Wednesday, January 8, 2014

Osaka Popstar - The Christmas That Almost Wasn't


In 2006, decrepit punk rockers Jerry Only and Marky Ramone, along with former Black Flag guitarist Dez Cadena and punk-rock footnote Ivan Julian (of the Voidoids, did you know?) formed a cartoon supergroup (God, I hate saying the words punk and supergroup in the same sentence) with the sole purpose of saving the planet from who the hell knows.

To make matters odd[er], the vocal duties were taken up by John Cafiero, a man who's credits include directing a Ramones documentary as well as the Insane Clown Posse feature film Big Money Hustlas (but don't worry, Cafiero had nothing to do with it's western sequel Big Money Rustlas) and who's credits did not include any actual singing.

From the looks of it they appear to be more of a Saturday morning cartoon than an actual band of real musicians, and that's not far off either, since the topic of near every song on the album is cartoon characters like Sailor Moon and Astroboy. That's right, punk men in their mid-fifties singing about Sailor Moon. If this isn't creepy, then it must certainly be dumb.

But yeah, it's creepy too.

Then there's the strange inclusion of "Man of Constant Sorrow", the folk tune made popular in the Coen Bros film Oh Brother, Where Art Thou? and the not-so-strange inclusion of regurgitated Voidoid tunes like "Blank Generation" and "Love Comes In Spurts".

"The Christmas That Almost Wasn't" gains Osaka Popstar inclusion in this blog, and I'll admit it's melody is pretty infectious. Take it away, Osaka Popstar and the, ehem, American Legends of Punk!

Sunday, January 5, 2014

Wild Billy Childish - Christmas 1979 (Double 7")


Every year we've come to expect some sort of holiday release from Damaged Goods, the UK punk label that brings us multicolored frisbees of polyvinyl from bands such as Guida, Cyanide Pills, and Thee Spivs, as well as every incarnation of the Wild Billy Childish and his Lo-Fi Minstrels of the Mustachioed Infantry.

This year it was beginning to look a lot like NO Christmas over at Damaged Goods, but in the end they came through with this seasonal offering. Limited to 300 hand stamped and numbed copies, this package includes two copies of Childish's former single "Christmas 1979" on both colors of vinyl, plus a bonus DVD featuring a short film (let's just call it a music video) shot by Childish on his son's camera.

If you already own this single or the full length LP that begot it, there really isn't anything new here, aside from the film. But it's sure a great item for the Childish fan or Christmas punk completist.

Find it here, at Damaged Goods.

Split - Old Firm Casuals & Evil Conduct


It's not the first rendition of the Kink's "Father Christmas" we've heard this year, nor is it the only record that features Evil Conduct's "Silver Bells", the former being covered by Bad Religion on their holiday single while the latter is available on the Cashing in on Christmas Vol. 5 compilation from Black Hole Records.

So yeah, it's a little redundant. And I'm also having a hard time figuring out why the Old Firm Casuals didn't jump on-board the Black Hole compilation, since the entire side four of the double LP was blank. Sorry, but as a listener, an etched record is pretty much the same as a blank one.

As you can see from the exciting video below, Evil Conduct has totally made this song their own with a few artistically placed swear words, though it's a little hard to believe they "fucking hate Christmas time" when they're singing a god damn carol.

Saturday, January 4, 2014

Split - Poison Idea & Angry Snowmans



Off to bed now kiddos, I think I hear footsteps on the roof. And you know who that is...Wait a sec, that's not the fat man I was expecting to come stumbling out of my chimney. This one smells like liquor and blood.

Better send those kids to their rooms anyhow. It's Poison Idea, back in Christmas action!

If you can remember way waaaay back to the year 1993, these oversize punks treated us to a extra large helping of Christmas goose with their retelling of the Elvis classic "Santa Claus is Back in Town". These days that record is pretty scarce, even in the band's hometown of Portland, OR, where all the punks have sold their copies to Japanese collectors in exchange for excessively zippered biker jackets and studded fanny packs. Thankfully, the song has returned in 2013 on this split single from TKO Records.

On the reverse side is yet another track from the hardest working band in Christmas, the Angry Snowmans. Their contribution is a take on PI's "Plastic Bomb", appropriately re-titled "Sugar Plum". The record is available in one of three colorful flavors: Rudolph-nose red, elf-booger green or candy cane swirl.

And if you're looking for more than just a piece of colored wax, don't miss your chance to see the Kings of Punk in person on a few select dates throughout Southern California. More info at TKORecords.com.

Sunday, December 22, 2013

Masked Intruder - Under the Mistletoe


If this year's Punk Goes Christmas compilation let you down, fear not! Not all pop-punk in the year 2013 is made for highschool girls to cut themselves to.

Enter Masked Intruder. A gimmicky pop-punk band clad in primary colored ski-masks. This is good, top-shelf pop-punk in the vein of Teenage Bottlerocket and Chixdiggit. Not that emotional garbage.

I really like this A-side track. It's got girlishly high-pitched, genre-appropriate vocals and enough melodic hooks to choke Fat Mike. There's even a nice Love Actually ref. 

The B-side is a reworking of the go-to classic "Silent Night", modified with just the right amount of punk sarcasm.

Find more from the band here and pick up a copy of this vinyl single at Fat Wreck Chords.

Various Artists - Gnartivity Scene


No, your tapedeck isn't broken. That's how this is supposed to sound. Think of Gnartivity Scene like a audible equivalent to Tim & Eric. Weird, at times uncomfortable, and at it's best, completely unlistenable.

This compilation is put together by Portland, Oregon based cassette label Gnar Tapes. There's certainly a lot to skip through here, but highlights include the echoey, doo-wop flavored garage punk of the Memories, the stoner punk of White Fang (actually the band of label-founder Erik Gage) and a Ramones rip-off called "I Wanna Be Your Dradel" (sic) by someone or something called Emotional.

In between the good parts, this album sounds like a drunk kid with a Casio keyboard. Oh yeah, and that drunk kid is named Unkle Funkle.

Nick Lowe - Quality Street


Before you open your mouth and say that Nick Lowe isn't punk, please take a moment to just simply shut up.

Yes, it is true that this record will please parents and even grandparents musical palate more than it will any spry young punk rockers, but with power-pop classics—scratch that, more like essential records for life—like Pure Pop for Now People and Labour of Love, I adore the crap out of this old nut.

And after all, Lowe started his musical career on the same great punk label that brought Elvis Costello, Wreckless Eric and the Damned into this world. 

But if you still think he has no place on a punk blog, for our purposes please just consider him the Mr. Rogers of punk rock and we'll move on.

There are times on this record, as in the rockabilly opener "Children Go Where I Send Thee", where Nick Lowe shows off a rowdy side, albeit rowdy like my mother gets at her quilting retreats, but nevertheless upbeat and ready to party. Most of the record though is cool, calm and snappy like Mel Torme singing in wool cardigan by the punch-bowl.

The originals here are great and tempt the listener to stash Quality Street among their year-round collection, instead of in the December annex. Songs like "Christmas at the Airport" paint this charming old man like a character in a quirky holiday movie. 

And, thankfully, when Lowe covers other's material its not the plaid out standards that we're already sick to death of (though Silent Night makes an appearance). Instead Lowe shows off his penchant for the unsung with covers of black spiritual songs, Chicago jump blues, wizardy glam rock and Roger Miller. The Ron Sexsmith penned "Hooves on the Roof" gets weird with some jazzy beeps and spaceship noises, Lowe at his most avant-garde. 

Most of all, Quality Street is worth noting as the most sincere Christmas album I've heard this season. But then, Nick Lowe is such a nice old man, should we be surprised he loves Christmas?

Get the record in many and every format (including picture disc) over at the Yep Rock Store and NickLowe.com.

Girl Trouble & The Dignitaries - Christmas Split



As a resident of the Pacific Northwest I will tell you this: Tacoma's punk scene pisses in your punk scene's collective face. Period. That's it. I'm sorry you had to find out this way, but that's just the way it is.

Tacoma embodies exactly what a punk scene should be: snotty, DIY, and full of kids who spit on the bands they like and don't give two shits about limited vinyl pressings. Now, if that doesn't sound fun to you then it's safe to say you might be beyond your salad days and maybe you'd feel more comfortable seated safely atop a barstool watching a band in a Seattle dive bar. But Tacoma's scene is true to punk rock form, it's raw, it's nasty and it's nearly impossible not to spill your beer on your shoes.

Musically, it is treated like an ugly stepsister by larger touring bands and monopolizing Seattle venues, which has resulted in a purely local driven scene with zero tolerance for bullshit. There are no rock stars. There aren't many egos. There are only house shows that happen in basement half-pipes, antique stores and empty storefronts. And not your meager turnout house shows either, but can't-reach-the-room-where-the-band-is-playing-because-it's-too-crowded house shows (at least some of the time.)

Granted, though I live and have lived most of my life in nearby Seattle and Olympia respectively, I have never actually lived in the pungent city itself. I've had the benefit of playing and attending shows during the crest of each great Tacoma wave, a somewhat biennial occurrence.

So naturally people who live there might tell you I'm bloating things a bit (some though, will tell you I'm spot on.)

If the Sonics are Tacoma's punk rock grandfathers, then Girl Trouble is their deadbeat son. God, I fucking love this band. The word underrated is itself overrated, but if it doesn't apply to this band then I probably need to look it up in the dictionary.

If you aren't familiar with them I won't spell it for you here, just get yourself a copy of Hit It Or Quit It and find out for yourself.

Now, each year, and this year will be the fifth consecutive year, these two bands host a Christmas party spectacular. Last year the band I was playing in opened the show. There were santa costumes, gifts being thrown, it was righteous fun! This single was released specifically for this years attendees (though there are a few remaining copies available—see link below).

Girl Trouble's cut on this record is great garagey goodness and displays just how closely one can stick to their guns, especially after 25 years making records.

The Dignitaries hook line puts me in childish snickers while my girlfriend walks around the apartment rolling her eyes and vacuuming up pine needles. Truly one of the best holiday tracks of 2013. Nicely done.

On a somewhat related note, and to reveal just how strong my bias truly is, I'm just going to say that Durango 95 was the best band ever. If you don't live in Tacoma, you don't know them and never will. It's not a shame, it's just Tacoma.

Now please proceed to Girl Trouble's painfully 90's website and buy this 7 inch.

Figgy & the Scrooges - Alcoholiday

More Santa-core for you Christmas Punk enthusiasts! This one is from Columbus, Ohio naughty listers Figgy & the Scrooges. Each year this band forms for the holidays from members of Times New Viking, Connections and Nervosas, among others.

The Scrooges generously offer up not two but THREE holiday inspired tracks, the best of which is the opener, "The Scrooges Carol (Figgy Cares)", a lo-fi ripper that laments its subtitle, adding that "...Scrooges don't give a shit!". This one would go nicely on one of those Killed By Death comps, and for how many of those there are and all the clones and spoofs they've spawned, why isn't there a KBD Christmas yet? Volume 12/25, anybody?

Anyhow, you can stream all three tracks on the band's website, then buy the 7 inch because proceeds are going to benefit the Mid-Ohio Foodbank. Aw, how nice, I guess Figgy really does care.

Wednesday, December 18, 2013

Zachary Russell - Hello, Xmas


Not every Christmas song needs vocals. If you're a fan of Christian metal outfit August Burns Red and their 2012 Christmas album Sleddin' Hill, you might be into this three track Christmas album by Zachary Russell called Hello, Xmas. Though the style here is more pop-punk than metal, the general idea is the same: revamped Christmas classics, done instrumentally with crunchy guitar riffs and wailing solos.

Listen to the album at http://helloxmas.com/