Professor And The Madman
Disintegrate Me (Fullertone Records)
We may just be a few months into the new year, but it's safe to say Professor And The Madman are the best punk rock supergroup we'll hear all year. Fronted by Alfie Agnew (Adolescents, D.I.) and Sean Elliott (D.I., Mind Over Four), the rest of the band is filled out with members of The Damned, past and present - Rat Scabies on drums and Paul Gray on bass.
There are obviously plenty of punk influences that can be heard all over this one, but the band goes much deeper, mixing in classic psychedelica ("Space Walrus"), Power Pop ("Wishes") and just about everything in between. There is also a strong Brit Pop vibe weaved throughout most of the songs here.
Elliot and Agnew taking turns in front of the mic throughout just adds to the appeal of this record. Both are strong, but with distinct sounds that serve their respective songs well. There are one or two missteps along the way, like the predictable "Machines," weighed down with uninspired lyrics, but for the most part, "Disintegrate Me" is everything you want a debut record to be: original, experimental and memorable.
6 String Drag
Top of the World (Schoolkids Records)
South Carolina's 6 String Drag may not be the most prolific band out there â€“ "Top of the World" is only their fourth release in about 20 years â€“ but as long as everything moving forward sounds as good as this new release, all isÂ forgiven.
Like every great Americana band to come around in the last decade or so, 6 String Drag comes out of the ashes of punk rock; frontman Kenny Roby switched to a more country vibe after his punk band called it quits. Their 1994 debut was solid classic country (read: not Bro Country), mixed with a little soul and R&B. "Top of the World" continues with that tradition, plenty of horns and organ, but have also added in more rock influences, across several decades and enough pop hooks to keep the songs in your head for hours. Across 11 tracks, Roby and crew turn in a remarkably satisfying mix of genres that stands as quite possibly their best yet.
Whether they're bemoaning love gone awry in "Wrong Girl" or reliving youth in the hard-charging "Small Town Punks," the band has never sounded as strong. The title track, the slowest one on the record, is achingly beautiful and a testament to just how confident they have grown over the years since that first record.
All Nerve (4AD)
There's always a sense of hesitation when a universally adored, classic band puts out new music after years away. The Pixies are probably one of the best examples. "Indie Cindy," the 2014 post-reunion album that came after two decades of silence wasâ€¦ well, underwhelming. Expectations are just too high for most bands to meet. The Breeders, coincidentally made up of former Pixies bassist Kim Deal, may be one of the few exceptions.
"All Nerve," the group's fifth studio album and first in over 10 years, finds the band in a remarkably impressive place. Almost 30 years after they first formed, you'd have to go back to 1993's "Last Splash" to find a Breeder's record this strong. The playing is as confident as it's ever been with the same soft-loud-soft guitar build ups that The Breeders, and The Pixies before them, are known for. Songs like the slow tempo "Space Woman" and the brilliant, and equally slow "Walking With a Killer" are balanced out beautifully with faster and noisier fare, like "Archangel's Thunderbird."
More impressively, the album gets better with each repeated listen. Not all classic bands should keep making new music after the reunion. The Breeders are clearly an exception.
Reggie And The Full Effect
41 (Pure Noise)
Emo bands never dieâ€¦ they just usually grow up and keep making the same records they made in the early aughts. In the case James Dewees (aka Reggie & the Full Effect), that means another so-so effort with hints of promise that ultimately falls apart after repeated listens.
"41," his seventh effort and first in about five years, carries many of the same hallmarks as his other records â€“ both good and bad. There's the '80s Depeche Mode-like synth sound throughout (used to its best effect on the impressively nostalgic "Heartbreak") the trying-way-too-hard song titles ("Channing Tatum Space Rollerblading Montage Music") and the mock hard rock tracks ("Karate School").
When he sheds the forced goofiness, on a song like the straight-forward "Broke Down," you can see the promise of a much better album. Unfortunately, those moments are few and farÂ bÂ tween.
For those who loved Reggie & The Full Effect when the Van's Warped Tour was the highlight of your summer â€“ Congrats! He's back and just as you remember him.
For everyone else, nothing to see here. MoveÂ along.
In Your Own Sweet Time (Cooking Vinyl)
Since their debut just over a decade ago, Scottish alt pop band The Fratellis have been churning out infectiously catchy pop, with enough jangly guitars and power chords to appease the indie kids, but also boasting a much wider appeal. And "In Your Own Sweet Time," their fifth record, is no different.
From the first track, the irresistible "Stand Up Tragedy," throughout nearly the entirety of the record, the band keeps up the momentum. The only low point is the slow tempo album closer, "I Am That." Excluding that lone track, The Fratellis manage to top an already strong track record, turning in their most satisfying albumÂ yet.
The band had help from producer Tony Hoffer, who's diverse CV includes work with Beck, The Kooks and Belle & Sebastian, among others, adding to the eclectic nature of this record that draws influences from a slew of different genres over several different decades. It's not hard to imagine everything from Gang of Four to Supertramp being played as psych up music as the band prepped for recording.