Monday, October 3, 2011

Revenge of the Quick Ripple Bursts - Vinyl Punk Edition; Featuring Fonzarelli, Luther, Restorations, Tin Armor, and Sharks Come Cruising

Fonzarelli – Last Chance Summer Dance

Tsurumi Records keeps on expanding and keeps on releasing one quality punk release after the next.  Spinning on the turntable today, in beautiful royal blue wax, is their latest Jack Endino produced platter, Fonzarelli, and their debut Last Chance Summer Dance.  And let me say, this definitely won’t be Fonzarelli’s last chance.  Packing in more hooks than you could find at a bass fishing tournament, and marrying those hooks to Endino’s punchy production, Last Chance Summer Dance is a glorious celebration of pop punk in all it’s snotty glory.  “Halfway Dead” is simply a gem of the genre while “Defenseless” is a boppy punk party.  But before you think you can pigeonhole these guys as post-Green Day popsters, they unleash a manic frenzy of “Japanese Rock” on you and you quickly realize that their punk muse ain’t afraid to experiment and play. 

Vocals are a touch on the whiny side for me, but that’s my only minor complaint, and in truth, when they marry their touch of snot to a song with the skill and chops like “Baby Me Too,” I realize that things really are just perfect.  Pop punk perfect.  Like all Tsurumi releases, a full CD of the album is included inside, and the package is first-class all the way.  Can’t wait to see what they comes out with next.

 Tsurumi Fonzarelli page

Luther – Siblings & Sevens

Black Numbers is another upstart punk label, --like Tsurumi—that has captured my attention with quality alt-punk releases like the sensational PJ Bond release last year.  Luther is their latest find, a quartet from Philadelphia, and let’s cut to chase; Black Numbers keeps their winning streak alive.   Back in my old radio days, The Replacements burst from out of nowhere, ramrodding the intensity of punk rock with the sincerity of mid-American roots music, and now Luther picks up the mantle and runs with it.  Starting with a delicate passage of acoustic guitar and vocals, Luther explode into the intensity of their post-hardcore pop fury with chopping guitars and pulverizing rhythm work.  And from there there’s no stopping them.

Replacements earnestness is here in spades, forming the core for a musculature of emo-hardcore and skin of pop hooks.  Never does this sound forced, but purely natural.  Aggression is there but tempered by true songcraft.   Nicely done.

Each song on this 7-song EP satisfies in its own way, without ever sounding repetitive or redundant, but I’ll give a special nod to “There’s Always Money . . . “ with its chugging bass and buzzsaw guitar blitz.  I particularly dig the little hiccups of harmony vocals.  All this and sparkling marbled yellow vinyl to boot.  Worth checking out.

Restorations – S/T

Seems like I’m giving as much love to labels today as I am the bands, and that’s good. Without quality labels, much of this music would never see the light of day.  One thing I love is when a label has shown such a keen eye for talent that I can pick up almost any release and know what to expect.  That’s not to say they all sound the same, but genre’s seem to be understood and quality is expected.  That’s what I get from Tsurumi, Black Numbers, and another punk upstart label, Tiny Engines. 

Last year, I had the pleasure of being introduced to Restorations by way of their debut EP and was immediately drawn to their sound which occupied a niche firmly planted between the aggression of hard core, the earnestness of mid-western roots rock, and the jangly, shoegazing, intelligentsia of indy rock, Restorations sounded unlike any other band I’d heard in quite some time.  With a rough-hewn, leather-bent to the vocals, delicate acoustic guitars, and an impending sense of danger, as if any song could explode at any second.  Now on their debut full-length, Restorations have built upon that base and added a quantum leap in maturity and songwriting to create a rootsy-cum punk- cum shoegazing masterpiece.  Each song plays out like a mini roots punk-gothic epic, unfolding at its own leisurely pace, led in by a gentle strum or languishing pick.  But the danger is always there, hiding, waiting.   Whether or not each song explodes or not isn’t as important as the drama they create, the dark clouds that gather over the wind-swept fields of grain.  The demon about to possess the scarecrow.  Moving, effective stuff.

Tin Armor – Life of Abundance

Toning down the punk side of mid-western aggro pop, Tin Armor instead turn up the alt-country vibe to unleash a panorama of earnest-alt country power pop.  Talk about a step in maturity!  Compared to their last release this is a band that has grown by leaps and bounds, fortunately never leaving their passion behind.Beginning with the piano-led title ballad, Tin Armor waste no time digging into their country roots with the plain-rockin’ “Plain Limbs” and the piano rocker “Inside Days.”  In fact, it’s their liberal use of piano to lead the tracks that makes them stand out from other mid-western post-punk country rockers out there.    None of that is to say that the guitars are missing and don’t contribute to the whole, as they do, like the whole guitar outro to “Inside Days,” but it was the play off the early piano verses that really make that guitar burst stand out.   Dig that jazzy bass-led intro to “Just So I Know It.”  Imagine a fusion of Wilco and Death Cab for Cutie, and you won’t be wrong.  By far my favorite cut on the album.  If that interests you, jump on board.

Seems like there’s an abundance of sincere-roots rockers out there these days, keeping punk ethos alive in new and different ways.  Add Tin Armor to that list, but add them to the top.

Album available for "name your price" at

Sharks Come Cruising – A Past We Forget That We Need to Know

Now, let’s talk about roots!  Recently, Pope and I have been enamored by the Dropkick Murphys side projects like Everybody Out! and Rick Barton and the Shadowblasters, where traditional folk roots get married to the passion of punk with explosive results.  Listening to those albums over and over could never have prepared me for the furious folk-punk eruption of Sharks Come Cruising.

Coming from Newport RI, an old fishing, sailing, and pirating port, SCC take folk punk one step beyond.  Imagine a pirate ship (or merchant ship for that matter) full of sweaty, unbathed, homesick sailors making port, rampaging into the closest local pub, swilling back pints of ale by the barrelfull and erupting into furious song, and you’ll get an idea of SCC’s roots.  This is drinking, run-soaked, lost sailor ditties, revved up and ready to be consumed by a new generation.  Vocals are salt-soaked, whiskey brogued spittles of original ale-swinging classics and old-time, traditional shanties.  Water-soaked floor boards creak and squeak under foot as the sailors proceed to pluck on acoustics, violins, percussion and the occasional squeezebox, singing in gang-unison to their hearts lament. 

And it’s fantastic!  I can only imagine being in a Newport bar while these cats lay the homesick blues down.  You can’t not get drunk to this music.  Even if you’re not drinking, the fumes of ale coming off the lyrics will wrap you up in an intoxicating blend of trad New England sailors folk and immediate punk energy.   I saw that these cats play a few shows with Restorations.  Yep, that’d be a winner.

As for the songs here, no need to point out highlights.  It’s all good.  Just open a bottle of your favorite whatever, grab your best mates, and imagine that glorious return to soil after months out to sea.  Spill your beer, kiss your best girl or the one you’re with, dream of home, and prepare for the months out at sea still to come.

It really is that good. 

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