Friday, April 9, 2021

RAZORBATS "Mainline Rock N Roll"


(c) 2021 Rob Mules Records

  1. Rock N Roll Kills
  2. Working For The Weekend
  3. Rebel Soul
  4. Little Miss Crazy
  5. Big Time
  6. The City
  7. Cocaine Karma
  8. White Trash Radio
  9. Venice
  10. Nightcrawlers

Paul Vercouteren--Vocals
Kjetil F. Wevling--Guitars, Backing Vocals
Asle Tangen--Guitars, Backing Vocals
Martin Korsgaard Hervig--Bass, Backing Vocals
Torris Ilievski--Drums, Keys, Backing Vocals

Additional Musicians
Chris Damien Doll--Backing Vocals
Monica Rennan Hjelle--Backing Vocals

It's been three years since Razorbats released a full-length album, but 2021 sees the Norwegian rockers return with Mainline Rock N Roll.  And, as has always been the case with Razorbats, the band has done so on their own terms, making the album (at least for now) available ONLY on vinyl and digital download.  That's CDs were pressed for Mainline Rock N Roll, at least as of this review.  Of course, in 2016 Razorbats released an EP, This High, digitally and on cassette only, so this shouldn't come as any kind of shock to fans of the band.

The record...yes, RECORD...kicks off with "Rock N Roll Kills", building from some guitar distortion to hard-hitting drums, to some seriously crunchy rhythm guitars to lead the song in.  Everything backs off during the verse sections but comes blasting back in during the pre-chorus portions, complete with some gang shouted "Hey! Hey! Heys!".  There is a definite pop sensibility to the song's structure here, but with a defiant, middle-finger-in-your-face-and-grinning-about-it attitude that sets the stage for everything to come on the rest of Mainline Rock N Roll.

The band has recently released a second single from the album in "Working For The Weekend", but fear not that this is a cover of the classic Loverboy tune.  Gritty rhythm guitars and catchy "oh oh ohs" intro the track before everything again backs off to just Vercouteren's voice, Hervig's bass, and Ilievski's drums to carry the majority of the first verse section, with the guitars jumping back in to rev things up during the hyper-catchy chorus and then on the following verses.  A song about grinding it out in a dead-end job during the week and then cutting loose on the weekend, "Working..." is a fun track with some total 70s keyboard effects thrown into the mix to keep things interesting.  For my money, this is the kind of track that Razorbats has always done exceptionally well, combining a love for retro rock with some 90s pop-punk attitude in places, to keep things fresh and interesting, even while resembling something from four or five decades ago!

"Rebel Soul" plays up the band's love for that pop punk sound I just mentioned, but still manages to incorporate a much cleaner, more 80s oriented, melodic rock lead guitar solo and bridge section.  I am impressed on this track (and throughout the record) with the backing vocal work, and every guy in the band contributes to this part of the album in some capacity, getting some help from their buddy, the Sleaze Fuhrer himself, Chris Damien Doll, from the Suicide Bombers.  To me, this song just sounds like the guys having fun and grinding away at a party rock tune, which is what Razorbats has long symbolized for me, even though they do so with less retro-attitude than in other places.

"Little Miss Crazy" was chosen as the lead single for the record, and with good reason, as it is probably the strongest...and my favorite...on an album filled with catchy songs.  Musically darker than anything else here, "Little Miss Crazy" is a moody rocker with a cool opening guitar riff and an undeniably catchy chorus that hooks the listener with the first spin.  Cheeky lyrics abound in this track as well, with Vercouteren opining, "Why are the cutest ones always insane?" when singing about his "Swan in a pond of doves".  The straightforward and somewhat sparse nature of the track, as well as the way the song is produced, really allows it to take on a haunting feel, and nothing here sounds over-produced or forced.  Hervig's bass is given a strong voice throughout the track, and Wevling's solo is smooth, soulful ear candy that is set off by the simple acoustic riff that runs the entirety of the track.  Vercouteren is absolutely spot-on with his delivery here, and some excellent backing vocals from Monica Rennan Hjelle lend a bit of support to an outstanding track that I find myself drawn to multiple times whenever I spin Mainline Rock N Roll.

A couple of tracks here have seen previous release...sort of.  "The City" was originally supposed to appear on a split-EP with another band called the Sick Things, but my understanding is the EP was never released, although the song was released as both a single and video.  A thick bass line drives the track from the get-go and a catchy, sing-along chorus feeds into the fun of this bouncy rocker.  I'm very glad to see the song get a second chance at life on this album.

Likewise, "White Trash Radio" is given another breath of life on Mainline Rock N Roll after being released as a stand-alone single in 2019.  Kjetil told me that this track has been re-recorded for this release, but the song sounds almost identical to me.  Regardless, this is a fun rock track with a big, catchy hook, nicely fuzzed-up guitars, and a classic 70s guitar rock style that channels a bit of "Saturday Nights Alright For Fighting" as it bounces along with plenty of energy and tongue-in-cheek attitude from Vercouteren.  Check out the awesome video below...

Sandwiched in between these fun rewinds is "Cocaine Karma", a plucky, sassy track that makes me think of a combination of the sing-along melodies of Cheap Trick and the melodic chug-chugga-chug of Marvelous 3.  A largely sparse track, "Cocaine Karma" starts off with Vercouteren using a bit of a sneer to his vocals before being supported by some strong backing vocals and a punchy rhythm section that is just a lot of fun to bop along to.  Once the sing-along chorus hits...forget about it...the song is firmly wedged into your brain.  Wevling drops a cool little solo into the mix, and some handclaps are interjected in time for a final run through that earworm chorus.  Just a really well constructed song from start to finish! 

"Venice" throws a bit of a curve ball into the mix, as this is a haunting, acoustic-based ballad that is completely unlike anything else on the record...or in the band's catalog, for that matter.  Vercouteren's vocal skills are fully on display here, especially during the first verse where virtually all electricity is stripped away from the instruments, save a lone, mournful guitar tone that interjects itself in various places.  Once again, some excellent backing vocals really lend themselves to the fullness of this track's sound, and Wevling's wailing solo is spot-on perfect for this song that continually builds upon itself, adding little musical bits here and there until the fullness of the track is finally achieved in time for Wevling to drop in another wickedly melodic outro solo.  A really, really powerful song unlike anything the band has tried before.  Highly recommended!

The album concludes with the high voltage, early Motley Crue-styled rocker, "Nightcrawlers".  A little bit punky, a little bit sleazy, "Nightcrawlers" is pure fun from the moment the thunderclaps intro the song, and the early 80s guitar tones are a true joy to hear!  A complete downshift in tempo accompanies the bridge section which features some werewolf howls in the background, only to find the guitars charging hard out of this little break and chewing their way through to the end, with some flash and flair to the presentation here.   I can pretty much guarantee "Nightcrawlers" is my second favorite track here, trailing only "Little Miss Crazy", and it really makes me wish the album wasn't ending every time I get to the song as I truly love this track and this record.  

Every time the band releases new music, be it a single, and EP, or a full release, I find myself a bit giddy with anticipation, and I am always worried I am hyping things up too much for myself.  Sooner or later I have to be let down, right?  Well, so far, so good with Razorbats as they manage yet again to keep me engaged from start to finish.  Growing more skilled as songwriters with each release, and getting tighter and tighter as performers, Razorbats are a band that has seemingly come a long way since their killer debut, Camp Rock, which is truly saying something as that album was Glitter2Gutter's album of the year for 2015!  Will Mainline Rock N Roll put another Glitzy award on Razorbats' mantle at year's end?  Only time will tell, but the band has certainly delivered a contender!

Rating:  Razorbats remain one of my favorite bands that most folks have likely never heard of, and remain oh, so crankable!  Find a turntable...or download it...and crank this to 9!



(c) 2020 Independent

  1. I'm Alright
  2. Lady Red Light
  3. Desert Moon
  4. House Of Broken Love (Intro)
  5. House Of Broken Love
  6. Big Time
  7. Blues
  8. Mista Bone
  9. Save Your Love
  10. Rock Me (Intro)
  11. Rock Me
  12. Once Bitten, Twice Shy

Mitch Malloy--Vocals
Mark Kendall--Guitars
Michael Lardie--Guitars, Keyboards
Scott Snyder--Bass
Audie Desbrow--Drums, Percussion

Great White has released yet another live album, the Kendall/Lardie/Desbrow version of the band's second such CD in the past 8 years (the other being 30 Years - Live From The Sunset Strip).  Why?  One has to believe it is the simplest and safest way for the band to introduce yet another new lead singer, with Mitch Malloy now attempting to fill the role of Jack Russell following the ousting of Terry Ilous, who fronted the band on their last two releases, 2012's disappointing, Elation, and their last studio effort, 2017's Full Circle.

Live starts off with "I'm Alright", a track from the Full Circle album that featured Ilous (XYZ) as the lead vocalist.  I'm not really sure why the press materials for this album pitch this as a "new song", since it was actually released 3 years ago, unless it is because the rumored next Great White record, with Malloy, will repackage this song as a single.  Regardless, "I'm Alright" is actually a pretty good, straight-up hard rock song, and the band sounds like it is having fun with the track.  Malloy is energetic and interacts with the Kentucky crowd in a few places, and this live package is off to a great start, except for one thing...this song doesn't sound like Great White, and is a track virtually nobody knows...

The band moves on from this newish song with three classic tracks, and the crowd is probably going, "Oh...okay...I know THESE songs...", with "Lady Red Light", "Desert Moon", and "House Of Broken Love" rolling out back-to-back-to-back.  "Lady Red Light", in particular, sounds really strong musically, and again, Malloy does a really solid job of handling this Great White signature song.  I have to be honest here in saying that I think this is the best I have heard Kendall's version of the band in a live setting...ever.  "Desert Moon" also really sounds strong here, and there is more energy and oomph to the band than I have heard on any post-Jack record, so perhaps Malloy has brought something to the band that the more laid back Ilous simply couldn't add to albums Elation, Full Circle, or his live Great White album, the previously mentioned 30 Years Live from the Sunset Strip.  Following a completely pointless intro (thankfully you can skip it), even "House Of Broken Love" sounds strong from a musical standpoint, and Kendall's solo is very nicely performed, but here is where Malloy falters a bit.  The man gives it his all, to be sure, but he does not have the type of vocal style that Jack Russell has which takes this song from really good to absolutely great.  Malloy sings the song pretty well; Jack Russell owns the song.

Malloy introduces "Big Time" as another new song, which of course it isn't, because again, this song was released three years prior as the lead single from Full Circle.  Once again, the fact that this isn't a classic Great White track actually saves the song in this live setting because Malloy can feel free to attack the song as best suits his vocal style with no expectation of sounding like Russell.  My complaint about this song is the same one I had when I reviewed that album a couple of years ago:  it sounds like a blatant rip-off of THEIR OWN SONG, as even the most casual fan will be able to pick out the same guitar riff and drum pattern in "Big Time" as was used in the classic "Face The Day" from the Shot In The Dark album.  The sin of laziness excused, the song actually comes off pretty well live.

"Blues" is simply an instrumental blues jam that focuses largely on Kendall's guitar playing, and it is done very well, to be honest, and doesn't suffer from being bloated or overblown, clocking in at just under 2:30 total.

The album wraps with four straight songs from the band's heyday, and once again Malloy does an admirable job on the rockers, and struggles by comparison on the ballad, and especially on the band's best-known song.  "Mista Bone" is done very nicely, and "Rock Me" is handled better than I imagined it would be, although there is an obvious difference in not only vocal approach and delivery style, but also pitch in the vocals here.  It's not a deal breaker, but for longtime fans, it is definitely noticeable.  "Save Your Love" is another big, signature ballad for the band, and once again, try as he might, Malloy simply can't muster the emotional power that Russell still cranks up in the live setting on this song.  Again, Malloy isn't terrible, he's just not Jack Russell. Unfortunately, Malloy really sounds out of his element on "Once Bitten, Twice Shy", coming across as tired-sounding (maybe he was tired by this point) and he seemed to be reaching for notes in a couple of places while sounding flat in others.  The band itself even sounds a bit flat on this radio classic, especially at the outset, where the tempo seems a little bit slow, although the energy picks up when the second verse kicks in.  The crowd participation section is handled well enough, and Desbrow gets after it pretty hard on the last runs through the chorus and closing out the track.              

There are some glaring omissions from the set-list if you are a true Great White fan, but for casual fans, the tracking here is passable.  No "Rollin' Stoned", no "Angel Song", no "Face The Day" or "Stick It" or "Big Goodbye" or "Call It Rock N Roll"...all are songs that certainly could have/should have found their way into the live set, in my opinion, especially "Rollin' Stoned" and "Call It Rock N Roll".  I can understand not wanting to expose Malloy with another big power ballad like "The Angel Song" or "Old Rose Motel", but I have to admit to being surprised by the omission of at least a couple of the songs I listed here.

The production/mixing/recording of this live album is generally solid, although there are a couple of fairly harsh edits between a couple of songs, but sometimes not much can be done about those kinds of issues.  I would have cut out both intros, personally, as neither one adds anything to the song that follows, and both just take up time that could have been given to another song.  The mix is surprisingly strong, with Snyder's bass being very easy to pick out on multiple tracks, which is not always the case on live records.  The backing vocals are also pretty good, which can again be a glaring issue on live albums from just about any band you can think of, so that was a nice little bonus here.

So, do you need to own this record?  Nope, not unless you, like me, are a Great White completist who has to have everything the band has done.  It's pretty pricey to own, for one thing ($30 for the CD/DVD set, $35 if you want it an additional $5.00 S&H if you live outside the US), and there are better versions available of all of the classics...with Jack singing, no less.  So unless you really want a live version of "I'm Alright" and "Big Time" with Malloy singing them, you can pass on Live and not feel like you are short-changing yourself in any real way regarding Great White.

In the end, this isn't a terrible live album by any stretch.  This version of  the band sounds more energetic than I have heard them in some time, and Malloy does a good job of interacting with the crowd and keeping the show moving along.  He also does himself a service by NOT trying to sound like Jack, because he...and anyone destined to fail in that capacity.  The problem for me is always going to be the fact that this version of Great White, while featuring three members of the "classic" line-up, will always sound like a cover band, regardless of how talented the lead vocalist is.  It happened with Ilous, it happened with Jani Lane (seek out a YouTube video of Jani fronting the band if you never have), and it happens again here with Malloy.  He is a GREAT singer, no doubt....

...but he ain't Jack Russell...

If you want to order the CD...or if you want to track down a copy of Full Circle, both can be purchased here.

Rating:  Overall, not the hot mess I was expecting, but still not what I want from Great White.  Rock this to a 6, with the lack of several classics...and no Jack...holding this effort back a good deal.

Friday, April 2, 2021

PLASTIC TEARS "Anthems For Misfits"


(c) 2021 WormHoleDeath Records

  1. Doomsday Girls
  2. Riot Zone
  3. Clash In The Night
  4. Look Of Lies
  5. Hallucinations
  6. Divine 
  7. Radar Eyes
  8. Restless Outsider
  9. Nobody Likes A Crybaby
  10. Candlelight Hate Affair
  11. Communication
  12. Imaginary Virgin Mary
Miqu December--Lead Vocals
Andy Whitewine--Guitars
Juha Pietilainen--Guitars
Edu Kettunen--Bass
Eco Xtasy--Drums

It's been three years since Finnish street rockers, Plastic Tears, released their (to me) surprisingly good Angels With Attitude album.  Combining bits of sleaze and punk with an obvious love of/respect for Finnish legends, Hanoi Rocks, Plastic Tears created a musical environment on that record that I was in no way prepared for.  Could the band capture the magic again on Anthems For Misfits?  With the same lineup intact from the previous record, a new record label, and an entire pandemic's worth of time to craft songs, I had to admit I was hopeful for a record that was at least close to their last effort.  I was not surprised for a record that was even better, however.

As soon as the distorted guitars cut loose on the punkish glam rocker, "Doomsday Girls", it is evident the band is picking up right where they left off.  A rollicking piano is thrown into the mix here, adding even more fun to this barroom boogie track that is intentionally messy, exceptionally raw, and unquestionably fun, as Miqu and the boys tear through the album's opening cut and wrap things up in under two-and-a-half minutes!  Things are off and running for Anthems...right from the jump!

The album's lead single is up next with "Riot Zone", which abandons the piano in favor of even grittier guitars, an extra helping of sneer from Miqu's voice, rapid fire drum cadences from Xtasy, and fun, carnival-effects breakdown before the last run through the high-octane chorus!  Sound like a disaster waiting to happen?  I imagine it could have been if handled by a lesser-caliber band, but for Plastic Tears, a track like this is just another day at the musical office, and "Riot Zone" is a perfect example of what this band does best!  Check out the official video below.

"Clash In The Night" changes things up just a bit, not by slowing the track down, but by altering the approach of the delivery.  Less chaos, more control is the motto of this track that has crossover radio appeal written all over know, if radio still played rock n roll (maybe it does in Finland and Europe).  The guitar solo here shows a nice melodic approach without wandering into sappy territory, and Miqu backs off the punkish flavor of his usual vocals to adopt a cleaner singing style that works very well,  "Clash..." is a nice surprise and at 4:05, clocks in as the longest song on the entire album, without feeling like it.  

"Look Of Lies" straddles the styles of "Riot Zone" and "Clash In The Night" pretty nicely, with a spy-thriller movie tone added to the main guitar riff and a collection of "la la la's" from Miqu shaking up the overall feel of the track just enough that the listener may feel a bit of musical vertigo just four tracks into Anthems For Misfits, as the band really lets all of their influences creep into the mix by this point in the record.  "Look Of Lies" also features a nice guitar solo and some more great work from Xtasy on drums that are well worth checking out.

Just when you thought you might have a grasp on where Plastic Tears was headed with this record, the coolest track on the disc pops up...and it is unlike anything you have heard from the band before.  Finger snaps, a walking bass line, and a Stray Cat strut approach tease and taunt throughout "Hallucinations", with a bluesy guitar solo thrown into this snazzy, jazzy, Zoot suit number that I constantly find myself hitting repeat on.  Miqu's delivery is spot-on here, and everything just seems to click on a track that, by all accounts, should be totally out of the comfort zone for Plastic Tears.  However, the band pulls off a track most other bands of this style wouldn't even attempt, and they do it with a cool factor that few bands of ANY style today could likely top.  Love this track!

"Divine" and "Radar Eyes" both add the grit and sleaze back to the music, with "Radar Eyes" being another track that really fights for the right to claim the title of best song on Anthems For Misfits.  I love the guitar tone used here, and the more mid-tempo rock approach works exceptionally well here.  The main guitar hook here is catchy, and the lead solo is very strong, with the guitar tandem of Whitewine and Pietilainen showing a great ability to fit their sound to any style the band demands of them.  The addition of a Hammond organ is a nice touch, and I wish I knew who to credit for the piano/organ/keys that pop up in various songs here, as these instruments do add a depth that belies the band's punk/sleaze background.

"Restless Outsider" is another catchy rocker with Miqu going into full Billy Idol-meets-Elvis snarl mode vocally, and "Nobody Likes A Crybaby" brings a definite danceability to an rollicking rockabilly track with some definite sleaze influence, especially on the guitar solo.  Kettunen's bass work is on fine display throughout the record, but aside from "Hallucinations", it is perhaps not felt as strongly anywhere as during the bridge section of "...Crybaby", where handclaps accompany the rumbling bass line and snappy drums.  Good stuff!

"Candlelight Hate Affair" has a healthy dose of 80s New Wave interwoven into the track and Miqu sounds like he would be up for attempting a cover of Simple Minds "Don't You Forget About Me" as an encore in concert sometime.  Some cool keyboard effects intermix with the laid back guitars to once again showcase the fact that Plastic Tears is not a one-trick pony...yet they always manage to sound like Plastic Tears, largely thanks to Miqu's vocals.  This is a fun changeup near the end of the record and is a song I hope the band manages to sneak into their live sets at some point.  Go ahead and feel free to throw a Breakfast Club Bender fist into the air as you exit this cool, nostalgic-feeling track!

"Communication" is a sub-two-minute blast of punk rock energy complete with a churning bass line, guitars that threaten to chew their way out of the speakers, a break-neck pace, and gang-shouted vocals on the chorus section that is pretty much done by the time you have finished reading this!  A short, sweet, and to the point reminder of who Plastic Tears has always been and where they come from stylistically, regardless of the variety they bring to a record such as Anthems For Misfits.  

The album wraps with another insanely catchy rocker that, despite its placement on the record, is another of the tunes vying for best of the best here.  "Imaginary Virgin Mary" brings everything together, from snappy rhythms and buzzsaw guitars, to a HUGE tempo change during a bridge section that features only a softly tinkling piano (which returns later to end the song...and record).  Miqu is in top form on this track, snarling, crooning, and delivering his vocals in a manner that, quite honestly, you will either love or hate; it's really that simple.  And, that in a nutshell, describes not only this record, but Plastic Tears, overall.  What you think about Anthems For Misfits and Plastic Tears is going to hinge largely on two things:  your preference on vocal style and what you think about the genre-defying, sleaze-punk "Street Rock" the band plays. 

To me, there is no arguing the talent of the band, as they put on full display with Anthems... an ability to pull off just about any kind of music they want to, and they do it with a Plastic Tears flair.  Is it metal?  Nope.  Punk?  Maybe sometimes.  Sleaze?  Here and there, sure.  But they are also glam, New Wave, and apparently 1950s rockabilly, all at the same time!  And I honestly feel that Miqu's vocals are a huge part of the band and its uniqueness that helps Plastic Tears transcend genres so easily, but I also get why they might not be everyone's style.  For me, however, I'll take Plastic Tears any day over cookie-cutter clone bands with no real personality and no ability to push the envelope of who they are as a band.

True to the album's title, Plastic Tears is a band of musical misfits, and Anthems For Misfits is a perfect representation of who they are.  

Rating:  Definitely crankable!  Crank this to 8!