Tuesday, 31 January 2017

Gig Review: Ducking Punches at The Monarch 26/1/17

Continuing our two nights of Independent Venue Week, we made the trip to Camden to visit The Monarch. Home to many Xtra Mile Recordings nights, this one was headlined by a firm favourite of Colin's Punk Rock World, Ducking Punches, along with The RPMs and Non Canon.

Non Canon was up first. He was someone I wasn't familiar with but soon found myself captivated by. Beginning his set by gently plucking at his guitar he quickly got the audience's attention before playing a string (no pun intended) of beautiful acoustic music. Clearly very comfortable and at home on stage, he was equally entertaining between the songs as he was when he was playing. The highlight of the set, and I would wager it will be one of the gig highlights of the entire year, was when he played his final song, Memory Beta. The finale of the song features the lyrics "I'm Not Admitting Defeat, I'm Defying It." And this powerful line is repeated over and over and over. At The Monarch Non Canon got the whole crowd to sing along and it was a moment that certainly moved me. A fantastic way to start the night.

Up next were another band I didn't know at all, The RPMs. I soon discovered this three piece played a brand of rock 'm' roll pop songs with a skill and professionalism that seemed way and above their young age. The band's lead singer and guitarist, Jack Valero, in particular stood out as an extremely talented young man, playing his guitar expertly and really getting the crowd on his side. It felt like the crowd, barring one particularly excitable gentleman stood beside me, were a little hesitant in getting too involved with the band to begin with but soon enough Valero had us clapping, waving our arms, line dancing and singing along. For their song I Don't Like It, which is described as a multipurpose protest song, they had a couple of placards which they got members of the crowd to wave. I'm interested to see just how far The RPMs go in their musical career. I feel like they could be one of those bands where I can say "I saw them at The Monarch" before they are headlining massive arenas.

Now it was time for the mighty Ducking Punches. Late last year the band announced that Serge, Cal and Sophie were leaving the band, so this was a brand new version of Ducking Punches. In fact it was their very first performance as this version of Ducking Punches. New bass player Ryan and guitarist Marcus had only had a couple of practices between them but it really didn't show as Ducking Punches played a fantastic 40 minute set comprising of songs from Dance Before You Sleep and, the Xtra Mile, release Fizzy Brain. Ducking Punches frontman Dan Allen, who had also swapped his acoustic guitar for a beautiful electric started the set with a nice surprise by playing Secrets from his self-titled debut release. I really enjoyed the fuller sound it had with an electric guitar rather than the normal acousticness of the song. This all new electric version of Ducking Punches really packed a punch whilst still retaining all of the emotion the songs had with the more folk/acoustic style of previous Ducking Punches. The fact that the songs are still as good as ever despite the shift in sound is a big testament to the strength of Dan's song writing. Closing the show as ever with fan favourite Big Brown Pills From Lynn, which had the whole (sold out) crowd singing along at the end, completed a great night of music from the Xtra Mile family. I loved this new version of Ducking Punches and I can't wait to see just how good they become with more practices and shows under their belt. It won't be a long wait to see them again as they'll be at Manchester Punk Festival and will be returning to The Monarch as part of their April UK tour as well.

Album Review: Bonsai Mammoth by Darko (by Dan Peters)

As is my way I like to write a speculative paragraph about whatever it is I’m reviewing before I actually delve into the record itself. I said in my end of year lists that I wasn’t sure what could get me to stop listening to Remember Death by MUTE but I have a feeling this may be a contender. Darko are a group that comfortably straddle the top echelons of the UK and European punk scenes. A relentless touring machine with an amazing back catalogue of EPs, I’ve yet to go to a Darko show (and I’ve been to several) without the crowd enthusiastically screaming every word to every song back at them. The one thing left to check off of their bucket list is a full length LP and this is where Bonsai Mammoth comes in. Before me lays 11 brand new original tracks for my absolute listening pleasure and I’m sure a pleasure it will be. The question here will be less “Is it any good?” and more “Has it lived up to the hype?” The hype being that which I’ve built up inside my own head. It’s time to lose myself in what I’m assuming is gonna be the first album of 2017 at the top of my end of year lists, let’s see…

I have a lot of affection for everything Darko have already released. Songs like “The Smarter I Think I Am, The Dumber I Actually Get” and “Seaward” are not just some of the best songs Darko have produced, but the best UK punk rock has ever had to offer. I can count on one hand bands that hold a candle to them in terms of sheer skill, technical acumen and song writing prowess. So with Bonsai Mammoth, a bad day at the office would still yield a great album but I don’t expect great from Darko, I expect exceptional. I expect ground breaking, unforgettable, magnificent, flawless. From the very beginning I feel like I get it too.

‘Life Forms’ had me for a moment. I thought I was getting a slow song to start the album with. I wasn’t overly happy with the choice but I allowed it since we have a full length to get through and I thought maybe even Darko can’t power shred their whole way through 11 songs. For 25 seconds things are calm like a placid lake and then things kick off with the blisteringly fast pace that’s the reason we all love them so much. There’s something magical about how incredibly technical songs can be whilst so quickly recognisable and fun to learn. A running theme that can now be considered a classic Darko staple is that you find yourself singing the songs before you’ve even finished listening for the first time. I had a mad urge to just listen to Life Forms on repeat for hours. So I did.

After finally leaving Life Forms alone, the fact that I had 10 more songs hit me and I vowed to plough through, lest it take me all month to get to the end of the album. I fired up ‘Just a Short Line’ and I realise that the first track isn’t just a fluke, this is how things are gonna be here from now on. The musicianship on display blows me away. I struggle to accept that enough hyper talented guys could have found each other and all happen to have the same taste in music!! A big factor in what is making this all work so well is the clever structure of the songs. With the skill on constant display I never feel lost or out of my depth. Dan Smith's ultra gruff but always tuneful vocals, repeated phrases and clear distinctions between choruses, bridges and verses guide me expertly through a landscape I might otherwise feel like I don’t belong.

I come up for air during the brief 36 second ‘The Chernobyl Effect’ which serves as an intro to the already released ‘Hiraeth’. I would say Hiraeth is the standout track from the album but honestly I’d be lying if I did. It’s certainly a masterpiece but no less so than any other track. The proceeding tracks ‘In the company Of Wolves and ‘Lifeblood’ prove this, the latter of which is a HUGE anthem of a tune.

Something else that in my opinion could be considered a Darko staple is saving the best until last. ‘We Can Stand For Something More’ is a song I close my eyes and see myself singing back to the band with glee. Things come to a close and I’m exhausted. I feel like I’ve been right there with them for the whole album, I’m wearing a watch that tracks my heartrate and for the last 27 minutes my heart has been beating like I’ve listened to this whilst running!

The sound here cannot be overstated too. Everything is crystal clear without sounding sterile or chopped to pieces. The vocals in particular along with backing harmonies are never lost below the intensity of the drums and lead guitars which again lends itself incredibly well to the feeling I have of being taken on a journey. I can always appreciate hearing the whole but being able to zero in on individual elements if I wish, nothing feels hidden away and at the same time each separate piece compliments the whole throughout.

In conclusion, Bonsai Mammoth had a lot to live up to with From Trust To Conformity and Sea Of Trees being so good and well loved. I feel like this sits atop both titles as the pinnacle of their talent and dedication and forms a holy trinity of records that should never go without mention when talking about punk rock. It’s the perfection of a formula that was itself already one of the greatest of our generation. A triumph of blending the ultimate in melodic hardcore, anthemic street punk and progressive thrash that welcomes all instead of building a barrier to entry.

I could fanboy over this for a lot longer but I’ve already rambled enough so I’ll bring this to a close by saying this is a must buy. You can’t be a fan of punk and not have heard this. We’ll look back on this album like we do Suffer or SMASH or …And Out Come The Wolves. You can buy this in a plethora of deals, there’s something for everyone and just stop reading now and go… go on!!

Stream and download Bonsai Mammoth here: https://darko.bandcamp.com/album/bonsai-mammoth

Like Darko here: https://www.facebook.com/Darkoband/

Monday, 30 January 2017

Gig Review: The Ataris at The Craufurd Arms, Milton Keynes 25/1/17

The week beginning the 23rd of January marked the start of the UK's Independent Venues Week. IVW is a week long celebration of the independent music scene in the UK and the venues that are necessary for independent artists to have somewhere to play. Emma and I had plans to go to two events during the week, the first was seeing The Ataris play at The Craufurd Arms in Milton Keynes.

We made it to the Craufurd Arms just in time to see the opening band, The GetGone. Formed in Milton Keynes and featuring members of Capdown, 100hz and Last Of Our Heroes, I was expecting big things from the four piece. From the outset they did not disappoint. They describe their sound as melodic punk rock music and I think that's a perfect description. The gruff vocals from the lead singer had me hooked immediately and I found myself really wishing I knew the songs so I could sing along. The song in their set that particularly stood out to me was Choke. This track started slow, with an almost pop punk style sing-a-long before exploding into life with a second singer taking the gruffer section. The two contrasting singing styles worked perfectly. I will be checking out more from The GetGone and hope to see them again soon.

Up next were another local band in the form of All Tied Up. I have to be honest, when I read their description I wasn't sure I was going to enjoy the pop punk four piece. I'm not keen on the new wave of pop punk music that is massive amongst the kids at the moment so wasn't really expecting much from All Tied Up. Then they started playing with such energy and enthusiasm for what they do that it was impossible not to enjoy it. The band's frontman Dave Palfreyman in particular looked like he was having the greatest night of his life. I just got swept up in it all - tapping my feet, nodding my head, smiling away to a great band. The band were so slick and polished as well, a lot of effort has clearly gone into the band and it's great to see. If you like pop punk, All Tied Up are a band you should be checking out.

Now it was time for the headline act, Indiana's The Ataris. Lead by Kris Roe with a much changed line up, I was looking forward a night of nostalgia hearing songs I grew up listening to many years ago. The Craufurd Arms was now close to full with a lot of people feeling the same was as me. Playing a set consisting of mainly tracks from the band's most popular album, So Long Astoria. This was quite a hard set for me to review because as much as I enjoyed singing along with so many classic songs, there were a few things I disliked about the set. First up was the lighting. Kris requested for no lights to be shone on the stage. I assume this was because it was in his eyes so hard to see but it made the stage feel quite dark. Personally I like to see the whites of a performer's eyes when I watch them live, it gives that important sense of everyone being in this together rather than the "them and us" feeling that clouds other music scenes. That was only a small gripe. My other and slightly bigger gripe was the over use of effects during and between songs. What I was hoping for was a night full of nostalgia but it turned into an hour of songs I loved being extended with lots of effects, solos and distortion that, for me, really took a lot of excitement away from hearing the songs played live. That said it didn't stop me singing my heart out to favourites such as San Dimas High School Football Rules, So Long Astoria, The Hero Dies In This One and, of course, Boys Of Summer. The very next day I found myself singing these songs to myself at work, so despite all of the effects that I wasn't so keen on, the tracks remained as catchy as ever.

Friday, 27 January 2017

Colin's Punk Rock World Playlist: January 2017

Here's what Dan, Emma, Omar, Pan, Robyn and myself have been listening to in the month of January.

Thursday, 26 January 2017

Top Tens: Ten Bands Colin Loved Once

Recently I've been making my way through the gargantuan task of putting all of my 1500 CDs onto my laptop. It's taking a very long time but it's allowed me to reminisce on some of the bands who I used to love (and still love) but just don't listen to all that much anymore. Here are ten of my favourites.

Definitely not a punk band but one of the first guitar based bands I really loved. When the album Echo Park was released, with the hit singles Buck Rogers, Seven Days In The Sun and Just A Day, Feeder really struck a chord with me. As I grew older my tastes obviously found their way to punk rock but whenever I hear a Feeder song, a smile always finds its way across my face.

The Have Nots
After releasing two fantastic albums in Serf City USA and Proud, Boston's The Have Nots seemed to disappear. That for me was a big shame as I was a massive fan of the band who mixed sing-a-long punk rock with ska. I can't remember ever hearing about the disbanding so I'm hoping they will be back with some new material and some shows.

The Johnstones
I cannot begin to describe how obsessed I was with The Johnstones six or seven years ago. I would listen to their entire discography near enough every day and knew every single word to every single song. I was definitely a superfan. The Canadian band mixed ska, punk, rap and pop music to create one of the most unique sounds in the ska scene. The Johnstones were a great party band.

I'll never understand why Madcap weren't one of the biggest bands in punk rock in the early 2000s. They released three albums but the one that has always stood out to me as a classic is East To West. Putting a modern street punk spin on classic '77 punk rock, the LA based four piece were the soundtrack of my 2002.

The McRackins
The McRackins are a band from Canada comprised of three men, two of which were transformed into eggs and the other into a dog and given super pop punk powers by a nuclear explosion. The kings of the gimmick pop punk band, before Masked Intruder came along. Every album, of which there were many, had an egg pun for a title. I always found this very amusing. A little research shows me that the band is still going today and I will be checking them out again.

I feel like Dan from RXR, and who also contributes to Colin's Punk Rock World, may use some of his martial arts training on me for including MXPX on this list. I first heard MXPX just after they released Ten Years and Running and became hooked on the three piece. Sadly as I've gotten older their newer material just didn't do it for me in the same way the old school did and I gradually stopped listening to them altogether. That being said, whenever I hear Punk Rawk Show I do still get quite excited.

Nerf Herder
The Santa Barbra band, Nerf Herder, are perhaps most famous for providing the theme tune to Buffy The Vampire Slayer. This more geeky side of pop punk really grabbed me back when How To Meet Girls and American Cheese where released in the early 2000s. I just adored their catchy, sing-a-long songs. Other than releasing a new album named Rockingham last year the band have been very quiet. Frontman Parry Gripp has become a bit of a YouTube star thanks to his hamster playing piano video.

Planet Smashers
The Planet Smasher are a long running ska punk band from Montreal, Canada. The mighty Golf Records rereleased a handful of their albums back in the day and at the time the newest one, Mighty, really got me. Focussing on more of a ska/pop/rock sound rather than punk rock, the Planet Smashers were unlike any other band I listened to at the time. Despite a big health scare for lead singer and guitarist Matt Collyer last year the band are still very active in the Canandian ska scene. I'm hoping for a trip back to the UK - it's very overdue.

The Ramones
The Ramones do feel like a bit of a strange band to be putting on this list as, you know, it's The Ramones. There was a time when I would pick up every single CD, book, magazine, DVD, piece of merchandise I could featuring The Ramones. I loved them. I still love them but with so many amazing bands around these days I just don't have time to listen to them. They are amazing though so I should find the time. I am slowly collecting original pressings of Ramones albums on vinyl so I shall listen to them more. For the longest time my Facebook and Google account about me section has said "When I Grow Up I Want To Be A Ramone."

River City Rebels
Say what you will about how Victory Records was run but at their peak they had an incredible roster of bands. One of the bands that I always felt was really overlooked was the River City Rebels. Their mix of street punk and ska made for one of the most entertaining and unique party punk rock bands of their era. The album in particular that I especially enjoyed was 2002's No Good, No Time, No Pride. Songs such as Aborted, Drunken Angel, Life's A Drag, Pass The Bucket and Mutiny were firm favourites on any punk rock playlists I'd make.

Wednesday, 25 January 2017

Album Review: Voices In The Void by The Sparrowhawk Orkestrel

The Sparrowhawk Orkestrel are a unique band from Dundee, Scotland. Combining big guitar riffs, modern math rock and metal, vocal melodies with a punk rock mentality and message. It's fair to say you won't hear many bands that sound like The Sparrowhawk Orkestrel. In November the three piece released a brand new album named Voices In The Void. Let's have a listen.

Voices In The Void begins with the instrumental track Start At The End. It's mostly sirens and leads nicely into Panic At The Tesco. Starting out with some huge guitars and some great riffs, as promised in their "about" section on the Internet we then arrive at the vocal sections. Lead singer Gordy Crawford has a brilliant distinct vocal style, sort of a cross between 80s hair metal and Matt Bellamy of Muse fame. The song is about suffering from anxiety and trying to live with it every day. In the song they use the metaphor of a girl stalking you to symbolize anxiety. A Frayed Knot starts out with a groovy style that had me instantly swaying in my chair as I listened to it. After the groovy start, the song switches to a more technical, math rock style with the music and vocals seemingly going off in their own directions before meeting up again for the chorus. A Frayed Knot is about latching onto someone who is weak minded and imposing your will on them. The lyrics in the chorus really stood out to me - "Our Mind Is As Fragile As A Ball Of String, So Easily Unravelled, And When Its Frayed Around The Edge, That's When They Thread Their Own Thoughts Inside Your Head."

The fourth song, Chrono, is about pushing yourself to the point of it becoming an obsession to achieve as much as you can in life and not being able to just be happy with your life. The powerful guitar playing at the start, blending into the more laid back melodic sound, made me think that something big was building towards the end of the song but sadly this never happened. This was a nice piece of restrained songwriting. Satere Mawe is about the Bullet Ant Ritual that the Mawe tribe in Brazil do to initiate rites to become a warrior. A very different subject matter for a rock 'n' roll song. This track does have a nice build towards and incredible guitar riff that completes the song. It makes me wish that I have long hair so that when I bang my head along with the song it goes everywhere - in a true 80s metal style. The Genesee River is a long song, particularly for what I'm used to, clocking in at an impressive seven minutes and twenty-three seconds. This track is epic in all senses of the word. The guitar work between the verses is hypnotic and links the song up brilliantly, making it sound like a creepy camp fire story.

Devils Clearing is the name of the seventh track on Voices In The Void. There is a huge Queens Of The Stone Age feel on this track. Gordy sings with a massive amount of emotion here as Sparrowhawk Orkestrel take us on a bit of a journey. Musically there are plenty of up, downs and loop da loops that will have you guessing what's coming next. The penultimate song on the album is named Shadow On The Wall. Shadow On The Wall feels like one of the most traditional songs on the album when you think of song structure. Aside from another stupendously good guitar solo that leads into one final chorus, it's the traditional verse-chorus-verse-chorus song style. It felt good to hear Sparrowhawk Orkestrel go down this route to change things up a bit. It shows some variety in their songwriting abilities. Voices In The Void is finished with the album's title track. The beginning of the song is fantastic, really allowing the listener to have a sing-a-long with Gordy. It's a song about being a small underground band that is a part of a bigger scene. It's about there being so many bands some of them slip through the cracks. I loved the lines about performing just the same to a big crowd as they would to a empty room. That's pretty punk rock.

Voices In The Void is without a doubt one of the most unique albums I've listened to in a while and really showcases the wide range of sounds that are in the punk rock scene, especially the Scottish scene. They are a band that isn't afraid to be different and wear their many influences on their sleeve. It's been good for me to listen to something that isn't really in my comfort zone and it's something I really really enjoyed.

Stream and download Voices In The Void here: https://thesparrowhawkorkestrel.bandcamp.com/album/voices-in-the-void

Like The Sparrowhawk Orkestrel here: https://www.facebook.com/TheSparrowhawkOrKestrel

Tuesday, 24 January 2017

Album Review: What Do You Know About Ska Punk Vol. 1 (by Dan Peters)

A Tidal Wave of Trumpets!!

“Dan you like ska punk don't you?” were the fateful words I heard just before diving into the gargantuan compilation that is ‘What Do You Know About Ska Punk Vol 1’. At a staggering 135 tracks it is without a doubt the biggest compilation you’re likely to find outside of ‘Now That’s What I Call Disney”, which still has less and a bonus disk full of total shit, but I digress…

What Do You Know About Ska Punk is a pretty daunting prospect to review and I’m certainly not going to go through every song individually because I’m writing a review and not a new testament. The things I worried about before I started were as follows:

  • Will so many tracks make the quality of songs suffer?
  • Will having so many artists involved affect the record sound?
  • Will I go insane trying to listen to so much Ska Punk in one go?

With these points firmly in mind I delved in and after a brief introductory paragraph I’ll attempt to answer them.

WDYKASP looks a little like a Be Sharp promotions annual gig listing with some notable bands I was extremely happy to see on the line up, like Beng Beng Cocktail, Jake and the Jellyfish, Faintest Idea and – nestled right down the bottom – my favourite ska newcomers, Just Say Nay. That’s such a tiny selection, it’s unreal though but I’ll say this: If you’re a ska punk fan or have been to a show in the last year or even just walked past a poster for a ska show one time, you’ll probably find a good few names you recognise here. As tempting as it was to skip to the names I knew, I enjoyed swimming through new material to me in order to rest in familiar ground.

So, song quality then. I think with this many tracks you’re never going to love everything but by god did I get along with everything. Real standouts are never far away and new favourites crop up anywhere you care to look. You can be listening to The Pisdicables and then 5 minutes later you’re cracking up at MC Lars, or getting your groove on to Lead Shot Hazard and before you know it Stuck Lucky are your favourite band! We all have our favourite styles and groups but having so much here in one spot actively encouraged me to try out the unknown and leave the skip button alone. So that’s pretty awesome.

Sound quality is up next. There are some pretty big gaps in the recording of some songs but on average everything sounds pretty even - you’re not often desperately trying to save your ears because the song before is half the volume of the one just starting, which again is very impressive for a compilation created on such a ridiculously big scale. It’s maybe the biggest shame that a couple of great songs sound like they’re played underwater compared to the highest level bands but it’s not really a deal breaker and again this sort of thing is in the minority for the most part.

Which brings us to my sanity! Did it do my head in? A little, yeah. To answer the question at the very beginning of this article, I do like Ska Punk but would consider myself a journeyman rather than a master. I’ve seen a giant amount of ska bands live but my album collection at home doesn’t extend too far beyond Hello Rockview, Hang Ups and Civil Disobediants. Although I enjoyed the large majority of WDYKASP and it just can’t be stated just how amazing this is in terms of value. 135 tracks for $7 (or £25 post-Brexit sterling). That’s the sort of deal that would make DFS shit their pants so if you even have a passing affection for trumpet punk this is gonna be worth your while.

Stream and download the compilation here: https://whatdoyouknowaboutskapunk.bandcamp.com/album/what-do-you-know-about-ska-punk-vol-1

Like What Do You Know About Ska Punk? here: https://www.facebook.com/whatdoyouknowaboutskapunk/

Album Review: Deadaires by Deadaires (by Robyn Pierce)

The Deadaires self-titled album is a new offering from the Florida punk scene. The band includes former Against Me! bassist Andrew Seward, together with Ryan Murphy and Jeremy Rogers of True North. The album was released at the end of last year on Anxious and Angry, produced by J. Robbins and mastered by Brad Boatright (who worked on the awesome soundtrack for the Netflix series ‘Stranger Things’). With this sort of musical pedigree, I expected good things from Deadaires.

The album begins and ends with a fuzzy, throbbing groove that sets the pace and the mood of the record, which is slower and more mature than I was expecting. At the beginning this bleeds into the second track, ‘Constance Demario’, which has a tender, stripped-down feel that could be sung by just one man and his guitar. In fact, it reminds me a little of Johnny Cash and the songwriting-as-storytelling mode of many country songs. It begins solemnly with the opening lines “Well, Constance learned to catch a rat / and cunningly she caught her breath”, but it then builds to a delicate layering of sounds that offers a nostalgic lament to youthful indiscretion. The whole album displays this balance of warm, soulful guitar with thick, husky vocals. The third track ‘New York Was A Bad Idea’ is a singalong organised around a sultry guitar riff that grooves through the verses and then bangs out the chorus. Once again, the song reflects back upon past experiences, but with the insight that comes with middle age rather than simply regret. Following this, ‘Poor You, Poor Me’ is the shortest and most aggressive track on the album, but showcases the same clear and vibrant guitar tone that the others do. ‘Hideout’ is a song of contrasts and harmonies, throwing bright guitar riffs on top of rich bass tones and overlaying vocals. The effect is quite haunting, particularly with the song’s refrain “It’s a perfect place for him to hide / It’s a perfect place for me to hide”.

In an interview with Folio Weekly, Andrew mentions that the Deadaires album is a ‘happy accident’ that began as just a few friends getting together to play music. You can hear that the guys behind Deadaires get along well and enjoy making music together. They’ve taken time to craft each song and produce the album as a whole, creating a well-rounded sound in which no member or instrument tries to outshine the others. Everything sits together comfortably. As you move into the second half of the album, ‘Exit Polls’ is a midtempo track with some punchy drum rolls that also makes use of the slower gang vocals that I’m calling singalongs. I think the choice to include so many singalongs is part of why this album feels so collaborative. After ‘Exit Polls’, the latter third of the album slows down. ‘Time Ain’t’ opens with some experimental reverb before filling out into a gravelly ballad. ‘Boom Boom’ is a similarly relaxed track, but is more dynamic than the slow rumblings of ‘Time Ain’t’ and I found it a lot more satisfying. I think ‘Boom Boom’ could make a great karaoke song to sing on a night out with the guys. ‘Rosemary’ is my least favourite track; it fits in on the album but it just doesn’t have the fullness or warmth of the other songs.

Overall, the album is quite experimental – offering some new sounds from some familiar figures, and it could be classed as post-punk or post-hardcore. It wasn’t what I was expecting, based upon the band members’ previous projects, but I was pleasantly surprised. The production quality is high, but not too slick, and I really liked the blending and layering of sounds. I’m sure a lot of work went into getting the mix just right, and it really pays off. I would have liked to have a few more up-tempo songs, but then I also think that could ruin the overall feel of the album, which is fiery but also slow burning and brooding. This feels like an album to play on a sunny Florida afternoon while sipping something cold and thinking about all the places you’ve been and all the bands you’ve seen.

Stream and download Deadaires here: https://deadaires.bandcamp.com/releases

Like Deadaires here: https://www.facebook.com/Deadaires/

Monday, 23 January 2017

Album Review: 11 Short Stories Of Pain & Glory by Dropkick Murphys

Long running Boston Celtic punk band, Dropkick Murphys, recently released their ninth studio album. That's an amazing achievement for any band. Named 11 Short Stories Of Pain & Glory and released on the band's own Born & Bread Records label, it's the first Dropkick's album since 2013's Signed and Sealed In Blood. Yes, it's really been four years since Dropkick Murphys released an album. Fun fact: that's the longest time between new albums since the band released debut album, Do Or Die, back in 1998. As a big fan of the band, I always get so excited when the band release new material so I'm sure you can imagine that I was completely stoked to listen to 11 Short Stories Of Pain & Glory.

