Sunday, 28 December 2014

Album Review: Hang On by [Spunge]

It’s always very exciting when one of your musical heroes releases a brand new album. Legends of the UK ska punk scene [Spunge] recently did that, releasing their first new album in seven years after another very successful pledge music campaign. Titled Hang On?, I was really looking forward to hearing a new album having been given a taster a recent London gig.

[Spunge] are incredibly quick out of the blocks on Hang On? with the catchy Everyone Else. This is a trademark [Spunge] song, upbeat, fun and positive. It’s a fantastic anthem about sticking to your guns and being yourself. Never Grow Old starts out with some great ska chords whilst lead singer Alex Copelands punchy vocal delivery carries the melody. The song gives out a great message about not having to become old and boring if you don’t want to. On the third track Gavva Wound [Spunge] slow things down a bit as they play a song about being a band for a long time. These Tewkesbury gentlemen have now been a band for twenty years, an amazing achievement for a DIY band.

Nothing At All is already becoming a crowd favourite after it’s appearances at live shows for the past couple of years. There a hint of venom in Al’s vocals this time as he sings about breaking free of chains that are holding you down in life. This message is so relatable to anyone stuck in a mundane job that they hate. Strictly Need To Know is a mid-tempo paced song, there is a lovely hint of The Mighty Mighty Bosstones in guitarist Damon Robins opening chords as Al sings about gossip and why people feel the need to know everything about everyone’s life, a very interesting and unique topic for a song. The long, drawn out outro leads nicely into the punchy Pirate Song. At just one minute and twenty-one seconds long it’s the shortest on the album but it really packs a big hit. The chorus of “Well I Try To Be The Best I Can, I Really Really Do, But I’ve Had 20,000 Problems And The Newest One Is You” will draw massive sing alongs at live shows.”

Track seven, Worthwhile Waste Of Time is a fun summer jam. It’s a great little love song about spending time with someone you care about, doing nothing but having the best time with that special someone. One Of Those Days is a more aggressive sounding song, for [Spunge] anyway. This song is about not having time for negative people and urging them to “Take Those Bad Thoughts From Your Mind And Tell The Rest To Run And Hide.” Penultimate track Higher Ground is a slow reggae number which opens with a great bass line from Chris “Jarv” Murphy. The message of this song is simple, always try to find a way to be the bigger person and be on “higher ground.” The final song on Hang On?, titled Hang On? could be the best song [Spunge] have ever written. It starts out slowly, telling a story about growing up and doing things your own way before launching into a heavy chorus of “The Times Before The Times We Met, The Times That Happened And Haven’t Yet, The Times We Laughed Until We Cried, And Yeah Ok, The Time That Flame Died, But We Came Back, And We Made It Right, We Start The Fire, Put Up A Fight, We Bonded Stronger Than Ever Before And That Won’t Go Away.” Lyrically and musically that is brilliant and a really great way to end the album.

I absolutely loved this album, if it had came out a little earlier it definitely would have placed very highly on my end of year list. Everything I love about this band is still there after all these years and it still sounds so fresh. Something I did notice about Hang On? compared to some of their past albums is the maturity of the subject matter, absolutely no songs along the lines of lesbians, imaginary friends or striking flying rodents in recreational grounds. This is by no means a bad thing though as it shows some growth in the bands song writing. Absolutely cracking effort!

Check out [Spunge] here:

Now listening to Wezeltown by Tim Barry

Thursday, 18 December 2014

Top 10 gigs 2014

Here are my top ten gigs of 2014.

10. Imperial Leisure/Anti Vigilante – Camden Underworld
This gig was my first one of the year and turned into a bit of a bitter/sweet evening for me. The sweetness was that Imperial Leisure and Anti Vigilante were both brilliant on that nice. Anti Vigilantes skacore thunder got the Underworld moving before Imperial Leisures brand of altska took the party to a whole new level that only they can. The bitterness of the evening was that this turned out to be the last time I ever got to see Anti Vigilante as they decided to call it a day. A massive loss to the UK’s underground ska scene.

9. Masked Intruder – Fighting Cocks
The Fighting Cocks in Kingston played host to one of the funniest gigs of the year. Being supported by the excellent folk punk Sam Russo and hardcore punks Throwing Stuff those pop punk criminals Masked Intruder entertained a packed crowd. With Officer Bradford in tow they entertained the room with their songs about breaking the law and girls. Playing a mixture of songs from both of their full length albums as well as an excellent Linoleum cover they had the room singing and dancing with massive grins on their face the whole way through their set.

8. Ducking Punches - Brixton Windmill
This turned out to be one of the best surprises of the year. Norwich’s Ducking Punches being supported by River Jumpers, Wank For Peace and Other Half. This was my first time at the Windmill in Brixton, whenever I go to a new place I always get a bit wary about what it would it be like, what’s the atmosphere going to be like? All was well as all four bands put on a great night of brilliant and varied punk rock. It really won’t be long until both Ducking Punches and River Jumpers are playing shows at much bigger venues, incredible talents.

7. Less Than Jake/Reel Big Fish – Shepherds Bush Empire
Ska punk colossuses Less Than Jake and Reel Big Fish on tour together? With Zebrahead? This of course was going to be one hell of a show. I’m a massive fan of all three bands so when tickets went on sale I got mine as quickly as possible. I’ve seen all three bands multiple times over the past few years and never get bored of watching them play. Less Than Jake and Reel Big Fish have been going for over twenty years now and it’s a testament to them that people still keep going back and having the best nights at their gigs.

6. The Smith Street Band – Our Black Heart
It wouldn’t be a top ten of 2014 list without The Smith Street band making an appearance. At the end of a long European tour with Restorations and Astpai they decided to play one last headline show at Our Black Heart in Camden before heading home to Australia. Being supported by their friends in Caves and Great Cynics this was one of the hottest tickets in town. Caves started the show of great and Great Cynics continued with some great indie punk but The Smith Street Band blew the roof of the place. Everyone was covered in sweat as we sung along as loud as we could throughout the set. The biggest sing along was of course saved for the closer Young Drunk, where Wil Wagner gave his microphone as they sung so loudly.

5. Jesse James – The Borderline
This was a gig I never ever expected to happen, Jesse James back together playing a headline gig. The ball got started after it was announced they would be playing at Slam Dunk Festival and after their set they announced a single headline show at The Borderline, I couldn’t get my ticket quick enough! Being supported by the excellent Vanilla Pod (who celebrate twenty years as a band next year) it was a night full of nostalgia as I danced and sang along to one of the my all time favourite bands. That was a night I know that I’ll remember for a long long time.

4. ONSIND – Urban Bar
ONSIND are without a doubt the best band in the UK for me. Being supported by The Fairweather Band, Losing Sleep and the amazing Erica Freas of RVIVR, ONSIND had a whole room of sweaty punks in the palm of their hands singing along to their political anthems with them. I’m not sure that there are many better songwriters than this two Pity Me gentlemen, they can write some great hooks with some seriously catchy lyrics that will also make you think. Whether the song is about the government, mental health or gender equality ONSIND always have something important to say. An extra special moment for me was when Erica joined Nathan and Daniel on stage to sing their cover of Starships by Nicky Minaj. This was the song that got me into both ONSIND and RVIVR and never expected to get the chance to see it live, so that was a fantastic treat.

3. Against Me! – Electric Ballroom
Against Me are without a doubt the best punk band in the world right now. This gig was always going to be a special night but I was still in awe of just how special the night would become. After the fantastic Billy The Kid opened the show with a little help from Frank Turner Against Me took to the stage and the energy levels of the whole room went right up to eleven. Tearing through songs from their entire discography they had the crowd in the palm of their hands for the entire set. Before the encore a massive sing along of Sink Florida Sink gave me goose bumps. I said when I reviewed the gig that this night made me so proud to be a part of the punk scene in the UK. By now we all know that Against Me are a band with a difference, in most music scenes there would be a bit of attention and the words acceptance would be thrown about a lot. In our punk scene there never was any need to accept the difference, it was what it was – they are still the best band in the world.

2. Slam Dunk Festival – Hatfield University
When the organisers of Slam Dunk festival began to start announcing the bands that would be gracing the stages I was blown away. By the time they finished announcing everyone I counted seventeen that I wanted to see. Among the highlights were Less Than Jake, The Skints, Gnarwolves, a rare appearance from Capdown, the returning Fandangle and of course a reunited Jesse James. I’ve never fan girled more at a line up. Fandangle opened the day up the best way possible, getting a huge skank pit going (not bad for a early opener), I was then sent down memory lane by Jesse James and continued to be entertained by The Skints, MC Lars, Gnarwolves, Zebrahead, The Ataris and of course the legendary Less Than Jake. There were so many great moments throughout the day but the one that always sticks out most to me came and the end of Zebraheads set. I’d gone to the festival with a few friends, two of which were my great friends Smurf and Scouse. I hadn’t seen them much all year so was great to see them regardless of what we were doing. After finding them in the middle of the mosh pit we danced through the set of a band we had bonded over when we first met. When Zebrahead finished their set they played Whitney Houstons I Will Always Love You, the three of us just had a massive hug together. Moments like that confirmed that I will be friends with those boys for a very long time.

1. The Menzingers – Electric Ballroom
Those close to me know that I’ve not had the easiest of years and the result of that has been some mental health issues, one of which being anxiety. On the day of what already promised to be one of the gigs of year, The Menzingers at the Electric Ballroom with The Smith Street Band and The Holy Mess I was really struggling with my anxieties, so much so that I nearly stayed at home that night. I forced myself to go though and was treated to an amazing night. The show was opened by one of my finds of the year – The Holy Mess. This trio play some great fists in the air punk rock and should be on everyone’s radars. Up next was a band I can’t seem to shut up about – The Smith Street Band. This would be my first time seeing them on a stage of this size and they easily surpassed all of my already high expectations. During the set Wil made a comment about how being on stage is the only time of the day when he really feels right. This really resonated with me, as soon as I had arrived at the Electric Ballroom that night all my feeling of anxiousness had disappeared, I knew that this was a place where I felt right. Up next came The Menzingers, one of the most popular punk bands on the planet. Every single time I see The Menzingers I know it’s going to be an epic performance, and this was no different. I’ve said in the past the crowd are as big a part of a Menzingers set as the band themselves. On this night the crowd were phenomenal. Shouting along to songs from all four of their albums, the crowd danced, moshed, surfed and fist pumped all night long. It won’t be long until The Menzingers are rubbing shoulders with the biggest bands in music, not just our little world of punk.

Wednesday, 17 December 2014

Top 10 Albums 2014

Here are my top ten albums of 2014

10. Roughneck Riot – Out Of Anger
Warringtons folk punks returned with Out Of Anger towards the end of 2014. The album marked a slight change in sound for the band as they slowed things down musically to help put their political message across. The result of this makes of the smartest and hardest hitting albums of the year. These guys and girls have created an album that you will enjoy and learn a lot from in equal measure. Learning things is fun. Stand out songs include Parasites and England’s Desperate Liars.

9. The Menzingers – Rented World
The Menzingers were really going to have to pull out all of the stops to top their previous release On The Impossible Past. On Rented World they very nearly did it. On The Impossible Past will always be the Philadelphian four pieces classic album but Rented World came really close to eclipsing it. This is a slower paced album that focuses more on song writing that previous efforts and the result is an album full of perfectly crafted punk rock gems. Stand out tracks are I Don’t Wanna Be An Asshole Anymore and My Friend Kyle.

8. Ducking Punches – Dance Before You Sleep
Music, in any genre is at its very best when it’s heartfelt and honest. That’s exactly what Norwich’s Ducking Punches achieved on Dance Before You Sleep. It’s a folk punk record The topics on the album are far cheerful and include dealing with death, drug addiction and break ups. Musically it offers a nice amount of diversity, there are some slower tempo songs and some great big foot stomping albums, defienitely an album for everyone. Check out Bug Brown Pills From Lynn and Six Years.

7. Mike TV – Sausage Hospital
When it comes to make fast, fun pop punk music few bands do it much better than Mike TV. Sausage Hospital is their first album in six years and everything that makes this band great is still there. Sausage Hospital contains sixteen hook filled pop gems born for singing and dancing to. Dombs lyrics are as smart and insightful as ever and cover a wide range of areas such as break ups, alcoholism, growing up and life in a band. Also, there are fantastic harmonies. Have a listen to 90s Teenager and Cool Wave Magnolia.

6. Wank For Peace – Fail Forward
French hardcore punks Wank For Peace came out of nowhere for me this year. After seeing them support Ducking Punches and River Jumpers at the Windmill in Brixton they blew me away and couldn’t wait to check out their brand new album Fail Forward. Fail Forward cements Wank For Peaces place as one of the finest bands in mainland Europe with its passionate and anthemic punk rock numbers. Stand out songs include Was That What You Expected Kid and Twelve Cheese Sticks.

5. Leagues Apart – Brief Interviews With Hideous Men
Manchester melodic punk rockers debut album Brief Interviews With Hideous Men seemed to be a very long time in the making but when it was finally released fans of the band were in for a treat. From the opening of the first song Kat Dennings; You Are My Everest (best song title of the year) and the closing of the epic To Know The Night is To Live Forever it’s an album full of fist in the year sing along moments. Having three different singers and songwriters keeps the album fresh and gives you a feeling of not knowing what’s going to happen next, something few bands in this genre of punk can pull off. Check out the two songs I mentioned as well as Rampant Horse Is Rampant.

4. Martha – Courting Strong
Pity Me punks Martha released the best album by a UK based band this year in Courting Strong. It contains ten of the best written pop songs you will hear anywhere in the world currently. Another band with multiple vocalists that keep the sound of the record fresh and fun, the way pop should be. The brilliantly written lyrics speak about growing up, gender, being unable to avoid going down a bad path and living in the moment. A must for anyone who likes music. Check out Present, Tense and Bubble In My Bloodstream.

3. Rancid – Honor Is All We Know
Honor Is All We Know was a real return to form for Californian legends Rancid. Everything you loved about Rancid when you first heard them is on display on their first album in five years. Fourteen punk rock anthems about sticking together, standing up for what you believe in and brotherhood delivered in a way no band can top. Lars and Tim’s dual vocals sound better than ever and Matt Freeman again proves why he is thought of as the best bass player in the world. Listen to Raise Your Fist and A Power Inside.

2. Against Me! – Transgender Dysphoria Blues
Despite being released in January Transgender Dysphoria Blues was the most anticipated album of the year and boy it did not disappoint. This was the first album since Laura Jane Grace came out as transgender person and there was a slight worry about how the album will sound. For me this was the best album the band have put out in years, there are ten rousing, fist pumping, foot stomping punk rock jams. Despite the subject matter being mainly about Laura’s new life the songs still feel relatable and really make you want to sing along loud and proud. I’ve said this before but bands like Against Me! really make me feel proud to be a part of the punk rock scene. Check out Talking Transgender Dysphoria Blues and FUCKMYLIFE666.

