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The Dents – self titled

It was always my belief that The Dents should have been huge. I know I say that about a lot of bands, but it’s especially true in the case of The Dents. In the middle 2000s period of punk rock, The Dents were one of the best bands going. They had killer tunes, a blistering live act, and two powerhouse vocalists/songwriters in Michelle Paulhus and Jennifer D’Angora. They were beloved in their hometown of Boston but never properly recognized across the globe. The band released a criminally underrated debut album called Time For Biting in 2005 — which sadly turned out to be the only LP the group would make in its original run circa 2003-2007. Fast forward to today: The Dents have been back together a while and are primed to take the world by storm. Out today on Rum Bar Records, The Dents’ self-titled EP is their first official release in 14 years. Three of these tracks were released digitally in 2018, and opening cut “Last One Standing” is a remix of one of the band’s signature songs from back in the day. Altogether it makes for a terrific package. There are four songs on the CD plus three digital bonus tracks. Listening to these songs, I’m struck by how much the world still needs a band like The Dents in 2021. The sound is melodic but hard-edged, bolstered by rocking musicianship and top-notch production. Paulhus and D’Angora are exceptional vocalists both individually and in harmony. There was a time in the not so distant past when you could hear music like this on your favorite “alternative” radio station.  

Interestingly, the centerpiece of The Dents’ self-titled EP is a cover of “Homeless” — a song originally written and recorded by Holly Beth Vincent for her project The Oblivious in 1993. “Homeless” was the first song that Malibu Lou shared with me in advance of the EP, and I can totally understand why. The Dents absolutely shine as a band on this nearly six minute track — sounding more than ready to rock the roof off of an arena near you. Both lead singers are vital to this powerful duet, and Craig Adams tears it up like the guitar god you already knew he was. “Last One Standing” is certainly the anthem of this EP, and “Want It Back” is probably the most obvious “hit”. But it’s the stunning cover of “Homeless” that is the real “grower” here. Every time I go back to this EP, I’m struck by the song’s brooding intensity. The Dents honor a hidden gem of Holly Beth Vincent’s catalog but also manage to make the song their own. I also like the way “Homeless” fits in with the rest of the tracks. It’s different, but by no means does it sound out of place on this EP. 
A lot has changed in the independent music universe since The Dents’ heyday. These days we have social media, streaming platforms, and a vast network of underground radio programs promoting punk/garage/rock and roll bands all over the world. If a band put out a CD in 2005, the only way to hear it was to…buy the CD! Today, a song can go viral in moments. It is in this particular environment that The Dents release their first new EP in a decade and a half. It delivers four (or seven) tracks of powerful punk rock and roll with killer hooks. Something tells me The Dents won’t be Boston’s best-kept secret very much longer.

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The Chelsea Curve – “All in Time”

One of the wonderful ironies of this brave new world of streaming and downloading is that it has given new life to one of the most traditional formats in recorded music: the single. Don’t get me wrong — I still love albums. But as a lifelong music fan, I’ve always found it rewarding to “consume” music one song at a time. When I was a kid, there was always something super cool about buying a 45 and playing the A-side over and over and over again. That way I really got to know the song. These days, it’s a similar experience when a band releases a digital single. I really enjoy taking in a song as a singular artistic creation. On that note, I love what The Chelsea Curve is doing right now: releasing a series of monthly singles that will culminate with an album release. “All in Time”, out on Red On Red Records, is the Boston trio’s second single and a more than satisfying follow-up to its stunning debut “Girl Cavedog”. “All In Time” is another energetic shot of mod-inspired power pop meets poppy punk. It brings great energy, tons of hooks, and tremendous lyrical substance. And as always, Linda Pardee’s voice sounds absolutely amazing. This is a song about “trying to keep one’s own mental faculties together while watching a loved one lose theirs”. No doubt that’s a very serious theme, but the song is carried off in an uplifting, hopeful way. Running just a few ticks past two-and-a-half minutes, it always leaves me wanting more. Thankfully another single is coming very soon!

