Dinosaur Jr. – Hold Unknown

It’s been 2 years since we last heard from Dinosaur Jr. in their highly successful and drama free reunion period. 2016’s Give a Glimpse of What Yer Not was the perfect blend of noise, melody, and melancholy (and my favorite song was a Lou Barlow tune). In fact, it ranks very highly in my “Favorite Dinosaur Jr. albums” imaginary list. Also the supporting show at The Showbox in Seattle was insanely amazing (and loud). Hold Unknown is (apparently) a one-off single as part of the Adult Swim Singles Series. A slab of pop punk that will bring a smile to your face. A J. Mascis fronted tune that is joyous and infectious. A recommended tune that will be worth the $1 spent.

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Pure Hell – These Boots Are Made For Walking b/w No Rules

Attack of the Killer Track! is a series that explores tracks from artists from a variety of genres. Some of the tracks were singles, some of them were obscure b-sides or long forgotten album tracks. One thing is certain – all of them are killer tracks.

Pure Hell’s tagline is, of course, being one of the 1st all black punk bands – ever. Death (all black protopunk band out of Detroit) may have recorded first, but Pure Hell (to my ears) sound closer to the late 70’s punk music that changed the world. Hailing from my hometown of Philadelphia, PA, Pure Hell came together in ’74 and ended up being managed by Curtis Knight – famous for his association with Jimi Hendrix in the mid 60’s. A move to New York and a successful tour of England weren’t enough to make Pure Hell a household name. The band fell apart and a full length album sat in the vaults for over 20 years. The only official release during the bands original run was a 7″ – a Nancy Sinatra / Lee Hazlewood cover and an original b side. These Boots Are Made For Walking remains true to the punk tradition of taking a familiar tune and imbuing it with punk attitude and speeding up the tempo quite a bit. Singer Kenny Gordon offers up a perfect mix of attitude and chops.  No Rules comes off like The Stooges filtered through the Sex Pistols. In other words, perfect. It captures the essence of the era “no rules / no rules / for you and me!”. These tracks along with the album cut in the late 70’s are available on the Noise Addiction compilation. Absolutely recommended.

Rowland S. Howard – Life’s What You Make It

Attack of the Killer Track! is a series that explores tracks from artists from a variety of genres. Some of the tracks were singles, some of them were obscure b-sides or long forgotten album tracks. One thing is certain – all of them are killer tracks.

Late 2009 saw the release of Pop Crimes the 2nd solo album by Rowland S. Howard. Famous for his stints in The Birthday Party, These Immortal Souls, and Crime & the City Solution – he was sometimes overshadowed by the antics of his band members. Make no mistake about it – Rowland was also a genius. The album arrived in October of 2009 and he was dead by December. Sadly, it was also his most cohesive artistic statement. Recording sessions were quick – he was given a limited time to live based on the condition of his liver and with a transplant unlikely, it became a statement of intent. Every song pulses and sways with abandon. Much like Joey Ramone’s last statement to the world it was clear that Rowland wanted to live. Life’s What You Make It  is the 3rd track on the album and a cover of the song written and originally performed by Talk Talk. The original showed Talk Talk edging away from their synth pop work – here, Rowland S. Howard & company add in some trademark guitar squall and lock into a motorik groove. Having Mick Harvey on drums only adds to the allure – a mini reunion of The Birthday Party alumni. The words ring true and lend the atmosphere a vibe of both euphoria & sadness. “Baby, life’s what you make it / Celebrate it / Anticipate it / Yesterday’s faded / Nothing can change it / Life’s what you make it”. RIP Rowland. 12-30-09.

Dog Toffee – The Future Has Been

It is a classic case of “what could have been”. Local Manchester, England band gets some buzz, records an EP, quickly gets signed to a label and the EP never comes out. But what if the EP had pointed to an alternate future? A future not dictated by the whims of record label executives following trends? Dog Toffee fit that scenario perfectly. Led by Gav Rourke & Sean Lyons and backed by a string of drummers (finally solidified w/ long time drummer Phil Nelson), the band tapped into punk, grunge, girl group sounds, and white noise inspired by The Fall. The band would go on to support legends in concert (Dwarves, Misfits, and Dee Dee Ramone to name just a few), headline shows, and record with Seattle legend Jack Endino. But until now, their debut recordings have never been released. 20 years later is as good as time as any.

