Wednesday, 30 March 2016

Album Review: War & Pieces by Lead Shot Hazard


Lead Shot Hazard are a six-piece ska punk band from London who describe themselves as a cross between two of the most beloved ska punk bands of all time - Capdown and Streetlight Manifesto. With those kinds of influences I was interested to hear their new three-song EP War & Pieces, which was released in January.


The first song on War & Pieces is named Current State Of Play. It starts with some upstroke ska guitar and some fantastic horns, giving you get a feel for Lead Shot Hazard's sound straight away: horn-led ska punk that's up-tempo and will get you moving. Current State Of Play is a song that talks about the poor state of today's society. Topics such as homophobia, politics and class are among the subjects touched on during the track. Something I really enjoy about Current State Of Play is how there seems to be music coming from everywhere in the song. It gives the song a big boost of energy because it's hard to know what's coming next. The second song on the EP is Safe From Harm. Safe From Harm has a nice reggae feel to it whilst still being very brass heavy. There are a few melody shifts during the song that stop it from getting stagnant and there is a great musical interlude, in which the brass players especially can really show off their talent, which builds towards a big ending. Safe From Harm has a feel of 90's third wave, ska punk, clearly another big influence on the band. I love it too. The third and final song on War & Pieces is titled Grids & Markers. The track starts out with a deep bass line and some trademark ska guitar. Then the horns come in and it makes me think of a big group marching into battle. There is a nice variety in the song, being contained during the verses before bringing the tempo up for the choruses. Grids & Markers is about supporting the scene you're in no matter what people think of it. Ska is often seen as uncool but there are so many bands and fan still so passionate about it and this track could easily become an anthem for how we feel.

War & Pieces features three ska punk songs that are all quite different in style. This is fantastic because many people often dismiss ska and punk as all sounding the same and that's quite simply not the case. Lead Shot Hazard are one of a number of supremely talented bands coming up keeping the ska scene alive and well.

Stream and Download War & Pieces here: https://leadshothazard.bandcamp.com/

Like Lead Shot Hazard here: https://www.facebook.com/LeadShotHazard

Tuesday, 29 March 2016

Album Review: Painkillers by Brian Fallon


Brian Fallon is always going to be best known for being the singer (and guitarist) of New Jersey’s The Gaslight Anthem. With such a distinct and recognisable voice, it’s easy to suggest that everything else he does also sounds like The Gaslight Anthem (I think he’s at least just about escaped the comparisons to Bruce Springsteen now though… maybe). So, like many others, I was sceptical about how much I would like his debut solo album. I love[d] The Gaslight Anthem but I didn’t want Brian’s solo material to sound exactly the same. I have to say, I was pleasantly surprised.


Painkillers was produced in Nashville by Butch Walker, known for his work with the likes of Fall Out Boy, Weezer, Taylor Swift and more recently Frank Turner’s Positive Songs For Negative People. In short Painkillers a very much Americana-based singer songwriter affair featuring pedal steel guitar, banjo, mandolin, piano and organ, alongside the standard guitar, bass and drums. In parts, of course, it does sound like The Gaslight Anthem but it also nods towards Tom Petty and Ryan Adams, much more so than Bruce Springsteen.

The album starts with a bang, or rather the crashing of drums and jangling of guitars, with a song called A Wonderful Life. The song was released as a single long before the album itself and I really did love it from listen. It’s a catchy track and a great album opener, but most of at it has a very positive feel. It sets the tone for much of the album which unlike The Gaslight Anthem’s last album, Get Hurt, is very much feel-good.

The next three tracks keep the positive vibes flowing and are all equally as good. The title track, Painkillers, is not as you might imagine about medicinal painkillers but instead it’s a good ol’ love song. The chorus reflect this; And we want love like it was a drug, All we wanted was a little relief, And every heart I held in between, They were painkillers to me.’ Painkillers is followed by Among Other Foolish Things which is one of my favourites, if only for the ridiculously upbeat and bouncy chorus; ‘And they say such foolish things, like "Love, love, love, love is all you need”’. The fourth track, Smoke, is the perfect song for clapping and foot stomping – something I imagine I’ll be doing come the 8th of April when Colin and I see Brian Fallon on his UK tour.

Steve McQueen, the fifth track on Painkillers, is probably my least favourite song on the album. It’s a much slower song focusing on Brian’s voice and the lyrics (most of which are about Steve McQueen and his racing horses). I just didn’t connect with it like the previous songs, although the finger-picked acoustic guitar is nice. Luckily the album livens up again with Nobody Wins, another bright track complete with singalong hallelujahs in the chorus – although thankfully not in an overly religious-sounding way. Rosemary, the next song, is probably the most Gaslight-like song – and fairly early Gaslight at that – but with added (I think) glockenspiel. Can you imagine The Gaslight Anthem up on stage with a glockenspiel player?

Red Lights is another of my favourite tracks – alright, alright, most of them are my favourites – and a great one to nod your head or tap your foot along to. I love the chorus; So yes I will take those, Whatever else they give me, If it stops the nightmares, It probably won’t kill me, And if I slow it down I’ll end up on one of my accusers' knives, So I only stop to tell her that I love her at the red lights’. It also has a lovely bit of pedal steel guitar at end – proper country music style! Long Drives is another of the slower tracks on Painkillers with more pedal steel guitar and a heartfelt chorus; ‘But you said, “I’m alright, Baby, I don’t mind, I’ll get on just fine, On them long, long drives”’. Honey Magnolia continues the slow pace, as the album draws to a close, this time with a more piano-heavy sound. It’s pleasant enough but it feels like Painkillers needs one final kick by this point.

Fortunately the penultimate track, Mojo Hand, is more upbeat and even has a bit more of a raw sound than the preceding songs, particularly in Brian’s vocals. It’s also one of the most americana-sounding songs on the album, and probably most unlike Brian’s previous musical endeavours. It’s the kind of song that as soon as I heard it I thought ‘My dad will like this one.’ – and he does! He says it reminds him of Tom Petty and the Travelling Wilburys (folk/country super group that included Tom Petty) in particular. It is definitely one of the standout tracks on the album. The final song, Open All Night, is a simple one, fairly stripped back with mostly acoustic guitar aside from the melodic albeit short guitar solo in the middle. I feel like the ordering to Painkillers has been particularly well thought out – which I find is not always the case with albums – and the closing track on Painkillers is certainly a perfect end to what really is a very good album.

I read a comment somewhere that said something along the lines of; On The Gaslight Anthem’s last album, Get Hurt, Brian was clearly a rather unhappy man (the clue is in the title) but with Painkillers it sounds like he’s found a way to be happy again. I don’t want to make a habit of copying what other people say, especially when I can’t actually remember who said it, but I think that sums it up for me too.

I recommend buying the album from Banquet Records (or, y’know, you can stream it on Spotify or whatever) here: http://www.banquetrecords.com/painkillers

Thursday, 24 March 2016

Top Tens: Tim Louds Top Ten Punk Rock Influences


Hi, I’m Tim Loud, an acoustic punk/ antifolk musician from Leeds, I’m delighted to have been asked to say 10 of my top punk influences as I love talking about myself from an autobiographical perspective. This isn’t a definitive top ten, I’d probably give a different list if asked at a different time. But for now, here goes…


Bob Dylan
I realise he is probably not considered to be a punk act. But for me, punk has always been about an attitude, a desire to protest and do whatever the fuck you want, regardless of what anyone else says. And that’s what Dylan does, for me; he embodies that attitude and that state of mind.

