All posts filed under: Reviews

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ALBUM REVIEW: BOB HILLMAN, “Lost Soul”

Popdose first (re)introduced you to Bob Hillman a few months ago with the video for “Big Sur”.  Now, the first full, new album from Bob Hillman in a decade – and produced by legendary singer/songwriter Peter Case – Lost Soul, is out and available and it’s a scorcher.  No frills, no soft soap, no funny business – this is all meat-and-potatoes, straight from the gut and done with skill. Going right for the kill, the album opens with the pointed “I Think I’ve Taken Enough Shit From You This Year” and it’s one of the best fuck-you songs I’ve heard in a long time.  Sometimes, you have to say what needs to be said with no room for misinterpretation and this song says it all; “Overnight Failure” looks at why a relationship goes south and “Big Sur”, as I’ve said before is sweet, wistful and filled with a perspective and maturity.  The very wryly tongue-in-cheek “I’ll Replace You With Machines” is another great swipe – presumably this time, about former bandmates who push you over …

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ALBUM REVIEW: UP THE CHAIN, “The Prison Break”

What had begun as a vehicle for singer-songwriter Reed Kendall’s solo project has now developed into a full band – a rollicking trio from Philadelphia featuring Noah Skaroff on a mean-walking bass and Kirby Sybert on skins.  Up The Chain have a new album, The Prison Break, and this sounds like what a good old-fashioned rock & roll trio should sound like. Kicking off with “Kelly Green”, which is a neat neo-psychedelic opening montage of drone, feedback, some radio snippets and segueing into “Crumbling The Stone”, for some reason, I felt/heard touches of Buffalo Springfield, especially in the harmonies and some of the riffs (nice use of 7th as well); “Sidecar” is a down-home slice of boogie and as catchy as any of those early rock records you listened to when you were a kid in the ’70’s and “Departed Trains” has a cool Chris Isaak-like feel with its heavy reverb and minor chord structures – it’s also a great “cinematic” track as it has atmosphere and visual lyrics.  “Globe”‘s church organ with echo/delay guitar …

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BOOK REVIEW: GARY SHAIL, “I Think I’m On The Guest List”

I’m not someone who would ever think to buy and read an autobiography by an actor; it’s usually not in my crosshairs of interest for reading when it comes to non-fiction.  Even reading autobiogs by rock musicians is a difficult and daunting task – I think I only ever liked one.  But every now and then, you stumble across something that just looks and sounds interesting and intriguing, so you move out of your comfort zone. Such is the case with I Think I’m On The Guest List, written by British actor Gary Shail.  I’ve known about Mr. Shail as he is one of the stars of (conceivably) my all-time favorite movie, Quadrophenia.  Because I hold that film so personally and by happenstance, finding out that he’d written his own story, I thought “this could be interesting.”  I bought a copy and I have to say, with no other criteria to go on, I’m glad I did. More often than not, celebrity autobiographies are filled with the kind of bluster that makes me inevitably hate …

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MOVIE REVIEW: “THE DAMNED – Don’t You Wish That We Were Dead”

When I first heard that a documentary had been made about The Damned, I was absolutely chomping at the bit to see it.  My love and respect for this band is well known to all and sundry; listening to, reading about and hearing The Damned has always been a constant joy for me.  And thinking that someone had finally taken the time and care to make a film was both a moment of celebration and the thought of “this is long overdue”.  I’ve always felt that The Damned were deserving of so much more of the spotlight, the accolades, the financial rewards that the other bands from that first punk rock wave/class of ’76 seem to have been reaping in the last few years.  Every time I turn around, I hear in commercials and soundtracks the Pistols or Clash or Buzzcocks, etc.  – and I begrudge none of them for gaining their well-deserved place in our culture.  But The Damned, who had an endless amount of talent and a catalog of splendid music, never seem …

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ALBUM REVIEW: Chris Bolger, “No Promises”

Chris Bolger is another of those amazing musicians whose name you’ve heard but can’t understand why he’s not in the stratosphere of stardom.  Well, no worries – his newest album, No Promises is filled with prime cuts of meaty power pop – of the glorious riff-laden, Rickenbacker twang and rich harmonies – and you will have your appetite filled nicely with this sonic blast of damned fine rock and roll.  To sweeten the pot, amongst the players who grace this fine release include (once again) super-drummer Dennis Diken, bass master Graham Maby and the everywhere guitar hero, James Mastro. Opening with the ridiculously catchy and instantly classic “Easier”, my first thoughts were that it was a great, lost Van Duren track (on the order of the Are You Serious? period); that familiar, delicious sound of a Rickenbacker carries this track along with the singalong harmonies; “Souls Turn Blue” feels like one of those great AM radio-friendly singles from around 1971 (!) and the title track, “No Promises” is a tender and melancholic acoustic piece, driven …

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ALBUM REVIEW: BUTCH YOUNG, “Mercury Man”

Butch Young has been one of those names on the scene for a long time – you know you’ve heard of him – you know you’ve heard his music and yet…  But now, with Mercury Man, you should be able to say with solidity and clarity, “yes, I do know Butch Young – isn’t “One Foot In” amazing?” and the like.  A native son of Wayne, New Jersey who once played in the splendid-pop band In Color (where his bandmate was the always-wonderful Nick Celeste and producer was the other-always-wonderful Richard Barone), Mr. Young relocated to California and has been doing his thing out there since. Mercury Man is one of the most solid, cohesive pieces to come into my consciousness and it’s an instant guide for how to write a bold, brilliant pop song.  Except he delivers twelve of them.  Saying they’re Beatlesque may sound overplayed but just with the two opening stunners, “Mercury Man” and “Persephone”, these are glorious post-’68 pieces of orchestrated brilliance – a little Lennon and a little Harrison.  He …

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ALBUM REVIEW: KAREN HAGLOF, “Perserverance And Grace”

2014′ s Western Holiday was a stunning solo debut from guitarist-turned-oncologist-turned guitarist again, Karen Haglof.  Recorded in Brooklyn’s Cowboy Technical Services Recording Rig – run by guitar legend Eric “Roscoe” Ambel and produced by another legend, Steve Almaas, the songs were just an out-and-out rock & roll marvel.  So it come to be that now, Ms. Haglof’s second album, the deftly-titled Perseverance And Grace is about to be unleashed to the public and I would say has surpassed its predecessor (!).  Part of it may be due to working in different atmospheres – Cowboy Rig, Mitch Easter’s Fidelitorium in Kernersville, North Carolina and Old Colony Mastering in Boston – and add the continuing of working together with the same core players (Ms. Haglof on guitar, Mr. Almaas on bass and guitar and Mr. C.P. Roth on drums and keyboards) to give it that even-more seasoned sound (plus, special guest vocalist Liza Colby does not hurt at all…). Take one listen to the title track and you can easily understand why – it’s a thumper of …

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BOOK REVIEW: JOE BIEL, “Good Trouble”

A gripping and fascinating read – this is the author’s own story.  And Joe Biel is not just an author – he’s a survivor of alcoholic reality, the do-it-yourself punk lifestyle, the owner and founder of Microcosm Publishing and a person with Asperger’s syndrome.  A heavy load, indeed, but this wonderful book is filled with some very high highs and some despairing lows. For someone who has endured a great deal of turmoil (not of his own doing, either at the hands of others and his disease), Biel tells the story in a very matter-of-fact, lighthearted way because the gist of this is:  one way or another, triumph over tragedy even if it’s with your own endless devotion to working at it.  And work he did, starting Microcosm as both a punk label and ‘zine.  Not all the tales are sad; some downright hilarious moments of typical adolescent punk fuck-ups and foibles are part of the stew, but the most powerful moment comes when he tries to convey his pain at being mocked, especially by …

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ALBUM REISSUES: THE FEELIES, “Only Life” and “Time For A Witness”

I’m pretty sure that I won’t be saying anything new or different about The Feelies – I’m sure it’s all been said before since the short summation about this band is that they’re great; they’ve always been great and are not only great, but legendary.  Nevertheless, their back catalog from A&M Records has now been lovingly re-issued by Bar/None; both albums – 1988’s Only Life and 1991’s Time For A Witness also come with download cards for bonus tracks, more recently recorded, and liner notes by Rick Moody and Michael Azzerad, respectively.  So although that’s more than enough to buy both, a few thoughts on the actual music… “It’s Only Life” is about a sweet a melody as you can ask for and a perfect way to open an album; the inevitable Lou Reed-styled vocal delivery can’t be overlooked but it fits the song’s mood and those little guitar fills shimmer; “Too Much” has a quasi-psychedelic and hypnotic feel; “Deep Fascination” is one of those wonderful pieces of dream-pop from the era and “Too Far …

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ALBUM REVIEW: VAS, s/t

I’ve written about and shared with you music over the last few months from a wonderful new band, VAS (originally known as “Elder”).  We premiered three tracks previously and now Popdose is happy to be the first to bring to the national stage the self-titled debut album from VAS.  I once said that this band’s sound is built around great slabs of soundscapes that are dramatic and lush – and that not only holds true, but is shown/heard to greater effect with these new songs that are unveiled.  Most importantly that this is a young band who already have a great, intuitive sense of sculpting a melody and will, undoubtedly, go from “already very good” to “predictably great” in not too long a period of time. The track “Vipers” is a perfect example – starting quietly and subdued with a tautly understated guitar/rhythm/keyboard that immediately builds up in a dramatic manner with a hypnotic guitar riff and then exiting on a quiet piano/vocal fade; “Soda Pop”, which was their introductory bow, has a swirling keyboard …

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ALBUM REVIEW: BOB MOULD, “Patch The Sky”

There’s always a certain amount of expectations when a new release comes out from a long-established artist that you’ve admired over the span of time and I will grant you, it’s not always fair – certainly to the performer nor to yourself because, of course, you’re bound for a letdown sooner or later.  Bob Mould is one of those musicians who I come to expect the unexpected from for a lot of reasons.  Mostly because it isn’t fair.  But what I do expect – if nothing else – is consistency.  And on Patch The Sky, his 12th solo album, starting after Husker Du with two and resuming after Sugar in full, there is no lack of consistency, coherence and (I know this word gets used a lot when referring to Mould) catharsis.  Of his more recent return to louder guitar/faster tempos, the sound and production of this album is possibly one of the best he’s done yet, so it shows at 55, he’s still reaching and stretching, rather than resting on his laurels or legend. …

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ALBUM REVIEW: GRAYSHOT, “Borders”

This Minneapolis trio, consisting of two brothers, Aaron (guitars/keys/vocals) and Christian (bass/keys/vocals) Ankrum and Reese Kling (drums) deliver their sophomore effort and I’m liking what I’ve heard – once again, trading on the warm soundscapes of ’80’s synth-pop and veering but never plunging into modern theatre-pop/rock, which is Borders‘ saving grace. “Far From Me” has all the right textures of a great lost China Crisis track – something out of 1982 in all the ways I appreciate – pure ’80’s synth; “Echo” is a little more modern pop friendly, but has enough restraint that it remains a quality song and doesn’t go into bombast and “Opposites” is a sharp, taut, pop song with a capital “pop” (and this track shines with great production) – easily has hit potential by its radio-friendly timbre.  “In Control” has some shades of Joy Division (because of its tempo) but the melody is bright, which would lead it more to a New Order-influenced piece; “Mystery” is another excellent and interesting track, as it starts as an acoustic-strummed number but then …

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E.P. REVIEW: VANESSA FORERO, “From The Uproar”

This British-born (with Colombian lineage) singer songwriter makes her initial bow with a self-financed E.P. called From The Uproar.  Five songs deep, this is a wonderfully rich collection of songs that immediately leave you wanting more.  Having had another two lives as a composer for television and movies AND as a best-selling author in Britain, it’s nice to see she’s putting herself in the spotlight with her incredible voice and melodic sensibilities. “Heaven Knows” has a hypnotic acoustic riff, rooted in South American flavors but has all the elements of radio friendliness; “Same Boat” is a rollickingly warm, catchy piece – again, employing the “native” feel of her Colombian roots; “I’ll Be Wrong Again” is a sweet and emotionally touching piece with its delicate melody and lyrics of a broken heart.  “Raven” is a vividly colorful piece; Ms. Forero’s vocals shine by showing her (quite dynamic) range and “Anhela” is sung in Spanish and is slow, silky and simply lovely. Every now and then, it’s a pleasure for me to get out of my usual …

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ALBUM REVIEW: EAST OF VENUS, “Memory Box”

This release makes me alternately happy and sad.  Happy because of who the musicians are; knowing them as well as I do from their amazing work (and actually knowing some of them) and sad because of losing one of their members before this album saw the light of day.  I take a great deal of solace in knowing that Omnivore Records has seen to preserve the legacy of East Of Venus with Memory Box, which is simply beautiful – as it will become timeless in your hearts and minds upon hearing. To give you a brief background on East Of Venus – they were (I hate having to use the past tense) Michael Carlucci (Winter Hours), Glenn Mercer (The Feelies, Wake Ooloo), Stan Demeski (The Feelies, Luna) and Rob Norris (The Bongos, Living With Elephants – who was reviewed here on Popdose). The music is a wonderful mixing and melding from all of those bands, but still is their own. The album features original material, as well as covers of The Red Buckets’ “Jane September,” …

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ALBUM REVIEW: PETER BUCK, “Warzone Earth”

Good thing I didn’t let this one slip through the cracks.  This guy just doesn’t slow down – rocking harder than before and belting out ballsy numbers as if he’d led a band all his life.  I mean, he did – except not as the frontman, but as the guitarist who influenced an entire generation.  And on this, his third solo album, the aptly-titled Warzone Earth, Buck’s taking no prisoners. “It Ain’t Killing Me” is a high octane, full-throttle rock spitter that Buck unleashes with his deadpan vocal style and it just kicks hard and fast; “World Spins Around You” features Wilco’s Jeff Tweedy’s lead vocal and is gentle and emotionally charged and “Gun Shaped Heart” is an instant Stooges-styled classic with a clever chord structure of minor chords bouncing off the poppier major notes. “Saturday Sunday Monday” has a complete Jesus & Mary Chain/Velvets feel, awash in noise and heavy fuzz and yet, by virtue of the lyrics, it’s a sad and mournful track and “I Hate My Life And The Way I Live” …

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ALBUM REVIEW: EMITT RHODES, “Rainbow Ends”

There has been a great deal written/talked/whispered about the long-awaited, highly-anticipated return of Emitt Rhodes, with good reason.  His long-out-of-print albums (four, from the early ’70’s) are considered musical prizes to those lucky enough to have them; his songwriting, performances and production styles are almost other-worldly and because he stopped releasing new music in 1973, the myth surrounding him has grown exponentially. There’s more than enough ample history available to read up on Mr. Rhodes and the past; what led to his abandonment of recording, etc., so I’ll leave you to find the details on your own.  What is important is the fact that he has indeed released a brand new album of all new material and it IS worth the advance buzz, hyperbole, etc.  Because it doesn’t matter how much time has gone by – Emitt Rhodes still has it.  That indescribable ability to construct a song with feel, refinement, melody and words that provoke thought.  It’s as if no time has passed by virtue of that alone. The title cut, “Rainbow Ends” is …

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ALBUM REVIEW: FREAKWATER, “Scheherazade”

Not new to any scene; in fact, been missing in action for over a decade, Freakwater return with their new album, Scheherazade.  A crushing, 12-track collection, this album sees and hears the off-kilter harmonies of Janet Bean and Catherin Irwin, who have been doing this since 1989.   Although they eschew any kind of classifications (rightfully so), their country-fied flavor/twang/vibe immediately send chills right up the spine of the fortunate listener as those voices blend beautifully and the music (sometimes deliberately understated) carries you away. “The Asp and the Albatross” is one such track, filled with a wrenching that you just can’t put your finger on; “What The People Want” starts off in such a deliciously sinister way; dark and swampy and then the vocals – always that little bit disjointed – wrap you up tightly and makes you feel it and “Take Me With You” just makes you ache from those voices and that gentle acoustic guitar.  The only word that applies is exquisite. “Velveteen Matador” sounds like it walked right out of 1968 Nashville; …

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POPDOSE SINGLE PREMIERE: THE MARCH DIVIDE, “Exit Signs”

While San Antonio’s March Divide is really driven by singer/songwriter Jared Putnam, the sound is very much that of a band, which is never an easy thing when you’re doing it all yourself.  Nonetheless, the first single ahead of The March Divide’s new album Saturdays, is “Exit Signs” and it’s here for you to listen and enjoy – “enjoy” being the operative term.  Rich in melody, catchy, and at the same time, thoughtful, this is quality pop at its best. The album won’t be out for a while, but at least you have a chance to have a taste of what’s coming and for you to work your way backwards if you haven’t explored The March Divide previously – and there’s a lot for your pleasure. But right now, here’s “Exit Signs” for your Popdose Premiere: Saturdays is due for release on Friday, May 13th, 2016. http://www.themarchdivide.com/

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POPDOSE SINGLE PREMIERE: ROSIE CARNEY, “Better Man”

Eighteen year old Irish native Rosie Carney delivers this new track to the Popdose stable, “Better Man”, along with its accompanying video.  In advance of her appearances at this year’s South By Southwest, Ms. Carney has been unleashing a string of serious, lyrically consequent tracks in lieu of an album – and this is her latest. Vulnerability is a currency in which Carney proudly deals. While many of today’s songwriters fear showing genuine feelings, writes as an attempt to encourage herself and listeners to “let feelings of sadness and loss run their course without using an antidote.” Hence the inspiration for another (previous) track, “Antidote” – brought on by the feeling that comes with “being heartbroken after a breakup or the loss of something dear to you.” In the meantime, here is the stunning “Better Man” for your enjoyment: www.rosiecarney.com

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ALBUM REVIEW: EDWARD ROGERS, “Glass Marbles”

You absolutely have to love when an artist like Edward Rogers delivers a new album because he gives you a complete package – thoughtful, image-laden lyrics, almost always thematically unified, melody and always a full complement of songs.  And on Glass Marbles, his sixth solo album, no less than eighteen songs – right there, more than your money’s worth. So this splendid gathering of material opens with the sprightly, upbeat “The World Of Mystery”, which is a perfect way to start the program – it shouldn’t go unnoticed that Mr. Rogers takes on the younger Dylan in a very clever and enjoyable way; “Denmark Street Forgotten” has a very “vintage” sound, production-wise, which adds to the overall feel to the song (dark, slighly brooding) and has an on-the-one guitar solo and “Jumbo Sale”‘s wash of reverb and slightly-My Bloody Valentine texture helps the vocals shine brighter as the band builds up (but never explodes) – and listen for that very neo-psychedelic middle – colorful and vivid. “My Lady Blue” goes in a gentle, pastoral direction …

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ALBUM REVIEW: HIGH WAISTED, s/t

What one might expect and what one gets from this, the debut from High Waisted, are two completely different things.  At a glance, you might think the music in the package is going to be predictable sleaze-rock or more of the “trashy” sound that’s become both cliche and irritating from some (God help us) hipster band.  Instead, what you get is some remarkably tasteful, tuneful and shockingly vintage-style pop. Starting with the opener, “Trust”, the voice and the sound go hand in hand – a mix of early ’60’s pop with some very Ventures-sounding guitars, although restrained and highly melodic – and  the production matches the entire package.  “Party In The Back” is high energy but the fills and catchiness take it on a 100 mile-per-hour drive and again, the sound is a joyful throwback; “Door” has a heavy-duty “Western” twang and a fantastic use of echo (a nice, big room sound) and between the sweetness of Jessica Louise Dye’s angelic voice and the deft musicianship of the band, this sounds wonderfully familiar, yet thoroughly …

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POPDOSE EXCLUSIVE PREMIERE: KAREN HAGLOF, “Perseverance And Grace”

It was a little under two years ago guitarist-turned-oncologist Karen Haglof released her initial bow, Western Holiday.  That album was the soundtrack to my trip through Georgia and now, she’s back with some deadly great collaborators – Steve Almaas on bass/guitar and  C.P. Roth on drums and recorded (again) at Eric “Roscoe” Ambel’s Cowboy Techinical Services Recording Rig in Brooklyn with Perseverance And Grace. Popdose is pleased to present to you the title track, which is twangy, tasty and sly – melodic as all get-out and just good old fun, while being meaningful.  So please sit back and have your appetite whetted for Ms. Haglof’s next album by way of “Perseverance And Grace”. Perseverance And Grace will be released Friday, April 22nd, 2015. http://karenhaglof.com/

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E.P. REVIEW: NICE MOTOR, “Seminary St.”

Chicago has just been an endless wealth of musical riches for the last two years with new bands/performers cropping up regularly (certainly to this writer) and here again is a new band, Nice Motor.  Formed from the ashes of  two bands, Jonny Rumble and Super Happy Fun Club (now there’s a name for ya!), this four-piece plays a crisp, thoroughly enjoyable pop with no pretension or pomposity.  To this point, they’ve released two tracks and now have issued their debut E.P., Seminary St. “All The Neighbors” has a nice, very ’60’s-meets- early ’80’s vibe; great reverb on the guitars with clean strums and a strident rhythm – and listen carefully for the very subtle underlying “ah”s on the chorus; “Turn To Stone” jogs along with sweetly picked acoustic guitar as its body, but the pulsing bass and foot pedal keeping time on the drum keeps it lively and builds toward the end.  “High Maintenance” is ripe with melody and a very nice mix of twangy guitar, gentle keyboard embellishes and a taut drum pattern that …

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E.P. REVIEW: BRETT NEWSKI, “Hi-Fi D.I.Y.”

From the opening of “Black Taxi Car”, there is a fair amount of “real American” inflections of Brett Newski’s music – a little Springsteen, a little Mellencamp, a little Fogerty.  Cleanly strummed guitars, neat twanging riffs underlying on the verses and harmonica make this first entry on Newski’s newest E.P., Hi-Fi D.I.Y. a very worthwhile and impressive listen.  With its harmonies, crisp drums and overall feel, this is a fully realized track that makes it very easy to want to listen all the way through. So with the brushed percussion, the low-key opening verse and then the kick-it-into-high-gear chorus, “Move To Berlin” has an equally great punch; “Cigaretiquette” has a lot of interesting nuances with its off-kilter guitar interplay and breakneck pace but then pulls back into a poppy “woo-hoo” refrain and “This Will Destroy Me” turns it all around with an deft acoustic piece where vocally, he veers into Dylanisms, but not in a bad way and the melody is enhanced with some very sweet slide figures. All in all, a very satisfying and …

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VIDEO PREMIERE: THE POP GROUP, “We Are All Prostitutes”

Since the last year-plus saw the return (in a big way) of early ’80’s British post-punk legends The Pop Group, it’s only fitting that more long-lost pieces of their puzzle be unearthed and restored for all to hear and see.  Along with the first-time reissue of their 1980 album For How Much Longer Do We Tolerate Mass Murder, the video for the single “We Are All Prostitutes” is now available and you can see it right here on Popdose. Sharp, provocative, abrasive – the sound of The Pop Group meshed with their message – both politically and socially.  And while it may not be everybody’s cup of tea, at the very least, they’ll make you stop and think. Step back to when meaning was of value and sometimes you had to go on an aural assault.  Here are The Pop Group, once again: For How Much Longer Do We Tolerate Mass Murder is available now. Band photo by Chalkie Davies  

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POPDOSE EXCLUSIVE SINGLE PREMIERE: BOB HILLMAN, “Big Sur”

Ten years is a long time between albums for anyone; it’s a lifetime in music.  But the forthcoming new album from Bob Hillman, Lost Soul, will have been well worth the wait.  The 12 songs are produced by no less than singer/songwriter (and Plimsouls/Nerves legend) Peter Case and are a stunning exercise of the harmonious balance of lyrics and music. Lost Soul will be released on Friday, March 25th, but Popdose is pleased and proud to present to you for the first time, the initial track to be released from this collection, “Big Sur”.  Sweet and wistful, it’s the perfect soundtrack to the oncoming change of seasons. Please enjoy Bob Hillman’s “Big Sur”. http://bobhillmanmusic.com/

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ALBUM REVIEW: BOB WOODRUFF, “The Year We Tried To Kill The Pain”

This new album from Bob Woodruff is only his fourth in a 22-year recording career and it’s a fine statement as to what patience and skill in songwriting can do.  Although he’s a New York City native, this album was recorded in Sweden and sounds more like it comes straight out of Nashville.  A clean, crisp production with a big, radio friendly sound helps lift this collection of songs up even higher, considering the quality of the songs already do this. Wryly titled The Year We Tried To Kill The Pain, the maudlin nature of the title belies some of the joyful and uplifting melodies that shape this record.  The album’s opening track, “I Didn’t Know” is bouncy and catchy, primed to come screaming out of radios; “I’m The Train”, with its very fine-tuned Rickenbacker 12-string chiming sound and sweeping pedal steel lines reminds me of a Tom Petty-oriented tune (and lo – Heartbreakers keyboardist Benmont Tench appears on this album!) and the title track is a pure country kicker – dark, pain and perspective …