This is the July edition of the Colin's Punk Rock World Playlist featuring tracks that Dan, Emma, Omar and myself have been enjoying this month.
Friday, 29 July 2016
Thursday, 28 July 2016
If you're reading this then I don't need to explain just how good or how important the Descendents are. Tomorrow their first album in twelve years (Hypercaffium Spazzinate) if officially released. I decided to look back at their extensive and amazing discography and try and pick my ten favourite Descendents songs.
10. Hope from Milo Goes To College (1983)
Of course, it's the Descendents so it's a song about girls. Specifically it's about patiently waiting for the girl you want, who happens to be with somebody else. The lyrics are instantly catchy, particularly the hook of the song - "My Day Will Come, I Know Someday I'll Be The Only One."
9. Suburban Home from Milo Goes To College (1983)
Suburban Home is a sarcastic attack on what can be thought of the stereotypical, cookie cutter lifestyle. There is a lot of punk rock spite in Milo's voice on this track and along with the hard and fast guitars and drumming have made this a classic punk rock tune.
8. Descendents from I Don't Wanna Grow Up (1985)
This self titled song is the first song on I Don't Wanna Grow Up and is a bit of a call of arms from the band. Milo and co are looking for new members for the band and lay down what it's like to be a Descendent and what it takes to become a member of the group. The lines "We're The Proud, The Few, Descendents Rockin' Alone Tonight" is still one of the Descendents most recognisable.
7. Clean Sheets from ALL (1987)
ALL was the first Descendents album I ever heard and Clean Sheets was one of the stand out tracks. This is one of the more melodic of the Descendents earlier work. The song tackles the subject of staying in a relationship despite suspecting that your partner has cheated on you. I really love Milo's vocals on this song, there is a sadness about them that is rarely heard.
6. Thank You from Everything Sucks (1996)
Everything Sucks was the Descendents first album in nine years and was an instant classic. Thank You is a song thanking the power that music has to make you feel better. This verse in particular really gets to me every time I hear it - "Did You Know You're Why I Go, And Waste My Time, At A Rock N Roll Show, You Let Me Know I'm Not Alone, You Make Me Feel Strong, Make Me Feel Strong, Feel Like Nothing's Wrong."
5. I Don't Wanna Grow Up from I Don't Wanna Grow Up (1985)
Starting out with a strong bass line, I Don't Wanna Grow Up is a short and sweet Descendents classic. Completely obviously from the song title the song is about not wanting to grow up. Throughout their career the Descendents (on this occasion former bassist Tony Lombardo) have shown just what smart songwriters they are. On this occasion the child like "Nah Nah Nah Nah Nah Nah'" performed like a spoilt child work perfectly with the message of the song.
4. Cool To Be You from Cool To Be You (2004)
After an long eight year break the band returned again with another amazing album in Cool To Be You. The album's title track was one of the stand outs on the album. The song is about being envious of another person whilst feeling like an outcast yourself. The Descendents have always had an ability to make their music relatable to their fans and this was still the case twenty-five years into their career.
3. 'Merican from Cool To Be You (2004)
'Merican became an anthem for me from the very first moment I heard it. During the summer when Cool To Be You was released my friendship group would go to the beach every Monday and listen to the same mix CD. 'Merican was on that CD and was listened to a lot. It's a political song, something that I wasn't too used to the Descendents doing and at the time it really struck me with a lot of "WOAH!"
2. When I Get Old from Everything Sucks (1996)
The majority of Descendents songs are about three different things - girls, struggling to fit in and growing up. When I Get Old obviously fits into the growing up part. The song addresses the dilemmas of getting older and hoping that you can still hang on to the things of your youth that you loved. It's a slower song from the Descendents but still captures everything I love about the band. The song brilliantly captures where the band, and probably the long time fans of the band, are at the particular time of their lives. Brilliant.
1. Coolidge from ALL (1987)
Coolidge is the first Descendents song that I truly fell in love with. Beginning with a great drum roll that gets you really pumped up for the song and being joined from some trademark Descendents guitar before Milo sings the immortal worlds "I'm Not A Cool Guy Anymore, As If I Ever Was Before." Coolidge is a really up-tempo song that is full of an infectious energy. If I was ever going to write a perfect pop punk song then this would be it.
Like the Descendents here: https://www.facebook.com/thedescendents/
Wednesday, 27 July 2016
If you haven't heard Australian punk rockers The Bennies latest album Wisdom Machine I question what have you been doing with the last few months? I absolutely loved their previous two efforts - Rainbows in Space and Heavy Disco and was completely blown away by Wisdom Machine. It's taken me far too long to get round to reviewing it, partly because I slack, partly because my record still hasn't turned up! Without further adieu I present - Wisdom Machine.
The opening track on Wisdom Machine is Heavy Reggae. Heavy Reggae begins with a bit of a feedback before some brass and then some guitars take us into the song. Bass player Craig takes control of the lead vocals, the tempo is slow and the melody of the song really gets you grooving. Heavy Reggae feels just as much as an introduction to the album as it does an actual song. Things really get moving the next song - Party Machine. Instantly the tempo of the song is upped and front man Anty fast paced vocals blow through the opening verse and Craig again takes the chorus. The song is exactly what it says on the tin - a great big party. It'll have you losing your mind in no time at all. The Bennies like to use a sound machine for many of their songs and use it to fantastic effect on this song. It's a track that is perfectly at home in a club scene as it is in the punk scene. It's just good times all round. Maybe We Could Get High is the first song on the album where The Bennies are very open about their love of drugs. Before we go any further I want to add that I do not promote doing nor love drugs - but each to their own. Lyrical content aside this is another fast paced, fun time. It's a full speed anthem that really gets the listener worked up. There is also some great guest vocals from Jay Whalley, lead singer of legendary Australian punk rockers Frenzal Rhomb.
On the fourth track Legalise (But Don't Tax) The Bennies revert back to the reggae sound. Anty and Craig share vocals again, something they do more on Wisdom Machine than they have on previous efforts. It adds a fantastic new element to their sound. The chorus is does an incredible job of making you sing-a-long even if you don't necessarily agree with the sentiment. This is undeniably a summer anthem! I also love the nod to Operation Ivy with the line "Unity Unity You've Heard It All Before." I just can't help but smile when listening to this song. Detroit Rock Ciggies is one of many highlights on Wisdom Machine. This faced paced ska punk number is everything you want in a song of this genre. It gets you skanking, it gets lodged in your head, and it makes you smile. The riff that guitarist Jules plays at the beginning of the song is superb, as soon as you hear it you know exactly what song is coming and will get you excited straight away. Anty takes vocals duties for the most part aside from Craig's sweeter, softer vocals taking centre stage for a fun breakdown. Detroit Rock Ciggies is a song that really highlights the band's exceptional ability as musicians, especially Jules who has a fantastic guitar solo during the track. Party Till I Die (Or Die Trying) opens with a bit of a old school horror film theme to it complete with a ghoulish laugh before the song really gets going with some great gang vocals. Hooray for gang vocals! A very striking way to start the song. The song is about partying as hard as you can and then trying to take it even further. Unlike the other songs about partying this song has a much heavier and darker tone to it musically but is still a fantastic time. Great to hear Jules take lead vocals as well.
Burnout City goes back to the summer reggae vibes. The song goes along nicely with Anty taking the verse with some fast paced almost rap style vocals before Craig leads the chorus. It's a joyous, danceable number which features a nice surprise towards the end of the song. It finishes with more gang vocals (almost chanting) with the song switching to a style that makes me think of a big festival crowd singing along with the band. Another massive highlight on the album. Corruption has a very dark introduction, something you would expect from your favourite metal band. It's a slow and deliberate start broken up only by some massive screams from Anty before the song morphs into a slow moving reggae song. It feels like Anty is telling story with his vocal delivery. It's a story about corrupt powers that are taking control of a city. The song builds towards a massive guitar led finale that you will need to turn your speakers up to eleven to really appreciate it's brilliance. This is followed up by a twenty second song named West Memphis Three Paper which feels kind of like a jingle as much as it does a song. The penultimate song on Wisdom Machine is Turning Around and is another piece of absolute brilliance. Beginning with some 80s style synths the song switches from reggae during the verse to pop punk during the chorus effortlessly, never really letting the listener know what's happening next. The track also features more of a shouty punk verse and a drum led breakdown before one final massive chorus complete with some delightful harmonies. The album is concluded with the track O Brother, Where Art Thou. Starting out slowly with an acoustic guitar, the song is softer. It's a song about feeling let down by your brother when he begins to go astray and letting the people close to him down. Of course, as you would expect from The Bennies things don't stay slow for long. After a verse and a chorus the tempo is upped and we are treated to big punk rock song. This song is a definite grower and has become one of my favourite songs on Wisdom Machine.
Wisdom Machine is just a fantastic album from start to finish. I think The Bennies are one of the most unique bands on the planet, it's almost impossible to pigeon hole them into a specific genre of music as they squeeze so many different styles into their music. If you like music you'll love The Bennies and Wisdom Machine.
Stream and download Wisdom Machine here: https://thebennies.bandcamp.com/
Like The Bennies here: https://www.facebook.com/thebenniesband
Tuesday, 26 July 2016
Dragged In are a five piece hardcore punk band from Toronto, Canada. The band consists of former and current members of Toronto punk and hardcore bands such as Brutal Youth, Deadmouth and End Program. In January 2016 they released their debut EP named EP1. I had a listen.
After a quiet start the opening song August bursts into life. Fast and furious guitars bring the song to life before and intense and fast paced vocal style tears through the song. The chorus is what really stands out on the first few listens of the song. The short and simple chorus of "August, The Brightest Month Of My Life" is sung with a load of intensity and is quite catchy. I particularly enjoyed the ending of the song. Musically the tempo was lowered and the vocals became much more strained, adding a new element to the song. Safe Together is a short one and a half minute blast. The songs about community and sticking together no matter what. The lyrics "Safe Together" are sang every other line during the song. This makes me imagine that the song could get a big, intense, sweaty scream-along at a live show. Breathe is politically charged battering ram of a song. It hit's hard and often, relentlessly trying to break through. The use of gang vocals is great and adds to making a much bigger sound for the band. Probably my favourite song on the EP. If I went to a gym or I did running I think I would find this song a great motivator to keep on going. The penultimate song on the EP is also the band's name - Dragged In. Dragged In (the song) is about being pulled into a word that you don't want to be a part of. As you might expect there is little time for breath and the intensity is ramped up to its highest point. This is angry and aggressive music but also manages to be empowering and uplifting. That's exactly how I like my hardcore. The final song on EP1 is titled Empty Glasses. Empty Glasses is about a man who attacks his wife and son and then turns to drink to try (and fail) to deal with it. He deals with it be eventually committing suicide but the message is that the terrible things that he has done will live on in the minds of his family forever. As you can imagine by the contenting of the song it's another hard hitter.
EP1 is a fantastic introduction to Dragged In. Good and strong hardcore punk rock that gets you pumped up, singing and thinking. Dragged In have a second EP out soon, look out for that.
Stream and download the EP here: https://draggedin.bandcamp.com/releases
Like Dragged In here: https://www.facebook.com/draggedin/
Monday, 25 July 2016
What do Propaghandi, PUP, The Planet Smashers and The Penske File have in common? They are all great Canadian bands whose name starts with the letter P. Something of a trend in Canada it seems as another fantastic band from Canada whose name also starts with P has emerged. The brilliant or ridiculously named (I've not decided which yet) Pkew Pkew Pkew. The four piece from Toronto have recently put out a new self titled album on Royal Mountain Records. After hearing one of the tracks on a compilation earlier in the year I was very excited to check this album out.
Pkew Pkew Pkew begins with a song titled Blood Clot. This song really shows you what Pkew Pkew Pkew are about immediately. Fast, in your face pop punk with massive group vocals that are easy and fun to scream along to. The track gets the album off to a great start! This is followed up with Asshole Pandemic. Asshole Pandemic is a much calmer track about having noisey neighbours. Like many Pkew Pkew Pkew songs there aren't a lot of lyrics but the songs don't need to be wordy. When you have a chorus such as "Asshole Pandemic, Why's This Fucking Dick Gotta Be Such A Cock?" nobody expects a lyrical masterpiece, just a fantastic time. This is followed up with the song Prequel To Asshole Pandemic. Originally I thought that this was odd track ordering but after listening to the song I thought this was a fantastic idea. On Asshole Pandemic I was made to think that the band were complaining about having noisey neighbours but on Prequel it is revealed that the band are the noisey neighbours. The lyrics "And If The Other Tenants Care, Then Fuck 'Em" display this.
Mid-20's Skateboarder is the song of Pkew Pkew Pkew's that I first heard on a compilation. Containing gang vocals for the duration of the song this track is nothing but pure unadulterated fun. A stupidly simple song that will be stuck in your head for a long time but will always have you smiling. When I was checking out the lyrics I was quite surprised just how few there are. "Mid-20's Skateboarder, I Hope I Don't Get Hurt, Drinkin' A Six Pack Of Beer, Takes Away All The Fear" are the only lyrics in the song and they're repeated over and over again. Brilliantly simple, like the best pop punk ever. Brilliantly the next track, Hanging Out is the half the length of Skateboarder but has double the lyrics. Hanging Out is an up-tempo number about enjoying time with your friends, it not mattering what you're doing as long as you're together. Reading the lyrics of The Prime Minister of Defence got me thinking. The song features someone by the name of John McDonald. After a quick Google I discovered there song could be about one of two people (or a combination of both). One John MacDonald was the first Prime Minister of Canada and the other being John McDonald who was an infielder that played in the MLB for Toronto. After a little more Wiki research I discovered that John McDonald (baseball player) had the nickname Prime Minister of Defence. The song is really about trying to step up to the plate in life but failing so deciding to stay at the level you're at. When I first saw the title of the next track Glory Days, I kind of hoped it was a Springsteen cover. As awesome as that would have been it's not. Surprisingly Pkew Pkew Pkew did write a song that goes past three minutes in length though. Starting out slowly with just guitar and vocals there is a bit of a Springsteen feeling to it. That's until the full band comes in. Then we're back to the loud, brash pop punk stuff. Glory Days is a song about the popular kids at school whose lives peaked at that point of time and never got back to such heights.
The eighth track on the album is Let's Order A Pizza. Much like Mid-20's Skateboarder this is a short song with very minimal lyrics. That's completely fine by me though because the few lyrics contained in the song will be lodged in your head for a long time. The song is a bit silly but also so relatable. It's obviously about ordering a pizza but having an argument with your pals but whose turn it is to order. We've all been there! Before We Go Out Drinking is a song about pre-drinking before you go out for the night. This is more of a mid-tempo sing along track so obviously the song is full of gang vocals. This is a song I can imagine getting a huge sing-along at a gig. Friends stood, arms round one another screaming at the top of their lungs "Cause We're Getting Drunk Before We Go Out Drinking!" The penultimate song on the album is Stop Calling Us Chief. Yet another wonderful sing-along song this time packed with some great harmonies. The gang vocals on this album are probably a very big part of my love for it. It's a party album, and the best parties involve everyone coming together to have the best time. The album and party is concluded with Kathie Lee & Hoda. There is more of a thoughtful feel to this song, asking questions about how do you carry on with living your life despite nothing seemingly going your way. It's good to hear Pkew Pkew Pkew play a more serious song than another about drinking and partying. Nice to see a tiny piece of range in the songwriting.
Every now and then a band comes out of nowhere and puts out an album that takes your breath away. It's fast paced, it's loud, it's fun, it makes you smile and you can't help but shout along with every single song. It got me pumped up, it got me excited. It reminded me just how much I love pop punk. Not all music has to be super serious, it can be about having fun and stupid times with your best friends.
Stream and download the album here: https://pkewx3.bandcamp.com/
Like Pkew Pkew Pkew here: https://www.facebook.com/PkewX3/
Friday, 22 July 2016
Big Cheese Magazine was a long running publication specialising in the wonderful world of independent punk, hardcore and ska music. The magazine was a great launch pad for so many of the great underground UK bands that I first heard when discovering punk music, as well as showcasing a lot of international bands a time long before the Internet and social media was a thing. This year, after twenty fantastic years, Big Cheese released its final issue. To celebrate, Big Cheese boss Eugene Butcher organised a big send off at The Forum in Kentish Town with money from tickets going towards homeless charity Shelter. With a line up that any major alternative festival would be jealous of, I had to go along.
