When I think about awesome punk bands from the UK who don’t anywhere near enough attention one that immediately springs to mind is Lancashire’s Don Blake. This four piece pop punk band who formed in 2012 have just released their new album Pocket Universe on Round Dog Records. I excitedly check it out.
Opening track Can’t Turn It Off really caught me by surprise. I was expecting a full on pop punk assault with guitars going super fast. What I discovered was quite a restrained track where the band shows more focus on the lyrics rather going at 1million mile per hour. That being said, I loved this more restrained version of Don Blake. Can’t Turn It Off is about worrying about bad things and trying to find a way out of your own head. The second song Is It Fixed? is as good a pop punk song as you will find from any band on the planet. The tempo in the song is upped but there still feels like the Don Blake boys are holding back from really exploding into life. The song is actually incredibly serious. It’s about someone who committed suicide and asking questions wondering if everything is now better. Hopefully this isn’t a true story. The Plan is another absolutely brilliant song. Completely shifting melodies between chorus and verse it feels like they’ve moulded two songs into one and creates and really interesting sound.
The fourth song King Of The World has a great intro that builds nicely before the vocals kick in. The song is about being the boss of your own life and knowing it’s the right place to be. I loved the two lines in the chorus that read “I’m Here Where I Belong, All Insecurities Are Gone;” really relatable lyrics. Things You Should Have Dona And Should Have Said is played at a higher tempo than the previous songs and is all about the power of hindsight and learning from your mistakes. The music of the song has a Millencolin skate punk feel to it, which combined with lead singer Joe’s melodic pop punk singing create some pop perfection. More traditional buzzsaw guitars open up the next song Towing Chain. The pace of this song doesn’t really slow down for a second as Joe sings about needing to escape from home. He uses the metaphor of home feeling like being in a grave during the chorus – “I’m Just In Over My Head, About Six Feet To Be Precise.” Existential Horror takes us to the halfway point of Pocket Universe. This is quite a downbeat song about how essentially every single person’s life is really just a speck of dust in the grand scheme on the universe and how all your wonderful life experiences don’t really mean a thing. A nice cheerful song.
Every Day begins with a cool little drum intro before jumping into one of the catchiest songs on the album. The whole song makes you want to sing along with the band as they play a song about putting up with that person who talks a good game but in truth is all words but no action, everybody knows someone like that. Any Better is another of my favourites on the album and takes an approach that you don’t often here in pop punk. The song is only a minute and a half long and the first fifty seconds of the song is all music. It builds brilliantly into an explosive fist in the air pop punk anthem. I thought this song would have been a great way to start the album off and would be a great opener for Don Blake live sets. Song number ten returns to a more melodic pop sound. Don’t Know When is about over thinking things, and asking if life will ever get easier. As someone who suffers sometimes with social anxieties I really relate to the lyrics “But That Feeling Never Really Goes Away, Where Gravity Never Really Takes A Split Second Break, When My Brain Assesses The Success Of Any Conversation.” At just one minute and five seconds long Where Else Would I Want To Be? is the shortest song on the album. It’s a fun little song about home towns, the good times of doing the things you loved as a youngster and the awkward times of when you meet an old acquaintance from school and trying to avoid the conversation of “what have you been doing since school?”
The twelfth track on Pocket Universe is named Take The Hint And Just Go Home. This song is about making the best of life and always trying to have fun. This is another mid-tempo pop punk song, not reinventing any wheels but still being incredibly enjoyable. Don Blake know exactly what they are good at and really seem to focus on perfecting it. The penultimate song Ticking Boxes is all a song all about spending too much time over thinking choices you’ve made and living to regret them. I’m wondering if one of the Don Blake boys has some kind of career in mental health as many of the songs on this album seem to be about the subject. It’s good to see a band cover such a topic as I’m sure there are many people out there listening to Don Blake who suffer from similar ailments. For some reason when I heard the opening riffs of final song Give It A Try I was reminded to the hit Automatic Song Monster. This pop rock anthem is a slower song that really makes you want to chill out. That is until we get about two thirds of the way through and the intensity of the music increases and the drums get hit harder.
I really enjoyed this different take on the pop punk genre from Don Blake. It proves that you don’t have to play super fast and sing just about girls to create great pop punk records. This is a mature records full with great musicianship and mature, well written songs. Excellent work.
Stream and buy Pocket Universe here: https://donblake.bandcamp.com/
Now listening to Smile Now, Cry Later by Voodoo Glow Skulls