Wednesday, 31 July 2019

Album Review: Knots by Bobby's Oar

I discovered Bobby's Oar earlier this year thanks to Tiny Dragon Music. I thoroughly enjoyed their folk punk sound on the album Not What I'm Looking For which was released in 2017. Back in May the five piece from Seattle, Washington, released a new four song EP named Knots. Knots showed a change in sound for Bobby's Oar, morphing into a more of an emo punk rock band than the folk style they originally played. Would it be as good though?

Knots begins with Tired Eyes. It's just fifty-nine seconds long but does a wonderful job of easing you into the new style of Bobby's Oar. With just some soft acoustic guitar and Greg Hughes’ vocal, the song is about making sure that you spend your time doing things that you love rather than the things you hate. Basically, don't waste your time in a job you hate – do something you enjoy. The song flows seamlessly into the next track, Compass In The City. Starting slowly before exploding into life is a technique many bands use but it's always so effective. I love how well you can hear Tyler Colton's keyboards. Far too often keys get overshadowed on the recording but here they add a lot without becoming overpowering. The song just builds and builds throughout, sounding more and more joyful as it goes on. The song is about finding the positives in your surroundings, even when it looks as if there aren't any.

Life Fights Back again builds slowly but this time it's not so quiet. Drummer Jonny Modes puts down a fantastic driving beat that allows the rest of the band to play off of him before Hughes' vocals come in. On my first listen through of Knots, this song in particular really had me thinking of Spanish Love Songs – especially the vocals. Life Fights Back is about always trying to do your best despite things not always going your way. The final song on Knots is named Comb My Hair. Spending no time with an introduction, Hughes starts the song quickly and you instantly feel involved with the song. The chorus is one of the catchiest on the EP as Hughes sings "I'll comb my hair just to rip out the knots, because I need a little pain today." The track looks at the topic of longing for life to be a little different and to feel something new.

I really enjoyed this new path that Bobby's Oar are going down. It's emotional, sing-along punk rock that will get you feeling the feels as well as getting you to throw your fists in the air with the band. If you're a fan of bands such as Spanish Love Songs and Cold Wrecks, or any sad punk rock bands really, then Bobby's Oar are a band you need to be listening to.

Stream and download Knots here:

Like Bobby's Oar here:

This review was written by Colin Clark.

Gig Review: Level Up Festival 2019 Day One 19/7/19

In just three years, Level Up Festival has become a staple in any self respecting fan of the UK DIY ska punk scene's calendar. The three day event, put together by Be Sharp Promotions, Fishlock Promotions and El Topo Bookings, showcases many of the best bands currently in the UK, some special reunions and friends from further afield. Of course, the festival was taking place at the home of ska punk in London – the New Cross Inn. As is tradition, Friday night was an evening gig to wet our appetite for the two full days of ska punk shenanigans ahead of us. And what a way to start the weekend with The JB Conspiracy, a reuniting ClayPigeon, Tree House Fire and BaldHead And The Dreads!

(Note: Colin's parts are in regular text and Emma's parts are in italic.)

First up were local heroes BaldHead And The Dreads. These five guys pretty much formed to play Level Up Festival and now here they were opening the whole weekend! Before the set, the band had promised some surprises. When they took to the stage it quickly became apparent what they meant. Wearing matching caps, ginger beards, band t-shirts and, of course, shorts in ode to the man they love, adore and perhaps worship – Mr ska punk himself, Paul Smith. Playing that most well known of musical genres PaulSmithCore, BaldHead were a lot of fun as always. This was my third time seeing them this year and they seem to get better and better every time. As is the way with a BaldHead's set there were plenty of songs about dogs and drugs as well as Mr Smith and the New Cross Inn and also a special cover of Daniel Bedingfield’s Gotta Get Through This. The band ensured that Level Up Festival began in the best possible way.

Tree House Fire returned to Level Up Festival for the third year, making them one of the few acts to appear at every festival to date. After appearing as a semi-acoustic act downstairs in Stocks Bar last year, the Welsh five-piece were back to get the, now rather busy, upstairs of New Cross Inn bopping along to their sunshiney reggae tunes and continuing the good times vibes where BaldHead And The Dreads left off. The band released a new EP titled Fool’s Gold last year and so their set understandably featured a handful of tracks from that as well as classics like Dutty Girl and Mr Aggressor. There was dancing a’plenty and just general feel-good vibes throughout, with Tree House Fire’s set flying by in seemingly no time at all. I don’t listen to the band all that much on recording but they’re always great fun to see live and this was no exception.

ClayPigeon's reunion set was one of the most anticipated of the entire weekend and I'm pretty sure that a big portion of the crowd were here especially for them. Other than a show supporting The Skints earlier in the year, this was their first show in years and the level of anticipation was high. As soon as they began their set you could see how happy the Level Up crowd were to see ClayPigeon back on the New Cross stage for one more night. Jak, Jon and Az still have that magic that made them such firm favourites back in the day. The crowd were singing every word right back at the stage as ClayPigeon rolled back the years. Trying to cram as many songs as possible into their forty minute set, they squeezed in all the classics such as Circles, This Ain't War, Mentality and Compass as well as a cover of Madness' Must Be Love alongside some teasers of Korn, Rage Against The Machine and Marilyn Manson. As the set went on, the crowd got increasingly rowdier with the pit really getting started and some crowd surfers too. There was, unfortunately, one chap down the front who was already way past being drunk and decided to drop a whole pint over Jak's guitar pedals. Luckily the DIY ska community was on hand to ensure it got cleared up very quickly so nothing was broken and we all continued having a lovely time. At the end of their set ClayPigeon looked so humbled by the reception that they had received and it was a absolute pleasure to see them back again even if it was only for one night (unless you happen to be at Boomtown this year). It was, however, a bit weird to see a ClayPigeon gig without Tyrannosaurus Alan – I think that was a first for me.

The JB Conspiracy don’t play shows all that often anymore. In fact, their appearance at Level Up 2019 was only their second gig of the year – the first being at the MPF pre-show, which we also went to so 100% attendance for us! The rarity of their live shows brings a high level of anticipation however and, of course, the band never disappoint with their combination of ska, reggae and punk. I thought ClayPigeon were going to be a tough act to follow but from JB’s very first notes they had the whole of the New Cross Inn dancing and singing along. Their time away from a live setting – and a seemingly ever changing line-up – certainly doesn’t hinder their live performance one bit. The setlist, which was a pretty lengthy one, included tracks such as 1989, Time To Leave and Drop Your Anchor among many others. We were also treated to a taste of what’s to come from the band’s eagerly anticipated and long time coming third album – which vocalist and guitarist Matt insists is coming later this year. It all sounds very, very good so we at CPRW cannot wait. The highlight of their set however had to be the neat cover that they threw in – dedicated to Mr Be Sharp himself, Paul Smith. Shed Some Skin by 90s Californian ska punk band Slow Gherkin is perhaps a bit of a niche cover but I know Paul – and Colin – very much appreciated it as I watched them run down to the front, skanking and singing along like crazy. Here we had The JB Conspiracy proving once again that they’re still one of the best bands in the DIY ska punk scene.

What a great start to our ska-fuelled weekend the Friday night had been! Not even the fact that we had to walk for 15 minutes in torrential rain to get to our AirBnB in Deptford could dampen our spirits (yeah, pun intended).

This gig review was written by Colin Clark and Emma Prew.
Rubbish photos also by Emma.

Tuesday, 30 July 2019

Album Review: Shove It by NoPoint

Recently I downloaded a new app where I get XP points for doing certain things throughout the day. One of those things is discover a new band or artist that you love. I love doing that anyway so there's some easy XP points for me! I jumped on to Bandcamp and quickly discovered NoPoint from St. Louis, Missouri, who had recently released a six song EP named Shove It. Originally attracted to the EP by the skateboarding crocodile, I soon discovered six fast and snotty skate punk tracks.

Shove It begins with the track Consumer. Starting out with some shredding lead guitar, there is an energy present from the beginning that had me wanting to get invested into the song. When guitarist Jesse's vocals come in we are treated to a fast and snotty snarl as he laments the consumer culture that is plaguing society at the moment. The song is played at a fast pace throughout which really helps to showcase the frustration that NoPoint have towards this topic. Up next is the song Push, which is ridiculously catchy. Slowing things down a little bit, Push is a song about having a great time with your pals skating and hoping you can keep doing it for the rest of your life. I love the positivity in the song, it sounds as if NoPoint don't have a care in the world and are having more fun than ever.

The third song is named Dog. Sadly the positivity doesn't remain for NoPoint as this song is about being treated horribly in your job. Again it's super catchy, particularly the chorus as Jesse sings "treat me like a dog" while another member of the band shouts some harmonies. This really helps with the sing-along aspect of the track. Mr. No Fun is up next and has another shred-until-you're-dead intro. There's a bit of an old school 80s skate punk vibe to the song, making me think back to early NOFX. The production feels a bit rawer to the previous tracks as well which helps with the whole tone of the song. On the track, NoPoint talk about the people with responsibilities like jobs and families who aren't fun anymore. I guess there's a frustration there as they miss friends who have gone down a different route with their life.

The penultimate song on Shove It is T.V. This track is about how people are controlled by their television sets. It's a social commentary about folk these days whose lives seem to centre around the screen in the corner of your living room. There is plenty of snarl and venom in the vocals that give you the impression that NoPoint are really angry at this situation and they're making me feel the same. Lastly we have the song Banger, which is a three minute instrumental track. It starts out slowly before really picking up some pace. The track really shows off some great musicianship but it did leave me yearning for some vocals to come in for me to really lose my beans to it.

Shove It is a fantastic introduction to NoPoint. It showcases a band that write fantastic skate punk songs with strong messages but also know how to have a lot of fun. If you loved early Fat Wreck Chords then NoPoint are without a doubt a band you should be checking out.

Stream and download Shove It here:

Like NoPoint here:

This review was written by Colin Clark.

Monday, 29 July 2019

Album Review: Just Lately by Gareth James

You might know Gareth James as a member of punk rock acts Second In Line or Plus 10 Damage, you might know him for his work with Dirty Sushi Records, but you might not know Gareth James as a solo acoustic guy. Gareth has decided that he's getting older and it's time to chill out with his acoustic guitar and sing some songs about his life so far. In May he released the single Just Lately. Now, normally I'm not the person at CPRW who really likes to review acoustic releases and we don't often review singles but I enjoyed this so much I had to give it a go.

The first of the two tracks on the single is named CDs And Photographs. Perhaps unsurprisingly, this is a much softer style than what I'm used to with Gareth's bands. I'm immediately drawn to his voice which is seriously strong – you know, for a punk singing acoustic. The slightly up-tempo melody makes sure the song has a lot of life as Gareth sings a very retrospective feeling track about wanting to be a star when he was younger and still pushing for it.

The title track, Just Lately, is an up-tempo track that feels a little rawer than the previous song. I actually prefer the less polished production on the song, especially when the song begins to build towards the end. Gareth grows more emotional and intense during this build and does a magnificent job of grabbing your attention. The whole song is pretty captivating and Gareth really takes you on a series of highs and lows throughout.

Like I said in the introduction, I really enjoyed this acoustic side of Gareth James, showing a softer side but keeping a hard punk edge. Gareth is looking to play more acoustic shows and I'd love to see him live.

Stream and download Just Lately here:

Like Gareth James here:

This review was written by Colin Clark.

Friday, 26 July 2019

CPRW Playlist: July 2019

CPRW Playlist: Here's what Brett, Dan, Emma, Lee, Omar, Richard, Robyn, myself and our special guest Sarah from Shout Louder and Lockjaw Records have been listening to this July.

Thursday, 25 July 2019

Top Tens: C-Rage's Top Ten Punk Rock Influences

It may surprise people to hear, but I was a very late starter when it came to music. When I listen to friends talking about venues they frequented when they were in their early teens and ridiculous gigs they went to circa 2001 for a fiver, I just sort of shrug. I have nothing to contribute because I didn't think I even liked music until I was about seventeen. I had my Dad's vinyl LPs – Dire Straits, Black Sabbath, Deep Purple – but nothing particularly aimed at my generation. Pop music didn't do anything for me and classic rock, as cool as it sounded, felt disconnected and dated. Everything changed when my neighbour gave me a copy of Nirvana's greatest hits. I know it sounds cliché but Smells Like Teen Spirit was essentially my introduction to alternative music and the more I learned about Kurt Cobain, the reluctant ‘spokesman’ of the disenfranchised, the more alternative music began to appeal.

The Offspring
I had a few, shall we say, false starts with alternative music. The Darkness were fun but they reminded me of Dad music. Red Hot Chili Peppers had a few good sing-alongs but had nothing to really connect to thanks to nonsense lyrics. System Of A Down were political but a bit ridiculous – Tapeworm? Jet Pilot... really? I honestly don't think I started to find my musical identity until I saw Hit That playing on TMF. I stole my brother's copy of Splinter and soon discovered that; a. This is what punk rock sounds like (I always associated punk with mohawked grunts in eighties cartoons) and b. This band wrote the music for Crazy Taxi. I soon bought my first guitar, the full Offspring discography and set about trying to learn how to play the whole of Smash and Ignition.

Punk-O-Rama Volume 3
The Offspring naturally lead to NOFX and Bad Religion which opened the door to my next musical purchase, my very first comp – Punk-O-Rama Volume 3. Through the album I was introduced to Rancid, The Bouncing Souls, Voodoo Glow Skulls, basically a veritable who's who of late 90s punk rock. At seventeen, I honestly couldn't believe that there was this entire world of exciting new music that existed separate from the mainstream. The Offspring may have introduced me to punk as a genre but it's the Punk-O-Rama comps that got me to stick around.

Reading Festival – Lock-Up Stage
I attended my first music festival in 2004 – Reading. I saw a grand total of nine bands that year, plus I got soaked and my tent was destroyed. It probably wasn't the best introduction to live music, fortunately the performances of The Offspring and Green Day absolutely blew me away. When the tickets went on sale for the following year I snapped them up as soon as they became available. When 2005 rolled around I was more confident and much better prepared for camping. I checked out the Lock-Up Stage early in the day in preparation for the evening's Bad Religion performance and ended up staying in that tent all of the Saturday. The main stage was one thing but the energy of a smaller stage combined with familiar bands and the ‘us against them’ camaraderie added to an all-round better musical experience. Despite being alone most of the time, I felt at home in the Lock-Up and it quickly became my annual punk-rock-pilgrimage.

The song ‘13 Stitches’ by NOFX opens with the line "The first time I saw the Descendents, they were the fastest band I'd ever seen". I needed no further recommendation; I hit up my local music shops and eventually found ‘Cool to Be You’ at a Virgin Megastore. I remember how the album stood out against its surroundings thanks to the cover’s presentation on white graph paper with the bold Descendents font and spectacled Milo character, the perfect aesthetic for a self-proclaimed uber geek such as myself. Cool to Be You mostly lived up to my expectations but ‘Everything Sucks’ and ‘Milo Goes To College’, which soon followed, were the first two albums where I truly felt connected to a band lyrically. The teen angst, unrequited love, rage against mediocre jobs and general nerdiness combined with the fact that their singer was an actual PhD scientist all added up to the perfect storm. Additionally, 'Hope' became the first song I ever learned how to play and sing at the same time, in homage I’ve played it at almost every C-Rage show.

Less Than Jake
I have to admit. I bought ‘Anthem’ by Less than Jake in 2004, played it once and really didn't get ska. I guess I was still in my "only overdriven guitars" stage of musical development. I didn't go back to ska until I saw Less Than Jake play the main stage at Reading in 2006. At this time I'd become heavily invested in the mid-2000s mainstream emo bands, mainly because seeing My Chemical Romance and Fall Out Boy meant I could see live music with my friends instead of by myself. Less Than Jake destroyed the main stage and absolutely captured me with their humour, musicality and energy. I bought a couple more albums after that festival and was surprised by how dark and introspective some of their lyrics were, especially for such a seemingly fun band – I loved the contrast. Soon I was addicted to ska-punk and emo was mostly a thing of the past. A year later I watched Less Than Jake perform six nights in a row at the Astoria (evidently surrounded by a million future friends) and cast off my last few inhibitions of going to gigs by myself.

