Friday, 13 December 2019

Gig Review: Reel Big Fish at Islington Academy, London 18/11/19

I don't go to that many big academy shows anymore but when a line up like the one I saw on Monday night is announced it's impossible to miss. Ska punk legends Reel Big Fish were in the UK on a massive tour and had UK genre stalwarts [Spunge] and Lightyear as supports. All three of those bands played a very formative role in my love of punk and ska and getting the chance to see them play a show together was a marvellous opportunity.

Throughout the tour, [Spunge] and Lightyear had been rotating main support slots. On this occasion it was the turn of [Spunge] to be main support which meant Lightyear had the task of opening the night. For this tour, Chas, Neil and Ben would be joined on stage by Pook from Redeemon, Bob from The JB Conspiracy, Ric from Eat The Evidence and their usual stage tech Calvin. Unfortunately, part way through the tour Neil got sick so wouldn’t be able to play. In true Lightyear style though, the band played on and still gave a very memorable half hour. Within seconds of the first song, Chas was in the crowd screaming down the mic to a very bemused crowd. Whenever I see Lightyear I always wonder what the uninitiated must be thinking. With just a half hour set to work with the band zoomed through their set, packing in as many songs as possible but also finding time for all of the usual Lightyear shenanigans including the Morris dancing breakdown during Blindside and Chas coming out to the Black Beauty theme whilst dressed as a jockey riding Pook who was dressed as a horse. Playing favourites such as Life Jacket, Water Wings, Positive Outlook and a new song which I've forgotten the name of before finishing with A Pack Of Dogs where they set up the drum kit in the crowd so their usual drummer Jim could finish the track, Lightyear proved once again why they are one of the most entertaining live bands ever. Massive respect to the stand-ins helping them out. They all did superb jobs.

Up next were [Spunge]. Regular readers of CPRW will know what an influential band they were/are for me. Basically, without [Spunge] I would never have found the world of underground punk and ska and life would be very different (perhaps I'd get more sleep and spend less time on trains?). By this stage of the night, the Islington Academy was already pretty full and I was pleased to see the crowd being extremely receptive. Recently, the band released a brand new live album titled Live In 'Nam… (Cheltenham) and would be playing that set throughout the tour. It's rare for a band to announce their set beforehand but I thought this was a great idea for new listeners of the band to get a feel for what to expect and learn some words. It was a best of set, with the band playing through their most beloved songs. It always puts the biggest smile on my face when I get to sing and dance along to favourites such as Roots, Skanking Song, Some Suck Some Rock, Jump On Demand and Kicking Pigeons. The band were on top form, though I don't think I've ever seen them play a bad set. During the set, the band gave us a bit of a surprise when they played a brand new song titled No One Said It Was Easy. When I heard it on Spotify when they first released it, I quickly fell in love with it and it was fantastic to hear the song live. I love that [Spunge], after all these years, are still passionate about writing new music and it's still so good. For me, [Spunge] are a timeless band who I will happily listen to and go and see live for as long as they keep going. They haven't stopped in twenty years so I hope it won't end anytime soon!

It was now time for Reel Big Fish. One of the biggest names in ska punk were back in the UK touring their newest album Life Sucks… Let's Dance. By this point, we've all seen Reel Big Fish countless times so you know pretty much what's coming. That, however, never stops it being a lot of fun! From the start, the packed crowd were gleefully skanking and moshing but then three songs in they played Sell Out and the wildness of the crowd went up a lot of notches. Of course, I enjoyed all the old favourites but it was also very nice hearing songs from Life Sucks… Let's Dance live for the first time. For various reasons I haven't listened to the new album yet, so it was very refreshing to hear brand new Reel Big Fish songs live for the first time and I have to say I was very impressed. The tracks fit into their set wonderfully. Of course, it wouldn't be a Reel Big Fish show without some covers thrown in, the standard Monkey Man, Brown Eyed Girl and Take On Me were all played but there was also a brilliant moment that caught me off guard where they played a ska version of Jimmy Eat World's The Middle. This went down very well with a lot of the crowd. There's a reason Reel Big Fish have been as popular as they are for such a long time (they formed in 1991!), they're the very best at what they do. Not only do they write incredibly catchy and danceable tunes but they know exactly how to entertain a crowd when they perform live. This is why people continue to come out to see them over and over again, you know you're guaranteed a fantastic night.

As big package tour ska punk shows go, I can't think of many better that I've been to than this once. In my eyes, I got to see three legendary bands in the genre and had a great time singing along to so many classics from all three bands surrounded by great friends. Big love to the whole crowd, I was flyering Do It Together Fest after the show finished and met so many lovely people.

This gig review was written by Colin Clark. (Photos also by Colin.)

Thursday, 12 December 2019

Top Tens: Richard's Top Ten Boysetsfire Songs

Celebrating 25 years in the business with their first trip to these shores in 4 years, emocore/hardcore pioneers Boysetsfire returned for what promised to be a career spanning celebration of pounding beats, soaring melodies and plenty of shout along moments. This week, just after their triumphant return, Boysestfire’s resident superfan Rich Mair gives us his top 10 essential tunes to get you in the mood!

25 years in the business is some milestone; especially for a band who have faced the challenges and adversity of Boysetsfire. Anyone who knows me will know how much I adore the work of this band and what they stand for. I’d argue that few groups have consistently delivered such quality and stayed true to their message and sound; albeit a sound that can go from straight up hardcore bruisers, to poignant emo ballads whilst remaining true to their values and ethos. As a result, this top 10 will focus on particular characteristics of the band’s back catalogue as opposed to a straight up list of their best songs whilst referencing other songs you may want to check out if unfamiliar with the band.

1. The hardcore song – Bled Dry ( Bled Dry single / Self-titled)

Given the sheer volume of hardcore bangers they have put out over the years, my absolute favourite circle pit inducing monster is this track from the 7” single of the same name (and later from the self-titled album) from the end of their hiatus. Whilst any returning band would think to go for a palatable radio friendly pastiche of their previous sounds, BSF instead opted for an abrasive, aggressive and blistering aural assault to mark their return. It’s a proper hardcore tune that is a clear statement of intent. This isn’t a band looking for a pay check; this is a group of people angry and disillusioned with society. A society which exploits and uses people for personal gain, where the rich get richer and the poor are made to work for scraps and to keep their masters in power. The vitriol of Nathan Gray’s lyrics (take opening lines “Hate is a strong word but not strong enough for a vision so bereft of life”) emphasises the contempt the band have for law makers and the powerful elite who neglect their responsibilities to create a fairer society. Set to immensely aggressive and brutal music, this was (and still is) a reminder of how essential they are.

See also: Until Nothing Remains (While A Nation Sleeps), Don’t Panic (Self-titled), Suckerpunch Training (Suckerpunch Training 7”)

2. The rousing album opener – After The Eulogy (After The Eulogy)

Like many people, my first experience of BSF was through their Victory Records debut. So incredible was that album I can still recall hearing it for the first time; and this was the first song I heard. Ahilst the chanting voices at the start followed by the rolling drums were nothing particularly new, what followed rooted me to the spot. “After The Eulogy” remains both a masterclass and master stroke in introducing an album. Nathan Gray’s anguished pleas of “Rise” calling people to arms, before he recognises that we are all written off, lost our way and living in a selfish consumerist world. Such is the song’s success that it incorporates so many iconic lyrics and opportunities to scream your lungs out. From the aforementioned “Rise” to the mantra “Where’s your anger? Where’s your fucking rage?”. It’s a perfect album opener for a hardcore band. After 3:30 minutes, you’ve been pummelled into submission... and want to do it all again.

See also: Eviction Article (Tomorrow Come Today), Walk Astray (The Misery Index)

3. The skate punk song – One Match (Self-titled)

Although not typically a genre you’d associate with BSF, One Match is a brilliant interpretation of a skate punk song with its big whoa-whoas, fast melodic music, sing-a-long vocals and a real sexy bass line. Amongst the anger driven and politically motivated songs, something that is essentially a bouncing pop-punk song really stands out. Smile inducing (with an edge) it shows you don’t have to make angry music to be angry!

See also: Phone Call (4AM) (While a Nation Sleeps)

4. The sing-a-long – Rookie (After the Eulogy)

One thing BSF do better than anyone is create a sense of community around their songs. “Rookie” is arguably one of the most brilliant experiences I’ve ever had in a pit; all down to the delivery of one line in particular. However, from the moment the guitars kick in over that bass line, it’s a song that demands you sing every word with passion! The one lyric in question is in the song’s closing stages and has the brilliant ability to speak to people in a way that few others do. “... you’ll forget me when I’m gone” speaks to our innate feeling to be wanted and needed. Sung by a group of outsiders, punks and freaks, it’s a magical experience! Coming in as the second track on “After The Eulogy”, it instantly turns the hardcore pounding of the title track on its head and really showcases the range and versatility of the band.

See also: Handful Of Redemption (Tomorrow Come Today), Cavity (In Chrysalis)

5. The call to arms album closer – On In Five (Tomorrow Come Today)

The band acknowledge that the creation of Tomorrow Come Today took them to breaking point. That said, it still has some amazing moments such as the album’s closing track “On In Five”. Ranging from pure hardcore verses to melodic choruses, it peaks at its conclusion with a full on Snapcase style metal tinged culmination; it’s Nathan at his angriest demanding that this is “not a test”. It’s an exhilarating ending to an album and easily one of their strongest songs period!

See also: Force Majure (After the Eulogy), Bled Dry (Self-titled) A far Cry (The Misery Index), Prey (While A Nation Sleeps)

6. The ballad – My Life in the Knife Trade (After the Eulogy)

Even after 20 years, this song still hits all the feels. To think that a Hardcore band could deliver something so beautiful, heartbreaking and fragile in the late 90s was pretty hard to fathom; let alone a risk with the potential to alienate some of the more hardcore elements of the fan base. Instead it’s a song that every BSF fan will agree is as iconic as it is personal. The songwriting is just gorgeous, the delivery full of angst, regret and hurt and the melody and song construction perfect. My Life In The Knife Trade remains a staple of the set list to this day, it’s a song people love to hear and love to sing along to. The first time I heard it I got goosebumps and to this day regardless of which version I hear it has the same effect (and at last count I had 6 different versions of this)!

See also: Torches To Paradise (Self-titled), 10 And Counting (The Misery Index)

7. The B-Side – With Every Intention (Tomorrow Come Today)

As with all great bands, it’s not just album tracks that make them brilliant but also their B-Sides which are typically incredible. My personal pick has to be the secret track on “Tomorrow Come Today”. With Every Intention is another ballad style song. Largely acoustic, it’s another gorgeously written and perfectly executed emotional song, the lyrics almost echoing the turmoil the band had with their identity whilst creating the album. It asks us how well we know ourselves and our flaws and questions how we can be better. It really shows a vulnerable and fragile side to the band and coming after the previously discussed On In Five it’s a truly great 1-2 combo!

See also: Channel (split with Snapcase), Bring Back the Fight (Bled Dry 7”), Did You Forget (While A Nation Sleeps bonus track)

8. The set closer – Closure (While a Nation Sleeps)

As a band, BSF are all about unity and nothing demonstrates that more than in a live setting. A few years back the band released a series of live performances which culminated with “Closure” as the closing song of the each show and, as the title would suggest, it works brilliantly as a set closer. It has all the elements you want from a great BSF song. It’s got some great sing along moments, it’s got the fist in the air moments and it’s got the moment you dream of diving off stage to (when the beat drops)! It’s a song to make everyone go home happy. Furthermore, the video for this song is incredible. I won’t ruin it here but would say check it out – some bands talk the talk, this is showing a band really making a difference to people’s lives – and it’s just so inspiring!

9. The old one(s)

As with most bands, their early years are defined by toil; very few bands find themselves catapulted to the precipice of greatness with their debut releases. BSF are no exception. Upon purchasing After The Eulogy I immediately attempted to get my mitts on everything the band had released and unsurprisingly it was clear that the band had undergone a journey with which they could deliver something as incendiary as that breakthrough album. Amongst their early material however we have some amazing songs and picking just one is nigh on impossible so I’ve opted for three...

Vehicle (This Crying, This Screaming, My Voice Is Being Born) – Everything about this song is epic; it’s the first chance to see how their sound will develop from pure hardcore verses to the melodic choruses. Coupled with the excellent musicianship, squealing guitars and a superb beat down, it’s just a great precursor to what the band would ultimately become.

Cavity (In Chrysalis) – If you ever want a great example of how to build anticipation into a song it’s this. Midway through the song the pace slows and Nathan implores us to “wait for something to happen”. The song subsequently explodes into a brilliant conclusion, a cathartic release of energy if you will. It’s a great example of how brilliant they are at structuring songs, retaining a message and developing songs perfect for a live setting!

In Hope (The Day The Sun Went Out) – Starting with a complex guitar lick, it’s a schizophrenic song for the first minute where the beat and guitar work are so disparate that when it comes together midway through the song you realise how it’s been done to build the song to its epic conclusion. As an album, TDTSWO is often overlooked at the expense of its more illustrious siblings; this song bridges the gap beautifully from their early days to the hardcore pioneers they would become.

See also: Parasite Candy (Before the Eulogy / Demo), 65 Factory Outlets (The Day The Sun Went Out), Blame [live at Eleven] (This Crying, This Screaming, My Voice Is Being Born)

10. THE Anthem – Empire

As I’ve already stated, few bands have the ability to create such a fervent and devoted passion attached to particular songs. For anyone who follows the history of the band – the fallout that followed the record deal with Wind-Up and the release of Tomorrow Come Today – that the Misery Index ever came out at all is not only a surprise but absolutely solidified their place as a legendary band. This three album run was amazing but what was interesting was hearing that the label didn’t hear a single and didn’t rate specific songs; namely this: Empire. Not only is it just huge in every sense, it ties all the aforementioned personal characteristics, beliefs and feelings of community and belonging together. With all the talk of unity within the hardcore scene, this is it living and breathing to music. It’s not their most “hardcore” song by any stretch, appearing more on the ballad-end of the spectrum, but it sure as hell isn’t any less angry and stoic because of this. It’s a song that speaks of adversity, challenge and unity and has, over time, grown in to such an iconic and special song for those that love the band!

So there we are, my picks for the top Boysetsfire songs. If you aren’t familiar with them please do check them out; and if you are and have your own favourites I’d love to hear what they are in the comments.

Boystesfire played the Underworld on the 30th November supported by Raised Fist and All Else Failed. Ltd edition 25th anniversary versions of numerous Boysetsfire albums (including the legendary After The Eulougy and for the first time on vinyl Tomorrow Come Today) are currently being released by End Hits Records.

This top ten was written by Richard Mair.

Wednesday, 11 December 2019

Album Review: It'll Be Fiiine by BaldHead And The Dreads

BaldHead And The Dreads are a band you will definitely be familiar with if you've ever attended a ska punk show at the New Cross Inn in South East London. The four piece is comprised of four pals who regularly attend shows at the venue and decided to start their own band. Playing their own unique brand of ska punk that they have dubbed "Paul Smith-Core" after the NXI promoter, the band have steadily built up a fan base with their catchy songs and hilarious stage banter. Plus songs about dogs, lots of songs about dogs. Exactly a year after their first show, the band have released their first EP titled It'll Be Fiiine. This was an EP I was excited and curious about in equal measure.

The opening song is one that the band released a video for earlier in the year. Titled Dealer Time, the track is about the frustration of constantly having to wait for your dealer because they're late. Beginning with some bouncy ska upstrokes and some keyboard, bass player Ell takes lead vocals on the song. His rough, raspy vocals do a great job of showcasing his frustration. They also have that great everyman quality that I always adore. Like all of their tracks, this is super catchy and it won't be long until they have you singing along. Up next is London. I remember the first time I heard this song live and remember falling in love with it immediately. Keyboard player Michael takes on lead vocals on this occasion and the band deliver a much poppier effort. It's not all pop though as guitarist James adds his own vocals and the band get all skacore for a moment before reverting the pop loveliness. London is about the frustration of trying to get around the city but loving it anyway because it contains so many magical treats for you.

Be Sharp Bop is up next, you may have heard it if you happened to check out our fifth birthday compilation earlier in the year. It's a love song directed at the aforementioned Paul Smith and how much they adore Be Sharp Promotions. Ell sings about all the reasons he loves Paul. Lyrically it's hilarious and always goes down a treat at New Cross Inn shows. Like the song says, this is Paul’s favourite song and he especially loves to crowd surf to it. Next time you see BaldHead at New Cross you know what to do. The fourth song is probably the catchiest song I've heard all year. Titled Quit Your Job, Get A Job, James sings about – you guessed it – quitting your job and getting a dog. No hidden meanings in these titles. This mid-tempo track, which features the fantastic addition of a harmonica (more ska bands need harmonica), is an absolute smile maker. It's one of those songs that you listen to and will instantly make you start smiling, whilst singing along to it (including the barking). The final song is a remix of Be Sharp Bop by PavelPro which drummer Tommy apparently paid for whilst drunk. Sounds about right for BaldHead And The Dreads.

I think after every BaldHead And The Dreads live set I've seen so far my reaction has been either that has no right to be as good as it was or they keep getting better and better. That is certainly something I could say to this. It'll Be Fiiine is a great showcase of what I think the band are all about; being fun, being ridiculous but also being very, very good.

Stream and download It'll Be Fiiine here:

Like BaldHead And The Dreads here:

This review was Colin Clark.

Tuesday, 10 December 2019

Album Review: Heavy Seas by Misfortune Cookie (by Richard Mair)

When Bear Trade called it quits in 2017 shortly after releasing the wonderful “Silent Unspeakable” it was easy to assume that, despite their pedigree and the affection with which they are held with, it wouldn’t be long before the various members started cropping up in other bands. What was probably most surprising about this is that three of the bears (Callum, Peter and Lloyd) would join forces once more to release a Bear Trade-esque slab of melodic punk rock fronted by the exquisitely talented Helen Chambers – more known for her folk punk inspired singer songwriter tendencies than rocking out as a gruff punk leader – and, to top it off, it’s not just the sum of its parts but excels in every possible way!

Fans of Bear Trade will no doubt be on board with Misfortune Cookie already however fans of Timeshares, Iron Chic, Hot Water Music or The Gaslight Anthem also will certainly find something to love amongst the earnest anthems on offer.

Opening track “Party” is pretty much standard for what can be expected across the 10 tracks. First off, the vocals – gone are the gruff throaty tones, replaced by one of melody, vulnerability and character and boy does it suit the music, adding something very different to what is a predominately beardy-male approach to punk (saying this as a beardy male punk). There is so much to love about the delivery from the pronunciation of “Party” with quite a hard “e”; genuinely no one sounds like Helen Chambers and I truly don’t think anyone could, the country / folk twangs and lilts flow through the album giving it a real charm. The song itself is about finding ways to cling on to a loved one and it’s a really good relatable song which sets the tone for Heavy Seas. Fast paced, easy to sing along to and excellent musicianship throughout (the bass line by Lloyd is gorgeous, in particular)!

