in addition to RED PLANET, there’s also some BOOMTOWN RATS. Definitely throw in at least a little bit of an arena rock sound and we might be there. I will say that, overall, I find just a tad bit too much extracurricular guitar work. Sometimes, it’s awesome. Other times, not so much. That said, I do feel like there is some underlying authenticity.

Karkki & the Car Keys Big Ball of Fire EP

We’re early into this thing, but I’m having mixed feelings. It’s mid-tempo and catchy and it definitely has some things in common with bands that I quite enjoy (SUZY Y LOS QUATTRO, DIRTY CUPCAKES, EPOXIES), but it is also leaving me feeling like it’s not quite complete. If you’re a fan of female-fronted alternative pop music (maybe even power pop) this could be for you. From Finland, it also reminds me a tad of PLASTIC TONES, another female-fronted power pop band. Listening through a third time, I do feel like it’s growing on me.

Duck & Cover Two Shots EP

This is good, though I wouldn’t say great, garage rock’n’roll. Oddly, it’s the relative talent of the musicians that keeps it from making that hurdle from good to great. They’re possibly too talented for their own good, which leads to some extracurricular solo performances that just have never done it for me. If you take a good rock band and throw in some extra guitar licks and/or drum solos and you’ve almost got metal. Track number two is a sort of rock ballad that strikes me as a nod to their Northeast roots. It’s the third and final track, “Unlucky 17,” that is the highlight for me. More stripped down and straightforward, it’s also extremely catchy and melodic.

Hakan Tempuras Never Come / Mr. DNA 7″

This is right up my alley. Two songs, including a DEVO cover, each clocking in at under two minutes? Yes! If it’s good, I can put it on again. If I don’t like, I got away with not too much commitment. Up-tempo and catchy, super head-bouncy melodic, straightforward coming right at you, this is the complete package. These guys are all about business. Each song starts, they whip you into a frenzy, and before you can finish, the song is over, leaving you wanting for me. Nice work. They’re from Italy, if you pay attention to stuff like that.

Mad Rollers I Need Your Love / Did You See 7″

Inspired by bands like the BRIEFS and the EXPLODING HEARTS, these guys pump out a couple of power pop numbers that will take a total of a little less than six minutes of your time. While I wouldn’t necessarily put them in the same league as either of the aforementioned bands, I would say that this record is super solid and it will end up spending a little bit of time on my turntable. They’re from Italy, if you pay attention to stuff like that.

Devious Ones She’s Waiting for Me / The Straggle Is Real 7″

I’ve enjoyed music from these cats before and they continue to deliver the goods. If you like super catchy power pop, this is 100% for you. On the first listen through each song, I just can’t stop bouncing my head. It’s mid-tempo and a little jangly, just like I like it. But it’s really all about the hooks. Go out of your way to find this record.

Hayley and the Crushers Vintage Millennial LP

I love pop music. I especially love female-fronted pop music. When it’s got some kick and personality, it’s even better. This one’s got a little surf guitar action going here and there. This is going to be a little too pretty for some of you, but it’s right up my alley. Think of bands like the GO-GO’S, the EPOXIES and the BUSY SIGNALS. Twelve releases by these guys? Wow.

The Rare Forms The Rare Forms LP

I’ve been going back and forth on this one. There are a lot of things to like about it. It’s catchy and melodic, and also has an underlying eeriness that permeates the whole record. The female vocals are strong and remind me of MENSEN, high praise. It’s punk and rock’n’roll and new wave and goth at the same time. That’s pretty cool. “Vampire Blowjob” even reminds me just a bit of the first GO-GO’S record. Here’s the thing: part of me wonders if they’re maybe trying just a little too hard, like it’s contrived. That could totally be unwarranted criticism, and I do wonder if that will pass for me. I hope it does, as I want to embrace this without lingering doubts.

Actor / Moving Objects split EP

You really couldn’t have two different bands sharing a release. MOVING OBJECTS throw out a number so catchy and melodic, it’s almost criminal. It’s got a ’60s rock’n’roll vibe that is infectious. Stripped-down and raw, it’s delivered with a confidence that draws you right in. You can’t help but like it. You don’t want it to end. But it does. So you play it again and again. That’s followed up by ACTOR, who deliver a highly techno, drum machine cut that’s almost a spoken word piece. You’ve got to believe it’s a one-man show, but it’s actually a duo. It’s also very good, for sure, but I find the combo an odd one.

Poison Boys Out of My Head LP

You wouldn’t get any arguments calling this punk, but you could for sure make an argument that this is pub/street rock’n’roll. It’s catchy and mid-tempo and solid. Certain cuts bring a classic rock’n’roll/bluesy element that reminds me of stuff the Chiswick label was putting out in the late 1970s. Nice.

Territories Quit This City / Defender 2×7″

The A-side is a rock anthem-like number that’s super-catchy, but ultimately delivers a rather depressing message about the grittiness of life. It’s nicely done. It’s got a certain BOUNCING SOULS quality to it. The B-side is a more straightforward street punk number, but equally as enjoyable. These guys are big on harmony. This is worth making an effort to find.

Plastic Tones Whirlwind / Mystery Machine 7″

I’m not sure why, but I’ve been hip to Helsinki’s PLASTIC TONES for a while now. They deliver a solid product of female-fronted power pop that is pretty and moody enough that it evokes memories of early Subway Organization artists, like the FLATMATES. CHIN CHIN is another one that comes to mind. I really enjoyed both tracks here. There’s a certain darkness that runs through both.

Suspect Parts You Know I Can’t Say No EP

There are two bands that come to mind as I listen through this one: LET’S ACTIVE and the YUM YUMS. That’s high praise. This is well done power pop that is catchy as all hell. It’s mid-tempo and extremely well done. The third and final cut—sung in German—even reminds me a bit of DIE TOTENHOSEN. This is worth looking for.

Death Lottery / Hardship Anchors split EP

With this one we get a sampling of California’s HARDSHIP ANCHORS and Florida’s DEATH LOTTERY. HARDSHIP ANCHORS deliver with mid-tempo combination of street punk, pop punk, and New Wave. That’s not a combo you hear every day, but it works for these guys. DEATH LOTTERY are more in the punk/hardcore realm, with lots of moving parts, maybe too many moving parts; this one’s a little tougher. In particular, I’m not a fan of all the extracurricular guitar work. That said, these guys weren’t too far off, and almost had me.

The Reflectors Teenage Hearts / Desert Crusader 7″

This is good. It’s solid, pretty, mid-tempo, catchy power pop. Right up my alley! It reminds me of things like the POINTED STICKS and maybe even GLITZ!. The B-side is just a little cheezy, but I’ve said a lot worse about hundreds of other songs. It’s actually a lot cheezy. “We’re not getting any older / We’re not getting any younger.”

Mystery Girl Heartbreaker / Salted Slug 7″

For me, this one’s a sort of tale of two sides. The A cut is fine: a nice little power pop number, but it doesn’t grab me. The B-side cut takes it to a new level. Mixing in punk, power pop, glam and rock’n’roll, this one induces head bouncing. The lyrics are also pretty damn funny, and while I’m not sure what it means to be someone’s salted slug, it seems like a real commitment. Worth it just for the B-side, and as I said, the A-side works just fine.

The Hiveminds The Hiveminds LP

From Norway, the HIVEMINDS deliver solid mid-tempo (to uptempo) garage punk that has a DOORS eeriness about it. It’s catchy as all hell and sounds like it’s right out of the Nuggets catalog. Scandinavians are connoisseurs of rock’n’roll music. Hell, maybe they’re connoisseurs of all music. You get that in a lot of their music. This one is garage-y throughout, with some moments of New Wave, but it retains that somberness from start to finish. In addition to the DOORS, think of the GUN CLUB. Nice organ work. Good stuff.

Romskip 05 EP

Track one and I’ve got mixed emotions. I find the vocals a bit much. I feel like he’s trying too hard. Musically, it’s pretty cool. It’s deliberate and plodding, but catchy as hell. The bass really draws you in. It’s almost kind of funky, but with an eeriness. There’s a lot going on, which doesn’t always work for me. By track three, they’re starting to mix in some backing vocals. Overall, I think I like it, but I think maybe they take it just a little too seriously for me to really get on board. I dig that the vocals are in their native Norwegian. Shout out to Bergen, one of the most beautiful cities in the world.

Moral Panic Moral Panic LP

Man, these guys come out of the gates swinging, with a faster-paced, almost frenetic number. This is punk rock. Sure, it’s catchy, but it’s got this nervous energy that keeps the listener on edge. They keep up the pace for the entire record. This thing just shreds. At times I’m reminded of the DEAD BOYS, only amped up a tad. And just for the hell of it, they throw in a PAGANS cover. Excellent record.

Primitive Hands Bad Men in the Grave LP

The cover (which is awesome) has you expecting a cowboy/western edge. Think Clint Eastwood and spaghetti westerns. Think cowboy surf. Add vocals. Now add some distortion. But it’s not one dimensional. Subsequent tracks get a little fuzzy. This is rock’n’roll. It’s crazy catchy and a little uncomfortable at the same time. That’s a pretty sweet combo. Just a few songs in and you realize that this goes well beyond some cowboy shtick. This is for reals. Man, they finish a great record with perhaps the best song, which is very RADIO BIRDMAN-like. I don’t know how long they’ve been at it, but Alien Snatch continues to deliver the goods.

Steve Adamyk Band Paradise LP

I love STEVE ADAMYK. If I liked guys and he liked guys and I wasn’t so much older than him, I’d probably ask him to marry me. Either him or Bobby Martinez. Anyway, you get here just what you’ve grown to expect: extremely catchy, infectious power-pop. As soon as you put the needle down, you start bouncing your head. It’s immediate. These dudes just consistently deliver. It’s catchy and melodic and all that, but don’t think that must mean that this isn’t raw rock’n’roll. Great record.

