CPRW Playlist: Here's what Brett, Chris, Dan#2, Emma, Lara, Lee, Marcus, Omar, Richard, Robyn and myself have been listening to in February.
Friday, 26 February 2021
Thursday, 25 February 2021
The Cereal Killers are a new pop punk band out of New Jersey. I was lucky enough to discover them thanks to the Punk Rock Radar Instagram account – if you’re passionate about finding great new punk bands then I seriously suggest following them. In January, the four piece band released their debut EP titled Force Feeding Unhealthy Cereal Knowledge. From that title and looking at the artwork for the EP, which features the four members of the band dressed as a Dracula, a rabbit, a tiger and a frog forcing cereal upon a tied up child, it’s obvious they are a band that doesn’t take themselves too seriously. Another clue on that is that they’re called The Cereal Killers. The EP features six songs that put a big smile on my face.
The EP begins with Magically Delicious. The track starts out with an audio clip of a bowl of cereal being made before it jumps into a drum roll and some guitars. Soon enough the vocals come in and we’re treated to a melodic pop punk song about the band’s love of Lucky Charms cereal despite knowing how bad they can be for you. It’s a mid-tempo song with a catchy melody that will certainly get you tapping your toes. Next is Hey Mikey Likes It which sees The Cereal Killers play a ska style. I was not expecting this but I really enjoyed it. This sound doesn’t hang around for long as the band soon hit the chorus where they revert back to a pop punk sound. The song is about a cereal named Life (something we don’t have in the UK) and the bands love for its simplicity. During the pop choruses I’m really reminded of the song Life, Hey Mikey by the McRackins. Batman Bank starts out with a much higher tempo than the previous two tracks giving the EP an injection of energy. On this track, the band talk about classic Batman cereal and bemoan the fact that they kept making Batman sequels but stopped making the cereal. It’s hilarious how passionate the band are on this subject.
The second half of the EP begins with Perfect Saturday. The track has a quiet and slow build that eases you into the song. As it progresses, the track does get more expansive without really hitting any massive highs. The song’s lyrics are the real highlight. They paint a perfect picture of a dream Saturday, eating cereal, watching cartoons and playing Nintendo. Sounds like a top quality day to me! The penultimate song is titled Silly Rabbit. My immediate thought on the song was that it has a darker tone than anything previously on the EP. The track has a couple of really interesting and catchy guitar riffs that really stand out, giving the song a really serious feel. Obviously, it’s not serious at all, it’s about cereal. Last up is Young Frankenberry. Things get heavy here – heavy for The Cereal Killers anyway. Sonically there is a hardcore vibe but the song manages to keep a great melody throughout. I’m probably going to get slated for this but it actually reminds me slightly of very early AFI and I love it. We don’t have Frankenberry cereal in the UK but after a little research I discovered that it is only sold in America around Halloween and the song is about how the cereal mixes four different flavours together to create something else. Frankenberry – Frankenstein, I get it!
Obviously this is an EP to take deadly seriously and to live your life by all the messages that spill out of it. Force Feeding Unhealthy Cereal Knowledge really made me jealous of all the different types of cereal that they have in America. We’re missing out on a lot of sugary goodness over here in the UK!
Stream and download Force Feeding Unhealthy Cereal Knowledge on Bandcamp here.
Like The Cereal Killers on Facebook here.
Wednesday, 24 February 2021
I’ve recently been listening to Beach Bunny’s latest EP, Blame Game, a lot (I recently reviewed it as well if you want to check that out) and it was through Beach Bunny that stumbled across fellow Chicago-based band Hospital Bracelet. Hospital Bracelet are a three-piece emo band consisting of Eric Christopher on lead vocals and guitar, Arya Woody on bass and Manae Hammond on drums and I was blown away by their latest release. South Loop Summer is the band’s debut album and it was released by Counter Intuitive Records on 17th January. Here’s what I have to say about it…
The first of seven tracks on the album is its title track, South Loop Summer. Opening with a melodic and slightly fuzzy guitar riff, this first song serves not only as a great introduction to the record but also an introduction to Hospital Bracelet’s own brand of emotional pop punk. The track is about feeling stuck in your life, missing your friends who are miles away and simply wanting to be anywhere else but where you are right now – ‘Why are all my friends in Ohio? I’m 6 hours away from everywhere, I wish I could be, I can’t keep telling myself to be a better version of me’. There’s a bitterness in Eric’s vocals that really shows the frustration with their situation. Sober Haha Jk Unless is up next and here Hospital Bracelet take their emotion on display to another level. It’s a quieter sounding song and there is a real sense of fragility in Eric’s vocals that manages to be both soft and powerful at the same time as they sing about battling with sobriety. The songwriting and delivery of the vocals do an incredible job of making you realise just how difficult giving up alcohol (and other substances) can be.
Kicking things off with a bold, reverberating emo-style guitar riff before the pounding drums and deep bass line come in as well, Happy Birthday is a faster paced ear worm of a tune that has a great sense of building throughout its verses. It kind of reminds me of Camp Cope – which is no bad thing. The chorus of ‘Happy birthday to you’ is far from the cheery tone that you might typically associate with that phrase, as the song is about wanting to forget someone whom you don’t hold fond memories of in your mind. If big fuzzy, almost grungey guitars are your thing then you may well like the breakdown section of this track. The repetitive but super compelling emo-style riffage continues into the fourth track, Feral Rat Anthem. Like Sober Haha Jk Unless, this is a slower paced tune but it packs no less punch than some of the louder songs on the album. Eric grows angrier and angrier throughout the track’s four minute duration while singing about a particularly despicable and toxic human being. The culmination of all that pent-up anger results in a stunning bridge section that sees out the song – ‘None of this is fucking tight, None of this has ever been right, ’Cause everyone knows you’re a lying cheat, And I hope you’re always feeling incomplete, And you can go rot in hell, And I really hope you learn and never forgive yourself, Because everyone knows you’re a lying cheat, And I hope you’re always, always feeling, always feeling, always feeling, from everyone you hurt, I hope you’re always feeling incomplete’.
I may have mentioned already that this is an emotional album but with Sheetz vs Wawa Eric truly lays bare some of their most intimate and troubling thoughts and feelings – ‘I'm tryna figure out where I went wrong, Have you been this person all along? The couch wasn't good enough for you, Climbed into my bed when I begged you not to’. The song is about dealing with being at your absolute lowest low and struggling to define what it is that is expected of you. It’s difficult to know what more to say about such a deeply personal song so I’ll just suggest that you listen to it (and the whole album) yourself instead. The penultimate song on South Loop Summer sees the volume and pace cranked up for a relentlessly catchy, relatively short Dungeons & Dragons themed track. With Sour OG RPG, Hospital Bracelet cleverly have a song that is seemingly about being an unsuccessful character in everyone’s favourite role playing fantasy game but could quite easily translate to real life relationship problems. Musically, I’m reminded of Paramore but you wouldn’t ever find Hayley Williams singing ‘I’m a small rogue with no self-control, Chaotic neutral who, Can’t find a home, And you’ve got the people lining up at your door, You’re a bard with a guitar with a voice for the scoreboards’. I love this song so much and, damn, I miss playing Dungeons & Dragons. Bringing the album to a close is Summer Friends. I always think it’s fairly important for a closing track on an album or EP to sound like the last song and that’s certainly what we have here. Summer Friends feels like a combination of all that came before it – and then some. It’s emotional, of course, but it also feels more hopeful and resilient than some of the preceding tracks on the album. Lines such as ‘And I will keep on playing shows, And writing music no one knows, Because it’s worth a shot.’ make me want to throw my fist in the air in unity and agreement. The song, and indeed the album, feels like end of a certain chapter in Eric’s life before they move on to bigger and better things.
