Thursday, 30 April 2020

Top Tens: Colin's Top Ten Influences With Explanations

I'm sure we've all by now seen the trend on Facebook of being nominated to share your ten biggest musical influences without saying why. I got nominated and I did this. Problem was though I really enjoy talking about music and the acts that have influenced me. So that's what this top ten is. Me running through my ten biggest influences and explaining them. Talking about music is good.

Lightyear – Call Of The Weasel Clan

On the surface, ska punk legends Lightyear are a fun ska punk band that never take themselves seriously but, when you take the time to listen to the lyrics, they actually touch on a lot of subjects that are super relatable. Call Of The Weasel Clan was released in 2001 and amazingly it still sounds as relevant today as it would have back then. And it's still a lot of fun!

Fletcher – My Revenge

I don't think I really realised how much my musical tastes were influenced by former London punk rockers Fletcher until many years later when I re-found them. My Revenge was originally released in 2003 and is full of melodic and what today would be classed as "gruff punk" bangers. That "gruff punk" sound has become my go to genre when I want to find a new band and the majority of my favourite albums from the past fews years would probably fall under that banner. Fletcher's Lee now lives in Canada and fronts a new band named Lee Resistant & The Lost who are great. Check them out.

The Bouncing Souls – How I Spent My Summer Vacation

I don't think there are many punk bands more universally loved than The Bouncing Souls. They, and How I Spent My Summer Vacation, taught me more than any other album that what punk rock is really about is doing things with your friends, being true to yourself and having a great time whilst doing it.

Great Cynics – Don't Need Much

After initially getting into punk rock through bands such as [Spunge], 4ft Fingers, Lightyear, Uncle Brian and Jesse James, I eventually fell into the trend that many people do and began to exclusively listen to bands from America. Then I somehow heard Don't Need Much by a UK band named Great Cynics and I loved it. Through this album, I went on to discover Apologies, I Have None, Bangers, ONSIND, Muncie Girls and loads more. It sent me down the path of DIY punk rock that I love so much now.

ONSIND – Dissatisfactions

Dissatisfactions is probably the first time I truly took in any political messages from music. I heard bands like Anti-Flag and NOFX sing about politics previously but it never really hit home with me until I heard this album from a duo from Durham named ONSIND. The stripped back acoustic nature of the album really caught my imagination and moved me in a way that no other album had at the time. I learnt a lot from this album.

Wank For Peace – Fail Forward

Wank For Peace were a French melodic hardcore band who recently reformed under the new name Tiny Voices. Wank For Peace were the band that ignited my passion for checking out punk rock from mainland Europe. There's an incredible amount of amazing bands in Europe that not enough people in the UK are checking out when they really should be.

Less Than Jake – Losing Streak/Hello Rockview

Ska is a big love of mine and that mostly stems from Less Than Jake. The first CD of theirs I ever owned was the Losing Streak/Hello Rockview double CD. I played that album to death for years and never ever got bored of it. The band, and very very few other ska bands, have never managed to top these two albums. Less Than Jake are still going strong to this day and it's the songs from these two albums that always get the biggest reactions whenever I see them live.

Against Me! – Reinventing Axl Rose

I was slow to get onboard with Against Me! for ages, they just didn't click with me and then I heard We Laugh At Danger (And Break All The Rules) and I got it. Previously I didn't enjoy the rougher, rawer sound of punk rock at all but Reinventing Axl Rose opened my mind to a whole new world of punk rock. It feels like there's such passion in these songs that I don't feel you get with a slicker, more produced album.

[Spunge] – The Story So Far

[Spunge] were not only my gateway into UK punk rock but my gateway to underground punk rock all over the world. I remember being a bit of an indie kid as a teenage because that's what my best friends enjoyed but never properly connected with it. Then one evening I was listening to Steve Lamaq on Radio One and Roots by [Spunge] came on and that pretty much changed my life forever (hopefully for the better). [Spunge] pretty much played a big part in me being the person who I am today.

Davey Dynamite – Holy Shit

Holy Shit by Davey Dynamite is, in my humble opinion, the greatest album ever made. It's full of such passion and energy. It tackles important subjects in a way that really makes you think. It's full of ear worms and moments where you'll find yourself singing along with all the gusto that you can manage. No other album ever has moved me in the way that Holy Shit has. For me, this album should be the blue print for every punk rock album. More than just being incredible though, it not only shaped a lot of my political beliefs but it made passionate about standing for what I belief in and gave me the confidence to call people out if I believed they are acting in a way that isn't right.

This top ten was written by Colin Clark.

Wednesday, 29 April 2020

Album Review: Death In Venice Beach by The Bombpops (by Chris Bishton)

For a band to be releasing just their second album in their 13 year history, you might think their hearts weren't really in. Not so with The Bombpops. Death in Venice Beach follows up 2017's Fear Of Missing Out debut and what seems to have been a pretty constant few years of touring throughout America and Europe.

It also follows the well documented drummer and bassist revolving door years, all of which means the band are now a firm fixture in the Fat Wreck stable, regulars on the Punk In Drublic stage and even performing cameo appearances in NOFX videos. So, in fact, it turns out the band are incredibly hardworking and with Death in Venice Beach they've put out a great record. A just reward for hard work paying off.

The Bombpops are unashamedly pop punk. And I find that a great thing, especially in these dark times. No pretence, just great perky, devil-may-care, fast, sing-a-long pop punk. But, that's not to say that they're in any way shallow. There's no cringey, unrelatable, teen-angst material here. The first track is Dearly Departed and straight away name checks a host of A listers now no longer with us – from Jesus to Sid Vicious – whilst pondering whether these people offer any life lessons to us today. It's not normal pop punk fodder, but it's still a great pop punk song.

Next is Double Arrows Down. One of the singles from the album that was released before it came out. I already loved this before I heard the whole LP and hearing it again, in the context of the rest of the album, I still do. There are many bands that raise awareness of issues that are important to them, and this song is one of those for The Bombpops. Poli van Dam, guitarist and co-lead singer, has Type 1 diabetes. She often refers to the disease in interviews, on social media and now this song specifically records an incident when she had a seizure on tour a couple of years ago. Again, it's a pretty dark subject for a pop punk track, but I love how Poli and the band have produced a brilliantly energetic and catchy track like this, but have also helped people's understanding of a disease many still don't know much about.

There's brilliant harmonies teamed with great guitar riffs and hooks throughout this record. Zero Remorse shows this off perfectly. Poli and Jen Razavi, the band's other guitarist and co-lead singer, share singing duties and accompany each other really well on this.

Perhaps the only song that's a letdown to me comes next. It's odd because it's the other track that was released as a single before the album, Notre Dame. Lyrically, it's on a more familiar pop punk footing – a broken relationship, getting over that, moving on etc. – and it is fast, melodic, catchy, but this doesn't really do it for me. Maybe those sort of lyrics just aren't for me?

Sad To Me is a bit slower, but seems to flow from the previous track. It’s all about someone (the person in the previous song?) being a dick! Harmonies, tuneful guitar and a sing-a-long chorus. I like this a lot more and the album is back on track.

The other standouts for me are Can't Come Clean and 13 Stories Down. Both referencing drinking, but not in a puffy, fun, glamorous manner; rather in a more introspective, cautionary and regretful way. The first starts with a clip of the band arguing, swearing, threatening to quit and probably recorded when alcohol had been flowing. The song then kicks in and a signature pop punk flows. It's about drunken fights and crappy posts on social media – something I'm sure many will relate to – but it also turns out that it's semi-autobiographical tale as Poli has since revealed she's been in rehab and has embraced sobriety.

The record concludes with Southbound Stranger. A rollicking and memorable way to finish off a record. It's also easy to imagine the band smashing this out live. I haven't seen them for a few years, but it's a great reminder for me to catch them at the next opportunity.

Death In Venice Beach is a cracking pop punk album. It's a So-Cal, Fat Wreck release so some will have an opinion formed on that alone – pop-punkers and skaters should love it. But as well as having that feel good, pop punk vibe, there is a more abrasive side as well. The fun, rip-roaring, guitar and melody works really well with the juxtaposition of edgy, meaningful and thought-provoking lyrical content. I'd give it a listen, and not to just brighten up your day but to ponder on a few things as well.

Stream and download Death In Venice Beach on Bandcamp here.

Like The Bombpops on Facebook here.

This review was written by Chris Bishton.

Tuesday, 28 April 2020

Album Review: Cosmit by Cosmit (by Emma Prew)

Bristol-based label Specialist Subject Records have a brand new band on their ever impressive roster but, although the band itself is new, you may well be familiar with its members. A Specialist Subject supergroup of sorts, Cosmit are Jeremy and Steven formerly of Austeros (RIP), Max of Toodles & The Hectic Pity, Erica Freas and the SSR legend that is Kay Stanley. After forming last year and playing their first ever gig at the Specialist Subject Christmas party and just one other show earlier this year for Toodles’ EP launch, Cosmit have just released their debut three track EP.

The first of the three songs is called Keep It Real. An upbeat and snappy tune of only a minute and a half in length, Keep It Real features fuzzy garage punk style riffs and succinct lyrics. A particular highlight of the song is the subtle backing harmonies (‘Ooh-ba-ba-ooh’) as Jeremy sings ‘Yeah we can keep it real’. Stranger is the name of the second track. Here we have another fast paced number that is quite simply an infectiously catchy pop song. If it wasn’t for the fact that the song opens with the line ‘Don’t leave me here, All on my own’, you might mistake this song for carefree and happy number. It certainly feels like one you’d want to play loud when the sun is shining outside, particularly the chorus which sees Jeremy and Erica exchanging lines. The final song of the trio is the bass-heavy Rolling Sea. Cosmit slow the pace down a little here which allows the listener to focus fully on every word that Jeremy sings. Rolling Sea is about being there for someone, even if all they feel like doing is crying – crying can be a great release and you shouldn’t feel ashamed to want to cry. The song has some of the finest lyrics I’ve heard this year – ‘You can keep crying, Put it all out there, Every tear, Is a fist in the air’.

A Cosmit 7" is available to pre-order (due mid May) but the songs are available to download and stream on Bandcamp now.

You can also like Cosmit on Facebook to keep an eye on what they’re up to next.

This review was written by Emma Prew.

Monday, 27 April 2020

Album Review: Split by Trophy Jump and afewyearslater

Split EPs are great. Often a band you're a fan of will release one with a band you've never heard of before that you quickly become a fan of. This was the case for me when our friends in Croatian punk rockers Trophy Jump released a four song split with Hungarian band afewyearslate.

afewyearslater kick off the EP with the fifty-five second long It's A No. This was a great introduction to a band I hadn't heard of before. During the track's short duration they managed to display all that afewyearslater are about. It's a melodic pop punk style with gruff vocals that are easy to sing along to. The song is about being angry and frustrated with how the powers that be treat people and wanting to rebel against this.

Trophy Jump's first song is titled Glass Bell. This is a much poppier affair than afewyearslater's effort. This doesn't stop it having the same impactful meaning though as Antun sings about those people who talk about living life to the fullest but in reality just do what they're told or what they think they're supposed to do.

Go On is the name of afewyearslater's second offering. It covers a similar theme to Glass Bell, perhaps even takes it a step further by encouraging people to go their own way and aim for their dreams. I wonder if this was intentional by both bands or just a bit of luck. The song seems to have a higher tempo than It's A No does, giving it more of a sense of urgency. I loved the positive message in the song.

The split is completed by Trophy Jump and the song Bazooka Blaze. When I read the name of the song, I thought that Bazooka Blaze sounds like the name of a cheesy kids superhero character. It turns out the song is about a person who runs round saving drunk people from criminals. I assume this song is just a bit of fun but I seriously hope there is someone running around in Croatia doing this. This song put such a smile on my face from the first time I listened to it and it got bigger and bigger as the song went on.

I really enjoyed this split. It's short and sweet and a great showcase for both bands. If you don't know either band yet, then I highly suggest you check them out.

Stream and download the split on Bandcamp here.

Like Trophy Jump on Facebook here and like afewyearslater on Facebook here.

This review was written by Colin Clark.

Friday, 24 April 2020

CPRW Playlist: April 2020

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

Thursday, 23 April 2020

Top Tens: Ten Things That Are Keeping Emma Sane During The Lockdown

I consider myself to be extremely lucky that, despite everything that’s going on at the moment, I’m still able to continue working with relatively little change – all things considered. Instead of driving for twenty minutes to get to the studio where I work as a graphic designer with around thirty other people, I have my ‘office’ set up in our living room and am connected to my design team and our clients via video calls, emails and instant messaging. I sure am grateful to still have some sort of a routine and to know what day of the week it is (as well as still having an income, even if I don’t have oodles of free time to watch Netflix (we don’t have it anyway) or take up baking (can’t get the ingredients anyway).

Obviously, it’s weird being by myself all day – Colin is still going out to work while I work from home – but there are some pros of that: I get to pick what I want to listen to. All day, everyday! Here are some of the, mostly audio-based, things that have been helping to keep me sane in these crazy times, not necessarily exclusively whilst working but also what I’m occupying myself with instead of going to gigs or the gym…

Having more time to check out new music
I’m starting with a pretty obvious one but having more hours by myself in a day means more time to listen to whatever I want – without backlash. It also means I can try something new and skip songs or switch to something else if I decide I don’t like it. Sometimes I just stick on relaxation type music with nature sounds but mostly I listen to vaguely punk music. Some new, to me at least, artists I’ve checked out over the past few weeks include Church Girls, Cosmit, Dogeyed, Ellen And The Degenerates, Follow Your DreamsHi Water, Menagramo, Moon Bandits, Ratboys, Shoplifters, The Special Bombs, THICK and Trash Boy. I’ve also been getting into Phoebe Bridgers, including Better Oblivion Community Center, in the last week which I realise isn’t strictly ‘punk’ but I know a lot of punks are fans.

Taking up running
If you know me then you probably know that I am a keen swimmer, by which I mean that before leisure centres closed I was swimming 5 or 6 times a week. I’ve had to fill the hole that not being able to go swimming every morning before work has left in my life with something so I’ve taken up running. I’ve just completed Week 5 of Couch to 5K (I ran a full 20 minutes without stopping!) and music has really helped me get this far. I’ve rebooted and updated an old playlist, now titled UPBEAT, that I used in previous years to get me through gym sessions and it has become the soundtrack to my running journey. I’m always open to suggestions of other songs to add to it – it is by no means complete!

Listening to Spanish Love Songs’ and Worriers’ latest albums
Brave Faces Everyone by Spanish Love Songs and You Or Someone You Know by Worriers are probably my two favourite albums released in 2020 so far. They each tackle, among other subjects, huge world issues such as how the impact of climate change is making it literally feel like the end of the world is nigh. Guess what?! Both albums feel even more relevant in this weird old era of COVID-19 and are essential listening for everyone reading this. I Imagine these aren’t the only two albums that feel like a soundtrack to how things are at the moment but they are the ones that have stuck with me – and I still can’t get enough of either.

