Saturday, 27 August 2016

Album Review: Another Life by Joe McMahon (by Emma Prew)

Forgive me if I’m pointing out the obvious but there might be some people who don’t know (my mum for instance, who reads this blog), Joe McMahon is the singer and guitarist of the mighty Smoke or Fire. He is also a prolific solo artist in his own right, playing a more folk-influenced style of music to that of his band. Next week he releases a new album, Another Life, on Gunner Records (Europe) and Smartpunk (North America) and I got to take an early listen.

The first track on Another Life, It All Went Black, is all the things a good album opener should be – it’s upbeat and maybe just a little bit poppy. Lyrically the song is actually sort of pessimistic but Joe manages to pull it off without actually sounding too negative. There’s a distinct ‘what will be, will be’ attitude and it’s great. ‘True love, there ain’t no such thing. Because being true, is impossible to be. And the world we live, So walk on and be free.’

Yesterday is an instant hit with me as it has harmonica right from the start – and I’m a sucker for a bit of harmonica. Harmonica aside, Yesterday is the perfect folk rock song with plenty to get your feet stomping. Lyrically it’s a love song about wanting to start over and take a relationship back to how it used to be – before things changed. ‘Oh my darling what have you done, Yesterday I was the lucky one. You gave me everything then took it away, I just wish we could go back to the start. Come back to my heart.’ The song also features some lovely female vocal harmonies from Lucinda Legaspi.

Next up is the title track, Another Life. This song has a slightly slower pace than the previous two which allows the listener to really take in the lyrics. Joe McMahon is a very talented lyricist, as well as musician. I find myself visualising the stories of his songs in my head – particularly with this one. It’s a very heartfelt, emotional track and I was left hanging on every word. ‘Would you do it all over again if you knew that your heart would break, Did you live your life through someone else, Go it alone to play it safe.’

Canadian Graffiti picks up the pace again and begins with a much more folky Americana style sound – I think there’s some slide guitar or it might just be normal guitar with certain effects (I’m no expert!). I couldn’t stop nodding my head along to this track and it has one of the catchiest choruses of the whole album. ‘Hey, Don’t cry, Don’t miss me, Don’t write. We were only making records, We were only making records. She said hey, Don’t fight, Don’t kiss me, Goodbye. We were only making records, We were only making records, We were only making records, And killing time.’ Definitely one of my favourite tracks. It also has a great guitar solo – what more could you want?

If Canadian Graffiti was an Americana-influence track, Chained To Ghosts is definitely a bit more of a hardcore punk influenced track – particularly within the first 20 seconds of pounding drums and thundering guitars. In fact, the first thing that came to my mind when I heard Chained To Ghosts was ‘Hot Water Music’. Well, hey, guess what? Chris Wollard actually plays guitar and sings some backing vocals on the song (which I found out after I made the connection, by the way!). It’s great that at only five tracks in there are already lots of different sounds going on.

Time Won’t Heal picks up where the previous song left off. Although the melody is different and the tempo is slower, it sort of feels like the second calmer half of Chained To Ghosts, with the lyrics ‘You get so alone’ echoed as backing vocals. This is far more of a piano-heavy track than any of the other songs so far and, as the middle track of the album, it definitely feels like the end of part one (or Side A on the vinyl release) as it fades out at the end.

The volume is cranked up again and the upbeat, slightly poppy sounding guitars are back for Left Again. The song is another example of a somewhat negative subject matter – having someone leave you (‘Left, left, I’ve been left again.’ ) – with a more positive-sounding spin on it. Rather than being sad about it, Joe sings of moving on – it feels very life-affirming for the listener. ‘Yeah well I don’t wanna be one to sit alone at home and think about it.’ 

Neon Lights, on the other hand, is quite a sad song – but definitely sad in a beautiful kind of way. The song is a reworking of a Smoke or Fire track from their 2010 album, The Speakeasy. It’s not drastically different from the original but without the full band it feels a lot more heart-wrenching. The song begins with acoustic guitar only and the words ‘Oh god I wish I were a bird, I’d fly towards the sun, And I’d never return, To this place, It’s such a disgrace. I’d cut my arms and my legs off and burn up in space.’ Gentle piano and slightly less gentle drums kick in after a while but it’s the guitar that really stands out in Neon Lights. Around the 2 minute mark there is a lovely melodic guitar solo – it has a very Spanish classical guitar sound (at least to me) – which is a really standout element of the song.

The ninth track on Another Life is titled Black Socks Set Sail (and I have no idea what that means, sorry). The song begins with a with a verse that has slightly distorted and muted vocals (I’m sure there’s a technical term for it). This distorted style only lasts for about 25 seconds however, so it acts as an introduction to the rest of the song – which kicks off with a neat little drum roll. The song also features some more lovely melodic guitar playing, which contrasts with the rather melancholic lyrics of the chorus – ‘Leave a flower on my grave, Save yourself, Get far away, Free your time, Find your place, Save yourself, Get far away.’

Viva Las Cobras is one of the more exclusively acoustic tracks on Another Life. It’s a short song with a sort of uplifting and swinging motion to the guitar playing. The gentle duel guitars are joined by some positive lyrics – ‘Smile my friend, I just want to see you smile, Because we are the ones that make unhappiness, It’s no one else’s fault.’ I’m sure Joe had a particular person in mind when he wrote the song but it’s so accessible that each listener could apply it to a friend of their own.

As we draw towards the end of the album, Joe gives the listener one last chance to properly get their feet stomping with the penultimate track, Favorite High. It has much of the same great Americana-style elements that Canadian Graffiti had and so is another winner of a track with me. The drums are fast as are the vocals, while the guitar plays a slightly slower, sweeter melody. The sentiment of the song – ‘You’re my favourite, You’re my favourite high’ – is that the right person can make you feel far better than any drugs, be it alcohol, medicine or any other substance, ever can.

Great Big Eyes has the job of being Another Life’s closing track. The song begins with some big guitars that signal that this album is going to end in style. The song’s lyrics speak of a dream and the song itself feels almost dream-like. ‘Life is a dream I make up in my head, Either this isn’t happening or I’m already dead. Forgive me for the things that I cannot change, Draw from the beauty and not from the pain.’ I could honestly quote the whole song here as it has such beautiful lyrics… but I won’t. You can listen to the song yourself. Preferably after listening to the previous 11 tracks!

I’d also like to give a special mention to Graham Franciose who painted the album artwork for Another Life. Joe has stated that Graham is his favourite artist in the world and I think the artwork is just wonderful.

You can pre-order the album through Gunner Records or Smartpunk.
And like Joe MacMahon on Facebook here.

Friday, 26 August 2016

Colin's Punk Rock World Playlist: August 2016

This is the August edition of the Colin's Punk Rock World Playlist featuring tracks that Dan, Emma, Omar and myself have been listening to this month.

Thursday, 25 August 2016

Top Tens: Conor from Kamikaze Girls Top Eleven Punk Rock Influences

This weeks top ten is actually a top eleven and come from Kamikaze Girls drummer Conor Dawson.

1. Joseph's Well & The Cockpit - Leeds
Both of these venues were pretty much everyone's starting point in Leeds if you were in a band. We've seen so many important shows at both of these venues, and I was drawn to them constantly. The first time I (Conor) got asked to play Joseph's Well when I was in my first band at 15 I was over the moon because of how many legendary bands had played there before me. Unfortunately both have shut down, but we still have some really great venues left in Leeds like The Key Club and Wharf Chambers.

2. Johnny Cash
The original man in black. How could anyone not be influenced by this man right here. "I wore black everyday because I liked it, wearing it means something to me, it's my symbol of rebellion." He recorded an album live from Folsom State Prison for the inmates, and wrote the most incredible music in his time on earth. We’re both huge fans, and are hugely influenced by him.

3. St. Pauli Football Club
The left wing anti fascist, anti homophobia, anti racist football club are really pushing things forward in club football at the moment. They are trying to create a safe space for everything in what is a typically white male dominated scene. They have the most amount of female members in their supporters club and they organise political and social rally’s in their hometown of Hamburg. Hugely inspiring and totally comparable to the DIY / Punk scene in the UK at the moment.

4. John Peel
The greatest DJ the BBC have ever had. I remember night when I was 12/13 and was just getting into music. I would stay up way past my bed time and listen to his show under the covers of my bed just to hear what weird and wonderful sounds he would play next. A 13 year old Conor discovered Sigur Rós, Land of Nod and MC Gareth's introduction to minute melodies via John.

5. Kathleen Hanna / Bikini Kill, La Tigre, The Julie Ruin
For years we've had a big problem with punk been dominated by cis white males. I myself am a cis white male, so I find it very hard writing about this stuff sometimes because it's not something that’s affected me firsthand, but it is something that affects Lucinda so it does to a degree in this band. Just because it doesn’t affect me personally it doesn't mean to say that I can't see there’s a problem, and the problems that Kathleen Hanna brought up in the early 90s are still problems to this day. One of Kathleen Hanna’s biggest points was promoting a safe space for women at punk rock concerts. I'm including Kathleen Hanna in my list because she's always at the fore-front fighting for her rights and the rights of females everywhere, and this is 100% what the punk scene worldwide still needs. It's still very much seems like a white male club at times, and we need to always strive to make everyone feel welcome to safe in our scene.

6. Meg White / The White Stripes
Probably the most under rated drummer of all time. Everybody slags her off for her simple beats but it's her that taught us that less is more. It's about knowing when to hold back and when it’s the right time to actually play less. Sometimes a massive face melting drum fill is what you want to do to show off but it isn't what is right for the song. Meg white is an important for this reason.

7. X Ray Spex
Deliberate underachievers, how could they not make our list? It's taken us over a year to get our EP "SAD" ready for release. I feel like we embrace a lot of this band. We might not have a shrill saxophone but we try and embody the chaos whilst still keeping a killer hook. Poly Styrenes vocals were described as "powerful enough to drill holes in sheet metal." She is also on record as saying she doesn't want to be a sex symbol and if she was made into one she’d shave her head. Punk as fuck? I think so.

8. Kim Gordon / Sonic Youth
We’re both big fans of Sonic Youth, and Kim Gordon is a incredible role model for girls in bands. I guess what a lot of people don’t know about her is that she played in SO many different bands leading up to Sonic Youth and was also an incredible visual artist. Kim moved to the other side of the country away from her home, friends and family, all for the sake of music and art. More people should take risks for the sake of pursuing creativity. The book Kim brought out in 2015 ‘Girl In A Band’ is a must read for anyone with an interest in alternative music, even if you aren’t a Sonic Youth fan.

9. THE FEST (Festival in Gainesville, FL)
Where do we even start with this amazing festival? I grew up listening to less than Jake when I was 13. I was doing my paper round and the song Gainesville Rock City really stuck with me. Getting into them more I found out about this festival called The Fest that happened every year in Gainesville. It instantly went on the list of festivals that my impressionable 15 year old self needed to play. When we got the email from Tony in February 2015 confirming we were playing I was hungover in my car waiting to pick Lucinda up in a rainy car park in Leeds. She said "Guess who's playing fest?!” In my hungover state I just muttered "Who?" When she it was us, I jumped out of the car and ran around screaming! This festival is still the highlight and one of the most important things this band has done for me.

10. The Lovely Eggs
We recently had the pleasure of playing with this band at Tramlines in Sheffield. We'd actually been listening to the band for the last few years. Their songs ‘Fuck It’, ‘Digital Accordion’ and ‘Don't Look At Me’ were always favourites of ours on the way to shows. We shared a merch table with them at Tramlines and had a big old chat with them after the show about life in a DIY touring punk band. Holly gave Lucinda some incredible advice after she recently left her job to pursue Kamikaze Girls full band, and told her ‘Call me anytime for help, because when I needed help no one helped me.’ Their brilliant attitudes towards surviving in a band and everything else is why that they had to make our list.

11. Robert Smith / The Cure
Trying to pick just 10 punk influences is a real hard one so we’re going to be well punk and smash the rules… So who better than Robert Smith to be our 11th punk influence? Mainly because people probably wouldn’t class him as ‘punk’ but we do. The Cure are my favourite all time band and Robert Smith is a massive idol of ours. We take great inspiration from his songwriting and guitar sound in this band. The complex melodies are rivalled by none. We love how they can skip between a really dark gothic jam to super ultra pop in the same song and make it work perfectly. The Cure are a huge band, but amongst all the usual suspects we feel that they’re a little underrated, the gothic punks of the older ‘hero’ rock bands out there.

Kamikaze Girls new EP Sad is out on September 2nd through Bearded Punk.

Pre-order Sad here:

Like Kamikaze Girls here:

Wednesday, 24 August 2016

Gig Review: Specialist Subject All-Dayer at The Lexington 20/8/16 (by Emma Prew)

Specialist Subject have been a staple part of the UK punk scene for several years now. So much so that an all-dayer comprising of Specialist Subject Records bands seems well overdue. That said 2016 has been a great year for the Exeter-based independent record label, with releases from Muncie Girls, Austeros and Woahnows, as well as albums from The Fairweather Band and Doe due out in the coming weeks. However as well as acting as celebration of all the amazing SSR bands, the all-dayer also had a slightly more somber tone to it – the 20th of August 2016 was Bangers last ever gig. As a band that goes hand-in-hand with Specialist Subject more so than any other – Bangers' bassist, Andrew, is of course one of the two lovely people behind SSR (the other being Kay) – it seemed only right that, when they announced they were breaking up, their last gig should be at the first Specialist Subject all-dayer. We were most certainly in for a treat.

Having only been announced a few days earlier, the first to take to The Lexington stage was Giles Bidder of Great Cynics fame. I'm more used to seeing Giles alongside bandmates Iona and Bob but I have seen him solo once before – it's a different kind of feel but the same great songs so no less enjoyable. Giles was his usual slightly bumbling and rambling self, muddling up the words on a number of songs and joking that he was doing Foo Fighters-style live versions. Joking aside, he kicked off the day with just what we needed – songs we all know and love.

Next up were Austeros – a band who I've somehow managed to miss seeing twice already this year, so needless to say I was very much looking to finally seeing them live at last. I loved their debut album, Painted Blue, that was released earlier this year (on Specialist Subject Records, of course) so I was eager to hear those songs live. I was certainly not disappointed! In fact, the three-piece even threw in two new songs – pretty impressive for a band whose last album was only released in May – as well as some of their pre-Painted Blue tracks. The whole set was great fun and they finished on my favourite track, Superpowers.

The third act on the Specialist Subject line-up were a band whose name I've seen around before but never really properly listened to, Ssssnakes. I get the impression that they don’t play too many shows – especially as Jamie also plays in Pale Angels – so we were in for a bit of a treat courtesy of Specialist Subject. They are certainly a band that performs best live, ploughing through super-fast tracks with an incredible energy. They were joined on stage by Hamish from Bangers for some additional percussion which just added to the fun feeling that Ssssnakes were already provoking in the crowd.

After Ssssnakes the style of music changed quite drastically, but this is definitely not a bad thing. I love how there are so many different sub-genres and styles of music within the ‘punk scene’ – and indeed within Specialist Subject’s roster. The next artist to take to The Lexington stage was Helen Chambers. I vaguely knew Helen’s music through her inclusion on The Revival Tour (Chuck Ragan’s live music camaraderie) compilations. Acoustic folky sort of music is right up my street so I thoroughly enjoyed Helen’s set, even though I didn’t really know any of the songs. She said herself that she was the most un-punk artist on Specialist Subject! She was joined by El Morgan and Kelly Kemp for one song too which was just lovely.

The fifth band of the day was one of those I mentioned as having an album out next month – The Fairweather Band. The Fairweather Band are a three-piece from Exeter who play short but sweet indie pop songs. As they have a new album, Meow, coming out soon (it was actually available to buy from the merch stand – two weeks early), it was to be expected that they played a number of the tracks from it. It’s always a bit difficult to judge a band playing live when they play a lot of songs you don’t know, but it definitely made me want to listen to the album anyway. There was also some amusing band–audience banter when someone yelled ‘what record label is your album on?’ and ‘is it an English label?’. I can only assume the person was very drunk or trying to be funny.

Sam Russo is a big fan favourite within Specialist Subject’s roster and in UK punk scene in general. He’s an incredible performer, especially considering its just him and his guitar, and the crowd always absolutely loves him. It was certainly no different at The Lexington, with plenty of shouts of ‘Ruussssoo!’ between his songs (I’d love to know who started the whole yelling his surname at him thing… anyone?). Sam Russo is a born storyteller and this translates well on stage, both within the lyrics of his songs and his explanation of them in between. Of course, no Sam Russo set would be complete without the crowd giving it everything they’ve got to Sometimes, the set closer. Sooooometimes!

As the day became evening and we drew ever closer to the last Bangers set ever, Hamish stepped on stage again – this time to play drums for Pale Angels. It’s good to know that even with Bangers calling it a day, Hamish isn’t retiring as a drummer just yet. I’ve seen Pale Angels a couple of times before and, I must admit, their style of music isn’t usually my cup of tea but, that said, I do enjoy watching them play. There’s a sort of intense energy to their music that is better expressed when they are performing live. The crowd was certainly loving it anyway with lots of people jumping around and head banging, as the band powered through their set with very little breathing time in between songs.

The eighth band of the Specialist Subject All-Dayer were a band who I’ve since joked could replace Bangers as my favourite UK punk band, Woahnows. I saw them just last month with Apologies, I Have None and The Smith Street Band but if anything that just made me even more excited to see them again. Woahnows are a super fun, lively live band and it’s great to be a part of the audience at one of their shows – even more so when it’s a Specialist Subject show. There were huge singalongs and there was plenty of movement in the crowd as the three-piece (hey, I’ve realised all of the acts were three-pieces or solo artists!) played a selection of songs from their previous releases, as well a their latest EP, a Specialist Subject release, and a new song. I’ve got my fingers crossed for a new album soon – on SSR perhaps?

The band left with the job of playing before Bangers were Doe. With their debut full-length album being released in less than a month – and a much anticipated one at that – everyone was keen to hear new songs as well as some old favourites. Doe are a band who I always like watching play live, although I haven’t listened to them too much on record. If you haven’t seen or heard Doe before then you probably don’t know that they don’t have a bass player. Instead the have two guitars and drums, a set up that works incredibly well with singer Nicola’s angsty vocals. Doe are a band who I think, like label mates Muncie Girls before them, are making big moves in the world of UK punk rock. I’m looking forward to seeing where the new album takes them.

Then the moment we had all been eagerly awaiting, and kind of dreading at the same time, was finally here – the last Bangers performance… ever. Roo, Andrew and Hamish burst into their set without too much of an introduction – as if they needed one. It was clear from the outset that they were going to put everything they had into their performance to make their last show ever the best show ever. The crowd was wilder than ever and loving every second of it, as we all knew this was our last opportunity to hear the Cornish punks play some of our favourite songs live. It sort of felt like every song was a ‘hit’ but actually it was probably just that Bangers have so many great songs! A New Raymondo, Church Street In Ruins, Jon Shoe, No, Making Friends and The Mitigation Committee, to name but a few, were all very well received. I was also really happy to hear the two new songs from their Last Songs 7” played live – possibly for the first time and almost definitely for the last time. They played the tracks back to back seamlessly just like on the EP and is was awesome. As well as the new tracks, Bangers also played a couple of track of Mysterious Ways – the album that they wrote and recorded in 48 hours and have rarely played live. If it really was to be the last ever Bangers show (part of me still hopes it’s all a ruse), they certainly got the setlist right. After one fairly successful attempt at a human pyramid, many crowd surfers and a mass singalong – ‘The last thing I need is anymore things!’ – Bangers closed with I Don’t Feel Like I’ll Ever Be Clean again (Roo's favourite). Of course we all wanted more but I think it was fair that they chose to end there. End of an era, for me especially.

Bangers, thank you for everything. We love you and, in response to the line in There Was A Positive Vibe, yes we will see you in hell.

Also, Specialist Subject is the best – thanks Andrew and Kay!

Tuesday, 23 August 2016

Art of Punk: Will Tapply

Will Tapply is a Leeds-based illustrator who, as you might have guessed, produces a lot of posters and artwork for the underground music scene in Leeds – as well as for bands and venues further afield. I first came across his illustration work earlier this year when Andrew Cream – a Leeds-based musician himself – released his debut album, Self-Portrait (an album that I reviewed here).

Last week I finally got my hands on a copy of Self-Portrait on vinyl – my fault for not buying it any sooner and simply making do with the digital version only. I was reminded just how much I liked the artwork and figured I ought to put together an Art of Punk on the illustrator, Will Tapply. The artwork looks even better in the flesh, complete with the design on the back of the sleeve as well – something you never see online!

The artwork for Self-Portrait really reflects the lyrical content of the album as it acts as a sort of window, both visually and metaphorically, into Andrew Cream’s life. Lyrically the album is very down to earth (with tracks called First World Problems, Privilege and My New Goal for instance) and the artwork reflects Andrew’s day-to-day life. The first two scenes are ones that I’m sure almost everyone reading this can relate to (although personally I get up earlier than 7.30am!), while the third is more musician specific – but for an album titled Self-Portrait it makes perfect sense.

The style of the artwork for Self-Portrait wouldn’t look too out of place as scenes in a graphic novel, which is definitely a style that I’m a big fan of. Typographically the record sleeve uses friendly handwritten lettering – I almost mistook it for a font at first but on closer inspection (no two Es, for example, are the same) I can tell that it isn’t. Again, the handwritten typography is something that compliments the personal theme of the album.

The handwritten and somewhat friendly-looking typography is something that occurs in his other designs. I feel it makes a change from the rough and rugged style of artwork and typography that is more standard in punk rock. There's plenty of friendly and maybe just a few weird and wonderful characters in Will's artwork too.

Will Tapply also plays in a band called Syslak. He dabbled in animation (using free GIF software and a trial version fo Adobe After Effects – smart) to produce a video for their song Skin. It is most definitely on the more weird and wonderful side of things, similar to the Spoonboy poster above, but is well and truly mesmerising.

Monday, 22 August 2016

Album Review: Pharmacie by Apologies, I Have None

Let's start this review with the statement that the album I'm about to review is my most anticipated album of the year. The album I'm talking about is the long awaited second album Pharmacie by Apologies, I Have None. From the first time I saw them support Less Than Jake at the Barfly, to hearing their debut album London, to checking out their back catalogue and getting all of their newer material I have adored everything the band has done. Needless to say there was a little pressure on this album to be great. I was also incredibly interested to see where they go with the sound. 2014's EP Black Everything saw the band go down a much darker road than they previously have, would they do even darker on Pharmacie? One way to find out! Deep breaths, here we go.

The album begins with a song they've been playing live for a little while now. Love and Medication is my current song of the year - it's just superb. Beginning with a little piano (which they don't do live) before Joe Watson's pounding drums come in immediately giving the song a huge feel. The Apologies front man Josh's unmistakable vocals come in to play next. The opening lyrics of "Words Have A Weakness, They Break When It Comes To Explaining All The Reasons, They Fray At The Ends And String In Together The Sentences Needed To Tie Up All Of My Questions" already make me want to sing along with the song. This, along with the drums, got me hooked immediately. After the opening verse the whole band come in to give the song a beautiful full sound. What a way to start the album! Up next is the song Wraith that also appeared on Apologies recent split with Luca Brasi. It's a head banger from the outset. Something Apologies have always done brilliantly is find a way for the listener to get fully engrossed in their music despite the dark tones of the song. Wraith features a chorus of "Fade Away, Fade Away, Waste Away Wraith, I Don't Wanna See You Again" that will have you chanting along like your part of some kind of cult. Josh is incredibly angry on this track which gives the song a lot of emotion. The third song is a reworking of The Clarity Of Morning which originally appeared on Black Everything. This is a slow building song but stick with it because there is a big pay off. Clarity Of Morning is about hating your life and hoping everything is better when you wake up in the morning. Josh also sings of the troubles in your life causing problems in your relationship. The lyrics "I'm Sorry, When I Said I Didn't Love You What I Meant Was I Hate Myself" are particular heart-breaking.

From now we're in completely new ground with Pharmacie, I've never heard the following seven songs before. Anything Chemical is a much slower and softer song than what I've come to expect from the band - the song is a slow builder. By the time the song does actually hit its high point it actually takes you slightly by surprise. It's always good when music manages to surprise you. I really enjoyed this softer sounding Apologies, proving that they don't always need the big, hook filled sing-a-longs to pull listeners in. The fifth song on Pharmacie is title Goodbye, Piece Of Mind. Like Anything Chemical before it this song is a slow builder. A lot of effort seems to have gone in to getting the guitar tones absolutely faultless on Goodbye, Piece Of Mind. They sound perfect, really creating an atmospheric sound. It flows nicely into the next song, Crooked Teeth. The opening vocals of the track actually have a bit of a pop tinge to them and yet again grab your attention from the outset. It also feels somewhat like an interlude as well as an intro to what I assume will be the beginning side B of the LP. It's a song about finding your place in the world despite feeling like you don't belong. This then leads into the song title that really caught my eye when I was reading the track list before I listen to Pharmacie - Everybody Wants To Talk About Mental Health. Josh flicks switches between calm and angry on the track which gives the song so much life. The song is about not always wanting to talk about your problems and finding over ways to get a release. The spite and venom in Josh's vocals at the end of the song is fantastic, you can really feel his anger.

It's Never The Words You Say is the title of the eighth song. This song definitely feels like a cross between the London and Black Everything era of Apologies career. It features the big sing-a-long that was a staple of London combined with the more distorted guitar sound that Black Everything gave us. The penultimate track on Pharmacie is the eight minute epic Killers. It was only a matter of time before Apologies wrote a song of such length. Killers starts out being very atmospheric and calming before Josh explodes with some more anger. This then leads into a prolonged musical section that really shows off Josh, Joe, James and Simon's abilities as musicians. Josh's vocals come back into play at the very end of the song as he sings "It's Been A Long Year, It's Been A Long Few Years" with a lot of emotion. The tenth and final song on Pharmacie is named A Pharmacy In Paris. This is another song that takes the best bits of London and Black Everything to create something masterful. A Pharmacy In Paris is about finding someone who levels you out in the way that an anti-depressant might do the same. There is a section in the middle of the song when everything gets super quiet with Josh almost whispering before the song builds towards its finale. I enjoyed the use of the lyrics "Love And Medication" towards the end of the track. Signalling that the album has come full circle.

Pharmacie was well worth the wait. Personally I don't know that anything will top London for me (but only a miniscule amount of albums from any band would do that) but Pharmacie is an absolutely brilliant release. I think with Apologies, I Have None you shouldn't compare any of their releases with each other too much as they've always been a band that have progressed their sound. Remember that they started as an acoustic two piece. Pharmacie has ten of the most thoughtful, well written, brilliantly played and perfectly crafted songs you're likely to hear this year. Go order it now!

Pre-order Pharmacie here:

Like Apologies, I Have None: 

Friday, 19 August 2016

Album Review: Death To False Posi by Four Lights

Four Lights are a four piece power pop punk band from Seattle, Washington. This week they released their debut album on Bomb Pop Records, named Death To False Posi. When I first listened to a couple of tracks I was instantly reminded of power pop legends Nerf Herder so I was quite excited to sit down and give Death To False Posi a proper review.

Death To False Posi begins with a track named Self Medicated. Self Medicated immediately falls into the punkier side of Four Lights' sound. The guitars go along at a fast pace with lead singer Dan Gardner's vocals doubling up with melodic duties. The track is about being on medication and not really knowing who you are anymore. I really like the chorus of "I Don't Know Who I Am Today, But I Hope It's Not The Same As Yesterday, I Don't Know Who I'm Supposed To Be, Cuz Who I Am Ain't Working For Me." Underground comes next and is another song where the vocals do a great job of carrying the melody. It also features some excellent harmonies throughout. The song starts with just a little guitar and vocals which really grabbed my attention. KII Kay's drumming is superb throughout the song, providing a great back bone for the song. The third track is also the title track - Death To False Posi. Featuring some backing vocals from the mighty Bracket, it's a song about not having false expectations on life. It's kind of a different topic for a punk song to be about. Often you hear songs about living out your dreams no matter what people think so Death To False Posi is a nice change of pace. Up next is the song Did I Hear A Gagoosh? I have no idea what a gagoosh is so I asked my knowledgeable pal Google. There are a couple of different meanings but I think the one Four Lights are using is the one where gagoosh is a name for a vagina fart. (Never expected to have to type those words on a punk blog). Quite an odd and difficult subject for a song. The song itself is a nice mid-tempo paced song which feels quite restrained. Even the chorus has a subdued feel to it with a softer vocal singing "Where, Where Do We Go?"

The fifth song on Death To False Posi is titled Is That You? It's about missing somebody so much you imagine that you see them everywhere. It's a bit of an easy listening kind of pop punk song, feeling fairly laid back throughout with some soft, thoughtful vocals. It's not until the end of the song that things get a bit crunchier. Following a section of "Whoa-oh"s things get louder and the song finishes with a flourish. The opening guitars of It Came To Me In A Dream are quick and punchy before the vocals come in to make the song a real toe tapping head nodder of a track. I loved how the melody changes between verse and chorus - keeping the song sounding fresh. There is also a lovely use of harmonies and some great "Ba Ba Ba Ba Da Ba Ba"s that will get a crowd gleefully singing along. White Girl Wasted is the song title that stood out most to me when I first checked out the record. Starting out slowly before coming alive, this is the longest track on Death to False Posi and probably my favourite. It's about liking what you've got but realising that there is more to life. It's about getting out of your home town and exploring the world. Finding your own way. It's a really positive feeling track, kind of life affirming. Great stuff. Not Very Strong is a song about worrying that a relationship is ending and not feeling strong enough to deal with that. Featuring additional vocals from Jill Morris of The Young Go-Hards, it is an honest and emotional song with some more excellent harmonies. I go on a lot about harmonies, but I really do enjoy a good one. Not Very Strong has a superb three part harmony that is slightly moving. I also enjoyed the big ending of the song, after the restrained power pop sound that dominates the song there is a big, loud guitar finale.

Sixes is the ninth song on the album. The guitar work at the beginning of Sixes makes you realise that this is going to be another downbeat affair. That's not to say the tempo is slow, it actually feel like one of the faster songs on Death To False Posi. The overall tone of the track is dark, with the song being about struggling to find a way to finish a relationship because you don't like the way a person has changed. The tenth track, Whiskey Woahs, starts with the lyrics "You Say You Want Me But That Sounds Like The Whiskey Talking, You Say You Love Me But You Don't Know My Name" opening the song up before the full band really comes into play. It's about a bad relationship with someone who you keep seeing at a bar. This is another of my favourite songs on Death To False Posi, it grabs you immediately, has some great guitar work and plenty of moments for me to sing along. The penultimate song on the album is Spinning. It features a lovely lyric that goes "My Wheels Keep On Spinning, When I Think Of You I Can't Keep Myself From Grinning." The song is about finding someone who actually makes you happy when everything else gets you down. The final song - Sappy Love Song is also about this. This time the lyrics that really stand out are "To See You Smile At Me, There's Nothing More I Need To See." Both of these final two tracks feel like a lovely and uplifting way to finish to Death To False Posi. They make you see that not everything is so bad. Like Death To False Posi, which is a great album from Four Lights.

Stream and download Death To False Posi here:

Like Four Lights here:

Thursday, 18 August 2016

Top Tens: Derma from Talco's Top Ten Punk Rock Influences

This week Derma from Italian ska/folk punks Talco gives us his top ten punk rock influences.

The first Nofx album I bought was “White Trash Two Heebs And A Bean”. In my opinion, their best album. It’s natural for people that listened punk in 90's, having bands like this as a reference!

And Out Come The Wolves and Life Won’t Wait are a must for a band like us, that mix punk and ska music.

No Use For A Name
My favorite melodic punk band. When I write songs for Talco, I’m indirectly often influenced by the melodies of Tony Sly. No Use For A Name are one of the bands that I've never stopped listening to, since I was young.

Listening to their latest album, Hang, makes me realise how great Lagwagon are at songwriting. With an impressive back catalogue, including Thrashed, Hoss, Double Platinum….only a few bands can be that consistent. Lagwagon is one of the best examples.

Bad Religion
They were one of the first punk-rock bands that mixed melodies with old punk-rock, giving birth to a new wave of punk-rock.

Dropkick Murphys
Since the beginning of Talco, Dropkick Murphys and their unique blend of folk-punk have been a huge influence on us. Sing Loud Sing Proud is the soundtrack to our 10 years of traveling.

The Clash
The revolution of punk-rock. Since London Calling, punk-rock gave birth to a new way and punk attitude. One of the most important bands in the history of music.

Satanic Surfers
Hero Of Our Time - Another album that I Love and have listened to on repeat for 17 years!

Mad Caddies
We’re now good friends with these guys, but when I was young I saw them as fan countless times at concerts in Italy. Duck And Cover is one of Talco’s first influences.

Punk mixed with politics and good attitude. Technically more professional than 99% of worldwide punk-rock bands. Incredible band.

Talco have a new record out in September. Pre-order it here:

Like Talco here:

Wednesday, 17 August 2016

Gig Review: Big D and the Kids Table at the Camden Underworld 14/8/16

August is traditionally the month for punk rock shows at The Underworld. A who's who of bands come to the UK for shows at Boomtown and Rebellion Festivals and add shows at the Underworld to their tour. This August The Adolescents, The Dickies, Flag, The Bouncing Souls, Leftover Crack and Big D and the Kids Table all played Underworld shows. Camden has been spoilt. On Sunday the 14th of August Emma and I went to see Boston ska punk legends Big D and the Kids Table.

First on at the Underworld were Bullets With Blue Eyes. The London based four piece were a new band for both Emma and I so neither of us were sure what to expect. Bullets With Blue Eyes played an interesting brand of soulful Clash-inspired punk rock. Emma and I both favoured the more Clash-sounding songs in their set, a couple of which had some fantastic choruses. Bullets With Blue Eyes are a band with a different sound and I'm interested to see where they take it next.

Up next were Colchester favourites The Jellycats. It felt like ages since I last saw The Jellycats play live, so I was especially looking forward to their infectious ska punk sound. Taking the poppy ska sound of Madness, adding a strong dose of punk and mixing it with some cheeky Essex humour, The Jellycats are an incredibly entertaining live band. Even without their brass player (I'm sure he wasnt' there the last time I saw them either) the band are on top form and manage to get the crowd moving early. Co front people Ollie and Emma work fantastically well together, playing off of each other during and between songs. The set also included an excellent cover of Robin Thicke's smash hit Blurred Lines. All of The Jellycats clearly have a lot of fun when they are on stage and this makes the crowd have a lot of fun as well.

London's Popes Of Chillitown took to the stage next. The six piece were finishing a two week tour and seemed determined to finish it with a bang. The energy that the Popes put into their set is nothing short of incredible and, like The Jellycats before them, they got the crowd skanking quickly. The band's frontman is quite ridiculous. I'm not 100% sure his legs are attached to his back as they seem to have a life of their own, constantly skanking away and seemingly out of anyone's control. The Popes are the ultimate good time band, you can't help but enjoy them whilst they are on stage. Highlights of their set included the songs Wisdom Teeth, Opoom, Vamos A La Luna and, set closer, Bad Man. This gig was also the band's sax player's final gig with the band. To celebrate he got / was forced down into the crowd to have a dance, during Bad Man, before getting back on stage to finish the song. Great stuff from the Popes, one of the UK's best ska punk bands.

Finally it was time for Big D and the Kids Table. This gig felt like a very long time coming. I was supposed to see Big D play at the Underworld with Random Hand back in 2012/13 time, so it was great to finally have the opportunity to see them here again. I had previously seen them at Slam Dunk Festival but that was only a short thirty minute set - I was looking forward to finally seem them play for longer. To open the set the band's guitarist, bass player and drummer took to the stage and started playing the introduction to the song Faded before frontman David McWane and two brass players. I figured they'd play out the rest of the song but they began another. I love the song Faded so I was a little disappointed by this, but this was soon forgotten as the band played song after song from their entire discography. Surprisingly they played the classic LAX very early on in their set. This was a great move as it really got everyone moving and singing along. How It Goes is my favourite Big D album (I finally got a vinyl copy from the merch table) so any song played from that was a particular highlight. Along with LAX, it was great to hear My Girlfriend's On Drugs, You're Me Now and The Specials cover Little Bitch live. Other favourites from the night included Noise Complaint, Checklist, Shining On and Try Out Your Voice. Big D and the Kids Table are an incredible live band, flawless in execution and full of passion. Big D don't play shows because they want to, it's because they have to. Thanks for coming back to London Big D, you are loved. Please come back soon!

Tuesday, 16 August 2016

Album Review: Struck Dum Records presents Punks vs Depression

Struck Dum Records is an independent record label based in Aberdeen and run by the wonderful Mitch. In June Struck Dum released a brand new compilation named Punks vs Depression. As you might have guessed from the title, it's a charity compilation with all profits being donated to The Scottish Association for Mental Health - who do some amazing work in helping people with mental health issues get back to work, as well as promoting suicide prevention. An extremely worthy cause. If that wasn't good enough reason to buy the compilation it also features seventeen tracks of punk rock awesomeness.

There is a great selection of different styles and some nice surprises on the compilation. Starting off the comp is After The Fall's Mike Moak playing an acoustic version of Dedication. The full band version of this track is packed with emotion and this translates well on the acoustic take of the song. Next up is Struck Dum Records band Watchfires. Watchfires contribute the song King Midas which is an energetic burst of indie punk goodness. Glasgow's pop punks Northern Nightlights contribute a new song in the shape of Makes Me Mad. In particular I really enjoyed the use of dual vocals on the song. Pop punk done right. The next song comes from Colin's Punk Rock World favourite Paper Rifles. It Always Rains In Scotland is a love song with the message being that everything is wonderful as long as you're with the person that you love.

Leading Scottish pop punk band The Murderburgers and The Kimberly Steaks provide the next two songs. The Murderburgers track is actually just Fraser playing an acoustic version of new song Waves from his upcoming new album The Twelve Habits Of Highly Defective People. The Kimberly Steaks also provide an unreleased track. Give It Time is what we've come to know, expect and love from the three piece - fast, loud and relentless Ramones-core pop punk. Robot Doctors provide a track from their 2015 EP Routes named Animals. Sadly Robot Doctors are splitting up this month, which is shame as they are a criminally underrated band with a great skill in writing melodic rock music. Austria's Astpai add some European melodic punk rock to the compilation. The song Fainting from their newest 7" Run From Home is featured and is everything I've grown to love about Astpai. Fantastic technical punk guitars and some distinctive emotional vocals from Zock Astpai.

Billy Liar is up next with a fantastic acoustic cover of Smoke Or Fire's Neon Lights. I imagine most people reading this know that Billy and Smoke Or Fires Joe McMahon are good friends, so I think it's pretty cool that this cover was recorded. It also features another friend of Billy's, Paper Rifles, doing some backing vocals. Up and coming Edinburgh punks Elk Gang are next. Their song Market To Mission is yet another unreleased track and really packs a punch. Lead singer Kev has one of my favourite vocals of any new band I've heard in the past year - it's really powerful and carries a lot of emotion. When Mitch first told me about this compilation he told me it features a lot of bands that I love (which it does), so I was quite surprised that my favourite song actually came from a band I'd never heard before. That band is State Line Syndicate and the song is Borrowed Time, the first track on their album Go Back To The 90s. The song is about living life how you want to and not how someone else does because we're not here for a long time.

Lancashire pop punks Don Blake provide an acoustic version of their awesome track The Plan. One of my favourite things about this comp is the unique versions of songs I already know. When I hear acoustic music, especially in the punk world, I always feel like it needs a big sing-a-long feeling to it. The Plan certainly has that. London via Greece gruff punks The Burnt Tapes make a welcome appearance on Punks vs Depression. One of the best new bands coming out of the London scene their song Adrenochrome Heights is fantastic. This is shout along gruff punk done really, really well. Scottish punks Science Made Us Robots are one the scenes best kept secrets. They contribute the fourteenth track on the comp with the song Hopeless Attitude. One of the things I loved about Science Made Us Robots when I first heard them was the thick Scottish accent giving the fast punk rock tunes a slight Celtic tinge. A cracking band that deserve a lot more attention.

Tragical History Tour aka Derrick Johnston of Make-That-A-Take Records changes things up somewhat with his track What Would Vinnie Mac Do? Normally playing acoustic punk rock, this song has almost a lo-fi electronica style to it. It was really interesting to hear Derrick create a song like this and it's still great. Taking things in a completely different direction are Glaswegian hardcore band False Hopes with a song named Red Cola. If Tragical History Tour relaxed you then False Hopes will get you seriously amped up again. A minute and a half of furious hardcore punk rock fun. The final song on Punks vs Depression is interestingly another of my favourites despite never having heard of the band before. This is the great thing about compilations, discovering brilliant new bands. Chicago punks Lost Years song I've Still Got A Soul Left To Lose from their 2014 album tradition is absolutely brilliant. It's a fantastic slice of thoughtful pop punk music. On the surface it's a fun, light pop punk track but it's actually about something much deeper. It's about feeling like you're losing a bit of yourself every day and the struggle that comes with that.

I love listening to new compilations but very often they do have songs on them that you might not like. This really isn't the case with Punks vs Depression. All seventeen songs are completely brilliant - I've listened to this a lot without skipping a single track. Go and buy it now!

Buy Punks vs Depression here:

Monday, 15 August 2016

Album Review: Paper Thin by Paper Thin (by Emma Prew)

Paper Thin are a recently formed four-piece emo / pop punk band from Newcastle, Australia (not to be confused with Newcastle, northern England). Last month they recorded their debut EP and last week it was released to the world. Colin was originally going to review this, after discovering Paper Thin himself on Bandcamp. But when he shared the link with me – as he does when he finds music that he particularly likes and thinks I will too – and I had a listen, he suggested I review the EP instead… because I loved it!

There are 5 tracks on this debut EP and first up is State Of Your Life, Mate. The song sort of feels like a bit of an introduction, not only to the EP, but also to the band themselves. It’s a very short song at only 1 minute and 13 seconds, yet it instantly shows just how good this band and this debut EP are. Of course there are obvious comparisons to Wil Wagner and The Smith Street Band, not least for the Australian accented vocals, but that’s definitely not a bad thing. Lyrically the song deals with admitting how you’re feeling (not okay) and working out what to do next in your life. Just when the song gets to what you think is the chorus – ‘I’m so homesick, for where I left and where I crawled back, I’m so homesick, now I don’t know where I am anymore…’  – it ends. Which definitely left me wanting more!

And I wasn’t left wanting for very long as the second track, Sixteen Months, kicks in immediately where State Of Your Life, Mate left off. Sixteen Months is a song that was previously written as a solo track by Paper Thin’s singer and bassist, Spencer Scott. However the version on this release is a reworking of the original with the full band – I haven’t heard the original so I can’t comment on the differences though. The song begins fairly slowly, with only guitar at first. But after the first couple of lines of the song, the drums kick in as well as some more melodic guitar – great stuff. There is real sense of progression in the song as the music gets louder towards the second verse and then just before the chorus there are some wonderful oohs from, I assume, other members of the band. Paper Thin describe their music as ‘emo’ which is certainly reflected in the lyrical content – A leaping heart, controlled by an anxious mind. I'm still waiting on hold, for you to say you're mine. In sixteen months nothing has changed, I'm still falling for you and you don't feel the same.’

Hotel Spencer is another song that has been reimagined for this EP. This song has a bit of a different feel to the previous two, I think I would say that it’s more angry. But I definitely mean angry in a good way! The kind of anger that is liberating and, for the listener, has you with your fist in the air and screaming along – at least, that’s what I imagine for this song. Like the previous tracks, this song has a similar theme of anxiety and insecurity which I know is something that many of us can relate to in our own way. Spencer sings about feeling more comfortable performing than in day-to-day life – music is, after all, a form of release. ‘I am 1,028 kilometres from home. I am the furthest I have ever been on my own. But I feel safer on this stage that I do back home, watching myself go nowhere in the corner of this room.’ 

I must admit that when Colin first linked me to the Bandcamp page for Paper Thin and I spotted the word ‘Japan’, I got quite excited (I’m a huge Japanophile, if you didn’t know). Japan Song, written by the band’s drummer Liam Tobin, is very different to the rest of the tracks on the EP in that it’s a far less serious song – and much more on the pop punk side of things. From the opening lines ‘I don’t want to work today, I’d rather be on holiday’, you can tell what sort of feel this song is going to have. It’s fun, it’s super catchy and full of some clever rhymes. My favourite line is ‘Let’s go, time to go, Go adopt a Totoro’ – and if you don’t know what a Totoro is, click here. I love Japan Song and it’s a refreshing addition to the EP.

By complete contrast the closing track on Paper Thin, Haircut, is, well, much less cheery. The song is a fairly slow paced one that begins with gentle guitar. When the vocals start – For my birthday you took me to a barber, and you bought me a nice haircut.’you can hear every bit of emotion. I also sensed an air of resentment or bitterness increasing as the song goes on. It seems an odd subject to write a song about – getting a haircut – but it’s clear that the song is about more than that. I imagine that the line at the end of the song – ‘I really fucked up the sideburns. I know I fucked it up.’ – could be interpreted as being about more than just a haircut.

If Paper Thin sound like your cup of tea, you can download the EP on Bandcamp which comes with PDFs for a full lyric sheet, liner notes and… instructions on how to make an origami dinosaur head! Which, by the way, I gave a go but I’m not convinced I followed all of the steps correctly.

You can also like Paper Thin on Facebook. Go, go, go!

Friday, 12 August 2016

Punk gigs are the best gigs (by Emma Prew)

I'm 25 and I've been going to gigs for more than ten years. My parents – ever a positive influence on my musical upbringing – have always been big live music fans themselves (and still are) so I went to some of my first gigs with them, including R.E.M., Muse and, err, Green Day! 

When I was 14 or 15 I used to go with a couple of fellow 'alternative' (or ‘greebo’) friends to local shows at a place called The Pitz. It was just an auditorium of a school / leisure centre but I got my fix of live music, my first – and last – experience of being in a mosh pit and learnt how to 'skank’. Plus, I came home smelling of other people’s beer and cigarettes (Remember when it wasn't illegal to smoke inside UK venues? Ugh.).

Going to The Pitz was a fairly regular thing, but we also occasionally ventured into London for bigger bands – Funeral for a Friend were a firm favourite. Back then, when I was still at school, I only really went to about four or five gigs a year (which was still probably more than most of my classmates). As I got older I was able to attend more and more gigs and got well and truly hooked on live music. But when I talk about the live music I saw – and indeed music that I listened to in general – when I was at school, I’m not talking about punk rock. There were guitars a plenty so it’s not like I’m saying I went to see [insert name of radio-friendly pop act], but punk rock came a little later.

Although I’d been becoming progressively more and more of a punk fan through my college and university years, it wasn’t until 2013 when I really got my first feel of the live music side of punk. I’d seen The Kings Blues, Dropkick Murphys, The Gaslight Anthem and Reel Big Fish in previous years, but it was only when I saw The Menzingers at Camden’s Underworld that I got a proper insight into ‘the punk scene’. And what a wonderful scene it is!

I am now a massive punk fan and probably about 90% of the music I regularly listen to falls into the various sub-genres of punk rock. Though I do like some non-punk artists as well, I certainly go to far more ‘punk’ gigs than any other genre of music. That doesn’t mean I won’t want to go see, for example, Will Varley or The Decemberists. However the more non-punk gigs I go to, the more I appreciate the punk scene and all it has to offer.

There are a number of things that I think are great about punk shows that, in my own personal experience, aren’t the same at other gigs I’ve been to:

1. At a punk show, people are genuinely bothered about seeing more than just the headlining band. We are pretty spoilt in our scene in that you can almost guarantee that your favourite punk band will bring other bands you know and love on tour with them. Or if they’re not bands you already love, you probably will do after the gig. You certainly get your money’s worth at a punk show. At other gigs that I’ve been to its not unusual for people to either turn up just for the last band or to – and I think this is probably worse – talk through the support band’s set. You don’t go to a gig to chat with your friend about what you watched on TV last night!

2. Some people might think that a punk show would be full of unnecessarily rowdy and inconsiderate people but it’s actually quite the opposite. Sure there’s movement in the crowd – punk rock is hardly music to stand still to – but I feel like, for the most part, people are aware of those around them. The age-old rule of ‘if someone falls down, pick them back up again’ is definitely apparent in the punk scene. Another thing I’ve noticed, as a 5’2” female punk fan, is that tall people tend to avoid standing in front of me at gigs. They don’t have to do that but it’s very much appreciated. The same can be said for finding your ‘spot’ in the crowd and keeping it. I find at punk shows, although I suppose generally the venues are smaller, people don’t really push to the front – especially not if you arrived late. Unlike when I went to see Band of Horses last month and two girls came along right before the band were about to go on stage to stand directly in front of me – and not allowing me much personal space either. They did actually move after a few songs and I still loved that gig, as Band of Horses are a brilliant live band, but it is a bit of a let down when the crowd isn’t as friendly as I’m used to.

3. Like many others, I tend to snap a couple of photos on my phone at gigs. I like to post them to Instagram and/or Twitter with miniature reviews attached to them – plus I’m the ‘official’ Colin’s Punk Rock World gig photographer. That said, I only take a couple of photos – usually at the beginning of a band’s set – and then my phone goes away so I can fully enjoy the show. For some people it’s not enough to simply enjoy the gig though. Some people insist on filming large chunks of a band’s set on their phone – which, let’s face it, is probably terrible quality and you’ll never do anything with – or phoning their friends who aren’t at the gig so they can listen to the music down the phone. I’ve never received a phone call from a gig but I can’t imagine you can hear much more than white noise. And let’s not forget the latest craze of taking selfies at gigs… just why? I’m happy to report that these sorts of things don’t often happen at punk shows. I had a rant on Instagram (which has resulted in this full blog post) a couple of months ago after seeing Beans on Toast in Milton Keynes. There were selfies, videos and phone calls a plenty at that gig – plus a group of girls talking during Beans’ set – which resulted in Beans on Toast himself complaining about it (and confiscating one girl’s phone!).

I apologise if this turned into a massive rant but really what I’m trying to say is that punk gigs are and always will be the best gigs for me. I’m not going to stop going to see band whose music, regardless of genre, I like but I’ll never underestimate just how much I truly love being at a punk gig. The punk scene is so welcoming and I truly feel at home there, far more than I ever will in any other ‘scene’ or at any other kind of gig.

Thursday, 11 August 2016

Top Tens: Daniel from Four Lights Top Ten Punk Rock Influences

Daniel Gardner from Seattle's power pop four piece Four Lights give us his top ten punk rock influences. Four Lights have a new album named Death to False Posi out on August 15th.

Writing out your Top Ten anything is hard.. But especially when it comes to my punk rock influences. There are so many things that influenced me throughout the years that it’s hard to nail down 10. So here are my Top Ten (in no specific order) things that inspired my love of punk rock.

The Replacements
Every teenager should listen to Let It Be, Stink and Sorry Ma. My Dad was a HUGE Mats fan so their music was everywhere in my life growing up. There is something about Westerberg’s ability to write clever, honest lyrics with an amazing melody and back it with loud guitars and huge drums.

The Impossibles
I ordered some album from Fueled By Ramen and it had an advert for The Impossibles Anthology. It described it as a mix between Operation Ivy and Weezer. Sold. Give it to me now. I preached the gospel of The Impossibles for many years to anyone that would listen. If you were in my car, at my work, in my class, on the bus with me, I told you about this band. Their early stuff was that mix of ska/punk with power pop that just hit all the marks for me. They had the ability to go from bouncy ska verses into massive, loud crunchy chorus like no one else. One of the most underrated bands and really helped mold my songwriting when I was a teenager.

The Clash
It was summer vacation sometime when I was in grade school and there was a Rock the Casbah video on TV. I called my Dad at his work and asked him which Clash record I should listen to. He asked if I wanted to hear something like the song I just heard or if I wanted to really love the Clash. He told me to go grab London Calling and self-titled out of his massive vinyl collection. He wasn’t wrong. I loved those records. They led to my dad suggesting many more bands to check out.

The Kraken
The Kraken is a bar in the University district of Seattle. If you’ve ever been, you already know. Everyone is family there. I have seen some of the best punk rock of my life at that bar. The amount of amazing bands in Seattle (The Young Go-Hards, Ol Doris, Success, Kids on Fire Amsterdam) is so great that they constantly inspire me to be a better player and a better writer. The Kraken gives all of these great bands a place to play their loud and fast music and probably make some new friends.

I remember when I first heard 2RAK005 on Fat Music for Fat People. I jumped out of my seat to restart the song and grabbed the case to see who was making this magic! Bracket. The harmonies, the melodies, the arrangements. This band lured me in with their fast paced rock and I fell in love the more they experimented with their sound as their albums evolved. They continue to inspire me to this day with every new album they release.

La Escalera Records
La Escalera is a focal point in the punk rock scene on the west coast. A bunch of musicians who help each other out and look out for each other. Will, Ziggy, Shrum all make me want to be a better person and help the scene out however I can because those guys do so damn much for punk rock.

I grew up with Salvation, Time Bomb, Ruby Soho all playing on mainstream radio. What a time to be alive!! Rancid is a combination of so many things I love in music.. Loud guitars, rock and roll guitar solos and great melodies. Falling in love with Rancid led me to other bands in the genre.

Less Than Jake
I wore out my copies of Losing Streak and Hello Rockview. They were so scratched up and skipped in so many parts because I would carry them around with me just in case there was a CD player nearby that I could play them on. If you haven’t noticed, I am a sucker for a catchy melody and these guys have it. Clever lyrics to boot. Once again, with Vinnie starting Fueled By Ramen, I found out about so many more bands and the fact they were constantly on tour, I got to see so many great punk bands come through town with them.

My Parents
Both of my parents were really into music. Their leather jackets were in the hall closet and my dad still had the t-shirts and my mom had many of the tickets still from their time going to bars in the Midwest to see the bands coming through. We had family outings to see The Sex Pistols, Paul Westerberg, Weezer, Rancid, etc etc etc. I consider myself lucky to have parents who love some amazing music.

The Ramones
I’m sure everyone says them.. But with good reason. Only two types of people don’t like The Ramones; fools and liars. We rented Rock and Roll High School and I once again was pulling records from my parents collection to spin and spin and spin them. One of my earliest love affairs with punk rock.

You can pre-order Death to False Posi here:

Stream  Death to False Posi here:

Like Four Lights here:

Wednesday, 10 August 2016

Album Review: Anxiety/History by Coral Springs

Coral Springs are a five piece pop punk band from the Netherlands. In July they released a brand new double a side named Anxiety/History on the mighty Umlaut Records. Being a lover of European pop punk bands such as The Apers or The 20belows I was keen to check out Coral Springs.

Anxiety is the first track up. I must admit I knew nothing about Coral Springs when I clicked play other that what I had read on their Facebook page and I must admit I was a little surprised when I learned that Coral Springs are a female fronted band. Front woman Jo has a spectacular voice and helps set Coral Springs apart from so many other New Found Glory influenced pop punk bands. Anxiety begins with some fantastic guitar work that really caught my ear before the vocals kick in. I'll say it again - spectacular! One guess for what the song is about? Yup, you guessed it - the song is about struggling to cope with anxiety. Lyrically the song really hit's the nail on the head. Anyone who has suffered from any level of anxiety in the past will relate to the lyrics "This Isn't Getting Any Better, But You're Not Able To Explain."

The second track History doesn't start with quite as much of a bang as Anxiety. The song falls more so on the poppy side of pop punk , with lead singer Jo's voice really shining through again. It's just fantastic to hear a voice as good as this in a punk band. I really like the sound of the vocal harmonies the men in the band give, the two different styles blend together magnificently. History is about learning from past mistakes and using the lessons learned to grow as a person. Musically I really enjoyed the track. The stop/start nature of the lead guitar really reminded me of the early 2000's Drive Thru pop punk which I loved. That sound just makes me think of summer trips to the beach and always puts a smile on my face.

If like me this is your first time listening to Coral Springs it feels like an excellent place to start. Playing a style of pop punk that I loved but managing to put a fresh spin on it. Definitely a band to keep an eye on during the current boom in the genres popularity.

Stream and download Anxiety/History here:

 Buy a physical copy here:

Like Coral Springs here:

Tuesday, 9 August 2016

Gig Review: The Bouncing Souls at the Camden Underworld 6/8/16

I have mentioned before that Friday and Saturday gigs in London suck, because of the early starts and finishes due to the stupid club nights that venues insist on having. However, sometimes one of your favourite bands ever play London on a Saturday night and you have to just suck it up. I also recently have had some bad luck with getting to the Underworld - where the night's gig was taking place. Last month I missed an entire gig at the Underworld because trains from Colchester were severely delayed. This time however that wasn't the issue. Plans were made to get to the station early to catch an earlier train and we were off - to see The Bouncing Souls! I was so excited! We arrived in London to discover that the section of the Northern Line that we needed to use was closed so we were advised to head to King's Cross and change over there. When we arrived at King's Cross we discovered that it would be buses ferrying people between the stations. We decided it would be just as easy to walk to Camden (and it would allow me to catch some Pokémon along the way) so off we went.

Because of this hold up and the early start we only managed to catch the final couple of songs from London's Pacer. Despite the early start, they had a decent sized crowd watching them and if they played the rest of the set like they played their final two songs then there is no doubt that Pacer gained some new fans during their set. Final song, Awake, was completely awesome.

Up next were one of the hottest bands in the world of punk and rock at the moment. New Orleans's hardcore punk rockers Pears were in town for their second time playing London. I can't think of another band that has blown up quite as quickly as Pears have in such a short space of time and I was very intrigued to find out what all the fuss was about. The four piece took to the Underworld stage and immediately exploded into life. Vocalist Zach Quinn was one hell of a performer. Borrowing Emma's description from Instagram, "He's like Freddie Mercury but possessed by a demon." Pears blasted through so many of their songs from both albums, Go To Prison and Green Star. They got a good portion of the crowd going wild during their set and proved why there is so much hype surrounding them.

It was finally time for one of the greatest bands ever, New Jersey's The Bouncing Souls. Since forming in the late 80s, The Souls have become one of the most beloved punk bands of all time. The Underworld was packed from the front to the back and anticipation was high. The Souls took to the stage and started their set with the classic Sing Along Forever. Immediately the crowd were screaming every lyric straight back at the band, at times overpowering Greg Anttonito. This was my fourth time seeing the Souls live and to be honest they have been a bit hit or miss. After the very first song it was clear this set was going to be a massive hit. The band were up for it and so was the crowd. With a setlist spanning their entire discography, it's easy to forget just how many amazing songs the band have written over the years. There were also some run outs for three songs from the band's brand new album, Simplicity. Hearing Driving All Night, I Wanna Be Bored and Writing On The Wall live for the first time was a complete pleasure and all fit brilliantly into their set. Other highlights from the set included Manthem, Gone, Lean On Sheena, Kids and Heroes and of course True Believers. True Believers is probably my favourite song of all time. It's inspiring. What an amazing feeling seeing and hearing that song live. It gets me every single time. I said earlier in the review that The Bouncing Souls have been a bit hit or miss in the past. I kind of think this could be down to the type of venue they've played. Previously they've played in big room and have been good, but at a small compact venue like the Underworld is where the band shines brightest. It was as perfect as a set could possibly be. I really loved it. A lot!