Next up is “All Dogs Are Nina” and this, to me, is one of the most obvious Bear Trade-infused songs on the album. From its chugging guitars and rolling drums, it has that really anthemic Leatherface feel that you’d expect from a Northern punk band and it’s easy to see why this was a lead track for the album; it’s brilliantly unpretentious and a wonderful single that rightly whet the appetite for the full length.

And that’s pretty much the gist of the album; every song has been crafted with a passion that means they stand on their own or when put into a collective whole they tell a story of midlife, growing up and responsibility. Take “D-FENS” for example, asking if “you are proud of who you’ve become” or being “sick and tired of falling down”, it’s about taking ownership of your decisions. Or “Lonely”, with its call to arms for all the people who don’t fit in; sure these are typical tropes for a punk album but the delivery is a cut above.

Most of the songs are of a good tempo with tons of melody that remind me of Iron Chic at their most fun. “The Cipher”, for example, uses Helen’s vocals to inject some smile inducing character to chorus with its jagged “ey-ey-eyes” before building to a great fist in the air “never give in and we’ll never give up” chant. Or “Peaky Blinders”, which has that rock ’n’ roll Gaslight Anthem style bluesy feel to it; again the vocals take centre stage, showing Helen’s range from what is at points almost hushed talking to a soaring fist in the air pre-chorus.

Two songs in particular stand out and show how bringing Helen into the fold has really helped create a much more rounded and nuanced sound. The first of these is “Callumbus”, which excels through first the immediacy of the guitar work from both Callum and Helen but then its ability to slow down when needed, incorporate whoa-whoas and build to a killer chorus! There is so much depth and personality condensed into its 3:30 runtime that it’s impossible not to fall in love with it. The second of these songs is “Alabama”; a brilliant pop-punk banger. Again it has a truly massive chorus and this is where having someone like Helen on vocals really pays off. This is very much reminiscent of the now defunct Turnspit with their female led gruff punk, yet delivered in a very British way and it’s stunning!

Genuinely, I was gutted when Bear Trade split; I felt for sure they had the potential to be truly great. However, where they finished off, Misfortune Cookie have picked up the baton and run with it. I wholeheartedly recommend putting aside half an hour, grabbing a beer and giving this a spin. It’s arguably one of the finest releases of the year and given the current healthy and lively UK punk rock scene that is no mean feat!

Stream and download Heavy Seas here:

Like Misfortune Cookie here:

This review was written by Richard Mair.

Monday, 9 December 2019

Album Review: Sunshine And Rainbows by The Subjunctives (by Emma Prew)

The Subjunctives are a three-piece pop punk band from Seattle who formed in 2017. Don’t let their relatively short time as a band deceive you though, as the band is formed of Jeff Mangalin – who is the guitarist for Seattle power pop punks Four Lights – on bass, Ean Hernandez – a founding member of 90s pop punk legends Sicko (who have recently released a sort of best of album on Red Scare) – on guitar and Matt Coleman – who previously played a Baroque-pop style in Heather Edgley’s band. So, these are well practiced musicians but can they write great pop punk songs? Obviously I know the answer is yes because I reviewed their first self-titled EP back in January this year, but how does the full-length album that they’ve just released fare? A 16-track full-length album, at that. Let’s find out…

The album opens just as I expected and wanted it to – with a short, snappy and kind of carefree song. Guinivere, In Raybans And Chucks is a song about being a not particularly cool dad as well as husband to an awesome Guinivere, or Helen, character. The lyrics are kept simple with lines like ‘I have two girls they are so cute, In their matching pink tu tus.’ but that’s part of the joy of The Subjunctives. Before we know it, we’re onto the second track. The pounding drums and chugging guitars welcome us into At The Kraken. The Kraken is ‘Seattle’s number one pirate themed punk rock dive bar’ and although I’m sure that many people listening to this song, myself included of course, won’t have been to The Kraken, I reckon most of us can relate to having our own favourite dive bar type venue. For that reason alone, this is a brilliant track but it also features some brilliant harmonies that really add another layer to The Subjunctives sound. This is a band that are clearly masters of succinct, catchy songwriting which is definitely apparent from the third song on Sunshine And Rainbows. Spend Your Time is a sweet little love song about how your significant other doesn’t have to spend all their time with you if they don’t want to – ‘If you wanna go, just let me know, You don't have to go, if you don't wanna go.’. The song may not have many words but it more than makes up for that with the trio’s fine musicianship, plus more of those wonderful R.E.M.-esque (you know what I mean if you read my review of The Subjunctives’ EP) harmonies right at the end. Next up we have the first of three songs that also appeared on the aforementioned EP. Pass It On kicks off with pounding drums and fast-paced guitar work plus a beefy and typically pop punk sounding bassline. This is another song that keeps things simple lyrically with most of the chorus being repetitions of ‘Pass it on’. It’s not quite as straightforward as that sounds however, with the band once again displaying their skill with harmonies – they’ll no doubt have the listener singing along and adding their own harmonies too.

Friday slows things down a little bit (at least by this band’s standards) for a mid-tempo and retrospective number. The song is about enjoying cosy Friday nights in – watching David Attenborough no less – with your loved one rather than always going out to a bar or a show. Despite being a bit younger than the guys in The Subjunctives, this is a feeling that I can relate to – not every Friday night but sometimes it’s nice to have a night in. Speaking of songs I can relate to, track number six is Introverted Girl. This is another song that featured on the EP – as well as on the CPRW fifth birthday comp that we released back in June – and, as I mentioned in my review of the EP, I can wholeheartedly relate to being an introverted girl. Speaking to Ean after I wrote that review, he told me that the song is about his daughter. This is a kick-ass song with a lovely sentiment. Appropriately, the next song is also about being a parent (something, unlike being an introvert, that I cannot relate to). Hey Dad feels similar to Guinivere, In Raybans And Chucks with its down-to-earth home-life nature, as Ean sings about getting his kid(s) chicken mcnuggets and feeding the cat at 5am. The musical delivery is suitably loud, lively and oh so catchy yet again. Eighth song, Rotate, is the third and final song to have previously appeared on the EP. It’s another brilliant song however so I don’t mind one bit about hearing it again in this setting. Opening with a infectious guitar riff before the rest of the band chime in, this is another fine example of fast-paced pop punk. Rotate is a love song of sorts but not perhaps as obviously as, for example, Spend Your Time. Here, the band talk of the earth’s rotation and time zones to reflect on feelings for someone. ‘Did you look back, Across the ocean, the mountains and the sea? 8 more hours will rotate you back around the world to me.’  

Waste My Time sees The Subjunctives getting a little angry as they sing of someone wasting their time with their not very well thought through statements and comebacks. The sort of person who thrives on ‘fake news’ and false information – or at least that’s the sort of person I’m conjuring up in my head. It’s not just the lyrics that feel angry here, the instruments seems to be being played that little bit more forcefully – the rhythm section in particular. The tenth song of Sunshine And Rainbows is called Get Some Sleep. This song took me by surprise the first time I listened to the album as it sounds completely different to all of the songs we’ve heard so far. Not only has the lead vocalist changed but so has the musical style. It’s got a bit of a 90s alternative rock vibe to it and feels much darker in tone than the very much pop punk-sounding earlier tracks. Get Some Sleep – which is fine advice, I should add – even features a short almost grungey guitar solo. My Girl returns to the tried and tested song about your awesome significant other format although its delivery is a little different to the typical catchy pop punk that we’ve come to know as The Subjunctives sound. It’s still short and fast – in fact, this is the shortest song on the album at 58 seconds – but everything feels even more snappy. That certainly isn’t a bad thing however – it’s great to hear variety in a 16 track pop punk album! One More Year is not a song that immediately caught my attention when listening to Sunshine And Rainbows but, in reading the lyrics and attempting to find words to write about it, I have grown quite fond of the song. One More Year is about getting older and trying to find the positives in your life each day, such as sunshine (and rainbows), even if you have things like your back is starting to ache and your forgetfulness to worry about. A great message and a great song.

The Fastbacks Are The Greatest Band in History (So Fuck You) tells the tale of discovering a band, in this case Seattle’s The Fastbacks, as a young adult and how that can change your life. I must admit that I am not familiar with The Fastbacks but that doesn’t mean that I don’t connect with this song. The song is not really just about The Fastbacks but about the power of punk rock as a whole. Punk rock is the best and I guess I should listen to The Fastbacks… but first, we have three more songs of this album! Headed East Again feels like a song to be blasted out of your car speakers as you embark upon a road trip, or perhaps commence a tour if you’re The Subjunctives. This may, of course, be partly due to the song’s name but who doesn’t want to play decent tunes, nice and loud, as you embark on a car journey. The penultimate song of Sunshine And Rainbows is titled My E String. Opening with just bass before the rest of the instruments and vocals come in, My E String is, unsurprisingly, about the E String of a guitar. Particularly how it ends up going out of tune a lot when playing live and how that can make you feel like you’ve screwed up and everyone is staring at you. Sure it’s an unusual topic for a song but, delivered in The Subjunctives’ signature catchy pop punk sound, it’s sure to get your head nodding along. I also rather liked the line ‘A room full of strangers becomes a room full of friends.’ – the perfect description of the punk scene. Sunshine And Rainbows ends with Dumbass and another dose of angry venting – it’s necessary sometimes, isn’t it? This time the anger is about a job or, perhaps more specifically, a boss who acts like they own you – ‘I’m working for you, But you don’t own me, dumbass.’ There’s just the right amount of power behind the instruments and venom in the vocals to successfully deliver the message and I hope the boss in question hears the song one day. The ending feels a little abrupt when it comes but, if you don’t get distracted and change to listening to something else, you will be treated to a surprise, somewhat self-deprecating, 40 second acoustic song at the end of the album. I’m not usually a fan of final songs featuring a hidden track after a section of silence but, perhaps because it’s so stripped, back I quite like it.

Phew! Sunshine And Rainbows might be only 34 minutes long but a 16 (or 17, if you count the bonus song) track album is quite the challenge to review when I’m used to albums having just 10 songs to write about – and at CPRW we do, ideally, like to make a point of talking about each and every song on a release. Thankfully The Subjunctives have packed plenty of variety into Sunshine And Rainbows and delivered a fine example of modern pop punk.

Sunshine And Rainbows was released on November 22nd and you can buy physical copies (CD and vinyl) from Top Drawer Records as well as streaming the album in the usual places. So, what are you waiting for? Go and check it out!

You can like The Subjunctives on Facebook here.

This album review was written by Emma Prew.

Friday, 22 November 2019

Gig Review: Hot Water Music at The Underworld, London 17/11/19 (by Emma Prew)

It’s not often that you have to buy tickets for a punk gig a whole year in advanced. When Hot Water Music announced a European tour of album shows for – arguably their most popular albums – No Division and Caution however, tickets were snapped up. The UK leg of the tour consisted of Caution shows in Manchester and London and a single No Division show in London. We opted for the Caution show at The Underworld in Camden and patiently waited for the day to arrive. Meanwhile, the supports were announced as CPRW – well, pretty much everyone’s – favourites Spanish Love Songs and Red City Radio so it couldn’t really get much better. Did it live up to my expectations though? Read on to find out…

The thing that stopped me from getting too sad about having missed Spanish Love Songs’ set at Fest (by not going to Fest) at the beginning of the month was that I would be seeing them at The Underworld. It’s no secret that they have become one of my absolute favourite bands over the past couple of years – I went to three dates of their UK tour in May – and so I’m always keen to scream my lungs out to their songs. On Sunday night, Spanish Love Songs had me hooked on every single note – from their opening song, Losers, through to the closing song, Beer & Nyquil – whilst putting in as much effort as if they were the headlining band. I wasn’t the only one who was hooked as, despite the early hour (6.30pm), The Underworld was pretty busy with those down the front raising their fists in the air enthusiastically. Such is our love for this band. I was particularly pleased to hear (No) Reasons To Believe live for the first time. But was 30 minutes enough? No, not for me. The good news, however, is that Spanish Love Songs will be back in just a couple of months to support The Menzingers(!) on their February UK/EU tour – I’ll be there!

After going a little hoarse singing along to Spanish Love Songs, it was time for more singalongs with one of the very best rock ’n’ roll bands in punk. There aren’t many better front people in punk rock than Red City Radio’s Garrett Dale either, he and his band sure know how to put on a good show. There’s a kind of theatrical nature to it, a little over the top but just the right amount of punk attitude to balance it out. I know Colin always refers to Red City Radio as being a singles band or at least a band with a lot of hit songs from their whole back catalogue, this is something that becomes apparent when they play live. Every single song is a banger, whether it be Whatcha Got? or Electricity from their 2015 self-titled album or the slightly older, highly singalong-able Show Me On The Doll Where The Music Touched You – ‘I am a fucking juggernaut!’. Of course the setlist also featured tracks from last year’s excellent SkyTigers EP, such as If You Want Blood (Be My Guest) and Rebels which have become future classics in their own right, as well as the brand new song, Love A Liar. A killer set from a killer band.

So, we’d had two quite different but equally excellent sets from Spanish Love Songs and Red City Radio but, as The Underworld packed out even more, there was only one band that everyone cared about. Hot Water Music have been a band for 25 years – that means they formed when I was just three years old! (Sorry if that makes anyone reading this feel old!) Sadly, Chris Wollard wouldn’t be joining his bandmates on the tour but, as with the last (which was also the first) time we saw Hot Water Music in 2018, the highly capable Chris Cresswell of The Flatliners fame would be stepping up to fill Wollard’s shoes. It can’t be an easy task to temporarily replace a founding member of a legendary band such as Hot Water Music, particularly when that person is also one of the band’s lead vocalists but Cresswell does an outstanding job. This being a Caution album show meant, of course, that Hot Water Music’s set opened with a double whammy of Remedy and Trusty Chords – quite possibly two of the band’s biggest hits from their whole back catalogue, never mind of the album itself. Playing big hitters so early on in a set is a sure fire way to get the energy levels of the crowd up from the outset and the energy didn’t relent as the band tore through the remaining ten songs of Caution – Alright For Now and Wayfarer being notable highlights for me. I was half expecting Hot Water Music to exit the stage when they’d played the entirety of Caution before returning for an encore consisting of a handful of other songs but, instead, they stayed put to play nine songs from other releases in their 25 year back catalogue. With songs ranging from Shake Up The Shadows from this year’s EP of the same name to Turnstile from their 1997 album, Fuel For The Hate Game, there was something for new and old fans alike – and we even got to hear a song from No Division. Judging by the crowd at The Underworld on Sunday night, Hot Water Music are adored more so now than ever and I hope that they are still here for many years to come.

