Wednesday, 17 April 2019

Album Review: Hope And Ruin by Rowan Oak (by Emma Prew)

Rowan Oak are a four-piece emo punk band from Münster, Germany. Formed in 2012, the band describe their influences as headaches, heartbreaks, friends, family and the road – which sounds exactly like a band I could get on board with. Back in February, Rowan Oak released a new EP titled Hope And Ruin on Fond Of Life Records. I keenly took a listen.

Hope And Ruin opens with the song Build / Burn, kicking things off with a lone guitar before the drums and bass join after a few seconds. The opening lines of ‘Oh how I long for these nights in the basement…’ show that Rowan Oak are a DIY punk band through and through. The song ticks along at a fairly upbeat pace but there are moments where the instruments seem to slow down a little to allow the listener to really focus on the vocals. I’m reminded a lot of Welsh band Funeral For A Friend here which is totally not a bad thing as they were the soundtrack to my youth. Build / Burn is about trying really hard to make something work but it ultimately not turning out the way you planned. The line that really stood out to me is ‘All good things, have endings.’ Melancholic though it may be, it’s also… true. Yearn To Be Free is up next and it opens with an interesting little, almost improvised sounding, drum beat. After a short time the bass comes in, adding depth to the sound, before the vocals and guitars bring the melody. This is a slower paced song that oozes in emotion. The vocals verge on poppy as singer Flo Zandt tells the story of a relationship not working out and turning to alcohol to soften the pain. There’s a great section towards the end of the song where the lines ‘We yearn to be free.’ are repeated several times and two complimentary guitar melodies, along with the bass and drums, build and build. It actually ends up being an instrumental outro that slows down and finishes in a similar way to how the song began.

Dead In The Water is the third song of Hope And Ruin. The track has a fairly lengthy instrumental introduction, complete with some more of that almost experimental jam-style bass and drums action. When the vocals come in for the first verse it’s slow and soft sounding. Needless to say, even as the tempo seems to build, I wasn’t expecting the anger and volume that comes from the chorus. Showcasing a heavier side to their emo punk sound but without getting too ‘screamy’, I really enjoyed this change of pace from Rowan Oak. Switching back to the slower pace and cleaner vocals helps to hold the listener in suspense before another blast of angsty energy finishes the song. In perfect contrast, Better Self is a slower paced and hugely emotional song that opens with firm steady strums of the guitar. Something about it feels laid-back and almost dream-like as the melody carries you through the track. There is obviously a sad feeling to the song, this is an emo band after all. However, Better Self is about how – despite your outward persona – underneath there is a better perhaps happier version of yourself just waiting for the right person to bring it out. In a way, this is a bit of a love song with lines like ‘Everything seems effortless to you.’ and ‘You make me feel so alive.’ standing out. Perhaps saving the best for last, Rowan Oak close their EP with The Distance. Instantly more upbeat and more straight up punk rock sounding than previous tracks, The Distance will get punks and emo kids alike throwing their fists in the air. The song is about how certain friends will alway be close to your heart despite their physical distance from you at any given time because you always have the memories – ‘Forever with me, Wherever you may roam.’ It’s a theme that is not uncommon in punk rock but it’s great to hear Rowan Oak put their own spin on it and end Hope And Ruin on a high note.

You can check out Hope And Ruin on Bandcamp and like Rowan Oak on Facebook. I’ll be seeing the band live in a few months time at Booze Cruise Festival in Hamburg, maybe you should too!

This review was written by Emma Prew.

Tuesday, 16 April 2019

Album Review: #chilloutradio by Heathcliff

German punk rockers Heathcliff (yup, they're named after the cat) released their debut album #chilloutradio on March the 9th. Featuring eight tracks of blisteringly fast skate punk with elements of hardcore, metal and a tiny amount of reggae, it sounds interesting but is it any good? There's one way to find out!

#chilloutradio begins with the song Kim Nuke'em Vs Twittler. Starting out with an audio clip which is partly in German (so I couldn't understand) before we switch to a clip of that moron Donny Trump talking about nuclear weapons. Thankfully this doesn't last long as the band then launch into a political song about how Trump and Kim Jong-Un are like children arguing about who has the better nuclear weapons and how they should focus on more important things that will help people. This is such a hard hitting opening to the album lyrically as well as how the band seriously shred. The song is an instant energy booster. The second track, Who Told You To Grow Up Anyway?, has a slow start but then explodes into life with some soaring vocals and a fast paced drum beat really doing a fantastic job in continuing the energy from the opening song. I really enjoyed how the vocals grow in intensity as the song progresses, really making it feel as if the band is growing more and more passionate about what they're singing about as the track goes on. It's about growing up and having the perfect life but it not being the life for them. Something a lot of punk rockers will relate to.

STFU is the title of the albums third song. This track has more of a 90s skate punk feel to it, particularly bands like No Use For A Name or The Ataris who fell into the more pop side of the genre. I'm impressed with how Heathcliff can confidently pull off this style as well as the super technical stuff they showcased earlier on #chilloutradio. STFU looks at politicians and how they look to make a profit for themselves without caring for the people they serve. There's an audio clip layered over the top of an awesome guitar solo that adds a bit of emotion to the ending of the song which I thought was a great way to end the track. George W. Redneck is up next, bringing the intensity levels back up as drummer Basti plays like a man possessed on this song. I'm exhausted just listening to him. It's pretty obvious what the song is about, George Bush being a terrible president. Perhaps this song is a little outdated now but it's still such a good song. Heathcliff do an incredible job in blending the technical punk rock with the 90s skate punk with some fantastic guitar parts, those drums and some fantastic vocals. I found the final verse which starts out "Take to the streets‚ ’cause it’s time to make a stand, human rights are to defend. Some man are killing for personal gain." really quite empowering.

1933 brings us nicely into the second half of #chilloutradio. The song starts slowly, gradually building into a really powerful skate punk track. It's about growing up in post-war Germany realising how lucky you are to be free as it's more than likely your grandparents weren't but also believing that in ways it's still the same and how sad that is. This song really got to me, it's such a powerful and emotive song that really gets you thinking about things. I thought their use of gang vocal "whoa-ohs" at the end of the song was an absolutely inspired choice as they bring people together – really really amazing imagery to finish the song. Heathcliff really get intense again on the sixth song therules(dot)org. The song builds quickly with some more great shredding and some relentless drumming before we get a primal hardcore roar that really signals that the song is off and running and that Heathcliff are angry. They're fed up with the what society has become, with everybody seemingly looking out for themselves and not caring about everyone else. This is another empowering songs that really has me wanting to help make the world a better place. There's a really powerful verse where lead singer Flash mentions wanting to change the world to make it better for his young daughter. This was particularly moving.

