Are Young and Good Looking
(Greedy / Epitaph Records)
In an era that has seemingly seen every big punk band of the past few years showered with wealth, fame and adoration, it’s a welcome reminder that there are a few practitioners of the genre who haven’t signed with the majors or otherwise compromised their integrity...and it seems that they all end up at Epitaph. Case in point is THE DWARVES, one of the more legendary, or, at least, infamous punk outfits of the past decade. The band’s new effort, Are Young and Good Looking, is a non-stop roller-coaster ride of loose riffs, metallic clanging and relentless rhythms. As outrageous as they’ve ever been, and as nasty as they wanna be, THE DWARVES once again prove with Are Young and Good Looking that they’re the stone punk rock real thing.
JACK KILLED JILL...
(New Red Archives)
Ever since THE DEAD BOYS took it on as their own mantle, young, loud, and snotty has been a phrase that has served punk rock well. Sadly, although many of today’s so-called punksters may be young and mostly loud, they’re definitely not as snotty as they could be. Which is why I’m glad that JACK KILLED JILL... are around. The spirit of STIV BATORS lives on in the grooves of In Stereo, JACK KILLED JILL... singer Revik Delfin snarling, spitting and growling her vocals on these songs with a joyful snottiness that these ears haven’t enjoyed in years. A hard-driving collection of uncompromising energy and roots punk influence, In Stereo is a solid showcase for JACK KILLED JILL... That the band can cover such a politically-charged song as NEW MODEL ARMY’s “51st State” and make it sound more threatening and less bombastic than the original says a lot, in my mind, of JACK KILLED JILL...’s talents. Definitely a band to keep an eye on.
As one of the true godfathers of the late-seventies punk scene, Australia’s THE SAINTS have had twenty years to see their legend grow. Whereas familiarity has bred a certain amount of contempt towards a lot of American bands of that era, the geographic distance and relative obscurity of THE SAINTS has preserved both the band’s reputation and their integrity. With the first appearance on CD of the band’s near-mythical and long out-of-print (I’m) Stranded 1977 debut, many music lovers who have only heard the buzz can decide the band’s place in history for themselves. Although the title cut has been included on nearly every punk compilation of the past two decades, the remainder of the album holds up remarkably well after all of this time. Influenced by the STOOGES school of musical excess, THE SAINTS deliver sloppy, fast and furious rock & roll with plenty of echo, feedback and high-voltage energy, (I’m) Stranded easily standing as one of the best albums of the era. Extra credit for the inclusion of the band’s remarkably chaotic cover of “River Deep, Mountain High,” which simply must be heard to be believed.
As their rapid follow-up to their incredible aforementioned debut, Eternally Yours is the more polished of the two albums, THE SAINTS sounding tighter, becoming well-practiced during the interval between releases. The raw punk energy is still there, easily identified in the piss-off attitude of “Know Your Product” or the This was a band on the move, however, and a few disparate influences have begun to creep in around the edges of Eternally Yours. Chris Bailey’s vocals are evolving from that of a primitive Iggyish shout towards a smoother, bluesy snarl while Ed Kuepper’s six-string work is fuller, more pronounced and less random. Eternally Yours was, perhaps, the last completely punk album that THE SAINTS would make as they subsequently began exploring various musical styles while maturing into a top-notch R & B oriented outfit, sort of like an Australian ROLLING STONES. Released for the first time on CD, the long out-of-print Eternally Yours is a classic slice of punk rock from down under.
The fusion of Jamaican-styled ska – originally popularized by bands like THE SPECIALS and THE ENGLISH BEAT during the eighties – with hardcore punk is such a natural pairing that it surprises me that it’s taken this long for it to occur. Regardless, we’re in the midst of a full-fledged ska-punk revolution on the indie level, so it can’t be long until it’s co-opted by the majors and sold to unsuspecting suburbanites in the local Wal-Mart. Until that inevitable day, there’s a wonderful diversity of bands cranking this stuff out. As it goes, U.S. BOMBS are one of the better of these ska-punk revivalists. Adding more than a bit of British-born Oi! influence to their musical mix, U.S. BOMBS show with War Birth that they can kick ass with the best of them. From their standard-slaughtering cover of the Tin Pan Alley standard “That’s Life” and their skate-punk anthem “Jaks” through tunes like “Rocks In Memphis” or “U.S. of Hate,” U.S. BOMBS keep the energy level high, the decibels ringing and the songs roaring like a primal punk rock-fueled, industrial-strength musical machine.
New England is a hot-bed of rock & roll activity, although one might not know it from the music press these days. Eschewing power-punk flash or metallic excess for solid pop hooks and intelligent lyricism, rockers throughout the region are plying their trade in relative obscurity, concentrating more on making good music than in making a spectacle of themselves. New Hampshire’s WOODEN IGLOO is one such band. The brainchild of brothers Hank and Cal Powers, WOODEN IGLOO have been knocking around the northeast for almost a decade now, developing a style that, as evident on their Scrap Pile, their second album, is just plain hard as hell to pin down. There are elements of folk, urban country and seventies-styled rock, but there’s also a lot of unidentifiable influences here as well. Not all of it works – Scrap Pile drags at several points along the way – but when the brothers Powers hit their mark, as on cuts like “Save Me,” “Shilo” or the hilarious honky-tonk send-up “Jesus By the Neon Light,” they sparkle like a diamond in the rough. The right producer, with a gentle guiding hand – somebody like BILL LLOYD, perhaps, a chap not entirely unfamiliar with the songwriter’s burden – could take WOODEN IGLOO and make a hell of a record. There’s real talent here on Scrap Pile, just waiting to bust out and be noticed.
If you’re not sold on ZEN LUNATIC by the end of the first verse of “I Am A Freak In A Deadhead’s Body,” the opening track of ¡Disco Insurance!, then you’re either clinically brain dead or you’ve assumed room temperature. This homegrown quartet packs more pop hooks into their well-written rock ditties than any half a dozen Britpop funboys, and they pull it off both without pretension or the needless addition of psychedelic flourishes and obtuse lyrics. What you’ll find on this six-song EP is refreshingly innocent guitar-driven rock & roll, the kind of stuff that might have been called “garage rock” in the sixties. Directly influenced by such masters of the craft like THE BYRDS or TOM PETTY as well as any number of valued “one shot wonders,” ¡Disco Insurance! is a welcome musical respite from bland alternative posturing and boring commercialism. It’s obvious from cuts like “Angel’s Got Wings” or “Feels Like September” that ZEN LUNATIC rock because they have to, not because they want to...and they’re glad that they do!