The Empire Strikes “Charm”

Helsinki’s 70s rock influenced band The EMPIRE STRIKES are back with 12 songs. I guess opening an album with a song called “The End” is an interesting move especially when the song has a tragic and grandiloquent feel to it. Even though songs like “Danger”, “Leeches, Lies and a Mighty Hoax” or”Amor Por La Vida Hasta La Muerte” have a bit of late HELLACOPTERS into them, they still have their own identity with a bit of radio friendly rock in their choruses. Indeed, the band always sounds melodic thanks to Tommi’s vocals and lots of arrangements (violin, trumpet, backing vocals…), they’re sometimes even close to early ELTON JOHN in “Blinded ByThe Light.” Roky Erickson probably smiled from up there when he saw the song title “Theme From Roky”, and he might even have liked the song as well as “Tigerlillies” that both have an interesting 60s vibe to them. Nevertheless, The EMPIRE STRIKES still enjoy playing their good old hard rock’n’roll in songs like “Rainmaker” and its 70s KISS touches or in “Blackheart.” The album is out on September 6, so you know what you have to do if you need to add some new rock’n’roll in your life! /Laurent C.

http://www.theempirestrikes.com/

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The Factory Superstars “b/w “Lullaby For Furs”

(-review by Moses Midnight)

“Wait until I’m dead and you will see what all the fuss is about…” (-Dogs D’Amour)

Hollywood Rocker, cult-figure, quick-draw artist, and suave black magician, Evad Fromme lived with the immortal and mythological, galactic kid, Alistarr from the Ultras, on Hollywood Boulevard during the late eighties/early nineties English Acid glitter daze when bands like the purple haired Zeroes, Glamour Punks, Stars From Mars, and the Coma-Tones strutted up and down the walk of fame in eight inch platform shoes. Evad is a stand-out, singular talent, in that his distinctive vision and voice are always expressed in a unique and personal way, he is a quiet genius, with a gift for pure expression, who sees things through his own lens. While corporate media and the bipartisan police state shit-show make it seem like we are trapped hopelessly in a pseudo-echoing Taylor Swift and Miley Cyrus ruling class product, no-exit, corporate purgatory; Evad and his talented friends, are steadily producing this really hauntingly glamtastic gothic cowboy music in the shadows of the Hollywood palms. Wow, it is like very old school, original Alice Cooper band, and the Faces. Lords Of The New Church, Jo Dog and Paul Black’s Sonic Boom, the Joneses, Quireboys, Slow Motorcade, Dr. Boogie. Bandido glam. Desperado rock. Tombstone minds. Best I’ve heard since Tyla and the original Dogs D’Amour were moping around in that graveyard of empty bottles. Evad and I share a lot of common enthusiasms, influences, experiences, and associates, but you don’t always like all of your friend’s bands, right? Well, I love the Factory Superstars, they blow me away, if I was not friends with Evad, I would want to be, upon hearing their very authentic, dirty, hellhound on my trail, switchblade rocknroll, because not everybody speaks our language, anymore. “Call Me The Devil” sounds like a lost track from “Killer” or “Love It To Death”, and it is, and I do! This is exactly the kind of band I’ve been wanting to put together since I was a gloomy death-rock waif first discovering the Alarm and Texacala and Lords Of the New Church! His guitarist, Paul Sanchez has got the silver. Really, the guitar throws down, just like the shag-headed Faces lads-on-the-tiles of golden lore! This is some real sleazy outlaw music, nastier than the Supersuckers or Lazy Cowgirls. Factory Superstars are keeping rocknroll evil, if you were a fan of the Four Horsemen or Hangmen, you will most assuredly also love Factory Superstars. They are really raunchy. They play punchy saloon-punk full of attitude and really reminiscent of the Lords Of The New Church‘s “Gun Called Justice” spaghetti western type stuff. “Lullabuy For Furs” is all western stars and spurs, cactuses, cow skulls, mysterious, scarfaced old wraiths in ammo-belts and black capes riding on black steeds. I love this kind of stuff. Clearly, his music is always right up my bottle strewn alleyway, but the thing I admire and believe in most about Evad is his originality, he always puts his own spin, his own vibe, his own unique poetry into the music, ties his own ribbon on it, which is just so tragically rare and exceptional in these dismal years, when most music is unimaginatively regurgitated, paint-by-numbers, showbiz-nephew, empty- product. Evad is doing his own thing with sincerity, style, creativity, and finesse, seemingly oblivious to whatever is going on in the default-reality straight-world. You might know his drummer, Tony Snow from Dramarama, or Shiteland Ponies. Factory Superstars are kinda like the ritualistic macabre theater of the Doors and scuzzy blues of the Stones “Goat’s Head Soup” spat back out, as a honky-tonk drinking band. Extraordinary.

