Sunday, 30 April 2017

Gig Review: Manchester Punk Festival 2017 Day Two 21/4/17

After a fantastic opening night of MPF, Emma and I were out and about quite early for the second day of Manchester Punk Festival. With some time in the day to kill we hit up three of Manchester's record shops and got some food at the awesome V-Rev Vegan Diner, a place that does amazing vegan junk food. If you're ever in Manchester and you are in need of food then we thoroughly recommend it - whether you are vegan or not! On with the punk rock!

Bear Trade were tasked with the job of opening up the festival's main home base for the entire weekend, Sound Control. If memory serves me correctly they were also the first band to play on the Saturday at the first MPF. Bear Trade had also just released their awesome new album named Silent Unspeakable, on Everything Sucks Music, the same day so in a way MPF was also their album release show. The Northern gruff punks' set was comprised mostly of songs from the new album and they all sounded ace. Bear Trade are one of those bands you can't help but want to sing along with. They play with such a charm and it's clear they love doing what they do.

After watching Bear Trade upstairs in Sound Control, we quickly headed downstairs to catch whatever we could of Nervus before Petrol Girls were due to kick off upstairs – it was non-stop punk rock from the outset! Nervus are a melodic indie punk four-piece from Watford who I’d heard a lot of good things about but not had the chance to see live. It was great to be able to catch them at MPF, even if we only really saw the last few songs of their set. There were certainly a lot of other keen punk fans there to watch the band, as we ended up standing at the back of the room – and Sound Control isn’t small. I’m keen to see Nervus again as soon as possible and until then I’ll be listening to their debut album, Permanent Rainbow.

Leaving the downstairs stage behind, we went back upstairs (lots of flights were logged on our Fitbits this weekend) and were just in time for Petrol Girls. Like for Nervus downstairs, the top floor space was also getting pretty darn busy. We managed to edge halfway into the room but there were plenty of packed in punks ahead of us all eagerly awaiting the band so we settled to one side. Petrol Girls have got to be one of the most talked about bands not only in the punk scene but in the wider alternative music world. With their strong feminist, humanitarian and anti-fascist views, they are a band that needs to be heard – and a band that is best heard live too. I’ll make it no secret that I don’t generally enjoy punk bands that are more on the hardcore or generally ‘shoutier’ side of things all that much, BUT I love a Petrol Girls live performance – maybe it’s something to do with the sense of female empowerment that frontwoman Ren gives me. Touch Me Again was simply amazing. In fact, I loved the band’s set so much that it was over all too soon. They left the stage and I left deeming Petrol Girls my favourite of all heavier punk bands.

We hung around after Petrol Girls to make sure we got a decent spot for Throwing Stuff. Featuring one of MPF's organisers Kieran Kelly on guitar, this was the third year running that Throwing Stuff have played the festival. Fresh off the back of their excellent TNS release Fine, Fit & Well, Throwing Stuff were guaranteed to be one of many high points of the weekend. If you've seen Throwing Stuff before you know you're in for a set full of fast hardcore punk music whilst lead singer Ben throws himself around the stage and the pit screaming his songs. How he manages to continue singing while going so crazy is beyond me. The new tracks sound fantastic with a highlight being the band's final song, Father's Day. This was also one of the most emotional moments of the whole weekend as the song is about Ben's recently deceased father and this was the first time it's been played live since his sad passing. Massive props also have to go to Kieran for playing the set despite badly breaking his knee a couple of months ago and still being on crutches. He must have been in agony by the end of Throwing Stuff's set.

We made a quick exit as soon as Throwing Stuff’s set finished so that we could claim a good spot for one of Colin's Punk Rock World’s favourite UK ska punk bands, Faintest Idea, who were playing MPF for their second year in a row. We caught the very end of Maid of Ace’s set in the packed out basement of Sound Control – it was great that both spaces in the venue were full and that there were different bands on offer to cater to all punk tastes. Faintest Idea were one of my favourite bands that I saw last year at the festival and it’ll come as no surprise if I say that they were one of the bands I was most looking forward to seeing in 2017. As a TNS band, they always receive a great reaction from a Manchester crowd – hey, they receive a great reaction from any crowd really but maybe I’m bias – and MPF 2017 was no exception. Playing songs from their 2016 album, Increasing The Minimum, as well as plenty of favourites from older albums, Faintest Idea wasted no time in getting the Sound Control crowd moving. It was probably the set of the weekend that I danced, skanked and just generally moved the most to. Awesome stuff from the King’s Lynn band once again.

It's amazing that despite the relative infancy of MPF that they managed to book Strike Anywhere to play. It's a great testament of how well the whole event has grown in just three years. Strike Anywhere were one of the bands that I was most excited for when bands first started to be announced. I'd wanted to see them for ages now and having missed the chance at Fest due to a clash this felt like a bonus chance. The upstairs area of Sound Control was completely packed, we only just about got in after watching Faintest Idea and had to settle with a spot towards the back of the room to watch Strike Anywhere's first UK performance in seven years. That didn't matter though as the band from Richmond, Virginia, got the crowd going with a set full of favourites. The energy the band displayed throughout their performance was nothing short of incredible. No member of the five piece seemed to be stationary for a second. This energy was infectious and spilled into the crowd, everyone in Sound Control was so amped up for Strike Anywhere. I found myself edging closer and closer to the stage, wanting to soak up every bit of this incredible atmosphere. Hearing my personal favourites, Infrared and Too The World, was a particular highlight for me. Strike Anywhere were extremely worthy headliners. Let's hope they don't leave it another seven years before returning to our shores.

After Strike Anywhere finished we quickly rushed to Zombie Shack to make sure we could get in to see The Clash cover set. When we arrived we discovered a band were already playing. This was Nosebleed playing a surprise set for those festival goers who unfortunately couldn't make it into Sound Control for either Strike Anywhere or The Toasters who were playing downstairs. This was a very pleasant surprise as Nosebleed put on a fantastic show of garage punk madness. Getting the small crowd of people that had gathered very involved in their set, whether it was crowd surfing band members or getting everybody to sit down just to get up again. This was a very fun surprise set.

When Nosebleed finished up their surprise set, it was time for everyone’s favourite classic punk band… The Clash! Well, the closest thing we were going to get to The Clash at Manchester Punk Festival in 2017 anyway. This was a Clash cover band comprising of Kieran of Throwing Stuff on guitar and Andy of Revenge Of The Psychotronic Man on bass – who both also happen to be MPF organisers – as well as two other members that we didn’t recognise (so apologies that I’m unable to namecheck their bands, assuming they are also in other bands). As I’m writing this review a week after seeing ‘The Clash’ I can’t remember precisely all of the songs that they played but I know that they kicked off with one of my absolute favourites, Janie Jones. I also recall a rendition of White Riot in which Andy took over vocal duties and gave the song a Revenge-style spin. I don’t remember hearing the obvious classics such as London Calling, Should I Stay Or Should I Go or Death Or Glory but we did leave their set early to ensure that we’d be able to get into Zoo for the afterparty – so I imagine they played one or two of those. I thoroughly enjoyed what we did see and if this is the only version of The Clash I ever get to see I think I’ll be content… I mean, I’m never going to see the real Clash unless time machines get invented anyway.

While the cover sets continued at Zombie Shack (Against Me! and NOFX), we made our way towards Zoo to make sure that we’d get inside in time for the start of Matilda’s Scoundrels’ set. Zoo is a large club-type space attached to a pub and is a little further away from the other more central MPF venues – it was actually closer to our hotel which worked in our favour at home time! When we arrived at Zoo we found a substantial, for a punk show at least, queue winding its way around the side of the building. I figured that they were late opening the doors rather than the venue already being full, although when we were allowed entrance we found that the room was filling up nicely. We also found that the band had already begun but I think it was the first song. Matilda’s Scoundrels were one of my favourites from last year but their set unfortunately clashed with another band and we split our time between the two – hence why I wanted to see all of their set this year! The 6-piece folk punk band from Hastings are such a lively and enthusiastic live band that it made perfect sense to have them at one of the ‘after parties’. Of course, they brought along their inflatable dingy for members of the audience to ‘crowdsail’ in. This just added to the choas that songs such as Sinking In Their Sins and Pissheads Anthem were already inducing. Apparently the dingy got confiscated by Zoo security but not before it took out part of the lighting rig. Well, it was a punk festival after all. I love Matilda’s Scoundrels and I can’t wait to see them again.

