Link Wray – White Lightning


It always bothers me when I bring in a CD from home to listen to while I work, because I have to listen to it on my computer’s disc player, which doesn’t sound bad, mind you, but I’d rather have it playing on a nice, big stereo system where I could really crank it up. This release, for example, needs to be played LOUD to be fully appreciated. And since I can’t do that without blasting everyone else out of their offices, I’ll try to keep it down low enough to work while I hammer out a short review telling you all to run out and buy this sucker immediately (if not sooner). What the hell am I talking about? Well, if you haven’t figured it out from the cover art pictured above, Nimrod, I’m talking ’bout the fantastic reissue of White Lightning: Lost Cadence Sessions ‘58 from the late, great Link Wray and His Ray Men on Sundazed Music. This is the perfect medicine to take if you’re sick to death of this fucking highly annoying ’80s music revival and sudden appreciation for anything recorded in the era of crappy, soulless (over)production. That’s because this record has TEETH. And those teeth will gnaw and tear at your brain with such primitive ferociousness that you’ll be lucky to come out of this listening party alive, friends. Give Link Wray a Danelectro and listen as he bends, plucks and strums the Devil himself out of them thar strings.

This release came out last August, and I’m just now getting around to reviewing it. So sue me. I’ve decided that there is really no time limit involved with reviewing good records. No expiration date. So don’t be surprised if I throw in an older release now and then when I feel the need to tell the world what I think of a certain release.

Now, about this record. It’s simply splendid. Downright MUST OWN for any true fans of Link Wray. The guitar is loud and up front, crunching, distorted, mean, and nasty. This is rock’n’roll, friends. This LP was originally intended to be the follow-up release to the blockbuster hit, “Rumble,” you know, the only instrumental song in the history of music to be banned from radio airwaves because it was inciting riots (or so they said). This was the late ’50s in the good ol’ US of A, and everyone—Cadence Records label-owner Archie Bleyer included—was talking about this new threat to the morals of the American youth. So they gave Link & Co. the boot and shelved the album, where it sat, collecting dust, for nearly 50 years. That’s where our pals over at Sundazed Music come in, because they were finally able to get the rights to re-release this splendid historical set so all of us HONGRY rock’n’roll connoisseurs could finally sink our own teeth into this thick, meaty platter.

Note: The vinyl LP version of this release is limited to 1,000 copies on numbered, high-definition vinyl. HD vinyl? Yeah, ya got me, but there ya have it!

Here’s a taste (please note these tracks will be removed after a few weeks):

Drag Race (MP3)
Raw-Hide (MP3)
Comanche (MP3)
Rebel Rouser (MP3)

By the way, check out episode #68 of my Savage Kick podcast to hear the excellent title track!

Devil Born Without Horns


I’ve been riding the bus to work lately, which has given me some extra time to do some reading. I just finished a great book that I thought I’d recommend to any pulp/crime fans out there called Devil Born Without Horns. I was really surprised at just how good it actually was… especially for anyone who’s ever had a dead-end job in retail or warehousing (or, even more specifically, the furniture business). I used to be a warehouse manager at a CompUSA store many years ago, and believe me, the author is spot-fucking-ON when it comes to accurately detailing the dysfunctional nature of warehousing and delivery, not to mention just how fucking annoying salespeople and bosses can be. The author, by the way, is Michael Lucas (who has a had a fairly active history of being in some pretty cool bands, such as the Phantom Surfers, Wild Breed, the Pussy Hounds, Poontang Wranglers, the Knights of the New Crusade, and the guy behind Repent Records) and the book is published by his new publishing company, Rudos and Rubes Publishing. I’d give it a big fat thumbs up, or probably about 4 out of 5 stars. Seriously, it was that good.Oh, by the way, he also just published a book of short stories by Johnny Strike (of SF punk pioneers Crime) called A Loud Humming Sound Came From Above, and I started reading that one this morning. So far, so good. There’s info on that one on the Rudos and Rubes site, too.

Dee Rangers – Five Spanish Minutes

The Dee Rangers could be one of the greatest overlooked bands in garage rock today, but why that is is simply beyond me. Maybe it’s because they’re Swedish, and have simply been given the slip because of the success of so many other Swedish rawk’n’roll acts, who knows. I guess it’s a good thing we don’t have to rely on hype to know what’s good, right? Well, some of us don’t, I suppose. The garage freaks in Europe seem to know what’s up, as these guys have been invited to play at some pretty high-profile festivals over the past year or so, including Gearfest in Sweden this past June, the Primitive 2 Dutch International Garage Festival in July, and they’re booked for the Spanish Beat Goes On festival that’s taking place just a couple of weeks from now. And there’s good reason why they’re finally getting this much-deserved exposure. While these guys have been kicking some serious garage-punk ass for quite a while now, accumulating quite an impressive discography of singles on such great labels as Estrus, Rockin’ Bones, and Munster, they haven’t been able to put forth that one really great record that might just push them to the top of the heap… that is, perhaps, until now. Quite frankly,Five Spanish Minutes was one of the best rock’n’roll releases of 2005, yet unfortunately I don’t think many people on this side of the Atlantic even knew about it. In fact, only one person even bothered to list it in the Best Albums of 2005 topic on the message board (go figure). This is simply a fantastic album, and, in this humble reviewer’s opinion, is easily the band’s best to date (the other two being 2002’s So Far Out So Good and 2003’s Pretty Ugly Beat—both on the now defunct White Jazz label). This new LP, which was released towards the tail-end of 2005 on Germany’s Screaming Apple Records, is ripe with organ-driven, hip-shakin’, swingin’ ’60s-flavored garage rock, and the album is not short on great songwriting that includes powerful hooks that make it one of the most memorable LPs I’ve heard in quite some time. But what impressed me most about this album was the band’s obvious departure from the more Fleshtones-influenced sound of their previous records. I don’t know if “matured” is the word I really wanna use here (since maturing in rock’n’roll is usually so closely related to suddenly sucking ass), but it’s clear to me that they’ve really come into their own on this release and have nailed down a sound that is anything but bland or predictable retro-garage. Indeed, it’s records like this that clearly show that this often overly crowded genre still has the potential to produce exciting music that takes the best elements of the past and throws them at ya with enough verocity that you can’t help but be optimistic about the future of garage rock. Let’s just hope that the Dee Rangers continue to be a part of that future. Enjoy the MP3s below. They’re my top picks from Five Spanish Minutes.

Dee Rangers – Hey Girl (MP3)
Dee Rangers – Empty House (MP3)
Dee Rangers – I Miss My Girl (MP3)

The Gentleman Callers – Don’t Say What it Is


The Gentleman Callers finally released their long-awaited debut CD a couple of months ago on Springfield, Missouri’s Wee Rock Records, and it’s an absolute thriller from start to finish! Those of us in the St. Louis area are already well familiar with what these guys are all about, but thanks to this great release, some of the rest of the rock’n’roll world is finally getting hip to their garage prowess as well. Don’t Say What it Is has garnered some great critical acclaim all over the planet, and it’s easy to understand why… it’s simply a great collection of songs that exemplify exactly what The Gentleman Callers are, and that is one of the premier rock’n’roll bands of this decade. Think The Pretty Things or The Yardbirds meet The Greenhornes and you’ve got a pretty good lead on what these twenty-somethings are all about. Danceable, soulful, mid-’60s R&B with plenty of groove and passion. All of the instrumentation (including the snotty, attitude-laden vocals) sound great. The fuzz is there, the Farfisa’s in full effect, and the mix is perfect. It’s got the good warmth of a fine analog recording without sounding “lo-fi” and it’s produced just right without coming off as slick. And quite honestly, there’s not a dud on this disc. And I was happy to see they included a track from their live performance on my radio show (“If You Don’t Want Me to Love You Again”) from October of 2004. A really nice job on a simply essential CD. Can’t wait for their next! Show tonight! That’s right, for those of you in the St. Louis area, you can catch The Gentleman Callers live tonight (Saturday Dec. 10th) at Lemmons on S. Gravois in South St. Louis. This will be the band’s second show with their new man on keys, Seth Porter (from all reports of their show last week at the Creepy Crawl, “they’ve never sounded better” —Bill Streeter, Lo-Fi Saint Louis). Also appearing will be The Jet Set from Milwaukee and also local garage/rockabilly phenoms The Vultures. I’ll be there, how ’bout you? Please enjoy these MP3s from Don’t Say What it Is:

The Gentleman Callers – I’ve Got Mine (MP3)
The Gentleman Callers – Hey Little Girl (MP3)
The Gentleman Callers – If You Want Me to Love You Again [Live on KDHX] (MP3)

Rat Holic – Japanese Surf Trash

For a country that has as much adoration for The Ventures as Japan does, it kind of surprises me that there aren’t more modern Japanese surf bands. When I think of modern Japanese surf bands there are only a handful that come to mind that I’ve heard over the past decade… Jackie & The Cedrics, The (Fabulous) Mach Kung-Fu, The El Caminos, and this new band that I’ve been wanting to write about for a while now, Rat Holic. But then again, maybe there are more that we just don’t know about. In fact, that probably is the case. Unfortunately it’s very difficult to find Japanese releases here in the US, even a relatively popular band (mainly due to their inclusion in Kill Bill) like The’s (who’ve also been known to play a few surf-instros). The only domestic distributor of Japanese stuff that I know of is Nice & Neat Records based out of Minneapolis (does anyone know of any others?). But the only reason I know anything about Rat Holic, in fact, is because a domestic garage/surf label (Double Crown Records) released their Wipe Out With Rat Holic CD here. It also appears that (from the photo on the back of the CD) that four of the five band members are girls! I just wish I could find out more about the band, but the only problem is their website’s in Japanese and doesn’t appear to have any biographical info, anyway. In any event, Rat Holic plays some very nice, fun, trashy surf rock that includes sax and organ in the instrumentation. This isn’t an earth-shakin’ release, but it does happen to be one of the best surf releases of 2005, in my humble opinion, of course. Other reviewers haven’t been as kind as I have in their online assessments of this lo-fi release. In fact, one surf music aficionado by the name of Phil Dirt wrote:

The performances here are very good, and the arrangements fun, but the audio distortion makes listening quite a chore. It sounds like a dub from worn out vinyl with digital distortion induced. Musically, this CD is fun, but sound is so bad that I can not recommend it.

Ha! That’s precisely why I would recommend it! Diff’rent strokes for diff’rent folks, I guess. I’m not sure exactly what he means by “digital distortion induced”… all I’m hearing is plain ol’ guitar overdrive distortion. And the production on this is nowhere near as bad as he’s saying, and listening to it is anything BUT a chore. It’s got the warmth of a good analog recording and probably not the ultra-clean and cold (over-) production values of digital processing that he’s more inclined to like, I suppose. Whateva! Anyway, listen to the MP3s below and decide for yourself.

Rat Holic – (Koi-no) Rat Blues (MP3)
Rat Holic – Fat Rat Surfer (MP3)
Rat Holic – Surfin’ Chihuahua (MP3)

Monsters From the Surf!


Goddamn, I’ve been enjoying this CD way too much lately, so I’ve just gotta post about it. This College Park, Maryland band puts the “F” and “U” in FUN. Here ya have five rockin’ retrodorks mixing up surf and garage party tunes in a way that’ll transport you back to, oh, I dunno, the mid-’90s when this kinda shit was a lot more popular? Something like that. Hell, questioning the timing of this release isn’t what I’m here to do. Nope. This is just a really great self-released CD (sorry, don’t think it’s out on vinyl) and may actually end up making my Top 10 for 2005. Yeah, that’s right, I don’t always like to hype just the bands on record labels. Some of the best ones out there can’t seem to “get signed” at all (or don’t give a rat’s ass about it in the first place). Take Monsters From the Surf, for example. These middle-aged, beer-drinkin’ surf punks seem to be just happy to play stupid, fun rock’n’roll. And they’ve been doing it since, get this… 1985! (They’ve also shared the stage with such greats as Dick Dale, The Slickee Boys, SCOTS, The Swingin’ Neckbreakers, The Untamed Youth, The A-Bones, and The Car Thieves, among others.) And the best thing about all of this is you can tell from the minute you hit the play button that these guys don’t take themselves at all that seriously. No pretenses here, chumps. No overly snobby and boring “musicianship” either. They’re obviously not out to reinvent the wheel, just to see how far they can get it to roll down the hill. The band’s website is a real treat, too. Takes you back to around 1997. Pure “primitive” HTML silliness, with bad animated graphics (dancing hoola girls and bouncing heads, anyone?), outrageous colors, crappy layout, and goofy soundbytes. But what these guys lack in cutting-edge Web design skills they more than make up for in their music, which is just as archaic… BUT THAT’S WHY IT’S GREAT! The songs here range from snotty ’80s-style punk rock (“Cheap Beer,” Hunt Fish,” cover of Supercharger’s “Ice Pick”), beach party romps (“Beach Blanket Bimbo,” “Pajama Party,” “Watusi Underground,” “Bedrock Twitch,” a cover of Redd Cross’ “Annette’s Got the Hits”), cowpunk (“Spurs in Your Face”) to seriously good, reverby instro surf (“Kamehamea,” “Hangman,” “Kamikaze,” “Mr. Gassy”) and garage rock stompers (“Caveman,” “Shake,” “National Bohemian,” and great covers of The Haunted’s “1-2-5” and April March’s “Chick Habit”). Seriously, if there’s one problem this band must be faced with every time they order a keg of Natty Boh before practice, it’s what style they should focus on that particular night. They’re too damned diverse! Pick a style already!! Heh, kidding, of course. These guys can come play for a crowd of a dozen or so people here in St. Louis any day, and I’ll be right up front spraying ’em down with the PBR. Do yourselves a favor and check out their site and order a copy of the CD. You’ll be glad you did…

Monsters From the Surf – Caveman (MP3)
Monsters From the Surf – Beach Blanket Bimbo (MP3)

The Reatards – Not Fucked Enough


If you like your rock’n’roll raw, noisy, and laden with tons of attitude, then you should already be well acquainted with Memphis, Tennessee’s Reatards. I like to think of them as a cross between the Oblivians and the Germs, and that comparison really shines through on this slab o’ wax, especially the third track, “I Won’t Make It.” Earlier this year Jay’s other band, The Lost Sounds, split up for good. Not good news, since I was a big fan of the Lost Sounds, whose noisy concoction of frenetic garage punk meets no-wave meets black metal was one of the freshest and most exciting new sounds to emerge from the rock’n’roll underground in the entire first four years of this decade. But never to be one to just disappear or lay down and quit, Jay is now back in business with his first love, the Reatards, as his full-time gig. Jay formed the Reatards when he was just 16, and they quickly became legends in their own time for their chaotic live shows all over the U.S. and Europe, and relentless, explosive rock’n’roll. Not Fucked Enough rediscovers more tasty vintage Reatards recordings that come as a nice complement to last year’s Bedroom Disasters LP (also on Empty Records). These particular recordings were originally slated as the Reatards’ second full-length release, but that was quickly scrapped when a new lineup was realized with Rich Crook (also of the Lost Sounds, American Death Ray, and the Knaughy Knights) joining on drums and Sean (of The Feelers) on bass. Now the “lost second record” has finally seen the light of day (after being released to a very limited pressing earlier in the year by Shattered Records). You might recognize a few of these songs in different form from Grown Up Wrong or some of Jay’s other projects but something about these recordings sounds as frantic and urgent six years later as the day they were recorded and the record indeed comprises some of the best shit this band has ever done. Supposedly they’ll have a new record out early next year, and I can’t fucking wait. From this release, please enjoy “I Won’t Make It” and “I Like Your Titty.”

The Reatards – I Won’t Make It (MP3)
The Reatards – I Like Your Titty (MP3)

Black Lips – Let it Bloom LP/CD


I’d been anticipating this one for a little while now, ever since it was first rumored that the Black Lips were dumping Bomp in favor of In The Red Records, which seemed like an obvious and very probable pairing dating back to this band’s very beginnings, to be completely honest. And that’s not meant as a knock against Bomp, just that the Black Lips’, um, “sound” is a lot more common—or appropriate, maybe—for the latter, and the fact that these two entities would eventually merge was, well, frankly, a no-brainer. So the new CD finally arrived the other day and I immediately brought it with me to work and put it on for about three or four consecutive hours/rotations (not sure which now, really). But I had to really let this sucker sink in. I knew I owed this band that much respect, after falling in love with their debut album and earlier singles and only liking about half of their sophomore effort, figuring, hell, this’d be the one to really prove to me if they were worth their weight in blood, piss, and puke. And the more I listened, the more it sunk, and the more it sunk so low that it actually took root inside my psyche and indeed started to “Bloom.” Like a goddamned weed (or is that cancer?) it spread throughout my body. The pain in my upper back went away. No heart palpitations either. My spirits rose. I didn’t feel as old or as jaded about the future of rock’n’roll. My feet jumped. My knees knocked together. I didn’t even have to pee. Although I wanted to. This “music” was taking over my body and frightening my coworkers and visibly irritating the construction workers doing work on our building right outside my office door. “Are those crickets?” someone asked. Yeah, I said, nodding my head and grinning from ear to fuckin’ ear. “Those are some really hungry crickets.” I dug a blue Sharpie out of my desk drawer and started doodling, drawing little blue flowers, first on the back of my hand, then on my desktop calendar, and finally on a beer label job I was supposed to be proofing. Whoops. Who needs pain killers when ya got the Black Lips? It’s good for what ails ya. If you don’t think there’s any creativity left in rock’n’roll, you need to own this record. And I mean OWN it. Don’t just play it once, or twice, or even three times. You’ve gotta let it engulf you, mind, body, and motherfuckin’ SPIRIT. Free your mind and your ass will follow, or something to that effect. I’ve read that I’m supposed to hear bands like the Swell Maps, the Swingin’ Medallions, Nick Cave & The Bad Seeds, CCR, and even the Rolling Stones in this mishmash of noise and melody. I don’t hear any of that. But yet I hear all of it. I hear the rhythms and blues of a band of young goofs who don’t care what anyone thinks taking influences ranging from the oft-mentioned Back From the Grave series straight through to the Germs and creating something so new, so fun, so goddamned dangerous and exciting that it really defies any sort of predetermined genre pigeonholing. Is this garage punk? Is it psychedelic? Is it good old-time rock’n’roll? Punk rock? Broken blues? Is it fucked up, chaotic noise? Fuck if I know. You tell me…

The Black Lips – Not a Problem (MP3)
The Black Lips – Workin’ (MP3)

These are just two of the seven songs that I’d say are personal favorites of mine from this album. It was a tough decision picking just a couple to feature here for ya. Hope you get a good idea of what I’m talking about from hearing ’em. If not, pick up the damned record. What’ve ya got to lose other than $10 or $13? Order online from In The Red Records.