With summer fading fast its time to cwtch u to your stereo or however you currently listen to your music and check out the RPM Spotify Playlist to hear who are the movers and shakers at RPM Towers. From the albums, we’ve reviewed and are reviewing and the shows we’re attending to the interviews we have coming up. Here is a playlist to accompany your reading.
This month we feature the following bands who have new albums or are playing live shows.
Hollywood Brats, Andy McCoy, The Bar Stool Preachers, Cock Sparrer, Jim Jones and the Righteous Minds, Duff McKagan, Jesse Malin, Queen Zee, Subhumans, Black Star Riders, Strung Out, Dead Shed Jokers, Pardon Us, Paradise Alley, Dead Furies, The Chuck Norris Experiment, TSAR, New Model Army, Ginger Wildheart
What was originally a pledge campaign (but the less said about that the better I guess) from Jeff Whalen (yeah you know the guy from TSAR) what you never heard Tsar whatsamaddawivyou? C’mon people read the review then go do some interweb searching and go fill yer boots with some luscious power pop.
where were we? Oh yeah, Jeff Whalen. Well, a bit of background Jeff was the singer/guitar player for Tsar they were great and you should buy their records. Right, that’s the background on Jeff and now onto ‘Ten More Rock Superhits’. So we might have joined the party late seeing as this was out a few months ago but quite how we missed this through all the Pledge fiasco is beyond me and we can only apologise besides its better to be late than never and this record needs to be brought to the masses and that’s you the good readers of RPM you of impecable taste (why else would you be here?)
’10 More Rock Superhits’ begins with a round of applause and then bang straight in with the cloudburst of powerpop goodness. Huge hooks dampened guitar power chords did I mention big big No BIG melody that’s pretty much ‘Goofing Around’ damn its even got Handclaps blips and whirls and xylophone clanks or is that champagne glasses? Who knows its a great big sky sized blast of rock and roll to warm the coldest heart.
Jeff leans on an impeccable catalogue of power pop for inspiration. Cheap Trick, Plimsouls, Big Star, Sweet n T Rex and about a bazillion other rock n pop dandys who ever picked up a guitar and rocked out with a pop song. ‘Ground Game For Worm’ I dunno what it’s about but does it matter. Its got a backbeat and a big chorus and it sounds like these songs were written driving around a coastal road looking for a beach party with Jeff in the back with the roof down and a guitar for company.
Oh shit that sounded like a flute on the intro of ‘Kung Fu Criminal’ but not in a prog way more like the flute used in HR Puffnstuff. Its the beachboys played by Cheap Trick. It makes you a bit sick that a guy can seemingly knock out near perfect power pop at will and finding a couple of gems is a difficult task but to hit the spot ten times in a row is either the biggest fluke or genius (now I love Tsar and I know how many tunes they had Soooo for me it just has to be the latter)
‘Man Of Devotion’ is laid back and with a softer tone on the vocals makes for an excellent track then to follow it up with a step up in pace that is the more aggressive ‘The Alien Lanes’ (No I’m not gonna try and work out what it all means) With Gerald reviewing the Brothers Steve it looks like we’re being spoilt with great power pop records from some of the finest writers and there’s the new Redd Kross album to come as well.
‘Shanghai Surprise’ is unashamedly pop from the skiffle of the banjo and kazoo with the barroom piano rolling round the back is light relief where ‘Don’t Give It Up’ steals the show for me. If we could get serious for a second as ‘Soylent Blue’ is a melancholy four minutes of piano-driven big balladry with strings ‘n’ layered vocals which only leaves the title track to sign off what is a wonderful and light album full of great tunes written and played by a totally committed pop writing superstar. You might never have heard of him or anything he’s ever done before but that’s ok we all have to start somewhere and ’10 More Rock Super Hits’ is a pretty decent place to start. Buy it
Let me start this with a disclaimer for readers outside of America. The band is trying to work out a way to make the vinyl and shipping costs affordable for everyone around the world so vinyl is currently only shipping to addresses in America. The band has made a digital two-song single available around the world so I will highlight which songs they are in the review. Hopefully, a label in Europe will step forward for distribution, or the band will make the entire album available digitally. Now, let’s talk about the actual music here.
The Brothers Steve break down the door of the power pop genre with some tasty nuggets influences incorporated at times to make it a bit more rock n roll. These songs really harken back to a different time when life was much more streamlined. I am thinking of minimal television stations with no cable or satellite. You didn’t know what calls you missed while you were away from home and didn’t stress about it. I keep wondering if I went back through American Bandstand if I could find The Brothers Steve playing on the show in some weird time travel paradox. These songs are packed with hooks, diversity, and instant accessibility. They have made a favorable debut album that improves with each listen.
‘Angeline’ (digital single track) gets started with a great up tempo vibe that gets some crunch from the rhythm section of Jeff Solomon (bass) and Coulter (drums). Os Tyler’s vocals remind me almost of a cross between Robin Zander and Jeff McDonald of Redd Kross with the high pitch giving the songs an immediate identity. Jeff Whalen and Dylan Champion both provide guitars and vocals for the band. If you are thinking you know the majority of the musicians here from somewhere else, you would be correct as they at times sound like TSAR as well. ‘Angeline’ representing one of the prime examples, but the guitars also feature some great acoustic work in the mix that makes the song a little softer but just as addictive. Having some confidence (and a dash of arrogance) can work very well for bands with the self-assured ‘We Got the Hits’ coming next. The tempo stays firmly rocking with the diversity of vocals in the chorus creating a cool catchy refrain that would not be out of place on an early Bangles album or the Go-Go’s. ‘She’ comes from a pool of power pop purity with the glossy lead vocals getting some great layered backing vocals from the band. This is a straight forward acoustic track that could have come straight from the late 60’s or 70’s. It has also been a song that has slowly grown on me with each listen. While listening in the car the first few times, this one had a way of passing me by, but this one will get you in time.
The other digital single ‘Carolanne’ slows the pace for a great ballad that was my introduction to the album and created my excitement for wanting to review the album. The acoustic guitar and vocals draw the listener in closer for the first verse before the rest of the guys join to propel it forward. The harmonies are fantastic, and this song should find a place in a summer blockbuster film that carries it (and the band) over to the mainstream. Wrapping up the first half of the album, ‘C’mon Pappy’ brings a harder edge at the beginning before giving way to an uplifting acoustic rocker that again recalls the nuggets of yesterday. It provides a great close to side one and gets the listener excited to flip the album over for what comes next.
‘Songwriter’ keeps the tempo fast and loose with Redd Kross coming to mind. The harmonies shine again, but this is one of the songs with extra bite in the music. It ends all too quickly with an instant transition to the glossy sheen of ‘Carry Me’ leaving me to wonder why artists like Matthew Sweet and the Posies never hit the mainstream big time. While not my favorite song on the album, it is still enjoyable and does not overstay its welcome. ‘Good Deal of Love’ gives off a loose jangly feel with a chorus that mines the same territory that the Gin Blossoms do. The vocals are stunning, and I would love to see this one also become a single in the future. This stands as my favorite from the record right now.
The descriptive ‘Beat Generation Poet Turned Assassin’ constantly makes me think there is an old Beatles movie out there with this song featured in it. This one carries more distortion than most of the songs here. I just wish there was a bit more to the chorus than the title repeated as it loses something in its execution. The acoustic opening strum of album closer ‘Sunlight’ provides a welcoming texture that really feels like the early rays of a sunrise washing over you, which is the ultimate in ironies as the lyrics are completely counter where the person is instead welcoming the darkness and solitude of staying at home. It provides a solid close to the album that makes the listener want to spend more time with these songs.
The Brothers Steve have taken their years of experience to create a very enjoyable album that has awesome harmonies and hooks while also retaining some crunch. This album has been a grower which might actually have more to do with me initially looking for something more akin to ‘Calling All Destroyers’ by TSAR than the material here. If you live outside of America, this might be a great time to make an American friend who can buy and ship the album to you, or you might reach out to some of the distribution companies over there and ask them to get a licensing deal to press it in Europe. In the meantime, grab the digital single and introduce some sunshine into your summer listening.