The Real Kids were one of Boston’s earliest new wave bands; their debut album is full of dynamite tracks that take the trashier aspect of the Rolling Stones and couple it with the high-power guitar approach of the Ramones. Frontman (and onetime Modern Lover) John Felice not only provides tough guitar and distinctive lead vocals, he has a knack for writing clear, infectious melodies. Spin “All Kindsa Girls,” “She’s Alright” or “My Baby’s Book” for proof.
Poor sales of the Real Kids’ first LP led Felice to become a Ramones roadie, but he subsequently returned to Boston and formed the Taxi Boys, whose two EPs carry on the Real Kids tradition with high-energy ’60s garage-band rock. The production of the records might be crude, but Felice is in fine form on both. (The Bomp! release is a 12-inch, the earlier one a 7-inch pressed on pink vinyl.)
Reactivating the Real Kids with a new and improved lineup, Felice then made the dandy Outta Place. Harder yet still pop-oriented, with stellar production by Andy Paley, the record is strengthened by consistently good material and plenty of rock’n’roll spirit. After releasing the album in France, New Rose kept the Real Kids’ recording career going, issuing another sharp studio LP, Hit You Hard, and the live-in-Paris All Kindsa Jerks Live, which recaps Felice’s song catalogue onstage with fiery enthusiasm. The Lolita release is a Real Kids/Taxi Boys compilation.
Ex-Real Kids Alpo Paulino (bass) and Billy Borgioli (guitar) lead the Primitive Souls, whose 12-inch — two originals by each — follows the righteous path of bar-band pop’n’roll with tuneful flair and serious skill. (For the record, Paulino has the better singing voice and slightly catchier songs.)
After five years of national invisibility, Felice returned, unrepentant and embittered, with a rocking new trio and the Nothing Pretty album. Although his casual writing and punchy guitar playing is in fine shape, uncertain singing undercuts the songs’ impact; Felice’s attitude is, like his voice, a little worse for wear. The title track rues the loss of innocence; “I’ll Never Sing That Song Again” describes a view of life as a musician that is both cynical and poignant; “Nowadaze Kids” tells the other side of the story, castigating modern audiences for lacking the rock’n’roll spirit that inspires him. Fans who fear that he’s becoming too disgusted to carry on should take note of the LP’s final cut, “Can’t Play It Safe.”