Motion City Soundtrack
In my search for more punk bands with additional instruments (like ska-punk's horns) I stumbled across Motion City Soundtrack, who stood out because of their strange keyboard (later I found out it was called a Moog) sounds. Their first album, ‘I Am The Movie’, initially grabbed me because of how different it sounded, but ‘Commit This To Memory’ was the album that cemented MCS as one of my all-time favourite bands. I heard both towards the end of my time at university but they gained their prominence after graduation, when the financial crash left my chosen industry in tatters and my future directionless. These first two albums deal with themes of doubt, self-destruction, artistic frustration and openly discuss mental health with each subsequent album dealing with different stages of recovery, intermixed with plenty of geeky references. I had a long period of feeling worthless and demotivated after university, rotting in a dead end job and failing to make any headway career-wise whilst losing friends and ruining relationships. Motion City Soundtrack seemed to follow my life’s trajectory throughout my twenties and were also instrumental in pulling myself out of the rut I'd created. Justin's lyrics have had a big influence on my own writing, self-deprecation and arguably singing style.

Frank Turner (the first 2 albums)
Frank Turner was the first artist to teach me that punk didn't have to be high energy with electric guitars. As long as you had the honesty and the ethic, punk could be as cut down or as built up as the song required. I first saw Frank Turner play the Reading Lock-Up Stage in 2008 and, honestly, it was liberating. I got home from that festival and started watching his live recordings religiously. Songs about life, death, friends and relationships; all using thoughtful, intelligent lyrics that are sometimes depressing but always filled with warmth and optimism. I wrote my first C-Rage song 'Wherever You May Be' in June 2009 using so many techniques that I'd learned from listening to Frank. His influence made all music I'd written before this point defunct. Unlike Motion City Soundtrack, Frank and I diverged with time, but I can't deny the affect his early work had on all of my songwriting.

Be Sharp Promotions
In 2012, I began to realise how badly my social anxiety had started to affect my life. I was becoming more and more isolated and lonely, my job less and less fulfilling. By this point I was going to gigs about twice a month but, worryingly, even live music was starting to lose its appeal. I realised things needed to change or I'd stop being able to function altogether. My radical solution for fixing myself was to try and talk to people at gigs and thus began the chain of events that eventually lead to me meeting Paul Smith. It's no understatement to say that Be Sharp Promotions changed my life. Back in 2012, Paul had a few years of promotion under his belt and, after a few drunken conversations, I was recruited to make the original Be Sharp logo. A gig poster followed in the spring which also introduced me to the New Cross Inn. I had no idea the place existed, or the bands for that matter, but all it took was one show and I was hooked. As part of ‘Team Be Sharp’ I was encouraged to talk to more and more people and integrate myself into the DIY Punk community. I was always completely out of my comfort zone but always taking steps towards feeling more confident with myself. Watching Paul and Mike get better at putting on shows has been amazing and seeing bands like Call Me Malcolm, Popes of Chilitown, King Punch and everyone else go from strength to strength has been a pleasure. My little artistic contributions have led to the most fulfilling and life affirming years of my life. I’d never have been able to perform as C-Rage without so much community support.

Intersectional Feminism
You may have noticed a huge omission from my previous entries, non-men and people of colour; for a musical genre that preaches equality, the punk that I was predominantly exposed to growing up were white male bands. I never really noticed how homogenous things were until I started making friends with the vocal and incredibly awesome intersectional feminists of the punk rock community. They helped me realise how much privilege I, as a straight white male have, and honestly now my bubble of ignorance has been burst I can’t help but see injustices, inequalities and abuses of power everywhere. I think it’s important to recognise that the ability to succeed, not only in punk, but in anything is not stacked equally in everyone’s favour and we, as a community, need to come together to try and level that playing field. I guess what I’m trying to say is, treat everyone with the respect they deserve, challenge tradition, provide a platform for those that aren’t able to be heard and defend each other when people are being oppressed or exploited. Diversity and unity makes us all stronger. Punk helped me feel like I belong, we owe the same to everyone.

Like C-Rage here:

Wednesday, 24 July 2019

Album Review: Thirteen Years Gone By by Lee Resistant & The Lost

Who remembers the UK based punk band Fletcher? They were one of my favourites back in the day and to this day are a constant go-to when I can't decided what I want to listen to. Their album My Revenge is timeless and listening now it doesn't seem to have aged. Fletcher's front man Lee now resides in Canada and has started a new band named Lee Resistant & The Lost. As a way for the band to fill out their set, Lee Resistant & The Lost used some old Fletcher songs and discovered they still hold up. Because of this, they decide to re-record the songs and give them a new lease of life. I never expected to get the chance to review Fletcher songs on CPRW so as soon as I discovered this EP, titled Thirteen Years Gone By, I was most excited.

Thirteen Years Gone By unsurprisingly begins with Least Resistant which has always been a favourite Fletcher song of mine. It starts out with a short and stabby guitar riff, that always reminded me of an alarm going off, before the full band comes in and the track gets going proper. It's not long before Lee's gravelly vocal comes into play and he begins to take you through an empowering song about standing for what you believe in. Throughout the song Lee asks many questions about the decisions you make and whether they are right or wrong. For The Few is a Fletcher song I wasn't so familiar with. It, in fact, doesn't appear on any of the Fletcher releases that appear online. Feeling a bit more up tempo than the previous song, For The Few has a bit more energy to it. Adding some harmonies and gang vocals give the song an inclusive feeling. This works well with the song’s message, dedicating the track to the people who live their lives in the way that they feel is best.

Wishlist first appeared on the classic Six Track Sound EP. Interestingly Wishlist has been extended by fifteen seconds on Thirteen Years Gone By. The crunching guitars that explode out of your speakers sound as if they've had the volume turned down somewhat allowing Lee's vocals to shine through as well as giving the song a more melodic sound. Something that has remained however is some ferocious drumming which really gives Wishlist a very strong spine that everything else comes off of. Last up is Where Would You Run? Another big favourite of mine. Those opening lyrics of "This is my story, This is my shining glory" still hook me in thirteen years after first hearing them. On my first listen of this new version, I immediately noticed the change in vocals from the original. I'm no expert but it felt as if there was more range in Lee's voice, giving the chorus a whole new lease of life. I also enjoyed the change at the end with the acoustic guitar coming in, giving the song a sombre ending.

It's been wonderful venturing down memory lane while listening to these songs. I'm so glad Lee is back making music again and I'm very keen to see where this takes him and to hear some fresh new material.

Stream and download Thirteen Years Gone By here:

Like Lee Resistant & The Lost here:

This review was written by Colin Clark.

Tuesday, 23 July 2019

Album Review: Syphilis Totalus by Flabbercasters

You may remember that back in 2017 I named Coitus Interuptus by wizard pop punks Flabbercasters as my number two album of the year. It was ridiculous and silly and still to this day puts such a big smile on my face. So when I found out that the band were releasing a second album this year I was super excited. At the beginning of July it was finally unleashed on the world. Titled Syphilis Totalus, these are fourteen more fun pop punk tracks about the hardships of being a wizard and those troublesome dungeons. Did it have the same magic as Coitus Interuptus though? There's only one way to find out!

The album opens with Intro, which is obviously an introduction. It starts out with an acoustic verse where lead singer Nick Anthony welcomes you into the album, giving you a brief idea of what to expect on this next magical pop punk quest. When the second verse hits Flabbercasters goes full band, giving the song an extra bit of umph. Up next is Black Magic, which is a song about trying to find somebody to love you as a wizard. Apparently it's hard to find someone that isn't scared of being a wizard, particularly one who practises the darker arts. The chorus of "Yeah, we'll be dancin' and necromancin' till the dawn, After we cast a spell on the sun to never come up" really put a smile on my face. The third track, I'm A Wizard, starts with a great sing-along introduction of "I'm not just an alchemist (x4), I'm a wizard" that will really get a crowd chanting along from the song’s outset. It's a short song that outlines that Nick is a wizard and you should be surprised by the things he can do – like turning you into a farm animal or shooting lightning from his eyes.

Next is the album's title track, Syphilis Totalus. Far and away the album's longest song, it's also one of the album's more serious songs. Keeping in the wizard character, Flabbercasters play through a song about getting older, maturing and beginning to regret some of the more wild things that you did in your youth. This really shows how good Flabbercasters are at writing songs, adding so much substance to a song whilst keeping with the wizard theme of the album. Some of the harmonies on this song are just brilliant as well. After such a lengthy song, we are then given the thirty second long For The Fans (Swirly Giving Time). Branching into the skate punk world, the track looks at life at high school where you're bullied by the cool kids – they get your lunch money and buy some beer. Werewolfe Zen goes down more of a power-pop road. The short song starts with a punchy beginning before adding some melody as the track progresses. It's about getting mugged but managing to stay calm under all of the distress. Whomping Willow Headache sees Flabbercasters venture into the world of Harry Potter, with a reference to the tree that strikes you if you get near it. The track feels as if it's got a lot more energy coming from it due to its chugging buzzsaw like guitars in the opening verse. The song is about dealing with the hangover from your actions the previous night – and your head feeling as if you've been struck by a whomping willow!

Witch Is Right begins the second half of Syphilis Totalus. Continuing with the high energy style, Witch Is Right does a fantastic job in getting you pumped up. I particularly enjoyed the way in which the vocals are delivered, switching between a short and stabby style for the verses and then a more melodic approach for the chorus. Rage Quit was one of the stand out songs on my first listen of the album. It's pretty short but quickly lodges itself into your brain. It's about the frustrations of playing computer games as an adult compared to what it was like as a youngster. Kids today are much better at games these days and make us adults look terrible, forcing you to rage quit. I really liked how the guitar tones felt angrier at the back end of the track, as Nick gets more and more frustrated. The tenth song is named Power Creep. This is another song where Flabbercasters are getting frustrated. This time because of a gradual unbalancing of their favourite card game when it releases new content. Flabbercasters really do tackle the biggest issues! Following on from Power Creep is Rage Quit (Reprise). Jumping down the river of easycore pop punk, this reprised version of Rage Quit showcases the band seeing things in a much calmer state as they sing more about the frustrations of modern day gaming. There actually feels like there's a genuine sadness in the song – they seem so fed up.

Speaking of genuine sadness, Leaderbored is a heartbreaker. Again whilst staying completely in character, it's about yearning for someone who is in a relationship with somebody else and getting seriously depressed about it. The song is jam packed with wizard/fantasy/dungeon metaphors that are really relatable. This isn't just the best song on the album but one of the best songs of the year. The penultimate song on Syphilis Totalus is titled Not Yer Main. Staying in super sad mode, this is a break up song that will destroy your emotions. Musically the song is heavy on the eerie and atmospheric electronic sounds that really bring the mood down, along with a bass line that helps to provide a spine to the track. I'm not sure I've heard many sadder songs this year, which is a weird thing to say when reviewing a Flabbercasters album. Last up is Fireball which is a raw sounding acoustic song that kind of came out of nowhere. To me, it's more like a fun bonus song rather than a proper album track. It's very leftfield (even for Flabbercasters) and did disrupt the flow of the album a little bit. It's about being alone and finding ways to alleviate the pain that you're in.

There was perhaps a bit of a worry that a gimmicky band like Flabbercasters might not be able to hit the same heights on their second album as their first but they somehow managed it. This is a surprisingly sad album that's packed with wizard based metaphors but will also be really cathartic for anyone dealing with any of the issues raised.

Stream and download Syphilis Totalus here:

Like Flabbercasters here:

This review was written by Colin Clark.

Monday, 22 July 2019

Album Review: Glenn Spaghetti Legs by Lost Love (by Lee Morton)

Montreal band Lost Love are embarking on a European tour this summer from 19th July to 4th August (no UK dates, shame on you) and ahead of this have released a short EP made up of b-sides from their last album, the brilliant “Good Luck Rassco”.

As only two songs, and a shade over 5 minutes in length, it’s more of a single release than an actual EP but fans of their unique mix of melody, melancholy and self-deprecating humour will love it.

It opens with the title track “Glenn Spaghetti Legs”, a reference to Glenn Danzig getting knocked out many years ago. This is also the comic-like cover art of the EP, although it bears no relation to the song itself which is typically quirky, upbeat and filled with melancholic lyrics that burrow into your head and get you singing along like an idiot with a stupid grin on your face. Like a lot of their songs, this is a “coming of age” type song about growing up, fucking up, repent and repeat which gives it an immediacy that everyone can identify with.

The other track is “Ontarien Demande” which is a little more laid back than the first song. The music gives it a sunnier vibe although, once again, the lyrics are a little darker and twisted including this gem – “I’m drinking but I can’t get drunk enough, I’m loving but I can’t get loved enough”. The harmonies and melodies perfectly capture the feelings of a bright sunny day – this is pure pop-punk.

I’ve compared Lost Love to the best of Weezer in the past and I still can’t think of a better comparison, it’s bitter-sweet pop-punk with sprinkles on top that are so uplifting yet peppered with reality and lashings of fun. I loved their last album and, after listening to these bonus tracks that didn’t make the cut (I’m not sure how), I’m now even more excited about future releases.

Stream and download Glenn Spaghetti Legs here:

Like Lost Love here:

This review was written by Lee Morton.

Friday, 19 July 2019

Gig Review: Billy Liar at New Cross Inn, London 12/7/19 (by Emma Prew)

Scotland’s Billy Liar released one of my favourite albums of the year (so far) in June. Titled Some Legacy, it’s both his debut album and first full band release (read my review here). To celebrate the occasion, Till The Wheels hosted a release show last week in our home from home venue, South London’s the New Cross Inn. The event not only featured some great support acts but also offered a rare experience of full band Billy Liar. I was rather excited to hear songs from the album live and, let’s just say, the gig certainly didn’t disappoint!

Opening the show were Modern Shakes, fresh off the back of their debut EP Murmur being released last month. The London based band have had a line-up change since we first saw them last summer, at one of their first ever shows, as their original bassist left the band earlier in the year. The new members did a fine job however and going from a trio to a four-piece certainly hasn’t hampered their excellent gruff pop punk sound. It was great to hear songs we recognised from the EP live, particularly Ivana which is my favourite, as well as a couple of other songs – perhaps off a future release. If you’re not familiar with the band or the EP, I recently described them to someone as being like a gruffer Alkaline Trio. Do check out Murmur though and you can catch Modern Shakes back at the New Cross Inn again soon, supporting The Dopamines on 26th July.

Next up was Rich Ragany, an old pal of Billy’s. Armed with just an acoustic guitar (and microphone) for this occasion, Rich Ragany can usually be found fronting Rich Ragany And The Digressions although you may also recognise him as a former member of Role Models. Unfortunately I wasn’t familiar with him, or his bands, but knowing that he came recommended by Billy Liar certainly peaked my interest. For half an hour we were treated to a selection of acoustic Americana meets rock ’n’ roll songs. Alongside the tunes were some amusing and interesting anecdotes and stories – Rich said himself that he likes to talk. There was a very relaxed atmosphere in the room and it felt like everyone was pals which is always a lovely feeling. Of course, the great songs helped as well!

No Billy Liar album launch show would be complete without the man who produced, as well as featuring on, Some Legacy – Joe McMahon. Of course, he would be appearing as part of the Billy Liar full band later in the evening but first it was time for his own solo set. If – because you’ve been hiding under a rock for the past 15 or so years – you somehow don’t know Joe McMahon, he is probably most famous for his part in Boston-based punk rock band Smoke Or Fire but he also has an excellent collection of solo songs. I’m a big fan of Joe’s 2016 solo album Another Life so it was wonderful to hear songs such as Canadian Graffiti, It All Went Black and the album’s title track live, as well as stripped back versions of Smoke Or Fire songs Irish Handcuffs and, the as ever politically apt, Monsters Among Us. I saw Joe McMahon with his band The Dockineers earlier this year at Manchester Punk Festival – which was great – but seeing the songs played acoustically added so much more emotional intensity to the performance. I loved every second of Joe McMahon’s set.

After Joe McMahon’s set, it wasn’t long until he was back on stage, swapping his acoustic guitar for a bass guitar. Alongside Joe McMahon, the Billy Liar full band consisted of Robin Guy on drums – who also drums on the album (as well as with Sham 69!) – and Kevin Jones, of Northern Irish trio Empty Lungs, on guitar. Plus Billy, of course, picking up an electric guitar instead of his typical acoustic. It had been a lovely evening of music so far but I was certain that Billy Liar would easily put the cherry on the cake – and before too long Billy and co were doing just that. Tearing through some of the shorter, faster and ultimately louder songs from Some Legacy, such as Cold Turkey, Neither Are You, lead single The Righteous & The Rats and oldy but goody Change, full band Billy Liar was everything I had hoped for. The pure punk rock energy was clearly infectious as three rather enthusiastic (and most likely quite drunk) folk at the front even attempted to start their own mosh pit, something I guess you are less likely to get at an acoustic Billy Liar show. They did get tired after a few songs though.

Part way through the set, the rest of the band left the stage while Billy swapped his electric guitar for his trusty acoustic. Starting off by playing emotional tune Independent People, which is about the state of Britain today, Billy had everyone in the room hooked on his every word. He was then joined by Rich Ragany and another pal, Dave Kerr, of the band Sorry & The Sinatras. The trio proceeded to cover one of Sorry & The Sinatras’ songs – I didn’t know the song but it was a lot of fun to watch these three great friends together on stage despite this. This wasn’t the only guest appearance of the set however as next to join Billy was Stina Tweeddale who adds backing vocals and harmonies to a couple of the tracks on Some Legacy. I thought this was a beautiful touch on the album so it was particularly lovely to hear Stina’s vocals live as well. Their rendition of Less Vegas, which is a piano-led ballad on the album, was heartbreakingly good and when the rest of the band returned for I Still Struggle that was all kinds of wonderful too.

It was at this point that Colin and I should really have left to go and catch our train home but I couldn’t bear to leave, especially not before hearing my favourite song from the album. We hung on as they only had two songs left – the last of which was the song I’d been waiting for. Pills is a rousing and catchy singalong tune with some great harmonies and it was the perfect end to an awesome Billy Liar show. 

Given that members of the band live in Scotland, England, Northern Ireland and Germany, it’s unlikely that Billy Liar will be able to play too many full band shows – at least, not in this incarnation. So, with that in mind, it was really special to be at this show. And anyway, full band or not, I bloody love Billy Liar.

This gig review was written by Emma Prew.

Thursday, 18 July 2019

Top Tens: Colin's Top Ten Bands To See At Level Up Festival 2019

One of our favourite weekends of the year is upon us once again. Back for its third consecutive year – Level Up Festival. The three day ska punk event put together by the legends from Be Sharp Promotions, Fishlock Promotions and El Topo Bookings has become a big favourite on the DIY festival calendar and has been a catalyst in the current re-emergence of UK ska punk. Here is my top ten picks for bands playing the festival this year. I have purposely left off headline acts The JB Conspiracy, Jaya The Cat, Imperial Leisure and King Prawn – they're awesome, you know that.

But, before we get going with the proper top ten, here's a little shout out to C-Rage who are playing the acoustic stage on Sunday at 7pm. Featuring many regulars from the Be Sharp crew, this will be their first full band gig and I'm sure they would love your support.

BaldHead And The Dreads (Friday 19.15–19.45)
Tasked with the job of opening the entire festival, local chaps BaldHead And The Dreads basically formed so that they could play Level Up Festival. Playing Paul Smith-core, Bald Head are one of the most fun new bands I've seen this year and deserve their place on the bill because they're a surprisingly good band and not just because they're mates with the promoters. Prepare to dance, to smile and to be completely baffled. All the good feelings.

ClayPigeon (Friday 21.00–21.40)
The great thing about festivals is that you're more than likely to see a band that have reunited to play. That's the case with East London's ClayPigeon. After breaking up a few years ago, I honestly never expected to see them play again but tomorrow I will! Back in their prime, ClayPigeon would wow crowds with their cross of ska, punk, hip hop, dub and dnb. It's going to be so exciting to see them again – I'm already imaging the crowd at New Cross getting very excited for classics such as Circles, Mentality, This Ain't War and Compass, as well as many others.

Damn Skippy (Saturday 15.30–16.00)
This will be my first time seeing Damn Skippy. Opening the day on Saturday, these five guys will quickly get the Level Up crowd dancing. This is some fine upbeat ska punk that doesn't take itself too seriously and will get you smiling. Just listening to them while I write this is putting me in a super good mood.

Jet8 (Saturday 18.30–19.00)
Prague's Jet8 will providing Level Up Festival with some skacore. Playing fast punk with some added horn lines will get the crowd moving, not so much with the skanking but with the mosh pit really opening up. Jet8 are another new band for me and I can't wait to see them.

Abraskadabra (Saturday 19.30–20.00)
Abraskadabra (who have the best name in ska punk) will be the first South American band to play for Be Sharp Promotions. I've been a fan of the band for a little while and their 2018 album, Welcome, was one of my favourites of the year. I'm delighted to get the opportunity to actually see them live as they're one I never expected to be able to. Combining 90s ska punk with a sound akin to more modern bands like We Are The Union, I fully expect Abraskadabra to be a Level Up highlight for a lot of people.

El Topo All Star Band (Saturday 23.15–00.00)
New Cross Inn after-parties are always so much fun. Coming all the way from Belgium to play the after party of Level Up are the El Topo All Star Band. According to their Facebook page they will be "ruining the classic songs you love or hate by coating them in ska-punk." If you're still standing after Imperial Leisure and Jaya The Cat then this will be the best way to continue your night.

The Larryfish Experiment (Sunday 17.30–18.00)
According to Fishlock, The Larryfish Experiment are "perhaps Bristol's most ridiculous and most fun band." I've seen the name on many ska punk gig posters over the past couple of years so it will be good to finally see the three piece live myself. One of the few bands of the weekend who don't have horns, they will provide a much needed rest bite for the New Cross Inn's overworked sound person over the weekend.

Just Say Nay (Acoustic) (Sunday 18.00–18.30)
After wowing everyone at the previous two Level Up Festivals, these local heroes will be striping things back this year and playing an acoustic set downstairs in Stocks Bar. I'm assuming that it won't be all fifty four members of Just Say Nay as there won't be room for anyone else down there. The band are currently working on their debut album so expect some songs from that as well as some old favourites.

Lead Shot Hazard (Sunday 18.30–19.00)
Lead Shot Hazard have been around for a while now and are firm favourites at the New Cross Inn. The band have been hard at work working on new material for their upcoming album, Fires To Find Our Friends, and they've promised to play some of it. For me, this album is long overdue and I'm very excited about it.

Redeemon (Sunday 20.30–21.00)
Coming out of the ashes of the much missed Beat The Red Light is Redeemon. Looking to continue where BTRL finished, expect some super intense thrash punk with some of the best horn lines in the game. Frontman Pook is one of the most watchable performers in the entire punk scene, a ball of energy whether he's on stage or being carried around the crowd. This is going to be something crazy.

This top ten was written by Colin Clark.

Wednesday, 17 July 2019

Album Review: Murmur by Modern Shakes

If you've been around the London DIY scene over the past few years you probably know Ian Crook as a member of Janowski or from his acoustic solo work as Wayfairer. Last year Ian put together a new band with Dan Conant on drums and Vince Comby on bass. Calling themselves Modern Shakes, we were lucky enough to catch some of their first shows and quickly fell in love with their Midwestern inspired pop punk. At the beginning of July, the three piece released their debut EP titled Murmur and I was expecting great things.

Murmur begins with Sundials. The opening guitar riffs, that slowly build up, immediately told me this was going to be an EP that I was really going to enjoy. That tone, along with a great jangly riff, was an instant sonic delight. As soon as Ian's vocals come in the song goes up another level. Clearly inspired by Alkaline Trio, Ian shines on this song as he sings a positive song about being there for your friends in their time of need and supporting them. Up next is Ivana. Starting out with just some guitar and Ian's powerful vocal, you feel quickly welcomed into the song. On my first listen of Ivana the line that really caught my attention was "don't you miss the crowded bars and hangovers, are you tired of basement shows and all dayers." It's another positive song about growing older but still going out and doing something with your time. This is a bit of pop brilliance that will really get a crowd wanting to be involved in the song. The addition of a harmony really added to the song and will encourage a good sing-along as well.

We were lucky enough to get an early listen of Red Lines thanks to its inclusion on the CPRW 5th Birthday Comp and I adored it. The opening has a chugga chugga quality that really drives the start of the track forward, filling it with energy. When the song gets to its middle section, you're in melodic pop punk heaven. Red Lines does this odd thing of filling you with energy but it also has this pleasant feel to it that's relaxing and homey. I'm not sure that really makes sense – there's a familiarity to the track that keeps you comfortable but will also have you singing along passionately. Last up on Murmur is Freefall. I bang on so much about how the best releases always have an absolute banger of a final track, Freefall is certainly that. There's something about it that makes it sound so big and it was the perfect choice for an EP closer. The introduction quickly builds the song up to the point of you wanting to get singing. Ian's in full storytelling mode, really painting a great picture with his lyrics – so much so I'm imagining the music video now. The chorus is where the song really peaks with a fantastic chorus that will get plenty of fists going high in the air. A superb way to finish a great EP.

If you're a fan of bands like Alkaine Trio, Banner Pilot, The Copyrights or London's own Burnt Tapes and Triple Sundae, then Modern Shakes will be your new favourite band. This is an EP written by three really talented chaps and I already know that this is going to be the soundtrack of my summer.

Stream and download Murmur here:

Like Modern Shakes here:

This review was written by Colin Clark.

Tuesday, 16 July 2019

Album Review: Some Legacy by Billy Liar (by Emma Prew)

Billy Liar’s Twitter profile describes him as being a ‘Scottish punk band of one, most of the time’. Having recently seen Billy Liar live (at Booze Cruise Festival in Hamburg), where he performed solo armed with an acoustic guitar, some incredible stories and the undeniable energetic passion of a whole band, I think that summary makes sense. On the 21st of June, Billy Liar released his debut album titled Some Legacy on Red Scare Industries. Produced by Joe McMahon (of Smoke Or Fire) who also adds extra guitar and vocals to the album, this is not only Billy’s debut album, it is also his debut full band release. Tim Van Dorn, on bass, and Robin Guy, on drums, complete the Billy Liar full band perfectly.

Some Legacy is an album that has been a long time coming. Billy Liar is certainly no stranger in the DIY punk scene, having toured relentlessly in the UK, Europe and across the pond in the USA (hence the American label) for over ten years. Some songs on the album will be familiar to fans of his live show but, I promise, they sound all the more special recorded with a full band. There were understandably a lot of people eagerly awaiting this album and I very much doubt anyone has been disappointed by it!

The album kicks off in a bold way with The View From Here. Not in the least bit acoustic, the album’s opening track is a fast paced and infectious foot stomper from the outset. The song is about how things always seem to end up the same, even when you try to change – ‘All my feelings have been exposed, I’m waking up in unwashed clothes, And I don’t like the view from here’. In true punk rock style, The View From Here is all over in less than two minutes and it leaves you wanting more. Which is not a problem because the next track is quite simply a ‘tune’. The Righteous & The Rats was released ahead of Some Legacy as the album’s lead single and it’s easy to see why. It has a slightly slower pace than the album’s opening track but is packed with some huge melodic guitar parts. Musically it actually reminds me a lot of Joe McMahon’s solo material – funny that. But lyrically this is trademark Billy Liar. The song is a prime example of Billy’s incredible storytelling ability as he talks us through a meeting with a man in a bar – ‘He said “Do you know any songs we all can sing?, Do you know any songs, the kind that mean something? Do you know any protest songs?”’ You can’t help but picture the story unfolding in your head. Also, I think this is a protest song in itself really.

Third track, I Still Struggle, wastes no time in getting going with the opening line ‘When you met me I was a mess’ immediately setting the tone. This is a short, mid-tempo song that is both incredibly honest and relatable as Billy lays bare his feelings of self-doubt and anxiety. More specifically, (I think) the song is about finding someone that wants to be with you despite all your self-perceived faults and mental health problems – ‘Someone that made me forget what a mess I was.’ Stina Tweeddale (of Honeyblood) adds some lovely subtle backing vocals throughout the song which emphasise this theme. Next up is maybe the catchiest song on the album, Pills. It’s one I distinctly remember from hearing it live and I love it even more with a full band – basically, it’s my favourite song on Some Legacy. You can probably tell from the title that the song is about taking medication on regular basis to deal with [mental] illness – ‘You don’t have to be ill, To take these pills, But it helps, But it helps.’ Joe McMahon offers up some great harmonies here which add another layer to an already huge sounding song. After the relentless energy of Pills, Independent People slows the pace down considerably and completely strips things back. Soft acoustic guitar playing accompanies some of the most passionate and emotion-fuelled vocals of the whole album – which is really saying something. Independent People truly displays what an excellent wordsmith Billy is with his brutally direct words about the state of modern Britain. It’s bleak and it hits hard because it’s all true – ‘Unemployment is at an all time high, We’re all depressed and we stay inside, We’ll block out reality with reality television.’ 

Noose is the name of the sixth song of Some Legacy and its mid-tempo, full band introduction immediately seemingly picks up the mood – or does it? I guess, with a title like ‘Noose’, this was never going to be a cheery song but the upbeat nature of the melodies and heartfelt delivery of the vocals almost has you thinking otherwise. Noose is a deeply personal song dealing with grief – ‘We had no history of mental illness in our family, Or at least no more than anyone, The doctor said it could have happened anytime, None of us could have seen it coming… Some legacy you left behind.’ – although it doesn’t feel sombre in its delivery. In fact the song feels almost cathartic, particularly as the vocals turn to frantic yells at the end of the track. Change amps things up further. Fast-paced from the get go, this is possibly the most punk rock sounding song of the album – and I know it’s already a fan favourite when played live. I’d even go as far as to say this is a pure punk rock anthem. It’s not just the music that feels ‘punk’ here, the lyrics about wanting change in the world do a pretty good job of conveying that vibe too. ‘I want to see your blood spilt on the stage, I want to hear your heart beat through the PA, I want to hear true adolescent rage, I want to be inspired, I want to see something change.’ If ever there was a Billy Liar song to induce a mosh pit, this is it. Following on from Change is Neither Are You. This is a bitter-sounding song that packs a punch with more stark honesty on display. Neither Are You is a song about friendship or rather the demise in a friendship (or relationship). It’s about not living up to your own expectations for yourself but then neither have those around you. ‘I’m not half the man I thought I’d be by now… but neither are you.’

Billy Liar is not one to shy away from hard-hitting and direct lyrics which is the case with the opening lines of Cold Turkey – ‘It’s been a little while since I cared about myself, It’s been a little while since I cared about my mental health.’ This track, mid-tempo in its delivery, is about how you can love someone else so much while not being able to love yourself. Ultimately, Cold Turkey is about trying to stop yourself from loving someone – or going cold turkey – because you believe they might be better off without you. The song hits you right in the feels, that’s for sure. As we near the end of Some Legacy, penultimate song 27 Montague offers up one last burst of energy. A furious opening will have heads nodding in no time and, although the vocals are not quite so fast, urgent drums keep the pace throughout the duration of the track. With lyrics like ‘Life is so short’ and ‘None of us are going to live forever.’ you could perceive this as being a pessimistic song but I think it’s actually pretty optimistic. You’ve got to live your life to the fullest of your ability because we’re all going to die one day – and there is no afterlife. Sometimes you just need reminding that – thanks Billy! I was not expecting a piano-led ballad on this album so when I first heard closing track Less Vegas, wow, it really blew me away. I thought Independent People was packed with emotion but this final song damn near brought tears to my eyes. You try listening to lines like ‘Glasgow is a lonely place to die.’ and not want to bawl your eyes out! Less Vegas is about a late night epiphany, in this instance whilst playing slot machines, that makes you reevaluate your life. Stina Tweeddale returns on the track with her additional vocals making the song almost feel like a duet. A truly beautiful end to a quite frankly stunning debut album.

In summary, Some Legacy is a masterpiece of brutally honest songwriting. The full band delivery for much of the album simply amplifies everything we already loved about Billy Liar while the few stripped back tracks pack more emotion into the album than I ever thought would be possible. I suppose the only negative thing I have to say about the album is that, at under half an hour in length, it is a bit short. It's all about quality not quantity however – and the length does mean I’ve listened to it on repeat a lot over the last month and have probably learnt nearly all the words! I love Some Legacy! It is definitely in my top five albums I’ve heard so far this year and I highly encourage you to check it out if you haven’t already.

You can download Some Legacy now from Bandcamp and pick up physical copies here in the UK (and Europe) and here from Red Scare in the USA.

This review was written by Emma Prew.

Monday, 15 July 2019

Album Review: Body Bag Your Scene by Riskee & The Ridicule (by Lee Morton)

Welcome to your new favourite band! Bold words I know, but bear with me on this. They may have been around a few years now, this being their third album along with a few EP releases but “Body Bag Your Scene” should be the album that launches Riskee & The Ridicule out of the DIY scene and to the forefront of the UK punk explosion. Whilst this is released on Bomber Music, previously home to bands like Random Hand, The Skints and Jaya The Cat, it’s a true DIY effort, having been financed by the band and fan pledges which gave them the freedom to write their strongest record yet.

“Accelerate” opens the album and, as the title suggests, it’s pedal to the floor time as the song ominously builds with vocalist and all round livewire Scott Picking leading a chant of “da-da-da-da” before the rest of the band, Jimbo (Guitar), Matt (Drums) and Jordan (Guitar) start dropping hooks that draw you in straight away. It’s infectious and sure to be a crowd pleaser with Scott spitting grime/rap style lyrics that are both vicious and smart.

Tackling so many different targets over the course of the album – the media, politics, social classes, sex etc. – may seem like a scattergun approach but, despite this, theirs is a focused attack that hits its target every time. Second track “Kaboom!”, and first single to be released, is a great example of this, holding a mirror up to mass media, highlighting how it’s controlled by the rich for their own agenda. The lyrics are sharp and direct but the energy from the rest of the band turn this into a real dancefloor smash, making you both move and question your thought process.

After the high energy start, things slow down a little for the intro to “Our Time”, allowing Scott to stretch his vocals, something that he did to great effect on their acoustic EP “They Need Us To Believe” last year. The high energy tempo and delivery quickly returns though with the song drawing a line in the sands of the past and proclaiming it “our time” to change things. It’s an attitude that’s prevalent across the album – seize the moment, make a change, do it yourself, nothing’s impossible. Strong messages indeed.

That message carries into the throbbing menace of title track “Body Bag Your Scene”, mixing the alt-grime vocals with some alternative 90s style rock riffs along with Jimbo’s now legendary screams. Before the only real lull on the album in “Black, White & Grey”, which is more restrained and it’s that lack of impact, certainly compared across the record as a whole, that stops the song taking off.

That’s not to say that they can’t do restrained well, as “In The Dark” follows and is a real highlight. A grim Romeo & Juliet tale of drug addiction paints a dark, ugly picture of the underbelly of life with the lyrics making you feel like an observer to the story that’s being played out. It’s so powerful that you’ll finish the track and feel dirty and in need of a wash.

“Sellout” follows and provides a well needed pick me up after the bleakness of the previous track. It’s another infectious energy rush highlighting the crisis of local DIY venues shutting down and the destruction of town centres. I defy you to not scream along after a couple of listens.

“Sex” sees the boys take on the misogyny and hypocrisy of the sex industry and antiquated laws on sex offenses. Once again, I need to highlight the intelligence behind the lyrics here as on every listen I’m getting more and more from every song.

Taking a right turn at the signpost marked hardcore, “Cut Your Teeth” is a raging beast of aggression that also contains one of my favourite lyrical couplets in “trust me I’ll always try to persuade my cynics, I’ll have a broom handle hanging out your arse like it’s quidditch”. It’s fair to say they may not be big Harry Potter fans.

“For Old Times’ Sake” slows things down again whilst touching on a number of topics – getting old, male suicide and people not wanting you to evolve – which shows a different side to the band that was hinted at on the “They Need Us To Believe” EP. It displays an assuredness to their songwriting craft.

The last song harks back to the beginnings of the band and reflects the life of many of the bands that you listen to. “D.I.Y” is a defiant FU to the system, to the corporations that can’t see beyond the latest greatest trend and anyone that says you can’t “do it yourself”. Whipping up the energy levels again with another massive singalong chorus, in fact you could pick pretty much every track and be singing along within moments, it a perfect closing statement from the band.

Having followed the band since the debut album, “Dawn of the Dog”, I’ve seen the development in sound and style that now sees them crawling out of the DIY scene and proudly screaming from the rooftops. When speaking with any of the band, you can feel the pride in this album and rightly so – in fact, they are arguably downplaying how good this album is. Their best yet, certainly. Album of the year, maybe – it’s definitely a contender. They have taken the sounds of the street, grime, punk, rap and merged them into a coherent beast of an album that will kill the posers and wannabes. Body bag your scene, exactly!

Friday, 12 July 2019

Column: Colin Doesn't Drink

Here's a column I've been wanting to write for a little while but I've been putting it off because it's a bit of a personal one. It's about the fact that I don't drink alcohol (never have done, most likely never will) and how that's affected me during my life – as a teenager when the cool thing to be doing was going out and drinking as much as you could and then venturing into my experiences in the punk rock scene, where sometimes it seems that almost every other band shouts out "who's getting drunk tonight!?"

Before really getting going I should probably explain why I have decided not to drink. Without naming names and getting myself in trouble, there has been instances of alcoholism in my family that resulted in some really terrible times for me and definitely affected me more than I realised at the time. Now might be a good time to add a bit of a disclaimer about how this isn't a column designed to get me any sympathy, I'm completely over it and am only writing this to hopefully help anyone who might have gone through similar things. To me, as a child between the ages of around 8–14 alcohol seemed to bring arguments, stress, tension and a general letting down of anyone who needs and depends on you. I quickly made the decision that I wanted no part of that – alcohol doesn't do good things for people. Growing up in that world was not so pleasant.

I think growing up in that world really affected me in a social capacity. When I got to the age where drinking was a thing that my friends wanted to do, I quickly felt uncomfortable and out of place. At thirteen years old, the conversation about going out for a drink or having a beer never really comes up – or didn't in my circle of friends (we were and still are all angels). When we began to hit eighteen however life got hard. As is the norm for people that age, you want to go out drinking at pubs and clubs as much as you can. The thought of this filled me with all sorts of anxiety and was very happy to have the readymade of excuse of having to work Saturday nights. The thought of going out, not drinking, being surrounded by drunk folk and people asking why I'm not drinking terrified me. That question of "why don't you drink?" always made me so uncomfortable. The answer would usually be because I don't want to rather than admit the truth. Looking back now, this really made me feel like a bit of an outcast amongst my friends. Through no fault of theirs I have to add – they weren't doing anything wrong. My refusal to go on those nights out also prevented me ever making new friends or meeting girls and doing all those other things that happen on these nights out. I really found myself locked hard into my shell and I was very lonely.

Eventually, through work, I did make some more pals and slowly my confidence grew to the point where I felt comfortable going to the pub and then eventually on a few nights out. Those nights out always ended early for me though, solely because I found them to be quite boring. It wasn't the company at all. It was the going somewhere, ordering your drink – mine’s a Pepsi – then spending the time drinking your drink, arguing where you go next rather than enjoying each other’s company. And because my intention wasn't drinking to get drunk, I drank my drink at a more leisurely pace. I'd end up having to down my drink quickly because the majority of the group would be ready to move on to the next place to do the same all again until you eventually ended up at the same place you would every night out anyway. Eventually after doing this a few times, I gave up with going out – it was really bloody boring!

Through that group of friends, I ended up going to my first ever punk gig and my life changed forever. I had somewhere to go for a night out where I could enjoy the music, have fun and not drink – or so I thought. It turned out that a lot of people saw going to a gig as a big reason to just go out and get drunk. It was just a night out with a live band rather than a god awful DJ playing the same songs as last week, last month, last year etc. I loved gigs though and didn't want to stop going. As I started going to more and more gigs, there came a time when I would have to go by myself because my pals just weren't into it like I was into it. And as I got more into it, I would discover smaller bands playing smaller venues and then life got awesome. These were my people, sure people were drinking and often getting a bit drunk but it wasn't about drinking to get drunk, it was just drinking sociably and getting drunk just kind of happened. I'd never felt more comfortable in such a social setting with that many people who I didn't know. As I got more comfortable in that environment, I became more settled around drunk people. Admittedly it took me a few years to then begin making friends but, largely thanks to this blog and Paul Be Sharp coming to talk to me at a New Cross show, I eventually did and felt more part of a social group than I ever had. In a way, it helped me see why people might decide to drink. It loosens your inhibitions and makes you more social and does help you to make friends. I feel like me deciding not to drink really slowed down my growth as a person and having that ability to talk to people I didn't know.

That last sentence might sound as if I regret being a sober person in my younger days but that's not true. Sure, it definitely made things a lot harder for me but I'm so proud of myself for sticking to my guns and never bowing to the mass amount of peer pressure I've had to deal with throughout my adult life. Do you know how often you get told that "you should try everything once" when you tell people you've never tried alcohol? It's a lot! I started to come up with the most ridiculous or extreme scenarios to tell people they should try them…

For me, this whole feeling of finally being accepted is the biggest thing DIY punk rock has given me. It's given me amazing times, amazing friends and most importantly an amazing life and a feeling of truly belonging somewhere – it's a really lovely feeling. I am now, for the most part, completely comfortable around my drunken friends and actually find a lot of their antics quite comical – when you see your pal introducing themselves to somebody, assuring them they're the least intimidating person they will ever meet whilst getting closer and closer to their face, it's hard not to have a fun time.

I've learnt that it's okay not to drink, it's also okay to drink. Just respect the people around you and don't be a dick. Some people can feel uncomfortable it certain situations – be wary of them, don't pressure them and make them feel worse. Be pals.

This column was written by Colin Clark.

Thursday, 11 July 2019

Top Tens: Top Ten Reasons To Start A Record Collection

You've all heard by now that people buying records is on the rise. Us folk at CPRW love the vinyl and are constantly adding to our collections. Personally, I check my wanted list on Discogs at least once a day to find some favourites. Whenever I go to a new town I will always do a little bit of research beforehand to see what record shops they have and whether they're likely to have something I'd want. Buying records is great. To show you how great, I've put together a top ten reasons why you should start your record collection (if you're one of the few who haven't already).

Supporting Bands
Continuing to buy physical music is one of the best ways to support a band financially. Sure, we all love a stream for convenience but bands make next to no money on them. Why not splash out and buy their record instead and help them to continue making music?

It Is Nice To Have A Physical Copy
Isn't having something you can hold in your hands just a million times better than something that just exists on your PC, laptop, tablet, phone or whatever else you listen to music on? Especially if you're handing over some of your precious pennies, surely having something physical is just better than digital!

The Whole Package
Something I really love about owning physical music is the whole package that you get. I love the artwork, I love reading the lyrics and the thank yous in the inlay. I love when the vinyl is coloured and watching it spin around on my record deck. These are things you just don't get with downloads.

It Feels Less Like Background Music
Listening to a record feels much more like an event than listening to a music digitally. I find it's easy for digital music to become like background music that I don't really absorb in the same way that I would when listening to a record. To listen to a record you would usually set aside a part of your day to sit, listen and really take it in. There's no skipping to your favourites, you have to listen to the body of music how it was originally intended.

Collecting Things Is Fun
Pretty much self explanatory really – collecting things is fun. Records are a thing that you can collect. That exciting thrill when you find a record you've been searching for for a long time. Maybe it pops up in an online distro or, when you are working your way through a records in a store, you find a gem you've forgotten all about – it never gets old.

It Is A Conversation Piece For House Guests
Emma and I have found our record player set up and collection to be a conversation starter in our home. Whenever we have guests around it's not long before they're checking out our collection looking out for anyone they've heard of. Often non-record collecting pals have been amazed by how you go about playing the record (our record player has a start button so you don't need to position the needle) so there's a nice feeling of seeming cool when you're looking like you know what you're doing and how things work.

Supporting Record Shops
Are there any shops that are more exciting than record shops? Whenever I visit somewhere new, I try and check out whatever record shops I can find. Sometimes you don't find anything you want but so often you can find gold (which is what happened in Japan). Record shops play a big part in helping people discover new bands. How often have you been flicking through the stacks at your local record shop and seen some artwork that you think is cool and gone on to check out the band?

Sometimes it's fun to go through your record collection and dig out some old classics, something you probably wouldn't do on Spotify or wherever else you stream your tunes from. Music has this great quality of soundtracking certain times in your life. Odds are you can remember exactly what was happening in your life when you play your favourite records from 2002.

You Make New Friends
A fun thing to do when you're listening to your records is to share them on your social media accounts. Not only does this give the band some valuable coverage but it also allows you to strike up conversations with people you don't know about them. More often than not, you'll probably have a few musical tastes in common with them and you could make friends. Music does have this great way of bringing folk together. I bet nobody ever made pals through digital music.

It Is An Investment
I imagine most people don't like to sell their records unless they absolutely have to but in a lot of cases you could potentially make money. If you manage to get your hands on some rare, special coloured or first pressings of a record, there's every chance that in a few years down the line it could be worth more than you paid for it. So, in a way, buying records can be seen as an investment for the future. You definitely can't say that about a stream or something you've downloaded!

This top ten was written by Colin Clark.

Wednesday, 10 July 2019

Album Review: Divide And Conga by King Punch

Over the past year, King Punch have become one of the bands I get most excited to see live. They're an incredible high-tempo ska punk band with some of the best brass players in the scene. A King Punch live set is the most amount of fun, as well as the most exhausting. I was very pleased when an advanced copy of their first EP since 2017's Low Profile was sent my way. Titled Divide And Conga (a nice little nod to their live show), the EP features three brand new songs as well as a fantastic cover of a nu-metal classic. I got my dancing shoes ready for this review.

Divide And Conga begins with the song Sit Still – something that's pretty impossible to do when listening to King Punch. Like I said in my opening paragraph, King Punch have some of the best horns in ska punk and they quickly get the EP off to a high octane start. The horns are played with such a high tempo and result in the song sounding absolutely massive. Lead singer Liam Creech's vocals also really stand out, as on a recording you get such an appreciation for what a strong singer he is. Sit Still is about feeling anxious and how you're affected if you don't take medication. King Punch are such a fun party band that sometimes you forget they do also write songs that tackle the important issues. Up next is Whole Lotto Love. Beginning with some great drums from Tom Maples, the song isn't quite as high in tempo as the EP's opener but will certainly get you dancing with its swing style. Whole Lotto Love asks the question ‘what have you done to deserve all the things in your life?’ and considers how lucky you might have been. I guess the song could be seen as a political or social conversation on how you don't choose where you're born and how things could be much worse for you.

Weekend Warrior is a song that King Punch have been playing live for a little while now. Going back to that sweet, sweet ska punk sound, Weekend Warrior is about working Monday to Friday and treating Saturday and Sunday like you are a king or queen. Creech really showcases some vocal variety as he, at times, basically raps, sometimes croons and also belts out the big chorus. The chorus cries out to be shouted right back at King Punch – that is if you've got the energy from all the skanking you will be doing during the track. Last up is that classic nu-metal cover that I mentioned. If you've seen King Punch before you've probably guessed what it is – Chop Suey by System Of A Down. I imagine that this is such a difficult song to do a good cover of as it's such a unique and iconic tune. King Punch pull it off though! A band with such talented musicians that are also bursting with creativity and charisma was always going to. If you grew up with this song, like I imagine most of the people reading this did, you're really going to enjoy this. They take everything about the original that makes the song so legendary, add some ska flavourings and produce a fantastic version of a complete banger.

Divide And Conga adds to the already very impressive back catalogue of King Punch releases. The UK ska punk scene has seen a surge in great releases over the past two years and this EP certainly stands amongst the best of them. I am now very much looking forward to seeing these songs live at some point, hopefully very soon.

Like King Punch here:

This review was written by Colin Clark.