GET IT: Ace of Hearts Records
28:18:39 (the title and length of the album) is back to basics Real Kids. There are no keyboards, harmonicas, mandolins or any instruments other than guitars and drums.
Two songs, “Hot Dog” and “Bad To Worse”, are part of taking care of business by recording those early songs in a studio, where 'til now they've only be available in taped live performances. Then there is one cover, “Baby Blue” and five new originals.
The thing about the first song “Let Me Convince You” is that it’s just so spot on a classic Real Kids song and performance that you can hardly believe that it is new. There’s so much to be said on just that account but here let’s just say that John has come through again and that Rick Harte was there to record it.
“Wrong About You” has a loping and looping guitar line duped by the bass that sweeps you up right from the get go. Lyrically it’s about a relationship problem which is primo Real Kids subject matter - always. At the end of the song the guitar has a neat fast vibrato. You can tell Rick knew this by listening to the 25 second fade out where the guitar, heavy on fuzz and tremolo, rings airily and then shape shifts into some feedback. It’s sound for sound’s sake.
The third cut “Somewhere West of Nowhere” is a bit of a change. It’s not a ballad but John sings with a wistful voice. It ends with the guitars cranking away.
As “The Girl Don’t Get Me” is another typical Real Kids classic: the stern riff in the bass outlines, the simple chords. There some distorted guitar that comes in twice. It’s all to the service of just saying “the girl don’t get me”. Hearing that phrase in John’s voice is what it’s all about.
“Hot Dog” is a rocker via Eddie Cochran. John has always taken inspiration from this era of rock. When you hear the thick rip rocking guitar leads you know all is right. The guitars trade off from left to right speaker at one point. They ‘bring it down’ near the end in the way we have heard them do so many times in live performances on other songs.
If you heard just this one song you wouldn’t know when it was recorded, it’s timeless Real Kids material. Felice had his ideas of what he wanted to sound like way back at the beginning in the early 70’s and he’s never diverged from that. That’s really the story of this whole album.
“Who Wouldn’t Want To Be The One that You Love” is a mid-tempo heartbreak song. Rick has captured an English Invasion tone to the guitars. There is a particular double guitar sound they get on this song that's familiar if you've heard John and Billy Cole play live. It's a beautiful song and one of our favorites.
The next song goes up tempo again with “Bad to Worse”. It’s so good to finally have a studio version of this.
The cover of “Baby Blue” by Badfinger wraps things up. Billy Cole gets to sing on this. John loves those figures on the low guitar strings and that’s what this song revels in. A Real Kids album of all covers – that would be a project.
During the whole album the ring of the guitars - or their bite, the inflections of John’s voice, the drum pick-ups and the way the warm bass seems to carry some tunes all by itself, are all joys beyond the songs themselves… and all those new songs!
This is Real Kids 2018 and they sound fantastic.
TITLE: Hot Steel and Acid
GET IT: Ace of Hearts Records
This is the Hot Steel and Acid the way it was envisioned and recorded in 1985. The 6 extra songs were side lined because the group wanted a full rocking assault with no doubts after the bad reception of their first Electra album.
Right off, the package is a stunner. A round metal tin with a matte finish that feels nice to the touch.
The first 8 cuts of the CD are the songs on the old EP and those cuts blow you away. Listening to the two next to each other shows they are very close. The CD maybe has more clarity and seems to hit harder. The big difference here is that you can hear the 8 songs in a row without stopping and that might sound trivial but it isn’t.
Give it close listen and it will wear you out. It’s just rocking like crazy for 20 minutes. In that time you get “Hot, Steel and Acid”, “On the Avenue”, “Shit For Brains” and “She’s Gonna Be My Baby”.
Three of the songs left off the original release are “Today and Tomorrow”, “Red On White” and “No More Idols” which have become Eater’s favorites in their live shows. “Today and Tomorrow" and “Red On White” ended up later on the Eat This release. “Red on White” is so familiar because of hearing it live. It seems like it must have been on a regular release but it’s only on the Wasted Years compilation on Ace of Hearts. It’s one of Steve’s patented slow burners that finally breaks in the chorus which hooks you hopelessly.
“Have It With Your Coffee” might start with some acoustic guitars but a dark story of a strangler unfolds as the electric guitars come in and build up. It has one of those Cataldo lyrics that only he come up with: “She’ll taste his leather glove”.
“Now You Want Me Back Again” are “After The Good Times Are Gone” are upbeat enough that, to our ears, they could have been on the original album without diminishing the rocking tone.
All the new material has the Steve Cataldo writing chops that we’ve come to recognize and love. This release makes you appreciate anew the old Hot Steel and Acid album and gives you the bonus of six more songs in the same mold.
TITLE: Alive in the Afterlife
GET IT: Voodoo Records
What we love the most about Silver Screams is that they've found a sweet spot between punk, metal and a few other things where they can get loud and pound it out without worrying about labels and how they can appeal to a larger group.
They don’t just sound loud but it seems like they are drilling down with their instruments in an effort to make things more real and elemental. The other thing they have going for them is that the lyrics outline feelings that match the music’s grit.
That’s what they do with the songs on this EP.
“Alive in the Afterlife” starts intense and stays there. Lyrically things are so bad in this person’s life that “alive in the afterlife” is good because “it could have been so much worse”.
“Stitches Up” is an uncompromising onslaught. Here there is no catchy chorus to break things up. The vocalist is ranting the whole way with the guitar slashing at its heals. It’s a killer track.
By the time you get to “Understand” you're familiar with the group attack. Now you get to hear them cover this Government Issue song. The hook here is the way they pronounce the chorus, “please understand”. It comes across as both a plea and a command. It’s a perfectly captured moment that you want to hear again.
Having heard these songs live we can appreciate the accomplishment of getting the same effect on recordings.
BAND:The Billy Connors Project
TITLE: The Billy Connors Project
GET IT: Bandcamp
The Billy Connors Project doesn’t take any shortcuts. They've been steadily touring while keeping the creativity rolling. This new EP has all the strong points of the first EP. The art work and the production (David Minehan) are first class. Ray Fernandes gives it the solid center with crisp and tasteful drum work. They bring four new songs to the fore.
"Limousine Jean" is a Chuck Berry style rocker. It’s the sort of thing the BCP does with authority. Billy especially has this era of rock in his bones. It’s also one of the kinds of songs they play live that promotes instant dancing.
