Thursday, 30 June 2016

Top Tens: Matilda's Scoundrels Top Ten Punk Rock Influences

Hastings based six piece folk punks Matilda's Scoundrels give us their top ten punk rock influences this week. Each member of the band picked one influence each and then decided on the final four together.

1. Jason: My main influence is ska punk. Listening to bands like the Filaments and Capdown when I was younger lead me into the style of songs I like to write. Usually more political in nature in the lyrics and with the ever present off beat rhythm that comes with ska punk music that can make you want to skank like fuck and get you really pissed off at the injustices of the world at the same time.

2. Dan: The main influence on me as a guitarist is Hardcore punk. Everything from early bands like Black Flag and Descendents to more current and the heavier Cursed and Ceremony. It’s fast, thrashy, passionate with tons of energy and best of all, the majority of songs are under 2 minutes!

3. Jens: Lately my inspirations have been two very interesting accordion players Geoff Berner and Martyn Jacques from Tiger Lillies with their dark twisted views on life and stories, much like Tom Waits. Nevertheless my root inspirations are from skate punks, like Millencolin, Satanic Surfers and my home town ska outfit Liberator.

4. Jon: I have many influences, but mainly metal and rock, bands like Kyuss, Tool and Rage Against The Machine have always been firm favourites. But I also take influence from other genres like American folk and country. Bands such as, the Builders and the Butchers and the Devil Makes Three. I find it important to take in as much as possible from all genres of music.

5. James: My influences are early AFI and No Fun At All as it is fast. Plus Operation Ivy / Rancid as it used to get me psyched to go bmxing in my teens.

6. Quinn: There are many people who have influenced me over the years, it's almost impossible for me not to be influenced by any one person I've ever met. That's how you make your own sound take it all in. My roots are rock & roll stoner rock, mountain, Stanley Clarke and of course Guthrie, Dylan & Rodriguez – all inspiring sounds with real stories.

7. Hastings: The sea side town of Hastings, with its great sense of community and a strong belief in DIY when it come to music, festivals, events and all things around it.

8. The Levellers: The Levellers have long been an influence for all of the band. Mark Chadwick unwittingly gave us half of our name. They are and always will be a source of inspiration.

9. The Pogues: The Pogues have pretty much influenced every current folk/Celtic punk band going and we’re no different. It’s perfect drinking music that gets everyone moving.

10. Mischief Brew: Mischief Brew are a band that spans so many genres, anything from anarcho punk, folk, swing and gypsy. Mixed with their unique lyrical content and defiant political message it's easy to see why they are a major influence.

Matilda's Scoundrels recently released a new record named Crowley's Curse which you can buy here:

Like Matilda's Scoundrels here:

Wednesday, 29 June 2016

Album Review: Sunrise by Lachance

Scotland is an incredible place for punk rock music. So many amazing bands and musicians have emerged from Scotland in the past few years including Billy Liar, The Murderburgers, Paper Rifles, The Kimberley Steaks, Elk Gang, Maxwells Dead, Sink Alaska, PMX....I could go on and on. Another that I've just been made aware of are Lachance from Dundee. Lachance have recently released a new EP on the amazing Make-That-A-Take Records titled Sunrise.

The first song on Sunrise is named Invincible Summer. I absolutely loved the opening lyrics of this song- "We Won't Always Be Young, But We Can Stay Young At Heart." As I'm getting older this is becoming more and more my philosophy on life. As you can imagine from those lyrics the song is about making sure that you keep living your life the way you want as you grow older and not forgetting about the things that get you excited. Musically I'm reminded of the Latterman/Rvivr/Iron Chic family of punk rock music. Smart, catchy punk rock which will have you shouting every single word of the song. Up next is the song Glue. Glue is about being there for someone when they really need it and supporting them. The track starts off incredibly quickly, with the drums especially being played at a great pace. At only one minute and forty-three seconds in length it seems short but manages to pack a lot into the song. The changing of the melody after a short bass breakdown is a great way to end the song. The whoa-ohs that conclude Glue felt like a exclamation point proclaiming the song to be done. As soon as I heard Empty My Lungs I thought that this is one of the best songs I've heard all year. In tempo it's slower than the opening two tracks and focuses more so on the lyrics of the song rather than being fast and in your face. Empty Your Lungs is actually a very sad song about struggling to deal with the death of a parent. I really liked how Lachance got through all the verses of the song at the halfway point of the track and finish it with a big chorus complete with some fantastic harmonies. Just an incredible song.

The fourth song on Sunrise is named Shoebox. On Shoebox Lachance really pick the tempo up again. It is another song about dealing with the death of a parent. Lachance sing about looking through a box that is full of memories from your life that make you think you need to get in touch with someone but unfortunately it's too late. Something I really enjoyed in the song was the use of multiple vocalists throughout, it really gives a sense of belonging and live it will definitely encourage a big sing-a-long. Spirals is a song that has a fantastic identity crisis. At times it's hard, blunt, punchy and very to the point before swapping to a more melodic style. I always enjoy when a song goes through different styles, it gives it a feeling on unpredictability that is sometimes hard to find in punk rock music. Spirals is about trying to find your way through life, often taking the wrong path but finding the strength to keep on going. The final lines of the song in particular really stood out to me. "Trust Me When I Say I'll Be Ok, If I Can Find A Breath I Can Find A Way." The EP finishes with the title track Sunrise. Starting out with a big sing-a-long chorus that caught my attention immediately on my first listen of the song and pulled me in. Sunrise is a very fitting final song. After the songs about struggling with tragedies, the song is a lot more positive. It's about being able to do whatever you want to do in life as long as you have people who love you by your side. Making memories with friends is what life is all about and Lachance sum that up perfectly in this song. The ending of the song is another with some great harmonies along with a fantastic sing-a-long moment that will go down so fantastically well at a Lachance gig.

One way I always rate a new release is by how much I want to hear the songs live. I can safely say that I want to hear every single song on Sunrise live. It's a fun album to listen to musically and lyrically it's on another level. Excellent.

Stream and download Sunrise here:

Like Lachance here:

Tuesday, 28 June 2016

Album Review: Last Songs by Bangers (by Emma Prew)

It had been rumoured for a little while, and has now been officially confirmed, that Cornish punks, Bangers, are breaking up. As one of my very favourite British punk bands, I was and still am a little bit distraught. Before they go, they have one final live show for Specialist Subject’s first all-dayer at The Lexington in London on Saturday 20th August (presumably headlining it!). A show not to be missed – woo Specialist Subject / wah Bangers!

Last Songs is a two-track release of – yeah, you guessed it – Bangers’ last ever songs. You can stream and download the songs now. Plus you can pre-order Last Songs on a one sided 7" – complete with fold out poster sleeve, which features a painting of the band by Jamie Morrison (see my Art of Punk feature for some of his other work).

The first song is called There Was A Positive Vibe (When No One Was Left Alive) and it kicks off in true Bangers style with Roo’s gruff almost-aggressive vocals. Musically, it begins with a fairly melancholic tone which seems appropriate really given the circumstances, but it doesn’t stay that way for long. Before the song reaches the one minute mark there’s an awesome guitar riff, a funky (yes, I used the word ‘funky’ – like the genre of music) bass line and pounding drums. The track features some guest vocals from Kelly Kemp and El Morgan, which compliments Roo’s throaty voice wonderfully as they sing ‘Uh-oh, uh-ohh, There was a positive vibe.’ It feels quite different to many of Bangers’ previous songs, but retains whatever essence it is that makes me love them so much.

Walking on the Ground, the second and literally last song on Last Songs, starts immediately where There Was A Positive Vibe left off – seamlessly. And Bangers do it once again; you think the song is going one way – with angry, loud and gloomy guitars that wouldn’t sound out of place in a metal band – but then they switch things up and the song changes completely. The anger and the volume is still there but in less of a negative way – more in a punk rock fist-in-the-air ‘yeah!’ kind of way. There’s a big sing/shout-a-long opportunity with the lyrics ’Cut me down to size, Cut me down to size.’ repeated over and over. I expect everyone at The Lexington to be singing along to those words, as they probably won’t ever get another opportunity.

These ‘last songs’ don’t sound forced and they certainly don’t sound like the band was scraping around the barrel for their last ever release. Both songs are really great and it’s such a shame that there won’t be any more. Bangers are a band that will be dearly missed by me personally but also by the British punk rock scene in general.

Monday, 27 June 2016

Album Review: Live And Acoustic In Vienna by Anti-Flag

Anti-Flag members Justin Sane and Chris#2 recently recorded a six song acoustic EP in Vienna. The EP, which features five Anti-Flag songs and a Ramones cover was recorded direct to vinyl and is an effort to raise funds for Amnesty International. Here's what Chris#2 had to say about the recording.

"When you've been a band as long as Anti-Flag has its hard to find not only new things to do, but really exciting things to do. To be allowed to have a group of punks invade Supersense in Vienna, which is essentially a museum to vintage recording and musical equipment was an amazing privilege. These songs are one take. Recorded direct to vinyl. There is only 1 copy of that piece of wax, the digital version of these songs are ripped right from that record. 1 take. 1 record. All proceeds going to Amnesty International. It doesn't get more punk rock than that. Thanks to all involved, buy the tracks, they're really special versions of these songs and for a really important cause. Peace!"

You can also win the unique, one of a kind recording on vinyl by

1. Buying the record on iTunes, Bandcamp or AmazonMP3 before July 31st.

2. Forwarding the receipt/confirmation to

3. One person will be chosen at random to win the one of a kind vinyl.

4. Buying the record multiple times will raise the chance of winning the recording.

On with the review.

The first track on the EP is The Press Corpse, originally on For Blood And Empire. Obviously the sense of urgency of the original, electric version of the track is lessened here so you really need the strength of the lyrics to help lift the song. The manner in which Sane delivers the lines really keeps the tempo up and Chris#2 chiming with his trademark harmonies is a treat to the ears. As a singing partnership the two are incredibly underrated in the punk scene in my opinion. Up next is Set Yourself On Fire from last year's new album, American Spring. Starting out with some light guitar strumming and Sane's unmistakable vocals. The whole thing feels really stripped back compared to the original. The song feels really restrained until the big ending of the track where again both Justin and Chris finish the song together. Following this is a fantastic cover of The Ramones classic The KKK Took My Baby Away. I'm a fan of pretty much every Ramones cover I've ever heard. It's always a kick to hear some of the best songs ever written done in a different way. This is one of the best Ramones covers I've ever heard. It's a great big sing-a-long from start to finish and is finished in true Ramones fashion with some "Hey Ho-ing."

The second half of the EP starts with the song Brandenburg Gate, also from American Spring. I have to admit that I actually preferred this version of the song than the original. When I listen to acoustic punk rock I often think about how much fun it would be to sing the songs around a campfire with my punk rock friends and having a great big sing-a-long. This song feels completely perfect for that, complete with the big whoa-ohs at the end of the song. Turncoat, from the album Terror State is mine and probably a lot of other peoples favourite Anti-Flag song so of course it got the acoustic treatment. Much like The Press Corpse Turncoat loses some of its punch acoustically but still remains a great sing-along. The dual vocals again are fantastic as Justin and Chris trade off lines during the verse. The final song on the EP is an acoustic version of This Is The End, also from For Blood And Empire. When I first heard about this EP this was the song I assumed would definitely be included. The tempo of the original is one of the slower Anti-Flag songs and has one of the most recognisable choruses. It's perfect for an acoustic song. The chorus in particular is extremely powerful in this stripped back style, Chris#2 does a magnificent job delivering a really emotional vocal style that you wouldn't perhaps expect from Anti-Flag.

This is a fun release from Anti-Flag showcasing some classic Anti-Flag songs in a different light. A must for any long time fans of the band or anyone who enjoys great music in general. Plus it's raising money for a great cause so you should buy it for that reason anyway.

Buy from Bandcamp here:

Buy from iTunes here:

Like Anti-Flag here:

Friday, 17 June 2016

Album Review: The Clearing by Nigel Barnes

Nigel Barnes is the drummer of Bolton based pop punk band Don Blake. Recently he released a brand new solo album via his Bandcamp page named The Clearing which he wrote (aside from a cover), performed, recorded and mix by himself.

The Clearing begins with a song named My Future Self. My Future Self is a summery piece of pop punk music about looking at the direction your life is heading and not worrying about how things turn out, because they normally end up turning out better than you might expect. I like how the beginning of the track starts out acoustically before the electric guitars and drums come in to really lift the mood of the song. Title track The Clearing immediately has a pop punk feel to it. The melody of the vocals is superb and is what really pulled me into the song. The song is about how the adventures, good times and bad help to shape the person you become as you get older. I think most people can look back at certain moments in their lives and realise they shaped a particular aspect of their personality. A great subject for a song. On Don Blake's last album Pocket Universe there were a good number of songs about mental health. This theme is continued on the song Sun, Come Back. It is a very personal song about coping with anxiety and depression and reminding yourself not to feel bad about feeling bad. On this track Nigel reverts back to his acoustic guitar and is accompanied by some light drumming. Only three tracks into the album and I'm really enjoying the different variety of styles.

The fourth song on The Clearing is named No Stars. This is another personal song as Nigel looks at a different element of his personality. This time it is his addictive personality and some over-indulgence not being worth it in the end. It feels as if there is a lot of personal growth in the song as Nigel realises what he's doing isn't good but is too stubborn to change. Musically it's another stripped back acoustic track where the vocals carry a lot of emotion. Don't Say it returns to the pop punk sound that Nigel does so well. The tempo of the track really gives the album a shot in the arm and after a couple of slower tracks adds some great momentum. Don't Say It is a song about people struggling to show how much they care about someone. The opening verse sums up the whole track perfectly. "You Seem To Make A Joke Out Of Every Situation, We Await Your Thoughts With Intense Anticipation, But We Know, You Don't Communicate Like Us" is a really relatable verse. I definitely have been the person to make a joke out of all situations in the past, I guess many of you have done so at some point as well. Papercuts starts with some fiddly guitar playing and for the first time of The Clearing - some strings. It's a song about realising that you're stuck in a rut and finding something in yourself that will help you make a change to your life. The harmonies at the end of the track are fantastic though this isn't too much of a surprise given that Nigel is part of such a good pop punk act.

Confessions Of A Scalliwag sees Nigel go down a reggae/ska punk route. I can really imagine this with a full band and it being a big hit. (For a ska band anyway). Scalliwag is another song about personal growth. This time about realising that you were a bit of a terror when you were younger but learning from your mistakes and becoming a better person because of it. The chorus on the track is huge. It goes "I Look Back At That Time, And I'm Always Horrified, Can't Stop From Feeling Guilty, Cos I Was Out Of Line, But If It Was Up To Me, Well I Wouldn't Take It Back, And I Can't Take It Back, Even If I Wanted To." I imagine that this chorus especially would get a big reaction at a gig. Dugouts is yet another hugely relatable song. It's a short track about drifting apart from your best friend. Despite the melancholy nature of the song there is also an element of looking back with fondness at the great memories you made together. The penultimate track on The Clearing is a cover of Regina Spektor's All The Rowboats. In all honesty I had to get on the Spotify to listen to the original as I've never heard of the song before. For those as ignorant as me it's a piano and drum led pop song and actually fairly enjoyable. Nigel does a good job making the song sound like his own with this cover. The final track is the song Tiredness Can Kill. It's another personal and incredibly tragic song based on a moment in Nigel's life. It talks about the sad death of his grandfather due to a car accident when Nigel was three and the feeling he gets when trying to remember him despite not having any real memories of him. The introduction of the song really made me think that the song was going to be a big pop punk assault but instead we are treated to a really emotional pop rock track. The story of the song is quite sad but Nigel manages to turn the story into a quite beautiful song.

