Wednesday, 8 December 2021

Album Review: Noise Noise Noise by The Last Gang (by Ilse R. Smit)

CW: Mention of sexual assault and related trauma when discussing New Skin (#7).

I’ve basically been waiting for months to write a review for the new The Last Gang album, and I’m so excited the time has finally come! Noise Noise Noise, the second album released under Fat Wreck Chords, was released on October 8th, produced by Cameron Webb (who also worked on their previous album, Keep Them Counting), Fat Mike (NOFX) and Yotam Ben Horin (Useless ID). In April 2019, I went to Dortmund to see Bad Cop/Bad Cop play. Dortmund is fairly close and easy to reach through public transport from where I live in the Netherlands. Also the ticket price was affordable to begin with, and somehow they managed to book eight bands ranging from local bands (Molly Punch, Detlef, Scherben) to international acts such as Not On Tour and, you guessed it, The Last Gang.

I’ve been a fan of the band ever since I heard Sing For Your Supper for the first time, as I was preparing myself for the trip. And while the point here is to talk music, I have to point out that this band consists of lovely people. I didn’t get to talk to all of them that much, but they were all super nice. Mind you, I didn’t even get to see them play that night. The stage was low, maybe even floor level, and the room was packed by the time I came in. I did end up seeing their performance later that tour, when they opened for Less Than Jake (with Belgian support band The Rocket) in Dynamo, Eindhoven (NL). I know for a fact that they were pretty tired earlier that day, as they’d been touring pretty much non-stop for about a week and a half. However, as soon as they set foot on stage, they gave it their everything. You would’ve never been able to tell. The performance was on point on all the levels you can imagine and I can’t wait to see them again in 2022.

I’m basically giving you the music review version of food-bloggers that post recipes underneath their life story and I’m sorry. Kind of. TLDR: I love this band. Now, if you’ll allow me, please let me walk you through The Last Gang’s Noise Noise Noise.

We start off with the title track, one of the more reggae infused songs on the album. I’ll admit that I’m not too familiar with reggae, I quite like what they’ve done though! The choice to open with a track that is a bit more dreamy/laid back, instead of a song that blows through your ears like it just burst through your front door is an interesting one, something it has in common with the song itself in my opinion. It’s definitely not what I expected to hear with the title being ‘Noise Noise Noise’. When listening to this song, you can hear singer and guitarist Brenna Red wander through her memories of the scene she grew up in, that things aren’t the way they were back in the day. There are a couple of instances where the song really builds up, only to fall right back into its preceding energy-level. While that can be really frustrating in some instances, I think it really suits the song. Just as Red is about to snap out of her day dream-like state fuelled by these memories, it’s the music that drags her back into it. It makes the song haunting, in a way. Random note: the lyric “Take the 42 north past Electric to ride” makes me think of SNL’s Californians. No? Just me?

WFTW, the second track, stands for “We Fucked The World”. I decided to read the lyrics before I listened to the song for the first time and I’m impressed. The lyrics are quite dark, but they make it sound so catchy and fun! I wanna dance to this song about how the world is on fire and how it’s all our fault. You can tell that the lyrics have been written somewhere in the past year and a half. The song is a bit more upbeat, changing tempos here and there to let those reggae elements shine. I have a feeling we’ll get to hear more of it as the record progresses, but I think this song also showcases Brenna’s range. One moment her voice sounds very warm, a tad edgy (kind of like if Dan Andriano’s voice and Matt Skiba’s voice had a baby), a moment later she’s loud, on the brink of screaming. Around the midpoint of the song we are gifted a wonderful guitar solo by Ken Aquino. Although Ken is not an unfamiliar face if you’ve been able to catch the band live the past couple years, this is his first TLG record, as their lead guitarist. The outro is fairly long, which I didn’t really expect of the second song. It makes me wonder whether they’ll “come back”. They don’t, but I’m okay with that. We’re floating, slowly drifting away. Where to? Only the next track can tell.

The drifting quickly turns into the straight forward punk rock song Prosthetic Lost Cause. The band does a very good job in creating some sort eeriness and intensity in the verses, an ambiance I love to bathe in. The lyrics are interesting, as it deals with mental health issues and the side effects it brings along. It’s not a sad song though, it’s more about immersing yourself in that darkness and loving it. There’s definitely times during the periods I’ve been depressed where I felt a similar way. That I was able to see beauty in that darkness and that, in a way, I enjoyed feeling miserable. And although I think the song comes at it from a different perspective, I appreciate its content. The bridge brings back that floaty feeling I was mentioning earlier. The song is over before you know it though, a good one to put on repeat when you’re in a particular kind of mood (or any mood for that matter).

