Monday, 31 August 2015

Album Review: Coffee Coffee Anarchy! by Modern Trigger

When I first saw the album artwork for New York's Modern Trigger's debut release Coffee Coffee Anarchy! I instantly assumed that they would be a bit of a gruff punk, Fest style band. Turns out I was quite wrong; this is one of the most surprising releases of the year. 

Coffee Coffee Anarchy opens with a song called Only Poseurs Die. I am shocked from the outset - this is a folk song! Someone called Colin is very guilty of judging a book by their cover. Vocally, I am straight away reminded of Andrew Jackson Jihad's Sean Bonnette sounding like a poppy Laura Jane Grace. The track is full of a lot of passion and grit but also quite catchy. The second song Empty Bottles begins with a slower tempo than Only Poseurs Die. It starts with some acoustic guitar before a soft drum beat and some sugary sweet vocals kick in. The song is about being stuck somewhere with bad memories and trying to find a way out. Anna Lee is a fast paced and catchy track which shows off the bands creative side. This song is about the perfect someone for you and wanting to freeze time so that things stay that way. There is an odd but fun disco section in the middle of the song that makes me grin like a fool every time I hear it. Admit What You Hate is another song that starts slowly before a nice almost acappella chorus before the song really kicks in. This song must go down a treat live with its massive chorus. It’s the type that makes you put your arms the person next to you and sing at the top of your lungs. It's a super positive track as well, talking about not worrying about the negative things in your life and just enjoying the good. The fifth song, Numbers & Letters is a pleasant plodder of a song, never really changing out of the same gear throughout. It feels like a song that would get another great reaction live as it has plenty of opportunities to sing and sway.

Trucks, the sixth track, is a more sombre sounding song about growing up and realising all the mistakes you've made along the way. The vocals have a much more serious tone, at time sounding really broken and stretched, and this really adds to the feel of the song,. It makes me thing about what a tough life it was. The next song is titled I Hope You Die In Europe, which is very cheery. It's only a short song with four simple lines; here Modern Trigger talk about feeling strongly about things you know aren't actually anything do with you but arguing about them anyway. That's basically all the lyrics to the song written there. Burning Candles is one of my favourites on Coffee Coffee Anarchy. It's a fast paced song about burning the candle at both ends. It's a song I’m sure many fans can relate to, how many of us go to our boring jobs completely shattered after being out for a gig the night before? And have no regrets about it! It's a bit of a party jam as well, with some fun ba, ba, ba, ba, ba, ba, bas. The penultimate track is I'm Brook Pridemore. According to Wikipedia, Brook Pridemore is an "antifolk" singer and songwriter from New York. The song is another fast pace song and is somewhat of a working class anthem about standing for what you believe in. There is another big finale on this song, literally just screeching the word "side." It really adds more passion to the song though. The final song on the album is titled We'll Always Be Friends and is just vocals and acoustic guitar. It’s a very downbeat song with lyrics such as "I Dream Of A World In Which I Am Dead." The song is about struggling with life and contemplating ending it. I actually feel quite uncomfortable trying to review it so I'll leave things there.

Coffee Coffee Anarchy is a really surprising record. I loved the raw feel of the record; this is how I think all DIY folk albums should sound - dirty and close to their roots. Not a bad debut at all. Check it out!

Stream and buy Coffee Coffee Anarchy! here: 

Like Modern Trigger here:

Sunday, 30 August 2015

Gig Review: Frank Turner (Solo Show) at the Norwich Waterfront 26/8/15

After the "intimate" show at the Garage a couple of weeks ago, last Wednesday I found myself travelling to Norwich with my good friend, and Frank Turner obsessive, Jess to see him again at the Waterfront. He was there to play a solo set as a warm up for his turn headlining the Festival Republic stage at Reading. I've seen Frank live half a dozen times now but this was my first time seeing him without his band The Sleeping Souls so I was quite excited.

When we arrived at the Waterfront there was a massive queue to get in the venue, something I'm really not used to. It did however mean that there was a nice big crowd for support act Ducking Punches to play to. On this occasion Ducking Punches were actually just frontman Dan Allen playing by himself rather than having the full band with him (although three of the other four members of the band did make appearances on stage). I saw the full Ducking Punches experience live at the Brixton Windmill last year and was very impressed, so was quite intrigued to see what Dan would be like on his own. Happily, he was absolutely perfect. His voice was on top form, and the lack of backing band actually made it feel even more powerful. Ducking Punches’ songs are usually about hard times, such as dealing with mental health issues and loss, and hearing them played acoustically made the songs so much more emotional. The set had a few songs from the last album Dance Before You Sleep, including the excellent It's Been A Bad Few Weeks and Big Brown Pills From Lynn, and a handful from the upcoming new album Fizzy Brain, all of which got me very excited for its release. The final song of the night was a very personal one for Dan. It's a tribute to a good friend of his who sadly committed suicide last year. Before the song Dan spoke a bit about suicide. Did you know that the biggest killer of men under the age of 35 is suicide? I had no idea. Dan said, and I agree, that it's important for men to talk to people about their troubles and not just bottle things up. This was an excellent set; blew me away. Good work Dan.

Up next was Frank Turner. I was confused when he took to the stage; he wasn't wearing his trademark white shirt and black tie! I guess they were in the wash ahead of his Reading appearance. As he has just released the excellent Positive Songs For Negative People (which Jess reviewed here) the set started with a couple of songs from that (The Angel Islington and Get Better), which went down a storm. The room was in full voice for the duration of the set, at times even drowning out Frank’s voice, which was also on top form. Frank's performance seemed a lot more laid back than it normally is. Perhaps because it was just him, his guitar and a relatively small room compared to what he's used to these days. A bit of a throwback to the old days. Speaking of which, he threw in the song that really made me a Frank Turner fan - Once We Were Anarchists. I've been seeing Frank perform for a long time now and I never expected him to ever play it and I fanboyed a little bit when he introduced it. Thanks to the girl who emailed him requesting it, you rock! It was interesting to hear some of the songs performed acoustically,.If Ever I Stray, for example, has a big guitar part after the chorus and it felt odd that it wasn’t there. The sing-a-long for the chorus was gigantic though, so it was a great choice for the set. I Am Disappeared is another that worked very well acoustically and hearing it gave me a new found appreciation for the song. In one of the most bizarre but very entertaining moments of any gig I've ever been to, Mr Turner did a cover of the legendary Meat Loaf’s Bat Out Of Hell, to the delight and bemusement of everyone there. It workedsurprisingly well as an acoustic song. It did lack the motorbike sound effects though.

I love The Sleeping Souls but it was an absolute treat to see Frank performing like this and I'd love to see it more.It was another excellent gig from him, the man knows how to play a show and play it brilliantly. Both he and Dan were fantastic, as a punk rocker I don't often go to fully acoustic shows but I can't imagine I will go to many better than this.

Saturday, 29 August 2015

Album Review: Positive Songs For Negative People by Frank Turner by Jess Johnston

Frank Turner - Positive Songs for Negative People

To many, six is just a number. In the rock and roll world, it’s a number many fall short of. Not if you’re Mr Turner. The self-professed skinny half-arsed English country singer has done it again.

Positive Songs for Negative People marks Frank Turner’s sixth album. Impressive enough of a feat as it is, it’s also a bloody good string of songs. Being a slight sucker for musical misery, the idea of an album packed with positivity initially left me slightly wary (yes, I like The Smiths…sorry). However I needn’t have worried.

The clever marketing hype for the album saw a trickle-feed of songs being unveiled on the run up to the release date. Like the keen Frank-o-fan I am, I jumped all over those damn videos quicker than when I see a bottle of Sauvignon Blanc. On hindsight, I wish I’d waited. The sacred first-listen moments that you have a) conveniently had an urgent dentist appointment for or b) skipped work entirely for (you maverick), were slightly dampened by “oh I know this one…and this one”. I did walk away from the stereo feeling slightly flat (screw you Spotify and/or other music streaming services that are also available, I do it the old fashioned way). But all it took was experiencing the songs live at The Garage in Islington to make all the PSFNP pieces fall into place and it was love at second sight.

Positive Songs for Negative People opens with The Angel Islington; a smooth transition piece from the ending of Tape Deck Heart’s Broken Piano into the beginning of the new album and a new story.

“By the waters of the Thames, I resolve to start again. To wash my feet and cleanse my sins, to lose my cobwebs on the wind.”

Get Better punches you right in the face. Not literally, that would hurt and lead to a lot of paperwork. Turner shouts about fighting on no matter what, and that there’s also the promise of getting better because you’re not dead yet. And the amazingly catchy chorus will get stuck in your head until the end of time.

“I got no new tricks, yeah I’m up on bricks but me, I’m a machine and I was built to last.”

The Next Storm depicts a similar message to that of the infamous Reasons Not to Be an Idiot. Basically, don’t sit on your arse waiting for life to go wrong. (On a side note; Frank Turner and CM Punk in the same music video: ohmygod.)

“I don’t want to spend the whole of my life indoors, laying low, waiting on the next storm.”

The Opening Act of Spring is an uplifting public apology to Frank’s ex-girlfriend, who was apparently the inspiration for the Tape Deck Heart album. Taylor Swift, where are you? This song translates into five words: “sorry I was a dick.”

“Though I have hurt so many people, it was never my intention to hurt you”.

Then follows two of my favourite songs of the album; first up: Glorious You.

Glorious You serves as a reminder that there are people who love and support you no matter what. If you look around, you’ll see people who can help make the world seem half as heavy.

“Come on now if we all pull together we can lift up the weight of the world from your shoulders just for a moment or two.”

Mittens. Oh Mittens, you memorable little monster. I love this song more than Katie Hopkins loves herself. This is about being with that person who isn’t quite right for you and loves you less than you love them. To paraphrase Frank, it’s the person who you fit like mittens with, but never quite right like gloves. And about that one person who you just have to let go of to move forward no matter how hard it may seem.

You left me feeling like we’d never really been in love; don’t wanna fit like mittens, I wanna fit like gloves.”

Out of Breath to me is the Four Simple Words of Positive Songs for Negative People; catchy as hell and makes you want to dance. Even if you suck at dancing. It also makes me feel like I’m stuck in an Irish brawl for some reason. In summary: Out of Breath = live the shit out of your life.

When you meet death, be out of breath, and say you’re pleased to see him ‘cos you’re tired.”

Demons shouts loud and clear that you should make the good out of the bad in your life, and see setbacks as opportunities. Enough said.
P.S. expect to be singing this for about four weeks after you’ve seen it live.

“You won’t get everything you wanted, but you will never be defeated.”

Josephine is about searching for that elusive perfect person and expecting yourself to be similarly perfect in return. Spoiler alert: life isn’t a Disney film. You’re good enough, flaws and all. Now I sound like an advert for a dating website. Disclaimer: I’m not getting paid by

“Could have been what you need, I wish that I was anyone except for just me.”

Love Forty Down is the only song I’ve known to successfully weave in tennis references and not sound completely ridiculous. Frank convincingly sings about making it through breaking point; a place where we’ve all been, no doubt.

“I’m love forty down, I’m gonna turn this one around, break point.”

Silent Key has taken me a while to understand.

Okay, I still don’t understand it. The main threads I can pull out are that it’s about still being alive even though something feels so awful it could kill you (not literally, I hope). NB: a silent key is actually a deceased radio operator. Cheerful; no, informative; yes.

“It came as a surprise to realise that as she lost everything, the world was revealing a transmission so real that she understood everything; you’re still alive.”

Song for Josh is a beautiful tribute to Frank’s friend Josh Burdette who unfortunately took his own life. The live studio recording of the whole album really comes into its own here; where the emotion in Frank’s voice is almost heart-breaking. Although it’s not a positive feel-good anthem like the majority of the album, it’s a powerful end to a powerful sixth album.

I can’t say for certain what I would have said, but now I am helplessly silent instead. There’s a hole in my heart and in my head, why didn’t you call?”

There are only so many words and so many ways to make songs sound original and brilliant. Many artists fall into the trap of changing some riffs, warping some words and rinsing and repeating what has worked for them previously when they produce their later albums. Frank Turner and The Sleeping Souls have managed to produce another potent masterpiece which tells a powerful story and demonstrates Frank Turner’s musical career is certainly not dead yet.

Thursday, 27 August 2015

Top Ten Against Me! Songs

Against Me! are playing in London this weekend at the Shepherd's Bush Empire with Gaslight Anthem. I am absolutely gutted and having a bit of a sulk because I can't make it as two of my good friends are getting married and invited me to share the most special day of their lives, how selfish of them! Because of this I have decided to compile a top ten of my all time favourite Against Me! songs.

10. TSR (This Shit Rules) from As The Eternal Cowboy
This song starts off really slowly with a simple guitar strum before then really getting going. It's about being at a gig with all your friends and realising that it's the best feeling in the world.

9. White People For Peace from New Wave
The album New Wave was Against Me!'s first adventure on a major record label and I have to admit I wasn’t expecting their first single to be so hard hitting. The message of White People For Peace is summed up perfectly in the chorus - "Protest Songs, In Response To Military Aggression, Protest Songs, Try To Stop The Soldiers Gun."

8. Don't Lose Touch from Searching For A Former Clarity
Don't Lose Touch is a reaction to fans accusing Against Me! of selling out by changing their sound over the years. Against Me! are known to be quite a polarising band within the punk community, I think that this song alone makes them one of the most punk rock bands around.

7. I Was A Teenage Anarchist from White Crosses
Teenage Anarchist is another of Against Me!'s major label efforts. This does have a more mainstream feeling to it with its crisp production and its constant hooks. It's about growing up as a punk and all the hardship that brought.

6. Because Of The Shame from White Crossses
Because Of The Shame is quite a sad and emotional song. Starting out with some piano and some big whoa-ohs the song then talks about the feelings you get when losing someone close to you. Feelings such as vulnerability, guilt and shame. This for me was one of the first times Against Me! wrote a real heart-on-your-sleeve punk anthem.

5. Walking Is Still Honest from Reinventing Axl Rose
I didn't really fall in love with Walking Is Still Honest until after seeing it performed live on the DVD that came with the New Wave CD. Something about the aggression in that performance really won me over and it has been a firm favourite since. The raw production on the whole of this album really makes it feel gritty and real, and helps you care about every word that is sung.

4. Sink, Florida, Sink from As The Eternal Cowboy
I first heard Sink, Florida, Sink on a Rock Against Bush compilation that Fat Wreck Chords released. Since then it has been one of my favourite songs to sing at the top of my lungs. Last year while waiting for Against Me! to play their encore at the Electric Ballroom the crowd started singing this song, remembering that amazing moment gives me goose bumps even now. 

3. Cliché Guevara from As The Eternal Cowboy
From the start of this track I am filled with energy, it makes me want to sing, dance and generally just go crazy. This song is about using punk music for protests and revolutions. I love the lyrics "So Can Your Pop Sensibilities Sing Me The End Of The World? Turn Gunshots And Mortar Blasts Into A Metaphor Of How We Should All Be The Same”.

2. Reinventing Axl Rose from Reinventing Axl Rose
The title track from Reinventing Axl Rose is an anthem and a rule book for the modern day punk scene. It's about creating a scene where everyone is accepted, where the music is the most important thing and where everyone is looked after. It’s about creating a proper community through great, honest music. If I were to ever get lyrics tattooed on me I would choose the lines "Just Gimme A Scene Where The Music Is Free, And Beer Is Not The Life Of The Party".

1. We Laugh At Danger And Break All The Rules from Reinventing Axl Rose
Laugh At Danger is the song that really made me get what Against Me! are all about. It has everything I love in my punk rock; it's catchy and raw, it has plenty of highs and lows and some excellent gang vocals and most of all it fills me with energy. I'm currently banging my head (and making lots of typos) as I type this. For me, it's the perfect punk rock song.

Like Against Me! here (if you don't already!)