The Mono Men “Kick Out the Jams” and Girl Trouble “You Got What It Takes” 1996. Gearhead Records. This split 7″ came with an issue of Gearhead Magazine, back in the 90′s when they still did that (other issues included splits by bands like Gas Huffer, Red Aunts and Man or Astroman?). The Mono Men’s cover of MC5′s “Kick Out the Jams” is punked up, less funked-up and a bit more scuzzy than the original. I also prefer it to Girl Trouble’s “You Got What It Takes,” a cover of Dinah Washington’s “Baby (You’ve Got What It Takes)” that doesn’t translate well to the Pacific Northwest garage punk style of Girl Trouble.
The Sunset Bombers “Sunset Bombers” 1978. Ariola Records. Hard-rocking and high-energy with a glammy garage punk sound that predates that revival rage of the 90′s and early 2000′s by a good 20 years. Sunset Bombers was a one-off album project propelled by Doug Fieger, bassist and vocalist for The Sunset Bombers and soon-to-be member of the The Knack of “My Sharona” fame (1979). Fieger is from the Detroit area and the music of The Sunset Bombers has the same rough edge as fellow Detroit rockers MC5 and The Stooges but with a nod to good-time partying à la The New York Dolls. On The Sunset Bombers is a blistering bass-heavy cover of “Gimme Some Lovin’” as well as covering The Trogg’s “I Can’t Control Myself.” Also particularly good is “Let’s Drive Tonight” (such an infectious bass/guitar hook on this one!), “Gutter’s Paradise” and “Drag Queen.”
Honeymoon Killers “Turn Me On” 1987. Buy Our Records. Noise-rock via New York/New Jersey, Turn Me On is the band’s fourth studio LP, this one particularly notable for Cristina Martinez on guitar (and some vocals). She must have been only around 16 years old at the time; a couple of years she later joined Jon Spencer to form Boss Hog (their EP Drinkin’ Lechin’ & Lyin’ from ‘89 also features Honeymoon Killers’ founder, guitarist and frontman Jerry Teel). As noise rock, Turn Me On is definitely noisy, full of distortion and growling, but it also has a dark psychobilly/campy horror movie vibe, especially on tracks like “Dolly w/a Dick,” “You Thrill Me,” “Fingerlickin’ Spring Chicken” and “Octopussy,” making the album far more melodic – catchy at times even! – than a lot of other noise rock albums. “Choppin’ Mall” is particularly great, with a Bo Diddley-esque rhythm and a harmonica solo that portends the punk blues sound of Jon Spencer Blues Explosion (Mr. Judah Bauer!). Punk blues with a lot of crazed feedback and distortion is also present on “Dazed ‘n’ Hazey” (a great track!). I’m not as fond of the less melodic noise rock track “Flophausen” but other than that I’m super-psyched to have this record in our collection (it’s a recent acquisition, found on Record Store Day when our local record shops bring out the really cool stuff).
Ty Segall “Twins” 2012. Drag City Records. Twins was Segall’s fifth studio album (and his third release of 2012) and like most of Segall’s records it’s heavily fuzzed, glamorously psychedelic and catchy as hell. It went to the top of CMJ’s album chart with two released singles: “The Hill” and “Would You Be My Love.” “The Hill” is Lucy In the Sky-level psychedelia but with a lot more frenetically-distorted guitar and “Would You Be My Love” is fuzzily glammed-up garage punk. I also really like the opening track “Thank God for Sinners,” the propulsive glam rocker “They Told Me Too,” the Stooge-y “Love Fuzz,” the ridiculously catchy 60′s garage-rocker “Who Are You” and the sweetly melodic and acoustic “Gold On the Shore.” While Twins was generally very well-received by critics, some complained that it was a “grab bag” that stylistically veered all over the place. I don’t think so. Segall’s unique vocals and guitar keeps his myriad of influences (Bowie, T. Rex, the Beatles, grunge – see in particular “Ghost” for that last one) gives Twins continuity and the supposed style changes provide excitement rather than ADHD whiplash.
The Mono Men “Wrecker!” 1992. Estrus Records (founded by Mono Men’s Dave Crider). Grungy garage punk, Wrecker! was The Mono Men’s second release. The tracks are a mix of amped up 60′s style surfy garage rock and the reigning sound of the Pacific Northwest in the early 90′s, grunge (The Mono Men are from Washington state). My top picks lean in the garage direction: “Watch Outside,” “Last Straw,” “He’s Waiting,” and “Just a Girl” (love the Farfisa organ on that one) which are all an ass-shaking good time. The grungy tracks are pretty good too although, except for the surf guitar sounds (especially prominent on the instrumental “Tomahawk”), I could be listening to Mudhoney (which isn’t a bad thing). “Your Eyes” (which recalls late 70′s heavy metal in the spirit of Van Halen with a dash of punk attitude), “One Shot,” the appropriately titled “Swampland,” “See My Soul” (a grunge power-ballad with a twinge of country), “Don’t Know Yet” and the cover of The Outsiders’ “Remind Me” are all heavy, super-sludgy. A few tracks are almost straight-up punk like the loud-n-fast “Testify” and “I’m Hangin.’” Allmusic says about Wrecker! that it “rocks hard without the taint of nostalgia, and it’s good and greasy fun from front to back.”
“A Fistful of Rock N’Roll Vol. 4″ Tee Pee Records, 2000. A comp of 90′s garage punks including some of my favorites like Murder City Devils, Tricky Woo and Quadrajets culled from a variety of indie labels like Estrus, Sub Pop and Get Hip Recordings, plus some previously unreleased tracks.
Side A starts off with the always awesome Quadrajets playing “Fireball” (from When the World’s on Fire!) followed by the best-of-the-garage-punks Murder City Devils’ “I Want A Lot Now” (from Empty Bottles Broken Hearts). The next track is pretty good, Pulpit Red’s “Zero Nights” (from Lurk). “The Ballad of Rachel & Candi” by Three Years Down (previously unreleased) is just OK and while I generally like Black Halos (I’m pretty sure we saw them open for Murder City Devils in ‘99 at a show in Madison), I’m not crazy about “For You” (from The Black Halos). American Heartbreak’s “White Girl” (from Postcards From Hell) is hard-rocking emopunk played by ex-members of Bay City Rollers, Jet Boy and Exodus followed by a punked-up rockabilly goes girl-group track by Graveyard School, “Life’s Crazy” (previously unreleased).
Side B starts off with the heavily Stooges/MC5 influenced “Mr. White” by Lovemasters (from Pusherman of Love). Next up is Spitfires’ “Something For Nothing” (unreleased) which is very Murder City Devilish and excellent followed by hardcore punk-speed DGeneration’s “Prohibition” (also previously unreleased). Then comes one of my all-time favorite songs of the 90′s by Canada’s Tricky Woo “Fly the Orient” (from Sometimes I Cry). We literally had to go to Canada to find that CD by those guys back in the early 2000′s (not sure if vinyl was ever available). I’m not familiar with the next two bands on the comp, High School Sweethearts (crunchy and melodic girl punk) with “She’s Something” (from Passing Notes) and Stilleto Boys’ “Rockets & Bombs” (Rockets & Bombs) which is snotty punk à la The Ramones. Concluding the comp are Texas punks The Reds on “Zero” (from the 7″ single) and Canada’s Von Zippers’ “Bad Generation” (Bad Generation).
Ron Gallo “Stardust Birthday Party” 2018. New West Records, signed, limited edition yellow with pink splatter vinyl (“Bday Cake variant”).
Ron Gallo performed last night at High Noon Saloon in Madison, but – sadly – we didn’t go (weather has been horrible and the drive didn’t seem safe) so I’m consoling myself with a spin of his latest release, which we preordered for its October ‘18 release. Starburst Birthday Party is Gallo’s second full-length album and has him going deep. Apparently he’s out of a relationship with a heroin addict and is doing some serious introspection (as Allmusic states he’s “examining his own neuroses and looking for spiritual and philosophical truths as he bashes away at his electric guitar”), but still with a hearty dose of humor (we saw him perform in 2017 at Mile of Music and he was hilarious). The lyrics to the song “Always Elsewhere” are inspired by philosopher Alan Watts and spiritual teacher Eckhart Tolle but then on the track “Do You Love Your Company?” (one of my favorites on the LP) he sings “When you think of yourself when you drink with yourself; self-help book on the couch, do you love your company” indicating that he’s not taking his navel gazing too seriously. Same goes with the track “’You’ Are the Problem” which I love and am in total agreement with (“because 9 out of 10 times ‘you’ are the problem). Side B’s “Om” is so damn funny – yogic “om” chanting with an irreverent little voicemail from the mind reminding the meditator – Ron – that “you can never, ever stop me. I cannot be stopped, I cannot be silenced. But you can sort of change your relationship with me and not believe everything I say.” Gallo then promptly explodes into a hard-stomping garage punk shred on the excellent ass-shaker “It’s All Gonna Be OK.” Just as great is “I Wanna Die (Before I Die)” which, despite its title, is super-uplifting in a raucous 60′s garage-rock style. He channels – sort of – John Coltrane on “Love Supreme (Work Together)” though with significantly more funk. I’m guessing he played most if not all of these songs last night, I’m just hoping he’ll be coming back this way again soon.
Ty Segall “Singles 2007-2010″ 2011. Double album on Goner Records. 25 tracks from one of the most relentlessly prolific (and greatest) indie artists. Though released in 2011, we just recently got this through Segall’s Bandcamp site – last fall he did a massive reissue dump of his material there and we’re currently overflowing with Segall vinyl.
Because this singles comp is a snapshot of his early work, some of which didn’t make it onto any of his previous albums (in 2011 that was already 5 full lengths, 2 split LP’s, a lie album, a cassette-only release, 8 7″ singles and a collaborative album, plus appearances on several comp records), a lot of the material is seriously lo-fi (his more recent work is kinda lo-fi but not to this extreme) and raw. Segall’s never been afraid of doing covers (ie his 2011 Ty Rex LP and his 2018 release Fudge Sandwich) and there are couple of great ones on Singles including Chain Gang’s “Son of Sam” which I’m most familiar with via Jon Spencer Blues Explosion (Segall’s not quite as raucous but it’s still excellent), Thee Oh Sees’ “Maria Stacks,” Simply Sacuer’s “Bullet Proof Nothing,” and Gories’ “I Think I’ve Had It.” Segall’s own material is mostly stronger, though. I’m particularly fond of “Cents,” the 60′s psych-garage rocker “Standing at the Station” (both on his 2009 LP Lemons), the Nuggets-worthy “My Sunshine” (on Melted, 2010) and the pscyho-surf “Happy Creeps.” Also on Singles are several demos that would appear on later Segall LP’s like “So Alone” and “Shoot Me in the Head” (both on Horn the Unicorn, 2008). Not all tracks are awesome – “Fuzzy Cat” is waaayyy out there and not my thing – but this is a great collection to add to our seemingly endless stack of Segall.
Mudhoney “Digital Garbage” 2018. Sub Pop Records. Grungy, scuzzy noise punk from alt-giants Mudhoney; Digital Garbage is the band’s 9th full-length release and they are f**king pissed. God knows there’s a lot to be angry about in 2018: they’re pissed at right-wing news and its consumers (“Paranoid Core” with the lyrics “Invest in gold, squirrel away food, stockpile guns, hoard your fuel!”), at chronic mass shootings AND blind evengalicalism (“Please Mr. Gunman” – one of my top tracks, it has that infectious groove that made Mudhoney stand apart from the grungy pack) and at toxic social media fame-seeking (the sarcastic “Kill Yourself Live” – there’s some excellent psychedelic organ on this one). And that’s just Side A. Side B has a few songs railing against the rise (again) of conservative religion and the accumulation of wealth by the few in the US: it starts off with the funky-ish “21st Century Pharisees” launches with the sneering lyrics “Evangelical hypocrites laying hands on a pile of shit!” “Prosperity Gospel” and “Next Mass Extinction” rail against rampant and destructive capitalism that is destroying the planet and on “Messiah’s Lament” “Arm gets to play the role of Jesus Christ, frowning upon the money-grubbing conservatives who like to thump the bible but seemingly pay no mind to the charity preached within.” (Pitchfork) It’s almost exhausting to listen to this much negativity but fortunately Mudhoney, 30 years on, still have all of the rocking force, headbangability and moshpit fury that made them [almost] famous in the grunge years.
Spin’s review of Digital Garbage says, “Rock bands who express left-leaning politics in their songs are often described as preaching to the converted. But [Mark] Arm writes like he’s condescending to the opposition, as if he’d want nothing more than to sing these antagonistic lyrics directly to the “evangelical hypocrites” who’d be most offended by them. While many of these lyrics could have been written in Mudhoney’s early years, when Reagan and Bush Sr. were in office and televangelists like Jim Bakker and Jimmy Swaggart were exposed as frauds, Arm’s anger sounds renewed now by presidency of Donald Trump, whom white evangelicals have stood by like no other demographic…If the lyrics are getting all the attention on Digital Garbage, it’s only because the music is exactly what you’d expect. Mudhoney’s sound hasn’t changed much since the early ‘90s, when they broadened their palette of scuzzy Stooges homages with Arm’s whirring garage rock organ, which livens up “Kill Yourself Live,” and guitarist Steve Turner’s harmonica, which makes an appearance on “Next Mass Extinction.” The band’s talent and chemistry is well preserved, with drummer Dan Peters’s incredible sense of swing and Turner’s bluesy solos both on display to great effect on “Messiah’s Lament.” There just isn’t much in the way of surprises, save for the slow, spacey “Night and Fog,” which rides a menacing groove laid down by bassist Guy Maddison, who joined the band in 2001 when founding member Matt Lukin retired from music (he’s reportedly now working as a carpenter).”
The Vendettas “The Vendettas” 1997. 360 Twist Records. Psychobilly garage punk from the late 90′s (and not to be confused with many, many other groups with the name The Vendettas including a cover band from Ireland, a hard rock band from Australia, a wedding band from Liverpool and a thrash metal band from Germany). This album has been sitting in my to-do box for so long I can’t remember if it’s something we picked up relatively recently (ie in the past year) or if it’s been in the Vault for awhile and we’re considering getting rid of it. Anyway, it’s pretty good, if somewhat repetitive, rockabilly with a snotty punk edge, the alternating male-female lead vocals recalling, at times, X’s John Doe and Exene Cervenka. The bright, twangy rockabilly guitar style makes the album not as dark as psychobilly kings The Cramps (though one track is very Cramps-esque: “Gasoline”), more along the lines of Reverend Horton Heat, just a bit slower (not much though, a good example is the track “Better Living”). There are even some gently swaying rockabilly ballads like “Please Kill Me” – though the title and vocals belie the romantic sentiment of the music. I’ve been unable to find any audio links for those songs, or any other on the LP.
The Vendettas was the band’s only LP recording but it looks like the group put out a 7″ in 2004 on Bang! Records. Its members were or are now involved with other bands: singer and rhythm guitarist Buffi Aguero recorded with Subsonics (on drums), The White Lights and Tiger! Tiger! (most recently in 2018); drummer Susanne Gibboney is also in Tiger! Tiger! and recorded with Lust in ‘99; and lead guitarist and vocalist Johnny Vignault was on the same Lust record and also was in The Lost Crusaders (most recent recording from ‘08). On the album Craig Bower is credited on bass and organ but no mention is given to him on what he may have done since.