Yes, I’m Still Here…

Well now, it’s been a while, hasn’t it?

I am still here and yes, I am still working on music. It’s been a slow process, but it is in process. Right now it’s recording live drums, which, due to my housemates (i.e. family) can only be done at certain times. The album is written and demoed, though, so a recorded version of it DOES exist.

Oh, and I’m also writing new songs, because creativity waits for no one, regardless of how slow their recording process is.

Also, ALSO, I’ve been spending a LOT of time working on my online business It’s an alternative fashion store with cool shirts and stuff with my own original designs on them. Go check it out and if something strikes your fancy, feel free to make a purchase. It will also become the exclusive home for official TRML merch once, you know, I have new music to promote that’ll prompt folks to want merch.

So that’s what new with me. Still here. Still rockin’.

More soon.

TRML’s Sound Selections #65

TRML's Sound Selections #65: The Julie Ruin - Hit Reset

The Julie Ruin – Hit Reset

Kathleen Hanna has been a fixture in the punk scene since the 80s and has influenced countless budding musicians with her bands Bikini Kill and Le Tigre. Her THIRD band, The Julie Ruin, released their second album, Hit Reset, in 2016 and it includes some of the best songwriting to date. Coming off a multi-year hiatus due to a bout with Lyme disease, Kathleen shows us she’s not going to let a setback like that get her down. Hit Reset sees her and the band expanding on the sounds of both Kathleen’s other bands by blending the more classic punk sound of Bikini Kill with the electro-punk of Le Tigre to create a sound that fans of both bands can enjoy. Kathleen’s signature bratty singing style is front and center as she takes the listener on a journey through her childhood traumas and more than a few toxic relationships (including the personal favorite retort “start a kickstarter for your heart”). The band, consisting of Sara Landeau, Kathi Wilcox, Kenny Mellman, and Carmine Covelli, are there alongside Kathleen to flavor each song with just the right amount of pep or grit to nicely accentuate the at times deeply personal lyrics.

I first got into Kathleen’s work in the early 00s with Le Tigre’s album “This Island.” It was during a time when my musical tastes were budding and I was looking for anything and everything new and different. Her unique writing and delivery led me down the rabbit hole of her catalog as well as similar acts like Sleater-Kinney. Admittedly she had fallen off my radar for quite some time until I discovered Hit Reset, which knowing what I know now about her health problems, makes sense and makes this album seem all the more important to her body of work. She kicked Lyme disease in the ass and now she isn’t pulling any punches (not like she ever really held back anyway). She’s making the music SHE wants to make and her fans, both old and new, are ready for it.

TRML’s Sound Selections #64

TRML's Sound Selections #64: Violent Femmes - Violent Femmes

Violent Femmes – Violent Femmes

The Violent Femmes self-titled debut is part of a small club of albums that helped define the “alternative” rock genre. They brought a unique sound and angsty lyrics that was accessible and relatable. Focusing on an acoustic-oriented setup (with occasional electric guitar and in one memorable case, xylophone) which stemmed from their days busking on the streets of Milwaukee, the three-piece band played their music as loud as those instruments could handle. Brian Ritchie’s pounding acoustic bass and Gordan Gano’s chunky guitar combine with Victor DiLorenzo’s ramshackle drums to create a fat and gritty sound that was practically unheard of at the time. Couple that with Gordan’s unique nasally voice and lyrics chock full of with horny teen anxiety and you have a recipe for an album that shouldn’t work, but very much does to the point that it’s practically generation-defining.

The Violent Femmes’ first album is another one of those that I’ve purchased multiple times over the years. First a ratty used CD copy, then the deluxe edition a few years later, then a vinyl copy. It’s responsible for my love of chunky acoustic guitar sounds and has really inspired me to do more with less. You don’t need all the fancy instruments and production. As long as your heart is in it and you give it all you got, it’ll sound good. I mean really, Victor’s drum setup included a literal bucket and it slaps! It’s an album I come back to again and again and seemingly can’t get enough of. There’s so much to love here beyond the hit singles and if you somehow HAVEN’T heard it, go now and give it a spin. You will NOT be disappointed.

