Wednesday, 26 January 2022

Album Review: At War With The Silverfish by Laura Jane Grace (by Ilse R. Smit)

Generally speaking, I love an intricate promo strategy. I like looking forward to releases, I love the anticipation that is fed by teasers, singles, maybe even an elaborate world building social media campaign. But thanks to Laura Jane Grace, lead singer, guitarist, songwriter and OG of Against Me!, I have a newfound appreciation for surprise releases these past two years. At War With The Silverfish, Grace’s second solo EP, was released on September 22nd 2021 by Polyvinyl Record Co and Big Scary Monsters.

Folk punk isn’t usually my thing. I don’t hate it or anything, there’s just something about it, a vulnerability in how stripped-down it can be. An emotional rawness that just makes me feel kind of uncomfortable. Like someone just handed me a bunch of their emotions and I’m there awkwardly standing there asking myself what the hell I’m supposed to do with them. Laura Jane Grace is a different story altogether. I love listening to her (my crush on her might have something to do with that).  

The first track on the EP is Three Of Hearts. Her voice, accompanied by an acoustic guitar, sounds warm, vulnerable, but mostly very sweet. Like asking someone to take a chance on you, but with the classic LJG self-deprecating twist we all know and love.

The second track, Lolo 13, is so dreamy! It’s more upbeat and the drums really round out the sound of the song. The backing vocals play a big part in the aforementioned dreamy-ness. I love how Laura uses words that don’t really rhyme without it bothering you. The lyrics are fairly repetitive, which makes me think they could do very well when performed live, since they’re easy to pick up. And not only that, I’m having a hard time sitting still while I’m writing this. I’m not surprised at all that, as I’m writing this, this is the most popular song of the EP on Spotify. Laura Jane Grace is ever so relatable when she sings about not being sure someone is flirting with her.

Long Dark Night is GROOVY! I’m loving the bassline, I’d call it my favourite character of this song. It’s a great song for road trips. It gives off a “we got a long way to go, but if we keep going, slow and steady, we’ll get there”-vibe mixed with “it will only go downhill from here”. Only Laura Jane Grace can tell me to “shut the fuck up and sit back down” and be endearing while doing it.

We reach the half-way point with Electro-Static Sweep, the longest track on the EP. The song introduces a string section, which I’m guessing is a violin, and takes a step back pace-wise. The tempo and newly added layers amplify the melancholy and nostalgia, especially when listening to the vocal effect during the beginning of the first verse that makes it feel antiquated, very compelling.

Laura Jane Grace believes that the next song, Day Old Coffee, is “the worst one she’s ever written” but released it anyway because she liked the video they made. I’m not in the position to say whether or not that is true, but I think it’s short (seriously, 1:13 long) but sweet! Or maybe I just strongly relate to my brain feeling fried and literally always forgetting I have a cup of tea standing around that has reached room temperature by the time I remember. Not a bad intermezzo at all.

Smug Fuckface is another very disarming acoustic track that I think has the strongest relation with the title of the album. Fleeting memories and fighting/negotiating that loss. Like silverfish ruining records and books.
Up until the start of the last song, I was convinced the EP was building up to Electro-Static Sweep, and peeling those added layers away as the album progressed. Yesterday Pt. II proves me wrong, and I appreciate that. It’s hard to label the emotion the song carries. It sounds almost cheerful and the lyrics are reminiscing. But I’m not sure if it’s a “don’t be sad because it’s over, smile because it happened” sort of thing, or that there is an agony in the recollection of meaningful memories. Let’s just say it’s an interesting song.

At this point, I’ve listened to At War With The Silverfish many, many times – in part because it’s only 14:14 long and I take my time writing these reviews. But I had a really good time listening to it. There is variety, but it’s also cohesive. It is personal and specific, but relatable. If you haven’t already, do yourself a favour and give it a (digital) spin!

Listen/buy At War With The Silverfish on Bandcamp.

Follow Laura Jane Grace on Instagram, Twitter, or Facebook.

This review was written by Ilse R. Smit.

Monday, 24 January 2022

Album Review: ABCD by Melanie

During the great summer lockdown of 2020 I found myself with a lot of time to search through Bandcamp discovery checking out new bands. An absolute favourite of mine was New Zealand’s jangly indie pop punk band Melanie. I absolutely loved their debut album, 42 Losers, it even found a place into my top ten of the year. In 2021, they released 42 Losers on vinyl and I would hazard a guess that I am the only person in the UK who owns it (thanks largely to the band very kindly helping me out with shipping costs). On January 26th of this year, Melanie release a brand new four track EP titled ABCD. I was very keen to see how the band follows up 42 Losers.

ABCD kicks off with All Talk, No Trousers. I’m always a sucker for a quiet introduction that leads into a big explosion and that’s exactly what Melanie do here. What is extra enjoyable about this intro though is the urgency that James Dentice sings with. This urgent tempo remains throughout the song and keeps you hooked. The song is about not living up to the standards you set yourself and the feelings that that brings. Next up is the EP’s lead single, Brains. If you haven’t checked out the excellent video for this song then you can do so here. On my first listen of the song it was obvious why Melanie picked this song for the first single. The track starts loudly, really grabbing you, before James’ vocals come in and offer a more melodic path for the song to travel down. James’ vocals do a magnificent job in telling a story and taking you along for the ride. It’s about the struggle of not fitting in and feeling as if you are being held down by oppressive people. As the song continues, the emotion and anguish becomes stronger, really adding to the turmoil that the character is going through.

The penultimate track is titled Cold Feet. The emotion is turned up to eleven to start the song, grabbing the listener’s attention in a different way. There’s a lot more crunch to the song than on the previous two tracks with Joe Gasparich’s drumming really standing out, powering the song forward. James demonstrates that he is equally adept in the shouting style of singing as well the more melodic side. There is a guitar solo midway through the song that is either played by James or the band’s other guitarist, Robin Davey Rusk, that shreds as well as any technical skate punk band does. A Wilhelm Scream would be very pleased with it. ABCD is completed with Delivery Boy, the only track on the EP to go over three minutes (and two for that matter). There’s so much going on in this song. It starts with James doing his best Kristopher Roe impression before the whole band come in with a plodding beat and some big gang vocals. Then, without warning, the tempo is upped and we get to the main portion of the track. I’d say this is the most uptempo of the four tracks on ABCD and also one of the catchiest. It won’t be long until it gets stuck in your head, that’s for certain. As the track begins to wind down, the tempo comes down slightly and we are treated to a grand finale outro that is just epic. A very fitting way to finish the song and the entire EP.

If ABCD doesn’t place very highly in my favourite EPs of 2022 then it’s been the best year for new music ever. I seriously encourage every single one of you reading this review to go and check out Melanie. One, because they’re a seriously good band who deserve your attention and, two, so they can gain a massive UK fanbase so that they can come tour over here and I can finally see them. Thanks.

Follow Melanie’s Bandcamp here, ready for when ABCD is released.

Like Melanie on Facebook here.

This review was written by Colin Clark.

Wednesday, 19 January 2022

Album Review: Coping Mechanism by Filthy Militia

London ska punks Filthy Militia release their second EP, Coping Mechanism, on the 4th of February with the help of Pookout Records. After a successful Kickstarter campaign last year, the band went into the studio with Oz Craggs at Hidden Track Studios to record five new songs. Because I’m a very special boy, guitarist and lead singer Frosty sent me an early copy. Here are my thoughts.

Coping Mechanism begins with Another Day. The song starts off with a great drum beat before some brass comes in. This gets the EP off to an energetic start. Then the music stops and some upstrokes alongside Frosty’s vocals start – and he’s almost rapping. This is a new thing and I like it. When the chorus comes in I get some strong Call Me Malcolm vibes which isn’t too surprising given that Filthy Militia are fans of the band and Craggs is also their producer. If you enjoy Malcolm then you’ll also enjoy this. The second track is Differences. This song is pure joy contained in four minutes and thirty seven seconds of music and singing. The track is about how everyone is different but that’s what makes each person special and how we should embrace those differences rather than arguing about them. The horns at the beginning put a smile on my face immediately, like I said – they are pure joy. The opening verse keeps things quiet until the chorus comes in and the tempo is raised. The band are definitely embracing the punk part of the ska punk genre more so than they did on their debut EP. It’s also fantastic to hear the band using gang vocals more – they really give the song a fuller sound.

Beatdown sees Filthy Militia slow things down and enter the world of dub. I’ve never heard the band go down this musical path before and it’s nice to see them spreading their musical wings and showing a bit more variety. The track is about coming together and fighting back against the people that try and hold you down. The more restrained nature of the song really drives home the message that the track is spreading. The penultimate song on Coping Mechanism is Land Of The Dead. Picking the tempo back up, Filthy Militia return to their ska punk sound but also add in some gypsy influence. I’ve seen this song live and it certainly has some Gogol Bordello influence to it. It is a very welcome addition to the band’s live set. The final section of the song features a huge chanting section that builds and builds and is a whole lot of fun! The final song on the EP is Don’t You Look Back. The band made and released a lockdown video for the track last year that you should definitely check out. It’s here. This was the perfect choice to bridge the band’s first EP, Innocent Until Proven Filthy, and Coping Mechanism. The track has more of the ska pop sound that can be found on Until Proven but also has the up tempo edge that the band have brought in for this EP. Don’t You Look Back is about chasing your dreams and not worrying about things that have happened previously. A nice positive message to end a nice positive EP.

On Coping Mechanism, Filthy Militia have really stepped things up another level. I really enjoyed Innocent Until Proven Filthy but Coping Mechanism showcases a band who have spent the last few years growing and improving as a band. I expect this EP will earn the band a lot more fans and propel them on to even bigger and better things.

Filthy Militia are hosting an EP launch show at The Black Heart in Camden on Saturday the 12th of February, make sure you get a ticket and pop along.

Check out Coping Mechanism when it is released on 4th of February and, in the meantime, you can find their previous releases on Bandcamp here.

Like Filthy Militia on Facebook here.

This review was written by Colin Clark.

Monday, 17 January 2022

Album Review: Twistin' The Knife Away by Heart & Lung

Red Scare Industries continue their trend for only releasing bangers. Towards the end of last year, they released the brand new full length from Cleveland, Ohio’s Heart & Lung. I first heard of Heart & Lung thanks to a lot of listening to bands playing The Fest 2021 in Gainesville. I immediately knew they were a band for me and, knowing their sound, it was no surprise that Red Scare ended up releasing Twistin’ The Knife Away. The album is eleven tracks of superb punk rock and features three different lead singers and plenty of harmonies. What’s not to love!

Twistin’ The Knife Away begins with Watch You Suffer. After a short audio clip, we’re greeted with a high energy introduction. The guitars buzz and the vocals have a hint of urgency that ensures that the album kicks off in the right way. The track is also plenty catchy with a chorus that you will be singing from your first listen and for days to come afterwards. I felt that it was pretty gutsy of the band to take on religion on the first track but seriously enjoyed it. The next track, I’m Fine, has more of a mid-tempo style with Heart & Lung immediately showing off their different vocalists and influences. The switch in style may take the listener a bit by surprise but will also help retain attention throughout the entire album. I’m Fine is about trying to convince people that you’re okay, when in truth you’re just lying to yourself and everyone else. This is something I’m sure we’ve all done and can really relate too. The band return to the poppier side of their sound on Punk Posters. This is another real earworm of a track. The opening harmonies of “putting up all my old punk posters” puts a smile on my face every time hear it. The track is about getting over a break up by going back to the things you found love and comfort in before the relationship. In this case, it’s punk rock music.

Die Alone is a forty-four second song that is simply about dying alone. It’s short, catchy and has a shreddy solo to finish the track. I’m not sure there’s much more to say about it other than I bet it’s great fun to sing live. The fifth song is titled Headache. Headache is another of the slower tracks on Twistin’ The Knife Away and offers a bit of a rest after the high tempo nature of the previous two songs. It’s a masterclass in writing a catchy song but also being extremely melancholic. The song eases in gently and sets out the scene of what life suffering with depression can be like. As the song progresses, the whole band comes in and gives the song a fuller sound. I can imagine this song also being extremely well received in a live setting and it being super cathartic. Up next is Shit Together. Starting out with some dual vocalists trading off lines was something I really liked. I’m assuming that the band are all in their late twenties and/or early thirties as they question where their lives are going and wonder when “they will get their shit together.” Another hugely relatable song that will be super fun to sing along to. The song structure is pretty simple, making it really accessible for the folk listening. I particularly liked the verse where the band essentially lists all the things going wrong in their life – I thought that was some quite creative lyric writing. Never Come Home is a song about dealing with loss and coming to terms with the finality of death. It’s definitely the saddest and most emotional song on the album and displays a different style of songwriting from the band. The “whoa-oh” shouts throughout the track really add some extra atmosphere to Never Come Home and you can hear some heartbreak as they are bellowed out.

Caveman is another short song – this time it’s just thirty-four seconds. Heart & Lung do an impressive job of packing a lot into this high octane pop punk song about starting again and going back to when times seemed simpler. Track nine is named Drunk And Right. On my first listen through of Twistin’ The Knife Away, Drunk And Right was one of the stand out songs for me. In particular, it was the lyric “shit don’t change if you don’t push back” that really caught my ear. Given the amount of gang vocals and harmonies that Heart & Lung use, it makes sense for them to have a song that rallies people to fight back against injustices. The jangly guitar sound that introduces the song and leads into the opening “whoa-oh” is masterful – the song does a magnificent job in subtly building up. It’s one where you get hooked in without even realising that they have caught you. The penultimate song is titled Control. This is a shorter song that feels as if it’s been split into two parts. The first part is just one of the band’s vocalists and a guitar along with a simple drumbeat welcoming you into the song before the whole band gradually comes in and the song explodes into a huge sound. As the whole band does come in, the song also becomes more urgent and it eventually feels like it’s a race to the finish. Last up is Earth, Wind, And Water. What a wonderfully raucous way to finish the album! Once again, the track starts out at a slower tempo but it’s not long before the chaos begins. There’s so much going on throughout the song with tempo and melody shifts, key changes and vocals galore. It’s what I love to see in a punk rock song. It’s nice not knowing what’s going to happen next. I think it’s important for an album to finish with a bang and Heart & Lung certainly accomplished this. Great stuff!

The list of bands that have released amazing records on Red Scare and then gone on to do some amazing things is massive and I can fully see Heart & Lung following on in the footsteps of those bands.

Stream and download Twistin' The Knife Away on Bandcamp here.

Like Heart & Lung on Facebook here.

This review was written by Colin Clark.

Friday, 14 January 2022

Column: Punk Festival Preview 2022

Writing this post very much feels like I’m tempting fate. I wrote one of these in 2020 and we all know what happened there. However, I would rather be a naïve optimist rather than a cynical pessimist so I’m ploughing on and writing this anyway. Plus it’s easy content! What you are about to dive into is my festival preview for 2022.

We all love a punk festival. They are a time where fans of punk from all over the world gather in a place to rekindle and make friendships, as well as watching the best bands around. Festivals always feel like a big celebration of what the punk scene is about and, after a very difficult couple of years, I think they are needed more than ever. Here’s a big ol’ preview of some that are happening in the UK and further afield in 2022.

Fishstock 2022 at The Exchange, Bristol (26th March)

Starting with one that isn’t technically a festival, it’s an all dayer but I wanted to include it anyway. Chris Fishlock is a promoter and all around legend based in Bristol. Each year they put on a show for their birthday and, all going to plan, 2022 isn’t going to be any different. We were fortunate enough to attend Fishstock in 2021 and it was one of our favourite days of the year. I really enjoyed the varied and diverse line up and 2022 looks to be just as good. Across the two stages at The Exchange are The Filaments, Grand Collapse, The Menstrual Cramps, 2 Sick Monkeys, Killdren, Darko, 51st State, Triple Sundae, Boom Boom Racoon, Roshambo, Buds., Cosmit, Sniff and Petty Treason. All this for just £12 as well!

Manchester Punk Festival, Manchester (15th to 17th April)

If you’re reading this you probably are well aware of Manchester Punk Festival and what an incredible weekend it is. After having to cancel in 2020 and not being able to put on the 2021 edition, MPF 2022 promises to be bigger and better than ever. Such is the excitement for the festival’s return, tickets for the weekend sold out six months in advance which is absolutely ridiculous. Talking about ridiculous, have you seen the line up?! I’m not listing them all as there’s loads of bands appearing over the three days, across half a dozen venues. If you like any music that falls under the punk umbrella there will be something for you.

Slam Dunk, Hatfield (4th June) / Leeds (5th June)

Slam Dunk pulled off somewhat of a miracle last year by not only managing to get their festival to happen but they were also one of the first events to be able to host international bands. I made a very last minute decision to attend last year and I’m very glad I did. The outdoor festival takes place in Hatfield and Leeds during the first weekend of June. So far they’ve given us two line up announcements and it’s looking massive already. Some stand outs for me are The Mighty Mighty Bosstones, The Interrupters, Pennywise, Hot Water Music, The Vandals, Spanish Love Songs, The Flatliners, Meet Me @ The Altar and Pinkshift. I fully expect the Slam Dunk Team to bring out some more massive names in the coming months.

Bristol Booze Cruise at The Exchange, Bristol (18th to 19th June)

Bristol Booze Cruise is the sister festival of Hamburg Booze Cruise which, in my eyes, is the European equivalent of The Fest. Taking place at The Exchange in Bristol during June, the only news we have about the festival at the time of writing this is the first batch of bands playing. And what a first announcement it was! Some of the international acts included were Tigers Jaw, Dogleg, Dollar Signs, MakeWar, The Penske File, Mikey Erg, Ramona and Moonraker, alongside UK and Ireland acts such as Dream Nails, Fresh, Nervus, Cherym, Hell’s Ditch and Goodbye Blue Monday. It’s going to be a big weekend!

Hamburg Booze Cruise, Hamburg, Germany (24th to 26th June)

We attended Hamburg Booze Cruise for the first time in 2019 and it instantly became a must-attend event on our festival calendar. Stefan and the team put on such a wonderful event that we just fell in love with. Taking place at a handful of venues around the Hamburg docks as well as some sets on a boat, there isn’t any news on the line up as yet but I would imagine that a lot of the North American bands playing in Bristol will also be in Hamburg alongside some of the very best in European punk rock. Given that Brexit has now happened and screwed over UK bands being able to tour Europe and European bands being able to tour the UK, events like this are now your best chance to see your favourite bands from the mainland.

Punk Rock Raduno, Bergamo, Italy (14th to 17th July)

If you're into your three chord pop punk music then there is no better festival than Punk Rock Raduno. The festival brings together the very best acts in Ramonescore from all over the world and puts them on for free in a field in Northern Italy. I've long admired the festival and it's high on my list of festivals I must find time to go to at some point. The organisers have been releasing news on the line up over the last few months and it's already looking amazing. So far The Huntingtons, Giant Eagles, Dan Vapid And The Cheats, Stinking Polecats, Beatnik Termites, Geoff Palmer, Pat Todd And The Rankoutsiders, The Methadones and Baby Shakes have been announced and you should expect to see more of the amazing bands in the genre revealed soon.

Level Up Festival at New Cross Inn, London. (It’s usually in July.)

There’s actually been no news yet about whether or not the best ska punk festival in the world will be returning in 2022. In previous years the weekend-long festival which is put on by Be Sharp Promotions, Fishlock Promotions and El Topo Bookings has been a big highlight of the year. With ska’s popularity on the rise I would imagine that, if the festival does happen, it will be the craziest one yet. In the meantime I’m going to keep pestering Paul for news.

KNRD Fest in the woods near Nuremburg, Germany (22nd to 24th July)

KNRD Fest is an outdoor skate punk festival that takes place in some beautiful woods in Nuremburg, Germany. I’ve not seen any news on the 2022 line up yet, I suspect it will be coming in early 2022 but, looking at past line-ups, I’ve no doubt it will be stacked with the finest DIY bands Europe has to offer.

SBÄM Fest 4, Linz, Austria (30th to 31st July)

SBÄM Fest 4 already looks like it’s going to be huge and they don’t seem to have announced their headliners yet. Amongst the bands already announced are Descendents, Millencolin, The Bouncing Souls, Get Dead, Chaser, Love Equals Death and Roughneck Riot – and, like I said, they’ve not announced their headliners yet! The festival will also feature an art exhibit with SBÄM founder Stefan Beham’s designs of tour posters, album covers and merchandise, as well as international guests and their own work.

Wonk Fest at The Dome, London (30th July)

Wonk Unit’s annual big London party returns in July. Each year the band invite the friends they’ve made through touring to play at The Dome and I’m told every year is a massively wholesome time. No bands have been announced yet but you know the line-up is going to be packed. If all the bands aren’t enough to entice you, there will also be a buffet!

BRAKrock, Duffel, Belgium (5th to 7th August)

BRAKrock returns for its tenth anniversary in 2022. The outdoor Ecofest is now a staple in the European festival circuit and takes place in what looks to be a beautiful location. Promoter Kim has been hard at work booking and rebooking bands for the festival throughout the entire pandemic and, as things stand, the line-up currently features Descendents, Circle Jerks, Sick Of It All, The Bouncing Souls, Mad Caddies, Voodoo Glow Skulls, Get Dead, Authority Zero, Belvedere, The Decline and many, many more.

Punk Rock Holiday in Tolmin, Slovenia (9th to 12th August)

Slovenia’s Punk Rock Holiday is probably the most well-known European punk festival at this point. For years now the festival has been welcoming bands from all over the world to its two stages in what looks like a punk rock paradise. With two stages, one of which is on the beach, the festival hosts some of the biggest bands in the scene alongside some of the best new talent. At the time of writing, the line-up for 2022 has yet to be announced but the organisers are working hard on mirroring the 2020 line-up as best as they can. I’d predict there will be plenty of bands who are also playing BRAKrock and SBÄM on the line-up.

Washed Out Festival, Brighton (2nd to 4th September)

Washed Out Festival in Brighton is a celebration of all things independent and alternative music. Bringing in punk, emo, indie, hardcore and hip hop acts from all over the UK, Washed Out always looks like such a busy time with the amount of amazing established and up and coming acts that they book. This year the Washed Out team have also added Be Sharp Promotions, Upsurge Promotions and New Cross Live to their team to expand the festival even further.

Wotsit Called Fest at The Pig, Hastings (23rd to 25th September)

Wotsit Called Fest is a DIY festival put together by the Toxic Wotsit collective in Hastings on the south coast of England. Like a lot of the festivals in the back end of 2022, not much is known about the line-up but this year’s featured bands like The Filaments, Nosebleed, Knife Club, The Domestics, Killdren, Haest, Rash Decision and Pizzatramp so if that’s anything to go by then you should expect Wotsit Called Fest to be one of the rowdiest festivals of 2022.

Till The Fest in New Cross, South London (14th to 16th October)

Till The Fest was an event that was put on by DIY promoter Till The Wheels last year to celebrate twenty years of putting on gigs. It was a huge success and was my personal highlight of the year. I was over the moon to learn that Ollie would be making it a yearly event. The event had stages at The Amersham Arms, New Cross Inn and Matchstick Piehouse, whilst also running a record fair and a five-a-side football tournament. More news about the festival is due for the new year but early bird tickets are currently available on Dice. Don’t hang about. Ollie has already announced that Inner Terrestrials, Ducking Punches, Misfortune Cookie, Roshambo, Sniff, The Restarts, The Human Project, Other Half, Harker and Early Flights for the festival.

The Fest in Gainesville, Florida (28th to 30th October)

The only North American festival on this list, Gainesville’s The Fest is also probably the biggest. They welcome hundreds of punk bands from every conceivable genre to Gainesville to basically host a worldwide family reunion. In 2022, Fest will host its twentieth edition and I suspect all the stops will be pulled out to ensure it’s the biggest one ever. I’d expect plenty of surprises in the line-up alongside all the familiar faces. If you’re lucky enough to be able to afford to get out to Florida for Halloween, then I look forward to seeing you there. The first line-up announcement and tickets will go live on the 20th of April.

Book Yer Ane Fest at Rad Apples and Conroy’s Basement, Dundee, Scotland (Usually the end of November)

Make-That-A-Take Records’ yearly punk rock get together Book Yer Ane Fest is one of my very favourite festivals I’ve ever had the pleasure of attending. It’s perhaps the smallest in size in this preview but my goodness it’s a hell of a time. The last two additions primarily featured the very best in Scottish punk rock but bands from all over the UK and across the world have been known to make an appearance in the basement. BYAF is a celebration of all of the amazing work that MTAT do throughout the year and they also use their event to help raise much needed funds for local charities. If you’ve not been yet it should be at the top of your list.

Nice As Pie Race in Leeds (Not sure when)

Nice As Pie Race is a festival that takes place in Leeds put on by a collective promoting fun, kindness, pies and punk, what more could you possibly want? What makes the festival different to the others on this list is that all the bands the festival book feature folk who don’t classify themselves as male. There’s been a real push in the UK DIY scene to make gigs and festivals more diverse and operations like Nice As Pie are a wonderful part of this. Check out social media pages for all the upcoming details.

This column was written by Colin Clark.

Thursday, 13 January 2022

Album Review: Fires Forming by The Jukebox Romantics

New Yorkers The Jukebox Romantics released their long awaited new EP Fires Forming at the end of 2021. This was the band’s first new material since their split with The Sewer Rats which was released in 2018. I didn’t really start listening to them until they did a UK tour with our friends Triple Sundae in 2019, followed by a European tour in which they played Hamburg’s Booze Cruise Festival. I was lucky enough to catch them at that festival and absolutely loved their set. I also really enjoyed their Alkaline Trio cover set that they played the same evening. It was honest, heart on your sleeve punk rock that was written to be played in sweaty basements. That’s exactly my kind of thing so I was very keen to check out this EP. Christmas very much got in the way so now, at the beginning of January, I’m finally getting some time to check out Fires Forming.

The five track EP begins with Time To Fly. The track wastes no time in getting started, getting the EP off to a blistering start. Time To Fly is a real call to arms of a song. I don’t know if The Jukebox Romantics really stray much into the realm of politics that often but this track is one that really encourages the listener to stand up and rebel against the people who are supposed to be in charge and helping but are instead using opportunities to capitalise for themselves. This is such an uplifting way to start the EP. Up next is Hey Nora. This was the band’s lead single for the EP and they even made a fun music video featuring some wonderful dance moves. One of my first observations about the track was the pounding drum beat that provides such a thick spine for the song. It’s a simple beat but, boy oh boy, does it drive the song on. The song feels deeply personal and I believe that it’s about seeking answers on how to make the world a better place from a departed loved one. The chorus is a wonderfully catchy one that will have a room of people shouting the lyrics right back at the band.

The third track on Fires Forming is titled Dine Fleisch. On Punknews I came across a quote from the band’s Mike Terry stating that the song is about how we as humans have a choice about what we consume and how animals don’t have that choice. The song is written from the viewpoint of animals at a farming factory who are trying to plot their escape. Given the song’s meaning, it’s perhaps no great surprise that this is one of the heavier songs on the EP. I particularly enjoyed the intensity in the vocals, they really made me pay that extra bit of attention. The penultimate song on the EP is named You Spin Me (Right Said Fred). This song sounds like a bit of a nineties throwback compared to anything else on the EP. It shows that The Jukebox Romantics aren’t afraid to wear their influences on their sleeves. The chorus in particular reminds me of a lot of the melodic skate punk from the 90s and early 2000s era of skate punk. The track has a bit of a chaotic ending with a melody switch and some big harmonies. The final track on the EP is Castaway. On my first listen through of the EP this was the song that stood out the most, with its slow start where the band sing about wanting to get away from their home and finding somewhere better. Soon enough the song kicks in properly and we are treated to a mid tempo basement sing-along. As I listen to the song and read the lyrics, it dawned on me that the idea of leaving a town might be a metaphor and instead the song is about dealing with mental health issues, in particular trying to get through them before it’s too late. This track really has a feeling of a final song, especially with the atmospheric “whoa-ohs” that are included and the long fade out that gives you time to really think about the final lyrics of “get me out of this world before I run out of time.”

Fires Forming is a superb addition to the Jukebox Romantics discography. This really is a solid EP from such a solid band. I only have one gripe with is, I wish they had done an entire album because as soon as it finishes I still want more. Hopefully that’s in the pipeline and they’ll be back in the UK or Europe sooner rather than later. I’m keen for another shout-along.

Stream and download Fires Forming on Bandcamp here.

Like The Jukebox Romantics on Facebook here.

This review was written by Colin Clark.

Wednesday, 12 January 2022

Album Review: The Homeless Gospel Choir / Teenage Halloween Split (by Emma Prew)

If you’re a regular reader of CPRW then you probably know that we love a split release! Often it’s a chance to discover a new artist, alongside one you already know and love. In this case, I am aware of both bands involved in this split but I’d say I’m more familiar with Teenage Halloween than The Homeless Gospel Choir. This gave me the perfect opportunity to check out more of The Homeless Gospel Choir – and the new tracks from Teenage Halloween, of course! The split was released on 1st January on Don Giovanni Records and here’s what I thought of it…

Each band has two songs on the split which, as far as I’m aware, are new tracks for both bands. First up is The Homeless Gospel Choir. THGC are a raucous protest-punk band from Pittsburgh, PA, who have evolved from the solo project of Derek Zanetti to a five-piece band. Track number one, Harrisburg Shoes, wastes no time in getting started with a huge-sounding combination of warm guitar tones to welcome the listener to the split. My immediate impression of the track is that it sounds a lot less ‘folk punk’ than I was expecting but, as much as I do love my folk punk, that’s certainly not a bad thing. The guitars are wonderfully melodic and give the song a positive feeling – something I think we can all appreciate at the start of a new year – although THGS’s lyrics are notoriously not so optimistic. The second track from the band is called Pittsburgh Shoes (I’m not sure why there’s shoe theme) and it opens with the slightly bleak but relatable line of ‘It feels like it’s just you, sitting in your room, and everyday just feels the same, your friends quit calling you.’. The first verse starts slowly with the instruments taking a backseat to Derek’s pessimistic lyricism but things start to amp up as we head further into the song with plenty of distorted and fuzzy guitars soon injecting some energy into the song. The track has got that slightly raw quality to it that I’m familiar with from when I’ve previously listened to THGC. Towards the end there are also kazoos. Yes, you read that correctly. Kazoos! More kazoos in 2022, please!

Teenage Halloween take on the second half of the split. The band, who are a six-piece power-pop/indie punk band from Asbury Park, NJ, released their debut full-length in 2020 and it was on repeat an awful lot for me at the start of 2021 (it took me a few months to actually get around to listening to it – sorry!). The album featured ten passionately poppy and energetic tracks about mental health and queer struggles and the new tracks on this split continue in a similar vein but bring with them a breath of fresh air. Floating is up first and initially opens with the jangling of keys before immediately plunging us into an upbeat and catchy pop punk track. It’s a short and fairly fast-paced song that features a great exchanging of vocals between Luke and Tricia come the chorus. The layered vocals and harmonies is definitely one of my favourite things about Teenage Halloween’s music so it’s great to hear it again here. The last song on the split is called Burn. Tricia takes over on lead vocal duties here for what is probably the stand-out track of the whole EP – which is saying something because everything on this split is great. Much like the previous track, Burn is upbeat and energetic but it also feels kind of erratic, I think mostly due to the jazzy keyboard playing. Either way, I love it. The track also happens to be the perfect fist-in-the-air cathartic protest song. You only have to read the lyrics for the chorus – ‘I don’t want your empty promise, I don’t want your easy fix, I want to burn the city down, And rise from the ashes.’ – to get an idea of what makes this song so great. Alternatively, you could listen to it yourself!

Stream and download The Homeless Gospel Choir / Teenage Halloween on Bandcamp here. You can also pre-order the limited edition yellow vinyl there, which looks very nice (artwork by Maura Weaver, of THGC).

Like The Homeless Gospel Choir on Facebook here and like Teenage Halloween on Facebook here.

The Homeless Gospel Choir are touring the UK in the summer which I’m very much looking forward to. Hopefully I will be able to see Teenage Halloween live as well, somewhere down the line!

This review was written by Emma Prew.