Wednesday, 15 August 2018

Album Review: Resurgence by For Heads Down

For Heads Down are a five piece melodic punk rock band from Siegen in Germany. Back in July they released their second album Resurgence with the help of Melodic Punk Style Records. The thirteen track album promises crunching riffs, pounding drums running alongside melodic vocals and catchy choruses.

The opening track Fatty Livers And Deep Pockets is a positive song about feeling better when you get on stage and play a gig. It's about how you can forget all of life's problems and find a way to escape. It's the same feeling we all get when we attend gigs. When I first clicked play on the track I kind of expected more of a harder edge to the poppy sound that greeted us, this sound worked really well with the message within the song however. On the next song, In This Case, we feel the harder edge of the For Heads Down sound. Christian Kalmbach puts in a sterling performance behind the drum kit as his beat really gives the song an incredibly strong back bone. Alongside this we have some wonderfully urgent sounding guitars with Philipp Nowotny's soaring vocals. This is the sound I expected from For Heads Down and I really enjoyed it. How It Feels continues with this sound. The song has a pounding also metal-like intro that had my head banging immediately. For Heads Down do something really interesting on the song with the music and vocals seemingly being played at different tempos to create quite an effect. This adds more urgency behind Nowotny's emotional lyrics.

The fourth song, Stuck In Reverse, starts out with a huge sing-along beginning before we get into some proper shouty vocals that add some aggression into the song. I hadn't really realised that some aggression was missing from the songs before it was added. I think this is where For Heads Down are at their very best. Last Man Standing makes you feel like For Heads Down are going to slow things down for the fifth song with some more jangly guitars and a more plodding style until the vocals hit and come at you faster than ever. It's when we reach the chorus that you feel fully involved in the song as you can shout along "Til I'm the last man standing, believe in the better times." This is a song that takes you through a series of highs and lows before slowly fading out and launching into the fifty second song Calculator. Sound wise this is a definite ode to the 90s EpiFat sound that has influenced so many of the current crop of punk rock bands throughout the world. If you love that EpiFat sound then I'm very confident that you're really going to enjoy this song. The seventh song is titled Side Effects. This track continues the melodic punk rock style, with the longer intro to the song really standing out. It feels kind of retrospective, a song that is supposed to make you think and take a look at yourself.

Goals features an incredible guitar solo which alone is worth listening to the song for. The vocals on the track feel more subdued compared to what we've heard on Resurgence so far and it's a welcome change as it adds a bit of variety to the album. Following this is a slightly poppier number in the form of Much The Same. It features one of those great long intros that make you feel like something big is about to happen. It ticks all of the boxes for melodic punk rock – crunching guitars, powerful drumming and soaring vocals. This is a great advertisement for what For Heads Down are all about. The title of the tenth track is Quiet Irony. Quiet Irony starts off slowly with some rumbling bass and slowly builds up. This build gives the song a hell of a lot of intensity from the outset. We are then greeted by a kind of clunking style with Nowotny's vocals working overtime to carry the melody of the track. I really enjoyed this approach to the song as I thought it really spiced things up a bit.

Smile is a song about looking back on your life in the search for answers. This track again sees For Heads Down in retrospective mode. Like on How It Feels, it feels as if the music and vocals are going at two different tempos which creates a great sound. This is one of those great songs where you can listen to it ten times in a row and keep hearing new little bits that you love. The penultimate track is titled Wasting Time. Wasting Time is probably my favourite song on Resurgence. Musically it's a little harder than anything else but features great sing-along moments throughout. The build towards the big finale is superb and I can imagine a room full of people with fists in the air shouting the words back at the band. This is what I love. Last up is the five and half minute long Feeding The Beast. Being such a length I was expecting this to be an epic ending to Resurgence but if I'm being completely honest it felt as if it could have been placed anywhere on the album. That doesn't stop it being a great song, because it is but I was really expecting something a bit more.

Melodic punk rock seems to be making a big come back throughout Europe. Resurgence is a very aptly named album and should cement For Heads Down among the very best in the genre.

Stream and download Resurgence here:

Like For Heads Down here:

This review was written by Colin Clark.

