Category Archives: 90’s

EP Review: Charger – Charger

Not trying to prove my age here folks, but I have been a fan of Operation Ivy and Rancid for a good 25 years now.

Needless to say when I heard that Matt Freeman had a new project on Pirates Press Records, I had to stop what I was doing to check it out.

Freeman has been in so many punk rock bands since the late 80s aside from Rancid including MDC, Dancehall Crashers, Auntie Christ, and of course Devil’s Brigade.  He even filled in for Social D for a bit. His bass playing is undeniably amazing and his deep, raspy singing style is unforgettable.

Having known his history, I figured Charger would follow suit, but I was so wrong and beyond blown away at what I heard.  Sure, there was a Hellcat feel, but smashed up against pure hard rock a la Mötorhead and Black Sabbath.

I shouldn’t just speak of Freeman as two other talented-ass musicians put their heart and sound into the self-titled Charger EP.  Andrew McGee plays guitar and then there’s Jason Willer on drums and vocals.  He’s from Jello Biafra’s Guantanamo School of Medicine and some other band called U.K. Subs.

“Crackdown” started with the bass playing I have grown so fond of along side some serious guitar playing.  The moment Freeman took the mic, I knew this album was gold.

The breakdown in “Victim” is tough and ever so authoritative.  The band clearly tossed massive nods to metal bands of the 80s/90s without losing grip of their punk roots.  You know the band had all the fun playing this one.

“Damage” ripped.  Riffs, slapping bass, insane drumming, and Freeman bellowing into the microphone.  There was a huge Hawkwind and Iron Maiden nod on this one.  This track right here is proof that this band has a ton to offer.

“All Kings Must Die” pretty much was what would happen if Rancid and Mötorhead had a baby.  There’s really no other way to put it, and it works just so well.  Beyond entertaining to listen to as it covers metal, thrash, and punk rock without skipping a beat.

“Dragged Down” again pushed back to 70s/80s metal giants like Maiden and Metallica.  The chorus on this one was perfect and evoked serious headbanging opportunities.

The EP might have flown by, but it was flawless and left me wanting far more.  Here’s hoping for a full-length soon.  Freeman, McGee, and Willer easily have proved their talent in this release will surpass the expectations of many.  I foresee a lot of music lovers getting into this one.  It’s topped my best of 2019 list easily and I have listened to the EP daily for a few weeks now and not grown tired at all of it.

Side note, if Charger was the music that Fraser, Buscemi, and Sander would have played in Airheads, it would have been the greatest movie of all time.  I am not sure why I kept thinking of that movie while listening, but I couldn’t help but share.  Plus if you recall, Lemmy was in that movie…

 

Check It Out: Sweet Apple’s Music Video For “A Girl and a Gun”

As someone who grew up in the 90s, I have a strong appreciation for bands like Dinosaur Jr. and Guided By Voices.  It really should come to no surprise that I am a huge fan of Sweet Apple.

Sweet Apple features local heroes John Petkovic (Death of Samantha, Cobra Verde) and Tim Parnin (Sons of Elvis, Cobra Verde) along with J. Mascis (Dinosaur Jr., Witch) and  Dave Sweetapple (Witch).

Sweet Apple’s 2017 release Sing the Night in Sorrow was one of my favorite albums of the year.  If you have not listened to it yet, you really should change that.

Today, the band dropped a crazy video for “A Girl and a Gun”.  You know the video is pure gold when you hear that Petkovic was actually arrested while making it.  I’d like to hear the details on that…

Check it out:

While you are at it, check out the video they released a few weeks back for “Everybody’s Leaving” starring Mark Boone Junior:

Check out Sweet Apple via the following links:
Facebook: facebook.com/sweetapplesongs
Twitter: twitter.com/sweetapplesongs
Website: sweetapplesongs.com

Album Review: PowerFlo – PowerFlo

My best friend in high school was one year younger than I was.  I want to say I met him in my German class where I was more about messing with the teacher, Herr Van Halen or whatever his name was, rather than learning a second language.

I have tons of memories of us hanging out and just encompassing a true friendship as teens.

One of the things that we both had in common was our love of music.  We could talk about bands for hours and if there was one thing I was always jealous of, it was his musical talents that I seemingly lacked.

He and I once went on a ride with a homeless man who wore a Sea World hat the projects of Cleveland so he could “pick something up for a friend.”  In exchange he bought us a bunch of 40 oz. beers with our money and wound up keeping the change.

It’s a memory I’ll never forget, especially the part were my friend and I were laying down in the back of the pick-up truck’s bed through the crazy adventure because there was no room for us up front.  Ahh youth…

A couple of years after that memorable evening, my friend told me at a random afternoon driveway party that he was going to move to California to live with his father and look into the music world.  As shocked as I was, I understood he needed to do this and wished him all the luck in the world.