The penultimate song is named Conjuring. Conjuring explores Heathcliff's most hardcore sound with some really raw screaming vocals that you might normally find in some death metal. They work very well in contrast to the higher, more melodic vocals that we've grown used to throughout #chilloutradio and it does a fantastic job of freshening up the sound of the album. It also helps to keep the intensity up as we're beginning to reach the end of the album. That is until we reach the end of the track and it morphs into a reggae song! This was quite the surprise but a fun way to finish after all that face melting. #chilloutradio finishes with the song Guacamole and features Bart from another German skate punk band – Straightline. It's basically a super fast punk rock song listing the ingredients of guacamole. Kind of random but a serious amount of fun.

I really did enjoy this album. Heathcliff could quickly become the hot new thing in the European skate punk scene – a scene that always seems to be going from strength to strength. If they can build from this serious impressive debut, I can see a lot of the big players in the genre taking notice of them.

Stream and download #chilloutradio here:

Like Heathcliff here:

This review was written by Colin Clark.

Monday, 15 April 2019

Album Review: Enjoy The Rain by Swan Prince (by Lee Morton)

Having formed late in 2017, Redditch four piece Swan Prince can already boast an impressive resume of live shows, from playing Polite Riot Festival in 2018, to supporting Teenage Bottlerocket and The Bombpops. Now, looking to build on the premise and excitement of last year’s debut EP, they are back with another EP, “Enjoy The Rain”, which was released on 15th March via Hell Hath No Fury Records.

The EP opens with “Glass Half Empty” and what sounds like a choir harmonising together before the choppy guitar strokes kick in along with some pummelling drums. But it’s vocalist/guitarist Rachel’s distinctive voice that really shines though, the heavy atmospheric quality to it giving the track an almost haunted feel which carries across the whole EP and fits perfectly with the lyrical themes that cover the wide spectrum of mental health.

“SWL” (which from the lyrics I’m going to guess at stands for Strongly Worded Letter) follows and had me humming along pretty quickly with a sound that, to my ears anyway, reminded me of The Swellers. Melodies, singalong moments and a couple of little breakdowns all combine to create a real gem of a track that is instant, memorable and possibly my favourite track on the EP as Rachel charts a relationship breakdown.

Whilst the first two tracks are slightly more sombre sounding, it’s from this point on that I felt a greater urgency to both the music and the delivery. Faster and more in your face from the start, “The Shadows” provides a welcome change of pace as skate-punk guitar riffs compete with the throbbing bass lines. “In Your Dreams” keeps up the tempo from “The Shadows”, but also sounds too similar. It’s still a competent song but at this point in the EP I was hoping for a little more experimentation and variety of sound, just something different to really show their musical development.

The EP ends on a high though with the energetic “Dangerous Weather”. Competing with “SWL” as my favourite track, it’s carried along by pounding drum beats as Rachel battles her mental demons. The quiet-loud, stop-start dynamics of the music and vocals add to the picture of mental health and works great on this track, showing great potential and excitement for future releases.

By taking a pinch of pop-punk, skate-punk and emo Swan Prince have crafted their own unique sound and path which, with a little more development of their sound, is sure to make for an exciting debut album.

Stream and download Enjoy The Rain here:

Buy the Enjoy The Rain CD here:

Like Swan Prince here:

This review was written by Lee Morton.

Friday, 12 April 2019

Gig Review: The Burnt Tapes’ Album Launch Show at Urban Bar, London 5/4/19

The last time I was at Urban Bar in Whitechapel, London, it was one of my favourite shows ever. It was the 3rd of June 2017 for the Burnt Tapes’ launch show for the much celebrated EP Alterations. The Burnt Tapes had been a favourite live band of mine for a while but it was that show that really took them up to another level for me. On Friday the 5th of April, this year, we found ourselves back at Urban Bar getting ready to celebrate the launch of the four piece’s exceptional debut album, Never Better, and it promised to be another very special night. Like at the EP launch two years ago, their great friends Triple Sundae would be providing support along with Mixtape Saints and Laserchrist.

Laserchrist were the band chosen to start the show. Because the gig didn't begin until 8.30 it meant a decent sized crowd had already gathered by the time Laserchrist began their set. Over the past year the four piece have become one of the most exciting new bands in London, even earning themselves a slot on the line-up for last summer’s Wonk Fest. Laserchrist have this unique sound where their mix a raspy voiced style of punk rock with grunge to make something quite special. It was clear they were impressing the majority of people in the room, I just wish I had known the words as a few songs felt like they were crying out to be shouted back at the band. I expect this to be a big year for Laserchrist.

I hadn't seen Mixtape Saints in years and I think, in a way, this made me enjoy them even more than usual. A part of me had forgotten just how good they are live. Unfortunately they had to cut their set a little short due to some technical issues which meant they were slightly late getting started but that didn't stop the band putting all they had into their performance. Last time we saw Mixtape Saints they had a nice Gaslight Anthem sound, on this night it felt as if they had shed that style slightly to a more melodic pop punk sound that really made them fit in perfectly on this bill. Lead singer Sam Maloney is a terrific front person, such a solid vocal and extremely captivating to watch. Like Laserchrist before them it was clear that Mixtape Saints left a great impression on the folk in Urban Bar and I'm now looking forward to seeing them again at the New Cross Inn in May with Western Settings, Bong Mountain and a whole heap of other great acts.

You really couldn't have had a Burnt Tapes album launch show without Triple Sundae. Both bands have grown together in the London DIY scene and it's pretty clear both are destined for some big things in the next year or two. Triple Sundae have a whole host of brand new tracks for their brand new EP coming out later this year and they treated us to some early plays of them. Judging from what I've heard, I think it's pretty clear that Trip Sun are about to receive a lot of love when these songs finally get released. This was my ninth time seeing them in about two years and seeing how they seem to improve each and every time (and they started with a pretty high level) has been such a delight to see. They finished the set by playing last year’s Peace Of Mind EP in full which got a huge reaction with everyone down the front singing along to every word. Triple Sundae, as the young people say, are about to release some "fire". Get ready.

It was now time for the moment we were all really looking forward to. I looked around the now full room as Phil, Pan, Tone and Jordan were setting up and it was so lovely to see so many people who have been with the band right from the start. There were members of Resuscitators, Waco, Müg/Umlaut Records as well as their old pal Wayfairer all in attendance – I would imagine they are all so proud of the Burnt Tapes. Never Better had actually been out for a month so we have all had plenty of time to learn the words to the songs. This meant that each song they played from the album and some favourites from Alterations all received big, passionate sing-alongs. There was so much love for these songs in the room, with plenty of big fist-in-the-air moments. There was a point during the set where I stopped singing and just watched in awe with the realisation that these guys are going up another level and will no doubt be headlining plenty more of their own shows with bigger and bigger crowds. After that brief moment of thought, I went right back to singing as loudly as I could, particularly to my personal favourite song from Never Better – Dirt Roads. Never Better’s two singles of course got big reactions, both sounding incredible live and of course the now traditional set closer Things Get Weird got a raucous reaction as well. Tonight the band weren't finished there though, for a short and well deserved encore they gave us a taste of their upcoming MPF Menzingers cover set when they ran through a superb version of Casey. What a set, what a band.

I am so proud of everything these four guys have achieved so far in the Burnt Tapes. From their beginnings with Wasted History to now, the level of growth in their songwriting is just astounding. It's been an absolutely pleasure being able to witness this journey and can't wait to see where it takes them next.

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

Thursday, 11 April 2019

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

Attending MPF with Colin, Emma, and Robyn last year was an amazing experience. It easily surpassed the hype and once it was over I knew that going to MPF 2019 would be inevitable. MPF has all of the makings of a great festival for me: good people, a cool and friendly vibe all around town, hotels/Airbnb instead of camping, a packed schedule, and no shortage of bands to see and enjoy.

The number of amazing bands on offer this year means that making a list of only ten bands to see is difficult, but it speaks to the great job the organisers have done in building a diverse festival that’s community and DIY focused, and that brings people together from around the world.

Now that the schedule is available to agonise over, some tough decisions will have to be made by most people attending so hopefully reading these CPRW lists can help sway you in one direction or another.

Here are the bands I’m most excited about seeing at MPF 2019!

The Affect Heuristic (Friday at Zombie Shack 14:50–15:20)
In March 2018, Lockjaw Records posted about a split album by Money Left To Burn and a new band called The Affect Heuristic. Upon listening, you wouldn’t say that the five songs on this split were from a newly formed band of guys from Scotland and Belgium. The songs are expertly put together, combining the energy and speed of skate punk, the aggression of hardcore, and a healthy dose of melody and technical precision. It all makes perfect sense when you look on the band’s Facebook profile at the long list of influences from all over the spectrum of independent punk, hardcore, and metal music. I’m excited to hear some new songs from these guys and hopefully there is a full album on the horizon.

After The Fall (Friday at The Union 16:20–16:50)
Since hearing their album Unkind in 2013, After The Fall have been a favourite of mine. They play music that feels like a combination of Kid Dynamite, A Wilhelm Scream, Comeback Kid, and No Trigger with a twist of their own unique delivery and style. They’ve also covered songs by 88 Fingers Louie and Kid Dynamite, so there is a lot to love about this band. Although they are painfully clashing with London (and CPRW) favourites Call Me Malcolm early on Friday, I would recommend the excellent live show put on by the Albany, NY band over almost anything. Seeing them play to a packed crowd in Tampa at Pre-fest 4 was a highlight of the entire Fest 15 experience for me and if you were able to see them at MPF 2017 then you will understand the amount of passion and energy that the band puts into every moment on stage.

The Arteries (Friday at Gorilla 17:00–17:35)
I had originally picked A Vulture Wake as one of my must-see bands at MPF but sadly they announced in February the cancellation of their UK/EU tour, which meant I had to pick another band to write about. The MPF line-up is pretty stacked with many awesome bands so choosing just one is not an easy task. Luckily, Robyn hinted at The Arteries a few weeks ago and on first listen I immediately thought that they sounded like a perfect Fest band, and then found out that we actually missed their set at Fest 10. The Arteries manage to blend their metal and punk influences with ease into a cohesive and unique package filled with punchy bass lines, guitar flourishes, interesting melodies, and plenty of sing/shout along moments.

Consumed (Friday at The Union 20:10–21:00)
Consumed have never been a band that I’ve really noticed. Although a few songs from some early Fat Wreck compilation CDs have stuck with me over the years, it feels like the band never really got the attention and recognition they deserved here in South Africa and the band’s break up in 2003 wouldn’t have made anything easier. Consumed reformed in 2015 but only caught my attention again with the release of their new EP A Decade Of No last year. Over the years, Consumed were able to refine their sound and songwriting while never straying too far away from the unpretentious punk sound that so many fell in love with, and their latest EP is a natural progression fitting in with the rest of their catalogue. The live show should be filled with heaps of thrash-metal headbanging moments mixed in with the circle-pit inducing melodies of classic skate punk.

88 Fingers Louie (Friday at The Union 21:20–22:30)
The early 2000s was a formative period for my music taste and life in general. RPM had been released by Rise Against and I needed more. I learned that the band was formed by 2 members of 88 Fingers Louie and it took about a day to download some songs off of Back On The Streets from some dodgy peer-to-peer service provider, but it was well worth the wait. After being in and out of the spotlight for a few years, the band reformed and returned in 2017, releasing the acclaimed Thank You For Being A Friend and reminded me why I had loved them in the first place: fast paced songs with great production that will stay with you for days. 88 Fingers were able to capture the perfect balance of melody and hard-hitting punk rock again, as if they had never left. For me, 88 Fingers have been on my list of absolutely-must-see bands at MPF 2019 since they were announced.

Astpai (Saturday at The Union 15:30–16:00)
When we made the decision to travel to Manchester for MPF last year, I knew that Astpai had played the festival before and was really hoping they’d be announced. As it turns out, they weren’t (which is probably for the best considering the schedule last year) but I was overjoyed when they were part of the second MPF announcement for 2019. We missed their set at Fest 10 in 2011 as they didn’t really arrive on my radar until the release of Efforts And Means the following year. For me, they are one of the most consistently good bands around. I have enjoyed every single one of their releases and I’m positive seeing the band live will be one of the highlights of my year.

Adrenalized (Saturday at Gorilla 17:50–18:30)
I arrived late to the Adrenalized party, only hearing about them in 2016 after watching some Punk Rock Holiday 1.5 videos and was immediately drawn to their style of technical punk. With the exception of their debut album, which by the band’s own admission is “quite far” from what they play these days (it’s still pretty good in my opinion), the Adrenalized catalogue is all fast, all technical, and all great. Fast melodic hardcore is my favourite kind of punk and Adrenalized do it really, really well. The band has continued to raise the bar with their latest album, Operation Exodus, which I’m sure will make my top 10 for 2019. Having watched countless videos of them playing at festivals around Europe for a few years now, I’m very excited to finally get to see them in person at MPF. Get to the venue a little earlier to catch Fair Do’s as well; they made my list last year and definitely lived up to my expectations.

March (Sunday at Gorilla 17:00–17:30)
One of the best things about MPF is the number of new bands I get to hear about through each announcement. One of the many, many bands that I have been introduced to this year is March, a four-piece from the Netherlands who play punk infused with a little bit of rock ’n’ roll, reminding me of early Distillers but with a more melodic sound. March’s debut album Stay Put is full of big riffs and hard-hitting songs with just the right amount of dirt that are sure to get you moving in the pit, in your car, or sitting in your desk chair. A new single ‘Fear of Roses’ was released in January 2019 and it provides a small taste of the band’s forthcoming second album. I’ve only watched some YouTube videos of the band live so it will be good to get to see the band rock out in person.

Main Line 10 (Sunday at Zombie Shack 18:10–18:45)
A massive thank you to Sarah at Shout Louder for bringing Main Line 10 to my attention when their album The Fox made her top 10 of 2018. The four-piece from Spain play fast, melodic hardcore punk, drawing inspiration from the likes of Mute, Belvedere, and This Is A Standoff with positive and uplifting lyrics and melodies that will get you dancing and playing the air-instrument of your choice in no time. If their live performance is half as tight as their recordings I can only prepare to have my mind blown by the quality musicianship that will be on stage. They’re one of the bands that I never thought I’d get the chance to see live, so I was incredibly stoked to see them on the third MPF announcement.

Not On Tour (Sunday at Gorilla 21:00–22:00)
I’ll shamefully admit that the only reason I know about Not On Tour is because their 2015 album Bad Habits was produced by Yotam Ben Horin of Useless ID. I loved the well-executed balance of pop-punk and aggressive skate punk I heard on that album and quickly added the rest of their catalogue to my library. Considering all but one of their songs don’t break the two-minute mark, the band’s three albums and eight-song EP don’t take long to play through but the songs are so good, featuring catchy melodies, perfectly placed variations, and great production that will make you want to put it on repeat and listen multiple times. Not On Tour have a new album, Growing Pains, which will be out a few weeks before MPF and I’m excited to see them blaze through their hour-long set including some new songs as well as some older favourites.

This top ten was written by Brett Coomer.

Wednesday, 10 April 2019

Album Review: Iconic Seducer by Lost Twenties

Lost Twenties are a three piece band from Keighley who formed in 2016. Consisting of Jay Turner (guitar/vocals), Syllene McIntosh (bass) and Stephen Tomlinson (drums), the trio released their debut album in February. Titled Iconic Seducer, it was recorded by Kurt Wood and released on One Step Outside Records.

Iconic Seducer begins with the song Best Thing I Ever Did. This track sets a bit of a template of what to expect from Lost Twenties – Weezer-esque indie pop punk music. Starting out with a jangly guitar sound backed by some methodical bass and drum lines, the song quickly feels playful. Turner's vocals are clear, making the song super accessible. It's a mid-tempo track that almost feels as if Turner is being autobiographical during the song as he laments life at work. Up next is What Better Way?. This song has a slightly darker tone with the playful guitar lines gone. It was interesting to hear Lost Twenties switch from their more upbeat sound so early on. Despite the moody sound, the song is really catchy, particularly the chorus of "what better way, what better way, to take me as you find me, what better way, what better way, to creep up behind me." I Don't Know retains that moodiness but instantly picks the tempo back up. The song is about struggling with your identity and where you fit in to a social situation. Lost Twenties seem to slide towards a grungey style on this song which keeps it interesting.

The fourth song Outside is really lengthy (particularly for someone who is used to less than three minute punk songs) at five minutes and thirty-nine seconds long. This really allows for the band to show off their skills, particularly with the long musical interlude that finishes the song. It's a great guitar solo and I really loved the dirty recording style that is used, it gives the song a raw feel. This Current State begins with a marching drum beat giving things an air of importance before the jangly guitar returns. The track builds nicely throughout the first verse before things really threaten to explode during the chorus. It doesn't quite feel like it gets to its climax before calming back down. This happens a couple of times during the track and definitely leaves you wanting more. End Of The World is another over five minute long track that allows the band to do some experimental stuff with their sound. McIntosh's bass is at the forefront at the beginning of the song and plays a prominent roll throughout. The way that Turner delivers his vocals has you really wanting to head bang along, despite not really being that heavy of a song. This, for me, was one of the big highlights of the entire album. Much like Outside, the track is completed with a long instrumental section before we get another delightful headbanging finale. Despite not being of the highest of tempo, the song gives you plenty of energy.

The Main Event starts out with a juicy bass line before transitioning into an indie rock song that harks back to the early 2000s. For the most part the song's greatness lies in its simplicity, aside from that bass line and a whirly guitar part that finishes the song. The upbeat nature of the vocals give the track a poppier feel that put a smile on my face. One Day Away continues the pop vibes. For me, this is when Late Twenties are at their best. It's up-tempo and bouncy in a way that really gets you moving. Of course, it's the chorus that really stands out as Turner sings "we are shallow, live in shadow, one day away from all this." The track is about being stuck in your hometown and feeling unable to get out and chase your dreams. Things are slowed back down on the ninth song, Mutual Indifference. It's another five minute long song that plods along without really hitting any big heights. There are moments when you feel like it might be building to something bigger but unfortunately that never really happens. The song is about being in a relationship that you know is beginning to come to its conclusion but neither party wanting to make the first move to end things. There's a moody feeling on this grungy track.

The tenth song on Iconic Seducer is titled There Is No Danger. Picking things back up, this is a much faster song that has that infectious energy that I love so much. The build at the beginning of the track really pulled me in and once things really get going I'm yearning to have a sing-along. The song is about being scared to try things with Turner trying to convince the listener that everything will be okay and it's always worth a go. The penultimate song on the album in named This Archipelago. Those fun jangly guitars are back one more time, somehow giving the album a fresh feel despite having heard them earlier on the album. I guess that is the importance of an album's running order! I had to Google what exactly Archipelago means – it turns out it's the name for an extensive group of islands. The track is about looking for a new life away from where you currently reside, hoping to find somewhere better. The final song is Dinosaur. This song is a social commentary about the old fashioned thoughts and policies of the older generation being outdated and trying to get away from them. This is another of the big highlights from Iconic Seducer and is a song that I'm sure most people listening will really relate with. The drums and bass give the song a solid spine while the guitar is at its playful best, seemingly wandering off and playing its own melody on a few occasions. Perhaps this is a clever musical metaphor for the thought process in the song or perhaps I'm thinking too deeply about it. Either way I really enjoyed it. Dinosaur is a fitting way to finish the album.

This isn't the genre I'd normally listen to but I do think it's important to, on occasion, explore genres outside of your usual favourites. Sometimes you'll find some hidden gems – like Iconic Seducer.

Stream and download Iconic Seducer here:

Like Lost Twenties here:

This review was written by Colin Clark.

Tuesday, 9 April 2019

Album Review: Swashbuckle & Swagger by Pirate Copy (by Lee Morton)

It’s not often you hear the words punk and pirates in the same sentence but that could all change with the debut album, “Swashbuckle & Swagger”, from Cornish crew Pirate Copy. Transferring a riotous live sound to track is never easy but this album is a treasure chest of party anthems, rock ’n’ roll groove, rum and buccaneering spirit.

It’s not all plain sailing though as the piratical flavour doesn’t always work but when it does on songs like “Somalian Pirates Suck”, “The Crew” or legendary set closer “I’m On A Boat” you get swept along on a sea of gang chants, brotherhood and good old fashioned fun.

“Legends Of The Afterparty” kicks us off in style and sets out their stall from the off. Dirty garage style punk that’s packed with riffs to spare, rumbling basslines and infectious singalong choruses all combine and create the perfect storm of punk rock anarchy.

“All Drunks On Deck” takes the party spirit further in a song about where all the rum has gone, which is enhanced with a lyric video released in advance of the album. It’s a raging fist pumping drinking anthem that’s sure to go down a storm in their live set.

