Snappy Little Numbers

Armchair Martian Demo cassette

This is a cool little piece of history. The demo was originally recorded and self-released in 1995, and was reissued this year, coinciding with the band playing some reunion shows. ARMCHAIR MARTIAN from Fort Collins, Colorado had close affiliation with Chad Price, the third singer of ALL, who is credited on this tape as “the Bigfoot” for his weird scream at the very end of the tape, but I think he did also sing on some of the band’s material later on. This tape is really catchy, and while the ’90s are certainly not my favorite of decades for punk, this is undeniably good. It’s kind of like if the poppier later-era ALL stuff tried to sound like GIN BLOSSOMS, but couldn’t help but have a little peppering of HÜSKER DÜ tossed in there, too. If any of those aforementioned references are your thing, this is highly recommended.

Bad Year My Escape 7″

This record really makes me realize that the only difference between a lot of the “cheesy” pop-punk that gets compared to NOFX and the “authentic” pop punk that gets compared to CRIMPSHRINE is production value. BAD YEAR’s songs are pretty great, but I kind of can’t get past the squeaky-clean delivery. There are moments where the grittiness sneaks in, but most of it lands closer to SCREECHING WEASEL. Hand-screened, one-sided, four-song picture disc.

Black Dots Everything Has Gotta Change LP

No, not that BLACK DOTS band! I have to admit that I gave this one sided twelve incher an extra spin, because it looks like April from VENA CAVA plays bass in this outfit, and she is a stellar human being. This is well polished, Fest-ready, gruff melodic stuff. Despite it not being my favorite genre, it’s pretty fun, and at the last second they show off some FUEL influences, which is always acceptable in my book.

Bricheros Live at Hensley 10″

If you’ve owned a copy of Don’t Back Down by the QUEERS, the LILLINGTONS’ Death by Television, or any album by TEENAGE BOTTLEROCKET, and you recognize that the rub in executing RAMONES homage is that it’s easy to create but much harder to perfect, then you’ll appreciate BRICHEROS. The three-piece (two brothers and a friend) who originated in Peru and now call Denver home have done their part in elevating and universalizing the three-chord, 1/8-note sound. This album was recorded during a live show at a now-defunct punk club in Lima, Peru which gives it that lo-fi impromptu appeal.

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.

Cheap Perfume Nailed It LP

A remastered vinyl reissue of Colorado Springs’ CHEAP PERFUME’s 2016 debut CD, with fourteen tracks of strong, unapologetic, feminist punk powered by loose, occasionally sludgy and sturdy garage bashing. The lead vocals are pointed and direct, hurling political barbs and jarring take-downs reminiscent of the sharper moments of NAKED AGGRESSION. Echoed and backed by another set of volatile female backup vocals, sometimes shouted, sometimes sung, HEAVENS TO BETSY could be a reference point, but so could the jubilant chaos of ANTI-SCRUNTI FACTION. Like the music, it’s all kept inventive yet simple, recalling lots of different bands (at one song it took awhile for me to finally place what it sounded like—unexpectedly, it was EMPIRE!), but it’s personal in expression, with many different influences but no direct comparisons. The lyrics go between sassy and brutal, assailing sexism, Trump, male expectations of women, navigating relationships, defining consent, and their enunciated clarity pins with the music to make it all shout-along friendly. 300 pressed on red vinyl. The cover is basic but apropos, with a diagram of uterus forming the interior a punk skull!

Cheap Perfume Burn It Down LP

I’ve got a coworker who totally wears way too much cheap perfume. She practically showers in it, and I have to give her a wide berth whenever we pass in the hallway so I don’t suffer a headache the rest of the day. This record is the antithesis of that anecdote—it’s something that I would happily douse myself in in any setting and never worry about getting migraines. CHEAP PERFUME are a four-piece feminist as fuck band with fast dancey songs about rape culture, virtue signalers, nazi punching, and a JOAN JETT cover. While I feel so incredibly lazy in making this comparison, some of the songs (“Time’s Up” in particular) sound a hell of a lot like BIKINI KILL or LE TIGRE. Definitely has that kinda blown-out, screechy, female howl to the vocals. And yet the next track, “Fauminism,” is taken down several notches and delivered in this bouncy, pop punk, bubblegum package. I’m really into singing sweet harmonies about shitty false feminism. Great record. I love it.

