Monday, 3 May 2021

Album Review: Hearts Of Gold by Dollar Signs

Hearts Of Gold by Dollar Signs has been far and away my most anticipated album of 2021. I’ve been following the band since hearing Yikes in 2015 and have enjoyed watching them grow a bigger and bigger following over the years. In March, Hearts Of Gold was released on Pure Noise Records and it definitely felt like a big occasion. I’ve seen Dollar Signs compared to The Menzingers and Spanish Love Songs in the more mainstream alternative music press but I would certainly say there’s a lot of Jeff Rosenstock in their sound as well. It certainly feels like Hearts Of Gold had a lot of hype and anticipation surrounding it – does it live up to all the positive attention it received? Of course it does.

Hearts Of Gold begins with I’m Afraid I Make Yr Depression Worse. The song starts out slowly as lead singer Erik Button and his acoustic guitar tell the sad story of a relationship where one person brings the other one down mentally and emotionally. As the track goes along different members of the band come in before they all join together for a bombastic finale to the track. The energy that builds towards the end of the song coincides with Erik realising that he needs to make himself better to improve the relationship. Up next is Negative Blood, one of three songs that Dollar Signs released in the build up to the album’s release. There’s a chaotic nature to the song that is classic Dollar Signs. I guess this is partly why they chose it as a single. It’s a positive sounding song where Erik sings about how his mental health issues are making him a tougher human being. He’s getting by and surviving despite the hardships life throws at him. I especially enjoyed the lyrics “trying to be more positive but I got B-negative running through my blood.” The third song is named Bonghammer and it is about trying to grow up but always having a reason as to why things don’t quite go as planned. I’m sure there are plenty of people reading this or listening to the song who will heavily relate. I often refer to myself as a terrible grown up. The imagery created with the lyrics “now I got frames for all my posters, I gotta use an old bong as a hammer, cuz I don’t have a toolkit like my father” is sublime.

Sticks & Stones is a short and sad song. It’s stripped back with just acoustic guitar and piano as Erik sings about relapsing but accepting that he’s allowed to have a bad day. Having a song that sounds like this pop up on the fourth track is a great idea as it really grabs your attention and forces you to listen to the lyrics. I’m a big fan of the message that the song puts out and believe it’s important for people to hear. Up next is B.O.M.B.S. which was another track released before the album came out. This was another great choice for a single as it’s so catchy and will quickly find a home in your head. The opening guitars fill the song with energy and as soon as the vocals come in you’ll find yourself wanting to shout back at the band as loudly as you can. The track is about analysing your behaviour and questioning some of your self-destructive acts. I’m very keen to see Dollar Signs live as soon as possible (hopefully at Fest this year) and I can see this song being a big highlight. The last of the three singles released before Hearts Of Gold is up next. Bad News was also released with an excellent video you can watch here. This song really reminded me of Jeff Rosenstock’s Nausea when I first heard it. There’s a musical theatre feeling to the song that gives it so much joy. It’s about sharing your problems and bad news with your friends and hopefully it will at least make things better. This is another song that’s going to be amazing fun to see performed live.

Fistfight! starts the second half of the album. It’s a slow and simple song with the music taking a backseat to Erik’s vocals. This enables the listener to really get a grip of what he’s singing about. The track is about knowing when you’ve been beaten and coming to the realisation that it’s okay to stop and smell the roses from time to time. This leads wonderfully into the next song Nihilist Gundam. Things really go up a gear here, from the slow and steady Fistfight! we jump straight into an up-tempo and chaotic song that really drags the energy of the song back up. Given that the band have made a single video of the two songs being connected by a story, it’s clear that a lot of care and thought has gone into the running order of the songs on the album and I’m a big fan of that. Nihilist Gundam is about behaving in a self-destructive way and realising that it is perhaps time for a change. This song, more than any other on the album makes great use of dual and gang vocals which adds even more to the chaotic energy that explodes out of the song. The ninth song on Hearts Of Gold is titled Falling Off. Falling Off feels like a much more straightforward punk rock song. It starts off in quick and punchy way before the melody works its way in as the band reach the chorus. As the song progresses, more and more hooks and catchy lyrics appear and, in what is true Dollar Signs fashion, things get crazy and excitable towards the end of the song. The song is about being different and accepting that it’s okay. I love the positivity that pours out of the song and this feels like another that will be really special to watch live. Interestingly, the final thirty or so seconds feels like a completely different song where Erik talks about working on himself and how difficult it can be. This felt pretty random but perfectly fitting for something in a Dollar Signs song.

Kiss Me is a short forty-three second song where Erik and bass player Dylan trade lines in a call and response manner before coming together for the chorus. I’m a huge fan of songs that have multiple vocalists as I feel like they can give a song such a big sound. It also really invites a massive sing-along which I’m always into. The track feels like an intro for the penultimate song, I Love You. I Love You sees a great duet from Erik and Phoebe Masteller-Defiance of Dandelion Massacre and I Kill Cameron. The track has a hint of the band’s early folk punk days, as well as a tinge of country thanks to some sweet harmonica fills. The song is about a couple who are madly in love with each other but not being able to express it. There is a sweetness about the song that you don’t often hear in punk songs. This might be a bold statement but, for me, this is one of the best punk rock love songs I’ve heard in a long long time. It puts such a big smile on my face and I urge all you couples to give it a listen. I wish the band would’ve made a video for the song as I imagine it would be hilarious. The final song on Hearts Of Gold is the fittingly titled Hearts Of Gold Finale. Finishing with a stripped back and raw sounding acoustic song was an interesting choice and I did expect the whole band to jump in at some point. This never happened and, on reflection, I’m happy about this and it gives the song a more earnest feeling. Hearts Of Gold Finale is about realising that even though things might seem bad now there is plenty of time for things to improve. There’s a great sense of reassurance that you get from when a good friend looks after you. Such a fitting end to a brilliant album.

I was so excited for this album to come out and it manages to exceed all of my high expectations for it. If Hearts Of Gold isn’t placed highly in my end of year lists for 2021 it means it’s been the best year for music ever. I really feel like Dollar Signs are going to be the next breakout band from the American punk rock scene and I look forward to seeing them play in front of packed crowds in the UK as soon as it’s possible.

Stream and download Hearts Of Gold on Bandcamp here.

Like Dollar Signs on Facebook here.

This review was written by Colin Clark.

Friday, 30 April 2021

CPRW Playlist: April 2021

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

Wednesday, 28 April 2021

Album Review: I Won't Care How You Remember Me by Tigers Jaw (by Richard Mair)

This may be getting slightly revisionist a little prematurely but looking at the notable, iconic punk scenes that have really driven the genre forward from New York CBGBs in the late 70s early 80s to the skate punk explosion of California in the 90s and then Boston’s hardcore scene of the 00s we really need to add Scranton / Philly / Pennsylvania to the list. Sure the headline acts of The Wonder Years and The Menzingers get the coverage but, if I’m honest, my heart belongs firmly to perennial underdogs Tigers Jaw. Very few bands have such an emotional resonance that drive nails into my heart repeatedly but on their 6th long player they have truly struck gold... and as such “I Won’t Care How You Remember Me” has all the ingredients of being a massive crossover success, blending emo, pop, rock, punk and maybe even a little shoe gaze into one perfect album rammed with stunning hooks and earworms. This, coupled with the immense bankability of the affable, warm and humble Ben and Brianna as focal point, their charm, DIY ethic and dedication to their craft set to the spectre of the 2013 break-up that makes them the everyman heroes people can really get behind. And get behind them on “IWCHYRM” you must because it’s a magical, breezy, emotionally gut punching, heart wrenching album that captivates from start to finish.

