Thursday, 16 September 2021

Album Review: Confines Of Life by Neighborhood Brats (by Rich Bailey)


This is Neighborhood Brats’ third long player and they’re growing in every sense of the word. Originally put together in California by Jenny Angelillo – aka Jenny Stiletto, previously of The Orphans and Roofie And The Nightstalker – they’ve produced a pop punk album that effervesces with heavy drums, pounding bass and staccato guitars and has echoes of Gateway District, The Eyeliners and Holly And The Italians. (I’m hoping they got their moniker from the track of the same name by The Boys from 1978’s Alternative Chartbusters, but that’s probably too much of an ask!)


Who Took The Rain? starts off proceedings and, with its opening refrain of “And I know …, the world is burning; And I know …, this is the end”, is a powerful and prescient piece on global warming. And, given that they’re from California, they’ll be seeing it first-hand right now.

Signs And Semantics and Miss America Pageant flash by in a sea of melodic, syncopated guitars with bruising drums in the background; and we clearly hear the full range of Jenny Angelillo’s vocal range – quite exquisite.

FFBF (obviously an acronym for something, so I did a little digging; more likely to stand for Famous For Being Famous than First Federal Bank of Florida!) transpires it’s a short, angry piece on the vacuous nature of fame.

Next two tracks – Transitional Housing and We’ll Find You – are straightforward pop punk tracks with great vocal harmonies that have an addition of a slight echo in the background that really pads out the songs.

Harvey Weinstein (Is A Symptom) is a polemical, seething song about how Weinstein’s (female) lawyer basically stated that women are at fault for being sexually abused and that they should take responsibility. In Angelillo’s own words: “When I heard this, I think I screamed, threw my phone, and crumpled on the kitchen floor in tears”. This song is that moment.

All Nazis Must Die is a heavier, surf type instrumental track (it reminded me of tracks on an old LP I had back around ’81 called Mutant Surf Punks – Hang 11). Even though this has no lyrics, it carries a sentiment that should be mandatory.

I Weep For The Future is another warning about the state of the world that could be a companion piece to album opener ‘Who Took The Rain’. This is more considered and thoughtful.

Migraines is a bruising piece with heavy bass and trebly guitars that comes across as a list of drugs used to treat migraines and depression etc. and then becomes a list of common associates with mental illness: the lyrics and music complement each other perfectly.

LeBron James is a song about a volatile romance, though I couldn’t work out why it’s named after one of the best players in the NBA.

Album closer I Want You is a reworking of an old Joan Jett And The Blackhearts track from 1979 with updated, 21st century lyrics – and why the hell not?

Stream and download Confines Of Life on Bandcamp here.

Like Neighborhood Brats on Facebook here.

This review was written by Rich Bailey.

Wednesday, 15 September 2021

Album Review: I Can't Take It Anymore by Joystick!


In a year of many disappointments, an undoubted bright spot has been the massive resurgence in the ska punk scene in the USA. You will know by now that California’s Bad Time Records (co-released with Stomp Records in Canada) have been at the forefront this surge in popularity for the genre by releasing banger after banger. Perhaps my favourite of their 2021 releases so far has been I Can’t Take It Anymore by the New Orleans based eight piece Joystick! The band have been around for over a decade now, releasing their first album back in 2010. I Can’t Take It Anymore is their fourth and it has really pushed the band into a bigger spotlight than ever before.

Before I go into my unnecessarily detailed review here is, the patron saint of the UK ska punk scene, Paul Smith’s review:

“Retcon is my favourite skacore song. Rinse & Repeat is my favourite overcoming addiction song. Parallelograms is my favourite ska punk song.”

“PS 12 other good songs too.”

Thanks for your help, Paul.


The fifteen track album begins with Retcon. This opener really sets the thematic tone for the entire album. It’s about lead singer Paul ‘Duck’ Tucker’s recovery from addiction. Retcon specifically talks about looking to the future, trying to remember that you “won’t be defined by your history.” This is a high energy beginning to the album that flits between fun ska and high octane punk rock. Following on is Detonate which is another high octane song which sees Joystick move into skacore territory. Detonate blasts (sorry) through its first half with Duck spitting out some quick fire lyrics. This song will certainly get some wild circle pits going when it’s played live. The band gives Duck a bit of a break with the addition of the horn section and a change in melody which sees them almost fall into a chant-like moment. Damage Boost sees Duck using Joystick’s platform to offer help to anyone who has been through what they’ve been through. During the track, Duck lets the listener know that they’ve been through the same things that they have and assures them they’re not alone. I really love how Joystick have used their platform here.