Is this my favourite album I’ve heard so far this year? Yes, I think it is. It’s been a little while since I’ve been this excited about a new band and/or new album – I literally discovered this band two days prior to me writing this review – and I want everyone I know to check this out. Please.
You can stream and download South Loop Summer on Bandcamp and like Hospital Bracelet on Facebook (although it looks as if the band is more active on Twitter and Instagram so maybe find them there instead?).
This review was written by Emma Prew.
Monday, 22 February 2021
Beach Bunny are an emotional indie rock meets power pop band from Chicago, Illinois, who, until coming to write this review, I didn’t realise were quite as ‘big’ as they are – they have their own Wikipedia page and over 3 million monthly listeners on Spotify! The band started out as the bedroom-based solo project of Lili Trifilio in 2015 and, after releasing a number of solo EPs, the band expanded to a four-piece. In February 2020 – on Valentine’s Day no less – the band released their debut album on Mom + Pop Music, Honeymoon, which was highly rated not just in indie rock circles. It was not long after this that I discovered the band and Honeymoon was on regular rotation for me throughout the Spring last year.
At the beginning of this year, 15th January to be precise, the band released a new four-track EP titled Blame Game. I must have missed the initial release of the EP as it’s now early February (at the time of writing this) and I’ve only just checked it out thanks to one of the songs popping up on my Spotify Release Radar but I am absolutely loving these four new songs.
First up on Blame Game is Good Girls (Don’t Get Used). Lili’s vocals take centre stage right away with the rhyme of ‘Say you miss me, Say you wanna kiss me’ immediately grabbing the listener’s attention. It’s a catchy tune from the outset and is oozing in feel-good vibes as Lili sings of being fed up of being messed around by a guy and saying that enough is enough. Rather than being a woe-is-me tale of heartbreak – something that I feel a lot of the tracks on Honeymoon could be described as – this is an empowering anthem that declares ‘I don’t need people like you in my life and I’m going to be just fine without you’. Love Sick is the name of the second track on Blame Game and it opens with a brilliantly infectious indie-style guitar riff that instantly has me grooving in my seat. You might think from the title of the song that Love Sick is about pining over someone but it’s actually more about being sick of love and the pressures to be ‘in love’ for a young twenty something year old woman – ‘Sick of love, I’m tired of the bullshit, Fed up with subtracting names, Need someone that isn’t an equation, Only adding up to pain.’
There’s a feeling of bitterness seething underneath the opening lines of third track, Nice Guys. After starting out fairly slowly and stripped back for the first few lines of the song, it’s not long before some crunchy guitars and pounding drums come in and build up to a hard-hitting chorus. Lili displays some of her finest lyrical work thus far with ‘I’m sick of nice guys, I want someone who actually wears hearts inside their eyes, And isn’t only interеsted in what's between my thighs, You win me likе a trophy, not a consolation prize.’ The track is a fuck you to so-called ‘nice guys’ who are far from as genuine as they seem. Bringing the EP to a close is its powerful title track, Blame Game. Musically it’s a fairly slow-paced and pleasantly melodic tune but it was the lyrics of the track that really made me stop what I was doing and pay attention when I first heard this song. Blame Game is about how people often try to justify sexual assault by saying things like ‘they were asking for it’ because of how they were dressed. The ‘blame’ is shifted to the person who has been assaulted rather than the actual abuser – ‘Guess it’s my fault my body’s fun to stare at, Sorry my clothes can’t keep your hands from grabbing, Yeah, it’s my problem, I’m asking for it, Guess you’re the victim and I’m the suspect’. It’s crazy that in 2021 this is still a problem and songs like this are needed. As Lili says, we should ‘Teach them why they shouldn’t do this, Instead of telling us [women] to hide.’
Although I enjoyed Honeymoon a lot at the time, this feels like a leap forward in terms of Lili Trifilio’s songwriting, as well as the subject matter she’s writing about. The songs feel more mature and, I guess being a good few years older than her myself, I feel like I can relate to these songs more so than the band’s previous material. With Blame Game, I feel like Beach Bunny have gone from adolescent heartache and superficial insecurities to really taking charge of their identity. These songs are passionately defiant and are the perfect combination of catchy indie punk melodies and lyrics with plenty of bite. If this EP is anything to go by, the next full-length Beach Bunny record is really going to pack a punch and I cannot wait to hear it.
You can stream and download Blame Game on Bandcamp and like Beach Bunny on Facebook.
This review was written by Emma Prew.
Wednesday, 17 February 2021
On a recent hunt around Bandcamp, I discovered this great band from South Wales named Bone IDL. I was immediately impressed with what I heard from the band and was gutted when I discovered I’d found them too late to see if they wanted to be on CPRW Records’ Hidden Gems 2 compilation. Not to worry as I have a blog, you’re reading it now, where I can showcase great underground bands. In December Bone IDL released their debut self-titled EP and here’s my review of it.
Synonymous is the title of the third track. This song shows off both sides of Bone IDL. The first half of the song is super melodic, the opening two verses are full of great hooks and it just builds wonderfully. When we reach around the halfway point of the song we are treated to a great guitar solo (that really shreds) before that intense vocal comes back and the song finishes in this heavy manner. This is another song about the ending of a relationship. The penultimate song is 1992. I think that this is a song about holding on to your youth and your dreams when everyone around you tells you to do otherwise. This is a song a lot of people I know will relate to. The opening verse has this great walking melody that gives the song a great energy and will get you moving. And, as soon as the chorus hits, it’s time for a big sing-along! The final track on the EP is Second To One. This is where Bone IDL really turn up ready to rock. The track had me headbanging the entire way through and I loved how it again got more intense as the song progresses. The song ensures that the EP finishes much like it began, with a ferocity that feels like getting hit by a brick.
Bone IDL are a new band that I can already see getting quite a following. They have a sound that I don’t hear that often anymore and that has me excited.
Stream and download Bone IDL on Bandcamp here.
Like Bone IDL on Facebook here.
Monday, 15 February 2021
It’s been seven long years since Devon roots punks Crazy Arm released their last album, the somewhat stripped back alt-country Southern Wild. A lot has changed in that time and I feel more in need of new music from this band than ever before. Dark Hands, Thunderbolts is the name of Crazy Arm’s fourth album and, as one of the UK’s most-loved DIY punk bands, there’s no denying that this release has been highly anticipated. Originally recorded back in 2016, with the final finishing touches having been put in place over the summer of 2020, the album has been a long time in the making.
Dark Hands, Thunderbolts sees the band return to the loud, fast riffs and Americana twang of their first two albums which, to be honest, is the Crazy Arm I want to hear. It might have been a long time coming but I have no doubt that this album will be well worth the wait. Darren was kind enough to send me an early preview of the album which, as a long-time Crazy Arm fan (they were literally the first DIY punk band I discovered), was incredibly appreciated. At the time of writing this, the album has not been released yet but by the time this review is published you’ll be able to check it out for yourself – so go, go, go!
