By: Gary "Pig" Gold
RAY BRANDES "Continental Drifter"
THE MOCKERS "Smells Like Spain"
THE SECRET SERVICE "Power And Volume!"
THE SHAMBLES "Clouds All Day"
[Snap!! Records, PO Box 2303, 28080 Madrid, Spain]
There's a neat little label called Snap!! operating out of a post office box somewhere in Madrid that's busy issuing the kind of indisputably cool records few if any labels would dare to manufacture here in the good ol' US of A. That boldly said, may I now draw your undivided attention towards four items which deserve the support of each of you out there who still remember, respect, and value the pure power of a guitar-driven melodic romp in the under-four-minute category.
For example: Virginia's one and only Mockers should already be well known to all such listeners, and "Smells Like Spain" is a delightful little five-song curio which provides much more than a mere stop-gap measure between the band's full-length releases. Yessir, these guys honestly do know how to write AND play 'em.
Similarly, the Shambles (hailing from San Diego) and "Long Island's first mod band" the Secret Service roar through the sights and sounds of Yesteryear -- meaning, roughly, September 1964 -- with terrifying aplomb. The Shambles especially know how to swing an acoustic guitar as few can -- or care to -- anymore --though, not to be out-done, "Power And Volume!" immortalizes a more-than-unplugged rendition of The Who's mini-operatic "A Quick One While He's Away" from a circa '88 radio air-check.
But the real treasure amongst this clutch of wonder-discs is Ray Brandes'. "Continental Drifter" may, in fact, toss in a calculated cover or two (most notably Paul Revere & the Raiders' "Louise," a woman who, perhaps coincidentally, the Wondermints have also revisited this past decade). But it is, impressively enough, Ray's own compositions which shine loudest throughout. Moving far beyond the de rigueur Stones and Animals re-writes, the man never once fails to craft songs which are as melodically adventurous as they are expertly performed and recorded. We're talking a possible West Coast Richard X. Heyman here, if I may employ such power-poppin' parallels.
That said, these are all four worthy releases from a fine label which is obviously waist-deep in a mission to, well, I guess save American rock 'n' roll from American record companies! Regardless of where you live then, they deserve your support.