Mika Bomb – “The Fake Fake Sound of Mikabomb” (2001)

Better change your underpants,
Cuz you might need an ambulance.
— “Contact Tokyo”

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I have a thing for Japanese punk.  I can’t fully explain it, but one aspect is that Japanese musicians are definitely “all in” – it’s a lifestyle.  So that being said I’m always on the lookout for this kind of thing when I’m digging, and that’s how I pulled a copy of Mika Bomb’s The Fake Fake Sound of Mikabomb out of a box at a Seattle record show recently.  A quick check online revealed that prior to this album Mika Bomb had been signed to the Beastie Boys’ label Grand Royal, and if they’re good enough for the Beasties they’re good enough for me.

Mika Bomb is that perfect combination of pop punk and garage, consisting of an intentional rawness and strong pop aesthetic.  The vocals are all in English and Mika’s signing is almost flawless – you could easily assume that she’s a native English speaker, and that makes the record all that much more approachable.  The Fake Fake Sound of Mikabomb is probably at the top of my list of favorite Japanese punk albums at the moment, definitely the one I’d reach to first if someone was looking to explore the genre.

The Cute Lepers – “Can’t Stand Modern Music” (2008)

cuteleperscantstandThe high-speed, teen-angsty attitude of “Terminal Boredom” is the perfect opening to The Cute Lepers’ debut Can’t Stand Modern Music.  Catchy, poppy, and punky, it sets the stage for this collection of 11 bouncy pop-punk anthems by this Seattle-area band that emerged after the demise of The Briefs.  Songs like “It’s Summertime, Baby” and “Prove It” break it up a bit by leaning more towards rock territory, with the latter capturing a strong early Elvis Costello vibe.  Add to that the mod flair to numbers like “So Screwed Up” and you have all the trappings of a “modern retro” album.  Some people may stick up their noses at that, but not me; good pop is good pop, end of story.

Can’t Stand Modern Music has an interesting mix of influences while still retaining a core pop aesthetic and with a fair amount of polish.

Dream Wife – “Fire” EP (2017)

I feel no sense of shame in admitting that I’m a massive Dream Wife fanboy.  They blew us away at Iceland Airwaves last year and I love their updated Riot-Grrrl-style pop-punk, one that brings both attitude and femininity to their aesthetic and sound.  Alas, we won’t be seeing them at Airwaves this year as they’re currently on tour, having received tons of great press and are supporting their new five-song EP Fire.

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I plunked down my money for a copy of Fire as soon as pre-orders were announced, and it sounds like copies are going fast – the Dream Wife Bandcamp page indicates that there are only 81 copies left of the limited run of 1,000.  You might be able to find it in shops in the UK and Europe, but if you’re an American you’ll probably have to rely on mail order – so don’t say I didn’t warn you!

Fire is a bit more like a 12″ single than an EP, containing two original tracks in “Fire” and “Somebody”, with the other three slots given over to different remixes of “Fire”.  “Fire” is obviously the primary track here, but I have give a lot of props to “Somebody” – for all of “Fire”‘s polish, “Somebody” gives Rakel’s vocals more opportunity to bring that something special to the track.  It’s the ability of Alice and Bella to keep the music tight while still giving Rakel the opportunity to range about and explore that gives Dream Wife its uniqueness, a rare blend of power and quirky, and one that shines on “Somebody”.

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The remixes are pretty damn hot as well.  “Fire (Ellie Herring Remix)” turns the song into a sultry, ambient slow burn, oozing pulsating passion.  Meanwhile “Fire (FTSE Remix)” uses piano as the base, alongside xylophone-like percussion to give the entire thing an almost calypso feel.  The last mix, done by biLLy, probably holds truest to the original, using beats that better fit the song itself instead of trying to make the song fit the beats.

Great stuff from Dream Wife.  Let’s hope there’s a full length in their future for 2018, because the world needs more Dream Wife.

The Bombpops – “Fear of Missing Out” (2017)

I’ve been on a major female-vocalist kick lately, and it couldn’t have come at a better time with new releases last year by The Kills and Dream Wife and Warpaint, plus the chance to see some killer shows by bands like Thunderpussy and Hórmónar at Iceland Airwaves.  I feel like we’re in a period similar to when Riot Grrrl fired off like a rocket into space a couple of decades back, except this time I think the world is ready for it.

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The Bombpops were founded back in 2007 by guitarists and co-vocalists Poli van Dam and Jen Razavi.  Over the years they’ve gone through their rhythm section the way that Spinal Tap went through drummers, but they finally found some stability with the additions of bassist Neil Wayne and drummer Josh Lewis and the set line-up allowed them to get into the studio to record their first full-length after a couple of EPs and a 7″ over the last nine years.  I came across Fear of Missing Out over in the New Releases section over at Hi-Voltage Records, and I’m glad they gave it such a prominent place because otherwise I probably would have missed this new pop-punk gem.

Man, I don’t want to go too deep into the comparison game.  But if you like bands like American Hi-Fi and Blink-182 and L7, then The Bombpops are for you.  And yes, I just put L7 in the same sentence as American Hi-Fi and Blink-182 and I’m not going to apologize for it.  Why, you ask?  Sure, L7 is way heavier than those other bands, but sometimes The Bombpops get heavy too on songs like “Jerk”, and fast with punk bursts like “I Can’t”, when their sheer attitude reminds me of the completely in-your-faceness of L7.  And yet there’s still a major pop undercurrent to most of Fear of Missing Out, so yeah, it all kind of fits together, at least it does to my ears.

Fear of Missing Out comes at you like a hundred mile an hour fastball, high and tight.  So after you get back up and dust yourself off, you’re going to find yourself coming back for it again and again.  At least that’s what happened to me, and it gets better with every listen. Give ’em a listen for yourself over on Bandcamp HERE.  I’m partial to “Jerk” and “Marry.  Fuck.  Kill”, but if you want one of their poppier numbers, give “Capable of Lies” a digital spin.

Mystery Date – “Love Collector” (2014) and “New Noir” (2015)

mysterydatelovecollectorAs I was flipping through the vinyl at Minneapolis’ Extreme Noise Records I had my eyes peeled for any local bands, something I generally try to do when visiting shops in cities outside of Seattle.  The cover of Mystery Date’s New Noir caught my eye, looking all old-timey and mod-ish, and when I learned they were from Minneapolis I made the decision to buy a couple of their records sound unheard.

First up was 2014s Love Collector, which is actually a compilation of the band’s earlier output all squeezed onto one cool white splattered record.  It’s got a lot of pop-punk flavor in a sort of Elvis-Costello-meets-Blink-182 kind of way, uptempo without being fast and with guitar work that runs the gamut from rock to rockabilly.  2015s New Noir, an all-new-material LP, continues with the same general sound, but the pace picked up dramatically.

You can give Mystery Date a listen on their Bandcamp page HERE.  Personally, I’m more partial to their earlier stuff on Love Collector – I find the slightly slower tempo more approachable and conducive to being able to better hear the nuances of their music.