It’s hard to underestimate the impact Slade had in their prime. With their hybrid of hard rock volume and glammy kitsch they spent a huge amount of time in the UK top 40 between 1972-1984 and they were a phenomenal live act.
When Enuff Z’Nuff are at the top of their game, they’re a fantastic band. Their first three albums (‘Enuff Z’Nuff’, ‘Strength’ and ‘Animals With Human Intelligence’ rank among the best melodic rock and power pop discs ever. From that point on, you’ll find good songs scattered throughout their next half a dozen releases, but the cut and paste nature of these can be a little frustrating. From 1999’s ‘Paraphernalia’ onwards, the band seemed to settle into a pattern of bulking out “new” releases with bits and pieces from their extensive vaults. Their 2000 release ’10’ is a blatant example of this, having been pieced together from recordings made over the previous half a decade. Just one listen to ‘There Goes My Heart’ might even be enough to convince some listeners that the song had been kicking around even longer, such is its quality (being comparable to the best bits of the 1985 demos and the EZ’N debut album). Their 2004 release ‘?’ was even more scattershot, featuring new songs alongside a bunch of material dating back to the ‘Animals…’ sessions in 1992. Frankly, if the songs weren’t good enough in the 90s, they certainly felt like third division off cuts over a decade later.
Armed with the swagger of Motley Crue, the crunch of mid 70s Sweet and a bunch of great choruses, Ratt briefly became massive stars in the US during the mid 80s. With a couple of videos gaining heavy rotation on MTV and a best selling debut album, they were among the melodic metal/glam scene’s most successful acts.
None of that applies in the UK, even though Ratt got of lots of positive press from the rock magazines. With MTV Europe barely off the ground, they were without an outlet for their videos and a rock-averse radio system meant the singles got no real airplay. As a result, Ratt were unknowns outside of the keener rock fans’ community; the closest they came to a hit was having their second album scrape the top fifty of the album chart in 1985. It’s hardly a surprise that, for UK record buyers, most of their albums have spent most of their life in an out of print limbo. For those British fans, most Ratt discs – save for 1990’s ‘Detonator’ – were procured on vinyl, as cheap imports from cut-out bins.
JATK is a DIY project fronted by singer songwriter Matt Jatkola that celebrates the louder end of the power pop spectrum. The three piece band love distortion and fuzz almost as much as they love a sun-filled retro hook and the result is, perhaps, one of the noisiest power pop discs since The Great Affairs released ‘The Striped Album’ back in 2011.
Beneath the layers of guitar and fuzz are four absolutely cracking songs. Tunes that evoke the kind of excitement you first felt when you dropped the metaphorical needle on a Beat Angels or Ryan Roxie album for the first time. The kind of unbridled joy you feel from playing The Wildhearts’ ‘Vanilla Radio’ at full volume exists within at least a couple of these songs…and that feel-good quality is obvious from first play. Subsequent spins only confirm what you suspected within the first minute or so of hearing this band for the first time. Yes… Power pop fans should be aware that this is potentially that good.
In the US, Christmas music is big business. You can find a festive album to suit pretty much every one of your holiday moods. There are countless Christmas albums from country artists; you can play it traditionally with the easy listening approach with She & Him’s retro pop or Lowen & Navarro’s world of log fires and woolly jumpers. You can opt for retro rock ‘n’ roll and a swingin’ yuletide with the brilliant Brian Setzer, or even funky festivities with James Brown. In a world where even Bad Religion – a punk band fronted by one of the world’s most outspoken athiest academics – have a Christmas album, the gloves are off. We live in a post-irony world.
In December 2019, L.A. Guns’ ‘Another Xmas In Hell’ appeared on streaming services with little to no fanfare. A five track release, it finds the US hard rockers putting their own slant on a couple of very familiar festive favourites and a couple of lesser known gems.