At a time when I can’t even bear to turn on the radio for fear of being exposed to whatever mortifying horrorshow that’s passing for popular music, LA-based rock quartet Black Belt Karate are like oxygen in a vacuum. Being schooled veterans of many and varied rock projects (guitarist Jason Mezilis also plays in Owl with Cult bassist Chris Wyse) BBK deftly blend power pop hooks with a classic rock edge to deliver addictive tunes that will appeal to fans of Sloan, Green Day, Foo Fighters and Cheap Trick.
The very fun clip for “Transformer” — a buoyant anthem with a positive message of self-realization — sees the band auditioning for a casting director in front of a backdrop that makes it look like they’re part of a police line up. Interesting! The video takes on a bit of a “Sharp Dressed Man” feel with its interspersing of sassy video babes and clips of the band rocking out. You can see that lead vocalist Ryan Hanifil is just dripping with Rock Star charisma. Rumor has it that they also occasionally perform as a Doors Tribute band. Excellent.
Keep up with Black Belt Karate’s music, news and live performances by following them on the FaceBook at This Link. Enjoy!
Black Belt Karate Are: Ryan Brown (Drums), Harry Ostrem (Bass), Jason Mezilis (Guitar) and Ryan Hanifil (Vocals).
Initially, I was very resistant to the idea of Kentucky-based, Southern Rock Revivalists, Black Stone Cherry for two sharply pointed reasons. One being that unless a “Southern Rock” band is going to improve on Molly Hatchet’s “Flirting With Disaster” or Greg Allman’s “I’m No Angel,” why even bother? The other being that 99% of modern hard rock sounds like ass. But Black Stone Cherry come on like Soundgarden-meets-The Allman Brothers. My god, what a much needed gasp of fresh air in the vacuum! Not to mention, but you can see I am about to, their drummer, John Fred Young (check out the guy on the far left with that crazy mane of dark curly hair) is what we used to call in my day a stone solid fox. And having a little eye candy in the band never hurts.
#9. Little Answers, Earlymay
Remember back when music that passed for adult contemporary rock actually had balls? Neither do I. But if I were programming the Adult Contemporary format at radio today I’d scrap the Kelly Clarkson and Michael Bolton and flood it with songs by amazing bands like The Verve Pipe and Earlymay. Little Answers comes highly recommended if you like U2 but wish Bono would just get over himself already.
#8. Richard Butler
I wasn’t much of a fan of LoveSpitLove, former Psychedelic Furs frontman Richard Butler’s first post-Furs outting. But on Butler’s sublime debut solo excursion, he won me over with moody, soporific songs that sound like they were written by a less acid-damaged version of Julian Cope rather than a guy who was once married to notorious groupie Bebe Buell for about fifteen minutes. Downside: Abysmal cover art that makes him look like he has the plague, or something worse.
#7. All Blown Up, The Blank Stares
The Blank Stares are a band from San Francisco who contacted me through Myspace and asked if they could send me their CD. Now, I don’t want all you independent, undiscovered, unsigned, un-good bands out there to get any ideas, but if your shit sounds like The Beatles, feel free to look me up.
#6. Hot One
A Power-Quarter based in NYC that also features rock chick bass legend Emm Gryner, Hot One “observes the tradition of rock and roll as a medium for social protest, a la the Clash, Public Enemy, Psychic TV, Woody Guthrie, Minor Threat, the MC5.” I took that statement off their Myspace page. I love Hot One’s sexy glam rock/power pop amalgam (favorite cut, “Sexy Soldier”), but I also dig that they throw in a little George Bush hating on the side.
\ #5. Tunnel Vision Brilliance, Scott Reeder
Is there a serious metal head alive who doesn’t/didn’t worship Kyuss? Because if there is I want to know who they are so I beat their faces in. Former Kyuss bassist Scott Reeder is a fucking genius for making the best Pink Floyd album since Wish You Were Here. Heavy Mettle indeed.
#4. Elf Titled, The Advantage
Six Words: “Nintendo Game Theme Song Cover Band.” Nothing more needs to be said. This CD is brilliant from start to finish. And I’ve never played Nintendo in my life.
#3. Electric Satisfaction, Crash Kelly
Canadian Rockers Crash Kelly excell at producing stellar Modern Glam Trash for people like me who go out of their way to live in the past.
#2. Yeah!, Def Leppard
Seriously, how can you possibly go wrong if you’re already Def Leppard — who are, without a doubt, a genius band — and you decide to make an album of covers that includes Badfinger’s “No Matter What” and Mott The Hoople’s “Golden Age of Rock & Roll”? How can you go wrong, I ask yez?
#1. Never Hear The End of It, Sloan
I have to thank n=my buddy Frank Griggs for sending me this Sloan album on the fly when he was doing their publicity last fall, because otherwise I never would have heard the BEST ALBUM OF 2006! No amount of clever compound adjectives can fully describe how awesome this CD is. Those tasteless dicks over at Rolling Stone only gave Never Hear The End Of It three-out-of-five stars, but here’s their review:
“For more than a decade, Sloan have been big in their native Canada without even reaching Guided by Voices-level fame stateside. With thirty, count-’em, thirty songs (several of which bleed together and clock in under two minutes), their eighth studio album is a power-pop record that flows like the Minutemen’s Double Nickels on the Dime — but with glam rock and acoustic balladry in the mix.”
So just go out and buy it already.
These are some genius discs that didn’t quite make into the Top Ten, mostly because I could only fit ten selections into a list of ten. Logistics, you know.
1. Benevento Russo Duo, Play, Pause, Stop
2. Dirty Royals, Obsessed America EP
3. David Gilmour, On An Island
4. Ambulance, New English EP
5. Gosling, Here Is…
6. Hellacopters, Rock & Roll is Dead
7. American Hearthbreak
8. Barrett Martin, Earthspeaker
9. Wired All Wrong, Break Out The Battle Tapes
10. (Guilty Pleasure) Taylor Hicks
Don’t even start with me on this one. I may be a self-confessed huge fan of American Idol, but nobody was more surprised than me when I fell in love with former spazz Taylor Hick’s fake Elvis swagger and his “Takin’ It To The Streets” mock-soul funk. This album is probably the best piece of commercial “product” that the big corporate machine has crapped out since I even listened to mainstream pop radio. And thank god someone got him to dye his hair.