Tuesday, 20 November 2018

Album Review: Paid In Change by Dinner Club

Dinner Club are a four piece band from Winnipeg, Canada. Yup, we're featuring yet another Canadian band on CPRW. Like so many bands on CPRW, I discovered Dinner Club through Bandcamp. After seeing they had just released a new album (in September, I'm only just finding time to write the review) that they described as punk rock and ska I was intrigued. When I listened to the new album, titled Paid In Change, I didn't find quite what I was expecting but I did something quite wonderful.

Paid In Change begins with the song Never Enough. Now after the reading the description of punk rock and ska I was expecting to hear some fast paced and bouncy upstrokes and maybe even some horns. Nope! Instead Never Enough is a melodic pop punk song. If the track wasn't really good I would feel quite duped but there's a great sense of urgency in the track, as well as a fresh sound that's hard to ignore. Up next is the track Sunday Afternoon. This fast paced pop punk track has me thinking of Drive Thru Records era pop punk only with slightly more edge. It's a song about feeling like you're getting older and being bored of and fed up of your job. Hugely relatable to a lot of people reading this. I got awfully excited when I heard the horn line on the third song, West Bound. It's a slower tempo track that hooks you in with a simple melody and a huge chorus that had me wanting to scream along with it immediately. It's a song about being young and hoping your friends have succeeded where you haven't. It's kind of interesting in that it's an equal parts sad and happy song. I'm not sure how Dinner Club have managed this but bravo.

The pace picks up on the fourth song October. There's a fantastic skate punk intensity in the lengthy introduction of the song before vocalist Josh Verinder comes in with a more spiteful sounding vocal than we've previously heard. The track really comes to life during the chorus. It's a catchy one that you'll quickly be singing along to and it's nicely harmonised with a subtle horn line. I can't think of many bands that do this and it's a great technique. Like its opening, October features a lengthy outro where the trumpet really adds to the overall sound making it sound massive. Think about El Hefe's trumpet part in The Decline and you'll hopefully get an idea of what I mean. Can't Go Back sees a big change of pace and a very different sound. For the first time on Paid In Change, we are treated to some vocals from trumpet player Kiah Verinder. Combined with Josh's own vocals, this duet gives Dinner Club another really fresh sound. Paid In Change is full of wonderful surprises throughout.

Daysted Ways is a track about having big dreams in your youth and realising you've made no progress in reaching them as you've gotten older. There is more of a heavy edge on the track, musically reminding me slightly of Rise Against but without Tim McIlrath's trademark gruff vocal. The song's high point is on the chorus when the gang vocals happen. This gives the song a real feel of inclusion. When we reach track seven we are finally treated to an actual ska punk song! And it's great! Vs. The World begins with some glorious upstrokes and a heavy dose of trumpet. It's not long before I find myself wanting to have a bit of a skank around my living room. It instantly sounds uplifting which is fitting as the song is about continuing to fight your fight even when it seems as if everything is against you. I love ska so Vs. The World is a real album highlight for me. Best Of Luck sees Dinner Club revert back to their tried and trusted melodic pop punk. It's a great slow builder of a song. It starts out with Josh's vocals taking centre stage layered over the top of some fairly muted music. Soon enough things get louder and the tempo is upped quite considerably. This is a great way of hooking you into the song.

What It's Worth is a faster skate punk song that has me thinking of a poppier Pennywise. It's a socially aware song about how the world has become more self obsessed than ever and people don't take the time to think of others. This is one of those songs that really makes you think about things that we are all guilty of a lot of the time. The penultimate song is titled The Edge and begins with a fun noodley guitar riff before switching to an almost hardcore style. There's no doubt in my mind that The Edge is the hardest hitting and heaviest sounding track on Paid In Change. Dinner Club really are going all out to showcase all of their musical styles and that's another reason I am really enjoying this album. For the first time on Paid In Change, Josh is joined by a heavier, raw vocal courtesy of bass player Liam Marsch. Last up is the song Back Roads. In a surprising twist, which shouldn't really be a surprise at this point, Dinner Club seem to head down a folk punk road on this final song. Obviously they pull this off marvellously, Josh's rougher vocal style on the chorus really stands out. Back Roads is about remembering where you came from and sometimes wishing you could go back there. This is a fine way to finish the album.

I love finding albums like this from small bands. Paid In Change really is an album full of unexpected moments but also features eleven brilliantly crafted songs. It doesn't really seem to matter what style of song Dinner Club decide to play, they do them all exceedingly well.

Stream and download Paid In Change here: https://dinnerclubwinnipeg.bandcamp.com/releases

Like Dinner Club here: https://www.facebook.com/DinnerClubWinnipeg/

This review was written by Colin Clark.