You know how things go.  You grow up.  You become distant, not on purpose of course, but because life gets in the way.  We did our best to keep in touch, but truth be told, I have not seen him in over 20 years now.  Thanks to the Internet and smart phones, we touched base here and there and i knew he was doing well and following his passion.

Where am I going with this?  There’s a point, I promise…

Just a few weeks ago, my pal reached out to me to tell me about something he has been working on for a while now and wanted me to check it out and let me know my thoughts on it.   He told me he has been heavily involved with PowerFlo, a band full of musicians from the 90s that we obsessed over as teenagers.

One could say I freaked out when I heard this.  Still, I needed to hear it for myself.  To say I was proud of his accomplishment is an understatement.  Of course I told him I would check it out and offer up a review of sorts.

So I guess here we go…

PowerFlo is a supergroup metal/rap outfit from LA.  Consisting of Cypress Hill’s Sen Dog, Biohazard’s Billy Graziadei, former Fear Factory bassist/guitarist Christian Olde Wolbers, Downset’s Rogelio Lozano, and Fernando Schaefer, one could say this band is full of talent.

This group of seasoned musicians perfectly took their areas of expertise and infused metal and rock with hip-hop for an album that any fan of the “Judgement Night” soundtrack would approve of.

The album was produced by my pal Josh Lynch and also Graziadei.  It was mixed by Jay Baumgardner, and was mastered by Maor Applebaum at Maor Applebaum Mastering and released on New Damage Records.

Opening the album with a cocked gun (literally), “My M.O.” did not disappoint  More of a hardcore track over rap/metal, I loved the brutal drumming and heavy guitar riffs.  Sen Dog fits in perfectly with the rest of the gang and just goes berserk in the middle of the track with his unforgettable rap flow style.

“Resistance” followed with a slow start reminiscent of a funeral thanks to  a slow bell being rung, but just exploded out of no where.  Sen Dog shined on this track and pretty much proved he’s beyond a rap artist.

“Where I Stay” had this Fear Factory Remanufacture likeness with the electronics incorporated into the track.  Sen Dog has no problem taking his style and mixing it into the song.  This hard homage to LA threw me off with the “na na na” back vocals, but after a few listens it just worked.  I loved the thrash breakdown half way through.

The punk rock me absolutely adored “Crushing That.”  Yeah, it is mostly rap/rock, but think of what would happen if Public Enemy and Rise Against did a collaboration.

I found myself getting into “The Grind”, a full-on rager of a track.  Reminding me of Biohazard in a good way with plenty of group screaming, Sen Dog just flowed perfectly throughout.

“Victim of Circumstance” was just insane.  The band really killed it together on this one.

“Made It This Way” had Sen Dog singing / screaming more than rapping showing how diverse his talent is.  This track was just bad ass.

“Finish The Game” was a positive, forcefully charged song about getting things done without giving up.  I almost wondered if there was a hidden nod to Hatebreed on this track. Not complaining here at all.

Ending the album was the powerful “Start A War”.  This track was all about swinging fists and not asking questions at all.  I could not help of think of Chuck D and Anthrax on this one.

There really is no sleeper of a track on this album.  It started strong and ended full-force.  My only vice is that it clocked in at just over 30 minutes and I really wanted more.

I’ll say it – PowerFlo is what I expected Prophets of Rage to sound like.  Where the former Rage guys still have yet to impress me completely, PowerFlo has straight up delivered a solid album to my ears that has been worthy of multiple listens.

Perhaps not nearly as brutal as the new Body Count was, this album is still heavy, poignant, and should not be sat on.  I am really hoping these guys hit the road soon as I would love to see what they sound like live.

When you hear metal musicians from the 90s came together with a 90s hip-hop artist, it is easy to dismiss the whole idea but PowerFlo delivered an excellent release.  I look forward to seeing this band succeed.

Book Review: Jason Molina: Riding with the Ghost – Erin Osmon

For those who know the name Jason Molina, there is a certain unspoken agreement that his talents were plucked from his adoring fans far too soon.

As many know, he was a musical genius who succumbed to an addiction he could never overcome and in turn put down his guitar and great talent in order to hold on to a bottle.

I call myself a fan, but a Molina novice at best.  I openly admit that I am one of those late fans who never got to see him play live and grew to appreciate his entire catalog after his passing.  I can not say I have ever quite heard music like what Molina created.

I didn’t know the whole story of a man who got his start less than an hour from where I live.  I knew he was with Secretly Canadian and knew how he passed, but I knew nothing in between.

It only seems fitting to have someone collect all the memories, both good and bad, and put them into a book for all inquiring minds like mine.  This biography, to be released by Rowman & Littlefield on May 15th, was full of memories and folklore about a mysterious individual who took his music far past any boundaries ever set prior and in doing so did it his way.

Jason Molina: Riding with the Ghost, written by Erin Osmon, pretty much answered questions about Molnia’s life that some of me never wanted to know.  From tales of his youth in a trailer park Lorain, OH to memories in recording studios and overseas, this family-authorized book really covered it all.

Family, friends, bandmates, and even tourmates all provided insight to the life of Molina.  Where most of the book spoke on Molina’s journeys from Songs: Ohia to Magnolia Electric Company and even his solo work and impromptu sessions, the book also brought to light family tensions, failed relationships, depression, and of course the demise of greatness.

Molina’s college days and the years shortly after were probably my favorite recollections to read.  Obviously, the toughest parts to read were about his separation from his wife and an attempt at recovery through bandmates and the very label he helped get their start.

It was interesting to learn how Molina formulated his albums in homes and studios alone and with others.  I was also fascinated learning about his life outside of the music including living conditions and places of employment.

Reading how Molina got material released by Secretly Canadian seemed like something that would have happened in a comedy movie, but it was all true.  He was the stepping stone of a label that may not have gotten their start had they never connected.

Molina’s humor style as told by others made me laugh more than once.  His approach with his bands though seemed rather repressed at times, especially when he would up and leave without communicating properly to those involved.

The book obviously was not all fun and games.  Reading about uncomfortable obsessions and how they were put to song made me realize the inventiveness Molina’s mysterious mind carried.  The self-sabotaging of a musical career as told in detail, really opened my eyes and held my interest to the point I couldn’t put down the book.  The marriage that never ended in divorce was painful to absorb but the love that remained was inspiring.

The last few chapters were very difficult for me to read as I lost an uncle to alcoholism earlier this year.  The stories of the support Molina received by loved ones and all of the chances given to him that were eventually passed upon just reminded me of what addiction can do to someone.  Reading about the deterioration of a proud man who kept too many secrets just hit too close to home for me.

Overall, the book carried a life-spanning account of a musician from his young days on Lake Erie to his final days secluded in a room slowly drowning his life away.  The emotions were really felt through this book from those who were stunned at his approach to making music to finding out their friend was no more.

My only small distress with this book is at times it seemed the author had a synonym book handy that was used frequently.  Perhaps it was I, the reader, who needs to dip deeper in to a more prolific writing style, but in the first chapter alone, Molina’s father was referenced as a “patriarch” and the term “spinning platters” was used over playing records.

Eventually I was able to get in tune with Osmon’s style, but there were times I just felt some of the vocabulary used was just too much and interfered with the story-telling.  One thing Osmon did well was put all of the memories and stories together in a chronological order making it easy to set down the book and pick it up again without losing your spot.

The copy that I read was not the final copy but one provided to me early on my the publisher, so there is a chance things will be changed.  I will tell you this, the chapters at times were long, but they were read through quickly as the memories were so well put together.

Fans of Molina will appreciate this book due to all of the content Osmon was able to hunt down over the span of three years.  There were so many angles of Molina’s life put down in this book and I am sure it was not easy for Osmon to capture it all, yet she did it well.

As an added bonus to die-hard Molina fans, Secretly Canadian is releasing a limited-edition bundle of the book with a LP pressing of a 1994 Jason Molina WOBC radio session at Oberlin College.  Where I failed to pre-order my copy in time before it sold out, I did get to listen to the performance and I can tell you it is beautiful and will haunt you, but not in a scary way.  Molina even back in 1994 was so laid back and happy to be sharing his songs with others.  Personally speaking, I think had I heard that session live back then on the radio, I would have been a changed man.

Jason Molina: Riding with the Ghost is available for pre-order through Rowman & Littlefield, Amazon, Barnes & Noble, Target, and other fine retailers.

Album Review: Me First and the Gimme Gimmes – Rake It In: The Greatestest Hits

A few weeks back, I found a photo of myself from when I was working in shipping and receiving at some internet company.

I was about 21 years old at the time and looked ever so thrilled in the picture.  The photo showed me working hard while I rocked a backwards hat as well as a Me First and the Gimme Gimmes shirt, a shirt that I basically wore in the late 90s until it fell apart.  That was almost 20 years ago.

Where am I going with this you ask?

Well, clearly I was a fan back then, and I still am today.  Ever since I heard the Gimmes play “Country Roads” on a Fat Wreck comp, I fell in love.  There was just something so appealing about hearing a song my parents listened to in the 70s altered to my standards.

For those of you who live under a rock, Me First and the Gimme Gimmes consist of Joey Cape, Chris Shiflett, Dave Raun, some guy who calls himself Fat Mike, and good ol’ Spike Slawson.  They have been taking overplayed and classic tunes and covering them the only way they know how to.  The result is catchy, likable, and just downright fun.  i should probably add that they have been doing this since 1995.

