Thursday, September 27, 2012

Music Reviews: Kevin Seconds - "Don't Let Me Lose Ya"

I've been a fan of Reno Nevada's 7 Seconds for more years than I can remember. I always loved the bands sense on unity and staying true to what they believe in. So going into Kevin Seconds new solo album, having not heard any of his past solo material, I wasn't sure what to expect. But I gotta tell ya, in all honesty, the new disc "Don't Let Me Lose Ya" (Asian Man Records) is one hell of a ride. It's NOT a hardcore punk album at all. It's an acoustic style singer/songwriter offering showcasing Kev's guitar playing, smart lyrics and wonderful vocal approach. But just so we're clear, this ISN'T your daddy's folk record, I'll tell ya that much.

The album kicks off with "Forever Try", a song about youth and innocence. Remembering our childhood where we used to "go out and get our hands dirty" while finding a little bit of trouble...but on a much smaller scale than by today's standards. It's a really great way to kick off this album. And what also should be told is that Kev really has a great voice for this style of music. All these years, I never knew he could pull off such a great song and keep me wanting more.

"Only Drug" is a nice little tune. It seems that Kev is confessing that even when times were tough he still found hope. But what did he find hope in? His wife? His music? The music scene that he's so much a part of? All the above? It doesn't matter! It can be about anything and everything all at once. It's a song about all the good and bad in our life. Sometimes the good outweighs the bad. Sometimes it's the other way around. But to stay focused and true to yourself are what will get you through til tomorrow.

This album also has an almost country feel to it in the form of "What A Lie". Coupled with harmonica and beautiful playing, Kev really shines vocally on this track. It's an all around masterpiece of a song. This isn't something I was expecting, but am glad I was able to discover. This truly is a wonderful record to sit back on a Sunday (or ANY day for that matter) and relax to. It's a comforting album by a truly gifted singer, songwriter and musician. It just goes to show even the hardest of punks can show us another side of them. A side more sensitive and mellow, but equally as powerful as anything on The Crew or Walk Together Rock Together. This is one of the best records to come out this year, in my opinion. Pick it up and check it out for yourself.

5 / 5 stars

Wednesday, September 26, 2012

Music Reviews: Kurt Baker - "Want You Around"

What can be said about Kurt Baker that hasn't already been said? This guy is a modern day version of what was so great about late 70's early 80's post punk and new wave mixed in with major amounts of power pop for added effect. And you can hear this all over Kurt's latest 7" EP called "Want You Around" (out now on Jolly Ronnie Records).

This amazing EP opens with the title track. This is another great example of Kurt having fun and sharing it, via song, with all his fans. It's well written and has all the tell tales that this was written by the man himself. It's got a great beat, great harmonies and back-up vocals supplied by the one and only Dan Schafer. The guitar solo has a killer feel to it thanks to Geoff Useless. If you liked his last album "Rocking For A Living", you'll LOVE this song. This tune has my stamp of approval all over it. Great song.

The other 3 tunes are not originals, but instead are covers by bands and artists that have left an obvious mark on Kurt and his style of playing. The cover of The Vapors "News At 10" is a prime example of taking an already great tune and making it CLASSIC! Kurt really takes this long lost gem and makes it his own with excitement and great playing. The same can be said about "Sleeping With The Television On", the deep cut from Billy Joel's classic album Glass Houses. Kurt's cover is spot on. If you blink you'll actually think it's Billy's version. Big props go to Kris "Fingers" Rogers for his wonderfully charismatic piano work here. The band really make this song pop as a stand out track for no other reason than it's NOT something you would expect from a Kurt Baker release. So, little surprises like this really make the record for me. Great pick guys!

Anyone who knows Kurt Baker KNOWS this guy's a huge Thin Lizzy fan. So why not cover a Lizzy tune? It's not an obvious choice like "Jailbreak" or "Cowboy Song". Instead they whip out a straight up, meat and potatoes ROCKIN version of "Hollywood (Down On Your Luck)". The band (Kurt vocal/bass, "Fingers" keys, Geoff guitars and Adam Cargin drums) really take control and it's full speed ahead tearing through this song like there's no tomorrow. Phil Lynott would be proud if he heard this version. I have a feeling he's looking down smiling right now! 

As much as I love Kurt and his love for all things power pop and straight ahead rock, I wanna hear more originals. But from what I've heard, his up coming full length is gonna blow minds! So, this is a damn good record to hold us over until the new album drops. I've said it before, I'll say it again...Kurt Baker has a a lot to bring to the music world. And I feel this guy's gonna be BIG at some point. He's a super nice guy and I wish him and the band all the best with the new album.

4 / 5 stars

Tuesday, September 25, 2012

Music Reviews: Val Ventura - "Sun Down California"

Val Ventura is on a mission to bring quality DIY punk rock back to the masses. And to prove that if you set your mind to it, you CAN make creative and special music all on your own, with little help from others. And that message is written all over her new 3 song 7" entitled "Sun Down California".

Val is a rare breed in this day and age of punk rock. Not only does she write and sing all the music on this record, but she also plays drums and guitar. Oh yeah, she also produced it and released it on her own label, Astro Girl Records. The record was recorded back in 2007 at Sonic Iguana Studios with a little help from Mass Giorgini (who plays bass on this release) mixing and Luke McNeill (Copyrights fame) engineering. Other than that, it's all about Val's sunny pop punk tunes. And what gems they are.

                                                                              Photo by: Anastasia Accorsi
Side A kicks off with the title track, a real showstopper of a tune. Very reminiscent of 70's style Ramones. 4 chords, sing along chorus and lots of catchy hooks worthy of a spot in any pop punk fans record collection. The song really has a comfortable flow and feel. It doesn't come off forced or fake at all. Even as the weather is starting to get cold and gloomy, this track brings back the sunny summer days in the form of a song. Brilliant!

Side B starts with "Forgotten", a melodic and faster paced tune that sounds similar to It's A Shame About Ray era Lemonheads. Short and to the point, but happy and enthusiastic in it's approach and sound. This very well may be my favorite track on the album. It's a short tune at only 1:40. But that just means you can have it on repeat for 3 or 4 plays and not get bored with it. A fun tune showing you can put alot of thought into a short track and still make an impact.

                                                                              Photo by: Anastasia Accorsi
Closing out this release is acoustic number "Just Me". This song is very simple but at the same time it's effective. With lyrics about not being what others may want you to be, but finding comfort in your own skin, it's a wonderful song about inner beauty and self confidence. Songs like this never get old in my book. In a world full of fakes and phonies, it's nice to see a strong independent recording artist doing it HER way without holding back. I don't know why it took 5 years for this amazing piece of wax to finally hit the streets...but it was well worth the wait.

 4 ½  / 5 stars 

Wednesday, September 5, 2012

Vote To See This Band Play Riot Fest Chicago.

Please help a great Chicago band play this years Riot Fest! Go to the link below and vote for Death And Memphis. The voting ends soon and you can vote once a day! To go vote and help these guys out click the link below!

Death And Memphis

Music Reviews: Teenage Bottlerocket - Freak Out!

Teenage Bottlerocket have a system for making great albums. They never take themselves too seriously and make fun albums full of fist in the air sing-a-longs. So it's no surprise the bands latest album "Freak Out" (out now on Fat Wreck Chords) is jam packed with some of the best punk rock songs to come out this year. Like the Ramones before them, TBR have carved out a sound all their own. Fast songs that cut right to the chase and always leave you wanting more. I mean who else could write a song about the 80's schlock film Top Gun ("Maverick") and pull it off? Nobody, that's who!

Of the 14 tracks on the album fans may recognize 3. "Mutilate Me" (is this song about S&M an ode to bassist Miguel Chen?) and "Punk House Of Horror" both appeared on last years Mutilate Me 7". And "Headbanger" appeared on the "Get Wrecked" album by Sack, which was a side project by drummer Brandon Carlisle and singer/guitarist Kody Templeman. But all the tracks are super catchy and infectious, sure to get a pit going when played at an excessive volume.

While the album doesn't steer away from the sound and lyrical content we're used to getting from Laramie, Wyoming's finest, there is one track that's, shall we say, a little bit more mature as far as lyrics and subject matter go. "Done With Love" was written by Kody after he and his wife divorced. It's one of the best tracks on the album and very well could be Kody's finest moment as a lyricist. He may have a "heart of stone", but he's still got a knack for writing great songs. Just an awesome track!

Kody's not the only one at the top of his game. Ray Carlisle also has a couple monsters on the album in the forms of "Cruising For Chicks", with it's simple lyrical approach and a heavy palm muted chugging guitar riff, it really sets the mood for a Friday night out looking for that special someone to spend a few short hours with. And "Go With The Flow" is a great way to end an album full of high notes ON a high note. Ray's vocals are so great when paired with Kody's backing vocals, and this track really brings the most out of these two singers. This song is such a gem that I can see it as a possible single.

Teenage Bottlerocket are at the top of their game on "Freak Out". And the sky's the limit for this band who continue to put out quality punk rock, album after album. If you haven't already seem them live, check em out at this years Riot Fest in Chicago. They bring it every time! And for Pete's sake, get the bands back catalog if you don't already have it. You won't regret it.

5 / 5 stars.