January 10, 2013

CD Review: 'Tuna Boots': Punk rock the (great) way it used to be

This album is just plain fun right from the get-go.

By RICK JOHNSON

Now THIS is the way to kick off 2013! "Tuna Boots" by Portland-based Leaves Leaves is some good, old-fashioned, garage punk rock 'n' roll, played loudly with lots of heart and attitude to spare.

Related headlines

LEAVES LEAVES: "TUNA BOOTS"

★★★

Self-produced 

- Based on a four-star scale

Plus it's fun, and there's even some tasty hooks buried in the mix to keep you coming back again and again. All this and a terrific female vocalist, too!

This album is just plain fun right from the get-go, starting with the title. One has to assume "Tuna Boots" refers to a cat, because there's a big housecat's face right in the middle of the album-cover collage. The production is of the "turn the amps up and hit record" variety. That is to say, there isn't much production.

Guitars are loud and up front in the mix, with the treble cranked up to 11. Drums are pounding and echoey, and the whole affair sounds as if it were recorded in an empty garage. In other words, the perfect punk-rock production job.

Those big, bashing drums and clanging guitars are what propel songs such as the opening track, "Oil Can." Rising above the din are the double-tracked vocals of singer Paige Turner, who's surprisingly tuneful amidst the cacophonous musical foundation.

Feedback gives birth to a lurching mid-tempo riff on "Penny Arcade," with Turner alternating between crooning and pouting. Studio chatter and a drumstick count-off signal the beginning of "Germanic." It also contains one of those great distorted bass lines that were so prevalent in '80s hardcore, and it sounds perfectly at home in 2012 on "Tuna Boots."

Tracks such as "Da-Knee" and "Glowing Green" continue in the similar fashion, with simple distorted riffs and Turner at times sounding like Debbie Harry crossed with Shirley Manson from Garbage at her brattiest. Other times, she sounds like a deranged Chrissie Hynde in a vicious cat fight with Courtney Love.

The album closer, "Sabbath," is all about the low-end, as it's built around a very Sabbath-like guitar tone and gives the song a sloppy and glorious metallic stomp.

No doubt about it, "Tuna Boots" is tailor made for those who like their rock 'n' roll with no frills and plenty of volume. And if you're expecting the polished production of modern "punk" records like those from Green Day, you're in for a shock.

Leaves Leaves has come straight from the garage directly to your ears to give you a lesson in what punk rock is all about, and to remind you that punk rock is alive and well and thriving in Portland.

Stream and download "Tuna Boots" at leavesleavesband.bandcamp.com/album/tuna-boots.

Rick Johnson is a freelance writer and radio host from Westbrook. He can be contacted at:

rjohnson.rock@gmail.com

 

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