During their early years, Cleveland pop punk/power pop trio Beatnik Termites were one of those bands that gained a cult following but never seemed to get their full dues. For most people, they will be best known for their contribution to the series of Ramones covers albums, which saw the trio covering Joey & Johnny’s 1981 platter ‘Pleasant Dreams’ in its entirety. It says a lot about the Termites’ relative lack of legacy – especially among UK punk fans – that even that release doesn’t get mentioned anywhere near as much as the Screeching Weasel, Queers, or even The Vinctives’ recordings for the same project. Make no mistake, though, Beatnik Termites are a good band, and their blend of punky power pop, bubblegum and surf rock often suggests they are more broadly talented as the scene’s biggest names. Just one listen to ‘Red Haired Girl’ (from their 2003 swansong ‘Girl Crazy!’) is proof enough. With its mix of Ramones riffs, tight harmonies and shameless barrage of handclaps, it offers a near perfect bubblegum/pop punk showcase in one neat two minute hit.
‘In-Cog-Neat-O’, the first full length release from US punks The Suck was a rough and ready release. Its collection of bratty sounding songs tore past at a breakneck pace, rarely clearing the two minute mark, and although the band didn’t sound particularly original, they more than demonstrated an easy knack for delivering fun. Two years on, their second album ‘Boris Sprinkler’ (inspired by 90s punks Boris The Sprinkler releasing an album called ‘Suck’) similarly cocks a snook at the concept of “full length” by banging through ten numbers in a shade over twenty minutes, but its fair to say that if you enjoyed previous fare from these guys – or enjoy the more ragged end of the Ramones obsessed punk scale in general – it’s brevity and urgency will more than add to its overall appeal. The quality of the song writing, on the other hand, can sometimes be a different matter. ‘Boris Sprinkler’ features The Suck’s best song to date (and by some distance), but unfortunately, it also contains two of their absolute worst.
Their name might not be among punk’s most familiar, but Twister are one of many great punk bands from Italy. They’ve shared labels with Latte+, Mega and Killtime, churned out some solid melodic punk and Ramonescore sounds, and slowly forged their way to cult status. Their 2016 LP ‘We’ll Be OK’ gained a few positive online reviews, but became most memorable due to a sleeve that paid homage to the legendary Teen Idols. By the end of 2020, they were still relative unknowns compared to some of their peers, but they were still capable of releasing some fine, melodic fare.
Staten Island’s Goin’ Places first made their mark on the underground punk scene with the ‘Girl Songwriting’ LP in 2002. It would take a decade for follow up ‘Relationship Sneakers’ to hit the shelves, suggesting that the band members saw their musical ventures as more of a hobby than a career concern. It’d be a further eight years until the world heard from the band again, but frontman Richie Holes made up for lost time in 2020 by moonlighting as a member of 60s inspired garage rock band Gallows Birds. Although not really offering anything much for the Ramonescore fan, their ‘Quaranteenage Kicks’ LP band brought a lot of entertainment in its own way, with trebly production values and songs about Lambretta scooters supplying a very retro and fun listen.
Almost as if making up for lost time, Holes re-appeared as frontman with Goin’ Places a couple of months later. This three track EP appeared almost out of nowhere and although it’s essentially a prelude to a new album slated for ’21, ‘Better Things To Do’, it actually plays very well in its own right.
In terms of split releases, this EP from The Jasons and The Black Russians ranks among the most high octane discs ever. With three songs apiece, the US horror punks and the ragged “Sovietcore” troupe do battle across a blistering fifteen minutes where classic Ramones obsessions sit beside sharper punk influences, and by the time The Black Russians go all out punk ‘n’ roll on an old Jasons tune, there’s even a suggestion that this could be just a little broader in appeal than your average Ramonescore record. Okay, maybe not that much broader, but it’s always a pleasure to hear a great band branching out a little.