Pop Sunday

The Successful Failures / James Cotton Mather

The Successful Failures

James Cotton Mather

Founded a decade and a half ago, The Successful Failures have gone on to become one of the greatest and most respected bands on the indie circuit. Unlike most groups that have been around for such a long period of time, these guys haven’t slacked off and taken a nosedive, but just get better and better with every record they release. And that is certainly quite a complimentary remark, considering how impressive the Trenton, New Jersey band was right from the beginning. 

Specializing in a lethal cocktail of power pop and heartland rock, The Successful Failures not only sound spectacular, but enhance their repertoire in the form of cerebral dialogue that encircles witty historical to educational observations. Here on the band’s latest and ninth studio album, James Cotton Mather, we’re zapped back to nineteenth century Maine and guided through the trials, tribulations, turmoil and tragedies of  James Cotton Mather. Aside from the thrilling theme and cool music, the album is lavishly packaged and includes a color poster of The Successful Failures and a lyric sheet.

Each track on James Cotton Mather, is potent enough to stand alone, but the method in which these songs are sequenced and connected lead to a cohesive presentation. Not intended for lullaby lovers, the album is a turbo-charged drama aimed to activate the adrenaline and indulge in some serious air guitar in the process. The urgent energy of the songs perfectly reflect the verse depicting the mental anguish of the young man as he engages in battles on stormy seas and in dark and spooky forests. 

Flooded with force and fury, yet tempered with layer upon layer of fat hooks and melodies, A Coat For Your Dreams, Let The Power Go Through You, Naval Victories and Freedom Within, are only a quick peek at the ultra- catchy tunes featured on the album. At this point, The Successful Failures have developed their own notable approach, although it’s hard to ignore the double inspiration of the brash bark of The Replacements and the buffed Who-styled chords and rhythms, rimming the material. And of course, there’s also plenty of gritty roots rock moves to be savored. 

Not surprisingly, The Successful Failures have cut yet another thoroughly accomplished album. It is not far-fetched to classify James Cotton Mather a rock opera, and so good are these songs, that you can imagine them being staged on Broadway. 

By Beverly Paterson

Got Any Singles? Quick Spins

Gavin Eimerman, Julian Daniell, Kerosene Stars & All Over The Shop

Gavin Eimerman

Losing Ground

Gavin Eimerman’s latest single is a nifty little bit of indie pop, with just enough rough edges. His passionate vocal drives the track, which seems to touch such varied influences as ’60’s psychedelia, and ’90’s wunderkind, Beck. It’s an interesting track, that sounds both old and new at the same time.

Julian Daniell


Memories is the lead-off track on Julian Daniell’s excellent e.p., Only Words. Here, he produces a real toe-tapper that sounds like a lost George Harrison track, complete with melancholy slide guitar accents. While Memories is indeed a stand-out track, the other four songs have the same, swell, organic sound and feel. Top-notch!

Kerosene Stars

Don’t Pass Me By

Chicago’s Kersene Stars have a real barn-burner in Don’t Pass Me By. While that title might instantly conjure up images of The Fab Four, you’d be mistaken….unless, that is, the fab four you’re thinking of is The Replacements. Truth be told, there is a bit of Mersey Beat in the mix, but with plenty of punky snarl. I’m looking forward to digging deeper with this band.

All Over The Shop


Hailing from The Motor City, All Over The Shop is a rock band that would sound at home opening huge arena shows in 1975. A big guitar sound and more-than-solid hooks propel Tongue-Tied, from their self-titled e.p. If you need to throw your hands in the air (like ya just don’t care) or flick your Bic with 30,000 friends, this is the tune that’ll get that done.

Got Any Singles? Quick Spins

Got Any Singles? Grey DeLisle, The Dupont Circles, Dolph Chaney & Joseph Williams

Grey Delisle’s latest single, Valentine, is a pretty, wistful ballad, guaranteed to tug at the heartstrings. Delisle’s emotional voice carries the melody as if it might be the last song she ever records (it isn’t). If you find the vocal on this a bit familiar-sounding, it might be because she’s also a voice actor, having played Daphne in Scooby Doo cartoons for years. Very nice.


The Dupont Circles produce a nifty brand of power pop, but they sure do take a looong time getting the stuff out. The tracks on their long player, In Search Of The Family Gredunza, took some 30 years to percolate and see the light of day. Our fave rave is Jokes On Zandra, a rough and ready rocker that recalls the best of The Replacements, with a dash of the Davies’ brothers thrown in for good measure.