Monday, 19 November 2018

Album Review: O.W.W.W.P by Chloe Hawes (by Emma Prew)

Chloe Hawes is a Manchester based singer-songwriter, originally from Essex. She recently released her third EP titled O.W.W.W.P on Under The Bridge Records which was produced by Steve Millar, aka Arms & Hearts. Playing a blend of Americana, country and folk with rock elements, this EP will appeal to those punk rock fans among us that enjoy a quieter tune every now and then – I know I’m not the only one.

First up on this four track EP is the aptly titled Shakespearean Tragic. I say aptly as both lyrically and musically Chloe tells melancholic tale throughout the song. After a slow, sombre yet melodic intro, the pace picks up a little and showcases that this track, and indeed this EP, isn’t simply an acoustic affair. In fact the electric guitar parts that thread throughout the track are probably my favourite bit, complimenting Chloe’s lovely vocal. You can hear the rockier influences in the opening of Anything Once. It feels pretty angsty in a subtle sort of way as the melodies remain somewhat gentle but there’s a hint of bitterness in Chloe’s words. There’s a sweet little guitar solo towards the end of the song and then, after the vocals come back in, a brass section that I completely wasn’t expecting. It gave the song a big boost in sound.

O.W.W.W.P, is the third song of the EP and I instantly see why this is the title track. Telling an honest and relatable tale of tackling your problems with alcohol, drugs and general partying, this is a hard-hitting song that really stands out. The song has a slow pace and quieter instruments allow Chloe’s voice and lyrics to be the main focus of the song. ‘Sort it out love, Don’t you know you’re not the only one, Whose had it a little bit tougher than most.’ Although I stand by my statement that O.W.W.W.P is the stand out track on the EP, my favourite song is probably the last one – Spirals. Maybe it’s because the song has a sound that I can more easily relate to punk rock than the others. Maybe it’s the sense of building throughout the first verse before we hit a huge sounding chorus. Maybe it’s the whoa-ohs that come in shortly after – that’s pretty punk rock, right? Maybe it’s the use of an additional vocal (quite possibly Steve) that contrasts with Chloe’s softer tones. Either way, Spirals ends the EP in style.

O.W.W.W.P is out now and you can check it out on Bandcamp. You can also find Chloe Hawes on Facebook.

This review was written by Emma Prew.

Friday, 16 November 2018

Column: We Went To Japan, I Bought Records

You may or may not be aware that at the beginning of October Emma and I got on a plane and went to Japan for two weeks. It was a once in a lifetime trip where we visited Tokyo, Hakone, Hiroshima, Nagasaki, Kyoto, Osaka and Nara. Whilst travelling around we learnt how to play Taiko drums, visited various parks, shrines, temples and museums, hung out with some deer and some monkeys and went to watch Kyoto Sanga FC play football, among many other things. Another big part of the trip was me dragging us around the various cities on the hunt for record shops. With thanks to Emma doing a little research beforehand and The Vinyl Guide series on YouTube, we discovered Japan to be one of the best places we've ever been to for record hunting. This is a short column talking about my experiences (spoiler alert: it ended up not being very short).

We started off our Japan adventure in Tokyo – the capital of Japan. Wandering around the Shinjuku area of Tokyo, the first record shop we found was a massive multi-storied Tower Records located inside one of Japan's many shopping malls. One thing I learned about Japan was that the Japanese folk love a shopping mall. We didn't pick anything up here but I loved how they had many different listening stations for the various different charts, including a Japanese punk section that I spent a fair amount of time with, checking out different bands. We also found UK band Eat Defeat's EP Time And Tide which created a great photo opportunity for Emma. Tower Records was a good start for our record shopping. It reminded me of HMV in that it had a lot of selection but didn't really have too much of a selection of underground artists.

Up next was what is potentially my favourite thing about Japan – other than Crunky chocolate, Mos Burger and all bakery products – Disk Union. Disk Union is a massive chain store in Japan with shops selling new and second hand vinyl everywhere. Just in the Shinjuku area of Tokyo they have five different shops within quite a short walking distance of each other. Very helpfully they also provide a map (in English) of directions to each store as well as what's in each store. Naturally we were most interested in the punk section which was located on the seventh floor of the biggest Disk Union in the area. Before that though we made our way to the second hand store and had a little dig. Here I found my first record of the entire trip and probably the best bargain I'll ever find in my life – Mustard Plug's Pray For Mojo for the equivalent of £3. Amazing! After this I was in the absolute best mood as we made our way to the floor that is solely dedicated to punk rock. I have to admit I was a little underwhelmed when we first entered the floor – it was a lot smaller than I had expected and full of Japanese bands I'd never heard of (which in truth does make sense). Soon enough we found some classics though. There was so much good stuff that we had to leave some records behind but we did take home with The Guts – Let It Go, Green Day – Warning, Less Than Jake – Losers, Kings And Things We Don't Understand, Screeching Weasel – Bark Like A Dog, Descendents – Enjoy and Dropkick Murphys – Live On St Patrick's Day. A very good haul if you ask me! Later on that day, Emma took me to Shibuya to see the busiest intersection in the world and to help participate in making it so busy. It did make me think, would the crossing be so busy if people weren't crossing for the sake of crossing? Anyway, I digress. Whilst in Shibuya we visited another Disk Union which had a load more great stuff. I however showed some restraint and just picked up Do Or Die by Dropkick Murphys. Their first and only album with former lead singer Mike McColgan on vocals.

After a few days in Tokyo, we headed to Hakone to experience a slightly more rural and traditional Japan. Between visiting various sites in the area, including an open air museum and a cable car ride in an attempt to see Mount Fuji (that failed because it was mega cloudy), we had a lovely time using our own hot spring bath and shabu-shabu dinners (a hot pot you prepare yourself) where I almost poisoned myself – Chef Colin strikes again! – but we did no record shopping. We were actually doing touristy holiday type stuff on a holiday of all things!

Following two days in Hakone doing holiday stuff, we jumped aboard the bullet train and headed towards Hiroshima, home of Dumb Records and Misery Records. We arrived quite late in the day because of some high winds delaying the train (it was typhoon season). But something we discovered in Japan was that their shops open much later than they would here in the UK which is very useful when you travel on wind delayed bullet trains. We'd already researched these record shops beforehand and I was looking forward to checking them out. Emma had found Dumb Records on Google (other search engines are apparently available) and said they specialised in Ramonescore pop punk bands. When we arrived at the store we discovered that it's part record store and part café/bar – and it certainly does specialise in Ramonescore pop punk records. I was amazed by the amount of European bands that were stocked in Dumb Records as well as many from America. We settled on picking up a re-issue of The Queers’ classic album Punk Rock Confidential. Whilst paying, the owner of the shop noticed I was wearing my Ramones Museum hoodie from Berlin and said he had wanted to go there. This was a cool little shop owned by a lovely man. He even gave us some free stickers. After leaving Dumb Records we made the quick walk to Misery Records. Something I noticed about a lot of shops we visited in Japan is that they are often in tower blocks. I kind of feel like this might make it difficult to find them if you're just out wandering the streets and not specifically looking for them. I feel like we may have walked past a few hidden gems while we were hunting for others. Misery Records was probably my favourite of all the stores we visited. Not because of the selection they had, though I did come away with a varied selection (Against All Authority – The Restoration Of Order & Chaos, Anti-Flag – Mobilize, Left Alone – Lonely Starts & Broken Hearts, The McRackins – Mickey And Mallory) but because of how welcoming the store's owners (husband and wife) were. We spent about fifteen minutes in there talking about where we were from, where we'd been, how we had heard about the shop and what we were going to do in Hiroshima. He even assumed we were in a band that was currently touring Japan – I assume plenty of actual touring bands pop into the shop. There was also a funny moment where I almost made myself look really stupid. He was asking us if we were interested in the A-Bomb and for a second I did wonder if he was talking about a hardcore band. Before leaving the store he insisted on getting a photo of us with him. Also, if you ever find yourself in Hiroshima, I really recommend you visit a little Mexican restaurant named Otis, the food is delicious with lots of veggie options and the place is just really wonderful.

The next stop on our tour of Japan was a trip down to Nagasaki for a few days of sightseeing and stuff. Our stay in Nagasaki also coincided with a yearly festival that I'm not really sure was (Emma says it is called Nagasaki Kunchi Festival) but it involved lots of chanting and carrying around festival floats/mini shrines. It was really quite the spectacle. This festival also meant there were loads of food stalls around the Nagasaki harbour. We sampled some chocolate covered bananas – two each in fact because for some reason the nice lady gave us four for the price of two. They were delicious. Whilst in Nagasaki, we also found a great record store named Sonny Boy. This shop was full of crates of second hand records from every conceivable genre. The punk and ska stuff (the good stuff) was found at the back of the store mixed in with all sorts of modern rock bits that you don't generally see anywhere. It was like a little treasure trove of the stuff you didn't know you wanted but once you saw it you had to have it. I searched through each crate and found Catch 22 – Alone In A Crowd, Slow Gherkin – Double Happiness and Potshot – Rock 'N' Roll (we couldn't not get a Japanese band's record). But it was Emma who found the record I was most excited to buy. Above the 12 inches were a selection of 7 inches. I don't usually like to buy 7 inches because I rarely listen to them but when Emma pointed out Jump On Demand by, a band that changed my life, [Spunge] was sitting on the shelf, I had to have it. I didn't even know it existed and it made me very excited. Sonny Boy was a great shop with loads of great finds in it, a bit like Nagasaki itself which Emma and I both decided was our favourite place we visited.

The final destination on our adventure in Japan was Kyoto. Another fantastic place located near to lots of other brilliant tourist destinations – we hung out with deer (Nara) and monkeys (Arashiyama), saw plenty of temples and shrines and took a walk round Himeji Castle. Unfortunately the record shopping in Kyoto wasn't great but Kyoto is not too far from Osaka which was incredible for record shopping. We arrived in Osaka fairly late in the day but, again thanks to the shops opening late, this really wasn't a problem. I'd seen on The Vinyl Guide YouTube channel that the Shinsaibashi area has a lot of record stores. When finding the first Disk Union, we accidentally went into the classical music shop before heading across the shopping precinct to the rock and punk version. There wasn't quite as big a selection here as the Disk Union in Tokyo but I did find an original pressing of The Toasters’ Pool Shark that I was very pleased with. In Disk Union the nice chap who served me gave me a map of the Osaka record stores which I thought was incredible and extremely helpful. It had a list of all the stores in the area, where they are and what they specialise in. The one that originally appealed the most was a shop called Time Bomb. Although it was a pretty big shop and seemed to have a lot in, there wasn't a whole lot in the way of punk stuff. Hidden away in the corner though there was a section for punk records. We found a load of super rare first pressings including Green Day's classic breakthrough Dookie. However we had to leave it in the shop as it cost about £200! The biggest surprise of the whole trip was from a store that I wasn't actually expecting to find anything. There are a pair of King Kong Records shops in Shinsaibashi. The first we visited was a tiny pop up shop style place next to a Tower Records. Here we found Ann Beretta – New Union, Old Glory and Planet Smashers – Attack Of The Planet Smashers and I was over the moon. Later in the evening, we found another King Kong Records in another shopping mall place that was decorated wonderfully for Halloween. Something else I learned in Japan is that they love Halloween there. It was crazy. This King Kong Records was much bigger and an absolute gold mine! Digging through the punk and "neo ska" section (I guess neo ska means third wave ska) I found Mustard Plug – Yellow #5, McRackins – In On The Yolk, Buck-O-Nine – Twenty-Eight Teeth and Nerf Herder – American Cheese. I was very excited by the Nerf Herder find. I had to leave loads behind because Emma reminded me we also needed to eat for the remainder of the holiday and I was secretly getting a little worried about the weight of my suitcase.

Overall Japan proved to be great for record shopping and is a really fantastic country full of wonderful sights and the nicest people I've ever come across. Coming from Essex and having spent sixteen years working in retail, I'm not used to be surrounded by such a polite group of people and it took a lot of getting used to. I highly recommend visiting Japan, not just for finding great punk records but to experience this beautiful culture and country.

This wasn't actually the end of my record shopping. On our last day in Kyoto we were wandering back from Kyoto Zoo through a massive shopping arcade type place and we found one last record shop we hadn't actually been in yet. I've completely forgotten the name of the shop but it was a small basement store. It didn't really look as if it had much but there was an "after 90s" section that intrigued me just because of the name. In this I found actual (not actual) gold in the form of a picture disc version of the Less Than Jake debut album Pezcore. What a find that was! There were a lot of wow moments for me on this trip. This one earned a wowee!

Go to Japan. It's cool.

This column was written by Colin Clark. Photos by Emma Prew and Colin.

Thursday, 15 November 2018

Ton Tens: Mick from The Bare Minimum's Top Ten Punk Albums From Toronto

Having spent much of my youth haunting basement shows around the Toronto, I feel somewhat qualified to write this list. However, it's an impossible list to write without forgetting someone, injecting my own biases, or ignoring something essential. So I will just say that this is my own personal perspective on the Toronto punk scene that I've witnessed. I won't be ranking albums that came out before I was born (sorry Viletones!), I won't be including bands from surrounding towns outside of Toronto city limits.

The modern Toronto punk scene gets a lot of love from the org-core and punk blogosphere corners of the internet. To the average reader it might seem a bit tedious at this point, but in assembling this list I do find a common thread of influence and a distinct sound that is unique to the city. I would describe the sound as being a lo-fi garagey bleakness, with a back-to-basics austerity in the production. Of course, not all bands on the list conform to that sound, many have carved out their own niche in the city.

10. Fucked Up – Epic in Minutes
This is the first full length release from Fucked Up, a compilation of their early singles and EPs. Fucked Up can be a tough band to get into, a lot of their stuff is experimental or conceptual and requires a strong attention span to penetrate. This early compilation is the best place to start with them. It's kinda like their version of Black Flag's 'First Four Years', filled with simple and memorable anthems that don't require a PhD to appreciate.

Best Song: Baiting of the Public

9. The Flatliners – Destroy to Create
Before their time on Fat Wreck Chords, the Flatliners were a ska-punk band in the spirit of Operation Ivy, Choking Victim, or Assorted Jelly Beans. They went on to stop playing ska, embracing a midwestern punk sound. But still, every time they bust out one of these old ska gems at a show the place erupts into chaos. The Flats have gone on to write a bunch of cool albums since this one, but there's just a 'je-ne-sais-quoi' to this record that makes it a timeless genre classic.

Best Song: Fred's Got Slacks

8. Brutal Youth – Stay Honest
Brutal Youth are a crazy mix of 7 Seconds and Kid Dynamite. Their live show has pro wrestling theatrics, with Patty bashing the microphone so hard on his head it draws blood. They keep almost all of their songs under 2 minutes, but still manage to surprise you with unexpected turns and riffs buried in the frantic intensity.

Best Song: 53°

7. Cunter – 20
Cunter is a 'supergroup' mostly made out of the remnants of the popular emo band Moneen and Alexisonfire. Every song this band puts out is an unrelenting shred fest, with no breaks, slow downs, or ballads. They're the perfect band to listen to driving a motorcycle down an empty highway after quitting your job and leaving town forever, like a modern day Poison Idea.

Best song: Blackout

6. Brutal Knights – Feast of Shame
Brutal Knights are an often forgotten band that were on the forefront of Toronto's hardcore revival in the early-mid 2000s. They presented a mix of Toronto's blackened thrash rock sound with the energy and unpredictability of bands like TSOL and Germs. Their shows were always worth going out to, because you never knew what would happen in the chaos of their live environment. Eventually their frontman decided to ditch the music, and focus on being a stand-up comedian.

Best Song: I Do Nothing

5. Black Lungs – Pagan Holiday
This is Wade from Alexisonfire and Gallow's side project, and while it might seem skippable sitting beside those giants, 'Pagan Holiday' is one of the most succinctly pure examples of Toronto's gloomy punk sound. Musically and lyrically you can hear a lot of influence from the LA and Hollywood scenes of the 80s, but what makes the album special and not merely nostalgia, is the cold austerity of the record's production giving it a uniquely Torontonian sound. The lyrics paint a bleak picture of modern city life, 'Schizophrenics and stolen bicycles, smoking crystal meth out of a lightbulb'. While some nods are given to their Hollywood influences, Jeffrey Lee Pierce's 'For Love Of Ivy' sounds completely natural and not at all out of place on this record.

Best Song: Stay Out Of Parkdale

4. Pup – S/T
There's not much I can say about these guys that the readers of this blog don't already know. They are Toronto's punk rock equivalent to Drake. 'Started from the bottom, but we're heeeerrreeee!'

Best Song: Dark Days

3. Cursed – II
While existing in relative obscurity for most of their existence, Cursed is probably the most influential band on this list. Their brand of blackened crustcore has a reach of influence that extends from Mass Grave to Fall Out Boy. Their second album 'II' is Chris Colohan at his lyrical best, often buried under layers of lo-fi brutality. While probably being abrasive and challenging to most ears, this album delivers at a depth that few others in the genre can. It is not to be missed.

Best Song: The Void

2. Death From Above 1979 – You're a Woman, I'm a Machine
This is the canonical band that gave rise to the bass and drum player two piece punk band trend that was popular in the middle 2000s. Despite the band's short lifespan, and some qualms on the unevenness of this album, their influence and scope is difficult to ignore especially considering the constraints the band was working under. Without guitars and with lo-fi production Death From Above were able to make a danceable hit record that broke out of the weird Toronto art scene, making it into the pages of Rolling Stone and NME.

Best Song: Cold War

1. Burning Love – Songs For Burning Lovers
While not the most popular, nor the most influential on this list, this record is my personal favourite out of Toronto. It was born out of the demise of Cursed, and offers a mix of Toronto's signature punk sound with 70s rock riffs, not unlike Sheer Mag. Every song on this thing is a banger, every riff is classic, all the solos shred.

Best Song: Gain

This top ten was written by Mick Hutchinson of the Toronto punk band The Bare Minimum, their new EP 'Where the Buses Don't Come' can be download for free here: https://thebareminimumband.bandcamp.com/album/where-the-buses-dont-come

Wednesday, 14 November 2018

Album Review: Out There by Timeshares (by Richard Mair)

When New York’s Timeshares burst onto the scene in 2011 their brand of Hot Water Music influenced gruff punk, whilst typical of many a band, was executed perfectly and the consistency of their debut album “Bearable” set them apart from their many peers. Since then they have toured relentlessly, released a second album, a few EPs and truly honed and developed their sound to be something more than your typical anthemic blue collar everyman punk band. “Out There”, the band's second EP of the year, has more in common with the straight-up rock of Springsteen, or barroom stylings of The Hold Steady as it does with bands such as The Menzingers or Red City Radio; I’d even go as far to say, at times, this release is more akin to the country, bluesy Brian Fallon project of The Horrible Crowes as it does with the more punk elements of The Gaslight Anthem.

Over the years the band have grown as people and as a collective. Whilst founding member and guitarist Jason Mosher is no longer with them, the inclusion of the multi-talented Signals Midwest frontman Maxwell Stern has allowed for continuity without jeopardising the band’s sound. As a huge fan of Stern as a songwriter it’s clear he has had some involvement in this release, but make no mistake this is still very much a Timeshares EP and the sound crafted by Jon Hernandez, Mike Natoli and Eric Bedell remains as warm and full of life as it always has.

Opening track Fifteen Hours is a bona-fide typical Timeshares classic. Its big chorus destined to be sung in unison in sweaty basements and dive bars. The premise is simple, it’s about a boy and a girl and the awkward goofiness that us gents approach the dating game with. Whilst always sincere and earnest, it's lines like “she said that you should had have me on your apocalypse survival team... I had no idea what that means... but I know what that means” perfectly capture that feeling of trying to play it cool when really deep down we’re all massive geeks... and let’s face it who hasn’t had this exact conversation with a loved one! The fifteen hours in the title refers to time and distance and is a cracking little nod (albeit maybe unintentional) to Maxwell Stern's other work in Signals Midwest, notably the repetitive mantra that rears its head through Latitudes and Longitudes of “I was counting the miles you were counting the days...”. It’s a nice parallel to draw between the two bands given how distance and place has helped shape them over recent years, following relocations and trying to keep the respective bands going. The fact that this is a Mike Natoli penned song suggests that maybe some of Stern's fascination with time and distance have subconsciously rubbed off on the founding members!

Of the 4 tracks on offer, both “Out There” and “Pull the Stars Down” are towards the softer side of the Timeshares spectrum, bordering at times on the country stylings of Chuck Ragan or Tim Barry. Both are excellent. The EP's title track is a little more upbeat, but full of whimsy and nostalgia – it’s a proper grower of a song with excellent guitar work and great melodies and layers throughout. “Pull the Stars Down” is just plain gorgeous. It’s possibly the slowest and quietist song they’ve recorded to date. It’s got a real autumnal country living vibe to it. It’s no surprise to find this is a Maxwell Stern song, the obvious comparison for it is the acoustic track “Wherever I Might Land” released as a part of a Signals Midwest EP a few years ago; it’s impossible not to love the song and its hopeful optimistic sentiments. Hernandez’s vocal delivery is passionate yet thoughtful, sympathetic to the quietness of song; while Bedell’s drumming helps drive the song and lifts it when required. If it wasn’t for the final song on the EP this would probably be the most accomplished song they’ve recorded to date.

The closing track is “Bad Hand” and everything about it is epic. First off, it’s a proper Springsteen-esque, big band rock song – proving they can still kick out the jams when they want to. It’s not the most singalong of songs, instead the feeling of a midwestern style epic comes from the story-telling narrative. It’s the longest song they’ve written and, going back to my comparison of the Hold Steady, it’s easy to parallel with say their closing album tracks of “A Slight Discomfort” or “Oaks”. The closing coda is very reminiscent of the former, particularly the drum work. Everything about this song is big, from the duelling guitars to excellent solos. Nothing has been left out or left to chance. My only criticism (if it really is a criticism) is of the song and its placing on an EP. This song deserves to have a full album behind it to really have the impact it warrants.

Both EPs released this year have been excellent; for me “Out There” is probably the most successful of the two and really puts the pressure on for album three. I can’t wait to see where Timeshares head next if they can maintain this level of creativity and growth!

Stream and download Out There here: https://timeshares.bandcamp.com/album/out-there

Like Timeshares here: https://www.facebook.com/timesharesmusic

This review was written by Richard Mair.

Tuesday, 13 November 2018

Album Review: Destined For The Outside by Werecats

At the end of September, South London pop punks Werecats released their debut full length – Destined For The Outside. This seems like it's been a long time coming for the four piece who have previously released a couple of EPs in 2014 and 2016. Now that the band finally have their full length out I'm looking forward to seeing Werecats really starting to make a big name for themselves in the United Kingdom's punk rock scene with their Ramones influenced pop punk.

Destined For The Outside kicks off with the track Astbury. Originally appearing on their self-titled debut EP, this track is an ode to the infamous South London punk house known as Astbury Castle. This is a fun and fast paced opener that will have you smiling and singing along pretty quickly. Even if you've never been to Astbury Castle, you probably have your own favourite punk hang out that you'll no doubt think fondly of when you listen to this track. Up next is Builder. Builder showcases the poppier side of the Werecats sound with the song played at a slower tempo and featuring some softer vocals accompanied by some sweet harmonies. The opening guitar riff of the third song Grey Jelly shows of the spookier side of the Werecats sound. I really enjoyed the melody of the track. It is infectiously bouncy but also packs quite a punch thanks to the delivery of the vocals. Something that appears to be a bit of a theme in the Werecats songwriting is writing songs that are very easy to pick up and sing along to. This makes the songs super accessible immediately.

Dog is an excellent piece of pop punk music that will get stuck in your head for days. Musically it is pretty simple and repetitive, but that is where its genius lies. I love these short and simple songs that get me tapping my toes, nodding my head and singing along with a smile on my face. The harmonies on Dog are superb with Cici and Pip working beautifully together. The fifth song, Zombie, is another that first appeared on the debut EP. Werecats sometimes like to use horror movie imagery to look at current social climates and that is what they do here. It's about how people like to look a particular way because the media and movies say that's how you should look and Werecats compare these types of people to zombies. This is a fun approach to the topic, it's tongue in cheek but also does a superb job of getting the message across. The opening riffs of Strawberries immediately had me thinking of The Clash. That's until the vocals hit and then it was unmistakably Werecats. The track feels slightly more melodic and restrained than the previous tracks and this switch of sounds does wonders in keeping Destined For The Outside feeling fresh and keeping my interest high.

Heroin opens with a moment that allows us to appreciate the bass and drums of Werecats. There is a seriousness in the song and using the deeper sounding bass and drums does a fantastic job of portraying this. The song is about the nasty side effects of using heroin with the line "using my mind, it's all cos of you" in the chorus really standing out. Toast is a completely instrumental number that has a heavier rock 'n' roll tone to it. It serves as a fantastic introduction to track number nine, Snakes. Snakes is one of the stand out tracks on Destined For The Outside. I particularly enjoyed how the song seemed to switch seamlessly between melodies – starting with a buzzsaw punk rock intro, moving onto some punchy garage infused punk, before finally reaching a big sing-along finale. There's a lot going on in the one minute and forty-six seconds of Snakes.

Julian feels like classic Werecats. There's a fast paced and rambunctious feel that grabs my attention quickly but what really keeps me invested in the song is the superb melody in the chorus. Musically Julian has plenty of edge but the vocals give it its poppy and sweet side. It just works so well and I can happily listen to the song over and over again. The penultimate song is titled Mr Boring. This might be my favourite track on the entire album. I really loved the rapid fire approach of the vocals, this gives the song so much life and offers something a bit different. It starts out quite quietly with just a chunky guitar part and some soft but high tempo vocals. Soon enough the whole band comes in and gives Mr Boring a fuller sound. Werecats' excellent harmonies are fully utilised on the track with some lovely "sha-la-la"-ing sprinkled throughout the chorus. Destined For The Outside's final track is Love Song For The Birds. With its striking stop/start beginning, you find yourself excited to see where the track goes and I was so happy to hear that Pip and Cici were trading off vocals between each other before joining up for the chorus. This gave the song so much energy and really ensured that the album finished with a bang.

Destined For The Outside contains twelve fantastic pop punk songs from one of the UK's best bands in the genre. Managing to keep each song feeling fresh is a great achievement. I often struggle with reviewing pop punk albums as they can become a bit samey but I'm happy to report this certainly wasn't the case here. Destined For The Outside was really worth the wait and is an album you need to be listening to now.

Stream and download Destined For The Outside here: https://werecats.bandcamp.com/album/destined-for-the-outside

Like Werecats here: https://www.facebook.com/werecatsband

This review was written by Colin Clark.

Monday, 12 November 2018

Album Review: Just Let Me Turn You Up by The Sensations

When a band is described with the phrase "imagine for a second the bursting at the seams excitement of a Bomb The Music Industry live show combined with the raw energy of Potshot", you know that's a band I am desperate to check out. This is the way that Tokyo's The Sensations were presented to me when I received an email asking for a CPRW review of their newest album Just Let Me Turn You Up, their first on Paper + Plastick. The Sensations formed in 2008 and combine the best bits of punk, ska, hardcore, soul and 60s pop to create something that sounds so special and unique. I knew this album was going to be a fun one to review before I even heard the first song.

The first song on Just Let Me Turn You Up is titled Dig Your Own Grave and had a video released for the track before the albums release. Dig Your Own Grave is the track that not only serves as an introduction to the album but also to the band, for people such as myself who are only just hearing The Sensations for the first time. It starts out with a frankly delicious guitar riff before moving into a fun pop punk song that will have you busting out some of your best dance moves. When the song reaches its chorus and the whole band start to sing, I know this really is a band for me. Up next is Monkey Dance which begins with a rolling drum beat, a thick bass line and the request to "monkey dance." I imagine that is track is fast becoming a fan favourite live track from The Sensations, with the band running you through how to monkey dance throughout the song. It's simple and it's fun and it makes me smile – what more could you want? Time Flies has a scratchy ska sound that pulled me in instantly and infused me with energy. When a song has you wanting to skank within the first thirty seconds of first hearing it then you know it's a good one. There was an interesting turn of events towards the end of the track where The Sensations switch to a country sound. This was completely unexpected and I loved it. The song then finishes up with a hard and fast punk style that ensures the song finishes with a bang.

The fourth song Keep Your Rough is a bouncy sing-along ska song that is wonderfully infectious. It's one of those songs that is perfect for those chilled out moments when you just want to smile, sing and have the best times with your friends. Whether it's in the car, in the garden, at a show or in your living room, Keep Your Rough is the perfect song to bring people together and just have a brilliant time. Feel Like Yesterday feels as if it has a more serious tone compared to what we've heard so far. Ditching the ska sound, this is a straight punk rock song with the band in a seemingly thoughtful and retrospective mood. Despite the more serious tone, The Sensations still manage to keep it a little light-hearted thanks to some well placed woohoo harmonies. I Don't Believe In You goes full ska with the introduction of some brass. The mood of the album is instantly brought back up on this track that is a pure skankathon. The song will leave you breathless with the potential for some frantic dancing and plenty of big sing-alongs. When songs have this amount of energy it's impossible not to get swept away with the track – this song must be mega when it's played live. The brassy ska continues on I Can't Stand It. Displaying a slower tempo than I Don't Believe In You, it shows that The Sensations can get you dancing without going at 100mph. I quite enjoyed the switch in vocal style during the song with a harsher vocal being used at one point, potentially showcasing an angrier side to the band's sound.

Love Me is one of the stand out songs on Just Let Me Turn You Up. It's a track that feels like the arms-around-a-stranger, singing-along-gleefully song that all great albums have. As soon as I heard the chorus I had a big smile on my face as I skanked shamelessly around my living room. Love Me is one of those wonderful songs that it is almost impossible to stay still to whilst your listening to it. The penultimate song is titled Watch Out and is a short and intense punk rock song that's likely to incite some crazy circle pits. The Sensations singer reverts to the harsher sound that he briefly showcased during I Can't Stand It. The melody has me thinking of one of those big musical numbers where the ending has this big finale that is punctuated with a big exclamation point (and, in my head, lots of jazz hands). Finally we have Journey To The Own Way. The song begins slowly with just some bass and drums accompanying the vocals. As the track progresses and the whole band comes in and it just builds magnificently. I often say that you need a big song to finish the album to help leave a lasting impression. Well The Sensations have nailed that with Journey To The Own Way. It's one of the more straight forward songs on the album which really helps to set it apart from the rest of Just Let Me Turn You Up. Listen to the album and you'll understand what I mean. The song will get a big reaction with its catchy chorus and the insightful nature of the track.

I always knew I was going to really enjoy this album and I really, really did! It's rare to come across, or be sent, something that feels so fresh and original but also doesn't feel novelty. The Sensations had me smiling throughout the album's twenty-six minute run time. They named it perfectly as well as it's one you really do need to turn up loud. Go and check this out now!

Like The Sensations here:  https://www.facebook.com/thesensations2008/

This review was written by Colin Clark.