Archive for July, 2015

After Ben Weasel and Dan Vapid, Dr. Frank (From the Mr. T Experience) is the second (or third) artist that will get a double dip Pop Punk Pick with his first solo album Show Business is My Life. The first Dr. Frank pick was MTX’s Revenge Is Sweet and So Are You. After that album, MTX went in a different direction with the album Alcatraz in an Alternative Rock and more Psychedelic 60’s path. After that, Dr. Frank put out his first solo album, that I’m going to talk about in this pick! His second solo record Eight Little Songs was released in 2003; the MTX EP “The Miracle of Shame” was released in the middle of the solo records. A lot of the songs on Eight Little Songs were also included on the last MTX album Yesterday Rules. The songs were a bit more folk-y than his previous records and Yesterday Rules is definitely underrated. A lot of Dr. Frank’s other solo stuff are songs accompanying his literary works, like the songs from King Dork (“I Wanna Ramone You”, the song “King Dork” was released before the book), Andromeda Klein (“Andromeda Klein”) and the most recent King Dork Approximately(“King Dork Approximately”; I love Bob Dylan references!). His books are really good and I read the latter earlier this year and I highly recommend it for those that likes Dr. Frank’s music and enjoyed the first one. Sam Hellerman is a genius.

Show Business Is My Life was released on May 4, 1999 (May the fourth be with you!) on Lookout records. The album cover is red with the title and artist written in two different white fonts. The cover also features Frank with a somewhat weird look on his face. Dr. Frank is on the album backed by the San Francisco Rock n’ roll band The Hi-fives and it gives the album a Garage Rock feel to it as well as the acoustic or experimental only Dr. Frank songs. I didn’t really hear the album before 2012 and it quickly became a favorite of mine and I think it’s one of his strongest works lyrically. Something I will try to do is to narrate songs that aren’t really narrated by Frank or the protagonist.
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1. “She Turned Out to Be Crazy”: The first song on the album is a really Garage rock-y track called “She Turned Out to Be Crazy”. The song is three stories of three ladies that the narrator claims are crazy. Each lady gets a different verse. The first verse is about Justine (who was seventeen): this verse describes a high school romance where the two get drunk before her next class. She is crazy because she calls him and follows him; her dad is also police officer. The last line of the first chorus is “She turned out to be crazy, I turned out to be mad”. The second verse is about Marie (who is twenty-three, according to her) and she wants the narrator to buy her friends beer. This ends in the two getting married (the narrator and Marie), unfortunately for the narrator “now she owns half my ass”. The narrator regrets the marriage and think it would’ve been better to have gotten tattooed. The last line of the chorus is “She turned out to be crazy, I turned out to be screwed”. The last verse is about Eleanor (who is 34) who is married to a husband she wants the narrator to kill or punch out. I guess out of all the ladies in this song, she is the most obviously crazy. The narrator tries to do it, but he doesn’t seem like the hardest hitter and they end up back together and her husband presses charges against the narrator. The last line of the song is “She turned out to be crazy, I turned out to be stuck”.

2. “I Made You So I Can Break You”: The second song is Frank alone with an electric guitar. This is music at his finest. One could say Frank isn’t the best singer, but the falsetto in “I Made You so I Can Break You” is beautiful. I’ve always found the music in this song so wonderful that I never thought much of the lyrics. Lately, I’ve realized that the lyrics are great too! The expression “first comes knowledge, then comes doubt” always gives me chills down my spine. The song is about promises, the “you” in the title is the promise. If you’ve made the promise, you can break it!

3. “Knock Knock (Please Let Me In): The third song is basically a “knock knock Joke” in song form, with verses describing someone who wants to be let back into the house by their Ex. The song is in more of a Pop/Rock style. The first verse/joke the person is “Ivan” and after the “Ivan who?” and continues: “I’ve been thinking about the way it was before you kicked me out”, the next “Yuri”: and continues: “You remember all the screwy people that we used to know”, the next “Dwayne” and continues: “The rain is falling down on me”. The next is “Sandy” and continues “San Diego and Los Angeles could fall into the sea”. There’s also a “Blonde joke” in there: “How many blondes does it take/to make me recall all that’s at stake?/two: one to remind me of you, /two to remind me of you, too.» This could be a reference to beer. The bridge goes: “A ball and chain can be such a crutch/Who would’ve thought I would miss it that much?” which reminds me of Masked intruder’s “25 to Life” as well as Bob Dylan’s “Ballad in Plain D”, that it could be inspired by, because they all associate love with prison. I think this is my least favorite song on the album.

4. “Suicide Watch”: Is a more Folk-y song than the others. The song is about the obvious: someone being on suicide watch and the protagonist is their suicide watcher who is in love with the suicidal person and it’s most likely their significant other. The second verse starts: “I’ve been here before/It’s the only time I ever see you anymore”. The song uses the rhyme “I can see your shifty eyes/your 51/50 eyes”, 51/50 is police code for crazy. There’s something completely vulnerable about the “ah na na na na na”’s. This is maybe the first really depressing song by Dr. Frank.

5. “Bitter Homes and Gardens”: The next song is maybe even more depressing. The song describes break-up and heartache like most songs written in the world. It’s still the same punny and clever Doctor, but in this song you can almost feel sadness in his singing. The song seems to be about a post-break up loneliness. I feel like every line in the song is significant and irreplaceable, but the best one is maybe “It’s not the wishing I was dead that’s killing me” or “Now I’m waiting for the other shoe to fall/In this gloomy dream that used to seem so beautiful”. The song title is a pun on the American home magazine “Better Homes and Gardens”, this also creates a contrast, not only between the two adjectives, but also between the emotion the song expresses. I just recently came aware of the magazine, so I never got the title before now. Still, it has always struck a chord in me. The music is somewhat ballad-y, it’s a slow song even if it’s backed by the band. The Hard Day’s Night era Beatles solo is great too!

6. “She All Right”: Is a short little song. And to be such a cute, short little song, it’s got hell of a lot of words. The song is another acoustic track, but way more upbeat than “Suicide Watch”. It’s almost like a children’s song, even if it’s filled with sexual innuendos. And even if it’s pretty straight forward, it’s still maybe the most subtle song on the album yet. Best line: “Here she comes ain’t she cute? All dressed up like a prostitute”

7. “Ask Beth”: Another Garage rock number is “Ask Beth”: it sounds like a song straight out of American 60’s suburbia with its organ. It also sounds a bit like that Caesars’ “Jerk it Out”(weird name for a song), even if it came out two or three years later. I think the song is based on Elisabeth Winship’s column in The Boston Globe called “Ask Beth”. “Ask Beth” was an advice column for teenagers from 1963 to 2007. I think the song could be seen in one way, that the protagonist wants his Ex -girlfriend to ask “Ask Beth” for advice on why their relationship failed, or Beth is his girl and everyone else should ask her why their relationship failed and the reference to the column is just a clever Dr. Frankism. The bridge might be my favorite part:

“These are the best years of our lives
and if one of us survives
he or she will refer to how wonderful they were
but for now I just don’t know”

8 “Population Us”: The eight song “Population Us” is a beautiful little love song. It starts off with the line “It’s a great big world, but all I want is you”. There is both an acoustic and an electric guitar in the song. There’s a chord playing acoustic guitar and a Billy Bragg-style electric guitar in the background. The song expresses discontent with the world at large, and the protagonist wants to be completely alone with their mate. The choruses are all nouns ending with the suffix “-tion” and usually rhymes with “Population”. The protagonist wants total privacy with their significant other and other people will just be the third wheel or there to bring the lovebirds their tea, but the protagonist declares: “I’d do without, that’s what love is all about”. My favorite line is:

“there’s only one way I can see (oh yeah)
how to get from A to B (oh yeah)
it’s true you gotta start with A
but baby B’s not far away (oh yeah)”

My favorite song on the album! One of Dr. Frank’s best ever.

9. “Thinking of You”: Is another short track. It’s played with a guitar effect that makes it sound like a toy-instruments and this song is only Frank as well. Lyrically, the song is about thinking of someone, obviously. The narrator has gone from a place where thinking of the other person has gone from being the only thing that got them by into the mess they’ve become in this song, staring into space, cursing everyone and holding their beer glass too tight. I feel like it’s a nice little transition from “Population Us” to “I’m in Love with What’s-Her-Name”.

10. “I’m in Love with What’s-Her-Name”: “Ask Beth” and “She Turned out to Be Crazy” sure as hell weren’t the only Garage rock songs on the album! And good is that, because “I’m in Love with What’s-Her-Name” is a great one too! It’s a classic love story, two people in love. We never get to know the protagonist name like usual, but we don’t get to hear what his lady’s name is either, she’s just “What’s-Her-Name”, and this was before the Green day song. What’s-His-Name claims he is burning like a Duraflame (a fire log, apparently) and that he is in love with What’s-Her-Name. What’s-Her-Name and What’s-His-Name are now a married couple that sees the world as theirs to confuse and they spend hours “cultivating controversial views”, and isn’t that romantic? The end seems a lot more sexual and dedicated to their genital organs. Organs are important for humans! And also for this song. Organs are essential for the Garage numbers on this album! Now I can’t even tell if there’s an organ on this song, maybe I’ve been wrong all along… I just wanted to make that organ pun!

11. “Two Martinis From Now”: This lovely little song tells the story of someone drinking! Presumably, the same person drinking in “Thinking of You”. The first verse is at 1 o’clock; it’s not said whether it is AM or PM, but PM would maybe make the song a bit more depressing. The person is drinking because of a failed relationship and can’t remember who left who or when it happened. The first drink that’s being had is beer, it seems and then there’s coming up Gin and Tonic and a Blue Hawaiian. When it’s two a clock the person can’t handle another Gimlet, which I found out is Gin and Juice, but a Whiskey and Rye is fine! Heartbreak and drunkenness is kicking in, now the only thing to do is pray! But that’s after half a Manhattan and after that the person is praying the Lord’s prayer and gets a Bloody Mary. I think this is a pun on “Hail Mary”. Then there’s always a fifth of Bourbon. When it’s three o’ clock the person wonders how many teardrops it will be before they collapse and have forgotten the person they are thinking of. The person drinking is now four White Russians behind and feels a Jim Bean shining! The music is kind of relaxed catchy Pop music and it has a guitar solo, which before Dr. Frank yells: “Watch me now!” The cheery tone to the otherwise depressing song is a strange blend. This is also one of the songs on the album with female back-up vocals. I’m not sure how things are going to go, all I know, is the person in the song will probably feel like hell the next morning.

12. “Sad, Sad Shadow”: Is a type of song we don’t hear much from the Doctor. The song does not have that many words in it. The title of the song is pretty much depressing, but the sadness doesn’t stop there. The song doesn’t even have the self-deprecating humor, classic puns and hope in the end of the tunnel that we’re used to in Frank’s saddest songs. The melody and the lyrics are just really sad, and I must say I like it! From the man who gave us “Even Hitler Had a Girlfriend”:

“It’s not the way it’s supposed to be I guess
but I can’t imagine otherwise I must confess
tell me why I’m so full of emptiness
and sad, sad shadow”

13. “This Isn’t About You Anymore”: The last song on the album is also quite different than the rest of Mr. Portman’s catalogue, musically. The song has a Boss nova feel to it and the drums in the chorus sound electric. When I first heard the song I was somewhat baffled about what I was listening, but I also liked it a lot and at that time, it was my favorite song on the album. Lyrically, the Doctor is back to being the Doctor. The puns and cleverness is back. In a lot of ways I think the song’s lyric and melody echoes “I Don’t Need You Now” from Revenge Is Sweet as it is about getting over someone that broke your heart. The first verse the protagonist is over the person who broke their heart, but there’s still a big fat hole in their heart, but “I don’t intend to make it a trend”. The second verse someone else seems to have broken the protagonist heart and this heartbreak is echoed by the heartbreaker in the first verse, but this person has gone down on the heartbreak hierarchy. This also could be seen in “I Don’t Need You” (“You’re moving to the bottom of a pretty long list”). In “This Isn’t About You Anymore” the heartbreaker has become a “footnote to somebody else’s footnote, in a book no one ever wrote” and “out of print”. In the last chorus, the protagonist declares that the heartbreaker will always be a part of them and their legacy won’t fade, but still it’s not about them anymore.
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I love this album and I find it hard to find a way to describe the whole album as one. I can’t find a chronology in it like in Revenge Is Sweet, but still the underlying theme is failed relationships, like in most of Doctor Frank’s songs. One thing I’ve noticed though is that about every other song is Dr. Frank solo and the others are with the full band and the album explores several different genres while still keeping the Doctor Frank ethos to some degree. The next Pop Punk Pick is Teen idols’ Full Leather Jacket.

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I Want to Grow Up cover art

I must admit, I hadn’t really paid much attention to Colleen Green in the past (minus a song or two), and even now after checking out the older records, I’m a little nonplussed; they are fine, I guess, but too lo-fi and monotone for my taste. However, since discovering the new one I Want to Grow Up (I can’t resist a Descendents reference), I find I can listen to little else. The production has upped several notches since the older material: clear, crisp, but not over-produced. It suits Colleen’s poppy indie style perfectly, where it was masked a little under the lo-fi reverb previously. She has a brilliant sense of melody, mixing ‘60s girl pop with ‘90s indie, fitting in well next to label mates Tacocat. This record is full of catchy, timeless buzz-pop, the kind of which would have probably been radio hits 40 years ago. I am at the point where I don’t understand how you can’t like this record.

So, it’s just a bit catchy, yeah? You can listen to Masked Intruder for that, right? Why bother? Well, the deeply personal and affecting nature of the lyrical themes bring it to a whole new level. The theme is pretty obvious with the title of the record: Colleen wants to grow up. She wants out of that extended adolescent phase that is all too comfortable to stay in and that Houseboat have been singing about for years. The opening title track is the only one which deals directly with wanting to grow up, but all the other songs on the record fit in with a loose overall theme of change. This is ultimately a record about self-improvement: Colleen sings about wanting to stop doing “things that are bad for me”, trying to improve concentration levels (“Pay Attention”) and wondering if her guy will ever stop being the “Wild One”. The most stripped-down, bare and confessional tracks on the album is most definitely the 6 minute-plus “Deeper Than Love”, which has Colleen detailing her most profound fears, and is kind of heart-breaking:

“Cos I’m shitty and I’m lame and I’m dumb and I’m a bore
And once you get to know me you won’t love me anymore
And that possibility worries me the most
Not harm or abuse or becoming a ghost
It’s the closeness, the intimacy
I’m afraid, it might kill me”

It is this frankness and openness which makes Colleen Green stand out. You kind of fear that this intense self-examination may become overly negative and critical, but Colleen offers hope on the outstanding final track “Whatever I Want”, an empowering call-to-arms. All the fears and doubts that Colleen highlights on the rest of the album are kind of brushed aside: I can do this; in fact I can do “whatever I want”. Colleen puts it simply: “The world I live in’s a design of my own/ Don’t have to be scared no more”. Whether this is a mere moment of hope, and she reverts back to the doubts of “Deeper Than Love”, or if it is something longer-lasting is unknown, but “Whatever I want” makes for one of the best closing tracks in recent years. It is almost enough to make you want to grow up.

DB

Listen here: https://colleengreen.bandcamp.com/album/i-want-to-grow-up

Having It All cover art

There is a complexity and density to Annabel’s sound on their 3rd full length Having It All, which manages to contrast well with the earnestness and straightforwardness of their lyrics. As with other contemporary Midwestern emo bands, Annabel offer a sound which is layered, passionate and full of jangly guitars and whiny vocals. The band alternates between explosive, high energy emotional indie rock, such as on album highlight “Having It All” or “Everything”, and slower, ballad-y, introspective acoustic numbers, like with the haunting “Days in Between” or “Years and Years”. Such diversity keeps Having It All interesting throughout and allows a decent vocal range. 5 minute long album closer “Nothing Gets Away” pulls everything together and works as a one-off ‘epic’ moment.

So far, so typical Midwestern emo? Yes, and no. For one thing, I think Annabel are much better than 90% of their contemporaries doing this sound; they are generally more cohesive, intricate, diverse and, well, interesting. For another thing, the lyrics are really refreshing. Compared to the density and opaqueness of poetic, traditional emo, Annabel are raw, earnest and sort-of confessional in their approach. They put their raw emotions on the line throughout and offer something different as a result. The most hard-hitting, personally, was an insight into sentimental nostalgia on “Days In Between”: “It’s always fun while it lasts/ But there’s not always a next time”, followed by a frank “I miss everything”. But it’s not all emo gloom, and later in the record, Annabel dissect self-improvement on the fantastic “Ex-Introvert”: “I might discover a new side of me/ Think I might be starting to be who I’ve always hoped to be”. These are just a couple of examples of what is a dense, emotional examination of Annabel’s hopes, fears, doubts. It takes a little while to dig beneath the surface of the complexity of Having It All, but it is well worth it when you get there.

DB

Listen here: https://annabel.bandcamp.com/album/having-it-all

Dwayne ( self titled ) cover art

Dwayne are a kind of supergroup, comprising of band members who have all served in various other underground punk rock bands for a number of years, including Chris Fogall of The Gamits. So, a bit like Houseboat. Except, unlike Houseboat, I don’t really know any of the other bands the members have been in (apart from The Gamits, of course). It’s enough to make someone feel a little out of touch. But alas, maybe I’m not so au fait with the punk underground scene as I think, rather just ‘what I know’, i.e. I will just follow ex- Ergs or Steinways members new bands or whatever.

Anyway, Dwayne! This, their first s/t lp, is…alright. I know, it’s partly because Chris’s vocals are so distinctive, but this album sounds like it could be a Gamits record in some ways. With an exception or two, Dwayne play mainly mid or slow-tempo melodic punk rock, reminiscent of Alkaline Trio. Dwayne have similar dark, haunting melodies to the ‘Trio, as well as a fairly standard 1-2-3-4 punk rock songwriting style. Songs like “I’ma Goin’ to Hell” only adds to the gothic underpinning to what is otherwise a straightforward melodic punk rock record. There are acoustic moments where Dwayne try to go down the ‘country-tinged punk’ route, like The Tim Version or something, such as “Catch and Release”, which works ok to an extent, but you wouldn’t want to hear any more than a song or two in this style. “My Own Invention” is the most obviously ‘90s song on the record, sounding like it could have come straight from the grunge era. I guess the songs I appreciate the most are those which are the poppiest (surprise surprise) and most Green Day/Alk Trio- like, such as “Joey Got Dumped” or “Morning After Song”. If I was doing something as lame as rating, I would give this a solid 6/10. But we’re not, so we’ll say that this is…alright.

DB

Listen here: https://dwayne1.bandcamp.com/album/dwayne-self-titled

Frames cover art

Teenage Gluesniffers are a Pop Punk band from Milan, Italy. The country of The Manges, Latte+ and the Veterans. It seems this Southern European country is a utopia for Ramonescore bands, who tend to be experts on the genre! I’m assuming Teenage Gluesniffers took their name from the brilliant Queers song penned by Ben Weasel. I’ve heard the band’s name for years, but haven’t really checked them out. “Frames” is following up their mini-album Chinese Demography, which is a brilliant title! The cover art on “Frames” is goofy, and fits the sound of the band. The EP starts with the by far best song on the EP; “Brand New Day”; at first I thought I was listening to Lit! The intro sounds like it could’ve been straight out of A place in the Sun. The chorus is catchy! And it’s a great song. The rest of the EP gets a bit repetitive and I think it’s hard to tell the songs apart. “The Raven” is the longest and least inspirational song on the EP, and the chorus is reminiscent of 2000’s MTV Pop Punk. The song is a reference to the poem by Edgar Allan Poe, and there’s a spoken word middle where the poem is being read, which I enjoy ! “Back from Pasalacqua”, the follow-up to the Green day’s wonderful, “Going to Pasalacqua”, but it definitely falls short of the Green day song, which to be fair, is a fantastic song.

Something I enjoy a lot about this band is their titles; “Peabody Award Shithead Trophy” is a great one, which is followed by a hidden track. The hidden track is a cover of the Ramones song “Something to Believe In”, which I would say isn’t the best Ramones song. The synth in this cover is really good though, and I guess I would’ve loved to hear more of that in the rest of the EP. The Production is sweet and in spite of the vocals being a bit low, I love the way they are panned. The musical performance is stellar, with a few exceptions; the vocals aren’t always great, but that’s Pop Punk’s charm!! The drums on the albums are particularly awesome. I think the singer sounds a bit like Will DeNiro from the Zatopeks. The band also reminds me of the Buzzcocks at times. I really like “Brand New Day”, but I do think Teenage Gluesniffers fall short of their compatriots, the Manges and Latte+.

RH

Listen here: http://teenagegluesniffers.bandcamp.com/album/frames

Nothing At All EP cover art

Radiohearts play a mixture of Power Pop, Pop Punk and the old school 70’s punk we all know and love! They are inspired by Buzzcocks, the Rezillos, The Boys and the Jam, as well as Elvis Costello. This means, that they of course sound very British, even if they are from Long Beach, California. The band name is so-so, we already have Radiohead, how many anatomical words can you put “radio” in front of, what’s next? Radiofoot? Radiospine? Radioprostate? Oh well. The EP is their second, I believe; their first release was “No Reaction”. “Nothing at All” is a 4 track Ep and it starts with the title track, it’s a quick and short opener, only clocking in on 1 minute and 18 seconds. I think the best songs are the last one, “It Don’t Matter” and, the second one, “Heart of Mine”; the latter being a fucking great song! The chorus is contagious and the tambourine is tremendous. I feel like this is a song I will listen to a lot in the future, and it’s the best song I’ve heard in a very long time. Sometimes it just randomly pops up in my head. I definitely hear the early Buzzcocks influence. As well as the bands the band themselves claim to be influenced by they remind me of 999 and the Vibrators. Visually, the cover art looks cool, but I don’t know if it’s fitting to the band’s sound and I don’t think this is what I would’ve expected from the cover. The EP is well played, the melodies are soothing and the production is appropriate. As said, there are only four songs, and it really leaves me wanting more and I’m really excited to hear what they will produce in the future.

RH

Listen here: http://radiohearts.bandcamp.com/