2016 Musical Musings, Thus Far….

2016 Musical Musings, Thus Far….

Just some of the stuff, old and new, I have been listening to a lot in 2016…. hey, 8 months late is better than never….


Not sure what the deal is what my bros of Snapcase and the now mostly defunct San Diego post-hardcore outfit, Drive Like Jehu, but both ex-guitarist Scott Dressler and singer Daryl Taberski continually ramble on about how god-like their 1994 release Yank Crime is.   I actually had to go back and listen to the album to remind myself that I know it very well and indeed godlike! Hence, it is now on heavy rotation in my life. Glad to see they are touring again.

Rivers Cuomo and the boys from Weezer finally stopped taking their silliness way too seriously with their most recent release, (delightfully entitled, due to the album cover, “The White Album.”), taking yet step towards returning to true “blue” form.  While I lean towards 2002’s Maladroit, one can make a strong case that when a color-themed Weezer record shows up it is bound to be decent. “California Kids,” “LA Girlz” and “King of the World” are just some of the few Beach Boys-metal-tinged a la fuzz pop that makes you yearn for the palm trees and lovely strangeness of Venice Beach.


Ann Arbor, MIs Pity Sex has recently caught my attention. Their name alone kicks ass and then they got all silly and made some kick ass music to go along with it.  Lo-fi, surfy, shoe gaze done wonderfully.

The latest Violent Femmes album, We Can Do Anything, is a predictable and sometimes silly, but still fun release.  It doesn’t even dare touch their 1983 S/T release or even 1991’s Why Do Birds Sing? but it still brings a familiar smile to your face.  The Femmes are like the movie, American Beauty….both made sense when we were younger, but all fell into perfect place when we listened/watched when we hit mid-aged….

Not sure why I didn’t listen to another bro, Adriaan Klaassen, about this band back in the day when we worked together at ING.  But I am happily ashamed to admit that 14 years later, I finally discovered the genius of NYC’s Longwave’s (RIP) 2003 release, “The Strangest Things.”  Interpol meets Sink Tapes (were the latter even born back then?…ha! Sorry…couldn’t resist) is always a good combo!  My favorite track that I listened to on repeat while on a two hour shopping spree at Jersey Gardens, “I know It’s coming Soon,” can be found below.

NYC’s Dead Star’s 2016 release, Bright Colors, starts right where 2014’s Slumber stopped.  Fuzzed out indie pop where a heavy does of 90’s Dinosaur Jr. and early Weezer collide.

Bright Colors cover art

Finally, ex-Husker Du/Sugar God and front man Bob Mould has a brand spanking new album out called Patch the Sky.  I agree with the hailing critics that it is a great experience but disagree that Bob is tapping back into his Du days.  I would argue that like 2012’s Silver Age and 2014 Beauty & Ruin, Bob is flirting back to 1989’s Workbook or even 1990’s Black Sheets of Rain. Or better yet, his other project Sugar. So there, mofos!

More to come, much sooner than later, promise….xo

Best Covers of the Artist formerly known as Prince (1958-2016)

Best Covers of the Artist formerly known as Prince (1958-2016)

Rest in peace Prince we now know when doves cry and every once in awhile we get crazy for covers and nostalgia of some amazing sexy song writing, so we felt it appropriate for us to add to the Prince Covers bin and share some we’ve collected or have been contributed from RS blog music fans and our special muse(s). Great music like his is something special that connects people through auditory pleasure like the sound of a baby laughing or the tone of a voice that makes you happy except with a beat you can dance or get funky to. That feeling you get when people applaud something great you have all witnessed or shared my dearly beloved music fans. That happiness is what great music does when you experience it either in your car, at home, a concert or at the gym when you work-out. Wherever or when ever. Music like his has the universal power to join us through the sound we hear and interpret in our own way. Thus always great to hear a rendering of art by somebody else which reminds us how great it is; as it transcends life and the afterlife. Music is basically magical like his and many other greats.

If you are a good musician it’s pretty damn hard to fuck-up a Prince song unless you can’t sing; as his songs are perfect canvas for other artists to put their own spin on things, so here is a variety of indie artists doing their thing. Enjoy and live life without any regrets because you never know when your time will be done.

PRINCE covers Creep by RADIOHEAD.

CROOKED FINGERS covers When You Were Mine by Prince

CYNDI LAUPER covers When You Were Mine from her debut 1985 album She’s So Unusual.

JAMES EDGAR Little Red Corvette from official Studio Sessions

MONTAGNA & THE MOUNT Little Red Corvette from their CD L’avenir

AVISO’HARA cover Raspberry Beret by Prince featuring Claude Coleman Jr from Ween on vocals from the vinyl EP Mature & Satisfied [BUY 7″]

WEEN covers Let Me Lick Your Pussy from God Ween Satan The Oneness (1990)

DAMIEN RICE covers When Doves Cry from Like A Version Vol. 1

MUSE covers Sign O’ The Times live on BBC 1

RELATED: Covers of Nirvana by Titus Andronicus, Local H and more


THREE SPRING SINGLES by Sego, The Danes and Those Pretty Wrongs

THREE SPRING SINGLES by Sego, The Danes and Those Pretty Wrongs

SEGO – “WHERE I BELONG” – Slackerish in dress but total shiny pop duo does Beck and slanted in enchanted meanderings on Raygun Music. Actually, we like (me) the noisy guitar stuff on this so put down the top on your convertible and lets slow drag race down sunset strip in your tube top.