This is a quite incredible album by Nigel Barnes. He is so unbelievably talented as a songwriter and musician and it really shows on The Clearing. Lyrically the album is just superb. It's smart, relatable, heartwarming and heartbreaking. It really makes me sad that more people aren't aware of someone with the massive talent of Nigel Barnes. Check this guy out!

Stream and download the album here:

Like Nigel Barnes here:

Thursday, 16 June 2016

Top Tens: Andrew Cream's Ten Defining Moments In Music

In a change to the normal top ten influences, Leeds based acoustic punk Andrew Cream gives us his top ten defining moments in music.

1. Dad buying a Green Day album
I got into punk music the same way half the people my age did in the late 90s: I heard ‘Pretty Fly (For a White Guy)’ on the radio, watched the video to ‘All The Small Things’ on CDUK and a friend started listening to Green Day through his older brother - all within a few weeks of each other. After having told my parents that Tim was now listening to this Californian three-piece, my Dad went out and bought 1,039/Smoothed Out Slappy Hours. It wasn’t that he was trying to get me into their earlier stuff before introducing me to the hits - he wanted to find the song ‘Basket Case’, but for some reason thought it was named ‘Green Day’.

After realising his mistake, he wasn’t too interested in the album so didn’t mind me stealing it. I listened to it pretty much on repeat (along with Will Smith’s Big Willy Style and Five’s Invincible) until Dad bought Dookie a couple of weeks later. Dookie is still my favourite all-time album and absolutely paved the way for the next 16 years of my life.

2. Going to my first gig
A couple of years later when I was 13, I started downloading songs from the internet (each song would take like, an hour, to download). The three bands that I initially managed to find were The Vandals, The Ataris and Capdown. Capdown were touring machines at the time so it wasn’t soon after that they visited my hometown of Peterborough. It took a bit of convincing my Mum to allow me to go (she even rang the promoter to find out if there would be any drugs at the venue - he said no...looking back that was most definitely a lie), but it was soon agreed that the aforementioned older brother of Tim would drive us to the gig and my Dad would pick me up.

The gig was ridiculous - Capdown probably played the best set I would ever see them perform. But it was the two local supports $up and Evil Macaroni that shaped my life in music the most: aside from seeing them both 20+ times over the next few years, I ended up being in a band for seven years with the singer of the former and released a split CD with the singer of the latter.

3. Joining The Ruined
After my first band broke up when we were 15 (the rock n roll lifestyle really put a strain on our relationships), I ended up joining a band with members of other recently demised or winding-down local bands. I was the youngest in the band by a few years - I remember we actually had to cancel a couple of gigs in our first year because I was grounded. We started playing out of town and touring pretty quickly, and by the time I was 17 we had toured the UK a few times and were going on a European tour.

While we weren’t everyone’s cup of tea (too gimmicky for the punk crowd yet not gimmicky enough for the horror/psychobilly crowd), my time in the band gave me a brilliant insight into all aspects of the DIY scene - booking tours, putting on gigs, releasing music and the rest. I had some amazing experiences with The Ruined - we supported some great bands and went to lots of places I’d previously never been - and I’m really proud of the music we made. We kind-of petered out when I was at uni, although the band have recently started gigging again (without me) - they’re definitely worth catching.

4. Moving to Manchester
The first gig I went to in Manchester - during my Freshers Week - was The Steal, The Mercury League, The Dauntless Elite, Leif Ericsson and a bunch more at the Black Sheep Alldayer. Manchester had a great music scene while I was there (it still has) and the amount of bands I knew and liked must have risen tenfold in three years. I made some great friends who helped shape my tastes more and there were numerous gigs and clubnights that we went to every week. Special mentions go to Bomb Ibiza, Roadkill Records, Andy GI and Daniel Mills.

5. My first acoustic tour
I started playing solo gigs when I was 21 - for the first few months I was so nervous before playing, I kept questioning why I put myself through it. The turning point I think was when I booked a UK tour for myself and Dan Allen, aka Ducking Punches. Playing every night for two weeks really helped my nerves subside. I still get nervous every now and then but now I’m able to get it to work in my favour a lot easier.

6. Seeing A Wilhelm Scream live for the first time
I can’t remember when exactly I first saw A Wilhelm Scream, but I do remember being blown away at how proficient every member was on their instruments, while each sporting ridiculous cheesy grins. They clearly love what they do and are easily my favourite band to watch live. Totally inspirational.

7. My first solo Euro tour
When I got bored of my job in sales at 23 I decided to book a six-week tour around Europe. My first ever gig outside of the UK was at a small festival in a north-west German town called Meppen in front of around 200 people. Not every gig was that good, but they were all in some way memorable. The mainland Europe hospitality is second-to-none - and very similar from France across to Poland. I’ve been hooked on playing gigs across the Channel ever since - it’s my fifth trip out there this month.

8. First time going to The Fest
If you’re aware of Florida’s retreat for punks, there probably isn’t much I can say that you haven’t already heard. The first time I went in 2009 was one of the best weeks of my life. I’ve only missed one year since then and I’ll be playing it for the fourth time this October.

9. Moving to Leeds
When you get to your mid-twenties, I think a lot of people naively think that they’ve learnt all they need to know, or the opinions and ideals that they have will stay with them forever. My partner and I moved to Leeds at the end of 2013 - and I certainly wasn’t prepared to have my beliefs shaped any more. But in the last few years I think I’ve learnt more about what’s important within the music scene than I ever had before - I’ve changed what I write about, how I put on gigs and my eating habits. I’ve also got two new favourite venues: Wharf Chambers and The Brudenell Social Club.

10. Getting a car with a DAB radio
This might sound a bit ‘he couldn’t think of a 10th thing to write about’, but I think it’s valid. DAB radio introduced me to 6Music - while there’s a lot that’s wrong with the BBC, 6Music is (for the most part) wonderful. Not only does it play a nice amount of underground DIY bands (shout out to Crumbs for their recent repeated plays) and a lot of great older music that you’d rarely - if ever - hear on other stations, but it’s also helped me widen my music tastes dramatically. I’ve never really been closed-minded, but now I listen to a lot of music that I probably wouldn’t have given a second chance if heard on the off-chance a few years back. Maybe my tastes are changing as I age.

Andrew has a new album named Self-Portrait out which was reviewed here.

You can buy Self-Portait here:

Wednesday, 15 June 2016

Album Review: Demo by Ships Down

Ships Down are a melodic hardcore band from London. The five piece band formed in April 2015 and are influenced by the likes of A Wilhelm Scream, Strike Anywhere, No Trigger, Rise Against and NOFX. Earlier this year they released a collection of demos on their Bandcamp page.

The first song on the release is titled No Refuge. I was taken slightly aback when I first heard the song. After hearing the crunching guitars at the beginning of the song, I was expecting some heavy vocals but instead we are treated with some vocals that remind me of Joey Cape, if Joey Cape sang for an 80s metal band. That might sound negative but it's not meant to be. I really enjoyed the different take on the genre - vocally. The song tells the story of a refugee fleeing their homes because it isn't safe and not being able to find a new home. The beginning of the second song, Sunderland, has a very interesting stop start guitar style introduction that draws you into the song. Musically the song isn't anywhere as heavy as No Refuge, really focussing on the bands musical skills. As the song goes on the song does get more intense with some great screams accompanying the main vocals. Release Me is a fast starting track. It wastes no time in launching into those soaring, melodic vocals going along with some fast paced, technical guitar parts. I always enjoy the contrasting styles in this genre of punk rock. The song is about wanting to be set free because you feel trapped. The final song on the demo is titled Not An Option. The track starts with a bit more of a subdued and held back style and this continues throughout the song. There are some nice guitar and bass solos throughout the song, again highlighting the bands talent as musicians. There is a fantastic building section in the song that leads into a rallying chorus of "So Give It All You've Got, You Better Give It All You've Got, Especially When It All Seems Lost, Take No Prisoners, Take A Stand!" The song is about fighting for what you believe in and no matter what it costs.

This is a strong demo release from Ships Down. There are many bands playing a melodic hardcore style and it's great to hear Ships Down give their own distinct spin on it.

Stream and download here:

Like Ships Down here:

Tuesday, 14 June 2016

Art of Punk: A Lesson In The Abuse Of Information Technology

A Lesson In The Abuse Of Information Technology is one of my favourite albums of all time, by [probably] my favourite band too. Discovering the album in around 2010 or ’11 – late to the party, as it was released in 2007 – then led me to discover a load of other great punk bands. Although I knew a few before that, I feel like The Menzingers truly immersed me in the punk rock world. Even when the brilliant On The Impossible Past was released in 2012, it took me a long time to declare my favour for it over ALITAOIT. Musically they are quite different albums, however, so it is difficult to compare them. A Lesson In The Abuse Of Information Technology could definitely be considered fairly raw in comparison, just as, I suppose, the artwork could. The artwork of course being what I want to talk about here – as this is art of punk!

The title of the album is quite a mouthful but it’s definitely memorable and has some awesome artwork to match. I’ve always wondered why none of the other Menzingers albums went down the more illustrative route for their artwork. The band always has really awesome illustrative gig posters and merchandise, so why not record sleeves too? For me, ALITAOIT looks far more visually interesting than the rest – especially Rented World (great album, musically, but I’m really not a fan of simply having a photo of the band on the album cover).

I think what I love most about the artwork for A Lesson In The Abuse Of Information Technology is that there is so much going on – which is perfect given the meaning of the album title. We’re force-fed so much information on a daily basis through television, the Internet and other forms of media – probably even more so now than the 9 years ago that the album was released. I’m not so sure of the relevance of the animals on the back cover, probably running away from humans destroying their homes or something…

The vinyl version of the album features artwork on the front and back (duh), plus the inner sleeve. It does feel a little bit like they tried to squeeze too much onto the side with the lyrics – putting an image, even knocked back a bit in opacity, behind so much text is never good. But, that said, it’s great that they had so much artwork to use. I do think the choice of colours is a little bit unpleasant (and they really blend in with my wooden floor in the photos) but actually unpleasant is probably what they were going for!

I recently got my hands on a copy of the 2009 4-track EP Hold On Dodge (thanks, Gunner Records in Germany) which also features artwork of a similar vein. I also particularly like the use of yellow/green-tinted photos on the inside of the sleeve (it’s literally just a piece of card folded in half – no glue) as it mixes things up a bit. Just to point out: When I said I didn’t like the use of the photo on Rented World, I don’t mean I don’t like or appreciate photography in general. And action shots of a band playing live will always be better than an almost-posed image. The typography is also much better for Hold On Dodge – like some thought actually went into it!

Both record sleeve illustrations are the work of Evan Hughes, who is a Scranton-based illustrator. He does some pretty cool murals and weird-looking sculptures as well, although it doesn’t look like he does so much in the world of punk rock anymore. But don’t let that deter you from checking out his stuff, it’s super cool.

Here’s to hoping album number 5 has awesome artwork more akin to A Lesson In The Abuse Of Information Technology than Rented World… but it probably won’t. And it’s all about the music anyway, right?

Monday, 13 June 2016

Album Review: The Jaded Captain by Arms & Hearts (by Emma Prew)

Steve Millar, or Arms & Hearts as he is known in the music world, is an acoustic folk punk artist from Manchester. I first listened to his 5-track EP Set In Stone last year, upon Colin’s recommendation – if he says ‘You’ll like this.’, he’s probably right. Being greatly influenced by the likes of Brian Fallon, Chuck Ragan and Frank Turner, to name but a few, Arms & Hears certainly is right up my street. So, of course, I was keen to listen to and review his latest 2-track EP, The Jaded Captain.

The first track, Empty Frequency, kicks off with dual guitars. While one guitar sets the tempo with loud strummed chords, and gives the listener something to foot-tap along to, the other plays a softer melody. When Steve’s vocals start up you can’t help but be absorbed in the emotion. ‘It’s nothing like you promised, It’s nothing like you said. It’s all a little jaded, Screaming down an empty frequency.’  It’s a fairly upbeat track and a prime example that ‘acoustic’ doesn’t have to mean quiet and boring! The influences are apparent but that’s not to say that Arms & Hearts doesn’t do a great job himself.

The second track, Troubled Minds, Bloodshot Eyes, starts with one of my favourite folk [punk] instruments – the harmonica – and a little voice in my head yells ‘Yes!’. The song immediately makes me think of Bruce Springsteen – which is never a bad thing. The song is not as fast paced as the first, but is certainly no less heart-felt. In fact, the slowed down tempo and melancholic harmonica that is dispersed throughout the song do an excellent job of tugging on your heartstrings. ‘I just wanna feel something, I just wanna feel something and let it be real.’ I mention melancholy but towards the end of Troubled Minds, Bloodshot Eyes something changes and the mood seems to lift, ending on a more positive note. The song had me hooked on every word and I’d like to think that it does for everyone who listens to it.

You can get The Jaded Captain through Under The Bridge Records… now!

You can also find Arms & Hearts on Facebook here.

Friday, 10 June 2016

Relationships Through Music

Something I always found incredibly strange when I was at school was how the people you spent your time with was dictated by what genre of music you happened to like. In my school the groups were called "Grungers" and "Trendys." I've also heard the word "Greebo" used on occasion but I think that came after my time. The two groups were massive and, looking back, both groups were quite nasty to each other purely because they liked different things. Looking back as an adult isn't that really weird? I was never fully involved in either group, I definitely enjoyed the rock music that would make me a grunger but also played football with a lot of the trendy guys so I managed to just float around a bit. As I write this now, this could be how I found love in punk rock music - I never fit properly into either group so gravitated to the misfit world of punk. That however is a story for another day. This blog is about music bringing people together.

For those who don't know, Emma, who writes the Art Of Punk blogs as well as contributing album and gig reviews and design for this site, is my girlfriend. We met online thanks to a mutual love of punk rock music and quickly grew extremely fond of each other before starting a relationship. I've never felt like this about another person and neither has Emma. We would have never ever met if it hadn't been for music. Before I met Emma I was alone for a long time and really quite miserable because of it. Where I live there are very, very few people who I know that have an interest in punk music, so in attempts to find companionship I tried to find common ground with people whose musical tastes differ from my own - and wasn't successful at all. People were nice enough but I never found any sort of spark to make me get excited by them. Plus I was going to lots and lots of gigs that they had little interest in, so it was always difficult to find the time to see them. Obviously Emma and I have a lot more to our relationship than music now (we also both love Game Of Thrones) but it was a big starting point for our relationship.

Music has been bringing people together for a long time - long before the Internet, online dating and social media were even ideas. A friend was telling me recently how their parents got together. Apparently back in the day, before the Internet, people would talk about music through magazines - I guess like some sort of personal ads type thing. My friend's mum and dad met through doing this. The dad would drive to the mum's place, which wasn't very local at all, pick her up and then drive somewhere else to go to a concert. From what I know, after many, many years of marriage they are still very much in love, have a couple of great kids and still to this day go gigging together. Isn't that just heart-warming in a world where it seems less and less common for marriages to last. And just think, if it wasn't for music they would never have met.

