Top Drawer Pop Punk Lives

14 Soda Punx LP
Top Drawer Records
Available January 19th

It’s 2018. Sicko is doing a reunion show. I’m flying out for it. Top Drawer Records is active again. I can’t really handle this combination of events. The Sicko performance is part of the two-day Seattle Pop Punk Festival, January 19th and 20th at Highline. You should do this. You still have time. I was a bit late to the party with Sicko (a friend introduced me in 1997), so I never got to see them play the first time around. Time to rectify that.

If that weren’t enough, though, Top Drawer decided to take it one step further, reviving the (tragically) lost art form of the compilation. In conjunction with the festival, they are releasing the 14 Soda Punx record, limited to 500 copies on red vinyl (pre-order here). This is a 23-year-later sequel to the classic Top Drawer 13 Soda Punx compilation.

Top Drawer and Sicko have always excelled at promoting the frequently overlooked Seattle pop punk scene, which has always existed – it shared space with the ’90s grunge boom era, and never achieved the fanfare. The Fastbacks managed to keep one foot in both worlds, but they were mostly alone in that – other bands were seemingly either in one camp or the other, and there was little overlap. Top Drawer planted the pop punk flag and flew it proudly while everyone else was perfecting their power chord/feedback balance.

So here we are. There is still pop punk in Seattle, and Top Drawer has come out of retirement to once again, with a small army of punk bands, to stake its claim to that segment of the Seattle music scene. And it’s good. 14 Soda Punx is a fascinating walk through a variety of pop punk styles. Parts of the record are like walking through a mid-90s Warped Tour lineup…you can hear influences all over the place from the bands of that time.

Since Top Drawer has brought back the compilation with authority, I am going to revive yet another lost art form: describing tracks on a comp by drawing comparisons with other bands. There are highlights all over the place, but one real standout for me is the opener. The record kicks off with a strong entry from Success called “Kurt Bloch,” a not-super-subtle musical love letter to the Fastbacks. It’s got Weston/Armchair Martian-style guitar work and vocals, which equates directly with happiness. It’s scientific fact. Really catchy and solid. Ramona’s “Token” follows, which is also fun – this one kind of sounds like one of the early Rancid tracks sung by Matt. Or something by Tilt. Or both together.

Shadow Cats bring us “Paranoia,” which sounds like a Fastbacks love child. Fantastic hooks and Hi-Fives-like vocal progression. Head-bobbing and infectious. Burn Burn Burn’s “What Doing” takes us on a detour from 14 Soda Punx and lands us in a ’90s Fat Wreck comp. Great energy. A couple of tracks later, after we find our way back from Fat Music for Top Drawer People, we crash into something straight out of Husker Du – the Botherations track “Amor Perdido.” I love the emotional intensity of this song. Intensity – whether in music or obvious in vocals – is a feature I am realizing more and more matters to me in new music.

At this point, we reach the brightest highlight for me on 14 Soda Punx. I will say that Top Drawer did its best to avoid making this record/festival a celebration of Sicko and its members’ new bands. I knew Denny’s new band was on here, but I did not know which band it was when I listened to it. When the Drolls’ song “Getting Old” kicks in, it takes all the guesswork out of the equation. This song brings me back to vintage Sicko. Great stuff. Ean’s new band, Date Night with Brian, follows with the characteristically catchy pop song, “Get It In.” The song is excellent, and it is a good follow up to their debut EP that came out in 2017 (which you should go check out from Top Drawer. It’s on Spotify, too). 14 Soda Punx closes with Dead Bars, probably the best-known of the bands on the record. They contribute the hysterical “Krist Novoselic’s New Band,” which…well, just go listen.

Top Drawer has returned with a vengeance, and it’s what we need in 2018.

Pette Discogs’ Best Albums of 2016 (and Late 2015)

‘Tis time. My annual music review has been something I have put together for several years, but I have generally limited it to a personal Facebook post. That seems a little silly, considering these vast tools at my disposal to reach at least 5-10 additional people who might care. So, I’m expanding the reach this year. Here we go: my favorite albums of 2016 (and late 2015, if I did not get to it by 2015, but it counts because I make the rules). The first few entries here are interchangeable in my rankings – they are all albums I have listened to incessantly since I discovered them.

1. Tacocat – Lost Time
I was way late to the game on Tacocat. Then, I was listening to extensively curated female-singer-indie-rock channel on Pandora, and Pandora and I had a discussion, which essentially amounted to Pandora saying, “Um, you like Tacocat, dumbass. No, really. Get on that,” and me saying, “Mmhm.” We had that conversation about three times before I paid attention. Pandora was correct, and I have remedied the problem. I am now caught up. The good news is this happened at the perfect time: about a month before the release of a new Tacocat album, followed by not one, but two rare DC tour appearances. It’s true: I  Tacocat and you should, too. Their newest album, Lost Time, covers all kinds of fun topics, but I will leave that to you to work through.

Highlights: Talk
I Hate the Weekend
Dana Katherine Scully

2. S P O R T S – All of Something (2015)
Heartfelt, energetic, solid indie rock with a distinct hint of a midwestern sound. This album grabbed me immediately…I just didn’t hear it until early 2016. I read a review of All of Something shortly after I heard it that made it sound as though this band had all the makings of one that was not long for this world (some members – but not all – graduated from college and moved from Ohio to Philly). It hasn’t done them in yet.

Highlights: Saturday
Reality TV

3. Bloodboy – Best of Bloodboy EP
No, Bloodboy is not a hardcore or metal band (at least not yet) – just solo singer/songwriter Lexie Papilion. I am still trying to figure out how I found my way to this EP. It contains sounds one would normally expect to find exclusively in ’80s songs (and for those of you saying, “I love ’80s songs!” I did not mean that as a positive). It works, though. It really works. These are phenomenal songs. Intense, biting, and infectious – I have been listening to this EP repeatedly for the past couple of months. If only there were a physical product so that I could give her money for her music… Anyway, this EP is a stellar debut and I look forward to what is to come.

Highlights: Keep Your Disease
Hey Kid
Fuck Yourself (I find it endlessly entertaining that Amazon refers to this one as “Fuck Yourself [Explicit]”…y’think?)
Mom, I’ve Changed

Oh, just listen to the whole thing. It’s all good. The last track doesn’t hold my attention quite as much as the first five, but it’s still good.

4. Blowout – No Beer, No Dad
Blowout sounds like early Lemuria…I mean they REALLY remind me of early Lemuria. This is a fantastic development – I miss early Lemuria. It’s catchy indie-punk songs at their finest. This is their first full length, and it has also been occupying my stereo with great regularity in the latter part of this year.

Highlights: Guts Grown Up
Cents Cents Money Money
Green Couch

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Sicko Is Here!

This weekend brings us another new page: Sicko.  I know it is a bit of a departure from many of the pages I have done, but not everything has to fit…right?