THE DANES – “AR FROM LOVE” – Electro goth pop with this female fronted group featuring Dana Hobson (vocals), Daniel Wolf (guitars, production), and Patrick Zeinali (drums). I didn’t know any of their musical references so for those of you reading along might appreciate the Sinead reference but without the disdain and if she had a big ass keyboard.

THOSE PRETTY WRONGS – “NEVER GOODBYE” – Two guys named Jody Stephens and Luther Russell, old friends blah, blah, blah make pretty roots rock in Ardent studios in memphis on 2″ tape and it sounds like this tune via Ardent/Burger.

People who may like Cheap Trick a little too much – Part II

People who may like Cheap Trick a little too much – Part II

THE CONTINUED AND ACTUAL SONG FOR SONG ALBUM REVIEW: Cheap Trick’s new album is called “Bang, Zoom, Crazy… Hello” and it is important to mention that this album, since it doesn’t have Bun E., it cannot be considered a 100% authentic Cheap Trick album. On the other hand, the Peterssonless “One On One” and “Next Position Please” are fine albums and this new one reminds me a little of those at times.

This album sounds powerful and clean and every instrument is PUNCHING YOU IN THE FACE and Robin Zander is loud on top of it and you can hear every word. This sounds like the work of a band who have something to prove. As a unit of players and singers they have never sounded better. Too bad about Bun E. but at least Daxx does not suck. His first name sucks, but aside from that he’s a heavy hitter and allows the band to retain their near-Zeppelin level of heaviosity which is a key factor setting them apart from all other so-called “power pop” bands. What a great gimmick: be the heaviest and still be the most catchy and melodic. This is loud guitars but tap your foot and sing along music. So the good news is the band is rocking harder here than on any studio recording since their first album. It’s like they’re doing it on purpose. Rick Nielsen’s guitar takes up more sonic real estate than maybe ever and the “everything louder than everything else” production style is very flattering to the band and plays to their strengths.

Here’s a song by song play by play:

“Heart On The Line” has all the classic Cheap Trick ingredients. It is a chugging, driving rocker with and Robin Zander sounding as great as ever singing vocal singing an almost stereotypically Cheap Trick-like melody. The low E rumble is reminiscent of their great “Everything Works If You Let It” from the Roadie soundtrack. It also reminds me a little of “Auf Weiderschen”. This song has some great surprise sections and reminds the listener of about four different great Trick songs over the course of its four plus minutes. But then I can’t help but notice Daxx is putting cymbal crashes in places I don’t think Bun E. would. He has a similar effect on the sound of the band as Matt Sorum had on Guns ‘N” Roses but Cheap Trick is enough of a better band that the Sorum-likeness doesn’t hurt them too much. The guitar stands out as especially assertive in the mix. The guitar is so loud all over this album that I’m convinced that either 1) Rick Nielsen is intentionally making such a ballsy hard rocking album that the fans will have no choice other than to forgive the unfortunate change of drummers. 2) Bun E., for some reason, wouldn’t allow Nielsen to mix his guitars as loud as he wanted. This seems fairly unlikely. Whatever the reason, it works for me. This is the most they’ve sounded like an authentic straight ahead hard rock band since their debut opened with “Hot Love”. I love the sound Nielsen gets on this album, no reverb or delay, no excessive gain, just a plain electric guitar mixed at a healthy volume for perfect clarity. Nielsen is a long time admirer of AC/DC and the righteous purity of his gigantic guitar sound on this album lives up to that standard. There are two vintage Rick Nielson solos in this song. There is more lead guitar in this song than appears on some entire Trick albums. This is a very very good thing. Robin Zander just sounds very much like himself, which is a great thing.

“No Direction” turns things decidedly and abruptly “power pop”. It comes in with chimey guitars and superfluous vocal harmonies right off the bat, spelling out the whole vibe right from go. It also has a very uncool chorus that reeks of the dreaded “this could be played on the radio” genre of yesteryear.

The song sort of reminds me of a rocked up version of Missing Person’s – “Destination Unknown”.

I don’t think Cheap Trick is stealing from Missing Persons, it’s very likely an example of the inevitable occurrence of parallel mediocrity as a result of intentional commercialism. “No Direction” has that kind of chorus that you have a hard time believing the band themselves would actually enjoy listening to. This is the opposite of what makes Cheap Trick great. They are rock and roll scholars with impeccable taste and have a gift for translating the sophistication of someone like Roy Wood into something an American mainstream rock audience can enjoy. And that’s why the chorus to this song makes me sad. But at least there’s another great guitar solo here. He plays some licks from “Oh, Caroline” to boot! This is the old stuff we love. But then it leads into a gratuitous bit of “Life In The Fast Lane” style phase-shifting which highlights the makeshift, random-stuff-pushed-together, everything-and-the-kitchen-sink vibe of the writing and playing on this song and they take that crappy chorus all the way out. Still, Nielsen will not stop with the ceaseless commentary of awesome rock licks. For me, Rick’s guitar is the saving grace of this album. He’s just giving more great guitar than ever before. Zander and Petersen don’t exactly sound like they’re watching the clock either. This sounds like an album that was made with a great care for detail and quality control. Even on a bad song this band is sounding pretty great. But skip this song anyway, it sucks.

