Aah, Boston. How we love you. Home to Buffalo Tom. Home to The Russians. Home to Aerosmith, The Lemonheads, Pixies, Mission of Burma, ‘Til Tuesday and countless other great bands. Boston is probably second only to New York as the US’s spiritual home of great rock music.
It’s Friday night in Ramsgate. In the harbour, people are going about their usual Friday night business, drinking Belgian beers and eating tapas. On the other side of town, at the Ramsgate Music Hall, something far more unexpected is about to happen. Tommy Stinson is about to take the stage with his band Bash & Pop. For those still unaware, Tommy is a cult hero, possibly even a legend. Between the early 80s and 90s, he played bass with The Replacements, a garage rock/punk band who gained a devoted following and became influential to a future generation of musicians. He’s been a member of both Soul Asylum and Guns N’ Roses. In between those musical ventures, he’s put out a couple of great solo records and two releases with a largely overlooked band, the ironically named Perfect.
In 2016, Scandinavian garage rockers Nightmen dropped one of the greatest musical surprises of the year. Exploring various elements of garage rock and proto-punk, ‘Fifteen Minutes of Pain‘ delivered a short and sharp aural assault of a record that was not only loving of the past, but also keen to bring such sounds kicking and screaming into the present. It was also the kind of debut that sounded like the work of a band who might burn themselves out too quickly. For this second release, the band could’ve decided to churn out more of the same and that would’ve been great, but being smart cookies, they’ve avoided that inevitable burnout and adapted their previous sounds to allow for growth. Amongst various garage rock and proto-punk staples, this time around, they also show more of a talent for classic power pop.
With the bleep of old style tone test, Sunshine & The Rain open their 2017 long player in a most unexpected manner. Kicking square into ‘Let’s Go’, their music, too, has a very old soul…and it’s all the better for that. It might seem at once that this duo’s main musical stock comes from tried and tested garage rock noise, but just as quickly as the distorted guitars assert themselves, the harsh melodies are topped off with plinking glockenspiels in a contest for the ultimate contrast. The vocals come with almost a sweet naivety, as Ashley Morey (previously of New Jersey’s The Black Hollies), approaches her performance with a clarity and an almost bubblegum inspired sound. With the push and pull between the noise and the pop, you’ll either love or hate this band immediately. If you hate them, your opinion is the wrong one. Within a couple of minutes, Sunshine & The Rain assert themselves as the most exciting thing to happen on the garage rock scene since Coach ‘n’ Commando released ‘FBP!K!K!‘ the previous summer…or maybe even since Brockley Forest dropped their third EP way back in 2015.
Credited as “a three headed monster”, Finnish rockers Rückwater might seem like just another stoner band on the surface, but ‘Bonehead’ – their third release – shows them to be more than that. In fact, their willingness to take stoner rock roots and shake them up explains why they’ve shared stages with the expected (Karma To Burn, Truckfighters) and the less obvious (Anthrax‘s Joey Belladonna). ‘Bonehead’ not only rocks hard but also teases with chorus hooks, elements of dark psychedelia and even takes a foray into the kind of full throttle, four chord gutsiness that would make Zeke raise a collective eyebrow. In short, it’s more than worth an ear.