Thursday, November 29, 2012

Music Review: Casablanca - "Apocalyptic Youth"

What happened to all those kick ass, straight on rock n roll bands that I loved so much back in the 80's? Bands like Hanoi Rocks, Kix and Rose Tattoo? Well, outside of Kix, they all seemed to only exist in Europe. Well, thanks to the internet I've found a new band that brings back all that excitement and stellar music that made me feel like I could take on the world as a young man. The band is called Casablanca and their new album "Apocalyptic Youth" is so full of power and passion, it brings me back to 1985 again.

The album Opens with "The Juggler", a track very reminiscent of late 70's style rock. Not super heavy, per se,  but heavy on emotion. It's a clean song in the way that it's not all distorted guitars and over the top lyrical content. But, it's got a good groove and some wicked guitar licks. Personally, I would have put this track somewhere in the middle because on first listen you're gonna think this is the template for the album...and it's NOT! Not even close.

Things really pick up with "Secret Agents Of Lust". THIS is a rocking tune that's got the killer back up vocals and big power chord riffs that make this style of music so enjoyable. I can't say enough good about this tune. It's retro, but at the same time very much a modern day rocker. Not many bands can pull that off, but Casablanca can! And they do it well.

"Downtown" is a modern day anthem about lighting up the night, hitting up a rock show and maybe finding love along the way. Big on harmonies and super catchy in it approach, it just grabs you right from the start and never lets you go until the final guitar strings are hit. This could be a big hit here in the states, if we still played REAL rock n roll on the radio here. Sorry but Daughtry and 3 Doors Down are NOT real rock bands! Just some 3rd rate posers who think they rock.

The band hails from Stockholm Sweden and consists of singer Ander Ljung, guitar duo Ryan Roxie (of Roxie 77) and Erik Stenemo, bassist Mats Rubarth and drummer Josephine Forsman. These 5 write some amazingly wicked songs full of hooks and big choruses that will have you singing along and cranking this album at full volume at all hours of the day and night. It's just so infectious and bombastic you can't help but wanna rock out to it. I love good, thick solid riffs and this album has that and more.

"Apocalyptic Youth" may not be groundbreaking like "Nevermind" or Sabbath's first album. But it's still a solid album by a great up and coming band. I truly enjoy what Casablanca are doing to save this dying breed of REAL rockers. So, to sum up "Apocalyptic Youth", it's just a great rock n roll record, plain and simple. And that's good enough for me. Mick Jagger said it best..."I know it's only rock n roll....but I like it!"

4 ½ / 5 stars

Tuesday, November 27, 2012

Music Reviews: Masked Intruder - "Masked Intruder"

Y'know, I'm still very much in shock over the amount of amazing music that has come out in the last 11 months that it's almost mind numbing. And as I get closer to the 2nd annual Critical Mass Best Of date, I'm having a hell of a time deciding which single full length will take the "Album Of The Year" honors for 2012. But I gotta tell ya, leading the pack for the race for first is the self titled debut full length from Madison Wisconsin's own Masked Intruder. A band that consists of 4 guys in colored ski masks who sing about break ins, knife wielding robbery and having your heart broken. Not a bad combination for song ideas.

 "25 To Life"
sets the pace for the record. This is one of those tunes that upon first listen you just simply fall in love with the song. It's catchy sing along chorus and lyrics like "in a world of nightmares you're a sweet sweet dream. Just about the prettiest thing that I've ever seen.", it's just pure pop genius in the form of a punk rock tune! I love it!

"How Do I Get To You" keeps it going with slashing riffs and another big sing along chorus. Harmonies galore, this is a damn fine song. The band, Intruder Blue (vocals/guitar), Intruder Green (guitar), Intruder Orange (bass) and Intruder Red (drums), are rooted in pop punk with a splash of 50's doo wop in certain areas. Everything they touch turns to gold on this album. There's not a bad, or even sub par, track on this release. It's just a great record front to back.

"Heart Shaped Guitar"  is the feel good hit from this album. This should be a lead off single complete with video counterpart. The songs about a guy who falls head over heels for a girl. And to show his dedication to her, he stands out on her lawn singing her love songs on a heart shaped guitar. Very sweet and romantic, right? WRONG! The girl in question has no idea who this guy is and calls the cops on him. STALKER ALERT!!! It's sweet, sappy, cool and funny all at the same time. And if the song's story line wasn't great enough, the band got Maura Weaver from the band Mixtapes to duet with Blue on this track. And she rocks it! 

"Stick Em Up" 
is the hardest track on the album. But it's still a great sing along song about armed robbery. Trust me, you'll be singing "stick em up, stick em up, stick em up. I got a knife motherfucker stick em up" by the end of the track. It sounds like a song that could lead to corrupting the minds of the young, but don't be fooled. These guys are having way too much fun to try and corrupt your little brother...even if he is playing with only half a deck.

Closing out this album are 2 of my favorites. "Wish You Were Mine", with it's 50's doo wop sing along I mentioned earlier, is just a fun track with lyrics like "I want ya to show me romance. Won't you give a lonely masked man a chance". How can you go wrong? It shows the full potential this band has going for them. And "Crazy" is equally as good. Riffs galore and a great beat make it hard to not like this song. Go ahead, just TRY not singing along with the chorus...if you can honestly do it, I'll pay you $50! But I'll keep that fifty snug in my wallet because you won't be able to NOT sing along.

Masked Intruder are a band that will achieve greatness in the years to come. It's not just schtick with the masks...this is a band with talent, drive and a commitment to it's craft. It's no surprise that they were signed by Fat Wreck Chords yesterday. It's an obvious choice for a label who's roster also includes Teenage Bottlerocket, The Lawrence Arms and NOFX. Show some love for these knife carrying, B&E loving goofballs and pick this album up. It's a must have for all you pop punk fanatics.

5 / 5 stars

Thursday, November 22, 2012

Music Reviews: The Creeping Ivies - "Stay Wild"

When it comes to music, blowing my socks off once is a chore in itself. Do it a second time, hell musta froze over. Continuing to do so, you must be doing something right. And that's what I get with each new release from The Creeping Ivies. The band is set to release their debut full length next month entitled "Stay Wild", and it's another barn burner!
The Creeping Ivies are a 2 piece outfit from Dundee, Scotland consisting of Becca Bomb on guitar and vocals and Duncan Destruction on drums. They may only have 2 members, but they bring the energy of a 5 piece with their primitive garage rock style and sound. "Stay Wild"'s 10 tracks are pure ear candy that would make Iggy Pop and The Cramps proud.

"Black Cat" kicks off with a surf style riff reminiscent of the 60's Batman television theme song. But it's more than just a tribute to good old surf rock n roll. It's also a fun song about that bad little kitty who's mysterious ways and 9 lives send shivers up the spines of the superstitious people of the world. Other key tracks are "Spinning" with it's ultra catchy riffs and super bluesy vocal approach by Becca and "Bop Like That" which sounds very 50's early rock n roll style, just makes me wanna twist and shout. I love the way the Ivies play simple, yet effective, rock music that's very much rooted in 50's and 60's style. But as any music lover will tell you, old time rock n roll NEVER goes out of style.
What makes a great record great? It's a combination of feel, believing in what you're doing and great songwriting and playing. Al these aspects come through on "Stay Wild". Becca and Duncan believe in what they're doing, and they sound they wanna send out to the masses. And that passion and tenacity comes out in everything they've done up to this point. I truly enjoy this band will continue to show my support as long as they continue blowing my socks off.  

4 ½ / 5 stars

Thursday, November 15, 2012

Music Review: The Hairlips - "The Hairlips"

When it comes to music, I'm pretty open minded. If it can grab me on the first listen and not let go, it's good! Sometimes it takes a few listens to really GET IT! But often times it's on that first spin that I hear the magic that lights up my soul. And upon hearing the Hairlips self titled album, my soul lit up like Christmas! This is definitely a band who've cut their teeth on generous amounts of Screeching Weasel, Queers, Ramones, 50's doo wop groups and maybe even a few 60's girl groups! They mix all those up and what you get is an amazing 14 track full length that's more fun than cotton candy and roller coasters on a summer night!

"Fuck You Darlin' " Is such a great track that reminds me of Grease on acid! It's got the great harmonies and sing along chorus. But it's also twisted with singer/bassist
Johnny Wabich repeating the line "I'm gonna fuck all of your friends". If you can't find the humor in that, than you're way too uptight. This is just fun music played by 4 really talented guys. And if "Denise" isn't a hit, I don't know what is! With the Beach Boy style high harmonies and the whole "shooby doo" sing along, you can't help but wanna dance and twist the night away. I LOVE this song!

Wabich, along with duel guitarists Eric Stutson and Nicky Rivets and drummer Ron Capiz are bringing back a dying style of music. Pure pop punk 60's surf style. Imagine what The Queers would be putting out if they still made records like "Don't Back Down", and you'll get an idea of how amazingly pure and awesome this album is. Listen to "Heather" and you'll see exactly exactly what I'm talking about. I can't find a bad track on this album, or even a sub par track! It's all so well written and played that I can't help but fall in love with this bands sound and style. This is pure unadulterated ear candy so sticky sweet it makes sugar taste like salt.

"Buttercup" could have been a hit back in '59! But it could still just as easily be a hit today! What's old is new again, and the Hairlips show that. Whoever said doo wop isn't cool hasn't heard this bands modern day spin on it. The riffs are just as infectious as the harmonies and the sings along choruses. These 4 guys got this style down to a science. I can only hope the live shows are equally as fun and inspiring as these songs are. All in all Hairlips have a sound and style all too familiar, but very much their own as well. Pure listening satisfaction is on the docket for today! Grab a copy of this album now! Your ears will thank you later!

5 / 5 stars

Music Review: Sonny Vincent And The Bad Reactions - Self Titled 7"

Sonny Vincent is a punk rock ICON. He's been making music for well over 30 years going back to the mid/late 70's with his old band The Testors. He's played C.B.G.B.'s and Max's Kansas City, shared the stage with The Cramps among others and has played in bands with Bob Stinson, Cheetah Chrome, Scott Asheton, and Captain Sensible. And now he's back with a new band, The Bad Reactions, and a new self titled 7" that is faster, heavier and more dangerous than pretty much anything out there today!

Kicking this off is "Replica". It kicks in with that all to familiar Sonny guitar tone, fuzzed out and hard. It's sounds like a freight train headed straight for a brick wall. It's a played with such intensity that you feel like the bands gonna implode at any given second. Sonny still sounds vibrant vocally, and his guitar playing is still flawless. The man never seems to age. He's playing at his best here, soloing like his life depends on it. And who knows...maybe it does! Maybe THAT'S why after close to 40 years the man has never stopped recording music and touring the world. It's in his DNA, this thing called punk rock. And he's not afraid to let loose on that old Gibson Les Paul and melt faces along the way.

"Stare Down" is the fasted song I think I have ever heard Sonny play. The power and speed of those downstokes would make Johnny Ramone squirm in his seat. And the band, Sonny (vocals/guitar), Josh Martin (guitar/vocals), Jon (bass) and Luis Herrera (drums), is tighter than a frogs wet asshole. You got great seasoned players who know how to bring out the best in these songs, and compliment each others playing as well. If Sonny keeps this band and records a full length, I can almost guarantee it will be as legendary as anything The Testors did before. He's got a super talented band here.

Closing out this 7" is, probably my favorite track on the album, "Jokers And Clowns". This is a slower jam, but still has the energy and passion to make it a solid rocking track. It's very reminiscent, musically, of The Testors classic "Time Is Mine". But this is a classic in it's own right. With Sonny singing about "all the fakes and the garbage piled up high", you can't help to feel this guy has stayed true to what he believes in and has never tried to sell out to clear a fat paycheck from some major label. This is a band who play music the way they want, no matter what the ramifications may be. And I think that's what has always been so appealing about Sonny Vincent to me...he's the REAL DEAL! A true rock n roll troubadour in the highest regard! If you like your punk rock raw and real, pick this 7" up now! They just don't make em like this anymore!