The fourth song, Rinse And Repeat, is one of my favourite ska punk songs of the year. It’s one that grabs your ear from the first listen with its upbeat nature and super positive chorus. On the song, Duck sings about being new and improved, and although there are hard days they know they are in a much better place. I often mention catharsis when reviewing albums and this song can easily be placed into the box of cathartic bangers. (Side note: cathartic bangers is such a great idea for a playlist). Gggghost is the first song on the album that really puts a big focus on Joystick’s brass section. Josh Bourgeois (trombone), Justin Mcdowell (tenor sax), Garrett Corripio (trumpet) and Andrew Heaton (trombone) open the song in a dramatic fashion. I really enjoy the contrasting style of the song. Duck’s vocals are raspy and intense but the horns give the track a lighter, sunnier feel. They are also used to tremendous effect in the breakdown, giving the song a huge feel. Gggghost is about shutting out the ghosts from your past and moving on with your life. Parallelograms was an immediate stand out when I first listened to I Can’t Take It Anymore. It’s an upbeat ska punk song that is packed full of undeniable energy, beginning with some more excellent horns that quickly put a smile on my face before Duck comes in with some quickly delivered vocals. The song tells a story about someone who is seemingly living a double life. One life paints a picture of a happy go lucky soul without a care in the world and the other is one of someone battling a drug addiction. The life spent battling addiction is kept secret from their other life and sadly ends fatally. The song follows that long standing ska punk tradition of sounding super happy but when you look deeper into the song it’s actually really sad. Duck’s lyrics on this track are superb.

No Sleep After Brooklyn is an instrumental track that throws us back to the early days of ska. This really allows Joystick to show off just what a talented bunch of musicians they are. They can play highly energetic ska punk songs just as well as they can play an homage to some more traditional ska. The eighth song, 7675, sees the band joined by fellow New Orleans musician Zach Quinn of Pears and Bandaid Brigade. As you might imagine in a song featuring the lead singer from Pears, the track is a fast one. What a contrast this is from the previous track, really showcasing the band’s ability to mix up styles. After the relaxing chill out vibe of the previous song we’re now back in the chaos. I don’t think the album really needed such an injection of energy at this moment but I found myself lost in it anyway. My highlight of the song is how Duck and Zach interchange vocals seemingly along with exchanging harmonies on occasion as well. Carrot And Stick begins with a really summery reggae feel to it. It’s one you can have a gentle sway to whilst crooning with Duck. We reach the halfway point of the song and the band crank things up to give the song a big finale. This song could have so easily been the album’s closer with such an epic ending but we’ve still got six songs left to go!

Unscene is a fast hardcore track that addresses that one idiot that appears in every scene. We’ve all seen the guy who is super macho and, rather than coming out to enjoy the music and the community, just looks to drink and get into fights. This person is not a part of the scene or community and just ruins things for everyone else. I love that Joystick address this on the album. This macho behaviour is one that needs to be eradicated from the punk and ska scene – the sooner, the better. Semicolon is another instrumental song. It’s a largely piano based song that really serves as an extended introduction to the next song, Past Tense. The horns at the start of the song, after that long introduction, immediately make the song feel massive and give me high expectations for what is to come. It’s a slower song than anything so far on I Can’t Take It Anymore and perhaps the most emotional as well. I think the song is about trying to fix past relationships that have been damaged by your addictions. This is a song that will garner huge sing-alongs when Joystick get to play it live. Much like Carrot And Stick, Past Tense also feels like it could be the album closer but we still have three songs to go!!

Track thirteen is titled Shots. It’s just twenty-nine seconds long and absolutely flies by in a ferocious manner. Shots is about being given more chances after you’ve messed up and being thankful for those opportunities. This is posi-hardcore at its absolute finest and is an important reminder that you shouldn’t shut people out who are going through difficult times and need your support. The penultimate song is Worm Food. Worm Food is perhaps the most unique sounding track on the album. It’s begins seriously stripped back with an acoustic guitar and some whispering getting things going. There are some teases of the full band coming in but for the most part we stay with the acoustic sound as Duck sings about thinking too much about death. This is one of the most cheerful songs about death that I’ve ever heard for sure and maybe one of the most enjoyable. The fifteenth and final song is the album’s title track, I Can’t Take It Anymore. What an amazing and positive way to finish the album. And not just to finish an album, as I suspect that this will now become the traditional set closer for the band’s live sets. This is probably the poppiest song on the album but that’s a great thing. For me the best pop music is super positive and puts a smile on my face and that’s exactly what this song does. It’s about conquering your demons and working on self improvement. This is another song that could easily find a home in the cathartic bangers playlist I decided I should make earlier. The song is written for huge sing-alongs and I personally can imagine this being absolutely epic played in the New Cross Inn in front of a big crowd. That’s got to be a thing that happens as soon as it’s possible. This is the perfect way to end an incredible album.

I Can’t Take It Anymore is not just a brilliant album, it’s also a really brave and important album due to its themes and content. Not only will people enjoy dancing and singing along with it, I imagine that it will also offer help and support to people. Bravo Joystick!

Stream and download I Can’t Take It Anymore on Bandcamp here.

Like Joystick! on Facebook here.

This review was written by Colin Clark.

Monday, 13 September 2021

Album Review: Our Hell Is Right Here by Drones (by Robyn Pierce)


Drones is one of the many awesome bands I’ve discovered through Manchester Punk Festival, and I was an early fan of theirs in 2018 when their first album Exiled came out. Their debut release already showed an intense, high-energy band, with amazing musicianship and a sharp socio-political focus, and it was easily one of my favourite albums of that year. So, I was really happy when they announced that they’d be releasing their next album on Lockjaw Records in February, and the album title of Our Hell Is Right Here seemed to suggest that Drones may once again be calling out social injustice and exploring difficult issues. The band has been through some tough times and had to overcome the additional challenge of recording during a pandemic, which perhaps makes this album a little more special. After getting into it, it’s clear the second album still has all of the lashing energy of the first but also includes more personal topics and a gritty but hopeful energy.


The album bursts open with ‘Please Vacate the Planet’, hitting you right away with pounding drums and ripping guitars. These are soon joined by Lois McDougall’s powerful vocals, which all work together to give Drones the big and layered sound I’ve come to love. It’s a lot like Rise Against, particularly their older faster-tempo songs, although Lois’s unique voice really sets them apart. The first track is quickly followed by the aggressive self-love of ‘Live and Let Live’ and the title track ‘Our Hell Is Right Here’, both backed by big hooks and a driving beat. In the first, Lois sings about having the courage to be yourself and not striving for external validation, while the latter delves more heavily into shared pain and betrayal. ‘Manipulate’ completes this high-tempo start to the album, including some gorgeous background “woahs”, before slowing things down with a call to ‘Listen’. ‘Listen’ is a short acoustic song with some beautiful synth embellishments, reassuring those who may be struggling with mental illness or who “feel like dying” that they’re not alone and that someone is willing to listen.

‘Learn’ is the longest song on the album at just over four and a half minutes, building up some staccato guitar chords into a soaring chorus, with some added technical flourishes here and there. It’s a song that really showcases the band’s prowess as musicians and as songwriters. Next up is ‘Josephine’, which was released as a lead single together with a trippy animated music video featuring a dangerous space mission, alien strippers, and overindulgence. It’s driven by a fantastic central riff and a catchy chorus, strategically slowing down in parts just to build right back up to a glorious rip-roaring ending. Coming into the second half of the album, ‘Lost in translation’ is a blistering two-minute track about emotional vulnerability and how “you’ve got to learn how to share if you want to live”. ‘Epitaph’ is a solemn mid-pace song about the terrible things the mind whispers in our darkest moments, while ‘Colourblind’ leans a little more into hardcore and ‘Grey Matters’ delivers more fist-pumping goodness. ‘Void’ has a killer breakdown that I would just love to hear live, and the whole album wraps up with the rousing call to action of ‘Warning Signs’.

Our Hell Is Right Here is an excellent second album from Drones, with gloriously big guitar riffs, incredible vocals, and raging melodies. While the songs differ to those on their first album in turning their attention inward to more personal matters, it’s a welcome reminder that we owe just as much to ourselves as we do to others. This is an album that celebrates resilience, grit, as well as vulnerability, and delivers high-energy hooks from start to finish.

Stream and download Our Hell Is Right Here on Bandcamp here.

Like Drones on Facebook here.

This review was written by Robyn Pierce.

Friday, 10 September 2021

Gig Review: Call Me Malcolm Album Launch Show at New Cross Inn, London 26/8/21


I think that the 538 gap between buying a ticket and attending a gig may be a new record for me. (Though I know because of rescheduling and such it will be broken). That’s how many days it was between buying a ticket and then finally being able to attend Call Me Malcolm’s launch show for their stunning album Me, Myself And Something Else at the New Cross Inn. Obviously this delay and then rescheduling was no fault of the band or promoter, Be Sharp, but due to the dumpster fire that has been the past eighteen months. But we finally got to the stage where it was able happen and excitement was in the air.


We arrived in South London with plenty of time to spare before the gig. This was spent catching up with friends we haven’t seen in far too long (including Dan, Dan#2 and Lee of the CPRW team), as well as meeting Chris from Warrington Ska Punk for the first time. What a lovely man he is.

Unfortunately due to some technical issues with the sound, Call Me Malcolm’s sound check caused the gig to start later than planned. This would become a bit of a shame later in the night but, to be honest, it was quite nice to have a bit longer to hang out with folk – something that has been missed just as much as live music has been.

Eventually it was time for Hemel Hempstead’s Codename Colin to start the show. As is tradition for the band, they began their set with a cover of Europe’s The Final Countdown. This is one of those songs that you feel like was written to be covered by a ska band. Codename Colin have often veered towards the sillier side of ska punk which made them perfect to start a gig which was essentially a massive party. Frontman Charlie, wearing a brand new suit jacket, lead the crowd in many sing-alongs ensuring the crowd was plenty warmed up for the night ahead. Highlights of the set for me included Little Things, Kelly’s Missing, Dream State and a cover of Depeche Mode’s I Just Can’t Get Enough. It’s always a pleasure to see Codename Colin play shows, I always come away with a smile on my face.
 

The next two bands on the line up had both made their way down from Leeds to play the show. First up were Sunliner, who you may know better as Jake And The Jellyfish. I believe that the band changed their name in early 2020 and then the world went to shit which sadly put a halt on them playing any shows and getting the band name out there. They did however manage to get some superb singles out and I was excited to see this new incarnation of the band live. Seeing these new songs live gave them a whole new lease of life, they felt so full of energy that you couldn’t help but be transfixed to the stage. Jake has one of the most unique voices in the UK punk scene and it suits this sound perfectly. I could tell that a lot of the folk who were stood around me were seriously impressed with the band and rightly so. Sunliner finished their set by going a bit old school with a great rendition of 23 which will have pleased plenty of J&TJ fans in the audience.


Eat Defeat are a hugely popular band at the New Cross Inn. Despite being based in Leeds, it always feels like they’re playing a home venue whenever they come down. This was their first show since January 2020, when they played Do It Together Fest at the New Cross Inn. During the pandemic, the band released a brand new EP named Go Outside which they had actually recorded in 2019. Obviously because of everything that’s happened, they never got to release the EP with any sort of fanfare so they just put it on their streaming pages for their fans to enjoy. I thought it was a pretty gutsy move to open their set with Everything Is Broken from that EP but it didn’t stop the crowd singing and dancing enthusiastically. From there they moved onto a set full of favourites from their album I Think We’ll Be OK and the EP Time & Tide. Something I always notice whenever I see Eat Defeat live is how much more aggression they play with than how they are on record. I’m a big fan of this and it’s a massive reason why I enjoy them so much whenever I get to see them. Highlights of the set for me were Smile, Self Help (For The Helplessly Selfless), The North Remembers and, of course, Not Today, Old Friend. The outro with the crowd shouting “I think we’ll be ok” back at the band had never felt more poignant and was the perfect way to end the set.
 

At this point, the show was running quite late and we knew that we would end up missing a chunk of Call Me Malcolm’s set. That didn’t dampen any of my excitement however. Three quarters of a Malcolm set at the New Cross Inn is better than any other band’s full set. It won’t surprise anyone reading that Me, Myself And Something Else was one of my favourite albums of 2020 so to finally have the opportunity to see these songs live was going to be a very special moment. I said in my review last year that songs showed off a heavier side of Call Me Malcolm and I was interested to see how they would fit into their set. The answer to that is fucking perfectly. I don’t know if it was because I had been listening to them for over a year but each “new” song they played felt like an old friend. They fit perfectly with the older material and really took the Malcolm live experience to a whole new level. Looking into the crowd, from the safety of the side of the stage, it was amazing to see everyone in the venue going absolutely nuts for each song. It didn’t matter if it was old or new – it was loved. We were approaching 11pm quickly, the time we knew that we would have to leave by to catch our train back to Bedford. We assumed this would mean that we would miss seeing traditional Malcolm set closer All My Nameless Friends, a song we’d been desperate to hear live for the entirety of the pandemic. For those reading who might not know, the song is partly about how people will help you through your darkest times and partly a love letter to the New Cross Inn scene. It’s a track that has really got me through the hardest times over the last eighteen months. Being not only the best band, but the best people as well, Malcolm changed their set list so that the folk who would have to leave early got to hear it. I don’t think that I’ve ever heard a crowd sing along to a song with more love and passion as I did that night. It was a really emotional moment that I won’t forget for a long, long time. Sadly after this we had to dash for our train but we already can’t wait for our next time seeing Call Me Malcolm live. That’ll be at Till The Fest, back at the New Cross Inn in October.


This gig review was written by Colin Clark. Photos also by Colin.

Thursday, 9 September 2021

Album Review: Saccharine by Pinkshift


Pinkshift are a four piece band featuring Ashrita Kumar, Paul Vallejo, Myron Houngbedji and Erich Weinroth who are from Baltimore, Maryland. They first came to my attention in 2020 thanks to a Facebook group and immediately impressed me with their take on punk rock and grunge. In April of 2021 the band released their debut EP, Saccharine, which features five heavy hitting tracks.
 

The opening track on Saccharine is titled Mars. This song is three minutes and forty-five seconds of solid melodic punk rock. The track fades in to start which allows the listener to get ready for what’s about to come. Once we get to full volume there’s already a feeling of energy surrounding the song before Ashrita Kumar’s exceptional vocals come in. They do a super job of grabbing your attention and taking you through the song, displaying some excellent range along the way. These vocals are backed exceptionally by the rest of the band, with a guitar solo really standing out. On Thin Ice begins with a simple drum beat that’s played before the vocals come in. Something I noticed on my first listen of the song was the way that it seemingly switches up melodies throughout the song. This is such an effective way of retaining the listener’s attention throughout. Despite being less than three minutes long Pinkshift manage to pack a huge amount into the song and by the time we reach the finale I was exhausted, but in the best way possible.

I’m Gonna Tell My Therapist On You was the lead single for Saccharine. Coming at you like a bullet, this is a hugely energetic and in your face track – it’s very obvious why this song was picked as a single. Pinkshift’s grunge influences shine through on the song, alongside a poppy, hook filled chorus completed with some delightful “ooooh-ooh” harmonies. The song looks at how being in a bad relationship can affect your mental health and the spiralling effect that can take place. The penultimate song is Toro. Despite only being ninety seconds long, Pinkshift pack a lot into the track. It starts out at a frantic pace that I imagine is very exciting when they play live. Ashrita sings about having someone in their head and knowing the problems it causes. As we reach the halfway point of the song, Toro changes gears and switches into a longer musical interlude which has some chilled vibes. This interlude serves as a long introduction to the final song Rainwalk. I’ve often talked about the importance of the final track on a release sounding huge and I think it’s clear listening to the track that Pinkshift agree with me. Not only is the song an EP closer, it also feels like it could be the set closer for the band. There’s so much going on I can’t mention it all but I will say it maintains the energy that the band have showcased throughout Saccharine and it really shows off just how skilled the band are. This is without a doubt a song that I wish I could be in a rowdy mosh pit for. It’s a song that deserves one.

I definitely feel like it’s only a matter of time until Pinkshift are a band on the lips of punk rockers all over the world. Based on Saccharine, it’s very clear that they have a very bright future ahead of them and could become one of the most important bands in the genre.

Stream and download Saccharine on Bandcamp here.

Like Pinkshift on Facebook here.

This review was written by Colin Clark.

Wednesday, 8 September 2021

Album Review: Panic Earth by Maisonette (by Theo Martin-Herbert)


One of the main thoughts that haunted my mind during lockdown was the inevitable wave of music circling round and round this topic with dull take after dull take. Notebooks and notebooks of lyrics chased me down and threatened to never let me go with a moment that our culture wouldn't be able to move from or generate an interesting thought about, but this new release from INiiT Records has given me a renewed hope that we still have so much to say on a personal level about the tragic and alienating period we've all lived through. Maisonette have created a powerful, forward-thinking yet graciously reverent record that is an absolute antidote and anthem to pushing through the loneliness and fatigue that I'm sure we've all felt so intensely these past few months.


From the velcro-grinding fuzz of the opening bass of "Constant" to the final and sincere words of "Lifeboat", Maisonette create a fantastically passionate take on pop-punk. Their sound seems to pick up where Title Fight left off (yes even with a touch of "Hyperview") and takes it through to the UK where the isolation has truly taken over. I'm a huge fan of the guitar sounds, a nice thick but open driving tone with a chorus liberally used throughout to really emphasise the dynamics the band throws at you. The way that more typical song structures are played with the punch up the songs and keep your ears entertained seems particularly in-tune with my own low attention span. So if you, like me, enjoy being constantly kept on your toes as a listener then you will not be disappointed with this release.

Maisonette don't neglect to bring the hooks though, every track brings a chorus that I cannot wait for people to shout back at the band live but the hyperactive approach to structure makes sure nothing overstays its welcome. It's a particularly hard trick to pull off and speaks highly of the potential writing process behind everything. I'm incredibly excited to hear what they come up with next and how they'll work with a full length album release. If they can keep tp this energy and attention to detail on this release then we have another absolute classic on our hands.

Definitely pick this one up, another in an incredible string of releases from INiiT Records.

Stream and download Panic Earth on Bandcamp here.

Like Maisonette on Facebook here.

This review was written by Theo Martin-Herbert.

Monday, 6 September 2021

Album Review: Dancing With The Curse by Get Dead (by Rich Bailey)


Now signed to Fat Mike’s Fat Wreck Chords, this is San Francisco Get Dead’s fifth long player. Overall, the vocal arrangement is reminiscent of Matt Caughthran of The Bronx/The Drips with some early Tim Armstrong thrown in too [no bad thing in this reviewer’s humble opinion] – think Suicide Machines mix of hardcore/ska vocals, but by one vocalist rather than two. There is a definite ska/punk vibe through a good percentage of the tracks whilst some others have story arcs that evoke Drive By Truckers.


Stand out tracks include album opener Disruption; a slow burner that increases in pace from an acoustic sounding start to sudden energy, back to spoken word through to a ska-punk guitar/bass/vocal sound reminiscent of early Mad Caddies.

Second track Nickel Plated is more of a straight forward punk song that wouldn’t sound out of place on ‘… And Out Come The Wolves’; there’s a very slight Joe Strummer feeling about the lyrical arrangement, especially in the delivery of lines like “She fell in love with a criminal, I keep a bag under the bed, For the day I steal her away”. The track ends with a sample from the movie Sling Blade - “We don't got no goddamn band!; we don't need to fucking practice, Randy!”. Which I’ve heard sampled before, but can’t quite remember where.

Fire Sale is a joyful sounding rant about getting old and reminiscing about past endeavours; thieving, drinking, fighting: “These battle wounds on display, these scars we earn”.

Stick Up is the longest track on the album – and at 3:43, that’s impressive. Although it’s really difficult to decide, it is my favourite song. A warning of what life is really like behind the vacuous façade perpetrated by pretty much one and all. A great mix of hardcore vocals and then toned down to deliver killer lines like “This place is collapsing, hordes of uncontrollable bastards, they are coming for you, I see them moving, they’re fucking breathing, it feels like this place is cursed, so do your worst”; reminds me slightly of Rated ‘R’ era Queens of the Stone Age or The Bronx’s second studio album from 2006.

At the risk of assessing each and every track, I’ll mention just a few more: Glitch is the shortest song on the LP and is a tuneful, growly lament about friendships split apart by geography; 8 Track is full on upbeat ska; Green’s Girl and Confidence Game are both all-out punk rock songs with vocals that go to and fro between band members; Pepperspray, an acoustic track, is a bit like a US version of Frank Turner and probably my second fave song; Hard Times and album closer Take It are both great examples of the ska-punk genre with croaky/gravelly vox.

Damn, I namechecked and assessed every track. This really is a great album; if you’re into Rancid, The Bronx, Suicide Machines (and to be honest, even if you’re not), this really is a great album, and at $10 for the download – about £7 – it’s worth every penny (sorry, cent).

Stream and download Dancing With The Curse on Bandcamp here.

Like Get Dead on Facebook here.

This review was written by Rich Bailey.

Friday, 3 September 2021

Column: Slam Dunk Festival 2021 Preview


This weekend, by some minor miracle, Slam Dunk Festival is happening. Obviously, the worldwide pandemic we’ve all been suffering through since March 2020 has made organising a festival a very tricky proposition. Due to the all the restrictions that have been put in place by the government, the festival has been moved around countless times and the line up has gone through a number of different variations. At the time of writing this, hopefully the line up will remain as it is until the event but who knows what will happen given the current climate of the world!

I should start by saying that the majority of bands I talk about throughout this article will be featured on the Punk In Drublic stage. That was the stage I spent most of my time at at Slam Dunk 2019 and it will be the place to find me in 2021. I’ll be the devilishly handsome one in the shorts and the black band t-shirt. The stage will once again be headlined by NOFX. Since NOFX last came to the UK they have released a split with Frank Turner (who will also be appearing) as well as their fourteenth album Single Album. It’s NOFX so who knows if they’ll play anything from those releases but you can guarantee that it’ll be one of the most talked about sets of the weekend.


Joining them on the Punk In Drublic stage are Chicago’s Alkaline Trio. Trio have not been to the UK since touring with NOFX way back in 2015 (I assume partly due to Matt Skiba’s work with Blink-182) so their announcement was met with much excitement from fans of the band. This year the band celebrated the twentieth anniversary of their breakthrough album From Here To Infirmary so I’m expecting the set to be heavy on songs from that album alongside plenty of favourites spanning their entire career.

Stepping away from the Punk In Drublic stage for a minute we have Creeper. The Southampton based five piece continue to get bigger and bigger and have become one of the most exciting bands in the UK alternative scene. Channelling influences such as AFI and Alkaline Trio whilst showcasing their own unique style, Creeper have to be one of the most anticipated sets of the festival. The band recently released eight track American Noir which performed incredibly well in the UK popular music charts, this will be the first time the majority of the crowd will have had the opportunity to see these songs performed live.

Returning to Punk In Drublic for a comeback I never expected to see happen is Capdown. The UK skacore legends have been inactive for years now so when they were announced for Slam Dunk it was quite the surprise. It feels fitting for Capdown to be making their return now given the boom that ska punk is having and it’s entirely appropriate that one of the most influential bands in the UK scene graces the big stage once again. Recently we covered the classic album Civil Disobedients on the CPRW Podcast and I cannot wait to see some tracks from it live once again.

Talking about legendary UK ska punk bands, Slam Dunk gives us a chance to see [Spunge] a few weeks before they begin a UK tour to celebrate twenty one years of their album Room For Abuse. I’ve made it clear a number of times just how influential [Spunge] were on me, they were my gateway band into ska and punk music and without them I wouldn’t be the person that I am today. Any chance I get to see them I try and take. This will be a set full of smiley, bouncy faces.

The Popes Of Chillitown, one of the bands leading the newest group of UK ska bands, will be making their Slam Dunk debut on The Key Club stage. Based in London, the Popes have been wowing crowds all across the UK for years now with their intense and energetic style of ska punk. Word is the band have been working hard on some new material and I’m very excited to hear that. Popes Of Chillitown will be one of the first bands on at both festival sites and are guaranteed to get the party started early.

Pittsburgh punks Anti-Flag are a late addition to the line up, replacing Pennywise who sadly cannot make it over anymore. Anti-Flag are one of the best live bands on the planet, always managing to whip a crowd into a frenzy with their politically charged anthems. I would expect a greatest hits set of songs spanning their entire career. Bass player Chris#2 is one of the most engaging performers in punk rock – he’s part bass player, part singer, part acrobat and part rabble rouser and is an absolute delight to watch.

Last but certainly not least in this preview is Snuff, another legendary UK band joining the line up. Before the pandemic started, it seemed as if Snuff had been more active than they had been in years and it’s pleasing to see an eighteen month break hasn’t slowed their momentum. Combining cockney charm with ferocious punk rock, there’s not another band in the world who do it like Snuff. I would imagine there will be a lot of younger folk at Slam Dunk who aren’t familiar with Snuff but I urge those folk to give Snuff a go because of their influence to so many of the current crop of UK punk rock bands. Dan from Spoilers also plays for Snuff now and it’ll be really cool to see him on a big stage.

Big props to all the organisers of Slam Dunk Festival for struggling through this last year and managing to still put on a very impressive line up. The last year and a half has been incredibly difficult for everyone professionally and privately. Let’s hope that the festival goes on without a hitch and we can have some semblance of what life was like before.

This Slam Dunk Festival 2021 Preview was written by Colin Clark.

Thursday, 2 September 2021

Album Review: Contender by Fightmilk (by John O'Hare)


Self described as ‘Incredibly loud and incredibly gross’, London’s Fightmilk released their sophomore album, Contender (Reckless Yes Records, 2021) in May. Their first effort, Not With That Attitude (Reckless Yes Records, 2018) was an album I only heard in 2020 but was blown away by so I had fairly high hopes for Contender. I would describe Fightmilk as indie-punk, but there’s elements of power pop and a certain dream-like quality to a lot of the slower songs. Fightmilk have been together since 2015, and whilst Fightmilk may not be widely known, the songwriting, composition and production of Contender absolutely sounds like a band that are confident playing and writing together.


The record begins with (contender) and what sounds like a 40 second semi-outtake from the studio – ‘I’ve fucked it’ notes vocalist Lily Rae, on top of soft, almost discordant piano lines. This sets the tone wonderfully, allowing for a classic ‘1, 2, 3, 4’ count in to drop us into track two, Lucky Coin, where the rest of band join us. The tone is peppy, optimistic and bright, and you’d struggle not to get sucked in. ‘And I’m a Lucky Coin/I just flip myself back over’ is an instant vocal hook and one I look forward to hearing live. This is arguably my favourite track and one I’d recommend checking out. The tone continues straight through with Hey Annabelle and I’m Starting To Think You Don’t Even Want To Go To Space which feel particularly reminiscent of their first record, with loud guitars, tight, snappy drums and twinkly synth moments. There is some layering of synths and extra instruments, but it never feels over-produced and is one of the things I particularly enjoyed about the whole record. The band still manage to sound like 4 people in a room enjoying themselves.

The Absolute State Of Me is where we take a slight turn to something a bit more moody. There’s some fantastic guitar work which sounds like it was lifted straight from a 90s rock band and it gives this song a more mellow tone. This song is littered with dynamic changes; instruments dropping out, backing vocals coming in and a brilliant piano accompaniment towards the end. These little things could easily go amiss, which makes them even better.

Remember the dream-like qualities mentioned previously? Girls Don’t Want To Have Fun (undeniable Cyndi Lauper reference!) is the first time we hear it in all it’s chill glory. Opening with a light guitar riff and an almost Lauper-esque programmed drum beat, you instantly feel another shift in tone to something much more melancholic. The drums remain quite busy throughout, but the soft, drawn out vocals really slow the song down allowing you to hear each word clearly. There’s also some wonderful harmonies across a lot of the vocals which are very pleasant. After two minutes and no chorus, it would be easy to wonder where the song is going, but when it hits and that hi-hat comes in, you’ll question how it could ever go anywhere else. The song ends with a beautifully bittersweet moment, leaving you wanting that chorus just one more time.

Whilst Girls Don’t Want To Have Fun is a great song, it carries a heaviness, so the placement of the instantly enjoyable Cool Cool Girl is perfect. Whilst you’re still clinging to the mood of the previous song, you can’t help but get carried along with the upbeat drums and melodic guitar riff. The vocal performance on this song is possibly one of the finest moments on the record. Urgent and engaging whilst remaining honest. At two minutes, the song drops down to a harmonised vocal line and picky guitars, only to build right back up with a powerful, defiant vocal delivery. ‘I’m interesting and I’m clever/And I’ll always be a Contender’ – in a world which can be so disrespectful and disregarding of women and girls, it is paramount voices like Lily Rae’s are heard.

The aptly named (tender) is a short interlude for you to take a moment after the powerful end of the previous track. Banger 4 is just what it says it is on the tin, a guitar driven power-pop banger with some cheeky bass fills and frantic drum work and another stellar vocal performance. If You Had A Sister follows, bringing with it what feels like the defining moment of the record. It’s quite a stripped back song through the first chorus, but moving towards the second chorus, the intensity builds and builds, finishing with a more overblown, almost Weezer-sounding middle eight. And whilst this is a sad song, the accompanying instrumentation has so much variety which keeps it lighter than the previous mellow outings.

You Are Not The Universe and Maybe feel like you are on the home stretch in the best way possible. The former opening with upbeat guitars and pounding drums, driving us all the way into the sad-tinged chorus – ‘The Play Is Unread/This Script Is Unrehearsed/You’ve Made Your Bed/You Are Not The Universe’. The song ends with the record’s heaviest moment, a full distorted rock-out and could easily have been the end of the record. Maybe opens with a short acoustic intro which drops into the full band, I do feel this could have worked as a completely acoustic song.

(bartender) is a short synth lead interlude, once again bringing in the Contender/Tender/Bartender reference with some odd voice samples which sound like an old radio. And in what is the strangest placement of a song, Contender finishes with the the latest single Overbite. Placing your new single at the end of the album seems like an odd choice, but in some way it seems to sum up Fightmilk completely. The song itself is a catchy, upbeat love song which I think everyone can sympathise with.

Throughout the record it is abundantly clear the lyrics and performances are completely genuine, to the point that some of the lyrics are even a little strange (I’m into Wrestling/And I’m clever) and by no means is that a negative. You have to appreciate someone being their completely honest, weird self – I know I do anyway.

Stream and download Contender on Bandcamp here.

Like Fightmilk on Facebook here.

This review was written by John O'Hare.

Wednesday, 1 September 2021

Album Review: Wavebreaker #1 by Less Than Jake & Kill Lincoln


One of the very best things that has happened in the past eighteen months is the apparent re-emergence of ska punk. A huge part of this has involved California’s Bad Time Records who have released amazing records from Kill Lincoln, We Are The Union, Best Of The Worst, Joystick and more, as well as working on the amazing Ska Against Racism compilation with the legendary Asian Man Records. Bad Time Records work hard in showcasing new bands and proving that the ska punk scene is more than just the big three from the 90s. In June they announced a new split series which will feature a legendary band and a newer one. When I first saw this I thought this was a fantastic idea as the legendary band will grab the attention and will, in theory, get the listener to also check out the new band. The split series is titled Wavebreaker and the first release features a song each from Less Than Jake and Kill Lincoln. What an amazing combination of upbeat and energetic ska punk bands! I couldn’t wait to listen to this.


Gainesville legends Less Than Jake start the split with their track Need Some Shaking. What really struck me about the track on my first listen was the high tempo that kicks the song off. The song really has an old school Less Than Jake style to it but bass player Roger’s slick production also manages to keep the track sounding like it would fit nicely on the band’s newest full length, Silver Linings. In my opinion, LTJ are at their best when co-vocalists Chris and Roger share singing duties on their songs. On Need Some Shaking Chris does a magnificent job on the high tempo verses and Roger’s choruses will get a whole load of people singing along. The track is about not becoming stale and predictable and taking chances in your life. In all honesty, I really enjoyed Silver Linings but I’m not quite sure why they didn’t include this song on the album as, for me, it’s one of the best songs the band have released in a while.

Kill Lincoln’s effort for Making Waves is titled Going Under. I’ve become a big Kill Lincoln fan over the past year, following the release of Can’t Complain, and am itching to see them live. For me, they write songs that are begging to be played live to a room packed with people, skanking themselves into an energetic frenzy. Hopefully I can be a part of this at Fest in October. Something that really attracted me to Kill Lincoln was the energy their horn section adds to their songs so I was very pleased to hear them open the track. From there we move to a more stripped back sounding verse. It feels a bit weird to call it stripped back as there is a lot going on but there’s a lot of subtlety to it that creates a really interesting sound. The sound of the song does become fuller during the chorus and after the quieter sections it really stands out. Going Under is about struggling with your mental health and wondering how much more you can take. It’s always important to talk about mental health so I thought it was great for Kill Lincoln to do so on such a high profile release.

As I mentioned in the introduction, Wavebreaker is the first in a series of split releases from Bad Time Records. If this first release is anything to go by, we’re in for some absolute treats. Nothing has been announced (at the time of writing this) about what other combinations are in the works but I’m very excited to find out.

Stream and download Wavebreaker #1 on Bandcamp here.

Like Less Than Jake on Facebook here and like Kill Lincoln on Facebook here.

This review was written by Colin Clark.