Bitch Queens return with their follow up to the excellent ‘City of Class’ and continue to release well crafted albums that maintain high quality. They don’t tend to break out of the hard rock laced with punk attitude and catchiness category ( or is it punk rock with attitude and hard rock elements) that they have mined for several years. If you have liked the past couple of albums, this one is a no-brainer to purchase, and, if you have not heard them, start your journey here and enjoy a trip through their back catalog as well.

 

‘Burn It Down’ surges to life with an urgency that packs every second of its two minutes with vitality. The chorus doesn’t mess around and presents a simple refrain to immediately bring the listener into the album. The short breakdown in the song provides just enough of a break to create an impact when the hook comes back around for good measure. Slowing the tempo for ‘Con Man Contraband’ creates some dynamics as the verse then is given more power with the screaming vocals. A slithery guitar riff weaves its way through the song as the chorus is more subtle than the opener. Within the confines of the band’s sound is where they have expanded what they do as opposed to genre jumping. Sampling a warning announcement, they launch into ‘The Apocalypse’ and continue to ease just a little off the throttle here to create impactful moments. This is another chorus destined to be stuck in your head, and I like that we get the chorus before the first verse. The slow down at the end of the song fits perfectly too.

 

‘Don’t Be That Dude’ feels like a throwback to the mid to late 90’s a la Turbonegro, Supersuckers, Gluecifer, etc. It is catchy with lots of levity and will be one that will likely irritate you as you sing it in your head later. The title track provides an immediate switch with a balls to the wall race to the end of its frantic 40 second runtime. The band then immediately goes back to their super catchy hard rock with ‘The Worst Thing’ to close the first half of the album. It’s not a far reach from the Backyard Babies but contains a bit more exuberance and punkiness than BB have done for a while.

 

Kicking off the back half of the record, ‘Brainwash Radio’ is a solid classic Bitch Queens song with a large hook, excellent production, and made for air guitar riffs. This is the kind of song that should be getting played to death on the radio. The guitar to open ‘FU Emily’ provides more twists in the dynamics of the album. The song serves as a bit of a ballad here but is laced with so much attitude that it feels incredibly sinister and extremely catchy. ‘Ignorance is Bliss’ ups the tempo considerably and will either have your fist in the air or head banging in no time. This again highlights one of the greatest qualities of the band. They create albums that have a flow and take the listener on a journey. When the record ends, you want back on the roller coaster.

 

The final quarter pole of the album kicks off with ‘A Good Day to Forget’ which continues the hard rocking excellence. The chorus provides some moments to start singing immediately, but it is not one that will get boring. The guitar solo after the second chorus serves the song perfectly. ‘This is How We Roll in 2020’ provides another scream along moment as we recall the misery of the 2020 world. I don’t think someone could sit still during the song. Closing out the album, ‘Sugar Balls’ takes a step somewhat out of the ordinary but still sounds just like the Bitch Queens. The intensity builds up during the song to serve as the perfect ride out into the sunset moment for the album.

The Bitch Queens entered my world with the awesome ‘L.O.V.E.’ album back in 2017. I went backwards to catch up with their back catalog and have now been a fan since the start for their two most recent albums. If catchy hard rock laced with punk venom sounds like your thing, grab this new album and then start making your way through their back catalog too. You will not regret it.

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Author: Gerald Stansbury

This album is my first time hearing a full album by the band as I have heard some songs here and there over the years. Stylistically, this falls right into my punk n roll wheelhouse and has grown on me a bit with each listen. It has not done enough to consistently keep me coming back to it. Other albums in this style have generally connected with me more than this one, but there are moments here I do enjoy. I don’t think I will be the only one that is a bit hit and miss with this one.

Opener ‘No No No’ has some cool backing vocals and guitar parts through the chorus but otherwise leaves me a little flat. There is a sense of urgency present, but it doesn’t ever really grab me. The guitar solo is cool, but I catch my attention drifting. ‘Love Exorcist’ has a cool riff and groove but suffers as it needs to be up front in the mix for me. Again, the guitar solo hits the spot, and the chorus has a nice shouty hook.

 

‘Diane’ is a surprise cover and perhaps should have been placed later on the album as it distracts from their originals and competes in my brain between the original and Therapy?’s haunting cover from the 90’s. While this is an alright version, I much prefer the two previous versions. It does not help that it comes before ‘Supersonic’ which is a burner with a huge hook and a catchy guitar riff for reinforcement. This is a hit single in some other dimension. This also would have been my first song on the album. Glen Clarke’s vocals perfectly fit the song, and Robin Schafer’s guitar riffs leap out of the speakers. ‘Dance Dance Dance’ continues to hit the mark as a slow build to some amped up rock n roll akin to a train thundering down the tracks with no let up in sight. The addition of Ross the Boss on lead guitar will likely bring the band some added listeners.

 

The band change gears with a slower tempo in ‘Generator.’ I really like that they are mixing things up here, and my feelings on this song have really depended on my mood. I wish there was more to the chorus, or it was used less. Acoustic guitar opens our side one instrumental closer ‘Gismo.’

 

Side two opens with the Supersuckers sounding ‘Drinkin Out Loud.’ I like the song but also realize I would rather just put on a Supersuckers song which is unfortunate. The little breakdown with the crowd noise in the background is a nice touch though. ‘Get Drunk with Me’ follows which in terms of the song titles I find appropriate. Schafer again lays down a nice riff that serves as a hook in itself. The rest of the song though doesn’t really establish its own identity. If I heard this playing in a bar, I would likely tune it out midway through the first verse and randomly come back to it throughout the song. They highlight that intro riff again at the end which does give the song extra life for my ears.

