The Vaccines “What Did You Expect From The Vaccines?” LP

Posted in Music Reviews on April 6, 2011 by Billy Shears

So, aside from the fact that the return of my Rega turntable amounted to something bordering farce (see story below) there was one nice sidebar to the story: the first LP back played on it was What Did You Expect From The Vaccines.

As anyone who has been reading NME for the last 6 months or so knows, The Vaccines are the next band you love.

Thing about carrying that burden is, most groups aren’t up to it.

Good news is this: neither are The Vaccines. They could care less about such accolades. Don’t want them. The result is just this – an excellent record.

Start with the title – What Did You Expect From The Vaccines? The band knows how silly all this pre-hysteria is, and they’ve rolled with it, and rolled their eyes to it.

Here is the LP, they say. What did you expect? Which gives them a nice out. If it’s great, it’s great. If not, shame on you for buying into the publicity. What did you expect?

Well, what you get is more of the exact same as The Vaccines have dished out prior.

If not familiar with the band, page down a bit and read the review of the “Wreckin’ Bar (Ra Ra Ra)” single, as the album mostly follows its forumla: The Jesus & Mary Chain, filtered through the Ramones, with a few slower tunes here and there, all overproduced by Phil Spector.

Side one is flawless. Kicks off smartly with “Wreckin’ Bar.” So rather than make a new fan wait for it, The Vaccines basically give you the main course first. And why the fuck not?

And while maybe never topping it, at least 2 cuts are its equal – the second track “If You Wanna,” and the manic “Norgaard” (maybe my favorite cut on the record, in fact.) “Wet Suit” and “Blow It Up,” are very nearly, if not at, that same quality level.

This accounts for all but one of the cuts on side one, and “Lack of Understanding,” the hold-out, is really better than most anything else on any other guitar band from England’s recent outpourings.

Side two seems to lose a little energy, but is more of the same – it does start out with my least favorite cut (probably) in “Post Break-up Sex.” It’s not that bad, but having heard it before, and not being impressed with it originally, nothing much has changed my opinion. It’s kind of a slower, more deliberate tune, as is its successor “Under My Thumb.” Both are lacking the joie de vivre  that most of the other cuts contain – they are still very Spector, but a Ramoneless Spector.

Redeemed by the really nice slow grower, the “Leader of the Pack”-like mid-tempo anthem “All in White,” and the chipper bounceback “Wolf Pack” (and most every other cut on the record though) these two aforementioned songs are the forgivable kind of failures.

Listen, I feel as stupid as anyone about raving about this record, maybe it’s not that good, and maybe I’m really bored with most music these days (I am) but The Vaccines have already tipped their hand at what they sound like, and what kind of record they could make if they wanted to. And they went out and did it.

It is no more and no less than what “Wreckin’ Bar (Ra Ra Ra)” promised. What was expected, as it turns out, was what was delivered.


Fleeced: Meggy & Goldblum “Do Work”

Posted in Misc on April 6, 2011 by Billy Shears

So I’ve been in a rather lousy mood for a few weeks; on top of things being a general pain in the ass as of late, my Rega turntable seemingly shot craps, so I took it into an unnamed hi fi den in Chicago to get a diagnosis.

This shop sits in a rather lucrative spot; they are one of the only places in the city that sells hi-fi such as Rega, let alone repairs it, and it was where I’d bought mine, etc, so I had few other options. The only thing I could think of when I realized my turntable needed repair was when my Dad used to advise me against buying a VW because of the need for repairs, and how (back in the 80s) alot of mechanics around central Illinois didn’t service them. Which is the problem when buying something like a Rega turntable. I should listen to my Dad more.

To be fair, as a precursor, I’ll say that I’ve generally had good experiences in there before, but at times, the Deepak Chopra-like turntable gurus are a bit hard to handle.

TRIP ONE: From the outset, not only was a diagnosis not forthcoming, but the general maliase with which I was told I’d need to leave the player there in order for the “part” to come in (after I was told two days prior over the phone that they had it) was rather unnerving. But I had little to no choice. Leave it there I did.

TRIP TWO: So I return one week later (queue up last Saturday) and go in, only to be fleeced by what I can safely say is the most non-threatening duo since Ace & Gary. Allow me to elaborate.