I have read that Zander did a great Neil Young when he was a solo acoustic folkie busker-type before he joined forces with Neilsen and co. This song (“When I Wake Up Tomorrow”) sounds like something Neil Young would write and record if he hadn’t suffered from epilepsy. It’s a nice song with a nice melody and another really cool guitar solo. And maybe more importantly, there’s an undercurrent of dark droning A string pedal from Rick Nielsen, which is an early Trick staple on songs like “Taxman, Mr. Thief”, “High Roller”, “Hello There” and others. It’s not totally convincing here but it’s the thought that counts. A good non-Cheap Trick sounding Cheap Trick song.

“Do You Believe Me” sounds cool in a Mutt Lange production of Shania Twain/Def Leppard kind of way followed by Mutt Lange AC/DC style in the jam at the end. I think this song is an homage to Mutt Lange, generally. Maybe they’re hoping he might do a Todd Rundgren-Meat Loaf thing with them and produce their next album and have it become a gigantic monster that no one could have ever foreseen. Who knows? We do know that Cheap Trick admire Lange’s classic productions of AC/DC like any other sensible practitioner of two guitars, bass and drums. They are jamming like Zeppelin. The pre-chorus heads into dark stomping Lennonesque territory, which is the most Cheap Trick thing about this song. And then finally we get to a chorus that just has NOTHING going for it. No meaningful lyrics, no melody, it just gets into more AC/DC type crashing chords, leading into yet ANOTHER awesome guitar solo. This one is extended and Rick is on fire here. Daxx is a good drummer but he’s doing the sort of bullshit tasteless rock dude fills only a drummer could love. I’ll call this one a mixed blessing.

“Blood Red Lips” is great. A best case scenario for a new Cheap Trick song, it doesn’t sound like a retread of anything they’ve done before, which is particularly tough for a group like this, but the glam rock style sounds perfectly in line with their aesthetic criteria. It’s got that swing. It’s got that swinging drum roll feeling that is used to such great effect in songs like Sweet’s Teenage’ Rampage.

This song pulls off a stunt that rarely is ever seen from a band with Cheap Trick’s history. They’ve written a quintessential Cheap Trick song that doesn’t remind the listener of any of their own classic era songs. The vocabulary stays squarely in rock and roll, so the Trick plays this music with great confidence and swagger. This is the first song on the album to deliver a truly satisfying chorus. It reminds me a lot of Sweet, it’s a Chapman-Chinn style composition and production in the best way. You can hear Slade and the Move and T. Rex in here too. It’s really that good, easily the best song on the album.

This song reminds me of an above-average Wings album track. There are some post 90s Jeff Lynne sort of harmonies on this song, which is a regrettable color to add to their palette. This is another one that sounds like they’re aiming for what used to be known as “could be played on the radio”. I don’t even know to what extent radio even actually exists anymore so I wish they’d stop doing this. On the other hand Robin Zander has never sounded better. And yeah, cool guitar solo…

This song has the heavy double time groove of songs like Kiss’s “Deuce” and the Pretenders “Mystery Achievement”. Rick is getting into his “Cold Turkey” mindset for the riffs here, which is a signature of his that is always welcome. “Roll Me” is the song that has the most overt rock cliches of anything on the album. The performance is impressive as usual but ultimately this is just another collection of well-executed gestures that doesn’t add up to a convincing song.

It is not for no reason that this sounds like a guitar heavy Roxy Music, which is a pretty fucking awesome, if not best possible, way for a rock band to sound. That’s because “The In Crowd” is a cover Bryan Ferry did on his first solo album. The Bryan Ferry version, from 1974, starts out as a primitive mid tempo Velvet Underground groove and keeps it going. The Ferry version sounds like Roxy except the guitars are more prominent. The dominance of the basic open E chord on this weird and rocking song is something I’d imagine Rick Nielsen hooked onto way back then. I imagine Cheap Trick hearing this in 1974 as both an inspiration and an affirmation of the way smart and interesting rock and roll music should sound going into the 70s. The original three members aside from Zander toured Europe in 1973. And we know the band covered The Velvets’ “Waiting For The Man” in their early club days. This is a case of covering the cover that may well have been a key source for Cheap Trick’s own unique style. I am speculating Cheap Trick covered it out of 1974 nostalgia.
Bryan Ferry – The ‘In’ Crowd (Lyrics)

Bryan Ferry covered it out of 1964 nostalgia:

On “Long Time No See You” the band sound like when Jimmy Page played Zeppelin music with the Black Crowes. Rick Nielsen’s arranging, layering, overdubbing, idiosyncratic riff making and soloing are nearly up to “Houses Of The Holy”/”Physical Graffiti” era Page standards. The band sounds great here and Daxx is impressive. There’s a funky rock groove that could be associated with Led Zeppelin or Aerosmith. And I hear a certain amount of Tylerism coming from Zander so I’m gonna think of it as their Aerosmith song. Nielsen evokes Page and Petersson gets up to Entwistle levels of bass tone and assertiveness. A VERY GOOD Aerosmith song.

“The Sun Never Sets Up” wouldn’t sound out of place on “All Shook Up”. They’re showing some of the Move influence that characterizes much of their best work and there’s a touch of strings that remind me of “Dream Police” and “Stop This Game”. It is an epic pop production in the tradition of those two songs. This is not a particularly great specimen of that sort of song but a nice try nonetheless.

“All Strung Out” is a curiosity. It’s like an overly modern new wave power pop overproduction of a Velvet Underground song that wouldn’t sound out of place on the first Roxy Music album (again with the Velvets/Roxy thing) and as usual, the guitars are great. Robin Zander is doing a cross between Lou Reed and Bryan Ferry and the whole thing works. And it’s got the best bridge on the album to boot.

In conclusion: if you love Cheap Trick you probably should get this album. You know who you are. If you don’t love Cheap Trick I can’t imagine you made it through this whole long rambling review and are reading this right now…


People who may like Cheap Trick a little too much will like this review on Facebook regardless.

People who may like Cheap Trick a little too much – Part I

People who may like Cheap Trick a little too much – Part I

ALBUM REVIEW: Bang Zoom Crazy… Hello’ – I love Cheap Trick as much as the next guy except when the next guy falls into a category I call “people who may like Cheap Trick a little too much.” The first time I ever noticed this guy, it was myself. I don’t quite FEEL like that guy these days but that guy lives in me still. I have had and continue to have many friends who are or have been this guy. One of these friends is Tom Beaujour. He is a rock journalist (and a recording studio owner/operator and musician, etc.) who has interviewed Rick Nielsen many times. The last time I saw Tom he was telling me about his most recent interview with Nielsen. I wanted to know only one thing: what’s this Van Halen bullshit where a beloved original member is ousted to be replaced by the control freak guitarist’s offspring? I don’t get these rock stars who gotta be like Donald Trump with this foisting of their offspring on the paying customer. No one wants this. I may not quite be one of those “people who may like Cheap Trick a little too much” at the moment but I am righteously teed off nonetheless. In the history of rock there is no other band in which each individual member is more individually beloved than Cheap Trick. Musically, each member is as individually important as the members of Led Zeppelin or the Who. Image-wise, each member is as individually important as the members of Kiss or the Beatles. By these (not necessarily 100% scientific) metrics, Bun E. Carlos would be one of the twenty most irreplaceable rock band members in history. So they have some explaining to do. Bun E. has, in fact, done some of this explaining in easily Googleable interviews which are informative and entertaining. So when I spoke to my friend Tom, I immediately asked if Nielsen did any explaining about this new arrangement. To paraphrase Tom: “It was kind of frustrating because I asked their publicist if Rick’s son was replacing Bun E. and Rick said ‘Daxx is the touring drummer for Cheap Trick’ and I said ‘Yeah but they just made a new album and Daxx plays on it instead of Bun E. so it seems like he’s Cheap Trick’s new drummer…’ ‘Daxx is Cheap Trick’s touring drummer…”. The exchange went nowhere, The publicist was evasive, inscrutable and why wouldn’t he be? Because it’s just wrong and whatever explanation he could possibly have would suck anyway.

Sidebar: Read this article by Alex Castle: I don’t know exactly how much Nielsen has in common with Van Halen but I’m sure it pertains in some way.

Before digging into the album let’s consider the true significance of a new Cheap Trick album in the year 2016. Their debut came out almost forty years ago and even then they were ten year veteran journeyman musicians. Cheap Trick was never new and they were never young, at least not in the way we typically think of new young bands.

Here’s a severely abridged Cliff Notes account of the long, strange career of Cheap Trick: Rick Nielsen and Tom Petersson had a band called Fuse from 1967 to 1973. They recorded an album for Epic in 1970, which failed artistically and commercially. By 1973 they were playing with two members of The Nazz and good ole’ Bun E. Carlos, sometimes as “Fuse” and sometimes under the name “The Nazz”. They formed Cheap Trick in 1973, finally adding the key ingredient for world domination, the not remotely secret weapon Robin Zander in 1974. And they were finally… off to the races?

Well, not quite yet. The band had a couple years of touring ahead of them before finally being signed (again to Epic) in 1976 and releasing their debut in 1977. And then they were finally… off to the races?

Well, not quite yet. Their records were well received by the press and a slowly building cult following while their incessant touring, now opening for big headliners like Kiss and Aerosmith, was earning them a reputation as a top notch big time live rock act. But they weren’t selling too many records yet.

Their first album was “too raw” to get radio airplay. It’s a great example of a band’s first album consisting of them blasting through a road tested set with great energy and aplomb. It’s the sort of debut wherein the band avoids the red light fright by never acknowledging to themselves that they’re actually recording an album in a recording studio. That’s what it sounds like to me at least. This is my favorite Cheap Trick album, it’s the one that I think sounds like “the real” Cheap Trick. No fillers, no sweeteners, no trying to make it listenable to non-rock fans. It consists 100% of great songs and it’s HEAVY.

On the next album (“In Color”) Tom Werman’s production serves as a bit of an over correction. It is a slick album. Compared to the first album it sounds restrained. It is not for no reason that they rerecorded this album with Steve Albini in 22 years later in 1998 but it also is not for no reason that Albini wanted to rerecord it. This is the second in a string of at least five albums to come from this proverbial “great band at the height of their powers”. Nielsen’s pop songwriting genius is specifically highlighted here, primarily by making this album (along with pretty much everything they’ve done since) a showcase for Zander’s godlike vocals. In fact, the last thing you hear here is Zander’s voice holding what I’m pretty sure is the longest most beautiful high note ever recorded. The thing literally ends on a high note. Convincing.

For their third time up, Werman and the band make a more satisfyingly slick album that reclaims the band’s signature heaviosity to an extent. Many people cite “Heaven Tonight” as Cheap Trick’s best album. It’s my second favorite but that’s just a matter of personal taste. What is a fact is that the best Cheap Trick album is either the first one or “Heaven Tonight”. So anyway, they slick up the production of their second and third albums and they’re finally… off to the races?

