Monday, 3 May 2021

Album Review: Hearts Of Gold by Dollar Signs


Hearts Of Gold by Dollar Signs has been far and away my most anticipated album of 2021. I’ve been following the band since hearing Yikes in 2015 and have enjoyed watching them grow a bigger and bigger following over the years. In March, Hearts Of Gold was released on Pure Noise Records and it definitely felt like a big occasion. I’ve seen Dollar Signs compared to The Menzingers and Spanish Love Songs in the more mainstream alternative music press but I would certainly say there’s a lot of Jeff Rosenstock in their sound as well. It certainly feels like Hearts Of Gold had a lot of hype and anticipation surrounding it – does it live up to all the positive attention it received? Of course it does.


Hearts Of Gold begins with I’m Afraid I Make Yr Depression Worse. The song starts out slowly as lead singer Erik Button and his acoustic guitar tell the sad story of a relationship where one person brings the other one down mentally and emotionally. As the track goes along different members of the band come in before they all join together for a bombastic finale to the track. The energy that builds towards the end of the song coincides with Erik realising that he needs to make himself better to improve the relationship. Up next is Negative Blood, one of three songs that Dollar Signs released in the build up to the album’s release. There’s a chaotic nature to the song that is classic Dollar Signs. I guess this is partly why they chose it as a single. It’s a positive sounding song where Erik sings about how his mental health issues are making him a tougher human being. He’s getting by and surviving despite the hardships life throws at him. I especially enjoyed the lyrics “trying to be more positive but I got B-negative running through my blood.” The third song is named Bonghammer and it is about trying to grow up but always having a reason as to why things don’t quite go as planned. I’m sure there are plenty of people reading this or listening to the song who will heavily relate. I often refer to myself as a terrible grown up. The imagery created with the lyrics “now I got frames for all my posters, I gotta use an old bong as a hammer, cuz I don’t have a toolkit like my father” is sublime.

Sticks & Stones is a short and sad song. It’s stripped back with just acoustic guitar and piano as Erik sings about relapsing but accepting that he’s allowed to have a bad day. Having a song that sounds like this pop up on the fourth track is a great idea as it really grabs your attention and forces you to listen to the lyrics. I’m a big fan of the message that the song puts out and believe it’s important for people to hear. Up next is B.O.M.B.S. which was another track released before the album came out. This was another great choice for a single as it’s so catchy and will quickly find a home in your head. The opening guitars fill the song with energy and as soon as the vocals come in you’ll find yourself wanting to shout back at the band as loudly as you can. The track is about analysing your behaviour and questioning some of your self-destructive acts. I’m very keen to see Dollar Signs live as soon as possible (hopefully at Fest this year) and I can see this song being a big highlight. The last of the three singles released before Hearts Of Gold is up next. Bad News was also released with an excellent video you can watch here. This song really reminded me of Jeff Rosenstock’s Nausea when I first heard it. There’s a musical theatre feeling to the song that gives it so much joy. It’s about sharing your problems and bad news with your friends and hopefully it will at least make things better. This is another song that’s going to be amazing fun to see performed live.

Fistfight! starts the second half of the album. It’s a slow and simple song with the music taking a backseat to Erik’s vocals. This enables the listener to really get a grip of what he’s singing about. The track is about knowing when you’ve been beaten and coming to the realisation that it’s okay to stop and smell the roses from time to time. This leads wonderfully into the next song Nihilist Gundam. Things really go up a gear here, from the slow and steady Fistfight! we jump straight into an up-tempo and chaotic song that really drags the energy of the song back up. Given that the band have made a single video of the two songs being connected by a story, it’s clear that a lot of care and thought has gone into the running order of the songs on the album and I’m a big fan of that. Nihilist Gundam is about behaving in a self-destructive way and realising that it is perhaps time for a change. This song, more than any other on the album makes great use of dual and gang vocals which adds even more to the chaotic energy that explodes out of the song. The ninth song on Hearts Of Gold is titled Falling Off. Falling Off feels like a much more straightforward punk rock song. It starts off in quick and punchy way before the melody works its way in as the band reach the chorus. As the song progresses, more and more hooks and catchy lyrics appear and, in what is true Dollar Signs fashion, things get crazy and excitable towards the end of the song. The song is about being different and accepting that it’s okay. I love the positivity that pours out of the song and this feels like another that will be really special to watch live. Interestingly, the final thirty or so seconds feels like a completely different song where Erik talks about working on himself and how difficult it can be. This felt pretty random but perfectly fitting for something in a Dollar Signs song.

