With their third album, 1979’s ‘Head First’, The Babys finally gave the world a genre classic. Their first two albums weren’t short on great material, but occasionally wavered with a couple of lightweight tracks here and their which sometimes seemed to lessen the overall quality, especially from an AOR/melodic rock fan’s perspective. In ‘Head First’, it felt like the first time all of the pieces truly fit. Aside from a bizarre song where John Waite recounts a childhood visit to the dentist, pretty much everything on the album represented The Babys at their absolute best.
Best remembered for big US hits ‘Isn’t It Time’ and ‘Every Time I Think of You’, British rock band The Babys have remained a cult favourite among AOR fans. The launching point of John Waite’s career, the band released a string of enjoyable albums between 1976-81 with their combination of fine 70s pop hooks and strong guitar driven melodies.
A concept record isn’t exactly what you’d expect from a band heavily influenced by Superchunk, The Replacements and various pieces from a pop-punk past. You probably wouldn’t expect a “divorce record” either – such things are often the province of the more introspective singer-songwriter – but that’s exactly where we find Ryan Allen and his Extra Arms at the close of 2019. An eight song outpouring, ‘Up From Here’ does a fabulous job of documenting Allen’s feelings and place within the world following a marriage split, but those who’ve enjoyed his previous works shouldn’t be concerned that this is too heavy going, as his thoughts are often coupled with some fabulous power pop and pop-punk arrangements.
New York’s Gotham Rockets are first and foremost a party band. Representing so much you loved about the mid-late 70s and recycling it for a twenty-first century audience, their debut EP features four feel good tunes, heavy on the saxophone and even heavier on high octane good vibes. The production values are a little ragged, but its songs provide a good old rock ‘n’ roll injection that’ll appeal to fans of the band’s label mates The Dirty Truckers and Nat Freedberg along with a few other retro sounds from yesteryear.
When Redd Kross released their ‘Researching The Blues‘ album in 2012, it gave fans plenty of reasons to celebrate. Not only did that record break a fifteen year recording hiatus, but it was also the band’s best album since 1990’s ‘Third Eye’. In ‘Stay Away From Downtown’, fans were given the ultimate Redd Kross power pop anthem and on material like ‘Dracula’s Daughters’ and ‘Meet Frankenstein’, the band showed they’d lost none of their love for b-movie schlock or high camp. ‘Researching The Blues’ was a fabulous comeback, indeed…and one of the greatest albums of that year.
Something unexpected happened in 2015 when bassist Steven McDonald was invited to join arty sludge legends Melvins. Given that Redd Kross had started out as a trashy punk band and McDonald had moonlighted with OFF! – a brilliant and uncompromising hardcore punk act featuring ex-Black Flag vocalist Keith Morris – perhaps it shouldn’t have been that unexpected, but it’s probably fair to say few people saw that coming. Steve’s place alongside Melvins mainstays Buzz and Dale led to various gloriously mismatched live shows shared between the two bands and by the time Melvins released ‘Pinkus Abortion Technician’ in 2018, McDonald’s influence within the band could very definitely be felt.