In terms of split releases, this EP from The Jasons and The Black Russians ranks among the most high octane discs ever. With three songs apiece, the US horror punks and the ragged “Sovietcore” troupe do battle across a blistering fifteen minutes where classic Ramones obsessions sit beside sharper punk influences, and by the time The Black Russians go all out punk ‘n’ roll on an old Jasons tune, there’s even a suggestion that this could be just a little broader in appeal than your average Ramonescore record. Okay, maybe not that much broader, but it’s always a pleasure to hear a great band branching out a little.
Long before Malibu Lou Mansdorf launched Rum Bar Records, he was involved with Melted Records, a New York label that delivered various power pop and pop punk releases between 1995-2001. The label was home to The Cretins, Darlington, 30 Amp Fuse – a great punk band whose last album was produced by Descendents men Stephen Egerton and Bill Stevenson – an a handful of lesser-known names.
For a lot of musicians, 2020 became about making the best of a bad situation. With a global pandemic putting gigs on hold and stopping bands getting together in dedicated rehearsal spaces and studios, people began to work in isolation. That’s easy enough when you’re someone like Jeff Lynne, a multi-instrumentalist with a state of the art home setup and a loyal audience who’ll wait years for your new record, but not quite so convenient when you’re a punk musician who’s used to having close buddies and the interaction with a small crowd in small basement venues.
The lack of outside world didn’t stop Glenn Robinson. The prolific punker went into overdrive throughout the year and with his one man band, Pavid Vermin, set about creating a string of releases that called back to a classic 90s sound. Having already released ‘Throw Me In The Trash’ before lockdown hit, he kept up momentum with the largely excellent ‘Cutting Corners’, a classic pop-punk disc calling back to the glory days of Lookout! Records, and ‘Lookout! Pavid Vermin Ruins Some Songs’ – almost the very thing Pavid Vermin was created for: a covers album featuring material written by many of your favourite bands.
A DIY punk musician from Ontario, Matt Ellis spent half of 2020 in his bathroom. Armed with an electric guitar, a drum machine and his best sneer, he set about recording a bunch of Ramones inspired tunes quickly and cheaply. He obviously figured that with the world having succumbed to a pandemic, and a virus sidelining gigs and other activities, he – much like anyone and everyone – needed to do something to stay sane. The first recordings to emerge (the ‘High Risk Assurance’ EP from April 2020) showcased his love for Ramonescore in a very succinct and aggressive style. Its four songs were far from shy in sharing their love for Joey and Johnny (along with several key bands that came along in their wake) and in terms of home demos, certainly showcased a genuine talent for tapping into the core of what really makes good pop-punk so enduring – no matter how small (or even non-existent) the recording budget.
It took three years for Teenage Halloween to follow up their ‘Eternal Roast’ mini album. Three years seems a long time to wait for just twenty three minutes’ worth of music, but we’re very much talking quality over quantity here. This self-titled disc from the New Jersey punky power poppers brings ten absolute bangers – songs so loaded with hooks and riffs that its power is immediately obvious. Musical originality isn’t high on the agenda, but its mix of 90s influences will positively resonate with any listeners who spent that decade loving Everclear, Lagwagon and SR-71. The music stands up well enough alone, but once you start to absorb the lyrics – largely concerned with mental health struggles, gay unity and standing with others in solidarity – it becomes one of the year’s most important DIY discs.