Tuesday, 23 May 2017

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

This gig review was written by Colin Clark.

Album Review: Giantnormous by Zapiain (by Omar Ramlugon)

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

This review was written by Omar Ramlugon.

Monday, 22 May 2017

Album Review: Crustfall by Days N Daze

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

This review was written by Emma.

Friday, 19 May 2017

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

This gig review was written by Emma.

Thursday, 18 May 2017

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

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

The Mighty Mighty Bosstones

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

The Briggs

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

The Apers

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

Hot Water Music

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

Dear Landlord

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

The Dopamines

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

The Vandals

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

The Johnstones

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

Bomb The Music Industry

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

Operation Ivy

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

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

This top ten was written by Colin Clark.

Wednesday, 17 May 2017

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

This review was written by Dan Peters.

Tuesday, 16 May 2017

Album Review: Run by Ghouls (by Robyn Pierce)

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

This review was written by Robyn Pierce.

Monday, 15 May 2017

Album Review: May Your Ashes Have Stories To Tell by Everymen

If there was one band that I didn't know but really made me a fan when Emma and I visited Gainesville for The Fest last year it was Everymen. The Floridian five piece's eccentric brand of folk punk rock was full of energy and was definitely THE biggest surprise of the whole festival. I was beyond stoked when I got an email from the brilliant Say-10 Records, whom the band had recently signed to, to review their brand new album, May Your Ashes Have Stories To Tell. If the band are half as lively on record as they are live I was sure to love this album.

First up is the track Shake Your Bones. Immediately the guitar teleports you to the swamp (metaphorically, guitars don't have teleportation powers) and we get a feel of what Everymen are all about. It's fast paced folk dance, designed to get you dancing joyfully and singing along with all your pals. The double bass does a fantastic job of holding the song together while a mass of other instruments do their thing and go off in all directions. A very strong start to the album. In the past year or so the members of Everymen have sadly lost some close friends, this is addressed in the second song, Dead Friends. This song is a stirring tribute to lost loved ones with the lyrics "Memories That Linger With Time, And The Ghost Of Your Heart Will Never Die" basically saying that even though you are gone you will never be forgotten. This is an incredibly emotional song lyrically and a really fitting tribute for anyone who has lost somebody that they care about. Annihilation has more than a whiff of early Against Me! about it, which made me fall in love with it immediately. The song starts out slowly before building into a full on raucous punk party. The rawness to the recording adds an element of real to it. Annihilation is about destroying yourself because you're struggling to deal with things that are happening in your life. I loved this song so much. I can see it easily appearing in my end of year lists.

The fourth song, How To Live, is another highlight. This is a proper barroom sing-a-long, foot-stomper of a song. The sort of song where you put your arm around whoever is next to you, stick your other arm, with drink in hand in the air and just shout along with all the joy in the world. How To Live is an upbeat song about letting down the walls that prevent you doing things and learning how to get the most out of your life. Don't Rain On My Parade starts out with a slow, gypsy punk style before transforming into a fast paced, dance-like-a-maniac track. It's the longest song on the album and really allows each member to show off their immense musical skills. The song switches styles again towards the end of it, slowing things down for some polka to complete the song. In my mind I'm imagining the crowd have a good ol' square dance. The sixth song is a re-recording of the opening song Waking Up Hurts off of the Everymen album Beautiful Curse. I'm interested to know why they decided to re-record this track for Ashes. I'm not complaining though, it fits in perfectly. I love the lyrics at the end of the song - "When I'm Feeling All Alone, I Can Hear You On My Stereo." Tattoo worthy lyrics. Time is another that starts out slowly before launching into a fast paced punk sing-song. Starting slow and building the track up is something that Everymen do very very well. Time is about setting you free. I know this because these are the words to the chorus. It's about learning from mistakes over time and growing as a person.

M.B. is a song dedicated to folk punk legend and good friend of Everymen, Erik Peterson of Mischief Brew, who so sadly died last year. M.B. is an up-tempo number with plenty of very poignant lyrics. "You Created A World Surrounded By Friends, May Your Songs Get Stuck Out Of Our Heads" and "When We Sing Out Loud To Your Songs, With More Feeling Than Ever Before, With Our Hearts In Our Throats, We Have To Let Go" really stand out. Just a fantastic song and a very fitting tribute to a great man. The penultimate song on May You Ashes Have Stories To Tell is named Taking Work Home. The beginning of the song feels extremely old school Against Me! again - like I said earlier, never a bad thing! After the obligatory slow start, we are treated to more fast paced folk punk fun. I cannot state enough just how good Everymen are as musicians. It's hard to remain still whilst listening to them play. This is most evident at the end of the song where the melody is switched up and drives up towards the end of the track in a great fashion. On the final track, Don't Stay, the band switches things slightly to a Baltic/gypsy sound reminiscent of Gogol Bordello. On my first listen of the song I was waiting for the expectant slow start/fast ending song structure that I had become accustomed to on this album. This doesn't happened, instead we are treated to a fiddle lead song that features a female vocal playing off lead singer Sergio Witis. The whole track has a bit of a haunting feeling to it, the fiddle playing helps create a fantastic atmosphere. A brilliant ending to the album.

I don't often review folk punk albums for Colin's Punk Rock World, as that tends to be Emma's specialist area. I'm so pleased that I decided to do May Your Ashes Have Stories To Tell. It's a great album that has inspired me to dig deeper into the fantastic world of folk punk and uncover some more excellent bands like Everymen.

Download May Your Ashes Have Stories To Tell here: http://www.say-10.com/store/everymenashes/

Like Everymen here: https://www.facebook.com/EVERYMEN.MUSIC/

This review is by Colin Clark.

Friday, 12 May 2017

CPRW Playlist: Punk Rock Around The World

Here at Colin's Punk Rock World we love to discover bands from all over the world. The whole team have got together to look for bands from all corners of the globe but also avoiding the UK and USA to make it a little bit harder. Why don't you check out our playlist and see if you can work out where each band is from. The answers are here.

Thursday, 11 May 2017

Top Tens: Colin's Top Ten Lightyear Songs

Last Friday the most exciting piece of musical news of the year was released. One of my all-time favourite bands, Lightyear, announced that they would be reforming permanently, will be doing a UK tour in October to celebrate their 20th anniversary and are working on new music!

I feel like I should rewind slightly and explain who Lightyear are and why I love them so much. Lightyear are a ska punk band from Derbyshire who hit their peak during the early 2000s. Known as much for their lively and raucous live shows as they are for their fantastic and exciting brand of ska punk. I don't think you've really experienced a proper live show unless you've seen Lightyear live. It's everything you would expect from a live set - it's fun, it's filled with mayhem, it's so unpredictable and they'll have you singing and dancing almost as much as laughing. Lightyear are a band like no other. I'm so pleased that I can use the word 'are' rather than 'were' when talking about Lightyear again.

Because of this most exciting news, I decided that the time is right to do a Top Ten Lightyear songs. You might think that this is a bit silly as they only released two albums. I say to those people: it's okay, Lightyear were quite a silly band. I also say it's my blog so I can do it if I want to. And I want to.

10. Uri Gellar Bent My Heart from Chris Gentlemens Hairdresser and Railway Bookshop

When I first picked up a CD of Chris Gentlemens Hairdresser this was one of the songs that stood out due to its title. I was immediately impressed on my first listen, with Chas and Neil doing some absolutely fantastic harmonies. It's a song that isn't particularly horn heavy, especially for a Lightyear song, instead going for a less is more approach with understated blasts throughout. There is also a great spoken word breakdown when Chas denounces many of the terrible political decisions that were made in the early 2000s when the album was released.

9. Trumpet Trousers from Chris Gentlemens Hairdresser and Railway Bookshop

Trumpet Trousers is classic Lightyear. I say this because it's such a unique and unpredictable song. Implementing a turntable and a voice track that talks about testicles exploding, Trumpet Trousers is the most random of songs - it's about drug use. It's a really smart song lyrically as it plays like a conversation of two people having a random conversation whilst under the influence. The chorus is one that remains in your head, especially the line "Chin Up Chas, At Least You're Not The Drummer From Busted."

8. Tread Lightly, Speak Dearly from Call Of The Weasel Clan

Tread Lightly, Speak Dearly is the opening song of debut album Call Of The Weasel Clan. It served as a great opening of what you get from Lightyear from the opening guitar chords. It's a bit disjointed, much like Lightyear, but there is so much charm and joy to the music that it is impossible not to immediately fall in love with the band. This is a fast paced ska punk tune with Lightyear's brass section on top top form, giving the song even more impetus throughout. Tread Lightly, Speak Dearly is a song about dealing with the end of a relationship and working out the best way to deal with things.

7. Blindside from Call Of The Weasel Clan

Blindside is another song about break-ups. Starting off with an extended horn section (which Emma thinks would be brilliantly used in a 90s comedy crime caper with the main character wearing a suit and sunglasses walking down the street dancing). You can't help but want to dance to this track and it has one of Lightyear's best choruses - which is really saying something. I can't wait to shout "There's A Hole Inside Of Me, And It's Cut So Clinically, A Lesson Learned, And No Regret" back at the band. This is also a fantastic song live where the percussion breakdown transforms into a Morris dancing section, as you would expect.

6. Life Jacket Water Wings from Chris Gentlemens Hairdresser and Railway Bookshop

Starting out with some crunching guitars and some thudding drums before quickly switching to a lighter acoustic guitar sound. There is a feeling of happiness and joy to the song, it has such a upbeat and positive sound. If you're listening to the song for the first time it might sound like a lot of nonsense, after many more listens it still sounds like a lot of nonsense but deep down it's a song about leaving your comfort zone, getting out and your day to day life but remembering the good times.

5. Nuff Cuts from Chris Gentlemens Hairdresser and Railway Bookshop

After a horn lead introduction, Nuff Cuts is one of Lightyear's more punk rock sounding tracks. It will instantly turn a skank pit into a full on mosh pit. Nuff Cuts is a great song for showing off Lightyear's harmonies and excellent gang vocal sections. The track really has everything I want in a ska punk song. It's about getting out of an abusive scenario and shouting "Step Back, You'll Never Lay A Finger On Me!"

4. Positive Outlook from Call Of The Weasel Clan

The penultimate song on Call Of The Weasel Clan, Positive Outlook, is another that heavily features the incredible harmonies and gang vocal abilties of Lightyear. It's a song about friendship and no matter how hard things can get you'll always have your people to look out for you. It's a slower track that is truly infectious in many ways. The melody is one that you'll be humming immediately and the chorus of "And There's A Place Where We'll Forget, The Thing's We've Done, The Thing's We've Said, I Know There's Been Some Hard Times, But I Need You My Friend." There is a disgusting yet humorous voice track of the band discussing eating things you really shouldn't eat, it's the type of conversation that you can only have with your best friends. I thought it was very smart to include it on this song about friendship.

3. Twat Out Of Hell from Chris Gentlemens Hairdresser and Railway Bookshop

The opening track on Chris Gentlemens Hairdresser is also the best on the album in my opinion. It's also the first Lightyear song that I ever heard. It's also my favourite Lightyear song title - I'm amused by the Bat Out Of Hell pun. Twat Out Of Hell is a song about two things, firstly former President George W. Bush's time in charge of the USA and secondly about the struggles of life in a underground band. I like how the premise of the song is supposed to be about Bush but the band continusly find themselves going back to rock band struggles. This is clever songwriting, Chas Palmer-Williams has long been one of the best lyricists in the game. This was such an amazing introduction to Lightyear for me and I've been hooked on them ever since.

2. A Pack Of Dogs from Call Of The Weasel Clan

Lightyear's ode to the 80s is probably their most beloved track. Opening with a voice track about how ska punk will never be accepted in the main stream culture, from there we have one of the catchiest, most fun, smile inducing songs I've ever heard. Starting with the ever amazing brass section, the song gets you dancing straight away before Chas's first two verses make reference to many of the greatest things to come out of the 80s - including The Fonz, Mr T, The Goonies and The Breakfast Club. Then we get to the chorus which switches up the melody and we get some huge gang vocals and the song makes big references to cult 80s game show Bullseye. This is the tradiotional closing track for Lightyear, with very good reason. It's a huge crowd favourite due to its massive sing-a-long moments and rediculously danceable melody. Listen to this song and don't smile. I dare you.

1. Three Basics from Call Of The Weasel Clan

It was a very close run thing but Three Basics is my absolute favourite Lightyear song. The fourth song on Call Of The Weasel Clan wastes no time at all in getting started with some fast paced vocals, helping the song to explode into life and the band shouting "It Will All Fall Down, This Music Doesn't Belong To You!" A great chance for the a live crowd to shout with the band. After the horns come in and help to continue the ferocious start, the tempo of the song changes for the real meat and gravy of the song. This is where we really get a sense of what the song is about. Three Basics looks at all the different prejudices that are forced on you as a youngster, whether it's racism, homophobia or anything else, and how despite all of the terrible things that happen because of prejudice they still have faith in the good in humanity. The song is only two minutes and twenty seconds long but you are taken on such a rollercoaster throughout the song's duration. So much goes on it feels like this is three brilliant songs rather than just one. So many lyrics stand out on this song. One being "And I Know We'll Get Away From This, Believe In A Stupid Song, Not A Social Analyst, But I Know We'll Get Away From This, Faith In Human Kind, Faith To Destroy Prejudice" and "We'll Fight, Forever If We Have To, We'll Stand, Longer Than You Do, We'll Win, Never Any Question, Of The Reason Why, Or Of Our Intention." Just an amazing, uplifting, powerful punk rock song.