Dark Hands, Thunderbolts certainly gets off to a flying start with the volume levels seemingly cranked up within the first few notes of the album’s opening track, Montenegro. It’s a dramatic sounding 30 seconds or so of instrumentation before things ramp up further for a fast and furious first verse. The track was written after a touring mishap in which the band were travelling to Slovenia, refused entry to Serbia, took a ‘shortcut’ through the Albanian mountains and ended up driving along a stunning Montenegro coastline only to arrive at the show with a small audience in attendance and minutes to spare. In summary, it wasn’t worth it but it was a lesson learnt and a story to tell – plus it makes for a fine album opener. Blessed And Cursed starts more slowly than the previous track with Darren’s powerful vocals declaring ‘There's hope for you and there's hope for me, But there's no hope for us, We washed our hands of these troubled lands, And left without much fuss, with no-one left to trust’. It’s a bold opening that leads us into a bluesy punk rock tune with slower paced verses intertwined between hard hitting, err, other verses. It’s hard to specifically categorise one section of the song as being a chorus or a bridge, instead the whole song seems to build triumphantly throughout its duration until a rather abrupt but suitable ending. Fun fact: This is the first Crazy Arm track to feature a trumpet (Simon Dobson) but hopefully not the last. (Spoiler alert: There’s more coming up.)
The foot-stompingly energetic and awesome ball of energy Brave Starts Here is next up. It’s a track I’ve been listening to a lot over the past few months, since the band released it as the first single from the album in November, and is also one I’m pretty sure I’ve heard live – although who knows when the last time I saw Crazy Arm live was! Described as ‘occupying that sweet spot between bluegrass and punk rock’ and featuring some suitably earwormy riffs and lyrical content, it’s easy to see why this was chosen as the lead single from Dark Hands, Thunderbolts. I can already imagine this song being a crowdpleaser alongside classics such as Still To Keep and Tribes, maybe it’s something about those soaring whoa-ohs towards the end of the track. One thing Crazy Arm have always been very good at is creating hugely atmospheric sounding songs that feel like the pages of a novel brought to life. That’s exactly the feeling I get from the fourth track, Fear Up. Something about the way the song switches from gentle finger picked guitars to a chugging rhythm section and onto an almost eerie, resonating guitar part which is later completed with a distinct trumpet melody, just feels so cinematic. Lyrically, the song is a dark one (‘Lonesome and tender, broken and gone, Death loves a cold heart, death wait your turn.’) and the title itself is US military slang for silencing citizens through the threat of violence. A powerful and thought-provoking track if ever there was one.
Dark Hands, Thunderbolts features two instrumental interludes and the first of which, Dearborn, is up next. The violin (Samantha Spake) takes centre stage and the track feels very much like a continuation of the cinematic feelings I was getting with the previous song. It’s a beautiful piece of music that seems to allow the listener to pause for breath and contemplate. As the violins fade away we are soon thrust into a distortion heavy and bassy introduction to the sixth track on the album, The Golden Hind. Injecting political themes into their music is certainly nothing new for Crazy Arm and with The Golden Hind they take aim at the band’s Brexit-voting hometown – ‘So please be kind to The Golden Hind, And say oh-oh-oh-oh, It’s not our fault that we’re deaf, dumb and blind, We say oh-oh-oh-oh.’. The passion and frustration is clear throughout the track’s three and a half minute duration – this is definitely a song to be played loud. Starting out with an attention-grabbing bass line and simple drum beat, Loose Lips is another song that is begging to be played really loud – basically, this whole album needs the volume cranked right up! The song is a truly powerful ode in solidarity with refugees. In fact, for much of the song, the lyrics seem to be from the point of view of the refugee – ‘Personification of dependency, I’m the one who knocks upon the door of need, Demystification got a hold of me, Watch the scales fall from my eyes and set me free.’. I imagine most Crazy Arm listeners are decent human beings who already sympathise with refugees but, on the off chance there are some who are less kind, maybe this song will win them over. It’s an incredible track either way.
Mow The Sward takes a slightly different turn musically, reining in a notch on the post-hardcore vibes of the previous couple of songs and instead going for a more straight up melodic, almost heartland rock style. There are parts of the song that wouldn’t sound out of place on Crazy Arm’s debut album, Born To Ruin, but that definitely doesn’t mean that this is a rehashing of old material. In fact, wedged in between the heavier sounding tracks, it sounds uplifting and fresh. Mow The Sward also features one of my favourite bridge parts of the album – ‘Fuck your views and fuck your advice, Think good thoughts and live a bad life, Gotta move fast, gotta work hard, Gotta knuckle down and play the right chords, Not comatose, not under-dosed, You gotta push ’til you explode, It's all the same, it always is.’ The ninth song of Dark Hands, Thunderbolts is titled …And You Will Know Us By The Trail Of Meds. It’s a frantic sounding song and, at less than two and a half minutes in length, is a pretty short one by Crazy Arm standards. Both of these elements further emphasise the theme of the song: mental health. In particular, the song focusses on the taking of medication – hence the title – to deal with ongoing depression. It’s a hard hitting track, both lyrically and musically, but is one that some listeners no doubt will be able to relate to. Paradiso is the second of Dark Hands, Thunderbolts’ two interludes and it somehow manages to feel even more cinematic than the first. The star of the show here is the almost dreamlike trumpet playing which is subtly backed up by gentle guitar strumming. It’s a melancholic interval that once again provides the listener with a moment’s pause before we get back into the last part of the album.
The eleventh song of the album comes in the form of the anthemic Epicurean Firestorm. The band were apparently trying for an Arcade Fire style song here which I guess they’ve achieved in that it sounds like a song that could be played in front of a large arena audience, with plenty of ‘Oh oh ohs’ for the crowd to sing back at the band. Overall, the track feels like a call to arms for like minded folk to stand up and be the change that they want to see. Let’s face it, we are living in dark times with the pandemic and climate change just two of the world’s biggest problems – ‘An epic plague, an epic fire, A new disease, a new desire, An endless flood, a killer swarm, We'll have to learn to save ourselves.’. As the album begins to draw to a close, don’t think for a second that Crazy Arm are about to tone things down. Howl Of The Heart is a passionate, reverberating punk rock number that has just the right level of Americana twang for it to be instantly recognisable as a Crazy Arm song. With the chorus mentioning open roads, lonesome crows and hungry wolves, I feel instantly transported to some far off North American mountain range… Did I mention that Crazy Arm have a knack for creating music that feels like you’re reading a book?
The penultimate song of Dark Hands, Thunderbolts is Demonised, channeling feelings of existential dread. Beginning slowly with a repetitive and firm guitar riff, there’s a feeling of building throughout the track’s duration which feels appropriate given that we are almost at the end of the album. Relatively speaking this is one of the more slow paced songs on the album but things do pick up, in terms of pace and volume, for a memorable chorus of ‘Call a doctor, chiropractor, Troubled waters run deep, Call a doctor, call a lawyer, Note to self: don't forget to breathe.’ and beyond into the track’s frenetic bridge. It’s a stark contrast when we come to Dark Hand, Thunderbolts’ closing track which kicks off with a distinctly bluegrass-sounding riff. Health Is In You! is perhaps a case of saving the best for last as this is one hell of a song. It’s catchy, it’s fiery and most importantly it is defiantly pro-feminist. The track is described as being a ‘rejection of patriarchy, a celebration of sensitivity, and a refusal to stay silent in the face of everyday sexism’ and I’d like to say that we don’t need songs like this in 2021, but we do. So, thank you Crazy Arm. ‘Just don't say it if you can't defend it, Just don't do it, we can all see through it, Just don't say shit if you can't defend it, I don't wanna, I don't wanna hear it, Just don't say it if you can't defend it, Man, don't say shit if you can't defend it.’
I’ll be honest, I am not used to reviewing albums that have more than ten songs on them – and Dark Hands, Thunderbolts has fourteen – but this is such a complex and well thought out, wide-ranging collection of songs that no song sounds out of place or unnecessary as part of the whole package. It’s an ambitious fourth album, that’s for sure, but I certainly think Crazy Arm have pulled it off.
Dark Hands, Thunderbolts is out now on Xtra Mile Recordings and you can find it in all the usual places, including on Bandcamp where you can pre-order the vinyl (which is due to ship in mid-March).
Like Crazy Arm on Facebook.
This review was written by Emma Prew.
Friday, 12 February 2021
The much loved and respected Manchester based DIY record label TNSRecords is just about to put out their 100th release. This is an incredible achievement and, before we delve deeper into the release, I just want to congratulate Andy and Bev for this huge accomplishment. Well done guys, it’s amazing!
When I discovered that TNS were closing in on their 100th release, I speculated to myself as to what it would be. I assumed that it would be a compilation but figured it would be a kind of TNS best of, featuring Andy and Bev’s favourite songs that the label has put out over the first 99 releases. Or perhaps it would be the current active bands on their roster covering songs from classic releases – that would be cool. Instead they decided to release a compilation featuring 33 bands that are a combination of the newer bands that TNS has released music by, as well as up and coming bands that they like and want to give some exposure too. TNS has always been about being progressive and looking forward and this is a fine example of that.
I probably should’ve mentioned by this point that the compilation is titled TNSRecords Volume 4: Cheap Cans, Broken Vans and Basement Bar Bands and it’s being released on vinyl and CD on the 19th of February. Buy it here.
Now on with the actual review. We don’t normally do compilation reviews for the simple reason that there are lots of bands – and to try and go into detail about each song will break me and also probably bore you. So, for this review, I’m going to try and give a running commentary on my thoughts of the compilation as I listen through it. I’m going to set myself a rule of only listening to each song three times to stop myself getting too detailed.
First up is Incisions and their song New Day. The Manchester based hardcore act have been carving out a big audience for themselves amongst the UK DIY scene over the past few years and their upcoming new album, Bliss, looks set to continue their momentum.
Jodie Faster play short and fast punk rock songs. The band have been together since 2016 and have already found a massive fan base for themselves. Don’t Take It Bad opens with a hyperactive guitar riff and the vocals add much ferocity to the track.
Midlands based four piece Brassick provide their song They Say. The track welcomes you in with a great melody before lead singer Nicola McCarthy’s powerful vocals take you through a hard hitting and political song that will unite a crowd.
Faintest Idea are long time friends of TNS and really HAD to be on this compilation. Stomp ’Em Down is the first single from their long awaited next album. If this single is anything to go by then it’s going to be fantastic. Mixing street punk with ska to incredible effect, Faintest Idea continue to be one of the best bands in the UK.
Fun fact: Nosebleed were the penultimate band I saw live before gigs stopped. They’ve gained a reputation for being one of the best live bands in the UK and are also pretty damn good on record too. Playing an amped up version of garage punk, the Leeds based three-piece are one of the most exciting bands in the UK at the moment and their song I Got You shows you exactly why. Fast paced, catchy and will have you getting your finest dancing shoes on.
Another of the UK’s most exciting new bands are Aerial Salad. Despite their young age, Aerial Salad seem like they’ve been around forever now and it’s been absolutely wonderful seeing them progress with each release. 2020’s Dirt Mall saw them take another giant leap forward with their grungey take on pop punk. Mainstream attention deservedly awaits Jamie, Mike and Matt.
In Evil Hour are a melodic punk rock band from Darlington, UK. The track 2050 is my favourite I’ve heard from the four piece. It begins slowly and builds and builds. The further you go into the song, the angrier it gets and it does a great job taking you along for the ride. Alice’s vocals are superb throughout, one of the best voices in UK punk rock.
DIY punk legends The Restarts provide the song Freedom From. Delivering a slice of thrashy hardcore punk rock from London. The song is unrelenting throughout and goes by like a tornado. Fast guitars, thumbing drums and snarling vocals.
Hastings’ punk act Haest are another new band quickly making a name for themselves. There seems to be an affinity between Hastings and TNS so it wasn’t surprising to find Haest on this album. The Turtle In The Handbag is a hard rocking punk song that has a bit of a throwback feel to it.
Another long time friend of TNS are Warrinton’s folk punks Roughneck Riot. The band took a short break in 2019 and were due to make their triumphant return in 2020. Unfortunately all of the tragedy of 2020 happened and they were unable to get back for any live shows but it seems they were able to get into the studio at some point to record some songs. The track, A New Day Is Dawning, is an uplifting song about better times being on the horizon.
Knife Club are a TNSRecords supergroup. There was a lot of mystery surrounding the band before they eventually revealed their members last year. Sadly they haven’t been able to play any shows yet but they did put out a phenomenal album in the form of We Are Knife Club last year. Fronted by Andy Davies (TNS/ROTPM) and Zoë Barrow (Casual Nausea), You Can Only Try Your Best is a new and unreleased song that is really empowering. This is perhaps my favourite thing from the band so far.
A lot of people have been talking about Bobby Funk in the past year and their song I’m A Cat has been proclaimed by many as the best song of 2020. Hailing from Falmouth in Cornwall, Bobby Funk play fast and straightforward punk rock that’s a lot of fun.
Harijan were one of the first bands that TNS released music by and, at the end of 2020, they finally released their debut album. Paranoid is one of my favourite tracks on the album. It’s an upbeat song that showcases lead singer Mike’s distinctive voice brilliantly. This is another song that you’ll need to get your dancing shoes ready for.
Youth Avoiders bring back the angry hardcore with their song Steel Concrete. A very apt name for such a hard song. There are no wasted moments in the song as the French band storm through the song. Steel Concrete actually comes from an album named Relentless which is the perfect way to describe this song.
Pi$$er are another super group who feature current and ex members of bands such as The Domestics, Revenge Of The Psychotronic Man, Doom, Beat The Red Light and many more. Playing d-beat hardcore with a saxophone, they are one of the more unique bands to have emerged in recent years and certainly one to look out for.
Bristol’s Martyrials offer up a synthesized take on the punk rock genre. This is clearly a band not afraid to venture outside of the box and they’ve managed to create something quite wonderful. Sonically Parachute will have you dancing away, there’s a great energy that gives the song an urgent feel and vocally there is plenty of bite.
Dundee gruff punks Uniforms have been a big favourite of mine for years now and I was very pleased to see them featured on the compilation. Searchlights comes from the EP Reasons To Breathe which was co-released by TNS and Make-That-A-Take Records in 2018. It’s an absolutely banging song from one of the UK’s best bands.
