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Dany Laj and The Looks – Ten Easy Pieces

 

Ten Easy Pieces, the fourth album by Sudbury, Ontario’s Dany Laj and The Looks, has been a fixture in my car CD player for a couple of weeks now. While it’s most definitely an album for all seasons, Ten Easy Pieces is the perfect summertime rock and roll record. It’s well documented that I was a big fan of the band’s previous two albums Everything New Is New Again and Alive & Kicking. But with zero hesitation, I’ll say that Ten Easy Pieces is the best album yet from Dany Laj and The Looks. With the previous albums, there were obvious “hits” that stood out. This time through, it’s hard to pick a standout track since they’re all so good. And the feel of this album is a little different as well. While it certainly has its serious, more melancholic moments, the overall vibe is joyful, energetic, and just plain fun. This is music that puts a smile on my face!

It’s hardly surprising that Ten Easy Pieces is such a strong collection of songs. In advance of this album, Laj spent two years writing new songs and rearranging old ones. Some of these songs date all the way back to the early 2000s. 38 songs were eventually paired down to 12, and there’s not a single sub-par track in the bunch. On this release, the band functions as a trio with drummer Dusty Campbell joining Laj and his musical and life partner Jeanette Dowling. The album also features appearances by Laj’s pals Paul Loewenberg (keyboards), Greg Mihajic (harmonica and keyboards), Dunstan Topp (drums), and Zack Tymchuck (percussion). Ten Easy Pieces is a fine example of the musical appeal of Dany Laj and The Looks. The punk and power pop elements remain, mixed seamlessly with influences ranging from ’60s pop to garage rock to indie rock to straight-forward rock and roll. “Smile”, which channels the Beatles via early Elvis Costello, is an infectious opener that sets the tone for the entire album. “You & Me”, the album’s most recent single, is so catchy that it ought to come with a government warning. If “Don’t Keep Me Guessin'” doesn’t have you up and dancing within 30 seconds, there may be no hope for you. “Pick It Up” and “I Play Guitar” are every bit as rockin’ and hook-laden. While the second half of the record is not without its up-tempo tracks (“Till Jockey’s Lament” and “Wanted To Be Loved” are both top-notch rockers), it also sneaks in some quality deep cuts. “One More Hole” is “mellow rock” done right, while “Smoke In the Sun” is a wild foray into psychedelic garage territory. “In Other Words” brings John Lennon to mind. “Who’s Pickin’ On You” is a terrific cover of a little-known gem by the John Borra Band. 
With Ten Easy Pieces, Dany Laj and The Looks have delivered a set of pop/rock and roll songs that absolutely delights from start to finish. Laj as a songwriter is as rock-solid and dependable as Carey Price between the pipes. He and Dowling have infused their music with their special chemistry, and that especially comes through on this release. I’ve never had the pleasure of seeing this band live, but the vibe of this record is how I imagine the vibe of the group’s on-stage performances. If you haven’t yet seen the music video for “You & Me” directed by Ryan Thompson, check it out below. It’s absolutely insane! Ten Easy Pieces releases on LP today on the Toronto-based label We Are Busy Bodies. CD release (with five digital bonus tracks) has been licensed to Rum Bar Records!

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Album review: GYPSY PISTOLEROS – The Mescalito Vampires

GYPSY PISTOLEROS – The Mescalito VampiresOff Yer Rocka Records [Release date 14.08.21] Gypsy Pistoleros are back and in better shape than ever. The line-up consists of vocalist/guitarist Gypsy Lee Pistolero, guitarist Mark Westwood  (Shadowland, Clive Nolan), on double bass Gaz Le Bass (The Delray Rockets), … Continue reading

The post Album review: GYPSY PISTOLEROS – The Mescalito Vampires appeared first on Get Ready to ROCK!.

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Album review: IAN McNABB – Utopian

IAN McNABB - Utopianwww.ianmcnabb.com [Release date 05.03.21] Utopian is the final part of a trilogy Ian McNabb began with ‘Star Smile Strong’ (2017), and continued with ‘Our Future In Space’ (2018). Recording took on a very different approach during 2020’s global pandemic, with … Continue reading

The post Album review: IAN McNABB – Utopian appeared first on Get Ready to ROCK!.

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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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Book review: Alice Cooper in the 1970’s by Chris Sutton

Alice Cooper in the 1970’s by Chris SuttonSonic Bond Publishing [Publication date 28.03.21] There is no denying that the1970’s was the decade that the Alice Cooper band went from virtual nobodies to household names, but it was also a decade of massive upheaval for the band as … Continue reading

The post Book review: Alice Cooper in the 1970’s by Chris Sutton appeared first on Get Ready to ROCK!.

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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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Jackson Reid Briggs & The Heaters – Waiting In A Corner

 

I know the joke is getting old, but I’ll repeat it anyway: what in the world is going on in Australia to produce all of this incredible punk music lately? Is it in the air? The water? Something in the Aussie diet? Well the correct answer is that this has been going on for nearly 50 years, and the larger world is finally noticing. Hot on the heels of fantastic long players by Stiff Richards and Civic, the fifth album by Melbourne-based Jackson Reid Briggs & The Heaters completes a holy trinity of essential ’20-’21 Aussie punk rock and roll long players. Originally issued in April on Legless Records, Waiting In A Corner will get its European release on Drunken Sailor Records at the end of this month. On these nine tracks, Briggs & The Heaters tear into some powerhouse rock and roll that’s got The Saints and Radio Birdman embedded in its DNA yet still sounds right at home in the modern-day world of garage and punk. This is a timeless sound done right: hard-driving, tough as nails, and crackling with raw energy. The band is on fire, and Briggs’s lyrics profoundly reflect on big picture themes like change, growth, and devastating loss. Waiting In A Corner is bookended by two brief instrumentals, so the meat of the album is the seven songs in between. And each one is totally killer! There’s nothing even close to a sub-par track on this release. I love that “Eaten Alive” and “Too Many Years” — which comprise over a third of the album’s running time — are two of its strongest tracks. Sometimes five-minute plus punk rock songs are novelties; here they are highlights. 

In Drunken Sailor’s press release for Waiting In A Corner, Will Fitzpatrick characterizes the album as a “goddamn classic upon arrival”. I could not agree more. Reserve yourself a copy while you still can!

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Poison Suckers – self titled 7″

 

With me notoriously being a geek for Canadian punk rock, it always bothered me that I never really had a favorite punk band from Winnipeg. Then I got turned on to The Sorels, and it was all settled. Now with the arrival of Poison Suckers, I can say I have two favorite bands from Winnipeg! And there’s a connection: Poison Suckers are Joanne from The Sorels and her husband Joe from Fashion Bathers, Shitbots, etc. With this band, you get cool elements from both of these formidable talents. Poison Suckers don’t really sound like any of the aforementioned bands, but in listening to the duo’s debut EP you can totally sense Joanne’s love for girl groups and dirty glam rock and Joe’s fondness for blown-out lo-fi garage punk. Put it all together, and you’ve got a marriage made in heaven! Out now on Transistor 66 (on slime green vinyl, no less!), the four-song debut from Poison Suckers is an absolute treat for lovers of budget rock. It’s super lo-fi, but not in a shitty way. You could probably pass these songs off as the work of some forgotten garage band from 55 years ago! “Grain Alcohol” and “You Like Me” conjure some old school girl group magic with a rawness and budget fidelity that serve the songs completely. On “Take My Time”, the band tears into some down and dirty, riff-driven rock and roll featuring a powerhouse vocal from Joanne. And speaking of powerhouse vocals, Joanne brings it full force on the MC5-inspired scorcher “Stick Up”! If you like trashy rock and roll with soul, guts, and brilliant songwriting, you’ve got yourself a brand-new must-have record to chase down!

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Los Pepes – “I Want You Back”

If you need a jolt of sonic energy to wake you up or liven up your day, the new single from Los Pepes ought to do the trick! “I Want You Back” is available now in digital form and will be releasing on vinyl May 14th via Black Wax Noise Division. And for this release, Los Pepes are not fooling around! These tracks are vintage Los Pepes — kicking up a veritable tornado of punk rock, power pop, and balls-out rock and roll. This is all ripping guitars, smashing drums, and racing melodies. The energy level is an 11 out of 10. But even amidst all the speed and fury, the hooks still stand out. The band has released music videos for “I Want You Back” and “Never Get It Right” — both of which will give you a little taste of the crackling Los Pepes live experience. “Tell Me” is a little more on the power pop side of things with the emphasis on the power. This is my first time writing about Los Pepes since September of 2019. I’ve gotta say the band is sounding as good as ever! If you like loud pop that rocks, “I Want You Back” is guaranteed to please. These gentlemen will be returning to the stage at the end of this month, and you know they’re itching to melt some faces. Locals be ready!

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Pale Lips – After Dark (Rum Bar CD reissue)

I was recently contemplating how Rum Bar Records has worked with almost all of my favorite bands of the moment. With Hayley and the Crushers, The Speedways, The Cheap Cassettes, and Brad Marino already on the roster, I joked to myself that the only band missing was Pale Lips. And then, boom, out of the blue Lou announced he was reissuing Pale Lips’ second album After Dark on CD! So yeah: my entire top five list of favorite current bands/artists is now in the Rum Bar family! It’s no secret that Pale Lips are my favorite band and that After Dark was my favorite album of 2019. I probably don’t need to write a whole new review of an album that I’ve previously praised at length. But here are my bullet points on this newest release of After Dark:

  • To the best of my knowledge, this is the first time After Dark has been released on compact disc outside of Japan. And that means that I’m enjoying it on CD for the first time ever. With warm weather in the air, these 12 tracks make for some Grade A car jams! 
  • I’ve discovered that I like this album just as much now as I did two years ago — perhaps even more! I’ve had it on repeat as I drive around town. The first Pale Lips album Wanna Be Bad is very good. After Dark is great
  • Cooler people than I are huge fans. Rum Bar label mate Brad Marino calls After Dark one his favorite records of the last 10 years and cites it as an influence on his new album (which comes out on CD today, by the way!). 
  • Ilona Szabo is a rock god. Seriously: if you wanna hear how rock and roll guitar ought to be played, give this album a listen. 
  • The lyrics on this record are smart, funny, and very worthy of closer inspection. 
  • My list of favorite tracks has changed (a little). I still consider “I’m A Witch” and “That Old Ghost Don’t Lie” to be my top two songs from After Dark, followed by “Cosmic Love”. But “All My Baby Brought Back Was The Blues” is gaining on the pack fast. What a delightful and clever song! I’m also way more into “Hanky Panky Franky” than I used to be. And I have to say that “Hiding From the Moon” is one of the true underrated gems from the Pale Lips catalog. Now I better stop before I mention every song on the album! 

After Dark is out today on Rum Bar Records. All CD orders come with a fold-out mini-poster while supplies last. You know what to do!

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