Monday, 21 August 2017

Album Review: Coitus Interruptus by Flabbercasters

Here's another of my randomly clicking around Bandcamp discoveries. This time it's a five piece band from Maryland, USA, named Flabbercasters. Flabbercasters formed in 2015 as a three piece before eventually growing to the five piece that are together today. They play a fun pop punk music, modelling themselves on Diarrhea Planet, a six piece garage punk band from Nashville. Many Flabbercasters songs are about being a wizard - so you know they are a fun, good time band that doesn't take themselves too seriously. In July Flabbercasters released a new album named Coitus Interruptus. All fourteen songs on the album were written in less than ten minutes and were tracked in two days. Flabbercasters are clearly a band that doesn't mess around.

First up is the song Mana Drought. The song is just under a minute long but gives you the complete feel of what Flabbercasters are all about. It's a fun pop punk song that's easy to pick up and sing along with. It's about not being able to cast the spells you want and feeling kind of bummed about it. After writing that sentence I feel like this will be a weird album to review. Next up is Winguardium Levio-Shut Up. This is a song that takes a shot at that cool guy at the bar who is a show off, everyone has seen that guy and I imagine you all despise that guy. I despise that guy so the song is hugely relatable - which is something I didn't expect to say about a wizard pop punk record. I Like You was the song that stuck out to me the most when I first listened to Coitus Interruptus. After beginning with a little bass solo, the rest of the band come in and we are treated to a little ditty about liking a girl and wanting to help her become a wizard. Lyrically it's one of the simplest song that you will ever hear, I love it for that. In fact there are only thirty-five words in the whole song. It's a case of sing and repeat, which works brilliantly as I Like You is one of the most infectious songs I've heard in a long time.

The fourth song, Dumped By Your Cleric, slows things down a touch and goes along at more of a methodical pace than the previous three songs. The song is one of the sadder ones (if still quite silly) on the album as it's about, like the title states, being dumped by your cleric. Towards the end of the song Flabbercasters show off some awesome vocal harmonies, hopefully it's not the last time we hear them on the album. Lvl 40 (Congratulations) is another track that starts off with a little bit of bass before launching into the song. Lyrically this is an even simpler song than I Like You. This song only has three words - Lvl 40 (Congratulations). Stupidly silly but stupidly catchy. I smiled the whole way through the song. Flabbercasters love a bass intro, we get another one on track six - Size Reduction Magic Potion. This track makes me think that Flabbercasters were the result of some crazy bit of breeding from Nerf Herder and Pkew Pkew Pkew. It's super nerdy and with the addition of the gang vocals and whoa-ohs there really is a feel of Canada's best pop punk band to it. It's a great song. The Wand Chooses You brings us to the halfway mark of Coitus Interruptus. This song took me by complete surprise - Flabbercasters have magically transformed into a hardcore band and they're coming along to punch you right in the face, musically. It's nice when a band can take you by surprise, it keeps you on your toes and listening keenly. I'm now hoping they also throw in a flamenco song to take me by surprise again.

On Remodelled Dungeon we return to that now familiar Flabbercasters pop punk sound. Here the band's lead singer boasts about his newly spruced up dungeon - obviously. Remodelled Dungeon has a great feel of everyone being involved in the song with the whole band playing their roles perfectly. Whether it's the gang vocals, the rumbling bass line, the pounding drum or the sweet guitar solos, it is a very well written song. JK I'm Totes A Drag, Bro is a slower song that builds toward a big finale. The first two verses of the song only feature guitar and vocals, as lead singer Nick Anthony admits that he's just a human and needs help. Then the song explodes into life like a firework and we learn in fact no! He's actually a dragon and you better not mess with him. Again silly but again brilliant. Fountain Of Youth is another track that begins with a bass solo (seems to be a Flabbercasters trademark). Gone is the upbeat tone that has featured on the majority of songs so far, on Fountain Of Youth there is a much darker tone to its sound. Hidden amongst the wizard references, this song is actually about not worrying about getting old and being mature and making sure that you live in the moment to do what you love. Amongst the silliness Flabbercasters have found a way to write a serious and uplifting song.

Lvl 40 (Reprise) is another surprising track. It's not the flamenco song that I was hoping for but it does have a jazzy pop flair to it. The first half of the song is just guitar and some sweet vocals before, after a great drum roll, we get the full band in the second half. This really gives the song some life and comes a bit out of the blue which is wonderful. The twelfth song, Medusa Goes To Bermuda, sees Flabbercasters change things up again with an indie punk sound. Anthony's vocal is more laid back and restraint throughout most of the song, this really amplifies the times where he does let rip and hit some higher notes. Medusa Goes To Bermuda is about falling for someone you know is bad for you, feeling that you're in way over your head but wanting to save them. Here the subject matter is obviously Medusa but this is a fun metaphor. Musically this is more of a laid back and at times sombre song rather than the upbeat cheery nature that I had become accustomed to. The penultimate song is named Hexes On Exes. Flabbercasters love a song that has very few lyrics. The majority of the song is just "We Like Casting Hexes, But Only On Our Exes" aside from a spoken word, almost preachy section about a girl who broke Anthony's heart so he turned her into a newt. From here the song again comes to life with the gang vocals almost sounding choir-like and a fantastic guitar solo giving the whole song an epic feel. Finally we have Offline Limbo. This is a silly but very sad song to finish the album off with. It's about not being able to get online to play a game and missing out on seeing someone, in the game, who you really like. It's such a silly subject but Flabbercasters have managed to turn into a hugely emotional song that will have you invested and hoping that eventually the hero does get the girl.

I've used the word silly a lot whilst doing this review and I think it's a fair word to use. There is so much silliness involved on Coitus Interruptus but that's why I love it. Punk doesn't always have to be about changing the world, sometimes it can be about having fun and smiling. Flabbercasters so that brilliantly… in a very silly way.

Stream and download Coitus Interruptus here:

Like Flabbercasters here:

This review was written by Colin Clark.

Friday, 18 August 2017

Gig Review: The Dreadnoughts at the Camden Underworld 12/8/17 (by Emma Prew)

On Saturday night I ticked another band off on my still-to-see-live bucket list, a band that I presumed that I’d never actually get to see live – at least short of travelling to Canada to see them. The band I’m talking about are the cider-swilling, shanty-singing, folk punks from Vancouver, The Dreadnoughts. They’ve been over the UK a couple of times over the past few years but they tend to only play a handful of festival appearances like Boomtown and Rebellion, rather than actually touring around the country. This year wasn’t too different but they also added an exclusive non-festival date at the Camden Underworld. As soon as this was announced, I was EXCITED.

Unfortunately the gig was happening on a Saturday and Colin works Saturday nights so he was unable to join me for this gig. However, I wasn’t gigging alone as I invited my uni pal James along which made sense really as he was the person who suggested that I listen to The Dreadnoughts in the first place five years or so ago. 

Being a Saturday night at the Underworld, a venue where they have a club night from 11pm, the show kicked off early with the first of four bands on before 7pm. I didn’t know any of the support acts prior to the gig but I had read their descriptions and all sounded good to me! First up were Space Chimp, a band who were also from Vancouver – I realised later that two of their members, Drew on mandolin and Marco on drums are actually in The Dreadnoughts as well. The four piece played a fairly eclectic mix of songs with some sounding super country/bluegrass and others verging on reggae/ska. The band’s enthusiasm was great to see and they did a decent job of drawing people away from the bar to watch them. I particularly enjoyed the cowbell – as did the drummer! Not a bad start to the night at all.

Next up were a band by the name of Black Water County, who it turned out were a six-piece folk punk band from Bournemouth. The band were each uniformly wearing waistcoats and had a wide array of instruments on stage with them – certainly more instruments than members. My expectations were already fairly high as I knew this would be my sort of band and as soon as they burst into their set I was hooked. They instantly reminded me of Roughneck Riot although with less gruff, I guess more traditionally folky, vocals. The majority of their songs were upbeat and lively so this did a great job of getting the crowd, included myself, moving. The slower numbers were great too though! I particularly enjoyed the switching of vocalists for different songs between Tim and Shan as well as the rest of the band joining for more gang-style vocals. Black Water County are a band I cannot wait to see live again.

