Friday, 29 January 2021

CPRW Playlist: January 2021

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

Thursday, 28 January 2021

Album Review: S.F. Sourdough by Billy No Mates (by Chris Bishton)

This record hasn't actually taken 10 years to make, rather it's been "sat on the sidelines" according to Duncan Redmonds, AKA Billy. Essentially Duncan's solo sideline project that started back in 2004 and which has featured a cast of supporting members from so many bands that I have loved, including but not limited to Vanilla Pod, Guns n' Wankers and Sink.

At times, a truly pan-global band of contributors – Duncan recruited people from Europe and Japan to help with live shows – this latest record, S.F. Sourdough, was recorded at the backend of 2010 in the US and features some proper punk rock royals. This time Joey Cape of Lagwagon, Tyson Annicharico of Dead To Me/Western Addiction and Sergie Loobkoff of Samiam contribute to Duncan's Billy No Mates melodic/skate-punk/sea-shanty/Snuff-esque sound.

So, do Duncan's US helpers take the Billy No Mates project in a different direction? Not really. In fact six of the 12 tracks on this album are re-recordings that have been available before. But that's not a bad thing! It's great to have that familiar Billy sound blaring when I inevitably crank up the volume on this. Tuneful, fast, melodic, punk rock with brilliantly observant and often funny lyrical vocals, but without a Snuff-style brass section, giving it that more recognisable Billy No Mates feel.

The album opens with If These Street Could Talk. Even though it's 10 years old, like everything **errr, well… apart from the odd Shake n Vac and Branflakes ad cover** he's done, it doesn't sound dated at all. Duncan's vocal starts immediately, gently supported by a few guitar strums, but you know instantly this won't last as it starts to build and the tempo quickens. You know it's coming, and about 40 seconds or so in it does as more hectic guitars kick in and we're off, telling a story of London, Duncan's home town.

Big Cliché is next. Concentrating on the lyrics, it's kind of scathing. The narrative of a formulaic punk song, complete with chord progression instructions. Dot-to-dot, but not a child's picture, rather a band's song. The line "a great big fuck off choir singing all the clichés about holding your head high, singing proud, walking tall through the storm" makes me smile, before it slows as Duncan muses on whether or not the song is any good anyway.

The next two tracks, Slap Top and Look At You, we've heard before having been on the first album We Are Legion. That's not a problem though, they're cracking tracks and these versions fit well on this record. Both are short, under two minute, fast punk blasts. Look At You is a particular past favourite of mine.

The album races along. Skull And Smiles is next and is faster still. It almost has a skate punk air to it.

Apart from the "bready" samples the title track, Sourdough, is an instrumental. A fast blast of under two minutes.

Angry Song is just that. About as hardcore/metalcore as it gets on this album. The title seems a great onomatopoeia, although it's hard to pick out the gritty lyrics. At just over a minute long, unsurprisingly it's the shortest song on the album.

There's no duds on this record. All the tracks merit their place, but the song that I haven't heard before and that's my favourite on the album is What's That Fluffy. It's harmonic and mid-tempo and it's the song that most reminds me of Snuff, in particular their last album There's A Lot Of It About, only this was written at least 10 years before that record came out.

The album comes to an end with a longer, slower track, Your Name In Lights, that seems to have a distinct Joey Cape sway to it. It's a winsome way to close out.

Listening back over these 12 tracks, it's great that it doesn't sound dated, but when you think about it, it should be obvious that was never likely. Why would Duncan bother to put out a record that does? Why would anyone? It sounds familiar, which it is because we've heard some of the songs before and most importantly because Duncan is a great lyricist and songwriter. But, for me, this just means it's not stale or rehashed. Billy No Mates haven't been reinvented here, but if you loved them before, you'll love them again with this.

Finally, I think what really speaks volumes is that I'd put this up there with some of my favourite records from Duncan. There's stuff from Snuff and Guns N Wankers that will always be special to me, but Billy No Mates definitely forms part of a punk rock trio that sit together as peers.

