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.
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.
1977 saw a change on the UK music front as punk made a fairly grand entrance. It wasn’t the giant new broom that revisionists will have you believe, as disco and pop still had a strong grip and the prog rock bands remained a fixture in the album charts.
Perhaps the greatest thing the punk movement brought was the idea that such energy could be used to create great three minute songs. In 1978, utilising the energies of punk and a firm grasp of radio friendly pop choruses, bands like Blondie and The Jam went from strength to strength.
Russia’s Always Sick are another band joining the onslaught of punkers either channelling classic Ramones or ‘39/Smooth’ era Green Day for their primary influences. Ranging from the almost piss-takingly good (Riverdales, Tough) to the flat out awful, there’s a world’s worth of acts channelling the same four chords to make their punky mark. So many, in fact, there are now too many to even count, so it’s unsurprising when many slip by unnoticed.
You’ve probably not heard of The Radio Buzzkills. Chances are, even if you’re a big punk fan, the band have still slipped under your radar. In 2017, the St Louis based band celebrated their fifteenth anniversary and they also achieved a career high point when they shared a stage with one of their all time heroes. In January, they stopped by at Real Gone to tell us all about that soon-to-be legendary gig…and more besides.