1. The Smith Street Band – Throw Me In The River

It’s probably no surprise what I’ve picked as my number one album of 2014. No band has caught my attention more than The Smith Street Band this year. Whether it’s a slow burning song or a full on punk rock party Wil Wagners lyrics are always so brutally honest and sung with such passion. Throw Me In The River was a continuation of that them as he basically wrote a self help book to himself. The album is an emotional roller coaster of lives highs and lows in which he sings about belonging, being yourself, travelling, love, drinking and coming through all of the bad things you encounter in life. The final track I Love Life is the best song of 2014. It’s an uplifting song about celebrating life and finding what makes you happy. Also have a listen to Something I Can Hold In My Hands and East London Summer.

Monday, 15 December 2014

Top 10 EPs 2014

Here is a top 10 list of my favourite EPs of 2014.

10. Creeper – Self Titled
Creeper emerged this year from the ashes of Southampton punks Our Time Down Here. This is their debut release and shows that big things should be expected from this band. Channelling their heroes AFI and Alkaline Trio they have created a refreshing pop punk sound that will make you want to sing as loudly as possible and dance like a mad person in equal measure. Stand out tracks include We Had A Pact and Gloom. Look for these guys to explode in 2015!

9. Mϋg – World Of Weirdos
Mϋg are in my opinion one of the most underrated punk bands in the UK and this release proves that. World Of Weirdos contains three fantastic tracks of pop tinged skate punk that will be stuck in your head for a long time.  This EP has been on my recently played list ever since it came out and the song World Of Weirdos is one of my favourites of the entire year.

8. Bottler – Smithereens
Bottler were a band in took me an age to check out but my gosh I’m glad I did. Smithereens is a five song release packed with smartly written melodic punk rock. Containing songs about being in a band, committing crimes and religion no topic seems out of bounds for these gentlemen. Stand out tracks are Ex-Members, Ready Willing & Able and No Questions Please.

7. Bandit The Panther – 1-Up The Punks
Strictly a single rather than an EP but I had to include it on this list because it’s so damn good. The title track is an uptempo song lamenting life in the punk rock scene. The second song The Deadpool Of Punk Rock is a short but catchy song that you’ll want to sing along with instantly. Both of these songs are on a brand new Bandit The Panther album promised for 2015.

6. New Town King – Pull and Rewind
Pull and Rewind was always going to be an interesting release from Colchesters New Town Kings as it is the first recording material with new front man Dabs. When a band changes their lead singer there is always going to be a change in the sound. For the New Town Kings it was a brilliantly refreshing new sound, the characteristic modern take on the traditional ska sound but Dabs vocal really adds to the band. Stand out tracks for me are Change and Luna Rosa.

5. Apologies, I Have None – Black Everything
Black Everything was another record that marked a change in a bands sound. I’ll be the first to admit that the first time I listened to this EP I wasn’t a big fan of it, previous release London is one of my all time favourite records. As I listened to it more the new darker sound really grew on me and really cemented new solo front man Josh McKenzie as one of the best songwriters in punk rock. Check out Two Bombs In A Box and Coffee, Alcohol, Codeine, Repeat.

4. Not Half Bad – Sorry Dudes
This EP has really been a pleasant surprise, I only picked it up by chance whilst buying 7 Years Bad Luck’s album from Disconnect Disconnect Records. Sorry Dudes features six songs of some of the best folk punk you will have heard all year. This Texan four piece write some fun as fudge fist in the air anthems that will leave you smiling from ear to ear. Check out Daybeers and You’re Alright You Know That Kid.

Eat Defeat are a band I have a lot of time for. Combining skate, pop and ska punk they have released one of the most uplifting releases of the year. It’s Always Sunny In Yorkshire contains three songs (a a alternative version of one of the songs) about not letting life beat you, believing that it will get better, having the strength to stand up for yourself and living to fight another day. Luck Is For Losers (featuring Barney Boom of Sonic Boom Six fame) is easily in my top five songs of the year.

2. Red Light Rebels – Rebels
Red Light Rebels really came out of nowhere for me this year. Having been invited to a gig by Tom Saunders of 4ft Fingers and The Hook Line Riot (two of my favourite bands) to see his new band in Cheltenham (a gig that I unfortunately couldn’t attend) I checked out this release on their Bandcamp page. Rebels is five songs of punk rock perfection. Five excellently written songs played with energy and passion and are filled with great hooks. Stand out tracks are California Avenue and Barracuda.

1. RVIVR – Bicker and Breathe

RVIVR are one of the most forward thinking and most important bands in the punk scene today. Whilst being better known for the gender equality politics many of their songs can also be easily relatable for many of life’s problems. Bicker and Breathe is a great pop punk record where Mattie and Erica’s dual vocals really come into their own. Topics such as homelessness, struggling to say goodbye and being strong are included on this fantastic release. Stand out songs are 20 Below and In Waves.

Thursday, 11 December 2014

Top 10 Music Videos 2014

Here are my top 10 music videos of 2014. Enjoy.

Anywhere You Wanna Go by The Bennies from Rainbows In Space

Big Brown Pills From Lynn by Ducking Punches from Dance Before You Sleep

Don't Fuck With Our Dreams by The Smith Street Band from Don't Fuck With Our Dreams EP

I Don't Wanna Be An Asshole Anymore by The Menzingers from Rented World

Present, Tense by Martha from Courting Strong

Seventeener (17th and 37th) by The Lawrence Arms from Metropole

Scallywag by The Kubricks from Wasters and Wannabes EP

Spencer Reid by The Holy Mess from Comfort In The Dischord

Was That What You Expected Kid by Wank For Peace from Fail Forward

Your Graduation by Modern Baseball from You're Gonna Miss It All

Wednesday, 10 December 2014

Gig Review: Gnarwolves at Camden Underworld 5/12/14

2014 has undoubtedly been a career defining year for Gnarwolves. They released their debut album to extremely positive reviews (hereis mine), they opened the main stage at Reading and Leeds festival, made their debut Fest appearance, toured the USA and are currently on a headline tour of Europe and the UK with Prawn and Public Domain. Last week they played a sold out show at the Underworld in Camden, naturally I went along.

First up were Austrian hardcore punks Public Domain. After dedicating the whole of their set to anybody that skateboards Public Domain stormed through their set with their front man being a whirlwind of energy as he paced back and forth across the stage. Public Domain are one of the finest hardcore punk bands I have heard in a while, they excelled at everything I like about the genre. They played fast and loud and took absolutely no prisoners. Public Domain really kicked off the night in a great fashion.

Up next were Prawn from New Jersey. Prawn describe themselves as an indie/punk band and they reminded me a lot of probably the second biggest success story of the year in UK punk, Moose Blood. I had never heard of Prawn before but it was clear a fair few of the now full Underworld crowd had. It’s always nice to see a support band getting a decent amount of love from the crowd and Prawn seemed to really appreciate it claiming that this was probably the biggest crowd that they have ever played for. Prawn really impressed me, combining jangling guitars with heartfelt vocals they had me hooked from beginning to end. These gentlemen are definitely a band to watch out for; I’m expecting big big things.

It really doesn’t seem that long ago that I saw Gnarwolves for the first time. That was towards the end of 2012 opening up for Joyce Manor at the Old Blue Last with Bangers and Apologies, I Have None. Then a relative unknown it’s amazing to see how far the trio have come in such a short space of time, especially for a DIY punk band. It really goes to show that you really don’t need to make appearances on TV talent shows to get ahead in the music world, you can get what you want from an incredible work ethic, getting out and actually playing shows whenever and wherever you can does pay off. It also helps that you have a fantastic talent for song writing, something Gnarwolves have in spades. Starting out two of the lead songs from their self titled debut Smoking Kills and Bottle To Bottle the Underworld becomes a huge mass of bodies singing at the top of their lungs. The chorus from Smoking Kills that goes “We Are The Product Of A Broken Class But, We Weren’t Raised To Be Fucking Morons” really seemed to strike a chord with the young and old punks in attendance. Gnarwolves shows are notorious for getting extremely rowdy with fans relentlessly join the band on stage and dive back onto the crowd. There is a sense of joyous carnage and celebration throughout the set, everyone seemingly wanting to celebrate the success of Gnarwolves year. Their set flew by as they played songs from the entire back catalogue, all of which got massive reactions. The biggest reaction of the night came for Limerence.  I’ve not heard many bigger sing alongs for any song at any gig than I did for Limerence, I felt goose bumps during the opening lines “A Mixture Of All The Things You Didn’t Want To Do, A Certain Someone Who Reminds You Of All The Things You Did, But Didn’t want to.”

This really did feel like a celebration for Gnarwolves amazing year. They are a real success story from our scene and I’m really excited to see just how far they can go. The sky seems to be the limit for these boys.

Check out Public Domain here:

Check out Prawn here:

Check out Gnarwolves here:

Now listening to Somewhere Better by Harker

Tuesday, 9 December 2014

Gig Review: The JB Conspiracy at the Camden Barfly 3/12/14

The Barfly in Camden is one of my favourite venues to watch live music. There is something about that place that makes bands and crowds step it up an extra level. This week we were in for a fantastic night of ska from The JB Conspiracy with support from Tree House Fire, Ghouls and The Popes Of Chillitown.

London’s Popes of Chillitown start the night off and from the get go they are full of energy. Combining the very best of punk, ska, reggae, dub and rap The Popes Of Chillitown are one of the most refreshing bands I’ve seen in a long time. Front man Matt is full of charisma and really grabs the audience’s attention. I’ve been aware of this band for a little while now but never really listened to them, after seeing them live I regret not making the effort. I enjoyed the bad so much. Check these guys out immediately.

Up next were reggae/ska band Tree House Fire. Another band I’ve heard plenty about but have never really listened to. Just like Popes Of Chillitown I loved them, they brought a fantastic summer vibe to a freezing cold Camden night. These guys were seriously tight as a band and whilst not as energetic as the Popes Of Chillitown they definitely had the Barflys attention. Singles Push and Dutty Girl got nice reactions from the crowd with everyone nodding their heads or bouncing along with huge grins on their faces. Another band you have to look out for.

The final support came from Ghouls. This would be the second time that I’ve had the pleasure of seeing this band, the first being 18 months ago when they supported Jim Lockey & The Solemn Son at the Borderline. Since that time they have released their debut album Ten Thousand Word On and more recently the EP Great Expectations and have toured all around the country. They were good the first time I saw them but my gosh they come on leaps and bounds in the past eighteen months. They played with a great amount of passion and really seemed to be enjoying themselves during the set. This was a really fun set from these five young men, highlights from the set included London’s Burning, Dive In, Gone Fishing and a first time playing of Being Me, a fantastic song about being true to yourself and it not mattering where you go in life as long as you make some great memories along the way.

Finally it was time for the excellent JB Conspiracy. The first thing I noticed as the band took to the stage was that there had been a line up shift, Bobble from Faintest Idea being one of them on the trombone. I had noticed a few Streetlight Manifesto shirts in the crowd and thought it was rather apt, if there is a band anyone in the world of ska punk that can hold a candle to their horn section it’s definitely the JB Conspiracy’s. The band very quickly whipped the barfly into a skanking frenzy. This was my fifth time seeing the band and each time they’ve managed to top the previous fantastic performance. I always forget just how many great songs The JB Conspiracy have in their discography; it seems with every song they play the reactions and dancing get more and more excitable. The sing long for the song Say Goodbye was absolutely huge as it was for slower Drop Your Anchor. I honestly can’t say much about the on stage performance of the band as I was to swept up in the excitement of the pit. It must have been great though as the set stormed by. Like every good party it didn’t slowly die down it just stopped dead and with that the hot and sweaty crowd descending back into Camden no doubt whistling one of the many memorable horn riffs written by the best ska punk band the UK has to offer.

The ska scene in the UK has been dealt some blows this year with the splits of Anti Vigilante and Dirty Revolution as well as ClayPigeons impending last show at the Underworld on the 20th December. I was beginning to wonder how long the scene would be able to keep going with the loss of these big hitters, happily after the night at the barfly it was proven to me there are plenty more amazing bands going strong in the scene. Ska’s definitely not dead.

Check out The Popes Of Chillitown here:

Check out Tree House Fire here:

Check out Ghouls here:

Check out The JB Conspiracy here:

Friday, 28 November 2014

Gig Review: Mad Caddies at Islington Academy 25/11/14

November has been really good for gigs. Some of my favourite bands have played gigs this month such as Rise Against, Pennywise, Against Me and [Spunge]. Now it was the time of The Mad Caddies from California who were playing the Islington Academy and they were being supported by another one of my favourites – Jaya The Cat. It was safe to say I was pretty excited.

The first band on were London’s Electric River.  2014 has definitely been a big year for this London based punk rock and roll band. They released their critically acclaimed album The Faith & Patience and have gigged relentlessly. Sadly I only caught the second half of their set but loved every second of it. For me Electric River play the thinking man’s version of punk rock. The sound is more mature sounding than most over punk bands but the sense of punk rock urgency is still there. The band is clearly a well oiled machine at this stage of their careers and don’t seem to miss a beat throughout the set. Highlights for me were the songs Hold Your Nerve and Keep The Engine Running.

Up next was reggae punks Jaya The Cat. This would be my second time seeing them this year and fifth time in total. This however would be my first time seeing them somewhere over than the Camden Underworld so I was quite interested to see them on a bigger stage. The first thing I noticed when Jaya The Cat took to the stage was that either they had a new keyboard player or he had grown the most impressive beard in the four months since I had seen them last. (It turned out that he was a new member of the band) I don’t know whether the band were trying harder than usual to win over new fans or something just clicked into place tonight but this was the best I had ever seen Jaya The Cat play. Front man Geoff played the entire set with a smile on his face and seemed to be having the time of his life. Playing a forty five minute set mixing songs from First Beer Of A New Day, More Late Night Transmissions and The New International Sound Of Hedonism the band had the crowd moving. With every song more and more people started to dance and it was great to see this supremely underated band gain all of the new love. By the time they got to the final two song Fake Carreras and Here Come The Drums everyone was having a great time. Here Come The Drums is a fantastic song to finish a set with due to its long outro of nah nah nah, nah nah nah nah nah nah nah nah nah. Jaya The Cat were the perfect warm up band for The Mad Caddies.

The Mad Caddies are one of the staple Fat Wreck Chords bands along with Lagwagon, No Use For A Name, The Swingin’ Utters and of course NOFX. Generally they are labelled as a ska punk band but  they are so much more than that. The Mad Caddies have elements of ska, punk, reggae, swing, jazz, Latino music, polka and even sea shanties. Clearly are very talented band, this year they released their new album Dirty Rice which was their first in seven years. From the start it was clear that the Caddies would be playing a few songs from that album, surprisingly opening up with Down and Out. Instantly the Islington Academy became a skank pit. The crowd tonight were definitely up for a fun time and I can’t think of a better band to give it to them. This was my third time seeing the Caddies and I had forgotten just how strong lead singer Chuck Robertson’s voice is live. It sounded almost exactly like it does on record. The whole band sounded note perfect to my (admittedly untrained) ears and it was nice to look up to the stage and see the band enjoying themselves so much. 2015 will mark twenty years of Mad Caddies, for any band to keep going for so long and still look like they’re having the time of their lives is great to see. The set was very Dirty Rice and Keep It Going (the album released before Dirty Rice) heavy but they did throw in some classics from Just One More, Duck & Cover and Rock The Plank. Drinkin’ For 11 got a massive reception, the crowd sang so loudly you couldn’t hear Chucks singing, I actually looked up to the stage to see if he was actually singing. Other songs that got great reactions were Road Rash, Leavin, and Monkeys, all of which put huge smiles on everybody’s face. Finishing on an extended version of All American Badass allowed the crowd to have one final sing as well as a good dance, during the song trombone player Eduardo Hernandez (most Mexican name ever?) left the stage and climbed onto one of the bars to play which was a cool image.

This had been a perfect gig, absolutely first rate bands and the crowd was brilliant fun. Too often at ska gigs the crowd just want to mosh and be aggressive and it’s really not what the music is about. It was nice to go and watch some ska and actually be able to skank. 

Find out more on Electric River here:

Find out more on Jaya The Cat here:

Find out more on the Mad Caddies here:

Now listening to All I Know by Pipes and Pints

Thursday, 27 November 2014

Album Review: Love, Hate, Life Death by Snake

Love, Hate, Life, Death is the name of the new EP from Kingston two piece Snake. When I first found out they were a two piece I instantly thought that this would be an acoustic act. Snake are definitely not an acoustic act. This is one of the most intense hardcore punk releases I’ve heard in a while.

The EP begins with Love and straight away I love the rawness of the sound. The track goes along at a slow pace with singer and guitarist Louis’s vocals really add some urgency to the sound. I really love how the vocals carry the melody of the track as well as Louis’ guitar and Wills drum play the same driving beat throughout the song. The second song Hate picks up the pace somewhat.  Despite the intensity of the music there is a real catchiness to the song that will have people screaming back at the band really loudly. The chorus of “I’m A Lost Soul, I’m A Lost Soul, I’m A Lost Soul, I’m A Lost Soul” will really strike a chord with listeners as well. Everybody has felt like that at one stage of their lives. The third song Life continues down this path. I notice that you don’t really miss the bass in this music; I think if there was a bass involved some of the rawness which I love about this music would be lost. Death is my favourite song on the EP; despite its name it’s got a real positive message. The message is to not be afraid of death and to live life to the fullest. More people need to think this way, myself included. The final track is named Control. I think this is another really positive track about taking charge of your life regardless of the consequences. It’s really hard not to feel empowered by these last two track especially. They are sung with so much power and energy that they really make you believe in what they are saying.

If you like your punk rock played loud, fast and full of intense emotion they Love, Hate, Life, Death is an EP you really need to check out.

Like Snake on Facebook here:

Saturday, 22 November 2014

Gig Review: [Spunge] at the Garage 21/11/14

Life is full of moments that at the time don’t seem that important but in truth can change your world forever. One moment that really changed my life forever was the first time I heard Tewkesbury ska punks [Spunge]. They’re music really grabbed me, it was like nothing I had ever heard before even though their music (in the nicest possible way) wasn’t reinventing the wheel so to speak I just fell in love. Because of [Spunge] my eyes were opened to a whole world of underground music that I never knew existed before. In a roundabout way I found myself through [Spunge]. They really did change my life for the better forever. Last night I had the pleasure of seeing them live for the fifth time at the Garage in London. Here’s how it went.

Due to Friday night shows starting stupidly early on a Friday night and me not being able to get out of work early I missed the opening act of the night so the first band I saw were the main support act Dead Frequency from the Midlands. Dead Frequency are a band I had never heard of before and I slightly ashamed to say when they were setting up before their set I instantly assumed I wouldn’t like them. Front man Matti has massive bright red and black hair and straight away I dismissed them and thought they were trying too hard. Then they began to play and instantaneously they had me smiling. Yes, the whole band was trying hard but in the best way possible. Dead Frequency were clearly aware that a big job as the support band is to get the crowd warmed up for the headliner and they certainly did that. For a band that has only been together for the best part of a year they were a well oiled machine when it came to performing. The music was fantastic fun as well, the songs were well written and extremely catchy and the musicianship was superb. Dead Frequency are a fun pop punk band with a huge amount of potential, if you get the chance to see them live I suggest you do so.

Next up it was time for [Spunge]. These fine gentlemen are now in their twentieth year together, a brilliant achievement for any band let alone one from the underground scene. Opening up with the song Some Suck Some Rock the garage became a sea of people skanking and singing in delight. Like I said before [Spunge] can never be accused of reinventing the wheel with their music but my god they are fun. After twenty years together the band effortlessly keeps the crowd thoroughly entertained with a mixture of old songs, covers and some brand new songs from their forthcoming album. Brand new songs can always be a bit hit or miss when played to a crowd thats never heard them before but they all went down famously with the Garage crowd. At times I even found myself trying to sing along with them despite not knowing the words, that’s how insanely catchy they were. Of course the older songs were the ones that got the biggest reactions, I forget just how many great songs [Spunge] have in their catalogue until I see them live. I always think that the sign of a great band is the ability to make a song go to a new level of excellence when they play it live, [Spunge] do that with every single song. [Spunge] are all about having good times and good times a plenty were had by everyone at the Garage, this was one of the nicest crowds I had been part of in a while, everyone looked out for everyone else in the pit, high fives and hugs were happening everywhere. I think everyone in the garage that night made a new friend even if it was just for one evening. God I love [Spunge], here is hoping for another twenty years!

Check out [Spunge] here:

Now listening to So It Goes by Slow Science

Friday, 21 November 2014

Gig Review: Against Me! at the Electric Ballroom, Camden 19/11/14

Against Me are without a doubt the most talked about punk band of the past ten years. Whether it’s because of fans accusing them of selling out when they signed to a major label, numerous line up changes or when lead singer Tom Gabel came out as a transgender person and became Laura Jane Grace. None of that ever mattered to me, as long as they continue to make great music I don’t care what else they do. I had only ever had the pleasure of seeing Against Me live once before, supporting Frank Turner at the Hammersmith Apollo in 2012. It seemed like an eternity since then and when they announced a UK tour this year I snapped up a ticket as soon as they were put on sale. Here is what I thought of their sold out show at the Electric Ballroom in Camden.

The opening act for Against Me was from a lady from Vancouver, Canada named Billy Pettinger who goes by the stage name of Billy The Kid. The only thing I knew about Billy The Kid before this gig was that Frank Turner (from the Olympics) produced her new album (I didn’t even know Billy was a her) so I expected some good folk music. I don’t know how many people at the Electric Ballroom were aware of her music but she got a great response as she made her way on stage. From the very start I could see how much she loved being on stage playing her songs and her joy was infectious. I love the way punk and folk music go hand in hand, I guess it’s due to then anti-establishment nature of the music and doing things on your own terms. Billy The Kids music definitely had a feel of doing things her own way which I really enjoyed. An obvious highlight of her set was when Mr Frank Turner himself joined Billy on stage for a song; obviously this received a big cheer. What I really loved about this performance was that it didn’t feel like there was a star on stage, it was just a mate of Billy’s who joined her on stage for a song. I guess that’s another great connection between punk and folk, there isn’t a them as us feeling between the performers and the crowd, it’s a we’re all in this together feeling. Billy The Kids set was hugely enjoyable, a great set of songs and excellent charisma on the stage. I’ll definitely be checking her out more and would recommend her to anyone who likes well written, honest music.

Now on to Against Me. As a rule I try my best not to swear in this blog unless I’m quoting lyrics. Unfortunately I’m not that good of a wordsmith to explain just how good Against Me were. They were FUCKING (sorry Mum) amazing. Notice how I used capitals to really emphasise just how great they were. From the opening chords of FUCKMYLIFE666 to the closing of We Laugh At Danger (And Laugh At All The Rules) it was a great big punk rock party. By the third song Cliché Guevara I could feel my voice starting to go I was singing so loudly. It felt to me like one big punk rock celebration, everyone was having the greatest time and there were smiles all around. I stood amazed at how this band that started with a man playing acoustic guitar in libraries in Gainesville Florida had how become this punk rock juggernaut, loved the world over. It’s certainly well deserved, playing over twenty songs without a dud mixed it at all and they didn’t even play Reinventing Axl Rose which for me is the greatest song ever written. I was surprised by crowd reactions to some of the songs; songs that I expected to get massive reactions such as the hugely singable Don’t Lose Touch got fairly muted reactions compared to some of the newer material. Black Me Out, which for me was one of the weaker tracks (if there is such thing as a weak Against Me song) on the newest album Transgender Dysphoria Blues got a massive reaction from the crowd, though to be fair I have a new found love for that song after hearing it live. During the set Laura brought out Billy The Kid to duet on the song Borne On The FM Airwaves. This was one of thebest duets I had ever witnessed. Billy was clearly completely made up to be there and was all over the place during the song, at one point scaling some scaffolding at the side of the stage and at another point diving into the crowd, wonderfully energetic performance. One of the biggest highlights for me actually came in the brief intermission before the encore when the crowd had a massive singalong of Sink Florida Sink before the band came back on. That moment will stay with me for a long long time. A part of me kind of wish the band didn’t play that when they came back on and just joined us in an acapella version. As with the best punk rock parties they don’t wind down and come to a gradual halt, they stop dead and leave a crowd breathless, covered in sweat and with the big grins on their faces. This is definitely how I felt at the end of the show. It really was fucking amazing; there was a strong feeling that I had just witnessed something incredibly special.

As I made my way back home I reflected on what had been one of the best nights of my life and what a huge sense of pride I had. Specifically the amount of pride I had in being a member of the punk rock scene in the UK. I absolutely love just how accepting it is a community. I think in any other scene if a big star came out as a transgender person they would lose a lot of fans. For example imagine if Eminem came out and said that he always felt inside that he was a woman and would be making the transformation do you think that would be accepted? No chance on earth! I can’t imagine he would even be accepted as a homosexual. In our punk scene when Laura bravely decided to come out to me it didn’t there was even a need to accept it. From my experiences it was just a case of “okay cool, you’re Laura now, are you still going to be in this amazing band that is so important to so many people and more importantly are you still going to be an awesome person? Yes – brilliant!” That’s exactly how it should be and that why I am so proud of my punk rock brothers and sisters. The world could learn a thing of two from this world that I love so much.

Find out more about Billy The Kid here:

Find our more about Against Me! here: