Reviews

Ramsey Kanaan

The Kegels Blood and Wine CD EP

This five-track effort brings back (fairly recent) memories of the majestic heights of the RED CITY RADIO Skytigers CD. Not as much rock as the aforementioned RCR, but they do have that anthemic, layered, melodic sound real down. And a little dirty. While this quartet (typical two guitars, bass, drums) would appear to hail from Southern California (figures), they manage to sound like No Division-era HOT WATER MUSIC having it out with SCREECHING WEASEL at the height of their powers (i.e. Anthem for a New Tomorrow). As you might have ascertained, this is really fucking good.

  • Reviewer Ramsey Kanaan
  • Label self-released
  • Issue MRR #441 • February 2020

Lagwagon Railer CD

Loads of bands that have been around a while (decades at this point—three in the case of LAGWAGON) seem to either be “returning” to their early material/sound, or doing so when they reform. Not sure that LAGWAGON ever officially broke up, but this is their ninth full-length effort in thirty-odd years, and is heralded as a return to the “old” sound. Short, sharp, and punchy. In that distinctive melodic hardcore way, of course. As such, it’s the best thing they’ve done in decades, I reckon. Though there’s now loads of guitar solos in the songs. Never a bad thing to these ears, though it does, at times, make it sound like old LAGWAGON meets early IRON MAIDEN, or even a de-metalicized STRUNG OUT. As if to prove my point, they do a JOURNEY cover, which fits right in.

The Bad Ideas Happiness CD

This band wears their influences on their sleeve. Or deeply etched within the grooves, or whatever the digital equivalent is. Early ’80s US punk and hardcore. Think DEAD KENNEDYS (minus the hits), while the female vocalist begs comparison with a scrappier AVENGERS (or perhaps BLATZ a decade later). They’re from Kansas City, and damn proud of it. This would appear to be their third full-length.

  • Reviewer Ramsey Kanaan
  • Label self-released
  • Issue MRR #440 • January 2020

V/A Red Scare Industries: 15 Years of Tears and Beers CD

I guess if I’d have stopped to figure it out/think about it, I would have realized that Red Scare is only fifteen years young. It seems like they’ve been around forever, but I guess it makes sense that they are the sound of the new millennium. Certainly, they have consistently proven to more than emulate, and indeed, to help define what the more melodic end of punk and hardcore actually sound like over the last decade and a half. If Epitaph and then Fat both gestated and represented that 90s sound, Red Scare have picked up that blazing torch, reassembled and reinvigorated it, and hurled it headlong into this century, and then some. To celebrate, there’s fifteen artists, from the current Red Scare roster, with one track apiece. It’s hard to pick out standouts when the whole damn pack itself is leading, but I’ll mention my two faves. BRENDAN KELLY AND THE WANDERING BIRDS add a suitably genius twist to a LILLINGTONS standout, managing in this incarnation to channel the best of CAPTAIN SENSIBLE and ATOM AND HIS PACKAGE in a wonderful electro-pop gem, while THE BOMBPOPS channel BLINK 182 at their pop punk perfect pinnacle. Then again, it’s not as if the likes of the COPYRIGHTS, ELWAY, GARRETT DALE and RAMONA are also-rans. fifteen years to date, not a misstep to be seen, and they’re still reaching for the stars. Long live the comrades at Red Scare.

Cockwomble Cockwomble CD

The eponymous debut full-length, from the brain of singer/songwriter/guitarist Ali Gavan. I’d previously heard of him as the producer and engineer of ROBB JOHNSON, so it only makes sense that he’d put his own prodigious talents to work on original material. Full of (political) venom, snot, snark, and bite, COCKWOMBLE present themselves as if SCREECHING WEASEL or early PROPAGANDHI were performing a HUMPERS tribute set. Equal parts melodic pop punk, garage-y rock’n’roll, biting political satire, and black humor. What more could you ask for (other than the next ROBB JOHNSON long player, of course)?

  • Reviewer Ramsey Kanaan
  • Label self-released
  • Issue MRR #439 • December 2019

Tommy and June Tommy and June CD

In my head, I’ve been constructing a lengthy discourse on the lineage stretching from SIMON AND GARFUNKEL to the likes of NOFX or NO USE FOR A NAME. Y’know, close vocal harmonies, pop songs, power chords, that sort of thing. But fuck it. TOMMY AND JUNE are a duo (no shit), with more than a passing resemblance to SIMON AND GARFUNKEL, NOFX and NO USE FOR A NAME. Tommy is obviously the Paul Simon of this duo. He writes all the songs, and I’m guessing he does the lead vocals (as opposed to the typically omnipresent high harmonies). Lyrically, they talk about being punks and not wanting to grow up, and unsurprisingly, often throw in (as did SIMON AND GARFUNKEL, of course) electric guitars and drumkits into the typical folky acoustic guitar mix. As well as the patented NOFX/NO USE FOR A NAME chord and vocal harmony progressions. There’s even a bona fide (pop punk) rocker or two on this disc. And at ten tracks clocking in at twenty minutes, there’s no meandering endless introspection, nor repeat-to-fade choruses. It’s actually fucking really good, and this is coming from your humble reviewer who is the proud owner of not only the Old Friends SIMON AND GARFUNKEL box set, but every single CD ever released by NOFX (well, except Liberal Animation, which let’s face it, is embarassing bollocks). Pop-folk-punk anyone?

