The Kowalskis "All Hopped Up On Goofballs"-Blackout Records -
With the sad absence of the Ramones in the current music scene, the question arises: who will be the next 'Ramones'? Enter the Kowalskis. They might not be the Ramones, but they have the same spirit. And in this day and age when 'spirit' is sorely missing from rock 'n roll, the Kowalskis are a welcome relief. The rhythm section is exceptionally tight and powerful - the Kowalskis rock for the moment and make you feel like nothing else matters at this precise moment except the SONG! Kitty's vocals are sexy without the faux sexuality of the likes of Gwen Stefani (Speaking of Gwen...I'd like to see Kitty and Gwen in a celebrity death match-but I digress).
ALL HOPPED UP ON GOOFBALLS does everything a GREAT power-pop/punk record should: it gives you that natural, life-is-great-today-adrenaline-like rush that makes you want to pogo with joy! The subject matter of the songs is not earth-shattering social conscience dribble, but they aren't supposed to be are they? Rock 'n Roll the way GAWD intended - to make you move, not make you think! 14 perfect power-pop/punk gems, including a Devo cover, "Uncontrollable Urge" (wait? didn't the Masticators cover this song too last year?). My fave song on the album is "Drive" with its definitely UN-politically correct lyrics!
Accept no imitations, the Kowalskis ARE rock 'n roll. And as usual, the absolute best of new rock flies just under the radar of the corporate rock labels!
Michelle Branch "The Spirit Room"-Maverick Records-
Ain't no Diva here! Take all the pretentiousness away from the Lilith Fair-type artists, add a healthy dose of Wilson Phillips-type vocal harmonies and pop sensibilities and you have Michelle Branch. Add to this a distinctive voice...as distinctive as Alanis (but not whiney like Alanis). Miss Branch shines among the vast sea of female singer/songwriters out there today. Melodic, memorable songs which don't smack of a forced attitude. She is all about songwriting chops and that is refreshing!
Mest "Destination Unknown"-Maverick Records -
You might remember that annoying song “What’s the Dillio?” from a few summers ago. Well the band behind the song, Mest, has something new for listeners. From the first track to the last, Mest’s third full-length album, DESTINATION UNKNOWN, proves to be an excellent representation of the “new-wave” melodic punk genre. The songs are catchy and upbeat with the lyrics to keep you listening. The first song, “Opinions”, deals with the frustration and anxiety caused by trying to make it in the world while feeling alone and misunderstood. With tracks like this, DESTINATION UNKNOWN is also a great album for the younger teenage listeners without being too immature for the elder. Of course there is one of the classic “I wanna drop everything and start a band but everyone thinks I’m crazy” songs, entitled “Fuct Up Kid”. It’s a song that the dreamers can relate to while moving along to the catchy beat. Mest puts a little record-scratching hip hop into the mix with the album’s first single “Cadillac”, a song about cruising along and hanging out. Another track with a surprising style is “Reason” which throws in a little more reggae of a sound with horns and a female vocal. The band also threw in “Drawing Board”, a song from their second album WASTING TIME. From break-ups to car rides to memories of a mother, DESTINATION UNKNOWN will leave you tapping your toes and singing along and realizing that not all pop-punk sucks.
Pink "Missundazstood"-LaFace/Arista Records -
Mostly lifeless hip-hop and too many of these songs sound the same! There are a few funny moments, like the lyrics of "Don't Let Me Get Me" and its funny references to Britney Spears. Even the socially conscious lyrics of "My Vietnam" and "Family Portrait" can't save the songs.
There are only two tracks on this CD that save it from being totally bogus. "Get the Party Started" is catchy and too damn memorable to be along these other lifeless hip-hop songs. I found myself humming it at all hours of the day. Plus, the video is pretty good, too. "Misery" is the only other saving grace. A duet sung with Steven Tyler of Aerosmith fame, its a soul/blues rocker which shows that little miss P!NK really has talent when she applies it. P!NK CAN sing. Maybe she will apply her talent the next go around.
Popland "Action!"-Zip Records -
In the three long years since their debut long-player *Groovy,* Kevin Mathews and Tim Nolan, d.b.a. Popland, have obviously been honing their melodic craft, not to mention broadening their three-chord horizons quite some. For *Action!,* whilst still brimming along the kinda Kinky guitar parade which made their previous work bash and pop itself silly, reveals a proud maturity within the duo's songcraft and arranging skills. The result? Several stunning examples of deep, dreamful balladry which culminate in the circa *Walls And Bridges* era Lennon underscoring "Fallen Angels" and the wholly Rubinoo-worthy "Feel The Same Way." "Dumb Thing" also mines the latter's classic Beserkley skinny-neck vibe, though deftly upping the tempo towards the disturb-the-neighbors level, while "Hold On" simply *begs* to be hauled out upon the nearest concert stage before a room full of sweaty under-agers. Such great big audio dynamite also powers "The Future" (a totally, yes, futuristic retro-popper which sends Ed Wood Jr. careening towards *The Dark Side Of The Moon*), and one must then surely sit tight straight through for *Action!*'s concluding mock-drum duel too, you know. Among many other things then, this disc proves Pop *can* grow up. Because, you see, Popland itself certainly has.
Various Artists "Lunch With a Bouncing Space Vol. II"-A Bouncing Space Music -
Those not familiar with EAR CANDY might not be aware of our attitude towards compilation albums. We don't rate them - we treat them as a road map towards bands that beg a listen. A sort of 'sampler' at a restaurant. With that in mind, there are five bands out of twelve on this collection that caught my ear. First the obvious...what made me sit up and take notice of this CD compilation was the inclusion of Moonbabies (www.moonbabiesuniverse.com). I can't rave enough about Moonbabies and I always welcome a new track from them! And I wasn't disappointed in their offering for this compilation - "Serpentine/Epileptic" is classic eclectic psychedelia as only Moonbabies can deliver. If you are a Moonbabies fan, this song alone justifies getting this CD.
What else is good on this collection? Lenola's "Catch" (www.phillymusic.com/lenola/) is almost retro (hell, this song was written in the '80s), but in an endearing sort of way. Still, it is interesting. Jchurch (www.j-church.com) really rocks on "You're On Your Own (demo version)" with driving, energetic punk rock. The sound quality seems to suffer a little (it does have a disclaimer saying 'demo version'), but overcomes this with their performance. I wanna hear more of this band! The Dandelion Clocks (www.geocities.com/dandelionclocks/) take a simplistic approach on "Closing Time" and it works. Simple guitar and a haunting female voice. The Sauvie Island Moon Rocket Factory (www.geocities.com/littlesongs/) give a strange but interesting song in "Old Salt (live)". Plus, the singer is...distinctive. The rest of the bands I won't mention. Either their songs were bland or they just didn't impress. However, the ones I did mention ARE worth checking out!
To go to A Bouncing Space web site click here
Ramonetures "Johny Walk Don't Run Paulene"-Blood Red Vinyl & Discs-
The Ramonetures gimmick is instrumental renditions of old punk classics mixed with Ventures guitar sound.. On "Johnny Walk Don't Run Pauline" punk legends X get the Ramonetures treatment. What elevates this above the status of gimmick is that two members of X - Billy Zoom and DJ Bonebrake - lend a hand to these songs. Enough of a hand in fact that the Ramonetures renditions are fairly faithful instrumental renditions of the original X songs. All the X songs that you would expect are on here: 'Los Angeles", "Your Phones off the hook","The Hungry Wolf"......Perfect soundtrack for an X Karoke party.
To go to the Blood Red website click here
Simple Minds "Neon Lights"-Eagle Records -
On this CD, Simple Minds fall back on the tried (tired?) and tested "lets play and release our favorite cover songs" formula. Its a well worn formula tried, with varying degrees of success, by artists as diverse as the John Lennon, The Ramones, Guns-n-Roses, the Church, and Slayer. The songs covered are about what you expect from an 80's new wave band: Velvet Underground, Echo and the Bunnymen, Roxy Music, Patti Smith and Joy Division with a few olders fossils (The Doors, David Bowie, Neil Young, and Van Morrison) thrown in for laughs. To be blunt, "Neon Lights" comes off as either a failed attempt by Simple Minds to show the world how "cool" their influences are and/or an attempt to fill a obligation to release "something". The performances on "Neon Lights" are competent but uninspired. Did Simple minds honestly think that the world was dying to hear yet another version of "Hello I love you", "Gloria" or "Love Will Tear us Apart"? The Kraftwerk cover ("Neon Lights") is about as good as it gets on this CD. Word of advise to bands: Don't bother releasing cover versions of songs unless you ADD something to the song.