Sunday, 13 March 2016

Album Review: From Caplan To Belsize by Muncie Girls (by Emma Prew)

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:

And find Muncie Girls here: