Top Sounds - J

JACKETS, THE - Queen Of The Pill {Voodoo Rhythm} Fourth long player from this Swiss Garage Rock band. You get ten tracks of 60s ‘Nuggets’-esque Garage Rock which had me thinking of JEFFERSON AIRPLANE a little too often. Throw in a bit of Psychedelia and Beat, some SEEDS and some WHITE STRIPES and a splash of CRAMPS and you’re pretty much there. Seems both ALICE COOPER and Rodney Bingenheimer both rate the band highly, but I have to say, given all the press release’s emphasis on Full-Fuzz I found it surprisingly clean sounding. There are plenty of highlights too, the bass groove and 60s swing of ‘Steam Queen’, the pounding title track and ‘Don’t Leave Me Alone’ that delivers some of that heavy-duty fuzz with a great chorus while the sneering, catchy-as-hell ‘Losers Lullaby’ could claim to be the best on the album. Good stuff, dramatic in places and a great vocalist in Jackie but for all the press hype, it was a little tame - and probably better for it. (09.08.19)

JADED EYES - Hatespeak {Boss Tuneage/ Serial Bowl} Latest slice of smartness from these Leeds, UK veterans and it’s just a mere two tracks on one dark red 7" slice of vinyl. Bit of a 1984 (as in George Orwell) theme going on here, from the title track through to the labels on the record. Lead track ‘Hatespeak’ zipped along and kept me going back to GRAY MATTER for some reason. Flip the disc and you get ‘One Percent’ that flows on a RITES OF SPRINGish guitar riff before a bilious chorus and a fragmented riff kicks in. It’s probably the stronger of the two tracks too. Have to say, it’s those gnarled, distinctly British sounding vocals (which are also legible) that separates these fellas from other bands who may attempt to do this DC Revolution Summer-esque Punk. Black and white sleeve, no lyric sheet, no download code - just two cracking tracks from what must be among the very best bands in Britain at present. Hopefully this is a warm-up for the band’s third album. If it follows the sound here, it could well be the band’s best yet also. (22.05.18)

JADE HAIRPINS - Harmony Avenue {Merge} PODCAST PLAYED This is a side-project from FUCKED UP’s drummer, Jonah Falco and guitarist/ writer Mike Haliechuk, and if you were expecting tripped out or gnarly Hardcore, you’d better get yourself in a totally different mind set. This 10 track album is a fusion of Power Pop and NEW ORDER-esque pristine Pop. Opener ‘J Terrapin’ itself is a cracker, if slightly misleading as it’s a Power Pop/ New Wave number in the style of Dirtnap/ EXPLODING HEARTS. From there, the electronics kick in. Of the remaining tracks, stand outs include ‘Father Coin’ that has enough guitar workouts to invoke TELEVISION jamming with PULP, the veritable electro-calypso of ‘Broadstairs Beach’ and ‘Post No Bill’ that bubbles, bops and has a slightly sinister vibe while highlight would be ‘Dolly Dream’ that has groove akin to ‘Train In Vain’ mashed up with PET SHOP BOYS. A genuinely interesting album and, while it’s Pop Music, it’s not Pop Music as we know it - much like FUCKED UP’s Hardcore. (30.07.20)
JILTED JOHN - Live! {Boss Tuneage} Shit-a-brick - who would’ve thought it? Over 40 years since JILTED JOHN became the curse of every Gordon in the UK, comes a full live album recorded in Manchester, UK of Mr JILTED JOHN and his band. Have to say, it’s a lot of fun too! JOHN (or Graham Fellows to give him his real name) is on fine form, witty and conversational with both crowd and band, and the band slams these quirky, late 70s New Wave songs which appeared on the ‘True Love Stories’ album from ‘78. Of course, ‘Jilted John’ itself is the highlight (and repeated as an encore) and given a cheeky reworking as opener ‘I’m Still Jilted John’. Elsewhere, the keyboards of ‘Fancy Mice’ make for a highlight as it segues perfectly into ‘Going Steady’. The whole deal is filled out with some neat notes from Fellows himself and about 10 minutes of bonus rehearsal material. If you have the original album, or love the single, you might just be stunned to hear how much fun this actually. (05.09.19)

