Monday, 17 June 2019

Album Review: Get Lost! by The Radio Buzzkills

I first became aware of Missouri's The Radio Buzzkills last year when I reviewed a split they did with The Hypnic Jerks. Playing Lookout Records-esque pop punk on the subject of all things sci-fi, The Radio Buzzkills released a brand new album in March named Get Lost! on OutLoud! Records. I loved The Radio Buzzkills side of the previously mentioned split so was very keen to see what they could do with a whole album.

Get Lost! begins with the song Tattletale. On the track, The Radio Buzzkills sing about that person at school who was a goody-two-shoes, always got the best marks and never did anything wrong and you attempting to become a bad influence then. As you would expect, it's ridiculously catchy song that will quickly get stuck in your head. I really enjoyed the addition of the female harmony, giving the song an extra layer and making me think of the much missed Teen Idols. Opening a song with the lyric "I want to drink your blood" is a quite a startling thing to do but that's exactly what the band do on the next song, Vampire Of Sacramento. This song talks about a night as a vampire; feeling alone, sneaking into a house, lusting over someone, killing them and then feeling complete. It's kind of like a Masked Intruder song but instead of crime it's vampires. Cannibal Girlfriend picks up the tempo. Starting out with some punchy vocals that give the song plenty of energy before moving onto a more melodic chorus. The song is about falling in love with a cannibal and the trials and tribulations that that lifestyle involves. It sounds like a tricky relationship.

She Hails Satan continues the theme of falling in love with the wrong kind of girl. This time it's about falling for a devil worshipper and dealing with what struggles that world brings. Lyrically, it's filled with humour and paints a great picture of what's going on – it certainly put a grin on my face. There's a nice section that throws back to 60s doo-wop music with some superb "do-do-dos" harmonised with some "whoa-ohs." Shark Surfer sees The Radio Buzzkills go down a surf rock road, perhaps not too surprising given the name of the song. It's actually an instrumental track aside from a couple of cries of "shark surfer" during the song. The sixth song on Get Lost!, named The Distance Between Us, feels like more of a serious song. It's about being in a long distance relationship and feeling as if nobody understands why you would put yourself through the hard work that it can be. The duelling male/female vocals are perfect on the track, making it feel like a duet rather than lead and backing vocals. This One Is Bitter is another super punchy song that injects a lot of energy into the album. This is one of the heavier, rockier songs on the album, at times feeling like a big ol' sing-along drinking song. It's a break up song where The Radio Buzzkills bitterly lament the end of the relationship. One of my favourite songs on Get Lost!.

Cold And Lonely starts with some super snotty vocals singing "it's cold and lonely in Wisconsin" before the band come in. The Screeching Weasel influence is perhaps more evident here than anywhere else on the album and really is a throwback to a fantastic time in pop punk music. Cold And Lonely is about being alone, obsessing over someone and… eventually killing them. The song makes it seem much cheerier than this description makes it out to be, honest. The penultimate song is the one that stood out most when I read the track listing before I heard the album. Titled She Died On That Deathstar, I really hope that the band make a video for this song. It tells the tale of someone grieving because their lover died when the Deathstar was destroyed. The band weave a great tale that quickly had me visualising what happened. The final song on Get Lost! is named Unsolved Mysteries. Finishing in an epic way with a song that's nearly four minutes long, I'm really impressed with how The Radio Buzzkills manage to make a pop punk track sound so big. A big part of this is due to those fantastic harmonies giving the song such a sweet extra layer. It's also packed with melody and does the best job of building towards its ending.

The Radio Buzzkills are one of my favourite new bands in the Ramonescore pop punk genre. I was recently discussing with a pal how there doesn't seem to be too many bands playing this style in the UK anymore so I'm pleased that the genre is still alive and well elsewhere in the world.

Stream and download Get Lost! here:

Like The Radio Buzzkills here:

This review was written by Colin Clark.

Saturday, 15 June 2019

Gig Review: Slam Dunk Festival (North), Temple Newsam, Leeds 25/5/19 (by Richard Mair)

Slam Dunk, a fixture on the Leeds and North punk scene for many a year, made its leap from the city centre where it’s been based since its inception to Temple Newsam this year (which to people of a certain age will always be home to Leeds Festival before it turned into a drug fuelled pop music monstrosity at the other great park in Leeds, Brahman). Consequently, I was happy for Slam Dunk to make the move to such a venue and despite the mid-afternoon downpour I think it worked. Navigating stages was much easier, no massive queues anywhere (apart from the toilets by the Punk in Drublic stage it seemed – maybe us older punks have bladder control issues?!?) and a wide variety of food stalls which, although more expensive than the obligatory Wetherspoons quick bite, covered cuisine from across the globe!

The first band we headed for whilst enjoying a beer was the Bombpops. Needless to say they are the perfect pop punk band to open the festival; the crowd lapping up their endearing and anthemic tunes in the sunshine. With a set list containing fan favourites “Dear Beer” and “I Can’t”, the band easily win over casual listeners and both Jen and Poli more than making the female voice heard on a male dominated stage!

Next up, Anti-Flag bring their political discourse and melodic punk arsenal to bear on an expectant crowd; their backdrop of an upturned Stars and Stripes greeted with cheers when unveiled. They bulldoze through the set with gusto opening with “Die for the Government”, and closing with “Brandenburg Gate”. The highlight was undoubtedly “Fuck Police Brutality” which generated numerous middle finger salutes from the passionate front rows.

My girlfriend loves ska and on mentioning that the Mad Caddies were playing was desperate to go; and they did not disappoint. In fact they take to the stage at the sunniest part of the day meaning that real festival vibe takes hold of the crowd with lots of early drunken dancing exploding around the Punk In Drublic stage. Despite complaining about the lack of sound on the stage monitors, the band sound sublime from the pit; which must be attributable to how much of a well-oiled live machine they are. Personal highlights are the tracks off of Duck And Cover and Quality Soft Core (“Road Rash”, “Monkeys” and “Goleta”) and the flawless cover of Propaghandhi’s “Nation States”. But what makes them so good live is how good a frontman Chuck Robertson is – casually dancing around the stage like a camp George Michael, bantering with his band mates and looking effortlessly cool; he remains one of my favourite front men to watch because it’s obvious he loves doing what he does and it’s that infectious you can’t help but be swept along. The Caddies producing one of the best sets of the day with ease!

After spending a good few hours at the Punk in Drublic stage, we made the first of two visits to the Dickies stage. Now, to be fair, I could have stayed here all day and had a mint time; however there were other bands I was desperate to see having never seen them before so Saves The Day and The Get Up Kids had to miss out (I’ve a feeling some of my friends would disown me for that decision given how iconic both groups are). Anyway my reason for heading to this stage, was Scranton duo (with full band) Tigers Jaw. I genuinely can’t describe how much I love this band and a set that can only be described as containing all the hits was truly wonderful. Their emotionally charged songs getting fists in the air from the get go. Opener “Favourite” is a wonderful dancey singalong tune which sets the tone for their set, followed by “The Sun” – the epic, fast shout along anthem that opens their self titled album. Inevitably it goes off; fists and bodies collide, whilst both Ben and Brianne look on in amazement at the scenes unfolding in front of them. After such a massive double salvo “Frame You” is a welcome change of pace; one of their most straightforward rock songs, it allows everyone a bit of a breather to enjoy watching the band. This is followed by “Follows”, another banger from their last album Spin (and I would argue massively underrated – they should have been huge on the back of that one!). It’s another big singalong with its refrain of “Breathing in slow, breathing out and letting go” shouted back at the band with such gusto it’s both life affirming and deafening. Its followed by another fan favourite “Hum”, a sombre song that lets the band’s vocal harmonies shine; it’s the calm before the storm as the next 5 songs bring joyous chaos. Starting with the frenetic, melodic “Guardian”, its chorus eliciting a gigantic response from the crowd. Whilst the refrain remains one of my favourite pieces of music of recent years, hardcore beat down-esque it’s the epitome of what true emo is. After this it’s the first of their big three from their self-titled, “Chemicals”. The bodies literally flying whilst many a sore throat ensued, it’s the kind of song you have to sing along with like its last song you’ll ever hear. Brienne dedicates the next song to her best friend before taking us through the gorgeous “June” (the crowd singing the keyboard parts eliciting smiles and laughter from the stage). Closing the set off, the trio of “Plane vs Tank vs Submarine” unleashes even more carnage; the opening lines of “Lie to me, like you used to” again almost deafening! “I Saw Water” generates a similar response as crowd surfers rain down on the front rows. The final song “Window” closes a truly wonderful set by a truly wonderful band in a special way. If I thought it was hard to top the Caddies, Tigers Jaw have done it and some – they were one of the main draws to Slam Dunk for me and again didn’t disappoint.

Next up we had the two heavy bands I wanted to see. First up, the Cancer Bats. I haven’t kept up with these guys since they put out their third album Beats Mayors, Scraps and Bones in 2010. However, this didn’t take away from my enjoyment of them and, having seen them before and how great they are live, they certainly didn’t disappoint. The devil horn metal anthem “Lucifer's Rocking Chair”, anthemic “Hail Destroyer”, “Pneumonia Hawk” and “Bricks And Mortar” are the pick of the songs as they lay waste to an adoring crowd. It’s hard to find fault with the Cancer Bats; their sound is so unique, bordering on the fringes of punk, hardcore and metal and they have an ability to cross these boundaries easily. What may have seemed like a stretch when they did it was adding hip-hop to the mix. Their cover of the Beastie Boys “Sabotage” remains one of the most successful covers I can think of and created a war zone of a pit, akin to something you’d expect from the early years of hardcore before the idea of looking out for your fellow gig goers was a thing. It was all sorts of good natured brutal, with hugs and high fives exchanged by the slam dancers. Again, the Cancer Bats prove why they are one of the best in the business; sure they don’t take themselves too seriously but Liam is a bonafide legend of a front man and the band excel at pummelling beats and dirty riffs.

After Cancer Bats we have a different type of heavy in the form of Silverstein. The duel stage tent approach works well as no sooner have the Cancer Bats finished we’ve turned round had a short hop to the other side of the tent and the Canadian emocore mob have taken to the stage. Whilst not an entirely career spanning greatest hits set, the spread of songs throughout their near 20 years of releasing material is impressive. Opening with the iconic “Smashed Into Pieces” the standout track from their debut LP When Broken is easily fixed. It’s an instantly recognisable song that made them stand out ahead of their peers and still sounds epic, relevant and exciting to this day. As one would expect, it’s the songs off of Discovering The Waterfront that generate the biggest reactions; both “Smile In Your sleep” and “My Heroine” are big sing along songs and are greeted by the crowd with mass cheers within their first chords. Personally I found their recent album Dead Reflections a near perfect representation of the band and 4 of the 10 tracks are taken from this most recent release. Again the crowds passionate response to each is testament to their staying power and ability to keep taking risks and developing their sound – the brutal “Retrograde” at one extreme sits well alongside the pop infused “The Afterglow”. Silverstein delivered everything you’d want from a mid-afternoon festival slot; the only downside being the lack of backdrop meant that those coming into the tent to escape the rain maybe left unsure of who they had just watched. Still, for those of us in the know, they were another highlight of the day!

Despite the rain we decided to head back down the hill to the Punk In Drublic stage for both Millencolin and Less Than Jake. The weather playing havoc with the Swedish legends’ sound, they battled through a greatest hits set. On a personal level, the older tunes from Life On A Plate through to Pennybridge Pioneers steal the show, and generate the biggest singalong dances. But their two most recent albums (True Brew and this year’s SOS) comfortably stand alongside the classics and the reception greeting these new songs demonstrates how polished a machine they have now become.

Talking of polished machines, Less Than Jake trotted out their usual schtick; funny, endearing, high energy. For a fleeting half hour you don’t notice the rain and bask in the warmth of the Florida veterans’ ska-punk anthems. The set is heavy on songs from Anthem, Borders And Boundaries and Hello Rockview. It’s a proper festival set by a proper festival band. I’ve seen them countless times over the years and they never disappoint – today was certainly no exception.

Our final band on the Punk in Drublic stage was Bad Religion; however in what was the absolute worst clash possible they would eat into The Menzingers set (a band who I wouldn’t miss under any circumstances). Consequently we made the decision to leave early, but not before we were treated to classics from their seminal Stranger Than Fiction which was my first introduction to the band and it’s follow up The Grey Race (my favourite Bad Religion album)! I always love watching Greg Graffin on stage; he’s a man who appears to be living in his own world, enjoying the music and playing off the other members of the band. By the time we walk away with the anthemic generator playing, I’m unsure if the decision to leave early is a wise one… certainly a cursory glance at makes me feel that those who stayed were treated to some absolute bangers.

Absolute bangers is the reason we decided to head for The Menzingers, a band that have built a career out of writing blue collar anthems akin to the best of The Gaslight Anthem and Hot Water Music. I personally think that Tom May and Greg Barnett are two of the best songwriters out there and their ability to craft passionate, heart-on-your-sleeve and fists-in-the-air songs is unrivalled. Prior to taking the stage proper, Greg mills about taking photos of the crowd and generally winding people up to a frenzy whilst Plain White Ts conclude on the adjoining stage. Somehow the big draw and overzealous, excitable crowd earn the ire of Plain White Ts frontman Tom Higgenson, who is constantly asking us to be patient… perhaps the only incident of the day where the duel stage approach fell down. Frankly I don’t think anyone waiting for the Philly foursome cares and as soon as they take to the stage properly and kick off with “Tellin Lies” we’re in party mode. The Menzingers do generate the most amazing and friendly pits and in unison every word of every song is sung as if they are our own words, such is the band’s ability to write such human and relatable tunes. With a set almost exclusively taken from the last three albums, it’s obviously a play to win over any sceptics with all the big hitters getting aired. The pleasant melodies of “Tellin’ Lies” making way for the raucous “Good Things”, which turns the pit into a frenzy of limbs, fists and bodies. Rattling through the set we’re treated to other classics from On The Impossible Past namely “Gates”, “Obituaries” and “Burn After Writing”; all just immensely smile inducing and helping take our minds off the now slow drizzle. It’s also great that personal favourites “I Don’t Wanna Be An Asshole Anymore” and “Casey” are performed, but it’s the newer songs off of my 2017 album of the year After The Party that again really wow. The album’s lead single “Lookers” is performed with aplomb and greeted by the crowd like a returning hero, “Midwestern States” is another great turn by the band and what I’d argue is the single best song of the last few years. “After The Party” is just stunning. As expected they close the set (and our day) with the bombastic “In Remission”. It’s one last chance for the crowd to lose themselves in the music and they do so with the kind of energy you’d expect to see at the start of a set and not towards the end of a day of incredible music.

This concluded our Slam Dunk 2019; if I’d watched anyone else I’d have been disappointed with myself for not closing it on the highest high of the day and as a result we left as the main headliners took to the stage. Frankly we weren’t the only ones who couldn’t bear to watch anyone after the Menzingers and a mini exodus to the exit ensued after their set. Slam Dunk 2019 was a huge success; the new venue was excellent, the layout working really well and a great selection of bands. 2020 has a lot to live up to!!!

This review was written by Richard Mair.

