J PROZAC – Won’t Let Go

When J Prozac released the ‘Building Blocks’ single in January 2022, it felt as if the punk musician was on the cusp of releasing some of the best music of his career. In a little over two minutes, that track made old school pop punk sound vital again thanks to some classic sounding riffs and a massive chorus that the likes of The Mr T Experience would have taken to glory in their 90s prime. Even J’s slightly gruff voice couldn’t keep the track’s bubblegum-ish traits in check, and overall, it supplied big thrills in such a way that proved classic pop punk will never die.

Its parent album ‘Won’t Let Go’ very much delivers on that track’s huge promise, but isn’t necessarily the straight up punk record that fans are expecting. Within its eleven songs, Prozac steers through punk and pop punk moods with ease, takes in some ragged heartland rock, and has even been unafraid to chuck in a ballad. It might make the album seem a little more scattershot to an outsider, but nothing could be further from the truth. With the help of massive hook after massive hook, J hits the mark pretty much every time – and there are even instances where the material is great enough to rival ‘Building Blocks’ in terms of that all important memorability factor.

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THE LICKERISH QUARTET – Threesome Vol. 3

The Lickerish Quartet’s second EP (released in January 2021) was a slow burner. A few of its great power pop qualities were immediately obvious, but in terms of all round hook-filled joyousness, it certainly didn’t provide that immediate sugary hit you’d expect from three ex-members of Jellyfish. In time, of course, the band’s sophisticated pop qualities shone through, and a couple of the songs eventually sounded like the best things that Roger Joseph Manning Jr., Tim Smith and Eric Dover had delivered in some time.

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JATK – Shut Up And Be The Light

Since the release of their 2019 EP, JATK – a band featuring Matt Jatkola and a revolving cast of friends – has slowly built a solid online following. A series of digital singles released throughout the lockdowns of 2020 and ’21 showcased some great and fuzzy, retro rock music, but also seemed unafraid to throw a few pop influences into the mix. This showed a band who were keen to avoid easy labelling; a band starting out on an adventurous path, and a band who had the potential to deliver a rich and varied full length release somewhere down the track. Simply put, JATK quickly marked themselves out as a very cool collective.

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CHIP Z’NUFF – Perfectly Imperfect

Following the release of ‘Diamond Boy’ in 2018, Enuff Z’Nuff began going through the motions, churning out music that often felt very much like a Chip Z’Nuff project, with the band augmented by some musicians that have little to no real claim on the EZ’N legacy. With that in mind, it isn’t immediately clear why 2022’s ‘Perfectly Imperfect’ should be a marketed Chip Z’Nuff solo album and not just another product from the seemingly never ending EZ’N production line. Chip obviously has other ideas, though, and clearly views the material on the album as being somehow different from his day job.

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PRIMA DONNA – Atomic Love / He’s A Rebel

Although their origins stretch back much further, LA power poppers/garage rockers Prima Donna considered their self-titled full length release from 2018 to be a new start; the kind of record that really introduced the world to a band at their best. …And indeed, the bulk of its material showcased a more confident band; an act fully at ease with a commercial sound and a huge chorus or six. Over the next couple of years, some great singles emerged, with Prima Donna’s blend of timeless pop cool and garage rock flair eventually peaking on an unexpected cover of Bananarama’s ‘Cruel Summer’ driven by a massive fuzz bass.

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