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CoCoComa – Things Are Not All Right

August 2, 2012 Leave a comment

Goner Records, 2009

Oooh, quite the color scheme.  Orange, white, and fuchsia.  Through the fluffy clouds and bright rainbows are five missiles heading towards some unfortunate destination.  So, I suppose one couldn’t ultimately decide this was going to be a light pop band.  Maybe without those missiles, but they’re there, so there has to be some sort of edge involved.  I also figured that songs like “You Better Beware”, “Lie to Me” and “Suspicious” hinted at some sort of relationship entanglement.  Like an obnoxious rubbernecker nearing the result of the traffic jam they’re stuck in, I had to stop and see/hear how CoCoComa were going to explain that cover art with music.

This second album from the Chicago-based group is a rock ‘n roll release, nothing less and nothing more.  The missiles proved true when the guitar feedback introduced the foot stomper “You Better Beware”.  It’s got all the rousing elements of rock with its tempo, group shouting during the chorus, and its general disregard for deep, intricate verses.  “The Right Side” continues with the theme with its rambling style and more group shouting (including the ever effective “Yeah Yeah!” between lines … when has that never worked?).  It’s very evident early on that CoCoComa want to overdose everyone immediately with their energy and zeal.

After only a few tracks in I recognized where I’ve heard lead vocalist Bill Roe’s tone before.  His voice sounds a lot like a combination of the lead vocalists from Television and the Futureheads where it always sounds like he’s got a cold.  It blends in well with his group mates during the choruses, but on its own it could annoy after awhile.  Thankfully the music tends to be the primary focus, and songs like “The Right Side”, “Lie to Me”, and “Water Into Wine” are straight forward, good time rock ‘n rollers.  Since every song is rarely above three minutes, there isn’t any time to think a tune has gone on too long.  One could say that the band knows how modern attention spans work, eh?

Perhaps the best song on the disc is the last one, “Alright, Alright, Alright”, which references the album title.  It’s got group singing (plus), constant pounding of drums (plus), and repeats the song title over and over again with increasing emphasis at the end of the song (plus!).  The song practically puts you in one of those rockets and launches you into the great silence that occurs in the aftermath.  It’s kind of like leaving a great party and, upon staggering around the streets, you come to wonder why you left at all.

Have a listen to many of CoCoComa’s tracks from this album on their MySpace or Last.fm pages.

This is a good energy-inducing album, though it’s nothing you haven’t heard before.  For thirty minutes you get to hear a band that sounds like they’re having a great time blitzing through their cadre of upbeat rock compositions, so at least there is no room for downers.  CoCoComa is still around as far as I know, though with this record it has been about three years.  It’s getting into that territory of unknown future, but I hope they’re still packing the bars with their raucous style.  CoCoComa may not be original but they’re a lot of fun, so I imagine people will always want more of that whenever it is available and ready to break out some new tunes.

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The Gymslips – Rocking With the Renees: The Punk Collection

July 18, 2012 Leave a comment

Captain Oi! Records, 1999

Well, you know how I am by now I would think.  I see something from Captain Oi! records with an album cover that has an illustrated story of what looks like someone’s day.  Then there’s the front-and-center pair of jubblies that sort of overshadows the fact all of the ladies involved on the cover have short hair and look a bit tough.  So yes, when I picked this up I figured it as a punk record which made it a bonafide gimme when it comes to attracting my hard earned quarters.  I was a bit confused by what the band name represented (turns out it’s a full length tunic with a pleated skirt that kids wear to school) as well as the fact that the title of the album references a group called the Renees.  Two group names?  Jubblies?  What’s going on?  Let this be a lesson to any dollar bin shopper that when one begins to over think their purchase, they should just pop themselves in the eye and hand over the money.  Why bother with the details?

The Gymslips sound as they look, and that is blue collar rock ‘n roll.  However, whereas one might think there’s a lot of yelling and abrasive guitar screeching the Gymslips actually have a pop edge with a bit of humor.  The introduction of “Renees” (pronounced ree-knees) includes a chorus of “We’re the Renees/here we come/1-2-3/and up your bum”.  Hmm, oh really?  One of my favorite tracks, “Drink Problem” follows with an exceptionally catchy chorus of “Whiskey makes you frisky/gin makes you sin/brandy makes you randy/and rum makes you …”.  The band trails off, but if you’re good with rhyming and can think of a word that relates to being randy, well, there you have it.  The speedy pop punk of these songs begin the record off excellently, and if you like that no frills sound then the rest of the record is your kind of thing.

