Posts Tagged ‘HoZac’

Mixtape: Young Hearts Unite

There have been a lot of genres that have given support through the lockdown juggling act over here – Sunshine Psych (done that one), jangle pop (ditto) but I locked into a specific branch of latter day power pop and it all started to coalesce into a new mixtape. The formative years of power pop are captured endlessly on comps, often with the same tracklists shuffled and reshuffled, but there’s less documentation on these past ten years to be sure. Now, while that period of time might not be known as a heyday of power pop, you’d be wrong in that assessment. There’s a lot of high-profile, excellent stuff that crosses boundaries and digs out earworms (see: Ex Hex, The Bad Moves, Martha) all great but not what I was looking for in this regard. For this mix I focused on a strain of power pop that was derived directly from those late ’70s, early ’80s types that populated the comps circulating my youth. There’s a certain loose, edge of punk, but more lovesick and soft strain here. I find that sunny days and power pop go hand in hand, so this just seems like fortuitous timing. Hope it brightens someone’s day and sends you riffling back through the stacks of the last decade.

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Velveteen Rabbit

As the genre has been consumed and reconstituted over the years, it’s hard to find a take on glam-streaked power pop that doesn’t feel a bit worn through, a pale imitation of the original. However, when a band is able to rise through the veil and embody the spirit of swagger in just the right way it becomes a bit transcendental. Velveteen Rabbit are just such a band. Comprised of ex-members of The Jeanies, the band nails the fey n’ fragile, heartbroken yet hipswung vision of pop that Milk n’ Cookies, Hubble Bubble, Brett Smiley, Advertising, The Shivvers, The Records, and The Quick were all able to make into a beloved underground beacon for piners and frustrated teens throughout generations. The thing is, those songs weren’t just about pent up hormones. I mean, they were, but there was so much more seeping into the ether around the genre. If that were the only engine driving the wheels here, they’d have fallen off years ago. There’s a special spark that flickers into motion when the line between pop and punk is perfectly sliced.

Velveteen Rabbit are constantly walking that line like a tightrope and it’s impressive how many perfect nuggets they’ve packed into their debut for HoZac. They hit the ecstatic highs of the aforementioned collector’s bin burners then throw in some early shades of The Time, bringing Dez Dickerson’s “After Hi-School” to mind and infecting their sound with a silver-slung funk at times. But the band knows how to bring it down too, and that gives this record a fuller dimension. “Guitar” strokes at the wounded Chris Bell territory that gave power pop it’s heart, solitary and solemn, but just as aching as any of the rest. Similarly, “Better Than Ever” sidesteps power pop just a bit to sprinkle in some swooning R&B and white boy soul, but it pulls the strings tight between the Minneapolis slink and the Midwest jangle n’ crunch.

There’s always going to be the cloud of derivation hanging over something like this, and yeah it points to a dozen dots on the map and snags those vibes with a gleeful grab, but the way the band hangs it all together makes the their eponymous LP a true gem. For all the references they conjure, they never sound outright like they’re biting a song. They slip into the satin soul of the ’78-’82 sound and make it their own. Overabundance of riches in 2019 makes me worry this one’s gonna slip through the cracks, but I say sleep on this and you’ll be losing out.



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Velveteen Rabbit – “I’ll Be A Boy For You”

When NYC’s Velveteen Rabbit launched their last single, they hinted at a band well versed in the soft-hands, glam-greased power pop of The Quick, Milk n’ Cookies and Brett Smiley. They were knocking down some RSTB touch points and doing it just right. Digging into the routine power pop’s bag of tricks is easy, but emulating this specific silk crush remains decidedly less so. With the announcement of their debut proper the band is digging into yet another tough niche to nuzzle, leading with the crushed velvet pop of “I’ll Be A Boy For You,” one listen proves it’s an absolute crusher, the next three cement it as gold. The song takes the gloved touch of their power pop and backs it up with the crimped funk of The Time circa their ’81 debut. This is the heir apparent to “After Hi School.” Though he’s left this mortal mold all too soon the ghost of Jamie Starr (nee Rogers) lingers over “I’ll Be A Boy For You” like a silk scarf signature.

The guitars crunch and vamp but its that stab of synth that sends chills. Then with a coy bite of the lip and a hip twitch the band sends this song vibrating through the ethers to supercharge the hearts and minds of the youth troops thirsting for some rock vitality. This is just the first blush, there’s more to come.



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Velveteen Rabbit – “Mind Numbing Entertainment”

Rising out of the ashes of longstanding NYC power pop band The Jeanies comes a new band of glam-popped punchers holding onto a lot of what made their former band sizzle. Velveteen Rabbit are, however, doing it with quite a bit more refinement than The Jeanies ever mustered. Glam pop revivalists often get a bad rap for mining a movement that many see as a passing fad – the soon sullied toy found in the cereal box of punk, power pop and proto-metal at the end of the ‘70s. However, when done right there are fewer genres that can crack a smile so wide. Sure, the affectations are preposterous, the fashion was downright criminal and there was bubblegum stuck all in the hair of everyone involved, but as far as frivolous genre experiments go I’ll take it any day.

Velveteen Rabbit dip their paws into the great crossover between glam’s fuzz-tumbled crunch and the fey end of power pop. The bands that were able to hit this stride found a bit of a golden hour sound that rocks like the punks but shies away from the pit to pine over girls at the bar. Think The Quick, Brett Smiley, Milk n’ Cookies or Phil Seymour and you’re on the right track here. The double shot of flippant fun leaves ya wanting more, which always marks a good single. This is prime ‘70s jukebox fodder following in the footsteps of plenty before them but absolutely a good time with each spin it takes around the platter.



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The Sueves

Still plenty to love in the Chicago punk scene these days and the sophomore LP from The Sueves proves it. There’s a slight bump up the clarity counter from their debut, and yet this new record is still torn and tattered and ripped to shreds in all the right places. The band’s core is a visceral gut punch, relying less on hooks than on the lock top drumming of Tim Thomas (formerly of Heavy Times) and a few chemical burn guitars to get the point across. That’s not to say there aren’t any riffs slicing through R.I.P. Clearance Event, there are plenty, but the band utilizes them like a saw blade, tearing at the listener with their insistent teeth.

The Sueves have studied up on their Stooges, their Hot Snakes and their Seeds catalogs, borrowing heavily from the wild man aesthetic and turning sweat into joy over the course of these some sixteen tracks. Songs swerve and duck and shimmy as the album works its course, fighting not to be pinned down. They relent the hammer down determination a few times and let through a smirk on “Slammer” and rope in the barroom crowd for “What They Did,”- sounding not unlike The Strange Boys for a bit – but otherwise this is a breathless buncha bashers. Good for what ails ya, and ready to rumble when you are, R.I.P. Clearance Event leaves a few turf marks on the turntable to be sure.




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F.U.K. – “Road Kill”

If you’ve kept your eyes off of HoZac’s archival series, then you’re missing out on some choice punk gems that have slipped through the cracks. They’ve found all manner of leather bound ephemera and packed them back on the wax for eager archivists and crate diggers alike. Their next project documents a barely-there notch in Midwest punk history. The 7” bounds up the sole recorded existence of F.U.K. (Fucked Up Kids), the duo of Roger Miller and Sue Rynski. Miller did time in Detroit’s Sproton Layer and was brother to Larry and Jim of Destroy All Monsters, but you may best remember him as holding down the strings in Mission of Burma. F.U.K. played one show and spit out two tracks before they slipped away, but thanks to general biz wiz and musical oracle Byron Coley those tracks are finding their way back to you via HoZac and company.

The A-side is a pure primitive corker, tough and twitchy and cracking its knuckles at the back of the room lookin’ for a fight. The track bashes out a low-slung rumble before barreling headlong through the quantum mist for a static n’ acid solo that’s begging to burn the place down. Its easy to see how this beast was too weird to live, but I’m damn glad that it was recorded for posterity. Gonna want to grip this one when it comes out later this month.


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The Cowboys

Bloomington’s Cowboys spit-shined their work for Volume 4, the first of their records that found them studio bound. That record snuck out on tape last year and caught a few ears, but hardly enough, given the promise the band showed and the kind of sweat ‘n soul whirlwind they were showcasing between those two spools. Happily, a couple of folks agreed enough to press it down to LP this year and the band follows on with their a brand new LP for Hozac.

They’ve strayed from the studio back to their home setup, but despite cranking these tunes to 8-track, they’ve still managed to keep the crust at bay. Despite a little tape hiss, the transition isn’t too noticeable. Forging on with plenty more sweat-wrenchers, the band’s prowess is cemented within the grooves of the new record, and on 3rd LP, they should rightfully garnish comparisons to Aussie exports Royal Headache. For all their shakin’ bouts of guitar twang their true asset is apparent in vocalist Keith Harman, who’s got a a leather-scratched soul wail that’s as classic as any. His delivery bumps them up out of the cattle call of garage bands that swarm the country. Though, to say Harman’s the only reason to listen isn’t giving The Cowboys enough credit.

The band’s also got a real affinity for shying away from the cliches of garage’s past and present. They’ve got a lighter touch and aren’t afraid to swagger into territory that’s more Todd Rundgren than tortured fuzz (“Mike’s Dust”, “Like A Man”) and it suits them well. Even when they’re still hitting the gas, Harman pulls them closer to Jagger blue-eyed soul territory rather than tumbling through the Sonics/Stooges axis that’s often split by so many these days. The record’s got a ton of appeal and feels like it’s constantly just a hard push away from making something that’s indelible in the halls of rock. This feels like its going to be a watershed moment to look back on from their undoubtedly future classics.




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Premiere: The Cowboys – “I Hope She’s Ok”

The Cowboys’ excellent Vol. 4 was a nice surprise last year. The band cleaned up their act a bit, headed into the studio and laid down an excellent, yet overlooked album. It bumped them onto some radars though, and with luck they’re about to pop on a few more. Their pace hasn’t faltered a step as they head into the Fall with another release on the docket, this time for HoZac. They’ve swapped the studio for the four track this time, but “I Hope She’s Ok” doesn’t show too much crackle for their austerity. As a contrast to the first taste, “Mike’s Dust,” the band kicks the up tempo again and injects a ragged spirit into the track. They cut the edge with a sweet blue-eyed soul stab before the track melts into a molten fray that should play well in this summer of swelter. It’s just more goodness from a band that’s quietly building a reputation as slept on garage-pop heroes.



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Premiere: Oister – “Lovin’ Me”

HoZac has been doggedly reissuing lost singles from power pop legend Dwight Twilley and this time they’ve got a real gem and true fan release on their hands. Pre-dating The Dwight Twilley Band, the pair of Twilley and Phil Seymour went under the name Oister around their stomping grounds of Tulsa, OK. They operated under this moniker from around 1967 until they broke through in 1975. The pair’s legendary ‘Teac Tapes’ contain recordings from this time period and they’ve yet to see release until now. HoZac Archival will issue Oister 1973-74 a double LP set of recordings from Twilley and Seymour before they shook power pop forever with “I’m On Fire.”

“Lovin’ Me” harnesses a bit of the same vein of dirty twang that their seminal hit taps, though it’s rougher with the band still finding their explosive footing. The track proves that both songwriters had plenty of chops from the outset. These were home recordings, laid to an early edition Teac four-track before accessibility made everyone a bedroom sound engineer, but they still sound remarkably crisp. The pair put these tracks down to tape and pressed the results to acetate to sell to friends and at shows. This era of the band is deserving of its own deep dive, and thankfully now these recordings have been shined up for power pop completists no doubt waiting to hear a clean copy. Check out “Lovin’ Me” below:


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Miss Destiny – “Law and Order”

Following up on a single for Hozac last fall, Melbourne punx Miss Destiny are ramping up for a long player on the venerable R.I.P. Society in June. The first taste of the album is a bail jumping, octane burnt slice of rock that’s barrelling towards your ears on the gnarled strength of Harriett Hudson’s gravel and glam vocals. The track barely takes a breath, pounding at the pavement harder than a jackhammer and somehow evoking Shannon Shaw at her most accusatory (think Hunx’s “You Think You’re Tuff”) and The Donna’s at their most acerbic. That actually sounds like a pretty perfect combination to me, so all the more reason to be excited for the rest of this one.



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