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PinkLips “Pink Is The New F*#k You!”

(-review by Moses Midnight)

What a lovely surprise! I didn’t even know that anybody made bands this cool, anymore! It’s just really, really good, and pretty, and heartfelt, honest songs about frustration, desire and wanting, the conscience at war with the big programming, lust in the dust, innocence and experience, when one’s heart keeps calling, that involuntary, helpless, human cry for love. I dig it, deeply. Some of you know I’m an 80’s kid and I make no apologies for that-everything the sports mook, video game, unboxing products on youtube, I-Phone mainstream always mocks and skewers for being too earnest, or sincere, or corny and retro, I still cling to all that stuff quite shamelessly, so when I finally get some extremely rare, alone-time to listen to music, it was a bit of a struggle to play something modern and new, rather than the double cd greatest hits of an artist who soundtracked my youth that I stumbled over at the Goodwill a few days ago, for one dollar. Upon first listen to PinkLips, I am instantly captured by the gypsyish violins and snarly female vocal. You know that band, Nouvelle Vague-how gorgeous and seductive their music always is? Yes! I immediately like the PinkLips. “Gutter Starz” is reminding me of the Nymphs, the Pretenders, Patti Smith, the Divinyls, and Lydia Lunch. This is super cool, very fresh and even energetic sounding, extremely listenable, mesmerizing music. “Polly Vinyl” is another supremely satisfying smash hit. Remember that Alphabet City band from the early 90’s-Piss Factory, starring Lizzy Avondet? It kinda has that same intensity and edgy angst. The music is just flat-out exquisite-it sounds so big and full, almost like a major label band, like say, Kaiser Chiefs or the Pogues. “Now I Wanna Be Ur Dog” is just soundtrack perfect, gripping.
Breathtakingly cool-exactly like what you always wanted but never fully got from Royal Trux. Takes me back to dangerous mid-eighties after hours bars, when regular, everyday poor people were still allowed to stroll around loose and free in that city, just like….citizens! I love the vocalist-she is the weary and jaded voice of distrust and suspicion that’s still willing to risk all for a glimpse of something soulful or sincere, I am a bit like that myself, sometimes. Think: Niagara from Destroy all Monsters and Dark Carnival meets Inger Lorre from the Nymphs. She is a real cool tomato-bratty, smart, fully alive and vital, wide awake, with an amphetamine urgency and awareness, the driving, sensual sounds on this shiny disc are dark and sexy, like the Lords Of The New Church or Patti Smith Group. The presence of divinity. Kissed by the flames. Ridiculously and unexpectedly soothing and stirring. They even delve into haunting night time terrain, visiting the dusky blue sonic geography of Mazzy Star, Lana Del Ray and Chris Isaak, making hazy stabs at pained yearning and starlight signaling and spaghetti western spookiness. They know what they are doing. You can see the little hotels on the side of the road, the cactus, the old, faded landmarks blurring by them. PinkLips are terribly beautiful. “You Not Me” is a bit like Sonic Youth or Hole minus all the mainstream ambitions and relentless posturing and careerist baggage that always turned me off and left me feeling cold. It’s all about hot emotion, fast driving, the desert highway, and big skies above. This is a perfect band, really, and I generally hate everybody ,nowadays. All the contemporary groups just mostly remind me of loathsome johns at the strip club throwing dollar bills in the air. PinkLips are warm and soulful, brainy and authentic-a merciful, much needed, well deserved antidote to all that detestable, fake pushbutton bullshit product-art. “The Revolution Will Not Be Televised” is cool. It gives me a glimmer of hope that someone out there in the current climate is still even hip(!!!) to these old ideas. “Why” sounds like some hotwired indie, as if PinkLips are jumpstarting all your favorite old junk store treasures and forgotten aspirations, with a rusty screwdriver. It is very good stuff. Almost like a meaner, updated Nymphs. “I’m Not there” is gorgeous, golden, unusually soulful. Full of brave feeling. I love it! Special thanks to the dear friend who rightly sensed I’d appreciate the PinkLips. He was right.

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Gary Sunshine “Beer, Picks & Old Records”

(-record review by General Labor)

“It’s when the woman of my dreams…oh my god, that’s the woman on the floor…” (-Jim Carroll)

I’m a diehard CIRCUS OF POWER super-fan. When Show-biz Al put his brown leather strides from the Motor video up for auction, I was asking myself if we really needed a car. They made anthemic classic rock for the sleazepunk generation. Their first record was perfect, in my book. Song for song, it was better than The Cult‘s “Electric”, Zodiac Mindwarp‘s “Tattooed Beat Messiah”, or Warrior Soul‘s first album. I loved every song, they inspired my smalltown friends and I to put together our first slapdash band of low budgeted, theatrical shock-rock, pancake makeup and black lacey glam, and cemetery loitering guttersnipes. We had a very short run as the flyover state people’s favorite makeup and leather wearing ghoulish garbagemen, but were banned from the bars for refusing to play Bon Jovi covers, so we busied ourselves throwing extravagant house parties and gigging at redneck hog roasts for overwhelmingly Republican bikers who never knew what to think about us, because while three of us could maybe even pass for bikers themselves all garbed as they were in the Mindwarp leather, and all our bodyguard roadies were very menacing and potentially dangerous motorcyclists; two of us were Nik Fiend and Lux Interior impersonator death rock drag queen, gawky androgynes that the Midwestern wrestling teams and preppies and dumbfuck rednecks all wanted to kill. We took many stabs at covering Circus Of Power tunes that always went over way better with the rowdy farm boys and aging VIet Nam vets that made up our core audience, than the Gun Club and Cramps tunes we also raved through, our originals were pretty dodgy back then. I mainly wrote many protest-songs primarily about how we should all have the right to wear blue lipstick and Aqua-Net in uptight church towns. No one outside of Lower Manhattan had ever heard of Rupaul back then, and the rural community suburbanites were furious over Annie Lennox and Dee Snider and Boy George. Circus Of Power were one of the only groups who ever made us mohawked gothniks, AC/DC hicks, and ridiculously safety pinned and fish-netted glam brats always pile into our desperately unreliable vehicles, paid for with Little Ceasar‘s pizza delivery tips and record store quarters to travel cross-country to see them, whenever they were in striking distance. We’d drive 12-15 hours on a school night! When Circus Of Power opened for the Ramones, we had to leave before the Ramones, to speed-demon our way back to Ohio to be at work in the morning, to pay rent on our tiny shoebox apartment, where we drank heavily, listened to records, wooed heavily hairsprayed women who liked The Cure, and dreamed of someday opening at the Lismar Lounge for our supreme metal gurus, Circus Of Power! They were all great guys, who wrote these beautiful and extraordinary, timeless songs about little witches and white trash queens, that connected with us, in a deeply personal way. Their All-American brand of greasy muscle car rocknroll was always equal parts Lower Eastside sleazepunk, heavy for your head ferociousness and Bowery hardcore matinee guts, but with a totally F.M. friendly, traditional pop songcraft sensibility, like Chuck Berry, Hank Williams Senior, and Creedence Clearwater Revival. When some fans put together a tribute cd to them some years ago, my hoodlum-thundering main henchman and I were crestfallen that our drummer was in the hoozgow, prohibiting us from contributing a track. No one thought to do the song we had picked-out, and hell, we ain’t dead quite yet, so I guess there’s even some faint hope that we might still record our version as a loving tribute to our Circus Of Power idols in the future. If we live long enough.

Former CIRCUS OF POWER guitarist, GARY SUNSHINE is a talented, thoughtful, observant storyteller with a very lovable and self-deprecating, bruised romantic, curmudgeonly personality. I can always relate to his hardluck stories and wry humor, we kind of have a similar worldview as weary, tired old fathers, who suck at lawn work. If you are a hardcore, signed on for life rocknroller-someone who’s been in bands, worked for years in dead-end record stores, had their heart broken by the business part of rocknrolll, or watched in horror these past thirty years as the billionaires bought up all the media to bamboozle us into okey-dokeying a police state and endless war, that constantly, abusively, bombards us with no-heart, push-button, advertisement-pop, and mindless consumerist lifestyle programming, his very humane and soulful songs will be of particular interest to you. He’s very eclectic and original, sixties soul, the blues, eighties college rock, heartland Americana, Wilco meets Tom Waits. A sensitive, smartass Dylan for aging gutterpunks. Bukowski as a pop star. He has so much genuine article heart, and an effortless ability to lyrically show you these sonic vignettes that are like little indie-films, the kind that don’t get made too often, anymore. He’s kinda like a novelist who plays really badass guitar. The modern lineup of Circus Of Power continues to churn out tremendously powerful, high-quality, socially conscious rocknroll motherfuckery, but there was something undeniably magical about that initial Alex, Gary, Ricky, Ryan, and Zowie lineup. Crooner Alex Mitchell‘s outstanding writing prowess, humor, charisma, nerve, and remarkable stage presence allows him to attract some of the best players in the rocknroll underground-people like cosmic space wizard, Billy Tsounis, but Gary Sunshine has surprised everyone with his own unique and distinctive solo songwriting, that has a really endearingly charming and down to Earth quality about it, much like Guy Clarke or John Prine, he has chosen the path of humility rather than the path of glory, and the fans have been clamoring for a new CD, so he has generously obliged us. Not everybody who watched Headbanger’s Ball or hungout at the Cat Club or Cathouse will probably like the worndown and torndown, astute voice of experience, it’s the lament of the everyday people, the working class nobodies-all us coffeehouse and truck stop loitering, haunted souls. A true confessions collection of wistful, heartfelt tunes about hangups and hangovers, endless and unstoppable grief, disappointment and regrets, lingering remnants and sad reminders of long gone dreams come true and the inevitably accompanying crash, out of proportion expectations, middle-aged uncertainty, screwtop convenience store wino poems, and a jumbled up clusterfuck, broken hearted, mental jigsaw puzzle of good times gone, scratched out year book pictures, souvenirs, half torn out stacks of stinky old rock magazines, empty cans, coffee cups, front porch rocking chairs, broken lawn mowers, and lost loves walking out the door, but I sure do. This disc is jammed with thoughtful prose and vivid emotions, sweetness and coolness and autumn time lamentations. I can strongly identify with Mister Sunshine-neither one of us are really the same skull ringed, all night rocker, highway storming, hedonistic hell raisers we once were, but people got used to that one dimensional cartoon idea they had of us from thirty years ago, so they seldom imagine the actual reality of either one of us wearing our kid’s construction paper and aluminum foil pirate hats while we vacuum the living room and do more laundry-the early wakeup calls and medications, feeding the cats and making more coffee, packing school lunches and muttering obscenities to ourselves while we step barefooted on little dinosaurs and Legos every morning. He always makes me feel better about my own confused and somewhat still pained and tortured awkward attempts at something like managing all these very demanding and stressful, taxing obligations and adult-hood responsibilities. I’m not very good at any of it. I got arthritis, bad eyesight, bad knees, and a mountain of persistently nagging memories and unresolved desires and torment and abandonment issues, while Gary always manages to find the comic divinity in all that stuff . The title track, “BEER, PICKS, AND OLD RECORDS” reminds me of America’s Greatest Unknown Songwriter: PAUL K. & THE PRAYERS, and if you know me at all, you know, how that is basically, my highest praise. “I should have gone to college, made something of myself…”, sings the guy who toured with Black Sabbath, starred for years on Headbanger’s Ball, played on Guns N Roses “Chinese Democracy” and taught Axl Rose how to play guitar. This is heart wrenching, feelings-charged stuff of intimate pain and pathos, that me and all my mortality-confronting, fifty-something, dishwasher amigos have all come to know too well. “Banging On My Head” talks about the accrued weight of one’s history, hijacked aspirations, unexpected forks in the road, when all your most cherished and beloved dreams are all casually shattered on the kitchen floor, betrayal, let-downs, failures, anxieties, coulda-beens, fuckups, and sadness. “But I Got My Feelings Hurt” is very sweet and countryish, Bob Stinson or Spencer P. Jones style, basement blues-imagine ole Izzy Stradlin jammin’ with Paul Westerberg and Dave Minehan on Mojo Nixon‘s Pabst patio. “Love Turns” is really deep and lovely, like all the best stuff by vintage Replacements. You can feel the acute agony and aching sincerity on this one, if you heard it drunk, it’d probably make you cry. “We Had Gold” is the kind of Tom Petty, Expensive Winos, Juju Hounds or early Soul Asylum type of rocker that all you leather jacket dudes from the heartland, showed up at the VFW Hall, hoping to hear. He’s so good, this one showcases his Stonesy, Georgia Sattelite style guitar heroics, it is both Cheap N Nasty. “Hell” is pained divorcee tears and longing, tenderness, debris, and helpless fixations, beautiful lyrics, beautiful music, he drinks a great big whiskey to us, anyways. “Some Days I Wanna Be Jimmy Page” is the Replacements for convalescent, elderly goths and fops and depressed old gutter dwellers and Motorcycle Boy fans, like cool you and me . “Your Beautiful Life” is a lot like the 500 songs I obsessively wrote when my ex wife ditched for a guy who wears khaki shorts, and my last of the last, lost-cause garage band broke up, again. It has a very down-home, Bob Seger, fireworks, donut shop, and bowling alley relatability to it. “She Hates The Blues”: I remember giving an unbelievably gorgeous woman a Sam Cooke record for Valentine’s Day, way back in my thirties, and her not being into it, at all. At all. Red flag! “All Hearts Break”…if you love PAUL K. & THE WEATHERMEN, even half as much as I do, Gary Sunshine writes songs in that same brittle, broken hearted, humble, ain’t got it all figured out yet, painfully honest, and sometimes irritable state of unrest and yearning and dawn’s early light introspection and hopeless melancholy, he has that very same kindred, tarnished, sad clown, survivor spirit. I’ll be playing this song many more times. I can feel it. “Three Good Tires” …Semi-reformed ex metal-heads, dropouts, castoffs, lost souls, over caffeinated, duty-bound ghosts procrastinating, and wrestling with neurotic outsider worry and dreading the two sink fulls of dirty dishes, afraid the school might call about Junior’s grades again, thinking about The Jesus & Mary Chain, struggling to get through another day. Beautiful losers, capitalist women who turned off all their feelings, smudged up sunglasses while driving at night with pilled-out companions, Leonard Cohen, Towns Van Zandt, Beat Angels, and the Gin Blossoms. He’s sort of like John Cougar with brains. “Young (Ain’t You A Rock & Roller)”. You know the vibe…more hangovers, hurts, Hollywood promises and blue valentines, empty cartons of Carling’s Black Label, ashtray butts, broken guitar strings, unopened stacks of bills, falling in love with the waitress again, all the girls who disappeared, all the innocent years of lighthearted debauchery and carefree tomfoolery and fun in the sun that ain’t never, never coming back, when every little bit hurts. Me, too, brother-me, too. Thanks for making this album.

http://garysunshinemusic.com/index.html

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The Brothers Steve “#1”

If you were into 00s powerpop/glam, then you probably remember Los Angeles band TSAR. If you don’t, then rush and grab their albums! 3 members of TSAR play in The BROTHERS STEVE, but the music of the band is more influenced by TEENAGE FANCLUB, GUIDED BY VOICES or The KINKS. The 60s powerpop influences perfectly mix with 90s altenative Brit pop in “Angeline” and some strong 70s glam rock influences can be heard in the very catchy “We Got The Hits” and in “Carry Me.”Songs like “She”, the organic “C’mon Pappy” or “Carolanne” are rooted in the 60s but manage to sound modern at the same time and The BROTHERS STEVE also display some garage rock’n’roll influences in “Songwriter” or in “Beat Generation Poets Turned Assassin.” Although this album doesn’t sound like TSAR, it definitely has some similarities in the songwriting, the bubblegum melodies and vocal harmonies, and I personally won’t complain about it.
That’s modern powerpop at its best, and the perfect summer album if you’re still looking for one! /Laurent C.

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