Neck You Don’t Think It’s Evil… LP

This is pretty straightforward punk’n’roll, and some might even call it pop punk. Guitar, bass, drums, vocals; mid-tempo and super catchy. It sounds like all members help out on the vocals, which creates some nice harmonies, and enhances the catchy factor. The song lyrics are mostly goofy and silly. It’s a fun record, meant to be enjoyed casually and not seriously. As soon as I put the record on, I was reminded of the old Seattle band HEAD.

The Hamiltones The Shape of Walter EP

While it’s not relevant to the music, this is one of the funniest record names I’ve heard in ages, and the accompanying picture sleeve is perfect. It’s all about the instrumentals here, as all four songs are instrumentals. While most of it is ’60s influenced surf, different songs have different feels, including upbeat and almost funky, or dark and eerie. There’s even a cover of “Without You,” a ’70s ballad made famous by HARRY NILSSON, but also recorded by BADFINGER and AIR SUPPLY. You’re in great company, guys. Solid release. Blue vinyl.

Postage Let Go 7″ flexi

This one is definitely in the catchy pop punk category, but it’s delivered in a way that isn’t overly sticky. Imagine a pop punk record from a band that didn’t have aspirations to make it in the mainstream world. That may sound like a weird thing to say, but I think that sort of captures it. It’s isn’t over-produced or have the vocals on top of everything else. Good job, guys.

Chachi on Acid / Butch Haller and His Chesterfield Ramblers Split EP

This is a funny one. Two bands, each offering up a single song, and it happens to be the same song: “Everyone’s a Urinal.” Is this a famous song that I’m not familiar with? Fuck, this is bugging me. Anyway, the CHACHI ON ACID version is a fairly straightforward punk version of the song. It’s catchy and well done. But the BUTCH HALLER take is a twangy country / rockabilly number. It’s also catchy and nicely done. Now if I could just figure out the mystery of the song.

The Cavemen Lowlife EP

I’m not sure why, but this record has a sort of Rip Off Records feel to it. Maybe it’s the black and white paper sleeve. Maybe it’s the relatively lo-fi production. If you’re a fan of straightforward punk rock that is raw and gritty, but still catchy and melodic, this is definitely for you. The B-side even gets a little swampy, but doesn’t lose the feel of the other cuts. This is worth going out of your way to find.

King Flamingo / Nico Bones split EP

KING FLAMINGO get things going with some awesome local-fi power pop, which sort of reminds me of WHITE WIRES. Song number one is bare-bones garage rock with a definite ‘60s feel. Next up is a slower ballad with a certain DANIEL JOHNSTON quality, I’m not sure if it’s the vocals or the sort of spacey effects they employ. Fresh off an an attempt to win American Idol, NICO BONES start side two with a peppy rockabilly-inspired number. They finish things off with a rocker that has definite doo-wop components, even starting off sounding like a cover of “Runaround Sue.” I’m not sure I’d say any of the tracks are knock-yoursocks-off outstanding, but they all keep your attention. Not bad.

Ben Edge and the Electric Pencils Ben Edge and the Electric Pencils LP

I’m not even sure what an electric pencil is, but I feel like I owe it to these guys to find out. They start off strong with a catchy power pop number, heavy on the pop. Musically it’s solid, but also fairly straightforward. The focus is definitely on the catchy melodies and the vocals. The record continues this way. It’s mid-tempo and infectious throughout. Ben’s got a solid voice that sometimes borders on pretty. Don’t get me wrong, this isn’t a pretty pop record, it’s a power pop record with vocals that are solid. I’d go out of my way to find this one.

Lisa Marr / Tranzmitors In the Summer EP

Right off the bat with a FASTBACKS cover—that there is some bold shit. LISA MARR has a great voice, and I love the TRANZMITORS, but I’m not sure they really did much of anything with this song. In my mind, if you’re going to cover a great band like the FASTBACKS, you really need to do something with it. It kind of just sounds like a cover of “In the Summer.” They also cover two CUB songs. I honestly don’t know the originals, which might be better for me, as I have no reference point. My complaint about not doing anything with the A-cut aside, this is super poppy and catchy. It is right up my alley and I kind of love it. The one original is worthwhile and not at all dissimilar from the others. I can see myself listening to this over and over again. That voice!

Mandates Dead in the Face LP

This is a throwback. This is punk rock that is 100% rooted in rock’n’roll. The way it’s delivered reminds me of the DEAD BOYS. It’s faster-paced, it’s got a sense of urgency, it’s got lead guitar. The “Made in Canada” logo on the back cover doubles as a seal of approval, as Canadians are particularly good at power pop. As this one moves on, it definitely straddles that line between punk and power pop. There is absolutely nothing wrong with this. Outside of the quality of the recording, if someone told me this was from 1978, I’d totally believe that. Excellent.