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Curry Quiche – Behind the Machine

The return of England’s Curry Quiche comes in the wake of Brexit and the aftermath of the US presidential election. The world has seemingly shifted to the political right and the band takes its cue from the shifting nature of the world. 2013’s full length 1 Seed, No Leeches focused on technology and how human connections were being lost. An intriguing concept that has only deepened with the passage of time. A record that was a joy to listen to, it took its darker subject matter and spun it into a carefree party vibe for the end of the world. Steve Fidler and company gave us a winning formula that seemed designed for the masses. Reggae, punk, britpop, indie – it all made for an intoxicating brew. What will the band offer up on their latest?

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The Chameleons – In Shreds

Attack of the Killer Track! is a series that explores tracks from artists from a variety of genres. Some of the tracks were singles, some of them were obscure b-sides or long forgotten album tracks. One thing is certain – all of them are killer tracks.

I was shocked yesterday (3-13-17) to wake up to the news that John Lever – drummer for The Chameleons, The Sun & the Moon, and The Red Sided Garter Snakes – had passed away after a brief illness. It is not often that you find yourself in touch with your musical heroes, but over the last few years I’ve had the opportunity to do that many times. I’d been in touch with John to discuss his departure from ChameleonsVox as well as get information on his latest stunning project, The Red Sided Garter Snakes. It amazed me that not only had John read some of my ramblings on this site, he also seemed to like them. John’s body of work is incredible – his musicianship added that intangible quality to a song that made it rise above the rest. One of the first tracks that John cut with The Chameleons was In Shreds. A blistering punk tune, it was released in March of 1982. A more aggressive track than most of what would be featured on the debut album Script of the Bridge, it features stunning work from Mr. Lever. The song builds and build to a punk breakdown “It seems to me / to be so contradictory / it seems to me / you’ve become a part of the machinery”. Mark Burgess, Reg Smithies, Dave Fielding, and John Lever were on the cusp of something great – and you can feel it begin with this song. RIP John, your art will be here long after us mere mortals are gone from this Earth.

The DeRellas – Freakshow

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The DeRellas hail from London, England and are reminiscent of the class of ’77 sound of punk. Instantly memorable –  the songs are fast, furious, and instant classics. The band returns with a mini album recorded in the wake of some lineup changes, and is the 1st to feature singer Stevie D and Bish on the drum kit.  Former vocalist Robbie DeRella (Vibrators) gave the tunes a slightly organic feel, whilst Stevie D gives the songs a sunny, California punk sheen. Dare I say it, sometimes reminding me of early Green Day. Any music that conjures up visions of the beach is a sure-fire winner with me – and The DeRellas deliver in spades. It’d be easy to write them off as rehashing a sound that sounded fresh with the original wave of punk – but it simply is not the case. The band takes that pop punk sound and makes it all their own. A truly invigorating mini album, I’ve had Freakshow on repeat for quite some time now (this review is very delayed).

Rip It Up is an unholy mix of the Sex Pistols and Generation X – and is the perfect song to open the album with. “Rip it up / do it again”. A statement of intent. A statement of aggression. A blistering guitar riff half way through marries a bit of classic rock to the punk rock assault. The riff reappears during the noisy outro. Strung Out Sin City is about the most rock ‘n’ roll song title I’ve ever heard. Fortunately the song lives up to its description – a sing a long pop punk ode to destruction. “strung out sin city / burned out, it ain’t pretty”. Soho Hotel is a perfect pop punk anthem with perhaps the catchiest chorus on the album. Freakshow is the title track and is my favorite song on the album. The lower end of the mix is more prominent here, making it a fuller assault to the senses. I still feel like this when I go out to shows (which I do often). “I just wanna go / to the freakshow”. How about these lyrics? “Sometimes I love you baby / sometimes i hate you darling”. Funny, yet cutting. Perfection. Dress Up Mess Up is the last original on the album and another slice of punk perfection. The album closes with a cover of Adam and the Ants Plastic Surgery. I can’t think of a better way to close out this record. Menacing and playful, The DeRellas imbue the song with a renewed sense of urgency.

You can pick up the album on CD or slime green vinyl here. You’ll love it, I guarantee it.

Verdict: Punk Classic

For Fans of: Sex Pistols, Green Day, The Clash, Dead Boys, NOFX