THE FAULTS – Patients EP

On The Faults’ debut EP (a self-titled release from 2011) the band’s two members, Oli (gtr/vox) and Tom (drums) hammered their way through four reverb-drenched songs, sticking rigidly to the confines of the two-man setup.  While their work didn’t actually bring anything of a new slant to the garage rock genre, the tunes were played with absolute conviction and with a great energy.  Their second release, ‘Patients’ brings the keen garage rock fan much more of the same.

Beginning this second EP in a really unsubtle fashion, ‘Patience’ opens with raucous drums and hammered guitar, over which Oli wails like a man possessed by demons, his voice fuzzed up to create an extra level of intensity. While fans of garage-based noises are likely to dig this, be warned: the general looseness displayed means they’re in danger of sounding more like The Strokes in a slightly drunken stupor than The White Stripes or New York’s mighty Dead Exs at their best.  Much better, ‘Peace of Mind’ mashes an early sixties Phil Spector inspired beat with a guitar jangle that’s almost got a Mexicana vibe – like something from a spaghetti western played in a garage.  Between the disjointed pieces of music, the voice has a very strong presence, bawled with very little restraint. The combination of interesting tune and vocal forcefulness makes this one of the EPs better offerings.

‘Chivalry’ is a standard issue garage rocker where, between the crashing cymbals and the threat of a lead guitar break which never manages to surface, The Faults’ play firmly to their strengths.  Slowing things down and potentially becoming a touch more interesting in doing so, ‘Summer’ brings in a slight tone of sixties pop to the song writing. With the shift in pace, Oli’s voice gets a brief opportunity to stretch out on some longer, croony notes.  Despite a stronger focus on the voice and stripping back the drums, the general tone stays within their fuzzed up remit – yes, it may sound a little poppier in its construction, but everything still comes with a truckload of reverb…and if you’ve dug The Faults’ thus far, chances are, you’ll dig this too.  The strongest – and most easily accessible track – ‘Leather Jacket’ brings more of a trashy rock ‘n’ roll aesthetic to The Faults’ sound, all groove-led drumming and spiky guitar.  Think Jon Spencer Blues Explosion circa ‘Orange’ (though with Spencer’s drunken Presley-isms replaced by something less stylised) and you’ll know where this is headed.  Upbeat and sweaty, this is the Australian duo’s finest (almpst) two minutes.

Even though perhaps three of the five songs aren’t quite as instant as ‘Quarter’ from The Faults’ previous release, there’s some ragged fun to be had from ‘Patients’.  It is not as sharp as it could have perhaps been, but rest assured, it gets better with each play. ‘Leather Jacket’, meanwhile, is a killer track – certainly great enough to make up for anything potentially lacking elsewhere.

October 2012

THE DEAD EXS – Relovolution

Dead ExsBlending the attitude of The Stooges and Billy Childish with some traditional Howlin’ Wolf-esque blues grooves, The Dead Exs debut record ‘Resurrection’ was one of the finest releases of 2011. Since the New York duo’s fuzzy sounds have their obvious limitations, a follow up record ran the risk of just settling for more of the same, but thankfully, although it has many similarities, 2012’s ‘Relovolution’ takes the band’s talents and in many places pushes them to deliver a more mature record.

The title cut begins the album in style with a rallying cry before David Pattillo (guitar/vox) and Wylie Wirth (drums) throw themselves headlong into a stomper driven by furious slide guitar work and an aggressive reinterpretation of Johnny Cash’s “boom-chick-a-boom” rhythms.  In just under three minutes, these guys work up a real sweat as Wirth absolutely dominates with an unshakeable drum line, while Patillo’s heavily distorted voice cries out with carefree abandon.  Similarly, on the reverb drenched ‘White Collar Crime’ the duo adopt the subtlety of a truck as they crash headlong through a number which takes everything that made them great previously, turning everything up to eleven in the process.  It’s like experiencing Jon Spencer tackling Leadbelly’s ‘Rock Island Line’ while having his demons exorcised.

A largely unaccompanied vocal punctuated by two chords makes ‘Get Over’ immediately striking, and while this tune could have fit snugly onto ‘Resurrection’, with extra experience under their belts this performance sounds a touch more self-assured than The Dead Exs did previously. Wirth attacks his kit with the kind of energy befitting of a garage blues band, but occasional bass pedal moments hint at a more focused edge to his playing than before.   Tackling something a little more unexpected, on parts of ‘Let The Natives Loose’, Pattillo’s guitar mixes staccato rhythms and bigger, longer blues-filled notes in a way not quite experienced on a Dead Exs recording before. The more sophisticated approach to light, shade and subtler grooves suggest that these guys have worked very hard to ensure ‘Relovolution’ has elements which catch even their most staunch fans a little unaware.

While ‘Relovolution’ is a very consistent album, three of its most essential tracks are also its most commercial, relatively speaking.  Putting Pattillo and Wirth in pure blues mode with a strong ‘Little Red Rooster’ influence, ‘Paper Doll’ is tough yet lean, while ‘If You’ve Got The Time, I Got The Love’ owes a great debt to Stevie Ray Vaughan and his brand of Texan boogie blues.  Its main riff blends distorted edginess and very accessible blues tones in a fashion that is certainly far smoother than anything from The Dead Exs’ debut.  Although slightly sleazier, similar grooves sit at the heart of ‘Don’t Mess With The Girl From Texas’, a track which captures both musicians in a restrained mood, pulling the best from the kind of blues sounds which would suit Walter Trout, SRV et al. There’s enough grit on each of these numbers to avoid the band being labelled sell-outs by those members of their audience who prefer things a little more raucous, while the more accessible elements may help pull in a few unfamiliar listeners.

Like ‘Resurrection’, ‘Relovolution’ is a release that quickly grabs the listener and then refuses to let go.  Although a couple of bouts with the Texan blues and a few moodier numbers helps to ensure it isn’t a carbon copy of its predecessor, most people will be thankful of this album’s largely familiar nature.  There’s more than enough variety here to keep you listening… Join the “Relovolution” now!

September 2012

THE RATBOYS – Are Stupid Brats EP

Recorded in just three days, Belgian garage rock/pop punk band The Ratboys’ full-length debut ‘Cash, Gas and Trash’ was a low budget romp that packed twelve songs into approximately half an hour. Capturing a balance of 60s twang and garage ethic, dished up with an enjoyable punky sneer and farfisa organs, it was destined to gain a cult audience.

Their 2012 record ‘The Ratboys…Are Stupid Brats’ follows a similar blueprint, it’s four songs sharing a love of old rock ‘n’ roll records, Jonathan Richman, Joey Ramone and The Real Kids.  It has a key difference, however:  a notable lack of farfisa sounds!  Those were almost pivotal to the debut, and their absence here has the odd knock on effect of making ‘…Are Stupid Brats’ sound rather more thrown together and even lower budget than need be.

For all of its self-proclaimed trashiness, ‘Cash, Gas and Trash’ actually had some very audible bass parts.  On this EP, we aren’t always given such luxury.  Bassist Ratboy Vince is there, but never as distinctly as he deserves to be, since throughout these four tunes, Ratboy Manu and Ratboy Ricky’s guitars dominate.  The lack of warmth all round works best on ‘Stupid Brats’; their slightly slapdash playing giving a sense of urgency to the tune, while Ricky delivers a simple chorus hook straight out of the Joey Ramone school of dumb fun. With plenty of repetition, it’s reminiscent of Ramones, The Dead Boys and other CBGB trash from ’77 and even with a European vocal slant, it’s a good example of brainless punk song writing that really works.

A guitar part heavily inspired by The Real Kids’ ‘She’s Alright’ initially promises great things for ‘School Bus Driver’.  Despite initial excitement, the track descends into fairly run of the mill garagey sounding punk-pop that even an upbeat guitar break never quite rescues.  On this and the following ‘Rock N Roll Vacation’, Ricky’s vocal style is wobblier than ever before, and he even appears slightly unsure when tackling any longer notes.  But even his vocal instability isn’t quite as bad as the ensuing fiery rock ‘n’ roll solo, which has a generally sloppy air and contains enough missed notes that even Paul Westerberg would baulk.   ‘Bangkok Action’ has a sharper lead riff and a louder/stronger bass part, a few gang vocals and a much better guitar solo, meaning it has plenty of potential all round.  Attempts to stretch it over a minute longer than necessary weaken its overall impact, but it is enjoyable enough in its bubblegum pop/punk approach.  Let’s just say – like a couple of these other songs – the ideas are solid even if the general fidelity and performances are a tad lacking.  In short, if US surf/pop punks The Queers got their hands on this track, it would sound absolutely terrific.

Although in the scheme of second outings, ‘…Are Stupid Brats’ was never likely to equal Ramones ‘Leave Home’ in terms of brilliance, it should have still been a little better than it is. The minimal running time means it is still possibly worth checking out, but since nothing here matches the standards set on the debut, it is best not to set your expectations too high.  Without the farfisa organs that previously gave The Ratboys a more distinctive sound (and a sense of retro cool) they no longer stand out from the pack in the way that they could.

[You can stream or download ‘…Are Stupid Brats’ via the player below.  You can also check out ‘Cash, Gas & Trash’ by clicking here]

September 2012


The garage blues duo Black Pistol Fire was born from the ashes of The Shananigans following the release of their 2008 LP ‘Bombshell Baby’. After relocating from Canada to Texas and attracting the attention of White Stripes producer Jim Diamond, Eric Owen (drums) and Kevin McKeown (guitar/vocals) released a self-titled album under the Black Pistol Fire name in 2011. An EP, ‘Shut Up!: A Tribute to Little Richard’, followed in 2012.

On ‘Big Beat ‘59’, their second full outing, McKeown and Owen mean business.  Across eleven slabs of raw, bluesy rock and garage noise (all dished up with a healthy rock ‘n’ roll spirit), they sound truly fantastic.

One of the album’s best tracks ‘Lay Low’ combines a great guitar tone, raw vocal and crashing drums to create a tune that has a huge, cocky presence.  In terms of general mood, it sounds like a vocal-led extension to the Dead Exs’ classic instrumental ‘Nolita Strut’.  The reverb dripping from the very basic live recording technique just gives it a sense of energy that so many studio recordings lack.  More complex – but retaining the raw spirit which drives the band – ‘Dead Love’ comes across as if Black Pistol Fire have blended a Chuck Berry groove with a riff which sounds like an ugly, distorted reimagining of Led Zeppelin’s ‘That’s The Way’ (a riff likely “borrowed” from bluesmen of old anyway), over which McKeown’s voice has plenty of presence.  If you want tunes delivered with maximum groove but minimal fuss, look no further.

Elsewhere, you’ll find much more of the same: ‘Busted & Blue’ has a brilliant bluesy edge that wouldn’t be out of place on The White Stripes’ ‘De Stijl’ plus a quirky guitar riff which really tops things off well.  In terms of confidence and style, this is Black Pistol Fire’s masterwork; meanwhile, ‘Hot Mess’ is a simple back-porch stomper and lead track ‘Crows Feet’ blends a pleasing staccato guitar part with some first class slide work, achieving some thrilling results in the process.  As the track pulls to a climax, the duo go all out, crashing and riffing, giving the sense it could go off the rails at any time.

The musical cuckoo ‘Young Blood’ stretches the band’s regular boundaries a little more than usual and adopts a rock ‘n’ roll/doo-wop vibe. A slow arrangement driven by clanging chords has the air of a twisted Phil Spector tune, allowing McKeown to push his vocal range.  There are still a couple of full speed sections where Black Pistol Fire move back into their comfort zone – with Eric Owen absolutely hammering his kit in the process – but despite the pull between old fashioned doo wop, garage blues and all out aggression, it works well.

In case you are unsure, ‘Big Beat ’59’ contains some of the finest garage rock/blues ever.  The end result may not always be particularly varied, but then, what more can you do with a drum kit, a guitar and some fuzz pedals?  In terms of overall thrills, however, this is up there with the unmissable Dead Exs debut.  If you loved The Dead Exs, adored The White Stripes or have found yourself strangely drawn to parts of Billy Childish’s immense catalogue, you absolutely need this record in your collection.  Essential listening.

July 2012

THE DEAD EXS – Resurrection

dxAlthough the garage-blues sub-genre maintained an underground presence throughout the late 80s and 90s thanks to Billy Childish and Jon Spencer’s mighty Blues Explosion, it really only reached a broader public consciousness once everyone’s favourite red and white candy striped duo, The White Stripes, broke into the mainstream.

Keeping with similar musical traditions, The Dead Ex’s debut ‘Resurrection’ pulls together the best elements of The Blues Explosion with a hint of Childish’s ramshackle attitude – and while it brings little that’s new to the musical style in question, it’s not without a few gems.

The Dead Exs’ vocalist and guitarist is David Pattillo, a New York producer of note, having worked with a number of bands including The Hold Steady, Beastie Boys, Jakob Dylan and Alanis Morissette. For his own project, however, the production values are less than shiny; this Dead Exs release was recorded live in the studio with no overdubs. The fuzz-driven vibes are similar to his project The Dirty Glamour (which has a similar feel to early Yeah Yeah Yeahs and Spanish duo Idealipsticks), but in direct comparison, The Dead Exs bring the listener fewer hooks and user-friendly qualities. However, what The Dead Exs lack in hooks, they make up for with power and grit.

The subtle ‘Shut Up and Love Me’ is based around a solid groove with dominant drums. Wylie Wirth’s style has presence, but maintains a very basic style. Patillo’s vocal is strong yet heavily filtered and a one-line chorus, intercut with rather uncharacteristic ‘whoo-hoos’, tops some great, yet fairly weighty slide guitar work. It’s with the boogie-blues of ‘Come Down Easy’ that The Dead Ex’s sound at their most assured, though. Wirth settles into a fabulous shuffle (which becomes heavily reliant on cymbals in places) over which, there’s a guitar groove recalling ‘Boom Boom’ by John Lee Hooker clashing with the youthfulness of the early white rhythm and blues of the 60s – albeit with a hugely increased volume.
It’s a recording which captures the bristling energy and sweat within the studio at the time of recording and in doing so, manages to encapsulate The Dead Exs’ pure musical style.

The slow, brooding ‘Gone’ offers the flip-side of the band’s sound and while it loses a sense of fun, in its place is a musical snapshot of a duo that have really hit their stride. While the lead guitar work rarely stretches beyond a bit of rudimentary string bending and a heavy reliance on distortion pedals, there’s something enjoyable about it’s almost primal qualities – in the same way there are thrills to be had by hearing The Jon Spencer Blues Explosion careening out of control, or experiencing J Mascis throwing in out of tune solos in unpredictable places during Dinosaur Jr numbers.

‘The Angel From New Orleans’ is driven by another great shuffle. It maintains listener interest for the duration and this in turn allows Pattillo to lay down a slide guitar line which – aside from a bluesy run in places – settles for being a sheet of unsubtle slide noise. It brings nothing you won’t have already heard from similar sounding garage blues, but even so, if you’re a fan of the genre, it’s got its share of hard-time, beer-soaked thrills. If you want to experience the band at full-pelt, then ‘Trouble In Kind’ more than delivers; throughout a heavily distorted blues workout, Patillio adopts a very thrashy, almost garage-punk approach to the slide guitar whilst Wirth smashes his kit in a relentless fashion. For what it offers, you’d be hard pushed to find better.

‘Whole Lotta Nothin’, however, couldn’t be more aptly named. Over rudimentary slide work, Pattillo wails and sobs like he’s being poked repeatedly with a stick for over two minutes. Naturally, it sounds like it’s building up to something, but by the time Wirth kicks in with a proper drum part, it’s a bit late in the day. This is a great shame, since his heavy drum sound has a great presence once again; and with that comes a change in tone from Pattillo’s guitar work, leaning farther towards a bottom end-fuzz. Bringing these elements in earlier really could have saved this number. Luckily, this is swiftly followed by one of the album’s best moments… ‘Nolita Strut’ is a cocky instrumental with Pattillo’s guitar taking on a heavily treated vibe – all pedals and overdrive, which combined with the swagger, creates an infectious ditty which sounds like a studio jam by The Dead Weather. Even when The Dead Exs briefly move away from the original riff, although Wirth’s drum fills seem a little disjointed from Pattillo’s heavy-handed approach to lead guitar, they manage to keep momentum. In all, although clocking in at a brief two and a half minutes, ‘Nolita Strut’ is superb; ‘Ressurection’ is worth seeking out just to hear this number.

While the limits of their chosen genre may mean there’s not much room for variation and David Pattillo does not always summon the energy bought by early Jon Spencer performances,‘Ressurection’ manages to be a fairly consistent release. There are more than enough garage rock thrills here for listeners who have a soft spot for the Blues Explosion’s pre-‘Extra Width’ grooves and other similar sounds to to get a fairly big kick out of The Dead Exs.

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March 2011