I first discovered Boss Riot when I purchased Jump Up Records’ compilation collaboration with Ska Brewing Co., Drink the Ska. The song was “Hearts and Hands,” and I was hooked. Sadly, I had to wait a few months until I could listen to the band’s first full-length record, but it was well worth the wait. The soul/ska sound promised in “Hearts and Hands” was fully delivered on Lace Up Straight.
This six-piece outfit formed in Dallas, Texas in 2015, and is comprised of Vicki Tovar on vocals and melodica, Jake Olsen on lead guitar and vocals, Ryan Reeves on rhythm guitar, Chris Casey on organ, Mike Burke on bass, and Rob Tovar on drums and percussion.
The lead track on Lace Up Straight, “Bad Man,” starts the album off with a thumping beat that’s reminiscent of Sam and Dave mixed with The Selecter. “Chisholm Trail,” a wonderfully inviting instrumental that blends ska with a little bit of the ’60s surf sound, reminded me in particular of the interstitial music played during episodes of Kids In The Hall.
(Because when I think ska, I think Canadian sketch comedy)
“Little Things” projects a nice Bossa Nova vibe, while the previously mentioned “Hearts and Hands” has a great old-school 2 Tone sound.
It’s difficult to talk about Boss Riot without singling out the delightfully soulful, swaggering vocals of Vicki Tovar. When mentioning female ska singers, it’s easy to make comparisons to Monique Powell of Save Ferris, Elyse Rogers and Karina Deniké, or even Gwen Stefani, though I would say that Tovar’s fantastic vocals are more in the vein of Amy Winehouse or Lisa White of the Radiation Kings.
You can stream the album and buy a digital copy at the band’s website. You can also pick up a physical copy from Jump Up Records.
Boss Riot is currently touring the west coast, with shows in CA, NV, TX and AZ.
OGIKUBO STATION We Can Pretend Like
2018 Asian Man Records
While I can’t say I’ve heard every release from Asian Man Records, I like to think I’ve heard everything from Asian Man Records’ Mike Park. Park is not only the founder and driving force behind AMR, he also plays on some of the label’s acts: The Chinkees, Skankin’ Pickle, and The Bruce Lee Band. So imagine my surprise when I found out I missed the EP last year of his collaboration with Maura Weaver of Mixtapes, Ogikubo Station.
The self-titled EP, featuring 6 songs from Park and Weaver, came to be because they thought “our voices sound really good together.” This August will see the release of their first full-length as Ogikubo Station with We Can Pretend Like.The album surprised me, in part because I was expecting something ska-like along the same lines of Park’s previous bands (which this album sounds nothing like), but also because I wasn’t anticipating loving this album.
We Can Pretend Likeoffers a solid 11 tracks that split time between folky/acoustic and indie rock. Park and Weaver make for a wonderful duo, and their voices really complement each other. “Take a Piece of All That’s Good,” the first single, showcases how well the two harmonize with each other.
Weaver’s vocals in particular manage to simultaneously invoke feelings of melancholy and hopefulness in both “Take a Piece” and “The Radio Plays.” I found myself repeatedly relistening to “Weak Souls Walk Around Here,” which invokes sounds of old Hoodoo Gurus and R.E.M.
We Can Pretend Like drops August 24th on asianmanrecords.com. You can also listen to the Ogikubo Station’s 6 song EP, the self-titled Ogikubo Station, here in preparation.
A personal life rule of mine: Never date a girl that’s heard fuck before. Fuck is what I bring to a relationship. They are my gift. My contribution to love. Introducing potential mates to Those are Not My Bongos, or now The Band, is my gift to each and every girl I’ve let down. Look, I know I’m bound to screw up the relationship eventually. However, I can always rest assured, that 5 years later when she thinks back to what an asshole I was, she’ll probably be listening to fuck. It’s my only positive contribution to most of my relationships.
To say I’m an aficionado of fuck is falling short of the target. I’ve made personal life rules based on their discography for christ’s sake. Which is weird, because I was late to the party. I didn’t listen to my first fuck album, Those Are Not My Bongos, until 2005, a year or two after it was released. That was also their last album. I’ve had a full decade (and change) to digest a half dozen albums, rearrange my best bands of the ’90s list, and wish I could have seen them live.
I’ve been told several versions of what happened at the last show in Cleveland at the Beachland. Before they played in the Tavern, they had everyone walk over to the Ballroom. There, depending on the version of the story you hear, they either performed a puppet show, or one of the members caterpillar crawled, in a sleeping bag, across the Ballroom stage. I like to imagine both happened—simultaneously. I missed it all. So really, this is my first brand new fuck album, and it’s a perfect place for anyone to start.
The Band, coming 6/22 on Vampire Blues, starts off with a noisy instrumental rocker. The song is punctuated with a knock knock joke. Spoiler alert: the song title is the punchline. Grammar humor is the best. I’m already hooked. Facehole is classic fuck. Laid back, quirked out lyrics. They excel at clever arrangements and layering off kilter melodies. Their back catalog is filled with fragile songs, all feeling dangerously close to falling apart, but with a force of will that propels them confidently forward. This dichotomy (fancy word time) is what I find so seductive about their music. The Band is no different. It Girl dissolves and re-coalesces around the bass. Cream Pie Patch is the dreamy fuck of the ’90s, resurrected and better than ever. The video for the lead single, Leave My Body, was released last month, and on the album it’s nestled in the middle. It’s the bellweather track of this album. If you’re down with it you might as well just buy the album. Thirsty Gnome is definitely from a band that puts on puppet shows while inch worming across a stage. The album mellows and fades out. If the opener, To Whom, is when the person with the bourbon shows up to the party, the closer, Tell Me No, is 4:30am and you lost your pants hours ago.
