Here at Poprock Record we’re not always about sweet vocal harmonies and earworm melody-drenched material. Sometimes we rock out. Really. And the proof is right here in this post as we host a hooky rock and roll party night. So dim the lights and get that two-four of 50 chilling in the fridge. It’s time to cut loose.
Sweden’s got a reputation as some kind of social democratic paradise where blond people are excruciating polite to each other. But Dream Boogie exists to let you know they can get messy. I love the ramshackle, loose party vibe to the performances on their sole release to date, Sorry to Disappoint All Music Lovers. Kinda like Titus Adronicus meets The Replacements, with a touch of 1964 Beatles guitar. Opening cut “Pirlo,” a paean to the Italian soccer coach, really sets the scene with a driving beat, retro guitars, whistles and group singing vocals. “At the Heart of Seoul” adds a bit of rambling, countryfied Merseybeat to the proceedings. Then there’s a dab of “The Batman Theme” kicking off “A Boy Can Dream,” punkish doo-wop on “Good Boys Don’t Stop the Music,” and a Stonesy psych feel to “A Letter to the King.” There’s also jangle to spare all over this record, on “Surf Green,” “Shanghai Nights,” and “Where I Turn.” “Television Will Not be Revolutionized” cleverly inverts Gil Scott Heron’s classic message, stylistically moving into Springsteen territory circa The River. My personal fave on this record is “Will There Ever Be a Rainbow?” It’s got the vibe of a Spector-era girl group classic on some sort of punk revival circuit. “Bullets” rounds out the LP and conjures up a seething, sweaty mass jumping up and down in unison. This is a party band par excellence. Live in concert I’m pretty sure they don’t disappoint.
Forget Athens or Manchester as your fave hip music city. Rochester, New York is the place to be! The local indie music mafia includes such great bands as The Chesterfield Kings, The Demos, The Hi-Risers, and The Squires of the Subterrain, among many others. Like Trevor Lake. Locals have already seen this guy in a host of bands from Dangerbyrd to The Televisionaires to a revived Hi-Risers. But it’s Lake’s solo work that’s got our attention here, specifically his swinging melody-pleasing long-player Bunker Stew. Past solo work from Lake has stretched from the full on rockabilly revivalism of Laughin’ and Jokin’ to stripped down punk from Danny’s Favorites. But Bunker Stew falls into the sweet spot between neo-1950s and early 1960s melodic rock and roll. Some of what appears here is straight up Johnny Horton rockabilly-influenced, like “Big City Girls” and “Big Footed Dan,” or Merseybeat and/or surf rock themes on “Do What You Wanna Do” and “Go, Go Ferrari.” But other tracks synthesize those retro motifs into something like the new wave poprock that emerged in the late 1970s. Album opener “There She Goes” sounds like a track Marshall Crenshaw would have demo’d back in 1979 for Alan Betrock’s Shake Records. “Never Thought I’d See the Day,” “I Wanna Know Her,” and “Many Roads to Follow” also have the stamp of that era. “Heaven On Earth” reminds me of the country bop style on that great Capitol records compilation Hillbilly Music … Thank God, Vol. 1. Wanna add a bit of swing to your party? Definitely serve up some Bunker Stew.
Chicago’s Superkick may fall on the heavy side of my usual thing. But our rocking party night can surely handle a bit of mosh pit once we get going. Initially I was taken with the cover of their 2020 debut Like This / Like That. It certainly screams ‘party just about out of control’. But soon it was the melodic undercurrent lurking beneath the grinding guitars that grabbed my attention. The album pulls together a host of previously released singles like the surging opening cut “Project 21,” “Uncomfortable,” and the band’s more mellow collaboration with Laura Jean Anderson “Sure Thing.” Title Track “Like This / Like That” and “Jock Jam ‘97” fall somewhere between SWMRS and The Front Bottoms style-wise for me, with the wall of guitars and melodic vocal lines. And then there’s departures like “Rumble Seat” that dial back the guitars a bit, letting the poppy melody ride a bit higher in the mix. Clocking in at just 20 minutes long, the album is really more of an EP. Then again, the band does play pretty fast.
Speaking of EPs, the hardest working band plying the sixties-meets-punk side of the street are back with a new collection of four killer tunes. The Friends of Cesar Romero once again really deliver with In the Cold Cruel Eyes of a Million Stars. It’s a great title and the cover is pure 1960s fashion model chic, the kind The Smiths adorned all their singles with. But it’s what inside the EP jacket that counts and here they don’t disappoint. “Athena Crystal” echoes that classic 1960s garage pop rock and roll sound that came on strong again in the late 1970s. “Life of a Sun Queen” owns its late 1960s psych rock sound with a vengeance. “The Moment Playboy” is relentless in hitting its poppy rock marks. “Plastic Moon Love Arrest” has more of Gene Pitney angst to it, if he’d been backed by an actual rock and roll band. I don’t know where band leader J. Waylon Miller gets all his inspiration from but, please, please, don’t let it stop.
Rocking the night away? Sure, we’re up for it. Especially with the crew from this post in attendance. Better line up a ride home for later. Much later. The turntable is just getting warmed up.