Sweet Empire were the next band up and I was really looking forward to seeing them again. It was my first time seeing them in four years, the first time was at Urban Bar in Whitechapel in 2013, a show I went to on a whim because my friend bet me I couldn't go to 52 gigs in a year (I could and I did). The Dutch quartet were another band who played an absolutely blinding set. Despite the late hour, the big crowd gathered at Zoo got rather rowdy for the Epi-Fat influenced skate punk. Lead singer Rowald was full of energy as he bounced around the stage and sung with a lot more intensity than I recalled from four years ago. It was great to see Sweet Empire again!

Finally it was time for the final act of the night and I have to admit that Emma and I were absolutely shattered by this point. We toughed it out though because Liverpool's hardcore punks Chief were playing their first show in almost five years (if you don't include the two warm up shows that they played in Liverpool and London). The Chief line up is pretty much punk rock royalty in my eyes featuring members of Random Hand and River Jumpers. It was gone past 1am and the energy everywhere was still amazing. Chief were putting everything they possibly could into this rare appearance and it was clear that they were having the time of their lives on the Zoo stage. I loved seeing Chief play live after all these years. Sadly, by this point I was pretty tired so don't remember a whole lot of what happened - but there was great music and bodies all over the place. A great way to end the second day of Manchester Punk Festival 2017.

This review was written by Colin and Emma.

Saturday, 29 April 2017

Gig Review: Manchester Punk Festival 2017 Day One 20/4/17

It's crazy to think that the Manchester Punk Festival is already in its third year. It's also crazy to think that the Manchester Punk Festival is only in its third year. The festival has very quickly become a staple in the calendar of fans of punk music not just in the UK but now all over the world. I was fortunate enough to attend the first year in 2015 and had Emma with me at the 2016 edition of the festival. This year we were back in Manchester for the festival which has grown inexplicably quickly since its beginnings. This year the festival organisers, who are local promoters from TNSrecords, Moving North and Anarchistic Undertones, have really outdone themselves. Now featuring seven different venues as well as adding a punk cinema, food stall and distro area, the festival really is bigger than ever. With an incredible line up of bands from all other the world this weekend was certain to be a special one!

The first night of MPF took place between two central Manchester venues, Retro Bar and Zombie Shack. As with last year, wristband collection (for the Thursday, at least) was upstairs in Retro Bar while the festival kicked off downstairs, then continued at Zombie Shack later in the evening. We got down early to ensure that we’d catch all of the first band’s set and that first band were Bolshy, a seven-piece ska band from Liverpool. Bolshy are a band whose name I’d heard before but hadn’t actually gotten around to checking out – and that’s exactly what a festival like MPF is good for, checking out new bands. From the first song of their set I was sold and seemingly so were those around me, as Bolshy got the crowd moving. I was reminded of Streetlight Manifesto, by the Bolshy horns parts in particular, but Colin said he thought they sounded more dubby, either way we really enjoyed their performance – a fine start to Manchester Punk Festival 2017.

Lancashire's Iron Drugs offered something completely different to Bolshy. The four piece played one of the heaviest sets of the entire weekend, definitely the heaviest I saw. The band came with clearly no intentions of messing around, just getting in, playing loud and hard and getting out again. After the excitable upbeat nature of Bolshy, Iron Drugs were a bit of a shock to the system at the start of their set but soon grew on me with some in-your-face hardcore punk, with more than a little melody snuck in for good measure.

Queen Zee & The Sasstones were the next band to take to the Retro Bar stage, a band that, like Bolshy, were also from Liverpool. We were only on the first day and the third band of the festival but already the bands were proving to be greatly varied – another great thing about MPF. The variety within the genre of punk rock is something that I don’t think people from outside of the punk scene quite understand. I know a lot of people just think of the Sex Pistols or Green Day when you say ‘punk’ but it’s so much more than that. If you think of punk as being the music that represents having the freedom and the guts to do whatever you want, how you want, then Queen Zee & The Sasstones are the epitome of punk. Queen Zee in particular was full of enthusiasm and aggression in equal parts while the band wholeheartedly reinforced that.

After leaving Retro Bar we made our way to the awesome Zombie Shack venue that's above the Thirsty Scholar. Last year Zombie Shack became one of my favourite venues I've ever visited - the zombie themed tiki bar is just a wonderful place to be in. First up were The Crash Mats from Oldham. The MPF program described the three piece as "stupid idiotic ska punk rock." This sounded completely up my street. Opening up with a song about legendary professional wrestler Ric Flair it was clear from the beginning that The Crash Mats are a band that don't take themselves too seriously and I absolutely loved them for that. This was loud, boisterous and fun punk rock that is impossible not to enjoy. With song topics such as legendary wrestlers, smoking weed and the travesty of Channel 5 potentially cancelling Neighbours, The Crash Mats opened up Zombie Shack in fantastic fashion. MPF was going to be a weekend long party and The Crash Mats did a brilliant job in helping to get things started.

Following on from The Crash Mats was going to be a difficult job but I was pretty confident that Crocodile God were more than up for the task. First forming in 1992, The Liverpudlian band are hugely influenced by 90s American pop punk - one of my favourite eras of punk rock, so Crocodile God were going to be a very enjoyable half an hour of my life. I was instantly reminded of The Ergs! as soon as Crocodile God began their set and felt myself wanting to sing along with the fast paced lyrics but unfortunately I didn't know any words. Crocodile God were a great new find for me despite being around on and off for twenty five years now.

The penultimate act of our evening was The Human Project from Leeds. Zombie Shack was now getting very busy for one of the most popular bands in the UK punk scene. The Human Project's brand of melodic skate punk immediately got the MPF crowd going nuts. So much so that Emma and I had to retreat slightly so not to get caught up in the mayhem. I've seen the band a few times over the years and they've always been tight but this has to be the best time that I've seen them. Playing a selection of songs from their debut album, Origins, as well as a few new ones, The Human Project were absolutely class on stage - clearly revelling in the chaos that was unfolding in front of them. Earlier in the day The Human Project announced that this would be their last show for ages so they clearly made the most of it with a stellar performance.

The task of closing the Thursday of Manchester Punk Festival fell to one of the UK’s most loved pop punk bands, The Murderburgers. I’d only seen the Scottish three-piece once before, back when they supported Masked Intruder on their UK tour in 2015 – a band that Fraser Murderburger has since stepped in as a touring member of (when Green was ‘in prison’!) and recorded with. I enjoyed them the first time time around and I enjoyed them for the second time, despite being pretty exhausted by this point (having had a gig in London the night before, getting up early to go swimming, before driving 170 miles to Manchester) and standing near the back. They really are a band that is best seen live to fully appreciate what they have to offer – packed with enthusiasm and energy. Zombie Shack was packed with enthusiastic punk fans by this point, including those that had arrived after seeing Menzingers/Flatliners at the Manchester Academy, and they adored The Murderburgers. It wouldn’t be a DIY punk festival without a few technical hiccups and there were a few of those when Fraser’s amp blew up (technical term) but it didn’t taint the band’s set too much. All-in-all it was an excellent first night of Manchester Punk Festival 2017.

We headed off to our hotel for some much needed rest ahead of the next two jam-packed days of punk rock. Already MPF 2017 was proving to be just as good, if not better, than 2016.

This review was written by Colin and Emma.

Friday, 28 April 2017

Colin's Punk Rock World Playlist: April 2017

Here's what Dan, Emma, Omar, Pan, Robyn and myself have been listening to this April.

Thursday, 27 April 2017

Top Tens: Omar from Racehorse's Top Ten Punk Rock Influences

Undoubtedly it’s a little presumptuous of me to list my own influences, given that my own small town band have yet to influence… well, anyone that I know of. But anyway, before we get started, I should probably get the shameless plug of my own band Racehorse out of the way. There’s three of us, we play alternative punk rock, and we’re loud but melodic. If that sounds like you’re thing then check us out on the link below.

But anyhow – to the list. I came to punk rock fairly early on, but it wasn’t until around fifteen or sixteen that I started on the stuff that would act as a gateway to the music that has ended up shaping the entire way I play, write, and listen to music, as well as probably shaped a lot of the way I am as a person. Trite, I know, but it is still the truth. This list has also proved to be something a little humbling for me, as if I’m brutally honest with myself, there is a band in here now that I’ve not listened to in years, as to my ear they simply no longer measure up. But they must be included, for it would be a vile artifice to only include critically lauded and punk-scene approved bands to make myself seem cool.

Also, a brief disclaimer – this is not done in order of preference, but rather chronologically. There are bands earlier on the list that are just as, if not more influential, than bands later on. Furthermore, if I am to write one of these in another five years, it’ll probably look completely different. And with that, we begin.

10. Rise Against

Full disclosure – this was the band I mentioned earlier. Maybe I’m just a fucking snob, but these days, I can’t think of a time in recent memory I listened to a Rise Against song all the way through. Lyrically and musically, to my ear they just don’t cut it for me anymore. But in my younger days, I adored them. ‘Revolutions Per Minute’ and ‘The Sufferer and the Witness’ underwent heavy rotation in my CD player, and in spite of my brother’s well-meaning attempts to teach me Red Hot Chili Peppers songs, I completely eschewed learning their catalogue because I found it too hard.

For better or worse, Rise Against gave me power chord heavy songs to which I could shift my two fingers into a basic shape and play along, subtlety or accuracy be damned, and this basically ended up being the style I started writing my first rubbish songs. They drilled me in the art of the chainsaw punk rock chord grind, a rite of passage for any budding punk rock guitarist, and I’ll always owe them for that. I might never listen to them with the same fervour ever again, but that’s OK. They’ve earned their place on this list.

9. The Ramones

They had to be on here somewhere, right? My brother had a copy of ‘It’s Alive’ and my teenage self promptly drove my mother up the wall, its relentless “ONE TWO THREE FOUR” attack filling me with boundless energy and her, by what I can only imagine was the twentieth repetition, to near insanity. Sorry, mum.

But either way, even though that album sort of blurs into one big mass, what a fucking great mass that is. Ramones’ classic sound showed me you could ditch punk’s didacticism from time to time and still undeniably kick arse. Johnny Ramone’s machinegun riffery only served to further strengthen my arm and reinforce my belief in the sheer power of distorted guitars. I could follow the tabs, and play some facsimile of them. But then the next band in this list came along, and flipped everything about the way I saw punk on its head.

8. Benton Falls

Further to the above, I now must confess that this quartet-then-trio from Santa Rosa then flipped my world on its axis yet another time. When Benton Falls entered my life, I was starting to have those dreaded bastards known as hormones make themselves particularly apparent. Now, at this point, many have turned to groups of – in my opinion – questionable repute to weather the storm. Hawthorne Heights, My Chemical Romance, you know the kind. So it was rather serendipitous that my brother brought home a CD from his then-girlfriend’s sister, which he’d borrowed, and like most music in his room, I then pinched it to put on my iPod. I never knew what hit me.

‘Guilt Beats Hate’ is one of those rare, emotionally crushing punk rock albums that is delivered with a deft touch as it is a clenched fist; one of the deciding factors in its power is undeniably Michael Richardson’s lyrical and vocal prowess. Discarding the keening wails of many of his younger, tighter-jeaned contemporaries, Richardson’s smooth baritone managed to actually sound like a man whose life was falling to pieces, especially when he broke into a powerful roar that was never overcooked or overused. Didn’t hurt that he was backed by an unstoppably tight rhythm section and could play circles around pretty much anyone in the early 00’s alt-punk boom, flitting between dazzling arpeggios to monster suspended chords and punk rock palm mutes, all in the same song, while always remaining heartfelt and melodic. I’ve spent about nine years trying to incorporate elements of his style into mine, and although I’ve never managed it completely, Benton Falls are a band that will never really leave me.

7. Fugazi

The very first time I listened to Fugazi, I didn’t really like it. Call it the folly of youth, but at the time it wasn’t immediately gratifying as something like Nirvana or At The Drive In, so I put it to one side. A few years later, I cast my eye back over that same copy of ’13 Songs’ that I had so stupidly tossed aside before, and decided to give it another chance. This decision ended up being one my better ideas, as I ended up so hooked that I quickly blazed through the entirety of the catalogue, spread as it was between my two older brothers.

Fugazi’s influence on me has been both profound and long lasting. They basically took the idea of whatever being ‘punk’ was and is and completely redefined it, while remaining wholly badass and as fiery as any other punk rockers you care to put them up against. They showed me that you don’t need to rip and tear all the time to make powerful music; that simmering, grinding atmospherics can and often are just as powerful; that you can and should completely divest from the supposed rules and conventions of the genres you love while making music of your own. Moreover, their DIY ethic and refusal to compromise is something that affected me greatly, and while I don’t think I’ll ever be able to replicate their staunch and unimpeachable outlook on their music and career in my own, it’s been rewarding enough to try.

6. Jawbreaker

The first time I listened to Jawbreaker was with their ode to a hangover classic, ‘Kiss The Bottle’, and at first I couldn’t quite understand what was going on, with the sludgy guitars lurching from chord to chord like a stumbling drunk and the vocal performance being more shot to hell and hoarse than Shane McGowan after a piss up. But the more I tried, the more I liked it. Its imperfections revealed themselves to be masterstrokes, lurking in disguise, and then just like that, I was an irritatingly obsessed Jawbreaker fan. And I mean irritating, as anyone who had the displeasure of knowing me during sixth form will know.

For you see, up until now, a lot of the songs I really liked and had been trying to learn had guitar lines in them I couldn’t or wouldn’t play, due to hamfistedness and lack of ability. Rise Against had long since been forgotten as I’d become tired of being preached to by my music – but Jawbreaker had the perfect blend of everything, and for the first time, I could just about play an entire album from start to finish. Blake Schwarzenbach’s lyrics skewered my heart and although I hadn’t been through a lot of the things he so richly described, the emotions were so naked and raw that it cut to the core of my being, ably supported by a fantastic rhythm section and beautifully simple but crushingly powerful riffs, a lesson I’ve taken deeply to heart. There has never been a band like them since. And, given recent news which I will be discussing in a later article, it seems that we’ll be in for a treat very soon.

5. Texas Is The Reason

Although this band didn’t quite hit me like the proverbial express train in the manner of Jawbreaker, it is without question that their influence upon me was very much disproportionate to the actual size of their discography. One entire album, an EP and three split singles, of which I only owned the full-length and the EP… but if MP3s could physically degrade, then I would have worn grooves into these like scratches from a wolverine. It got to the point where I’d just leave Do You Know Who You Are? on shuffle and repeat, as I never really skipped any of it.

Texas Is The Reason was formed out of the ashes of various hardcore punk bands, and they occupied a sonic nether zone which sounds fresh even to this day, because it wasn’t as bludgeoning as the hardcore bands that preceded them, but neither was it as scrubbed and mall friendly as some of what was to come later. There are some truly thuggish riffs on Do You Know... but there are also some really quite lovely melodies. My first band’s song that I was proud of wholesale ripped off their trick of taking the common metal guitar tuning, Dropped D, and using it for the easy access power/suspended chords that powered their unique blend of pop inflected turbocharged post-hardcore. Hell, I’ll even admit I just plain stole the pre-chorus riff from ‘Nickel Wound’ and reversed the damn thing… but for the first time, it sounded OK. A tragically short lived, but brilliant, band.

4. Bob Mould

My decision to list Bob Mould instead of Hüsker Dü here may ruffle a few feathers, but if I’m honest, it’s his post-Hüsker work that arguably had more of an impact on the way I write and play guitar to this very day. It seems that he underwent something of a punk renaissance in his twilight years, and now is kicking out albums that sound just as good blowing your ears off as they do strummed on an acoustic. I think it wouldn’t be a disservice to describe his style as explosively melodic, as while it’s undoubtedly thunderous, raging power punk, it’s always delivered with harmonies, hooks and choruses for days.

Mould’s style of distorted open chord work is something I’ve definitely pinched, and given that I’m now playing in a three piece myself, it’s a tactic that works extremely well to fill out a band, as the sheer wall of sound it generates can really make a song feel all-enveloping. Furthermore, his status as a punk elder statesman has really given his songs a certain gravitas that his younger compatriots can’t quite emulate, as his weathered, touching outlook on aging, loss and life itself is one from which we can all benefit. I probably would play guitar pretty differently without listening to him.

3. Hot Water Music

I could probably start and finish this section in a single sentence by saying that this is the only band that’s influenced me enough to get their logo tattooed on my shoulder. But I must caveat that by saying that it would have been Jawbreaker had I had the means and gumption to do so… but they were pipped to the post by this gang of Gainesville growlers. Alliterative joking notwithstanding, Hot Water Music’s gruff musical stylings and dry, concise lyrics came to me at a time when I needed some other ragged source of inspiration, and as trite as it may sound, they helped me through a lot of unhappier times at university.

On the face of it, Hot Water Music play straight up punk, but on second or third listen, you realise that there’s always a huge amount going on in every song; the guitar parts almost never play the same thing, broadening their impact and making it all the more aurally exciting, while the bass and drums are pretty much untouchable. Although I can’t claim to have written songs that even come close, it was their sense of being a true unit that resonated with me, as it’s never seemed like one member is the figurehead or ‘star’, so to speak. Even the way they position themselves on stage gives the impression that they want the spotlight shared equally, and it reflects in their music – frequent vocal harmonies, rasped with power and conviction, with interweaving parts and lyrics that never seem unreachable or portentous. Uncompromising in their music but never didactic, Hot Water Music made me a better person. No, really.

2. Leatherface

I think it speaks volumes in and of itself that Chuck Ragan from Hot Water Music lists Sunderland punks Leatherface’s 1991 record Mush in one of his favourite records of all time[1]. In fact, it was his ringing endorsement that encouraged me to buy that very same record, and I’m very glad I did. Leatherface’s music is somehow as throat burningly raw as it is poignant, often within the course of the same song, a trick which when pulled off with their uniquely English aplomb is nothing short of devastating. Frankie Stubbs’ Tom Waits-ish growl lent their music a bloodied-but-unbowed, everyman edge, while his lyrics flirt with the abstract and the absurd as much they do outright heart-on-sleeve aching sadness.

Although I’ll never claim that I even sound a tiny bit like Stubbs, they’ve certainly strengthened the brew of influences from which I steal with a flavour that is all their own, and they give me a reason to be proud of England in a current climate where those are dwindling fast. If you want proof or a reason to call me out for plagiarism, listen to their tune ‘Not Superstitious’ from Mush and then listen to ‘Attrition’ from Racehorse’s self titled EP. It’s all there, as it is in legions of scowling punks across the world – in the words of Stubbs himself, ““It’s all about the sound […] You know, making the guitar go, AAAAARRRRRAAAARRRRGH!”[2]. Often imitated, never bettered.

1. Propagandhi

Now I should probably come right out here and admit that not only can I barely play any Propagandhi songs, I’m not even close to being vegan. These facts notwithstanding, I think it’s safe to say Propagandhi are my current band du jour. Their blend of metal’s precision with punk’s fuck-you attitude is starkly their own, with a lyrical bite and sarcasm that at times recalls the weapons-grade satire of the Dead Kennedys’ Jello Biafra. Chris Hannah, whether by himself or backed up by the eminently capable David Guillas or Sulynn Hago, is a frighteningly gifted guitarist, and its his unabashed technical prowess that has, in some small way, been nudging me to finally try and actually practice guitar with some regularity rather than defeatedly telling myself I’ll never get any better.

Furthermore, for a band with a hilarious, piss-taking name and what appears a simple thrash-and-bash approach to explosively raw punk, they frequently come out with some astoundingly beautiful chord progressions amongst the machine-gunned palm mutes, albeit delivered as fast as a prizefighter’s jab – listen to ‘Mate Ka Moris Ukun Rasik An’ from 2001’s Today’s Empires, Tomorrow’s Ashes for just one example. Propagandhi reawakened my liking of politics in my music, something from which I had shied away from for years. Call it a mistake, call it what you will, but it’s lucky they did, because there’s plenty around that we need to be both informed and fucking angry about at the moment. Perhaps they came just at the right time.

So ends the list. Hope you enjoyed reading it; if you’re reading this blog, you’re probably aware of at least a few of the bands mentioned. Why not dust off an old favourite and give it another spin?



Wednesday, 26 April 2017

Album Review: More Scared Of You Than You Are Of Me by The Smith Street Band

There weren't many new albums due for release in 2017 that were more anticipated than The Smith Street Band's follow up to 2014's album of the year (for me), Throw Me In The River. This month the band released a brand new album named More Scared Of You Than You Are Of Me, the first release on their new label Pool House Records. With the amazing Jeff Rosenstock again producing, I had very high expectations of this album.

The first song Forrest wastes absolutely no time in getting the album going. No soft introduction just an explosion of those trademark Wil Wagner vocals kicking the song off in great style. Musically this is a fast and pounding song that doesn't slow down throughout its duration. From the outset of More Scared you know that you are in for a massive ride with this album. Forrest is a song dedicated to a small country town in Australia, named Forrest, where the band recorded Throw Me In The River. It talks about how Forrest began to feel so much like home that returning to their normal headquarters, Melbourne, felt more like leaving. The second song Birthdays is one of the songs that the band released early to help promote the upcoming album. This song is everything I've come to expect from a Smith Street Band song. Musically it has loud, crashing moments mixed with some sweet and tender party. Lyrically it's incredibly deep and has a real life affirming vibe and it's so incredibly catchy. The lines that stood out the most on my first listen of the song are "We Are More That Future Housewives, More Than The Sum Of Our Past Lives." Wil Wagner has said that he wrote those lines because of a friend of his said that she was "nothing but a future housewife." Wagner was so upset by the notion of belittling stay-at-home parents he was inspired to write this love song. The third song is another that was released early by The Smith Street Band. They've actually be playing it live since at least last July when they toured the UK. If you were at any of those shows or have seen the Smithies since then you've more than likely already heard Death To The Lads. This anthemic track has a huge chorus that will get incredible sing-a-longs wherever the band play. It's about growing up, changing and trying to improve yourself. It's also is a direct hit out at lad culture that has polluted society in recent years and takes at stand against that "laddish" behaviour. A Song For You is about unrequited love and the feelings that come from that. In true Smithies fashion there is a wonderful building bridge section before a big finale for an extended chorus that will, again, sound incredible live. Smithies drummer Chris Cowburn plays a blinder throughout the song - some of my favourite drumming on any Smith Street song.

The fifth song on the album is named Passiona. Passiona takes more of a slower paced melody compared to the opening four songs on More Scared Of You. Incidentally the album takes its name from a lyric in this song. Passiona is a track about struggling through life and feeling bad about how you feel that society looks down on you and your friends. The line "I'm Having Panic Attacks On German TV" is actually something that happened to Wil as he and the rest of the band performed on German TV during a time when Wil's mental health was at a low point. Run Into The World continues with the slower songs. I like the song ordering here, calming things down after a breathless start to the album. This is an interesting song that starts quite bleak but finishes in a truly uplifting way. The Smith Street Band are joined by Laura Stevenson of Laura Stevenson and the Cans/Bomb The Music Industry fame and Tim Rogers who is an Australian musician best known as the frontman of rock band You Am I. Stevenson's part in particular is a highlight of the song, especially when Wagner joins her for some spectacular harmonies. The uplifting tone continues on the following track Shine. Similarly to the album's opening track, it starts with Wil's vocals immediately opening the song. If you own the LP version of More Scared Of You then this is the opening song of side B of the record. I like the symmetry of the first songs on each side. It's a lovely piece of synchronicity. Shine is a song about accepting who you are and making the most of your life as nothing is permanent. The pre-outro to the song is absolutely superb with a choir providing some incredible backing harmonies that make the track sound huge! I can't wait to see this song live. The eighth song, 25, is about growing older and making comparisons to the life of people who are the same age as you. Wil has a great skill to write honest and relatable lyrics. One that stood out to me was "When I Turn 25 I Was Terrified, Still Haven't Learnt To Do The Dishes" as it is painfully relatable to my life.

It Kills Me To Have To Be Alive is potentially the saddest song title of the year. It suits the song however as it's heartbreaking. It is about Wil's struggles with depression and feeling unloved. Musically it's a simple song for the most part with just guitar, synth and vocals, as Wil lets out his feelings in a way that really pulls on your emotions. It takes a massive amount of bravery to be able to release a song such as this to the public, I don't know Wil personally but he's someone I'm incredibly proud of for having the strength to do this. Suffer is one of the angriest songs that The Smith Street Band ever written. I have to say, I really love angry Smith Street Band. The venom that comes from Wil's voice is powerful, you can tell he means every single word that he's singing. What's he so angry about I hear you ask? Suffer is about bands who only focus on the negative parts of being in a band. These days a lot of bands talk on stage about dealing with crowd violence and incidents happening at their shows and how it seems as if it's now a badge of honour to talk about these things even if it isn't happening at your shows. The penultimate song on the album is named Young Once. This is that epic masterpiece that appears on every Smithies album. Starting with some rough, raw sounding vocals accompanied by some acoustic guitar, it's a interesting and different way to get the song going. Of course, the song builds in a brilliant way that only The Smith Street Band can do. The guitar riffs for the chorus are among my favourites by the band. The track itself is about looking back on things and realising that some of the things you thought were the most important back then weren't really that important at all. Finally the track that we finish More Scared Of You Than You Are Of Me is titled Laughing - Or Pretending To Laugh. This is another slow builder where Wil sings about having a perfect night with a girl in New York and that happy, giddy feeling that you get by being around someone that you really like. Lyrically this song it absolutely perfect. It's sweet, smart, humourous and full of love - everything I've come to expect from Wil Wagner. This is a completely beautiful way to finish the album.

It was always going to be almost impossible for me to rate this album better than Throw Me In The River. Throw Me In The River came out at a time when I was seriously suffering with a lot of things in my life and that album helped me through a lot so I'm sure you can imagine that that album means a massive amount to me. That said, More Scared Of You... is a superb album - obviously, The Smith Street Band only release superb albums. It's been fun witnessing the band grow bigger and bigger with each release, starting with No One Gets Lost Anymore right through to where they are now. It's only a matter of time until they breakthrough to the mainstream and take their rightful place as one of the biggest bands in the world.

Stream and download the album here:

Buy a physical copy here:

Like The Smith Street Band here:

This review was written by Colin Clark.  

Tuesday, 25 April 2017

Gig Review: The Menzingers at Koko 19/4/17

How often is a line up announced that makes you go "holy-moly, I have to go to that show!"? That's what happened when The Menzingers announced a week of UK dates with special guests The Flatliners. Two of the most beloved punk bands of the past ten years on tour together, this was surely going to be pretty special. Both bands had just released new albums in the past couple of months as well with The Menzingers dropping After The Party and The Flatiners putting out Inviting Light, this added an extra element of excitement to the night at Koko in Camden.

First up were a new band who have been making waves in the punk scene. Like almost every other great new punk band that appears on my radar lately, The Dirty Nil are a band from Canada. The three piece have been making a name for themselves on the live circuit with their high energy, loud and fast rock n roll, drawing high praise from everyone who has seen them. Taking to the stage, I thought that The Dirty Nil had a bit of a swagger about their band. These three gentlemen knew they were about to rock the very quickly filling up Koko's world. And that they did! Barely pausing for breath throughout their half hour set, this was a fantastic, hard hitting and passionate performance. They had a few diehard fans in attendance as well who were singing along excitedly to every word. The Dirty Nil started the night out right. It surely won't be too long until they are headlining venues in London by themselves.

Next up were fellow Canadian's The Flatliners. This was my first time seeing the band in pretty much a year to the day after they headlined 2016's Manchester Punk Festival. Having only listened to Inviting The Light one time (whilst hanging up some washing, so I wasn't completely focussed on the melodic gruff punk stylings) I didn't really expect to know a great deal of the songs in the Flatliners' set. I was pleasantly surprised to find that they played more of a best of set with some sprinklings of new stuff thrown in. This was a fantastic ploy from the band to keep the crowd hot for the classics, whilst getting us pumped for new songs as well. Hearing some of the new tracks live definitely gave me the itch to listen to Inviting The Light some more. Highlights of the set for me were Count Your Bruises, Monumental and Eulogy. Eulogy in particular got a massive reaction from the Koko crowd. I could be wrong but I believe that this was the only track the band played from what is my favourite (non ska) Flatliners album, The Great Awake. Performance wise The Flatliners were as good as ever. Putting everything into their songs and looking completely stoked by the reactions they were getting from the crowd. The Flatliners are loved in London and all over the UK - this is why they are coming back for a massive headline tour in October.

Now it was time for who I think are the most loved punk band on the planet - The Menzingers. They seemingly strike gold with everything they do. After The Party is another absolutely superb album by the Philadelphians and I, like every single person in Koko, was extremely excited to hear some of the new material live. They wasted no time at all when showcasing the new material by opening with the brilliant Tellin' Lies. A song that starts with a fantastic guitar part and has a huge, high octane chorus of "Where We Gonna Go When Our Twenties Are Over" that got everyone in Koko singing along. Despite the fact it's a relatively new song it's incredible to see that many people singing their hearts out along with the band. This is a huge testament to the band's abiltiy to craft perfect punk rock. It's so superbly catchy and you can tell the song means a lot to so many people. It's not just a room of people just singing along because it's fun to sing along, it's a room full of people who have genuinely relate to the lyrics. You could use this description for pretty much every song in the Menzingers set and this is why they are so universally loved. Seven songs were played from After The Party and all got positive reactions but perhaps none more so than the album's title track. This song, about being whoever you want to be, has many massive sing-a-long moments but "Everyone Wants To Get Famous, But You Just Wanna Dance In a Basement" and "After The Party It's Me And You" particularly stand out. Of course, the classics from The Menzingers past two albums On The Impossible Past and Rented World are also massive highlights in a set which falls between the incredible and perfect in my opinion. I've now seen The Menzingers on nine different occasions at various sized venues and they've managed to outdo themselves on every occasion. You'd think, law of averages and all, that one time they would disappoint but I really can't see them ever being anything less than amazing.

This gig review was written by Colin Clark

Album Review: Eight Nights by Grand-Pop (by Emma Prew)

Grand-Pop are somewhat of a powerpop punk supergroup with members from The Attika State (Warren, guitar and vocals), Attack! Vipers! (Tom, bass) and Caves (Lou, drums and vocals). Each of those bands have quite different sounds so it’s certainly going to be interesting to hear what music they can create together! Eight Nights is Grand-Pop’s debut album which has been a little while in the making – originally written in 2012 and ’13, before finally being recorded in 2015 and ’16. Eight Nights features 8 songs – hence the title, I imagine – and is out now on Specialist Subject Records in the UK and Discos Finu in Spain/Europe.

Drop Trow is the first song on Eight Nights and it does a great job of introducing the sound of Grand-Pop, who for most, me included, are a fairly new band – loud, bright powerpop to get your head nodding along to. The guitar, bass and drums are all pretty loud with Warren’s vocals remaining able to carry over the top – a good song to wake you up in the morning, especially if your head is feeling at all fuzzy! The second song, High Hopes, starts out with drums before a neat little guitar riff once again gets your head nodding. Warren sings the opening line – ‘I’ve found a way, A way of holding on…’ – with elongated ‘way’ and ‘on’s, which I’m figuring out is theme of his singing style. You’ve got to have a pretty good voice to be able to do that sort of thing and still sound good, I think anyway, and this man certainly does. Warren isn’t the only vocalist in Grand-Pop as Lou also lends backing vocals on Eight Nights and this starts to become apparent on the chorus – ‘…And I’m leaning on and falling off, With a space for my high hopes, High hopes, Holding on.’ They are only subtle backing vocals mind you so perhaps this is a taste of what is yet to come.

‘It’s my way back, It’s my way back, Oh-ee-oh oh-ee-oh oh-ee-oh, Woah-oh-oh-oh.’  is the opening line of track number three, Nova Scotia  which definitely lends itself to being a big live singalong. I mean, who doesn’t like screaming woah-ohs along with a band? The vocals seem more strained and urgent on this song, like Warren is really desperate to get away – and escape… to Nova Scotia. This is one of the shorter songs on the album and it needn’t be any longer as it gets straight to the point, which is sometimes just what a song needs to do. Nervous Nelly is next up and I would say that this is one of my favourites on the album. I mentioned earlier about Lou starting to be heard for backing vocals, well this is perhaps more apparent on Nervous Nelly. The verses are still sung by Warren but Lou joining the mix on the chorus adds another dynamic to the Grand-Pop sound. The screams of ‘Get up, Get up, And get up, Get up.’ by both singers really reminds me of RVIVR, another band with a great dynamic between their two vocalists – incidentally when we last saw RVIVR, at Fest 15, Lou played bass for them!

Nervous Nelly has a particularly good musical outro which leads into the next track, On and On. Melody is definitely one of the key components of a Grand-Pop song and is certainly evident by track number five. On and On is a song about returning to your hometown and seeing people from your past. There’s a sense of nostalgia but also the idea that you might meet up with people just ‘for old times’ sake’ – ‘The sentiment that keeps us stuck right here, In the same voice and dialect, That keeps us on and on and on and on… For old, For Old time’s sake’. All of the tracks on Eight Nights have been relatively poppy but the chorus of this next song, Saturday Night, is probably one of the catchiest on the record. I dare you to listen to the words, ‘To the sentimental, Woah-oh, Sentimental, Woah-oh, Sentimental, Woah-oh-oh’, and not be singing it ten minutes later. This is a band that loves a good woah-oh and there’s something incredibly feel-good about that.

The penultimate song of Eight Nights brings us into a place of intense emotional but in the best possible way. Soul Man is an energetic ride and is a great example of what Grand-Pop are all about. The chorus contains some of the stand out lyrics of the album and I can’t help but believe every single word – ‘You’re my soul man, And this is my heartbreak woah-oh-oh, I’d leave you if I fucking could, I’d leave you if I if I could.’ The majority of the song is quite full on with all band members and instruments at full volume but the end of the song is more stripped back, allowing the listener to take in all of Warren’s feelings for one more chorus. Only a few songs ago I mentioned how Grand-Pop love a bit of woah-oh-ing, well the final track on Eight Nights is simply titled Woah. I feel like the sound shifts a bit for this last song as the guitars sound a bit more distorted and more straightforwardly rocky – if that makes any sense. That said, it’s not long before the woah-ohs start – they had to really, given the song title – encouraging you to enjoy one last singalong with the band. The song definitely feels like an album, or even a set, closer with a long musical section in the middle of it that starts to slow the pace down. There haven’t really been many slow moments on this album and so it makes the last line of the song, and indeed Eight Nights as a whole, hit home all the more. ‘And I’m not, No I’m not, I’m not so invincible, If anything yeah these measures, They got bigger with time.’  

Grand-Pop describe their sound as being ‘somewhere between The Weakerthans, The Promise Ring and Weezer’ so if that, or any of my words above, connect with you then you can buy, download and stream Eight Nights now.

You can also find Grand-Pop on Facebook here.

This review was written by Emma Prew.

Monday, 24 April 2017

Album Review: We're Sorry We Missed You by THREES

Time for another fantastic Canadian punk band. This time it's THREES, a three piece band from Toronto. At the end of 2016 they released their only release to date, an album named We're Sorry We Missed You. In all honesty I can't find much else about THREES on the Internet other than that they seem to have played their last show and weren't especially active anyway. We're Sorry We Missed You is a fantastic album though so I decided it definitely needs some more coverage.

We're Sorry We Missed You begins with the song Rot Away. This song serves as much as an intro to the album as much as it does a standalone song. With some background noise of a children's playground, it features just vocals and some light percussion as a song about wanting to rot away is sung. A cheery way to get the album started. The album starts properly next with the song, Old Vans. Here we get the proper THREES sound. You've heard this sound before, it's that gruff, melodic punk rock that's oh so popular these days and THREES do it as well as anyone. Old Vans is a song about looking back at old photos of previous adventures and reminiscing about the good times. Dufferin Street Blues is one of the standout tracks on the album. It's a great big sing-a-long from the outset with the lines "Say Goodbye To The Only Constant In My Life" delivered in a way where it's impossible not to want to sing with THREES. The song, which is about struggling to deal with change, is only a short one but seems to pack a lot into it. With great lyrics and some big hooks, this is a perfect song to get a crowd good and rowdy. Up next is the song Out There which is a song about people who spend more time socialising on their mobile phones than actually speaking to people in real life. The song isn't quite as in-your-face, shout-a-long fun as the previous track but there's more of a serious, take a look at your life tone to it. I'm enjoying both styles of songs by THREES.

The fifth song, Last One Out, is another that goes with the more mid-tempo melodic sound. This track is one that deals with the subject of depression, in particular the struggles of getting up in the morning and not liking the person that you are. The opening lines are something many sufferers of depression could easily relate to - "This Time Of Morning, I Don't Know What I Hate More, My Alarm Clock Or Myself." The nest song, Scary Movies, took me a bit off guard on my first listen of it as We're Sorry We Missed You is a short acoustic track. Sometimes I find that this disrupts the flow of an album when an acoustic pops up at the midway point but here it works well and showcases a different side to THREES. Scary Movies is a song about hating somebody that won't leave you alone. Honest Son is a slower paced track that has plenty of hooks and sing-a-long moments. It's about coming to a crossroads in your life and realising that you might have to give up on your dreams and find yourself a job instead of constantly having to borrow money from your parents. I really liked the honesty in the lyrics and I feel like there is a whole lot of truth in the song. Wednesday, 25 Cents brings the album to its halfway point. THREES pick the pace up slightly on this shorter song that has plenty of punk rock attitude. It's about not getting stressed out about the troubles that occur in your life. The track finishes with the repetition of the line "I Don't Give A Shit About It" which I think could become a huge crowd sing-a-long moment.

Mother's Lament kicks off the second half of We're Sorry We Missed You in fine fashion. When I first heard it I was instantly reminded of Colorado's Elway, one of my favourite bands in the gruff pop punk genre. The song starts with some thoughtful and heartfelt lyrics that will hook you into the song immediately and have you singing along with every word. It's not a hard hitting song by any means but one that you'll love instantly. The tenth track is named L5-S1. This song is about holding in so much emotion that you can't relax. There is a raw, fuzzy sound on the recording of the song which adds a warmth to the track. I liked that the music is on a loop throughout the majority of the song with the vocals carrying the melody of the song. As it goes on, the guitars go their own way and set up a fantastic finale. Dirty Dishes is another short acoustic song. This is a bit of a love song that talks about wanting to finish a relationship because of the frustrations of little things that don't actually matter but realising how much you love the person. Remains is an interesting song that mostly features only the electric guitar before the full band comes into the song towards its finale. There is a feeling of loneliness when the guitar is on its own only accompanied by vocals. The song is about finding the strength and confidence to tell someone how you feel before it's too late.

Nowhere probably has my favourite intro of the whole album. The fast paced guitar at the beginning really adds a truck load of energy to the song immediately and I instantly want to see where the song is going to take me. The song is loud and fast and is one of the best tracks in this genre of punk rock I've heard in a long time. It's a brilliantly shoutable song about wanting to go somewhere in your life and not being content with where you currently are. It's a positive upbeat song that is inspiring. Wayside starts with some crashing guitars and some thumping drums before we slide into a more restrained (compared to Nowhere) sound. I'm reminded of the UK's own Bear Trade here with this mature and thoughtful style of punk. There are some fantastic harmonies on this song, perhaps the best on the album. I do love a good harmony. The penultimate song on We're Sorry We Missed You is named Mind Fuck. There isn't a whole lot to this song in all honesty. It's a short, simple song about having your head messed with. Mind Fuck has definitely fucked with my mind as it has now wedged itself into my brain. It's quite catchy. Finally we have the sixteenth song on the album, Fuck This World. Fuck This World is a song about finding a way to make sense of all the darkness that goes on in the world. The songs starts with some fantastic guitar chords that make me want to jump up and down before finishing with a fantastic chorus of "We're Sing Through The Night To Make Some Sense Of The Light." A wonderful way to finish off a great album.

Stream and download We're Sorry We Missed You here:

This review was written by Colin Clark.

Thursday, 20 April 2017

Top Tens: Dan's Top Ten Songs from Tony Hawks Pro Skater

I got a little emotional when this topic for a top ten came up, as I imagine a lot of you guys did when clicking on the link. I know a lot of people will have their own favourite songs and I urge you guys to share your own too. THPS meant a great deal to a great many and the soundtrack is that of our subculture through and through.

The important question of which songs meant the most though, I think, can stem from how old you were in 1999. I was seventeen when I first played a THPS game and, for me, the experience was of listening to songs that I had in my album collection play over a computer game. Others may have a totally different opinion to me since they would be discovering punk/rock/hip hop for the first time as part of the experience. Let’s have a look and see…

10. 99 Quite Bitter Beings – CKY
If you were watching Jackass when I was a teenager you were a sellout. If you really wanted to get a proper experience you had to be watching Bam Margera's Toy Machine skate videos and his offshoot films, CKY. His brother provided the soundtrack to those films and one tune in particular found it’s way onto Pro Skater 3.

9. TNT – AC/DC
I shouldn’t really need to say anything about this tune. It’s a classic hall of fame rock anthem and makes every trick gain +1 swag!

8. B-Boy Document ’99 – The High & Mighty
Hip hop didn’t feature on the original THPS soundtrack so my first experience with skating in any form to it came with this track. Now a staple of skating or snowboarding for me, it all came from this one tune.

7. Vilified – Even Rude
I love the start of this track. It feels totally epic and goes so well with hurtling round a level at top speed trying to finish in quickest time. Even Rude are one of those bands, of which I’m sure we all have many, where I hear the song on the game and think “damn man I need to find these guys' album” but always seem to forget to do so once I put the game down. Maybe this time I’ll remember!

6. Ace Of Spades – Motorhead
I own no less than four different versions of this song. Even though I could listen to it anywhere it’s just that little bit extra special screaming the lyrics out through the airport whilst racking up a ridiculous score going round and round the baggage reclaim.

5. Seneca Falls - The Distillers
Every now and then I’m a little indifferent to listening to bands that I already know of in the games. Sometimes the lyrics have to be censored and the song itself shortened and it can spoil it. Not for the Distillers though, they are nigh perfect in any setting in every situation.

4. I’m Destroying The World – Guttermouth
As I mentioned earlier, I was a big fan of stupid tricks and pranks mixed in with my skateboarding. Because of this I was always (and still am) a massive Guttermouth fan. The silly nature of the games just feels perfectly encapsulated in the red neck riffs and lyrical stylings of Mark Adkins.

3. No Cigar – Millencolin
This was Tony Hawks' favourite track and the man had damn good taste. Off the best Millencolin album (imo), No Cigar is a skate anthem that’s universally loved for its awesome riffage and super catchiness. I would be flabbergasted to not see this on everybody's lists.

2. Superman – Goldfinger
For a lot of people this is THE song for the THPS soundtracks. It’s so instantly recognisable lived as the standout out track of the smaller but amazing quality first soundtrack. I could have put this at number 1 if not for the fact that early 2000s nightclubs played this song to death and nowadays I can’t really listen to it all the way through.

1. May 16th - Lagwagon
Lagwagon were a band I’d missed in my early punk rock education. When your only access to music is sifting through CD Warehouse or downloading mp3s over a dial up connection, you tend to miss some of the good stuff so it wasn’t until I played the games that I came across what I consider as one of the best written skate punk songs in all of existence. The funny thing is I’m not even that big a Lagwagon fan but this one song seems to stand for everything I love about the genre, the scene and was just kickass when it was on – and you’d worked out how to keep up a combo circuit of the hangar!!

I could mention a hundred other honourable mentions but instead I’ll leave it to you guys to add your own. This was honestly exhausting trying to do a top ten so I would genuinely love to here from you and all your best tracks too.

This top ten was written by Dan Peters.

Wednesday, 19 April 2017

Album Review: Tales of Interest by The Dopamines (by Robyn Pierce)

I became a big fan of The Dopamines in 2010 with the release of their second full-length, Expect the Worst. I’m pretty sure that album made a few lists for the best albums released that year. It was so well-received that all of the band’s subsequent albums are almost certainly doomed to be considered in light of it. When 2012’s Vices came around, I’m sure my expectations were way too high. The same elements were there, but it seemed too cluttered to me, too slick at times and lacking some of the raw, biting cynicism I’d loved on the previous release. However, after a few more listens I realized that this was just a slightly more grown-up Dopamines party, with the same sardonic spirit and punchy songwriting. Enter The Dopamines’ latest album: Tales of Interest, out on Rad Girlfriend Records.

This time I was more excited about how The Dopamines have been able to grow and develop their sound. The first song I actually heard off of Tales of Interest was ‘Ire’, which premiered a few weeks ago on the Anxious and Angry podcast (rather awesomely in the 150th episode. If you haven’t checked out this podcast yet, which places you in the intimate company of Ryan Young and his candid punk rock guests, I really suggest that you do.) This is definitely one of the stronger tracks off of Tales of Interest and showcases a number of elements that characterize this album – such as a heavier, darker sound, aggressive vocals and a pounding melody. The Dopamines are at their best when they’re spitting bitter truths and pithy burns, and that hasn’t changed here. ‘Ire’ hits you with some great lines about revenge, with Jon belting out “And I can’t think of a better way to throw it right back into your lying face”, because “it’s true what they say, revenge feels pretty sweet”. When I moved from this to the album, I was caught off-guard by the beginning; instead of dropping straight into one of the band’s leaping melodies, you’re eased into the album with what sounds like the band plugging in and warming up. This gives it a little bit of the feel of a live show, but it also just feels dirtier and more D.I.Y. – like the guys recorded the entire album in about four days while chugging beer the entire time (which they did. Again, you really should check out the Anxious and Angry podcast.) About halfway in, the first track kicks into gear with the heavier, getting-towards-metal type of distortion that is used throughout the album.

Once you get into the second track, ‘The King of Swilling Powers, Part I, II, II’, you can tell that the band have thought about the dynamics of these songs. It’s easy with this sort of in-your-face punk to keep everything bashing out at a similar volume, so that it all bleeds into each other. Here, as on “Ire”, the band strips things down to begin with – dampening the guitar so that the vocals come to the forefront and allowing for more of an impact when the full band comes in. The next song, ‘Business Papers’, starts out thick and heavy with a syncopated rhythm; in true Dopamines style, this is a song about corporate trappings and the frustrations of working in an office (think Office Space, but with more la la las). There’s also a broody breakdown with some tight drumrolls. Tracks 5 and 6 are both a little less heavy (mostly). ‘Common Rue’ brings in some palm muting with poppier vocals while, wait for it… ‘Midwesternplayalisticeconolinemuzik’ (yeah, they’re trolling us; just call it track 6) is really fun, with a jiving drum beat and guitar and vocals that burst out with angsty brilliance. ‘083133’ kicks you in the face again with something faster, dirtier and louder, before you slide down into the pop punk melody of ‘Pavlovian Fixations’. In Tales of Interest, it’s really clear that The Dopamines have tried to create an album with variety that keeps your interest, but which also has a set of songs that sit together comfortably and clearly belong on the same album. Each song is a ‘tale’ of daring, or a slightly cynical story in a drunken punk storybook for adults, with Jon’s yells urging you to turn the page.

‘Open Letter’ is essentially a glorious vent, with a chord progression that rises and builds beautifully. At one point Jon sings: “wearing kid gloves, trying new things, playing nice…I’d rather set your ass on fire!” (Ah man, I’d love to see Jon in the Johannesburg traffic. I can only imagine the deliciously horrible things that would come out of his mouth.) The album doesn’t really slow down in this last third, with the last five songs all delivering on pace and raw energy. ‘Expect the Worst’ does actually remind me of the album of the same name, but more polished. ‘Kaltes Ende’ seems to refer back to the first track on the album (Kalte Ente), but a quick Google search tells me that Kalte Ente just refers to the practice of mixing leftover wine to create a drink called ‘Cold Duck’ and I could find nothing for Kaltes Ende. So…the guys started out drinking and they’re drinking again? Or, this album is the swirled mix of all the cold leftovers of their previous songwriting attempts? After ‘Kaltes Ende’ the guys get really sweet in ‘Heartbeaten by the Police’, which reminds me of Masked Intruder simply because of its vocal harmonizing and love-themed punning. The beginning of ‘Business Papers (Reprise)’ is the slowest the album gets, but it’s really a slow burning build to the banged-out ending. ‘Everyone Dies’ is an old-school jam that ends off the album in a blaze (and with a great Cranberries reference).

If you are an ‘Expect the Worst’ fan like me and hoped for more of a return to that sound, then Tales of Interest may not be for you – but I’d urge you to listen to it anyway because it’s a great record that delivers on the caustic, yet fun-loving, dirty, yet tight, Dopamines sound that you can’t help but enjoy. This is still The Dopamines you know and love, just a little more hardened and grown.

Like The Dopamines here:

This review was written by Robyn Pierce

Tuesday, 18 April 2017

Album Review: Pardon Us by Pardon Us (by Emma Prew)

Pardon Us are a three-piece punk rock band from Liverpool. Earlier this year they released their debut self-titled five track EP with the fine folks at Every Thing Sucks. Shortly after that I saw the band live for the first time, at South East Fest, – and heard songs from said EP for the first time too. Its safe to say I became a firm fan from that moment. I added Pardon Us to my ‘Prew’s Reviews’ list but I must admit I’ve been slower than the band deserves at getting onto it…

The first song is called Goodnight Adam 12 and is a song that also has an excellent SEGA-style RPG music video. (You can watch the video here.) One reason I was immediately hooked on Pardon Us when I saw them live was that their music packed a certain punch without being unnecessarily aggressive. I’m pleased to say that this remains the case on recording. Goodnight Adam 12 is a good ol’ song about growing up and having to make decisions as to where your life is heading – hence why a RPG music video works so well. Next up is Sleepwalk, a relatively speedy little track that kicks off with some great guitar work before the opening verse. The verses of the song are accompanied by palm-muted guitar which, although I know a lot of bands do, is something that always reminds me of Cornwall’s Bangers (RIP). Pardon Us did remind me a bit of the Cornish trio when I saw them live as well, which is not a bad band to be compared to if you ask me. Sleepwalk is about how you can sometimes end up going about your day in somewhat of a sleepwalking or zombie-like state, not really taking everything in but carrying on anyway. Until you realise all the time you’ve wasted anyway. 

Carry On is probably my favourite Pardon Us song – although it is a close call as all the songs on this EP are top notch. With an empowering and encouraging sentiment that really makes you want to shout about it, Carry On is simply DIY punk rock at its best. If you ever feel like you can’t do something or are feeling like there’s someone who is putting you down, you need to listen to this song. Knock us down, but we still don't die, People ask us why we even try, But you and me, we're not the same as everyone, All my brothers and my sisters too, I still remember all I've learned from you, And to you I dedicate this song, We'll just carry on.’ Cue the punk rock woah-ohs. Perfect.

The fourth song is titled Flightless and it wastes no time in getting going with pounding drums and fast-paced guitar and bass from the outset. You’d be forgiven for thinking that this was a happy-go-lucky punk song, as Morgan’s vocal style doesn’t particularly carry a lot of venom but within the lyrics it is clear that Flightless is a fairly anger-driven song. And I've seen you at the top, As you spit down in my eye, But I will see you at the bottom, When you realise, you don't know how to fly.’ Then, before you know it, it’s over and it is tempting to press repeat. But at least there’s one more song to come. I’ve been trying to work out what the title of fifth and final track, OHM, stands for or means and… well, I haven’t had much luck. I know that an ohm is something to do with electrical resistance (and is represented by this neat symbol – Ω) but I’m not sure how relevant that is. Whatever the song title may mean, I can at least decipher what the song itself is about – OHM is about about Pardon Us’s hometown of Liverpool. I enjoy the Beatles reference (not that I like The Beatles) – The Beatles moved to London, Pardon Us? We're staying here’. And I’m sure the closing line of Roam all you can roam, but there's no place like home’ can be applied to any individual and their own relationship to their hometown.

Pardon Us are a great addition to the UK DIY punk scene and I look forward to hearing whatever they release next – maybe a full length album!

You can stream, download and buy the 7" of Pardon Us here.
And like Pardon Us on Facebook here.

This review was written by Emma Prew.

Monday, 17 April 2017

Album Review: Surprise! by Mystery Weekend

It's been at least a week since we reviewed a great release from a Canadian punk band so it's probably time again. This time we're reviewing Surprise! from Ontario based three piece Mystery Weekend. The band mixes together pop punk and metal music to create their own unique and exciting sound. This is going to be a fun one.

Album opener, Theodore, slowly fades in with a melody that gets harder and faster as it goes on, before Rody Walker's theatrical vocal style comes into play. Naturally the first thing I think of is AFI but I'm also somewhat reminded of the UK's own Creeper. This song really shows off Walkers exceptional vocal range and gets Surprise! off to a big start. The Obscenity Prayer is one of the best pop punk songs I've heard in years. Walker's voice is again at its theatrical best (I feel like that might be a theme to this album) as he takes us on a series of highs and lows throughout the song. The track is about feeling insecure and trying to find ways to improve yourself. The lyrics in the song are superb - stand outs including "An Apology Can't Effect The Past, But It Can Effect The Future And The Future's Coming Fast" and "And I'm Talking Shit, 'Cause Lately I've Been Fucking Feeling Old Hat, 'Cause There's A Million People Better Than Me At The Only Thing I'm Good At." The third song on Mystery is titled Broke, Old and Tired. It's at this point of the album that I really discovered what I love about Surprise! - that is that it is packed with a lot of lyrics but the whole time it's accessible for singing along. I've often found that with songs that include a lot of words it's hard to sing-a-long with every single one. The guitar work on Broke, Old and Tired really helps with the pacing of the song and adds a whole load of energy to the more up-tempo sections of the song.

Up next is a song named Don't Blame The Kids. Don't Blame The Kids is a song about the blame that the young people get for the decline in record sales due to downloads when really it was the greed from the music industry that made music too expensive for people to afford. It's one of the shorter songs on Surprise! and focuses less on the theatrics and more on getting their angry point across. This anger comes across the most at the end of the song when the line "Fuck The Entire Fucking Music Industry!" Up next is a song that really reminded me of My Chemical Romance's cover of Desolation Row by Bob Dylan, the song is named Nostalgia Is For Birds. It starts with more of a mid-tempo pace with some fantastic pounding drums courtesy of Mike Ieradi. When the band get to the chorus, the songs jumps into life with a huge sing-a-long section. The song is about different generation's tastes and how older people will say that things aren't as good as they used to be, with the example of TV shows being used. Mystery Weekend make the point that today's youth TV isn't aimed at the youths of 20 years ago. A very valid point. This song is da bomb. Everyone's A Liar starts out with a fantastic rock 'n' roll guitar solo. As the song progresses it morphs into more of a 80s metal sound whilst keeping its pop punk catchiness. Everyone's A Liar is definitely the sort of song that really allows Mystery Weekend to show off their musical prowess.

Barfly sees the band go down the hardcore route. It's just fifty four seconds in length but packs an immense amount of punch. It is about feeling at home in a dive bar rather than spend time with upper class, stuck up people. I think any punk rocker reading this will relate to that. I really enjoyed this side of Mystery Weekend's sound - it's a fantastic change of pace that really gives the album a fresh sound. The penultimate song on Surprise! is Mission Statement. Mission Statement is one of my favourites on the album. It's about Mystery Weekend's philosophy for their band. The philosophy is about how they don't care about doing it the "right" way, they want to be a band the way that they want to be no matter what other people might think. Something every band should do. This is quite a powerful song and something Mystery Weekend are clearly very passionate about. There plenty of fantastic lyrics demonstrating this philosophy including "Not Everything Has To Be Perfect, Not Everything Has To Be Right," "It's Not What We Wanted, You'll Have To Do It Again, You'll Have To Do It Again, You'll Have To Do It Again" and "I'm Just Trying To Carve Out A Place Where I Belong." Surprise! finishes with the acoustic track, Super-Death. This track is about how not all songs have to be about tragedy and it's good to have happy, positive love songs. The acoustic style of the track, I must admit, did catch me a bit off guard as I expected the album to finish with a great big flourish rather than a soft acoustic song. But I guess that there was no other place to place the song, as if it was in the middle it might affect the flow of the songs. This was a nice positive way to finish a fine album.

Surprise! is a fantastic album that was a bit of a revelation for me. Mystery Weekend really came out of nowhere to release one of the best albums of the year so far. Despite taking influences from different bands, that I've mentioned above, they have managed to stick to their mission statement and sound exactly how they want to sound.

Stream and download Surprise! here:

Like Mystery Weekend here:

This review was written by Colin Clark.