Along with their British accents, which sound a bit cockney, the allure of the Gymslips are their song subject choices.  They have a song about “Face Lifts”, which details a woman’s unfortunate vericose vein issue as well as a lady who is “a big fat lump at 21 going thin on top”.  Oof.  The liner notes mention that the song “Yo Yo” is titled so because it’s about someone whose underwear tends to go up and down.   I merely like the title of “Silly Egg”, which is a term used as an endearing thing to call someone else for being goofy.  Oh, those British.  The Gymslips do manage to get serious once in awhile, for “Thinking of You” is a light pop love song about yearning for another.  This gives the Gymslips a little bit of depth, though most of their songs are lighter fare so don’t think you’ll be wrapped up in too much emotion during the 27 tracks.

Unfortunately as the album continues on the lyrics and liner notes go away in the booklet, which is a pity since they were enlightening.  Along with the loss of information comes with a dip in interesting songs, for they get more polished and a lot more eighties.  Synthesizers, proper singing, and a general departure from the pop punk origins turn the Gymslips into just another band from that era.  There are remnants of the old Gymslips on songs like “Wonderland”, which if one gets by the prominant synthesizers one will appreciate the nearly spoken vocals and the catchy refrains.  The group leans a little more towards Blondie’s path on songs like “Loves Not the Answer”, where nearly all of the grit is gone and is replaced by a band that is enjoying the comforts of lightweight, toss off pop.   It’s not the greatest send off given the earlier songs, but since these later tracks are from 1984 I suppose it is understandable (or even inevitable).

It is amazing to see that a rather obscure UK pop punk band band from the eighties has a French fansite up!  And it’s being updated … since 2001!  Definitely check that place out for pictures or go to the MySpace page to hear a few tunes.

Ultimately, half the album had the eighties garage pop/punk sound that I love, which made it worth the purchase by far.   Even with the latter half of the record saturated by eighties musical trends, nearly every song has a catchy element that makes the whole record fun to listen to.   It helps that this collection of tunes is most of what the Gymslips released via vinyl singles, so it gives a pretty good overview of what the Gymslips were about during their half decade tenure.  And really, aside from a few tracks on some seven inch records, this CD is pretty much everything one is needs to get a great taste of the Gymslips.  Given that I got it for an affordable price perhaps readers will have the same kind of luck if they look around.

The Stomachmouths – Born Losers

March 20, 2012 Leave a comment

Subliminal Sounds, 2003

I suppose my first question was why these guys named themselves after two body parts strung together.  It’s almost like the band had a deadline to submit their band name to the art director and, lacking any ideas, asked the nearest two year old kid to make something up.  They probably had to throw out initial suggestions such as “Mmmmmjuice!” and “What’s A Band?” before deciding on the strange moniker concoction.  Apparently they had no problem with image, but my second question is why the ruse about the art cover?  C’mon guys, I know you’re not from the 1890s.  Honus Wagner did not listen to your music either, so it is clear that you are either from the sixties or trying to be from the sixties with those haircuts.  Since sixties bands tended to name themselves after objects you might see in hallucinations (and not nightmares … stomachmouths indeed!), I figured I had a retro band here.  Those kind of groups are always worth a dollar to me.

So indeed, the creases and sepia-toned album cover matches with what the Stomachmouths deliver in music.  They are absolutely a retro garage rock band from that sixties period, even if they’re from Sweden.  I imagine when they fuzzed out their guitars and let the quivering keyboard quiver in the studio, those mop top haircuts had to swaying all over the place.  There were also probably a lot of empty bottles of Pripps Bla and Norrlands Guld beer lying around the studio as well heh heh.  What?  Impressed that I know my Swedish beer?  … okay, I looked them up.