Christmas Bride Dark Romance of a Midnight Wanderer cassette

Davey Hart is this one-man band from Chicago, writing epic songs that don’t so much fit in any predefined genre as much as they make their own. The base seems to be a pop punk homage to ’90s Nitro/EpiFat bands with some theatrics Á  la QUEEN or SPARKS, and a touch of new wave, hair metal, and WEIRD AL. He makes this all fit without any sense of irony and with an earnestness that repudiates the humor.

Curious Things Naif LP

After countless rip-offs of either the TOMS or (god forbid) BIG STAR, power pop’s luster has really tarnished for me over the years. Then I throw on this record, and initially my scuzzy punk brain is saying “too shiny, sounds too good!,” but then I realize this is what I’ve been missing for years in power pop. It’s still referential music, to be sure, but it’s referencing heyday ’90s power pop bands like TEENAGE FANCLUB and especially BUFFALO TOM. So I’m suddenly sitting up straighter in my chair, realizing this is something I didn’t think I’d ever hear again! A band with chops, a singer with loads of character, harmonies, and complex arrangements that hit. It takes a fair amount of confidence to put out music this sincere, and I’m totally here for it. To me, it’s tougher to write an honest-to-god ballad like “The Night” with some wavering fragility to it that beats out a hundred leather jacket ’70s-worshiping ironic rockers. This is so far the biggest surprise of the year for me, something I didn’t even know I was looking for, and I can’t wait to spin it all over again.

Dinged Up Mucho Dolor LP

This record was released digitally in 2016, but thanks to the swell folks at Snappy Little Numbers in Denver, it’s gotten a proper release on vinyl now. The sound is not exactly homogeneous and that makes it difficult to pin down. But I’ll be goddamned if “Don’t Torture Me” isn’t the power pop banger of the summer. That track is just under four minutes and it’s a dancey romp the whole way through. Something that is worth mentioning is Joe Rankin (the person behind DINGED UP) recorded every single sound on the record themself. I’ll say that the vocals seem a little bit distant in the recording, but I think it works really well. Especially when they’re layered with woo-ooos and background vocals like in the song “Noose.” And Joe Rankin has such an interesting singing voice that helps DINGED UP stand out from the crowd. Many of the tracks are fast-paced, high-energy jams, though “Dial Tone” slows everything way down in the middle of the record and shows off their mellow side. I love all the guitar parts—many of them are sharp and piercing while carrying a nice melody, and the instruments are mixed really well. I’d recommend giving this one a spin if you’re looking for something different but in a very good way.

Discomfort Creature Discomfort Creature LP

Melodic punk that kinda sounds like GREEN DAY, if they made a hard right at the fork in the road that led them down the rock opera path at the left. Cementing this opinion is the fact that the singer sounds so eerily similar to Billie Joe, both vocally and in the way some of the vocals are structured, that I had to make sure my headphones were plugged in to the right thing. Now that I’ve gotten that out of the way, this is a really great record. A very catchy, fun listen. Kinda like a more matured take on the pop punk sound.

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.

Gentlemen Rogues Do the Resurrection! / Bloody Rudderless (In Ursa Major) 7″

The A-side sounds like dad-rocky pop punk. Mid-tempo, kind of bouncy, pretty restrained, and a chorus that sounds just like GREEN DAY or the INFLUENTS. It’s pretty catchy but also unimaginative. The B-side is a slightly more punky cover of the LEMONHEADS’ “Rudderless” with an instrumental outro tacked on to the end.

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.

Gentlemen Rogues Francy / I’ve Got a Match 7″

The latest single from GENTLEMEN ROGUES picks right back up from where their last 7” left off. Great, catchy, sugary sweet power pop that wouldn’t be out of place next to your SUPERDRAG and BOB MOULD/SUGAR records. Highly recommended to anyone who digs the aforementioned bands, or cruising with the windows down on a late spring day. Fingers crossed that there’s a full-length in the works.

Giggly Boys Another Close Call 7″

This two song 7″ barely makes it to four minutes in total. The A-side is an uptempo melodic punk number in the vein of MASSHYSTERI, with a reverbed out Mark E. Smith soundalike on vocals. The B-side is a little more garage-y, a little more rock’n’roll, a little catchier, quite a bit shorter, and probably the better of the two. This stuff sounds similar to their previous output, but a little more polished, and I mean that in a good way.

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.

Lawsuit Models Unknown Ghosts LP

Mature pop punk? Is that a thing? Like, you can tell this band grew up listening to bands that fell under the umbrella of pop punk for sure, but there’s also some actual elements of something other than three-chord RAMONES-worship. There’s parts that kinda have that DESCENDENTS/ALL/HAGFISH vibe at times. At other times, I am catching ATARIS vibes. I don’t really know how to describe it other than a “radio-friendly” aspect. I suppose that’s not really an accurate term anymore, but I do believe it to be a fair description.

Low Forms Gaze to Bow / The Watchful Eye LP

This is an interesting concept for a record, and the band pulls it off well. It’s one album, but both sides are presented as two different suites of music, showcasing different facets of the band’s presentation. “Gaze to Bow” is slower, atmospheric and contemplative, focusing their energy in a way that feels like a long drive across the plains. There are only three songs, and they all blend into each other seamlessly and beautifully. “The Watchful Eye” has a more upbeat and poppy sound which can kinda fall into the camp of REPLACEMENTS, RVIVR and the stomp of TOYS THAT KILL. The four songs on this side also blend into each other, but they stand alone as different songs with their own hooks and melodies. Even though both of these sides are fairly different from one another, I think they both complement each other well, and it has a really good feeling overall.

Night Battles Year of No Days LP

Bleak yet bombastic goth-inflected post-punk. Occupying a similar post-hardcore musical and rhythmic void as SHUDDER TO THINK but buried under a mire of chorus and reverb, and with vocals that rely far less on falsetto operatics. Listening to Year of No Days I felt myself sinking into a comforting miasma, awash with recollections of INTERPOL, DEAD AND GONE, FRESH KILLS, and other pale white boys in tight-fitting black button-up shirts.

Night Court Humans! LP

Following Nervous Birds! One and Nervous Birds! Too, this is NIGHT COURT’s third full-length release, and first time on vinyl. They are a Vancouver, BC outfit doing some indie-flavored garage punk, with a digital undercurrent as if you’ve got the headphones plugged in halfway. I don’t necessarily mean this is in a bad way—the slightly distorted vocals and synth/guitar phaser play well off one another. A mix of the SHINS and the PIXIES, roughed up with a lo-fi production, might get you close to the NIGHT COURT sound, for whatever the comparison is worth. Only two tracks reach the two-minute mark, so this sixteen-song LP is over pretty fast. Fun, easy, summertime listening.  Should we be on the lookout for Humans! Too?

Night Court Nervous Birds! One cassette

Thirteen-song, long-playing debut cassette release, which appears to be the first half of the bands “nervous birds duology,” so there is presumably a Nervous Birds! Two cassette coming at some point. Upbeat indie pop, not quite gritty enough to affix the often thrown-around “punk” attachment to their “pop” genre. People who dig the pop stylings of MARKED MEN or JAWBREAKER would likely find enjoyment in this Vancouver-based band.

Night Court Nervous Birds! Too cassette

NIGHT COURT plays smart jangly, just weird enough lo-fi punk—which is still harmonic at heart—that draws both from late ’70s power pop and ’90s college radio. It’s the kind of release that would stand strong on the Recess Records or Dirtnap rosters. There’s a complex interplay between the reflective lyrics, fuzzed bass riffs, power guitar chords, and clangorous drums, that while being deftly executed, comes off like it was just an “aw shucks” accident. Extra bonus is that this is the second album in the band’s debut duology, and the first album is just as good.

Signal to Trust Albatross Sessions cassette

A cassette release of recordings from way back in the year 2000 from this now-defunct band. Frankly, it’s criminal that these tracks are just getting their first “official” release now. Quirky, dynamic post-punk with stop/start math rock rhythms, brittle D. Boon/BEEFHEART guitar, and earnest vocals. A joyous mashup of all your favorite things from MISSION OF BURMA to SQUIRREL BAIT to SHELLAC to BIG BOYS, SIGNAL TO TRUST is exactly the band you needed 21 years ago and you didn’t even know it. Now you can correct the error.