My gosh I can't wait for October to see Lightyear once more! Five months is too long to wait!

This top ten was written by Colin Clark.

Wednesday, 10 May 2017

Album Review: The Best We Know How by One Armed Joey

One Armed Joey are a pop punk band from San Francisco, California consisting of Avery Okamura (guitar/vocals), Kevin Worden (bass/vocals) and James Allen (drums/vocals). The three piece are influenced by legends such as NOFX, Propagandhi and Dillinger Four as well as newer bands such as PUP, Pears and The Dirty Nil. On the 12th of May the band release a new EP named The Best We Know How.

The EP begins with title track, The Best We Know How. This track starts with a nice little guitar riff, before the full band come in and immediately show their skill as musicians. Vocally they have a bit of a 90s skate punk throwback vibe and that really made me want to keep listening. One part of the song that I enjoyed above all else was the breakdown, which was just guitar and vocals. It really helped to drive home the meaning of the song - no matter what hurdles come your way in life you have to keep going the best way that you know how. I loved the up-tempo vocal style of the second track Groundhog Day. It was filled with so much energy that it had me dancing on my sofa. This is the sort of pop punk I really jump on board with. It's not just the vocal delivery, the music is superb - the guitar, bass and drums all playing their parts perfectly. As you might have guessed from its title, Groundhog Day is about getting stuck in a rut and wanting to find a way out of it. The next song, Walls, is a really interesting song - there is a bit of a stop/start approach to the song that helps the song hold your attention throughout. It, more so than any other song on the EP, shows just what good musicians One Armed Joey are.

The fourth song on The Best We Know How is named Vagrant. Vagrant starts out pretty slowly before exploding into life and becoming one of the hardest songs on the EP. Musically I'm really reminded on NOFX on this track, if the vocals were more snotty then I think the song could easily have found its way onto Punk In Drublic. A common theme on The Best We Know How is how excellent the guitar intros to all the songs are. This remains the case with Occupied By Leaves. Occupied By Leaves has more of a modern pop punk sound, but you know, it's good, very very good. It's fast and upbeat and the vocals are full of passion. There are moments to dance, there are moments to just pogo up and down. This is that summer pop punk that fits magically in those classic 90s American teen movie montages where the gang get into hi-jinks at the beach. The final track on the EP is titled You And Your Friends Are Dead (Game Over). Not a very cheerful song title. The song takes a strange look at the upsides of being dead. It's a brave topic to attempt a song about but One Armed Joey pull it off well with some brilliant tongue in cheek lyrics. There is a massive upbeat feeling to the whole song and it is one of the best pop punk songs of the year.

One Armed Joey are a band with a massive upside - super tight musicianship, great vocals and excellent songwriting skills. There's nothing not to like about this great new band. Check them out!

Like One Armed Joey here: http://www.facebook.com/onearmedjoey

This review was written by Colin Clark.

Tuesday, 9 May 2017

Album Review: Sink or Swallow/North by The Run Up

The Run Up are a five piece punk rock band from Bristol. On the 21st of April they released a brand new single featuring the songs Sink or Swallow and North. I loved their previous release, Scared Of Everything, so I was intrigued to see where the band went with this brand new single.

Sink or Swallow comes first on the single. There is no messing around with a slow intro, the song starts with no thrills and this does a great job in helping to familiarise yourself with The Run Up's melodic pop punk sound. Think Red City Radio with cleaner vocals. The track has a fantastic anthemic quality that also does a ridiculously good job of pulling you into the song. From the first listen I found myself trying to sing along. By the end of that first listen, I had nailed the chorus - it's so infectious. The first half of the single was a cracker, what about the second?

North is played at a faster pace than Sink or Swallow, which gives the song slightly more urgency. For me, if a song sounds urgent it's a great way of getting my attention for the entire song. The guitar playing at the beginning of the song immediately got me bouncing along before those excellent vocals struck. The Run Up's lead singer Larry has one of my favourite voices in UK punk rock. It just makes me want to sing along with him - it's endearing and welcoming and just lovely. When the rest of the band join in for harmonies and gang vocals the sound just explodes. This is that fist pumping punk rock that I love oh so much!

This is a great release from The Run Up. If you like bands such as Red City Radio, Hot Water Music, Bangers or Iron Chic you should be checking out The Run Up. If you're in London on the 17th of May make sure to check them out at the Unicorn in Camden. They are also playing Fest as well. Quality band, quality release.

Stream and download the single here: https://therunupuk.bandcamp.com/album/sink-or-swallow-north

Like The Run Up here: https://www.facebook.com/therunupuk/

This review was written by Colin Clark.

Monday, 8 May 2017

Album Review: Open City by Open City

Open City are a four piece hardcore band from Philadelphia. The band features singer and lyricist Rachel Rubino (Bridge And Tunnel, Worriers), bassist Andy Nelson (Paint It Black, Ceremony, Dark Blue), guitarist Dan Yemin (Paint It Black, Lifetime, Kid Dynamite, Armalite), and drummer Chris Wilson (Ted Leo & the Pharmacists). With that collection of talent Open City could quite easily be described as an East Bay supergroup. Back in January Open City released their debut self titled album. With that collection of members this was only ever going to be fantastic.

Hell Hath No Fury is the title of the open track. The song wastes absolutely no time in getting incredibly ferocious. Rachel Rubino's lyrics hit hard as she sings a song about how men should not mess with any women, if they do they should be prepared to fight back. The final verse in particular really stood out to me - "I Know You'd Like It If We Just Sat Silent And Never Challenged Your Ideas, So Here's How We Feel, Here's What We Want, Here's What We Need: To Be Heard." From the opening track it's clear there is some superb lyrics to hear on this album. Up next is the song Whose God? This, unlike the opening track is a more measured approach to the hardcore genre. It's still super heavy but every note feels like it has a lot of intent behind it. I guess it's not over surprising given the talent in the band but the musicianship on this track is absolutely superb, accompanied by Rubino's throaty vocals, this song is about people using religion as an excuse for using a gun. Rubino repeatedly screams "Whose God Gave You That Gun?" For Shame is another different sounding song. Anyone who thinks all hardcore music sounds the same needs to listen to Open City. This is far slower than the previous two tracks and is the first to really show off Rubino's abilities as a singer as well as a screamer.

The fourth song on the album is also the longest. Black Veils is a slow plodding so about returning to a past lover after being apart and discovering that things aren't the same as they were before. The song remains at a slower pace throughout apart from its finale where after a lengthy bass line Rubino's voice gradually builds towards its trademark growl and finishes the song in an intense fashion. On The Spit brings back the hardcore ferocity of the opening track. At just fifty-four seconds long it's a short track but my word does it hit you hard. This track is about overly macho guys who go to gigs just to be violent. I particularly enjoyed the crunching guitars at the beginning of the song, adding a great deal of force to the opening of the track. You can just imagine a circle pit opening up as Dan Yemin begins to play this song. Brother, I'm Getting Nowhere is another fast paced song. This was probably my favourite song on the album. It's about the frustrations of trying to make a difference but feeling like you're not getting anywhere. I loved the switch in melody for the final verse of the song, it has more of a melodic, dare I say poppy sound as Rubino shouts out "All These Words They Don't Mean Shit, Well All You Do Is Yell At Bricks." On my first listen of the seventh song, Night Shift I was sort of reminded of the British punk band Caves, except Open City have much more snarl about them. This was another of my favourites from the record. Night Shift is about fighting for a cause you believe in despite people not getting it.

Nerve Centre gives you know time to rest between songs as it immediately starts another hardcore assault. Nerve Centre is about feeling like you're stuck in the wrong job and that you've given up on what you belief in. This whole thing is summed up brilliantly in the second verse - "I Am Tired And You Are Right, We've Given Up The Fight, Trading My Cards In For Other Efforts, Find A Place Where I Can, Be More Effective, What A Fucking Joke." The penultimate song on Open City is named Sofa Drugs. The first thing I noticed is the difference in guitar sounds, there is a smooth rolling style to go along with Rubino's growls creating a fantastic unique sound. It sounds as if there are two different melodies being played in the song, especially during the verse. This keeps the album sounding fresh right up until it's final track Honest As A Sunday Morning. Honest As A Sunday Morning has a bit of an epic feel to it, making it the best choice for the final song on the album. Compared to most of the album it feels slightly more chilled out, which is a phrase I didn't think I'd use to describe anything on Open City. Honest As A Sunday Morning is a song about looking at your life choices and wondering if you're being true to yourself or just making a great big mess of things. I loved that the album finishes with the line "I'm Tired But I'm Not Slowing Down." To me this is not only a slogan to live your life by but a great metaphor to end the album on. As it fades out it does leave you wanting more from the band and makes you interested to hear what the band do next.

Stream and download Open City here: https://theeopencity.bandcamp.com/album/open-city

Like Open City here: http://www.facebook.com/theeopencity

This review was written by Colin Clark

Friday, 5 May 2017

Column: Jawbreaker's Albums Ranked From Least Good To Most Amazing (by Omar Ramlugon)

They said it would never happen.

For the entirety of the 21 years since Jawbreaker broke up, singer/guitarist Blake Schwarzenbach has continually either dodged, brushed off or outright dismissed any and all notions of the seminal punk trio reforming, even going so far as to once reply “Fuck no”[1] in answer to a tentative enquiry about it. But then again, the past year or so has been filled with things that would so-say “never happen”, like a wet sack of rancid pork rinds being elected to one of the most powerful offices in the world, or Britain deciding to leave the EU under the command of a Spitting Image puppet made sentient via blood magic.

So with these terrible, terrible things in mind, it’s nice to have something that would “never happen” be a wonderful surprise rather than a ringing indictment of humanity. The fates have aligned, and Jawbreaker are riding out of the mist in a glorious display, giving hope and happiness to us all. Or at least, to those who listen/listened to them. But anyway, their news of a reunion comes at a time when some good news is very much needed and rapturously appreciated, and what better way to celebrate than to read a gushing run down of their albums in order of quality? Apart from leave comments on everything Adam Pfahler posts on their Facebook page begging them to tour the UK – or is that just me? Anyway, here we go, in ascending order.

Disclaimer – this is all going to be my opinion, so feel free to disagree with the order. This is just how I see it.

4. Unfun (1990, Shredder Records, reissued in 2010 by Blackball Records)

It was always going to be this one at the bottom, given that the merits of the three to come are constantly debated by Jawbreaker fans. But that’s not to say that Unfun is in any way a substandard record – far from it. Unfun was a strikingly confident, rambunctious debut from a trio who would go on to become truly legendary in their own right. All the hallmarks of their later work can be found here, such as Schwarzenbach’s inimitable rasp – here a little higher pitched than on the records to follow – or the clever use of obscure samples from old radio shows and documentaries to generate a real sense of weight and mood. Even here, they were a cut above the pop-punk boom that was on its way.

Elsewhere, Chris Bauermeister and Adam Pfahler’s rhythm section bounce and dart in and out of Schwarzenbach’s razor sharp guitars, and on the whole the record put a satisfyingly impudent smirk on your face; whether it’s through the brilliant, distilled love song ‘Want’, the sharply observed anti-racism of ‘Seethruskin’, the furious ‘Driven’, or the outstanding instrumental that makes ‘Fine Day’ tear off into the sunset.

However, as good as the songs are, they don’t quite merge into a cohesive whole, or generate a churning sonic atmosphere as well as the later records, but given that it was their first LP, that’s completely understandable. Schwarzenbach’s lyrics, while sharp and witty, at times lapse into the wilfully abstract and as a result they don’t kick right in the gut or heart as well as they might. Furthermore, the instrumental outro in ‘Drone’ loses itself a little towards the end, but these slight missteps were gone by the time next one rolled around.

3. Bivouac (1992, Tupelo, Communion Records, reissued in 2013 by Blackball Records)

Coincidentally, this is the album that chronologically follows Unfun. A lot of people have claimed this as their favourite of the trio’s records, but although I would not for a second denigrate this album’s might and vigour – I would disagree.

Without a doubt, Bivouac is leaps and bounds above Unfun, which is saying something right from the off. Although the production is a little darker and less brightly in your face than Unfun, it somehow seems to fit the darker, sludgier riffing with which the band were experimenting at the time, which makes sense given Helmet’s Strap It On was released not two years earlier. Blake Schwarzenbach’s wry, snarky tone on Unfun was gone, replaced with a lower, husky bark, and the bright, edgy chime of his guitar had switched for a thick, midrange and bass-led snarl – I’m speculating here, but I think this must have been the record where he started playing Gibson Les Pauls.

If Unfun was the fun house party, Bivouac was the depressed, unwashed, hurting hangover. There are moments of levity, even edging close to pop – ‘Chesterfield King’ is one of the band’s most covered songs, and is a beautifully tender love song couched in guttural punk rock, and ‘Tour Song’ alternates between being blackly comedic and strikingly heartfelt, weaving tales of frustration with the travails of being a working band. Elsewhere, other songs show that Jawbreaker weren’t afraid to dip into literary sources for their material, as ‘Shield Your Eyes’ shows with its exploration of Plato’s allegory of the cave.

The instrumental flourishes touched on in Unfun are given thrilling voice across the whole album, as time and again the songs slow to almost a crawl, with little more than a menacing bassline and a funereal drumbeat to keep the mood before the whole thing almost literally explodes back into life, the guitars more like a dense volcanic rush than anything else. Lyrically, things are still abstract, never overly specific, but between the bleak images are moments of terrible sadness, such as the penultimate verse of ‘Like a Secret’, or the devastating line in ‘P.S New York Is Burning’; “And from a distance, it seems so unreal / Nothing left, nothing to feel / And if it hurt you, it hurt me too / I had to kill it to heal the wound’. This is Jawbreaker at their heaviest and most brooding, and its impact is absolutely crushing.

But herein lies why it’s third on my list; sometimes, it’s almost too much. The feedback-drenched title track is perhaps a perfect metaphor for the entire album; while brutally powerful and aching with a tangible loss and pain, it does lose itself a little amongst the roiling noise. Of course, if that’s your thing – and it is mine too, from time to time – then this will probably make it your favourite in their canon. But to my ear, while it’s a brilliant album and a landmark in punk, not everyone will be able to peel back its bristling outer layers and jump in.

2. Dear You (1995, DGC Records, reissued in 2004 by Blackball Records)

Dear You was, unfortunately, the album that destroyed Jawbreaker. Frustrated with the myopia and self-defeating idiocy of their scene and burned out from gruelling tours, the band made the decision to sign to DGC records for this album, a move which alienated many an overzealous fan. Adam Pfahler recounts how the thought process behind it was almost a “[…] whimsical decision to sign to a major […]“Ah, what the fuck, this could be interesting, we’ve never done this before. Maybe it’ll be fun, maybe it’ll be glamorous.” We knew […] we could afford to spend a little bit more time in the studio, which we had never done. So it was just sort of like, “Let’s do something different, let’s see where it takes us.””[2]

Pragmatic and sensible as that now sounds, at the time, many cried foul, and it even went so far as former fans turning up to shows only to sit down and face away from the stage when Jawbreaker started playing songs from Dear You, which was their loss. Slick, muscular production and high budget gloss aside, Dear You frequently delves into areas as dark and depressing as Bivouac, and as Schwarzenbach recounted in an interview around the time in Alternative Press, this was due to his personal pain and grief over the loss of close friends leaking into the songs; “[…] Rage and disappointment, those are the type of love songs I want to hear. I spend a lot of time alone and don't hang out with a lot of people. I write music to score my own life."”[3]

However, as bleak as this admission may sound, the lyrics are written with such a deft touch that they don’t ever sound maudlin or whiny. The abstractions of before are pretty much gone by this point, with Schwarzenbach’s captivating turn of phrase grounding all the songs in tangible metaphors and imagery. Elsewhere, the music was simply incredible, the extra time in the studio giving room for overdubs and layering which the band simply didn’t have the resources or the time for in their earlier work, and it really is a thing of beauty to have songs this good rendered in such fine detail.

For example, ‘Accident Prone’, one of the best songs Jawbreaker – or anyone, for that matter – ever wrote, ranges between its wry, quiet verses to a mammoth chorus, and an incredible, beautiful interlude where the band lock into an instrumental groove that only serves to heighten the emotions expressed across the track. The same can be said for ‘Jet Black’, with its darkly humorous sampling of Woody Allen’s “Annie Hall” giving some levity to what is otherwise a powerfully sad, slow song, while ‘Basilica’ erupts into a maelstrom of Bivouac-esque mania at its end.

But that’s not to say it’s all frowns and downturned gazes; ‘Bad Scene, Everyone’s Fault’ is a hilarious and vivid portrait of a poseur house party, which clocks in at barely over two minutes, while ‘Fireman’’s chorus can’t help but raise a smile, or a gasp of horror if you think about it a little more; “If you could hear the dreams I’ve had my dear / They would give you nightmares for a week / But you’re not here and I can never sleep / Come home so I can be a creep.” I also would be remiss to mention the excellent ‘Sluttering (May 4th)’, which is perhaps one of the most brutal kiss-offs ever committed to record, with its vicious repetition of “If you hear this song a hundred times it still won’t be enough.”

Truthfully, it was very tough to put Dear You second. It’s pretty much perfect in so many ways, and there’s not a single song on it I don’t love. But then again, the same can be said of the champion in this competition.

1. 24 Hour Revenge Therapy (1994, Tupelo, Communion Records, reissued by Blackball Records in 2014)

24 Hour Revenge Therapy is the sound of Jawbreaker in their prime. Neither searching for a sound as much as the preceding albums while not quite as beaten down as they may have been on Dear You, it marks a centre point of all of their best qualities; lyrically literate, while being focused and direct, musically tough without disappearing down instrumental rabbit holes, and finding a middle ground between the polished production of Dear You and the churning grit of Bivouac, thanks in no small part to the uncredited production of Steve Albini.

Blake Schwarzenbach’s writing had progressed in an entirely different direction since Bivouac; while literary allusions cropped up from time to time – the Kerouac sample in ‘Condition Oakland’ being the most prominent – here he simply writes both specific and yet curiously tales of being twentysomething and struggling to get by, whether that be in romance, in music, or just to get to your next beer. It’s a territory that’s been mined since the beginning of popular music, but his concise, economical turn of phrase manages to make the lyrics hit as hard as the subject matter which it depicts, whether it’s the exploration of unrealised dreams on ‘The Boat Dreams From The Hill’, the sharply humorous excoriation of punk’s rules and the scene in ‘Indictment’ and ‘Boxcar’, or a vivid depiction of his vocal surgery in ‘Outpatient’.

However, it’s not to say that there aren’t sadder moments on the record - ‘Condition Oakland’ has one of the most poignant explorations of depression in a single chorus ever penned; “This is my condition / Naked and hysterical, reaching to grab a hand that I just slapped back at / This is my condition / Desperate, alone, without an excuse, tried to explain – Christ, what’s the use?” It leads into ‘Ache’, which manages to end on a relatively optimistic, even romantic note while in the same breath encapsulating the slow unravelling of closely-knit friendship groups; “Just keep reinventing myself, it’s move or die / These days the people I love are spread so far apart.”

With all my blathering about the lyrics, it’s easy to forget about the brilliant music accompanying the whole shebang; hooky but gritty, precise but not anodyne, it fits the pictures painted by the lyrics in a symbiotic fashion. ‘Ache’’s measured, slow crawl matches the reflective tone of the music; ‘West Bay Invitational’’s sense of uncertainty and explosions of life is redolent of that riotous house party which it describes. ‘Jinx Removing’ is about as perfect a punk rock love song as you’ll find, while ‘Do You Still Hate Me?’ tears and rips through its sub three minute length with furious lead guitar lines while Schwarzenbach offers a tentative vocal olive branch. The heart-breaking ‘Ashtray Monument’ depicts a marriage in freefall through the medium of ferocious power chord riffs, with Schwarzenbach summing up the whole miserable affair in the pithy chorus; “After all, it’s not that bad / I still have pictures, I look back / At all the things that we once did / You said ‘I love you’, I guess you did.”

I could write pages on this one album and still have it feel incomplete. 24 Hour Revenge Therapy is essential listening for anyone who even dabbles with the idea of punk rock, or even just guitar music in general. In no uncertain terms it is a masterpiece, as brutally beautiful as anything Jawbreaker ever put out. It quite literally gets better with age, as I find myself appreciating it even more at 25 than I could at 18, given that now I’ve experienced at least some of the things writ large in its runtime. It’s as much a tearful hug as it is a wry smile and with any luck its relevance will continue to resonate with generation after generation.

Buy this album, right now.

[1] https://vimeo.com/22421151

[2] http://pitchfork.com/features/article/10061-the-definitive-oral-history-of-jawbreakers-24-hour-revenge-therapy/

[3] http://web.archive.org/web/20111104082903/http://loosecharm.org:80/inter/altpress.html

This column was written by Omar Ramlugon.