TRML’s Sound Selections #63

TRML's Sound Selections #63: Olivia Jean - Raving Ghost

Olivia Jean – Raving Ghost

Released earlier this year, Olivia Jean’s Raving Ghost is an album that sees the darkly fashionable rocker cutting loose and really having fun after two plus years of the pandemic. We have the catchy guitar riffs and cherry-picked retro song styles Olivia has always successfully employed, but now we have some choice synth sounds added into the mix, expanding her sonic palette and creating an interesting and exciting aural mash-up. Utilizing a core band of seasoned players, Olivia brings us along on a fascinating late-night journey where we meet a cast of interesting characters throughout these 11 songs, including one that imagines if Enya decided to pick up a guitar and walk on the wild side. Ok, that’s not what the song is about, but Olivia’s cover of Enya’s Orinoko Flow is something that shouldn’t work, but surprisingly does. This album goes from sleazy to manic to almost bouncy and beyond and is a solid argument for the strength of albums over singles.

I remember first learning of Olivia from the single her band (The Black Belles) created with Stephen Colbert and the silly photoshoot they did for that release. Since then she’s struck out on her own and I’ve really grown to enjoy her musical output. She has a unique style that has range and her versatility allows her to work well in a variety of settings beyond rock and roll. She clearly studies her influences closely and is an excellent example of someone who can effortlessly apply what she’s learned from those who came before and truly make it her own. 

TRML’s Sound Selections #62

TRML's Sound Selections #62: Devo - Q: Are We Not Men? A: We Are Devo!

Devo – Q: Are We Not Men? A: We Are Devo!

Devo’s 1977 debut album “Q: Are We Not Men? A: We Are Devo!” is punk inspired not by politics, but by science. It embraces the parts of humanity that are weird and different and uplifts them to a whole new status of “cool.” I put cool in quotes because I don’t believe Mark and the boys were ever TRYING to be cool. They are just being their silly and slightly off-kilter selves. Here we see them take pop culture and mutate it into a late-night infomercial parody of itself. Their take on the Rolling stones “I Can’t Get No (Satisfaction)” is a perfect example of this as they devolve the classic into something that’s jerky, awkward, and more believable as the singer is NOT a swarthy up-and-coming rock god. (I’m mean that in the nicest way possible, Mark!) There is a lot to take away from this album and each song, while seemingly simple, is subversively complex. There was nothing like it at the time and while this sound has influenced countless other bands, nothing has quite compared to it since.

I previously covered Devo member Gerald Casale’s solo album here on Sound Selections, so it’s shouldn’t be a surprise his legendary main act is appearing here as well. Their sound has influenced me for YEARS and they remain one of my favorite bands. Their sound and ethos is just so unique that no one (with the exception of Weird Al) has been able to successfully copy it. You can successfully imitate The Rolling Stones or Bruce Springsteen, but to try to capture what Devo “is” is to become a parody of yourself, which plays into Devo’s whole deal. They’re a truly unique band that has carved out a very specific place in the pantheon of rock and roll. 

TRML’s Sound Selections #61

TRML's Sound Selections #61: Eddie Vedder - Earthling

Eddie Vedder – Earthling

Sometimes, when the front person of a band gets a bit creatively antsy, they strike out on their own and release a solo album. These tend to yield, shall we say, mixed results. Some are inspiring and innovative, while others are sad and full of ego. Eddie Vedder, however, more than proves his talent outside of Pearl Jam with his stellar 2022 album Earthling. Backed by a band that includes TWO Red Hot Chili Peppers members, Alanis Morrsette’s bassist, and the guitarist for The Frames, Eddie and “The Earthlings” as he dubbed them bring their A-game on 13 rock solid tracks. Here we see Eddie utilize his soaring growl of a voice over songs that range from driving punk-styled offerings to ballads with a signature Vedder twist. Oh, and one KILLER collab with Elton John. Earthling doesn’t feel like Eddie is trying to show he’s more than Pearl Jam. Instead it’s an album that easily clears the high bar set by that legendary band and shows he’s so much more than just a frontman trying to prove something.

I’m sure you’re probably wondering why I would feature an Eddie Vedder solo album before a Pearl Jam album on Sound Selections. Well, simply put, this album is JUST THAT GOOD. Along with his previous solo album Ukelele Songs (which I WOULD have featured if I owned it on vinyl), Earthling is a well-crafted effort that impresses and proves Eddie is not about to rest on his laurels. His powerful voice and expert songwriting are inspiring to hear and his rapport with his backing band makes every song feel tight yet relaxed, with the working well with each other as if they have been in the band for ages. Pearl Jam might have set the bar high for Eddie’s solo works, but this album sets the bar high for every other frontman’s solo efforts. It more than lives up to expectations and is an excellent listening experience even if you’re (somehow) not a fan of Pearl Jam. 

TRML’s Sound Selections #60

TRML's Sound Selections #60: The Presidents of The United States of America - The Presidents of The United States of America

TRML’s Sound Selections #60

The Presidents of The United States of America – The Presidents of The United States of America

As far as debut albums go, there are only a select few that could be considered “iconic.” Most bands don’t find their groove until the second or even third album. But The Presidents of The United States of America tapped into something special and knocked it out of the park on the first go. With ultra-catchy radio-friendly hits like “Lump” and “Peaches,” their self-titled debut brings the listener on an incredibly fun mid-90’s alt-rock journey that begins with the delightfully raunchy “Kitty” and continues at full-speed through 13 tracks soaked in fuzzed guitar with driving drums and Chris Bellew’s quirky and often funny lyrics. Oh, and let’s not forget a blistering cover of MC5’s Kick Out The Jams, because WHY NOT?!

When “Peaches” hit the airwaves in the mid-nineties, I was at just the right age to latch onto that kind of quirkiness. Like much of the PUSA output, it was silly and had a sense of fun that young me could enjoy. However, it wasn’t until many years later that I actually listened to the rest of the album and discovered a WHOLE ALBUM of excellent songs like the beloved “Peaches.” It also helped that the album opener is laugh-out-loud funny and has an expletive-laden verse you can shout along to (which apparently was NOT the band’s idea but rather the record label’s). The President’s debut is a banger all the way through and an excellent jumping-on point for this band’s excellent (albeit short) discography. 

TRML’s Sound Selections #59

TRML's Sound selections #59: X - Under the Big Black Sun

X – Under the Big Black Sun

When X released “Under the Big Black Sun” in 1982, they were already gaining major traction on the L.A. punk scene. But this didn’t mean they had to adhere to the standard “punk” sound. With their major label debut, X took the opportunity to polish their sound and begin incorporating some of their other influences, like those from country music and old-school rock and roll. Largely inspired by the unfortunate death of vocalist Exene’s sister, Under the Big Black Sun maintains the punk edge of their previous two albums, but adds a bit of country twang, goth darkness, and even some doo-wop inspird rythm. Hard driving numbers like “How I (Learned My Lesson) sit comfortably with songs like “Come Back To Me” which sounds like it’d be right at home in a goth malt shop. It’s got a little bit of everything and would prove that punk music is not only poorly-played noisy guitars and snotty lyrics like much of the music press claimed it was.

My first experience with X was their “The Unheard Music” documentary. I’d heard of them before, but never actually HEARD them, so I figured I’d give it a watch to get to know their music better. Almost immediately I was blown away by their sound. Exene’s vocals, John Doe’s drive, DJ Bonebreak’s energy, and Billy Zoom’s signature (and occasionally creepy) smile all drew me in and sent me on a deep dive of their discography. They’re a shining example of how you can successfully meld influences into a cohesive sound that is also your own. I find them inspiring and I know you will too.

TRML Live 6/27/23

Yes, it’s been a while! I know, I know, but I DO still play live. Here’s my set from last night’s Hambones Open Mic wherein I played a couple of songs off my upcoming album: