Tuesday, 23 May 2017

Gig Review: Forever Unclean at The Unicorn, Camden 17/5/17

What is the best way to cure a rubbish day at work that involved walking around in pouring rain for eight hours? Going to Camden for a punk rock show, of course! Danish skate punks Forever Unclean were in town to celebrate the release of their newest EP Float, which was released on Disconnect Disconnect Records in March. The show was at The Unicorn pub and had a stacked line up featuring Cereal Box Heroes, Fastfade, On A Hiding To Nothing and The Run Up. And the show was free! Result!

This was the first time either Emma or I had made the trip to The Unicorn and neither of us were completely sure where exactly it was. After a quick check of Google Maps we soon discovered The Unicorn is a twenty minute walk from Camden Town station, in the rain. (Google didn't tell me about the rain, I could tell that from the drops of water that were falling from the sky onto my head). When we eventually arrived at The Unicorn, we were fairly soggy and opening act Fastfade had begun their set.

Approaching the stage, I was excited to hear that Fastfade were playing a Lagwagon cover. Being the day after Lagwagon Day (May 16) the band played Mr Coffee and sounded fantastic. I like to think that if they had played a day earlier they would have played May 16. Fastfade also did a cover pf Green Day's When I Come Around. These covers were fun but I was most impressed with Fastfade's original material. This was fast, snotty, 90s-style skate punk that was full of attitude and great fun to watch. These three guys all looked quite young so it was kind of refreshing to hear them play such a style, especially as they probably weren't alive when it was at its peak. What was even more refreshing was that they played it really, really well. Fastfade are a really talented young band who, with a lot of hard work, could make a good name for themselves. I will be watching out for these boys.

Next up were Cereal Box Heroes. Cereal Box Heroes are a three piece band from London who I've been aware of for a while but have never seen live. This was a mistake - I should not have waited so long. Cereal Box Heroes were just completely ace. The band played fast paced, in-your-face pop punk with bassist Dominic and guitarist Conor sharing vocal duties. Tonight's set list was comprised of mostly Conor songs, something he wasn't too keen on and jokingly complained about throughout the set. The entire Cereal Box Heroes set went by like a whirlwind which is also how I would describe their presence on stage. There isn't a moment when any of the three members of the band are stationary of stage and they put everything they have into their performance. Fantastic set.

Following Cereal Box Heroes were another London based band I've been aware of for a while but never seen - On A Hiding To Nothing. The four piece are one that CPRW's Dan Peters has been raving about for a while and now I really understand why. Playing 90s influenced USA skate punk with a British charm, I found myself wondering why exactly this band aren't on more line-ups in London. They played a selection of songs from their previous two EPs, 2015's self titled and 2017's Formaldehyde, all of which sounded fantastic live. There was also a funny moment where bassist Jack's strap came flying off. The lovely Mark Bell of Umlaut Records and Müg who was in the crowd quickly jumped on stage to assist and ended up holding Jack's bass for him for the majority of the song. Only at a punk show! If you've not seen On A Hiding To Nothing you're really missing out. Go listen to them as soon as you finish reading this and then find out where they're playing next and go see them!

The penultimate band of the evening have just released one of my favourite singles of the year, The Run-Up. The five piece from Bristol recently released the brilliant follow up to 2015's Scared Of Everything - Sink or Swallow/North. The Run-Up actually started their set with Sink or Swallow which really eased me into their set brilliantly. When I reviewed the single I mentioned how the sound reminded of bands like Iron Chic and Red City Radio. Live there was definitely a sense of these bands but The Run-Up's songs are so good it never comes across that they are ripping anybody off. Their sound is melodic with fantastic gruff vocals. I'm constantly amazed by all of the great bands that are in the UK scene. I think The Run-Up are up there with the very best. These guys are going to be massive!

Finally it was time for Forever Unclean. I've been a big fan of Forever Unclean since hearing their debut EP, Shreds, which was awesome but with Float the Danish three piece have really upped their game even more. I was fortunate enough to see them a couple of years ago (which I think was their first UK tour as a band) at Book Yer Ane Fest in Dundee and was blown away by them as a live band. Combining fast skate punk with a bit of a scratchy, indie sound, Forever Unclean had the entire crowd at the Unicorn hooked as they stormed through songs from both EPs. As good as the tracks from Shreds are it was the songs from Float that really got the best reactions from the people watching. It's safe to say that that EP will be on a lot of end of year lists. It was great to see the band having such a fun time on stage as well. It's clear that Forever Unclean are aware of how lucky they are to be able to go and tour another country and to be adored wherever they go. There's a playfulness about them on stage but also a lot of humbleness. Forever Unclean finished off a fantastic night of punk rock!