"Graceless Hideaway" has the BCP classic mid-tempo pace and inviting chord progression which is married to Adam Sherman’s singing. It only takes 20 seconds till he sings the title “Graceless Hideaway” in a captivating lilt. You have to marvel at the ease with which that they pull it off. They give you a memorable gem in just over two minutes.
You want to know the key to the BCP success? Then listen to the tone and the way the chords roll in "Gone Wrong". The tone is classic, the groove is irresistible. Bands would kill to get a sound like that. Another thing they do is make sure you get hooked on the chorus. Here they hit the word ‘gone’ and they let it float for a few extra beats and that holds your ear.
The first time I heard "Knockdown Day" I was floored and I wasn’t the only one. When that song starts you stop and pay attention. Its first line is a grabber. The whole song is a moody downer. It drags you into a lonely life’s reality like a powerful play might. It’s one of the best songs to come out of Boston in years. Earlier in Boston’s rock history this song would have been a huge hit on all the stations, which illustrates the out in left field position the scene is in now. If a CD could wear out, this song would have been faded out by now from my constant playing.
BAND:Justine and the Unclean
TITLE: Get Unclean
GET IT: Rum Bar Records
The first song I heard from this CD was “Love Got Me Into This Mess” and I still find it hard to stop listening to it and move on to the next song. It’s punky, it has a hook you want to sing along with and it has Justine’s voice which is immediately captivating. “Can’t Pretend I Don’t Know”, “Passive Aggressive Baby”, and “I'm In Love With You, Jackass” are all cut from the same cloth.
“Bring Me Fire”, “Rock and Roll Blackmail” and “Something Out of Nothing” have a pre-punk feel to them and they have the same earworm quality.
This has got to be the best debut from the Boston punk scene in a long time. The whole package is like those LP’s you would buy on a whim because the cover seemed to say the music must be good and it would become your favorite.
The group is a pack of local veterans who never fail: Charles Hansen/guitar, Jim Janota/Drums, Janet Egan Long/bass and Justine Covault/vocals, guitar.
Even with all the quality playing, the lyrics and the songwriting; it’s still the attraction of Justine Covault’s voice that makes it extra special. It's been a long while since I feel in love with a voice but that’s what happened here. It reminds me of the first time hearing Christie Hynde singing “Stop Your Sobbing”.
It’s almost too good to be true.
BAND:The Billy Connors Project
TITLE: The Billy Connors Project
GET IT: Bandcamp
The Boize only had a small recorded legacy. So, it’s been interesting to see Billy Connors, of that group, pick up the baton 35 years later and rectify the situation first with Cadillac Heart and now with the Billy Connors Project.
This is a four song CD EP. It’s further proof that Billy is strong as a song writer and band leader.
You can hear it all on the first song “Stranded”. It crunches out three chords that hang together as the simple melody slips right into it. Veteran Boston punkers Ray Fernandes and Michael Quirk make it sit in a grove. Adam Sherman does magic with the lyrics.
Adam who is the new guy in the group used to be in Private Lightning. He has a distinctive voice that can put multiple shadings into a lyric.
“Hurry Up Sundown” has a completely different lilt to the melody that talks of love gone bad and the singer wants to “Paint It Black” in effect. There’s wonderful back to back singing by Billy and Adam.
“I Don’t Like You” has a punk sound and attitude. “You don’t like me and…I don’t like you.” This sort of song is our bread and butter and we never get enough.
In “I Know My Place” the singer seems a bit more world weary as he declares “I know my place, don’t try to put me in it.” Even though the song is short the chorus builds some anthemic steam.
It’s four rocking tunes. Another sign of quality: it’s produced by David Minehan.
BAND:Kingdom of Love
GET IT: Bandcamp
Kingdom of Love is the latest band of Linda Viens and
Richard Lamphear. Linda's credits go way back in the Boston scene. She's
been sought out continuously by groups as a vocal sweetener to projects
of all styles. On this CD (and live) they add musicians to make a full
“Play It On” starts with a solo piano that puts you in a quiet place. Linda's voice comes in and sweeps you along into a song of heartbreak. It's a perfect romantic tune you would be hard pressed not to give into.
“When You Follow” is the other pop effort. They successfully capture a slice of noir. At the beginning the atmospheric background travels from left to right speaker. They manage to record a perfect noir trumpet to color the piece. They also have some muffled vocals kicking in here and there. Here is a group that can use the studio like an instrument to deliver what they want.
“Two Souls” is an electronic ditty which also displays the melodicism that is actually in every song on the CD. The melody and the singing raise this above similar efforts out there.
It's easy to listen to this over and over and get some new nuance and appreciation every time.
TITLE: The Bright Side
GET IT: Amazon
There’s no sophomore slump with Roy as he makes another finely crafted CD. His other CD, Eclectricty is reviewed below.
When the first song on the album is “The End” you know you are being set up. Is it a Memento flip? If so, it’s more like Pinter’s Betrayal because the songs deal with real relationship issues.
It’s not a lighthearted work even the final song The Bright Side is about how he can’t find a ‘bright side’.
Whether he’s gifted, or has picked up his song craft during his long career, it's evident in every second. Song structures have been tweaked so that the nuts and bolts hold things together seamlessly. Melodies carry the songs along and in the chorus they marry to the lyrics to deliver the hook.
Stephen Gilligan on bass and Lenny Shea Jr. on drums are a classy rhythm section.
Roy has been hiding in plain site as a member of Fox Pass and Tom Dickie and the Desire. The Bright Side shows off his impeccable taste, guitar mastery and sure handed song craft for all to see. It’s hard to say too much about this CD.
TITLE: Pop Tricks
GET IT: Band web site
The first single from Hummingbird Syndicate had elements of Sunshine Pop. The first song on their album “Romance” has that quality too. You might suspect that's what the rest of the album will be, but not so.
About half is in the Country/Americana style where it’s acoustic guitars and mandolins that color the sound.
At the center of the group is the Jon Macey and Lynn Shipley writing team. Couple that with their performing chops and that’s a big jump start to any project. The rest of the band are top notch players who all play with subtlety. Everything is nice and tidy. It’s a pristine recording, as are all of Macey’s albums.