The first half of the duo calmy explained to me in the hushed whispers that only the trained hi fi salesman and his cronies can actually hear, how the new cartridge they installed, along with new belt, made the player sound “brand new.”

Hmmm. To me, never a good sign. Telling the customer how good it sounds, is a classic Jedi mind trick lead in. It seems to chide: “what you hear will be NO different than before, but trust us, it SOUNDS better.”

"Sell You a Rega?"

Imagine, if you will, a more out of shape and worse complexed Meggy from This is England ’86, and this was who I was dealing with. His partner in crime looked like Jeff Goldblum, with Morrissey’s haircut, except totally silver.

The pair both communicated in mumurs (complete with Cheshire cat fixed grins) that amounted to a more aloof and less aggressive (if can be imagined) Kip from Napoleon Dynamite.

"Upgrade that cable?"

Meggy raved about this and that, Goldblum agreed. I think I may have been having an asthma attack. But undaunted, they plodded ahead with their pitch.

Before I knew it, not only was I down for a new cartridge (I had this in the budget) but also a new belt (not in budget, but not a big deal) and here’s the kicker – new speaker/amp wire. Which is expensive. Even more expensive when Meggy does not tell you it costs an additional $50 to put banana ends on said wire.

When I left, I had to take a second to gather my thoughts and process what had just happened: The complete and total opposite of savvy salesmen had just talked me into spending nearly double what I had planned on spending.

In a way, the only thought going through my mind should be, to quote Irwin Fletcher ,”God I admire you.”

That is, truly, “how it’s done.”

Hat tip, Meggy and Goldblum. Round One & Two go to you. There will be no Round Three. I am outgunned.

Brother – “Darling Buds of May” single

Posted in Music Reviews on March 17, 2011 by Billy Shears

Keepers of the (mundane) flame

Brother are the latest band the British press (and the band themselves) seem to be lauding with the by now Python-esqe moniker of  “the next saviors of British guitar music.” British Guitar music needs saving more often than any other generic genre I can think of, because every year, there’s another mediocre band dubbed as such.

Regardless, how do Brother fare when stacked up against other salvagers of the “lost art” of the guitar tune?

About the same as the norm, as it turns out.

Taking cues from the obvious (Oasis) they come off sounding like a near replica of an old forgotten British band called Smaller. That is to say, Oasis without the huge tunes or enlightened singer but with the mouth and ego to match. The brothers Gallagher, though, could walk the walk. Brother kind of toe the line. Barely.

“Darling Buds of May” is a catchy tune. It might even demand repeated listens at first. Competent playing, catchy guitar lick (kind of sounds borrowed from “Brim Full of Asha” by another Brit Pop casualty Cornershop) and solid chorus…but once the novelty of hoping this band are as good as advertised wears off, I’m left with the feeling that if the tunes don’t get substantially better, Brother are going to fade out.

Rather than being something special, I’m guessing this group more along the lines of something tolerable.

Maybe I’m wrong. Brother seem to think they are going to be the next-big-thing. Thing about that is, I’ve heard that about 2-3 bands every year since 1994.

Guessing these guys become a footnote as well.

Brother’s “Darling Buds of May” single now available on iTunes for Free.

Out Crowd – Demo 2011

Posted in Music Reviews on March 15, 2011 by Billy Shears


I know next to nothing about them, other than the facts: The band is called OUT CROWD. They are from Atlanta, Georgia and have a demo out now on a record label called Ghetto Josh Records and I was sent said demo by Steven from the band.

What’s the verdict?

I’m here to testify – I was pleasantly surprised. My first reaction is it sounded somewhat like vintage Ray Cappo snarl fronting a more oi!-leaning YOT. The intro comes on like Blitz, while opener “Blue Bloods” navigates vintage NYHC territory, as does the 51 second “What Are Friends For.”  The last cut rumbles on with a more pointed oi!-ish purpose and its message “I’m sick and tired of being sick and tired” morphs into the closing statement “just stay positive, it’s the best way.”

The entirety of the thing is under 4:00 minutes, so I don’t have much to go on, as well as no lyrics, but I likes what I likes and this is definitely hanging out in my rest stop (the bathhouses of the 90s.)

I am duly impressed. Out Crowd could very soon be a band people are talking about.

Trial By Fire

Posted in Misc, Opinions on March 13, 2011 by Billy Shears

Chris Bjorkland. Trial By Fire. From MRR #3. Taken by Jeff Pezzati.

“Just about anyone who saw Trial By Fire live or heard their ultra rare recordings said that they were a special band. Even today people who were part of the scene in 1982/1983 say that Trial By Fire was one of the best bands of the Chicago Punk era.”

I always wondered about this one – with all the re-releases, compilations, shitty demo quality cash-ins being released out there – why hasn’t anyone ever done anything with TRIAL BY FIRE?

TBF was a group active in early 80s Chicago, made up of former STRIKE UNDER members: Chris Bjorkland (who also went on to BLOODSPORT & THE EFFIGIES) Bob Furem & most importanly (in my eyes) Pierre Kezdy (John Effigies brother, and big time NAKED RAYGUN/PEGBOY component.)

From all accounts, and from what I’ve been told by people who WERE there, Trial by Fire were the best band in the city for a time. But what do we have do judge them on? Well, if you’re me, next to nothing.

The You Weren’t There soundtrack includes the seminal “Rocks of Sweden” later covered by Naked Raygun  (available on the All Rise rerelease LP/CD) and one other Raygun cover (from The Last of the Demohicans collection) that cements TBF’s existence, “Giveaway.” This track is as interesting as anything I’ve heard out of Chicago.

Additionally, Arsenal (Santiago Durango of the original Raygun line-up & Pierre Kedzy’s band) covered TBF song(s) on their  Factory Smog is a Sign of Progress ep.

So, for me, TBF exist as NR/Arsenal covers and one singular tune of their own. Why?

One may cite the opinion that tracks have been lost; no one has anything readily available, except for the fact that I have heard there exists a full album that had been recorded but never released from Ruthless Records, as TBF had broken up before its scheduled release date. Also told that a three song demo, as well as live material, is floating around as well.

Whether any of this is true or not, I’m not 100% positive, but I know I’d love to hear these recordings. C’mon. An entire album out there, and SOMEONE can’t release it? I shake my head.

If anyone has any info or any access to any of TBF’s recordings, needless to say, I’d love to hear any of it.


Posted in Music Reviews on March 8, 2011 by Billy Shears

Rather than the formality of actual in depth, lengthy reviews (getting much too lazy for that) here’s a few things I’ve bought (or heard) over the last few weeks or so, and a couple lines on what I think of them. You should buy most of this stuff, too. (NOTE: some of this product is actually not “new” new but new to me only.)

BEADY EYE – Different Gear, Still Speeding.

So arrivith the first post-Oasis record. It actually must be tough putting out this record if you’re Liam. As popular as Oasis were/are, one, there’s no way this will hold up to the Oasis legacy, two, there’s no way that songwise, it could be as good as their finest moments, and three, there’s so many critics and anti-fans rooting against this band just because. Bottom line on this one – if you are an Oasis fan, you should eat this up. It’s neither magnificent, nor is it a failure. It will do nicely in a pinch. It hits highs (“The Roller,” “Kill For a Dream,” “For Anyone”) and suffers lows (“Beatles and Stones” lyrics are enough to make Noel’s output look like poet laureate material. “Standing on the Edge of Noise” wears out its welcome pretty quickly as well) Alot of it is overlong. But alot of it is catchy as shit. This is what it is. You know whether or not you should buy this one. (Myself, I picked it up on iTunes, and vinyl.)

DROPKICK MURPHYS – Going Out in Style.

Much like Beady Eye, you know what you’re on board with when you pick up a new DKM record. The formula for success for DKM has been perfected, and is replicated here. It’s loud, raucous, and the songs are as catchy as ever. The production is slick, and the sound is crystal clear. Thematically, “Hang ’em High” sets things off with an us vs. them theme that prevails throughout the album, and really, throughout the band’s entire catalog. The Irish trad stuff is covered in the old rave up “The Irish Rover” and the band start trading body blows with the heavy hitters as Springsteen pops up on Peg O’ My Heart. Roots are given proper nod in the lyrics of “Sunday Hardcore Matinee,” which in a twist (or maybe not so much) acts as more of a banjo/accordion driven shanty than anything that SS Decontrol or The FUs would have spit out…but still, a winner. All in all, chalk it up in the win column for a band that remain as true to their roots and deliver on their terms as much as any I can imagine since The Clash.

TOMMY & THE TERRORS – (Collection of eps. 4 Subculture Records. Coming Soon.)

Euro collection of a variety of Tommy & the Terrors eps (excepting On the Run), this is some strong, substantive work. Including their most recent (and best) material in Problem. Reaction. Solution, it is a must own for fans.  From some of their catchiest in anthems such as “On the Avenue” to some of their hardest  in offerings like “Revenge.” It runs the gamut stylistically and shows the range, longevity and determination that the Terrors are capable of. Pick up as soon as will allow at

NIGHT BIRDS – “Midnight Movies,” “Killer Waves,” “s/t”

These Night Birds releases are a breath of fresh air, and kind of exactly what I needed as of late. Kind of early SoCal-ish Adolescents/snotty punk rock, combined with moments of surf and other such animated absurdity. A really good group of songs, that when digested together, almost acts as a cohesive full length. Well worth picking up for sure.


It’s AOQ rereleased on gatefold, with three demo tracks. What’s not to like?

THE VACCINES – Wreckin’ Bar (Ra Ra Ra) single

Lauded as the next big thing in England, “Wreckin’ Bar” certainly lives up to such hype. It’s been called The Ramones meets JAMC, and that’s pretty accurate, I guess. Nothing I’ve heard from them since really delivers in this style, or at this level of excellence, but I’d still keep my eye on this group, based on the exuberance this tune delivers in a mere 1:20.

THE BROKEN VINYL CLUB – “I Want You Girl” single

Was tipped off to this re: Eddie Pillar’s Modcast on iTunes (typing that title makes me a little queasy) but nevertheless, the band (and this single in particular) is superlative. It’s basically an update on the formula of The La’s, and it works its magic in a very similar way: beat combo and retro sounding for sure. But it quickly burrows its way into that place in the subconscious where you store such songs, and takes firm root there. An accomplished effort from this Welsh band.

THE BRIGHTS – “Footsteps” single

Another tip off from Eddie Pillar, this one differs emphatically from The Broken Vinyl Club, but is nevertheless just as meritorious. The Brights, on this tune, sound like Paul Heaton crooning whilst vintage Marr, Rourke and Joyce deliver righteously in the background. It really is as simple as that. TOPS.

THE METHOD – “We Don’t Know” & “Take Your Shot”

“We Don’t Know” exists as a neoteric, mod-inspired, freak-beat; as if the soundtrack to an imaginary  film set in the 60s. (see: The Quadrophenia dance scene.) I’m not going to exaggerate – it’s not wholly original, but it’s inspired lunacy sets the wheels in motion and  gets the blood flowing. “Take Your Shot” is less manic, more measured and not as successful, but still, interesting for its sheer worship of the style it apes.

THE PENNY COCKS – “Burning Down My Youth” ep

Hailing from Barcelona, the descriptives hurled at this group operate right “in my wheelhouse,” as they say. “Chiswick records/The Jam/The Undertones/early Skrew” was what I’d read, and it would take a wonder for any band to live up to such identifiers. Alas, as good as this group is, especially in today’s scene, it falls well short of such luminaries. The vocals, while in English, remind me of such Japanese bands as LRF as well as the group Badlands. I know that sounds off, but they really do sound Badlands on some cuts, and LRF-ish at other moments (title cut esp and the Satan’s Rats cover that closes): English, but not quite England/American sounding, which is 100% understandable, obviously. And that’s not a bad thing, either. The accompanying instrumentation does sound like it’s 77 forbearers, perhaps getting a little more manic in places, but it is definitely first rate. All in all, though not living up to the comparisons to the legends (and who could?) the Penny Cocks are definitely an outstanding entry to the punk rock/skinhead scene, and one to watch for.

The EFFIGIES – live soundboard from OZ. 1981

Please visit this website and download this live set to see why The Effigies were among the most interesting of all the “hardcore” bands from the early 80s. A definite influence from bands like The Ruts made them stand aside from their peers. Emphasis on the groove of the tune, and made rock solid by Kezdy’s growls and simple, plodding messages.

GENTLEMEN JESSE – She’s a Trap single

Gentlemen Jesse continues to bring the Nick Lowe-styled power-pop. Keep it coming. While breaking no new ground (see review of the first LP on this site) it continues to breed the quality. Pick this up.

BLUR – Fool’s Day single

Finally picked up a copy of this limited Record Store Day-only Blur release, the first (and only new song) post Blur break-up. It’s basically a mid tempo, reflective loop of a song, that breezes along in a very determined Kinks-ian way as the day of the title might suggest. The lyrics are top shelf, which is fairly standard now for the autobiographical Damon Albarn. They appear a non-fiction narrative about the day of this songs’ recording, musing the heaviness of Blur’s past, as well as their reconciliation. Graham is given the opportunity to  veer off into his own little esoteric weirdness, and Alex and Dave are in fine form as well. And all seems right with the world.

MALE NURSES – s/t ep.

Some pretty competent & catchy 80’s inspired HC from this Boston band. Snotty vocals, shredding gee-tars, and a healthy dose of imbecility are the order of the day. Recommended.

OFF! – First Four Eps box set

On paper, it probably shouldn’t work. Pensioner Keith Morris teams up with Mario Rubalcaba and Dimiti Coats and shreds some very early 80s SoCal Black Flag-ish type shit. The box set contains some excellent Raymond Pettibone art, and it pleases me to give this whole thing a thimbs way up. As an inspired whole, this thing delievers 4 eps, with excellent packaging and is WELL worth recommending. Buy at once.

IRON & WINE – Kiss Each Other Clean

I knew nothing of Iron & Wine before hearing “Walking Far From Home” from this record, it being a travelogue of somewhat  O’Brother Where Art Thou?-conjured visuals, combined with a theme that is almost Odyssean in its quest. Needless to say, I became somewhat interested. I heard another cut on NPR, that brought to mind solo Alex Chilton, so I decided to purchase the record. I’m pleased with it overall. It is stylistically interesting and doesn’t take root in the same place often – in parts slower, in parts near Steely Dan-ish, and at many spots in between. I’m told the old school Iron & Wine fan base were none too excited to see the instrumentation branch out beyond simple acoustics, so pissing off the hipsters seems another solid reason for giving this one the thumbs up.

Best of 2010: I Don’t Give Two Fucks About Your Review…

Posted in Opinions on January 13, 2011 by Billy Shears

2010 was kind of blah. It wasn’t shit. It wasn’t amazing. It just kind of was. For me anyway. Whatever. Since I never post anything anymore, I thought I’d wrap up the not posting year by giving a short assessment of my favorite shit of 2010. Without further adieu, here is the BEST OF 2010 according to this stupid blog.

I know I’m missing things – obvious things likely – so if your feelings are hurt, send in your choices and I’ll print ’em up in the upcoming BEST THING I HEARD ALL YEAR 2010 feature.

This picture is the best thing I saw all year. PERIOD.


The debut ep from HATN was one of the most anticipated records of 2010, and it did not disappoint. From the  war-drum opening, to the final note, it was an instant classic, leaving in it’s wake all generic “streetpunk” and setting the standard for modern day oi! bands.

Runners up: Tommy & the Terrors “Problem. Reaction. Solution.”, The Templars/New Chords split, The Rival Mob “Hardcore For Hardcore”, Vaccine “Human Hatred”,  Battle Ruins s/t, The Heartbreaks “I Didn’t Think It Would Hurt to Think of You”, Pressure 28 “Spirit of 69”, 45 Adapters “DTAWDD”


Runners Up: Len Price 3 “Pictures,” Marching Orders “Days Gone By”, Mumford & Sons “Sigh No More”, Manic Street Preachers “Postcards From a Young Man”

Probably not a surprise that Weller gets my nod for Wake Up the Nation. His previous two records, and especially 22 Dreams, were fantastic, but Wake Up the Nation finds Weller re-inspired and  experimenting with styles as he never really has before. This record is closest in spirit to The Jam’s Sound Affects, and just as he did then, when he took inspiration from peers like Wire and Gang of Four, this LP finds Weller at his most modern as well. Collaborations with Kevin Shields  and former Jam bassist Bruce Foxton, as well as spiritual guidance by infamous DJ Simon Dine yield the best results of 2010.

