Tuesday, November 6, 2012

Reviews - 11/4/2012

Wide Angles - Boxcutter - Another rock solid 4 songs from Wide Angles put out, um, last May on No Breaks Records.  Much like on their debut 7", Wide Angles show and prove that they are pros at crafting gritty-yet-melodic, tough-yet-emotional mid-tempo ponk ruck music.  It's tempting to describe them as "no-frills" too, but after listening to these tunes a couple of times, some rather intricate guitar-work and layering becomes apparent.

Only minor quibble here is when the singer reaches a little too far.  The guy's got a great voice for this band, but you've to know your limits a little bit too, you know?  But honestly, that is a very minor quibble.  This is excellent stuff.  (http://wideangles.bandcamp.com)

Sunday, November 4, 2012

Reviews - 10/30/2012

While we're on the task of clearing out the backlogged review pile, let's hop into a stack of vinyl from, appropriately enough, Vinyl Junkie Records.  Estan de Espana.

Mark and the Spies - Find Yourself a Way 7" - Let's be brief here.  Toothless garage-styled pop.  Next.  (http://us.myspace.com/markandthespies)

Los Derrumbes - Hacen Cantar a Sus Amigos 7" - Oh boy, not much better.  A pretty much straightforward interpretation of 50's-style rock and roll.  For example, an incredibly tepid cover of "Rockin' Robin" shows up on side 1.  I was going to go into some bullshit about how the only way I could see these tunes working was in some campy European movie where a peripheral character was really into American rock and roll and these songs were playing in the background of a scene, but then quickly realized that was some bullshit.  (www.losderrumbes.com/)

De Keefmen - Cryin' at my Door 7" - Things took a turn for the better with this one and I'm not just saying that to be nice.  De Keefmen offer up 2 pretty hornery rockers that both feature some skronky guitar solos that you, yes you, will enjoy.

So enjoy.

Finally, one must wonder, nay HOPE, that their band name came about after imagining a veritable army of Keith Richards.  As in, "oh lord, a brigand of De Keefmen approach!"  Right?  RIGHT?!  (http://www.facebook.com/pages/De-Keefmen/113374322013364)

Monday, October 29, 2012

Reviews - 10/29/12

Kobanes - Demo - Unabashed Ramones worshipping is often a razor's edge.  On one side, bands have made a career out of it or at least kick-started a career (read: the Queers, the Donnas, the Riverdales, etc).  On the other perilous side, if done incorrectly, you can get some of the most basic, unimaginitive boring bullshit you've ever heard.  Fortunately, the Kobanes fall into the former category.  That's not to say that we're guaranteeing that they'll actually make a career out of their music, but they clearly have figured out that while that Ramones-y formula may seem seductively simple, you still have to write good songs, know how to play, keep it supa-tight and all that good stuff.

Look, you won't be surprised by what you get from the Kobanes.  1,2,3,4's, whoa-oh's, love songs, hate songs and songs with "I Don't Wanna" in the lyrics but they throw in enough of their own little twists and sense of humor to make it work.  Plus, mechanically-speaking, I've always felt that the most important thing for a band playing this style of music is for the guitars and the bass to be in absolute lock-step in order to create that buzzing, relentless drive.  If it gets sloppy, then the whole things falls apart and the Kobanes don't allow that to happen.

I think the CD they sent in had a few tracks from each of their 3 albums so check out the link below and dig them for yourself.  (http://kobanes.bandcamp.com)

Thursday, October 25, 2012

Reviews - 10/13/2012

Part III of our Cut Throat Records appreciation post and the hits keep coming.

Gun Crazy/Teen Cool Split 7" - This is going to be a little backwards as the Teen Cool side got the first listen.  Looks like Teen Cool was around from 1993 to 2003 which is an impressive run for a band and, holy shit, Toby Marsh of Motards relative-fame was in the line-up for these guys.  Fuck, how did I miss out on all these bands?  Anyway, more really good stuff and for the entirety of the first track, "Crash and Burn Kids", I was trying to place which British singer the Teen Cool singer sounded like.  Anyway, when the opening riff of track 2, "Dilemna Doll", kicked in, it all started to make sense.  That opening riff is really similar to the main riff in "Art School" by the Jam and that kick-started by slow, slow brain into realizing that the singer's voice sounds a lot like Paul Weller, also of the Jam.  Soooooo, Teen Cool kind of sounds like a bit-faster, bit-more-reckless version of the Jam.  Which is good.

As for Gun Crazy, more good stuff dealing with things that a lot of good punk rock songs deal with.  In particular, factory lines in the song entitled "Factory Line" and interacting with bad news chicks named Jane in the song entitled "Talk to Jane".

Libertine - Guttersnipe Glamour 7" - This one wasn't quite as cool.  Kind of reminded me of another TX-based band from around the same era (that being the late 90's/early 00's) called the Dead End Cruisers.  Saw them open for Pegboy in Austin many moons ago, bought their CD, listened to it once or twice and eventually sold it on Ebay.  How's that for an obscure reference?  Anyway, pretty standard sleazy rock 'n' roll and the last track on this little EP is indeed a stab at a reggae-ish song.  And as discussed elsewhere on this blog, lots of bands of this era tried to pull this off and it never really worked.  And sure enough, this tune isn't so good either.

The Stupor Stars - Poison Arrows 7" - Great name for a band, first off.  More importantly, this little sampler platter serves up 3 delectablely catchy morsels.  The title track has that melancholy-yet-boundlessly-enthusiastic mix that makes music beautiful and makes you, the listener, play it over and over.  Things get a little more mean-spirited with "Don't Fight Us" but it's still catchy as all get-out.  Wrapping up the 7" is another willy of a dilly of a ditty called "Hey Maita" about a beautiful black-haired girl.  And goddamn, is there anything finer than a beautiful black-haired girl?  Both songs feature one of this reviewer's favorite, but difficult to describe, things in punk rock tunes.  That being that millisecond pause between a verse or chorus ending and a really solid guitar solo starting up.  Like, not a full breakdown, but just a split-second pause where everything drops out and then, "SKRUUUUAAAAHWAAAAHWWEEE" or however one might put a solo into the written word.

Anyway, you and I...we together...should find out if these guys and 1 gal put out any other records because these 3 songs are great.

The Monocles - Out of Your Mind 7" - And finally, the Monocles.  Pretty strong stuff and the first track "Out of Yr Mind" kind of reminds one of the Spits in that it's catchy punk rock and roll stuff with kind of weird sounding distorted vocals.  The second track is a bit of a groaner, but the 7" rebounds quite nicely on track 3, "Darken Your Door".  Yes it does.

Wednesday, September 26, 2012

Reviews - 9/25/12

This is "Part II" of the Cut Throat Records appreciation post from a few days ago.  And there will be a "Part III" eventually too.  They sent us a lot of good stuff.

Born Liars - Go Back One Day 7" - 3 tracks that reflect everything we wrote about this band here.

Born Liars - Ragged Island - 11 tracks that also reflect everything we wrote about this band here.

Pat Todd and the Rank Outsiders - Don't Worry 'bout Me Baby 7" - Holy shit, how did we not get to this stack of vinyl earlier?  It really doesn't pay to be lazy.  Pat Todd is, of course, of Lazy Cowgirls fame and is thereby quite rulin'.  I've heard it said (or maybe read it written) that Paul Westerberg is the Bruce Springsteen of underground rock 'n' roll but honestly, I like Paul Westerberg's music better than the Big Boss Man (what a hip stand to take) so in my mind's eye, that statement just means he's less well known.  Along those lines, you could probably make the argument that Pat Todd is the Paul Westerberg of...of...undergrounder rock 'n' roll?

Maybe that was a little forced, but the point is that the title track served up on this little platter is what you'd expect from Mr. Todd...and what you'd expect is primo, ripsnot rock.  The second track, "Idle Time" slows it down a little bit, goes acoustic and laments about time well-wasted.  Listening to this track though is certainly not time wasted.

So, this is good shit.  As a quick market research project of the vast readership of this blog, whose music do you like best - Bruce Springsteen's, Paul Westerberg's or Pat Todd's?

Tuesday, September 11, 2012

Reviews - 9/11/12

Jack Scratch - Jack Scratch 2012 - Doing a little research on Jack Scratch learned me that they were a bit of a local breakout band here in the greater Chicago metropolitan area back in the late 80's-early 90's.  A touch before this reviewer's time so they were totally new to me although the pictures of ticket stubs and fliers on the CD tray reference bands and venues that kicked up those weird types of quasi-memories that make you think, "oh man, those were heady times" but then you're like, "you know, I wasn't even actually there but I do remember meeting slightly older kids who seemed incredibly worldly who were probably there."  Then, as you start to form your own bands and experiences and memories and "scenes", you realize that yes, those times you quasi-remembered-but-weren't-actually-there-for were probably pretty great, but also full of the same bullshit and down-times that anyone else goes through.  In other words there's some idealization and nostalgia sprinkled in there too.  But again, not to say that there weren't elements of greatness.  Or maybe this is all just cynical ramblings on the part of this reviewer...so let's move on.

As an example of the aforementioned ticket stubs, there's one where Jack Scratch opened for Jane's Addiction at the Metro in 1988 and keeping in mind that this was not only about 2 decades before Illinois' smoking ban kicked in, but also the tail end of the 80's and ALSO Jane's Addiction being involved, I can't even begin to imagine the quantity and variety of things that were smoked and/or inhaled at that particular show be it in onstage, backstage, in the audience or in the bathrooms.  Seriously, the mind boggles.

But anyway, it was probably grand times for the fellows in Jack Scratch and god bless 'em for deciding to get together years later and start playing shows again.  Looks like some of the tracks are new originals while others are retreads from their past.  It's all good stuff and they know what they're doing.  Solid rhythm section, sharp guitarwork and some Dave Vanian-ish rough rock crooning.  I'd say the standout tracks are the opener "Broken Dreams" and well, one near the end.  Maybe it was "See Saw".  We weren't blown but aren't about to knock anything either.

Oh, except these couple things which just kind of cracked me up but make 100% sense since this a band that crested at the advent of CD's and is making another run as CD's are going the way of the Dodo bird.  1.) There is a "secret bonus track" that is not listed (unless I miscounted, which is possible but if I didn't miscount, this is an incredibly 90's thing to do) and 2.) the bonus track in question is a tepid, tuneless reggae style tune the likes of which was HUGE back in the early 90's by alternative-type bands.  No shit.  Tons of bands did this even it wasn't their usual style and it almost never worked.  Actually, no, it never worked.

I just sound like a dick at this point, so I'll stop.  But overall, this is quality stuff and if you dug you some Jack Scratch in yesteryear, this will do the trick I bet.  (www.jackscratchband.com)

Sunday, September 9, 2012

Reviews - 8/29/12

Once again, you can file this post under "hundreds of days late and thousands of dollars short", but we felt this needed to be done.  Travel back, way back, back into time with us for a moment, won't you?

There used to be this magical website called "MySpace" (don't look for it, it's not there anymore) that all the kids were using and more importantly, all the kids' bands were using.  As a "record label", we'd get all sorts of "friend requests" from aspiring and unsigned bands or other fledgling labels trying to get a deal, promote a show or just network.  I'm not computer and marketing-savvy enough to tell you why or when things started to go south with MySpace but honestly, it was pretty great there for a while.  We here at the Beercan offices (ahem) would honestly listen to every band that bothered to click a mouse button and request our virtual friendship.  Sure, a lot of it was utter garbage, but some of the bands were promising, some just seemed like cool folks and occasionally a band would really blow your mind...man.

Anyway, a few years back, some dude from Cutthroat Records (ancient MySpace link is http://www.myspace.com/cutthroatrecs) based out of Houston, TX dropped us a line and asked if we wanted to trade releases.  We said, "sure" and dropped some stuff from our extensive catalog (ahem) in the mail.  Never got anything in return, but hey, no big deal.  People's lives get busy, shit happens, the Post Office is basically bankrupt and may have messed up, who knows.  But then months and months later, some other guy from the label writes me back apologizing for the mix-up and says that he'll drop some stuff in the mail right away.  And he did, which was very cool.  And here are our thoughts, well after the fact, ranging from "well, that's not all that bad" up to "holy shit, that's a great band!  I hope they're still around, but I doubt it.  But even if they aren't people should track down their music to enhance their life!"

And away we go...

The Delayed - Losing My Mind - Not all that bad, but probably not something that I'll  go out of my way to listen to ever again.  5 tracks of Hellacopters-inspired guitar hot-shottery.  This came out in 2003 and sounds like it.  That's not an insult, but you know, time marches on.  Not that music has improved necessarily in 2012, but again, this sounds a little derivative of the Hellacopters and they aren't around anymore so, in a sense, it is a time-capsule.  I warned you that we were going back, way back, back into time.

Pretty rad band logo though.  I kind of hope that someone out there has a Delayed tattoo...that they mildly regret.  Or wildly regret.

The Urgencies - the Urgencies Present Their Manifesto - Yes, the Urgencies appear to have given up the ghost around 2009 and this release is from 2006, but they had a little something going here.  Now, keep in mind that I listened to this about 2 years ago in my car which, by the way, is the preferred review mode of the Beercan staff just so ya'll know.  This was some pretty cool mid-tempo punk-rock in the vein of the Clash, I suppose.

Fine, you've pegged me.  I don't really remember specifics.  But I do remember liking it.  Somewhat.  Fuck you.  Go to their site.  Listen to the songs.  Decide for yourself.  Be somebody!

After all, this is all a preamble to the Born Liars review.  (See Below!(http://www.myspace.com/theurgencies))

Born Liars - Exit Smiling - Now THIS...this is the main reason we wanted to put finger to key to write this post.

We dug this shit immediamente, but as a little non-chronological background, this reviewer (we have a staff of 7) had just read "Hammer of the Gods" for the first time.  You know, the biography of Led Zeppelin that you may have read in high school and that the intelligent degenerate that was smoking cigarettes behind the gym DEFINITELY read in high school.  It's a great, and pretty hilarious, book whether you like Zeppelin or not and you should read it.  But anyway, it got me to thinking about the fact that all these British bands of that era like Zeppelin, the Stones, Yardbirds (I'd mention the Beatles, but I don't really like the Beatles) took a lot of black American music, ran it through their own personal filters and ultimately turned into some of the hugest, or most influential, or both, bands of all time.  Now, I'm not going to go into some screed about how these old original blues musicians were screwed over by the record industry (which surely most of them were) but it is kind of weird how the American contemporaries of these British bands were basically light years behind their limey brethren.  In other words, who wins a 6-band tag championship match between Zeppelin, Stones, Yardbirds in one corner and Bad Company, Grand Funk Railroad and, I don't know, Alice Cooper in the other?  It's not even a question in my mind and for the record, early Grand Funk Railroad is great, but c'mon.

But, at some point over the last 20 years or so, that trend has slowly faded away.  I'm not flag-waving and claiming this as a "victory" for America.  I mean, maybe British musicians have just moved on to different things or are so far ahead of Yankee dubstep DJ's (or whatever) that I'd be shocked if I happened to run in those circles.  However, we at Beercan typically run in rock and roll circles and a band like the Born Liars is such a perfect example of U.S. rock and roll, that it's magical.  In running this label and in listening to hundreds of band submissions, we've heard hardcore from Eastern Europe, rockabilly from Germany, garage rock from France, indie-type stuff from Japan and on and on and on.  And again, some of it's great, some of it's shit and most falls somewhere inbetween but more often than not, it is an approximation of stuff that is deeply rooted in American rock and roll history.  The Born Liars, from Houston, Texas, write (or I suppose wrote) such uniquely American, straight-forward punk-infused rock and roll that the music makes you want to bury it in a time capsule with a note saying something like, "This is what American rock and roll sounded like when it was done really fucking well.  No, this band wasn't hugely popular, but this is the real issue.  No shit!" 

I won't even get into specifics of particular tracks because every single track smokes quite nicely.  The only knock is that it's sometimes so spot-on but with no frills, that you almost want to frill it up yourself.  Like, you find yourself humming sax backing or adding backing vocals that aren't there.  And that's not even really a knock.  Again, I hope this isn't all coming off like I feel that the Born Liars are the Toby Keith of underground music and the rest of the world should fuck off.  Far from it.  But it sounds like the slightly countrified, blues-based rock that these cats slung, which was after-all born in this country, was just burned into their blood.  They're not aping a style.  They're not trying to be anything that they aren't.  They're just cranking out who they are via the magic of music...which sounds simple, but is very, very rare.

So, I don't know if these guys even exist anymore as a band, but it seems like their old label still does so do yourself a favor, and retroactively do them a favor, and go buy their stuff.

Of course, now we'll probably get an email from the bass player saying, "dude, we all actually moved here from Belgium in the early 90's" or some shit. (http://www.myspace.com/thebornliars)

Tuesday, April 10, 2012

Reviews - 4/10/12

The Larroquettes - Quartet Loser - Even in our somewhat extended hibernation and overall malaise as an actual functioning record label, we couldn't help but notice that the Larroquettes seem to be getting a good deal of "pub" and/or "buzz" as of late in the Chicago area.  And considering they were nice enough to send us this CD almost a year ago, we thought we'd chime in on the love parade since it is pretty damn good.

These Larroquettes sound like a stripped-down progression of lead guitarist Paul Downs previous project, the Plastik Explosives (truth be told, there may have been couple of sonic stops before this band, but let's not split hairs).  And by "stripped-down", that's not meant to imply simpler or more boring, but rather more focused and kinda angrier.  Still the rock'n'roll based skronk and guitar hot-shottery you'd expect from Mr. Downs, but not all at breakneck speed.

As for particulars, "Dr. Teacher" has a bass line that is every bit as swaggeringly sinister as it's title would suggest.  Or maybe that's just me.  I mean, for some reason, "Dr. Teacher" as a song title kind of creeps me right the fuck out.  But regardless of whether or not that juxtaposition of words, creeps YOU out, the song has a killer bass line.  "You Must Fight to Live On the Planet of the Apes" is an appropriately primitive sounding rocker and "You Gotta Believe in Something" ups the tempo a little bit and caps the disc off right by letting all the Larroquettes shake their proverbial things.

All in all, a damn fine introduction to the band that makes you want to hear more.  And according to their website, more you shall hear as they may be in the studio AS I TYPE THIS!  Oh, and bonus points for a movie-clip lead-in before one of the songs where the term "jerk-off" is used as an adjective and a noun about 5 times in rapid succession, but interestingly, not as a verb.  (www.thelarroquettes.com)