I can remember seeing Wales’ Grand Collapse at MPF 2 in 2016 and they seem to have had a relationship with TNS ever since. The four piece play blisteringly fast hardcore that will get a mosh pit moving like a hurricane or make a room full of people aggressively bang their heads in unison. Calvin’s vocals really make you pay attention to the song and the band show considerable skill with their instruments with some really technical riffs and drum lines.
Casual Nausea are a five piece from Ipswich. Casual Nausea are one of the UK’s most interesting sounding bands. Mixing street punk with hardcore, they feature great dual vocals that work incredibly well together. The song Empty Rewards is a real ear worm of a song that really stands out amongst all of the other great songs on this album. It’s really infectious.
Sandwiching Casual Nausea in a Welsh hardcore sandwich are Pizzatramp. Pizzatramp showcase the trashier side of hardcore, playing three chord punk rock as fast as they possibly can. I Got Work In The Morning tells a tale of not being able to live the life you really want to because you have your rubbish day job the next day. Something we can all relate to!
Everyone’s favourite folk punk band Stöj Snak are up next. The Danish band have a long running history with TNS dating back to lead singer Niels’ old hardcore band, Mighty Midgets. If you’ve been living under a rock and haven’t discovered Stöj Snak yet, they play passionate and angry folk punk and can inspire alongside really tugging on your heartstrings. A firm CPRW favourite.
Manchester’s The Sewer Cats are a duo who play fuzzy, distorted punk rock. On the song Rich Cheaters, I really enjoyed how the song manages to jump between an almost poppy garage punk sound to some really angry, visceral hardcore. This is a political song that’s very fitting for the current age.
The Domestics are from Suffolk and featured is the song Don’t Tell Me What Love Is. This is a rapid-fire hardcore track that never stops for breath. The vocals on the verse are so fast it’s quite hard to make them out but I’m guessing that the song is about not conforming to what THEY tell you love is, it can be whatever you want it to be. Have a listen to the song and see what you think is going on.
Former Bootscraper member Tim Loud throws a fantastic sonic curveball into the record. The long time associate of TNS provides a country tinged rock track that showcases their brilliant ability to tell a story through a song. This is the first physical release of Anyone Else But Me as it’s only been released digitally in the past.
Skinny Milk are a duo from Brighton. Playing fuzzy punk with a shoegaze element to their sound, Skinny Milk are a new band to me and already sound like one that could make a big splash on the DIY scene as well as a more mainstream one.
Daves are a band I’ve been excited about since Sarah from Shout Louder suggested them for Do It Together Fest in January 2020. Unfortunately they were busy playing another show that weekend so we were unable to book them and I am yet to see them live. I love their fast, gruff sound. This is the type of punk that gets me singing along with my fist firmly punching the air.
If you’ve been following TNS over the last few years you’ll be very aware of Follow Your Dreams. I always feel like hardcore is one of the hardest genres under the punk umbrella to make sound original but Follow Your Dreams found a way. Using a wide array of pedals to make some fantastic guitar tones, you never know where a Follow Your Dreams song is going to take you and Kaz is a superb frontperson for the band. When you can, check them out live.
Like their fellow folk punk comrades Roughneck Riot, Matilda’s Scoundrels recently took some time off but now they are back. The Hastings bands are another with a long standing relationship with TNS and their popularity has grown massively over the past few years. They are now one of the must-see touring acts on the circuit.
Falmouth’s Rash Decision are a long running band in the DIY scene, known for their fast and thrashy hardcore punk rock songs. Their track The Martockian has a nice long intro that really builds the song up before launching into an unrelenting minute or so that is full of everything you would expect – energy, aggression, urgency, passion and ferocity.
German hard rockers Christmas are a band TNS have been championing for a while. The song Push Fast is from the TNS released album Hot Nights In Saint Vandal. It’s a heavy slab of melodic punk with vile fuelled vocals and loads of whoa-oh harmonies that really pull you into the song.
Throwing Stuff’s no-nonsense approach to punk rock has long entertained me. It was quite a surprise when they released A.C.I.Y.H.A.B. out of the blue digitally last year. Its appearance here is its first physical release and I can’t think of a better place for it to be. The song is about changing your attitude towards what you’re taught about the police and realising what they can really be like. Sadly, not all police people are good eggs.
The penultimate track comes from who I think is the newest band on the compilation but they do have a long history with TNS. Redeemon are a band birthed from the ashes of Beat The Red Light who were one of the first bands on TNS’ roster. On the track Anaphylactic, Redeemon take the skacore and metal that BTRL were so loved for an add even more influences that shouldn’t work as well as they do.
The final song is from Speed Dinosaurs. Stegasaurid is the perfect song to finish the compilation with. It’s a softer, ukulele lead song about the dinosaur Stegasaurid. It’s fun and silly and really fits the TNS sense of humour that’s been apparent over the years.
Cheap Cans, Broken Vans and Basement Bar Bands is a fantastic showcase of the amazing talent doing fantastic things in punk rock at the moment. It’s a varied collection of tracks that has something for everyone. The different and diverse styles of punk rock will allow listeners to check out new styles that wouldn’t be their usual go to – I’m a big fan. The compilation is a fitting 100th release for such an important and influential album from the UK’s DIY scene.
Like TNSRecords on Facebook here.
Thursday, 11 February 2021
I’m always a fan of a good split, so when I saw that A-F Records were releasing a split single from Ship Thieves and Reconciler my interest was very high. I’ve been following Reconciler for a couple of years now but this was the first new music I’d known of from Ship Thieves in a little while and I was very keen to check out both songs.
Ship Thieves start the split with their song Nothing Now. For those unaware, Ship Thieves are the project of Hot Water Music’s Chris Wollard. As soon as the song begins and Wollard’s booming voice comes in there is a great feeling of familiarity. The song begins with a pounding drumbeat and some guitar effects that soon transition towards a more standard riff that you would perhaps expect from Wollard. When his vocals come in it’s a powerful moment that ensures the song has fully hooked its claws into you. I really enjoyed how urgent the song feels, in no small part to that drumbeat I mentioned earlier. I’m assuming that this song will be used for a full Ship Thieves release later in the year. If that’s the case, I am very excited to hear some more because this is great.
Reconciler’s track is named Push To Break. I’ve been following Reconciler since discovering their album Set Us Free in 2019 and I immediately became a fan. Push To Break is another great track from the Atlanta-based three-piece. The guitar riff that welcomes you into the song really pumps you with energy and the shift in key before the vocals come in really gets you ready to have a good sing. Those opening few lines come at you at quite the pace, again adding so much urgency, but when the chorus kicks in it’s a real fists in the air moment. Joseph Lazzari’s vocals sound brilliant throughout, whether it’s during the urgent verses or those big choruses. If you’re new to Reconciler then this is a great introduction to the band.
I’m assuming that both bands have new music coming out this year and this split is a great teaser for those. Dip your toes in now and before diving straight in later in the year.
Stream and download the split on Bandcamp here.
Wednesday, 10 February 2021
Manchester-based hardcore band Incisions are set to release their long awaited second album on 2nd April. The album, titled Bliss, is being released on TNSRecords and you can pre-order it, and read more about it, on their website now.
