Thursday, 21 September 2017

Top Tens: The Doublecross' Top Ten Punk Rock Influences

Bruce Springsteen
Springsteen is the musician I remember most vividly from my childhood. My folks would play their vinyl copies of his earliest albums over and over. I certainly think that his heartfelt mixture of rhythm and blues, rock, folk and country has influenced my songwriting more than any other musician.

Buffalo Tom
The first time I heard Buffalo Tom was their live performance of the song Tree House on the Channel 4 pop culture show The Word, in 1993. I was instantly taken with Bill Janovitz' honest vocals over the jangly 90s guitar sound that I had already grown to love in other bands such as Teenage Fanclub.

The Black Crowes
The Crowes are one of my all-time favourite bands and, despite not having a direct influence on The Doublecross, are one of the reasons I learnt to play guitar. The first time I heard them was on a late night rock music television programme on ITV called Raw Power. It was the song Twice As Hard, a single in 1990.

Having been a lover of hip-hop and rap music since the early 90s, I'd never connected on a personal level lyrically with anything in the genre until Atmosphere came along. I discovered them three albums into their career when the Lucy Ford EP collection was released in the early 2000s, a crazy and important time in my life in terms of learning who I thought I was and understanding my relationships with other people.

The Prodigy
It was The Prodigy that got me into creating my own electronic music during the 90s which has influenced the way I write, compose and almost construct Doublecross songs since. The Prodigy helped me understand the power and importance of repetition in music, treating every instrument and melody in a song as a separate element that may be introduced and reintroduced in a song.

The Wildhearts
I heard The Wildhearts for the first time on Noisy Mothers, ITV's late night replacement for the show Raw Power, when they released Nothing Ever Changes as a single in 1992. That song blew my mind with its mixture of power-pop, punk and metallic riffage and I've loved the band ever since. I cite them as a direct influence on the sound of the latest Doublecross album, Keep Bleeding.

Hot Water Music
After hearing their song Choked And Separated on a compilation, HWM without a doubt became the most influential band for me particularly in my earlier days of making punk rock music. Everything from the chord progressions, lead guitar style and rough yet melodic vocals to the lyrical content helped shape the music I made with my old band This Hidden Switch and the first Doublecross album, Things Will Never Change.

When a friend played the Rebels And Rogues album to me, this was the first time I had heard Lucero and their music struck a nerve. It seemed to tap in to a part of me that had laid dormant since my teenage angst days in the 90s. Except this time I was in my 20s and very much into over analysing everything about my love life. Lucero, as with Atmosphere, gave me the confidence to write honest, personal lyrics of my own.

Rival Schools
Being a fan of Walter Schreifels' band Quicksand, I was nothing less than blown away when I saw the Rival Schools Used For Glue video for the first time. I still don't know how he does it but Schreifels has this way of writing such vague lyrics that seem to mean so much to me and his vocal delivery is nothing short of soulful in my opinion. This coupled with Ian Love's beautiful guitar work will always leave Rival Schools as one of my all-time favourite bands.

Dinosaur Jr
Yet another band I heard for the first time on Channel 4's The Word. The song they performed was Start Choppin' and I was immediately in love with J. Mascis' guitar playing and sound. I've been trying to emulate and play guitar like Mascis ever since, with minimal success. This alone is not why I love Dinosaur Jnr so much, as their songwriting underpins an entire sound that I believe is completely unique.

Like The Doublecross on Facebook here.

Wednesday, 20 September 2017

Album Review: Outsider by Comeback Kid (by Robyn Pierce)

Longtime Canadian hardcore band Comeback Kid recently released a new full-length album entitled Outsider, out on Nuclear Blast. I’m always stoked about new music from Comeback Kid, who are definitely one of best hardcore bands in the scene, but I was particularly interested in this record after hearing the singles the guys released and seeing some of the guest vocalists the band collaborated with on Outsider (Chris Cresswell on a Comeback Kid record? Whaa?! It’s like they’re trying to make a point about how many great musicians come from Canada). Comeback Kid are also my go-to band when I’m struggling to feel motivated and need a bit of a push, so I was really counting on Outsider to give me the energy fix I need at this time of year.

And, it delivered. Outsider is heavy in all the right ways, delivering vibrant riffs and often veering into the realm of metal. This is perhaps best encapsulated in the track entitled ‘Absolute’, which includes a guest appearance from legendary metal vocalist Devin Townsend (who is, of course, another amazing Canadian). Townsend’s vocals really fill out the sound in ‘Absolute’, giving the song an operatic quality as it builds to a crescendo and ends with an awesome breakdown. ‘Absolute’ was one of the singles pre-released off of Outsider, together with ‘Somewhere, Somehow’ and ‘Surrender Control’. ‘Somewhere, Somehow’ really showcases Comeback Kid at their best, tempering fast and aggressive verses with a soaring, anthemic chorus. ‘Surrender Control’ is also quite anthemic, with a chorus that promises to have crowds all over the world singing along, but it’s much more bass-driven and deliciously heavy. I looped these three tracks more than a few times leading up to the album release, and they definitely measure up to Comeback Kid’s previous singles and best-loved tracks.

With the full release came ten more new songs. Much like the title track off of Die Knowing, which also leads off that album, ‘Outsider’ opens the record with a long intro and introduces the theme of the outcast whose power lies in challenging the status quo. ‘Hell of a Scene’ is an unexpected track that marries together an aggressive, ultra-fast verse and a highly melodic chorus that reminds me ever so slightly of Sum 41 (and no, it’s not just because they’re Canadian – although, maybe?). It’s jarring and fun, and could wreak untold havoc at shows. This song gives way to ‘Consumed the Vision’, which features Chris Cresswell (from The Flatliners) and is therefore, perhaps unsurprisingly, a more straightforward punk track (although, it doesn’t escape the metal influence altogether). I don’t think there is any possible manifestation of Chris Cresswell’s vocals that I could ever dislike, but man – I really enjoy the overlaying and blending of vocals on this track. Like the addition of Townsend on ‘Absolute’, it adds great flavour and dimension to the sound. ‘I’ll Be That’ is a headbanger with some tight palm muting, while ‘Outrage’ and ‘Blindspot’ are two of the faster songs on the album with fantastic drumming at breakneck speed.

In between the old-school, hardcore aggression of ‘Livid, I’m Prime’ and ‘Throw That Stone’ is one of my favourite tracks off of Outsider, entitled ‘Recover’. This song steps away from the metal elements on the rest of the album and delivers a rousing melody with similarly stirring lyrics: “I’m not slipping away, I’ll recover”. In a video in which the band discuss Outsider, Neufield says that ‘Recover’ came out of an attempt to return to an earlier sound and to write a song like ‘Wake the Dead’. I think the band is successful in writing a song that is as enjoyable as this fan favourite. Outsider finishes up with ‘Moment in Time’ featuring Northcote (yes, you guessed it, another great Canadian musician). Northcote’s input is most apparent at the beginning of the song, which begins as a somber folk punk tune before exploding with frantic energy. In fact, the speed and intensity of the rest of the song almost seems to be a response to its grim beginning. This is fitting in a song about making the most of the precious time you have with your loved ones. ‘Moment in Time’ caps off the album beautifully with a track that’s really different to anything I’ve heard from Comeback Kid before.

What I really like about ‘Outsider’ is the diversity of tracks that it offers, each developing a different facet of Comeback Kid’s sound but all of them administering the power and energy that you’d expect from these hardcore heavyweights. Chances are, even if you don’t love every song off this album, there’ll be a few tracks that you really enjoy. Outsider also testifies to the musical talent coming out of Canada and makes really fantastic use of guest vocals (seriously, if you are reading this Comeback Kid: just keep collaborating with other awesome Canadian musicians. It’s working. You have made me so happy.) Outsider is a great addition to Comeback Kid’s growing catalogue of music, and has definitely satisfied my need for some quality hardcore punk to help me push through the last few months of the year.

Stream and download Outsider here:

Like Comeback Kid here:

This review was written by Robyn Pierce.