Until we review Dolph Chaney’s This Is Dolph Chaney, we recommend you check out his wink-and-a-nod track, My Good Twin. Chaney must be influenced more than a bit by Matthew Sweet, as this track made us want to give another spin to Sweet’s 100% Fun. Very well done, produced by the always-reliable Nick Bertling, who also takes a seat behind the kit.


Toto vocalist Joseph Williams’s latest solo outing features a collaboration with former bandmate David Paich on Black Dahlia. You’d be forgiven if you mistook its mid-tempo slickness for the new Toto single, as it’s got that band’s trademark vocal harmonies and rhythmic interest. Cool.

By Staff

Pop Sunday

The Craig Torso Show / Estonian Breakfast Strategies

The Craig Torso Show

Estonian Breakfast Strategies” (2021)

An odd band name, coupled with a curious looking album cover is sometimes reason enough to check out the content.

And that leads us to The Craig Torso Show, whose moniker is swiped from The Bonzo Dog Doo Dah Band’s “The Craig Torso Christmas Show.” The East Coast based band’s debut album, “Estonian Breakfast Strategies” features a sepia photograph of a rooster perched next to a little boy smoking a cigarette. Strange indeed, but as always it is the music that matters and there is definitely much to admire and appreciate here.

Comprised of vocalist and multi-instrumentalist Oliver Ignatius, vocalist and multi-instrumentalist Joe Merklee, and drummers Steve Bartashev and Andrew Feyer, these four fellows practice a smart and snappy strain of pop rock that often references the sound and vision of bands like REM, Let’s Active and The Replacements.

But “Estonian Breakfast Strategies” filters these influences into a modern presentation, stressed by ripe energy and novel applications. An adventurous lot, The Craig Torso Show further cushions their material with a wide variety of musical gear, creating a homespun symphony of compelling effects. Aside from the typical guitar, bass, piano and drums played in a rock setting, unusual instruments such as a tanpura, rav vast, shahi baaja and bells are occasionally utilized, resulting in moments of exotic tuneage.

The first two tracks – “Living In Deep Space” and “Ellen Thompson’s Guide To Morality” – move with speed, precision and just the right amount of nerve-jangling tension to an exciting exhibition of jittery guitars, kicking breaks and driving rhythms. Braided with a squealing organ and probing hooks, “Virginia Dare” deftly bridges the gap between sixties styled garage rock and new wave quirkiness, a bare-bones arrangement anchors the raggedy folk fable of “I Gave Away That Kid” and The Go-Betweens are honored on a fine copy of the emotionally-electrifying “The Man Who Died In Rapture.”  Another cool reprise included on “Estonian Breakfast Strategies” is Bevis Frond’s “The Wind Blew All Around Me,” which twinkles and twirls with ringing riffs and smiley-face harmonies.  Sculpted of riveting chord changes and enterprising orchestration, “Zero-Gravity Sex” and “The Irish Chiropodist” post as additional potent pieces heard on the album.

 The Craig Torso Show has gotten off to a great start with “Estonian Breakfast Strategies.” The band’s edgy but appealing perspectives convey a sense of  uniqueness and originality in both the songwriting and performances. Hopefully, The Craig Torso Show isn’t a one shot deal, and they will continue to do what they do so well. 

Someone You Should Know

Michael Slawter, Heyday Guitars, and The Pleased To Meet Me’s

If you find yourself in Winston-Salem, North Carolina, one stop you’re not going to want to miss is Heyday Guitars. Heyday always features a stunning array of vintage instruments, proven weekly by their FB posts, and is a Batcave of sorts, for discriminating musicians. 

From Heyday’s FB page, “Join us for a trip back to a time when instruments were built to be heirlooms, craftsmanship was prized above convenience, and music was measured in RPMs, not megabytes.” Now that’s a mission statement that I can get behind.

The man behind the counter is Michael Slawter, who not only sells the tools of the trade, but makes some damn fine music of his own. When I saw his FB post about a limited-edition Flexi disc that he was releasing, I knew I had to order a copy. Growing up in the 1970’s, Flexi discs could sometimes be found in the pages of a guitar magazine, or even a cereal box. The fact that someone was putting one out in 2020 really made me grin.

