punk rock

MOVIE REVIEW: Five Bucks at the Door – The Story of Crocks N Rolls (2020)

FIVE BUCKS AT THE DOOR – THE STORY OF CROCKS N ROLLS (2020)

Directed by Kirsten Kosloski

When she was a kid, it was director Kirsten Kosloski’s job to spend the weekend taping albums for her thrifty dad, who was always borrowing records from friends.  With a floor full of tapes and cases, Kosloski grew to love music in that intimate way that only true music fanatics can relate to.  She felt like a bit of an outsider in Thunder Bay Ontario, but her love of music helped her bond with some local punks.  The place to be was Crocks N Rolls.  She walked up to the entrance.  Owner Frank Loffredo sat in the booth.  Five bucks at the door.  Kirsten had empty pockets.  Loffredo gestured for her to go in anyway.  A life was changed that night.  She became a music journalist.  The dream job she didn’t know existed until Crocks N Rolls opened up her world.

Five Bucks at the Doors – The Story of Crocks N Rolls is a uniquely Canadian documentary.  You quickly realize that Crocks N Rolls could only be the result of Canadian geography and personalities.  We joke about Thunder Bay being isolated (though it is said that their landfill hosts a treasure trove of 80s cassette tapes), but the truth is far deeper than simple stereotypes.  Yes, Thunder Bay is eight hours’ drive away from the big cities, but it also occupies a unique crossroads on the Canadian roadmap.  Touring bands from Ontario and further east had to go through on their way west.  Western bands also had to pass through the crucible.  The only place to play was Crocks.  Most importantly, it was the right place to play.

Sook Yin Lee (Bob’s Your Uncle) calls it a “wonderful enclave of freaks and weirdos.”  Frank Loffredo was just a music fan.  He’d drive to Toronto to see a show. He dreamed of being in the New York or London scenes and drinking up the rock and roll.  Instead he did something better and he brought that vibe to Thunder Bay for everyone to share.  Bands started coming through.  Great bands, bad bands, mediocre bands.  Even if they didn’t sell tickets, Frank would book them a second time.  It wasn’t always about the bottom line.  He would live and sleep in the bar to make it work.  It was about Canadian rock music.  It was about making life bearable for the kids of Thunder Bay who dreamed of getting out.  To Frank it was like “one long day,” but to the kids it was another home.  There were no fights.  It was a melting pot of acceptance and ideas.

Bad Brains, 13 Engines, Razor, Sacrifice, DOA, Henry Rollins…Rollins on a spoken word tour no less.  Five Bucks at the Door is loaded with stories and the best has to be about Henry Rollins and being short changed $10 by Frank Loffredo.  Hank didn’t notice, but Frank had to make it right. He asked a friend to repay the $10 that Frank accidentally owed him.  He also insisted on photographic evidence of the transaction, and that evidence is part of this smorgasbord of punk rock history.

Dave Bidini (The Rheostatics), Bob Wiseman (Blue Rodeo), and many more Canadian artists have acres of stories to tell.  A bunch of tree planters and a canoe?  From Frank’s mom’s home-made spaghetti dinners for the tired band members, to the name of the place.  It looked like an Italian restaurant and the logo looked like it had a bowl and a spoon.  “It was a dumb name,” says Frank.  But the important thing was that “the audience was as much of the show as the band.”  That’s clear by the testimonials and amazing black and white photos.  Scratched and unretouched.

Crocks closed in 1996.  It was no longer sustainable, and then as if adding insult to injury the original place burned down.  But in 2007, Loffredo gave it another go.  Naming it Crocks N Rolls flat out indicated this was to be a continuation of the original.  As before, it’s all still in the family, with a new generation now working with Frank in keeping the rock rolling in Thunder Bay.

Five Bucks at the Door is a refreshing reminder that there are some crucial things we need in life.  Connection, belonging, and music.  Frank brought all three to the teenagers of Thunder Bay that longed for it.  It’s a story that needs to be told, and you owe it to yourself to check it out.  It’s available for streaming for free until September 20, 2020.

5/5 stars

REVIEW: Corrosion of Conformity – “Seven Days” (1995 promo single)

CORROSION OF CONFORMITY – “Seven Days” (1995 Sony promo CD single)

COC’s landmark album Deliverance spawned three singles, the least known of which was “Seven Days”.  The promo CD single contains a rarity that makes it worth tracking down.  It’s not expensive, and thanks to online stores not hard to find.

Deliverance is a heavy album even with a few slower songs on board.  “Seven Days” is one such track.  A slow, heavy dirge can often make for a good single.  This CD has two versions, the full-length album cut and a shorter single edit with a truncated fade-out.

The special track here is a “jam box tape” of “Fuel”, a track that was as yet unreleased.  COC recorded it properly for their next album, Wiseblood.  This early version is an identical arrangement, but way way more ragged.  Pepper sounds like James Hetfield on this one, but it has far more balls than the Metallica song of the same name.  Total smokeshow.  This is the proverbial “song you buy the single for.”

3.5/5 stars

REVIEW: Corrosion of Conformity – Deliverance (1994)

CORROSION OF CONFORMITY – Deliverance (1994 Sony)

Gre-ea-easy!  That’s how the molton hot guitars sound on this landmark album.  Greasy, in the most complimentary way.  Six-stringers Woody Weatherman and Pepper Keenan have a way of making their guitar licks sound slippery and heavy at the same time.

Corrosion of Conformity (“COC”) did something really smart when they set out to record this album.  After the departure of bassist Phil Swisher and singer Karl Agell (who both turned up later in Leadfoot), they promoted Pepper Keenan to lead vocals, and brought back founding member Mike Dean on bass.  Pepper scored a hit for COC last time out with a lead vocal on “Vote With a Bullet”, so it was a logical move.  As for Mike Dean, his punk roots and busy bass are important to the sound of this band.  Dean was also COC’s vocalist from time to time in the past, and gets a lead vocal once again on the title track.

The resulting album Deliverance is 14 tracks (give or take an instrumental or two) of heavy, dirty metal they way they make it in Raleigh, North Carolina.  Pepper’s vocals lent them a southern edge.  Metallica are fans — Pep auditioned for them on bass when Newsted left the band.  (What a sound Metallica could have had, with James Hetfield backed up by Pepper Keenan on vocals!)

Regardless of who’s singing or playing, COC nailed all 14 songs.  None of the proverbial “filler”.  This is one hell of a trip, an album that demands to be listened to from start to finish, no skipping.  John Custer’s crisp and chunky production brought out the metal side more than ever.


“Help me Jesus, help me clean my wounds. He said he cannot heal that kind.”

Check out the choppy riff on the single “Clean My Wounds”.  The song is a tour-de-force, a textbook example of all the right ingredients.  The riff is outstanding, but the verse and chorus melodies slay.  Drummer Reed Mullin has a spare groove, but he knows exactly when to accent it with some heavy hitting.  The multi-tracked vocal in the chorus (“Knock it down!”) is the perfect fit, but the Lizzy-ish guitar solos are an additional layer of perfection.

Another key track, “Albatross” is too heavy to be a ballad so let’s call it a dirge.  You can hear what Mike Dean brings to the table — a slinky, Geezer style of bass that provides subliminal melody.  “Albatross” flies on the wings of a strong melody and heavy performance.  It has a vibe similar to “Outshined” by Soundgarden but more mournful.

The aforementioned instrumentals are integral parts of the album.  Remember how a Black Sabbath album had key instrumental bits, usually introducing another song?  That’s what COC do here.  “Without Wings”, a dark acoustic guitar figure, leads into the heavy-as-fuck “Broken Man” exactly like a Sabbath song.  Later on, “#2121313”, an electric guitar piece, is joined directly onto “My Grain”.  “Mano de Mono”, another acoustic piece, is basically the front end of “Seven Days”, a mid-paced groove single.

Speaking of “My Grain”, it’s the most punk rock track, but even so it features a kickass bass solo!  Other noteworthy tracks include the wah-wah inflected title track (Mike Dean on vocals).  Jittery, jumpy riffs dominate “Señor Limpio”, another blistering blitz.  Finally there is “Pearls Before Swine”, the slowest and bluesiest of the tracks and a seriously heavy closer.

Corrosion of Conformity have made some good (albeit very different) albums over the years, but like many bands they have a clear peak.  That is Deliverance, the one perfect album they made.

5/5 stars

REVIEW: Scream – No More Censorship (1988)

SCREAM – No More Censorship (1988 RAS Records)

Hey Grohl fans! Think Dave can do no wrong?  Not the case at all — just listen to his lacklustre debut, 1988’s No More Censorship by Scream!  Here is one of those albums that you buy “just for the collection”, but not to listen to on a regular basis.

Scream were a punk band out of Washington DC, with some history behind them.  Grohl made his debut on their fourth album, featuring Peter Stahl (vocals), Franz Stahl (future Foo Fighters guitarist), Robert Lee Davidson (guitar) and Skeeter Thompson (bass).  Amusingly Dave is miscredited as “David Stahl” on the first song.

The songs aren’t bad so to speak, just dull as a cinder block.  They check a lot of the boxes — hard rocking, rebellious lyrics, punchy guitars, but not a lot of hooks.  Scream has several riffs in want of a song.  The riff on “No Escape” is one that vintage Aerosmith would given a nut to write.  The guys could certainly play, and there’s more than enough energy to spare.  But there’s something missing, and it’s the songs that are the problem.  On some tracks, they were just doing basic garage punk.  On others they seemed to be striving to be more than they were.  They stretch outside the box on tracks like “Run to the Sun”.  But 10 minutes later, you can’t remember anything about the song.

The best tune, and the one that best showcases what Dave could do on the drums, is “Fucked Without a Kiss”, a speedy blast regarding incarceration.  Otherwise the album struggles to spark a fire.

In 2017, this album was remixed and reissued on Record Store Day exclusive green vinyl with a different track list.  Maybe the remix made it a better listen?

2/5 stars

REVIEW: The Hellacopters – Head Off (2008 Vinyl Disc)

THE HELLACOPTERS – Head Off (2008 Wild Kingdom Vinyl Disc)

If you don’t know what a “Vinyl Disc” is, that’s OK.  It was a niche format that only last a year or two.  Essentially it’s a CD with an LP groove on the label side.  You could get over 80 minutes on a single disc this way, by placing a bonus track on the vinyl side.  The Hellacopters, however, aren’t an 80 minute album kind of band.  Head Off, their final CD, is only 35 minutes long, plus a 3:20 bonus track on the vinyl side.

Head Off is a covers album, but having heard none of the originals, that wasn’t immediately obvious.  They usually do songs you’ve never heard of.  Covers or not, Head Off is a pretty great collection of the kind of hard rocking melodic gems that the Hellacopters usually specialize in anyway.

The hands-down best track is the last one on the CD:  “Darling Darling” originally by The Royal Cream.  Hard rock with melancholy melody and a guitar solo that slays.  There’s even a Kiss “Easter egg” in the Hellacopters’ version.  We already know they are Kiss fans since they even have a track called “Paul Stanley”, using a bit of one of the man’s awesome riffs.  This time, the Hellacopters lifted a lick that Paul plays live on the intro to “Black Diamond”.  You can hear the lick in the outro, at the 3:00 mark in “Darling Darling”.  The original is found in “Black Diamond” at the 18 second mark, on Kiss Alive!  The Hellacopters turned it into one of the best hooks in “Darling Darling”, and it happens to fit like a glove.  A leather glove, with tassels.

Back to the start, the album opens with a punky rock and roll vibe.  “Electrocute” is by a Swedish band called Demons, and this excellent boogie-woogie will make you want to check ’em out.  Another killer, “Midnight Angels” (The Peepshows) is melodic rock nirvana.  How are these not the biggest rock songs in the world already?  “I’m Watching You” (The Humpers) is a blitz, heads-a-bangin’ along.  It slows a bit on “No Salvation” (The Turpentines), which turns towards down a darker alley, though just as ear-pleasin’.  “In the Sign of the Octopus” (The Robots) is like a vintage Kiss track circa Love Gun, lost to the ages but just as good as the songs you remember.  The Robots stole my love!  The New Bomb Turks are covered next on “Veronica Lake”, pure good time punk rock.  Boogie piano makes it accessible to even the strictest hard rocker.

The CD continues to rock through track after track of brilliance that you’re probably unfamiliar with.  Every song is stuffed with hooks and melodies, no ballads.  The Hellacopters treat each one with the kind of guitar thunder they’re known for.  There are no duds anywhere on the entire album, and even though it’s all covers, it’s not uneven or inconsistent.  You would completely believe that all the tunes were originals, if you didn’t know ’em.  “Rescue” (Dead Moon) could have been a Hellacopters song, easily.  Even the soulful “Making Up For Lost Time” (The Bellrays) sounds natural to this band.

The only track that is a letdown is “Straight Until Morning” (The Powder Monkeys), the bonus track on the vinyl side.  As discussed in the article about Vinyl Discs, the audio quality on this side is utterly atrocious.  Especially when compared to the sharp sounding CD side, this track is flat and noisy.  It is, however, the heaviest and punkiest song on the album, so perhaps this is appropriate?  Even intentional?

Ignoring the sonic issues on the vinyl side, which was really just a novelty factor, Head Off is worth a solid:

5/5 stars

This limited edition also included a pin and a patch, so if you’re looking for your own copy, make sure it’s complete!

 

CONCERT REVIEW: Hello Hopeless and guests, Nov 30 at the Boathouse

HELLO HOPELESSThe Boathouse (Kitchener Ontario, November 30 2018) with Another Crush, Pioneer Anomaly, and Antisocial Surf Club.

With a new CD in hand, Kitchener rock band Hello Hopeless introduced the Boathouse to a fistful of new songs in a velvet glove of rock.

Playing every song from their new EP Dark Pasts, Brighter Futures plus a couple oldies and covers, the threesome kicked ass from start to finish with nary a hiccup.  The band were tight, proving that their performance on CD was no fluke.

Hello Hopeless tick several boxes:  1) Great stage presence and stage-worthy rapport.  2) Strong original songs.  3)  Great vocalists.  4) Musical chops.  5) A clear love of what they do.  With a Toronto gig on the horizon, the band are ready for the next jump.

Standout tracks included “Hurricane”, “The Match”, and acoustic ballad “Broke”.  It was the first time “Broke” was played live, and its rawness was appealing.  Singer Garrett Thomson poured everything into it, and it paid off.  The set was otherwise upbeat, fast and fully electric.  The band played a couple covers:  “Mr. Brightside” by the Killers and “She’s Out of Her Mind” by Blink 182.  Remarkably, their originals were much better than their covers.

Opening acts were Another Crush (Hamilton), Pioneer Anomaly (Toronto) and Antisocial Surf Club (Kitchener).  Pioneer Anomaly suffered technical issues, including a downed mike stand during the first song.  Fortunately a hero emerged from the audience as Max the Axe (he’s kind of a big deal) ran to the stage to fix the microphone so the band could finish the song!  Max the Axe has earned the honorific title “Max the Roadie”.  Max will be playing at the Boathouse next week, December 8, for his own CD release.  Antisocial Surf Club were notable for a few catchy originals and covers though clearly aimed at a younger crowd than Max and I.

If Hello Hopeless come to your town, see them.  If they keep playing gigs like this and writing quality originals, you will be hearing about them one way or the other.

5/5 stars

 

 

HELLO HOPELESS CD release tonight!

Local punk rock threesome Hello Hopeless will be releasing their new EP Dark Pasts, Brighter Futures tonight November 30 at the Boathouse in Kitchener!  This smoking hot release is well worth your attention and the measly $10 they are asking for it.  Support local music and go see Hello Hopeless.  Here are the details:

The Boathouse, Victoria Park
57 Jubilee Dr., Kitchener, Ontario
Show starts at 8pm

Featuring guests AntiSocial Surf Club, Pioneer Anomaly and Another Crush.

 

Come and meet me!

If I didn’t truly love this CD, I wouldn’t be plugging it.  Hope to see you at the Boathouse.

 

REVIEW: Hello Hopeless – Dark Pasts, Brighter Futures (2018)

HELLO HOPELESS – Dark Pasts, Brighter Futures (2018)

You have to admire a band that puts in 110%.  Hello Hopeless, a trio of punk rock upstarts from Kitchener Ontario, have spared no expense making their new EP sound perfect.  It’s verges close to punk metal if you asked me, but let’s not split hairs.  Whatever you want to call it, the production is surprisingly deep with loads of variety and small details.

It’s easy to compare Hello Hopeless to modern punk greats like Blink, but there’s more to it.  Opening instrumental “Dark Pasts, Brighter Futures” works things up with a Priest-like beginning (think “Electric Eye” going into “Screaming For Vengeance”).  The tension seeths into the next and best track, “Victim, Victim”.  Busy drums and a chunky riff back up a great, punchy song.  Garrett Thomson (vocals, bass) seemingly plumbs the depths of his soul when singing, but the simple, hammering riffs are what keep you coming back.  The drums (by Will Bender) are fast n’ busy, just like you want it.  Blasting on, “Save Myself” (guitar solo!) and “Inertia” continue in this direction.  “Inertia” is particular is a varied trip, and well worth it.  The dark lyrics are quite good, but the production just smokes.

An unexpected acoustic ballad called “Broke” boasts a raw, emotional vocal and excellent melodies.  It’s a good break in the action, because it’s pedal down from here out.  Thomson and guitarist Nathan Heald share lead vocals on “The Match”, and again I’m hearing a hint of Judas Priest (the opening to “Hellrider” specifically).  Catchy vocals paired with a groovy bassline, plus a guitar solo, riffs n’ drums…what more do you need?  The closing track “Hurricane” also features shared vocals, and goes out on a suitably powerful note.  There’s even piano for a touch of the dramatic.  Once again, I hear a lil’ bit of metal.  Savatage this time.  What a way to end it.

I may be a little biased since these guys are from my home town, so let’s get that out there.  I truly think Dark Pasts, Brighter Futures is one of the better releases of 2018.  You’d do well to check it out.  So go ahead and do it, it’s on Spotify!  For those who demand a physical product, the CD is out November 30.

4.5/5 stars

Check out Hello Hopeless at the Boathouse in Kitchener on November 30 to get your CD.

Interview: HELLO HOPELESS – November 2018

HELLO HOPELESS CD release – Dark Pasts, Brighter Futures – November 30 2018

At the Boathouse in Kitchener (57 Jubilee Drive, Kitchener, Ontario)

Sunday Chuckle: Homeless Honey?

There is a new local punk group I’m excited about.  They’re a trio; fans of Blink 182 will dig them.  Their tunes sound like the album Blink should have made instead of Neighborhoods.  I’ve heard most of their new album which will be out mid-November.  Great production, and even a couple guitar solos.  Good tunes.  Good singer.  I like them

In November, I’ll be showcasing them here on this site, so watch for a great new band called Hello Hopeless.  Of course this afternoon when I was writing this, I had a brain fart and couldn’t remember their name.  I asked the singer, “What’s the name of your band again?  Homeless Honey?”

He just stared at me.

Fortunately he’s not mad!

Fucking embarrassing, though!