The first song “Romance” name checks 60’s song lyrics as it goes
it’s feel-good Sunshine pop way.
They wait for the penultimate song “Guitar Star” to rock it up. Then they put it in relief with “Clever and Astute” where Jon starts by whispering the lyrics. It’s has an intimate atmosphere. It makes you want to curl up in the speaker cabinet as Shipley takes over and offers, “If you have any time, I can spare a few moments of mine”. It’s so wistful. If you stop and give it attention it will capture you.
Live Hummingbird Syndicate go even wider musically afield. It feels like this CD is just the first step for this gang.
TITLE: Took Long Enough
GET IT: Bandcamp
They call the CD Took Long Enough, like it was too long in coming, but I think the timing is exactly right. Right now Loser’s Circle has seized the day with their live show - and this CD. If you want some pop punk for right now this is the group and this is the CD.
It’s amazing what you can do with just three instruments and three voices.
Loser’s Circle follow the Ramones as far as having a
bare bones sound and getting millage out of it.
No matter what cut you go to it hits like you’re hearing it in the middle of a great live set. Every song is upbeat, there is no dragging ever.
“Ghosts of Yesterday” is the highlight with its ascending intro
guitar riff and nicely written chorus where the chords descend in steps
that are unusual and it catches your ear.
Those are a few examples of what they're doing all through the CD. Something gets you in every song; be it the lyric, melody or singing that’s embedded in their bone crunching group attack.
It’s 12 cuts of memorable punk. What more can you wish for?
TITLE: Broken Biscuits
GET IT: www.corinashley.com
This is a much bigger aural feast than biscuits. It’s what happens when your diet consists of Sgt.Pepper’s era Beatles. That’s not news for Ashley fans. He recorded at Abbey Road for his last effort, but even for him, this is a big accomplishment.
The first 7 songs are a suite referencing Corin’s stroke and recovery.
Wind Up Boy would be a captivating ditty before the production
– afterwards it’s a marvel.
Corin also sings and plays bass like McCartney. It’s worth giving one listen concentrating on the bass lines.
The last five songs are separated as ‘Side Two’ and thematically they go elsewhere. Junior Partner is about the Rat Race and Jellyfish is a heart breaker. The last song is a Dean Martin cover!
Quality, trippy pop music; only Corin could have pulled this off.
BAND:Oh the Humanity
TITLE: Tired Ears
GET IT: Bandcamp
I love OH the Humanity live and this EP does a good job of showing what they do.
All the songs are very wordy. Often there’s pressured singing as the vocalist gets every word in. It’s like he’s telling you exactly what he feels and wants to get every detail in there.
To me, it’s the last two songs (side two on the EP) that are the most successful.
Both those songs are special because they transmit such heart and humanity. They are a sort of window into us and others that the best art gives you.
TITLE: 100 Proof
GET IT: CD Baby
BAND:The Chicago Vin Coalition
Here we have two CD’s by Greg Allen’s Fringe Religion graduates. In their new projects the ex-Fringers take things in different directions.
The Hi-End has Curt Florzcak, Greg’s previous
guitarist, it also has Johnny Carlevale from the Skeleton
100 Proof is a life declaration that comes crashing out of
Chicago Vin played bass in Fringe Religion. He also
plays guitar and Vox organ on this CD.
The first three songs are garage tunes that remind me of the work of
Rick Coraccio and the Last Ones. It
will remind you of lots of sixties faves. It has the Vox Continental at
the front with cutting guitar leads through it. A lot of smart, hip and
trendy people are trying to do this but Vin seems to accomplish it effortlessly.
If I didn’t review CD’s I might not have given this the time which is sad. It’s an unexpected gem.
BAND:The Lost Riots
TITLE: The Stories are True
GET IT: Bandcamp
You want to like this New Haven group just from the way they look; They're all studded up like 1977 UK punks. The music sounds like it has studded jackets on too, its snarly punk.
In the opener Die Alone they just yell out "Die Alone" a lot of times. Their song titles must be vetted for the way they sound yelled out because that’s what happens most of the time.
I like Die Alone, This Job Sucks, NYC Nights,
Aimee, and Dead Boys - but really any one is as good
as the other. It’s more of a soundtrack when you're playing it.
On track 11 they go acoustic for We’re Getting Old. (You have to get the EP 45 to get it electric and I would do that. Last Night Was Fun on that EP has lyrics relate a club social situation and name check some groups.)
They have an unlisted phantom track 13 which is the Replacements
Goddam Job all punked up.
The CD is even on Die Hipster! Records!!
TITLE: Happy Accidents
GET IT: Bandcamp
I’ve seen OC 45 play live a few times and it’s a rush of sound and fury. What were they singing about? Didn’t know but it didn’t matter.
I played this CD and it was a lively blur of punk. What were they singing about? Didn’t know but it did matter this time. Nothing caught my ear to distinguish what was going on. I then listened with the lyric sheet in hand and it was - aha, that’s what there singing about and that’s cool.
It turns out that they sing about gun control, prejudice, family tragedy, heart break, and the general shittyness of some of our society. OC45 does this? Yes, and then the songs opened up for me. They didn’t just rock out they said something.
I thought This Bottle’s Got Your Name On It would be a mindless drinking song but no it’s a rather sober look at a failed love relationship where, surprise, the lyrics admit, “I’ got exactly what I wanted. I’m all alone and broken hearted.” They don’t blame the other party! It hits its mark and I felt sadness welling up.
Dad’s Home is a tribute to a father who dies the day after Christmas. It ends with the line, “I’ll always remember the person you were, the father I knew," again, an effective song.
Keep Your Guns brings up the scenarios that buttress the anti-gun argument and justify the singers anger; not just a mindless rage of nihilism which is the more common funnel for anger.
My fear is that others don’t give this the deeper listen it deserves. There’s a lot there for those that do.
TITLE: The Black Heart of Rock n' Roll
GET IT: Rum Bar Records
We became familiar with many of these songs by hearing them live. The great news is that they have translated all their live excitement into the recording.
It’s good songwriting coupled with a party time, barroom rocking vibe and an arena rock ambience also. There is AC/DC and Cheap Trick influences up front.
Nothing is too complicated but nobody can slash out a chord and let it hang in the air like these guys. They own that style. See the opener The Black Heart of Rock n Roll for this. They also have mastered the hook in the bass riff punctuated with a crunched chord. The playing is a text book on how four musicians can all add to the mix and not step on each other’s toes.
Danny Kopko’s voice has always been the main attraction for me and it
still is here. They slow it down on Bye and Bye and you get a
good showcase for his voice there.
The CD is what they wanted; an instant big rock concert in your bedroom.
BAND:Duck & Cover
TITLE: Stuck in Decline
GET IT: Bandcamp
The first song Yeah Don’t You is a live fave and it’s nice to have it recorded. It shows their songwriting skills; more chords than your usual punk song, a memorable intro, variations on musical themes, hooks in the vocals and under it all the appropriate guitar crunch.
Wasted has great momentum with ringing guitar tones. They use dynamics to change things up and give added interest to the end of the song. Anyone else would just bang it out without the risk. They do this all the way through the CD – they add complexity to break the punk formula.
That’s why we pay attention to Duck & Cover because
they are forwarding the punk genre with some smart moves; if you see it
as straight punk that’s alright because it’s that too.
I listen for Chris Brat’s vocals all the way through. The lyrics are just beyond reach. A lyric sheet would be appreciated.
Get this Cd to see what punk Boston has to offer now.
BAND:Tom Baker and the Snakes
Boston locals know Tom Baker and the Snakes because they have been working the clubs. That led up to getting into the semifinals of the 2017 Rumble. Now it’s time for the rest of the world to get in on this band.
The Snakes are veterans who have honed these crowd pleasing riffs for a long while. It’s AC/DC style chord crunching but with three guitarists there’s always more going on. It sounds simultaneously simple and complicated.
The center of it all is Tom Baker’s voice. It’s midrange, soulful and has classic rock and roll phrasing. Often it’s the way he says a word that makes the song. It’s saying something that in a group with three superior guitarists you come away thinking about the voice.
I’ve become a boor telling people about Doll Eyes but the descending
bass line hooks me every time and Tom’s handling of the refrain “Doll
Eyes” just does it to me.
There are no sharp edges to this it all rolls along smooth with the drums/bass always pushing out a forward momentum.
It’s a crowd pleaser by any measure.
BAND:The New Frustrations
TITLE: "Dee Backle"
GET IT: Inquire here
They don't gig much and they only have one other recorded effort. They don't make it easy. If you only have this four song EP to go on you would kill to see them. It's old school power pop circa the seventies.
The first song Radio Generation is a paean to the time when the radio was a potent and magical force. It's so good it takes a while to give the next three songs their due but they are all of a kind.
Radio Generation is full of cascading riffs and expressive crescendos it stops just a few times to chunk along. With all its parts it's a little mini symphony. It has a bit of grandeur to it.
The next three songs share similar attributes. It all goes by so fast. You have to keep playing it through again and again.
A gem. We wish the pop fans find this.
Silver Screams have been able to get their monumental live sound on this six song EP recording. They sound big but agile with snappy tempos and sharp playing. They scoop what they want from various sources with punk at the fore.
The first song Dead Air starts with a bass/drum rumble, a feedback squeal, two fast chords and then a furious metal type riff that drags you into the song and then you're in for a ride. To me it's an irresistible sonic pull that carries me along and now and then I hear the chorus "Dead Flowers, Dead Air" in there somewhere. It's a powerful performance and a good as live recording.
The next four songs continue with heavy riffage and tight playing. There's no mindless shredding, all the guitar work serves the song.
There were a lot of albums through the years that print Play Loud on the sleeve. I never have played much heed to it but this baby you turn up without the prompt. The loudness is in the fabric of the overall music. I don't know if it's in the recording or the mastering but this music jumps out of the grooves. The grooves in this case are nice orange vinyl.
They close the EP with a cover Joy Division's Disorder. They put more rock in it with the drums working up a lather. It rejuvenated my appreciation of the song. I played that a dozen times.
It's a thoroughly enjoyable hard rocking album.
BAND:Jeff and Jane Hudson
Jeff and Jane were a big presence on the scene at the beginning.
The Rentals gave us the first taste of art punk and we loved
it. They soon switched to synths and were the first of the groups to play electronic
music. That was a comfortable fit for them and they had many fruitful years
This CD takes up where they left off many years ago. It would be anachronistic but there are many new groups doing the same thing (Passion Pit, Freezepop and not to forget Olivia Neutron-John ) so it's just jumping back in the stream really. What's old is new again.
To me the CD is front loaded because the first four songs are very strong. It's all synth and drum machines plus some raw guitar lines that are a major plus in fleshing out the texture so it's not 100% electronica.
There are a lot of Jeff and Jane fans out there and they
should love this.
Here’s one we didn’t see coming; a double LP (vinyl) of 22 primo Boston bands from the late seventies and early eighties.
These songs were dubbed from MIT’s WMBR
archives of demo tapes the bands sent in or live studio performances. This is
how we first heard the songs before the material was officially recorded. If
this doesn’t take you back in time nothing will.
With so little Maps material available,
getting a new song called Explosive Decompression is a treat. It shows
the Maps playing fast and arty with Judy doing things with her voice that were
just so cool. Phobia gets two songs, one is the unreleased
Hot Rod. The Dogmatics do You Say. There are
four La Peste songs.
This was put out in Europe only…And no there is no Vol. 1 or 2.
It’s hard to keep up with Jon Macey. He has a new group, Hummingbird
Syndicate, which is part of a larger project. He's calling this a culmination
of his career to date.
Waterfall Away is pure sunshine pop. The opening 12 string guitar line makes you think of the Byrds. The song goes through subtle variations. For the listener it’s a treat to catch the different settings; changing vocal line ups and harmonies . Instrumentally the bass carries the song along as the guitars give the texture. In the end I’m reminded of the Buffalo Springfield whose songs went through similar paces. There’s a lot of writing going on for a three and half minute song.
In I Want You To Stay the drums and bass lead you into the song, then Lynn Shipley takes the lead vocal. Two overlapping guitar lines going on in the solo section is a great idea not often done. At the end of the solo the guitars sit on one note that carries for half a minute with vocals over it until it finally breaks. That feeling of tension and relief gives the song drama. After that there is a section that is double timed. Just some of the ways they make the song go through variations.
Right now we're hearing new bands taking up the psychedelic sound. Jon is right in line with the times on this. Doug Tule is in the same sonic territory. There will be a another full length new CD by Hummingbird Syndicate soon.
TITLE: Tomorrow the World
GET IT: Available at Bandcamp
This was an ambitious project for John Surette. After a long period of inactivity he’s produced a Rock Opera. It has the reach and drama a project like this requires. Part of the opera's story is about a rock band trying to make it big and that allowed John to get the members of the original Boys Life together and record three new songs. One inside joke is that the song Boys Life is actually from a group called Apache and it’s from 2007.
From our perch in 2015 we can appreciate Surette’s talents like never before. It’s not just his singing and playing but his real rock persona that raises everything he does here and gives it a stamp of authenticity that makes it avoid that Broadway song feel some of these operas have.
This CD was recorded at David Minehan’s
Wooly Mammoth studio and he plays on the CD here and there. If you are still
waiting for new Neighborhood’s material take a listen to Innocence
Lost written by Minehan.
There was a huge snow storm the night of Tomorrow the World’s premier at the Middle East. There was no rescheduling with the all-star cast. That was a shame. Many people missed it. Maybe some of this excellent material will be played when John gets a new group going. Hope so.
TITLE: Double Trouble
GET IT: Available at Bandcamp
This is where Tony Kaczynski shows everyone how it’s done; a double CD that never flags in creativity or energy.
Even before I get the song material I have to note that this CD has been recorded
and mixed to give a hot sound and even balance. It was recorded at Ducky
Carlisle’s studio. Carlisle has won a Grammy for engineering and you can
hear that prowess. It’s a big up front sound without being pompous.
Tony has a full bodied voice and he can do a few things with it. He doesn’t do fancy things but has control. He can move a note around to make a sweet melody line that others may not go for, or do a short falsetto. He can wrap his voice around a word, or group of words, and drive them home. For my money Fireking outdoes Elvis Costello on the Tokyo Storm Warning cover and captures Gene Parsons’ So You Say You Lost Your Baby. Tony picks wordy songs maybe because he writes wordy songs.
The main thing for a CD of this length is the songwriting
and Kaczynski evidently has a big pile of material. All
songs are well developed and he has plenty to say. The songs shoot out
of the gate and have a momentum that carries them along. His lyrics are
filled with musical references and more, like: Metal Guru, John Coltrane,
Young Marble Giants, Roxy Music, Pale Blue Eyes , Philip K. Dick, Balaam
and the Angel, Sal Mineo, P.F. Sloan, Badfinger, Charlotte Rampling. Marco
Pirroni, Divine etc.
This CD has it all; the sound, the songs and the performance.
BAND:Michael J. Roy
GET IT:CD BABY
A guitarist's first album would most probably be a guitar blow out. This is
not the case with Michael Roy's effort. Eclectricty is foremost
song centric and guitars serve the tunes with solos at a minimum.
Songs are mostly mid-tempo but don't drag because the songwriting
is spot on. The guitar lines also carry the songs along. This can be heard on
slower tunes like The Difference and Taking My Time
where the melody and guitar lines are irresistible.
I have many favorites: Land of Forgotten Dreams,
Taking My Time, Stop the Rain and Wired in
TITLE: Night Patrol
GET IT: Available at CD Baby
As time goes on there is less punk and garage around so it's a treat to get the Brigands CD. The Brigands have been doing it garage style for 30 years and you gotta love that but don't get the attention of more known entities. They are a Boston band through and through. They cover songs by other Boston groups and sing about the city in their original lyrics.
They start up with a cover of the Atlantics' Teenage
Flu. They take out some polish and add some grit to make it their own.
They are similarly all over two covers by La Peste, Acid
Test and Spymaster. They just get rocking and let the
song show itself. Looking for Lewis and Clark is recovering a
gem by The Long Ryders a criminally forgotten band now.
Cuts 10 to 16 are a string of originals that make the case for Brigands as a band that should be getting more kudos out there.
BAND:Sonny Vincent and the Spite
GET IT: Available in November 2014
The CD abruptly begins like it starts in the middle of a song. It’s swirling along at full energy and you feel off guard like your have to catch up. It’s like you walked late into a club as the band is ripping it up. I think that is a great effect. The song is full of punk attitude. There’s Sonny but there’s also Rat Scabies, Glen Matlock and Steve Mackay doing their best to blast it out. That’s quite an intro.
Sonny has a long history but we didn’t hear him until we caught him at WMBR. We were fans immediately then. His gigs have been rocking. He also has many recording and if you go through his catalog you hear plenty of good songs which is to say he’s no novice and he never does anything half way.
He knows how to write a song so there is always something of interest going on and with this band behind him there’s no way this would miss. I’m not a big lyric guy but I’ve been struck many times in this CD with the pointed lyrics. They are not just placeholders with easy rhymes. He’s expressing emotions that earn the screams he punctuates them with. The songs are not power chord workouts Sonny hits full chords which give things a little more character.
Now That I Have You has that undefinable something
in the combination of writing and playing that gives the overall song a feeling
and sound that give it an identity. I have to fight myself to not put it on
endless repeat and sometimes I don’t fight it.
I’m spotlighting bits of songs but the truth is that this is a solid effort where the strengths don’t falter, it’s 14 worthy songs. As one listens one is struck by the anger and energy in the vocals. It’s not just volume that hits you but that blast of emotion that makes you listen and love this CD.
We are tantalizingly close to the release of the Real Kids CD. It looks like it will be available the first week of June which means it will be in time for the June 14th gig at the Middle East.
The EP (see review below) reveals the essentials - a fully
realized Real Kids effort, new songs, great playing, a superb recording
and stand out covers. With the CD you can add refashioned earlier songs. You
can say it's like the EP and you would be right but think of it this way; it
means you have sustained quality over 12 songs.
All Night Boppin' is a fifties style rocker
that gives another dimension to this song collection. Real Kids roots
go way back. This is an upbeat lead in to the redone Common At Noon
which along with Who Needs You is like a coda to the preceding
TITLE: Shake Outta Control EP
GET IT: http://www.aceofheartsrecords.com/
It takes a nano second after the needle hitting the groove of She Don't Take
It to realize that this is primo Real Kids material. It has a simple
riff that Felice rocks the way that only he can. This is not just a song this
is a return to form for John and a gift for us rabid Real Kids fans.
It was a long road to this and a lot of work getting it recorded. This EP has
the combination of Felice composing and playing and Rick Harte recording prowess
going for it, in many ways that's all you have to hear to want to have it.
There's three more songs but really for me this is even enough. It's something we wished for and didn't think would happen. It is new and quality Real Kids material in 2014. Wow.
John then picks Fly Into The Mystery by Jonathan
Richman. The local references must mean a lot to John. The tempo is slow
but the drums and bass are strong. There's no wimp factor here. In the solo
the guitar is an overdriven feedback animal. It's as if he is saying that when
and if he is flying into that mystery he's not flying quietly.
Back in 1975 we were
trying to get an alternative to the soft bland version of what rock had become.
The Real Kids among others gave us what we were looking for. Even with
all the music available to us now this Real Kids rock is still what satisfies.
TITLE: First Coming
GET IT: https://sonicdaze.bandcamp.com/
Somehow Kenne Highland came in contact with these Italian
garage punkers. (There is another band called Sonic Daze from Maryland,
so do not confuse.) They started as a DMZ cover band four years ago and still
cover The First Time is the Best Time and have a
video of Mighty Idy.
BAND:Randy Black and the Heathcroppers
TITLE: The Sky Goes Clear
GET IT: http://www.cdbaby.com/Artist/RandyBlackandtheHeathcroppers
It's been a long time since Limbo Race won the Rumble. It was a welcome surprise to see Randy up on stage again. Randy still gives out what he did back then: good songwriting, good playing and that certain extra layer of passion that earmarks his style.
That's all on this CD. It's not flash or production trickery that gets your attention it's the peak into the window of our deeper selves that hits you time and again as you listen. This is music with an adult point of view.
I was going to list favorite songs but I would be listing
almost every song, Randy is very consistent, but I have to mention Trying.
Its lyrics delineate a city neighborhood scene that has a gritty verisimilitude
and attains a unique moody noir tone.
TITLE: American Soul
Like a Ford truck Pop Gun is solid and dependable and screams America. The rap on this group is that they sound very seventies-like and that is true, but somehow they sound just great now. I'm a punk guy but they won me over.
No One Knows received local radio play and when I
hear "she wants red roses" from that tune I get a tug of welcome recognition
and realize that their songwriting has the ability to cut through the tons of
other songs out there. That's gold.
If you are going to do the 70's thing why not do it great?
That's what they accomplish with Love and Wine which sounds like a 70's
hit maybe by Blues Image. It's a perfect 70's power ballad. For my money
it's the highlight of the CD and deserves airplay in a just rocking world. Don't
Ever Wanna Lose Ya is another power ballad not that far below that.
BAND:James Straight and the Wide Stance
TITLE: No Loitering
Joe Fagan's guitar always steals the show. His hallmark
is a short catchy phrase etched with a rusty corrosive tone. It's a never failing
formula. I see guitarists with thousand dollar guitars they can't tune, Joe
takes a cheap knockoff and creates memorable riffs left and right.
BAND:Johnny Angel Wendall
TITLE: My Lesbian Friend
GET IT: http://johnnyangelwendell.bandcamp.com/
There's a new single out called My Lesbian Friend
by expatriate Johnny Angel or Johnny Angel Wendall, I guess it is official now. I heard the song on the LRC
on WMBR and Johnny Angel directed us to his Bandcamp
That's the way you find out about things now (says grandpa) not by seeing it in the record store.
TITLE: Crashes on the Platinum Planet
Label: Almost Ready Records
Sounding no worse for the gap of time Big Dipper comes out with a typical Big Dipper album. Maybe it's a little less unkempt…maybe. The songwriting and playing are all on par with their former releases. One change is that Steve Michener has been replaced by Tom Brewitt on bass.
I love their quirky charms that they still show. The most obvious being the deceptively plain lyrics that stand out and stick in your mind. Some of the lyrics shouldn't be in any rock song but somehow they make it work. Like a chorus that repeats "I'll never forget the chef", that should be laugh inducing but it rather successfully invokes a place and experience. I would have liked a lyric sheet to get into the words more.
This is a rewarding gift for all fans and a reminder of how neat indy music could and can be.
TITLE: Dark Night
That first song Down the Road is a modern garage classic and like many other songs here invite comparisons to any 60's version of your choice. She Brings the Booze - that title is so good it doesn't even matter what the song is (but it is good).
All Banged Up and Made It Up are two more faves.
GET IT: http://jonmacey.com
In quality and quantity Jon Macey has already left his competition way behind. Intention continues that trend.
The very first words are I'm outdated/ Seems like I'm fated. This signals the lyrics that follow which are mature and deal with adult issues. We (those who started with punk in 1976) are faced with these issues as we now see things through older eyes. It's appropriate that we get material like this.
BAND: The Ducky Boys
TITLE: Chasing the Ghost
GET IT: http://statelinerecords.bandcamp.com/
There are a lot of words hence a lot of singing. Others say and I will too that the vocals have some Axel Rose in them.
After hearing them rock the house live and then putting out this long CD I can't imagine why they even faltered for a minute. The Ducky Boys have a lot of music in them to keep going.
GET IT: http://johnnyangelwendell.bandcamp.com/
Punk is out the window with Johnny Angel it seems and maybe that's not a bad thing. On IT!! Johnny fits his songs into a county style and they sound very comfortable there. This is country with a rock sensibility like the Byrds or Poco. The songwriting is notable. This is no rush job the songs have great melodies and plenty of twists and codas with full arrangements. The whole CD has a wonderful feel to it. The mix is clean, you hear every instrument and every lyric. I love the guitar sound. Scott Gilman did some great work on the production along with Johnny. The playing is perfect for the material with a special nod to Boo Burns on pedal steel guitar.
Crazy Eyes is a strong opener. Three songs have Boston references. September in New England has Johnny pining for his old stomping grounds. I love Do I Ever Cross Your Mind which is the poppiest song. It's almost in the Raspberry's range. Oh, for a CD full of similar stuff!
Johnny was right to do this project. It was time for something new and it solidifies his songwriting reputation. It also opens up a whole new world where he can progress.
BAND: JJ and Thee Cuban Heels
GET IT: www.greenmistrecords.com
This is old school stuff. Guitars are clean and the playing is nuanced and controlled.
It's all a lot of fun as is the group live. This is fine accomplishment for the group, it sounds great on the radio and it's another notch in JJ's belt.
TITLE: Cadillac Heart
The roll call on this is - Rayboy (The Atlantics and Primary Colors), Billy Connors (The Boize), Gary Soprano (Third Rail), Scott Baerenwald (Reddy Teddy and Robin Lane) with help from Rick Coraccio (Lyres, The Only Ones) and Billy Loosigian (The Boom Boom Band).
The Boize was one of Boston's earliest punk groups. They quit early and then surprised us all when they got together a few years ago and I was blown away with the new songs Billy Connors was writing. This group gives him a chance for even more songs.
He still writes things in the garage vein.
BAND:Muck and the Mires
TITLE: A Cellarful of Muck
GET IT: Muck and Mires web site
A new Muck and the Mires CD - life is good. There are 13 songs, some we know the live performance like Saturday Let Me Down Again and wow, that is a great one.
Muck and the Mires CD's are much like their live show: it's always a rush of up tempo songs that take your breath away. This time however it's not all 'up' songs there are some moody ones like Love Hated Me, That's the Way It's Always Gonna Be and I Don't Need a Reason among others that widens the emotional landscape and keeps your attention for the whole CD. Even in these songs the Mires never let the tempo get too slow. That's one of their secrets, there's always a forward momentum.
This may be their best recorded CD.
The Mires have always had bare bones recording habits. It seems like they just want to get it done and leave, but here every extra track they throw in works wonders.
They have descending chimes during I Don't Need a Reason that show how a little production adds to the magic. The backing vocals mixed cleanly to one side during a few songs are another instance. I think it's time for a full CD done with elaborate arrangements - just a suggestion.
BAND:DMZ - Lyres
TITLE: DMZ Radio Demos - Lyres Live at Cantones
GET IT: Munster Records
There is other live DMZ material out there but this is a good addition. The recording is as rough and sharp as the performance. We get to hear some covers that aren't as obscure as usual, like Til' The End of the Day (Kinks), Glad All Over (Dave Clark 5) and Heart of Stone (Rolling Stones). Heart of Stone is just a little too out of tune to digest, the rest of the set is a treat.
TITLE: Ghost of an Empty Bottle
GET IT: www.lamf.biz
Our premier bass player Carl Biancucci has recorded a CD with this group from England. The CD was recorded in Brian James' (of Damned fame) studio and he plays on one song (He's Got Style) and even though it is short it is a real kick to hear Brian's signature sound.
The group sound is fast, punky and crunchy. The female lead singer makes the group sound like the Midnight Creeps to me, which is a good thing. Every song starts full bore and fast which works to give them a sense of urgency. I like Come On! Get On! which gives shout outs to the Dolls, Iggy and the MC5 among others. In Pixie the chorus goes into a retro girl group sound as she sings "She's got a crush on you." I'm a sucker for that especially when the rest of the song just does its punky thing.
All the way through we have Carl doing his patented bass runs. Check out Come On! Get On! where you can hear him pumping up the proceedings like only he can.
TITLE: Across Their Universe
GET IT: Lowbudget Records
This is a Beatles tribute from the Lowbudget Records' people. There is a wide variety of styles here.
I've been captivated by everything Tim Casey (Doctor X ) has done lately. Here he does Across the Universe in his synth centric way with great success. Bird Mancini gets the feeling right in Don't Let Me Down. Allen Abate gives She's Leaving Home a guitar symphony as a back drop. It's heavy sounding yet the emotion of the song stays intact.
One big surprise is T Max's version of No Reply which becomes the aural equivalent of a Sergio Leonie western. It sounds like he smoked a pack an hour to get his voice in shape.
They drag some songs through some genres and styles that I don't always go along with but the playing is always first rate and show off the strengths of these locals. There's not a lot of rockin': it's ballads and more quiet songs.
TITLE: Triple Thick
GET IT: www.triplethick.com/
Triple Thick hit us with more of the simple, short yet satisfying garage punk we love. You want sophistication or complication you should go elsewhere. I am reminded of listening to the early Ramones albums where I soaked in those blasts of punk songs with such a need to get a fill of it. Triple Thick does that for me now. It's a joy to get the basic stuff sans the fluff.
I loved Mailbox about meeting his love at the box: and She's All Mine with its easy riff that the Shadows of Knight could have used.
Forget about the 3 minute song the instrumental Step on the Gas is all of 34 seconds.
There are 16 songs with four covers. The covers are always interesting with TT and here they go from Gene Clark to The Minutemen with a visit to the Remains in between.
One of the amazing things that TT does is to get that 'feeling' into the recording similar to the 60's garage bands they know well.
We do our best to champion this band because they are punk the way we thought of it in 1976. They have the sound and the work ethic.
GET IT: Actuality Records
There are precious few bands that can serve up to their fans what Fox Pass can. New and old songs, pop and rock songs, years of yeoman service, innovative ideas and of course more and more new CD's of material.
BAND:Johnny Barnes and the Thin Blues Line
TITLE: The Willie Dixon Tribute
GET IT: www.johnnybarnes.com
After resurfacing and writing a few books Johnny Barnes comes back again this time with an CD of 13 Willie Dixon songs. This is fine pack of rock blues right in line with old Boston albums by The Colwell Winfield Blues Band and James Montgomery.
The backing musicians are top notch including the man himself, James Montgomery, on harmonica. Joe Pet on drums is a standout. Barnes makes his guitar snarl, squeal and sustain its way though these tunes with the same tone he had back in the day. The recording is sharp and the mix is full.
If you like this style of blues, and I do, then this is all kick ass ear candy. I listened to this for days. I just couldn't get enouogh of it.
16 songs about Murder, Death and Prison - now that sounds like a pleasant listening experience; most of this CD is earthy and sobering and done with just acoustic guitar and voice but some use a light touch and humor.
BAND:The Nervous Eaters
When the Nervous Eaters played Dodge Street in 2003 Steve Cataldo took the chance to apologize to everyone there and not there for their first LP. Now, here it is; re-released on Wounded Bird Records.
You had to be around to know how disappointed and yes, mad people were about this. In 1977 the Eaters were not just dirty, they were lyrically obscene and they had a bad ass attitude all around. Then you get the album and Cataldo is singing romantic songs in a falsetto. People felt cheated.
