Friday, 22 November 2019

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

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

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

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

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

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

Thursday, 21 November 2019

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

This top ten was written by Colin Clark.

Wednesday, 20 November 2019

Album Review: Pit Stop Punk Rock by Hateful Monday

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

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

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

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

Stream and download Pit Stop Punk Rock here:

Like Hateful Monday here:

This review was written by Colin Clark.

Tuesday, 19 November 2019

Album Review: Vacation To Helheim by The Palatines

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

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

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

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

Stream and download Vacation To Helheim here:

Like The Palatines here:

This review was written by Colin Clark.

Monday, 18 November 2019

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

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

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

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

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

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

Like Our Souls here:

This review was written by Colin Clark.

Friday, 15 November 2019

Column: Why We're Doing It Together

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

This column was written by Colin Clark.

Thursday, 14 November 2019

Top Tens: Top Ten Unreviewed Albums (Part 3)

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

This top ten was written by Colin Clark.

Wednesday, 13 November 2019

Album Review: Deluded Grandeur by Gareth James

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

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

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

Stream and download Deluded Grandeur here:

Like Gareth James here:

This review was written by Colin Clark.

Tuesday, 12 November 2019

Album Review: Get It Together by MakeWar

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

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

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

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

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

Stream and download Get It Together here:

Like MakeWar here:

This review was written by Colin Clark.

Monday, 11 November 2019

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

This review was written by Emma Prew.

Friday, 8 November 2019

Gig Review: Codename Colin’s Halloween Party at Oddfellows Arms, Hemel Hempstead 1/11/19

Considering that we don’t actually live in London, Colin and I only occasionally go to gigs that aren’t in the big smoke. Last Friday however we ventured less than 40 miles to Hemel Hempstead which is, of course, the home of Codename Colin. We’d never been to the venue or town before (Colin actually said he’d only heard of the place since knowing the band – I’m from Milton Keynes so I know it as being on the trainline to London) so it would be interesting to see what a gig there was like. There was also the added lure of top ska punk bands Filthy Militia and Last Edition plus local pop punkers Saving Sebastian, as well as the fact that the gig was Halloween themed – any excuse to wear my skeleton dress. We arrived fairly early and found the Oddfellows Arms, a small live music pub in the Apsley area of Hemel Hempstead, suitably decked out for Halloween and already reasonably busy. 

Filthy Militia were the first band on and, despite having some trouble with trains out of London and arriving later than they’d have liked, they quickly embraced their role as opening band to get the room moving. It’s somehow been over a year since we saw Filthy Militia (despite seeing singer and guitarist Frosty regularly at the New Cross Inn), so we were particularly looking forward to their set. Joined by Snowy from Codename Colin on trumpet, Filthy Militia played a brilliant set comprised of tracks from their 2018 EP, Innocent Until Proven Filthy, such as Storm Warning and Little Sister, as well as some new songs – notably one about ‘everyone’s favourite zombie’, Jesus. We were also treated to a rendition of Monster Mash which, obviously, got the Oddfellows Arms singing and dancing. The evening was off to a great start, that’s for sure.

The pub was starting to pack out a bit more by the time the second band were due on stage. It turns out that Saving Sebastian are rather popular in their hometown and we soon understood why. The four-piece’s brand of pop punk isn’t normally the sort of thing I’d listen to but there’s no denying that these chaps know how to put on a fun live performance. It’s full of all the banter and jokes you’d expect from a pop punk band – plus one of their members was dressed like Geri of the Spice Girls – including when they said they were going to play a Blink 182 song and proceeded to play Linoleum by NOFX. Other than the cover, their setlist consisted of tracks from their two EPs with a particular highlight being Hometown, for obvious reasons, from this year’s Minefield EP. We’ve seen Saving Sebastian twice before, at the New Cross Inn, but I think I enjoyed them more in their home setting.

Leicester’s Last Edition are one of my favourite ska punk bands in the UK at the moment and so I was understandably rather eager to see them play again – even if they were the band of the line-up that we’d seen most recently. All ska punk bands are fun live but there’s something about Last Edition that makes me want to dance that little bit harder. It’s probably those wonderfully infectious sax lines but it might also have something to do with how much fun the band seem to be having when they perform. Tracks such as This One, Last Orders and the instrumental Skank Only from their 2016 album, Best Foot Forward, were well received alongside some new as yet unreleased songs. One thing that’s for certain is that I can’t wait for them to release their next EP or album. Vocalist and guitarist Matty mentioned at one point that Last Edition have spent their last two Halloween weekends playing with Codename Colin so it was nice to be there for the third time.

Many alcoholic beverages later (not for me, I was driving), it was finally time for Codename Colin to take to the stage. Filthy Militia, Saving Sebastian and Last Edition had got the audience suitably warmed up but I expected that Codename Colin would take things to the next level. Opening their set with a statement about how we were supposed to have left the EU on the 1st of November and, singer and guitarist, Charlie proclaiming ‘We love Europe’ before bursting into the beginning of The Final Countdown was just perfect. The song had the crowd singing and dancing from the very start and it didn’t relent when the band moved onto their own songs. The band, who are now a five-piece, were joined by their ex-saxophone player Sam who no longer lives in the UK (I can’t recall if it was Sweden or Switzerland that he’s moved to!) making Codename Colin a six-piece for one night only. This was our first time seeing Codename Colin in any shape or form since they released their excellent debut album, Escape From Everything, in June this year. We’ve listened to the album a lot at CPRWHQ so it was great to hear and sing along to my favourites from the album including World’s Gonna End – a song that feels increasingly more apt as the days go by – and Dreamstate. As well as their killer original songs, Codename Colin are rather good at covers as already displayed with their opening song. Having seen the band cover a variety of pop and rock songs over the years, my absolute favourite has to be Feeder’s Just A Day. Throwing it into their Halloween party set was definitely a good idea as the crowd lapped it up – I guess turns out us punks really like early 2000s indie rock. We also enjoyed Codename Colin’s rendition of Five’s Keep On Movin’ perhaps a little too much. The band played for over an hour, with some breaks in between songs to hand out prizes and allow Charlie’s vocals to recover, but it flew by. Finishing up with Escape From Everything, the album of the same name’s closing track, we were all left with smiles on our faces.

I didn’t know what to expect from a gig in Hemel Hempstead but it was an excellent night. Should the opportunity arise, we will certainly be returning to Oddfellows Arms – particularly if Codename Colin are playing.

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

Thursday, 7 November 2019

Top Tens: Ten Bands Colin Would Love To See Reform

Last week the alternative music world was awash with My Chemical Romance and Rage Against The Machine announcing that they will be reuniting in the future. That got me thinking about bands I'd like to see get back together, whether it be properly or just for some special one off shows. This, of course, calls for a top ten list. Read on below.

I think it's fair to say that Cornish three-piece Bangers were a very important part in the renaissance of DIY punk rock in the UK. It came with a great shock and a lot of sadness when they split up in 2016. They were known for playing melodic pop punk music with one of the most distinctive vocals in the scene thanks to Roo Pescod. Never afraid to try something different, Bangers would be welcomed back with open arms if they did decide to ever get back together. Fingers crossed they do!

Fletcher frontman Lee recently put out some re-recordings of some Fletcher songs under the name of his new band Lee Resistant And The Lost so, in a way, the former London based four piece are back. However, I'd be so happy to see them back as Fletcher. Listening back to their final album My Revenge now, it's timeless. It arguably fits better into the current crop of gruff punk rock than it did in 2003. I wish I could get down the front and shout along to these songs just one time.

Anti Vigilante
With the return of Random Hand and ClayPigeon in recent times, the next big ska punk reunion the scene needs has got to be Anti Vigilante. I saw Anti Vigilante so many times during 2012/2013, a time where I started to really go to gigs on a regular basis, that when they decided to call it a day it felt like a big loss. Live was when they were at their very best, playing with a hyperactive energy and power that few bands could replicate.

Arrogant Sons Of Bitches/Bomb The Music Industry
This is a bit of a cheat entry as it's two bands in one. But they're both Jeff Rosenstock’s former bands and both would get very excited reactions if reunions were ever announced. The Arrogant Sons Of Bitches were Jeff's first breakthrough band playing high energy ska punk. An ASOB reunion would send us ska fans into meltdown. Bomb The Music Industry were the band that put Jeff in the punk rock spotlight with his relentless DIY attitude. Stepping away from the ska sound slightly, BTMI liked to experiment with different sounds whilst always sticking solidly to their ethics. This is why the band were adored. I kind of think an ASOB/BTMI/Jeff Rosenstock tour would just be magical.

Potshot were my first introduction to Japanese ska punk music and I never got to see them live. That's one big reason for them to reunite right there. This was also a big introduction to the more brass lead chaotic style of ska punk that not many of the big American bands were playing at the time. Potshot would get audiences really moving and smiling once again if they ever were to return. A slot at Level Up Festival would do nicely.

The Loved Ones
Despite the success that Dave Hause has had with his solo albums and with his band The Mermaid, I think it's only a matter of time before we are treated to some Loved Ones reunion shows at a festival somewhere. The album Keep Your Heart has become a bit of a cult classic and features such bangers as Jane, 100k and Player Hater Anthem. Whenever I've seen Hause solo I've always really hoped for some Loved Ones songs to appear in his set – it always makes me happy when they do.

During the early 2000s I absolutely loved LA's Madcap. Across three albums they mixed street punk, '77 style punk and a bit of ska to a great fashion. Madcap don't just write songs, they write anthems. I go years without listening to them but when I do listen again I can sing along to every word across all three albums. There aren't many bands where I can do that these days. Lead singer Jonny still plays and records as Johnny Madcap And The Distractions but a proper Madcap reunion would be great.

These Ohio pop punks really seemed to be rocketing to the moon just before they split up in 2014. During that time they built up a dedicated fan base throughout America and in the UK and Europe. Playing catchy, hook filled indie pop punk with duelling vocals between Maura Weaver and Ryan Rockwell, they were a breath of fresh air. Nothing Can Kill The Grimace remains one of my favourite ever songs and their version of Werewolf Shame by Direct Hit is superb. I'm sure it's not long until they do a Fest reunion show and hopefully find their way back to the UK as well.

Captain Everything
Whenever Fastfade break out their cover of Chance Of A Lunchtime I remember how much I would have loved to have seen Captain Everything live. Masters of bubblegum thrash, Captain Everything are one of the most missed bands from the early 2000s era of UK punk rock music. Over the years, many of the bands from those days have got back together for the odd show or tour but as far as I'm aware Captain Everything are yet to do so. I'm sure if they did decide to get back together for a special show it would be some night.

Jesse James
This is a bit of a cheat as Jesse James did get back together for a handful of shows in 2014 and 2016 but I'm greedy and want more! Jesse James were one of the bands that first got me into underground UK punk rock and I'm forever missing them. Punk Soul Brothers and Mission remain as some of my favourite albums of all time. Their headline gig at the Borderline in Soho was one of my favourite sets of all time and I NEED MORE! …Pretty please.

This top ten was written by Colin Clark.

Wednesday, 6 November 2019

Album Review: Someone, Somewhere by Brainflakes

Brainflakes is the solo project of Rockford, Illinois, songwriter Brendon Cave. After years of playing in different bands, he moved to Salt Lake City and began to focus on writing songs for his own release. Titled Someone, Somewhere, it was released by Hidden Home Records on the 1st of November. Combining punk, emo and indie music, Someone, Somewhere is four songs of vulnerable and intelligent music, switching between soft moments and crunching power chords. When the fine folks at Hidden Home sent this through to me I knew it was one I had to check out.

Someone, Somewhere begins with the song Royale. Beginning with a guitar sound that could be described as jangly and also crunching, it's not long before Cave's voice comes in and we're treated some superb raspy vocals. This isn't the case throughout the track though as there are times when things slow down and get a bit quiet. These contrasts keep things sounding fresh and have you wondering what's next. I loved the sing-along nature of the song. This is one of those songs that will really unite an audience with the band. Up next is Clay's Achin', starting slowly with Cave displaying a poppier, cleaner side to his vocals. Not for long though, as we hit a chorus where that superb raspy vocal returns. The song continues in this pattern, jumping between quiet and loud moments adding to the emotion in the track. Clay's Achin' is about being conflicted about life on tour – Is it worth it? Are you getting too old for it? Have you made it yet? Something relatable not just for folks in bands but for people who regularly attend gigs rather than doing the more traditional grown-up things like buying houses and having kids.

Cracking Yer Head is probably my favourite of the four songs on Someone, Somewhere. It falls more into the punk side of things rather than emo but still  doesn't stray far from the Brainflakes sound. Starting slowly before picking up the pace, this eases the listener into the song nicely before Cave's vocals really explode. It sounds as if the track is played at a slightly higher tempo than the previous song. This adds energy and I love that. The song is about going for your dreams but reaching that metaphorical glass ceiling and the frustration that brings. I felt like the song looks at the more realistic side of chasing your dreams but it not always being achievable. Last up is Leaving The Shire. What a fantastic choice as last song this was! The track begins very slowly, beginning with a little bit of organ before a slow, jangly guitar riff and some soft vocals join in. This section goes along for about half the song, you know something big is coming but you're never quite sure when as there isn't a build – instead the song just kicks into life without warning. This was great, it really added urgency to the song. A bit like Cave was saying "okay, let’s crack on with this." You can't help but want to shout along with fists high in the air to the track. This was the best way to finish this wonderful EP.

This is a great introduction to Brainflakes if, like me, you weren't aware of them before this release. Emo isn’t usually my go to genre but there was enough of the gruff, raspy punk sound that I enjoy to really keep me hooked throughout. Brainflakes could become a very popular band in the emo and punk circuits.

Stream and download Someone, Somewhere here:

Like Brainflakes here:

This review was written by Colin Clark.

Tuesday, 5 November 2019

Album Review: The Boys Are Still In Town by Local Drags

Local Drags is a new project from Starter Jackets members Lanny Durbin and Matt Sailor. The Springfield, IL based duo released a new four track EP under the Local Drags name in October. Titled The Boys Are Still In Town and released by Stardumb Records, it's their second release of the year, following on from their excellent debut LP Shit's Lookin' Up.

The Boys Are Still In Town begins with the song Girls In Denim Jackets. From the outset we are treated to a slice of power pop garage rock. Singer and guitarist Lanny does a superb job of telling a story about a difficult relationship with a girl and how you should watch out for certain types. As you would expect, the song is extremely catchy and I loved the bright, uplifting nature of the chorus despite the downbeat and sad lyrics. Fast Rewind begins with a drum beat that instantly reminded me of the classic Toni Basil song Hey Mickey. When Lanny's vocals come in though we switch to a sugary sweet sounding power pop song that looks at the topic of losing somebody close to you. I sense a theme with Local Drags where they write quite uplifting melodies to go along with some sad and emotional lyrics.

Pins steps away from the uplifting qualities that Local Drags have displayed so far and is a more serious sounding track. It's about bottling things up and not resolving any problems in your relationship, something you probably shouldn't do but many people will relate to. The fact that it is so relatable is a big reason I fell in love with the song. Interestingly, you don't often hear many bands tackle this topic so it is quite refreshing. The final song on The Boys Are Still In Town is named Big Apple, 3 A.M. Despite the EP only being four songs and about ten minutes long, this final track has that big finish feel you would expect on a long album. It's something I always listen out for on releases and it's not something you really find on EPs. I think a reason why the song feels so big is because of the short, sharp structure of the lyrics that make them instantly accessible and easy to sing along with. The track also features some gorgeous harmonies towards its finale that give the song this wonderful extra layer. I'm such a sucker for great harmonies and fantastic pop punk.

This is a great little release from some masters of their craft. If you're a fan of bands such as Masked Intruder, The Copyrights or Squirtgun then I suggest you check out Local Drags.

Stream and download The Boys Are Still In Town here:

Like Local Drags here:

This review was written by Colin Clark.

Monday, 4 November 2019

Album Review: Hello Exile by The Menzingers (by Emma Prew)

The Menzingers are one of my very favourite bands of all time. They are also arguably one of the post popular ‘punk’ bands of the last decade and so when it came to releasing their sixth album there was a lot of trepidation, as well anticipation, surrounding the band. I admit that nothing The Menzingers will ever release could surpass my love and appreciation for On The Impossible Past, the band’s third album. For a lot of people, who share my opinion, it’s because we had OTIP at the right time of our lives. However, in 2017 The Menzingers released After The Party, an album which exceeded all expectations I had and fast became my second favourite of theirs. They couldn’t possibly make an album better than After The Party could they?!

My instant answer is no, Hello Exile did not grab me in the same way. After spending some more time with the album, discussing my thoughts with some pals online – people really love this band and really want to share their feelings about it – and with Colin at home, I still don’t think the album is as good as After The Party but it has grown on me and still is growing on me. It has good points and not so good points and I have a lot of thoughts and feelings with regards to the songs on this album. So, although I initially had no intention of reviewing this, I want to write these things down. It might not be quite the same as my usual reviews but I think that in thinking about each song individually and delving more deeply into the lyrical content, I may well learn to love Hello Exile. I’m certainly open to trying – I owe The Menzingers that much for all they’ve given me.

Hello Exile kicks off with a typically Menzingers-sounding bang[er]. If I hadn’t already heard America (You’re Freaking Me Out) prior to the album’s release, my reaction probably would have been ‘Yes! This is awesome!’. I mean, it is a great song and I guess it’s my fault for listening to the singles and not waiting for the full album, but I suppose what I’m trying to say is it’s a shame the album opens with a song we’ve all already heard. That said, it is brilliant to hear The Menzingers delving into politics here – something they’ve not done a great deal of across their 13 year existence. Lines like ‘New penthouses next to tents in the streets’ and ‘What kind of monsters did our parents vote for?’ really hit home. The track is probably one of the punk-est on the album and, in that respect, is certainly a good jump-start to the album. Next up we have Anna, with a typically nostalgic-infused mid-tempo Menzingers sound that we’ve come to know and love over the past few years. This was also released as a single – the first single in fact – so, again, it’s something listeners will be familiar with. The song is packed full of emotion and lyrics that are just begging to be screamed along to – think Gates or Your Wild Years style. Anna is, I think, not a real person but the song is about someone who has gone away for a while, in this case gone away from Philadelphia, and how the place isn’t the same without them. ‘I have so much to tell ya, Please come back to Philadelphia, This place ain't the same without you, Anna. And oh, how the neighbourhood’s changed, And all our friends keep asking for ya, This place ain't the same without you, Anna.’ The Menzingers seem to have got increasingly more ‘heartland rock’ since their last album, After The Party. The melodies in third song, High School Friend, sound very Springsteen-esque although I don’t think you’d get the boss singing ‘I was getting fucked up with a high school friend, Wondering where all the good times went.’! The Americana meets punk rock sound with a distinct blue-collar vibes is generally something I’m really on board with – The Gaslight Anthem are one of my favourite bands of all time after all – but I’m not 100% sold on The Menzingers in this style. The song is typically nostalgic Menzos and isn’t bad overall but this is one that hasn’t overly grabbed me… yet.

It’s the fourth song of Hello Exile before we get to hear a ‘Tom May song’ but it’s worth the wait. Last To Know is slow paced but not soft, with pounding drums and chunky distorted guitars from the very start. As ever with songs written by Tom, the lyrics are far more cryptic that Greg’s. Take the opening lines for example – when Tom sings ‘Jesus Christ be damned, I held the dagger in my hand, I killed another man.’, I don’t think he’s singing in first person! I really enjoyed the guitar work on the track, particularly the solo towards the end with some subtle woah-ohs thrown in for good measure. A big reverby section at the very end of song gets louder and louder before throwing us into track number five. It’s a great transition into the stop-start guitars (possibly the two guitars taking it in turn to play different parts) of Strangers Forever. When the verse hits, it’s mid-tempo and contemplative with those stop-start guitars holding your attention as they lead into the chorus – ‘Maybe it's for the better we both stay strangers forever, Maybe it's for the best we pretend like we never met, Forget everything that we've ever known, Maybe it's for the better we both stay strangers forever, Strangers forever…’. There’s no denying that this another hugely singalong-able Menzingers anthem and I particularly enjoy the visuals of being stranded on a deserted island that appear throughout the verses of the song. Strangers Forever is about feeling like you don’t completely know someone despite seemingly having been very close to them, seemingly forever. My first thoughts when I heard the sixth song, Hello Exile, was why isn’t think the album’s closing track? Not only is it the title track, so that would nicely bring things full circle, but it’s slow and feels akin to Freedom Bridge or When You Died, aka. the slow album closer. When I got over that however, I do really quite like this song – and it is the end of Side A on the vinyl so that’s something. Hello Exile is stripped back and almost feels acoustic in its delivery although the rhythm section is subtly there throughout the song. It feels wonderfully wistful and romantic. I guess that doesn’t sound very punk but I think we have to admit that The Menzingers now transcend punk. I’m okay with that, hopefully you are too.

Portland opens the second half of the album. Relatively upbeat and anthemic from the outset, the pounding drums and melodic guitars will immediately have the listener’s attention after the softer tones of Hello Exile. In the song, which is a relatively short one by Menzingers current standards, Tom sings of not being able to change the past and consequently not being the same person he was in the past. The chorus is pleasantly repetitive and will no doubt find itself lodged in your head but it was the second verse that really stood out to me – ‘You wake up shaking in the middle of the night, A voice from the past back looking for a fight, Seize your sorrow, breathe with me, The pause between is all we need, They say it hurts ’till it doesn’t, You said "the future is unwritten, let the past stay in the past.”’ A nice nod to Joe Strummer there, who I know Tom May is a huge admirer of. After Portland we have Strain Your Memory. Now, this is a song that I should love. It’s got a bit more pace to it from the outset, Greg’s vocals have a lovely twang to them, it’s packed with heart-wrenching emotion and, of course, it’s begging to be sung along to. You can tell there’s a ‘but’ coming, can’t you? Well, the reason I can’t bring myself to ‘love’ Strain Your Memory is that I feel like it reminds me a little too much of Your Wild Years from After The Party. Your Wild Years is brilliant and, to me at least, Strain Your Memory feels like it references similar themes a bit too much. However, I bet I’ll still scream every word back at the band if (when) I see them play it live. By contrast to my feelings about Strain Your Memory, I simply cannot get enough of track number nine on Hello Exile. I Can’t Stop Drinking is long – clocking in at 5:10, it is actually their longest ever song (by three seconds). It’s also very slow, incredibly dark and so melancholic that it feels almost twisted – all of which is strangely compelling. There’s so much pain in Greg’s vocals as he sings about, well basically, coming to terms with alcohol addiction. For a band that has a lot of songs about partying and just drinking in general, this song feels like quite a surprise. Musically, the only song in their back catalogue that I would compare this to is Transient Love from Rented World (which was previously their longest song). I can’t imagine Transient Love or I Can’t Stop Drinking are fan favourites but I absolute love both of them.

Strawberry Mansion passed me by on my first few listens of Hello Exile, I neither loved it nor disliked it. However, when I was reading the lyric sheet whilst listening to the vinyl for the first time I was suddenly like ‘Shit, is this song about climate change?’ – the line ‘Exiled to an island of plastic’ in particular. Suddenly I saw The Menzingers, and Tom May particularly as this is a song he has written, in a new light. In reflection, after that, I decided that it’s probably not strictly about climate change specifically so much as about the state of the current world we live in in general. There’s no denying that the song is powerful lyrically – ‘Set a course for the sun, To bittersweet oblivion, The time has come, the rain has gone, Back to hell where we belong.’ – as well as musically and it packs a punch in both regards. Definitely one of Hello Exile’s highlights. The penultimate song, London Drugs, wastes no time in getting going and quickly matches the pace of Strawberry Mansion. Interestingly, the song opens with the chorus which also follows the same melody as the guitar parts. It’s fairly simple and it is catchy, that’s for sure. Do I like it? I’m not so sure, although I did enjoy the little reference to The Pogues in the opening of the first verse – ‘On a rainy night in Soho, The wind was whistling all its charms’. The themes of the song are perhaps similar to I Can’t Stop Drinking but I just don’t connect with the delivery of London Drugs in the same way. It certainly doesn’t have the same impact as fellow penultimate song After The Party had on the album of the same name but then that is one of the very best Menzingers songs of all time! I already established earlier in this review that I like my Menzingers albums to end with one big yet slow and melancholic song. Farewell Youth is the song that has to fulfill that task on Hello Exile and, while its not drenched in melancholy, I guess it kind of fits the slow part of my expectations. It’s a typical getting older and looking back on your youth (saying farewell to it) style song that The Menzingers do well. It’s nothing new exactly and I don’t really think this song is as good as others in the band’s back catalogue…

It feels a bit of a shame to end my review of Hello Exile on a more negative note as there are some songs on this album that I really, really like. Unfortunately there’s also a few too many songs that either don’t do anything for me or just feel a bit average. It’s not that Hello Exile is a bad album, it’s just that The Menzingers set the bar so high with their previous releases that it was always going to be tricky to come close with this one.

If you like the band already, you’ll probably like this album – after all, it does sound like The Menzingers playing The Menzingers songs. If you’re interested in checking the band out having never listen to them before however, I’d enthusiastically suggest you listen to On The Impossible Past and After The Party instead.

Hello Exile is available now, from all the places that you usually get your music from, and you can like The Menzingers on Facebook here – let’s face it, if you’ve read this far, you probably already do ‘like’ them.

This review was written by Emma Prew.

Friday, 1 November 2019

Gig Review: The Bouncing Souls at Electric Ballroom, London 26/10/19

When a band reaches thirty years together as a band it's an incredible achievement. That's the impressive milestones that New Jersey's The Bouncing Souls reached this year. To celebrate they have been playing massive shows all year and showing why they've had so much longevity. (Spoiler, it's because they're really really good). After what seemed like the longest wait, it was time for the UK to get their chance to party with The Souls. We attended the London date of the UK tour at the Electric Ballroom in Camden and we were very excited for the night ahead of us.

Due to an early start (and the fact I work on Saturdays) we arrived at the Electric Ballroom as Death By Stereo were already halfway through their set. This was my first time seeing the California band but was well aware of their legendary status in the scene. Combining punk, hardcore and metal, Death By Stereo had whipped the crowd that had arrived early into quite the frenzy when we got into the venue. Lead singer Efrem Schulz has a tonne of energy and was a blur on stage as well as down the front in the pit during the set which was great to witness. Death By Stereo are perhaps on the heavier end of the spectrum for my personal tastes but I can clearly see why they are such a beloved band.

Up next was Canadian trio The Dirty Nil. These three gentlemen have been developing quite the reputation as the of the hottest new bands around. Playing alternative rock with a punk rock swagger and energy, The Dirty Nil had some very enthusiastic fans down the front who gleefully shouted back the words to every song – something the band clearly appreciated. As you might expect from a modern rock band, they are slick (aside from one moment at beginning of a song which they quickly laughed off) and look well rehearsed. Playing a mixture of songs from their two full lengths Higher Power and Master Volume, it was great to see a band putting so much passion into their performance, I'm not sure that the band were stationary for a moment during their set. It's plain to see why The Dirty Nil are so hotly tipped as ones to watch.

It was now time for the main event – The Bouncing Souls. By this point, the room was pretty rammed with the band’s loyal and dedicated fan base. Before they started their set, I was thinking about how of all the punk bands from their era they are probably still the most beloved. For me, personally, there's not a band from that era that I get quite as excited about as The Souls. Seeing them live is just the best experience each and every time – singing as loudly as I can to so many classic songs, surrounded my many of my friends. It's a special moment every time, including this time. In fact, this felt like an ever more special moment given the fact we were celebrating thirty years of the bad. Taking to the stage with little fanfare before jumping into Hopeless Romantic, Sing Along Forever, Kate Is Great and The Gold Song, everyone in the Electric Ballroom shouted the songs back at the stage. The Bouncing Souls are one of those bands who, at times, don't actually need a singer as their fans sing so loudly and passionately. I love Greg though, so I'm glad he's here. It's easy to forget just how many complete bangers the band have written over the years. With each song they played there was a new level of excitement when people realised what they were playing. The set did mostly consist of Souls songs from the first fifteen years of the band’s discography including three from Maniacal Laughter (a very underrated album in my opinion). It was also nice to see that the songs from 2019's Crucial Moments – which I think is one of the band’s best releases in a while – got fantastic receptions. I particularly enjoyed the love song Favourite Everything which I had a little dance to with Emma. Other highlights were That Something Special going straight into Lean On Sheena and the final two songs of the main set – Gone and Manthem. I was very surprised when they walked off stage after those songs, it had been an hour but it flown by and I had had so much fun. They soon came back to the stage for a four song encore of Crucial Moments, True Believers (where they were joined by members of Death By Stereo and Tony from Brighton based punks Harker), The Freaks, The Nerds, & The Romantics and Night On Earth.

This was a seriously fantastic night. The Bouncing Souls are the actual best band around. Congratulations on thirty years, here's to another thirty!

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