Wednesday, 23 January 2019

Album Review: Wherever That Is by Panhandler (by Emma Prew)


Panhandler are a four-piece punk band from Stockholm, Sweden. In December they released a new album titled Wherever That Is on Trash Crusader Records (Sweden) and Whisk & Key Records (Australia). It was through the Australian label that we first heard of Panhandler. Intrigued by why this Swedish band was on an Australian label, I had little listen on Bandcamp and instantly took a liking to what I heard.


The album opens with its title track, Wherever That Is. A blast of energetic guitars and pounding drums instantly lures the listener in. It’s in a similar vein to bands such as Iron Chic and is definitely a style I love. The use of two vocalists is great – Shifty taking the first verse with a slightly rougher vocal and Frieda taking the second with a warmer, perhaps more polished vocal, before both joining together for the chorus. These vocals remind me a bit of RVIVR which is no bad thing. Wherever That Is is about knowing that someone is with you in your head and your heart, despite not knowing when you’ll actually see them again. Don’t Get Out Much is the second song of Wherever That Is. This is a fast paced and shorter tune which packs in plenty of melody. It has a sort of care-free indie punk feel at the beginning but this develops into a screamier fists-in-the-air punk rock banger. At points, the song reminds me of early Menzingers which is never a bad thing. Don’t Get Out Much is about dealing with the anxieties that come with everyday life including, but not limited to, leaving the house. A big guitar solo outro with the closing line ‘Isn’t that just what you wanted?’ finishes the song in style.

Musical styles are switched up further for the third track, Heroes. This is a rousing tune that feels almost folk or country-like. The best likeness I can think of is Dropkick Murphys, but without the inclusion of any typical folk instruments. Heroes is a heartfelt anthem for those unsung heroes in our lives. The song is a slow one for half of its duration before the pace and intensity picks up for the second half, returning to a more typical punk style. Vem Är Du Utan Pengar? (which translates as Who Are You Without Money?) is next up. Opening with crashing drums followed by fast, raspy and raw vocals, it all feels a bit angry but I mean that in the best way. It’s quite the contrast from the folk vibes of Heroes but I appreciate variety like this in an album. Vem Är Du Utan Pengar? feels like one big singalong with the chorus in particular being so cathartic – ‘So you look away to alleviate the guilt, So you don’t have to break up, A little piece of your heart.’ This song feels like the perfect release from the pressures of working your life away everyday.

Bad Daze will get your head nodding along in no time with its speedy guitar-based introduction. The mid-tempo verses where the instruments take more of a backseat allow the listener to fully take in the vocals. Panhandler seem to be quite the storytellers and this is particularly apparent on Bad Daze. The song is about having a bad day, or week, or month… but battling against giving up or giving in to negative feelings as best as humanly possible. Towards the middle of the track everything slows down and there’s a sort of interlude within the song. It’s not something you hear very often so it really grabbed my attention. As did the line ‘I just need to be a little more horizontal for a while.’ – I get you completely, Panhandler. Bitter vocals from Shifty kicks things off before anything else with Pacify Me‘I wanna be distracted…’. This is the first time we’ve heard the vocals take centre stage from the outset and it is something that hooked me immediately with the song. Slow verses compliment a bigger sounding chorus – ‘Pacify me, pacify me, pacify me, pacify me, Until it’s, until it’s gone.’ – and there’s a great sense of building between these, as well as contrasting instrumental sections and vocal parts. A highlight of the album for sure.

More of those huge-sounding, melodic guitars that we’ve come to expect from Panhandler lead us into the seventh song of Wherever That Is, Church. There’s an exchange of sorts between the quieter, mid-tempo vocals of the verses and fast and furious guitars parts on display here. Lyrically, the song is more than a bit self-deprecating but it is also strikingly honest. The line that really stood out to me is ‘I’ll let you down, Just like I used to.’ I’m getting more of The Menzingers-feel here or perhaps Spanish Love Songs. Parasites is the name of the next song which kicks off with some wonderfully warm guitars and a subtly fuzzy bassline. The track is about feeling frustrated and angry but trying to channel those feelings into something more worthwhile. I think the overall message is a positive one and the way in which it’s delivered is certainly effective. The upbeat chorus just might win the award for being most singalongable of the album – at least it would, if I could figure out each exact word.

The penultimate song of the album is titled Ache. It’s a slow burner that allows the listener to take a bit of a breather whilst taking in all the bitterness and emotion packed into the song. Ache feels a little alt-country in style which reminds me of punk bands like Timeshares. I initially thought it odd that Panhandler list their genre as being ‘emo country’ on Facebook but I kind of get it with songs like this. The repetition of ‘Someday you’ll ache like I ache.’ that ends the track feels like a huge emotional release for the band. It also leads us perfectly into the final song. I Want To Believe feels like an album closer, not least because with a 4 minute 18 second running time it is the longest track on the album. With a slow start featuring gentle guitar but no drums, this is another Timeshares-esque number with the alt-country vibes staying onboard from the previous song. There is perhaps also a hint of The Hold Steady, musically but not so much vocally. I Want To Believe seems to build as it progresses, the vocals increase in volume and intensity for one last jolt of energy. Towards the end I’m pretty sure there’s some brass alongside some whoa-oh-ohs. What a finale and a triumphant end to an excellent album.

You can stream and download Wherever That Is from Bandcamp (or buy it on vinyl!) and, obviously, you should also like Panhandler on Facebook.

This review was written by Emma Prew.

Tuesday, 22 January 2019

Album Review: Set Sail by Beat The Smart Kids


Last year I went out of my way to try and discover some underground ska punk bands from America as I felt that my knowledge was severely lacking. I had a lot of success in my search and discovered some really great bands. One of those bands, Chicago's Beat The Smart Kids, put out a brand new EP titled Set Sail towards the end of 2018 and I figured that after spending so much time finding these bands I should give it a listen.


The EP begins with its title track, Set Sail. It starts with some scratchy sounding guitar and some rough vocals, before some trombone hits and the song begins properly. On my first listen of the song I was immediately impressed with how the band implement a few different styles and tempos on the song without the song feeling clunky or clustered. It's also a song that you can pick up very easily and will have you singing along quickly. Set Sail is about doing your own thing and going your own way despite what the naysayers might think. On the second song, It's A Bomb, Beat The Smart Kids show off some diversity with their sound. The song starts with a much heavier tone than on the previous track and has a massive introduction before we get into some high tempo brass that will get everyone skanking. Vocally I'm really reminded of Dave Kirchgessner of legendary ska punks Mustard Plug. That is until Beat The Smart Kids really change things up and we get super skacore, perhaps giving the similarly named UK band Beat The Red Light a run for their money with some fantastic screaming.

Skippin' The Gym starts out quite slowly with more of a bouncy sing-along style about constantly avoiding things that you don't want to do. Soon enough the song picks up some real speed and will quickly get you dancing and getting your cardio before slowing down again to complete the track. I really enjoyed how a song that talks about avoiding exercise will get you doing it. The penultimate song on the EP is named Table For One. Table For One is about living in solitary, not giving up your time for other people and generally being a bit selfish. It sounds like quite a sad way to live and you'd think that musically the song would represent that, but no, this is a ska punk song. The trombone at the beginning of the song in particular put a huge grin on my face and it's another song that you'll be singing along to very quickly. The fifth and final song on the EP is titled Better Than Just Fine. It's a shorter song, at under two minutes in length, and finishes Set Sail off in a real positive way. It's a song about being happy and enjoying your life. The chorus was what really stood out on my first listen with the whole band taking turns to sing about what's making them so gosh darn happy and then combining for a gang vocal shout of "we're doing better than just fine." What a wonderful way to finish this fantastic EP.

If I had spent a little more time with Set Sail before the end of 2018, there's a very good chance that this would have finished up on my end of year list. Yes, it does sound very Mustard Plug but they're one of my favourite bands ever so I'm more than okay with that. I hope Beat The Smart Kids eventually find their way to the UK where they will be very well received.

Stream and download Set Sail here: https://btskska.bandcamp.com/album/set-sail

Like Beat The Smart Kids here: https://www.facebook.com/btskska

This review was written by Colin Clark.

Monday, 21 January 2019

Gig Review: Jake Jellyfish and Arms & Hearts at waterintobeer, London 17/1/19 (by Emma Prew)


Thursday 17th January marked the first (of many) gig of the year for myself and Colin. It was also specifically the first (also probably of many) South London gigs of 2019 – South London being the home of DIY punk rock, of course. Hosted by Gold Soul Theory Promotions at waterintobeer, a small shop selling all things beer, the all acoustic line-up featured Jake of Jake & The Jellyfish, Arms & Hearts, Tommy Simpson and C-Rage.


Having travelled to and across London from Bedford, we only just about made it to waterintobeer on time to see C-Rage open up the show – arriving during his first song, Fenchurch Street. The venue was already busy with plenty of pals, us included, keen to watch him do his thing. Usually found down the road at the New Cross Inn, there were plenty of the New Cross ‘crowd’ in attendance with a lovely chilled atmosphere for C-Rage’s set. The mixture of self-deprecating and nostalgic acoustic pop punk tunes was warmly received with attentive silence throughout the songs and enthusiastic applause after each. The set included a cover of Mixtapes’ Orange-Yellow and, fan/friend favourite C-Rage original, Soundcheck. We couldn’t have asked for a more lovely start to the evening.


Up next was Tommy Simpson, someone who I am most used to seeing as a part of London-based punk trio The Exhausts. I’m a big fan of the band but hadn’t listened to any of Tommy’s solo stuff before so was interested to hear him play and, with everything being unplugged, I didn’t have to wait long. It turned out Tommy Simpson, who frequently performs at waterintobeer, plays sad indie punk songs that are not too dissimilar to a stripped back Menzingers. Think songs about growing older and wondering what you’re doing with your life – it was his 30th birthday the next day so there was a bit of a theme. The songs were great, as was the banter in between, including introducing us to his best pal Buster, the dog, who happened to be outside the venue. I really enjoyed Tommy’s set and I’ll definitely be checking out his solo EP now.


The second part of the evening featured two musicians from a little further afield, the first of which being Arms & Hearts from Manchester. I saw Arms & Hearts last year for the first time, at Manchester Punk Festival no less, and was thoroughly impressed. Being completely unplugged at waterintobeer however gave this performance a different feel. Steve kept the audience captivated from the very first note with his gruff vocals carrying with ease despite not having a microphone. Arms & Hearts plays a sort of Americana-style acoustic punk, in a similar vein to Dave Hause, and was the only act of the night to bring more than just his acoustic guitar, with the addition of harmonica bringing bluesy Springsteen-esque vibes to the evening. Finishing a great set with the brilliant Fortitude, Steve encouraged the waterintobeer crowd to join him for a little singalong of ‘Home is wherever you happen to be tonight.’ Perfect.


The singalongs didn’t end there as it was time for the last act of the evening – Jake Jellyfish aka Jake from Jake & The Jellyfish, from Leeds. I’ve been a big fan of the folk punk stylings of Jake & The Jellyfish for several years now and have seen the band live multiple times, I had never seen a solo Jellyfish show however so this was going to be quite the treat. Jake’s set was choc-a-block with everyone’s favourite Jellyfish songs – hence the further singalongs – including Tunnel Vision, DIY, Dotted Line, Reading List and Same Old. The stripped back renditions of songs in such an intimate setting made for perhaps an even more emotional connection with the crowd than usual. Full band Jellyfish sets often feature an acoustic last song where Jake, and sometimes other members of the band, join the crowd for a final sing-song. So, to have a whole set of unplugged and much-loved Jellyfish songs just like that really felt special. We all loved it so much in fact that Jake agreed to play a bonus song at the end of his set – 23. A wonderful end to a wonderful evening of acoustic punk.


We probably didn’t really need easing back in to another year of punk rock gigs but it was nice to kick things off with something a little different all the same. Thanks to Gold Soul Theory Promotions and waterintobeer for making a Thursday in January thoroughly more enjoyable than staying home.

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

Album Review: Cubs by Cubs


Cubs are a five piece punk band from Newcastle, England. I luckily stumbled across their debut a few days ago and instantly fell in love with this band. In December they released what I believe is their debut self titled EP. It features three tracks of melodic gruff punk rock in a similar vein to Iron Chic, Red City Radio and Bear Trade. Three of my favourite bands so of course I was going to love it.


The EP begins with Curse Of The Colonel. After reading the list of bands I mentioned in the opening paragraph, I'm sure you can imagine what we have here – mid-tempo, hook filled sing-along punk rock. It's not reinventing any wheels but it does give the genre a bit of a shot in the arm. From the outset I had the urge to sing along with the band and there were plenty of opportunities. I loved the harmonies and the gang vocals. The song feels like it moves in stages, from the pounding opening, to the melodic chorus, the breakdown and the build towards its finale. The second of the three songs on the EP is named Bone Float. This shorter song really raises the tempo of the EP. At just under two minutes long, it manages to squeeze a lot in. The simple drum beat really drives the song forward and Cubs’ lead singer shows some good skill in delivering the lyrics clearly despite the speed of the track. You still want to sing along even if you can't keep up. The song’s highlight is obviously the gang vocals at the end of the track, getting everyone involved for the big ending. Last up is Haway Man. This song seems to combine a bit of everything I've enjoyed from the previous two songs on the EP. There's melody, there's tempo, the different stages stand out but also interlace with each other perfectly and, of course, there are more gang vocals and harmonies. Anyone who has been a regular reader of CPRW over the past few years must know how much of a sucker I am for gang vocals and harmonies. From the start of Haway Man I'm filled with a unstoppable energy that keeps me pumped up for the entire song. If a track does this, you know it's a pretty special song.

This is some debut from a band I stumbled upon by dumb luck. I was a very lucky boy to discover them. If you're a fan of gruff punk then Cubs are seriously a band you need to be listening to!

Stream and download Cubs here: https://cubsbandne.bandcamp.com/releases

Like Cubs here: https://www.facebook.com/CubsbandNE/

This review was written by Colin Clark.

Friday, 18 January 2019

Album Review: The Subjunctives by The Subjunctives (by Emma Prew)


The Subjunctives are a three-piece from Seattle, Washington, who play hook-laden pop punk tunes. In true pop punk fashion, their debut (or at least what the band describes as their first ‘real’ recording) self-titled EP, released at the beginning of the year, is 6 tracks in 12 minutes – short and fast. Despite its brevity, I loved this EP by The Subjunctives from my first listen. Here’s why…


Opening the EP with pounding drums, fast paced guitar riffage and soon a steady pop punk bassline, Pass It On wastes no time in getting things going and showcasing what The Subjunctives are all about. It’s upbeat, it’s catchy and those harmonies in the chorus – so good! Pass It On is a feel-good tune about having a great time and trying to pass that feeling on – which certainly works in the form of this song. ‘Pass it on, try to let go.’ Next up is a song called Girl Ghost. The speed is upped a notch for this one as the band tear through a tale of a ‘little girl ghost’ who haunts guitarist and vocalist Ean’s house – at least in the song, perhaps also in real life. ‘Little girl ghost you're the audience of one, Little girl ghost I hope that you like my new song.’ Girl Ghost is short but fun song. It also has its own video to visualise the tale and you can check it out here (the clip at the end of the song makes more sense if you watch the video). Kicking off with a lovely slice of bass, Anastasia is the title of the third song of the EP. As soon as the vocals hit for this sweet, snappy power pop song, I am reminded of a specific band – R.E.M., from their early days. Now I know there are probably plenty of specifically more pop punk comparisons I could make (Hüsker Dü for example, who the band mention themselves) but, for me, that’s what I hear. And besides, I love it either way. Things switch up about halfway through the song and the power pop turns shreddy for a rocking outro. Great stuff!

Having not paid attention to the titles of the songs the first time I hit play on this EP, I instantly took a liking to the fourth track thanks to its opening lines. ‘Some girls like to go to parties others like to be alone, Some girls like to stay up late others like to stay at home.’ By the time the chorus hits and I realise this song is both about [a] and titled Introverted Girl, I’m well and truly sold. Why? Because I’m an introverted girl and this song celebrates introverts like Isabella (the girl in the song) and me. Quit is the longest song of the EP, although it’s still less than 3 minutes in length. It also has less of a pop punk feel to it than some of the other tunes but that’s okay because it’s still great. The highlight of the song has to be its chorus with the combination of two vocalists exchanging lines – plus I love a good nautical metaphor. ‘You’re grasping, you’re flailing, Your ship's left, it’s sailing, The captain is bailing, Now.’ The short, fast pop punk style returns for the final song, Rotate. This is, I think, the first song I’ve ever heard that talks about the rotation of the earth. The Subjunctives use this theme to create their own kind of lively love song. ‘Eight more hours would rotate you back around the world to me.’ Sadly the song is over before you know it, as is the EP, but it’s ever so easy to hit play again.

It’s not often I listen to an album or EP and can instantly think of what I’d write in my review, if I was to review it, but that’s exactly what happened with The Subjunctives. I loved it and I want you to too!

Check out The Subjunctives on Bandcamp and on Facebook now.

This review was written by Emma Prew.

Thursday, 17 January 2019

Top Tens: H_ngm_n's Top Ten Punk Rock Influences


MOTION CITY SOUNDTRACK:
(Chris) – MCS are one of my all time favourite bands. The way Justin Pierre writes really dark lyrics over super catchy pop-punk songs has always been one of those things I've wanted to do. The subject matters of alcoholism and pushing away those closest to you are really honest and bleak, whilst having these big pop hooks and fun energetic songs, create a contrast that I've always been amazed by. I've always wanted to approach my songwriting in a similar way. The drums are insanely good, some of the most creative drumming I've ever heard. And, although I prefer the earlier albums, I don't think I dislike anything they've released. RIP MCS.

SAY ANYTHING:
(Chris) – "Is A Real Boy" has to be up there in my top ten all time favourite albums. Such a creative masterpiece. I don't think I heard it or got into Say Anything until 2012 – very late to the party – but lyrically I've always aspired to try and write like them. I also love how they don't exactly stick to the conventional song structures and mess around with time signatures, tempos etc. Me and James have always tried to put little bits of "weird" in the songs and I feel like Say Anything have a big part in that. Seeing them at Slam Dunk this year was a dream come true.

PARAMORE:
(Chris) – I've been a huge Paramore fan from their first album, I remember seeing them in Kerrang Magazine's "Introducing" feature and I was obsessed with them around the time I started playing in bands and writing. Despite all of their line ups and changes in sound, there's not one Paramore album I don't love. Hayley Williams' vocals are incredible and they're just one of those solid bands that I don't think I'll ever get bored of. I've actually done a couple of acoustic Paramore cover sets!

BLINK 182:
(James) – I have always loved Blink. From a drummer's point of view, Travis Barker is truly phenomenal. Ever since Enema of The State, this band went from strength to strength. From a young drummer, Blink have always inspired me to be in a crappy pop punk band and write music about drunk parties and generally being immature. Both Chris and I haven't grown up completely and we will endeavour to continue this trend. Take Off Your Pants and Jacket has to be up there as one of my favourite albums of theirs, closely followed by their self-titled album.

THE HOTELIER:
(Chris) – I came across these guys when they were "The Hotel Year" via some blog post years ago – awesome band. Their albums were really refreshing to me and it always seemed like they were trying to go for something a bit different. I saw them in London a year or two ago and their live sound was incredible. I can't deny that they've been a huge influence on H_ngm_n's music, I'd probably say they're one of the biggest influences, especially in our newer stuff.

STEREOPHONICS:
(Chris) – I gotta include Stereophonics, probably the first band I got into when I was learning guitar. My older sister was a huge fan and I used to steal her CDs when we were kids. I loved the fact they were a three piece, as was my first band, and the way their songs lyrically told a story. "Word Gets Around" has to be up there in my top albums of all time. I was really into learning full guitar chords rather than just power chords and yeah I don't think I'd write songs in the style I do now if it wasn't for Stereophonics! I know James hates them, hahaha.

UNDEROATH
(James) – I have a always been a huge fan of UnderOath. I'm generally a fan of a lot of hardcore music, but was introduced to them by a friend at school, way back in 2004 with the track Reinventing Your Exit. The cross between singing and screaming really appeals to me. The blend of intricate drum parts, weird time signature parts and heavy hitting is something I try to emulate. I enjoy their open minimalistic middle 8 sections, back into heavy full on choruses. Great for a long drive! I'm not a fan of their latest album, but after having all members changed and Aaron Gillespie leaving, their sound changed dramatically.

TAKING BACK SUNDAY [2]:
(Chris) – Hugely into Taking Back Sunday [2], another one of those bands that despite various line-up changes, I'm a massive fan of every release. I wouldn't be able to choose a favourite album. The whole dual vocals thing was really influential in mine and James' old band and musically they're just bang on. The first time I heard of them was through mates in bands when we were in school who covered "Cute Without The E" and I guess the EMO phase (that I never grew out of) started from there.

THE USED:
(Chris) – Bert McCracken is one of my heroes. Amazing songwriter and vocalist, still to this day absolutely smashing it. Another one of those emo bands discovered in school. "Maybe Memories" and "In Love & Death" are amazing records. If you're not familiar with these two records then you need to get on it. Such a great band.

MICHAEL JACKSON:
(Chris) – Not exactly a direct influence on our songs, but Michael Jackson has to be the first music I remember being into as a kid and have always been hugely into pop music since. For someone to have so many great songs is nuts. I remember having some plastic Fisher Price walkman thing as a kid and stealing my mum's MJ tapes from the car. I mean, there were others – David Bowie, David Essex, David Cassidy, all the "David's" in music apparently – but MJ was the one that stuck with me. Cheers mum, I had to listen to something other than The Smurfs album (not hating – that was also sick).

Like H_ngm_n here: https://www.facebook.com/hngmnuk

Wednesday, 16 January 2019

Album Review: Nightmare On Misery Street by Question The Mark


The beginning of January is basically that time where I catch up with releases that came out late in the year before and didn't have enough time to spend much time with. One such release came from Welsh punks Question The Mark who released a brand new EP on Little Rocket Records. Titled Nightmare On Misery Street, it features three brand new tracks of distinctive gruff punk rock.


Opening with the EP’s title track, I'm instantly reminded of what I loved about Question The Mark when I first heard them a few years ago on the Smoke Signals EP. The vocal is one of the most distinctive in the UK gruff punk scene and it really adds something a little different to the QTM sound. Nightmare On Misery Street starts out quite slowly with Rich's bass and Lewis' drums introducing us into the EP before the vocals comes in and we're off and running. Like all the best gruff punk, it instantly has me wanting to sing-along. The melody does a superb job of drawing you in and helps the song get caught in your head. In one song I'm already remembering just what a superb band Question The Mark are. The second track on the EP is Perk U Later. This song starts with some lovely guitar work that quickly fills the song with a great energy. It has you thinking we're getting another melody filled track, which we do get for a little while before it switches to more of a stabby and to the point style. By the end of the song you'll be shouting "never gonna get it" back at the band as loudly as you possibly can with your fist high in the air – it's that kind of song. The EP finishes with Where There's A Pill, There's A Way. Not bothering with an introduction to the song, the band launch straight into a song about using prescription drugs to help you live your life. I say this so much but I am always so impressed when a band uses their music to discuss mental health. The more people talk about it the better. The song feels much more urgent than the previous two, probably due to the higher tempo and the strained backing vocal adding an excellent harmony.

I loved all three of these songs. Question The Mark have been going for a little while now and seemed like a bit of a well kept secret in the punk scene in the south of the UK. Nightmare On Misery Street could definitely open a few more doors for them around the country and further afield. A great introduction for new fans as well as an impressive return for older fans.

Stream and download by Misery On Nightmare Street here: https://questionthemark.bandcamp.com/

Like Question The Mark here: https://www.facebook.com/questionthemark/

This review was written by Colin Clark.