JILTED JOHN - True Love Stories {Boss Tuneage} To celebrate the 40th anniversary of the iconic one-hit-wonder who bellowed ‘Gordon is a Moron’, comes this stunning re-issue of JILTED JOHN’s debut album. Not only do you get the original 1978-released album on coloured vinyl, but there’s a reprint of the classic ‘Jilted John’ 7", extensive new liner notes and even a reprint of the Mice and Ladders board game that came with limited copies of the initial run. The album features 12 tracks recounting the teenage angst of being a loser in love, forming a virtual concept album of John’s (non)love life. Lyrically it’s witty, musically minimal and geeky and totally resonant with anyone who has been a teenage loser - especially if you happened to be one in 1978! Besides the iconic ‘Jilted John’, other highlights are ‘I Know I’ll Never’, ‘The Birthday Kiss’ (that includes the great line about being alone in my bedroom with my chips, feeling sad) and the follow-up single ‘True Love’. It’s easy to see why this was an influence on PULP’s Jarvis Cocker as a lot of his traits (albeit in a different format) are here. Definitely one that any 70s Punk enthusiast should have but it’s also one very much of its time. No matter, this is a splendid package and other, lesser, labels should take note as to what a quality reissue is all about. (15.09.18)

JOHNNY MOPED - Live In Trafalgar Square 1983 {Damaged Goods} Nine track live album recorded on a Saturday afternoon in March 1983 at a benefit gig for the prevention of seal culling. Of those nine tracks, two are spoken word pieces by the likes of Labour MP David Ennals, actress Gabrielle Drake and one Captain Sensible who puts the case most effectively with stating the seals actually have it right as they, “lounge on the beach, only to get off their backsides to go and eat or have sex,” and “would there have been a war in the Falklands if the two countries had seals as prime ministers?”, the latter of which got the day’s biggest cheer. As for the songs, the recording is pretty lo-fi but you do get takes on ‘No One’, ‘Make Trouble’ and the specially written ‘Save The Baby Seals’. Screen printed cover, limited and includes an insert with photos and info from the day recorded. It’s not likely to ever rival ‘It’s Alive’ or ‘No Sleep ‘Til Hammersmith’ as a classic live album, but it’s an entertaining document of the era and, surprisingly, MOPED the man and the band are in pretty fine form. (08.07.20)
JOHNNY MOPED - Hey Belinda! {Damaged Goods} Three track 7” from the legend that is MOPED. Lead track is a bit of a cracker (and I think a track from the ‘Lurrigate Your Mind’ album - which I ain’t heard - how’d that happen, tomcats?) with a great ascending riff under the chorus and MOPED’s own unique vocal style that’s part defiance, part belligerence. ‘Hiawatha’ is a bit more sedate and has that early VIBRATORS swing about it (and if you have that ‘Search For Xerxes’ album, you might recognise it). Finally there is a brief interview with MOPED on Foxy Radio where the main concern for Johnny seems to his cellphone that’s low on charge and about to go “on the blink”. Worth checking out, especially for ‘Hiawatha’ that has some great guitar fills. Limited to 600 copies on red vinyl with a neat Reservoir Dogs-esque sleeve. (20.06.20)
JONES, JORDAN - s/t {Spaghetty Town} PODCAST PLAYED Oh yes - this is something I like lots! JONES is a singer/songwriter from Los Angeles and this is his debut album. It’s loaded with Power Pop jams that come on like first album BIG STAR, BUFFALO TOM and MARC BOLAN/ T-REX with a hint of REDD KROSS at their most sumptuously melodic. Kicks off with the wonderful acoustic strum of ‘Wrote You A Song For Me’ before a further nine tracks take us on a path to songwriting nirvana. There’s nothing fancy here - just guitars, bass, drums, organ and a great vocal that has a slight sneer about it - and there’s not a duffer here. Highlights would be the killer chorus of ‘My Somebody’ that CHEAP TRICK would probably pay good money for, ‘Rumors Girls’ that’s got guitars that shoot from the hip and a vocal that could be Duncan Reid outta THE BOYS and the sedately swing of the reflective ‘How To Be’ while highlight has to be closer, ‘Oh My Heavenz’ that’s got a pounding beat with shimmering, summertime vocals and good vibes all round. Total departure in sound for the guys at Spaghetty Town, but whatever it is, it’s a great sound. Love it!! (23.05.20)
JONNY MANAK AND THE DEPRESSIVES - Anybody Wanna Skate {Gods Candy} PODCAST PLAYED Regular readers will know I have a lot of time for this exemplary Garage Punk Rock trio outta California and this, the band’s fifth album, keeps my appreciation meter set to max. From the opening title track, the production on these 12 tracks seems crisper and sharper than before while retaining a cutting edge. Plenty of highlights too, be it ‘Sticks And Stones’ that’s gotta RAMONES vibe circa ‘Leave Home’ if played via ADOLSECENTS, both ‘Blundertoe’ and ‘Surfin’ Swami’ are examples of the band’s effortless Surf-esque instrumentals, ‘Gift Of Desperation’ retains that sneering, soaring Garage Punk of old and ‘It’s A Shame’ sees MANAK screaming like a demon possessed while ‘It’s Fashionable’ careers along on an addictive riff and great chorus and could be the album’s highlight. Then there’s the wonderfully titled ‘70s Too Young For Lemmy To Die’ and the surprising cover of ‘TMNT’. If you like your Punk laden with smokin’ Garage jams, killer sneering attitude and songs so memorable it feels like they’ve been kicked into your head, then the Punk blast of JONNY MANAK AND THE DEPRESSIVES is for you.  Killer stuff indeed. (12.10.19)
JUNKYARD - Old Habits Die Hard {Acetate} Recorded back in 1992, this is the ‘lost’ third album from the Hard Rockin’ Grunge-niks. You get 11 tracks (plus an introduction that’s kinda throwaway) and it’s all a bit dour Heavy Rock for me - think some kinda fusion of GUNS ‘N’ ROSES (especially vocally), LYNYRD SKYNRD and, at it’s best SCREAMING TREES and ROLLING STONES. Best bits? ‘Tried And True’ has an ‘Exile...’ vibe going in parts (albeit with weightier guitars), the SOUL ASYLUM-esque swagger of ‘Holdin’ On’ (which probably claims album highlight) and riff-heavy pounding of closer ‘One Foot In The Grave’. Ultimately though, this pretty much bored with those slightly screechy vocals really annoyed by the end of the 40+ minute listen. If these fellas thought this was sufficient to jump the coattails of NIRVANA, MUDHONEY, SOUNDGARDEN and SCREAMING TREES, they were pretty much mistaken. Wonder what the ex-member of MINOR THREAT, DAG NASTY and current BAD RELIGION ‘axe-slinger’ thinks of this now...  (21.04.20)
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Top Sounds - K

