Wednesday, 22 November 2017

Top Tens: Jeff from Expert Timings' Top Ten Punk Rock Influences

1. Descendents 
When I was in 3rd grade my neighbor's older sister had a copy of Somery. I had no idea what I was listening to but I knew it was different. It sounded raw and chaotic but was still catchy and full of hooks.

2. Slingshot Dakota
Tom and Carly are from the same small north eastern punk rock community that I had the amazing luck to be around in my formative years. Seeing them continue to work hard, make amazing music and be genuinely caring and authentic people is truly inspiring.

3. That Dog
After becoming obsessed with Weezer in high school I learned about the similarly great band That Dog. Their record "Totally Crushed Out" has the most blown out guitar sound.

4. The Weakerthans
Listening to the weakerthans opened my mind to how important lyrics are. John K Samson is a master story teller whose words paint vivid pictures.

5. Nirvana
When I first saw the video for Heart Shaped Box I was watching MTV waiting for them to play any Michael Jackson video and it scared the shit out of me.

6. Green Day
Having been a fan already, I bought a copy of Insomniac the day it came out. The kid working at the record store told me about an upcoming show at the local college. I convinced my dad to take me and the whole show blew my mind. This was the first time I ever thought to myself "I really wanna be in a band".

7. Okay Paddy
Combining 60s pop hooks with the 90s guitar vibes of bands like Pavement, Okay Paddy are one of my favorite bands of all time.

8. Dismemberment Plan
Synths, weird time signatures and super complex drum parts. What's not to love?

9. Saves the Day
In 11th grade I had 2 CDs in my car. Through Being Cool and Stay What You Are.

10. Piebald
Piebald taught me that music can be meaningful, poignant and unapologetically fun all at the same time.

Check out Expert Timing on Facebook here:

Album Review: Wear Me Down by Young Hunger

Why has nobody told me about Young Hunger before? Come on friends, I tell you about great bands all of the time! Young Hunger are a four piece band from Detroit, Michigan who play a mixture of pop punk and punk rock with a dash of indie rock. Back in July they put out their debut EP, Wear Me Down. I recently checked it out and thought it was absolutely fantastic. Let's check it out.

The opening song on Wear Me Down is named Every Promise I Ever Made To Myself. When I first clicked play I instantly thought "okay, here's another pop punk track" but it's so much more than that. The song moves between a modern pop punk to a melodic punk sound effortlessly. The song really comes into its own on the chorus with some superb gang vocals and a simple, but very effective, drum beat that drives the song forward, at times relentlessly. The second track is the song Haverhill. The opening musical sequence immediately gives the song a whole load of energy and, as soon as lead singer Ben's vocals hit, you immediately have that uncontrollably urge to sing along. Haverhill is about loving your town despite all of its shortcomings. There is a great guitar solo midway through the song that allows you to think about the message of the song before it finishes with the repetitive lines of "Who The Fuck Here Allowed This To Happen?" The intro to Holes In Your Tongue features a guitar pedal build being used to full effect with some interesting sci-fi like sounds. The beginning of the song is moodier than the previous two efforts and shows some great variation in Young Hunger's songwriting. Holes In Your Tongue is about a trying to help a bad person to change their ways and making them realise they'll only be able to change if they really want to. The song starts by listing said persons faults before the mood of the song is lifted when Ben gives out his advice, again supported by some excellent gang vocals.

The fourth song, I Woke Up Today, starts out slowly with some jangly guitar before the drums kick in. The drums on Wear Me Down have just been superb. The vocals again begin quite poppy before gradually turning into more of a punk rock shout on the chorus. Young Hunger have a gift for writing some huge hook filled choruses. I Woke Up Today is about realising you've been living in denial and taking the first step to helping yourself. The band really are at their best when they are belting out their tunes at full blast. There are some great fist in the air moments. The penultimate track Just One More Year is probably the poppiest effort on the EP. The guitars pack the song with a great energy and then the up tempo delivery of the vocals on the verses keep that feeling going but it's the chorus where things get interesting. The first chorus sees a muted delivery before that high energy verse comes in. By the time that the second chorus comes in we are treated to a primal scream delivery opposed to the muted style of the first. I loved this because it's not often that you hear such a contrast between choruses. The Things I Mean (But I Don't Say) finishes up Wear Me Down with aplomb. I think that this is my favourite song on the EP. It takes everything I've loved the most from the previous songs and packs it tightly into a brilliant three minutes and nineteen seconds of awesomeness. The drumming and guitar lead in at the start gets things going nicely, with the song gradually building towards some of the most passionate vocals on the EP. This is seriously a great song and the best way to finish the impressive debut from Young Hunger.

Young Hunger are a great new band on the scene and are really showing so much promise on Wear Me Down. I don't have any negatives to say at all and I urge everyone to check these guys out. You can then be that person who says I remember hearing their first EP when they become the next big thing in punk rock.

Stream and download Wear Me Down here:

Like Young Hunger here:

This review was written by Colin Clark.

Tuesday, 21 November 2017

Album Review: Grave Mistakes by Dead Rejects

I first became aware of Dead Rejects last year when they released a fantastic split with Positive Junk named Downers. Now the New Jersey skacore duo are back with a brand new album named Grave Mistakes which was released back in September.

Graves Mistakes begins with the instrumental track The Fire Fades. Serving as an introduction to the album it is a piano led song with spooky undertones before launching into some heavy punk rock. The piano followed by the punk rock works really well and gives the illusion of punk smashing down the more classical style. This all leads in nicely to Learning To Live, the album's second track. The song immediately reminds me of what I loved about Dead Rejects when I first heard them. It's crusty ska punk in a similar vein to Leftöver Crack but much more accessible. The dual vocals on Learning To Live are great with Shane Sparacello's croaky voice taking the verses and Mike Benus' more traditional punk rock voice executing the chorus brilliantly. Whatever Forever is a song about not fitting in with what's deemed normal in society and frankly not caring what people think about you. It's a song that really takes you on a ride musically. Starting out with some upbeat ska that will get you skanking, Whatever Forever gradually shifts through the gears and then by the end it is a full on angry punk rock annihilation of a song. Happy fun skanking at the song's smiley beginnings turns into a massive riot of a mosh pit. The fourth song is the album's title track, Grave Mistakes. What a good song this is. Grave Mistakes is about learning from mistakes and not wallowing in self pity. This is a good, strong, uplifting message. The chorus in particular is superb - "Raise Your Hand And Scream, Be Proud Of Who You Are, And The Things That You Have Achieved, 'Cause Scars Will Heal In Time, But It's Up To You To Leave The Past Behind." The dual vocals again are great and give the song a lot of energy.

Get Weird is about a night of excessive partying, taking some things it is not legal to and hoping that you haven't made a fool of yourself. It's a fast and frantic song that really shows off Sparacello's excellent raw primal screams on the chorus. This is one of the harder hitting songs on Grave Mistakes. Giving Up is a song that jumps between ska punk and ferocious hardcore expertly. The track is about the feeling of despair with the world and just wanting to give up on it. The anger in the chorus of "This World Is Gonna Burn" really hits the message hard and the verses do a great job of setting up this anger. The outro of Giving Up is a delight and the hint of gang vocals makes me think of rallying the troops together and rebelling against everything. Dead Rejects are joined by New York band The Stupid Stupid Henchmen on the following song, Worldwide Suicide. Worldwide Suicide hits you like a wrecking ball and continues to pummel you for much of its four minute duration. There is a slight restbite during some short ska sections of the song, kind of making you believe the assault is finished before it starts all over again. There is so much anger and venom on this song it's hard not to get caught up in the emotion of it all. The final song on Grave Mistakes in named 29. I must admit I was not expecting to see an almost five minute long song on a Dead Rejects release but that's what we have here. 29 is a song dedicated to Shane's brother Jimmy who sadly passed away last year. As you can imagine there is plenty of emotion in the song where Shane sings about missing his brother and how he will never be forgotten because he will live on through Shane and the rest of the band. 29 feels like a very fitting tribute to a departed brother.

Grave Mistakes is a very good skacore album. It's hard and angry but it's also a lot of fun. It has some great lyrics and fantasic musicianship. At just seven actual songs I thought it was a little short but when it's this good does it really matter?

(Also, if you stream and download from Bandcamp there are instrumental tracks of Get Weird and 29.)

Stream and download Grave Mistakes here:

Like Dead Rejects here:

This review was written by Colin Clark.

Monday, 20 November 2017

Album Review: I’m Not Really A Morning Person by Tim Hampshire (by Emma Prew)

I am quite partial to Australian musicians and songwriters, not just thanks to Wil Wagner and Lincoln Le Fevre but they’ve probably had something to do with my increasing love of Aussie accented vocals over the past year. However, today I have a new favourite Australian solo acoustic artist, Tim Hampshire from Portland, Victoria. I’d heard of him before, since Colin previously recommended him to me, and so when I saw his latest EP appear on Bandcamp’s new releases I happily took a listen. The doggy on the cover did help as well – I do judge albums by their cover art, a tiny bit.

I’m Not Really A Morning Person is a four song EP and track number one, titled Chasing Decency, kicks off at a reasonably fast pace. Despite being an acoustic track, there is a lot of energy and determination injected into Chasing Decency. The song is about trying to make the best of life with what you have,  aiming to be a decent human being while you’re at it. A fine start to this EP. ‘I’m no poet laureate, But I’m getting by with what little I have, As far as ability goes, Punch above my weight, Though I choose not to fight, Ignorance isn’t bliss anymore, Internally I’m not comfortable with this…’ Next up is a slower, more solemn-sounding track called Keep This For Later On. This feels like more of a heartfelt song than the first, allowing the listener to have a personal connection to Tim’s songwriting that they perhaps didn’t get so much with Chasing Decency. Although slower in pace, the acoustic guitar and vocals feel warm rather than entirely melancholic. There is also a sense of hopefulness in lines such as ‘I can feel the winds of change, And for once they’re blowing good things my way.’ and ‘I will embrace the chaos, This is not my final curtain call.’ which I love.

Catch Me If You Can is the third song of I’m Not Really A Morning Person and is an excellent combination of mid-tempo acoustic guitars – note the plural as there are definitely two wonderfully melodic guitars in parts – and catchy vocal lines. This is a head nodder of a song and probably my favourite of the EP. Catch Me If You Can features guest vocals towards the end of the song which add a little element of gang vocals that us punks love so much. And as much as I adore acoustic-based music, I found myself imagining this song as a full band affair – I think it would work fantastically. There’s also a moment when Tim’s vocals break a little as he’s singing ‘Catch me if you can’ at the top of his lungs that I love – less polished and more punk, as it should be. Unfortunately I’m Not Really A Morning Person must come to an end but it does so in style with the fourth track, Seedy Weekdays 2.0. This is another upbeat track with rapidly strummed chords throughout its duration. Tim’s vocals are full of fiery passion as he sings optimistically – ‘We have better things to worry about, Like how we’re going to go about changing the world, That way it is more suitable for the likes of us, I can’t think of any other way to spend this seedy weekdays.’ The song rounds off the EP nicely and I instantly go to hit play and listen again.

I’m Not Really A Morning Person can be downloaded and streamed on Bandcamp now. You can also find Tim Hampshire over on Facebook here.

This album review was written by Emma Prew.

Friday, 17 November 2017

Album Review: Foreign Skies by The Dreadnoughts (by Emma Prew)

This summer I got to see one of my absolute favourite punk bands who I had unfortunately never managed to catch live before, The Dreadnoughts. To say I was excited would have been an understatement. The band put on one hell of a show at The Underworld in Camden (you can read my gig review here) and during their set they announced that their long awaited fourth album would be released in November – I was, well, even more excited!

On the 10th November the wait was finally over as the band released their first full length album for 7 years (I’m not counting 2011’s Uncle Touchy as a full length). Foreign Skies is a 12 track album of songs dedicated to all of the people who lived through World War I – but also to those who did not. I didn’t realise the significance of the release date for the album until my first listen but, of course, it was released to coincide with Remembrance weekend. This was bound to be a special album.

Foreign Skies opens with a mournful yet atmospheric violin part which slowly builds into a track titled Up High. After 50 seconds or so the vocals kick in – ‘Come my brother, Come all fighting men, Come together while we may, We nay may meet again.’ – but the tempo remains slow and controlled. It was at this point that I suddenly thought ‘Wow, what a voice’. I feel a bit bad saying this but I’ve never really considered lead vocalist Nicholas Smyth, or The Fang as he is generally known, to have an ‘amazing’ voice. By which I mean I enjoyed his vocals previously and considered them good but now I have an increased appreciation for his vocal talent. The chorus of ‘Raise your voice up high, sing for victory… We remember.’ is pretty darn poignant. As I said, it is somewhat mournful but there is also a great sense of pride in the song. Next we have Foreign Skies, the album’s title track so it’s bound to be a goodun’, right? Correct. This song is more than a goodun’, it is a full blown epic in musical form – and I don’t use the word epic lightly. The end of Up High crescendos into Foreign Skies, which actually starts fairly calmly with gentle and melodic guitar… but this is The Dreadnoughts, and so it doesn’t remain calm for long! Setting a recurring theme throughout the rest of the album, this song flits between various Dreadnoughts sub-genres – basically showcasing their whole musical repertoire in one 5 minute song. It’s pure folk punk for about a minute, then there’s some polka thrown in for good measure, then more folk punk. It’s fast paced, then mid tempo, then fast again and keeps you guessing what’s coming next. There is an awesome instrumental breakdown midway through the song which lasts for over a minute before an emotional verse from The Fang accompanied by piano slows things down. The story in this song is set on a battlefield but there is a sense of hope that you might not expect from a war zone as the narrator proudly exclaims ‘I never will return to these foreign skies.’

At only two songs into Foreign Skies I am already beginning to feel that these songs are like a soundtrack to a film – except, no, they are more than that. These songs are a soundtrack to real life, real stories and historical events that happened during the war and that makes all the difference. This is perhaps even more apparent in the third track. Daughters of the Sun has a dramatic instrumental start, which gets increasingly louder before going full pelt punk rock after a minute and a half. The vocals and instruments are fast with the vocals in particular being more raw than on the previous two tracks. This is a head banging, mosh pit inducing track that sounds like classic Dreadnoughts circa ten years ago and their first album, Legends Never Die. At least, that is until another mighty instrumental breakdown with an excellent violin solo backed by pounding drums. The accordion also makes a welcome appearance for a final verse – something that I missed from their live show earlier this year. I love how these songs have so many parts to them, such a talented bunch of musicians these Dreadnoughts. Following Daughters of the Sun is Amiens Polka, an almost entirely instrumental track. Amiens Polka by name, polka by nature. The pace is kept fast for this song but it’s clearly more of a traditional European-inspired tune than your more typical punk rock – which is definitely no bad thing. Amiens Polka certainly got me dancing and when the rousing short chorus, which sounds like it is sung by a barroom of people, happens in the middle I wanted to sing along. The only problem is I don’t actually know any of the words as it is most likely not in English and isn’t typical lead vocal volume. Of course, this didn’t affect my enjoyment of the song one bit.

Not content with the array of musical styles that have already been reflected in the first four songs, Bay of Suvla is an acapella song with only a quiet steady drum beat backing. At first it is just The Fang who voices the song and once more I am astounded at how good his voice is. He also has the awesome ability to tell the tales of different people in his songs almost like he is acting in a play but not in a over the top way (so not like Freddy Mercury or similar). The other band members join in with the chorus making this true sea shanty style and this seems particularly apt as this is a song about navy soldiers. ‘It’s a way Suvla Bay, Hauling away to the Suvla Bay, Fare thee well my pretty young maids, We’re bound for the bay of Suvla.’ Something about the guitars at the beginning of the next song makes me think ‘Western film’ – not something I expected from The Dreadnoughts. Well, I said this album was varied! Anna Maria is track number six of Foreign Skies and the band show their ability to pull off another excellent instrumental intro. After 1 minute 20, the guitars get a distortion treatment and it goes more metal than Western but really it’s just classic loud and fast Dreadnoughts. Upon first listen I figured that Anna Maria was a song about a lost loved one and how the song’s narrator wants to have vengeance for his love’s death. Then I realised that Anna Maria isn’t a person at all, Anna Maria is the name of the ship that the narrator sailed on. I’ve always loved the nautical themes of The Dreadnoughts songs and this is no exception. This also happens to be one of the angrier and more violent themed songs of the album, showing the very darkest side of war (not that there’s much light in war either) – ‘Gonna find that coward captain, Gonna break his front door down, Gonna wrap my hands around his neck, And put him in the ground. Sweet Anna Maria, Never more, Never more, I see…’ As Anna Maria fades out we are not given too much pause for breath before the next track muscles in and metaphorically punches you in the face. Jericho is loud, fast, angry and urgent from the outset. Musically this is probably one of the more simple tracks on the album, generally sticking to the more typical punk instruments and playing them hard. That said there is an awesome guitar solo which you wouldn’t describe as ‘simple’. It’s no surprise that this is one of the shortest songs on the album – I mean, it is played at double the speed of most of the other tracks. Jericho is probably the song that would open the largest mosh pit and have the most people going crazy at a Dreadnoughts live show – and I can’t wait to witness that for myself.

Eighth track, Black and White, opens with a great swinging motion both in the music and vocal lines. The first verse is sung from the point of view of a soldier, ending several of the lines with ‘Sir’. It’s really great how each song of Foreign Skies tells a story as the album progresses through this period of history. It doesn’t feel like a ‘concept’ album as such although clearly all of the songs have their similarities due to the theme. Black and White is a prime example of really transporting the listener to another time and place. The verses of this song are mid tempo followed by faster musical interludes and it all kicks off for the chorus.‘Walk into the black and white…’ Gavrilo is next up and it is a song that combines many different sounds and influences from around the world. Opening with the lines ‘Hello my dear old friend, Good to see your face again. How is your little cell?’, Gavrilo sounds very Baltic-inspired but there’s also hints of Spanish style guitar in there – or maybe it’s just my ears! Either way, this is a great foot stomper of a track. It has a decent amount of heavy guitar and shouted backing vocals as well to ensure that you don’t forget that this is a punk band at heart. I haven’t done too much research into the specific subject matter behind each and every song on this album but I did look up ‘Gavrilo’. If like me you didn't know, Serbian Gavrilo Princip was the man charged with causing the outbreak of World War I when he shot Austrian Archduke Franz Ferdinand. But even if I hadn’t done my research, this makes for an excellent song nonetheless.

The tenth song of Foreign Skies is completely different, so much so that it isn’t really even a song. A Broken World is a spoken word piece voiced by Zoey Exley and based on the poem ‘September 1918’ by Amy Lowell. The reading is accompanied by sorrowful piano and it is as beautiful as it is heartbreaking. The line ‘Some day there will be no war.’ is particularly moving. I do feel that the placement of this track is a little odd. It is not quite at the end of the album nor the end of the first half, and not even the penultimate song either, but that doesn’t stop it from being poignant anyway. Just listen to it (or read the original poem, I guess). Drawing us towards the end of the album is Black Letters, a song that is fairly stripped back with an acoustic guitar in place of the electric. This is a much slower paced track than much of the rest of the album and it feels all the more thoughtful because of this. At first I thought this song might be quite hopeful as the end of the war is mentioned but after a few listens I think perhaps it is not quite the happy ending. ‘By the time you read these words there will be no more war… For me, There will be only peace.’ The author of the letters knows that they are going to die in war and will never see their loved ones again, but there is a sense of peace in knowing that they have served their country. It really makes you stop and think.

Phew, that was pretty heavy going. Where are the songs about drinking cider I hear you ask? Cue album closer, Back Home In Bristol. Kicking off with a generous helping of accordion and the lines ‘Bless me father I have sinned…’ , this song is pretty much all of the best bits of The Dreadnoughts’ musical repertoire all rolled into one. It’s no wonder this song has a video really – it’s a fine example of what the band are all about. Back Home In Bristol has a super catchy chorus and there is, of course, the mention of the band’s favourite West Country brew – cider! Well, this song is about Bristol after all. ‘Well I wish I were back home in Bristol again, Raising a cider with the West Country men.’ This song definitely has a feel good nature and a distinct sense of optimism about going home at last after the war. The drunken singalong bridge is bloody brilliant too. You can really picture the ship that is taking the soldiers home during the final instrumental of this song which plays out the song and the album as a whole – and brings us home in style!

I read a comment somewhere online about this album before it was released, therefore before I had listened to it, and it said that The Dreadnoughts had matured. ‘The Dreadnoughts mature? Nah!’ I thought but… now I get it. These aren’t simply songs about drinking cider, well aside from the last one which is a little bit about drinking cider. As much as I love good ol’ songs about cider, I didn’t know a Dreadnoughts like this was possible. I didn’t expect it. Foreign Skies is an album of many parts, each song consists of many parts. There are ups and downs, slow songs and fast songs, happier tunes and sorrowful songs, the themes are mostly serious but the music can be downright jolly and uplifting at times. The Dreadnoughts are masters of sea shanties, Baltic-inspired polkas, heavy rocking and rolling punk rock – and now they’ve well and truly mastered the historical epic as well. Is there anything this band can’t do? In summary: Foreign Skies is incredible.

Buy/stream/listen to Foreign Skies now on Bandcamp and you can also find The Dreadnoughts on Facebook.

This album review of epic length was written by Emma Prew (and I may never write another album review again).

Thursday, 16 November 2017

Top Tens: Mike from Umlaut Records' Top Ten Punk Rock Labels

How should a punk rock label be judged? Should a label be judged solely by the quality of the bands it has on its roster? Should they have a particular, identifiable genre or be eclectic and wide-reaching in their scope? Do we judge on their business acumen and the longevity that you only get through careful management of finances in a tough economy? Or do we prefer those who shun the “corporate” epithet, remain fiercely DIY and sail close to the wind as it’s considered more “punk rock?”

As usual in punk rock, there are arguments upon disagreements about quarrels and the types of label out there are run by communities as varied as the music they put out.

The DIY labels are not merely mimicking the big boys.

Those who set up these labels are not doing it for financial gain (there isn’t any) or global recognition (there isn’t any). The DIY label has a more important role, and while it is foolish and naïve to completely disregard the need for careful financial management in order to stay viable, the influence and desire to drive the community is often far more central to the ethos of the DIY punk rock label.

Here is a list, which is by no means exhaustive, of some of the labels that we at Umlaut Records feel have had a positive impact.

Fat Wreck Chords
Let’s be honest here and get this out of the way nice and early. Whatever your view about this label now, and the opinion that perhaps their best years are behind them rather than in front of them, there can be absolutely no denying the HUGE influence that Fat Wreck Chords has had throughout the entire genre. The list of seminal Fat Wreck bands is far too long to put here, but needless to say that they provided a gateway into punk rock for so many people who are now playing in bands that we all know and running labels which may be appearing on this list.

Lookout/Dischord/Hellcat/Epitaph/Asian Man
And while we’re on the subject of the big boys, it would be remiss to overlook a selection of the biggest. These could easily fill a list of their own, but it’s far more interesting to have a look at what is happening in the local scenes. The punk rock scene can be very nostalgic and every generation has its crop of influences. That’s not to say that we, as a community, can’t also be forward looking and optimistic about a future for the scene. As with Fat, the above labels have all launched countless bands into our collective consciousness and whatever the opinion of those who typically shun the mass market, their influence cannot, and should not, be overlooked.

Make That A Take
An absolute behemoth of the DIY label and a major influencing factor in the genesis of Umlaut Records. They work tirelessly to promote their bands, to promote their shows and to effect change within their community through charity and outreach. This year will be their 11th annual, “Book Your Ane Fest,” and it is an absolute highlight of the year for both bands and punk rock fans from far and wide. The bands they put out are always interesting. Similarly, the shows they put on and the touring bands they host are always impressive. The MTAT brand is viewed with great esteem by bands, fans and other labels and they are fully deserving of every ounce of it.

Another label which is incredibly proud of the community they help to support through their music. You simply can’t ignore a label that boasts Pizzatramp, Roughneck Riot and Wonk Unit. A Manchester based label, that has similar ethics to MTAT in that they don’t wish to simply be a machine that sells records, they want to help a whole community to share the music experience, whether that’s through records, shows or tours. Some of the best bands on the circuit are working with this label and you should definitely check them out.

Our good friends over at Lockjaw have been really helpful in the starting of Umlaut. Rob, of Darko fame, and his team run a tight ship, and have an exceptional ear for great music as well as an impeccable work ethic which sees Lockjaw pulling in some incredible bands, including the UK release of Belvedere’s last release. They are based in Guildford and, as well as Belvedere, they have also released Almeida, Antillectual and The Human Project. They do this simply because they look after their people and work relentlessly to promote and shine spotlights on the acts that approach them.

Disconnect Disconnect
Another great UK label from whose experience and friendship we’ve benefited. The guys at Double D (as nobody calls them) are equally adept at attracting the big talent, having released the likes of Hogwash, Larrakia and Local Resident Failure. As well as putting together exceptional comps, they also host the annual “Might as Well” Fest in London, which is another staple of the punk rock calendar.

Specialist Subject
This is a label that is on the up and up. Based in Bristol and boasting Austeros, Caves and The Smith Street Band amongst their releases, they are also doing really exciting things along the south coast and beyond. They recently opened a shop in Bristol which I understand to be something of a physical celebration of their own output as well as other fantastic artists you know and many you probably don’t. They are run by Kay and Andrew (of Bangers fame) and are one of the main players in the UK scene.

Bird Attack
Going stateside for a moment to relish the label that is Bird Attack records. They’ve put out bands like 88 Fingers Louie, Adrenalized and Authority Zero as well as some of our own local talent in Almeida, Darko and Fair Do’s. Their podcasts are a must listen to people who enjoy this music and their representation at events like the Manchester Punk Festival, Punk Rock Holiday and Fest are always interesting. Plus their footage is always excellent - these guys are truly engaging in terms of trying to reach out and get people to listen to what they’re all about.

Shield Recordings
Holland is a beautiful country and is home to some of our favourite DIY punk bands and Shield Recordings has been at the forefront of it since 2004. Slinging such releases as Astpai, Pacer, Atlas Losing Grip and, friends to Umlaut, Sweet Empire and Dowzer. Passionate punk rock peddlers and thoroughly decent people, Shield are an excellent gateway into bands from the continent that people may not have heard of before. Believe me, there’s some great stuff out there and these guys frequently remind us of this.

Waterslide Records
Going even further afield, Waterslide records have been operating in Japan since 1996. Japan has a long and fine history of punk rock culture and Waterslide have been playing a massive part in the perpetuity of the culture. Punk rock fans are usually quite mentally itinerant and don’t consider little things like geographical boundaries when it comes to seeking music to enjoy. Waterslide have many bands on their roster that people may not have heard of (as well as many that you will have - Antillectual and Dowzer for example.) For those looking to explore, you could do a lot worse than checking out their releases.

Check out Umlaut records store here and their Facebook page here.

Wednesday, 15 November 2017

Album Review: Y'all by UnderTipper

UnderTipper are a three piece band from Cincinnati, Ohio who formed late in 2015. The band, which is comprised of Tavis Disgraceful (guitar & vocals), Jeff Forton (bass) and Drew Bogner (drums) recently released their second album Y'all. I found out about this due to the greatest tool for music discovery (aside from going to gigs) - Bandcamp. I loved it instantly and had to give it a review!

Y'all begins with the song Stayed Up Too Late. On my first listen of Stayed Up Too Late I decided instantly that this is one of my favourite songs of the year. It's a simple song about not getting enough sleep. Starting with an alarm clock going off we have a mid-tempo punk track with a chorus to die for. The track moves up a gear and the whole band shouts "Stayed Up Too Late, Got Up Too Early." Love this song! The second track is titled Break Away. Though the song doesn't jump out at you like the previous song there is a restrained subtlety to the intro that gets you hooked. I like that already on the second track of the album UnderTipper show they can write a silly song (Stayed Up Too Late) and more of a serious song in Break Away. Break Away is about getting away from the bad situations you find yourself in and finding something better. The opening guitar of the third song Caffeine instantly made me think about 90s Lookout era pop punk music. It's a punchy song that uses drinking caffeine on a long journey as a metaphor for pushing your friends to their limit with your behaviour. I really enjoyed the ending of the song that featured a delightful breakdown with some great harmonious lines of "I'm Not Falling Asleep" that leads into one final chorus. Green Paper is another great song. Being from the UK it took me a little while to work out the meaning of the song but I think it's about not being able to be bought as a means of saying sorry. In the UK our money isn't green, hence my confusion. This is another punchy sounding song that makes the most of the band's ability to delivery fantastic gang vocals. All songs should feature gang vocals.

Contact is the name of the fifth track on Y'all. The song is more of a subtle and restrained song, almost like the band are having a bit of a rest midway through the album. This more restrained style really allows Jeff's bass and Drew's drums to shine through with the bass in particular standing out. Contact is about staring at your phone and longing for somebody you care about to message you. Something very relatable. The final section of the song was just great, there's a nice little breakdown and then some beautiful harmonies to finish the song off. Nothin's Ever Good Enough feels much heavier and darker than anything we've heard so far on Y'all. The upbeat pop punk sound has gone and has been replaced with a much more downbeat, straightforward punk song. Musically it's kind of similar to Hot Water Music but I do think the whole song could have done with a bigger sound to really drive home the downbeat nature of the track. Following Nothin's Ever Good Enough is Red Light. This is another song I really enjoyed and is one I can definitely imagine being superb live. It's about not doing what you're told and going full steam ahead with your plans even if it seems reckless. The mood is definitely upped again here. Bicycle is a fun little song about the love of your pushbike. It's all kind of silly but it's fun. I don't think we've had a good punk song about riding a bike since The Bouncing Souls stab at the topic with The BMX Song back in 1995.

Call The Police is song about the frustration with the police not seemingly being able to do their jobs properly. The band use some examples of shocking crimes and the nonchalant attitude of the force. It's an instant ear worm song. I really love the tempo of the track - it's bursting with an infectious energy and is difficult not to get wrapped up in. This infectious energy continues on the following song, Going Home Alone. Definitely moving into more of a pop punk territory with the fast paced sing-along track, the song is about the pitfalls of being that friend who always going home by themselves whilst their friends always manage to hook up and how lonely this makes you feel. It's a topic that isn't often spoken about in song but is another that I feel could be hugely relatable. The penultimate song on Y'all is named Taco Meat. Taco Meat is a bit of a silly song but it's also about people liking different things and that being completely okay. That's pretty much all there is to say about Taco Meat. Y'all is completed with the song Whadda Ya Say. I really felt like this song had a lot of pressure on it to finish a good album off on a big high. Well Whadda Ya Say certainly delivers. It is one of the catchiest songs on the record and will have you screaming the chorus at the top of your lungs. The track is about looking at your life and proudly questioning your decisions and perhaps realising it's time to make a positive change. I do enjoy it when an album finishes on a positive.

UnderTipper were another random Bandcamp discovery for me and proved again to be just an awesome find. If you enjoy gruff, melodic, sing-a-long pop punk that is inspiring, relatable and at times a bit on the silly side then you need to give UnderTipper a chance. I wanted to make a funny joke about how that's my OverTip but that's a truly terrible joke… I'm very sorry.

Stream and download Y'all here:

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This review was written by Colin Clark.