Friday, 27 February 2015

Slam Dunk Festival 2015 (Part 1)

Slam Dunk festival returns for its ninth successive year in May. During its previous eight year it has grown from a one day festival in Leeds with just one stage to one of the biggest punk, metal and ska festivals in the country with it taking place on three separate days over the May bank holiday weekend in Leeds, Hatfield and Wolverhampton and now boasts seven different stages with some of the very best bands from all over the world appearing at the festival. Now the first two announcements of bands has happened I preview six of the ones that I really can’t wait to see.

The first band that stood out after the first announcement was Swedish skate punk legends Millencolin. Returning with their long awaited new album True Brew, their first since 2008’s Machine 15 Millencolin are sure to draw a big crowd of dedicated fans and create an army of brand new ones after their appearance at Slam Dunk. Since forming in 1992 Millencolin have toured all over the world and are probably the most successful European punk rock band to come out of that era. Live, expect a passionate performance, with every note sang like it was the last front man Nikola Sarcevic’s last. Millencolin’s return to England could be an unforgettable performance.

Another band from the 90’s who are making a long awaited return to our shores are Los Angeles, California’s Goldfinger. They will be making their first appearance at the festival in four years and will be going all out to make up for lost time, especially after having to pull out of last year’s festival. Playing a fantastic hybrid of pop punk with a hint of ska will get everybody singing and dancing their hearts out. There will also be a great feeling of nostalgia during the set with many of the people in attendance having grown up listening to Goldfinger. Songs such as Superman, 99 Red Balloons and Counting The Days will be sung as loudly as any song played throughout the festival.

Another band that will have a very nostalgic feeling despite still being very very active are Orange County’s kings of ska Reel Big Fish. Still going strong after 24 years as a band there are very few acts in the world who can put on a live show as good as Reel Big Fish. I’ve had the absolute pleasure of seeing them five times in the past three years there hasn’t been a show where I’ve come away smiling, hoarse, tired and covered in sweat from nonstop skanking. Expect to hear a set comprised of classics such as Beer and Sell Out, newer songs such as Everyone Else Is An Asshole and Don’t Stop Skanking as well as the obligatory covers of Take On Me and Monkey Man. Not to be missed.

At the past two Slam Dunk festivals the organisers have managed to coach some of the best bands from the early new millennium out of retirement to play the festival. I like many others grew up listening to the likes of King Prawn and Jesse James and completely fan-girled at both of their performances in recent years. This year the fantastic folk booking the line up have done it again and have announced Derbyshire ska punk legends Lightyear will be reuniting to play together in May. I could not be more excited. I was lucky enough to be in attendance of their last ever gig at the Islington academy back in 2012 and still remains one of the best gigs I’ve ever been to. Expect the perfect combination of fun, mayhem and probably some male nudity as Lightyear remind us what we’re missing in today’s punk rock world.

Big D and the Kids Table are a band I have been waiting a very long time to see live and will finally have the chance to at Slam Dunk. Carrying the torch for ska punk in the US Big D are a band that have always stayed true to their routes despite ska’s fluctuating popularity in the music scene. Whether playing an in your face, fast ska punk anthem or a slowed down reggae song Big D are masters of their art. Big D are a band known for leaving everything on stage whenever they play live and will be one of the most energetic performances of the weekend. I can’t wait to hear LAX live, that will be a goose bumps moment.

When I think of perfect festival bands Zebrahead are a band that always spring to mind. After delivering a show stealing set last year despite lead singer Matty being ill this Californian five piece returns to throw a punk rock party. Combining pop punk with hip hop may sound like an odd blend but Zebrahead play it perfectly and will have the crowd going completely crazy, encouraging the biggest circle pits of the festival. This year Zebrahead are releasing an album full of older songs re-recorded with Matty singing lead so expect the band to perform so old classics you haven’t heard it a while as well as a selection of newer tracks that will bring the house down.

Also playing the festival are You Me At Six, Taking Back Sunday, Don Broco, Lower That Atlantis, While She Sleeps, The Bronx, Gallows, Crossfaith, H2O, Comeback Kid, Emmure, Thy Art Is Murder, Bane, Beartooth, Trash Talk, The Color Morale, The Wonder Years, Neck Deep, Bayside, Fireworks, Transit, Such Gold, PVRIS, Mariachi El Bronx, Patent Pending, A Loss For Words and Knuckle Puck.

Get all the latest information on Slam Dunk here:

Now listening to Anywhere You Wanna Go by The Bennies

Thursday, 26 February 2015

Album Review: Manchester Punk Festival Volume 1

On the 17th and 18th of April the cream of the UKs underground punk rock scene will descend on Manchester for the first ever Manchester Punk Festival. Boasting one of the strongest line ups at any festival ever I quickly snapped up a ticket (only £15!) and am now excitedly counting down the days. In the meantime the MPF organisers have released the first of four free compilations to introduce folk to some of the amazing bands playing the festival. Here’s my review of the first comp.

The compilation starts out with some hardcore thrash punk from London’s The Restarts. This year these gentlemen are celebrating their twentieth year as a band and will no doubt be a big draw for some of the older punks in attendance at the festival. The song Sheep is a fast and furious track that is 110% aggression throughout the song. The next song is called Isolation Is A Lonely Place To Be by and band named Holiday. Holiday are a band local to the Manchester area so will no doubt have a fair few fans in attendance when they play there brilliant brand of melodic skate punk. One of the bands I’m most looking forward to seeing at the festival are gypsy ska punks Stand Out Riot. Described as an exciting mix of Streetlight Manifesto and Gogol Bordello there set is sure to be one of the most energetic of the weekend. The song Broadcast Delay comes from the album The Gentleman Bandits and mixes some driving horn lines with socially conscious lyrics. Leeds based Tosserlad contribute the fourth song to the compilation in the form of F.O.M.O. They will bring their combination of hardcore/thrash/punk/d-beat to Ducie Bridge on the Friday night.

Scotland’s The Murderburgers are one of the finest pop punk bands in the world at the moment. The song My Inner Mental Room is taken from their These Are Only Problems album, released on the legendary Asian Man Records. Swindon’s 2 Sick Monkeys are one of the more unqiue bands at the festival, this loud and fast two piece have no guitar just bass and drums. The song Vicitms is a demo track and has a raw sound that packs the song with intensity. Crazy Arm are one of the biggest name of the bill for the festival. Signed to Xtra Mile Records this Plymouth based group mix punk, rock, roots, folk, country and americana music to create an awesome sound. The song Tribes from 2011’s Union City Breaths is a classic punk rock anthem containing great vocals and harmonies, a massive chorus and a strong message. Not to be missed. One of the bands I’m most looking forward to seeing is Just Panic. This folk punk band have reunited to play the festival and will bring their fist in the air punk rock to Sound Control on the Saturday as well as playing an Against Me! cover set at an after show party at Retro Bar later in the night.

Dead Neck are a hardcore and melodic punk band from the North West of England. Fresh from a European tour Dead Neck will bring some of the more technical punk rock to the festival. Later this year they are playing at Punk Rock Holiday in Slovenia and look certain to go and achieve great things. Billy Liar is another act I’m really looking forward to catching at the festival. This punk rock poet from Edinburgh plays fast, energetic, sometimes angry and always brilliant acoustic punk rock. The song Change is about being bored of the current music scene and wanting to hear something that will inspire you. The acoustic punk music continues with Captain Hotknives with the song You’re More Punk Than Me. This comedic song takes digs at the punk rock police who judge other punks for not being punk enough. The compilation is finished up with Guildford’s melodic punk rockers Darko. Time Pieces And Lock Shaped Hearts comes from 2014s EP Sea Of Trees and is utterly brilliant. It contains massive guitar riffs, pounding drums and a huge hook. I’m expecting Darko to be one of the surprise hits at the festival.

Find all the news and information about the Manchester Punk Festival here (including tickets):

Now listening to Stevie's Got A Problem by The Murderburgers

Wednesday, 25 February 2015

Album Review: The Pink Couch EP by Uniforms

Some sad news filtered down from Scotland this week, Scottish punks Uniforms announced they would be splitting up with immediate effect. Happily they did leave us with one last EP before they sail off into the sunset. With a heave heart I checked out Pink Couch.

Three Two opens up in the EP in great style. This song is all about the struggles of life on the road and drinking too much to get through it. Beginning with just vocals and guitars there is a sense of urgency before the whole bands kicks in to create a driven punk rock sound. All of the instruments are given a chance to shine throughout the track, displaying some fine musicianship from the whole band. The second song Kathleen Hanna Turned Heel is a melodic punk rock banger. I loved the way the vocals are used to carry the melody of the song, really makes the listener want to sing along with the band. White Flag is the poppiest song on the album. Played at a noticeably faster pace than the opening two songs White Flag as a hugely catchy chorus of “I Don’t Wanna Try, I Don’t Wanna Try, White Flag Is Raised Up So High, I Don’t Wanna Try, I Don’t Wanna Try, I’ve Given Up, This Is Goodbye.” I always think a mark of a great song is if you can imagine it played live when you listen to it and how all the different parts might work. White Flag definitely has that quality, it feels like a big curtain closer to a Uniforms set. The fourth song Pink Couch was the stand out song on the EP after my first listen. The track starts out with a rumbling bass line before everyone joins in to create a great melodic feel. This song is played at a mid-tempo pace and a lot of emphasis is placed on the vocals. The song is full of smart lyrics about having someone to talk with to get things that are troubling you off of your mind. Brilliant song. The EP finishes with the song I Won’t Forget You. The song feels like a goodbye to the Uniforms fans for all the dedication they’ve shown over the years. The song starts out slowly before blasting into life and becoming another punk rock banger.