And, while you wait for the album to be released, you can check out the band’s top ten influences below:
I love everything about Poison Idea. I try and bring them up at some point with every person I meet. ‘Feel The Darkness’ is the place to start if you’ve not heard them before but the further you dig the more riffs you will fall in love with, the music is always so fast and heavy. A great balance of political fury and raw emotion spewed out by one of the best hardcore vocalists of all time. Not that hardcore vocalists are highly regarded in my experience.
John Reis (Rocket From The Crypt, Hot Snakes, Drive Like Jehu)
John Reis is the man behind so many amazing bands and, in my opinion, is deserving of one of punk’s many subgenres all by himself. Frontman and guitarist for Rocket From The Crypt, punk rock and roll with brass but NOT ska and one of the best live bands you could ever watch. He’s also behind pioneering post-hardcore/emo band Drive Like Jehu. I finally caught Hot Snakes on tour last year, another incredible band, and the way Speedo plays a guitar is just insane. I always adore his guitar tone whichever band he is playing in but watching him as lead guitarist for Hot Snakes just took my head off. I also strongly recommend The Sultans and Night Marchers, two more bands he fronts. Absolute legend.
Noise rock is my go to for guitar playing style. I grew up more immersed in the heavier side of the spectrum rather than punk. As I got older I realised how silly/contrived metal and its scene can be so immersed myself in noisy, dangerous sounding bands that didn't have or need that daft metal aesthetic. I could name SO MANY bands of this genre that have influenced not only my music tastes but my style as a guitarist but they all seem to have one common factor – Big Ste. Whether it's him and his guitar playing and shouting in Shellac and Big Black or his absolute joke of a list of seminal albums he's recorded with artists such as The Jesus Lizard, Slint, Pixies, Fugazi, Tad, Nirvana, Neurosis, Melt Banana, Godspeed You…, Metz… His left-wing political views, his opinions, artistic integrity and musical independence; it's safe to say that he is probably my most influential personality in music.
ALDI Galahad Premium Lager
£2.05 for four 440ml cans. Not too strong (anything stronger than this and I'll have my trousers in a carrier bag in about an hour), genuinely tastes better than other 4% lagers (I have done a taste test). After 4 cans of anything it all tastes the same anyway (except Carling, in which case I’d rather drink Tet’s urine). A throwback to my late 90s youth, when a tenner could get you piss your pants drunk and you'd still have change for 10 Lambert and a chip barm. Quantity AND Quality.
Anyone that’s had more than three drinks with me has probably heard me blabber on about how much I love this band. For me, they’re the perfect punk band. They write smart songs that tread a thin line between high brow and low culture. Poppy and melodic enough to sing along to but with enough underlined hardcore sensibility to pack a punch. I’ve always admired the way they approach politics in their lyrics, avoiding cliché slogans or preachy moral antics (not that there’s anything necessarily wrong with that kinda stuff). I feel like there’s a simplicity to D4’s music that has been imitated endlessly but, in my opinion, never truly matched.
I’ve probably been into comics since I learnt to read (possibly longer). Like most kids of my generation, I got into it through American superhero stuff, then some time in my early teens I discovered 2000AD and all of a sudden men in tight spandex seemed to lose its appeal. For anyone that doesn’t know, 2000AD is a weekly British sci-fi anthology, born out of the late 1970s punk rock era. Unlike many of the glossy, well kempt titles of its time, this comic dealt with troublesome anarchic anti-heroes and disguised political satire through larger than life science fiction settings. With its ultra violent imagery, dark humour and overtly anti-establishment tone, 2000AD blew my thirteen year old mind away and I’ve been reading it every week since.
Brandon Barnes (Rise Against)
My first influence would be Brandon Barnes from Rise Against. A lot of my early music influences I heard from my brother, who I owe a lot of thanks to, and it was Brandon's playing where I first was exposed to blastbeats and the driving power the groove gives (my brother and I used to call it the Rise Against Groove, as it is used a lot throughout their music). Rise Against's albums up to and including Endgame were basically on a constant repeat on whichever Walkman phone I had at the given time, and will always stick with me with how they influenced my pre/early teens into my early 20s. Brandon’s playing isn't just fast playing, but playing what the song calls for, and that’s what separates a great drummer from a fantastic one.
My other influence that I want to highlight is my hometown – Barnsley. Now, I get a lot of stick for being a Barnsley lad, and the town has seen its ups and downs, but it's these same ups and downs (mostly downs) that has spurred my disdain for the Tories and what their actions did to our town. A town decimated by one action and has limped through ever since, but despite this, Barnsley has some of the nicest, caring, considerate people that I have ever met. Barnsley is not without its issues, and I have heard that colloquialisms have changed since I moved from Barnsley, but the town that I grew up in will always be a part of me, and not only influences my anti-Tory political positions, but also my accent.
Always funny. We have an impressive amount of wigs and they regularly come out at gigs.
Toast of London
We use a lot of Toast of London references to insult and entertain each other and other people we meet who often have no idea what we’re on about.
Like Incisions on Facebook here.
Monday, 8 February 2021
Career Day are a four piece emo/pop punk band from Queens, New York. On New Year’s Day the band released their second EP. Titled Pride Was Somewhere Else, it features three brand new tracks from the band. They are also donating all money from downloads to the mutual aid funds of NYC DSA, Queens Care Collective, Nassau County DSA and Suffolk County DSA. Great new music and raising money for some great causes. Brilliant!
The name of the first song is Monument. After a quick audio clip, Desmond Zantua’s vocals immediately come in giving you a quick impression of what to expect from Career Day. Clean and dare I say poppy vocals accompany some interesting guitar tones and a drum beat that builds towards the song properly beginning. What really did attract me to Career Day is the high level of musicianship that’s found throughout the EP. As the song moves more towards the verses it gets more urgent and that’s when the song really comes into its own. A great start to Pride Was Somewhere Else. The second song is titled Deathbed Regrets. The track begins with some fantastic guitars and a great drum beat that really hooked me in from the beginning. When the chorus hits the song really comes to life and has me wanting to bounce. The song is about dealing with a break up and feeling bitter about it. I would’ve loved to have heard more gang vocals on the chorus, I think that would have taken the song to another level. The third and final song on the EP is Truth Changes. Again the song starts out with a great guitar riff that hooks you in. The guitar is joined by Desmond’s vocals. They’re quiet but move at a high tempo which makes for a very interesting sound. The urgent opening then leads to the full band coming in and playing the song in a chugging style. It’s the sort of melody that will get the crowd banging their head along with the song. As the song goes on it builds and builds, hitting some big highs before quietly finishing, bookending the track. The song is about moving on from your past and realising that everything changes whether you like it or not. This is probably my favourite song on the EP.
If you’re new to Career Day, like I was, then this is a great introduction. Emo is never my go to genre when I want to listen to new music but I really enjoyed Career Day and Pride Was Somewhere Else. It features some great songwriting and musicianship. I feel like it’s one of those releases you can listen to two dozen times and still find cool little intricate things that you like.
Friday, 5 February 2021
Our good friends in Burnt Tapes have just released a brand new cover song for us all to enjoy! The guys have been down to The Ranch with Daly George to record a cover of the Loverboys classic Working For The Weekend. Singer and guitarist Phil said "we were asked by Californian label Cleopatra Records to cover an 80s track as part of a comp that is coming out later this year. This track resonated the most because 'everybody's working for the weekend and everybody needs little romance' am I right people. Everybody needs some digital romance in the time of Corona!"
The band are working hard on their second LP that they hope to release later this year and they've also just released their first beanies that you can buy on their Bandcamp page now!
Thursday, 4 February 2021
Album Review: Scooter Jeezie: I Think It’s Your Turn To Take Out The Trash, Margaret by Old Bones Break Easy
Old Bones Break Easy is the solo/side project of Dave Cavallo who is the lead singer and guitarist of Texan skate/pop punk band Dropped Out. On Boxing Day, Old Bones Break Easy released a brand new EP Scooter Jeezie: I Think It’s Your Turn To Take Out The Trash, Margaret. The songs were recorded to be used in an episode of the podcast The One Stars. It’s four songs in just over six minutes. As you could imagine, I couldn’t wait to review this.
The first track on the EP is A Goofy Movie. At just over a minute long, the EP starts with its shortest song. It starts out quickly, getting you hyped for what is to come. Lyrically it’s super simple, it’s mostly “what’s your favourite movie?” for the majority of the song before proclaiming that A Goofy Movie is the best movie and if you think otherwise you’re wrong. Personally I’d argue the greatest movie ever is The Mighty Ducks (all three of them) but each to their own. Back To Bed manages to get up to seventy seconds long. I really liked the harmonies used throughout the song. It’s a more serious track about feeling like there’s nothing in your life worth getting up for so just wanting to spend all day in bed. I would have loved to hear a slightly longer version of this song so Dave could expand on what he’s saying in the track.
Dinosaur On A Skateboard is a fun song about Roger the skateboarding dinosaur. I’ve been doing CPRW now for five and a half year and I’m now quite sure that I’ve reviewed a song on every single topic. This is frankly ridiculous but it’s made me so happy. It makes me think of what would’ve been my favourite cartoon as a kid. Is there a cartoon about a skateboarding dinosaur? There should be – I’ve found the perfect theme tune. The fourth and final song on the EP actually takes up almost half of the EP’s duration which is a bit mad. It’s titled Bad Dong (Dad Bod). It’s another more serious song about getting older and wanting to be a really good dad. The song is more melodic than the previous songs and it makes me think of Lagwagon when they’re at their best. It’s nice to hear Old Bones Break Easy play a longer song that actually has a bit more substance. What a great way to finish the EP.
If you’re after a short EP that will make you smile then look no further than Scooter Jeezie: I Think It’s Your Turn To Take The Trash Out, Margaret. It’s important to find fun things, these days more than ever, so I thank Old Bones Break Easy for this.
Stream and download Scooter Jeezie: I Think It’s Your Turn To Take Out The Trash, Margaret on Bandcamp here.
Wednesday, 3 February 2021
Surely by now you’ve noticed the massive resurgence in American ska punk that’s been happening over the past couple of years. Bad Time Records, the California-based label, have been at the forefront of this movement. In December they put out their latest release which was the self-titled debut from New Orleans group Bad Operation. The album, which was co-released by Community Records, had a lot of hype behind it before it was released and has earned rave reviews since. It’s now time for my rave review.
The album begins with the song Perilous. This is a great introduction to Bad Operation’s new tone style of ska music. They take that two tone style made famous by bands such as The Specials and The Selecter and give it a fresh coat of paint. The song starts out in an upbeat fashion which really caught my interest immediately. The first time you hear Dominic Minix’s vocals is a special moment – they are super soulful and impossible to ignore as Dominic sings about finding solace in music when your mental health is giving you problems. Next is Bagel Rocks which starts out with some marvellous keyboard playing from Daniel “D-Ray” Ray. With its simple but catchy “oh oh oh oh oh oh, oh oh oh oh oh oh” chorus I can see this being a real crowd pleaser when they play it live. It’s about trying to learn from your mistakes and growing as a person, something we all could try and do. It’s crazy how a song with that chorus can be so deep but Bad Operation pull it off brilliantly. The opening guitars on Brain give me great Operation Ivy feelings. This is the shortest song on the album and also the most up tempo. The band squeeze a lot into these two minutes. The up tempo style obviously means this is a high energy song. Minix shows great vocal skill in getting all the words out and them still remaining as soulful as they do on the slower songs. The track is about searching for meaning in your world and realising that your life doesn’t need to go the way that society says is the conventional route.
The fourth song is titled Little Man. After the energetic Brain, Little Man sees Bad Operation switch to a slower, reggae style and prove that they’re just as adept at this style. There’s such a nice, chilled out vibe coming from the song, you can just lay back, listen and smile along with it. Listening to the lyrics, it’s obviously a deep track about those people who can’t get on with other people and can’t understand that people are all different and that’s perfectly fine. It’s mad that in 2020/21 this song feels as important as ever. It’s sad that a lot of people still aren’t evolved enough to realise that people don’t have to be cookie cutter. Next is the album’s title track BAD OPERATION. Just to be confusing, the band, the album and the track is named Bad Operation. The song starts in a haunting and atmospheric way that gradually builds towards a mid-tempo ska song. I love the way in which Minix’s vocals are delivered. They seem deeper and more serious, brilliantly contrasting with the bouncy music that’s accompanying them. The track is about people who ignore all of the wrongdoing and struggles that go on around them rather than trying to help and be the solution. I feel like when Bad Operation play live again (or for the first time?), the next song will be their set opener. Titled Kinda Together, it serves as a introduction to what to expect from them musically and thematically as well as introducing you to the band. It will get your feet tapping immediately. The seventh track is Peachy. The song tackles the subject of mental health, in particular the feeling of wanting to stay at home but also not wanting to be by yourself. It’s a difficult scenario to find yourself in. The song is a reasonably simple one that anyone listening will pick up quickly, this will encourage great sing-alongs and hopefully a feeling of catharsis for anyone who is feeling the same.
After a small sample of The Specials classic Ghost Town, Siren’s Call has a quiet bass lead introduction. Soon some simple guitar chords and the vocals come in. Because of the quiet nature of the opening, when the vocals do start they are striking. Your ears prick to attention. The track is about suffering from anxiety and how worry and stress can affect your attempts to live a healthy lifestyle. The penultimate song is titled Baby In Arms. Minix’s vocals are so interesting on this track. They have a haunting wailing quality that sends shivers along my spine. Minix has such a versatile vocal ability. Baby In Arms is about looking for a positive and believing that something is good is on the horizon. In a world that seems to be more doom and gloom than ever it is important to find positive things to hold on to that will keep you sane. There’s a great spoken word moment during the track that really stands out as something unique. The final song on Bad Operation is Fish Out Of Water. This is a bombastic way to finish the album, opening with a short trombone solo before some pounding drums join and the song starts proper. The song is heavy on the trombone which gives it a playful sound. The track is also full of “whoa-oh” gang vocals that give the song such a big sound. The track talks about the stress of trying to have everything and how bad that can be for you mentally before eventually realising that you can be happier with less. This is such an important message for people and a really positive way to finish the album.
Bad Operation deserves all the hype that surrounded this release and much, much more. It’s phenomenal. In my opinion, it doesn’t deserve to be spoken highly of in just the punk/ska/alternative press but in the mainstream press as well. Musically it’s incredible and the themes touched on throughout the album are more important than ever. This is vital listening. It’s also a lot of fun. I hope I get the chance to see Bad Operation at some point. As good as these songs are on recording; they can only be better at a live setting.
Stream and download Bad Operation on Bandcamp here.
Like Bad Operation on Facebook here.
Monday, 1 February 2021
Four years ago, former Fandangle, New Riot and Mr Zippy bassist Andy B set out on an ambitious project to write and record an album featuring musician friends, old and new, from all over the world. The project saw Andy travel all around the world to record the different parts for the album and eventually ended up featuring members from bands such as Reel Big Fish, Less Than Jake, RX Bandits, The Slackers, [Spunge], Death By Stereo, The JB Conspiracy, Random Hand, Lead Shot Hazard and many, many, many more! In total there are one hundred and seventy two people on this release. The album is titled The First One (suggesting that Andy is mad and is going to do this again!) and will be released on Pookout Records. Pook also appears on the album. The First One is also raising money for Centre Point and Music For All. The thought of reviewing such a big project is pretty daunting but, given the effort that’s gone in to putting this together, I feel like the world needs to hear about it.
The album begins with Black & Blue. Unsurprisingly, given the talent featured on the album, this is a pop fuelled ska punk. It’s a great choice to start the album as it’s full of energy and bursting with positivity. It’s about coming together and ignoring all of our differences to fight for a bigger and better change. The song really shows the amount of people who have appeared on the album, the gang vocals sounds absolutely massive and I love them. Up next is Something’s Out. The song starts out acoustically before some horns come in and helps build towards the vocals. After the full on celebration sound of Black & Blue, Something’s Out pulls things back for a song about struggling with your mental health, in particular anxiety. I loved that Andy placed a song like this so early on in the album. Sure the album should be a celebration of unity but it’s also important for messages such as this to be prevalent. I really enjoyed the horns on the track; those short blasts really give the song an urgency that pulled me in. On my first listen through of the album the third song, Protestin’, really stood out. Lead by Cara-Jane Murphy, the song is a political song about the importance of protesting. The song borders on gypsy punk but maintains a ska element. If you were expecting a full on third wave ska album from start to finish here then you’re in for a shock. The use of the gang vocals in the call and response section of the track is genius, giving you the feeling of being at a protest. Fantastic work. The track also features the tenor saxophone playing skills of Dave Hillyard of The Slackers which is pretty cool. Frantic starts out with some horns from Jeremy from Skatune Network and Matt Appleton of Reel Big Fish among others. The list of people on this album really is ridiculous. Ben Hayes and Matt Carson’s vocals sound great on the track. The higher pitch gives it a unique feel that really pulls you into the song. This song certainly reverts back towards the third wave sound but also features some of the most impressive musicianship on the entire album (which really is saying something!), there are some moments throughout the track where Jon Priestley’s guitar really shreds.
Won’t Back Down features a familiar vocal in the form of Karen Roberts, formerly of Chase Long Beach. There’s a band I haven’t thought of in a long time! There’s a fun swing vibe to the song that will get you moving and Karen’s vocals sound as good as ever. The song is another political one about continuing to fight for what you believe in no matter what obstacles stand in your way. Times sees Al Copeland of [Spunge] fame take the lead vocals. As a big fan of [Spunge] this was very exciting for me. This is a bouncy ska punk number than will get you singing along and dancing (in true [Spunge] style). This song feels like a massive party number where you’ll have your arms around a stranger, singing along with joy in your heart. The track is about having a big night out, the self destructive behaviour that comes out and wondering where you should draw the line. The seventh song Don’t Look Back sees a bit of a Fandangle reunion as Andy is joined by former bandmates Tommy Saunders on lead vocals and Ed Starnes on trumpet for the song. It also features Roger Lima of Less Than Jake and MC Lars on the song. And it also features Chloe from Catch-It Kebabs, Tom and Evelyn Crabb of Lead Shot Hazard, Rob of Darko/Lockjaw Records and the previously mentioned Pook among loads of other people in the song. Imagine if Andy could somehow organise all these people to perform live one day, that would be something! The song is about the beauty of friendship and having people who will be there for you whatever happens.
The second half of the album starts with Not Gonna Settle. Jennifer Morrison of Tef London takes lead vocals on this track. It’s a stripped back acoustic ska song that is full of summer vibes. The track is an upbeat and positive song about knowing your worth and striving for the best of everything. This song is full of empowerment and works perfectly in the context of what the entire album is about. The ninth song is titled Follow The Streetlights and features the impressive vocal talents of Tony DiCarluccio of The Main Street Sweep. This track is a modern take on a more traditional ska and two tone style. The song really explodes during the chorus and I would imagine it would sound incredible sung in a big hall. The horns (there are thirteen horn players on this song) add so much bounce and energy to the song and the organ (played by Andy B) gives life to the verses. The punk in ska punk is well and truly brought back in No Righteous Cause. The song starts out with some simple guitar chords that give the song a darker edge before a huge drum roll comes in and the song bursts with energy. The guitars become faster and soon are joined by a catchy horn riff. By the time the vocals come in you know it’s time to party. Billy Canino’s vocals were higher than I was expecting after the intro but they do give the song a different sound. Something great about this is how they make you listen to every word. Advertise This must win the award for the most amount of people on a stripped back acoustic song ever. Richard Narbett is in charge of lead vocals here and gives the song a very accessible pop sound. It’s a catchy song about how people can be affected by the way advertising and the media make you feel about the way you look and how you’re doing in life. How they paint a picture of what is perfect and the mental health issues this can cause people. It’s important for people to remember that there is no such thing as perfect and everyone has flaws. The gang vocals on the final chorus present a great coming together of people and let the listener know they’re not alone.
Change The World is a stand out track on the album for me. Captain Accident takes the lead so you know it’s going to be a reggae driven number. There are also elements of world music that sneak in that work really well within the song. As the song progresses, the band take you massively by surprise as the track changes gears dramatically. It switches from soulful reggae to skate punk and I guarantee nobody listening heard it coming. I absolutely loved it. I guess with this many people working on the album it inspires so much more creativity and possibility. Change The World is about exactly what you would expect – changing the world. It’s a positive song about protesting and fighting for what you believe in. How the song goes from peaceful to urgent is just amazing. The penultimate song on The First One is titled Things Change. Andy B released a fantastic video for this song in the run up to the album's release. This is a full on folk song that is again brimming with positivity. It’s about coming together to try and make changes for the better. There’s a couple of songs that cover this subject on the album and I’m all for that. It’s important for people to know that they can make a change in the world. The gang vocals are the big highlight, with a huge choir of people coming together to sing out the song's important message. The final song, Eleventh Hour, shows off another different style. It starts off with an electric horn melody which was written by Pook before a gentleman by the name of Jake “Project” Brimble begins rapping over the music. Being this far into the album and it still managing to sound different and unique is impressive but I guess not that surprising given just how many people are involved in this album. Combining hop hop and ska punk music always seems to work really well, I'm not sure why there aren’t more bands doing it at the moment. There’s so much energy here that it’s difficult to stay still whilst listening to the song.
The First One is an incredible achievement. The time and effort it must have taken Andy to put all of this together doesn’t bear thinking about. Each song is brilliantly unique but they manage to all tie together and feel a part of the album rather than the album feeling like a collection of songs with no connection. Even if ska punk isn’t your thing, I encourage you to give The First One a chance just because of the sheer size of this project and that it was all done for two very worthwhile charities.
Stream and download The First One on Bandcamp here.
Like Andy B & The World on Facebook here.