Tuesday, 14 August 2018

Album Review: Hi-Sci Fidelity by The Radio Buzzkills and The Hypnic Jerks

It's been ages since I reviewed a split release. I've always enjoyed a good split and I've always felt like they are win win for everyone. With multiple bands on a release the recording and manufacturing costs for the bands are split and for the consumer there's the opportunity to check out more bands for the same price of what you'd pay for one. Everybody wins. Because of my love for a good split I was absolutely stoked to come across a new one from pop punk bands The Radio Buzzkills and The Hypnic Jerks named Hi-Sci Fidelity. Released by Milksop Records, the split features two songs from both bands and was out in in July.

The Radio Buzzkills are the first band featured on Hi-Sci Fidelity. The Radio Buzzkills are a five piece band from St. Louis, Missouri, who formed in February of 2016. Their first track on the split is titled Without A Trace and is about travelling around the galaxy trying to save your dream girl and then vanishing. With an EP title of Hi-Sci Fidelity you had to know this was going to be a sci-fi pop punk fest, right? Musically it's what you would expect – fast music, sugary sweet vocals and brilliant harmonies. If you love Star Wars, you'll love this song. Radio Buzzkills' second track is named Mulder Suicide. This track is about feeling like you're competing for the affections of your partner with Mulder from The X-Files. Obviously it's a bit of a silly song but there is also a sadness in lead singer Zac Buzzkill's vocals that make you feel genuinely sorry for him.

The Hypnic Jerks take the second half of the EP. The four piece from Chicago are fresh from releasing their album, Lost In Love, back in October of 2017 and contribute one song from Lost In Love as well as a new one. Planet Zero is up first and was originally featured on Lost In Love. Here we have a Ramonescore pop punk track in a similar vein to bands such as The Queers or Teen Idols. Starting out with quite an instrumental opening before lead singer Pat's vocals come in along with a pounding drum beat that adds to the energy of the track. This then slips into a more melodic style as Pat sings about going off to save the girl from Planet Zero. Inanimate Lifeform is a brand new track recorded for Hi-Sci Fidelity and is probably my favourite of the four songs on the split. It features a softer more poppier style and at times there is even a hint of surf rock included. A genre The Queers themselves often included in their music. I couldn't help but smile my way through the entire song, particularly the "ooooh-ooooh" parts.

The Radio Buzzkills and The Hypnic Jerks are both great new pop punk bands. I'm forever discovering fantastic Ramonescore pop punk bands and this split EP serves as a brilliant introduction to two great bands – I will be going out of my way to delve into their back catalogues.

Stream and download Hi-Sci Fidelity here:

Like The Radio Buzzkills here:

Like The Hypnic Jerks here:

This review was written by Colin Clark.

Monday, 13 August 2018

Album Review: Have A Can by 6foot7

6foot7 are a five piece ska punk band from Cardiff, Wales. Featuring Tom Shazam on vocals, Marcus Maurice on drums, Nathan Allen on guitar and vocals, Craig Walker on trombone and Mark Lambert on bass, 6foot7 are about to release a brand new five track EP digitally on September the 1st with a physical release coming later in the month. Titled Have A Can, it promises five high energy ska punk offerings that will not only get you skanking but will also make you think.

The EP begins with title track Have A Can. The track starts off in a surprisingly moody fashion considering they describe themselves as high energy ska punk. Soon enough though some upstrokes come in and then some horns make us get our dancing shoes on. Tom's vocals then come in and we are treated to a wonderfully bouncy melody. As fun and as up-tempo as the track is it's actually about a very serious subject – dealing with mental health. Specifically turning to alcohol to try and cope with it all. I really want to see Have A Can performed live, I can only imagine how much fun this song is to dance to and to joyously sing along with the "nah nah nahs" in the chorus. Up next is the song Off My Face. This track is an all round rowdier affair with the highlight being some great back and forth vocals between Tom and Nathan. The song continues with the theme of using alcohol as a crutch to help you cope with your mental health problems. Off My Face features a great moment for some crowd participation during the chorus as they can shout "off my face" back at the band during the chorus.