“Dead Man’s Dance” is more restrained but set against the other songs here it doesn’t really work. A case of more stagger than swagger and likewise “I Ate My Mate” is a childish singalong ditty that whilst has a couple of humorous lyrics doesn’t grab your attention in the same way. Fortunately sandwiched between these two stale bits of bread is the very tasty morsel of “Somalian Pirates Suck” which rampages along like Motorhead if they drank rum instead of whiskey but with added pop sensibility as the gang chants of “whoa whoa whoa” draw you to the rocks like a sirens call, all over a filthy groove that will live in your ears for weeks.

The second half of this album is really strong with “Outlaw Pirates”, with its buzzing guitars being the precursor to another earworm of a chorus whilst “Water Water Everywhere” starts slowly with a monster rock n roll groove reminiscent of Kvelertak, interspersed with faster verses with guitars layered on top of each other creating a tsunami of sound.

“Kicked Out The Pub” works where “Dead Man’s Dance” and “I Ate My Mate” failed, combining humour, piracy and rock ’n’ roll in a more coherent groove with another massive singalong chorus. And sure to be a live favourite “The Crew” takes elements of the hardcore fraternity, with its group vocals and gang mentality of togetherness, that is the very definition of swashbuckle and swagger.

Penultimate track “I’m On A Boat” is already a live favourite and it’s easy to see why, a raucous track that doesn’t let up for one minute as guitar riffs rain down over some pummelling drum beats. It’s frantic and exhilarating stuff that races away to a chaotic climatic finish. Breathless stuff.

All of which makes final song, “Punk Rock Pirates”, seem a little safe in comparison, although it still retains their unique sound I feel that it would have been better served further down the track listing.

It may be a niche sound, but there’s no doubting the quality of most of the songs here and you certainly don’t need a treasure map to strike gold with a number of real standout songs so grab yourself a bottle of rum and get ready to sail the seven seas.

Like Pirate Copy here:

This review was written by Lee Morton.

Monday, 8 April 2019

Album Review: To The Robot Graveyard by We Found A Map

We Found A Map are a skate punk band from Southern Californian featuring long time friends Grant (guitar & vocals), James (bass & vocals) and Bahrum (drums). I stumbled upon them via Bandcamp, instantly attracted to the awesome artwork for their new EP To The Robot Graveyard. Naturally I clicked play to see if there was substance to go along with the beauty. He's what I found.

To The Robot Graveyard begins with the song Captain Lily. The track starts with some atmospheric music that sounds like a movie score. This makes sense when you find out that We Found A Map have a bit of a science fiction theme to their music. After this introduction we are greeted with a mid tempo skate punk track which I think is about the heroine from the popular computer game Runescape. Once the song really kicks in, it's filled with energy and the way in which the vocals are delivered has you wanting to sing along with the band. With a pounding drum beat and plenty of harmonies, this is exactly what I enjoy from a skate punk song. The urge to want to sing along continues on the next song, Zelda Is A Girl. Musically it's a little softer, focusing more on melody than exploding with energy. This song sees We Found A Map take on the role of Link from the Legend Of Zelda franchise and explore his thoughts about Zelda and the tumultuous relationship they have. The harmonies towards the end of the track really have me thinking of So Cal skate punk legends No Use For A Name.

The third song on To The Robot Graveyard is named Stoic. The track starts with a short building section where all the instruments get to shine, along with some added electronic music that adds to the atmosphere of the opening. When the vocals come in there is a feeling of seriousness and one of We Found A Map aren't playing around here. Stoic is about how selfish and destructive the human race are and how it doesn't seem to affect people like it should. The song finishes with a long instrumental that is again like a movie score. This leads into the penultimate song All Of Them… Witches! This is a sombre feeling song that takes some time to really hit its heights. The build is slow and subtle but when it hits it is certainly worth the wait. The track is about wanting someone to change their wicked ways but not having any faith that it will happen. The final song on the EP is Royal Blue. The intro of the song grabbed me in a big way, starting with more of that movie score style instrumental before the band come in with more of a pop punk feel. When the vocals eventually come in you are fully invested in the song. Royal Blue looks at the pressure team sports puts on you and how you can be forced into doing something you don't love just because you happen to be good at it. I really like this as a song topic, it's pretty unique and really well done. This was a great way to finish the EP.

To The Robot Graveyard is a little different to a lot of skate punk that I'd usually listen to but I really enjoyed it. The differences give it a fresh feeling as well as a uniqueness. I'm really impressed with We Found A Map's ability as lyricists – some of the lyrics are captivating. If you love skate punk but want to try something a little different then this is one for you.

Stream and download To The Robot Graveyard here:

Like We Found A Map here:

This review was written by Colin Clark.

Friday, 5 April 2019

Album Review: Mass Extinction Split by Stöj Snak and Speed Dinosaurs (by Emma Prew)

Denmark’s 5FeetUnder Records and the UK’s TNS Records have joined forces to release a brand new split 7 inch that I’m very excited about. Titled Mass Extinction, this split sees Danish screamer-songwriter, and CPRW favourites, Stöj Snak team up with Leeds based folk punk trio Speed Dinosaurs to address the topic of ecological disasters caused by humans. It sounds like it could be a pretty heavy topic for an acoustic punk EP but it’s also an important one that people, myself included, need to be informed about.

‘The Mass Extinction Split came about when John [Speed Dinosaurs] wrote a new song explaining what fracking is and how it works. Niels from Stöj Snak, was at the time writing songs for the band's coming full length record had a few spare songs with many of the same themes, so when he heard a demo of John's song by accident got in touch to suggest a collaboration making an ecology / dinosaur themed split record. The overarching theme of the record is ecological disaster caused by humans. A theme that is touched upon from a few different angles – some quite serious and a few a little more humorous.’

Each band has three songs on the Mass Extinction Split and the first half comes from Stöj Snak. Kicking things off with Drink From The Well, we are instantly greeted by an upbeat combination of instruments from the Stöj Snak ensemble – including but not limited to harmonica, acoustic guitar and organ. It’s a head-nodder that you could be mistaken for thinking is a carefree and happy tune. Of course, we know the theme of this release. Drink From The Well is about how we humans are too busy mass consuming to realise that perhaps we need to take a step back and attempt to live more sustainably. It might seem okay for us now (it’s not) but what will future generations say? – ‘We've poisoned the waters and ruined the crops so what do we say our kids turn to us, And ask us to justify all this mess – they will reap what we sow.’ Drink From The Well featured fairly clean vocals from self-named screamer-songwriter Niels Sørensen but this next song shows off a little of his hardcore roots. Apex Predator is a 45 second fast and furious folk punk track about, well, quite simply how fucked we are on this planet. Without listening to the song you might think that the ‘apex predator’ in question would be a dinosaur – especially given the split’s cover artwork – but I’m afraid we humans are the apex predator, ‘hunting for frozen food’ and just generally destroying the planet that we and millions of other species live on. Starting with a vocal style that sounds like it could well be being sung through a megaphone, Cosmic Irony, the song that closes the Stöj Snak half of the Mass Extinction Split, instantly has your attention. This is a catchy and upbeat tune that doesn’t really sound quite like anything Stöj Snak have done before – in a good way. It certainly packs a punch. Cosmic Irony is about how if we treated environmental disaster as a war, or a ‘threat from a foreign nation’, then people might actually pay attention and start doing something about it. ‘It’s time to change the tide so it won’t kill us, And turn these good intentions into ways, We’ve got a fucking war to win.’ 

With the second half of this split I must admit to never having listened to Speed Dinosaurs before and so I didn’t really know what to expect. First up is a ukulele driven, highly informative song about and titled Fracking. My first thought was that Speed Dinosaurs need to play this song in schools so that kids can understand this critical ecological issue. Then I realised that it’s obviously not just kids that need to know about this – everyone does. The song is delivered in a fun and seemingly humorous way which, in a way, improves the effectiveness of the message. ‘So put the pressure on, the government are wrong, they have lackeys, but we have right on our side, Do what you can to cause a fracking ban – create a future from which you don’t wanna hide. Stand side by side.’ Similarly to the Stöj Snak half of the split, the second song of the Speed Dinosaurs side is a short, fast and chaotic track. Triceratops, in contrast to earlier songs, is definitely a track that doesn’t take itself too seriously. Sure, it’s still informative with no less than three lines to the song explaining what a triceratops is (or was) but it’s also a bit silly. The triceratops happens to be my favourite dinosaur so this 35 second song goes down very well with me. Bringing the split to its conclusion is the song which gives the record its name, The Biggest Mass Extinction. This is another track that feels like a science lesson or perhaps more specifically a geology lesson since Speed Dinosaurs’ Jonathan is a geologist by trade. The Biggest Mass Extinction is about how the dinosaurs were not, as many people would believe, involved in the biggest mass extinction of all time. Musically the song has a distinct feeling of rockabilly to it with deep, theatrical vocals not sounding too unlike Elvis. Again, it’s fun but also delivers a significant message.

The Mass Extinction Split will be available on marbled magenta and white 7" vinyl and digital download through 5FeetUnder Records and TNS Records from the 19th of April. This is also the Friday of Manchester Punk Festival where both bands will be appearing at Brickhouse Social – check them out there if you can, you will not be disappointed!

Be sure to like Stöj Snak and Speed Dinosaurs on their respective Facebook pages, as well as checking out each on Bandcamp (here and here).

This review was written by Emma Prew.

Thursday, 4 April 2019

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

Despite all the curveballs that life has thrown at me in the past few months, the stars have finally aligned and the punk gods have smiled upon me, and I am going to Manchester Punk Festival this year! My experience of the festival last year was just phenomenal. Brett and I were both really impressed by the smooth organization of the event, the awesome musical acts, and the lovely people of the UK DIY punk scene. There were so many standout performances last year that I don’t think I could pick a favourite, but another big part of what made MPF 2018 so great was getting to hang out with Colin and Emma, so it’ll also be awesome to see them again. This year, MPF boasts another stellar line-up and these are just some of the acts that I’m really excited to see.

Suggested Friends (Friday at The Bread Shed 14:30–15:00)
One of the first bands opening up the weekend on Friday is Suggested Friends, a self-described “small choir of mostly lesbians” who play bright indie-pop-punk jams with catchy melodies and sincere lyrics. There was always a good chance I was going to like this band considering their Harry Potter and cat inspired song titles (both ‘I Don’t Want to Be a Horcrux For Your Soul’ and ‘Menagerie of Cats’ are excellent tracks off of their self-titled album), but their warm and playful music is also highly enjoyable and this set promises to be an excellent start to the MPF weekend.

Big Joanie (Friday at The Bread Shed 16:10–16:40)
One of the scheduling dilemmas I’m really bummed about is the clash between Big Joanie and Call Me Malcolm. People of colour are still a rarity in punk bands, and when I found a band headed up by three black women who speak proudly about the space that punk opens up to clap back at white patriarchy and explore black feminism I knew I had to check them out. I was really impressed with their debut album Sistahs, which I’ve been listening to for a while. The songs are self-assured and uncompromising, with a raw and slightly disjointed sound. I’m going to try and catch the beginning or the end of this set, and you’ll definitely find me at the merch table to pick up a shirt and hopefully a copy of the album.

Call Me Malcolm (Friday at Gorilla 16:10–16:40)
I think it’s safe to say that Call Me Malcolm’s I Was Broken When You Got Here was one of the best albums released last year, and I am so ready to skank and twirl along to these songs live. I know that Colin and Emma are also stoked for this set, and I’m anticipating a sharp pang of happiness when we all get to sing along to Call Me Malcolm’s runaway single ‘All My Nameless Friends’. Even if this song has managed to fall out of their set, I’ll be so happy to see these guys play.

Above Them (Friday at Rebellion 23:00–23:30)
After parties are a big part of MPF, and this year Rebellion will function solely as an after party venue. First up at Rebellion on Friday is West Yorkshire band Above Them, who play just my kind of gritty melodic punk and are reforming to play the festival. The band’s recorded sound is pretty raw and full-bodied, so I’m expecting a similar live experience. Specialist Subject Records also recently re-released their album Water Lane on vinyl, so I’m sure there’ll be a few spare copies lying around.

Tom May and Roger Harvey (Saturday at Brickhouse Social 18:30–19:30)
Tom May is usually known for playing guitar and sharing vocal duties with Greg Barnett in The Menzingers, but he’s coming to MPF on his own and teaming up with fellow Pennsylvanian Roger Harvey (of White Wives) to play a unique set ‘of songs and stories’ at Brickhouse Social. Many years ago, before On The Impossible Past had even been released, Brett and I narrowly missed out on seeing Greg and Tom play an acoustic show at Fest 10 (because, exhaustion). So, it’s great to get another chance to see Tom play in a more intimate setting and I’m really keen to see the performance that he and Roger have put together.

Smoke or Fire (Saturday at The Union 20:10–21:00)
The announcement that Boston punks Smoke or Fire would be playing MPF this year was a lovely surprise. I’ve only seen them once before, at Fest 10, where they put on a fantastic show at the Florida Theatre. The band really established itself with the album Above The City and the single ‘California’s Burning’, but they’ve gone on to have many other hits and their 2007 release This Sinking Ship is easily one of my all-time favourite albums, so I’m super excited to see them again.

Cheerbleederz (Sunday at Gorilla 14:30–15:00)
Cheerbleederz is a bit of a supergroup, comprised of Phoebe Cross from Happy Accidents, Kathryn Woods of Fresh, and Final Flag’s Sophie Mackenzie. This new project has been on my radar since Cheerbleederz released their first single ‘Cabin Fever’, and their debut EP Faceplant has been on repeat in my car for weeks now. It’s clear that these three pals really enjoy playing music together, and I love the contrast between the angsty song lyrics and the band’s cheery pop-punk sound. So, this set is a definite must-see.

Cherym (Sunday at Gorilla 15:20–15:50)
Cherym are another female pop-punk trio, this time from the North of Ireland, and they are probably my favourite MPF find. I stumbled across their single ‘Take It Back’ on an MPF playlist, and since then I’ve been jamming to every Cherym song I can get my hands on. Their Mouthbreathers EP is excellent (I especially like the track ‘Telepathic Kelly’) as is their new single ‘Super Queens’, with all of their songs delivering gorgeous bass lines, sharp riffs, and punchy vocals. Cherym play right after Cheerbleederz at Gorilla on Sunday, so I also have the added bonus of not having to change venues.

The Human Project (Sunday at Gorilla 18:50–19:30)
Going into this year’s MPF, I was easily the most hyped about seeing The Human Project, followed closely by Fresh. So, I’m devastated that these two bands end up clashing and I am silently cursing my relatively diverse taste in music (I doubt the choice between Fresh and THP will be that difficult for many other people, so I do understand why the organisers would put these two bands on at the same time, even if it does make me sad). I will have to make some serious choices about how much of each band I can realistically catch, but for the sake of this top ten I’m going to write about both.

The Human Project play some truly lovely melodic hardcore punk. I liked their first album Origins, but I really fell for this band when they released Clarion Call last year. Their music is fast and high-energy, with great hooks and vocal harmonies (as well as a few shouty bits), and their live show promises to be so damn good that I’m not sure that I’ll be able to bear missing out on any of it.

Fresh (Sunday at The Union 19:10–19:50)
Fresh are starting to feel a little like my unicorn: the band I really want to see, but somehow it just doesn’t work out. Last year, Fresh clashed with Roughneck Riot and I decided not to see them because they’re a London-based band and I figured I’d have a better chance of seeing them in the future. Then they were announced for this year’s MPF, and I was determined to see them this time around. Alas, scheduling luck was not on my side and they’re on at the same time as The Human Project. But, I’m still hopeful that I might catch at least 10 minutes of Fresh’s set if I can move quickly between venues. Their self-titled album is full of songs that are jaunty but urgent, pop-punk but stripped-back and without any sugar coating. I’m sure the band will also be looking to play a new song or two from their upcoming album Withdraw, which is out on 7 June via Specialist Subject Records.

Sneaky 11th entry: The Poetry Stage at The Thirsty Scholar
In addition to all of the awesome bands playing MPF, I’m also really excited about the poetry stage that will run alongside the comedy stage at the The Thirsty Scholar every day from 1–6pm. There is a long tradition of punk performance poets and storytellers, because of the ways in which performance or spoken-word poetry provides a platform for marginalized voices to give expression to their experiences. At these performances, you can expect cutting rhymes, fast rhythms, clever witticisms, and intense emotions. I’m particularly interested in seeing Suky Goodfellow, who describes herself as a Hufflepunk whose genres include Rap Tomfoolery and Queer Unicornism, and Henry Raby, an energetic Nerd Punk from York who focuses on politics. Both are on in the early afternoon on Sunday, but you can check out the full list of poets who will be performing on the MPF website.

This top ten was written by Robyn Pierce.

Wednesday, 3 April 2019

Album Review: Invasion by Hangtime

Something that I say a lot on CPRW, Canada is like a conveyor belt for churning out really good punk rock bands. The latest one to come to my attention is Toronto's Hangtime. We came across the pop punk four piece scrolling through the Bandcamp discovery section (seriously more people should do this, you come across some real gems) and quickly fell in love with their new EP Invasion which was released on the 1st of March.

Invasion begins with an introductory track of the same name before leading into the first proper song, A Thousand Years Ago. This is a melodic pop punk song in similar vein to bands such as Teen Idols or Squirtgun. The sugary sweet vocals are what really grab you at the start of the track. The song is filled with hooks and it won't be long until you're singing along with the band. It's about wishing you had told someone you loved them and regretting not doing it. A strong start to the EP. Next up is One Nine Nine Five. Something I really enjoyed on my first listen of this song was the use of the dual vocals. One of Hangtime’s vocalists takes the verse and the other the chorus. The contrasting pitches of their vocals works so well here. On the bridge, before that epic guitar solo, the vocals come together to produce a superb sounding harmony. The track is about reminiscing over the past and thinking about how some things haven't changed for the better.

See You Soon has more of an early 2000s pop punk vibe, the kind of song you'd find in an American teen movie montage. Despite that description, it's actually quite a sad song about missing someone you care for and beginning to struggle mentally. The song is played at a mid-tempo so seems to lack a bit of energy but is full of hooks that will quickly take up residence in your brain and will have you singing it to yourself long after the song has finished. The fifth song, Can I Take You Out, however does have that energy that I'm always looking for in my punk rock. Another song about girls, only this time Hangtime talk about meeting someone new and becoming completely infatuated with them. There's a nice positivity and sweetness that you don't often find in pop punk songs about girls. Sometimes the pop punk guy does get the girl. The fast buzzsaw style guitars compliment the melody driven vocals superbly, this is what gives the track that infectious energy.

The penultimate track on Invasion is She. It's not a Green Day cover. On my first listen of the EP She stood out as it reminded a bit of skate punk legends No Use For A Name, starting out in an upbeat manner with some crunching guitars before some deliciously melodic vocals come in. The very first word sounds as if the singer is really straining which really dragged me into the song – it made me really want to care about the song. This track is about having someone in your life who just makes things so much better – what a great feeling that is. I particularly enjoyed the lyrics "she makes the voices stop, she keeps me clear and calm." The seventh and final song on the EP is titled Lucky. This track ensures that Invasion finishes in an emotional way as Hangtime play another song where they talk about how lucky they are to have someone who looks out for them. It feels as if there is more urgency in the singer’s voice which is what adds the emotion to the track. The ending of Lucky slows things down so it basically sounds like an emo pop ballad. Quite the way to finish the EP.

Invasion is a lovely nugget of pop goodness. The main strength of the EP for me is the dual vocalists that give it a freshness and I love it when they sing together – I love a harmony. If you love the poppiest of pop punk then this EP is really worth your time.

Stream and download Invasion here:

Like Hangtime here:

This review was written by Colin Clark.

Tuesday, 2 April 2019

Album Review: Mince by The Overbites

The Overbites are a new band from the amazing Scottish punk rock scene featuring former members of Maxwell's Dead and Salem Street/The Valens. In February the four piece, featuring MuzzEh (vocals/guitar), Matt (bass/vocals), Sam (guitar) and Jim (drums/vocals), released their debut six track EP, Mince. As a fan of these guys’ previous projects I was interested to hear Mince.

Mince begins with I Could Never Stop. It's a short and fast song that gets the EP off with a real bang. It's about being in bands from a young age, realising that it can be destructive to your life but knowing it's so ingrained in you that you'll never be able to stop doing it. I think it serves as a great introduction as to why The Overbites exist and is a great pick for an opening number. The next track, TV, is another short song that packs quite the punch. It's about deciding not to watch the TV as there is nothing good on it but it being there waiting to be watched again. The song gives me the image of a television being a devil sitting on your shoulder, you know it's probably not going to be good but sometimes you just can't help yourself anyway. I found the lyrics to be extremely relatable, particularly this line – "I don't know what a Kardashian is, and I really don't care."

Up next is the song Mince. This track starts out slowly with a plodding opening verse that soon builds towards a heavier punk rock chorus. The structure is repeated for a second verse and chorus before we are treated to a energetic instrumental section and then repeating for a third time. This switches in style allow for the chorus to seem all the more powerful. This is good because Mince is about struggling with mental health problems and wanting to escape from them. Misled sees the EP take a surprising turn as The Overbites play a gypsy punk song. I really wasn't expecting to hear a gypsy punk track on the EP but The Overbites do a fantastic job with this. It shows off their ability as musicians brilliantly and quickly pulls you in. The song is about exactly what you think it is – being lied to and not being able to deal with it.

Time Was Up is the penultimate track on Mince. Here we get to hear a ska punk influence to The Overbites sound, with some bouncy verses that hook you immediately and will soon have you tapping your feet if not completely skanking. When the chorus hits we get some glorious gang vocals that give you that sense of inclusion that I love. The song is about the ending of previous bands, thinking about the journey you've been on and realising it's time to call it a day. A lot of new bands don't like to talk about their previous work on new projects but I really appreciated that The Overbites wrote a song like this. The Scottish scene is pretty small so everyone knows the history of these guys anyway so you might as well address it in a song, right? Separation finishes the EP in fine form. It's a straight forward punk sing-along about trying to get on with your life after breaking up with your partner. The melody of the song really hooks you in and I love the way MuzzEh finishes each line in such a punchy way. This is the real earworm track of the EP and it was a great choice to finish with it as it leaves you wanting more whilst humming away to yourself.

I loved Mince, I can't wait to see where it takes The Overbites. Varied, smart, fresh and fun. What else could you need?

Stream and download Mince here:

Like The Overbites here:

This review was written by Colin Clark.

Monday, 1 April 2019

Album Review: Chosen Family by Burn Burn Burn!

I first became aware of Seattle's Burn Burn Burn! after discovering them on a split EP with South Korea's ...Whatever That Means titled Blowing Minds And Melting Faces. Since then I've kept an interested eye on the band's career. This past February the band released a brand new full length named Chosen Family. Chosen Family is co-released by Asteroid M Records, Tiny Dragon Music, Bypolar Records, Stars At Night Records and No Time Records and features twelve songs of a genre I'm calling chaotic pop punk.

Chosen Family begins with Top Shelf. After a distorted feedback-y opening we move into a rumbling bass line before the vocals hit. These are the sort of punk vocals that I really love. They’re quite rough around the edges, the sort of everyman style that gives a song an accessibility and a feeling that we're all in this together. Vocally it gets even better though with the addition of a second vocalist, harmonies and gang vocals - all my favourite things! The song is about wishing that the person you love would believe in you and the disappointment that comes with that. Up next is Catharsis NOW! The intro allows the vocals to take centre stage, letting the listener get a sense of what the song is about – questioning yourself, wondering if you're okay and letting it all out. The track follows a structure of slower verses and high tempo choruses that really get you quite pumped up. Despite the structure, there is still a feeling of anything could happen and this gives the song plenty of energy. The third song is named Gold Chains And Party Shirts. What I really enjoyed about this song was the increased intensity and urgency that Burn Burn Burn! display. The song sounds more controlled than the previous tracks which gives the track a bigger sound. It's about struggling through life and realising that you’re not getting anywhere, debating whether or not you should give up. Sharks is the name of the fourth song on Chosen Family. Sharks sees Burn Burn Burn! venture into more of a street punk sound. There's a bit more of a snarl in the vocals and the gang vocals will have the crowd singing along loud and proud. Shark is about a woman in Seattle who is strong and independent, being happy to be an outcast and comfortable going out for exactly what she wants. This is one of those songs where you can really imagine what a music video might be like for the song.

Road To Ruin is a slower song that's filled with gang vocals. The first half of the song almost feels like a chanting session that will no doubt get a passionate live crowd heavily involved. When you get to the point of thinking that the entire song will go along this road the band shift things and the song finishes in a rambunctious manor. The song is about the mistakes that you made when you were younger and how they affect your life now. The sixth song, Fugue State, sees Burn Burn Burn! really pick things back up with an almost hardcore style song. Vocally the song is much heavier than anything so far, giving the impression that the band are so pissed off. This is backed musically, with some pounding drums and buzzing guitars. At the end of song we even get this harsh primal scream that leads into the next song, Nautical Star Fuckers. I enjoyed the two part feel of the song. It gives the whole album a really explosive kick. On this song Burn Burn Burn! take aim at the United States Navy who dock in towns and go out and act terribly, going after women and looking for all sorts of trouble just because they think they're entitled to act a certain way. Really not cool. I like that the band tackle this topic as it's one that I can relate to, growing up in an army town and seeing this behaviour first hand. On my first listen through of Chosen Family, 20th & Hendo was the song that really stood out. Packed with an infectious energy due to the punchy rapid fire approach to the vocal delivery, it had me bouncing along quickly. The song is about appreciating your best friends and knowing you don't need anything else so long as you have your pals. I loved the positivity on this song and it had me thinking of my group of best friends and how lucking I am to have them. This song put a huge smile on my face.

The Boy Who Cried Love is another fast paced and energetic track that also packs quite the punch. It's about pretending you love anyone just because it's too hard to be alone. The guitars and drums really give the song its kick – played at a blistering speed, they don't seem to relent throughout the entire track. There are some great riffs that freshen up the sound as the track goes on. My Old Self is a rawer sounding song with the band in reflective mood. The band’s lead singer talks about trying to be a better person but having to stop from doing things you would have done in the past. This is one of the more emotional songs on Chosen Family and that really comes across. It's also another really relatable track for 30 something punks thinking about the old days and the really stupid things they probably did. The penultimate song is named Hold. Hold is a mostly acoustic track, showing a softer side of Burn Burn Burn! The horn gives it a folkier feeling, that is until a change in the intensity of the vocals bring in the full band, filling the song out a bit. This wasn't something I really expected at this point on the album but it's one of the standout tracks on an album full of great songs. It sees the band in storytelling mode as they speak about all the things you want to do with someone you love and holding on to that feeling. This is a really sweet song. Chosen Family is finished with Nemesis House. Beginning with an extended intro that builds the song up to the point that when the vocals hit you're ready to explode with the band. The opening verse features my favourite lyric on the whole album – "I see you more at Shorty's than I see you at the show, and when I do it's just the big ones, it's a sorry overtone." This is a song about catching up with old friends who now live very different lives to you, again that's something that I can really relate to. This is another really, really good song that I absolutely loved and it was a perfect way to finish up Chosen Family.

I was so impressed with this album. It doesn't really stick to any real formula other than being really relatable throughout. It's full of this energy that hooked me throughout the entire twenty-nine minutes of the album. That's something I always look for when listening to a new album, does it get me pumped up and excited? Chosen Family certainly does that. If you're unfamiliar with these guys, you need to check this album out. It's fantastic.

Stream and download Chosen Family here:

Like Burn Burn Burn! here:

This review was written by Colin Clark.