Over the years, they have tackled adult contemporary, Motown, show tunes, country, and even Japanese pop songs just to name off a few genres.  I guess you could say they are not the gimmicky type.  Hell, they have 7 studio albums under their belts released on Fat Wreck Chords.  Clearly they are pretty damn important in the punk cover band scene.

To showcase their accomplishments (and squeeze you out of your hard earned cheddar), they are about to drop a greatest hits album on April 7th full of renditions of songs cleverly titled Rake It In: The Greatestest Hits.

Featuring 17 memorable covers, the Gimmes threw together the best of the best for all to hear in one collective listen.  I am sure it was tough for the Gimmes to pick the right songs for this “greatestest” hits album, but I think they did a pretty good job.

Starting with Bob Dylan’s “The Times They Are A-Changin'”, the album spans the Gimme’s eclectic taste in covers.  It was great to hear “Straight Up” and “Jolene” and of course “I Believe I Can Fly”.

I’d be lying if I said I wasn’t stoked to hear “Desperado” as well as “End of the Road”.  I adore the Gimme’s take on these two originally over-played-as-hell songs.

As an added bonus, a few non-album tracks that I have not heard in a long time appeared.  “City of New Orleans” off of Willie, a Fat Mail Order limited edition EP, was an excellent surprise to hear.  The Del Shannon classic “Hats Off to Larry”, originally on the Live Fat, Die Young: Fat Music Vol. V, was the other.

The one track missing that I felt should have been on this greatest hits was the Gimme’s version of “Rocket Man” by Sir Elton John.  Luckily, I have Have A Ball in my collection and can listen to it whenever I please, but for those out there that are just discovering this punk rock cover band, that is one song I know they would enjoy.

To be honest, I was really hoping for the band to have a new album full of covers, but I will take this “greatestest” hits release over nothing.  I hope one day they decide to cover 90s hip hop songs in the key of punk rock, I seriously think that would be amazing and I know they could pull it off.

What I’m trying to say is simple:  Long live the Gimmes.  They are the best cover band of my time.

In support of this release, Me First are touring and have been since February.  I can not even tell you the last time I have seen these guys tour, so make sure you go see them live.  It is going to be an all out blast.  Give them your money.  All of it.  Being in a cover band can’t pay that much, can it?

Tour Dates:

04/11/17 Pittsburgh, PA at The Rex *
04/12/17 Cleveland, OH at House of Blues *
04/13/17 Chicago, IL at Concord *
04/14/17 Detroit, MI at Majestic *
04/15/17 Toronto, ON Canada at Phoenix Theatre *
04/16/17 Montreal, QC Canada at Club Soda *
04/19/17 Boston, MA at Royale *
04/20/17 Philadelphia, PA at Union Transfer *
04/21/17 Baltimore, MD at Baltimore Soundstage *
04/22/17 Asbury Park, NJ at Stone Pony *
04/23/17 New York City, NY at Webster Hall *
05/02/17 Portland, OR at Wonder Ballroom ^
05/03/17 Vancouver, BC Canada at Commodore ^
05/04/17 Seattle, WA at Showbox ^
05/05/17 Boise, ID at The Olympic ^
05/06/17 Salt Lake City, UT at The Depot ^
05/07/17 Denver, CO at Summit Music Hall ^
05/10/17 Scottsdale, AZ at Pub Rock ^
05/11/17 San Diego, CA at House of Blues ^
05/12/17 Santa Ana, CA at The Observatory ^
05/13/17 Los Angeles, CA at The Fonda ^
05/14/17 Berkeley, CA at The UC Theatre ^
05/27/17 Las Vegas, NV at Punk Rock Bowling
06/09/17 Interlaken, Switzerland at Greenfield Festival
06/11/17 Milano, Italy at Carroponte w/ Descendents *
06/14/17 Attnang-Puchheim, Austria at EQUALITY Festival
06/15/17 Nickelsdorf , Austria at Nova Rock Festival
06/16/17 Bischofsmais, Germany at Rock The Hill
06/17/17 Bischofsmais, Germany at Rock The Hill
06/23/17 Neuhausen ob Eck, Germany at Southside Festival
06/23/17 Scheessel, Germany at Hurricane Festival
06/24/17 Neuhausen ob Eck, Germany at Southside Festival
06/24/17 Scheessel, Germany at Hurricane Festival
06/25/17 Scheessel, Germany at Hurricane Festival
06/25/17 Neuhausen ob Eck, Germany at Southside Festival
07/01/17 Würzburg/Giebelstadt , Germany at Flugplatz Mission Ready Festival

* = w/ PEARS & MASKED INTRUDER
^ = w/ Together Pangea