No pedal to the metal but hearts on sleeves

twist the lensTwist 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.

The house that Nuggets built

the routesTune 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.

Dave Alvin's supergroup will be on your Mind

the third mindThe 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.)

Three new albums and a re-issue walk into a bar...

venus fly trap  lucy cover
horse feathers yesterday repeating

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).

Finally, a box set worth the bucks

1979 box1979 - 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.

Cooking with gas

Well CookedWell Cooked! - Wild Zeros (Heavy Medication Records)

To say there’s anything new in the rock and roll zoo is simply a crock. Recycling is de rigeur but that doesn't equate to a negative. Dig in the right places and you’ll find stuff to light you up good and proper, even if it's been worked over like a re-birthed Renault. Here’s a case-in-point.

French band Wild Zeros are your basic punk rock trio with a bit of musicality. They proffer a bunch of rough-edged riffs and ragged melodies - in the style of The Devil Dogs and the Streetwalkin' Cheetahs. They don’t do anything especially new, but what they do is good and they make their own mark in their own way.

Jangle-pop near perfection that doesn't wear out its welcome

modern architectureModern Architecture EP - Danny McDonald (Popboomerang Records)

As the former Oscarlima and Jericho frontman, P76 leader and onetime member of Little Murders, Danny McDonald should need no introduction. But if you're curious about on of the most ybderrated purveyors of Aussie guitar pop and want a jumping-in point, his new EP is as good a place as any.

Danny plays guitar and writes pithy, Australian-tinged songs with depth and there are five crackers on "Modern architecture". They range from punky-pop to jangle-rama and are chockfull of melody and fire. McDonald has armed himself with a sterling engine room (Tim Mills on bass and David Klynjans on drums), a stellar vocal partner in Anna Burley (Killjoys) and an ace producer in Craig Pikington.

What Brian Henry Hooper knew

what would i knowWhat Would I Know? - Brian Henry Hooper (Bang! Records)

Brian Henry Hooper was a remarkable man. I first encountered him when he was part of Kim Salmon's band, The Surrealists. I had no idea what to expect, and the huge shattering sound, the big horror-show songs, and Kim's howls backed by two droogies from an abbattoir ... my mouth was flat on the floor. Magnificent.

It was many years later that I met Brian for the first time, more or less by accident at a different gig, when I used a rather unpleasant local term which Brian immediately picked up on - "That's a real Adelaide term, isn't it?" Brian was always interested in the world around him - I recall him also relating how beautiful Adelaide was as the aircraft came in to land ... come in the right way to land, I suppose, and even ...no, that's not right. I knew what he meant, the place can be damned pretty.

No, really. Brian liked Adelaide.

Love, invisibility and vomit in the span of three albums

loveandevolLØVE & EVØL - Boris (Third Man Records) 
Invisible You - JP Shilo (Ghost Train Records) 
Fortuna Horribilis - Vomit of the Universe (The Artist)

ANTI-RAMONES WARNING: NO BORIS SONG UNDER 3.5 MINUTES.

Grayson Haver Currin of Pitchfork comments on the latest alvum from Japan's venerable trio Boris:

“These seven anemic songs find Boris becoming something new yet again - self-satisfied.”

Eric Carr, of the same magazine (ED: Isn't he in KISS?), commented retrospectively on Sonic Youth's LP “EVOL” in 2002:

“EVOL would mark the true departure point of Sonic Youth’s musical evolution - in measured increments, Thurston Moore and Lee Ranaldo began to bring form to the formless, tune to the tuneless, and with the help of Steve Shelley’s drums, they imposed melody and composition on their trademark dissonance. A breathtaking fusion of avant-garde noise (as far as Rock was concerned) and brilliant, propulsive rock ... this is where the seeds of greatness were sown.”

I think it's a fair bet that Boris are nodding at Sonic Youth's "EVOL" LP here; in 1992, on their first CD - a 60+minuter comprising only one song, “Absolutego” - they scribbled their influences - including Sonic Youth, a band whose first four records I bought and loved.