5 / 5 stars

Thursday, November 8, 2012

Music Reviews: The Jetbirds - "Suicide Love Songs"

Sometimes you hear an album that's not necessarily NEW, but it still stands out for being imaginative and musically superb. This is the case for The Jetbirds EP "Suicide Love Songs" which came out this past February, but kicks so much ass I feel I NEED to review it now!

The Jetbirds play straight ahead rock n roll with a dash of punk rock thrown into the mix. Big on riffs and harmonious sing along choruses, "Suicide Love Songs" is a stellar release from this Chicago quartet in the vein of The Dictators or even early Hanoi Rocks. It just stands out and catches your ear and makes you wanna dance...ok, well maybe not DANCE....but you get what I'm saying. It's THAT kinda music! The kind that gets the energy charging in your system and the blood pumping in your veins.

"New Setta' Wheels" kicks things off with a nice palm muted riff before the punching beat kicks in and the big licks riff on. It's a great tune about trying too hard only to find out trying gets you nowhere, so you gotta go out and take what you want. The riffs run hard and deep and the back beat compliments the tune greatly. Just a great way to kick off an album.

                              L-R Max Kijek (Vocals/Guitar), Tyler Capone (Drums), Jerry Murad (Lead Guitar) and Aric Sparticus (Bass)
Each song has a way of getting you more and more excited as the seconds tick on. It's such a powerful debut, one of the best I've heard in recent history. No word of a lie. "Without You" keeps the excitement going with great harmonies and more stacked riffs. This band is definitely a powerhouse riff machine. They just keep pulling em out of their hat like there's no tomorrow.

You get the sense that The Jetbirds put everything they had into these 5 songs. I just hope they saved some of that magic for their next release. I don't just like this band, I flat out LOVE what they're doing! I try to find something enjoyable about everything I review. And if I can't find that something, I pass on it. But this is just a solid effort, front to back, from this band. But don't take my word for it. Go to the bands Bandcamp page and download this EP and listen to it for yourself. If you can't find something enjoyable about The Jetbirds, than you may wanna question your own sanity.

5 / 5 stars

Tuesday, November 6, 2012

Music News: The Kurt Baker Band play Serious Business

The latest Kurt Baker album, "Brand New Beat", was released last week and the band are already out on the road in support of this fine collection of  80's post punk inspired gems. The band recently stopped by the set of Serious Business to talk about the album and perform some tracks live. SB host Travis Harrison, who also runs Serious Business Records, had a blast talk with the KB band about power pop, touring and girls. Being new to SB myself, after watching this episode I can consider myself a fan. Well worth checking out, as is "Brand New Beat". So check out the episode and pick up the album. You can see the episode HERE!

Music Reviews: The Homewreckers/City Mouse 7" split - "Manic Recession"

2012 has been a pretty impressive year for music, overall. I'm not talking about that crap they play on Top 40 radio. Y'know, the flavor of the week, auto tuned, pre-packaged, shitty boy bands, American Idol winners (?), "people write my songs for me because I don't have any talent and can't write my own songs" garbage. I'm talking about REAL music played by REAL bands with REAL instruments!  So as 2012 is coming to a close it's nice to see the great music still coming out in high volumes! And the latest 7" split by The Homewreckers and City Mouse called "Manic Recession" is another solid release, surely a contender for 7"/EP of the year on the year end Critical Mass "Best Of" list.

                                                                          The Homewreckers 
The Homewreckers are a 4 piece band out of New York, NY who play DIY inspired punk rock. Dirty and rough around the edges, but also high octane and rowdy, this self described "Queer-Core" band give it to you straight (no pun), hard, fast and to the point on their 2 songs.
"Nervous Wrecks" is a killer track complete with sing along chorus and amazing harmony "Ohh oh ohh's" that'll have you bopping to the beat upon the first listen. And complete with lyrics like "I've fallen off the edge over 16 times this year. Scraped all my agony on every broken bottle of beer." just make this song that much more enjoyable.
Singer/guitarist Cristy Road has a hearty growl in her voice full of passion and intensity. She's the real deal with her songwriting and playing. You can tell she loves what she does. And it shows on these 2 songs (also see "Uncontrolable Decay") . I'm looking forward to hearing more from this band in the future.

                                                                                                               City Mouse 
On the flipside is City Mouse who hail from Riverside, CA. I'm not gonna lie...the first time I heard singer/guitarist Miski Dee sing, I almost fell off my chair! I LOVE this girls voice! Powerful and raspy in her approach, it makes "Gemini" pop out at you, grab you by the shoulders and shake you to the core with it's awesomeness! It's poppy and catchy, but heavy and beefy at the same time. It's the perfect combination of sweet and salty. And "Jughead Jones" is equally as awesome!

"Manic Recession", out now on Mooster Records, is one hell of a ride, driven by 2 up and coming bands that are dead set on playing by their own rules. Punks never been just a mans game, but there were very few female punk bands that had the fire inside that The Homewreckers and City Mouse have. It's so refreshing to see that in 2012 the ladies are kicking just as much ass, maybe even MORE, as the men! You gotta pick this 7" up. It's a BEAST!

5 / 5 stars

Saturday, November 3, 2012

Interview with Heath Benson from The Zits

Critical Mass: Thanks for taking the time to talk with Critical Mass, Heath! I appreciate your time. For anyone new to The Zits, can you give us a little history on the band and how you got started?

Heath Benson: Yeah well I started The Zits in 2008 and wanted to write songs that paid tribute to bands like The Ramones, Screeching Weasel, and The Queers.  I started out acoustically and put out two EP's, "Giggle" and "Poprocks".  In 2010 I recorded everything electric and played all the instruments for "Electrified!" EP.  After that release, that's when the band kinda took off.  Got some great reviews, even played my first show ever in 2009.  The Zits are completely DIY.  I do everything myself, I'm the only member!

CM: I had the chance to review The Zits latest EP "Breakout", and it's great . How many releases do you have out?

HB: Actually "Breakout" was my 7th release.  But it was the first EP of the new sound I was going for.  Personally, it's my favorite release yet!

CM: I can hear obvious influences like Screeching Weasel and The Queers in your music. And they are influences on you, as you've said. are there any other bands that have inspired you as a musician?

HB: Well yeah I'm definitely influenced by Screeching Weasel and The Queers.  Other bands that influence me I would say are The Ramones, and Bomb The Music Industry.

CM: This band is pretty much your baby, as you've stated. So, when it comes to songwriting and recording, have you ever written with anyone else or had other players on the albums?

HB: Yep, 100% all by myself!  It's all me!  In a way it's a good thing because I have complete control.  If I feel like completely changing my sound, I can do it.  It's my music, I do what I want!  But I do kinda wish I had a second brain to pick song ideas from.  It's very difficult to write and record and master everything by yourself.  I probably could be writing music faster if I had more people to help out.

CM: I know the band hails from Denton, MD. Do you guys play outside of the Maryland area at all? And are there any plans on taking the show on the road in the near future?

HB: I play shows occasionally when I can find fill-ins.  The last show I played was at The Ottobar in Baltimore, MD.  It was a blast!  But since then, the guys that helped me out have bailed and went their separate ways.  It's been very frustrating getting reliable people to help out!  Had to cancel two shows because my bassist kept bailing!  Want to do some kinda a show though sometime next year.

CM: With 2012 coming to a fast close, what can we expect from The Zits in 2013? Are there any plans for any new material in the new year?

CM: I've been working on the next EP titled, "Broke and Lovin' It" for a year now.  Planning on releasing it in January.  That will probably be the only release next year since I want to concentrate on other projects and other important things.

CM: The band has been pretty much a DIY band from jump. Are there any labels out there who have shown interest in the band? Or will this be an exclusive indie band?

HB: Yes, well just this month I signed to Basement Handjob Records.  They are releasing my whole back catalogue on CD and vinyl.  Pretty exciting!

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

HB: Yeah sure, I've got everything up for download at and "Breakout" EP is available on iTunes and Amazon MP3.  Also like The Zits on Facebook

CM: Thanks again for talking with Critical Mass Heath. I greatly appreciate it. I hope we can get you guys out on the road in the near future. We would love to see you in Chicago at some point. Thanks again man.

HB: I'll definitely try to make it to Chicago!  Thanks!