MUSIC REVIEWS

By John B Moore

English Beat
Here We Go Love (Here We Go Records)

It's been more than 35 years since the Dave Wakeling-fronted group, The English Beat (known outside of Canada and the U.S. as simply The Beat) last put out a record of new music. Maybe it's the fact that the band has been touring fairly frequently for the better part of the last decade - and still putting on an amazing show, by the way - but it's hard to believe it's been this long since Wakeling and his crew last put out an LP.

But they finally have and the result, "Here we Go Love," sounds, thankfully very much like the original band's material. It fits perfectly into the collection alongside "I Just Can't Stop It," "Wha'ppen?" and "Special Beat Service." The 13 tracks here are the same satisfying blend of Two-Tone - a mix of ska and punk - that the English Beat (who added a bit more pop to their version) helped pioneer in the early '80s alongside peers like the Specials and Madness.

The songs, crammed with hooks, are undeniably infectious, so it's hard pay attention to the lyrics in the first few go-arounds, but they are some of Wakeling's best, whether he's talking about relationships or politics ("The One and Only," a modern day cautionary tale, is probably one of the best songs Wakeling has ever written). There are a number of guests on the record including Roddy 'Radiation' Byers of The Specials and curiously, Train guitarist Luis Maldonado.

Confusingly, Wakeling's former co-founder and co-vocalist in The Beat, Ranking Roger, currently fronts a different band that goes by the name The Beat featuring Roger. And he recently put out a new record as well. Confused? I am as well, but regardless, pick up a copy of English Beat's "Here We Go Love."

The Nude Party
The Nude Party (New West Records)

Jesus, who knew it would take a band of 20-somrthings to perfectly, organically resurface the vibe of '70s rock - from the swagger of the Stones to the swamp funk of Leon Russell - for the modern era.

The Nude Party's self-titled debut is an exercise in a "rules be damned, we're gonna do this one our way" mentality, stripped of any calculated need to fit into the current music scene. From the wandering guitar and keyboards lines to the group sing-alongs, the record is 11 tracks of pure bliss. The third song, "Chevrolet Man," about a band ignoring conventional wisdom and following their own path, is the song that hooks you from the start, but the rest of the album pays off on the promise offered from that lead single. The band has a chameleon-like knack for changing sounds track to track. From the psychedelic organ on "War is Coming," the Jagger-like vocals on "Records" to the Question Mark & the Mysterians vibe on "Live Like Me," the band have an impressively deep well of influences they're pulling from.

Despite this being the band's first full length (along with a lone EP), they're hardly novices as they've been playing together for six years already. All living under the same roof, the band has locked into a cohesive sound some groups take decades to accomplish.

Social Distortion
Live at the Roxy [Vinyl] (Craft Recordings)

Almost 15 years after their first album, Social Distortion - a reliably brilliant live act - finally put out a live record in 1998 and did what few bands have been able to do over the years, accurately capture the energy and excitement of a live set.

Early into the show, frontman Mike Ness recalls driving by a parking lot near The Whiskey recently - the same lot the band used to drink at 18 years prior while they prepped for their shows. "That was back at a time when society was not quite ready for this type of music. Does anyone remember those days? That's when punk rock was dangerous… when you walked down the street with blue hair you were gonna get into a fight," Ness says before launching into a spirited version of "Prison Bound."

This 17-track set has just been re-released on vinyl by Craft Recordings (the same label behind Ness's recent solo vinyl re-releases). This double-LP set comes with a very cool rare poster that was included in the original 1998 pressing.

The set, recorded at Hollywood's Roxy, a hometown show for the band, is a remarkable collection of some of the band's best songs like "Story of My Life," "Mommy's Little Monster," "Ball & Chain" and two stellar covers; The Stones' "Under My Thumb" and Johnny Cash's "Rong of Fire," the finale.

Twenty years after its release, "Live at the Roxy" is still one of the best live punk rock records put to wax. This vinyl re-release was a long time coming and well deserved.

Ian Moore
Toronto (Last Chance Records)

Just a year after putting out the impressive LP "Strange Days," Seattle-by-way-of Austin musician Ian Moore has just turned in an equally impressive six-song effort, "Toronto."

Dating back to his debut in 1993, just about every reference to Moore begins with "guitar player" and for good reason; despite housing a powerful, emotive voice, it's Moore's deft rock guitar leads that separate him from the standard solo act out there. And nowhere is that more apparent than on "Toronto." Songs like the charging "Looking for the Sound" or "1,000 Blackbirds" with its blazing riffs, are among career bests.

This record pretty much epitomizes all that has ever been great about Moore: A love of classic rock, a knack for writing smart lyrics, all pushed through a filter of contemporary awareness. While "Strange Days" may have earned Moore the strongest praise yet in his two-plus decades of recording, "Toronto" is certain to give that last record a hell of a challenge.

Redd Kross
Third Eye [Vinyl LP] (Atlantic)

For a band whose first gig was opening for Black Flag, Redd Kross has come a long way in the decade between 1980 and 1990. Originally rooted in the Southern California punk rock sound, The Tourists, then Red Cross and finally Redd Kross had settled on a more melodic, power pop sound by the time they put out their career-defining album "Third Eye" in 1990.

The record has been re-released on vinyl and as a result a whole new generation get a chance to hear one of the best moments from a truly underrated band. From the peppy opener "Faith Healer," the jangly pop guitar on "Annie's Gone," to the near-perfect faux Paul Stanley vocals on "1976" (provided by guitarist Robert Hecker), the album is nearly flawless from start to finish.

You can hear the band's inspiration in a slew of 1990s alt rock bands from the Muffs (featuring one-time Redd Kross drummer Roy McDonald) to Material Issue. Not unlike fellow California Popper Pop band Jellyfish, there is also a strong 1960s vibe to the band, from their sound to the platform shoes and long straight hair they sport on the album cover.

The vinyl re-release of "Third Eye" should thrill longtime fans, but also serves as a great intro to the group for the uninitiated. After splitting up in the mid- '90s, the band has since reformed and even put out a new record in 2012 and are still touring.

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