The album kicks off with a song named The Lonely Boatman. With a long introductory whistle opening up the song, it builds to that classic Dropkicks sound with some big gang vocal "Whoa-ohs" throughout the rest of the track. The Lonely Boatman serves as an introduction to the album. I also imagine this will now be the opening track at a Dropkick Murphys live show. Getting the album going properly is the track Rebel With A Cause. A really enjoyable feature of the Dropkick Murphys sounds has always been Al Barr and Ken Casey trading vocals during a song. This happens immediately here and really gives the song an up-tempo feel. Al's deeper vocal alongside Ken's more rough sound work wonderfully together. Rebel With A Cause is about a kid who appears to be down and out but has a lot of heart and is willing to fight for what they believe in. The next song Blood heavily features the talents of new Dropkick Murphys bagpiper Lee Forshner. It's a slow plodder of a song that also packs plenty of punch. It's a barroom drinking song that will get a whole crowd singing along and stomping their feet. Like a lot of Dropkick Murphys songs, it's about standing up for what you believe in and having the will to fight for it. Sandlot is the name of the fourth song on the album. Ken Casey takes lead vocals duties and sings about being young and not having much but realising you still had all the fun you could possibly have. Sandlot is immediately catchy and you'll be singing along before you know it. I found myself singing along whilst I was writing this review.

First Class Loser is about knowing that guy that everybody hates that you try your best to avoid. Ken and Al's dual vocals work brilliantly again, feeling likes a musical conversation between the two singers. We get to the chorus and, of course, the trademark Dropkick Murphys gang vocals come into play. Everyone in the band has a microphone, allowing a feeling of inclusiveness with the listener. Paying My Way starts out with a nice piano and drum combination. One of only two founding members left in the band, drummer Matt Kelly is one of the most underrated drummers from the world of punk rock in my opinion. It's a great track using just a simple beat behind Ken Casey's lyrics about making your way in the world by working hard and fighting for everything you have - and being proud to do so. I Hang My Hat is a fun song about Ken Casey losing his hat at a bar and kicking off. I hope it's a true story. This is a true Dropkick Murphys party song. It's fast paced with plenty of opportunity for singing, dancing and drinking. It's quite silly but not all songs need to be a super serious attempt to change the world - sometimes they can just be silly. Up next is the song Kicked To The Curb. Al takes lead vocals duties on this song and it feels like more of a traditional sixties rock 'n' roll tune given the Murphys treatment. The Dropkick Muprhys have developed such a wide range of sounds during their long musical career and do it all so well. Kicked To The Curb is a track about getting dumped by your girl and feeling like you've lost everything - including your dog!

The ninth song on 11 Short Stories Of Pain & Glory is a cover version of You'll Never Walk Alone. Made famous in the UK by Gerry and the Pacemakers and becoming the anthem for Liverpool FC, it's a song any football fan in the UK will have heard a lot. When I first heard the Dropkick Murphys version I wasn't so sure on it but after a few listens I loved it. According to Ken Casey, it was recorded in response to having to go to thirty wakes in two years due to opiate overdoses. The lyrics summed up exactly how he was feeling after one of the wakes - sad but knowing there is hope at the end of the line. The penultimate song on the album is titled 4-15-13. For those who don't know that is the date of the Boston Marathon Bombing. As I'm sure you can imagine, this is a sad and yet poignant song with the overriding message of we're all just people. No matter what our differences are, deep down every single one of us is the same. The band have done a magnificent job of honouring and remember those who sadly lost their lives that day. Finally we have Until The Next Time. Much like on the albums Blackout and Signed & Seeled In Blood, 11 Short Stories finishes with a song that could easily become the closer at a Murphys live show. Like Kiss Me I'm Shitfaced or End Of The Night, Until The Next Time Serves as a goodbye of sorts. It's a fun pop tune that can't help but bring a smile to my face. I can't wait to hear it live.

11 Short Stories is yet another fantastic album by the Dropkick Murphys. Over the years the band's sound has evolved a lot but they've always managed to make it sound like a Dropkick Murphys album. I have to admit that on my first listen of the album I was longing for some faster tunes like in the old days but I can't actually pick a bad song among on the eleven on this album.

Stream and download 11 Short Stories of Pain & Glory here: https://dropkickmurphyspunk.bandcamp.com/releases

Like Dropkick Murphys here: https://www.facebook.com/DropkickMurphys/

Friday, 20 January 2017

Making Friends

You might have heard but recently I moved house. Not only did I move house I moved from the town I have lived for almost thirty one years - my whole life. This was without a doubt the most difficult thing I have ever done but I'm slowly settling in and getting used to life not in sunny Essex. Now I have another problem, one that I've not had for many years. I know very few people in Bedford, where I now live. How do I go about making more friends?

When I look back at all the friends I've been lucky enough to make back at home and think about how I met them you can categorise them in two list - school and work. Now don't get me wrong I absolutely love my old work friends and many of them will be friends for life but one problem with hanging out with people from work outside of work is that you often find yourself talking about work. That's too much work. The best thing about my job is that once I clock out I don't have to think about work anymore. This leaves me with much more time to think about more important things such as punk rock and what else could go well with my chilli sauce that Emma's parents bought me for Christmas.

It also leaves me with time to think about how to make new friends in a new town. My first thought was the Internet. That's how I met Emma and that has worked out extremely well! Obviously you want to meet people with similar interests to you. I met Emma through a website called Taste Buds that links you up with people who share the same likes as you on Facebook. This seemed like a good idea until Emma pointed out that it might look like I'm looking for a date rather than a friend so probably also a bad idea. The Internet does seem like the best idea though. If you're reading this, you will know that my biggest interest is punk rock. So it would be great to meet some like minded people in Bedford. One idea I had is to create some kind group on the Facebook named "Punks In Bedford" to try and find people. It certainly seems likes a great place to start but could take a little while to get going. I will definitely give it a go though. Who knows there might be a vibrant punk scene in Bedford that Emma is yet to discover. If not maybe we could start something. Maybe I could start putting on shows and start our own Bedford scene? That would be cool.

Of course I could go the old fashioned way of meeting people. In the real world! Who remembers that? From what I understand lots of people make friends at pubs and bars. That has always been something quite difficult for me. Starting up conversations with strangers is a tricky thing for me as I'm sure it is for a lot of people. In the pub/bar scenario it's probably easier for people as we all know alcohol is great for letting people drop their inhibitions. Bit of a road block here for me though as I'm t-total. I don't drink alcohol at all - never have and probably never will. If I do manage to start up a conversation with anyone it more often than not will lead to drink and then I get the awkward conversation about not drinking. It usually goes like this:

"Would you like a drink?"
"Just a coke please"
"Are you driving?"
"No, I'm t-total"

Sometimes the conversation turns to other things but from their I often get quizzed about why I don't drink and it all gets a bit awkward and uncomfortable for me and it's just not fun. It instantly makes starting a friendship difficult as we've already got off to an awkward start.

I really think that my best chance of making new friends that aren't people I work with is by finding or at least starting a Bedford punk rock scene. From what I've learnt over the past six years of going to gigs punks are among the friendliest, smartest and most non-judgemental people around and they have a great taste in music.

If you happen to live in Bedford (or Milton Keynes) and you're reading this then please join this group: https://www.facebook.com/groups/1847717032136440/

Thursday, 19 January 2017

Top Tens: Davey Dynamite's Top Ten Punk Rock Influences

This was so ridiculously difficult to narrow down, I will have to do a top 100 next time, but here goes. To make it easier, I tried to keep this as straight-up punk rock as possible, which cut out a lot of my obvious folk, country, and folk punk influences.

If you’re interested, I also wrote a song about this 5 or so years ago! https://daveydynamite.bandcamp.com/track/punx-roxxx-aka-the-name-drop-song

In order of appearance in my life:

1. The Ramones

I very distinctly remember the first moments I heard The Ramones. My neighbor friends, Corey and Ryan, who got me into punk, put this on. I want to say it was “Beat On the Brat,” weirdly enough, that first hooked my brain in. The Ramones are a perfect example of early punk rock’s insistence on showing the ugly face of the “American Dream.” They’re drawing from the sound of oldies rock and roll and bubblegum pop, but it’s fucked up and dirty and even more fun. Punk rock both ruined and saved my life, and the sound and energy of this band is a big reason why. How was I going to be satisfied with a normal life after hearing The Ramones???

2. The Clash

Another obvious one, but The Clash is and forever will be the number one band to change my life. The Ramones deconstructed the walls and social norms built around me in a messy, clumsy, quick blast of energy. The Clash is the band to tell you that, yes this is all shit and it’s all phony and a bore, but we can direct our passion and anger to alert the world and maybe even make a change for the better. The Clash also used their countless covers and genre-bending songs to bring the idea forward that this world is big and full of people of all different types that feel the same way. This is the beginning of me forming a political conscious and recognizing that world issues are everyone’s issues. They are also the band that taught me how much passion went along with style, and how much it means to put everything you have into every performance you do.

3. Stiff Little Fingers

In terms of musical influence, Stiff Little Fingers may have had just as much, if not more, than the above two. For me, their music also holds up over time. Their political commentary is just as passionate and relevant and their music is just as catchy and meaningful. I try to blend the personal and poltical in my lyrics, and I’m sure I subconsciously lift a bunch from SLF. Additionally, it is inspiring to know that they lived through the danger that they sang about in so many of their songs, all while still also being bored teenagers.

4. The Hives

Never get me drunk and ask me about The Hives, because I won’t shut up. Actually, sober too. I truly believe The Hives are rock and roll robots created in a lab and released onto the world. The energy that they have in their recordings and live sound is unreal to me. It doesn’t sound that difficult until you see how fast and choppy and tight it all is, and then while showing off and being goofy and entertaining giant crowds. In terms of influence, I would say The Hives taught me to see the ways talent can manifest and how much I love music that is masterfully dynamic and explosive and shit.

5. The Replacements

It took me years. I liked their early stuff well enough and agreed when I saw the articles that said “Unsatisfied” was a masterpiece in rock and roll history, but The Replacements never really clicked with me that hard. Towards the end of my freshman year in college, I popped up the youtube video of “Bastard of Young” and nothing has been the same since. I know I had heard the song before, but something was different now. The Replacements will forever be one of the most important bands in my life, and I honestly could make up a bunch of shit on why, but at the end of the day, who knows. From beginning to end, their sound always changed and always remained meaningful and ridiculous. One of my latest philosophies has been to take the art seriously, but not the artist. The Replacements sure didn’t take themselves too seriously, but then went on to make music that evokes emotions and a nostalgia I will never be able to explain.

6. The Gaslight Anthem

Brian Fallon was the person I wanted to be when I grew up before I even knew he existed. I was honestly kind of pissed, at eighteen, when this random dude played the music I wanted to play and had the tattoos I wanted to have. What a prick. But for real, The Gaslight Anthem was one of the first contemporary punk bands I got hooked into and they won me over by talking and singing about how much they liked so many of the bands that I did (and are on this list!). They had interesting music and sang interesting and passionate words, all while wearing their history on their sleeve. They changed the way I thought about writing and got me through some hard times.

7. Dillinger 4

The explosiveness and speed of The Hives, with political and witty and funny in-your-face lyrics. I was slowly drifting from punk rock in a few ways when my partner Rigby showed me this band. They grabbed me by the face and threw me right back in again. From there, I got into some of my other current favorite bands as well. Dillinger 4 encompasses so much of what got me into punk rock in the first place. They’re also hilarious. I don’t know if you can really hear their influence in the music I make, but it’s definitely there in some way.

8. Bomb the Music Industry!

If the Ramones, to me, were the postmodern deconstruction of the rock and roll and the oldies tunes I loved, then BTMI were the same thing for punk itself. This band blew my mind, and I continue to be stoked with everything Jeff Rosenstock does. It’s hard to describe this band without nerding out too much, but I feel like there is something that everyone can like in them. They were based in doing things 110% despite not having the usual resources or people to make it happen, and they covered every genre within punk rock like a self-aware Wikipedia page. Their music is fun, exciting, full of collaboration, and constantly full of DIY spirit. It was also real when it needed to be and never shied away from singing about the depression and pitfalls that come with the transition into adulthood while holding onto your art and what you believe in.


I have so many wonderful memories of riding my bike around campus with this band running through my head. RVIVR were another band to refresh punk rock for me and open up new possibilities to melody, rad guitar shit, and political/social commentary. They’re also so ridiculously catchy. I definitely find their influence in my writing, especially when I think about vocal melodies and such.


GLOSS blew everyone away these past couple years, and for good reason. I am putting them on my list for a few reasons. First, because they influenced me to let punk rock mean what you need it to mean to stick to your ideals and who you are. GLOSS got so much traction so fast, it was ridiculous. They knew to turn down a record contract when they did not feel cool with everything that it meant and then they called it quits when they felt it was time. I can only hope to have that much grace and clarity in my art.

Additionally, GLOSS and RVIVR make me realize that my list up until now was basically entirely made up of white dudes. That’s fucked up. I can’t pretend I didn’t have the influences I did, and the fact that they’re all white dudes doesn’t take away from what they mean to me. That being said, we need to promote and pay attention to other voices in the punk scene. We’re all guilty of it, but we have a great opportunity with so many rad bands stepping up and making space for themselves.

Thanks for reading and giving a damn!

Stream and download Davey's new record Holy Shit here: https://dyingscenerecords.bandcamp.com/album/holy-shit

Like Davey Dynamite here:  https://www.facebook.com/daveytnt/

Wednesday, 18 January 2017

Album Review: Osbourne Heights by Joe Sullivan

Joe Sullivan was formerly in the fantastic London based acoustic ska band Bandit The Panther. Sadly Bandit split up almost two years ago but last December he released a solo EP named Osbourne Heights. I really liked Bandit The Panther so was looking forward to hearing what Joe would do as a solo act.

First up is Congratulations On Not Being An Idiot. I really wanted to like this song purely on the title and I'm pleased to say that I did. Immediately I was attracted to the song because of the rawness of the recording. Music doesn't always need to be perfectly produced, sometimes there is a lot more of a real feel to music when it's raw. The track is a fast paced number that really does remind me of Bandit The Panther - there is even a little brass towards the end of the song which was a welcome surprise. Strong opening to the EP. Up next is the song Replacement Girl. Starting out with duelling guitars, Joe sings softly about getting over a break up of a relationship by realising that, as the chorus states, "It's Okay To Be Okay." It's the guitars that really standout during the song, bouncing along with some great melodies. A fun song. The penultimate song on Osbourne Heights is named Eirika. This song starts out with a some soft guitar playing before Joe starts singing with a lot of sadness and plenty of emotion in his voice. The inclusion of a thick bass line and then some distorted electric guitar keeps the song building throughout its duration. As the seconds go by the song just sounds bigger and bigger. Lastly we have I'm Not The Only One. The track begins with some extremely self-depreciating lyrics. Musically this is probably the simplest of the three tracks relying much more on lyrics than music to entertain the listener. Another very strong song.

Joe Sullivan continues pretty much where previous project, Bandit The Panther, finished off. He's a man who seems very jaded with the world and portrays those feelings excellently through the medium of music. I'm glad that he's continuing with music as he's a big talent that is severely overlooked. He shouldn't be. Don't overlook him.

Stream and download Osbourne Heights here: https://happinesswerewolf.bandcamp.com/album/osborne-heights

Like Joe Sullivan here: https://www.facebook.com/joesullivanmusic/

Tuesday, 17 January 2017

Album Review: The Party We Came For by Joe McCorriston (by Emma Prew)

It doesn’t seem that long ago that I reviewed Joe McCorriston’s 4-track EP, Pre-drinks, (actually it was last April so that is quite a while ago) and now he’s back with a full length album called The Party We Came For. The album was released in December so you can download and stream it right now from Bandcamp (or Spotify), but first, here’s my review.

The first two songs on the album are two tracks that featured on the aforementioned EP. On one hand, it’s a shame that of 10 songs on The Party We Came For I have heard 2 of them before. But on the other hand, they are good songs! The album opener is called Alive and it probably is one of the best songs on the album. It’s an empowering yet deadly catchy song about simply wanting to live your life without worry about what other people might think. C’est La Vie, Pt. 2 is the other song that featured previously on Pre-Drinks and is second on the album. It’s a little slower and more bitter lyrically than Alive but is packed full of emotion.

The third song on The Party We Came For is called Cardboard Is Heavy Sometimes. It’s a fairly raw-sounding song which works with the lyrical content. The opening lines – ‘Something is bothering me, And I can’t seem to find the guts to tell you, Or tell the world, Tell anybody.’ – sets a bit of a negative feel to the song but the tempo feels otherwise. The next track, Castle Hill, is a slow-paced and heartfelt track, featuring predominantly acoustic guitar but also some harmonica – always a nice touch – and, I think, piano. It’s these musical elements that really stand out to me in the song.

Stomach Lining kicks off with a nice little bit of swinging guitar playing (you might have to hear it to know what I mean). This steady rhythm continues throughout the song and is a contrast with the lyrics – yep, you guess it, they’re not quite so cheery. ‘I know the taste, I know the smell, I know it makes me sick, I don’t want to die.’ I’m a great appreciator of when a songwriter can take their honest and/or pretty pessimistic lyrics and set them against more positive-sounding music – it shows that they know that it can and will get better. Following on from Stomach Lining is a song called Destiny and is about being stuck in a rut and the same routine when you know you have to change your ways. ‘He sits at home on Destiny, While his girlfriend cooks his tea, He knows there’s only one way this can end, He’s tried to stop but he can’t change.’ 

It’s Not My Place is a fairly quiet track that features some gentle guitar finger picking. The music backing is lovely but the lyrics and vocals are really quite sad. ‘Oh, what can I say?, To try and make you change your ways. And oh, it’s not my place, So you just hide behind that fate.’ This is definitely one of the most emotive songs on the album. Switching up the tempo and mood completely is Blockbuster Blues. A song that I first thought sounds sort of like Green Day. If Green Day were from the north of England and played DIY folk punk. It’s great and is one of my favourites on the album.

The penultimate song on The Party We Came For is called I Like It Here. Joe sticks with the full band sound of the previous track here with some reasonably loud drums and guitars – for a majorly acoustic-sounding album anyway. I get the sense that the latter half of the album is more hopeful. ‘It may not take much to fall off the edge… But it means we’ll fall with some grace. And probably a smile on your face.’ There’s a bit of a Frank Turner and The Sleeping Souls element to this song which is no bad thing for me! Bringing the album to a close is My Own Company, a song about dealing with anxiety and mental health issues. ‘I am sick and I can’t work it out, I loathe myself despite my impressive front.’ Musically the song is fairly simple with confident strummed chords. This allows for the listener’s full focus on the honest lyrics… and thus ends The Party We Came For. 

Find Joe McCorriston on Facebook here.
And, in case you missed the link above, you can download and stream The Party We Came For on Bandcamp here.

Monday, 16 January 2017

Album Review: All The Way by Laura Palmer

Laura Palmer are a punk rock band from Melbourne, Australia. Since forming in 2013 they have toured extensively around Australia and the United States, including some recent appearances at Pre-Fest and The Fest. In December 2016 the band released a new EP named All The Way. Their Facebook bio describes them as a punk rock band in the vein of Jawbreaker and Iron Chic - this got me quite keen to check them out.

Starting out with the EP's title track you are greeted with a crunchy melodic guitar track before the vocals kick in and you can immediately feel the Iron Chic connection. It's a slow paced almost spoken word vocal style that Iron Chic's Lubrano has mastered. Laura Palmer's Niam Hegarty does a great job of this style as well, it's a great way of getting a listener really invested into a song straight away as you don't have to really concentrate on the lyrics to get involved in the song. As you might expect the chorus is a full blown shout along, fists in the air affair. "All The Way Up, All The Way Down, Like An Old Friend Coming Round, All The Way Up, All The Way Down, Can You Feel It" is something you'll be singing after one listen.

The second of the three songs on All The Way is titled Blue Pills. Starting out with a thick bass line before some quick vocals and then finally settling on a mid tempo pattern. The fast start really caught my attention at the beginning and made me want to listen to the entire track. This is another track you will be singing along to immediately, with plenty of massive "Whoa-oh's" throughout. I can just imagine being in a tiny but packed club singing along to this at the top of my voice.

Finally we have the song So Much Rain. On So Much Rain Laura Palmer's other member Stuart Young takes the lead vocals. There is much more of a melodic feel with Young's vocals compared to Hegarty's and it adds a nice bit of variety to the Laura Palmer sound. It's still as catchy as the common cold though with the line "Gotta Dam It Up" frequent throughout the song. So Much Rain is a song about bottling up those feelings and not looking back on the past. Hegarty also added some nice harmonies to the track that gives the song a whole new layer.

It seems like every week I'm discovering - or in this case get told about - another excellent Australian punk band. The scene there is growing so much and it's all quality stuff. Laura Palmer are a band that offers a different sound, a brilliant sound. Looking forward to hearing more from these guys.

Stream and download All The Way here: https://laurapalmermelb.bandcamp.com/album/all-the-way

Like Laura Palmer here: https://www.facebook.com/laurapalmersgone

Friday, 13 January 2017

Never Too Old To Rock ’n’ Roll (by Emma Prew)

I feel like I’ve mentioned quite a few times (in various blog posts) that my parents have had a huge influence on my music taste over the years. They’ve always been huge music fans – and very much still are – both in terms of buying albums and going to live shows. Their music taste(s) varies from folk and Americana to 80s hair metal and classic rock, as well as modern rock and even some punk bands.

Now, more than ever, they are discovering lots of new bands and, particularly in recent years, they have started going to more and more ‘smaller’ gigs. I feel like most people their age, and indeed their friends and peers, probably only go to the odd stadium or arena shows – if that. Last year (2016) they went to more gigs than any year previously – including ‘back in the day’ – and, although they have decided that this year they probably won’t do quite so many, they’ve got plenty more planned for 2017.

Although my parents are not strictly punk fans, I think that live music is an integral part of the punk scene and I am proud that my parents love going to gigs – almost as much as I do. As this is a blog post about them, but neither actually wanted to write a guest post for me, I thought this was best composed as a sort of interview.

How did you get into rock music?
Mum: My older brother’s influence. 
Dad: Listening to John Peel’s show on Radio One, 10pm–midnight.

When did you go to your first gig? Who was it and where was it?
M: At age 12 I saw a pop group called Marmalade at the Embassy theatre in Peterborough. When I was about 15 or 16 I went with my brother and his friends to see prog-rock acts such as Curved Air, Atomic Rooster and Yes at Boston Gliderdrome – which was quite an iconic music venue of the East Anglia area.
D: It was probably Steeleye Span at the Embassy in Peterborough in about 1975. I wasn’t able to go to gigs until I could drive as in King’s Lynn [where he lived] there wasn’t much in the way of modern live music. 

What do you enjoy about live music?
Both: The sound is different to on recording and there is more of a sense of atmosphere. You can’t compare it to recorded music.
M: Sometimes you get really good support acts that you’ve perhaps never heard of before and could become new favourites. For example, my brother and I went to see a band called Golden Earring and (the original) Lynyrd Skynyrd were supporting. He’d heard of them but I hadn’t!

What were some of the best gigs you went to ‘back in the day’?
Both: In the late 70s we went to De Montford Hall in Leicester and saw the likes of Peter Gabriel, Supertramp and Rush, among others. In 1981 we moved to Milton Keynes which was (or is) home to the National Bowl. This massive outdoor venue had artists such as David Bowie, Guns N Roses, Queen, U2 and Bruce Springsteen play there but we didn’t go to a lot there – mostly because it was all outdoors!

And how about more recently?
D: In 2015, you [Emma] invited me along to see Chuck Ragan at the Scala in London. I’d previously seen one of his Revival Tour shows and agreed to go again. Nearer the date, mum decided to join us as well. We were all so impressed by the whole show – including support acts Skinny Lister and Tim Vantol – that we wanted to go to more gigs.
M: At the end of 2015, we began to look at what gigs were on locally and ended up booking to go to three different shows at The Stables in Milton Keynes in the early part of 2016. We had been to a handful of shows the previous year, big and small, in London and more locally, and felt the need for more live music. One of the bands we went to see were called Hunter & The Bear, an unsigned London-based rock band. We were so impressed by their energy, enthusiasm and musicianship that we have been to see them three more times. Through them we have also discovered other artists that we wouldn’t have come across otherwise.

You’ve started discovering smaller bands and going to smaller shows, do you prefer these?
M: Yes, I suppose. I think we’ve realised that the bigger shows are a lot of money and you can’t very often even see anything. The sound in a lot of those venues isn’t as good as it should be. Money-wise the smaller shows are much better value and you definitely don’t lack in musical quality. We saw an artist called Luke Tuchscherer in Bedford last year and he played for about 2 hours – it was brilliant.

Why do you think you’ve rekindled your love for live music and music in general?
Both: I think we’ve probably answered this in our previous answers but it helps that we are both now retired and have more time for music. We can go to gigs on weeknights if we want to and not have to worry about getting up for work the next day!

What’s changed since the first gigs you went to?
D: Ticket prices have gone up a lot! There weren’t any booking fees in those days. We used to send a stamped addressed envelope to the ticket office and they’d post the tickets back to you. Or you had to phone up to order them. On a more positive note, there are a lot more music venues now.

Do your friends think it’s weird that you go to so many gigs (and probably bands that they’ve never heard of too)?
M: Probably! Some people that don’t know us so well are surprised as we’re maybe not the typical gig-goers. I think the others that do know us well probably think we’re a bit odd!
D: Most certainly!

In the punk scene there is generally a sense of everyone being welcome, regardless of age or anything else. Do you ever feel that you’re ‘too old’ at the gigs you go to? If so, why?
D: At most gigs we go to there are older people, even if the majority of the crowd is younger. It depends on the band or artist and venue really.
M: I don’t think we’ve ever been to anything and felt really out of place. Sometimes at a gig, for example, when we saw Skinny Lister at the Monarch in Camden the younger people in the crowd can be quite lively and we have to take a step back away from them. But it doesn’t affect our enjoyment of the gig.

When do you think you will actually stop going to gigs?
D: Not any time soon.
M: I think they will just get fewer and we will become more selective. We won’t stop going to The Stables in Milton Keynes as that is a sit-down theatre venue.

Is live music the best kind of music?
Both: Yes!
M: And if we physically can’t go to gigs anymore, there’s always YouTube.

Thursday, 12 January 2017

Top Tens: Colin's Top Ten Lookout Records Bands

Recently I have been reading a few books about Lookout Records and founder Larry Livermore. For those unaware Lookout Records was a legendary punk rock label that famously put out early records by Green Day and Operation Ivy (before Tim and Matt went on to form Rancid). A lot of my favourite bands from the 1990s punk scene put out records on Lookout, probably as many as were on Fat Wreck Chords and Epitaph Records so I figured I'd do a top ten Lookout Records Bands.

Ann Beretta - Ann Beretta, like a few bands on this list, are criminally underrated. I first heard them after they released Three Chord Revolution on Golf Records in the UK. Because of this great record I checked out their previous work and the two Lookout releases are the ones that really stood out to me. To All Our Fallen Heroes and New Union Old Glory are both fantastic releases. Check out the tracks Fire In The Hole, Burning Bridges, Nowhere Generation and Glory Bound.

The Donnas - The Donnas were one of the later Lookout Record successes. Before they signed to major label Atlantic they released three full lengths on Lookout - American Teenage Rock 'N' Roll Machine, Get Skintight and The Donnas Turn 21. Those earlier days feature much more of a pop and garage punk sound compared to their current day take on modern rock 'n' roll. Check out Rock 'N' Roll Machine, 40 Boys In 40 Nights and Hook It Up.

Green Day - If it wasn't for Green Day then it is probably fair to say that the majority of bands who released something through Lookout Records wouldn't have had their chance. After releasing their first two full length albums - 1,039/Smoothed Out Slappy Hours and Kerplunk - through Lookout they got signed to Reprise and the rest is history. Check out Going To Pasalacqua and Welcome To Paradise.

The Groovie Ghoulies - Sacramento's Groovie Ghoulies developed somewhat of a cult following. The Ghoulies first two albums were rereleased by Lookout before the label released their next four albums, including the classics World Contact Day and Fun In The Dark. Known for the trademark horror and sci-fi pop punk tunes there wasn't a band quite like The Groovie Ghoulies. Check out The Beast With Five Hands, Running With Bigfoot and Punk Pt. 2.

The Lillingtons - Technically The Lillingtons released Death By Television on Panic Button Records which was an imprint of Lookout but it was just too good to leave off of this list. Another band that loved the horror and sci-fi genres and incorporated it into their fast as fudge pop punk sound. Obviously The Lillingtons' Kody went on to join one of the most popular pop punk bands of the current generation, Teenage Bottlerocket, but this is where he started. Check out Don't Trust The Humanoids, X-Ray Specs and Murder On My Mind.

The Mr T Experience - Before Dr Frank Portman was writing hit teen fiction stories he was the founding member of The Mr T Experience. Between 1990 and 2004 The Mr T Experience released seven full length albums on Lookout including Love Is Dead, Revenge Is Sweet and So Are You and Yesterday Rules. Known for their smart, catchy and often sarcastic lyrics the band are still going today. Check out Ba Ba Ba Ba Ba, Love Is Dead, We Are The Future People Of Tomorrow and She's Not A Flower.

Operation Ivy - Like Green Day a lot of the success of Lookout Records is due to Operation Ivy. Despite only ever releasing one album (Energy) they are one of the most legendary and influential punk bands in history. Check out Knowledge, Unity, Take Warning, Bad Town and to be honest the whole album.

The Queers - New York's The Queers combined the three chord pop punk sound of The Ramones and added the vocal harmonies of The Beach Boys to create a wonderful sound. Like The Mr T Experience, a large part of The Queers discography was originally released on Lookout including their debut Grow Up and classics such as Love Songs For The Retarded, Move Back Home and Pleasant Screams. Check out Ursuala Finally Has Tits, Ben Weasel, Punk Rock Girls and Boobarella.

Screeching Weasel - Despite what you could call quite a turbulent relationship with Lookout Records, Chicago's Screeching Weasel released four record on the label as well as another two on the imprint Panic Button Records. What you'd call the band's best work came out on Lookout and despite all the controversy that often surrounds Ben Weasel you have to look at that body of work with fond memories of some great music. Check out The Science Of Myth, Joanie Loves Johnny and Hey Suburbia.

Squirtgun - I, like I predict many Squirtgun fans, first heard of the band through Kevin Smith's cult classic movie Mallrats. The band was started by super producer Mass Giorgini in 1993 and released their first two albums through Lookout - their self titled debut and Another Sunny Afternoon. Playing more of a powerpop style than traditional pop punk the clearer production really help Squirtgun stand out amongst some of their peers. Check out Mary Ann, So Cool, Social and Mr Orange.

Wednesday, 11 January 2017

Book Review: Tranny: Confessions of Punk Rock’s Most Infamous Anarchist Sellout by Laura Jane Grace (by Robyn Pierce)

I finished reading Tranny by Laura Jane Grace within five days of picking it up. The style of the books feels as though you’ve just found a quiet moment to sit down with the lead singer and pioneer of the band Against Me! to discuss her struggles with gender dysphoria and self-acceptance. This makes it an accessible and uncomplicated book to read, but also leaves you feeling like you’ve been trusted with something personal – the raw ‘confessions of punk rock’s most infamous anarchist sellout’. The book is co-written with Dan Ozzi, editor of Noisey, but the narrative voice belongs solely to Grace. Ozzi’s influence can be seen in the careful structuring of the book, which moves between Grace’s retrospective writing and journal entries from the time of the events that she is discussing. There must have been hundreds of journal entries to sort through and the skillful selection of these personal excerpts helps to maintain the pace of the book and brings immediacy to the emotions that Grace is describing.

Tranny begins with a five year old Tom Gabel mesmerized by the image of Madonna as she sings ‘Material Girl’ on TV. This starting point becomes increasingly important as the book progresses and Grace finds herself entangled in the politics of trying to be a successful punk rock band. Madonna stands as a symbol of everything that Grace hopes to be: a respected and popular artist who derives confidence from a female identity. The strength of this book is that it doesn’t attempt to gloss over or sugarcoat the trauma of Grace’s dysphoria. The self-hate and isolation, the reliance on drugs, and the strain put on personal relationships are laid bare. Grace also doesn’t hold back in her assessment of Tom Gabel, essentially labelling him as a self-centered ‘prick’. Many of Tom’s problems are shown to be linked to his inability to fully accept his desire to be ‘her’. When Laura Jane Grace finally lays Tom Gabel to rest and emerges as ‘her’ it is a triumphant moment, because she is now able to live an open and authentic life (even if this comes with its own challenges). Tranny also peels back the polished veneer of the band Against Me!, with insights into band tensions and disputes, touring, and the recording process. This helps to shed any romanticized notions of what it must be like to be in a punk band, and it’s clear that Grace’s efforts to try and run from her dysphoria by going on tour often serve to worsen her symptoms. The book follows Against Me! from its early beginnings on Plan-It-X records, through its Fat Wreck days, to Sire and opening for bands like Green Day and Foo Fighters. From the moment Against Me! moves to Fat they are attacked and labelled as ‘sell outs’. Grace does well to deal with this quite openly: admitting to falling prey to certain pressures while also criticizing the selfish possessiveness of many punk fans.

Grace has noted in interviews that she understands, and agrees, that ‘tranny’ is an offensive term, but that it is a fitting title for her book because it deals with the fear and self-loathing experienced by Grace during her dysphoria. I think this is a brave move on Grace’s part which does fit in with the core focus of her book. At its heart, Tranny is a book about confronting the worst thought you’ve had about yourself and gaining confidence by overcoming it. I blew through this book wanting to get to the victorious transformative moment at the end – and I can assure you that there is a poignant moment with Grace’s daughter that put a lump in my throat and left me feeling deeply satisfied – but it’s clear by the end that this will be a continuous journey for Grace. And really, the journey described by Laura Jane Grace is much like the one every person must embark upon as we all attempt to develop and become our best selves. This book will satisfy Against Me! fans who want to know what went down behind the scenes of their favourite albums and shows. However, Grace has become an important advocate for the transgender community and, while this book certainly focuses on her personal experience, her confessions in Tranny offer vital insight into gender dysphoria and transgender experience.

Tuesday, 10 January 2017

Album Review: Status Quo by Behind Deadlines

Ska punk was a big part of me discovering punk rock music. Bands like Less Than Jake and Reel Big Fish were a massive part of my musical education. As I've gotten older I haven't listened to ska punk quite as much but I still love it. I don't often get sent much ska punk music to review so when Lauren from Mills On Wheels PR sent me Status Quo by Behind Deadlines I was quite excited to discover that they are a ska band. This was going to be a very fun record to review.

Status Quo gets going with the song Biochemistry. Behind Deadlines sound is evident from the get go. It's upbeat and has plenty of bounce. It's a bit of a throwback to the 90's third wave ska movement with a modern twist. Lead singer Zach Brooks has a very distinctive voice that works extremely well with the music. Everything about this sound I enjoy. Despite the upbeat sound of the song if you take a look at the lyrics it's actually quite a sad song about feeling at odds with the world. " I Must Have Been Oxygen And You Were Hydrogen. We Were Combustive Like The Sun. Just Like Uranium, It's So Unstable. I Want To Destroy It All Now That You're Gone, My God, I Can You Hand Me That Glass?" is a great set of lyrics for the scientists among us. Up next is Sick Of It All. This track is about feeling fed up with your life but not being willing to change it. Despite the again downcast nature of the lyrics the music is so upbeat it's hard not to smile along with the song. There's a big element of pop music in this song and part of me can imagine a boy band singing this song, that might be because it's so damn catchy. Laid Off begins with some horns that give the song a serious tone to get us going. This time Brooks sings about working for a struggling company, hanging around hoping for the best before you eventually lose your job. This is the first song on Status Quo that really shows the gentlemen in Behind Deadlines brilliant musicianship. This track also feels like it might be a bit of an anthem at a Behind Deadlines live show with the line "Whoa-Oh-Oh, You Got Laid Off."

The fourth song on Status Quo is named Hey Dear Friend. Hey Dear Friend is a fast paced track about noticing your friend is not around anymore but realising that you don't actually miss them. There is another chance for Brooks to show off his musical chops with a superb guitar solo towards the end of the song, followed by some big horns before one last chorus. Making Change is a song that is a lot of fun. If ever a song was made to get you dancing it's this one. The bouncy rhythm is infectious, your feet will be tapping, your hips will be swaying, your head will be nodding, you will not be stationary whilst you listen to this song. Making Change is obviously about finding a way to make changes in your life for the better. Forgetting about other people and looking after yourself for once. Six Months has an extended horn introduction before we get into a slower paced but still quite bouncy track about the aftermath of a break-up. That awkward time when you're trying to get over somebody whilst always having to see them. Six Months is a song that really allows Behind Deadlines horn players to shine. Sink Or Swim sees the band pick the pace back up. Brooks sings some quick fire lines about realising it's now or never with the band and deciding to really give it a try. There is a lot of pirate metaphors throughout the song that I really enjoyed. In particular the chorus - "It’s Sink Or Swim, Get Out’ (Of) The Brig Or Walk The Plank, Don’t Have The Time To Preach And Argue With A Crew That’s Always Tanked, This Ship May Have Run Ashore, But It Hasn’t Run Its Course, Grab The Oars, I See The Tide Is Rollin’ In.

Up next is the song Optimism. I'm really reminded of 90's third wave heroes Edna's Goldfish on this track. Another song that allows the horns to lead the song, I really think that this is when Behind Deadlines are at their best. Optimism is about putting on a positive face despite feeling pretty negative about life. The ninth song, Worthless is a massive amount of fun. It's about that friend who complains about everything to the point that you're so fed up of it that you don't want to see them anymore. The chorus on this track is what really stood out to me. It's like being in a mosh pit wearing a bubble and bouncing off everyone really really quickly. It's a chorus that will get a live crowd really moving. The penultimate song on Status Quo is Escape From Philadelphia. It's about wanting to get out of the bands hometown Philadelphia. It talks about the music scene taking a down turn and deciding to go elsewhere as a band. The chorus is again superb, the band can write some brilliant hooks that really grab you by the bits and have your attention. Finally Status Quo is finished with Drinking To Brazil. The pirate theme is back with the song seeming like a pirate sea shanty only with a ska sound. As you can probably guess from the songs title this is also a drinking song. I loved the use of gang vocals, it's a shame more of the songs on the album didn't include this as it adds another fantastic layer to the Behind Deadlines sound. This is a great, fun, uplifting way to finish off the album. With a great big smile on your face.

Stream and download Status Quo here: https://behinddeadlines.bandcamp.com/album/status-quo

Like Behind Deadlines here: https://www.facebook.com/BehindDeadlines

Monday, 9 January 2017

Album Review: Holy Shit by Davey Dynamite

On the 20th of December I posted my top ten albums on 2016 list. If I had posted it on the 21st of December it might have been a little different. On the 20th of December a man from Chicago named Davey Dynamite released his debut album titled Holy Shit, on Dying Scene Records. I'm sure you've worked out that I thought it was great - here's why.

The album starts off with title track - Holy Shit. What a way to start an album. The title itself is fairly shocking but when the music hits you, you know this album is going to pretty special. Starting out with some buzzing guitars, things get quiet with some soft electric guitars and vocals. This goes on for a little while, occasionally bursting into live with explosive musical outbursts. This all leads to an eruption of punk rock excellence at the end of the track. Following this instant classic is a track named Rock and Roll. This is a song that goes 100mph from the outset. It's a pulse raising, fist pumping, onslaught of punk rock music. It's about making the most out of everything because, at the end of the day, we're not here for a long time. This is punk music at its finest for me. It's inspiring and it makes me excited. I can't help but want to sing, dance and start a mosh pit in my living room as I listen to this banger. The final shouts of "Let's Make This Fucking Matter" just complete what I think is a perfect song. Transitions continues the fast pace musically but takes a more reserved approach with its overall sound. From the opening lyrics of "I Got Acne, My Hair Is Thinning At The Same Time, And I'm Slowly Learning That I Don't Mind", I was hooked on this song about growing up. Sometimes it only takes a couple of lines to make you realise that you really love a song - this was definitely the case on Transitions.

The fourth song, 380 Times, is a rebel rousing number. Here Davey Dynamite questions why people higher up the hierarchal chain earn so much more than the people at the bottom. The rawness of this working class anthem really reminds me of old school Against Me! and is something that I adore. There is so much energy and passion in the song that you can tell Davey really means and cares about every word that he sings. Because he cares so much it makes me care more and really makes you think about the meaning of the song. I guess that's the point of the song - to make you think, so good job Davey Dynamite. The ending of the track is another that fills the listener with inspiration. The lines "We Are Worth More Than Their Dollars" ring out and really give you a massive lift. Hope Is Found is a song that builds beautifully. It's a love song. All the best punk rock albums have a love song on them. It's basically the rule. Hope Is Found is a song about finding love when you are at your worst and not expecting it. Something I can relate to hugely and I imagine many people reading this will feel the same. Going back to the Against Me! comparison the sixth song on Holy Shit, Man Enough, makes me think Teenage Anarchist part two. That's not to say it's a rip off of the song, because it's most definitely not, but the theme of not fitting in and wanting to smash through the barriers that are put in front of you is similar. On Man Enough the not fitting in element is due to being queer and feeling ostracised in the punk scene. There is so much emotion pouring out of the song whether it be anger or sadness. The delivery of the lyrics "Every Time A Kid Uses A Synonym Of Gay A Barrel Of A Gun Gets Closer To A Brain" is absolutely heartbreaking. This is some really incredible and important songwriting. Next we are treated to a dose of pop punk with the song Flower. The fast paced vocals are quite reminiscent of The Ergs! if Face To Face's Trevor Keith sang for them. I enjoyed the thick and heavy bassline that occurs throughout the track - it does a great job of carrying the melody of the song.

Mowing At Grandma's mixes things up somewhat with more of a stripped back soulful sound. It's a fun little song about returning home and keeping up with traditions despite things changing. The stripped back sound works well on the song and is a good change from the powerful full band sound that we've heard on the majority of Holy Shit. Following on from Mowing At Grandma's, we have the song 4th Of July. This is another really sad and heartbreaking song about feeling as if you're losing your freedom despite being told that that's what soldiers going to war is for. As sad and heartbreaking as this song is it's also quite beautifully written, sung and played. Davey Dynamite has written such a moving piece of music that again really makes you think. This guy is just an incredible songwriter. Topics covered in the song include soldiers with PTSD, working a minimum wage job and people being jailed unfairly. The penultimate song on Holy Shit is named Fuckheads. (Probably the most amount of swearing I've done in one line on this blog). Returning to the full band sound, this gets us sprinting down what has been a phenomenal album. Fuckheads is about fighting for change to help improve the world, even for the people who you might think are bad. More excellent fist pumping campfire punk rock sing-alongs here and I love it. I also love the addition of a backing vocal courtesy of Rigby Nix, providing some excellent harmonies. The additional vocals add a community feel to the song. This works well with the political nature of the track. The album is concluded in the way all albums should be concluded. It's an extended rollercoaster of a track with all the highs and lows you could possibly need. It is named Gods. There's a great mix of styles and tempo throughout Gods whether it's slow and thoughtful, loud and shouty or a fast melodic style - it is always entertaining and works fantastically well. The line "We Are The Gods Of The New World" is the one that really stands out for me. The song is about realising it is the punk rock way of thinking that is eventually going to change the thinking of people - and this generation of punks will be leading the charge. Another exquisite track.

Holy Shit is an album that has come out of nowhere to be one of the best releases of 2016. Davey Dynamite it a supremely gifted songwriter managing to move me in some way on every song. It surely won't be long until everyone is talking about Davey Dynamite. In the future I can see him being one of the most important and influential person in punk rock!

Stream and download Holy Shit here: https://dyingscenerecords.bandcamp.com/album/holy-shit

Like Davey Dynamite here: https://www.facebook.com/daveytnt/