Tag Archives: KISS

New Album! Smash Fashion

Glam punk powerpop alert!

I’ll admit it – I love everything about glam powerpop. The fat guitar chords, the thrashing drums, the foot-stomping beat and the huge hooks are the antithesis of subtle, but there’s a time and place for everything. I love Loudon Wainwright III but I don’t bounce down the street blasting “Your Mother And I” out of the car stereo, windows down, rear-view mirror shaking from the pulse of the woofers. Nope, that’s what glam and powerpop is for.

I missed Smash Fashion’s 2003 release (and have since made up for it) and almost did the same thing with 2010’s Don’t Pet The Sweaty Things. (Thank god for late night “sounds like” tangents on Amazon and CD Baby!) I wasn’t sure what to expect from a group photo that had one guy thrusting a Flying V guitar neck at me while sporting an eyepatch, but at the risk of hearing an album full of Dr. Hook covers I dove in.

Video: “She Goes Down

Like most powerpop bands, you can play spot the influence. For example:

  • Baby Dancer” and “Blonde Raccoon” are so reminiscent of Dwight Twilley I had to check the credits
  • Hard On Love” is as KISS-like as its title
  • Confessions of a Opium Eater” is the bastard child of “Auf Weidersehen
  • Proper Way To Eat A Muffin” is T.Rex incarnate
  • Sad Sweet Sick and Beautiful” has Mick Ronson’s fingerprints all over it 
  • All Systems Go” is like a mashup of Matthew Sweet and “If I Needed Someone
  • Mott The Hoople, The Sweet, Cheap Trick…and so on.

The title track is as close as you’ll get to a glitter ballad. There are also a couple of covers – the muscle pop rendition of Abba’sDoes Your Mother Know” is really good but “Benny And The Jets” was probably better left alone. Still, this impressive collection of glammy chestnuts is well worth getting and playing loud. These guys know exactly what they’re doing, and they sound like they’re having a blast in the process.

Life is short, stop taking it so seriously. Blast this mofo out a window.

Smash Fashion’s website and MySpace page

Listen/buy at CD BABY.

Smash Fashiion - worth the trip.

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Under The Radar – The Third Men

With so many albums out there, we rely on the “sounds like” marketing approach, whether we’re reviewers trying to describe a band’s sound or the band itself trying to attract attention. Tell me you sound like Shannon Hoon singing Styx songs to a marimba beat and I’m moving along faster than a booster rocket. Drop names like Cheap Trick, Big Star and Todd Rundgren and I’m going to stop by and give your disc a listen.

Granted, I know that doesn’t mean you’re necessarily going to have the songwriting chops that Todd has, the mercurial vocals of Robin Zander or the soulful essence of Alex Chilton and company. I get that. But I’m figuring that if these are the sounds that influence you, some of that is going to bleed through into your music. And what you do with that osmosis is what counts.

It was just such a list of influences that led me to The Third Men, a Nebraska band that plays “hook laden songs at high volume” and were raised on raised on “equal parts 70s FM radio and 80s underground psychedelia“. Most bands with multiple vocalists and songwriters is going to have a diverse sound, especially when those members are veterans of other bands. I’m not familiar with Sons Of…, which featured Mike Tulis and Matt Rutledge, but I was a big fan of Patrick White‘s former groups The Dangtrippers and The Bent Scepters. Dana Rouch and Mike Loftus complete the versatile quintet.

The songs on Boost range from crunchy powerpop to garage bubblegum, flooded with ringing guitars and a snappy backbeat with a flood of keyboard sounds that color the songs vividly. But there’s energy here – lots of Elvis Costello-ish Farfisa moments, many dBs and Lets Active sounding songs with clever arrangements. “The Hangover” mixes Big Star chord progressions with drum fills from The Book Of Ringo; “G.A.S.” is reminiscent of the early Beach Boys/Jan and Dean singles. I also heard some Byrds and Jayhawks moments sprinkled in, and even a KISS/REO Speedwagon moment that caught me off guard.

Drawbacks? Occasionally nasal or reedy vocals; none of the singers is particularly strong but the harmonies are solid. Another is the thin production; given the material I imagine this would be a whole different record if it was punched up a bit more. But within the bouncy music are occasionally dark and humorous lyrics, and while there aren’t any instant classics on Boost, most the songs are head-bobbingly appealing.

For me, a pleasant surprise and a band I’ll keep my eye (and ear) on. If any of those musical references above tickle your fancy, give this one a proper spin or two and let it grow on you.

Listen to clips from Boost at CDBaby

The Third Men website

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T.G.I.F. – Ten Rousing Rockers

It’s involuntary, almost Pavlovian.

You’re somewhere – anywhere – and that song comes on. You find yourself smiling no matter what the discussion is about…the hips start to shake a little bit…the air guitar is sitting there in the case ready to go. And sure enough, whether you’re bellowing out your car window or softly singing the words under your breath in the store, you’re all in. If you’re in a lively pub, you join in with several other people you don’t even know, as all inhibitions disappear and you bond in the most common language this planet has…music.

I thought about this the other day when I was howling out the car window with Warren Zevon as “Werewolves of London” was blasting out of the speakers. Some songs just…resonate. They don’t have to be very lyrical (“Hang On Sloopy” isn’t exactly Shakespeare); in fact you might not even understand a word you’re saying (“Louie Louie“). But the best ones are usually a song that was massively popular but also resonates with some feeling of angst – lost love, alienation, rebellion.

Lots of people sing along with the final chorus  of “Hey Jude“, but not with as much passion as they will when”What’s So Funny ‘Bout Peace Love And Understanding” or  “Rockin In The Free World” comes on the jukebox (at least not where I hang out!)…and if the song was a monster when you were in your prime bar-trolling years, so much the better.

So here are Ten Rousing Rockers will release your inner teenager and break the ice in any social situation as you raise your glass, throw your arm around a stranger and share a moment. And since it’s Friday, why not start right this minute? Life’s too short to wait for five o’clock.

01)Brown Sugar” (The Rolling Stones) I said yeah..yeah..yeah…whooooo!

02)Born To Run” (Bruce Springsteen) Tramps like us, baby we were born to run.

03)Love Shack” (The B-52s). I got me a car as big as a whale!

04)Rock and Roll All Night” (KISS) And party every day!

05)Maggie May” (Rod Stewart) Maggie, I wish I never seen your face!

06)You Shook Me All Night Long” (AC/DC) She was a fast machine, she kept…what clean?

07)Sweet Home Alabama” (Lynyrd Skynyrd) Southern Man don’t need you around anyhow.

08)We Gotta Get Outta This Place” (The Animals) If it’s the last thing we ever do!

09)Love Stinks” (J. Geils Band) And so it goes ’til the day you die.

10)Wild Thing” (The Troggs) You make everything…groovy.

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Mixtape: I’ll Be You

 

Back when I had that kind of time, I participated in a monthly tape swap, and for a time I had to dub these puppies in real speed. When we finally got to the CD stage and I could burn a disc at 2x I thought I was in heaven. What used to be a serious committment – the group was usually 35-40 people, so imagine the time and money involved – now can be done dirt cheap and at lightning speed. (I still participate in one of these groups twelve years running, although we’re down to one or two trades a year.) 

I used to make the cassette art by hand; sometimes a drawing and other times a cut-and-paste job, then type and shrink the set list to fit on the inside flap and print them off on colored paper…cut them along the outline…fold and insert into the J-Card slot on every one. Like I said, I had that kind of time. If I find the original art for this one I’ll upload it someday, but I remember it was a variation on a Powerpoint silhouette image of a man holding a mirror. 

I love tribute records, so this mixtape (from March 1997) was a tribute to tributes. It’s a great set and these covers are well worth seeking out. Now I have to find the actual tape, because just reading these names has me jazzed. 

And I still miss Material Issue.

  

you be me for awhile and….I’LL BE YOU

SIDE ONE
Dance Dance Dance Manitoba’s Wild Kingdom (Handsome Dick and a couple of Dictators) pay homage to Brian Wilson
Pictures Of Lily The ‘oo, done with great passion by that great sideman Ian McLagan and the Bump Band
She’s Got Everything The Droogs, Aussies yet, service Mr.Davies’ classic well. Can’t believe there aren’t more great Kinks covers.
Time Has Come Today Willy (Mink) DeVille from last years fab “Loup Garou” record. This Chambers Brothers song still rules!
Pictures Of Matchstick Men Status Quo song covered by the pre-Cracker Lowery in the late, great Camper Van Beethoven. Respectful yet cool!
Charlot Choogle Would have picked a better T-Rex cover if I could have but Sky Blue nailed the Bolanisms better than anyone else did.
Sweet Hitchhiker The fabulous DM3 (wow, I’ve already been to Australia twice in seven songs!) absolutely rip this one up! Go Don!
Mr. Spaceman Miracle Legion from another spotty tribute disc. For all you who remember the Byrds as electric Dylan, try this instead.
I Can’t Let Go Still the best tribute disc ever made, eggBert’s “Sing Hollies In Reverse” featured wall to wall greatness like this Continental Drifters cut.
My Minds Eye Ah, the Small Faces. Northern Uproar did yeoman service on last year’s tribute. A must-have for all true pop fans!
S-L-U-T The Woods, America’s Rockpile, nail this Todd tune. I will not rest until the name Jack Cornell is known far and wide.
Handyman True Story: Frank thought they were cutting “Candyman” for a Sammy Davis tribute. Nah…he loves Otis Blackwell too!
Sweets For My Sweet Doc Pomus gets the Brian Wilson post-sandbox/Landry treatment. And Mike Love is an asshole.
Love Is All Around Christine Ohlman is recording again! If you remember Big Sound Records or Dusty Springfield, Trogg out with this!
And Your Bird Can Sing Weller and company grew tired of “The Jam is just aping The Who” rumors. So they aped the Beatles instead.
SIDE TWO
I’m Not In Love Chrissie and the Pretenders snapped out two covers for movies/TV – this 10cc track and “Angel In The Morning”
Town Without Pity Gene Pitney covered by Steppenwolf’s John Kay on heroin. Naah..it’s the wonderful Thin White Rope from “Spoor”
Daydream Believer The Monkees tribute is way cool, including this John Stewart song ably harmonized by Man Size Job? Who? Me neither.
Run To Me If there were any doubts that Material Issue could do it all, this will silence them. Haunting BeeGeeutiful song. RIP Jim.
Hard Luck Woman The Kiss tribute is pretty funny, and I gotta admit that when I realized this was THE Garth Brooks I almost had a seizure.
It’s The Little Things And you thought Sonny Bono couldn’t write hooks. He did work with Spector, y’know, so bow down for The Skeletons.
Listen To Her Heart Tom Petty as seen through the eyes of Truck Stop Love, produced at Ardent by some guy named Jody Stephens.
Don’t Want To Say Goodbye Last year the Raspberries tribute came out, chock full of great versions, few better than this homage by The Flashcubes.
Have You Seen Your Mother Baby, … Wow that’s a long title! Believe it or not, this is The Records from a free EP that came with the first run of their LP.
Build Me Up Buttercup David Johansen, post-Dolls and pre-Buster P. David always kicked ass live and paid props to great 60’s soul music.
When Something Is Wrong With My Baby Wow – Sam and Dave voiced by the immortal Herman Brood, who truly is a rock and roll junkie. Live track.
Back Of A Car When you hear this song now you wonder how Big Star wasn’t huge then. This is The Loud Family – same comment.
Earn Enough For Us Freedy Johnston does XTC (who appeared on their own tribute record in disguise!). Love the pedal steel!
No Matter What Closing the set with a song by “the next Beatles” (Badfinger) done by “the next Beatles” (The Knack). Oasis my ass.

As always, play loud, play often.

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Under The Radar: Cartoon Factory

So many pop bands, so little time…

Ten years ago I came across a Greenville, South Carolina band called The Cartoon Factory on a late night surfing expedition; I was attracted to their energy and knack for a good powerpop hook. I thought their debut album was pretty good, and although it doesn’t appear they they ever issued a follow-up album (a 2002 release featured songs from an earlier configuration of the band under a different name), they’re still around and playing gigs, although Chuck Chapman seems to be the only original member still standing.

Powerpop is a broad term, so what do they sound like? Their website has some free downloads of pop covers like “Ah Leah”, “I’m a Believer” and “(I Want To) Rock and Roll All Night” as well as handful of great originals written in that same vein. Good harmonies, pop crunch; I’d say their self-appended comparison to Fountains of Wayne and Weezer is a decent starting point, as are the references I make below. If those names put a smile on your face, give these guys a listen.

My original review ran in Cosmik Debris in 2000…

Although the name might connote animated characters (or Jim Carrey’s short-lived sitcom debut), this quartet is a high-energy power-pop band that sets its sights on harmony and melody. You can’t be taking things too seriously when you have a track called “Monkey Girl” lead off your record. Factor in a band that has two Bay City Rollers fans paired up with two guys leaning more towards classic rock, and the combinations can get pretty interesting. For example, the melody of “Tongue Tied” sounds like The Cars taking a stab at Joe Jackson‘s “Is She Really Going Out With Him?.”

“Deaf Dumb And Blind” starts out like Eric Carmen‘s “Hey Deanie” before sliding into the infectious chorus. Only the closer “I Live For You” falls flat here, a disappointing arena thud-rock entry. The band is tight – David Swift‘s guitar and Louis Sijon‘s power drumming are solid, and the harmonies are spot on. Bassist Chip Anderson and guitarist/vocalist Chuck Chapman (the aforementioned Rollers fans) are also fans of the arena-sized power pop of Cheap Trick and KISS.

However, the production of the self-titled disc muzzles the bombast and goes for a crisp and clear sound; power chords are there, but glass isn’t shattering. “Hopeless” is a very catchy song that opens with a classic guitar riff that deserves to shake the house. But I’d rather have catchy songs than catchy production any day – I’ll bet that “Without You” and “Whirlwind” rock the house live. Keep an eye on these guys.

The Cartoon Factory website.

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Happy Easter!

Easter is a time of rebirth and awakening.

This should get you started…

Maybe you feel like your life is shattered?

Maybe you can't get no satisfaction.

But it's Easter - Shout It Out Loud!

Just try to focus on enjoying TODAY...

...and don't take shit from anyone.

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Five More Enter The Hall…

Guarded by the Guitar Army

I must admit I was a bit surprised when I saw the list of artists elected for induction into the Rock and Roll Hall of Fame (the ceremony will take place March 15, 2010)

  • Abba – on their second nomination in ten years of eligibility
  • Jimmy Clifffirst nomination, though eligible for twenty-one years!
  • Genesis – also their first nomination, eligible for sixteen years
  • The Hollies – another first nomination after twenty-one years
  • The Stooges – finally, after eight nominations in sixteen years

Amazing to see that three of the artists were eligible for between sixteen and twenty-one years prior to even getting nominated, and then they get elected on the first try. That’s just odd. How do these bands never even get to the nomination stage and then make it all the way to the podium in one move? And what does that say about the rest of the talent pool still hanging by the telephone?

Alice Cooper is still waiting. So are Cheap Trick, Deep Purple, Todd Rundgren…and KISS, of course. I could name dozens more who made bigger marks than some of the current inductees – Rick Derringer, The Faces, Lou Reed, Mott The Hoople – but I’d just get pissed off again, even though I know in my heart that it just doesn’t matter.

But it’s great to see The Stooges finally beat the door down – one would expect that a band that had been nominated so many times would eventually break through. And maybe the election of The Hollies opens the door for The Turtles or Herman’s Hermits, and Abba legitimizes the induction of The Monkees. Outside of Guns’N’Roses, there aren’t many newly eligible bands in the next two or three years to provide fresh competition. (Want to feel old? Julian Lennon became eligible for induction in 2009.)

And I certainly can’t argue with any of the songwriter nominations except to say…what the hell took you so long? Mort Shuman (Doc Pomus’ partner), Barry Mann, Cynthia Weil, Ellie Greenwich, Jeff Barry, Otis Blackwell, Jesse Stone…the real crime here is that Ellie won’t get to take that bow since she passed away earlier this year. Of course, the Songwriters Hall of Fame was on the ball and elected them way back in the 80s and 90s (only Stone is not yet inducted).

Let’s hope Iggy rips ’em a new one come March.

About fucking time.

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