A concept record isn’t exactly what you’d expect from a band heavily influenced by Superchunk, The Replacements and various pieces from a pop-punk past. You probably wouldn’t expect a “divorce record” either – such things are often the province of the more introspective singer-songwriter – but that’s exactly where we find Ryan Allen and his Extra Arms at the close of 2019. An eight song outpouring, ‘Up From Here’ does a fabulous job of documenting Allen’s feelings and place within the world following a marriage split, but those who’ve enjoyed his previous works shouldn’t be concerned that this is too heavy going, as his thoughts are often coupled with some fabulous power pop and pop-punk arrangements.
New York’s Gotham Rockets are first and foremost a party band. Representing so much you loved about the mid-late 70s and recycling it for a twenty-first century audience, their debut EP features four feel good tunes, heavy on the saxophone and even heavier on high octane good vibes. The production values are a little ragged, but its songs provide a good old rock ‘n’ roll injection that’ll appeal to fans of the band’s label mates The Dirty Truckers and Nat Freedberg along with a few other retro sounds from yesteryear.
When Redd Kross released their ‘Researching The Blues‘ album in 2012, it gave fans plenty of reasons to celebrate. Not only did that record break a fifteen year recording hiatus, but it was also the band’s best album since 1990’s ‘Third Eye’. In ‘Stay Away From Downtown’, fans were given the ultimate Redd Kross power pop anthem and on material like ‘Dracula’s Daughters’ and ‘Meet Frankenstein’, the band showed they’d lost none of their love for b-movie schlock or high camp. ‘Researching The Blues’ was a fabulous comeback, indeed…and one of the greatest albums of that year.
Something unexpected happened in 2015 when bassist Steven McDonald was invited to join arty sludge legends Melvins. Given that Redd Kross had started out as a trashy punk band and McDonald had moonlighted with OFF! – a brilliant and uncompromising hardcore punk act featuring ex-Black Flag vocalist Keith Morris – perhaps it shouldn’t have been that unexpected, but it’s probably fair to say few people saw that coming. Steve’s place alongside Melvins mainstays Buzz and Dale led to various gloriously mismatched live shows shared between the two bands and by the time Melvins released ‘Pinkus Abortion Technician’ in 2018, McDonald’s influence within the band could very definitely be felt.
Power pop/pop-punk band Tommy And The Rockets first appeared on the scene in 2016. Their debut album ‘Beer And Fun And Rock ‘n’ Roll‘ – co-written with LA based songwriter Michael Chaney – quickly asserted itself as a summer classic with some great Ramones-ish material and a short and sharp playing time. A couple of EPs followed, but it felt like a case of diminishing returns, as nothing quite matched the levels of fun whipped up on that first disc.
Two years on from ‘Beer And Fun…’, Tommy And The Rockets cover familiar ground on ‘I Wanna Be Covered’, presenting a selection of Ramones tunes. The Ramones covers album has been done to death (especially with at least six of their albums having been covered in their entirety), but somehow, hearing yet another band wanting to share their love for such timeless tunes never feels boring and Thomas Stubgaard – at this point the sole member of the Rockets – brings just about enough of own style to the project to ensure it doesn’t feel like a waste of time. Although he hasn’t tackled anything after 1980s ‘End of The Century’, he’s not necessarily chosen the most predictable song selection either, which might encourage a few more people to take a listen out of curiosity.
AntiSocial Surf Club’s 2017 debut ‘Beach Closed’ was fun record. Its final mix made it hard to ignore its DIY origins at times with its occsaionally thin sound, but in terms of songs, the band scored highly in the power pop stakes. With combination of ringing guitar melodies, light indie influences and sugary pop punk hooks, it was the kind of record that suggested better was to come. …And 2019’s three tracker ‘Peace and Quiet’ more than confirms that hunch. The band’s love of brilliant choruses and buoyant melodies is obvious – perhaps even more so than before – and this time around, the material feels so much fuller.