Kenny Kaos

The Dracu-Las Fall Asleep When I’m Dead EP

This is tasty. Starts off with a sort of synthy-sounding thing, which is dark and moody. The tempo is measured; steady, but deliberate. Pretty female vocals blend seamlessly with the garage-y, moody pop music. There’s almost even some surfy lead guitar. The second and third cuts are a little less moody and they pick up the pace quite a bit. I like this EP.

Status Seekers The 1980 Lost Tapes 12″

From the OC in 1980, and it’s amazing how different this is from most of the punk/hardcore that would come from that area just a couple years later. This has an early punk, even new wave sound going on. You’ll hear traces of the ENGLISH BEAT and the STRAY CATS, among other things. A lot of the “lost” tapes stuff that gets released seems like it was lost for a reason. This one actually deserved to be found.

New Math Die Trying and Other Hot Sounds (1979–1983) LP

NEW MATH was a New York State band from the late ’70s to the early ’80s. I was listening to punk starting in 1981 or 1982, but I don’t remember knowing them. They were on a San Francisco label (415) at one point. Being from SF, you’d think I’d have heard of them. Nope. My loss. This is some good shit, I’ll tell you that. It reminded me of another band, but I couldn’t place it. Then I finally did place it and I couldn’t stop hearing it. The FORGOTTEN REBELS! Very rock’n’roll-y, mid-tempo, and super catchy. This is great.

Spells Past Our Prime LP

Driving and pounding melodic hardcore, this has a lot going for it. I find male/female harmonies that are done well kind of irresistible. There’s plenty of that on this record. I wouldn’t say that there’s anything terribly unique or groundbreaking about this record, but it’s really well done and easy to listen to. And the title of the record is obviously worth a chuckle. Be serious about what you do, but don’t take yourself too seriously.

The Ar-Kaics See the World on Fire LP

Well, if the first track is any indication, this certainly has a feel to it. It plods along, very deliberately, slowly, and darkly, almost conveying a sense of helplessness. Jesus, look at some of these song titles: “Chains” (the opener), “Land of the Blind,” “Outsider.” All of the cuts mostly have that measured pace, but they’re also mostly not as harrowing as that first cut, although they are dark and brooding. Think of LOU REED getting really dark if he got stuck in a garage. Then add more twang. I kind of like it, just in case that wasn’t clear.

Girth Control Life’s Too Short for Girth Control LP

These guys are talented musicians and can write a good song, but they’ve got a lot going against them. First, the whole name of the band (and the record) is based on kitschy humor. This will follow you forever. Second, they’re a little cutesy. Third, they rely heavily on ska. Fourth, never put 25 songs on a single record. Fifth (and last), too many of the 25 songs are a play on the whole GIRTH CONTROL thing. I’ve always said no band should take themselves too seriously. These guys definitely got that message.

V/A Vent the Spew, Vol. 2 LP

Looks like a compilation of a number of records (EPs?) from the early ’90s put out by Midwestern label Red Hour Recordings. A lot of the cuts have that spastic, grungy sound from back then. Lots of screaming and nervousness in there. Sixteen cuts in all from CLAY, PET UFO, GUT PISTON, TH’ FLYIN’ SAUCERS, MOODY JACKSON, ECONOTHUGS, MY WHITE BREAD MOM, the HAIRY PATT BAND, and SUCK. Some really good stuff on here, and some that isn’t really memorable. What the hell is that rockabilly cut doing in there?

Little Girls Valley Songs CD

Sugary, female-fronted power pop—this oozes bubblegum and has my name written all over it. Honestly, some people might even be embarrassed to admit to liking it. Not me. This is catchy, fun goodness. Because this is both a reissue and a historical look back at L.A. in the ’80s, they get a pass for including 26 songs. Comparisons to the GO-GO’S are too obvious to ignore. There are some real gems here.

The Defnics 51% / Hello From Berlin 7″ reissue

Classic Midwest punk rock from 1981—the DEFNICS are up there with the PAGANS as being among Cleveland’s finest. And they play a similar style of melodic, but tough as fucking nails, punk rock. Unless you’re one of the very few who have an original, you need this record. Hell, if you’ve got an original, get this one so you can preserve that original. Excellent shit.

Wise Guise Kick the Hive CD

First off, I think the band name is awesome. WISE GUISE are four women from Toronto. They play a melodic style of punk that sometimes reminds me of RANCID (or the INTERRUPTERS). In other words, it’s got a bit of a ska vibe going on. The vocalist sometimes reminds me of Kim Shattuck. This is their debut EP. Solid effort.

Urgent Care Fast Medicine CD

To have the name URGENT CARE as a band name isn’t the craziest thing in the world. To have that also be the theme of the band is a little odd. With songs like “Sloppy Surgery,” “Allergens,” and “Racing for the Cure,” it’s a thing. Even the record label has fallen in line. Musically, it’s bare-bones punk played in that sort of herky-jerky style. It’s fine, I suppose, but if that’s the best I can muster, that’s saying something.

Savage Beat Tomorrow (Might Never Come) / Used to Be a Tiger 7″

Ha, the vocals immediately remind me of Stiv Bators and the DEAD BOYS. That can’t be too bad. Snotty and growly, this is very much old school punk. The guitar work is sometimes a bit much for me, but it’s also done in that DEAD BOYS style, so that helps. From Amsterdam, if you keep track of those sorts of things.

Leatherman Telephone / Tryin’ 2 4get 7″

Female-fronted power pop from Australia. I’m digging this right off the bat. The riffs are super catchy. It’s got guitar, it’s got bass, it’s got drums, but none of it in excess. It’s got balance. Hell, it’s even got handclaps! Two cuts and both are really working. This one is worth looking for.

Fear the Spider Hear Us Now CD

There’s something I just don’t like about this one. I feel kind of terrible saying that, but that’s where I’m at. It’s catchy and melodic and all that, but there are just too many red flags that point to the band taking themselves too seriously, starting with the name of the record. Sometimes traditional punk, sometimes almost hair metal (“It’s Time to Rock”), it just leaves me cold. And if you’re going to be bold enough to cover a band like the STOOGES, you really need to make it yours. Don’t do it like you’re a cover band.

Nervous Gender Music From Hell 2xLP

I didn’t realize this, but this 2xLP (an expanded version of their LP from 1981) is described as being legendary synth punk—in the end, this proves to be true. The band had a cast of characters that were members at one time or another, including PHRANC and Alice Bag. That’s pretty cool. I’m generally not a fan of the 2xLP format, but when you’re trying to really capture something this significant, it can make sense. Just the genre name of synth punk makes me anxious, and the record itself starts off reinforcing that. Particularly at the beginning, it’s got a frenetic feel to it, and I get the impression that wasn’t accidental. It’s also artsy, which can’t really surprise anyone. As you move into the 31 cuts, it does start to settle down some, becoming almost hypnotizing. As you might expect with 31 cuts, there are some hits and some misses, with far more hits than misses, including a completely unrecognizable cover of the SEX PISTOLS’ “Pretty Vacant.” In the end, imagine a soup that includes synth, punk, and art school, and then imagine an influence of Gregorian chants. Whether or not this is your cup of tea, it’s an important recording of an important movement within an important movement. That’s pretty cool.

Moron’s Morons Go Pop! 7″

First off, what a fantastic band name. Second off, what a great record. This is rock’n’roll first and punk second, but it’s definitely punk. And honestly, doesn’t that describe a lot of the best punk ever? It reminds me of the PREACHER’S KIDS, a band I only discovered somewhat recently. Very garage-y, sometimes bordering on swampy (but not quite getting there), and so, so catchy. The hooks grab you and they don’t let go. From Poland, of all places.

The Thingz Green Incursion cassette

Wait a second, is that an organ? Kind of? Not really sure, as there is both a keyboard and a theremin. In any event, the combination creates a very ’60s feel to this rock’n’roll record. Take the B52’S and DEVO, then go heavy with the ’60s. Real heavy. These guys know exactly what they’re doing and they do it really well, but there’s a levity that makes you think they maybe don’t take themselves too seriously. Nothing wrong with that. It’s only rock’n’roll, man. The organ/keyboard/theremin combo gives it a garage feel, and the catchiness is contagious. It’s also got an eeriness, but in a fun way, not a scary way. Male/female vocals are always a hit with me and these seem almost purposefully quirky. It all comes together really nicely.

Scott O’Brien In the Garage CD

I’m not sure what exactly I was expecting, but it was not faster-paced, catchy pop music. Is SCOTT someone I should know? The answer, at least now, is a resounding “yes.” In addition to the pure pop goodness, there’s definitely some surf and punk elements/influences. I’ll admit to being a bit thrown when a solo artist (as opposed to a “band”) delivers legit punk/power pop. It’s just not what I was expecting. This is awesome on all levels.

Stef + The Sleeveens Give My Regards to the Dancing Girls / Small Talk with Jonathan 7″

This is an interesting one to describe. It’s almost like a cut from the ’80s, when new wave and punk had a lot of blurry lines going on. It’s catchy and it’s a little moody and it’s kind of pretty, but it’s also definitely rock’n’roll. And I say “new wave,” but I’m not hearing any of the electronic instruments you’d traditionally associate with new wave. At times, it’s got a little bit of an early U2 feel. Definitely very catchy. Both cuts mention the “chip shop.” Ha, it’s a theme. I really do like this one.

Feather You Got Problems / Stupid Girl 7″ reissue

This is some superb power pop that’s all glammed up. In fact, this will transport you directly back to 1976. The A-side actually fades out like they used to do back in the day—imagine the SWEET and the BAY CITY ROLLERS and then throw in some attitude. (In other words, heavy on the SWEET.) Honestly, I even get some little hints of the PARTRIDGE FAMILY. Holy shit, turns out this is a reissue of an older recording and this is actually from 1974 (not 1976). English. Fantastic.

Sugar Tradition More Sugar LP

Wow. This one is a rocker. There is guitar and bass and drums and harmonica and even tambourine. I’m not sure I’ve ever described a record as being heavy, but here it is. This record is heavy. It’s also a catchy and melodic rager. This is contained insanity. If you had told me this was released in 1969, I’d have believed you. It’s totally authentic that way, but not in a Nuggets or Pebbles sort of way, in a heavy sort of way. As the LYRES were to Boston, so are SUGAR TRADITION to Detroit. That’s rad.

The Shit Talkers Quack LP

These guys start out strong; I’m always a fan of the male/female competing vocals. It’s faster-paced, but it’s not thrash. It’s too catchy and melodic for that, with a focus on the vocals. (And FYI, I’m not suggesting that thrash can’t be both catchy and melodic, that’s just not generally the focus.) That said, the melodies definitely take me back to early California hardcore and the early ’80s. It’s also got some goth elements sprinkled in there. Ultimately, it’s punk rock that is both original and nicely done. I’m a fan. “Party Animal” is my new theme song. It’s actually not, that was just a joke. Keep on rockin’.

Tiger Island Looka Looka Looka CD

Right off the bat, the guitar and the female vocals remind me of the RIVER CITY TANLINES and the PLASTIC TONES. You won’t mistake this for either of those bands, but the similarities are there. It’s not just the guitar and the vocals that are strong, the whole thing is super tight and catchy as all hell. Sure, it’s punk, but at its core, it’s rock’n’roll. I like the tempo, which is like that extra cup of coffee in the morning, making things perk up just a bit, but not to the point where things are getting crazy. There’s a lot to like here.

The Cowboys Sultan of Squat LP

This is super catchy pop, with vocals that totally remind me of another band I discovered recently, GOOD LOOKING SON. Ha, there’s a reason for that. It’s the same dude! While the two bands are different, I’d suggest that if you like one, you’ll like the other. If you don’t know either and are a fan of great pop songs that are pleasant but not overly sugary, well, this is worth your while for sure. Seriously, good stuff. I’m starting to like this Feel It label.

Personal and the Pizzas Raw Pie LP reissue

At this point, I feel like everyone should know about the phenomena of PERSONAL AND THE PIZZAS. How a band from New Jersey decided to take the RAMONES and turn them into a band that mostly sings about pizza is both disturbing and genius. I’m not sure it really needs to be reviewed. The thing sort of speaks for itself. I will say that it is well-done. I guess that’s a detail worth talking about.

Private Life Get Me Outta Here cassette

As we move further and further into a digital music world, there’s something very cool to me that cassettes remain a thing. There’s also something somewhat comical about listening to a tape on Bandcamp. Anyway, five cuts here. There was a time when some people might have called this hardcore. Not anymore. It can be faster paced at times, but it’s got a quirky pop thing about it. While it may be difficult to label, it’s not difficult to like. It’s quirky and catchy and very much straightforward. I like that. A lot.

Poison Boys Don’t You Turn on Me LP

This is catchy enough that you almost want to call it power pop, but it’s got a lot of heavy guitar work that makes you want to say glam. It’s also very much just straightforward punk. Mid-tempo and steady, it keeps your head bouncing. I like it, but do find the recording a little fuzzy for my liking. And I don’t mind some lead guitar, but I do feel like it’s the kind of thing that needs to be controlled. On a lot of these tracks, they’re not exhibiting that control. And you know I always love backing vocals. Lots of that here. Good stuff when you take that all into account.

The Sha-La-Lee’s Garbage Dreams LP

Wow. I’m thirty seconds in and I am digging this thing. It’s got a little swampy thing going on, but there’s also some slick guitar work that’s almost surfy that has me doing a funny little shimmy dance. It’s mid-tempo and catchy as all hell. At times, it gets a little eerie and spooky. Other times, it gets a little heavier. Then it gets more straightforward. This is some good shit right here.

The Morlocks Easy Listening for the Underachiever LP reissue

When I was doing college radio at KALX way back in the day, the MORLOCKS were a favorite of Barry St. Vitus. He was heavy into the garage stuff, I thought it was okay. This record is, I believe, from the second iteration of the band and was originally released in 2008. I don’t always like garage rock, but when I do, I like it a little more raw and gritty. I find this one a little too slick and polished for my liking. It’s not terrible, just not my thing exactly. That said, the album title is one of the best things ever.

V/A News From Another Side LP

Records like this are a funny thing to me—I’m not sure what these bands have that brings them together. COLERA is a Brazilian hardcore band that has been around since the late ’70s (I thought it was the early ’80s, but I was wrong). They get seven songs, some new, some not. RAZOR KIDS are from Scotland, I believe they’ve been around for a bit. They get four cuts. Lastly, the ZIPS are a relatively new Portuguese band. They get three tracks. If you know COLERA, you’ll know what to expect. Classic South American hardcore. Fairly catchy, straightforward. It’s what you’d expect from them. I reviewed the RAZOR KIDS late last year on another weird split EP. They deliver four solid cuts of COCK SPARRER-inspired Oi!. And the ZIPS play super-melodic, mid-tempo power pop, and they do it very nicely. Still a head-scratcher as to how these three ended up on the same record, but I’ll take it.

Douglas Bales Saint Joe CD

A tribute to Joe Strummer. That’s sweet. Joe was one of punk rock’s (and one of rock’n’roll’s)  greatest guitarists, singers, and songwriters. The A-side is a mid-tempo, super melodic rocker, with a super catchy sing-along chorus. And I’m not sure if Mr. BALES just sounds like Joe or if he made an extra effort here, but he does sound an awful lot like Joe. The B-side is a slower, somber, soothing piano-led number. The two go well together, and make for a fine tribute to one of the greatest.

The Love Come On and Feel the Love LP

They come out of the gates sounding like the STOOGES and the STROKES, but then I’m thinking, “Wait, this is pop music.” Honestly, on my first go-around, I thought that there was very little garage here. I was thinking it was awesome, but I was also thinking that calling it garage was a stretch. Second time around, I’m hearing it differently. It’s intense in a way that you rarely get with pop music. I said in a review a few months back that there is regular old pop music, and then there’s pop music created by people who didn’t grow up on shit music. Fucking great record.

The Bad Shapes The Bad Shapes LP

This can be incredibly catchy, in a sing-along sort of way at times. And with female vocals and background “ooh ooh ooooooh”s, it’s super melodic and right up my alley. Their lyrics are in no way shallow, taking on real issues like a woman’s right to control the destiny of her own body. In terms of musical style, it reminds me of 1977, mostly because it can be super catchy, but it’s also got a grinding guitar that is more like early hardcore. It’s sometimes got a quirkiness that doesn’t always land with me, but overall it’s a great effort. From one of my favorite cities in the world, Berlin, Germany. And they even give us a surprise track in German towards the end of the record!

The Kids Flabbergasted! Live at AB 2001 LP

One of the pioneering punk bands, the KIDS started in Belgium in 1976. That means that even when this was recorded in 2001, the band was 25 years old. And that was 22 years ago. Jesus. There was a time when live records were mostly complete shit. Well, that must have been a long time ago, because in 2001 they had figured it out. Great record full of songs that are powerful and melodic and just super catchy. There’s a togetherness on this record that takes the sum of the parts and makes it better. I know I’ve got this backwards, but I hear the LAZY COWGIRLS here. I could listen to this all day long.

C.O.F.F.I.N. Australia Stops LP

I imagine this is a big deal to a lot of people. It’s classically Australian in many ways. It’s driving. It’s melodic. It’s intense. It’s furious. It’s unrelenting. But more than anything, it’s rock’n’roll. At times, the pace is mild. Other times, it gets quite quick. At times, it’s like AC/DC. Other times it’s like MOTÖRHEAD, particularly with the snarly, growling vocals. There’s a lot to like about this record. On the flipside, at least for me, it’s a little too rock’n’roll. I could use a little more punk. I could use a little less extracurricular lead guitar work. I realize for a lot of people, neither of things are drawbacks. I’d love to see these guys in a small bar in the middle of nowhere.

Suzi Moon & Billy Hopeless Nothing Left to Lose 7″

There’s something comical to me about these two making a 7” record with two duets. Reminds me of my childhood. It’s like ELTON JOHN and KIKI DEE all over again. The A-side starts off kind of cute and then quickly heads south, going into a haunting tale of a one-sided love affair. Titled “Love is a Stranger,” it’s got a deliberate tempo and honestly reminds me of the movie Stranger Than Paradise. The B-side is much different. It’s bouncy and sweet and fun.

Sparrowhawk Sparrowhawk LP

Wow. This is a super catchy and compelling combination of power pop and punk. Mid-tempo and melodic, it’s no surprise to me that at least one of the dudes in this band was in MYSTERY DATE (their other members also have impressive resumes, but we can’t talk all day about what other bands they used to be in…). At times it’s mid-tempo, other times they pick it up a bit. That’s often done within a song, something I don’t always appreciate, but I like it here. In addition to power pop and punk, I think you can hear mod elements, glam elements, street elements, and just plain old rock’n’roll. The lead guitar is there, but it’s not too much, and the transitions within songs are just really nicely done. Similarly, the lead vocals and how they incorporate the backing vocals is seamless. I’m not that big a fan of the JAM, so it surprises me that I hear them here. And a DICTATORS cover? Nice. Excellent record.

The Spackles Happy to See You / The Shakes CD

Let me just get this out of the way: this is two songs. That’s not a fucking CD. It’s a single. Musically, this is mid-tempo power pop. It’s catchy, but it’s got a certain herky-jerkiness to it. That can be hit or miss with me. I’m not sure this one’s a hit. I also find the vocals, both the female lead and the male backing, kind of contrived. They’re talented, no doubt, and they’re tight, but there’s something in it that’s missing for me. They don’t remind me of the BOOMTOWN RATS musically, but they do remind me of them in the sense that some of their songs I really liked and other ones I found that they just had too much going on.

Agur Garena Gara LP

The Bandcamp info tells me these guys are from Spain. All the Zs and Xs in the song titles lead me to believe they might be Basque. A little internet research confirms that. Not all, but lots of Spanish punk really lands with me. This one is extremely catchy, with lots of “whoaaa, whoaaa” backing vocals, but also some snarling lead vocals, so it shouldn’t be a surprise that it’s one that I like a lot. At times very mid-tempo and other times quite a bit faster, but it maintains that catchiness, even when the mood is somewhat frantic. Only six cuts, but they’re all winners for me.

CC Voltage Berliner Pilsner / Bummer Party 7″

Seriously, this one has elements of garage, glam, power pop, and even a little hint of country. I’m not kidding. Leave it to the Canadians. It’s super catchy and I’m certain that if you had a lyric sheet, you’d grab a hold of that and be singing along in no time. The vocals have a great rhythm about them and the songs are well-written. The only drawback, and this is really a personal thing, is that there’s a little too much lead guitar work at times.

The Neanderthals The Modern Stone Age Family LP

We start right off with a KINKS riff. Given the name of the band and the album, it shouldn’t be a surprise that I’m using words/terms like garage rock, ’60s rock, ’50s rock, surf, and even rockabilly to describe the band. It’s good, for sure, but I find this kind of stuff a little schticky. With song titles like “I Go Ape,” “Flintstone Flop,” and “Neanderthal Twist,” you kind of know what you’re getting yourself into. But if this is your sort of thing, you should like it. It’s catchy and melodic, they’re tight, and they’re all talented musicians. Throw another brontosaurus burger on the grill for me, and that’ll probably need some sort of a tiki drink. Thanks.

Degenerates of Punk DCxPC Live, Vol. 13: Live at Ralph’s Rock Diner LP

While I’m not necessarily getting the self-billed “RAMONES-core” reference, I do find myself enjoying this live recording. Live recordings have mostly never been my thing, but I do find that the technology has come a long way (I still find the mixing of the vocals is often an issue, and I’d say that’s true here). This is mid-to-uptempo melodic punk rock that isn’t unlike the RAMONES in the sense that it’s straightforward, super catchy, and the songs are over before you’ve ever gotten tired of them. If you said it was power pop with a heavy dose of garage, I wouldn’t fight you. Last thing: I don’t get it throughout the set, but there are times when they remind me of OPERATION IVY. This is pretty fucking catchy and pretty fucking good.

Moar Baby I Am Cheap LP

It’s funny to me when bands are purposefully herky-jerky. It’s not easy to pull off. This record reminds me of bands like DEVO and AUSMUTEANTS, and you could even throw in the BRIEFS (without the herky-jerkiness.) It’s punk, it’s pop, and it’s new wave, all at the same time. Three of the ten cuts clock in at exactly 1:27 each, and seven of the ten are less than two minutes. That’s perfect for someone with my attention span. Excellent record.


Wow, this is straightforward, grinding and pounding garage punk from Berlin. It’s got an intensity not often encountered in the melodic punk/power pop world. Sure, it’s catchy and it’s easy to bounce your head along, but the real story here is the energy they bring and the sense of urgency that comes with it. Eight tracks, but that’s all you need for now. At times, they bring me back to Australia and what was going on there in 1978/1979. Other times, they remind me of the STITCHES. Excellent record.

Zero Boys Don’t Shoot Can’t Breathe / Long Way to Go 7″

Possibly irrelevant now, but their 1981 album Vicious Circle remains a classic and has some of the best hardcore songs ever. I’m generally not a fan of bands that are playing almost 40 fucking years later (that’s rich coming from a dude who is approaching 60), but I really like this one. This isn’t hardcore, but it is punk and it’s good. The A-side is methodical, almost MISSION OF BURMA-like. The B-side isn’t quite as good for me and leans more towards a trashy rock’n’roll number, even kind of funky. Honestly, if it was some other band, I might not like it at all. But the A-side alone is worth it. I’ve got a lot of respect for bands that keep at it but also just don’t keep doing the same thing. Nice job.

RJ and the Riots RJ and the Riots LP reissue

Surf rock’n’roll from the Philippines in the early ’60s? Exactly, and this is a gem. It’s smooth and catchy and melodic and really nicely done. It’s a reissue of their second album, originally released in 1964, but it’s not like anyone reading this review has an original. I have no idea if it was remastered in any way, but the recording is excellent. Drawing comparisons to the BEATLES would be too obvious.

Cat and the Underdogs Punk Rock Overdrive CD

This is a funny one for me. From Sweden, these guys deliver a version of melodic punk rock that has guitar elements that remind me of both the STOOGES and SOCIAL DISTORTION, though definitely a little softer. It’s got a very 1977 sound to it. It’s mid-tempo and catchy, and the production is crisp without sounding overproduced. That said, there’s a metal/glam thing in some of the vocals that almost reminds me of hair bands, like POISON. The jury is still out on this one.

Vice Squad Shot Away LP reissue

VICE SQUAD was featured on a compilation, Punk and Disorderly, that was one of my introductions to punk rock. “Last Rockers” will forever remain an important song to me. Some of their first releases remain among my favorites. They were also prolific enough that not everything resonated with me. This release, from 1984, has a power pop base, but also retains some of that eeriness from their early years (think of those “ohh…ohhhhhh” lyrics). So, it’s catchy and melodic and poppy on the one hand, but then also sort of dark. The vocals are almost sweet at times. Whether or not you’re a big VICE SQUAD fan, this one is definitely worth listening to.

Tos Máquinas EP reissue

It looks like this is a re-release of an EP that was originally released in the late ’70s. It also sounds like that. From Spain, it’s got a pleasant poppy sound, with really jangly guitar. The vocals are focused on harmonies and are well-done. It’s mid-tempo and catchy, which is always a plus for me. Labeling music is kind of a funny thing for me, but I do wonder if this would have been considered punk in late ’70s Spain, or some sort of alternative pop. It’s pretty cool, either way. I like it.

The Sorels Love Your Rock N’ Roll EP

I’m a sucker for female-fronted punk rock. In this case, the band is all-female. I’m a sucker for bubblegum punk. It’s almost a fault of mine. (Some would say I should remove the “almost” from the last sentence.) So, it was a given that I’d like this record. And I do like it, but I wouldn’t say that I love it. It’s got this ballad/doo wop/’50s feel that just isn’t my thing. Here’s a fun fact: they cover the band HELLO, who I’ve never heard of.

Evil Engines Straight to My Soul / Teenage Kicks 7″

The A-side is a mid-tempo garage punker with dark vocals that sort of remind me of JOY DIVISION. It’s good. It’s not great, but it’s definitely good. The B-side is a very average cover of the UNDERTONES’ classic single from the late ’70s. It’s delivered at a slightly slower tempo than the original, but for me the real issue is that they don’t do anything with it. If you’re going to cover a classic song, you need to really make it yours. Do something with it. Unless your goal is to be a cover band…

The Boyfriends Wrapped Up in a Dream LP

From NYC in the late ’70s, this is rock’n’roll that is clearly influenced by the likes of the NEW YORK DOLLS and the HEARTBREAKERS on the one hand and power pop of that era on the other hand. Overall, it’s damn good. It looks like some of these cuts were released as singles while others come from demos and other recordings. While overall very good, there’s definitely a range in the quality of individual songs. The title cut and “Voice on the Line” are standouts for me, but there are others right up there. Others are a little too rock’n’roll-y for me.

Paint Fumes Real Romancer LP

These guys deliver a really tight, high-energy earful of what I think is a nice combination of punk’n’roll and power pop. It’s mid-tempo, but it’s really driven, like they’re coming at you. It’s got a cohesiveness that is remarkable, like everybody is on the same page. It’s obviously catchy, or I wouldn’t even be listening to it. Time for an air drum solo. Thanks. This is their fourth LP, but the first I’ve heard of them. I feel like I’ve been missing out. This is an excellent record. Highly recommended.

The Neanderthals The Neanderthals in Space LP reissue

It’s funny to me that punks have always been so drawn to the kitschy. When bands do it, it worries me that it will only distract from the overall quality of the music they’re making. There’s definitely a space/universe theme going on here. Also noteworthy is that they choose to cover some legendary rock’n’roll songs. Musically, there’s a huge lean towards ’50s and ’60s rock’n’roll/rockabilly/garage/surf. A good number of the songs are instrumentals. Originally released in 2005.

Motormouth More Time / Get It On 7″

While the band is from Belgium, the songs are sung in English. This is fairly straightforward mid-tempo punk rock that has elements of hardcore, but remains pretty melodic and catchy. Some of the guitar seems a little unnecessary to me. It’s got an intensity that seems on the verge of exploding. I wouldn’t say that I loved it, but I did enjoy it.

The Speedways Talk of the Town LP

While this is reminiscent of the EXPLODING HEARTS, it’s decidedly softer. Still, the melodies are as catchy as the guitar riffs. It’s mid-tempo power pop with a jangly guitar thing that’s not quite as infectious as everyone’s favorite power pop/punk combo. At times, this has a certain PARTRIDGE FAMILY quality to it. If you think even for one second that that is anything other than high praise, you are mistaken. They’ve even got their ELVIS COSTELLO AND THE ATTRACTIONS moments. This is worth looking for.

The Brats Keep Doin’ (What You’re Doin’) / If You Can’t Rock (You Can Roll) 7″ reissue

Ten seconds in and I’m thinking to myself that this sounds like some kids that want to sound like a glam band from the mid-’70s, or maybe they fancy themselves the next ROLLING STONES. Turns out this was originally released in 1975, so I was onto something. It’s fine, but it’s not knocking my socks off. The sound is a little thin for me and I find myself wanting them to pick up the pace. It’s just a little too deliberate. I feel like it was a good start to a good single, but they never quite finished the job.

Dirt Royal Shoot Me Now / Better Than Worse 7″

Two peppy numbers of self-described mod/punk. I get more of the punk than the mod, but feel free to disagree with me. Super catchy, I found myself bouncing my head non-stop. I’d even say more power pop than mod. Super tight, I found myself putting this back on again and again. The sing-along vocals on the second track were particularly good, I thought. I’d go out of my way to find this one.

Uni Boys Do It All Next Week LP

Wow. This is straight-up power pop. And it’s straight-up excellent power pop. Sort of mid-tempo and driving, it’s delivered with incredible confidence. The vocals are sometimes sort of soft and almost feminine and they’re perfect for this music. It’s really incredible the way the vocals, the guitar, the bass, and the drums work together to become a single thing. This record really is fantastic.

Bad Weed II LP

I’ve got to admit that I’m not a fan of the band name. I was expecting some sort of funny punk thing. The name aside, this record is impressive. It’s super catchy and super poppy. Some tracks have a power pop feel from the late ’70s or early ’80s, while others seem to capture the spirit of the Subway sound, a sound that I remain a fan of. It’s jangly and the vocals are very bouncy, creating a sort of carefreeness, yet remains somewhat somber. This thing is excellent from start to finish. From Austria, if that’s an important detail to you.

Plastic Tones Power Pop Testament LP

I fell in love with this female-fronted Finnish band years ago after reviewing a single of theirs—I remember thinking that they reminded me of someone when I reviewed that record. I still think that’s true, but I also still haven’t solved the mystery. It bugs the fuck out of me. Nine perfect cuts that are seemingly equal parts pop, punk, and new wave. All are super catchy and the vocals are just plain pretty. Despite the pretty vocals, there’s an underlying eeriness in all of their songs. Highest recommendation.

Mod Fun …Tea Four 2 EP

This one’s a bit of a head-scratcher. I’d say the name is a bit misleading, as this isn’t a mod band, at least not in my mind. These guys were an ’80s pop band from the New Jersey area. They broke up and reformed in 2004 and are still playing. This is a four-song EP, with the A-side consisting of a BADFINGER cover and a YARDBIRDS cover. They don’t really do anything with either song and come across more as a cover band than a band with serious aspirations, at least on that first side. I’ve never understood that—if you’re going to cover a song, make it yours. The two originals on the B-side are fine pop songs with at least a little new wave influence, and both are rooted in harmonies. Neither will knock your socks off, but both are totally fine.

Rosie Rosie’s Coming to Town / The Zoo Song 7″

The Bandcamp page would have you believe that this is authentic glam circa 1973. I’m a cynic at heart. Whether or not they’re legitimately from mid-’70s Europe, I can tell you that both the recording and the vibe it creates will take you right there. Chugging guitar coming at you mid-tempo along with a drum set that is heavy on the cymbals and vocals that benefit from reverb complete the mood. How and why glam ever went away will always remain a mystery to me. Both cuts here kick some serious ass.

Sweet Reaper Street Sweeper LP

Forty-five seconds in and I’m fucking digging this thing. It’s mid-tempo and melodic and just catchy as all hell. The guitar, bass, and drums are in perfect harmony. Even if I felt like stopping my head from bouncing, it just wouldn’t be possible. I give into my urges and I bounce my head. It reminds me of bands like the POPPETS and the WHITE STRIPES, without sounding much like either of them. Even when it gets heavy and methodical, it remains upbeat. It’s pop. It’s punk. It’s not pop punk. And not all songs make your head bounce, some make it shake from side to side, like you’re some kind of a tough guy or  smartypants. This will get a lot of play on my devices.

Not Moving Live in the Eighties LP

It seems NOT MOVING was an Italian band from the ’80s, with these live cuts recorded in Italy and Germany in the mid-to-late ’80s. Honestly, I’m having a hard time getting worked up over it. The recording is fine, particularly if you consider the time period. But the music leaves me a little underwhelmed. It’s catchy punk rock that is somewhat heavy on the effects, which creates a garage-y feel, but for me at least, there’s nothing to make me wonder why it took them over 30 years to bring it to my attention. If you’re bringing me something that’s 30 years old, there should be a wow factor. I’m not getting that.

The Misunderstood She Got Me / Cryin’ Over Luv 7″

Two cuts from the mid-’60s that will instantly transport you to San Francisco in 1964. Specifically, you’ll be dropped at Haight and Ashbury. They’re garage ragers. They have an eerie creepiness about them. They’re dark. Pretty sure these guys were all high on the marijuana at the time these were recorded. At first, I was sort of “yeah, sure…that’s cool,” but they really do transport you back in time and that’s a pretty cool thing.

The Gaggers Shockwave / Stabbed in the Back… Too Many Times 7″

While this isn’t new music, these two tracks, which were recorded in 2016, are previously unreleased. Whenever I hear songs that were recorded years ago but are just being released now, I’m a little underwhelmed. The same is true here. I generally like the GAGGERS’ stuff. It’s mid-tempo, classic late ’70s punk.  It’s raw. It’s in-your-face punk. But if the songs weren’t worthy of release in 2016, what makes them worthy of release now? The lack of any new music? I remain skeptical.

Pogy et les Kéfars Dans Ton Rétro LP

Wow. This is very cool. It’s mid-tempo and super catchy power pop with a jangly guitar. Even if the lyrics are completely lame, I will never know because they’re in French! (They’re probably super cool.) Even while maintaining the melodic nature and the group vocals, it’s got a certain herky-jerkiness to it. They’re super tight. Head-bouncing is inevitable. You won’t be able to stop it. Four of the nine cuts clock in at under two minutes. None go over three minutes. This is heaven.

Electric Frankenstein / Savage Beat split EP

Each band gives us one original and one cover on this split effort. SAVAGE BEAT covers the TUFF DARTS, while ELECTRIC FRANKENSTEIN covers the RUBINOOS. Those cover selections tell you a lot about the influences going on here, both in terms of musical style and also in terms of eras. Both bands are drawn to the late ’70s rock’n’roll version of punk. This isn’t good or bad, it just is. Both bands deliver music that is mid-tempo and catchy. In that way, they are very similar. I’d say the SAVAGE BEAT vocals remind me of the DICTATORS, while the ELECTRIC FRANKENSTEIN tracks tend to employ a little more lead guitar. Good stuff.

Varonas Instinto Animal EP

Given that there are Spanish labels involved here and the songs are sung in Spanish, I’m going to go out on a limb and suggest that these folks might be Spanish. Whether or not that’s true, if you’re a fan of female-fronted, sometimes up-tempo power pop with a focus on the vocals, this is likely for you. There’s nothing that says that your punk rock or power pop can’t come from someone with a pretty voice. Three quick songs, and just like that, it’s over. Well-played and well-produced. I wanted more.

Nasty Rumours Bloody Hell, What a Pity! LP

Stuff on Wanda can be kind of hit or miss for me. I mostly like it, but you can’t help but notice that it’s almost entirely based on nostalgia. I suppose every label has its thing. All that said, this is super catchy punk rock that takes you right back to 1977. When this sort of thing isn’t done well, it’s absolutely terrible. When it’s done well, it can be infectious. If you’re a fan of bands like the BRIEFS, you’ll likely enjoy this. I even get a little TOY DOLLS every now and again. This is entertaining stuff. Seriously, they bat twelve for twelve for me.

Stupid Future Stupid Future CD

We’re only one track in and I’m really digging this. Shit’s going on in Tennessee. I suppose if we’re looking to label this, I’d call it garage pop, with a certain somberness. The pace at times seems almost restrained, not in a bad way. Sometimes it’s mid-tempo and other times it’s a little jumpy—again, not in a bad way. The balance between instruments and vocals is excellent, and the vocal harmonies are easy to listen to. It’s straightforward and it’s well done. I find myself just kind of swaying in my chair. I’ll listen to this one again and again. If you’re into CDs, you might get one of the 200 that were made.

The High Stride Something to Explain EP

I appreciate a band that has its own sound and doesn’t want to be pigeonholed into one particular genre. I don’t always like them, but I appreciate what they’re trying to do. In this case, I actually do like the band, despite the fact that they borrow from genres that I’m not typically drawn to. At its core, this is rock’n’roll. But it’s delivered at a quick enough tempo that leaves most rock music in the dust. It’s got a bluesy element that I normally wouldn’t like. When I hear a harmonica, I typically run for the doors. But this one is different for some reason. It’s also got a certain ’60s feel to it, without sounding like it’s from the ’60s. This is definitely worth checking out.

Rarito Edición Especial Para Zurdos LP

Some of my favorite power pop of all time has come from Spain. This one starts off in super melodic fashion and features male and female vocals, which I’m a total sucker for. All the songs are in Spanish, which I quite enjoy. It sometimes bugs me that bands from non-English-speaking countries feel compelled to sing in English. Anyway, this is nicely done. The songs are on the shorter side, which is always good for my attention span. Mid-tempo, sometimes a little faster, and melodic always works for me. It also seems these guys might be a duo. I’ve got a soft spot in my heart for duos.

More Kicks Punch Drunk LP

This trio from London gets me thinking of the JAM right away, without actually sounding like the JAM—something about the cadence of the vocals. It’s super catchy and melodic, which is always a plus for me. And the second track has me thinking about the BUZZCOCKS, which is where most of the remaining tracks end up with me. This is definitely on the pop side of the punk spectrum, but in the end I’d call it power pop. (Don’t ask me to explain the difference between power pop and pop punk, but there is a difference.) Anyway, the record is well-done and these guys are talented and can sing. This won’t be for all you punks, but it will be for some of you. And it is for me.

Randy Savages / Razor Kids split EP

Split EPs are a funny thing to me. I’m always trying to figure out how or why someone decided that the two bands should be on the same record. Holds true for this one. Both bands deliver two winners each, but I’m scratching my head trying to figure out why they’re on the same record. RANDY SAVAGES (UK) bring us two rockers that are heavy on the power pop and on the rock’n’roll. Mid-tempo and super catchy, I immediately thought of the REDUCERS, a band I listened to back in the ’80s/’90s. RAZOR KIDS (Portugal) also bring it, with two very different cuts. Musically, track one sounds like it could have been a long-lost RAMONES cut. The competing male/female vocals transform it into something completely different. And their second cut has a herky-jerkiness that reminds me of KLEENEX. Two very different songs. And two very different bands, but I’m not going to complain when someone gives me a 7” record that has four winners on it. 

The Higher State Codeine / Clouds of Doubt 7”

This is pretty straightforward. You’ve got a band firmly rooted in ’60s garage rock covering two ’60s garage rock tunes. The first one is a slower number, full of organ and tambourine. Combined with some very somber vocals, it definitely creates its own darkness. The B-side continues along the same lines, though this cut is definitely more upbeat and a more catchy number. Still, with both cuts, the lack of a real drum presence is noticeable. All that said, I find myself strangely drawn to the record. There’s something interesting in there that draws me in. This one is perfect for a series by Back to Beat called “Moody Garage.” It is just that. 

The Monarchs Can’t Stand Your Lies EP

From France, these garage rockers deliver a pleasing version of ’60s rock that is heavy on the psychedelia with a definite twist of mod. Honestly, all four cuts sound like they could have come from a Back From the Grave or Nuggets compilation. Mid-tempo throughout, you’ll be left feeling groovy. Can somebody pass me the bong and turn off that goddamn lava lamp?!

Squire The Young Idea / It’s Getting Better 7″ reissue

Originally released in 1984 as a fan club-only type thing, I’m guessing most anybody reading this has never heard these two cuts. Hell, I’m not sure I’m even familiar with the band. Listening to the A-side, with its sharp, somewhat stilted lead guitar lick, you’ll find your body sort of contorting to the music. It’s got a mod feel to it, but it’s also reminiscent of catchy ’60s pop music. The B-side continues with the same, though it probably leans even more ’60s pop than the A-side. Whatever you want to call it, this really is nicely done. And it’s a piece of history. You kids should know your history.

Food Fight Shenanigans EP

A French band on a Spanish label! Why can’t the whole world get along that well? Track one gets started with a super catchy power pop number that’s super melodic, but almost has a little herky-jerkiness going on. It’s a fine start and leaves me wanting to hear more. They slow things down a tad on track two, but it remains very catchy, with an almost CARS-like lead guitar. Track three is another power pop cut with vocals that remind me of MADNESS, despite the fact that it is not at all a ska sound. And they round it out with one that continues very much in the same spirit of the others. Overall, four strong songs that are quite easy to listen to. More than bouncing my head, this one has me shimmying my shoulders. It’s a subtle but important difference.

Hayley and the Crushers Modern Adult Kicks LP

This album is delivered with such a positive spirit that it’s tough to be critical of it. It’s got a lot of catchy pop melodies, I will say. But I can’t stop hearing what sounds to me like overproduction. Maybe that’s just “production,” but I prefer my music not quite so polished. What’s wrong with a little grit? As you may have guessed, HAYLEY AND THE CRUSHERS are female-fronted, and I’m normally a total sucker for female-fronted pop music. And maybe in a different venue, I’d speak differently, but for me this sounds like it wants to be on mainstream radio, and that’s not what I want when I come to MRR.

So Cal’s Parishioners So Cal’s Parishioners cassette

Wow, it’s incredible how aptly named this band is. Four cuts of classic hardcore, but not just any old hardcore—this is classic SoCal hardcore. It’s melodic, it’s mid-tempo, it’s heavy on a distorted guitar, and the production is lo-fi without sounding off. Some people might make a distinction between L.A. hardcore and Orange County hardcore, but when it’s got that surf vibe going on, I just think of it as L.A. hardcore (having grown up in Northern California, it’s all just Southern California anyway). In the end, it’s really nicely done, and I’m happy that kids and bands are still making cassettes; it shows a commitment to the DIY ethic. If someone can get me a copy of the actual cassette, I’ll make copies for anyone who wants one (I’m kidding).

The Prize Wrong Side of Town EP

Wow. This is a damn fine EP. This is straightforward, driven power pop that features blended male/female vocals. It just hums along at a nice pace and will keep your head bouncing non-stop. With three guitarists, I was a little worried there’d be some extracurricular guitar work, but I was pleasantly surprised. The harmonies are really nicely done, and the production is full and crisp without sounding at all overdone. Really an excellent record, and from Australia if that’s the sort of thing you keep track of. You should find this.

Jeff Hill Band Entertainment for the Fun Generation LP

I’m just a few songs in, and I can tell you what these guys are about: these guys are about super melodic pop music. It’s very much got that feel of power pop from the early ’80s. And whether the sound is pop or power pop, the influence is clearly the pop music of the ’60s with all sorts of different genres represented, including doo wop and surf. I like it. I like it a bunch. Fourteen songs is a lot on one album for me. My magic number is ten. And I like songs to almost always be less than two-and-a-half minutes.

Radio Days I Got a Love EP

Pop music with punk influences. Is there anything better? Awesome. I can hear the PARTRIDGE FAMILY in this! That’s a high compliment. I can also hear the EXPLODING HEARTS. At its core, this is pop music made by folks whose musical interests are varied and broad and include stuff that stretches way beyond the Top 40. If you like power pop that is catchy and maybe even a little corny at times, you’ll like this one. I loved this right off the bat, and I feel confident that it will continue to grow on me. Worth looking for.

The Courettes Salta Il Ramo / Non Ti Lascerò 7″

For me, the COURETTES are the next big thing, though I think it’s likely they’ve been around for a bit given their volume of released music. Still, this Danish/Brazilian duo takes a favorite genre of mine (garage punk) and really delivers it in a special way. This single happens to be two of their originals, this time recorded in a foreign language. I would have expected it to be Brazilian (or even Danish), but it seems it’s Italian. Doesn’t matter—two real garage rockers here that will keep your head bouncing while doing internet research trying to figure out who the fuck these guys are. Female-fronted, which is always a plus for me.

The Courettes Hop the Twig / Only Happy When You’re Gone 7″

For some reason I’m drawn to duos. I’m also a fan of female-fronted punk rock. And I like my music firmly rooted in a garage. That this duo has one member from Denmark and one from Brazil is kind of amazing to me. How did these two find each other? Anyway, this is some seriously rocking garage punk. The A-side is a rocker that’s super catchy and melodic, and on the B-side they rip into a classic ’60s girl ballad. While only a single, I think I could listen to these two tracks all day long. How have I not heard of these two before?

Slander Tongue Ride / Lockdown 7″

While it’s good enough to hold my attention, this glam-focused single isn’t my favorite thing I’ve heard all month. The A-side starts off well enough, but it feels like it’s supposed to go somewhere, and it just doesn’t. Jesus, finish me. The B-side is a little less glam and a little more punk, but it still is missing something for me. Sort of mid-tempo and catchy, just not compelling. I feel like Slovenly is generally pretty dependable. I’d say this was a little disappointing.

The New Brutarians Hysteria LP

My love of duos is well known. Bands like the HUSSY, the COURETTES, the GOOCH PALMS, the MAXINES, and now the NEW BRUTARIANS are among my favorites. It’s probably not coincidental that all of those bands also feature one male member and one female member. If you took the energy of 1977 punk and focused it into more of a pop theme, you might get something like this Hysteria LP. The band they remind me of the most is the HEARTBREAKERS. It’s super catchy and mid-tempo and melodic, but also has a garage element to it. While it’s got its more traditional punk moments, at its core, I’d call this pop music, but it’s got an authenticity rarely found in pop. They even throw in an acoustic number. It’s fun to listen to pop music played by folks who grew up on punk, as opposed to pop music played by folks who grew up on Top 40 radio. Just a different thing entirely.

Tramp Jail Bait / All I Want 7″

If you’re a fan of stripped-down, female-fronted garage punk, this could be right up your alley. If you lean towards raunchy lyrics, you might even end up touching yourself when you listen to this one. Comparisons to the DONNAS are fairly obvious, but the lyrics are more direct and the sound is definitely not quite as “produced.” For me, it’s a shtick that’s a little too focused, like you’re backing yourself into a pigeonhole.

Gentlemen Rogues A History of Fatalism LP

Catchy, mid-tempo power pop with a definite indie pop feel. There’s even a hint of country/Americana in there. They cover MORRISSEY’S “The Last of the Famous International Playboys.” That’s gutsy, but they do pull it off. This is really well done and if you like bands like the ALL AMERICAN REJECTS, this could be up your alley. I’m guessing it isn’t punk enough for most MRR-ers. I’m totally digging it.

The Faction No Hidden Messages: 40th Anniversary Edition 2xLP

As the title indicates, this is a 40th anniversary reissue of this South Bay band’s 1983 record, with a bonus LP’s worth of live tracks from a 1983 show in San Francisco. This reminds me of my first days into punk rock and going to the On Broadway in San Francisco to see whoever was in town. With other bands like CODE OF HONOR, the FACTION were the founders of skate punk hardcore. Quicker in pace, but still quite melodic, this has stood the test of time. 1983, 2022, 40th anniversary? Come on, guys, do the math. This was a great listen.

Pretty Boy Floyd and the Gems Sharon / The Instigator 7″ reissue

It turns out this is from 1979. It also turns out it wouldn’t take anyone too long to figure that out. If you’re a fan of power pop that was heavily influenced by punk way back then, you’ll love this. Super catchy and full of CLASH-influenced lead guitar, this is real and just fun to listen to. Get it.

The Christian Family The Raw and Primitive Sounds of… CD

I really liked this one. It’s a strange combo of really catchy and herky-jerky. It’s super melodic, but also kind of eerie. That is kind of remarkable when you consider they’re a duo, just guitar and drums. At times it seems like the emphasis is on the female vocals. But the guitar work is really impressive. They remind me, at times, of the MAXINES, another duo. Excellent record.

Barry Neolithic Homo Sex EP

I’m immediately reminded of KLEENEX, perhaps because of the quirkiness, but it’s a little less stilted. It’s straightforward, mid-tempo, jangly, and heavy on vocal harmonies. And with the competing male/female vocals, it was definitely made for me. Worth looking for.

Forbidden Dimension Sin Gallery LP

We’re just getting started and my head is bouncing around. That’s always a good sign. It’s mid-tempo and catchy and a little surfy. It’s a lot surfy. Twenty cuts. Jesus. With song titles like “Haunted,” “Graveyard Line,” and “Shrunken Heads,” I’m expecting this to move from surf to something dark. And it does. It gets a little rockabilly, a little hot-roddy, a little garage, even a little swampy at times. Back to my comment about there being twenty cuts: with that many tracks on a record, there are bound to be hits and misses, and that is definitely the case here. An awful lot of the songs start with some sort of a sampled soundbite.

Mad Mojo Jett Partyville EP

This is energetic rock’n’roll, energetic enough that it borders on frenetic at times. With rockabilly, Americana, and punk influences, this is lead-guitar-heavy garage rock. At times it gets a little swampy and there are some KINKS influences in the guitar work. I’d call it Anxiety Rock. My wife thinks it could work as a spaghetti western soundtrack.

Romero Turn It On! LP

From Australia, this female-fronted band delivers eleven tracks of solid, traditional power pop with an occasional nod to new wave. At times, I’m reminded of both the EPOXIES and the PLASTIC TONES. It’s super catchy and uptempo for the most part, but they can slow it down at times. Some of the slower cuts have a certain moodiness to them. They’re super tight and the production is crisp without sounding over-produced. That can be a fine line. Really nicely done.

Delay Songs for Money LP

I like the challenge of describing a record or a band or a sound that I like, but can’t quite put in a nice, clean box. This is one of those records. The band comes from Ohio, a state that seems to produce more than its share of crazy people. I’m not implying that these guys are crazy, but I’m not saying they’re not. The record doesn’t always “hit” for me, but when it does, it’s got a rhythmic, almost trance-inducing quality to it. It’s catchy and melodic and very much grounded in indie pop. I found my head bouncing with some regularity. When it doesn’t hit, it slows down and, at times, borders on self-indulgence. Honestly, I can’t remember the last time I heard a record that was so black-or-white for me. With each song, I can almost tell in the first five or ten seconds if it’s going to be a hit or a miss. That’s kind of funny to me.

Uni Boys Long Time No See / Rock ‘n’ Roll Dream 7″

Wow. This is super catchy and has my name written all over it. It’s pop music played with real guitars and real bass and real drums. Melodic and pretty, it’s still got the shit that separates the excellent from the okay. Sure, it’s pretty and all that, but it’s rock’n’roll. Two songs, and they cover the basics: rock’n’roll and women. Boom. You’ll be bouncing your head and tapping your feet. I personally guarantee it. You owe it to yourself to give this a try.

The Roxies Don’t Wanna Dance Because I’m Told To LP

This is definitely a nod to the melodic punk bands of the late ’70s. The singer sounds vaguely familiar, but I think that is due to his style of delivery more than anything else. While the band is from Berlin, one of the greatest cities in the world, the singer is from Yorkshire, England. It doesn’t sound like it’s from 1977, but it’s definitely got that vibe. It’s mid-tempo and very catchy and melodic. That said, when it gets a little softer, it reminds me a bit of the CHILLS, high praise. This is nicely done and I’m a fan of the sound, so it’s right up my alley.

Leñadores 666 Leñadores 666 CD

I have to admit to not having heard a ton of Peruvian punk over the decades that I’ve been listening to punk, but I do find that much South American punk has a certain feel to it (and I like it.) It’s kind of a hardcore sound and while this record has a certain poppiness to it, that hardcore influence is always lurking, sometimes in the foreground, other times it takes a bit of a back seat, but it’s there. The cover might lead you to believe that this is a real thrasher, but this definitely has a catchiness to it. At times, it actually reminds me of DIE TOTENHOSEN. It works for me, for sure. Uno, dos, tres!

The Sorels Spring Break / Palo Santo 7″

When you present quality female-fronted pop punk to me, it can really only go one way. I’m a sucker for this shit. It’s my crack. Mid-tempo and super catchy, my head is bouncing around like it’s on autopilot. The B-side even has a certain ’70s catchiness to it. Let’s be clear about what this is and what it isn’t. It’s fun and it’s catchy and it’s easy and it’s well-done and it’s fun. I may have already mentioned that. It’s not going to challenge your perception of what music should be or break down other barriers. If this is your sort of thing, you’ll enjoy it. If it’s not your kind of thing, this isn’t going to change your mind about that. Take it for what it is. Put it on the turntable, turn up the volume, and sing like you think you know the words. Oh, and then crack a cold one.


Danny’s Favorites There Still Punk cassette

English was my weak subject in college. I sometimes think I overcompensate for that now. Are they just trying to bug me with the There Still Punk title? Or are they being funny? It’s mostly irrelevant, I suppose, as it really has nothing to do with the music I’m listening to. I’m digging this. It’s melodic and up-tempo and catchy and the lyrics are pretty funny. This is my kind of thing. It’s got a sound that blends early punk and power pop nicely. They’re obviously not the first to do this, but their sound is one I like. And I’ll always be a fan of anyone willing to take on the Mormons. Looking at the credits, it looks like there are only two band members here, with Trevor Lake responsible for everything except the drums. This is worth looking for.

Good Looking Son Fantasy Weekend 12″

This is some fantastic pop music. It’s soft and pretty and kind of reminds me of bands like the SHINS. I’m guessing these guys grew up on a steady diet of ’60s garage music with a sprinkling of folk thrown in. It’s got a certain etherealness to it. It could be the vocals or it could be the controlled and measured pace. I really dig this.

The Shine The Shine cassette

We’re starting off with a very rock’n’roll/rockabilly vibe. This is reinforced by the packaging of the tape. Good for me that it moves beyond that. Almost every rockabilly band I’ve ever heard sounds like a cover band to me. The sound sort of bounces around with clear influences from rockabilly, power pop, ’60s soul, ska, and more. At times it’s got a great jangly catchiness. Overall, I like it, but I find the sound a bit scattered.

Los Chicos 20 Years of Shakin’ Fat & Launching Shit by Medical Prescription CD

This is starting off just right for me. “We sound amazing, but we look like shit.” LOS CHICOS are from Spain, if you believe what you read. That’s perfect, cause these guys would be right at home at a Wild Weekend-type festival. They like to focus on the pub rock label. I think I prefer garage rock. You’ll also need to throw in some country, even rockabilly. Oh, and there’s some power pop. These guys hover around mid-tempo and catchy is definitely part of the equation. This really is good stuff.

Martin Savage Gang Fool’s Gold EP

The Swedes know how to deliver rock’n’roll. This is punk and all that, but this is rock’n’roll at its core. You can hear some STONES in there, but there’s also some T-REX. And maybe even some NEWTOWN NEUROTICS  By definition, that means it’s catchy. The second track picks up the pace and the aggression. The third and final cut maintains their aggression, but the focus on the keyboards sort of calms that. Great record.

Pale Lips / The Sorels Do the Rumbar Rumble split CD

PALE LIPS deliver five cuts and the SORELS deliver four cuts on this split effort on Rum Bar. PALE LIPS focus on female-fronted bubblegum garage. Even their song titles lean that way (I wouldn’t say their lyrics always agree). The SORELS aren’t too dissimilar, though the image is a little tougher (just a little). Both bands are Canadian. Two female-fronted bands from Canada on a “rumble” album.  Finally, a split record that has a purpose! I ain’t calling a winner.

French Girls French Girls CD

While there are lots of musical influences in play here—rock’n’roll, garage, doo-wop, new wave, punk, ’60s—the thing that binds it all together is a mid-tempo catchiness that’s delivered without taking themselves too seriously. That’s an important detail, at least for me. Some music was intended to change the world, but there’s nothing wrong with rock’n’roll just for rock’n’roll’s sake. That’s not to say there aren’t some important messages here, but rock’n’roll can also be fun. Female-fronted. Yes!

Friends of Cesar Romero War Party Favors CD

This is a beautiful combination of (power) pop, punk, and garage rock. Some songs are more pop than punk. Others are more garage and pop. You get where I’m going with this. Mid-tempo, catchy, and super melodic, this is right up my alley. Like it was possibly made just for me. And while it’s easy on the ears, it’s not soft. There are real guitars and real drums. If I know me, fifteen tracks might be pressing my attention span, but this one just keeps on delivering. Snappy Little Numbers continues to impress me.

Rommel セクシー スマイル / 甘いキッス 7″ reissue

So, Bitter Lake is a label that specializes in reissuing songs from the Japanese underground. Pretty sure the word specializes is the precise word to use here. I don’t know what to make of this one. It’s like cheesy pop music, with cheesy back-up vocals. I have no idea what they’re singing about, but I’m sure it’s cheesy. All that said, this thing is so catchy that I can’t not like it. And it makes me smile. I’m just sitting here listening and smiling. I may be in love with this record. Even if I can’t marry it, it’s my new favorite thing.

Eddie Mooney & the Grave Telephones / Down the Drain 7″

Wow. Close your eyes and pretend you’re in the Virgin Megastore circa 1979 looking for the latest power pop gem. This thing is infectiously catchy and melodic and easy to listen to. If pop music hadn’t shit the bed starting about 40 years ago, this thing just wouldn’t be reviewed by MRR. It’s pop music. But it’s really good and it’s performed by four (or five or whatever) dudes/women, not by a team of hundreds. Like it or not, you’ve got to like that it’s honest and sincere.

Code of the Jaguar Coffee is for Closers / Pulsations, Shadows, Breakers 7″

I’m not certain, but I think this is supposed to be a sort of funny thing. My brother likes to say that the toughest guys in the world come from Philadelphia. If that’s true, I’m struggling to reconcile that fact with the fact that these guys are from Philadelphia. More than anything, there’s nothing that really grabs me about this. Mid-tempo new wave/punk/indie rock that’s kind of catchy, but also kind of kitschy. For some reason, they remind me of the BARENAKED LADIES. I found something online that tells me that someone from PLOW UNITED is in the band. I believe that PLOW UNITED came from PLOW, a band that produced one of my favorite singles of all time. It looks like there were 100 copies pressed on vinyl.

The Yolks Take Your Time / Tell Me Now 7″

The YOLKS are a funny thing for me. Sometimes, I think they just sort of sound like that band whose name escapes me right now. Other times I think they’re catchy as all fuck and the greatest thing ever. As I dive into the first track, this is definitely one of those second times. The A-side is kind of a folky number, but Jezus, it’s great. And it’s over in less than a couple of minutes. Perfect. The B-side is more pure pop perfection. Just excellent. Oh, I think that band I couldn’t think of is the STROKES. Limited to 100 on vinyl. I’m getting one.


The Tubs Names EP

I’d call this a lot of things before I’d call this punk. I don’t say that as a criticism, just to set the mood for what we’ve got here. I’d call this jangly, catchy pop that’s doused with a helping of melancholy. Four songs, all pretty catchy, and while they’re mid-tempo in pace, the mood slows it down a little. At times, they’ve got an XTC thing going.

The Stools Car Port EP

The folks at Goodbye Boozy deliver over and over again. This is raw punk rock that’s got that sound where everything is just a little fuzzy and abrasive. This isn’t going to sound like a compliment, but that’s how it’s meant. It’s just a little difficult to listen to. That it was recorded by ERIK NERVOUS makes sense to me. I don’t know ERIK; in fact I’ve never heard of him. But this has a nervous, almost frantic, energy about it. If this is where punk rock is headed, sign me up for another couple/few decades.

The Daze I Wanna Be a Star / At the Seaside 7″ reissue

Apparently, this was a real single back in 1979 and it’s highly sought after. I have no knowledge of that. What I can tell you is that it is a near-perfect example of the high-quality power pop that came out of that era. It existed in the US, Canada, the UK, Ireland, and many other places. This one happens to come from the UK. Two tracks and, as I mentioned, both border on pure pop perfection.

The Zeros In the Spotlight / Nowhere to Run 7″

The ZEROS have been at it since the mid/late ’70s. That’s over 40 years. That blows my mind. Most bands that fall into that category aren’t what they used to be. There’s an energy to really good punk rock that comes from its youth. That doesn’t mean they can’t create excellent music; it just means you shouldn’t expect it to have the sense of urgency that comes with youth and being new. I’d say these guys get that. These are well-crafted songs that are played well and great to listen to, but they’re not trying to create fake youthful rage. With harmonicas and a fair amount of lead guitar work, there’s a certain Americana feel to the first track. The B-side is more straightforward punk rock that reminds me of the LAZY COWGIRLS. This is good shit.

Stalag 13 Fill in the Silence LP

When I first saw this assignment, I wondered if this was the same STALAG 13 from Oxnard in the mid-’80s. Sure enough. I’ve got to admit to a certain amount of surprise that these guys are still at it. Or maybe they’re at it again? Not sure. Either way, I was surprised. I always found most of that Nardcore stuff a little “samey.” It was never terrible, but I didn’t think anything ever really stood out, at least not for me. If you’re a fan of (Southern) California hardcore, this could be for you. If you like it uptempo and don’t mind a little extracurricular guitar work, this could be for you. I gather that this is a mix of both older and newer songs. I do find it kind of cool that these guys maintain the passion for punk.

The Gruesomes Cave In! LP reissue

You don’t need to know that the GRUESOMES were Canadian or that they formed in the mid-’80s or that this album was originally released around 2000, but that is all probably helpful information. Here’s some better information: this is some amazingly catchy garage pop that will grab your feet and just start moving them. It’s mid-tempo and super melodic and it’s got a fuzzy guitar sound that will transport you to a garage full of wild teenage kids back in 1967. A couple of key things: one, it’s on Alien Snatch. Two, if Jon von (SACRED COWS, MR. T EXPERIENCE, RIPOFFS) was Canadian, he’d have been in this band.

The Maharajas Don’t Call My Name EP

Wow. Right off the bat, I’m intrigued. This sounds like some serious ’60s surf ballad stuff, like maybe it’s some sort of Nuggets/Back from the Grave-type thing. But the band members’ names (Lilja, Lindberg, Guttormsen, Karlsson) all look very Scandinavian, which makes me think it’s new. (Also, if you believe the “tags”, they’re from Bergen, Norway, one of the most beautiful cities in the world.) The Scandinavians are very talented at creating a sound. It’s like they all have degrees in Rock Music History. Musically, it’s measured, meaning it’s very deliberate, almost purposefully just a tad slower than you might expect, which creates a somberness that permeates the whole record. The B-side, it seems, is two covers. I’m going to wear this one out.

The Cheap Cassettes See Her in Action! CD

When I first put the needle to the record, I wasn’t sure about this one. It seemed like it was a little too much indie rock and not quite enough punk or pop. But you’ve got to keep an open mind, man. Relax. It doesn’t take real long to kick into some serious power pop. There are a number of bands that have remained close to the punk/underground scene while enjoying some commercial success. I could see these guys fitting into that category. It’s bits and pieces of rock’n’roll, punk, power pop, college rock, and even Americana delivered with an irresistible catchiness. It might not be cool enough for some folks, but it strikes me as genuine and that carries some weight. (And of course, it’s a CD, not a “record.”)

Red Devil Ryders Pour Me Another One LP

It’s going to take me some time to digest this one. It’s an interesting sort of combination of late ’60s/’70s blues, folk, glam (a tad), and even what some people might call “hard rock.” (I can’t believe I actually wrote that.) I find the production a bit fuzzed-out, which required some adjustment. As I read this, it’s like I must totally hate it. I don’t. I will say that I think it’s a bit of a stretch that it’s finding itself being reviewed in MRR. I do find I tend to like the zippier numbers just a little better. If you’re at all intrigued by the description, you should make the effort to give it a listen.

Kiss Boom Bah Out of Our Tree / Marilyn A-Go-Go 7″

If you’re a fan of catchy garage rock delivered with a healthy dose of organ, start lining up. I don’t think I’ve ever heard the term “out of our tree,” but I’m going to start using it with regularity. I find a lot of garage rock walks this fine line of being a little kitschy, but also really well done. I couldn’t tell you this is an exception. Both cuts are excellent, with the B-side instrumental picking up the pace to a point where you’ll find yourself not crazed, but definitely bouncing off the walls in a state of euphoria. Maybe that means just short of crazed. Fucking excellent.

Squire My Mind Goes Round in Circles / Does Stephanie Know? 7″ reissue

Wow. This is a total throwback to late ’70s power pop. Think of the FRESHIES. Why does it sound like power pop of the late ’70s? Possibly because it was originally released in 1980. That said, my reference to the FRESHIES should tell you that this is top of the line. Two tracks, both rule.

Sunshine Satellite Sunshine Satellite cassette

Right off the bat I notice a punk/new wave blend that, when combined with the sort of stilted female vocals, reminds me of the EPOXIES. High praise. It’s got a catchiness that brings elements of SUZY Y LOS QUATTRO. While the vocals have a pretty quality, they’re a bit at odds with the pace, which can be a bit frenetic at times. I like the combo. This looks like a first effort and I like it, but I see room to grow. Snappy Little Numbers does it again.

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

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

Pretty Voices American Curls CD

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

Jenny Stupid Band 12″

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

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

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

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

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

Gallows Birds Quaranteenage Kicks CD

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

Outtacontroller Sure Thing LP

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

The Animal Steel Smooth Jazz Chords 7″ flexi

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

Ex-White / LASSIE split cassette

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

The Neptunas Mermaid A-Go-Go CD

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

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

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

Stop Worrying and Love the Bomb Fake Nature LP

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

Foxycontin This Time You’re On Your Own LP

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

Brad Marino False Alarm EP

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

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

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

Indonesian Junk Spiderbites LP

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

Karkki & the Car Keys Big Ball of Fire EP

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

Duck & Cover Two Shots EP

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

Hakan Tempuras Never Come / Mr. DNA 7″

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

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

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

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

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

Hayley and the Crushers Vintage Millennial LP

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

The Rare Forms The Rare Forms LP

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

Actor / Moving Objects split EP

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

Poison Boys Out of My Head LP

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

Territories Quit This City / Defender 2×7″

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

Plastic Tones Whirlwind / Mystery Machine 7″

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

Suspect Parts You Know I Can’t Say No EP

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

Death Lottery / Hardship Anchors split EP

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

Mystery Girl Heartbreaker / Salted Slug 7″

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

The Reflectors Teenage Hearts / Desert Crusader 7″

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

The Hiveminds The Hiveminds LP

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

Steve Adamyk Band Paradise LP

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

Moral Panic Moral Panic LP

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

Primitive Hands Bad Men in the Grave LP

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

Romskip 05 EP

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

Neck You Don’t Think It’s Evil… LP

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

The Hamiltones The Shape of Walter EP

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

Postage Let Go 7″ flexi

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

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

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

The Cavemen Lowlife EP

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

King Flamingo / Nico Bones split EP

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

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

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

Lisa Marr / Tranzmitors In the Summer EP

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

Mandates Dead in the Face LP

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