It felt like ages since I've gone to a small punk rock show so it felt fantastic to be back in the back room of a small pub. All five bands were fantastic and all got great reactions from the crowd. This was our first time at the Unicorn and I was really impressed. The floor space was a decent size, the stage management was superb with all the bands getting their allotted time without the show overrunning - considering there were five bands playing this was some feat and the sound for each band was superb. This was such a great night and one of my favourite gigs of the year so far.

This gig review was written by Colin Clark.

Album Review: Giantnormous by Zapiain (by Omar Ramlugon)

Yorkshire trio Zapiain describe this album on their label’s website with a comparison that neatly encapsulates the three cornerstones of their sound; “[…] fans of such 90s heroes as Jawbreaker, Leatherface or Samiam will once again find themselves in the sweetest of familiar territories.”[1] Without wanting to be unfairly reductive, it’s safe to say that is about as on the nose as I could describe them, but that’s intended as a compliment.

Chris Hall’s rough, low-register bark is mixed quite prominently in the mix, which was a smart move as his gnarled voice actually carries the songs with a bracing grit and fervour halfway between Frankie Stubbs and Blake Schwarzenbach, while the rhythm section of Chris Haigh and James Booth capably tear along, contributing vocal harmonies as and when appropriate. The guitars’ clanking grit is even a little reminiscent of Jawbreaker’s 24 Hour Revenge Therapy, mixing in some saw edged high notes among the growling barre chords to keep things interesting.

Opener ‘My New Home’ sets the bar high, with a slicing hook and satisfyingly meaty palm muted chugging, with Chris Haigh’s weathered roars of “Rock bottom / Every day” cutting through the din. Things don’t really let up from there, with the furious ‘Survivor’ and ‘Antimatter’ giving way to the slower ‘Shotgun’, which features tangibly bitter lyrics. Elsewhere, ‘Zapplecross’ is a bit of a ripper, as is ‘Sulk And Beg’, with its pointed lyric of “You can be the one to prove me right / By proving me wrong”. In spite of its stupid title, ‘Mislaid Eyes’ is another winner with barrelling crunchy riffs and power pop hooks abound, and ‘Sunrise’ ends the album on a sweet, soaring guitar solo to bring things home in riotous fashion.

Not everything works; ‘Without Warning’ loses itself a little and ‘Twin Geeks’ pales a bit in comparison into the strength of the tracks around it. But on the whole this is a solid, enjoyable effort, put together with heart and conviction. What’s not to like?

[1] http://bombedout.com/promo/zapiain/

Stream and download Giantnormous here: https://zapiain.bandcamp.com/album/giantnormous

Like Zapiain here: https://www.facebook.com/zapiainmusic/

This review was written by Omar Ramlugon.

Monday, 22 May 2017

Album Review: Crustfall by Days N Daze

Days N Daze are a DIY folk punk band – or thrashgrass band as they’ve sometimes labelled themselves – that originally formed as a duo in Houston, Texas, by Whitney Flynn and Jesse Sendejas, almost ten years ago. They’ve swapped and changed additional musicians over the years and put out more than 10 albums and splits, with the latest album, Crustfall, having been released in March this year.

When I was initially confronted with reviewing Crustfall I was a little apprehensive about reviewing an album with so many songs on it. What if they all sound the same? What if I start to repeat myself? I’m used to albums that have maybe 10–12 tracks, nevermind that I often review EPs as well, and this one has 16. However, upon listening to Crustfall for the first time I realised that this was a 16-track album with lots of variety. There’s something for everyone on this album, well every punk fan anyway. 

The first song of Crustfall is called I Wanna See It Burn and has one of the many guest lyricist/vocalists of the album, Juicy Karkass. The song is very raw, angry and fast. As you’d probably expect from a song about all the negatives in the world. It’s like getting punched in the face… in a good way. To Risk To Live (ft. Freddie Boatright) is a favourite of mine. It’s upbeat and features plenty of mandolin. The song is about avoiding the mentality that you have to life your life a certain way, ie. going to college and working hard to get a job like you dad and wasting your life away. Inspirational. Aspirational. ‘Don’t waste your best years, Just livin’ for somebody else, Don’t waste your best years, Just hidden behind a desk, Don’t waste your best years, They’re the only ones you’ll ever get, So why not play life closer to the chest.’