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

Thursday, 21 November 2019

Top Tens: Ten Bands To See At Book Yer Ane Fest XIII

It's not very long to go now before Scotland's best festival Book Yer Ane Fest returns for its thirteenth edition. The three day festival is put together by the wonderful folk from Make-That-A-Take Records and takes place at Conroy's Basement and new vegan establishment Rad Apples in Dundee. The festival is a three day celebration of DIY culture and supports organisations Addaction, Royal Life Saving Society, Dundee Women's Aid, Dundee Foodbank, Dundee Refugee Support and LGBT Youth Scotland.

Something I always enjoy about the festival is that it offers the chance for us to see some bands that are new to us completely or are bands that don't very often find their way to England. I've taken the time to check out a few of the acts playing the festival and written a top ten list. I've avoided including bands such as Uniforms, Tragical History Tour, Goodbye Blue Monday, The Kimberly Steaks and The Murderburgers, who are playing their last gig at the festival, as they're a bit obvious and everyone reading this will know how good all those acts are. Instead I've picked ten bands that are new to me, ones I've never seen before or ones that don't come to London.

Dutch punk rock 'n' rollers Batwölf are perhaps better known for their previous band Black Volvo. Continuing on from where Black Volvo left off, Batwölf play heavy rock music with a punk swagger. They're a bit of a throwback but also have a sound that you don't often find in the UK punk rock scene. Listening to 2018's Spare No One EP, I'm looking forward to catching them live. I imagine it will be a lot of fun.

Broken Stories
This Perthshire folk duo offer something a little different to Book Yer Ane Fest. With just an acoustic guitar and a fiddle, Broken Stories craft these mesmerising tunes about life, love and loss. Broken Stories seem to be one of the Scottish scene’s best kept secrets and I'm certain that anyone checking them out for the first time will fall in love with them.

Buffalo Heart
Dundee's Buffalo Heart play sad and gritty emo punk rock music. Normally it's not my go-to genre but the beauty of a festival is being able to check out bands you wouldn't usually. Buffalo Heart could become my new favourite band that I didn't know I needed.

The Dangerfields
The Dangerfields are a thrash punk rock band from Belfast. From what I've heard from them this is going to be a very fast, frantic and energetic set from the band that will get everyone in Conroy's very sweaty. I love a relentless band like this and The Dangerfields are definitely one of the bands I'm most looking forward seeing at Book Yer Ane Fest.

Get It Together
Last time I made my way to Book Yer Ane Fest, I ended up missing Get It Together because of a Mega Bus that wasn't so mega. By all accounts, Get It Together played one of the best sets of that entire weekend and I was gutted to have missed it. Fingers crossed I won't miss another brilliant set from the hardcore band from Central Scotland. 2019's Live Free is one of my favourite hardcore albums of the year.

Getting Away With Treason
Berlin's Getting Away With Treason bring some fast, melodic skate punk to Book Yer Ane Fest. My first impressions listening to them is that they take everything you would expect from a band in the genre – fast technical riffs, pounding drums, soaring vocals, aggressive vocals, intricate fills – and manage to squeeze it all into one song without ever feeling like overkill. This is going to be something to see live.

Misfortune Cookie
Misfortune Cookie formed following the break-up of the much loved Bear Trade. Misfortune Cookie feature Bear Trade minus Greg and with added Helen Chambers. That's a seriously talented band. Their debut LP, Heavy Seas, has been very well received throughout the punk rock community and Book Yer Ane Fest will be my first opportunity to see them live. I'm expecting heartfelt lyrics and big sing-alongs.

Nicola Madill
I feel like I've seen Nicola Madill's name on a number of Make-That-Take Records gig posters and, judging from Madill's Facebook page, it's clear that Deeker thinks very highly of them. Crafting hauntingly beautiful Americana folk music, I assume everyone watching Madill will be absolutely spellbound by their performance.

The Overbites
The Overbites are one of the CPRW teams favourite new bands. Their debut EP, Mince, is so good. I love how varied it is, from fast punk rock, to some ska and even some gypsy punk. I never got to see The Overbites front man Muzzeh's previous band Maxwell's Dead so I'm extra excited to see The Overbites.

Paper Rifles
I've been a big Paper Rifles fan since hearing their early acoustic EP back in 2015. Since then, I've kept a keen eye on Paper Rifles and have taken delight in seeing the project grow and grow. Evolving from a solo acoustic project to a rocking full band effort, I would describe Paper Rifles as the best Scottish band you probably haven't heard of yet. On my last trip to Book Yer Ane Fest, I got to see the acoustic version of Paper Rifles and now I can't wait to see the full band effort.

This top ten was written by Colin Clark.