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.

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KURT BAKER – Rock ‘n’ Roll Club

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.

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downtalker – All My Friends Are Dead / Watch Your Heart Break

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.

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BEST BOYS ELECTRIC – Ten Years Of Brett Pop Affairs

Best Boys Electric’s 2016 EP ‘Brett Pop Affairs’ flaunted the band’s love of 70s power pop, glam and 90s indie to create a four tracker that was maybe a little ramshackle, but enjoyable. What the tunes occasionally lacked in finesse, they made up for with a truckload of enthusiasm. Regardless of what you thought of the end result, you couldn’t say it wasn’t made with love.

A similar approach is applied to their 2019 vinyl long-player, ‘Ten Years of Brett Pop Affairs’, a sixteen track romp through the band’s love of all things retro. The four EP tracks are reprised here – and as part of a broader musical landscape, they sound a little better – but for those already familiar with the band, naturally, it’ll be the newer tracks providing the biggest draw.

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VARIOUS ARTISTS – Shellshock Rock: Alternative Blasts From Northern Ireland 1977-1984

From the team that brought the world the fantastic ‘Big Gold Dreams’, a lavish box set exploring the corners of alternative music from Scotland, ‘Shellshock Rock’ provides a similarly loving look back at the punk and post-punk sounds emerging from Northern Ireland during the late 70s and early 80s.

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