Then we came to the final support act. From their name, Calico Jack, I figured that they’d be another folk-influenced act – Calico Jack was a famous pirate, by the way – but I was wrong. The stage was cleared of instruments and microphones, leaving it looking oddly bare after Black Water County, as Calico Jack were a straightforward trio of drums, bass and guitar. By this point there were a bunch of eager music fans gathered at the front of the stage who obviously knew this band which was pretty cool for a non-headlining act. When Calico Jack eventually kicked off their set I discovered that, rather than folk, they had more of a funky alternative rock sound. It was not what I was expecting at all and I have to say that it made me feel like I’d suddenly been transported to another gig. It’s not that they weren’t good at what they did – far from it, they were a confident and talented bunch of young musicians – but, to me at least, it just felt out of place. Even their two-song Avril Lavigne cover medley didn’t really do much for me. But regardless of what I thought, there were plenty of people in the Underworld who loved their set so that’s all that matter really.

And so it was time for the band I’d been waiting for what felt like forever to see live, the mighty Dreadnoughts! Having never seen the band before or even ever watched any live videos, I didn’t actually know how many people were in The Dreadnoughts. It turned out that there were five, although I noticed that they didn’t have an accordion with them so potentially a member and/or musician was missing. The band members go by piratey nicknames so I won’t attempt to list them! Taking to the stage with a confident air, it wasn’t long before the band were making jokes about their great support bands, Metallica and The Beatles, as well as attempting a rendition of the English national anthem – ‘Eeennggeerrrlaaaand…’. The Dreadnoughts are clearly a band that don’t take themselves too seriously in a live setting and I didn’t expect any less to be honest. After this bit of tomfoolery, it was time for the tunes and time for the crowd to go absolutely nuts. I’m a big fan of The Dreadnoughts’ first album, Legends Never Die, so it was great to hear Antarctica, Elizabeth and the classic sea shanty Roll The Woodpile Down – the latter featuring a crowdsurfing, cowbell armed drummer to the bar and back for beer (not cider, interestingly). However, it was songs from Polka’s Not Dead that seemed to get the biggest reactions. Tracks such as Turbo Island, Poutine, Sleep Is For The Weak, as well as the album’s title track, went down a storm. Other highlights included two circle pits around the Underworld’s central pillar – something I’m surprised to say I’ve never actually seen there before, clearly I haven’t been to enough rowdy and raucous Underworld shows. They also got two members of the audience on stage to help sing what they said was a Wurzels song (it wasn’t Combine Harvester). All of these components made for an excellent gig but I particularly enjoyed one of a few brand new songs that they played. The song was titled Two Ciders Ago and is based on something that the band’s violinist said when she was drunk – ‘I’m two ciders ago’. I don’t know what the recorded version will sound like but the live rendition featured each member of the band taking a turn at singing the chorus, giving the song a real barroom feel. It was excellent. The Dreadnoughts are excellent.

The Dreadnoughts live show was everything that I had hoped for and more. I just really hope I don’t have to wait another five years to see The Dreadnoughts again. Oh, and the new album will be released in November by the way.

This gig review was written by Emma Prew.

Thursday, 17 August 2017

Top Tens: Paul from Be Sharp Promotions' Top Ten Bands He'd Love To Book

1. Goldfinger
They've been my favourite live band since I first saw them at the Astoria in 2001.

2. Lightyear
Because it's Lightyear.

3. Mustard Plug
I haven't seen them for over 10 years and they are the most amount of fun.

4. Buck O Nine
Last year I went to Asian Man Records 20th Anniversary in San Francisco and ended up seeing Buck O Nine 4 times, including once at Gilman Street (bucket list thing right there) and an INSANE show in Tijuana. Lovely guys, so much fun and they haven't played the UK since 2001. Long overdue.

5. Mad Caddies
One of my all time favourites. I'm still jealous that Jason El Topo put them on in Belgium last year.

6. Anti Flag
We got a bit ska heavy, so let's add a punk rock band in. After their 2 shows at Old Blue Last in 2015, I'd love a sweaty and intimate gig at New Cross Inn.

7. The Interrupters
On their first UK tour, I managed to get The Pisdicables and Call Me Malcolm supporting them. Since then it's been great to watch them get bigger and bigger. Such an incredible live band.

8. Talco
I had tickets to see them in Budapest, but they cancelled due to illness. When they played Boomtown, I got offered a pass about an hour after their set and therefore missed them. I had them booked at NXI in February but the tour got cancelled. I think I'm jinxed. Amazing Italian ska punk. Silent Town was my favourite album of 2015.

9. The Bennies
I just really want to book The Bennies for a Besharp party.

10. Less Than Jake
They played the Barfly in 2012, so are no strangers to small gigs. We'll have some of that.

Wednesday, 16 August 2017

Album Review: Reservoirs by Myelin (by Emma Prew)

Myelin are a four-piece from London, fronted by ex-Apologies, I Have None guitarist and vocalist, Dan Bond. On the 4th of August they released their first EP, titled Reservoirs, on Uncle M Records which features 5 brand new tracks. If I had to label Myelin’s music with a particular genre I would edge towards post-punk over poppier punk. I was a big fan of ‘Dan’s songs’ on Apologies’ early releases and therefore keen to hear how his music had progressed with Myelin’s debut EP.

Reservoirs opens with the not so cheerily titled Die. Before I go any further – or before you read any further – I should probably point out that if cheery, happy-go-lucky songs are what you’re looking for then Myelin probably aren’t for you. Die starts slowly and quietly with gentle, sombre guitar and Dan’s restrained vocals. However there is a great sense of building as the song progresses towards the chorus. This building continues through the second verse and things really kick off in the second chorus, as Dan screams ‘Some things were born to die…’ A particular lyric that stood out to me was ‘I thought I was nothing without resilience, well I am nothing now.’ as it seems to be a nod towards the AIHN song Foundations which uses a similar phrase. The second song, Fifteen, has more of a melodic feel to it from the start with more intricate guitar playing. Fifteen is a song about reflecting on feelings you had when you, and those around you, were younger as well as dealing mental health issues as an adult. The lyrics are pretty direct and hard hitting – ‘Now we're both looking at the other like "I am done with this, I am done with you, you'll never be happy" and we're both thinking "I don't feel anything about anything, I don't know what's wrong with me.”’ This song could have easily finished after 3 minutes and been good but it doesn’t. There is what feels like a short musical interlude in the middle of this track before the lines ‘Is it all in my head? Because I can't tell. Is it all in my head? Because I can't fucking tell anymore.’ are repeated over and over. This makes Fifteen more than just good. I imagine this will be equal parts amazing and emotional to watch played live.

The pace picks up a little for Gaps with another melodic guitar introduction. At first glance, or listen I suppose, this song sounds like another downcast tune but I think that that’s not necessarily all there is to it. Gaps is about having someone that you love more than anything, despite how much of a struggle it is and despite how difficult it might feel sometimes. Even though there are ‘gaps’ in a person’s personality or a relationships compatibility, that’s okay because there’s no such thing as perfect. ‘It's complicated but I love you, every part that's still intact and the devil in your gaps.’ Horror is the penultimate track on Reservoirs and it is a powerful and honest song about dealing with anxiety. I imagine that writing this song was a form of release from all of these negative feelings that you can have when dealing with any sort of mental health problem. It is easy to nod your head along to this song with its rhythmic guitars and pounding drums and get lost in the music but I think you’ve really got to listen closely to the lyrics (or read them on Bandcamp, as I’ve done!) to fully connect with this song. The last line of the song is one that fully deserves to be spread far and wide – ‘Sometimes to get better you've got to get worse first.’. The last song, Cave, begins with a fair amount of reverb, giving the song an echoey and dream-like feel. This song closes the EP in much of the same vein as that which came before it. But that’s not to say that it sounds exactly the same as the previous four tracks. It certainly sounds like an album or set closer for one thing. Cave also helps to bring Reservoirs full circle, using the line ‘We are caged animals down here, waiting to die.’ to link up with the first song on the EP. 

Reservoirs is a pretty heavy going EP emotionally, and musically as well in parts, but that does not mean that it does not deserve your attention. On the contrary it is songs that deal with these difficult sort of subjects that need to be heard more so than songs about drinking or partying or whatever, especially when so many people struggle with mental illness. Myelin deserve yours ears.

