Tuesday, October 30, 2012

Music Reviews: Various Artists - "Screech Like A Weasel: A Tribute To Screeching Weasel"

Tribute albums are a funny thing....most of em suck so bad that they can't even be considered a tribute to anything except the inflated egos of the bands butchering the originals. Case in point, "We're A Happy Family: A Tribute To The Ramones". Was this REALLY a tribute to the Ramones? Or just some ridiculous way for U2 and Eddie Veddar to stroke each others cocks so they can say "we're punk rockers too"? Anyone remember that Clash tribute album from back in the 90's? Y'know the one that had No Doubt and 311 taking a shit on everything The Clash stood for? No? Me either...moving on! Well, FINALLY someone got it right! The new album "Screech Like A Weasel", a tribute to one of the most important punk bands to come out of Chicago ever (next to, of course, Naked Raygun), Screeching Weasel, is a true to the original sound, feel and attitude album made up of 27 songs by 27 bands who DON'T take a steaming shit on the bands music...instead they're doing what they were tapped to do...pay tribute to this legendary band!

DeeCracks cover "This Ain't Hawaii" so true to the original, you'll do a double take thinking it IS the Weasel version. When you get bands who were obviously influenced by Screeching Weasel it's easy to make a tribute album that's fun and worth acknowledging. Whether it's The Larroquetts covering "I Hate Led Zeppelin", Hopewrecker doing "The Science Of Myth" or The Bricktops killer version of "Every Night", it's just one monster track after another. These bands are so worthy of being on this comp it's not even funny.

With most of these tunes extremely true to the original there are a couple of stand out tracks that caught me off guard...but in a GOOD way! The Bluffingtons do a wonderful acoustic version of "Six A.M." that makes me wonder if Weasel's original version would have been somewhat better if they would have unplugged for this track. Hmm, something to think about. Le Volume Etait Au Maximum do, possibly the best track on this album, "Your Name Is Tattooed On My Heart" half in French and half in English. Which, by itself is an amazing feat, because they really pull it off! But, what makes it just that much more spine tingling is that they electrify their version with solid playing, beautiful melody and even flavor the song with some piano. But where as the original was kind of a slow chugging eerie song with a very faint Ben Weasel singing way in the background, this version is a straight up rocking version. GREAT job guys!

If every tribute album could be half as good as this one, than I would have a major change of heart. But until that time I'll just blast this bad boy full volume to remind everyone around me why Screeching Weasel was so important to, not only Chicago, but to the punk scene in general. I know those days of the "classic" Weasel line up will never again see the light of day, and that's okay...times change and people move on. But we all have our memories of where we were when we first heard them, or a certain song, or even one of the legendary shows we were at. THIS is what paying tribute is all about. Anyone out there planning to pay tribute to a band should use this album as the blueprint to follow in order to do it right!

You can download the album for free on Bandcamp so there's no excuse why you shouldn't already have this album.

5 / 5 stars

Saturday, October 27, 2012

Music Reviews: Various Artists - "Music To Bleed To Vol: 3"

Just this last week I reviewed "Music To Bleed To Vol: 2" in preparation for the newest installment in the series being released this Weds, October 31, Halloween. And what a better way to kick off the goulish holiday season than with 32 more songs by 16 artists to stain your skin blood red to! 

The Bloody Muffs kick things off with "I Like Pussy", a pretty self explanatory song about the joys of, well....PUSSY! It's a pretty kick ass way to start off this record. And the excitement and power doesn't end there...not even close! Common Enemy shred not only guitars, but vocal chords with the blood pumping twofer attack of "Dead Kegs" and "Thrown Away". If this band doesn't get the pit going, nothing will. Holy fuck, is this band heavy! Things take a slight turn with "Breathe" by Dead Rejects. It's still a heavy tune but it's also flavored with a little ska. It's nice mix for an album so full of testosterone and sweaty attitude. 

