CPRW Playlist: Here's what Dan, Emma, Jack, Omar, Richard, Robyn and myself have been listening to this June.
Friday, 29 June 2018
CPRW Playlist: June 2018
CPRW Playlist: Here's what Dan, Emma, Jack, Omar, Richard, Robyn and myself have been listening to this June.
Thursday, 28 June 2018
Top Eight Thursday: Chris from Consumed's Eight Bands He And His Daughters Love
I find it nigh on impossible to narrow down all the music I’ve loved over the years into a list of 10 and my brain would explode if I tried. Instead, I’ve gone for a list of bands that both my kids and I like. My two daughters are 9 and 11 years old – they like everything you’d expect girls of their age to like, but they also dig a fair few artists they’ve heard played by me. I don’t purposefully try to shape their taste in music, but I do think it’s important to let them make their own decisions about music they may not necessarily be routinely exposed to, and it’s always cool when they pick up on music such as the contents of this list. In no particular order, here’s a list of bands that we all enjoy…
I like the majority of this band’s material, but We Are the Royal is faultless from start to finish. Good time rock with some seriously weighty talent behind it. The kids pretty much know the words to every song on this album. I only know all the words to the Um Bongo advert.
Their last two albums in particular are firm favourites all round and are mostly played in the run up to our evening meal. I think the vibe they emit enhances our collective excitement when we know we’re only minutes away from eating a Hairy Bikers cottage pie.
Their logo was the first tattoo I had done (long since covered up – not because it was a regrettable choice of design, but because it was shit). What’s not to love? In Your Face and Truth And Soul are the two most played albums by a country mile. Seeing Fishbone live in the early nineties ranks up there as some of the best gigs I’ve ever been to.
This is a band who knows what they’re doing. They provide the perfect mix of power, melody and aggression which is taken to another level in their live shows. Their fast reputation as a must-see live band is well deserved. I saw them play to about twenty people on a Sunday night in Worcester. They were bloody ace, but you could see how much they needed a larger, more enthusiastic audience to feed off and bring out their best performance.
My youngest says They Call Me Steve is the best song ever and has it set as her morning alarm. We played with TBR a couple of years ago and I was blown away by the level of energy that goes into their performance. I was knackered just watching them.
When my oldest was a baby, she used to violently nod her head to Stop! from the album New Wave, every time she heard it. Since then, the entire White Crosses album has taken over as the must listen to Against Me! album. If I was forced to compile a list of my favourite albums, this would definitely be a contender.
The Flight of the Conchords
We all like FOTC. Their songs are charming, funny and clever. With most other comedy songs, I can enjoy them for maybe a couple of listens before the joke wears thin. FOTC are hugely talented musicians and can emulate the varying styles of other artists perfectly. There is always an underlying level of self-deprecation and a sense of humility behind their songs, despite their evident brilliance as songwriters.
This is the first band my kids saw live. The Caddies are old friends of Consumed and I try to catch up with them whenever they’re in the UK. I took the girls to see them a few years ago and they had the best time. I got all proud and emotional seeing just how much the girls enjoyed themselves at their first ‘proper gig’. Keep It Going has some of what I’d say is their best work and is probably the album we listen to the most.
Consumed have a brand new EP coming out on Umlaut Records, titled A Decade Of No, on the 13th of July. You can pre-order the EP here.
The band are also playing a couple of shows to celebrate the release. They are playing in Manchester with Don Blake, Triple Sundae and Hoof on the 13th of July and in London on the 14th of July with Goober Patrol, Paradigms and a special Müg set covering the Descendents.
Wednesday, 27 June 2018
Album Review: A Common Thread by Sophistipunx
Sophistipunx is a really difficult word to spell. It's also the name of a really great band from New Jersey on the East coast of the United States. The four piece band consists of Paul Suicide on vocals, Eric Browne on guitar, Greg L on bass and Paul Orrico on drums. The foursome first got together due to a mutual love of the 90s skate punk scene, before throwing all of their influences into a pot and coming up with their own unique brand of melodic hardcore ska punk. Earlier this year they released their second album, A Common Thread. This caught my attention enough to put Sophisipunx as my band of the week a few weeks ago. Now, at the request of the band, it's time to give the EP a full review.
The EP begins with its title track, Common Thread. This is a crunching and ferocious hardcore track. There is a bit of a metal element to the sound of the song along with some harsh vocals. I can imagine a crazy and wild circle pit for the song when it really gets going. It starts the EP off in some fashion. Locked Down is probably my favourite song on the EP. If showcases the ska side of the Sophistipunx sound and, to be quite honest, it's my favourite side. If I was to compare their sound with other bands in the skacore genre, to give you an idea of what it sounds like, I would suggest Against All Authority or the Suicide Machines. It's a fast and up-tempo song that will get you skanking as much as you mosh and features plenty of opportunity to sing along with some well placed "whoa-ohs." The third song, Sorry Not Sorry, features the melodic punk side of Sophistipunx. The music side of things remains fairly fast and heavy but Paul Suicide's vocals add plenty of melody. It's a varied performance from Suicide as he switches between melody and a hard hitting punchy sound, depending on if he's singing the verse or the chorus.
The penultimate song, Succubus, has an 80s West coast vibe to it. On my first listen it had me thinking of bands such as Bad Religion and the Descendents. These are obviously two bands that I love so of course I enjoyed Succubus. It beings with a kind of strange distorted audio clip before launching into a fast paced punk rock banger. The energy in the song is superb and it quickly has me wanting to start a one man pit in my living room. I love how the verses are fast but as soon as we get to the chorus the band find an even higher gear. The fifth and final song on Common Thread is named Clickbait Conspiracy. This is another song I really enjoyed. It's about how websites on the Internet try and lure you in with shocking titles and thumbnails to ultimately make money and not actually show what was promised. I loved the ska but it's clear that Sophistipunx also do melodic punk rock extremely well. Paul Orrico's drumming on this track is amazing. It is hard hitting and incredibly fast, doing a superb job of adding a crunchiness along with the superb vocals.
Common Thread is a short and fun EP that showcases many sides of Sophistipunx sound. The recording makes it feel a little raw which I'm always a sucker for. I also think that because of the variation of styles there's a freshness to the sound which helps Sophistipunx stand out.
Stream and download A Common Thread here: https://sophistipunx.bandcamp.com/
Like Sophistipunx here: https://www.facebook.com/sophistipunx/
This review was written by Colin Clark.
Tuesday, 26 June 2018
News: The Penske File In London!
Canadian punks The Penske File are coming to London for the first time! On Tuesday the 25th September the three piece are heading to the New Cross Inn in South East London thanks to the fine folk at Be Sharp Promotions. Support is still to be announced but you can bet that they will be fantastic. The Penske File's most recent album Salvation back in April, we thought it was superb (check out our review here) and can't wait to finally see them live! Check out the event details here and buy your tickets here. It's going to be a beautiful night.
Album Review: DIY-Bother by Laserchrist
I first became aware of Laserchrist when CPRW's Robyn got all excited about a South African band living in London. I checked out their recently released new EP, DIY-Bother, and instantly loved it. I was just about to tell Paul from Be Sharp Promotions about this great new band I've been told about only to discover he'd already booked them to play their first show, supporting The Shell Corporation no less. That Paul, he's always got his finger on the pulse. I unfortunately couldn't make the show but from all reports they played a blinder. Mr Alex Wonk of Wonk Unit happened to be in the crowd for the show and enjoyed them so much that he quickly booked them for his own festival, Wonkfest. Now I'm finally getting around to reviewing DIY-Bother to let you know why I think it's such a good EP.
The EP begins with the song Oh Ethyl! In the Laserchrist online bio they say that they are influenced by Leatherface and Iron Chic. This is certainly obvious on this song. Think gruff and melodic sing-along punk rock and you get a feel for the sound of the track. Laserchrist managed to get to the chorus very quickly which is a masterstroke as this gets you invested into the song in no time at all. Throughout the song it seems to build and build, getting more urgent as it goes on, adding loads of energy to the song. What a fantastic start! The fantastic stuff continues on the following track, What's The Use? Here we have more excellent melodic gruff punk with some fantastic hooks. The guitar work on the song is a big highlight. There is a jangly style that runs alongside the melodic vocals. I'm reminded of the much missed Cornish band Bangers on this song, which is a huge compliment. Big Smoke City has a nice long introduction that eases you into the track, the guitar and drums drive the song forward while some playful bass lines inject a bit more fun to the track. Vocally it's a much more subdued style but, like the bass, it goes along with a playful melody that really caught my attention.
The penultimate song, We've Got Hopes, sees Laserchrist explore some of their less punk rock influences such as The Smashing Pumpkins and The Pixies. On this track Laserchrist take on a more technical sound with plenty of fast paced intricate guitars and a pounding drum beat. Vocally it's a lot more distorted than the previous songs but still retains a sing-along quality that I adore. Finally we have the five minute long epic Ravebird Mountain Man (Radio Silence). The song starts out with a mesmerising extended guitar introduction before the vocals come in and the tempo is upped. The song cleverly jumps between both sets of Laserchrist influences. Musically the song is full of amazing guitar solos that just blow your mind but vocally we have that gruff sing-along punk style. I kind of felt like these two different styles wouldn't work but Laserchrist pull it off brilliantly.
So yeah, DIY-Bother is a great first EP from a band who will soon be the next big thing in the London punk rock scene and probably beyond. Remember the name Laserchrist.
Stream and download DIY-Bother here: https://laserchristlondon.bandcamp.com/releases
Like Laserchrist here: https://www.facebook.com/laserchrist/
This review was written by Colin Clark.
Monday, 25 June 2018
Album Review: Never Gonna Die by Pennywise (by Richard Mair)
Taking 2014’s Yesterdays out of the equation due to it containing older songs from the band’s early years and the Zoli led “All Or Nothing”, “Never Gonna Die” is the first new material released by the skate punk veterans with their vocal lynchpin Jim Lindberg in 10 years!
Whilst 2012’s All Or Nothing is more than a curiosity in the band’s back catalogue and many fans liking the slight variation Zoli brings from the past formula, at times it felt like the difference between say the Descendents and All. Given Pennywise’s reluctance to play the songs live following Lindberg’s rejoining of the band, it’s obvious that the band have an enormous amount of pressure on them with the new material; it needs to show they are still relevant, show some growth but ultimately it must feel like a Pennywise album. Thankfully “Never Gonna Die” is not only an excellent addition to their back-catalogue I’d go out on a limb and say it’s possibly their finest release since 1999’s Straight Ahead.
Existing fans will undoubtedly love it. It looks and sounds exactly like a Pennywise album, yet underneath it shows a slight mellowing in the sound and a willingness to play around with more pop-punk elements; making it feel at times like The Offsping’s follow up to their own skate punk masterpiece with it evoking some elements of say “Ixnay on the Hombre” or perhaps more accurately having moments akin to the finest songs from Bad Religion’s Geffen era.
Kicking off with a slow guitar intro that has a sense of foreboding before the crashing drums ratchet up the tempo, title track “Never Gonna Die” kicks things off in typical Pennywise fashion – with driving machine-gun style guitars complemented by Jim’s familiar machine-gun style vocals. It all sounds very Pennywise and is perhaps the safest song on the album for that traditional classic “Pennywise” sound. In fact, I’d argue as an album opener it’s very reminiscent of “Greed” from “Straight Ahead”; instantly you’re on safe ground and the last 10 years of uncertainty with Pennywise wash away with each and every drum roll or anthemic sing-a-long lyric. Acting like a statement of intent, “Never Gonna Die” is somewhat of a rebirth for the band and an excellent way to kick things off; its metal tinged rhythms transporting me right back to the late ’90s in the best way possible!
“American Lies” is a pretty much straight up melodic hardcore song and maybe the most traditional hardcore sounding song on the album with its incessant beat and pace. Whilst it may seem one dimensional it’s still a blast and at 2 minutes in length doesn’t outlive its welcome! It’s clear their disenfranchisement with American politics has been a real catalyst with the band, their most vitriolic and passionate when lambasting Trump or challenging inequality; perhaps this feeling of needing to get these arguments across has helped focus Lindberg so that the songs feel punchy and angry in all the right ways.
The third and fourth songs inject more melody into proceedings. “Keep Moving On” in particular feels like a very early Pennywise song and it’s easy to see why so many people have drawn parallels with this album and one of their career highlights, “About Time”. It’s also one of the songs that reminded me of my favourite Bad Religion songs with the backing vocal “whoa-whoas” providing some depth alongside Lindberg’s snappy vocals. Complete with a nice guitar solo in the mid-section and some excellent drumming, it’s the first real standout. It’s followed by what I’d argue is their poppiest song yet. “Live While You Can” has a chorus many bands would die to write; complete with instantly classic sing-a-long vocals. It’s a proper ear worm and shows that amongst the very familiar sounding songs they are prepared to take a few risks. Again maybe an intentional nod back to “About Time”, the mantra of “I’ve got a time bomb ticking in my head” instantly conjures images of the albums cover. It’s these little touches that make the album stand out. Yes it at times feels nostalgic but also has a freshness to it.
The mid-section sees no let-up in pace; “We Set Fire” is typical of a Pennywise political class divide tune, its chugging guitars driving the main body of the song. Whilst “She Said” has a real feel of the anthem “Alien” to it, perhaps lacking the killer chorus and the anger that make it so iconic; nevertheless it’s again a reminder that this is Pennywise doing what they do best.
“Goodbye Bad Times” is another real traditional Pennywise song albeit one of the slowest on the album, its beat and melody showing a balladry-ness not traditionally associated with them but despite this it feels remarkably familiar as a Pennywise song. Maybe it’s the guitar work, maybe it’s Jim’s vocals, I don’t know. Either way it helps manage the pace of the album well, acting as a fulcrum on which the faster songs bookend it. The song also feels like recognition that the troubles of the last 10 years are over.
This is followed by “Can I Get A Little Hope”; another “true” Pennywise song. It’s another catchy song with a brilliant chorus and feels much like a song you’ve heard Pennywise commit to record many times over the years; much like the following song “Won’t Give Up The Fight”, with the most Pennywise introduction ever. Complete with gang vocals, typical us-against-the-world lyrics and an anti-establishment rhetoric, it’s a true classic and an inevitable fan favourite.
Missteps are few and far between. “Can’t Save You Now” is possibly the weakest song on the album due to its all-round generic-ness. It’s not a bad song by any stretch but doesn’t add to the album and I’d argue it would be a near flawless record without its inclusion. Likewise “All The Ways U Can Die” feels a little forced and possibly the weakest track in terms of lyrics.
The closing two tracks start with “Listen”, another hardcore banger which ups the ante with its dirty sounding guitars and Jim at his preachy best, while final song “Something New” is another socio-political rant. The irony being that this isn’t something new, it’s exactly the type of song Pennywise have built a career on – and a great closer.
“Never Gonna Die” seems a more than apt title for the album; this feels exactly like a Pennywise album should feel. Over recent years, established legendary bands such as The Descendents, Good Riddance, Millencolin and 88 Fingers Louie have released statements demonstrating how relevant they still are. This is no different. Pennywise will always have a place in many punks hearts with their instantly identifiable and iconic sound. They may have had a blip but after 10 long years of an uncertain future they are back with a bang… Never gonna die? Let’s hope so!
Like Pennywise here: https://www.facebook.com/pennywise/
This review was written by Richard Mair.
Thursday, 21 June 2018
Top Tens: James from O'Holy Ghost's Top Ten Second Albums
The real test of a great band is their second album - the first one they had years to write with no-one watching, but the second one? The pressure is on, the clock is ticking, the label is paying for studio time, press are waiting to tear it apart. So when it’s done right, it can be the start of something special. This is my (James) definitive 2nd albums list… With the exception of The Ordinary Boys - which was Darren – these views are my own and not of the rest of the band.
Maybe I’ll Catch Fire - Alkaline Trio
I picked this record up from the local record shop in Norwich some time in 2002, a period in my life when most of my friends were listening to NOFX. But this was clearly the thinking man’s drinking album.
Skiba rates this as one of his least favourite Trio records, he felt it was rushed and produced under quite a bit of internal turmoil. You can hear that - but it’s definitely the start of a band finding their sound - they sounded like nothing else, totally new.
Very Proud of Ya - AFI
I came to AFI really late - I was in a hardcore band in the early 2000s and most of the guys in the band were really into AFI. it wasn’t until much later that I went back and got into this record. I mean, it’s that total SoCal Nitro Records sound that just makes you want to loose your shit.
It wasn’t until writing this that I realised Jade wasn’t even on this record apart from doing a few backing vocals - totally makes sense now. Great record, super fast, super punchy, shame they went too far down the big old ‘spooky kids’ route.
Through Being Cool - Saves The Day
Out of all my 2nd albums, this has to be my number 1. I remember someone I lived with at the time had this video sampler from Equal Vision and in the middle of all the terrible hardcore videos was this video of a bunch of kids having a house party with a band whose singer looked like a 12 year old. Little did I know that a decade and loose change later I’d be able to share a stage with them!
I know they basically ripped off Lifetime but, lyrically, this record really influenced me - that mix of super dark imagery and weird turns of phases. Really cool album.
Dude Ranch - Blink 182
The guitars may sound like a tin of bees, the vocals may be painfully out of tune (weren’t they always, Tom?) and the lyrical themes as thin as toilet paper, but this album has to be peak Blink.
I really got into this record when I’d dropped out of school and moved away from my home for some reason. Things were pretty grim and, despite all the dick jokes, this record really got me through some tough times.
As The Eternal Cowboy - Against Me!
There was a point where I pretty much modelled myself as Tom Gabel (now known as Laura Jane Grace) on the cover of this record. Patch covered black denim? Check! Carabiner? Check! Rickenbacker? Check! If only I could write songs this good.
This record sounded like a band that just wanted to get shit moving - the songs are all real short, mega scrappy and none of the drumming is in time - but there’s a thread through it all that just makes it work. And still to this day, hearing Sink, Florida, Sink in their set never fails to make me go all giddy.
Brassbound - The Ordinary Boys
Gonna repeat this - Darren picked this one. But I’m going to review it. This is exactly the kind of music I imagine Darren liking when I see pictures of him from the mid 2000s. He still sings like this. He’s funnier than Preston though.
Boys Will Be Boys will forever remind me of terrible indie club nights where I’d had too many WKD Blues.
Meat Is Murder - The Smiths
Let me get this out of the way - yes, Morrissey is an asshole. But he still made great music - especially when he was with Marr.
My uncle had a poster of this album on his wall in the late 80s, I remember seeing the cover and being totally intrigued as a young kid. It was probably remembering that poster that triggered me to pick this album up in a Virgin Megastore bargain basement bin for about £3. It was then my love affair with Moz and Marr began. I’m still super influenced by Morrissey’s writing, but goddamn does he make it hard to be a fan of him anymore. I can’t bring myself to listen to any of his new stuff, he’s just insufferable.
Miserable New Experience - Gin Blossoms
I got into Gin Blossoms from watching Empire Records, I was pretty young when I saw that film, but I remember checking out all the bands that were on the posters / stickers / records around the store. Their track Till I Hear It From You that was in the movie had the most mad hook - at the time I was mainly listening to grimes gutter punk stuff, but then I got into all this melodic mid 90s jams.
I went back and checked out this album from ’92 and it was wall to wall bangers - total understanding of melodies - although most of the tunes are all the same chords. Obviously the standout here is Hey Jealously. It was really cool when I heard (one of my favourite bands) Iron Chic’s ‘True Miserable Experience’ - their homage to this song - it opens with the same bass riff and then has the lyric ‘We were singing "Hey Jealousy’, we drove through town and let the cops chase us around”. Pretty cool.
Echoes - The Rapture
I went back and listened to this record - it’s not perfect, but totally summed up the sound of that era. We were all just a bunch of indie loving punks, but we still wanted music to dance to.
The standout track from this record, House of Jealous Lovers, still stands up as one of the greatest songs of all time - it felt like it was all going to fall apart at any moment but in its non-stop cowbell worship it totally took you back to a sweaty basement party somewhere out of your mind. Incredible record.
Owen - No Good For No One Now
Mike Kinsella is definitely still finding his feet on this record - his hushed tones over looping, circular acoustic guitar riffs still impress. His lyrics piece together neat little dioramas that really stick out in your head - “What else in this room reminds me of you? The windowsill, where the crucified pit of an avocado still sits in water”. It wouldn’t be until I Do Perceive that Mike’s songwriting really started to take him beyond just being the ‘guy that was in American Football’.
You should like O'Holy Ghost on Facebook here: https://www.facebook.com/oholyghost/
O'Holy Ghost are releasing their debut EP TRVTH on July 13th. To celebrate they are throwing a release show on the 26th of July at The Cavendish Arms with Sam Russo, Mean Casear and Modern Shakes. Check out the details for that here: https://www.facebook.com/events/190438044849260/
Wednesday, 20 June 2018
Album Review: I Think We'll Be Okay by Eat Defeat
I'll get to the conclusion of this review immediately. Eat Defeat have probably won pop punk in 2018. Their brand new album, I Think We'll Be Okay, is a masterpiece and I've no doubts that this will propel them onto a much bigger audience than the one they already enjoy. I've enjoyed following the career of the Leeds based four piece since 2012's debut album Challenges. Challenges saw the band play more of a skate punk with traces of ska style. Since then they've released two EPs, 2014's It's Always Sunny In Yorkshire and 2016's Time And Tide. These releases saw Eat Defeat shift towards the more pop punk style they're known for today. Something that I think connects all these releases is the message of positivity that is spread through their music. They write songs to empower people and help them realise that no matter what is going on in your life you are never alone.
Nothing's Wrong is about putting on a front and pretending that everything is fine when in fact you're really struggling. I'm sure we've all been feeling bad and have responded to the question "what's wrong?" with the answer "nothing." I know I have on many occasions. The fifth song, Can't Say I'll Miss You, is another with a big, building intro that gets you pumped up for the song. The track begins with a high tempo before gradually morphing into a more melodic style. Can't Say I'll Miss You tackles the subject of false friendships coming to an end and realising it's for the better. There is a particularly special moment towards the end of the track where the music again fades away and we are treated to a superb building section with some exquisitely executed harmonies before reaching the song's big finale. Shortcuts originally appeared on Time And Tide and it's great to see it come back for I Think We'll Be Okay. This song is always one of the highlights of an Eat Defeat live set. It's about bands taking shortcuts to try and getting ahead instead of going about it by working hard and ultimately achieving whatever you would class as success in a more rewarding way. Basically - DIY or die! Shortcuts is a fast paced banger with a brilliantly catchy chorus that will have you singing along, as well as having a fantastic jump around. This song is a bit of an anthem for all the small DIY gigs that Eat Defeat play and perhaps a bit of an F-U to the bands who don't put the work in and get ahead. Running In Place is a softer song which sees Eat Defeat in more of a reflective mood. The song looks at the conflict of either staying rooted to one place or wanting to live a life of adventure and how these decisions affect your mental health. This is a really intelligently written song that makes you think.
The eighth song on I Think We'll Be OK is named Scorched Earth. This is one of my favourite tracks on an album full of excellent songs. It's a fun and uplifting song about making the most of your life even if something might feel like a bad idea to begin with. After the more thoughtful and melodic style of Running In Place, this fast paced and slightly chaotic sound really grabbed me. It's a slight contrast that works really well. For me, Eat Defeat are at their very best when they've got their foot fully on the floor and are going for it. I loved the lyrics of "Let's make bad decisions, defy traditions, embrace collisions and see where it gets us." That's a fine way to try and live your life. The penultimate song is titled Self Help (For The Helplessly Selfless). The song begins with a somewhat darker tone compared to the rest of the album, kind of making me think of Challenges era Eat Defeat. I then did a little checking and realised that this is in fact a re-recorded version of the opening the song of Challenges. Good thing I checked – I would have looked silly! The song works brilliantly within the theme of the album - taking chances and trying to live life to the fullest. Eat Defeat in my opinion saved the best song for the end on the album. The excellent Not Today, Old Friend first appeared on the Japanese version of Time And Tide but this is its first appearance on a UK release. The album also takes its name from the lyric in the chorus, "I think we'll be okay." The song is obviously about fighting back against your demons and not letting the rubbish bring you down. This is truly just a perfect song in every aspect and genuinely puts a smile on my face each every time I hear it. I do think that we'll be okay.
This is hands down THE pop punk album of 2018. Stop reading, go and listen. Smile, dance, be empowered and have a lovely day.
I Think We'll Be Okay is out on August 3rd. People from Europe can pre-order here and the UK and the rest of the world can pre-order here.
Like Eat Defeat here: https://www.facebook.com/EatDefeat/
This review was written by Colin Clark.
Tuesday, 19 June 2018
Album Review: Life At Thirty by On My Arms
I'll never get tired of listening to Ramonescore pop punk. It takes me to my happy place, perhaps even more so than ska does. Because of this I'm always excited to check out new bands in the scene. Mainland Europe is jam packed with these great bands. A few weeks ago we checked out Austrian band Dorkatron. Today we're giving a listen to Italian four piece On My Arms. On My Arms formed in 2011 in Venice after being influenced by old school bands such as The Ramones and The Queers, as well as modern acts like Teenage Bottlerocket. Back in March they released a brand new album titled Life At Thirty. The ten track album is being released in Europe by Monster Zero, Japan by Waterslide Records and in the USA by Outloud! Records.
The first song on Life At Thirty is titled 15 + 18. Like you would expect from some Ramonescore pop punk, it's a short, sweet and fast song. It's quite a simple song lyrically which you will quickly be able to sing along to. The track is about being in a hurry to grow up when you're a kid. This song really gives you a great feel of what the album and On My Arms are all about. The second song, It's Gonna Be Now, quickly moves the album into traditional pop punk territory - girls. On this song On My Arms show off their more melodic sound and serve up some delicious harmonies. Naturally the catchiness remains and you'll be smiling along gleefully as you sing along with the chorus of "And Is Gonna Be Now." On the third song, For Life, the band find the perfect mix of tempo and melody. They manage to hook me into the song instantly with its energy and it has me listening along to the lyrics so intently. I love how On My Arms have managed to write a really energetic song without playing as fast as they possibly can.
The meaning of the fourth song I Wanna Quit My Job is self explanatory. I'm sure it could quite easily become an anthem for anyone you has a job that they dislike. The song is fast, fun and fantastic. On My Arms really hit the nail on the head with their extremely relatable lyrics. The relentless lines of "Can't make it this morning, Can't make it to wake up, 'cause my job, 'cause my boss sucks." I truly believe lead singer Ganz genuinely hates his job. The fifth song on the album is named I'm Obsessed With Posers. The song is about people in the scene who don't care about it and only see it as a way to try and make money off of other people's hard work. This feels like a more serious side of On My Arms. They show this by playing in a more measured way without many key changes or big building guitar solos.
The album's title track, Life At Thirty, is up next. Starting out with just a guitar and vocals, you immediately want to sing along with the band. As soon as the full band kicks in we are again treated with the more serious On My Arms. As you may have guessed, the song is about reaching the grand old age of thirty and the feelings that come with that milestone, in particular feeling like you can't follow your dreams anymore and you have to settle with what you now have. Up next is song seven, Baby Where Are You? Here the band revert back to the short and sweet pop punk style. The tempo is upped and it feels as if drummer Marco is hitting the tubs with a bit more ferocity. The song is about having a crush on a girl and searching for them on a night out.
Sick Of You sees a much much angrier side of On My Arms. Perhaps this is unsurprising given the song title. On the song Ganz sings at some speed and adds some spite and venom into his vocals as he talks about not wanting to be like somebody he claims to be a selfish, ignorant, sad poser. It really feels like he means every single word. The penultimate track is named I Wanna Win. This song was one of the stand out tracks on my first listen of Life At Thirty. It's an uplifting feel good number about wanting to come out on top of life despite all of the things that happen that make you feel like it is not possible. The song is a thoughtful one, relying much more on melody than tempo to draw in the listener. There is even some added piano at the end of the track that adds another fantastic element to the song's sound. The tenth and final song on the album is the acoustic Everything. What I really enjoyed about this song is, even though it's a soft acoustic song, it's actually full band with the inclusion of drums and what sounds to me like a violin. The drums provide a big back bone to the song and the violin gives a haunting touch and adds so much emotion to the song. Everything is about the breakup of a relationship and dealing with the aftermath. This album finishes on a beautiful but downbeat moment.
Life At Thirty is another superb Ramonescore pop punk album from mainland Europe. The plethora or really great bands out there playing this style is incredible. On My Arms are one of my new favourites.
Stream and download Life At Thirty here: https://onmyarms.bandcamp.com/
Like On My Arms here: https://www.facebook.com/onmyarmspunkrock
This review was written by Colin Clark.
Monday, 18 June 2018
Album Revew: Reach Out by New Town Kings
In my opinion the New Town Kings are the best thing to come out of Colchester since Humpy Dumpty. They are a band that make me hugely proud to come from the North Essex town. For years now they've been wowing crowds in the town and throughout the rest of the UK and Europe with their modern take on ska and reggae music, constantly earning more and more fans. It has been seven long years since the eight piece released a new album which is a really long time to wait. During that time they replaced their former frontman Chris White with Dabs Bonner and were hard at work playing shows all over the place. They released a handful of singles and an EP whilst working on a new sound to compliment their new singer. Now, finally, the New Town Kings have self released a brand new album of thirteen brand new tracks named Reach Out. To say I was looking forward to this would be a huge understatement.
The album starts out with its title track, Reach Out. Here we have a slick reggae track where Dabs and the Kings basically re-introduce themselves onto the scene. Dabs has a fantastic versatility in his vocal and shows this off brilliantly on the track, whether he is soulfully singing or rapping in an up-tempo fashion it is superb. This song is followed up by Borderline which sees the band get political. It's about the absurdity of still having lines to separate countries and the ridiculousness of needing special permission to cross between these borders. The message in the song is obviously something that the band feel very strongly about and they've done a brilliant of job of conveying their views here. First of all it's extremely catchy so you will quickly be singing along with the chorus but the real strength in the song is how eloquently written the rest of the track is. It feels as if the band are trying to teach the listener rather than preaching their views. This is amazing. The third song is the upbeat ska number Why You Always Take. This is a wonderful summertime ska track about that friend, that we all have, that only takes and never gives back. It's a song where Dabs lets out his frustrations about the situation but in true ska fashion does it in such an upbeat way.
British Summertime is an ode to growing up in the UK during the summer and making the best of it not often being especially warm. There is something magical about those few days when it does get nice and the whole country has a collective smile on their faces. The upbeat ska vibes continue on the next song, Deep Water. It's more of a humorous song that may or may not be about bass player Tommy's attempts at being a ladies' man and how it often ends in disaster. This is one of those songs that is impossible not to smile along to like a bit of a goon. This is another really catchy track that you'll quickly learn the words to. I kind of feel like this song was written so that a room full of people can sing the song back at the band and in particular Tommy to help him learn "that if you play with fire you're sure to get burnt." The sixth song Music is perhaps my favourite on Reach Out. It's about just what a magical art form music is and how it just makes everything better. We can all agree with that. This is a wonderful song for chilling out with your loved ones on a nice summer's evening with everything in your life just feeling perfect. Dabs's vocals are on the softer side here which just adds to the whole vibe of the song. Listening to the song I just want to wrap my arms around my favourite people, smile and sing away. This is seriously the bees knees of a song.
Francine is a fun swing number that the New Town Kings have been playing live for a number of years now but this is the first time the song has found its way onto a record. Tommy Marchant's walking bass line along with the Kings amazing brass duo of Rory Sadler and Robert Landen really steal the show on this one. It's another song that encourages a huge sing-a-long with some fun gang vocals adding harmonies to the chorus. When a whole room of people is shouting along with the band it adds a big feeling of inclusion and connection that can often be lost between a band and its crowd. Not with the Kings though! The eighth track features a special guest in the form of roots reggae artist Sylford Walker. The song, titled Burn Babylon, is more of a serious reggae style track about wanting to bring down the establishment. This is another one of the Kings' more political songs that not only educates but also gets you thinking. Long Long Road is an uplifting and positive song about following your dreams no matter what obstacles might stand in your way. Much like Music, this is a great chilled out song that's perfect for those great summer's evenings. I love any song that empowers me and this certainly does that. Having a group of people singing "oh now it's a long long road, we've got to walk, we've got to walk" who really believe in these words must be a really special feeling.
Coconut Tree could be one of the happiest songs I've heard it a very long time. Returning to the upbeat ska sound, this song is about escaping from the trials and tribulations of your everyday life and living a simplistic life in paradise. This song is really clever in the way that it is written. With the catchy chorus listing fruit you might find on a tropical island, it does make the track feel a bit silly on the surface. But if you dig deeper and really think about the song, it actually is a great piece of social commentary on how you don't need all of the expensive and shiny things that you think you do to be happy. You actually just need the simple things to be happy. Track number eleven is another song that the band have been playing live for a little while but has finally found its way onto a record. The Hawk is a completely instrumental song that allows the band to really show off what an incredibly talented bunch of musicians everyone in the band is. The penultimate song is named Fine Fine Fine. Fine Fine Fine is another brilliantly uplifting tune about feeling so happy in your life and wanting to spread your love with everyone around you. I can, again, imagine singing this song along with a room full of people – friends, family and strangers – and just feeling so unbelievably positive and empowered. Dabs really has done what he set out to do on the song and spread his love. The final song on Reach Out is the slower ska ballad Lullaby. This is a side of the New Town Kings we've never experience before. Like the title suggests, the song is a lullaby that feels deeply personal for Dabs. Because of this I won't try and delve too much into the meaning of the song but just know it is heartbreakingly beautiful.
Reach Out didn't just surpass every single expectation I had for the album, it completely blew me away. A band shouldn't lose their lead singer and come back with an album that's better than any of their previous work (and that's not a slight on their previous work as I adore it), that's just not how these things usually work. Reach Out is everything I want in a ska and reggae album and then some. It's danceable, I can sing along, it makes me smile and laugh, it makes me think and most of all it makes me feel better. Ska, in all of its wonderful forms, is making a huge statement in 2018 with so many bands in the genre releasing album of the year contenders. Reach Out is certainly one of them.
You can buy Reach Out here: https://www.newtownkings.co.uk/store
Like New Town Kings here: https://www.facebook.com/newtownkings/
This review was written by Colin Clark.
Sunday, 17 June 2018
Gig Review: Pkew Pkew Pkew at the New Cross Inn, London 12/6/18
When it comes to deciding on my gig of the year in December I already have a few strong contenders. I have a feeling that the majority of my favourite gigs of 2018 will have been put on by Be Sharp Promotions at the New Cross Inn. They are on such a hot streak of putting on incredible shows at the moment. The latest came this past Tuesday night when they had Canadian pop punks Pkew Pkew Pkew playing their first ever show in the UK. That was enough for me to quickly buy my ticket and then I saw the incredible line-up booked for the entire night. The Burnt Tapes, The Run Up and Our Lives In Cinema were supporting Pkew Pkew Pkew and I couldn't have been more excited. This was going to be one of those special punk rock nights that will forever have me smiling when I think about it.
First up were Bristol's The Run Up who were supporting Pkew Pkew Pkew on a few of their European tour dates. The guys in The Run Up have had a tricky couple of months when it comes to touring, with their van breaking down in Europe twice on their last two trips to the mainland resulting in a few missed shows. Watching them on stage, I sensed there was a bit of relief at being able to be playing a gig and not still hanging out in a Mercedes garage in Germany. This was my third time seeing The Run Up this year, having caught them twice in January on their tour with Quitters, and they just get better and better. It's always great to see people who genuinely love being on stage together and playing their songs. You could see that playing the show has made all of the troubles they've had of late worth it. The band played mostly songs from last year's self-titled full length but they did also manage to squeeze in a couple of older tunes as well as a brand new one. Learning Loss was a particular highlight for me – I love that song! What a great way to start the night.
This review was written by Colin Clark. Photos by Emma Prew.
Friday, 15 June 2018
Column: Polite Riot Festival Preview
On the 22nd of June a brand new punk rock festival is being unleashed on South East London. Named Polite Riot Festival, this three day extravaganza is what happens when Be Sharp Promotions, Umlaut Records and Kick The Crutches team up with Destiny Tourbooking and decide to put on three days of punk rock at the New Cross Inn. Promising the best of UK hardcore, skate, melodic and pop punk, as well as some super special guests from further afield, it's already looking as if it's going to be a huge weekend. I decided to take an in-depth look at each day and the bands that will be knocking our collective socks off!
I was going to say that Friday starts the weekend off with some ease but that's just not the truth. Sure the day isn't such a test of your endurance like the Saturday and Sunday of the festival, as there are only five bands playing. Headlined by a band that now have to be considered pop punk legends – all the way from Wyoming – Teenage Bottlerocket. Teenage Bottlerocket have been wowing crowds with their fast paced pop punk for years now and in my opinion they have played a huge part in bringing proper pop punk back to the forefront of the punk rock genre. TBR continue to grow in popularity and getting the opportunity to see them play in a small space like the New Cross Inn is a rare treat that shouldn't be missed.
But it's not just about Teenage Bottlerocket! Swan Prince are a four piece band from Redditch fronted by Rachel Blewett. This pop punk quartet are a relatively new band on the scene, having only formed in 2017 so the opportunity to play a show with Teenage Bottlerocket must be a huge deal for them. After checking out their demos on Bandcamp, I'm really looking forward to seeing them for the first time. Up next are a couple of bands who recently opened consecutive days at Manchester Punk Festival. No Matter were one of my highlights from a festival jam packed with special moments so you can imagine that I'm excited to see them again. The Irish foursome channel that great Lookout Records era pop punk sound that I, and so many people of my age, cherish so much. Being one of the first bands signed to the impressive Umlaut Records roster, this show will almost feel like a home town show for the band. Eat Defeat opened the second day of MPF to a massive crowd and I've no doubt that they'll get the same kind of treatment at the New Cross Inn. I've been lucky enough to have had an early listen of their forthcoming album and it's superb so hearing those songs live for the first time is going to be a lot of fun. That album is going to help Eat Defeat explode in the UK's pop punk scene and it surely won't be much longer until they're headlining gigs at a packed New Cross Inn themselves. Lastly we have one of the most popular bands in the UK scene and one that I've never seen live, Spoilers. The four piece from Canterbury play their own blend of catchy punk rock music and have recently been gaining more and more fans all over the country. Lead by guitarist and lead singer Dan Goatham, who has one of the most unique and distinctive voices in the scene, expect some big sing alongs for these guys.
The Saturday of Polite Riot is headlined by London punk heroes Apologies, I Have None. I believe I am right in thinking that this will be their only full band London headline show of the year so that's reason enough to come down to the New Cross Inn for a set full of massively passionate singalongs. But before AIHN we have a stacked day of punk rock. Looking at this line-up it seems as if the promoters have made an extra special effort of showcasing some newer bands to the New Cross scene as there are a few bands I've not seen on line-ups there before. The one that stood out the most to me was Stoke On Trent's Only Strangers. The four piece released their self-titled debut album earlier this year to positive reviews from all circles – including CPRW's Richard. This will be the band's first adventure down South to play a show and I'm really looking forward to seeing them. Expect superb melodic punk rock from this great band who are sure to gain plenty of new fans at Polite Riot.
Peckham's Love Songs are a very new band on the scene having released their one and only single Now That's What I Call Love (Volume 1) late in 2017. They play a moody and atmospheric brand of melodic punk rock which I'm certain will be captivating to watch live. Snap Out are a band returning from a four year hiatus in time to play the festival. Playing a hybrid of grunge and pop punk makes them stand out from many of their contemporaries and they are surely an intriguing act to witness live. I've been listening to Snap Out's 2013 EP Dino Diner a fair amount since it was announced that they would be playing the festival and it has some absolute bangers on it. Mean Caesar are a band who recently blew a New Cross crowd away when they opened for The Copyrights back in April. If you don't know the band, there's a good chance that you will recognise the members from their other or previous bands such as Great Cynics, Pure Graft, Werecats, The Murderburgers and many more. Mean Caesar are sure to make a big splash on the UK punk scene very soon, another set not to be missed. Finally we have a band that regular attendees of New Cross shows will definitely know, everyone's favourite rubber skull enthusiasts – the mighty Müg. The four piece, who also run the incredible Umlaut Records, have been favourites in South London for many years now but sadly don't play as many shows here anymore as they're extremely busy gentlemen. I think they're a very important band in our scene have helped out so many other bands throughout the years. Of course musically they are superb. If you are a fan of 90s skate punk you will love Müg.
When Massachusetts melodic hardcore act A Wilhelm Scream were first announced for Polite Riot my first thoughts were "My gosh! A Wilhelm Scream are playing the New Cross? will it still be standing after they've played?" Having a band the stature of A Wilhelm Scream play the New Cross Inn is another massive achievement for all involved with the venue. This Sunday night slot is going to be a moment people will be talking about for a long time. AWS will be starting a month long European tour in the UK and they will be joined at the majority of the UK shows by Darko. The Guilford based five piece have become legends within the UK and European melodic punk scene, as well as becoming standard bearers for the genre further afield. Somehow I've only ever seen Darko once before so seeing them at again at Polite Riot is well overdue.
Drones bring their political punk rock back to the New Cross Inn. Fronted by Lois McDougall, the band have become well known for their socio-politically charged songs as well as an exhilarating live show. CPRW's Robyn recently caught them live at Manchester Punk Festival and was seriously impressed. Drones are yet another band I cannot wait to see at Polite Riot. On A Hiding To Nothing are one of our favourite bands here at CPRW and they always put on such a fun and energetic show. Playing unbelievably fast skate punk tunes always go down a treat. OAHTN are one of those bands where I'm astounded by their skill – it baffles me how they can play so fast but remain so catchy. One of the best bands on the scene! Eat Dirt are a relentless whirlwind of a hardcore band. Playing ferocious sub-three minute songs, Eat Dirt are an ideal band to go on early on the Sunday of Polite Riot to shake away any cobwebs and hangovers of the previous two days with sublime punk rock fun. I've heard that Eat Dirt are a lot of fun live and I can't way to see if for myself. French band Zombies No released the excellent Divided We Fall on Umlaut Records last year and it's great to see them back in the UK again. Influenced by 90s skate punk with a pinch of metal thrown in for good measure, I'm seriously impressed with what I've heard of Zombies No. Not only do they write some great punk rock but lyrically they spread their social and political messages wonderfully. Polite Riot Festival will be a very special show for London based Ships Down. This will be their final ever show and they get to share a stage with their heroes A Wilhelm Scream as well. I'm stoked that I get the chance to see Ships Down finally after worrying I'd missed the chance. I've followed them since reviewing their excellent demo in 2016 but never got round to seeing them. I can't wait to see this technically brilliant theatrical punk rock band. Last, but by no means least, is Local Mad Man. This London four piece are a heavy and ferocious hardcore act who have been going for a number of years now. 2018 sees a slight line-up change and some brand new material in the works. I'd imagine we might get the chance to hear a couple of these at the festival.
Polite Riot Festival is going to be an incredible weekend of live punk rock music. The festival is stacked with a phenomenal and varied line-up featuring local talent and some great acts from further afield. It's got some of the biggest and most popular bands around, as well as some just getting started. If you like your punk rock fast and loud then you really need to be at the New Cross Inn between the 22nd and 24th of June!
For those worried (like I was) the New Cross Inn will be showing the England vs Panama World Cup match at 1pm on the Sunday – phew!
This column was written by Colin Clark.
Thursday, 14 June 2018
News: The Bombpops Are Back At The New Cross Inn
After a successful headline show last October, Fat Wreck Chords band The Bombpops are returning to the New Cross Inn thanks to Be Sharp Promotions, Umlaut Records and Kick The Crutches on Monday July 23rd. That show back in October showed London why The Bombpops are among the elite of pop punk bands in the world. You can get all the information about the gig on Facebook here and you can buy tickets (£7 in advance and NO FEES) here. This is going to be a fun fun night!
Top Tens: The Papashangos' Top Ten Punk Rock Influences
Hi I'm Lolly Shango and I sing for THE PAPASHANGOS, also put on local gigs as half of Weird and Raw Promotions, and run a new festival for weird and raw bands called The Unholy Messtival.
Top ten influences
I grew up in a household where jazz records were always playing. My dad liked the smooth and classic swing stuff, but my mum loved nouveau jazz, all quirky rhythms and odd squeals. I learned to find beauty in challenging, discordant music.
2. The Beatles
My parents also loved the Beatles, mainly their earlier, more melodic poppy stuff. But, when I heard tracks like Helter Skelter and Revolution my ear started to adapt to a harsher, less controlled rock sound, which prepared me for punk.
3. Early 80s rock and metal
Iron Maiden and Blue Oyster Cult started my love of rock, Motorhead and AC/DC cemented it.
4. The Ruts
I heard Babylon's Burning on Top of the Pops and nearly had a fit. Love that song, it blew my mind.
5. Iggy and the Stooges - Raw Power
That album broke me. I love the scratchy, uneven production, the bass, the guitars, the vocals and the songs. I played Hard to Beat (Your Pretty Face is Going to Hell) on my crappy stereo until I knew it better than any other song ever. When I later started playing bass myself, I used to try to sneak a bass lick from that song into at least one tune in the set.
6. The Ramones, Sex Pistols, The Damned
These were the big three for me, once I went full on punk. I doubt I could say anything new about them, but The Damned are personally responsible for my attempts to write music. I learned a couple of easy chords from the sleeve notes of Machine Gun Etiquette, and that was that...
7. Oi! Music
I have all the the first Oi! compilations on vinyl. Loved them. The music and lyrics were usually dumb and often unintentionally hilarious, but many of the songs still have a kind of simple, primal power that's hard to match.
8. Inner City Unit
An offshoot of Hawkwind, this was an amazing band that incorporated everything from punk to ska to folk to jazz into a truly unique sound.
9. Val Kilmer as Nick Rivers in the film Top Secret
If you ever catch one of our shows, you'll see the influence this sequence has on my personal performance style...I'm not as graceful, though!
10. Rude Boy (1980)
The film about Clash roadie Ray Gange. I remember enjoying the film. In my memory it's a bit of a precursor to the mumblecore style of filmmaking that was popular a while ago, but it's the live footage of the Clash performing Police and Thieves that really stuck with me. Up until I saw that, I'd always taken it as a fact of life that live performances are inferior to recorded versions of songs. In my opinion, the version of Police and Thieves on the first Clash album is lifeless and boring. It's a track I always skip. However, the live version on Rude Boy....
It's like a whole different song. Incredibly infectious, engaging and passionate. I love it, and it helped to make me a more active fan of live music, no longer satisfied with just buying records.
Those are my personal top ten influences. I hope they're interesting and perhaps a bit surprising.
This is my band:
Wednesday, 13 June 2018
Album Review: Austeros by Austeros (by Emma Prew)
It doesn’t seem that long ago since Austeros released their debut album, Painted Blue. Well, it was two years ago actually and it was one of the first full-length records I reviewed for this ’ere blog. Thankfully the album was brilliant so that made reviewing it easier for an amateur like me! Two years on and I’d been hoping it was maybe time for a second full-length, particularly after their great 5-track EP, I’ve Got This, that was released last year. Sadly, last month, the Bristol-based three-piece announced that after 5 years of being a band they were calling it a day. This was very sad, not least because I’ve for one reason or another only ever managed to catch them live once – but one time is better than no times. The band will be playing one final show at the wonderful Exchange in Bristol on the 6th July but before that they have left us with one last release, featuring three new(ish) songs.
The first song on the EP is called Raindrops. Beginning fairly slowly with just guitar before the bass and drums come in, shortly followed by the vocals, Raindrops is a song about trying to let go of your anxieties and insecurities and just be yourself – therefore ‘shedding your raindrops’. If you don’t know Austeros (shame on you!) then you won’t know that they play a brand of indie punk and lead vocalist (and guitarist) Jeremy has a superb and, I think, unique voice. It’s that classic Austeros sound that is on display here. The pace picks up into the last third of the song and we are treated to some lovely melodic guitar and the positively assertive line ‘Now we know exactly who we are.’ Next up is Cherished. When I first listened to this EP and this song, I thought I recognised Cherished and it turns out there’s a reason for that. It was actually previously released on I’ve Got This (hence why I said newish songs up there in my intro) although that version was an acoustic rendition. It’s is only a short track at less than 2 minutes in length but Austeros pack a lot into that timeframe. The bass kicks things off as Jeremy sings affirmatively about being able to be happy – ‘I’ve got this, I am worthy of being happy, Oh I’ve got this, I am cool.’ The lyrics and the melody makes me feel happy too and it’s great to hear what was already a good song played by the whole band as well. Lastly we have Eyelids, opening with the ever so slightly gloomy lyrics ‘I’ve been staring at the back of my eyelids, It beats the ugliness I see with my eyes open wide.’ I think the first two songs were fairly positive and uplifting but what Eyelids lacks in positivity, at least to begin with, it makes up for with pure emotion. This is another slower paced track but there is a definite sense of building throughout its duration as the volume is cranked up and the passion levels in the vocals are upped too. The repetition of the line ‘Is this all we’ve got?’ offers up one last singalong opportunity – and not just for the EP but the band in general. Following an encouraging remark of ‘I don’t think so.’, Eyelids ends with an instrumental outro where Austeros give every last thing they’ve got – some keys included.
If it has to end, then at least Austeros ended with three more great songs for us to listen to again and again. This is a band that will be sorely missed both in the UK’s DIY punk scene and further afield. Austeros, we love you.
You can stream and download the EP on Bandcamp and like Austeros on Facebook, for old times sake.
This review was written by Emma Prew.
Tuesday, 12 June 2018
Album Review: Wires Crossed by Arms & Hearts
Northwest acoustic punk rocker Arms & Hearts has got to be one of the most prolific songwriters around at the moment. It seems as if every few months he has an exciting new release for us to listen to. We're big fans of Arms & Hearts (real name Steve Millar) here at CPRW so every new release is met with much anticipation. In fact there was a little disagreement between Emma and I about who would review his latest release, Wires Crossed. This new EP was released by the always reliable for great music Real Ghost Records and sees Steve take a foray into full band territory. I was keen to see how this new side of Arms & Hearts sounds.
EP opener Sore Sight For Sorry Eyes starts with a little bit of distortion as if he is signalling that this will be a full band release. Pretty quickly we're greeted with Steve's gruff yet soulful voice. I did wonder if some of the emotion of the earlier releases might be lost in a full band effort but in fact I found that the songs had more. Having the backing of a full band seemed to add more urgency to the songs which I loved. On the EP's title track, Wires Crossed, this urgency continues. There is also a superbly punchy guitar section that adds some attitude to the song. This punchy style accompanied by the melodic way in which Steve delivers the vocals really drew me into the song. What kept me interested was the way it builds towards the end. I love a great building section in a song, particularly when it hits its high point and the song explodes into a great big sing-a-long.
The third song, Falling Short, remains full band but feels more stripped back and bare than the previous two songs. This really allows the listener to focus on what Steve is saying in the song. Falling Short is about all the different character flaws in people and how they don't often hit the standards that perhaps they should. The penultimate song Back Up Plan is probably my favourite track on Wires Crossed. The song starts out simply with Steve's stunning voice pulling you into the song with just a bit of guitar to accompany it. Of course it quickly builds into an Americana tinged punk song that has me thinking of Dave Hause of The Loved Ones. The song feels nice and positive as Steve sings about the experiences he's had because of music. There is a section towards the end of the song with a phenomenal build – it really takes you on a ride and when it gets to the end it gives you a great feeling of satisfaction. On the EP's final song we are treated to an acoustic number. Titled Benchmarks, the song is about trying to improve yourself and as he sing "be better than this." The undoubted highlight of the song are the beautifully layered harmonies that take place towards the end of the song.
Arms & Hearts doesn't just consistently write songs, he consistently writes great songs. This was my first time hearing him with a full band backing him and I loved it. His solo acoustic stuff is superb but for me he really comes into his own with the full band backing – there's just an all round fuller sound. Wires Crossed is sure to place well on my end of year top EP's list.
Stream and download Wires Crossed here: https://realghostrecords.bandcamp.com/album/wires-crossed
Like Arms & Hearts here: https://www.facebook.com/ArmsandHearts/
This review was written by Colin Clark.
Monday, 11 June 2018
Album Review: For The Sake Of The Bit by Elway (by Emma Prew)
It’s been three years since Elway released their last album, the excellent Better Whenever – it was a CPRW top album of 2015 by the way. We saw the band live a year later at Fest, whilst the likes of Red City Radio and Propagandhi were playing at the same time, and it was a massive highlight of the whole festival for us. I for one, having not listened to their back catalogue in great depth before Fest, was completely blown away by their performance. Since then we’ve been eagerly awaiting more recorded material from the band. On April 27th our wishes were granted and the band released For The Sake Of The Bit on Red Scare Industries. With 8 songs on it, I’m not entirely sure if this is a generous EP or a short album (I’m opting for the latter) but who cares because Elway are back! And – spoiler alert – it’s pretty darn good.
The opening track is called Inches and it is a relatively mid-tempo song to ease us into the album. The guitars are big from the outset and Tim’s warm yet slightly gruff vocals will immediately have the listener hanging on his every word. As I said this isn’t a fast paced track as such but nor is it a slow plodder, it goes along at a perfect pace and brings us to the excellent middle section of the song. Tim sings ‘But if you can’t face the end, Then maybe you could start a band, But until then…’ and then we are treated to a gang vocal response of ‘Get fucked!’ Suddenly this song got a little more gritty and I love it. (According to an interview I read, the band are telling people who needlessly criticise bands online to ‘get fucked’ here.) There’s some great guitar work in this song too – a fine album opener all round. Inches is followed by a shorter, faster tune called Hold On. The drums are pounded that little bit harder from the start and the guitars feel more urgent – urgent yet super catchy that is. There’s more of that grittiness in this second track which is ever more present when the vocal kick in as Tim’s voice seems more intense and perhaps a little strained (not necessarily a bad thing). I must admit, the faster and rougher vocals do make it hard to figure out precisely what Tim is singing which is a shame because I really felt like I wanted to sing along. Thankfully the chorus, filled with equal parts bitterness and nostalgia, is a whole lot more singalongable than the verses – so much so that it sounds like the whole band is singing it: ‘Letting go is harder than it seems, I never needed sleep to fucking dream… Hold on, A part of me remembers when, All my friends weren’t so blasé, It seems like yesterday…’ Actually, although I’ve referred to that as the chorus, it’s actually only sung once and at the end of the song meaning that Hold On definitely goes out with a bang.
The third track on For The Sake Of The Bit is titled Crowded Conscience. Here Elway take their foot off of the accelerator (or the gas pedal if you’re American) a little for another more mid-tempo number. The volume is still amped up but it doesn’t feel as fast and furious as the previous song on the album. I think, assuming I am interpreting the lyrics correctly, that this is a love song of sorts about trying to make time for that special someone who has perhaps been a little neglected by you – and so clearing your conscience. This feels like both a feel-good and heart-felt track which is none more apparent than in the chorus. ‘Baby, we could drive all over the country, Or pretend that we could avoid the cities, I would just whisk you, Whoa, Oh (x7ish)…’ The song has that same sort of alt-rock Americana feel to it as something like The Gaslight Anthem’s The ’59 Sound (album) but still sounds distinctly Elway and I love that. Following on from this love song comes Selfish Masochistic Psychic Trauma, a track that feels much darker – not least because of its title. The song’s intro is a little stripped back with a clean melodic guitar riff to lead us into the song but before too long those huge Elway guitars and drums are back. The opening lines set a somewhat sour tone – ‘To have lived is not enough, I have to talk about it in all these songs…’. Selfish Masochistic Psychic Trauma is about a particularly entitled individual who feels like the world revolves around them. The band’s bitterness really comes through in the song and has me feeling pretty resentful myself. I guess that’s the sign of a great songwriter!
The second half of the album sees the arrival of some fuzzy and distorted guitars. Eating Crow is the name of the fifth song on For The Sake Of The Bit and that opening riff will no doubt have your head nodding from the start. When the vocals come in after 30 seconds or so things are slowed down a little and there’s a great bit of call and response between Tim’s vocals and a more melodic guitar part. This song seems to be about what a disgrace we are as human beings most of the time whilst living in out own little bubbles and not really learning from our past mistakes. ‘If we don’t learn a goddamn thing then the history it just repeats.’ Tim also questions what we’ve done in our lives and to the world as a whole and if we’ve ‘gone too far’. The song is perhaps not as obviously venomous as the previous song on the album but Eating Crow sure packs its own punch too and the songwriting is masterful. Perfect Silence is the name of the next track and there is no hesitating with this one as the vocals come in after just a few seconds. The song has a fairly slow pace and almost melancholic sound. That said, it also has a great distinctly Midwest sort of sound that I can’t even describe properly in words but I know I love it when I hear it. I feel like it draws near to indie or alt-country and Americana but, no, this is still a punk band at heart. This also feels like a very honest song – I mean most Elway songs are but more so with this one – as Tim mentions mental health and acknowledges that he knows there is no hidden purpose in life. I particularly enjoyed the line ‘I carry happiness inside a balled up fist.’ . Perfect Silence tackles the daily struggles we face in life and offers up a positive thought to end on – ‘…There is no hidden worth, No purpose, No nothing, Well for what it’s worth, I don’t think it’s crazy to try.’.
Things take a little bit of a different route for the penultimate song, Paper Guitars. There’s an echoey and almost dream-like start with the lead guitar sounding distant, before a second guitar, bass and drums kick in. However, when the vocals come in we’re back to classic Elway again and the pounding drums and bass carry us through to another hugely singalongable chorus – complete with plenty of whoa-ohs. ‘Go on and swim, Whoa-oh, As far as you can, Whoa-oh, Go on and swim, Whoa-oh, And never return again, Whoa-oh whoa-oh-oh.’ Damn, I’m just thinking about how much I want to see Elway live again to be able sing along with the band (At the time of writing this they are on tour with Dead To Me in the US but it is unlikely they’ll be over to UK anytime soon, if ever.) Paper Guitars features a soft instrumental breakdown that is accompanied by a voice recording. To be honest it isn’t all too clear what the recording is about but I think it might be someone talking on the phone. I was mostly focussed on the guitar shredding that was going on anyway! This carries us into the last song on For The Sake Of The Bit which is titled Nobody Goes Into Meteorology For The Sunny Days – a lovely humourous yet cynical title if ever there was one. There’s a sombre and thoughtful tone set here which seems like an apt way to play out the record really. This song is probably the slowest of the album but the pace does pick up nicely towards and beyond the chorus – ‘Go ahead dude, no one is listening… I’d like to thank my heroes for giving me a voice, And no thank you to the bastards who only make white noise.’ An instrumental section that follows gives a sense of something building – because it is. Building to a goodbye. As Tim musters up some emotional cries of ‘So here’s a goodbye, Here’s a goodbye.’, there are hints of it being screamed back to him in the background. Then we soon find ourselves at a distorted fade out that ends the album. That’s it, over in no time. At only 25 minutes in length, you may as well listen to the whole thing through again!
I think Elway may well have released one of the best singalong gruff punk albums of 2018. Check out For The Sake Of The Bit yourself and see if you agree with me.
You can stream and download For The Sake Of The Bit on Bandcamp and like Elway on Facebook.
You can stream and download For The Sake Of The Bit on Bandcamp and like Elway on Facebook.
This review was written by Emma Prew.
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