Offspring
A lot of the music I got into when I was younger filtered down to me from what my brother listened to. I remember hearing Smash When I was 10, and apart from the swearing which I obviously thought was great, I found the music really accessible, I liked the fast rhythms and the hooks, I think at least one song off my latest album is overtly influenced by them as I’ve started getting back into the music of my youth in a bid to try and avoid feeling old.

Green Day
Again, Dookie came out when I was about 10 and I liked the nihilistic, defeatist lyrics (although I didn’t know what nihilism was at age 10). And the references to drugs and sex I thought were cool, because I was 10. I don’t really care that much about what they’re doing now, I’m not into stadium rock shit, but the first few albums were, and still are, great to me.

Pennywise
Fucking fast drums, political lyrics, big chanting singalong shit. I’m sure everyone can relate to Bro Hymn. Not much else to say, I just like it.

Billy Liar
I first met Billy through a stage I ran at Strummercamp festival, I thought his recordings were OK and I put him on under the recommendation of the guys from TNS. I was amazed and enamoured as soon as I saw him live - you can’t put into words the energy and aggression he has until you’ve seen him live. He’s taught me a lot about stage craft and that shit as well. He’s just great.

Kultur Shock
I used to play in a band that did all Balkan, pirate, diddly shit. I always hoped we’d eventually get round to sounding like Kultur Shock, but we never did, but that’s Ok, because there is still Kultur Shock to sound like Kultur Shock… Kultur Shock. They have a healthy balance of self-awareness, political anger and self-mocking and they have some fucking great melody lines and themes in their songs.

Elliott Smith
This is another choice that may not be considered punk in a traditional sense. But he did a lot of DIY shit at the start of his career and I just like his stuff. I like the idea of being able to record entire songs where you play everything on it and the song-writing is so complex and yet complete and natural sounding because it’s the vision of one individual person. He made me focus more on harmonies and using the voice as an instrument. It’s good.

Red Hot Chili Peppers

This is the band that made me want to play music. The first CD I ever bought was Blood, Sugar, Sex, Magic and I had to sneakily remove the parental advisory sticker without anyone seeing because I’d been into the shop the week before and the guy had refused to sell it to me because it wasn’t suitable for an 11 year old. That album is a masterpiece and I will fight anyone who says otherwise. They put up with some serious shit in their early years, the 15/20 years before they were the stadium rock band everyone loves to hate now, and it gives me hope that if you keep doing what you love then it’ll come good in the end.

Nine Inch Nails
Just fucking love it! Seen them a few times, it’s another case of one man’s vision coming through the music. I love his attitude to his fans and the music industry as well, good shit.

Cypress Hill
I was well into hip-hop when I was about 13-18 and this stuff has stuck with me. I loved the Bones album and how it fused together the rap and metal thing in a far more convincing way than any of the Nu-metal bands of the time ever did.

Tim has a new album coming out which you can buy here: https://timloud.bandcamp.com/

Like Tim Loud here: https://www.facebook.com/LoudTim

Wednesday, 23 March 2016

Album Review: Weightless by Resolutions


Weightless is the new album from German five-piece melodic punk band Resolutions. It comes out on February 26th on Fond Of Life Records and Resolutions are a band I've wanted to check out properly for a while so when I got the chance to give this album a listen I was very excited.


The first song on Weightless is named Machines and it begins with some great dual guitars and a big drum beat before the singers vocals come in in a way that really makes you want to sing along from the very first listen. You've all heard this style of punk rock now; mid-tempo punk rock with a raspy vocal a la Hot Water Music. For Resolutions the vocals, whilst still be fairly raspy, come across as quite poppy, which is great as it sets Resolutions apart from other bands in the genre. Second track Waxman starts with some big vocals that really grabbed my attention. As with a lot of melodic punk rock, the vocals often do the job of providing the melody of the song and this is certainly the case here. Waxman is a song that will have you singing from beginning to end with a great big smile on your face. I'm reminded of Bad Religion on the following song Quicksound as it could easily be legendary front man Greg Graffin singing this song. Sounding like one of the most successful punk bands ever is no bad thing though. There is a maturity in the sound here, knowing when to hold back and then exploding at the right moment.

Up next is a song called 8 Arms. This is a fairly short song but gives Resolutions’ lead singer a chance to really show off the strength of his voice. I really like the tempo of the song; it's slightly faster than the previous tracks and this adds a degree of urgency to the song. Up To All starts with a nice bass line accompanied by a pounding drum and some subtle guitar chords before the singer's powerful vocal really gets things going. Something I really enjoy about both this song and the album is that the songs feel like they would work both in a small club and in a much larger venue. Worst Magician is one of the stand-out songs on the record. On this track Resolutions really ramp up the Hot Water Music style punk rock with some fantastic dual guitars and some great gruff, gravelly, raspy vocals. It's also the only song on Weightless that goes over the three-minute mark. It's paced perfectly, sometimes on shorter songs it feels like the band tries to include too much in too short a time but happily that's not the case on this track. I love the guitars on next track Flat Landscapes. The chords give out a lot of energy, which, along with the passion from the singer’s voice on the track, really help it stand out. The ending in particular stood out with the guitars and vocals going off on different melodies to create a very interesting sound.

After some crunching guitars at the start of the eighth song Twins there is a feeling of containment throughout the track. The song does well not to explode into life despite often feeling on the cusp of doing just that. For the first time on the album a second vocal is introduced for the chorus, adding a wonderful new element to Resolutions sound. Not On Time is a fantastic, high-energy track that falls more into the realm of pop punk. From the opening guitars to the final vocals the track doesn't slow down and this really gives the whole album an extra bit of life. Song order is very important on albums, you need to make sure the whole thing flows nicely and doesn't begin to drag towards the end. Not On Time is so uplifting on the album as well as a single song on its own. There is a proper feel of a fists-in-the-air anthem to the song. The tenth and penultimate song is called Monotower. The intro to the song is a nice, slow build before Resolutions really get going with some more booming vocals. There is a great maturity to the song; it really feels like Resolutions are a punk band for the older, more grown up punk as well as for a younger audience. I guess at the age of thirty I now fall into the older punk group. Finally, Weightless is completed with the song Daily Train. This feels like a final song – it pulls out all of the stops to make another fantastic song with big drums, fun guitars and some more singing-along. I really enjoyed the chorus with the extra vocals added. They're subtle but add another dimension to the song. Group vocals always go down well with me, they makes me feel included and that’s always nice.

There are so many fantastic new bands I'm discovering from mainland Europe, Resolutions being one of the ones I've heard the most about. They are definitely worth the hype. Yes, a lot of bands are doing the gruff melodic Hot Water Music punk now but that's by no means a negative thing. Especially when it's as good as Weightless.

Stream and download Weightless here: https://fondoflife.bandcamp.com/album/weightless

Like Resolutions here: https://www.facebook.com/weareresolutions

Tuesday, 22 March 2016

Art of Punk: Milo


This is Milo. Milo is a caricature of Descendents’ singer Milo Aukerman.


As a punk rock fan, you’ve probably seen him around before. Whether you’ve listened to the whole of the Descendents back catalogue (I admit, I haven’t listened to all of it myself) or you’ve just seen his face, in one of its many guises, on a T-shirt you probably recognise Milo. You may not have even seen the original Milo as he has a face that pop culture and punk bands alike seem to be endlessly finding new ways to repurpose. Needless to say, Milo is one of the most iconic yet simplistic band logo-come-mascots and album cover designs of punk rock.

The original Milo character was first drawn in the early 1980s when Milo Aukerman and Bill Stevenson, Descendents drummer, were at high school. But the famous Milo image wasn’t drawn by Milo or Bill themselves, it was drawn by a classmate of theirs, Roger Deuerlein. The caricature of Milo was born in the form of comic strips and posters that were an attempt to make fun of Milo for being a nerd. However instead of giving in to taunts and criticism, the band took Roger’s Milo caricature and made it their own.


