Pop That Goes Crunch!

Seven Decades Of Melodic Rock & Roll

Stereo Tiger: More Great Rockin’ Pop From Michigan

Stereo Tiger - Two Weeks

I wrote recently that some of the very best music these days comes to us from the state of Michigan. Indeed, artists based in the state liberally populated my year-end “best of” lists for 2014, which you can peruse here, here and here.

This month brings yet another fine offering from the state in the form of Stereo Tiger’s debut long-player (they previously released a pair of EPs), Two Weeks. This will easily make my year-end list. In fact, it likely will make my Top 10 since it is hard to imagine that ten LPs will be released this year offering a better combination of songwriting, vocals, musicianship and production than Two Weeks.

Stereo Tiger is less than two-years old, having emerged from a series of impromptu jam sessions involving three of the four band members. Nevertheless, Two Weeks reveals a band with a great deal of self-assurance. Instead of starting the festivities with a rousing, upbeat number designed to hook the listener immediately, Two Weeks begins with the slow burn of “Magic Balloon,” whose soaring harmonies perfectly compliment its psych-rock underpinnings. Distinctly 70’s-styled keyboards announce the next track, “Perfect World,” a bit of (almost) lite rock that would be a massive hit in a more perfect world.

High-gear kicks in by the third track, “Open Up Your Eyes,” which is propelled by an instantly memorable guitar riff and pitch-perfect harmonizing. It nabbed the lead spot on the current installment of my semi-weekly podcast of rockin’ pop nuggets, The Big Show, which attests to its greatness:

“Open Up Your Eyes” is followed by the relentlessly pounding “Runaway,” whose chorus sounds like something blasting from dozens of car stereos one summer back in the day. That doesn’t make it retro. It is, as the band says in a different context on its website, “both familiar and fresh.” Coupled with “Open,” the two tracks deliver a rather potent back-to-back, six minutes of rockin’ pop:

The hits don’t, however, stop there. “Philly Girl” sways along brilliantly, and seemingly without effort. “Did You Ever Love Me” is a hook-laden rocker about romantic disappointment that will have you singing along immediately. Two Weeks closes with an aching ballad, “I Do I Don’t,” which underscores Stereo Tiger’s fluency with a broad range of sounds and textures.

The thirty-eight minutes of music on Two Weeks fly by in what feels like a couple of moments. Nowhere near a bum track is present in the eleven-song collection. Sonic kudos also are in order for Andy Reed and Glenn Brown, who recorded and mastered Two Weeks, respectively. Not only does Two Weeks sound great, but the music goes bang when it needs to go bang, and pulls back nicely when a more subtle attack is in order.

All I can say at this point is: Run as fast as you can and get Two Weeks now, either here or here.

Great New Music Abounds: The Big Show, Season 2, Show 5

The Big Show This action-packed episode of The Big Show is overflowing with new music. Of particular note are three artists whose songs, albums (or both) are destined to find their way onto my year-end lists for 2015:

Love Axe kicks off the show with “Only Gonna Tear You Apart,” a hook-filled track, with a bit of “call and response harmonizing,” from their wonderful South Dakota long-player — one of the finest albums released so far this year.

Propeller’s “You Remind Me Of You” made my Top 30 songs list last year. Their new single, “Wish I  Had Her Picture,” may be the band’s best song to date, with its sweet and smooth vocal harmonies nicely complimenting its bouncy rhythm. Look for this one in my Top 10 for 2015; its that good.

Nick Piunti’s Beyond The Static LP somehow manages to up the ante on 13 In My Head which, in retrospect, could very well have been my favorite long-player of 2013. “Head In The Clouds” is third song from Static to be played on The Big Show. Its a pitch-perfect, mid-tempo guitar rocker punctuated by Piunti’s typically fabulous vocals.

But, wait, there’s a whole lot more great new music for your listening pleasure in this season’s fifth show.

The Kurt Baker Combo tear the roof off the house with a blistering live version of Leiber and Stoller’s “Love Potion No. 9.” Dot Dash infuse their immensely catchy “Rainclouds” with a bit of old school punk rock swagger to great effect. Los Breakdowns deliver traditional Power Pop via the late-70’s with “Off The Record” from their wonderfully titled LP, Rock ‘N Roller Skates.

A bunch of 60’s styled rockin’ pop is featured prominently in the fifth show. Those mad scientists of the four-track recorder, Dr. Cosmo’s Tape Lab, check in with some 60’s swing on “Time Enough For Love.” Grab a cocktail by the pool with this one. Roger Houdaille, recording as Plastic Macca, takes the lo-fi 60’s approach in a decidedly different direction with the rocking and rollicking “Art” from one of his two recently released LPs. Smile Factory, a “pop collective,” contribute perfectly updated British Invasion pop on “There She Is.” The Zags deliver some understated 60’s-styled pop with subtle psych undertones on “Messin’ Around” from their rather tasty, recently released self-titled LP.

New music is rounded out by Caddy, making its second consecutive appearance on The Big Show, with the beautiful and swaying “Bring It Back” from an upcoming LP, and by The Surf School Dropouts whose “Should Have Known Better” features sparkling harmonies and a slinky, instantly memorable guitar riff. The entire twenty-seven song tracklist can be found below the embed. Crank up the volume, and check out Pop That Goes Crunch radio, streaming the finest in melodic rock n’ roll 24/7.

The Big Show, Season 2, Show #5 by Pop That Goes Crunch on Mixcloud

Tracklist:

1.  Love Axe, “Only Gonna Tear You Apart”

2.  Plastic Macca, “Art”

3.  Los Breakdowns, “Off The Record”

4.  Dot Dash, “Rainclouds”

5.  The Electric Mess, “There’s Nothing You Can Do”

6.  The Zags, “Messin’ Around”

7   Propeller, “Wish I Had Her Picture”

8.  Smile Factory, “There She Is”

9.  Caddy, “Bring It Back”

10. David Bowie, “I Dig Everything”

11. Lisa Mychols, “Its As Easy As 1, 2, 3″

12. Nancy Sinatra, “I Move Around”

13. Josh Woodward, “The Rival Within”

14. Elliott Smith, “Let’s Get Lost”

15. Brandon Schott, “Fire Season”

16. Surf School Dropouts, “Should Have Known Better”

17. Scott Brookman, “She Smiled At Me”

18. Dr. Cosmo’s Tape Lab, “Time Enough For Love”

19. Kurt Baker Combo, “Love Potion #9″

20. The Woggles, “I Got A Line On You”

21. Generation X, “Ready, Steady, Go”

22. Chris Church, “Absolutely Nothing”

23. Nick Piunti, “Head In The Clouds”

24. John Holk & The Sequins, “If She Were You”

25. Carousels, “For You (Sha La La)”

26. The Rooks, “Music Sound Sensation”

27. Cliff Hillis, “End The Telemarketing”

The Big Show: Season 2, Show #4

The Big Show

Some of the best rockin’ pop emanates from the Detroit, Michigan area. So, fittingly, the fourth installment of the second season of The Big Show features several tracks by artists that performed at the International Pop Overthrow festival as it wound its way to Detroit.

Ryan Allen & His Extra Arms begin the festivities with the rocking “Angela ’97” from their recently-relased album Heart String Soul, which is a shoo-in for this year’s “Best of” list. Nick Piunti checked in with “Six Bands” from his brilliant Beyond The Static, which was said to be the one “to beat” this year. Another shoo-in for this year’s “Best Of” list is The Hangabouts’ Illustrated Bird, which was released too late for consideration last year. The band’s infectious “Love Nothing” is featured in Show #4. A recent discovery, John Holk & The Sequins, contributed the immediately catchy title track from their 2010 release, If You See Her. Rounding out the Detroit IPO-ers in Show #4 was Dave Caruso, whose song “Sticks Keys & Wires” can be found on his Cardboard Vegas Roundabout long-player, which came in at Number 6 on my list of the Top Albums of 2014.

A truckload of new music is featured in Show #4, including tracks by Tenterhooks, Caddy, Love Axe, Jared Lekites, Salim Nourallah, DC Cardwell, Dr. Cosmo’s Tape Lab and Evil Arrows. The complete tracklist appears below the embed.

Be sure to check out the main mix on Pop That Goes Crunch radio, streaming 24/7.

The Big Show, Season 2, Show #4 by Pop That Goes Crunch on Mixcloud

 

Tracklist:

1.  Ryan Allen & His Extra Arms, “Angela ’97”

2.  Tenterhooks, “Helpless”

3.  Sugarmen, “Dirt”

4.  Caddy, “Wherever You Go”

5.  Pseudonym, “Art School Lady”

6.  Love Axe, “Such A Waste Of Time”

7.  Nick Piunti, “Six Bands”

8.  Jared Lekites, “Five Separate Lives”

9.  The Davenports, “Five Steps ’15”

10. John Holk & The Sequins, “If You See Her”

11. The See See, “Over & Under”

12. The Weeklings, “Leave Me With My Pride”

13. Salim Nourallah/Treefort 5, “Terlingua”

14. Chase Hamblin & The Roustabouts, “Way Back”

15. DC Cardwell, “In The Cloud”

16. The Valkarys, “We Are The World”

17. Dr. Cosmo’s Tape Lab, “The Painted Birds”

18. Greater California, “Long Shadows”

19. Sloan, “Waterfalls”

20. Postcards From Jeff, “Suburban Girl”

21. Dave Caruso, “Sticks Keys & Wires”

22. PT Walkley, “Sanitarium”

23. Wilco, “She’s A Jar”

24. And The Professors, “We Are”

25. The Hangabouts, “Love Nothing”

26. Evil Arrows, “False Alarm”

27. Pernice Brothers, “Subject Drop”

 

The Big Show: Season 2, Show #3

The Big Show, Season 2, Show #3

The third installment of the second season of The Big Show included a truck load of new music, including new rockin’ pop by Daniel Wylie’s Cosmic Rough Riders, Nick Piunti, DC Cardwell, Lannie Flowers, The Weeklings, The See See, The Explorers Club (doing a live cover of The Zombies’ “Tell Her No), Tenterhooks and Watts.

Perennial favorites — XTC, Elvis Costello, Teenage Fanclub and Big Star — also were on tap, as was a bit of Alt-County via Lucinda Williams and Golden Smog.

The complete track list appears below the embed. Turn it up loud, and tune in frequently to Pop That Goes Crunch radio, spinning the finest slices of melodic rock ‘n roll released over the past seven decades.

The Big Show, Season 2, Show #3 by Pop That Goes Crunch on Mixcloud

 

Track list:

1.  Daniel Wylie’s Cosmic Rough Riders, “Another Wasted Day”

2.  Nick Piunti, “It’s A Trap”

3.  Ryan Allen & His Extra Arms, “Keep Me Around”

4.  DC Cardwell, “The Sun, The Moon, The Stars”

5.  XTC, “The World Is Full Of Angry Young Men”

6.  The Power Cords, “Luxetine Dreams”

7.  Chuck Oney, “Dear Miss Roberts”

8.  Elvis Costello & The Attractions, “Lip Service”

9.  Lannie Flowers, “Radio Sweetheart”

10. King Kartel, “Run”

11. The Turnback, “Beyond Belief”

12. The Slapbacks, “Looking For The Magic”

13. The Weeklings, “Breathing Underwater”

14. The See See, “The Rain & The Snow”

15. The Explorers Club, “Tell Her No”

16. Coke Belda, “Looking For”

17. Marjorie Cardwell, “When We Both Fell Down”

18. The Byrds, “Lady Friend”

19. Teenage Fanclub, “Nowhere”

20. Big Star, “You Get What You Deserve”

21. Gretchen’s Wheel, “Why Try”

22. Lucinda Williams, “Side Of The Road”

23. Golden Smog, “V”

24. Tenterhooks, “Lucy”

25. Watts, “Trick”

The Big Show, Season 2, Show #2

Vintage Hi-FiSeason 2 of The Big Show rolled on with 25 rockin’ pop tracks, including new music by The New Trocaderos, Watts, Timmy Sean, The Popguns, Ryan Allen & His Extra Arms, One Like Son, Gretchen’s Wheel, etc., etc., etc.

A set late in the show featured a bit of vintage “mod,” a track from the mod revival of the early-80s and the contemporary mod-inspired stylings of Muscle Souls.

As is customary, the complete tracklist appears after the embed.

Play this one loud, and tune in frequently to Pop That Goes Crunch radio, spinning the best of seven decades of melodic rock ‘n roll 24/7.

The Big Show, Season 2, Show #2 by Pop That Goes Crunch on Mixcloud

Tracklist:

1.  The New Trocaderos, “Luckiest Man In The World”

2.  The Electric Mess, “Lemonade Man”

3.  Watts, “Flying Over With Bombs”

4.  Timmy Sean, “You Ain’t Seen Nothing Yet”

5.  Luzer, “Hard Luck Woman”

6.  Chris Richards and the Subtractions, “No Action”

7.  Faerground Accidents, “She Makes Me Want To Die”

8.  The Popguns, “City Lights”

9.  The June Brides, “Just The Same”

10. Ryan Allen & His Extra Arms, “Looking Forward To Looking Back”

11. One Like Son, “New American Gothic”

12. Baby Scream, “Back To Douche”

13. Lewis Wilson, “Manhattan Skies”

14. The Hangabouts, “She Hates You”

15. Gretchen’s Wheel, “Second To Last”

16. Mothboxer, “Laughing Out Loud”

17. Jonathan Rundman, “Flying On A Plane”

18. Jessepop [With The Weebees], “Johan & Elliott”

19. Muscle Souls, “Soul Down”

20. The Untouchables, “Free Yourself”

21. St. Louis Union, “East Side Story”

22. Dum Dum Girls, “Evil Blooms”

23. The Alarms, “Make It Better”

24. Quitty & The Don’ts, “Running Out Of Time”

25. The Crush, “Don’t Mind The Sunshine”

Big Rock ‘N Roll From Watts And One Like Son

Rumors of the death of rock ‘n roll are greatly exaggerated. Want proof? Check out these two recent releases.

Watts Flash Of White Light

Watts, Flash Of White Light: Once upon a time, real rock ‘n roll could be heard anywhere and everywhere – AM radio, picnics, barbecues, shopping centers, sporting events, etc. It was part of the fabric of daily life, particularly when its practitioners spiked their guitar and drum attacks with liberal doses of big left and right hooks.

On its third long-player, Flash Of White Light, Boston’s Watts unabashedly and unapologetically summon those days gone by and deliver forty minutes of blistering rock ‘n roll tempered by the occasional slower burn to keep the heat at least somewhat manageable.

The band’s basic approach is spelled out in the title track, which kicks off the festivities: “Don’t get excited/hold on tight/blazing guitars and a flash of white light,” begins the chorus in delivering a perfect statement of purpose:

“Wasted Angels” provides a nice excuse to pump one, or both, of your fists in the air while singing happily along. “Rocks” sounds precisely as advertised, particularly if you think about a mid-70’s album of the same name issued by a rather successful Boston-based band. As is also to be expected, “Ghosts On The Dancefloor” has a great beat, and you can dance to it!

The less rousing tracks on Flash Of White Light are no less successful. “Wrapped Like Candy” slowly makes its case for more than three minutes before descending into a long fade-out. “Sidewinder” plays like a missing track from Exile On Main Street. “Flying Over With Bombs” nicely sound checks “Sweet Child O’ Mine”:

The guys in Watts know they are not producing wildly original sounds. They even joke about it on “Trick,” which closes the eleven-song set by beginning: “We wrote this song today/you thought you heard it play when you were younger.”

Indeed, we did. So what? Its only rock ‘n roll, but I like it. A lot.

Get it here.

One Like Son

One Like Son, New American Gothic: “Each song from the album ‘New American Gothic’ was written and recorded in 1 week during the 52 Weeks Songwriting Project,” says the band’s page on Bandcamp. If you dig deeper on Bandcamp, you also will find an album called 52 Weeks, which contains the fifty-two (!) songs from which the thirteen tracks on New American Gothic were culled.

One Like Son is largely a project of Stephen Poff, with the able assistance of Clinton Kirby on bass, Brian Seagraves on piano, and Ryan Fennell on drums. The band received a bunch of press a few years ago for producing an “entire album on an iPhone.”

Everything on New American Gothic screams “big.” The guitars are loud and full. The drums pound relentlessly. Poff’s vocals are strong and emphatic throughout. Even better is that New American Gothic is also chock full of great songs.

The title track is a pounding five-minute story of enduring modern romance between “the misfits and the preachers’ daughters.” Its chorus will ring around your head for quite some time:

“Punk Rock Prom Queen” explores a similar theme — love will protect you against the scoffing of small-minded conformists. Its doppelganger,”Sister Mary (Got Her Gun),” is completely un-serious Power Pop featuring this rather nice sing-along verse: “Bang bang went her gun/bang bang no more fun/bang bang turn and run/no one’s safe cause she’s mad as hell tonight.” “What Momma Knew” is a head-bopping bit of rockin’ pop about the transcendent power of rock and roll and Star Wars. If all else fails, of course, you can always “close your eyes and live inside your head”:

New American Gothic does not try to break any new stylistic ground. Instead, One Like Son deliver thirteen examples of finely crafted, big sounding, melodic rock ‘n roll. You can’t beat that. Get it here, and play it loud.

The Big Show: Season 2, Show #1

Old consoleThe “second season” of our roughly bi-weekly round-up of the finest rockin’ pop tunes from across the planet kicked off with a basket full of new music for your distinct listening pleasure. New, and relatively new, music was represented by Jonathan Rundman, Mothboxer, The Sharp Things, The Little Secrets, Yorktown Lads, Hidden Pictures, The Hangabouts and Samuel Justice. We snuck in a set that followed “Okinawa Girl” by Joe Sullivan and “Japanese Dancer” by Aerial with Kurt Baker’s raucous version of “Turning Japanese.” We played a Big Star original and an acoustic cover of a Big Star’s “Life Is Right” by The Well Wishers back-to-back. James Brown even made his debut hereabouts with his classic track, “Out Of Sight.” As always, the complete tracklist appears below the embed. Pop That Goes Crunch radio streams 24/7 right here. Your e-mails are always welcome at popgoescrunch@gmail.com.

The Big Show, Season 2, Show #1 by Pop That Goes Crunch on Mixcloud

Tracklist:

1.  Jonathan Rundman, “The Science Of Rockets”

2.  Mothboxer (Featuring Finchey), “I’m Working”

3.  The Sharp Things, “Everything Breaks”

4.  The Little Secrets, “All I Need”

5.  Yorktown Lads, “Anna Borg”

6.  Hidden Pictures, “Hannah, I’m Scared Of Your Boyfriend”

7.  Trees and Timber, “Eskimo Sun”

8.  Matthew Shacallis, “Tell Me Girl”

9.  Richard Snow And The Inlaws, “Middle Class Girl”

10. Woolens, “The End of All of Everything”

11. The Person & The People, “NYC Freakout”

12. Yorktown Lads, “Something to Write About”

13. The Hangabouts, “November”

14. The Merrymakers, “April’s Fool”

15. The Dead Girls, “Better Wait”

16. Samuel Justice, “Sign My Name”

17. The Cheap Seats, “Caroline, Yes”

18. Joe Sullivan, “Okinawa Girl”

19. Aerial, “Japanese Dancer”

20. Kurt Baker, “Turning Japanese”

21. Big Star, “Watch The Sunrise”

22. The Well Wishers, “Life Is Right”

23. James Brown, “Out of Sight”

24. The Jam, “Beat Surrender”

It’s Troc Time, Baby

Frenzy In The HipsThe New Trocaderos should be quite familiar to readers of this blog. They consist of Geoffrey Palmer and Brad Marino of The Connection, and Kurt Baker. Their “debut” two-sided single, released in late-2013, was reviewed here. One of those songs, “The Kids,” made my list of the best 30 songs of 2014. Their 2014 EP, Kick Your Ass, was reviewed here, and made my list of the best 10 EPs of 2014. They also have scored two “Coolest Songs” on Little Steven’s Underground Garage. [You can hear the double-sided single here, and the EP here.]

Kook Kat Musik is distributing a “compilation” EP — released by Uncle Mike’s  RnR — containing the five previously released songs, while including a new track, “Luckiest Man In The World,” another bristling slice of hook-filled rockin’ pop rooted deeply in the British Invasion and garage rock sounds of the 1960s. Like the five prior Troc tracks, “Luckiest” bears the indelible stamp of its primary songwriter, Michael Chaney, who has a penchant for penning short, memorable lines, like the key lyric in “Luckiest”: “Robber shot a bullet straight at his head/Bullet took a U-turn, killed the robber instead/He’s the luckiest man in the world.”

Chaney is a Los Angeles-based criminal defense lawyer who had no professional songwriting experience before the Trocs recorded six of his songs. I had a chance to speak with him about the genesis of his alternate career, his influences, and what the future may hold for him and the Trocs.

Q. You live in Los Angeles. How did an older (sorry) West Coast guy, a lawyer no less, get hooked up with young New England musicians?

A.  About three years ago I went looking for new music and by random chance stumbled upon Kurt Baker’s songs, and they knocked me out. I’d already checked out many hundreds of songs from a couple hundred bands and was about to give up on finding anything truly stellar. I bought all of Kurt’s music and out of the blue I got an email from him thanking me.

Not being aware then of what indie artists need to do these days to promote themselves — I found out later just how tough the indie scene really is — I was blown away that such a talented guy had taken the time to write to a single fan, which I told him. We started talking rock ‘n’ roll and it turned out that a lot of my influences were his influences, too, despite our considerable age difference, and he was every bit as well versed in the music as people who came up with Buddy Holly and Elvis and the great ‘60s bands. Aside from having The Beatles, The Stones, The Beach Boys, The Kinks, The Who, and others, in common, I’d seen Rockpile at The Roxy and The Knack a half-dozen times, Elvis Costello and The Ramones at The Whisky in the ’70s, and a lot of other small club gigs back in the day, and Kurt was fascinated. I think he felt he was born about 30 years too late.

Q.  Geoff Palmer and Brad Marino are the other New Trocaderos. How did you get to know them?

A.  I asked Kurt if any other indie bands were making great new music and he recommended The Connection. At that point, The Connection only had New England’s Newest Hit Makers out. I listened to it and was floored. I mean, if those songs had been released in the sixties in England I have no doubt they’d have been Top Ten Hits. I bought the EP and Geoff Palmer wrote back. I told him Kurt turned me on to his band, and found out Geoff also plays guitar in Kurt’s band. Geoff and I started e-mailing. He had the same influences, too, as did Brad Marino, Geoff’s songwriting partner, although Geoff is more a Beatles guy and Brad is more into The Stones.

Q.  What happened next?

A.   I found out that Kurt, Geoff and Brad, aside from being extremely knowledgeable about rock music history, are terrific people. Very funny, upbeat guys, and very committed to real rock ‘n’ roll. You’ll never see them copping out to get ahead or to get a record deal. They play it the way they feel it and that’s that. They don’t care that they’re “out of step” with what passes for popular music these days.

In other words, they have musical integrity, along with great musical taste. So I liked them personally, and I wanted to help them get the recognition they deserve. I did some legal work for both bands, but as a criminal defense lawyer I wasn’t well versed in music law. But I have a buddy who is — a guy named Doug Mark who’s the lawyer for Epitaph Records and a long list of household name bands — and he’s been very gracious with his time and expertise. And I’ve learned a lot. And notwithstanding that I’m not tight with many heavies in the LA music scene, I’ve been doing what I can to try to get the guys the break they deserve, notwithstanding that a lot of people who should know better keep ignoring me.

Q.  Has anything come from that?

A.   Not nearly as much as their talent warrants, but so far, the biggest coup was getting The Connection booked to play a huge event sponsored by the Rock ‘n’ Roll Hall of Fame. I got a home-made “best of ” CD to Greg Harris, the CEO of the Rock Hall, and he listened and liked the music enough to OK hiring the band to play for 1,000 Rock Hall VIPS at the Rock Hall’s annual Spring Benefit last year. I drafted a press release to tout the event.

The gig was at the Cleveland Auditorium, the same venue where The Beatles, Stones, The Who, etc., all had played. Hall and Oates played later that evening to a packed house. The Connection went over really well. There was a big success with Kurt, too, but there’s a confidentiality agreement in place that prohibits me from talking about it. Except to say that the result validated the exceptional level of Kurt’s songwriting.

Also, Brad and Geoff, especially Brad, are huge Ramones fans. I happened to be friends with Ed Stasium, who either engineered or produced (or both) The Ramones best albums, so I arranged for Ed to mix and master a Connection song. Ed ended up writing and playing the guitar solo on it, too. The song was “Gonna Leave You.” That went over well with Brad and the band. Another little coup was hooking Kurt up with The Dahlmanns and The Dahlmanns up with Ed Stasium. Andre Dahlmann is a huge Ramones fan and he’d said he’d love to work with Ed. Kurt had written a song years ago for an Italian all-girl band to record, but they broke up before that happened. Kurt sent it to The Dahlmanns, who recorded it. Ed produced, mixed, and mastered it, and it ended up being a Coolest Song in the World at The Underground Garage. That was “He’s A Drag.” So that deal was very cool all the way around.

Q.  How did The New Trocaderos come about?

A.   As we got to know each other better, Geoff and Brad began sending demos of new Connection songs, and we’d go back and forth talking about lyric changes and instrumentation. Along the way, I mentioned that over the years I’d written some lyrics and melodies. Geoff asked me to send them to him. I told Geoff I’d give him $50 if he did a demo for me. That’s all I wanted, a recording of one of my songs, “Money Talks” — even a crude one. But the next thing I knew, Brad and Geoff and Kurt said they wanted to record the song, which I had written for fun 30 years earlier. Their idea was to blow my mind as a way of saying thanks for me trying to help them advance their careers.

Q.  When did you become a songwriter?

A.  I never thought of myself in that way. I can barely play basic guitar and have a horrible singing voice. But ever since I was a kid I’ve been putting lyrics to melodies. I remember hearing “19th Nervous Breakdown” and “Get Off Of My Cloud” and “Satisfaction” on AM radio and not being able to tell what the hell Mick was singing . . . at least on the verses. So I’d make up words that seemed to fit. From that habit came ideas for lines or verses or song titles, but I never paid attention to them and usually forgot what I’d come up with. “Money Talks” I did write down, probably because I thought it was funny.

Q.  How about the other song on the first New Trocoderos EP?

A.   The guys decided they needed a second song to record and I wrote “The Kids.” I have only a vague idea where it came from. But once I got started it seemed to almost write itself. Geoff especially was pushing me to write down ideas, not to forget them, and to finish ideas, to really try to write songs, so I started doing that. Without his enthusiasm and encouragement, I probably would have just gone on amusing myself, coming up with things then forgetting them. I mean, I’m a lawyer, not a songwriter. Who am I kidding? That was my state of mind until a couple years ago and Geoff turned up the heat on me.

Q.  What was it like being in the studio with the band?

A.   For the first EP, I wasn’t there. Geoff and Kurt had done demos and we tweaked the songs via text messages and e-mails until we all felt they were tight. Kurt, Brad, and Geoff then went into the studio, The Wild Arctic in Portsmouth, New Hampshire, and knocked them off like the pros they are. They played all the instruments.

Brad is a rhythm and lead guitar player in The Connection, but he can play drums, too, and did so (really well) on that first New Trocs EP. He was channeling Charlie Watts. Kurt primarily is a bassist, but he played rhythm guitar on both songs.

Then, Dean Baltulonis, the engineer, and I exchanged a bunch of emails and phone calls about the mixes and finally the songs were done.

Let me tell you, it was thrilling, from start to finish. I mean, my days usually are spent on serious things, from misdemeanors to murder cases, and it was so refreshing to be involved in something creative with such great players. And then after the songs were recorded, to compare the original half-formed ideas with the finished songs was revelatory. Just the greatest buzz you can imagine.

Q.  The EP was well received. That must have given you a boost.

A.   Yes, a huge boost. The EP got good reviews, including here at Pop That Goes Crunch (thank you again). Then out of nowhere Steve Van Zandt picked “The Kids” as a Coolest Song in the World, which totally knocked me out, and also played “Money Talks” on his Underground Garage station. The Connection already had had a bunch of Coolest Songs and Kurt had had one at that point, but I never expected that The New Trocs would get that kind of recognition.

Q.  So the band was on a roll.

A.  Yes, absolutely. The New Trocs had started out as a “one-off” kind of deal, but the EP sold out and the guys wanted to do another one. So last September they recorded three new songs, and we released “Kick Your Ass.” This time we got Craig Sala to play drums and Kris “Fingers” Rodgers to play keys. Both those guys are total pros, too. Both graduated from Berklee School of Music in Boston, and are veterans of a number of bands. And both had played with Kurt and with The Connection. They’re all tight buddies who help each other out whenever one of them asks.

Q.  Where did the new songs come from?

A.  “Real Gone Kitty” I wrote years ago, and forgot about. My old friend, Bill Bartlett, inspired it. Bill’s best known for “Black Betty” (that’s him on guitar and vocals), and for “Green Tambourine” (he was in The Lemon Pipers), but his heart never left the late ’50s and Carl Perkins, Jerry Lee Lewis, Buddy Holly, Elvis.

“Dream Girl” was written last year. Geoff did the demos for it and added a lot of great touches, so he and I share the writing credit. Geoff sings that one and really nails it.

“Brain Gone Dead” I wrote as a joke 35 years ago at the height of the punk scene here in LA, inspired by the Karen Ann Quinlan controversy. Brad did the demo and came up with the killer music for it, so he and I share credit on that one.

QKick Your Ass also was well received.

A.  Yes, the blog reviews and the Goldmine Magazine review (thank you John Borack) have been terrific, and Little Steven struck again by making “Dream Girl” a Coolest Song in the World in early January. I’m told The Underground Garage also will be adding “Brain Gone Dead.”

It’s totally mind-blowing to me, but on the other hand, I’m really glad that Brad and Geoff and Kurt are getting some of the credit and recognition they deserve. They recorded all the songs with minimal rehearsal in only a few takes. They’re total pros and I’m thrilled for them. I’m not kidding myself; those guys get the credit for the New Trocs’ success.

Q.  Were you there for the recording sessions this time?

A.  Yes, I flew back and spent a week hanging out with those wild men and their girlfriends and pals. They were all totally cool. It was a tremendous amount of fun. Unlike Kurt and Craig, though, who slept on Geoff’s floor, I stayed at a hotel. Ha-ha. This time it was so much easier to get the songs together than it was the first time around. Two hours of rehearsal and two days in the studio and all three songs were recorded, overdubbed, tweaked, mixed, and done.

Craig Sala nailed the drums, no problem, and Kris Rodgers is a virtuoso on keys. On “Brain Gone Dead” we wanted a cheesy Farfisa sound, and on “Dream Girl” we wanted a Garth Hudson sounding organ, and Kris got both, one take each. He’d stopped in the studio on the way to a gig and was there for about 90 minutes total. He did those two organ parts and the piano on “Kitty” in that time, and much of the 90 minutes was spent just shootin’ the breeze.

Q.  Where did the band name come from?

I’d always thought that the word Trocadero sounded cool. I think it was the name of an LA gangster nightclub in the ’40s. It might still be around. Since the Trocs was a side band for Kurt and Geoff and Brad, I added “New” to it, like Keith and Woody did with The New Barbarians. And also in case there happened already to be a band called The Trocaderos. It was funny; when Steve Van Zandt talked about “The Kids,” the first thing he said was, “But who were the old Trocaderos?”

Q.  The band has a new EP out on CD.

A.   Yes, it’s a sort of compilation CD called Frenzy In The Hips that’s out on Kool Kat Musik. Doing it was the idea of Ray Gianchetti, the guy who runs Kool Kat.

The CD contains the five previously issued songs and a new one done very recently called “Luckiest Man in the World” that Geoff recorded and produced. Geoff did the demo and made the song come alive with some great touches, so he’s a co-writer. Kurt emailed his bass and background vocal tracks in from Madrid. He lives most of the time there now, where he plays to packed houses. The Spanish and the Italians love him and power pop generally, much more than Americans seem to. And they love The Connection over there, too. Frenzy is due out on February 6th. It’ll be the only place where people can get all six Trocs songs on one disc.

Q.  What’s your takeaway from this whole experience?

A.   As I mentioned earlier, one shocking thing I’ve found out is that it almost doesn’t matter to today’s music industry how good a band’s music might be, which I find to be un-effin-believable. In the old days, as you know, A&R guys would hear a promising band in a club and sign them and bring them along and hope the band panned out. The labels were leaders, and at least some of the TV people were leaders. They turned the country on to new music.

Now, it’s the opposite. Bands like The Connection and The Kurt Baker Band and The Dahlmanns, another favorite of mine, and others, can make truly great music and go largely ignored. My friend Doug Mark filled me in on this sad and shocking reality and it took a long time for me to get my mind around it fully.

But it’s true. I mean, if Meet The Beatles were self-released now and it didn’t result in 25,000 You Tube hits and huge self-generated sales, the people with the power would ignore the band.

So today’s indie bands are in a real bind. It’s very hard to reach broad audiences without some kind of backing, which almost no indie band has. Most of the young players I know of have day jobs. They have to, to pay the rent. They don’t have money to saturate America, or even their hometown, with advertising and promotions. They just make the best music they can and when they’ve saved a few bucks they release it and socially promote it and hope for the best.

So nowadays, how good a band’s music might be is almost irrelevant. A band making crap music that somehow has a lot of followers has a much better chance of getting signed than the band that’s releasing killer music. The big question for me is, when is someone with money and/or power going to wake up and realize that the best music being created today is going largely unheard, and do something about it. Aren’t there any leaders left in the music industry?

Q.  If the odds are so long, why do you think all these indie pop/rock bands keep releasing music?

A.   I think the short answer is that they love what they’re doing. You tell me, but I assume that’s the reason why you run your blog and do your radio show. You love the music. Being engaged with the kind of music you love is all the reward you need.

Geoff and Brad just wrote a song for The Connection that talks about this issue. It’s called “Labor of Love” (it’s terrific, by the way), and it says it all in a nutshell. Bands write and record and play it like they feel it, and that, in and of itself, makes it all worthwhile. It’s honest, it feels good, it’s exciting. If they get airplay or recognition of some kind, that’s a bonus, but they don’t expect it.

Q.  What’s next for The New Trocaderos?

A.   The guys want to record a full LP, in June, when Kurt’s back from Madrid for a few weeks. I have 8 originals I’m working on, and the band wants to do a few covers, too, probably 4. And we may try to do a Christmas song or two to release in November.

Q.  Any final thoughts?

A.   Rock ‘n’ roll is the great unifier. I’m in my 60s and Brad and Kurt and Fingers are 28. Geoff is 35. They’re either one or two generations behind me, yet when we talk music, age means nothing. I learn a lot from them. I really value their friendship. And it never would have come about were it not for a shared love of the best music ever recorded, British Invasion-style rock ‘n’ roll and power pop.

 

 

Highly Recommended New Releases By Baby Scream And The Crush

Baby Scream, Fan, Fan, Fan

Baby Scream, Fan Fan Fan: The prolific Juan Pablo Mazzola welcomed the new year by dropping 39 new tracks over three LPs — a proper long-player of 12 new tracks, and a gonzo 27 track collection of assorted odds and ends, medleys, radio theme songs and covers.

The proper long-player, Fan Fan Fan, finds Mazzola in great form — disgusted, bemused, sarcastic, wrenched in self-doubt, spitting out the occasional profanity, and seemingly not caring a bit whether you like him or not. Never mind, of course, since you’ll be singing along quite happily as Mazzola peppers his cynicism with pretty melodies and non-stop head-boppin’ hooks.

All of this is immediately apparent. The lead track is a pounding piece of rockin’ pop called “Everybody Sucks.” It says its peace in a whopping minute-thirty-four after kissing off the world and closing with the words “my life’s a joke.” This is followed, most naturally, by “Back To Douche,” a slow, skull-pounding bit of regret about life’s wrong roads taken, living the shallow life and ultimately embracing mediocrity with gusto. The “Loner” is exactly as advertised (he’s also a “loser, for good measure) and Mazzola uses the platform to rock real hard. We learn later that “Politicians r Bullies,” perhaps, in part, because they “have never been kissed” and because “nobody is trying to be their friend.”

In less deft hands, this approach would wear thin rather quickly. But Mazzola knows his way around an instrument or five, spikes the negativity repeatedly with wit, and genre hops with considerable ease.  “Haters Will Hate” thus processes that well-worn phrase through a swaying neo-psychedelic gauze and nice piano melody:

A bit later, the acoustic “I Don’t Wanna Wake Up From This Dream” mines similar sonic territory and attests to the power of well-executed simplicity:

Fan, Fan, Fan is the probably the most fun you will have getting pissed off all year. You can get it right here. You can get 27 track compilation, lovingly titled The Worst Of, right here. While you’re at it, check out a prior compilation, quite charmingly called Greatest Failures.

The Crush, Someone For YouThe Crush, Someone For You: This Seattle-based three-piece captured the second spot on my list of the Best EPs of 2014. So word of their latest EP, Someone For You, was greeted with high hopes, and it doesn’t disappoint.  delivers five hook-filled tracks of rockin’ pop in a similar vein as 2014’s Future Blimps. This is pretty basic stuff, with chiming, scratching, occasionally jangling guitars, pounding percussion and Kira Wilson’s confident, knowing, almost mischievous, vocals.

The title track kicks off the festivities with a riff that burrows its way relentlessly into consciousness until it gives way to a chorus that does the same. “Don’t Mind The Sunshine” jangles with the best of them, and morphs from time-to-time into stomping garage rock:

“Stomping” best describes the next two tracks — “Question” and “Your Regret” — both of which will have you boppin’ along happily from beginning to end. The closing track, “Disco Puke,” channels late-70s punk rock so effectively that you could have sworn you heard it blasting over a rickety PA back in the day.

Someone For You is guaranteed a spot on my 2015 “best of” list. Its that good. Get it, now, right here.

What’s New At Pop That Goes Crunch Radio

Record Player

Lots of new music has been added at Pop That Goes Crunch radio in recent weeks. Here’s a run down of some finer pieces of new melodic pop blasting over the airwaves 24/7 for your listening pleasure.

Jonathan Rundman, Look Up: Rundman’s long-player, released last week, is equal parts rockin’ pop and acoustic folk. The brightly colored uptempo tracks are foot-tapping, sing-along exercises driven by Rundman’s fine sense of melody. “The Science Of Rockets” gets my nod for best in class:

Gretchen’s Wheel, Fragile State: Nashville-based artist Lindsay Murray got the attention of Ken Stringfellow with her cover of a Posies track. She snagged Stringfellow to produce her debut long-player released under a moniker that pays homage to a classic Schubert song. Fragile State is at once assured and, well, quite fragile, with its atmospheric production enhancing the spaces in Murray’s compelling compositions. There is a whole lot going on here, with elements of jazz, Americana, and a dashes of electronics here and there, each complimenting Murray’s gorgeous vocals:

Mothboxer, We’re All Out Of Our Minds: Mothboxer made the Top 10 on my lists of the best albums and best songs of 2014, so word of three new songs by the band — the other track also appears on the Sand The Rain long-player — was a big deal hereabouts. And they do not disappoint, delivering yet another stellar collection of 60’s-based pop with psych undertones that never sounds anything other than thoroughly contemporary. The entire EP, along with oodles of other tracks by the band, will be spinning in regular rotation for quite some time:

The next three long-players came out a bit too late in 2014 for adequate consideration on my “Best Of” list, but each were worthy competitors and are nevertheless in the mix for 2015.

The Hangabouts, Illustrated Bird: Peaceful easy feelings abound on this collection of thirteen slices of flawlessly executed melodic pop that will soothe the savage soul, or at least tame the savage commute. If Illustrated Bird feels unassuming and breezy on its first listen, hit the repeat button and take notice of the thoughtful, often clever, songwriting and sharp playing that runs throughout the album from start to finish. Oh, and try to get this one out of your head:

The Yorktown Lads, Songs About Girls And Other Disasters: What to make of an album sporting a song called “Cool Shoes, Bro”? How about that it is so much fun that you’ll find yourself bopping along happily to three-minutes of self-doubt called “Sick Of Me”? Or that you’ll wish you could find yourself flummoxed by the kind of writer’s block that results in the creation of a song as unrelentingly catchy as “Something To Write About”:

If the long-player doesn’t serve up quite enough fun with melody, also check out the four songs on the Lads’ recently released $200 EP. This one — about a busy and undoubtedly multi-tasking record label owner/jewelry maker/law school employee — will rattle around your head for quite some time, as well:

The Sharp Things, Adventurer’s Inn: This marks the third studio release by these Brooklyn-based purveyors of fine symphonic pop in less than two years. The elements that made the prior two long-players so compelling are present here in big servings, as well — soaring string arrangements, sophisticated, ornate 60’s pop stylings, Perry Serpa’s soulful lead vocals, perfect time-keeping by the late Steven Gonzalez, and big group harmonies. Put the three releases — Green Is Good and The Truth Is Like The Sun being the other two — into one big playlist, press play and drink in a singular musical achievement created over a short time period:

So, that’s just a peek at some of the fine new music spinning in regular rotation at Pop That Goes Crunch radio. Tune in frequently. You may hear you next favorite song.

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