Friday, 22 March 2019

CPRW Playlist: March 2019

CPRW Playlist: Here's what Brett, Dan, Emma, Jack, Omar, Richard, Robyn myself and our newest member Lee have been listening to this March.

Thursday, 21 March 2019

Top Tens: Colin's Top Ten Bands To See At Manchester Punk Festival 2019

You might have heard that Manchester Punk Festival is quickly coming up on the horizon and here at CPRW we couldn't be more excited. I've been lucky enough to find myself at the festival every year and witnessing its growth has been such a great experience. It's pretty much a guarantee that MPF will be the top weekend of the year, every year. This Easter is the festival's fifth year and it is bigger than ever! This year the MPF collective – which is comprised of Manchester Bev and Andy from TNSrecords, Tree from Anarchistic Undertones and Kieran from Moving North – have pulled out all the stops and booked 137 bands for the festival as well as comedians, poets and many record distros. There's no way we could preview every act playing the festival but Emma, Brett, Robyn and myself have each picked ten different bands that we're very excited about this year.

The Penske File (Friday at The Bread Shed 17:50–18:00)
There's no doubt that Ontario, Canada's The Penske File earned a lot of new fans on their first tour of the UK last autumn and the announcement of their appearance at MPF was greeted with much excitement. The three piece play passionate, big chorused, shout along, punk rock songs that fill you with energy. Last year's Salvation album was their best release yet, which is some achievement given how good their previous album Burn Into the Earth is. This is definitely going to be one of those must-see sets of the weekend so make sure you get there early!

King Prawn (Friday at Gorilla 21:00–22:00)
This year, particularly on the Friday of MPF, the collective have got some of the best ska punk acts in the country on the line-up, including undisputable legends of the scene King Prawn. The festival takes place the same weekend that King Prawn will finally release the album they've been teasing us with since reforming six years ago. Titled The Fabulous New Sounds Of, I'd expect a set to be comprised of new tracks alongside plenty of old classics such as Dominant View, Survive, Bitter Taste, The Loneliest Life, Caught Inna Rut and Someone To Hate. It seems kind of crazy that it's taken so long for King Prawn to appear at MPF but they'll definitely be worth the wait.

Catch-It Kebabs (Friday at The Bread Shed 23:55–00:25)
Oh boy, I was excited when Catch-It Kebabs were announced on the line-up. The Yorkshire ska punk heroes are a band that I was quite late getting into so never managed to see them live. Needless to say I'm delighted to see them back, even if it is just for one night. Combining bouncing ska punk and swing movement with songs tackling political and social issues, the band will be playing at a special after party at Bread Shed named "The Big Tone Stage" in memory of local music producer Tim Gray who sadly passed away last year. I can't wait to see Catch-It Kebabs roll back the years and get everybody skanking.

Skin Of Tears (Saturday at Zombie Shack 14:50–15:20)
As the announcements for the festival were slowly coming out, I was gradually making my own playlist to make sure I checked out some bands I've never heard of. The first that really caught my interest was Germany's Skin Of Tears. It turns out that Skin Of Tears aren't a new band and have been around since 1991. The three piece play melodic skate punk music that would fit perfectly on the Epitaph/Fat Wreck rosters of the day. Skin Of Tears released a brand new album last December named Ass It Is and it's superb. I'm looking forward to watching a new favourite for the first time.

7 Years Bad Luck (Saturday at Zombie Shack 16:30–17:00)
Austria's 7 Years Bad Luck are a band I've been wanting to see since I first heard their album Bridges in 2014. When I saw that the three piece had been added to the weekend I was over the moon as I didn't really ever expect them to reappear in the UK. Playing melodic pop punk (the good kind) with a raspy vocal and great harmonies, 7 Years Bad Luck will offer something a little different to MPF and will no doubt gain many new fans during their set. If you've never heard of them before and you like bands such as No Use For A Name or The Murderburgers then you'll love 7 Years Bad Luck.

Officer Down (Saturday at The Bread Shed 23:50–00:20)
There are a whole host of bands reforming to play Manchester Punk Festival this year. One that really stood out for me was Evesham/Bristol's Officer Down. Another band that I was too late to get into and so I never got the opportunity to see them live but I absolutely adored their final album Dead Lands. Playing a mix of punk rock and hardcore and adding some melodic harmonies, Officer Down will add some bite to the weekend. It seems to be that Officer Down are back properly and not just for MPF and, given their former history with TNS, the festival will surely feel like a bit of a homecoming for the foursome.

Werecats (Sunday at Zombie Shack 14:50–15:20)
Bringing some much needed Ramonescore pop punk to MPF are South London's Werecats. The four piece, which boasts current or former members of The Pukes and The Zatopeks, write wonderfully catchy songs packed with delicious harmonies that always bring a smile to my face. Don't let the sugary sweet vocals put you off, when Werecats perform live they are brimming with attitude and are one of the best live acts around. If you haven't checked out last year's Destined For The Outside yet I strongly suggest that you do. If you love a bit of pop, then Werecats are one for you.

Arms Aloft (Sunday at The Bread Shed 16:10–16:40)
Wisconsin, USA's Arms Aloft will make only their third appearance in Manchester in thirteen years when they play MPF this year. I've only managed to see Arms Aloft once, at The Fest in 2016, and was really impressed with the way they connect with an audience and I'm looking forward to witnessing it again. The four piece play some of the best emotional gruff punk around and it's likely to be a whole set of passionate sing-alongs. I'm hoping to hear the songs Untitled, What A Time To Be Barely Alive, Where Seagulls Dare and Comfort At Any Cost.

Calvinball (Sunday at The Bread Shed 17:00–17:30)
Calvinball, with a little help from Arms Aloft, are reforming for MPF this year. They're a band I had previously heard a lot about but never had actually listened to myself. This was a big mistake on my part as I've really been enjoying the Sheffield band's gruff pop punk, particularly the album Last Orders. I can only imagine that this is going to be an emotional set for thess returning heroes of the UK's DIY punk scene. It's likely to be the last time the band will be about for a long time so don't miss this chance to see them.

The Junk (Sunday at The Bread Shed 17:50–18:30)
Yet another band who have recently reformed is The Junk. The Brighton based skacore act are back after going on hiatus in 2016. Adding to the very impressive roster of ska bands on the MPF line-up, The Junk will please fans who like to skank and mosh in equal measure. With some superb bouncing horn lines that will have the room picking their knees up and heaving hitting drum beats that will have folks joyfully bouncing off one another in the pit, this will be a seriously sweat filled set. It will also be a lot of fun.

This top ten was written by Colin Clark.

Wednesday, 20 March 2019

Album Review: Waterboarding At Guantanamo Bay by The Donald Trumpets

Continuing the tradition of ska punk bands having bad puns for their names are Perth, Australia's The Donald Trumpets. Forming in January 2017 as a way to release their frustrations about all that is wrong with the world, the six piece quickly earned a reputation as a political ska band that will really get you partying. In February this year, The Donald Trumpets released their debut EP Waterboarding At Guantanamo Bay. I'm always eager to check out new ska bands so I enthusiastically sat down ready to review these five songs.

The EP begins with the song Bummerfest. The song starts out slowly with Peter Riggs' guitar welcoming us in before the rest of the band, including a three piece brass section, come in. Soon enough the vocals start and we are treated to a couple of verses talking about how we're spied on through our computers with all the data collected about us being stored in warehouses until you die(!). Around the halfway mark the tempo is upped and The Donald Trumpets get you skanking away whilst continuing to make you think about this current social climate. This song is such a great way to introduce you to the band. Up next is the sing along Coping Mechanisms. Starting out by shouting out the chorus of "wake up, get sad, get drunk, throw up" you instantly learn the chorus to this party ska song that's about drinking to keep away the horrible demons in your mind. As many ska punk bands do, here's a really cheerful sounding song about a topic that's really quite sad. The sense of catharsis in this is always clear though and I'm sure there are plenty of folk who will relate and will hopefully feel better after hearing this song and having a sing and a skank.

When I saw the title of the third song, Guys I'm Syrias, I immediately had a little chuckle. This political track begins with a sound bite of a man passionately stating he wants to overthrow the current system. Then the song starts proper and we're greeted with a bouncy ska punk tune that again will have you dancing and thinking. When the chorus begins we get a crunchier punk sound that really helps drive home the message the band are trying to put out. The penultimate song on the EP is named The More You Know. Again starting out slowly with an acoustic ska jam, things soon progress with the sound getting bigger and the tempo increasing quickly. The contrast in sound at the beginning and the end helps the song to stand out and show a different side of The Donald Trumpets sound. The multiple vocalists in the opening section make the stripped back section sound even bigger. When it's time to pick up the tempo it's like a flick of the switch and, just like that, it's crazy ska mosh pit time. Waterboarding At Guantanamo Bay finishes with Beer Party. You've just read the title so I'm pretty sure you can work out what the song is about – having a beer party. It's ridiculous fun and guaranteed to put a smile on your face. The chorus, "whoa-oh, having a beer party", is likely to take residence in your head whether you like it or not and it will rattle around in there for a long time – you better get used to it. Such a fun way to finish the EP.

This EP is golden. Making me think of ska legends Mustard Plug and The Planet Smashers without ripping them off in the slightest, The Donald Trumpets are a band with a very bright future ahead of them. I don't know much about the Australian ska punk scene but on the strength of this release I'm very keen to check it out. If the bands are half as good as The Donald Trumpets then it must be a very special scene.

Stream and download Waterboarding At Guantanamo Bay here:

Like The Donald Trumpets here:

This review was written by Colin Clark.

Tuesday, 19 March 2019

Album Review: Set Us Free by Reconciler

I stumbled upon Reconciler when I was scrolling through my Bandcamp feed and I saw the artwork for their new album Set Us Free. Featuring a wolf sitting on a red pillow with a rabbit and some dark clouds behind it, it was quite startling. This was enough to make me want to check out Set Us Free and I was really impressed with what I heard. Reconciler are a three piece band from Atlanta, Georgia. They formed in 2016 and had already released a debut EP before the release of their first full length Set Us Free which was released in February this year on A-F Records. Reconciler is Joseph Lazzari on guitar/vocals, Darren Nuhfer (formerly of Less Than Jake) on bass/vocals and Kelsey Wilson on drums.

Set Us Free begins with the song Honest Words. This sets the stall out for what you should expect from the album – Americana inspired punk rock with a vocal that is part Dave Hause and part Laura Jane Grace and is a really big selling point for Reconciler. The mid-tempo pace along with some easily accessible lyrics and a catchy chorus ensure that you'll be singing along from start to finish. This is followed up by Constant. At just over a minute and a half long I was kind of surprised Reconciler would put a song so short so early on the album. It works really well though. The pace is upped and Lazzari's vocals seem to have a bit more aggression about them. This perks the album up immediately and has you wanting more already. Constant also flows brilliantly into the third song, All We Have. On my first listen through of Set Us Free this song really stood out. It starts reasonably slowly but soon builds up into a melody-infused song that has this brilliantly infectious tune that you will be humming for days. All We Have is about not having much but appreciating the memories that you hold close to your heart. The song is really uplifting and leaves a big smile on your face.

There is a moody tone that opens the fourth song, January. The slow way in which the song begins and the muted background music underneath the vocals ensure that you pay full attention to Lazzari's vocals which really remind me of LJG on New Wave. It's a plodder but another stand out that is about trying to keep a relationship together even though you know it's falling apart. Things pick back up on the following track Just Say It. If you're a fan of The Gaslight Anthem, I have no doubt in my mind that you'll really enjoy this song. A repeating trick that Reconciler seem to do is to start songs out with some guitar and vocals before they bring the full band in, this is a sure fire way of getting a listener's attention – particularly live. The song is about having the strength to talk about things that are troubling you and putting on the facade that you find it easy. The sixth song, Rust, presents a heavier side of Reconciler. The tone of the opening guitars feels angrier and Lazzari seems to be straining his vocals slightly, adding more emotion to the song. The tempo is upped slightly too which gives it more urgency. This is a break up song as Lazzari laments the things that he's messed up in a relationship and wonders what might have been. The higher tempo continues on the following song, Take It Away. Feeling more like a straight punk rock song that anything else up to this point, it helps give Set Us Free a bit of an adrenaline boost. I loved hearing Reconciler mix up their sound here, doing a great job in keeping me interested in the album. There's a great section in the final portion of the song that's instrumental and sounds like it's going to lead into the next track but in fact it builds into a final ferocious salvo to finish the song.

Just Wanna Play Rock 'N' Roll is an upbeat track about music as an escape from all the rubbish that comes from life. I really loved the positivity in the chorus. Screaming out the lines "I just wanna play rock 'n' roll" will offer the listener a great deal of catharsis and will certainly put plenty of smiles on people's faces. I also enjoyed the final bridge of "this is a sound to wash away the anger, this is a hope that we can find peace." Really powerful lyrics. This is Reconciler's anthem. The ninth song on Set Us Free is titled Don't Cry. After the upbeat nature of the previous track, Don't Cry slows things down dramatically and almost sounds like a stadium rock tune. It's a song that slowly builds throughout its duration, it doesn't rush itself but when it reaches its climax it's certainly worth it. The penultimate song is titled Not What I Used To Be. Picking things back up the introduction of the song quickly had me dancing in my seat. Vocally, Lazzari's delivers the lyrics with a nice tempo and a wonderful melody that brilliantly gets you swept up in the song. Not What I Used To Be is about growing as a person and changing the way you are. It's a track that overflows with positivity and I really enjoy that. Finally we have Damn The Weather. The track is screaming out to be sung along with as about three quarters of the song is just guitar and vocals – Lazzari really puts on an impressive display here. What a great range he has. The slow build in the song creates such a great feeling of tension that the moment when the full band comes in really feels like a special moment. What a big way to finish off Set Us Free.

Set Us Free is a fine album. It's an emotive punk rock record that's full of smart and powerful punk rock anthems you'll be wanting to sing along to – loud and proud. Definitely an album for fans of Against Me!, The Loved Ones and The Gaslight Anthem.

Stream and download Set Us Free here:

Like Reconciler here:

This review was written by Colin Clark.

Monday, 18 March 2019

Album Review: Boob Sweat by Boob Sweat

Boob Sweat are a three piece pop punk band from Grand Rapids, Michigan, USA. Consisting of Kate on bass and vocals, Athen on drums and Gracie on guitar and vocals, Boob Sweat recently released their debut self titled EP. The EP features four songs of powerful feminist pop punk that really caught my attention from the outset.

The EP begins with the song Madison Avenue. Madison Avenue is a track filled with attitude that has the trio fighting back against a terrible boyfriend and calling them out on all of their downfalls. The song is pretty striking from the start, particularly the chorus of "fuck you, fuck you, fuck everything you do." Madison Avenue gets the EP started in pretty memorable way. Candy Wrapperz is more of a melodic pop punk track than the opener. Beginning with a simple drum beat, a grumbling bass and an impressive vocal, Candy Wrapperz pulls you in immediately before we even get to the crux of the song. I enjoyed that the chorus has a bit of a country vibe to it without Boob Sweat losing any of their punk attitude. The song is about being stuck in an uncomfortable position, being stuck in a car with a man and trying to avoid their unwanted advances. It's horrific and disgusting that such a thing would happen and full credit has to go to Boob Sweat for bringing it up in this fantastic song.

The third song on the EP is named Tamp-Off. This short track is a punchy one about the feeling of beginning your period. Obviously not something I'm an expert on it but it does seem like Boob Sweat have captured the feeling very well. It's clear by this stage of the EP that Boob Sweat are extremely blunt and honest songwriters who also have a sense of humour. Musically Boob Sweat are at their rawest, sacrificing some melody for a crunchier sound that works well with the context of the song. The final track is titled Gilman. This was the first song of the band’s that I heard and what encouraged me to check out the EP. Undoubtedly the poppiest song of the four, this is a great choice of track to introduce newcomers to their style. It's a positive song that talks about following your dreams, getting out of your house and going as far as you can in your life. I really like the feeling of empowerment that Gilman gives and it is so wonderfully catchy. This is a summer pop punk track that will put a smile on your face.

With bands such as Bad Cop / Bad Cop and The Bombpops getting a huge amount of attention in the USA's punk rock scene, it's great to see more bands of this style coming through. This EP shows a huge amount of promise from Michigan’s Boob Sweat. Four fantastic, honest, thoughtful and catchy pop punk songs that are a lot of fun.

Stream and download Boob Sweat here:

Like Boob Sweat here:

This review was written by Colin Clark.

Saturday, 16 March 2019

News: New Katie MF EP & Launch Show

Yesterday London's anti folk punk rocker Katie MF announced a brand new EP. Titled Everything Trouble Meant, it's being released on Friday the 10th of May. To celebrate, Katie MF will also be holding a launch party at The Black Heart in Camden on Thursday the 9th of May. Tickets are £7 in advance or £10 on the door AND everyone coming through the door will get a CD and Bandcamp download of Everything Trouble Meant. We're really excited for this EP.

Check out all the details for the event here.

Below is Katie MF's previous EP, Learning How To Lie, to wet your appetite and give Emma's review of it here a read as well.

Friday, 15 March 2019

News: Dead Bars Have A Brand New Album On The Way!

In 2017 Seattle punk rockers Dead Bars' album Dream Gig was my album of the year. It was superb. I am thrilled to find out that the band are back with their follow up titled Regulars. Regulars will be released on the 3rd of May through All In Vinyl (UK), A-F Records (North America), Eager Beaver Records (Japan) and No Reason Records (Italy).

Here's what the band have to say about Regulars.

"I like this idea of being a regular. There are moments of highs and lows; loneliness and community, sadness and celebration. That's what it's like to be in a band. That's what it's like to be in Dead Bars." says vocalist/founder John Maiello

These ideas and contradictions that can be heard throughout the album, like on 'No Tattoos'. "All my friends have tattoos / But I don't have any tattoos. They wanna remember something / And I wanna forget everything," muses Maiello. Sure it's an easy-on-the-ear anthem, ripe for pit-friendly fun, but it's also indicative of the broader approach that underpins Dead Bars' song-writing. You can be part of the community - and you're welcomed into the Church of Dead Bars - but you're also an individual, and you can be different.

Formed in 2013, a song like 'No Tattoos' marks out just how different Dead Bars are, and how their path to this point has been anything but traditional. The brainchild of two East Coast drummers, John Maiello, and C.J. Frederick, who met, appropriately enough, in a Seattle bar. Since then, a succession of friends and session musicians have filled in, helping out when needed, until the current, steady, line-up of Maiello, Frederick, Jon Oddo and Elliot Thordarson solidified.

"It's always been a rotating cast of characters," says Maiello. "We kind of function like an actual bar. Sometimes people get tired, and they go home, or they get too fucked up and get kicked out."

Now a long-time Seattle resident, Maiello called on one of the city's icons to helm 'Regulars', hitting up the legendary Jack Endino (Nirvana, Mudhoney, Soundgarden) to oversee production duties. When Maiello first sent some songs over, Endino replied that "[They have] a good pop hook with a bunch of bashing and screaming over it; what's not to like?" This sound remains on 'Regulars', sticking fast and true to the classic Dead Bars songs like 'Emergency' and 'Earplug Girl'.

"I cold-called him because I figured if it worked for Nirvana then maybe it would work for us," says Maiello. "So we tracked all the music with him at Soundhouse in Seattle, and then I did vocals at Pierced Ears Recording with Aaron Schroeder (Wimps). It was mixed in Massachusetts by Jay Maas (Defeater, Ceremony)."

Yet, while 'Regulars' retains much of what makes Dead Bars so great, it is no mere repeat of past successes. Instead, it features the group's most ambitious songs to date - a consequence of more collaboration and a settled line-up. In turn, this has allowed for more of the group's classic influences to start informing the song writing - from the Beatles to Tom Petty and the Stooges.

"Everything was different, this time," says Maiello. "We jammed a lot more during the writing of this, so there's definitely more guitar stuff - and more vocal stuff - going on. Also, two of C.J.'s songs made it onto the album."

The result is 11 songs of heartfelt and passionate punk rock, which will appeal to anyone who has ever struggled to find their place in the world. 'Lucky' and 'Another Day' are pure garage-tinged pop-punk ragers that are built for sweaty bar-room call-and-responses, while 'You Never Left' and 'Rain' show the group's ability to mix the hopelessness and hopeful. 'Freaks', meanwhile, is a rallying call for the misunderstood, while 'Producto Toxico' - a song about going to an exotic place and doing the same thing you do at home - carries a relatable world-weariness.

Two years ago, Dead Bars' biggest preoccupation was playing their 'Dream Gig'. Now, as they examine the human condition, the stakes are raised. In the classic Replacements tune, 'Here Comes a Regular,' Paul Westerberg's cry that "Everybody wants to be special here," seems like the perfect mantra for 'Regulars' and its overarching themes of acceptance, loneliness, and community. Of course, we're all special and unique in our own way - but sometimes you need a band like Dead Bars to realize it.

Gig Review: Pkew Pkew Pkew's Album Launch Show at New Cross Inn 8/3/19

Last June when Canadian pop punks Pkew Pkew Pkew played their debut London show (and I think their debut UK show) at the not grimy New Cross Inn it was considered by most who were there, including myself, to be the gig of the year. Last week the four piece were back in the UK playing a short run of shows leading up to a big gig supporting The Hold Steady in London. To finish up that short run of the shows, "The Boys" were back at the really not grimy New Cross Inn to headline a show that would also be the London album launch for their brand new album, Optimal Lifestlyes, which came out the previous week. This was a Be Sharp Promotions show so obviously the line-up was stacked and was looking to be another gig of the year contender.

First up was The New Heat's Nik Holi playing an acoustic set. We managed to catch The New Heat a couple of times last year and were seriously impressed with the band’s powerful and soulful punk rock and I was extremely interested to see what a stripped back version would be like. Being an acoustic act opening for what was going to be boisterous night and starting just as happy hour was finishing was always going to be tricky but I think Nik did a superb job. Starting out with a couple of his band’s own songs, it was nice to hear these different versions and I also thought it was a cool introduction if you were unfamiliar with The New Heat. It was when he treated us to an acoustic cover of The Menzingers track Gates that he really got the audience’s attention however with a few people making their way forward from the back of the crowd. We were also treated to an acoustic version of new song No Way Back as well as debuting a brand new song that had never been played live before. Finishing things up with another cover, this time FIDLAR's West Coast, got a nice amount of people singing along. A fine way to begin the night.

Up next was an act I plan on championing a lot in 2019 as I think they are absolutely amazing. Katie MF are a three piece who we first featured as our Band Of The Week last year, we then caught them supporting Wolves & Wolves & Wolves & Wolves at the New Cross Inn in September and thought they were superb. Their EP Learning How To Lie even found a place into Emma's top ten EPs of 2018. We were very excited when we learnt that Katie MF would be playing this show, knowing how well it would sell and the size of the crowd they'd get to play too. From the start of their set Katie had the crowd's attention with her fantastic voice. Playing anti-folk punk rock music with a slight country twinge, I was captivated by what I was seeing and hearing immediately and was so pleased to see that so many other people were really getting into it. They played a selection of songs from Learning How To Lie, the fantastic first single Kiss Me Again and a couple of news songs including Lucky Mother Fucker, which is about Katie surviving a near death experience, and Apocalypse, which we've had a sneaky listen to thanks to an upcoming CPRW project – both of which sound fantastic live. Finishing with the hard hitting political song Mr Cameron Mr Gove, Katie MF the person is a woman of considerable talent and Katie MF the band are surely set for a big 2019? I really hope so.

Our Lives In Cinema were back at the New Cross Inn, like last year, supporting frontman Mark's favourite band Pkew Pkew Pkew. He was clearly really pumped for the show because as soon as the band began their opening song, the awesome It's Always Sunny In Paterson Park, Mark found himself in the crowd singing and dancing as only he knows how to. By this stage of the evening, the New Cross Inn was getting pretty full and it was nice to see that a decent amount had turned up in particular to see Our Lives In Cinema. Playing the six tracks from their previous two EPs Our Lives In Cinema and All Talk, it was nice to have a sing-along with the band as Mark prowled around the front of the crowd. These songs are sounding so slick live now, you'd be surprised to know that the band’s bass player and drummer are both recent additions to the band. Mark did mention during the set that this could possibly be the last time that this set would be played as they are working on new songs. It was also lovely to look across the crowd and see Pkew Pkew Pkew's Emmett rocking out to the band. Knowing Mark, I'm sure that he got a real buzz from that. Our Lives In Cinema are such a fun band to see live. In May they are doing a four date tour with Eat Dirt, SKIV and Tailblock, be sure to check out OLIC's Facebook page for more details.

Leed's four piece, and New Cross Inn favourites, Eat Defeat were next to take to the stage only with a bit of a difference. Usual guitarist Rich couldn't make the show so the band had enlisted Dave from Bear Trap to fill in. Opening with my personal favourite song of theirs, Smile, the band had New Cross in the palm of their hands immediately and for the next half an hour with the enthusiastic crowd down the front singing back every word at the band. Mostly playing tracks from last year's CPRW album of the year I Think We'll Be OK as well as some favourites from the Umlaut Records release Time And Tide, there was excitement for every single song. There was a fun moment of banter between the band as they remember the last time at NXI when drummer Stephen messed up what is arguably their biggest hit, Shortcuts. This didn't happen again – these guys are professionals! It's always such a special moment when Eat Defeat find their way down to South London and thankfully it seems to happen fairly often. It feels odd to call Eat Defeat one of the rising stars of the UK's punk rock scene as they've been around ages now but they are certainly going from strength to strength and gaining lots of fans all the time. Deservedly so.

The night had already been a hell of a lot of fun and was flying by with the main event still to come. Pkew Pkew Pkew's debut album was my album of the year in 2016 and their brand new album Optimal Lifestyles is definitely a big contender for my top album of 2019. If you were to listen to both albums back to back (which I have) you'll notice a bit of a difference in sound, with Optimal Lifestyles showcasing a more mature sound. Since first hearing Optimal Lifestyles, I've been wondering how this would work live. Starting out with a couple of favourites from the brand new album (Still Hanging Out After These Years and 65 Nickels) it was clear that a lot of people had been listening to the new album as the songs were treated like an old friend that you've known for years. As you might imagine from an album launch party the seventeen song set was heavy on tracks from Optimal Lifestyles and I don't think Pkew could believe the great receptions each song got. My favourites were The Polynesian, Point Break (which we had a lot of fun air saxophoning to), Skate 2 and Thirsty And Humble. I was slightly disappointed that Adult Party didn't get a run through. Of course the self titled album wasn't ignored completely and drew some of the biggest sing-alongs you'll see at the New Cross Inn all year. I'll never ever tire of songs like Prime Minister Of The Defence, Kathie Lee + Hoda, Mid-20's Skateboarder, Bloodclot and Asshole Pandemic. There were some cool moments when Eat Defeat's Jimmy joined the band to sing Bloodclot and OLIC's Mark joined the band for the final song of the night Asshole Pandemic (until the New Cross Inn broke). Pkew Pkew Pkew are one of those special live bands that can get such amazing reactions from a crowd, with some wonderfully catchy pop punk that you can't help but want to shout along with at the top of your lungs and just launch your fists in the air. The band look to be having the time of their lives on stage as well and bass player Emmett, who was stood just in front of us, seemed truly touched by the reaction the New Cross Inn crowd were giving them. Unfortunately the show finished a little earlier than planned because of some electrical problems but that didn't stop everyone from going home with big smiles on their faces. I can't wait for Pkew Pkew Pkew to return to the New Cross Inn in May with Spanish Love Songs. That's going to be some party.

This review was written by Colin Clark. Photos by Emma Prew.

Thursday, 14 March 2019

Top Tens: Heathcliff's Top Ten Punk Rock Influences

Heathcliff (the whole band):

1. Straightline
Not only have these lads always been Munich’s finest skatepunk act, what is more, these friends have always inspired us when it comes to persistence, dedication and devotion. They played their sound when there was absolutely no scene for skatepunk in and around Munich and they still do simply because they love what they do. Almost everyone in Heathcliff has played in different bands for the last 20 years, with different styles of music until we finally agreed on making music that comes straight from our hearts. So here’s to Germany’s Skate-Punk-Trash kings… We love you guys.

2. Forus
When these amazing French dudes first dropped their killer hymn “I only go to school for the handrails”, the song immediately blew us away. This brilliant mixture of classic heavy metal tappings combined with ultra-fast skatepunk inspired us to go for it. They have created an amazingly unique sound and we simply love it.

Bust.E (drums and vocals):

3. Satanic Surfers
Well… what shall I say… HEROES OF OUR TIME. When I fell in love with skatepunk at the age of fourteen, I fell in love with all the bands on my first ever skatepunk CD… It was Fat Wreckchord’s “Survival Of The Fattest”. Back then I thought that these bands can’t be overcome… until I heard “Hero Of Our Times”. Boom. A drummer that plays incredibly fast and creative AND sings. I wanted to do the same and so I started rehearsing day and night. Also, I always love their thriving, melancholic and yet somehow positive songwriting.

4. Sublime
Brad’s songwriting and the general performance of this Long Beach masterpiece has given me strength and time to calm down and think throughout my life. I do love so many styles of music and in my humble opinion, this band found a way to actively or passively bring those styles together, which is quite a thing. I love my punk rock, I love my reggae, I love my ska, I love my rap and I love catchy, handmade tunes… Unfortunately Brad’s time came way too early.

Flash (guitar and vocals):

5. Mute
Actually our singer Basti showed this band to me years ago. I was stunned when I heard their riffs, vocals and those insanely nice guitar works. That was the moment I realized what kind of music I wanted to write and perform. Until the present day, I'm a huge Mute fan.

6. Blind Guardian
I know, this one busts out of all borders, but back in the days a friend of mine showed me this band. I was caught after the first seconds of listening. Especially when I decided to go for lead guitar stuff, it was those melodies and licks that got me through the first steps and further. That kinda shows my "heritage" in music.

Bernie (bass):

“If A Wilhelm Scream and Propagandhi had a sexy bearded baby, DARKO would pop out of the womb”… I love their crazy technical playing that always fits their very melodic and powerful songs. I bought the Bonsai Mammoth vinyl at a concert in Munich and played it non-stop for a couple of weeks. And as a bass player I have to say that Karl is such a cool bass player with a great presence on stage.

8. Lagwagon
I started skateboarding in the late 80s and through that came to punk music and therefore many of my favourite bands are to be found in the 90s. So besides a lot of other bands to name (also outside of the punk genre), Lagwagon for me are something special. They often have that cool melancholic touch to their harmonies and melodies but at the same time are the perfect soundtrack for a great sunny snowboarding day with your buddies. And they are also more than just a memory from good old times – I also really dig their latest (OK, not brand new) album “Hang”.

Manu (guitar):

9. Millencolin
I was a kid on a bus to our school skiing week when someone let me listen to Millencolin on his Walkman. I was totally stoked and from there on listened to that tape in an infinite loop over many weeks. I am remembering rewinding the tape in my Walkman all the time. They got me into fast melodic skate punk.

10. NoFX
I have loved going to concerts since I was a kid and I was always interested in the guitar equipment that bands use. I am now playing with the equipment of my childhood dreams: a Gibson Les Paul and a Mesa Boogie Mark IV. The same equipment as Eric Melvin from NoFX. Such a cool band! I like their music AND their punk attitude! Some bands (including our band, sometimes) focus a lot on playing technical, fast and tight. That’s cool, but sometimes it shouldn’t be too serious. Why don’t we play a gig totally drunk?! The music might suffer but sure not the fun! That’s punk rock!

Heathcliff's debut album #chilloutradio was released on March 9th. You can stream and download it from their Bandcamp here. Also be sure to like Heathcliff here.

Wednesday, 13 March 2019

Album Review: The Stifled by The Stifled

The Stifled are a four piece punk rock band from Baltimore, Maryland, USA. At the beginning of the year the band, featuring Josh Pickett (vocals/guitar), Tim Syzmanski (guitar), Colin Brooks (bass) and Ronnie Snyder (drums), released a brand new self titled EP. I stumbled across the EP on Bandcamp and was taken in by the artwork, simply a fire hydrant pouring out water onto the road. From there I encountered an intense melodic punk rock that I couldn't stop listening to.

The EP begins with the track Bite. Bite ensures that the EP begins in empowering style with a ferocious track about fighting back against "the man." I'm reminded of early Rise Against here with the combination of raspy vocals, melodic guitars, a driving drumbeat and a powerful message. The track is pretty relentless, rarely slowing – this momentum gives the track another feeling of empowerment and really makes you want to get up and fight back. Up next is the song Frustration. It starts out with slick guitar riff and some pounding drums before a huge primal scream explodes the song into life. I was expecting the track to go full steam ahead but it actually slows back down, slowly building back up to that big high. Frustration is about the damaging effects of the Internet, all of the false truths that are published and trying to find a way to take a stand against this. I really enjoyed the fast paced melody that is delivered in the chorus, it fills the song with a great energy.

The third song, Sh*thead, is a short track at just over a minute long but it still manages to pack in a lot into its time frame. Everything here is delivered at top speed as Pickett sings about not being the best version of yourself and slowly realising this. When I first looked at the tracklisting on the EP I kind of just assumed that Sh*thead would be a bit throwaway but in truth I loved it. Short, fast and a lot of fun. The penultimate song is titled Fractured Ethos. This song, perhaps more than any other on the EP, flits between hardcore and pop punk at times, creating an interesting contrast that keeps things feeling fresh. When The Stifled play a poppier style, their music is full of hooks and catchy melodies but you know when they start building to the hardcore sound and that big hoarse growl, it's going to get animalistic. The final song on the EP is Deep Down. It begins with an almost chant-like verse that will get a live crowd involved from the outset, before some much quicker vocals appear. This adds energy to the song, but it also makes it a little lighter before a chorus with heavier vocals, along with group shouts, make the track sound huge. The song finishes with a big shout-along section that will, again, quickly get a live crowd truly on board. A great way to finish this EP.

I really, really enjoyed The Stifled. These days I don't listen to the harder side of punk rock that much but this was really my can of coke. The Rise Against comparison is an obvious one but The Stifled throw their own twist on the style. The Stifled are a band you should be checking out, they might just explode.

Stream and download The Stifled here:

Like The Stifled here:

This review was written by Colin Clark.

Tuesday, 12 March 2019

Album Review: What An Awful Life by Captain Asshole

The other day I had a day of feeling super depressed. I'd lost someone who holds a big place in my heart, I'm really concerned about some more people I love, work has been running me into the ground and I fell down the stairs. I basically had a day of sitting around in my pyjamas being really unproductive. Trying to at least attempt to do something productive with my day I stuck on an album that had been sent to me a couple of days before. Man, did this get me out of my mood! I first heard of Germany's Captain Asshole after they were announced for Hamburg's Booze Cruise Festival in June. I hadn't had a chance to check them out yet, then the band’s bass player Maximilian sent me an advance copy of their upcoming debut What An Awful Life. This was my chance. I loved this so much from the very first listen. Here's why.

What An Awful Life begins with the song Kyoto Wa Doko Nan Da. Here we are greeted with some youthful sing-along gruff pop punk. The thing that immediately caught my ear was the use of gang vocals throughout the song. During the times where there is just the one singer it gives the song an extra piece of emotion that will seriously tug at your heartstrings. The song talks about feeling that life is suffocating you and is passing you by. Up next is Old Habits Don't Die. The track opens at a mid-tempo pace with some warming guitar tones before the vocals come in and there's a bratty pop punk vibe about it. Switching between solo and gang vocals adds to the energy on the verse and by the time the song reaches its chorus we are treated to the most glorious part of the song. This melodic gang vocal style is 100% what I love in this sort of punk rock. Captain Asshole sing about trying to break free of old habits and getting back up if something knocks you down. Finishing up the song, Captain Asshole slow things back down and show off their skill at harmonies with a big finale that I adored. The third track is titled Iron Out The Kinks. This high tempo song goes down more of a garage punk road with buzzing guitars and slightly distorted vocals. Keeping their pop sensibilities with a catchy melody and chorus, Captain Asshole show that can dabble in different styles and still sound like Captain Asshole.

Sunday Morning has a pretty epic opening that leads into a verse that goes off like a bullet. Channelling their favourite skate punk bands, you strap yourself in for what you think is going to be a relentless ride. But no! After that verse Captain Asshole switch to a gang vocal moment that continues for the majority of the song. Sunday Morning is about feeling terrible after a night out and wondering why you continue to do it to yourself. The massive amount of gang vocals on the song really give the song a sing-along vibe that will work so well at a Captain Asshole gig – I can't wait to see them live. The fifth song is named Face Him! Yo Dude. Are You High? This song had me dancing from the outset with a great guitar riff. This is one of Captain Asshole's more pop punk sounding songs but it's actually quite a sad song. It's about being beaten up as a youth and regretting not fighting back. The chorus is the highlight, I found myself singing it to myself long after the song had finished. The following song is titled Tony Hawk's Pro Skater 2 Had A Really Good Soundtrack. Before even listening to the song I had an inkling that this song would be about getting older and trying to cling onto things from your youth. Nailed it! The song is upbeat and up-tempo and quickly put a smile on my face and I can already imagine a music video of a montage of the band's youth. Something I quite enjoyed is the false finish that comes at the midway point of the song. There's this rambunctious guitar part that makes it feel like the track is coming to the end but it just keeps going and going for the final minute of the song where the band sing about being happy to get nostalgic and remember great times.

Holiday Inn is the title of the seventh song on What An Awful Life. For those who don't know, the Holiday Inn is the name of the hotel that serves as the hub of operations at the punk rock mecca in Gainesville known as The Fest. This is a love song, where the band sing about meeting a girl at the festival and hoping to meet her there again. This is the poppiest song on the album, perhaps not too surprising given that it's a love song. It also seems to feature less of the gang vocals which gives the track a much more personal feel and works well given the subject matter. Up next is Same Old Streets. On this song Captain Asshole tackle the subject of getting out of your hometown but knowing all the things you love about the place will still be there when you return. The chugga chugga approach to the guitars really allow the first verse to fill the song with an infectious energy that builds up and is then let out in the form of some more marvellous gang vocals. Up next is No More Spanish Love Songs which features a special guest in the form of Arliss Nancy's Cory Call. It's about realising that drinking and smoking an excessive amount isn't all that it's cracked up to be. Call's raspy vocals really shine, particularly in the gang vocal segments where they add a gruffer layer, perhaps due to the effects of smoking and drinking? Imagery.

The tenth song on What An Awful Life is titled I Literally Have No Idea What The Fuck I'm Doing. This is a track full of self doubt and anxiety as Captain Asshole sing a song where they wonder if they deserve what they have and will they make a mess of it. This is a feeling that many of us get so singing along offers a certain amount of catharsis to the track. The poppy guitar sounds that open the track really invite you in and, again, a massive amount of gang vocals really make you feel included. The penultimate song is named Home Alone. On my first listen of the track the lines "I'm so fucking sick of waking up alone, the only way to solve this is by never going home" really caught my attention. The song has a big overtone of sadness but is also very fiery, especially the song's finale as the lyrics are shouted in an almost aggressive manner. This is one of those songs that will lodge itself in your head and you'll find yourself singing it to yourself for days. What An Awful Life finishes with what could be its best song. On Fuck You Andy, Captain Asshole really channel their obvious love of midwestern punk rock with this absolute banger of a song. The song plays about with different tempos that keep the song interesting. With a fast paced verse giving the song its energy before the band slow things down for an almost chanting section that leads into this huge finale that feels so powerful. What a way to finish the album.

Simply put, this is an album of the year contender. What An Awful Life is an amazing work. Good job Captain Asshole.

Pre-order What An Awful Life here:

Like Captain Asshole here:

This review was written by Colin Clark.

Monday, 11 March 2019

Album Review: Yes, I Can't by Devon Kay & The Solutions

You probably know Devon Kay best as guitarist and backing vocalist of Direct Hit. When he's not melting faces with Direct Hit, Kay fronts his own band – Devon Kay & The Solutions. In February they released their first album in over five years title Yes, I Can't. Over the years Devon Kay have evolved from a folk band, to a pop punk band and now to their current state of a pop punk/ska/folk band. This was clearly going to be a varied album, with a little something for everyone that should make for an extremely fun ride.

Yes, I Can't begins with the short More Years. It kind of works as an intro as well as a standalone song as it leads seamlessly into the album's second song, Make No Mistake. More Years is a catchy folk pop song where Kay acknowledges the time between Yes, I Can't and previous album Losing IT. There's a sly joke to some comments about the polished sound of that previous album which put a smile on my face. Make No Mistake is a rambunctious affair. Starting out with what we think is a banjo before a full band effort, including brass, begins and a big ball of energy hits you. The song has this urgent feel which drives it on but also doesn't take itself too seriously with the addition of some "da da da" chanting harmonies. Up next is Fresh. If you're only familiar with Kay's work with Direct Hit then this might be more of what you were expecting from Yes, I Can't. (Which is kind of ironic given the song’s title). It's a catchy pop punk track with a sharp and punchy verse and a melodic chorus that's the real earworm. Fresh is actually a pretty sad love song that talks about wanting to be a certain way for someone but your mental health holding you back.

Up next is the album's title track. This is another catchy pop punk track that you will be singing to yourself long after you've finished listening to the song. Never one to take himself too seriously, the song is littered with these insane harmonies that had me thinking of The Muppets. I bloody love The Muppets. On this track Kay sings about not always being able to be there for someone despite how much they might want you to be. The song’s conclusion is a thing of wonder, the level of details in the harmonies blew me away and it gives the song such an energy it's hard not to be affected by it. The fifth song, A Lovers Trip, slows things down quite considerably. The guitar intro along with the opening lines of "show me all your darkest fears, I want all the roots and shame" give the track such a sad and downtrodden feeling. As the song progresses there is a bit of mood lift as Kay talks about wanting to talk to someone and offer help without trying to smother them. The inclusion of brass and a tempo shift alongside some gang vocals ensure the song closes on a high. Old Scent opens with a powerful drum beat courtesy of Ryan Solava. This drumming really fleshes out the first half of the song as Kay sings about things that have happened to him that will stay forever and would feel weird if they weren't there anymore. Once we reach the second half of the song we morph into a more traditional sounding punk song and another mega ending with Kay repeatedly singing "and I know what I done wrong" with a guitar riff that adds plenty of emotion.

The second half of Yes, I Can't kicks off with Re-Relocating. Re-Relocating sees Devon Kay & The Solutions exploring the folkier side of their sound. The opening line of the song grabs your attention with its nod to the Starship classic We Built This City – "well We Built This City on alcohol." From there we are treated to an enchanting track that you can have a great dance to. I love this hark back to the band’s early years, this is such a big contrast to Kay's work with Direct Hit but it still is fantastic. I really enjoyed this song. Good Pill Hunting sees the band travel down a completely different path. Combining snotty punk rock with synths and big brass lines, adds yet another different style to Yes, I Can't. All these different styles really show off the skill of these guys as musicians. The song is about dealing with addiction and how the need for drugs makes you feel. I love the positive ending of the song where Kay is determined to beat the addiction. Hopefully this song will in some way inspire and help people. Broad Shoulders follows this and is a slower song that allows Kay to really put a bit more of dramatic mood into the track. As the song goes on, the emotion builds and Kay's vocal gets more and more of a twang that helps the song to stand out. Kay has this great ability to make you feel like you're listening to a story with his lyrics, that's really evident on Broad Shoulders.

Great American Roundabout has a sound that reminds me of something but can't quite put my finger on it and to be perfectly honest it's really bugging me. It sees Devon Kay & The Solutions add another string to their bow of sounds with a kind of garage punk, kind of rock 'n' roll, kind of big band combination. The line that really stands out the most is the repetitive cry of " you got me round got me round got me spinning all around all around." The track is one of the angrier songs on Yes, I Can't. It's about being frustrated about people not being blunt and to the point and making you run around in circles. The penultimate song is titled One Outta Two. It starts out with an echoed vocal that adds a whole lot of atmosphere before we lead into a piano section that I didn't know I needed but when it hit I absolutely loved. This gives the song so much life and makes the song so infectious. One Outta Two is about making 100% sure that your relationship is for keeps before committing for life. The addition of a female vocal gives the song an extra element and adds some exquisite harmonies. Yes, I Can't is finished by Temporary Displacement. The song starts out in high tempo fashion with Kay storming through the opening verse. I was trying to follow along with the lyrics on Bandcamp and had a bit of a tricky time keeping up. When the song reaches its half way point the tempo drops and we move into more of a chant like section. This slowly builds with harmonies coming from all over the place. I often say that an album’s last song needs that big feeling. Devon Kay & The Solutions do a perfect job of ensuring that Yes, I Can't finishes in a big way!

If you're new to Devon Kay & The Solutions then Yes, I Can't really will serve as a great introduction. Showcasing the many sides of the band’s style, it's a varied album that keeps itself feeling fresh and always keeps you interested.

Stream and download Yes, I Can't Here:

Like Devon Kay & The Solutions here:

This review was written by Colin Clark.

Saturday, 9 March 2019

Album Review: Rough Dreams by Rough Dreams (by Emma Prew)

Rough Dreams are a four-piece from Knoxville, Tennessee, who formed in August 2018. At the beginning of January, they released their debut self-titled EP. Featuring four emotional pop punk tunes, I took an instant liking to this debut.

First up is a song called The Cold Sweat Shakes. This is a mid-tempo song that packs plenty of melody into its 3 and a half minute duration. Musically it doesn’t strain far from the the emo-meets-pop-punk vein but it’s the vocals that really stood out to me. Sounding just a little rough around the edges – in a good way – and perhaps more akin to an alternative rock sound, they really bring something special to the band’s sound. The Cold Sweat Shakes is about how certain songs or albums can remind you of the past which can bring pain but can also be a comfort. ‘And it's the songs that move me, But it's the pain that is so soothing.’ Jack And Jawbreaker is the next song of the EP and it is probably my favourite. After a chugga-chugga guitar-heavy intro, the first verse hits at a steady pace and builds towards a super catchy chorus – ‘I’ve been awake all night draining pens and ink, Words are pouring out, no one's listening, If this is who I am and who I'm supposed to be, Then open up and tell me why the best of me, Is not enough for you.’ The vocals are distinctly emo-pop but the guitars bring more of an indie punk sound to the song which has me wanting to dance. The song also features some killer harmonies. What more could you want?

Rough Dreams describe themselves as ‘spacey pop punk’ and I can sort of hear what they mean with the third song, Goodbye For Now. The effects on one of the guitars certainly do sound a bit spacey and those distinct vocals, when they come in with the first verse, compliment this sound wonderfully. The song is about the difficulty of having to say goodbye to someone, possibly a loved one. There’s a sad and nostalgic feel threaded throughout this EP and this song is certainly no exception. Thankfully for Rough Dreams, sad nostalgic songs are often some of my favourites. This might only be a four track EP but that doesn’t stop Rough Dreams pouring everything they’ve got into the last song and ending things in style. Her Name Was “The Road” feels like an album closer, let alone an EP closer. Starting out slowly and methodically, this is lengthy song that builds and builds throughout its duration. The vocals are packed with emotion throughout the first few verses and this culminates for a powerful and hard-hitting, singalong-able chorus – ‘Then she said, "You're a no good son of a bitch with a fear of love and a death wish”, I had to agree. I had to agree. Then she said, "You're a no good son of a bitch with a lust for life and you'll never quit”, I had to agree. I had to agree.’ Following the chorus is more of that spacey guitar style, this time with a full on guitar solo. It’s pretty epic and leads us nicely back into that superb chorus again.

What a great debut EP this is! If you want to check it out for yourself, you can do so on Bandcamp. The band are also releasing a 7” vinyl version of the EP on Coffin Curse Records this Spring. Be sure to like Rough Dreams on Facebook for more details.

This review was written by Emma Prew.

Friday, 8 March 2019

Album Review: Wilderness by The Lock And Keys

Wilderness is the title of the new five track EP from Leeds band The Lock And Keys. Now a three piece, the band played their first gig in January 2008. Since then the band have put out an album and two EPs with Wilderness being the latest release, which was released in January 2019. Citing acts such as The Loved Ones, Polar Bear Club, Hot Water Music and UK bands Pure Graft and Above Them as influences had me very keen to check the new EP out.

Wilderness begins with Lonely With You. Immediately you can hear the band’s influences shining through with a heavier, grungier sound alongside some booming and melodic vocals that have you wanting to sing along with the song. The song is about wanting to break up with your partner but them trying to talk you out of it because you'll be "lonely without me." The hook on the song is superb, it'll have you singing along very quickly. Up next is Wave & Swells which, from the opening guitars, immediately feels more up tempo. I did wonder if this would have been a better choice for the EP’s opener as there is a slightly more accessible feeling to the song that might welcome folk who aren't as into the sound more easily. There's a bit more of an urgency in the song that grips you and the use of harmonies is great. The bridge that builds towards the final chorus keeps your interest in the song right until the end.

Wasted begins with a rumbling bass line from Nik before we enter a forceful and pounding track. The feeling of intensity makes this a track that must be great live. The track is about feeling like you've wasted a lot of time at the end of a relationship. The song’s big moment comes at its conclusion as the intensity just builds and builds, leaving you exhausted by the end of the song. The penultimate song is probably my favourite on Wilderness. Titled Stay Scared, it's a mid-tempo song that really allows guitarist and lead vocalist Niall to really showcase his range. Slowing this down slightly gives the song some extra emotion and power. I particularly enjoyed the sections where the music drops out a bit and the vocals boom out, urging you to shout along with the song as loudly and passionately as you possibly can. Wilderness is completed with the song Cul De-Sacs & Dead Ends. This track sees The Lock And Keys giving everything they have in their final song. Building steadily before Niall's vocals come in, it feels as if he's really straining his voice – particularly on the chorus where the sense of urgency and passion pours out of the song. This really caught my attention and had me gripped throughout the track.

Wilderness is a great little release for anyone who enjoys the heavier side of melodic punk rock. I'm a bit at a loss as to how I'm only just discovering The Lock And Keys as they've been about for so long and are a great band. If like me you're late to the party, check these guys out – it will be well worth your time.

Stream and download Wilderness here:

Like The Lock And Keys here:

This review was written by Colin Clark.

Thursday, 7 March 2019

News: Level Up Announce Eight New Bands

Today London's best ska punk festival Level Up Festival, brought to you by the fine folks of Be Sharp Promotions, El Topo Bookings and Fishlock Promotions at the New Cross Inn, announced eight new bands. Taking place between the 19th and 21st of July, this afternoon Imperial Leisure, Abraskadabra, Jet8, Redeemon, Lead Shot Hazard, The Happy Suspended, Bald Head And The Dreads and Boom Boom Racoon were added to the festival. It's quickly shaping up to be a fantastic weekend. Click the link for all the details on the event.

Top Tens: Ogikubo Station's Top Ten Records We Listened To On Tour by Mike Park


What a beautiful friggin' record. David Bazan is a genius. Everything Pedro the Lion has done and every solo album has been so good, but this record is just chock full of the most amazing songs. Whenever we wanted to chill and just relax, this is the one we agreed on. One of my favorite songs ever written is on this record. Big Trucks.

We would put this on to give us a kick in the butt and put us in a good mood. The joy of hearing music from a band of friends versus an industry hack job of individuals whom are only together on tour or rehearsal. I love Augusta's voice. It's so unique. I can't compare it to anyone else and that's a good thing. Allegra's groovy bass lines, Kelly's driving drums, and Augusta's beautiful guitar make for a wonderful listen.

I have to disagree with the title because this album makes me feel so very good. It's a wonderful sing along record and also one where everyone would always say "Oh, this is so good" whenever we put it on in the van during a long drive. I was lucky to be on tour with the band on the very last Promise Ring tour (since they've done a handful of reunion shows) and they're such good people in addition to great music.

Our keyboard player Megan turned me onto Kate Bush. I was familiar with her work here and there, but I wasn't very knowledgeable and still am a novice, but got a chance to listen to a lot her music on tour. Now I listen to Hounds of Love all the time. Every song is a hit. Her voice is so powerful, the lyrics so beautiful – it might be the perfect album.

Another record we would blast when we were getting sleepy while driving. It would rev up the energy and, to be honest, give us motivation to kick ass at the show. I mean just listen to REBEL GIRL and how can you not feel energized: "When she talks, I hear the revolution! In her hips, there's revolution! When she walks, the revolution's coming!"

Probably more famous for their hits like It's The End Of The World As We Know It or The One I Love. Those later albums I never cared for, but this early R.E.M. gem is a magical record. I force fed it to the younger members of Ogikubo Station in hopes that they would love this record as much as me. I think they were half/half on their appreciation, but that's okay. They'll figure it out one day.

The title track has admittedly been overplayed by TV/movies/wrestling (Ronda Rousey intro music), but I still love hearing it and find myself playing air guitar when I hear the song. But this album is so much more than just Bad Reputation. So many good songs. Let Me Go, Jezebel, Don't Abuse Me. I love the growl in Joan's voice with still such a pop sensibility.

We listened to more TMBG than any other band on tour. Maura and Megan reignited my love for this band. In addition to Lincoln, we listened to a ton of Flood, S/T, Apollo 18 and even their children's albums. Maura and Megan would sing along adding crazy harmonies. It was awesome and it even inspired us to record a cover of Doctor Worm.

Hopefully folks are familiar with Danny Elfman's new wave/punk-ish band Oingo Boingo from the 80s. Try to top songs like Private Life and Nothing To Fear. Such cool songs. Especially Nothing To Fear… That punk-ish energy over the crazy horn lines. We would often put just this song on in the van cause we all knew the words. It was very Wayne's World, but with Oingo Boingo instead of Queen being sung. Hearing this musical genius who has composed orchestral pieces for hundreds of movies in this raw and amazing medium is so cool.

The classic debut record by The Specials produced by Elvis Costello is probably the most well known SKA record in all of SKA history. How many times do you hear this on the sound system between bands, at DJ nights, and of course while you’re driving? An instant pick me up. Immediate sing alongs. Every song is a hit. Still stands up today as well as it did 40 years ago. What a record.

A massive thanks to Mike Park for taking the time to write this top ten for us. His new band with Maura Weaver of Mixtapes, Ogikubo Station are touring the UK for the first time in June. Check out one of these dates and go and see them – it's one not to be missed.

Ogikubo Station June 2019 UK Tour Dates:
17.06.19 – Portsmouth, Edge of the Wedge – tickets
18.06.19 – Exeter, The Cavern – tickets
19.06.19 – Southampton, Joiners – tickets
20.06.19 – Brighton, Prince Albert – tickets
22.06.19 – Cheltenham, Frog and Fiddle – tickets
23.06.19 – Swansea, Crowleys Rock Bar – tickets
24.06.19 – Bristol, Exchange – tickets
25.06.19 – London, New Cross Inn – tickets
26.06.19 – Leicester, The Soundhouse – tickets
27.06.19 – Stafford, Redrum – tickets
28.06.19 - Manchester, The Castle – tickets
29.06.19 – Glasgow, The 13th Note – tickets
30.06.19 – Edinburgh, The Banshee Labyrinth – tickets

Ogikubo Station online:

Wednesday, 6 March 2019

Album Review: Everything Has Gotta Change by BlackDots

I first discovered BlackDots last year when I was checking out bands I've never heard of who were playing Fest. BlackDots were a real stand out. They're a four piece band from Denver, Colorado, who have been going since 2010. In January the band put out their first release since 2012's Again & Again LP. The new eight track album is titled Everything Has Gotta Change. This being the first release since I discovered BlackDots, I was very keen to give it a spin.

Everything Has Gotta Change begins with the song I'm Already Gone. If you're new to the BlackDots sound then I think the best way to describe them is as a cross between The Loved Ones, Red City Radio and Elway. Melodic gruff punk with honest, heart on your sleeve sing-alongs. Something I loved about this song from the outset was the three part vocal assault from John Brandow (guitar/vocals), Wade Henderson (guitar/vocals) and April Froschheuser (bass/vocals). Gang vocals are ace. I'm Already Gone is an explosive song about realising that you're not invested in a relationship before it's ended and coming to terms with that. Like Oceans is up next. Starting out slowly with what seems like a jam session between the band, before properly launching into the song was a great way of building the song up. As soon as the vocals come in the song has you ready to sing along with the band and this feeling continues throughout the track. The vocals flick brilliantly between melodic and urgent giving the song a bit of unpredictability, not allowing you to settle comfortably into the track as you're not sure what's coming next. The high intensity of the track, and in particularly the extended outro, leaves you pretty breathless but also yearning for more!

The third track on the album is the wonderfully titled I Knew It! I'm Surrounded By Assholes. This track was a real stand out on my first listen of Everything Has Gotta Change. It's about trying to be the better person whilst feeling like you're surrounded by bad eggs. I particularly enjoyed the high tempo in which the track is played, this really helps the overall feeling of anger and spite that the song portrays. The raspiness in the vocals also add to this. I love when a band can give off an aura of being really pissed off whilst retaining melody and hooks. The following track is another that's wonderfully titled, What's Up With This Getting Old Thing?. This track allows BlackDots newest member April Froschheuser to take lead vocals, adding another dimension to the band's sound. The song is refreshing take on the topic of getting older as it actually looks at the positives of ageing. It talks about things you can't do when you're younger and there's a great hook where the band sing "I'm not afraid of getting old." The song, surprisingly, has me thinking of Bad Religion at times due to the fantastic harmonies that occur towards the end of the song. What a tune.

Would You Say I Have A Plethora? is the title of the fifth song. BlackDots slow things down slightly here, giving it that lovely anthemic sound. This is welcome after the fast and frantic first half of the album. Allowing Froschheuser's bass to take the lead in the opening verse really gives the song a real warmth that I hadn't realised I wanted until I got it. This then leads nicely into the chorus where all three singers share vocals, giving the song such an epic feel. It also really gets you wanting to sing along and gives you a feeling of inclusiveness. That's always a wonderful feeling to get from a song. I really loved the moment when the music dropped out and we were treated to a beautiful acapella moment before the song built back up to its big finale. Opa is the shortest track on the album at just over 90 seconds long. As you might imagine from a short punk rock song, it's an explosive one. Musically it's quite heavy compared to the rest of the album and features some great "chugga-chugga" guitars that really drive the song forward. The tempo in which the vocals are delivered gives the song a real energy that I found myself getting swept away with. BlackDots manage to pack so much into this short song and it's a really good time.

The penultimate song is named Awkward Is My Middle Name. This mid-tempo track has a folky twinge to it that gives BlackDots yet another string to their bow. Starting out with a fine lead guitar part before the lines "convince myself I'm not a sucker no, you don't have to save me" kick the song off properly. There's a more restrained feel to the song, especially with the music. There are times when it feels like the song really wants to go up a gear but BlackDots hold back, adding to the emotion of the song. The eighth and final song is Sweep The Leg. The extended introduction gives the song a huge final song feeling that eventually leads into quite a surprising sounding verse, if I'm honest. There's a poppiness to it that hasn't really been displayed throughout the rest of the album. I adored it though – more strings added to that impressive BlackDots bow. When we get to the chorus we're greeted with the BlackDots we've become accustomed to here, gruff vocals and huge harmonies. Sweep The Leg is about standing for what you believe in no matter what the consequences might be. Interestingly the song only has the one verse and one chorus before the most ridiculous guitar solo comes in to play us out and finish both the song and Everything Has Gotta Change.

There are many bands in the USA, and around the world, playing gruff punk rock. I love it but it's always a special treat when a band finds a way to give it a fresh feeling. That's exactly what BlackDots managed to achieve on Everything Has Gotta Change. If you like the bands I mentioned at the beginning of this album, then you're going to love this.

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This review was written by Colin Clark.