Wednesday, 15 March 2017

Album Review: Umlaut Records Vol. 1 (by Emma Prew)

Umlaut Records is a (relatively) new London-based DIY record label. On the 1st of March they released their first comp, featuring many of the UK’s great underground punk bands as well as a few from further afield. The comp features two of CPRW’s own with songs from RXR (Dan) and The Burnt Tapes (Pan) appearing on the album – which is one reason why I’m reviewing this and not either of them!

There are a lot of different music styles going on on Umlaut Records Vol. 1 and, of course, I have songs I like more than others but I have listened to the whole thing (more than once) and tried to summarise each song in a sentence or two.

First up are Launch Control with, the extremely short and pretty darn fast, Cloak & Dagger pt. 2. It’s literally only 43 seconds long but kicks off the comp well. Strange Planes are next with You People<Fucked, which is a loud song musically with a great refined vocal style. A band I already know I like a lot are next – Eat Defeat and The North Remembers. This is melodic singalong pop punk with a neat reference to Game of Thrones in its title (I hope it is anyway!).

Simple Words by Give You Nothing is song comprising of pounding drums and shout-along-able, fist-pumping hardcore-influenced punk rock from Santa Cruz, California. (One of the few international bands on the comp.) Coming in at number 5 are On A Hiding To Nothing with Call Me Flyboy. This track has intense guitars and a vocal style akin to Anti-Flag or Rise Against. Ships Down are next with a fast-paced and guitar-heavy track, Not An Option. The vocals remind me more of classic rock style artists than your typical punk band which is no bad thing.

The Automaton & The Cosmonaut by Drunken Ramblings is a short, catchy and raw-sounding song with some great repeated backing vocals. This is followed by Charlie Work and track titled Captain Crapburgers & The Rhyme Schemes – what a title! It’s fast, furious and angry with definite potential for good ol’ live sing/shoutalong. Powerful and booming guitars for a musical introduction, followed by surprisingly melodic vocals is what FastFade have to offer with their song, Mid Point. It is short but oh so sweet.

The Doctor is the biggest change in musical style thus far. The song sees Maxwell’s Dead add some smooth Scottish ska tones blended with punchy punk rock to the Umlaut Records comp. If ska isn’t your thing then perhaps the thought-provoking and lively skate punk of RXR’s Take It Back is more your cup of tea. I hear this track is an exclusive for this comp too. Next up is some punk rock with a nice touch of folk. Cleary’s Clock is meeting point in Dublin and I got the Irish vibes simply from the style of the song – although The Scuts are from London, but whatever.

No Umlaut Records compilation would be complete without Müg. Merci is a roaring, head-banging punk rock anthem of a song. And at number 14 on the comp are No Matter with Shooting Star. This is another fast-paced and short track but more on the poppier side of punk rock – which is quite refreshing after so many loud and furious bands! History is an even more refreshing track by Coral Springs, a band from the Netherlands. The song features some great guitar work at the beginning, followed by suburb female vocals – I think the only female vocal of the comp. A catchy pop punk track.

The Burnt Tapes are up next. This is a song with a great introductory guitar work – there’s clearly some great musicians, as well as songwriters, on this comp. Adrenochrome Heights is a melodic and heartfelt punk rock song with gruff vocal style not dissimilar to Red City Radio. Start At Zero are possibly the first Slovenian punk band I’ve listened to (at least knowingly). I Wonder is another fast and furious punk rock song with plenty of opportunities for shouting along. There are hints of grunge in Ten Times Better by Street Drugs, the 18th track on the comp, particularly in the bass line. This is teamed up with clean and melodic vocals for some pretty darn catchy lyrics.

No Escape by Hack The Mainframe is everything I expected from an Umlaut Records comp and it’s great – pounding drums, loud guitars, melodic vocals, definite singalong ability and all played at a decently speedy pace. And as we near the end of the comp, Tape It Shut are here to bring something entirely different to the table. Verging on rap in parts, Trigger Sad is an extremely fast-paced and fun track although the lyrics are of a political nature and are far from light-hearted. Then the job of closing Umlaut Records Vol. 1 falls to Cereal Box Heroes for a pop punk tune that is certain to get your head nodding along.

So there we have it, 21 great punk rock songs from Umlaut Records. If any of these bands or songs interest you, and I sincerely hope that at least some of my descriptions are enticing, then you can find Umlaut Records Vol. 1 on Bandcamp now. It’s available to buy at a price of your choosing.

This review was written by Emma Prew.