Music To Bleed To is the brainchild of Infested Records head honcho Jason Friend, a man with a vision of bringing back the DIY scene and releasing some great albums along the way. With MTBT he's giving us more bang for our buck! 16 bands who NEED to be heard, on 1 album for a very low price. This is what it's all about. Spreading the word and keeping it underground was what punk and hardcore were founded on. Labels like SST and Dischord were the originators and pioneers of this movement. And Infested is taking the baton and running with it.

My buddy Ben and his band The Enders have contributed possibly two of the bands BEST songs, "Song For The Working Class" and "My Television" to this already amazing album. Both songs are great examples of blue collar guys singing about what they know, working hard and watching the TV! Can't go wrong with that, now can ya? "Stomachache" by Super Sucker (not to be confused with Supersuckers) is a great way to spend 3 minutes. It's all about having to take a mean dump, and even features some great sound effects that you need to hear. Too funny! Closing out this set is Anti-Venom's monster tune "I'm So Sick Of You". A true hardcore beast that's as raw as anything out there. Fast and furious, this is a song that would have been a great album opener, if not for the fact that there was already a great album opener. But it's also equally as strong as a closer. This is what this compilation is all about. Getting into the pit and tearing some shit up. Show some support for our underground scene and pick up "Music To Bleed To Vol: 3" on Halloween. You can pre-order the album today by clicking  HERE, or you can buy it on Weds! Either way, it's a great album that really needs to heard. So pick up a copy for you, and one for a friend! Your momma would be proud!

4 / 5 stars

Thursday, October 25, 2012

Interview with Sparrow from Grand Perceptor

                                         Grand Perceptor L-R Dean Stanton (drums), Sparrow (vox/guitar) and Michael Fitt (bass)

Critical Mass: Thanks for taking the time to talk with Critical Mass, Sparrow. I greatly appreciate your time. For all the folks here in the states and around the world who may not know much about Grand Perceptor, can you give us a little history on the band and how you guys got started?

Sparrow: In the beginning, there were three human embryos. They formed separately within the wombs of three different women. During the first few weeks in an embryonic state the beings were neither male nor female. Later it became clear that they were all male. Long after birth, each of the boys attended the same high school, yet because of their differences in age, they were almost unknown to each other during this time. It was during this period that they each came across rock music, with it's wailing guitars, thumping drums and general angst. From here all roads lead to Grand Perceptor.

CM: I recently reviewed your latest EP "Invasions" and found it quite refreshing and original. Is this the bands first release?

Sparrow: INVASIONS is our first cannonball shot into the music universe.

CM: The lyrical content on "Invasions" range from social commentary to alien invasions. How do these topics tie into the band as a whole? Do you guys believe in life on other planets and that "big brother" is possibly watching our every move?
Sparrow: It is my understanding that everything is simply energy in different forms and all that you could possibly imagine, all exists. Extraterrestrial life and big brother are issues relevant to humanity now. They are generally treated as fiction for entertainment purposes only. I would like to present issues fictionally to encourage thought and discussion on these and various other topics.

CM: Who are some of your personal musical influences? And do you feel those influences come out in your songwriting and playing?

Sparrow: I'm really into older stuff like Jimi Hendrix, Led Zeppelin, Black Sabbath and also newer stuff like Rage Against The Machine, Jeff Buckley, Radiohead. I think that Grand Perceptor receives a strongly blended influence of Black Sabbath and RATM. 

CM: When it comes to songwriting, is it a band effort? Or is there one primary song writer, lyrically and musically, in the band?
Sparrow: We all work together on the songs musically but all lyrics are written by me. We've all spent many years at open mics and jam parties that go till the sun comes up so that has given us a good grasp on wild improvisation. We record big jam sessions as capturologies and listen back through while piecing together new sounds that may make a great song.

CM: Being from Melbourne do you guys tour much outside of Australia? And is there any plans in the near future for a possible tour?

Sparrow: We haven't toured outside of Australia yet but we're certainly excited at the idea and we have plans for that among our mountain of plans. We have heads full of ideas and it's a lot of work just sorting through that and choosing what to put into action.

CM: Is there any new material in the works? And will we be seeing a new EP or possible full length in the new year?

