Monday, 31 July 2017

Album Review: Troublemaker by Rancid (by Omar Ramlugon)

To preface this whole review, I must admit that I come to this record as something of a casual Rancid listener. I liked Indestructible and Life Won’t Wait well enough but haven’t really dived headlong into them like some. I got a huge kick out of Operation Ivy’s Energy compilation which you would have thought would mean I’d sign up straight away for the Rancid train no questions asked, but their more ska-like moments tended to leave me cold, if I’m perfectly candid.

So it was with trepidation that I pressed play on Troublemaker, only to promptly have my ears blown off by the ferocious opener ‘Track Fast’. The band sounds solid and focused, led as always by the idiosyncratic slurs of Tim Armstrong, who increasingly resembles and sounds like a punk rock Seasick Steve with perhaps a little of Leatherface’s Frankie Stubbs albeit with a frankly ridiculous spider’s web tattoo adorning his shaven dome.

On the whole, things tend to lean towards the classic, earlier period sound of the band, which isn’t a bad thing; “Telegraph Avenue” alternates between a pummelling chorus and a jauntily strummed acoustic for its verses, which works better than it has any right to. Furiously angry machine-gun palm mutes are the order of the day, served up capably and frequently by Armstrong and Lars Frederiksen, while Matt Freeman’s basslines leap and bound with their customary precision.

There is a jump back into uptempo ska with “Where I’m Going”, where Armstrong and Frederiksen tag team their vocal lines inbetween the skanking guitar lines and burbling organ. While “Buddy” even manages to use an accordion to counterpoint the punk rocking powerchords without it sounding like total crap; in fact it actually slides in amongst the noise rather well.

Often I’ve felt with Rancid albums that, while frequently overlong, there’s usually more than enough really great stuff to make the odd mis-step seem insignificant. It’s fortunately the case here; cuts like “Farewell Lola Blue”, the killer Clash-esque “I Kept A Promise”, the hardcore ragers “This Is Not The End” and “Make It Out Alive” make up for the plodding “Bovver Rock And Roll” or the borderline atonal “All American Neighborhood”.

All in all, there’s a lot to enjoy here for more casual fans and veterans alike; it’s just a solid, well-executed album from a deservedly legendary punk band. If that sounds like it’s up your street, you’d do well to pick it up.

 Like Rancid here:

This review was written by Omar Ramlugon.

Sunday, 30 July 2017

Album Review: Why We Fight by 24 Hour Punks

Recently a group of musicians from the UK punk rock scene came together to form 24 Hour Punks. The concept of this group was to write, rehearse and record an EP in 24 hours with the proceeds going towards the cancer charity AMMF. The band members are TJ McFaull (Bar Stool Preachers) and Millie Manders (Millie Manders and The Shut Up) on vocals, Luke Lyon-Wall (Call Me Malcolm) the 24 Hour Punks leader on guitar, Aiden Lamb (Skaciety) also on guitar, Arvin Bancil (Popes Of Chillitown) on bass and Pierre Greenway (Battleska Galatica) on the drums. With that incredible collection of talent coming together for such a worthwhile cause this EP, titled Why We Fight, was bound to be special.

First up on the EP is its title track, Why We Fight. I was a little surprised when the track started as all the members of the band usually play in ska bands but this is full on punk rock, with the guitars in particular really reminding me of Pennywise (which in my opinion are some of the best guitars in the business). TJ and Millie share vocal duties on the track, taking turns on the verses and combining beautifully for the simple and empowering chorus of "This Is Why We Fight!" The track really sums up what 24 Hour Punks is all about, fighting for the cause, in this particularly instance fighting to support AMMF to help cancer sufferers get the help and support they need. Punk rock has always been about inspiring people to go out and make a difference. This opening track certainly does that. The second song Stand really shows off the excellent level of musicianship that the band possesses. Stand is a song about being there for someone who is in need. TJ and Millie's vocals are absolutely amazing on this song. They travel from restrained to melodic to punchy to urgent and seemingly everywhere inbetween. The real 'gosh darn this is incredible' moment comes during Stand's final third with some of the very best harmonies I've heard in quite some time. I'm a real lover of harmonies and these are just layered to complete perfection. The third and final track on Why We Fight is named Riot. Of the three songs on the EP, this is the most political. It's about being angry with the way the country is being run and fighting against it to try and make a change. This is another very empowering song that really makes you want to stand up and do your bit. The guitar part that begins the song lets you know that something big is about to go down. It's one of those riffs that makes you think "he's angry." Like all good political songs there are ample opportunities to unite a crowd and get them singing along. Riot has an excellent breakdown where you just get a drum beat and TJ and Millie shout "1, 2, 3, 4 Count Us In The Riot" before the song explodes back into life and finishes with a big finale.

Why We Fight by 24 Hour Punks is a phenomenal release. When you consider that this was all done by a group of people in 24 hours who aren't even in bands together, it's just staggering that something of this quality has come out of it. Of course, there are cynics who might say "of course you're going to say this is good, it's for charity." And they're right, I probably would say it's good because it's for charity. It would be a really dick move of me to say negative things about something for charity. However, I do genuinely believe this is one of the best releases I've heard all year. I beg you to go and check it out purely because it's amazing (but also buy it because it is for a important cause). I can only imagine the quality of music that could be made by 24 Hour Punks if they had more time to put together some music. I really hope this collection of people do come together again to make some more music.

Stream and download Why We Fight here:

Information on the 24 Hour Punks charity gig is here:

This review was written by Colin Clark.

Saturday, 29 July 2017

Gig Review: Level Up Festival 2017 Day Three 23/7/17

It was time for third and final day of, hopefully, the first of many Level Up Festivals at the New Cross Inn in South East London. The first two days had already surpassed all expectations but today was the big one - today was Big D day - with a rediculous line up that again started at 2.30(ish) and again featured some great acoustic acts down in the New Cross Inn basement. Feeling energised, Emma and I arrived at the pub early for the band tasked with the job of opening the show…

That first act were a band that CPRW's Dan has been raving about for a little while, Just Say Nay. As is often the problem for ska bands, it was a bit of a struggle to fit all eight members of the band on stage. To solve this problem singer Jak jumped down to the floor to have a dance with the crowd. For probably the first time this weekend, the crowd (myself included) were having an early skank with the band. Just Say Nay play an up-tempo ska punk that is full of irresistible horn lines. The band is clearly full of exceptional musicians but bassist Leo really stood out to me as he played some fantastic bass lines throughout the set. The song Bouncer was a particular highlight as well as the inclusion of a section of Cabin Fever from my favourite Muppets film, Muppet Treasure Island.

I hadn't seen Call Me Malcolm since 2015 when they supported Random Hand at the very same New Cross Inn. The five piece continued the good work that Just Say Nay had started by getting more and more people skanking along. Something I had forgotten from the previous time that I saw Call Me Malcolm was just what good singers all three vocalists in the band are. They provided some absolutely first class harmonies that were just a sonic treat to the ears. Musically Call Me Malcolm were bang on form and the between song banter was very entertaining. Call Me Malcolm are bloody great, I shouldn't have gone two years without seeing them!

Wales seems to be a factory for producing great reggae bands. After Cardiff's Captain Accident & The Disasters the day before, it was time for Swansea's Tree House Fire to bring the summer vibes to South London. Like Captain Accident & The Disasters, Tree House Fire are a band that really need to be seen outside on a hot summers day. I've seen the five piece a few times over the past few years and each time I've been very impressed. This however was the best I've seen them. There appeared to be more of a confident swagger in the band, as you can imagine the performance was slick with every member of the band (as well as Winston, the band's invisible horn player) playing their instruments perfectly. There was some nice crowd participation for the song Mr Aggressor but of course the highlights of the set were Dutty Girl and Rock To The Rhythm.

Saturday and Sunday saw the addition of another stage in the basement of the New Cross Inn, also known as Stocks Bar, for some bonus acoustic and/or folk-influenced artists. Given that that sort of thing tends to be the direction that my punk rock music tastes are most inclined, we decided that reviewing the basement would be my (Emma’s) job – shown in italic.

Hassan Afaneh is best known for being the vocalist and guitarist of Triple Sundae, a band who have graced the main stage of the New Cross Inn on numerous occasions. In fact, we saw him doing just that just a week before. Stripped back however, the Triple Sundae songs were taken to another level. I always like seeing Triple Sundae, the band, live but I feel like the songs were somehow easier to connect with in acoustic format. Said Triple Sundae songs were enjoyed well enough by the basement crowd but we were also treated to a cameo appearance from Cereal Box Heroes’ Conor for the only ska cover Hassan knew how to play which went down a storm – I must apologise because I don’t know what it was, but it was certainly good fun.

Jungleproof were playing their first show outside of Belgium at Level Up Festival. What a place to do it! They definitely had more of a punk style than the previous bands of the day but still managed to pack in plenty of horns, including a tuba, into their sound. Again the energy was high and the crowd were really getting into it. I loved that all these bands from Belgium, and one special one from France (more on them soon), came over to play the festival. The Belgium ska punk scene is apparently very strong. One moment that was particularly entertaining during Jungleproof's set was when a small circle pit started around one lady at the front of the crowd. One of those brilliantly silly moments that you only encounter at a ska/punk show.

Millie Manders is a name I’ve heard/seen many a time in the UK ska and punk scene but she’s not an artist who I’d actually seen before. And so, all the more reason to check out her solo set at Level Up! Armed with just a ukulele – I believe she usually plays with a full band – Millie Manders was greeted by many eager fans, and probably a few soon-to-be fans like myself. Despite apparently suffering from a cold, I can easily say that this lady had the best set of vocal cords of the whole festival. Her drinking game song went down particularly well with the New Cross Inn crowd but songs about dealing with anxiety and homelessness were also attentively received. And a bonus lesser known Bob Marley cover was also thrown in at the end of her set. Great stuff.

If one set was guaranteed to be the most emotional of the weekend it was The Pisdicables. For those unaware the band's organ player, Mike Crampton, sadly passed away earlier this year and Level Up Festival would be the band's first gig back. The Pisdicables are a band that I've wanted to catch live for a little while and, whilst it is sad for the first time to be in such a circumstance, the band completely blew me away. With help from some Just Say Nay horn players, The Pisdicables went through their set of ska/reggae punk tunes with great aplomb. I was so impressed with Alex Gowchi's vocal performance. Unlike many ska punk bands there was an element of barroom sing-a-longs amongst the up-tempo skanking fun which I really enjoyed. Something else you don't see in many ska bands (if any? I can't remember ever seeing this before) is a harmonica player. This added a different element to the Pisdicables sound that worked brilliantly. One of the highlights of the whole weekend (and there were many) and once they had finished The Pisdicables probably got the biggest applause of the entire weekend as well.

Probably one of the more out of place additions to the Level Up line-up was the final act to appear in the New Cross Inn basement, Giles Bidder of Great Cynics fame. Great Cynics are a band synonymous with south east London but perhaps not so much in the ska scene – although drummer Bob does also happen to play in the mighty JB Conspiracy. Playing a ska show clearly didn’t phase Giles as he flied through Great Cynics songs with confidence and force, trying his best to keep his volume above that of the noisy bar. And if his original songs, or ramblings about how nice the sunshine outside (despite being in a basement), didn’t hook every member of the audience then the fine Great Cynics hit that is Brimful Of Asha (just kidding, it’s a cover) probably did. It was odd to see Giles at a primarily ska festival but we enjoyed his performance nonetheless.

Now, about that French band… it was only P.O. Box! I've loved this band for years but have never seen them live before. The one time I had the opportunity I got quite sick beforehand and missed out. Witnessing them live was well overdue. The seven piece are now veterans of the game and had such a confidence and swagger on the stage, they knew they now owned the room as soon as they got started. Like Jungleproof, P.O.Box play more of a punkier style of ska punk but also throw in a bit of reggae influence for good measure. Of course they quickly won the crowd other with the Belgium contingent in the crowd particularly enjoying the band. I got the impression that not that many people were massively aware of who P.O. Box were but this certainly didn't stop the room having a dance with the band. At one point the biggest circle pit of the entire weekend (so far) opened up as more and more people started moving. The highlight of the set was the final song, Look What You Have Done, which got a big sing-a-long moment courtesy of the "whoa-oh" sections of the track. This is my favourite P.O. Box song so I loved that they ended with it. P.O. Box were well worth the wait.

The penultimate band of the weekend were a band that could have easily headlined it. London based UK ska punk heroes, The JB Conspiracy, have been going for absolutely ages now and are always guaranteed to put on a fantastic show. This was my first time seeing JB in over a year but it felt like much longer. The thing that's really helped JB stand out from many of their contemporaries over the years is those incredible horn lines. They are definitely some of the best in the genre. They really do this fantastic job of driving the band forward and give off this energy that overflowed into the New Cross crowd. And the New Cross Inn is getting incredibly rowdy now. By this point of the weekend I'm aching all over so how people still have the energy to skank, mosh, dance, crowd surf or whatever else is beyond me. I guess this is the influence that JB's music has on people and it doesn't take long for this influence to hit me. Despite my body feeling quite broken I find myself dancing along with a stupid grin on my face. The set is full of fan favourites from both JB albums, This Machine and The Storm. They also gave a bit of a tease regarding the album This Machine that we should keep an eye out for. By this point when you have the conversation about the greatest ever UK ska punk bands, The JB Conspiracy should be high on your list.

Finally it was time for the final band of the weekend. Incredibly the Level Up crew had managed to book ska punk superstars Big D and the Kids Table. This would be their first ever London headline show that wasn't at the Camden Underworld. This was a pretty big deal! When they were first announced it served as a big statement of intent that the Level Up guys weren't messing around. This was going to be a huge festival. Everyone, and rightly so, was so excited to see Big D and the Kids Table. For me they emphasise what being a DIY band is all about and, like their motto states, they're "built up from nothing." Along with posessing some of the best songs in ska, they are one of the best live acts around. Front man David McWane is hard to ignore as he bounds round the stage singing classic after classic. With such a stacked discography behind them it's a guarantee that you'll love everything they play. I know I did anyway. The set started out with the first nine songs from the Big D classic Strictly Rude, an album that is celebrating its ten year anniversary this year. It was cool to hear some of my all time favourites such as Shining On, Souped Up Vinyl, Hell On Earth and Try Out Your Voice live. Other highlights included covers of Little Bitch and Wailing Paddle, President (which I don't think I've ever seen live before) and of course L.A. X. Twenty years into their career now and it's obvious that the Boston band are still one of the best ska punk bands in the world. What a show!

What a weekend! Paul and Michael from Be Sharp, Chris from Fishlock Promotions and Jason from El Topo Bookings deserve all of the credit in the world for putting on such a fantastic weekend. It's a DIY festival so you generally expect chaos and confusion at times but this was never the case. The whole weekend ran pretty smoothly. I was so impressed with the sound all weekend as well. Setting up a ska band must be one the most daunting things for a sound technician to deal with, (so many horns, so many mics) but the New Cross Inn's sound people were just superb and are the unsung heroes of the weekend - along with the bar staff. I hope Level Up Festival isn't a one and done idea, I hope it continues for years to come. For as long as it goes on, I have a feeling that we'll be attending.

If you need further convincing of how awesome Level Up was, watch this.

This gig review was written by Colin Clark and Emma Prew.

Friday, 28 July 2017

Gig Review: Level Up Festival 2017 Day Two 22/7/17

It was time for the second day of Level Up Fetival 2017. This would be the first full day of the festival with bands starting at 2.30pm and the addition of a second stage down in the New Cross Inn's basement. Emma and I arrived nice and early, prepared for what would be a fantastic day.

The day was started by London based ska punks Lead Shot Hazard. I first saw Lead Shot Hazard back in 2013 at Urban Bar in Whitechapel. The band have had a line-up shuffle since then and now seem to be at their very best. The horn driven ska punk is the perfect way to get the day started and the big crowd that gathered early are suitably entertained by the band. Lead Shot Hazard feature two lead vocalists and that, plus the addition of the horn player's vocals, creates some fantastic harmonies. As is the way with ska punk, of course a cover song was thrown into the Lead Shot Hazard Set with the band playing Big Yellow Taxi, orignally by Joni Mitchell and also famously covered by Counting Crows.

Ill Gotten Gains were next to take to the New Cross Inn stage and certainly added a big change of pace. The Basingstoke band play a much harder style of ska punk known as skacore. A small group of fans were clearly looking forward to seeing Ill Gotten Gains and as soon as the band started the dancing began. The band blitzed through their set, so quickly infact they had time to play another song that they weren't planning on playing. This song, named Basingstoke, was actually the song that got the biggest reaction of all of their songs. It was certainly my favourite. That and their cover of Operation Ivy's Sound System anyway. During Sound System they were joined on stage by their friends in the band Bandits as well.

Saturday and Sunday saw the addition of another stage in the basement of the New Cross Inn, also known as Stocks Bar, for some bonus acoustic and/or folk-influenced artists. Given that that sort of thing tends to be the direction that my punk rock music tastes are most inclined, we decided that reviewing the basement would be my (Emma’s) job – shown in italic.

The first act to appear in the basement on Saturday was a chap called Dan Kemp. I didn’t know who he was, although he looked vaguely familiar, but it wasn’t long before he mentioned his band, [formally, Will Tun] And The Wasters – who we have listened to and seen live before. Dan’s songs were not in the least bit ska punk, instead they were very reminiscent of traditional English folk music, but that was no bad thing. His set consisted of a couple of original tracks, a Wasters song, a traditional English song and a French song – quite the variety and thoroughly enjoyable too. I'd happily go and see him play again.

Quickly returning upstairs, we discovered that Bandits had already began their set. We also noticed that they had applied a bit of feng shui by adding a carpet to the floor space in front of the stage. Bandits lead singer Skinn Klick is clearly an interesting character. For reasons unknown to me, he had painted half of his face to look like a skull. Bandits are very interesting to watch live and have their own punk rock hype man known to his friends as Starby who dances around the stage and in the crowd and occasionnaly adds backing vocals for the band. Seeing Bandits live is quite the sight and one that I won't be forgetting in a while. They are not only unique in their appearance but also with their sound. Playing a mix of ska punk and hip hop, this was a fantastic high energy set.

After the intense performance of Bandits we returned to the basement to watch Ian Crook, aka Wayfairer, do his thing. We saw Wayfairer not so long ago at The Burnt Tapes EP release show at Urban Bar so were reasonably familiar with his songs, which never hurts. The New Cross Inn basement – which was not as dimly lit as you might imagine, as Ian pointed out – was also home to a second bar that served a wider variety of drinks than upstairs. As such, this means that there were plenty of people in the basement that weren’t necessarily there to see the artist playing – hopefully some of them stayed to watch! Wayfairer had to play and sing fairly loudly to be heard above the buzz of the bar but it paid off, particularly with his last song, a cover of Alkaline Trio’s Take Lots With Alcohol. Not ska, but great all the same.

Something quite special about Level Up was the number of European bands that have come over the channel to play the festival. First up were The Dancing Morons from Ghent. I was an organised and prepared pretend journalist for Level Up Fest and took notes on all of the bands that I saw. The thing that I wrote for The Dancing Morons, that I think describes them perfectly, was "good time party band that will kick your arse!" They were incredibly fun to watch and dance along with on stage but they also played some of the hardest hitting skacore of the weekend. Clearly they are a band that wants the crowd to have as much fun as they are having. Their set included letting off a shower of confetti and streamers, plus they even had a piñata that was thrown into the crowd - it was full of sweets and, curiously, tampons. Only at a ska show.

We knew that we would probably have to miss some if not all of a band’s set to go and get some food – skanking is a tiring and hunger-inducing activity – and so unfortunately this meant missing Mercurious Rising down in the basement. I didn’t actually know of them but that’s not necessarily a reason to skip them – they could have been my new favourite band! I’ll keep an eye out for the name and see them next time…

Following a quick food break we arrived back at New Cross Inn as China Shop Bull were just beginning their set. They focussed more on a hip-hop/ska sound rather than the punk style, that the majority of the bands were playing this weekend, the crowd started small but quickly grew. It was great to see recent tour buddies The Dancing Morons at the front of the crowd singing along with the band, it always pleases me when I see camaraderie between bands. The China Shop Bull set was heavy on political tracks as the band tackled subjects such as immigration and the NHS. Sticking with the rule of ska bands covering a song, China Shop Bull went with a fantastic version of Holiday In Cambodia by the Dead Kennedys. China Shop Bull were a band I've known about for a while but hadn't ever seen - well worth the wait.

The last artist to play downstairs on the Saturday was, the very difficult to pronounce, Chrandesyx who it turned out were a band and not a solo artist. This four piece, consisting of keyboard, acoustic guitar, bass and drums, were one of the many bands at Level Up from Belgium (we have El Topo Bookings to thank for that). Rather than diving into their set with all of the aforementioned instruments, all four members of Chrandesyx opened (and closed) with captivating accapella vocals. This was a little risky in the noisy basement bar but I think they pulled it off – they did for me at least. I thoroughly enjoyed Chrandesyx’s folk-fuelled set and even the people that decided to stand in front of me talking didn’t completely ruin it for me.

Switching things up next were reggae band Captain Accident & The Disasters. This was perfect timing after a few frantic bands and it was nice to listen to some chilled out reggae music. The six piece from Cardiff have been wowing crowds for years with their energetic mix of reggae, ska and soul music. It was finally time for me to be wowed and wowed I was! Wow, what a fantastic collection of musicians The Disasters are and Captain Accident's vocals were just sublime. The band had this ability to transport your mind away and make you believe that you're on a sunny beach somewhere, rather than a pub in South London on a rainy Saturday afternoon. Wherever Captain Accident & The Disasters go the sun surely follows. Given that they were playing a ska punk festival, the band added a few of their more upbeat ska songs into their set to accompany their normally more mellow reggae style. My personal favourite track was Business as well as the obligatory cover song - Ready Or Not by The Fugees.

The penultimate band of the night were London's Popes Of Chillitown. Over the past few years the Popes have become arguably the top ska punk band in the UK. By this point of the day the New Cross Inn was at full capacity for this hometown show and it was a show that will long live in the memory. The energy of the band on stage is incredible and really transmits into the crowd and before long the majority of the room is moving. As incredible as all of the musicians in the band are, frontman Matt is the star of the show. The speed in which he delivers his vocals whilst bouncing around the stage as if he has springs attached to his feet, it's impossible not to get caught up in at all. The band's last album To The Moon was released a couple of years ago now and I've seen the band quite a few times since its release but it all still sounds so fresh and exciting. Highlights of the set for me were Wisdom Teeth and Vamos A La Luna - they really got me skanking!

Lastly it was time for the legendary UK ska punks, King Prawn. This would be their only London show of 2017 so it was sure to be a special one. Starting out with Bitter Taste the crowd immediately went ballistic. By this point we were towards the back of the room, firstly because we were exhausted from a long day and secondly because it was so hot in the New Cross it was nice to be closer to the door. Listening to King Prawn play live is when you realise just how many fantastic songs they have in their locker. Whether they are playing old school stuff from when they were a full time band or some of the newer songs that they've written for that long awaited new album, everything goes down a storm. King Prawn are true legends in our ska punk scene, I can confidently say if it wasn't for the work that they put in twenty years ago we probably wouldn't be watching any bands at Level Up Festival, that's the impact they had in their prime. Prime does feel like the wrong word to describe them however because every time I've seen King Prawn since they reformed in 2013 they've been outstanding and are still performing at the highest of levels. Hearing tracks like Day In Day Out, Bring Down The House, The Loneliest Life, Survive and, of course, The Dominant View still puts the biggest smile on my face. Long live King Prawn!

Day two of Level Up Festival was awesome. Now we couldn't wait for the third and final day… Big D and the Kids Table day!

This gig review was written by Colin Clark and Emma Prew.

CPRW Playlist: July 2017

Here's what Dan, Emma, Lauren, Omar, Pan, Richard, Robyn, our new pal James and myself have been listening to in the month of July.

Thursday, 27 July 2017

Gig Review: Level Up Festival 2017 Day One 21/7/17

Something there can never be enough of is punk and ska festivals in the UK. More and more seem to be popping up all over the country and they feature some of the best talent around. Earlier this year promoters Be Sharp, Fishlock and El Topo announced Level Up Festival. Three days of ska punk at the New Cross Inn in South East London in July. With an incredible line up of top UK acts, some European flavour and a big hitter from the USA, this was going to be a weekend that would long live in the memory. This was one of those events you just had to attend. So I did!

The first day of the festival would take place on Friday night and looked to be a great way to ease you in to what would no doubt be an exhausting weekend. Except the evening's headliners were UK ska punk legends The Filaments. If this was easing in I'm not sure many people would survive the entire weekend. Emma and I would be giving it a jolly good go though!

Sadly on the day of the festival Atterkop had to pull out. This was a great shame but we were still treated to some great support from Luvdump, The Foamers and the band tasked with opening the entire weekend - The Dub Righters. The London based three piece play a mix of reggae, roots, dub and punk. The crowd that had already gathered at the New Cross Inn were quite enthusiatic to see them and a good portion started to skank immediately, and as The Dub Righters set went on, more and more people started to move along with the music. This was an excellent way to kick off the weekend.

Up next we were changing speeds somewhat with Luvdump who came all the way from the North West of England, bringing an angry mix of hardcore punk laced with some upstroke guitars. If The Dub Righters got the party started, Luvdump blew the doors off of it. It has been quite a while since I'd seen a mosh pit so excitable in a venue the size of New Cross and bodies were flying all over the place. I don't think I've seen so many people fall over in such a short space of time. Luvdump's set was definitely a crowd pleasing one playing plenty of old favourites as well as a couple of brand new tracks.

Things would not calm down for The Foamers. The South London band were a staple of the ska punk scene in the early 2000s, then they went away for a long while… but now they're back! I didn't get to see them back in the day but I got the impression that they haven't lost anything. The four piece played some fantastic crack rocksteady punk that was adored by everyone at the festival. It might have just been my viewpoint, but I was particularly impressed by The Foamers’ bass player. He was really skilled and added a great, deep rhythm to The Foamers sound. During their set, The Foamers played a song that they said was the first one they had written in fifteen years. It was great. Hopefully this means that they will be more of a full time band again. I hope to see them many more times in the future.

Last up were the mighty Filaments. Whenever I get to see the Essex skacore legends it's always a special moment. They were ferocious as ever as they tore through so many old classics and some new(ish) tracks as well. Highlights always include Trevor, Tales From The Barside, Tears Of Essex, BPC and Bastard Coppers. The pit was huge for the band and sing-a-longs a plenty. Everyone loves The Filaments. Trombone player Pook is one of my favourite people to watch on stage - or in the crowd where he often ends up. He is so animated and really helps amp up the crowd, not that this one really needed it. I do love The Filaments, they are legends in this scene. Sadly we had to duck out of their set before the end to catch the train home so we didn't get the full Filaments experience but what we got was pretty awesome!

This was only the first night of Level Up Festival. If this was how good the whole weekend was going to be then we were in for a very special weekend!

This gig review was written by Colin Clark.

Wednesday, 26 July 2017

Album Review: The King of No Man by Captain, We're Sinking (by Richard Mair)

Stunning return from Barnett Brother B, and his post-hardcore shipmates.

I'm going to get the lazy / inevitable (delete as you feel applicable) item out the way early, yes it's the return of Bob Barnett, brother of punk rock royalty Greg Barnett of The Menzingers with an equally epic album as his siblings 2017 offering "After the Party".

Whether the success of this album is based on its own brilliance or the likelihood of people picking it up on the back of this lineage is a rather moot point, as whatever path they take to discover "The King of No-Man" the listener will be left feeling it's one of the finest releases of the year; but will it be enough to catapult Captain, We're Sinking and in particular Bob Barnett to the pinnacle of punk, sitting alongside his illustrious bro?

In addition to this familial expectation there is also the spectre of 2013s "The Future is Cancelled" hanging over this latest release; which no doubt graced many people's top 10 albums of the year; and those who extolled the virtues of that behemoth of an album will be chomping at the bit for another collection of angry, vitriolic anthems.

It's somewhat of a surprise then that TKN-M is more or a companion piece to its predecessor as opposed to a re-tread of similar songs or a complete departure of what made TFC so well respected. Take the inclusion of songs such as "The Future is Cancelled part 2" which supports this theory; a song that could have been lifted straight off the previous record; in fact feeling more like a song that has had a long gestation and development before being released. These moments though are few and far between, instead focussing on a more reflective and introverted perspective that whilst still retaining that Captain, We're Sinking flavour embraces their vulnerable side as opposed to the frantic nature of the most memorable parts of its predecessor; think an expansion of "More Tequila, Less Joe" than "Adultery". This shift makes TKN-M feel less schizophrenic than TFC and as a result much more cohesive; this album feels like a journey or a single entity as opposed to disparate songs, and the album is better off for this focus.

What does shine throughout the album is the lyrics. Bob Barnett has always excelled at crafting stories that tell of a time or place; and imbues enough emotion in them for you to really feel and experience what his protagonists are going through; "Hunting Trip" and "Crow" are possibly the two finest examples of this on the album, from describing the wind, the breeze and shaking drinks and awkward glances. This ability provide a stunning freeze framed moment where time stands still allowing Bob to describe them in detail whilst still progressing as the narrative of the song; there has always been a focus within Captain, We’re Sinking to focus on the aesthetic and making things feel real within the lyrics and on TKN-M this has really been taken to the next level.

Pleasingly there are also a couple of Easter egg moments for fans of The Hold Steady to grasp, with closing track "The King of No Man" drawing on a couple of THS songs (noticeably "Killer Parties"). As a complete fanboy of The Hold Steady these fleeting moments have always put a smile on my face, and show the bands influences firmly on their sleeves; perhaps not as noticeable this time round but still a worthy bonus!

The album is littered with gems, but kicks off with perhaps the most up-beat and catchy song on the album "Trying Year", which has an unmistakable Captain, We're Sinking vibe to it with poppy guitars and rhythmic drumming; it's perhaps the song that most people will identify with first and warrants repeated listens to fully appreciate how great it is, dealing with growing up and reaching that milestone cross roads in your life "...mid-20 something up to our necks in crippling debt; we're untouchable...". It identifies that unique part in many of our lives where we are still care free but realising we have responsibilities on the horizon we have to deal with. Other standouts include "Cannonless" which showcases a real vulnerability in Bob Barnetts voice with its wavers and fractures, it's a truly hauntingly beautiful song; whilst "Smash 2" starts quiet but explodes with frantic spasming energy, and it's perhaps the most anthemic song on the album; finally "Dance of Joy" reminds so much of Canadian alt-country legends Wintersleep, with its drum heavy rhythms and slightly subdued wavy vocals.

There really is a lot to admire on TKN-M, it's very much what you want to hear from Captain, We're Sinking in 2017. It's shown that they have developed, but not too much. It feels familiar yet different and that's why I'd argue it's a companion piece; it feels like the moment of clarity after the turmoil, anger and aggression of The Future Is Cancelled; it's highly likely then both Barnett brothers will be vying for the accolade of many a punk’s top record of 2017.

Stream and download The King Of No Man here:

Like Captain, We're Sinking here:

This review was written by Richard Mair.

Tuesday, 25 July 2017

Album Reivew: Warriors by Bad Cop/Bad Cop (by Robyn Pierce)

Bad Cop/Bad Cop’s second full-length album Warriors was released on 16 June via Fat Wreck Chords. I’ve been jamming to this album since it came out, but there’s been so much rad music released this year that I guess it’s been tough to keep up with all of the reviews (what a great problem to have). Bad Cop/Bad Cop established their fun and edgy pop-punk sound on their earlier Boss Lady EP and 2015’s LP Not Sorry, but I think that Warriors is the band’s best offering to date. So, let’s get into it.

Warriors leaps into action with ‘Retrograde’, which sets the tone for the whole record with its strong melody, catchy chorus and fantastic vocal harmonies. The song is about picking yourself up and carrying on, and it really lifts you up with exuberant defiance. The next two tracks are similarly fantastic pop-punk tracks (seriously, I couldn’t pick a favourite among the three). ‘I’m Done’ has a bit of a Bad Religion feel to it, but with a distinctly feminist agenda. I would have said that this is 2017’s feminist anthem until I got into the third track, ‘Womanarchist’, and realised that Bad Cop/Bad Cop are just churning out these beauties. This is really top-class songwriting, with clever and thoughtful lyrics packaged inside captivating hooks. The video for ‘Womanarchist’ is also pretty rad, with some awesome punk cameos. The album changes tone slightly in ‘Why Change a Thing’, which is more biting and critical than the first three tracks – lashing out at those who turn a blind eye to structural gender inequality. ‘Victoria’ is also more serious, offering a story about Victoria’s constant struggles with mental illness (including depression and dysphoria) and suicide. Although speaking on behalf of ‘Victoria’, the song offers some necessary reflection on a tragic situation that is all too real and often not directly addressed.

On my first listen, I would probably have said that the first half of this album is stronger than the second, but I don’t think that’s true anymore. The vocal harmonies in ‘Amputations’ are possibly my favourite thing on the whole of Warriors. This sixth track is also the most fun you can have while thinking about the need to cut destructive people out of your life. As Bad Cop/Bad Cop reminds us, “it’s not cruelty, it’s just self-preservation”. After this, ‘Broken’ hits you with some delectable bass lines in a song that could easily have been another single off of this album. Again, the band turns to a difficult subject with the aim of bettering or uplifting. You can’t finish ‘Broken’ without getting the chorus lines “I’m broken, what an easy way out. Justifications have ruled and defined me” stuck in your head, and so the song keeps on reminding you to let go of the excuses that get in the way of self-improvement. The next two songs, ‘Wild Me’ and the titular ‘Warriors’, dare you to find the wild warrior raging inside and to break out of society’s cookie-cutter gender roles. ‘Warriors’ is more bass heavy and would sit well in a film training montage, while ‘Wild Me’ makes it clear that Bad Cop/Bad Cop “will not back down”. The last two tracks on Warriors are a little more gritty and old-school, particularly ‘Kids’ – which talks about the darker side of suburbia and the domestic cycle of abuse. ‘Brain is for Lovers’ is quite sentimental, reminiscing about old times and how “it’s a shame that things have to change”, although the song ultimately shows that it’s necessary to move on. It’s a good track to end with and plays off the album with some rousing vocals.

While this record may be a bit poppy or slick for some, I think Bad Cop/Bad Cop have produced a stellar album that is both fun and empowering. The band treats difficult topics like sexism, mental illness, and abuse with an indomitable exuberance and a qualified idealism. The darker subjects show that the members of Bad Cop/Bad Cop are well aware of the world’s ills, but that they refuse to abide them. On Warriors, the band offers a stirring call to the punk community to come together as an army of warriors to fight daily injustices and give us an album packed full of the energy that all everyday fighters need.

Stream and download Warriors here:

Like Bad Cop/Bad Cop here:

This review was written by Robyn Pierce.

Monday, 24 July 2017

Album Review: Side Effects by Fastfade

I first discovered Fastfade when we arrived at The Unicorn in Camden for Forever Unclean's EP launch show. After a long walk to the Unicorn on a rainy day we walked into the venue to see three young men playing a cover of Lagwagon's Mr Coffee. I was already on board with this band before I'd even heard an original song. When they did play their own song, I was wowed by this fast, snotty in-your-face skate punk that harks back to the 90s heyday of the genre. Recently the wonderful Umlaut Records released Fastfade's brand new EP named Side Effects. As a lover of 90s skate punk and everything Umlaut Records have released so far I was excited for this one.

The opening track is named Mid-Point. I'm instantly transported back to the 90s with some guitars that really wouldn't sound out of place on a NOFX record. It's not long before lead singer Ryan Mansell comes in with an unmistakable English accent. My fear whenever I see a band from the UK is influenced by 90s skate punk is that they will try and sing in an American accent and just come across as a pretender. Thankfully this isn't the case with Fastfade. Mid-Point is a short song but does a wonderful job introducing listeners to the band's sound. On The Bottom Line we are treated to a long musical intro that leaves you anticipating the real fruit and fibre of the song. The band's musical ability is really shown off here and throughout the song. I loved that they used some musical interludes to fill out the song rather than just storming through and moving on to the next song. This gives the track an added depth. Slingshot is perhaps my favourite song on Side Effects. There is a poppier sound to the track. I'm reminded of Australian punks The Decline here and the smile on my face grows and grows with every listen of the song. Despite the more poppy and bouncy style that the song has there is still a relentless feel, particularly with the repeating chorus at the song's finale when Ryan and bassist Joe Papworth join forces to shout out the lines "Somethings Never Change." Speaking of Joe, he unleashes some quality basslines throughout Slingshot. Last up is My So Called Friend. There is a slight stylistic shift here again with Ryan laying down some more technical sounding guitar work before drummer Jake Marshall gets things moving with some superb pounding of the skins. The track speaks about being fed up with a friend who constantly lets you down. There is some real anger and angst in the song and you just can't help but side with the band on the song.

Fastfade are a real up and coming band to look out for. Despite their relative youth, these three chaps play incredibly well - not only on record but live as well. Side Effect has four fantastically written skate punk jams that will have you feeling nostalgic for times gone by but also excited for the future of UK punk rock.

Buy Side Effects here:

Like Fastfade here:

This review was written by Colin Clark.

Friday, 21 July 2017

Future Classics: Not Like This by Iron Chic

When I first thought about some albums that I think in twenty years time will be a seen as a classic, my first thought was Not Like This by Iron Chic. Before I go into why I think Not Like This is good enough to be considered a future classic, it would probably make sense to talk about what criteria is needed to been seen as such.

First up is 'Does it grab me on the first listen?'. If after the first spin are my thoughts "oh my Gandalf, that is the best thing I've ever heard!" Also 'Is there some longevity?', is it something I return to again and again. We all have albums that we put on if we're not sure what we actually want to listen to but know that we want to listen to something. 'Does the album move you in any way?', 'Do you take inspiration from the lyrics?', 'Do you relate to them somehow?' If so, it's likely you're gonna come back to an album time and time again. 'Do you think that the album is the band's best work?' 'How does it compare to the band's previous releases?' 'Does the album get the same reaction live as it does on record?' If an album matches all of those things then it's definitely a classic for me.

Not Like This without a doubt falls into my criteria for a future classic. After being released in 2010 on Dead Broke Rekerds, Not Like This made Iron Chic a huge deal in the punk rock scene and also made them pretty much everyone's favourite band. On my first listen I was in love. There's a great simplicity to everything on this album that makes it instantly accessible. I adore lead vocalist Jason Lubrano's style of speak-singing, this makes it so easy for the album to become an ear worm because it's so easy to pick up every word that leaves his mouth.

I didn't get to see Iron Chic live until after the band's second full length, The Constant One, was released. That is also a fantastic album but whenever any song from Not Like This is played live it always gets the massive reactions. It doesn't even matter which of the ten songs on the album are played or what order they are played in, they are all crowd pleasers. I've seen a crowd in small basements and/or bigger festival stages just go crazy for these songs in ways that not many bands will ever be able to replicate.

Not Like This covers a few themes such as growing up, finding a release, making the best of things, being stuck in a job that you don't like and finding somewhere that you belong. These aren't exactly new topics in the punk scene but with the simple Iron Chic style I find myself relating to them even more so than normal. This is down to the everyman style that is the band's sound. As you sing along with these songs - live, in your car, your kitchen, your bathroom, your living room, your garden, under your stairs or anywhere else you might sing songs - you feel a part of Iron Chic. This is a really special feeling and why I think Not Like This is a future classic.

Thursday, 20 July 2017

Gig Review: The Overjoyed and friends at New Cross Inn 16/7/17

Over the years, the New Cross Inn has become renowned for the punk rock all-dayer. A day that starts early in the afternoon and has bands playing throughout the entire afternoon, evening and night. To my shame, I've never managed to get down to the South East London venue for one of these all-dayers despite thinking that they look amazing. At least, that was until the latest event which took place on Sunday 16th of July. Be Sharp Promotions and Kick The Crutches were coming together to put on an absolutely stacked line up of some of the best underground punk rock from London, as well as some special guests from Somerset, Leeds and some really special guests from Greece. Emma and I decided we would go as soon as we saw what an incredible line up it was. Online the price was only £3 and it would be £5 on the door. This was such a ridiculous line up we decided that £3 is far too cheap so we paid the £5 door price. £5 was still stupidly cheap for the level of bands that we would be getting to watch all day. We made sure we were there early so we could see all of the acts.

First up was former DropThis singer, Jordan, under the alias Sweater Songs. Where DropThis played some excellent melodic hardcore punk, Sweater Songs is Jordan's acoustic solo endeavour. It was also the perfect way to ease the crowd that were already gathering into the day. Only playing for about twenty minutes, Jordan managed to squeeze in a few covers, as well as his own songs, into the set. As well as attempting to promote the New Cross Inn's reasonably priced chicken snacks. There was a great laid back charm to his performance to go along with his fantastic vocals that had the crowd listening keenly throughout his set. I look forward to hearing more from Sweater Songs. Sweater Songs is great.

Up next was the first full band show of the day and it was a band I was really looking forward to seeing again. It was Kingston's Resuscitators. I first heard the Resuscitators when they supported Off With Their Heads at the Fighting Cocks in Kingston back in 2013. I loved their set that day and am amazed it took me another four years before getting to see them again. As soon as they started their first song memories of what I loved about them four years ago came flooding back. This is fast paced melodic punk with vocals coming from everywhere. It's not just that everyone sings all the time though, most of the time it's different combinations of Resuscitator members singing different parts of the song. It's clear a lot of thought has gone into this to help create the right sound for the right moment. Finishing with the excellent Little Victories, I hope it's not such a long time before I see Resuscitators again. Resuscitators are great.

Next up was Joe Sullivan and The Happiness Werewolves. Joe Sullivan is a former member of the excellent Bandit The Panther, before releasing a solo EP late last year titled Osborne Heights. Since then he's put a full band together going by the moniker Joe Sullivan and The Happiness Werewolves. Taking Joe's acoustic songs and filling them out with a rocking full band worked an absolute treat. If you didn't know of the band before the gig it's certain that you were a fan at the end of their set. Edging away from the more melodic and skate punk sound that the majority of the bands on the bill played, Joe Sullivan and The Happiness Werewolves were much more of a straight forward punk rock act with a hint of folk. This is a band that should be on everyone's radars and I'm really hoping they do some full band recording sooner rather than later. Joe Sullivan and The Happiness Werewolves are great.

London based record label Umlaut Records had a whole host of bands from their impressive roster playing the show. First up was Fastfade, fresh from recently releasing their second EP called Side Effects. The three young men who make up Fastfade are incredibly talented musicians (the days bass player is a stadn in due to Fast Fade's normal bass player being away) but also are an extremely fun loving band. Whether it's wearing their underwear on stage, bantering amongst themselves or with the crowd with some self-depreciating humour or trying to start a bit of controversy about North London (where they're from) being better than South London. This is all just part of the fun, the real talking point about Fastfade is just how good they are! If you're a fan of 90s skate punk then you really need to check these guys out live. Along with playing a host of their own tracks they also played a couple of Green Day covers, one that was planned (In The End) and one that was just done on the fly (FOD). This was a super fun set. Fastfade are great.

In a change to the original time slots, next up were On A Hiding To Nothing. On a Hiding To Nothing put on one of the more energetic performances of the day with bass player Jack Wiseman stomping around the stage with an unmatched ferocity. They plated a selection of songs from their previous two EPs, with the tracks from this year's Formaldehyde release really standing out. On A Hiding To Nothing are one of the London punk scene's best kept secrets. Playing fast paced skate punk, the performance is absolutely breathless, I get tired just watching them so gosh knows how knackered they must be by the time they finish their half an hour set. Lead singer Al has an instantly recognisable voice and is ably backed up by some great harmonies from Jack and Hassan (we'll see him again later). On A Hiding To Nothing are one of those bands that I feel like should be much more well known than they are. They are skilled bunch of musicians who write excellent music and put on a great live show. On A Hiding To Nothing are great.

The same can also be said about Cereal Box Heroes. This pop punk three piece are just the most fun to watch on stage. Guitarist Connor and bassist Dom play off of each other brilliantly. Whether they are taking turns in singing songs or singing together, they do a fantastic job of keeping the energy up. Cereal Box Heroes are clearly influenced by Blink 182 and you can hear that in their sound but it's definitely not a rip off. There was a nice moment where Hassan of Triple Sundae and On A Hiding To Nothing joined the band on stage for an impromptu stint as lead vocalist. Something I really loved about this whole day was the companionship between all of the bands that were playing. They're all mates away from the music and it just made the day feel like one long friendly party. Cereal Box Heroes are great.

Following CBH was a band I was completely unaware of. A three piece pop punk band by the name of The Splash took to the stage. This trio from Somerset play an in your face style of pop punk with some fantastic gruff vocals. The crowd gathered at New Cross Inn were quite keen to see The Splash - they clearly made quite the good impression on people. Their enthusiasm on the New Cross Inn stage was infectious and I found myself grinning throughout their whole set. The between song banter was just as enjoyable, making jokes about being from Somerset and being scared of London and how they've made a video for a song that's on YouTube so we must have know all the words. The icing on the cake for The Spash's set was their cover of East 17's Christmas hit Stay Another Day. July is of course the perfect time to play that song. The Splash are great.

On the 22nd of May I had never seen Triple Sundae live. On the 17th of July I have seen them three times and look forward to seeing them many more times in the future. There's an undeniable charm to a Triple Sundae set that just makes me love them. It's not just me though, they've drawn one of the biggest crowds of the day so far and everyone's extremely pumped up to see them. If you've not listened to Triple Sundae before (shame on you) they play a melodic style of pop punk that gets your feet really stomping. The band's friendship with Cereal Box Heroes is on display again as CBH's Dom fills in on bass for Triple Sundae and does a superb job. During one of the songs, singer Hassan (here he is again) passes his microphone down to CBH's Connor and invites him to sing the song, as well. More evidence of the great community spirit in this wonderful scene. Triple Sundae are one of those bands you know are destined to grow and grow. Triple Sundae are great.

Like Resuscitators earlier in the day, it's been a long four years since I had seen Eat Defeat. The four piece from Leeds have developed into one of the finest pop punk bands in the country in that time and their most recent release (on Umlaut Records, of course), Time & Tide, is an absolute banger. Sadly I was slightly distracted by a drunk man stumbling around in front of me for the first part of Eat Defeat's set but when he finally disappeared, what a great set of high octane pop punk this was. I was really impressed by the strength of lead singer Summer's voice in a live setting, not sounding too dissimilar to the records. Earlier in the day Eat Defeat had posted a picture of their van loaded up and ready to travel down to London for the show, curiously there was a surfboard in the van. The reason for this became apparent at the beginning of their set as it was placed in front of the stage and soon enough we were being encouraged to crowd surf somebody on the surfboard. This created an awesome image. Eat Defeat are great.

At the beginning of the summer The Burnt Tapes, via Umlaut Records, put out one of my favourite releases of the year with the EP Alterations. Unlike the majority of the other bands playing, The Burnt Tapes play more of a slower paced, gruff sing-along style of punk rock opposed to some of their more poppy counterparts. I've said many times before that I just don't understand why these four guys aren't more well known in the punk rock scene as they have all the ingredients needed to be a great band. The songs are exceptional and they are a great live band. Lead singer Phil's voice sounds fantastic live, guitarist Pan add some quality vocals when called upon, drummer Jordan absolutely kills it every time and bassist Tone has this wonderful charisma on stage that makes it hard not to watch him on stage. Every time I write about The Burnt Tapes I feel like I'm writing them a love letter but I just want everyone to know how good everyone who has seen them knows they are. Smashing bunch of lads as well. The Burnt Tapes are great.

It's not very often that you'll go to an all day gig and not know a thing about the headline act other than they are named The Overjoyed and that they are from Greece. Thankfully I was in the minority with my lack of Overjoyed knowledge as they were completely adored by the New Cross crowd. The three piece played a mix of skate and pop punk with a small dose of ska thrown in for good measure. Despite the long day, the crowd still had plenty of energy left for The Overjoyed and danced, moshed and skanked their way through their entire set. Despite not knowing any of the songs I found myself dancing along with the band and I was slightly mesmerised by the entire set. In case you're unaware, The Overjoyed are great.

This was an incredibly fun day and it really lived up to all of my expectations of the New Cross Inn all dayer. All eleven acts absolutely smashed it and the whole day was a great advertisement for the talent that resides in our underground punk scene. I was really impressed with how well the whole day was run as well. You'd expect an all day gig in a small pub to start to run late or the sound to not be so good. This was never the case, the day ran smoothly and the sound was spot on all day. Massive kudos to all who were involved in the day. Like I said, we had a great day and it only cost £5! Make sure you get yourself down to New Cross for the next punk all dayer, it's the best way to spend a Sunday.

This gig review was written by Colin Clark.