Redd Kross – Researching the Blues – Merge Records
Channeling the majesty of arena rock, but elegantly never crossing the line to schlock, Redd Kross’ return to recording after a 15 year absence is indisputably one of the finest albums of the year. Evoking the visceral excitement which made 70’s rock hits like Cheap Trick’s “Dream Police” worthy of clutching your transistor to your heart, the McDonald brothers strut their songwriting mastery on “Researching The Blues” by stuffing it with heavy, hook-laden, addictive tracks like “Uglier,” “You Better Stay Away From Downtown,” and “The Nu Temptations,” while on charmers like “Hazel Eyes,” “One of the Good Ones,” and “Meet Frankenstein” band revisits the sunshine supernova sound of their classic releases “Neurotica” and “Third Eye.” All in all, “Researching the Blues” is a perfect return to form. Welcome back Redd Kross. Next time, don’t stay away so long.
The Electric Mess – Falling off The Face of The Earth – Groovie Records
In a Boston nightclub, on an otherwise typical Friday night, The Electric Mess proved to me and a room full of pleasantly stunned patrons, that sometimes it IS worth showing up in time for the opener. Delivering an exacting set that had everyone up on their feet, the band thrashed out a soulful 40 minutes that would have done The 13th Floor Elevators proud; laced with piercing Farfisa, twanging guitars, a hip twitching rhythm section and a howling, if not mysteriously intersexed, singer (“is it a boy or girl?” many in the audience mused – we’ll never tell). On their sophomore release, these NYC upstarts show their prowess for creating an acid flashback you’ll be eager to relive time and time again, and establish they’re some of fiercest cats to prowl out of the psychedelic garage yet.
The New Christy Minstrels – “A Retrospective 1962-1970” – Real Gone Music
It’s embarrassing to trace my fascination with The New Christy Minstrels via the film “A Mighty Wind”, where the folksy and relentlessly cheerful band is mercilessly parodied as The New Main Street Singers. Call me a sugar junkie, but when I hear musical cotton candy like this, I want more; And more is what ‘A Retrospective 1962-1970’ has to offer. From epically unthreatening vocal hits like “Green Green” and “Saturday Night,” to saccharine standards like “This Land is Your Land” and “Chim-Chim-Cher-ee,” the harmonies couldn’t be closer, and lyrics couldn’t be more earnest. Pass the insulin I’m going in for more! The surprise treasures of the collection hit when the band slow it down on late tracks like the winsome “Door Into Tomorrow,” go psychedelic when covering “Girl From Ipanema,” and kick up their heels on “You Need Someone To Love” and “High Flyin’ Bird.”
The Toy Dolls – “The Album After The Last One” – King Midas
The Toy Dolls have always been able to hit the comedy-punk thing right on the money – hilarious but not goofy, clever but not precious, and surprisingly, never so abrasive you’d be in trouble if your parents (or kids, as the case may now be) overheard. If anything, during their time on the planet they’ve made a career out of making feel good energetic tunes that are the very essence of fun. On their newest disc, the distinctive voice of singer Olga returns with new recruits Tommy Goober and The Amazing Mr. Duncan to lay down a baker’s dozen plus of chunky, sing-along, machine gun punk rock anthems, including ones that tackle topics close to an aging rocker’s heart like “Sciatica Sucks” and “Credit Crunch Christmas.” Happily, we’re laughing with them.
Laibach – “An Introduction to Laibach” – Mute
Before there was Rammstein or Marilyn Manson, there was one band in the ‘80s and ‘90s that terrified us all, Laibach. And with their new retrospective, the good folks at Mute give us a moment to relive the hits of Ljubljana’s greatest (only?) musical export.
Focusing primarily on the band’s legacy of brutal, Teutonic covers of popular tunes including The Beatles’ “Get Back”, Europe’s ”The Final Countdown”, and new wave classic “Warme Lederhaut” (The Normal’s “Warm Leatherette”), Laibach easily demonstrate how rebuilding each song from the ground up – and infusing them with a dark, twisted metal edge – can make otherwise lightweight singles like Queen’s “One Vision” into something that answers the question “what is on Leni Riefenstahl’s IPod right now?” Recommended as the perfect holiday gift to contaminate the mind of your teenaged niece or nephew, or scare the piss out of their parents.