Posts Tagged ‘Garage Rock’

Lyres: On Fyre

Saturday, August 10th, 2019

More wicked good early-80s Boston garage rock

After gaining attention with their debut EP, AHS 1005, and the transcendent follow-up single “Help You Ann,” Boston’s Lyres released their first full-length album. The focus remained resolutely on catchy, stripped-down garage rock, with just a hint of psych in the tremelo guitar and whining organ tone. Singer, vocalist and organist Jeff  “Monoman” Conolly wrote just as good as he borrowed, with his new songs that intertwining easily with choice covers of the New Colony Six, Kinks, Mickey and the Clean Cuts, and Pete Best’s post-Beatles “The Way I Feel About You.” Richard Harte’s production gives the instruments fidelity and definition without forsaking the band’s garage roots, and Conolly’s voice found its spot in the mix.

Rick Coraccio’s bass is more of a throb than a rhythm, which leaves drummer Paul Murphy plenty of room for his snare and cymbals. Guitarist Danny McCormack offers up economical guitar solos that make the most of his Dynalectron’s unusual tone, and Conolly’s organ lurks behind most of the songs with high-pitched notes. Best of all, the music is relentless in its danceable rock ‘n’ roll grooves, and Conolly proves himself a tireless frontman. It was hard to top the wicked guitar riff of “Help You Ann,” but the chorus of the opening “Don’t Give It Up Now” is nearly as hypnotic.

The album has been reissued several times with varying bonuses. The original U.S. vinyl had ten tracks, augmented on the promo by “I Really Want You Right Now.” The French New Rose label issued a vinyl LP that added eight bonuses (four from the AHS 1005 EP, three from the “Someone Who’ll Treat You Right Now” EP and a cover of Pete Best’s “I’ll Try Anyway”). Matador issued a CD that added nine bonuses (five session tracks, three from the “Someone Who’ll Treat You Right Now” EP and the Pete Best cover). And here, Ace of Hearts (in conjunction with Munster) includes only the five bonus session tracks offered on the Matador release.

The session tracks include covers of the Kinks (“Never Met a Girl Like You”), Wailers (“Swing Shift”) and Roy Lee Johnson (“Busy Body”) by way of the Jolly Green Giants. The two originals, “How Could Have I Done All These Things” and “Trying Just to Please With You” are solid rockers, and fit the general vibe of the album. For collectors who’ve picked up AHS 1005 separately, the out-of-print Matador CD provides the best coverage; but if you can’t find that, this Ace of Hearts / Munster reissue is the ticket. And if you can’t find either for sale here, try direct from Ace of Hearts Records. [©2019 Hyperbolium]

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Lyres: AHS 1005

Saturday, August 10th, 2019

Wicked good early-80s Boston garage rock

In 1981, while many of us were still discovering the Nuggets compilation and Pebbles series, Jeff Conolly had already worked backwards and ingested garage rock’s roots. Breaking out of Boston’s rock scene with this debut four-song EP, Lyres had both the muscle and melodicism of ‘60s hitmakers like the Standells, Sonics, Chocolate Watchband and Boston’s Remains. As good as was the EP (and the concluding cover of the Hangmen’s “What a Girl Can’t Do” is really, really good), the 1983 follow-up single, “Help You Ann,” was even better. With an unforgettable guitar riff and a hypnotic lyric hook on the flip “I Really Want You Right Now,” this could easily have been a regional hit that broke through to the national charts, had it only been released in 1965.

Filling out this disc are seven tracks recorded in the summer of 1980, before the band laid down the EP. Included are early versions of all four EP tracks and the subsequent single “She Pays the Rent.” The band hadn’t fully locked into their garage groove yet, with the slower tempo and muddier production of “High on Yourself” sounding more like hard soul, and “Buried Alive” leaning more to punk at that point. The vocals have also yet to find the pocket, standing startlingly out front of “What a Girl Can’t Do.” Two lost titles include  “Ain’t Going Nowhere” and the rockabilly-styled “100 CC’s (Pure Thrust).” The demos, EP and post-EP single provide a good look at Lyres’ ramp-up to greatness (all that’s missing is the 1979 single single “How Do You Know?” b/w “Don’t Give It Up Now”). If you can’t find it for sale here, try direct from Ace of Hearts Records. [©2019 Hyperbolium

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The Choir: Artifact – The Unreleased Album

Saturday, February 17th, 2018

Cleveland garage rock legends’ stellar unreleased 1969 album

Many rock ‘n’ roll fans were introduced to The Choir through the appearance of their 1966 single “It’s Cold Outside” on Pebbles, Vol. 2. In those pre-Internet days, fans learned from the album’s liner notes of the band’s Cleveland roots (and teased Stiv Bators’ 1979 cover), but failed to learn of the connection between the Choir and Cleveland’s greatest-ever pop export, Raspberries. What many found out later is that the Choir’s Wally Bryson, Jim Bonfanti and Dave Smalley would join with Eric Carmen (who’d unsuccessfully auditioned to sing with the Choir) to form Raspberries. Even less known was that after the Choir initially disbanded in 1968, they reformed a few months later with three new members, including organist Phil Giallombardo, joining keyboard player Kenny Margolis and drummer Jim Bonfanti.

This latter lineup recorded ten tracks in 1969, unsuccessfully shopped the results to labels, released a cover of the Easybeats’ “Gonna Have a Good Time Tonight,” and broke up for good in 1970. Although the title track of this collection was included on a 1976 Bomp EP, and three more turned up on Sundazed’s 1994 collection Choir Practice, the rest of the 1969 project was only recently rediscovered by the studio owner’s son, and is issued here for the very first time. By this point in the Choir’s history their sound was heavier than the garage rock of 1966, anchored by Hammond organ and hard rock, psychedelic guitars. Touches of pop-jazz (ala BS&T) and progressive rock mingled in, but the band retained their melodic roots in the British Invasion, as evidenced here by a cover of the Kinks’ “David Watts.”

Phil Giallombardo cites Procol Harum as a primary influence, but you can also hear the Left Bank’s baroque pop in “Anyway I Can,” Steppenwolf’s roar in “If These Are Men,” Robin Gibb’s fragility in “Have I No Love to Offer,” Santana’s organ magic in the instrumental “For Eric,” and the Lovin’ Spoonful’s good-timey vibes in “Mummer Band.” What’s most bewitching about this material is that three years on from “It’s Cold Outside,” the new lineup touches on the band’s earlier pop roots while seamlessly transitioning to a new, heavier direction that includes explosive drumming, heavy organ and blistering guitar solos. These are finished stereo productions, packaged with a 12-page booklet that includes period photos and a band family tree. It’s hard to imagine how no one took a commercial interest in these tapes at the time, but it’s great to have them now! [©2018 Hyperbolium]

Banditos: Visionland

Wednesday, December 27th, 2017

Southern rockers with twists of garage, psych and more

The second album from these Birmingham-to-Nashville transplants opens with a garage-rock sound that wasn’t as evident on their self-titled 2015 debut. Mary Beth Richardson’s bluesy vocals are given the context of San Francisco-sound powerhouses like the Jefferson Airplane, and though a banjo peeks through the haze, the ‘60s rock vibe is strong. The title track suggests a psych-rock Richard and Mimi Farina, the ballad “Healin’ Slow” has a ‘50s vibe, “Lonely Boy” might have been a country song written in the Brill Building, and the whispery “When It Rains” could be a fondly remembered ‘70s radio hit. The band seems to be democratic in exploring their influences, cross-pollinating without overwhelming the base flavor of each song. They’ve added new spices to the boogie, blues and soul of their debut and shown themselves to have both musical vision and reach. [©2017 Hyperbolium]

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Cowbell: Haunted Heart

Friday, July 14th, 2017

Wicked mix of late-60s and early-70s soul, blues and garage

This London duo’s third album is chock-full of garage-soul built on guitar, drums and splashes of organ that take things into darker places. The title track suggests the voodoobilly of the Cramps, while the rolling “Doom Train” melds sparse blues and tack piano with backing vocals that suggest Dan Hicks’ Hot Licks. There are echoes of the Kinks and Cream, but also the early-60s folk of Richard & Mimi Farina and the 1970s sounds of Laurel Canyon. Guitarist Jack Sandham sings most of the leads, but drummer Wednesday Lyle steps to the mic for the punk-fired “Downlow” and the cool-as-ice “New Kinda Love.” The album is tasteful, but even when taken downtempo, it remains sultry rather than sedate, with horns adding texture to several tracks. This is a sophisticated set that wanders through blues, soul and roots rock, like a shuffle through a music-lover’s record collection. [©2017 Hyperbolium]

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The Masonics: Obermann Rides Again

Saturday, February 25th, 2017

Ferocious Medway rock ‘n’ roll

Fans of Thee Headcoats, Mighty Casears and Prisoners will rejoice at the ninth album from this all-star Medway band. Fronted by ex-Milkshake Mickey Hampshire on guitar, and backed by drummer Bruce Brand (Pop Rivets, Milkshakes) and bassist John Gibbs (Kaisers), the Masonics offer the perfect combination of unpolished garage rock and blues-based melodies – something you might call rough ‘n’ roll. Even the ballad “I Don’t Understand Her Any More” isn’t exactly tender, with Hampshire pleading his case as more of a complaint than a concern, and the Animals-like “What Do You Do” providing a sobering, after-the-fact look in the mirror. The trio channels Bo Diddley’s rhythmic stomp in “You Don’t Have to Travel” and “The Unsignposted Road,” crank up the tempo to amphetamine punk for “You’re a Stranger,” and nail the combustible tension of the early Who with “You Won’t See Me Again.” The band’s energy is relentless as Hampshire picks guitar solos and Brand rides his cymbals, creating music that’s perfect for a sweaty, overcrowded beer-stained venue near you. [©2017 Hyperbolium]

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The Royal Hangmen: Hanged, Drawn & Quartered

Sunday, December 4th, 2016

royalhangmen_hangeddrawnandquarteredPysch-edged garage rock from… Switzerland?

If you ever stopped to think about Swiss garages, you probably imagined super clean floors and tools neatly aligned on a pegboard. But The Royal Hangmen (who shouldn’t be confused with the plebeian UK and US Hangmen) have shoved all that aside and dialed up fuzzed-out guitars, thumping drums and VOX organ. Well, actually, they hightailed it to Hamburg where the atmosphere was no doubt more conducive to recording 60s-styled garage rock than Zurich. They’ve parlayed their beginnings as a cover band (which also spawned the fine EP Hell Yeah: An 80s Garage Tribute) into original material that recalls the Shadows of Knight, early Stones and the seemingly endless stream of one-off Pebbles bands.

The Royal Hangmen aren’t unprecedented in Alps-rock history, as period Swiss garage bands included The Sevens, Nightbirds and Bad Generation. There are also contemporaries like the Come n’ Go and at times The Animen, but none capture the sound of ‘65 and ‘66 (or perhaps even more so, the ‘80s revival sound of the Lyres and Fuzztones) as do the Royal Hangmen. Vocalist Vasco Saxer has the attitude to sell epithets like “you got no soul,” and the guitars and organ have just the right tone. The group dips into ‘60s beat with the instrumental “Groovadelic,” riffs on a Yardbirds bass line for “Go Away Baby,” and turns psychedelic on “Step Out of the Dark” and “Feed the Monkey.” Great stuff! [©2016 Hyperbolium]

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The Fleshtones: The Band Drinks for Free

Saturday, October 22nd, 2016

fleshtones_thebanddrinksforfreeThe garage door is open and the organ’s plugged in

Forty years and twenty albums from their founding, New York’s Fleshtones are still cranking out garage-powered rock ‘n’ roll. Even more impressive than the length of their career is its consistently high quality amid a lack of commercial acclaim. Though the band parlayed its New York City club following into a deal with IRS, soundtrack placements, an American Bandstand appearance (alongside the band War!) and college radio play with 1983’s Hexbreaker!, it never added up to mainstream success. Which makes their perseverance and adherence to a core musical vision all the more admirable.

The band’s seventh album for Yep Roc puts their guitar, bass, drums, organ and harmonica to everything from a cover of the Hondells’ surf ‘n’ drag-themed “The Gasser” to Peter Zaremba’s original blues “The Sinner” and Keith Streng’s gothic soul “Respect Our Love.” Ten Years After’s “Love Like a Man” is taken uptempo with a psychedelic party vibe, and the excess that sparked the late-70s back-to-basics movement is suggested in the title “Rick Wakeman’s Cape.” Rock music may no longer be in the commercial limelight, but it still retains its punch, particularly in the hands of masters like the Fleshtones. [©2016 Hyperbolium]

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The Bangles: Ladies and Gentlemen… The Bangles!

Wednesday, June 29th, 2016

Bangles_LadiesAndGentlemenTheBangsThe Bangles’ Rosetta stone is their fans’ holy grail

For anyone who latched onto the Bangles before their major label makeover on Columbia, the first half of this CD remains the band’s Rosetta stone. Though hits and international fame would come later, the eight tracks released in 1981-2 remain the group’s purest statement of their 60s-tinged harmony rock. They never wrote, played or sang with more elan, and the youthful effervescence of this early work is as compelling today as it was thirty-five years ago. The group first appeared on vinyl as The Bangs with the fan club single “Getting Out of Hand” b/w “Call On Me.” Its local circulation left most listeners to meet the band, renamed as The Bangles, on the compilation Rodney on the ROQ, Vol. III, and then retroactively track down the single’s more widely circulated reissue.

In 1982, amid the the Salvation Army’s self-titled debut, Green on Red’s debut EP, the Dream Syndicate’s Days of Wine and Roses, the Three O’Clock’s Baroque Hoedown, and the Rain Parade’s first single, there was the Bangles’ self-titled five song EP on Faulty. The EP’s four original songs were the perfect lead-in to a scorching cover of the La De Da’s “How is the Air Up There?” Though reissued by IRS, the EP was mostly lost to fans the band picked up with their major label debut, All Over the Place, and even more so in the full rush of fame brought by Different Light. Bits and pieces of the EP reappeared as B-sides and on compilations, but the full EP remained unreissued until this collection was released as MP3s in 2014. Now on CD, the EP can be heard without compression.

Filling out this disc are four full-fidelity demos, a pair of 1984 live tracks, and a commercial for No Magazine. The demos include early takes of “Call On Me” and “The Real World,” a harmony-rich cover of the Turtles’ “Outside Chance” and a tough take on Paul Revere and the Raiders’ “Steppin’ Out.” The live cuts are “Tell Me” (from All Over the Place), and a cover of Love’s “7 & 7 Is.” The disc closes with 1982’s “The Rock & Roll Alternative Program Theme Song,” a tune the group recorded for George Gimarc’s pioneering radio show. The only thing missing is the promo-only 12” remix of “The Real World,” but that’s a nit. This is the holy grail for Bangles fans, especially those who never completely cottoned to the commercial polish of their Columbia years. [©2016 Hyperbolium]

The Bangles’ Home Page

Psycotic Pineapple: Live 1978

Saturday, June 18th, 2016

First-ever release of this 1978 live set by Berkeley’s own Psycotic Pineapple. Limited edition of 250 cassette-only copies. See them live June 25-26, 2016 at the Burger Boogaloo in Oakland, California. Also on the bill: The Lyres, Real Kids, Mummies, Flamin’ Groovies, Young Fresh Fellows and more!