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Rum Bar Records Round-Up: The Streetwalkin’ Cheetahs - All the Covers (and More)/The Young Hasselhoffs - Life Got in the Way/The Downhauls - Versus (All Modern Evils (Rum Bar)

25 November 2022

Boston’s Rum Bar Records has, for some increasingly weird reason, not reached the notoriety of fellow travelers like Bomp!, Burger and other labels dedicated to the irresistible pleasures of loud guitars and big-ass hooks. The label’s release schedule is often staggering, encompassing seemingly countless bands playing punk, power pop, glam rock, hard rock, rockabilly, roots rock and/or some blend of all of the above. It’s hard to keep up, let alone find the brightest diamonds, so here’s a quick round-up of some of the best of their recent releases.

After L.A.’s fire-breathing Streetwalkin’ Cheetahs resurrected with a new album last year, the band apparently decided it was time to clean out the ol’ closet. As advertised, All the Covers (and More) (which, yes, has a cover more than a little reminiscent of the Ramones’ All the Stuff (and More)) jampacks two disks with cover songs, taken from albums, EPs, singles, B-sides, tribute albums, and anywhere else they might fit. Anyone who knows the band’s supercharged punk & roll won’t be surprised by the choices here: four MC5 songs (and their Troggs and Little Richard covers), two Stooges songs, three Dead Boys cuts, two Radio Birdman tunes, two Hanoi Rocks songs, a pair of Saints bangers, two Motley Crüe cuts, plus tunes from the catalogs of Cheetahs-adjacent rockers like the Runaways, the Dogs D’amour, the Dictators, Bo Diddley, Cheap Trick, Johnny Thunders, Iron Maiden, the Boys and Smack. Plus a few surprises – Aerosmith, X, the Bob Seger System and the Red Hot Chili Peppers aren’t acts with catalogs we’d think the Cheetahs would raid, but here are “Draw the Line,” “Los Angeles,” “Ramblin’ Gamblin’ Man” and “Catholic School Girls Rule.” All are given fairly faithful readings, with few alterations worth noting beyond some special guests (often the artists to whom they’re paying tribute). (The punked-up take on doo-wop group the Halos’ “Nag” is the exception that proves the rule.) But the band makes up for its over-reverence with sheer enthusiasm and, well, being perfect for most of these songs. Their take on the Flamin Groovies’ “Slow Death” packs such a wallop you’d think leader Frank Meyer was born with the song on his lips.

Hailing from Omaha, Nebraska, the Young Hasselhoffs first released an album back in the late nineties, but they recently reunited a couple of decades later for Life Got in the Way. (Quite.) Sounding like someone who grew up listening to the Beach Boys, sensitive singer/songwriters, and the Ramones side by side by side, frontdude Matt Stansbury leads his quartet through thirteen loud, frisky pop songs in a mere thirty-two minutes. Trading in teen angst for adult worries, Stansbury infuses “Pull Me Out of the Scene,” “Wish You Well” and the title track with aching sincerity, even as the power chords threaten to knock his bleeding heart right off his sleeve. Sometimes acoustic (“Sweet Matilda,” “Surround You”) but mostly electric, the songs go down easy, but stick in your throat, right where the lump is.

Boston’s Downhauls spit out a brief three-song EP, but it’s an action-packed one. Versus (All Modern Evils) doesn’t pull any punches, musically or lyrically, starting with the blasting “Convenient Friend,” a sneering kiss-off. The chunky “Lost Soul” and the thrashing “Green” don’t let up on the romantic disappointment, but the loud guitars, stomping rhythm bash, and leader Chrissy’s take-no-shit singing steamroller right over any protests. Badass.