Thursday, 28 February 2019

News: Be Sharp Promotions Have Been At It Again!

It's been another really busy week for Be Sharp Promotions with six big announcements. Continuing their tenth anniversary celebrations this week they've announced some of the biggset names in punk and ska. Check out these mad gigs!

Kris Roe of The Ataris 8/4/19 -

New Town Kings & Monkey 15/6/19 -

Red City Radio 21/6/19 -

The Dopamines & The Raging Nathans 26/7/19 -

Poison Idea's Last London Show with Incisions -

Teenage Bottlerocket 6/8/19 -

Be sure to like Be Sharp Promotions on Facebook here to keep updated with these gigs and plenty more!

Top Tens: Joe Guiton of Boom! Civil War's Top Ten Punk Rock Influences

So here is my list. It was hard. I could have done a top 500 but it probably would’ve taken me 5 years to write.

NOFX – Punk In Drublic
Before punk, I was a huge metal head. Like, a massive one. It was all about Slayer, Fear Factory, Metallica and Machine Head. Angry white dudes screaming about nonsense while playing fast aggressive music. One day I was at school rehearsing with my metal band “Border Line” ( I know, right? Just screams metal from the suburbs doesn’t it?) and a friend gave me a CD to listen to. He was like “This is funny shit. Listen to it.” The CD itself was NOFX’s first live album “I Heard They Suck Live”. After listening to it I realised that it was fast. It was aggressive. But it was also funny and melodic – something that was severely lacking from the stuff that I was listening to at the time. After that, I was determined to hear more. I found a copy of their most recent record “Punk In Drublic” at a discount record store for $5 and bought it. I took it home and instantly fell in love with it. From the first guitar riff to the last it was perfect. I pretty much stopped listening to metal and became obsessed with everything to do with punk. I cut my hair short and never looked back.

No Use For A Name – Leche Con Carne
After my enlightening to punk rock, I sought out more and more of it. It wasn’t as easy to get records back then as it is now. You really had to search for them. There was a record store where I lived called “Sight and Sound”. It was a normal record store with all the top 40 crap in the world but in the back corner they had a punk section. It wasn’t massive but it was something. I’d heard that Fat Mike from NOFX had a record label called Fat Records, so I just started buying every record with a Fat or Epitaph logo on it. Smash by The Offspring, …And Out Come the Wolves by Rancid were some of the classics that I had come across but none matched Leche Con Carne. I remember going in there one day with $20 and seeing the cover and not thinking twice about it. It was probably the first time I heard a punk rock band talk about serious shit. They sung about domestic abuse, war and they even had a song about David Koresh and the Waco Siege. It was almost a spiritual experience hearing it for the first time. I followed No Use For A Name for almost their entire career and it really hit me hard when the news broke that Tony Sly had passed away. I didn’t care about Princess Diana, George Harrison or Michael Jackson. Tony Sly was more important to me than any of them. I still listen to his music on a daily basis and, if I could, I’d thank him for that.

Lagwagon – Double Plaidinum
I’ve heard people say that this is the weakest Lagwagon album. I guess it all comes down to what you hear first and what sticks with you. Back then, all Fat Records CDs came with a small booklet of their entire catalogue so this was the first CD I ordered from Fat Records. I’d bought Screw 32’s Under the Influence of Bad People – not the best record, but the song “Misunderstood” is a killer track. I read through the booklet and ordered “Double Plaidinum” over “Hoss” because for some reason I liked the cover better. So, this was my first introduction to a band that I have loved ever since. I love the way Joey Cape writes his songs. There is certain selfishness about them that a lot of musicians don’t have. I have conversations with people that have said they don’t listen to him because they can’t understand what he is writing about, but it never bothered me. Music is for you. It’s up to others to try and figure it out and it’s never a reason to not listen.

Crettins Puddle – Self Titled
After I had pretty much bought every Fat Records and Epitaph release, I wanted to check out some Aussie punk stuff. I wanted to play in a punk band. I loved the American stuff but, other than Frenzal Rhomb and The Living End, I hadn’t really discovered any Australian punk. A friend of mine lent me this record and I instantly fell in love with it. It’s pure pop punk that used phases and flangers on their guitars giving it a cool spacey vibe. It was also the first release that had songs that went for over 4 minutes, which I thought was awesome. Punks have never been the calmest or had the best attention spans, but Crettins Puddle were able to keep them happy with their songs. My friends and I used to go to underage shows all the time, one of those times was seeing Crettins Puddle at the Tote in Melbourne. They blew my mind. It was the fastest I’d seen a drummer play back then and to top it off they had also introduced a TB 303 into the sound. It was so incredibly weird and wonderful. TB 303s are usually used by acid heads making techno… These guys were acid head punks that had somehow blended the two together. Of course, they broke up and only released one and half EPs. One day I was searching Russian torrent sites for music and came across this record. I was fucking stoked!

Nirvana – Nevermind
I know I know. Predictable. I’m 100% sure this was the first ever punk record I ever heard. People call it grunge because MTV needed a new name to market punk rock. There are grunge bands. But I truly believe that Nirvana weren’t one of them. It’s a fucking punk rock masterpiece. It’s perfect. One of my favourite things to do is ask people what their favourite Nirvana record is. A lot of people try and be cool by saying Bleach or In Utero. Then the fun begins. No matter how good those records are, there is no fucking way that people would be interested in them without Never Mind. The only reason they prefer those albums is that they probably played their copy of Never Mind so much that it embedded in their brains. Just you wait until people my age start having memory loss or alzheimer's. They won’t be able to remember their names but I guarantee that they’ll still remember the words to Territorial Pissings.

Strung Out – Element Of Sonic Defiance
It’s the perfect EP. What I loved most about this record is that it completely changed their sound. The contrast between this and “Twisted By Design” is so massive. It’s worth noting that it’s the first record they wrote after Jim Cherry had passed away and their first with current bass player Chris Aiken so maybe that has something to do with it. But all I know is that it’s the perfect EP.
Frank Turner – Love, Ire and Song
Coming across Frank Turner pretty much saved music for me. At the time I was in the middle of an extreme writer’s block. Nothing I wrote down was worth anything. When a musician can’t write they get down, depressed and generally sad. I was drinking a lot and on more than one occasion found myself blind drunk with no way to get home. I used to walk home from everywhere because the ride I’d been offered didn’t want to wait around until I’d drunk the bar dry or I’d just simply drunk all my money away not caring how I got home. My sister Amelia, ten years my junior and an incredible singer in her own right, told me to listen to this English guy. A folk singer by the name of Frank Turner. She had always said his lyrics were some of the most honest writing she’d ever heard and she thought I could benefit from that. I remember getting wasted at some bar and chucking my headphones on and giving him a shot. I’d never really cared about acoustic music before that but it spoke to me. His lyrics were hopeful, sad and uncomfortably honest and I loved everything about it. I got home and just started writing honesty on a page. Since then I’ve never held back. Frank Turner taught me how to do that.
Wu Tang Clan –  Enter The Wu Tang (36 Chambers)
OK OK… So, not punk. But I’ve always thought that people who write lyrics should listen to heaps of styles of music. Listening to hip hop and rap, and this album especially, helped me with vocal melodies and rhythms. They don’t follow the chords like most punk melodies do. They follow the beat and feed off one another’s verses. So yeah… That and it’s fucking sick.

Frenzal Rhomb – Not So Tough Now
I remember seeing these guys at a festival called “Pushover” in 1996 or something. It was fucking hot, like 37 degrees in a shed near the Port Melbourne pier. They were like the third band up and I remember seeing this crusty hippie with dreads walk out on stage. I was like “what the fuck is this shit?”. I kid you not, I went straight to the merch tent and bought their CD as soon as their set had finished. I listened to it soooo much. The song Disappointment is awesome. They have more popular albums out but this is easily their best and anyone who disagrees is just a moron.

Bad Religion – Empire Strikes First
Want to know my most shameful secret? Up until I was 25, I couldn’t stand Bad Religion. Our local record store JB HI FI were having a sale on punk records and I worked there for a small amount of time during that time so I was able to use my staff discount to get them even cheaper than they were. I think the sale was 3 albums for $15 or something but my discount brought it down to $8.75 or something like that. I’d basically bought every CD in the shop. The only ones I didn’t touch were Hawthorne Heights, Story Of The Year and all that emo/metalcore garbage and Bad Religion. So I caved and bought their latest. For some reason I put it on when I got home and it just clicked. I became a fucking walking BR advertisement. I bought every album, every bit of merch I could find. It’s not their best record by far (Suffer or No Control, I’ll never figure it out) but it’s the one that sticks with me.

Look, let’s be honest, I could have written a top 500 but it would have taken me 5 years to get around to it. Here’s the list that almost made it. Now I think of it, it’s a far better list… Maybe next time:

Descendents – Everything Sucks
Propagandhi – Today’s Empires Tomorrow’s Ashes
Rancid – …And Out Come The Wolves
Green Day – Dookie
The Offspring – Smash
Adolescents – Adolescents
The Flatliners – Cavalcade
NOFX – So Long And Thanks For All The Shoes
The Beastie Boys – Ill Communication
Black Flag - Damaged

Like Boom! Civil War on Facebook and check out their debut EP on Bandcamp.

Wednesday, 27 February 2019

Album Review: I Might Drink Myself To Death by Our Souls

Our Souls are a new band on the scene featuring previous members of old bands you've never heard of. I doubt at this point you have actually heard of Our Souls given that at the time of writing they only have 47 likes on Facebook. This is exactly the type of band I love though. Insanely good and a very well kept secret. In November 2018, the five piece released their debut EP which is titled I Might Drink Myself To Death. This was love on first listen for me. Energetic melodic gruff punk – something that is very far up my street.

I Might Drink Myself To Death starts with the song 45. Beginning with some fantastic duelling guitars alongside a rapid drum beat, things really get off to quite a start. It's not even a long intro but there's something about that opening that had me itching with anticipation to sing those opening lines of "a rare ray of light, renewed hope? oh I don't think so." The tempo is exactly how I love this style of punk rock to be and this opening has me so excited to hear the rest of the EP. The second song is named This Is In G, This Is For The Hustlas. It's a song dedicated to those people stuck in limbo in their lives, not knowing which way to turn and longing to do something productive. The energy from the first song carries over to this one and is just a song that needs a great big sing-along. The chorus is one of my favourites I've heard in a long time with the use of gang vocals really making it sound massive. The words "I tried writing, I tried booze, I tried running, it was no use, I did needy, failed at aloof, I keep talking, it's no use, I keep thinking it's no use" quickly wormed their way into my head and my heart.

Another Five Days sees the more ferocious side of the Our Souls sound. It's verging on a hardcore track and I love it. It's about being sick of your job and longing for the weekend. I loved the line at the end of each chorus where lead singer Ian shouts "I don't wanna spend my whole life making someone else's wealth." Of course, with this angrier side of Our Souls, the energy goes through the roof! The penultimate song Gundrug shows Our Souls showcasing a less is more style. It's a forty-three second song where the band go off like a race car as they blast through a song about America's ridiculous gun laws. In the song, the band plead with America to just give up their guns and liken the need to have one to an addiction. I particularly enjoyed the lyric "because a gun for fun is for a fucking moron." I Might Drink Myself To Death is finished with Post-Funny. After such a short song, we're now treated to a four minute track that showcases a slower and more melodic side of Our Souls. This slower style gives the song a bit of a story time feel that gets you engrossed in the track. The song does a great job in doing that thing that I think all final tracks on albums and EPs should do – sound absolutely massive. The song builds brilliantly towards the end but instead of exploding for the finale it then begins to fade out which I thought was a great way to finish things up.

I was so excited by this EP that I quickly shared it with the CPRW team as well as Sarah Shout Louder and Paul Be Sharp. It's a superb debut that had me seriously hyped from start to finish. There's not much I love more than when a band appears as if from nowhere and delivers something so brilliant. Go and check out Our Souls and jump on board so you can be that smug so and so who can say "I was a fan from the start" when they begin to explode. They will explode.

Stream and download I Might Drink Myself To Death:

Like Our Souls here:

This review was written by Colin Clark.

Tuesday, 26 February 2019

Album Review: Aced Out by The Overjoyed

I first heard of The Overjoyed after seeing them advertised as headliner for a pop punk all-dayer at the New Cross Inn in 2017. I didn't actually know them at the time but the rest of the line-up was incredible and that's what made us go along. I found myself very impressed with the Greek four piece though. In January this year, the band released a brand new album – their second full length titled Aced Out. Having been so impressed with them previously and knowing how highly thought of the band are among many of my friends, I was keen to check it out.

The album begins with Big Red Rocket Ship. Beginning with a pounding drum beat and a short stabby vocal style, the opening of Aced Out hits with you quite a punch. The energy on this first track really got me pumped up for the whole album. It's fast paced buzzsaw pop punk that quickly had me wanting to lose my mind in a pit but I had to settle for having a bit of a head bang in my living room. Up next is the title track, Aced Out. Starting out with The Overjoyed's lead singer Leo slowly singing the chorus before bassist Thanos does his best Matt Freeman impression and off we go with a fast and melodic punk track about being the first to go your own way despite potentially letting people down. I really enjoyed the section of the song when things get really slowed down, with a style that is kind of like chanting but with only Leo singing – that will make more sense when you listen to the song. This section eventually picks up some speed and leads into a crazy finish.

#Beach is the title of the third song. This fast paced track has an upbeat and cheery sound but is actually about struggling with some mental health problems and avoiding going out and seeing your friends. The Overjoyed do that wonderful thing of having a 90s era pop punk sound but modernising it to give it a fresh feel. The fourth song on Aced Up is She Has Everything. This is a slower paced track but is catchy as hell. The slower tempo gives the song more emotion and I found myself hanging on every word that Leo sang as he tells a tale of finding yourself in a relationship with someone who is motivated to the point of being unrealistic with what they want and what you have will never be enough. The harmonies during the chorus were a big highlight in the song for me, as was the nod to Rancid in the lyric "and let's sing our hearts out to, ...And Out Come The Wolves, playing on the stereo." The Overjoyed released the fifth track Strays On A Leash as a single in December. Continuing with the nods to punk rock legends, on the third line of the song Leo sings out "Drublicly punk" – obviously a little tip of the cap to NOFX. The track is about going to the punk show with your best friends after a hard week and leaving all your problems at the door. The song talks about how all the people who might seem like misfits can find their home at the punk rock show.

The second half of Aced Out begins with the song Broken Trampoline. This song shows off the skate punk side of The Overjoyed's sound, starting out with some super fast guitars and a fantastic drum beat that really drives the song forward. When the vocals come in, it sounds as if Leo is straining which gives even more urgency to the track. The song is littered with some very subtle "aaaah" harmonies that give the song a bigger sound. Broken Trampoline is about being prepared to take risks and fall down with your friends so they're not alone. Up next is the reggae pop punk track Something's Undone. This is one of my favourite songs on the album. I loved the reggae style that opened the song, giving the album a bit of a shake up before launching into a superbly catchy punk song. The chorus is such a highlight and I can already imagine a big crowd singing the lines "something's undone, where does it come from?, it's no more fun, being in denial, go on and kill those fucking lights, it's now or never, something is undone call it a night, it's now or never" back at the band. I also enjoyed how the band chose to bookend the song by going back to the short reggae section to finish the song.

The eighth song on the album is named Defanged. I really enjoyed the beginning part of the song, reminding of some old school rock 'n' roll but done in a punked up fashion. Kind of like The Kings Of Nuthin' or more recently The Bar Stool Preachers. This soon moves into a straight forward skate punk style that gives the overall Overjoyed sound more of a mature sound. The penultimate song is titled Ode To 3.5mm Minijack which is an instrumental track. I must admit I did find it a bit odd to have an instrumental song as the second to last song on Aced Out but it's a fine piece of music that does lead very nicely into the final song, Is Unresponsive. Wasting no time in getting started, The Overjoyed are joined by a gentleman by the name of Orfeas P on this track. This is the hardest hitting song on the album with Orfeas providing a much harsher vocal to give the track a sharper edge. There are times on the track where it had me thinking of a Billy Talent song my friend used to play me. The song is about how the overuse of social media can have an effect on you mentally if you see everyone else seemingly having a better time that you. This song is a stunning way to finish a superb album.

I was expecting some really good things from Aced Out but I was well and truly blown away. This is the first full length album from 2019 I have reviewed and it has set the standard really high for anyone else releasing full lengths this year.

Stream and download Aced Out here:

Like The Overjoyed here:

This review was written by Colin Clark.

Monday, 25 February 2019

Album Review: On The Lamb by Amber Lamps

Amber Lamps are a three piece pop pun band from New York. Consisting of Brian Greene (guitar/ lead vocals), Eddie James (bass/vocals) and Jenna Noe (drums/vocals), Amber Lamps formed in 2009 as a one-off high-school graduation party cover band but have since evolved into a pop punk power trio. Back in September 2018 (yup, very late to the party), Amber Lamps released a new six track EP named On The Lamb, following up their extremely well received debut Plaidypuss. I may have been late but I was definitely looking forward to checking out On The Lamb.

On The Lamb begins with the song Wanderlust. It's a repetitive and catchy pop punk track with sugary sweet vocals underlined by some frantic buzzsaw guitar. The short snappy way that the vocals are delivered give the song that extra bit of punch and attitude that helps the track to stand out more. It's about not understanding why people want to spend their lives travelling far and wide when sometimes the creature comforts of home are all that you need. Catastrophe took me a little by surprise. The song begins in a very bass heavy fashion and the whole track has more of an alternative rock feel to it. This was quite the switch from the previous pop punk song and I have to admit it took me a little time to really get on board. It's a bit of a slower plodder that lacked a bit in energy but it's one hell of an ear worm and took no time at all to get stuck in my head. The song is about trying to pick up a girl but coming across as a mess. I'm sure that's happened to most of us.

The third track is named Trophy Beer. It's another hard rocking track but this time it really catches you immediately. Everything about the song feels harder and sharper. The end of each line feels as if it has an exclamation point that really puts more ummph into the song. I was super impressed with Greene's vocals during the song, he shows off quite a range. On This Just In, Amber Lamps combine the alternative rock with the buzzsaw pop punk to make the best song on On The Lamb. The tempo is upped and the guitars and drums go off at a Usain Bolt like pace while Greene does a great job keeping up with his vocals. I really loved the energy that spills out of this song. It's one of those tracks that's impossible to stay still to whilst listening. This Just In is about how the media will show you news items that are meant to give them more ratings and views for more money rather than doing honest and fair journalism.

The penultimate song, Sola Catuli, is another that took me by surprise. It's a soft and tender acoustic song that came out of nowhere. It's a sad, sombre song about dealing with a break up when you know you're the reason things ended. This big contrast in styles did feel slightly out of place in this position on the EP but I guess they wanted to end things on a high. They certainly do that on Hindered Spirits. Going back to a more pop punk style but with a huge sound, Hindered Spirits feels like a song you'd find on an American teen movie soundtrack. It shows off some superb musical ability as the band charge through a song that's actually four minutes in length but certainly doesn't feel like it. There are some delightful harmonies littered throughout the song, some really subtle and some that are clear. They all sound great and add that little something extra to make the track a bit more special.

On The Lamb was a much more varied EP that I was initially expecting. It's a definitely a grower that, if you give it time to, will become a big favourite.

Stream and download On The Lamb here:

Like Amber Lamps here:

This review was written by Colin Clark.

Friday, 22 February 2019

CPRW Playlist: February 2019

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

Thursday, 21 February 2019

Top Tens: Our Souls’ Top Ten Punk Rock Influences


1. Bob Mould

So this is a weird one. Weird because Bob's influence started before I even heard any of his music.

I got my first guitar aged 11. I didn't take lessons. For the first couple of years the handful of people I knew who also 'played' guitar were into guitarist guitarists – Slash, Steve Vai, whoever was in the Red Hot Chili Peppers that week. I could hear they were all good musicians, but fuck… fret wanking bored me. I liked Green Day. I liked Nirvana. I liked songwriting. A friend of mine had one of those monthly guitar magazines – Total Guitar or something. I didn't care for them. But, this one issue had a piece on Hüsker Dü. I read it because Billie Joe Armstrong once said (something on the lines of), 'Hüsker Dü, the Replacements and weed were the 3 biggest influences on Green Day.' In this article it said Hüsker Dü sounded like a 4 piece even though there were 3 members in the band. It explained it was down to Bob's playing style. Hold a root note and move the other fingers around. Instead of going out and getting a Hüsker Dü album, I just started playing this way – no idea if it was right, or even similar, but it started to sound okay. I stuck with it and still have a hard time explaining songs to other people in the band.

When I finally heard something Bob played on, it still wasn't Hüsker Dü – 'Copper Blue' by Sugar instead. Now one of my all time favourite records. Bob's output during the 2010s has been absolutely fantastic in my opinion too.

2. John K Samson
You know how some bands hit upon something a little bit different, something maybe not unique – we all have to use F, C and G after all – but something exciting, a style unheard of before, Mogwai, Jawbreaker and Leatherface for example. They then spawn a whole host of copycat bands? It's by no means a bad thing.

I've been guilty of trying to write a Jawbreaker style song. A Hot Water Music/Iron Chic type chorus. With JKS the influence isn't trying to write in his vein. I simply couldn't. I couldn't do it justice. I'm not that good. He is THAT unique. JKS's influence is more about aiming to write the best words I can. Telling a story. Making the mundane sound beautiful, the everyday picturesque, the sad relatable (but not woe-is-me and self-pitying).

JKS is poetry. My brain is thinking of a million examples of how to highlight this. I'll leave it with 'Sun in an Empty Room.' My favourite lyric ever. Perfection.


3. Chewing On Tinfoil

The guys in Chewy create some of the best music I've ever heard. Each song is full of so much emotion and energy, with great songwriting and great musicianship. They could be massive but I love how they keep it DIY and stay low key.

4. Descendents/All
One of the first punk bands I ever heard was All, on a game called Street Skater on the Playstation. I instantly fell in love with punk rock and have been a fan of both All and Descendents for 20 years now. Their bassist, Karl Alvarez, was one of the reasons I picked up bass instead of guitar and his playing style helped to shape my own.



I sort of wish that I could have put a really obscure band that I’d seen play at the Attik in Leicester years ago that had a really profound effect on me but honestly if it wasn’t for NOFX I’d probably not have discovered my love for punk and still been a long haired grunge kid. When I was 12, I bought a copy of Kerrang magazine that came with a SD called ‘Search and Destroy: The History of Punk’. Dinosaurs Will Die was the first track and that was it, completely hooked. Nirvana hoody in the bin and off with my paper round money to buy anything on Epitaph that I could find.

6. The Lawrence Arms
I first heard the Lawrence Arms when Jim from Our Souls showed me ‘The Corpses of Our Motivations’ about 15 years ago and they’ve been my favourite band pretty much ever since. Lyrically (especially Chris), I think they’re brilliant. Musically, I love all the subtle bass chords Brendan chucks in every now and again and Neil’s drums are always a perfect fit for the songs. I used to always try and chuck as many fills in as possible when I was playing but listening to how he played it showed me that you had to do what’s best for the songs not just yourself. Amazing band.


7. Screeching Weasel

I picked up Weaselmania years ago, a compilation of tunes from their records up to 'Teen Punks In Heat', and it blew my mind. That was that. Ever since I’ve been a full on Weaselhead. I love Ben Weasel’s ability to mix irreverence with sincerity lyrically whilst backing it all up with killer tunes. Honestly I think he's a genius, warts and all. I could never figure out if Jughead’s lead parts were so simple because he couldn’t play particularly well or because that was just the musical aesthetic they were going for. I don’t suppose it matters much when the results are so sweet. OK, the outputs been patchy since circa '96 but I defy anyone to challenge the assertion that LPs like 'My Brain Hurts' and 'How To Make Enemies and Irritate People' (with Mike Dirnt on bass) are anything other than fully fledged pop-punk masterpieces. I think the biggest thing I try to apply from Weasel to my own playing and writing is the KISS motto – Keep It Simple Stupid.

8. Despondent
Around about when I was 19 or so I found myself on some long forgotten website and stumbled upon a band from Leicester, our hometown. I played the track on offer 'Proud To Fail' and couldn’t believe the explosion of snotty skate punk majesty spat out of my speakers. That something local could be so good astounded me and reset my expectations and ambitions as to what I might be able to do. I’d still be happy to be half as good. The song 'Another Five Days' on the Our Souls EP quotes 'Proud to Fail' in humble tribute and wholehearted unity with its sentiment. I still rate them as the single best band from Leicester I’ve heard and seen over the last 15 years or so. They've now long since broken up but their output is still kicking about the internet and is well worth loaning an ear to if you like foot-to-the-floor full throttle melodic punk rock.



I have been hooked on NOFX ever since I first heard them on a Punk-o-Rama CD when I was about 13. Learning to play their songs on guitar and bass helped me understand how a simple chord structure can turn into a completely different song with the use of octave chords and different rhythms. NOFX helped my guitar playing grow and definitely influence me still.

10. Morning Glory
When I first heard 'This Is No Time Ta Sleep' and 'The Suicide Singles' with the programmed drum machine, shitty sounding guitars, bass that sounded muffled, vocals that sounded like they were recorded in a wheelie bin, I thought 'this is great!'. The songs are upbeat and positive sounding but had negative soaring lyrics full of feeling. I came to learn it was just one guy who recorded it on an 8 track reel-to-reel recorder. This inspired me to get recording down my own tracks, with drums, bass, guitars and vocals. This is something I still do to this day and is a great way to flesh out ideas for songs. I can easily spend a whole afternoon getting engrossed in a song. Usually to the point where I can’t stand it anymore!

Wednesday, 20 February 2019

Album Review: California Hearse by California Hearse

Mere days after reviewing Gentlemen Prefer Blood's final release Weathered (which you can read here), I received an email from a PR company telling me about some of the band members’ new project California Hearse. Featuring Gentlemen Prefer Blood's former rhythm section, the duo put out a new six song self-titled EP in December – they really didn't hang around!

The first track on the EP is named Welcome Home. Straight away you can tell that this would be a much poppier outing compared to the duo's former band. As soon as the vocals come in, there's this great bouncy energy that gets me very engaged in the song. Welcome Home is packed full of hooks and, after a few times listening to the song, I keep finding something else that grabs my attention. The way that the band ramp up the energy on the final verse is outstanding, it really had me smiling whilst trying to sing along. The second song on the EP is titled Used To Be. It's a sad song about missing a departed loved one and remembering the insignificant things like how they'd always sit in the same place. Despite the sad message in the song, it's a catchy song that does a great job in grabbing the listener’s attention. Of course, the line that stands out the most is "where you used to be" which is sung with a great amount of sadness.

Best Worst is my favourite type of pop punk – fast paced guitars, rapid fire vocals and superb harmonies. After the solemn Used To Be, Best Worst gives the EP a real adrenaline boost. The energy in this song is overflowing as the band race through the first couple of verses and choruses leaving you breathless. This makes the moment when the song does slow down feel even more important as it builds towards that big ending with some glorious harmonies. The track is about wasting too much of your time on things you later realise are bad for you. Seriously, the harmonies at the end of the song – wow! After this massive energy boost the next song, Dissection, begins with the lyrics "so I get that you’re dead more inside than me." This is a slower tempo track that has more than a hint of new MXPX about it. The short, sharp way that the lyrics in the verse are delivered is a great contrast to the chorus that cries out to be sung along with. All together now "let's dissect our broken hearts, let's make maps of all our scars!"

The penultimate track is named Half Death. Opening with some buzzsaw guitars that bring the energy back up, the song is about being in the middle portion of your life and still living the same way that you did when you were younger. The saying "age is just a number" comes to mind when I think about this song. The fast paced vocals along with the simple drum beat give the song a fresh sound compared to the rest of the EP which is welcome. I'm really impressed with how California Hearse's lead singer can stick to this melody without the aid of a guitar to back him up. A great track, full of energy – lovely. The final song on the EP is named No Seoul. The track starts in a really slow and downbeat fashion as the band sing about living with depression and feeling beat up emotionally. There's a real dark and moody tone to the opening of the song as the band go through two verses before it builds towards the big ending with a superb chorus. It's a real solemn way to end what is a great debut EP.

The best way for me to describe this EP is by saying it's a modern take on Lookout records pop punk. I'm seriously impressed by the quality of the songwriting on the EP. It's pop punk but manages to feel varied and no two songs sound alike. To be able to release two excellent EP's in the same year shows some serious talent. I'm glad these guys are continuing to make music together following the end of their former band.

Stream and download California Hearse here:

Like California Hearse here:

This review was written by Colin Clark.

Tuesday, 19 February 2019

Album Review: The Geek Shall Inherit by Dead Words

Dead Words describe themselves as a dirty pop band. On New Year’s Day, the four piece from Texas released a new five track EP titled The Geek Shall Inherit. It first caught my eye thanks to the Star Wars inspired artwork and I looked forward to checking it out.

The EP's title track, The Geek Shall Inherit, kicks things off. The song is about what life would be like if geeks were to take over – it sounds like a good time, I love singing Basket Case at the top of my lungs. The song is pretty catchy despite not really having a chorus. I think this is due to the shortness of each line giving the sound a punchy quality but also not being especially hard hitting. This is just a lovely time that puts a smile on my face. Kingsley is up next and is about the band’s frustrations about not being able to be a full time touring band because of life's other responsibilities. There's a whiny angst in the song that really puts across the band’s frustration. Of course, it's very catchy and will cement itself in your head in no time at all. In what is basically pop punk tradition, it’s quite a sad song but musically remains upbeat.

Wallflower is a short one minute long track about being in the background and not being noticed. Dead Words do a great job in packing a lot in during the song but it never feels rushed. The subtle harmonies give the song a bigger feel and having two catchy verses make up for the track having no chorus. The penultimate song is the hard rocking geek anthem I Just Wanna Read. There's a hint of Weezer in the song with an easy-going rock 'n' roll style. It's about escapism and losing yourself in your books, your comics or even your record collection. Basically doing anything but talking to people. We've all been there. The final song on the EP is named City Streets and has a great 60s rock vibe. It's about walking through the streets with the one you love, wanting to take a chance and telling them how you feel. It's a nice positive way to finish the The Geek Shall Inherit. I particularly enjoyed the outro. Dead Words have clearly put thought into how to end the song, as well as the whole EP, as it finishes with some flourish.

The Geek Shall Inherit is a surprising EP. It wasn't what I was expecting at all and isn't a style of pop punk I'd usually seek out either but it's full of charm and you can't help but enjoy yourself whilst listening to it. It's short, sweet and leaves you smiling. What more could you want?

Stream and download The Geek Shall Inherit here:

Like Dead Words here:

This review was written by Colin Clark.

Monday, 18 February 2019

Album Review: Optimal Lifestyles by Pkew Pkew Pkew

These Canadian pop punks are a band we've fallen completely in love with other the past few years – from first hearing Mid 20s Skateboarder on a Bandcamp compilation, listening to their self-titled debut endlessly and naming it my album of the year in 2016, travelling to Fest in Gainesville and seeing them live for the first time and being lucky enough to see them play their first ever UK show at my favourite place, the New Cross Inn. Pkew Pkew Pkew's sing-along pop punk just brings utter joy into my life. Emma and I are super excited to see them live twice in May supporting Spanish Love Songs. On March 1st Pkew Pkew Pkew will be releasing their second full length. Titled Optimal Lifestyles, it's being released on Big Scary Monster (UK) and Dine Alone Records (USA/Canada). My first feelings when I heard the news were ones of much excitement but then I got a bit worried, what if it's not as good as an album I put on such a high pedestal, could it lower my love of this band? I guess there was only one way to find out.

The first song on the fifteen track Optimal Lifestyles is names Still Hangin' Out After All These Years. Starting out with a bit of guitar wail and a pounding drum beat before those gang vocals – a big reason I fell in love with Pkew in the first place – get the song going properly. The song is definitely not as in your face as anything on the self-titled debut was but still packs a punch. I think we're seeing a more mature Pkew here. Topically it's pretty retrospective as lead singer Mike Warne sings of continuing to love spending time with your childhood friends and still doing the same silly things despite getting older. Up next is I Don't Matter At All. This is a garage/power pop song that actually has me thinking of The Strokes. Not something I have ever thought about a Pkew song before. Quite amazingly Pkew manage to retain their hooked filled sing-along vibes on the track despite the obvious change in style. The way in which Warne delivers the lines "’cause I can’t sit back and be lax anymore, I can’t just hope all my problems will go and solve themselves, or wait for somebody else, I’ve made my choice and I’ll see it through, you’re not a burden on me, but am I a burden on you?, there’s more I can do" is a highlight. It's a cool melody. The third track is named Point Break. The thing that caught my attention was the saxophone solo that happened midway through the song – not something that I'd ever have expected to hear in a Pkew song but it worked! Other than the saxophone this is the sound that I was really expecting from Optimal Lifestyles. Fast and explosive pop punk that you can't help but want to sing your heart out to. Point Break is actually a love song based on the 1991 film of the same name. Warne sings about the love that Keanu Reeves’ character, who's working as an undercover agent, has for his new girlfriend. The references might be lost on younger fans of the band (I only knew this because I read this article) but it's still a fun song regardless.

Up next is Drinkin' Days. It's about having the best time in your younger days drinking with your best friends and hoping things don't change as you get older. It's a more mature sounding Pkew drinking song than perhaps we are used to but it's still got all of those wonderful hooks. There's a retrospective feeling to the lyrics with the lines "if this is one long phase, we could go out in flames, but the nicotine stains on our hands will remind us of the times we had when we were drinking." 65 Nickels was the second single from Optimal Lifestyles. This is Pkew doing what Pkew do better than pretty much everyone. You'll be singing along to this chorus after one listen and by the end of the song it'll feel like a song that you have known for years. David Laino's simple drum beat starts the track and is quickly joined by an instantly recognisable guitar riff that will immediately let you know what you're listening to. In true Pkew fashion we are greeted with some big gang vocals on the chorus and things are finished up with some lovely harmonies. The song is about testing the boundaries of friendship and deciding that you need some space. This is followed up by The Polynesian, a big stand out on my first listen of Optimal Lifestyles. Taking inspiration of the band’s life on tour, it tells the tale of a night spent in a town in midwest America. I loved the storytelling style that Warne has written the song in, doing an incredible job of painting a picture in your mind with his lyrics. It's a slower track, which probably helps you with taking in all the detail in the lyrics. The repetitive use of the line "we got two room at The Polynesian" is a real ear worm and hooks you in so quickly. That's what really caught my attention on my first listen of the track.

Warne and Ryan McKinley share vocal duties on the seventh song, Skate 2. The multiple vocalists on tracks is something that I really loved on the band’s debut so I was pleased to hear it come back here. This song is basically the sequel to the ever so popular Mid 20s Skateboarder from the debut album. That song is a fast paced song about Pkew's love of skateboarding, despite getting older. Skate 2 slows things down as Warne and McKinley sing about having second thoughts about continuing to skateboard as you get into your 30s and the injuries mount up. I relate to this massively, but through playing football instead of skateboarding. I know how much it hurts after I play but I love it so much that I can't stop. The song starts in a kind of a downbeat manner but grows and grows until its finale. The big hook is the phrase "shred until you're dead, or until you break your wrist again" but the section of the song that really got me was the gang vocal cries of "I swear it’s over, why can’t this be over?, I swear it’s over, this is the last time." I really hope during live gigs they play Mid 20s Skateboarder, Bloodclot and then Skate 2 in a row. This is their pop punk skateboarder concept section. Passed Out was the lead single from the album and it's clear to see why. Starting out with just Warne's vocals and some guitar, you’re instantly invited to have a sing-along before the song really clicks into gear. When that gear clicks in, and the rest of the band come in, it's a great big shout-along that a Pkew crowd will adore. The song is about wanting to escape the boring to 9-5 lifestyle and feeling like you’re torturing yourself in some "pointless job that I hate"." The ninth track on the album is titled Not Getting Through To You. This isn't the shouty, bombastic pop punk style that we've come to expect from Pkew but instead more of a power pop song about the frustration of wanting to tell someone you're not alright but not being able to get people to notice. This is without a doubt one of the sadder songs I've heard Pkew play but the catchiness remains. The hook of "I'm not getting through to you" is perhaps a bit cathartic.

Mt. Alb is a classic Pkew partying and drinking anthem. It's fast, upbeat and features plenty of punchy vocals and some great trade offs between Warne and McKinley. It's about drinking underage and the lengths you'd go to for some booze, whether it's doing the old switcheroo in your parents alcohol cabinet, trying to use fake IDs or asking someone older than you to buy you some and then eventually getting it and getting hammered round a friend’s at a party. I find it a little hard to relate, having never drunk, but the story does sound incredibly like the activities old school friends would get up to. Despite struggling to relate it didn't stop me completely falling in love with this track. The real highlight was the song’s ending with the gang vocal shouts of "fucked up 'til I fuck off." It's kind of aggressive but it's a lot of fun to shout along to. The following song is title The Pit. The song continues the album’s overarching theme of getting older and realising that you can't do all the stupid things you did in your youth. The Pit tells a story of being invited out for a wild night but just wanting a quiet and early night. Lyrically the song put a huge smile on my face, particularly the line "I’m glad I didn’t go to The Pit with Jimmy and his friend who kind of looked like Vince." On Optimal Lifestyles, Pkew do an astounding jobs of writing songs that feel like a story. It makes each song that extra bit more personable. Everything's The Same was a huge surprise. Bassist Emmett O'Reilly puts down his guitar and leads the band on this piano lead track as well as providing a clean and boyish vocal that contrasts Warne's gruffer style perfectly. O'Reilly sings about growing older and wondering if it's too late to change your ways. The subtle and understated feel of the song really helps the song’s topic hit home and does a great job in making you ask yourself questions.

The thirteenth song on Optimal Lifestyles tackles the subject of wanting to run free and escape life's responsibilities. Titled I Wanna See A Wolf, this is an explosive sing-along pop punk song that, like everything Pkew do, will get quickly lodged in your head. Warne has this amazing skill in writing these super catchy songs that also sound like stories. This might be in part due to the help and friendship of The Hold Steady's Craig Finn who helped the band workshop the songs on this album. The imagery on the song is superb and you can really imagine what the music video of the song would be like. The penultimate track on the album is named Adult Party. What a fantastic song this is! The song talks about feeling out of place at a party. Particularly a party of people who are your age but have very different interests. The track plays like an internal monologue of Warne's thoughts whilst at the party – "I'll be nice and not say what I think." The song’s high point comes around the midway point as we get a huge moment where the whole band join forces and shout “rich kids, go fuck yourselves, if there’s some in the audience, go somewhere else, rich kids, go fuck yourselves." I cannot wait to hear this live, the crowd participation will be amazing. Finally we have Thirsty And Humble. Starting out sounding slightly like Billy Bragg's To Have And To Have Not, the song’s familiar sound pulls you in before the sound changes to a mid-tempo pop punk track where Pkew talk about their humble beginnings of drinking outside the venue because it's cheaper than paying for drinks inside. I love the openness and honesty in the song, with Pkew admitting this keeping them grounded and remaining at the same level as their devoted fan base. The gang vocals section towards the end of the track with perfect lyrics are perhaps my highlight of the whole album – “’cause all we want’s another, I got a stash in the alley, let’s go there, you got beers and I got wine, let’s drink them quick and get back inside, we got debts that we have to pay, we’ll take the money that we made, we’ll drink it all tonight, we lead thirsty, humble lives, could’ve stayed home and played video games, my life in Red Dead’s pretty great, I’ve got a bounty on my head, I guess it’s pretty much the same.” Thirsty And Humble is surely going to become Pkew's set closer for years to come.

When I first listened to Optimal Lifestyles I was a bit unsure whether or not I was going to enjoy it. But as it progressed, I loved it more and more. The album is a grower – but not after a few listens, after a few songs. And then when you listen to the opening songs again they grow on you as well. Pkew have really progressed and matured with their songwriting. Where the self titled album was about having fun, Optimal Lifestlyes is more about looking at your life and questioning your choices. The catchy, big sing-alongs remain but this is pop punk for grown-ups who aren't yet grown up. An early contender for album of the year for sure.

Pre-order Optimal Lifestyles here:

Like Pkew Pkew Pkew here:

This review was written by Colin Clark.

Friday, 15 February 2019

Interview: Mike & Paul from Be Sharp Promotions

Emma and I have been going to Be Sharp Promotions shows at the New Cross Inn since the summer of 2017. During that time we have fallen in love with the community that Be Sharp have played a big part in and consider it our home scene despite it being two hours away. During that time, like most regulars of the Be Sharp shows, we have become good friends with brothers Paul and Mike Smith. With the tenth anniversary celebrations of Be Sharp Promotions in full swing, I decided to have a chat with Paul and Mike to discuss the history of Be Sharp as well as trying to see what they've got in store for the future. Read on to see what a bunch of ultra professionals we are!

Colin: I'm ready whenever you chaps are.

Mike Smith: Got a pint, I'm good to go.

Colin: Handy, first question is for you from Fishlock – how did you get so cute and what's your favourite biscuit?

Mike: Oh Fishy, I will never reveal my secrets. I'm not big on biscuits, unless I can count a KitKat. Or a Club.

Paul Smith: I'm here by the way.

Colin: Ace, sorry Fishlock has no questions for you.

Paul: Fine.

Mike: Hahahaha.

Colin: Question number one is how did you guys get into punk rock? … Mind blowingly original questions from the start!

Paul: Hearing Green Day on the radio in 1995. Then Offspring, Nofx, Rancid and deeper underground from there on.

Mike: Probably that copy of Americana that Paul left on our bedroom floor in 1999 (please clarify that we're brothers). And even then it was more the cover than the content. MySpace was where I discovered the more niche stuff off my own back.

Paul: We're not even related though...

Mike: That does explain a lot. My endless charm and inability to grow a beard finally explained.

Colin: Fun fact, Americana was the first punk album I ever owned. … What was the local punk scene like where you grew up?

Mike: Paul's answer but 10 years later.

Paul: 2000–2003 it was pretty strong, a lot of DIY shows, a lot of local ska and punk bands. Capdown, 5 Knuckle and the like all played 20 minutes or so away from our parents' house. But it's always been about 3 dBs Down.

Colin: You have told me many times about your love of 3 dBs Down.

Mike: It was massively centered around the Lion in Northfleet and the bands we saw and then started putting on, for me. Excluding the occasional My Chemical Romance at Wembley and Reel Big Fish at the Astoria, I grew up on the local bands and didn't really know any different.

Colin: Sounds like you grew up in a good scene. What made you guys start putting on your own shows?

Paul: Stupidity… and boredom. I put on my first show in 2005 because there was a lack of punk gigs at the Lion and I wanted to go to one.

Mike: It was more fun than school. Despite the trip to the cashpoint every few shows because we didn't make enough money to pay the venue or the bands… 10 years later, we can just use PayPal.

Colin: This was before Be Sharp was a thing?

Paul: Yeah, we didn't even have a promo name.

Colin: How long was it before Be Sharp started?

Paul: I put on local bands sporadically between 2005–2008 and then started properly when Mike muscled in in early 2009.

Mike: Originally as LSP before changing our name because of the Simpsons reference.

Paul: And LSP was an awful name…

Colin: Emma pointed out to me the other day that Be Sharp was a Simpsons reference.

Paul: Early flyers often featured Millhouse.


Colin: So when Mike muscled in that's when Be Sharp started?

Mike: It's when it became a regular thing, with a bit more organisation behind it – an online presence and all that.

Paul: That's when we started seriously and put on bigger bands, touring bands.

Colin: Did you have any initial goals when you started out?

Mike: The same reason we started a band, to get into gigs for free.

Paul: To have fun, give our friends something to do, help touring bands out with a Kent date.

Mike: This way we just didn't need to learn songs.

Paul: And yeah free gigs.

Mike: Once we realised that we weren't completely awful at it, our goals changes a little. But essentially it's to help bands out and have a good time with our mates.

Colin: Who was the first big band you put on?

Paul: Jaya The Cat, somehow.

Mike: They did their own sound at that gig…Wait, they did their own sound the next time we put them on?

Paul: That was the second time, last minute to be fair. Stayed at mine, saved on sound and hotel prices. Had a week to promote that. Tuesday night 'n' all!

Mike: And smashed it!

Colin: How did you manage to book Jaya The Cat!?

Paul: Standard practice really. They were being booked by Ian Hidden Talent Bookings at the time, I sent a nice email pretending I knew what I was talking about.

Mike: Getting a contract for the first time was an experience.

Paul: Terrifying!

Colin: When did you start putting on gigs in London?


Mike: Originally it was Hassan from Triple Sundae (New EP out soon, check them out on all your usual social media channels) who was putting on London shows under the LSPLDN name.

Colin: I hear Triple Sundae are alright.

Mike: We did a few gigs at various venues before finally settling in a more permanent way at the New Cross Inn. As for the first London shows, Paul will be able to answer that with his rainman-like calendar brain.

Paul: I think it was when we were doing DIY monthly shows at various venues with The Pisdicables, The Provokers, My Third Leg and Vibe Dial Circus, around 2012. I think NXI was just the easiest venue to deal with, had backline and didn't charge us hire fee. Unlike Bird's Nest and Unicorn, we could charge entry at NXI, so it was easier to meet guarantees through sales, rather than hoping everyone sinks 10 pints for that bar percentage.

Colin: That leads wonderfully into my next question. Be Sharp has become synonymous with NXI, how did the relationship start?

Paul: The events team at the time used to book My Third Leg as local openers on ska shows, so we got to know them. Once Katy (Just Say Nay) was running the show, we used to co-promote in-house gigs, as well as DIY-ing our own. Our first big one was Authority Zero in 2013 (or 2014). That was a learning curve for sure.

Mike: When they moved the bar from the middle of the room to the side, it was obvious they wanted to be a venue and not just a pub. The faith that showed in the community and the scene was a big factor.

Colin: What's the process behind putting on a DIY gig?

Paul: It depends if there's fees to make or if everyone is happy with door split to be honest. We've always promoted our shows equally, but if one has no overheads and the next has the potential to lose a grand we haven't got, there's different processes:
Step One: Find a band.
Step Two: Find a venue.
Step Three: Promote hard
Step Four: ????
Step Five: (Absolutely no) profit
Steps one and two could be swapped, it varies.

Colin: Has the way you promote changed much over the past ten years?

Paul: Facebook rather than MySpace for online promo. Still do analogue flyering when we can, but I don't think much has changed, Mike?

Mike: Sorry, I was buying apple turnovers in Sainsburys.

Paul: Fifa after this?

Colin: I hope you bought some for everyone.

Paul: One thing that's never changed is we discuss gigs and figure out supports whilst playing Fifa – or Pro Evo back in 2010. It centres the mind when you ping one in from 30 yards.

Mike: And then my phone died. I'm back. We have the backing of the venue now, we can take bigger risks and make things happen that we couldn't before. That helps hugely. In terms of the promo, we do what we can but the bands and punters all do their bit. When we started, I got people to our gigs by saying 'yeah it's a fiver in, but they don't ID at the bar.' We don't do that now…

Paul: That's necessary when you start promoting at 16 and the only people you know are your school friends.

Colin: Do you guys have any rules about which bands you book?

Paul: We try and be apolitical, but obviously there's some bands we'd never touch. Also, ska bands get gigs by default.

Mike: Now that there are so many bands that play under the Be Sharp banner, the rules we would've had before are less strict. But yeah, general rule is no dickheads. Some may slip through but in the scene you kinda assume that people are wise and understand the scene and the ethics. Some don't, but it's hard to vet every member of every band.

Paul: I can't think of a time when we've said 'never booking them again'. And we must have booked 1000 bands by now.

Colin: There are plenty of bands that could be considered "Be Sharp bands." How does a band get that status?

Mike: Come to gigs (even the ones you don't play) and have a good time. Not forgetting the £50 per member deposit.

Paul: Call Me Malcolm, King Punch, The Pisdicables all came to us to get ska shows (and all come to shows they don't play). We do have our regular local support bands and it's mostly those that have been there from the beginning in some capacity. Or bribe us.

Mike: A lot of our regular bands are ones that we've known since way back. But new members to our little community are always welcome. The likes of Codename Colin are 'new' and I wouldn't say there are specific rules. Just be cool with it.

Colin: Do you ever argue about which bands you should put on?

Mike: Errrrrrrr.

Paul: Not too much. We both have our favourites and tend to think like, Burnt Tapes love Pkew Pkew Pkew, they get on that; Fastfade love No Fun At All, they get on that.

Mike: There are a few exceptions but for the most part it's mutual.

Colin: Be Sharp shows are renowned for their "everyone there is your best friend" vibe. Is this something that's happened organically or something you've worked hard at achieving?

Mike: Organically. We've never said person A or person B isn't allowed in. It's self policed and we're very lucky that the vast majority of people are lovely and we're lucky to call them mates.

Paul: It was always what we wanted and luckily it's just happened that way.

Mike: It's pretty much impossible to be angry while listening to ska anyway. You can't crowd kill to Reel Big Fish.

Colin: Be Sharp are also known for their all dayers, which I love. What do you think makes them so special?

Mike: It's like having a mini festival. At Chewing on Tinfoil last week there were a couple of [young] kids there to watch their parents play in a few of the opening bands, they were done by 6 before it filled up. They couldn't do that if it was a 'normal gig' so that's a nice touch.

Paul: That community vibe. Every time. And when there's so many good bands out there, we want to see them all. Seeing a couple of under 10s at Chewy was heartwarming. The next generation.

Colin: I love them, as it's a day hanging out with mates between watching great punk bands.

Mike: Where's the downside?

Colin: Sore feet.

Paul: By the time the headliners start, it's carnage. If we had 2 supports, people are barely warmed up.

Mike: And, the sore head after 10 hours of drinking for some of us. Or 48 hours if you're a certain someone that goes to see the same band the next day.

Paul: I did not feel good on the way to Bristol. Glad Fishlock only had 2 supports!

Mike: Hahaha.

Colin: Do you guys have a proudest Be Sharp moment?

Mike: I have a lot, it's nice to know that something that started as a hobby means a lot to so many people.

Paul: Too easy to say Goldfinger I guess… watching Call Me Malcolm, The Pisdicables, King Punch, Codename Colin, etc. go from local openers to playing major festivals. Seeing 200 people go sick to a band that are playing because we like them will never get old.

Mike: Cramp In Your Leg Fest is up there, but that's more pride in our community as much as anything else. Watching Call Me Malcolm headline last time out was incredible and it got a little emotional. … Gotta point out that we don't manage these bands, they do it all themselves. We're just lucky that they carry on working with us when they can easily go somewhere else for a London gig.

Colin: Over the past few years, you seem to be getting most of the bigger American/Canadian bands coming to New Cross on their tours. How has this happened?

Paul: Reputation mainly. Agents tend to play it safe and/or have loyalties. They know they can trust us to promote, pay the bands and provide beer and hummus. The Hit The Switch and Cigar shows we got as we put on This Is A Standoff last year. Their front man, Steve, started a booking agency and approached us as he had a nice time.

Colin: Having such a good reputation must be something you're really proud of.

Mike: My whole time studying the music industry at uni was basically 'be a bastard to be successful' and that can get in the bin. Help your mates, help their mates and the rest is a bonus.

Colin: What have you got planned for the ten years of Be Sharp celebrations?

Mike: A quiet night in.

Paul: ALL OF THE GIGS! (See here) … Some old friends, some new, business as usual really, except we're older and possibly wiser. Only six years until Mike has been doing this half his life.

Mike: Fuck off.

Paul: 9 years for me.

Colin: And what's next after this year? Any plans to expand Be Sharp?

Mike: Well, I got sent an interesting email earlier.

Paul: I think we could potentially use bigger venues for certain gigs, but that wouldn't be a Be Sharp show. A 1000 capacity band in a 350 capacity spot is what we've always wanted. But also, watch this space…

Mike: We're not greedy. A good show is more important than a big one. If we can do both, happy days. But there's no rush.

Colin: That should be your tag line.

Mike: Maybe for the 20 year rebrand.

Colin: I'm all out of questions now, so I guess I should wrap this up. Anything else you'd like to add?

Mike: Shout out C-Rage for being our go to artwork guy. He redesigned our logo which you'll see on the new posters and it looks mint, as always.

Paul: Just a heartfelt thanks to everyone that comes to our gigs. We've spent the last 5 years constantly humbled that people come out with the same aim as us. To watch great bands and have fun.

Mike: We love you and Emma and all the CPRW crew. You guys rule and we're super grateful.  🙌

Paul: The bands are alright too.

Mike: And you suck at fantasy football. More than I do.

Colin: Guardiola ruined me yesterday. Bloody triple captain Sterling on the bench!

Mike: Ouchhhh. One of my other leagues had a guy who was 7th overall in the world. Nonsense.

Colin: Okay, I won't take up anymore of your Fifa time. Thanks for doing this interview and thanks for being Be Sharp and giving us somewhere we feel at home. CPRW 4 B#

Paul: ❤️ Thank you. ❤️

Mike: U da best.

Thursday, 14 February 2019

Gig Review: Brian Fallon at Union Chapel, London 9/2/19 (by Emma Prew)

It’s not often that I find myself in a church. If I’m not there for a wedding then I’m probably there for a gig. I’ve been to Union Chapel, a fully functioning church and music venue in Islington, a couple of times for acoustic shows. The sound is incredible and the stained glass window backdrop is also pretty impressive – in my entirely atheist opinion. Gigs there are unlike anywhere else and so when Brian Fallon – frontman of my favourite band of all time, The Gaslight Anthem, and solo artist in his own right – announced that he would be doing an acoustic tour in the UK  (and Europe) titled Songs From The Hymnal, I was quite keen. My parents, who I introduced to TGA years ago and are keen gig-goers themselves, were also keen so it was to be a lovely Prew family outing.

Union Chapel is a seated venue with a first-come-first-served system for its church pews. Mum insisted on queuing up outside half an hour or so before the doors opened to ensure we got a good spot. I’m not really used to queuing for shows anymore – you don’t have to at the NXI after all – but it wasn’t too cold and proved worthwhile when we got inside and claimed out seats. Another slightly different but lovely thing about gigs at Union Chapel is that they offer hot drinks. It felt like quite the novelty to have a mug (mug, not disposable cup!) of hot chocolate whilst waiting for the music to begin. I wouldn’t exchange my punk gigs in pubs for this sort of thing all the time but it was really nice as a one-off.

Joining Brian for all of the dates on the Songs From The Hymnal tour would be Craig Finn, most famously known as being the frontman and lyrical mastermind of American indie rock band The Hold Steady. The Hold Steady have always been a band that I’ve liked when I’ve listened to them but I’ve never properly got fully into any of their albums or developed the same love for them that I know many people, CPRW’s Richard included, have. That didn’t matter a great deal for Craig’s performance at Union Chapel since he mostly played songs from his solo releases anyway with just one Hold Steady track, Certain Songs. To succinctly describe Craig Finn’s music and performance style I would call him a ‘storyteller’ in the most literal sense. The opening song of his set, God In Chicago, was more of a spoken-word piece with some gentle guitar backing than your typical song. It was perhaps a little odd if you weren’t expecting it – and I wasn’t – but it certainly held my attention. I preferred the songs that had a bit more melody behind them but the storytelling element was definitely a great feature of his performance. I actually heard someone behind me say ‘They were just stories, not songs’ in a negative manner after Craig’s set, which I found quite amusing and ironic since they’d come to see Brian Fallon – king of storytelling both in his songs and live performance ramblings.

Obviously, I’ve probably said it a hundred times on this blog, I absolutely adore The Gaslight Anthem and owe them a hell of a lot for getting me into the music I am into today. Because of this, TGA songs will always be my favourite Brian Fallon output but, that said, I have really enjoyed his solo offerings since the band ceased to be as well. I was looking forward to hearing a mixture of all things Fallon played in such an intimate and special setting and I was certainly not disappointed, nor was anyone else! Just walking onto the stage, it was clear how loved this man was by the audience’s rapturous applause. It was a particularly loud reaction for the church setting but thankfully people went quiet when Brian picked up his acoustic guitar and opened with his first song, Long Drives from his first solo album Painkillers. There’s nothing worse than people talking during an acoustic act! As I expected, the setlist consisted of a combination of Brian’s more recent solo material and a handful of Gaslight songs. It was great to hear Wherefore Art Thou, Elvis?, from the 2008 EP Señor & The Queen, get a rare outing as well as an old fan-favourite solo tune, The Blues, Mary. Brian told us how he often gets requests to play the latter live and the only reason he hadn’t until then was because he’d forgotten about it. I hadn’t – I’ve got it in my iTunes library from ten years ago! This being Brian Fallon, there was of course stories a’plenty in between songs, often ending without a conclusion because he forgot where he was going with a particular anecdote – it added some unintentional comedy to the evening. At TGA shows, I would sometimes find Brian’s rambling a little annoying but in this setting it added to the whole experience. Perhaps because it was just Brian and his guitar, it felt more natural. Actually it wasn’t just Brian and his guitar because for a couple of songs – I don’t recall which specifically – he swapped his guitar for an electric piano, as if things weren’t magical enough already. Hearing songs such as Smoke, Among Other Foolish Things and A Wonderful Life live again reminded me how good an album Painkillers was, while Etta James and See You On The Other Side prompt me that I really should listen to last year’s follow-up Sleepwalkers some more. My love for Brian Fallon never went away – I saw The Gaslight Anthem play The ’59 Sound (the best album of all time) in full less than a year ago – but after watching him at Union Chapel I have a new level of appreciation for everything that he does and has done for those that love his music, me included.

I love Brian Fallon and everything he does.

This gig review was written by Emma Prew.

Wednesday, 13 February 2019

Album Review: Short Shrift by Splitters

We last reviewed Detroit four piece Splitters back in 2016 following the release of their excellent debut, Last Time I Swear. In December 2018, the band – which consists of members from Break Anchor, Due North and Cheapshow – put out a new three song EP named Short Shrift on Little Rocket Records which I was very much looking forward to listening to.

Short Shrift begins with the song Algorithm. If you've not heard Splitters before then I'd best describe them as a slower tempo Lawrence Arms with more of a rock 'n' roll edge to them. Algorithm starts really slowly with just a basic guitar part and vocalist Ben's spiky vocal easing us in to the track. Soon enough the rest of the band join in and we have big sing-along chorus of "we're getting short shrift to everything, look how we're doing now." From there we get a great guitar solo before leading into what I think is the first proper verse. I liked how Ben kind of spoke/sang the verse, it gives the style a bit of a new and fresh take.

Doesn't Matter Why sees Splitters up the tempo with a great opening guitar part that allows you to feel like something great is on its way. When those vocals come in the excitement has built up enough in you that you just want to sing every word back at Splitters as loud and as passionately as you can. The song is about looking back at things in your past and realising that things change and it's no use reflecting on it. It's a kind of a reflective song about not being reflective. The ending was a big highlight with some great gang vocals repeating the line "all that's over now." I love the recording of these gang vocals – they feel slightly muted and not in your face, giving more of a mature vibe.

The third and final song is named Ugly. Splitters are so good at starting songs. All three of these tracks have had me wanting to sing along before even knowing the words. Here it builds slowly in again before the words "there's a reckoning..." come in. The song sees the band go back to a slower tempo but it's packed with an infectious melody that really pulls you in, along with chorus of "good fucking bye ambivalence, I'm out." I love a simple chorus I can pick up quickly and Ugly certainly has that. There's a hint of anger in Ben's vocal that adds some emotion to the track. It's about wanting to get out of a situation you don't want to be in and wishing the best for everyone involved in the future.

Splitters are one of the American punk scenes' best kept secrets. They have this great quality of feeling familiar but also having a freshness to them that not many bands have. I'm not sure how much of a full time thing Splitters is but they are a great band and I'd love for them to find their way to London at some point so I can catch them live.

Stream and download Short Shrift here:

Like Splitters here:

This review was written by Colin Clark.

Tuesday, 12 February 2019

Album Review: Retrospect by Boxing Day

Boxing Day are a five piece pop punk band from Belgium who have been around since 2016. Influnced by pop punk giants like blink-182, The Wonder Years and Neck Deep, Boxing Day have gained a reputation for writing wonderfully catchy yet depressing songs. On Boxing Day of 2018 the band released a new two track single named Retrospect. Nick for Real Ghost Records sent me over a stream, convinced that I was going to love it. Did I?

The first song on the single is titled Whisper Like You Mean It. From the start of song I immediately get the impression that this song is going to be a bouncy pop punk track with a sadness about it. The opening guitars will get a crowd jumping up and down but there is a depressing tone to the sound that makes it feel quite bittersweet. When vocalist Monsi comes in, the song switches to a more intense style that ramps up the emotion in the song. Like all pop punk songs should do, the chorus is a big ear worm that will find a home inside your head in no time at all.

Up next is the single's title track, Retrospect. As you might expect from its title, the song is about looking back on your life and realising how certain events have shaped what was to come. This is more of a mature sounding pop punk and I dig it. It's making me think and feel something, something a genre such as this can sometimes struggle to do. It's a very restrained song that doesn't really explode into life like you might think it would, instead allowing its message to grab the listener.

This style of pop punk continues to get more and more popular. I've listened to fair amount of different bands in the genre and I have to say Boxing Day are among the best. There's a maturity in their songwriting that will attract older pop punk fans as well as youngsters just finding the genre. It certainly feels like Boxing Day could do some big things in their career.

Stream and download Retrospect here:

Like Boxing Day here:

This review was written by Colin Clark.

Monday, 11 February 2019

Album Review: Weathered by Gentlemen Prefer Blood

So, doing this review is breaking a couple of rules I try to stick with on CPRW. The first being not reviewing bands that have split up and the second is not reviewing something that has been out for longer than three months. I had to break these rules for this superb release! The band in question are Los Angeles based three piece Gentlemen Prefer Blood. The band released their final EP, Weathered, in September last year on La Escalera Records and It's Alive Records – two superb labels. Unfortunately, in September, the band also announced they were breaking up and played their final show at the beginning of October. I sadly only discovered Gentlemen Prefer Blood this year and fell in love with Weathered before finding out they split up.

Weathered begins with the song Demons Are Real. This is mid-tempo punk at its best. The song starts at a slow and thoughtful pace, gradually building towards the big sing-along that the song's beginning threatens immediately. Bands such as Elway are fantastic at this style of punk rock and Gentlemen Prefer Blood really give them a run for their money on this track. The use of gang vocals always puts a smile on my face and this is the type of music that begs for a massive sing-along. Up next is The Loner, which continues with the mid-tempo punk rock sound. The guitars and a chugga chugga sound throughout literally being the engine of the song, while the melody comes mostly from the vocals. The contrast in the melodic vocals and the more driven guitar is what initially caught my attention when first listening to the track and it was the chorus that really kept me around. The song does eventually allow the guitar to shine with a bit of a solo building towards a final chorus that, again, uses gang vocals – making the song sound big.

Bees Knees has more of a Lookout Records pop punk style too it, perhaps not surprising after discovering that one of the members of Gentlemen Prefer Blood was in Big In Japan. The tone of the EP changes slightly to a more upbeat and bouncy sound that keeps Weathered feeling fresh. Despite being more of a pop song, the tempo never really changes as the band seem to focus on melody rather than speed. It's a short song but it's a lot of fun. On the fourth track, Return Policy, the tempo does get upped as Gentlemen Prefer Blood take you back about twenty years to what for me was the golden age of pop punk. If you loved The Mr T Experience, you'll love Return Policy. The song starts off in quite a fashion with some crashing drums opening the track. The drums thump throughout, really keeping the energy high. For the first time on the EP, Gentlemen Prefer Blood bust out some killer harmonies, which should be expected on this style of pop punk song but were enjoyable nevertheless.

The penultimate song on Weathered is named Coke & Spiriter (which should be pronounced co-conspirator). Gentlemen Prefer Blood revert back to that midwestern gruff punk sound that opened Weathered here. It begins with the repeating lines of "we've come a long way home, we've come a long way following the hope, don't get lost" that will quickly have you singing along. It's a pretty simple sounding song that's really effective, you can't help but be drawn in to. Even the extended outro to the song has this brilliant quality to it that just has you wanting to listen to it more and more. The EP is completed by the song Unless You Say. Throughout the song the drums seem to be turned up louder and play a simple beat, giving the song a solid spine that allows the guitars and vocals to be a bit more playful. Unfortunately, at times it's difficult to pay attention to much else other than that repetitive drum beat. There's a section in the middle however that slowly builds, towards the song's finale which features some of the EP's best harmonies to finish Weathered off in a lot of style.

Weathered was a great little surprise and I'm so sad to discover that the band decided to split not long after its release. It's one of those brilliantly simple records that always finds a way to worm its way into my heart and mind. Even though Gentlemen Prefer Blood are no longer a band, this is still a release to check out!

Stream and download Weathered here:

Like Gentlemen Prefer Blood here:

This review was written by Colin Clark.