Note Idol is the third track of Crustfall and it starts with a decent amount of trumpet. It feels perhaps more Spanish flamenco than ska and gives the album a bit of a party vibe. ‘A house is not always a home.’ Saturday Night Palsy sticks with the trumpet, alongside guitar. This song has a super catchy chorus and is fairly melodic for two relatively raw vocalists. Where the past is the past, And what's done is done, And the only concern we have is having fun, Where the cops all turn their heads the other way’. The next track, Self Loathing, has a fairly lengthy musical intro showing some great musicianship. When the vocals do begin, the lines of the song are alternated between Whitney and Jesse. This is pretty self-deprecating song but it remains suitably upbeat. ‘And now I know myself a bit too well, And I’m not sure I like what I’ve become, Self loathing is overwhelming, Every mirror is a loaded gun’

Exhausted Insomniac is a cover of an RCI song – who Google informs me are a indie punk band from Ohio. I wasn’t familiar with the original until I looked it up but upon first listen to the Days N Daze version it did seem a bit different to the previous tracks so it wasn’t not overly surprising that it is a cover. The track somehow doesn’t have the same rawness as other Days N Daze songs but it was great nonetheless. They certainly put their own folk punk spin on it. Insta Mental Breakdown serves as an interlude of sorts. It’s a full length song (2 and a half minutes) but performed in a different style altogether. The lyrics feel like a spoken word recital rather than a typical song and the instruments seem like they’re more for theatrical effect than melody… until the end at least. Interesting.

The eighth track brings a great swinging motion to Crustfall. Devil’s Hour is quite Baltic-sounding song where Whitney takes the lead – previously it had mostly been the duo together so this was quite refreshing. The lyrics are venomous and passionate as ever with macabre images of graveyards and all other kinds of spooky shit being painted in my head. Jesse returns to join Whitney on Wholesale Failure, a furious anthem with more than its fair share of ‘fuck’s. ‘Everything’s so fucked it’s comical, Waking up’s a drag, And the worst parts that I know this isn’t even close, To how devastatingly bad everything is gonna get.’ The song has a really great ska-style breakdown – and I don’t just mean with horns – that I really wasn’t expecting. The tenth track, featuring a pun of the band’s own name in its title, is called Days N Daze Of Our Lives. The song is about someone who you thought was your friend but turns out to not be who you thought they were. It is angry and slightly offensive yet strangely feel-good. ‘You drive me crazy, You drive me to drink, I hope you drive your car off a cliff, You self obsessed asshole.’

Save A Life (ft. Joey Steel) is an anti-cop song – a protest song against all the police officers who have shot innocent people. ‘They don't serve and protect you, they'll kill and neglect you, to them their the boot you're the bug.’ The song has a great trumpet melody and also features a bit of that ska-influenced guitar that I loved in Wholesale Failure. Days N Daze pack so many words into the lyrics of their songs, especially considering most songs are less than 3 minutes long. I think this next song possibly has the highest word count of the album. Little Blue Pills Pt. 4 is a love song of sorts. ‘Love is just a breeze, In the middle of a hurricane, Restitch the timeline and I swear that we’d both go insane, Engaged to death got nothin’ left, But everything will be alright.’  The features yet another new instrument/sound, whistling, as well as a verse where Jess and Whitney sing slightly different lines at the same time. Is there anything they can’t do? World War 3 is the thirteenth track of Crustfall. Well, you can imagine the sort of subject matter of this song – riots around the world, cops killing innocent people, guns in schools. It’s scary but they’re not wrong. ‘The next world war is just around the corner, Blinded by the glitz and glam disease, Sirens wail the anthem of a generation frozen in apathy, You can’t just change the channel with the war at your doorstep.’

Anchor is a quieter track than many of its album mates (yes, I did just refer to a song as a ‘mate’). This is a harmonica and acoustic guitar driven sad song. Yet another different sound – not bad for the fourteenth track on the album. This song starts and ends with the same lines – ‘I got blacked out nights and tragic letters, Empty pockets distorted pleasures, This winters lasted years.’ There a lot of references to the fragility of life and death on Crustfall and that is very much the case for The Abliss. The song is about staying strong and above those negative mental feelings that you might have because there are people that care about you. ‘Life’s a minefield a treacherous road, Call me selfish but I don’t want to travel it alone, So burn the crutches and mend the bones, Cause we’ve still got so many miles to go.’ Finally we come to the album’s title track and album closer. It feels like Days N Daze give every last thing they’ve got with Crustfall – all of the instruments are there and both Whitney and Jesse are screaming their lungs out. Just when you think the song has ended, there is a surprisingly lovely musical breakdown before the final verse is sung more gently than before: ‘Well I know times running out, So before ya lay my body down, Before ya dress me up, Commit me to the ground, I wanna make sure that you know, I love you and thanks for putting up, With all my shit.’

Crustfall is available now from Sweater Weather Records and All We've Got Records and you can stream and download it from the band's Bandcamp, here. Also be sure to like Days N Daze on Facebook, here.

This review was written by Emma.

Friday, 19 May 2017

Gig Review: Frank Turner’s Last Minutes & Lost Evenings, Sensible Sunday (14/5/17)

The weekend of Friday 12th through to Monday 15th of May saw a new festival of sorts take place in Camden – a collaboration between OneFest, a not-for-profit organisation that supports talent development within the music industry, and Frank Turner. Last Minutes & Lost Evenings was a 4-day festival with events running throughout each day, culminating with a unique gig each night at the wonderful Roundhouse – headlined by Frank Turner, of course.

The first and last nights featured ‘Greatest Hits’ sets (which, to be honest, I wasn’t sure how that was any different from a standard Frank Turner show) while the Saturday saw Frank Turner and The Sleeping Souls performing ‘Sleep Is For The Week’, Frank’s debut album, in full – as it has celebrated its 10th birthday this year. However it was the Sunday that we chose to attend (partly because Sunday is the only day/evening of the four that Colin gets off!), which had been dubbed ‘Sensible Sunday’ after the infamous Nambucca club night.

Sensible Sunday was a night of stripped back and acoustic music featuring a solo Frank Turner, rather than being accompanied by The Sleeping Souls. Alongside Frank, there were five acoustic-based support acts in the evening across two stages within the Roundhouse. But before the evening event kicked off, there was plenty happening in other locations around Camden as well. 

With a busy start to our Sunday before heading to London (On a slow ‘fast’ train with no seats! Why are trains so rubbish on Sundays?!), we didn’t make it to Camden until Last Minutes – the prequel to Lost Evenings – was well under way. Heading first to The Roundhouse, we arrived just before 4pm and caught the latter half of Sad Song Co.. Sad Song Co. is a musical project of Nigel Powell, better known for being the drummer of The Sleeping Souls – Frank’s band. I hesitate to call it a side-project as it’s really just a different music endeavour entirely and one that Nigel has been working on on-and-off for as long as, if not longer, than he’s been playing with Frank – over 10 years. Sad Song Co. was performing on the Nick Alexander Memorial Trust (more about that here) stage and it was packed out when we arrived. I personally couldn’t see the stage very well but I just about worked out that alongside Nigel, who played guitar and piano, there was a bass player. I’d not listened to Sad Song Co.’s music before but I soon discovered that the music was a sort of atmospheric indie rock. I wouldn’t say it was exactly my thing but it was great to see one of the members of The Sleeping Souls doing his own thing and clearly doing it well. Although he’s a fine drummer too, of course!

After Sad Song Co. we stuck around to watch the next artist. Until a day or so earlier, it was supposed to be The Lion And The Wolf gracing the NAMT stage at this time but he had to swap his slot for an earlier one to get a train to Manchester for a second gig. I must admit I was pretty gutted about this as I love hearing Tom’s beautiful yet melancholic music live, but I will be seeing him at the end of the month on the acoustic stage at Slam Dunk South anyway. The slot switcheroo meant that we would instead be checking out a brand new artist, which although risky could also end up being great – and that new artist was Harry Pane. With just an acoustic guitar in hand, he instantly drew me into his songs with a great sense of storytelling. His vocals, and even his guitar playing as well, initially reminded me of the more traditional English folk musician, Seth Lakeman – who ironically played the previous night of Lost Evenings. Although after a few songs I thought that Harry was more bluesy. Either way, he had a lot of talent and I thoroughly enjoyed what I saw of his set.

We didn’t stay for quite all of Harry Pane’s set as I thought it would be a good idea to go and check out the other Last Minutes venue, The Hawley Arms, and see if we could catch a bit of Sean McGowan. Sean McGowan is one of those artists that I’ve heard good things about and know that I should check out… but hadn’t yet. So what better time to check him out! Unfortunately The Hawley Arms wasn’t a large venue, well it was a pub obviously, and the awkward layout of the second floor bar where the stage was set up meant that once the room was reasonably packed it was difficult to see. Not being able to see wouldn’t have been so bad if the sound was good but I have to say that that wasn’t all that great either. We could just about hear Sean’s vocals but the guitar wasn’t nearly loud enough. It was a shame for us but there were plenty of people closer to the stage that I’m sure loved Sean’s performance – we’ll just have to go and see him again as soon as we can!

Last Minutes, both at The Roundhouse and The Hawley Arms, finished around 6pm and then there was a half hour gap until doors opened (again) at The Roundhouse for the main event. We took this opportunity to go and grab some good ol’ Camden street food (word of advice: don’t go for the first Mexican place you see for a veggie burrito – they didn’t even wrap it in foil!). After filling our tummies and sheltering from a torrential downpour – it had been gloriously sunny all afternoon prior – we made our way back to the venue and joined the growing queue. As predominantly punk fans (Colin especially) we hate queuing – you don’t generally have to for punk shows, unless it’s like NOFX or something. There was a bit of a delay getting into The Roundhouse but we did at least manage to get inside in time to catch the first act of the evening over on the Nick Alexander Memorial Trust stage, Uri Sade. Uri Sade was not a name that either of us had heard of before and that wasn’t really a surprise when his set began and we realised his style of music was nothing like what we usually listen to – ie. not remotely punk. I don’t mean to say that I’m not willing to listen to something different, only that I might struggle to review it! What I will say is that Uri Sade had an amazing set of lungs with a voice to rival Matt Bellamy or Thom Yorke.

Soon it was time to set foot inside the main Roundhouse space, a stunning round (duh) room with plenty of floor space and a decently elevated stage, as well as a seated balcony. When I first got into going to gigs in London as a teenager (and generally went to see bigger bands than I do now), The Roundhouse was one of my favourite venues. Now I think it’s too big for my tastes but it’s still a wonderful space anyway. The Roundhouse also happens to be the venue in which I saw Frank Turner (and Chuck Ragan) for the first time so it was going to be special seeing him there again 7 years later. But before that, we had the two main supports to see and first up was Beans On Toast. Jay has been a close friend of Frank’s for a long time so for that reason alone it was no surprise to see him on the bill for Lost Evenings. But there is a more valid reason than that, Sensible Sundays originally took place at Nambucca, a pub in Holloway north London, where Jay lived, worked and played music – there was noone more perfect to play at the reimagined Sensible Sunday. Taking to the stage to much applause – after Koo Koo Kangaroo, American comedy duo come hosts for Lost Evenings, did their [weird] thing – Beans did a fine job of getting the crowd pumped up. He did the somewhat risky thing, particularly for a support act, of playing mostly new songs but it worked in his favour as they went down a storm. As well as playing songs, Beans shared stories of the Nambucca days including how he was on holiday in India when he got the call to say that the pub, and his home, was on fire. It was amazing to hear first hand. A particular highlight of Beans On Toast’s set was one of the new songs, a political number that was anti-May / pro-Corbyn – a view that was clearly agreed with by much of the crowd.

Beans On Toast was certainly a tough act to follow but the next artist gave it a damn good shot. Scott Hutchison is best known for being in Frightened Rabbit, an indie folk band from Scotland. Frightened Rabbit are actually a band that I’ve seen live before, several years ago supporting Biffy Clyro, but I can’t really remember them – at least I didn’t recall hating them though, eh? Scott obviously didn’t expect many people in the crowd to have heard of him or his band as he joked about it as soon as he mentioned the band name. However, I can safely say that I was surrounded by many people who did know the band as I heard them excitedly singing along. It was these enthusiastic fans that made me enjoy Scott’s performance all the more, especially as I didn’t know any of the songs myself. The melodic folky nature of the music was something that appealed to me as it reminded me of bands such as Band Of Horses, The Decemberists and Fleet Foxes – all of whom are bands that I love. Maybe Scott didn’t get quite the same enthusiasm from the whole crowd as Beans On Toast did but he did earn himself a new fan in me and I’m sure I wasn’t the only one that night.

Koo Koo Kangaroo returned to the stage to attempt to get the crowd to play a heads or tails game that involved sitting down – taking a leaf out of Frank Turner’s book I think. Thankfully the game didn’t last long – no offence to the comedy duo but we definitely just wanted Mr Turner by this point of the evening. At last Frank took to the stage, looking quite small as a solo figure upon the Roundhouse stage especially as most are used to seeing him backed by The Sleeping Souls. In fact, he said that playing the Roundhouse that night was his largest solo show to date after Reading/Leeds festival. It didn’t take long for Frank to prove just why he was able to stand on the large stage alone, demanding and receiving attention from the crowd in equal measures. 

Like Beans On Toast, Frank chose to kick off his Sensible Sunday set with a new track – or at least a not-on-any-album-yet track. The Sand In The Gears was debuted at a US show in January and the live video of it has thousands of views, so it wasn’t entirely new for most of the Roundhouse audience but it was certainly new for the weekend in Camden. The lineCan't I just spend the next four years at a punk show?’ resonated pretty nicely with myself and Colin. If you haven’t heard the song – go listen now! After that we were treated to a variety of tracks from Frank’s whole back catalogue, including a lot of ‘B-sides’ such as Tattoos, Hold Your Tongue and a cover of The Weakerthans’ Plea From A Cat Named Virtute (note to self: must listen to The Weakerthans some more). The variety within the setlist was great – I imagine it would have been even more special had I been to the previous two nights as well – and we were also treated to a number of different versions of classic songs, stripped back for acoustic guitar.

If you attended Frank Turner & The Sleeping Souls’ autumn 2015 tour then you may recall hearing the heart-wrenching rendition of Demons that was dedicated to Nick Alexander, who died in the Paris bombings days earlier. Nick was a friend of Frank’s and it was touching to hear him speak of Nick again and, of course, speak about the Nick Alexander Memorial Trust. The standout track for me, however, was one that came a few songs later, Heartless Bastard Mother****** a song I’ve never heard live before and don’t expect to again. It did a decent job of transporting me back to the first time I listen to Frank Turner some 10 years ago. We were quite lucky that it got missed off of the Sleep Is For The Week / Campfire Punk Rock setlist the night before really.

Generally I wouldn’t say that this set list contained too many of my favourite Frank Turner songs but it was great to hear some songs that I’d either forgotten about or never heard live before. I’ve been lucky enough to see Frank Turner & The Sleeping Souls live 15 times now, including a couple of solo shows too, which means that I’m always gonna compare a Frank live show to those I’ve been to previously. This gig was special as the overarching Last Minutes And Lost Evenings was a wonderful thing but it wasn’t one of my favourite Frank Turner gigs. I’ve actually come to question whether 15 times is enough and if I should quit now while I’m ahead. But then Frank Turner will announce a new tour and I’ll probably be buying tickets as soon as they go on sale.

I can’t explain it, I just love Frank Turner.

This gig review was written by Emma.

Thursday, 18 May 2017

Top Tens: Top Ten Bands That Colin Still Needs To See Live

Recently there was a game on Facebook where you had to name nine bands you've seen live and another that you hadn't and your friends had to guess which was the one you hadn't seen. I was far too cool to partake in such a game, I mean what kind of loser constantly lists ten things… hmmmm. Even more recently, Emma and I were talking with Robyn about bands we haven't seen live yet that we really wanted to. I've been very lucky in the past year to have seen many of the bands that I've wanted to for ages but never had the chance to before. I've also been very lucky with the amount of bands that I've wanted to see for a while that are playing UK shows in the next few months. That list includes the Descendents, The Planet Smashers, No Trigger and Flogging Molly. But there are still many more on the list - here's ten of them.

The Mighty Mighty Bosstones

Growing up as a fan of ska punk in the 90s there were three big bands - Less Than Jake, Reel Big Fish and The Mighty Mighty Bosstones, pioneers in the ska-punk genre since 1983! It's not very often that the band tour anywhere anymore ,let alone come over the UK. With such an impressive back catalogue of songs, the band can play anything they've written and a huge crowd of people would be so happy.

The Briggs

Way back in the early 2000s, Flogging Molly, the Street Dogs and The Briggs did a UK tour and swung by my local venue in Colchester, the Colchester Arts Centre. I had just started a new job and the gig clashed with one of my shifts. Being a young and conscientious worker I missed the gig and I've regretted it ever since. I've seen the Street Dogs a couple of times since and I'm seeing Flogging Molly next month but seeing The Briggs has always alluded me. This sucks as the band are one of the best street punk bands around and are responsible for so many of my favourite songs.

The Apers

The undisputed kings of European pop punk have been going since 1996 and have released a fantastic collection of albums and EPs during their long career. I've been a huge fan since hearing Almost Summer from the album The Buzz Electric back in 2003. The Apers are a band that are hugely underrated in the punk scene despite influencing a huge number of bands in Europe. If they've ever been to the UK since, I've sadly missed it but if they do find their way back to the UK, I will be there.

Hot Water Music

When Emma and I were having the original conversation with Robyn about bands we still haven't seen, Robyn was amazed that we had never seen Hot Water Music live. The Gainesville-based quartet are one of the most influential bands of their generation. Everything all four members have done, whether it be with Hot Water Music or any of their many side projects has been golden. Due to these multiple side projects, Hot Water Music is often placed on the backburner but the band are currently working on a new album so hopefully a UK tour is planned at some point around the album's release.

Dear Landlord

Dear Landlord are a pop punk supergroup from Minnesota and Illinois featuring members of Rivethead and The Copyrights. Anyone who loves the pop punk genre holds their album Dream Homes in the highest regard. It's fast paced midwestern pop punk that must be incredible live. I've seen so many incredible clips of Dear Landlord playing what look like amazing shows and I really want to be a part of that.

The Dopamines

This one was so close to happening. The Dopamines had a London show scheduled as a stop off on their way to play this year's Groezrock festival. Sadly they had to pull out of what would have been one of the shows of the year. The Dopamines, like Dear Landlord, are incredibly respected in the punk rock world and I can only imagine it would be a set of fists-in-the-air, sing-a-long punk rock mayhem.

The Vandals

The Vandals are one of the longest running bands in the world of punk rock. Forming in 1980, the four piece were at the forefront of the 1990s punk revival. Considering how long The Vandals have been around it seems absolutely insane that I'm yet to see them. Since releasing Hollywood Potato Chip in 2004 the band have toured sporadically, playing the odd show here and there but not playing many massive tours. They came to the UK in 2014 for Hevy Festival. They have yet to return. They need to return.

The Johnstones

I've mentioned before on Colin's Punk Rock World how obsessed I became with The Johnstones back in 2010, the summer I broke my leg and constantly listened to The Johnstones first two albums, Word Is Bond and Can't Be Trusted. Those albums kept me in a good place and never let my spirits drop. Since then they have released another album named Suck which is equally as awesome as their previous work. Sadly the members of The Johnstones are too busy working on other projects to dedicate too much time to the band but when they do get together it's always magic. When the band last toured the UK they got into trouble with the Millwall firm - I'm sure that's all forgotten now and we'd all welcome you crazy cats back!

Bomb The Music Industry

The last two bands on this list will most likely never happen, there is more chance of Bomb The Music Industry than the last band though. Punk rock superstar Jeff Rosenstock's former band had a very heavy emphasis on DIY punk rock ethics. This attitude, along with Jeff's exceptional songwriting and what I've seen on the You of Tube makes for some of the most enteraining live shows around. Watching the BtMI! documentary, Never Get Tired, really made me wish I could have seen the New Yorkers the first time around. But at least we still have Jeff Rosenstock's "solo" work.

Operation Ivy

This is a reunion that will never ever happen no matter how much the collective world of punk rock would love it to happen. Operation Ivy are one of if not the most important band in punk rock in the last thirty years, despite only being active between 1987 and 1989. They were one of the first bands to combine hardcore punk rock and ska and helped to define the Lookout Records era of San Francisco punk rock which spawned Green Day, American Steel, Screeching Weasel, The Mr T Experience and the Groovie Ghoulies. Of course Tim Armstrong and Matt Freeman went on to form another of the most successful and most beloved bands in the punk rock, Rancid. If you managed to catch Operation Ivy in the two years that they were a band, you saw history created. You're so lucky!

Honourable mentions go to The Lillingtons, Ann Beretta, The Mr T Experience, Screeching Weasel, The Queers, Slapstick, The Loved Ones…

This top ten was written by Colin Clark.

Wednesday, 17 May 2017

Album Review: Home by Primetime Failure (by Dan Peters)

A 90s kid handbook. A Disconnect Disconnect press release lands in my inbox and a smile hits my lips. I know that even if I’ve not heard of the band in question, these guys only associate themselves with great quality punk rock. The quality in this case is Primetime Failure. A band I know very little about other than the small blurb that accompanies the record. I’m promised, in a manner reminiscent of a Sega Megadrive advert, that my nineties skate punk prayers have been answered and I guess there’s only one way to find out whether I’m being lied to or not…

From the one note opening to the swift follow up drop I can feel the territory I’m in straight away. I’m immediately reminded of Fenix TX. Subject matter touching on revisiting old neighbourhoods, the bass breakdown in the middle eight, the ever so simple chord structure – everything here is specifically designed to set off a nostalgia trip, to a time when Jason Biggs was a star and All Star wasn’t just root of all memes. Luckily for Primetime Failure that is exactly the kind of teenager I was so it keeps me paying attention. Of course if you weren’t into the pulled up sports socks and ¾ length Dickies style of punk rock then there might not be a lot to keep you paying attention. I would say you’ll know for certain halfway through Home whether you’ll care to see this to the end.

The story here with every song is fairly similar. With every song selling so hard on that late 90s nostalgia nothing really finds a way to stand out from the rest of the tracks on the CD and indeed the rest of your collection. If you own some early Ataris, Fenix TX, Home Grown, Anti Freeze, Sum 41, Allister, Midtown etc. then you already know what you’re getting here. Primetime Failure aren’t going out of their way to be particularly original or veering from the formula. These guys are a band from Germany and over my many years of checking out bands I’ve noticed that European bands tend to be less interested in pushing the envelope musically and more interested in just playing music that sounds like the bands that they want to listen to. I spend five minutes looking through which shows are happening in their hometown and I can tell you that New Found Glory certainly aren’t passing through town anytime soon. Therefore if you love a certain style of band then you have to become that band.

This isn’t to say I think it’s a bad thing. On the contrary, I’m a firm believer in playing music that sounds like the stuff in your record collection. Every track is well produced and the guitar tones, vocal harmonies and sharp drums all mean that this will live proudly next to those Lit albums you got signed by AJ. If you love 90s pop punk and you’ve been jonesing for a new fix of exactly what you used to love then Primetime Failure have you covered. This is that great pop punk before all the bands got serious and grew fringes.

In conclusion, while not breaking any genre moulds Home by Primetime Failure is a fun, great sounding, well produced record that knows exactly who their target audience are – and they don’t really give a dried fig about anyone else.