Hooper / Spells Rock N Roll Swap Meet: Day 1 split EP

It’s a stunt release! Each band covers a song by the other and also plays a song written for them by the other band. What fun! Both bands have a ’90s indie rock sound. Their songs are earnest and heartfelt. There are harmonizing vocals and fuzzy, jangly guitars falling somewhere between SUPERCHUNK and J CHURCH.

Custody / Spells split 7″

Denver label Snappy Little Numbers brings you a split 7″ featuring a song apiece from Finnish band CUSTODY and the label owner’s band SPELLS. According to Discogs, the former band features members from NHL 95, CIGARETTE CROSSFIRE, and BAZED, while the latter pulls from MAIL ORDER CHILDREN, DUST HEART, and CHARLIE CONTINENTAL. I’ve never heard of any of those, but they all certainly sound like band names! Anyway, the CUSTODY side starts off promising enough—the first fifteen seconds sound like the band is gearing up to launch into a sick MAN OR ASTRO-MAN? rocker. Then the vocals kick in. Remember back in the mid-to-late ’90s when emo rock bands were trying to make it big by playing music that could slot in nicely next to VERTICAL HORIZON or LIFEHOUSE? No? Well, if you want to get a taste of what that sounded like, give this side a spin. SPELLS deliver on the promise of their name and start their side chanting out “C-O-N-F-I-D-E-N-C-E” like the BAY CITY ROLLERS. They then launch into something that sounds an awful lot like early HOT WATER MUSIC trying their hand at posicore. I’m having trouble imagining who this 7″ would appeal to.

Spells What the Hell is Caution / Some Would Say flexi 7″

SPELLS are back with two new songs for your listening pleasure. The first thing that struck me while listening to this is how well they can craft an enjoyable, listenable song. I really enjoyed their last LP Stimulants & Sedatives, so this is a nice way to follow that up. While both songs are great, the first one (“What the Hell is Caution”) is the winning track here for me. It’s got a quality that melds great melodic punk with an almost ’80s pop rock vibe. Nice work!

Spells Stimulants & Sedatives LP

This Colorado band cranks out some cool guitar indie rock and melodic punk. This reminds me of later HÜSKER DÜ and BEACH SLANG but there’s also good female backing vocal interplay going on here. This is their second full-length and it’s pretty damn solid. There was a lot of this guitar punky pop coming out in the ’90s and it’s done well here.

State Drugs Takings & Leavings LP

This is a compilation of previous recordings/releases from this Colorado band. It reminds of later HÜSKER DÜ with EVAN DANDO-like vocals; a little ARMCHAIR MARTIAN-sounding at times as well. This is decent, but surely not on the level of the aforementioned bands. Still, I like this melodic, somewhat crowded genre, and this band isn’t bad at it.

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 Animal Steel A Surefire Way to Get Sober LP

The first thing that struck me about this record was its cover art, a drawing of a deconstructed George “The Animal” Steele, pro wrestling legend and apparent namesake of this Denver-based quartet. The cover art is stylistically very reminiscent of that used by IRON CHIC, but that’s where any similarities stop. Well that, and the fact that both bands are named after 1980s WWF wrestlers. When I put the record on I was pleasantly surprised by the sounds that began to pump out of the speakers. Songs and melodies that are structured somewhere in between a less abrasive version of early SMALL BROWN BIKE and a punker, grittier BRAID or HEY MERCEDES. With each listen I find something else I enjoy about this record and a hankering to hear more. Good stuff, I can see exciting things on the horizon for this band.

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.

The Drolls That Puget Sound LP

It would be easy to say this is Denny and Josh from SICKO playing pretty similar stuff, leave it at that, and not be wildly off the mark. That would be unfair to not just the other band member but the band as a whole because this doesn’t sound stale or rehashed (that joke comes later). This is fresh, catchy punk that leans pretty heavily on power pop and late ’80s alternative. More LEMONHEADS than the NERVES, but with melodic hooks that drive clean, well-crafted pop songs. Great record all around, and if you are going to cover your own song, definitely pick the one called “Rehashed.”

The Drolls Kick Out the Jammies / I Am a Data Scientist 7″

If you can’t rock, I guess you can try and be funny. If you can’t do either—ask to audition for the DROLLS! You’d fit right in. These two songs, referencing (in title only) MC5 and GUIDED BY VOICES respectively, had me following the run time as I listened. When there’s two songs each under three minutes, that’s kind of brutal. Musically, the tunes are forgettable. Compressed rock music that doesn’t have any heft to it and vocals way up front in the mix so you have to focus on the lyrics. And they’re supposed to be funny, but even in that department this release is limp. A track about being old and wanting to get in your jammies, and the other is about… I dunno, having a boring job? The B-side muses in the chorus, “I am a data scientist / It’s really not as cool as some insist.” Agreed. While this isn’t, like, offensively bad, it just sort of makes me wonder what’s the point? Comedy can be a great tool for tackling the mess of a world we live in. A lot of my favorite bands often get mislabeled with the “comedy band” signifier (most notably the DEAD MILKMEN, whose songs are often funny but go way deeper than just that). These tracks just sort of sit there and exist. They’re easily forgotten, or best yet ignored.

Townies Meet the Townies! CD

Debut full-length effort from this female-fronted band composed of some punk veterans. Unsurprisingly, they’re not shy about their influences, which run the gamut of late ’70s/early ’80s California punk, from the surfy side of the early DEAD KENNEDYS to FEAR (via a spirited cover of “I Don’t Care About You”) and the AVENGERS. All gloriously lo-fi and politically barbed.

Townies Revolver CD

TOWNIES are a band that do no real harm. They’re nice enough folks, and a competent bar rock band who exude a tough grittiness in terms of attitude and aesthetic that just doesn’t make it to the songs themselves. I don’t wish they were meaner, but their sound could use a little genuine nastiness. For a start, the drums and guitar both sound flimsy on these tracks. The guitar in particular just sounds compressed and far away, leaving almost no impact. Vocalist Suzanne Magnuson also comes off as unintentionally camp in her delivery, weighing the band down into an almost musical theater take on garage punk. None of this is offensive or unforgivable, but also maybe that’s what it needs? Otherwise it leaves little impression, a gentle breeze off the coast of punk rock when I’m wanting something that will cause some big waves.

Tuff Bluff Poppies flexi EP

Three-song release from this young Denver band, released as a flexi disc. Punk with enough heavy, rough edges to balance the smatterings of pop that lead vocalist and guitarist Sara Fischer sprinkles in. The distinct meandering bass lines tie it all together, almost like a second vocalist. The right mix of Kait Eldridge’s songwriting in BIG EYES and the energy of the SOVIETTES.

State Drugs / Zephr split 7″

A feel-good track each from Denver’s own STATE DRUGS and ZEPHR. “Mr. Untitled” (STATE DRUGS) is soft, and almost a little sappy, yet earnest. A minor scale lead walks up and down over a jangly rhythm guitar while the vocalist croons out “Are we OK? / The world’s scaring the shit out of me / There’s no escape / No point to stay / No where to leave,” the fatalism of which hits home for, I imagine, too many. “Landline (J’ai Une Âme Solitare)” (ZEPHR) is a little more playful and noisier, with classic ambient shouts from backing vocals under “Hanging on a landline / Feeling low / Can’t get myself outside.” These songs could fit in any of the early-aughts Warped Tour compilations, but are obviously covered in the makeup of our present. All in all, they make a cohesive split—have a rainy day listen.

Zephr Don’t Worry About It LP

Here’s a full fourteen song’s worth of JAWBREAKER-informed, emotional pop punk. It lands very directly in the early ’00s, No Idea Records school of pop punk. Think about NORTH LINCOLN, BRIDGE AND TUNNEL, etc. but not quite as slick sounding. Melodic guitar riffs drive the mid-to-uptempo songs that are complimented by a mix of sung vocals and “I should really clear my throat” yelling. It’s not poorly done, but it lacks the hooks or that special songwriting that you need to make a record stand out in this genre.