Slawter explains the inspiration for the Flexi disc, “It all started with a dream. In the early days of 2020 I woke from a dream that involved hanging out with Paul Westerberg (The Replacements) as he was recording a new song called Dear Bastards. As I came to and realized it was only a dream I rushed to my guitar and banged out the chords and the basic melody. From there it took a life of its own. Fast forward to May and I had an idea of releasing a Flexi disc with one song on it. This became the obvious choice. with a little help from a few friends we recorded Dear Bastards in my new studio at Heyday. Only 100 Flexi’s were pressed and this song will not be available on any streaming.”

Pressed into beautiful, translucent red vinyl, Slawter’s original tune is a burst of indie rock that’s as instantly likable as its packaging. As rough and tumble as the band that inspired it, it truly is one of the musical highlights of the year. You should own this.

The Dear Bastards Flexi disc by Michael Slawter & The Pleased To Meet Me’s are $7 or $10 shipped. If you’d like a copy you can come by Heyday Guitars, or you can use VENMO (@heydayguitars) or paypal ( Please include your address.

By Dan Pavelich


My Illegal Records

My introduction to the concept of bootleg records was an ad in the tabloid pages of The Buyer’s Guide To Comics Fandom around 1976 or so. Before that, I may have known that bootlegs existed, but this was the first time I’d ever encountered concrete evidence of that. The very idea that there might be practical availability of unreleased recordings by The Beatles intrigued me and enticed me beyond all reason.

But it took me a while to actually get a bootleg to call my own. The first one I recall seeing was a Beatles boot I spied on the rack at a record store in a Cleveland mall over Christmas break in late ’77/early ’78.  I have no recollection whatsoever of what the Beatleg was nor what it contained; my funds were limited, so I bought a couple of 45s instead (“Father Christmas” by The Kinks and “(It’s Gonna Be A) Punk Rock Xmas” by The Ravers). My first bootleg acquisition was a different Beatles boot, The Deccagone Sessions, which was a mix of Decca audition tapes, BBC tracks, and things like the audio track from the “Revolution” video and “Some Other Guy” live ‘n’ distorted at The Cavern. I bought it at (I think) Syracuse’s Desert Shore Records in the late spring or summer of ’78.

My next bootleg was either a live Beatles boot called Youngblood or The Sex Pistols‘ Spunk, an ace collection of the Pistols’ demos. There was an Elvis Costello & the Attractions bootleg called 50,000,000 Elvis Fans Can’t Be Wrong, and a New York Dolls boot called Dallas ’74. In the early ’80s, I snagged a copy of Tails Of The Monkees, a picture disc that purported to be a collection of live Monkees recordings but really contained in-concert performances by Dolenz, Jones, Boyce & Hart. A subsequent Monkees boot called Monkeeshines served up some TV performances, 33 1/3 Revolutions Per Monkee vinylized the group’s little-seen TV special, and an awful bootleg called Live In Los Angeles attempted to preserve the on-stage reunion of Michael Nesmith with his former prime mates Micky Dolenz, Davy Jones, and Peter Tork in simply wretched, inaudible sound quality.

I never really accumulated all that many bootlegs, but I had a few. I had a handful of titles of (at best) questionable legitimacy by The Sex Pistols and The Flamin’ Groovies, plus a boot of The Beatles’ almost-released Sessions. I had some live boots by The Ramones, and my favorite among those was Blitzkrieg ’76, a Boston live radio performance that included the fab song “Babysitter;” other than a mention of “Babysitter” in an issue of Creem, this was the only evidence I ever encountered that The Ramones used to include “Babysitter” in their live shows. A 1989 visit to Berkeley netted me used copies of The Beatles’ Christmas Album and Paul McCartney‘s Back In The USSR, both of which I presumed were bootlegs, though I suppose it’s possible that one or the other could have been legit (and underpriced).

I also had a few bootleg live cassettes: The Flashcubes (my only long-form Flashcubes document for a very long time), KISSThe BanglesThe ReplacementsThe Rolling StonesJohnny Thunders, The Flamin’ Groovies, perhaps some others that I’ve forgotten. There were some Beatles sessions on cassette, too. On CD, I had The Beatles’ Get Back and another copy of The Beatles’ Christmas Album, and a Pandoras disc of dubious legality.

Nowadays, of course, there’s no challenge in getting most of this formerly-illicit material. What was once the stuff of bootlegs can be found on legitimate releases as bonus tracks, or on vault-raids like The Beatles’ Anthology sets and The Monkees’ Missing Links. And everything’s all on YouTube anyway. But I still remember the allure of bootlegs, the thrill of scoring secret music you couldn’t get just anywhere. You couldn’t beat the bootlegs.