It really is such a huge shame that Uniforms have decided to break up, They were an immensely talented band. The Pink Couch EP is a fitting way to end it all though and is a fantastically strong release packed with heartfelt, smart and catchy punk rock. Good luck to these boys in whatever they do in the future.

Stream and buy The Pink Couch EP here:

Now listening to Sheeps by The Restarts

Tuesday, 24 February 2015

Album Review: The Free-P by Millie Manders

Millie Manders is a lady the world needs to hear. Since going solo in 2012 her solo career has gone from strength to strength and this year she released a brand new EP titled The Free-P. Here is what I thought of it.

The opening track Hole In Your Chest starts out with a distinctive summer vibe with a playful ukulele doubled up with a bouncy bass line. The strength of Manders voice is abundant as soon as she sings the opening words and I’m instantly reminded of Dirty Revolutions Reb Elle, which is high praise indeed. It’s hard not to smile at this song and is perfect for distracting from those miserable February nights and transports you to those fun filled summer nights at the beach. The next track Sick see’s Manders voice go down a more serious path. The song is about people who throwaway the right to choose and then complain about it.

The music remains fun and bouncy but Manders voice shows off some real punk rock angst. Little Big Mouth is an instant skanker. Channelling Madness this will get everybody’s knees up for a good dance. Without ever reinventing the ska wheel the song manages to sound fresh and unique. Here Millie Manders displays some wonderful song writing ability as she laments the ladies of the Saturday nights. The one’s who go out wearing next to nothing, act like the queen bee and generally mouth off to everyone. The final song, Mr Stupid has a darker punk rock/blues feel. Manders vocal swaps between and quick fire almost rap like delivery and a cleaner pop style before some punk rock aggression to finish the EP off with a flourish.

The Free-P really is breath of fresh air. Millie Manders blows away any of the popular drivel that is forced into our ears by the mainstream music industry. She not only has fun, danceable upbeat pop songs but they also contain smart messages and lyrics. Millie Manders deserves your attention.

Stream and buy The Free-P here:

Now listening to Mushroom Tea by The Bennies

Sunday, 22 February 2015

The Perfect Punk Rock Song

Last night was a very boring night at work. Wandering aimlessly around the car park I have wasted a huge portion of my life in I was listening to a new playlist I had recently created which I quite cleverly named Songs That Make Me Want To Sing Out Loud, catchy right? On that playlist there are forty or so songs that the more astute of you might have worked out indeed make me want to sing out loud. Obviously I resist because screaming along with the calls of “Baby Lets Go Out Tonight” from To Know The Night Is To Live In It Forever by Leagues Apart would make me look quite silly. While I was listening and trying my very best not to sing out loud I got thinking about what makes the perfect punk rock song.

Obviously I don’t have the smallest bit of musical ability; I’m so useless I can barely clap my hands along to a simple beat so this is only the view of someone who really enjoys listening to music rather than someone who has the real skill and talent to write an entire song so some of my views might be on the naive side.

I think most people would agree that you can usually decide whether or not you like a song by the opening few seconds. The intro to any songs is vitally important to making it great; it really needs to hook the listener in, especially in the modern world where there is an almost unlimited amount of music you can choose from at just the click of a button. When I think of some of my favourite songs they all make me want to sing, dance or throw my fists in the air from the very start. I could list hundreds of examples but I will speak of just a couple. The first being the classic Less Than Jake song Gainesville Rock City from 2000’s Borders and Boundaries (typing that I can’t believe that album is fifteen years old). As soon as those keys turn, the engine starts and those horns blast that instantly recognisable riff you know it’s time to dance. The introduction to Gainesville Rock City actually lasts for a third of the song and really builds brilliantly for an explosive final two thirds of the song. Another great example of a great intro comes from The Menzingers. The short introduction from A Lesson In The Abuse Of Information Technology from their debut album with the same name from the get go gets your fists in the air and you screaming your lungs out. The simple guitar riffs followed by the screaming of “I Supply My Own Divide Morality, I Dye Everything Shades Of Grey” instantly grab your attention and have you hooked throughout the song.

Without a doubt a massive part of what makes any song great is the lyrics. The world of punk rock is blessed with some incredible lyricists. No subject matter is ignored, songs are written about love, politics, standing up for yourself, mental health, rebellion, the music scene, life on the road, growing up and everything else in between. In my opinion Off With Their Heads leader Ryan Young is the best lyricist in the world. When you read his lyrics you will discover the subject matter is incredibly dark but you cannot help but feel uplifted when you’re singing along with them. One great example is the song Nightlife from 2013’s Home. The words in the second verse really stand out to me, “Don’t Wanna Be Like This, Anxious And Or Angry Or Hopeless And Upset All Of The Time, Unable To Get Back The Feeling I Lost Somewhere Along The Line, I Wear It All On My Sleeve And Everyone Sees No Matter How Hard I Try, I’ve Never Felt Worse In My Whole Life.” There is something incredibly cathartic about singing those lines that actually make you feel better about yourself. New Yorks Iron Chic are a band who are brilliant at writing catchy and meaningful fist in the air lyrics. The song I Always Never Said That from 2010s Not Like This (reviewed here) features the lines “So Let’s Agree We’ll Always Laugh, Not Miss The Joke And Do What We Can, To Take It All With A Grin, And Not Be So Fucking Humourless.” First class lyrics about not getting all the bad times that life throws at you get you down and always trying to stay positive. Another great lyricists I’ve discovered recently is the German folk sing John Allen. His song Lessons I Have Learnt from his recently released album Sophomore (reviewed here) is extremely uplifting. Two lines towards the end of the song really put a big grin on my face. They are “And If You’re Out There Somewhere Listening To That Song, And If It Makes You Smile Try And Sing Along.” This is a great uplifting couple of lines about the power of music and how it can move you. Something all of the best songs can do, move you.

Being moved is another ingredient in making a great song perfect. It can be done with personal lyrics, relating to the song in some way or just serving as a reminder of a great memory. The Street Dogs song Punk Rock & Roll is a song that always moves me. Whenever I hear that song I always remember the goose bumps I felt after seeing them play it live for the first time. It was this perfect moment of a room full of strangers coming together joining as one little community to sing about something they all loved so much. Another song that’s always moved me is What If Punk Never Happened by The King Blues. The song/poem tells a story on what the world would be like if there was no such thing as punk rock and the final verse is one of the most inspiring pieces of work I have ever heard. Listening back to it now I get goose bumps (though that could be because I’m still sitting in my pants at 3pm and it’s a tad chilly). Itch’s words show just how much you can learn from the world of punk rock, they go – “Punk Rock Has The Power To Change The World, It Lies In Every Single Punk Rock Boy And Girl, So Don’t Let Anyone Tell You You’re Not Worth The Earth, These Streets Are Your Streets, This Turf Is Your Turf, Don’t Let Anyone Tell You You’ve Got To Give In, Cos You Can Make A Difference, You Can Change Everything, Just Let Your Dreams Be Your Pilot, Your Imagination Your Fuel, Tear Up The Book And Write Your Own Damn Rules, Use All That Heart, Hope And Soul That You’ve Got, And The Love And The Rage That You Feel In Your Gut, And Realise That The Other World That You’re Always Looking For, Lies Right Here In Front Of Us, Outside This Door, And It’s Up To You To Go Out And Paint The Canvas, After All, You Were Put On The Earth To Do This, So Shine Your Light So Bright So All Can See, Take Pride In Being Whoever The Fuck You Want To Be, Throw Your Fist In The Air In Solidarity, And Shout Viva La Punk, Just One Life, Anarchy.”

Another big part of the ingredients of a great song is the ability of sing loud and sing proud along with it. Florida’s Against Me! are masters at the sing along punk rock anthem. Having had the immense pleasure of seeing them live this past November I realised just how many of their songs make you want to sing as loudly as possible no matter what the subject matter. The song We Laugh At Danger And Break All The Rules was the first Against Me! song I ever fell in love with, largely because of brilliant chorus and the moment towards the end of the track when the music drops out and there is a great moment of just gang vocals bellowing out the chorus before one big final blast. It really feels me with energy every time I hear it. Dropkick Murphys are another band you really excel in the art of the sing along punk rock anthem. The Celtic punk rockers who boast seven members in their line up all contribute vocals during choruses and this really helps give their music an everyman feel of everyone in the room being equal. If you go all the way back to their 1998 debut Do Or Die and follow their musical path past 2005s The Warriors Code, which features the big hit Shipping Up To Boston and keep going to their last album, 2013s Signed And Sealed In Blood, so many of their songs feature massive choruses that everyone gets involved with. This has got to be a big reason why the Dropkicks are such a popular live band.

Whilst I was talking about Against Me! I spoke about a song building towards a big finale. This is something I really love in a song. Similar to electronic music when a beat drops and the party really kicks in it’s the same in a punk rock song when the music slows down and slowly builds into one final last party. Two songs spring to mind straight away when I think of great building moments. The first is Change On Me by Washington punks RVIVR.  This fantastic song about changing and growing for the better features a very long musical interlude and slowly builds towards a massive final chorus. Even though the music never drops out the lengthy time between vocals really adds to a sense on anticipation and importance for that final vocal blast on the track. The other is Australia’s The Smith Street Band. I can’t think of any other band who can take you on such a roller coaster of highs and lows with their music. The epic I Love Life from 2014s Throw Me In The River (reviewed here) as an example of how to build a song into a massive full blown party of a ending. The song starts at a very high tempo as front man Wil Wagner storms through the opening couple of verses before a middle section of building begins. There is a pounding drum beat, rumbling bass and duelling guitars, as the song builds more musical layers are added including keyboards before you get to the point of climax the whole song just erupts into one joyous event which includes a massive chorus and some lovely harmonious “oh-oh-ohs.”

So there we go, that’s what I think makes the perfect punk rock song. The short version is, hook me in, give me something to care about, make me want to dance and build towards something big.

Now listening to Good Nurse by The Constantines

Saturday, 21 February 2015

Album Review: Low Bridge, Everyone Down/Home Is Where They Take You In Double A-Side by Franz Nicolay

After playing in The World/Inferno Friendship Society and The Hold Steady New York based Franz Nicolay has built a reputation as one of the best session musicians around having contributed to releases by Frank Turner, Against Me!, The Loved Ones and The Slackers. He has also had a very successful career as a solo artist with his newest album To Us, The Beautiful being released in January through Xtra Mile Recordings. This March he is embarking on a UK tour to support the album and has put out a new Double A-Side on Make That A Take Records, featuring two brand new non album tracks that were recorded during the album sessions. I gave it a spin.

The first thing I noticed on the first track Low Bridge, Everyone Down is the rawness of it. It instantly gives you the image of seeing it played live in some dark, dingy, but wonderful room where Franz will have everyone in the room’s undivided attention. The song feels dark as Nicolay’s booming vocals carry the melody throughout. I loved the musicianship throughout, the drums, bass and guitar all seemingly doing their own thing but coming together brilliantly.

The fantastically titled Home Is Where They Take You In is a more conventional sounding song. The country/folk sound makes the track instant toe tapper on the very first listen. His vocal is again captivating and gives you a feeling of been told a story throughout. The song is about finding somewhere to belong by the people you surround yourself with rather than the four walls that surround you. Despite only being just over two minutes long the song feels like it’s in two parts and has a fantastic musical segment in the middle which builds towards the second verse.

This is a fun little release from an extremely talented individual. A brilliant way for new fans to get into him and an excellent addition to any long time fans collection.

Like Franz Nicolay here:

Now listening to We Did It For The Don (Acoustic) by Against Me!

Thursday, 19 February 2015

Euro Punk (Part Three)

Here is the third and final part of my look at the finest punk bands from mainland Europe.

The Real Danger (Holland)
The Real Danger are a pop punk band from Holland. Why these guys aren’t massive in the world of pop punk is beyond me. They play some fast up tempo punk music which is perfect for some summer nights hanging out with your friends. Check out One Thing and Goodbye For Now.

Rebuke (Sweden)
Rebuke are a hardcore punk band from Gothenburg in Sweden who formed in 2003. Writing songs about a mix of politics and personal issues these guys have toured all over Europe. The songs are smart enough to make you think as well as being catchy enough to get everyone singing along. Check out Fear Of Falling and Black Screen, Eyes.

Riccobellis (Italy)
Riccobellis are a pop punk band from Italy who are heavily influenced by The Ramones. They formed in 2009 and have since put out a number of releases on labels such as Monster Zero, SP Records and One Chord Wonder. Check out Booze-Up With Dee Dee Ramone and I Created A Monster.

Rivershores (Germany)
Rivershores are a punk rock band from Germany. They have just put out an excellent new EP on Uncle M in Germany and Shield Recordings in Holland named Fuck It Dude, Let’s Get Wasted. It features six tracks off fantastic punk rock for fans of Apologies, I Have None and Off With Their Heads. Check out Die Laughing Instead and A Cynics Smile.

Smile and Burn (Germany)
Smile and Burn are a pop punk band form Berlin, Germany. Since coming together in December 2008 they have put out a number of high quality releases. The most recent Action Action features twelve excellently crafted pop punk gems. For fans of New Found Glory and Broadway Calls. Check out Pure Heroin and Nightcaps.

Sons Of Buddha (France)
Sons Of Buddha are a pop punk threesome from France featuring members of UncommonMenFromMars, The Pookies and Cannibal Mosquitos. They play some catchy, fun punk music that will have you grinning from ear to ear. Check out Dance, Dance, Dance, Dance, Dance To The Radio and Floriane’s Leather Jacket.

Sweet Empire (Holland)
Sweet Empire are a punk band from Holland inspired by the Fat Wreck and Epitaph bands from the 90’s. After forming in 2008 they came together to write fun and melodic songs that are also spread a serious message. The band write songs about animal rights, religion, the environment and politics. Check out Unsolving Problems (In The Animal Kingdom) and Pro-Life vs. Pro Choice.

Take Me To The Hospital are a Polish pop punk band. Mixing the pop punk styling’s of New Found Glory with the hardcore screams of A Day To Remember this five piece play the music that they love and put everything into it.

Teenage Bubblegums are a three piece Ramonescore band from Italy. Wearing only black they play fast, pop punk songs about love. Their latest album Learn From Yesterday, Live For Today, Pray For Tomorrow was released in 2012 on Monster Zero Records and features the songs You, My Love and Night At The Movies.

Not to be confused with Teenage Bubblegums are another Italian pop punk band named Teenage Gluesniffers. These guys play a slower version of the genre which is full of catchy hooks and harmonies quite similar to the Zatopeks. Check out Notes Of A Thirsty Young Man and Back From Pasalacqua from 2014s Frames.

Versus You (Luxemburg)
Luxemburg was the last place I expected to discover a punk rock band. Versus You have been a band since 2005 and during that time they have played with some of the most legendary punk bands of the modern era including NOFX, No Use For A Name and Jimmy Eat World. Check out If The Camel Dies, We Die and On The Town.

Wank For Peace (France)
Wank For Peace are a melodic punk band from France. Despite their hilarious moniker these five guys are very active politically. Last year’s album Fail Forward was one of my top ten of the year and is full of passionate and thoughtful punk rock music. I also had the pleasure of seeing them live and was completely blown away. Check out the songs Twelve Cheese Sticks and Was That What You Expected Kid?

Now listening to Love, Ire and Song by Frank Turner

Thursday, 12 February 2015

Album Review: Go To Prison by Pears

After being championed by Off With Their Heads leader Ryan Young last year New Orleans hardcore punk became one of the most talked about new bands in the scene. They have just given their debut album Go To Prison a European Release through Gunner Records and are soon to start a European tour with the excellent Red City Radio. With all the fuss surrounding Pears I decided to give Go To Prison a spin.

When I first pressed play my first thoughts were “I don’t know much I’m going to enjoy this album.” As I’ve gotten older I’ve found myself leaning towards a more thoughtful style of punk rock. Songs that have a bit more depth to the lyrics and song structure rather than turning everything up to eleven and playing as fast as you possibly can. Like all good opening tracks You’re Boring showcases what Pears are all about. This is fast, aggressive and angry hardcore punk at its very best. At only 54 seconds long it feels like the song is over just as soon as it’s begun but still manages to take you on a musical ride. Victim To Be is another song that takes you on the rocky ride. This song is more of a hook filled song with plenty of moments for singing along to the chorus as well as the intensity of the verse. The third track Breakfast has a fantastic skate punk feeling too it with its chant like backing vocals that bring some more intensity to the music. The music on this song is quite technical despite the speed that it’s played, showing fantastic musicianship. Sycophant is one of my stand out songs on Go To Prison. Lead singer Zach Quinn delivers his lyrics at a high pace and really grabs the attention of the listener on this song. The song ends with a heavier slower section, perfectly crafted to have a good head bang. Forever Sad takes us to the halfway point of the album. Here Quinn expertly jumps between hardcore and melodic punk which keeps the song interesting and feels fresh every time I hear it.

The second half of the album is kicked off by the track Framework. This song starts with some nice bass and drum playing before the being joined by the guitar and vocals. The vocals are delivered with more spit and venom on this track than any of the previous, which is some achievement. It is the music that really stands out here though, played technically and really makes you want to go and get sweaty in a pit. Terrible is another song that jumps between hardcore and melodic punk rock. It features everything that’s great about the genre, it starts hard and fast and builds towards a huge sing along section. Up next is one of the biggest surprises on the record. Pears cover the Ramones classic Judy Is A Punk. They don’t go down the obvious route of making it a hardcore song, they play it in a similar way to the original but still manage to make the song sound like their own.  This really put a smile on my face. Little Bags also has somewhat of a pop punk feeling to it. It starts out with a guitar riff that really reminds me of the legendary Descendents before taking us on another punk rock rollercoaster. The first half of the song is a full on hardcore onslaught and the second half is a rather catchy gang vocal effort that will have everyone shouting along with the band. Go To Prison finishes up with the song Grimespree. This is another song that really stands out on the record, it see’s the band mix their hardcore sound with that of some crust punk. It then finishes with a definite ode to the Descendents with the calling of “All? NO ALL!

I said at the beginning of this blog that I don’t really listen to this type of punk rock anymore, Pears Go To Prison is for sure an exception to that opinion. This record is by no means reinventing the hardcore wheel but it still sounds incredibly fresh and new. Even after ten listens I was still finding new parts that I loved. Really looking forward to seeing these guys live soon.  

Now listening to Outsider by The Ramones

Thursday, 5 February 2015

Dr Dave Is Trying To Make Me Deaf and Poor (Gig 1 Dropkick Murphys)

Gig 1: Dropkick Murphys at The HMV Forum 18/1/13

The day I had finally come for the first gig of the year and I was dreading it. Normally on the day of a gig I am on a real high but this time I was pretty worried. You see this week there has been constant snow across the country, so all week I was only 50/50 if A: the gig would be on and B: if I could actually get there for it. The forecast for gig day was the worst for the whole week. All signs were pointing towards this being a very bad evening.

I finished work on gig day and did my usual ritual of rushing home, getting changed, grabbing my phone (which is currently fudged but I took it anyway), my iPod (don’t go anywhere without it, it’s like a limb), my wallet, my oyster card and most importantly my ticket for the gig. When I arrived at Colchester train station I was pleasantly surprised to find all the trains were running to schedule. This amazed me because you only ever hear how public transport is rubbish and fails whenever there is a slight be of dodgy weather. I arrived in London safe and sound, jumped on the tube and made my way to Kentish Town, home of The HMV Forum.

As I entered The Forum I could already hear the opening act Crowns distinctive “fish punk” sounds. I’ve seen Crowns twice before but something was different this time. As I made my way towards the stage I noticed they had added an accordion player to their ranks. This added a great new layer to their sound. Sadly there set went far too quick for my liking as the stormed through my personal favourites Kissing Gates, Parting In The Porch and Full Swing.

Up next was Teenage Bottlerocket. Teenage Bottlerocket are a band from Wyoming in the United States. They play very fast pop punk. When I say very fast I mean very very fast. It’s ridiculous. I was absolutely ecstatic when I heard they had been added to the bill for this gig as I have wanted to see them for years now. They played with so much passion and have an obvious love for the music they play. It’s infectious and I challenge anyone not to have a good time seeing them live. Personal song highlights for me were Skate Or Die, Radio, Stupid Games and a mid song breakdown were they played Blitzkrieg Bop. This was probably as close to seeing The Ramones play as I’ll ever get so it made me a very happy man.

Now it was time for the main event. Dropkick Murphys. The crowd was ready, the chants of “Let’s Go Murphys” were booming. This is why we all had braved the weather. Looking around the gig it dawned on me how many different types of people love this band. There were old people, young people, fathers and sons, boys and girls, old crusty punks and yuppies. As soon as the band took to the stage all of these different people began to party together despite any differences in their lives. Only a band like Dropkick Murphys could achieve such a feat. The band, as expected was magnificent tearing through songs of their brand new album as well as their hugely impressive back catalogue. Even with two power cuts the party barely stopped, piper Scruffy Wallace played an impromptu version of the classic Cadence To Arms whilst we waited. I once read a review of a Murphys gig where the writer said “Dropkicks’ shows don’t wind down; they stop.” A truer statement could not be said. I really loved every single song they played and sung along at the top of my voice to every single one but personal highlights for me were The Gauntlet and A Few Good Men just because they are my two favourite Murphys songs and I’d never seen them played live before.

Now it was time to go home. After shooting across London in impressive speed I was on the train back to Colchester thinking about my night and how happy I was for deciding to take the risk despite the weather. If I hadn’t I still would have not been to gig one of the fifty-two I need to complete my challenge and more importantly I would have missed out on an amazing night of punk rock from three amazing acts.

I’d like to add I had a very interesting chat with the taxi driver on the way home about music and vinyl and how lazy it is these days when DJs use iPods instead of records whilst DJing. He was a decent bloke and so I suggested he drop me off at the top of my road so he didn’t have to attempt to drive on the ice rink that is currently my street.

The next morning I awoke still buzzing from the night before and was quite pleased that I had 1 of the 52 done. However I then realised I was very much down on where I need to be to get the challenge done. We are now three weeks into the year and I’ve only done one gig. In theory I need to be averaging a gig a week so I’m technically two down already. I decided to rectify this so I went online and brought tickets for 13 more gigs. If any one of those or the others I’ve already booked is even half as good as the Dropkick Murphys gig I am in for the best year ever.

Now listening to Voices Of Fucked by Floating Bear

Monday, 2 February 2015

Album Review: It's A Bomber by Various Artists

For me Bomber Music is one of the finest independent record labels in the country. Started in 2002 as a hobby they have worked closely with some of the very best bands in the underground scene to help release and distribute their music. On the 12th of January they released a compilation album named It’s A Bomber showcasing some of the very best bands who have released music under the Bomber Music name. I just had to review it.

The opening track comes from American/Dutch reggae punks Jaya The Cat. The song Here Comes The Drums from their International Sound Of Hedonism is a real crowd pleaser. It’s instantly recognisable intro always brings a smile to my face and like seeming every Jaya The Cat song it’s incredibly catchy. Expect to be singing the outro’s na na na, na na na na na na na na na for days to come. Keighley’s skacore heroes Random Hand contribute the second song, Anger Management from the album Inhale/Exhale. The opening blasts of Robin Leitch’s trombone will get you tapping your toes before his distinctively Northern vocals sing about keeping you’re cool when you really want to lose your temper. This really is an anthem and features some great harmonies and moments for crowd participation. The track itself is played at quite a slow tempo before building towards a massive breakdown and the song gets heavy. The Roughneck Riot provide some Celtic punk rock with the track Ignorance Is Easy from the album This Is Our Day. Incorporating a mandolin, banjo and accordion to a more traditional punk rock sound, Ignorance Is Easy is a song about looking for answers yourself and not just believing what you are told. The music world needs bands like The Roughneck Riot who are happy to stand up and fight for what they believe in. The Celtic punk sound is continued by Readings Smokey Bastard. The song Wasteland from the album Tales From The Wasteland is an upbeat sounding song with a more than a feel of Flogging Molly to it. It’s great fun and if you can’t enjoy this band you need to stop and take a look at yourself. I’ve still not had the opportunity to see Smokey Bastard live yet but they are at the top of my must see list.

Versus You are the first band on the compilation that I wasn’t already familiar with. A little research and I’ve discovered that they are a punk band from Luxembourg. Their song When It All Goes Down features on their album Moving On. The sure is pure melodic punk rock, featuring catchy and thoughtful lyrics, gang vocals and harmonies and some first class guitar work. The next song comes from Sorry And The Sinatras, who are another band I’m not overly familiar with. The song Valencia from the EP The Kings Of Shambles Street and is a straight up punk rock jam. Starting up with some great bass and drum work before two guitars join the fun and then front man Scott Sorry’s vocal takes the song to another level. Fantastic song from a band I will definitely be checking out some more. Punk rock and roll with horns is the name of the game for the next band, one of my all time favourites – Jesse James. The song Wake Up features on the bands final album, The Assassination Of Jesse James. The horns at the beginning of Wake Up are signature to the band’s sound but that’s not to say that they carry the song. The level of musicianship throughout the song is first class. I really enjoyed how the song seemingly stops toward about a third of the way through the song before building up slowly to one last massive chorus. Having played a handful of shows last year, their first since 2007 I am hoping for some more soon. Legends among the UK underground punk scene.

From some legends to one of the bright lights in the current underground scene, London’s Great Cynics. The song Back To Hackney was one of many highlights from 2013s Like I Belong. Mixing elements of punk, pop and indie music with fantastic song writing and musicianship Great Cynics are a band who should be on everyone’s radar. Up next is a punk rock band from Brazil named End Of Pipe. Punk rock from Brazil! Who knew? The song Jack is from the release Keep Running Clearly influenced by 90s punk such as Samiam and Hot Water Music. The Skints are far and away the biggest success story to come out of the reggae and ska scene. The song Up Against The Wall from 2012s excellent Part and Parcel is a great showcase of what The Skints are all about. Mixing reggae, dub and a bit of hip hop it’s easy to see why these four Londoners are getting bigger and bigger. This year see’s the band release their third full length album FM and it will no doubt push The Skints on to even more well deserved success. The sound of Jamaica is continued by the best band ever to come out of my home town Colchester, it’s of course the New Town Kings. The song Luna Rosa comes from 2014s EP Pull Up and Rewind, the first release featuring new vocalist Dabs. As a group of musicians I don’t think any band can hold a candle to these guys and since the arrival of Dabs the song writing has got up from an already high level.

The Smoking Hearts turn up the volume on the next song, Seatbelts from the album Victory! This is high octane, 100mph, in your face punk rock. Featuring a huge amount of gang vocals which makes the song feel like you’re at a massive, if slightly aggressive punk rock party. The Smoking Hearts don’t hold back on anything here, you just know they’ve put ounce of energy and passion they have in this track and every other song they have written. The Forum Walters are one of the most interesting bands I have heard in a long while. Formed in Austria in 2006 they play fun, upbeat punk rock and roll. The song Rightswing features a split 7” with Jaya The Cat. Another band I really wat to see live! When I began listening to the final track by 7 Day Conspiracy I felt like I was at a carnival. Then it quickly became a punk rock carnival (probably the best kind of carnival). I had to listen to some more of their songs and discovered they don’t all sound like this. 7 Day Conspiracy flick between all manner on punk rock genres and are another fantastically unique act. The song Berkshire Hunt features on a split with Goober Patrol.

It’s A Bomber is a fantastic celebration of some of the fantastic music they have put out over the years. Long may it continue. 

You can buy it here for a great price:

Now listen to You Will Never Want For Love by Floating Bear