Monday, 30 April 2018

Gig Review: Manchester Punk Festival 2018 Day One 19/4/18

(Note: Colin's parts are in regular text and Emma's parts are in italic.)

The moment we've been waiting on for six long months finally arrived last week! My favourite weekend of the year was upon us, Manchester Punk Festival. Back for its fourth year, it promised to be the best one yet. The festival, which in my opinion is the best in the UK, is getting bigger and bigger and is attracting more and more of the biggest punk bands from around the world. It's also attracting more and more people from not just the UK but from all other the world. This year's festival had attendees from places as far as the USA, New Zealand and South Africa – the latter where our pals and roomies Robyn and Brett had travelled from. I definitely can't complain about the four hour journey we had to get to Manchester.

MPF 2018 also featured some venue changes due to the festival's former home base, Sound Control, being demolished earlier this year. Now the festival has added Rebellion to its roster of venues and is also now using The Bread Shed (formerly known as Zoo) for the whole day rather than just the after party. MPF also used Gorilla, Zombie Shack, Underdog, Font Bar and The Thirsty Scholar again this year.

Being the first band on at the first night of a festival is not the easiest of tasks to be given. But it was a task that Belfast-based pop punk foursome No Matter didn’t seem in the least bit phased by. It was great to see Rebellion so packed out for their set – that wouldn’t be the case at 7pm in Belfast the band said! I hadn’t seen No Matter before, and really had only listened to them briefly, but I was very impressed by their upbeat and infectious pop punk tunes. The vocal harmonies from three out of four of the band members were excellent. This is definitely a band I’ll be checking out some more.

Captain Trips are a band I've been wanting to catch live for a while. Whilst I'm not overly familiar with their music I've always dug what I have heard and I've been told many times what a great live band they are. Now, after seeing them live, I can confirm that they are in fact a great live band. Something I really loved about seeing them perform was how laid back and effortlessly cool they were whilst doing some serious shredding. I can't imagine that many technical melodic skate punk bands wear flip flops on stage but Captain Trips lead vocalist and guitarist does and carries it off with some aplomb. The crowd at Rebellion was quickly growing and loving the band, with a few starting a small mosh pit very early in the evening. Because I'm not massively familiar with Captain Trips music the biggest highlight for me was their cover of the John Farnham's classic You're The Voice. This got a great reaction. Captain Trips really impressed me and I will definitely be checking them out properly when we get home from Manchester… once we recover.

It feels like some time since Colin and I last saw Crazy Arm live so, as one of my longtime favourite UK punk bands, I was particularly keen to see them at night one of MPF 2018. They haven’t yet released their fourth album but perhaps we would be treated to some songs from it. Frontman Darren opened the band’s set with a gripping acapella number – he has such an awesome voice – but it wasn’t long before they’d launched into their fully rocking, fast and furious set. There were at least two new songs in there but also plenty of oldies to get the crowd singing along with fists in the air – Still To Keep, in particular, proving to be a great big singalong moment. Interestingly Darren said the band hadn’t prepared a set list, they just played! Awesome! The end of the set however featured an appearance from violinist Luke Yates, also of Sounds Of Swarmi fame, for Song Of Choice. Finishing their set with Tribes – ‘it’s a singalong innit’ – was certainly a wise move. We were now suitable pumped for our dash over to The Bread Shed!

Making our first and only venue swap of the evening, we got our power walking feet ready and made the supposedly 15 minute walk from Rebellion to The Bread Shed. By this point both venues were running a little late but I think we beat the Google maps estimated time anyway and arrived to a super packed out, hot and sweaty Bread Shed, formally known as Zoo to us returning MPFers, ready for the start of Roughneck Riot’s set. It was apparent that the band were suffering from some sort of technical difficulties, perhaps due to the inclusion of an accordion, mandolin and banjo (not your typical punk instruments) in their entourage, but it certainly didn’t affect the crowd’s enjoyment. As a TNS band, and Northerners too, Roughneck are always going to go down well at MPF. There was dancing a plenty, well as much as was possible in a tight space, and the pit opened up for the rowdier punks to let off some steam. Roughneck Riot have a new album on the way and the first half of their set showcased a number of new tracks. They all sounded great but it was the older tunes, such as This Is Our Day, Parasites and Animosity, that were most enthusiastically received. The party was well and truly go in The Bread Shed with just one band to go…

The band I was perhaps the most excited about seeing all weekend were headlining the first day of the festival – bloody Random Hand! The Yorkshire based four piece were back after an almost three year hiatus and were ready to put on a show that only Random Hand can. The Bread Shed was packed for these returning heroes and, as soon as those first blast of Robin's trombone hit, the crowd went wild and we were off. From then on it was as if Random Hand had never been away as they stormed through their set. When a band is away for such a long time, it's very easy to forget just what an incredible band they are. It also reminds you just how many incredible songs they have written. From the very first song until the last I was thinking, "oh I love this one." If they were rusty from being on hiatus for so long it really didn't show as they didn't seem to miss a note and jumped around the stage with seemingly unlimited energy and enthusiasm. When Random Hand went on their hiatus they left us with one final parting gift a brand new album named Hit Reset. At the time this album was a little bittersweet for me, I loved it but I knew it would be a long time before I got to see any of the songs live. Now I have seen some of the songs live and it was fantastic, they fit perfectly into their set and the crowd were into them as much as they were the old classics. The crowd were so enthusiastic and were going wild throughout with plenty of skanking, moshing, crowd surfing and stage diving throughout the set. Despite the rambunctiousness of the crowd, it never got so out of hand that the folk who didn't want to be in the pit felt uncomfortable. Obviously Random Hand absolutely killed it and any other band during the entirety of the entire festival will have a hard time topping that performance. It is so good to have them back.

If the five bands that we saw tonight were at a normal gig it would easily be the gig of the year. But this was just day one of Manchester Punk Festival and there were still two complete days and many, many wonderful punk rock bands to go. If this was just the beginning, this was going to be a weekend to remember!

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

Album Review: Long Way Down by The Pissups

The Pissups are a punk rock band from Cape Town, South Africa, who I discovered via Bandcamp's discovery page. They had recently released their newest album Long Way Down. I gave it a quick preview and immediately added it to my review list. Describing themselves as "alcoholic pub punk rock", they struck a chord with me (ironic as I'm tee-total) and found myself really excited to get Long Way Down reviewed. Here's what I thought.

Long Way Down begins with the song Flagship. Given the band's description, I was kind of surprised by the overall tone of this opening song. I was expecting a jovial, upbeat happy time but instead Flagship opens in a much darker way. Starting with a rumbling bass part before the guitar and then the vocals kick in, The Pissups waste little time in getting started. I loved the vocals straight away, the band's singer has a raspy, gravelly voice. Not your typical clean and lovely vocal but more the everyman style that is part of what makes punk rock so great. When the chorus hits and some gang vocals begin, this when Flagship really hits its heights. This is an excellent beginning. Following this is One For The Road. The first thing you notice is the change in vocalist. It seems that The Pissups have two vocalists. This second singer has a deeper voice but is still all raspy and gravelly and brilliant. On The Road is about a crazy night travelling round Mexico and South America and some of the interesting scrapes they get into. I'd love to know whether or not they are true. The song hits its peak during the chorus with some wonderful gang vocals. Seriously, if a song has gang vocals I'm sold. On the third song I decided that The Pissups are absolute sweethearts. Not only have they published the lyrics, they mention who sings which parts. Absolute sweethearts and a reviewer's dreamboat. The title of track three is Several Terrible Ideas. Again starting with quite a dark tone with Aidan's (yup, I know their names now) deeper voice taking the bulk of the vocal duties, it's one of the more ferocious songs on the album. When Matt's vocals come in at the end of the song it's almost a full-on scream and sounds tremendous. One Way Bus is the name of the fourth track on Long Way Down. It starts out with a slow paced introduction that will allow for a big sing-a-long before the song begins properly. After this the melody changes slightly and we are treated to what I really expected from The Pissups - a big old drinking song shout-a-long. That fun song where your put your arms round a stranger in the pit and shout yourself hoarse along with the song. Before the song finishes the tempo and intensity is upped but the shouting along continues with a great and catchy finale.

Asylum Fight Night steers away from the pub punk sing-a-long and has a much more serious sound to it. It's about getting into bloody fights whilst being drunk and the terrible things you do whilst in that bad state of mind. The Pissups are superb on this track showing a great amount of restraint in their songwriting. It would have been easy to just explode throughout the song but by remaining so tight it keeps with the tone of the song so well. On The Run is one of my favourite tracks on Long Way Down. The first two verses talk about being at that final point of despair and trying to take your life and somebody else's. Again, it's quite a serious and dark sounding song until we get to the chorus when we get this delightful switch in melody and the whole tone of the song changes. It's now kind of upbeat and you can't help but sing-a-long with Aidan. This change of melody gives the song a big sound and is another superb piece of songwriting from The Pissups. When I first read the title of the album's penultimate song, Get Wrecked, there was only one thought in my mind as to what the track is about. Getting very drunk. My assumption was correct, Get Wrecked is about getting drunk and sharing some interesting times with strangers. Much like most Pissups songs, the song really comes to life when we get to the chorus. The line "Get wrecked! Whoa" is so simple it's great and very easy for anyone listening to want to sing-a-long with the band. When the gang vocals come back in for the final chorus, a huge smile arrived on my face. The opening riff of the final song, Down, really brought the mood of the whole album up. Ironic really as it's really not at upbeat song. I do get quite a kick out of songs like this. Upbeat in sound but extremely down in message. Down is about struggling with your mental health problems and feeling like you couldn't get any lower. The way it's written however makes it a very cathartic song, with the chorus in particular being excellent for shouting along with and releasing any and all of your feelings.

I absolutely loved Long Way Down from the beginning to the end. It's eight fantastic songs of fantastic sing-a-long punk rock. Given the band's name and how they describe themselves I was definitely expecting more drinking songs but was pleasantly surprised by the more serious topics on the release. I spend hours on Bandcamp searching for brilliant new bands from all other the world (punk rock doesn't just exist in the USA, Europe and Australia you know - it's everywhere!) and finding a band as good as The Pissup makes it time very well spent!

Stream and download Long Way Down here:

Like The Pissups here:

This review was written by Colin Clark.

Saturday, 28 April 2018

Album Review: Whistleblower by Out Of My Way

Out Of My Way are a new punk band from Stockholm, Sweden. The three piece, consisting of Christian Gehlert (guitar/vocals), Tobias Eriksson (bass/vocals) and Charlie Österlund (drums) released their debut EP Whistleblower back in March and, I'll tell you now, it's absolutely superb. Now, I'll tell you why.

Whistleblower begins with Shut Me Up. Here we have a fast paced and hard hitting skate punk song. Österlund's drumming throughout the entire song is superb, his rapid fire pounding of the skins powers the song forward. When we get to the chorus we are treated to a wonderfully catchy section that you will be singing before you realise the lines are permanently etched into your brain. I loved the final chorus of the song when we are treated to some great gang vocals to finish things off. The second song Why She Left shows of the pop punk side of Out Of My Way. Like the track's title suggests it's about looking at the reasons as to why "she" left you. Basically the reason is because you've been lazy and rubbish and spending all of your time feeling sorry for yourself. Like I said, this song does show a poppier side of Out Of My Way but the song still has plenty of angst and attitude in it - plus it features another chorus that grabs you immediately.

Storage Locker was the standout song on my first listen of Whistleblower. It goes off like a bullet and has this accelerated melody where the vocals are delivered at a speed that a master rapper would be pleased with. It must be exhausting singing at such a speed. The energy that the song releases is just infectious and draws you into the song. Storage Locker is about cutting ties with friends who don't act like friends anymore. The penultimate track is titled The Shit, The Stain, The Wash-Off. Reverting back to a pop punk sound but with a bucket load of anger thrown in, Out Of My Way have written a song about stepping up as a person and facing up to the bad things you've done rather than living in denial about it. Last up is the short but ferocious EDM. It's an attack on the electronic music scene, from the perceived lack of musical talent it takes to make it, to the drug and molestation culture that comes from it. No punches are pulled on this song and it finishes off the EP with a big bang.

Whistleblower is an absolutely superb debut EP from Out Of My Way. It really blew me away by how good it actually is. Seriously, this is really, really good and it really came out of nowhere. Bands shouldn't be this good on their debut release. I can only imagine just what a band Out Of My Way could become. Go and check out Whistleblower now!

Stream and download Whistleblower here:

Like Out Of My Way here:

This review was written by Colin Clark.

Friday, 27 April 2018

CPRW Playlist: April 2018

CPRW Playlist: Here's what Dan, Emma, Omar, Richard, Robyn and myself have been listening to this April.

Thursday, 26 April 2018

Top Tens: Scott & Ed from Horn & Hoof Records Top Ten Punk Rock Influences

Right, let’s go and get this started. Rancid are one of those bands who have been with me as long as I have been into punk. The first album of theirs I heard was "Let’s Go" and it blew me away, this was how a punk band should sound said my impressionable teenage brain. I love the structure of the every single song on this album – the chord structure, Tim's slurring vocals and of course Matt Freeman's bass lines. Rancid was one of the first bands that really made me stand up and take notice of what the bass player was doing – you don't have to just play root notes you know, bassists :O. Rancid are one of the first bands that turned me on to ska as well. When I was younger I really didn't like ska at all (with the exception of Madness who I was brought up on), but Rancid's style of ska opened up a whole new world to me.

Pennywise, like Rancid, have been a staple of my punk rock CD collection since what feels like forever. Their album "About Time" is one of their best (along with Full Circle, Straight Ahead, Land Of The Free… okay they're all awesome albums). Fast, punchy punk rock that's perfect for driving to, perfect for drinking to (although not together), perfect for singing along to. Fletcher from Pennywise has been a big BIG influence on my guitar playing and sometimes when I go to a band practice and say "Hey look, here's a new riff I have" I’m greeted with "That sounds like Pennywise" (as if that's a bad thing?). Another great thing about Fletcher is he plays an Ibanez. Jim Lindburg’s vocal style has also been an influence on my "singing", although I’m not quite as musical.

I think, like most people my age, Incubus will hold a special place in our hearts. “A Certain Shade Of Green” will undoubtedly have been played countless times in the numerous visits to the rock clubs of our youth. “S.C.I.E.N.C.E” and “A Crow Left Of The Murder” are two albums that I still love. Incubus HAD a magical way of fusing funk and metal. Fucking brilliant.

They got a mention earlier on so I thought it was about time to talk about them. Madness were my first introduction to the world of ska and it remained that way until about the age of 17/18, when I was discovering bands like Rancid, and went to an Out Of Spite weekender at Joseph's Well in Leeds and saw the Propagumbhis. But back to Madness, they’re just great. Suggs is a fucking legend. I had an official Video (yes an actual VHS video) that (I think) my brother got me when I was… I don’t even know, maybe 14? and I used to watch it relentlessly. Baggy Trouser still gets me skanking like a nutter.

Power picking – one of my all-time favourite guitar techniques and it's something Propagandhi do in bucket loads. I can’t explain how much I love this band. I’ve only managed to get to see them play a handful of times so I was pretty excited to see that they were playing at MPF this year. “How To Clean Everything “, “Where Quality is Job #1” and “Potemkin City Limits” just sum this band up perfectly for me. It's great to see they’re back on form with their new album and I can’t wait to see them again!

Nirvana – Nevermind
I first heard this album when I lived in the States as a kid. I remember being struck by the sound as a whole. I related to the angst that predominates throughout the album, especially during my late teens. I’m still heavily influenced by not only Nevermind but the rest of Nirvana’s albums.

Pixies – Doolittle
When I was in high school a friend lent me this album. I listened to it and was hooked. The mixture of surf riffs with the Black Francis’ vocals drew me in. I have drawn heavily from this album whilst writing some of our more recent songs.

Sublime – Sublime
I moved to the states in 1997, the year after Bradley Nowell died. This album had just been released and the radio stations constantly played “What I got”, “Wrong way” and “Santeria”. I’d never heard anything like it before. What I love about this album is how Sublime tackle multiple genres. You’re taken on a journey through punk, hardcore, reggae, ska, hip hop and classic rock. Sublime never gave a fuck about fitting a specific genre, which is something I’ve tried to embody in my approach to songwriting.

The Sex Pistols – Never Mind The Bollocks, Here’s The Sex Pistols
My parents introduced me to punk with this album when I was about 12 years old. There was so much anger in this album, which reflected the political climate at the time, not too dissimilar to that of present day. The aspect that stood out most to me was Johnny Rotten’s vocals. The way he snarls his lyrics appealed to me and is something that I have tried to recreate in my own manner.

Fresh – Fresh
The only album in this list that is less than 20 years old. I bought this album on a whim a few months ago from Specialist Subject Records. I love this album and have told anyone who will listen about it. The way in which the songs tell a story of someone’s battle with depression is something I can relate to. This album has given me the confidence to put my heart on the line more as a songwriter in recent months. If you haven’t listened to this album, you need to!

Check out Horn & Hoof Records on Facebook here and Bandcamp here.

Wednesday, 25 April 2018

Album Review: Gods Of Mount Olympus by Gods Of Mount Olympus

When you name your band Gods Of Mount Olympus then you need two things. One: a band containing some established players in the game of punk rock. Two: a record of epic proportions that is going to absolutely knock the listener's socks off. Well, the Gods Of Mount Olympus certainly have some of the most established players in the world of punk amongst their ranks. Formed by Scorpios pianist Brian Wahlstrom and featuring Steve Morris of Unwritten Law on guitar and Matt Riddle of No Use For A Name of bass. Gods Of Mount Olympus are completed by drummer Paul Rucker who is a mutual friend of Lagwagon's Joey Cape. So yeah, plenty of punk rock chops to go along with such a bold name. But does their self titled EP pack the punch its title warrants?

The EP begins with the song Blue Screen Light. From the outset you can get the feel of the EP with some classic 90s melodic skate punk being lead by some fantastic piano playing from Wahlstrom. This different approach to that sound, that I've enjoyed for so long, immediately has me listening to the track intently. The piano adds a more theatrical sound to the song and it really feels as if you're being taken on a journey. It's not all about the piano though, there are some superb guitar solos in the song at times that adds some metal to the track. There's also an appearance from Joey Cape in the song which was an added bonus. There's so much going on in this opening track! This is followed up by Cops On Saint Andrews. The song starts out with a bouncy piano part being accompanied by some crunching guitars. This start is quite contrasting but soon enough everything falls into line and the two sounds complement each other wonderfully. At over five minutes long, the song has got that lovely epic feel. You don't really notice the length though as you're just swept away with everything that's going on in the song.

The third song on the EP is titled Curtains. Curtains starts out in a reasonably subdued manner with Wahlstrom's exquisite vocals taking centre stage. They do such a magnificent job of carrying the melody of the song before the eventual piano comes in. The layering of the vocals is also so good, adding some extra emotion to the song. When the piano does come in so does a dramatic flavour, it almost feels like a film score or narrative. The penultimate track, Admission, begins with more piano and the addition of some strings, adding even more of a theatrical style. I love the way that the song builds as it goes on - first with the addition of the rest of the band, then by upping the tempo and finally by Wahlstrom adding some urgency into his vocals. This is one of those songs that transcends genres and is just a fantastic piece of music. Neverminder completes the EP. Neverminder is a mid-tempo track that plods along nicely. There is a more serious tone to the song but it also feels as if this one was written to be the big sing-a-long at a Gods Of Mount Olympus live show. The tempo is upped at the halfway stage with the piano becoming prominent again with the additional strings section. Again, this sounds so dramatic that you can't help but be swept away by the music.

Gods Of Mount Olympus pulled it off. This EP is certainly big enough to deserve such a bold name. I love this fresh and unique take on punk rock. It's something that punk rockers will really enjoy and should get some attention from fans of other genres and styles of music.

Stream and download Gods Of Mount Olympus here:

Like Gods Of Mount Olympus here:

This review was written by Colin Clark.

Tuesday, 24 April 2018

Album Review: Traverse by Traverse (by Emma Prew)

Traverse are a punk rock band from Paris, France. If you are a follower of the blog, and my reviews in particular (hi mum!), then you may know that I’ve already reviewed Traverse this year – back in January I wrote about their 2016 EP Winter Songs From Summer Bruises, because I mistakenly thought it was new. New or not, the EP was great and when I learnt that Traverse would be releasing their debut self-titled album, on Fond Of Life Records (France) and Brassneck Records (UK), in March I immediately added it to my review list.

The first song on the album is called Firestarter and it was also the first song to be released ahead of the full album – you might even know it from the March edition of the CPRW playlist. Firestarter begins with a reverby fade in of guitars and, when the vocals of the first verse hit, things get faster quite quickly. By the second verse, the pace is a pretty speedy one and we are treated to the perfect example of what Traverse are all about – upbeat indie punk that encourages you to sing along. The chorus in particular begs for you to join in – ‘I wage us leaving on the edge of me, Stood on your feet and pushed you in anxiety, We built this castle on loose soil, We built this castle on loose soil, Please stare at me.’ I think it’s always a little risky releasing the first song of an album ahead of the album itself, because then people will already be familiar with it rather than being hit with something brand new when you first listen to the album – but when the first track is this good I don’t care! There’s a nice fade into the next song, Asymptotes. This second track wastes no time in getting going and will hopefully get your head nodding immediately – it certainly did that for me anyway! I didn’t know what ‘asymptote’ meant before hearing this song but I looked it up and found that an asymptote is a straight line that approaches a curve but never quite gets there. So I guess that’s sort of what this song is about too, always trying to reach a goal but never quite reaching it. The song is a short one but it does pack in another highly singalongable chorus, this time featuring some subtle whoa-ohs in the background – a nice touch. ‘My will dissolved I swallowed it ’till the last drop, Watch me shrivel my determination, I’m so close to get the perfect knot with my rope, Hear me throw up my salvation.’ And then, before you know it, this short song has zoomed to its end. But never fear, there’s more where that came from! Starting more slowly than previous tracks with cleaner, clearer vocals, Meridians is more of a mid-tempo track about trying to deal with your inner demons. It allows listeners to have a bit of a breather while the band show off a more considered melodic and almost contemplative side. The pace and volume does pick up however for a belting final bridge section. ‘We won't be home again, My heart’ll always be elsewhere, Forever in between, Always stuck in between, We’ll never be home again, Our hearts’ll always be elsewhere.’

The fourth song of the album is called La Forme D’une Ville. After a short stop-start few seconds, this track gets going in an almost post-hardcore style, with crashing drums and big crunching guitars. La Forme D’une Ville means The Shape Of A City which also happens to be a book by French author Julien Gracq – I know nothing of this book, I simply googled the French phrase! It’s not just the song title that is in French here, the lyrics are too although interestingly this is the only song in French on the album. The song being in a language I don’t understand doesn’t stop me from wanting to yell along with the band, as this is another passionate, fists-in-the-air anthem of a tune. The bridge of ‘Combien de flammes à attiser, Pour combien d’incendies?’ (which loosely translates as ‘How many flames to fan, For how many fires?’) is the standout moment here, which then gives way to a quieter section before the crashing instruments return to play out the song. It Takes A Lot To Get Home is track number five and it kicks off with an upbeat combination of guitars and drums before things slow down somewhat for the first verse. You can tell that the pace will soon pick back up however. This is a song that deals with negative feelings when you just want to give up but, if anything, the song sort of does the opposite because it makes the listener feel like they’re not alone if they happen to be feeling the same – excellent. As it turns out, the band decide themselves that they won’t be giving any time soon either: ‘Worn out of struggling, You know it feels like giving in, Sometimes I feel like giving in, What if this life was about fighting?, Sometimes it feels like giving in, You know I won’t be giving in.’ Situations opens with a lengthy almost interlude-like introduction that lasts 30 seconds or so (that’s a long time for a punk rock song, right?). The guitars are fairly gentle and pleasantly melodic, soon the drums come in but it all continues to build gradually. The pace and volume picks up after those first 30 seconds but the first lyrics are a little longer coming – but when they do it all feels well worth the wait. There’s yet another great shout-along, fists-in-the-air chorus on offer in this track as well. The kind where the guitars take somewhat of a backseat while the drums and vocals that take the limelight – it reminded me of old Menzingers although is perhaps not so raw as some of their early stuff. ‘Let’s take back the streets, And light the torches, Because nothing’s ever felt alright. We write and sing, “The world or nothing”, And raise our fists through the sunlight.’ The catchiest lyrics of the album however appear in the bridge section of Situations, after an instrumental section. ‘If scissors beat paper, Then our ardour beats their elite.’ (Although I did think that second line was ‘Then I’m already dead.’ for a while.)

Kicking off with a rolling drumbeat before a slowly plodding melodic guitar part joins the mix, Future Ghosts is a much slower song compared to the majority of songs on the album so far. It feels almost dream-like and laid back which makes sense really as is actually matches up with the lyrics – for example, ‘I need to go to sleep now, And forget about it all.’ As much as I’ve been loving all of those shout-along choruses and cathartic moments, it is really quite refreshing to have a slower paced track. Not to mention that it shows that Traverse are more than one trick ponies (I’m not sure that that phrase will translate well for any French readers, sorry.). There are a lot of questions being asked in the lyrics of Future Ghosts, as well as the obvious references to ghosts, and so when the first lines of the next song, I’ll Never Be Missed, continue those themes it feels pretty poignant – ‘Have you ever left someone before, In a ghost town you used to call home?’ This is a steady paced song about feeling insignificant sometimes – like if you were to pack up and leave your town no one would care or miss you. It’s not the most positive of subjects but the way in which it is delivered feels otherwise. We even get some supportive gang vocals that shout ‘Leave it all behind!’ in the middle of the song, as well as the final chorus of repeated ‘I’ll never be missed.’ while the main vocal sings ‘Have you ever lost someone before?’. There’s some great layering on offer here. The ninth song is called Catch A Glimpse and begins with a generous helping of bass guitar. This contrasts with clean poppier vocals as the song progresses slowly through the first verse. The vocals shift to shoutier style for the second verse – ‘The street is setting the pace, This fuss isn't senseless, The curtains will close and it will be a mess.’ And then things continue to swap between the two styles. There’s a great sense of ups and downs, highs and lows, calmness and anger reflected in the song. And who doesn’t love a track that uses a sinking ship as a metaphor for your life? 

Drawing towards the end of the album, the penultimate song is Lights In July. The opening bassline and drums will have your head nodding enthusiastically and the more intricate guitar part will have you hooked in no time at all. This is a song full of nostalgia yet, at the same time, it reflects on not actually being able to remember bits from your past and childhood in particular. ‘The kid I once was has never grown up, My old bedroom is full of dull school pictures, These faces and names I can’t remember.’ There aren’t so many lyrics in Lights In July, compared to earlier songs, but it more than makes up for any lack of lyrical content with an instrumental section towards the end of the song. This allows the band to show what great musicians they all are, before the line ‘I can’t feel any pride.’ is sung quietly with minimal backing… at least the first time through. The song ends with the same line being shouted with hella load of passion. After a faded and fuzzy start, the final track, We Sometimes Sleep But Never Dream, hits us with some big guitars. The pace is set high for this introduction and some pounding drums carry things along wonderfully. Traverse are really giving everything they’ve got for this last song! After 30 seconds or so, the pace slows a little and the instruments are turned down a notch for when the vocals come in but they continue to drive the song despite this. There’s a slow verse, a faster verse and one of those huge sing along choruses that we punks love so much – and ironically the chorus is about singing along to ‘just another song’. Just another song that we could sing along, Sing along…’ Then just when you think the song is going to end after two and a half minutes, it seems to fade out… but no! There’s a huge shout-along bridge section ending with the song’s title, ‘We sometimes sleep but never dream.’ Fin.

Traverse have released an excellent debut album and I highly recommend it to any fans of singalongable melodic indie punk rock – that’s everyone that reads this blog, right? 

You can stream and download Traverse by Traverse on Bandcamp here and give the band a like on Facebook here.

This review was written by Emma Prew.

Monday, 23 April 2018

Album Review: Salvation by The Penske File

The Penske File are band I've been in love with for a little while, since first hearing their incredible Burn Into The Earth album in 2016. It's a brilliant slab of heartfelt pop punk with splashes of folk. In October of last year the Canadian three piece released the single Come What May as a bit of a teaser for their upcoming new album. That album is now out and is Salvation. Released on the always great Stomp Records, this is an album I've been keen to hear for a while.

Salvation begins with a song named Kamikaze Kids. From the get go the track gets me pumped for the entire album with a great guitar intro and a massive scream of "yeah!" to really get the party started. Kamikaze Kids is a melodic pop punk song which has a bit of a feel of The Menzingers and The Gaslight Anthem, if you're a fan of those bands you'll definitely love this. I love a good build in a song and Kamikaze Kids has a great one towards its ending. It teases and teases and when you expect the song to explode the music drops out, the vocals remain and seem massive and this finishes off the song in a superb manner. Following this strong start to the album is the second track, Golden Futures. The song starts out slowly and fairly quietly before we are treated to a huge chorus. There is a feeling of epicness surrounding this chorus that not only hooks you in but gives you goosebumps. The lines "if we were to die, to die tonight, we wouldn't mind, oh it's alright" ring out throughout the song and I can only imagine just what a moment seeing this song played live would be. This is the first time on the album that The Penske File's patented harmonica makes an appearance. I didn't quite expect to say this in this review but the opening guitar riffs on Lakeshore kind of remind me of the Foo Fighters (what's a Foo? and why are they fighting it?). This doesn't last long though as the drums come in and drives the song forward with some urgency, whilst never losing any of its catchy melody. The track sees The Penske File in story telling mode as they sing about returning back to where they grew up and remembering all the little things that happened in different places.

The fourth song, Spin My History, starts out with a raw sound, immediately adding emotion to the track. It doesn't take long to revert back to the familiar Penske File sound and another massive chorus. This is a thoughtful song about looking back on your past. The lead vocalist does a fantastic job of giving a massive vocal performance, whilst also showing a great amount of restraint, as he delivers the lines. Fairgrounds picks the pace up with drummer Alex Standen delivering a huge rapid fire drum roll in the song's opening. This really catapults us into the track and gets us keen to see where it goes from there. Fairgrounds is about living your life to the fullest, living in the moment and not worrying about deep and meaningful things happening. Following this is the excellent American Basements. Here The Penske File slow things down as they sing a love song to the DIY punk scene. The American scene is the one referenced in the title of the song but they could easily be singing about DIY scenes all over the world. The harmonica is something that really attracted me to The Penske File's music when I first heard them so it's great to hear them use it in such a prominent role here. I haven't heard the band slow things down as much as they do here before but I have to say they do a fantastic job of it. The seventh song, Last Chance, is a real toe tapping, hip shaking kind of song. It brings in elements of street punk, skate punk and 60s rock 'n' roll to create one of the highlights of a great album. The tempo is high which encourages even more dancing! The song is actually about making sure you have the time of your life as you don't know when it will be "your last chance to dance."

The previously released Come What May is up next and fits into this album perfectly. It's a song that gets better and better every time you listen to it which is such a great quality for a song to have. This song is one big sing-a-long from the outset, something The Penske File really do specialise in. The simple chorus of "come what may!" repeated over and over in the middle of the song works brilliantly as a way of building towards a huge finale to the song. As soon as Yesterday's Getaway began I instantly thought of Party Time Liars from The Penske File's previous album, Burn Into The Earth, with that unmistakable harmonica sound and its big ol' chorus. I loved the pounding drums that accompany the chorus, really helping it to stand out. The band are in story telling mode once again as they recount some fight or flight scenarios that they've encountered and how they've dealt with them. I loved the intensity in Travis Miles' vocals on the final chorus. The penultimate song on Salvation is titled Young & Worthless and it's a banger. The song starts out slowly, hooking you with maybe the best guitar riff on the entire album. When the vocals come in you're ready to be taken on another fantastic ride. It's clear there has been a lot of thought put into the overall sound on production on this record. I loved the subtle harmonies on some of the vocals on Young & Worthless. It gives the song a whole new layer that you won't even realise is there unless you're listening extremely carefully. Last up is Blessed Unrest which has a great stop-start disjointed opening. After all of the glorious melody that we've been spoilt with on Salvation this is a little unsettling on the first listen but it certainly grows on you. The song's highlight and perhaps one of the biggest highlights of the entire album is the song's bridge which features some excellent gang vocals singing the simple line "we don't know, we don't know where we're going." A line so relatable to so many twenty-somethings in the world. A superb way to finish the album.

I truly believe that Salvation could be a huge breakthrough album for The Penske File, much like The ’59 Sound was for The Gaslight Anthem or On The Impossible Past was for The Menzingers. The Penske File have this special something that separates them from many of their peers. They write these incredible thoughtful songs and fill them with catchy choruses and huge hooks that will stay with you for a long time and will never get old. If you're not in the old The Penske File boat yet then now is definitely the time to climb onboard!

Stream and download Salvation here:

Like The Penske File here:

This review was written by Colin Clark.

Saturday, 21 April 2018

Album Review: Double Negative by Down And Outs

Down And Outs are a band that I've been aware of for a while but haven't really checked out. After a little research I found out that they are three mates from Liverpool who are influenced by bands such as The Clash, Cock Sparrer, Leatherface and Green Day. In February they released a brand new album on Boss Tuneage, All In Vinyl, Yo Yo Records and Waterslide Records named Double Negative.

Double Negative starts out with Astoria. Here we have, in what I've discovered is the norm for Down And Outs, a fine sing-a-long punk rock anthem. It's that perfect no thrills punk rock that's so brilliantly easy to jump on board with and shout along to as loudly as you possibly can. Basingstoke is a song that feature a bit of social commentary. During the song the band asks are people happy that choices they make cause people pain and make the listener question their compassion. If you are someone who makes these choices and lack compassion then you are not the same as Down And Outs. I kind of feel like this is an anthem for the good people in the world to take a stand against the dicks and proudly say who they are. The third track, Shots, is one that deals with the important subject of mental health. Particularly the feeling that you have nothing left to give people and not wanting to be around anyone. This is one of those songs that is so much fun to sing along with and it will make you feel better for doing so.

You Can Have This Country Back took me a little by surprise on my first listen as it's led by a piano, reminding me a little of the Boomtown Rats but much much better. This different way of approaching the punk rock sing-a-long works really well here, giving the song an extra piece of emotion. The song is about being disgusted by the direction that Great Britain is heading as a country and not wishing to be a part of it. Something I'm sure that everyone reading this can relate to. This is a song that is designed to get people thinking and the way that the band have slowed things down helps brilliantly to create that feeling. The fifth song, Tea And Sympathy, sees Down And Outs revert back to their big street punk anthems. This band have an excellent knack for writing superbly catchy tracks that hook you so quickly. The harmonies between lead singer, Mark Magill, and drummer and backing vocalist, Morgan Brown (also of Pardon Us), are superb and only add to the sing-a-long qualities that the song oozes out. You're Still Here is about trying to deal with the loss of someone that you care for and questioning why it has happened but also realising that the person lives on through your memories. This is one of the more emotional songs on Double Negative, understandably given the subject of the song.

I loved the opening guitar playing of What Did You Do In The Culture Wars? It fills the song with energy immediately and in doing so I'm so pumped to see how the song progresses on. By the time Magill's vocals come in, you're sat on the edge of your seat in anticipation for them to drop and when they do you're in and ready to shout oh so loudly along. The song features some interesting melodies with the song stopping and starting making you think that you are listening to the next song and then, to finish the song off, the melody changes for one last arms-around-your-pals shout-a-long. Free is another song about loss. It's about a friend who struggles with mental health problems who sadly dies and their friends hoping that they finally feel free. It's a very sad song but I love the positive sound of the lines "well I hope you're finally free." It puts a bit of a positive spin on a devastating situation. Heartbreak Radio is one of many highlights on Double Negative. It's a song about finding strength in music after going through a terrible time. That's one of my favourite things about music, it offers such a brilliant form of escapism from the rubbish that everyday life can throw at you. This is something I'm sure everyone relates to even if you're not a fan of punk rock music. The gang vocals on the chorus are great and I can imagine this song going down really well at a Down And Outs gig.

The tenth song I Think I'm Falling Apart also features Magill on piano again - nice to hear it make an appearance in a couple of songs. It's the shortest track on Double Negative and is also the most heartbreaking. The song sounds almost ballad-like in its delivery and there is also a fuzziness in the vocals giving the track a raw emotional flavour. I Think I'm Falling Apart is about feeling as if your life is crumbling down around you after having your heart broken. About Time picks up the tempo and the mood. It reverts back to that fantastic sing-a-long punk rock that, to be quite frank, I really love. Down And Outs really excel at this style of punk rock. In a scene that's highly saturated with fantastic melodic punk rock bands it's refreshing to hear something that really stands out. The penultimate song, All In This Together, is a political number. It tackles the subject of class in today's society and questions why it is that the people with the least amount money are the ones hurting due to the economical mess that the country is in. The song could be used as a protest song with the chorus of "we're all in this together, why are we the only ones hurting" being used to rally people together. Double Negative is concluded with the song Norah Marie. Norah Marie is a short sing-a-long (obviously) looking back on the past and wondering what might have been. The example in the song being of an old love who is getting married and thinking about how it could, or perhaps should, have been you before coming to the conclusion that some things aren't meant to be. This is a lighter way to finish the album but is still one hell of an earworm.

Double Negative is an album containing thirteen fantastic sing-a-long punk rock anthems. It does everything you expect from this type of band and then some! This is one of the albums of the year so far from a band that I really wish I hadn't slept on for so long. Don't make my mistakes, check out this album.

Stream and download Double Negative here:

Like Down And Outs here:

This review was written by Colin Clark.

Friday, 20 April 2018

Gig Review: Sonic Boom Six at The Craufurd Arms, Milton Keynes 15/4/18

After not having a gig for almost two months Emma and I found ourselves at our second in three days last weekend when we made the short trip to Milton Keynes, specifically The Craufurd Arms in Wolverton, to see legendary ska punk band Sonic Boom Six along with local reggae/ska band Easydread and Birmingham punk rockers Templeton Pek.

First up were Easydread who we also saw on Friday night supporting the Popes Of Chillitown in Bedford. I'm not going to do another in-depth review again but I will say that they again absolutely smashed their set and I fell in love with the new songs even more. If you want to read my review of Easydread from the Popes gig check it out here.

Next up were Templeton Pek. The three piece have been going for a number of years now and seem to have built themselves a very good reputation but this was my first time seeing them. I was so impressed by the band. They play a harder form of melodic punk rock, perhaps making them an odd choice for this ska heavy line-up, but they definitely blew the crowd away. Out on the road supporting their brand new album, Watching The World Come Undone, I was so impressed by these guys. Cleary they are doing this because they love it as they put everything they have into their set. Under the hot lights of The Craufurd Arms stage, Templeton Pek played half an hour of powerful punk rock bangers. I was particularly impressed with bassist and lead singer Neal Mitchell's vocals. Blending a hard rock style with a punk attitude you believed in every word that he sung. Playing a mixture of old and new songs, they got the crowd very nicely warmed up for the evening's main event.

Now, Sonic Boom Six are a band I don't often to listen to anymore but whenever I see that they're playing a live show near me I make sure I can attend. That's because they are one of the finest live bands around. Playing a mix of ska, punk, hip hop, dub and sometimes even a little electronica, SB6 always but on a lively show. The crowd at the Craufurd Arms was not one of the biggest but they certainly didn't lack any enthusiasm for the evening's headliners. As soon as Laila K sang the first lines of set opener Sounds Of The Revolution we were off for a hour of joyful skanking. My mind is a bit blurry on the exact setlist but it was full of tracks from their entire discography so there was plenty for the old school "boomers" to enjoy as well as newer fans of the band. Something that always impresses with with SB6 is the amount of thought that seems to go into their setlist. Along with making sure there is something for everybody to enjoy, it all flows together seamlessly with the band knowing the perfect time to play each song. Last year they released a new mini album named Cardiac Arrest that I still haven't listened to (shame on me). Luckily they played a couple of songs from that release, the fast paced punk banger Learnt To Live With It and the ska heavy My Philosophy. Both new songs went down a treat with the Wolverton crowd. Other highlights of the set for me were Bigger Than Punk Rock, No Man No Right, Virus, Piggy In The Middle and New Style Rocka. There was also a surprise cover of I Fought The Law which was originally made famous by The Clash. This drew a big sing-a-long with Layla bringing the crowd close to the front to really belt out the chorus. More bands should cover The Clash. Finishing up with Sunny Side Of The Street, Sonic Boom Six did what they do each and every time that they step onto a stage - they blew the crowd away. I really can't think of many live bands that put on a better show than Laila, Barney, Nick, James and Luke do. It's always such a pleasure to see them.

This review was written by Colin Clark. Photos by Emma Prew.

Thursday, 19 April 2018

Top Tens: The Manchester Punk Festival Collective's Top Ten Special Performances

Here at MPF we don’t like thought of music being competitive as we feel we are all in it together as a community. So we’d like to stress that this isn’t a ‘top ten best performances at MPF’, but just ten performances that have all been a bit special for a particular reason.

We are as happy to see our favourite less-established bands smashing it to a packed room (we hope these are the headliners of future events) as we are seeing headliners that we never dreamed would want to play our event. The list would be endless if we listed all our favourite moments and I’m sure this would change every time we wrote it.

Also, not everyone in our collective has contributed, so you could get some very different lists depending on who wrote this.

But here are 10 performances that we’ll remember fondly.

I’m including Paint It Black for the sheer ridiculousness that they were playing the third MPF. How did we manage that? Kieran

Years ago, when I was still doing TNS Fanzine and I used to get sent stuff to review. I had a CD turn up in the post that I was truly blown away by. It was 'Raising Ruins For The Future' by Mighty Midgets from Denmark. It turned out that they did many of the same things as TNS did in their hometown of Aalborg - a DIY label (5 FeetUnder), promoted gigs and also played very fast music. We became friends and swapped loads of stock and even released a split EP. But then they split up before we got to see them live. Thankfully we got to catch their incredible live set when Revenge played in Denmark and they did a one off set, but it always frustrated me I'd never got them to Manchester. Last year, we managed to remedy that and not only was it one of my favourite MPF moments but also one of my favourite live music moments too. Andy

ONSIND (2017)
Punk rock has always been political for me, and ONSIND are one of the best around at balancing politics with socially aware lyrics. A basement full screaming "never trust a Tory" was inspiring. Kieran

I’m getting emotional in my old age and seeing one of the up and coming bands tearing it up to a packed room so early in the day always brings a tear to my eye. It’s so amazing to see the MPF crowd filling venues all day long and giving new music a listen. Bobby Funk are one of the most exciting underground bands in the UK right now and it made me very happy to see them getting such a great response. Plus seeing Ollie flying around stage with his leg in a cast (don’t dance to Cyndi Lauper - it’s dangerous). Andy

It would be hard to leave them out of this list. They always have the room bouncing around wherever/whenever I have seen them with a great live show that never fails to impress. It’s always great to have them on as they show up with smiles and leave you smiling with nostalgia. Tom

MR BLOBBY (2016)
It’s a shame he could only perform one song, although does he have any more? Not sure. He was very much deserving of the capacity crowd at our 2016 after show. It’s also very special for the other bands to be on the same bill as a living legend. Punk as fuck. Andy

CLOWNS (2017)
Watching Clowns tear apart the venue at the after-party. All our work was done, we could finally relax and party. Performance of the weekend for me. Kieran

MARTHA (2017)
Playing just before Paint It Black to a capacity crowd at Gorilla. It was brilliant to see a room full of smiles and fake Durham accents for one of the best and most promising bands in the country. Kieran

This much loved band headlined the Ducie Bridge on the first night of the first MPF and the atmosphere was incredible. The venue was absolutely packed. I think we all had that ‘we are actually doing this’ moment. Another one that bought a tear to my eye. Andy

They were our first real international 'headliner' and the emotions going through my head during their set were wonderful. A great band, packed crowd and one to really solidify why we do this. Kieran

Wednesday, 18 April 2018

Album Review: Don't Try So Hard by Breaklights

Breaklights are a four piece pop punk band from Austin, Texas. The band formed in January of 2016 and released their first EP Instructed to Fail in July of the same year. In January, this year, they released a second EP titled Don't Try So Hard on the always excellent Wiretap Records. Being on such a consistently great label had me very excited to check out Don't Try So Hard.

The EP begins with the track Call It Off. Call It Off is a short opener that does a fantastic job in showcasing what to expect from Breaklights on this EP. It's the poppiest of pop punk sounds and contains some of the most infectious hooks. Lead vocalist, Charlie, sings in such a sugary sweet way and is backed brilliantly by the rest of the band, giving the song it's punk rock bite. The second track, Waterloo, really stood out on my first listen of Don't Try So Hard. Starting out with a simple drum beat that catches your attention immediately, you find yourself tapping your toes to a song about feeling like you are a loser in no time. Waterloo is a pretty downbeat song but is also a song that plenty of people will find extremely relatable. Relatable songs often add a great deal of catharsis for the listener. The EP's title track is up next. When a release has a title track I often think that this will add an extra bit of the pressure for the song to really stand out. Don't Try So Hard wastes no time in getting started as Charlie's vocals kick things off in great fashion. On the song he recounts a previous relationship and why it didn't work out. The song really allows Breaklights to show off what a great band they are musically as there are a couple of great instrumental moments during the middle and end of the song.

Runaways is another break up song, but a break up song with a difference. Instead of the usual theme of heartbreak, Runaways does a great job of putting a positive spin on the subject with the line "They say it’s better to love and lose it all, rather than never feel the fall. But I’m not so sure it’s true. Whatever we wanted, whatever we knew. It’s best to erase that now and break this hold on you." Charlie's voice is great on the track, at times remaining restrained before he stretches it to add more emotion into the song. The penultimate track on the EP is named Blank Stare. The song is about being promised that you can be anything when you grow up but in reality that's not always the case. It's a bleak subject but also one that again many people will find relatable and cathartic. How many of us are stuck in jobs that we hate and wanted so much more when we were younger? It's one of the angrier songs on the EP as Charlie lets all of his frustrations out. Lastly is the song Lonely. It starts out extremely bass heavy, really allowing the listener to focus on the vocals. It's a sad song about break ups, in particular knowing that a relationship is about to end but lying to yourself and pretending that everything is going to be okay. All releases, LPs or EPs, should finish with a bit of a flourish and that's the case here - a big ending with some "sha-na-nah"s adding a last layer to conclude the song.

Don't Try So Hard is a thoroughly refreshing pop punk release. It's one of those great releases in the genre that will please fans of the poppier side of pop punk just as much as fans who prefer their punk to have a bit of an edge.

Stream and download Don't Try So Hard here:

Like Breaklights here:

This review was written by Colin Clark.

Gig Review: Popes Of Chillitown at Esquires, Bedford 13/4/18

It's crazy to think that Emma and I haven't been to a gig since February. This is very much unlike us! Thankfully April has hit and we've got plenty of gigs lined up - the first being a local Bedford one at Esquires. London ska punks the Popes Of Chillitown were in town being supported by fellow Londoners Eat The Evidence and local act Easydread.

First up were Eat The Evidence who we first saw supporting Lightyear at their comeback London show last October. I really enjoyed their energetic set last year and looked forward to more of the same at Esquires. Eat The Evidence are one of the most more unique bands in the UK ska punk scene, combining ska, punk, reggae and two tone to create their own sound. They are, to my mind, the only ska band I've ever seen incorporate an accordion and slide whistle into their musical arsenal. As I've already said, the band put on a energetic set with lead singer Tom Lattimer bouncing around the stage throughout. He must have been knackered when they finished! Whether it's songs about the government, the British empire, falling in love or couscous, Eat The Evidence are very easy to fall in love with. I can't wait to see them again at Level Up Festival in South London in July.

Up next were Easydread. Whenever a ska show is announced in the Bedfordshire and surrounding areas you can bet that Easydread will be named as a support act. I have absolutely no problem with this as this reggae/ska band are one of my favourites of the past year and every time I've seen them they just get better and better. At Esquires this trend of being better each and every time continued as Easydread absolutely smashed it. Having forty-five minutes allowed the seven piece more time than usual so we were treated to a few new songs - that sound absolutely superb and I can't wait to hear recorded versions - as well as the older favourites such as Rebel, Cross Hatch Line, The Wake Of You and Scrotes. The room was pretty full for Easydread and they got such a good reaction with everyone dancing, skanking, singing along and having a wonderful time. The band are all about positive vibes and having a good time and this attitude was definitely adopted by the crowd who got more and more involved as their set progressed. The ska scene in the UK is currently enjoying another renaissance and Easydread have got to be one of the many bands in that scene that you will soon be taking a lot of notice of. They're so good!

Up next it was time for one of the most exciting bands in UK ska punk, the Popes of Chillitown. It's awesome to get a band as good as the Popes to come play a show in Bedford and it was clear immediately that everyone in Esquires was pumped up to see them. Being introduced on stage by a local punk who came dressed as the pope, the band quickly had the crowd whipped into a frenzy in a way that only they can. With the new album, Work Hard, Play Hard, See You In The Graveyard, due I kind of expected that the show would offer a taster of what was to come from that release but in fact they only played two songs from it. Instead we got plenty of bangers from their previous two albums with the highlights being Wisdom Teeth, Impatient, Dalking Man and Otherside. Popes frontman Matt is one of the most watchable people in ska punk, he has this unbelievable charisma and endless energy. He is a big part in what makes the Popes Of Chillitown an unmissable live act. I think this was probably the longest set I've seen them play and by its finale I was absolutely exhausted. I'd not had such a good skank for such a long time and it felt good!

The crowd had an amazing time and it looked as if the band did as well. Then sadly things took a bit of a downturn. The Popes returned to the stage for their encore and, for reason unbeknownst to me, two idiots down the front shook their beers up and managed to get it all over Matt's equipment. Unsurprisingly Matt was not impressed but decided to carry on and not let these two dicks spoil the night for everyone. Then these two morons continued to behave like morons during the first song so the Popes understandably decided to call it a night. Why these two people decided to act this way is beyond me. Like I said, it's not often that we get such cool bands in Bedford, if people are gonna act like idiots chances are said cool bands won't come back! Thankfully the Popes did come back on stage to finish their encore (after the idiots had cleared off) with a great rendition of Badman, saying that they didn't want to finish a fantastic night that way. You've got to give the Popes Of Chillitown a huge amount of love and respect for coming back, realising that two buffoons shouldn't put a dampener on what has been one of the best gigs of the year.

This review was written by Colin Clark. Photos by Emma Prew.

Tuesday, 17 April 2018

News: Bar Stool Preachers Album Launch At The New Cross Inn

Brighton based ska punks The Bar Stool Preachers are releasing a brand new album titled Grazie Governo! To celebrate they are having a launch party at the home of ska punk in London - The New Cross Inn on Wednesday the 2nd of May. To add to the party fun they are supported by Call Me Malcolm and Lead Shot Hazard.

Tickets are on sale here:

Check out the Facebook event to keep up to date here:

Album Review: Life Living Impersonator by The Berkeley Hunts (by Emma Prew)

The Berkeley Hunts are a folk punk band from Melbourne, Australia. Back in January they released their debut album titled Life Living Impersonator and, being a fan of all things folk punk, I took a listen.

Kicking the album off is a song called Poison Place. This is a short, raw and predominantly acoustic folk song about trying to overcome negative feelings about a certain place and about yourself. ‘I’m trying to find the good inside myself, And sometimes I worry if it even exists, ’cause holding my breath just isn’t working, I don’t want to hate the air that, I don’t wanna hate the air that I breathe.’ The Berkeley Hunts brand of folk punk also features a horns section and the trumpet makes an appearance towards the end of the song, teasing of what else is to come perhaps. Predicktor is the name of the second song on Life Living Impersonator and this is a fast and furious track from the outset. Predicktor is another short song – most of the eleven songs on this album are pretty short, as the whole thing is only 24 minutes long – but a lot of lyrics are packed into its short length. The song is about a pessimistic person who is always fearing, almost wishing for, the worst and how it can be difficult to feel anything but negative yourself because of this. ‘So you predict, You see the future and it’s bitter, And it’s bitter, You make it so damn hard to be happy.’

Giving Up takes those pessimistic vibes from the previous track and runs with it. The pace is slowed and we get to hear some more typically folk instruments for this song with some banjo and mandolin. You can probably guess from the title that the song is about not believing in yourself and feeling like you should give up. However Giving Up is not written from an entirely defeatist point of view as the song actually ends in fairly hopeful and encouraging manor, with the lines ‘I’m giving up on, Every single little thing that causes my frustration, ’Cause I’m aching, I can’t take it and it’s tearing me apart, The world that we’re living in will try to fuck us over, I won’t let it, I won’t let it, I won’t let it. You won’t let it, You won’t let it, You won’t let it. Please don’t let it, please don’t let it, please don’t let it.’ The fourth song is the interestingly titled Yr Wires Are Showing And I Can Hear Your Worry, which uses robot-like descriptions as a metaphor for the idea that any faults you have are of your own making. This is a fast paced and impassioned song. I think the obvious musical comparison to make for this sort of raw and unpolished folk punk would be Mischief Brew but The Berkeley Hunts actually remind me of someone quite different on this song. It was early Ducking Punches that came to mind here – if you’re reading in Australia and you don’t know who Ducking Punches are, they are an excellent DIY punk band here in the UK that started out as a solo folk punk endeavour. Next up is a sad song called Leaky Lungs about losing someone to a terrible illness. Leaky Lungs has an appropriately slower pace and features a sorrowful trumpet melody which brings a lot of atmosphere to the song. There is a great sense of building towards the end of the song and it is the last minute [of its 2 minutes 50 seconds] that really steals the show. There’s a chorus that is just begging to be sung along to and, actually, that is what happens as one particular line is repeated again and again by multiple voices. ‘All the atoms in your body, they are empty, you’re empty, And you weren’t born with them, you won’t die with them, So maintain your connections, and speak to me, and speak to me, And I’ll mend your melting mind, just let me in, let me into, All the atoms in your body…’ 

How Does It Feel? begins fairly slowly with some gentle acoustic guitar that is soon accompanied by a plodding bassline from the double bass. So there I was thinking this was going to be another slow song but, no, the pace picks up as soon as those ragged vocals come in. I think Life Living Impersonator is an album that just gets better and better as it goes on, the first songs weren’t bad but this middle section is turning out to be really great. How Does It Feel? has another excellent chorus – ‘Why won’t you speak to them clearly, And get out of your head? I know it’s not that easy! But you’ve got sensory functions, And you know what’s real, At least I hope that you do.’ This song also has plenty going on instrument-wise with generous helping of banjo. How Does It Feel? slickly fades into the next song which is called Operate My.  This seventh song wastes no time in getting going with rumbling drums and, later on in the song, we are treated to some accordion as well – a combination that is bound to get your head nodding. Operate My uses the theme of the human body, that has appeared in previous songs on the album, and in particular is about deconstructing it – or operating on it – albeit metaphorically. ‘So won’t you break my bones, To operate my body.’ It’s interesting that until I actually started to write this review, having listened to the album more than a few times already, I didn’t realise there was a human body, illness, putting together/taking apart type theme to this set of songs. For Orlando, Forever Ago is a song that is a whopping 14 seconds long and in that time The Berkeley Hunts manage to get out a whole load of pent-up anger. Surprisingly, only about half of the song is super fast paced as it starts out slowly and in an almost care-free manor with the line ‘You’re a waste of fucking space…’ It continues in that vein… but faster.

As we draw towards the end of the album, The Berkeley Hunts show that they can write slightly longer songs with this next one, Hundred Minute Hours, lasting more than three minutes. I think this might be a love song or at least an ode to an especially close friend. Either way Hundred Minute Hours is a heartfelt and honest song that brought a smile to my face. The instrumentation is fairly simple, a combination of drums, banjo and acoustic guitar for the most part, which really allows the vocals – and the lyrics – to shine. The lyrics are really great throughout but there’s one line that stood out to me – ‘Because I see worst in everyone, and you see the best in me.’ The song is played out with some pounding drums and a splattering of the horns section, bringing us nicely to the penultimate song and the actually longest track on the album. Tonsillitis is a four minute epic and a fairly fast-paced track that fully embraces the classic folk punk sound. I think this is the first song I’ve ever heard that personifies tonsillitis, or any other illness, quite like this so bravo to The Berkeley Hunts for doing something new. (Unless it is all one big metaphor and I’m reading it all wrong.) I’m fortunate enough to have never had tonsillitis but it sounds pretty darn awful in this song and that shows some great songwriting. ‘You crawl down my throat, Make my brain explode, And dry all the liquids from my body, When I am sleeping, You’ll be busy working, To make my morning into misery, The lights are too loud, I can’t put my head down, But it won’t hurt if you don’t make it, If I maintain my distance, Find some kind of balance, Well maybe I can maintain my existence.’ Blue is Life Living Impersonator’s closing track and it takes a fairly stripped back approach, keeping the instruments to a minimum – guitar, bass and drums. The slow pace and somewhat melancholic atmosphere feels like an appropriate ending however. There are again some references to the human body in this song and the mention of the word ‘atoms’ again had me thinking that this song, and the album, was going to end with another singalong of ‘All the atoms in your body…’  Alas, it does not. The closing lines are ‘So I’ll live lonely, and you won’t have to, I’ll split atoms, without explosions, ’Cause I am empty and I am blue.’

I have to admit that when I first listened to The Berkeley Hunts, I wasn’t fully into them. The vocals, more than the instruments, are definitely raw and a little rough around the edges, in that sort of Andrew Jackson Jihad style, and are what might be considered an acquired taste. But when I properly sat down to review the album and listened more intently to each song, whilst reading the lyrics, I found a greater appreciation for Life Living Impersonator. I’m not saying that everyone should listen to the album as closely as I have but I highly encourage giving it a listen – especially if you are a fan of proper DIY folk punk which is what this is.

You can buy and stream Life Living Impersonator on Bandcamp and find The Berkeley Hunts on Facebook too.

This album review was written by Emma Prew.

Monday, 16 April 2018

Album Review: Brightest by Waterweed (by Dan Peters)

I don’t know a lot about Waterweed, from Osaka, Japan, but the fact that they are releasing their album in the UK with Lockjaw Records put them up in my estimation. I’ve seen them on bills alongside UK bands I deeply enjoy, like Dead Neck and Darko, so naturally I’m intrigued. Let’s dive straight in.

Waterweed wear their Melodic Hardcore on their sleeves, especially with opener ‘Red Eyes’ which is all double time and slick riffage with dirty vocals thrown in for extra good measure. If like me you’re brand new to the band, it’s a perfect declaration of what they are and wish to be as a band and invites in anyone, like myself, who’s a big fan of the genre. Not everything is blistering speeds and frenetic riffage though, Waterweed lean more on the melodic side of things and give off a gruffer No Use vibe with some serious Tony Sly influences throughout. ‘July 31’ in particular is a love letter to the Tony and his band and is a real stand out quality track on the album.

Quality is something Waterweed are not in short supply of with ‘Brightest’. It’s normally a bad stereotype to say that Japanese people have a habit of perfecting something to incredible levels but, to be honest, it fits incredibly well when describing this album. There is a love and care to every guitar stroke, every hit of the drums, every emotionally charged lyric that it puts some English-as-a-first-language bands to shame. Waterweed don’t shy away from their influences, instead creating something beautiful that anyone who is a fan of great music, and especially a genre freak, will appreciate.

As well as releasing the album over here, the band are coming over for a slew of shows surrounding the ever excellent Manchester Punk Festival this year. So keep an eye out - this is a rare treat not to be missed.

Stream and download Brightest here:

Like Waterweed here:

This review was written by Dan Peters.

Saturday, 14 April 2018

Album Review: Welcome by Abraskadabra

Trying to keep the promise to myself about discovering more great punk rock bands, today I bring you a review of Brazilian skacore band Abraskadabra's brand new album, Welcome. The seven piece from Curitiba have been going since mid-2003 and have shared the stage with the likes of Bad Religion and Flogging Molly along with ska superstars Less Than Jake, Reel Big Fish, Mad Caddies and Voodoo Glow Skulls. To get shows with bands of such a high status, there must be something quite special about Abraskadabra.

Welcome begins with the song Nothing New. As with most opening tracks on an album, it allows the band to set down a marker of what they sound like and what a good band they are. Nothing New starts out fairly surprisingly with some technical guitars and some crashing drums more reminiscent of a skate punk band than a ska band. There is plenty of ska to be found in the song however as it jumps between genres superbly. This is followed up by Heavy Hitters. Unsurprisingly the song starts off with quite a heavy style before quickly transitioning into a fast paced ska number. Everything about the song is high tempo, whether it's fast paced vocals or the infectious horns, it won't take you long to be skanking around your living room like a crazy person. Speaking of the vocals, this is the first time on Welcome that Abraskadabra show off their dual vocalists with both Bugga and Trosso taking turns on the verses and it sounds great. The third song, Left Corner, begins with some more infectious horns that will even get statues dancing. On this track Abraskadabra expertly mix 90s third wave ska with a more modern pop punk sound. Left Corner is about trying to keep moving forward rather than getting stuck fighting in the present.

Border Town has an upbeat reggae vibe. Beginning with one of my favourite horn lines on the entire album, Border Town gets off to a fantastic start and continues to get better and better. As soon as we get to the chorus the song has moved to having a hard hitting drum beat accompanying some melodic vocals. The contrast works extremely well. Worm's Song continues the trend of excellent horns to open up the song. It's one of those ska songs that is super upbeat in sound but is actually about a really sad subject as it is about missing a deceased friend. The track falls more into the punk rock with horns style of ska punk and has a big ending complete with some great harmonies and superb gang vocals. My favourite things! Wheel Of Fortune brings us to the halfway point of Welcome. It's slightly more subdued than the previous songs and isn't played at such a high tempo, showing some variety in the Abraskadabra arsenal. Here we have a melodic pop punk song with horns similar in style to We Are The Union. Maybe it isn't quite as danceable as the more uptempo tracks but man it's hard not to sing-a-long with this song. The track is about a relationship not working out due to bad luck and things just not falling into place.

She's Gonna Livia offers up a magical slice of ska and pop punk. The songs starts out firmly in the pop territory with opening guitar riffs reminding me slightly of old surf pop, transitioning into an upbeat and soulful verse. As the song goes on it builds towards a bigger and crunchier sound that ensures the song finishes with a bang. The song is about knowing that a girl is going to break a friend's heart and trying to tell them. The eighth song on Welcome is titled Catching Fog. When the song began I was expecting a fast paced ska punk song after some hard punk rock guitar but the song quickly switched to the most summery of ska songs. It's another song that will instantly get you skanking. I think that this is the first time that a keyboard/organ is used and this creates a brilliant extra layer to the Abraskadabra sound. I really enjoyed how laid back this tune was. The Tall One has quite an interesting sound. There's a great contrast between the music and the vocals on the track with the music being quite upbeat and in your face and the vocals having a bit of a restrained feeling to them. This really made me pay much more attention to what's being said as you do have to listen a bit harder.

The tenth song on Welcome is Street Of Order Square. There is a harder punk rock sound to this song that hasn't been heard quite as much as I had expected when I first listened through the album. There's still plenty of upbeat horn blasts and the vocals are as melodic as ever but there is also a lot more urgency in the song. This comes from the guitars and the drums which seem to have been played harder on this superb song. The penultimate song, Exactly When, is one of Welcome's stand out tracks. It's a song about life in a band with your friends, wondering if your big break will ever come but keeping on plodding along because you love what you do. It's a laid back and very retrospective song. The guitars are superb and have a bit of a Latino flavour to them which gives Abraskadabra something not many other ska punk bands have. Finally we have the track The Dream, finishing off Welcome in some style. The song starts out with a couple of huge sing-a-long moments before some big horn lines come in. The Dream is another track that features more of Abraskadabra's punk rock tendencies with fast paced guitars, pounding drums and plenty of gang vocals. It's a song that will get you moshing, skanking and singing with a big smile on your face.

If Welcome is your first experience of Abraskadabra you will be extremely impressed and as soon as it finishes you will want to also check out their back catalogue. Something I love doing is looking for bands in places you wouldn't immediately look for bands and discovering some real gems. This is certainly the case here as Abraskadabra have surely released one of the ska albums of 2018.

Stream and download Welcome here:

Like Abraskadabra here:

This review was written by Colin Clark.