Thursday, 31 May 2018

Top Tens: Sharks Can't Hold Hands' Top Ten Punk Rock Influences

I’ll start this list with Rancid as I feel they were my main influence while writing the ‘Anti-Bullshit’ EP. Tim Armstrong is just the man, man. I love his songwriting style and the way he blends genres so perfectly. Seeing Rancid live was one of, if not, the best gig I have ever been to. The atmosphere and feeling of community in that room was everything I love about punk rock. My favourite album is of course ‘... and Out Come the Wolves’ although ‘Indestructible’ is a very close second for me.

Pat the Bunny
Pat the Bunny is also the man… man. He’s gone under a few different names over the years but I love everything this dude has done for the raw emotion of his music. He has this somehow beautiful way of just screaming everything that’s in his head into a microphone and making it sound good. ‘Love Songs for the Apocalypse’ from the ‘Johnny Hobo & the Freight Trains’ project is probably my favourite overall album, but the number 1 anthem has to be ‘Wingnut Dishwashers Union - Fuck Shit Up’. There’s a video somewhere on YouTube of him playing this in what appears to be someone’s basement to about 10 people, screaming the lyric “A punk rock song won’t ever change the world, but I can tell you about a couple that changed me” - which I remember first watching when I was around 15 years old and getting mad inspired by.

Ducking Punches
Ducking Punches reaches this list more for personal reasons than anything musically. Both of us being from Norwich, as I was discovering the DIY music scene, Dan was the first person I saw to successfully be keeping himself afloat through art and music and going off on tours every few months and seeing the world. He was doing everything I wanted to do and he proved to me that it was possible. A big inspiration at that point in my life. My favourite song will always be ‘DIY or Die’ off his first album when he was still solo, just because of the impact that had on me at the time. My favourite album is ‘Dance Before You Sleep’ – every single song on that album is a banger.

NOFX just had to be on this list. They’ve gotta be on any punk rock list haven’t they? Mad fast drums and shredding with impeccable vocal harmonies. They were one of the first bands to get me hooked on punk rock and also taught me a bit about not taking life so seriously, which is nice. I recently read their book as well which I highly recommend – those guys are fucking mental. Favourite album would probably be either ‘Pump Up The Valuum’ or ‘So Long & Thanks for all the Shoes’.

Alkaline Trio
Alkaline Trio are amazing songwriters and musicians in general. I wish I could write songs like them and I wish I could sing like them. Bastards. My love for Alkaline Trio also led me to discover The Revival Tour which grew my appreciation immensely for the folk punk movement by introducing me to artists such as Chuck Ragan, Dave Hause and Frank Turner who all deserve honorary mentions on this list. My favourite Trio album has to be ‘From Here to Infirmary’ – it bangs.

Goldfinger are one of the earliest punk bands I can remember listening to, thanks to my dad. The albums ‘Open Your Eyes’ and ‘Stomping Ground’ were playing in the car everywhere we went for a large portion of my childhood. I can thank my dad for a very large percentage of my music taste today – he’s a dude. I also realised in later years a lot of their lyrics are pro-vegan and back a lot of my current ideologies, which is also rad. My favourite albums would be those I mentioned, for the nostalgia.

The Distillers
I bloody love The Distillers. Up there with Tim Armstrong and Pat the Bunny, Brody Dalle is definitely also the man. Hard hitting angsty punk rock but with melodies for days – the best combination. My favourite album of theirs, contrary to popular opinion, is ‘Coral Fang’. So. Many. Bangers.

The Creepshow
Awesome psychobilly infused punk rock from Canada. Another on my list of the top 10 gigs I’ve ever attended, these guys know how to put on a show and I think there definitely needs to be more punk bands making use of the slap bass! I grew up watching my dad play slap bass in rockabilly bands so I was already well acquainted with the instrument, but when I saw one used to smash out 1000mph punk songs I was blown away. Awesome. My favourite album would be ‘They All Fall Down’ (although they are all bloody brilliant!).

Days n Daze
Days n Daze are just about as DIY as you can possibly get. Proper rad roots folk punk, with a washboard n everything. For me, they make this list mainly for the lyrics in the chorus of ‘Fuck It!’ that have always stuck with me ever since first hearing them – “Cause life's a game, life's a joke, fuck it, why not go for broke? Trade in all your chips and learn how to be free. Why abstain? Why jump in line? We're all living on borrowed time, so do what you like, and we'll like what you do when you do it and if they don't that's fine, fuck 'em!” Awesome.

Larry & His Flask
Larry & His Flask are a wicked country/bluegrass band that play with a punk rock attitude. You’ve gotta love a band that breaks all the rules and Larry & His Flask do exactly that. I doubt you will ever see a country band that play with as much energy as these guys. My favourite album is ‘All That They Know’ – the guitar solo in the first track is way up there in my list of greatest guitar solos of all time.

Sharks Can’t Hold Hands links…




Wednesday, 30 May 2018

Album Review: The Extra Mile by Dorkatron

I love a bit of Ramonescore pop punk. There are so many great bands in mainland Europe playing the genre. For a long time I've loved bands such as The Apers, The Priceduifkes, 20belows and Maladroit, among many others. Recently I came across a new favourite, from Austria, a four piece band by the name of Dorkatron. Recently the band released a brand new EP titled The Extra Mile on the always awesome Monster Zero Records. I fell in love with this EP immediately. Here's why.

The first song on this six track EP is named Is She Really Going Out Tonight. This song kind of took me slightly by surprise when I first heard it as I was expecting a blisteringly fast pop punk song. Instead Dorkatron play a mid-tempo punchy pop song that will have you singing along fast. It also doesn't take long for some wonderfully layered harmonies to come into play. This is one of those "so simple it's brilliant" kind of songs. This is how I love my pop punk! This is followed up by the brilliant Chemical Reaction. Chemical Reaction put a huge smile on my face immediately with its gang vocaled "goo-goo-ca-choo" (I think that's what they're saying). It's different and it's so much fun. As you would expect, and I'll say this for every song on The Extra Mile, it's so simple it's brilliant. It will burrow its way into the memory section of your brain and spend a considerable amount of time residing in there. Lunch Money switches sound slightly with more of a modern take on the pop punk genre. Think The Lillingtons or Teenage Bottlerocket and you'll know the sound I mean. The simplicity remains though and in no time at all you'll be singing along to this song about having your lunch money stolen at school. I probably should have mentioned earlier that Dorkatron sing songs about being "dorks" and the trials and tribulations that come with that.

The fourth song L.U.I.S.E. brilliantly mixes old school Ramones pop punk with the more modern Copyrights sound. It starts out with another big ol' sing-along that hooks you into the song immediately. Dorkatron don't worry about having a proper introduction. They just launch straight into the song. Again, this is how I love my pop punk. No thrills, just giving it the full beans from the get go. At one point in the song there is a short breakdown with some "na na na na" chants before we are treated to an exceptional three part harmony section to finish the song. Three part harmonies, oh I love this! The penultimate track, Books Not Bombs, is a short and sweet banger. It's kind of silly but also has a great, positive political message. The simple line that makes me smile every single time is "start reading books, don't drop bombs." It's so bloody simple! Perhaps someone should play this song to the world leaders and we might start fixing this ridiculous planet that we live on. Is Dorkatron about to save the world? The tempo is slowed on the final song, the EP's title track The Extra Mile. The track feels more subdued and retrospective than the rest of the EP and shows another great side of Dorkatron. Of course it's still a bit tongue-in-cheek as it's about staying home and studying to make sure you do well in school rather than going out and having fun with your friends.

This EP is unbelievably good and probably my favourite pop punk release I've heard in a long time. On my very first listen I knew that this would be an EP for me. It's that fun, fast, simple, catchy pop punk that never fails to put a smile on my face. Monster Zero have another gem on their hands here. Seriously The Extra Mile is just superb. Dorkatron is the coolest band around.

Stream and download The Extra Mile here:

Like Dorkatron here:

This review was written by Colin Clark.

Tuesday, 29 May 2018

Album Review: Knives by Fire Next Time

Stomp Records are one of my all time favourite record labels. The Canadian based label has consistently put out great records since 1994. Earlier this month they released the brand new album from Edmonton based five piece Fire Next Time. Titled Knives, the album features ten songs of punk rock with hints of folk. Given the quality of albums that Stomp have put out for the past twenty-four years, I had high hopes and expectations for Knives. Let's see if it delivers.

Knives begins with a song titled Wanderlust. Here we are greeted with a mid-tempo punk sing-a-long. It starts out with more of a folk punk sound before gradually shifting into a punk style. Lead singer James has a powerful and gruff voice that fits perfectly with the style. It's like a love child between Chuck Ragan of Hot Water Music and Garrett Dale of Red City Radio. James also does a great job in taking you on a journey, something that Chuck and Garrett both excel at. Party Foul is a song about abusing drugs and alcohol. I really enjoyed the way that it methodically builds from the beginning and gradually grows bigger in sound, particularly the chorus which features some fantastic gang vocals. Lyrically the band do a great job in painting a picture, it's one of those songs where you can easily imagine the music video. The third song, Collars, gets started quickly, giving Knives a quick shot in the arm. The song is about looking back at the past and analysing the things you did – the good and the bad. I loved the shifts in melody in the song. The hook is superb, giving the song a bit of a pop sound amidst it's rough-around-the-edges style. The song allows for the band to show off their musical skills with some wonderful up-tempo playing.

Old Scratch is the song I kind of thought should have started Knives. It's a slower number that features a big vocal performance. The way in which James' vocals are delivered is almost chant like and is begging to be sung along with. It helps that the melody is similar to a certain well known song by a man named Johnny Cash. I can see this being very popular at a Fire Next Time gig for getting a crowd involved with the set. Walking Blind brings us to the halfway point of the album. It's another slower song that features a more prominent acoustic guitar and keyboard, showing another side to the Fire Next Time sound. The band seem in more of a thoughtful and retrospective mood here and you can't help but be drawn into the track. Musically the song is powerful and vocally it's packed with emotion. The fifth track, Bethlehem, is an interesting song. Its first half is this epic instrumental that adds some great theatrics to the song. Just when you think that this song completely instrumental, the band switch to more rough and ready folk punk. James' raw vocal accompanied briefly by the acoustic guitar really is a big contrast and gets you fully invested into the song. Of course we go full band quickly for another powerful track. Up next is the fast paced A Jameson Fracture. The duelling guitar lines in the song's intro are fantastic and have me eager to see where the song goes. There is a story telling element to the song that hooks you in, as well as it being quite a positive track that talks about not taking things for granted.

Hurry Up And Wait is one of my favourite tracks on Knives. A big reason for this is the use of gang vocals on the chorus. I'm such a lover of great gang vocals and they are executed brilliantly on Hurry Up And Wait. The song is a mid-tempo plodder that's perfect for singing along too. It's that track that will have you arm in arm with a stranger at a gig shouting along like you've known each other for years. The way that the song builds towards its final chorus and those fantastic gang vocals put a huge smile on my face. This is how you do mid-tempo punk rock. The penultimate song is titled Birch Wood. There is a fun country tinge to the opening of the song before we really get going. Gang vocals feature heavily again without really being too over bearing. I really like how the band have taken a bit of a different style but still continue to sound very much like Fire Next Time. This shows some great musicianship and superb songwriting skill. The final song on Knives is named Critical Fail and this song is everything you want from a final song. It starts quickly with some stabby guitar and some intense vocals. Things go on to become more melodic with the vocals keeping the intensity going. There is a big musical interlude around the halfway mark of the song that takes you wonderfully to the song's, and the album's, conclusion. I love it when a final song feels like the last hurrah and it seems as if the band are putting all of what they have left into the track. This is without a doubt what is happening here.

This was always going to be a great album, it's on Stomp Records. Everything they put out is quality. Fire Next Time offer something different to a lot of the other bands on the roster with them being slightly rawer and heavier than a lot of the other bands on the label. Knives is a triumph for the band. It's engaging, powerful and packed with an unrelenting energy. Great stuff.

Stream and download Knives here:

Like Fire Next Time here:

This review was written by Colin Clark.

Monday, 28 May 2018

Album Review: Tough Like Diamonds by Don Blake

Don Blake are one of those bands that I always get excited about when they release a new album. The Bolton based band recently became a three piece, following the departure of guitarist Rob, but this hasn't stopped them writing and recording a brand new album titled Tough Like Diamonds. Tough Like Diamonds features twelve songs and is only twenty-five minutes long so you know that it's going to be full of fast paced pop punk goodness.

Tough Like Diamonds begins with the song How Can I Not Be Here? If you haven't heard Don Blake before, they have their own sound that I think not many other bands replicate. Musically they play fast with buzzsaw guitars and hard hitting drums but lead singer Joe has more of a soft and melodic vocal than what you often find in the genre of pop punk. This works fantastically well and helps Don Blake stand out from the rest. How Can I Not Be Here? is about feeling like you don't want to be anywhere if you can't be with someone you love. The Rational Nihilist starts out with a simple drum beat and some stabby guitar that leads nicely into some sublime power-pop music. The melodic vocals give the song a sweeter edge and when the chorus hits, and the harmonies come in, I'm in heaven. The song is about trying to find the good in people and improve ourselves as a species. Chemicals is a track that really stood out to me on my first listen of Tough Like Diamonds. The up-tempo song features a combination of vocalists that adds plenty of energy to the track. It's also brilliantly catchy and takes up residence in your brain quickly. Over the years Don Blake have written quite a few songs about mental health and that's what this song is about. More precisely it's about taking medication to help with your moods and putting your trust in them.

The fourth song, titled Let's Be Friends Again, is a nice slice of skate punk loveliness. On the verses in particular it feels like Don Blake might have been listening to some Epi-Fat skate punk whilst writing this song. Nigel's drumming on the track is superb and shows real talent. Despite a slightly edgier skate punk sound, Joe's vocals remain soft. This offers quite a contrast but it works really well. The pace is picked back up on the excellent I Think We're Alright. This punchy pop punk jam is full of positivity as the band state that they think, despite everything that's going on, they think they are alright. The up-tempo nature of the song adds an infectious energy that's hard not to be swept away with and the punchy nature of the melody makes it another instant ear worm. Reflex falls more into the melodic punk territory of the band's sound. The chorus had me instantly wanting to sing along and it's so catchy it won't be long until I can. I loved the lyrics "My teeth are falling out, Which I can do without, I would be smart to keep my mouth shut." It put such a big smile on my face when I first heard it.

The second half of the album begins with the track Over-Thinking, That's All. I'm sure you've gathered from the title that the song is about something we're all guilty of from time to time – over-thinking things. Don Blake are so good at writing songs that are so easy to relate to and make you feel like you're not the only person in the world who feels a certain way. Wasting Away is another of the big stand out songs on Tough Like Diamonds. It starts out with just some bass and vocals that are crying out to be sung along with. From there we go along with some more fast paced melodic pop punk. It makes me think of some kind of love child from Iron Chic and The Copyrights. It's an astonishingly good sound. The ninth track is named I.D.S.T. After a little Googling (seriously what did we do before Google!?) I discovered that that this stands for "I Don't See That." It starts out ferociously (for Don Blake) and midway through the song it features some serious guitar shredding. On the song, Joe sings about having memories of the good times no matter if things get destroyed. I wonder if the band are saying that they don't believe that it's possible to remember everything and sometimes it's important to have physical reminders.

One-Trick Pony is a classic Don Blake tune. It's another ear worm song, perhaps the most catchy of the entire album. Seriously you will have the words "I'm a one-trick pony, I know" lodged in your head for days. The penultimate song, Next Weekend is about becoming an adult, struggling to find the time to see your friends and constantly putting things off. This is another song I really enjoyed. It seems like as soon as I try and settle on a favourite song, another plays and I change my mind. It starts off reasonably slowly before launching into some more fast skate punk. I really think Don Blake are at their best when they're playing with a faster paced melody. The energy and urgency in the song sweeps me up and makes me feel fully invested in the track. The breakdown at around the halfway mark of the track, that leads to a high tempo build, fills me with joy before we get to a final chorus of "We're always catching up!" The final song on the album is title track, Tough Like Diamonds. It's more of a mid-tempo melodic number to finish things off. It features some great harmonies that add an extra layer to the verse. The chorus is, of course, what really stands out. Again it's oh so catchy you just can't ignore it. This feels like a positive way to finish the album as Joe sings "I think it would have broken me." – which makes me think that he's grown as a person and found ways of coping with life.

Tough Like Diamonds is another superb release from Don Blake. Despite losing a member, the band seem to have progressed as songwriters. Don Blake are one of those great bands who I've always felt like should be a much bigger name within the UK punk scene. They write such fantastic and relatable punk rock tunes that also get stuck in your brain. They make you want to sing, dance, smile and most importantly they make you feel like you're not in this by yourself.

Stream and download Tough Like Diamonds here:

Like Don Blake here:

This review was written by Colin Clark.

Friday, 25 May 2018

CPRW Playlist: May 2018

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

Thursday, 24 May 2018

Top Tens: Dan Peters' Top Ten Goldfinger Songs

Writing a Goldfinger top ten has been a tough challenge. They are a seminal band and share a fond place in the hearts of so many. However, depending on how and when you first heard them, you may have a wildly differing opinion on the type of band they are. I also realised I have a strong bias towards one particular album and haven’t spent a lot of time with the material post 2000s. Therefore in the interest of desperately trying to please the Goldfinger fanbase and in trying to remain as impartial to all their albums as possible I’m off for a monster Goldfinger marathon. See you back in the next 20 or so hours…

10. Answers (from Goldfinger)
The first album is criminally overlooked a lot of the time which is a real shame when there are bangers like this on it. Classic GF ska and my favourite of the original bunch.

9. Say It Out Loud (from The Knife)
The Knife was an incredibly strong entry in their discography and of all the songs in there I feel like Say It Out Loud was one of the most OG Goldfinger songs in there, since you can hear so many outside influences in a lot of the other material. This one made me the most nostalgically happy when the album dropped last year.

8. Bro (from Stomping Ground)
Goldfinger are a band that were optimised by a humorous ‘don’t give a fuck’ attitude and this mock-hardcore-into-dub-back-to-mock-hardcore number never fails to elicit a smile from me.

7. Open Your Eyes (from Open Your Eyes)
Maybe a controversial entry here, this song was a marked difference to anything Goldfinger had done beforehand and I myself disliked its obvious emo serve and altogether severely serious nature. It was however a huge commercial success for them and got a hell of a lot of alternative club playtime. As the years have gone on, and I’ve grown up, I like it more and more.

6. Get Up (from Hello Destiny)
I hadn’t listened to Hello Destiny before writing this list. That’s a huge shame because it’s a gem of an album. Get Up is a skank-a-long kickass tune that, if you’ve not heard it before, I guarantee will have you dancing like nobody's watching. Honestly, if Hello Destiny passed you by like it did me I recommend it highly.

5. Pick A Fight (from Stomping Ground)
I love this song with reckless abandon. It’s one of the quintessential Goldfinger pop punk tunes and a banger in every sense. Great vocals, some of the best in its class and just a great all round tune. You’re probably going to notice from here on out that I’m incredibly Stomping Ground heavy. I apologise to no one for that. It was my first Goldfinger album and the one I draw on whenever I think of the band.

4. San Simeon (from Stomping Ground)
San Simeon is peak Goldfinger pop punk. It is great on so many levels it hurts my brain to think about how much excellent is in here. There’s so much fun and energy in this song that it brings an instant smile to my face.

3. 99 Red Balloons (from Stomping Ground)
You always remember your first time. 99 Red Balloons is the first experience I had with Goldfinger and is still to this day top three on my list of greatest punk covers ever. To be honest I didn’t know it was a cover when I first heard it. I just thought it was one of the greatest songs on the earth and wondered why they sang in German at the end. The only thing I can think of that would make me like a Goldfinger song more would be if they’d somehow written a mashup track with MxPx…

2. Put The Knife Away (from The Knife)
Put The Knife Away is basically a mashup track with MxPx. Obviously at this stage in the band's life having Mike Herrera on bass can have that effect on their songs and nowhere is this more apparent than on this track. The speed, melody, vocals… everything screams MxPx to me and that is more than enough to have this come out near the top of this list.

1. Superman (from Hang-Ups)
How could it not be? I know I like songs more than Superman, I know they have better ska tunes and I know it’s been overplayed to the point of ridiculousness but fact are facts. Superman is the biggest, greatest, most influential Goldfinger song of all time. Even amongst the rest of the THPS1 soundtrack Superman was special, sharing a popularity that outshone everything else of the classic soundtrack. It’s most of the world’s entry to Goldfinger and something that has defined generations and been an entry to all of our tastes in music for countless people. A special song indeed.

This top ten was written by Dan Peters.

Wednesday, 23 May 2018

Gig Review: New Town Kings Album Launch at Colchester Arts Centre 19/5/18

Hot on the heels of last week's Popes Of Chillitown album launch show, Emma and I found ourselves at another. On Saturday the 19th of May we made the journey back to my hometown of Colchester to go and have a dance at the album launch for Colchester's greatest EVER band, the New Town Kings, for the release of their long awaited third full length, Reach Out. Of course the only place the Kings could have their album launch show was at the home venue, Colchester Arts Centre. And as an added bonus, their good buddies and one of our favourite bands in the world, Faintest Idea were support for the evening. The sun was shining and we were ready for a fun night of ska and reggae.

Faintest Idea were the only band announced as support. Normally I like to see at least two support bands but Norfolk's finest band put on a show worthy of two bands. This was their first time playing Colchester so their tradition of having the brass section begin the set in the crowd for opening track Back To The Asylum took a fair few people by surprise. I've seen this a lot of times now and every time it puts a big smile on my face. I have to admit I was wondering how the Colchester crowd would react to Faintest Idea. The New Town Kings generally attract more of an old school reggae and ska crowd these days rather than the punk rockers so it might not be the type of crowd that Faintest Idea are usually used to. Of course they quickly got the crowd on side with a high energy set and they got many of us dancing and skanking away, as well as shouting along to songs such as Youth, Mutual Aid and Bull In A China Shop. We were also treated to a couple of new songs which will hopefully be recorded soon. One was named Stomp Them Down and unfortunately I didn't get the name of the other but they both sounded superb and has me impatiently awaiting some more new material. Faintest Idea were fantastic, they always are. After the set we popped to the bar and overheard a gentleman talking about their set and saying how good they were. It was "really punky." That's at least one new fan gained for the band but I suspect there were many more.

After a speedy changeover it was time for the mighty New Town Kings. I don't know if it's because I don't live in Colchester anymore but over the last year it has felt as if the eight piece have been quite quiet. Now we know why – they've been working hard on a brand new album and it's excellent! We were treated to eleven of the thirteen songs from Reach Out and they already seem like old favourites. That's a big testament to how talented the Kings are as songwriters and performers. Their setlist started with The Hawk and Francine. Both are songs the band have been playing for a while and it's great to see them finally get recorded. Then I was taken a little by surprise as they went on to play many classic songs such as Hold On, Stop, Dynamite and News Stand before moving on to the new, new material. They played the album's title track Reach Out, Borderline, Why You Always Take, British Summer, Deep Water, Music, Long Long Road and Coconut Tree and I loved every single one of them. I've often found that album launch shows can feel a bit awkward as people don't know how to react to things they haven't heard. That certainly wasn't the case at the Arts Centre as people treated the new songs like they'd known them for years. With all these new songs as well as the oldies this was a very long set but it absolutely flew by. We danced from the beginning of The Hawk right the way through to traditional set closer Fire In The Hole and then through to the encore of La La World, Change and Deptford Skank where Faintest Idea drummer Jack Brew joined the band on stage to play a bit of trombone – what a surprise that was!

Earlier in this review I stated that the New Town Kings are the best band to come out of Colchester EVER! I don't think that that is an exaggeration. The New Town Kings are eight incredibly talented people who write and perform this amazing music that gets people singing, dancing and most importantly smiling. We need more bands like the Kings in the world!

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

Tuesday, 22 May 2018

Album Review: 1,555 Syllables That Mean Everything by Jake Martin (by Emma Prew)

Jake Martin is a Brighton-based DIY singer songwriter who plays songs that could loosely be described as ‘acoustic folk punk’. I heard about him and his new EP thanks to an email from Aaahh!!! Real Records via Bandcamp (You know those emails you get because you’ve previously bought something from that label or band but really should turn off because you get loads of them… except sometimes you discover gems like these!). Jake Martin wasn’t a name I was familiar with but I was instantly drawn in by the artwork – clearly the work of Dan Allen – and soon discovered that his sound was right up my street.

1,555 Syllables That Mean Everything is a four track EP and the first of those four songs is called May Your Venue Never Die. This is a song that I think, if you’re reading this blog, you will or at least should wholeheartedly agree with and believe in. May Your Venue Never Die is about not wanting to lose another independent music venue to corporate giants and property developers – something that is happening all too often across the UK. So the subject matter certainly had me hooked but what about the music? The song starts out with some simple acoustic guitar but before too long there’s some violin and banjo thrown in as well – the violin actually has a striking solo part that precedes the chorus. I wasn’t sure if this EP was simply going to be purely solo acoustic guy (yes, I stole that from Gaz Brookfield) so, although that would have been fine by me, I was pleasantly surprised to find more going on. The banjo is probably my favourite of the folkier instruments so the start of the second song, Mountains, immediately had my attention. The gentle melody had me nodding along as I took in the words – by this point I’m well aware of and enjoying the great messages and stories that are delivered in Jake Martin’s songs. Mountains is about how we can quite easily get used to our standard everyday life – working to pay the bills and put food on the table, sitting on the sofa in the evening, etc. but never really ‘living’ – without thinking about what we could actually have or do if we wanted to. We can move mountains if we want to. After the second verse, what was a moderately paced track is injected with a energy in the form of an instrumental breakdown. With this comes an increase in volume and a singalong bridge that really is the highlight of the song – ‘If you’re not pissed off, It’s time to listen.’ Although it did instantly remind me of some very similar lyrics from King’s Lynn ska punk band Faintest Idea – that said, the sentiment is still true whichever voice is singing in.

The first two songs on 1,555 Syllables That Mean Everything tackled some fairly important subjects but did so in an uplifting and positive manor. The third song, To All The Ones I Love, is by contrast a somewhat sad but honest outpouring. To All The Ones I Love is about feeling like you’re, of your own choosing, far away from your friends and people that you care about and wanting to let them know you’re sorry for all the times they have been let down by you. Jake sings of how he’s often only ‘home’ for a short period of time and in that time he is most likely still attached to his guitar. The instruments manage to retain a brightness that contrasts with Jake’s words and mean that the song doesn’t simple become a downhearted and sombre tune. The song’s subject made me properly stop and think about how difficult it must be to have a ‘normal life’ whilst also being a touring DIY musician. I’m so grateful that musicians like Jake do what they do so that people like me can enjoy hearing their songs live – I’m almost certain I couldn’t hack it myself so thank you. Finishing off the EP is a song titled We Sing The Words All Wrong. From that title and the opening chords of the song, I was anticipating that this was going to be a fine closing song – hopefully with a singalong element to it. I was not at all disappointed. The song progresses steadily with the level of passion in Jake’s vocals increasing as well as the volume. I’m often reluctant to mention Frank Turner in reviews of anything vaguely acoustic-based as I feel like that can often be a cop-out comparison to make. However, We Sing The Words All Wrong definitely has a bit of a Ballad Of Me And My Friends old school Turner feel to it and I’m all for that (especially when I’m not so fussed about Mr Turner anymore). The bridge says it all – ‘Won’t you sing from your heart, Or never sing again.’ Oh and the whole song is definitely one big singalong, complete with whoa-ohs. Perfect punk rock, acoustic or otherwise.

1,555 Syllables That Mean Everything is available to stream and download on the Aaahh!!! Real Records Bandcamp page now and you can also find Jake Martin on Facebook.

This review was written by Emma Prew.

Monday, 21 May 2018

Album Review: Canadian Businessman by Canadian Businessman

It's always nice when a fantastic release comes out of nowhere. That was certainly the case for new Manchester based band Canadian Businessman. The three piece, formed of Stand Out Riot's Tessa, Ben and Francis released their debut self titled EP just before Easter to little fanfare. Being a fan of Stand Out Riot I previewed it immediately and was gobsmacked by how good it is. It jumped right to the top of my review list.

While Stand Out Riot play a unique mix of ska, punk and gypsy music, Canadian Businessman is a straight up punk band. As in Stand Out Riot Ben plays the drums but for Canadian Businessman Tessa swaps her violin for a bass guitar and Francis swaps his trombone for a guitar. Francis and Tessa also share vocal duties. Now we've got that important information out of the way, let's get on with the review!

The opening track is titled Original and begins in a fantastically upbeat way. I'm actually reminded of Francis's other band, Leagues Apart, as there is that dirty sing-a-long punk rock sound to the song. Francis takes the lead on the song with Tessa supplying some fantastic harmonies throughout. Original is a positive sounding song about reassuring yourself that despite everything it's going to be alright. As you would expect, the chorus is brilliantly catchy and it won't be long until you're singing along quite gleefully. I loved the breakdown section where Francis and Tessa trade off vocals along with a bass solo before building to the finish. Next up is the song Giant which starts off in a relatively heavy fashion before Tessa's vocals come in. Even after years of listening to Stand Out Riot, I'd never realised just what a beautiful vocal she has. It's great that she's given the chance shine here. Francis comes back in for the chorus and the pair display some awesome harmonies once again. The song has a pretty lengthy outro with some high energy buzzsaw guitars ending the song with some aplomb.

Holes reminds me of a more upbeat Above Them. This is honestly one of my favourite songs of the year so far. There's a chugging stop start to the song before an intense Francis comes in with some of the most intense and urgent vocals on the EP. There is a section in the song where the vocals become distorted alongside the guitars to create an interesting sound. This leads to the song's big highlight at the end of the track - a big gang vocal finale where everyone can sing-a-long! The EP finishes off with Warm Welcome. This track is one where the band show off what a great bunch of musicians they are thanks to some fantastic solos throughout the song with Francis's guitar playing in particular standing out. Tessa again handles lead vocal duties beautifully as she sings a song about not feeling as welcome in a scene as you first thought you were. The three part harmonies towards the end of the song, as the band sing the line "I've never felt so cold", are excellent. The layering is incredible. A fantastic way to end such a great EP.

When we get to December and we start thinking about what our favourite releases of the year are I'm expecting Canadian Businessman to feature quite highly in mine. This is so good. I hope there are plans in the works to play these songs live at some point and that band do some more bits like this.

Like Canadian Businessman here:

This review was written by Colin Clark.

Friday, 18 May 2018

Gig Review: Popes Of Chillitown Album Launch Show at New Cross Inn 11/5/18

2018 could go down in history as the year ska punk made its big comeback. Legends such as Random Hand and Lightyear are back at it, Sonic Boom Six are still wowing crowds all around the UK, Call Me Malcolm have just put out what's potentially the best ska punk album of the past ten years, The Bar Stool Preachers have a new album imminent that I'm hearing great things about and I have a feeling we also might see something new from Faintest Idea before the year ends. London based band the Popes Of Chillitown are the band that I think are leading this new wave of ska punk bands into this exciting new era. The Popes have just released a brand new album titled Work Hard, Play Hard, See You In The Graveyard which has been getting rave reviews – check out what Dan Peters had to say about it here. To celebrate this release the Popes, with the help of Be Sharp Promotions, threw an album launch show at the New Cross Inn. The Popes are renowned for being an incredible live band so Emma and I were very excited for the gig.

The first band of the night were just about to get started when we arrived at the New Cross. Codename Colin are a band I've been trying to see for a while now, since I came across their excellent cover of Feeder's classic Just A Day on the YouTube. They play some fantastic ska pop punk that is full of energy and will get even the saddest of people smiling. Codename Colin also had some exciting news for the people who got down to New Cross early – they've won a competition to play Slam Dunk South at the end of the month. This is a great opportunity, well done gentlemen. We only actually had two thirds of Codename Colin in attendance for the gig as two of the horn players unfortunately couldn't make it. That however did not stop Codename Colin putting on a fun show. Mostly playing songs from their debut EP Outgunned, they soon got the crowd warmed up nicely with the tracks Declan and Losing Touch standing out. On Declan in particular I was reminded a bit of Operation Ivy's Jesse Michaels when Codename Colin's lead singer, Charlie Gabriel, sang. In a live setting these songs definitely pack a bit more of a punch than the recorded versions. It's not a ska punk support band without a cover or two and Codename Colin dutifully obliged with fun covers of Britney Spears' Hit Me Baby One More Time and Five's Keep On Moving, both of which went down really well with the crowd. If you're off to Slam Dunk South this year be sure to check out Codename Colin. They're also back at New Cross in July for Level Up Festival.

Up next were a band I knew very, very little about however Be Sharp Promotions Paul Smith was very excited to see them. He spent a good portion of time telling my why 3dbs Down were the best band ever and even stating that Be Sharp wouldn't even exist without them. He also told me that 3dbs Down play melodic punk rock with hints of ska. He didn't tell me that the band featured three lead singers who deliver some of the best harmonies I've seen in years. Musically, of course 3dbs Down were fantastic but what I really fell in love with was the vocals. I adore bands that have multiple singers. Very often it's a case of one of the singers sings the entirety of a song and the other singers do the same on other songs. That's not the case for 3dbs Down. They take turns in doing verses, lines and choruses on their tracks and it works so well. The vocals complement each other brilliantly and give so much life to their songs. The four piece from Gravesend only play a couple of shows each year so catching them live is a real treat. It also makes me feel less bad that I've never seen them before, as I can't remember the last time I saw a band without ever listening to them before and being so impressed. 3dbs Down absolutely ruled and I fully understand just why Paul was so excited.

The main support act of the evening were The Foamers. This long running band would now be playing to a huge New Cross crowd who seemed just as excited to see them as they were the Popes Of Chillitown. The Foamers formed in 1996 and split in 2004 gaining a tonne of passionate fans along the way. They've since reformed and play shows here and there, including a slot at Level Up Festival last year. That was my first time seeing them and I thought they were great. This time they were even better! The crowd loved them and skanked, moshed and sang throughout their whole set. Combining street punk and ska to brilliant effect, the four piece played a set that could easily have been thought of as a headline set. All bands should put as much into their set as The Foamers did no matter what their position on the line up is. So many people have such fond memories of the Household Name/Golf Records era of punk and ska in the UK and it's such a treat to still have the opportunity to see those bands every now and then. I've no doubt that The Foamers played a big part in influencing many of today's skacore bands and I just think it's great the band still come out and play shows.

If the gig had finished with The Foamers I'm sure the now packed New Cross Inn would have gone home happy but we still had the evening's headliners still to play. The Popes Of Chillitown are big favourites in South London so it was only right that their album launch party was at the New Cross Inn. The big crowd gathered around the front of the stage in anticipation for something special happening. And for the next hour that's what they got. You'll have to forgive my lack of knowledge on the new album as I wanted to hear it live before I listened to it properly. Plus my memory of the song order is a little fuzzy, as I just stood in awe of this awesome band. I believe that they started the set with a handful of songs from Work Hard, Play Hard, See You In The Graveyard that immediately had the floor of the New Cross vibrating because of the high intensity skanking that was taking place. It had me slightly worrying how much more this floor could take! The Popes are one of the most watchable bands in the UK scene. They are effortlessly slick along with having seemingly an endless amount of energy. This only amps the crowd up even more and, as the set progresses, things only get rowdier and rowdier. It was great seeing the new tracks getting the same amount of love as the old favourites. Whilst the band were playing To The Moon we were treated to a new extended version where they blow the power and do a little improv crowd chanting before the power gets fixed and they play the song all other again. I'm sure this was all supposed to happen. If you've not seen the Popes yet then you are really missing out. There aren't many better live bands in the UK and there isn't a single band like them sonically. They take ska, punk, reggae, dub and some hip hop, put it in the blender with some relentless energy and have mixed together a whirlwind of a sound that cannot be ignored. On the basis of this album launch show, I can see Work Hard, Play Hard, See You In The Graveyard being a big catalyst in pushing the Popes Of Chillitown to big things.

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

Thursday, 17 May 2018

Top Tens: Jim & Dan from Reuther's Top Ten Punk Rock Influences

Jim's List:

My uncle inspired me to play guitar, but this band made me want to start a band of my own. Really, I think it was the theatrics of Kiss that caught my attention more so than the music. My young self would frequently day-dream of being Ace Frehley playing guitar solos on stage. When I started middle school, I convinced my parents to buy me tickets for their concert.

Sum 41
This band was my gateway into punk music. I was a little too young to appreciate Green Day when Dookie came out, and still didn't have the attention span to explore more than the radio hits when Blink dropped Enema. When Sum 41 released All Killer No Filler I was hooked and listened to that record almost constantly front to back. I use to skateboard with my friends and have that album going. From there I started to dive deeper into punk music.

The Loved Ones
Dave Hause is one of my favorite songwriters. When I discovered The Loved Ones, I was hooked. Everything from the lyrics to the guitar riffs are weighted in meaning. Plus they're one of those pop punk bands that's not overly produced which makes them standout in a world of overproduction.

The Suicide Machines
I have to throw love to The Suicide Machines. I was really into punk/ska music in high school, and while they weren't my gateway into the scene they sure provided the soundtrack to many nights. With them being from our hometown of Detroit, it made it even more inspiring to see them out there touring and making records. Their shows are always packed and so much fun.

Against Me!
I feel like Against Me! is one of those bands that everyone can agree on. The first track I heard was "You Look Like I Need A Drink" from a Fat Wreck E-Card that a friend sent me. I had never heard a band like them before and remember being blown away by the intensity. The music is just raw and honest, and would inspire anyone pick up a guitar and write a song of their own.

Dan's List:

The Flatliners
I remember I first saw The Flatliners around 2005 after they released Destroy to Create. I was in a band at the time that was opening for them at a VFW Hall – I was immediately hooked. Such tenacity, such energy. I picked up that record and it most definitely honed how I wanted to play, both as a member of a band and a drummer, if that makes sense? It’s been amazing being able to hear their progression through the years, resulting in their best record and one of my favorite records of all time, Cavalcade. Even though they've outgrown their older sound and I miss it, I'm really optimistic for their career to continue. The drumming of Paul Ramirez alone is enough to make this band #1 on my list.

Less Than Jake
These guys were my first favorite band. I forget who it was exactly that gave me the record Losing Streak, but god damn, the first song alone was enough for me. Just poppy, catchy, energetic – I had to have more. I literally became obsessed with knowing everything about the band – collecting every record, knowing what the lyrics all meant, their Pez obsession, etc. I remember seeing them for the first time in early 2006 and every single expectation I had was met and exceeded. Years later, I've been able to share the stage with them numerous times and put out records on their labels. Safe to say my younger self would be quite pleased with my older self.

No Doubt
Say what you will about ND, but they changed the game when it came to mainstream rock. When Tragic Kingdom came out and dominated the charts, it was a surprise to some people, I'm sure. This came out when I was pretty young, but I managed to hear it and get a copy – it really just hit all the notes I wanted to hear and some I didn't even know I wanted, but loved anyway. It definitely had something to do with my initial love of ska, before I even know what that was.

The Suicide Machines
"But Dan, Don't you play in a band with Jay?" Yes, this is true. That really doesn't stop TSM from being one of my all time favorite bands. I feel TSM had an interesting evolution in their sound and presence throughout their career, which really just means they have something for everyone. Do you like fast, poppy ska punk? Go ahead and give Destruction By Definition a spin. Harder punk? Battle Hymns. Political punk? War Profiteering. It's really been great to share the stage with these guys so often and just lends to how much of an inspiration they've been. I remember first getting my hands on Destruction By Definition in High School and was just blown away that there was a band (from Detroit, no less) that hit every mark for what I wanted to hear at that time. Since then, they've been in the regular rotation.

Green Day
I feel like this doesn't really need a huge explanation. For a band to hit the mainstream with such an important album as Dookie and then remain relevant and popular to this day is certainly saying a lot. I first heard Dookie from my older brother who bought it – it took a few years for me to actually understand how amazing this record was and then that just led me to their subsequent albums which I still have on regular rotation. It really doesn't get more classic than that album. Their most recent years of music aren't exactly my favorite, but it's just very impressive they're still able to pull it after all these years.

Stream and download Reuther's new album Like A Ghost here, like them here and check out our review of the album here.

Wednesday, 16 May 2018

Album Review: Back From Hell by Satanic Surfers (by Dan Peters)

There are a handful of albums in each of our lives that changed the course of that life forever. Perfect storms of melody, tone and content that speaks to us like nothing else and becomes something we define ourselves by. For me one of those albums was Hero Of Our Time by the Satanic Surfers. I’m pretty sure I’ve mentioned this fact many a time but it never hurts to say it again – Satanic Surfers are a band that I hold incredibly dear to my heart and are one of the first on my lips when people ask about my all time favourite music. I write these intro paragraphs before listening to albums and it’s with great trepidation I once again, after 12 years away, get to put on a new Satanic Surfers album. Back From Hell is their brand new fresh-off-the-press album and my heart is hoping for an album of the year contender. Let's see.

Back From Hell is a masterpiece of skate punk beauty that takes everything I already loved about the band and amps it up to 11. The end.

Ok, so maybe I’ll give you a little more. Back From Hell is both incredibly raw and yet far better quality than everything that has come before. I’ve grown up with SS albums and can say for sure that this is the best they’ve ever sounded. Whilst not polished to a poppy sheen, everything is crisp and clear and the levels are complimentary. This is maybe the first album of theirs that doesn’t blow my eardrums when switching to another song on a playlist because the song is played way quieter than everything else. This is a good thing because Back From Hell absolutely has to be played LOUD!!

From opening track, The Usurper, this album is blisteringly fast and goddamn it shreds! There are screaming guitar solos aplenty in amongst lighting riffage and Rodrigo Alfaro is at his very best vocally. I gave Atlas Losing Grip my attention while he was with them but he really feels at home here and gives an incredible performance throughout.

All the Satanic Surfers tropes I’ve come to expect are here in abundance – the crazy riffs, the pace, the tongue in cheek politically aware humour, particularly in the cheeky Anthrax homage “Madhouse”. There’s also a lot in here that shows that Satanic Surfers have grown in the last 12 years. The vocal harmonies are truly excellent, Bad Religion quality this time around. There’s also a lot more nuance outside of the fastest songs that allows outside influences from all sorts of other musical genres to infuse what could essentially be a dictionary definition of skate punk into an album with charisma coming out of the seams.

As far as skate punk albums go, I may be hard pressed to find something I’ve wanted to listen to more in the last decade than this. I hold Satanic Surfers up on a pedestal as the very best to have done it. I’m happy to report that Back From Hell more than satisfies every expectation I had and more. It’s not just a rehash, it’s a band coming back stronger and better than ever before. Am I biased? Unashamedly, yes I am, but imagine how high my bar had been before listening so if I’m still glowing then that should be an incredible endorsement.

Stream and download Back From Hell here:

Like Satanic Surfers here:

This review was written by Dan Peters.

Tuesday, 15 May 2018

Album Review: Death From Below by The Palatines

The Palatines are three piece pop punk band from McAllen, Texas. The band formed in 2016 and feature Javier on guitar and vocals, Richard on bass and vocals and Jeff on drums. In August of 2016 the band released their debut EP, Never Made It, and then in February of 2018 they released their first full length album, Death From Below. I first found out about it after browsing Bandcamp and being attracted to the album's artwork – which you can see below. It's quite striking. So the artwork is great but is the album? Only one way to find out!

Take It Back is the album's opening track. The Palatines play fast paced melodic pop punk music in a similar vein to bands such as The Copyrights or The Dopamines but I'm also reminded of Face To Face's lead singer Trevor Keith on the vocals here. Keith has one of my favourite voices in punk rock so I have no complaints there. Take It Back is about regretting your actions and wanting to be able to make up for them. Up next is the song Ten More Minutes. It starts with an alarm going off and a cameo from Wonk Unit's Alex getting quite annoyed with it. This introduction really gets your attention and you soon find yourself in a fast paced pop punk jam about not wanting to go to work. I loved the music throughout the song – it's 100% energy from start to finish and flies by, before you realise the song is done. Dilemma is more of a mid-tempo song that jumps between melodic punk rock and buzzsaw pop punk brilliant. The vocals are layered wonderfully with some superb harmonies during the chorus. It's about wanting to break up with someone but being scared of losing everything because of it.

The fourth song on Death From Below is named Denise The Grease. It's a short, rapid fire, fun song about having a crush on a waitress. This isn't a song that's going to change the world but it does put a smile on my face. I can definitely get on board with that. The silliness continues on the next song, Gross Girl. Keeping up the fast paced pop punk, Gross Girl is simply about your girlfriend being quite disgusting. It's actually quite a sweet song when you think about it as he still loves his girl despite all of this grossness. I particularly enjoyed the ending of the song when they just spell out the word "gross" repetitively, really allowing for some great audience participation. Following this pair of past paced tracks is the more melodic Mina Doesn't Know. Unlike many of the previous songs, Mina Doesn't Know builds into the song before we hit the vocals. I really liked this variety and it happened at the perfect time to prevent the music becoming stale. This feels like one of the more accomplished songs musically with some excellent fills and solos included in the track.

Demons Whispering continues this more melody-driven style of punk rock. This song, in truth, really reminds of Face To Face. Face To Face's music always has this incredible energy that is hard not to get swept away by. I get the same feeling with The Palatines, particularly on Demons Whispering. Take A Left Turn has a guitar tone that might you might expect to hear from The Lillingtons or Teenage Bottlerocket. That kind of sci-fi pop punk sound that I just adore. The track is about how strange and alien-like the suburbs feel and how all is not as it seems. I think this is really clever songwriting from The Palatines. Using a sound that is associated with sci-fi punk to help set the scene of the song's topic. Then The Palatines take us down a completely different path to the one we've been on for the previous eight songs. Illuminatty Lite begins as an angry hardcore track that's sure to get folk really amped up. The band spends the first two thirds screaming the lines "illuminatty light, you can't stand me, I can't stand you" over and over again. This is a ferocious side of The Palatines that I quite enjoyed. When we get to the final portion of the song we get The Palatines we, by this point, know and love as they revert to some classic pop punk and sing about why they don't get on with the "Illuminatty." After a brief piece of Googling I found out that this is a team of body building gym types who believe they are the elite but secretly cheat. They do sound like bad eggs.

The tenth song, Take The Reins, explodes out of the block with some big vocals. This is a melodic sing-a-long with more of a mature skate punk sound. It also feels more driven, with the tempo rarely straying from its path. There is a wonderful intensity in the vocals that really keep you interested in the song, which is about wanting somebody else to take control of your life so you stop making mistakes. Burnt Out By Xmas is The Palatines' anti-Christmas song. It talks about not having energy to celebrate the big day and not having any money to buy people presents. It's a short and sweet song that's incredibly infectious. Considering the subject is kind of sad, the sound of the song is actually quite joyous and features plenty of great gang vocal "whoa-ohs." Falling Off tackles the issue of addiction and in particular falling off the wagon. This is one of my favourite songs on Death From Below. The opening guitars made me feel like something big was about to happen and that feeling was certainly correct. It's a very powerful song that I'm sure plenty of people will find relatable and hopefully might help anyone who is struggling to stay sober.

Grave Misfortune is another big highlight from Death From Below. It features some rapid fire vocals that just blew me away and really had me eager to see where the song goes. It's about being a person who lives in great comfort before losing their job because the company has moved out of town. I love this super fast paced pop punk that's also super catchy and great to sing-a-long to – so long as you've got the energy to keep up! The penultimate song is titled Run Red. It's a love song of sorts. It talks about going to prison for attacking someone because you were protecting your girl. It's one of the more unique topics for a love song but The Palatines do pull it off expertly with the lyrics really painting a great picture of events. The fifteenth and final track on Death From Below is named Girl In The Ocean. As I always say, a band should save their big epic for the final song and The Palatines certainly do this. It's a mid-tempo melodic punk jam that is about the break up with a girl who made a lot of sacrifices for you and feeling bad because of it. Obviously it's quite a sad feeling track and is filled with plenty of emotion. This is definitely the most emotional track on the entire album and a great choice to finish things off.

Why is it that so many of my best Bandcamp discoveries are because of awesome artwork? I love this style of pop punk and The Palatines have put out one of the best albums in this genre in quite some time. I thought that at fifteen songs long it might drag a little bit but it flew by and kept me thoroughly entertained throughout. The vocals are just superb and are backed perfectly by some great, great tunes. If you love bands like Teenage Bottlerocket, The Lillingtons, Face To Face, The Copyrights, Dear Landlord, The Dopamines, or any of the other bands like this, then Death From Below by The Palatines is essential listening.

Stream and download Death From Below here:

Like The Palatines here:

This review was written by Colin Clark.

Monday, 14 May 2018

Album Review: Utopia by The Lab Rats (by Emma Prew)

The Lab Rats are a folk punk duo based in Manchester, formed of Molly Yates (Bolshy) and Adam McKeon (Wadeye). I wasn't aware of them until they were announced for Manchester Punk Festival 2018 – they were one of the very first acts to be announced in fact – and I checked them out on the MPF sampler on Bandcamp. I then forgot about them until it came to sorting out my Clashfinder for the festival and I highlighted that I wanted to see them. (At the time of writing this, MPF hasn’t happened yet but, at the time of this being posted, it most likely has happened – hopefully I got to see Lab Rats live in the end!) Looking them up again, I found that they released a new 7-track album, Utopia, on Pumpkin Records at the end of February. I quickly made up for lost time and listened to it as soon as possible. Here’s what I thought.

Utopia opens with the compelling swaying motion of Refugees Welcome and a combination of acoustic guitar and mandolin. But despite the song’s lovely melody, this is not a happy nor care-free song. The way in which the story is told through its lyrics is an interesting one as the song is a conversation with a refugee, asking them questions – ‘Did you risk life just to get to the shore?, Have you travelled all this way to be free from a war?’ – but also being sympathetic and telling them that they are welcome. This is not nearly as aggressive as your average ‘protest song’ and I particularly liked the song for that reason. Next up is Song For A Friend. The mandolin plays the leading melody here while a banjo – at least I think it’s the banjo, which is listed as also appearing on this album (Joel McCarton on violin and banjo), but it could be the acoustic guitar – plays a more bassy-sounding backing. The instrumentation is great but its the vocals that really stood out to me. Molly really showcases what an excellent set of vocal chords she has here, with some almost bluesy, soulful oooh-ooohs at points. Overall this is a fairly melancholic but powerful track that reflects on not always knowing how to feel in certain situations.

The third song on Utopia is a faster paced number titled Keep Smilin’. Keep Smilin’ opens with some strummed guitar chords and a more intricate mandolin part. Lyrically the song is about standing up to your own anxiety and trying to stay positive but also knowing that you’re not the only one who feels this way – ‘I know that it’s not just me.’ It feels like a bit of a call to arms for anxious types and people with mental health problems which is a great thing. Lead You Home follows up next and there is definitely a banjo present here, alongside the mandolin and acoustic guitar, bringing another level of ‘folk’ to the duo’s sound. The violin makes its first appearance in Lead You Home as well, giving the song perhaps a fuller sound than previous tracks. The song is about having friends that will be there for you and make sure that you not only get home safely but also that you have a home to go to. The repetition of ‘We will lead you home.’ felt especially empowering. Friends Not Food is a somewhat slower paced song and this steadiness really allows the vocals and lyrics to be the main focus. Friends Not Food is a letter, of sorts, to meat (and dairy, I assume) eaters who are in selfish, denial about what they do (according to The Lab Rats, at least) – ‘And you don’t think about it, All the things that you do, Say that it weren’t done with your hands, So it’s nothing to do with you.’ This is definitely a vegan and anti-animal cruelty anthem although it will no doubt be a bit controversial for some listeners. I’m a vegetarian and I feel a bit guilty for not being a fully fledged vegan after listening to this song because I do agree with the message.

The next song is possibly my favourite on Utopia. Breathe opens with a sorrowful yet atmospheric violin part which gives way to the vocals of the first verse and a simple acoustic guitar backing. This is a song about wanting to escape the city, with all of its pollution and fast pace, for a simpler and more nourishing space – the forest, for example. The violin returns for the chorus which, although initially fairly sad, is actually quite hopeful – ‘And take me into the forest, And show me the beauty, I’m yet to see, And take me up to the mountains, And show me the wonder, So I can be free.’ As a lover of nature and being surrounded by trees, I can completely relate to this song – although I do at least live in a town and not a big city like Manchester. A beautiful song regardless. The final song on Utopia is Stop This War. Kicking things off in a mid tempo fashion, things soon increase in speed and volume – at least until the vocals come in for the first verse. However the volume and passion remains. As you can probably tell by the title of this song, this is a protest song of sorts against war – but not just armed conflict type war; wars between atheists and religious people, wars between hunters and hunt saboteurs, wars between the activists and oppressors. The song has a great combination of slower verses, followed by more mandolin intricateness and then a faster paced and passion fuelled chorus. ‘How long do we have to fight before you stop this, Stop this war? Stop this!’

What a great album this turned out to be! You can check it out for yourself on Bandcamp here. And like The Lab Rats on Facebook here as well.

This review was written by Emma Prew.

Friday, 11 May 2018

Album Review: That Was Just A Noise by Revenge Of The Psychotronic Man

I assume anyone reading this will by now have heard the news that legendary Manchester punk band Revenge Of The Psychotronic Man are breaking up in December. This is really sad news and a massive loss for the UK DIY punk scene. The three piece are one of the most incredible live bands I've ever seen, connecting with their audience in a way that no other band can. They also write some damn good speed punk tunes that always get me smiling even if I sometimes I have absolutely no idea what's going on. As somewhat of a parting gift, Revenge have released a final LP which features tracks from their entire discography as well as some rarities and unreleased songs. At twenty six songs long, it's basically packed with all of the Revenge Of The Psychotronic Man goodness you could possibly need.

The album's title is That Was Just A Noise which kind of works brilliantly for what people's first perception of Revenge can sometimes be. They play what on the surface is this extremely fast and aggressive punk rock music, that for the uninitiated can be taken as just noise. Revenge maintain their sense of humour until the very end by taking that perception and embracing it. Of course their music is more than just noise. They write these incredibly catchy tunes that fill the listener with a massive amount of energy. Seriously listen to songs like Booze Time, Mine's A Pint and I Wanna Be A Spaceman and try to stay still. It's really difficult not to, at the very least, have a bit of a head bang let alone resist starting a full on circle pit in my living room.

It's perhaps not surprising that That Was Just A Noise is packed with songs about having a good time and Revenge's DIY punk ethos. Songs like Get Pissed, Talk Shit, Dance Like An Idiot, Mine's A Pint and Booze Time are about having the best time with your mates, while Another Way, To Be Frank and Mainstream Music Is Shit cover what life is like in a DIY punk rock band. Then we have the excellent Drinking In The Van which covers both. Revenge have this great knack for taking a serious song and making it a bit silly and then taking a sillier song and making it seem quite serious.

Matt and Andy take turns on lead vocal duties throughout the album. This keeps the songs sounding fresh and prevents any feelings of staleness sinking it. A band like Revenge needs two vocalists, the speed that they sing in must be exhausting! Musically it's very rare that the band ever take the time to slow down but on the occasion that they do, like on the instrumental I Know A Cracking Owl Sanctuary or The Queen Is Dead, Long Live The King Singers (yes, this is one of the slower tracks on the album) they prove that they are more than just a band that play stupidly fast.

That Was Just A Noise is such a fantastic record for Revenge Of The Psychotronic Man to finish up with. Whenever I think of Revenge I automatically think about what a crazy live band they are but they have also written some pretty special songs. I feel like this is sometimes overlooked when people talk about the band. It's just bloody wonderful that so many of the band's greatest songs have been collected together in one final package so we can remember one of the best and most important DIY punk bands that the UK has ever seen.

Stream and download That Was Just A Noise here:

Like Revenge Of The Psychotronic Man here:

This review was written by Colin Clark.

Thursday, 10 May 2018

News: Dirty Sushi Records Release A Brand New Compilation Album

UK based independent label Dirty Sushi Records have just released their second compilation album named Yo! Dirty Sushi 2. It features fourteen tracks from the labels impressive roster of talent. It features songs from great bands such as The Cutaways, This Obsession, Second In Line, Layman's Terms and many more. Check it out, it's really good.

Check out Dirty Sushi Records on Bandcamp here and Facebook here.

Top Tens: Eliott from Nosebleed's Top Ten Punk Rock Influences

Alright? I'm Eliott and I come from Nosebleed. We're releasing our new album soon so Colin has very kindly asked me to provide everyone my top ten biggest punk rock influences. Obviously I had to say yes, so here we are. Are you ready? I'm ready. Here we go!

1. Motörhead
I love Motörhead. I have loved Motörhead for a long long time. Before Lemmy died I was definitely in triple figures seeing Motörhead. One of my early CDs that dad made me buy (dad very much dictated my early musical taste) was a greatest hits of theirs and they were the first band I ever saw live. My friend Smell and I used to follow them around the world to see them. It was a great time in my life, living in the back of a van, hanging out backstage and fangirling over the band. Motörhead are one of those bands that change you profoundly, I think, they are the very essence of rock n roll. There was something for the punks, something for the rockers, something for the metal heads there, a true unifying band. A lot of what I play and how I write music and lyrics comes from Motörhead and I'm real glad when people come up to me after gigs and say they can hear it in Nosebleed's music.

2. The Hives
Obviously, if you've seen Nosebleed, you know where a lot of our sound and style comes from. The Hives are a banging band,and I defy you not to listen to a Hives record without nodding your head. They've got it all – killer sound, killer style, killer show, rock n roll as it should be played. I think a lot of people forget that live music should be a performance, not just playing songs, it should be a panto. The Hives have this down completely and I try and bring this into Nosebleed's live show too.

3. The Greats; Little Richard, Chuck Berry, Jerry Lee Lewis, Elvis And All The Originals
Without these people in the fifties and sixties, there wouldn't be any of the bands I like today. There wouldn't be a Nosebleed, or a DIY punk scene to play in, and I feel it would be a pretty sad state of affairs. Imagine doing a human pyramid to a Vivaldi performance. Pretty grim. There's little that feels better than sticking on a Little Richard LP and dancing round the kitchen while you cook the tea. Good old proper rock n roll.

4. Blink 182
Blink were one of the first bands I got into. My first forays into buying music for myself were shakey to say the least, though to this day So Solid Crew's 21 seconds remains a classic, but Blink 182 were one of the first 'guitar' bands I got into and are the reason I started listening to punk. To this day I have a soft spot for Blink, I think they're one of those bands that you can never be too cool to listen to. Their self-titled 2003 album is an absolute masterpiece – a lot of people disagree with this but you know I'm right.

5. Tyler the Creator & Kendrick Lamar
Aside from rock n roll, I am very much into hip hop. A lot of what I listen to day to day is hip hop, because after constant gigging and watching bands, I like to relax to something different. Of all the hip hop I listen to, I think Tyler the Creator is the best. Very underrated as an artist, he tells very clever, subtle stories in his albums and has created his own worlds within the albums through the use of recurring alter egos. Listen to Wolf, that's his best. In the same way I also massively rate Kendrick Lamar. His storytelling is on point – more serious than Tyler the Creator, Kendrick deals with issues of growing up surrounded by gang culture and the problems faced by African Americans. Listen to good kid, M.A.A.D. City.

6. The Shipping Forecast
So, now some none musical stuff. Radio 4 is great. If you don't listen to it, you should. I will listen to the shipping forecast most nights, it's extremely comforting on long drives home from gigs. It's like a lullaby for adults. When me and my dad went to gigs we always had it on when we were nearly home, so I think that's where my attachment to the shipping forecast has come from.

7. Stephen King
I used to read a lot more than I do now. I don't so much have time for it anymore, but when I do get around to it, you can guarantee I'm reading a Stephen King book. I don't really know what it is about his works – I don't like horror films, I don't like the dark, but I find myself getting really drawn into his books. Best book – IT. Couldn't watch the film, got scared.

8. Art
Bit vague this one, but I didn't really know how to make it less so. I really like art, essentially. Mainly traditional tattoo art. Can't even really explain why, it’s a bit of a shit number 8 is this, I'm sorry. I do a lot of my own drawing and painting and draw a lot of influence from tattoo artists and people of that ilk. My special friend Jaap from Batwolf is an incredible artist, we're constantly sending each other pictures we've drawn and he encourages me a lot. We even collaborated on the cover for Nosebleed's new album

9. Sian
Sian is my fiancé and I like her a lot. She encourages me, and pushes me with the band, and doesn't get mad when I spend too much of our money or forget to cook the tea or put a hole in the bath and then not buy her a new one so she can't have baths anymore and we have to shower really awkwardly to stop the floor getting wet.

10. The UK Punk Scene
I love our scene. I love the people in our scene, making the music they make. It's great. I've friends all over the country as a direct result of playing in a band. Obviously everyone in the scene influences me, but in particular there's my brother Dan (The Franceens/Snakerattlers) who has always pushed me and supported everything I do musically. He did a lot for my old band Segregates and he has done more for Nosebleed than I could ever thank him for. Ben and Dicky of Nosebleed fame, they're alright. I spend too much time with them and we have fights all the time, but I wouldn't spend my weekends with anyone else. Andy, Bev, and the TNS family. Andy and Bev have really got behind Nosebleed and without them and all the TNS bands we wouldn't be where we are today.

So that's me! Ten things! Thanks for listening.

Stream and download Nosebleed's new album Scratching Circles On The Dancefloor here and like Nosebleed on Facebook here.

Wednesday, 9 May 2018

Album Review: Work Hard, Play Hard, See You In The Graveyard by Popes Of Chillitown (by Dan Peters)

The Popes of Chillitown find themselves in an unenviable position right now. What do you do when you’re the next ska punk band to release an album after your label mates dropped what has widely been considered the greatest album of the year already? It’s like playing an all dayer and the band before were incredible and now you’re next on and people are expecting you to be able to top it!! The Be Sharp alumni are fully up to the task though, so let's dive in.

This will be the last time I mention ‘I Was Broken When You Got Here’ now since ‘Work Hard, Play Hard, See You In The Graveyard’ really is an entirely different beast to the former. The Popes have a sound that is much more rooted in dub than their peers and they have a flavour of ska I find reminiscent of Got The Thirst era King Prawn. One thing that’s a marked difference to previous offerings is that ‘Work Hard’ is markedly heavier than everything you may have heard from the band before. Right from the get go, with storming opener Prang, pretty much all the way through the distortion is used with reckless abandon and I’m more than happy for the change. Everything is lent to a fierceness and energy that fires me up and brings out the goosebumps on my arms.

Everything here is top draw quality. There’s not a song on the record that I’d describe as less than a goddamn riot but if you forced me to pick some incredible standouts I’d probably lean towards the aforementioned Prang, the politically aware Upside Down and the skank-all-day-on-repeat ska punk anthem Take Control. The mixture of traditional ska punk, dub and the newer heavier elements (even a little of my beloved double time drumming in Lego Prisoners) is a heady mix and something finely tuned and infinitely danceable in ‘Work Hard’. The UK ska scene is a busy place to make your stand these days with quality found in any direction you care to look. Doubly so to be associated with Be Sharp, the home of the greatest bands that UK ska has to offer. The Popes Of Chillitown have confidently and competently laid out their claim as one of the premier offerings with Work Hard, Play Hard, See You In The Graveyard. To say that this album is the best thing the Popes have produced to date is something of an understatement, this is a desert island album. If someone told me this was the only thing I could listen to for the rest of my life then I’d probably die a happy man, probably a little young from over skanking.

Stream and download Work Hard, Play Hard, See You In The Graveyard here:

Like Popes Of Chillitown here:

This review was written by Dan Peters.

Tuesday, 8 May 2018

Album Review: SkyTigers by Red City Radio (by Robyn Pierce)

At the beginning of March, Oklahoma punks Red City Radio dropped a new EP on Red Scare entitled SkyTigers. The band seems to have been building up to this release slowly, putting out two singles from the EP in 2017 before packaging them together with three more songs as SkyTigers. For me, this gradual output has only added to the sense of anticipation and excitement for some new material. When Red City Radio put out their self-titled album in 2015 after Paul Pendley left, the band (and particularly vocalist Garrett Dale) showed that they could push on and continue to create really danceable and uplifting punk. SkyTigers has emerged as the band has grown and toured over the last couple of years, and I was so stoked to check it out.

The EP’s first track, ‘If You Want Blood (Be My Guest)’, is also the song that the band first released back in April last year. Its strong melody and bluesy charm delivers the classic RCR message of finding dignity in self-sufficiency. I can’t help but draw comparisons between the line “We don’t need a god damned thing from you” and the repeating affirmation “I don’t need anything from anybody” from their previous song ‘Two Notes Shy of an Octave’. The track also includes some great vocal harmonies, as does the rest of the EP. In fact, RCR are getting really good at filling out their songs with more of the band’s vocals and the harmonies are probably better on this EP than on any of their other albums. The second track, ‘I’ll Still Be Around’, starts out simply, with just Garrett and an acoustic guitar – like he’s sitting at the back of a dive bar (or “the darkest bar in the corner of a shithole town”) pouring his heart out. The song soon picks up, throwing in some lovely basslines and a gnarly guitar solo.

Both of these first two tracks are excellent, but I think ‘In the Shadows’ is one of the best songs RCR has ever produced. It’s almost a full five minutes long, but I promise that it’s totally worth the extra listening time. The song is about overcoming self-doubt and the fear of failure; about facing the demons that hide out in the shadows of depression or anxiety. The song is dark and sexy, with an undeniably catchy melody and another amazing guitar solo. The guys have even added in some horns on this track to make it even more exceptional. RCR are truly at their best when they are writing uplifting songs about self-empowerment and self-belief (“Show Me On The Doll Where The Music Touched You” is probably one of my favourite songs ever). ‘In The Shadows’ is the perfect song to throw on when you’re feeling down. A few chants of “I show no fear when I know that the devil’s here”, and you’ll be ready to do anything.

The EP’s last two songs are similarly excellent. In ‘Rebels’, RCR have created another great singalong, and I really love the production on the vocals. But, fair warning, the chorus of “They’re only rebels cause they like the songs” will absolutely get stuck in your head – possibly for several days. ‘SkyTigers’ is a real showstopper, moving from a ridiculously catchy melody to some prolonged wo-ah woahs, and offering some reflection upon the power to be found in human emotion and in each person’s ability to come together with others to do good. It has a similar effect to Propagandhi’s closing track on Victory Lap, ‘Adventures in Zoochosis’.

SkyTigers combines all the best things about RCR in five truly fantastic songs. Although it’s been a long time since we’ve had new music from them, what they have given us is exceptional. With its extreme danceability and encouraging message, this is set to be one of my favourite releases from this year.

Stream and download SkyTigers here:

Like Red City Radio here:

This review was written by Robyn Pierce.