The Members Version CD

Folks that might remember (or recognize) the MEMBERS for (the admittedly sublime) “Sound of the Suburbs” or even “Solitary Confinement” might be in for a bit of a shock. Not a rude one, but certainly a stylistic one. This is yet another covers disc, in this case, largely of classics from the ’60s and ’70s—BUZZOCKS, the RAMONES, the LURKERS, DAVID BOWIE, PRINCE, the VELVET UNDERGROUND, JOHN HOLT, GREGORY ISAACS, BOB MARLEY & THE WAILERS, DILLINGER, GRANDMASTER FLASH and ABBA. A fairly eclectic mix, but which all make perfect sense for those lucky enough (and there’s still time!) to be familiar with the back catalog and oeuvre of THE MEMBERS. Unsurprisingly, the most faithful of the covers are the reggae and dub efforts, while the PRINCE, ABBA and punk songs get more of a FAD GADGET ’80s electronica treatment (along with some dub!). And it largely works. And I say this as both a huge ABBA fan, and a MEMBERS aficionado!

Famous & Fallen Take Me Away CD

Despite the limitations of being a bearded trio, FAMOUS & FALLEN do a damn fine job of melding the best of melodic hardcore and driving pop punk. Not as fast or as shiny as GOOD RIDDANCE, or as poppy as SCREECHING WEASEL, but they are nevertheless firmly planted somewhere in the middle, and to more than good effect. Excellent musicianship, singing, and songcraft make this well worth tracking down.

  • Reviewer Ramsey Kanaan
  • Label self-released
  • Issue MRR #435 • August 2019

Bracket Too Old to Die Young CD

My wife walked in on me playing this CD, and remarked that she both liked it, and that it reminded her (in terms of song structure, harmonies, et al.) of the BEATLES. Now, bear in mind, she hates pop punk, and the BEATLES are still the gold standard for pop. So, I don’t really have much to add. BRACKET, despite their championing by Fat Mike, and the grudging respect of my wife, have been the unsung heroes of pop punk for well over 20 years now. And apparently, they still have it, and then some.

Abusements Irritainment! CD

This band has spent a while steeped in the glory days of UK ’78. Yup, not UK82, but at their best, this channels the likes of EATER, the VIBRATORS, and (of course) the first CLASH disc. Lots of that mid-paced rock’n’roll/pub-rock-infused punk, and suitably melodic. My only real complaint (given that I’m partial to both UK ’78 and ’82) is that at sixteen tracks that are around three minutes each, this disc tends to drag on and on. Back in the day, you couldn’t get more than twenty minutes a side on the ol’ long playing vinyl before the sound started to deteriorate, which is still a handy rule for anything longer than a 7″ I’d posit.

  • Reviewer Ramsey Kanaan
  • Label Permanent Lifetime
  • Issue MRR #435 • August 2019

State Drugs Takings & Leavings CD-R

This CD collects STATE DRUGS’ recordings from 2015-2017. They excel at the end of melodic hardcore/pop punk that would have been called college rock in the ’80s and ’90s. And indeed, they wear their influences on their sleeves, with a workmanlike cover of the REPLACEMENTS’ “Left of the Dial.” At their best, they remind me more than a tad of the MOVING TARGETS and the NILS. Excellent indeed.

CJ Ramone The Holy Spell… CD

I have to hand it to the man. Since the end of the mighty RAMONES (and let’s face it, even after Dee Dee, the songwriting took a deep dive), ol’ CJ has done a great job of both keeping that distinctive sound alive and helping refine it, rolling it seamlessly into the 21st century—albeit with a few guitar solos that would make Johnny roll in his fascist grave. Which is a long way of saying that this is fucking good. Far from being a sub-par RAMONES cover band, CJ’s songwriting is up there with Dee Dee’s contributions to the band when CJ was handling the bass duties. He is producing songs of the caliber of “Pet Semetary” and “Poison Heart,” and his tribute to the late, lamented Steve Soto in “Rock On” is a case in point. This is really fucking good. Even if he does now have a beard.

The Functional Citizens Game Night CD

I’m not alone in thinking (well, Ben agrees with me at least, and he should know) that the apex of the mighty SCREECHING WEASEL was Anthem for a New Tomorrow. Wittingly or not, this trio have spent an eon or two steeped in it, channeling its excellence in this here offering. I rest my case.

Black Static Eye The Confession Box CD-R

Seven tracks of brooding, menacing, driving punk rock. Minus the vocals, it actually sounds very reminiscent of the dark rock that JELLO BIAFRA was producing during that era of solo collaboration records—particularly the JELLO BIAFRA/DOA combo, and not a million miles away from the GUANTANAMO SCHOOL OF MEDICINE, either. Technically this is a CD-R, but the production and packaging are pretty slick.

V/A Bekannt & Beliebt (28 Bands Spielen Notdurft) CD

The subtitle of this (so far as I can ascertain) all-German compilation translates to “28 Bands Cover NOTDURFT.” ’Tis all in German (both the liner notes and the singing, not to mention the names of the vast majority of the bands), so I really have no idea what they are going on about. But it does sound pretty damn good. CAMINOS quite wittily/cleverly weave in the defining riffs, melodies, and solos of “Holiday in Cambodia” into their track—the majority of which sounds nothing like the DEAD KENNEDYS stylistically. UGLY HURONS do the third-wave pop punk-with-horns ska thing very well, while the POST-ROFT offering wouldn’t have sounded amiss on the UK DECAY long player. The highlights for me are definitely HANS AM FELSEN, who sound like the driving melodic punk with male/female twin vocals of PARANOID VISIONS at their height, along with two of the synth pop offerings from EIN JAHR and GEN NULL, the latter of whom bring to mind the best of CAPTAIN SENSIBLE’s solo offerings. I’d never heard of any of these bands prior to this disc, but am delighted to make their acquaintance, for sure.

Strung Out Songs of Armor and Devotion CD

I’m not ashamed to confess that I’ve always had a real soft spot for STRUNG OUT. Over the last three decades they’ve pretty much perfected that seamless blend of metallic driving melodic hardcore, complete with the twin guitar solos, false harmonics, and layered vocals. Imagine the IRON MAIDEN Killers line-up covering NO USE FOR A NAME’s ¡Leche con Carne! Or BAD RELIGION having a go at the best of THIN LIZZY. Yup, it’s that good, and it still works.

Howl In The Typewriter Manifesto: A Universal Declaration of Indespendence CD

So far as I can tell, HOWL IN THE TYPEWRITER have been a mainstay of the UK underground punk/electronic/noise scene since the ’80s. Indeed, I probably traded tapes with this chap back in the days when that’s what any self-respecting/somewhat self-aware young punker did with their time and dole money. Like many such projects, it’s the brainchild and labor of love of one individual. And this effort is a single-track concept album about the evils of consumerism, advertising, and all the bad stuff betwixt both. Clocking in at just over an hour, and with a mishmash of stylings that includes thrashy punk, noise, and electronica; with lots of cut-ups, loops, jingles, adverts and stuff in between songs, it’s considerably more akin to CRASS’s Yes Sir, I Will than NOFX’s The Decline or the SUBHUMANS’s From the Cradle to the Grave (or even the DAMNED’s “Curtain Call”), but there you have it. Dozens of other underground luminaries add their vocal stylings to the oft-repeated refrain that runs through: “We don’t fucking want / what you’re trying to fucking sell / shove it up your fucking arse / then fuck off and go to hell.” At it’s best, it reminds me of CHUMBAWAMBA’s Pictures of Starving Children Sell Records, along with the AUTONOMADS. My six-year-old kids thought it sounded “pretty crazy.”

Mantooth OU81TOOTH CD

Eight-song effort of fairly high-octane garage rock’n’roll. There’s some great guitaring in here, with lots of squeals and false harmonics, and riffage that’d make the STOOGES proud. The frontman is horribly off-key with the histrionic vocals, which I can’t really get past. The band is rocking, though.

Few Good Things Too Late CD

Four tracks of pile-driving metallic punk. This trio has obviously listened to lots of early ANTHRAX and METALLICA, and end up sounding like a decent STRAW DOGS (the post FU’s metal band).

Tag Ohne Schatten Ein Besserer Ort CD

My presumption is that this German trio named themselves after the seminal RAZZIA 1983 LP of that name—RAZZIA also being a German band. Given that, to paraphrase ALL (sort of), “we don’t speak German, we just love German bands that sing in their native tongue, particularly those from the ’80s.” While this doesn’t quite rank with the best of RAZZIA, it nonetheless channels enough of those slightly off-kilter melodic late ’80s / early ’90s hardcore bands such as FARSIDE, PEGBOY, and SQUIRRELBAIT, that I can’t help but love this disc. And they do sing in German. So no complaints whatsoever. Save that I still have no idea what “Tag Ohne Schatten” means, let alone what they (or RAZZIA, for that matter) are singing about. But it sure does sound good!

State Drugs College Radio CD-R

A trio of guitar and harmony-drenched “college rock” punk efforts, along the lines of Creator-era LEMONHEADS and the first MOVING TARGETS LP. These aging ears are delighted that the kids are still kicking out the melodic jams in this genre.

Not All There Holy Crap! It’s Not All There CD

This is an excellent BAD RELIGION-esque disc of short, sweet, melodic hardcore. Twin guitars, layered vocals (though definitely more Suffer than Recipe For Hate). I really dig this.

Deposit Man Frustrate CD

This Finland-based quartet is comprised of older chaps (30-something dads, they proclaim): among them there’s a couple of Finns, a Catalan, and a Samoan who does the singing/songwriting. Musically, at their best, they are very reminiscent of that slower melodic ’82 sound, like UK SUBS crossed with a driving UK DECAY. Or ARTICLES OF FAITH on 33 instead of 45. I guess there’s a fair amount to be said for maturity (and fatherhood?) on the back of this one?

V/A Paris Is Burning CD

Paris might be burning, but it sounds pretty damn good to these ears. Ten Parisian punk bands grace us with a couple of tracks each. Whether it’s the UK SUBS-esque HUMAN DOG FOOD, the GBH-inflected BREAKOUT, or the ever-ebullient techno pop punkers LOUIS LINGG AND THE BOMBS, the standard is uniformly astonishingly high for a compilation. The moody goths yearning for the days of ALIEN SEX FIEND even have HARASSMENT to keep ’em happy. I guess this does make them all a bit European sounding. But then again, it is Paris for fuck’s sake. Even better, this CD, brought to you by the trifecta of labels Sick My Duck, Sheekiz,and General Strike, is available for free from any of the featured bands, with a purchase of any of their other records. Given that this was sent in by LOUIS LINGG AND THE BOMBS, you ought to get it from them!

  • Reviewer Ramsey Kanaan
  • Label General Strike / Sheekiz / Sick My Duck
  • Issue MRR #430 • March 2019

Louis Lingg and the Bombs Kiiroichurippu: Hopeless Love in the Age of the Glitch CD

Four new tracks, all sung in Japanese, from these long-standing Parisian pop punk techno ravers. While lyrically they’re proudly in the CRASS anarcho-punk camp, at least on this effort, there’s mercifully little of the ATARI TEENAGE RIOT electronica, and much more of the straight ahead speedy pop punk. Kinda like J CHURCH on 45 (as opposed to 33), albeit with a Parisian female chanteuse, singing in Japanese (though the whoa- oh-ohs manage to comfortably span the linguistic divide). Fantastic stuff. Self-released, so snap it up from the band.

Jerrys Farsa Radhustyrann CD

Took a bit of internet sleuthing, since there’s bugger all in terms of addresses and websites and whatnot on their disc, but I think I can definitively say that they are Swedish. I’m always partial to folks singing in their native tongue, even if I haven’t the foggiest what they’re nattering on about. Musically, they play upbeat, melodic hardcore / pop punk type stuff, with lots of horns. Thankfully, no ska to speak of. Much more a NO USE FOR A NAME with brass, than say, I dunno, AGAINST ALL AUTHORITY. Believe me, I’ve heard considerably worse.

500 Miles to Memphis Blessed Be the Damned CD

Never heard of these folks before, and this is their fifth full-length in the last fifteen or so years. 500 MILES TO MEMPHIS definitely have the instrumentation on occasion: pedal steel, mandolin, and banjo, together with the wall of rock sound. I’m always a bit suspicious of bands that try and meld roots / folk music with punk rock. I think it works best when they stick to the more “regular” albeit punk stuff (though I am a sucker for the layered gospel choir vocal effects). There are a couple of songs that I’m sure SOCIAL DISTORTION could fit right into their current set. Not terrible by any means, and the lads can certainly play.

Direct Hit Crown of Nothing CD

Never heard of these chaps before this disc, though apparently it’s their second full-length. What it does remind me of, most muchly, is the LILLINGTONS’s Stella Sapiente record. Both bands have some pedigree as pop punkers (the LILLINGTONS a bit longer, obviously), both are “concept” albums (still a rarity in punk rock, for better or worse), and on both records, they respectively take the pop punk genre and really reshape, expand, and redefine it. Throwing in lots of (darker) new wave stylings, and a whole host of other sounds and influences. Both are really fucking good.