Drawing comparisons it’s very reminiscent of Saves The Day classic “Stay What You Are”... the quintessential breakup album; Like SWYA there is a underpinning resilience and hopefulness that shines through the heartbreak. Musically, I think this is the strongest reference point for “IWCHYRM”; it’s a reworking of the early 00s emo for a new generation; it’s hugely accessible, full of massive singles, laden with singalongs and has enough emotion coursing through it that it can repeatedly stop you in your tracks time and time again... like “SWYA” it’s an album that finds the band at the top of their game with their construct of melody, pacing and creativity. The way the songs build to satisfying conclusions is very reminiscent of The Hotelier at their finest, gone are the 1:30 ditties, instead each song pleasingly rounds out and feels complete and of this current generation of emo pioneers it also reminds heavily of mid-era now defunct Captain We’re Sinking, with the fellow Scrantonites making use of a fuller band sound to create something special that stands shoulder to shoulder with the peerless “The Future is Cancelled” (especially ‘Montreal’ which you can hear echoing through the album). Finally it has all the hallmarks of The Get Up Kids “Something To Write Home About”, again in terms of its use of melody but also the way the album creates its own space (and negative space); it feels like a living and breathing construct that hides in the shadows, it’s little changes in tempo and melody done with such a beautiful craft that they enhance the experience... (take the subtle stop / starts in chorus of Hesitation or the drop into the nosier moments of the title track). There is so much detail across landscape of the album. Much of this credit must lie with the irrepressible Will Yip but the confidence the band show in him to create this signature is equally impressive... I might go out on a limb and say this is his Magnum Opus.

The opening line is the name of the album and also the title of the first song, and it’s such an important lyric that pulls all the themes and threads of the record together. As an opening song, its sombre, reflective charm is a real departure from what the band have done previously (take the frantic pop-punk of ‘The Sun’ or the post hardcore vibes of ‘Return’). For over two minutes Ben leads us solo through his reconciliation of endings, imploring the focus of his anguish to not ask why. Then the familiar Tigers Jaw album opener comes into full focus, paired with a more passionate vocal delivery. It’s just the most incredible opening track I’ve heard since maybe The Hotelier dropped ‘Introduction To The Album’ on ‘Home, Like No Place...’. It’s a crescendo of noise more akin to a building album closer than opener, but in the scheme of the album it works perfectly. It’s also a millstone that the band put around their necks having to better throughout the album. Thankfully, the journey and experience through the remaining ten tracks is well worth it!

Taking a more equitable approach to the songwriting and position within the band, Brianna Collins is very much at the forefront on almost half of the album and the second track ‘Cat’s Cradle’ picks up from her approach on ‘Spin’. It has a very stylistically familiar tone that places it alongside ‘June’, albeit much more up-tempo. It’s really easy to understand why this is one of the lead singles off the album, it’s a proper pop song; easy on the ears with a real catchy melody. Lyrically it’s about ending friendships, and interwoven deceit. Again it’s a highly relatable, angsty sentiment packaged up in clean radio friendly tune, and it’s this juxtaposition of upbeat music and downbeat lyrics that the band have truly nailed on this album. Nothing feels forced or contrived, instead it has an effortless sombre delight to it throughout.

Another lead song off the album is ‘Hesitation’ and it’s a classic Ben song. Sure it has the most obvious Twin Peaks references, but is perfectly paced, has a killer chorus and excellent guitar licks that keep the verses ticking along. ‘New Detroit’ is possibly the most sedate song on the album, offering a moment of reflection after the frantic opening trio of massive songs. It helps transition to the middle of the album with ‘Can’t Wait Forever’ being the most traditional ‘punk’ song and perhaps most reminiscent of early Tigers Jaw, particularly with the guitar tones and Brianna’s keys providing the background melody.

Both ‘Lemon Mouth’ and ‘Body Language’ pick up on the themes of loss that pull the album together. ‘Lemon Mouth’ in particular stands out as it’s perhaps the most abstract song on the album and has a more latter day Paramore feel about it. In many ways it feels unique amongst Tigers Jaws catalogue; perhaps more akin to classic synth pop bands of the early 80s or maybe even The Cure at their most abstract but accessible. It’s a real slow burner of a song, with even the vocal delivery having a slower pace to it. ‘Body Language’ by contrast feels almost indie / Brit pop in its vibe. While both excellent, they only serve to build up to what is the album’s real gem. ‘Commit’ is a monster of a classic single, and likely to have a huge appeal outside of their traditional audience. First off, Brianna’s vocal delivery is amazing and the song just helps demonstrate her versatility and range especially on what in principle sounds like a typical “Ben song”. It’s a simple pop punk banger but is crafted beautifully. Again, it’s a song dealing with a relationship on the brink; it identifies a toxicity within the relationship and certainly not an equitable one but at the same time a desire to work through the mistakes. Everything about the song works, from its emotional weight, to the summery pop tune that is almost akin to the best 80s Madonna stylings. It’s just the most perfect pop song and rounds off with some amazing guitar work (possibly the best they’ve ever committed to record).

‘Never Wanted To’ feels like a hangover from the massively underrated “Charmer” in the best way possible, it’s simple tempo and melody allowing Ben’s voice to take centre stage. It’s such a simple but haunting song that opens the final third of the album and segues nicely into ‘Heaven Apart’. Both songs share a DNA in terms of that moment of realisation that the relationship is ending. They are the truly sombre reflections the album has been working towards. The opportunity to allow oneself to fondly look back on the past, reconciling what has been lost, but also allows for the album’s pay off to come. ‘Anniversary’ is truly majestic. It’s about finally moving on from the past, taking ownership of the mistakes made. Whilst not as long as Weezer’s ‘Only in Dreams’,  it reminds me so much of that career highlight from Rivers and the boys… from the excellent guitar work that builds towards the song’s conclusion but also in that both songs have such hope attached to them. ‘Only in Dreams’ speaks of that ‘what if’ scenario of the object of affection, whereas this is about moving into the light after a toxic relationship. Both are just joyous constructs and round off their respective albums perfectly. This is Tigers Jaw swinging for the fences and hitting a real home run. On an album that is full of epic moments, it’s that payoff the band set out to achieve from the outset.

Lyrically it’s easy to get lost in the meanings and iconography of the songs (and that’s not taking into account the Twin Peaks references or other reused Orgcore lyrics). The first thing to say concerns the title (and song of the same name) which doesn’t speak of the definite. They don’t write about ‘I don’t care about how you remember me’ they talk of ‘won’t’, a subtle difference that lives in the moment and reflects pain and hurt back to the listener ; as if saying “I will remember for now but it will get easier in time...” One such little change in the wording conveys the emotion so much more and throughout the album the lyrics tug at heartstrings or deliver continuous sucker punches. Whilst I’m sure most fans of the scene’s current miserablist torchbearers Spanish Love Songs will be familiar with Tigers Jaw, if anyone reading this is in two minds I can assure them that “IWCHYRM” is the perfect launch pad into the band.

There are a myriad of recurring themes through the album that are linked to perception, the obvious one is that of mirrors and reflections and I think this is where the album really stands out. There is a personal reflection towards the break-ups being experienced. A similar theme is echoed through colours and chameleons, suggesting an acknowledgement of seeing what you want to see in others or that they have hidden their true self. Both Ben and Brianna actively consider their roles in these relationships and try to get perspective both from the other party but also from the listener, at the same time looking for that reconciliation; acknowledging their faults. As stated, the album lives in that space between definites occurring; living with the guilt of decisions that negatively impact on others, constructing favourable narratives to help rationalise these decisions. Consequently, the depth of human understanding conveyed through the lyrics is just astounding; alongside being amazingly singalong-able. The album’s closing lines in particular are crying out for an audience to sing them. And knowing how devoted the fans are, I’m very sure they will sing them back and it will no doubt feel special when they do.

Much of this review has focussed on the central figures of Ben and Brianna for obvious reasons given they have carried the Tigers Jaw flag on their own over recent years, however the inclusion of permanent members Teddy Roberts (drums) and Colin Gorman (bass) has certainly helped give the album a consistency, and their presence in making their instruments shine has given “IWCHYRM” a much more rounded sound compared to ‘Spin’. Both are clearly great additions and fully grasp what makes Tigers Jaw unique and special, and I’m sure they’ll be equally at home playing in front of the band’s notoriously rabid fans! A further point to make about the album is the omission of last year’s ‘Warn Me’. Genuinely, I was surprised to see this wasn’t on the album’s track listing given its quintessential Tigers Jaw-ness and how much of a classic lead single it is. This can’t have been an easy decision but demonstrates that the priority was releasing a much more cohesive and balanced set of songs and the track’s more positive outlook maybe put it at odds with the album. Consequently, I’d urge everyone to track it down as it’s equally as impressive as the actual album tracks!

I started this review by stating my heart belongs to Tigers Jaw and with “IWCHYRM” they have delivered an exceptional album that deserves to be heard by a far greater audience than a typical DIY driven band would generally reach. For the last decade, Ben and Brianna have consistently delivered and confounded, their reinventions subtle but discernible, with each album having its own personality and aesthetics. If ‘Spin’ was them proving they could carry the Tigers Jaw legacy without the imposing spectre of the immense character of Adam McIlwee looming over them then this is Tigers Jaw truly finding their stride and making giant steps out of the shadows of their past.

Stream and download I Won't Care How You Remember Me on Bandcamp here.

Like Tigers Jaw on Facebook here.

This review was written by Richard Mair.

Monday, 26 April 2021

Album Review: Prophylactic Shock by Slap Happy

Denver, Colorado’s Slap Happy are a three piece band who formed in 2018. After releasing a demo and single, the band finally released their first full length in February. Titled Prophylactic Shock, it features nine songs of melodic pop punk squeezed into twenty-eight minutes. Colorado seems to be one of those states that consistently births great melodic punk bands, this made me very keen to check out Slap Happy.

Prophylactic Shock begins with the song Freak Out. Starting out with some bass before a drum roll and buzzing guitar come in, the track builds towards the vocals. When they come in you’re ready to sing along with the band. The opening line of “sometimes I get paranoid and freak out” is as cathartic as it gets. The two verses lead really well into the simple, effective sing-along choruses. Between the two choruses there’s a nice break down that will give a crowd a short rest before finishing with a final big sing-along. Next is Same Old. Same Old was one of the standout tracks for me when I first listened to Prophylactic Shock. The song continues the theme of mental health, in particular questioning why things aren’t changing and you still don’t feel right. The almost four and a half minute run time of the song gives the band room to play around with the tempo of the song. They take a moment to really slow things down towards the song’s end before building up to one last chorus, which is completed with some superb harmonies. From the longest song on the album, we move on to the shortest. Kingsley Manor picks up the pace slightly for a song about moving on from your old punk house before it becomes too much for you mentally. The higher tempo gives the album a great boost of energy which I really enjoyed. This is another stand out song from the album – it’s short, sweet and got me pumped up.

The Sun starts with a rumbling bass line accompanied by some vocals before the full band comes in and the lines are repeated. There’s a sharpness to the way the vocals are delivered which really grabs the attention. This is more of an angry song about global warming and needing to act now despite governments seemingly not wanting to admit that the world is in a lot of trouble. Much like how it’s important that bands tackle mental health in their music, I think it’s also important for bands to use their platform to speak out about causes like this more and more. The fifth song, Slacker, sees the beginning of a sequence of songs that get a bit heavier. There’s a sludgier sound to the band which is quite the contrast to what we’ve heard so far. Slacker is about feeling like you’re going nowhere in your life and struggling to find motivation to do anything productive. Something we’ve all related to at some point I’m sure. Dejected is a slower, grunge-like song. The bass line gives the song a really solid spine throughout and allows the guitar to do some interesting things with the reverb. Dejected is about feeling disappointed with where your life is heading and not getting any luck. This lack of luck leaves you struggling mentally as well as causing frustration and anger. The tone of the song really helps set the mood for the overall theme.

The seventh song, Dissent, continues the heavier sound but has more of a 80s hardcore feeling to it. The guitars throughout the song really wail and bring the energy up. The vocals turn into a snarling growl that are quite difficult to make out at times. Something Slap Happy seem to enjoy doing in their songs is slow breakdowns that build towards the song’s finale. We get another one on Dissent and it may be the best one of the album, it’s my favourite anyway. The penultimate song is titled Cement Foot. Slap Happy switch to more of an indie punk sound, showing such versatility to their music. The guitars jangle in the introduction with the vocals giving the track a choppy melody that really hooks you in. A highlight is the chorus where Slap Happy treats the listener to some Beach Boy style harmonies that add a sweet extra layer to the song. Cement Foot is one of the more uplifting and positive songs on the album. It’s about struggling mentally but standing up and saying you won’t be defeated. The ninth and final song on Prophylactic Shock is These Times. These Times bookends the album nicely by reverting back to the melodic pop punk that began Prophylactic Shock. It’s about something a lot of us in our thirties worry about, our friends moving on and wondering what the next step in your life is. I really like the positivity that comes out of the song, particularly the chorus, which feels like the singer is taking a giant leap into the unknown and looking forward to it.

Slap Happy showcase a lot of variety on this album and have managed to put together a collection of songs that should cater for fans of many different punk sounds. The band touch on a lot of subject that are important to me and many other folk in the punk scene and that’s always pleasing to hear. Well done Slap Happy on a very promising debut album.

Stream and download Prophylactic Shock on Bandcamp here.

Like Slap Happy on Facebook here.

This review was written by Colin Clark.

Wednesday, 21 April 2021

Album Review: Axiom by Harker (by Chris Bishton)

I've been looking forward to this one. It seems an age since Brighton's 'Emogazers', Harker, released their debut No Discordance. Actually, it's only been three years. But it seems longer as the sophomore, Axiom, has been delayed due to obvious difficulties getting into the studio to record it last year. But now it's here. Firing not just against the apathy brought on by repetitive lockdowns and stay home orders, but also demanding action on a whole range of social, economic and environmental needs. It's very powerful and it's been very much worth the wait.

The first track is The Beast Must Die. Already released online a few months earlier as a showcase to the album, it's easy to see why. It totally embodies the band and frames the rest of the LP. Thirty odd seconds of feedback before the fuzzy guitars start, which then eventually combine with Mark's vocals to create a sound that is somehow new, but also familiar. Does that makes sense? Probably not, but that's the overriding takeaway for me on this new album.

There are echoes of bands from my youth. This is great for me because I spent the 90s listening to far more to Sonic Youth, Swervedriver (look them up if you don't know them by the way – one of the very best 'gazer' bands from back then) and, dare I say it, the Manics, than I ever did NOFX or No Use For A Name. That's not to say these bands aren't great. They are. It's just when I was a teen I was more often than not on the emo end of the spectrum. But despite these comparisons, Harker are, nevertheless, contemporary. There's more of an urgency to this, making it sit more comfortably with possible similarities with The Gaslight Anthem and a fiercer, punk sound.

It's based on the idea of ‘mono-consciousness’ – seeking a heightened sense of meaning and avoiding a closed mindset, but with the subjects of the song showing a lack of empathy, leading to the aforementioned apathy. It's this idea that the mono-consciousness is a beast inside of us that needs hunting out before it takes control. As an opening track, it's a real statement. Different to the debut album, but recognisable, and most importantly, fantastically powerful.

Sign of Crows is next. Instantly recognisable as Harker. Catchy and tuneful, bouncing along, before it slows and dips, before rising again. This is where Mark's ardent voice reminds me a lot of James Dean Bradfield – soulful and authoritative.

Adulthood is the other track that was released online in advance of the full album. Consequently familiar, it already seems to be an associated favourite. It starts slowly enough, forges ahead with mid-tempo singalong vibes, before once again receding against a somewhat introspective feel.

The fourth song, Hellion, is probably my favourite. An instant start, fast and harmonic, it pauses for breath and then crashes on and feeds back. Rowdy and mischievous in every sense indeed. This will be the song that people will be singing along to in a packed and sweaty venue once we start up again.

Moriah is heavier, grittier and rockier. A bit of a harder listen for me, a little bit unexpected. A shorter song, but its foundations quickly grow on me.

Flex Yr Head is an older track released online post No Discordance and it gets a deserved spot on the album here. It's a Harker favourite of mine and it's great to have it placed amongst these other songs. It fits well, bridging the old and the new.

Daisychain is another of those songs that starts slowly and builds, but without reaching a crescendo. There's no huge upsurge in this song, which keeps me focused as I listen intently.

The penultimate track is No Sun. Jaunty with a recognisable Harker feel, it's very infectious before the album draws to a close with Antenna. At six and a half minutes long, you need to strap yourself in for this last track, rising and dipping throughout. Screeching vocals, endless guitars and feedback leads to a subtle mid song ballad, before building again to bring the album to an intense conclusion.

It's a cliché to say that second albums often show the band has matured, so I'll try and resist. However, it is different to the first album with a more considered sound. It's certainly not smashed out and not quite as poppy as the first. Those elements are still there so older fans should still love this, but there's parts that actually feel quite sombre; although I'm not sure that was the intent – it's still tremendously catchy and sonorous, pitched perfectly.

Axiom is available on a number of labels in the UK, Europe, the US and Japan – Disconnect Disconnect Records, Shield Recordings, Wiretap Records and Fixing A Hole Records. No matter where you are in the world, I strongly recommend you pick it up.

Pre-order Axiom on Bandcamp here.

Like Harker on Facebook here.

This review was written by Chris Bishton.

Monday, 19 April 2021

Album Review: Four D: The Winter Suite by Second Player Score

Second Player Score are a three piece band from Vancouver, WA. Describing themselves as a #nerdcore band, they have a sound very reminiscent of the 90s skate punk scene. The band have become known for wonderfully catchy songs as well as having plenty of hooks. In February, the band released their newest EP – Four D: The Winter Suite. This is my first exposure to the band and I found a new favourite.

The four track EP begins with the song The Flow. It starts in a great up-tempo fashion with some siren-like guitars and some heavy drums. When the vocals begin, they add a great melody to the song that really pulls you in. I really enjoyed the contrast with the wordy verses and the more simplistic chorus; this really gives the song a distinct feel. In perhaps an homage to Bad Religion, the chorus has some great harmonies. When I first heard the second song, That Escalated Quickly, I was quickly reminded of Swedish skate punk legends Millencolin. Musically the song has a punchy rhythm, with the vocals doing most of the work with the melody. Second Player Score add in a great guitar solo midway through the track which then leads into a building verse and final chorus that brings the song to a great conclusion. The song is about how things can quickly go horribly wrong just when you think things are going okay for you.

Winner Takes It All sees the band go down more of a ska sound which I really enjoyed. This is such a positive and uplifting song about not giving up and going for your dreams. Lyrically the song is extremely simple. This simplicity makes the song so much more impactful, which I guess is what you want from a song like this. CPRW Records has just released a compilation packed with positive and uplifting songs, I’m sad that I hadn’t heard this song earlier as it would have been perfect for it. The fourth and final song is titled Dark Night Of The Soul. Second Player Score slow things down on this track. This gives the song that wonderful epic feeling that all final songs should have. Given the song’s title and the heavier nature of the sound, it would be fair to say that I was surprised to find the song so uplifting. The track is about holding on to hope no matter how difficult things may seem. Starting out slowly, the song builds and builds as it progresses towards its first chorus that will hopefully make anyone not feeling good feel at least a little better.

Four D: The Winter Suite is such an impressive release. It’s quite throwback in sound but doesn’t sound dated. The second half of the EP in particular was sublime. It’s such a positive ending and something that is important for people to hear. If you’re a fan of bands like Millencolin, Bad Religion or anything released by Epitaph twenty years ago, I’m sure you’ll love this.

Stream and download Four D: The Winter Suite on Bandcamp here.

Like Second Player Score on Facebook here.

This review was written by Colin Clark.

Wednesday, 14 April 2021

Album Review: Bigger Than Today by Becker

Becker are a three piece band from Parkersburg, West Virginia. The band have been together since 2018 and have released a couple of EPs. Their latest, and the subject of this review, came out in January 2021. Titled Bigger Than Today, the EP features five fresh sounding pop punk songs that explore life as a thirty something.

First up is Psycho Therapy. My very first thoughts when I listened to the track were that Becker had a bit of a throwback sound that has been brought to 2021. I can easily imagine this being released by Lookout Records or Honest Dons twenty years ago. Psycho Therapy starts with a familiar melody that ensures you’re hooked in immediately and are keen to see where the song goes. The song is played at a mid tempo which really allows the listener to get a grasp of what the track is about. The track looks at admitting that you are struggling mentally and asking for help. This is a subject that I am very passionate about. Suicide is such a big killer of men in their thirties and so many lives could be saved just by talking, so much love to Becker for opening with such an important song. Next is Thank You For Not Smoking. This track starts with a nice rumbling bass line and drum beat that builds into the vocals. Becker pick the pace up on this track and squeeze a lot into the one minute and thirty second duration. The chorus is the stand out moment of the entire song for me, as the band compares their own lives to people who are perceived to be doing better.

Regarding Reggie has a slow, methodical intro that jumps into a faster paced moment. Adam Nohe’s bass is really allowed to shine throughout the song, it’s basically a lead bass line throughout the majority of the track. This track is about feeling lonely and looking at what has happened in your life to lead you to that particular moment. Much like the previous song, Becker do a superb job of squeezing a lot in to a song that is less than two minutes long. The penultimate song on the EP is Man Plans, God Laughs. This shows off a much slower and, dare I say, more grown up side of Becker. The four minute long song seems like a meticulously thought out track where the three piece somehow manage to make their sound huge. Layered guitars, pedal effects, heavy bass tones, pounding drums – it’s all in there. Man Plans, God Laughs is about how all the dreams you have as a child can come crashing down and how rubbish that is. The final song on Bigger Than Today is named Elder Hostile. I was interested to find out what this song what would like after the epic nature of Man Plans, God Laughs. I felt like it needed to be big to follow on from that. Becker return to their familiar sound to finish the EP. It’s faster paced and ensures that we finish with a lot of energy. The guitars buzz throughout the track, as the vocals do most of the work whilst carrying the melody. Towards the end of the song things get quiet and then begin to build to a big finale of whoa-oh gang vocals that will no doubt encourage a live audience when they get to play these songs live.

Bigger Than Today features four great power pop songs and one epic, emotional banger. As someone who is in their mid thirties and has often compared themselves to what other people are doing, I really found a lot of the subject matter extremely relatable and I’m sure a lot of people reading this will do so as well. If you loved bands such as Squirtgun and Nerf Herder, I really think you’re going to enjoy Becker.

Stream and download Bigger Than Today on Bandcamp here.

Like Becker on Facebook here.

This review was written by Colin Clark.

Monday, 12 April 2021

Album Review: I’ll Become Kind by Biitchseat (by Emma Prew)

Biitchseat are a four-piece indie punk band from Cleveland, Ohio, who I recently discovered when scouting out tracks to add to my ever growing new[ish] playlist, EMPOWERMENT – a compilation of angry, uplifting and empowering tunes from bands that have female and non-binary members. At the beginning of March, Biitchseat released a new four track EP on Refresh Records titled I’ll Become Kind. The band describe the EP as being ‘a reclamation of self-determination, and a resolution to treat yourself kindly’. I don’t know about you, but that definitely sounds like something I can get on board with. I really love the artwork as well (which is by Violet Hill).

I’ll Become Kind opens with Anti-Depressed, which was also the first track I heard from Biitchseat in general – as a single and out of the context of this EP. It’s certainly a great introduction to the band. Starting slowly and relatively quietly with just guitar and vocals, it’s not long before the volume is amped up and the rest of the band come in. The melodies are certainly pleasing to the ear but it’s vocalist Talor Smith’s voice that immediately grabbed my attention and lured me in to the song and the band. The lines ‘And you don’t have to wait for fall, And you don’t have to be scared at all.’ feel incredibly uplifting and empowering. The wonderfully titled Bad Vibes Hoarder is up next. From the outset the track has an almost dream-like and carefree feel with an enticing melody that seems to go up and down and then up and down again. Overall it’s a slower paced track than the first but is no less rousing, particularly around the three minute mark where an instrumental interlude leads into a killer final chorus – ‘…I don’t need to be a bad vibes hoarder, Shouldn’t I, shouldn’t I want more?’. There’s already no shortage of positive messages to be taken from this EP and we’re only on track two.

Wasting My Own Time is the name of the third song on I’ll Become Kind. Its warm, melodic guitar part and firm drums instantly put a smile on my face – I don’t know why but it just felt comforting, like the sun shining through a window on a Spring day. Evolving from gently strummed chords to some huge-sounding, slightly fuzzy tones, the guitars seem to really drive the song forward as Talor reflects on the feelings of needing to forgive yourself for ‘wasting your own time’. I can definitely relate – and I’m sure you can too – to the sense of always feeling like you need to be productive with every moment of free time you have. Similar to Bad Vibes Hoarder, there is a lengthy instrumental section towards the end of Wasting My Own Time but, instead of leading into another chorus, it gently fades out in an almost cinematic fashion. The last track on the EP is called Good Enough. It’s the perfect culmination of the themes that have already been reflected upon earlier on the EP, as well as featuring the EP’s title in its lyrics. Being kind doesn’t just mean treating others well, you should be kind to yourself as well – something I’m sure we all need reminding of every now and then. ‘Tell me how to become better, And I’ll become kind, And I’ll become kind, Please tell me how to become kinder, To myself, It’s about time, It’s about time.’

It’s been a rough week (month, year…), but songs like these are certainly helping to make me feel better. I like sad songs, and sometimes listening to them does make me happy or bring a feeling of catharsis, yet it’s whole different feeling to just listen to such positive and relatable tracks such as those on I’ll Become Kind. Go and check it out, it might just put a big smile on your face too.

You can stream and download I’ll Become Kind on Bandcamp and like Biitchseat on Facebook.

This review was written by Emma Prew.

Wednesday, 31 March 2021

Album Review: Tyler Moes by Madam Fatale

Madam Fatale are a three piece band from Sydney, Australia. I first came across them thanks to Punk Rock Radar on Instagram (I seriously recommend following that page) and I stuck them on a playlist of bands to check out. When they came on I was instantly impressed with their old school Green Day-esque style of punk rock and they quickly found their way on to my review pile. In February, they released their debut album Tyler Moes. I was impressed with the fact that they decided on a twelve track album for their debut release rather than an EP. This, to me, shows a lot of ambition. Is it good though? Yes, that’s why I’m reviewing it. But what do I think is good about it? Read on to find out.

Tyler Moes begins with Are You Bored? Madam Fatale kick the album off with a track about being the second child and getting the feeling that you don’t belong. From the opening vocals you can hear the Green Day comparison I made in the introduction but, aside from the vocals, musically this almost feels more like Billie Joe Armstrong fronting an indie band and it works fantastically. The second song, Church Street, is the track that really made Madam Fatale stand out for me. The opening guitars have a great pop punk sound that really gives you a feeling of what’s about to come. It’s a mid-tempo and melodic song about an acquaintance of the band that only brings bad times to all they meet and wanting to get away from them. This is an extremely catchy song that quickly finds a home in your head. Given that the third track, Girl Of A Thousand Names, is less than two minutes long I initially expected to the song to be a speedy number. It does pick up the pace, but it’s not the blistering punk bullet that I expected. It actually starts quite slowly before getting into a steady pace for the majority of the song. Its high point come when we hit the line “she’s the girl of a thousand names.”

Screen Gun Girl starts off in a solemn fashion. It’s a break up song, with the band’s lead singer Luke Bindoff realising the mistakes they made that ultimately ended the relationship and wishing they could reconcile. The song shifts melodies during its second half. The second half feels like it could be a big sing-along at a live gig. I was a bit surprised that they didn’t make more use of potential gang vocals but I guess, given the nature of the song, it would feel a bit out of place. The fifth song, Out Of My Mind, is another stand out track on Tyler Moes. There is that great, bratty pop punk style that made us fall in love with the genre many, many years ago. There is an immediate sing-along quality to Out Of My Mind that will draw people in and the theme of the song will be relatable to many of us. It’s about falling for someone and convincing yourself that they feel the same even when they possibly don’t. Bad Mistake brings us to the halfway point of the album. This song is about living life whilst constantly getting things wrong. In reality, this should be a really sad song but there is a joy in this song. I guess that it is cathartic for Luke to sing about this, perhaps getting a feeling of frustration off of their chest. I can see this being a fan favourite for the band.

The second half of Tyler Moes sees Madam Fatale take things in a much different direction. Parramatta Girls has more of a rock ‘n’ roll/rockabilly style to it that adds some freshness to the album. As the song progresses there is a moment where things get a bit darker but, for the most part, the track sticks to that rockabilly style. The simple chorus is one that will get stuck in your head for days and days. Toothpick is a slower and more emotional sounding track. The opening verses feature these cool jangly emo guitar tones before the chorus jumps into a more traditional pop punk style. The song looks at the loss of a friend and struggling to deal with that. It’s a much sadder song than anything else on the album so far, so you can understand the slower style that’s going on. I Want My Mummy Back is another slow and sad song. I’m sure you’ve guessed from the song’s title that it’s about wanting your mum to come back. Despite not having a lot of different lyrics, the track is over four minutes long. There is perhaps an argument that the song doesn’t need to be as long as it is but I kind of feel like the repetitive nature of the track adds a lot more emotion and sadness which is portrayed throughout.

The tenth track continues the slower style that Madam Fatale have adopted over the last few tracks. It’s a five minute long, fuzzy, shoegaze style. Musically the song is extremely haunting with Luke’s vocals really shining throughout. The subtleness of the guitar, bass and drums really add to the song. Josh Bishop’s drums are absolutely fantastic and do a brilliant job of not only giving the song a strong spine but also building things up for Luke’s voice to get a bit more intense. The penultimate song is titled Longlands Road. Beginning with just guitar and vocals (something I always enjoy), Josh tells a tale of leaving home. The full band comes in soon enough and really fleshes out the song but I was slightly disappointed this didn’t really increase the tempo of the song. I felt like it could really explode into life for a great sing-along as it’s another song that I’m sure so many people listening to the album will relate too. The final song on Tyler Moes is Besiege Me. This song was originally released as a single by the band in March of 2020. Besiege Me is an acoustic song that also includes some strings. I loved the addition of the strings – they give the song so much extra depth. Perhaps fittingly, this is a sad break up song to finish the album off. The stripped back sound really adds to the emotion of the entire song. Lyrically, it’s quite simple. This will really add to the emotional output of the song as it will hit more people immediately. A great way to finish the album.

I’m consistently coming across fantastic Australian bands and Madam Fatale are certainly another to add to the list. They have quite a unique sound that could see them fit under a few punk and indie umbrellas. This could see them get a big fanbase extremely quickly into their career and I suspect (if the world has finally been fixed by then) to see their name on festival line ups in the UK and Europe over the next few years.

Stream and download Tyler Moes on Bandcamp here.

Lke Madam Fatale on Facebook here.

This review was written by Colin Clark.

Monday, 29 March 2021

Album Review: Sgt. Scagnetti vs Hans Gruber And The Die Hards Split

I do love a split. I especially like them when one you get to discover a band that you never knew before. This was the case on the new split release by Sgt. Scagnetti and Hans Gruber And The Die Hards. I’ve been aware of Hans Gruber And The Die Hards for a few years now but I’ve never heard of Sgt. Scagnetti. I was keen to check them out. The split is only three songs long, one from the Sgt. Scagnetti and two from Hans Gruber.

Sgt. Scag (as they are often known) were actually an active band in the North East of America in the late nineties. They were known for their fun and unpredictable live shows. Like many bands from the era, they split in the earlier 2000s but have played a couple of reunion shows in recent years as well as releasing some new singles. Their appearance on this split is a great way to introduce themselves to the new era of ska punk fans. Sgt. Scag’s song on the split is titled Cultination. This is a great introduction to the band for anyone, like me, who is listening to them for the first time. It begins with quite a lengthy brass-fuelled introduction before lead singer Steve’s soulful vocals come in. The opening verse has a great call and response section between Steve and the rest of the band that really hooked me in. This is all played at a nice, mid-tempo pace before the band speed things up for the chorus. So much goes on in this song with changes in tempo and melody but the band seamlessly blend it together so it never feels stop/start. As the song finishes there are some great gang vocals and harmonies and ensure the song ends with a bang. The track is about the Internet influencing children to become mindless robots and how that’s a bad thing.

The first of Hans Gruber And The Die Hards’ songs is titled You’re Being Watched. The Texan outfit are one of the more unique and creative bands to come out of the USA ska scene. The track is about the paranoid feeling of being watched and trying to convince people that you’re not going crazy. The song starts with a very traditional ska punk style. The saxophone playing gets the song off to a fun start before the vocals come in and the song goes off in a completely different style. Vocally you would probably find more similar bands in the crust punk world, with some venomous singing going on. There is a slight change again for what I guess is the chorus, where a vocal that sounds like MC Bat Commander from The Aquabats come in. So much is going on and I love it. Hans Gruber’s second track is named Medical Advice. The track is largely instrumental except with occasional lines being shouted over the top. The lyrics touch upon the medical advice that has been given to the world during the past year such as staying at home, wearing masks and avoiding seeing vulnerable loved ones. There are some moments of anger and moments of sarcasm in these lines, they create quite an interesting dynamic and often make you think. This is such a skankable song and has a really catchy tune that will quickly earn a place in your head.

I really enjoyed this split. It features some old and new school style ska punk so it has something for everybody and is well worth checking out. It’s less than 8 minutes long and is a lot of fun.

Stream and download the split on Bandcamp here or here.

Like Sgt. Scagnetti on Facebook here and like Hans Gruber And The Die Hards here.

This review was written by Colin Clark.

Friday, 26 March 2021

CPRW Playlist: March 2021

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

Wednesday, 24 March 2021

Album Review: You're So Cool by Family Dinner (by Lara Roberts)

Praise the powers that be for Instagram, or I may never have come across Family Dinner. After first hearing the song You’re So Cool, I was instantly hooked and wanted to go back for seconds. Luckily for me I didn’t have long to wait, as the Long Beach five-piece released their four-track EP, You’re So Cool, in February.

The EP starts off with the title track You’re So Cool, inspired by the 1993 Tarantino flick True Romance. The lyrics really capture what it feels like to get wrapped up in a relationship or situation that’s quickly getting out of control – the excitement, the admiration, and the willingness to throw rational thought out of the car window as you’re speeding through LA. It’s almost like you’re caught up in a different reality, and the dreamy, fuzzy, musical backdrop along with Natalie’s soaring vocals only adds to that feeling. We’ve all felt it, and that’s what makes this song so relatable.

Eyes feels like a follow-up to the first track, telling the story of when the initial excitement of a new relationship starts to wear off, but you’re finding yourself wanting to stay, always going back to that same situation. I found myself in the song, just like I did when listening to You’re So Cool. We get served up some delicious grungy drums and fuzzy guitars, with a side dish of 90s vibes. Note: After reading an interview with the band, I found out that this song was actually inspired by Natalie and Michael’s pet cats – and that’s purr-etty adorable.

We’re treated to another film-inspired track with Mahogany, written from the perspective of character Leon Kaufman, a worn-down photographer pushed to the point of murder, in the film Midnight Meat Train. This serves as a catchy, indie-punk tune with melodic vocals and tight drums. It’s one you can see yourself dancing to at that house party you’re longing to attend.

Our last course is Song 4 (Bloom), a catchy tune to take us through to the end. Straight off, there’s a bouncy melody that you will find yourself singing along with, leading to more fuzzy noise, tasty reverb and indie-pop vocals. In contrast to the music, the lyrics are more personal, documenting the struggles of self-acceptance and trying to claw yourself out of a dark place. I think this is something that we can all relate to, living in these strange, unusual, and often bleak times. There is a feeling of reassurance in the lyrics, reassurance that there is a light at the end of all of this – a sweet aftertaste to be left with at the end of a delicious EP.

Family Dinner bring that familiar feeling of 90s alternative rock back, and season it with an indie-pop, punk rock twist. You’ll love them if you like Hole, Milk Teeth, Somerset Thrower, Nirvana, Silverchair or Rival Schools.

Stream and download You’re So Cool on Bandcamp here.

Like Family Dinner on Facebook here.

This review was written by Lara Roberts.

Monday, 22 March 2021

Album Review: Bliss by Incisions (by Richard Mair)

Hardcore… it’s like the marmite of the punk scene (even more so than ska I feel, Colin – sorry); for the simple reason that whilst many will have encountered countless bands plugging away it can be very hard to be truly unique and stand out in such a niche and at times rigid scene. Consequently, when it’s done right it’s simply the best genre of music ever. Manchester’s Incisions clearly have this same attitude. Bliss, their second LP, is equal parts visceral, melodically angular and driven by an exceptional rhythm section that’s equal parts tight, structured and disciplined yet also able to seamlessly shift to a frenetic almost chaotic explosion when needed.

The first thing to say is Incisions play the kind of abrasive hardcore that you either love or hate. Personally it’s heyday era Indecision Records stuff that I adore (Life’s Halt / Carry On / Vorhees), with smatterings of the more straight up Black Flag racket you’d associate with the best of the Bridge 9 bands (Breathe In / early American Nightmare / Sworn In). Assuming you are familiar with these bands whose output was largely limited to a handful of releases a piece (with the notable exceptions of Vorhees and American Nightmare), you’ll be right at home!

Bliss kicks off with intense bass driven banger ‘You’re Not The Same’; a vitriolic 1:30 bombastic rant, that’s punctuated by a jaunty, angular guitar riff. It really sets the tone and over the next 20 minutes Incisions blast through a rabid, politically informed and socially aware collection that really helps them stand out against the backdrop of what can be a very poorly delivered pastiche of hardcore clichés.

‘Fuck The World’ clocks in at barely a minute and very much reminds me of Durham’s finest Vorhees, such is the intensity of the vocal delivery and the riffage on show, especially before the middle third of the song. It’s sharp, fast and punchy, giving way to perhaps one of the more structured and melodic songs on the album ‘Fighting Myself’. Complete with whoa-whoas and an excellent beat down at the end, it’s clearly destined for fan favourite status and dare I say is almost melodic-hardcore or skate punk in its delivery.

This opening trio showcase exactly what you expect to hear across the album, and they grab you instantly. The tropes and ideas presented in these songs appear across the rest of the album; although they become much more pronounced with ‘Repeat Prescription’ having some stand out moments via a well-constructed beat down, while ‘The Fluke’ makes use of a second lead vocal to add some depth to the choruses.

Where this particular subgenre of hardcore can lose its focus comes in its almost one dimensional approach to albums; they can appear very singular in terms of pace and length of songs. Again Incisions missed this memo and introduce some neat left turns on the album; demonstrating how creative the genre can be. ‘Back Of The Line’ is a borderline pop punk anthem and reminds me of UK legends Goober Patrol. The almost spoken word verses of ‘The Sweeney’ also introduce a new dynamic that helps keep the album fresh at the point where you might start to think things are too one dimensional. It’s these moments alongside the almost Billy Bragg or Frank Turner acoustic influenced ‘Better’ that really help hammer home the energy of the other songs whilst creating moments of reflection and consideration.

The album remains high quality throughout but probably the best songs are saved for the latter stages. ‘Broken Home’ is a hardcore masterclass, pitched beautifully alongside the aforementioned ‘Better’, and closing track ‘Insecure’ which brings the album to a close.

Overall Bliss is a cracking album, it’s perfectly balanced and structured. It’s angry, politically motivated and at times borderline disturbing such as references to the increased authority of the police who can no longer be identified in communities to the role mass media plays in the subjugation of minority groups. It’s this level of insight and vitriol that hardcore should have by its very nature and Incisions clearly live and breathe these values.

Finally I’ve compared Incisions to some of the best hardcore bands of the late 90s early 00s and that’s not in any way to make them sound like a nostalgia act, far from it. My personal view is the albums produced over that period of time remain some of my of all-time favourites and it’s certainly what I’d regard as a golden era of hardcore. Bliss taps into this era beautifully and helps push the envelope that little bit more in terms of where the genre can go next.

Pre-order Bliss on the TNSRecords webstore here.

Like Incisions on Facebook here.

This review was written by Richard Mair.

Thursday, 18 March 2021

Album Review: Sick Day by Rest Easy

It seems like a while since I’ve banged on about a great Canadian band. On this occasion it’s Rest Easy who are a four piece who reside in Vancouver and feature members of Daggermouth and Shook Ones. In February, the band released their debut EP titled Sick Day on Mutant League Records. It is four songs of high octane punk rock with gravelly voiced vocals and massive, intense sing-alongs. The first time I heard them I was hooked and looked forward to giving the band a proper listen.

Sick Day begins with Get Busy Dyin’. The track ensures the EP gets off to a ferocious start. After a quick build, the vocals explode out of the speakers. It took approximately nine seconds to go from calm to fully pumped up and I loved that. This is the type of song that will have kids going crazy in a pit. After that frantic beginning, Rest Easy switch to a more melodic approach that makes you feel like the song will build to a big finale but instead leads nicely into the second song Headaches. The track again starts quickly, it hits you like a brick to the face but in the best possible way. (That’s a terrible metaphor, I don’t think there is a good way for a brick to hit you in the face). Much like Get Busy Dyin’, the song feels like it’s in two parts, that big start before then slowing down for a more melodic finish. This finish demands a massive sing-along from a live crowd – it’s just wonderful.

Bad Idea is the title of the third song on Sick Day. Unlike the first two songs, Bad Idea starts in a more melodic way which eases the listener into a song in a much gentler fashion. I think that because of this slower start the track feels so much more emotional than the previous two tracks. This adds a great extra string to the Rest Easy bow. I really enjoyed how the band use multiple vocalists throughout the track, cleverly switching between trading lines, harmonies and big gang vocals – there is so much going on throughout. The final track is the EP’s title track Sick Days. This was the first Rest Easy song I heard and I absolutely fell head over heels for it. On that first listen, the lyric “it’s okay not to be okay” really caught my attention. I’m always drawn to a track that talks about mental health like this, it’s important to be reminded of things like this. Sick Day takes you on a series of highs and lows with some brilliant changes in tempo and melody that keep you guessing throughout. It is such a big way to finish this brilliant debut from Rest Easy.

Obviously, given the members other bands, Rest Easy is a band of real pedigree. I was hooked the first time I listened to Sick Day. I’m happy that I was able to listen to the EP before I discovered the band’s history as I got to hear it without any preconceived expectations and was blown away. I’m sure fans of Daggermouth and Shook Ones will love this release. I’m already desperate for them to make their way to the UK for some shows as soon as possible.

Stream and download Sick Day on Bandcamp here.

Like Rest Easy on Facebook here.

This review was written by Colin Clark.

Wednesday, 17 March 2021

Album Review: Funny Feeling by Out Of Love

Alternative music folk were making a lot of fuss about UK punk rockers Out Of Love before they had even released their debut EP last year. The four track I Am Not Me really showed a lot of what the band were all about – catchy punk rock songs that look at life for someone reaching their 30s and all of the trials, tribulation and stress that can come from that. On April 16th the band will release their second EP Funny Feeling on Venn Records. Interestingly this was the first time that the band had been in a studio to record music as their first EP was made in their practice space. I was keen to hear how the band has progressed in the past year.

The first track on the EP is titled Play Pretend. If this is your first time listening to Out Of Love then Play Pretend is a great introduction to the band. It starts with a brief audio clip about letting go of your feelings and not bottling things up before launching into a catchy, yet energetic, introduction. When it’s time for lead singer Jack Rogers to come in he quickly makes his way through the first verse before we get to the huge chorus. This is such a great method of getting you invested into the song. It’s about someone having a self-destructive personality but trying to find a way of doing better. This is followed up by Wishlist. Wishlist wastes no time in getting started, continuing the up tempo start of the EP. From the beginning, the song is a big sing-along with some great gang vocals right at the start of the track. If you listen to the guitars underneath the vocals, they create this wonderful, fuzzy sound that gives Out Of Love this magnificent sound that you don’t hear from a lot of punk bands. This really allowed the band to stand out amongst many of their contemporaries. The song is about calling out the people in your life who lie about their accomplishments to try and make you feel bad.

The third song, Hello Trouble, slows things down a little bit. This gives the listener a moment to catch their breath. The track feels like the more radio-friendly accessible track that will hopefully attract music fans where punk isn’t necessarily their favourite genre of music. There’s a bit of an indie rock feel to the song, it might just be me but I’m kind of reminded of Feeder here. There are moments of snarl that appear in Jack’s vocals that do however give the song a bit of edge. Hello Trouble is about learning from your past mistakes and attempting to grow as a person. The penultimate song is titled Dog Daze. Here we see a poppier side of Out Of Love as well as a happier side. As I’m writing this I’m sitting at my desk with some beautiful sunshine coming through the window and it’s putting me in a good mood. The song is about the unconditional love between a pet and its owner. I can’t lie, it also makes me a bit sad, as due to the COVID pandemic that’s taken over our lives in the past year, I haven’t been able to go and visit my dog as she lives with my mum. I know that when I do get the chance that to visit, the unconditional love that Mindy has for me will still be there. Dogs are the best. The fifth and final track on Funny Feeling is named See Right Thru. Here we have a song that looks at seeing past the way someone presents themselves and accepting them for who they actually are. The track manages to jump around with different sounds throughout its duration, somehow managing to squeeze everything that Out Of Love does so well into a mixer and coming out with gold.

This is a second incredible EP from Out Of Love. It’s mad to me that a band can release two fantastic EPs before they’ve even played a live show but I guess that’s the world we currently live in. I cannot wait for that debut gig to be announced, I really hope that I can be there as I believe it will be a special moment that attendees will be talking about for years to come. Out Of Love are going to be massive so get on the train now and enjoy the ride.

Pre-order Funny Feeling on Bandcamp here.

Like Out Of Love on Facebook here.

This review was written by Colin Clark.

Monday, 15 March 2021

Album Review: Irruption by Ship Thieves (by Omar Ramlugon)

The Ship Thieves have had quite the metamorphosis over time; beginning as an alt-country/rock side project, switching to a full band with some Georgia Satellites-esque Southern twang, before finally heading straight into a full punk rock charge with their 2016 release No Anchor. Comprised of Hot Water Music’s Chris Wollard, ex-Quit guitarist Addison Burns, former Samiam bassist Chad Darby and Enablers’ drummer Bobby Brown, it was arguably the moment that a lot of people had been waiting for. While the previous releases were great in their own right, it’s pretty much an ineluctable fact that Chris Wollard is a punk rock songwriting dynamo, with his smoky, gnarled vocal delivery serving as the foundation for the rest of the band to tear into another batch of simply excellent songs. With this in mind, it’s safe to say that Irruption picks up where No Anchor began, bursting at the seams with crunching guitars, gruff but harmonised vocals and interlocking melodic hooks that remind of Sugar or later period Leatherface.

Openers ‘The Embers Of Enlightenment’ and ‘Race To Oblivion’ practically jump off the record player, with the forceful rhythm section providing the foundation for Wollard’s slippery, arresting lead guitar that always strikes the balance between raw emotion and precision. It’s an often abused trope that punk rockers can’t play their instruments, but Ship Thieves are just one of thousands of examples to consign that misconception to the scrapheap; the band exhibit tight, controlled power throughout while never seeming mechanical.‘Ghost Town’ features a wistful searching chorus that kicks right in the heart while the pummelling ‘Tangled Net’ might even be the album’s highlight, with an extended lyrical coda that has Wollard howling “in isolation” over and over again. Given that huge swathes of us have spent nearly a year locked in our homes at the time of writing, the song bites particularly hard.

‘Hercules Stomp’ puts Addison Burns on the microphone, and his higher pitched but yearning vocal delivery completely fits the track’s gleaming hooks. It seems that this album has more and more of Burns trading vocals with Wollard as well as providing excellent backing, and it’s a brilliant addition to the Ship Thieves’ palate. It’s interesting to note how Wollard functioned as the higher, slightly less raspy singer in Hot Water Music, and with Irruption, Burns takes on this role with aplomb. ‘Access Denied’ reminds of Cherry Knowle-era Leatherface, with wiry single-note hooks dotted in amongst slabs of twisting riffs.‘(I Don’t Wanna) Face The Dog’ is one of the most gutsy, aggressive songs on the album, with Wollard and Burns’ call-and-response vocal lines bolstered by a furious Government Issue-esque descending riff, while ‘He Lost His Head’ and its minor key riffing gives way to an absolutely ripping guitar solo that blows back your hair. ‘Lurking Strain’ closes out the record with a sense of uncertainty and desperation, which couldn’t have been more fitting given the climate in which it was released. Burns and Wollard take it in turns to sing, with the former in especially good form, delivering a performance that will send shivers down your spine. Lots of bands would be hard pressed to have one song of this quality on a record, but the Ship Thieves have spoiled us with an entire album’s worth.

When No Anchor arrived in 2016, I remember reading an interview with Wollard shortly after where he noted that Ship Thieves were already working on the next album. Although it’s been a long five years, I’m happy to say definitively that Irruption is an even better record than its predecessor; it adds new elements to the Ship Thieves’ heady brew while keeping their signature mix of melody and sonic heft. It’s a powerful, hard-charging, yet tender and earnest record that is delivered with complete conviction. Who wouldn’t want more music from a band that just keep moving from strength to strength like the seasoned punk legends they are? Miss this at your peril.

Available wherever you stream or download music.

Like Ship Thieves on Facebook here.

This review was written by Omar Ramlugon.

Friday, 12 March 2021

Album Review: Attempts At Understanding by Animal Byproducts (by Emma Prew)

Animal Byproducts are a Manchester-based power pop meets folk punk foursome who describe themselves as ‘placid pals peddling patriarchy-poking park punk’ – and I just had to quote that for its excellent alliteration. At the beginning of February the band released a brand new EP titled Attempts At Understanding and I immediately knew this was something I wanted to review.

The first of four tracks on Attempts At Understanding is titled Bin Day and it opens with a wonderful crescendo of brass instruments and gentle guitar strumming. Before too long, the vocals come in with the wise words ‘Please don’t forget that it’s your bin day’. I can’t say that I recall ever listening to any other song that reminds me to put the bins out – and I was literally singing this to myself the other day before putting the bin out – so Animal Byproducts definitely get points for originality here. Of course, the song is not strictly just about your household rubbish, it’s about much more than that. Racists? Homophobes? People that say ‘It wasn’t like this back in my day’? They can all get in the bin. Next up is There Are Dozens Of Us! and the band don’t waste any time in getting going with this track. It’s upbeat and catchy from the outset with a superb chorus that unashamedly denies gender roles and stereotypes (‘Do I undermine your solid gender roles? Or are we all just assortments of holes?’) complete with some simply delightful power pop style backing harmonies in the second verse and a trumpet solo later on. It’s hard to pick but this might be my favourite of the four songs on the EP.

Obscene is the name of the third track on Attempts At Understanding and it opens with a melodic guitar riff that will have you bopping your head along in no time at all. When the drums come in the beat is more firmly set and it carries the song nicely through the first verse – which gave me real Chas Palmer-Williams (of Lightyear, but I mean his solo stuff more so) vibes, by the way – and into an epic sounding second verse. The trumpet really is the star of the show in this song and, as someone who is more traditionally a fan of banjo or harmonica in folk punk, it really makes me excited to listen to more tunes with trumpet parts that aren’t so obviously placed as in, for example, ska punk – if that makes any sense. The last song on the EP is Tavistock Square. Another track that doesn’t hang around, this song ensures that Attempts At Understanding ends with an energetic burst. At first I thought the lyrics were quite erratic, with talk of Gandhi, Alan Turing and the bombing of Hiroshima all in a single verse, but I’ve since read about Tavistock Square (in Bloomsbury, London) on Wikipedia and the lyrics make a whole lot more sense! The song looks at all the memories that can become assigned to and associated with a certain place, as well as reflecting on the peace that can be found in a specific location that you yourself hold fond memories of. ‘So the next time you see me in Tavistock Square, Please help me look for the peace that I found there.’

If you’re not already familiar with Animal Byproducts but like bands such as ONSIND and Toodles & The Hectic Pity then you definitely need to check out this EP.

You can stream and download Attempts At Understanding on Bandcamp and like Animal Byproducts on Facebook.

This review was written by Emma Prew.

Thursday, 11 March 2021

Album Review: The Lockdowns by The Lockdowns

The Lockdowns are a new band from Houston, Texas. I’m guessing, from their name, that they formed during 2020 due to being locked down because of that awful pandemic. In January, the four piece released their debut self titled EP. It contains six broken hearted pop punk songs that remind me of Teenage Bottlerocket at their best.

The EP begins with the song Dirty Mouth. The track gets the EP off to a flying start with some buzzsaw guitars and an energetic drumbeat before some rapid-fire vocals come into play. The Lockdowns fly through the first verse before hitting the chorus. As you would imagine from a pop punk band, there are some great moments for singing along here. The track is about using bad language and being offended by it. The whoa-ohs in the song remind me of one of my all time favourite bands, The McRackins. Next up is Baby Can I Change Your Mind. After the energy of Dirty Mouth, this song really slows down and has a 60s doo-wop style to it. I loved that The Lockdowns decided to change things up like this so early on in the EP. The vocals are another big high point on the song. I’m not sure if there are two singers or the singer just changed octaves but the switch to the higher pitch is a thing of beauty. The third song is Duck Tape And Super Glue. Beginning with an audio clip basically saying that when you love someone you should give them all you have, from there we move into a song about getting your heart broken again. The band brings the tempo and energy back up on this track, despite it being quite a sad song. Vocally the lead singer settles on a raspy style that I really like. It gives the song a bit of bite rather than being too sugary sweet.

In the intro for this review I mentioned being reminded of Teenage Bottlerocket on the EP. The fourth song, Skeletons, is the perfect example of this. The opening has a heavier sound than anything previous and as soon as the vocals come in I think of Kody Templeman. He’s one of my favourite singers so I’m all for this. The lyrics do that wonderful thing of painting a great picture of what the song is about. I’ll leave you to listen to work out what’s going on. The penultimate song is titled Maybe I’ll Fall In Love With You Tomorrow. This was one of my favourites on the EP. There’s a breezy, summer time, uplifting feel to the song that puts a smile on my bearded face. The introduction of the song sees the bass become quite prevalent which I thought added a great extra layer to the track. On first listen, it felt like a positive and hopeful song but when you listen again the track is about building walls around yourself, trying to ensure that you’re not going to get your heart broken again. The sixth and final song on the EP is Monsters. It starts out with a fantastic building introduction that lets you know that big things are on the way. It also infuses you with enough energy to get your through the rest of the EP in fine fashion. There’s this superb urgency in the vocals that really pulled me in. Monsters is about having children and, despite it being very difficult at times, them meaning everything to you. I don’t think I’ve heard a song touching on this subject in a punk song in a long time and it’s a really refreshing way to end the EP.

This is a fantastic pop punk EP. I love this sound and always look forward to discovering new bands playing the style. If you’re a fan of Teenage Bottlerocket, The Lillingtons, Dear Landlord, The Copyrights etc. then The Lockdowns are really worth your time.

Stream and download The Lockdowns on Bandcamp here.

Like The Lockdowns on Facebook here.

This review was written by Colin Clark.

Wednesday, 10 March 2021

Video Premiere: Poisoned Lungs by One Million Motors

Today I'm extremely excited to present an exclusive premiere of the new single from Newcastle's One Million Motors. Poisoned Lungs is released everywhere on Friday 12th of May but you can check out the lyric video below.

Pre-save Poisoned Lungs on Spotify here:



Thursday, 4 March 2021

Album Review: Leapfrog by Trashed Ambulance

Canada’s Trashed Ambulance have been together in one form or another since 2014 and the three piece have become known for their snotty vocalled melodic skate punk. In January they released a brand new EP titled Leapfrog on Thousand Island Records.

The first of the three songs on Leapfrog is titled On The Mend. The song starts with a slow build featuring some distinctive vocals that pull you in alongside a simple melody. This eases you in to the whole EP brilliantly and will also get you singing along. There’s a great sense of urgency in the song that keeps you listening and I particularly enjoyed the guitar solo that leads towards the final chorus of the track. What a great start. Next is the EP’s title track, Leapfrog. This is a more emotional song dedicated to a lost friend of the band. The band turn down the snotty style of their vocals and there are some No Use For A Name vibes in the song, particularly with some soaring harmonies. The buzzing guitar riff gives the song more of a pop punk sound that makes it super accessible from the start. The tempo of the vocals gives it plenty of energy and the shift in melody for the second half of the track for a repetitive and building chorus is a thing of beauty. The gang vocals give so much to the song’s finale. I loved this song. Last up is Delinquent. Trashed Ambulance return to their debauchery ways with this song about petty crimes and always getting away with it. This is a fast and fun skate punk song that will get a crowd singing along with big smiles on their faces. This is Trashed Ambulance at their raucous best. I have this image of the band playing this song live in my head and there being a massive stage invasion for the song with a massive gang vocal choir. It would be glorious.

This is a short but fun EP from Trashed Ambulance. I’m hoping that it will lead on to a future full length from the band as it really whet my appetite for more new tracks from the band. This is exactly how I want to hear my skate punk.

Stream and download Leapfrog on Bandcamp here.

Like Trashed Ambulance on Facebook here.

This review was written by Colin Clark.