Billy No Mates… the ultimate irony when it comes to naming your band, as everyone should love Duncan.

Pre-order S.F. Sourdough on vinyl through SBÄM Records here. The album is released digitally on 29th January.

Like Billy No Mates on Facebook here

This review was written by Chris Bishton.

Wednesday, 27 January 2021

Album Review: Zoanoids by Zoanoids (by Marcus Pond)

Is there a better way to start the first week of 2021 than by finding a new band releasing their debut album? After 2020, it’s hard to ask for anything more, and I was fortunate to make Zoanoids my first CPRW review of the year.

Honestly, I almost skipped over their record while perusing Bandcamp because… I don’t know, the black and white zombie-looking face outline with oozing font didn’t seem like it’d be quite my thing. But, I pressed play, and then pressed play again, and then kept listening until I decided I had to own it on vinyl.

A four-piece out of Kalamazoo, Michigan, Zoanoids are a self-described “horror and sci-fi Ramonescore band” that put out a demo in 2019 and released a few singles in 2020 leading up to their eponymous debut on Hey Pizza! Records. As a person that hates horror movies (of all the emotions to feel, why would you want to feel horror?) and is pretty indifferent to most Ramonescore bands, they still have a lot to offer (and if you do like those things, you’ll likely dig this).

The LP begins with “Teenage Werewolf”, a jam that they also released a music video for back in October. I’ll have to wait to see if the vinyl comes with a lyrics sheet, but even though I don’t know all the words to it yet, I had the line “I don’t wanna be a teenage werewolf” stuck in my head the rest of the day after hearing it. I admit I can get a little judgy about opening tracks, but this is a great start to the record.

Two of my favorite songs on the first side had some unfamiliar names, so I had to look to the Internet for some answers. I’m not totally sure that I’ve gotten these correctly, but from what I can tell, Ahriman (“Arms of Ahriman”) is the evil, destructive spirit in Zoroastrianism, an ancient pre-Islamic religion of ancient Persia. Biollante (“Biollante’s Revenge”) is a giant monster (or kaiju) from the 1989 film Godzilla vs. Biollante. The plot seems weird and makes me want to see it. Both of these tunes have a cryptic, ominous vibe to them that I really dig, and showcase not just stellar songwriting, but the vocalist’s ability to actually sing while maintaining a voice that fits great in the genre.

“Time of Judgement” is also a banger, “Dos Fuertes” is a frenetic instrumental, and “Michigan” is a not-so-complimentary ode to their home state. Zoanoids are also able to mix it up, with “Overlord” on the second side as a breezy, almost ballad that changes the tempo a bit, before plummeting back into chaos on “Directive: Solbrain”.

Overall, it’s 13 tracks in 27 minutes, with only two tunes passing the two and a half minute mark, and it’s a record that I found myself listening to front to back, and then front to back again. Sometimes I felt like the friend in the group who is kind of chuckling along at all the references the group is making without actually knowing what they all mean, but it’s a party and I’m sure I’ll figure them out later.

RIYL: Ramonescore, Teenage Bottlerocket, Dark Thoughts, The Lillingtons, The Dumbheads, Radio Buzzkills, Houseghost, zombie apocalypses

Stream and download Zoanoids on Bandcamp here.

Like Zoanoids on Facebook here.

This review was written by Marcus Pond.

Monday, 25 January 2021

Album Review: Anti-Social Summer by Dead Rejects

Dead Rejects are a skacore band based in New Jersey. They’ve been on my radar since 2016 following a split with Positive Junk but have actually been releasing on a very consistent basis since 2012. In December of 2020 they released their latest EP which was titled Anti-Social Summer. Featuring three brand new songs of venomous skacore with big choruses, Anti-Social Summer promises to be another excellent addition to the Dead Rejects discography.

The first track on the EP is Play The Fool. Starting out with a short audio clip which says “my rage knows no bounds” before jumping into the song, you are greeted with Shane Sparacello’s visceral vocals. It’s an intense start but it really grabs your attention. When we reach the chorus, the song becomes more anthemic and is likely to get a crowd unified and singing along. The song is about putting on a mask to cover how you really feel, something we all have done at times. Next is the EP’s title track Anti-Social Summer. This song is a reaction to the summer of 2020 when everyone should’ve been staying home because of COVID-19. The track talks about how it was great to stay home all day and have lots of spare time, then how it got boring and hard for your mental health but ultimately knowing it was for a greater good. I would imagine over the next year we’re going to hear a lot of songs on this subject, I would wager that this will be one of the best. The melody at the start of the song really brings you in and when the pre-chorus and chorus come in it gets intense and really pumps you up. The final track on the EP is titled Quarter-Life Crisis. After a long introduction, Dead Rejects really crank up the intensity. Shane’s vocals spit venom throughout the track as he sings about everything that seems wrong in his world. It seems that the story of the song is about having a breakdown in your life because you’re not doing as well as society might dictate. I think the song could be very cathartic for a lot of people who may well feel the same. Sometimes life is very hard and society does put a lot of undue pressure on folk. Always remember your life is different to everyone else’s is and your goals and achievements are just as important and wonderful as the person next to you.

This is another fine release by Dead Rejects. There’s a lot of buzz around the ska scene in America at the moment and I feel like Dead Rejects should be a band that get mentioned way more than they do. If you’re a fan of Suicide Machines, Leftöver Crack or The Infested then you’ll love Dead Rejects.

Stream and download Anti-Social Summer on Bandcamp here.

Like Dead Rejects on Facebook here.

This review was written by Colin Clark.

Thursday, 21 January 2021

Album Review: Halloween Beach Party by Plastic Flamingos

Plastic Flamingos are a four piece band from Durham, North Carolina. Playing a mix of summer inspired pop punk with hints of 90s skate punk and power pop, the band who consist of Brian Summer (vocals/guitar), Elliot Schelske (guitar), Ryan Quinlan (bass) and Kevin Gavagan (drums) released their debut album Halloween Beach Party over halloween weekend of 2020.

Halloween Beach Party begins with You Can’t Spell Luau Without U. I was surprised to hear such a sad song to start the album. It’s about hoping to see someone at a party and being bummed out that they’re not there. Musically the track is quite slow and at times pretty crunchy but Brian’s high vocals give it a pop edge that I enjoyed. This feels like a very good indication of what to expect from the rest of the album. The next song is titled Guam, Baby, Guam and it really jumps out of the starting blocks. It’s a much more up-tempo track than the previous song and injects some real energy into the album. On the song, Plastic Flamingos sing about wanting to escape from the problems and responsibilities that come up in everyday life and head to the beach for some relaxation. I’m sure pretty much everyone reading this has related to this at some point in their lives, some of us probably every day.

The third track is Boardwalk Dairy Queen. This is a sweet song about love at first sight. This song is all about the lyrics. Brian does a fantastic job of making the lyrics feel visual; it’s very easy to imagine the movie of this song. The band have also managed to make the song feel quite urgent as well. I put this down to some chugging guitars and a pounding drumbeat. There’s also a nice surprise when the band get a ukulele out to add to the sweetness of the song. Up next is Heatwave. This track is about enjoying hot summers days with your friends and wondering when it will be possible to do so again. I’m not sure whether or not this song was written pre or post Covid-19 rearing its ugly little head but it’s definitely relatable either way. I miss seeing pals a lot so definitely get what Plastic Flamingos are talking about here. I’m not sure I’ve seen a sadder song title than Drink In My Hand, Tears In My Eyes in a long time. It’s one of the heavier and more emotional tracks on Halloween Beach Party. It’s about moving away from home and looking back on those times with fond memories. It was interesting to hear this sadder side of Plastic Flamingos.

Shipwrecked is a song about recovering from some mental health issues. It’s about trying to find your way back to your normal but not knowing the way there. I’m always all for bands talking about mental health so full credit to Plastic Flamingos for that. I feel like I’ve spoken about these songs being relatable a lot in this review and I’m going to again here – it’s relatable. The use of metaphors is magnificent as well. The penultimate song is titled Caribbean Love. The opening of the song weirdly reminds me of Where Have You Been? by Reel Big Fish. That might just be me though. Despites its name, Caribbean Love feels like quite a sad and melancholic song. During the track Brian sings about wanting to escape to somewhere lovely in the Caribbean with the person you love rather than being stuck somewhere cold and miserable. If it was me I’d probably moan about it being too warm but I’m a moody goth who hates sunshine. The final track is the album’s title track, Halloween Beach Party. This is a fun and uplifting way to finish the album. It’s a pop punk track that is guaranteed to put a massive smile on your face. I imagine it would be the set closer for the band. It’s about meeting up with all your friends to have a spooky party at the beach. It’s played at a faster tempo than anything else we've heard so far and really ensures that the album finishes on an energetic note.

What really drew me to this album was just how relatable a lot of the songs are. This will make the album accessible to a lot of people. I’m so impressed with the lyrics throughout the entire album. Musically it’s fun and breezy, if you don’t want to get too deep into the lyrics and just have a good time you can do that too. #PlasticFlamingosForFest19

As a little treat, Brian recorded a couple of acoustic songs for a CPRW project that sadly didn’t get off the ground. Check it out below.

Stream and download Halloween Beach Party on Bandcamp here.

Like Plastic Flamingos on Facebook here.

This review was written by Colin Clark.

Wednesday, 20 January 2021

Album Review: Go Outside by Eat Defeat (by Emma Prew)

Who releases new music on the 18th of December when everyone is listening to Christmas playlists? Eat Defeat, that’s who! Having been recorded in the spring of 2019, the Leeds-based pop punk band had been sitting on their latest EP, Go Outside, for quite some time. They initially unleashed it into the world back in March this year, when tours were being cancelled left, right and centre, but it was only available to download from Bandcamp for one day. Obviously I downloaded it there and then but as the EP has now had its ‘official’ – albeit unplanned – release, I felt it was time to give these song a proper review.

Summers, Eat Defeat’s bassist, lead vocalist and songwriter, describes Go Outside as ‘5 tracks that we wrote and recorded nearly 2 years ago but probably resonate more with me now than they did then. 5 songs of feeling trapped, uninspired, lonely but always looking forward.’ And if that doesn’t sound like something that’s much needed as the shitshow that is 2020 comes to an end, then you should probably stop reading now.

Go Outside kicks off with Turn-About Ranch as we are greeted by pounding drums and melodic guitars. After a few seconds the vocals come in with Summers uttering ‘Not today, I’m kind of sick and tired of forcing a smile, And I’m sure you are too.’ Eat Defeat sure are good at writing simple yet relatable songs and this is not exception. Turn-About Ranch is about that overwhelming feeling of wanting to hide away from ‘real-life’ while not exactly feeling sad but just feeling okay. It’s a fast paced track that only just surpasses a minute in length but the band manage to pack a lot in, including the introduction of keys which bring a slightly more electronic sound to the EP than you’d perhaps have expected from Eat Defeat previously. It’s a sound that is continued on the second track, Everything Is Broken, with the opening line of ‘Everything is broken, But I’m not, But I’m not.’ featuring plenty of reverb – a striking opening for sure. Those pounding drums and guitars are as apparent as in the first track but they are also joined by an infectious synth-like sound. A continuation of the themes that are covered on Turn-About Ranch, Everything Is Broken is about trying to overcome the despair that keeps you trapped inside, both physically inside your home and inside your own head, and start to make amends. The chorus – which is the same as the opening lines of the song – feels like a triumphant call to arms and is certainly as good as anything on the band’s 2018 album I Think We’ll Be OK.

The third song is titled Panic, a feeling that is emphasised by the urgent guitars that the band open with. The previous two tracks did some things a little differently to existing Eat Defeat material, whereas this feels like the band we already know and love. Both sides of Eat Defeat are great, of course, but with Panic I felt immediately attuned to it and it’s a song I’ve listened to a lot lately. Panic certainly wouldn’t sound at all out of place on I Think We’ll Be OK, particularly with that catchy, instantly sing-along-able chorus – ‘So I’ll wait ’til the panic sinks in, The water’s rising, The pressures building. I can’t focus on anything, Until my heart slows, Just keep on breathing in and out.’ The song has obviously been written as a way for Summers to deal with his own feelings of anxiety but I think it can also be a comfort to anyone who might be feeling similar things.

Chance Would Be A Fine Thing is the name of the fourth song and the band show no signs of slowing down as the track opens with a frantic guitar riff. With the opening lyrics of the song offering a nice little nod to where the band have come from – ‘I watched you walk away, You said I think we’ll be okay.’ – the song feels more direct and distinctly personal than the others, as Summers sings of feeling lonely and missing someone dear to him who lives in a different timezone. I’ll be honest, it’s the kind of subject matter that I often cringe at, especially in pop punk music, but with Eat Defeat it just feels so sincere and genuine. There’s also some brilliant harmonies at the end of the song – damn, I miss seeing Eat Defeat live! The last track on Go Outside is Wake Up. Like Panic, this is a song I’ve listened to a lot this year – partly because it was actually released as a single all the way back in January, before the world imploded. The track has it all, from super catchy melodies and euphoric harmonies to rousing lyrics that make you want to throw your hands in the air and shout ‘Yes! I know exactly what you mean and how you feel’. The whole thing sounds huge and the breakdown around the halfway point of the song further emphasises this before leading us into some of the most poignant lyrics of the whole EP. ‘It took a long, long time, To write down what was on my mind, I couldn’t do this without you, And I don’t think that I’d want to. I can’t stop myself from falling apart, But I hope that you can, And I hope that you will.’ 

The release of Go Outside may not have gone quite as planned for Eat Defeat but I’m so glad that it’s now out there in the world for all to hear. This EP is brilliant and certainly some of the best material the band have produced to date and it really has me excited to see and hear what they do next.

If Go Outside happened to pass you in December by please make sure you check it out now, you won’t regret it.

Stream and download Go Outside on Bandcamp and like Eat Defeat on Facebook.

This review was written by Emma Prew.

Monday, 18 January 2021

Album Review: The Erin Rose EP by Good Friend

On December the 11th, Irish punk trio Good Friend surprised us all with the release of their long awaited new EP. Titled The Erin Rose EP, it comes four years after their last Red Scare release Ride The Storm. This was the release that made me aware of the band and it’s been a long four years waiting for some new stuff. It’s finally here, it’s three songs, let’s dive in.

The EP begins with Erin Rose Drinks On Shift. This is a generous slab of mid-tempo heartfelt punk rock. The song gets off to a nice energetic start and there is a bit of a comforting feeling when lead singer Adam’s vocals come in. Something I really loved about the first half of the song is that it feels like a big sing-along despite not being the most bombastic of tracks. I guess this has something to do with the melody that really hooks itself into your head. As we enter into the second half of the song there is a bridge that ups the tempo of the song and things seem to get a bit louder which ensures a big finale. Up next is We’ll Burn That Bridge When We Get To It which is an amazing song title. This is a slower, anthemic track that really showcases the full range of Adam’s voice. Personally I think he’s at his best when he’s at his most emotional. The song talks about working through your mental health problems and knowing that there will be a light at the end of the tunnel. The simple drum beat that provides the backbone for the entire song somehow adds to the emotion that pours out of the song, something you don’t often hear. The final song is Rusted Friends. On this song Adam performs solo, which really adds to the emotion of the track. I’ve never seen Adam perform solo but I imagine it would be an emotional time. This is a love letter to the pals in bands who dedicate their lives to life on the road and the highs and lows of touring. A tour can be full of amazing moments but can also be hard physically and mentally. This is a song that’s equal parts sad and uplifting, Adam’s voice is sombre throughout but the message that comes through at the end is one of victory.

Four years is a long time to wait for new music but it really was worth it. Good Friend are one of the European punk scene’s best kept secrets. Fingers crossed we’ll be able to hang out this year when they tour with Red City Radio.

Stream and download The Erin Rose EP on Bandcamp here.

Like Good Friend on Facebook here.

This review was written by Colin Clark.

Wednesday, 13 January 2021

Album Review: Against The Gun by Celebration Summer

Celebration Summer are a four piece band from Washington DC brought together by a shared love of late 80s/early 90s melodic punk rock. Channeling bands such as Leatherface, Samiam and Hot Water Music, Celebration Summer released their debut EP (excluding a demo and a cover) Against The Gun on Little Rocket Records in November of 2020. I discovered it by searching out bands for an upcoming CPRW Records compilation and enjoyed them so much I had to review it as well. 

Against The Gun begins with Bitter End. The song opens with each instrument coming in separately. This is a great way to start as it has you listening intently and builds towards the vocals. Having hopefully already read the introduction to this review I’m sure you can guess what the vocals are like from the bands listed but, in case you don’t know those bands, they are really powerful vocals, verging on gruff and really command your attention. The track is an extremely catchy one to start the EP and welcome you into what to expect from Celebration Summer on the rest of the EP. Up next is I Don’t Want To Be A Burden. The track begins with some uptempo guitars before some sharp vocals come in. Something that always catches my attention is when a song starts with a question so my ears well and truly pricked when I heard the opening line of “what did it mean?” This is a song about self improvement and trying to save a relationship, perhaps something most of us have related to at some point in time. This is definitely a song that is listened to best when it’s really, really loud.

The third song on Against The Gun is My Devotion. The vocals on the track, for the most part, felt a lot more restrained than on the previous two songs – really allowing the driving guitars, melodic bass and intricate drums to shine. As the song progresses it feels as if the reins get looser and looser and this really adds a lot more emotion to the track. The track is about trying to navigate your way through life and how it can feel like your wheels are spinning, things move on and you get left behind. Another really relatable subject. The final song is the six minute epic Against The Gun. This is an incredibly powerful song and one of the most poignant of 2020. It’s a song that is about feeling like everyone is against you and knowing they won’t come to your aid even when your life is at risk. The song begins with cries of “I don’t know how much more of this I can take”, this immediately shows the anger and frustration that lead singer Nate has with how they are treated. I don’t know whether or not this song was written before or after the moment when George Floyd was shot by American police officers last year but that moment really opened up a lot of people’s eyes to the horrible racism that happens in the USA and all over the world, making this song and songs like it even more poignant. If you only listen to one song on this EP, I really suggest it be this one.

Celebration Summer are a band I expect to hear a lot more from in future years as they are superb. Hopefully their relationship with Little Rocket Records will allow them to tour the UK sooner rather than later as this is a band that I feel like a lot of people will enjoy and deserve your attention.

Stream and download Against The Gun on Bandcamp here.

Like Celebration Summer on Facebook here.

This review was written by Colin Clark.

Friday, 8 January 2021

Album Review: The Big Fat Fib by Fat Chance

I first discovered Fat Chance on a Bandcamp Discovery session whilst hunting out bands for a new CPRW Records compilation. Whilst not fitting the bill of what I needed for the comp, I did absolutely love the band so added their newest EP The Big Fat Fib to my review list. Fat Chance are a ska punk band from New Jersey consisting of Ferris Denequolo – Guitar/vocals, Weftin Mohr – Bass, Shawn Werman – Drums, Lacey Liptak – Saxophone and Bryan George – Trombone/Trumpet. The Big Fat Fib was recorded live in a studio over a year ago but the band never had a reason to release it until Election Day came around last year. I’m glad they did as I might never have discovered them.

The first of the three songs on the EP is one of my favourites of 2020. Lies is an upbeat and soulful ska number that never fails to get me dancing in some capacity. It’s the sort of song that really gets you moving and never ceases to put a smile on my face. The track is about having lies spread about you and what happens because of that. This is a song I’m really itching to see live at some point, I imagine that it’s a lot of fun! Next is Don’t Rape Yer Comrades. Obviously, from the title, you know that this is a serious and heavy song. The band go towards the skacore sound as Denequolo angrily sings about what absolute scum rapists are. This is perhaps the type of song that should come with a trigger warning but also it’s so important for people to call out this behaviour and make sure that EVERYONE knows that this is not an OK thing to do. It’s mad that people would think otherwise. Finally we have Modern Politics. Modern Politics is song that jumps expertly between styles. It starts out with an extended introduction that is super heavy and features some wailing horns before switching to more of an uptempo ska style before reverting back to the heavier sound. The vocals are most prevalent during the middle section of the song where Denequolo sings very speedily about the state of modern politics and how much politicians lie to people and that sooner or later people will revolt. I can see more and more in US and UK politics (and I suspect in many other countries all over the world) that people are becoming increasingly angry about how politicians act so this is another song that was important to get out into the world.

The Big Fat Fib is a great, if not a little short, EP. It seems that the only ska bands from the USA that a lot of people talk about are those associated with Bad Time Records (people should talk about them as they’re all great) but there are also many others deserving of our attention. Fat Chance are one of them.

Stream and download The Big Fat Fib on Bandcamp here.

Like Fat Chance on Facebook here.

This review was written by Colin Clark.

Thursday, 7 January 2021

Album Review: Battle Of Armadogeon by Baldhead And The Dreads

We’ve covered Baldhead and the Dreads a lot on CPRW. Before the world broke, the four piece were basically the house band at New Cross Inn in South London. Playing their own unique brand of ska punk that they’ve dubbed Paul Smith Core, the band always put on a fun show. With no gigs this year the band decided to use their spare time to make their second EP. Released by INiiT Records in November, the EP is titled Battle Of Armadogeon and was recorded in bedrooms during the first lockdown.

The EP begins with a song that’s become a big favourite at Baldhead gigs, Smoke Weed Pet Dogs. If you are already familiar with the band then you’ll be aware that drugs and dogs made up a big portion of their debut EP, It’ll Be Fiiine…, and it’s nice to see them not stepping away from their roots. Co-vocalist James takes the lead on the song which is extremely catchy. I think a big part of why people have grown to love Baldhead so much is that a lot of songs are quite simple, easily accessible and a lot of fun. Up next is Buckfast And Weed which amazingly is the first song the band has written that is 4:20 in length. Ell takes over lead vocal duties on this track, which shows off a heavier side of the band whilst interjecting brief moments of ska and reggae along with some dub for good measure. The song is largely instrumental, allowing the band to show that they’re good musicians alongside being able to write catchy tunes.

First Class War is a stand out track for me. Returning to their trademark upbeat ska punk sound, James gets political on a song about the frustrations regarding the differences in classes and how the rich people should be made to pay more taxes to help pay for important services. Listening carefully to James’ lyrics I found the song incredibly relatable and I’m sure everyone listening will share the frustrations James sings about during the song. This is perhaps the best song they band have written so far. The penultimate track, Crufts, is another that the band have played live in the past. It’s about how people breed dogs with the intention of them being just for show. It’s a terrible thing to do and I love that Baldhead wrote a song about it. The last two tracks have shown how the band is more than willing to tackle serious topics alongside the more fun and ridiculous. The final song is a bonus track named Lockdown. It’s a slower, reggae song where Ell’s gravelly vocals tell a story of the feelings and frustrations of life in lockdown. Ell sings about how we’ve all been feeling during 2020. When I first heard the song the lyrics hit me hard, as I’m sure they have for a lot of people. Fantastic songwriting.

I think it’s fair to say that this wasn’t how Baldhead And The Dreads wanted to release their second EP into the world. They could’ve easily waited for a time when things had improved (whenever that might be!?) to release Battle Of Armadogeon but I’m glad they didn’t. This EP really shows a band coming on leaps and bounds. The days when Baldhead were thought of as that band that hang around New Cross are long gone, they’re now a proper band – a very good proper band.

Stream and download Battle Of Armadogeon on Bandcamp here.

Like Baldhead And The Dreads on Facebook here.

This review was written by Colin Clark.

Wednesday, 6 January 2021

Album Review: Empty Spaces by Reverse (by Chris Bishton)

Reverse first started in the early 90s. Hailing from Stoke in the UK and once described as a gritty, melodic, hardcore band on the Damaged Goods label, for me they always also had a definite pop-punk bearing.

They often drew comparisons to their very British contemporaries Snuff, Leatherface, China Drum et al, particularly as I think they recorded a few times in Newcastle, which possibly involved Frankie Stubbs's input, and they also played a gig there with China Drum after they'd split.

After going their separate ways in 1997, they briefly reformed putting out an album, Chasing Ghosts, on the Japanese SP Records in 2011, only to split again. Now, it seems, they're still not done and they're back again. They might not be prolific, but my god, they're durable.

As I always do, I have a quick count up of how many songs are on the album and how long the record is. Twelve songs in just over half an hour, rightly or wrongly, ticks the first punk record requirement box for me. It means I'm over the first hurdle of perhaps being a bit reticent to go back to a band I'd loved, but maybe I should leave in the past.

With that thought, I hit play and the opening title track, Empty Spaces, kicks in. It's the first new music I've heard from them in nearly 10 years, but the sound is unmistakably them. I'm so pleased they've stayed close to their roots. Guitar joined by drums, as the two combine to gather speed and really crisp vocals. The chorus "if you're not sure… is this a world worth fighting for" is an instant earworm.

There are so many songs on this album vying to be the catchiest. Undone is just one, with a great mix of soaring guitars and alluring vocals, followed by my favourite track Broken Windows. It builds for the first 20 seconds or so with guitar then drums, before the vocals start and the song really kicks off.

The album's tempo skips along well. For some reason Stay Angry, Fire Flies and the penultimate track Northern Soul, standout for me. I say "standout", but I realise when I listen to this again and again my favourites on the album change, which is unusual for me as I can be a bit of an "I know what I like type".

The album concludes with the song Bloody Mary & Grant Hart, a brilliant song title if ever I've heard one. Like the rest of the album the pace of it is perfect, somehow allowing me to grin and singalong both at the same time.

In a year that's been so bad for so many reasons, we've actually had a tonne of great music released and this album is right up there as one of my favourites. Perhaps a bit surprisingly, but they absolutely deservedly should be welcomed back with open arms with this new record. And whilst gigs may still be hard to come by, once we're out of this mess I really hope these guys do a few shows because, judging by their album, they'd put on a hellava comeback performance.

*Fun Fact: the first time I listened to this was on a CD in the car. I liked it, but wow… the band had gone in a pretty different direction in their time away. It turned out there'd been a mix up at the pressing plant and the new Jaded Eyes album had been pressed on CD and included with the Reverse LP. Boss Tuneage sent out replacements to everyone as soon as they realised… so, as if you need reminding, another reason to support your independent punk label.

Find Empty Spaces on Bandcamp here and streaming on the usual platforms.

Like Reverse on Facebook here.

This review was written by Chris Bishton.