I got so wrapped up in the nonsense of year end lists that I missed the release of the new Personal and the Pizzas LP last Friday! I know the band’s fascination with leather jackets and rock n’ roll make it easy to compare the band to the Ramones (and that’s there!), but I think the music within their self-titled LP has a lot of leaning to an almost 70s psychedelia, though spun with a little more love for rock n’ roll; they slow things down to maximize the melody, and I’m in love. You can grab the LP from Slovenly right now, if you know what’s right!
When I first heard of Sunturns and their Christmas oriented pop project, I was on the verge of dismissing it. But, I’ve quickly come around on falling for the band, all based upon the power of their delectable indiepop hits. You see, while the songs spin around Christmas ideas, they still have this emotional draw in the lyrics, drawing from personal experiences around the holiday. Honestly, if you didn’t hear the word Christmas, you’d likely just fall in love with the song. It’s heartwarming, both lyrically and musically; the band have crafted 10 original songs and a Ramones cover for their Christmas II album, which you can grab from the good folks over at Fika Recordings.
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The last time out Terry Malts ruled my world with Killing Time, so I was curious to see where they could go from that point. Would Nobody Realizes This Is Nowhere top the previous effort? Would it fall off? Well, after spending the last few weeks listening to the record on repeat, I’ve come to the conclusion that it’s much the same, in a good way, though I feel like there’s a heavier punch this go round.
“Disconnect” begins the album off in much the same way that Killing Time left off, blasting off with guitar explosive guitar riffs and darkly tinged melody in the vocals. It’s not breakneck speed until it pounds out near the 1.19 mark, yet it reverts into this interesting melody that works alongside, including a light backing vocal. And with such a post-pop hit, it’s interesting how the band moves right into the furiously punk “Life’s a Dream.” Envision circle pits with smiles, and then the track ends.
It’s hard to find out standout moments on Nobody Realizes This is Nowhere, as the group are so consistent in their songwriting that it’s hard to pick out a favorite. Can I take them all? Of course, “I Was Not There” should be on everyone’s year-end list. The crunchy distorted guitar operates in such a forceful manner that it completely works against the seemingly spoken-word lyrical delivery. That being said, Terry Malts always manage to unite such things, which is why I can’t help but tap my feet and bounce around the room when this song is on full blast. It fits perfectly in the mix, going into the poppier “No Tomorrow.” While the pounding drums stand out on this tune, I really like the way the vocals are delivered on this song. The notes are held long longer than usual, and they make way for this electric soloing guitar that pointedly knifes its way through the track.
One of the differences that I have noticed here is that Terry Malts seem to have gone to the darker corner of punk on this release. Their last record sounded like a beautifully modern Ramones LP, but this time songs like “Walking Without You” and “So Serious” take on the heavier area, at least in regards to how the music comes across. They’re not nearly as pummeling in speed, though you’ll hear a noisier element to these tunes. Luckily, even with that approach, they don’t lose their pop sensibility. One spin of “So Serious” and you’ll see exactly what I mean. Heavy meets pop and it equals perfect tune.
It’s possible that I’m predisposed to love this album, seeing how much I enjoyed their first release, but I can say, assuredly, that this isn’t some fanboy letter. Nobody Realizes This Is Nowhere takes on the noise in a different manner than its predecessor, though still wraps you up in melodious hooks that invade your soul. With such an array of great songs, it’s hard not to enjoy this record, so be sure to pick it up as soon as you can.
Ryan Howe’s not new to the music world, but his newest endeavor as Punks On Mars is sort of a new creation. Listening to the entirety of Bad Expectations, you’re rushed through a compilation of Howe’s influences, re-imagined and perfected by his gift for pop sensibility. Sure, you can say it’s all over the place, musically, but that makes it one hell of a good listen.
After moving beyond “Overture,” the interlude opener of Bad Expectations you get tossed right into “Chandelier,” which opens with a Ramones-tinted guitar chord. But, Howe comes in with his semi-erratic vocal delivery, and carries on in his own fashion during the chorus, making the song his own, despite obvious nods. The punk theme is definitely present on this record, though it’s not stamped onto every song. It appears on tracks like “Hey! Tiffany” and “Poltergeist,” but you get the feeling that these are just a nice allusion to the heritage in Ryan’s record collection. He even adds his own vision, draping oddball electronic touches in oddball places, leaving a fresh impression on the listener.
For me, the adoration for Punks On Mars comes from the group’s ability to meet in the space left voided by punk rock and glam. My mind recalls the progressive tunes that Television banged out, or maybe even Generation X (Kiss Me Deadly), where guitar playing was heralded and song structure was tightened. If you’re looking for a song that meets my references then just take a listen to the short “Victoria’s World,” using a gleaming guitar and pounding rhythm to clear out the punk rock and replace it with generous elements of pop. However, there’s also lurking places where the early mod stylings of The Jam are apparent. Well, at least that’s what I thought when I first gave a listen to “Showers of Pain;” it’s music sounds propulsive, almost carrying a military sensation within it, but there’s more anthemic moments that seem to push it beyond the boundaries of limitations.
In the end, Bad Expectations succeeds because it’s got doses of everyone’s favorite bands, but these aren’t stale renditions, rather an artist putting his own stamp on the music he enjoys. Many of the songs have electronic elements or keys added in to give a new coat to a sound that seems so familiar. But that’s why I love Punks On Mars. Like Ryan Howe, I’ve got tons of punk rock and glam rock in my collection, but in between there’s other bits of clever pop and more orchestral genres. It seems like this entire effort is a blend of all that, with Howe taking the helm, aiming to freshen up the music of your youth that just might have grown a bit tired. It’s nice to see someone going outside the normal re-hash and creating something I’ll adore for its obviousness, yet still find myself, and my ears, challenged.[audio:http://austintownhall.com/wp-content/uploads/2012/09/Punks_on_Mars_-_Showers_of_Pain.mp3]
Download:Punks On Mars – Showers of Pain [MP3]
Bad Expectations is available now from Zoo Music.
One of the great acts in the Slumberland Records stable is Black Tambourine, a band that hasn’t exactly been putting out records for the last several decades. But, as they reunite, briefly for the Chickfactor shows, the band opted to record a nice covers EP of their favorite Ramones songs. This little gem will be released as a 7″, and they’ve chosen some real hits for their work. One of the tracks they’ve recorded is my favorite, “I Want You Around,” but the track we’ve got below is “What’s Your Game.” Rather than shredding guitars, they’ve replaced a nice atmospheric coating, slowing the track down a bit, and letting the melody push the track along. For those of us that can’t attend the Chikcfactor shows, this is an added bonus. You can pick up the OneTwoThreeFour EP on May 15th.[audio:http://austintownhall.com/wp-content/uploads/2012/02/02-Whats-Your-Game.mp3]
Download:Black Tambourine – What’s Your Game [MP3]
Whatever’s in the water in Denton, Texas, people better start to take notice, as the area continues to push out great garage-pop rockers, and Bad Sports are no different. Their second album Kings of the Weekend, this time on Dirtnap Records, is just an energetic burst of great licks, giving you exactly what you need–a solid dosage of good old fashioned rock n’ roll.
The band jumps right in with “Off Switch,” and while garage-pop might be all the rage, this track opens up with a lot more fury than most things associated with the genre, showing you that Bad Sports aren’t here to rehash, they’re here to reimagine on their own terms. From here, the band burst into a bit more territory with hints of the Ramones.
“Cant Just Be Friends” might not have the hammering pace of the Ramones, but you can feel that element of harmony bubbling in the bass, something that truly labels both bands as fans of good old pop music. “Sweet Sweet Mandi” definitely bears the mark of the classic New York group, with the delivery mimicking Joey, and that hooky chorus that enables you to sing along.
“Teenage Girls” is one of those songs that illustrates the group pushing themselves to live outside of their obvious influences. It’s less punk-infused, going back to more of a garage style of power-pop. Even the solo cutting in belongs somewhere in the annals of garage/rock/pop history–this is not a bad thing! it’s a similar feeling you’ll find with “You Look Funny,” which has the band using a likeness of the garage sort, just getting a bit dirtier in the final mixing.
One of the tracks that stood out to me on Kings of the Weekend was “I’m In Love with Myself.” I love a tune that utilizes simplicity in lyrics, but combines solid pace and a bit of a guitar solo. You’ll find that this is the sort of song that fits perfect into the live setting, giving in to the fans need to pogo about and shout lyrics back at the group. Another Bad Sports number here that fits this mold, though in a slightly different manner, is “June Sixteenth.” There’s something about the song’s inherent melody, the sound of the guitar and the pounding drums to wrap the song up that just hits home for an aged punk like myself.
In all honesty, Kings of the Weekend is filled to the brim with brazen pop ballads in punk fashion. There’s not a single song you’ll want to skip, but that being said, you might also be able to say that a certain creativity is lacking. But, when it all boils down to it, aren’t we all just here to have a little bit of fun with our music? If that’s your bag, then this new record from Bad Sports is built exactly for you.[audio:http://austintownhall.com/wp-content/uploads/2011/08/bad_sports_teenage_girls.mp3]
Download: Bad Sports – Teenage Girls [MP3]
Very few duos really seem to pack a punch, the last one I recall that really killed was DFA 1979, but the latest release from Jeff the Brotherhood is definitely a record that will lightheartedly kick you in the teeth. This is a good thing, as summer needs some rock n’ roll, and that is precisely what We Are the Champions gives it listeners. Want to have a good time, then run out the door, pick this up, and blast it as loud as you can!
Like various other bands taking this arena rock approach, namely Free Energy, you can feel the studied past of classic rock and punk flowing through the veins of the Orrall Brothers. But, what seems to put Jeff the Brotherhood far ahead of their peers is that they actually seem to be enjoying their portrayal of the sound. “Hey Friend” spends the first half of the opening track giving you one hell of a gritty rock jam, but then it sort of breaks into something entirely different; its part Weezer, part Ramones, part arena ready rock. It’s just plain good.
Sure, you could take a knock at the band for giving you some fairly juvenile song titles, and possibly lyrics, but occasionally, the execution matters far more than the actual thought process; such is the case on We Are the Champions. “Cool Out’ speeds through, with a pace that would probably force Joey Ramone to think twice, but it’s got sort of a power-pop-punk feel, like early Queers albums. Perhaps it’s the fact that the band is just a duo, forcing them to focus on their simplicity when it comes to songwriting, giving their sound something rather refreshing and clean. “Bummer” has buzz-saw guitars and just a steady drum beat keeping time, but it’s the “whoa-ohs” and vocal harmonies that make it such a killer track. The louder the song gets, the more you just want to have fun.
But, it’s not all fast-fueled punk-ish sounding arena rock, but there are some momentary allusions to stoner-rock as well, or sludge-rock, like “Ripper.” It just opens with this filthy jamming moment (one of the few times I like a jam), and of course it blasts off into a furious energetic blast, but the sound of the guitar definitely is filled with dirt and grime, unlike some of the cleaner sounds on earlier tracks. Really, these guys are all over the place throughout the entirety of We Are the Champions, but in an endearing fashion that makes you want to pump your fists and sing out loud.
Album highlights for me include the heavy hit “Mellow Out,” or the oddball psychedelia-hints from “Health and Strength, and definitely the closer “Wastoid Girl.” Once you give a listen to this release from Jeff the Brotherhood, you’ll be thumbing through lyrics sheet, or pressing play over and over again, as the band has crafted an entire record full of sing-a-long hits that are sheer fun. You’re looking for the perfect record to blast loudly while you get ready for the night? You need look no longer, as there’s nothing better today than listening to We Are the Champions.[audio:http://austintownhall.com/wp-content/uploads/2011/04/04_Shredder.mp3]
Download: Jeff the Brotherhood – Shredder [MP3]
Occasionally you let things slip, forgetting to check in on your favorite labels or sites, but when go back, you always find a gem waiting for you. Such is the case with this latest single from Slumberland Records by Terry Malts, who love to be hidden behind a dense fog of mystery. But, luckily, my imaginary best friend over at Finest Kiss hints that the band is a side-project of Magic Bullets, making the “I’m Neurotic” single even closer to my heart. Apparently the group are aligning themselves with the likes of the Ramones or even the Descendents, but really it’s hard to hear that. For me, it has a feel of the lighter side of Creation Records, yet another reason for my adoration. The single is out now, so get ahold of it while you can.[audio:http://austintownhall.com/wp-content/uploads/2011/05/TerryMalts-Distracted.mp3]
Downlaod: TerryMalts-Distracted [MP3]
Nothing brings out our core values like the holidays. Halloween, for example, is a day to celebrate the most important American values. Values like fake blood and childhood obesity. Come to think of it, there’s something unsettling about Halloween. Why do people dress their children up like monsters and parade them around the neighborhood to extort candy from strangers? And what about adults who willfully engage in dressing like zombies, or slutty nurses, or slutty nurse zombies? That all sounds a little. . . you know, crazy.
It’s one thing for us to invent Vampires and Werewolves. But the real monsters, the Dahmers and Mansons, that look just like us? That’s a little harder to get a handle on. I guess that’s why people write songs about psychopaths. They want to get up close and personal to get a big whiff of crazy. If you embrace lunatics, you demystify them. The ghosts just become people in bedsheets. With that in mind, here are five songs about psychos for your Halloween weekend:
If you find yourself here, odds are that you’re probably a huge music fan, which means that music is going to play a predominant role in your life. I surveyed many friends, and mostly talked to myself, trying to figure out what the majority of people are doing when they decide to jam out. Of course, seeing as I’m the writer, I had to put my own personal touch on this, and thus the ranking of said practices while listening to music.