Hot on Wake Up the Nation’s heels is Len Price 3’s “Pictures” which is probably the closest approximation the the early years of The Who that I’ve ever heard. Also short-listed, Marching Orders Days Gone By, probably my favorite oi! record of the year, the majestic indie folk of Mumford and Sons debut, and Manic Street Preachers Postcards From a Young Man which kicked out the anthems like it was 1995 again.



BEST DEMO: Sydney Ducks.

Runner up: Boston Strangler. This shit is seriously good. Boston early 80’s soundalike. Best cut is the last one, which throws a little oi! bent into the game. Not sure what other demos I heard in 2010. But these two are good enough. Waiting for that MFP demo to drop….

Sydney Ducks seemingly came out of nowhere to provide  a burst of much needed originality in a somewhat stagnant scene. At first listen, a Templars-like approach would be a good starting point, but further listens reveal a multi-layered delivery that is all their own, highlighted by guitar sound that owes as much in places to The Beatles and The Jam as it does early Skrewdriver. Eagerly await the first official release by the band. Demo tape coming soon from Rock’n’Roll Disgrace records.




Runners up: Superyob “Aggrophobia” LP, Negative Approach “Friends of No One”, The Jam “Sound Affects”, Dexy’s Midnight Runners “Searching for the Young Soul Rebels”

The reissues this year were many, and surprisingly, the quality level on most of them is fairly high. Extra tracks, live sets, live DVDs, demos, are all order of the day on as many bonus discs as one may care to wade through. The Jam’s Sound Affects, Dexy’s Searching For the Young Soul Rebels, Springsteen’s Darkness on the Edge of Town, Dylan’s Mono box, The Stones Exile on Main St, Bowie’s Station to Station, all were serious contenders for re-issue of the year, but ultimately, Orange Juice’s Coals to Newcastle came out as my favorite. An exhaustive 6 disc set, it covers everything the band did and then some, with requisite DVD included. An underrated band that literally launched the careers of most indie bands, pick up this box set and see where the likes of The Smiths, Franz Ferdinand, The Heartbreaks, etc, got their inspiration from.

















Runners Up: Paul Weller Movement, Len Price 3, The Rival Mob, 45 Adapters, New Lows, Mumford and Sons, Sydney Ducks et al ad nauseam.

Hammer & the Nails are the best band playing today. The addition of one of only two fans in the world of the second DYS record should make them that much more – ahem – masculine. However, the list of great bands playing today is near endless. From the band everyone loves, Rival Mob to the original bent 45 Adapters come with, to Mumford and Sons,New Lows and Sydney Ducks, pretty much every band I’ve mentioned in any category on this entry is a favorite.




Though their esteemed bass player may disagree with my choice, The Lovely Lads reunion set at PLAY IT LOUD II was my favorite single set of 2010. Having never seen them live before, they didn’t disappoint. Brendan is the best singer in the scene. Period. End of. The band sounded suitably tight, and crushed their set that included most everything from their LP as well as covers of Public Enemy and Absurd.  TOPS.

Runner up: THE TROUBLE. PLAY IT LOUD SET(s). Take your pick between day or night set, but the day set had the honor of being first (obviously) so the ‘wow’ factor was in full effect. Band sounded tight as ever, and people went nuts for both sets. The PLAY IT LOUD show was easily the best live event I hit all year. Hat tip to Sound Action, LTD for making it happen.











BEST LABEL: ROCK’N’ROLL DISGRACE. The only brand that matters. ’nuff said. (What can you say, obviously I picked this label.)

Runners up: Painkiller, Triple B, Six Feet Under, Longshot.

















Runners up: Jimmy Flynn, Robert Belmonte

It was tough to decide between Liam Gallagher, Bob Belmonte and Jimmy Flynn. Liam’s band Beady Eye kicked it with 3 solid tunes (sure, “Bring the Light” gets a little tedious, and “The Roller” is very “Instant Karma”-ish but still…) and he launched a clothing line, PRETTY GREEN that got him the Draper Award for Best Men’s Line. A good year for Gallagher Jr that ultimately trumped Jimmy’s moxy, work ethic, and promotional savvy as well as Bob’s stunningly quality record label and rapist wit. Believe me, if i had to choose personality wise, Liam would come in dead last.