Sparrow: Totally! There is a heap if material we're working on that I'm excited to get out and we have some tracks we'll be releasing as singles when we feel the wind is blowing in the good direction.

CM: Is there a website you guys wanna plug where we can get up to date info on new releases, live dates and merch?

Sparrow: Visit www.grandperceptor.com and sign up to our email list, then you'll get all the best news first.

Also, check out our Comic Book, it does contain details which may not make sense to non-Australian readers, but give it a go. 

CM:  Thanks again for talking with Critical Mass man. I really enjoyed "Invasions" and I hope we can get you over to the states at some point for some live dates! I would love to have you in Chicago eventually! Cheers to you and all the best for the future. Thanks guys! 

Sparrow: Thanks! Has been great talking to you. We'd love to visit Chicago and do some shows there.

                                   ***Editors note***
Be sure to check out the bands latest video "Monsters" HERE.

Tuesday, October 23, 2012

Music Reviews: Various Artists - "Music To Bleed To Vol: 2"

Compilation albums are a cool way for bands of a certain genre to come together and showcase each bands style and sound. It's also a great way of discovering bands you may not have had the chance to hear before. I'm a big fan of comps because you get multiple bands for a single CD price. So, in honor of Infested Records upcoming "Music To Bleed To Vol: 3", I'm looking back on the labels last installment, "Music To Bleed To Vol: 2".This album showcases the works of 15 bands with 29 tracks. As you can probably guess by the title, this is aggressive music for true fans of hardcore! Rash Decision give us the pit opening anthem "Giving And Taking (Fuck You)". This is good old school hardcore in the vein of say an Agnostic Front or Cro-Mags. Stab Your Back are pissed off and ready to fight with "One Day". This is just one big monster slam record front to back with more anger and sweat than you can handle. Not a second is wasted on anything remotely mellow or poppy. This is an in your face fuck the system music for all you boot party warriors!

Jason and the Infested family really know how to compile a great album that represents hardcore to it's fullest potential. I can go on and on about bands like Luvdump and Clepto. But you need to hear these bands in order to really grasp their intensity and power. Sorry State are a real standout band for me. The bands track "Good For Me" brings me back to my younger days hanging with the hardcore crew in the mid 80's in Chicago. Fast and riff heavy, this is a band on the rise. And with a comp like this, it gives all these bands a place to shine and show what they're made of.

With the latest "MTBT" record coming out on Oct 30, I think it's safe to say that you'll have another ear bleeding comp to feed your hardcore hunger. Be sure to check out "Music To Bleed To Vol: 1" as well as the upcoming Minor Threat tribute album (which will feature songs by Stab Your Back, Atrocity Solution and The Filthy Radicals, who are all featured on this disc) coming out on Feb 26, 2013. And as always show support for our scene and great independent labels like Infested Records. Be sure to get your copy by going HERE

4 / 5 stars

Monday, October 22, 2012

Music Reviews: Sundials - "When I Couldn't Breathe"

It's been proven time and again that when a band makes a classic album they have a hard time following that album up with something equally as good, if not better. More times than not the band in question take 3 steps back, instead of 2 steps forward. There have been the occasional exception. For example the new Sundials album, "When I Couldn't Breath" (out now on Asian Man Records), is better than the bands last album "Never Settle", which was a pretty solid album front to back. "When I Couldn't Breath" is an album made by a band who seem focused on making timeless songs and legendary albums. And they're off to a great start.

For fans of "Never Settle" you won't be disappointed. But what makes this album stand out is it's heaviness. The album kicks off with fuzzed out bass and distorted feedback on "710". It had me thinking if this was the same band that I remember hearing first the first time early last year. This is a breath of fresh air for a band who keeps evolving with each release. But for all the heaviness there are some quiet moments that are just as awesome. The title track is a wonderful song musically and lyrically. It reminds me of why I loved this band the first time I heard them. They're not afraid to wear their hearts on sleeve with brute honesty and sincerity.

Singer/guitarist Harris Mendell has a way of pulling you into the song and make you feel exactly what he's singing about. Whether it be joy, angst or pain...you FEEL it. And complementing Mendell is bassist Carl Athey and drummer Cory Chubb who give room for Mendell to showcase his playing but also hold it all together with a great beat and bass runs that bring each song into focus. And when these guys harmonize, it's like the skies open up and the sun come raining down on you. Listen to "Completely Broken" and you'll hear what I'm talking about.

"The Mad Stork Makes Another Movie" is a hit that could propel Sundials into the mainstream. But I don't think that's what the bands looking for. And, to be honest, I would be more than happy having this band be my best kept secret. This is just such a great band full of ambition and tenacity. With each release you see them grow and flourish as a group. They don't take one path and run with it. They'll go wherever their hearts tell them to go. And it really shows on "When I Couldn't Breath". This is a band with so much to say. So the question remains...are you listening?

4 ½  / 5 stars

Thursday, October 18, 2012

Music Reviews: Grand Perceptor - "Invasions" EP

Maybe I've been a little sheltered over the years when it comes to music. But When I think of Melbourne, Australia, I don't necessarily think of kick ass garage style rock. I think more of Crocodile Dundee and maybe Angus and Malcolm Young. As it turns out, Melbourne knows how to bring the rock! After listening to Grand Perceptor's latest EP, "Invasions", it's pretty obvious, rock n roll is alive and well down under!

"Invasions" is a grand mix of fuzzed out guitar and distorted bass riffs mixed in with shards of glass and metal. It's heavy and dirty in places and powerful in others. But it's also a damn fine and well recorded album. Upon first listen, it's hard to point out specifically what makes this so great. But after the second or third listen, you start picking out bits and pieces of awesomeness starting with "Ceasefire", the opening track. It's got aTex Mex guitar riff and a great rhythm section played ala Double Trouble style. It's lean and mean. But what makes the song really pop is singer Sparrow's vocal approach. He's like the kid brother of Jack White who turned to monsters and aliens for inspiration instead of old Delta Blues. This guys got a great set of pipes on him!

"Daylight Homicide" is another fine slab of beefy rock n roll. Lots of distortion laced riffs and a killer megaphone style vocal makes this a real stand out track for me. Sparrow is a powerful guitar player, full of mad riffs and wicked solos. But he doesn't overstay his welcome. He gives just as much as needed, saving room for the other guys to show what they got. And it's safe to say that he's brought in a rhythm section that can really make the songs shine while also being powerful in their own right. Michael Fitt (bass) and Dean Stanton (drums) really show what they're made of on "Pacifist". It's all about the rhythm from the opening bass riff that holds this song together to the rolling drum beat that keeps building up throughout the song making it grow with fire and fury with each second. By the end of this track you're gonna be boiling over with intense energy and excitement.

Besides great playing
and songwriting, the production on "Invasions" is really good too. It could have easily been recorded on the cheap to make the dirty fuzz tones make a point. But with the record sounding this good it makes it clear that this is the sound the band is going for. Tight and distorted, but also clean and intact. The songs have just the right amount of character without being forced into a corner. There's room to breath in these songs and I think that's why I like this as much as I do. It takes you right to the edge without pushing over the cliff. "Invasions" is an intense record by a great band. I can only hope the bands live shows are as riveting as their albums.

4 / 5 stars

Wednesday, October 17, 2012

Music Reviews: Dot Dash - "Winter Garden Light"

Alternative music started out as an underground style of music played heavily in college dorms and frat parties back in the early/mid 80's. Then bands like R.E.M. and The Cure broke world wide and it became an above ground thing. But in the last 15 years or so, it's gone underground again. And a lot of those bands are either not around anymore, or are not putting out music as often, and certainly not cracking the top 40 charts that are so polluted with crap like Justin Beiber and Lady Gaga (the first and LAST time those 2 douche bags will ever be mentioned here). So when a decent alternative band puts an album out I have no problem giving them a shout out.

Dot Dash have been on the scene for a couple of years now bringing their take on alternative music to the masses. Hailing from Washington, D.C. this quartet is ready to take alternative BACK into the mainstream with powerful pop sensibilities and masterful playing on the bands second album, "Winter Garden Light". The 10 tracks on this disc range from post punk Smiths worthy tunes ("La La Land") to straight up rockers ("The Past Is Another Country") played with a fire and passion that's lacking in pop music today.

Lead singer/guitarist Terry Banks has such an infectious voice that it's hard to not like this band. And the band, Bill Crandall (guitar), Hunter Bennett (bass) and Danny Ingram (drums) bring all their respected talents together to make wonderfully catchy and vibrant material worthy of any alt-music fans record collection. Lyrically, this is also a true and honest representation of a band who's happy being who they are. When Banks sings "I won't fight the good fight. I won't save it for some penny for your thoughts, my kingdom for a horse" on "Writing On The Wall" you can tell this is a man who's passion won't be compromised for some radio airplay. This is REAL alternative music at it's modern day best.

"Winter Garden Light" is one of those albums that come out under the radar, but years down the line it's regarded as a masterpiece ahead of it's time. And as much as I enjoyed the bands first album, "Spark>Flame>Ember>Ash", I think they've really grown as a musical unit with this album. The songwriting, musicianship and those beautiful harmonies are showstopping. This is a modern day classic with just as much staying power as anything R.E.M. ever did. You can check out the album and purchase the digital download on the groups Bandcamp page or order a hard copy at http://thebeautifulmusic.com/.

4 / 5 stars

Monday, October 15, 2012

Concert Review: Teenage Bottlerocket @ Subbteranean in Chicago October 12, 2012

Teenage Bottlerocket are one of those bands that just keep growing musically with each year, show, and album. Just when you thought it couldn't get any better, it does! And if you think the albums are great, you gotta see them live to REALLY appreciate what they do. The band are out on tour supporting their 5th full length album, "Freak Out!", with help from Toys That Kill and Masked Intruder. And when the band hit the stage at a sold out Subterranean in Chicago this past weekend (10/12), it was time to show this crowd how to party.

I, unfortunately, got to the venue a little late and missed 80% of the opening set by Chicago's own Reaganomics. But, from what I did see and hear, the band were as tight as always. I've had the chance to see this band before and they deliver the goods every time. The crowd seemed to think so to. So, it's a safe bet that they rocked some faces off again on this night.

Up next was the band I was so syked to finally see. Madison, WI quartet Masked Intruder. The band, complete with color coordinated ski masks, hit the stage to the sound of police sirens and the watching eye of one Officer Bradford. Kicking into high gear with "Stick Em Up" the crowd went ballistic slamming and singing along with every song. Besides the whole ski mask thing and between song banter about breaking into homes, the real comedic genius was Bradford who, at certain times in the set, was beating the band members with his billy club, skanking to the beat, doing pushups and even getting into the pit for a little crowd surfing fun.

The band played plenty of tunes from their self titled debut full length ("25 To Life", "Unrequited Love", "Crazy") as well as their debut EP ("ADT Security", "Gimme Parole"). This is a great band with some really talented musicians. It was really great to see them live and enjoy their set as much as I did. I look forward to seeing them again soon.

 Next was Toys That KIll. I'll be nice and just say that I wasn't impressed....moving on!

Now it was time for the band we all came to see. Laramie Wyoming's favorite sons, Teenage Bottlerocket. This was TBR's second time in Chicago in a month. The last time they were here they played a way-too-short set at Riot Fest. But this time it was all about them! As the house lights went down the familiar sound of Slayer's classic song "South Of Heaven" started playing. The bands mascot, and honorary merch guy, Clint, came out wearing a devils mask and holding up the Bottlerocket symbol on a sign. Then the band tore into the first song, and title track, off their new album "Freak Out". And the place exploded with excitement and it didn't stop there.

The band, Ray Carlisle (vocals/guitar), Kody Templeman (vocals/guitar), Miguel Chen (bass) and Brandon Carlisle (drums), were tight and in the pocket all night long playing hit after hit like "Bigger Than Kiss", "Nuthouse" and "Skate Or Die". And the crowd ate right out of their hands for the hour long set. The guys really seemed to enjoy themselves too. Ray was slamming around on stage and tossing drum sticks back and forth with his brother Brandon. Kody was getting right up in the crowds face while playing blistering leads and Miguel was having a blast high fiving us all night long in between songs.

This is a band of true professionals and it really showed when Ray was having some technical difficulties with his guitar late in the set. But he didn't miss a beat, switching guitars and getting right back into it. The crowd was a little unruly at times. There was a mass amount of stage diving right from the get go. But even when you get caught up in the excitement and frenzy, you have to be aware of your surroundings. And poor Ray caught one when a fan ran right into him early on in the set. But he soldiered on like a true champ.

Besides the now legendary songs like "Bloodbath At Burger King" and the pogo frenzied speed of "Bottlerocket", the crowd was also treated to a short version of "Lillington High" during the mid section of "On My Own". And the crowd really lost their minds singing along to it. It's always a blast watching former Lillingtons frontman Kody whip out the occasional Lillingtons tune during a TBR set, and tonight was no different. Also in the set was a stellar version of "Patrick" from the bands debut album "Another Way", which really took everyone by surprise. It's not a song the band normally plays from that album. But, it was a great song, played by a great band, to a great crowd in a great city. Chicago is like a second home to TBR. We always welcome them to our fine city with open arms and lots of love. And the band ALWAYS repays us with energy and excitement. If you get the chance, I highly suggest getting out and seeing these guys when they come to a city near you. On a good night, they can blow your mind. On a GREAT night, they can move mountains. 

Music Review: The Zits - "Breakout EP"

I'm a fan of all things fast, riff heavy and straight to the point. Bands like early Queers and Screeching Weasel were perfect examples of this style of punk rock. And those bands influenced a whole new generation of new bands. One of those bands is The Zits. Straight out of the basement of Denton, MG comes the bands latest release, the "Breakout EP". Clever title if I do say so myself. But it's also a solid record as dark and dingy as crawl space in your attic.

The 4 tracks on "Breakout" are meat and potatoes punk rock. Strong on harmony vocals with thick riffs and a dirty back beat. The production is a little less than desirable. But it's punk rock, so who cares. Kicking things off is "Bloody Knuckles In Loserville". It's got the major opening riff in place as well as the 4 chord structure you'd expect from students of the Joe King school of punk rock. "Teenage Fatass" relies more on speed than it does on social commentary about obese teens in the United States. But it's a fun track and great for starting a pit of your own. Short and sweet, you can't beat it.

The Zits if the creation of Heath Benson. One man waging war on all things pop and pretty. He's single handedly bringing back the ugliness of DIY punk music. And it's working out well for him. Benson's got a way of writing great old school punk that's part hardcore and part garage rock. He knows what he wants and he's not gonna let anyone get in his way of his vision. "Choking On The System" is proof in the pudding. With a great beat, fuzzed out guitars, lots of pick slides and great harmony vocals, it's a real stand out track. I like this EP. It reminds me of how great things were back in the day when I was younger. And it also shows me how things can be again if handled the right way. Let's put the music back in the hands of the young who are willing to do it themselves and release it independently. Fuck big lables and glossy production. Sure, that may be fine and dandy for some bands. But it's not for everyone. The Zits are doing it their way. And hey, if they keep putting out music like Breakout, more power to em!

4 / 5 stars

Thursday, October 11, 2012

Music Reviews: UGLYBoNES - "Leave Me Alone"

Outside of the old standby's, it's hard to find a hardcore band that's any good these days. Thank god UGLYBoNES are back with a new full length album called "Leave Me Alone". It's 12 tracks of in your face hardcore. It's unapologetic and pissed off! And what's so bad about that? Isn't that what hardcore was founded on?

"Wasted" kicks right in with a rolling drum beat and goes right into a fast guitar assault that'll make you wanna tear shit up. And it's ON from that point. Singer Lev makes no bones about it, he wants to get fucked up and he doesn't care who knows it. If you're straight edge, stay away from this track...hell, stay away from this ALBUM. 4 of these 12 tracks ("Morgan", Backseat Love Making", "I Don't Want You" and "Boozehound") can be found on the bands last EP "Die Partying". And it's safe to say the bands hell bent on doing just that. This is party music for the unsatisfied youth of today. When you're stuck in a rut and just wanna let loose on the weekends, this is the perfect soundtrack for your life.

"Feed Me Doses" and "Peanut Butter" are old school hardcore that could have been on albums by D.R.I. or M.O.D. back in the 80's. Both are just straight up thrashing tunes made to get a pit going. This is a band that believes in what they do and wanna spread the gospel with the rest of the world. The band Lev (vocals), Viaj (bass), Filip (guitar) and Eric (drums) play with intensity and heart on this album. You can feel the passion in what they do. It's evident on songs like the title track, "1542" and "No Money" (story of my life). These guys are hardcore for life.

This albums 12 tracks clock in at around the 19 minute mark. Short, fast and to the point! The way this style of music was meant to be played. Crank it up to 11, piss off your neighbors and flip off anyone who looks at you weird for listing to this album. It's a fuck you to not only society, but to the state of music today. I like UGLYBoNES and think that what they're doing is pretty fucking cool. No safety net here folks. Just straight up punk rock.

4 / 5 stars

Wednesday, October 10, 2012

Music Reviews: Wimpy And The Medallions - "Still Headed Nowhere"

Wimpy Rutherford is a punk rock icon. From his days as the original lead singer of The Queers to his current job filling the shoes of the late G.G. Allin as leader of The Jabbers, Wimpy has been a force to be reckoned with for close to 30 years. And now the man is back with a new release, "Still Headed Nowhere", and a new band, Wimpy And The Medallions.

Anyone who knows Wimpy will remember songs like "Kicked Out Of The Webelos", "I'm Useless" and "I Want Chinese Food". So, going into this EP I was kinda expecting the same style. Loud, in your face and raunchy! It's still loud and in your face...but the raunch has been toned down a little. And, to be honest, I LIKE it! Starting out with the title track, it almost sounds, musically, like the twin brother of "Search And Destroy" by Iggy & The Stooges. Wimpy sings about "smoking pot all day and drinking whiskey every night" and trying to be famous but not quite getting there. It's true old school punk rock lyrically with a 60's garage feel musically, thanks to The Medallions.

The band's name may not ring a bell. But in actuality it's the Kurt Baker band backing Wimpy up on these 4 tracks. And they're KILLING it! "36 Weeks" starts off like a killer fuzzed out guitar riff then goes into a nice blues style rhythm complete with organs and a rolling bass line thanks to Kurt Baker himself. Then out of the blue it goes full speed ahead, fast and furious, only to calm back down and run smooth again. This is such a fun track that you'll never listen to Wimpy the same way again. I never knew he had it in him! Hell, even the bands cover of the Tommy James classic "Draggin' The Line" is a real barnburner! This band is onto something special here.

The Medallions, Kurt Baker (bass), Geoff Useless (guitar), Kris "Fingers" Rodgers (keyboards) and Craig Sala (drums) are the perfect band for this project. They have that old fashioned late 60's rock n roll swing mixed in with some modern day punk rock heaviness. It's a perfect match for Wimpy's gravely vocal approach and intensity behind the mic. I couldn't have asked for a better supergroup than The Medallions.

So far this release is an MP3 download only. But I'm hoping to see a vinyl release at some point in the near future. Sure, in this day or digital this and digital that, I can see why this is the only format it's available on. But, like the music the bands channeling, I'm old fashioned and love the sound of vinyl playing at a high volume. So, fingers crossed there will be hard copies pressed real soon.

I gotta give it up to Wimpy & The Medallions...this is a fantastic EP full of riffs, fuzz, and a little dirt coming together to make one solid release. I'm looking forward to seeing what the future holds for this band. I think with some time and care this band could make a solid full length comparable to anything the classic Queers line-up did. This is a band that can do anything and make it work if they set their minds to it. It shows on "Still Headed Nowhere". But, in an ironic twist...I see them GOING somewhere!

4 / 5 stars

Monday, October 8, 2012

Music Reviews: No Enemy! - "Dying America" EP

You like punk rock? Yeah, me too. You like it raw and in your face? Well, have I got a band for you. Chicago's own No Enemy! have a new EP called "Dying America" that features 4 new tracks that are as raw and in your face, but also as catchy as anything else out there. I like this band a lot. They're one of those hidden gems. In a city full of bigger names who releases less than stellar material, it's nice to see a band like No Enemy! who put out hit after hit and don't worry about being the next big thing. This is a band that's just happy being able to play and it shows on these 4 tracks.

Kicking things off in high gear with the title track, the band jump right in with both feet. This is a fast and intense number full of snotty attitude and a fist in the air sing along chorus. The song has a chugging guitar riff and a great beat. It's a great way to kick things off. But the speed and intensity doesn't stay that way for long. "I Don't Know Anything" starts out with this killer pop punk guitar lick that'll make you a fan of this tune before the vocals even kick in. It's catchy and upbeat. It's my favorite track on the album. Just a fun song. And how can you beat a title like that? Does anyone REALLY know anything? I think not.

The band, Riff Damage, Modern Maggio, Nat, Dr. Slow, are definitely in synch musically. This is a tight outfit who thrive on putting out great music time and time again. Like the bands last release, the "Disagree To Disagree" single, the songs are well written and played. Even when they pick up the tempo on "Joke's On Me" the band never miss a beat. It's a full on sonic assault on the senses. These guys can play fast or slow and still hold your attention without being obnoxious or acting like they're trying too hard. It's all in the songs. And what great songs they are.

"My Life Is Killing Me" closes out this EP making me want more. I know it's not cheap going into a studio and recording. So I understand that sometimes an EP or a single is the only way to go. But DAMN if this isn't gonna make me jones for more music from this band. "Dying America" is a solid EP front to back. When this band DOES release a full length, it's gonna blow minds in a big way. Until then check out this EP and show some support for a great up and coming band.

4 ½  / 5 stars

Wednesday, October 3, 2012

Music Reviews: Sutured Psyche - "None The Wiser" DVD/CD

Sutured Psyche was one of those bands that was only on the scene for a short period of time. But in that time they left a lasting impression. The band was very dark and brooding in appearance, but very concise in their songwriting. This was also a group of very competent musicians, well rounded in their playing and songwriting. It's just a shame that they didn't last a little longer. But as the band plans to hit the stage for one last performance on October 19th at The Elbo Room in Chicago, we can relive the excitement of their live shows on this amazing new DVD/CD combo, "None The Wiser: Two Years Of Sutured Psyche" (out now and available HERE).

The DVD is a live history of the bands music and features 9 tracks, as well as animation and bonus features. So, there's something for everyone. The show itself, filmed at Elbo Room in January of this year, shows a band who not only takes command of it's song catalog with intense playing and firey vocals thanks to Doctor Paimon, but also demand the attention of the crowd, which they GET 100% of! Sutured Psyche was a band who really took their live performances seriously. You can FEEL the energy and excitement in the air when they go into "Invocation" and "Anything". And the energy their feeding the audience is coming back 2 fold by an energetic crowd. It truly is a live testament to a group who are leaving us way too soon.

Paimon's a strong singer for the style of music he plays. He's got a very powerful presence about him, all dressed in black and tall in stature. He's
definitely the kind of frontman that will hold your attention. And the other guys, (Ryan Reilly on guitar, Brian O'Callaghan and drummer Michael T. Signal) are tight and relentless on "Daniel" and "Belbo's Stomp". This is a group that can really pull out all the stops and give these songs a life of their own live. It's a great DVD to watch, or CD to listen to in the car. It's a feast for the eyes AND ears! It's just such a win win! I can only hope that the band will reunite at some point in the near future and bring back the energy to the stage. Gentlemen, you WILL be missed!

4 / 5 stars