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Razorcake #79
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No Idea Records

Record Reviews

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Alice and Friends: Cassette
I am not a fan of the recent cassette tape craze that’s sweeping the nation. My girlfriend and I have three cassette players between us and not a single one of them works. In fact, I don’t know anyone who owns a functioning cassette player. It was worth it to track one down, though, because the Box Elders are thee shit and write indelibly catchy tunes. The problem I have with this type of release is that the album is readily available on LP, CD, and MP3. Are there really that many folks out there who listen to music exclusively in the cassette format? No way. I’m not convinced that tapes like this will survive in the music delivery landscape other than as annoying novelties. Still, if your heart is set on purchasing a cassette to stuff into your hopelessly outdated Walkman, this is the one to buy because the Box Elders rule. –Josh Benke (Burger)

Alice and Friends: LP
This is one of the best records I have heard that puts into operation ‘50s pop sensibilities using overdriven vocals. “PalisadesPark”-style keyboards and jangly, reverbed-out guitars make the songs lighthearted and jumpy. “Jackie Wood” opens the album and is a highlight of the mid-tempo songs. “Isabella” and “Cougars” appear later in the album and shift the sound into the pace of Teenage Shutdown-style ‘60s punk. The album is great, but I feel like they would be fun to see in a basement, particularly if it has a low ceiling and there was a danger of hitting your head on the ceiling. –Billups Allen (Goner)

Run the Easting Down: CD
Egads! Emo! Emo! Take it out! Make it stop! –Jimmy Alvarado (Substandard)

Upstanding and Indigent: CD
Singer sounds like Captain Beefheart and sings a million words in every song. Sometimes the band sounds like the Jesus Lizard, sometimes more like Beefheart’s band, sometimes like Mule or the Cows. If you like that stuff, you’ll get the picture. “I got back with a new tattoo of you kissing my ass.” Wholesome weirdness. –Cuss Baxter (Dogfingers)

Hobo Nouveau: CD
Not quite as over the top as previous releases, Boxcar Satan, this time along with the like-minded Ghostwriter, still manage to mine the odder, darker depths of swampy blues. Whether slogging brooding originals or making covers like Bob Dylan’s “Serve Somebody” and Woody Guthrie’s “Jesus Christ” sound like they popped outta their own twisted noggins, they manage to evoke the memory of Scratch Acid as vividly as Son House. If you ever thought early Gun Club stuff could’ve used a bit more psychosis in their delivery, this’ll no doubt do the trick for ye. –Jimmy Alvarado (End Of The West)

Black Water Rising: Split CD
Both deal in swamp-crusted blues that sounds like it comes from a world populated by the unholy progeny of Tom Waits and the Butthole Surfers, with the Graves’ Brothers Deluxe edging out their discmates with a cover of Huey “Piano” Smith’s “Don’t You Just Know It” that straddles a fine line between genius and sacrilege. Proceeds from this go to Gulf region mental health charities. –Jimmy Alvarado (Dogfingers)

The Ill Testament: CD
Hoo, lordy, lordy, I can barely type ‘cause I’m laughing so hard. The band melds together tough-guy metal (aka “hardcore”) and gangsta rap that takes defining “crap” to epic new levels. By the time track three, “Ghetto Story Part 2,” started off with an appropriation of the first verse of Slick Rick’s “Children’s Story,” I was rolling on the floor. I’m reluctant to say this is the worst thing I’ve heard in a decade, because, at this point, there are nine months left, but it’s gonna take some truly monumental testaments to utter suckdom to beat this. Even Brittany Spears at her absolute worst is sheer artistic brilliance compared to this. –Jimmy Alvarado (Screaming Crow)

Infinity in Its Infancy: LP
Boyish Charms is San Diegan Robbie Lawson (ex-Red Pony Clock) and Angeleno Cam Jones (ex-Finches). The two of them have built up a cult audience through the release of limited run cassettes and 7”s of bedroom recordings, with a sporadic show here and there over the last ten years or so. This new album is a bit of a departure and, perhaps, maturation of their sound. Where before I found the songs were a little too much guy-with-acoustic-guitar for me, they benefit from the assistance of playing with a full band, as well as the production of Roy Silverstein of Habitat Studios. The songs now show off with more vim and vigor than previous releases. They haven’t gone all Motörhead on us or anything, but they bring to mind quite nicely the catalog of grown-up punks cum indie rockers such as Pavement or Sebadoh. Naturally fluid vocals that show off wide range from both Robbie and Cam are excellent. There are also lots of buried layers. I recommend listening with headphones to pick up the flourishes of handclaps, cello, vibraphone, and other sonic surprises. This is a really great listen beginning to end. This comes with the highest recommendation. –Jeff Proctor (Talking Helps)

2-D World: 7"
Yay! This record could have come out in the heyday of the Flakes, the Fevers, and other bands that start with F! And the guy who produced it, Brian Hermosillo, was in the Fevers, the Retardos (SuperTeem is go!), and even the long-forgotten Donny Denim! I mean, it’s hard for me to even be objective about this! Which is fine, because I DON’T have to be objective about this! Oh, um. What does it sound like? A fair question, indeed! It sounds like one cup Rip Offs, two teaspoons Flakes, and four tablespoons Fevers! In other words, garage punk of the best variety! It’s more in the straightforward Rip Offs camp, and less in the crazy buri buri Brentwoods camp, but now I’m splitting hairs! If this were a cereal, it’d be Donkey Kong, Jr. cereal! Yes, the successor to Donkey Kong Crunch! Like Froot Loops, but more ridiculous! Yum! –Maddy (Bachelor)

Girls of Today: 7”
The title track is decent power pop. The B-side felt like the song that comes on when you’re dancin’ with the chick (or dude) you wanna make it with, but then this song comes on that you really don’t want to be dancing along to, but you need to keep dancin’ if there’s any chance of getting any action from said dude (or chick), and you end up doing this miserable side-to-side hop that pretty much guarantees you’re going home alone again. –Megan Pants (Douche Master, www.douchemasterrecords.com)

Self-titled: LP
I won’t pretend to be an expert on all things power pop. But if there’s one thing I’ve noticed about the current wave of bands is that more often than not, the “power” is overshadowed by the wardrobe. Boys Club, however, keep it simple (both musically and fashionably.) They play shoestring budget power pop with more of a nod to the punk side of things. Each and every song sounds like it belongs on a single or EP. Not just that, but a single I would listen to frequently. Great job. –Juan Espinosa (Three Dimensional)

Every Good Boy Does Fine: 7” EP
This looks deceptively more lo-fi/lo-budget/lo-talent than it actually is; the record actually feels more like a contemporary cross between some sort of American indie club rock that never gets punker than the Buzzcocks ((though it does not sound Buzzcocks-like in the least)) and some kinda late 70’s punk/mainstream fence-straddler like Willy DeVille singing some song about how he wants some girl whose first and last names both end in a vowel to come down and meet him on the street corner or something, plus a few showy flourishes like doo-woppy bits and modern dissonance-pop chunks and breakdowns where all the music cuts out except for an unplugged electric guitar in the corner and the vocals suddenly coming out of a little tinny speaker. Took a couple spins but i really warmed up to it. They’ve indeed done fine, i tell you!!! BEST SONG: “Barracuda” BEST SONG TITLE: “Barracuda” if you are Heart or DMZ or someone i guess. FANTASTIC AMAZING TRIVIA FACT: The lyrics include the phrase “The Frozen Tundra” so you should obviously purchase a copy at once. –Rev. Norb (Hang Up)

Self-titled: CD
From the ashes of glam band Hollywood Brats came this monster of a band, and their pedigree is evident in the songs contained herein. Tunes like “First Time,” “Sick on You” (originally recorded by the aforementioned Brats), “Cop Cars,” and “Kiss Like a Nun” sound like glam gone on a speed bender, with zippy tempos, catchy choruses and a seriously tight rhythm section. The result is one of the best, and most criminally underrated, punk records to come out of the initial U.K. punk wave. Added treats here include the single versions of “I Don’t Care” and “Soda Pressing,” some outtakes and a “long version” of “First Time,” which includes an extra verse. –Jimmy Alvarado (Captain Oi)

The Punk Rock Anthology: 2 x CD
The Boys were one o’ the more obscure (at least in the U.S.) bands to come out of the first waves of the English punk thing. This has always struck me as odd because, while not as incendiary as some of their contemporaries, they penned some barn burners in their time that also happened to be wicked catchy to boot. What the Ramones did with the template provided by the Beach Boys and the Stooges, the Boys did with the one provided by the Beatles and Spector, delivering tunes that melded razor-sharp pop hooks to punk bluster and breakneck tempos. A huge chunk of those tunes—“First Time,” “Brickfield Nights,” “Sick on You” (quite possibly the catchiest song ever to reference both a relationship gone sour and vomiting), “Classified Susie,” “Jimmy Brown,” and “Tenement Kids,” to name a few—can be found crammed onto the two discs here, along with assorted demos, single tracks and versions, resulting in a mighty fine primer for those unfamiliar with the band. The tunes are mapped out, more or less, in chronological order, which allows the listener the chance to hear how, over time, the band sacrificed the manic tempos for a more power pop approach, a sound that, at first blush, seems like the primary influence for more recent bands like the Exploding Hearts. In the end, the worst case scenario for any potential listener is forty-seven tracks from one of punk’s unsung greats. –Jimmy Alvarado (www.cherryred.co.uk)

School of Etiquette: CD
Barely legal girls kiss their way through standard bubblegum emo. Accomplished, boring, better than angry young guys doing it.  –Speedway Randy (Alive)

Maybe Use My Knife (1980-1986): CD
Who knew that there was another art damaged weirdo band from Ohio in the late ‘70s and early ‘80s? Not me, but I’m sure glad I’ve been enlightened to the ways of BPA. This is a compilation of their output through the first half of the ‘80s and I’ve got to say that it stands up to any of the similar stuff from the era. I can hear a little bit of everything. A bit of Devo, a lot of early Butthole Surfers… Talking Heads melded with Big Boys… I absolutely LOVE this! The thought of jocks cringing at this makes me smile. The liner notes do a great job of outlining the history of the band and report that they still play to this day from time to time. The (hopefully true) story about a drugged-up Madonna partying all night and refusing to listen to anything but BPA was also great. Track this down now. –Ty Stranglehold (Shake It)

Ska Got Soul: CD
I thought this was a decent ska album for a full thirty seconds. Then the vocals came in. Then I heard the lyrics about his favorite designer clothing. Then I threw it away. –Megan Pants (KOB)

Requiem: CD
I have to confess that this record is one of the most novel concepts that I’ve seen in a while. No real titles to the songs here; instead we have “Warren’s Song Pt. 16, Pt. 19, 14, 24, 11, 23, 17, 26, 18, 12, 21, 20, 10, 25, 15, 22, and 13.” As a result, there is a distinct lack of independence to these songs; on a normal record with songs individually titled, each tune maintains a level of musical autonomy within the overall package, like a short story as part of an anthology. By giving every song the same title, just variations in numbering, I was forced to listen to this as a whole rather than individual tunes specifically ordered on a record. And it worked. What we have here is a seventeen-movement rock’n’roll symphony. Musically, this is some pretty rockin’ pop punk along the lines of bands that show up on Honest Don’s; poppy and inventive, this opus never got dull. –The Lord Kveldulfr (Takeover)

Bracketsmania: CD
Sounds like corporate mall rock. Is it corporate mall rock? Unclear. It’s also in Spanish. Sadly, I wish I liked this because they have a really ridiculous photo of a big metal case that holds each band member’s Buddy Holly-esque glasses, presumably for touring purposes. If this were a cereal, it’d be Total. Who buys Total? Unclear. –Maddy (SP)

Happy, Lucky, and Going Places: 7”
The Bradleo (yes, one word) Administration is (I guess) a solo vehicle for a guy named Brad Leo— not to be confused with balding front man Ted Leo. The A side of Brad Leo’s single is influenced by that power-pop stuff Alex Chilton didn’t make a career out of; the same music Bobby Stinson played and now (seeing as he’s dead) doesn’t. The B side reminds me of Peter Laughner’s home recordings (although Peter Laughner doesn’t make home recordings anymore because he’s dead, too. Had Peter not indulged in a case of Grolsch a day, coupled with lumps of methamphetamines, he’d currently be fifty-four years old). So, yeah, this is all great. You see the keywords (Laughner, Chilton, etc.) and you’re all set to buy this record. Just hold on, chief. I can tell that Leo (as in Brad) likes good music, but it’s hard to produce it. My girlfriend says this record is a three out of ten. I told her that if I played Peter Laughner’s home recordings for her, she’d give them a two out of ten. So, anyway, elitism aside, this record is a five out of ten. This group (or Brad Leo) shows promise, but they’ve got some work cut out for them. Maybe a strict diet of Thomas Wolfe and Jack Kerouac could get them up to speed. I’m not sure—I’m neither Lamont Dozier nor the Colonel Tom Parker, just a cantankerous rock critic and bass player. –Ryan Leach (Floridas Dying, floridasdying.com)

“Top of the Hour” b/w “Graveyard”: 7”
What I often find most exasperating about the modern cookie-cutter mentality of the monolithic music machine—and the clueless fops who’ll take any dish o’ crap served up—is the actual creative process and it accompanying tendency toward risk-taking has been almost completely excised from the equation. It’s what makes the first waves of any new musical idea/movement/genre magical and its absence is what makes what follows, well, cookie-cutter. These cats remember that creative process well. At their core, they’re a pop band but they’re not afraid to make more than the minimal button-punching effort employed in modern tunesmithing, and even mix disparate things, like country twang to the title track and some swing to the flip, to give that core a bit more complexity in flavor. Both songs here would’ve easily garnered them a rotation slot on forward-thinking radio stations and a contract on Slash’s roster some twenty-five years ago, before the whole indie/alternative thing turned into corporate-owned, vanilla-colored shit. This is a great goddamned single and here’s hoping that some DJ finally gets tired of playing the hundredth song in a row that sounds like its ninety-nine predecessors, says “fuck it,” and drops the needle on the wax. –Jimmy Alvarado (bradleydean.com)

The Deep End: CD
I have a good friend named Sean Brady. He has about fifteen nicknames for me. He and his twin brother tend to address people as madam, as in “I apologize madam; it’s about to get awesome in here.” To a bartender at nine in the morning. And they live in a house called the Fat Cave, which is a very happy place for me to visit. Neither he, nor his two brothers are, to my knowledge, born out of wedlock. Which is fortunate, because I really like my friend Sean, and I really don’t like this band. –Megan Pants (www.bradybastards.com)

Half Empty: CD
Like Pogues-inspired punk, which is what I was expecting from the band’s name, the whole U.K.-via-OC punk thing is a very dicey prospect—move too far in one direction, you’re in meathead territory; move too far in the other, and you’re in bad glammy rock territory; tilt this way you’re neck deep in bonehead modern oi; tilt that way and you’re trolling around in the depths of the worst of the Social Distortion clones. These guys are quite the dancers, though, pirouetting through the much and balancing all the best bits—anthemic and catchy songwriting, non-wanky guitar leads up the wazoo, a singer that can growl ‘n’ howl in tune, and the wisdom not to take themselves too seriously—to come up with a full-length that puts ‘em in fine company along Mad Parade, Black Jax, and Channel 3, among others. Though the mix is a bit bass-heavy, they’ve got themselves quite the release here, and though it’s making for some mighty fine tuneage in cold-ass mid-February, it’s really gonna hit the spot come July when the windows are down and the volume is up full. –Jimmy Alvarado –Jimmy Alvarado (Collision Course)

A Forlorn Hope: CD
Hmm. This is on Revelation and looks like it might be stoner rock or something. Put the CD on. Huh? Is this the right disk? It's kinda emo-y and poppy, but weirder. What's going on? Look at the liner notes, they kinda look like preps, playing in a big arena… OH, WAIT!! I get it now, they're Japanese. Suddenly, I look at this record from a different perspective, and I like it. It's a little more polished than the Japanese punk I'm used to, but it's still good. It gets me to thinking, though. Do I only like it because it's Japanese? If they were Americans, I'd hate this and make fun of it. Is it right for me to let the lame shit slide just because of where they're from? I don't know how I feel about this record. –ben (Revelation)

White Dwarfs and Red Giants: CD
Monstrous pop hooks, nice song structures and LOUD guitars from this power-punk outfit make this worth the green. Judging by the band and album name, I expected this to be either math rock, art damage or some combination thereof, so I’m pretty stoked. Recommended. –Jimmy Alvarado (Molecular Laboratories, PO Box 791, Frederick, MD 21705)

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