Friday, 13 December 2019

Gig Review: Reel Big Fish at Islington Academy, London 18/11/19

I don't go to that many big academy shows anymore but when a line up like the one I saw on Monday night is announced it's impossible to miss. Ska punk legends Reel Big Fish were in the UK on a massive tour and had UK genre stalwarts [Spunge] and Lightyear as supports. All three of those bands played a very formative role in my love of punk and ska and getting the chance to see them play a show together was a marvellous opportunity.

Throughout the tour, [Spunge] and Lightyear had been rotating main support slots. On this occasion it was the turn of [Spunge] to be main support which meant Lightyear had the task of opening the night. For this tour, Chas, Neil and Ben would be joined on stage by Pook from Redeemon, Bob from The JB Conspiracy, Ric from Eat The Evidence and their usual stage tech Calvin. Unfortunately, part way through the tour Neil got sick so wouldn’t be able to play. In true Lightyear style though, the band played on and still gave a very memorable half hour. Within seconds of the first song, Chas was in the crowd screaming down the mic to a very bemused crowd. Whenever I see Lightyear I always wonder what the uninitiated must be thinking. With just a half hour set to work with the band zoomed through their set, packing in as many songs as possible but also finding time for all of the usual Lightyear shenanigans including the Morris dancing breakdown during Blindside and Chas coming out to the Black Beauty theme whilst dressed as a jockey riding Pook who was dressed as a horse. Playing favourites such as Life Jacket, Water Wings, Positive Outlook and a new song which I've forgotten the name of before finishing with A Pack Of Dogs where they set up the drum kit in the crowd so their usual drummer Jim could finish the track, Lightyear proved once again why they are one of the most entertaining live bands ever. Massive respect to the stand-ins helping them out. They all did superb jobs.

Up next were [Spunge]. Regular readers of CPRW will know what an influential band they were/are for me. Basically, without [Spunge] I would never have found the world of underground punk and ska and life would be very different (perhaps I'd get more sleep and spend less time on trains?). By this stage of the night, the Islington Academy was already pretty full and I was pleased to see the crowd being extremely receptive. Recently, the band released a brand new live album titled Live In 'Nam… (Cheltenham) and would be playing that set throughout the tour. It's rare for a band to announce their set beforehand but I thought this was a great idea for new listeners of the band to get a feel for what to expect and learn some words. It was a best of set, with the band playing through their most beloved songs. It always puts the biggest smile on my face when I get to sing and dance along to favourites such as Roots, Skanking Song, Some Suck Some Rock, Jump On Demand and Kicking Pigeons. The band were on top form, though I don't think I've ever seen them play a bad set. During the set, the band gave us a bit of a surprise when they played a brand new song titled No One Said It Was Easy. When I heard it on Spotify when they first released it, I quickly fell in love with it and it was fantastic to hear the song live. I love that [Spunge], after all these years, are still passionate about writing new music and it's still so good. For me, [Spunge] are a timeless band who I will happily listen to and go and see live for as long as they keep going. They haven't stopped in twenty years so I hope it won't end anytime soon!

It was now time for Reel Big Fish. One of the biggest names in ska punk were back in the UK touring their newest album Life Sucks… Let's Dance. By this point, we've all seen Reel Big Fish countless times so you know pretty much what's coming. That, however, never stops it being a lot of fun! From the start, the packed crowd were gleefully skanking and moshing but then three songs in they played Sell Out and the wildness of the crowd went up a lot of notches. Of course, I enjoyed all the old favourites but it was also very nice hearing songs from Life Sucks… Let's Dance live for the first time. For various reasons I haven't listened to the new album yet, so it was very refreshing to hear brand new Reel Big Fish songs live for the first time and I have to say I was very impressed. The tracks fit into their set wonderfully. Of course, it wouldn't be a Reel Big Fish show without some covers thrown in, the standard Monkey Man, Brown Eyed Girl and Take On Me were all played but there was also a brilliant moment that caught me off guard where they played a ska version of Jimmy Eat World's The Middle. This went down very well with a lot of the crowd. There's a reason Reel Big Fish have been as popular as they are for such a long time (they formed in 1991!), they're the very best at what they do. Not only do they write incredibly catchy and danceable tunes but they know exactly how to entertain a crowd when they perform live. This is why people continue to come out to see them over and over again, you know you're guaranteed a fantastic night.

As big package tour ska punk shows go, I can't think of many better that I've been to than this once. In my eyes, I got to see three legendary bands in the genre and had a great time singing along to so many classics from all three bands surrounded by great friends. Big love to the whole crowd, I was flyering Do It Together Fest after the show finished and met so many lovely people.

This gig review was written by Colin Clark. (Photos also by Colin.)

Thursday, 12 December 2019

Top Tens: Richard's Top Ten Boysetsfire Songs

Celebrating 25 years in the business with their first trip to these shores in 4 years, emocore/hardcore pioneers Boysetsfire returned for what promised to be a career spanning celebration of pounding beats, soaring melodies and plenty of shout along moments. This week, just after their triumphant return, Boysestfire’s resident superfan Rich Mair gives us his top 10 essential tunes to get you in the mood!

25 years in the business is some milestone; especially for a band who have faced the challenges and adversity of Boysetsfire. Anyone who knows me will know how much I adore the work of this band and what they stand for. I’d argue that few groups have consistently delivered such quality and stayed true to their message and sound; albeit a sound that can go from straight up hardcore bruisers, to poignant emo ballads whilst remaining true to their values and ethos. As a result, this top 10 will focus on particular characteristics of the band’s back catalogue as opposed to a straight up list of their best songs whilst referencing other songs you may want to check out if unfamiliar with the band.

1. The hardcore song – Bled Dry ( Bled Dry single / Self-titled)

Given the sheer volume of hardcore bangers they have put out over the years, my absolute favourite circle pit inducing monster is this track from the 7” single of the same name (and later from the self-titled album) from the end of their hiatus. Whilst any returning band would think to go for a palatable radio friendly pastiche of their previous sounds, BSF instead opted for an abrasive, aggressive and blistering aural assault to mark their return. It’s a proper hardcore tune that is a clear statement of intent. This isn’t a band looking for a pay check; this is a group of people angry and disillusioned with society. A society which exploits and uses people for personal gain, where the rich get richer and the poor are made to work for scraps and to keep their masters in power. The vitriol of Nathan Gray’s lyrics (take opening lines “Hate is a strong word but not strong enough for a vision so bereft of life”) emphasises the contempt the band have for law makers and the powerful elite who neglect their responsibilities to create a fairer society. Set to immensely aggressive and brutal music, this was (and still is) a reminder of how essential they are.

See also: Until Nothing Remains (While A Nation Sleeps), Don’t Panic (Self-titled), Suckerpunch Training (Suckerpunch Training 7”)

2. The rousing album opener – After The Eulogy (After The Eulogy)

Like many people, my first experience of BSF was through their Victory Records debut. So incredible was that album I can still recall hearing it for the first time; and this was the first song I heard. Ahilst the chanting voices at the start followed by the rolling drums were nothing particularly new, what followed rooted me to the spot. “After The Eulogy” remains both a masterclass and master stroke in introducing an album. Nathan Gray’s anguished pleas of “Rise” calling people to arms, before he recognises that we are all written off, lost our way and living in a selfish consumerist world. Such is the song’s success that it incorporates so many iconic lyrics and opportunities to scream your lungs out. From the aforementioned “Rise” to the mantra “Where’s your anger? Where’s your fucking rage?”. It’s a perfect album opener for a hardcore band. After 3:30 minutes, you’ve been pummelled into submission... and want to do it all again.

See also: Eviction Article (Tomorrow Come Today), Walk Astray (The Misery Index)

3. The skate punk song – One Match (Self-titled)

Although not typically a genre you’d associate with BSF, One Match is a brilliant interpretation of a skate punk song with its big whoa-whoas, fast melodic music, sing-a-long vocals and a real sexy bass line. Amongst the anger driven and politically motivated songs, something that is essentially a bouncing pop-punk song really stands out. Smile inducing (with an edge) it shows you don’t have to make angry music to be angry!

See also: Phone Call (4AM) (While a Nation Sleeps)

4. The sing-a-long – Rookie (After the Eulogy)

One thing BSF do better than anyone is create a sense of community around their songs. “Rookie” is arguably one of the most brilliant experiences I’ve ever had in a pit; all down to the delivery of one line in particular. However, from the moment the guitars kick in over that bass line, it’s a song that demands you sing every word with passion! The one lyric in question is in the song’s closing stages and has the brilliant ability to speak to people in a way that few others do. “... you’ll forget me when I’m gone” speaks to our innate feeling to be wanted and needed. Sung by a group of outsiders, punks and freaks, it’s a magical experience! Coming in as the second track on “After The Eulogy”, it instantly turns the hardcore pounding of the title track on its head and really showcases the range and versatility of the band.

See also: Handful Of Redemption (Tomorrow Come Today), Cavity (In Chrysalis)

5. The call to arms album closer – On In Five (Tomorrow Come Today)

The band acknowledge that the creation of Tomorrow Come Today took them to breaking point. That said, it still has some amazing moments such as the album’s closing track “On In Five”. Ranging from pure hardcore verses to melodic choruses, it peaks at its conclusion with a full on Snapcase style metal tinged culmination; it’s Nathan at his angriest demanding that this is “not a test”. It’s an exhilarating ending to an album and easily one of their strongest songs period!

See also: Force Majure (After the Eulogy), Bled Dry (Self-titled) A far Cry (The Misery Index), Prey (While A Nation Sleeps)

6. The ballad – My Life in the Knife Trade (After the Eulogy)

Even after 20 years, this song still hits all the feels. To think that a Hardcore band could deliver something so beautiful, heartbreaking and fragile in the late 90s was pretty hard to fathom; let alone a risk with the potential to alienate some of the more hardcore elements of the fan base. Instead it’s a song that every BSF fan will agree is as iconic as it is personal. The songwriting is just gorgeous, the delivery full of angst, regret and hurt and the melody and song construction perfect. My Life In The Knife Trade remains a staple of the set list to this day, it’s a song people love to hear and love to sing along to. The first time I heard it I got goosebumps and to this day regardless of which version I hear it has the same effect (and at last count I had 6 different versions of this)!

See also: Torches To Paradise (Self-titled), 10 And Counting (The Misery Index)

7. The B-Side – With Every Intention (Tomorrow Come Today)

As with all great bands, it’s not just album tracks that make them brilliant but also their B-Sides which are typically incredible. My personal pick has to be the secret track on “Tomorrow Come Today”. With Every Intention is another ballad style song. Largely acoustic, it’s another gorgeously written and perfectly executed emotional song, the lyrics almost echoing the turmoil the band had with their identity whilst creating the album. It asks us how well we know ourselves and our flaws and questions how we can be better. It really shows a vulnerable and fragile side to the band and coming after the previously discussed On In Five it’s a truly great 1-2 combo!

See also: Channel (split with Snapcase), Bring Back the Fight (Bled Dry 7”), Did You Forget (While A Nation Sleeps bonus track)

8. The set closer – Closure (While a Nation Sleeps)

As a band, BSF are all about unity and nothing demonstrates that more than in a live setting. A few years back the band released a series of live performances which culminated with “Closure” as the closing song of the each show and, as the title would suggest, it works brilliantly as a set closer. It has all the elements you want from a great BSF song. It’s got some great sing along moments, it’s got the fist in the air moments and it’s got the moment you dream of diving off stage to (when the beat drops)! It’s a song to make everyone go home happy. Furthermore, the video for this song is incredible. I won’t ruin it here but would say check it out – some bands talk the talk, this is showing a band really making a difference to people’s lives – and it’s just so inspiring!

9. The old one(s)

As with most bands, their early years are defined by toil; very few bands find themselves catapulted to the precipice of greatness with their debut releases. BSF are no exception. Upon purchasing After The Eulogy I immediately attempted to get my mitts on everything the band had released and unsurprisingly it was clear that the band had undergone a journey with which they could deliver something as incendiary as that breakthrough album. Amongst their early material however we have some amazing songs and picking just one is nigh on impossible so I’ve opted for three...

Vehicle (This Crying, This Screaming, My Voice Is Being Born) – Everything about this song is epic; it’s the first chance to see how their sound will develop from pure hardcore verses to the melodic choruses. Coupled with the excellent musicianship, squealing guitars and a superb beat down, it’s just a great precursor to what the band would ultimately become.

Cavity (In Chrysalis) – If you ever want a great example of how to build anticipation into a song it’s this. Midway through the song the pace slows and Nathan implores us to “wait for something to happen”. The song subsequently explodes into a brilliant conclusion, a cathartic release of energy if you will. It’s a great example of how brilliant they are at structuring songs, retaining a message and developing songs perfect for a live setting!

In Hope (The Day The Sun Went Out) – Starting with a complex guitar lick, it’s a schizophrenic song for the first minute where the beat and guitar work are so disparate that when it comes together midway through the song you realise how it’s been done to build the song to its epic conclusion. As an album, TDTSWO is often overlooked at the expense of its more illustrious siblings; this song bridges the gap beautifully from their early days to the hardcore pioneers they would become.

See also: Parasite Candy (Before the Eulogy / Demo), 65 Factory Outlets (The Day The Sun Went Out), Blame [live at Eleven] (This Crying, This Screaming, My Voice Is Being Born)

10. THE Anthem – Empire

As I’ve already stated, few bands have the ability to create such a fervent and devoted passion attached to particular songs. For anyone who follows the history of the band – the fallout that followed the record deal with Wind-Up and the release of Tomorrow Come Today – that the Misery Index ever came out at all is not only a surprise but absolutely solidified their place as a legendary band. This three album run was amazing but what was interesting was hearing that the label didn’t hear a single and didn’t rate specific songs; namely this: Empire. Not only is it just huge in every sense, it ties all the aforementioned personal characteristics, beliefs and feelings of community and belonging together. With all the talk of unity within the hardcore scene, this is it living and breathing to music. It’s not their most “hardcore” song by any stretch, appearing more on the ballad-end of the spectrum, but it sure as hell isn’t any less angry and stoic because of this. It’s a song that speaks of adversity, challenge and unity and has, over time, grown in to such an iconic and special song for those that love the band!

So there we are, my picks for the top Boysetsfire songs. If you aren’t familiar with them please do check them out; and if you are and have your own favourites I’d love to hear what they are in the comments.

Boystesfire played the Underworld on the 30th November supported by Raised Fist and All Else Failed. Ltd edition 25th anniversary versions of numerous Boysetsfire albums (including the legendary After The Eulougy and for the first time on vinyl Tomorrow Come Today) are currently being released by End Hits Records.

This top ten was written by Richard Mair.

Wednesday, 11 December 2019

Album Review: It'll Be Fiiine by BaldHead And The Dreads

BaldHead And The Dreads are a band you will definitely be familiar with if you've ever attended a ska punk show at the New Cross Inn in South East London. The four piece is comprised of four pals who regularly attend shows at the venue and decided to start their own band. Playing their own unique brand of ska punk that they have dubbed "Paul Smith-Core" after the NXI promoter, the band have steadily built up a fan base with their catchy songs and hilarious stage banter. Plus songs about dogs, lots of songs about dogs. Exactly a year after their first show, the band have released their first EP titled It'll Be Fiiine. This was an EP I was excited and curious about in equal measure.

The opening song is one that the band released a video for earlier in the year. Titled Dealer Time, the track is about the frustration of constantly having to wait for your dealer because they're late. Beginning with some bouncy ska upstrokes and some keyboard, bass player Ell takes lead vocals on the song. His rough, raspy vocals do a great job of showcasing his frustration. They also have that great everyman quality that I always adore. Like all of their tracks, this is super catchy and it won't be long until they have you singing along. Up next is London. I remember the first time I heard this song live and remember falling in love with it immediately. Keyboard player Michael takes on lead vocals on this occasion and the band deliver a much poppier effort. It's not all pop though as guitarist James adds his own vocals and the band get all skacore for a moment before reverting the pop loveliness. London is about the frustration of trying to get around the city but loving it anyway because it contains so many magical treats for you.

Be Sharp Bop is up next, you may have heard it if you happened to check out our fifth birthday compilation earlier in the year. It's a love song directed at the aforementioned Paul Smith and how much they adore Be Sharp Promotions. Ell sings about all the reasons he loves Paul. Lyrically it's hilarious and always goes down a treat at New Cross Inn shows. Like the song says, this is Paul’s favourite song and he especially loves to crowd surf to it. Next time you see BaldHead at New Cross you know what to do. The fourth song is probably the catchiest song I've heard all year. Titled Quit Your Job, Get A Job, James sings about – you guessed it – quitting your job and getting a dog. No hidden meanings in these titles. This mid-tempo track, which features the fantastic addition of a harmonica (more ska bands need harmonica), is an absolute smile maker. It's one of those songs that you listen to and will instantly make you start smiling, whilst singing along to it (including the barking). The final song is a remix of Be Sharp Bop by PavelPro which drummer Tommy apparently paid for whilst drunk. Sounds about right for BaldHead And The Dreads.

I think after every BaldHead And The Dreads live set I've seen so far my reaction has been either that has no right to be as good as it was or they keep getting better and better. That is certainly something I could say to this. It'll Be Fiiine is a great showcase of what I think the band are all about; being fun, being ridiculous but also being very, very good.

Stream and download It'll Be Fiiine here:

Like BaldHead And The Dreads here:

This review was Colin Clark.

Tuesday, 10 December 2019

Album Review: Heavy Seas by Misfortune Cookie (by Richard Mair)

When Bear Trade called it quits in 2017 shortly after releasing the wonderful “Silent Unspeakable” it was easy to assume that, despite their pedigree and the affection with which they are held with, it wouldn’t be long before the various members started cropping up in other bands. What was probably most surprising about this is that three of the bears (Callum, Peter and Lloyd) would join forces once more to release a Bear Trade-esque slab of melodic punk rock fronted by the exquisitely talented Helen Chambers – more known for her folk punk inspired singer songwriter tendencies than rocking out as a gruff punk leader – and, to top it off, it’s not just the sum of its parts but excels in every possible way!

Fans of Bear Trade will no doubt be on board with Misfortune Cookie already however fans of Timeshares, Iron Chic, Hot Water Music or The Gaslight Anthem also will certainly find something to love amongst the earnest anthems on offer.

Opening track “Party” is pretty much standard for what can be expected across the 10 tracks. First off, the vocals – gone are the gruff throaty tones, replaced by one of melody, vulnerability and character and boy does it suit the music, adding something very different to what is a predominately beardy-male approach to punk (saying this as a beardy male punk). There is so much to love about the delivery from the pronunciation of “Party” with quite a hard “e”; genuinely no one sounds like Helen Chambers and I truly don’t think anyone could, the country / folk twangs and lilts flow through the album giving it a real charm. The song itself is about finding ways to cling on to a loved one and it’s a really good relatable song which sets the tone for Heavy Seas. Fast paced, easy to sing along to and excellent musicianship throughout (the bass line by Lloyd is gorgeous, in particular)!

Next up is “All Dogs Are Nina” and this, to me, is one of the most obvious Bear Trade-infused songs on the album. From its chugging guitars and rolling drums, it has that really anthemic Leatherface feel that you’d expect from a Northern punk band and it’s easy to see why this was a lead track for the album; it’s brilliantly unpretentious and a wonderful single that rightly whet the appetite for the full length.

And that’s pretty much the gist of the album; every song has been crafted with a passion that means they stand on their own or when put into a collective whole they tell a story of midlife, growing up and responsibility. Take “D-FENS” for example, asking if “you are proud of who you’ve become” or being “sick and tired of falling down”, it’s about taking ownership of your decisions. Or “Lonely”, with its call to arms for all the people who don’t fit in; sure these are typical tropes for a punk album but the delivery is a cut above.

Most of the songs are of a good tempo with tons of melody that remind me of Iron Chic at their most fun. “The Cipher”, for example, uses Helen’s vocals to inject some smile inducing character to chorus with its jagged “ey-ey-eyes” before building to a great fist in the air “never give in and we’ll never give up” chant. Or “Peaky Blinders”, which has that rock ’n’ roll Gaslight Anthem style bluesy feel to it; again the vocals take centre stage, showing Helen’s range from what is at points almost hushed talking to a soaring fist in the air pre-chorus.

Two songs in particular stand out and show how bringing Helen into the fold has really helped create a much more rounded and nuanced sound. The first of these is “Callumbus”, which excels through first the immediacy of the guitar work from both Callum and Helen but then its ability to slow down when needed, incorporate whoa-whoas and build to a killer chorus! There is so much depth and personality condensed into its 3:30 runtime that it’s impossible not to fall in love with it. The second of these songs is “Alabama”; a brilliant pop-punk banger. Again it has a truly massive chorus and this is where having someone like Helen on vocals really pays off. This is very much reminiscent of the now defunct Turnspit with their female led gruff punk, yet delivered in a very British way and it’s stunning!

Genuinely, I was gutted when Bear Trade split; I felt for sure they had the potential to be truly great. However, where they finished off, Misfortune Cookie have picked up the baton and run with it. I wholeheartedly recommend putting aside half an hour, grabbing a beer and giving this a spin. It’s arguably one of the finest releases of the year and given the current healthy and lively UK punk rock scene that is no mean feat!

Stream and download Heavy Seas here:

Like Misfortune Cookie here:

This review was written by Richard Mair.

Monday, 9 December 2019

Album Review: Sunshine And Rainbows by The Subjunctives (by Emma Prew)

The Subjunctives are a three-piece pop punk band from Seattle who formed in 2017. Don’t let their relatively short time as a band deceive you though, as the band is formed of Jeff Mangalin – who is the guitarist for Seattle power pop punks Four Lights – on bass, Ean Hernandez – a founding member of 90s pop punk legends Sicko (who have recently released a sort of best of album on Red Scare) – on guitar and Matt Coleman – who previously played a Baroque-pop style in Heather Edgley’s band. So, these are well practiced musicians but can they write great pop punk songs? Obviously I know the answer is yes because I reviewed their first self-titled EP back in January this year, but how does the full-length album that they’ve just released fare? A 16-track full-length album, at that. Let’s find out…

The album opens just as I expected and wanted it to – with a short, snappy and kind of carefree song. Guinivere, In Raybans And Chucks is a song about being a not particularly cool dad as well as husband to an awesome Guinivere, or Helen, character. The lyrics are kept simple with lines like ‘I have two girls they are so cute, In their matching pink tu tus.’ but that’s part of the joy of The Subjunctives. Before we know it, we’re onto the second track. The pounding drums and chugging guitars welcome us into At The Kraken. The Kraken is ‘Seattle’s number one pirate themed punk rock dive bar’ and although I’m sure that many people listening to this song, myself included of course, won’t have been to The Kraken, I reckon most of us can relate to having our own favourite dive bar type venue. For that reason alone, this is a brilliant track but it also features some brilliant harmonies that really add another layer to The Subjunctives sound. This is a band that are clearly masters of succinct, catchy songwriting which is definitely apparent from the third song on Sunshine And Rainbows. Spend Your Time is a sweet little love song about how your significant other doesn’t have to spend all their time with you if they don’t want to – ‘If you wanna go, just let me know, You don't have to go, if you don't wanna go.’. The song may not have many words but it more than makes up for that with the trio’s fine musicianship, plus more of those wonderful R.E.M.-esque (you know what I mean if you read my review of The Subjunctives’ EP) harmonies right at the end. Next up we have the first of three songs that also appeared on the aforementioned EP. Pass It On kicks off with pounding drums and fast-paced guitar work plus a beefy and typically pop punk sounding bassline. This is another song that keeps things simple lyrically with most of the chorus being repetitions of ‘Pass it on’. It’s not quite as straightforward as that sounds however, with the band once again displaying their skill with harmonies – they’ll no doubt have the listener singing along and adding their own harmonies too.

Friday slows things down a little bit (at least by this band’s standards) for a mid-tempo and retrospective number. The song is about enjoying cosy Friday nights in – watching David Attenborough no less – with your loved one rather than always going out to a bar or a show. Despite being a bit younger than the guys in The Subjunctives, this is a feeling that I can relate to – not every Friday night but sometimes it’s nice to have a night in. Speaking of songs I can relate to, track number six is Introverted Girl. This is another song that featured on the EP – as well as on the CPRW fifth birthday comp that we released back in June – and, as I mentioned in my review of the EP, I can wholeheartedly relate to being an introverted girl. Speaking to Ean after I wrote that review, he told me that the song is about his daughter. This is a kick-ass song with a lovely sentiment. Appropriately, the next song is also about being a parent (something, unlike being an introvert, that I cannot relate to). Hey Dad feels similar to Guinivere, In Raybans And Chucks with its down-to-earth home-life nature, as Ean sings about getting his kid(s) chicken mcnuggets and feeding the cat at 5am. The musical delivery is suitably loud, lively and oh so catchy yet again. Eighth song, Rotate, is the third and final song to have previously appeared on the EP. It’s another brilliant song however so I don’t mind one bit about hearing it again in this setting. Opening with a infectious guitar riff before the rest of the band chime in, this is another fine example of fast-paced pop punk. Rotate is a love song of sorts but not perhaps as obviously as, for example, Spend Your Time. Here, the band talk of the earth’s rotation and time zones to reflect on feelings for someone. ‘Did you look back, Across the ocean, the mountains and the sea? 8 more hours will rotate you back around the world to me.’  

Waste My Time sees The Subjunctives getting a little angry as they sing of someone wasting their time with their not very well thought through statements and comebacks. The sort of person who thrives on ‘fake news’ and false information – or at least that’s the sort of person I’m conjuring up in my head. It’s not just the lyrics that feel angry here, the instruments seems to be being played that little bit more forcefully – the rhythm section in particular. The tenth song of Sunshine And Rainbows is called Get Some Sleep. This song took me by surprise the first time I listened to the album as it sounds completely different to all of the songs we’ve heard so far. Not only has the lead vocalist changed but so has the musical style. It’s got a bit of a 90s alternative rock vibe to it and feels much darker in tone than the very much pop punk-sounding earlier tracks. Get Some Sleep – which is fine advice, I should add – even features a short almost grungey guitar solo. My Girl returns to the tried and tested song about your awesome significant other format although its delivery is a little different to the typical catchy pop punk that we’ve come to know as The Subjunctives sound. It’s still short and fast – in fact, this is the shortest song on the album at 58 seconds – but everything feels even more snappy. That certainly isn’t a bad thing however – it’s great to hear variety in a 16 track pop punk album! One More Year is not a song that immediately caught my attention when listening to Sunshine And Rainbows but, in reading the lyrics and attempting to find words to write about it, I have grown quite fond of the song. One More Year is about getting older and trying to find the positives in your life each day, such as sunshine (and rainbows), even if you have things like your back is starting to ache and your forgetfulness to worry about. A great message and a great song.

The Fastbacks Are The Greatest Band in History (So Fuck You) tells the tale of discovering a band, in this case Seattle’s The Fastbacks, as a young adult and how that can change your life. I must admit that I am not familiar with The Fastbacks but that doesn’t mean that I don’t connect with this song. The song is not really just about The Fastbacks but about the power of punk rock as a whole. Punk rock is the best and I guess I should listen to The Fastbacks… but first, we have three more songs of this album! Headed East Again feels like a song to be blasted out of your car speakers as you embark upon a road trip, or perhaps commence a tour if you’re The Subjunctives. This may, of course, be partly due to the song’s name but who doesn’t want to play decent tunes, nice and loud, as you embark on a car journey. The penultimate song of Sunshine And Rainbows is titled My E String. Opening with just bass before the rest of the instruments and vocals come in, My E String is, unsurprisingly, about the E String of a guitar. Particularly how it ends up going out of tune a lot when playing live and how that can make you feel like you’ve screwed up and everyone is staring at you. Sure it’s an unusual topic for a song but, delivered in The Subjunctives’ signature catchy pop punk sound, it’s sure to get your head nodding along. I also rather liked the line ‘A room full of strangers becomes a room full of friends.’ – the perfect description of the punk scene. Sunshine And Rainbows ends with Dumbass and another dose of angry venting – it’s necessary sometimes, isn’t it? This time the anger is about a job or, perhaps more specifically, a boss who acts like they own you – ‘I’m working for you, But you don’t own me, dumbass.’ There’s just the right amount of power behind the instruments and venom in the vocals to successfully deliver the message and I hope the boss in question hears the song one day. The ending feels a little abrupt when it comes but, if you don’t get distracted and change to listening to something else, you will be treated to a surprise, somewhat self-deprecating, 40 second acoustic song at the end of the album. I’m not usually a fan of final songs featuring a hidden track after a section of silence but, perhaps because it’s so stripped, back I quite like it.

Phew! Sunshine And Rainbows might be only 34 minutes long but a 16 (or 17, if you count the bonus song) track album is quite the challenge to review when I’m used to albums having just 10 songs to write about – and at CPRW we do, ideally, like to make a point of talking about each and every song on a release. Thankfully The Subjunctives have packed plenty of variety into Sunshine And Rainbows and delivered a fine example of modern pop punk.

Sunshine And Rainbows was released on November 22nd and you can buy physical copies (CD and vinyl) from Top Drawer Records as well as streaming the album in the usual places. So, what are you waiting for? Go and check it out!

You can like The Subjunctives on Facebook here.

This album review was written by Emma Prew.

Friday, 22 November 2019

Gig Review: Hot Water Music at The Underworld, London 17/11/19 (by Emma Prew)

It’s not often that you have to buy tickets for a punk gig a whole year in advanced. When Hot Water Music announced a European tour of album shows for – arguably their most popular albums – No Division and Caution however, tickets were snapped up. The UK leg of the tour consisted of Caution shows in Manchester and London and a single No Division show in London. We opted for the Caution show at The Underworld in Camden and patiently waited for the day to arrive. Meanwhile, the supports were announced as CPRW – well, pretty much everyone’s – favourites Spanish Love Songs and Red City Radio so it couldn’t really get much better. Did it live up to my expectations though? Read on to find out…

The thing that stopped me from getting too sad about having missed Spanish Love Songs’ set at Fest (by not going to Fest) at the beginning of the month was that I would be seeing them at The Underworld. It’s no secret that they have become one of my absolute favourite bands over the past couple of years – I went to three dates of their UK tour in May – and so I’m always keen to scream my lungs out to their songs. On Sunday night, Spanish Love Songs had me hooked on every single note – from their opening song, Losers, through to the closing song, Beer & Nyquil – whilst putting in as much effort as if they were the headlining band. I wasn’t the only one who was hooked as, despite the early hour (6.30pm), The Underworld was pretty busy with those down the front raising their fists in the air enthusiastically. Such is our love for this band. I was particularly pleased to hear (No) Reasons To Believe live for the first time. But was 30 minutes enough? No, not for me. The good news, however, is that Spanish Love Songs will be back in just a couple of months to support The Menzingers(!) on their February UK/EU tour – I’ll be there!

After going a little hoarse singing along to Spanish Love Songs, it was time for more singalongs with one of the very best rock ’n’ roll bands in punk. There aren’t many better front people in punk rock than Red City Radio’s Garrett Dale either, he and his band sure know how to put on a good show. There’s a kind of theatrical nature to it, a little over the top but just the right amount of punk attitude to balance it out. I know Colin always refers to Red City Radio as being a singles band or at least a band with a lot of hit songs from their whole back catalogue, this is something that becomes apparent when they play live. Every single song is a banger, whether it be Whatcha Got? or Electricity from their 2015 self-titled album or the slightly older, highly singalong-able Show Me On The Doll Where The Music Touched You – ‘I am a fucking juggernaut!’. Of course the setlist also featured tracks from last year’s excellent SkyTigers EP, such as If You Want Blood (Be My Guest) and Rebels which have become future classics in their own right, as well as the brand new song, Love A Liar. A killer set from a killer band.

So, we’d had two quite different but equally excellent sets from Spanish Love Songs and Red City Radio but, as The Underworld packed out even more, there was only one band that everyone cared about. Hot Water Music have been a band for 25 years – that means they formed when I was just three years old! (Sorry if that makes anyone reading this feel old!) Sadly, Chris Wollard wouldn’t be joining his bandmates on the tour but, as with the last (which was also the first) time we saw Hot Water Music in 2018, the highly capable Chris Cresswell of The Flatliners fame would be stepping up to fill Wollard’s shoes. It can’t be an easy task to temporarily replace a founding member of a legendary band such as Hot Water Music, particularly when that person is also one of the band’s lead vocalists but Cresswell does an outstanding job. This being a Caution album show meant, of course, that Hot Water Music’s set opened with a double whammy of Remedy and Trusty Chords – quite possibly two of the band’s biggest hits from their whole back catalogue, never mind of the album itself. Playing big hitters so early on in a set is a sure fire way to get the energy levels of the crowd up from the outset and the energy didn’t relent as the band tore through the remaining ten songs of Caution – Alright For Now and Wayfarer being notable highlights for me. I was half expecting Hot Water Music to exit the stage when they’d played the entirety of Caution before returning for an encore consisting of a handful of other songs but, instead, they stayed put to play nine songs from other releases in their 25 year back catalogue. With songs ranging from Shake Up The Shadows from this year’s EP of the same name to Turnstile from their 1997 album, Fuel For The Hate Game, there was something for new and old fans alike – and we even got to hear a song from No Division. Judging by the crowd at The Underworld on Sunday night, Hot Water Music are adored more so now than ever and I hope that they are still here for many years to come.

This gig review was written by Emma Prew. (Photos also by Emma.)

Thursday, 21 November 2019

Top Tens: Ten Bands To See At Book Yer Ane Fest XIII

It's not very long to go now before Scotland's best festival Book Yer Ane Fest returns for its thirteenth edition. The three day festival is put together by the wonderful folk from Make-That-A-Take Records and takes place at Conroy's Basement and new vegan establishment Rad Apples in Dundee. The festival is a three day celebration of DIY culture and supports organisations Addaction, Royal Life Saving Society, Dundee Women's Aid, Dundee Foodbank, Dundee Refugee Support and LGBT Youth Scotland.

Something I always enjoy about the festival is that it offers the chance for us to see some bands that are new to us completely or are bands that don't very often find their way to England. I've taken the time to check out a few of the acts playing the festival and written a top ten list. I've avoided including bands such as Uniforms, Tragical History Tour, Goodbye Blue Monday, The Kimberly Steaks and The Murderburgers, who are playing their last gig at the festival, as they're a bit obvious and everyone reading this will know how good all those acts are. Instead I've picked ten bands that are new to me, ones I've never seen before or ones that don't come to London.

Dutch punk rock 'n' rollers Batwölf are perhaps better known for their previous band Black Volvo. Continuing on from where Black Volvo left off, Batwölf play heavy rock music with a punk swagger. They're a bit of a throwback but also have a sound that you don't often find in the UK punk rock scene. Listening to 2018's Spare No One EP, I'm looking forward to catching them live. I imagine it will be a lot of fun.

Broken Stories
This Perthshire folk duo offer something a little different to Book Yer Ane Fest. With just an acoustic guitar and a fiddle, Broken Stories craft these mesmerising tunes about life, love and loss. Broken Stories seem to be one of the Scottish scene’s best kept secrets and I'm certain that anyone checking them out for the first time will fall in love with them.

Buffalo Heart
Dundee's Buffalo Heart play sad and gritty emo punk rock music. Normally it's not my go-to genre but the beauty of a festival is being able to check out bands you wouldn't usually. Buffalo Heart could become my new favourite band that I didn't know I needed.

The Dangerfields
The Dangerfields are a thrash punk rock band from Belfast. From what I've heard from them this is going to be a very fast, frantic and energetic set from the band that will get everyone in Conroy's very sweaty. I love a relentless band like this and The Dangerfields are definitely one of the bands I'm most looking forward seeing at Book Yer Ane Fest.

Get It Together
Last time I made my way to Book Yer Ane Fest, I ended up missing Get It Together because of a Mega Bus that wasn't so mega. By all accounts, Get It Together played one of the best sets of that entire weekend and I was gutted to have missed it. Fingers crossed I won't miss another brilliant set from the hardcore band from Central Scotland. 2019's Live Free is one of my favourite hardcore albums of the year.

Getting Away With Treason
Berlin's Getting Away With Treason bring some fast, melodic skate punk to Book Yer Ane Fest. My first impressions listening to them is that they take everything you would expect from a band in the genre – fast technical riffs, pounding drums, soaring vocals, aggressive vocals, intricate fills – and manage to squeeze it all into one song without ever feeling like overkill. This is going to be something to see live.

Misfortune Cookie
Misfortune Cookie formed following the break-up of the much loved Bear Trade. Misfortune Cookie feature Bear Trade minus Greg and with added Helen Chambers. That's a seriously talented band. Their debut LP, Heavy Seas, has been very well received throughout the punk rock community and Book Yer Ane Fest will be my first opportunity to see them live. I'm expecting heartfelt lyrics and big sing-alongs.

Nicola Madill
I feel like I've seen Nicola Madill's name on a number of Make-That-Take Records gig posters and, judging from Madill's Facebook page, it's clear that Deeker thinks very highly of them. Crafting hauntingly beautiful Americana folk music, I assume everyone watching Madill will be absolutely spellbound by their performance.

The Overbites
The Overbites are one of the CPRW teams favourite new bands. Their debut EP, Mince, is so good. I love how varied it is, from fast punk rock, to some ska and even some gypsy punk. I never got to see The Overbites front man Muzzeh's previous band Maxwell's Dead so I'm extra excited to see The Overbites.

Paper Rifles
I've been a big Paper Rifles fan since hearing their early acoustic EP back in 2015. Since then, I've kept a keen eye on Paper Rifles and have taken delight in seeing the project grow and grow. Evolving from a solo acoustic project to a rocking full band effort, I would describe Paper Rifles as the best Scottish band you probably haven't heard of yet. On my last trip to Book Yer Ane Fest, I got to see the acoustic version of Paper Rifles and now I can't wait to see the full band effort.

This top ten was written by Colin Clark.

Wednesday, 20 November 2019

Album Review: Pit Stop Punk Rock by Hateful Monday

Hateful Monday are a skate punk band from Switzerland. I first became a aware of them in 2017 when I reviewed their full length album Unfrightened. Now in their 21st year as a band, Hateful Monday released a new EP in September named Pit Stop Punk Rock.

The EP begins with The Road. Beginning with some fast riffing guitars and some rapid drums, it's clear from out outset how unashamedly skate punk Hateful Monday are. When the band’s lead singer Seb comes in I'm quickly impressed by his vocals. There's passion and melody in every word he sings. You know that he really believes in what he's singing about. On this occasion it's about life as a touring band, absorbing everything you encounter and sharing those brilliant experiences with your friends and family. Basically it's about living life to the fullest because you never know what might happen. Up next is Vault Of No Heaven. This is a slower track about relying on medication to help get you through the dark times that are happening in your life. I enjoyed how they lowered the pace on the song, it helps you connect with the track more. When the chorus hits, particularly the final one which they build up to nicely, they have you itching to sing it at the top of your lungs.

The End Is Near is a song about how we're quickly killing our planet and how we have no-one to blame but ourselves. The tempo is brought back up and there is also some added aggression that wasn't featured in the opening two songs. This is very appropriate given the subject of the track. The chorus feels like a real protest movement moment. I can just imagine a crowd of people screaming "THE END IS NEAR" in unison with the band, making a very powerful statement. The final track, also titled Pit Stop Punk Rock, begins with an audio clip from Talladega Nights: The Ballad of Ricky Bobby where Ricky is told that it's not important to always come first. The song is a gentle acoustic number about living your life as a punk rocker, living life fast but without any general direction. It sounds like a bit of a negative thing but the way in which the song is performed feels as if Seb sings of this life with joy – and so he should.

If you're new to Hateful Monday then this EP is a great place to start before working your way back through their impressive back catalogue. It's reasonably varied and gives you a great idea of what to expect from Hateful Monday. Introspective skate punk.

Stream and download Pit Stop Punk Rock here:

Like Hateful Monday here:

This review was written by Colin Clark.

Tuesday, 19 November 2019

Album Review: Vacation To Helheim by The Palatines

It's my opinion that Texas based act The Palatines are one of the best bands in pop punk at the moment. 2018's Death From Below was one of my favourite albums of the year and their split release this year with fellow Texan's Destroy Orbison was also superb. In September, the three piece released a new six song EP titled Vacation To Helheim. Given how much I enjoyed the previous two Palatines releases, I got around to listening to this disgustingly late. When I did finally listen to it I was even more disgusted with myself as it's really, really good. Perhaps their best release yet. I'll explain why.

Something I loved about The Palatines from the very first time I heard them was the mix of buzzsaw pop punk ala Teenage Bottlerocket and The Copyrights and the vocal styles of Trevor Keith of Face To Face. It works really well. The first song on Vacation To Helheim is titled Too Poor and that wonderful sound is revisited. The song goes back to The Palatines’ school days and talks about being bullied because their families couldn't afford the "right clothes" and didn't fit in. Up next is Hikikomori. After a little Google search, I discovered that Hikikomori is a psychological condition that makes people shut themselves off from society, sometimes for months on end. This is what the song is about. Unsurprisingly from The Palatines, it's fast paced and relentless throughout. What makes this great though is, despite the speed, it's very easy to sing along with due to the short and stabby way the lyrics are delivered and the simple chant of "hikikomori" to finish the song. All I Need starts slowly but gradually gets faster as the song progresses. This works brilliantly in the song that is about going through a break up and wanting a chance to make things right. The song has more of a classic pop punk feel to it with some nice subtle doo-wop harmonies thrown in, adding a little extra level.

You'll Remember Me originally appeared on the split with Destroy Orbison. It's a fast and raucous song about a night out that went terribly wrong. You'll Remember Me definitely falls into the more rambunctious side of the punk rock genre whilst retaining some pop qualities with some infectious hooks and some catchy lyrics. The penultimate song is named To The Cleaners and sees a return back to the buzzsaw pop punk style. You could easily find this song on a Copyrights album. That not only says something about its sound but also its quality. This is as good as any song the Chicago band have written and The Copyrights are a band I hold with the highest regard so that's a big compliment. To The Cleaners is about being at the end of your tether and feeling like it's time to end it all. Lyrically, it's a very sad song but there's an upbeat nature to the song that initially drew me in. There's this great energy and urgency in the way that the song is played that I'm all over. The moment towards the end of the song after they play the chorus and then the song cuts out, making you think it's done, before coming back in is brilliant. I love things like that in songs. The final track is the EP's title track Vacation To Helheim. I wasn't sure where/what Helheim was originally so I, again, made my way to Google. It turns out The Palatines are making a reference to a region in the video game God Of War where Helheim is known as the realm of the dead. It sure doesn't sound like the sort of place I'd like to go on vacation. The song is about death but The Palatines have found a way to make it sound like a lot of fun and I wish I could get the chance to see The Palatine live to get the chance to sing the chorus back at the band. This is a stunning way to finish the EP.

Like I said at the start of this review, The Palatines are one of the best pop punk bands around at the moment. Vacation To Helheim is another brilliant release that I would expect to place quite highly in my, and many other peoples’, end of year lists.

Stream and download Vacation To Helheim here:

Like The Palatines here:

This review was written by Colin Clark.

Monday, 18 November 2019

Album Review: I've Made A Terrible Mistake by Our Souls

Leicester's Our Souls have become a firm favourite of mine since I was sent their debut EP, I Might Drink Myself To Death, at the beginning of the year. Clearly not a band to rest on their laurels, the five piece are already back with their next release – another EP, titled I've Made A Terrible Mistake. I Might Drink Myself To Death was packed full of melodic gruff punk that hooked me straight away. Would I've Made A Terrible Mistake do the same?

The EP opens with To Wound And Wander, Destitute. The track gets the EP off to a blistering start, greeting the listener with some up tempo guitars – immediately getting you pumped up and ready for the vocals to come in. When they do come in, be ready to shout along with a fantastic song about over analysing things and the toll it takes on your mental health. The song really comes alive during the chorus, it's one that will take up a quick residency in your brain and you won't be able to help but sing this to yourself all day long. There's also a great moment during the track where Our Souls deliver a great harmony section that had me salivating at the mouth. The second track, 12312341 showcases the harder side of Our Souls that we haven't heard before. I must admit this took me a little bit of getting used to as I wasn't really expecting it. It's a powerful and aggressive song about being fed up with something and just not caring about it anymore. The song is relentless throughout and will really get you fired up whether it's with a head bang or a full on mosh.

The third track is named Histrionics. Going back to the more melodic style and featuring a delicious bass line in the introduction, this is Our Souls showing the side of themselves that made me fall in love with them in the first place. Fist-in-the-air, sing-alongs and lyrics that look at looking back at the mistakes you've made and continually make, how they affect your life and whether or not you can learn from them. The penultimate song is titled Mental Health. When I read the track listing for I've Made A Terrible Mistake, this song instantly stood out. Mental health is a very big and important topic around a lot of modern punk rock and I'm always keen to hear more songs on the subject. Our Souls sing about the constant battle with your mental health issues. On the track, it's as if they are in conversation with their mind and are basically agreeing to do all the things that you shouldn't do when you're struggling. I really liked this different take on the subject. Last up is Beer Bullet. We were lucky enough to be asked to premiere the video for Beer Bullet on CPRW a few weeks ago, so hopefully you've already heard this track. It's a short hardcore song oozing with venom. I believe the song is about struggling with a drinking problem and finding it hard to quit. It's a short and catchy track that addresses a serious issue.

Our Souls continue to write seriously great songs. If I'm being 100% honest, I definitely prefer the more melodic stuff but the harder stuff is great too. If Our Souls continue to release such great tunes on a regular basis, I'm sure they will have more and more people talking about them.

Stream and download I've Made A Terrible Mistake here:

Like Our Souls here:

This review was written by Colin Clark.

Friday, 15 November 2019

Column: Why We're Doing It Together

By now you've hopefully seen the event I'm helping to put on with my pals Paul from Be Sharp Promotions and Sarah from Shout Louder. The event is titled Do It Together Fest and is taking place at the New Cross Inn in South East London on January 24th and 25th 2020. Buy tickets here – it's going to be smashing.

The big theme for the festival is, of course. Doing It Together. For years, the punk rock scene all around the world has had strong DIY ethos but in recent years I've noticed a change. Things aren't so much about doing it yourself but instead collaborating and "doing it together." We want to celebrate this ethos, hence why we're coming together to attempt to put on one of the best weekends of the year. (It also happens to fall nicely between our birthdays.) In this column, I plan to talk about all the positives in "doing it together."

Pretty much ever since Paul and I became friends, he's told me I should start putting on shows. I've always said no, for two reasons. The first is that there really isn't an audience for the bands I'd like to put on in Bedford. Secondly, it looks like a lot of stress and hard work and my mental health just isn't up for that. However, when Paul and Sarah approached me about putting on a birthday gig I jumped at the opportunity. I'd been wanting to learn what goes into putting on a show properly for ages and this was a great chance to do so. Plus I was getting a chance to have input as to who plays the gig. (And it was a fantastic way to spend my birthday.) Putting on a show with other people, especially people who I know are experienced in doing it, would take away a lot of the stress from me – this was the biggest reason why I jump aboard DITFest.

A big bonus about doing something like this with other people is that you can bounce ideas off each other. Obviously Paul, Sarah and myself are very good friends and aren't afraid to share thoughts and ideas with each other. Being the least experienced of the trio but with a huge willingness to learn, I've had loads of questions about things and the best way to do things. Discussing the best way to do certain things and how we should do things has hopefully helped everything run smoothly.

Between the three of us, we had a lot of ideas for cool things we could include at DITFest to make it stand out from your typical gig. We started with a massive list of bands we'd like. Obviously, time restraints meant we couldn't have all the bands on the list so we worked together on narrowing the list down to fourteen. Fourteen bands seems like quite a lot to organise but with three of us doing it it really made things much easier and it wasn't long before the line up was sorted.

Dividing jobs between the three of us really has made it easier on us all. If one person has seemingly been taking on more than the other two, we've been able to step in and take jobs of each other's hands to stop them piling up and hopefully preventing any unnecessary stress. When it's been needed we've even been able to use other resources to help with jobs that aren't in our own particular skill sets. Thanks for your design help, Emma. I can only imagine how much harder it would be to put together this gig by yourself. I just can't see the fun in it and if it's not fun, what's actually the point?

Something I've really enjoyed about doing DITFest with Sarah and Paul is just having the opportunity to converse with my friends. Often, whilst working on DITFest, the chat has strayed away from what we're working on just moved onto random chat. That's been nice. They're my friends and I like talking to them. Sometimes we get bogged down with things that aren't important and we don't talk to our friends enough. I'm really looking forward to being able to celebrate the birthdays of two of my friends in January. Last year Sarah and Paul put on separate gigs so I could only celebrate with one of them. Them doing a gig together (with me) means that this year I can celebrate with both of them! Doing It Together is better.

I'm super proud of the line up we've put together for DITFest. It's pretty varied, reflecting all of our personal tastes. This means that we're getting some bands that might not be frequent at the New Cross Inn for Be Sharp shows or that there's not as many bands that you might associate with Shout Louder (or Lockjaw Records that Sarah helps to run). This variation will hopefully help the bands play to some different audiences than they may usually and probably gain them some more fans. This is a fantastic thing.

In summary, Doing It Yourself is great but Doing It Together is even better. Come celebrate with us on January 24th and 25th.

This column was written by Colin Clark.

Thursday, 14 November 2019

Top Tens: Top Ten Unreviewed Albums (Part 3)

The amount of fantastic new releases in 2019! We missed so many for full reviews so Colin is working his way back through 2019 and sharing some gems that weren't originally featured on CPRW. This is part three of this series. Feel free to go back and read the other two posts in this series so far.

Mike Vidal – The Diners
Mike Vidal is the lead singer and guitarist of New Jersey punk band Nine Eighteen. This year he decided to swap his electric guitar for an acoustic one to release a solo EP. Recorded by the legendary Pete Steinkopf of The Bouncing Souls, The Diners features four stripped back acoustic punk and folk songs. Mike's gravelly vocal really shines on this superb EP.

Blind Man Death Stare – Comin' In Hot
Melbourne skate punk band Blind Man Death Stare have certainly made a name for themselves in the UK since releasing Comin' In Hot. I criminally overlooked the band when the album was released in March and am extremely pleased I eventually made my way back to it. The Australian skate punk scene really is thriving at the moment and Blind Man Death Stare do a fantastic job of standing out with a more "rough around the edges" sound. I'm excited to see the band back in the UK next year with a set at Manchester Punk Festival in April.

Dan Vapid & The Cheats – Three
Dan Vapid is best known as the guitarist from Chicago pop punk bands Screeching Weasel and The Riverdales, as well as the lead singer of The Methadones. Since 2012 he has also been releasing albums with his band Dan Vapid & The Cheats. This year they released their third album, imaginatively titled Three, and it's another album of Ramonescore pop punk bangers. Vapid has one of my favourite voices in the genre and it's as good as ever here. Three is one of the best power pop albums you'll hear all year. Probably not a big surprise given Vapid's history in the genre.

Versus You – Worn And Loved
Luxembourg's Versus You have been together since 2005 and have been steadily making a name for themselves throughout Eastern Europe. Worn And Loved was my first exposure to the band and I quickly became a fan. Blurring the lines between pop and punk rock, Worn And Loved is full of thoughtful and introspective songs by a band that are now masters of their craft. The album also includes a great cover of Straight Into Darkness by Tom Petty And The Heartbreakers.

Madaline – "It Is What It Is"
There have been some great ska punk albums released in the United States this year and one of my favourites as been "It Is What It Is" by Madaline. The North Texas seven piece play an energetic brand of third wave with superb dual vocals and some frantic brass lines. There's not a song on the album that will fail to get you dancing and it's always great to hear more and more fantastic underground ska bands from the States.

Patch Kid – Guts
Patch Kid are an indie punk/math rock three piece from Brooklyn, New York. The four song EP Guts is a refreshing take on the indie punk sound. On Guts, Patch Kid have produced a varied EP that showcases a variety of styles but also remains firmly Patch Kid. By that I mean that despite playing some different styles, you'll know instantly it's Patch Kid. This says a lot about the songwriting ability of the band.

Blind Adam & The Federal League – Mansions On The Boulevard
A-F Records always put out top quality releases so I don't know how I managed to miss Mansions On The Boulevard by Blind Adam & The Federal League. Combining punk rock with a little bit of country, I quickly fell in love with the three songs on this release. The Chicago based band play that fists-in-the-air style that so many of us love these days. I love the everyman quality to the songs. It feels like music by the people, for the people. This is how punk rock should be.

Thurman – A Day Called X
Thurman are a powerful emotional punk rock trio from Portland, Oregon. A Day Called X wasn't an EP that grabbed me immediately, as sonically it's not really my go to genre, but the more I listened to it the more it grew on me. Featuring big guitars, pounding drums and vocals that vary from indie pop to emo howling, Thurman do a wonderful job in keeping you on your toes throughout the EP. I imagine Thurman are absolutely fantastic to see live.

Nightmarathons – Missing Parts
I had every intention of reviewing Missing Parts by Nightmarathons when it was released in March but sadly never got around to it. I've felt bad about this all year because Missing Parts is a stunning album. All eleven songs are big bangers and always get me pumped whenever I listen. The Pittsburgh four piece play up tempo gruff punk with brilliant gang vocals and harmonies (my favourite thing about all songs) that needs to be shouted along to. Missing Parts is truly one of the best albums of the year. Hopefully nobody reading this overlooked it like I did.

The Muslims – Mayo Supreme
Mayo Supreme by The Muslims could be one of the most important punk albums to be released in 2019. It's a striking album as the band spread their political and social message by merging classic punk rock and afropunk along with elements of hardcore and rap rock. The album is relentless and I'm surprised that it didn't explode in the scene in the same way that G.L.O.S.S. did a couple of years ago. If you haven't listened to Mayo Supreme yet then I implore you to do so, not just for the music but for the message and content within.

This top ten was written by Colin Clark.

Wednesday, 13 November 2019

Album Review: Deluded Grandeur by Gareth James

It's not very often that we review two releases from the same artist in the same year. It's not that often that an artist would do two separate releases in the same year. Second In Line's Gareth James has done just that though so we are reviewing it. On the heels of his debut acoustic EP Just Lately comes Deluded Grandeur. We enjoyed Just Lately so expected good things from Deluded Grandeur. Let's check it out.

The first of the three songs on the EP is named Feed The Greed, Nah! Eat The Rich. What struck me immediately was the urgency that comes from Gareth's acoustic guitar. It hooked me in and made me very keen to see how the song progressed. The gravelly tones in Gareth's vocals are right up my street, they sound impassioned and make me believe he really cares about what he's singing about. With its upbeat, pacey melody and big chorus, this is exactly how I enjoy my acoustic punk. I would imagine that the second track, Deluded Grandeur #23, is a very special one for Gareth. This is because his son Jack appears to provide some back vocals. This is a less urgent, softer track that questions why we procrastinate on things and don't just get things done. The highlight is, of course, the chorus where Jack joins Gareth to provide some sweet harmonies. The third and final song is named There For You. The opening of the song is massive, with Gareth's vocals really shining over the quiet guitar. Live, this is likely to get some attention from those annoying folks making a lot of noise at the bar. This whole song is just crying out for a massive sing-along, the way Gareth sings as well as the massive hooks spread throughout the song, is just screaming "sing this with me now!" The best choice to finish the EP.

Deluded Grandeur again showcases the more thoughtful and softer side of Gareth James – not something you often get to witness with Second In Line. Clearly a talented songwriter and musician, I'm really enjoying this acoustic side project he is throwing himself into.

Stream and download Deluded Grandeur here:

Like Gareth James here:

This review was written by Colin Clark.

Tuesday, 12 November 2019

Album Review: Get It Together by MakeWar

One of the biggest pleasures I've had in punk rock in the last few years is watching the growth and progression of New York's MakeWar. I first discovered them when they were booked to play Book Yer Ane Fest in Dundee in 2016. I fell in love with their debut album self-titled album. I loved the emotion and honesty in the songwriting as well as the big hooks and sing-along choruses. Unfortunately, I missed their set at the festival due to a Mega Bus and a traffic jam. The following year, they released the excellent Developing A Theory Of Integrity on Red Scare Industries and I got to see them play a packed out show at The Fest In Gainesville as well as a show to about seven people in London. This month the trio released their third album, this time on Fat Wreck Chords, titled Get It Together. The couple of singles they released before the album came out really wet my appetite for the album and I couldn't wait for its release date.

Moving to Fat Wreck Chords will surely put a lot more eyes onto MakeWar so this opening track had to serve as a great introduction as to what the band are all about. Hopeless Dreamer not only does this but really leaves you wanting more. (It’s a good thing there's another ten songs following this!).The track actually starts pretty quietly with the volume and tempo of the song gradually building as the song progresses. Much like Developing A Theory Of Integrity, just from this opening track it's clear that Get It Together is going to be full of massive sing-alongs. Up next is My Bones which is a song about dealing with your anxiety issues. From the start there is such a big feeling to the song with an explosive beginning that hits you with a jolt. MakeWar lead singer Jose is a fantastic storytelling songwriter, making it seem as if he's having a private conversation with you. This really helps make you feel involved with the song and lets you feel what he going through in the song. It also makes it very relatable for anyone who is going through similar things. No Excuses is perhaps the heaviest sounding song MakeWar have released so far, actually drawing comparisons to Rise Against. The heavier sound goes along with the angry tone of the song. It's about all of the absolutely terrible behaviours directed at minorities. It's ridiculous that in 2019 songs like this are still being written as people STILL can't see past differences that don't matter in the slightest. The lines "now we fight about the differences, that some of us just carry, in our blood and in our genes and the place my mom was born, retired men are freaking out with all these kids, that are coming out, leave them alone! and continue living your boring reality, they are superstars, and you are nothing!" were really powerful.

After the ferocity of No Excuses, the next track Squeeze slows things down somewhat. It starts softly before gradually moving into a grunge sound that was quite unexpected but very well done by MakeWar. Going back to the topic of mental health, Squeeze tackles the subject of dealing with a panic attack and how it often feels like you're going round in circles. Like I said before, this grungey sound was unexpected but it gives it a moody tone that I thought worked exceptionally well for the subject of the song. It's also great to hear MakeWar trying new things on their third album. No Más is another song that sees MakeWar doing things a little differently. Showing off a bit of the band’s latino heritage – Jose is from Venezuela and bass player Edwin is from Colombia – the verses on the song are sung in Spanish and the choruses in English. This is a great tool in the getting the track’s message across. Translated into English, No Más means No More. The song is about being different, not sticking to what's expected and clichés. On my first listen of Get It Together, one of the stand out songs was American Futbol. The song is about breaking down borders and not putting up walls and working together with everyone. It seems a pretty simple concept when you think about it (oh the world, what are you doing!). There's a line that sums up the message of the song perfectly – "we are all in this together, on this tiny marble, made out of dirt and water." The song also talks about how the politicians and government use things like border issues to distract from the real issues such as global warming and distribution of wealth. This is a track that really makes you think about the world and what's really important. Sails was one of the songs that was released in the lead up to Get It Together. This mid tempo track oozes with emotion. It's kind of ballady as the band sing a song about travelling to a new place and looking to make a better life for yourselves. I can see why this track was picked as one of the singles as it's more accessible for new listeners of MakeWar, it's a bit poppier than many of the other songs and has some great hooks.

The eighth song, Inmunda Realidad, is completely in Spanish. The track’s title translates as Unclean Reality and the song is about the racist abuse immigrants receive in America (and sadly I'm sure in many other parts of the world) when all they want is to live their lives happily and safely. This is a heavier sounding MakeWar song with some chunky bass parts. It sees the band taking steps into the melodic skate punk genre, something that would really attract fans of the traditional Fat Wreck Chords sound. Oh, Brother is another track that the band released in the build up to Get It Together and boy did this song get folk excited for what was to come. It's an autobiographical song as Jose sings about discovering punk and it becoming the most important thing in your life, then getting stuck in a life you hate because you feel like it's the right thing to do, before eventually realising what you should be doing with your life. It's an inspiring song, particularly the final verse as Jose sings "I want you to follow, what makes you feel different, I want you to struggle, pay your dues, get blisters, I want you to dream big, bigger than I ever did, I want you to fight for it, against the odds, I want you to fall in love again, against the rules, I want you to lose your voice too, screaming your heart out! Sing your heart out!" The penultimate song is titled Hands On The Tyrant. This is a song about learning all you can about a political situation in another country from somebody who has lived there before making judgement and getting involved. This track really did make me think about my approach to foreign politics and how I have very little knowledge on what's going on in many parts of the world. Last up is the album’s title track, Get It Together. The song is about living in the moment and not spending all of your time glued to your phone. Take the time to be nice to people, help and support your friends and the things you care about. We're all guilty of spending too much time staring at nothing on our phones and we could all improve ourselves if we did this less. A great, positive and inspiring way to end the album.

MakeWar are continuing to get better and better with every album they release. On Get It Together, MakeWar tackle a variety of different issues in the world – whether it be mental health, politics or just growing up and have made an album that will be relatable in some aspect for everyone. They have thrown in a few different styles to their sound but still sound very much like MakeWar. I'm sure this is, in part, due to Jose's distinctive gravelly vocal. If you're new to the band, Get It Together is a great place to start before going back through their discography. If you're a long time MakeWar fan, Get It Together is another great step on the band’s continuing journey. I hope it doesn't end any time soon!

Stream and download Get It Together here:

Like MakeWar here:

This review was written by Colin Clark.

Monday, 11 November 2019

Album Review: Uncle Dan by Uncle Dan (by Emma Prew)

Uncle Dan are a five-piece band from Philadelphia, Pennsylvania, playing a brand of punk rock that they call ‘Drunk Punk’. At the end of October they released a new five-track self-titled EP which caught my attention on Bandcamp.

The EP kicks off with Wasted, Too and a distinct drum roll type introduction. When the vocals come in they are are pretty gruff and rough around the edges which works well alongside the fuzzy guitars. It’s certainly not a polished sound but that is fine by my. I have to say, I was not expecting the trumpet that comes into play about halfway through the song and lead into a chunky bass line before the vocalist screams ‘I just wanna go back’ over and over again. Wasted, Too is a nostalgic and reflective song and a fine opening to the record. The macabre titled My BFF Death is up next. Despite beginning gently and slowly, you can tell that Uncle Dan are about to explode with this song. When the song does kick off properly, it’s fast paced and ferocious as the band sing ‘I wanna burn, wanna burn, Wanna melt into a puddle, You can turn me to stone, And smash me into rubble’. With lyrics about wanting to die and death being ‘a friend of mine’, it’s certainly not the most optimistic of songs but it does seem like it’s pretty cathartic for the band to sing and play.

I loved the opening of third track, Parking Lot Seagulls. Gang vocals accompanied by drums is definitely a great way to grab the attention of your listener. If I didn’t have the lyrics in front of me (thank you, Bandcamp) I’d probably struggle to understand exactly what is being sung as it’s so fast. As if to deliver its message home, the first verse is repeated twice – ‘Empty bellies, empty pockets, Yeah, we're hungry and broke, And we're barely making money, We're just staying afloat, Take a drag and make it last, ’Cause its our last pack of smokes, Yeah, whatever man I'll see you at the show.’ The musical delivery is a bit garage punk in style, perhaps not too dissimilar to The Hives but much more raw and DIY – and that’s what this song is about, being in a DIY punk band. Probably the highlight of the EP for me – it even features a heavily distorted guitar solo.

Humble Abode has a seemingly slow start but both the volume and pace soon pick up. You may be able to guess from the song’s title but Humble Abode is about welcoming someone into your home to drink beer and order in food. What I didn’t expect from the song however was a section of the lyrics to be in Spanish. Uncle Dan are full of surprises on this EP and, as if to cement that theory, they bring back the trumpet and proceed to play a sort of mariachi meets almost metal section at the end of the song. It’s pretty bizarre but I also really like it. The final song of the EP is called A Feathered Friend (A Living Dinosaur). Like Humble Abode, this song also has a slow start but this time the slower pace continues through the first verse. The pace picks up for the chorus where the vocals verge on screaming before slowing down again for the second verse. The contrast works really well and add plenty of emotional impact to the song. If I’m interpreting the lyrics correctly, A Feathered Friend is not so much about a feathered friend as it is about a woman who feels caged like a bird. It’s a pretty angry song and ends the EP with a bang.

Uncle Dan was another great little Bandcamp discovery for us here at CPRW and, if you like your punk rock a little raw, you should definitely check them out too.

You can stream and download the EP on Bandcamp here and like Uncle Dan on Facebook here.

This review was written by Emma Prew.