Me, I sort of liked what it was, so I'm not being revisionist by pointing out the good things here, although I was as shocked as anyone when it came out.
They also recorded some of the live favorites we expected :Loretta, Get Stuffed, Girl Next Door, and Last Chance All sound good, better than they got credit for back in the day. All through it is great playing (Nicky Hopkins is on this!) and wonderful vocals by Steve Cataldo.
When I saw this I thought it must be a re-release of their 1982 LP on Star Rhythm but it’s not. Included here are the 3 tracks from the Elliot Easton EP (The two rockers sound as sharp as the day they were made and Paper Moon is that uniquely punk/romantic beauty.). Then there are 4 studio tracks and 6 tracks from a WERS Metrowave show both from 1988.
Brother Cleve plays the keyboards and does his usual excellent job. The material is more roots originating than before. They excelled in establishing a deep groove that carries the song along. The swampy Love on the Levee is a standout in that fashion. Jack’s on Drugs is one of the standout rockers. Phil Haynen wrote all the material and there are no clunkers. The recording quality is good.
BAND:The Whore Moans
The refreshing thing about The Whore Moans is that they're not trying to be punk. They don’t chunk out power chords that limit the group sound. They mine some pre-punk influences and come up with some different twists.
As a ‘for instance’, let’s look at the third song on the CD. Fingers and Martyrs starts heavy then snaps into a melodious chorus (real catchy) then to some yelling, next a metal influenced instrumental that leads to an unusual male chorus tapering into a soaring woman’s voice, more yelling, more chorus and finally a quiet coda of violins and cellos. That’s a lot of changes for one song.
Not every song is so complicated many are straight forward, but it’s obvious that some good work went into the music and lyrics.
Live, they come over as a good time party band but this worthy CD shows a depth that could give them a long career.
This CD marks another chapter in Mr. Curt's long and interesting Boston music story. At this point he has picked up the threads of Pastiche and produced a fine effort. Mr. Curt is a great team player and has worked with too many people to name here but his work with Ken Scales was a highlight. Ken brings his own brand of drama to all his recorded and stage efforts.
Well, they still bring the magic to their co-written songs (along with band mate Ron Marinick) and that's what I was looking for. A moody atmosphere colors and unites the CD and makes it perfect for repeat listenings. Songs alternate with minute synth interludes. The overall sound is keyboard/synthesizer. Even in the 80's Pastiche songs were a more finished product than most and that inclination is further enhanced by the good work they did in the studios here.
Members of LowBudgetRecords further helped this effort especially Doctor X (Tim Casey). There is a lot of creative energy and interesting projects coming out of Low Budget Records.
You have to love Triple Thick. They are a reliable, hard gigging garage band. It seems like a simple thing to do but it's just that they make it look simple. Just like this CD. It is simple but it's not simplistic. They know what to leave out to make it simple.
As for lyrics, there are times when the song title is 80 percent of the lyrics, but there is always just enough content to make the song distinct.
You can tell they have learned their trade by studying their predecessors from the covers they play live and on the CD. Here they cover two garage obscurities but I don't think they're any better than their originals. They also throw in a left curve with a Townes Van Zandt song.
There's 28 cuts, 27 bands, 12 songs and lots to like on this well packaged tribute LP…yes LP - vinyl, the only real rock and roll format. Although, it does come with info on a free download for the digital devotees.
Some of the songs get multiple versions and I liked that. I came to appreciate Summertime a lot more by hearing the variations like The Dogmatics who recapture that city-in-the-summer feel and the Sleazies who rock it up solid.
It's also a limited pressing of 500 on swirling colored vinyl with different pictures on every label. Get the idea it's collectable?
Bridgeport Lathe was a completely original oddity back in 1979 and it remains so. It’s a great piece of songwriting in a nerd-machine-fetish genre of which The 2X4’s were the only adherents.
This was all the brainchild of John Hovorka who went on to fame in The Turbines and continues playing today as The Dawn of Mechanized Farming. His label is Metal Snowball Records and this CD can be bought there.
The first Reddy Teddy LP was recorded in 1976; thirty eight years later we get a CD on which the first song, Modern Man, sounds like it could fit on that first LP; to quote Reddy Teddy "Ooh-Wow!"
Their three songwriters; Lock, von Rosenvinge and Baerenwald, write songs that fit seamlessly in the Reddy Teddy canon and the band never fail to deliver the goods, which is no surprise if you have seen them live. Of course it's John Morse's voice that brings it all home time and time again. Listen to his voice give a romantic resonance to Helpless Eyes, this is one of Boston's great talents.
It's hard to put a new CD by a band who started in 1972 in perspective. They started out in the pre-punk era and dozens of trends and fashions have come and gone. From the beginning they have been very confident in their talent and showmanship. To quote the 1976 Reddy Teddy again, "The kids' got class, it's always gonna last."
BAND:The Radio Knives
When I have the misfortune to hear a pretentious band or two at some club then I feel the need to clean my palate with some straight punk. At that time my mind goes toward Triple Thick or these guys. They always give a solid no bullshit performance that satisfies and that's what they do here.
These guys didn't bother to reinvent the wheel. The overall sound is a familiar punk one but they stay sharp and simple and pull out a very appealing effort. The lyrics are about friends, home, drink, and the music. They do have a song about war called God Bless the USA. In the sixties rock took on the war, it's nice to see it being done again.
BAND:The Prime Movers
This CD marked the reemergence of the Prime Movers after a decade of inactivity. They say it's the album they should have put out back then and they are right. After hearing it it's hard to see how they could have missed, they command this garage/Mod ground and never make a misstep.
There is an uber-story here and it's about Rayboy Fernandes. Rayboy did a legendary stint as drummer for the Atlantics, later he reinvented himself running a studio and producing rap acts and did very well there too. As the rap acts died down he was talking around town about getting back into rock and here this is. He corralled some 16 local rock acts (some via the Noise Board) and got then into his studio for one song each. So, we get to hear some current groups and see how Rayboy can record and produce them.
30 years into this game of Boston Punk Survivor and Fox Pass Outlasts, Outplays, and Outwrites the competition. 2006 and we finally get the first Fox Pass album and it is a sweet success. They have released a generous heaping of pop tunes; ringing 12 strings throughout.
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