You can download and stream Reservoirs on Bandcamp and find Myelin on Facebook. Facebook is also where you’ll find details of the EP release show happening in London on 17th of August, featuring full band Sam Russo as well. What a treat!

This review was written by Emma Prew.

Tuesday, 15 August 2017

Album Review: Adult Braces by No Trigger (by Robyn Pierce)

It’s always a special day when No Trigger brings out some new music. I’ve really grown to love this five-piece melodic hardcore band from Massachusetts, but they can leave fans a little starved for new music (the six year wait between Canyoneer and Tycoon was so.damn.long.) While we don’t have another full-length album yet, No Trigger have just released a 4-track EP entitled Adult Braces out on Bird Attack Records. No Trigger’s previous EP (Be, Honest) came out right at the end of 2010, less than a year and a half before Tycoon was released in 2012, as a between-albums snack to keep fans going; so, I hope that’s what is happening here and we can expect to have even more music from these guys in the next little while. Right now, the question is whether the new EP measures up to the quality of No Trigger’s previous releases.

The first song off of Adult Braces that the band put out was ‘Dogs on Acid’, which came a little earlier than the full release with a goofy and slightly trippy music video. It starts, perhaps not so strangely, with some acoustic guitar. Despite being pretty fast and loud, No Trigger is adept at slipping some softer moments into their songs to really great effect (it is the tender guitar ringing out at the end of ‘The Honshu Underground’ that makes that song so damn perfect). It’s not long before ‘Dogs on Acid’ bursts open with Tom Rheault’s familiar vocals and some exhilarating guitar. When I first listened to this, I clicked the link on Facebook where someone had written in the comments that this new song was “worth the wait”. Although this seemed like a painfully predictable response, it is 100% correct. ‘Dogs on Acid’ has all of the pounding melody you’d want in a No Trigger song, and Tom’s vocals are complete perfection. I’ve since found out that Adult Braces is produced by Bill Stevenson and Jason Livermore of The Blasting Room, who also produced Canyoneer – arguably No Trigger’s best album, and so many other awesome albums that CPRW should probably do a Blasting Room top ten (if we haven’t already/if it’s even possible).

First up on the full release is ‘Sleeping Bags’, which opens with a few stirring chords before sliding into a fast-paced verse and chorus. Like ‘Dogs on Acid’, this song sits so well with everything else that No Trigger has already produced, but it doesn’t feel tired or boring. I found myself dancing along to the chorus almost immediately, and it’ll make for a great singalong at live shows too. The second track, ‘Holy Punks’, keeps up the energy with a narrative-style song about getting thrust into adulthood and making the most of it. I love everything happening with Tom’s vocals on this track. The backing reverb on the refrain “We’re all just holy punks in a burning church” is scrumptious. Then, on Adult Braces’ last song ‘Hyperaware’ you can hear why No Trigger has sometimes been compared to A Wilhelm Scream. Despite being quite long, it’s hard and fast – gradually building and ending the EP with some furious chanting.

As a long time No Trigger fan, I’m more than satisfied with this latest offering; I really just wish there were more songs on this EP. If you’ve never listened to No Trigger before, Adult Braces would serve as a great introduction (and, if you like melodic hardcore, you really should check them out!). If you’re a fan, you’ve probably already listened to this EP multiple times because you’ve been waiting FOREVER for some new music from No Trigger. As expected, it’s worth the wait.

Stream and download Adult Braces here:

Like No Trigger here:

This review was written by Robyn Pierce.

Monday, 14 August 2017

Album Review: No Solidarity by The Over Everythings (by Dan Peters)

New school pop punk done good.

I’m not too sure when I first came across The Over Everythings but it’s a happy mystery I’m glad occurred. As far as I can tell, I stumbled across them as a fledgling pre gigging band back in 2015 and decided I’d keep my beady eye on them.

Almost exactly two years later, I sit with No Solidarity in my lap and it seems like the guys have been busy perfecting their craft. The debut album of these Hertfordshire pop punkers is a polished and fine tuned thing and adds to the fact that the last few months have been a landslide of incredible punk rock.

No Solidarity opens to the decidedly heavy and blisteringly fast Union. Everything that sets off my great band radar is present from the get go. Heavy riffs, double time drumming and gorgeous vocal harmonies all wrapped around a frenetic but coherent song structure.

The Over Everythings strike me as a band that would fit so perfectly on a late 90s punk bill. I could see them fitting right into a gig with Captain Everything, 4ft Fingers and Caffiene. It’s that brand of tongue in cheek fast skate/pop punk that was pretty prevalent back in the day and it’s seeing a resurgence amongst bands like On A Hiding To Nothing and Captain Trips too. There are touches of heavy riffage in places but nothing so involved as the Melodic Hardcore crew and although the vocals are perfectly coiffed and the harmonies are crisp and tight they aren’t too overboard or overproduced like the new school pop punkers.

Instead The Over Everythings have carved themselves out a niche as something original in style and flavour whilst also remaining accessible to a huge range of tastes, a job many try and fail at.

Stand out tracks on the album were Medicate And Move On which is an instantly catchy tune and sounds like single material, Shrapnel which is fast yet melodic and has an incredible Fat Wreck feel and Blue Nightmare which is my personal favourite for being as close as you could ask to an MxPx song.

All in all No Solidarity shows a band that were good to start with who have perfected and honed what they do into the best possible package for us all to consume. You may have noticed I have deliberately name dropped several bands and styles into this review. If any single one of these strikes a chord with you then I am 100% certain there is something for you here for you to love.

Stream and download No Solidarity here:

Like The Over Everythings here:

This review was written by Dan Peters.

Friday, 11 August 2017

Future Classic: London by Apologies, I Have None

Today we are continuing our Future Classics series. This nomination is for what I believe is the best UK punk album of the last decade. It's an album that brought me back to UK punk rock after a few years of solely listening to American punk music. I'm trying to write a long winded introduction that leaves you in suspense about what album I'm talking about but now I'm thinking what is the point? You're reading this column so therefore you've probably read the massive title at the top of the screen. If not you can probably see the artwork below this paragraph. If you've done neither of these things then the album that I think is a Future Classic is London by Apologies, I Have None.

Apologies, I Have None formed as a guitar and drum two piece featuring Josh McKenzie and Dan Bond in the early 2000s. During the early stage of their career they released a handful of EPs and eventually grew into a full band with Josh and Dan both taking guitar and vocal duties, while they were joined by Joe Watson on drums and PJ Shepherd on bass. This was the band's line up when they released London in 2012.

London was self released on CD by the band and the brilliant London based record label Household Name handled the vinyl release. It was also later put out in Germany by Uncle M Music.

Now being a full band, the Apologies sound grew from an acoustic almost folk style punk rock to more of a melodic sing-a-long style and I think this style is why the album is so universally loved. It's accessible to anyone. It doesn't fall into the fast, shouty, super aggressive genre of punk rock but it's also not so poppy and cheery that it would put off the most diehard of punk rock fans. It's fantastically played punk rock that you can shout along with at the top of your voice. That seems to be the way that punk music has grown over the years. It's not just 1000mph three chord punk rock with snarling and snotty vocals. Punk rock has morphed into expert musicians playing these songs that can move people, teach them things and help them grow. London ticks all of those boxes.

Lyrically the ten songs on London tackle a whole range of subject matter but also fall under the universal topic of what it's like living in London. Subjects tackled include learning from your mistakes, growing as a person, getting through bad times, dealing with mental health and blaming others for your own wrong-doings.

London features two of my all time favourite lyrics. The first of which is in the second track, Sat In Vicky Park - "The Worst Mistake To Make Is To Be Afraid To Make Mistakes, And I Can't Believe This Took So Long To Learn, It Should Be So Obvious, Like A Man Cannot Be Measured By The Number Of People He's Fucked, Like Numbers On A Payslip Are No Indication Of Worth" and in the fourth song Concrete Feet - "You'll Always Make Mistakes, You'll Always Fuck Shit Up, You Will Sometimes Make Bad Choices And Blame That Shit On Bad Luck, You Will Often Face Decisions That You Do Not Want To Make, And You'll Find Yourselves On Paths That You Did Not Mean To Take, There Is Always An Answer, There Is Always A Lesson, A Lining Of Silver Around Every Situation, And Asking For Help Is Not The Same Thing As Failing." These are my two personal favourite lyrics but the album is jam packed with more great ones.

I always think an album should be judged on how great it sounds live as well as on record. London live probably eclipses London recorded. Being in a room with sweaty like minded individuals belting out these songs like our lives depend on it. Even five years later singing along to any of these songs, though they don't play half of this album anymore since Dan left the band, still has an extremely cathartic and gratifying experience. Since London's release, Apologies have released the EP Black Everything and the album Pharmacie, which are both incredible releases, but it's still the tracks from London that get the biggest reactions. They are timeless.

This is why I consider London by Apologies, I Have None to be a future classic. An album that when people talk about defining albums of this generation of punk rock will be mentioned a lot.

Stream and download London here:

Like Apologies, I Have None here:

This column was written by Colin Clark.

Thursday, 10 August 2017

Top Tens: Kurt from Sounds Of Swami's Top Ten Punk Rock Influences

Kurt from Sounds of Swami’s Top Ten Punk Rock Influences… in alphabetical order.

At The Drive-In
Like most noughties teenagers, I was drowning in a swirling pool of baggy pants, back to front caps and wallet chains with the sound of Limp Bizkit and Staind blaring at every house party I stumbled into. Seeing the DIY video for ‘One Armed Scissor’ on MTV2 from Relationship of Command kept me afloat through all that; then came the purchase of In/Casino/Out and Vaya. No one does chaos like ATDI. We’ve been trying to rip them off ever since.

Since falling in love with Fugazi, I made a conscious effort to hear literally every band on Dischord Records (you really should check out Evens, Hoover, Jawbox, Nation of Ulysses, Scream and Q and not U for starters!) and Bluetip were like nothing I’d heard before. Punk N Roll before Punk N Roll with intelligent lyrics, interweaving guitars and someone that could actually sing. I’ve always how big they sounded with stripped back production (J. Robbins!) Compression isn’t everything…

Dead Kennedys
Like all bands, we’ve transcended through lots of influences and styles but without Dead Kennedys, we wouldn’t be the noise factory we are today. We’d all been through (and still love!) the likes of Sex Pistols, Ramones, Minor Threat et al… but Dead Kennedys were the band that made us realise that you can push the boundaries of the punk sound and still be classified as punk (whatever that means). On Fresh Fruit’, it was Jello Biafra’s theatrical performances and satirical lyrics and East Bay Ray’s delayed discordant guitar playing that set us up from the start.

Drive Like Jehu
No videos, no singles, no bullshit. They released two of the finest noisy punk rock records ever committed to tape and then split up. Much like a lot of the bands in this list, their brand of locked-in bass and drums provided an open landscape for two guitars to play absolutely anything over them. From dissonant noise to clean melodies, the twin guitar interplay is still mesmerizing to me. A couple of years ago I had tickets to see them until ATP fucked that up. Still hurts.

I could sit here and talk about Fugazi all day (the ‘End Hits is such an underrated album’ conversation has killed more than one party) but I’d say overall, they are our biggest influence… although I wouldn’t say we sound like them all that much. Fugazi really hit home that the song is all about the performance both on a stage and in the studio. Because of their manic live shows, they found it hard to capture their intensity in the studio… so they’d just do it live for the most part. Both our albums have been recorded mostly live with the most recent straight to tape. It’s all in the performance.

Hot Snakes
The band that followed Drive Like Jehu. When I first moved out of home, I moved to Leeds and spent my entire student load on drinking and buying records. I went straight to Jumbo Records and bought their third and final album (they’re recording a new one right now!) Audit In Progress on clear Red vinyl. What a revelation and what a record. The rhythms and quirky subject matter grabbed me instantly. Not to mention, it’s where we got our name. I listened to side one, flipped it over and there it was: Swami Records. Cool name for a band… but someone had it already so we added the ‘Sounds of’ part… still not as good!

There must be something in air in Seattle. The Sonics, Green River, Melvins… to many they won’t be seen as punk but to me, it’s all there in the attitude. Its the same with Nirvana; proud devotees of punk wearing the likes of the Wipers, Stooges and Flipper on their sleeves. However we go about it, a big chorus usually comes into play when we’re writing and it comes from Nirvana. The ‘grunge' sound looms heavy and that’s just fine.
There’s a formula emerging before my eyes; punk bands that push the sonic boundaries of punk. It’s fair to say that we all danced to New Noise in clubs years before buying The Shape of Punk To Come. One thing that is annoying about our music is that you can’t dance to it (maybe we should strive to rip Fugazi off a little more) but with the bulk of Refused’s third album, you could. Punk, Jazz, Metal, programmed Beats… and why not.

I’m not sure Reuben really falls into the punk category but you’ve got to give it to them for achieving what they did in a mostly DIY fashion. I love early punk and I love the many mutated angles it’s evolved into. You can see the clear evolution though Reuben’s three albums and it’s final magnum opus In Nothing We Trust has been blaring in our van for years whilst on tour. The intended raw production and genre defying music is something we took with us into the recording of Furniture For Modern Living.

SlintAdmittedly I’d heard about Spiderland for years but I didn’t buy it until I found a secondhand CD in a charity shop about 5 years ago. Their first album Tweez was very much of the Touch and Go / Jesus Lizard ilk but by the time they’d arrived at Spiderland, they’d turned their attention to a style of playing that was anything but that. A lesson in dynamics and story telling; they took the extremes to the extreme. Despite it’s dark and emotionally draining character, I’ve found that it’s the only album I own that I can listen to whatever mood I’m in. Spiderland had a huge effect on our new album.

Pre-order Sounds Of Swami's new album Furniture For Moder Living here:

Gig Review: The Planet Smashers at the Camden Underworld 8/8/17

2017 has been a year of seeing bands that I've wanted to see for the longest time but never had. Back in April I finally saw Strike Anywhere at Manchester Punk Festival, in June I got to see the Descendents and Flogging Molly at The Forum in Kentish Town (not together) and in July I got to see French ska punks P.O. Box at the New Cross Inn in South London. A few days ago I finally got to see a band that I never ever expected to see, especially without jumping on a plane to Canada. Who is the band I'm talking about? Ska superstars The Planet Smashers from Montreal in Canada. The band formed in 1994 and I first heard them after Golf Records released their 2003 album Mighty. I just adored the ska pop with attitude style of the band. From then on I was a massive fan, checking out their entire discography and excitedly getting new releases when they came out. But I never managed to catch them live. That's until a couple of days ago when they returned to the UK for the first time in nine years to tour with Faintest Idea for a week leading up to their performance at Boomtown Festival. The London show of the tour was at The Underworld in Camden and also featured the Popes Of Chillitown. You already know that this was going to be a stellar night.

Kind of surprisingly, Faintest Idea were first up despite being the main tour support. I guess this was because London is a hometown gig for the Popes Of Chillitown. There was a small crowd gathered early to see Faintest Idea and anticipation was high. As is tradition with a Faintest Idea set, the band's superb horn section of Bobble, Sara and Dan ventured into the crowd to start the set with Back To The Asylum. The horns even made their way round to the Underworld's bar area to round up any stragglers to let them know that the show was starting. Kind of like a punk rock pied piper. Going from that straight into Circling The Drain and Youth got the crowd well and truly warmed up early. I've seen Faintest Idea many times over the past few years and they are always great at throwing a surprise into their set. Tonight they did too. Firstly a new song named Stomp Them Down (I think), which sounded great and has gotten me looking forward to a new record from the band. Secondly was the special guest appearance from Eve from Lead Shot Hazard supplying some additional saxophone on the last three tracks - Corporation, Bull In A China Shop and Too Bad.

Next up were the Popes Of Chillitown who joked about the long journey they'd made from South London. Fourteen stops on the Northern Line! Last month at Level Up Festival, the six piece showed why they are so highly thought of in the UK ska punk scene with a performance to match any ska band in the world. Emma and I were talking after their gig and we agreed that this performance topped that showing at Level Up. The difference between the two performance for me was this time the band seemed a lot more relaxed on stage and were having a lot of fun during and between songs. The forty minute set was packed with songs from second album, To The Moon, with the highlights being Wisdom Teeth and Vamos a la Luna. Wisdom Teeth in particular is just incredible live and always gets a crowd moving. The Popes have also been working on some new songs despite almost always playing shows all over the place. I believe that they played three at The Underworld, to appear on some great ska releases over the next year.

Now it was time for The Planet Smashers and boy was I excited! Taking to the stage in matching work shirts - which I want one of! - the band, lead by singer and guitarist Matt Collyer, were full of smiles as they opened with Fabricated. It took no time at all for the Underworld to start skanking and this didn't stop for the entire time the band were on stage. The crowd, who had been waiting years for The Smashers to make their return to these shores, were clearly in the mood to have a party with these legends. Playing a set that spanned their long and brilliant career, there were songs from their first album (Planet Smashers) that was released in 1995 through to their newest release Mixed Messages that came out in 2014. Highlights included Life Of The Party, Surfing In Tofino, J'Aime Ta Femme (I Like Your Girl), Pee In The Elevator, Raise Your Glass, Tear It Down, a cover of The Specials song Night Club and the encore of Super Orgy Porno Party and Skate or Die. There were some fun moments where they teased playing King Of Tuesday Night and then launched into another song and during Pee In The Elevator when during the outro they included the "whoa-oh's" from Mustard Plug's Beer (Song). This was a great little nod to another legendary band from the third wave era that needs to find their way back to England sooner rather than later. The top gig moment for Emma and I was when The Hippopotamus was played. For those who don't know The Hippopotamus is a song about a dance made up by The Smashers called The Hippopotamus. For the week leading up to the gig Emma and I have been trying to learn this dance and were excited to show off our moves at the show. When it started I don't think that I've ever seen Emma more excited to hear any song ever at gig - she had the biggest grin on her face. And so did I. The Planet Smashers were incredible. I'm not sure any other band this year will have me smiling and dancing as much as these six Canadians did. Being worth the wait is an understatement. Please don't leave it another nine years before coming back again.

On a side note, here's a tip for anyone who uses a Fitbit. If you are ever short of steps for your daily target go to a ska show and skank away. When I left the house for the gig I was on less than 2,000. By the end of the gig I was on almost 17,000.

This gig review was written by Colin Clark.

Wednesday, 9 August 2017

Album Review: The Knife by Goldfinger (by Dan Peters)

John and His Talented Pop Punk Friends

I’ve spoken a lot about bands who disappeared for a long time and have in very recent times come out with a “return to form” album in which they play songs reminiscent of their 90s heyday rather than the more experimental thing everyone started doing in the mid 2000s. Goldfinger were one incredibly special band to a lot of people and I can’t remember going to an alternative club from the age of 17 to 23 without Superman coming on at some point. Being one of the most memorable tracks on the most memorable THPS soundtracks meant that Goldfinger were on top of the world. Then 2002 rolled around and Open Your Eyes came out. A very stylized album that drew more from the IT bands at the times, like The Hives and The Vines, than from their So Cal pop/ska punk origins and it was also incredibly serious. Almost bleakly so. I don’t remember seeing Goldfinger around from that point on. I had to check the Internet to find out if they had released anything after 2002 (apparently so but I couldn’t tell you a song from either release) and they became just another 90s band I used to love, occasionally putting on Stomping Ground and Hang Ups and remembering when learning how to pop shove it down a stair set was the most important thing in my life.

Cut to last Friday and with seemingly no build up or preamble, a brand new Goldfinger album lands in my lap. Calling the band 'Goldfinger' however is a little bit of a stretch. The rest of the band in the 2010s have moved on to other things whilst John himself has been producing music and raising up a new set of pop punkers to take his place. This iteration of Goldfinger is a true pop punk super group with my personal idol Mike Herrera of MxPx taking bass duties, drumming living legend Travis Barker of Blink-182, Boxcar Racer, +44, Transplants, Yellawolf and of, course, Travis Barker – Give The Drummer Some fame is waving sticks whilst Story Of The Year's Phil Sneed is guitaring. If this wasn’t enough, there are a smorgasbord of other featured musicians on the album. In fact what this really is at its heart is a love letter to all the best bands you’ve loved over the last 20 years.

So after what is an exceptionally long preamble, we can get to the album itself. You can probably imagine just by the way I’m typing that I’m a fan of this album. I’d say don’t be silly, it’s deeper than that, but I’ll get to all that later. For now, let's check out the album:

Things kick off incredibly quickly with A Million Miles, which is suitably as fast as the name implies. Get What I Need is the first ska track and is catchy like lice in a reception class. Am I Deaf is a tongue in cheek old man rant about the “music today” which is particularly ironic since Mr Feldman is responsible for a lot of it. Tijuana Sunrise is a chill out reggae groove about drinking. Put The Knife Away may as well be an MxPx track with John singing on it. Don’t Let Me Go is another pop reggae banger. Beacon is a classic sounding Goldfinger pop punk anthem. Who’s Laughing Now is everyone's new favourite skank-a-long. Say It Out Loud is more of that good times old school pop punk that’ll have you singing at the top of your lungs. Orthodontist Girl is weird, hilarious and an all round good time. See You Around feels like a Blink-182 tune with complimentary vocals from Mark Hoppus. Lift Off is a summertime stoner nod-a-thon. Milla is a fitting send off that’s fittingly chilled to round out your experience.

So let’s get back to what this album represents. There are a pretty large demographic of guys who were/are utterly in love with 90s emo-punk (it wasn’t called pop punk until after All The Small Things had the term coined) but can’t seem to quite get behind the newer more saccharine pop punk that has dominated a music video dominated 2000s and this album is a modern dose of what we’ve craved for so long. It’s all well and good listening to the same albums for 20 years but it’s an incredible thing to be handed something brand new that triggers all of your greatest childhood memories whilst at the same time being fresh and new and invigorated. I hope this album does incredibly well because if it does it’ll hopefully allow more of this. I want guys stood in their garage right now with their 40 quid strat copies and beat up old drums to hear this and be inspired to make more because in my dreams we’re all awash with The Knife and albums as lovingly crafted and beautiful to listen to as this forevermore.

p.s. Just a quick note to Lauren Murphy of The Irish Times. Shut up mate, you’re talking out your arse and your review is basically lies, falsehoods and a deep misunderstanding about the demand for exactly what The Knife provides us. You can cram your 2 star review and get in the fucking sea with the rest of the Darwin awarders.

Buy The Knife here:

This review was written by Dan Peters.

Tuesday, 8 August 2017

Album Review: Heartbreak, Radio, Cars And Rain by Mixtape Saints (by Emma Prew)

Formally a solo acoustic endeavour from Sam Moloney, Mixtape Saints are a four-piece fully rocking soulful punk band from the Midlands. I first discovered them when they were added quite last minute to the South East Fest line-up in February of this year. Their live performance had me hooked throughout and I know for a fact that I turned to Colin after they had finished and said ‘This is my sort of band’.

Their live performance was a full band affair but most of what was recorded and released online, at the time, was stripped back and acoustic. I have nothing against this – acoustic is great! – but it wasn’t quite the same as the Mixtape Saints that I saw live. And so, cue the release of Heartbreak, Radio, Cars And Rain, a full band single that is due to be released on 18th August, by Disconnect Disconnect Records, ahead of their contribution to a split with Wolves & Wolves & Wolves & Wolves, a punk band from North Carolina.

Kicking off with a speedy little drum roll, Heartbreak, Radio, Cars And Rain wastes no time in getting started. The guitars are wonderfully melodic and very pleasing to the ear – my ears especially – and the song feels suitably up beat from the outset. The pace slows a little when the vocals come in for the first verse but by the chorus you’re sure to be nodding your head, humming along and singing the woah-ohs before too long. It would be easy for me to fill my review with Gaslight Anthem comparisons, the similarities in sound are there – but I’m not going to say more than that. The chorus actually reminds me far more of fellow British counterpart Sam Russo than the New Jersey four-piece. It is just an excellent song to be honest.

The single also features a bonus acoustic version of Heartbreak, Radio, Cars And Rain which is, of course, also pretty excellent. It feels more heartfelt in this format and, as Sam’s vocals are clearer, it’s easier to connect to each and every word that he sings. ‘I know you’re feeling desperate because I’m desperate too most days.’

I can’t wait to hear what’s next from Mixtape Saints as this single song sets the bar high.

You can find Mixtape Saints on Facebook here and Heartbreak, Radio, Cars And Rain will be available to download and stream from all the usual digital music outlets from 18th August.

This review was written by Emma Prew.

Monday, 7 August 2017

Gig Review: No Trigger at The Borderline 2/8/17

August is the most incredible time for punk gigs in the UK as so many of the worlds best bands are in the country for festivals such as Rebellion and Boomtown, as well as the European festival Punk Rock Holiday. Just in one week we were seeing Bad Religion, Gnarwolves, No Trigger, River Jumpers, Pennywise, Face To Face, Good Riddance, Teenage Bottlerocket. Also there were gigs for 88 Fingers Louie, Pears, Great Cynics, Propagandhi, Martha and Petrol Girls. Plus later in the month The Planet Smashers, The Dreadnoughts and Street Dogs are all playing shows! It's a ridiculously good month.

The night before the night I'm currently blogging about was Bad Religion with support from Gnarwolves (which Emma brilliantly reviewed here) at The Forum. At that show we bumped into Jack from Ships Down and he mentioned that he was going to No Trigger (the show I'm about to start reviewing). I was also going to the show but Emma (who is also my photographer) was, probably wisely, taking a night off so I planned to meet up with Jack - he would be my gig buddy for the evening.

No Trigger were playing at The Borderline in Soho and were supported by KidBrother and River Jumpers. The Borderline has long been one of my favourite venues in London, not least because of its close vicinity to Chipotle. It's been almost two years since I've been to The Borderline and I was a little taken aback as I made my way down the stairs into the basement venue. They've had a makeover and the first thing that I noticed was that the bar has moved. Also gone are the luxurious red colours and in their place is just black, black everywhere. To quote Jack, the place is the "swankiest" punk show I've ever been to. Now onto the music.

It's also been almost two years since I've seen Brighton's River Jumpers. During that time they've had another line-up reshuffle with a couple of older members of the band rejoining lead singer Nicholas and two of the newest members of the band to create a bit of a River Jumpers supergroup. It doesn't really matter which incarnation of the five piece is on stage because they always hit the spot when I see them live. Playing a set mixed with songs from their first two releases Words, Chords and Irony and Chapters, as well as at least three new songs from an upcoming release, it's a fantastic set. With this upcoming release in the pipeline one has to assume this will make River Jumpers much more active again - this is only a good thing as they are one of the best bands in the scene. Finishing with the classic Five Doors Down, this set left me wanting much more from the band.

Next up were KidBrother, a five piece band from London. I have to admit that I knew absolutely nothing of KidBrother before the evening began and was kind of aprehensive about whether or not I would enjoy their set when they began. The band's lead singer was very static and I found myself wondering if this was going to be a boring set. I don't know if it was part of the stage show or he just grew in confidence but he was like a man transformed as he bounded around the stage. Musically KidBrother weren't like any band that I'm used to seeing. There were elements of pop punk, some hardcore and a healthy dose of emo all mixed into their songs. They also featured dual vocals as the bass player split singing duties. He had a voice like no other that I've heard before, it was a higher pitch and really gave KidBrother's music a sense of individuality. I definitely got the sense at the end of KidBrothers set that they'd gained many new fans following a fantastic set.

Next up was No Trigger. This was a pretty monumental gig for the five piece from Boston as not only was it their first UK show in five years but it was their first show anywhere in two years. Now if I was to not do anything for two years I'd be extremly rusty, I imagine this is the case for most people reading this. Clearly this not the case for No Trigger as they were superb. The Borderline was now pretty full, especially for a Wednesday night when there was so much happening in London this week and it being an early show. Lots of people were so excited to see No Trigger and when the band began their opening song, Checkmate, the crowd came alive. Fists were in the air and lyrics were shouted along. This obviously continued throughout the entire set as they played some tracks from their albums Canyoneer and Tycoon, that many people had waited a long time to hear live. There was also a lovely exclusive for us as they played songs from their brand new EP, Adult Braces. As this was their first live show in two years, this was obviously the first time they've been played live for a crowd. That went down stupendously. New songs can sometimes kill a crowd if nobody has listened to them and learnt the words yet, this wasn't the case. No Trigger have a dedicated fan base. No Trigger absolutely smashed it. As someone who had never seen them live before but had only ever heard positive things, I have to say they exceeded all expectations that I had. This was one of those sets that reminds me why I love small basement punk shows so much - it's a bunch of people, friends, strangers, associates coming together, being friendly and shouting along to their favourite songs. It's a great time. I hope No Trigger aren't away for so long again as now I've seen them once I have the itch and wish to see them many more times.

This gig review was written by Colin Clark.

Album Review: Furniture For Modern Living by Sounds Of Swami

Furniture For Modern Living is the second album from Sounds Of Swami. The West Yorkshire based four piece have been around for a while now so it really seems about time they release a follow up to their debut self titled album which was released in 2013.

The ten track album begins with the song Lull. This kind of feels like an introduction to the album rather than a fully fledged track and it eases you into Furniture For Modern Living nicely. The beginning of the song features a simple guitar riff and some haunting vocals. There is just a whole load of eeriness in the song. It's kind of unsettling until that moment when things explode into life. The second song is named Guillotine and this is where you really get a proper feel of the Sounds Of Swami sound. The technical guitar playing by Luke Yates and Kurt Wood gets the ball rolling and really wakes you up. The vocals on the song switch nicely between melodic and more of a punchy in your face style. The song goes through a series of highs and lows that will have you in a trance one minute before making you lose your mind the next. Kill Me Already opens with a wall of anger. With a title like that it had to really. After that angry beginning you'd expect the next portion of the song to follow suit but surprisingly things become quite calm before slowly building towards some of the more furious moments of the track. I always enjoy when a song surprises me so kudos to Sounds Of Swami for that. Up next is Rome Won't Wait. This has a very interesting beginning with the vocals going off on two different melodic structures creating an ear catching sound. This style continues throughout the song, making it difficult to zone out from the track - not that you would want to, it's a cracker. Twisting My Arm is a more conventional melodic hardcore track. Rob Gilbert's bass and Joe Dimuantes' drums are given more of a chance to shine through on the recording of the song and shows what talented musicians they are. I enjoyed the dual vocalists here with one taking the softer parts and the other doing some intense shouting. The two styles work really well together, with the softer vocal giving the harder an added emphasis when it comes into play.

The second half of the album begins with a song named Palava (one of my favourite words). The track is about doing something wrong and not being able to believe that you did it. The switching between soft and intense again works wonders with the two styles complimenting each other wonderfully. Bigger Pictures is a mesmerising if somewhat disjointed track. It's a solely instrumental track which is surprising song ordering at this stage of Furniture For Modern Living. The song, like most Sounds Of Swami songs, takes you on a series of ups and downs. The builds are fantastic, really making you believe the song is about to explode into life before things just calm down again. The end of the track sees the sound switch to some good old distortion that closes out the song in a great dirty, mucky, grungy way. The eighth song, Take Take Take, starts off with a ferocious bang. It's like being struck in the face by a cannonball and not having the time to protect yourself. That's how hard that song starts off. Then it really drops off, going almost silent before building up to another cannonball assault. The song is an attack on the consumer culture that is now such a big part of our society. Sounds Of Swami talk about how everyone is always willing to take and the majority of the time people are taking what they simply don't need. The penultimate song on the album is New Wounds. The guitar work in the opening verse is very reminiscent of the Dead Kennedys, it's rough, raw and very fast. The theme of intensity continues and at time is amplified to even higher levels. I particularly enjoyed the section of the song where some more melodic harmonies joined in with the primal hardcore screaming that was happening. Finally we have the six minute epic Tough Love. Gone are the disjointed, technical guitars and hardcore screaming and in its place with have a beautiful crafted melodic masterpiece that builds wonderfully towards its big finale. On my first listen of the track I was waiting for the poo to go down and there were plenty of times when it felt like that big moment had arrived but instead the band displayed an excellent restraint and control in their songwriting. This was a pleasant change of pace from the previous tracks and a great way to finish the album.

Pre-order Furniture For Modern Living here:

Like Sounds Of Swami here:

This review was written by Colin Clark.

Sunday, 6 August 2017

Gig Review: Pennywise at Shepherd's Bush Empire 4/8/17

Punk week continued and finished for Emma and I with a show at Shepherd's Bush Empire. This show featured Pennywise headlining an absolutely stacked bill with Face To Face, Good Riddance and Teenage Bottlerocket. If you're a fan of 90s punk rock then that line-up is an absolute dream! Normally you would have to pay a huge festival price to see that kind of line up. And tonight's price was only £25, admittedly more than we would usually pay for a gig but still - did I mention the line up?!

First up were Wyoming pop punks Teenage Bottlerocket. After a difficult time over the past couple of years following the tragic death of Bottlerocket drummer and guitarist Ray's twin brother Brandon, it was absolutely brilliant to see them back on stage. On a big stage that a band with such talent deserve to be playing on no less. Taking to the stage Ray, Kody, Miguel and new drummer Darren Chewka, from Canadian band Old Wives, unleashed a 30 minute pop punk assault. Beginning as always with Freak Out, Teenage Bottlerocket tore through a fourteen song set spanning tracks from their entire discography. Highlights for me were Radio, Stupid Games, Bigger Than Kiss, Skate Or Die and They Call Me Steve but let's be honest the whole set was really a highlight. I've seen Teenage Bottlerocket and their musical contemporaries many times over the years and I'm always so amazed at the speed they play with barely any rest, it's incredible.

Up next were Good Riddance, the four piece from Santa Cruz, California. Of the four bands on the bill they were probably the one I knew the least. Combining fast hardcore punk and adding a whole heap of melody, Good Riddance are one of the most influential bands in the scene and we discovered that they have a huge fan base in the UK. As soon as they began their set a decent size pit opened up, which I must admit took me slightly by surprise. It's rare for a pit to open up before 8pm. The band had a lot of energy on the stage with bass player Chuck Platt really standing out. Like I said, I'm not overly familiar with Good Riddance's music but it was great to hear a couple of tracks that I do know and enjoy - Libertine and One For The Braves went down an absolute treat. Good Riddance have been doing this for a long time now and it was really great to see how appreciative they were of the crowd's reaction to their set. Great live band and real humble guys.

Victorville, California's Face To Face were the next band to take to the stage and wasted no time in launching into the hits with You Done Nothing starting their set off with a bang. Unfortunately these legends only had a half an hour set, but they tried their best to pack as much into it as they could. When you've been a band for such a long time and have released so much music over the years you'll never be able to please everyone with your setlist so Face To Face stuck with a mainly old school set. As is the way, old stuff always goes down best - so this did please many people in Shepherd's Bush. Classics such as Blind, Disconnected and Walk The Walk were played as well as newer tracks such as Bent But Not Broken and Double Crossed, that also went down a treat. Face To Face are one of those bands I love but never listen to anywhere near enough. Live they were just fantastic, this show definitely eclipsed my previous time seeing them back in 2013. Trevor Keith is a great frontman and has a great vocal for live shows. He also told a nice story about being in Shepherd's Bush Empire in the past watching the late great Joe Strummer play and deciding that one day he also wanted to play here. Dreams do come true, even after being a band for 25 years.

Completing a trio of legendary Californian punk bands were the night's headliners, Pennywise. The band, from Hermosa Beach, have been going since 1988 and this quite incredibly was my first time seeing them play a headline show. From the opening chord of their opening song the crowd instantly went nuts. We thought we were in a decent spot, quite close to the front but far enough away from any of the pit craziness. NOPE! Instantly I found myself having to push back against a horde of folk to prevent me getting squashed against a barrier. This was great fun! Pennywise's music has this great ability to just let you lose control and lose all of your frustrations. Pennywise and particularly lead singer Jim Lindberg's songwriting has always focussed on having a positive mental attitude, finding a way to better yourself and making a change to the negative things that surround you. This way of thinking is mentioned many times during the set and the music really does just make me feel uplifted. It was a fantastic set but there was one thing that I'm still not sure if I liked or disliked. The band played four covers (Minor Threat by Minor Threat, Do What You Want by Bad Religion, Fight For Your Right To Party by The Beastie Boys, Stand By Me by Ben E. King), for a band with eleven full length albums this seemed like a lot of covers. On the other hand it was really fun to hear these songs and sing along. It does feel like it's a nice little treat for a live show that you don't get when you listen to Pennywise records. Perhaps I did like it. Of course Fuck Authority got one of the biggest reactions and shout-a-longs - that's one of those classic punk songs you know all the words to even if you don't necessarily like Pennywise. The penultimate song was Broken which the band dedicated to the Chester Bennington, the lead singer of Linkin Park who recently passed away, with Jim saying that he was "a real sweet dude." And of course they finished up the night with Bro Hymn. A song dedicated to all of their fallen friends. It's no great surprise that the "whoa-oh" moments got the biggest bits of crowd participation of the whole night. As a little side note, Jim's neighbours from California were holidaying in London and were attending the show. During Bro Hymn the neighbours invaded the stage to sing along with the band. That was a nice moment.

What a great night it was. I'm not usually one who really enjoys going to bigger venues but I have to say that this was one of the most enjoyable "bigger venue" shows I've been to in some time. All four bands were superb and the three supports could easily have been headline act in their own right. As much as I love new bands, it's great to sometimes take a trip down memory lane and remember the bands that got you where you are today.

This gig review was written by Colin Clark.

Friday, 4 August 2017

Gig Review: Bad Religion at The Forum, Kentish Town 1/8/17 (by Emma Prew)

Every music fan has a still-to-see-live bucket list of their favourite bands. Mine has got increasingly shorter over the past couple of years and I successfully ticked another of the bands off of my list on Tuesday – Bad Religion. I've never been what you would call a huge Bad Religion fan, if I was I would have seen them already, but I know that they are deservedly one of the biggest bands in punk rock history and I always love listening to them (not least at Christmas!). So when Bad Religion announced that they would be playing just two UK headline shows, ahead of their appearance at Rebellion Festival this year, I snapped up tickets for the London show.

I was a little surprised when a band born out of the underground UK punk scene was announced as being the one and only support for the gig – not because they didn’t deserve it but because these sorts of ‘big’ punk shows don’t always showcase the great UK scene. Gnarwolves are the band I’m talking about here and I was very much looking forward to seeing the Brighton-based trio for the third time. The band opened their 30 minute set with Straight Jacket, a song off the new album, Outsiders, before proceeding with some older tracks. If the size of the stage, or the band they were opening for, phased the band they did well to not let it show. It was a few songs into their set before vocalist and guitarist, Thom, spoke to the, now pretty big, Kentish Town crowd and acknowledged just how stoked they were to be playing with Bad Religion – and you could tell he meant it. That’s every punk band’s dream gig, right? Gnarwolves put on a great performance, including the ‘hits’ Smoking Kills and Bottle To Bottle, and I loved it but, I have to say, the crowd was disappointingly unanimated. It was a little odd because they enthusiastically whooped and clapped at the end of each song so it’s almost like they were being overly polite or perhaps just saving themselves for the main event… 

Gnarwolves’ DIY-style banner (which was great by the way) was taken down and the infamous Bad Religion logo was revealed, as if we didn’t know it was there anyway – definitely one of the most iconic and controversial yet simple logos in the world of punk. And before long the band themselves took to the stage. Bursting into American Jesus from the 1993 album Recipe For Hate, the Forum crowd was certainly more vocal and wholeheartedly enthusiastic for the main act! It’s crazy to think that that song was released when I was two years old but even more of their back catalogue and many of the songs that appeared in their set – I Want To Conquer The World, No Control, We’re Only Gonna Die and 21st Century (Digital Boy) to name but a few – were released well before I was born, as well. However, something I love about Bad Religion is that their songs sound simply timeless – and this was very apparent in their live set list, with songs spanning their 16 album, 37 year career. Frontman Greg Graffin noted how some of the songs that they wrote 25 years ago are actually more relevant today – think politics and general world views and you’ll see what he means. He also mentioned that the first time they played in London was in 1989! I am very glad that they have continued to return and I’m pretty sure that the whole of The Forum on Tuesday night would agree. This is a band whose members are pretty much all in their 50s and they play with such energy and force that you’d be forgiven for thinking you were watching a bunch of enthusiastic twenty-somethings. Of course, I have to mention bassist Jay Bentley as he’s such fun to watch on stage, bouncing around the place without a care in the world (something he also does when playing in covers supergroup, Me First And The Gimme Gimmes). But what really impressed me was Greg’s voice. He has such a distinct vocal on record and I’m pleased to say that this is the real deal and he sounds that good live – not bad at all for his age! The are so many great songs in a Bad Religion set list – it’s easy to forget just how many amazing songs they have – and for each and every one of those songs there were fists in the air, huge singalongs and even one large circle pit towards the end.

Bad Religion are one of the very best punk bands. Ever. And they were definitely well worth the wait.

This gig review was written by Emma Prew.

Thursday, 3 August 2017

Top Tens: Colin's Top Ten Cover Songs

Recently I attended a ska punk festival. As is seemingly the rule for ska bands, many covers were played. This got me thinking about some of my favourite covers by bands that aren't ska bands and I decided to do a top ten. I also decided not to put in cover bands like Me First and the Gimme Gimmes because covers are what they do! This was kind of hard to do and I realise my choices are probably completely different to yours, -I'd be interested to know what everyone else's top ten punk covers are.

Iron Chic - Bonzo Goes To Bitburg (The Ramones)

Many, many, many bands have covered The Ramones. It makes sense as they are the godfathers and are therefore one of the most influential punk bands ever. It's mostly pop punk bands such as Screeching Weasel and The Queers that cover them so it is refreshing to hear a band like Iron Chic, who play a slower and more gruff punk style, cover The Ramones. This is actually my favourite Ramones song so to hear one of my favourite bands cover it and cover it well, it's just the best.

Muncie Girls - Pet Sematary (The Ramones)

Of course there were going to be multiple Ramones songs on this list - it's the Ramones! UK indie pop punk trio Muncie Girls' version of this classic, inspired by a Stephen King novel, is superb. This cover came about after the Muncie Girls performed a set as the Ramones at a special show a couple of years back and this song then eventually got recorded and released on a split with Sandlotkids.

No Use For A Name - Fairytale Of New York (The Pogues/Kirsty MacColl)

This Christmas classic has been covered a few times by punk rockers over the years. Other than No Use For A Name's version, two that come to mind are a version by Chewing On Tinfoil and another by Chuck Ragan and Emily Barker. I've chosen the NUFAN version ahead of those two due to its difference from the more traditional styles of those other two acts. NUFAN have given it a skate punk feel without completely straying away from the charm of the song that makes it such a massive hit.

MXPX - Summer Of 69 (Bryan Adams)

This song always makes me smile for a multitude of reasons. Firstly because the original is my mum's ringtone and it would go off all the time so this song always reminds me of that. Also because this MXPX version was part of the soundtrack to my college summers and that's a period of my life I have very fond memories of. MXPX haven't done a whole lot to change the song, just upped the tempo and added a whole ton of energy to the song, which makes it hard to not get pumped up by it.

The Unseen - Paint It Black (The Rolling Stones)

I love The Unseen. They are one of few bands that are super screamy but I still adore. This cover from the album State Of Discontent gives the original a real shot in the arm. Mark Unseen's vocals are so harsh and angry it's hard not to get caught up in the song and feel the urge to punch a hole in a wall.

Lagwagon - Brown Eyed Girl (Van Morrison)

Lagwagon aren't the first band to ever cover Brown Eyed Girl and almost certainly won't be the last. It's such a joyous sounding song that it's difficult not to smile whenever hearing it live. Now imagine one of your favourite bands playing this at a gig and singing along to it with all of your friends. What a wonderful time that is!

Allister - I Want It That Way (Backstreet Boys)

Things I never expected to do when I started CPRW, no.4235 - Talk about the Backstreet Boys. Allister are my absolute favourite of the early 2000s pop punk scene. I Want It That Way is a song that is surely ingrained in the head of anyone between the ages of 15 to 35 who has had access to hearing in their life. As pop songs go it's got to be one of the most well known songs ever, love it or hate it - you know it. That means that you'll instantly know it and will be singing along whenever you hear it. Smart song choice for a cover.

The Bouncing Souls - Lean On Sheena (Avoid One Thing)

You know you do a cover well when a lot of people, even big fans of your band, don't realise that the song is actually a cover. That's certainly the case for The Bouncing Souls version of Avoid One Thing's Lean On Sheena. The song has become one of the Souls most popular amongst their fans, which is saying something when you consider just how many great songs the Souls have in their arsenal. Not straying too far from the original but giving it The Bouncing Souls treatment, I would argue that this is better than the original.

Hot Water Music - Radio (Alkaline Trio)

The BYO Split Series was great. It featured some of the biggest names in punk rock pairing up for a release and covering each other's songs. One of the releases featured Hot Water Music and Alkaline Trio. What a pairing that is! Radio is one of my all time favourite songs so Hot Water Music were going to have to do something quite special to do it justice. The Gainesville legends don't do too much - they give it a bit of the Hot Water Music guitar treatment and add more dual vocals rather than Matt Skiba's solo outing. The dual vocals give what's already a bit of an epic song and even bigger sound.

Dropkick Murphys - Working (Cock Sparrer)

These bands are a match made in heaven… working class heaven. Legendary UK oi! band Cock Sparrer's anthem Working is about going to work whilst also signing on for benefits. It's about doing what you can to try and get on in life. The Dropkick Murphys have always been about supporting workers rights and have a background in oi! music before the folk and Celtic music took over their sound so it seems completely natural that the band would cover this legendary track.

Wednesday, 2 August 2017

Album Review: The Black Museum by Lay It On The Line (by Dan Peters)

New School, Old School.

I realise that as an impartial reviewer of punk rock music I should remain unbiased and see the merits of all forms of punk rock but unfortunately people don’t pay enough to be unbiased or to overcome my dislike of certain trends in punk. One that I wish had never spawned into existence is what I only know to call Pseudo Metal. It’s that brand of Hardcore that sounds like Djent-based heavy metal but the guys are playing a punk show and wearing dickies so the punk kids are confused and the metallers don’t want them because they already have Djent and heavy metal. I don’t like that style of Hardcore.

I like my Hardcore melodic and gritty and for it to have a real message behind it. I want it to be powerful but uplifting and have that sweet ass old school vibe and be fun to listen to. The kind of thing that only Frank Carter has any invested interest in making these days.

This ramble leads me nicely into The Black Museum by Lay It On The Line. A London based melodic hardcore group that I’m surprised I’ve only just heard of considering we’ve shared the same rough geolocation as bands for the last five or so years. The Black Museum is their debut album and serves up 10 brand new tracks. It’s this that serves as my very first taste of the band, having had it land on my lap from the always on point Disconnect Disconnect Records.

Things kick off and I already know I’m gonna be in comfortable territory with that double time drumming I love so much, hanging guitar feedback and chunky bass which gives way to tasty melodic riffage over first vocalist, Alice, screaming bloody murder. All of this coupled with a biting stab at corporate capitalism would work well as is but an extra nice step is second vocalist, Mike, breaking up proceedings with a gruff but tuneful middle eight. All in all, opener Level Up gives me a great insight into what to expect and I’m happy to dig in and hear more.

Lay It On The Line manage to keep things melodic whilst still being aggressive and are thoughtful, and often poetic, with their words - something that is pleasing to hear on something that could just sound like more angry ranting. Not everything is breakneck and when things calm down, on tracks like A Serious House On Serious Earth and Battery Farm Anachronism for example, it’s soothing despite the still ferocious vocals.

Standout tracks here for me are the really excellent opener for one, 120 Days, which is brutal and beautiful in equal measure and the oddly named chugging head banger, Oreo Speedwagon. Random 70s soft rock references aside, there’s a lot to love here and if you enjoy things heavy with a pinch of melody then this is the new record for you. One thing I would have like to see more of is the distinct vocal swapping found in Level Up. For the rest of the album you have Mike songs and Alice songs but nothing else with the deliberate vocal switch mid song. I’m a sucker for dual vocalists and like to see this sort of thing played up more.

Overall Lay It On The Line have managed to knock an extremely high class hardcore album out the park and if you’re looking to fill your boots in the, frankly too small these days, scene then this is a must have. Fast, aggressive, poetic, clever and driven. The Black Museum has everything you need to spark a fire under you and make your day.

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This review was written by Dan Peters.