The Band is most definitely fuck. Not in a rehashing well-tread territory way, though. It’s comfortingly fuck. It also showcases a band that has clearly grown in 10 years. They thread the needle of releasing an interesting, pretty, and relevant album after a 10 year hiatus. If it’s not their most consistent album, it’s at least one of them. Maybe we’ll get a tour. Maybe even another album. I’m not really worried about that, because The Band can sustain us for another decade.
It just occurred to me that someone from fuck might be reading this. I potentially have the opportunity to speak directly to some of my musical heroes. I guess I’d have to say sorry. Sorry for that one time a band I was in opened for fuck member Geoff Soule’s band Sad Horse. I drunkenly decided to do a fuck cover. One that our fill-in drummer had never heard. It did not go well. Even with, or perhaps because of, the booze and drugs. Yeah, man. I’m sorry.
It takes a lot of skill and commitment to deliver a high-energy glam rock show without seeming over the top, but The Struts pull it off so flawlessly it’s like part of their anatomy. From the way all four members lay into each and every endlessly catchy song, to the way frontman Luke Spiller’s perfectly tailored raiments swish and shift with him as he glides across the stage, The Struts are a machine so well-oiled you’d swear they were born to do exactly this.
We overheard another concertgoer having heated dialogue about it, echoing our own sentiments: “This guy! This guy!” he exclaimed, “He’s like Freddie Mercury and Mick Jagger rolled into one!” It’s true, and he can command an audience just as well. Not everyone can pull off a successful call and response session; or get a sweaty, sardine-packed crowd to jump and clap along. But last night’s fans were emboldened.
I used to talk in my articles about how Cleveland crowds are stoic and not easily impressed. Most bands are lucky to get a half-hearted golf clap after their songs. But not Struts fans. Oh no. These fans screamed, yelled, cheered, sang along at the tops of their lungs, raised their hands in the air, and gave back every ounce of energy the band put out to us.
The Struts took notice, too, declaring it their best Cleveland show to-date. Even new songs off their forthcoming album got the same warm welcome. “Is it good? Or is it shit?” Luke asked. I assure you, it’s every bit as good as anything off Everybody Wants. I certainly can’t wait to hear the rest of the album, and can’t wait to see them again.
Under the giant, illuminated Goodyear logo located east of downtown Akron, the polished granite, red brick and concrete exterior in the center of the rubber company’s former corporate campus looks fairly unassuming. But after walking through the doors into the Goodyear Theater, it’s easy to see why it’s attracting a diverse array of artists, including The Cult, Jason Isbell, Primus, Smashing Pumpkins and Dwight Yoakam. The spacious main hall and balcony of the latest addition to Akron’s growing musical culture captures the grandiose allure of a vintage orchestra stage hall. The character of this amazing venue was perfectly suited for one of England’s most enduring modern rock bands, Squeeze.
Glenn Tilbrook and Chris Difford have toured separately and together as a duo in the past, but this tour marks the return of Squeeze as a full band. Drummer Simon Hanson and keyboardist Steven Large have been performing with Glenn and Chris since the most recent formation took shape in 2007, and the recent additions of Yolanda Charles on bass and Steve Smith (from UK electronic remix outfit Dirty Vegas) on percussion helped keep the upbeat energy going between everyone on stage and in the audience.
Squeeze played a finely curated mix of trademark favorites mingled with cuts spanning their entire career. They started their set with Please Be Upstanding, a song from The Knowledge, their 15th studio album, released in October. The songs from the new album continue to showcase Tilbrook and Difford’s songwriting tandem of new wave British Soul, from upbeat pop tunes to heartfelt ballads. The new material definitely has their unique vibe as much as their past libraries of work, and adds more colors to their musical landscape. The country slide guitar on Patchouli, the operatic vocal solos of Rough Ride, and the bongo beat percussion of Albatross show Squeeze expanding and are not satisfied by standing creatively still.
With the second song of the set, they promptly moved into their classic hit, Pulling Mussels (from the Shell). Their set included a majority of songs from their 2010 album Spot the Difference, where they re-recorded their greatest hits in identical detail to the original recording. Squeeze’s live performance lived up to the same perfection with every song. They haven’t lost an ounce of the energy and vibrancy that has attracted music fans for decades.
Squeeze packed the last leg of their set with an all-star lineup of their biggest hits. The rhythm section took to the front of the stage for a rousing rendition of Take Me I’m Yours, with hand drums, marching snares, and accordion that got the crowd out of their seats. They kept the fans on their feet by bringing the show home with a rally of their best songs, including Tempted, Goodbye Girl and Up the Junction, and ultimately building up to the rapid disco keyboard melody of Slap and Tickle.
After a brief rest from their marathon performance, Squeeze returned to the stage to deliver an encore with two more of their most popular hits, Is That Love? and Black Coffee in Bed. During the final breakdown of Black Coffee in Bed, Glenn and Chris took time to introduce everyone in the band and gave them a moment to shine. The entire crowd stayed on their feet and helped end the night with a bright and soulful call and response of the song’s chorus. With a final gathering at the front of the stage, the band joined together for a final bow to Akron’s appreciative and devoted fans. Squeeze hasn’t lost a step in their stage and songwriting game, and the great response from their new material and their memorable catalog will have an incredible and expanding impact on music fans for a long time.