The opener of “Don’t Put Me Down” sends the listener careening through a haze of guitars, constant rapping of drums, and the sneering vocals of Kery Stefan.  It oozes that old garage rock sound, which is pretty much the norm throughout the rest of the disc.  As one might expect from the psychedelic sixties (even though these guys were from the eighties … and Sweden …) there’ the slower grooves of “Dr. Syn” as well as the screamers of “Cry”.   They’ve also got an instrumental song like “Eegah!” which is a cross between a rock ‘n roll barnstormer and a surf track.  I enjoyed hearing the keyboardist trying to keep up with all that bash and reverb.  No matter what act these guys were trying to emulate at the time, the record is non-stop momentum.

Unfortunately, a lot of the music seems potted up much too high, as if it’s trying to hard for volume that it sort of irritates the ears a bit.  I noticed this halfway through the disc during “You’d Better Find Out”, probably due to the overabundance of guitar and Kery’s singing.  “Hold Me Now” has the keyboardist holding one note throughout most of the song and it is always present in the foreground.  Hey, I’m all for loud music, but something about the production seems piercing and muddled.  At least the energy still comes across, but a little breathing space isn’t bad to have once in awhile.

Oddly enough, the last thing I thought I’d hear is a pretty dead on impression of Cartman (from “South Park”) on “Something Weird”.  I know that Stefan was probably trying to sound bizarre given the song title, but he probably didn’t know that he could have been the inspiration for a humorously politically incorrect cartoon.  Despite the resemblance, I’m glad this is a one and done approach … something about going nasal on a rock song doesn’t really do anything for me.  Thankfully typical rock songs like “Speed Freak”, “Heart of Stone” and “Keep On Looking” keep this record afloat with great grooves.

You can certainly hear a few tunes from these guys on their MySpace page, but I like the live Youtube video from a Stomachmouths show.

I like the disc enough and I think I would have really enjoyed seeing the Stomachmouths play live somewhere, but the music has obviously been done before (aka the sixties) and there aren’t too many standout tracks that I might particularly return to.  They had to be well-loved in Sweden though, or at least that is what the extensive liner notes give the impression of.  The Stomachmouths are, of course, no longer around but this compilation ultimately gives as good enough of an impression as one will need if they want to know what they missed.

The Blue Van – The Art of Rolling

February 23, 2012 Leave a comment

TVT Records, 2005

One of the great things about buying one dollar bands is getting other one dollar albums by the band.  I reviewed the Blue Van’s 2006 record “Dear Independence” and thought it was a great surprise from a bunch of Danish rockers, so in this case I managed to get their debut album.  This could go one of two ways.  In one instance, the debut album could be worse than the second record due to shoddy production or meandering direction of interest.  The other possibility is that the debut album is a near match to the sophomore effort, meaning the band decided not to change anything (and thus get pegged as ‘limited’ or ‘stuck’).  Really, for a buck I wouldn’t mind the consistency.  Now that I think of it, there is a third tack that the band could have taken, and that was to change their sound completely.  So, ulp, I could have purchased the band’s initial love of covers of Danish traditional songs, a misguided attempt at modern Danish disco, or recordings of actual blue vans driving around a parking lot.  Now you know that there truly is a lot of danger involved as a bargain bin music reviewer.  I live on the edge… of taste!

Well, I lucked out.  It turns out that this record sounds very similar to their follow up album, though it seems to actually have more energy.  The opener of “Word From the Bird” is a warm cacophony of guitar, drums, and organ with vocalist Steffen Westmark’s ceiling-touching efforts completing the scene.  Even though it’s just over two minutes in length, “Product of DK” and “I Remember the Days” seamlessly continue the romp.  These early songs, as well as the rest of the two to three minutes rockers spread throughout the record, easily emit a sense of having a real good time.

As the tunes continue their rousing level to “The Remains of Sir Maison” (yet another good rock song), one begins to wonder if the Blue Van will ever take it down a notch.  You may say “Hey!  When should anyone ever wish for the party to end?”  I agree with that, and yet the continuation of the same level of volume and excitement can work against a band if the songs all blend together.  Westmark’s voice continues to reach the high register, the organ is constantly present, and the cymbals never seem to cease reverberating in my ear.  For five songs in a row, the Blue Van make a case for an amazing band, but one will more likely be left with just that impression more than a favorite song in particular.  Some diversity helps appreciate the band’s talents further.

It almost seems that the band knew it had gone on a little too long with the same old thing, as the Blue Van suddenly veers into the leisurely “Baby, I’ve Got Time” where Westmark relates his hesitancy to hurry out of the warm confines of a bar with his girl.  The light electronic piano introduction to “The Bluverture” reminds me of a Beatles song, but then it turns into a dramatic instrumental that could be used in “Kill Bill, part 3” if ever a movie was going to be made.  It’s a curiously interesting interlude to the bombastic nature of the record, which thankfully allows some pause to soak in what the band had completed up to that point.  Then, of course, it’s back to the party.

“Revelation of Love” and “What the Young People Want” are par for course, but “Mob Rules” at least tries to invoke a bluesy swing before erupting in the second half of the song.  The final song of “New Slough” is probably what the band could have done at the beginning of the record in that it’s eight minutes of sheer rock out.  Why make five songs that sounds somewhat similar when you can make one really long one?  Granted, a long one with such stomach-churning lyrics as “1-2-3, I’d like to look at thee” and “I’m a rebel with a cause/but I ain’t no Richie Rich”.  I know these guys are from Denmark, but reading around a bit it seems that the Danish start learning the English language in the third grade or so.  Okay, so they stink at lyrics, but I suppose if one didn’t care what Westmark was screaming out then this record serves nicely as a fine boost of rock ‘n roll energy.

The Blue Van has an immediately musical website (as in, make sure your speakers aren’t too loud) and a potentially musical MySpace page.  Check out their new stuff on either site … it sounds good.

Whenever I give a Golden Dollar to a band, I always keep an eye out to see how that band is doing.  Even if this was a record that was released before “Dear Independence”, I am still excited that such a band exists in Denmark.  They must (should) be loving these guys over there.  I’m not sure if the Blue Van will ever make it over to the States that often, but if their new album “Love Shot” is any indication of how good they are now, the group should at least pop over to open for someone like the Black Keys.  They’ll likely get pegged as some kind of posthumous garage rock revivalists that are trying to pick up the remains of the Hives’ efforts, but I bet the crowd will love them.  I look forward to the next Blue Van record that comes my way.

Various Artists – Secret Recipe From the Far East

October 24, 2011 Leave a comment

Nice and Neat Records, 2005

I’ll be honest that when I picked this album up for cheap I was under the impression that a band named Secret Recipe created an EP with songs like “Prambath” and “The Nailclippers”.  Hey man, when you don’t put the song titles next to the band names, you’ll believe anything.  So, it was with a bit of surprise that when I got home and flipped through the booklet there were six Japanese rock bands looking at me from their well-crafted band photos.  Well hey, even better!  I’ve always been a fan of Japanese rock as they all seem to have modeled themselves after the Ramones, and any country that does that has got it right in my book.

Psychotic Reaction begins the compilation with a fantastic tune “You’re Around”, which begins with a blitzing guitar and rapid fire dual vocals from a couple of singers.  Though their second song, “Crossing Gate”, doesn’t consist of the same amount of fire, the first track would have been enough for me to pick up something else from them.  The next group, Prambath, have a very squeaky sounding lead singer.  That can certainly irritate, yet she’s fantastic on “Play Loud! Play Loud!” as she keeps/squeaks up with her band’s aggressive pop punk sound.  Unfortunately, on the second song (“Silly Talk”) her coy quirkiness comes across a little too thickly and works against her.  The band still sounds excellent, though.

Unlike Prambath, Nylon has a female singer who sounds like she has been drinking razorblades with her sake.  Definitely a rock chick voice with a band that has a fantastic sixties rockabilly sound to it.  Both of their songs sound similar, which can be great news who like their rockin’ rambunctious and dirty.  Neither song, however, really stands out as a ‘must listen’ even if Nylon surely must be quite an experience to see live in a Japanese club.  Don Flames are probably the fastest band on the compilation, as their guitars are louder and their drums are heavier.  The vocals, therefore, are utterly incomprehensible and drowned out, but that doesn’t matter if a song like “Groovin’ ” is so fantastic with its chorus.  I can’t hear much in terms of lyrics on the freight train-speed song, but there’s a lot of “groovin’ groovin’ groovin’ ” all over the place.

The Nailclippers sound like a traditional pop rock group that easily fits in today but could have existed in the sixties during that psychedelic era.  “Mess You Are” cools one off a little bit from Don Flames’ assault, but it’s a good cool off as it has plenty of hooks, solos, and tempo changes one needs for a good rock song.  The curious title of “Hello!  Mr. Drain” unfortunately doesn’t match up with full scale song enjoyment, but I did like the high-pitched chorus (which may or may not contain the title because I think it’s in Japanese).  Finally, the possibly best group of the bunch is the last one, where Teenage Confidential pull off two excellent songs to finish the compilation.  The first, “Anyway You Want It” (originally done by the Dave Clark Five, NOT Journey … awww), is an immediate room crasher.  I can just picture tons of spiky-haired Japanese bopping around to this one, for it sounds like a sped up surf pop song a la the Ramones.  “Sick On You”, by band member Mickey Romance, is a little slower and contains some simple chord changes, but ends the compilation well as a fine mid-tempo tune.

Unfortunately I couldn’t find a whole lot on these groups for you readers to listen to, but there was some success.  You can hear Prambath on their MySpace page while Mickey Romance (of Teenage Confidential) has his own Youtube channel.

It has been six years since this compilation has come out and, as we all know, six years is a long time for a band to stick together.  Who knows how many of these groups still put out the wonderful rock ‘n roll?  As you read above, I couldn’t find a whole lot on these groups aside from Prambath, who at least still have some music available that might even be current.  Regardless, this compilation showed me that while some of us were toiling with what passed for rock ‘n roll on this side of the globe, the Japanese were clearly having a lot more fun.  I imagine that if one dropped by a Tokyo club on a whim some Saturday night they’d get to hear bands just like these guys.

Various Artists – Let’s Get Rid of L.A.: 15 Bands From Underneath the Ruins of Southern California

March 22, 2011 Leave a comment

Revenge Records, 2003

Ah, what the hell is with that cover?  It is uuuuugggly.  In fact, when I dug this out from my stack of stuff to review I could barely read the title on the spine it was so dark.  Black and green indeed.  But hey, check it out:  wolves.  They seem to be eating something, likely some band that had stars in their eyes and forgot that L.A. is a tough racket.  Well, given that there are fifteen bands on this compilation that I had never heard of, I figured I’d give them all a whirl for a few cents.  Who knows, maybe one of them might get a call from a dude in Massachusetts saying they’re about to make it big, Big, BIG because they are now featured on humble music blog!

As one might expect, this is one of those compilations that is all at once loud but contains its share of greatness and crumminess.  My usual ratio of tune enjoyment is something along the likes of 1: 2: 4, where ‘1’ is a great song, ‘2’ is a decent song that one can take or leave, and ‘4’ is forgettable pap.   Therefore, let’s see how “Let’s Get Rid of L.A.” fares against the usual expectations.

Since I’m a pop punk enthusiast, I really did appreciate the Orphans’ “Miss Easy Rider”, the Pinkz’s “Right or Wrong” and the Checkers’ “Is He In?”.  Quick guitar riffs, urgent vocals and a two minute track time are all that I require for a sonically good time.  It helps that the two groups have female lead vocalists, with the Checkers sounding like they have two.

One of the best tracks on the comp is the Flash Express’ “Beat That Kills” due its classic rock n roll brutality.  The pounding drums and cymbals do it for me as well as the vocalist’s fuzzy, deep voice.  No fancy vocal effects, just singing it like it is.  Then there’s the epic bridge that reminds you that not every rock song has to stick to the verse chorus verse predictability.

Amidst the punk and more punk on the album is the Alleged Gunmen’s “New Bo Diddley” which is like a blues rockin’ oasis.  Considering that the next few tracks barely take a breath, the track’s inclusion is a good varietal choice by Revenge Records.  It’s a pity the label didn’t bother with anything else like it on the rest of album.

And of course, as it usually goes with compilations, not every song is engaging.  “An Ave Maria” by the Fuse! is a loud, thrashing mess, but it at least breaks up the prevalent garage punk on the collection.  Other tracks that don’t quite work for me are “Hangar” by Squab Teen, “Clifton” by Miracle Chosuke and “T-T-T-T-Tet” by Fast Forwards, mainly due to the groups sounding like they’re making noise for noise’s sake.  Despite some of the more stumbling, incoherent tracks, the compilation is a strong package of hard rock from the west coast.

Here you go, found the Flash Express song on Youtube!

Going back to my ratios, I would say that this 15-track compilation scored a 3: 6: 6 (or 1: 2: 2) which is better than usual.  Therefore, even with just the three great tracks I’ve gotta call this a Bargain.  Even if I never spin the whole thing in complete succession again, at least I’ve got three or so new songs that I can throw in a mix somewhere.  I could also fly out to Los Angeles and start flaunting my recently acquired indie cred by name dropping some of these older underground bands.  Ahhh never mind … I imagine I’ll just get run over by rollerbladers.

Bonus Compilation Speech:  Compilations are not for everyone.  Sometimes the idea that you are forced to listen to a group of bands that you’ve never heard of is a major turn off.  On the flipside, since not every song is the listener’s preference one doesn’t have to wait long for a different song and band to come along.  And hey, why are albums by a single band so great?  What if you hate the first three songs?  Usually that means the rest of the album is deemed as crap, whereas on a compilation that just means there are ten or so more tracks to go before a final evaluation is reached.  This is why paying very little for compilations, especially rock ‘n roll ones, are just my thing.  Go find a cheap compilation somewhere and discover some obscure bands under a rock, will ya?  You’ll be surprised.

The Things – Wild Psychotic Sounds EP

February 14, 2011 Leave a comment

Big Neck Records, 2007

Check that cover OUT, man.  The red lips and tie, as well as the bleached aspect of the face, might make one believe this is a band of clowns who rock out when they’re not making balloon animals.  However, the title gives it away as something that will at least fill the quiet spaces when turned up high on the volume knob.  To add to the visuals of what the group probably sounds like, the inside cover shows a heavily sideburned, shirtless and leather jacketed lead singer in a few crinkled photos.  He’s also flaunting a butt crack protruding from his tight pants.  Er, should it be called a rock crack?  I wish I never looked.

The Things are an Irish rock band that, according to their Wiki page, formed in 2001.  I guess it took awhile before they started putting out records, eh?  Maybe it was because they were worried they didn’t sound like any sort of Irish punk band I had heard before.  In fact, their style is very reminiscent of most American garage punk acts with its swamp of guitars and surrounding noise.  Neil Moore even sings like Elvis Presley stuck outside in the cold without a coat, which sounds pretty good but also sometimes makes lyric depiction a bit tough.  Such difficulty might also be due to the recording of the music, which sounds as if it was recorded live from a stage and Moore’s microphone was jammed halfway into his mouth.

Of the six tracks on the EP, “The End” comes across as one of the better ones.  No, fortunately (unfortunately?) it is not a take on the Doors tune, but it has got an excellent clanging guitar riff in its opening.  Moore muffles his way through something that sounds urgent (a-huh, a-huh jailhouse rock) but it’s really the band that pounds out a fine rocker.  “Horror Movie” focuses more on what kinda speed the Things can put into their music.  The repeated riffs really pump up the energy as does the shared vocals.  It is also apparent on this tune that, if one listens closely, the Things incorporate some keyboards into their songs.  If it’s hard to hear on the EP imagine its ‘presence’ at a concert.

The band does prove on one track that it isn’t all volume and discombobulation.  “Going Home” is a gently consistent beat track that contains a few bluesy elements in its instrumentation.  I still can only pick out the title amidst the lyrics, but it’s a pretty good breather amidst the heavier stuff.  “La la la la la” isn’t a quieter track at all, but its live setting gives a pretty good feeling towards what one would hear if one saw these guys in person.  The resigned tone of the title after the collision of slide guitar and drum mashing makes a solid outro for the short time one got to listen to the band.

The Things from Ireland can still be heard on MySpace but not in too many other places.  Makes you think that … could they be …

Imagine my grinning surprise when I found that the Things had put out a full length record in 2009 entitled “Some Kind of Kick”.  Oh man, am I getting that.  I don’t care if it still sounds like the muffled ramblings of a half dressed man; something about the style and presentation of the Things from their EP have earned them another go.  However, further research on the band’s Wiki page proves that these Irish hooligans are no longer together.  Yeesh … just when they get an album together they are done.  They must have left some of the Irish youth with a pretty good impression and hopefully they’ve spurned some to take up the garage punk mantle overseas.  Too bad the rest of us missed our chances to see ’em.