Saturday, 31 October 2015

Album Review: Growing Pains by The Couch Bombs

Growing Pain is the new album from Denver, Colorado's The Couch Bombs. This four-piece, featuring Ian Rosenstein on guitar and lead vocals, Paul Fatur on lead guitar and vocals, Jake Johnson on bass and Mason Kolodziej on drums, formed after the separation of their previous bands. Growing Pains was released in September 2015.

The opening track on Growing Pains is titled I'm On Fire. The beginning of the song has a bit of a stop/start chord progression before Ian's deep, melodic vocals kick in. From this song it's clear that the vocals are going to be something that helps The Couch Bombs stand out. They are more mature than you would expect from a band named The Couch Bombs but really work well. The second song - The Art of Giving Up - has a very serious tone, again not what I was expecting. Ian's vocals go along at a good pace and are accompanied by plenty of whoa-oh harmonies, adding more depth to the song. The drumming throughout the song stood out to me, with a simple but interesting beat. I really liked the beginning of Detained; after a short and stabby introduction, Ian's vocals immediately grab your attention. The melody change between the verse and the chorus is really interesting and keeps me listening. 'Merica begins with a long, rumbling bass line before a gang vocal chorus gets the song really moving. This song, about capitalism in America, is super catchy and would get a live crowd going quite quickly. Next track Drank is another song that would. This is the biggest sing-along chorus on the album and has some superb three part harmonies. I'm hoping The Couch Bombs can somehow find their way to London so I can hear that song live.

The second half of Growing Pains kicks off with a song named I'll Be Waiting, which is my personal favourite track on the album. It has everything I want in my punk rock music; it goes along at a good pace, it's catchy and it shows some excellent musicianship. The song Growing Pains sees The Couch Bombs go down somewhat of a ska punk path. This song, as I'm sure you have guessed, is about the struggle of becoming an adult and wanting to stay young forever. Another fantastic song! Scapegoat is a mid-tempo sing along with a bouncy melody. This feels like a great drinking song, the type of song you make random friends with in the pit as you shout along to "I'm Better Off Without You". The tempo is really amped up with the penultimate song Shit. I really enjoyed the different style of punk rock The Couch Bombs play in the second half of this album, you just don't know what is coming next! This is a fist-in-the-air anthem with some real urgency in the vocals. Musically it's played at a break neck speed with Ian's vocals taking responsibility for the melody. This song has a real Midwest punk feel to it and can imagine it being a Fest favourite. Growing Pains finishes with Starts To Catch Up. This song incorporates some different styles, going from a 90's pop punk song (think The Mr T Experience) before moving to more of a ska punk sound. This is a really fun way to finish a surprisingly varied second-half of the album. 

Stream and download Growing Pains here: 

Like The Couch Bombs here:

Friday, 30 October 2015

Put That Needle On The Record

Recently I've been putting serious thought into starting a record collection. I realise I am very late to the party with this thought, as records are selling more than they have in years. I've always previously decided against starting the collection though as I have thousands of CDs I've collected over the years and don't really want to restart my collection. More and more though, mostly thanks to talking to Avon (my wonderful editor) and then meeting Emma (my wonderful designer, contributor and girlfriend), I have become interested in starting my own collection.

First of all the cool thing about records is how they look. They are big, much bigger than a CD, so you can really appreciate all of the artwork. Artwork is one of the main reasons I still buy CDs, I really enjoy looking at the art and reading through the liner notes. The other reason I'm having this debate with myself is because that listening to a record feels much more like an event than any other means of listening to music. The most common way that I listen to music is through my laptop. All that involves is clicking the fallen over triangle button known as the play button. It's much different with a record, if you're listening to a record then you really want to listen and it's not just background music (most of the time). Because of this I have decided that if I am going to start a record collection (including things from my massive CD collection) it has to be the perfect record. Talking to Emma last night about my debate on starting a record collection she said that she would like to buy me my first record. I asked what she would buy me and she said it would be a surprise. This got me thinking, what record would I buy? It would have to be a special record to me, one that's perfect. Here are five that I think are.

Apologies, I Have None - London
This album doesn't have a bad song on it. From the opening of 60 Miles to the ending of Long Gone, London is ten songs of complete, anthemic punk rock brilliance. Every time I hear it I want to sing along with every word Dan and Josh sing. This is the best UK punk record ever.

Iron Chic - Not Like This
Iron Chic have had a few, newer, fantastic releases since 2010's Not Like This but this is the record I always go back to. Jason Lugano's vocal style is so unique and really sets Iron Chic apart from many of their counterparts. Whenever I hear any song on this album I am transported to an Iron Chic live show, which are some of the best in punk rock.

The Smith Street Band - Throw Me In The River
This was my favourite record of 2014. There aren't many lyricists better than front man Wil Wagner (the only one I can think of currently is Off With Their Heads’ Ryan Young) and Throw Me In The River is an album full of amazing lyrics. It's as if Wil wrote himself a self-help book and turned it into a record. Throw Me In The River is thoughtful, honest, heartbreaking and inspiring.

Against Me! - Reinventing Axl Rose
There is always a long running argument about which Against Me! album is the best. For me it's definitely Reinventing Axl Rose, this is the album that made me fall in love with them. The production is raw and gives the whole sound of the album so much energy. That coupled with some of the best sing-along punk ever written makes this record so perfect to me.

The Bouncing Souls - How I Spent My Summer Vacation
I haven't really spoken about my love of The Bouncing Souls since I started doing Colin's Punk Rock World. They really need to release a new album and get back to the UK! How I Spent My Summer Vacation is the classic Souls album. The New Jersey quartet have a fantastic ability to write catchy punk rock anthems that will stay with you forever.

These are five of my most perfect punk rock albums and would make worthy editions to any record collection. Writing this blog has made me think about just how much I love these albums and how every time I listen to them it is a bit of an event. Writing this blog has made me realise that I should bite the bullet and begin my record collection. My first step; find myself a decent record player!

Thursday, 29 October 2015

Top Tens: Jhon Cosgrove from Mike TV's Top Ten Punk Rock Influences

It’s pretty hard to define things, people or music as being punk rock these days. What’s ‘punk’ to one person is trivial fake shit to another. Punk rock influences are definitely age related: people a couple of years younger than me will list New Found Glory and Blink 182 and people a couple of years older will probably be banging on about Jawbreaker and errr whatever people two years older than me listened to. Some of my list is pretty obvious and some is stuff specific to me and what inspired me to play punk rock music... well sort of... my band sounds like a mediocre McFly.

10) BRACKET I really like the band Bracket. Probably the poppiest of all the punk bands on FAT, they were punk to me because they wrote great pop songs but didn’t give a flying fuck about image or playing shows. I think they smoked a lot of weed and did whatever they wanted. Good on ‘em. Criminally underrated.

9) THE RAMONES You probably haven’t heard of this band... so I’ll tell you a bit about them. They wore leather jackets and wrote amazing punk rock songs. Google them. No need to explain this one.

8) THE WILDHEARTS When I was 12 I heard the song ‘TV Tan’ on the Radio 1 Rock Show and I was hooked. The first band I got into without my parents’ influence, The Wildhearts were the most exciting band in the U.K rock scene in the 90s. They’re not generally classified as a ‘punk band’ but any band that smashes up the Kerrang! offices is punk rock to me. They also wrote (and still do) some of the best pop rock songs ever. Well done. Well punk.

7) THE DICKIES My band, Mike TV, got to tour with The Dickies in 2008. We’d been big fans before but supporting them for 2 weeks in Europe and getting to know Len and Stan made me realise how much of an influence they were on the pop punk scene. Great songs, great characters, great stories and an amazing live band.

6) SEX PISTOLS GRUNDY INTERVIEW I remember being 12 and watching this repeated on some punk rock TV show. I thought it was amazing that a band went on national TV at 6 pm and called the presenter a ‘dirty fucker.’ 12 year old me was impressed by naughty words. I still am. Didn’t really like the music. They were kind of a punk rock boy band really… but ugly. Very ugly.

5) GUILDFORD YOUTH CENTRE Anyone from the U.K punk rock scene in the 2000s has played a gig here. When my band was called Pickled Dick, we must’ve played here about 30 times. Numerous incidents with hardcore bands smashing microphones into their bloodied faces, the fire brigade turning up mid-gig and people getting fucked up in what was essentially a day care centre thing. It was the ultimate punk rock venue and helped shape the scene for me in my early 20s. It was just like Gilman Street. But in Surrey. In a Youth Centre. And not really like Gilman Street at all.

4) FAT MIKE Plays in NoFX / runs an amazing label which introduced me to most of my favourite bands / constantly doing and saying shit which annoys punks and people alike. Not sure if some of his comments now are a bit too much for me but I guess that’s punk rock, right.

3) OLD GREEN DAY As I said earlier, I was big on The Wildhearts but when my mate gave me a copy of Dookie on tape (thanks Alex Bray) before it was released in the U.K I was hooked. My brother went and bought the two first albums and teenage us loved watching a speed-filled BillieJoe twitching on TOTP. It’s a bit different now isn’t it.

2) FRENZAL RHOMB Frenzal were the first punk band that wrote really fast songs that were stupidly catchy but who were amazing musicians too. Like an Aussie NoFX but much better IMHO. As soon as I heard them on the FAT comps, I was hooked. Stories such as allegedly putting The Dropkick Murphy’s bagpipe mouthpiece up their one of their arseholes only exacerbated their punk rock legend. They also opened up the world of veganism to me without preaching like Propagandhi and made me realise not to take my band so seriously. Enjoy it and don’t be a cunt.

1) DOMB THUMB Domb is the singer, bassist and songwriter from Mike TV. This is the band I am in. This isn’t a shit ad for my band, I can do that on Facebook if I wanted to and pay for the pleasure. I first met Domb at various friends’ house parties when we were 16. He’d turn up, play loads of Rancid songs on the bass with his thumb and then pass out. Domb is a great songwriter. He could write an album in a day and it’d be fucking class. As with all super talented people he has his issues and all this combines to him being the biggest punk rock influence in my life. He inspired me to organise and push our band through his brilliant songs. I hope that one day he totally sorts it out and finds the motivation to become the amazing and celebrated musician he should be. He’s also the best bassist I’ve ever seen. I’m off to go and fuck him now. We’ve also had a fight in a supermarket, one whilst recording the first Mike TV album and outside pizza shop in Hull. The end. Punk init.

Listen and buy stuff from Jhon's band Mike TV here:

Like Mike TV here:

Wednesday, 28 October 2015

Album Review: Nowt But Dust by Young Attenborough

Nowt But Dust is the brand new EP from Brighton's three-piece indie pop punks Young Attenborough. After the excellent debut album Isolations and seeing them perform brilliantly live over the past year, this was a release I was excited to hear.

The title of the first song is Big Salad (which I really hope is a Seinfeld reference). The trademark Young Attenborough jangly guitars are there as soon as the song starts, as are the thing I love most about this band - the incredible harmonies. Vocals come from all angles as the band make their way through a take which changes between fast and slow tempos throughout. The second track is named Ground Control To Major Oak. It's a short song about wanting to escape from a situation but not knowing exactly how to. Again multiple vocals are used and they also take on the job of carrying the melody of the song. The sound is summery and you can easily imagine this being the lead song on the EP. When I'm Around starts with a very fast tempo, definitely finding itself on the punker side of Young Attenborough's sound. The band blast through the first half of the lyrics very quickly before a really long musical interlude during which the band show off their musical chops and then some slower paced vocals that lead perfectly into the final song - Only Dub Can Set You Free. This song really shows how much Young Attenborough have matured as a band with musically a much darker tone to go along with the pop vocal harmonies. 

Stream and buy Nowt But Dust here:

Like Young Attenborough here:

Tuesday, 27 October 2015

The Art of Punk

I have two bigs passions in my life: graphic design and punk rock (well, and Japan too but I haven't found a way to get that onto Colin's blog yet!). I came to love each of these things in relatively similar ways – unintentionally. 

I've always been a creative person. I loved art classes more than anything else at school, despite being academically-able. But graphic design is not really something you learn about in school (or I didn’t anyway), which is odd because graphic design is everywhere. Graphic design is the means to communicate visually and problem-solve using text, image, colour and [negative] space – this could be to sell something or simply to inform. I didn't really know what I wanted to do with my life at school – who does?! – but somewhere along the way I discovered ‘graphic design’. So I left school and went to college to study graphic design – rather than staying on to do A-levels as was expected. Then went on to university to study graphic design and now, you guessed it, I'm a graphic designer! I now design educational books for a living but I have dabbled in design for music: at university (in Cornwall) I designed posters for local gigs and since leaving university I’ve designed a few record sleeves – nothing punk-realated (yet), sadly.

My introduction to graphic design was a gradual one, which is pretty similar to punk rock for me. I've listened to music all my life. My parents have great taste in music (REM, Neil Young, Bruce Springsteen, Pink Floyd etc.) – but not so much punk – so I had a good musical upbringing. But it took until I was 18 or so for me to realise that the music that I really loved was punk rock. As a teenager I flitted between various 'favourite' bands from a variety of rock-based genres including Funeral for a Friend and Muse. I also went to a lot of local ska shows (I'm from Milton Keynes, the home of Capdown!) – ska being a genre I've only recently re-kindled a love for (thanks, Colin!). But in 2008 I discovered The Gaslight Anthem and around the same time I also discovered Frank Turner, and I guess you could say that they ‘changed my life’. Although I didn't really realise it at the time, these two artists led me to discover a variety of other bands and musicians that fall into the broad category of punk rock. Now, although I still appreciate other styles of music – folk and Americana particularly – I am well and truly a punk rock fan… for life. I can't even really describe what it is about the music that I like: the energy, the fast pace and passionate nature of the songs. Something like that. That’s probably what any punk rock fan says! All I know is I love punk rock.

Where am I actually going with all of this? Well, Colin writes excellent reviews of gigs and albums but he doesn't really talk about the visual aspect of the punk rock world. Gig posters, t-shirts and, most of all, album artwork are a fairly important aspect of music, punk rock in particularly. Of course, this is by no means as important as the music itself! I'm sure I'm not the only one who appreciates; a beautiful record sleeve for your collection, a nice-looking poster for your wall or an eye-catching t-shirt design to wear with pride – whether you're a designer like me or not. So, from now on I will be writing a design-themed blog series for Colin's Punk Rock World. These will be posted (hopefully) every Tuesday.

So, to fuel your need for great punk rock design, here is the iconic cover for London Calling by The Clash – also an excellent album musically!

The album sleeve is designed by Ray Lowry, more famously known for his satire cartoons, with the composition for the cover being based on Elvis Presley’s debut album. In place of Elvis, London Calling features a photograph of Paul Simonon smashing his bass guitar* on stage at The Palladium in 1979. The shot was captured by Pennie Smith who specialises in black and white photography and has photographed many well-known musicians in her career.

In my opinion, it is this expertly captured photo that makes this album cover so eye-catching. It’s almost irrelevant that the composition is based on an old Elvis album. I’m not particularly familiar with Elvis anyway but I imagine London Calling is far more known for the design than the original! I’d certainly say that London Calling is up there with Pink Floyd’s Dark Side of the Moon and Nirvana’s Nevermind as one of the most iconic album covers of all time. And it is almost certainly one of the top punk album covers.

Photographs of my own vinyl copy.

* I do not usually condone the smashing of perfectly good instruments for entertainment purposes but it was 1979 and it was The Clash… I’ll let it pass.