Reviews

Rum Bar

A Bunch of Jerks Shart Topping Hits CD

I reviewed this band some time back, and I can’t really say they’ve gotten any better nor any worse. They’re just treading that middle line like champs doing their nice top 40 BLONDIE kinda jam. Singer can sing and the band can play. Completely unoffensive in any way and safe for your next church social. They’d be more than happy to bleep out those bad words for the kids. The BOWIE cover is atrocious but the rest is what it is. MRR is well on the way to being the major forum of dad punk. Joy.

Beebe Gallini Pandemos CD

The first full-length (comprised of demos recorded just before the pandemic—hence the title, get it!?) from this girl group/garage band from the Twin Cities. The main players have been around for decades, and it shows in the easy confidence of these rockin’ originals (and some tasty nuggets covered). Power pop straight out of the garage (albeit must be a well heated one in those environs), replete with riffs, harmonies, and boppin’ beats a-plenty.

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.

Electraluxx Buzz-O-Ramma CD

A “vintage” collection of thirteen originals, clocking in at under 30 minutes (of course), straight out of the rock’nroll (hall of fame) garage. Not so much a return to the (CHUCK BERRY) source, more a stripped-down but perfectly executed collection of bubblegum surf songs that would make the RAMONES rock in their graves. Really rather good. Not least the sharp guitar work and tight vocal harmonies.

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!

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.

Hayley and the Crushers Fun Sized CD

Latest six-track effort from this power-pop-punk California surf trio. The opening track pretty much lifts the style and pacing of “I Wanna Be Sedated” and layers the trademark HAYLEY bubblegum sass vocals on top, and the disc closes with a surfy cover of “Suzie is a Headbanger,” which pretty much sums up the band. The four tracks in between are pretty damn good, too.

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.

Indonesian Junk A Life of Crimes CD

This is a collection of singles and rarities from this Wisconsin band. These guys have been cranking out the JOHNNY THUNDERS style of punk rock’n’roll for a while now. Thirteen tracks here, including covers of KISS, the JONESES, and SLAUGHTER AND THE DOGS. Although I haven’t followed INDONESIAN JUNK closely over the years, they do this genre justice. I like these types of collections for the music when you haven’t found every piece of vinyl by a band.

Indonesian Junk Living in a Nightmare CD

I believe this is the fourth or fifth effort from this (now) quartet, specializing in the mid-’70s era of the punk/glam/power pop end of the rock spectrum. Think the HEARTBREAKERS covering SLAUGHTER (i.e. SLAUGHTER AND THE DOGS’ second LP, when they’d shortened their moniker and slowed down a tad, with more power ballads), with a touch of the BOYS thrown in for good measure. And yup, it is that good, and catchy. Not so much bubblegum, but rather the bubblegum stuck on the sidewalk and trodden in for a week or so…

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.

Muck and the Mires Take Me Back to Planet Earth CD

Six songs of by-the-numbers power pop with all the requisite bells and whistles: organ flourishes, handclaps, and ’60s guitar jangle. That said, this is lushly produced, and MUCK and co. have been around for long enough to know their way around a catchy hook, so if this is your kind of thing, you probably can’t go too wrong here. Plus, just to prove they are not completely stuck in a bygone era, this album closes with the up-to-the-minute ode to getting dumped the modern way, “Zoom Breakup”!

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.”)

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.

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.