Listening to podcasts, podcasts and more podcasts
There are some days when I don’t really feel like listening to anything in particular music-wise but I need something on between video calls to ensure I’m not sitting in silence. Given that the main thing – at least, other than the coffee machine – that I’m missing about not being in the office is general chit-chat, it’s been really great to listen to podcasts. Not all of the podcasts I listen to are music themed – I’ve started listening to a sci-fi comedy called Voyage To The Stars which has 60+ episodes for me to work my way through – but a fair few are. Desert Island Punks is continuing to put out new episodes despite the lockdown and the new-ish episode with Kay of Specialist Subject Records is a great listen. Glasgow based promoter Dammit Presents has a new podcast with the first episode featuring Graham and Sean of Goodbye Blue Monday. I haven’t had a chance to listen to that yet but I’m sure it’s a time. Other good ones include: Lifers with Ed Gamble (heavy metal but it’s Ed Gamble so…), Superbeast Podcast (current affairs plus music) and The Wasting Time Podcast (pop punk/alternative music interviews).

Having more time to listen to vinyl
Over the past couple of months, Colin and I have built up quite a pile of records that were yet to have their first spin due to us not being home at the same time or because we were both out at a gig – who remembers gigs? We’ve now made our way through the pile, including those that we’ve bought since the lockdown began, as we have a lot of extra free time in the evenings. We’re not really ones for watching too much TV and would much rather put a couple of records on with dinner in the evening. In terms of choosing which record from the pile to play next, Colin uses a spinning wheel app on his phone. The Discogs app also has a great feature for choosing a random record from your whole collection simply by shaking your phone. This week we’re listening to records from bands that should have been at MPF 2020.

Watching livestream festivals
I’m sure everyone reading this has watched a livestream gig or two over the past couple of weeks. There have been so many that it’s impossible to catch up on them all, let alone tune in to them as they happen. I’ve particularly enjoyed the online festivals that hardworking folk such as the Specialist Subject Records gang (Distant Together) and the Booze Cruise Festival team (Boatless Booze Cruise) have put together on Instagram and/or Facebook. Not only do you tune in to see live sets by artists you know and love but you stick around to check out others that you’ve not heard of before – it’s great for the musicians involved and it’s great for you. There’s also a sense of community with the live comments alongside the streams, it’s nice to see familiar names pop up. Sure, it’s not the same as being at an actual festival but it’s still nice. Tune in to @mcrpunkfest on Instagram this weekend for all things Manchester Punk Festival, including yoga at midday on Saturday.

Cooking some different things
Bear with me here, I realise that this doesn’t sound particularly music related but I’ve really been enjoying trying some new recipes over the past few weeks. Obviously, I’m still working so I haven’t been baking sourdough bread every day or even making immensely difficult things on weeknights but I have whipped up homemade vegan garlic mayo, mango sorbet and vegan ‘halloumi’ (this one wasn’t such a great success but it was perfectly edible), as well as trying out several new curry and stir fry recipes. I also cooked some pretty darn good roast potatoes in my first ever attempt at a roast dinner – ask Colin. I have Vegan Punks, one of my favourite vegan food blogs, to thank for how the roast potatoes turned out. I recommend following them on Instagram. They share stories as they cook certain recipes and they always include what they’re listening to – punk rock, of course!

Doing design outside of my day job
Something I haven’t done a great deal of in the last few years is design work or any other creative pursuits beyond taking photos on my phone to upload to Instagram. When I work all day every day on my computer in Adobe InDesign, Illustrator and Photoshop, I thought the last thing I’d want to do would be to spend my free time doing that as well. Then I got free reign to design the CPRW Records logo and subsequently each compilation’s artwork. This was all before COVID-19 really became a problem in the UK and it was a struggle to fit in but more recently I drew our beloved home-from-home and favourite music venue the New Cross Inn for CPRW Records’ brand new compilation in aid of Music Venue Trust. It’s nice to be able to do something, however small, to help the music venues and bands that we love so much. The comp is released next Friday, 1st May – please check it out on Bandcamp!

Non-screen based pastimes
It’s good to try and get away from your screens and devices as much as possible each day of lockdown. Getting your daily exercise (assuming you’re allowed to do so in your country, as we are currently in the UK) is one way to do this but when you’re stuck inside the house it can be difficult to know what to do with yourself and it’s all too easy to spend your time scrolling through social media or watching episode after episode of whatever on TV. I jumped at the chance to order a jigsaw puzzle from Stöj Snak when they announced that a limited number of ScreamerSongwriter Heart and ‘Pandemic’ Dinosaur puzzles would be available soon. I opted for the dinosaur and am eagerly awaiting its arrival from Denmark. With 1,000 pieces, it ought to keep me busy for many, many, many hours. I was also pleased to see that Specialist Subject included at ‘puzzle punx’ crossword in their latest Liner Notes newsletter – order some records from them! I’d love more punk-themed puzzles so let me know if there’s more out there.

Getting back on track with my 2020 reading challenge
Okay, this one is completely not punk rock related. I haven’t read any particularly music orientated books this year but I still can before life goes back to normality, I suppose. I was a fairly frequent reader anyway and had set myself a goal of reading 35 books this year (Goodreads) but had fallen behind schedule – probably because I went through a phase of falling asleep before even reading one chapter in bed at night! I’ve taken this having more free time opportunity to do something I’ve been meaning to do for years and have started re-reading the Lord Of The Rings trilogy. I also want to re-watch the films (extended editions, obviously) at some point but we’ve started watching the Marvel films in timeline order instead.

What things are you doing to keep sane at the moment? What would you recommend?

This top ten was written by Emma Prew.

Wednesday, 22 April 2020

Album Review: Pears by Pears (by Chris Bishton)

So, I can't launch straight into this review without a bit of context. It's a Sunday afternoon, I'm sat in my garden drinking a beer and eating, sunburnt on the first really sunny day of the year, listening to the new Pears album. On the face of it, life is pretty sweet.

Yet, we all know it's not. It's pretty awful and absolutely surreal. Lockdowns, self-isolation, social distancing. Tours have been canceled. Venues have closed. Thousands have lost their jobs. And, of course, people are dying. It's indescribable but, if you took all that crap away, I'd be pretty happy right now.

Anyway… onto Pears. I'll be honest, it's been a while since I listened to any new hardcore. Age has mellowed me. That's why I was surprised when I found myself scrambling to order a colour vinyl variant of the new Pears record when that stupidly small window of opportunity opened online a few months ago. They're now pretty established on Fat Wreck and if you want those colour vinyls from that label you usually have to react fast.

Surprised, because when Go To Prison and then Green Star came out a few years ago neither grabbed me. Obviously, not because they weren't any good – they are both great records – but like I say, my taste has mellowed and I tend to go for a more melodic listen these days.

But then frontman Zach Quinn released his acoustic album, which I have so much time for, and the band did the split with Direct Hit! which I loved. Still with that hardcore flavour but with a song like Arduous Angel they suddenly seemed to have become a bit more melodic. And then, what sealed it for me, was early this year they released Comfortably Dumb as the precursor to the new album. Again, it's what I still think of as hardcore but with a really harmonic and tuneful chorus – their sound has changed – and sometimes it continues to change not just from track to track on the album, but even within the same song. I really like it.

The album starts with Killing Me – feedback and heavy guitar, but it's not overly frantic and it's very easy to make out the vocals. Then halfway through it slows and takes a different direction before returning to the tuneful vocals. It's a really great opening track.

Zero Wheels is more in the, what I would consider, traditional Pears style. Hard and fast and only about a minute and a half long. The old Pears are still very much on this record.

These two tracks layout out the feel for the rest of the record – different in style and often switching direction within the song itself. Comfortably Dumb, the song that ultimately persuaded me to buy this record, does just this. Hardcore, melodic, hooky and singalong all found in the same track.

Dial Up, Rich To Rags and Nervous all follow that trait – twists and turns but with that hardcore sound at the core of the songs.

The track that next really stands out to me is Naptime, which starts as if it's going to be a full blown, pop-punk song. It is really hooky, with singalong vocals. But then it turns, becoming a hardcore, albeit catchy track, that builds before fading into few seconds of acoustic guitar to finish.

The penultimate song Traveling Time is perhaps the one track that is unlike any other Pears song that I'm aware of. It's a poppy ballad for starters, full of fuzzy guitars and easily distinguishable vocals. I love it.

To finish though, the band return to that familiar hardcore sound with the tuneful vocals on Cynical Serene. Again, it jumps about a bit, in that halfway through the vocal becomes very serene itself, and then the track stops abruptly about 30 seconds from the end as a few chords on a guitar is strummed in order to finish the album in a truly beautiful way.

A couple of years ago, I never thought I'd enjoy a Pears record as much as I've enjoyed this one. I think the band themselves would probably concede their sound has changed a little, but it's still gutsy and raw, and I'd still say hardcore fans will like it. With 14 songs crammed into just over 30 minutes, you can't escape this is still blistering Pears.

The band had planned to tour extensively on the back of this record. I hope that still happens, as I'll now be making sure I catch them at a rescheduled show.

And by the way, I'm sure you're not wondering, but I did manage to score the colour vinyl but had to import it from Australia!

Stream and download Pears on Bandcamp here.

Like Pears on Facebook here.

This review was written by Chris Bishton.

Tuesday, 21 April 2020

Album Review: Bad Luck by Answering Machine (by Emma Prew)

Answering Machine are a five-piece powerpop meets rock ’n’ roll punk band based in Brooklyn, New York. Formed in 2016 by Samantha (vocals) and JD (guitar and vocals) – who are also school teachers – alongside Jackson (guitar), Craig (bass) and Louis (drums), Answering Machine have a couple of EPs under their belts and have just released their debut full-length. The album, titled Bad Luck, was released on 17th April on the ever excellent Wiretap Records. We were actually lucky enough to receive an advanced copy of the album but, unfortunately, COVID-19 got in the way and has delayed publication of this review until after the album’s release. This just means that you can actually go away yourself and listen to Bad Luck right now, however! Or you can read my review first…

Bad Luck kicks off with Riverdale and immediately sets the tone for what to expect from a full-length Answering Machine release. There are jangly guitars a’plenty and blissful dual vocals from JD and Samantha which are perfectly layered over one another, then topped off with some subtle backing ooohs. I had instant Tom Petty vibes when listening to this song which was not something I necessarily expected from a punk band but, on closer inspection of the album’s press release, Petty is in fact noted as an influence. ‘I’ve got one last regret, Tonight I pay my debt, Whatever it takes, To survive.’ The album’s title track and lead single, which was released last year, is up next – Bad Luck. Here we have big melodic guitars from the outset playing an oh-so-catchy riff. It’s not all about the guitars though, as the rhythm section really hold the track together. And, of course, there’s Samantha’s incredible voice. Bad Luck is the perfect mid-tempo pop song, complete with a catchy chorus. A particular highlight of the song is the bass breakdown in the bridge which is accompanied by some more of those lovely ooohs.

Without even hearing the third song, Bubblegum, its title suggests pop and… well, that’s exactly what we get. The Ramones influence is clear here, not least with the repetitive lyrics – JD sings ‘Give me, give me, give me, give me bubblegum’ while Samantha echoes ‘Give me, give me…’. It’s simple yet effective and sure is a lot of fun. Chugging guitars, a bouncy bass line and firm drums help Answering Machine deliver an infectious pop song that doesn’t fail to put a smile on your face. Hollywood Smog is the title of the fourth song. This song has a slower pace and muted instrumentation to start with, which allow us to focus on Samantha’s voice – ‘My head is filled up, Filled up with Hollywood smog.’ As the song progresses, the softer vocals from Samantha remain but the instruments pack a punch – what a wonderful contrast this is. Next up is This Year. The pace is upped here for an energetic pop punk song. From the excellent opening lyrics – ‘Spent the first day of this year, Shivering on my bathroom floor, I don’t want to do this anymore. Spent the last day of this year, Doing shots of whiskey with my friends, I’m not good at learning.’ – through to an instrumental breakdown towards the end of the song, this is a banger. It’s also one that I’m sure we can all relate to. This Year is about wanting to change your ways and learn from your mistakes, but repeating the same things you did last year. One of the real highlights of the album for sure.

The latest single, Cherry Coke, opens up the second half of the album. The song is as sugary sweet as its title suggests with more of those wonderful jangly guitars bringing an easy-going, summertime feel to the track. JD has said that Cherry Coke “[Is] for all the old folks who want to settle down but still have some fun. This one’s inspired by a love of Buddy Holly, 60s pop music, and The Ramones.” and you can definitely hear that in the song. I mean that both musically and with lines like ‘Yesterday is another day so we can sort it out.’ Marie takes a slightly different turn musically, at least to start with. Fuzzy stop-start guitars and a drum roll kick off the song which sound immense – in the best way. Soon enough, the vocals come to the forefront alongside a firm bass line. As reflected in the line ‘You’ve got seven ways to tell your story, Seven faces like your own.’, the song does feel like a story and is a joy to follow. Marie also features another short instrumental breakdown towards the end of the song, showing off the fine musicianship of each band member.

Track number eight, Wet Blanket, has quite a hard-hitting opening. This feeling is retained, although somewhat more subtly, when the vocals come in with lines like ‘I’ve got these violent fantasies, Sometimes they get ahold of me‘. Think of a punchy almost bluesy bass line and big rock ’n’ rolling guitars and you’ll be somewhere along the lines of Wet Blanket. There are also more of those lovely backing vocal harmonies that we love so much – JD and Samantha do a wonderful job of backing each other up throughout the album when one or the other takes the lead. The penultimate track of Bad Luck is called Water Signs. This song has a slower pace to begin with but when the vocals come in they drive the song forward and are accompanied by a super catchy, danceable guitar and bass parts – just try not nodding your head or tapping your toes along to this one, you won’t be able to sit still. The melody reminds me of something but I can’t quite put my finger on it. (Let me know if you can figure out what it is!) The final song on the album is Someplace. I was very surprised to hear harmonica and (I think) acoustic guitar for this last song. It was completely unexpected but I instantly loved it so much – honestly, this might be my favourite song on the album. Someplace has an entirely different sound and feel to everything else on the album but works really well as a closing track. I particularly enjoyed how JD and Samantha each had their own verses, while coming together for the chorus – ‘Always searching for someplace…’. A beautiful ending to one of the best powerpop albums you’ll hear this year.

Answering Machine have provided something for everyone on Bad Luck, whether you’re a rock ’n’ roller or a cheery pop fan, they have you covered. They even included harmonica if, like me, that’s something you think doesn’t feature enough in punk rock. We all need something to brighten up our days at the moment – well, most of the time really, but right now especially – and I think that this album is perfect for that. So put on those sunglasses*, kick back and enjoy half an hour of pop songs – you deserve it.

*You can wear sunglasses in your house or in your garden – no need to go further afield. STAY HOME.

You can stream and download Bad Luck on Bandcamp here and like Answering Machine on Facebook here.

This review was written by Emma Prew.

Monday, 20 April 2020

Album Review: Me, Myself And Something Else by Call Me Malcolm

When Call Me Malcolm released the incredible I Was Broken When You Got Here in 2018 it really put them on the UK DIY punk rock map. During the next year and a half they would play Manchester Punk Festival, Rebellion Festival, Boomtown Festival, Level Up Festival and Punk Rock Holiday in Slovenia, as well as countless gigs at DIY venues across the country including a big tour with The Slackers. During that eighteen months they somehow also found time to write and record their third album, Me, Myself And Something Else.

I Was Broken When You Got Here focussed heavily on the band’s internal mental health problems. Me, Myself And Something Else, which is set for release on the 15th of May, continues with this theme but expands it by talking about what it's like to go through day to day life with your mental health. Never a band to shy away from speaking out about some heavy topics, the album immediately felt darker than their previous efforts but the high energy ska punk and incredible vocal displays from Lucias, Mark and Lewis remain and are sounding better than ever.

The album begins with a news bulletin parody intro. This is a theme throughout the album and ties in with one of the tracks that we will speak about later. The first song on the album was also the first single released from the album. Titled Wake Up, The Monster Said, the track is everything you would expect from Malcolm if you're a long time fan or, if you're new to the band, it's the perfect introduction. It starts out with a guitar riff that almost sounds like a warning siren before those brilliant horns come in and the album really gets going. It's a fast paced track that really explodes during the chorus. The band have always had a great knack for writing a big chorus and it's clear that's going to continue on Me, Myself And Something Else. What You Burn is about 24 hour news channels and how bad they can be for your mental health because of all of the fear and anger that it showcases. Given that I'm writing this review during the second week of the government enforced lockdown in the UK due to COVID-19, I expect there will be a lot of people who will relate to this song right now. Hour after hour of bad news and despair is not good for your head. The band brilliantly jump between melody and tempo throughout the track. Fast paced upstrokes for the verse, a slower and emotional pre-chorus and a sing-along moment for the chorus. It's well structured and takes you on a wonderful ride. One of Malcolm's big strengths has always been that they basically have three lead vocalists in their band, this works wonderfully during this track as Mark takes over from Lucias to sing the bridge. It's a little thing but really adds something to the track.

The fourth track is titled I Bet They're Asleep In New York. My first thoughts on hearing the song was that they've been listening to a lot of Random Hand before the writing the song. There's a heaver skacore tone to the track and I love it. The intro is bound to incite some pretty wild skanking that I can't way to see. Brilliantly utilising the vocalists again, Lucias again takes us through the verse before Mark delivers an absolute masterclass on the chorus. This is one of my highlights on the entire album. During the second half of the song, things are slowed right down and Malcolm step into the reggae/dub world to deliver a breakdown that fans of the RX Bandits will adore before finishing off with a bang. This is a ska punk banger of the highest order. Track five, Last One Standing Loses, sees Lewis make his first appearance in the vocal booth. This is classic Call Me Malcolm, channelling the third wave sound we all grew up on. It's a poppier number that will get a crowd bouncing around the venue. The song is about trying to find a way to survive in spite of the of the helplessness feelings of the people around you as well as yourself. The line "I'm tired of saying goodbye to best friends that I just met." This seems like a throwback to All My Nameless Friends and how you lose the high from that night out with all your "nameless friends."

Also, Spiders kicks off the second part of Me, Myself and Something Else. This section of the album takes more of an active approach to dealing with mental health, jumping between hope and hopelessness as the band look for the answers to their questions. Also, Spiders is about the natural urge to stay silent when you know you're struggling and battling against that. This is a hugely relatable song for anyone who has dealt with any form of mental health issue and will hopefully encourage more people to tell others what they're going through. This is one of the more urgent feeling songs on the album and it gives the opening of this second act a energetic start. A Beginner's Guide To Fighting Back is a song that stands against institutions that are supposed to help people but ultimately fail and make you feel worse. This is one of those songs that really make you feel something and really care about the message of the song. The track is packed with wonderfully moving and inspiring lyrics, I could list them all but that would make this review longer than it's already going to be so I'll just pick this one – "the most beautiful people are beautifully broken." That's a doozy of a line.

The eighth track is a breaking news interlude before ninth song NowsirawariswoN (hardest title to write ever) begins. It's about how being diagnosed for an illness isn't a cure. I really enjoyed the way in which Lucias delivers the vocals on the track. It's a short and stabby approach that does a fine job of keeping up with the quick upstrokes. Another brilliantly skankable tune that will also have you shouting the chorus back at the stage with all the passion and might that you have. -24 Months Only- also takes aim at the institutions that are supposed to help us. Starting out with some huge horns, really giving the song a feeling of pomp that makes you pay all of the attention. I loved how big this entire song sounds, producer Oz Craggs of Hidden Track Studios has done a cracking job on the entire album. There's an anger in the song that I've never heard from the band in the past and it's fantastic. I Met All The Beasts In Your Thoughts is about how the people closest to you can be suffering and keeping it a secret. This is a track that seems to build and build, threatening to explode a couple of times before really doing so with Lucias showing just what a great singer he is. The second part of the album is completed with sunshine-inducing reggae/ska track Please Still Try. Despite being such a sunny sounding track, the band say that this is actually the darkest song on Me, Myself And Something Else. It's about the hidden darkness of suicide with the upbeat tone of the track representing the forced smile mental health sufferers put on for the world.

The third and final part of the album is about finding hope. I Am A Disaster Movie, which is also the penultimate song of the album, is next. During the opening lyrics Lucias sings "so we're trapped, in our third act, this turning point is where I fight", this is a sign of self discovery and revelation and what to expect from the final two songs. The song starts as a ska punk track but gradually grows into more of a full on punk rock track with added horns. This adds all sorts of energy and urgency as the track progresses. It's an impressive feat of songwriting that, this deep into the album, I still find myself wanting to lose my mind to every track on it. Lucias, along with bassist Trevor and drummer Baxter really shred on this song. It's a delight. The final proper track on Me, Myself And Something Else is titled Sleepwalk With Me. Given Call Me Malcolm's history of epic final tracks, I was expecting big things. They obviously didn't disappoint. The song is about people close to us giving us hope to keep on going and how, even when things are at their worst, there are still people who will know what you're going through. The track is completed with some "whoa-oh" backing vocals that perfectly bookend the album as they also appear Wake Up, The Monster Said. I love things like this. There's such a feel of hope and optimism on the song, it leaves you feeling like things might be okay or at the very least start to feel better – that's so important. The album is concluded with one last news bulletin with another tongue-in-cheek skit showing the fear that the media install upon us with the most mundane stories.

I have to admit that the first time I listened to Me, Myself And Something Else I had felt a little underwhelmed. It wasn't that I disliked it, it just wasn't I Was Broken When You Got Here. Then I listened again and I had a realisation. This isn't Broken, this is Something Else. I think it's important to separate the two as much as possible on your first listen of the album. Broken is a masterpiece but so is Something Else in its own unique way. It's a darker and heavier album by a band who, despite releasing the best ska punk album of the past decade, continue to push themselves and develop as songwriters. I must have listened to the album about ten times before they announced what song would be the single and I genuinely couldn't have guessed which song would be picked, they're all so strong and a great advert for what to expect from the album. I enjoyed the journey we were taken on during the album, it's clear that a lot of thought and attention to detail has gone into the album. No band has had two album of the year "awards" from me since CPRW's inception. There's an extremely good chance that it might happen this year.

Pre-order Me, Myself And Something Else from the band here and listen to Wake Up, The Monster Said on Bandcamp here.

Like Call Me Malcolm on Facebook here.

This review was written by Colin Clark.

Thursday, 16 April 2020

Album Review: Eruptions by The Special Bombs (by Marcus Pond)

The Special Bombs are a four piece group from Wittibreut, Germany. Their debut album Eruptions, came out on March 20 via SBÄM Records, six months after their debut EP Stay True. They released a video for the single “Still Dreaming” in mid-February, and had planned to do some touring to support Eruptions before COVID-19 changed everyone’s plans.

But, even if it’s not in front of a packed house party or a sweaty mosh pit, Eruptions is still a great listen. After seeing their video for “Still Dreaming”, I quickly hopped on the CPRW group message to call dibs on the review, and was thrilled to discover that Colin had already received an advance of their record. The email he forwarded to me had some press info that claimed their sound is similar to something that might come out of “Gainesville or Sweden instead of Lower Bavaria”. While The Special Bombs seem like they’d fit in well at a Fest lineup, and the Millencolin influence seems pretty apparent, I heard a homage to Bouncing Souls that was undeniable as well.

Eruptions kicks off with “My Eruption”, which features a guitar riff that would slide in perfectly on How I Spent My Summer Vacation. In similar Souls fashion, Stephan Lirk is able to flex his vocals into that trademark higher octave without too much of a strain. Also, similar to the Souls, he’s able to pen a song about something negative (losing your temper, getting frustrated, etc.) and make it sound unbelievably catchy and upbeat. Like a volcanic eruption, “My Eruption” builds and builds to a cathartic explosion of pounding drums and screaming vocals.

It’s quickly followed up with lead single “Still Dreaming”. This is easily the standout track (for me, at least), as it boasts an infectious chorus that is begging to be listened to at full volume with the windows down. I’ve listened to it dozens of times, and I still can’t help but sing along when Lirk yells “It feels like running out of fuel / I hope it’s over soon / I’m fighting against demons in my head.”

Even though I’m pretty sure I’m much older than the guys in The Special Bombs, I loved hearing “Not Too Old” from them. At first, I assumed that it was about not being too old to listen to punk music (something that I’m sure people who know me probably wonder about), but it’s really about not putting limits on your goals and dreams, something that undoubtedly resonates with everybody, eventually. A great tune about still having time to discover “what lies beyond the beaten track”.

The song I’d love to see live more than any would have to be “United”. There are lots of gang vocals here, especially during the chorus, when they all shout “This is our time, this is our scene / It’s all about passion and what we feel / United we are what we can’t be alone / Since we’re together nothing can go wrong.” I can already feel the sweaty bodies around me singing along, arm in arm.

Eruptions is nothing if not consistent. Each track is straightforward, uplifting, melodic punk. There’s no acoustic tracks, no orchestras or pianos thrown in for variety, no goofy throw-away songs. Every tune is meant to be played loud, ideally with space to jump around, with lyrics designed to be shouted along to.

RIYL: Bouncing Souls (but more How I Spent My Summer Vacation or Gold Record than Anchors Aweigh), Millencolin, Dropkick Murphys, Beatsteaks, volcanos

Stream and download Eruptions on Bandcamp here.

Like The Special Bombs on Facebook here.

This review was written by Marcus Pond.

Wednesday, 15 April 2020

Album Review: The Spaces In Between by Arterials

One of my favourite discoveries of 2019 were Hamburg punk rockers Arterials. After catching them twice at Booze Cruise Festival, I knew that I wanted to feature them a lot on CPRW. The combination of raspy vocals, urgent melodies and powerful messages really resonated with me and I want everyone in the world to know about them. In February, the band announced they would be releasing a brand new album on Gunner Records titled The Spaces In Between on April 24th. The band’s previous album, Constructive Summer, was absolutely brilliant and I was super excited to get an early listen to The Spaces In Between.

The album’s opening track Friendship Is A Four-Letter Word was also one of two singles the band put out in the build up to The Spaces In Between's release. This is a great introduction to Arterials for first time listeners. Firstly, it's a super positive song about being there for your friends whenever they need you. Flo's raspy vocals give the song plenty of urgency and the track is stuffed with big hooks and moments that will get your fists high in the air as you sing along. This track sets the bar high for the rest of the album. Faith In Yourself begins with a fantastic building guitar part that lets you know big things are coming. Rather than really exploding into life we get a slower, more measured approach to the song. There are high moments, such as the chorus and the song’s big finale, but for the most part the song focuses on getting its message across. That message is that you don't need to have faith in any kind of religion, all you really need is to have faith in yourself. The third track, Savage Season, sees an angrier side of Arterials. This is a no thrills punk rock song about bad politicians who are only in it for the ego boost and power trip rather than actually wanting to help people. Something we in the UK can really relate to.

Storm The Fortress is another political track. The band tone down the anger and present a more thoughtful songwriting style. It's about the political and media desire to fear monger and make people feel like they need to create borders and put up walls. The song is full of great lyrics. Two of my favourites are "we stack and stack and stack, tuning out the cries for help" and "it’s easier to build a wall, than to open up your arms." Some really powerful and emotive stuff. Bitter Fruit For Broken Homes is about how things may look great from the outside but things aren't always as good as they seem. It's one of the album’s slower and more emotional tracks but still packs that punch that I've come to expect from Arterials. The gang vocals on the chorus make it seriously emphatic and impossible to ignore. The sixth song is the album's title track, The Spaces In Between. It was also another single the band released in preparation of the album's release. I can see this song becoming a big highlight of an Arterials live set and perhaps even being their big closer. It's about not being afraid to stray from the path and finding something that means something to you. The track starts in an explosive fashion as the band storm through the opening two verses, giving the song an urgent and passionate feel. Then things are slowed down and the band sing the big positive hook. I hope to one day be in a sweaty punk club singing along to this as loudly as I can. It'll be a goosebump moment for sure.

Jaded & Hated kicks off the second half of The Spaces In Between with a bang. This stripped back hardcore song is about getting older and still playing in punk rock bands despite the negative attitude people may have towards it. As long as people are still enjoying it, Arterials will keep going. They don't care what the naysayers think. Pump The Brakes looks at the older generation’s ignorance towards climate change and caring more about lining their pockets than helping to save the planet. I can't think of many bands that have approached this topic so it feels very refreshing to hear a band tackle it and do it so well. You might think that this would play out as one of the angrier songs on the album but it's actually pretty melodic and full of hooks. This is great as it makes it more accessible and might help to inspire everyone who listens to try and do more to help with this huge problem. Corpse Motel (despite its title) sees Arterials return to a more positive frame of mind. It's about realising that no matter how bad things seem to be on tour, you're doing something you love with your friends and you should celebrate that. Being in a DIY punk band is not a glamorous thing, yet thousands of people do it because they love it. I love the lyrics in the chorus – "colour in the grey, with dabs of sky". A cooler person than me would say "super posi vibes."

The tenth track, Shades Of Brown And Blue, starts out in a ferocious manner. Of all the tracks on The Spaces In Between, Shades Of Brown And Blue is certainly the most circle pit inciting song. Arterials sound seriously pissed off on this track and rightfully so. It's about hating someone because they're different to you and how racism shouldn't ever be used for a political agenda. This is something we hopefully all feel very strongly about. The final line of the track is so powerful, Flo hoarsely screams "we won't bow down to hate!" The penultimate track on the album is titled Break Your Bones. This song has a very impactful beginning with its short sentence structure. During the track, Arterials show that they are allies to the folks who are marginalised because they look or act differently to what is expected of them. The band continue to shout out powerful and meaningful lyrics, this time with "each body's beautiful, let hearts shine bright, your life is meaningful, fuck all that divides". The final track on the album is On Greener Hills. A song which we are lucky enough to feature on our new compilation in aid of Music Venue Trust (also out April 24th). It's about learning from your past mistakes and growing as a person because of them. I've always thought that self discovery and pushing yourself to become a better person is a big part of what modern day DIY punk is all about so I was very glad to hear Arterials pick this subject to write about. It allows The Spaces In Between to finish on an positive and inspiring note.

On my first listen through of The Spaces In Between, I knew this was a very special album. Not only is each song an absolute punk gem where you will be able to sing and dance to your heart's content, it's also full of powerful meaning that if you want to dig down into the lyrics will move you. This is that heart on your sleeve punk rock that really matters in this day and age. There are loads of great bands in Germany at the moment but I'm not sure any are currently more important that Arterials.

Pre-order The Spaces In Between on Bandcamp here.

Like Arterials on Facebook here.

This review was written by Colin Clark.

Tuesday, 14 April 2020

Album Review: You Or Someone You Know by Worriers (by Marcus Pond)

Worriers is a four piece group from Brooklyn, fronted by Lauren Denitzio, formerly of the band The Measure (SA). With three other full lengths already under their belt, they released You Or Someone You Know on 6131 Records on March 6, 2020.

Their second album, Imaginary Life, was produced by Laura Jane Grace of Against Me!, and showcased an angst and snarl similar to AM!’s releases. While Denitzio doesn’t have the same raw, gritty delivery as AM!, their lyrics provide plenty of bite. This go-around, John Agnello (who also produced records for Dinosaur Jr., The Hold Steady, and Jawbox, among many, many others) was behind the glass, and has helped them create a loud, in-the-front-row feel to the recording.

The record opens up with “End Of The World”, an upbeat track about trying to focus on love despite the perils of climate change. With a background of soaring power chords, Denitzio wonders “What can I possibly say / Is it me or the end of the world? / Cover your eyes and ears and hope I don’t notice and nothing hurts”. Realizing that some problems may take a while to fix, they eventually ask “Could you just hold on to me for now?”

Worriers continues to walk the line between ominous and optimistic on “What Comes Next?”, which spends its verses brooding about “Getting the sense that the game has been thrown” amidst a moody bassline and a palm muted guitar. In the chorus, Denitzio declares triumphantly “I have all the luck I need”.

Throughout the record, Worriers stay true to their moniker, balancing preoccupations with things like equality, natural disasters, loneliness (“Relentless Noise”) and difficult relationships (“Enough”) with empowerment and a call to action. Rather than being paralyzed with fear, they generate a sense of hope, of moving forward despite any perceived setbacks.

The balance is perfectly encapsulated in the closer (aptly named “Grand Closing”), in which Denitzio spends the first few minutes cooing over a few reverbed chords. At the two minute mark, the same lyrics they almost whispered before, have now swelled into an anthem: “So this is how it goes / This is how I walk now”.

Between the power pop of “PWR CPLE”, the killer riff of “Big Feelings”, or the sweet, slow lament of “Terrible Boyfriend”, there’s a mood, emotion, or sound that will appeal to a variety of listeners. With the slight exception of “Chicago Style Pizza Is Terrible” (the title of which I happen to vehemently disagree with), every song hit my ears incredibly well.

Since devouring You Or Someone You Know, I’ve dug back into the Worriers back-catalogue and have especially enjoyed Survival Pop (2018), but where Yourself Or Someone You Know has them all beat is the Denitzio’s introspection and storytelling. Regardless of the listener’s background, I think it’d be difficult to not think of yourself or someone you know during every song. I’m not sure if that’s the point of record title, but I’d certainly recommend Worriers to everybody I know.

RIYL: Against Me!, Foxhall Stacks, Ted Leo, Signals Midwest, New York style pizza

Stream and download You Or Someone You Know on Bandcamp here.

Like Worriers on Facebook here.

This review was written by Marcus Pond.

Monday, 13 April 2020

Video Premiere: Wake Up, The Monster Said by Call Me Malcolm

On Friday, Call Me Malcolm released their first single from their upcoming new album, Me, Myself And Something Else. Titled Wake Up, The Monster Said, the band explain "‘Wake Up...’ explores the reality of living with mental health issues, and the impact of depression on the simplest of daily actions."

We're pleased as punch to be premiering the video for Wake Up, The Monster Said on CPRW.

Pre-order Me, Myself And Something Else here.

The song, along with the album, was produced, mixed and mastered by Oz Craggs at Hidden Track Studios.
The video was directed and edited by
For everything else visit:

Thursday, 9 April 2020

Top Tens: Ten Ways To Support The DIY Punk Scene During Lockdown

COVID-19 has been pretty devastating for the live music scene all over the world with the cancellations of gigs, tours and festivals. This has meant many bands, artists, venues, drivers, tour managers, promoters, sound people and probably a whole host of other folk have lost their main source of income. It's a terrible situation and a lot of great people are going to be struggling. As with any time of struggle, the DIY punk community usually shows what exceptional people they are by finding ways to support their comrades in need. I've put together ten suggestions for helping to support the bands, labels and venues that have really been affected by the pandemic.

Buy Their Music And Merch
This is painstakingly obvious but the best way of helping out the bands you love is by buying their music and merchandise. You don't have to do this at shows – bands have online shops, usually on their Bandcamp pages or on Big Cartel. If you stream a band a lot, why not buy a download from them? They make much much more money this way.

Share Your Favourite Bands On Your Social Media
Another pretty obvious one and the title explains it all. Share your favourite bands on your Facebook, Twitter and Instagram pages. Let your followers know what you're enjoying, maybe they'll check the bands out and enjoy them as well.

Watch Live Streams And Donate
What I think is the best thing to come from COVID-19 is the amount of bands who have taken to the Internet to perform live streams shows. It's been a great way to see some form of live music as well as saying hi to friends from all over the world. It's a great way to stay connected to the scene that you love. Most live streams are also requesting people to make donations during the stream, be it to help them out or to donate to a charity. At the moment, it seems as if there's a live stream happening every night – it's a great way to spend an evening indoors.

Let Promoters And Venues Keep Your Refunds
When Manchester Punk Festival had to cancel a couple of weeks ago, it was absolutely wonderful to see the amount of people who messaged the festival to say that they were happy for them to keep their money. I've been doing this for every festival or gig that's been cancelled. The way I see it, if I could afford the ticket in the first place and I can afford to go without the money now, it can go towards supporting something that I love. I appreciate there are a lot of people who have been put in financial bother who could probably do with any refunds they've got coming to them but, if that's not you, please think about letting the promoters/venues hang on to your money to help these events continue after the pandemic has ended.

Check In On Your Friends Who Have Been Affected
This is a way of helping bands without spending any money. It's simple but I think it's such an important thing to do. If you've got any friends who play in bands, or work for venues, or run labels, send them a message and check in on them. Let's be honest, we're all struggling mentally at the moment but these people have had their big passion taken away from them and will be having moments of feeling low. Having people to talk to will go a long way in supporting them mentally which can be just as valuable as supporting them financially.

Buy Things From Online Record Shops
Another self explanatory one. Obviously you can't go into a record shop at the moment but there are still plenty of online record shops around who would love your custom. Go buy a record or two whilst the postal service is still operating. Who knows when they might be forced to stop.

Buy Gift Vouchers For Venues And Labels
Many online shops have gift vouchers you can buy other people for presents. This is a great way to support them. I've also seen that venues such as The Exchange in Bristol and Rad Apples in Dundee, the new vegan restaurant above Conroy's Basement (home of Make-That-A-Take Records), are offering vouchers that you can buy now and redeem later. I think this is a brilliant idea. It supports these places now and gives you something to look forward to in the future.

Spend The Extra Time You Have Now Discovering New Bands
You've probably got plenty of spare time on your hands at the moment. Why not spend some of it looking for new bands to support? Fall in love with a new band and get excited about having the opportunity to see them in the future. The Bandcamp discovery page is the very best tool for finding new bands, especially when you can't go to gigs – why not use it and find your new favourite? Then go buy all their stuff.

Start A Project To Help Raise Money To Support Those In Need
When all this began and the impact that it was going to have on so many of my friends involved in the music "industry" became clear, my first thought was how can I help. Having a project to focus my mind on not only helps distract me from everything that's going on and gives me something positive to work on, but it will also hopefully help those who need it. I'm putting together a massive comp (to be released on April 24th through CPRW Records) to raise some money for Music Venue Trust. Perhaps you could do something to raise some money to help the bands and venues you care about. I'm sure all help no matter how big or small will be greatly appreciated.

When This Is Over Make Sure You Go To Gigs
Are you one of those people who often say they will attend a DIY gig and then don't go? When the COVID-19 pandemic is finished and we can go do the things we love again, make sure you get out and support the bands and venues that you're a fan of. It's very easy to take this wonderful scene we're lucky enough to have for granted. Things like COVID-19 have proven that these things can easily be taken away from us so it's important to go out and support the scene. The venues are also going to need some big turnouts over the first couple of months they're allowed to re-open again to try and make back some of the money they've lost during this disaster. Big bar sales will help that. Plus, won't it be lovely to see all your friends again? Personally, I can't wait for the big NXI party at the end of this.

Thanks for reading this. Stay safe, stay indoors.

This top ten was written by Colin Clark.

Wednesday, 8 April 2020

Album Review: Dirt Mall by Aerial Salad

Aerial Salad are without a doubt one of the most exciting young bands, not just in the UK but the whole world of punk rock. The Manchester based three-piece have made huge strides since forming in 2016 and playing what many have said is the worst set in the history of The Fest. Their debut album Roach was extremely well received when it was released in 2017. Since then the band have played shows here, there and everywhere – getting better with each set. Over the past year, they've been working hard on the release of their second album, Dirt Mall, which was released on the 27th of March on Plasterer Records as well as Aerial Salad’s new label Roach Industries. I was excited to hear some new material from the boys.

Dirt Mall kicks off with the song Virtue. After a brief intro with some buzzing guitars, it's not long before Jamie Munro's distinctive vocals make an appearance. Passionate, urgent and containing that thick Northern accent, this is an energetic opening for the album. Virtue gives Aerial Salad a grungier edge to their melodic pop punk style and shows the direction that they're heading on Dirt Mall. The next song, Romance?, was released as a single as a warm up for Dirt Mall. It was the perfect choice. The song starts out pretty slowly and shows much more restraint that I'm perhaps used to from Salad. Munro's vocals carry a certain amount of swagger in that opening verse. When the chorus comes in, it's pretty hard not to find yourself singing along. It's one of those brilliantly simple choruses that will get stuck in your head for days. Romance? is about wanting to have sex with someone that's in a relationship that isn't going anywhere and them also wanting to be with you but they can't because of their current status. How complicated. The third song is titled Fever Dream. Another of Aerial Salad's more restrained and, dare I say more, mature sounding efforts. This really is such a great example of the band’s growth over the past couple of years. When Roach was released I could never imagine the band writing a song like this and it being really good.

Temp sees the band pick the tempo back up for a little while. The track begins in quite a loud and brash fashion before soon shifting into a more regimented style. This switch during the song is a very striking method that keeps you listening to the track throughout. Such A Pity starts with a fun walking bass part from Mike Wimbleton. This bass line really carries the opening portion of the track whilst Jamie sings over the top of it. This is without a doubt one of the poppier songs on Dirt Mall and shows that, even though the band have developed, they haven't forgotten their roots. The way the song builds to its chorus is superb, as soon as Jamie yells "tell me, is this a horror film" I'm itching to sing along. I can't wait to see this song performed live. State O'Yer strikes me as one of those songs that gets better and better each time you listen to it. I think the best way of describing the overall sound of the song is by saying if you take the sound of every Teenage Bottlerocket song and add a whole lot of Northern intensity, this is what you’d get. This is where Aerial Salad really excel. Jamie sounds really pissed off as he storms through the track which seems to take aim at the posers in the music scene.

Track seven is the album's title track, Dirt Mall. I read in another review of Dirt Mall that if the reviewer was going to pick one track to sum up the overall sound of the album they would pick Dirt Mall. I would definitely agree with that statement. It's got a bit of everything you expect from the band – passion, energy, angst, cohesiveness, grungey punk rock and a big chorus. It's clear that, despite their relative youth, Jamie, Mike and drummer Matt Mills have been playing together for a good while and play to each other's strengths brilliantly. The penultimate song is named Lazy. This slower track could serve as a bit of an anthem for the band. It has a massive chorus of "I'm so lazy, I don't even feel like moving at all" that I can see crowds at DIY venues all around the UK shouting loudly back at the band. The final track on Dirt Mall is Stressed. This was a great choice of song to finish the album. It's a powerful plodder of a song. It never really hits any massive heights but is also impossible to ignore. This is in part down to a stabby guitar riff and a simple but effective drum beat. It paints a grim but truthful picture of what life is like for most working class, young twenty something people in the UK and how people try and get through it. I laughed when I first heard the lyric "live your own life, the best you can and love your mam". That is such a Jamie Munro lyric.

Dirt Mall definitely delivers on the promise Aerial Salad have as a band. Of all the bands in the UK's ever growing DIY scene, they seem like the most likely to break out into getting some more mainstream attention. Could Aerial Salad become the voice of their generation? How would I know? But it certainly wouldn't surprise me. I can't wait to see them on Sunday Brunch in the future.

Stream and download Dirt Mall on Bandcamp here.

Like Aerial Salad on Facebook here.

This review was written by Colin Clark.

Tuesday, 7 April 2020

Album Review: Born & Bored by Guilhem (by Lee Morton)

Guilhem is a singer/songwriter hailing from Montreal in Canada who clearly doesn’t like sitting still. As well as this, his first full length solo album, he has also released a couple of solo EPs, albums with his band, the excellent Lost Love, and is one of the team behind the successful Pouzza punk festival held in Montreal every year. In fact, it was back at Pouzza 2016 that I first encountered Guilhem, playing his folksy punk during one of the many early acoustic shows that were the perfect pick me up from the debauchery of the previous night.

If you’re familiar with Lost Love then this solo record is exactly as you’d expect, a stripped-down version, with dollops of their darkly quirky humour, often downbeat themes over upbeat music. It’s a very simple format but that means that there’s nothing to hide behind and it has to stand on the strength of the songwriting which shines through, not always brightly but enough to illuminate the path over the journey of the album. When I say journey, that doesn’t mean to say this is a concept album but there are recurring themes that crop up across the record.

The album starts with the delicate intro of “Just A Little Bit Above The Bottom”, which has a simple nursery rhyme quality to it. At just over a minute, half of which is instrumental, it eases you into the album proper with “Jurasticly”, an upbeat folky punk number packed with an infectious charm that worms its way into your ear and gives your heart a massive hug.

One of the main themes of the record is the stress and reality of growing up and this is perfectly captured on “5tr3sss”. With hints of Weezer at their best, this is another catchy number that shines a light on the pressures of modern life and, whilst the subject matter can sound depressing, it’s delivered in such an upbeat, positive way that you are quickly humming along.

What makes this album so accessible is the simplicity to the songs, which is not to take anything away or meant in any derogatory way. “Sober Realism” is a great example of this, a simple song structure that is instantly familiar and captures your attention. “Downward Spiral” follows and has that easy-on-the-ear sound, although with a bit of the alt-folk-rock vibe of a band like The Eels.

One of my favourite tracks here, “Happy On Paper” is up next and addresses anxiety and depression and how although things look like you should be happy, if you scratch underneath the surface things aren’t always as they seem. Depressing? No, this quirky track will still manage to make you smile with some upbeat brass parping in.

The mining of dark and depressing topics, and turning them into musical gold continues on “Heart (Attack) Of Gold” which in the chorus asks “how will you die” and continues to list ways to die during the verses. It’s darkly comic but retains a sense of light relief, especially during the spoken word fade out where the voiceover talks about what a great life they had, until they died.

Penultimate song, “Slow Song”, is exactly what you would expect from the title – slowed down verses that once again are simple to sing along to but then increases in volume over the chorus. It’s another that has a real familiarity to it and the choir-like backing vocals provide an extra layer of depth to it.

The album ends with a real highlight for me. Slightly rockier than the rest of the album, “The Needs” hits the sweet spot between folk and rock. Almost the flip side to “Happy On Paper” this addresses what you need, or don’t need, to be happy and is more upbeat in both tempo and volume, although the extended fade out of weird ambient noises perhaps goes on for longer than necessary.

Overall, this is a well-made album that has its finger on the pulse of the modern world but doesn’t take itself too seriously. Catchy, melodic and relevant, this is a great listen that reveals more depth every time you listen to it.

Stream and download Born & Bored on Bandcamp here.

Like Guilhem on Facebook here.

This review was written by Lee Morton.