At the tail end of the 1970s, Alice Cooper found himself battling some dark demons. Not just those from his own imagination, paraded nightly from the stage for the entertainment of a paying audience, but some much darker, very personal demons. Following the release of 1977’s ‘Lace & Whiskey’, an overworked Vincent Furnier had been all but consumed by his much-loved alter ego and had descended into a world of addiction that ended with him being hospitalised.
Ever since the release of his ‘Brand New Beat’ album in 2012, Kurt Baker has been synonymous with a party-centric brand of power pop. Taking a huge influence from Joe Jackson, Shoes and a host of early 80s skinny tie wearers, he added his own voice to a classic sound on a run of enjoyable albums. Each new LP came with a certain expectation of something familiar, but that’s not to say there haven’t been a few musical surprises. 2018’s ‘Let’s Go Wild!’ showed off a more abrasive edge, increasing a few garage rock influences, and 2020’s ‘After Party’ – released mid-pandemic, making promotion more difficult – mixed the solid power pop fare with tunes that drew from New Romantic sources, and even dabbled with lounge jazz. ‘After Party’ wasn’t just Baker’s most adventurous album to date; it was also his best.
Over the following year, Kurt released a couple of stand alone digital singles; he collaborated with Italian power poppers Radio Days and US garage rockers Indonesian Junk; he played a pivotal role on the second K7s LP, and even released an excellent EP with Spanish punks Nuevo Catecismo Catolico. He might have been in danger of spreading himself too thinly by that point, but sessions for a new Kurt Baker Band album were also undertaken over the following year, and the resultant tunes – as featured on 2023’s ‘Rock ‘n’ Roll Club’ – are very strong.
Featuring musicians who’ve also had connections with Ellen & The Degenerates, Choke Up and Answering Machine (not to be confused with Manchester’s The Answering Machine), Sadlands are an indie punk/power pop outfit from the US, whose stock sounds often lean towards the feel-good. This four track debut is big on riffs, but even bigger on alternative melodic hooks that often allow great vocals to shine.
The mid 80s saw a slew of guitarists whom, obsessed with the neo-classical chops of Deep Purple/Rainbow guitarist Ritchie Blackmore, foisted upon the world various records that often seemed to do little more than regurgitate Blackmore’s more inventive playing at twice the speed. Yngwie Malmsteen is arguably the best known practitioner of the style and it’s no coincidence that his 1988 album ‘Odyssey’ remains the finest of all his albums thanks to the presence of an ex-Rainbow vocalist, Joe Lynn Turner, on most tracks. Roughly around the same time Yngwie was recording his masterwork, another shredder, Chris Impelliteri had also enlisted an ex-Rainbow voice – Mr. Graham Bonnet – for singing duties on his first full length studio album, ‘Stand In Line’.
Billed as a “post-punk disco project”, Boston’s downtalker (always credited in a lower case) bring retro sounds of a little left of the norm on this double whammy of digital singles. At a time when a lot of the underground seems obsessed with 90s indie and 80s pop, these guys have channelled their inner weirdos to bring you something a little different.