One of the best friends I've made in the past couple of years is Avon. We met through her somehow discovering this blog via Twitter. I found out that she also did a blog and started talking because of this. Soon enough we were talking about music and found out that we shared a lot of the same favourite bands. (Also that we were born about 30 minutes apart from each other, which is spooky). Avon is a close friend who has helped me a lot with Colin's Punk Rock World and is someone who I can count on for help and advice or to be old and cynical with. Without music we wouldn't be pals.

I could probably list countless other friendships I have due to music but I'm guessing you get the point now. I'm also guessing you're now thinking of a relationship you have with someone, that you wouldn't have if it hadn't been for music. Music has this wonderful ability to bring people together who would never have met otherwise. It's this brilliant thing that evokes so much passion and emotion from people. It becomes such a big part of your life. Without music my life would be a lot different and extremely miserable. Thank goodness I do have music!

Thursday, 9 June 2016

Top Tens: Declan O'Reilly of Only Strangers Top Ten Punk Rock Influences

Picking out 10 punk influences over a span of about 20 years of listening to punk music is a ridiculously tough task. No doubt I’ll have left out a ruck of bands that could easily have featured. I’ve also just featured bands that inspired me to play punk and so left out some of my favourite artists of all time like Springsteen, Talking Heads, Roy Orbison etc. In no particular order, here goes

10. Stiff Little Fingers
This is the first band I picked out in regards to influences, but it’s one of many that I could have chosen that were responsible for getting me in to punk. In 1995 at the age of 10, I travelled up to Roker Park in Sunderland to watch Stoke with my older brother (Stoke lost 1-0 and I got a bollocking for sneaking off for the day from my folks). The only tape in the car was “The best punk album in the world ever” and I was introduced to all the “hits” of 70’s punk and new wave for probably the first time. Stiff Little Fingers really stood out though. The early albums in particular are ridiculously raw and full of vitriol, yet still carry awesome melodies and hooks. Even now, Jake Burns’ vocal style in particular is a huge influence.

9. Rancid

Growing up and finding out about the new wave of American punk was also huge. You’d struggle to find people into rock music in the 90’s who didn’t own copies of Offsprings’ Smash, Green Day’s Dookie and my favourite by far of that era, Rancid’s “And Out Come The Wolves”. Between that album and “Let’s Go!”, which came out previously, punk had a new sound and influenced so many bands that were starting out at the time and was probably a big influence on me picking up a guitar and learning ska and power-chords. It also helped me to find out about some of the older bands from that California scene such as Operation Ivy who were massively influential in starting up our first band.

8. Slapstick
These guys were just the dons of ska and punk music and you can see from the bands that all the members formed afterwards that they were massively full of raw talent. The 25 tracks they put on to a comp CD were a mix of fast punk with horns, quick ska, anthemic choruses and full of hectic energy. Probably my favourite ska punk band of all time and a huge influence on our previous band “Sense of Urgency”.

7. Bomb The Music Industry
When a few of us lived in a bit of a party house, these were rarely off the speakers. It was a bit of a toss-up between BTMI and Big D for that late night accolade. Bomb the Music Industry mixed drum machine loops with all over the place hooks and frantic vocals and brilliant lyrical content dealing with the trials and tribulations of growing up as a young adult and getting hammered. So it was pretty identifiable music as well. In my opinion the best ska band from the 2000’s onwards but the range of genres they covered was also pretty diverse.

6. No Use for a Name
The Fat Wreck Chord comps were a staple in everyones collection and had so many awesome bands on. I could find reasons why loads of those bands are massive influences. Good Riddance, Lagwagon and Avail to name a few are all immense bands. No Use would be my pick of the bunch though. Awesome melodies and vocals and that slide guitar sound which was perfectly produced. “More Betterness” was played within in an inch of its life in my brother’s car on the way to school and college.

5. The Ramones
A band that you’d expect to find on anyone’s list but I just couldn’t leave them out. I actually preferred them when they went pretty bubblegum pop punk under the production of Phil Spectre, but I’d happily listen to any Ramones CD, any time (Pleasant Dreams being my pick of all their releases). It’s just glorious foot tapping punk rock. Joey Ramone knew how to write a classic love song too and Pet Sematary is boss.

4. Alkaline Trio
Another band that have been a huge influence since school and college. Like Lawrence Arms (who I’ve ended up kicking out of the top 10) they have great dual vocals that are a huge influence on our band, Only Strangers, and an eclectic catalogue spanning years. Obviously there’s going to be a few misses due to the large input of stuff they put out, but they are a real melodic, darker sounding , emotional band, without slipping into the trap of sounding like a whiney pop punk band.

3. Jawbreaker
This is a band I was pretty late on hearing and so wasn’t really aware of all the selling out nonsense and fans hating/turning their back on the band when they released and played the album “Dear You”. The sound went from extremely raw to polished on a major label and I love all of it for different reasons. Incredible and mature lyric writing for such a young band and the dischord sound in a lot of the stuff is just perfect. All round beautiful tunes.

2. Leatherface
I always kind of see Leatherface as the UK counterpart to Jawbreaker. That’s probably more down to how much I love the two bands, rather than them sounding really similar to each other. Like Jawbreaker, their style changed over the years, arguably reaching their pinnacle with the legendary album “Mush”, and there’s so much stuff to get stuck in to. I’m not going to say I love all of it but when it hits, this band was something ridiculously special. Lyrically brilliant,with two guitars intertwining beautifully and a powerhouse of a voice from Frankie Stubbs. The last album “The Stormy Petrel” was also a belter.

1. The Clash
Not much needs to be said about The Clash: angry punk at its finest and responsible for the masterpiece of an album “London Calling”. “White Man in Hammersmith Palais” could be my favourite ska/punk song of all time both sound wise and lyrically. Just perfect and as relevant today as it was back then. I even really like “Sandinista”, which is a bit of a divisive CD for a lot of fans. It showed also that the band were willing to step out of their comfort zone and do something different. A timeless band that would fit in any era and proof that you don’t have to be technically gifted musicians to write great music.

Very Honourable Mentions:- Misfits, Sublime, Weezer, Lawrence Arms, Pennywise, Bigwig, No Doubt, Symposium, Choking Victim, Catch 22, Lagwagon, The Wedding Present.

Like Only Strangers here:

Wednesday, 8 June 2016

Album Review: Chasing Fireflies by O Captain! My Captain!

O Captain! My Captain! are an acoustic punk band from Germany. Late last year (I'm very behind) they released a new album named Chasing Fireflies on Fond Of Life Records.

The first song on Chasing Fireflies is named Forever Wasted. It's a slow and soft song that serves as an introduction to the album. The track slowly builds towards a fantastic and moving chorus of "We Are The Reckless, Singing Our Blues, Running Up Our Black Flags On Your Rules, We Are The Wasted, We Are The Youth, Running Up Our Black Flags On Your Rules." The track actually finishes with a nice bit of piano that leads us into the second song - The Wolves Inside Of Me. The opening of the track really focuses on the vocals with the music feeling quite stripped back. I really enjoy the inclusion of brass on the track, adding a nice extra layer. The whole song is packed with lyrics that are screaming out to have huge gang vocals which sadly never come. I can imagine The Wolves Inside Of Me being a huge sing-along live though. A harmonica is thrown into the mix during the third track Small Town Heart. This track feels more like a full band effort than the opening two songs on Chasing Fireflies with plenty of gang vocals and harmonies. I loved the final section of the song when the tempo is raised and the melody flows into a punchy style. Up next is a song named All My Friends Are Vampires. It's another softer song about friendship, namely making sure that you make the most of the time together because it won't last forever. The songs tempo picks up towards the end with some more excellent harmonies to close the song. Prince With A Thousand Enemies wastes no time in getting started. There is much more emotion coming from the vocals on this track which I'm a fan of. The extra emotion gives the track a lot more urgency. I also like the return of the brass to the song.

Carrie Pt. 1 is a fantastic piece of acoustic pop music. As I listen to the album I wonder why o Captain! My Captain! are known in the world of mainstream music. This is completely accessible music which should appeal to a wide range of musical tastes. Carrie Pt. 1 is an excellent example of that thought process, the song is well written with plenty of hooks and a nice chorus. Carrie Pt. 2 is a far more simplistic track but still just as enjoyable. It's only just over a minute long but packs a wonderful punch. It's a big sing-along with only about three lines used throughout the track with lots of brilliant repetitiveness that will really get a crowd involved. Too Much Poetry pulls you in immediately with the vocals taking the lead with the melody being accompanied with the acoustic guitar. Once you're sucked in the song doesn't let you get away with again the inclusion of some brass and some nicely placed "whoa-ohs." The song has a massive ending with the repeating of the lines " We Have Too Much Poetry In Or Hearts So We Write Poetry On Our Arms." The penultimate song on Chasing Fireflies is named Here Comes The Morning Light. When the vocals kick in for some reason I was reminded of Millencolin front man Nikola Sarcevic. A solely acoustic track it feels perfectly placed, calming things down before one final party at the end of the album. The song tasked with finished the album off with a bang is Neighborhood. The duelling guitars at start the track show another aspect of O Captain! My Captain!'s ability. The chorus is again fantastically huge and will have your attention from the first listen. The shouts of "Fuck You Neighborhood" will have everyone in a crowd singing along.

Chasing Fireflies is a super album of acoustic pop punk. O Captain! My Captain! came a bit of nowhere for me and I'm baffled why they aren't a massive act.

Stream and download Chasing Fireflies here:

Like O Captain! My Captain here:

Tuesday, 7 June 2016

Album Review: Self-Portrait by Andrew Cream (by Emma Prew)

I’ve been a fan of Andrew Cream since seeing him at Manchf3.5ter last October. He, and his band, really impressed me live and I’ve listened to him an awful lot since then. However, until now, he’s only released a couple of EPs. And so, brilliant as the songs on those EPs are (Forever, In A Good Way is one of my very favourite ‘love’ songs), I have been very keen to hear his debut album.

Although acoustic-based, Self-Portrait is full band affair, encompassing drums and bass guitar as well as acoustic guitar, and this is clear from the outset with the opening track First World Problems. The song features some lovely intricate guitar playing, as well as your more typical strummed chords, which really shows Andrew’s technical ability. It’s an upbeat and catchy track with a pop punk feel. And of course, the subject of the song – first world problems – being something that all of us can probably relate to.

The second track on the album is called Violent Minds and it is classic Andrew Cream – melodic acoustic guitar playing and catchy thought-provoking lyrics. The song is about ignorant acts of violence that really aren’t necessary and Andrew expresses his, and many other’s, opinion[s] very eloquently. The lines ’It’s not my fight, Doesn’t mean that I can’t complain, As they speak their minds, The ignorant matter remains.’ and ’What do they really have to gain, By putting people through such pain, Is their life really that mundane?’ really stood out for me.

The Final Straw is next up on Self-Portrait and has been released as the first single from the album. As a poppy sing-a-long style track – ‘Get up, go on, And make us all proud of you.’ – it’s easy to see why this song was chosen as a single. It’s a somewhat feel-good track about growing up and doing what you want to do with your life. And if it’s not stuck in your head after just one listen then you obviously weren’t paying enough attention!

The fourth track, Seen It All, is pure punk rock. The song features more urgent vocals than the previous tracks, whilst retaining the acoustic guitar. Although, I have to say, I don’t think it would sound too out of place to throw in an electric guitar and aim for fully amplified punk rock. But that’s not what Andrew Cream is about (at least not yet anyway) and ‘if it ain’t broke, don’t try to fix it’.

My New Goal is a sincere and motivational speech in the form of a song. Musically the song is quite stripped back – no drums or bass – which just reinforces the personal nature of the song. The lyrics are clearly written about Andrew’s own experiences but it’s also written in such a way that everyone can connect with it. I think it’s important to be able to connect to a song on some level that’s personal to you and Andrew Cream has a knack for that. ’Just keep on doing the things that matter, Live life the way that you know how. My new goal.’

Next up on Self-Portrait is Privilege. The song starts fairly slowly but soon progresses into an upbeat and happy-go-lucky sounding acoustic pop punk tune. Musically it sounds like a perfectly cheery and carefree song but lyrically there are some important messages to get across. Andrew is a very talented lyricist and this is apparent with the line; ’A silent mind makes for thoughtless lies.’

More Than A Dream starts off purely acoustic with some fast paced chords accompanying Andrew’s vocals. I thought the song might remain that way but after the first verse the bass and drums kick in… and it’s wonderful. Upon first listen More Than A Dream is giving Forever, In A Good Way a damn good run for its money. The song is beautiful and lovely and lots of other soppy words – in a good way. ’To see you everyday, It’s more than a dream, And I’ll keep the dark thoughts at bay, Do my best to tell you, That these moments we share, Mean everything to me, At this time in my life I am the most happy.’

The last song on the album is called Problem Solved and begins with some lovely melodic guitar playing. I mentioned when talking about My New Goal that Andrew has a way of broadcasting a very motivational message and that is very much the case with this song too. ’The trick is to focus, Your goals and dreams. Learn from your set backs, Make sure you’ll see that, There’s no getting in your way, Find your path and have your say.’ It’s great to finish the album on such a positive and inspiring note. In fact, the album as a whole is quite a positive one which I think makes a change from a lot of music today.

At only 8 tracks, Self-Portrait is fairly short for an album but each song is brilliant in its own way so it really doesn’t matter. Andrew Cream is a very talented musician and lyricist and this is an album that he should be very proud of. I truly loved the album and genuinely feel inspired by it, so I hope you do too!

The album is released through Andrew Cream’s own record label, Scene Better Days. Go get it!

Monday, 6 June 2016

Album Review: For Life by The Lucky Eejits

The Lucky Eejits are a three-piece punk rock band from Oakland, California who are signed to the awesome 13 Stitches Records from Brighton. Back in January they released a new EP named For Life, their first release since bass player Emilio Nevarez was tragically killed after a show in April 2015.

The first song on For Life is named April 5th and is a tribute to Emilio. It starts out with some quite sombre guitars before cranking the volume up to eleven. There is a lyric in the opening verse that really sums up what The Lucky Eejits are feeling with this EP - "We Won't Give Up and We Sing This For Him". These lyrics talk about continuing on with The Lucky Eejits in honour of their departed friend. The chorus is absolutely huge as the band scream "VIVA OUR BEST FRIEND, VIVA OUR FRIEND TO THE END". The next track - Battle For One has a brilliant, punchy stop/start intro that really pulls the listener in from the beginning. The punchy delivery of the vocals throughout the entire song really gives an added emphasis to the lyrical content. The song is played in a high tempo for the majority of its duration, which helps it give out a massive amount of energy. Battle For One is a real party starter. The third track is named Broken. The song sees The Lucky Eejits revert back to their original sound - when they first formed they used to be a six piece playing folky, Irish punk before morphing into a full speed punk rock band. Broken is a slower track and is a massive sing-along. This is that song at a gig where you get arm in arm with the people next to you and shout without a care in the world.

East Bay Rats then blasts the EP back into life. Fast guitars and pounding drums really get the song going as the track talks about growing up in the legendary East Bay punk scene. There is a good amount of ferocity during the track as everything is done at 100%. I love the energy and passion that just pours out of the song. It got me very pumped up! The penultimate song on For Life is the catchy Every Night. It’s the shortest song on the EP, clocking in at just one minute and forty seconds. The lack of song length doesn't mean that the song is lacking in bite however. The vocals are delivered in that fantastically punchy manner again and there is a small amount of punk rock venom included this time. For Life is finished with the song Home Is West. This is a mid-tempo pop punk track that focuses heavily on gang vocals during the chorus. I absolutely love a big gang vocal chorus! This particular chorus features the line "Middle Fingers In The Air" - a line and action that will undoubtedly get a big response from a live audience.

If you're new to The Lucky Eejits like I am then this is a great introduction to an incredible band. If you're an old fan of the band then I'm sure that this is another fantastic release from a band that will soon be on everyone's radar.

Stream and download For Life here:

Like The Lucky Eejits here:

Saturday, 4 June 2016

Gig Review: Slam Dunk Festival South at Hatfield University 30/5/16

Slam Dunk Festival is a day I have looked forward to every single year. The festival, which is celebrating its tenth anniversary, always manages to get a great collection on the biggest and brightest bands from the world of alternative music. This would be my fourth year in a row that myself, as well as my pals Dan, Emily and Marilyn, were making the journey from Colchester to Hatfield for the festival.

We arrived fairly early hoping to get a good parking space to be able to get away quickly at the end of the day, as last year it took us over an hour to get out of the car park. After getting parked up I immediately regretted not checking for the weather for the day, it was quite chilly and I was just in my Ducking Punches t-shirt and my trusty gig shorts. We joined the queue and (sort of) patiently waited to be let in to the festival. Whilst waiting I naturally indulged in some people watching. Because Slam Dunk books such a wide range of bands from the alternative music world you get a wide range of different people. Personally I'm always really amused by the kids and their "alternative clothes." Where I come from alternative means different yet all the people who are going out of their way to look different look exactly like the person that they're standing next to. So people watching and being amused by this is what helped kill time while I was waiting to get in to the site. I'm also realising that I'm getting quite old and not really "getting" the kids anymore. Nevertheless, eventually we made it into Slam Dunk South.

We still had half an hour before the first band we wanted to see came on, so we had a wander around the site to get our bearings and work out were all the stages were situated this year. Eventually we made our way to the main stage to see Moose Blood kick off the day. We only watched three or four Moose Blood songs because of unfortunate clashes but I thoroughly enjoyed their set. It has been a while since I last saw them but the confidence they now have on stage is incredible. A very big crowd had gathered at the main stage to see them and it seemed as if they had a good number of people singing along to their emo tinged pop punk songs. I would have liked to stay for a bit longer but The JB Conspiracy were due on at The Desperados Stage and I knew that wasn't a set that I wanted to miss. The Desperados Stage was serving as the ska stage for the day and would be where I would be spending the majority of my Slam Dunk. The JB Conspiracy are one of the very best of the current crop of bands in the ska scene and never fail to disappoint. Despite suffering from some terrible hangovers the seven piece (which today featured Sean Howe from Random Hand on keyboard) put on yet another fantastic performance. Starting out with a relatively small crowd which grew more and more throughout the set, JB played a varied set of songs from their previous two albums along with a brand new one which sounded fantastic and has got me quite excited for a new release. JB are always excellent.

I have mentioned many times before how [Spunge] were a gateway band for me into the world of underground punk and ska. When they were announced I was of course beyond excited to see them. It had been too long! I nice sized crowd gathered to see the band who for me would begin a day of what would mostly be for me a day of nostalgia. If you've ever seen [Spunge] you will know just how much fun they are live. They've been together for so long now they are so completely comfortable on stage together and their whole set is flawless. This was actually the band's fifth show in the space of forty-nine hours so a performance of such quality I thought was pretty impressive. Of course the majority of the crowd went nuts for the older tracks (old people don't like new things) but I also really loved hearing some of the songs from their newest album Hang On? Something I really liked about Slam Dunk this year was the longer gaps between sets. This allowed plenty of time to wander round the festival to check out other stages or get some overpriced food and drink. The catering companies must make a absolute fortune! After grabbing a pricey, yet admittedly tasty pizza I took my place in the crowd in anticipation for a band I never ever expected to get the chance to see. It was Catch 22! It has been a while since the release of their last album Permanent Revolution and as far as I was aware they haven't been especially active since then, so I figured they had split up. Happily I was wrong and we were treated to a fantastic set of classics from all of their studio albums as well as a new song. As you would expect the crowd were mostly from the older spectrum of the Slam Dunk crowd but this did not stop people having a good skank to the band. Everyone was very keen to make the most of this rare appearance. It was an absolute pleasure to hear some of my all time favourite ska songs live for the first time. Songs such as Point The Blame, On and On and Keasbey Nights got some amazing reactions. This was wonderful!

After Catch 22 I was feeling very parched so went and paid £2 for a bottle of water and went to the Impericon Stage to see Gnarwolves. This stage was situated in Hatfield University's refectory and is a pretty big room so imagine my surprise when I wandered into the room to find that I could barely get in. Soooooo many people turned up to see Gnarwolves. Unsurprising really given their meteoric rise in popularity over the past couple of years. It did feel weird watching the three piece from so far away as I've gotten so used to being able to see them much much closer but they still put on a fantastic performance finishing with the now classic Limerence. After another fantastic Gnarwolves performance I headed back to the ska stage to see King Prawn. King Prawn! King bloody Prawn! This was very exciting – a band that has influenced so many of the current crop of UK ska bands playing some rare gigs. I was quite surprised by some of the crowd when I got back to the stage. There was a big group of young girls there who had no business really knowing who King Prawn actually are. I guessed they were there just to check out a different band. As King Prawn took to the stage I noticed a new face in the band. Russell, the trombone player for Ghouls, Imperial Leisure and more recently The JB Conspiracy was now playing for King Prawn. He's a very busy man. I have to say King Prawn were the best band of the day for me, they were unbelievably good. For a band that plays such a small amount of gigs you could forgive them for being a little rusty but they played like a band at their peak. It's been a little while since I've properly listened to King Prawn and to be honest I had forgotten just how many classic tracks they have in their back catalogue. Songs such as Dominant View, Bitter Taste, Bring Down The House and Day In Day Out were all greeted with big sing-a-longs and a lot of skanking. King Prawn front man Al Rumjen was in fantastic form, instantly getting the crowd in the palm of his hand. He took a little time out between songs to talk about how the band weren't there to "fuck shit up" but to spread a message of peace, love and unity. Which for me is a much better message. King Prawn were nothing short of outstanding.

After catching a little bit of Yellowcard playing their classic breakthrough album Ocean Avenue in full it was time for another legendary band from the world of UK ska punk – CAPDOWN! Let the nostalgia continue! Milton Keynes' kings of skacore drew another huge crowd and preceded to knock everyone's socks off. Like King Prawn, Capdown don't play a lot of shows but when they do they put everything they possibly can into the set and the crowd responds the same way. By far the biggest pit of the day opened up and bodies began to fly around. Capdown have one gear – fast. Every song is played at a rediculous speed and is so ferocious in delivery. Lead singer and saxophone player performs like a man possessed and is so entertaining to watch on stage. I liked how he took the time during the set to acknowledge Gnarwolves and proclaim that they are the real deal. Hearing classics such as Pound For The Sound, Cousin Cleotis and of course Ska Wars is always a massive pleasure. As I said earlier this was my fourth time at Slam Dunk Festival and it was the third year in a row seeing Zebrahead. They're becoming the festival's house band. Last year I decided it would be a good idea to jump in the pit for them and managed to get myself kicked in the head so this year I decided to hang out away from the pit. When the Team America theme – America, Fuck Yeah! the crowd were getting ready to lost their minds. Even as someone as who watched from a safe distance, the whole set is a blur to me. Zebrahead hit the stage like a whirlwind blowing through the festival, cause a lot of chaos and you're left to survey the damage at the end. But in the most fun way possible. Things I do remember from the set are another massive circle pit and one of the Zebrahead crew being dressed in a pink bunny onesie being crowd surfed in an inflatable boat and being joined by someone in the crowd. Standard Zebrahead! As I watched Zebrahead I thought about the crowd a bit. There is such a big age range in Zebrahead fans. The band has been going for twenty years now and still manage to find a way to connect to new fans after all this time. That's pretty impressive.

After Zebrahead we went to watch some more pop punk royalty in the form of New Found Glory. As you would expect the crowd at the main stage for the Florida based quartet was absolutely huge. New Found Glory have pretty staggeringly been around since 1997 and are still as popular as they've ever been. The energy the band displayed during the set was nothing short of outstanding. Jordan, Chad and Ian were barely still for a second throughout the whole time we watched them. As I've gotten older I haven't really followed New Found Glory's career that closely but it was cool to hear old favourites like Dressed To Kill and My Friends Over You live. Something else I enjoyed from their set was when they called a member of the audience named Phil on to the stage. They asked him to pick a song that wasn't on the set list for them to play and invited Phil to sing along. The song picked was At Least I'm Known For Something. Phil certainly wasn't someone who was lacking in confidence as he shouted out the song much to the bands delight. Things like this are why I enjoy live music so much, the spontaneity of it all. The whole thing could have gone horribly wrong but it worked and was a delight to see. After New Found Glory finished their set and we bought really expensive burgers we made our way back to the Desperados Stage to finish the day. When we arrived legendary 80's ska band The Beat were just finishing their set. I wish I would have seen more of their set as what I did see seemed like a hell of a lot of fun!

Headlining the Desperados Stage were the King Blues. It was kind of weird to see the band on stage on the stage as the only original member left is frontman Itch. Part of me kind of felt like this wasn't right but as soon as the band launched into opening song Let's Hang The Landlord all of those feelings disappeared with my excitement to hear so many of my favourite songs live for the first time in years. Itch is a man that really polarises the punk community but it's hard to deny how good he is as a songwriter and a frontman. He instantly gets the crowd in the palm of his hand and during the first song of the set he's stood on the barrier really getting the crowd at the front nice and rowdy. I really enjoyed how varied the set was. There were plenty of songs from the bands first three albums (Under The Fog, Save The World, Get The Girl and Punk & Poetry) as well as a handful from the band's fantastic new EP Off With Their Heads. It was especially good to see the songs from the new EP getting big reactions, the title track in particular is a perfect live song with its angry, shout along chorus. One special highlight for me was when the Catch 22 horn section came on stage to play We Ain't Never Done and The Future's Not What It Used To Be with the band. I love stuff like this – seeing two bands collaborate on a song. These are the sort of moments that I really remember from a festival or gig. The King Blues were great even if it was only Itch and some chaps in suits, they completed a day that was filled with nostalgia quite brilliantly.

Slam Dunk is a fantastic festival where the organisers always manage to pull of some amazing line ups. After ten years it continues to grow in to one of the biggest alternative festivals in the UK and I would recommend it to anyone as a great day out. The only downsides are the prices of food and drink but that is a big problem at almost every festival you're likely to attend, which is a shame and despite getting back to the car less than five minutes after the festival finished it still took us 45 minutes to leave the car park. This seems like something that needs to be worked on. To end on a positive – I got to see so many of the bands that got me into punk and ska music and that made the day quite special. Thanks Slam Dunk.

Friday, 3 June 2016

Album Review: Revenge Of The Fifth by Belvedere (by Dan Peters)

If you ask any Melodic Hardcore fan for a list of bands that constitute influences then Belvedere are inevitably in that list. The early 2000s band were pioneers of the blisteringly fast speed and super technical riffage that has come to define the genre. Along with fellow Canadians Propaghandi and Euorpean powerhosues Satantic Surfers they set a template that is still followed to this day because of how good it really is.

They were a band that relentlessly cranked out amazing album after amazing album and then with no warning disappeared in 2004. Later This Is A Standoff would emerge but the group that helped define the modern era of Melodic Hardcore had vanished.

Cut to now and Revenge Of The Fifth. The newest offering from the recently reformed Canadian speedsters, and look I’ll get down to brass tacks because there’s no point in staving off the inevitable: It’s amazing. I generally only write reviews on bands I like because objectivity is something only people I don’t associate with care about and this is very high on the list of bands I’m passionate about. Now that I think about the fact I’ve had to wait 12 years probably means I was a harsher critic than most. We’ll go with that and I’ll continue.

Revenge Of The Fifth has a lot to live up to. As I mentioned Belvedere set the tone for an entire generation of Melodic Hardcore bands and happily all their trademarks – now genre staples – are here for your audio fulfilment. The blisteringly fast pace, the extra technical riffs, the switching between clean and dirty vocals. It’s all present in spades although with a polish and depth of sound that catches the band up to 2016. Sometimes not having made any changes to your formula can feel a little stale but when you were the idols of a generation and not around for 12 years that familiarity is exactly what old fans are craving and for newcomers it allows an easy entrance to such an influential and wildely loved band without making their back catalog inaccessible.

Normally I would list out particular songs of note but I find it very hard to select any as standout or superior. The Title track Revenge Of The Fifth is an incredible display of everything that makes Belvedere great, Years is very Strung Out in its technical acumen and Achilles shows that not every song has to play at a pace that would make Barry Allen blush to still be incredible.

If you like your music fast, get this album. If you like your music technical, buy this album. If you want to own a serious contender for record of the year, buy this album. A real masterpiece by a band that haven’t lose their edge even after being out of the limelight for so long.

Stream and download Revenge Of The Fifth here:

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Wednesday, 1 June 2016

Album Review: Bicycle Thieves by Bicycle Thieves

Bicycle Thieves are a four piece punk band from Cardiff who have just released their brand new debut EP. The self titled EP features four songs of punk rock influenced by the likes of The Gaslight Anthem and Beach Slang and has been released on No Panic Records.

The opening song on the EP is named Last Of The Long Goodbyes. It begins with some fantastic upbeat guitars before we get the first vocals. The vocal's are an interesting mix of pop and gravelly styles that give the band a fresh feel. The song is full of hooks and melody that will completely pull you in and get lodged in your head for days. Everything Is Not Okay starts with a big drum roll that get's you pumped up for the song immediately before some big fist in the air vocals really get the track moving. As the song progresses we are treat to a track full of highs and lows and plenty of moments that allow you to sing along with the band. The harmonies at the end of the song close the finish Everything Is Not Okay perfectly. The third song on the EP is named Let You Down. Let You Down is a piece of indie-punk brilliance. It's a mid-tempo track packed with some fantastic guitar playing. The vocals and lead guitar go off with different melodies that create a fantastic effect. Again, the vocals are delivered in such a way that make it impossible not to want to sing with Bicycle Thieves. The final track is titled We'll Be The Ones (You're Afraid To Be). There is an epic build at the beginning of the song before some slightly more emotional vocals come in. Delivered in a punchy style which adds more of a urgent sound to the song. I'm really reminded of Brighton's Harker on this track which is excellent. The song feels like a last song, it's got the highs and lows you would expect with some big choruses and a massive musical sound. Wonderful song.

This EP came very highly recommended to me and I can see why. It's four songs of catchy punk rock that is beautifully written. Each song on the EP made me long to see them played live, they all sound like they would be brilliant with a crowd singing along to them. Anyone who says punk music is just three chords played as fast as possible needs to check out Bicycle Thieves. Fantastic release from a fantastic new band.

Stream and dowload the EP here:

Like Bicycle Thieve here: