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:

Sunday, 16 November 2014

Album Review: United by Disconnect Disconnect Records (Comp)

Compilations are fantastic. Not only are they a great way to find your new favourite bands without spending lots of money on whole albums but they are also an excellent way for bands to get exposure. Recently the fine folk who run Disconnect Disconnect Records in London put out a new Compilation titled United with the purpose being to give more exposure to some of the great UK bands in the punk and underground scene and there are a lot of really great bands in there. Here is my review of United.

Progressive thrash band Almeida begin the party in great fashion. These guys are incredibly skilled musicians and play some really technical guitar riffs that you don’t hear from your average punk band. One of my favourite bands in the scene, Brighton’s River Jumpers are up next with the song All Our Histories. Their sing along pop punk is infectious and will get lodged solidly in your head for a long time. The Hook Line Riot are one of the most underrated bands in the country, their heartfelt punk rock never fails to get me smiling and tapping my feet. Waiting Room Exit shows you what to expect from this Cheltenham based group, smart intelligent lyrics and top class musicianship. Scottish pop punks The Murderburgers are no doubt one of the biggest success stories to come out of our scene. This Ramones-core band have toured all over Europe and recently supported Alkaline Trio in the States. Bottler have put out one of my favourite releases of the year with their EP Smithereens. They play some brilliantly written melodic punk and this track Pleasuring Her Majesty is no exception. Empty Lungs are an example of finding your new favourite bands on compilation, prior to this I had never heard of the amazing Belfast band. This hook filled punk rock will have rooms of people singing at the top of their lungs. The first quarter of the compilation is concluded by melodic skate punks Mug. Another really underrated band, Mug really know how to write a catchy tune.

The second quarter of United is kicked off with some hardcore punk courtesy of Dead Neck. Fast, frantic punk rock music with an unbelievably good vocal, Dead Neck are up there with the very best in what they do. Landmarks change the pace of the compilation drastically with their upbeat pop punk. This is better than any of their American counterparts; I’m expecting big things for this band. Leeds band The Human Project are one of the most talked about bands in the scene, and for good reason. This is hardcore hook filled punk rock at its best; these boys are great live as well as on record. No Contest are a band from Grimsby who play fast and hard. Combining hardcore and skate punk these gentlemen make me really want to see them live. I imagine its great fun! Scottish pop punks Yeah Detroit are another band proving that the UK does pop punk as well as anyone in the world. I like how the music is more of the hardcore sound of punk but is combined with some nice, clean vocals to create a great sound. Creeper are definitely a band to look out for in 2015. Born out of the ashes of the fantastic Our Time Down Here Creeper have taken things up a level. If you miss early AFI you should definitely check out Creeper, absolutely amazing band. The second quarter, or first half of United is completed by Mixtape Saints from Leamington Spa. This is some slowed down soulful story telling punk rock that will have instantly grab your attention and take you away to another place.

Fast rising Essex hardcore skate punks Giants kick off the second half of United with a bang. Giants have everything you want in this type of band in their locker, a seriously tight rhythm section, some really interesting guitar riffs and perfectly delivered vocals. The Doublecross is a solo project from Jonathan Greenwood from the band The Modern Farewell. The Doublecross play some wonderfully crafted sing along punk rock similar in sound to The Gaslight Anthem. Scottish punks First Step To Failure mix just about every sub-genre of punk rock to create a sound all of their own. They are a refreshingly unique band. Guildford based band Darko are one of the stand out bands in a scene over flowing with amazing bands. Sounding like A Wilhelm Scream and Strike Anywhere’s love child Darko hit you hard and fast and you won’t forget about them for a long time. Ducking Punches change the sound of the record completely with their take on the folk punk genre. Front man Dan Allen (who also provided artwork for the album) writes some of the best and most honest lyrics around. Hellwinners are yet another band on United who could easily become my new favourite band. Great accessible punk rock which is fully of hooks tograb your attention and excellent lyrics to sing along to the Brighton based trio. Pop punks Mike TV are now veterans of the scene. Inspired by early 1990’s Lookout Records bands such as The Mr T Experience, Green Day and Screeching Weasel  Mike TV pack their songs with catchy choruses and harmonies the Beach Boys would be jealous of (probably not, but it’s a nice thing to say about a band).

Fights And Fires describe themselves as a rock and roll/hardcore punk rock band. This track, maps pounds along at a steady pace with Phillip #1’s gravelly vocals really carrying the melody of the song. Teeside progressive post-hardcore band Taller Than Trees really stood out to me on first listen. Normally I’m not massively into this type of punk rock but there is something about it that I really loved. Eat Defeat are a band that I really have a lot of time for. Combining the best bits of skate punk and ska punk these Yorkshire lads write some excellent songs. Their latest release It’s Always Sunny In Yorkshire features three songs about looking on the bright side if things aren’t going your way. Southpaw from Slough are an emo band influenced by The Get Up Kids, Sunny Day Real Estate and You Blew It among others. Moose Blood are currently leading the way in the UK emo world but judging from the strength of this track (Skin & Bone) it won’t be long before Southpaw are thought of in the same breath as the boys from Canterbury. Harker are a band I have heard about for ages but never listened to them before I listened to United. They are brilliant! The combination of acoustic guitars with an electric band makes them offer something quite different to most bands and the singers vocals really stand out. The last act on United is The Lion And The Wolf, another one that I’ve heard of before but never really listened to. The name is deceiving; The Lion And The Wolf isn’t actually a band but a solo artist by the name of Thomas George. This music is slow and gentle compared to the rest of United but doesn’t feel at all out of place. Thomas George is a musician with the ability to really captivate an audience, a wonderful talent.

This last paragraph is supposed to summarise United and encourage you to go check it out. Really I think all I need to say is if you have ears you should check out this excellent release. There is something for everyone here. United does a fantastic job showcases a small portion of the amazing bands that fill up our scene. Great work Disconnect Disconnect Records.

Now listening to Some Town In Northern France by Zatopeks

Wednesday, 12 November 2014

Gig Review: Rise Against at the Brixton Academy 10/11/14

I have spoken previously in this blog about not being a massive fan of going to gigs at larger venues. Very often the atmosphere isn’t as friendly and it’s harder to get a decent view of the bands you have paid a lot of money to see. Plus, you know, there’s all those people, so so sooooo many people. As I made my way to The Brixton Academy in South London I remembered another reason why I’m not too keen on going to gigs at larger venues – queuing up! Luckily I was with some friends who because they are on the mobile phone network o2 we managed to skip the majority of the queue and pretty much walk straight in. I thought a bit about the queue situation and how stupid it was tonight. Let me quickly tell you why. Tonights show featured Chicago punk rockers Rise Against being supported by the legendary Pennywise and young upstarts Swimmers. The show was sold out so that meant 5000 people, all of whom had spent at least £25 on tickets would be packing the academy this evening. Earlier in the evening the folks at the Brixton Academy sent out a tweet saying that the doors for the evening were at 7pm and that Swimmers would be on at 7.15pm. That’s only fifteen minutes to get a lot of people into the building safely. Obviously not everyone would arrive at that time but a hell of a lot of people did. Imagine spending £25 to go and watch anything, getting there in time for doors and missing out on seeing part of the show because the stage times weren’t very good. If you go to the cinema, the people who press play don’t do it before the doors to the screening room are open, that’s not how it works. The Brixton Academy kind of short changed some people there I think and it’s not really on. Poor form Brixton Academy, poor form indeed.

Now onto the actual gig portion of the evening. Sadly I missed the majority of Swimmers (formerly Emily’s Army) set. From the couple of songs I caught though I can see why they are becoming so popular. They play fast and fun sugary sweet pop punk very reminiscent of early Lookout Records era Green Day. Unsurprising really considering that drummer Joey Armstrong is the song on the legendary Billie Joe Armstrong. Swimmers definitely don’t ride on his coat tails though and are clearly a very good and hard working band. All the success they are guaranteed to get will definitely be well deserved.

Up next was if I’m honest the main reason I went to the gig. From Hermosa Beach, California the legendary Pennywise were about to take to the stage and boy was I excited. I never expected to get the chance to see Pennywise with this line up ever after lead singer Jim Lindberg decided to quit the band after 20 years back in 2009. To the punk rock worlds relief Lindberg eventually rejoined Pennywise in 2012 and were finally back in London. Sometimes the term legendary get’s thrown around too easily to describe something but the term without a doubt applies to Pennywise and their contribution to punk rock scenes all around the world. Way back in the early 1990’s Pennywise, along with bands like NOFX, Bad Religion, Descendents, Rancid, Lagwagon, No Use For A Name and many many more were laying down the foundations for a scene that would eventually spawn bands that are now household names such as Green Day, blink-182 and The Offspring, three of the biggest selling punk bands of all time. My gosh I was excited to see them live.

I found it really interesting looking around the crowd when Pennywise burst into their opening song. Half of the crowd has massive smiles on their face, were going crazy and singing along at the top of hteir voices, the other half were looking at each other and questioning what on earth was going on? Impressively Pennywise quickly won them over though as they went through a big portion of their back catalogue at a blistering pace. Songs such as Something To Change, Society, My Own Way were met with so much enthusiasm from Pennywise’s die hard fanbase. There was a great surprise cover of the classic Ramones song Blitzkrieg Bop that got almost everyone singing. Honestly if you’re at a Rise Against gig and you don’t know that song I have to question what on earth are you doing there? Pennywise finished with what’s probably their most well knwon song Fuck Authority and then of course Bro Hymn and song that I discovered is at its very best when enjoyed live. Pennywise were absolutely epic. I think the biggest compliment I can give them is this; they managed to make this huge room in Brixton feel like one of the tiny little punk rock clubs that I love. Seriously, absolutely amazing!

I had no idea how Rise Against would top tap, it’s their duty as the headline act to do so right? They were clearly going to pull out all the stops and had some lights set up on stage spelling out RISE. The punk rock snob in me really wasn’t a fan of this, a light show and a punk gig? That’s not right is it! I soon got over that issue though as Rise Against, led by Tim McIlrath really went for it on stage. To be honest I haven’t properly listened to Rise Against for year (like I said I was mainly here for Pennywise) but they are a band I have a massive amount of respect for. Throughout their career they have always stayed true to who they are and what their message is, never changing despite the success they’ve had. To me that is very punk rock. Live, Rise Against were like a hurricane had hit the stage, very rarely standing still, except to sing the band played the show like it was their last. Guitarist Zach Blair in particular caught the eye, throwing himself around the stage throughout the set with seemingly an endless amount of energy. Just about every song drew massive sing alongs from the Brixton crowd. Highlights of the set for me included Give It All, Help Is On The Way, Prayer For The Refugee and Like The Angel, which I really didn’t expect them to play so that was a nice surprise.

Rise Against and Pennywise showed why they are two of the highest thought of bands in punk rock. Both bands have a huge collection of brilliant songs and put on a great live performance, with or without lights. 

Check out Swimmers here:

Check out Pennywise here:

Check out Rise Against here:

Now listening to Comfortable. Tired. by Not Half bad

Tuesday, 11 November 2014

Album Review: Hang by Lagwagon

I always find the skate punk band Lagwagon a bit interesting. Someone who would consider themselves a fan of punk but isn’t fully immersed in the scene probably hasn’t heard of them but the diehard punk rockers worship them. Here’s a fun fact for you. Did you know that Lagwagon’s debut album Duh was the third ever release by legendary independent records label Fat Wreck Chords and the first by a band that wasn’t NOFX. Since Duh was released in 1992 the band has released seven full length albums on the label, the last being 2005’s resolve. This month after a nine year wait Lagwagon FINALLY released a brand new album titled Hang. I checked it out.

Hang starts out in an interesting fashion with the acoustic track Burden Of Proof. Lead singer Joey Cape softly serenades the listener in this short song before the album bursts into life with the second track Reign. This is classic Lagwagon, played at 100mph but still carrying a fantastically bouncy melody. If you were to ever play someone a Lagwagon song to showcase the band at their best Reign is a great song to choose. Track three on the album, Made Of Broken Parts see’s more of a midtempo sound with a slight touch of metal added to the sound. It’s the sort of song that will ignite massive circle pits when played live. As is the following song The Cog In The Machine. The sound is dark here and the lyrical pacing is superb, allowing for some massive sing alongs. I love the lyric “He Thought He Had To Save The World, He Only Had To Stop Destroying It.”

Poison The Well is a song that whilst it’s the trademark Lagwagon sound that we all know and love feels slightly darker that previous efforts. The darker sound should not really be surprising though given the 2012 of passing of Joey Capes best friend and touring partner Tony Sly. Obsolete Absolute is one of the most surprising songs on Hang. At six minutes and eleven seconds long it’s pretty lengthy for a punk rock song. The long intro for the songs gives it a great sense of drama and anticipation before the Capers distinct vocals kick in. Drummer Dave Raun really puts in a great performance on this song with his rapid fire beat. Joey Cape’s ability as a vocalist is really show cased in the hard rock sounding Western Settlement. It stands out brilliantly over the crunching guitars Chris Flippin and Chris Rest. This instrumentation in this song is very akin to something the Foo Fighters might put out put the bouncy melody that Lagwagon are known for still remains. Burning Out In Style really stood out to me on my first listen of Hang. Cape immediately grabs your attention singing over a simple repetitive guitar chord and sings about giving up on your dreams and settling down with what is considered the “norm.” A fantastic track in the brilliant Lagwagon style.

One More Song is an emotional tribute to Tony Sly. With a piano intro and Cape’s voice brilliantly haunting during the intro before bursting into life as he sings about wishing he had more time with his best friend. A very fitting tribute to a legend in the punk rock scene. Drag see’s Lagwagon return to a darker punkier sound as they sing a song about the struggles of quitting an addiction. Capes lyrics are really insightful here “I Quit When I Was Thirty, I Quit When My Baby Girl Was Born, I Quit, I Can’t Afford Any Bills, New Year Farewells, The Drag On The Next One, Is Something I Can Look Forward, Something To Slow The Synapse, Something To Do With My Hands.” You know me slows the pace down again and get’s more serious. Serious kudos have to go to the guitars of Flippin and Rest again here as they play some fantastic harmonising riffs. Punk rock musicians often get thought of as only being able to play simple chord structures but these gentleman easily prove any doubters wrong on this track. The final song on hang is called In Your Wake. This song will have long time Lagwagon fans reminiscing about when skate punk blew up in the 90’s. In You Wake takes the listening on a bit of a roller coaster with the dynamic of the song constantly switching between tempo’s and slowly building towards a huge finale that will be “inside your head” for a long, long time.

Hang is definitely a grower of an album, maybe the first time you won’t really get it but after a few more spins you will fall in love with it. Every time I have listened to it I’ve found something else about it that I think is amazing. Something that struck me about Hang is that despite it being nine years since Lagwagon released an album there is still something very current about the release. It fits perfectly in Lagwagons excellent discography and the sound doesn’t fill dated in the slightest. I really do hope that I don’t have to wait another nine years for the follow up to Hang. If it is then we should saviour this fantastic release.

Now listening to Fuck Authority by Pennywise

Wednesday, 5 November 2014

Album Review: Lost & Found/Wet Feet by Great Cynics

London based three piece Great Cynics are one of the leading lights in the current underground punk scene in the United Kingdom. Combining the best parts of punk, rock, indie and pop Giles, Iona and Bob have created a sound all of their own. This week they released a two song tape on Specialist Subject Records.

The first song on the release is named Lost & Found. This song displays everything I love about Great Cynics, hooked filled verses that build towards a massive sing along chorus. Giles voice carries the melody of the song throughout and Iona adds some excellent harmonies to the chorus. The song is about feeling alone in the world and finding the strength to say yes to things and getting yourself back on track.

Wet Feet is the name of the second song on the release. These song starts off with Giles briefly singing acapella before the instruments kick in. This really caught my attention. This song goes at a slower pace than Lost & Found but is chock full of great hooks and moments to join the band in song. Wet Feet is a bit of a love song where Giles sings about that great feeling you have at the beginning of a relationship, the sort of things like staying up all night talking or laughing but being endeared by stupid things that you do and then things turning slightly darker and releasing how much you miss that person when things go wrong.

This is a brilliant little release by Great Cynics. If this is a bit of taster for what their third album will be like when it’s released then we are in for a treat. Great Cynics are definitely one of the best band this little island of ours has to offer and are definitely deserving of a lot of attention from music lovers everywhere.

Now listening to I Love Life by The Smith Street Band

Monday, 3 November 2014

Album Review: Throw Me In The River by The Smith Street Band

2014 has without a doubt been the year of The Smith Street Band for me. After picking up three of their first four releases (Don’t Fuck With Our Dream, Sunshine and Technology, Nobody Gets Lost Anymore), seeing them play live three times and falling in love with front man Wil Wagner’s solo album Laika (reviewed here) I was incredibly excited when their newest album Throw Me In The River was announced. That feeling of excitement grew even more when I found out that former Arrogant Sons Of Bitches and Bomb The Music Industry front man Jeff Rosenstock was on production duties for the release.

Opening track Something I Can Hold In My Hands starts off in a subdued mood before bursting into life. Wagner’s proud Australian accent sets out the story over a minimalist musical background before the song slowly gets more and more explosive. His trademark honest song writing is on display from the get go as well as he sings about how being in this band makes him feel right. “Every Inch Of Me Is Always Itching Unless I’m On Stage” sums it up beautifully. This song is followed seamlessly by the lead single from the album Surrender. I really enjoyed how the song followed on perfectly from Something I can Hold In My Hands, clearly a lot of thought has been put into the running order on the album. In Surrender you have everything you would expect from a Smith Street Band song, strong, witty and honest lyrics with an insanely catchy chorus that will have a crowd singing at the top of their lungs. The song has a fantastic message to boot, telling the listener “You Don’t Have To Surrender, If You Don’t Want To.” A brilliant rallying cry about always following your dreams. The intro to the next song really makes me want to jump up and down before Wil’s vocal appears. The delivery is fast and to the point before slowing it down for a defiant chorus. Calgary Girls is a more delicate slowed down track about a good relationship that couldn’t last. Musically the song is more restrained and deliberate with most of the focus being on Wagner’s story like lyrics. I won’t lie, I’m more of a fan of the play fast and loud style of songs but songs like this really grab my attention, absolutely brilliant song.

One song I was particularly looking forward to hearing was East London Summer, the band played it during their gig supporting the Menzingers at the beginning on October and I was blown away. It got me wondering if the song title is an ode toward their friends Apologies I Have None’s song Sat In Vicky Park which features the line “Give Me East London Summer.” The song is and big and bold rock anthem similar to Don’t Fuck With Our Dream. Next up is one of the songs that really caught my attention when I was reading the track listing. It’s named The Arrogance Of The Drunk Pedestrian and really showcases what The Smith Street Band do brilliantly. The songs start off quietly and at a slow pace while Wagner thoughtfully sings about a seedy drunken underworld before his voice slowly gets angrier and the song gets heavier and turns into a full scale rock and roll assault. Credit has to go to Lee Hartney, Chris Cowburn and James “Fitzy” Fitzgerald who perform their roles in this song and the entire album perfectly; it really is no longer Wil Wagner and The Smith Street Band.

I really enjoyed what they did on track seventh on the album, Get High, See No One. Long time fans of the band will notice the similarity between this title and the title Get High, See Mice from No One Gets Lost Anymore. I loved that the songs start similarly as well, almost feels like the band have put in a little Easter egg for their old school fans. There is a great amount of bitterness in the following track I Don’t Wanna Die Anymore. This song follows a more formulaic pop song structure with verses followed by a hook filled chorus; it’s another stand out song. It’s Alright, I Understand is a rollercoaster ride of the song taking the listener on a number of highs and lows throughout the song. I think this song could be a sleeper on the album, it’s absolutely brilliant but may not get the love that it deserves. Title track Throw Me In The River is a song jam packed with raw emotion. It’s impossible not to get caught up in the song, especially with the huge raucous chorus that will leave you with a lump in your throat. Throw Me In The River is a very special song. The album concludes with I Love Life. This is a song that could be split into three separate parts. The intro, which is a fast paced punk rock jam with Wil’s punchy vocals carrying the melody whilst he sings about how lucky he feels to live the life he leads. The second part of the song is an instrumental section which builds into a final joyous verse complete with whoa-ohs. I can see I Love Life becoming a closing song in their live set for years to come.

I had really high expectations for Throw Me In The River and it exceeding every single one of them. I can see this album being the release that breaks The Smith Street Band. A whole new fan base will appear for these Aussie lads and it’s well deserved, everyone NEEDS to hear their music. It’s well written, incredibly honest and will have you singing for days. I feel so blessed that I’ve had the opportunity to see them in small venues such as TheFighting Cocks and The Black Heart. I can see that the next time they visit our shores they will be playing in venues twice as big. I wouldn’t be at all surprised if 2015 is also the year of The Smith Street Band.

Saturday, 1 November 2014

Album Review: Honor Is All We Know by Rancid

Rancid will no doubt go down as one of the most successful bands in the history of punk rock music. Since their beginnings in 1991 the band has conquered the world, releasing seven fantastic albums and have toured all over the world. Recently, after a five year wait they released their eighth studio album Honor Is All We Know. I couldn’t wait to check it out.

The album starts off with the song Back Where I Belong and straight away that classic Rancid sound which is universally loved is in full swing. Tim Armstrong’s unmistakable vocals sound better than ever as he sings about returning to his roots and know that’s where he is home. A key component to Rancids sound is Matt Freemans (who is the best bass player in the world) fantastically intricate bass lines that really drive the song forward. This is followed up by Raise Your Fist. This song is a call to arms song about solidarity and brotherhood, a frequent topic in the Rancid discography. The song has a great chorus of “raise your fist, against the power, oppress the power that exists.” Collision Course is the first song where Lars Frederiksen’s vocals really come into play. Combing Lars raspy shouting with Tim’s more talky style of singing give the song some great depth and meaning.

Evil’s My Friend see’s Rancid go towards the more ska version of their sound. The song is undeniably catchy and will have everyone moving to the beat. The fifth track on the album, Honor Is All We Know allows Freeman to show off his immense bass playing skills again as well as his gruff, raspy singing voice as he takes a turn to sing a verse. I really like how Tim, Matt and Lars all have their own verse on the song, which talks about being strong enough to live by your own code of honour. A Power Inside is another song about solidarity and standing up for your beliefs. On my first listen to the album this was the first song that really caught my attention with its huge sing along chorus. I can picture everyone at the pit singing this song at full volume. In The Streets see Rancid strip things back to just a standard punk rock jam. Tim and Lars again share vocal duties on a song that would fit perfectly on 1994’s breakthrough album Let’s Go!

The album hits the half way mark with the booze filled party anthem Face Up. At just one minute and thirty five seconds long it’s the shortest song on the album but it really ticks all the boxes in what you want in a punk rck anthem, catchy lyrics and shout along choruses, a great track. Already Dead is a song that unleashes a wonderful amount of energy. This is one of the angriest songs on Honor Is All We Know, Lars Especially sounds extremely bad tempered. When Tim starts singing on the opening of Diabolical I am instantly reminded of And Out Come The Wolves favourite Roots Radicals. It’s a song about people disagreeing on things and it stupidly turning violent. You can tell that the legendary Bad Religion guitarist and long time Rancid producer Brett Gurewitz had a hand in this song with the oozin-aahs that can be heard during the chorus. Great harmonies.

Malfunction is one of the most interesting songs on Honor Is All We Know. Dabbling more in rock and roll than punk rock, drummer Branden Steineckert relentlessly pounding the drums throughout the song, there is also a great guitar solo at the end of the song. Now We’re Through With You is another song that instantly stood out on the first listen. It’s a fast and furious straight forward punk song about turning your back on someone who has wronged you. Matt Freemans bass playing is amazing on this song, how he can play so fast amazes me. Everybody’s Sufferin’ again see’s Rancid explore their love of Jamaican music. Like Evil Is My Friend you will find very hard to refrain from bouncing along the beat. I don’t believe anyone will have ever said that Tim Armstrong has a great singing voice, not even in punk circles but you can’t deny that he can write a song that suits his voice perfectly. It sounds great on the hardest hit punk song Rancid write or a ska number such as Everybody’s Sufferen.’ Honor Is All We Know Concludes with Grave Digger, Rancid’s rhythm section is on top form on this street punk banger. Lars and Tim’s too and throw vocal duties keep the song interesting and give it so much life.

Honor Is All We Know was well worth the five year wait and completely surpasses their last effort Let The Dominoes Fall in every aspect. This is the album that fans of the band have been wanting for years. A definite album of the year contender from these legends. 

Check out Rancid here:

Now listening to Fuck You by Rancid

Sweet Emotion

The other day at work I was talking to my friend Dale about gigs we’ve been to. As you can imagine conversations about gigs and music are my favourite types of conversation. Dale is a huge fan of the electronic bass and drums trance clubbing woo woo music. Whilst it’s not a genre I have any particular time for I do find it interesting listening to Dale talk so passionately about it. On this particular occasion we were talking about times we had got emotional at a show. He was telling me about the time he and out friends Charlie and Jordan went to something called South West Four Festival and he saw his favourite act Above and Beyond and in his words “blubbed through most of it.” I thought that it was great that somebody can be moved by music in such a way and it got me thinking about times I’ve got emotional at a gig. Here are two of the times it’s happened.

The first occasion I thought of was at a Joey Cape gig in April last year. He was playing at the Islington Academy with Jon Snodgrass and Brian Wahlstrom as part of the group Scorpios. The late great Tony Sly of No Use For A Name was also a part of Scorpios before his sad and sudden death. Tony Sly is widely regarded of one of the very best songwriters of his generations and was loved by everyone. As a tribute to Tony Scorpios played the No Use For A Name song International You Day and I don’t think there was a dry eye in the room. The lyrics in the chorus were so poignant. They go “but without you, my life is incomplete, my days are absolutely grey, and so I try, let your heart know for sure, that I have so much more to tell you every single day.” When Joey sang those lines the emotions that filled the room were deeply moving and something that I will never ever forget.

The second occasion is more of a personal story. A few years ago I was introduced to my best friend Scouse. We bonded pretty much instantaneously talking about music and we discovered we both adored the band Finch and in particular their debut album What It Is To Burn. At the time they had split up and neither of us ever had the chance to see them live. We basically agreed that would be something we do together if it ever became possible. The song we especially wanted to see live for the epic song Ender, a song that was always a road trip song for us and had to be played at full volume, pretty much as a rule. Slowly rumours began to pop up about Finch reuniting and eventually a show at the Brixton Academy was announced for March of 2013. As soon as tickets went on sale we snapped them up and became seriously excited. Finch completely nailed it that night and when Ender came on I was in a trance, I felt myself welling up instantly really struggling to hold back tears. This was a moment I never really thought I’d get to experience, and to experience it with someone I consider a brother was just something else. If I only remember one thing from that night, and it was a pretty eventful night that included getting covered in beer within seconds of the opening song, Scouse upsetting some girls on the tube and hanging out with another friends Nan it will definitely be that feeling of euphoria I felt during the song.

That’s something I really love about music, who would of thought stringing a few guitar riffs, drum beats and words can touch someone in such a way. Amazing.