Tag Archives: Punk

Pop-O-Pies: Get Outta My Way

1982 debut EP of irreverent, pointed and catchy pop-punk

San Francisco’s Pop-O-Pies may have been one of punk rock’s most melodic bands. Punk in attitude more than sound, but punk nonetheless. They alienated and then enthralled early audiences by playing a set that consisted entirely of the Grateful Dead’s “Truckin’,” and wrote original songs that sarcastically appraised Catholics and cast cops as donut eating fascists. A 1983 opening slot for Iggy Pop in Seattle so agitated the crowd that by the time the headliner appeared the mood was incredibly dark; fittingly, Pop’s set ended in 30 minutes after some stage-dancing audience members toppled the speaker stack into the crowd.

The band’s debut, the six-song The White EP, was a college radio staple, with two versions of “Truckin’” (one pop-punk, the other styled like “Rapper’s Delight”), an ode to Timothy Leary (which the LSD guru apparently took to playing at his public appearances), the hard-driving rhythm guitar monotone “Fascists Eat Donuts,” sing-song reggae “The Catholics Are Attacking,” and punk-styled lament “Anna Ripped Me Off.” The Pop-O-Pies simultaneously take the piss out of both their subjects and their listeners with songs that are funny, ironic, serious, irreverent, pointed and catchy, all at the same time.

The 2020 reissue puts the complete debut EP in digital form for the first time, and adds seven bonuses, including the poison apple “I Love New York,” a sardonic, Minutemen-styled “A Political Song” (and its acoustic reprise), the grungy “Slow and Ignorant” and the hallucinogenic collage “Lenny in Wonderland.” The added tracks show off Joe Pop-O-Pie’s range (as did subsequent albums), but having the six songs of the original EP back in print is the real prize here. [©2020 Hyperbolium]

The Pop-O-Pies’ Home Page

The Dazies: Hungover & Weird

dazies_hungoverandweirdBoston basement rock is alive and still sweating

Boston’s M. Holland (Tulsa, Mean Creek, Trabants) has been working as a solo act for the past few years, pressing friends into guest roles, and releasing a string of singles and EPs as The Dazies. In late 2014 he began working with multi-instrumentalist and engineer Kurt Schneider, and together they recorded this six song EP. The opening “Little Things” and “1-2-3 (What You Do To Me)” conjure the ‘70s punk-adjacent power pop of Tom Petty and Dwight Twilley, mating catchy hooks delivered and DIY verve. Holland name-checks an ‘80s juggernaut with the thrashing guitars and distressed vocal of “Nirvana Summer,” riffs through the should-be nationwide dance craze (and ode to the Creaturos) “Do the Snake,” returns to power pop with “Stuck,” and echoes the drive of the Vibrators and Undertones on “Piece of My Love.” If you were there for the Neighborhoods, Nervous Eaters and Real Kids, this will take you back; if you weren’t, this will clue you in to what you missed. [©2016 Hyperbolium]

The Dazies’ Facebook Page

The Rave-Ups: Town + Country

RaveUps_TownAndCountryOverdue reissue of country-punk-rock ‘n’ roll shoulda-beens

Originally from Pittsburgh, this hyphenate country-punk-rock ‘n’ roll band regrouped and restaffed a few times before making their mark in the clubs of Los Angeles. This 1985 full-length debut was a college radio hit, and led to a high profile appearance in the film Pretty in Pink (but not, alas, on the soundtrack album), and a deal with Epic. Their major label debut, The Book of Your Regrets, failed to capitalize on the band’s momentum, and after an uptick with their third album, Chance, the band was dropped, and broke up a few month later. But not before providing TV’s David Silver the soundtrack for his contest-winning dance moves on the Spring Dance episode of Beverly Hills 90210.

The band’s Epic albums were previously reissued as a two-fer, but their debut EP and album for the Fun Stuff label have remained maddeningly out of print. Until now. The vault door has finally swung wide open, providing not only the album’s original ten tracks, but eleven bonuses that include live radio performances and material produced by Steve Berlin and Mark Linett for a scrapped second album. Over 78 minutes of vintage Rave Ups that sounds as vital today as it did thirty (30!) years ago. Stephen Barncard’s production has none of the big studio sounds that have prematurely aged so many mid-80s records, and the band’s timeless rock ‘n’ roll foundation was cannily woven with potent threads of country, punk and blues.

“Positively Lost Me” opens the album with a memorable rhythm guitar lick and the boastful kiss-off “you lost a lot when you lost me.” The bravado appears to crack as the forfeiture is inventoried in a pedestrian list of ephemera (“six paperback books and a dying tree”), but it’s a setup, as the real price is lost confidence and broken trust. Singer-songwriter Jimmer Podrasky was full of great lyrics and catchy vocal hooks, and the band stretched themselves to find deep pockets for his songs. There’s a punk rock edge to the square-dance call “Remember (Newman’s Lovesong)” and the Beach Boys pastiche “In My Gremlin,” and an improbable demo of “If I Had a Hammer” is cannily wed to a La Bamba beat.

The Dylanish “Class Tramp” (which is about breeding rather than schooling) is complemented by a cover of Dylan’s “You Ain’t Going Nowhere,” and the album closes on a rockabilly note with “Rave-Up/Shut-Up.” The bonuses include radio performances of “Positively Lost Me” and Merle Travis’ rewrite of Charlie Bowman’s “Nine Pound Hammer,” early versions of songs that turned up as B-sides and later LPs, and several titles that never turned up again. There’s some excellent material here, but the album, recorded in stolen moments in A&M’s studios, is the fully polished gem. The Rave-Ups deserved more success than fickle industry winds blew their way, but at least Omnivore’s reissue blows this terrific debut back into print. [©2016 Hyperbolium]

Jimmer Podrasky’s Home Page

The Muffs: Blonder and Blonder

Muffs_BlonderAndBlonder1995 sophomore summit, reissued with bonus tracks!

Two years after their self-titled 1993 debut, the Muffs stripped down to a trio with the departure of Melanie Vammen (less than a week before recording) and the arrival of new drummer Roy McDonald. The result is tighter, punchier and even more ferocious than the first outing, with Kim Shattuck’s songwriting sharpened and her vocals often escalating into howls. The album is a perfect example of pop-punk, marrying the catchy melodies of the former with the unrestrained energy of the latter. Shattuck’s rhythm guitar playing is tough, but her leads have the melodic winsomeness of Gary Lewis & The Playboys records. Even the suicide song, “End It All,” is hummable.

Shattuck notes in the liners that “On and On” was influenced by Freddie & The Dreamers, and indeed the opening riff is lifted from “I’m Telling You Now.” She also notes that “Laying on a Bed of Roses” borrows from the Creation’s “Biff Bang Pow,” and with the transvestite of “Oh, Nina” echoing the Kinks’ “Lola,” the British Invasion connection is strong. Her lyrics can be self-pitying (“Sad Tomorrow”) and bratty (“Won’t Come Out to Play”), but she’s nobody’s fool, easily kicking a cheater to the curb in “What You’ve Done.” The album closes with an unusual segue between the freakout “I’m Confused” and the spiffed-up acoustic demo “Just a Game,” ending in a couplet that encapsulates the yin and yang of punk-pop.

Omnivore’s 2016 reissue adds the UK B-sides “Become Undone” and “Goodnight Now,” and demos of “Red Eyed Troll,” “Won’t Come Out to Play” (with its Buddy Holly roots intact) and “Pennywhore” (which turned up on Happy Birthday to Me). Also featured are demos of “Born Today” and “Look at Me,” neither of which seem to have made it to final form. Unlike the guitar-and-voice demos on the debut album’s reissue, these tracks have basic bass and drums that indicate what they’d sound like as band songs. There’s a taste of Shattuck’s demo of “Become Undone” at the end of track twenty-one, and a hidden backwards CD bonus track at #22, but the demo of “I’m Confused” that Shattuck lauds in the liners is MIA.

The reissue’s 20-page booklet includes numerous photos, liner notes by Ronnie Barrett and Roy McDonald, the latter detailing his second chance at joining the band, and song notes by Shattuck. This is a good upgrade for fans who already have the original album, and the place to start for those who haven’t yet dived into the Muffs. [©2016 Hyperbolium]

The Muff’s Facebook Page

The Presidents of the United States of America: Kudos to You!

PresidentsOfTheUnitedStates_KudosToYouAnother round of rock and rye

This Seattle pop-punk band had a brief blaze of fame with a pair of albums in the late ’90s and promptly consigned themselves to a cycle of retirement and reunion. They call their commitment “full-time part-time,” reconvening every four or five years to put together an album of rocking irreverence that finds their creative batteries recharged and their band chemistry fully intact. The band’s material brings to mind Jonathan Richman, Ben Vaughn and They Might Be Giants, but they’re less child-like than Richman and less pathos-filled than Vaughn, which leaves them in a pure-pop place to write about such shared interests as insects (“Slow Slow Fly” and the wonderfully overblown “Flea vs. Mite”), cars (“Crown Victoria”) and the work-a-day world (“She’s a Nurse”). Kids will love “Crappy Ghost,” but may cry when they find out it’s not the theme song to a beloved 1970s Saturday morning cartoon they can stream on Netflix. Several of the songs rework earlier material from the Presidents, their predecessor Egg and Chris Ballew’s post-PUSA Giraffes, but all are given a completely new kick in the ass. Fans will also want to track down the live album Thanks for the Feedback, released simultaneously as part of this album’s Pledge Music campaign. [©2014 Hyperbolium]

The Presidents of the United States of America’s Home Page

The Crags: Big Divide

Minimalist folk punk from Durango, Colorado

This trio from the Southwest Colorado town of Durango has a lo-fi sound that suggests new wave minimalists like Oh-Ok and Wednesday Week, as they might have sounded fronted by the rich voice of Pearl Harbour, Martha Davis or Lene Lovich. Vocalist Tracy Ford is backed by simple arrangements of guitar, bass and drums, and supplemented by short solos and simple harmonies. It’s surprisingly effective, as the basic rhythm patterns and uncluttered production keeps the focus on the expressiveness of Ford’s voice. These tracks have the finish of demos, but their lack of production polish is charming and honest, and the songs are catchy. [©2011 hyperbolium dot com]

MP3 | Big Divide
The Crags’ MySpace Page

Various Artists: Today’s Top Girl Groups, Vol. 1

1998 sampler of international lo-fi, punk and girlgroup sounds

After several Rock Don’t Run volumes [1 2 3] of mostly male bands, Spinout collected sixteen girl groups for this 1998 release. But other than Sit ‘n’ Spin’s note-perfect homage to the sixties, this is more punk rock than girl group. There’s primitive Merseybeat from Japan’s Pebbles and 5,6,7,8s, buzzing post-punk from San Francisco’s Poontwang, Ramones-like intensity from The Neanderdolls and Bobbyteens, and garage rock from Holly Golightly and Greece’s Meanie Geanies. The Neptunas give a swinging instrumental surf spin to Max Frost & the Trooper’s “Shapes of Things to Come,” the Friggs’ drum-and-guitar heavy “Juiced Up” brings to mind the late, lamented Pandoras, and the Maybellines’ Bo Diddley beat was studied at the feet of the Strangeloves. Best of all, though, is the drums-bass-and-grunting of the Godzillas’ “Pass the Hatchet.” If the Litter had made soundtrack music for the softcore porn scene of an AIP cheapie film, it would have, if we were lucky, sounded like this track. [©2011 hyperbolium dot com]

The Hooks: 10,000 Feet

Great punk-pop-rock with a 1977 vibe

The Hooks are an Irish rock band that relocated to San Francisco a few years ago. Their music is filled with melodic hooks and powerful guitar-bass-and-drums energy that’s as much power-pop as it is punk. Fans of the Flamin’ Groovies and Barracudas and all fine rock ‘n’ roll that remembers its 1960s pop radio roots will love this. The title track sounds like a long-lost Stiff Records single that would have had Wreckless Eric singing at the top of his lungs, and “All Across the World” conjures the strident agitprop of the Clash. Released a few years ago, this may have been 30 years too late to garner the attention it deserves. [©2009 hyperbolium dot com]

The Hooks’ Home Page
The Hooks’ MySpace Page

Care Bears on Fire: Get Over It!

CareBearsOnFire_GetOverItPerky pop-punk trio enters high-school

Formed in a Brooklyn elementary school, this pop-punk girl trio has finally made it to high school. They issued an EP in 2006 and their first full-length in 2007, and after a few personnel changes, this second full-length in the summer of 2009. Their latest album is filled with originals that harken back to the roots of late ‘70s and early ‘80s punk rock, but unlike those twenty-something’s songs of adolescence, Care Bears on Fire write youth rock as they live it. They play as a tight and punchy power-trio, and though their age is novel, and there’s a cute edge to their young concerns, they’re hardly a novelty.

So what’s on the mind of 15-year-olds these days? For starters: girls who’ll do anything to get their way, peer-pressure, materialism, individualism, the tribulations of school, the realities of social networking, and, of course, boys. The extra sharp combination of “Barbie Eat a Sandwich” and “My Problems” takes on the distorted images of beauty and normalcy hammered into young girls by media and society. All of this is wrapped up in hook-filled melodies, girlish harmonies, and sing-along choruses set to power-chords, thumping bass and crashing drums. The band has a very high ratio of musical quality to years-lived, with songs that aren’t artificially grown-up, written to a calculated Disney heart-tugging angle, or brain-numbingly childish.

Care Bears on Fire hit a sweet-spot that’s appealing to their peers and to adults wanting to get an earful of a literate teenager’s day-to-day concerns. Kim Fowley tried, or at least purported to try, to elicit this sort of music from the Runaways and Venus & The Razorblades, but his manipulations left too many adult fingerprints and often gave their songs an artificial, inflammatory air. In contrast, Care Bears on Fire is the product of three teenagers and thankfully free of grown-up staging. This is terrific pop-punk that’s melodic, honest, clever, powerful and lots of fun. [©2009 hyperbolium dot com]

Care Bears on Fire’s MySpace Page

Kleveland: Harder

kleveland_harderKick-ass rock from Portland, OR

The melodic cascade of assertive words emanating from Kleveland singer/guitarist Stephanie Smith may remind you of Chrissie Hynde, but the band’s manic guitar attack borrows more from the aggression of metal and punk than the Pretenders much managed after their debut album. There are echoes of other bands with female leads, such as X and the Alley Cats, but Kleveland rocks harder, as if the Runaways’ chops had lived up to their ambitions, The Pandoras’ detour into metal had been more musical, or punk rockers like Civet or the Distillers took a breath once in awhile to decimate the objects of their derision rather than just cuss at them. Smith may not have Pat Benetar’s operatic range, but she’s got the same ballsy Attitude, and unconstrained by the niceties of MTV it’s something of a wash. It’s hard to imagine a VJ introducing the vampire gore of “You’re Not Sorry,” with its stinging rebuke “You’re not sorry you did it, you’re sorry you got caught,” or the acoustic “Sloppy Seconds” with its opening stanza “I’ll admit that I was kind of upset, when I heard that you were out fuckin’ my ex-, and the body wasn’t even cold yet, but that don’t bother you”). Kleveland quiets down on a couple of tracks, including the closing lament “It’s Over,” but it’s loud guitar rock that’s their calling card, combining the sonic punch of 1970s rock with the in-your-face confrontation of punk. Anyone else remember Sue Saad and the Next? Kleveland’s heavier and more lyrically fierce, but the combination of rhythm guitars and assertive female vocals may take you back. [©2008 hyperbolium dot com]