Thursday, 28 March 2019

Top Tens: Emma’s Top Ten Bands To See At Manchester Punk Festival 2019

I don’t know about you but after last year’s Manchester Punk Festival I feel confident in declaring that MPF is the best weekend of the year. Colin and I snapped up super early bird tickets for the 2019 edition of the festival the minute they went on sale – not letting the fact we were in a different time zone [in Japan] stop us – and have been getting increasingly more excited with each and every announcement that the MPF team have for us. The final line-up features 137 band across three days. In order to filter through these and decide who I definitely, maybe or, alas, don’t want to see I have listened to each and every band. Here are my top ten picks for MPF 2019.

Pardon Us (Friday at Zombie Shack 16:30–17:00)
This Liverpudlian pop punk trio are a band that I’ve been wanting to see on the MPF line-up for a few years now – in fact, I’m fairly certain I’ve requested them myself on the feedback form once or twice. I saw Pardon Us live once, down south, two or three years ago and absolutely loved their fast-paced and jolly performance but haven’t been able to see them again since. Their 2017 self-titled EP is pure goodness. I’m sure, at least I hope, they’ve been working on new stuff since then so I look forward to finding out.

Stöj Snak (Friday at Brickhouse Social 17:30–18:15)
Stöj Snak, from Aalborg in Denmark, play captivating, honest and raw folk punk. Probably the artist I am most excited about seeing at MPF 2019, Stöj Snak was also my absolute highlight from a previous MPF and so I know just how good Niels Sörensen and his band are. With instruments ranging from acoustic guitar to double bass and a washboard, this is not your typical punk band but the energy that comes from their performance could easily rival any hardcore band – not least because Niels himself is also in a hardcore band. I’m looking forward to hearing the songs from last year’s EP live as well as, hopefully, some newer stuff as I know the band are working on a new album. 

Faintest Idea (Friday at Gorilla 18:50–19:30)
I’ve seen Norfolk ska punks Faintest Idea at two previous MPFs and look forward to making it a hat-trick this year. As a TNS band, it sort of feels like a hometown show for the band and I have no doubt that the crowd will again welcome them with open arms. It’s hard not to be impressed by the band’s lively, unrestrained performance. You certainly won’t be able to stand still during their set – whether through dancing or being knock around in a pit. 2019 could well be the best Faintest Idea MPF set yet.

Authority Zero (Friday at Gorilla 19:50–20:40)
The MPF team have completely outdone themselves with headliners this year. People thought they couldn’t top Propagandhi but there’s 88 Fingers Louie, King Prawn, Subhumans, Snuff, Smoke Or Fire, Samiam, The Creepshow and, the ‘big’ band who I am most excited to see, Authority Zero, headlining across the Easter weekend. Are there any other bands out there that sound quite like Arizona’s Authority Zero? The band blend upbeat, danceable reggae and ska with melodic, fast punk rock seamlessly to create some of the best tunes of the last twenty odd years. Plus, Jason DeVore’s voice… wow.

The Hard Aches (Saturday at Gorilla 14:30–15:00)
I hadn’t really properly listened to Adelaide, Australia, two-piece The Hard Aches before they were announced as playing MPF 2019 – I also didn’t realise they were a two-piece until I started writing this. I knew the name however and so as soon as I saw that name on the line-up I had to check them out. I instantly liked what I heard and have been listening to the band a lot in the run up to this year’s festival. Needless to say this I am very keen to see this emotion-driven punk band live for the first time in Manchester.

The Bloodstrings (Saturday at The Bread Shed 17:50–18:30)
Another band that I knew nothing about prior to them being added to this year’s festival, The Bloodstrings are a psychobilly punk band from Aachen, Germany. The full MPF 2019 line-up is definitely a lot more varied this year as there a fair few bands that fall into the ‘psychobilly’ sub-genre of punk rock. This is not a sub-genre I know a great deal about but, after listening to the MPF 2019 playlist, I can confirm I am a fan of this sound. From what I’ve heard of The Bloodstrings, I’m expecting a lively and energetic set.

Jake Martin (Sunday at Brickhouse Social 15:45–16:15)
I missed out on seeing Jake Martin live last year supporting Gaz Brookfield in my hometown of Milton Keynes because I had my wisdom teeth out on the same day. As much as I wanted to see these two solo acoustic guys, I was in no fit state to do so. Jake’s EP 1,555 Syllables That Mean Everything was one of my favourites from 2018, particularly for its lyrical content, and I’m very much looking forward to singing along to his songs at MPF. The Almost Acoustic stage is one that definitely should not be overlooked as some of my favourite sets from past years have been in this intimate and stripped back setting.

The Mighty Bossmags (Sunday at Zombie Shack 17:20–17:50)
I don’t know much about Warrington’s The Mighty Bossmags – although Colin did review their album Curio Cabinet in 2017 – but if I was to sum them up in just one word I would say that they are ‘peculiar’. Their sound is described as an experimental and bizarre potion concocted of ska, swing and funk. Sounds pretty unique, huh? Well, I genuinely think they are that unique which is why I just have to go see the band live – plus I totally dig their horror meets pirate tunes. I can’t even begin to imagine how crazy a Mighty Bossmags set is but I’m certain to find out in April. 

Joe McMahon & The Dockineers (Sunday at Brickhouse Social 18:10–19:00)
It’s a pretty big deal that American punk rock legends Smoke Or Fire are reforming and playing MPF 2019, right? I will more than likely be going to see Smoke Or Fire on the Saturday night but I’d be lying if I said I was more excited to see them than their frontman Joe McMahon’s solo project. I was lucky enough to catch Joe McMahon and his, then unnamed (as far as I’m aware), band at Fest in Gainesville, Florida, back in 2016. The album Another Life which was also released that year was one of my top records of the year. Definitely a must-see for the Sunday of the festival.

The Burnt Tapes as The Menzingers (Sunday at Rebellion 23:00–23:00)
I encourage you to check out a Sunday night Menzingers covers set courtesy of The Burnt Tapes (who aren’t actually playing the festival otherwise). The Menzingers are one of my favourite bands of all time and The Burnt Tapes are one of my favourite London-based bands – the combination is going to be incredible. This is a set that all of the CPRW team are excited about.

Obviously these are just my personal top ten picks, there are plenty of other bands appearing at MPF 2019 who I am also keen to see – assuming the schedule gods are kind! Who are you most excited to see this year?

If you haven’t got your ticket yet, get on it now!

This top ten was written by Emma Prew.

Wednesday, 27 March 2019

Album Review: Save Us All by Be Like Max

I've been aware of Las Vegas ska punk band Be Like Max since they got announced for a show at my home from home the New Cross Inn last October. Unfortunately I happened to be in Japan buying all the third wave ska records I could find on the day of the show so missed out on what I've been told was a great night. When scrolling through Bandcamp recently I discovered the band released a new album in February. Titled Save Us All and produced by ska punk legend David McWane of Big D & The Kids Table, this is Be Like Max's fourth album and is their most aggressive and in your face album yet.

Save Us All opens with the song Time Flies When You're Having Work. This song really lays down a marker for the rest of the album, this is a blisteringly fast ska punk track. Exploding with energy, the song will get you skanking like a mad person. It's about being in a job you dislike but also not wanting to sell out and join the management scheme. Preston Harper's drums add some great intensity to the final portion of the song, really helping to display Be Like Max's anger on the topic and the dual vocals from Charlie Fine and Christopher Powers give the song an inclusive feel which I thought was wonderful. At Least I'm Not A Toucher follows this and the anger continues. This time Be Like Max show their support for the #metoo movement and talk about how despite them being no angels they know it's definitely not right to abuse your power and take advantage of women. I urge you to go and check out the lyrics to this song – they are superb, really putting across the message of the track. The energy and tempo remain throughout the verses but when the chorus hits things slow down a bit to encourage a great big sing-along. The third song is titled Elitist Punks. The song takes shots at the punks who think they are better than everyone else, completely forgetting what punk is in the process. Be Like Max manage to get even faster on this song, leaving me pretty breathless just trying to follow along. The track does slow slightly towards the end to allow for a gang vocal cry of "elitist punks, so stuck up, tell me how did you get so good at telling every other band they suck!"

Be Like Max slow things down slightly on the fourth song, King Of The House. On this track the band take a modern approach on a more traditional ska/two tone style with Esteban Flores’ keys really coming to the forefront. Despite the slower approach to the song, the energy somehow remains and you will still be dancing throughout the song. The song is about how life is much better when you're at your home with your loved one and worrying that one day they will leave you. The Boss Is Stealing picks the tempo back up in a ferocious manner. Dabbling with some skacore, this is such a circle pit opening song. This is The Suicide Machines meets Slow Gherkin, intense with some of the best brass in the game. It's about how the fat cats at the top of the business pyramid get most of the money while the folk doing all the work ensuring things run smoothly don't get paid very well at all. Something I'm sure a lot of people will relate to. The sixth song, Dreams, is just fifty seconds long but my goodness Be Like Max manage to pack a lot in to it. This is a chaotic ska punk track about changing your dreams to be more realistic for the good of your mental health. Starting out with that super fast tempo, it will again get you dancing like an idiot before the song switches towards a more bouncy style that will have you finish the song with a skank. It's good that this is only a fifty second song – at this pace you'd struggle to make it to the end if it was much longer.

Fuck The News is a horn driven song about how you shouldn't believe everything you hear from the media. Here Be Like Max perfectly blend high tempo ska punk that will really have you picking your knees up with a more classic, jazzy swing style. This i something that I never knew I needed in my life and, now I have it, my life does feel slightly more complete. The rapid fire vocal delivery helps add an intensity that is needed in a song with this message. The eighth track, Give It Up, seems to skip any form of intro and just jumps into its first verse. This really grabs your attention. Fine's vocals feel raw and strained as he blasts through the song. We quickly reach the chorus and things slow down for a sing-along and a skank as the band sing "don’t trust your government no sweat they’ll use you anyway systematic schemes keep running fuelled by loyalty our economy is bought and paid for by big corps complex industries throughout this world are run by (whores)." We learn from this that the song is about the band's disdain for the government. The song is another short one but the change in tempo does a great job of making the track feel full.

Doomsday (which is a cover of a Mephiskapheles song) is a brass lead song where Stephen Anongthep (trombone), Matthew Ellis (saxophone) and Javier Munoz (trumpet) really get to show off their skills. I think I would have really enjoyed this song if it was solely instrumental – the band do such a good job here. The vocals do add to the song though as Fine sings about what would happen to the world when it all goes wrong and we come to our doomsday. The penultimate song is titled I Disagree. On this track Be Like Max head down more of a punk route, at times reminding me of Direct Hit, but backed by horns. I'm sure you've guessed by now – it's fast! There's plenty of punch and melody throughout though as the band passionately play a song about their love for being a DIY band despite constantly being told to quit. As the song goes on, it builds with the horns coming more and more into the song. These extra layers give the song a big feeling and an air of importance. The final song on Save Us All is Home Away From Home. What a perfect way to finish the album, with a bouncy sing-along about having plenty of places where you feel like you're at home when you're on tour. After plenty of tracks where Be Like Max feel pretty angry, it's nice to finish in such an upbeat fashion. I can imagine that the band have plenty of big smiles on their faces when they play this song, just like the big smile I have on my face listening to it.

My gosh, I enjoyed this album. It's so much fun but also has so many important messages on it. It's eleven songs in just twenty minutes but it actually feels even quicker than that as I had such great time listening to it. I think there's a big argument that this could be my favourite American ska punk album released in the last decade. I hope they find their way back to England again soon so I can see them after missing out last time. If not, I'll have to be content with skanking around my living room to this amazing album.

Stream Save Us All here:

Like Be Like Max here:

This review was written by Colin Clark.

Tuesday, 26 March 2019

Album Review: Shelter by Haushinka

Haushinka are a three piece punk rock band from Cumbria who formed in September 2017. The band, Dave Wood on guitar and vocals, Becca Lettice on bass and Tom Bakes on drums, released a new EP in February titled Shelter. It caught my attention thanks to the awesome artwork featuring a bear outside of a bright pink house – I just had to check it out and really enjoyed what I heard.

The release begins with the song Up The Ante. This does a marvellous job of introducing us to Haushinka's sound. What we have here is an indie/power pop punk track that has me thinking of a modern era Buzzcocks. It starts out with some jangly guitars before moving towards a punchy style that will have you tapping your feet and nodding your head whilst the lyrics find a way to worm into your mind. Up next is the just over a minute long Buildings Were Burning. Picking up the tempo gives the song an infectious energy that hooked me immediately. It seems as if there is no wasted second and the band blast through the song. There's definitely an approach of "if it's not needed then we won't do it" in the songwriting that I really liked. Even the "whoa-ohs" at the end of the song feel completely necessary. The opening of the third song, Hibernate, does this wonderful thing of building around Lettice's powerful bassline. I feels as if the bassline is the trunk of the tree and the guitar and, to a lesser extent, the drums are the branches growing out in their own way. After the infectious energy of the previous song, this track slows things down a bit and with the verse in particular it feels a bit moody. It picks up in the chorus though and will no doubt have you singing along.

The fourth track is titled Sheikah Slate, starting out with a simple beat from Bakes' drums before we move into what I think is the more indie influenced side of Haushinka's sound. This being a longer track, we really get to hear the musical skills of all three members of the band, including a nice solo from Woods. On my first listen of Shelter the fifth track, Plagiarismo, was the standout. This is pure power pop that put quite a smile on my face. It's another catchy track that will quickly find a home in your brain. I particularly enjoyed the ironic line of "I keep forgetting how the chorus goes" at the beginning of the chorus. The track is about borrowing parts from other songs to write your own and owning up to it. Musically it's a chugga which really helps keep the song feeling light and allows you to really focus on the lyrics. The penultimate song is named Top Hanking. The riff at the beginning of the song gives it an immediate energy that welcomes you along the ride. I expected this to be high energy throughout but it actually chugs along, mostly allowing Woods vocals to be the star of the show. I really liked his vocal throughout Shelter, it's different to a lot of styles that I usually listen to but works so well on these songs. As the track nears its ending the tempo begins to pick up with Woods' vocals getting faster and faster before the song is done – but not before it is wonderfully bookended by that opening guitar riff. The final song on Shelter is Mind. When I first listened to Mind I was quickly reminded of Placebo with Woods displaying more of an angsty and, dare I say it, whiny vocal. It gives this final song a fresh sound and shows that Haushinka are more than happy to play around and not let things stagnate. Mind has a huge sound and was a great choice to finish the EP.

Haushinka feel like they could be the hot new thing in the indie punk scene. Strong, catchy tunes you'll be humming for days and a great freshness that makes them stand out from the pack.

Stream and download Shelter here:

Like Haushinka here:

This review was written by Colin Clark.

Monday, 25 March 2019

Album Review: Night Shifts by Überyou (by Emma Prew)

Überyou are are a five-piece punk rock band from Zürich, Switzerland. With a number of albums and EPs in their back catalogue, I’m a little ashamed of myself for not having checked them out before. However, with their latest release Night Shifts, I have made amends and fallen in love with this band. The album was released back in January this year, on Gunner Records and Say 10 Records, and I’ve finally found time to review it. If you like hugely singalong-able, melodic gruff punk rock that encourages you to get your fist in the air then this is for you.

Night Shifts kicks off with a song titled Make It Last. Starting things off with a fairly lengthy – for a punk song – mid-tempo melodic introduction, Überyou will instantly have you nodding along and eagerly anticipating the first verse. The vocal style is that perfect balance of being slightly gruff but still being able to clearly make out all of the words, useful when you feel the urge to sing along almost instantly. Things really get good come the chorus which is when the gang vocals come in – ‘With bloodshot eyes, I feel alive, When you come around, To pick me off the ground.’ Gang vocals are ideal really given that this song is about friendship. A fine start to the album but the second song is where things go from great to goddamn awesome. Survivors is one of those songs that I absolutely loved from my very first listen. In fact, as soon as I heard it, I told Colin that he needed to listen to this song. It is what the kids might refer to as ‘a banger’ or ‘a tune’. It is perhaps a little slower in pace than the first track but that’s part of the beauty of it. The focus, for me, is on the lyrics which are about believing in yourself and striving to overcome whatever obstacles life might throw at you. It’s so cathartic, just read the lyrics to the chorus – ‘As long as you're breathing, We can't ignore the truth, Gotta keep on believing, We got nothing left to lose, Live like you mean it, Look at me as I speak to you – sure, I’ll get you through.’ Definitely my favourite song on the album and also probably one of my top songs of 2019 so far. The singalong vibes don’t stop there as next up is the slightly more poppy – but that’s totally not a bad thing – Overdrive with one of the catchiest choruses of the album. As you’d probably expect from a song called ‘overdrive’, Überyou tear through this track at some pace. To me at least, it seems much shorter than its 3 minute duration. Overdrive is about how we can often find ourselves rushing around our lives at full pelt because we don’t know what else to do or how else to live our lives. 

The drums and bass take a backseat for the opening of fourth song, Not Entertaining. The opening lines of ‘I work hard until I fall, And the people I work for, they don’t even know what I’m going through.’ sink in all the more when simply accompanied by a clean guitar part. It really hooked me into the song and was a refreshing change of pace that I didn’t know I needed but welcomed all the same. It’s not too long, however, before Überyou are back to doing what Überyou do best – invigorating singalong punk rock. I often say how I like my punk with a bit of Americana or folk influence but really this is the punk rock I love the most. It’s honest and relatable in its lyrical content, as well as simply sounding huge musically. Überyou switch things up once more with what I want to describe as a danceable groove opening up the next track, Liabilities. When the vocals come in, they are perhaps a little rougher around the edges than on previous tracks and I would have a hard time figuring out the lyrics were they not supplied on Bandcamp. Liabilities also feels angrier than previous songs with the band really letting out their frustrations here, with these feelings culminating with the band vehemently singing ‘You don't know anything about me.’ If, like any good punk fan, you like your vocals in the gang variety then you’ll love the next song. Titled Twenty Seconds, but lasting just under two minutes, the gang vocals start immediately here and the opening line is brilliant – ‘If it wasn't for the music, Then for what was it after all.’. If that wasn’t enough, there are also classic punk rock whoa-ohs a’plenty before too long. The song is about something that is important to me, and most likely important to you too as you’re reading this blog – music and the memories that music can give you. 

There is a great sense of building throughout Taking Chances as Überyou seem to guide us through this song. Each and every line of the song is delivered in such a succinct way that this almost feels like a well-worded motivational speech, especially when accompanied by those pounding drums and methodical melodies. Taking Chances is about understanding that any mistakes you’ve made in your past have only made you stronger or changed you for the better and knowing that sometimes you just need to take a chance. Shine Down hits hard from the outset with the volume seemingly cranked up a notch here – drum skins pounded a little harder and guitars played like there’s no tomorrow. This pace and volume doesn’t relent until towards the end of the song when a slower, more heartfelt section took me quite by surprise – ‘Shine down for me, Shine down for yourself, I wish you could be here, Shine down for me, Shine down for yourself, I know that you wish to be down here as well.’ It, oddly, reminded me of alt-country legends Chamberlain who, since this album was released, have been announced as headliners of Booze Cruise festival in Germany where Überyou are also playing. Nice coincidence, especially as I’m going! As we hurtle towards the end of Night Shifts, Überyou offer up a short and fast number in the form of It’s Not Easy. It’s a simple song in essence with the least lyrical content of any of the songs on the album, instead they pack a killer guitar solo into this song’s relatively short duration. Besides, sometimes you don’t need to weave complex stories with your lyrics, sometimes you can write a darn catchy and direct song about how breaking up isn’t easy – ‘It’s not easy, Breaking up is not easy, It’s not easy, But feelings disappear.’. And you can bet that Überyou will make it sound feel-good. 

The penultimate song of Night Shifts is called More Time For Love. Here Überyou manage to pack in all of the best elements of their previous songs and – this might just be me – bring an ever so slight hint of hair metal to their sound. It might just be the track’s title and the way the band sings that line of the song! Either way, it’s still Überyou delivering a fists-in-the-air, passion-fuelled anthem. Much like earlier songs on the album, More Time For Love is about staying strong despite the dark times you may be dealing with because in the end it will be okay. ‘So many things that we’ll never have, Along the way, You’ll find ease, By learning that, You gotta stay strong, You gotta move on, More time for love, And for what keeps us going on!’ Yeah! If an album has just one longer song – 5 minutes plus – then it’s got to be the album’s closing track, right? That’s exactly what Überyou have done with Night Shifts. Don’t Ever Fall Apart is a slow builder but a slow builder of epic proportions. The slower pace ensures that the song hits you right in the feels. The band obviously holds friendship in high regard and it’s clear from this song how important friends are to the band as a whole, as well as individuals. It’s something the UK’s The Run Up – who, incidentally, are past tour buddies with Überyou – excel at but I think Überyou would give the Bristol band a run for their money with this track. ‘Don't ever fall apart, Don’t even think about, You’ll always be a part, We’re there to help you out.’

Night Shifts is a brilliant album. I am just sorry that it has taken me two months to write this review as I loved it from my first listen. As I mentioned above, Überyou are playing the Hamburg edition of Booze Cruise in June and I am very much looking forward to seeing them there. Hopefully they’re able to come over to the UK as well soon (damn you, Brexit!) as I know a lot of people would love hearing these songs live.

You can stream and download Night Shifts on Bandcamp and check out Überyou on Facebook.

This review was written by Emma Prew.

Friday, 22 March 2019

CPRW Playlist: March 2019

CPRW Playlist: Here's what Brett, Dan, Emma, Jack, Omar, Richard, Robyn myself and our newest member Lee have been listening to this March.

Thursday, 21 March 2019

Top Tens: Colin's Top Ten Bands To See At Manchester Punk Festival 2019

You might have heard that Manchester Punk Festival is quickly coming up on the horizon and here at CPRW we couldn't be more excited. I've been lucky enough to find myself at the festival every year and witnessing its growth has been such a great experience. It's pretty much a guarantee that MPF will be the top weekend of the year, every year. This Easter is the festival's fifth year and it is bigger than ever! This year the MPF collective – which is comprised of Manchester Bev and Andy from TNSrecords, Tree from Anarchistic Undertones and Kieran from Moving North – have pulled out all the stops and booked 137 bands for the festival as well as comedians, poets and many record distros. There's no way we could preview every act playing the festival but Emma, Brett, Robyn and myself have each picked ten different bands that we're very excited about this year.

The Penske File (Friday at The Bread Shed 17:50–18:00)
There's no doubt that Ontario, Canada's The Penske File earned a lot of new fans on their first tour of the UK last autumn and the announcement of their appearance at MPF was greeted with much excitement. The three piece play passionate, big chorused, shout along, punk rock songs that fill you with energy. Last year's Salvation album was their best release yet, which is some achievement given how good their previous album Burn Into the Earth is. This is definitely going to be one of those must-see sets of the weekend so make sure you get there early!

King Prawn (Friday at Gorilla 21:00–22:00)
This year, particularly on the Friday of MPF, the collective have got some of the best ska punk acts in the country on the line-up, including undisputable legends of the scene King Prawn. The festival takes place the same weekend that King Prawn will finally release the album they've been teasing us with since reforming six years ago. Titled The Fabulous New Sounds Of, I'd expect a set to be comprised of new tracks alongside plenty of old classics such as Dominant View, Survive, Bitter Taste, The Loneliest Life, Caught Inna Rut and Someone To Hate. It seems kind of crazy that it's taken so long for King Prawn to appear at MPF but they'll definitely be worth the wait.

Catch-It Kebabs (Friday at The Bread Shed 23:55–00:25)
Oh boy, I was excited when Catch-It Kebabs were announced on the line-up. The Yorkshire ska punk heroes are a band that I was quite late getting into so never managed to see them live. Needless to say I'm delighted to see them back, even if it is just for one night. Combining bouncing ska punk and swing movement with songs tackling political and social issues, the band will be playing at a special after party at Bread Shed named "The Big Tone Stage" in memory of local music producer Tim Gray who sadly passed away last year. I can't wait to see Catch-It Kebabs roll back the years and get everybody skanking.

Skin Of Tears (Saturday at Zombie Shack 14:50–15:20)
As the announcements for the festival were slowly coming out, I was gradually making my own playlist to make sure I checked out some bands I've never heard of. The first that really caught my interest was Germany's Skin Of Tears. It turns out that Skin Of Tears aren't a new band and have been around since 1991. The three piece play melodic skate punk music that would fit perfectly on the Epitaph/Fat Wreck rosters of the day. Skin Of Tears released a brand new album last December named Ass It Is and it's superb. I'm looking forward to watching a new favourite for the first time.

7 Years Bad Luck (Saturday at Zombie Shack 16:30–17:00)
Austria's 7 Years Bad Luck are a band I've been wanting to see since I first heard their album Bridges in 2014. When I saw that the three piece had been added to the weekend I was over the moon as I didn't really ever expect them to reappear in the UK. Playing melodic pop punk (the good kind) with a raspy vocal and great harmonies, 7 Years Bad Luck will offer something a little different to MPF and will no doubt gain many new fans during their set. If you've never heard of them before and you like bands such as No Use For A Name or The Murderburgers then you'll love 7 Years Bad Luck.

Officer Down (Saturday at The Bread Shed 23:50–00:20)
There are a whole host of bands reforming to play Manchester Punk Festival this year. One that really stood out for me was Evesham/Bristol's Officer Down. Another band that I was too late to get into and so I never got the opportunity to see them live but I absolutely adored their final album Dead Lands. Playing a mix of punk rock and hardcore and adding some melodic harmonies, Officer Down will add some bite to the weekend. It seems to be that Officer Down are back properly and not just for MPF and, given their former history with TNS, the festival will surely feel like a bit of a homecoming for the foursome.

Werecats (Sunday at Zombie Shack 14:50–15:20)
Bringing some much needed Ramonescore pop punk to MPF are South London's Werecats. The four piece, which boasts current or former members of The Pukes and The Zatopeks, write wonderfully catchy songs packed with delicious harmonies that always bring a smile to my face. Don't let the sugary sweet vocals put you off, when Werecats perform live they are brimming with attitude and are one of the best live acts around. If you haven't checked out last year's Destined For The Outside yet I strongly suggest that you do. If you love a bit of pop, then Werecats are one for you.

Arms Aloft (Sunday at The Bread Shed 16:10–16:40)
Wisconsin, USA's Arms Aloft will make only their third appearance in Manchester in thirteen years when they play MPF this year. I've only managed to see Arms Aloft once, at The Fest in 2016, and was really impressed with the way they connect with an audience and I'm looking forward to witnessing it again. The four piece play some of the best emotional gruff punk around and it's likely to be a whole set of passionate sing-alongs. I'm hoping to hear the songs Untitled, What A Time To Be Barely Alive, Where Seagulls Dare and Comfort At Any Cost.

Calvinball (Sunday at The Bread Shed 17:00–17:30)
Calvinball, with a little help from Arms Aloft, are reforming for MPF this year. They're a band I had previously heard a lot about but never had actually listened to myself. This was a big mistake on my part as I've really been enjoying the Sheffield band's gruff pop punk, particularly the album Last Orders. I can only imagine that this is going to be an emotional set for thess returning heroes of the UK's DIY punk scene. It's likely to be the last time the band will be about for a long time so don't miss this chance to see them.

The Junk (Sunday at The Bread Shed 17:50–18:30)
Yet another band who have recently reformed is The Junk. The Brighton based skacore act are back after going on hiatus in 2016. Adding to the very impressive roster of ska bands on the MPF line-up, The Junk will please fans who like to skank and mosh in equal measure. With some superb bouncing horn lines that will have the room picking their knees up and heaving hitting drum beats that will have folks joyfully bouncing off one another in the pit, this will be a seriously sweat filled set. It will also be a lot of fun.

This top ten was written by Colin Clark.

Wednesday, 20 March 2019

Album Review: Waterboarding At Guantanamo Bay by The Donald Trumpets

Continuing the tradition of ska punk bands having bad puns for their names are Perth, Australia's The Donald Trumpets. Forming in January 2017 as a way to release their frustrations about all that is wrong with the world, the six piece quickly earned a reputation as a political ska band that will really get you partying. In February this year, The Donald Trumpets released their debut EP Waterboarding At Guantanamo Bay. I'm always eager to check out new ska bands so I enthusiastically sat down ready to review these five songs.

The EP begins with the song Bummerfest. The song starts out slowly with Peter Riggs' guitar welcoming us in before the rest of the band, including a three piece brass section, come in. Soon enough the vocals start and we are treated to a couple of verses talking about how we're spied on through our computers with all the data collected about us being stored in warehouses until you die(!). Around the halfway mark the tempo is upped and The Donald Trumpets get you skanking away whilst continuing to make you think about this current social climate. This song is such a great way to introduce you to the band. Up next is the sing along Coping Mechanisms. Starting out by shouting out the chorus of "wake up, get sad, get drunk, throw up" you instantly learn the chorus to this party ska song that's about drinking to keep away the horrible demons in your mind. As many ska punk bands do, here's a really cheerful sounding song about a topic that's really quite sad. The sense of catharsis in this is always clear though and I'm sure there are plenty of folk who will relate and will hopefully feel better after hearing this song and having a sing and a skank.

When I saw the title of the third song, Guys I'm Syrias, I immediately had a little chuckle. This political track begins with a sound bite of a man passionately stating he wants to overthrow the current system. Then the song starts proper and we're greeted with a bouncy ska punk tune that again will have you dancing and thinking. When the chorus begins we get a crunchier punk sound that really helps drive home the message the band are trying to put out. The penultimate song on the EP is named The More You Know. Again starting out slowly with an acoustic ska jam, things soon progress with the sound getting bigger and the tempo increasing quickly. The contrast in sound at the beginning and the end helps the song to stand out and show a different side of The Donald Trumpets sound. The multiple vocalists in the opening section make the stripped back section sound even bigger. When it's time to pick up the tempo it's like a flick of the switch and, just like that, it's crazy ska mosh pit time. Waterboarding At Guantanamo Bay finishes with Beer Party. You've just read the title so I'm pretty sure you can work out what the song is about – having a beer party. It's ridiculous fun and guaranteed to put a smile on your face. The chorus, "whoa-oh, having a beer party", is likely to take residence in your head whether you like it or not and it will rattle around in there for a long time – you better get used to it. Such a fun way to finish the EP.

This EP is golden. Making me think of ska legends Mustard Plug and The Planet Smashers without ripping them off in the slightest, The Donald Trumpets are a band with a very bright future ahead of them. I don't know much about the Australian ska punk scene but on the strength of this release I'm very keen to check it out. If the bands are half as good as The Donald Trumpets then it must be a very special scene.

Stream and download Waterboarding At Guantanamo Bay here:

Like The Donald Trumpets here:

This review was written by Colin Clark.

Tuesday, 19 March 2019

Album Review: Set Us Free by Reconciler

I stumbled upon Reconciler when I was scrolling through my Bandcamp feed and I saw the artwork for their new album Set Us Free. Featuring a wolf sitting on a red pillow with a rabbit and some dark clouds behind it, it was quite startling. This was enough to make me want to check out Set Us Free and I was really impressed with what I heard. Reconciler are a three piece band from Atlanta, Georgia. They formed in 2016 and had already released a debut EP before the release of their first full length Set Us Free which was released in February this year on A-F Records. Reconciler is Joseph Lazzari on guitar/vocals, Darren Nuhfer (formerly of Less Than Jake) on bass/vocals and Kelsey Wilson on drums.

Set Us Free begins with the song Honest Words. This sets the stall out for what you should expect from the album – Americana inspired punk rock with a vocal that is part Dave Hause and part Laura Jane Grace and is a really big selling point for Reconciler. The mid-tempo pace along with some easily accessible lyrics and a catchy chorus ensure that you'll be singing along from start to finish. This is followed up by Constant. At just over a minute and a half long I was kind of surprised Reconciler would put a song so short so early on the album. It works really well though. The pace is upped and Lazzari's vocals seem to have a bit more aggression about them. This perks the album up immediately and has you wanting more already. Constant also flows brilliantly into the third song, All We Have. On my first listen through of Set Us Free this song really stood out. It starts reasonably slowly but soon builds up into a melody-infused song that has this brilliantly infectious tune that you will be humming for days. All We Have is about not having much but appreciating the memories that you hold close to your heart. The song is really uplifting and leaves a big smile on your face.

There is a moody tone that opens the fourth song, January. The slow way in which the song begins and the muted background music underneath the vocals ensure that you pay full attention to Lazzari's vocals which really remind me of LJG on New Wave. It's a plodder but another stand out that is about trying to keep a relationship together even though you know it's falling apart. Things pick back up on the following track Just Say It. If you're a fan of The Gaslight Anthem, I have no doubt in my mind that you'll really enjoy this song. A repeating trick that Reconciler seem to do is to start songs out with some guitar and vocals before they bring the full band in, this is a sure fire way of getting a listener's attention – particularly live. The song is about having the strength to talk about things that are troubling you and putting on the facade that you find it easy. The sixth song, Rust, presents a heavier side of Reconciler. The tone of the opening guitars feels angrier and Lazzari seems to be straining his vocals slightly, adding more emotion to the song. The tempo is upped slightly too which gives it more urgency. This is a break up song as Lazzari laments the things that he's messed up in a relationship and wonders what might have been. The higher tempo continues on the following song, Take It Away. Feeling more like a straight punk rock song that anything else up to this point, it helps give Set Us Free a bit of an adrenaline boost. I loved hearing Reconciler mix up their sound here, doing a great job in keeping me interested in the album. There's a great section in the final portion of the song that's instrumental and sounds like it's going to lead into the next track but in fact it builds into a final ferocious salvo to finish the song.

Just Wanna Play Rock 'N' Roll is an upbeat track about music as an escape from all the rubbish that comes from life. I really loved the positivity in the chorus. Screaming out the lines "I just wanna play rock 'n' roll" will offer the listener a great deal of catharsis and will certainly put plenty of smiles on people's faces. I also enjoyed the final bridge of "this is a sound to wash away the anger, this is a hope that we can find peace." Really powerful lyrics. This is Reconciler's anthem. The ninth song on Set Us Free is titled Don't Cry. After the upbeat nature of the previous track, Don't Cry slows things down dramatically and almost sounds like a stadium rock tune. It's a song that slowly builds throughout its duration, it doesn't rush itself but when it reaches its climax it's certainly worth it. The penultimate song is titled Not What I Used To Be. Picking things back up the introduction of the song quickly had me dancing in my seat. Vocally, Lazzari's delivers the lyrics with a nice tempo and a wonderful melody that brilliantly gets you swept up in the song. Not What I Used To Be is about growing as a person and changing the way you are. It's a track that overflows with positivity and I really enjoy that. Finally we have Damn The Weather. The track is screaming out to be sung along with as about three quarters of the song is just guitar and vocals – Lazzari really puts on an impressive display here. What a great range he has. The slow build in the song creates such a great feeling of tension that the moment when the full band comes in really feels like a special moment. What a big way to finish off Set Us Free.

Set Us Free is a fine album. It's an emotive punk rock record that's full of smart and powerful punk rock anthems you'll be wanting to sing along to – loud and proud. Definitely an album for fans of Against Me!, The Loved Ones and The Gaslight Anthem.

Stream and download Set Us Free here:

Like Reconciler here:

This review was written by Colin Clark.

Monday, 18 March 2019

Album Review: Boob Sweat by Boob Sweat

Boob Sweat are a three piece pop punk band from Grand Rapids, Michigan, USA. Consisting of Kate on bass and vocals, Athen on drums and Gracie on guitar and vocals, Boob Sweat recently released their debut self titled EP. The EP features four songs of powerful feminist pop punk that really caught my attention from the outset.

The EP begins with the song Madison Avenue. Madison Avenue is a track filled with attitude that has the trio fighting back against a terrible boyfriend and calling them out on all of their downfalls. The song is pretty striking from the start, particularly the chorus of "fuck you, fuck you, fuck everything you do." Madison Avenue gets the EP started in pretty memorable way. Candy Wrapperz is more of a melodic pop punk track than the opener. Beginning with a simple drum beat, a grumbling bass and an impressive vocal, Candy Wrapperz pulls you in immediately before we even get to the crux of the song. I enjoyed that the chorus has a bit of a country vibe to it without Boob Sweat losing any of their punk attitude. The song is about being stuck in an uncomfortable position, being stuck in a car with a man and trying to avoid their unwanted advances. It's horrific and disgusting that such a thing would happen and full credit has to go to Boob Sweat for bringing it up in this fantastic song.

The third song on the EP is named Tamp-Off. This short track is a punchy one about the feeling of beginning your period. Obviously not something I'm an expert on it but it does seem like Boob Sweat have captured the feeling very well. It's clear by this stage of the EP that Boob Sweat are extremely blunt and honest songwriters who also have a sense of humour. Musically Boob Sweat are at their rawest, sacrificing some melody for a crunchier sound that works well with the context of the song. The final track is titled Gilman. This was the first song of the band’s that I heard and what encouraged me to check out the EP. Undoubtedly the poppiest song of the four, this is a great choice of track to introduce newcomers to their style. It's a positive song that talks about following your dreams, getting out of your house and going as far as you can in your life. I really like the feeling of empowerment that Gilman gives and it is so wonderfully catchy. This is a summer pop punk track that will put a smile on your face.

With bands such as Bad Cop / Bad Cop and The Bombpops getting a huge amount of attention in the USA's punk rock scene, it's great to see more bands of this style coming through. This EP shows a huge amount of promise from Michigan’s Boob Sweat. Four fantastic, honest, thoughtful and catchy pop punk songs that are a lot of fun.

Stream and download Boob Sweat here:

Like Boob Sweat here:

This review was written by Colin Clark.

Saturday, 16 March 2019

News: New Katie MF EP & Launch Show

Yesterday London's anti folk punk rocker Katie MF announced a brand new EP. Titled Everything Trouble Meant, it's being released on Friday the 10th of May. To celebrate, Katie MF will also be holding a launch party at The Black Heart in Camden on Thursday the 9th of May. Tickets are £7 in advance or £10 on the door AND everyone coming through the door will get a CD and Bandcamp download of Everything Trouble Meant. We're really excited for this EP.

Check out all the details for the event here.

Below is Katie MF's previous EP, Learning How To Lie, to wet your appetite and give Emma's review of it here a read as well.

Friday, 15 March 2019

News: Dead Bars Have A Brand New Album On The Way!

In 2017 Seattle punk rockers Dead Bars' album Dream Gig was my album of the year. It was superb. I am thrilled to find out that the band are back with their follow up titled Regulars. Regulars will be released on the 3rd of May through All In Vinyl (UK), A-F Records (North America), Eager Beaver Records (Japan) and No Reason Records (Italy).

Here's what the band have to say about Regulars.

"I like this idea of being a regular. There are moments of highs and lows; loneliness and community, sadness and celebration. That's what it's like to be in a band. That's what it's like to be in Dead Bars." says vocalist/founder John Maiello

These ideas and contradictions that can be heard throughout the album, like on 'No Tattoos'. "All my friends have tattoos / But I don't have any tattoos. They wanna remember something / And I wanna forget everything," muses Maiello. Sure it's an easy-on-the-ear anthem, ripe for pit-friendly fun, but it's also indicative of the broader approach that underpins Dead Bars' song-writing. You can be part of the community - and you're welcomed into the Church of Dead Bars - but you're also an individual, and you can be different.

Formed in 2013, a song like 'No Tattoos' marks out just how different Dead Bars are, and how their path to this point has been anything but traditional. The brainchild of two East Coast drummers, John Maiello, and C.J. Frederick, who met, appropriately enough, in a Seattle bar. Since then, a succession of friends and session musicians have filled in, helping out when needed, until the current, steady, line-up of Maiello, Frederick, Jon Oddo and Elliot Thordarson solidified.

"It's always been a rotating cast of characters," says Maiello. "We kind of function like an actual bar. Sometimes people get tired, and they go home, or they get too fucked up and get kicked out."

Now a long-time Seattle resident, Maiello called on one of the city's icons to helm 'Regulars', hitting up the legendary Jack Endino (Nirvana, Mudhoney, Soundgarden) to oversee production duties. When Maiello first sent some songs over, Endino replied that "[They have] a good pop hook with a bunch of bashing and screaming over it; what's not to like?" This sound remains on 'Regulars', sticking fast and true to the classic Dead Bars songs like 'Emergency' and 'Earplug Girl'.

"I cold-called him because I figured if it worked for Nirvana then maybe it would work for us," says Maiello. "So we tracked all the music with him at Soundhouse in Seattle, and then I did vocals at Pierced Ears Recording with Aaron Schroeder (Wimps). It was mixed in Massachusetts by Jay Maas (Defeater, Ceremony)."

Yet, while 'Regulars' retains much of what makes Dead Bars so great, it is no mere repeat of past successes. Instead, it features the group's most ambitious songs to date - a consequence of more collaboration and a settled line-up. In turn, this has allowed for more of the group's classic influences to start informing the song writing - from the Beatles to Tom Petty and the Stooges.

"Everything was different, this time," says Maiello. "We jammed a lot more during the writing of this, so there's definitely more guitar stuff - and more vocal stuff - going on. Also, two of C.J.'s songs made it onto the album."

The result is 11 songs of heartfelt and passionate punk rock, which will appeal to anyone who has ever struggled to find their place in the world. 'Lucky' and 'Another Day' are pure garage-tinged pop-punk ragers that are built for sweaty bar-room call-and-responses, while 'You Never Left' and 'Rain' show the group's ability to mix the hopelessness and hopeful. 'Freaks', meanwhile, is a rallying call for the misunderstood, while 'Producto Toxico' - a song about going to an exotic place and doing the same thing you do at home - carries a relatable world-weariness.

Two years ago, Dead Bars' biggest preoccupation was playing their 'Dream Gig'. Now, as they examine the human condition, the stakes are raised. In the classic Replacements tune, 'Here Comes a Regular,' Paul Westerberg's cry that "Everybody wants to be special here," seems like the perfect mantra for 'Regulars' and its overarching themes of acceptance, loneliness, and community. Of course, we're all special and unique in our own way - but sometimes you need a band like Dead Bars to realize it.

Gig Review: Pkew Pkew Pkew's Album Launch Show at New Cross Inn 8/3/19

Last June when Canadian pop punks Pkew Pkew Pkew played their debut London show (and I think their debut UK show) at the not grimy New Cross Inn it was considered by most who were there, including myself, to be the gig of the year. Last week the four piece were back in the UK playing a short run of shows leading up to a big gig supporting The Hold Steady in London. To finish up that short run of the shows, "The Boys" were back at the really not grimy New Cross Inn to headline a show that would also be the London album launch for their brand new album, Optimal Lifestlyes, which came out the previous week. This was a Be Sharp Promotions show so obviously the line-up was stacked and was looking to be another gig of the year contender.

First up was The New Heat's Nik Holi playing an acoustic set. We managed to catch The New Heat a couple of times last year and were seriously impressed with the band’s powerful and soulful punk rock and I was extremely interested to see what a stripped back version would be like. Being an acoustic act opening for what was going to be boisterous night and starting just as happy hour was finishing was always going to be tricky but I think Nik did a superb job. Starting out with a couple of his band’s own songs, it was nice to hear these different versions and I also thought it was a cool introduction if you were unfamiliar with The New Heat. It was when he treated us to an acoustic cover of The Menzingers track Gates that he really got the audience’s attention however with a few people making their way forward from the back of the crowd. We were also treated to an acoustic version of new song No Way Back as well as debuting a brand new song that had never been played live before. Finishing things up with another cover, this time FIDLAR's West Coast, got a nice amount of people singing along. A fine way to begin the night.

Up next was an act I plan on championing a lot in 2019 as I think they are absolutely amazing. Katie MF are a three piece who we first featured as our Band Of The Week last year, we then caught them supporting Wolves & Wolves & Wolves & Wolves at the New Cross Inn in September and thought they were superb. Their EP Learning How To Lie even found a place into Emma's top ten EPs of 2018. We were very excited when we learnt that Katie MF would be playing this show, knowing how well it would sell and the size of the crowd they'd get to play too. From the start of their set Katie had the crowd's attention with her fantastic voice. Playing anti-folk punk rock music with a slight country twinge, I was captivated by what I was seeing and hearing immediately and was so pleased to see that so many other people were really getting into it. They played a selection of songs from Learning How To Lie, the fantastic first single Kiss Me Again and a couple of news songs including Lucky Mother Fucker, which is about Katie surviving a near death experience, and Apocalypse, which we've had a sneaky listen to thanks to an upcoming CPRW project – both of which sound fantastic live. Finishing with the hard hitting political song Mr Cameron Mr Gove, Katie MF the person is a woman of considerable talent and Katie MF the band are surely set for a big 2019? I really hope so.

Our Lives In Cinema were back at the New Cross Inn, like last year, supporting frontman Mark's favourite band Pkew Pkew Pkew. He was clearly really pumped for the show because as soon as the band began their opening song, the awesome It's Always Sunny In Paterson Park, Mark found himself in the crowd singing and dancing as only he knows how to. By this stage of the evening, the New Cross Inn was getting pretty full and it was nice to see that a decent amount had turned up in particular to see Our Lives In Cinema. Playing the six tracks from their previous two EPs Our Lives In Cinema and All Talk, it was nice to have a sing-along with the band as Mark prowled around the front of the crowd. These songs are sounding so slick live now, you'd be surprised to know that the band’s bass player and drummer are both recent additions to the band. Mark did mention during the set that this could possibly be the last time that this set would be played as they are working on new songs. It was also lovely to look across the crowd and see Pkew Pkew Pkew's Emmett rocking out to the band. Knowing Mark, I'm sure that he got a real buzz from that. Our Lives In Cinema are such a fun band to see live. In May they are doing a four date tour with Eat Dirt, SKIV and Tailblock, be sure to check out OLIC's Facebook page for more details.

Leed's four piece, and New Cross Inn favourites, Eat Defeat were next to take to the stage only with a bit of a difference. Usual guitarist Rich couldn't make the show so the band had enlisted Dave from Bear Trap to fill in. Opening with my personal favourite song of theirs, Smile, the band had New Cross in the palm of their hands immediately and for the next half an hour with the enthusiastic crowd down the front singing back every word at the band. Mostly playing tracks from last year's CPRW album of the year I Think We'll Be OK as well as some favourites from the Umlaut Records release Time And Tide, there was excitement for every single song. There was a fun moment of banter between the band as they remember the last time at NXI when drummer Stephen messed up what is arguably their biggest hit, Shortcuts. This didn't happen again – these guys are professionals! It's always such a special moment when Eat Defeat find their way down to South London and thankfully it seems to happen fairly often. It feels odd to call Eat Defeat one of the rising stars of the UK's punk rock scene as they've been around ages now but they are certainly going from strength to strength and gaining lots of fans all the time. Deservedly so.

The night had already been a hell of a lot of fun and was flying by with the main event still to come. Pkew Pkew Pkew's debut album was my album of the year in 2016 and their brand new album Optimal Lifestyles is definitely a big contender for my top album of 2019. If you were to listen to both albums back to back (which I have) you'll notice a bit of a difference in sound, with Optimal Lifestyles showcasing a more mature sound. Since first hearing Optimal Lifestyles, I've been wondering how this would work live. Starting out with a couple of favourites from the brand new album (Still Hanging Out After These Years and 65 Nickels) it was clear that a lot of people had been listening to the new album as the songs were treated like an old friend that you've known for years. As you might imagine from an album launch party the seventeen song set was heavy on tracks from Optimal Lifestyles and I don't think Pkew could believe the great receptions each song got. My favourites were The Polynesian, Point Break (which we had a lot of fun air saxophoning to), Skate 2 and Thirsty And Humble. I was slightly disappointed that Adult Party didn't get a run through. Of course the self titled album wasn't ignored completely and drew some of the biggest sing-alongs you'll see at the New Cross Inn all year. I'll never ever tire of songs like Prime Minister Of The Defence, Kathie Lee + Hoda, Mid-20's Skateboarder, Bloodclot and Asshole Pandemic. There were some cool moments when Eat Defeat's Jimmy joined the band to sing Bloodclot and OLIC's Mark joined the band for the final song of the night Asshole Pandemic (until the New Cross Inn broke). Pkew Pkew Pkew are one of those special live bands that can get such amazing reactions from a crowd, with some wonderfully catchy pop punk that you can't help but want to shout along with at the top of your lungs and just launch your fists in the air. The band look to be having the time of their lives on stage as well and bass player Emmett, who was stood just in front of us, seemed truly touched by the reaction the New Cross Inn crowd were giving them. Unfortunately the show finished a little earlier than planned because of some electrical problems but that didn't stop everyone from going home with big smiles on their faces. I can't wait for Pkew Pkew Pkew to return to the New Cross Inn in May with Spanish Love Songs. That's going to be some party.

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

Thursday, 14 March 2019

Top Tens: Heathcliff's Top Ten Punk Rock Influences

Heathcliff (the whole band):

1. Straightline
Not only have these lads always been Munich’s finest skatepunk act, what is more, these friends have always inspired us when it comes to persistence, dedication and devotion. They played their sound when there was absolutely no scene for skatepunk in and around Munich and they still do simply because they love what they do. Almost everyone in Heathcliff has played in different bands for the last 20 years, with different styles of music until we finally agreed on making music that comes straight from our hearts. So here’s to Germany’s Skate-Punk-Trash kings… We love you guys.

2. Forus
When these amazing French dudes first dropped their killer hymn “I only go to school for the handrails”, the song immediately blew us away. This brilliant mixture of classic heavy metal tappings combined with ultra-fast skatepunk inspired us to go for it. They have created an amazingly unique sound and we simply love it.

Bust.E (drums and vocals):

3. Satanic Surfers
Well… what shall I say… HEROES OF OUR TIME. When I fell in love with skatepunk at the age of fourteen, I fell in love with all the bands on my first ever skatepunk CD… It was Fat Wreckchord’s “Survival Of The Fattest”. Back then I thought that these bands can’t be overcome… until I heard “Hero Of Our Times”. Boom. A drummer that plays incredibly fast and creative AND sings. I wanted to do the same and so I started rehearsing day and night. Also, I always love their thriving, melancholic and yet somehow positive songwriting.

4. Sublime
Brad’s songwriting and the general performance of this Long Beach masterpiece has given me strength and time to calm down and think throughout my life. I do love so many styles of music and in my humble opinion, this band found a way to actively or passively bring those styles together, which is quite a thing. I love my punk rock, I love my reggae, I love my ska, I love my rap and I love catchy, handmade tunes… Unfortunately Brad’s time came way too early.

Flash (guitar and vocals):

5. Mute
Actually our singer Basti showed this band to me years ago. I was stunned when I heard their riffs, vocals and those insanely nice guitar works. That was the moment I realized what kind of music I wanted to write and perform. Until the present day, I'm a huge Mute fan.

6. Blind Guardian
I know, this one busts out of all borders, but back in the days a friend of mine showed me this band. I was caught after the first seconds of listening. Especially when I decided to go for lead guitar stuff, it was those melodies and licks that got me through the first steps and further. That kinda shows my "heritage" in music.

Bernie (bass):

“If A Wilhelm Scream and Propagandhi had a sexy bearded baby, DARKO would pop out of the womb”… I love their crazy technical playing that always fits their very melodic and powerful songs. I bought the Bonsai Mammoth vinyl at a concert in Munich and played it non-stop for a couple of weeks. And as a bass player I have to say that Karl is such a cool bass player with a great presence on stage.

8. Lagwagon
I started skateboarding in the late 80s and through that came to punk music and therefore many of my favourite bands are to be found in the 90s. So besides a lot of other bands to name (also outside of the punk genre), Lagwagon for me are something special. They often have that cool melancholic touch to their harmonies and melodies but at the same time are the perfect soundtrack for a great sunny snowboarding day with your buddies. And they are also more than just a memory from good old times – I also really dig their latest (OK, not brand new) album “Hang”.

Manu (guitar):

9. Millencolin
I was a kid on a bus to our school skiing week when someone let me listen to Millencolin on his Walkman. I was totally stoked and from there on listened to that tape in an infinite loop over many weeks. I am remembering rewinding the tape in my Walkman all the time. They got me into fast melodic skate punk.

10. NoFX
I have loved going to concerts since I was a kid and I was always interested in the guitar equipment that bands use. I am now playing with the equipment of my childhood dreams: a Gibson Les Paul and a Mesa Boogie Mark IV. The same equipment as Eric Melvin from NoFX. Such a cool band! I like their music AND their punk attitude! Some bands (including our band, sometimes) focus a lot on playing technical, fast and tight. That’s cool, but sometimes it shouldn’t be too serious. Why don’t we play a gig totally drunk?! The music might suffer but sure not the fun! That’s punk rock!

Heathcliff's debut album #chilloutradio was released on March 9th. You can stream and download it from their Bandcamp here. Also be sure to like Heathcliff here.

Wednesday, 13 March 2019

Album Review: The Stifled by The Stifled

The Stifled are a four piece punk rock band from Baltimore, Maryland, USA. At the beginning of the year the band, featuring Josh Pickett (vocals/guitar), Tim Syzmanski (guitar), Colin Brooks (bass) and Ronnie Snyder (drums), released a brand new self titled EP. I stumbled across the EP on Bandcamp and was taken in by the artwork, simply a fire hydrant pouring out water onto the road. From there I encountered an intense melodic punk rock that I couldn't stop listening to.

The EP begins with the track Bite. Bite ensures that the EP begins in empowering style with a ferocious track about fighting back against "the man." I'm reminded of early Rise Against here with the combination of raspy vocals, melodic guitars, a driving drumbeat and a powerful message. The track is pretty relentless, rarely slowing – this momentum gives the track another feeling of empowerment and really makes you want to get up and fight back. Up next is the song Frustration. It starts out with slick guitar riff and some pounding drums before a huge primal scream explodes the song into life. I was expecting the track to go full steam ahead but it actually slows back down, slowly building back up to that big high. Frustration is about the damaging effects of the Internet, all of the false truths that are published and trying to find a way to take a stand against this. I really enjoyed the fast paced melody that is delivered in the chorus, it fills the song with a great energy.

The third song, Sh*thead, is a short track at just over a minute long but it still manages to pack in a lot into its time frame. Everything here is delivered at top speed as Pickett sings about not being the best version of yourself and slowly realising this. When I first looked at the tracklisting on the EP I kind of just assumed that Sh*thead would be a bit throwaway but in truth I loved it. Short, fast and a lot of fun. The penultimate song is titled Fractured Ethos. This song, perhaps more than any other on the EP, flits between hardcore and pop punk at times, creating an interesting contrast that keeps things feeling fresh. When The Stifled play a poppier style, their music is full of hooks and catchy melodies but you know when they start building to the hardcore sound and that big hoarse growl, it's going to get animalistic. The final song on the EP is Deep Down. It begins with an almost chant-like verse that will get a live crowd involved from the outset, before some much quicker vocals appear. This adds energy to the song, but it also makes it a little lighter before a chorus with heavier vocals, along with group shouts, make the track sound huge. The song finishes with a big shout-along section that will, again, quickly get a live crowd truly on board. A great way to finish this EP.

I really, really enjoyed The Stifled. These days I don't listen to the harder side of punk rock that much but this was really my can of coke. The Rise Against comparison is an obvious one but The Stifled throw their own twist on the style. The Stifled are a band you should be checking out, they might just explode.

Stream and download The Stifled here:

Like The Stifled here:

This review was written by Colin Clark.

Tuesday, 12 March 2019

Album Review: What An Awful Life by Captain Asshole

The other day I had a day of feeling super depressed. I'd lost someone who holds a big place in my heart, I'm really concerned about some more people I love, work has been running me into the ground and I fell down the stairs. I basically had a day of sitting around in my pyjamas being really unproductive. Trying to at least attempt to do something productive with my day I stuck on an album that had been sent to me a couple of days before. Man, did this get me out of my mood! I first heard of Germany's Captain Asshole after they were announced for Hamburg's Booze Cruise Festival in June. I hadn't had a chance to check them out yet, then the band’s bass player Maximilian sent me an advance copy of their upcoming debut What An Awful Life. This was my chance. I loved this so much from the very first listen. Here's why.

What An Awful Life begins with the song Kyoto Wa Doko Nan Da. Here we are greeted with some youthful sing-along gruff pop punk. The thing that immediately caught my ear was the use of gang vocals throughout the song. During the times where there is just the one singer it gives the song an extra piece of emotion that will seriously tug at your heartstrings. The song talks about feeling that life is suffocating you and is passing you by. Up next is Old Habits Don't Die. The track opens at a mid-tempo pace with some warming guitar tones before the vocals come in and there's a bratty pop punk vibe about it. Switching between solo and gang vocals adds to the energy on the verse and by the time the song reaches its chorus we are treated to the most glorious part of the song. This melodic gang vocal style is 100% what I love in this sort of punk rock. Captain Asshole sing about trying to break free of old habits and getting back up if something knocks you down. Finishing up the song, Captain Asshole slow things back down and show off their skill at harmonies with a big finale that I adored. The third track is titled Iron Out The Kinks. This high tempo song goes down more of a garage punk road with buzzing guitars and slightly distorted vocals. Keeping their pop sensibilities with a catchy melody and chorus, Captain Asshole show that can dabble in different styles and still sound like Captain Asshole.

Sunday Morning has a pretty epic opening that leads into a verse that goes off like a bullet. Channelling their favourite skate punk bands, you strap yourself in for what you think is going to be a relentless ride. But no! After that verse Captain Asshole switch to a gang vocal moment that continues for the majority of the song. Sunday Morning is about feeling terrible after a night out and wondering why you continue to do it to yourself. The massive amount of gang vocals on the song really give the song a sing-along vibe that will work so well at a Captain Asshole gig – I can't wait to see them live. The fifth song is named Face Him! Yo Dude. Are You High? This song had me dancing from the outset with a great guitar riff. This is one of Captain Asshole's more pop punk sounding songs but it's actually quite a sad song. It's about being beaten up as a youth and regretting not fighting back. The chorus is the highlight, I found myself singing it to myself long after the song had finished. The following song is titled Tony Hawk's Pro Skater 2 Had A Really Good Soundtrack. Before even listening to the song I had an inkling that this song would be about getting older and trying to cling onto things from your youth. Nailed it! The song is upbeat and up-tempo and quickly put a smile on my face and I can already imagine a music video of a montage of the band's youth. Something I quite enjoyed is the false finish that comes at the midway point of the song. There's this rambunctious guitar part that makes it feel like the track is coming to the end but it just keeps going and going for the final minute of the song where the band sing about being happy to get nostalgic and remember great times.

Holiday Inn is the title of the seventh song on What An Awful Life. For those who don't know, the Holiday Inn is the name of the hotel that serves as the hub of operations at the punk rock mecca in Gainesville known as The Fest. This is a love song, where the band sing about meeting a girl at the festival and hoping to meet her there again. This is the poppiest song on the album, perhaps not too surprising given that it's a love song. It also seems to feature less of the gang vocals which gives the track a much more personal feel and works well given the subject matter. Up next is Same Old Streets. On this song Captain Asshole tackle the subject of getting out of your hometown but knowing all the things you love about the place will still be there when you return. The chugga chugga approach to the guitars really allow the first verse to fill the song with an infectious energy that builds up and is then let out in the form of some more marvellous gang vocals. Up next is No More Spanish Love Songs which features a special guest in the form of Arliss Nancy's Cory Call. It's about realising that drinking and smoking an excessive amount isn't all that it's cracked up to be. Call's raspy vocals really shine, particularly in the gang vocal segments where they add a gruffer layer, perhaps due to the effects of smoking and drinking? Imagery.

The tenth song on What An Awful Life is titled I Literally Have No Idea What The Fuck I'm Doing. This is a track full of self doubt and anxiety as Captain Asshole sing a song where they wonder if they deserve what they have and will they make a mess of it. This is a feeling that many of us get so singing along offers a certain amount of catharsis to the track. The poppy guitar sounds that open the track really invite you in and, again, a massive amount of gang vocals really make you feel included. The penultimate song is named Home Alone. On my first listen of the track the lines "I'm so fucking sick of waking up alone, the only way to solve this is by never going home" really caught my attention. The song has a big overtone of sadness but is also very fiery, especially the song's finale as the lyrics are shouted in an almost aggressive manner. This is one of those songs that will lodge itself in your head and you'll find yourself singing it to yourself for days. What An Awful Life finishes with what could be its best song. On Fuck You Andy, Captain Asshole really channel their obvious love of midwestern punk rock with this absolute banger of a song. The song plays about with different tempos that keep the song interesting. With a fast paced verse giving the song its energy before the band slow things down for an almost chanting section that leads into this huge finale that feels so powerful. What a way to finish the album.

Simply put, this is an album of the year contender. What An Awful Life is an amazing work. Good job Captain Asshole.

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This review was written by Colin Clark.

Monday, 11 March 2019

Album Review: Yes, I Can't by Devon Kay & The Solutions

You probably know Devon Kay best as guitarist and backing vocalist of Direct Hit. When he's not melting faces with Direct Hit, Kay fronts his own band – Devon Kay & The Solutions. In February they released their first album in over five years title Yes, I Can't. Over the years Devon Kay have evolved from a folk band, to a pop punk band and now to their current state of a pop punk/ska/folk band. This was clearly going to be a varied album, with a little something for everyone that should make for an extremely fun ride.

Yes, I Can't begins with the short More Years. It kind of works as an intro as well as a standalone song as it leads seamlessly into the album's second song, Make No Mistake. More Years is a catchy folk pop song where Kay acknowledges the time between Yes, I Can't and previous album Losing IT. There's a sly joke to some comments about the polished sound of that previous album which put a smile on my face. Make No Mistake is a rambunctious affair. Starting out with what we think is a banjo before a full band effort, including brass, begins and a big ball of energy hits you. The song has this urgent feel which drives it on but also doesn't take itself too seriously with the addition of some "da da da" chanting harmonies. Up next is Fresh. If you're only familiar with Kay's work with Direct Hit then this might be more of what you were expecting from Yes, I Can't. (Which is kind of ironic given the song’s title). It's a catchy pop punk track with a sharp and punchy verse and a melodic chorus that's the real earworm. Fresh is actually a pretty sad love song that talks about wanting to be a certain way for someone but your mental health holding you back.

Up next is the album's title track. This is another catchy pop punk track that you will be singing to yourself long after you've finished listening to the song. Never one to take himself too seriously, the song is littered with these insane harmonies that had me thinking of The Muppets. I bloody love The Muppets. On this track Kay sings about not always being able to be there for someone despite how much they might want you to be. The song’s conclusion is a thing of wonder, the level of details in the harmonies blew me away and it gives the song such an energy it's hard not to be affected by it. The fifth song, A Lovers Trip, slows things down quite considerably. The guitar intro along with the opening lines of "show me all your darkest fears, I want all the roots and shame" give the track such a sad and downtrodden feeling. As the song progresses there is a bit of mood lift as Kay talks about wanting to talk to someone and offer help without trying to smother them. The inclusion of brass and a tempo shift alongside some gang vocals ensure the song closes on a high. Old Scent opens with a powerful drum beat courtesy of Ryan Solava. This drumming really fleshes out the first half of the song as Kay sings about things that have happened to him that will stay forever and would feel weird if they weren't there anymore. Once we reach the second half of the song we morph into a more traditional sounding punk song and another mega ending with Kay repeatedly singing "and I know what I done wrong" with a guitar riff that adds plenty of emotion.

The second half of Yes, I Can't kicks off with Re-Relocating. Re-Relocating sees Devon Kay & The Solutions exploring the folkier side of their sound. The opening line of the song grabs your attention with its nod to the Starship classic We Built This City – "well We Built This City on alcohol." From there we are treated to an enchanting track that you can have a great dance to. I love this hark back to the band’s early years, this is such a big contrast to Kay's work with Direct Hit but it still is fantastic. I really enjoyed this song. Good Pill Hunting sees the band travel down a completely different path. Combining snotty punk rock with synths and big brass lines, adds yet another different style to Yes, I Can't. All these different styles really show off the skill of these guys as musicians. The song is about dealing with addiction and how the need for drugs makes you feel. I love the positive ending of the song where Kay is determined to beat the addiction. Hopefully this song will in some way inspire and help people. Broad Shoulders follows this and is a slower song that allows Kay to really put a bit more of dramatic mood into the track. As the song goes on, the emotion builds and Kay's vocal gets more and more of a twang that helps the song to stand out. Kay has this great ability to make you feel like you're listening to a story with his lyrics, that's really evident on Broad Shoulders.

Great American Roundabout has a sound that reminds me of something but can't quite put my finger on it and to be perfectly honest it's really bugging me. It sees Devon Kay & The Solutions add another string to their bow of sounds with a kind of garage punk, kind of rock 'n' roll, kind of big band combination. The line that really stands out the most is the repetitive cry of " you got me round got me round got me spinning all around all around." The track is one of the angrier songs on Yes, I Can't. It's about being frustrated about people not being blunt and to the point and making you run around in circles. The penultimate song is titled One Outta Two. It starts out with an echoed vocal that adds a whole lot of atmosphere before we lead into a piano section that I didn't know I needed but when it hit I absolutely loved. This gives the song so much life and makes the song so infectious. One Outta Two is about making 100% sure that your relationship is for keeps before committing for life. The addition of a female vocal gives the song an extra element and adds some exquisite harmonies. Yes, I Can't is finished by Temporary Displacement. The song starts out in high tempo fashion with Kay storming through the opening verse. I was trying to follow along with the lyrics on Bandcamp and had a bit of a tricky time keeping up. When the song reaches its half way point the tempo drops and we move into more of a chant like section. This slowly builds with harmonies coming from all over the place. I often say that an album’s last song needs that big feeling. Devon Kay & The Solutions do a perfect job of ensuring that Yes, I Can't finishes in a big way!

If you're new to Devon Kay & The Solutions then Yes, I Can't really will serve as a great introduction. Showcasing the many sides of the band’s style, it's a varied album that keeps itself feeling fresh and always keeps you interested.

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This review was written by Colin Clark.