The band tasked with opening the show up with Bristol's The Setbacks. The Setbacks were the only band on the line-up I had neither seen live or even heard of before so I was curious to see what they were like. Being the first band of the day is no easy task, especially on a day as sunny as this one. I mean, who really wants to be inside when the sun is doing that shining thing. There was a nice sized crowd gathered for The Setbacks though as the five piece worked their way through a set full of enjoyable punk rock that would have found a nice home amongst the likes of 4ft Fingers and Fletcher from back in the day.
Up next we were treated to some energetic ska punk from Brighton's Bar Stool Preachers. Throughout the early part of the day I had already seen some folk sporting Bar Stool Preachers t-shirts so I was expecting good things from the crowd during their set. To be honest even if you haven't heard of the band before it's difficult not to get swept up in the Bar Stool Preachers's live show. The energy and enthusiasm from the band is second to none and is a real treat to watch and dance along too. Fantastic set from the Bar Stool Preachers that was finished by their namesake song.
Versus The World, a five piece punk band from Santa Barbara, California were the next band to take to the Forum's stage. Currently on tour with Lagwagon and Useless ID, the trio of bands managed to fit the Big Cheese Big Send Off into their schedule much to a lot of people's delight. Versus The World, who feature members of Lagwagon and The Ataris really added a slickness to the proceedings. Lead by the immense vocals of Donald Spence, Versus The World played an incredible set that really got the growing crowds complete attention. Later in the evening I was speaking to a Swedish/American chap who lives in London who was really raving about this band from Santa Barbara that he had seen.
Long running King's Lynn skate punks Vanilla Pod were once on Deck Cheese Records (Big Cheese's former record label) so it only seemed right that they played the gig. In their 21st year as a band and still going strong, Vanilla Pod opened with the fantastic sing-along Saturday Night. The band are getting older and joked about not being used to playing on such big stages anymore but were trying their best to move around the whole thing. They were really the first band of the day to give credit to Big Cheese for all the work they've done supporting the UK's underground punk scene and without them there probably wouldn't be much of a scene. I've seen Vanilla Pod a few times over the past couple of years and every time they impress me more and more. Other song highlights included Wishing Well, Dead End Town and Surrounded By Idiots.
Sonic Boom Six are another band that first came to my attention because of Deck Cheese. When Laila, Barney and co. took to the stage and opened up with the epic Bigger Than Punk Rock and the crowd and the forum just went nuts. Sonic Boom Six were loved and really woke the crowd up. You could have forgiven the Boom if they'd have played a set full of songs from their excellent new album The F-Bomb but they decided to play a set of classics from their early days. Favourites such as Sound Of The Revolution, All In, Monkey See Monkey Do and Piggy In The Middle all got run outs to great receptions. Sonic Boom Six always bring a high energy performance and this one was no different.
Israel's Useless ID have just released what many are calling the album of the year. State Is Burning, released through Fat Wreck Chords, is getting a lot of positive reviews from the punk world and had many people excited to see them play live. The four piece relentlessly played through their set barely stopping between songs to tune or engage in banter with the crowd. I actually loved this, they only had a half an hour set so it was nice that they managed to squeeze as many in as they could. The song How To Dismantle An Atom Bomb in particular was a stand out. If you haven't check out Useless ID yet make sure you do soon.
Up next, if I'm being completely honest, was the main reason I bought my ticket - Jesse James! The legendary London-based six piece were back together for a one-off reunion in honour of the day's festivities. This was their first time together since their Borderline show in 2014 and boy-golly was I looking forward to it. Jesse James were one of the first underground bands I really fell in love with when I first began to discover UK punk rock. Introduced by Big Cheese's Eugene, Jesse James took to the stage and hammered through all of my favourite tracks from Punk Soul Brothers and Mission including Growin' Up, Dear Jesus, Six Minutes, Hot Wired, First Day On A Brand New Planet and of course Shoes. This was the most nostalgia filled set of the day for me and had me smiling, singing and dancing throughout. The band really seemed to enjoy themselves on stage and so did the crowd. I can't wait for the next Jesse James reunion.
Sadly King Prawn had to pull out of the show so next up were The King Blues. As is tradition front man Itch took to the stage on his own to start the set an performed an acapella version of What If Punk Never Happened? Every time I see that song performed live it gives me goose bumps. I got a bit of a kick from Itch changing the lyrics from "fanzine out of my back pocket" to "Big Cheese out of my back pocket." That was a nice touch. From then the rest of the band took to the stage and performed the hits from their early days. I think The King Blues got the biggest sing-a-longs of the day. Songs such as Let's Hang The Landlord, Set The World On Fire and Mr Music Man went down really well with the crowd but the biggest reaction was saved for the final track Save The World, Get The Girl. I find it hard watching The King Blues these days as Itch is the only original member of the band remaining, but with songs so good and a front man as good as Itch all of the weirdness I may feel towards the current carnation of the band is forgotten as soon as they start playing. A fantastic, fan pleasing set.
Finally, after a long and fantastic day of punk and ska it was time for the days headline act. Fat Wreck Chords legends - Lagwagon! Long running skate punks Lagwagon are one of a number of international bands that Big Cheese were first to champion in the UK so it was fantastic that they were able to appear. It felt incredibly fitting, that on a day full of nostalgia, Lagwagon decided to play classic album Hoss in full. Dropping a massive banner of the album cover the band took to the stage. Lagwagon are one of my favourite bands to watch live, there's a cool nonchalance to their performance. It looks as if they don't really care about the performance but are coolly having a lot of fun. When a band has been going for as long as Lagwagon have now you need to be able to enjoy yourself on stage and not just fake it. It's abundantly clear that Lagwagon are still having the time of their lives. It was great to hear Hoss in full. They did slyly re-order the classic track Razor Burn to the end of the album. This was a good move as it's a big fan favourite. Then to my surprise they finished the set with THE fan favourite song May 26. This was a surprise because it's not on the Hoss album. Always great to hear that classic punk song.
This felt like a really fitting tribute and ending for Big Cheese Magazine. An incredible line up of bands who pulled out all of the stops and a lovely crowd. I'd love for the organisers of Big Cheese to make this an annual event to showcase our incredible scene.
Thursday, 21 July 2016
Marty, guitarist from Toronto based hardcore punks Dragged In gives us his top ten punk rock finfluences.
1) Local Toronto DIY venues such as Soybomb, Siesta Nouveau(RIP), SHIBGB's (RIP) ect - A few years back when I first moved to Toronto and getting to go to shows at places like these really blew my mind. Never heard of places where there was no BAR/Bouncers, and you were able to BYOB and do pretty much anything. Anyhow, Totally punk.
2) NOFX - I need to pay tribute where its due. I’ve always and will always have their music somewhere in and round the record player. Band had little to no air play back in the day and still was still able to have their music listened to and loved(and hated) by many.
3) Seplurtura's album Schizophrenia – This album is pretty much early Death metal, but at a young age when I was listening to punk bands like DK and NOFX and shitty black metal bands like Cradle of Filth. This album really made me appreciate “non melodic” music and would later get me into harder, aggressive “hardcore” type of stuff.
4) Alternative Tentacles Records – Found a lot of bands from this label that are huge influences on me. This label set its self apart for me by never really releasing the same type of band, anything from Amebix to Wesley Willis. Total Fringe Punk.
5) Converge – This band has been my number 1 since I first heard their album Jane Doe back in college. The way Kurt (the guitar player) makes his guitar sound. The style of riffs he comes up with, always blows my mind totally untouchable. Not to mention some of my most favorite drumming by their drummer Ben.
6) Punk Vests – I mean c’mon, what better way to be exposed to a bunch of random band names at once, especially before music blogs were a thing. I’m sure I’ve been influenced to go check out many a band that I saw their logo on some shitty punk vest.
7) Self Defence Family – I cant stop talking about this band. This is a relatively new music influence on me. The band used to be called End of A Year. Together they have a bazillion releases. Even though I don’t get off on all of their huge catalogue, currently they’re making music that really gets at me. Do yourself a solid and to get their album “Heaven Is Earth”....and also the album “Superior”
8) Coalition (local Toronto music bar) – Its kind of like a punk rock Cheers here in the city. Everyone knows your name, punk name and where your drunk ass left your cell phone the night before. Anyhow, Rad place run by rad ass people. Go party there.
9) Dead and Gone – this band was on alterative records that I mentioned earlier. Never heard of a darker more negative sounding punk band ever. Loved their East bay ray type of screeching guitar riffs by Rocky Crane. Also crazy weird time signatures. Awesome stuff.
10) Dave Fenton – and last but not quite least, my buddy Dave. He plays bass in our current band Dragged in. Anyhow, if he likes to admit it or not he has greatly influence the way I play and write music in any project I am in. Im always pushing myself to keep up with his level of playing and writing. Anyhow, shits been great, man. Thanks Dave.
Check out Dragged In here: https://draggedin.bandcamp.com/releases
Like Dragged In here: https://www.facebook.com/draggedin/
Wednesday, 20 July 2016
If ever the words 'long awaited' were 100% appropriate it's for the eventual release of The F Bomb by Sonic Boom Six. Due to reasons out of the band's control the release was seemingly delayed and delayed, but thankfully after a lot of hard work and perseverance from the band the album was released on the band's own Rebel Alliance Recordings. I just hope it was worth the wait.
The F Bomb begins with the instant sing along, No Man No Right. As much as I loved the band's use of more electronic music on their previous album, the sound of ska on this track is a welcome one. When I first heard this song live back in March it had me skanking immediately and the lyrics "No Man No Right" got a big reaction from the outset. The song is about how no man has any right to tell a woman what to do. Laila K is in phenomenal form vocally on this song as she not only leads the band with an important message but in a big party as well. Sonic Boom Six have a great skill of taking an important issue and educating people but also having a lot of fun in the process. Another big issue is addressed in the next track, Frying Pan. The issue of racism towards immigrants is sadly and disgustingly still a big issue in this country and Sonic Boom Six tackle the subject head on. It tells the story of Johnny who is struggling to get a job, falls in with a bad crowd who brainwash him into thinking "They Are Coming Over Here To Take What's Yours." Musically the ska continues but it's less of a party atmosphere on this one. It's fantastic to hear some horns reintroduced into the band's sound. The horns continue on the next song - summer banger Do What You Wanna Do. Combining horns and samples is what Sonic Boom Six do best and this song is an instant classic in my mind. This is the first time on The F Bomb that Barney Booms rapping skills come into play and it injects a lot of energy into the song. It's also the first time when Barney and Laila really team up for the vocal duties, something that's been a big feature in the band's sound since its inception. A particular highlight on the song is when the duo take turns to sing the chorus line of "Do What You Wanna Do." Like I said - instant classic.
Drop The Bass (And Pick It Up) begins with a sample of the legendary Skatelites song Guns Of Navarone and Barney's fantastic rapping again takes centre stage. I'm not a fan of rap music but I do really enjoy Barney Boom's skill at "spitting lines." (I think that's what the kids call it?). This song is not one with a big message, instead it's a song about having a great time when you're at the club and the bass line drops. Not every song has to be about what is wrong with the world, at times it can just be about having a wonderful time. That's certainly what I'm having when I'm listening to this song. A familiar voice is heard at the beginning of the fifth song Train Leaves Tomorrow. Long time SB6 collaborator Coolie Ranx lends his toasting ability to a slower paced reggae track. Laila retakes lead vocal duties and her voice is nothing other than beautiful throughout. The band show off their ability as musicians and songwriters, going from a big party club song to a sweet and tender reggae pop song. L.O.V.E., surprisingly, goes down a bit of a disco route. Sonic Boom Six even do disco well! It's a toe tapping, hip shaker of a song when Laila's vocals again do an incredible job. I don't think her vocals have ever been better than they are on The F Bomb. The track talks about how society always being at odds with each other isn't working and how we should stand for something new - namely love. Everyone coming together and working as a unit – doesn't sound like that difficult a concept to me. The song Worship Yourself is a track about learning to stand up for yourself in a abusive relationship. Lyrically the song is very moving and features some extremely blunt and honest imagery. I often think that Laila and Barney and really underrated as songwriters and lyricists.
Another example of their amazing skill of songwriting is in the following track, Joanna. I have a sneaking suspicion that this song was written not long after Laura Jane Grace came out as a transgender woman in 2012. The song tells the story of the character, Joanna, who bravely also comes out as a transgender woman. Laila and Barney sing about the admiration of Joanna, how brave she is and what a role model she is. This is another slower paced reggae track. It's so uplifting and feels perfect for the summer. The penultimate song on The F Bomb is titled All The Same To Me. Guitarist Nick Horne really comes to the forefront on this song with some fantastic guitar riffs throughout. All The Same To Me is one of the poppier songs on the album. It's very easy to listen to and manages to squeeze all of the different SB6 styles into the song without it ever feeling forced. There's a bit of ska, a bit of electronic, some hip hop, and some really catchy lyrics that you will be singing to yourself for days. The final song on the album is the very atmospheric Echoes In The Dark. The song is about a girl that is sexually abused by an older boy but somehow finds the strength to move on past such a traumatic experience. Again, wonderfully combining the worlds of electronica and ska, laying down a perfect platform for Laila to beautifully sing a song about overcoming a difficult time in your life. Echoes in The Dark is a very, very moving song.
I said at the beginning of this review that I hoped that after such a long wait for the album it would be worth it. It definitely is and then some. I love everything Sonic Boom Six have ever released and I can honestly say this is as good if not better than anything they've done before. I loved that they went for more of an old school Boom sound whilst mixing some of the style they used on later albums. Could this be the definitive Sonic Boom Six Album?
Buy The F-Bomb here: http://www.sonicboomsix.co.uk/store
Like Sonic Boom Six here: https://www.facebook.com/sonicboomsix/
Tuesday, 19 July 2016
Drew Millward is a Northern England-based drawer of pictures and creator of wonderful pieces of art. Originally from Coventry and having lived and studied in Leeds for several years, he now lives in the Aire Valley, in Yorkshire – which I, personally, hadn’t heard of before but looks stunning in Google images.
Drew is a little different to the designers and illustrators that I’ve featured in Art of Punk previously in that you could argue that most of his work isn’t so punk rock related. But the pieces that he has created within the world of punk rock are amazing and so well worth a share. Well, absolutely everything he has created is amazing but I’ll at least start with the punk stuff…
Drew has such an incredible illustration style, combining vibrant and eye catching colours with geometric shapes and lines. Themes of his artwork more often than not include robots and/or industrial-style machinery – think War of the Worlds or Studio Ghibli (Howl’s Moving Castle and Laputa: Castle in the Sky in particular) – plus animals and elements of nature. There’s definitely inspiration drawn from where he lives, as Yorkshire is a place of both industry (past and present) and nature. His work is so, so unique and I can almost guarantee that, even if you haven’t seen his creations before, you’ll remember his style after this… and I hope you love it as much as I do too.
I’m the proud owner of a 2016 Manchester Punk Festival hoody with his awesome skull design on the back of it. It’s almost a shame that the design was only produced in black and white – I know, I know, printing costs for the DIY festival (I understand) – as it would look even more awesome with the colour palette of many of Drew’s other illustrations applied. That said, I guess black and white is pretty standard 'punk'.
If you like what you see, check out Drew’s shop where you can pick up a new piece of art for your bedroom wall or maybe a t-shirt with an original design on it.
Monday, 18 July 2016
I was a big big fan of the self titled EP Larrakia put out last year. With such an incredible talent pool at the top of the UKs melodic harcore/skate punk scene it’s getting harder and harder to stand out but this is a band managed it with aplomb in three short songs. In part due to sucha strong opening bid I’m going into Rantallion, the brand new offering, with a healthy critical view. Larrakia were easily in my top five bands last year and I’m hoping I’m not disappointed.
So straight off the bat I can tell comparisons to their previous work will be unfair. This is it’s own beast in about all but the band name. The tone of the band has noticeably shifted onto a darker more hardcore road. Still present are the on point vocal melodies and harmonies, along with the catchy hooks I recognize from before. There is a lot more on the hardcore side here with heavy use of dirty vocals throughout and the patented Melodic Hardcore pseudo metal riffage is prevalent through out.
We’ve established now that we’re dealing with something different here but the question on everyones lips is no doubt “Is it good though?” and those of you who would ask that I would roll my eyes and say “what do you think”. Larrakia have been going from strength to strength to strength over the last year, touring with a veritable whos who of punk rock royalty and they show no signs of slowing. This EP is stellar on every level. The new tone cements them as a relevant and technically incredible band without losing any of the charm and fun that first made me fall in love with them in the first place. Taking a big tonal shift can be a huge gamble but it’s paid off with dividends for Larrakia. They are real contenders for best band in the UK.
In conclusion for the TL;DR crowd this is a stellar offering from a band destined to do incredible things for UK music. If you’re a Propaghandi fan then this is will something you can’t live without. For everyone else that isn’t (and what’s wrong with you) it’s time to pay attention now to these guys before they hit the big time and you’re left in the dust.
Pre-order Rantallion here: https://disconnectdisconnectrecords.bandcamp.com/album/rantallion
Like Larrakia here: https://www.facebook.com/larrakia/
Saturday, 16 July 2016
The beginning of this month saw the release of London-based pop punk three-piece Happy Accidents’s debut album, You Might Be Right. On Friday night, two weeks after the album’s release, there was a party at Urban Bar in Whitechapel, London, to celebrate. Put together by the wonderful Angela and 176 Records with support acts picked by Happy Accidents themselves, it was set to be a great show for all.
We arrived a little late to Urban Bar which meant that the first band, Me Rex, had already started their set. It was pleasantly surprising to see just how packed the room was already – clearly people were keen to see Happy Accidents but it was great that there were loads of people wanting to hear the other bands too. Me Rex are a two-piece, although they were joined by a bassist for the first time, from London – actually all of the bands on the bill were from London. They had a sound that is very difficult for me to describe, because it’s just so different to what I’m used to. I suppose you could call them sort of experimental electronic music (synth and some sort of electric percussion?), with hints of indie-folk. Anyway, regardless of how I attempt to describe their sound it was an enjoyable performance with plenty of amusing ‘banter’ between the two [main] band members.
Next to grace the stage were Fresh, also from London! I should point out that I’d never listened to Me Rex or Fresh before, so it was interesting to see what I thought of them seeing them live for the first time. Fresh are a little bit easier to categorise genre-wise playing a fast-paced brand of indie punk. Singer and guitarist Kathryn had a wonderful voice – she reminded me a bit of Iona Cairns of Great Cynics and Shit Present, except younger and more innocent. The sense of youthfulness is something that really stood out, particularly with songs mentioning school, but the band certainly new how to play their instruments and perform. Fresh’s set suddenly seemed to be over quite quickly but I think that’s just a sign that I thoroughly enjoyed it.
The third band on the bill were one that we’d seen earlier in the year supporting Muncie Girls, Colour Me Wednesday. I remember being impressed by their performance the first time around, having never heard of them before, so was looking forward to seeing them again – and this time recognising some of the songs. They were clearly a popular band, with many members of the audience seemingly just as keen to see them as Happy Accidents. With feel-good feminist pop punk songs, it’s easy to see just why they were so well received. The band played songs from their latest EP, Anyone and Everyone, that was released earlier this year plus the super catchy Half A Life from their split with Spoonboy – which was released ‘ages and ages ago’ (2014), as they pointed out. It was great to bop along to songs that I knew, as well as hearing some new songs.
After three great bands it was time for Happy Accidents – another great band – and I was very keen. I’ve only seen them play once before (and Colin hadn’t seen them at all!), opening for The Sidekicks around this time last year. I’d not heard of them at the time, but after being impressed by their infectiously catchy and happy-go-lucky pop punk tunes I made sure to listen to them again. Before the release of their full-length album, You Might Be Right, they had only released a handful of songs – and needless to say, I’ve listened to them a lot. This being the album release show, they of course played a lot of songs from the new album but there were a handful of ‘oldies’ thrown in there too. All songs, both new and old, went down a storm. It was really great to see people around me singing along, especially to songs that have only be out in the world for a couple of weeks. I haven’t listened to You Might Be Right too many times but I recognised all the songs and they sounded brilliant live – including the somewhat stripped back and sombre I Can’t Wait To Get The Hell Away From You. The three-piece were clearly having the time of their lives and singer / guitarist Rich humbly stated that the show was the greatest thing they’d ever done. Their set included a cover song but a rather different one for a punk show – California by Grimes (who I’ve only just about heard of… but not actually heard.). You can probably guess that it wasn’t a song that Colin or I were familiar with but it was fun and seemed to go down well with the crowd. I was looking forward to seeing Happy Accidents anyway but they completely blew me away. Having seen them as an opening act before, it feels like they’ve come on a long way in a year as they well and truly owned that stage. Brilliant and highly recommended for fans of up-beat and happy music.
Friday, 15 July 2016
Unsane are one of those bands that seem to have truly lived a lifestyle befitting of their music, which I think I can be forgiven for saying isn’t always the case in the heavier end of the genre. After all, it’s highly doubtful that quite a lot of metal bands have really lived the whole swords-and-sandals tales of derring-do espoused in their lyrics. And if they had, absolutely no one would believe them.
But I digress. The urban nightmares spat out with hellish fury by singer/guitarist Chris Spencer resonate with the truly terrible things that this band has been through – a drummer dying of a heroin overdose and a singer beaten so savagely by Austrian thugs after a show that it necessitated the removal of internal organs, to name but two. As such, their music’s aggression is always grounded in sincerity, a bloodshot-eyed glance that tells of things seen, but never forgotten.
With this in mind, and with some of the truly terrible things that have befallen us this year, it seemed fitting that Amphetamine Reptile chose to reissue what is perhaps their best album, Scattered, Smothered and Covered, on June 24. Yes, I’m a little late.
Scattered, Smothered and Covered is not a fun record, just to be clear. It is a blow to the stomach, a hand pushing you nose-first into the ugliness and violence of the human condition, but somehow completely exhilarating with it. For all its noise-rock sensibilities, ear-snagging riffs and licks abound through every song, bolstered by the symbiotic relationship between Chris Spencer, drummer Vincent Signorelli and bassist Dave Curran. One of the heaviest power trios in history are finally given clarity and separation by ex-Halo of Flies member Tim Mac’s expert production, which clearly demarcates Spencer’s razorwire, Telecaster-powered guitar bite, counterpointing it with Curran’s gut-level basslines and Signorelli’s deft but brutal drum work; an engineer who miked the band once described his attack as “[hitting] the damn drums like they owe him money”.
‘Scrape’ opens the record with a muscly, slicing riff, but remains in mid-tempo, a stark contrast to the breakneck thrashing of your average hardcore band, giving the song room to breathe before opening up into its absolutely furious bridge. It was the lead single off the record for good reason, and it’s lost absolutely none of its impact over time, with Spencer’s distorted holler scything through the mix. Unsane rarely publish lyric sheets for their songs, and so often impression gained is one of an auditory Rorschach blot, but although you may not understand precisely what Spencer is singing, you cannot miss what he means. ‘Alleged’ picks up after, opening with a softly menacing bass lick and a distant mouth organ before exploding, which doesn’t seem the slightest bit out of place, but rather serves to heighten the mood earlier established. It’s well documented that, outside of Unsane, Spencer is an enormous blues fan, which carries through to his band’s music and lends it a unique tinge, a trace of subtlety here and there that serves to leaven the otherwise unremitting attack.
The album’s highlights are plentiful, its changes in speed thrilling; ‘Blame Me’ charges like a freight train about to hit some poor sap who picked the wrong moment to try to run the lights, ‘Can’t See’ lurches along in a drunken 3/4 waltz with a low-tuned riff that would have Queens of the Stone Age green with envy, while ‘Get Off My Back’ slows to a crawl, deploying the age-old tactic of sparse instrumentation interspersed with ear-shredding freak outs, with the sole lyric being the song’s title, bellowed by Spencer like a man pushed too far. ‘Empty Cartridge’ and ‘Ruin’ are sonic baseball bats swung in anger, with twisting hooks that wrap themselves around Spencer’s vocals.
But in fact, for all the rage and aggression, it’s one of the album’s most melodic songs that may be its crowning moment. ‘Blew’ mates a growling verse riff with a chorus that actually reverts to a major key; with a ringing arpegiatted riff that sings through the wall of guitar. Spencer’s vocals are, relatively speaking, at their most restrained here, and while undoubtedly as impactful as everything around it, ‘Blew’ only serves to highlight Unsane’s knowledge of the value in light and shade.
In short, it’s a classic. If your tastes lie on the heavier end of the musical spectrum, or even if you just dabble in it from time to time, pick this up. It might just surprise you. Unsane are a law unto themselves.
Like Unsane here: https://www.facebook.com/UNSANENYC/
Thursday, 14 July 2016
This is the sort of article that would probably change if I wrote it again in a weeks time, but it was also an enjoyable reminisce through my musical experience. Obviously I am massively influenced by things outside of music too, but I decided to stick to bands for this. Cheers to Colin for asking me to write it and I hope it’s not too wordy. I get carried away…
It’s also in historical order rather than importance, as I don’t really want to rank music.
Nirvana are an obvious place to start for me. They must feature in so many of these lists, but as clichéd as it is to say this, hearing Nirvana in your early teens really was life changing. Before I heard Nirvana I’d listened to the likes of Guns N’ Roses and Metallica and had a taste for loud angry music, but it was Nirvana who were the gateway band for me. Nirvana just had so much energy and I’d never heard anything like it. I still listen to them fairly regularly now. I don’t think I would ever have picked up a guitar without hearing this band. They made playing in a band seem accessible to me. The music they played seemed more achievable for someone like me, who had never had a music lesson in their life to be able to play. Yet at the same time it sounded so good.
I remember buying the single of ‘Self Esteem’ by The Offspring from a supermarket in France when I was on holiday with my parents. I think I must have been about 14. We were camping and I was an awkward teenager who wasn’t particularly sociable. I just listened to the single on repeat for hours on my Discman. It Had ‘Burn It Up’ and ‘Jennifer Lost The War’ as the B-sides. I saved my paper-round money and bought ‘Smash’ and their back catalogue as soon as I could afford it. I went away with some friends for the first time very soon after buying this and it was the soundtrack of that holiday, so it holds sentimental value, but I also think hearing ‘Smash’ and perhaps even more so, ‘Ignition’ that took me from liking grunge to a more ‘punk’ sound.
Terrorvision were the first band I saw live in about 1995. Actually, that’s not strictly true - I saw Mr Blobby and The Bee Gees at the Radio 1 Road Show on Exmouth Beach, which is probably infinitely cooler.
I remember seeing their music video for ‘Oblivion’ (Terrorvision - not Mr Blobby) on the Chart Show and ordering ‘How To Make Friends…’ from Lotus Records in my home town of Stafford the following week. First gigs always seem to stick with people. It was great and I went on to see them again many, many times.
I saw The Prodigy live two or three times in 1997. The most memorable for me was at Glastonbury. These were the band that made me realise that punk didn’t really have to sound like conventional punk. The Prodigy’s live show and music has all the energy and delivery that you would want from a punk band, whilst sounding much closer to dance music, particularly on my favourite Prodigy album, ‘Experience’. I still listen to them a lot now. I’ve always had a soft spot for this dancey sound and a couple of years ago this influenced us getting a couple of dance remixes made of Revenge songs, which ended up on our Ten Year Anniversary 7”.
NoFX are such an obvious choice, but clearly their sound is a natural progression from something like Offspring, so in my late teens they were pretty much my favourite band. But I think the big influence from NoFX came from what Fat Mike did with Fat Wreck Chords rather than just the music. It was this link that really hammered home to me the importance of getting involved in music outside of just playing in a band and was a huge influence in me starting my own gigs, eventually starting TNSrecords and all the stuff that has subsequently developed from that.
Kid Dynamite are a band that I simply couldn’t leave out of this list. ‘Shorter, Faster, Louder’ is one of my favourite albums ever, because those things are basically what I want in music. Kid Dynamite do it perfectly. As do Zeke, who are somehow not in this list, so this is their honorary mention.
Mighty Midgets are a band I found whilst doing the TNS fanzine. They sent me ‘Raising Ruins For The Future’ to review and I absolutely loved it. And it turned out that as well as being in an incredible band, they also ran the fantastic 5FeetUnder Records in Denmark. 5FeetUnder were/are exactly on the same wavelength as TNS and we’ve worked together many times since meeting them. We are really happy to be great friends now and were very happy to recently re-release ‘Raising Ruins…’ on vinyl for the first time, through TNS and a collective of other independent labels. It’s awesome to see like-minded people working together to make exciting projects (and some awesome piss-ups) happen.
I first saw The Bronx, supporting The Distillers in 2003 and they quickly became one of my favourite bands, both live and on record. Years later through my love of The Bronx, I discovered Mariachi El Bronx and was equally as blown away by them. It’s amazing seeing these people producing two such diverse bands and challenging themselves musically. I think it was The Bronx/Mariachi El Bronx that sowed the seed for Revenge Of… doing a split with Bootscraper, where we covered each other's tunes.
I first heard The Restarts in All Ages Records in London many years ago. They are another band who I have since become friends with after numerous gigs. I absolutely love all their albums, but I also love how they have become such an important and relevant part of the world punk scene, whilst being very much committed to the DIY ethos. It’s amazing to see that this route can work out so successfully for bands.
I’m reserving my last slot for the whole of the UK punk scene. I know a lot of my earlier picks are huge bands and I’m totally happy to have found my way to the underground punk scene through these gateway bands, but the thing that inspires me to keep going is seeing our incredible thriving scene. I’m writing this after going to/playing Wonkfest, which absolutely highlighted what a wonderful community we have. It was such a happy atmosphere. And it wasn’t just about the bands, everyone got involved and helped out and it was beautiful to see. Obviously I am part of the Manchester Punk Festival Collective too. Seeing the bands we all know and love translating to the bigger stage at these sorts of events is pretty special. Wonk Unit did an amazing job with Wonkfest and they inspire me all the time through their drive and community attitude. Every single one of the bands I get to work with through TNS inspires me too. I deliberately left TNS bands out of the main list as it would be like picking between family haha. But to give an example, Faintest Idea have been with TNS since our first compilation and have just released an amazing new album and filled big rooms at both MPF and Wonkfest. It’s great to see bands we’ve known for years becoming so established. And it goes much further than this. At Wonkfest I was absolutely blown away by the Nova Twins, who I’d never seen before. And I’ve also only just got into Pizza Tramp who are outstanding. There are so many innovative and exciting bands and incredible promoters and labels around at the moment. It’s a very exciting time to be involved in this scene and although sometimes doing all this can be hard work, seeing all these bands going from strength to strength and constantly discovering new bands makes me realise why we all put so much into this. As cheesy as this sounds, I really believe that the ethics and community that we have in the DIY scene can be a microcosm of what a better society could be. Maybe I’m wrong, but even if I am we’ll have a lot of fun finding out.
Like Revenge Of The Psychotronic Man here: https://www.facebook.com/RevengeofthePsychotronicMan/
Like TNSrecords here: https://www.facebook.com/TNSrecords/
Like the Manchester Punk Festival here: https://www.facebook.com/manchesterpunkfestival/
Wednesday, 13 July 2016
When Melbourne's The Smith Street Band announce a UK tour I'm always very excited. Earlier this year when they announced their current run of dates I was so excited that I bought Emma and I tickets for two of their shows – one at the Underworld in Camden and one for the next day at The Fighting Cocks in Kingston. Support for both shows came from Apologies, I Have None and Woahnows, both favourite bands of ours. What a line up! I was quite tempted to also book a ticket for their show at The Owl Sanctuary in Norwich but then I remembered I have Fest to save my pennies for. The day finally came for the Underworld show (which fell on a Saturday night) and I was looking forward to a great night. I got to the station, boarded my usual train and disaster struck. The train was delayed indefinitely due to the emergency services being called to an incident further down the line. The delay was so long that we ended up missing the whole gig. If the Underworld didn't have such an early curfew because of club nights I wouldn't have but that's a rant I've already had! It was a good job I got excited and bought tickets for the Kingston show, which was the day after, or we would have ended up missing out completely!
In case you haven't heard Apologies, I Have None have a new album out on the 26th of August named Pharmacie. Judging from the couple of tracks that have already been released, the album could top their classic debut London. The two new songs they played during their set in Kingston were actually highlights for me. As much as I love the songs from London and Black Everything, it's so nice and refreshing to hear new material. Even better to hear new material that's just as good if not better than the old school tracks. Love and Medication and Wraith got run outs and to me already feel like staples of an Apologies set. Of course I got a kick out of hearing tracks such as Sat In Vicky Park, Concrete Feet (which they amusingly had to restart due to a technical issue) and The 26, but the new stuff was just brilliant. I can't stress that enough. I only have one negative about the set and that was the lack of singing from the crowd. I don't know if it was because it was early or people just didn't know who they were but the crowd wasn't the normal rowdy, fists in the air, screaming along to every word rabble that I've gotten used to whilst seeing Apologies. Despite the subdued crowd Apologies, I Have None were as always brilliant.
Next it was time for The Smith Street Band. This evening's show would be very different to any other Smith Street band gig I've been to before as front man Wil Wagner would be sitting down. This was due to seriously injuring his calf muscle at a recent gig. Full credit to the man for flying all the way over from Australia to play this tour – he really didn't need to and everyone would have understood. What a man that Wil Wagner is. Despite Wil having to sit on a stool for the entire set it took nothing away from the show. A testament to just how good Wil and the rest of the band are at what they do. What was quite nice was that the set was more of a best of set, rather than one full of songs from an album that is recently released. It was nice to hear the band kick off the set with the absolute banger I Don't Wanna Die Anymore, an up-tempo track with a massive sing-along chorus. All of the stress and frustration of missing the night before was instantly forgotten. They tore through so many fantastic tracks such as I Can't Feel My Face, Surrender, When I Was A Boy (I Thought I Was A Fish), Throw Me In The River and Young Drunk to some fantastic reactions. It says so much about the strength of the Smithies discography that they can leave out classics such as Sigourney Weaver, Sunshine & Technology and Don't Fuck With Our Dreams and still have such a fantastic set list. There was also a nice treat for us in the form of new song, Death To The Lads, from an upcoming album that they're about to record. The song was great so I'm now very excited for the album. A special and personal mention has to go to the song I Love Life. A couple of years ago I was going through what was probably the hardest time of my life and was in a very dark and lonely place. This was also around the same time the Throw Me In The River album came out. I listened to that album a lot and eventually I began to drag myself out of that dark place. Then I met Emma and life became so much better and I was happy again. The song I Love Life has become an anthem for both of us. The lyrics in the second verse that go "I Love Life Such Fucking Much Right Now I Have To Pinch Myself, I Can't Quite Believe How Far I've Been Dragged Up From The Depths Of Hell" in particular mean the world to me. I should point out right now, as I probably should have much earlier in this review, that this was the first time Emma and I have seen The Smith Street Band together. Watching this song performed live with Emma by my side was an incredibly emotional moment for me and I had a very difficult time holding back the tears. This was another incredible performance from The Smith Street Band. I love life and I fucking love The Smith Street Band.
Monday, 11 July 2016
Stöj Snak is the folk punk project of musician Niels Sörensen, from Aalborg in Denmark. Niels also plays guitar in hardcore band Mighty Midgets so it's logical that his solo project takes influence from the world of punk rock as well. Although generally being more on the folk side of things, Stöj Snak has a very much DIY feel and all the angry passion of punk.
ScreamerSongwriter is Stöj Snak's 12-track debut album that was released on Make That A Take and TNS Records (in the UK at least) last month. Firstly, I have to say that the album title (and track of the same name) is genius. I'm always reluctant to call solo musicians in the punk scene 'singer songwriters' as that term tends to suggest soft, wishy-washy music but is often not at all the case. ‘Screamer songwriter’ is a much better term and seems to be one that Stöj Snak has wholeheartedly embraced.
The album begins with a surprisingly quiet and calm prelude, featuring some gentle acoustic guitar and piano playing. Prelude only lasts just over a minute and, as lovely as it is to start the album, I’m pleased to say that ScreamerSongwriter doesn’t stay so quiet and calm for long.
The prelude flows seamlessly into the first full track of the album, Fuck!. Apologies to anyone who doesn’t approve of swearing but that’s the title of the song and an integral part of the lyrics. It’s a fast and passionate song with a powerful and uplifting message about going out and living your life how you want to live. The lyrics ‘Here is to love beyond borders, gender, tradition and race. Let's tear down the walls that confines us, and let's make some room to make some sense of this place’ are just brilliant.
The next song on the album is called Laughter Brings People Together But No One Wants To Fuck The Funny Guy. If ‘Fuck!’ was fast then this song is doubly fast with double the aggression too. Fast paced drums and Niels’s screaming vocals remind me of early Against Me!, at least until the one minute mark when there’s some bluesy harmonica thrown into the mix. I don’t think Against Me! have harmonica on any of their songs?!
The harmonica continues with the start of Parental Disclaimer, the fourth track on ScreamerSongwriter. This is a slower song that is clearly more on the folk side of the folk punk spectrum. After two loud and fast tracks, it’s refreshing hear something a bit more stripped back. The emotion in Niels’ vocals is still apparent as he sings about growing up and how parents / grown-ups don’t necessarily know everything or get everything right – as you might have believed as a child. He’s clearly a very skilled lyricist with lines such as ‘And while growing up will not kill you, you surely won't feel stronger.’ really standing out. It’s probably very naïve of me to think this but I’m always impressed by songwriters who can write so eloquently when English isn’t their first language!
Spoiler Alert picks up the pace a bit and continues the theme of living your life to the fullest – or at least enjoying it anyway – without worrying about the things you might not have. The chorus, although it sounds quite negative on paper is actually quite empowering. ‘In the end you're gonna die alone, you'll bring nothing with you when you go. So free yourself from the things you own and spend your time with those people you love. If we've never been so rich, the question is why are we feeling so poor.’ Go listen for yourself and you’ll see what I mean. This song also features a kazoo solo!
The sixth song on the album is the title track, ScreamerSongwriter, and it’s certainly one of the best yet (I guess there’s a reason it is the title track!). If there was just one song on this album to make you want to shout and scream along at the top of your lungs then it most certainly is this one – even the lyrics allude to screaming along. ‘If you feel like screaming, just like I feel like screaming. Let out what you believe in, let me hear you scream it I think we're more than we think that we are. We can make our world sound that way, we can make the silence go away.’ I’ve mentioned the term ‘folk punk’ quite a few times already but this song is the perfect blend of the two genres – with plenty of traditional folk instruments, including a surprise appearance from a whistle, combined with all the intense energy of punk music.
As you might imagine from the title, Lullaby is a quieter and slower paced song. It’s a heart-wrenching song about standing up for a cause that you believe in in the form of protest. While on previous songs, Niels’ vocals were pushed to their limit – screaming more than singing – for Lullaby he really shows that he can sing, as well as shout. It’s a beautiful song and he really puts everything he’s got into it. ‘So close your eyes and just fade away, If we’re not here tomorrow, Something new will rise our of our remains.’
The fast and furious vocals are back with Privacy Is A Crime alongside some speedy guitar playing – probably as well as other instruments, it’s hard for me to decipher. The song is about how our sense of the word ‘freedom’ doesn’t actually mean that we are ‘free’ and ‘privacy’ is not easily achieved – particularly in the Internet age when there’s so much information about each and everyone of us online. ‘Just carry on and you’ll be fine, As long as you have nothing to hide.’
Old Friends And Irish Coffee begins with some repeated ‘doo, doo, doo, doo’-ing which reminds strangely of City and Colour – not that anything else so far on this album has made me think that. However when the full vocals begin the song is back sounding like the Stöj Snak I’ve come to know and love, just perhaps a bit more bluesy. The song is one that almost all of us can probably relate to, about meeting up with old friends that you haven’t seen in a long time but still finding things in common. ‘How have you been? It’s good to see that we still love, The things that everybody (else) hates.’
I really like it when albums have been recorded so that one song seamlessly flows into the next which is the case for most of this album and particularly with the next track, Hu-Men. Lyrically I think this is one of the standout tracks on the album, covering a topic that is too infrequently spoken about – ‘being a man’ and changing perceptions of what that means. ‘“Be a man” and lay off your softness, this world will crush you without your toughness. Learn to be hard and block out emotions that show your weakness.’ I think in a way it is more accepted for woman to either be ‘girly’ or not, while men always have to be macho and stuff. Don’t get me wrong, there are lot of inequalities for both men and women… but at least some people in this world see us all as equal, all as hu-men.
White Male Middle-Class Blues is the penultimate song on ScreamerSongwriter and it is the longest yet at 5 and a half minutes (Hu-Men, by contrast, was on 2 minutes long). The song is about being an average middle-class human being and getting by in life, in jobs that we don’t like to earn money to buy things that we don’t need – and generally feeling not too happy, but not too sad. It’s a pretty truthful song and puts things in perspective for the listener – who is probably also ‘middle-class’, although in my case not a male. But as is the case with many of Stöj Snak’s songs, the song is not as negative as you might think. ‘But this city's pretty nice in the summer when everybody's a little less depressed. Things are changing all the time, today might be the day you crack a smile.’
ScreamSongwriter closes with a song called Rokedor which Google tells me means ‘rogue elephant’ – this may or may not be correct. The song is the perfect end to this folk punk album. Starting off slowly, with just Niels’ vocals before the guitar kicks in. Rokedor sounds as if it is going to continue to be a slow and heartfelt song but the chorus – ‘Who cares what will remain when everyone's gone, I’ll walk through the rain singing this song.’ – is screamed before the next verse once again sung more gently. The melody of the verse is then echoed with the guitar which is a nice touch. In the middle of the song there is some group ‘Na na na na’-ing – which, don’t worry, doesn’t sound like a football chant. The group fades out until it’s just Niels singing accompanied by soft piano and guitar. It’s rather an apt way to end the album, especially considering how it began.
ScreamerSongwriter is an album packed with a wide variety of instruments, including but not limited to guitars, banjo, mandolin, ukulele, piano, bass, tambourine, kazoo, harmonica and drums – most of which are played by Niels himself! I’m not brilliant at picking out individual instruments in songs at the best of times but you can tell on this album that there’s a lot going on – and I don’t mean that at all in a bad way. It’s a brilliant collection of DIY folk punk songs that could easily rival the likes of Mischief Brew.
You can find Stöj Snak on Facebook here.
And buy and stream the album (and other releases) from Bandcamp here.
Friday, 8 July 2016
Recently my proud record of never going into a club was broken. Throughout the twelve years of my adult life I had quite successfully avoided being dragged into one. Then a few weeks ago I was out on a good friend's stag do and the decision was made to go into a club.
The thought of situation filled me with dread almost immediately. First of all I had to dress smart for the occasion. This is something I hate doing for anything I want to do let alone something I have literally no interest in. In my tiny mind a shirt, trouser and shoes are something you wear for work and not fun, but different strokes for different people. I was also amazed by the amount of effort it looked like people made when getting ready. It took me about 2 minutes, mostly because I couldn't find socks - some of the people I saw looked as if they'd been getting ready for this night their entire lives. But again, each to their own, this post isn't really about people's appearances, it's about how we were treated and the general culture I witnessed.
It turns out clubs don't like to let in big groups of males at the same time. Who knew?! I guess this is because the owners are worried about big drunken groups causing trouble. That's fair enough but you would also think some common sense and discretion would be implemented. Of our group of twelve not one person was out of control drunk and to look at us we're clearly a long way from looking like the sort of group that would cause any trouble. Because of this we had to split into separate smaller groups before attempting to get into anywhere which just seemed like a lot of messing around. This would never happen at a punk gig, everyone is welcomed no matter the size of your group. People are judged on their behaviour when then get into the venue and if they act in a way that is deemed inappropriate they are removed. This seems like the right way to be. Judging people on things they've done rather than things they might do. I kind of feel like that the judging people before they go in invites a more negative response from people. Feeling like you're being judged tends to put people in a defensive state of mind. Surely it's better for everyone if people enter any establishment in a more relaxed mood?
This will make me sound really old but when I first got into the club the first thing I thought was "gosh it's loud in here." Like, really stupidly loud. I know that a lot of the gigs I go to aren't exactly quiet but this was ridiculous. To try and talk to the person stood next to me I had to shout in there ear. Forgive me if I'm wrong but aren't clubs supposed to be a social activity? Don't get me wrong, I love a dance and it is quite helpful to have the music on for that but it was just too much and I quickly got quite fed up of having to shout to communicate with anyone. Apparently people like to do this every week? I just don't get it.
Obviously people might not get my love of going to small, sweaty pubs and clubs to see bands that nobody has ever heard of, which I completely get. At the end of the day people enjoy doing different things and it's a case of wherever you feel most comfortable. For me that is definitely at the punk rock show, where the people are polite, the music is good and I don't have to wear "nice clothes."
Thursday, 7 July 2016
The Smith Street Band are one of my favourite bands in the world. I just love their brutally honest, yet incredibly uplifting songs. Wil Wagner is one of my favourite lyricists of all time. I thought it might be fun to put together a top ten of my favourite Smith Street Band songs.
10. Wipe That Shit-Eating Grin Off Your Punchable Face
Released as a single last year, Wipe That Shit-Eating Grin is a song about supporting refugees and attacking the Australian Prime Minister. It starts slowly, builds and then explodes into life. With what's just happened in UK politics the lyrics "It Is Not Enough, To Be Quiet On The Train Back Home, Change Is Gonna Come, Our Countries Mind Can't Stay This Closed" feel incredibly fitting.
9. Postcodes (For People Who Will Not Arrest Me)
From the debut album Nobody Gets Lost Anymore, Postcodes begins in a punchy sing-along fashion before switching into a melodic and catchy chorus of "I Don't Wanna Work No More, I Don't Wanna Work No More, I'm Gonna Make You So Proud Of Me." This chorus is especially great in a live setting.
Technically this is a Wil Wagner solo song rather than a Smith Street Band song but I just couldn't leave it off of this list. The title track from Wil's solo EP is a hauntingly beautiful song about a dog named Laika who was the first dog in space. Wil is completely heartbreaking as he tells the tale from the point of view of Laika.
7. Sunshine And Technology
Sunshine And Technology is the title track of The Smith Street Band's second album. This is one of the band's rowdier songs. Starting out immediately with its big chorus the song goes into a couple of fast paced verses about going out and living your life rather than staying inside and sitting behind a screen.
6. Sigourney Weaver
I believe I am right in saying that Sigourney Weaver is one of the first songs that Wil Wagner ever wrote. Taken from No One Gets Lost Anymore, it has become a classic Smith Street Band song. The lyrics "And You Look So Beautiful With Your Back To Me, You Turn Around And Give Me A One Look Vasectomy, I Whisper In Your Ear Don't You Ever Disappear, And You Whisper Back Don't You Ever Fucking Touch Me!" always get such a big response live.
Throw Me In The River's Surrender is one of the more traditionally structured Smith Street tracks. Going from verse to chorus to verse to chorus like you would expect from any good pop song. Surrender is as catchy as the best pop songs as well. The chorus is instantly sing-able, you'll be shouting it out at the top of your lungs after the first listen!
4. Young Drunk
Young Drunk is the song that brought The Smith Street Band to my attention and I imagine many many others. From the Sunshine And Technology album it starts out acoustically as Wil's vocal is at its emotional best before the full band kick in and we are treated to another big sing-along. The song is about returning to the place where you grew up and realising what you've got isn't so bad.
3. I Love Life
I Love Life is the final track on Throw Me In The River and is an absolute masterpiece. It's about coming up from a dark place in your life and finding happiness. It starts fast, Wil's vocals are more punchy and in your face than ever before throughout the first period of the song. Then comes a fantastic extended musical interlude that slowly builds towards the songs finale. It's like an amazing rollercoaster ride. The lyrics "And I Love Life So Fucking Much Right Now I Have To Pinch Myself, I Can't Quite Believe How Far I've Been Dragged Up For The Depths Of Hell" in particular really mean something to me.
2. When I Was A Boy (I Thought I Was A Fish)
This is a song that I didn't quite appreciate it's brilliance until I heard it live. When I Was A Boy is up-tempo and extremely uplifting. It's a song in which Wil gives thanks to all of his past experiences which have got him to this point in his life. Of course there are more lyrics that really hit home with me personally. Wil has a great skill in writing such relatable songs. "I'd Like To Thank The Things That I've Seen, The Friends That I've Made, All The People That Have Hurt Me, The Times That I've Been Saved And To Music, Which Has Made Me It's Most Obliging Slave" is something I'd like to say but am nowhere near a good enough wordsmith so say as well as that.
1. Don't Fuck With Our Dreams
What can I say about Don't Fuck With Our Dreams that I haven't said before? Probably not a lot so I'll just repeat myself about just how awesome this song. Something the Smith Street Band do better than any other band on the planet is take you on a magical ride of ups and down on their songs. This track is no different. It's got highs and lows, builds, a massive chorus and will have you shouting as loud as you possibly can to every single word. It's about continuing to fight for what you believe in despite any bump in the road that might come your way. The especially loved the breakdown of the song where Wil appears to be at his lowest before finding the inspiration to stand up and fight for what you love. Inspirational.
Like The Smith Street Band here: https://www.facebook.com/thesmithstreetband/