Enter Shameless, the fourth track. Remember Brenna’s exceptional voice I mentioned earlier? This is the track. The track is an homage to Trump if you will, haha. I’m sure we all have people in our lives, in politics or in our day to day, that are just downright horrible and we just can’t wait to see them crash and burn. It’s so frustrating when they just keep getting out of situations unscathed, keep getting away with their bullshit. If that sounds recognisable, this is your new punk rock anthem. It’ll help keeping your eye on the prize, taking the high road is overrated. You’re welcome.

Panic Dreaming starts off as a campfire-y song. Very minimal, just vocals and an acoustic guitar, later accompanied by bass. Not for long though, because the band quickly flips the switch and goes all amplified and out. The vulnerability of the acoustic part really suits the main question in the song: what happens after we die? It’s a topic most people don’t like to talk about and the mental cycles we can spiral into are scary. I love the timing of the heavy powerchords that come in as Brenna sings “Panic Dreaming Dystopia” because I think that’s exactly what that would sound like! It gets more upbeat after that though, because it would have been too heavy/confronting if the rest of the song wasn’t as darn melodic as it is. Special shout out to the backing vocals.

Gimme Action can definitely be classified as a call to, well, action. I can’t imagine this song not being inspired by the insurgence of the BLM movement we’ve seen this past year and I appreciate that. In the track by track breakdown on Brooklyn Vegan, Brenna tells more about the chorus and the story of La Mulâtresse Solitude. I don’t think I’ve heard about her before, but her story is both awe inspiring and grim. I really encourage you to read it, we don’t spend enough time learning about people like her and I’m glad I did (a little bit). On a lighter note: I usually have a hard time (compared to other instruments) distinguishing the bass from the rest of the music in songs. If you’re anything like me in that regard, this song makes it very easy for us to enjoy and appreciate Sean Viele’s bass skills and, for that, I am grateful.

New Skin really hits home. It’s kind of painful to listen to, because of how relatable and real it is. I don’t want to group survivors of sexual assault together with people who have not been in similar situation, but at the end of the day pretty much every woman or person of another marginalised gender has been affected by sexually transgressive behaviour or feel like they need to protect themselves from it. It’s also very powerful though, we don’t have to deal with this all by ourselves and that feeling of togetherness also resonates with me as I listen to this song. Musically and vocally it’s definitely a solid song, although I do wonder if it’ll be a track I’ll put on repeat a lot after writing about it. And for anyone who needs to hear it: you’re not broken, but it’s okay if that how you’re feeling right now.

We pick back up with Paris Green, a very cheery song about how the world is on fire: environmental edition. Money can buy you many things, but a liveable planet for future generations? We’re not quite there (yet… Fucking space race). I love all the different topics that have passed the review so far. Really makes you think about how capitalism/(neo)colonialism/imperialism is really fucking things up. *Puts on Gimme Action again.*

Second to last is Intelligence Is A Plague, referring to the time we live in where facts are considered opinions and vice versa. A very current topic unfortunately. The track is a bit grungy, I can’t quite put my finger on it and I don’t have the right words for it, but the guitar sound (I don’t know effect names) and the way Brenna Red sings really go there. The 6/8 time is cool too. If you’re a layman like me, that means that instead of dividing a beat in two, the one-and, it’s divided in three with emphasis on the first count. If that doesn’t help, you’ll hear it when you listen to the drums. Learning (together) is fun! But it’s kind of an odd track in that way, very different with all those different elements thrown together – very cool. If I hadn’t known any better, I think it would have made a good closer of the album. The lower tempo and the different vocal harmonies/backings really give the outro a very drifty feel and it could have easily ended there. But it doesn’t!

To The King has a bit of a dramatic/theatrical intro and I’m here for it. The album goes out with a bang though, because To The King is haunting in an enjoyable way. It has everything – lyrics you can belt out (that’ll be so much fun live), some final guitar-heavy showing off parts, range, drama and intrigue. I feel like it could be in a musical/rock opera. I think that, out of all the songs, the meaning/lyrics of this one is the most metaphorical which might also give it the more theatrical vibe I’m getting. It’s about pursuing ones passion and having to jump through hoops, having to compromise to be able to continue that pursuit. This song is surely not the only track where this is the case, but I have to point out Robert’s drumming. Not only do I think that it’s excellent, there’s this pattern/rhythm thing he does in several songs – for the life of me I have no idea what it’s called (cool story bro). What I do know is that I really like it and I’m always stoked to hear it. So Robert, whatever it is you’re doing, keep doing it! Anyway, great finish!

Overall opinion: amazing album. Some things jump out more than others, but I really like all the different elements that can be found when listening to Noise Noise Noise front to back. I’m sure as I listen to it more in the future, I’ll still find new things that’ll suddenly stand out to me. I pretty much always appreciate songs about social issues and, well, The Last Gang is just really good at doing what they do! Keep it up Gang!

Stream and download Noise Noise Noise here.

Follow The Last Gang on Facebook and Instagram.

This review was written by Ilse R. Smit.