I Am Incensed is much more of a punk rock song than a ska one. There's an infectious energy about the song that had me hooked immediately. Musically it's pretty simple and doesn't do much to reinvent the genre but when the song is so catchy this is never a problem. The song really comes alive when we reach the chorus. The penultimate track is titled Theresa and it's about the UK's prime minister Theresa May being a prostitute. Returning to their ska style, 6foot7 play a funky melody during the verse whilst vocalist Tom basically raps the lyrics. The chorus is another big sing-along moment and there's also a fantastic musical interlude that will get everyone having a great big skank. Finally we have the song Sobriety. This is my favourite track on the EP. It feels as if there is much more emotion in the song compared to the others, as 6foot7 sing a song about struggling to remain sober. As somebody who is tee-total and has never been drunk it's difficult for me personally to relate to the song but I'm certain the message will hit home hard for many people and will hopefully help them.

Have A Can is a superb EP that deals with the topic of using alcohol to deal with the difficulties of everyday life brilliantly. Like I previously said, it's not something I can relate to myself but I'm sure there are plenty of people who do. There seems to be more and more bands coming forward to discuss their issues and this is such a good thing. The more we talk about things the more we can help people. As well as having a important message, Have A Can has five superb songs that you can sing and dance along to and have a smashing time.

Like 6foot7 here:

This review was written by Colin Clark.

Friday, 10 August 2018

Gig Review: Voodoo Glow Skulls and Authority Zero at the Camden Underworld 7/8/18

August in the UK and Europe always means the festival season is in full flow and we are treated with stacked line ups in between festival dates. Over the years the Underworld in Camden has played host to many of these incredible line ups in an event they call Camden Carnage. Unfortunately I could only get down to one of these Camden Carnage shows this year but it was perhaps the best line up of them all. The legendary Voodoo Glow Skulls with Authority Zero and Faintest Idea, this was going to be something!

First up were King's Lynn's Faintest Idea. There aren't many bands I've seen more times than East Anglia's finest ska punk band and they've always been nothing short of brilliant. Traditionally Faintest Idea's horn section always start the set in the crowd, rounding everyone up whilst playing Back To The Asylum. For perhaps the first time since I first saw them six years ago they didn't do this, I assume because they had a stand in trumpet player as sax man Lil Dan wasn't in attendance tonight. Equally skilled with his instrument but perhaps lacking Dan's dance moves. However, the band stormed through their set playing favourites such as Youth, Corporation, House Of Cards, Mutual Aid, Circling The Drain and Bull In A China Shop. The highlights for me came in the new songs they've been working on. Stomp 'Em Down, Screaming Into The Void and War And Palaces (I think those were the titles) all sound soooo good and I really can't wait for this new release whenever it comes out.

Up next were perhaps the band I was most looking forward to seeing. Phoenix, Arizona's Authority Zero are a band I've been a fan of for many, many years but have only managed to see once before. Now the four piece are back in the UK after the release of 2017's album of the year contender Broadcasting To The Nations. I was looking forward to seeing songs from that album played live as well as tracks from the band's extensive back catalogue. Authority Zero frontman, Jason DeVore, has long had one of my favourite voices in punk rock. I remember the last time I saw the band being in awe of how good it was live. That feeling came back as soon as the band launched into the opening song of their set, First One In The Pit. It didn't take long for the crowd to grow and began to get rowdier and rowdier with plenty of skanking, moshing and a lot of singing along. The first half of their set seemed to focus on newer(ish) song with Broadcasting To The Nations in particular really standing out. I loved hearing the new songs but it was when they got to the older tracks in the second half of their set that I really got excited. Classics such as Revolution, A Passage In Time, Over Seasons and, my all time favourite AZ track, Find Your Way all got great receptions. This was a great set and I can't wait for them to find their way back to our shores soon.

Finishing the night up were the Voodoo Glow Skulls from California. The legendary ska-core act are now in their thirtieth year as a band but recently there has been a big change. Last year lead singer Frank Casillas retired from the band after twenty-nine years and has been replaced by Efrem Schulz of another legendary Californian band Death By Stereo. Now, before I continue with the review, I have to admit I'm not overly knowledgeable of the Voodoo Glow Skulls as I perhaps should be. I know a few of the classics but other than that I'm pretty clueless and I've never seen them live before so wasn't really sure what to expect. My original plan was to stick around for a few songs before making an early exit to catch one of the fast trains home to Bedford. Then the Voodoo Glow Skulls took to the stage and I was completely amazed. For some reason I expected them to be more serious than they actually were but in fact there was quite a jovial feel to the set with everyone from the band on stage, the people in the floor and the folks stood around the edges all having a lot of fun. Efrem proved to be an incredible frontman, brilliantly keeping the crowd in the palm of his hand throughout the set. He had a powerful magnetism about him that made it hard to watch anything else. It has to go down as one of my favourite performances by a frontman of the entire year. I enjoyed this set so much that it flew by and my plan to leave a bit early for the fast train was completely forgotten as I just stood in amazement by how good the Voodoo Glow Skulls were. I wasn't even dancing – just standing, open mouthed at how good they were and wondering why I had never paid them more attention before. What a fantastic set this was.

This gig review was written by Colin Clark.

Thursday, 9 August 2018

Top Tens: Ten (Thirteen) Reasons To Go To The Whole Of An All-Dayer

Today I want to talk about something that's been bugging me for a little while. It's one of those things where I do understand why people can't always do it but also there are plenty of people who could but just don't. The thing that is bugging me is when people buy a ticket for an all day gig but don't go for the whole day and on some occasions only turn up for the headline act. It really bugs me.

Let's start with the reasons that people can't always attend all of an all-dayer. People have families and responsibilities which means that they can't always commit to watching bands for an entire day. I'm sure organising childcare for an entire day is a very difficult thing to do. People also work so it's not always easy to get time off work or you can't afford to. These are very legit reasons and there are probably many many others. In this column, however, I'm going to try and convince people who just don't fancy doing the all day thing or aren't interested in checking out bands they might not know.

  • First of all I just think why on earth wouldn't you? I'm sure if you like going to standard evening gigs, surely going to an all-dayer is better because it's like a normal gig - but longer!

  • You've bought a ticket for the whole day. May as well make the most of it! You wouldn't buy a ticket for the cinema or a football match, or something else people buy tickets for, and turn up halfway through.

  • An all-dayer isn't just about the bands – it's about spending the day with other like minded people, making new friends and having a great time.

  • For me the headline act at an all-dayer is just the cherry on top. I feel like you pay to watch great bands all day and then the headliner is a prize for getting through the whole day.

  • To support the scene and discover your new favourite bands. See those first shows of a brand new band and be that smug hipster person in a few years and say "I remember when Logan and The Coasters were the first band on at an all-dayer in Falmouth".

  • Supporting your favourite venues. All-dayers are great for small venues to earn a little extra money from drinks. The more people that get down to an all-dayer early and buy drinks, the more money a venue can make and then remain open and put on more great gigs. Circle of life and that.

  • What else are you going to do on a Sunday?

  • First pick of the merchandise. You don't want to go to the merch table at the end of the night and discover the T-shirt you love is sold out in your size or the record with the special colour variant has just been sold to the person before you in the queue.

  • As well as hanging out with your mates, more often than not you get to meet and hang out with members of the bands playing. You don't even have to pay extra for this, it's just an added bonus of an all-dayer.

  • Ska all-dayers are incredible for your fitness. Just the other week I managed to do the equivalent of 23.49km just from skanking. Incredible cardio.

  • All-dayers tend to be much more of a special occasion that your standard gig. There's a brilliant sense of community involved in the day.

  • It's amusing to watch the promoters and sound staff stressing out about making sure the day runs on time.

  • If the headliner does end up sucking, at least you saw some decent bands earlier in the day.

This top ten was written by Colin Clark.

Wednesday, 8 August 2018

Album Review: This Will Haunt Me by Dollar Signs

I've been aware of Charlotte, North Carolina's Dollar Signs since 2015 after the release of their album Yikes. Then their EP Ruff found a way into my top ten EPs of 2017. Now they've released a brand new album titled This Will Haunt Me through the always outstanding A-F Records. As soon as This Will Haunt Me was released I was very excited to hear it and give it a review. Here's what I thought.

The song Cry Hard kicks off This Will Haunt Me. What really attracted me to Dollar Signs when I first heard them was the rowdy, rough round the edges, rambunctious style of their music. This style comes to the forefront immediately on Cry Hard. Interestingly the song starts off with some accapella gang vocals of "I used to bury my feelings deep down inside of me", which is actually the title of another track on the album, before the song begins properly. Lyrically it's quite sad, as the band sing a song about all the things that make them cry. The way that the song is played is quite energetic and light-hearted however so I imagine that it's quite a cathartic experience to see Dollar Signs play Cry Hard live. Up next is Till Death. Till Death is about having to attend weddings and not really enjoying them and just wanting to leave, drink and smoke. I really enjoyed the lyric "always the drunk, never the groom." This is a fun and fast paced track that's overflowing with an infectious energy. Shallow Pop Songs was a stand out on my first listen of This Will Haunt Me. The opening line "I'm the Usain Bolt of running from my problems" is perhaps one of my favourite lyrics of the year and immediately had me wanting to see where the song goes from here. Shallow Pop Songs is about wanting to escape to an easier time in your life when you were less cynical and had fewer problems. This is a great slab of sing-along pop punk.

The album's title track This Will Haunt Me is up next. Starting out with some lovely piano accompanied by great gang vocals before some really distorted guitars come in and give the song a bigger feeling. I feel like this is almost Dollar Signs' version of a ballad and it encapsulates their no rules approach to songwriting that they seem to have. The fifth song is named Ugghhh. It's a fifty second song about a lonely man whose family left him and who watches porn whilst at his desk in the office. The message of the song is don't turn into this man. It's a bit of a silly song but its brilliance is in its silliness. The lyrics are fantastic. This song leads directly into another song about life in the office. Titled Sadderday, it's about having to work all the time and still having no money. I'm sure this is a song that most people listening to will relate to and will again act as a form of catharsis when you're gleefully singing along with the song. I love how Dollar Signs seem to add more and more an element of mayhem to the song as it goes on, perhaps symbolising the growing frustrations of always having to work on Saturdays. As someone who has been contracted to Saturday work for fifteen years, I can see this song becoming my Saturday morning anthem. The opening lines of The Devil Wears Flannel are heartbreaking. "I just realised I'll never do anything great, Everything I want to say has been said in better ways" are some of the saddest opening lines I've ever heard. The song is actually a dig on shallow pop songs and how musicians sell out and write repetitive rubbish rather than anything profound. On The Devil Wears Flannel, Dollar Signs are in full on storytelling mode, complete with somebody playing the role of the devil in the tale. This is a great song.

The tempo is picked up on the eighth song, Waste My Life Away. For me this is where Dollar Signs are at their best, throwing everything they have into their song and not holding back in the slightest. Dollar Signs have quite a self-depreciating nature and it's more apparent here than ever before. The song is someone about acting like an idiot and making it hard for people to like them and ultimately wondering why anyone would love them. Tears / Beers / Fears is another hugely relatable track. It's about growing up in the punk rock scene and wondering what you're doing with your life. One example which really struck a chord with me is how all your friends are getting married and having kids and you're spending all your time at small punk shows. I've often thought to myself "What on earth am I doing with my life?". It's a sobering thought really but you just have to live the life that's best for you. The penultimate song is the aforementioned I Used To Bury Me Feelings Deep Down Inside Of Me. The minute and a half song spends the first half of its duration saying those title words before spending the rest of track shouting "now I ask for help, help, help" repeating "help" over and over again. It's a simple and oh so positive song that put a huge smile on my face. This leads seamlessly into the final song The Real Folk Blues. They've definitely saved the best song until last. It's about life in Dollar Signs, starting out learning blink-182 tabs and screaming Mischief Brew songs alone in a bedroom before moving on to playing shows with your friends and having the greatest time. The song's, and perhaps the whole album's, highlight comes in The Real Folk Blues' big ending with an incredible display of rowdy gang vocal harmonies. There's a real feeling of joy in this ending that's so endearing and makes you love Dollar Signs even more!

This Will Haunt Me is an absolute triumph. You don't hear many pop punk albums as good as this anymore. It's high energy and rambunctious nature really draws you in but it's the lyrics that really stand out. I'm not sure if it was one member of the band or a collective effort but I don't think I've related to so many lyrics on one album for a long time. They in equal part break my heart whilst also making me feel better.

Stream and download This Will Haunt Me here:

Like Dollar Signs here:

This review was written by Colin Clark.

Tuesday, 7 August 2018

Album Review: Capital by Liver

Excellent Canadian punk rock band alert! We have yet another one! Liver are a five piece band from Toronto who formed in February of 2014. Consisting of Sam Sholdice (guitar/vocals), Michael Fong (lead guitar), Alex Dametto (bass/vocals), Kerri Silva (drums/vocals) and Emmett O'Reilly (guitar/vocals), the band released their debut album Capital through Be Nice Records on the 3rd of May. I'm lucky to have many friends on Facebook with wonderful taste in music so when I saw one share Capital I gave it a quick listen and really enjoyed what I heard. It instantly found its way onto my review list.

Capital's opener is named New Apartment. It begins with some playful but slow guitar playing before really launching into the song properly. I really liked how the song began in such a gentle manner before coming to life. The first thing that really struck me about Liver's sound is Sam Sholdice's gravelly vocal. It really has an inviting quality that makes me want more and more. Musically Liver describe themselves as a mix of garage punk and grunge but for me, on this track at least, I'm thinking more of a mature gruff punk sound. But it's all just labels really. Whatever it is, it sounds superb. On the second track, Grey Wolf, I definitely see the grunge side of Liver's sound come in. There are some crunchy and distorted guitars accompanying Sholdice's gravelly vocals. I think that the track is about dealing with some mental health issues, in particular feeling like you are being chased or hunted all the time. The song builds nicely towards its big finale with some simple but really effective guitar work and drumming as well as Sholdice's vocal being completely captivating. The third song, Little Giants, is about those films you watched when you were young that shaped the way you see the world today. This track really caught me on the chorus, it's one that you can't help but want to sing along with. I also quite enjoyed the breakdown that builds up brilliantly to one final big chorus complete with some superb harmonies.

Capital's fourth song Live And Work Hard was a big stand out when I first listened to it. This is Liver's working class barroom sing-along song and I love it for that. It's about working hard all your life and feeling like you've missed out on some experiences. The entire song is a big anthem from start to finish. There's an interesting section midway through the song that had me thinking that the song had finished, the music drops out and a higher pitched vocal comes in. This vocal gradually flows back into the gravelly style we know and love however. This was a really nice touch that broke up the song and set us up nicely for the big ending. If Women Don't Find You Handsome is the title of the fifth song. This is a slower song with an insanely catchy chorus of "we're all in this together." You will be singing along with Liver on this song before the song has even finished its first play. This feels like another barroom sing-along, the type where you throw your arms around your best friend or the complete stranger next to you and shout as loudly as you can back at the band – one of those magical moments. Northwest Passage is one of Capital's slower and chilled out tracks. Sholdice's vocals are still at their gravelly best and he leads a rousing sing-along but the song never quite explodes into life like you might be expecting. Musically the song is so atmospheric, I just found myself completely mesmerised by it.

The seventh track on the album is titled Drivin' On Goddamn No Sleep and is about late night drives where your passenger falls asleep and leaves you to stay awake by yourself. This is another slower song with Liver in a retrospective mode. There are some sections towards the end of the track where more passion seems to enter Sholdice's vocal, this adds some brilliant urgency into the song. I really enjoyed the siren like opening of the next song, Sister. It's one of the longer intros on the album. It doesn't really build towards anything but just opens the song up before the vocals come in. Sister is a bit of a plodding grunge song. The guitars in particular are a highlight on the track with the lead and rhythm guitars working together wonderfully. The penultimate track on Capital is called Provincial Drivers. This is more of a slow paced rock song with a simple chorus that drags you in. It never really hits any mega highs, it just trundles along and a gentle pace. On Capital Liver have proved they have the ability to let loose and rock hard and fast or just display a more relaxed and chilled out style, either way they are great. Last up is the song Pissin' Cold. I'm quite happy to see Liver have reverted back to their more punk rock sound on this final track, making sure Capital is finished with a bang. It features all of my favourite things about Liver – superb guitars, Soldice's harsh and gravelly vocal and some big, sing-along moments. What a fantastic way to finish off their debut album.

For me Liver came very much out of nowhere and shocked me with this superb album. Capital is an album that's very difficult to box in any particular genre as Liver display a few different influences and styles throughout the record. No matter what style they're playing, they do it so well. Capital is a fantastic album that needs your attention.

Stream and download Capital here:

Like Liver here:

This review was written Colin Clark.