 

The band changes things up again with the more power pop feel of ‘One You Love’ and is another of my favorites from the album. Adding vocals by Lisa Kekaula again provides another shot of something different over the course of the album. I wish there was more power in the mix of the album, and I have a feeling this song will move at a slightly faster tempo live. Ross the Boss makes another appearance on ‘Killslayer Bob’ with a guitar intro that is really cool. The Beach Boys style backing vocals in the chorus are awesome here. It is the songs that I like that make this whole thing frustrating at the moment as I am quite sure there is an album by Black Sheriff that I would absolutely love if the stars aligned.

 

Coming to the end of the album, ‘Happy Camper’ brings in some Johnny Cash at the beginning, but this one just completely loses me. To reference the Supersuckers comparison again, when they go country, it feels very genuine as another side of the band. This just comes across to me as unnecessary filler. ‘Black Angel’ returns to the rocking vibe of the album, and it really suffers because of the previous track. I may isolate this song onto some of my own playlists to let it stand on its own as I like the chorus and the extended part near the end. I just check out after ‘Happy Camper’ when I listen to the whole album.

 

Black Sheriff have created an uneven 5th album for me which frustrates me as I can see them doing a lot of songs I enjoy. This will likely be one where I eliminate some songs from my listening to see if it holds my attention better that way. Songs like ‘Supersonic’ and ‘Killslayer Bob’ will have to be able to serve as the ones to keep me listening. At the end of the day for me right now, I’m just left feeling meh…

‘Time to Burn’ is available now.

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Author: Gerald Stansbury

 

 

 

 

G.G. Sleaze and Johnny King originally came together in Texas to perform cover songs live in 2020, but, during the lockdown, they decided they wanted to start writing some original material. I recently captured an invigorating live show (my first in over a freaking year) by the band where they helped take the crowd’s mind off everything that is going on in the world. I was partially singing along to songs by the end of them and experiencing a great rush of adrenaline in the process. Pulling influences from Hanoi Rocks, Johnny Thunders, 80’s sleaze, and rock n roll, they have unleashed their debut EP or mini LP depending on your preference as it contains five originals and one acoustic cover to close out the proceedings.

‘Singapore Sling City’ gets things started with a cool guitar riff that sets the stage for the album. The Hanoi Rocks influence musically is present, but King’s vocals recall more the likes of early Phil Lewis L.A. Guns sleaziness. The recording is down and dirty which really works to the benefit of the song here. ‘The Road’ opens with a catchy chorus and a mid tempo feel. King really gets to demonstrate some range here, and this song was awesome live. It is one of those songs that can totally lose its feel if it is overproduced and layered with effects. The gutter glam feel of the mix adds to its charm here.

One of my favorites from the live show comes next in ‘The Fringe.’ The guitar work by Sleaze grabs the listener’s attention as the song erupts into a hard rocking treasure. The amalgamation of influences really come into play here as different bands come to mind, but it never really feels like one certain band. There is some GN’R/ Faster Pussycat street 80’s glam at play, but it feels like it is because Shotgun Sally is drinking from the same well as those bands. The band changes gear again with the 70’s style nostalgia rocker ‘Crimson Avenue’ recalling the days of foolish youth where consequences didn’t seem to exist. The chorus is super catchy which is something the band does very well across the board. As I mentioned at the beginning, I was singing along at the live show by the end of these songs, and it is not because they repeat the title ad nauseum. The hooks have teeth and stick with the listener.

‘Hounds of Hell’ rocks hard with Sleaze taking over the lead vocals. When I heard it live, I really liked it despite some technical issues at that time. It has a mix of Thunders, Hanoi Rocks, some snotty 77 punk, and reminds me of something that could have been perfectly at home on American Heartbreak’s first release.  The band bring us to a close with an acoustic cover of ‘Life Loves a Tragedy’ by Poison which works very well. If the first five songs serve as the main course, this is more what you might expect after the show when Sleaze and King decide to grab a guitar and knock out some acoustic covers before hitting the road for their next show.

The band added some more songs to the live show which will hopefully find their way onto the next release. In the meantime, they have released a debut that keeps finding its way onto my playlist. I purposely waited a bit after the live show to review this as I didn’t want to be thinking about or influenced by the live versions while writing this. I may or may not have been successful in that regard. These are the kind of releases that throw my year end results all out of whack as I have to decide for myself if I put it in with the EPs or albums. I have not had many releases this year really grab me, but this has been one of them. The music is down and dirty, gritty, and filled with hooks.

‘Lonestar Renegades’ is available now.

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Author: Gerald Stansbury

 

 

 

 

 

The Nuclears fall into a strange realm for me as they can write songs that grab me in a big way while at other times I am left wondering how the production zapped everything out of a song. Their mini-album from 2019 ‘Barrage Rock’ was much the same way with me playing the crap out of the song ‘Lightspeed Getaway’ and unable to say much about the rest of the album. As an album, ‘Seasides’ is ultimately proving to be a very similar experience for me.

Lead song ‘Siamese Connection’ provides a bit of a microcosm of the record for me as I don’t find myself drawn in by the rock n roll guitar riffs or lyrics for the most part. The guitar solo saves it for me though, and I enjoy the remaining bit of the song even if the chorus doesn’t move me. I enjoy the piano bouncing through the song as well. ‘Steer You Wrong’ is one of the songs that will be a long-term golden nugget here for me with Briana Layon providing lead vocals to this one. Musically, I am reminded of Shanda & the Howlers with their rocking take on soul and R & B. The band then launches into ‘Make the First Move’ which just doesn’t connect with me at all. The song just kind of fades by for me, and each time I play the album I find my mind drifting. The production here feels a bit dull as I think this song would hit me much different in a live setting. On the record, this one is missing its fangs.

Up next, the band find themselves playing ‘Small Talk’ and again I don’t find myself connecting with what seems like a good song. This is another example where the production has neutered the song as this could fare much better for me. I will likely try to work this one into some playlists, but it could have been so much better. ‘Mystery Slinger’ wraps up the first half of the album and carries a lot more bite in the production. If the whole album had this sense of urgency and excitement, this review would be much different. I do admit I am a bigger fan of Layon’s vocals and wish she sang lead on all the songs. That is not specific to this album as I have always been more drawn by her vocals than the vocals of both Mike Dudolevitch and Brian Dudolevitch.

The second half of the album continues the preferred production with ‘Bow to the Queen,’ even if it is not my favorite song here. The guitar work by Mike and Brian is extremely well done all the way through. I really enjoy the riff that moves across the top of the verse. ‘I Just Wanna Have Nothin to Do’ recalls a catchy 60’s rock song and is another of my favorites from the album. The band sound like they are having a blast here. The repeat on the chorus to end the song almost runs the risk of going on too long. The band keep some momentum going with ‘Doin the Same Thing Too’ carrying a sense of urgency and maintaining the listener’s attention. This one falls in the middle half of the album for me, and it leaves me wondering with each listen how good this could have been as an EP.

Wrapping up the album, I find myself constantly drifting off again as ‘Slash Run’ just doesn’t hit like it could. This is a prime example where the band needed a rawer, cutting production. It just feels a bit safe to my ears. The band transition in the song to an amended version of KISS classic ‘Strutter,’ which just feels pointless to me. I have heard the original a million times, and, no matter how well done it is, I just don’t get it being on the album. The production level here though would have lifted some of the other songs. Wrapping up the album is rocker ‘Flat & Nasty’ which again falls short largely due to the production. There is a really good song here which just reinforces how frustrating this album is for me.

Musically, the connection to Rum Bar Records lets listeners know that there will be some classic sounding rock n roll on offer. This album falls short for my tastes in that parts of it feel too safe, like the switchblades have been dulled down to round edges for the most part. I have no doubt that I would feel much differently if I walked into a bar and heard these live. There are some great moments here which I will sadly end up cherry picking from the record for the most part as opposed to enjoying the whole record.

‘Seasides’ is out now.  Buy Here

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Author: Gerald Stansbury

 

 

 

My introduction to the Gadjits came via the compilation album ‘Give Em the Boot’ which launched Hellcat Records in a glorious way. Hearing ‘Beautiful Girl’ for the first time was one of those magical experiences where it just clicked with me completely. How did you guys get connected with Hellcat?

We had no idea that Hellcat was something that was in the works but we did know that Rancid was going to come through our town on tour and we wanted that gig badly enough to lobby hard for it with everyone we could think of. When Tim saw us play, he invited us to come do another show with them in Omaha, which we did and at some point after that,  we got the phone call that Tim wanted us to come make records with Hellcat. We were all really young so there was a whole courtship thing that had to happen in order to satisfy our parents that we weren’t getting into the proverbial bed with bad people – which we weren’t  but, it was funny that Brett Gurewitz had to shlep all the way to Kansas City to eat dinner at my mom’s house just to make the whole thing feel legit.

 

Back then, there was obviously not the ease of finding out more about the band or albums, and I remember I started doing some hunting and tracked down the release date for ‘At Ease,’ which is one of my all time favorite albums and one that ends up in my heavy rotation at least a couple times per year. I ended up with two copies when it was released because I had ordered it through my main record store and then I found it a couple days before the release date at one of the other record stores I would visit weekly. You had released ‘Da Gravy on You’ Grits’ the year before (1996) which I found after the release of ‘At Ease.’ Take me back to those early days, the band started with you and your two brothers. When did you guys know you had something special together? Were your parents supportive at the time?

We came from a performing arts family so our parents were absolutely supportive. They understood that we had to do things while there were things to be done.  The band was actually started by my brothers Zach and Adam with their school friend Justin, as a reaction to the bands I was trying to form with my own school friends. Like, “Fuck Brandon, he thinks he’s better than us, we’ll start our own band and show him.” So anyway, I wrote a couple of songs for their band because they didn’t have any originals and then at some point, Justin’s parents decided that they didn’t want him playing gigs. Bars and all ages clubs seemed dubious (and they are) and so I got to join Zach and Adam’s band. At this point we were playing elementary school carnivals but not long after we went looking for some real shows and when we found them, those very early shows really helped us shape how we played and performed and what we wanted to sound like. At some point we hit upon adding some ska to our punk and then at some point soon after that, we were figuring out how to record music in our parent’s basement – which led to both the original Gadjits 5 song demo tape and the Gravy record. I was just telling someone the other day that making that demo seems to me like the very first artistic act I ever committed.

 

 

I don’t remember too many other bands at the time being discovered in Kansas City, Missouri. I have the gift of at least being able to see some of your old live stuff thanks to YouTube. What was it like developing the band in Kansas City?

There was a bunch going on in KC around that time. There was Frogpond and Shiner and Season To Risk and Stick and a bunch more bands in that vein who were just in a different place on the alternative music spectrum than we were. The Get Up Kids were happening literally at the same time we were, just coming from a different place musically. Anyway, I digress. We didn’t know any home but KC so we just played as much as we could wherever people would have us. It was many years before we would have any sense of “developing a sound” or “saturating a market” or anything like that so we just went hard because it was fun. With the benefit of experience and hindsight, I can say now that we were lucky to have a place as un-jaded and un-monetized as Kansas City was then. It’s a lot easier to be a young band when there is no pressure to adultify your perspective on the music you’re making or the show you’re putting on or the kids who are coming to see you. Every time I see a sixteen year old go on American Idol or something, it just makes my heart hurt like, “Don’t do this! Keep it fun for a while!”

 

 

I had completely forgot about Season to Risk, but they were another band I enjoyed. For ‘At Ease,’ you only revisited ‘Corpse I Fell in Live With’ from your debut, did you consider others? What made that the one you wanted to redo?

I distinctly remember Tim Armstrong and Brett Gurewitz putting their foot down about re-recording previously released songs. My memory of that is very clear but I cannot for the life of me recall what was going on in our heads that we fought to re-record THAT song of all the fucking songs. It just makes no sense.

 

 

What are your thoughts on the album now? You were all young when you made it, which I think is people would not be able to recognize if they heard it.

I am absolutely miserable at nostalgia for whatever reason so I haven’t listened to any old Gadjits recordings in very long time. That said, my recollection of it is that there are parts of it that just sound very young and then parts that sound a little bit wise beyond our years. Everything is super urgent when you’re a kid and so I remember that Adam and Zach and I had all kind of pivoted into listening to lots of sixties soul music and lots of early Elvis Costello and the Attractions in the year or so before we made At Ease. And I remember that it seemed really important to us to get the vibes of those soul records and EC records into our new album. I think maybe Tim and the label were a little disappointed that we weren’t writing an album like the original demo or Gravy but we wanted our shit to reflect our idea of cool (which was an evolving thing obviously) and as Clash fans, Tim and Brett probably felt like they had to hold space for that.

 

 

Building on from that ‘Give Em the Boot’ compilation, it had also introduced me to the Slackers and Vic Ruggerio. How was it working with him in the studio? I know he is credited as an additional player but don’t know how much he did since Heidi was in the band doing keys.

Vic is just an outstanding guy and a fabulous musician so it’s always great to be around him and soak up some of that vibe. Honest to God, I was so wound up with unspeakable anxiety making that album with him and Tim in this huge studio that I’m sure I missed lots of great stuff just for being somewhat disassociated and stuck in my own head. So the story about Vic playing on the album … I’m certain that Heidi will not be pissed at me for telling this story since so much time has gone by. So anyway, we were struggling to get the song “Need Yo ‘ Love” in the can and Tim really wanted Heidi to do a Jerry Lee Lewis style rock-and-roll piano part. Heidi busted her ass trying to make that part happen and we pushed and pushed and finally Heidi was just like, “I CAN’T FUCKING PLAY LIKE JERRY LEE LEWIS GODDAMMIT!” So, Heidi went to get some air and Vic stepped in and did the part. It bears mentioning that at the time, this was a massively uncomfortable situation for me – in my mind, bands made records together and your band was your tightest friends, not some guy you just met – no matter how hard he rips. I mention this to illustrate how young we were and how young our perspectives were. These days, if I can’t do something, I call in the person who can and I understand that is the only way to do justice to a song and a recording.

 

I love that piano part in the song as I am a huge Jerry Lee Lewis fan. What artists inspired your own writing?

At that time, I’d digested a lot of The Ramones, Dead Kennedys, Operation Ivy and I’d just started to take in the first few Elvis Costello albums. I think I wanted to sound like Toots Hibbert or Wilson Picket doing EC and The Attractions type songs – specifically the style on Get Happy!! At the time of At Ease, there was not really a formal process for writing either alone or as a band so things tended to get thrown in a blender. Nowadays, I focus on one kind of song or style at a time or I get very intentional about mixing two styles but back then, the process was still a blank slate.

 

 

The lyrics on the album seem to be largely drawn from experience or stories you heard around you. The exception to that might be ‘Bullet in the Mattress’ but maybe not. Lyrically, what songs do you feel the strongest about?

I feel like Beautiful Girl is charming enough that it’s easy to forgive some cheap rhymes or a trite phrase or two. Bullet In The Mattress – Jesus – I wish someone would have sat me down and coached me through writing another draft of those lyrics because I really almost had the story I wanted and the playful tone that I wanted in balance. That same person should also have made me shitcan the entire lyrical idea on Traffic Tickets and start over. Solid music beshitted by an absolutely inane lyric. I won’t spend all night ripping my teenage self a new asshole for being an amateur songwriter but I will pull back the curtain just a little about how I think those songs got to be what they are on that album. Like I mentioned, I was pretty much gripped by colossal anxiety at all times back then but I wasn’t aware of it. That anxiety was good for writing music because it had me playing with sharpness and urgency and playing itself felt really good. But when it came to lyrics, I was puking alphabet soup because I had no idea how to externalize how I felt without some clever bullshit to hide behind.  Now, surely at eighteen or nineteen, I wasn’t going to have some deep vein of experiences to write from and that’s maybe part of it but the anxiety is really, to me, the big influence on those early records.

 

 

You have a couple of covers on the album, but I have to ask how ‘Mustang Sally’ was selected. Was it just one that you had constantly played when the band first started? Obviously, it seems to have just become a standard karaoke song over the years.

Yeah, the changing times totally fucked us on that one.  What mattered about Mustang Sally at the time we made At Ease was that a version of it was rehearsed over and over and over in the movie The Commitments and that was a movie that Adam and Zach and Heidi and I bonded over in a major way. The movie probably didn’t age that well either but holy mother of fuck did that song take on a patina of every despicable blues brunch, baby boomer cliché.  I regret that song being on the record more than I regret trying heroin.

 

Most of us obviously have a lot of personal growth as we move from our teens to our twenties. How did those changes impact the band over the next couple of albums?

Honestly I think about this a lot because the time span between the beginning of At Ease and the end of Today Is My Day was such a wild ride. I can say with absolute honesty that we really thought we were doing what The Clash and Elvis Costello did, which is to say, we would incorporate anything we thought was good into what we were playing.  What we missed however, was that NO ONE WAS DOING THAT ANYMORE. Mostly, bands and artists were doubling down and sticking to one lane or another. Audiences were also tending to only pay attention to the lanes they’d decided to be interested in. So for about seven years, The Gadjits were just pissing everyone off all the time because we insisted that we were a lane unto ourselves. We (and me especially) still had that old “alternative scene” mentality that cool people liked a lot of stuff because there was a lot of stuff worth liking. And that went over like a balloon full of shit in the punk scene and it sank like a stone in the ska scene and the more time we spent on the road, the less we gave a fuck about what any scene thought. There’s a fantasy version of these years that exists in my head where someone takes the time to help us figure out how to do what it was we wanted to do without seeming to veer around as much as we did, but that is, as I said, a fantasy.

 

 

How did Thick Records differ from Hellcat Records?

In every possible way, excepting the word “records.” Hellcat was very well resourced but very lonely. Thick was never lonely and bare bones resources. I’m not talking shit, I’m grateful for having worked with both labels and to have friends I care about from both places. No one ever hustled harder on my behalf than Thick though.

 

 

I have read that the Gadjits were preparing to record a record for RCA, but there was a merger with another label that essentially purged the label’s roster. Did any of those songs get recorded or used in any other projects?

We upcycled a few of those songs into Architects songs. I think we had to. We’d busted our asses for years on some of those tunes and fuck if Clive Davis was going to put the kibosh on that.

 

 

You went on to form the Architects, Brandon Phillips & the Condition, and Mensa Deathsquad. All of these have their own feel. What would you like people to know about each of them? I also recently caught that you are connected with the band Other Americans who are spectacularly and from my present research accurately described as ‘opulent splendor-core, Electro-alternative, trip-pop.’ What can you tell us about Other Americans?

Well, I’d point out that I am still very clearly in that “alternative scene” mentality – I do what I want because I know that’s what Strummer, Jones and Costello would do. I have, however, learned my lesson about diluting the brand in an era of brand primacy. So, everything gets its own project and name and lineup and sometimes there’s overlap but we make it work.  The Architects was basically just The Gadjits forming a rock band. In doing so, we started from absolute square one in terms of touring and getting our records in front of anyone and I mention that because I am very proud of what we accomplished. Brandon Phillips and The Condition was formed so that we’d have a means of playing and recording songs that were much more in the Elvis Costello and sixties soul vein. We wanted to do that one right – full band, backup singers, wardrobe, the whole lot. It’s a constantly rotating lineup of players because I don’t want that band to be some big, heavy commitment for anyone. It has to stay fun. Other Americans has some personnel overlap with BP+C and some musical overlap with Mensa Deathsquad but it’s really supposed to be a dance band with a fairly alternative presentation and a lot of versatility. I don’t know if you’ve ever been to house show where a punk-adjacent dance band lays absolute waste to every living soul with song after song that sound like Top 40 bangers from an alternate universe, but that’s sort of what I aspire to with OA. Mensa Deathsquad is a solo project so I answer to no one but my own sensibilities about what can or cannot work as electro-alternative music. Mensa Deathsquad is also really high-stakes stuff for me for the same reasons. Going all the way back to The Gadjits, I had developed some really unhealthy patterns and relationships and behaviors around my writing process and that stuff had started to strangle me. MDS gives me a fresh start at refiguring my entire process of creation but it’s also a test of whatever it is I think I know about songwriting and music and production. The fact that it’s all electronic means I have to start from absolute zero and climb the learning curve again the same way that I did when I was a kid in my mom’s basement with a mixer and an 8-track cassette machine trying to figure out how to make a snare drum sound like a snare drum.

 

 

With the ability for so many bands to make records now and not focus on getting a record deal, what artists are you listening to that the rest of us need to hear?

Man, ever since COVID hit my music consumption has resembled the old cliché about pregnant ladies’ having urgent, insatiable cravings for odd foods. There are days where I don’t want to hear anything that isn’t the same four Jesus and Mary Chain songs and then suddenly at four PM I’m like, “I MUST HEAR GUSTAV MAHLER NOW!” I still go on rabbit hole adventures, deep-diving bansuri players or something which is really what I’d recommend – go to YouTube, plug in “bansur” or some other instrument and start with whatever concert video has the most views. Have an adventure. The world is not setting you up for adventure, it’s setting you up to make very predictable purchases from very well groomed rows of entertainment products. Fuck up the algo.

 

 

Politically, you are not shy on social media. We are obviously living in a very tumultuous time. How do we discover some unity and make this world better?

Honestly, if where we want to end up in fifty or a hundred years is “unity”, we need to start by detoxifying conflict. Conflict is not only the price you pay for a diverse, pluralistic democracy it’s the process by which all human intelligence and most human art is refined. Conflict informs and tests the most erudite opinions on policy, conflict is the forge of scientific knowledge, conflict is the dissonance in Birth of The Cool and the heart of Monday Night Football. It needs to be okay to disagree or to change your mind. The affliction of this age is not disunity, it’s festering insecurity that has become so malignant and so brittle that it cannot help but make every conflict into World War III and so it remains lost in its own misunderstanding of the world outside of it.  Give the world insight and unity will seem significantly less important.

Thank you so much Brandon!

Interviewer: Gerald Stansbury

 

 

I heard the first single from this album and was grabbed immediately by the music and the powerhouse vocals. The Damn Truth have been around for several years now (which has me getting caught up on the back catalog too), and this album should make them a lot more fans. ‘Now or Nowhere’ is their 3rd album over the course of their 9 years of existence. Their sound conjures images of hard rock, a hippie vibe, powerhouse hooks, and originality being stuffed into a blender. This is a 2021 album that I can write down as a strong album of the year contender.

‘This is Who We are Now’ doesn’t so much open the album as rip the door off and throw it 100 miles away. The music is huge, and the chorus knocks your head off with Lee-la Baum’s powerhouse vocals (also guitar) delivering a statement of intent. This is a killer hard rock song without those vocals but soars to another level with them. Tom Shemer opens up ‘Tomorrow’ with a cool guitar riff that burns like a fuse to unleash the groove by PY Letellier (bass/vocals) and Dave Traina (drums/vocals). This is another huge chorus that needs to be played on the radio. What has struck me with this song is that it would have been right at home on the radio in the 90’s, early, 2000’s and up through the current.

The gorgeous slow start to ‘Only Love’ gives way to another great rock song where Baum’s vocals would be stealing the show if it wasn’t for the equal excellence of everyone in the band. The vocal notes in the chorus and the inflections induce feeling positive and smiling in me which is a neat trick for someone who can quite enjoy going into the depths of darkness in songs. The rhythmic ‘Lonely’ builds from a campfire song to the whole city singing in unison. Perhaps my biggest grief of the entire album is with this song because it is not long enough… At less than three minutes, I would love to see this one go on as about seven or eight minutes live. The midpoint of the album arrives with the semi acoustic based ‘Everything Fades’ feeling like a long lost 70’s treasure that has resurfaced in today’s world. Baum again delivers an absolutely killer vocal that carries heart, grit, hope, love, perseverance, and more.

The back half of the album begins with an inferno with ‘The Fire’ which reminds me a bit of Soundgarden in its power. The song then carries forward on musical waves which just totally blackout anything going on around me. The lead guitar work from Shemer shines throughout this record with this song simply being another standout. ‘Look Innocent’ could have come from the likes of Big Brother and the Holding Company with Baum’s vocals her reminding me of Janis Joplin and Sass Jordan. The backing vocals in the chorus are also perfectly placed. This song digs deep into my heart as the music and vocals are equally powerful.

‘Full on you’ finds another great groove by Leterrier and Traina which then has a great transition into the chorus before falling back into the groove. Another musical reference for The Damn Truth for me would be the much missed Mother Station. Shemer lets loose another great guitar solo. As a finale, the band turns to the beautiful ‘Shot ‘Em’ where the band take an acoustic intro into an epic chorus and have created, for lack of another term, a great power ballad that closes the album in style.

This is an incredible album that has laid the gauntlet for 2021. Bob Rock produces six of the nine songs on here, and I will say that I did not pay attention to see which ones are his productions. The production on the album is killer throughout and sounds cohesive across all nine songs. I will continue to enjoy this stream until I can buy the actual release which should be a mandatory purchase for the world in 2021.

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Author: Gerald Stansbury

Classic rock n roll… Surely, everyone here knows what I am talking about when I say rock n roll. Whether you think about the Rolling Stones, Faces, Georgia Satellites, Dogs D’amour, Quireboys, Electric Angels, Rock City Angels, Black Crowes, Low Cut Connie, etc., we are talking about the kind of music that pumps through my veins and nourishes my soul. Spencer & the Elegant Blackouts released a great four song EP back in 2018 and have returned with another four song EP that picks up where they left off- delivering vintage high quality rock n roll.

As you many have guessed from the introduction, these guys are not chasing trends or trying to reinvent the wheel with their music. Their focus is on getting your fists in the air and your body moving which should not be an issue.  ‘Ain’t Never Drinking Again’ opens with the sound of a bottle opening and some old rag time piano in the background before the electric guitar riff arrives to get the party started. If you turn this up really loud, you will feel like you are in your favorite dive bar with the smell of alcohol and perfume in the air. Timeless vintage rock n roll designed to put a smile on your face. Their single from last year ‘Just Another Heartache’ follows and actually sounds better in the context of the EP. The production suffers a bit in the pre-chorus where it doesn’t quite connect sonically. The song is solid and features a solid hook that I really want to hear live where these songs will no doubt shine ever brighter. I really love the guitar work throughout this song.

Next up, ‘Nuthin But Everything’ comes rocking out of the speakers and musically reminds me a bit of Izzy Stadlin. The chorus here is more subdued which works as the singalong becomes a grower, and the guitar solo becomes a huge hook first. Again, if you want a glossy sheen, this is not the place for you as these songs are covered in grit. Closer ‘Me or the Bottle’ is carried by piano and embodies the classic closer where people in the crowd all sing along to the chorus at the end of the night before everyone crawls back home to face the responsibilities and duties of the morning sun. Shout out to the players in the band: Spencer Willhouse whiskey grit and smokey guitar, Eric Mauro- Howlin Hammond and Pinetop Rattlin, Sean Flynn- Big Bends and Sinister Slide, Chris Herninko- Bass thumpin and camel blues, and JoJo Buerklin- Twig twirlin and skins.

Spencer and the Elegant Angels have delivered another really highly enjoyable EP that pairs perfectly with their first release. If you like any of my reference points, I highly suggest you give this a spin, play, stream or whatever the case might be. Let’s make 2021 a year for rock n roll, and hopefully these guys can find a way to play some live dates at some point. In the meantime, I will be here singing along and bouncing around home.

‘The Party Never Ends’ is out now

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Author: Gerald Stansbury

Chez Kane will likely be a new name to many, but she has been singing with her sisters in the excellent Kane’d for many years. With her solo album, she has an opportunity to shine on her own and definitely makes the most of the opportunity. Kane clearly loves the music of the 80’s as evidenced by her work here and with Kane’d. If you have watched any of her YouTube videos where she covers old songs, you already know that she has a killer voice. If you are not a fan of 80’s hard rock and have no interest in it, this is probably not the album for you. For the rest of us, this is sonic gold.

Kane kicks off the album with the excellent ‘Better Than Love’ which introduces itself with a bunch of keyboards that remind me a bit of Shy in their ‘Excess All Areas’ phase. The music in the verses takes a back seat for Kane’s vocals which are excellent and just hit me in the right ways with the inflections she uses and how she hits every note. The horns in this song are a surprise at first, but they complement the song nicely. ‘All of It’ follows and the beginning actually brings to mind Meat Loaf’s ‘Life is a Lemon and I Want My Money Back’ with the way the opening vocal and music are done. This one has a bit more grit than the opener, but it is still firmly in AOR territory. At this point, this is the song that has grabbed me the least. I don’t consider it a bad song, but it is probably my runt amongst these ten songs.

‘Rocket on the Radio’ would have been in constant rotation on Dial MTV back in the day and is one of my favorites from the record. Kane delivers a killer vocal, and the hook is huge while not being placed too high above the music in the mix. In some ways, it is almost a combination of Lita Ford, Slippery era Bon Jovi, and 80’s Heart, but Kane always has her own individuality in the music too. The guitar solo will have the listener breaking out the air guitar too. ‘Get it On’ begins with a huge chorus of melodic voices and gives way to a clever guitar riff that is supported by some funky bass and keyboards. When the next chorus comes in after the first verse, it leaps right out of the speakers. Kane hits some higher notes here that really showcase her range. Wrapping up the first half of the album is ‘Too Late for Love’ where I am reminded of Honeymoon Suite. There are hints and moments of others here as well with the keyboards providing a debt to the 80’s. In terms of current bands, I would reference the likes of Midnite City and The Defiants.

Kicking off the second half of the album, ‘Defender of the Heart’ carries a power to it with its midtempo beat giving it the feel of an epic. Kane’s vocals here are awesome and given it a chance to shine without her trying to artificially create those moments. There is a purity to it in that she has a great set of songs here, and her voice has a magical quality to my ears.  ‘Ball N’ Chain’ might be the first time where I really hear the influence of Crazy Lixx whose Danny Rexon brought Kane to the attention of Frontiers and who I believe wrote the songs here. This is another song that I was singing part of the chorus before my first listen was done. Hard rocker ‘Midnight Rendezvous’ follows with Kane channeling some attitude with this up tempo rocker leaping out of the speakers. This song would have likely been “too heavy” back in the day to be a single but still feels very AOR today. The subtle ‘here comes trouble’ refrain in the chorus adds a cool touch as well with the echo of the vocal on the end seeming to be a nod to Def Leppard.

Keyboards also usher in the beginning of ‘Die in the Name of Love,’ and I would really enjoy seeing this song be a video or single from the album. The backing vocals are big here and serve as an excellent counterpoint to Kane’s lines. If you told me this song was featured on an 80’s soundtrack, I would not be surprised as it just seems like it should have a visual attachment in my brain. Closer ‘Dead End Street’ is the longest song on the album and reminds me of a relatively recent album by LaValle as the song carries some extra weight even with the keyboards. The chorus is much more subdued than the other songs on the album with the keyboard run after the first chorus establishing itself as a hook. The guitar solo is exquisite here as nothing feels rushed at all in the song.

Chez Kane has released an album that stands apart from her work with Kane’d. While there are some common influences, this album definitely feels glossier in terms of the production and the keyboards. There is a fine line where that can go very wrong, but it works to the positive here. Kane has released a solo album that really feels like a true reflection of her based on the covers she will put on YouTube. If you want a gritty rock album, this one is not going to be for you. If you have ever liked any 80’s hard rock songs, I highly recommend this album. I am a huge fan of Kane’s vocals and really like the collection of songs here that come together as an actual album and not just a collection of random songs.

‘Chez Kane’ is released March 12th    

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Author: Gerald Stansbury

 

 

While Lucifer Star Machine was a new band to me, their beginnings go back to 2002 when they released three albums before Tor Abyss (vocals) decided to relocate the band to his home country of Germany in 2012. Since that time, they have released a couple of singles and an EP with a whole new band behind Abyss which I will now be looking to find. I went into the album expecting some straight-ahead Action Rock but found many cool twists and turns throughout this diverse album.

Some cool news samples introduce us to the album with some razor-sharp guitars firing us into ‘The Void.’ This song made the ideal first video for the album as well as the first song on the album as the hooks are huge, and the adrenaline surge starts here. It’s clear the band wanted a stellar production job as the mix is deep and rich here. The guitar work is killer by Mickey Necro and Marshall Speed. ‘Dwell in Misery’ slows the pace a touch with a definite Misfits influence in the vocals, and the chorus provides a sing-along touch on the first listen.  The band exercises some restraint leading into the guitar solo which maximizes its effect.

Keeping up the diversity, ‘Cruel Hearts’ features some excellent rhythm work by Benny Zin (bass) and Jay Impact (drums) and another huge chorus. The subtle use of some handclaps adds more character to the song and showcases a band that has refined its sound from many areas to create something all their own, even with some influences standing out more than others. ‘Baby, When You Cry’ reminds me of the Ramones with Abyss singing very melodically and allowing the chorus to stick deep into your brain. The guitar work and solo stand out here again with the band creating a diverse excellent record similar to what the Dead Furies did on their latest album.

‘The Night is Young’ channels a classic hard rock feel with an awesome chugga chugga rhythm propelling the song forward with some excellent lead guitar on top. The band again gives us another larger than life addictive chorus that is simpler lyrically but hits the perfect spot. The breakdown in the song before the guitar solo is simply perfect, and this song would make an ideal single. Zin’s bass work kicks butt in ‘East Dust’ and receives a lot of space in the mix. I hear a Nashville Pussy influence here with lyrics that could have come from their first album, but the music is not as fast or reckless. This one has a cool groove with a lyrical hook that could get you some sideways glances in public. With the songs that have come before and the ones after this one, ‘A Touch of Death’ does not make as much of an impact for me. It could be more of a grower though as it connects with me a bit more with each listen. Check back with me in a few months as this might be one of those that become a favorite.

I am not sure what the new James Bond theme will sound like, but it definitely seems like there should be a Bond movie with ‘El Camino Real’ as its theme. The 60’s feel of this hard rocker and a chorus that could not be catchier make this another obvious choice for a single or song to push from the album. This has been my favorite song since my first listen. The band continues the sonic assault with the rapid-fire ‘Pretender.’ This is another one where the band utilizes another large catchy chorus that should have you singing along in no time. They continue to increase the speed with ‘Evil Blood’ sounding more menacing but still has a catchy chorus and some excellent guitar riffs.

Kicking off the home stretch of the album, ‘Midnight Crawler’ utilizes some Halloween sounding creepy vocals in the chorus that make it stand out from the rest of the album and corresponds to the quick sample to open the song. While there is a Misfits influence here, it is the other elements that create something unique. By holding back on using the chorus, it carries more weight and impact. Zin and Impact again showcase their chemistry before unleashing some killer guitar solos. The piano here again showcases that Lucifer Star Machine is crafting an album with subtle touches that will stand the test of time. ‘Your Love Remains’ smokes with a dirtier sounding mix and a huge melodic chorus that an audience needs to be singing. Wrapping up the album, ‘Devil’s Breath’ utilizes an acoustic approach that ends the album on a mellower note musically but not lyrically. I envision the band riding off into a blood-red sunset as this one plays.

Lucifer Star Machine has delivered a killer album that deserves to be heard far and wide. They have created their own sound even as some of their influences stand out in the mix. I will be going back to explore their previous work based on the strength of this album and imagine this one will be getting a lot of plays in the future. I imagine you will be doing just the same after you listen to this one. The time is now to be lucified.

‘The Devil’s Breath’ is released April 3rd.

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Author: Gerald Stansbury

 

This album represents one of those brilliant moments in life when you receive an album that just immediately clicks on almost every level. If this album didn’t come from Hodge, it might not be what you expect from RPMOnline. With a history of performing with Crass, Ryan Hamilton, and Ginger Wildheart among others though, I was going to be very interested in hearing this album on that basis. From the moment I hit play, I found myself stuck on the computer the first time it played. I immediately burned a copy for the car and then made sure it was on the iPod so I could play it throughout the house. Hodge has created a great pop album that takes darkness and immerses it in hope and her charisma.

‘Stop Worrying Baby’ features some very nice piano that reminds me more of the likes of Carole King then what people consider pop music today. Hodge’s voice hits me in all the perfect ways, and she uses it to craft a magical chorus that has made me hit the repeat button numerous times. Piano alone introduces ‘Waving Not Drowning’ with the song feeling like it should be the centerpiece in a movie. Musically, this song has a very haunting feel to it, but, as I mentioned in the introduction, the song has much more of a positive message to tell with this song addressing suicidal ideation and the importance of reaching out to others whether it be friends, family, or strangers. ‘I Still Love Me’ provides an increase in the tempo and celebrates all of the special things that make each of us without it sounding cheesy. Dave Draper’s production is spot on throughout the album (as expected) with this song being a shiny example. The drums and bass jump out of the speaker with the guitar riff being perfectly placed. The chorus is designed for maximum effect without it being over the top in the mix.

‘In Case of Emergency’ showcases how powerful a ballad can truly be. The delicate piano works in perfect union with Hodge’s vocals. The subtle twist in key going into the chorus is tremendous. I also don’t think I have made it all the way through this song one time without the hair on my arms standing up from Hodge’s magical vocal. The subtle use of the guitar here provides some additional texture. Following that song was never going to be easy, ‘Magical Bullet’ rises to the task by providing us with a great rock song that makes it impossible to sit through without moving. You will want to be up on your feet moving, dancing, and singing.

Kicking off the back half of the album, ‘Send Me Someone’ reminds me more of the likes of Fiona Apple perhaps. There is something magical about Hodge’s voice when it is just paired with a piano. While this song does not connect quite the same as ‘In Case of Emergency,’ it remains a powerful song full of powerful, direct lyrics. The sequencing here is extremely important too with ‘Send Me Someone’ containing vocals until almost its last note. The transition to the layered vocals at the start of ‘Semi Colon’ is perfection. I am left hanging on every vocal and piano note on this one. Even after many plays, it becomes a challenge to write a review while listening to the album because I just keep getting lost in the music and words all over again. ‘Virtue Signals’ turns up the rock again and is also the longest song on the album at 5 minutes. This song has proven to be more of a grower which I attribute to the previous song being so amazing. Hodge sings with confidence and power here which gets highlighted with the way the pre-chorus sets up the chorus by taking her vocals and musical down a deep ravine before having the full music and vocals come back for the chorus.

Hitting near the end of the album, ‘Stopped Believing in You’ has all the makings of a huge crossover hit if it could catch some airplay. Draper had made a comment to me about the potential of this song to make this album huge, and he was right on the money. It highlights the strength of the album when this song gets placed near the end. The song builds and builds over a musical beat that again gets the listener moving. Subtle musical touches rise to the surface with each listen, and, at just over 3 minutes, this song ends way too soon so I have noticed this is another one where that repeat button keeps getting abused.  ‘Let Gravity Win’ serves as a perfect closer as Hodge tells the narrative that happens to us as we get older in this society. The song provides a sense of catharsis and provides empathy that we all go through this rite of passage. We can do it our own way though.

‘Savage Purge’ hit me at the perfect time when I first heard it so I resisted reviewing it immediately. I wanted to give it a little more time so I could dig in deeper. Additional listens have only strengthened my first impression. These 10 songs deserve to be heard by an audience far and wide. This album also goes to another level in the dead of night when there are no other sounds in the background. Do yourself a favor and give this album some listens and a purchase. We need to keep hearing more songs by Hodge.

‘Savage Purge’ is officially available March 30th and available for purchase now

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Author: Gerald Stansbury