Well, almost. They were starting to sell a little more and the label was continuing with the Werman strategy and they were back in the studio working on what was intended to be their fourth release, “Dream Police”.

But a funny thing happened on the way to the fourth album. Would you believe it turned out those first three Cheap Trick albums, neglected in their native USA, were BIG IN JAPAN? So Cheap Trick had three gold albums in Japan and they went there and played a couple concerts at the legendary Japanese venue Budokan and they happened to record these performances for an album exclusively for their Japanese audience. And of course this throwaway live recording turned out to be the very thing that the world needed to hear in order to finally “get” this most extremely palatable rock band with all these great songs, the amazing Cheap Trick. What makes Cheap Trick a truly great rock band can only be truly heard in live performance. This combination of beautiful singing and songwriting coupled with caveman caterwaul and stomp is a unique and powerful thing that is to be treasured. And all the greatest bands rock in a way that is loose but tight and Cheap Trick has always been one of these bands.

In hindsight, Cheap Trick was a wildly successful record selling band for a grand total of two consecutive albums which were both released in America in 1979. So let’s say Rick Nielsen has been plugging away for 52 years and he’s had a total of one year of carefree runaway success? Later there was also 1988’s “Lap Of Luxury” but that was more of a “Deal With The Devil” situation which could never be sustained. What HAS sustained Cheap Trick for over forty years is their work ethic. They are a band who are very familiar with struggle and never far from it. We love to fantasize about what it would be like to be a big household name rock star but for Cheap Trick I imagine it’s “no bed of roses, no pleasure cruise” and that they “consider it a challenge before the whole human race” and they “ain’t gonna lose”.

Their next album, “All Shook Up”, has George Martin producing and they suffer diminished sales, a critical backlash and the departure of the beloved Tom Petersson, Nielsen’s partner in crime from ’67 on. Almost immediately after things start going well for these guys, they’re taking a turn for the worse. Then they make a different sounding album with Roy Thomas Baker (“One One One”) and it sells less. Then they make a different different sounding album with Todd Rundgren and it sells even less. Then they make two more albums that don’t do much.

But then in 1988 the band finally has a mixed blessing of a sort of resurgence after being forced by their label to record a hideous Hail Mary power ballad written by people not in Cheap Trick, but this doesn’t substantially alter the arc of their career, though having a ginormous hit single certainly didn’t hurt them. What really helps Cheap Trick in a long term way is the return of Tom Petersson. As I mentioned earlier, this is a band in which each individual member is very important to their fans. Knowing you were going to see “the real Cheap Trick” was a major selling point for their live show until Bun E’s departure in 2010.

Cheap Trick’s biggest album was an accident and no one ever figured out how to concoct a Cheap Trick album that would appeal to the gigantic demographic that constitutes all potential Cheap Trick fans. To restate: Rick Nielsen has been recording and releasing albums for 46 years and hit the bullseye, accidentally, exactly once with a live album. “Dream Police” sold a lot too, but that was largely attributable to the momentum created by “Budokkan”. It’s a good album, but not as great as the first three, not even close. Maybe it’s not even as good as “All Shook Up” but that’s a different discussion.

They never stopped touring. And once 70s nostalgia got going in the 90s Cheap Trick became the kind of band you see every year. Maybe in a festival, at an amusement park, a rock club, a theatre, they are on the road. From 1973 on, they are on the road. For 43 years they are on the road.

All this is a long way of saying that Cheap Trick is still grappling with the challenge of making a studio recorded album that lives up to their legend as a great live rock band. The pop thing is dangerous, it makes you think you need to think up some clever ideas in the studio. And too much thinking is kryptonite tor rock and roll.

The reason all this is important is Cheap Trick has recently released their 17th album. They had one big album that was an accident (“Budokkan”), one big album because it was their time (“Dream Police”) and one big album because the record business is evil (“Lap Of Luxury”). On the other 13 they were just trying to catch a break like anyone else. All things considered, this new album makes a fairly decent number 17. It’s a shame they called it “Bang, Zoom, Crazy… Hello” but the good news is that may be the worst thing about it.

WATCH: Cheap Trick – When I Wake Up Tomorrow


Other Articles by The Keith Hartel


Happy Accidents from an apartment in Green Point by Delicate Flowers

Happy Accidents from an apartment in Green Point by Delicate Flowers

ALBUM REVIEW: Happy Accidents by Delicate Flowers can best be described as gridy pop-folk that goes beyond the beard. There I said it, otherwise I would have categorized it as bedroom rock written by Eric Goldberg but instead he did the right thing Not releasing the demo’s from his creepy sad Daddy Mansion in Green Point; he made a proper solo album and recorded in Wayne, New Jersey’s Skyler Ross Recording (Happy Irony?)- We don’t know.

The canvas as whole is a wash of singer song writer insights. “Break Me Wide Open” is when Happy Accidents is this record paints a very vividly a single line indie rock anthem; from something you would find on a Deep Elm comp back in the 90’s with just a chorus to satisfy the hurt you might feel from a regular break-up song. The opener “Dissolution” does what a first track should do and brings you into his relationship struggle cubby-hole setting up your expectations. Song for song the struggle is real, glossy poetic with “Vaseline”, a slick middle three chord pop song discussing struggle of hiding those things called feelings(do a search on twitter and whole world will open up on this subject in it’s own joke format), where as he might just be editing the deeper hurtful parts when he sings na-na-na-nas to further cover up hurt and blurring of the lens. We don’t know but we certainly feel it and that makes this record gracious. Maybe evening sounding a little bit like Allanis’s bad break-up with that bad comedian from Full House. I joke only because there are feelings and good lyric writing through out is meant to relate to the listening through all the tools. “It’s Easy to Love a Martyr” is when we get to it’s most reverb laden Oasis center. All good in many ways and influences through-out I just really get this and it’s a totally a panty dropper. Probably the highest compliment and rating we might be able to give out here at RS and definitely a high-watermark for this year coming from the Sniffling Indie Kids label.

RIYL: The Comas, Cymbals Eat Guitars, Dax Riggs, Elliot Smith, Jason Molina


Going Down In History Waco Brothers at Monty Hall 4.16.16

Going Down In History Waco Brothers at Monty Hall 4.16.16

ALBUM REVIEW: Here’s a good way to celebrate DIY country punk the day after tax day with the Waco Brothers at Monte Hall in Jersey City and their newest studio album in years called Going Down In History (Bloodshot Records). Seasoned alternative guys mostly Chicag0-ians and one brit ex-pat with guitar lineage (Mekons, Jesus Jones, Dollar Store). In the New York area go see them in all the halls.

04/13/2016 Union Hall
04/16/2016 Monty Hall


The rock shuffle number “We Know It” is one of our favorite tracks on this album, respectfully the opener “DIYBOYB” gets political in way circling up the wagons talking of the posthumous world where artisal world will live on through ideas as they sing “you can’t kill us because we’re already dead”. We asked Jon Langford thoughts on playing WFMU’s venue Monty Hall and he said “I did a session there with the Mekons but haven’t played a full on show there yet so I am very interested to see what mayhem will ensue.” We also ask John like where they find the energy to make grizzly music like this still? and he said “they bottle their rage in the winter time and unleash it in spring!”

ALBUM REVIEW: El Yunque – Baskenland – Belgian noise rock

ALBUM REVIEW: The debut LP by Belgian noise-rock group El Yunque opens Baskenland with the explosive drums, insectile guitar, and manic vocals one might expect venturing into this genre. I wasn’t disappointed, to say the least, but rather pleasantly surprised when the rest of the album offered a more constructed version of that first track. What I proceeded to find was a mix of industrial elements and versatile guitar, accompanied by a combination of English and apparently Belgian lyrics, ranging in style from folky, Gira-esque drawls, to shrill screaming. There’s a nice mix between fast progressive songs, and longer more hypnotic tracks revolving around a central groove.

“Kabeldraad” is an almost nineteen minute pounding jam that gives off a doom vibe at certain times while bringing you through a range of highs and lows, all while somehow not being boring. Noztechtransch takes you through an evil, country influenced, instrumentation overlaid with catchy verses with gems like, “I’m a redneck baller”. The classical rock elements given the context of the rest of the album gives it an interesting edge, I felt like I was in a dive bar that allows smoking mixed with some warehouse art rock performance. The way the band draws on each of their influences is very nuanced which can make it difficult to discern their core sound. With this in mind it opens up every new track to be a blank slate they can do whatever they want with, which is potentially very refreshing. When they’re using conventional rock elements it still has an edge to it, and when they have a noise interlude that’s a lot more deconstructed it retains a very cohesive feel because of the scaffolding the rest of the track provides.

Baskenlandis this band’s first LP, after just an EP and a cassette, and it showcases everything in a really promising experimental group. If this is step one, then I’m very much looking forward to the progression of El Yunque.


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LOUD Is How I Love You – HUB CITY ebook series launch show

LOUD Is How I Love You – HUB CITY ebook series launch show

SAT MAY 5th 2016 at PINO’s in HIGHLAND PARK, NJ a whole slew of 90’s indie rockers will be playing some tunes and listening to book excerpt(s) describing main character’s boyfriend’s penis. It could happen and you won’t know unless you attend. We love Mercy Brown confident nature and sexy personality right off the wiffle ball bat when she doesn’t even take her own advice to not sleep with anybody in the band; as she digs deep in her Hub City e-romance debut series LOUD Is How I Love You.

The show is going to be very campfire style but with full on rock with 20 minute sets followed by a reading or just gabbing on the mic. Members from the different groups will be filling in for those that can’t make it to celebrating words and music from Mercy’s head. A big chunk of the New Brunswick 90’s local music scene will be here and there may or may not be Hello Biafra shots being served.

The book really throws one back to a very exciting time – pre-internet where you actually had to see a flyer, or talk on one of them landline phones devices, read a local paper or hang out in a record store in order to know what local bands were playing in the Hub City. While those in attendance will be tweeting and instragramming like like millennials; what will really matter most is the music that is being performed this evening.
Check out the ebook iBooks or Amazon.


9pm Three to Six
9:30 The Urchins
10:00 Ex-Vegas/Prosolar Mechanics
10:30 Bionic Rhoda / Holly Hobbies
11:00 Buzzkill / Boss Jim Gettys
11:30 Aviso’Hara / Eastern Anchors
12:00 The Stuntcocks?

PS A new documentary film announcement is coming soon for NOISY BASEMENTS & BARS which will take a look backwards to the punk heyday of 1980’s, the birth of hardcore and the indie rock of the 90’s when music was dangerous and all the way up to the present day New Brunswick local music scene. For details visit VLH FIlms.

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14 + Months Later… Part I

14 + Months Later… Part I

Well now….talk about setting goals and keeping them…NOT.

The last time I wrote anything for Review Stalker.com was way back in December 2014 with my best of the year list here.   After many months of false starts and broken self-promises (i.e. declaring to write a daily post everyday while 2 weeks at the beach in the summer of 2015 and doing squat)…alas, finally something…

Just to be clear…this is not a predictable best of 2015 list….instead, it is more like this is the what Paul was listening to a lot in 2015, whether it was released in 2015 or not list…

And to further clarify, some music is a constant in my life via tons of bands too many to list (Buffalo Tom, The Smiths, The Clash, etc.) And life changing/guiding genres like [New York] Hardcore/Punk in its various forms will never leave my side, especially while in the gym hitting the iron.

Soooo….what music has caught my fancy in 2015, either newly released, freshly rediscovered gems of the past (because I know you are just dying to know)?

And we are off…..


Samantha – Brooklyn via Chicago “thrash poppers” are looking to take on the world and kick its ass and doing a mighty fine job of doing so, thus far.  They seem to be around every NYC corner playing a show when they aren’t on tour or recording.  Couldn’t get enough of their 2011’s Threat Level Pink, then they had to release the beautiful HourGlass Noise (2015).  Check out the video for the first single (“Fight”) below….


Ride-You probably know this incredible band by their timeless piece of musical perfection “Vapour Trail” off of the heavenly album Nowhere (1990) which probably ended up on many mixed tapes of male-on- female crushes back in the 1990’s.  The momentum continued with 1992’s sophomore effort Going Blank Again (1992) that continued via Carnival of Light (1994) and Tarantula (1996).   I love it all.  Disbanded for quite sometime, they have recently reunited (what band hasn’t these days?) and been touring and that concept is simply wonderful.


Voice of Doom (VOD) – As described on their home label (Pyrrhic Victory Recordings), VOD is perfectly defined as “…fun, it’s frightening, and glows in the dark….”   For me, the band play an all too familiar sound that is surprisingly refreshing.  This Jersey outfit that dates back the 1980’s, released III in 2014, packing 9 songs of lovely Ozzy meets Lemmy metal/hardcore hybrid mayhem that I noticeably have on repeat within the confines of the gym.  Another EP, Scared to Death, is due out in early 2016…can’t wait.


Tri-StateNew Minuits (2015) -2 songs of NJ indie rock perfection that continues with their trademark “hooks, harmonies, stabbing guitars, tangential arrangements, and stories from post- youth” from their 2013 self-titled EP release that is on constant rotation in my little world.   On this latest release, the math is simple…. 1 Julian Brash led song (title track) + 1 Jeff Zevelansky led song (“Titanic Brothers”)=indie rock heaven.


Noel Gallagher’s High Flying Birds Chasing Yesterday (2015).  Not as strong as his 2011 self-titled debut, but I said it before and will say it again…it’s fucking Noel, duh.   Some decent songs to be found, but what saves it for me is the tune “Lock All Doors” an Oasis-size throwback kick in the nuts.


 Cheap Girls – Never paid attention to the “Great Lakes” State until 2014 when I began to slowly realize half of it’s population seems to now live in my adopted Jersey town.  As an “unofficial roadie” for a bunch of Buffalo bands, I been to Detroit a couple of times back in college where on one trip I learned an expletive screaming local legend, Bob Seger, was once bit on the ass by a blood drawing pooch, while jogging in his affluent suburban hood.  More than one proud local “Michigander” informed me that one of my bands, Dollar Store Riot, sounds like a “Michigan garage band,”whatever that means.  But, I’ll take it if we even closely resemble bands like Cheap Girls.  Accidentally stumbling onto a bud’s (Jerry Lardieri of The Brixton Riot) playlist, I became immediately hooked on this Lansing 3 piece.  Start with Cheap Graves (2014) and work your way backwards through their 4 album discography like I did and you will be hooked.  If the opening track “Slow Nod” and killer lines like “I’m always spacing out and taking the wrong shit in..” doesn’t grab you by the crotch then that’s it.  I am done. I am leaving and taking one of the kids with me….


Garrett Klahn-This Buffalo native and legend epitomizes the notion of being “almost famous” many times over, but he is famous in his own right and thank Kafka for that.  Whether it was fronting the post-hardcore “emo” (before the term took on a negative tone in later years) godfathers in Texas Is The Reason (hereinafter TITR), on deck to be “the next Sunny Day Real Estate” until imploding on the eve of signing to one of many hungry major labels, to his other awesome efforts in the Wilco-ish twang of The New Rising Sons (Virgin allegedly spent $100k recording their incredible record only to mysteriously shelf it), Solea and Atlantic-Pacific.  Kiddies seeking TITR nostalgia with his worthy 2016 self-titled release won’t find it here.  It s a more rock, more mature, self-reflecting Garrett doing what he does best.  Let’s just say if he continues on this road, I have a feeling I will be one day be saying “it’s fucking Garrett, duh…”


This Town Needs Guns – I was trying to pinpoint why I like these Oxford Math Rockers, with one of the best fucking names I ever heard for a band.  So playing their fantastic opener track, appropriately entitled “Cat Fantastic” off of (2013), I asked my wife who knows me better than me sometimes, especially musicially.  Of course, being the wiser of the two, she kicked the playground bully square in the nads: “you always liked the multi-layered guitar with the melodic lyrics thingy…”.   Sure that, and the singer sounds very Morrissey-ish! (Hat tip to bro Scott Dressler for turning me on to these guys).


The Goo Goo Dolls-I’ve mentioned in past writings my connections to the Goo’s when I attended SUNY Buffalo the same time the Bill’s went to (and lost all 4) Super Bowls.  My wife’s boyfriend bartended along side Johnny Goo and I lived with Robbie’s first cousin (and still friends to this day) my senior year.  My best friend and roommate, loveable but multi-majored, Mike somehow assisted in the Super Star Car Wash album cover photo (I still remember him bitching about need to wake up early on a Saturday morning to do it).  Legend has it, the self-admitting “Goo-Placements” was at a point of break up when some mid-west radio station starting playing their song “Name” and their whole world exploded.  So naturally, they declared that the Buffalo music scene being non-existent on MTV’s 120 Minutes, started wearing leather pants and ran away to LA.  In 2011 while attending a Snapcase reunion show in Buffalo, I learned from a bartender the Goos since returned to their humbled roots and are heavily involved in many local music programs for the kids.  Hence, while my wife refuses, I have forgiven the Goos!  Not sure about their new offerings, but alot of great songs on SSCW and A Boy Name Goo (Naked, Flattop, etc).


Def Leppard-Well at least their song “Photograph” which I suddenly craved while going to pick up my son from soccer practice and haven’t stopped listening to since.  Sucks not much of band discography isn’t on Spotify but there is a killer live version of song.


Death VacationBrooklyn’s Death Vacation plays hardcore like it should be….loud, fast, heavy and feeling like a consistent punch to the gut while prompting the listener to crave a stage dive or two, like lemmings off a cliff.   Always being a male-dominated world, it’s refreshing to have a female around (NOT as a wallflowers at shows), especially fronting the vocals (unheard of).  Michelle “Judge Girl” Mancusco’s vocals slaps you silly with a “I have something to say and you are going to listen, punk” veracity.  They are another band on I have on replay in the gym.  Their offerings can be found on band camp.  Check it and live, bitches!


The Jesus and Mary Chain – (Psychocandy – Barrowlands Live).  You cant deny the impact of JMCs debut album, Psychocandy, but I always leaned toward their later recordings such as Darklands and even Automatic (drum machine included).   I always heard what the genius of PC, but there was a language barrier in some ways for me.  This live recording of the band playing PC in its entirety (plus some other hits) speaks to me and finally makes me understand what the band is trying to say.


Frank Turner-the 2015 release of Positive Songs for Negative People continues where Tape Deck Heart (2013) ceased, with another dose of upbeat, uplifting, clumsy sing along anthems.  Not bad for  a guy that once fronted a post-hardcore punk band called Million Dead.  Standout tracks include “Get Better,” “Next Storm” and “Demons” to name few.


Dot Dash – It takes a lot to impress me but musically-related facts always do.  For instance, members of this DC area power punk pop quartet are two degrees of separation away from ninety-six (yes, 96) of the most quintessential punk/post punk bands our nation’s capital has ever produced.  In other words, think of practically any band on the (in)famous Dischord Records  (you could even narrow your search further to the Flex Your Head comp (1982)) and you will most likely find a Dot Dash member link. Fucking wow I say!  DD delightfully continue with their unique blend of “sunny, [punky] jangly guitar-driven tunes” on 2015’s Earthquakes and Tidal Waves.  This stellar release contains many addicting jingles I found myself humming along to while grocery shopping more than once.  Check out one such tunes, “Flowers” below….


Van Halen – The Diamond Dave era.  ‘Nuff said.


Flammable Animals – My band, Dollar Store Riot, had the opportunity to play with these Asbury Park cats at New Brunswick’s infamous Court Tavern in 2015 and I and many others were impressed by their set.  Their intro song “Initium” right into “Frozen Grapes”, whether live or recorded (off of What Lies Beneath The Parkway North), packs a walloping blow that immediately sucks you in quicker then any Star Wars-related tractor beam can.


The Sink Tapes – prolific is an understatement for this New Brunswick, NJ outfit who seem hell-bent on competing with Guided By Voices by releasing an album a minute.  In 2015 they released 2 full length LPs (Creases and Window Unit Blues) along with a collection of B-sides and demos (In the Rug) and a shitload of singles.  While the sheer quantity of GBV releases tends to ultimately make the band pretentiously off putting, uninteresting and daunting (blasphemous, I know), The Sink Tapes have you yearning for more.  I still can’t get enough of the song “Vegas Hotel Yoga Spa” off of last year’s Touchdown Buffalo.


Dead Stars – Ok, so fucking sue me. I mistakenly omitted their very pretty 2014 release, Slumber from last years “Best of List” and now seeking some form of redemption.  Fans of fuzzed out guitar rock a la Dinosaur Jr. or Pavement, take note of this NYC based band.  They have been releasing shitloads of singles since then on band camp.  Ok, am I redeemed yet?


Muler-Rochester, NY’s power pop kings are back in 2015 with another full length LP, Unlikely Soldiers.  Still heavily chewing on to their 2011 release, Hope You Found A Home,  more Muler to listen too means a more meaningful life…can’t believe its been 20 something years these guys played my Buffalo, NY college house basement…