Wednesday, 23 December 2015

Top 10 Gigs of 2015

This is my final ‘best of 2015’ list and I've saved what I think is the most important until last. For me, it's the most important because I believe that what makes a good band great is their live performance. If a band can make me feel something when I see them live then I'm pretty much a fan for life. Here are my top ten gigs of 2015.

10. NOFX/Alkaline Trio/Lagwagon/Capdown at Brixton Academy 5/7/15
I can't ever remember going to a gig that had this much star power. Co-headlined by NOFX and Alkaline Trio, with special guests Lagwagon and, on this show of the tour, legendary UK skacore act Capdown the line up was special enough but then you had to throw in the fact that NOFX played the entirety of their classic album Punk In Drublic and Alkaline Trio played From Here To Infirmary from beginning to end, things I never thought I'd get the opportunity to see.

9. Teenage Bottlerocket/Wonk Unit at The Underworld 9/8/15
This was my second time seeing Teenage Bottlerocket and the first time I'd got to see them headline a show. I enjoyed them in a support slot at a Dropkick Murphys show in 2013 but having the opportunity to see them headline their own show proved to me why they are the best pop punk band on the planet. Their set was full of so much fun and energy and their enthusiasm for the music spilled into the crowd. This was a feel good punk rock show if ever there was one. The thing that stood out the most to me throughout the set was Teenage Bottlerocket drummer Brandon Carlisle's performance, I don't think I've ever seen a drummer put so much into a set and to see the enjoyment he got from drumming was something special. Sadly this was the last time I would had the pleasure of seeing Brandon drum live as he sadly passed away in November. This performance will stay in my head for a long time. Wonk Unit also played the best set I've ever seen them play.

8. Frank Turner/Ducking Punches at The Waterfront 26/8/15
I was incredibly lucky to get tickets to this gig which was a warm up show for Frank Turner's solo headline shows at the Reading and Leeds Festival. I'd been wanting to see Frank play a solo set for many years as I'd only ever seen him play live with his band, The Sleeping Souls, and him being supported by Dan Allen of Ducking Punches playing a home town show made it feel like a very special evening. Playing a selection of songs from Dance Before You Sleep and upcoming new full length Fizzy Brain, Dan was joined by various members of Ducking Punches throughout the set. I love Ducking Punches and this set was an absolute delight. Frank Turner had some work to do to top Dan's set but he somehow managed it. If I'm being 100% honest I've fallen a bit out of love with Frank’s music over the past couple of years but I will always love his live performances. I love how much of himself he puts into a performance every single time he plays, whether it is with or without his band. My overriding memories of the set are him playing Once We Were Anarchists, the song that turned me into a Frank Turner fan, and a cover of Meat Loafs Bat Out Of Hell, which was just amusing.

7. [spunge]/Whitmore/Phinius Gage at the Garage 26/9/15
A big part of my decision to include this gig on my list is for very personal reasons. Regular Colin's Punk Rock World readers will know that [spunge] were my gateway band into underground punk rock music, a reason to be excited for the gig alone. But what made this gig extra special for me was that I got to take the woman that I love to see the band that changed my life. I can't imagine I'll ever get that opportunity again. The whole gig filled The Garage with a feeling of nostalgia as [spunge] plus supports Whitmore and Phinius Gage came together and put on a fantastic show throughout. Whitmore were fantastic, I'd forgotten just how much I liked Whitmore back in the day but it was of course [spunge] who were the highlight of the night. I've seen them so many times throughout the past few years but they never fail to get me smiling, dancing and singing along.

6. Frenzal Rhomb/Mike TV/Direct Hit/Maladroit at The Underworld 30/4/15
Australian punk heroes Frenzal Rhomb played a show in the UK! It had been 11 years since they had been over here and I never expected it to happen again. The Underworld put on an amazing line up of punk rock with French band Maladroit, Americans Direct Hit and the UK's own Mike TV. Mike TV and Direct Hit are two of my favourite bands in the world and both played brilliant sets and I could have gone home a very happy man before Frenzal had even played a note. Then Frenzal Rhomb took to the stage and I was amazed by just how good they were. They played songs from their entire discography, whipping the crowd into a frenzy in the process. The Underworld crowd were so thankful for Frenzal Rhomb returning to our shores and the band seemed just as thankful for the crowd for showing up. As I looked around the room it was clear that everyone was having the best night, on stage and on the floor.

5. The Movielife/Gnarwolves/Apologies, I Have None at The Electric Ballroom 18/6/15
Much like with Frenzal Rhomb, I never ever expected to get the chance to see The Movielife live. The band reunited earlier in the year for a few shows in the USA before announcing a short tour of the UK. This got a lot of people very excited and then I think they showed a stroke of genius in booking Gnarwolves and Apologies, I Have None as their support - two of the biggest bands in the UK scene. Gosh I was excited for this show! First up were AIHN who played a fantastic set full of excellent sing-alongs. Then it was Gnarwolves with what was my favourite set I've seen them play. They always play hard and fast and get a great reaction. A lot of times at Gnarwolves shows the crowd go crazy with ridiculous stage dives that put me off getting to close to the front but this didn't happen at The Electric Ballroom and I was very thankful. Then it was time for Long Island legends The Movielife. The Ballroom was full of nostalgia as the five-piece played through their back catalogue of songs. I hadn't listened to The Movielife for a while and had forgotten just how many fantastic songs they had. To finally hear them live was amazing.

4. Masked Intruder/Murderburgers/Waco at The Borderline 17/5/15
This show was really, really fun. I assume that everyone who is reading this blog will know who Masked Intruder are by now so I won't go into detail about their criminal gimmick. I, like many other punks, are not normally into a gimmicky type punk band but Masked Intruder just do it so perfectly. Not only do they write some of the best sugary sweet pop punk but they also play it perfectly. Sometimes on record the songs can be a little too poppy for my tastes but when I see and hear them live they are just fantastic. Their set included girls dancing on stage and Officer Bradford dancing with the crowd and then stripping off to a thong on stage. Only at a Masked Intruder show will you see a grown man pretending to be a policemen strip down to his underwear! To add to the fun Masked Intruder were joined by The Murderburgers and Waco. The Murderburgers were the perfect band for this tour being the UK's best pop punk band. I'm always amazed by Fraser’s ability to sing and play guitar as fast as he does. Waco really amazed me during their opening set. Their own brand of punk rock & roll really caught my attention and I immediately went and checked out their brilliant debut EP Sundown.

3. Red City Radio/Harker/Burnt Tapes at The Brixton Windmill 17/7/15
This show felt like a proper punk rock show. At the tiny Windmill pub in Brixton, Red City Radio, Harker and The Burnt Tapes played one of the sweatiest gigs I have ever been to. Starting were London-based Greek punks The Burnt Tapes. The Burnt Tapes are one of my favourite newer bands in the UK scene and I'm predicting big things for them in 2016. Obviously influenced by bands like Red City Radio they play, loud, melodic, gruff punk brilliantly and are always a real treat to watch. Brighton's Harker were next. What always impresses me with Harker when I see them is how much more intensity comes out of their live shows than their recordings. To me this shows a band that really care about what they’re playing and who play each set like it could be their last. Harker have just released a brand new EP titled A Lifetime Apart on Paper + Plastick Records and No Panic! Records and it's fantastic. They’re another band with a big year ahead of them. Red City Radio must be one of the hardest working bands in the world. This year the Oklahoman band managed to get to England on three separate occasions and wowed crowds every time. There's always is a feeling of positivity swirling around Red City Radio's music and this feeling is amped up when they play live. Garrett Dale is incredible as a front man, really getting the crowd going crazy. When I watch him it's like watching a preacher address his congregation (a room full of sweaty and often drunk punks) who lap up every word he says.

2. The Smith Street Band/Muncie Girls/Shit Present at The Lexington 1/8/15
I've lost count of the amount of times I've said that The Smith Street Band are the most uplifting and basically therapeutic band I've ever seen. This gig was at the beginning of their European tour that finished with their debut shows at Reading and Leeds Festivals (they were fantastic at Reading). Despite being jetlagged the Aussie boys put on a superb set playing songs from all of their amazing albums. Ably supported by Muncie Girls and Shit Present the whole event was a joyous occasion. This was one of Shit Present’s first London shows and it was great to see Iona Cairns (bassist of Great Cynics) show off some of her own material. Their debut album that came out later in the year was extremely well received and this show gave a taste of how good they are. They also played a cover of The Ergs classic Pray For Rain, which I loved. Exeter's Muncie Girls have been one of the best punk bands in the scene for a number of years now. Every time I see them I'm amazed at how much they seem to have improved. Everything about them now shows what a great band they are with confidence, skill and fantastic songs. Muncie Girls debut album finally comes out next year and I'm really excited for it.

1. Random Hand/Sonic Boom Six/River Jumpers/Faintest Idea at Camden Underworld 13/9/15
There was no other show that could go at the top of this list. Random Hand’s final ever show (for now hopefully) at their home-from-home the Camden Underworld. This show was always going to be a massive and emotional party before the support acts were announced but when the support bands were announced it was clear that this would be the most unmissable show of the entire year. Long-time friends of Random Hand  Sonic Boom Six as well as River Jumpers and Faintest Idea ensured that this night would be crazy. Faintest Idea started things off with a set showing why many people are expecting the Kings Lynn ska punks to take up Random Hands mantle of the country's premier ska band. Next up it was Brighton melodic pop punks the River Jumpers who played with a great amount of enthusiasm but felt slightly out of place at a ska punk show. That said I still loved everything about their set. Since frontman Nick put down his guitar the whole of River Jumpers’ stage presence has improved and they are a much more entertaining live band. It was great to see Sonic Boom Six playing this show and it seemed only right that they did considering the history both bands have together. Because of this The Boom played a mostly old-school set, which the crowd at the Underworld went bananas for. Sonic Boom Six are one of the most respected bands from the ska punk world. Their long awaited new album will finally come out next year, without a doubt it will be a banger. Finally it was time for Random Hand. This was probably the best I've ever seen them play, unsurprisingly they put everything that possibly had into the set and the entire Underworld responded in the same way by jumping, skanking, moshing and stage diving constantly throughout the set. The set was a long run and they seemingly played everything from the entirety of their impressive discography. It's clear how much Robin, Joe, Dan and Sean love being Random Hand and it's a massive shame that they felt it was time to stop. They went out on top and with a massive bang, including a huge stage invasion for the final track - the classic Scum Triumphant. Random Hand will never, ever be forgotten.

Tuesday, 22 December 2015

Top 20 Albums of 2015: Part 2

Here is part two of my top twenty albums of 2015.

10. The Regressives by The Regressives
New York's The Regressives came out of nowhere with this release. Street punk feels like a genre that is on the decline so this release was refreshing. Displaying a great variety of songs this fourteen track album always manages to keep me interested from beginning to end.

9. Bird by Bangers
I've always enjoyed Cornish punk rockers Bangers but 2015's Bird really helped cement their place in my list of favourite UK bands. Roo, Andrew and Hamish create a sound that is distorted and raw but full of pop punk hooks and massive choruses. You will be singing the words to I Don't Feel Like I'll Ever Be Clean Again for days.

8. Math The Band The Band The Album by Math The Band
This album is fast, fun, unpredictable and in your face. Math The Band are clearly a band that don't take themselves too seriously and this is shown throughout the album. That's in no way meant in a negative way though; it's why I love it. This album just makes me want to dance as quickly as I can.

7. MakeWar by MakeWar
Since changing their name and becoming a full electric band, MakeWar have excelled. Their debut self-titled album is a fantastic break-up album full of heartfelt and honest sing-along punk gems. It will break your heart as well as giving you the urge to throw your fists in the air. Sounding like a cross between Against Me! and The Movielife, MakeWar are a band I can't wait to hear more from in 2016.

6. I Feel Weird by Great Cynics
When Giles, Bob and Iona - the trio known as Great Cynics - release an album it's a big deal. When I Feel Weird was released on the fantastic Specialist Subject Records I was incredibly excited to hear it and it did not disappoint. Everything I love about Great Cynics is on full display on I Feel Weird; upbeat, joyous songs with smart and catchy lyrics and excellent vocals from both Giles and Iona. It's a crime that Great Cynics aren't recognised as one of the best bands in the UK.

5. Dead Weight by Jake and the Jellyfish
Jake and the Jellyfish are a band I've been aware of for a while but never given much attention to. Then I caught them live at the Late Summer Skank Fest at The Fleece in September and I was hooked. One of the first things I did when I got home after the festival was check out their album Dead Weight. It's an album full of folk/ska/reggae punk that helps make Jake and the Jellyfish one of the most unique bands in the scene.

4. Hit Reset by Random Hand
When Random Hand announced their upcoming hiatus at the beginning of the year punks up and down the country were gutted. Thankfully they did one final, massive tour and put out one final album (called Hit Reset). Most bands would have just phoned one last album in, but this is not Random Hand’s style. It's an unstoppable force of ska punk done by the best ska punk band this country has ever seen. As much as I love this album there is also an element of sadness to it - it will be a long time, if ever, till I get to see these songs performed live.

3. Leave The Suburbs! by The Exhausts
When I first heard Leave The Suburbs my socks were well and truly blown off. The Exhausts have created a sound that is full of as much spite as it is fun. Deep down it's an indie pop punk album with the intensity really ramped up. I can't help but smile when I listen to this album and the fact that it is only third on my list shows just how good the top two albums are.

2. We Cool? by Jeff Rosenstock
Jeff Rosenstock is one of the most respected and loved men in punk rock today. His 2015 album We Cool? was one of the most anticipated of the entire year and with good reason. With former bands Arrogant Sons Of Bitches and Bomb The Music Industry Rosenstock proved what a fantastic songwriter he is and this is continued on his debut solo album. The overall theme of the album is getting to a certain age and wondering whether or not you are in the place you want to be. As you would expect from Jeff Rosenstock, it's raw, honest and full of passion.

1. The Anachronists Cookbook by Will Tun And The Wasters
If I'm being completely honest I didn't expect anything to beat Jeff Rosenstock to number one on my top albums list. Then I stumbled across Will Tun And The Wasters. The Anachronists Cook Book is a brilliantly unique album combing ska, punk, Baltic, reggae and folk music. You never know what will come next on the album, with it’s variety of different instruments, vocalists and sometimes even languages, but nothing ever feels out of place. It's an album with plenty of strong messages as well, including topics such as immigration, looking at your life, feeling like you can't go on and fracking. There is literally nothing I dislike about this album, it's absolutely perfect.

Monday, 21 December 2015

Top 20 Albums of 2015: Part 1

Originally I was going to do a top ten albums of the year but there was just too many good albums released this year so I decided to do a top twenty (bit of a copout I know). Here are albums 20 to 11.

20. Red City Radio by Red City Radio
Oklahoma's Red City Radio are a band that keep going from strength to strength. In 2015 they released their third full-length album on Staple Records and it continued on from the excellent second album Titles. The album's first single Two Out Of Three Ain't Rad is the best song of the year.

19. Better Whenever by Elway
Elway are a band that have become known over the years for producing some of the best sing-along punk rock music in the world. This year they released Better Whenever, an album which showed a more mature side to the Colorado four-piece. They slowed the pace down and showed off some absolutely fantastic song writing ability.

18. Make The Noise by Rehasher
Whenever Roger from Less Than Jake finds the time to release music under the Rehasher moniker it's a very exciting time. This third Rehasher album did not disappoint. This album isn't quite as aggressive as Rehasher's previous efforts but features some brilliant fast-paced pop punk. I wish Rehasher would be more active, and find a way to play some UK shows.

17. Back To The Drawing Room by Smokey Bastard
Smokey Bastard are one of the top folk punk bands in the country. Late in the year, after a very successful Pledge Music campaign, they released the excellent Back To The Drawing Room. Sometimes folk punk can be kind of samey but this is certainly not the case here; it's a varied album that sees Smokey Bastard play all types of folk punk and play them all very, very well.

16. Paper Bones by Science Made Us Robots
Science Made Us Robots released a pop punk album in a style like I have never heard before. Titled Paper Bones, musically it's fast, fun three-chord punk rock at its best but the vocals deliver a fantastic Celtic tone. There is so much energy and passion displayed throughout the fifteen songs on the album that it’s a must listen.

15. Pocket Universe by Don Blake
Don Blake are another band that released a pop punk album with a more mature sound. Pocket Universe was put out by Round Dog Records and features such topics as dealing with insecurities, dealing with the effects of suicide and learning from your mistakes. I love this record because it shows that great pop punk doesn't just have to be played at a rapid pace and just be about girls.

14. Apologies/Apathy by Dynamite Dynamite
With Apologies/Apathy Dynamite Dynamite really stepped up their game. Utilising two different vocalists with two unique styles these Scunthorpe boys really came into their own with this album. It combines fast skate punk with some excellent melodic punk and features some of the best harmonies heard on any album this year.

13. To The Moon by Popes Of Chillitown
I always love when a band can transfer their live performance to record without losing any of the energy in the recording. This was definitely the case on To The Moon by London's Popes Of Chilltown. Combining rapid fire vocals, big choruses, an excellent horn section and a fine back beat it won't be long until the Popes are the biggest ska band in the scene.

12. Lifestyle Brand by Imperial Leisure
I wasn't the biggest fan of Imperial Leisure's second album Death To The One Trick Pony so when Lifestyle Brand was released I did approach it with a bit of caution. There was absolutely no need for that at all as Imperial Leisure seemed reinvigorated when this album was released early in the year. If you want a good time, party album this is it, from the ultimate good time party band. Probably the only album this year to feature a song about the vajazzle as well.

11. Tales From Wyoming by Teenage Bottlerocket
Teenage Bottlerocket's Tales From Wyoming was a very special album before the tragic passing of drummer Brandon Carlisle in early November. It cemented my belief that Teenage Bottlerocket are the best pop punk band on earth and is a very fitting album for what sadly turned out to be Brandon's last. Teenage Bottlerocket have always had an ability to write insanely catchy songs but on Tales From Wyoming they managed to add a lot of heart to go along with the humour in the songs.

Sunday, 20 December 2015

Top 10 EPs of 2015

There have been a lot of great punk EPs released in 2015. Here are my top ten of them.

10. Modern Baseball - The Perfect Cast
This EP felt like it came out of nowhere. In the summer Modern Baseball pulled out of some festivals and tour dates so bandmember Brendan could deal with some mental health problems. During that time away they wrote this strikingly honest EP about living with mental health issues. 

9. Spineless Yes Men - The Death Of Denmark
I randomly met some members of Spineless Yes Men on the tube after a Red City Radio gig and they told me about their band. When I got home and listened to this EP I fell in love with the sing-along pop punk. It had me reminiscing about growing up listening to Drive Thru Records pop punk bands such as Allister and Home Grown.

8. WACO - Sundown
WACO are one of the biggest surprises of the year for me. In all honesty I didn't expect to enjoy this band as much as I have this year. Sundown features five punk rock gems perfect for singing along with your friends. Agitation is one of the very best songs of the year.

7. The Fur Coats - Short-Brain
I first discovered The Fur Coats through a Make-That-A-Take Records compilation and I was hooked. This is brilliantly fun and unique pop punk music; lead singer Marc Ruvolo has a brilliantly distinctive voice.

6. The Kimberly Steaks - Chemical Imbalance
Scotland's three-piece pop punks released a great EP that I feel is about the journey you go on when you are struggling with your mental health. Combining Ramonescore with early 90s Lookout Records pop punk, The Kimberly Steaks have become one of the most talked about bands in the genre. There is also a fantastic cover of Something Good by Herman's Herbits.

5. River Jumpers - River Jumpers
2015 was quite a year for Brighton's River Jumpers. They had an almost complete line-up change and became a five piece instead of a four. Before all this change they released a new self-titled EP, which is classic River Jumpers, containing five brilliant melodic punk tracks that will have you singing along in no time at all.

3 & 4. Less Deceived - Average Songs About The Best Days Of Our Lives/It'll Never Get Better Than This
Hull's Less Deceived have had a very prolific year, releasing two of the best EPs of the year. They are both so good I couldn't pick between them on this list so they are having two places on it! Less Deceived play gruff-voiced, melodic punk that will have you singing and throwing your fists in the air in equal measure. This band have the potential to be absolutely massive!

2. Forever Unclean - Shreds!
Denmark's Forever Unclean are another wonderful find that I discovered through Make-That-A-Take Records. They got announced for the label’s Book Yer Ane Fest so I checked them out and became hooked on the EP Shreds! Shreds! is a six song EP containing some fantastic fast and furious skate punk. The band barely pause for breath throughout and the whole thing is incredibly catchy. Absolutely fantastic live as well.

1. The Briggs - The Briggs
I may have missed something but The Briggs seemed to come out of absolutely nowhere with a brand new self-titled EP this year. I have adored the LA based band for years now and had kind of given up hope on any new material from the band. Then I saw on Bandcamp that this EP had been released and I was super excited and then slightly worried that it wouldn't live up to my high expectations of the band. I had no need to worry though, as The Briggs released an absolute classic of an EP. It's a more grown-up sounding Briggs than we're used to, focusing more on intelligent lyrics and musicianship than they perhaps have in the past. Every song is amazing, now here's hoping they find their way back to the UK so I can finally see them live.