Monday, 6 December 2021

Album Review: All We Could Afford by The Strikeouts (by Brett Coomer)

The Strikeouts is a punk rock band from Sweden made up of 5 guys who like punk rock. They have a cool logo and have recently released an EP called All We Could Afford. That’s about as much information I was able to find from the Internet about them but that’s OK, the 7 songs on this EP speak for themselves and offer a great introduction to the band.

The opening track and first single, ‘Fake News’, is about the inauthentic “influencers” that seem to dominate social media with their obvious bias and paid-for opinions. The hard-hitting drums and catchy chorus make ‘Fake News’ a great example of what to expect from the rest of the EP.

At first, ‘Somethings Gotta Give’ feels more light-hearted in its lyrics; but, after listening closely, the song reveals a desire to be less cynical in a world full of things you hate and to find a different perspective. It’s one of the more pop-punky tracks on the EP, although it doesn’t stray too far outside of the skate punk lane by including a few lead guitar riffs and featuring a pogo-worthy breakdown around the half-way mark.

‘Breaking Point’ turns the energy levels up again, speeding things up a bit to get our heads bobbing and testing the rhythm-challenged amongst us to tap our foot faster while staying in time. The background “woah-woah”s and “how much more”s throughout the song make me think this would be a great song for crowd participation. The energy level is maintained with track four, ‘Slammed’, which reminds me of the best parts of Pennywise. I can easily imagine the bassist asking for the Randy Bradbury “Full Circle” settings before pressing record in the studio.

‘This Goddamn Generation’ is the second single and another song that tends towards a more pop-punk influence. It has a super catchy chorus with a great melody and a message about how newer generations are sometimes unfairly criticised without the understanding that they are not only influenced by the world around them but also the earlier generations that brought them up.

For a slight change of pace, ‘Intimidate Me’ offers some variation with cleaner and groove-laden verses moving into heavier double-time choruses. The mid-tempo parts of the song never feel out of place and show that the band is capable of crafting a song with dynamics that harken back to the likes of Rise Against.

The last track, ‘Flat Earth Anthem’, starts off with drums and guitar riffs that feel like they could be outtakes from Strung Out’s early catalogue. It’s the shortest song and is fun and fast with a big ending. It’s a great way to conclude the EP, making you want to click that repeat button and start again.

Throughout All We Could Afford, The Strikeouts make no attempt to hide their leanings toward melodic skate punk with a few pop-punk and technical flourishes added in to keep things fresh. They execute it really well and the nods to the “EpiFat” 90s era punk offers comfortable feelings of nostalgia and makes for a very enjoyable listen. If you’re a fan of bands like FOD, Mute, Rise Against or the non-frat aspect of Pennywise, you will have blast listening to this EP, which I hope is a taste of more to come from The Strikeouts.

Stream All We Could Afford from these places and like The Strikeouts on Facebook here.

This review was written by Brett Coomer.

Friday, 3 December 2021

CPRW Playlist: November 2021

CPRW Playlist: Here's what Brett, Chris, Dan#2, Emma, Ilse, John, Lara, Lee, Marcus, Omar, Rich, Richard, Robyn, Theo and myself have been listening to in November.

Thursday, 2 December 2021

Gig Review: Breakup Haircut at New Cross Inn, London 16/11/21

Ever since seeing Dundee’s ALLDEEPENDS at Book Yer Ane Fest in 2019, I’ve been desperate to see them again. Obviously a pandemic delayed that enormously but things began to get better and, to my surprise and delight, ALLDEEPENDS got booked at for a gig at my beloved New Cross Inn by Alright Mate Promotions. They were on a fantastic looking mixed genre bill with Tim Loud, Making Friends and Breakup Haircut and I could not wait for the night to come around.

Tim Loud opened the show with his own brand of acoustic/country punk. Tim had been on tour throughout the UK prior to the show and this was my first time seeing him live since an early edition of MPF where he did the show wearing some striking face paint. Tim is a fantastic songwriter, musician and storyteller and it was fantastic to see him back on stage again. It wasn’t the biggest of crowds, it was early on a Tuesday night after all, but Tim managed to captivate the crowd whether it was with his six string, twelve string, his harmonica or voice. I’ve said this before – and Tim put it on his tour poster – but he is an exceptionally talented individual. The set was sprinkled with old favourites and some new ones written during lockdown. A mixture of slower bluesy numbers and rowdier anthems, all played with a lot of charm and passion. It was good to see Tim play live again.

ALLDEEPENDS were the next band to take to the stage. The three piece had also been on a short UK tour and had been making new friends wherever they had been. I know from punk celebrity Sarah of Shout Louder that they had had a particularly impressive showing in Manchester earlier in the tour. I’m not sure many of the fine folk at the gig had much of an idea what to expect from the band when they took to the stage but they certainly became fans thirty minutes later. For those unaware, ALLDEEPENDS play a crunching mix of folk and hardcore with rapid fire vocals and massive hooks. They are one of the most unique and interesting bands in the UK at the moment. The set was a mixture of songs from their debut EP My Name Is and some unreleased tracks that I assume will be on their debut LP – whenever they get that out to the world. As I stood watching the stage I heard some folk around me comment how good the drumming was, as well as my favourite quote of the night – “I didn’t know you could make that noise with a banjo.” Nicholas, John and Hooligan played a stunning set and I hope it’s not long before they’re back in New Cross. I’m positive that they’ll be very welcome.

Up next were a band I had heard a lot of great things about and was looking forward to seeing live for the first time, Brighton’s Making Friends. Fronted by Ryan Mansell, formerly of Fastfade, the band play super fast, melodic skate punk that wouldn’t feel out of place on a 90s Fat Wreck compilation. The foursome launched into the set with a lot of energy and burned through their songs. I’m not sure I’ve ever seen a band squeeze that many songs into a thirty minute set. I assume they played all the songs they’ve released so far plus some unreleased material. I was super impressed with how tight the band were. At this point, they can’t have played that many shows together but it looked as if they had been playing together for years and years. It was also clear that the band were having a lot of fun together on the stage and this feeling definitely spilled into the crowd. At one point, I assume to catch their breath, they took a moment to shout out seemingly everyone in the room which was nice. Making Friends seem to be playing as many gigs as possible right now, so if you get the chance to see them I highly recommend you take it. A fantastic new band in the UK skate punk scene.

The last band of the night was Breakup Haircut from London. I first became aware of the band thanks to my good buddy Katie MF and have had the pleasure of featuring them on CPRW and CPRW Records in the past but this was my first time seeing them live. To be honest, I wasn’t really sure what to expect from the band in a live setting but I was pleasantly surprised and seriously impressed. Playing a fun brand of indie and garage pop punk, it didn’t take long for Breakup Haircut to get the NXI crowd moving. I can’t remember the last time I saw a band whose music was so infectious. Breakup Haircut managed to get the audience in the palm of their collective hands almost instantly and it was bloody wonderful. Despite still being a relatively new band on the scene, I believe they met and formed at a First Timers workshop at DIY Space For London (RIP) a couple of years ago, the band had such confidence on the stage and were an absolute joy to watch. It was nice to see the band utilise three different singers, all with their own unique style but all still feeling very Breakup Haircut. The between song banter was also extremely charming, as the band playfully joked around with everyone. It felt like they were letting everyone else in the room into their little gang. I really enjoyed the set and was quite sad that we had to chip off a little before their set finished to catch our train home. I look forward to seeing them live again, hopefully soon. Is it over-exaggerating to say that Breakup Haircut may be the future of the UK indie punk scene? Maybe, but it also wouldn’t surprise me to see them really take off. Check them out before they do!

Thanks to Alright Mate Promotions for a wonderful Tuesday night of punk rock. It was a lovely time, with lovely people and fantastically talented bands. What more could anyone want on a Tuesday night?

This review was written by Colin Clark.

Wednesday, 1 December 2021

Album Review: Glow On by Turnstile (by Richard Mair)

Invention in hardcore can go one of two ways. Taking landmark albums such as Converge’s ‘Jane Doe’ and Refused’s ‘Shape Of Punk To Come’, they can either double down on the ferocity, becoming almost too intense and visceral whilst bludgeoning the audience to submission through cavalcades of frenetic noise like the former or alternatively incorporate elements from disparate scenes and sounds to extend the palette of hardcore – such as jazz, dance and pop like the latter. Both approaches are needed and whilst the Converge approach is unlikely to bring a new audience, instead helping retain advocates and more than likely fostering a more rabid and passionate fan base for the scene, the second is certainly needed to help re-profile what hardcore can be.

Currently acting as the new nexus for hardcore Baltimore, Maryland’s leading lights Turnstile return with an album that pushes the boundary in much the same way as ‘The Shape Of Punk To Come’ did in 1999. Perhaps more linear than Refused’s masterpiece, ‘Glow On’ is arguably the next brilliant crossover album the scene has been yearning for over the best part of a quarter of a decade. This is pop hardcore; not like the unique (and bonkers) pop hardcore noise of The Armed but perhaps more akin to The Movielife’s ‘This Time Next Year’. Sure, it’s a softer more polished album than their previous full lengths; yet its DNA is unashamedly in the rhythmic hook-laden hardcore they’ve become synonymous with. Despite the gloss and sheen, this is a hardcore album. Will it polarise opinion? Undoubtedly. Will it take Turnstile to a much larger audience? Inevitably. And this is certainly a good thing when you look at the excellent and diverse acts coming out of Baltimore at the moment from the politically charged, self-aware metalcore tinged Sharptooth to the east coast youth core revivalists of End It; you would hope they would elevate their scene to new heights. In essence, Turnstile are sure to be ushering in a new golden age of hardcore.

‘Glow On’ is not a perfect album. Before we get carried away it does have its flaws. The obvious one being that some of the songs need more. The biggest culprit of this is album closer ‘Lonely Dezires’. As an album it builds to what should be an epic closer, and yet at 2:42 it feels too short; especially as it feels it would naturally round out with a big chorus instead of the more electronic tinged melody that seems to put a stop to proceedings a little premature. It’s also likely that the desire to push boundaries comes at the expense of creating a coherent flow and rhythm (something predecessor ‘Time And Space’ balanced perfectly); consequently at times it can feel disjointed. The flow in the middle of the album for example feels a little off with ‘Alien Love Call’ (an excellent song in its own right) sitting uncomfortably next to the more traditional hardcore songs of ‘Wild Wrld’ and ‘Fly Again’.

These are little niggles and probably missteps that stand out given how great the album actually is. Opening track ‘Mystery’ sets the tone for the album and it’s very clearly a Turnstile song of old, although subtly introducing some of the electronic flourishes that permeate through the whole album. It’s a juggernaut of a hook-ridden song with a pre-chorus that helps elevate the chorus proper to one of epic proportions. The song is likely to be described as ‘limbs’ when heard in a live setting.

Following ‘Mystery’ is ‘Blackout’, which is just a masterclass in beats and grooves; especially through the verses. Yet its chorus is simple, effective, rammed with melody and in every sense reminiscent of songs that Turnstile were producing on their early EPs; complete with a very typical hardcore beat down. It’s absolutely a song that hardcore purists will love. Rounding out the opening section is ‘Don’t Play’, a song that has tinges of early Smash-era Offspring (think ‘LAPD’ / ‘Tehran’ / ‘Come Out And Play’); complete with a very skate-punk intro. Underpinning much of the song is a really neat melody that highlights the creative approach the band have taken with ‘Glow On’. All opening three songs are standouts and yet it’s the 4th song that really demonstrates their growth and progression…

‘Underwater Boi’ has all the hallmarks and tropes of a hardcore song (chugging riffs but slowed right down, beat downs although delivered by a voice as opposed to an instrument). It’s the perfect deconstruction of a hardcore song into something brand new. It’s so different to anything they’ve done before and yet works perfectly in the context of the album. It’s a genuinely fun song. The same thing can be said of the 80s vibe that runs through ‘New Heart Design’, with its Duran Duran style verses. This creativity extends to the inclusion of the aforementioned ‘Alien Love Call’ which features Blood Orange / Dev Hynes as a guest and again demonstrates how versatile hardcore can be in the right hands.

‘Holiday’ and ‘Humanoid / Shake It Up’ both have a feel of ‘Time And Space’ about them. ‘Holiday’ in particular is all about the groove, where as ‘Humanoid’ has a distinctly Ramones-inspired hardcore-ness about it, especially the vocal delivery. This is where the album really works; despite all its forward leaning pretensions its these nods to the past when aligned with the new that give the album its sparkle. This extends to the most traditionally hardcore, lyric based song: ‘Turnstile Love Connection’ with its ‘Thank you for letting me be myself’ self-actualisation chant; which comes across as a love letter to the scene for recognising their success in developing their sound and allowing them to be true to themselves.

‘Lonely Dezires’ closes the album; and whilst it’s a great song in its own right it feels lacking as a closer given what has come before; and rather than ending with a bang, which would be more fitting, it means the album feels like it fades away (unless you see this as subverting expectation in a way that only Turnstile can). It’s a small gripe, as a stand-alone song it’s brilliant, but in the wider context it falls a little flat. I’m sure many will disagree!

The real stand out performance on the album has to be the rhythm / percussion section of Franz Lyons and Daniel Fang – genuinely, they have laid a marker down for others. The changes in tempo and rhythm they orchestrate are outstanding; ‘Dance Off’ and ‘Wild Wrld’ in particular showcase their talents. One nerdy statement to make is that it needs to be heard in the best format possible. Listening to Glow On through a Dolby Atmos set up it takes on a whole new depths and layers as beats and voices cascade from all directions. Mike Elizondo’s work on the production (and synths) is truly outstanding and needs to be recognised.

Returning to the fun element, hardcore is often a genre that is – by its nature – very serious and yet this album has an innate care-free feel about it. It’s genuinely fun with a broad everyman vibe. It’s a hardcore album for people who like to dance and sing to the music as opposed to get angry and throw their fists in the air as proclamation of the truths of the hardcore band in front of them. This appeal is crucial and whilst I’m much more of a fan of the political tinged, angry vitriolic hardcore, this is a perfect gateway for people to discover bands such as Bane, Battery, Have Heart, American Nightmare, Converge or Rotting Out, that may at one time felt intimidating. Coupled with this, hardcore is in a really healthy place at the moment; The Armed have released a genuine masterpiece this year and acts such as Power Alone, Initiate and Sharptooth are providing a much needed feminist lens to a once male dominated scene. Finally, One Step Closer have dropped an incredible album that is likely to benefit off of the back of the interest in ‘Glow On’; and in doing so taking them to a much wider audience than they could have expected with their debut full length. After the recent emo revival, it really feels like the next wave of hardcore is ready for its time in the sun.

I’ve seen a lot of love for this album already and rightly so. It is an incredible piece of work that stands to elevate Turnstile to almost unheard levels for a hardcore band, such is its crossover appeal. It is flawed; yet that makes it all the more real and natural. Does it eclipse ‘Time And Space’… I’m not so sure; however what it does do is firmly cement Turnstile as one of the most forward thinking, accessible and essential bands currently laying beatdowns down.

Stream and download Glow On from your chosen music provider and like Turnstile on Facebook here.

This review was written by Richard Mair.

Monday, 29 November 2021

Album Review: Fuck These Fuckin' Fascists by The Muslims (by Theo Martin-Herbert)

In what might be both one of the most important punk releases in a long time and a litmus test for your friends, The Muslims have put out one of the most necessarily divisive and deliciously corrosive punk albums with “Fuck these Fuckin' Fascists”.

This is an absolutely fearless release that remembers the key in making this kind of statement work – don't forget the music. Choruses so catchy you'll find yourself throwing these mantras out in your spare time and loving every minute of it, combined with some fantastic song titles and guitar tones more akin to razor wire you'll happily throw yourself into than anything that's come out for a while. I found myself enjoying this more than I ever hoped I would have based on the single released shortly before this.

You know you're onto a winner when you release something that angers the right people and this is exactly what this release does with the kind of confident and giddy energy people could only dream would accompany this. The conversation surrounding this, from what I've seen, seeks to reclaim punk as something to educate without fear or needing to pander to the whataboutisms and well actuallys that normally seek to dominate and neuter any criticism. A defiant and important release, I can't recommend this enough and I hope you all check it out. Whether it challenges you or you agree, it's a great time and is the kind of venom we need.

Stream and download Fuck These Fuckin' Fascists on Bandcamp here.

Like The Muslims on Facebook here.

This review was written by Theo Martin-Herbert.

Thursday, 25 November 2021

Top Tens: Craig "C-Rage" Darran's Top Ten (Eleven) Bands He's Never Seen

If you're reading this, I've finally seen my thousandth band. Little did I know when I started my infamous spreadsheet back in September 2004 that I'd still be using it 17 years later to document hundreds of acts per year. Heck, in 2004 I was so green I don't think I even realised there were more than a thousand bands! It's been a long road, in the last 17 years I've seen some truly bucket list sets and musical greats, I've seen history being made and stages being destroyed. I've seen legendary bands, terrible bands, unexpected reunions, countless album shows, three "last ever" Capdown shows and six or seven different line-ups of Reel Big Fish. I've made life-long friendships, smashed three cameras, been bruised, muddied, scarred and soaked. I have, without a doubt, loved every second of it.

So, what's left to do now, I hear you ask? After 1000, who's left to see that's worth seeing? Well, I guess the short answer is, there's always more bands! But thanks to time, deaths, career changes and break-ups, my spreadsheet will never be as full as I'd like. Below are eleven bands that I really want to see but probably (and, in most cases, definitely) will never get to add to my list.

Queen (with Freddie Mercury)

Let's get the obvious ones out of the way first. Queen. Over the years I've managed to catch a few surprise appearances from Brian May and Roger Taylor but never (and obviously) the full ensemble. When I was first introduced to classic rock music by my parents as a child, I had plenty of acts to choose from – Thin Lizzy, Dire Straits, Deep Purple, Black Sabbath, to name a few. In those early days, no car journey was complete without a blast of ‘Another One Bites The Dust’ or ‘Bohemian Rhapsody’, but what really set Queen apart from the other classic rock bands was Freddie's powerful voice, charisma, and the sheer theatrics of his performance. Seeing videos of Freddie perform in front of the Live Aid audience and watching the crowd eat from the palm of his hand was mesmerising – this was what it was like to be in the presence of a true Rock God. I'm not normally a fan of big stadium acts but I'd have loved a chance to have experienced that for myself.


I think everyone of a certain age that listens to alternative music has a soft spot for Nirvana. When I was first discovering modern rock as a teenager my neighbour gave me a bootlegged copy of Nirvana's "best songs" which I listened to obsessively until the CD died. Compared to the classic rock that I'd been used to, Nirvana felt heavier and hit harder whilst also feeling more personal and intimate. The story of Kurt's life as the reluctant rock star and conspiracy theories surrounding his death only added to my intrigue. As a fellow lefty, Kurt was a big influence on my guitar playing with a DVD of MTV Unplugged becoming my go-to training resource when I first started learning – almost 20 years later I'm pretty sure I can still play all of Nevermind. My first ever music festival was Reading which was well known to have been host to the largest (and last) UK performance the band ever played back in 1992. In front of the main stage, I could only imagine what that last gig would have been like. If anyone ever figures out time travel, that'd be my first stop on my way back to the Jurassic Period.

Avril Lavigne (Early 2000s, before they replaced her with Melissa)

When I was at college between 2002–2004, I lived close enough to class to be able to spend my free periods (and sometimes lunches) at home. I used to put on the Freeview music channels like The Hits and TMF and watch what was current whilst eating instant noodles. The channels were mostly filled with terrible pop (like Atomic Kitten's awful cover of ‘The Tide Is High’) so I'd switch between them trying to find rock songs or fun music videos (like Jr Senior's Move Your Feet). It was during this time that I discovered Offspring, Muse, System of A Down, Incubus and a whole bunch of other bands that in the years following I would see at various gigs and festivals. It was also during that time that I discovered ‘Complicated’, ‘Sk8r Boi’ and eventually the album Let Go which I absolutely loved. Unfortunately, I had to keep that love a secret because back in those days it was uncool to admit to liking Avril Lavigne. Thanks to that, I never saw her live when I had the chance, which I now really regret. I haven't really kept up with many of her more recent songs or albums but whenever I hear anything from that first or second album, I'm instantly transported back to those college years.

Crush 40

I imagine this is probably the most obscure band on the list. Crush 40 play high tempo, technical hard rock. After discovering that I'd been listening to Bad Religion and Offspring for years in Crazy Taxi without realising, I decided to revisit other video game soundtracks from my childhood and discovered Crush 40 – the band responsible for all the Sonic Adventure songs. Crush 40 are a musical partnership between Jun Senoue a composer for Sega video games (as far back as Sonic the Hedgehog 3) and Johnny Gioeli, the vocalist of 90s hard rock band Hardline. They originally formed to record the main theme for Sonic Adventure but have subsequently gone on to record most of the music for all following Sonic video games and spin offs. Thanks to Sonic fandom, they've performed live on a number of occasions, and I was lucky enough to see Jun Senoue play a full band show at the Garage in late 2019 (which was amazing but it only covered their instrumental tracks). Hopefully one day I'll get to see them both together.

Ten Foot Pole

Of all the bands on this list, Ten Foot Pole probably feels like the one I'm most likely going to see at some point – I've been begging Paul Smith of BeSharp Promotions to book them for years! Back when I was first discovering punk was my favourite type of music, I spontaneously bought Punk-O-Rama Volume 3 (mostly because of the word "punk") and through it I was introduced to my first batch of Epitaph bands. I really loved the song 'A.D.D' towards the end of the comp and soon afterwards purchased the Ten Foot Pole album, Unleashed. I loved the tempo and the album's themes of loss and alienation but mostly the fact I had a new favourite band that no one else knew about. I soon tracked down more Ten Foot Pole albums but they never really grabbed me like the first, and not long afterwards I discovered the Descendents so that was the end of that. I might not listen much anymore, but they'll always be my gateway to less mainstream music and I'm surprised that after twenty years I've still not seen them.

The Weakerthans

The first Weakerthans song I heard was called ‘A Plea From A Cat Named Virtute’ on the Epitaph comp Punk-O-Rama Volume 9. A song about a person dealing with deep depression told from the perspective of their adoring but confused cat – I'm pretty sure I cried. I instantly bought two albums, Left And Leaving and Reconstruction Site but was left pretty indifferent by them. I put this down to discovering them quite early in my musical taste's evolution, at a time where all I wanted to hear were fast, overdriven guitars – The Weakethans were just a little too peaceful for me. Fast forward to my mid to late 20s, a random conversation with someone lead to me discovering that Virtute had a sequel song called ‘Virtute The Cat Explains Her Departure’ – probably the most depressing song ever told from a cat's perspective. I listened to it and cried again. Now with a more developed taste I was able to listen to Weakerthans again with fresh ears and damn, they're such a great band. ‘Aside’ from Left And leaving is absolutely one of my favourite songs ever and I'm so cross with myself that it took so long to appreciate them properly. As far as I can tell, they haven't toured since 2013 and are on indefinite hiatus. I do hope I'll get to see them one day.

Farewell Continental

To those that know me, it's no secret that Motion City Soundtrack are my favourite band. Imagine how happy I was in 2012 when I discovered that their vocalist, Justin Pierre had a lesser-known side project called Farewell Continental. A far less poppy outfit than Motion City Soundtrack, FC play a style I can only describe as experimental, sonic garage rock. Justin is joined on vocals by the band's keyboardist Kari Gray and the two duet together with lyrics far less personal but more metaphorical than MCS, covering a range of topics from dreaming to war. Farewell Continental don't seem to have performed together since February 2012 and with Justin working on his solo career and a reunion tour with Motion City Soundtrack, I don't see them reforming again soon, if at all. I was lucky enough to catch Justin perform two or three Farewell Continental songs on his solo tour a couple of years ago, but I'd love the opportunity to see them tackled by the full band.

Dance Hall Crashers

I believe the Dance Hall Crashers were one of my last CD purchases before I moved away from solid copies to streaming. I'm not really sure how I discovered them either, maybe it was an early Spotify recommendation? Either way, when I heard the dual harmonies of Karina Denike and Elyse Rogers over high energy, joyous ska punk I was sold. After a little research I also discovered that the band was started at the famous Gilman Street venue in Berkeley California by none other than Operation Ivy and Rancid members Matt Freeman and Tim Armstrong. I have to admit I prefer the horn accompanied songs from their earlier albums to the more punk rock inspired songs of their later releases but as a whole their music is solid, catchy and pretty unique thanks to the aforementioned vocal harmonies. I absolutely love the song ‘Skinhead BBQ’! It makes me wonder why they never took off to the same extent as some of their Gilman contemporaries. DHC haven't performed together since 2008 with no sign of a reunion on the horizon, though you've probably heard Karina sing and play keys on some of the more recent NOFX releases.


I remember back in 2014, Paul Smith was adamant that I listen to his latest musical discovery Masked Intruder, and after seeing them live at Groezrock in 2015 I was completely hooked. One of their songs, Heart Shaped Guitar, incorporates vocals from guest singer Maura Weaver whose voice I instantly loved. After a little YouTube search I discovered their band Mixtapes, and the songs 'Hope Is For People' and 'Bad Parts'. Mixtapes began in Cincinnati, Ohio, as an acoustic musical partnership between Weaver and Ryan Rockwell before expanding to a full pop punk band with acoustic elements. I enjoyed the duets between the two singers and the stream of consciousness, introspective almost conversational lyrics about all manner of subjects. Despite being quite literal, I always read the lyrics as learning to be ok with yourself whilst accepting the rut you've found yourself in, something I heavily related to in my late 20s. Mixtapes went on indefinite hiatus in 2014 (though they've definitely played some reunion shows since) with little hope of there ever being another UK performance. Ryan and Maura have since moved onto other musical projects, one of which, Ogikubo Station, I was lucky enough to catch at the New Cross Inn a few years back. If only I'd discovered Mixtapes a couple years earlier, I could have seen them play Hevy Fest 2012 (which I was at!).

Atom And His Package

During lockdown I moved in with my partner, Kate. Without gigs, or anything social happening, we spent much of our free time building Lego sets, like, a LOT of Lego sets. It was while building Lego that she began to introduce me to lots of old bands she loved. Eventually our main Lego soundtrack would become Hair:Debatable, the live album and final show by synth punk legend (and possibly the godfather of Nerdcore) Atom And His Package. Atom, also known as Adam Goren, has played in a number of punk bands over the years but is best known for his one-man-band, Atom And His Package. As Atom, Goren plays synthesisers and guitar and produces music that sounds a bit like punk played through a SNES or Megadrive. Lyrically he's clearly very intelligent but often chooses humorous subjects, like ‘I'm Downright Amazed At What I Can Destroy With Just A Hammer’ and ‘Lord It's Hard To Be Happy When You're Not Using The Metric System’. He occasionally touches on politics, and regularly highlights the faults and hypocrisies of less self-aware members of the punk and metal communities, with choruses like "Oh, I get it. Anarchy means that you litter". Atom stopped touring in 2003 and has since become a Physics and Chemistry teacher in Pennsylvania. Although he's played a couple of reunion shows at Fest, it's pretty doubtful we'll ever see him play the UK again.

Minor Threat

Thought I'd save a big one until last. Over the years I've been lucky enough to see all manner of bands from the early years of punk, The Damned, Buzzcocks, Sex Pistols, Black Flag, Dead Kennedys to name but a few, but one band I'll never get to add to that list is Minor Threat. Forming in 1980 in Washington DC and only lasting for three years, the band built upon the emerging hardcore style pioneered by Bad Brains and Black Flag by combining the aggression and high energy of the two with an incredibly strong moral code and DIY ethic. The band produced some of the most influential hardcore songs of all time and even spawned the Straight Edge subculture thanks to singer Ian MacKaye's lyrics, in the song of the same name, about his personal abstinence from drugs and alcohol. Eventually, MacKaye's moral code would lead to the break-up of the band, citing the violence at hardcore shows (as well as disagreements in musical direction) as his major reason for disbanding. The members of the band would end up continuing their musical careers in a number of other influential bands, such as Fugazi, Bad Religion and Dag Nasty. I've seen plenty of fuzzy videos of Minor Threat playing live on YouTube, it's probably the closest I'll ever get to being in the pit – it’s probably safer that way.