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Watts – Shady Rock & Rollers

It’s hard to believe that it’s been five years since Watts released The Black Heart Of Rock-N-Roll — the greatest ’70s rock record of the 21st Century. A string of fantastic singles (“All Done With Rock n Roll”, “Queens”, “Breaking Glass”) followed in the ensuing years — suggesting that Watts had yet another epic rock album in the works. Today the Boston foursome finally unleashes its long-awaited follow-up to The Black Heart Of Rock-N-Roll. Out on Rum Bar Records, Shady Rock & Rollers is both a vintage Watts record and a logical next step in the band’s progression. 

While Shady Rock & Rollers finds Watts still carrying on in the grand tradition of Aerosmith, KISS, and AC/DC, it broadens the band’s musical vision with a more refined sound and major nods to its glam rock foundations. Building off the ’70s hard rock purism of The Black Heart Of Rock-N-Roll, Shady Rock & Rollers brings to mind a time when there was no shame in aspiring to write massive radio hits that would dominate the airwaves and fill arenas. The band still delivers on all the essential fundamentals: big riffs, big hooks, ripping solos, and stellar work from one of one of modern-day rock’s finest rhythm sections. If you want fist-pumping rock anthems, the bookend tracks “Loud & Fast” and the aforementioned “All Done With Rock n Roll” are sure to satisfy. “Queens” is like the best KISS song in 40 years. “The Night The Lights Went Down”, featuring drummer John Lynch on lead vocals, is a punchy barroom rocker right in that Mott the Hoople/’70s Stones/early Aerosmith wheelhouse. But a particular strength of this album is the way the band complements its loud & fast side by also mastering the art of hard & slow. There are a number of tracks here that find Watts leaning hard into pop territory (yet still rocking hard!). “Shady” seems inhabited by the spirit of Marc Bolan, while “Heavy Metal Kids” and “Shocking Pink” are firmly rooted in the Cheap Trick wing of power pop. “When the Party Ends” is that rare power ballad that’s actually powerful.  

It is to all of our benefit that Shady Rock & Rollers’ concluding track “All Done With Rock n Roll” is not a retirement letter but rather a lamentation on how real rock and roll has fallen out of the mainstream. Watts is most definitely not done with rock and roll and has just delivered another fantastic album redolent of a time when the likes of Cheap Trick, KISS, and the almighty Stones reigned supreme. Uninterested in fame and fortune, Watts makes rock and roll for rock and roll’s sake. Having missed the heyday of arena rock (I was only six years old in 1977), I can still experience a similar magic every time I put on a Watts record. It doesn’t get much sweeter than popping Shady Rock & Rollers into my car CD player on a sunny day and cranking it loud! Now let’s see if we can talk Malibu Lou into simultaneously releasing four solo albums from each member of Watts. Maybe next year?

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Boston Albums Ranked

Boston Albums Ranked list looks at a band not known for releasing a lot of material even though they have a loyal following of fans that are always wanting more. Boston broke onto the scene in 1976 with perhaps the greatest debut album of all time. No musical group had ever sounded like the band Boston before. There is good reason for that as Boston’s founding member and band leader Tom Scholz had just invented an amazing new guitar effects pedal called the Rockman that shaped the sound of the band. Fueled along with a spectacular lead singer named Brad

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The Mighty Mighty BossToneS: When God Was Great – Album review

The Mighty Mighty BossToneS - When God Was GreatThe Mighty Mighty BossToneS – When God Was Great (Hellcat)


Out 7th May

Boston’s perennial kings of ska-punk The Mighty Mighty BossToneS return with a new album on Hellcat.

Ska-punk. The late 80s collision of ska with punk and it’s fallout (a whole scene of “ska-core”) is something viewed by some as worthy only of sneered contempt. While there are many who absolutely love(d) it, I’ve heard plenty of those who are dismiss it as worthless give a caveat….”except Operation Ivy and the Bosstones”.

Whereas arguably plenty of ska-punk was generic, The Mighty Mighty BossToneS managed to endear themselves to even naysayers by being recognisably individual, doing their own thing. Not only could they play punk infused ska fast, they had a flourish of metallic hardcore guitar, a horns section that could really play and the gruff roaring vocals of Dicky Barrett. They won a fair few people over with their debut Devil’s Night Out in 1989 and through the 90s rose in popularity becoming known beyond the punk scene. Over time they lost a little of their harder edge but never lost their own identity. In this respect, and with their knack for writing pop tunes, they remind me a little of Madness.

On this latest album, The Mighty Mighty BossToneS offer up 13 tracks starting with an upbeat number, Decide, playing to their strength. Rooted in high octane ska, it has clean guitar lines, bouncy bass and drums…and them horns. The chorus sees a slow in pace before picking up again.  Following number Move has the bouncy keyboard driven reggae sound and it reminds me that Tim Armstrong, who produced similar sounds with Jimmy Cliff (and his own Tim Timebomb material), is in the producer’s chair. He also provides guest guitar and vocals among a cast of many.

I Don’t Believe In Anything is pretty much typical of what the BossToneS are good at. It starts as pure pop, borrowing the loping angular sound of the likes of XTC and Elvis Costello before letting rip with a raucous chorus that is fairly wordy yet has a sing along quality all the same. The brass section provides emphasis which is something of a BossToneS characteristic. By the middle eight it’s time to hit the skank button before returning for a meaty finish.

Certain Things is a melancholy number, piano laden with country pedal steel guitar and a horn melody that sounds like a TV sitcom theme.  It sits with the often cartoonish image of the band.

Bruised has the full on Bad Manners skank. It’s more of the Bosstones on home turf. Its rumbunctious, gang out on the piss, feel seems to be an image so many bands from across the pond are keen to project: “We might be bruised but we’re not broken. We might be down but we’re not out”

Lonely Boy is a laid back tuneful sunshine reggae number. With it’s mention of the “Old Colony Railway” you’d be forgiven for thinking that the journey “Down to Kingston” was on the island of Jamaica, but the Plymouth Kingston line is on the MBTA, in their native Massaschusetts.

When they have something to say the social commentary of the Might Mighty BossToneS is poetic rather than polemic yet not hidden so deep you miss it. For instance The Killing of Georgie (Part III). Wondering what the first two parts were, the internet told me Rod Stewart did a song The Killing of Georgie (Pt I and II). They subvert “Georgie please stay. You take our breath away” on Stewart’s song to “Georgie please stay. They took your breath away” and reflect the impact of the killing of George Floyd on the US. Rocky guitar and big horns open up this one. As the song progresses, with the piano and backing singers it takes on the feel of New York Dolls or Springsteen, were it not for Dicky Barrett’s growl.

You Had To Be There is another slice of well crafted poppy ska-punk with singalong parts. Skank away to the max, lead guitars, neat horns, tempo changes, bouncy keyboard. You get the drift.

The title tune When God Was Great is a more downbeat number, more mellow, perhaps reflecting the age of the band. A whistful nostaligic look back at their childhood.  Perhaps still in nostalgia mode, What It Takes sounds like the sort of thing you’d expect from Mick Jones. A tune with a whining guitar that nods to All The Young Dudes and Jones’ vocal performance in B.A.D. Of all the songs on the album it is the one that sounds least obvously BossToneS to me.

The Truth Hurts and It Went Well are both easy listening veering towards rocksteady end of ska. Upbeat and sunny with laidback vocals giving the song a lazy feel.

I Don’t Want To Be You has guitar skanking away under the vocals on the intro builds slowly with more instruments joining the fray. It’s another fairly poppy feelgood song, even though the narrative is sending someone to hell!

The Final Parade finishes off the album with something caught between a jumping skatastic moonstomping and a cor blimey knees-up with Chas’n’Dave style “Joanna” and an end of pier bassline. Featuring guest vocals from Aimee Interrupter, Tim Timebomb, Angelo Moore and original Trojan artist Stranger Cole and about 30 other ska, reggae and punk musicians, it’s very much a feelgood fairground ride affair that manages to last 8 minutes without sounding like it missed its stop. Its a song about unity, punk rock, reggae and rebels. With its cast of many, ska is the right vehicle for these sort of hijinks. I can see this being a love or hate song.

With the exception of What It Takes with it’s nod to Mott The Hoople and The Final Parade which sounds like any number of ska revivalist novelty numbers, the album basically takes you on a tour of the BossToneS wide range of styles. Who else would it sound like?

Cartoon art of a car crash adorns the front and of the band shipwrecked on the adorns the rear of the CD sleeve. Nothing to write home about but the lyric sheet all mocked up in the style of 60s newspaper adverts is a good look.

Long term fans of The Mighty Mighty BossToneS will be satisfied with this record as will fans of ska in general.  And if you don’t like ska-punk, no-one’s forcing you to listen to it so stop whining. Don’t be surprised to hear this floating over the fence from your neighbour’s barbecue this summer.

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Dropkick Murphys: Turn Up That Dial – Album review

Dropkick Murphys Turn Up That DialDropkick Murphys – Turn Up That Dial (Born & Bred Records)

All formats

Out 30 April

Dropkick Murphys pay homage to their influences with tunes that meld punk rock with the sounds of the Irish diaspora. The new album is a welcome return to form says Nathan Brown.

If you ask anyone to provide an example of Celtic Punk then, after The Pogues, many people’s “go to” would be Boston’s Dropkick Murphys – and rightly so. They have been at the helm of the rise of this genre Stateside for the past few decades, having appeared in 1996.

The Dropkick Murphys had a definite punk and Oi influence (especially on their first album) and at times are quite rocky but alongside the usual guitar, bass and drums, over the years the Dropkicks have brought in more and more traditional irish instruments like tin whistle, accordion, banjo and mandolin. They also use bagpipes. Not the Irish Uilleann pipes but the Scots highland bagpipes. Whether or not they were the first no-one will know, but they were the first to be noticed and paved the way for punks with bagpipes. Aside from being Oirish and proud (remember Boston Irish are more Irish than anyone born on the island) the Dropkick Murphys strong sense of identity has always been entwined with trade unions and the working man.

From the outset this album is a bit of a love affair with The Clash. The album title, the font, the ghetto blaster cover (as if lifted straight off Joe’s shoulder): it’s all evocative of The Only Band That Mattered.

Turn Up That Dial starts off with a jaunty rocky accordian and penny whistle led tune which is a slab of prime Celtic Punk. They pay tribute to the singles that influenced them as youngsters, “3 minutes of fury I wish wouldn’t end…you were our sound, you were angry loud and raw” and the rebellion contained within: “We’ll never be your servants and we’ll never be your fodder”. It’s classic DKM with a rousing singalong crew chorus with the penny whistle shrieking away as part of the Celtic wall of sound.

L-E-E-B-O-Y is their tribute to their current bagpipe player. They have form for this, the Spicy McHaggis Jig (a favourite at gigs) being their tribute to their former piper who also gets a name check in this song. From the very outset, the bagpipes have been a part of the trademark Dropkick Murphys sound. With thundering drums, a chuggy guitar sound and the pipes providing the melody, it is pretty much what you expect from the Dropkicks.

Middle Finger is where the massive influence of The Pogues is writ large with the banjo and mandolin replacing the roar of a Marshall stack. It could easily have been borrowed from the Pogues songbook in their Stiff era if it weren’t for the more rocky vocals of Al Barr and Ken Casey. This tale of obnoxiousness and self defeat – a tribute to the classic punk rock salute of defiance – even borrows the abrupt ending of Sally McLennane.

Queen of Suffolk County again borrows heavily from The Pogues, sounding akin to a mash up of London Girl and Rain Street, with a Boston spin. That they can pull this off is a testament to the talent of the musicians in the band, particularly multi-instrumentalists Tim Brennan and Jeff DaRosa.

Mick Jones Nicked My Pudding is the stand-out song of the album for me (and the accompanying video complete with great caricature animation by Adam Murphy). “Oi! Mick Jones nicked my pudding. Oi! Mick Jones leave my pudding alone” . A tongue in cheek “never meet your heroes” narrative that is put to a punchy Clash meets Sham punk tune. Allegedly based on a true story retold to the band by the producer of the album Ted Hutt, whose post-dinner sweet was swiped by The Clash guitar hero. It’s a song I found hard to get out of my head once heard. I’ve been caught singing my own bastardised version to our cat when she wants feeding. Ahem. Name dropping songs here and there, The Clash love affair is completed with the machine gun snare attack from Tommy Gun punctuating the middle break and Mick Jones style guitar lines twiddling away in the soundscape. This stands out as a punchy fun tune. Not for those who’ve had a sense of humour bypass. Playing to one of their strengths, when they get it right these Barroom Heroes can pump out a good rabble rousing shoutalong tune.

HBDMF starts like a whistful misty eyed folky about celebrating your mates’ birthdays but quickly turns into a piss take of childlish, attention seeking self indulgence…which is pretty much a summary of what makes social media selfie culture tick. Happy Birthday Mother Fucker…don’t milk it!

After an anthemic start driven by the drone of the bagpipe Good As Gold ups the ante for a fast punky tribute to the power of a good record to lift your spirits. I am sure The Clash were among the bands on their mind when they write this one.

Smash Shit Up is not too dissimilar to one of the bands more well known tunes Shippin’ Up to Boston in the way the accordian and the pounding drums work along with the obligatory singalong chorus. “I wanna be a rebel, I wanna smash shit up”…don’t we all! No sign of these old hands growing up.

Chosen Few is something of a love song to the Dropkicks beloved “Good ole’ USA, Home of the Free”. The song outlines the idiocy of the Trump response to Covid (“It’s just another flu”) and pokes fun treating their former president as a petulant child “No more silly temper tantrums, let’s all just behave”. When they sing “For our democracy to work we’ve got to see it from both sides. Stop pointing fingers shut your mouth and compromise.” I find it perhaps a little naive and simplistic. Democracy is about disagreement, and whilst finding some form of compromise solution is desirable, if it means ceding to white supremacists that’s storing up a whole load of trouble for later.

City By The Sea is yet another folky number, a love song to their native Boston, in case you forgot how much they love that place and its “salty knuckleheads”.

The slow haunting penny whistle, banjo and accordian of Wish You Were Here winds the album down as a closer. The melancholy feel is fitting for a song that is a tribute for singer Al Barr’s late father. As co-vocalist and founder member Ken Casey said “We’ve never ended an album with a slow song, but we had to end it with a tip of the cap to pay our respects to Woody and so many others. It’s a moment to stop, count our blessings, and remember those who we’ve lost, including the 400,000-plus people to this virus.”

The album is a welcome return to form for Dropkick Murphys, who had been at risk of falling into the trap for many long serving bands of releasing albums with a few stand out songs but too much filler.

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Words by Nathan Brown. Check out his Louder Than War Author Archive.

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Kid Gulliver – “Boy In A Bubble”

There aren’t many sweeter phrases in the English language than “new Kid Gulliver single”! The Boston foursome has been on fire with its singles over the last couple of years. Its latest, “Boy In A Bubble” , is available now from the always wonderful Red On Records. Again Kid Gulliver delivers a should-be radio hit that combines ear candy melodies with tremendous lyrical substance. The feel of this track is a little bit different from some of the band’s recent singles. My man Ralph Rivera compares it to some of The Cure’s pop hits, and I’d say he’s dead-on. It has a beautifully melancholic vibe to it featuring serene melodic guitars that blend perfectly with Simone’s dreamy vocals. Lyrically, the song was inspired by the forced isolation brought on by the pandemic last year. This is a song that almost anyone will be able to relate to, but I imagine it will especially hit you hard if you live alone. Those hooks lines “Oh, how I wish I was kissed by the sun today/Oh, how I wish I was kissed by anyone today” definitely evoke the heyday of black-clad post-punk pop. And a deeper dive into David’s lyrics finds him articulating the malaise of COVID isolation with chilling accuracy:

Electric light provides no warmth/
Two plastic arms that cannot love/
The sterile air I cannot smell/
The clock keeps time for nothing

That pretty much nails it, doesn’t it? “Boy In A Bubble” is a haunting song, but a beautiful one as well. Part of the appeal of Kid Gulliver is the way David trusts Simone to bring his lyrics to life. The words and voice prove equally important. That, my friends, is true musical chemistry. This is a song about loneliness that will make you feel less alone in the world. In my book, it’s Kid Gulliver’s best single yet. And now I can’t stop imagining David with big hair in the ’80s!

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Andrea Gillis – “Leave The Light On”

Andrea Gillis has been one of the most outstanding singers and live performers in American rock and roll going back to the early 2000s. As Red On Red Records continues to add premium talent from the Boston music scene to its roster, the addition of Andrea Gillis was a no-brainer. While you might think of Gillis as a soul/blues singer first and foremost, she has created a diverse catalog of music that crosses many genres. “Leave The Light On”, her new single on Red On Red, really shows her pop side. Her inspiration for this track was to write a “feel good, coming out of the darkness, good old fashioned dance number”. And thus “Leave The Light On” is a wonderfully suitable song for this moment in time — as we collectively eye the light at the end of the tunnel. For a dance track, it’s quite mellow. That might seem like a contradiction, but actually it’s not. This is a song that warms the soul. Gillis delivers a beautiful, powerfully empathic vocal. The production on this track (courtesy of Gillis, Marc Pinansky, and Pat DiCenso) is absolutely stunning — weaving together gorgeous synthesizers, a simple & satisfying beat, and a veritable chorus of  backup singers. This track features some of the finest musicians in all of the Boston scene (Pinansky, Mike Oram, Ed Valauskas) and really ought to be all over the radio. And, hey, it might be all over your radio if you know which shows to listen to! “Leave The Light On” is the song we all needed right now. If this is your introduction to Andrea Gillis, you’ll want to dig into her catalog over at Bandcamp. It’s full of killer releases bridging the worlds of rock, soul, and pop. Check it out, and you’ll know what people have known in Boston for years: Andrea Gillis is a star

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The Chelsea Curve – “Girl Cavedog”

Wow, has Justine Covault ever hit the ground running with her label Red on Records! Since its launch five months ago, Red On Red has already released or reissued music from 13 different bands/artists — all of them Boston based. I haven’t even come close to keeping up (shamefully I even missed a new Justine and the Unclean single in February!). But it’s not about quantity — it’s about the quality. No city on the planet has a stronger music scene than Boston, and the Red On Red roster is perfectly representative of that. If you dig power pop, punk, garage, indie rock, Americana, etc., this label is a must-follow even if you have no particular connection to Boston. A case in point is the debut single from The Chelsea Curve — a mod-pop/indie rock trio made up of Linda Pardee (formerly of Boston legends Miles Dethmuffen) on vocals and bass, Tim Gillis on guitars and vocals, and Ron Belanger on drums. This band has been ripping up the Boston live scene for a while, and now it finally presents its first studio release. The track is called “Girl Cavedog”, and it’s a stone-cold hit. It’s essentially a love song, but it’s a very original and fascinating love song in the respect that it was inspired by time travel.  Pardee says it’s about “a person whose life is repeatedly sidetracked by the comings and goings of a significant other who is a step out of time”. What a wonderfully creative idea! Fortunately, the lyrics are included on the Bandcamp page — and they read like a miniature short story! Musically, the song exemplifies mod-influenced power pop. Clocking in at two-and-a-half minutes, it features tight musicianship and irresistible hooks. And Pardee’s voice will totally knock you out. I’m left wanting more — which is the whole point of a single! Thankfully, this is just the first in a series of singles that will all lead up to a full album in the fall. Check out the brand-new video for “Girl Cavedog” embedded below!

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Album review: STINGRAY (Remaster with bonus track)

stingray_cover_mlBad Reputation France [Release date 05.03.21] Enterprising French label, Bad Reputation, has been bringing some excellent new material to our attention recently. But for now we’ll focus on some classic blasts from the past, beginning with criminally overlooked South African … Continue reading

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