Kiss Me is a short forty-three second song where Erik and bass player Dylan trade lines in a call and response manner before coming together for the chorus. I’m a huge fan of songs that have multiple vocalists as I feel like they can give a song such a big sound. It also really invites a massive sing-along which I’m always into. The track feels like an intro for the penultimate song, I Love You. I Love You sees a great duet from Erik and Phoebe Masteller-Defiance of Dandelion Massacre and I Kill Cameron. The track has a hint of the band’s early folk punk days, as well as a tinge of country thanks to some sweet harmonica fills. The song is about a couple who are madly in love with each other but not being able to express it. There is a sweetness about the song that you don’t often hear in punk songs. This might be a bold statement but, for me, this is one of the best punk rock love songs I’ve heard in a long long time. It puts such a big smile on my face and I urge all you couples to give it a listen. I wish the band would’ve made a video for the song as I imagine it would be hilarious. The final song on Hearts Of Gold is the fittingly titled Hearts Of Gold Finale. Finishing with a stripped back and raw sounding acoustic song was an interesting choice and I did expect the whole band to jump in at some point. This never happened and, on reflection, I’m happy about this and it gives the song a more earnest feeling. Hearts Of Gold Finale is about realising that even though things might seem bad now there is plenty of time for things to improve. There’s a great sense of reassurance that you get from when a good friend looks after you. Such a fitting end to a brilliant album.

I was so excited for this album to come out and it manages to exceed all of my high expectations for it. If Hearts Of Gold isn’t placed highly in my end of year lists for 2021 it means it’s been the best year for music ever. I really feel like Dollar Signs are going to be the next breakout band from the American punk rock scene and I look forward to seeing them play in front of packed crowds in the UK as soon as it’s possible.

Stream and download Hearts Of Gold on Bandcamp here.

Like Dollar Signs on Facebook here.

This review was written by Colin Clark.

Friday, 30 April 2021

CPRW Playlist: April 2021


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

Wednesday, 28 April 2021

Album Review: I Won't Care How You Remember Me by Tigers Jaw (by Richard Mair)


This may be getting slightly revisionist a little prematurely but looking at the notable, iconic punk scenes that have really driven the genre forward from New York CBGBs in the late 70s early 80s to the skate punk explosion of California in the 90s and then Boston’s hardcore scene of the 00s we really need to add Scranton / Philly / Pennsylvania to the list. Sure the headline acts of The Wonder Years and The Menzingers get the coverage but, if I’m honest, my heart belongs firmly to perennial underdogs Tigers Jaw. Very few bands have such an emotional resonance that drive nails into my heart repeatedly but on their 6th long player they have truly struck gold... and as such “I Won’t Care How You Remember Me” has all the ingredients of being a massive crossover success, blending emo, pop, rock, punk and maybe even a little shoe gaze into one perfect album rammed with stunning hooks and earworms. This, coupled with the immense bankability of the affable, warm and humble Ben and Brianna as focal point, their charm, DIY ethic and dedication to their craft set to the spectre of the 2013 break-up that makes them the everyman heroes people can really get behind. And get behind them on “IWCHYRM” you must because it’s a magical, breezy, emotionally gut punching, heart wrenching album that captivates from start to finish.


Drawing comparisons it’s very reminiscent of Saves The Day classic “Stay What You Are”... the quintessential breakup album; Like SWYA there is a underpinning resilience and hopefulness that shines through the heartbreak. Musically, I think this is the strongest reference point for “IWCHYRM”; it’s a reworking of the early 00s emo for a new generation; it’s hugely accessible, full of massive singles, laden with singalongs and has enough emotion coursing through it that it can repeatedly stop you in your tracks time and time again... like “SWYA” it’s an album that finds the band at the top of their game with their construct of melody, pacing and creativity. The way the songs build to satisfying conclusions is very reminiscent of The Hotelier at their finest, gone are the 1:30 ditties, instead each song pleasingly rounds out and feels complete and of this current generation of emo pioneers it also reminds heavily of mid-era now defunct Captain We’re Sinking, with the fellow Scrantonites making use of a fuller band sound to create something special that stands shoulder to shoulder with the peerless “The Future is Cancelled” (especially ‘Montreal’ which you can hear echoing through the album). Finally it has all the hallmarks of The Get Up Kids “Something To Write Home About”, again in terms of its use of melody but also the way the album creates its own space (and negative space); it feels like a living and breathing construct that hides in the shadows, it’s little changes in tempo and melody done with such a beautiful craft that they enhance the experience... (take the subtle stop / starts in chorus of Hesitation or the drop into the nosier moments of the title track). There is so much detail across landscape of the album. Much of this credit must lie with the irrepressible Will Yip but the confidence the band show in him to create this signature is equally impressive... I might go out on a limb and say this is his Magnum Opus.

The opening line is the name of the album and also the title of the first song, and it’s such an important lyric that pulls all the themes and threads of the record together. As an opening song, its sombre, reflective charm is a real departure from what the band have done previously (take the frantic pop-punk of ‘The Sun’ or the post hardcore vibes of ‘Return’). For over two minutes Ben leads us solo through his reconciliation of endings, imploring the focus of his anguish to not ask why. Then the familiar Tigers Jaw album opener comes into full focus, paired with a more passionate vocal delivery. It’s just the most incredible opening track I’ve heard since maybe The Hotelier dropped ‘Introduction To The Album’ on ‘Home, Like No Place...’. It’s a crescendo of noise more akin to a building album closer than opener, but in the scheme of the album it works perfectly. It’s also a millstone that the band put around their necks having to better throughout the album. Thankfully, the journey and experience through the remaining ten tracks is well worth it!

Taking a more equitable approach to the songwriting and position within the band, Brianna Collins is very much at the forefront on almost half of the album and the second track ‘Cat’s Cradle’ picks up from her approach on ‘Spin’. It has a very stylistically familiar tone that places it alongside ‘June’, albeit much more up-tempo. It’s really easy to understand why this is one of the lead singles off the album, it’s a proper pop song; easy on the ears with a real catchy melody. Lyrically it’s about ending friendships, and interwoven deceit. Again it’s a highly relatable, angsty sentiment packaged up in clean radio friendly tune, and it’s this juxtaposition of upbeat music and downbeat lyrics that the band have truly nailed on this album. Nothing feels forced or contrived, instead it has an effortless sombre delight to it throughout.

Another lead song off the album is ‘Hesitation’ and it’s a classic Ben song. Sure it has the most obvious Twin Peaks references, but is perfectly paced, has a killer chorus and excellent guitar licks that keep the verses ticking along. ‘New Detroit’ is possibly the most sedate song on the album, offering a moment of reflection after the frantic opening trio of massive songs. It helps transition to the middle of the album with ‘Can’t Wait Forever’ being the most traditional ‘punk’ song and perhaps most reminiscent of early Tigers Jaw, particularly with the guitar tones and Brianna’s keys providing the background melody.

Both ‘Lemon Mouth’ and ‘Body Language’ pick up on the themes of loss that pull the album together. ‘Lemon Mouth’ in particular stands out as it’s perhaps the most abstract song on the album and has a more latter day Paramore feel about it. In many ways it feels unique amongst Tigers Jaws catalogue; perhaps more akin to classic synth pop bands of the early 80s or maybe even The Cure at their most abstract but accessible. It’s a real slow burner of a song, with even the vocal delivery having a slower pace to it. ‘Body Language’ by contrast feels almost indie / Brit pop in its vibe. While both excellent, they only serve to build up to what is the album’s real gem. ‘Commit’ is a monster of a classic single, and likely to have a huge appeal outside of their traditional audience. First off, Brianna’s vocal delivery is amazing and the song just helps demonstrate her versatility and range especially on what in principle sounds like a typical “Ben song”. It’s a simple pop punk banger but is crafted beautifully. Again, it’s a song dealing with a relationship on the brink; it identifies a toxicity within the relationship and certainly not an equitable one but at the same time a desire to work through the mistakes. Everything about the song works, from its emotional weight, to the summery pop tune that is almost akin to the best 80s Madonna stylings. It’s just the most perfect pop song and rounds off with some amazing guitar work (possibly the best they’ve ever committed to record).

‘Never Wanted To’ feels like a hangover from the massively underrated “Charmer” in the best way possible, it’s simple tempo and melody allowing Ben’s voice to take centre stage. It’s such a simple but haunting song that opens the final third of the album and segues nicely into ‘Heaven Apart’. Both songs share a DNA in terms of that moment of realisation that the relationship is ending. They are the truly sombre reflections the album has been working towards. The opportunity to allow oneself to fondly look back on the past, reconciling what has been lost, but also allows for the album’s pay off to come. ‘Anniversary’ is truly majestic. It’s about finally moving on from the past, taking ownership of the mistakes made. Whilst not as long as Weezer’s ‘Only in Dreams’,  it reminds me so much of that career highlight from Rivers and the boys… from the excellent guitar work that builds towards the song’s conclusion but also in that both songs have such hope attached to them. ‘Only in Dreams’ speaks of that ‘what if’ scenario of the object of affection, whereas this is about moving into the light after a toxic relationship. Both are just joyous constructs and round off their respective albums perfectly. This is Tigers Jaw swinging for the fences and hitting a real home run. On an album that is full of epic moments, it’s that payoff the band set out to achieve from the outset.

Lyrically it’s easy to get lost in the meanings and iconography of the songs (and that’s not taking into account the Twin Peaks references or other reused Orgcore lyrics). The first thing to say concerns the title (and song of the same name) which doesn’t speak of the definite. They don’t write about ‘I don’t care about how you remember me’ they talk of ‘won’t’, a subtle difference that lives in the moment and reflects pain and hurt back to the listener ; as if saying “I will remember for now but it will get easier in time...” One such little change in the wording conveys the emotion so much more and throughout the album the lyrics tug at heartstrings or deliver continuous sucker punches. Whilst I’m sure most fans of the scene’s current miserablist torchbearers Spanish Love Songs will be familiar with Tigers Jaw, if anyone reading this is in two minds I can assure them that “IWCHYRM” is the perfect launch pad into the band.

There are a myriad of recurring themes through the album that are linked to perception, the obvious one is that of mirrors and reflections and I think this is where the album really stands out. There is a personal reflection towards the break-ups being experienced. A similar theme is echoed through colours and chameleons, suggesting an acknowledgement of seeing what you want to see in others or that they have hidden their true self. Both Ben and Brianna actively consider their roles in these relationships and try to get perspective both from the other party but also from the listener, at the same time looking for that reconciliation; acknowledging their faults. As stated, the album lives in that space between definites occurring; living with the guilt of decisions that negatively impact on others, constructing favourable narratives to help rationalise these decisions. Consequently, the depth of human understanding conveyed through the lyrics is just astounding; alongside being amazingly singalong-able. The album’s closing lines in particular are crying out for an audience to sing them. And knowing how devoted the fans are, I’m very sure they will sing them back and it will no doubt feel special when they do.

Much of this review has focussed on the central figures of Ben and Brianna for obvious reasons given they have carried the Tigers Jaw flag on their own over recent years, however the inclusion of permanent members Teddy Roberts (drums) and Colin Gorman (bass) has certainly helped give the album a consistency, and their presence in making their instruments shine has given “IWCHYRM” a much more rounded sound compared to ‘Spin’. Both are clearly great additions and fully grasp what makes Tigers Jaw unique and special, and I’m sure they’ll be equally at home playing in front of the band’s notoriously rabid fans! A further point to make about the album is the omission of last year’s ‘Warn Me’. Genuinely, I was surprised to see this wasn’t on the album’s track listing given its quintessential Tigers Jaw-ness and how much of a classic lead single it is. This can’t have been an easy decision but demonstrates that the priority was releasing a much more cohesive and balanced set of songs and the track’s more positive outlook maybe put it at odds with the album. Consequently, I’d urge everyone to track it down as it’s equally as impressive as the actual album tracks!

I started this review by stating my heart belongs to Tigers Jaw and with “IWCHYRM” they have delivered an exceptional album that deserves to be heard by a far greater audience than a typical DIY driven band would generally reach. For the last decade, Ben and Brianna have consistently delivered and confounded, their reinventions subtle but discernible, with each album having its own personality and aesthetics. If ‘Spin’ was them proving they could carry the Tigers Jaw legacy without the imposing spectre of the immense character of Adam McIlwee looming over them then this is Tigers Jaw truly finding their stride and making giant steps out of the shadows of their past.

Stream and download I Won't Care How You Remember Me on Bandcamp here.

Like Tigers Jaw on Facebook here.

This review was written by Richard Mair.

Monday, 26 April 2021

Album Review: Prophylactic Shock by Slap Happy


Denver, Colorado’s Slap Happy are a three piece band who formed in 2018. After releasing a demo and single, the band finally released their first full length in February. Titled Prophylactic Shock, it features nine songs of melodic pop punk squeezed into twenty-eight minutes. Colorado seems to be one of those states that consistently births great melodic punk bands, this made me very keen to check out Slap Happy.


Prophylactic Shock begins with the song Freak Out. Starting out with some bass before a drum roll and buzzing guitar come in, the track builds towards the vocals. When they come in you’re ready to sing along with the band. The opening line of “sometimes I get paranoid and freak out” is as cathartic as it gets. The two verses lead really well into the simple, effective sing-along choruses. Between the two choruses there’s a nice break down that will give a crowd a short rest before finishing with a final big sing-along. Next is Same Old. Same Old was one of the standout tracks for me when I first listened to Prophylactic Shock. The song continues the theme of mental health, in particular questioning why things aren’t changing and you still don’t feel right. The almost four and a half minute run time of the song gives the band room to play around with the tempo of the song. They take a moment to really slow things down towards the song’s end before building up to one last chorus, which is completed with some superb harmonies. From the longest song on the album, we move on to the shortest. Kingsley Manor picks up the pace slightly for a song about moving on from your old punk house before it becomes too much for you mentally. The higher tempo gives the album a great boost of energy which I really enjoyed. This is another stand out song from the album – it’s short, sweet and got me pumped up.

The Sun starts with a rumbling bass line accompanied by some vocals before the full band comes in and the lines are repeated. There’s a sharpness to the way the vocals are delivered which really grabs the attention. This is more of an angry song about global warming and needing to act now despite governments seemingly not wanting to admit that the world is in a lot of trouble. Much like how it’s important that bands tackle mental health in their music, I think it’s also important for bands to use their platform to speak out about causes like this more and more. The fifth song, Slacker, sees the beginning of a sequence of songs that get a bit heavier. There’s a sludgier sound to the band which is quite the contrast to what we’ve heard so far. Slacker is about feeling like you’re going nowhere in your life and struggling to find motivation to do anything productive. Something we’ve all related to at some point I’m sure. Dejected is a slower, grunge-like song. The bass line gives the song a really solid spine throughout and allows the guitar to do some interesting things with the reverb. Dejected is about feeling disappointed with where your life is heading and not getting any luck. This lack of luck leaves you struggling mentally as well as causing frustration and anger. The tone of the song really helps set the mood for the overall theme.

The seventh song, Dissent, continues the heavier sound but has more of a 80s hardcore feeling to it. The guitars throughout the song really wail and bring the energy up. The vocals turn into a snarling growl that are quite difficult to make out at times. Something Slap Happy seem to enjoy doing in their songs is slow breakdowns that build towards the song’s finale. We get another one on Dissent and it may be the best one of the album, it’s my favourite anyway. The penultimate song is titled Cement Foot. Slap Happy switch to more of an indie punk sound, showing such versatility to their music. The guitars jangle in the introduction with the vocals giving the track a choppy melody that really hooks you in. A highlight is the chorus where Slap Happy treats the listener to some Beach Boy style harmonies that add a sweet extra layer to the song. Cement Foot is one of the more uplifting and positive songs on the album. It’s about struggling mentally but standing up and saying you won’t be defeated. The ninth and final song on Prophylactic Shock is These Times. These Times bookends the album nicely by reverting back to the melodic pop punk that began Prophylactic Shock. It’s about something a lot of us in our thirties worry about, our friends moving on and wondering what the next step in your life is. I really like the positivity that comes out of the song, particularly the chorus, which feels like the singer is taking a giant leap into the unknown and looking forward to it.

Slap Happy showcase a lot of variety on this album and have managed to put together a collection of songs that should cater for fans of many different punk sounds. The band touch on a lot of subject that are important to me and many other folk in the punk scene and that’s always pleasing to hear. Well done Slap Happy on a very promising debut album.

Stream and download Prophylactic Shock on Bandcamp here.

Like Slap Happy on Facebook here.

This review was written by Colin Clark.

Wednesday, 21 April 2021

Album Review: Axiom by Harker (by Chris Bishton)


I've been looking forward to this one. It seems an age since Brighton's 'Emogazers', Harker, released their debut No Discordance. Actually, it's only been three years. But it seems longer as the sophomore, Axiom, has been delayed due to obvious difficulties getting into the studio to record it last year. But now it's here. Firing not just against the apathy brought on by repetitive lockdowns and stay home orders, but also demanding action on a whole range of social, economic and environmental needs. It's very powerful and it's been very much worth the wait.


The first track is The Beast Must Die. Already released online a few months earlier as a showcase to the album, it's easy to see why. It totally embodies the band and frames the rest of the LP. Thirty odd seconds of feedback before the fuzzy guitars start, which then eventually combine with Mark's vocals to create a sound that is somehow new, but also familiar. Does that makes sense? Probably not, but that's the overriding takeaway for me on this new album.

There are echoes of bands from my youth. This is great for me because I spent the 90s listening to far more to Sonic Youth, Swervedriver (look them up if you don't know them by the way – one of the very best 'gazer' bands from back then) and, dare I say it, the Manics, than I ever did NOFX or No Use For A Name. That's not to say these bands aren't great. They are. It's just when I was a teen I was more often than not on the emo end of the spectrum. But despite these comparisons, Harker are, nevertheless, contemporary. There's more of an urgency to this, making it sit more comfortably with possible similarities with The Gaslight Anthem and a fiercer, punk sound.

It's based on the idea of ‘mono-consciousness’ – seeking a heightened sense of meaning and avoiding a closed mindset, but with the subjects of the song showing a lack of empathy, leading to the aforementioned apathy. It's this idea that the mono-consciousness is a beast inside of us that needs hunting out before it takes control. As an opening track, it's a real statement. Different to the debut album, but recognisable, and most importantly, fantastically powerful.

Sign of Crows is next. Instantly recognisable as Harker. Catchy and tuneful, bouncing along, before it slows and dips, before rising again. This is where Mark's ardent voice reminds me a lot of James Dean Bradfield – soulful and authoritative.

Adulthood is the other track that was released online in advance of the full album. Consequently familiar, it already seems to be an associated favourite. It starts slowly enough, forges ahead with mid-tempo singalong vibes, before once again receding against a somewhat introspective feel.

The fourth song, Hellion, is probably my favourite. An instant start, fast and harmonic, it pauses for breath and then crashes on and feeds back. Rowdy and mischievous in every sense indeed. This will be the song that people will be singing along to in a packed and sweaty venue once we start up again.

Moriah is heavier, grittier and rockier. A bit of a harder listen for me, a little bit unexpected. A shorter song, but its foundations quickly grow on me.

Flex Yr Head is an older track released online post No Discordance and it gets a deserved spot on the album here. It's a Harker favourite of mine and it's great to have it placed amongst these other songs. It fits well, bridging the old and the new.

Daisychain is another of those songs that starts slowly and builds, but without reaching a crescendo. There's no huge upsurge in this song, which keeps me focused as I listen intently.

The penultimate track is No Sun. Jaunty with a recognisable Harker feel, it's very infectious before the album draws to a close with Antenna. At six and a half minutes long, you need to strap yourself in for this last track, rising and dipping throughout. Screeching vocals, endless guitars and feedback leads to a subtle mid song ballad, before building again to bring the album to an intense conclusion.

It's a cliché to say that second albums often show the band has matured, so I'll try and resist. However, it is different to the first album with a more considered sound. It's certainly not smashed out and not quite as poppy as the first. Those elements are still there so older fans should still love this, but there's parts that actually feel quite sombre; although I'm not sure that was the intent – it's still tremendously catchy and sonorous, pitched perfectly.

Axiom is available on a number of labels in the UK, Europe, the US and Japan – Disconnect Disconnect Records, Shield Recordings, Wiretap Records and Fixing A Hole Records. No matter where you are in the world, I strongly recommend you pick it up.

Pre-order Axiom on Bandcamp here.

Like Harker on Facebook here.

This review was written by Chris Bishton.

Monday, 19 April 2021

Album Review: Four D: The Winter Suite by Second Player Score


Second Player Score are a three piece band from Vancouver, WA. Describing themselves as a #nerdcore band, they have a sound very reminiscent of the 90s skate punk scene. The band have become known for wonderfully catchy songs as well as having plenty of hooks. In February, the band released their newest EP – Four D: The Winter Suite. This is my first exposure to the band and I found a new favourite.


The four track EP begins with the song The Flow. It starts in a great up-tempo fashion with some siren-like guitars and some heavy drums. When the vocals begin, they add a great melody to the song that really pulls you in. I really enjoyed the contrast with the wordy verses and the more simplistic chorus; this really gives the song a distinct feel. In perhaps an homage to Bad Religion, the chorus has some great harmonies. When I first heard the second song, That Escalated Quickly, I was quickly reminded of Swedish skate punk legends Millencolin. Musically the song has a punchy rhythm, with the vocals doing most of the work with the melody. Second Player Score add in a great guitar solo midway through the track which then leads into a building verse and final chorus that brings the song to a great conclusion. The song is about how things can quickly go horribly wrong just when you think things are going okay for you.

Winner Takes It All sees the band go down more of a ska sound which I really enjoyed. This is such a positive and uplifting song about not giving up and going for your dreams. Lyrically the song is extremely simple. This simplicity makes the song so much more impactful, which I guess is what you want from a song like this. CPRW Records has just released a compilation packed with positive and uplifting songs, I’m sad that I hadn’t heard this song earlier as it would have been perfect for it. The fourth and final song is titled Dark Night Of The Soul. Second Player Score slow things down on this track. This gives the song that wonderful epic feeling that all final songs should have. Given the song’s title and the heavier nature of the sound, it would be fair to say that I was surprised to find the song so uplifting. The track is about holding on to hope no matter how difficult things may seem. Starting out slowly, the song builds and builds as it progresses towards its first chorus that will hopefully make anyone not feeling good feel at least a little better.

Four D: The Winter Suite is such an impressive release. It’s quite throwback in sound but doesn’t sound dated. The second half of the EP in particular was sublime. It’s such a positive ending and something that is important for people to hear. If you’re a fan of bands like Millencolin, Bad Religion or anything released by Epitaph twenty years ago, I’m sure you’ll love this.

Stream and download Four D: The Winter Suite on Bandcamp here.

Like Second Player Score on Facebook here.

This review was written by Colin Clark.

Wednesday, 14 April 2021

Album Review: Bigger Than Today by Becker


Becker are a three piece band from Parkersburg, West Virginia. The band have been together since 2018 and have released a couple of EPs. Their latest, and the subject of this review, came out in January 2021. Titled Bigger Than Today, the EP features five fresh sounding pop punk songs that explore life as a thirty something.
 

First up is Psycho Therapy. My very first thoughts when I listened to the track were that Becker had a bit of a throwback sound that has been brought to 2021. I can easily imagine this being released by Lookout Records or Honest Dons twenty years ago. Psycho Therapy starts with a familiar melody that ensures you’re hooked in immediately and are keen to see where the song goes. The song is played at a mid tempo which really allows the listener to get a grasp of what the track is about. The track looks at admitting that you are struggling mentally and asking for help. This is a subject that I am very passionate about. Suicide is such a big killer of men in their thirties and so many lives could be saved just by talking, so much love to Becker for opening with such an important song. Next is Thank You For Not Smoking. This track starts with a nice rumbling bass line and drum beat that builds into the vocals. Becker pick the pace up on this track and squeeze a lot into the one minute and thirty second duration. The chorus is the stand out moment of the entire song for me, as the band compares their own lives to people who are perceived to be doing better.

Regarding Reggie has a slow, methodical intro that jumps into a faster paced moment. Adam Nohe’s bass is really allowed to shine throughout the song, it’s basically a lead bass line throughout the majority of the track. This track is about feeling lonely and looking at what has happened in your life to lead you to that particular moment. Much like the previous song, Becker do a superb job of squeezing a lot in to a song that is less than two minutes long. The penultimate song on the EP is Man Plans, God Laughs. This shows off a much slower and, dare I say, more grown up side of Becker. The four minute long song seems like a meticulously thought out track where the three piece somehow manage to make their sound huge. Layered guitars, pedal effects, heavy bass tones, pounding drums – it’s all in there. Man Plans, God Laughs is about how all the dreams you have as a child can come crashing down and how rubbish that is. The final song on Bigger Than Today is named Elder Hostile. I was interested to find out what this song what would like after the epic nature of Man Plans, God Laughs. I felt like it needed to be big to follow on from that. Becker return to their familiar sound to finish the EP. It’s faster paced and ensures that we finish with a lot of energy. The guitars buzz throughout the track, as the vocals do most of the work whilst carrying the melody. Towards the end of the song things get quiet and then begin to build to a big finale of whoa-oh gang vocals that will no doubt encourage a live audience when they get to play these songs live.

Bigger Than Today features four great power pop songs and one epic, emotional banger. As someone who is in their mid thirties and has often compared themselves to what other people are doing, I really found a lot of the subject matter extremely relatable and I’m sure a lot of people reading this will do so as well. If you loved bands such as Squirtgun and Nerf Herder, I really think you’re going to enjoy Becker.

Stream and download Bigger Than Today on Bandcamp here.

Like Becker on Facebook here.

This review was written by Colin Clark.