Saturday, July 18, 2015

Radioactivity- Silent Kill

Very few songwriters posses the confidence in me that goes to the extent of where I would blindly follow their next step with full support before even hearing it, because I'm that sure of what they do. If you take a look at this very small list in my mind, you can count on seeing Jeff Burke's name right there. The special breed of rock 'n' roll he creates is something I became quite devoted to as a fan of the Marked Men and when I saw his path evolving into a new band called Radioactivity year before last, it was a no-brainer to become instantly smitten with their debut self-titled record. That first set of thirteen songs brought to life by Jeff, Mark Ryan(another songwriter I completely adore!), and Gregory Rutherford still makes an at least weekly appearance in my rotation. After the addition of Daniel Fried on second guitar who also has a long running history with the guys in other bands(Mind SpidersBad Sports, High Tension Wires), the Dallas/Ft Worth, TX  based trio became an even more powerful quartet releasing a great 7", but I was beyond thrilled to see news that a second full length LP was on the way. It was a bit of a tease, but the kind you want to hear a few tracks that were leaked starting last April but the whole record has been revealed my anticipation has been 100% satisfied."Silent Kill" is here!

The recording process for these songs began shortly after their first record was released and wrapped in the Fall of last year at Cool Devices Studio in the Dallas/Ft Worth area of Texas. For the same reasons I love a studio like T.U.P. in Italy, I love Cool Devices as well which is owned and operated by Jeff and Mark due to their analog approach in sound. The work they do is impeccable, truly capturing what any band does that spends any time there and this recording came out beautiful. Mastering was handled by Matthew Barnhart at Chicago Mastering Service and with the audio portion complete, the cover art designing duties were taken on by Patrick Lillard. Featuring imagery shot by Brian Maryansky, this time the cover took on a more dark feeling in appearance that aligns well with the album title. Official release happened on June 29th from Dirtnap Records and I have to say right here how much I appreciate this label's level of professionalism. Their releases always arrive in absolutely pristine condition and in record time! The copy I ordered was in my hands within three days of placing an order on release day, and it's like this every time I order from Dirtnap. People deserve the praise when they're kicking ass at what they do so I will most definitely recommend your business going to this label and their record store Green Noise Records which always has a great selection to browse from! Going back to this amazing release, it is available on a black vinyl LP or CD. There was also a very limited clear vinyl variant that I was lucky enough to get and it is now sold out! Digital only is available through bandcamp where all songs are streaming in full so go press play if you've not heard them yet. I'll wait for you! 

In thinking about exactly what it is that I love about Radioactivity... well, it's a lot of things! The songs they play hold an excellent mixture of influences, ranging anywhere from the boldness of 60's garage rock, to true punk rock(I'm talking what took place in the mid to late 70's), and then in that fundamental spirit, they branch off into a place that is only them. When you hear Radioactivity, you know exactly who you're hearing from the first few seconds of sound and once they're engaged with their instruments, there's this incredible wall of sound that is always present. It's engaging and impactful but never comes across as a pompous display of skill! It's always very deliberate and sincere. All of these elements were present in their debut record but moving into "Silent Kill", it is even more defined and expanding into a much heavier realm. Side One opens up with "Battered" which is a full on rock 'n' roll assault, moving quickly to create a backdrop for Jeff's powerfully beautiful voice. I was crazy for this song right away but something I thought was very cool is just when it starts to fade, those last few notes lead into the next track, "Stripped Away" which is an entirely different little universe, but the transition is seamless. "Way Out" is one of my first favorites to show up, with a darker tone and some very well done backing vocals by Jeff's brother, Mark that add in another layer of depth to the song. The title track follows right after with a great hook and my second favorite, "No Connection" closes this side and is a good representation of this band's growth. A lovely ballad driven by a steady bassline, slower in pace but just as impactful and with some great lyrics that are very open to a listener's interpretation. Side Two transitions right back into the more upbeat energy Radioactivity has mastered with "I Know" but there's some surprises to be found! "Where I Come From" is a great example of that. Just an absolute gem with a haunting atmosphere, chill inducing vocals, and it is another one I really love. "Silent" is also fantastic with a wonderfully shot video you can see here if you've not checked it out yet but my most favorite song on the whole record is the last. An almost dizzying rhythm leads into "Pretty Girl" and everything about it is addicting. It's an ending that shows these guys are a force to be reckoned with and works like some kind of subliminal mind trick on me because all I want is just to play the record a few more times when it ends all too soon! 

I think it's not so easy for most bands to make a powerful debut and then followup with an effort that is just as mighty, but shifting into a different energy that solidifies presence. Like The Ramones did with Leave Home, that's what Radioactivity has done with "Silent Kill" and that, my friends, is a beautiful thing. Make sure to pick this record up from Dirtnap or from the band as they are planning on some tour dates and to stay tuned for exactly where those will be happening, keep watch over at their facebook page. I'm hoping they'll be coming my way!

