Tuesday, 31 March 2020

Album Review: Steven Island by Maladroit

In February, French punk rockers Maladroit released their first new music in five years! The Parisian band have been a fixture in the European pop punk scene for years and I became a fan of theirs when I saw them play with Frenzal Rhomb, Direct Hit and Mike TV at The Underworld in Camden in 2014 (I think). What a line-up that was! Their newest release is an EP named Steven Island and it features four brand new songs based around four of Steven Spielberg’s most famous films – Jurassic Park, ET, Jaws and Indiana Jones. After being away for so long, this was the most fun way to come back.

Steven Island begins with Darwin's Got Our Back which is based around Jaws. This wasn't the fast paced and melodic pop punk song I expected to start the EP. Instead it's a stabby, stop-start type of song which has a bit of a darker tone than I usually expect to hear from Maladroit. That's not saying I didn't enjoy the song though. In fact, I thought it was a striking way to start Steven Island and it really made me take notice. Despite the structure of the song, it's still packed with memorable lines and hooks that will stick in your mind and have you singing along in no time. Up next is Raptor Lover (based around Jurassic Park). This song is far more what I was expecting from the EP. Fast, simple, catchy and lots of fun. The line "they say I'm a bad seed" is repeated a lot throughout the song so you'll have no excuse to not be singing along when you see them live. The song is from the point of view of the scientists who created the dinosaurs in Jurassic Park and how they say they're not bad people, they just wanted to see if it could be done.

The third song on Steven Island is titled Exploration Team (Indiana Jones). This is the most conventional pop punk tune on the EP. Think of bands like Teenage Bottlerocket and The Copyrights and you get the idea. Bringing the tempo up even higher than before adds an urgency to the track that I really loved. Lately I'm really enjoying all my music to have some urgency about it. That's not to say that melody is sacrificed on the song. On the song, Maladroit seem to have found the perfect blend of both urgency and melody. I dig it. Last up is Communication Fuck Up, based around ET. Communication Fuck Up mixes the stabby sound of Darwin's Got Our Back and the urgency of Exploration Team so you get the best of both sides of Maladroit's sound. Lyrically it follows a pretty simple structure. I love a simple song though, it connects with me quicker and keeps me entertained. I enjoyed the use of multiple vocalists on the track. Each vocalist bringing a different style helped add a truck load of energy to the track that gets you pumped up and leaves you wanting much more.

Maladroit have returned with a really fun EP which features four fantastic songs. I'm always impressed with how pop punk bands manage to create a variety of sounds. It's such a unique theme to base an EP around and the band have pulled it off superbly. Bravo Maladroit.

Stream and download Steven Island on Bandcamp here.

Like Maladroit on Facebook here.

This review was written by Colin Clark.

Monday, 30 March 2020

Album Review: swell by WIG (by Marcus Pond)

WIG is a three-piece rock band from Chicago that now has a pair of EPs under their belt. Not too keen on following basic capitalization structures, their band name is in all caps, while neither of their EPs (their debut “wig” and most recent “swell”) contain any capitals. They’re not too big on capitalism either, as they are unsearchable on iTunes and Spotify, and their Bandcamp page states that you can “name your price” for their music.

swell opens up with “I Don’t Mind”, which has a Dinosaur Jr. feel about it, alternating between fuzzy, 90s era alternative rock tones. It’s a sweet, grungy love note to that special someone, opening up with the line “You got a way / To make me almost forget everything”. It’s upbeat and you can almost feel the wind blowing through your hair as you listen to it.

In the middle of the five song release is “Heap”, a two minute instrumental that I originally mistook for a long intro into the fourth track, but actually stands up really well on its own. I’ve tended to kind of disregard what I consider a kind of “throw away” instrumental tracks (because I’d prefer it to have some lyrics to make it a little more memorable, I guess), but it’s got a great riff and seems like part of an intimate jam session they decided to mic up. You’ve won this round, instrumental tracks.

“Fencing” is the most punk tune on the EP, and definitely my favorite. It kicks off with some intense drumming, interspersed with angular guitars and a rolling bass line. After the build up, vocalist/guitarist Chris Gottlieb channels his inner Ian McKaye, growling about neutral onlookers who shy away from taking sides over important matters. “From atop this fence / I can look down / Oh little people / Choosing some ground / Don’t dare to offend / Anyone at all / Who might put a dent in / My social capital”. Definitely an appropriate listen on my way to the voting booth at the beginning of March. The last 20 seconds or so devolve into a frenzy of drumming and swirling guitars, which left me feeling a little exhausted after the first listen.

I love the DIY-feel of swell, and the sound that WIG has honed on their second EP. I’m a sucker for accumulating great music on vinyl, but if they keep on putting out cassettes, I might need to dig up a Walkman to more fully enhance my auditory experience.

RIYL: Dinosaur Jr., Fugazi, Drilling For Blasting, deciding whether to eat at Portillo’s or Giordano’s

Stream and download swell on Bandcamp here.

Like WIG on Facebook here.

This review was written by Marcus Pond.

Friday, 27 March 2020

CPRW Playlist: March 2020

CPRW Playlist: Here's what Brett, Chris, Dan, Dan#2, Emma, Lee, Marcus, Omar, Richard, Robyn and myself have been listening to in March.

Thursday, 26 March 2020

The Big CPRW Manchester Punk Festival 2020 Preview (by Brett, Dan#2, Emma, Lee, Robyn and Colin)

I'm sure you've heard by now that Manchester Punk Festival 2020 was sadly cancelled last week due to COVID-19. This was devastating for a lot of people, none more so than the collective of legends that works so hard on putting together what I think is the best festival in the world. Here at CPRW we always like to preview MPF and talk about some of the bands we're looking forward to seeing. This year, six of the CPRW team were due to attend MPF. As a group we had each selected ten bands to talk about and would be releasing a five part series previewing the bands. We all worked very hard putting this together and didn't want it to go to waste – and we still wanted to give some love to the bands and the festival. Instead of releasing this in five parts, we decided to just release it in on massive blog post – so we didn't just bum ourselves out five weeks in a row that MPF isn't happening! Please give this a read, check out the bands, give them some love (and if you can, some money – I'm sure they would appreciate it) and then do the same with MPF to help them come back better than ever in 2021.

On Friday evening MPF are hosting a live stream featuring some of the acts who were due to play the festival including The Flatliners, The Bar Stool Preachers, Chewing On Tinfoil, Erica Freas, Proper., Me Rex and Cultdreams. Be sure to check it out at @mcrpunkfest on Instagram.

Aerial Salad (Emma)
Probably one of the most exciting punk bands in the UK scene at the moment, as well as locals to Manchester, Aerial Salad’s set at MPF is bound to be highly anticipated by many – including all of us here at CPRW. If you like catchy pop punk music with raucous edge and particularly captivating live performance then you’ll love Aerial Salad. The band are due to release their second album, Dirt Mall, in April so you can expect to hear tracks from that live as well as classics from their debut, Roach.

The Bar Stool Preachers (Lee)
The Bar Stool Preachers have been on the ascendency for the past couple of years now, with constant touring not just up and down the country but the last couple of years has also seen them make some big inroads into America, supporting The Mighty Mighty Bosstones and The Interrupters to name just a couple. Their cheeky infectious positivity demands that you have a good time and in T.J. McFaull they have one of the most charismatic and friendly frontmen you could meet over the weekend and with a UK tour running through February and March expect them to be battle hardened come MPF.

Belvedere (Brett)
I was late to the Belvedere party. I became a fan of the spin-off band This Is a Standoff in 2009, completely ignorant to their history, and it was only after their demise that I thought to dig into the history and find Belvedere. What I found was as close to perfection as possible, as far as my music taste was concerned. Belvedere play super fast, super technical punk rock filled to the brim with melody and harmonies that I would challenge any punk fan not to enjoy. Their latest album The Revenge of The Fifth was well worth the wait for fans of the iconic band, and exceeded all expectations with an evolution in songwriting and production. I can imagine the whole floor going crazy for Belvedere with a pit that will test the stamina of all involved.

Bootscraper (Emma)
I must admit to never having properly listened to Leeds aggro-folk punk legends Bootscraper before they popped up on the MPF playlist. I was aware of them as a TNSRecords band and I saw vocalist/guitarist Tim Loud play solo at a previous MPF but for some reason I thought Bootscraper was a hardcode band (which is not generally my cup of tea, I’m afraid)… it turns out they are in fact a combination of bluegrass, country, folk, gypsy, punk and shanties! Which is obviously much more up my street. From what I’ve heard on recording, I imagine this Bootscraper to be an excellent live band.

CF98 (Brett)
One of the best things about MPF every year is that it doesn’t only feature bands from the UK and US punk scenes but also showcases many bands from countries with relatively lesser-known scenes. CF98 are from Poland, which is definitely not a country that I would normally associate with punk rock. The band are able to craft fun-filled, positive songs featuring pop hooks, melody, and speedy skate punk that will be sure to translate well live. The vocals are a particular highlight for me. With a style somewhere between early Paramore Hayley Williams and Sima from Not On Tour, Karolina has some of the best vocals in skate punk in my opinion. Don’t sleep on this one, I expect the CF98 set to be full of energy and remembered long after MPF ends.

Chas Palmer-Williams (Emma)
I once told Chas Palmer-Williams, outside the New Cross Inn, where I got the falafel wrap that I was eating at the time by pointing down the road and failing to remember the word to describe the canopy that sticks out above a shop, or in this case restaurant, window – ‘awning’. He got his food and later that evening played one of the best sets I’ve ever seen, with Lightyear. When not playing in the legendary and downright bizarre ska punk band, Chas can sometimes be found armed with just an acoustic guitar and some incredibly witty lyricism. He is certainly one of the most charismatic acoustic acts you’ll see all weekend.

Chewing On Tinfoil (Dan#2)
Chewing On Tinfoil is a band that I am completely in love with. They have a way of hitting my heartstrings with every word, and they have some of the best gorram song writing. They have a sort of cult following within the punk scene in that almost everyone I know recommends and rates them. Whether it's ska-punk or pop-punk, whatever genre they lean into they seem to do it perfectly while presenting their own take on the style. I have never seen them live so I'm expecting really big things! If you haven't listened to them before, pick up a copy of "Marrowbone Lane" and I'm sure it will leave you wanting to see them at MPF.

Cultdreams (Robyn)
Cultdreams is a band that marries punk angst with the swirling reverb of shoegaze. I was really impressed with their first full-length album (entitled Seafoam and released under the previous moniker of Kamikaze Girls), and enjoyed their latest offering (Things That Hurt) as well. Their sound is other-worldly and atmospheric, but also loud and brooding with sharply critical lyrics. I’m ready for the big sound and fuzzy moodiness that Cultdreams promises, and looking forward to hearing some of my favourite tracks like “Berlin” and “Deathcap”.

The Dauntless Elite (Colin)
It's been years since I've seen The Dauntless Elite. It was at Urban Bar (Whitechapel, London) for the release of their excellent split with Slow Science, that may have also been Slow Science's last ever show. I remember being so impressed with The Dauntless Elite at that show so I'm over the moon to have the chance to see them again. Featuring some fantastic dual vocals – one of my favourite things – The Dauntless Elite were one of the most well respected bands in the DIY scene whilst they were more active. It would be silly to miss this rare opportunity to see them.

Daves (Colin)
Daves are a new band to me. I first heard of them through my pal Sarah Shout Louder after she raved about the Leeds based trio. When I read their name on the first MPF line up announcement, they were one of the names that got me the most excited. Playing high octane indie punk rock, Daves have a bit of a reputation as one of the North's best new bands, so I'd expect a very good turn out for their set. I'm particularly looking forward to hearing Change and shouting along to the lyrics "I'm not ready to admit, I think I'm a piece of shit." Honestly I think that could be one of the biggest sing-alongs of the entire weekend.

Dead Neck (Dan#2)
The first skate punk band I ever saw was Dead Neck. I knew nothing much of the genre at the time, and I couldn't believe that bands could play that fast and be that tight. To this day, I haven't seen many bands that are better than Dead Neck were that night. That's why I'm jumping at the chance to see them again and even more so to hear some of the songs off their split with Actionmen, which is a perfect showcase of technical mastery of each instrument. It has great harmonies while the songs remain tight structurally. I also admit I would "Die Tryin'" to hit some of those amazing bass lines.

The Deadites (Robyn)
The Deadites are a three-piece melodic punk band from Peterborough. I discovered them while making my way through a playlist of MPF bands and really liked their steady energy and raspy vocals. Their live studio EP, The Den Sessions, offers a great preview of the kind of vibrancy and fun we can expect at the festival, and hopefully we’ll be hearing more from these guys soon.

Decent Criminal (Lee)
Taking influence from the 90s alternative music scene and mixing it up with punk and garage rock, Northern California band Decent Criminal create a sound that flits between poppy and sombre. Their unique three-part vocal harmonies provide an emotional depth to the songs, especially on the most recent release, 2019’s “Bliss”. With a European Tour booked in April alongside Aerial Salad and culminating at MPF they should be firing on all cylinders and looking to end the tour with a bang.

The Decline (Brett)
The Decline are a skate punk band from Perth, Australia, and have been a favourite of mine since hearing their debut I’m Not Gonna Lie To You a few years ago. The band has gone through some line-up changes since then but their formula has remained fairly consistent and they’re yet to put music out that I don’t immediately love. Their latest album, Flash Gordon Ramsey Street, is no exception and made it into my top 3 albums of 2019. I’ve been lucky enough to see them live a few times now and had the pleasure of chatting to Pat at a small show in LA way back in 2015 where the guys were nice enough to sign my copy of Resister and hand me a set list. If being super nice guys isn’t enough, they also put on a super tight show and if you’re a fan of fast skate punk with an Australian accent it doesn’t get much better than The Decline.

Discharge (Lee)
The term “legends” gets bandied around a little too easily these days but I can’t think of a more appropriate way to describe Stoke punk pioneers Discharge. Why? Well, just take a look at some of the bands that they’ve inspired or influenced – Metallica, Anthrax, Sepultura and Machine Head are just some of the bands to have covered their songs. Without Discharge, it’s fair to say that the punk/metal world would look very different. Need more proof? How many other bands can say that they started a whole new genre? Without Discharge we wouldn’t have the D-Beat sound which has gone on to inspire many crust/thrash/hardcore bands. MPF will also see them celebrating the 40th anniversary of their seminal “Realities Of War” EP but, with a long discography, you can expect plenty of classics thrown in as well.

Don Blake (Brett)
Manchester locals Don Blake play melodic pop punk and, depending on how far back you go into their catalogue, can be reminiscent of ramonescore bands like The Methadones and The Steinways or more modern pop punk bands like Eat Defeat. Don Blake’s songs take me right back to my years as a young teenager, finding my way into underground music through pop punk. Catchy singalong pop punk still holds a special place in my heart and quite often the only way I can get through morning traffic is by putting on some loud music I can sing along to. Although their songs have got longer over their three albums, they’re still catchy as hell and have enough hooks to have you singing along in no time.

Drones (Dan#2)
Drones, for me, are the most special band on the whole MPF line up due to them being the first DIY band I got into – they were my gateway into the UK scene. If you haven't heard them before, they are a political-punk powerhouse with kick-ass songs about things that affect every one of us. Their last release "Exiled" is still one of the best UK political punk records, with songs like "Anchors" and "Inferno" having some of the most earthshaking choruses. If you like bands like Anti-Flag or Rise Against, they are a must see!

Eastfield (Dan#2)
Eastfield are everyone's favourite train-themed punk band! Not all their songs are about trains, some are just fun silly punk rock, but the vast majority of their discography is railway-based. I first saw them in Basingstoke playing their 3-chord sing-along style of punk and everything clicked for me; they have absolutely perfected it down to a tee. They've been going for 23 years and are still as lively as every young band on the scene. Well worth a watch!

Erica Freas (Robyn)
MPF is blessed to have Erica Freas performing both as a solo act and as part of SOMNIA (whose set I will also definitely catch). Erica is probably best known for her work in RVIVR, but her solo work is equally excellent and her most recent album, Young, is intoxicatingly good. The strength of her songwriting is really on show in this more folksy, paired-down format and the songs are emotional, nostalgic, and gut-punchingly beautiful. If you’re a fan of her other music but haven’t checked it out yet, you definitely should.

The Flatliners (Robyn)
Anyone who knows me knows that I am a Flatliners ultra-megafan, so it is always a complete delight to see them and to shower them with all of my joy and affection. Add to this that they will be playing MPF as part of a 10-year anniversary tour for their album Cavalcade, my favourite album from them (and maybe ever), and will be playing it in full! I may just lose my damn mind; I will almost certainly cry; I will sing every.single.word.

Forever Unclean (Emma)
A CPRW favourite and just general good pals of the blog, indie punks Forever Unclean always put so much raw energy, passion and charisma into their live performance. We saw them at MPF 2018, opening up the Bread Shed stage on the Saturday afternoon, and they did a fine job of blowing away everyone’s cobwebs from the night before. More recently, they played Do It Together Fest and even treated us to some new songs. I can safely say that Forever Unclean at MPF 2020 are not to be missed.

Fresh (Emma)
Fresh are a band that I love more and more each time I see them play live, probably partly because they just keep getting better! The London-based indie punk foursome were due to play MPF last year but had to pull out at the last minute due to a personal emergency, so I’m happy that they’ll be appearing this year. Front person Kathryn is incredibly inspiring to watch perform and Fresh as a whole put so much love and energy into what they do that it’s hard not to get swept away by their live performance. Fingers crossed that CPRW Robyn manages to see Fresh this year, for the first time, as I know she’s a huge fan as well.

Gibberish (Brett)
There isn’t a lot of information regarding Gibberish available online and they haven’t released new music since 2017, but when I heard them on one of the first MPF 2020 compilations I instantly knew that they would be on my list of bands to see at the festival. With remnants of Counterpunch (who played one of my favourite sets of MPF 2018) and a strong Tony Sly/No Use influence, Gibberish were always going to appeal to me. The melodies are tight, the song structures are solid without being boring, and the fact that the band members are spread around the world and are able to produce music of this quality speaks to the musicianship of each member, so I expect a stellar live show from these guys. According to their Facebook, the band is working on a full-length album and if their past releases are anything to go by, it will be worth the wait.

Good Friend (Robyn)
A couple years ago, Colin messaged me after he and Emma had been to a Nothington show absolutely gushing about the opening act. That was the first time I heard about Good Friend, and I’ve been super keen to check them out live ever since. Their album Ride the Storm is full of edgy, pop-punk bangers with gloriously warm, whiskey-soaked vocals. I’m so looking forward to singing along to long-time favourites like ‘Young Blood’ and ‘Rock Bottom Revival’ and showing these guys some love in person.

Green Eyed Monster (Dan#2)
Japanese Skate punk 3-piece Green Eyed Monster are coming back to the UK for MPF. With songs as fast as they could possibly be, and catchy as any pop punk band, their latest 6-minute EP is a slice of skate heaven. I expect them to be able to pack double the songs of the average band into their set at MPF without missing a single beat.

Guns N Wankers (Lee)
Formed from the ashes of Snuff and The Wildhearts in the early nighties, the first incarnation of Guns N Wankers recorded three EPs, which later formed the basis of their debut album which was then subsequently picked up and re-released in the US on Fat Wreck Chords after catching the ear of NOFX’s Fat Mike. When Snuff reformed a few years later, the band went on hiatus until last year when they reformed with original members Duncan Redmonds and Pat Walters, with Wes Wasley on bass. Consistent touring since re-formation has made them a regular fixture on the circuit, picking up friends, both new and old, along the way.

Happy Accidents (Emma)
One of my favourite happy-go-lucky, cheerful pop punk bands Happy Accidents are back at MPF this year, having been quiet in the UK DIY scene for a short while. Bassist Neil left the band last summer and Phoebe and Rich haven’t played too many show yet without him, but where better for Happy Accidents to make their ‘come back’ than at the best festival in the UK. Regardless of the line-up change, I’m keen to bop and sing along to tracks from You Might Be Right and Everything But The Here And Now. Maybe they even have some new songs – who knows? There’s only one way to find out!

Helen Chambers (Brett)
Full disclosure: when I picked Helen Chambers for this list I had no idea that she was also the lead singer of Misfortune Cookie. I noticed similarities when listening but perhaps didn’t give either enough thought to dig a bit deeper. Some of my favourite moments from past MPFs have come from the acoustic sets so I’d be silly not to include Helen Chambers here. Helen plays a very unique mix of folk and country, with some beautiful and sometimes haunting melodies that can mesmerise the listener and take them to a place of peace and tranquility, which is exactly the kind of break you need to get you through a weekend of loud punk rock.

In Evil Hour (Lee)
Darlington socio-political punks In Evil Hour have been raging in their current guise for close to ten years and have a well-earned reputation for their ferocious live shows. Straddling the line between hardcore punk and metal, their strong stance on politics, the environment and capitalism has gained them a loyal fanbase and continues to unite fans across the UK and Europe, whilst in vocalist Al they have a potent focal point who commands the stage with aplomb.

Jaya The Cat (Colin)
Reggae-punk legends Jaya The Cat come to MPF for the very first time this year. Showcasing the variety that the collective behind MPF book for the festival, Jaya The Cat will bring their own unique party to the festival. Whenever I've seen Jaya The Cat in the past, I've always come away from the gig a sweaty mess – they get crowds moving whenever and wherever they play. It's always a great big sing-along as well. They bring people together. If you don't know the people around you at the start of the set, then I have no doubt they'll be your brand new best festival friends by the end of Jaya's set. That's what Jaya The Cat do.

The JB Conspiracy (Robyn)
Last year’s warm-up show on the Thursday before MPF saw The JB Conspiracy headlining, and they had us bopping and jiving our way into an awesome weekend of music. These guys are fantastic musicians and their live show was incredibly fun and energetic, so I’m really happy to see that they’re back this year and playing as part of the official festival.

Just Panic (Colin)
The first time I saw Just Panic was at MPF 2015 (the first MPF) and they were one of the highlights of the entire weekend. I lost my mind with excitement when they were announced for MPF 2020. I think this could be their first gig together since then (aside from the awesome Against Me! cover set they played at the after party) and it's long overdue. If you've never heard Just Panic before then I think they sound like a cross between early AM! and Crazy Arm. Raw folk punk rock brilliance. Given how rarely Just Panic do play, it's important that you do go and see them if you're a fan or you want to check out a brilliant band from the UK DIY scene's glorious past. Who knows when the next chance you'll get will be.

Kaddish (Colin)
Scottish emotional hardcore legends Kaddish are making a rare trip south for Manchester Punk Festival. The three-piece’s latest release, 2018’s What World Was Still? absolutely ripped. Expect the hardest, bleakest, most relentless set from Kaddish. If hardcore punk rock isn't really your thing then I urge you to check out Kaddish. Seeing the band live is quite the event, they're incredibly powerful and will get the entire room eagerly banging their heads in no time at all. Each track takes you on a journey and features some fine musicianship that you wouldn't normally associate with the hardcore genre.

Karl Phillip & The Rejects (Dan#2)
It took me a while to get around to checking out Karl Phillips & The Rejects but, oh man, they go hard on their self-titled record! Their songs flow lightning-quick but the words come out absolutely clean and clear, as natural as breathing. The style is a unique blend of punk rock guitars, hip-hop drum beats and techy rapping that is as fun as it is impressive. "Beef Teeth" is an absolute tune that seamlessly flows between grime-style rapping and a rock chorus. It will be my first time seeing them and I intend to be singing along word for word, trying desperately not to run out of breath!

Lande Hekt (Robyn)
Lande Hekt is better known as the frontperson for Muncie Girls, but recently she has shifted her focus to a solo project and released her debut EP, Gigantic Disappointment, at the end of last year. Contrary to its title, the EP does not disappoint and delivers some excellent indie pop-punk jams. I am especially fond of the tracks ‘Carpet’ and ‘The Future’, which both boast super catchy hooks and topical subject matter (the difficulty of maintaining friendships; anxiety about the future). Lande’s songwriting really shines through on these songs, and they promise to be every bit as good live.

Laughing In The Face Of (Brett)
I will never tire of listening to fast, technical punk rock and when a band is recommended for fans of The Human Project, Fair Dos and A Wilhelm Scream, I take notice. Laughing In The Face Of wasn’t on my radar until their latest album Here Lies Ordinary started getting some hype from Lockjaw Records, who have put out some of my favourite UK releases in recent years. The album and the band are well worth the hype, especially if you’re a fan of the aforementioned bands or Lockjaw releases in general. Their music is fast, melodic, and has enough technique to make most guitarists feel like amateurs. The live show is almost guaranteed to put a massive smile on your face.

Milloy (Colin)
Wakefield's Milloy don't play many shows these days but they are making a second appearance at MPF this year. Playing urgent yet melodic gruff pop punk, Milloy are one of those bands that you will be singing yourself hoarse to. Touring relentlessly across the UK, Europe and the USA in their early days before splitting in 2012, the band got back together in 2014 and again in 2016, it's clear that the band have a big passion for playing together which should make for an awesome live show. If you're a fan of bands such as Leatherface, Hot Water Music, Above Them or Former Cell Mates then Milloy are a band for you.

Misfortune Cookie (Brett)
Sometimes a band is able to grab my attention with just one song, and Misfortune Cookie were able to do just that within the first 30 seconds of their song ‘All Dogs are Nina’. The song is featured on an MPF compilation and is also the lead single from their debut album Heavy Seas that was reviewed by Richard for CPRW late last year. There is a lot to love about Misfortune Cookie; the songs are mostly Fest-worty anthems and the vocals really add something different, with a good pinch of folk and pop to help to create a unique sound that stands out from the rest of the gruff-punk genre.

Neck (Dan#2)
Neck are a Celtic folk-rock-punk band in the same vein as Flogging Molly, they have a full 6-piece line up complete with violin, banjo and flute, giving them an Irish folk edge blended with a knock-out punk rock sound. They have supported almost every big band in the genre and I have been listening to their last record "Come Out Fighting" on repeat since discovering them. They really stand out from the rest of the bill and I imagine will be a delight to watch.

Off With Their Heads (Robyn)
Festivals are the perfect environment to discover and fall in love with new acts, and I had the absolute pleasure of discovering OWTH at Fest 10, where they played an outstanding set to a very large crowd of sweaty, adoring fans. The quality of their live show alone would be reason enough to see them at MPF, but they’re also touring on the back of their latest album (Be Good) which was one of my favourite releases from last year. It’ll be awesome to experience OWTH with a UK crowd and to hear some of their new songs.

Oi Polloi (Lee)
As you might guess from their name, Oi Polloi, started out back in the 80s as an Oi punk band but exposure to bands like Crass and Discharge saw them incorporate D-Beat into their sound creating a unique blend of Oi, D-Beat and crust punk. Fiercely political, they still manage to create a sense of unity and a party atmosphere at their live shows. It might be a good idea to brush up on your language skills beforehand though, as they have written and performed songs in German, Finnish, Spanish and Gaelic.

Onsind (Dan#2)
I love Onsind, and I use that word because their songs seem to hit my heart perfectly, melting it to submission. Or, they can make me smile with butterflies in my stomach. Or give me the rage to inspire me through my day, or break me down to tears when I need a cry. I discovered them around the time of the election last year through a friend sharing "Pokémon City Limits" and have been in love ever since. I can't wait to hear them live! Also, if they play "Heterosexuality Is A Construct" I will be singing every single word through my tears somewhere near the front!

Pacer (Colin)
When Pacer were announced on the MPF line up I was over the moon – they don't play anywhere near enough these days! Gruff pop punk is what you get from Pacer and they're bloody brilliant. Usually up-tempo, with one of the most unique and engaging vocals in the genre, Pacer are one of those bands where it's impossible to fight the urge to throw in your fist in the air whilst singing along to such great songs as Mechanical, Hammers and Be A Man. 2020 is the band's tenth year together so I'm expecting a special set in Manchester.

Pizzatramp (Lee)
A band that made my albums of the year list in 2019, Welsh speed-punks Pizzatramp are the heir apparent to the sadly departed Revenge of The Psychotronic Man and a firm favourite at MPF. Their brand of fast punk rock mixed with hardcore aggression has seen their popularity grow in the last few years and become a staple of DIY punk festivals around the country. Expect plenty of songs from last year's Grand Relapse album, played at breakneck speed and some hard-hitting riffs as well as their infamous sense of humour (check out any of their music videos for proof).

Plot 32 (Colin)
Whenever MPF releases a collection of bands playing the festival, I always hunt through the line up to find the ska punk bands. I was stoked when I saw Plot 32 on one of the announcements. They're a band I've been wanting to see for ages but haven't had the chance yet, I believe they've only been down to London the one time and I sadly had to miss it. Playing upbeat and fun ska punk songs, they will have you smiling from ear to ear as well as skanking yourself silly. Plot 32 are the kind of band you want to get a party started and I have no doubt they will at MPF 2020.

PMX (Brett)
Thinking back to our first MPF in 2018, we knew so few of the UK bands announced but with every wave of bands announced Robyn and I would receive a flurry of helpful recommendations from Colin and Emma. Colin described PMX as “Scottish melodicy skate punk stuff” and then said “I think you’ll dig PMX”. Colin was absolutely right, and the schedule odds were in my favour that year so I was able to see the band in the tiny-but-awesome Zombie Shack. Despite the small crowd, the energy was great and I remember appreciating the dry humour delivered in between the fast-paced melodic punk rock. Their new album Ctrl Alt Del, released earlier this year, is an early contender for my top 10 and I can’t wait to see the new songs live.

Popes of Chillitown (Lee)
If it’s a good old-fashioned dance or skank you’re looking for when at MPF, then look no further than London ska/dub/punks Popes of Chillitown. Their energetic live shows have seen them collecting fans up and down the country during extensive touring and they bring the fun at every show. Livewire frontman Matt is a constant blur of movement, ably supported by the rest of the band who despite the loose feel to the music nail every component part. Their last album, the incredible “Work Hard, Play Hard, See You In The Graveyard”, received almost universal critical acclaim on release back in 2018 so expect plenty of bangers from this and hopefully some new tunes.

Proper. (Emma)
Hailing from Brooklyn, NYC, Proper. are no strangers to the UK – they’re signed to Oxford-based Big Scary Monsters and have toured over here before – but this year will be their first appearance at Manchester Punk Festival. The trio play a truly unique brand of emotional pop punk that they themselves have labelled ‘afro punk’. It’s emo but it’s oh so far from that whiny white boy break-up song stuff. I hadn’t heard of Proper. before they were announced for MPF but they are probably the band I am most looking forward to seeing. I can’t wait.

Random Hand (Dan#2)
I have seen many bands make the floors of venues shake, but Random Hand are the only band that I have seen that have made a floor pulse with the amount of people dancing to their ska-punk-political energy. Their chord choices make the songs sound dark and powerful like a hardcore band, while the trombone keeps the melody which gives them their solid sound. I really hope they play "Day One" so I can see the room explode with the drop of that song! They are possibly one of the best UK ska bands and are really worthy of one the headline slots.

Red City Radio (Robyn)
Red City Radio are one of the bands that ultimately convinced me to save up the money to get out to The Fest in Gainesville, and so it was a fantastic surprise to see that they’re crossing the pond to play MPF this year. The band really encapsulate the typical Fest sound with big melodies and gruff vocals, but I also really love RCR’s brand of punk positivity. This is the band I listen to when I need a pick me up, or to feel pumped up and excited, so they’ll be the perfect band to play the first night of the festival. Hopefully we’ll get a good mix of old and new (honestly, it’s all so good) and some great singalong moments.

Riskee & The Ridicule (Lee)
2019 was rightfully a big year for Ashford grime-punk pioneers Riskee & The Ridicule. They released their highly acclaimed third album, and my personal favourite album of the year, “Body Bag Your Scene”, signed a record deal with Bomber Music and picked up some high-profile support slots with Random Hand and Booze & Glory to name just a few. Their star shows no sign of slowing either in 2020 with a European Tour with Bomber label mates Jaya The Cat already in the (body) bag and this, their first appearance at Manchester Punk Festival. If you’ve not seen them then you are in for some treat, booting punk up the arse with high energy and incendiary lyrics that will win over any audience with their hybrid mix of street-punk, grime and rap that’s not to be missed.

Roughneck Riot (Emma)
After more than a decade of relentless touring throughout the UK and mainland Europe, Warrington’s finest Roughneck Riot took a break from playing music at the end of 2018 with the plan to return in 2020. Well, 2020 is here and the band will be making their Manchester return at the city’s best festival. Word on the street is that it will probably be their only Manchester show of the year so will definitely be worth catching if you like rowdy, angry folk punk – and, being a TNSRecords band, I imagine it will be a very popular set.

Shai Hulud (Dan#2)
When I said to my friends that I was really looking forward to Shai Hulud, they replied "But Dan#2, you don't normally like filthy hardcore". But they hit the perfect balance between being ferociously aggressive and having enough technical change up without losing any of the energy. I haven't liked a hardcore band this much since I discovered Comeback Kid. I listen to "Reach Beyond The Sun" whenever I'm at work at the moment. In short and simple terms, if you like metal or the hardest hardcore punk they should be at the top of your list of bands to see at MPF.

Shames (Brett)
I wasn’t familiar with Shames before their inclusion in this year’s MPF lineup, but after visiting their Bandcamp page and hearing a few of their songs I immediately added their album to my library and started getting excited about the possibility of seeing them live. Officially, Shames have been a band since 2006 but the guys have been playing music since long before then. Their experience is confirmed with almost every song in their catalogue, which provides excellent technical fast punk rock. They’ve shared the stage with the likes of Mute, Darko and No Fun At All, to name a few, and I’m really looking forward to Shames blowing us away with what is sure to be a high-intensity show full of shred and dual-guitar harmonies.

Shit Present (Emma)
Shit Present were one band that I fully wasn’t expecting to be announced as playing MPF 2020, purely because I wasn’t entirely sure that they were still a band – having been inactive for a couple of years. As one of my absolute favourite indie punk bands in the UK scene however, I was over the moon when they were announced. I can’t wait to sing along to Anxious Type alongside other Shit Prez hits. Plus, I’m honestly just in awe of Iona whenever watching her live (I thought the same when watching Great Cynics).

Signals Midwest (Robyn)
Signals Midwest are an alternative indie punk band from Ohio/Pennsylvania. I’ve been aware of them for a while, but I hadn’t really given them a proper listen until after they were announced for MPF. I was immediately taken with the band’s rich and dynamic sound, combining strong melodies and chunky basslines with more delicate guitar sections and emotive vocals. After listening to tracks like “Alchemy Hour” and “You’re Going To Be Golden”, they shot to the top of my ‘must-see’ list and I added their entire catalogue to my Spotify playlist. They’re a band capable of taking you through the full range of emotions and have an amazing depth of sound, so this promises to be an excellent set.

Despite forming and subsequently releasing their first album between 2014 and 2016, SOMNIA are about to embark upon their first ever tour – which culminates at Manchester Punk Festival! For those unfamiliar, SOMNIA are the transcontinental pop punk project of Erica Freas (RVIVR) and David Combs (Bad Moves, Spoonboy). For this tour, they will be joined by Naomi Griffin (Martha, No Ditching) and Kate O’Connor (Protohero, No Ditching). I’m not sure if they’ll have any new songs but I will be more than happy to hear songs from How The Moon Shines On The Shit live.

Stand Out Riot (Colin)
Manchester's Stand Out Riot are returning to MPF for the third time and I'm yet to miss them at the festival. The six piece don't play many shows anymore so I try and catch them whenever I can. I remember back in 2018 when they played after, and in my opinion upstaged,  The Bennies. Not many bands in the world are able to do that but on that occasion Stand Out Riot managed it. Playing their own style of skacore gypsy punk rock, Stand Out Riot are a ball of energy whenever they take to the stage. It's certain to be a very memorable set.

Triple Sundae (Colin)
I've had the pleasure of watching London melodic pop punks Triple Sundae grow over the past few years and can't wait to see them finally take to the stage at MPF. Their previous two EPs Peace Of Mind and Glow really showed a band who were taking huge steps forwards in their songwriting. Tackling the topic of mental health, Hassan is becoming one of the best lyricists in the scene, writing not only relatable lyrics but also incredibly catchy ones. Expect a massive South-East London sing-along at this one. Also look out for guitarist Mike Smith's Busted/McFly jumps – he has such form.

X-Ray Cat Trio (Lee)
Making the short journey across the Pennines are Leeds surf-punks X-Ray Cat Trio, bringing their blend of rockabilly, garage and trashy punk. Packed full of energy and an equal dose of attitude, they crank out riffs as sharp as their quiffs. Armed with a new album, “Love, Blood & Monsters”, which was released on the 6th March, you can expect plenty of new songs that continue their fascination with horror and sci-fi b-movies.

This Big CPRW Manchester Punk Festival 2020 Preview was written by Brett, Dan#2, Emma, Lee, Robyn and Colin.

Wednesday, 25 March 2020

Album Review: Lobotany by Cheerbleederz (by Emma Prew)

Cheerbleederz released their second EP, Lobotony, on Alcopop! Records at the beginning of February. If you’re not familiar with the band, Cheerbleederz are three London-based friends who each also play in other bands – Kathryn Woods (Fresh), Phoebe Cross (Happy Accidents) and Sophie Mackenzie (Finish Flag). I suppose you could say they’re a bit of a supergroup, but I just think they make some really great indie pop songs.

The first of four songs on Lobotany is titled Say 2 U. Opening first with a faint bass line before the guitar and drums come in, Say 2 U is a relatively slow-paced, quiet and thoughtful pop song with some wonderful subtle harmonies – including plenty of ohhh ohhs. At least, two thirds of the song is slow and quiet. The last verse sees Cheerbleederz up the volume and pace, declaring triumphantly ‘I wanna get to know you’. Brilliant. Disco is the second track. Not as slow as the first song, it features a catchy indie punk style riff from the outset which immediately grabbed my attention. The vocals are sugary sweet but it’s clear there’s an underlying bitterness in each word. At first glance, Disco is about not getting picked to dance at the disco despite being told you’re pretty and always working hard, although I’m sure this is also a metaphor for adult life. Either way, this is a really great song.

Sometimes I Cry At Work is up next and Cheerbleederz are straight in there with a catchy guitar melody and some wonderful harmonised ohhs. Sure, the band are not exactly at the hardcore end of the punk rock spectrum but they’re not trying to be – they still pack a hella punch with this song. Towards the end of the song there’s an extended instrumental section that shows off what talented musicians these three are. The last song on Lobotany is Gaze Of Others. It’s stripped back to start with, perhaps not quite acoustic but featuring softly strummed guitar before the vocals come in. And it’s a pretty poignant first verse – ‘Under the gaze of others, I feel so powerful and strong, Under the gaze of others, Sometimes the pressure gets too much.’ The bass soon comes in as well, bringing a warmness to the song, before the drums come in, completing the ensemble. I enjoyed the layering and building up of the track, not least because there’s some more gorgeous three-part harmonies throughout.

Lobotany is a great little EP that I’d highly recommend if you already like Fresh, Happy Accidents or Finish Flag but also if you like decent, catchy indie pop music with harmonies galore. Cheerbleederz deserve your ears.

Stream and download Lobotany on Bandcamp here and like Cheerbleederz on Facebook here.

This review was written by Emma Prew.

Tuesday, 24 March 2020

Album Review: Dinner By Gaslight by Missing The Scene (by Dan#2)

Forged out of the flames of the Reading punk rock scene, the phoenix that is "Missing The Scene" have come back to relish in nostalgia while breathing life back into the place they came from. Being from the area myself and having seen Fishhook (one of Jim and Rachael's old bands) a few times, I jumped at the chance to review the first release of their new project: a concept EP about the lasting impacts of toxic relationships and domestic violence, which is a really good concept and definitely is something that should be talked about more.

The EP opens with "Dinner By Gaslight" which starts with a really nice full sound, the choice of chords make it sound like a old friend easing you into the song. When Rachael's vocals come in, it sounds like the icing on the cake of their sound. Everything gels together really well and reminds me of a Banner Pilot song: nothing feels out of place and everything feels strangely familiar as it reels you in. Lyrically, "Dinner By Gaslight" talks about how gaslighting is used in the described relationship to abuse their partner. "And you would take me out but only on your own terms" hints towards the separation this caused, the lyrics are really well formed around the title. I also love the clean longer outro giving the track a haunting finish.

"Ten Years" is my favourite track on the EP; the guitar lead is really catchy from the get-go with everything backing it up. The chorus reflects on the long-term nature of the damage done to mental health by abuse: "Wasted ten years of my life, even though I only knew you two" is a really impactful line, backed up by the instrumentation stripping back for a few seconds behind it. Despite the heaviness of the lyrics, this is a lovely singalong addition to any set.

The final song is "Me And The Girl", which swaps some major chords for minor ones. This one sounds different while retaining the feel of the others. I really feel for the line "I wear my scars on the outside, makes it easier than in, some people say it's for attention". It's a horrible world we live in when something like that can be relatable, but it's an unfortunate truth that a lot of the stigma around this subject is caused by people belittling others' struggles. The guitar solo in this song fits really perfectly, too – not a note out of place, plus the double time feels like an empowerment of the message.

This EP is a lovely little slice of pop punk, nicely produced and great on the ears. It's a really high-quality start for a new band establishing a catchy sound with memorable melodies and familiar sounding chords that make the whole sound feel warm and inviting. I can't wait until they make more!

I recommend picking this up from Missing The Scene Bandcamp here. All proceeds raised are going to Berkshire Women’s Aid, a local charity that provides advice, support and refuge services to victims of domestic abuse.

Like Missing The Scene on Facebook here.

This review was written by Dan#2.

Monday, 23 March 2020

Album Review: Brave Faces Everyone by Spanish Love Songs (by Emma Prew)

Spanish Love Songs’ third album, Brave Faces Everyone, has now been out for over a month. The dust has settled a little and I have listened to it enough times on repeat – plus heard a handful of the new songs live – to feel ready to give it a proper review.

2018’s Schmaltz was a brilliant second album and was, in many ways, more of a complete article than Spanish Love Songs’ debut album, Giant Sings The Blues. I love both albums dearly and, to be honest, couldn’t pick a favourite between them but there’s no denying than Schmaltz flows very well as an ‘album’ from start to finish and just generally felt more refined than their debut. Schmaltz is the album that made the band a lot more well known – particularly over here in the UK – and so, in that respect, Brave Faces Everyone had quite a challenge on its hands in following on from where Schmaltz left off.

Thankfully, from my very first listen through on the album’s release day, I had no doubts regarding the fact that Spanish Love Songs had done it again with Brave Faces Everyone. I’ve heard a lot of people saying already that this is likely to be their album of the year, I’m not going to say that… yet, but it’s certainly my favourite as of now. And this is why…

As we hit play on track number one, Routine Pain, a gentle hum of Meredith’s synths welcome us to Brave Faces Everyone before Dylan utters the unforgettable line ‘On any given day, I’m a 6 of 10’ (a poignant nod to Scott Hutchison). As Dylan sings of his anxieties, the first verse builds slowly both in volume and pace before we reach a hugely cathartic chorus – ‘So let me ruin my guts tonight.’ It immediately has me wanting to throw my fist in the air and sing along. When the pace slows back down again towards the end of the song, we are allowed a moment to breathe before being thrust into the final bridge. I can confirm that yelling along to ‘Have you ever felt lower than everyone else?, I’m feeling lower than anyone else. If everything’s lower than everything else, I want to see how much lower we can go.’ is just as exhilarating as anything from Giant or Schmaltz. What an album opener! And what’s better than a killer album opener? A killer album opener that perfectly blends into the second track – thanks to more of those fantastic synths. Self-Destruction (As A Sensible Career Choice) isn’t at all stripped back with some lovely huge-sounding fuzzy guitars from the outset. It’s a super catchy, head-nodder of a tune that worms its way into your head before you’ve properly considered what the song is about. The song is about how troubled and helpless you can feel as a 30-something, between your own personal problems such as paying the bills and the fact that the world is quite literally on fire. A relatable song topic if ever there was one. There’s a strange amount of comfort to be found in the chorus – ‘“It won’t be this bleak forever." Yeah right. I hope you’re right. Have you seen me lately?’ 

Unsurprisingly, the themes that Spanish Love Songs broached on the first two songs are ever present in the third track. Generation Loss features a wonderfully melodic riff to easily rival the likes of The Menzingers and the track simply oozes nostalgic vibes, however it’s pretty hard-hitting lyrically. The song talks of a battle with depression and the grief that comes if someone close to you loses that battle. It makes me feel hugely emotional just reading the lyrics and trying to digest exactly what Generation Loss is about but I’m thankful that this song exists as I know so many people will find comfort in it. Particularly with another chorus that is just begging you to scream along – ‘We’re just so fucking tired, Of explaining ourselves. We throw a pill down our throats, Or ourselves into in the ocean. ’Cause half our friends are dead. The other half are depressed. In this budget rate life, The borderline’s looking thin.’ Things take a slight turn for the next song, Kick. This song was released as the lead single from Brave Faces Everyone (assuming you don’t count Losers, as that was initially released almost a year before the rest of the album) and it’s easy to see why. Kick has a big anthemic instrumental opening that immediately grabs your attention and hooks you in even before Dylan begins to tell the tale of a person struggling with drug addiction. It’s a pretty heavy going subject – like much of the band’s back catalogue – but contrasts wonderfully with the melody. I particularly enjoyed the nod to the album’s title in one line of the third verse – ‘Pop your prescription and you put on a brave face.’ Songwriting perfection.

Beach Front Property sees Spanish Love Songs slow the pace down somewhat with a much more restrained opening verse than anything we’ve heard so far on Brave Faces Everyone. The rhythm section shines through here however while a gentle guitar melody echoes in the background and, later on in the track, some subtle piano playing. As you might expect from the band, the volume does increase in the chorus but it’s quite abrupt and direct – ‘If every city is the same, Doom and gloom under a different name, Maybe we should find our home in one.’. Beach Front Property is about feeling like no matter where you choose to live there are always going to be problems with the place and you’re not necessarily going to be happier somewhere new – the grass isn’t always greener. It’s a pretty pessimistic outlook but this is Spanish Love Songs after all! Next up is a song that I am, and I’m sure you are too, well acquainted with – Losers. Originally released as a 7” single last Spring, I was a little surprised when I heard that the track would be appearing on Brave Faces Everyone. Don’t get me wrong, it’s an amazing song and I love it but I wasn’t sure how it would sit alongside an album of new material (then again, Buffalo Buffalo and Boy Considers His Haircut were released on an EP a while before Schmaltz as well, and the latter is one of my very favourite SLS songs). Thankfully Losers works very, very well in the context of the album and does a fine job of opening the second half. It’s fast-paced and so damn catchy that it injects a new lease of life into side B. It’s unlikely that another chorus on this album will get as big a live audience singalong as this one – ‘And my bleak mind, Says it's cheaper just to die, The prick inside my head’s, Laid off and daring me to try, My bleak mind says this is all you got, Hoping all this time, but all you'll find is, It gets harder, doesn't it?’

The first time I listened to Brave Faces Everyone (on Spotify, since I hadn’t received my vinyl copy/download code at the time), I thought I’d suddenly stopped listening to Spanish Love Songs after Losers and was listening to someone else. That is how much the opening of Optimism (As A Radical Life Choice) doesn’t sound like anything the band have done before. I must stress that this is not at all a bad thing, it peaked my interest and had me eagerly listening to see how the song would progress and, now, honestly this is probably my favourite song on the album. It takes us on an incredible journey throughout its four and half minute duration and is filled with ups and downs and twists and turns. The overarching theme of the song is basically about feeling like the end of the world is nigh, both due to your own personal anxieties and the climate crisis – and now, it takes on a whole new meaning thanks to COVID-19. I could quote so many of the lyrics in this song – it’s all so fucking good – but the bridge, in particular, is outstanding. ‘Because the ocean's gonna rise, The river's finally gonna overflow and leave us stranded, Try to make it to the other side, But there's a crack in my lifeboat, And I'm sinking, well I'm sinking, Won't you sink with me.’ If I was skeptical about Losers being on Brave Faces Everyone then you can bet that I was just as skeptical about song called Losers, Pt. 2 also being included. But, oh my, was I wrong to dismiss it! This song is so much more than just the second part of Losers – it’s a goddamn banger in its own right, perhaps even more so than Part 1. Losers, Pt. 2 opens with a distinct bass line, giving bassist Trevor time to shine, alongside a steady drum beat. When the guitars and keys do come in, they’re a big as you’d expect from track that I’ve already referred to as a ‘banger’. Unsurprisingly, it’s the chorus where the song really comes to life and Dylan’s lyrics really hit home – ‘Don’t you know you were born to die poor man? Don’t you know that you’re gonna do yourself in? And you’ll always wake up tired, Because there’s nowhere we go from here.’. The song is, of course, about just trying to get by in life – working just to live, or survive, and doing whatever you can to avoid succumbing to the obstacles life throws at you.

The penultimate song on Brave Faces Everyone is Dolores. Probably the most brutally emotional song on the record – and that’s saying something – Dolores is a slow burner of a song that is somewhat stripped back compared to the previous songs on the album. Its lyrics are structured significantly differently to the other songs as well. Here Dylan tells a story of someone working in an emergency room and putting every bit of their energy into trying to save someone’s life – perhaps, and I could be wrong, after a shooting (because America seems to have a few too many gun-related tragedies). It’s as heart-wrenching as it is moving and the fact that the song doesn’t have that big singalong chorus, catchy riffs or impactful bridge section doesn’t matter one bit. It’s still a first-class song, especially the way it builds and builds with the song’s conclusion being the line ‘They’re praying for you, you, for you.’ repeated over and over before fading out. Brave Faces Everyone started in a big way but will it end in a big way? Definitely, there’s certainly no doubt about that! I don’t think there could possibly be a better way to conclude the album than with Brave Faces, Everyone – note the inclusion of the comma on this song title, as opposed to the album’s title. You can tell that Spanish Love Songs are on a mission to close this album in style from the first few bars of the track, seemingly putting everything they’ve got left into this song. Brave Faces, Everyone reflects on everything that has been said and done on the album, including literally echoing lyrics we recognise from earlier on in the album plus a few nods back to Schmaltz as well. They’re not simply recycling old lines though, it’s delivered in such a way that just works. It ties up the album as a whole and the package is completed with a poignant outro. ‘I’m sick of yelling at strangers, Don’t want to do this forever, And when it all burns down, Will you carry me over? We don't have to fix everything at once, We were never broken, Life's just very long, Brave faces, everyone.’ 

This is the first time I’ve actually reviewed a whole Spanish Love Songs album and I have thoroughly enjoyed reading every word on my lyric sheet over and over as well as listening carefully for every single note in order to pour as much love into this review as I possibly can. The album and the band deserve it. There are not many artists that I’d put quite this level of passion into reviewing but Spanish Love Songs are such a special band to me. At the start of this review, I stated that I would struggle to pick a favourite album between Schmaltz and Giant Sings The Blues. Well, I can honestly say that I feel much the same about Brave Faces Everyone – and that surprises me, I didn’t think Spanish Love Songs would be able to top Schmaltz. You’ll have to ask me again in six months time if I think they’ve actually ‘topped’ it but I have no doubt that they’ve produced something equally as outstanding.

Now, if you’ll excuse me, I’m going to go and listen to the album again. It feels even more fitting with how things are at the moment – we need albums and bands like Spanish Love Songs more than ever.

If you read this far, thank you – I know this is longer than the average album review!

You can stream and download Brave Faces Everyone here and like Spanish Love Songs on Facebook here.

This review was written by Emma Prew.