Stream and download Home here: https://disconnectdisconnectrecords.bandcamp.com/album/home

Like Primetime Failure here: https://www.facebook.com/Primetimefailure/

This review was written by Dan Peters.

Tuesday, 16 May 2017

Album Review: Run by Ghouls (by Robyn Pierce)

The five guys who make up London-based band Ghouls aren’t afraid to strike out and do something a little different. The band blends together different genres - mixing ska, punk, pop, folk, rock and a bit of gypsy flair to create music with a distinctive Ghouls-y flavour. They’ve been around for a while and have received praise over the years for the innovative and fresh sound on their previous releases, so I was really keen to get stuck in and see what Ghouls’ latest full-length album Run has to offer.

‘Seasonal Affective’ is the first track on the album as well as the first single that Ghouls released off of Run. It’s a well put-together, midtempo song that compliments its worn-out and jaded theme with some grungy guitar tone and mournful vocals. Seasonal Affective Disorder refers to the condition in which your mood is adversely affected by the weather, particularly Winter when there is less light and the increased darkness can lead to depression. A friend of mine who moved from Joburg (one of the sunniest cities in the world) to London (wonderful in its own way, but much darker in the Winter months) knows this affliction all too well. It’s also a good metaphor for going through more difficult periods or phases in one’s life. I suppose what’s important to remember here is that, much like seasonal changes, these darker periods don’t last and very often improve with time. The song has good structure and melody, but it’s a little slower than I’d expected and the horns are noticeably absent.

My concerns about speed and ska-ness are gone as soon as I’m hit with the second track, ‘Autophobia’. The horns are back and so is some pace, although the dark mood introduced in the first song is continued, as ‘Autophobia’ focuses on loneliness and the destructive behaviour fuelled by it. The next two songs, ‘Better Places’ and ‘Facebook Friend’, are really top-notch pop punk tunes. Both deliver on great hooks (the horn phrasing in ‘Facebook Friend’ is a proper earworm) and some serious bass/drum magic (I’d really like to see Ghouls live just to watch the drummer and the bassist play ‘Better Places’). Lyrically, the band is still lingering over more difficult subject matter and dishing out some painful truths, refusing to feel too bad about there being “better places to be” and or to dismiss someone as “just another Facebook friend”. The guys in Ghouls seem to be looking to live openly and to make real connections, rather than get stuck in the half-life of fake or virtual friendship.

Moving into ‘Salt’, I’m really beginning to notice how well-produced this album is. Everything is skilfully layered, balanced and blended. This isn’t simple up-stroke ska or straight-forward pop punk, and the horns are used cleverly to fill out and bolster the sound or to add little surprises you may not have been expecting. It’s also around this point in the album that Ghouls begin to remind me of We Are the Union, except that the vocalist in Ghouls has such a prominent British accent that the band can’t really be compared to anyone in the U.S. ‘Salt’ and the track that follows it, called ‘The Difference’, are also excellent. Six songs in and Ghouls really seem to be hitting their groove with great melodies and rousing guitar (and that delectable dollop of horns on top). The next track, ‘Home’, picks up the pace again and adds a bit of folksy twang in a song about following what may appear to be a dead-end dream. It’s been a long time since I heard a band that is so straight-forward and honest in their lyrics – the anxiety about continuing to play in a band even as you get older is palpable here, and I believe the vocalist in ‘The Difference’ when he sings “I’m barking like a dog, because I refuse to be a sheep”.

Following on from this is ‘Antagonist’, which combines a fun, jiving guitar riff with a poppy chorus, and a slow-building song about ‘Hard Days’. I love the bass line at the beginning of ‘Hard Days’, but it’s just one example of the bass sorcery happening all over Run. The album then begins to wind down with the anti-love ballad of ‘Disavowal’ and the mostly acoustic track ‘Expect Greater Things’. ‘Expect Greater Things’ is a real jewel of a song; it begins with raw acoustic guitar and the Ghouls’ vocalist singing the horn section’s “Dada, dada, da dada da dada”, and then the rest of the band swells and comes in to fill their parts. It’s a little like listening to the life of song from the early writing stages to its final production. ‘Oxytocin’ provides a strong ending to the album with some sweeping horns and jittery, grooving guitar.

On the whole, Run seems calmer and slightly darker than Ghouls’ previous albums. The guys have moved on from the faster-paced drinking songs to more solemn topics and the music has also matured. Even looking at the cover art for Run I’m struck by how much more modern it looks with HD photography and clean lines – a new direction from the animated covers of their previous albums. I really like what Ghouls have achieved with this record; Run is a very well-made album with great songs that builds on their distinct sound and pushes it to new places.

Stream and download Run here: https://ghoulsuk.bandcamp.com/

Like Ghouls here: https://www.facebook.com/ghoulsuk

This review was written by Robyn Pierce.