Radioactivity is...
Jeff Burke- Guitar, Vocals
Mark Ryan- Bass
Gregory Rutherford- Drums
Daniel Fried- Guitar

With backing vocals by Mark Burke

All songs written by Jeff Burke

Side One
1. Battered
2. Stripped Away
3. Not Here
4. Way Out 
5. Silent Kill
6. No Connection
Side Two
7. I Know
8. No Alarm
9. Where I Come From
10. Silent 
11. With You 
12. Pretty Girl

Wednesday, July 8, 2015

The Piniellas- Struck Out Looking

Back in late 2011, I took notice of a newly formed band from Seattle called The Piniellas due to their association with one of my all time favorite bands. Anyone in the know and with good taste quickly grew fond of the Wanna-Bes, who during their run of activity from 96' to 04' put out a small handful of what in my opinion are some of the best to happen in pop punk. After I discovered it was their drummer Scott Matthews now fronting this new outfit, I fully tuned in and became an instant fan with the release of their "Without A Fight" EP. I was so excited to hear something coming from them that is sadly becoming more rare by the day for American bands who describe themselves as a part of this genre. It's classic, uncomplicated, catchy rock 'n' roll that's true to what the architects of pop punk from the late 80's and early 90's actually created!! Praising Dee Dee for a sound I treasure showing some signs of life in a country it was born in, I became smitten with what I first heard out of them but naturally, it wasn't enough for me and I wanted more. There was a long wait for that to happen but I can say with full confidence that these guys made it more than worth the wait and then some. Their first full length album called "Struck Out Looking" is finally available and exactly what I want to make sure you check out today!

The recording process began in July of 2013 with Guitar, Bass, and Vocals being done at Scabbey Road Studios in Atlanta, GA by Joe Queer. The drums were later tracked by Scott, who returned to his post as drummer back at home in Seattle, WA during May of 2014 at Crackle And Pop Studios by Johnny Sangster. Mastering was done by the always highly skilled capabilities of Justin Perkins at Mystery Room Mastering in Milwaukee, WI. The cover art was done by Ole O'Brian of Ole Art. I've been a fan of Ole's self described "low brow toon art stuff" style for a few years after discovering him through his band, The Evil O'Brians located in Germany. He does a lot of really cool monsters but his ability to be versatile came through for The Piniellas in a scene from a baseball game. With the batter not doing such a good job, an assorted less than amused crowd in the stands is looking on featuring anyone from Lou Piniella himself to my personal favorite, Johnny Ramone(of course!). I love all those little intricate details and this cover art is a perfect representation of why people are taking notice of what he does. Julie Moore completed the layout and with everything done, Kid Tested Records is handling the release! It's available on CD for now from the band or label as far as physical formats go, digital only should be showing up on iTunes soon, and you can also stream the songs in full over on The Piniellas ReverbNation page.While I'm elated this album is available, I do really feel that it is worthy of being pressed to vinyl also. Hopefully that will happen at some point because these guys deserve it!

Thanks to my Resident Riff Randell tactics of persuasion(aka asking about it repeatedly haha!)  and super secret keeping abilities, I got to hear this album when the recording process was finished. I've been smitten since the first listen and simply put, The Piniellas get it. In the first ten seconds it's easy to tell they're a band that's graduated from the class of Rock 'n' Roll High School. Starting out by playing in a way that honors the foundation, they also nod towards the early 90's where bands did things right, but then there's also a vibrant streak of Paul Collins-esque pop sensibility with Scott's vocals. Joined by Leif's Dee Dee powerful bass playing and spot on backing vocals, these songs are nothing short of attention grabbing and my accolades given can be easily verified in the opening track. It's like a breath of fresh air to hear a song like  "Count 1-2-3" with it's straightforward and effortless approach. Just stripped down rock 'n' roll with a playful story line of taking a romantic chance and a chorus that gets stuck in your head right away! It actually lines up numerically with the title as well at one minute and twenty three seconds. I thought that was a cool coincidence. In one of my favorite Johnny Ramone interviews, he talks about the importance of a good bridge in a song which I couldn't agree more with and "Another Night" has it in spades along with some lovely harmonies. "Run Away" is a song that people who've been following this band will know from the EP but it's got a nice update, played just a touch faster and remains one of my favorite songs. In thinking of my top picks though, the next two that follow are tied for first place. "Mystery Girl" has such a cool intro that's very Riverdales where the guitar is quickly joined in by the bass, then drums, sticking to my brain like glue and then the absolutely beautiful title track "Struck Out Looking" comes in next. Things are taken down a notch tempo wise for this very doo-wop inspired song about not taking a chance in love and I'm so crazy for the backing vocals in it! It's got all the appeal of a  1950's ballad but exists in the moment! Some other highlights you'll discover are in "No One Cares" featuring Joe Queer making a guest appearance to sing the bridge, "Not Looking For Love" being a perfect anti-romance anthem, and the closer, "I Wanna Be Normal"which lyrically is exactly about what the title says. That kind of down to earth approach is something that's easy to connect with, actually makes Scott stand out as a songwriter, and I think it's very cool.

Pop punk within the U.S. has needed a swift kick in the ass for years and after all the waiting, it's wonderful to see a band like The Piniellas take things back to basics. They're the reminder that rock 'n' roll can be fun and not so over convoluted with unnecessary influences. "Struck Out Looking" without question is taking a spot in my top five for this year so I of course recommend it for your collection, punk rockers. Shortly after the album was recorded, both Miles and Jeff were added on to complete the band as a solid four piece and they've been sounding magnificent live. After playing some big shows with the likes of the Mr. T Experience, Screeching Weasel, and The Queers recently, it's safe to say this band will only continue advancing in their pursuit of showing that American classic pop punk is far from dead, so be sure to like their facebook page if you haven't yet to stay tuned for what's next!!

The Piniellas are...
Scott Matthews- Vocals and Guitar
Leif Larson- Bass and Backing Voclas 
Jeff Mangalin- Guitar and Backing Vocals
Miles Ezra Freeborn- Drums 

All songs written by Scott Matthews 

1Count 1-2-3
2. Another Night
3. Run Away
4. Mystery Girl
5. Struck Out Looking
6. Down And Out
7. No One Cares
8. Without A Fight
9. I Think Of You
10Not Looking For Love
11. Head In The Clouds 
12. I Wanna Be Normal