Twist the Lens - The Pedaljets (Electric Moth Rcords)
The Pedaljets are Midwestern rock veterans who formed in Kansas City in 1984. In 2020 they’re still in Kansas, at least for recording purposes. This album was produced in Shawnee, KS by their former guitarist Paul Malinowski and he did a great job. It leaps out at you. They sound as modern as tomorrow and as rock as they ever did, but with some welcome twists and turns along the way.
As contemporaries and tour partners of the top level of '80s US alternative bands – The Replacements, Husker Du, The Flaming Lips – they put out a couple of albums and did a lot of touring. Somehow they didn’t break through to that R.E.M. next level, and pulled the pin out of frustration. Two decades later they returned to the studio and have released a couple of albums in the last 10 years, including this absolute belter.
Tune Out Switch Off Drop In - The Routes (Groovie Records)
Echo, vibrato, tremelo, retro-a-go-go. The Routes aren’t afraid to wear their influences on their paisley sleeves. From Nuggets-style garage and psych, to surf and swamp, this Japan-based act tread a well-trodden route (sorry!) but they do it with substance and style.
Formed by expat Scotsman Chris Jack and based in Hita City in the mountains of Oita prefecture, The Routes have been making music since 2006 with a variety of line-ups. Jack remains the one constant, and on this album he handles vocals, guitar, bass and organ, leaving the drums to Bryan Styles. “Tune Out Switch Off Drop In” is their seventh album, released on Groovie Records in late December 2019.
The CD version boasts four bonus tracks from their 2018 EP “Driving Round In Circles”, featuring Shinichi Nakayama on drums. I hope I’m not being insulting to either drummer when I say it’s hard to spot much difference – they’re both solid and match their tempos to Jack’s tunes. The downside of including the EP is that the CD becomes a 14-track effort and that stretches things a little further than necessary.
The Third Mind - The Third Mind (Yep Roc)
The way Dave Alvin tells the story, the musical modus operandi was derived from a Miles Davis biography that described the jazz giant’s approach to studio improvisation. In short: pick a key, hit a groove and play without rehearsing. The title and band name (I think) have been swiped from a William Burroughs book.
“The Third Mind” (the album) is six long songs, comprising one original and five covers originally made by US underground luminaries of the ’60s - Alice Coltrane, Michael Bloomfield, Fred Neil and Roky Erickson. The Third Mind (the band) is guitarist Alvin (The Blasters) and bassist Victor Krummenacher (Camper Van Beethoven, Cracker, Monks of Doom), guitarist David Immergluck (Counting Crows, Monks of Doom, John Hiatt), and drummer Michael Jerome (Richard Thompson, Better Than Ezra.)
Mars - The Venus Fly Trap (Glass Modern)
It’s Not a Competition But I Win! – Lucy (Lucy)
El Bendito Y El Maldito - Horse Feathers (Polar Bear Records)
Yesterday Repeating - The Smart Folk (Self-Released)
The Venus Fly Trap? Never heard of them.
On investigating a little on the Interwebs, it seems that not only have I heard of them, I’ve probably heard them, but forgotten them.
Well, it was about 30 years ago, back when the UK was still reeling in the bass-centric aftershock of bands like Killing Joke, the Fall and the Gang of Four, but more importantly, the Second Australian Wave (you know, The Birthday Party, the Moodists...).
Let’s not forget the impact of The Scientists either... Certainly the Jesus and Mary Chain were heavily influenced by the BP and Kim Salmon’s mob of hairy ruffians; the JMC emerged, screaming like babies with diaper rash, in 1983. Also, around 1986 Big Black were making an impact on the UK (which would lead to a short-lived “subgenre” the UK inkies dubbed “arsequake”; there was another daftly-termed subgenre as well but you get the idea).
Electric Junk - Jeff Dahl (Iwannabeahoople Records/Ghost Highway Recordings)
Say what you like, but Jeff Dahl ruled the punk rock roost for many of us in the 1980s and ‘90s. Working with Cheetah Chrome, Stiv Bators, Poison Idea and spending time in Angry Samoans, he churned out a prolific stream of Stoogesque and glam-splattered albums under his own name, firstly out of Los Angeles and then from a ranch in the Colorado desert.
Dahl also edited the coolest zine in the world (“Sonic Iguana”) and mentored many like-minded bands. No matter that he played shows only rarely in his home country. Jeff toured Europe and Japan and kept the Real Rock and Roll torch alight. After relocating to Hawaii and taking a decade-long hiatus, Jeff Dahl spat out the formidable “Made in Hawaii” album in 2017. “Electric Junk” arrived in late 2019.
1979 - Motorhead (BMG)
You all know who Motorhead are. You may dig them, you may not – although I can’t fathom how any true rock fan couldn’t. For mine, there has never been a more authentic, hard-hitting, long-lasting, and utterly committed rock band. Frontman Ian “Lemmy” Kilmister frequently opined that they were simply than the dirtiest rock and roll band on the planet, disagreeing with the oft-applied heavy metal label.
As a teenager in the '80s they were definitely metal to me – they were louder, faster, and grittier than anyone else – but with the benefit of hindsight, I understand why he proclaimed: “We Are Motorhead – And We Play Rock And Roll” at the start of every gig for their last few decades. Having said that, without doubt they inspired generations of metal bands, as well as many in other genres.