Sylvain Sylvain, guitarist for glam punk rockers New York Dolls has lost his battle with cancer according to his personal Facebook page:
“As most of you know, Sylvain battled cancer for the past two and 1/2 years. Though he fought it valiantly, yesterday he passed away from this disease. While we grieve his loss, we know that he is finally at peace and out of pain. Please crank up his music, light a candle, say a prayer and let’s send this beautiful doll on his way,”
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…
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?
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
I recall the very day when I was first introduced to Jonathan Richman.
Sometimes I wish I could say it was because I came across a Modern Lovers album at a young age, but the truth is, I learned of him in the mid-90s thanks to Repo Man on VHS. As many of you know, there was a Modern Lovers song on the soundtrack and I fell in love with it instantly.
That was a long time ago and I have never stopped being a fan. So I am sure you can imagine how stoked I am to have been given the opportunity to review Richman’s latest release titled Ishkode! Ishkode!.
I have to admit though, I have been sitting on this review for a few weeks now as I wanted to make sure I said the right words as this artist is so important to me.
So here I am pondering and making a big deal about an album by a guy who has inspired me to be myself. After listening to this album probably for the 100th time, I felt today was the day to share.
Ishkode! Ishkode! dropped last month on Cleveland’s very own Blue Arrow Records. This is Richman’s first release in over six years and was well worth the wait. Assisting Richman on this release was Tommy Larkins, Lisa Marie, Kelly Brown, and a handful of other friends.
Starting off the album was “Woah! How Different We All Are!”, a more underground, beatnik sounding track that had Richman and crew taking a darker approach. Not goofy by any means but certainly something Warhol would have been a fan of.
“Ishkode! Ishkode!” carried the style Richman has presented over and over I have grown to appreciate. I loved when Richman, once warmed up, just went on a mini tangent with some amped up guitar playing.
I heard “Wait! Wait!” last year when Richman dropped a pair of 45s via Blue Arrow Records. This track is so fun it is ridiculous. I hate to repeat myself, so go check out what I said about it previously. I also talk about “O’Sun!” too.
“‘a Nnammurata Mia” which translates to My Beloved, was easily my favorite track off the entire album. I felt like I was on vacation listening to it as Richman swooned me away in Italian and English. Seriously though, Richman displayed himself to me in a new level on this song while blending the two languages so perfectly. It was beautiful.
The love fueled “Let Me Do This Right!” should be the soundtrack for all mantra. Even though it was the quickest song on the album, it was gentle, repetitious, and honest.
“Outside Oduffy’s” just had me smirking the entire time the song played. This was a comical track that just had me visualizing Richman talking to a girl outside of a pub, falling head over heels in 10 minutes. This was Richman storytelling at it’s finest. Having the ladies sing along made it that much better.
“Longtemps” returned back to that vacation feeling I had earlier with the versatile Richman showing his true talent in a different tongue – French to be exact. Originally written by Charles Trenet in 1955, Richman covered it quite well.
Closing the album was “Mother I Give You My Soul Call”, a chant written by Paramahansa Yogananda. It is beyond why Richman chose this song to cover, but it was absolutely captivating to listen to. The sitar playing over the low toned instrument that escapes me at this time (please feel free to help me out here) was calm and relaxing to listen to while Richman recited the chant. This was an incredibly unique listen.
For anyone who is a fan of Richman, listening to this album was an experience of its own. At first, I could not place my finger on some of the tracks and felt Richman was just doing something different because he can, but as I listened more and more, it made sense to me. This album was Richman continuing his legacy as a musician and merely enhanced his talents. It’s a fantastic release.
Head over to Blue Arrow Records to order a copy of Richman’s new album. If you are lucky enough to live in Cleveland, just take some time and visit their brick and mortar store. You will not be disappointed. I always enjoy my visits there and you can just pick up a copy of the LP yourself.
Sometimes a review is tough to start. I find myself sitting here trying to think of how I am going to select the right words to create an introduction to the musician or band that I would like to share with the world.
I find this blog entry particularly a little more difficult to start out with not only because I am a huge fan of the musician of the EPs I am about to talk about, but I am equally a huge fan of the label that has put them out.
Blue Arrow Records is not only a brick and mortar staple in Cleveland thanks to their amazing selection of vinyl, music memorabilia, and other vintage goodies, but they are now a record label.
Makes complete sense to me.
I have been a fan of Blue Arrow since they first set up shop in 2009 and think the world of owners Pete and Debbie. Not only do they run one of my favorite stores in my neck of the woods, but they are also quality humans. I am lucky to know them and was floored when they told me they were going to start their own record label and first on the roster was none other than Jonathan Richman.
I adore all things Richman. Chances are if you are reading this, you might too. If you do not, I highly encourage you to check out anything Modern Lovers or just jump into Richman’s solo material. His style is unforgettable and almost always is in the most upbeat approach. Richman always has seemed to put me in a good mood.
This month, Blue Arrow Records is releasing two 7-inch singles by Jonathan Richman including four songs: “O Sun”, Wait Wait”, “Keith” and “They Showed Me the Door to Bohemia”. These are the first releases by Richman in five years.
I need to pause for a second and let you all know that I have been holding off on reviewing these 7-inches until I could literally just down and spin them endlessly next to me. With luck on my side this past Friday, I was able to set up a listening station of sorts by my desktop with the full intention of listening to these releases and reviewing them.
The 7-inches are both beautifully pressed with “Keith”/”They Showed me the Road to Bohemia” in white (33rpm) and “O Sun”/”Wait Wait” in turquoise with light hints of red (45rpm).
“Keith” paid tribute to the one and only Keith Richards. I loved the line Richman said regarding Keith’s style was “not exactly the blues cause it’s sorta European too.” “The Showed me the Road to Bohemia” was a spoken word jam by Richman that was relaxed yet joyless. Richmond can’t always be a ray of sunshine folks. He is human after all.
“O Sun” carried a more vintage beachfront island sound that I really was not expecting but completely loved. It was nothing too technical and quite repetitive, but mysterious like something you would hear in an old school James Bond movie soundtrack. “Wait Wait” really reminded me of the young Richman post-Modern Lovers I had adored for so many years. Plenty of clapping and good times were thrown in this jam with thanks to Juanramon Jimenez, a poet who Richman claimed “helped me express a feeling.”
I know I tend to tell everyone what I like and honestly, that is the whole premise of this little blog I have been holding onto for a while. If can find just one person out there who has not heard of Richman yet and they turn into a fan, then my job is done. I do this because I want to and there is no other reason.
Both 7-inches only have me excited even more for the full length that Blue Arrow Records aims to release this fall. Until then, you can stop in the shop and pick up both copies or click on the album covers below to place your order today at Blue Arrow Records ($10 each + shipping):
My thoughts about RSD are not as strong as they once were and I blame the greedy (the labels and the flippers). Where I love to see people standing in line to buy limited pressed releases, I feel it has gone too far and has turned into just another way for big business to make their money as well as shady flippers who throw them up on eBay and make a killing (sometimes even before RSD).
There are too many releases to even count this year and honestly, there were only maybe two that I might have raised an eyebrow about. What I am trying to get at was that I wasn’t excited about this year’s RSD offerings. Hopefully not everyone agrees with me and still will be lining up at their favorite local shop next week.
There may not be new pressings coming out that I give a crap about, but there are stores like Blue Arrow Records with tons of old and previously loved releases that I will happily flip through with hopes of finding a gem.
Don’t dismiss RSD. Remember it is about records, not just the new re-re-re-repressings on an 138 gram glitter-gold pressing with hologram download cards. Go out and support your local record store and find something that you can call your own.