KILLER HEARTS - E.P. {Spaghetty Town} Quartet outta Houston, Texas crank four jams of noxious, bourbon-laced, tight-trousered Punk Rock ‘n’ Roll. Opener ‘Do Your Thang’ drags in a big DEAD BOYS influence and manages to slam in some HANOI ROCKS-esque saxophone while ‘Midnight Lucifer’ comes on like a fusion of THE BRIEFS and RADIO BIRDMAN. Flip the wax and ‘Annihilation’ sees vocalist Jaret Barger drag out the spectral fervour of Stiv once again - and to very good effect - while closer ‘Killed By Volume’ is apparently the lead track which just ignites and burns with the very best of high-energy barroom Rock ‘n’ Roll that’s infused with a bit of Punk, a lot of attitude and equal proportions of intoxicants. The band do nothing that hasn’t been heard before over the four tracks here, but what they do is done with verve, attitude and style. Limited to just 100 copies too - so nab one quick if you’re a high energy Rock ‘n’ Roll mofo. (28.08.20)
KING BROTHERS - Wasteland {Hound Gawd} Kicking off with the title track, this is the tenth release (and first in eight years) from this trio outta Japan. It’s some heavy-duty gear too, coming on like the ROLLING STONES with the organ player outta DEEP PURPLE jamming. Not exactly the most auspicious of starts!  However, next track ‘No Want’ amps things suitably with a fantastically distorted bass drum and enough Garage rocking cool riffage to make THE HIVES wanna retire. From there it kinda meanders between STONES-Ish, gutter Blues (check ‘Odorushikabane’) and the distorto Garage Rock of BEASTS OF BOURBON cranking JAY REATARD (see ‘Break On Through’) - kinda like the way I imagine WHITE STRIPES always should’ve sounded. Unfortunately, they don’t really fully impress in either mode, not being quite as relaxed and decadent for the STONES vibe or as outrageously wild as REATARDS. (25.04.19)
KIRA JARI - Spooky Freaky {Dirt Cult} PODCAST PLAYED Blazing, boisterous and rather brilliant four-track 7” from this quartet outta North Texas. Think PINHEAD GUNPOWDER, YOUNG LIVERS and OFF WITH THEIR HEADS and you’re kinda close to this top-notch melodic and urgent Punk. Of the four tracks, ‘Is It Noticeable?’ barrels along with a hint of HOT WATER MUSIC about it while best track could well be ‘Sea Sick’ that’s got guitars that just soar and scorch while the vocal bellows like Paddy’s DILLINGER FOUR songs. Not sure how active these fellas are as I think this could be the band’s first release since a demo released back in 2017. On this evidence, I’d really like to hear a full album as each song is a cracker with their own merits (like the lead guitar work on closer ‘Silver Heart’ - enough to make the likes of HDQ at their peak envious). Quality gear indeed. (24.04.20)
KNIFE CLUB - We Are Knife Club {TNS} PODCAST PLAYED Now, this has got me rather excited!! Not only is it on TNS (enough of a reason on its own), but it is also the new project from Andy and Chris who used to be in Scanner faves, REVENGE OF THE PSYCHOTRONIC MAN, along with Zoe from CASUAL NAUSEA. This features 12 tracks that fly by in a matter of 21 minutes but without being the warp speed core of REVENGE...  Instead, this has more bounce, more groove bringing to mind FREAKS UNION, SICK ON THE BUS, INTRO5PECT and even the odd moment of LEFTOVER CRACK (minus Ska, minus Metal). Not a duffer in sight either, but highlights would be ‘Working Class Tories’, that features the funkiest riff you’ll hear all year, ‘Remember The Gold Dollar Sign Hoddie?’ that berates the beer-swilling ‘Punk’ who wants it all for free and berates them in style and ‘The Tibby Tan Tiger’ while ‘I Mean, I’d Probably Take An Adidas Endoresment’ lifts the pace to rival the speed of ROTPM with highlight being ‘Do You Want A Knife With That Salad?’ that just kills it - killer riff, killer structure, killer chorus. The songs are political and out spoken but manage to inject a bit of humour (see closer ‘TNSCLUB7’), production is suitably cutting for a band called KNIFE CLUB and the attitude is every-fucking-thing that Punk should be in the 20s! Contender for year’s best - easily. (24.07.20)
KONTAKTA - Life In A Cage {Militant Tendencies} Raging four track 7” from this four-piece outta Southampton, England. Think a mix of POISON IDEA and CONFLICT and you’re pretty much there. Three of the tracks deal with animal cruelty issues, be it for cosmetic testing, hunting or meat-eating. The other track tackles public surveillance. It’s good stuff too, the guitar riffs in particular are incisive and don’t always follow the expected chord progressions, which gives most of the songs a rather clever, almost discordant feel while the distorto bass provides depth and muscle. Best track? Probably lead track ‘Burn My Eyes’ that highlights those smart guitars, although the opening bass riff of ‘Meet Your Meat’ is almost funky enough to get your dancing shoes on. First time I’ve come across the band and I like what I hear; the subject might be tried and tested amidst Punk lyrics, but these are tackled with style, intelligence and rage. Great cover artwork too. (11.04.20)

KOSKI, DARIUS - What Was Once Is By And Gone {Fat Wreck} Second solo album from the SWINGIN’ UTTERS mainstay and you get 16 tracks of Americana, Blues and Country. Of those 16, four are instrumentals and appear to be bridging pieces between the album’s sound. There are the more subtle acoustic tracks that brought to mind ‘A Conversation’ era GRANT HART and there are also more forceful, rocking blues numbers. Highlights would include the first three tracks that embody that GRANT HART feel, ‘Because He’s Beautiful’ that’s the most electric track here and brought to mind MIKE NESS’ solo work, the CRAMPS-esque Swamp Blues of ‘Yes I Believe’ and ‘Imitation Tala’ that is the most adventurous track, co-opting mystical Indian drones akin to THE BEATLES. Best track however is either ‘A Fresh Glass Of Nothing’ that’s all European flavoured acoustic swing with Mrs Koski on backing vocals or ‘Little Johnny’ that’s got energetic acoustic guitars and a lilting piano refrain all through. I could never see SWINGIN’ UTTERS doing any of these songs as they are drastically different in both style and content. Fact remains though, they’re still good songs that deserve your attention. (11.09.18)

Hit HERE for material reviewed prior to 2018 including: