Wednesday, June 25, 2014

The Putz- Knock It Off

As a someone who discovered my love for pop punk in the early 90's through bands like Screeching Weasel, the Queers, and the Beatnik Termites, I prefer to hear this genre with the pureness it had in the beginning. Classic pop punk will always stand the test of time through it's simple catchiness and overall punk rock foundation. Europe is certainly is taking the lead with producing this style most in present day and while America does have several mighty creators still going strong, I often wish there were more newer bands in my country who had the desire to continue the tradition. The movement certainly isn't dead by a long shot with a few great standouts I've came across in my endless/optimistic search and a band named The Putz is a great representation of my hope for it to survive. Based out of Indianapolis, IN, these guys have been creating a buzz for themselves since their formation in 2009. They've put out two EPs and are back to take it to the next level with a full length LP I think you should know about called "Knock It Off"!

The songs were recorded on August 18th-23rd and 27th of 2012, then June 2nd, 2013 at Sonic Iguana in Lafayette, IN by Phil Zumbrun. Producing was handled by both Phil and Billy Putz. Executive producer credits go to Dougie Tangent. Mastering was completed at Sonic Iguana as well sometime during that August by the legendary Mass Giorgini. The cover is a photo of the guys standing in a shadow which made me think of the Ramones "Too Tough To Die" one. Cool! A simple and clean layout was put together by Tyler Wrong and Jami Wrong. The guys played a show last Saturday to kickoff the release and official release by a label that's quickly becoming a favorite of mine, Eccentric Pop Records is on the 1st of July. It's less than a week away and you can certainly place an order with the label now for the limited first pressing of 250. It's an even split of 125 on red and 125 on white vinyl. Digital download is included. For all of you non converts out there that I haven't won over in the name of the most sacred format, you will be able to get digital only through iTunes and Amazon on the release date.

In a few words, these boys are catchy as hell. Lookout sounding pop punk with a healthy dose of 50's/60's rock 'n' roll simplicity, some keyboards here and there, then of course fantastic vocals. You'll hear it right away in the first track "That's Okay" a nice mid-tempo song about lethargy. Billy's vocal tone holds a super pleasant and even quality, falling between the lines of snotty and sweet that fits the music with ease. At a first impression, Tyler's backing vocals are also just as attention grabbing with a really natural and beautiful instinct to harmonize. The two play off of each other well and don't blend into flatness. One of my favorites, "Brain Malfunction" follows next and at that point, you'll know you're getting a collection of songs that aren't taking themselves too seriously. I'm a big fan of hearing music that is fun, and The Putz have it down without coming across as cheesy. "Operate" was the first song I ever heard from this album that also appeared on a Mooster comp and is still my top pick. The one and only love song appearing on the record is "Fast Food Fantasy", a tender ode of devotion to junk food and they just made a hilarious new music video for it last night(check it out here!). Aside from the wonderful original material, the guys also did a well executed cover of The Angels' "My Boyfriend's Back" with a female lead vocal. I also thought it was awesome to see my pal Jake Emissions from Flamingo Nosebleed's name popping up in the credits for guest vocals on "I'm A Disappointment" too! That track is a good representation of the band's snottier side along with "Unreliable".  Side B ends with the title track, "Knock It Off" which is another favorite of mine and the record easily gets another play.  

Not much more to say here other than HOORAY for classic pop punk both starting to resurface a little more in America again and being represented so well by such a good band. For these reasons, "Knock It Off" has landed a spot in my 2014 top ten and I think you just might feel the same. It's streaming in it's entirety on the Eccentric Pop bandcamp so get yourself over there to give it a listen if you haven't yet and place an order cause it's moving fast!

The Putz are...
Billy Putz- Bass Guitar, Vocals
Tyler Wrong- Guitar, Backing Vocals
Dougie Tangent- Drums, Backing Vocals

Studio drums and additional percussion- Aaron Atrocity
Keyboards on "That's Okay" and "Brain Malfunction"- Ian Johnson
Guest vocals on "I'm A Disappointment"- Jake Emissions
Guest vocals on "My Boyfriend's Back"- Elise French
Gang vocals on "Three Strikes"- Jake Emissions, Rickey Racket, and Aaron Atrocity
Additional instrumentation- Phil Zumbrun 

All songs written by Billy Putz(BMI), except where indicated.

Side A 
1. That's Okay
2. Brain Malfunction 
3. Three Strikes 
4. Operate 
5. Unreliable
6. Fast Food Fantasy
Side B
7. Go Work On Your Tan
8. Get A Clue 
9. Lunatic 
10. My Boyfriend's Back
11. I'm A Disappointment
12. Knock It Off

Wednesday, June 18, 2014

Proton Packs- Space Opera

"Earth is in danger.
The evil black hole maker has released a horde of deadly skulltron robots upon our galaxy.
His purpose is to annihilate the human race, in order to make way for the Octomoles,
A breed of soulless aliens at his command.
Only Adam Gunn, the last member of an ancient dynasty of space warriors,
Called the Superspeeders can stop him now.
He and his lover Evelyn embark on a frightful journey to free the cosmos from this staggering threat.
Will they succeed? Will they survive?
Many questions cloud your heart right now, you will be answered, in time.
Let the Space Opera begin!"

There's no way I could set up an intro for this review that would be as good or better than the band's intro inside the album cover so there it is! The Proton Packs are a band based out of Tuscany, Italy since 2005. They've had a few previous releases and in seeing one was coming out on the always reliable for quality label, One Chord Wonder, I decided to check it out! It's pretty cool so that's what I'll be telling you about this time, a record called "Space Opera".

The songs were recorded, mixed, and mastered during late 2013 at New Mood Recordings Studio by Frederic Mazzei who always does a great job with sound. Producer credits go to both Frederic and Proton Packs. Now look at that cover... you're thinking, "HOLY SHIT THAT IS AWESOME", right? I am! It along with the layout was created by the magnificent talents of none other than Riccardo Bucchioni, the man behind the imagery of many greats such as Screeching Weasel and Dan Vapid And The Cheats. Bravo, Riccardo!! That cover is a work of art and I love the way he always seems to connect so perfectly with great care to the music of bands he does work for through his fantastic imagery. It should totally be a poster! Make sure to stay updated with his facebook page and new design company, Keymaster Inc. The record was released on June 5th by the as before mentioned One Chord Wonder Records. There are only 150 LPs in the release making it pretty limited with 125 being on standard black and then 25 on clear vinyl. It of course comes with a digital download and for those of you who want digital only, you can buy it off the OCW bandcamp. Their prices are very fair too, check it out.

I think it's quite obvious in looking at the cover that a sci-fi theme can be expected in the music from this band who also has labeled their style as Ecto-Punk. I really like it! In terms of sound, think pop punk to punk rock played under a heavy influence of The Lillingtons from Death By Television and beyond with a ton of neat little touches through sound effects, then of course their own unique presence. Killer guitars, bass lines, and strong drumming. That's all you really need to deliver a good punk rock song. They really did create an atmosphere between that and the lyrics to give a strong representation of the concept. The tale of "Space Opera" starts with "Blood On The Milky Way", an introduction to the state of the galaxy and Adam Gunn the superspeeder. Kick ass lead on that one. Through each track you'll get a piece of the story. I really dig the idea because it's incentive to listen from front to back and that's the way it should always be with a record like this. Also the fact that the guys all participated vocally is awesome giving a great range to the characters and plot. Some of my favorite tracks were "Made Of Steel", "Death Ray Death", "Black Hole Maker", and "Breakout!" as my top pick. The lead vocal in that one is my favorite out of the four too. 

In closing, the two main points are: First, "Space Opera" is simply just a fun and nice little break away from the typical expectation of a pop punk/punk rock record. Second, Proton Packs did a GREAT job with approaching the not so easy to do concept album. So is the hope of the galaxy's fate which rests in the hands of Adam Gunn and Evelyn going to survive? Guess you gotta go pick up the album to find out! Give it a listen and place your order with One Chord Wonder, I think it's a solid choice. 

Proton Packs are...
Brodie- Lead Guitar, Vocals
El Leon Blanco- Bass Guitar, Vocals
Alex- Rhythm Guitar, Vocals
Matt- Precussions, Vocals

All songs by Proton Packs

1. Blood On The Milky Way
2. Mission For The Earth
3. Made Of Steel
4. Starkiller
5. Death Ray Death
6. The Storm
7. Black Hole Maker
8. Stuck On Alpha
9. Breakout!
10. Final Fight
11. Ruins Of The Galaxy
12. Master Of The Universe

Wednesday, June 11, 2014

Travoltas- The Longest Wait

Very few bands can go inactive for nearly a decade yet retain the type of staying power that the Travoltas do. With their sound that combines a mixture of Beach Boys meets The Ramones, varying elements of pop, and incredible vocals that they execute so brilliantly, not only are they unique but also a well shaped brand. Any band sure can try but there's not another that can even touch inside the realm they exist in as far as I'm concerned. One thing anyone who loves this band has always hoped for but seemed so slim in chance started to take shape last November when the Travoltas created a buzz with this statement: "Word on the street is something's going to happen in 2014..". This simple yet promising sentence was enough to have many fans, including myself excited! At the end of January, three reunion shows were announced which was great news but for someone like me who couldn't make a trip out to the Netherlands, seeing a picture of Perry appearing to be recording in the studio at the start of April made all this so much cooler. That's when it was pretty obvious some new material was going to be released and after all that wait, we now have a perfectly named EP from the boys called, "The Longest Wait"!

The songs were recorded in two separate continents, with part being done at at Studio De Keuken in Amsterdam, NL by Wouter Verhulst and the other at The Basement in Boston, MA, by Kevin James. Mixing was done at Point Break in Boston, MA, by Perry Leenhouts himself and mastering was done at New Alliance East in Cambridge, MA, by Nick Zampiello and Rob Gonnella. Poducer credits also go to Perry for PeVi Productions International. A photo of a beautiful jewel toned wave coming in that is quite symbolic of a return was a great choice as the cover art. Like a wave, everything rolled in pretty quickly with the announcement that it was coming soon at the beginning of May. The official release was May 20th as a digital download directly from the band on a few different sites. I'll give you the links to iTunes and CD Baby.

I had woken up before seven am on the morning of the release and there was NO WAY to fall back asleep when I checked online and saw it was available. With my eyes halfway open and incoherent, I successfully went to iTunes, bought the download and was so anxious to hear what they had done in the studio. The first and title track, "The Longest Wait" didn't take more than a few seconds to make me overwhelmed with happiness. The tale of a reuniting is nothing short of beautiful with the music being totally on point. Great punk rock guitars, organs played with reverence, fantastic drumming, and then there's Perry... I've said it on several occasions and I'll say it again. He could open up a phone book, sing what he sees in there and I'd listen like a mesmerised teenybopper with my face in my hands haha. Hell, he could probably make a better sound than most vocalists out there with even a half effort but lucky for us, he approached these songs with full capacity. As if we could expect any less! A vocal tone like his is simply timeless, natural, and meant to be. Those backing vocals from Erik and Skokie are perfect as well, maintaining the great reputation this band has for containing some of the best harmonies in the pop punk realm. It fades out with the sound of waves coming in on a shore and that leads into the next track, "Beautiful". It was the instant favorite for me, a song of devotion like only the Travoltas can play with such a lovely chorus, melody, and lead guitar. "On Through The Night" is the heaviest in what Skokie does so well with his magnificent skill as a keyboard player and made me think of "Endless Summer". It easily could have been a song on that record. Very cool!The closing track entitled "Last Song" ends the EP just as powerfully as it started although I hope it's no hint to this being the last of what we'll hear from them.  

I can tell you with full certainty, for only four songs, the guys surely made a big statement and it is that the passion of the Travoltas hasn't only remained, but grown even brighter in their absence. This is without thinking twice, a moment that is making 2014 a year in music to be treasured and it's really nice to see things open up again for such a phenomenal band. In following along with pictures, tweets, and footage from their reunion shows, I saw a lot of love shown from both the Travoltas in their performance(they haven't missed a beat!) and the audience alike. A post they had made to their facebook page after the weekend was over ended with, "Until we meet again!". Let's all hope that is true and keep this momentum going by supporting "The Longest Wait" so the Travoltas  know we need them to hang around. Pop punk changed for the better when they first arrived so many years ago and still benefits from their contribution just as much in present day.

The Travoltas are...
Woody- Drums
Perry- Lead Vocals
Erik- Bass & Backing Vocals
Mickey- Lead & Rhythm Guitar
Vincent Koreman- Rhythm Guitar
Skokie- Synth, Organ & Backing Vocals

Tracks 1,3,4 written by Perry Leenhouts, track 2 written by Michel Meeuwissen & Perry Leenhouts.

1. The Longest Wait
2. Beautiful
3. On Through the Night
4. Last Song

Sunday, June 1, 2014

Giant Eagles- Giant Egos

Any band that contains one ex-founding and one current member of The Apers is enough to catch my interest. Any band that contains that as well as having The Ramones, The Misfits, and Duran Duran in their listed influences makes for one super curious little Ramona! Consisting of Marien NicotineIvo Backbreaker, and a couple other great players in the European punk rock world, Giant Eagles were founded in 2005. Starting out as a project under a different name(The Ramoneroonies)  for fun, they hadn't released an LP but that changed just recently. After listening to a few songs on their facebook page, I had my ear to the ground and finally it was announced, "Giant Egos" is out!

The songs were recorded, mixed, and mastered by Simon Speechless at Simon Baken Audio Engineering between 2005 and 2014. He's worked with anyone from The Apers, to The Windowsill, to Kepi Ghoulie and his capabilities are fantastic! Producing was done by both Simon and Marien, the co-founders of Giant Eagles. I really, really love this cover. Designed by an artist named Silas, a portrait of an Eagle in a leather is so well done and such a perfect fit to the band. Upon investigating his other work due to my interest in the cover I discovered that the rest of his work is absolutely breathtaking. Check him out! Release happened on May 1st by Shield Recordings on LP with download code. Additional distro is being done through Monster Zero, Striped Punk Rock Shop, and soon through Interpunk. Also in about a month, "Giant Egos" will see a release on cassette by Stop Rec Play LTD, who is a newer label based out of Palermo, Italy with a great vision. Stay tuned for that! Digital only can be found on iTunes.

"Best 80's Synth-Ramonescore Ever" is their self described style and it doesn't take more than a few seconds for it not only to make perfect sense, but become genius while hearing the first track "In The Backseat". The sound they create appeals to me on two different levels, first as a Ramones obsessed girl and then second, that I'm old enough to have new wave roots in my introduction to punk rock. So essentially, yes I am an old punk rock girl haha. Anyway! This dozen of songs mostly written by Marien, who's already established himself as a wonderful songwriter over the last nearly two decades are nothing short of insanely catchy. Kickass 80's Ramones sounding guitars(think the Richie years), killer bass lines, simple yet strong drums, and of course keyboards/synth. Simon's vocal tone is superb. Overall lovely with a lot of range and that adds a great atmosphere to the already cool backdrop of the music itself. I was enamored with the speed of the first track but there's also some great mid-tempo pieces like "It's Gonna Take Some Time" and "You Lied". The Misfits reference comes through hearing a darker theme in "Total War" and "Howl Of The Wolf" that is a big favorite for me. My number one track is closer to the end, "A Town Called Loneliness" with it's longing in the lyrics and beautiful composition. Things come to a close with "Bye Bye Baby" and my only complaint? It's all over too soon! I'm addicted so it gets played again. Good job, Giant Eagles.

It's been nothing short of faith reaffirming to see so much good classic pop punk/punk rock come out this year but it's also something that makes me really happy to discover an album like this. It stays true to the foundation of what I hold dear while mixing in another element, but doesn't blend into obscurity or sub-genre. Giant Eagles have earned an instant spot in my top ten this year for that. I highly recommend you give "Giant Egos" a listen(stream here) and add this record to your collection in one of the available ways ASAP. Follow them on facebook as well, because they claim to easily have enough material for two records at the moment! They have won me over and I will be waiting to support anything they do.  

Giant Eagles are...
Simon Speechless- Vocals, Guitar
Marien Nicotine- Guitar
Ivo Backbreaker- Drums 
Ox Accelerator- Bass

All songs written by Marien Nicotine except, "In The Backseat" by Simon Speechless. "21 Bodies" and "The Howl Of The Wolf" by Nicotine and Speechless.

1. In The Backseat
2. Total War
3. It's Gonna Take Some Time 
4. Heartbreaker
5. Howl Of The Wolf 
6. Rather Be Stupid 
7. Got Stabbed 
8. You Lied 
9. 21 Bodies
10. Born To Follow 
11. Town Called Loneliness
12. Bye Bye Baby