Keen power pop fans and garage rock aficionados who’ve been following the Rum Bar label since their early days will know how seriously they take their music. For head honcho Malibu Lou, the label has been an ongoing labour of love, and his bands are his family. Those bands, in turn, appear to look out for each other, and their social media often shows musicians hanging out at each others’ shows. The Rum Bar ethos values heart over perfection, and often feels as if its giving something back to the Boston music scene. The aspect of “giving back” is also why the label has never been shy of issuing free downloads: their album length samplers aren’t just a way of attracting new listeners to great, DIY music they might not have otherwise found, they’re also a celebration of the scene as a larger construct. The label’s Summer ’21 download – ‘XOXOXO Volume One’ – was one of the best free downloads ever. By rounding up a lot of the label’s better known bands and previewing things to come, it felt like a complete experience, enjoyable for committed followers and the curious alike, but this even bigger selection of Rum Bar wares – orchestrated by the guys at Knyvet PR – is pretty much its equal.
In terms of keeping things retro, vocalist Mozzy Dee does an absolutely superb job on her 2023 release ‘Orale!’. Instead of taking the garage rock and power pop route of most of her Rum Bar Records label mates, Ms. Dee revels in a 1950s universe where the upright basses twang with a thundering elasticity and the electric guitars carry a massive twang that – in revivalist terms – is only beaten by the best Chris Isaak LP.
Back in the dim and distant past of the mid 80s, at a time when The Cars were still chart toppers and The Replacements hadn’t quite made the jump to a major label deal and full-blown melodies, there was a rock ‘n’ roll band called The Clams. That name has since been hijacked by a surf rock band, but the original Minnesota Clams were a great vehicle for garage rock riffs and massive hooks. A lot of people have only really caught up with them via the Rum Bar Records compilation ‘The Complete Clams’ (issued in May 2022), but it’s clear that decades after they disbanded, The Clams were a band with a huge potential. At the very tip of their musical iceberg, ‘He’s Like Heroin’ presented them like a huge-voiced, female fronted Stooges; ‘Give Me A Reason’ served up sixties garage pop loaded with bubblegum sweet melodic hooks and ‘The Dangerous Kind’ showed them dabbling with something much punkier, but with equally cool results. The Clams were a band that often sounded great, no matter what.
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.
There’s a feeling of high spirits at a packed out Ramsgate Music Hall this evening. Part of that is due to summer having finally kicked in – we’ve just sweated our way through two of the hottest days of the year – but more than that, there’s a genuine excitement surrounding the return of tonight’s headliners, KOLARS. Despite being based in the US, Rob Kolar (vox, gtr) and Lauren Brown (drums, tap dancing) almost feel like they’re seaside dwellers from Kent by now and the locals love them. They’ve played the venue twice during the previous fifteen months, but they’re the kind of band people would come out for even if the venue booked them even more often. KOLARS are pretty enamoured with the small venue too, having chosen it to record live material back in July 2018.