The first, and probably most famous, Milo character was used on Descendents’ first album, Milo Goes To College (1982). Rather than asking Roger Deuerlein to draw the character – he was aferall an ignorant bully – they got Bill’s friend Jeff ‘Rat’ Atkins to create his own interpretation. Atkins recalls saying,Okay, what kind of Milo do you want?' So I draw him a Milo. First was the crew neck T-shirt, then I drew the polo shirt Milo, then I drew the Milo with a tie, because he goes to college. Bill goes 'Oh, that’s it', and it becomes the cover of the first record.

Meanwhile Milo, the caricature, went on to become a sort of mascot for the band. He is featured on many of the band’s other releases, including the 1996 album Everything Sucks (read Colin’s 20th anniversary review of the album here), and on numerous amounts of Descendents merchandise and promotional materials.


I particularly like the inventive T-shirt designs they’ve had over the years, many for specific shows or festival appearances – see the Groezrock 2014 waffle design below.

 
  

Milo Goes To College was titled such because Milo Aukerman did indeed go to college. He never stopped being a so-called nerd and not only has a degree in biology but also a PHD in biochemistry. Now, I’m not even sure I know exactly what biochemistry is – I’m a graphic designer – but for a punk that’s pretty darn cool. And that’s one of the things that I love about the Milo character, it embraces nerdiness and conveys the message that you don’t have to be afraid to be yourself.

As I love an excuse to create a new Art of Punk board on my Pinterest account, I’ve started gathering together Milo-themed images. This includes Descendents originals and Milo parodies. My favourite of the latter category is the IT Crowd Milo – Moss Goes To University. Brilliant.

Monday, 21 March 2016

Album Review: Everything Sucks by Descendents


If anyone follows me one Instagram (@colinsprw) you will know that recently I got the Descendents album Everything Sucks on vinyl. Looking at the fantastic artwork for the album I realised that Everything Sucks is twenty years old this year. That makes me feel so old! To celebrate I decided I'd look back at one of the most iconic albums of the past twenty years.


Everything Sucks was the Descendents first album since 1987's All. Everyone knows that there was such a long gap between albums because legendary lead singer Milo Aukerman took a long break from the band to become a Research Biochemist. In the mean time drummer Bill Stevenson, bassist Karl Alvarez and guitarist Stephen Egerton formed the band ALL. Though ALL were a successful band in the own right they will always be the band that aren't the Descendents so when Milo rejoined the band and Everything Sucks was released by Epitaph Records there was a lot of excitement.
Everything Sucks opens with the track Everything Sux. In true Descendents fashion there is a self-depreciating humour in the song. Milo's vocals are full of punk rock energy as he screams his way through the song. This is the perfect song to start the album, with its fast pace and insanely catchy lyrics. The Descendents were back and they were holding nothing back! I'm The One is the first of two singles released from Everything Sucks. The song is about knowing the girl you like is perfect for you but getting frustrated because the girl can't see it (we've all been there). All the punks can relate to the lyrics "Nice Guys Finish Last, No-one Knows As Good As Me, We're Just Good Friends, You Come To Me For Sympathy". Musically the song isn't as up-tempo as Everything Sux, relying more on melody to grab the listeners attention, which does work brilliantly. It wouldn't be a Descendents album without a song about Coffee. That comes along in the third song - Coffee Mug. It's thirty-five seconds of fast, fun and ferocious pop punk where Milo tears through the song explaining that all he needs in life is coffee. Up next is Rotting Out, a more melodic, mid-tempo song about not airing your problems with your family and it slowly making your relationships worse. Something I've always loved about the Descendents is that despite the countless bands they've influenced no other band sounds like them. Probably because no one will ever come as close to sounding anywhere near as good as them. Sick-O-Me begins with some trademark Stephen Egerton guitar playing - he's so fast and technical. Sick-O-Me is about starting a new relationship and hoping that the girl doesn't get fed up of you too quickly. One verse in particular really stands out during the song - "Relationships Deteriorate, I've Seen It From The Start, Easy As It Is To Fall In Love, It's Easier To Fall About I Won't Let It Fall Apart".

The sixth song, Caught, begins with one of Karl Alvarez's trademark bass lines. Alvarez is one of the most underrated bass players around, constantly creating unique and interesting lines. He's also an amazing songwriter and is the primary songwriter on Caught. Caught is about the idea of not being guilty of committing a crime if you've not been caught. When I Get Old is the second single to come from Everything Sucks. This is one of my all time Descendents songs and is the one I always play tp people who haven't heard the band. I think this is one of the most accessible tracks the Descendents have ever released; the tempo is much slower and the song really focuses on the fantastic lyrics. When I Get Old is about growing up and wondering what life will be like. There are so many great lines in the song that I could quote in this review but I think if you've not heard the song you should just go check it out yourself and immerse yourself in its brilliance. Original Descendents guitarist Frank Navetta wrote the next song, Doghouse. The tempo and aggression is upped considerably on this song as the sweetness in Milo's voice is transformed into spite. Doghouse is about being stuck in a life that you really hate but not seeing a way out of it. There are a lot of imagery lyrics in the track comparing the life to that of a dog - "I Live In A Kennel That Smells Like Rotten Cheese - this is a metaphor for living in a rubbish house. She Loves Me is another personal favourite of mine. The song is about having someone love you when you don't reciprocate the feeling. I like that the Descendents and Bill Stevenson in particular wrote a song like this as very often in Descendents and pop punk songs in general it's from the perspective of unrequited love. I really enjoy the changes in melody between the chorus and verse, switching from catchy pop to intense punk rock effortlessly. Fantastic stuff! The tenth song on Everything Sucks is Hateful Notebook. This track has a bit more of a dark feeling to it and Milo's vocals are much more restrained, almost like he's telling a story rather than singing a song. It's still as catchy as the plague though and you'll be singing along instantly.

We is the name of the eleventh song on the album. It's a slow paced love song with the message being "it doesn't matter if we have nothing as long as we've got each other”. This might seem quite gut-wrenchingly sweet for the most hardened of the punks but the Descendents never come off as cheesy when they write songs like this. Eunuch Boy is a short song (only twenty seconds) that sees the Descendents at their immature best. It's a song about a boy who had an accident with a lawnmower and chopped off his penis. The childish side of me still giggles at the lyrics "Don't Laugh At Him Cause He Can't Piss Straight, He Can't Even Masturbate". Only the Descendents can go from a sweet love song to a juvenile song about a Eunuch and pull it off. Up next is the song This Place and it’s a song about being stuck in a job that you hate. Who can't relate to that?! It's a fast-paced track with Stephen Egerton's guitar especially standing out throughout. It also has the simple but brilliantly catchy chorus of "This Place Sucks". I've never had the pleasure of seeing the Descendents live but I imagine hearing this song played live is very cathartic. The penultimate song on Everything Sucks is I Won't Let Me. On this song the Descendents revert back to their more mid-paced, melodic style. It's the Descendents so of course it's another song about girls but this time Milo is reassuring his girl that despite anything he's done in the past he won't let his girl down. The final part of the song is an extended chorus of "You Know I Won't Let Me Let You Down" with some fantastic harmonies included. The final track on the album is named Thank You. Written by Karl Alvarez it's a song thanking music for making everything better. One lyric in particular really stood out to me - "When I Feel Weak You Make Me Feel Strong". It's kind of interesting that the Descendents would write a song like this, as normally I would imagine that it'd be the fans thanking the band for making their music.

The Descendents are without a doubt one of the most influential bands ever in punk rock. Without them so many bands would never have existed, bands like The Offspring, Green Day and Blink-182 who have become household names all over the world just would not be around if not for the Descendents. They are truly innovators. Like I said early in the review, it's interesting that despite being such an inspiration there is nobody that really sounds like them. That's how good the band is as individuals and as a collective; nobody can come close to being as good as the Descendents. They are wrong about one thing though, not Everything Sucks, the album Everything Sucks definitely does not suck.

Friday, 18 March 2016

Manchester Punk Festival 2016 Preview (Part 3)


This is my third and final preview of the second Manchester Punk Festival, which is happening on the 21st-23rd of April. Check out the first and second previews here and here.


Black Volvo
Black Volvo are a three-piece punk rock and roll band from Amsterdam. One of the highest regarded bands from mainland Europe, Black Volvo are going to get a big and raucous crowd for a highly anticipated set. TNS Records released their album Once We Were All Wolves in 2014.

Edgarville
I like acts that do things a bit differently and that definitely describes Edgarville. The two-piece from Blackburn are just an acoustic guitarist/vocalist and drummer but they have created one of the best albums of the year so far with the brilliant Fingerprints & Handwriting. Expect a powerful and passionate performance.

Emma Hallows
Emma Hallows is a folk player from Manchester. Influenced by the likes of Apologies I Have None, Crazy Arm and Sam Russo, Emma writes honest, heart-warming, acoustic punk that really catches the attention.

Jake and the Jellyfish
After first seeing Jake and the Jellyfish for the first time last September I've been hooked on the Leeds based four-piece. Combining folk, reggae and punk rock the band have created a fantastic sound that will get you dancing and singing and generally having the time of your life. Their album Dead Weight is one of my favourites from last year.

John Player Specials
Adding a ska and reggae sound to the festival are local act John Player Specials. Expect a high energy and hugely skankable set from this seven piece. The John Player Specials will be a fantastic change of pace for the festival that is made up of largely punk rock bands.

Luvdump

Luvdump are a five-piece punk/ska/reggae/dub act originally from Suffolk before relocating to Manchester and Liverpool a couple of years ago. They play some very danceable political punk rock music. I can see Luvdump gaining a lot of new fans at MPF 2016.

No Contest
No Contest’s biography says that they were raised on a diet of Epitaph Records and Fat Wreck Chords, which is kind of enough for me to be interested in checking the five-piece from Grimsby out. This is some fast and furious skate punk at its finest.

Only Strangers
Following in the footsteps of the army of fantastic gruff punk bands in the UK are up and comers Only Strangers. The band from Stoke on Trent are one I've never seen live before but am really excited about. This will be a big sing-a-long fist in the air party. The band are also playing a bonus Lawrence Arms cover set that will be a big highlight of the festival.

Tim Loud

After getting the opportunity to get a early listen of Tim Loud’s new album What Am I? I am incredibly excited to see him at MPF. If his live performance is anywhere near as entertaining as he is on record the crowd at the festival is in for a real treat. A must see!

Woahnows
Woahnows were one of the best live bands I saw in 2015 so I'm really looking forward to seeing them again. The three-piece for Plymouth have just released a new single via Specialist Subject Records named Person Up/Mess that is just brilliant. Playing fast, catchy and infectious indie punk, this will be a very energetic set.

For more information go here: http://manchesterpunkfestival.co.uk/site/

Thursday, 17 March 2016

Top Tens: Lauren Mills of Dying Scene/For The Love Of Punk's Top Ten Punk Rock Influences


This weeks top ten punk influences comes from a young lady from Florida named Lauren Mills. Lauren writes for Dying Scene and For The Love Of Punk and loves punk rock music more than anyone that I know so thought it was only right that she did a top ten punk rock influences.

1. Sick of it All – There isn’t much that I could say about the importance of this band that hasn’t been said before. People will tell you to never meet your heroes because you’ll be disappointed, but in punk rock I’ve met my heroes and had the honor of becoming their friend. It’s unfortunate that some people have negative misconceptions about hardcore just being for boneheaded tough guys because that couldn’t be further from the truth with Sick of it All. They are socially-conscious, kind people. I have been a fan of their music since I was in middle school. I am a pretty negative person, but Sick of it All’s music makes me feel empowered to take on whatever life throws my way. They’ve been in the game for 30 years. You would imagine that after that amount of time they would be become jaded towards younger bands, but they haven’t. They are the definition of lifers and when I watch them crush it live, it makes me want to apply that work ethic to my own life.

https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=G1wQFnM2OL8

2. Bracket – In my opinion, Bracket are one of the most underrated bands of all-time. If you do know who they are chances are that you know them from the song “2RAK005” and their Fat Wreck Chords days. While I love the light-hearted, zany vibe in their early work, I’m way more partial to their album “Requiem”. It is hands down my favorite punk record of all-time. They pushed the envelope of what was acceptable in our genre. Their lush, multi layered harmonies and unique arrangements are incredible. Their lyrics tend to be sad, introspective and self-depreciating, but I find them to be therapeutic and beautiful. I wish that more people where into Bracket, but at the same time, I’m happy with our little Bracket cult.

https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=BaJi6RwV2gE

3. The Gamits – I’m not even sure where to begin with this one. Because of my Cerebral Palsy and inability to drive, I don’t get out much. Because of this, I use the internet to find like-minded people and make friends. I live in a small town in central Florida called Port St. John. It is extremely religious and right-wing, so there aren’t any punk rockers around here (that I know of). I’ve always felt out of place for a number of reasons, but luckily, I can use the internet to communicate. One of the people I’ve been internet pen pals with over the years is Tom Petta of Bigwig. He showed me The Gamits during one of our many conversations about music and I was blown away. I soon became obsessed, snatching up every album by them that I could find. Their front man, Chris Fogal is one hell of a lyricist, song-writer and human being. Every album they put out is perfect. Fogal also runs a recording studio in Colorado called BlackinBluhm, where he works with a ton of great local and internationally touring musicians. Ironically, unbeknownst to me, years later I would later write for the zine For The Love of Punk, headed by their bassist, Johnny Wilson. My friendship and love for them has blossomed over the years and they’re a large reason I’ve stuck around. To commemorate their impact on my life, I got a Gamits tattoo. Last year, my dream came true and I was able to finally meet them and watch their set at Fest. Never say never, kids. Every time I look at my tattoo, I am reminded of the good in the world and that I’ve got true friends despite being isolated from society in my everyday life.

https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=m84-oGR8hxk

4. Bigwig – My next choice is pretty obvious. When I was first getting into punk rock, I gravitated towards the skate punk sound due to Fat Wreck and the Tony Hawk video game soundtracks. Although it is a genre that will always have a special place in my heart, icons like Bad Religion, Strung Out, NOFX, Good Riddance no longer hit me the same way they used to. I feel like bands/fans of it are content in releasing the same sounding records over and over. Bigwig are a cut above the rest in my opinion. Nobody mixes metal, hardcore and punk rock better than they do and they do it in a way that is cohesive and not cheesy. Seeing the awful trend of Tumblr popular easycore bands like Chunk, No Captain Chunk, A Day to Remember, etc who are terrible mall metalcore makes me appreciate their abilities even more. The wait for the follow-up to “Reclamation” is killing me. Get on it, boys!

https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=OcmMP2mTbw0

5. Gob – Another band I have a huge amount of respect for is Gob. They were popular in Canada for a while, but never got a fair shake in the states. Their album “How Far Shallow Takes You” will always be my favorite GOB record, but they are another band that tries something different every album. Some fans dislike their later releases because they are more commercial sounding, but I think they’re good at whatever style they incorporate.

https://youtu.be/EubLjyW3PbQ?list=PLaLZu3DYfowjRCQcc2vOEVndT2hk7Iqfc

6. Green Day – Green Day is a divisive name in punk, but without them I am not sure if I would have found my way into the punk world. I’m not a fan of their releases past American Idiot (which is even too far for most punks) but, like many people my age, they were my gateway band. I am a sucker for pop-punk. “Insomniac” is my favorite GD record - it’s fast, snotty and encapsulates what it’s like to be a lonely, weird kid. I hear the phrase “angst” thrown around a lot when describing music and it drives me nuts. Angst is lazy short-hand for anything that expresses uncertainty and is usually pinned on teens. The truth is that we all feel lonely, discontent, unsure, etc no matter what age we are. The feeling is the same, but the coping mechanisms and scenery we’re placed in changes. How dare you attribute the entire spectrum of human emotion to a single word and age range!

https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=fevGo3H5840

7. Off With Their Heads/Anxious & Angry – I’m a huge fan of Off With Their Heads and Ryan Young’s podcast, Anxious & Angry. For the majority of my life, I’ve struggled with severe depression and anxiety. It’s something that I used to feel ashamed of. During my high school years when MTV emo was popular, it became trendy to be “sad” or whatever. The word depression was misused and it made it hard to accept that I actually had a serious problem. I didn’t want to be an attention seeking emo kid. The fact is that normal sadness and clinical depression are two different things and should not be taken lightly. His mental health podcast made me feel more comfortable being myself and being more open about the things I face. It has brought a lot of troubled people together and made us feel less alone. I’m sure Ryan is sick of playing this song live but, there isn’t a song that explains my experience with depression as well as this song except maybe “Everybody Knows You’re Crying” by Mr. T Experience. https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=CX-_Xll0aC8

https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=qOum_DlqOrk

8. The Shell Corporation – I never intended this piece to be one big friendship namedrop piece, but the fact of the matter is that my friends are everything to me and the friends I’ve made in this scene is why I continue to love it. Around 2009, I met Jan Drees through MySpace when he played in a band called Majority Lost. He quickly became one of my closest friends. Majority Lost disbanded and Jan started his own band with Curtiss called The Shell Corporation. While in this band he came into his own and was really able to let his vocal and song-writing ability shine. It’s been fun to watch them gain fans over the years because I can’t think of many people who deserve it more. When he’s not playing in a band, he pursues his dream of flying. He’s now a licensed pilot and I am so proud. He joked with me that for my 25th Birthday, we should get best friend bracelets. He is the Han Solo of the punk scene. Team Shell Corp for life.

https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=ezKlDzqj-8Q

9. Up For Nothing – I believe so much in these dudes. They’ve been kicking ass for ten years and just keep getting better. Check out their new record, “Swindled” They’re a positive, fan band, but of course my favorite song is their most negative one. Haha.

https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=mqsAfM1ZSHg

10. The Flatliners – The Flatliners have been around a long time, but I still think of them as a new band. Lol. “Cavalcade” is a modern classic in my opinion. It’s musically dynamic and has fantastic lyrics. It’s also nice that Chris Cresswell is a punk singer who can actually carry a tune.

https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=ZPUusLU4fzk

(Because Lauren is awesome I let her have an eleventh choice)

11. Alkaline Trio – Alkaline Trio are an amazing band. I’m a sucker for a band with two singers. I think it makes the band stronger and more diverse. I enjoy the clever wordplay and ability to use dark imagery to explore themes of love, alienation, substance abuse and more. They have a perfect mix of somberness and a sense of humor. Fans like to argue over who writes better songs, Dan or Matt. I like Matt wrote stronger songs in their early days, but on their later records, Dan reached the top of his game and stole the crown. For the life of me, I can’t figure out how his songs like “In My Stomach,” “Broken Wing” and “Sun Burns” didn’t make their records. These days Matt seems like a caricature of himself in his lyrics. “In My Stomach” may be my favorite trio song of all-time.

https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=g4T6OyTf-qs

Wednesday, 16 March 2016

Album Review: Protection by Face To Face (by Dan Peters)


I’m not going to waste your time with preamble or build up. This album is incredible and I love it. If you don’t like reading then, other than asking you why you’d click on a blog link in the first place, I say accept my love and go buy Protection right now.


For those who might need just a bit more persuasion to add this to the top of your album of the year lists I’ll continue. Face To Face have done a nigh on perfect job here in recreating everything that fans have always loved about them and turned up the dial another quarter notch. Ironically for an album with a song specifically about sitting in the middle of the road musically (Middling Around) I find this the most accessible of all of their offerings. I don’t say that as a bad thing, instead I find that they’ve crafted something so fine that I can’t imagine your genre preferences would stop you from listening to and enjoying this record.

Face To Face keep their same self-effacing-yet-socially-conscious style, which in manly respects parallels fellow Fat Wreck Alums No Use For A Name. If you haven’t ever heard Face To Face before but are in love with NUFAN offerings such as Hard Rock Bottom and The Feel Good Record Of The Year then you can feel assured you’ll be in safe hands here. This is something that has all the hallmarks of a classic hallmarks of a Fat Wreck album; the super charged riffs, the blisteringly fast pace, but with a shine and polish that sets it above all but the greatest of its peers.

Song wise, opener Bent But Not Broken is your new favourite punk tune in the world, a technical marvel with instantly lovable melodies and a pro activism message that should click with anyone with left leanings. You also have woahs in the chorus to round off what I’d consider a damn near perfect skate punk tune.

It’s nothing like downhill from there though, with even slower tunes such as Say What You Want being powerful and bringing about goosebumps. Being compelled to listen the entire way through an album is a great sign of an exceptional one in my opinion and this is certainly the case here, another special shoutout going to ending tune And So It Goes, which is as full of power and as fun to listen to as the opening song. There’s no filler here, just great tunes that will have you keeping this on repeat.

I realise I started with my conclusion but it’s fine, I can do it again since I can’t gush about this record enough. This is the best thing Face To Face have ever produced, not only that but it’s at least as good if not better than anything anyone has done in recent memory. Your life will be a better place with this album in it. Stop reading now and go listen.

Stream and download Protection here: https://facetofaceband.bandcamp.com/

Like Face To Face here: https://www.facebook.com/facetoface

Tuesday, 15 March 2016

Album Review: Fuck It Dude, Let's Get Wasted by Rivershores


Once again, here's another instance of me being very late to the party! This time it's German punk rock band Rivershores, who put out their album Fuck It Dude, Let's Get Wasted on Shield Recordings and Uncle M Records in January 2015. Straight away I want to say how much I love the artwork on the album, but as it's Emma's job to talk about artwork I'm just going to stick with saying that I think it’s cool and instead talk about what I think of the music.


Die Laughing Instead is the name of the first song on the album. It uses some guitar feedback and a fun, rumbling bass line to start the song before a "1,2,3,4!" starts the track properly. They play melodic punk rock with gruff vocals in the vein of Iron Chic and Red City Radio and I can already imagine the band being extremely well received live. The change to a slower pace to finish the song is great, it makes me want to learn the words so I can sing with the band. The second song is titled Dreamer/Ruiner and starts off at a great pace. Beginning with just guitars and vocals, which really draws you in as a listener, it makes you want to get involved with the band. The vocals dominate the song, really leading the melody. There is a great breakdown during the song that is accompanied by an audio clip where a man speaks about being sick of being on your own before a big finale where the band sing a great chorus of "I'm A Dreamer, I'm A Ruiner". The third song is the stupidly long titled If I Was Marty McFly I Would Go Back In Time And Beat The Shit Out Of My Mind. This song starts slowly and has a bit of a sombre feel to it. The slower pace of the song really allows the melody to shine through, it's kind of a smooth but bouncy journey through the song before it builds towards a big middle section that ups the intensity for a fantastically big gang vocal ending.

28:06:42:12 is another slower paced song but it starts with some fun guitar chords and some pounding drums. The tempo of the song doesn't really change too much during the track but it does build towards a nice big ending with some really powerful and emotional vocals. This song really allows the band to show off their skill with their instruments, with some great drums and a fantastic guitar solo. This leads into the penultimate song A Cynics Smile. This is my favourite track on Fuck It Dude, Let's Get Wasted. After some slow building guitars to get us underway we are treated to some great fast-paced vocals that again make you want to sing along and the whoa-ohs in the chorus really make you want to throw your fists up. The small break down that leads into the final verse and chorus is a particular highlight. The album is completed with a song named Headache Over Heartache. There is a great series of highs and lows in the song which really helps with keeping my attention. It makes me wonder what's coming next constantly. I enjoyed the changes in vocal styles as well; sometimes choosing a cleaner pop punk vocal before switching into the gravelly style. This gives the song a whole lot more passion and energy.

Fuck It Dude, Let's Get Wasted shows that Rivershores are one of the best of the many, many, many great punk rock bands in mainland Europe and need to be checked out.

Stream and download Fuck It Dude, Let's Get Wasted here: https://shieldrecordings.bandcamp.com/album/rivershores-fuck-it-dude-lets-get-wasted

Like Rivershores here: https://www.facebook.com/rivershorespunk

Monday, 14 March 2016

Album Review: Inconsolable by Warm Needles


Another album I'm extremely late to the party for was Warm Needles’ 2015 album Inconsolable. Warm Needles are a band from Long Island, New York.


The opening track on the album is called Dig My Grave. The song begins with some great guitar chords before the lead vocalist begins to sing. He has a throaty voice, similar to Matty Jo Canino from RVIVR. This is some excellent fists-in-the-air sing-a-long pop punk that sets up the album nicely. The second track on Inconsolable is No You Hang Up. It starts quickly with "I Still Think Of You, I Try To Forget You Everyday, The Complete Paranoia Of Seeing You Again, Are You Running Into My Friends, Cos I'm Running Into Yours". Clearly this is a break up song. The lyrics are hugely relatable, everyone has had those feelings at some stage of their lives. Musically the song is a chugger; it never really goes into high gear but it still manages to pack some punch. I imagine that this song goes down especially well at a Warm Needles gig with its great potential for singing along. FML starts with some gentle cymbals before being joined by some crunching guitars. Like the previous two tracks it's fully focussed on big fists-in-the-air sing-a-longs. The strain that comes from the singer’s voice helps give the track some emotion and gives the listener more reason to care about the song. There is also a great guitar solo midway through the track that serves as a build for one last big chorus.

Kneewalker is the title of the fourth song on Inconsolable. The tempo feels like it has been raised on this track, which comes as welcome change for me. It's still pretty simple pop punk music but it's oh so enjoyable. The chorus is one that will get stuck in your head for day as the singer goes "Everything Is Awkward, Everything Is Awkward Now" over and over again. Fleshed Out is a shorter track that begins with some fast buzzsaw guitars before the singer’s gravelly-styled vocals come in to carry the melody of the song. Lyrically the song is fairly repetitive but sometimes this is fun. The constant calls of "Bury Me" will be in your head immediately and will allow you to sing along with the song from the first time you hear it. Bed Weather starts with a much different style musically to what I've gotten used to so far. It's a lot slower and there is a lot of feedback used with the guitars that creates some great effects. The whole song goes along at a slower pace than the previous songs, which I thought was good - variety is always welcomed on a pop punk record. That being said, there are still plenty of hooks and another extremely catchy chorus to get stuck in your head, like all great pop punk songs should have. Ghost Holes sees Warm Needles go back to a faster paced tempo. There is an awesome use of gang vocals and harmonies throughout the song that gives the track another fun element to go along with another catchy chorus.

The eighth song is called Gutted. I can really imagine this song being played by The Queers with Joe Kings surf pop punk style of singing. It also works fantastically well with the Warm Needles singer’s gravelly style as well though. The crunching guitars at the beginning of the song really caught my attention and the chorus of "It Would Have Been Easier, It Would Have Been Easier On You" is another that will be embedded in your memory very quickly. Team Individuality starts out with more distorted guitars, which makes for a more serious sound. The song is about how everyone deals with bad things that happen in different ways. The example Warm Needles use is hiding away in your room. Something I've often done. I like that the band have tackled such a topic, it's not something I've ever known a pop punk band to do before so all credit to Warm Needles for that. The tenth and penultimate song is Dried Up. This is an excellent, fast-paced pop punk song that will really get a crowd going, it's another that really caught my attention and is a highlight on Inconsolable. There are so many great moments to shout along with the band and to throw your fists in the air. The faster pace adds a new element of aggression into the song, which is very welcomed by this listener. Inconsolable is finished with the song Severed Clean and is another big highlight on the record. After a reasonably lengthy musical introduction, including a nice rumbling bassline, we are treated to a great mid-tempo sing-a-long finale. Severed Clean is about cutting away the negative things from your life and feeling better for it. The line "Cut The Pain Right Out Of Me" is a great one and is one of my favourite choruses I’ve heard in a while. The ending of the song is great too with the whole band shouting "Cut, Cut, Cut, Cut, Cut, Cut, Cut, Cut, Cut, Cut, Cut, Cut, Cut!" after a excellent building musical interlude.

All in all Inconsolable is a very catchy pop punk record. The vocal style really helps set the album apart from a lot of other bands in the genre. I can see Warm Needles progressing to become one of the biggest bands in the genre.

Stream and download Incolsolable here: https://warmneedles.bandcamp.com/album/inconsolable-lp

Like Warm Needles here: https://www.facebook.com/warmneedles

Sunday, 13 March 2016

Album Review: From Caplan To Belsize by Muncie Girls


Muncie Girls’ debut full-length is an album that I, and I’m sure many other fans of British punk music, have been eagerly anticipating for a long time now. They’ve been a band for several years and have released 2 EPs (Revolution Summer (2012) and Sleepless (2013)) and 2 splits as well but until now no full length album. After my first listen to From Caplan To Belsize and speaking to Colin about it we thought it would be a good idea for me to [attempt to] review the album. After all, with a frontwoman and a lot of feminist lyrical content it makes sense for a fellow female to write the review. Or at least try to…


Released by Specialist Subject Records, From Caplan To Belsize is filled with powerful tracks, both musically and lyrically. With a combination of pounding drums and bass plus Muncie Girls’ classic catchy melodic indie punk guitar, the music is overlaid with a gorgeous voice and some brilliantly inspiring lyrics.

Learn In School, the first song on the album, does what an opening track should and sets the standard for the rest of the album. Lyrically it is about growing up and not trusting or relying on everything you learn in school/work – or indeed anywhere you’re supposed to learn stuff – and I imagine there’s an underlying message of not trusting the government in there too. There is also a nod towards feeling comfortable in the underground punk scene, which I’m sure many of us can relate to. ‘All my faith felt let down and that’s perhaps why we feel safer underground’.

Learn In School is by no means a slow song but the second track, Gone with the Wind, is a definitely fast catchy punk tune at its best. At 2:18, it’s the shortest song on the album and even features some ‘oh oh oh’s towards the end – pure punk rock. The song is about that feeling of wanting to escape and distance yourself from others for a while but not always following through. ‘I thought of cutting my hair and moving away, I always change my mind the very next day.’

Respect is, in my opinion, one of the standout tracks on the album. It says exactly what a lot of people – male and female alike – think but perhaps don’t voice; that abuse and misogyny is not okay. ‘It’s so easy to pretend that this doesn’t happen in our society.’ Lande’s lyrics have always been excellent but this is proved even more so on From Caplan To Belsize, and with Respect in particular. The song manages to be ridiculously catchy whilst broadcasting a very important message. This is what should be playing on the radio and listened to by today’s teenager, rather than pop songs with horribly degrading lyrical content! The line ’For the next few years you can laugh and joke about your next victim, But when you’re all grown up and your daughter cries you’ll be sorry you did this.’ is incredibly powerful.


The next track, Balloon, is the reason that the stage at Muncie Girls’ Lexington show last week was adorned with red balloons. Well that and the fact it was the album release party, I suppose! The song itself is slower than the previous tracks on the album but no less punchy. Balloon is about waiting for something to happen in your life and blaming yourself when things don’t work out, even though others don’t necessarily feel the same. ‘Maybe it’ll happen someday, maybe it’ll happen soon.’ / ‘Everyone knows that it’s not your fault, Everyone knows but you.’

Social Side starts with a melodic and somewhat melancholic riff – which oddly reminds me of The Cure – that develops throughout the song and compliments Lande’s voice beautifully. Lyrically Social Side is a very personal song with Lande reflecting on how members of her family have influenced her and helped her, particularly when she was feeling lonely or out of place growing up – something I’m sure most of us, punk fans especially, can relate to. ’My loneliness is in remission.’ / ‘To my brother, you taught me guitar, And you know I’d start a band with you if you didn’t live so far.’

From Caplan To Belsize is definitely an album of strong messages. Nervous is probably one of the most political songs on the album and it encourages listeners to be politically active themselves. The song reflects on David Cameron, the way this country is run and decisions he has made – such as the NHS. ‘You wouldn’t look them in the eye, You just laughed until you took what you needed.’ The song also features a pretty sweet guitar solo from Dean, accompanied by Luke’s crashing drums.

Gas Mark 4 is an example of a song with fairly dark and melancholic lyrical content – ‘Girl 21 found dead alone, Three weeks later on the kitchen floor, Oven still on, Gas mark 4.’ – but an uplifting melody and, I’m going to say it again, catchy lyrics. Ultimately it is a song about not giving in to anxiety and negative feelings, and that you’re not alone in feeling low. ‘Didn’t think it through, Just like everything I ever do.’


Starting with some classic punk rock palm-muting, I Don’t Want To Talk About It is an instant singalong – and I know this for certain because I’ve witnessed it live. As the title suggests, the song is about not wanting to discuss topics such as politics and sexism but knowing that such things should be viewed as important. The line ‘I wonder why people are more concerned with celeb weight gain than the way our country’s run.’ is certainly a pretty apt reflection of Britain today… but Muncie Girls are striving to change that, one song at a time!

There’s no denying that, as a female-fronted band, Muncie Girls have strong feminist views and rightly so. The penultimate track on the album, Committee, sees Lande reflect upon the female figures and movements that have influenced where we are today. But the song also expresses the message that there is still more to be done. ‘We still have a debt that we need to repay to the suffragettes who have paved our way. And they like to think times have changed, We’re not represented in parliament or pay. Our voices are lost in a masquerade, And now we have to fight to have our say.’  Committee starts slowly before the chorus kicks in and the guitar and drums become heavier, almost urgent, to further press the need for action.

No Recording is the perfect end to an poignant album fuelled by a motivation to stand up and make a change. ‘On a good day I’ll learn something new, But mostly I’ll just crave the truth. Brushing up on my conflict of facts, Trying to understand how to react. Our government’s as bad, They still lie to us all.’ Another political track but far from a rant, No Recording is passionate punk rock song that demands to have the truth.

From Caplan To Belsize is an incredible debut from a talented bunch of songwriters. Muncie Girls are a band that deserve every bit of attention they are getting – including their five K review from Kerrang magazine. Some punk fans might say that appearing in Kerrang is ‘selling out’ but if their music can get to a wider audience then why the hell not? We need more songs like these in the world.

You can stream, download and buy physical copies of From Caplan To Belsize here: https://munciegirls.bandcamp.com/

And find Muncie Girls here: https://www.facebook.com/munciegirls

Saturday, 12 March 2016

Gig Review: Muncie Girls Album Launch at The Lexington 8/3/15


Another week and another album launch show. This time it was Exeter three-piece Muncie Girls’ launch show for their Specialist Subject Records release From Caplan To Belsize. The gig was put on by the brilliant 176 Records at the Lexington in Angel with a superb support line up featuring Colour Me Wednesday, Iona Cairns and Apologies, I Have None.


As we entered the Lexington we were pleasantly surprised to see that the stage had been decorated with red Muncie Girls balloons. This added to an already growing party atmosphere. First up was Iona Cairns (frontwoman of Shit Present and bassist of Great Cynics) doing a rare solo set. Having seen Iona a few times with her two bands I was really looking forward to this. The first thing that really struck me with her set is just how good her voice is. It's always been clear she has a good voice but hearing it with just an acoustic guitar was something else. Whether she was singing softly or belting out some big punk rock vocals she had the whole room listening so intently and loving the entire set. Playing a small mix of Great Cynics and Shit Present songs and a couple of unreleased tracks, Iona showed just what a brilliantly talented woman she is.


Up next were a five-piece indie pop punk band from Uxbridge named Colour Me Wednesday. Colour Me Wednesday are a band I've been aware of for a little while now but have never taken the time to listen to. I was immediately impressed with their up tempo set. With there being five members of the band it meant there was a lot of energy coming from the stage that made its way into the crowd, as did the smiles that were permanently on Colour Me Wednesday’s faces. One thing I particularly liked about Colour Me Wednesday was the dual vocals from sisters Harriet and Jennifer Doveton, whether they were swapping lead vocal duties or effortlessly harmonising it was just a treat. The set was full of catchy songs, including a few from a split release with Spoonboy, and they really caught the attention of the entire room. It was also nice to look at the crowd and spot Muncie Girls’ Lande singing along with the band.


Regular readers of this blog will know just what a big fan of London's Apologies, I Have None I am. This was my tenth time seeing them, making them the band I've seen more than any other band (tied with Less Than Jake). In the previous nine times I've always finished the set with a big smile on my face and a really sore throat - this time was no different as Josh and the boys stormed through a set made of mostly of songs from the classic album London as well Raging Through The Thick And Heavy Darkness Of A Bloodlust from the Black Everything EP and a couple of new songs from an album that is hopefully due for release at some point this year. One thing that particularly stood out on the second of the new tracks was the drums. Joe Watson does a fantastic job and I stood in utter amazement watching him perform the song. That new album needs to be released very soon! If you've not seen AIHN yet then shame on you, go catch them on tour with The Smith Street Band in July.


Finally it was time for the stars of the night - Muncie Girls. Last week saw the release of their long-awaited debut album Caplan To Belsize and the Lexington had sold out to celebrate. It also happened to be International Women's Day, I did wonder if the organisation of the show on this date was entirely coincidental. I'd not actually listened to the new album before the gig, deciding to wait until after the night to listen to it so I was hearing a few of the new songs live first. They did not disappoint! Never straying far from their upbeat, bouncy pop punk sound, the new songs fitted perfectly into the set. There is a fantastic, uplifting feel to many of the songs that makes you feel like everything will be okay. Clearly the crowd at The Lexington had had the songs that were released before the album came out on repeat as there was as much dancing for them as there were for Muncie Girls staples such as Kasper and Randow, Railroad and for the encore of The Ramones classic Pet Cemetery. Muncie Girls have had a lot of love from big music publications like Kerrang this year and it's becoming quite clear that they won't be playing venues the size of The Lexington for much longer; much bigger things await the amazingly talented threesome. Following on from the likes of Gnarwolves and Moose Blood, Muncie Girls are another big success story to come out of our scene.


Buy Caplan To Belsize here: http://shop.specialistsubjectrecords.co.uk/products/562208-muncie-girls-from-caplan-to-belsize-lp-cd-tape

Friday, 11 March 2016

Manchester Punk Festival 2016 Preview (Part Two)


This is my second preview of The Manchester Punk Festival that is happening on the 21st to the 23rd of April. Over sixty bands have been announced for the festival, here's the second batch of bands that I'm super excited to see.


Apologies, I Have None
I don't believe that there is a better band in the UK than London's AIHN. One of last year’s headline acts, they return to the festival and will no doubt blow the roof off the place again with their angry sing-a-long punk rock. Expect some old classics and, I predict, a healthy dose of small songs from the upcoming split EP with Australia's Luca Brasi and a new full length album. 2016 is shaping up to be a massive year for the band.

Brawlers
Brawlers are a band I wasn't aware of before they were announced for the festival but I have since checked them out. The West Yorkshire based four-piece play punk-tinged indie rock music that is full of energy. Brawlers are a band that help prove the genre of punk rock is a very varied world.

Break-Ups
How I've never seen Break-Ups live is beyond me. They seemingly play a lot of shows in London but I've not managed to catch them yet. The three-piece play indie punk rock with some absolutely fantastic harmonies.

The Cut Ups
The Cut Ups are a five piece band from Exeter who I've been aware of for ages but have never really checked out. Festivals are the best places to check out bands you haven't before and The Cut Ups are certainly one that I will be making a big effort to see.

Darko
I first saw Darko at last year's festival and was completely amazed by their technical melodic punk rock. Their performance was just something else, really energising the crowd at Sound Control and I am really looking forward to them doing the same this year. Expect a powerful and passionate performance from these touring machines.

Don Blake
One of the best of the UK's current pop punk scene. Last year the Bolton based three-piece released one of my albums of the year with Pocket Universe. This is some really thoughtful pop punk music with plenty of songs that touch on the subject of mental health. I'm expecting an uplifting and fun sing-a-long performance.

Harker
Harker are a four piece from Brighton who recently released a brand new EP named A Lifetime Apart on Paper + Plastik Records. Playing their own brand of acoustic-led, anthemic punk rock, this four-piece are phenomenal live and really bring their music to life on stage. The music is heartfelt and honest and will get you singing loud with your fists in the air.

Sombulance
Sombulance unfortunately had to pull out of last years festival so it is fantastic to see them announced again for 2016. The Portsmouth based band are heavily influenced by Fat Wreck Chords skate punk but also add in a very technical style.

Throwing Stuff
If you really want to see a crazy and chaotic punk rock show, then Throwing Stuff are definitely a band you need to check out at the festival. The songs are short-and-fast blasts of hardcore punk rock with lyrics about the South being okay and hating your job, Throwing Stuff are a band that need to be seen to really appreciate their greatness.

Zatopeks
When the Zatopeks were announced they instantly became the band I was most excited to see. The five-piece pop punk band hailing from Berlin via London combine 50's rock with Ramones style pop punk to great effect. Their 2007 album Ain't Nobody Left But Us is for me one of the best pop punk albums ever made and their two follow ups, Damn Fool Music and About Bloody Time, are not too shabby either.

 For all the information go here: http://manchesterpunkfestival.co.uk/site/

Thursday, 10 March 2016

Top Tens: Andy from Dead Neck's Top Ten Venues in Mainland Europe


Andy from Manchester based touring machines Dead Neck gives us his top ten mainland Europe venues.

1. Surfer Joe's, Livorno (Italy)
It's a good little upstairs tiki bar venue in winter but in summer you get to play on the big stage, directly on the beach, facing the sea. The sound and crew make this place the real deal. I've never seen it not busy and been pissed and stoned every time I've visited. Check out Inconsapevole Records who are building an independent record shop/distro in the building and regularly book touring artists. This provides a proper stamping ground for an array of brilliant local bands.

www.surferjoe.it
www.inconsapevolerecords.com

 
2. Cross Club, Prague (Czech Republic)
The quirkiest, maddest club I have ever come across. Always full, proper party atmosphere, dinner from the brilliant veggie/vegan friendly menu, as much Czech beer as you can drink and you can skin up and smoke freely anywhere in the place. Go or play there if you get the chance.

www.crossclub.cz/en


3. Club Gromka, Metelkova, Ljubliana (Slovenia)
A small club in a big squatted complex of other clubs, workshops and bars - a good party in a place where there’s normally lots of people. Check out Giljotina Records, who like to get you fucked up and treat you in the real Slovenian way.

www.metelkovamesto.org
www.giljotina.org


4. Stara škola, Novi Marof (Croatia)
A detached building that's been (properly) acoustically treated inside and sounds good. It's hard not to play pissed here so there's no point trying. Friendly party loving locals who want to get wrecked with you until daft o'clock the next morning. My cup of tea!


5. Terminal 1, Codogno (Italy)
Has a micro-brewery! It's called Brew-Fist and they brew Italian ale which you get to drink all night (as much as you can). It's one of those pubs that just commands good turnouts and has a true weekend party atmosphere with a strong sense that everyone in the place is as much of a lowlife as yourself.

www.brewfist.com

 
6. Ex Caserma Rossani, Bari (Italy)
An old, squatted army barracks with regular live gigs, a DIY library and a crazy, scatty atmosphere. Puglia and the South are not like the rest of Italy; weed and beer are cheaper, the food is different (I think about panzerotti a lot) and because it's a bit harder to tour there you can really feel the effort that goes into the gigs from all involved. Crazy-honest people that eyeball you when you're talking to them so that you know that they mean what they say!


7. Ballonfabrik, Augsburg (Germany)
'Ballonfabrik - Fabrik Unique' is really a clothes manufacturing place but in it is a good size music venue and a pretty big indoor skate park. They start you off drinking as soon as you arrive and usually give you a tour of the skatepark where they lend you a skateboard each and watch you roll around half cut. Good room, nice PA, proper party every time.
It's also home to Burning Ramp festival, where bands play all night then they set a halfpipe on fire outside and skate it while it's burning, complete with about 30 local firefighters. Only Germany!

https://www.facebook.com/ballonfabrikaugsburg/?fref=ts


8. Planet Underground, Ústí nad Labem (Czech Republic)
PARTY. Heavy drinking and smoking is encouraged and the brilliant owners make you feel like you live there. Always well promoted and full of people that love the fast songs.

 
9. MLTB Homebase, Nuremberg (Germany)
Unfortunately MLTB Homebase is now a relic of recent history. Money Left To Burn's practice room turned bar (they actually built a bar into their practice room) had pretty much all the active current/recent UK melodic punk hardcore scene play it at some point. Limitless Bavarian beer (seriously, they go out and get more if you drink it all) and presents of homegrown from some of the most lovely, genuine people I've ever met. Merch sales to people ratio was always unbelievably high too. (Check out KNRD Fest run by people in the same circle of friends... but crazier!)


10. Pizdun Place, Kostanjec (Slovenia)
It's a barn at the top of a mountain in the middle of nowhere in Slovenia. Everyone turns up, gets shitfaced, goes crazy for the bands then drives home pissed. It's brilliant.


HONOURABLE MENTIONS

Club Baza, Ajdovscina (Slovenia)

Lorbass, Gelnhausen (Germany)

Rock Cafe (Leuven)

Raymonds Bar, Clermont-Ferrand (France)

Fantasma (RIP), Lisbon (Portugal)

Check out more from Dead Neck here: https://www.facebook.com/deadneckhc/