Monday, 30 November 2020

Album Review: Proper Confessions by Brightview (by Emma Prew)

Brightview are a three-piece emo-punk band from Bad Nauheim, Germany, that Colin and I recently discovered on Bandcamp. Their latest release, Proper Confessions, was released in early September and the band describe its as being ‘six songs coming straight from our heartstrings’. I don’t know about you, but that sounds right up my street.

Proper Confessions kicks off with Scissor Fight, which is upbeat from the outset with a big melodic guitar part and pounding drums. The instruments take somewhat of a backseat for the opening verse as Brightview sing nostalgically of coming home and trying to grow up and be an adult – which is easier said than done sometimes. The volume is cranked up for an impassioned and catchy chorus that, in another time, I could easily imagine being shouted along to in a basement venue. Continuing the theme of nostalgia, 455 gives me instant Gaslight Anthem vibes – which is absolutely never a bad thing – and also perhaps a hint of fellow Germany-(via USA)-based punks Little Teeth. The opening verse of ‘We spent nights raising glasses, Singing to our favourite songs, Always annoyingly loud, off-key, Singing ’til our pain was gone’ hits all too close to home in these corona times we’re living in but it’s brilliant nonetheless. 455 is perhaps a little slower paced that the opening track but it certainly doesn’t lack any emotion. Rainbow Shoes is the name of the third song on the EP, featuring a fairly lengthy instrumental introduction – at least compared to the previous two songs – it feels like Brightview are setting themselves up for big things. There’s a great chugga-chugga guitar part that, alongside a bold rhythm section, really seems to drive the song forward. Something about the vocal delivery of the chorus brings to mind Against Me! which is further confirmed with a clap-along bridge right at the end of the song.

Band-Aid is the first of two ‘love’ songs on Proper Confessions. The track is a slower paced one which suits the sombre theme perfectly as Brightview sing of a relationship that didn’t work out. There’s some lovely warm guitar melodies interwoven between verses and some subtle vocal harmonies towards the end of the song that ensure the song doesn’t feel too melancholic. Fine is the second of the aforementioned love-themed songs but, instead of taking the same sad route as the previous track, it’s almost immediately clear that this is a more positive ending of a relationship – at least from the vocalist’s perspective. Understandably the pace is ramped up somewhat here with the whole song feeling like a very cathartic experience, both for the band themselves and for listeners. I’m sure some people will be able to relate to the track’s chorus – ‘It hurts to say that we're not together anymore, I hate to tell you this over the phone, I know that I might be, The greatest asshole you've ever known, I hate to tell you but this is fine for me.’ Bringing Proper Confessions to a close is 14, Across. Opening with palm-muted, distorted guitar and the line ‘Get up and look alive you moron’, Brightview immediately grab your attention with this final track. It’s a hugely melodic hard-hitting tune from start to finish that seems to build and build towards its end, ensuring that the EP finishes with a bang.

Germany is a real treasure trove for punk rock bands and Brightview are a great new addition to CPRW’s list of favourite German bands. Maybe/hopefully we’ll be seeing them at a future [Hamburg] Booze Cruise Festival.

You can stream and download Proper Confessions on Bandcamp and like Brightview on Facebook.

This review was written by Emma Prew.

Friday, 27 November 2020

CPRW Playlist: November 2020

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

Thursday, 26 November 2020

Album Review: Media Shower by Dead In Four

Today I was about to review Bedford, New Hampshire, based Dead In Four’s 2020 album, Walter Concrete. I’ve listened to it a lot recently and was looking forward to telling you what I thought about it. As I loaded up Bandcamp to get the lyrics ready I discovered that Dead In Four have released a new EP named Media Shower. I kind of figured that I should probably review the most current release but just wanted to say that Walter Concrete is an incredible album, well worth a lot of your time.

If you’re unaware of who Dead In Four is, it is a project by Mark Oslord who plays sometimes electro, sometimes folky punk music. Media Shower was recorded as a way of dealing with the feelings and frustrations of 2020 and was a way of getting back into the more aggressive and melodic punk sound that they grew up on.

Media Shower begins with Basement Boy. It starts out slowly and quietly with Oslord’s dreamy vocals welcoming you to the song before things really get going with a increased tempo and aggressive guitar lead. Oslord’s vocals make me think of a mix of Alkaline Trio’s Matt Skiba and Em Foster from UK punks Nervus. It’s a great sounding vocal that really gives a unique sound to Dead In Four. The track looks at the subject of turning into a recluse due to events of the past. The final verse of the song slows things back down and is great for singing along to and should offer some catharsis for anyone who’s been through something similar. Next is Beach Combover. This track is about looking back at your past discretions and trying to learn and make amends for them. The song doesn’t have the same high tempo as the previous one but certainly is packed with hooks that will grab the listener. It’s clear that Oslord has a great skill for writing an infectious chorus.

The third song on the EP is Are We Heathens? This is a slower paced song that is about dealing with your mental health issues. During the track Oslord talks about feeling low and hating himself and opens up about how living with these thoughts makes him feel. Lyrically it’s a incredibly emotional song and another that people going through similar things with hopefully find comfort in. I’d kind of like to hear this song played with just an acoustic guitar, I think that would make it even more powerful and emotional. Media Shower kicks back in to top gear on the fourth song, Trouble Negative. The opening guitars with their subtle layering act like a warning alarm before the drums kick in and a rush of energy flows out of the song. The song has some magnificent shifts in tempo and melody throughout the song that really keeps your attention, the bridge in particular I really loved as it goes off like a rocket. Towards the end of the song it slows down and becomes almost chant like which allows anyone listening to sing along. The track is about how everyone is always having an argument and how society struggles to admit when they might be wrong.

Heyday is one of the poppier songs on Media Shower. The vocals come in almost immediately which offered something different from anything else we’ve heard so far. When a band or artist does this you really need something to grab the listener’s attention such as Oslord’s vocals starting with a deeper pitch than on the previous songs before getting higher for the chorus. During the second half of the track I start to get reminded of punk rock flavour of the month Spanish Love Songs. The lyrics feel as autobiographical and story-like as some of Dylan Slocum’s best work. The penultimate song is titled Addendum. This is a slow and atmospheric song that shows a completely different side of Dead In Four. Vocally there’s a solemn, dream like quality to the song that captivates the listener. For the most part the song is quiet, only getting louder for the chorus. There is a beautiful layered harmony on the chorus that gives it a fuller and more hopeful sound. Addendum is about trying to live the best life you possibly can and not being afraid to talk to people if you’re feeling sad or confused. Last up is Pantera Bread. This is by far the heaviest song on Media Shower. Starting out with a thick bassline before a shreddy guitar comes in really lights up the song. The track is littered with shredding solos and really shows off Oslord’s skill as a guitarist. Vocally the song switches between Oslord’s trademark style and a more aggressive growl that I wish had made more appearances on the EP. The song is about people not accepting that they are different and the conflict that it brings. This is a powerful and memorable way to finish Media Shower.

Dead In Four has somehow managed to release two releases in 2020 that I absolutely love. Media Shower features seven fantastic songs covering a number of extremely relatable topics and is played with a huge amount of skill. It’s amazing to me that Mark Oslord not only wrote all these songs but played every instrument himself. People this talented deserve a lot of attention – check this out now.

Stream and download Media Shower on Bandcamp here.

Like Dead In Four on Facebook here.

This review was written by Colin Clark.

Wednesday, 25 November 2020

Album Review: Alright by The Hype Pathetics

The Hype Pathetics are a three piece band from Denver, Colorado. Having only formed in the autumn of 2019, the band is already on their second release. In February they released their first single Red On White and then in August came their three track EP Alright. This is what we’re reviewing today. The Hype Pathetics play catchy, fast paced indie pop punk music and I’ve absolutely loved them for a couple of months now.

Six Pack is the first of the three songs on Alright. The song bursts into life with a shout of “4-5-6 Pack” before we are greeted with simple garage punk guitar riff and then lead singer Paul Bowers’ vocals come in. Bowers sings with a higher pitch that immediately catches your attention. On Six Pack, the vocals do most of the work when carrying the melody of the song, this is another thing that really pulls you in. The verse is pretty speedy in itself but when the chorus comes in things really get fun. The track is about having fun and getting drunk at punk rock gigs. I’m tee-total so I can’t really relate to the getting drunk but I do love having fun at punk rock gigs. Up next is Heart Attack – a song that injects you with energy from the very moment it starts. It has this great quality that has you wanting to get your boogie on. Flipping things around from the opener, on Heart Attack the chorus is the slower tempo section of the song and the verse is where all the energy comes from. The song is about being hyperactive and people not accepting you for the way you. The energy from the music really reflects the overall meaning of the song. I really enjoyed that. The third and final song is the EP’s title track, Alright. This was my favourite when I first listened to the EP. The Hype Pathetics again had me dancing like a silly sausage in my chair and having the time of my life. This may be a bit of an exaggeration but I was having a very nice time. This is one of the catchiest and most infectious songs I’ve ever heard. It’s extremely simple and repetitive but I don’t believe I’ve had more fun listening to a song in a long time. The song is about trying to get in touch with someone and hoping that they’re okay.

There is a good chance that The Hype Pathetics are my new favourite pop punk band and I beg you all to go and check them out, make sure they get huge and find their way to the UK so I can see them without having to get on a plane. Thanks very much.

Stream and download Alright on Bandcamp here.

Like The Hype Pathetics on Facebook here.

This review was written by Colin Clark.

Monday, 23 November 2020

Album Review: Stork Bite by Crafting Lies

Crafting Lies are a four piece band from Hamilton, Ontario, Canada – the country where so much of the best punk rock comes from. The band play high energy punk rock that toes the line perfectly between pop punk and melodic punk that leaves you feeling pumped up and ready to get a bit rowdy at a show. In April, the band released their debut six track EP which is titled Stork Bite. I’m always excited to check out new Canadian bands so was pleased to find time to work on this review.

The first of the six songs is titled Alive. This is a nice positive song to start the EP. It’s about fighting against the darkness and living your life to the fullest. The chorus is packed with gang vocals which will encourage people to sing-along with the song and be united in the struggle against bad mental health. It’ll help folk realise they are not alone and that’s important. The song really comes alive during its chorus and is the definite high point of the track. Up next is Carbon Monoxide Dreams. This was one of the standout tracks on Stork Bite when I first listened to it. The track starts with a pounding drumbeat that really makes you pay attention and when the chorus hits you’re really hooked in. The track is about the relationship between a person and their car. Often it’s more trouble than it’s worth but the feeling of freedom it gives you and the relationship you build with it make it very special.

The third track is Clear Vision. This track is about finding a way through the fog that is life and, no matter how often you might get lost, you have a plan on how you can get there in the end. The song starts with a slow and methodical build before we get to the verse. The way in which the vocals are delivered on both verses are my highlights of the track. They really make you listen to every lyric because of this interesting melody. Nothing Left is another positive and powerful song. It starts out quite slowly and is a bit more subdued, talking about feeling like you’re at the end of your tether mentally. When the chorus kicks in the song explodes into life and the song becomes an anthem for continuing to fight back until there’s no fight left in you. The contrasting halves of the song do a fantastic job of making the song really stand out. The passion that the chorus in particular is sung with was extremely moving.

The penultimate song is titled Six Feet Deep. This track brings the energy and tempo back up. Beginning with some beating drum sticks before some call and response vocals come in followed by the full band. This is the first time on Stork Bite that Crafting Lies really make use of the call and response technique and I found that it added a wonderful extra element to their sound. Stork Bite is concluded with Hang It Up. This track shows off a completely different side of Crafting Lies. The first half of the track is completely acoustic. As the song moves forward it gradually builds towards a big finish where the whole band come in. This makes for a very emotional ending. The track is about the difficult dilemma every musician goes through – whether to keep pursuing your dreams or giving it up for a more stable life. Vocally you can really hear the hurt in the singer’s voice. What a way to finish the EP.

I’ve said a million times on CPRW that Canada is a conveyor belt of brilliant bands. Crafting Lies are yet another one to add to that list. Smart, positive and relatable punk rock that will have you smiling, thinking and feeling things. I feel like it won’t be too long before a lot of people in the scene are talking about this band. If you’re already a fan of PUP or The Penske File then you’ll love Crafting Lies.

Stream and download Stork Bite on Bandcamp here.

Like Crafting Lies on Facebook here.

This review was written by Colin Clark.

Thursday, 19 November 2020

Album Review: Tales From A Red Flag Galaxy by Stubborn Hearts

Stubborn Hearts are a melodic punk duo from Rhode Island, New York. They write relatable songs about subjects such as relationships, anxiety issues and pets, and promise to always put on an energetic live show. Taking influence from bands such as City Mouse, Mobina Galore, The Muffs and Spanish Love Songs, in May they released a seven song EP named Tales From A Red Flag Galaxy. From the fact I’ve chosen to review it, you know I liked it – read on further to find out why.

First up is Flux Capacitor and from the start you can hear the Mobina Galore influence. The song begins with just guitar and Jenn Lombari’s vocals. After a while the drums come in to give the song a fuller sound but the song really gets going when Lombari really pushes their vocals towards a more guttural shout. This is when the song really grabbed me. The track is about the end of a relationship and wishing you could go back in time to when things felt better. Up next is Don’t Freak Out. Stubborn Hearts pick the pace up on this song and channel their inner pop punks. The contrast in the slow and melody driven opener and this is wonderful. It immediately shows another side of the band. The song oozes with energy and will have you pogoing around the room whilst singing along. Musically it’s an upbeat song but, in fact, this is another break up song. I really enjoyed the opening lines of the second verse – “I keep checking on your last text, hoping to see blinking dots.” The energy continues on the third song Troll Book Club. Stepping away from the subject of broken relationships, this song looks at feeling alone and trying to make improvements in your life. This energetic pop punk style is really up my street and it puts a massive smile on my face. Musically it’s rapid and has that rawness to it that I love while the vocals do a superb job in carrying the melody.

The fourth song is titled Mums. This song talks about the anxiety that comes with expecting a difficult conversation with someone you’re close with. The title suggests that it’s about a difficult conversation with your mum but I feel like it could be with anyone you’re close with. I like the switch up on this song, more often than not most relationship songs are about the aftermath of the break up rather than the feelings you have before things end. Despite the sad topic, the song remains upbeat which will help give any listener going through something similar a level of catharsis. Next on Tales From A Red Flag Galaxy is Please Excuse Our Appearance. Stubborn Hearts slow things down ever so slightly and show off a more melodic side. The song is about rebuilding and renovating somewhere to make it feel like home. I think everyone is searching for a sense of belonging in some way so I found this subject very interesting. I want a house where bands can play down in the cellar. The penultimate song is titled Mixed Messages. Returning to the subject of relationships, Mixed Messages is about not knowing where you stand in a relationship and asking questions where you feel self doubt and mistrust. The chorus is one of the catchiest on the EP and will soon find a place in your mind. For the final song Stubborn Hearts pay tribute to the late, great Kim Shattuck with a cover of The Muffs’ song Outer Space. The Muffs were a huge influence on so many bands and I think this is an awesome version of the song. It’s a fantastic way to finish the EP with this brilliant tribute.

Stubborn Hearts blew me away on this release, I discovered them through clicking around Bandcamp and have found one of my favourite EPs of 2020. If you like fast, melodic and gritty pop punk then don’t sleep on this duo.

Stream and download Tales From A Red Flag Galaxy on Bandcamp here.

Like Stubborn Hearts on Facebook here.

This review was written by Colin Clark.

Wednesday, 18 November 2020

Album Review: Can't Complain by Kill Lincoln

It’s been too long since I’ve reviewed any ska punk. I’ve also been sitting on Kill Lincoln’s new album, Can’t Complain, without reviewing it. Can you guess what’s coming? Here’s my review of the ska punk album Can’t Complain by Kill Lincoln! Can’t Complain was released by the brilliant Bad Time Records back in August. Kill Lincoln as a band have been around for a while now and I have to admit I’d never properly checked them out but I loved the singles they released in the build up to Can’t Complain.

First up on Can’t Complain is Greetings From Inner Space. The track starts with a fading in effect that adds a little bit of tension to what’s coming up next. This wasn’t the blistering ska punk assault that I was expecting to open the album, instead it’s more of a mid-tempo pop punk song featuring punchy horn lines. The song is about growing up and realising that things are getting harder and harder but being thankful of your support system to help you through the tough times. Following this is Used Up. This song featured more of the high energy ska punk that I was expecting from the album. The song starts quickly with Mike Sosinki’s vocals exploding alongside some fast paced upstrokes. The band storm through the opening verse, reaching the chorus in no time at all. Here things are slowed down slightly as the band use the catchy melody to really hook the listener in. From everything I’ve seen and heard, Kill Lincoln are an incredible live band and I can really imagine a room full of people bouncing up and down to this chorus. Used Up finishes with a slow guitar jam that serves as in introduction to the third song, Last Ditch Denial. A trend on this album is going to be really catchy choruses and Last Ditch Denial is no different. This is one that you’ll find yourself singing passionately along with without even realising. That’s the sign of a great song. The track itself is about being at the end of your tether with trying to put on a brave face whilst you’re struggling with your mental health. This will definitely be a song that a lot of people will relate too.

Ignorance Is Bliss is one of the singles I was enjoying before Can’t Complain was released. At just over one and a half minutes long, this is the blisteringly fast ska punk assault that I was waiting to hear. So much happens in this ninety-six seconds. It begins with some shredding guitar before Mike shouts “my head explodes from the way I feel” and we’re really off and running. This may be a niche reference to a lot of people reading this but I was really reminded of my Danish pals Forever Unclean at the beginning of the song. As it progresses, and the ska comes in, I can imagine a massive skank pit going crazy for this song and I want to be a part of it. Who Am I This Time? was a standout track for me when I had my first listen through of Can’t Complain. The song really allows trombone player Yasutake Umemoto and saxophonist Matt Ellis to show off their skills. It’s more of a slower paced song with fantastic horns and punchy vocals. Naturally, when the chorus comes in it’s a massive sing-along. The track is about trying to find an identity in a world of grey areas whilst governments look to play different groups against each other. The sixth track is Confession Obsession which was another favourite of mine when I first listened to the album. This is a high energy song that will continue to get you so amped up. It’s like injecting caffeine straight into your veins. This is the first time on Can’t Complain so far where Kill Lincoln make use of harmonies and gang vocals and this really adds a whole extra layer to their sound that I absolutely adored. Try listening to this song and not finding yourself skanking like a maniac and shouting along at the top of your lungs. The seventh track is named Well Spent; Wasted. This song showcases more of a punk rock side of Kill Lincoln. It reminds me more of a Less Than Jake, punk rock with horns style sound rather than a flat out ska punk style. The drums pound throughout the song, driving the track forward whilst Mike’s vocals are so strained and urgent you can’t ignore them.

Civil Surgery has a fantastic extended introduction that will again have you dancing your socks off. The Kill Lincoln horn section is clearly one of the best in the genre at the moment and everything they do on Can’t Complain is creative and adds so much to the album. Of all the songs on the album, Civil Surgery perhaps takes you on the biggest ride. After the horn lead start we get to a slower paced verse that builds to a skate punk sounding chorus before the delicious horns come in. As we come towards the end of the song there’s a huge breakdown where Kill Lincoln take us on a heavier road which will allow listeners to really release some pent up aggression – this moment was really unexpected but was absolutely fantastic. Up next is Quarantine Dream. This song is about wanting things to be better, whether it’s yourself or the world around you, and realising that you can only do that whilst working together. I’m not certain if song was written before Coronavirus took over the world but it certainly feels more apt than ever. It’s pretty obvious that having a strong community working together is far better than people doing things by or for themselves and I love that Kill Lincoln used this platform to talk about that. The penultimate song is titled Womb Envy and is a Paint It Black cover. Not being familiar with the Paint It Black original of the song I would never have even realised Kill Lincoln were covering it. The band do a fantastic job of making it their own and show that the band can play some high energy ska punk without relying heavily on their horn section. The album finishes with the title track, Can’t Complain. Unsurprisingly the song ensures the album finishes in a high energy manner. It also finishes in a positive manner which I loved. The song is about people who constantly ignore all of the troubles and issues in the world (something we all do sometimes) and encourages people to reach out and help people when they can. You can’t complain if you’re not ready to help make a change yourself.

Kill Lincoln, and their label Bad Time Records, have been at the forefront of the current renewal of interest in ska punk in the USA and so it’s not a great surprise that the band have released one of the best ska albums of the year. If you like ska but are still only listening to Less Than Jake and Reel Big Fish, you need to educate yourself on the next wave of incredible bands coming from the USA and Kill Lincoln are the best place to start.

Stream and download Can’t Complain on Bandcamp here.

Like Kill Lincoln on Facebook here.

This review was written by Colin Clark.

Thursday, 12 November 2020

Album Review: This Is What Honesty Sounds Like by Catholic Guilt

I can’t think of many more prolific punk rock record labels than Wiretap Records over the past couple of years. They’ve put out so many great releases from bands such as Burnt Tapes, Call Me Malcolm, Tiny Stills, Spanish Love Songs, Answering Machine, Odd Robot, Problem Daughter and many, many more. A newer band to their roster is Australia’s Catholic Guilt. The Melbourne based five piece have been working hard for a number of years now and they’ve just started to find an audience outside of their home country. They were supposed to make their first appearance at The Fest in 2020 which has now been postponed until 2021. They would have played the festival in support of their newest EP This Is What Honesty Sounds Like which was released by Wiretap at the end of August.

The EP begins with A Boutique Affair which, for me, is the best of the five tracks on This Is What Honesty Sounds Like. This is an up-tempo pop punk song about the struggles of making new friends as you get older, particularly if you grew up as a bit of an outsider. The track begins with a distinctive drum beat and a stop/start guitar riff before the vocals come in. Those opening vocals really hook you in to the song and have you excited to see where the song will go. Something I really like about Catholic Guilt is their use of multiple vocalists. This gives the song so much infectious energy. For me, this is one of the best songs released in 2020. The second track is Song Of The Renter. This is more of a mid-tempo track that will encourage some big sing-alongs. Continuing to use three different vocalists on the track gives it such a fresh and inclusive feeling. That inclusive feeling that the vocals give is fitting as Song Of The Renter was written in hope of becoming a song of joyful rebellion for the current generation that will have to rent their homes because houses have become unaffordable for young people.

Up next is Life In Three Part Harmony. This is a love song that’s equal parts cheesy and charming. During the track, singer Brenton Harris sings about the loving live music and his partner and how the two have become intertwined. This is a slow paced track that has some quiet emotional moments and some loud and powerful moments that will make a crowd erupt. I loved the second verse of “spirits rise, walls fall, between young and old, every major or minor chord played, and every word sung, a communal state, a temporary escape, as all walks of life, become one.” They really had me missing gigs. The penultimate song is titled The Awful Truth. After the emotional love song that came previously, The Awful Truth is much harder hitting lyrically. It’s about the role that the Catholic church has played in child sexual abuse cases. Stylistically this is a very accessible pop song. This will attract people to the song and then let them hear the message without it being too overbearing or distressing whilst still spreading the message. Super songwriting. The final song is named Nothing… and is about grieving over a loved one and the lessons that they taught you. As you might imagine, this is a sombre sounding song. It starts slowly and has these amazing building moments. This adds so much more emotion to the song. You can feel the grief in the vocals and anyone going through a similar thing will find this extremely cathartic. The song finishes with some amazing three part harmonies that have to be heard to be believed. This is such a striking way to finish the EP and will live long in the memory.

I’ve been a big fan of Australian punk rock for a few years now and I love seeing more and more bands from Australia get exposure on this side of the world. Catholic Guilt seem to offer something a little different from a lot of other bands from their country. The multiple vocalists and fantastic lyrics are what really help the band stand out and they should definitely be a band you should be checking out.

Stream and download This Is What Honesty Sounds Like on Bandcamp here.

Like Catholic Guilt on Facebook here.

This review was written by Colin Clark.

Wednesday, 11 November 2020

Album Review: Ways Away by Ways Away

I forget how I found out about Ways Away but I always enjoyed them when they popped up on my massive review playlist I have on shuffle when I’m at work. They always reminded me of Hot Water Music and I’m a big fan of that band so whenever Ways Away came on my ears pricked. It turns out that Ways Away are a bit of a super group and feature members of bands such as Stick To Your Guns, Wish You Were Here, Samiam, Knapsack, Racquet Club, Boysetsfire and The Hope Conspiracy. In July they released their self titled debut album and I’m finally getting round to reviewing it. It seems apt that I’m reviewing it on a day that I should’ve been flying out to The Fest in Gainesville as they sound like the perfect band to appear at the festival.

The album starts out with Die On The Vine. Beginning with some guitar and vocals, it’s a soft opening to the album. It feels welcoming and also introduces you to what you can expect from Ways Away. It’s a mid-tempo sound with warm guitar tones and heavy drums. Lead singer Jesse Barnett’s vocals captivate from the very start of the track and will continue to do so right through the entire album. Ways Away step things up considerably on the next track, No Means, No Ends. The jump in tempo is immediately striking and it really got me excited. The entire song has an urgent feel that I love and Jesse’s vocals become more intense and powerful on the track. It’s about trying to sever ties with a friend and that proving to be difficult and ultimately frustrating. The contrasting melodies of the verse and chorus are fantastic. The verse is packed with hooks before the chorus hits you full force. Roam With A Ghost is up next and takes things to a more sombre level. The band slows things back down for a song about spending time with someone who often causes chaos and needing to step away from that person. It seems to me as if Jesse is wanting to grow up and worries that their friend is holding them back.

The fourth track is Halfway Open. I can remember first hearing the song and getting a bit of a Alkaline Trio vibe. Always keen for that! This is a haunting pop punk song packed with more hooks than a fisherman’s pocket. The chorus is one that you will quickly find yourself singing along to as passionately as you possibly can. This is one of those songs that has so many little things hidden in it that you’ll find something new to love every time you listen. Everyone I Know (The Optimist) brings us to the halfway point of the album. The track is about seeing all these people with big plans for the future having them blow up in their face and it feeling great because those people have always looked down on you. This is one of the band’s slower and softer songs. The melody really hooks you in though and you’ll find yourself tapping your toes and listening intently. As the song finishes there is an added intensity and the final lines of “but I can’t lie it feels great, I feel great” being shouted is a great touch to finish the song with.

Savannah starts the second half of the album off with the question “will I ever learn, to wait my fucking turn?” Here we find Ways Away in retrospective territory. Jesse sings about looking back on past mistakes and trying to learn from them. There are some subtle harmonies sprinkled throughout the song which adds to the emotion in the song and the higher pitched tones of the guitars add some nice atmosphere. The seventh song is Drop Line Sink. This is another atmospheric song that, after a soft start, I really expected to explode into life. Surprisingly it never did but that didn’t stop me really enjoying the track. The vocals on the track feel a bit muted in the production, this really allows Jared Shavelson’s drum to shine through. The drums feel like the driving force throughout the entire song, controlling the tempo and the mood. Up next is Gila. Gila was another stand out song when it came on during shuffle. The opening drum beat and then guitar riff really captured my imagination and the first set of vocals sound huge. It sounds as if there is an echo effect used on those opening vocals that give them a different sound to what we’ve heard so far on the album. That aforementioned guitar riff makes me think of something from an early Against Me! album whilst the vocals have a grungey quality to them which makes Gila stand out from anything else on the album.

The penultimate song is titled Collarbone. This song starts with some wailing guitars that really amp the energy back up. For me this was really needed as it gives the album a shot of adrenaline to keep the album going. There’s a forcefulness in the way that the vocals are delivered that helps add even more energy and also adds the song’s hooks. The song is about coming out of a relationship and feeling like you can escape from that person. You can really feel the emotion in Jesse’s voice and that really added to my enjoyment of the song. The album is completed with What Are We Gonna Do About Matthew? This song is about reaching out to someone who has been going through a tough time while you’ve not been around. The track feels extremely personal to Jesse but also could be extremely relatable to anyone who’s going through a similar thing. I’m sure at some point we all feel like we could have been a better friend or family member to someone who’s going through tough times. This song finishes the album on a sad note but also leaves a lasting impression that you probably won’t forget in a hurry.

Given the collection of musicians in Ways Away, there was no doubt that this was going to be a great album. Surprisingly, I haven’t noticed many people really hyping this album up as it’s a really solid album. If you’re a fan of bands that play The Fest then Ways Away will be right up your street.

Stream Ways Away on Spotify and buy physical copies of the album here.

Like Ways Away on Facebook here.

This review was written by Colin Clark.

Monday, 9 November 2020

Album Review: Black Light by Ash Ellis (by Emma Prew)

Ash Ellis is a solo acoustic songwriter based in Southampton. Taking inspiration from the likes of Ducking Punches and The Front Bottoms, Ash aims to ‘add a folk spin to punk orientated vibes’. The Black Light EP, which consists of three fully polished tracks and two bonus demos, was released on 24th October and the artwork immediately enticed me to have a listen.

The EP opens with its title track, Black Light. It’s a slow builder of a track and one that is on the quiet side of the folk punk spectrum with a wonderful gentle violin part that oozes emotion into an already emotional song. The song is about feeling lost and alone in life, with no real sense of purpose or clear direction with regards to what to do next. It sounds a pretty bleak subject matter but the song does end on a more positive note – ‘And I don't know if this is worth it, Things always seem to worsen, So maybe I'll make a clean break from it, I refuse to die a nervous person.’ Opening with a soft strum of the acoustic guitar and the line ‘I'm spiralling through space and time…’, Black Light II: The Saddening unsurprisingly continues the melancholic tone of the first song – it is part two, after all. The Saddening is about wanting to open up to someone about how you’re feeling and what you’re going through but only if they can do the same with you. Ash displays a real skill with words throughout the song, not least in the chorus – ‘But like poetry you rhyme, The only sense that I could find, If you show me your insides, I’ll show you mine.’

The third song on the EP is titled Prison Love Letters. The songwriting on display in this song really reminds me of some of Frank Turner’s softer tunes circa England Keep My Bones – and I 100% do not mean that as an insult. There’s a great sense of storytelling throughout the track, it almost feels like you’re listening to someone reading the pages of a novel. Again, the music is definitely on the quieter side of folk punk but there’s so much going on in the lyrics that I don’t think it matters. The last two songs on Black Light are technically demos but that doesn’t mean they’re not worth checking out. In fact, the somewhat raw and unpolished nature of both Let The Strings Ring Out and Emotional Showman feels more accessible. I could definitely imagine watching Ash Ellis playing these live in a small bar or basement type venue, unplugged and with a group of happy music fans singing along to every word. The EP closes with some lyrics that seem pretty apt – ‘I’ll see you at the end of all this noise, There's so much fucking noise, And so much to destroy, See you at the end of all this noise.’

Stream and download Black Light on Bandcamp here.

Like Ash Ellis on Facebook here.

This review was written by Emma Prew.

Thursday, 5 November 2020

Album Review: Who Killed The Easter Bunny? by Muppethead

Muppethead are a new band from Cleveland, Ohio, who recently appeared on our Band Of The Week feature. They are fast paced pop punk band who refer to their sound as Ohio Dumbcore. Clearly, Muppethead are a band that don’t take themselves too seriously and like to have fun. With how hard 2020 has been for far too many reasons to list here, when I stumbled upon their new EP Who Killed The Easter Bunny? I knew this would be a must listen. I love silly punk rock music. 

The first track on Who Killed The Easter Bunny? is Hot-N-Ready ($5 Pizza). There’s a good chance that this will be your first time listening to Muppethead and it really lays down a good marker of what you can expect from the band – super fast and catchy pop punk. It’s about being drunk and getting cheap and rubbish pizza. Despite it not being a serious or moving song, there will be plenty of people who will relate to it. The second song has a real feel of The Ramones about it. Titled Now I Wanna Be Alone, it begins with a 1-2-3-4 and then we proceed to some super nasally vocals. The track features some great basslines that give the song a more melodic feel and show that, even though Muppethead aren’t the most serious of bands, they can play their instruments. The song is about being so sick of people that you want to run away to outer space or even go as far as killing them. We’ve all been there at some point, I’m sure. Up next is Hey Man, Nice Set! This is a thirty second hardcore song which I assume is a bit tongue-in-cheek and not just really mean. It’s about when you see a band, telling them you thought they played a nice set and then turning it around and saying they actually sucked.

The fourth track is John’s Got Hemorrhoids. On this song we are treated to a more traditional sounding pop punk song. The drums are played at a rapid pace, ensuring the song is packed with energy. I’m impressed with how well the band’s lead singer manages to keep pace with the song as he barely pauses for breath throughout the song’s duration. Obviously, the song is about somebody named John who has managed to get haemorrhoids and the struggles that comes with that. The penultimate song is A Square In A Circle Pit. The song starts with quite a long audio clip featuring a lady who does not like a band because of their lyrical content before it launches into another hardcore track about going to a show but not liking the music. I enjoyed the clever change of the well known phrase square peg in a round hole to a square in a circle pit. Cracking word play. The final song is the EP’s title track Who Killed The Easter Bunny? This song was used as promo for the EP and it’s obvious to see why. It’s the most conventional sounding song and it’s incredibly catchy. It’s jam packed with this infectious energy that will leave you humming the song to yourself long after you finish listening to it.

This is an EP not to be taken seriously. It is an EP to have a great time listening to and have a great big smile and laugh to. There seems to have been a lot of arguments this year about whether or not politics should be involved in punk or even music in general. It 100% should be involved but you also really need bands like Muppethead who are just out to have some fun, enjoy themselves and hopefully make you enjoy yourself as well.

Stream and download Who Killed The Easter Bunny? on Bandcamp here.

Like Muppethead on Facebook here.

This review was written by Colin Clark.

Wednesday, 4 November 2020

Album Review: Shit Party by Suburban & Coke

Suburban & Coke are a three piece from Perth, Australia. They describe themselves as “self-deprecating party-punk/power-pop for losers, stoners, dropouts, nerds and drunks”. I’m sure everyone reading this will identify with at least one of those descriptions. Way back in April, the band released their first new material since 2014 with the album Shit Party. Featuring twelve songs in less than twenty-five minutes, I had a big feeling that this album was going to be a lot of fun.

Shit Party begins with Danzig In The Dark. My first thoughts whilst listening to the song was how raw it sounds. I enjoy this style as I feel that sometimes when punk is overproduced it takes away some of its charm. It’s a short song (even by this album’s standards) to get you introduced to Suburban & Coke. They have an up-tempo sound with clean yet somehow raspy vocals. It sounds as if the singer is pushing their vocals to the limit which gives the song some extra urgency. Vicinity reminds me of Billy Bragg’s To Have And To Have Not. This was a great way to hook me into the song with a melody I already recognise. The vocals have shifted from raspy to snotty, immediately showing that the band have more than one string to their bow. The song is about hanging around somebody but never making the move to talk to them. The third song, Her Favourite Murder, talks about being killed by your partner and goes into great detail about the ways in which it can happen. It’s a silly song but also quite sad when you think about it. It’s a simple song that’s not going to win any awards for songwriting but will get stuck in your head and make you have a bit of a sing.

Moshpit Commander is one of my favourite songs on Shit Party. It might be because I haven’t been to a gig since March, but it had me missing the thrill of being in the pit. The song sees a poppier side of Suburban & Coke as they talk about that person who always seems to take control of the pit and being very impressed with them. I get the impression that the song is a bit tongue-in-cheek and, to an extent, is calling out those people who get too aggressive. The opening riff of the song puts a smile on my face every time I hear it. The fifth song is titled What Can I Do About It? This is a no thrills punk song that I think would work just as well as an acoustic song. It’s a fast paced and punchy song with vocals verging on the aggressive side. For me, the song is crying out for some extra gang vocals to give it a fuller sound. Up next is Kim Deal Or No Deal! This is a garage punk song about drifting apart from someone you had relations with. There’s a very simple structure to the song which makes it so catchy. Midway through the song there’s a slight change in the melody of the song that really caught my ear.

The second half of Shit Party begins with I Don’t Wanna Be A Dad. Vocally the song is very urgent and emotional, this sadly makes the lyrics hard to make out at times. That didn’t stop me enjoying the song though. The way in which the melody of the vocals and the guitars differs during the verse creates an interesting effect and you can pick out some great bass lines throughout. Under The Jetty is a rambunctious pop punk track that goes off at some speed. This is one of my favourite tracks on Shit Party. From the opening guitar, which makes me think of an alarm going off and gets you pumped up immediately, the song had me hooked. The vocals go along at a rapid pace – at times the singer tries to fit too many words into the line – this adds even more energy to the song and also gives the song a chaotic edge. I do love a bit of chaos in my pop punk. As the song enters its final section we are treated to a more melodic style which ensures a big sing-along to finish the track. Youtubin’ The Vortex, 1am continues the energetic and chaotic sound. This is the first time on the album where both of the band’s vocalists seem to trade lead vocals, showing off another side of Suburban & Coke. In all honesty, I have no idea what’s actually going on but it certainly sounds as if the band are having a lot of fun.

The tenth track on the album is Loose Change Power Drive. I was seriously surprised when the song started with an acapella introduction. It’s not like listening to a barbershop quartet but Suburban & Coke make it very entertaining and showcase a fine attempt at harmonies. The second half of songs sees the band really pick up the pace with some speedy and snotty vocals along with a harmony filled chorus. This shows how creative the band can be, more so than anything else on the album, and that they’re not afraid to try something a bit different. The penultimate song is the brilliant Dr. Feelshit. This is without a doubt my favourite song on the album. Not only does it really allow all three members to showcase their ability to play their instruments but it’s massive shout-as-loudly-as-you-can-along song. The song is about struggling with mental health and trying to find a way to make yourself feel better. This song makes me really miss being in a sweaty basement, singing along to punk songs with my best friends and favourite strangers. The final song is Too Far From The Coast. This was another surprising song as the first half was an acoustic, heartfelt song before it finishes with the full band frantically jamming to complete the album. The vocals are heartbreaking and show a softer side of the band. Of course, this softer side doesn’t last for long when we get to the song’s dramatic conclusion.

Shit Party is one of the more unique sounding pop punk albums I’ve listened to this year. I enjoyed the rawness for the most part but, at times, it did make it hard to listen to. That said, this is an album I will return to again and again as I feel like there’s loads of fun lyrics I missed. If you fancy listening to something a little different but is also a lot of fun, look no further than Shit Party by Suburban & Coke.

Stream and download Shit Party on Bandcamp here.

Like Suburban & Coke on Facebook here.

This review was written by Colin Clark.

Monday, 2 November 2020

Album Review: Thanks, I Hate It by Kid You Not

Florida’s Kid You Not have been a big favourite of mine for a few years now so the news they were releasing a new album filled me with joy. Co-released by Deep Elm Records and Bypolar Records, the album is titled Thanks, I Hate It and it features ten new mid-tempo gruff punk anthems. The album was released on the 30th of October so I assume that The Fest was supposed to be their album launch show – I was really looking forward to seeing Kid You Not live for the first time in Gainesville and listening to these songs live would have really been a special time. 

Track one is named Here’s To Those Who Wish Us Well. This track serves as part introduction/part song. It’s a shorter track that sets the scene for the entire album, building dramatically and featuring some emotional vocals addressing mental health. It leads wonderfully into the second track, And Those Who Don’t Can Go To Hell. This song instantly feels fuller than the opener and strikes me as the first proper song on the album. The vocals are so powerful and are delivered in a way that will have you singing along and seriously invested in the track. The way that the song builds at the start got me really pumped up for what was to come and, when they vocals begin, it’s like a punch in the face – but in a good way. The track is about writing music and creating the best song you possibly can. Fantastic Drugs And How To Take Them is the title of the third song. This song is about using drugs, prescription or not, to help with your mental health and the effects of that. It will be a relatable song for many, including myself, and will earn some big sing-alongs from crowds in the future. I love the use of gang vocals during the song as it’s such a relatable song for so many. It gives a nice feeling of everyone being in this together and will bring folk together.

Up next is the album’s title track, Thanks, I Hate It. The song continues the theme of mental health, with Kid You Not’s lead vocalist singing about finding a purpose due to being cynical about life. This was an interesting topic for a song and one I related to far more than I thought I would. My cynicism often drives me to try and make things better and, in my mind at least, right. There’s a familiarity about this song that I found quite comforting. It’s easily accessible because of this and kind of feels like putting on your winter jumper for the first time in a year and feeling all cosy and warm. Agony Breathing was a stand out on my first listen through of the album. The track takes you on more of a ride than any of the previous songs. At times it feels quite stripped back before reverting to that glorious full sound the band have perfected over the years. The chorus is one of the catchiest on the album and will quickly get stuck in your head. Agony Breathing talks about looking back at your past mistakes and trying to learn before eventually finding comfort.

The second half of the album starts with Condolences. Starting in a similar way to the first half of Thanks, I Hate It, Condolences is a shorter a slower track that serves as an introduction to the second half. The drums provide a great spine whilst the guitars buzz off it. This leads nicely into The Bums Lost. Immediately the track bursts with energy with an up-tempo beginning. That beginning is brought to a startling halt with the lyrics “I feel like I’m dying, and sometimes I wish I was, to get it over with.” These lyrics really set the tone for the song. It’s about feeling lost and confused in your life due to your mental health. As the song progresses the band talk about wanting to try and make a change but being too stubborn. The slower bridge that builds towards the song’s final moments is one of my favourite moments on the entire album. Handbook For The Recently Deceased was a song that I knew was for me as soon as I heard the opening guitars and then the huge vocals. The guitars in particular really stood out on the track, with an intricate riff buzzing amongst those gruff vocals. They gave the song a poppier feel without taking away any of Kid You Not’s edge. I feel like this could become one of Kid You Not’s most popular songs, especially live. It has that quality that can really capture a crowd’s attention and feel like they are a part of the song.

The penultimate song is named May I Never Be Complete, May I Never Be Content, May I Never Be Perfect. After a crashing start we jump to just vocals and guitar before slowly building the song back up. This is a great way of first grabbing the listener’s attention and then really keeping them invested in the song. By the time the chorus rolls around we are treated to that full Kid You Not experience – that beautiful, full sound and some delicious gang vocals. My interpretation of the song is that it’s about self improvement and never settling for something you know could be better. The final song on Thanks, I Hate It is Inside Every Cynic Is A Disappointed Idealist. The song starts in a quiet and sombre fashion before the vocals come in. I enjoyed how the entire song seemed to use gang vocals. Kid You Not have this brilliant ability to make the listener feel involved as all great punk bands should do. The song is about having big dreams and feeling like nothing can stop you before learning that there are plenty of things that will put a stop to your progress along the way. I’m guessing that Kid You Not’s dream was being in a band and the overall message is that, despite any bumps in the road, they will keep doing what they love because they have to. The album finishes with a feeling of hope and positivity that will hopefully inspire people going forward.

Kid You Not have always been a very solid band but their songwriting on Thanks, I Hate It seems to have come on leaps and bounds. If you’re a fan of bands like Iron Chic, Red City Radio or, in the UK, Burnt Tapes or The Run Up, then you should already be aware of Kid You Not – if you’re not then I seriously suggest you fix that.

Steam and download Thanks, I Hate It on Bandcamp here.

Like Kid You Not on Facebook here.

This review was written by Colin Clark.