Friday, 14 June 2019

Album Review: Escalating Quickly by Ten Foot Pole (by Dan Peters)

I don’t think I know a single punk who doesn’t have at least one Ten Foot Pole album in their collection. Were you an Unleashed guy like me, or maybe Insider, or for distinguished old school aficionado Rev? When you and your friends couldn’t decide on what to listen to, Ten Foot Pole were always a band that were universally loved. Now, after a 15 year hiatus, Ten Foot Pole are back with a brand new original album. To say I’m happy is an understatement and I’m sure it’s a feeling that’ll be echoed by a great many of you. So without further preamble, let’s dive in and see what’s going on with Escalating Quickly.

Escalating Quickly is so much fun to listen to. Ten Foot Pole have always courted darker subject material and with this new record they are fully embracing dark humour. Lines like “the years will go by, your puppies will die” in opener Everything Dies and the entirety of Don’t Be A Dick could be as at home in a Guttermouth record as they are here. Escalating Quickly is what I’d call a ‘next gen’ skate punk album. Although this is vintage Ten Foot Pole under the hood, they’ve not been afraid to indulge in the benefits of modern recording. Listening to Numb you can hear a lot of extra bells and whistles added including (ironically) retro sounding keyboards amongst a lot of extra vocal effects. On the whole, this leads to this being the best sounding Ten Foot Pole album to date. Now, I’m sure the purists may begrudge all the extra production but I’m a big fan of progress and personally don’t think it does anything but enhance my experience.

Things aren’t all jokes and crude references here and there’s also a very Ten Foot Pole style message of positivity throughout. Songs like the excellent Long Night and Unbroken speak to the difficulty and hopelessness we can feel in our lives but that we can find the strength to carry on. Very powerful stories to be telling in these days when mental health is a topic that’s starting to be taken more seriously than ever. Album finisher Goodbye Sunny Days may be more standard in terms of subject material, being a song about lost relationships, but it is a beautiful acoustic track and the perfect chilled ending to a rollercoaster of an album.

In conclusion, this is an exceptional return to the fray for Ten Foot Pole. Escalating Quickly takes a true to the roots formula and upgrades the sound and quality to reflect a band that has grown with the times in the 15 years they’ve been away from our ears. Massively recommended – expect to see this high on my end of year greatest albums list.

Stream and download Escalating Quickly here:

Like Ten Foot Pole here:

This review was written by Dan Peters.

Thursday, 13 June 2019

Top Tens: Top Ten Songs Colin Discovered On Compilations

You may have heard that CPRW are releasing our first ever compilation album tomorrow (June 14th). I've loved compilation albums since I first started to discover punk rock. I'm sure most people of a similar age to me first started to find many of their favourite bands through cheaply priced label comps in the late 90s and early 2000s. This is how people found new bands before the days of Spotify playlists. For this week's top ten I've decided to put together a list of ten of my favourite songs and bands I discovered through various comps.

Authority Zero – Revolution (Rock Against Bush, 2004)
The Rock Against Bush compilations brought some of the biggest names in punk rock together as Fat Mike attempted to rally the punks together to fight back against George W. Bush's presidency. One band on the compilation that really caught my attention was Authority Zero. Lead singer Jason DeVore's voice really captivated me and he remains my favourite vocalist to this day.

The Briggs – Media Control (Vans Warped Tour Compilation, 2003)
Media Control by The Briggs was one of my first adventures into the world of street punk. I had absolutely no idea what Joey Briggs was singing at the time but the energy of the track just swept me away. They've remained one of my favourite bands ever since hearing Media Control on a Warped Tour compilation released by Side One Dummy Records in 2003 and it makes me sad that I've never seen them live.

Alkaline Trio – Jaked On Green Beers (Atticus… Dragging The Lake, 2002)
I was already well aware of Alkaline Trio before hearing Jaked On Green Beers on the Atticus… Dragging The Lake comp in 2002 but this instantly became my favourite song of theirs. To this day I'm not really sure what it is about the track that makes it stand out from Trio's massive back catalogue of classics but, whenever the topic of what is the Chicago legends' best song comes up, this is always my go to song.

Mad Caddies – Road Rash (Fat Music IV: Life In The Fat Lane, 1999)
Road Rash by The Mad Caddies is a classic in the word of ska punk. I first heard it on the Fat Wreck Chords compilation Life In The Fat Lane and I instantly became a huge Mad Caddies fan. It's such a fun song to dance like a lunatic to – those horns at the beginning of the song are among the most recognisable in the genre. This isn't your standard ska punk song though, also having elements of polka and dixie music – squeezing everything in during just over two minutes of madness.

The Apers – Almost Summer (AMP Pop Punk, 2005)
The Apers were perhaps the first mainland Europe band I ever heard, first discovering them via the song Almost Summer's appearance on a pop punk compilation for AMP Magazine in 2005. At that point I was completely ignorant of punk rock music being from anywhere other than in the UK and United States so to discover this band from Holland playing this blisteringly quick breezy pop punk music was very exciting for me and it opened my eyes to so many fantastic Ramonescore pop punk acts from the mainland.

Less Than Jake – Gainesville Rock City (Craig and Ian Mix CD, 2003-ish I guess)
This wasn't strictly a compilation but more of a mix CD my best friend and his brother put together. The song that stood out the most for me on the CD was Gainesville Rock City by Less Than Jake, who would go on to become my all time favourite band. I love a mix CD to this day, they're such a great way to show people new bands and music. It's the same with playlists in these modern, non-shiny disc days.

The Distillers – I Am A Revenant (Punk-O-Rama 8, 2003)
Punk-O-Rama 8 was the very first of the legendary Epitaph comps I ever got my hands on. Shame on me, I know. The very first song on that compilation was I Am A Revenant by The Distillers. At that time, I had no idea of Distillers lead vocalist Brody Dalle's relationship with Rancid's Tim Armstrong. I just found this ferocious punk rock band that got stuck in my head. This may have been my first ever time listening to a female fronted band and it really opened my eyes to such a thing happening and being really, really good.

Edna's Goldfish – Veronica Sawyer (Moon Ska Europe Label Sampler, 2000)
When I was first getting into ska I was only really aware of the big three – Less Than Jake, Reel Big Fish and The Mighty Mighty Bosstones. Then I stumbled upon a compilation in Virgin Megastores with the word ska written in big bold letters on the cover. I picked it up and noticed that it had featured LTJ and The Bosstones but also a load of bands I'd never heard of with some very interesting names. Edna's Goldfish were track number one on the compilation and I was instantly hooked. What a great voice Brian Diaz has. Veronica Sawyer has become such a favourite in the ska scene that Reel Big Fish still cover this song every now and then.

Slapstick – There's A Metalhead In The Parking Lot (Mailorder Is Fun, 1998)
Slapstick are a band I've become much more of a fan of long after they split. The chaotic style of their ska sound you could argue came much before their time. There's A Metalhead In The Parking Lot first came to my attention on the cult favourite comp Mailorder Is Fun, released by Asian Man Records in 1998. I'm sure you already know that Slapstick members went on to form Alkaline Trio, The Lawrence Arms and The Falcon.

Mustard Plug – You
It isn't just compilation CDs that you discover great new music on. There was a time where you could do the same with VHSs and DVDs. I discovered You by Mustard Plug on a DVD named Punk Rawk Show that I picked up in HMV. Of all the videos on the DVD it was You by Mustard Plug that stuck out and they have remained one of my favourite bands ever since.

Our massive 125 band compilation album comes out tomorrow. Check it out here. Hopefully you find some new favourite bands and songs on it.

This top ten was written by Colin Clark.

Wednesday, 12 June 2019

Album Review: Too Much Information by Planet Smashers

I love Montreal ska legends The Planet Smashers. They are one of the first ska bands that weren't one of the big three (Bosstones, RBF, LTJ) that I really got into and I have been excited by everything the band has released since then. In January of 2016 founding member, guitarist and lead singer Matt Collyer broke his neck. A part of me assumed that this would sadly be the end of the Planet Smashers and understandably so, a broken neck is kind of a big deal. To my amazement, the band were back playing shows in May of the same year and have continued to play shows on a semi-regular basis since, including some visits to the UK and Europe. Last month the Smashers released their ninth studio album, their first in five years, Too Much Information on Stomp Records. I couldn't wait to give this a listen.

Too Much Information begins with its title track. Immediately we are greeted with that trademark Planet Smashers sound. Mixing ska, two tone and punk together to create some of the most danceable sounds around. Too Much Information is about the current culture of sharing everything on social media and how it can become slightly overwhelming. Break My Neck (A Love Song) looks at Collyer's experience when he broke his neck. It's quite a sweet song where he sings that, even though he may not be able to feel parts of his body, his feelings for the people he loves remained strong. As love songs go, this is probably one of the least relatable around but, my goodness, it's good. Patrizio McLellend's organ playing really stands out on the song, adding a lot of playfulness to proceedings. Can't Stop is about a love that borders on obsessive. Here the Smashers show off the edgier side of their sound with Collyer's vocal feeling a lot more serious than the light-hearted, jovial style we're used to and the screechy horn blasts add some drama to the song.

Brain Freeze sees the band show off their sense of humour as they play a song about eating a cold ice cream too quickly. Something a lot of people can probably relate to (not me, because ice-cream = yuck!) and will bring a big smile to their faces. It's a bit of a silly subject but there isn't a band in the world better at pulling something like this off than The Planet Smashers. The fifth song, Aim High, sees the band get a bit funky. Starting out with a summery, good time vibe I found myself instantly wishing for the sun to come out. When the verse hits things change, with the tempo of Collyer's vocals really picking up to the point where he's almost rapping. When the chorus comes back we go back to the good time summer feel that will turn any frowns upside down. The song is about taking a chance and asking out the girl who you think is out of your reach. This is one of my favourite tracks on Too Much Information. Up next is Going Out Solo which is a classic Planet Smashers sing-along – particularly the chorus of "oh, oh, oh, oh, oh, I'm going out solo." That's going to get stuck in your head for a long time. This is some pure unadulterated good times. Superfan has a fantastic building introduction that will quickly get you going into a full skank. This is the first time on the album where the Smashers horn section really get to let loose with a solo that all fans of ska will adore. I can't wait to see this song played live – it's going to be a lot of fun.

Good Vibes kicks the second half of the album off with a hand clapping introduction before the drums come in. I can see this being very popular with a Smashers crowd, all that participation at the beginning of the song. I've just had a lot fun clapping along whilst listening at home. This might be the least danceable song the Smashers have ever written but it's all about clapping along and having a great time doing that. Light In Your Smile is a chilled out love song that will have you grinning like a fool, a very happy fool. This is another big highlight for me on the album. The addition of some percussion gives the track another layer and a very danceable beat. You try and stay still whilst listening to this song! There's also some beautiful harmonies on the song, something that has been lacking a little bit throughout Too Much Information so far. The tenth song is some up-tempo, get your knees up ska punk. Titled Ear Worm, the song is about trying to write a song that will get stuck in people's heads and getting a bit frustrated with it. Al Fecteau (saxophone) and Patrick Taylor (trombone) are the undoubted stars of the show here, laying down some great horn lines. The horn lines continue on the next song, We Ain't Taking It. As you might have guessed, the song is about pushing back against anyone who might be trying to hold you down. I loved the empowering feeling that this song gives off, something that is sometimes missing in ska music.

The twelfth track Hookie continues the up-tempo fun of the last few songs. It's about skipping work and having a day of fun. Sometimes this is important for your mental health. Tempo-wise the song is pretty unrelenting and never really slows down. I think this really helps with the whole theme of the song – it's about having fun and it's a really fun song. This is classic Planet Smashers. The penultimate song is titled What's Going Down? Instantly feeling slightly more serious with a heavier tone to the horns, the song is about reconnecting with old friends. Something we should all try and do from time to time. Those of us who have grown up with the Planet Smashers will no doubt relate to the song. It's also a fairly cathartic song, particularly when you sing the chorus, it will encourage you to do what they're saying. Too Much Information is finished with Runaway. Runaway ensures that the album is concluded with a chilled out song about wanting to escape from your problems and disappear. The track feels a lot softer and a lot more sombre than anything else on Too Much Information, interestingly leaving you feeling a bit sad at the end of the album. Personally, it's not how I like to finish a ska album but you also couldn't put a song like this in the middle of the album as it would ruin the flow. That said, it is a great song in its own right.

The Planet Smashers are on top form on Too Much Information. When a band has been going for as long as they have, there is always a bit of trepidation whenever words "new material" are uttered but this is a fantastic body of work and has me so excited to see them when they return to the UK in August. I still love The Planet Smashers.

Stream and download Too Much Information here:

Like The Planet Smashers here:

This review was written by Colin Clark.

Tuesday, 11 June 2019

Album Review: Live Free by Get It Together

In April, Scottish melodic hardcore band Get It Together released their first full length album since Perspectives in December 2013. Titled Live Free and released on Make-That-A-Take Records, Get It Together manage to storm through thirteen songs in just twenty-seven minutes. Just from that nugget of knowledge, I'm sure that you can guess that Live Free is going to be a high-octane, up-tempo time that's likely to be a lot of fun.

Live Free begins with Eviction Notice. Opening the song with a mix of sirens, a heartbeat and a ominous sounding guitar before things really get going gives the track a bit of tension before it really jumps into life. The song looks at life through the eyes of somebody seeking asylum and how they are doing it, not because they want to take from the country they are moving to but because they want to live in safety and without fear. This flows nicely into the second track Referendamania which is about the complete and utter balls up of the referendum in the UK. Lead singer Mark Fraser sings about his frustrations of "always left with the short end of the stick and we walk away empty handed." In true hardcore tradition, there's a feeling of empowerment in the song that encourages you to fight back and take things back for yourself. Silence is surprisingly the only song on Live Free that falls under the one minute mark. Played at a ridiculously fast speed, with some guitar riffs bordering on heavy metal style shredding, Silence is such a hard hitting track that will leave you breathless. The fourth track, Marching Orders, is about abiding to old laws that don't work in the here and now. Marching Orders is one of many big fist in the air sing-alongs on Live Free. There's a big feeling of unity pouring out of this album that I just love.

Worn Out sees Get It Together move onto the topic of depression. Mark sings about dealing with the symptoms of depression on a day to day basis and how it affects your life. This is one that will be really relatable to many listeners and will hopefully let them know that they are not alone and may even feel cathartic. Track six, Hole In A Head, originally appeared on Get It Together's last EP Rebuild. Recover. Without a doubt the catchiest song on Live Free, I can see a Get It Together crowd getting really excited when they play this. It's about seeing a friend for who they really are and how sometimes you see it too late. This track really takes the term melodic hardcore literally with one of the hardest deliveries of a chorus on the album but when we get to the verse it's so beautifully melodic, making me think of bands such as Strung Out and Good Riddance. On The Brink is a song about how people who are pushed to the edge will make bad decisions. It's only a short song that feels more like a chant, or even a sermon, rather than a song. It works very well at really hitting home its point.

Goodnight Vienna is about being there for a friend you know is in an abusive relationship. It's hard hitting and the music reflects that. It makes you get angry about the situation but can also be very cathartic to anyone in a similar situation. Mark's voice changes from angry to hopeful during the song, really giving the track that extra bit of emotion. The ninth song, Gentleman's Club, starts slowly with a long and threatening introduction before the band launch into a furious song about smashing the current system of all the rich white men in power. The contrast in the slow start and then the following rapid fire section of the song does a fantastic job in portraying the anger that Get It Together have on this subject. Set To Explode sets off at a sprinter’s pace, really dragging you along for the ride. This is without any doubt the hardest track on Live Free so far. This makes sense as it's about bottling your feelings up and feeling ready to really lose your temper. I love how the music reflects the overall meaning of the song, it shows a lot of thought has gone into crafting the song.

Metamorphosis talks about not living up to someone’s expectations and realising that you need to follow your own path in life. This is something most of us in the punk scene will relate to, I'm sure we've all been told at some point that we should do things a certain way and known that it's not for you. This song could become somewhat of an anthem for Get It Together. The penultimate song on Live Free is titled What A Waste. Following on from Metamorphosis, the song also talks about discovering who you are and not wanting to waste your life. This is a short blast of heavy hardcore music that will really get a crowd crashing into each other in between doing some big head-banging. Last up is the five minute epic Without You. Considering the whole album is just 27 minutes, you really get a sense of how short the other songs are given this final jam is five minutes long. Epic is definitely the correct term for the song with its shifts in tempo and melody and some big gang sing-alongs. It's a personal song that's also a tribute to a fallen loved one. It's an extremely powerful piece of song writing and is a fantastic way to finish Live Free.

My favourite type of hardcore punk is the type that gets you hyped up and empowers you. That is certainly what Live Free does. With plenty of political and social songs that will have you wanting to bring down the walls, smash the system, destroy the wheel and all that kind of thing. Fantastic work from Get It Together. Hopefully they don't leave it so long between Live Free and the next album!

Stream and download Live Free here:

Like Get It Together here:

This review was written by Colin Clark.

Thursday, 6 June 2019

Top Tens: Emma’s Top Ten Bands To See At Booze Cruise Festival (Hamburg) 2019

After hearing about how good last year’s festival was, Colin and I are very excited to attend our first Booze Cruise in Hamburg… tomorrow! Here are ten of the bands that I, personally, am most looking forward to seeing (Colin has written his own list which you should also check out!):

I’ve got Brian Fallon of The Gaslight Anthem to thank for my discovery of Indiana five-piece Chamberlain when he tweeted about their album The Moon My Saddle. That was probably almost ten years ago but the album itself is over twenty years old now – and it’s still brilliant. This is Americana-tinged alternative rock at its best. It’s not even all that ‘punk’ but I, like many other attendees of Booze Cruise this year, don’t care. It’s Chamberlain and I never thought I’d get to see them live. 

Dan Webb And The Spiders
There are plenty of bands on this year’s Booze Cruise line-up that I hadn’t listened to prior to them being announced. Dan Webb And The Spiders were one such band that kept coming on on my Booze Cruise playlist and I would think ‘I like this, who is this?’ ‘This’, by the way, is jangly garage punk with hints of folk. Although the four piece are from Boston in the USA, they are no strangers to Germany with their back catalogue available on the excellent Gunner Records. In fact, the band have a brand new album, titled Be Alright, out on said label tomorrow!

Irish Handcuffs
Another band who make their home on the Gunner Records roster, Irish Handcuffs are a punk rock trio from Regensburg, Germany. I reviewed their 2018 EP Comfort In Distraction after stumbling across it on Bandcamp. I instantly found myself hooked on their melodic gruff punk and if you like bands like Elway, Red City Radio or Iron Chic, you’re sure to love Irish Handcuffs too. I’m looking forward to seeing these guys live for the first time in Hamburg, particularly on their home turf (country-wise anyway).

Mercy Union
In a way, Mercy Union are a relatively new band with their debut album The Quarry having been released only last year. Then you look at who is actually in the band, however, and realise that these are veterans of 00s New Jersey punk rock with their previous bands including The Gaslight Anthem, The Scandals and Let Me Run. Their sound doesn’t exactly reinvent the wheel but it takes all of the best bits of their previous bands and combines together to create great soulful punk rock that is both honest and nostalgic. The band didn’t have the best of starts to their European tour, with a load of their gear being stolen in London (more details here), but they are powering through regardless.

Mobina Galore
I never cease to be impressed by two-piece punk bands and none more so than Canadians Mobina Galore. As one of the few bands on this list that I’ve actually seen live before, I can say for certain that this duo put on one hell of a live performance. The pure aggressive energy that Jenna, vocals and guitar, and Marcia, vocals and drums, put into every set is just captivating to watch. That’s why, despite the fact that I saw them in London a few weeks ago, I am very keen to see this band again in Hamburg if I can.

Neighborhood Brats
Despite forming in 2010, Neighborhood Brats are another band that are new to me on this year’s Booze Cruise line-up. This Californian band play catchy yet raw punk rock – with some songs sounding quite poppy while others verge on hardcore. Overall, it’s quite an ‘old school’ sound and so perhaps not what I’m used to – but I think that’s all the more reason for checking Neighborhood Brats out in Hamburg. It’s always good to try something new, after all.

Personal Best
I’d not really properly listened to Personal Best until seeing them support RVIVR in London last year but they thoroughly impressed me on that occasion and left me wondering why on earth I hadn’t listened to them much before. If you don’t know Personal Best, they play a sort of indie punk meets power-pop with sincere and honest lyrics. The band have a new album called What You At out the week after Booze Cruise so I’m looking forward to hearing some new songs live.

Rowan Oak
If you like your punk melodic, heartfelt and, let’s face it, maybe actually a little bit ‘emo’ then Rowan Oak are a band that you need to check out in Hamburg this year. From Münster in Germany, this four piece put out a great little EP earlier this year called Build / Burn. I can’t wait to hear those five songs live – maybe I’ll even have a little sing along.

The Run Up
Another band that I’ll definitely be singing along to are Bristol’s The Run Up. I’ve seen the five piece live plenty of times before but that won’t stop me, and Colin, from seeing them again in Hamburg. Their live show is as passionate as it is fun and their songs are so down-to-earth and relatable that you can’t help but smile. The Run Up are regulars in Germany and bassist Dan actually helped to create the Bristol branch of Booze Cruise this year. (It was two weeks ago, at the time of posting this, and we unfortunately couldn’t make it due to attending other gigs – boo!)

I’m going to go right out and say it… Überyou, from Zürich in Switzerland, are the band I’m most looking forward to seeing, for the first time or otherwise, at Booze Cruise 2019. Their album Night Shifts is one of my absolute favourites released this year so far – I hope I can pick up a vinyl copy in Hamburg. If you like your punk rock to be melodic, gruff, hugely singalong-able and to encourage you to get your fist in the air – and I certainly do – then Überyou are the band for you. I’m so excited to see them and you should be too!

This top ten was written by Emma Prew.

Tuesday, 4 June 2019

Gig Review: Slam Dunk Festival (South), Hatfield House 26/5/19

Slam Dunk Festival has become a highlight of the alternative music calendar in the UK since its inception in 2006. The festival has grown bigger and bigger over the years and this year was the first time it featured two completely outdoor sites. I went to my first Slam Dunk in 2013 and went for the following four years. In 2018 we decided not to go as the price continued to go up and, to be honest, the line-up wasn't doing it for me as much as in previous years. Plus I'm not overly keen on outdoor festivals. I was happy with the decision not to go in 2018 and didn't expect to go in 2019. Then the Punk In Drublic stage was announced and we quickly changed our minds.

The day arrived for Slam Dunk South at Hatfield House and I was pretty excited. We jumped into the car and made the forty-five minute drive from Bedford, looking forward to going to a gig that was actually pretty local for a change. As we arrived at the festival and saw the queue of cars we were slightly worried that we might not make it in quickly enough for the opening band. To our delight, and surprise, though we were actually able to get parked up, into the festival grounds and use the toilets pretty quickly. Using the programme to locate it, we hurried over to the Punk In Drublic stage for The Bombpops but not before bumping into all our pals from the New Cross Inn in South London.

I had already seen California four piece The Bombpops playing a small show in New Cross a few days before so it was really interesting to see them on a much bigger stage with a much bigger crowd. It was nice to see that so many people had arrived early to see them, something they seemed extremely thankful for. The Bombpops are definitely a band I prefer live compared to on record. The sugary sweet harmonies from Poli and Jen have a bit more snarl and attitude to them live, making it feel much more punk than pop. They owned the huge stage, clearly not daunted by the size of the crowd they were playing to. It was great to see these two magnificent women kicking all kinds of butt on a festival that has been known to have a reputation for having a very male heavy line-up. I feel like it must have been very empowering for the women in the crowd watching. What a great way to kick off the day!

Following on from The Bombpops were Pittsburgh political punk legends Anti-Flag. It says a lot for the quality of this bill that Anti-Flag were on so early in the day. I wondered if the early start might mean people might not get into it as much as they might have later on in the day. This wasn't the case as Anti-Flag remain one of the very best live bands around. From the opening cries of "you gotta die, you gotta die, you gotta die for the government" the crowd were off in a full-on sing-along which also included plenty fists in the air, moshing and crowd surfing. Anti-Flag played what was basically a best of set with favourites such as Turncoat, The Press Corpse, This Is The End and Fuck Police Brutality all getting great receptions. Bass player Chris #2 is a fantastic ringleader, really involving the crowd in the set and giving us all a sense of being in it together as one. Some lovely feelings of unity. In true Anti-Flag style, the set was finished in the crowd with a great rendition of Brandenburg Gate.

Changing things up dramatically on the Punk In Drublic stage were California's Mad Caddies. We'd popped off to quickly get some delicious vegan food and got back to find our group having a great time dancing to the classic Leavin’. It feels like ages since I've seen the Caddies but it was like putting on an old pair of comfortable shoes, singing and dancing along to so many of my favourite songs. The Caddies are approaching twenty-five years as a band so have so many great tracks to choose from. It was actually a pretty old school set with songs like Monkeys, Weird Beard and Road Rash really getting me dancing. They teased playing Macho Nachos before going straight into either Shoot Out The Lights or Brand New Scar from Dirty Rice. Last year the Caddies released a covers album and we were treated to a great version of Propagandhi's ...And We Thought That Nation-States Were a Bad Idea. Ending with the long version of All American Badass was the best way to finish a really fun set. I'm dying for the Caddies to play a small pub show next time they’re over, at the New Cross Inn obviously. That would be all the kinds of amazing.

The Interrupters are perhaps the most talked about band in ska punk currently. Last year’s Fight The Good Fight album put a lot of eyes, mine included, on them and there was a lot of excitement for their set. As soon as Aimee Interrupter and the Bivona brothers took to the stage and started A Friend Like Me the crowd were off into a skanking frenzy. I can't remember the last time that I've seen a band connect with their crowd like The Interrupters do. This LA quartet are ridiculously tight and extremely well drilled in their performance. It feels slick and fun but not too over-rehearsed, with plenty of songs about unity, friendship and family that really resonated with the Slam Dunk crowd. Never a band to ignore their connection to Rancid/Operation Ivy's Tim Armstrong, they played what's become a now expected cover mashup of Time Bomb and Sound System which I loved and danced along happily to. The highlight for me though was when they finished with This Is My Family. It was extra meaningful being surrounded by so many of my chosen punk rock family.

After The Interrupters we took some time to wander away from the Punk In Drublic stage to go and see Lightyear's Chas Palmer-Williams on the acoustic stage. After almost walking down a stretch of bushes that seemed to have become a makeshift urinal area, we found the acoustic stage which was amongst a quaint little tree-ed area on a tiny stage that looked like something you might find in a posh garden. Slam Dunk did a great job of making this stage feel more intimate. Chas's set was a lot of fun if not a bit of a shambles. It was a glorious shambles though, played with a lovable charm that I have come to expect whenever I see Lightyear or Chas. Mostly playing songs from his solo album, American Smile, British Teeth, Chas thoroughly entertained the crowd. At one point of the set he started a conga line lead by someone dressed as a cardboard Nigel Farage. For his final song he played the Lightyear favourite Pack Of Dogs and somehow ended up with Nick Horne of Sonic Boom Six playing kazoo and a chap from the audience providing backing vocals. Like I said, it was a shambles but it was so much fun.

We then headed back to the Punk In Drublic stage where Swedish skate punk legends Millencolin were already in full flight. I only had time to stay for a few songs before running off to check out Saves The Day (as I'd never seen them live before) but it was good to see Millencolin seemingly on top form. This made it increasingly difficult to pull myself away. Among the songs I did get to see were Fox, Twenty Two and True Brew which was very nice. Hopefully Millencolin will be back over for their own tour soon enough so I can see them properly.

We made our way over to the Dickies stage where a big crowd were already in attendance. New Jersey's Saves The Day were wowing the crowd with their emo pop punk stylings. Sadly, for me, it didn't really live up to what I thought it would be. I really enjoyed hearing Shoulder To The Wheel live but other than that it didn't really stick. I don't know if there was something up with the vocals or if it was because I wasn't as familiar with the songs they played but for me it was a little bit of a letdown. From the look of the crowd though, it was just me who felt like this. There were plenty of people who were enjoying themselves.

After a quick toilet and food break, we made our way back to Punk In Drublic for Lagwagon. I've now seen a good number of Lagwagon sets over the years and this might go down as one of the best yet. Playing a career spanning set with so many favourites, it was just a joy to be stood in a massive field singing along to so many songs of my youth with plenty of like minded people. When Lagwagon are on it, there aren't many bands from that 90s skate punk era that I enjoy more. Never a band that stands still, it was great to see guitarists Chris Flippin and Chris Rest and bassist Joe Raposo bouncing around the stage. Playing big favourites such as Violins, Falling Apart, After You My Friend, Razor Burn and, of course, May 16, this was exactly what I wanted from a Lagwagon set.

Up next were one of the bands I was most excited about, Gainesville ska punk kings Less Than Jake. Less Than Jake are big favourites at Slam Dunk, this was their fourth time playing the festival and the beginnings of a rain shower did not prevent a massive crowd from gathering. Unfortunately long time trombone player Buddy couldn't make the festival but what a stand in they had with The Mighty Mighty Bosstones’ Chris Rhodes. Starting the set with Gainesville Rock City immediately got the crowd going wild. They joked that they would be playing all of their fast songs as they were at the Punk In Drublic stage. They weren't lying either as they blasted through Nervous In The Alley, Plastic Cup Politics and Short Fuse Burning. It was a bit of a relief when they did decide to slow things down for The Science Of Selling Yourself Short (where they were joined by Billy Kottage of Reel Big Fish and, for this tour, The Interrupters). Of course, this got a huge sing-along. It was a newer Less Than Jake song that was my probably my highlight of the entire weekend however. Halfway through Whatever The Weather, the sun finally began to pop out from behind the rain clouds. Less Than Jake bringing the Florida sunshine with them – eventually. Finishing with Look What Happened, Last One Out Of Liberty City and All My Best Friends Are Metalheads ensured the set was finished in a big way. My goodness, Less Than Jake continue to put on one hell of a show.

Without a doubt the hardest clash of the festival for us was Bad Religion and The Menzingers. We decided to watch the first half of Bad Religion before heading back to the Dickies stage for The Menzingers. We decided it would be best to hang around the back of the crowd as we would need to dash across the festival site to get a good spot for The Menzingers. Bad Religion have now been a band for thirty-nine years and have released seventeen full length albums. I can't imagine how difficult it must be to put together a setlist from so many songs. They manage it though and it's banger after banger. Greg Graffin continues to have one of the best voices in the game and the harmonies are forever on point. We only had time for the first nine songs but it did include favourites such as Fuck You, Generator, Stranger Than Fiction, I Want To Conquer The World and 21st Century Digital Boy. Looking at the setlist afterwards, it seems we missed Los Angeles Is Burning, Sorrow and American Jesus but we had places to go, bands to see. There's a reason Bad Religion are known as the godfathers of punk rock and it's not just because of how long they've been around – it's because they're still the among the very best.

Philadelphia's The Menzingers were given the task of closing the Dickies stage. If you have seen The Menzingers before then you know this was something they were more than capable of doing. In the build up for Slam Dunk I'd seen in various social media groups that this would be a lot of people’s first time seeing The Menzingers – they would be in for a treat! Beginning with the excellent Tellin' Lies, this was the start of an hour of big sing-alongs – perhaps some of the biggest of the entire day. Playing a set that only consisted of tracks from their last three albums, it very much seemed as if this was a set designed for newer fans of the band but it certainly didn't prevent any old schoolers having the time of their lives. It's hard not to enjoy yourself singing along to so many favourites such as The Obituaries, Good Things, After The Party, Casey, Burn After Writing, Gates and Lookers. We were also treated to newer song, The Freaks, possibly from the band’s upcoming new album. As had been a theme for the entire evening, the weather was a mix of sunshine and showers. At one point during The Menzingers set a double rainbow occurred which had everyone turning away from the stage to see it – after Tom May pointed it out. I turned round and had the pleasure of getting to see the chap behind me using a plastic up as a portable urinal, oh Slam Dunk people you are a lovely bunch. I'm assuming that the weather was causing a bit of bother for the electrical equipment at the stage as during the band’s final song, Nice Things, the sound cut out. It didn't prevent the crowd from having one last massive sing-along to finish the set however. We are already looking forward to seeing The Menzingers again when they next come to the UK.

For our last band of the day, we headed back to the Punk In Drublic stage where NOFX would be closing Slam Dunk. I approached the set with a lot of trepidation as the last time I saw NOFX they had sucked – and not in a fun and charming way, they were really bad. I know NOFX can be very hit or miss live but it really put me off them as a band and it had me feeling like I couldn't really be bothered to go and see them again. I'm glad I didn't just go home after The Menzingers though and I did stick around for NOFX because on this night they reminded me just why I loved them so much. This was the best I'd seen them in years. Starting out with 60% and then (almost) going straight into Dinosaurs Will Die it was clear that this would be one of those NOFX sets that just clicked. Of course, it wouldn't be a NOFX set without a good amount of talking between songs but for once it didn't take away from my enjoyment – Fat Mike was on top top form. The highlight was some good natured ribbing of Anti-Flag's Chris #2's punk rock jumps. #2 later joined the band, after a little encouragement, to perform one of his jumps. Much like pretty much every other band on this stage, NOFX has a lot of songs to choose from for their set but somehow managed to pick the majority of my favourites. Obviously classics such as Linoleum, Bob and The Separation Of Church And Skate got played. It was also great to hear Perfect Government, Stickin' In My Eye, Eat The Meek and The Brews. One of the most emotional moments of the day happened when they played I'm So Sorry Tony, a song about NUFAN's Tony Sly, somebody I'm sure everyone playing the Punk In Drublic show had some kind of relationship with. Finishing the set with Lori Meyers (where they were joined by Poli and Jen Bombpops), Kill All The White Man and then finally Don't Call Me White, this was my favourite ever NOFX performance. It really did reignite my love for the band.

I had had a really fun day out at Slam Dunk Festival. I was really impressed with my first visit to the new site. I know there was some trouble with the queues at some of the bars but for the most part I didn't find I had to queue for anything for longer that fifteen minutes and found it very easy to get around. The bands were fantastic but, for me, the biggest highlight was being able to spend time with so many pals from all over who were at the festival and just seeing them all having such a lovely time.

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

Album Review: Life You Choose by Home Conflict (by Omar Ramlugon)

Home Conflict are an up and coming band from Zagreb, Croatia, whose classic three piece line up recalls bands like Face to Face and early Green Day. ‘Life You Choose’ serves as their debut release. The line up consists of Marin Lugović on guitar and vocals, Tihomir Kerežia on bass guitar and second vocals and Filip Kramarić behind the drum kit.

Opening with ‘Never Let You Down’’s ferocious drum roll, the early comparison to Face to Face is perhaps an ideal point of reference, as the band’s tight, hard-driving sound is heavily reminiscent of the California quartet’s Don’t Turn Away to Big Choice era. ‘World On My Knees’ begins with an ominous recollections of famous young musicians and their untimely end, with a sense of fear and desperation conveyed by lyrics like “I care for what you see / I care for what I'll end up to be”. ‘Pact With The Devil’ takes a bold left turn, with mournful violins and arpeggiated guitar figures stepping in to offset the previous powerchord muscle for a moment, before the snarling riffs kick back in. The dense, powerful chorus here recalls Billy Talent’s slower material – which is intended as a compliment. ‘Society’ and ‘I Have A Feeling’ are great slices of ’90s Cali punk revival, with their aggressive finger-pointing delivered with the requisite snotty fury.

It’s without question that Home Conflict have spent a lot of time making sure that they are as tight as possible before going into record and it really shows; the ripping guitar solo in ‘Purgatory’ blows back your hair and, on the whole, there’s a sense that this is a real labour of love. There are small flourishes here and there in the songs that reward a careful listen and the vocal harmonies recall the melodic precision of Bad Religion. It does have to be said that this kind of punk rock sound has been well worn over the years, but that’s not the band’s fault that it is so hard to break new ground. Life You Choose is played with passion and conviction and, with songs like ‘Bill Of Exchange’ and ‘I Wonder’ in their repertoire, Home Conflict are on the right path and have delivered a confident and thoroughly enjoyable debut. Keep an eye out for them in the future!

Stream and download Life You Choose here:

Like Home Conflict here:

This review was written by Omar Ramlugon.

Monday, 3 June 2019

Gig Review: The Dreadnoughts at New Cross Inn, London 25/5/19 (by Emma Prew)

What a year it has been for gigs at the New Cross Inn already and we’re not even half way through 2019 yet! I was particularly looking forward to a Be Sharp Promotions show featuring legendary DIY sea shanty singing, cider swilling, polka punks The Dreadnoughts this bank holiday weekend. From Vancouver, Canada, The Dreadnoughts are probably my favourite band of all time of the ‘folk punk’ variety. Having seen the band a couple of times before, I knew this was going to be a wild and memorable show – certainly not one to miss. It was very nearly sold out in the days running up to the show and I imagine the last few tickets were snapped up on the night.

We weren’t able to get down for the very start of the show due to work commitments earlier in the day but we arrived in time to see the tail end of the opening band’s set. The Filthy Spectacula, a pirate-meets-steampunk themed folk band, were playing to a pretty large audience all things considered – The Dreadnoughts fans are certainly punctual. The five-piece, which consisted of an accordion player and a violinist alongside guitar, bass and drums, were doing a fine job of getting the party started and encouraging folk to dance. Visually the band were definitely a spectacle but musically it was straight up gypsy folk with a dash of punk. Perhaps not quite as quirky as their appearance made out but still good fun.

Next up were Mick O’Toole, a five-piece from the West Country – home of cider and, more specifically, cider punk. Instantly showing they knew how to win over a crowd, Mick O’Toole had the New Cross Inn participating in a singalong with their first song. This is clearly a band that has practiced their live show, probably at many a UK festival, and knows how to put on a good show. Playing a brand of folk punk not too dissimilar to that of The Pogues, although without Shane McGowan’s trademark drawl, they had the room moving and merrily singing along throughout their set. The cider-themed songs went down particularly well but then this was a Dreadnoughts show after all, so of course that would be the case. Finishing things up with a cover of Dirty Old Town (made famous by The Dubliners but it was The Pogues version I thought of) was a smart move.

When Be Sharp Promotions first announced this show, I could think of no better band for a support slot than Hastings aggro folk punks Matilda’s Scoundrels. They are, in my opinion, the very best folk punk band in UK DIY punk rock and were very deserving of a place on this line-up. That and they’re also a damn good live band. It had been almost two years since I had last seen Matilda’s Scoundrels so I was eager to see them live again. By this point of the evening, the New Cross Inn was pretty packed and from the first note things started to get joyfully rowdy. I see Matilda’s Scoundrels as more of a punk band with folk instruments – accordion, mandolin, banjo, whistle – rather than a folk band with a bit of punk, which is definitely the case when watching the band live. It’s angry and raucous but is also fun to dance to – or row to, as was the case for Sinking In Their Sins when the band had everyone sit down and form ‘row boats’. Their setlist mostly consisted of tracks from the band’s debut album, As The Tide Turns, but they also threw in older drinking song Pisshead’s Anthem – again, a theme that goes down well with a Dreadnoughts crowd – before finishing up with my favourite song, Godforsaken Sea. 

Then it was time for the evening’s main event… THE MIGHTY DREADNOUGHTS! At least after they finished sound checking which, to be fair, was entertaining in itself with each band member playing their own part in what felt like an on-stage jam session. Then we just had to participate in some warm-up aerobic stretches, as instructed by Dreadnoughts lead vocalist and guitarist Nick, before we were prepared mentally and physically for an hour of pure chaos. Kicking their set off with the fast-paced Antarctica from the band’s 2007 debut album instantly opened up a mosh pit, which Nick acknowledged by saying something along the lines of ‘Watch out for those around you in the mosh pit… because the floor might cave in.’ (As a regular at the New Cross Inn, this is a concern of mine!) After the classic song, the band switched things up and played a few songs from their most recent album, the masterpiece that is Foreign Skies. It’s an epic album on recording and the songs are quite simply brought to life in a live setting. The album’s title track and the singalong-inducing Back Home Bristol (despite not being in the West Country) went down a storm. From then on it was a mixture of tracks from the band’s whole back catalogue including Polka Never Dies, Old Maui, Amiens Polka and Turbo Island. There were guest appearances from members of Smokey Bastard and Surfin’ Turnips and plenty of amusing in between song chat, including the band having not seen the Game Of Thrones finale and not quite understanding who Theresa May is/was. We were also treated to a new sea shanty-style song about cider – obviously – that the band have written for their next album – hurrah, there’s going to be a next album! The Dreadnoughts are a band that want to have fun in their live show, and you could say that they don’t take themselves too seriously, but at the same time they are such incredible musicians and performers. It’s just the perfect balance. The Dreadnoughts at the New Cross Inn did not disappoint in the slightest and ensured that they retained their place in my top live bands of all time. What a night!

This gig review was written by Emma Prew. (Photos also by Emma.)

Album Review: Grow Up Trash by Problem Daughter

I first became aware of Problem Daughter following the release of their 2016 album Fits Of Disorganized Boredom. I instantly fell in love with lead singer Regan Ashton's raspy vocals as well as the big sing-alongs that could be found throughout the album. Fits Of Disorganized Boredom had been played a lot in CPRW towers since its release and we were super excited to discover that the Salt Lake City four piece would be releasing a brand new album on Wiretap Records, as well as with our friends in Belgium Bearded Punk Records, in early spring. Titled Grow Up Trash, the album features ten brand new songs that I was really looking forward to hearing.

Grow Up Trash begins with the song Pocket Sand. Beginning with a sombre sounding guitar strum, Ashton emotionally shouts out "I never thought I would grow up trash", as a nice nod to the album’s tile, before things really get started and we get a verse with some really self-deprecating lyrics. A common theme for Problem Daughter is switching up tempos and melodies quite dramatically during their songs and that's what happens here. The chorus is a slow foot stomper that builds to the uptempo verses that add so much energy. Up next is Mercury In Retrograde. On this track, Problem Daughter take everything you're taught about song structure and melody and throw it away. This is a glorious free-for-all where anything could happen. It works well with the song’s topic, living life with a carefree attitude and not being accountable for anything. The song is packed with punchy sing-along moments that quickly get ingrained in your mind, which is just marvellous. Modern Stigmata was one of two singles Problem Daughter released before Grow Up Trash came out and it was an instant hit for me. It is more of a standard, sing-along punk track with simple structure and melodies and the band show that when they do write music in this way they blow most other bands out of the water. I feel like this one is going to be a huge favourite with a Problem Daughter crowd as it's another ear worm that you'll be singing loud and proud back at the band. The track is about dealing with a mental health issue and realising that life goes on for everyone around you.

The fourth track is the brilliantly titled Take A Walk On The Mild Side. The track starts out giving you the impression that it's going to be a bit of a foot stomper before we get this beautiful guitar riff that fills the song with energy. The song really comes into its own during the final stretch when we do get that foot stomper moment and Ashton sings/chants "what could I do to make a sad girl happy?" over and over again. Such a good way to finish the song. Jagweed is a big highlight on Grow Up Trash. The slow start really welcomes the listener into a song that is packed with more critical statements that have been made about Ashton that have made him feel like giving up before deciding to own who he is and stopping caring what others might think. This is one of the poppiest songs on the album and another that you'll be singing for days after you listen to it. Up next is the other single from Grow Up Trash – Self Amusing Smile. This was the first one released in the build up and really wet my appetite for the upcoming album. At the end of this year, when I think about my favourite songs of 2019, I am very confident that Self Amusing Smile will be one of the first in those thoughts. The song takes you on a bit of a journey, from feeling terrified of the world to gaining the strength to not only look after yourself but also the people that you love. I really enjoyed how much the track feels like an anthem, hopefully it will inspire people.

Lancaster is a shorter, fast paced track filled with some punchy vocals which bring all the energy to the song. Lancaster is about being a bad friend and owning up to that fact. Like I said, it's a shorter track but it does a great job with keeping the momentum of the album going. The eight track on Grow Up Trash is titled A Bastard's Hope. The first thing that really stands out on the song is the guitar part that links up the intro and the main portion of the song, it's a slice of pop punk perfection. The song travels along in this poppy style before abruptly switching to a stabby style that adds a bit more attitude to the song. The penultimate song is named Tired About It. It's a song about trying to make people see the good in you. The lyrics in the chorus "cause we're diamonds in dirt, pearls in the sand" are among my favourites of the year, if not of all time. They just give you a nice, positive feeling about who you are. I absolutely adore a song that gives you that empowering feeling. Grow Up Trash finishes with Gin + Mio. It's another empowering song to finish the album in a positive way. It talks about going after your dreams and passions no matter what negative thoughts people around you might have. Problem Daughter channel their inner Lawrence Arms on the song and it sounds really big. What a fantastic way to finish Grow Up Trash.

I hyped this album up a lot before I listened to it and I am so pleased to say that it didn't disappoint. Like any second album should do, there is clear progression here but the band haven't stepped away from what I loved about them in the first place – that makes me happy. Now Problem Daughter are on a European record label, I do hope that means that at some point soon they'll be making their way to the UK.

Stream and download Grow Up Trash here:

Like Problem Daughter here:

This review was written by Colin Clark.