Tuesday, 19 September 2017

Gig Review: The Real McKenzies at The Camden Underworld 13/9/17

What do you do when you're off work and have a day planned in London? Go to a punk show, of course. Canadian celtic punks The Real McKenzies were playing at The Underworld in Camden, somewhere we seem to have been to loads lately, and had Counting Coins supporting them. This promised to be a evening full of fun.

When I saw that there was only one support band on the evening's bill, I must admit that I felt a little disappointed - it felt like I was paying full price for a gig that wouldn't be as long as normal. Any disappointment that I was feeling was soon forgotten as Counting Coins took to the stage. The five piece from Hull play a hybrid of ska punk, hip-hop and gypsy music and kind of felt like strange bedfellows for The Real McKenzies for this tour. I wondered how a crowd of predominantly older punk rockers would take to this band. They took to them very well. I think that this was down to the infectious energy that the band put into their performance. Lead vocalist Harry is sometimes hard to make out due to the sheer speed that he delivers his lyrics but he has me smiling and enjoying myself anyway. Because Counting Coins were the only support band of the evening they were afforded a little extra time for their set. This seemed like we were able to get the full Counting Coins experience. Playing a selection of songs from their entire back catalogue as well as at least one new one, the band got a few people in the crowd that had gathered early dancing. The band had become great friends with tour pals Real McKenzies over the previous week or so and it was great to see some of those Canadian chaps down the front singing along with the band. It's always great to see some camaraderie develop between bands whilst on tour, it really shows the strength of the community in the punk scene. Counting Coins really impressed with a high octane set.

Next it was time for long running celtic punks, The Real McKenzies. The band formed way back in 1992 so this was the band's 25th year in existence, an incredible achievement. Frontman Paul McKenzie is the only original member who still plays with the band and as soon as he took to the stage he got an standing ovation from the Underworld crowd. This is where I must admit that I'm not overly knowledgeable on much of The Real McKenzies music, I know a couple of songs and I've always enjoyed listening to them but have never fully been on board the McKenzies bandwagon. I now am after witnessing an incredible live performance. I don't think I've seen many more entertaining live shows this year. I think a key part of the band's longevity has been the excellent selection of musicians that Paul has surrounded himself with. Watching them all interact with each other on the Underworld stage is an absolute delight. It reminds me of Paul being the serious teacher and the rest of the band behaving like naughty school boys behind him. Bass player Troy Zak in particular likes to act out, being the one to mock Paul's age and answer back when asked to do something. It's all in good fun of course and adds a great dynamic to the set. There wasn't a single song in their set that didn't get me dancing. Whether it was a faster paced punk track, a slower drinking song or a sea shanty - everything was just fantastic. Of the songs that I did learn favourites of mine included Droppin' Like Flies, Bugger Off, My Luck Is So Bad, Fuck The Real McKenzies, Due West and Barrett's Privateers. If you've never seen The Real McKenzies live you are really missing out. Amazing.

In all honesty this was a gig we went to just because we were off work and we like going to gigs. This was a great decision as we had a brilliant night dancing along to really good bands from different sides of the punk genre.

This gig review was written by Colin Clark.

Monday, 18 September 2017

Album Review: Come Undone by Lincoln Le Fevre & The Insiders (by Emma Prew)

This time last year I was constantly listening to my favourite bands that were set to play Fest 15 in anticipation for seeing many new faves live in Florida at the end of October. One artist that I listened to, probably more than anyone else, was Lincoln Le Fevre, a country/folk punk chap from Australia. When Fest came around we ended up seeing him play twice over the weekend and each time was simply wonderful – he has an incredible way of captivating a bar (or beer garden, in the second instance) with his wistful storytelling. I loved Lincoln Le Fevre then, I still love Lincoln Le Fevre now and now I also love Lincoln Le Fevre & The Insiders and their 2017 full-band full-length release Come Undone.

Released on Poison City Records towards the end of July, Come Undone has been top of my must-review-list ever since. Except life got in the way, work has been busier than ever and I haven’t had time to give the album the appreciation it deserves. Until now.

Opening the album is a song called Ugly Enough. It starts out reasonably slowly, with soft guitar before Lincoln’s distinct vocal utters the words ‘I should warn you, I’m not built to last, And the future casts a shadow, Darker than the past.’ You can tell that the song is building as the guitars appear to get ever so slightly more urgent. Drums kick in for the full band sound we’ve been waiting for at around the one and half minute mark and we are even treated to a big guitar solo towards the end of the song. This is the same heartfelt and honest Lincoln Le Fevre that I know and love just with a punchy impact and sound. The feedback at the end of Ugly Enough leads us into Undone and while the first track was slower to get going, track number two wastes no time hanging around. Undone has a fuller sound from the outset and a faster pace to get your head nodding and foot stomping. This was one of the first tracks released ahead of the album and I was sold on it from my first listen. As much as I love the stripped back and more acoustic nature of the last album, Resonation – and I sure as hell love that album – I think this rockier, punkier sound is what I subconsciously wanted all along. Undone is about being able to put the past behind you and get over someone or something. ‘Boy I know what’s getting you down, But there’s no point missing her now…’ I bet it would go down and storm at a live show and I really, really hope that’s something I get to witness one day.

There are plenty of genres that Lincoln Le Fevre & The Insiders could plausibly fall under. Of course, this is a ‘punk rock’ blog and they are not necessarily out of place here, as a major part in the Australian punk scene alongside the likes of The Smith Street Band, Camp Cope and Luca Brasi, to name but a few. You could also label Lincoln’s previous releases as having more of a folk or country sound and this comes across in the warm guitar tones throughout Summerhat. Perhaps this is Australiana? (Y’know, like Americana.) That’s the guitars however, meanwhile the lyrics are as packed with emotion as ever. You know that phrase ‘to wear your heart on your sleeve’? Well, that could be applied here too. ‘And when she turned to me and she respectfully disagreed, But in every kid there’s an asshole who don’t know right, Because what all this means is maybe she won’t think the worst of me.’ The tempo is taken down a notch for the somewhat melancholic The Get Go. A steady drum beat takes us through this song with the guitars taking a bit of a backseat for Lincoln to give an honest outpouring through his vocals. ‘Was it recklessness or reason, An echo of whatever but it means, That you were here from the get go.’ The sombre tone continues into the next track and this is where Lincoln really pulls at the heartstrings. Newcastle is the name of the fifth track on Come Undone and it is about loneliness and the frustration that comes with that, as well as how a particular place, Newcastle for instance, can embody all of those feelings. This song contains some of the most poignant and yet heartbreaking lyrics of the whole album – the whole Lincoln Le Fevre back catalogue in fact. ‘I’m staring at the infomercials, Waiting to be told, To go to bed and give up on another night alone, And lie awake in wait for sleep to bring her home, And I’m listening […] And when I told you that I missed you, You just stared at the floor, And you held me like there’s nothing left to hold anymore, And it looks as though when I get back to Melbourne I’ll be coming back alone.’ I want to scream those words almost as much as they make me feel like crying. That’s a good thing, right?

Phew! After that slightly emotional whirlwind, Useless Shit brings us back to straight-up head nodding folk punk rock. The drum beat gives the song a rolling motion, the guitars are suitably jangly and the lyrics are easy to pick up and sing along to – particularly those echoed lines in the chorus. This song has an official music video which features a bunch of people have a yard sale of what turns out to Lincoln’s, probably not so unwanted, belongings. It’s a fun spin on what could be presumed to be ‘useless shit’ but I think the song is more about starting afresh and perhaps trying to forget some things from your past. Another great song. Then we come to what I think is the perfect combination of heartfelt, emotion-fuelled lyrics with an upbeat pace and that excellent full band sound. Constellations is almost definitely my favourite song of Come Undone. Leading us into the song with a catchy guitar riff, the verses are mid tempo but the chorus is where it all happens. ‘And you caught me just in time, To turn the night around, And if the cop don’t shut us down, We’ll drink all night.’ There’s just something about the warmth in Lincoln’s voice that makes me love this song that little bit more than all of the rest. I think you’ll have to listen for yourself and see if you hear what I mean.

Drawing towards the end of the album, Gaslight City is the eighth track of Come Undone. A simple melancholic guitar riff opens up the track and when the vocals kick in we can confirm that this is a bit of a remorseful and bitter sounding song. ‘And you told us we need it, Everything we never needed.’ This is another song with a great sense of building throughout its duration. We don’t exactly get a massive punk rock kick in the face by the end of it but that’s not really what this song is about – it’s deeper than that. The melancholy gives way to a faster paced and almost optimistic penultimate track, Alone At The Back. I say ‘almost’ as it’s more like being on the road to positivity but not quite being there yet – ‘Giving up and giving in is not the same thing.’ There’s a great little section towards the end of the song where there are two different vocal lines being sung over the top of each other. Unfortunately I can’t quite pick out every single word to quote this (and I can’t find the lyrics online) so you’ll just have to listen yourself. Bringing Come Undone to a close in the longest song on the album at 5 minutes (exactly) in length, Stay Close. As you might imagine an album closer of 5 minutes to be, this is an atmospheric builder of a song. The slow guitar playing and softer vocals that start the song remind me a bit of Ryan Adams, if Ryan Adams was from Australia – which I’m sure is not an unusual comparison to make. In this song, Lincoln admits trying to be optimistic in when life puts you in some difficult situations which I feel reflects on much of the album and not just this song. It’s a good way to be. ‘So stay close, Stay close, Because I am still a stupid optimist in spite of every doubt.’ 

Come Undone is out now on Poison City Records and you can download and stream it on Bandcamp here.

I also suggest you give Lincoln Le Fevre & The Insiders a like on Facebook here.

This album review was written by Emma Prew.

Friday, 15 September 2017

Column: Music Videos Are Still Cool

Remember about ten years ago when you would spend hours watching Kerrang or Scuzz or MTV2 or, probably the most popular with readers of this blog, P-Rock hoping to catch your favourite bands new music video. Back then, before social media sites such as Facebook and Twitter exploded, a big tool for getting your band some important exposure was getting your music video onto one of those channels.

These days music videos don't feel as important as they once did because there are so many other (and usually cheaper) ways to spread the good word about your band. I however still do get excited when my favourite bands release a new music video. I figured it might be fun to share a few of my favourites with the Colin's Punk Rock World readers.

Thursday, 14 September 2017

Top Tens: Danny from The Crash Mats' Top Ten Punk Rock Influences

Ever since I first heard White Trash, Two Heebs And A Bean I’ve been in love with NOFX. Being 13 and getting into punk was fun, I spent about a year listening to the Sex Pistols and other such 70s bands then I heard White Trash… and Punk in Drublic on the same cassette tape. I didn’t realise you could have fun with punk, NOFX taught me that.

The Beastie Boys
The best/most punk album I owned when I was 14 was Aglio E Olio. The greatest album of all time is Paul Boutique. The videos they made were funny, plus their cover of Minor Threat's Screaming At A Wall is amazing! The Beasties are better at everything musically than anyone else, ever!

When I was 13 I heard Crass and my young Roman Catholic head exploded. I didn’t really understand 95% of it, but I totally got what the song So What was on about. I really dug the dirty bass and drum sounds and they made me feel like I could write a punk song and that it was easy. All you need to do is shout and sound Cockney!

All the early Fat Wreck comps were amazing, but Snuff really stood out to me. They filled the music out with Hammond organs and trumpets, they did stupid covers and made me laugh a lot. They didn’t seem to care everyone else was trying to be serious, they carried on regardless. All the Snuff spin off bands are great too, Guns n Wankers, Your Mum, Billy No Mates etc. but I still remember listening to a copy of Potatoes And Melons with Mr Royales (Guitarist in The Crash Mats) aged 13/14 and wanting to do my own punk version of Magic Moments and trying to figure out which TV adverts would make a good punk cover.

The Toy Dolls

I smoke weed, and I like punk and ska… do I need to explain this one any more? I didn’t really get into them until the early 2000s but just wow. 40 Oz To Freedom is just so smooth. It flows from track to track, everything fits, nothing stands out as odd or an album track. Just pure gold.

Rich Kids On LSD/RKL
I first heard these guys on a compilation from Epitaph years ago, then I forgot about them. Then later on in life I got back into buying vinyl and re-discovered RKL. Everything about this band is amazing, from the bass and vocals, to the mental backstory of the guys in the band. I love all eras of RKL, from the early Mystic stuff to the later Epitaph albums, they just inspire me to want to sound better musically. I’ve still yet to hear better vocals on a record than Jason Sears.

Dead Kennedys
I used to love looking through the album artwork for a DK album, the dark humour really stood out to me. The sound of the band was pretty damn cool too. I had no idea what they looked like from being 13 to about 15 when I saw a video of a live set in San Fransisco. It wasn’t until I saw East Bay Ray and Klaus Flouride playing that I understood just how damn good they were.

Wesley Willis
If you make me laugh I will love you forever, Wesley Willis is punk rock. Rock over London, rock over Chicago, Wheaties the breakfast of champions.

Frank Sidebottom
Laughing at your own jokes whilst other people stare at you in befuddlement is the best feeling in the world sometimes. Frank scared me as a kid, but as I grew up I realised just how funny he was. Also just how controversial he was to people as well. I’ve only ever been told to turn off two records by my mum, one was Crass and the other was Frank Sidebottom. Stuff like that makes people stick in your mind and I’ve probably stolen more from Frank Sidebottom than anyone else. I don’t think many people “get him” but that is their problem. You know it is, it really is!

Check out The Crash Mats here and here.

Wednesday, 13 September 2017

Album Review: Call In Sick by Toodles & The Hectic Pity

I love it when small bands I've never heard of send me emails asking if I'd like to review their new release and it turns out to be one of your favourite releases of the year. That's definitely what happened when Bristol based three piece Toodles & The Hectic Pity got in touch ( if you're interested) and told me about their new release Call In Sick which was released in June via Invisible Llama Music. Toodles & The Hectic Pity consist of Callum McAllister (vocals, acoustic guitar), Max Cole (bass, vocals) and Dom Mosley (drums, vocals, melodica) and play acoustic folk punk music. A genre I usually leave for Emma to review but I enjoyed this release so much I had to do it myself. Here's why I loved Call In Sick.

Opening song Menthol Cigarettes begins with some quiet acoustic guitar before the drum kicks in and we get a upbeat extended introduction to the song. When the vocals do kick in the drum drops out and the song builds up towards its chorus. I like the effect of having two introductions to the song that lead into a big sing-a-long chorus. Menthol Cigarettes is a break up song, particularly about struggling to let go of the relationship and not coming to terms with the situation. Despite the sadness of the topic there is such a great upbeat feel to the song, it's kind of difficult not to smile along to it. Next up is I Do Not Need A Doctor (Oh My Dear). The track doesn't waste much time in getting started this time with some fast paced acoustic guitars. McAllister's vocals are also up-tempo and have a hint of storytelling in their delivery. I Do Not Need A Doctor tells the story of a girl who tries so hard to fit into what society deems is the correct lifestyle and it driving her to sickness. There is a great section of the song when things are brought down to a slower pace and some well placed "whoa-ohs" come in before the song gradually picks itself back up for its ending. Superb song.

The third song is the EP's title track Call In Sick. Call In Sick is a song about being stuck in a job that you hate so much that it begins to affect your mental health. The track goes along at more of a mid-tempo pace with McAllister again in storytelling mode. I can see this song really going down well in a live environment, especially when the music cuts out and the line "Because You Shouldn't Have To Work So Hard To Barely Get You By" is sung, in my head I'm imagining a room full of people shouting this back at the band in a very cathartic moment. The penultimate track is named Faster Than This. As you might assume from the title of the track, it's a fast paced one that's just two minutes in length. It's a bit of a punk anthem about realising your own self worth and ignoring the people who don't respect yours. Faster Than This is a track that really allows Mosley's drumming to shine with some rapid fire drum rolls giving the song an explosion of life. Lastly we have Ear To The Concrete. Here we have another mid-tempo track that tells another story. McAllister does a wonderful job of painting a picture in this, and all his songs, where it feels as if you can see what he's singing about as if it's a film. This is an incredible skill and shows so much songwriting talent.

Call In Sick is one of the biggest surprises of the year. All five songs are just superb and deserve a lot of attention. Toodles & The Hectic Pity have not been a band for a long time but are already showing a lot of promise. If you only check out one band that you've never heard of this year then you could do far worse that giving Toodles & The Hectic Pity a chance. You certainly won't regret it!

Stream and download Call In Sick here:

Like Toodles & The Hectic Pity here:

This review was written by Colin Clark.

Tuesday, 12 September 2017

Gig Review: CJ Ramone at MK11, Milton Keynes 7/9/17

On Thursday the 7th of September 2017 I saw a real life, living, breathing, singing, bass playing Ramone! The legendary CJ Ramone, who played bass for the most important band in the history of music between from 1989 to 1996. Kind of randomly, he was playing Milton Keynes as the final night of his UK tour supporting brand new solo album American Beauty on Fat Wreck Chords. To say I was excited was a bit of an understatement.

Of course CJ had support for the evening. In fact he had a lot of support. No less than four support acts were playing at the MK11 sports bar. The first three were reasonably local acts We Are Giants, Dead Frequency and Jonny & The Mental Breakdowns. The fourth was a band who I'd only heard great things about and was really looking forward to seeing, Canadian punk rockers the Isotopes. This was my first time listening to the band and if I was going to describe them to you I'd tell you to imagine a cross between Teenage Bottlerocket and Masked Intruder. Musically they definitely have a bit of the Teenage Bottlerocket buzzsaw pop punk sound with the fun gimmickry of Masked Intruder. Unlike Masked Intruder though the gimmick isn't about girls and committing crimes, it's about America's favourite pastime, Baseball. Many of their songs are either about baseball or feature baseball references in the titles. The stage at MK11 isn't the biggest so it was tight trying to squeeze all five members into the tight space. But Isotopes also have a non music playing member, similar to the job Officer Bradford does for Masked Intruder where he paces around the stage getting the crowd even more hyped up. I should point out that this gentleman was wearing just a denim waistcoat and a jock strap, wielding a baseball bat. This was quite distracting from the band to begin with. The Isotopes played an absolutely fantastic set of pop punk. I was slightly concerned that all of the baseball references might fall down with a UK crowd but it certainly didn't stop the good folks of Milton Keynes enjoying Isotopes. A great, fun band who I look forward to seeing again.

Now it was time for CJ Ramone. When the legend took to the stage I began to feel a little giddy, turned to Emma and said ‘that's a Ramone.’ I was less than ten metres away from a member of the greatest band that ever lived. Before the gig I had wondered if he would only play his solo material or would play a mixture of his own songs as well as playing some Ramones classics. That question was answered on the first song as CJ and his band opened the set with the classic Let's Dance. Immediately the crowd that had gathered at MK11 began to sing and dance. Naturally it was The Ramones songs, of which there were plenty, that got the biggest reactions but people also reacted very positively to CJ's own songs. I will be making sure to get very familiar with these songs as the ones that he played live were all great. Hearing CJ play those old Ramone songs made me realise just how many incredible songs the band wrote back in the day and how timeless they still feel. A few months ago I did a Top Ten Ramones Songs for CPRW and I'm pretty sure almost every single one of those songs was played along with countless others. One of the things that I really enjoyed about CJ's set was the enthusiasm he had for playing those songs. He has obviously played to much bigger crowds than the 100 or so people who gathered to see him on this night but this didn't quell the effort he and his band put into their set and were clearly having a ball on stage. This wasn't about a pay cheque, this was about a love of music, punk rock and The Ramones. There were some fun guests joining the band on stage throughout the set. First up was Isotopes singer Evan who joined the band to sing Sheena Is A Punk Rocker, next up Lisa from The Ramonas (an all female Ramones tribute act) who is local to Milton Keynes joined the band on stage for my personal favourite, Bonzo Goes To Bitburg, and lastly for the final song of the night all of the Isotopes came back on stage for a cover of Motorhead's tribute to the Ramones - R.A.M.O.N.E.S.

Seeing CJ play on stage was a bit surreal. I didn't really know what to expect from the night but I have to say I loved every second of it. I'm sure CJ doesn't have to come out to the more unpopular towns on the UK touring circuit but I'm certain every single person there was eternally grateful that he did. Incredible.

This gig review was written by Colin Clark.

Album Review: Nuking Candyland by Fast Food Society

Fast Food Society are a five piece band from Palma, Spain. (I believe this makes them the first Spanish band featured on CPRW). The band describe themselves as anti-globalist, pro-feminist, pre-anarchist punk rock. According to their Bandcamp tags they play melodic hardcore political punk rock music. Back in July they released a brand new EP named Nuking Candyland on Disconnect Disconnect Records in the UK as well as a whole host of labels all over Europe. Anything with Disconnect Disconnect involved is always gold so I was looking forward to checking this out.

The EP starts out with the song Hijacking Hijab. Beginning with an audio clip cut together with some sad sounding guitar and drum parts before the song really gets going. Things pick up and the song bursts into life with some exquisite guitar work that really got me pumped up. When the vocals hit I'm immediately pulled into the song. They are fast paced and have me wanting to throw my fists up in support of the band. Hijacking Hijab is about realising that it's not a nation or religion that commits the terrible atrocities that happen in the world and more so a select group of people. Next up is L'Abattoir. This is a one minute long hardcore song that's pro vegetarian. I absolutely loved this song, definitely one of the best hardcore songs I've heard in a long long time. In its short duration it begins, starts a massive musical storm, gets its message across and finishes without any fuss. Great stuff. The third track is named Invincible By Default and sees the band return to their skate punk sound. What a great song this is! The song is about the upper class privileged members of society who are oblivious to the struggles of the people who they believe are lower class than them. The song has so much energy in it that it's impossible not to get passionate about the track's message. Fast Food Society have some fun on the song as well, changing up the skate punk and playing a reggae verse with a reworked version of Ace Of Base's All That She Wants. Maybe one of the songs of the year!

Last Words looks at the problem of institutional racism. As you can probably imagine given the topic of the song it's extremely hard hitting, musically and vocally. There is a punchy quality to the vocals that makes sure every word hits home with the listener. This is very important to the song. There are some also some fantastic vocal harmonies that accompany the chorus that add a community feel to the song, making the listener feel that they are not alone. There are some audio clips sliced into the song addressing times when institutionalised racism has taken place. A very powerful song. The penultimate song on Nuking Candyland is named Enemies Of Reason. The guitar intro straight away made me think of Bad Religion and as the song got going so did the vocals. I loved this, Bad Religion are ace. Enemies Of Reason is a song that questions people's belief in religion, no matter which one it is - I'm certain that it's no coincidence the Fast Food Society have gone for a Bad Religion sound for a song about this subject. Finally we have the song The Unfortunate Origin Of A Rather Familiar Family Game. This is a bit of a bonus track on the EP. So I won't say too much about it, so I won't ruin the surprise. It's awfully surprising though and awfully fun!

What an incredible release Nuking Candyland is! It's hard hitting skate punk that will inspire and educate you in equal measure. Sometimes I feel like some bands try to write political songs for the sake of writing a political song and they don't really mean anything. This really isn't the case here. Each song, including the bonus song, really hits home and makes you think along with just being absolute punk rock gems. If you like your punk political then Nuking Candyland is an EP you must check out!

Stream and download Nuking Candyland here:

Like Fast Food Society here:

This review was written by Colin Clark.

Monday, 11 September 2017

Album Review: 69 Peruvian Panpipe Classics by The Crash Mats

You may have heard that way back in April Emma and I made our annual visit to Manchester for Manchester Punk Festival. One of the bands that really caught my attention at the weekend were Oldham based three piece The Crash Mats. The trio played a fun mix of punk and ska music about various topics such as smoking weed, drinking, Neighbours getting cancelled, wrestlers and also threw in a cover of one of the greatest TV themes of all time - Chucklevison. This month they release a brand new album named 69 Peruvian Panpipe Classics on Horn & Hoof Records. I stuck it on expecting to be very entertained.

My favourite era for UK punk rock was probably the P-Rock era of the early 2000s, that's when I first really started listening to UK underground punk so it's a sound very close to my heart. When I first put on 69 Peruvian Panpipe Classics my mind was immediately filled with nostalgia for that time. The Crash Mats sound is a straight forward but in your face punk rock sound that has plenty of pop hooks thrown in as well as the occasional hint of ska. Think of a Northern 4ft Fingers and you get the idea. On the eighteen tracks on the album the band do show off some different sides of their sound, going from upbeat and fast to a darker hardcore sound. Production wise you can tell that this is a DIY release that they didn't have a big budget for studio but this only adds to the album's charm. This rougher, raw sound gives me the same feeling I had when I saw The Crash Mats live - it's a bit rough around the edges but it really doesn't matter because it's so much fun.

If you're expecting to be moved by some of the topics that The Crash Mats tackle then I'm afraid you're looking in the wrong place. Who says punk always has to change the world though? Sometimes it can be silly and fun. In a world where we are bogged down by so much rubbish, it's important to have some silly and fun music to help lighten your mood. Song topics include life in Oldham (Don't Go Down Yorkshire Street On A Friday Night, 409 Home), love (Hot Air Balloon Ride, My Girlfriend Only Has 24 Hours To Live), wrestling (Terry Funk Forever, Mr Wonderful) and Neighbours (Party At Lou's Place).

This is such a fun album. I've listened to it quite a few times whilst writing this review - the songs are pretty short - and each time it has had me smiling. The songs are short and sweet, doing what they need to do with minimal fuss. Musically it's very well played, keeping it quite simple the majority of the time but throwing in some excellent bass and guitar solos along the way. I hadn't appreciated the band's skills as musicians when I saw them live but hearing them here I am very impressed.

If you love your punk fun, if you like your music to make you smile, if you want some brilliantly ridiculous songs to get stuck in your head, if you miss the p-rock days or if you love a good drunken party then 69 Peruvian Panpipe Classics is the album for you.

Also if you listen all the way to the end of the album there is a nice surprise for you.

Stream and download 69 Peruvian Panpipe Classics here:

Like The Crash Mats here:

This review was written by Colin Clark.

Friday, 8 September 2017

Future Classics: Transgender Dysphoria Blues by Against Me!

Before I get started with this future classic column I must add a disclaimer. The album which I am nominating is not my favourite by the band it is by. A couple of years ago I did a top ten songs by the band and not a single song made it onto my list. I do however believe that in twenty or so years we will look back on this album and say "yeah, that album's a classic." I'm not sure why I'm being so cryptic about what the album is. You must have read the title of this column before clicking on it. For those who did somehow miss that, I'm talking about Transgender Dysphoria Blues by Against Me!.

I imagine that if you're reading this you know all about Against Me!'s storied history but I perhaps somewhat naively like to believe that on occasion non-punk people read these posts and might not know the band's back story. Against Me! were originally formed in 1997 in Gainesville Florida by Tom Gabel. They gained a massive and passionate following due to their raw punk rock sound, incredible live performances and their strong DIY ethics. They released their first three albums independently, firstly with No Idea Records and then Fat Wreck Chords. These albums were very well received and increased their reputation in the music world a lot. So much so that the major record labels came knocking. For many of their hardcore fans the band did the unthinkable, left their DIY roots and signed a two album deal with Sire Records. These two albums did extremely well commercially for the band but they got a lot of heat from old school fans accusing the band of being sell outs.

Then in 2012 everything changed.

Tom Gabel came out as a transgender person having dealt with gender dysphoria since childhood. From that point on Gabel would be living life as a woman and her name would now be Laura Jane Grace. On the 21st of January (my birthday) 2014 the first album by a Laura Jane Grace fronted Against Me! was released and was named Transgender Dysphoria Blues.

That history went on a bit longer than I had planned. Here's the reason I think Transgender Dysphoria Blues is a future classic despite it not being my favourite Against Me! album. First of all it's a painfully truthful and personal album. Without a doubt this is the most honest album lyrically that Against Me! have ever released. Laura was finally being true to herself and this came across in her songwriting. The big theme of the album is, of course, gender dysphoria after the coming out of Grace.

The punk rock scene, being as incredible as it is, again took the band back into their hearts and accepted them like they did in the early days. The album, in a way, mended old relationships between the band and the original fans. Gone were the accusations of selling out. So now Against Me! had all their old fans back, new fans they'd gained thanks to the major label releases and now more and more queer and transgender people were jumping on board with the band too. Finally feeling like they had a voice and someone so incredibly brave to relate and look up to. You can now go to an Against Me! show and see people from all walks of life coming together harmoniously and people's differences in lifestyles not mattering. Because it doesn't!

Laura Jane Grace's coming out and then the release of Transgender Dysphoria Blues to me is a real turning point for the acceptance of transgender people in mainstream society. Bringing the issue of gender dysphoria to the masses gave a lot of people strength to also come out and let the world see the people they really are. I think that is a quite incredible thing for a person and an album to achieve.

This column was written by Colin Clark.

Thursday, 7 September 2017

Top Tens: Lucias of Call Me Malcolm and 24 Hour Punk's Top Ten Punk Rock Influences

Catch 22 - Keasbey Nights
A friend got given Keasbey Nights and Reel Big Fish’s Turn the Radio Off in the halcyon summer days of ‘99. It was the first ska/punk we’d heard. By Christmas I’d set up my first ska band called Hey That’s My Bike. We weren’t good enough to cover any of the songs on either of the albums, but we listened to them enough on the basis we’d acquire talent through osmosis.

Reel Big Fish - Turn The Radio Off
Derryck (trombone/vox in Call Me Malcolm) and I have been having the same argument for 17 years. Which RBF album is better, Radio or Why Do They Rock So Hard? I maintain the former. I am, of course, correct.

Officially, the band I rip off the most. In the good ol’ days, a perfect blend of punk and ska. During part of their stage show at the London Astoria, I once got invited up to join them during Mable. I made the mistake of trying to hug Charlie. The look he gave me unambiguously conveyed his feelings about me; “I don’t know what that is, but I know I’m gonna break it.” I regret nothing.

I listened to Therapy a lot growing up. One of the first bands I was in used to cover about half the songs on Troublegum. In later life I tried to sing like Andy Cairns. I failed.

Bill Hicks
Hicks was a genius. His outlook occasionally creeps into our lyrics and song titles. If you’re not familiar, check out his “It’s Just A Ride” speech at the end of Revelations, one of the finest pieces of modern day philosophy.

Tony Hawk’s Pro Skater
As a skater and punk fan, the soundtracks to the THPS series were, as the cool kids say, my jam. Goldfinger, Bad Religion, Zebrahead, Lagwagon and Millencolin all found their way into my album collection thanks to these games.

Bon Jovi
Bon Jovi were entirely the reason I started playing guitar. They were my first gig. My first musical love. Absolute giants!

Hey Brother... Can You Spare Some Ska?
Following the Reel Big Fish and Catch 22 obsession, a friend of mine chucked me a couple of ska/punk mixtapes. I didn’t ask questions, I just devoured them on loop until the tape wore out. Years later I found out they were the Hey Brother... Can You Spare Some Ska series. Jeffires Fan Club, Cherry Poppin Daddies, The Hippos, Mad Caddies… so many great bands!

If Richie Sambora was the reason I started playing guitar, Metallica were the reason I wanted to play loud. They were the band I ripped off almost as much as Goldfinger.

Pop Music
True fact. I don’t necessarily listen to it (though if Girls Aloud plays you’d best clear a path to the dance floor), but there are certain songwriting principles used in pop music that just work.

24 Hour Punks have a special gig coming up where they will write, rehearse and play a set in 24 hours. This is all in aid of AMMF. Check out all the details on the gig here.

Stream and donate to 24 Hour Punks debut EP here:

Like 24 Hour Punks here:

Like Call Me Malcolm here:

Wednesday, 6 September 2017

Album Review: Life Lessons by Bash Brothers

Bash Brothers are a melodic punk rock band from Eksjö, Sweden. Since forming in 2015 they have released a self titled EP and more recently their first full length named Life Lessons. Life Lessons was released on June 1st by Thousand Island Records and Less Talk, More Records.

Life Lessons begins with the song Falling Down. It expertly takes the technical guitar style that is oh so popular in punk rock at the moment and adds a nice amount of aggression to it. I find myself caring about the song instantly because of this. The ending of the track is a particular highlight with things slowing down slightly, allowing a big sing-a-long finish. A Part Of Me starts off very quickly with a guitar riff that wouldn't sound out of place on a metal album. The drums in the introduction are really something else as well, really driving the song forward with a lot of power. A Part Of Me combines the techie guitars with some incredible soaring vocals from Johan Engdahl. Towards the end of the track there is a fun breakdown section that will get plenty of heads banging before one last flourish to end the song. The third song is titled Gone Forever. This song is such an interesting listen. Musically it's super fast and hard but the vocals are quite slow and melodic. The two different tempos create a fantastic effect and flow together effortlessly. This is the first time on the Life Lessons where Engdahl really lets loose with his vocals and lets out some huge hardcore screams that add even more life to the song.

The next two tracks on Life Lessons feature a very special guest. None other than John Harcus from Scottish punk rock band PMX. Just Like You is an absolute beast of a punk rock song. This ferocious track mixes the best of hardcore, skate and melodic punk with a little bit of pop in the chorus that will be placed firmly in your head for days to come. Keeping Me Awake is possibly my favourite track on Life Lessons. Starting out in quite a measured way, Keeping Me Awake shows Bash Brothers in quite a restrained mood. That is of course until the songs builds towards some more terrific screaming which gives the song a huge heap of emotion. The tempo of the track has moments where it increases briefly, giving a sense of urgency before things come back under control. This is one of those songs that takes you on one hell of a ride. The sixth track is the album's title track - Life Lessons. I always think that when a band uses a song title for the name of the album that song needs to be one of the highlights of the album. This song is certainly that. Well, the song has a big Pennywise sound to it so that makes it a highlight just for that. There is a positive and uplifting feeling to the song that really inspires. I like that in my punk rock tunes.

Suit Yourself has an intro that fills you with energy immediately. This is a fast paced song that barely pauses for breath throughout its time span. When it does it only serves as a build towards an explosion at the end. The use of different vocal styles on the song does a great job of breaking the songs into sections so it doesn't become monotonous. You Are Fading Away is a song about watching someone you care about slowly dying and reassuring them that you'll be there for them. The song is full of emotion and makes you really care about, not only the song but, the people involved. The lyric that really stands out throughout the song is "I Can't Stand The Thought Of You Fading Away, I Will Be There For You Each And Every Day." The penultimate song is named Spending My Time. Starting out in an ominous fashion before the drums help ignite the track. After a fairly extended intro we get some more urgent and intense vocals, potentially the most intense of the entirety of Life Lessons. Last up is Immutable Change. I had no doubt in my mind that this album would finish with a bang and my assumption was proven to be dead on. Immutable Change does what I think Bash Brothers do best - mix melodic, skate, hardcore and pop punk into a pot and come out with a fantastic piece of work. That uplifting feeling of Life Lessons is back as the band sing about making permanent changes for the better.

Life Lessons is a strong effort from Bash Brothers. The European punk rock scene is heavily littered with many amazing melodic punk bands and it's fantastic to hear a newer band make just as good an impression on me as some of the more established acts in the scene.

Stream and download Life Lessons here:

Like Bash Brothers here:

This review was written by Colin Clark.

Tuesday, 5 September 2017

Album Review: Lifer by Sombulance

Sombulance are a punk rock band from Portsmouth who have been around for a little while now. They actually formed way back in 2005 but in 2010 the five piece took a four year hiatus before getting back together with a changed line up in 2014. This year they have released a brand new six track EP named Lifer on the always excellent Lockjaw Records.

First up is the song The Articulation Of Afterthought. The opening of the track immediately showcases what Sombulance are all about - fantastic, technical guitar work along with some of the best soaring melodic vocals in the scene courtesy of Dean Harwood. Something I really enjoyed about The Articculation Of Afterthought is the series of ups and downs that happen throughout the song but also the subtlety of it all. The song takes you on that musical rollercoaster without you even realising that you've been on a ride, your breath however will have been taken away. The beginning of Lessons Lost is absolutely superb. That guitar riff - amazing. It's the sort of intro where you know after about three seconds which song it is. The song in general is harder hitting that the previous, with Marc Morey's drums really being pushed to the forefront of the song. Lessons Lost is about trying to learn from your mistakes and realising that you should have taken help and advice in the past. I really enjoyed the gang vocals of "We Can't Go Back, We Can't Go Back" that happen towards the end of the song. The third track on the EP is Here's To Liberation. After the harder hitting nature of Lessons Lost, it's refreshing to hear that Here's To Liberation is a bit softer, relying more so on Harwood's vocals than some crunching guitar riffs or pounding drums. This softer side shows off a great variation in Sombulance's songwriting ability, proving themselves able to do harder and softer songs excellently.

The EP's title track, Lifer, is potentially my favourite on the EP. Wasting no time at all in getting things going, Harwood immediately shouts out "Lifer" to start off the track. This really picks things up after the slower paced Here's To Liberation. Lifer throws a bit of everything that Sombulance have in their musical arsenal into a blender and comes up with an banger of a track. Lifer is obviously about being a outsider for life and being okay with that. Something many fans of the band and underground punk rock in general can easily relate to. The penultimate track on Lifer is named Downfall. Here we have a blistering melodic punk rock track that matches anything current staples of that scene in the UK, the likes of Darko or The Human Project, have done. The differences in melody with the guitar and the vocals works superbly and gives the song a really interesting feel. There was one particular line in the track that I really loved - "Stand Up To All That We Can't Face." Those are tattoo worthy lyrics. Finally we have Better Left Behind. Better Left Behind begins with a much darker tone that anything else on the EP. After a bit of an eerie beginning the song sets off at a blistering pace. Like Lifer, a lot of different elements of the Sombulance sound come together on this track. On Lifer, the song, all of the different styles come together effortlessly, however on Better Left Behind it felt a bit clunky on my first listen. After a couple of listens though I soon began to love the song. All of its different little details in the music and the vocals really keep you guessing and don't allow you to get comfortable with one particular sound.

Lifer shows a band that are on the top of their game. The UK and Europe is absolutely packed with brilliant melodic punk and hardcore bands, combining the technical guitar work and the fantastic vocals together and creating energetic and passionate music. On Lifer Sombulance have staked a very good claim of being among the best the genre has to offer. Fantastic work.

Stream and download Lifer here:

Like Sombulance here:

This review was written by Colin Clark.

Monday, 4 September 2017

Album Review: As The Tide Turns by Matilda's Scoundrels (by Emma Prew)

Matilda's Scoundrels are a six-piece folk punk band hailing from the sunny seaside town of Hastings, in the south east of England. They've been on my radar since their 2015 split with The Barracks and I've seen them live a couple of times too. As a lively and chaotic band when performing live, I was super keen to hear how this conveyed onto their first full-length release. The Tide Turns is Matilda's Scoundrels' debut album and it will be released on TNSrecords on 8th of September – this Friday. Obviously, I jumped at the chance to listen and review it early.

As The Tide Turns opens with a track called Burn It To The Ground. This is a fast and furious, anger-fuelled track that aims to call to arms all those that hear it. The vocals are a bit rough around the edges – in a good way – and the guitars are pretty heavy with the underlying accordion and mandolin keeping that element of folk. There is a contrastingly gentle middle section of the song which, of course, leads into one last hard-hitting chorus. ‘Even though it's wet as hell, we'll light ya. Burn it to the ground.’ Take It To The Streets is next up and this song begins fairly quietly compared to how Burn It To The Ground finished. It has more of a folky start which is perhaps more typical of their previous releases – and if there was one song that ought to be selected as lead ‘single’, it’s probably this one. There is a great little tinkly melody in this song and, of course, the chorus remains gruff as ever. There are more riotous themes to be had with Take It To The Streets with lyrics such as ‘Let's kick down the door’ and the optimistic, and my favourite, ‘Together we fight for tomorrow’.

Third track, Shackles & Bones, begins full force and I’m instantly imaging a Matilda’s Scoundrels live crowd getting pretty rowdy. As with all of their songs, there’s a clear element of folk to their punk with this track but it’s definitely more Dropkick Murphys than the Levellers. Something we hear more so in Shackles & Bones than other tracks are some great gang vocals. Other members of the band echo the chorus after Quinn sings it first, which adds a unified feel to the track. The song doesn't slow down until a short mandolin breakdown – which is just lovely! Next up we have Bow To The Powers, the only song from the album that has a music video to go with it, for now at least – which you can watch here. This song is as forceful as that which came before it but with a classic folky start that contrasts well. The song also happens to feature another sweet mandolin breakdown. Well, this band sure know what makes a great folk punk song! The chorus is super catchy and is bound to have audiences shouting along with the band across the country – and hopefully taking in its message as well. ‘Bow to the powers, Bow on your knees, There's blood on these hands, That were given to me.’ It's clear by this point of the album that the band have a lot of important messages that they want to get across with these songs. Rather than simply being party tunes, most of As The Tide Turns is about tackling some of the real world injustices that Matilda's Scoundrels care about – and you should too.

Mr Martyn has a longer musical intro than previous songs which almost feels like an interlude as this is around the middle point of the album. Actually this is one of the longer tracks of As The Tide Turns in general. There is a generous amount of banjo featured here that seems to give the song happier vibes – particularly compared to the previous tracks. After about a minute, crashing guitars can be heard followed by the vocals. The song is about how music can make you feel less alone. You can take music everywhere and never be alone. From the title of this next track, Bottles Of Rum, I'm already imagining a sea shanty, sea faring tune… and that's sort of what we get. Matilda's Scoundrels style anyway. This is the perfect opportunity for the crowd sailing dingy that they bring to their shows! This is definitely an album where each song offers opportunities for different instruments and their musicians to shine through. For me, in Bottles Of Rum, it is the accordion which has an awesome outro before chorus is repeated a few more times. ‘There's blood in the rum, Don't you know?’

Friend Of Mine is perhaps the folkiest-sounding song yet, heavily featuring both the accordion and the tin whistle. The two instruments lead us into the song giving it a super-duper rolling motion. Like Mr Martyn, this feels like one of the happier songs of the album with the subject matter of Friend Of Mine, of course, being about friendship –‘Friend of mine who saved my life’. I can pretty much picture smiles on band member’s faces whilst playing this one – which is an uplifting change after all of the aggressive songs! The catchy whistle part had me nodding and tapping my foot along. As we draw towards the end of the album the eighth track, War On Drugs, has just a few seconds of calm guitar before vocalist Quinn burst in with a great intensity. At only just over 2 minutes long, this is the shortest on As The Tide Turns and it brings things back to the protest theme that has fuelled much of the album. This is a band that really cares about making a change in the world. The song certainly wastes no time hanging around and gets straight to the point. The instruments are as raging as this song’s subject matter but I love how the banjo stands out clearly underneath the more typical punk band instruments.

As we get to the album’s second to last track, I realise that I kind of like Matilda’s Scoundrels’ sea-related songs the best. (Including Sinking In Their Sins from that first split.) God Forsaken Sea is that in a nutshell. After a count in of one, two, three, four the song kicks off with the line ‘Away, away, away we go to sea…’ It’s upbeat, it’s fiery and full of energy and super folky punky – I love it. The breakdown of God Forsaken Sea features almost all of the instruments at once and it seems to get louder and more enthusiastic as the song comes to an end. But it doesn’t end without a bang – the last minute is, well, I think the best word to describe it might be ‘theatrical’. As The Tide Turns wraps up with a track called Into The Fire. There is a long musical introduction to this song, predominantly featuring the tin whistle which tames things into sounding traditional. Of course, we know that with Matilda’s Scoundrels they won’t stay calm and ‘traditional’ for too long. You can tell something big is going to happen and very soon the guitars join the mix for one last folk punk assault. A fine ending to an excellent debut album.

As The Tide Turns was maybe a little bit angrier and heavier than I was expecting but that just means that it took me by surprise and didn't do exactly what I expected it to. Which is no bad thing. Matilda’s Scoundrels certainly haven’t steered away from the sound that we know and love, they have just perfected their songwriting and written about issues that they really care about – hoping that the listener will too – as well as amping up the intensity. Now I just can't wait to hear these songs live!*

Find Matilda’s Scoundrels on Facebook here and stream/buy As The Tide Turns on Bandcamp from Friday here.

This album review was written by Emma Prew.

*At the time of writing this I haven’t seen Matilda’s Scoundrels play live recently but at the time of this being published I will have seen the band support Street Dogs. Look our for our gig review to see how my favourite Hastings folk punks went down.

Sunday, 3 September 2017

Gig Review: Street Dogs at the Camden Underworld 30/8/17

The Camden Underworld's punk rock August was completed on Wednesday with legendary Boston punk band the Street Dogs back in town. This seemed a long time overdue. The band were supposed to play at the Underworld last year but sadly had to cancel their appearance. When this show was announced I knew it was one not to be missed. The previous times I had seen the Street Dogs I'd been blown away by their live set and was excited for more of the same. The bill was stacked with support from Grade 2, Matilda's Scoundrels and Pints. We got to the Underworld nice and early for the show.

First band up were Pints. The Essex based five piece didn't have the biggest crowd to play with due to their early start but this of course didn't stop them putting all they have into their set. Playing hardcore punk rock with some clear Oi! influences, it was a fast and ferocious half an hour. As you might expect considering the band's name, there were plenty of tracks about getting drunk with your mates. These went down well with the Street Dogs' crowd. There was also a song aimed at the current crop of pop punk bands who keep getting called out for the inappropriate way that they treat their female fans named You're All Shit. This was my favourite song of Pints set. Something else I quite enjoyed was the use of dual lead vocalists. Both singers worked extremely well together and gave the Pints sound that extra layer that is sometimes missing in many hardcore bands.

Up next were Hastings' favourite folk punks Matilda's Scoundrels. Having seen the six piece the last two years at Manchester Punk Festival and being blown away both times, Emma and I were both looking forward to seeing them again. Emma has also had the privilege to hear their soon to be released debut album, As The Tide Turns, early for review. (Come back on Monday to read it.) As they took to the stage I noted to myself just how nicely the band fit onto the stage in the corner of the Underworld. The crowd, which was slowly growing, seemed to take a little bit of time warming to the band. Perhaps this was due to the genre switch between the hardcore to the folk. Playing just a handful of older songs along with the new songs, it didn't take too much time for those Scoundrels to get the crowd onside and they even took the brave move of getting the crowd to sing along to brand new song God Forsaken Sea. I was disappointed not to hear Sinking In Their Sins, my personal favourite Scoundrels song, but songs such as Pissheads Anthem, Bottles Of Rum and Mr Martyn all sounded fantastic. Matilda's Scoundrels are a band that are on the march - I imagine it won't be long until they're headlining their own shows at places like the Underworld.

The penultimate act of the evening were Grade 2. Grade 2 are a band I had never heard of before but was more than willing to give them a chance. As the band took to the stage to begin setting up I immediately noticed that the band was fairly young looking. As they began their set the bassist and lead vocalist introduced the band and said they were from the Isle Of Wight. This then lead to a fantastic thirty minutes of street punk bangers. I don't really listen to much street punk anymore despite it being a genre I've always enjoyed so Grade 2's set was a refreshing change of pace. The band proved themselves to be extremely talented musicians with guitarist Jack showcasing his skill with solos in a handful of songs. Like Matilda's Scoundrels had earlier, Grade 2 played a few new songs from their new release, Break The Routine. These songs sounded great as did the older songs. The one that really stood out was one that they said was the first song they wrote as a band - Who Rules The Streets. A real great street punk anthem if ever I heard one.

Finally it was time for the Street Dogs. As I looked round the Underworld it was getting busier but it was still by no means full. I thought this was a bit of a shame for a band with the prestige and history of the Street Dogs not to get a bigger crowd but that certainly didn't stop them putting on one hell of a performance. Having not released a brand new album since 2010 this was basically a greatest hits set and boy o boy do the Street Dogs have some hits. I'd forgotten just how many songs of theirs I absolutely adore. I'd also forgotten just how good they are live. Frontman Mike McColgan comes alive on stage, he's just full of energy and enthusiasm as he bounces around the stage. At one point during the set he talks about getting hurt during a gig the previous night and thanks the crowd for giving him the strength to fight through the pain tonight. As I said the set is filled with hits, if I were to list my highlights then I'd probably end up listing the entire set. There was one particular three song section which was just incredible though, playing Savin Hill, Punk Rock & Roll and Not Without A Purpose in a row was fantastic for getting a very hyped up crowd going nuts. There was also a more sombre moment during the set. Bass player Johnny Rioux talked about the terrible floods that are happening in Houston, Texas, at the moment and how his and drummer Pete Sosa's families are there. They played the song Free in dedication to them as it's Johnny's wife's favourite Street Dogs song. Then it was time for the encore and what a fun encore it was. Beginning with a cover of guitarist Lenny Lashley's own band Darkbutsters classic Skinhead before covering legendary 80s London punks The Business's Suburban Rebels and moving on to the Mike McColgan Dropkick Murphys classic Never Alone.

This night was a lot of fun. Singing along to so many fantastic songs always puts a big smile on my face. The Street Dogs are one of the very best bands of their generation who I sometimes feel don't get the same level of appreciation as some of their peers. They've promised to finish their long awaited new album soon, I hope this means they will also be back in the UK again very soon because as long as they keep coming back I'll keep going to see them.

This gig review was written by Colin Clark.

Friday, 1 September 2017

Column: Why Sarah of Shout Louder Loves Punk Rock

Last week Sarah from the fantastic Shout Louder blog announced that we would be doing some blog shares. I went first, with a wonderfully written column for her blog about why I love punk rock which you can read here. This week Sarah gives her views on the subject on Colin's Punk Rock World.

Top 5 Reasons To Love DIY Punk

When I was a kid I read Kerrang and the NME religiously. They’d often refer to ‘the music scene’ – something I desperately wanted to be a part of. I used to imagine this mythical ‘scene’ meant big bands, big venues and big record sales.

Nowadays, I realise that it isn’t about the bands or the sales: it’s about the fans. It’s about the people who buy the records, attend the shows and scream along to the lyrics. I also now know that you’d struggle to find a group with more passionate solidarity that the UK punk scene.

When I first started writing my blog/zine, Shout Louder, my family and colleagues said that they’d learned a lot about DIY punk from reading it. I was really surprised. I’d forgotten that for many people, ‘going to a gig’ conjures up images of Ed Sheeran, Oasis or Radiohead selling out Wembley.

So, when Colin and I talked about doing a guest-blog swap the first thing I wanted to talk about what how much I love the vibrant ‘scene’ that we’re a part of.

Here are my Top 5 Reasons For Loving DIY Punk:

#5: The Music Itself

This is the obvious one, right? Maybe not.

When I tell my colleagues I’m into punk, I’m fairly sure they imagine me spiking up my hair and pogo-ing to The Sex Pistols. Guess what? I can’t stand The Sex Pistols.

Although it’s important to know your roots, there’s an astounding diversity of sub-genres that I would still term ‘punk’. I like hardcore that borders on tech-metal; I like singer-songwriters that would work well at a folk festival; I love shouty ska, loaded with brass.

I’d argue that musically punk is always fast, often angry and usually loud, but beyond that it defies definition. I consider indie groups like The Smith Street Band to be punk, but someone outside the scene could easily disagree.

I love all the variations out there, and I love the openness of most punk fans to different genres. From my perspective, the fast, angry nature of the music reflects and acts as an outlet for my internal worries. It’s hard to drift into a nihilistic reverie when you’re moshing to deathly-fast, grinding hardcore! Listening to this music live is a huge release and endlessly enjoyable.

#4: It’s Not About The Money

The DIY scene has a strong grasp of what music is for. It’s about how it makes you feel; it’s not a vehicle for profit.

Naturally there are exceptions to that, and I’ll never hold it against a band for making it big. You occasionally find yourself forking out £30 for shows at Brixton Academy, but at a grassroots level there are a lot of musicians playing just for the hell of it.

My perception of this has changed. When I was younger, I assumed that the £3 gigs at my local pub would be crap compared to the £20 gigs I attended in the big city. My Mum always told me that you get what you pay for.

Instead, I’ve come to realise it’s the intimate shows that are the most memorable. The calibre of the music is usually excellent and you experience a lot more of the performance when there are only 30 people in the room.

Touring bands survive on petrol money and free beers, trying to flog enough t-shirts to afford a fry up in the morning. As they’re working so hard to bring us what we love, I’m also inclined to pay them more for it. When I first attended a gig where they were asking for donations rather than charging and entry fee I baulked - why would anyone pay more than they needed to? I’ve since realised that, many people will pay over-the-odds for a show if you give them the opportunity.

#3: Compassion and Ethics

“This one’s about the government!” yet another singer angrily shouts.

Virtually all the punk bands and fans out there are anti-establishment, anti-fascist, anti-sexist, anti-racist... Anti-everything, right? Wrong.

While punks are united by a love of liberal politics and loud noises, the thing that sets us apart is that we really see the best in people. We’re optimists at heart. We believe it’s possible to change the world into a better place.

The anger that gives punk music its edge also fuels a constant quest for social change. Bands speak up for what they believe in on stage. Fans organise marches and protests, make the banners and cook the food.

Our level of compassion goes far beyond occasionally helping up someone who’s fallen over in the pit. Many of us avoid eating animal products, wear ethically sourced clothes and buy direct from bands or local record stores. One of the topics most often topics at gigs is making spaces safer, so women and marginalised groups can attend without fear of harassment or injury. Many bands openly discuss depression and mental health in an effort to normalise what for many of us is a common problem.

Sarah at Punk Rock Holiday in Slovenia

#2: No Borders

I’ve referenced ‘band’ and ‘fans’ as separate entities. Unlike more popular genres, that division doesn’t exist in the punk scene.

As a punter, there’s no reason you can’t go chat to someone who’s in your favourite band. Or put on a show. Or start your own band. It’s a level playing field where everyone’s encouraged to get involved.

If you really want to ignore the band-to-fan borders there’s also every opportunity to get on stage, as long as you hurl yourself straight off again: stagediving is a hallmark of many shows. And who says the band need to stay up there? They’re diving off like the rest of us, or jumping past the monitors to cause chaos in the pit. You can’t do that at Wembley, can you?

Half the crowd at a punk gig are also in their own bands, which encourages a great culture of exchange. You put on touring bands in your town, and they return the favour next time your band’s on the road. Everyone promotes and supports one another – there’s so much shared love and excitement that many shows turn into a big bundle of hugs.

#1: Camaraderie

It’s a rainy Tuesday night in Camden. I’ve bumbled along to a £4 show at Our Black Heart on my own, on the off chance that the band will be half-decent. Oh no, wait, I know the guy on the door. I recognise the girl in the band. And that’s the guy I met at Wonkfest standing out the front smoking. As it turns out, I know at least 15 people here.

Want to make some instant friends? Turn up to a punk gig, the smaller the better. Be sure to smile at the guy wearing the Bear Trade t-shirt, and compliment the girl with the Descendents patch. A band t-shirt can be enough to spark a life-long friendship, a festival romance, or at the very least an interesting chat while queuing for the bar.

It’s such a close-knit scene that it’s not unusual to see friends from Manchester at a gig in London, or friends from Brighton at a festival in Slovenia. Everyone’s willingness to travel for the music they love means it’s possible to gain a lot of friends, simply from bumping into them at gigs.

The best thing about being a part of this DIY world is that you’ll never be short of a floor to sleep on, a vegan breakfast or someone to share a warm can of lager with, as long as you return the favour.

I don’t have any pretensions about being an authority on punk: I’m just someone who really loves going to gigs. That’s why I started writing Shout Louder – it’s a platform to share my excitement about up-and-coming bands, and to preserve the memories of all the mind-blowing gigs I’m lucky enough to see.

If gig guides, reviews, recommendations and articles interest you, check out the blog and follow us on Facebook.

In the meantime, I’ll see you down the front!