Thursday, 30 September 2021

Album Review: Don't Panic by Neckscars (by Chris Bishton)

Neckscars are one of those bands that I can't quite place how I first heard them. Formed in 2018 and from New York, I haven't seen them live or read anything much about them, but what I did know was I've been really looking forward to this album after hearing a few songs online in recent months.

Don't Panic is their debut full length, recorded last year in two parts thanks to COVID, but released this summer on Sell The Heart Records in the US and Engineer Records in the UK. If you like your gravelly voiced, hook-laden, melodic punk in the vein of Hot Water Music, Dillinger Four, Gameday Regulars et al (three of the four members of Neckscars were in the latter), this is going to be right up your street. 

The album opens up with the first track In Front Of Me. Straight into feedback, smashing drums and then melodic guitars, I know within seconds that I love it. It's animated with those harmonic, sing-a-long vocals that are just simply my favourite type, which is then continued into the second song Born Sick.

The energy is then taken up yet another notch with Jarring, the song released online as a single earlier in the year. The guitars swell and the melodies form to create one of the album's standout tracks.

Unfinished starts a little slower, it is introspective  and compels me to really listen to the narrative. As I do this, the song quickens and fast guitars sync with ringing vocals. I truly love it.

The concluding track of the first half is then Not Enough JPMs. It's a return to the faster combative pace of a couple of the earlier songs, rounding off side one in great style.

Side two offers up much of the same. A couple of tracks with slightly less rapacious guitars than others, but all with the recognisable gruff harmonies that are begging to be played and seen live. Loaded is probably the standout track on this side for me.

The album concludes with First Time, Long Time which features a guest appearance from Jon Snodgrass – another banger – formerly of Drag The River and now serial collaborator on most things gold.

There's lots of familiar punk themes throughout – unsteady self doubt and anxiety. A well trodden orgcore road perhaps, but it just seems to fit so well with this brand of catchy, fist-in-the-air punk.

With 10 songs in 30 minutes, the album also hits the sweet spot for optimum enjoyment of a punk record. There's no duds on here and so the formula means the album retains your whole focus from start to finish.

I've no doubt this will be on my best of the year list, although it has to be said this album won't get the recognition it deserves. People will say they've heard this thing many times before. That maybe the case, but I say "so what?", there's a reason for that and that's because music like this makes my heart beat and soar that little bit higher and faster than usual. Always have and always will. It's why why I love bands like Neckscars and their brand of punk so much.

Stream and download Don’t Panic on Bandcamp here.

Like Neckscars on Facebook here.

This review was written by Chris Bishton.

Wednesday, 29 September 2021

Album Review: Back To The City by Travoltas (by Ilse R. Smit)

Travoltas are back (to the city) baby! While I personally became aware of them around their most recent full length “Until We Hit Shore”, which was released in 2017, this band was formed about three decades ago and have more than earned their stripes as pop-punk veterans. I can only imagine how many people they’ve introduced to the Dutch scene, or the genre in general! It should come as no surprise that I was very excited to dive into their latest EP “Back To The City”, which was released on June 25th on White Russian Records. I could be wrong, but I have a feeling this is the closest I’ll ever get to feeling patriotic. Travoltas has a sound I know isn’t surf rock, but can’t help but envision scenes of 60s cool kids having a blast at the beach while I listen to them. If you have no idea what I’m talking about (I don’t judge!) their sound is often described as The Beach Boys but punk-rock. Their songs have a very high degree of ‘I don’t think I’ve ever heard this song before, but I definitely know who this is’ and I respect that. This EP is the second release, after single “Find You There”, that features the ever so lovely Tim van Doorn on keys and as backing vocalist. If you’re not familiar with his work, I would highly encourage you to check out his solo work on Bandcamp and the self-titled St. Plaster record, and give his studio Big Dog Recordings a follow while you’re at it!

I think we should all be grateful the six piece basically treated us with a soundtrack to the summer! We all know we need one since, you know… *vaguely gestures around while spending yet another summer at home*. That being said: any day you’re in need for some summery vibes is a good day to listen to Travoltas and Back To The City is no exception.

We start off with Escape the Pressure, an opening track that perfectly encapsulates the antidote to that feeling when you’re overwhelmed by your hectic day to day obligations and expectations you have committed to and/or have put on yourself, desperately looking for a release of the tension that has been building inside of you that you’ve noticed just now as you finally took a deep breath, allowing you to take a step back and somehow ended up with evaluating your life choices (it can’t be just me). Although thinking about this state of mind usually makes me feel my heart beating in my chest, Travoltas make it fun! It kicks off strong musically with an energetic rhythm accompanied by the keys, reflecting the urgency of slowing down our million-miles-an-hour minds, that are quickly joined by the lead guitar. This could be personal preference, but pace-wise I’m definitely adding this song to the playlist I run to, which in turn can be a great way to escape the pressure. It works on so many levels. The lyrics carry a message that urges you to start doing what you really want to do and encourages you to change your route if you’re not enjoying the journey to your destination. It provides you with something aspirational as it describes the contrasting, liberating feeling you could experience after you’ve switched gears, emphasized by the polyphonic chorus repeating the song’s title. I blame my driving references to the lyric video, I don’t even have a license.

The second song is Back To The City, the title track. I can’t quite put my finger on it, but the guitar sound in the intro gives it some sort of southern rock/country edge. Is this intentional? I don’t know, but the mountainsides described in the first verse, certainly don’t set our scene in the Netherlands, so if this was an attempt to ‘Americanize’ the song, I say mission accomplished! It also speaks of being on the road for a long time and looking forward to ‘boogie-woogie all night long’. Perhaps it is a nod to our secluded lives we’ve lead the past year and a half. While we can’t quite do what we want to just yet, we know we’re getting there and have begun to dare to look forward to that all night boogie-woogie. I know I am! Transitioning from looking at past experiences with some sense of sadness, missing the good old days, to using that nostalgia to fuel our anticipation of what is to come.

Start Again is the ballad of the EP, while still being a very upbeat, Travoltas-esque song. It makes total sense sequence-wise. Although the title alone might suggest something different, the lyrics are actually about not wanting or feeling the need to start over. In this song we hear singer Perry Leenhouts assuring his significant other that while acknowledging the rough patches they’ve been through, or are in the middle of, he wouldn’t change a thing. As a hopeless romantic, I think it’s a very sweet ballad and a nice addition to the release. Although I hadn’t mentioned it thus far, the harmonies/backing vocals overall are also delightful to listen to and come out very well in this song.

Ultimately we end with Nightcrawler. The closer has an epic/theatrical air surrounding it. I can see it being played during a unifying scene where our protagonists prepare to face the unknown, assuring each other that things will be okay with lots of ‘together till the end’-vibes that unfolds in an ominous, aesthetically 80s futuristic universe. Again this could be influenced by accompanying music video, but I think it’s spot on! The spoken word bridge is done in what I can only describe as an amazing movie trailer voiceover meets Batman voice in which The Nightcrawler introduces themselves to us. I can see this being a very fun song to play as a Travoltas live set comes to an end, where the audience has that coming together moment you often feel when you’re in a room full of sweaty people who you’ve danced and sung with for the past hour(s). That while knowing that not long from now, you will also have to face the dark and find your way home through the night. And, while you don’t want to think about that just yet, mentally preparing for that moment nonetheless. In a similar manner, Nightcrawler prepares you for the silence, the darkness that will follow after the stories you’ve just been exposed to are over. You’ll leave Nightcrawler feeling calm and content, but also excited to listen to the EP in its entirety for who knows how many times.

TLDR: The Travoltas have managed to release an EP that is both very coherent and varied in sound and covers a lot of ground thematically in just four songs. I really enjoyed listening to it MANY times in preparation for this piece, and I’m glad I did because it definitely deepened my appreciation for the songs and helped me connect to them on an emotional level.

If this EP can’t satiate your Travoltas appetite (those 15 minutes go by so fast!), don’t forget to head over to their youtube channel where they recently released one of their acoustic sessions. The fact that they titled it Volume 1 leads me to believe that there is more to come, and I’m looking forward to it!

Order Back To The City on Bandcamp.

Like/Follow The Travoltas on Facebook and Instagram.

This review was written by Ilse R. Smit.

Tuesday, 28 September 2021

Gig Review: Slam Dunk Festival 2021, South, Hatfield House 5/9/21

Slam Dunk 2021 actually happened and I have to say immediately it was one of the most fun days I’ve had in years. My attendance, since this edition of the festival was first announced back in 2019, was most likely not going to happen. It originally clashed with another festival I had tickets for (Bristol Booze Cruise), then a lot of the bands I was most keen to see had to drop out and with the ones that did remain, I was super sceptical about them coming over. Booze Cruise, along with every other event, got cancelled or postponed because of that bloody worldwide pandemic so that clash went away. As the festival’s new date began to get closer, I began to get more of an itch to attend the festival but I continued to hold out on getting a ticket until the last possible moment. That moment being when I knew that some of the overseas bands that were booked were in the country but that they were also allowed out of the airport. I was also waiting to hear back from Slam Dunk about a press pass but sadly that didn’t happen (hey, Slam Dunk, next year yeah?).

The day of the festival arrived and I had to set out early. I live in Bedfordshire, not far from Hatfield House where Slam Dunk takes place at all. But because of having to get all sorts of connecting trains at different points, my journey was far more complicated than it should have been. Why is it that trains only go up and down and not across around these parts? I also wanted to make sure to get to the festival site with enough time to get through the ticket area with plenty of time to get to the Punk In Drublic stage for the opening band. As the build up for the festival grew there had been a lot of drama on the festival social media posts about tickets not being sent out and kids getting stressed and confused about the COVID-19 protocols that would allow you access to the festival site. I expected getting in to take longer than usual. This couldn’t have been further from the truth. After meeting up with my friends we strolled up to the gate and basically walked straight through. To be completely honest, I was a bit concerned that the chap who checked my COVID passport barely looked at it at all – I hope the rest of the people working the gate were more thorough!

To start the day we made our way to the Punk In Drublic stage which was returning to Slam Dunk for the second year. I have memories of the first Punk In Drublic stage at Slam Dunk being opened by California’s The Bombpops and them playing to a huge crowd. Unfortunately the crowd that greeted Sweden’s The Baboon Show wasn’t quite so big but that didn’t stop the rock ’n’ roll foursome putting on a big show to start the day. They played a blend of heavy rock and punk that I think would have sounded great in an indoor setting but perhaps didn’t translate as well on a sunny, outdoor stage. It was a spirited performance though with the band clearly masters at working a crowd. I assume that the band were new to the majority of people in attendance and I’m certain that they came away as new fans of The Baboon Show. They’ll be back next year for a tour with the legendary Descendents.

Next we made the journey over to the Key Club stage for the Popes Of Chillitown. Regular readers of CPRW will know of our love of the Popes. We’ve been watching them live for years and it was amazing to see them get the chance to play at a festival like Slam Dunk. As they only had a thirty minute set it meant that the band could only squeeze in about five songs. This didn’t stop them from putting on one hell of a show for the massive crowd that had gathered to see them. These guys have spent years on the road in the UK and have clearly earned a massive fan base along the way. I always think that the band are at their very best when they’re on stage and, despite the early start, they brought all of the energy to Slam Dunk. During their opening song they had the crowd dancing enthusiastically. Popes frontman Matt/‘Tarzan’ was at his frantic best, jumping all over the stage along with getting down to the crowd and singing with them. Seeing these guys playing this festival and absolutely smashing it shows why the festival should take more chances on the so-called smaller stage and allow them to showcase what a talented place the UK DIY scene is. Congrats to the Popes on this exceptional performance.

After Popes we made the trek back to the Punk In Drublic stage where Buster Shuffle had already begun their set. The South London based ska band were a late addition to Slam Dunk, replacing Texan folk punks Days N Daze who sadly had to drop out at the last minute due to issues with travel. Buster Shuffle felt like a perfect addition given the warm sunny day. Their upbeat ska/two tone was made for sunny days in a field and I had a lovely time watching them. Despite some issues with their piano early on, the band powered through to deliver a slick set. I’m not overly familiar with the band but it’s the type of music where you can have a great time regardless and it seemed that Buster Shuffle managed to get the sizable crowd moving throughout their time on stage.

Following on from Buster Shuffle were a pair of UK punk rock legends. First was Snuff. Snuff seem to have been one of the most active bands on the touring scene since gig restrictions have been lifted so were well practiced for their set. This was my first time seeing them since Dan from Spoilers had the joined the band on bass and they had a three piece brass section especially for the occasion which was nice as well. Snuff very much fit the bill of a no nonsense punk rock band, storming through their set with minimal banter between songs but when they do stop for a chat it’s always very entertaining. Personally, I prefer Snuff when they play their more cockney sing-along songs, songs like Arsehole and Whatever Happened To The Likely Lads went down a treat along with a really fun cover of The Merrymen’s Feeling Hot Hot Hot. All punk bands should be covering Calypso music on hot and sunny days. Snuff were a lot of fun as always.

UK skacore heroes Capdown were next to take the stage and you could feel the anticipation and excitement throughout the crowd. Capdown are arguably the most influential bands of their era so this extremely rare chance to see them play live was one you couldn’t miss. It’s been a few years since Capdown played any type of show but as soon as they took to the Punk In Drublic stage it was like they had never been away. Lead singer and saxophonist Jake Sims-Fielding was a ball of energy, bouncing around the stage whilst screaming out the lyrics to the opening tracks. What struck me quickly was how good the sound was for the band. I’ve often found outdoor gigs to not have the best sound but that could not be said on this stage. Capdown sounded massive. As you would have expected, the band stormed through all the favourites, each track getting a bigger reaction than the last. Personally I loved hearing Cousin Cleotis, Pound For The Sound, An A-Political Stand Of Reasons and, of course, Ska Wars. There’s always a real concern that this could be the last Capdown show whenever they play but if this was the last (I really hope it wasn’t) then it was a hell of a way to end it.

Next we made our way to the main stage to see Creeper. I don’t think I’ve seen Creeper since they headlined the opening day of the very first Manchester Punk Festival back in 2015. At the time they had only released their debut EP. Very few would have predicted the absolute behemoth of a band they have become since then. Their most recent EP, American Noir, debuted in the UK charts at number 13 which is absolutely insane for an independent punk rock band. It was now 3 o’clock in the afternoon and the sun was beaming down relentlessly. It was a little strange seeing a band who have such a spooky aesthetic playing in the bright sunshine rather than a dimly lit club but it didn’t stop Creeper from putting on a big set. Frontman Will Ghould is a wonderful performer and even from my vantage point, towards the back of the biggest crowd I’d been in at the point of the day, I couldn’t take my eyes off of him. During their nine song set, they played a great mixture of old and new songs. I was pleasantly surprised that they played VCR off of the debut EP alongside the newer stuff. Another highlight was when Hannah came out from behind the keyboards to perform a brilliant duet of Misery with Will. Creeper really showed why they are so highly thought of within the UK alternative scene.

Up next on the agenda was the Key Club stage for the super special surprise guests. Except they weren’t a surprise for us as the Leeds leg of Slam Dunk had happened the day before and it was already revealed the day before as UK pop rock heartthrobs McFly. I’d seen a lot of people had been disappointed that it hadn’t been Neck Deep as the secret guests but I was actually quite happy to see McFly playing and it seemed like a lot of people in Hatfield felt the same. I feel like McFly were a gateway band for a lot of people as they entered the world of guitar-based music. I went along as I figured when else would I ever get the opportunity to see them – I certainly wouldn’t buy a ticket for their own gig. Though to be honest I’m not sure I can really count this as seeing them. By the time I arrived at the stage, the crowd was so full it wasn’t really possible to get a good vantage point and all I could see was the one person running to the front of the stage and playing McFly songs. Could’ve been anyone. The kids at the front that I could see however seemed like they really enjoyed themselves and that was nice.

Following straight on from McFly were A. A are almost twenty five year veterans of the UK rock scene but somehow this was my first ever time seeing them. Obviously they’re best known for their big hits Nothing and Starbucks but they have a big catalogue of fantastic rock tunes to work from. Despite being one of the hottest days ever recorded (maybe an exaggeration), frontman Jason Perry took to the stage dressed like he was about to hit the slopes. I’ve been told on previous tours he dressed as a Deliveroo rider, complete with the bag – I guess the man enjoys dressing up. I absolutely loved A’s set. From start to finish it was an incredible amount of fun and it was great to see how many passionate fans the band still has after all these years. From making playful jibes towards McFly, to releasing a small confetti cannon and encouraging the crowd to do a walking circle pit, Jason had the crowd in the palm of his hands throughout. The aforementioned Starbucks and Nothing (which closed the set) got the biggest reactions from the crowd but my personal favourite track was Old Folks. A were potentially my highlight of the entire day and the next time they play a venue local to me I will be making every effort to go and see them again.

On my preview of Slam Dunk Festival I published a few weeks ago I mentioned that I’d like to see both Anti-Flag and [Spunge]. Unfortunately for me they clashed. What a bummer. I decided I would see [Spunge]. To be honest, I absolutely love Anti-Flag but [Spunge] are the band that started this whole punk and ska adventure I find myself in so there was no big dilemma really. Plus, on a really sunny day like it was, it’s only right to go and dance to some ska. I was very pleased to see that I wasn’t alone in my thought process as [Spunge] also drew a massive crowd. Before the set Paul Smith of Be Sharp Promotions and I speculated on if it would be best of set or if they would play a load of songs from Room For Abuse in preparation for the upcoming tour. It turned out to be a best of set and the band just played banger after banger. It’s always amazing to see [Spunge] bring so much joy to so many people and, from the opening moments of Ego to the final beats of Kicking Pigeons, the crowd were having the time of their lives. Along with all the old favourites, the band squeezed in a performance of their newest song Just Sayings. Over the last couple of years [Spunge] have been drip feeding us a few new singles so I wonder if that means a brand new album is on the way? I really hope so. I can’t wait to see them on their Room For Abuse Tour in October.

With [Spunge]’s triumphant set complete we made our way to back to the Punk In Drublic stage for the final three acts of the day. First was Chicago’s Alkaline Trio, making their first appearance in the UK (aside from the day before) in years. I think it’s fair to say that Trio were a lot of people’s most anticipated band of the day. From the moment that the band began to play openers Private Eye and We’ve Had Enough the crowd embarked in a huge sing-along. Unfortunately the band had some issues with their bass cabinet during the opening songs so had to take a short break to fix it. During this drummer Derek Grant treated the crowd to a short drum solo. It was a nice treat seeing one of the best drummers in the world perform such a solo. From then on Trio played a storming set featuring songs from their entire back catalogue. Much like Creeper – who I saw running through the crowd, excited to see their heroes – Trio have a bit of a spooky demeanour so it was a bit strange to see them play in the bright sunshine. I did feel like it took a little bit away from the set on a whole as some of the imagery that the songs provoke are quite gloomy but that didn’t prevent the crowd from having a great time. I was a little disappointed that they didn’t play Stupid Kid or Radio but I did enjoy hearing Every Thug Needs A Lady, Mercy Me, Armageddon, Warbrain and This Could Be Love for the first time in years. We’re looking forward to them returning for a UK tour with Taking Back Sunday next year.

Two bands left and it was time to admit that I was starting to struggle. I decided to take myself away from the group to find something to eat, get a drink and have a little bit of a sit by myself before the penultimate act of the day started their set. So I did. After finding food and drink I found myself a spot to sit and replenish my energy levels. It was a much needed piece of restbite and was quite nice just to do a bit of people watching and take in the events of the day. It really did feel fantastic to be back in that environment again.

After eating, I decided I better head to the toilet before meeting back up with my group. Frank Turner And The Sleeping Souls were just starting their set and I noticed quite a few people sprinting across the site to see them. Frank Turner is one of the most beloved performers in the country but I must admit that I was surprised to see just what a great reception he got on the Punk In Drublic stage. I arrived at the stage about halfway through the set. It turns out that I timed it perfectly as the band were just starting Photosynthesis, one of the songs that introduced me to Frank Turner many years ago. Following this Frank performed his version of the NOFX classic Linoleum. This was one of the highlights for me as NOFX early this year retired the song and it always earns a big sing-along. Especially in this type of crowd. It was extra amusing as NOFX were on the side of the stage watching before their set. This was my first time seeing Frank and the band in about four years and I was reminded why I used to enjoy seeing them so much. The final four tracks completed a great performance – Try This At Home, Recovery, I Still Believe and Four Simple Words ensured that they finished with a bang and got the crowd ready for what was to come.

It was finally time for the last band of the day, the legendary NOFX. As ever, I was hoping they would play The Decline (still haven’t seen it live) but unfortunately they did not. I’ve always found NOFX a little hit or miss live so I was interested to see what it would be this time. To my delight it was a hit. Starting out with Backstage Passport before jumping into Dinosaurs Will Die was the perfect beginning, really getting the crowd amped up. It had been a long and really hot day so you could have forgiven the crowd for being a little lethargic. This definitely didn’t seem to be the case. We were hanging out towards the back of the crowd but from my vantage point it very much seemed as if the pit was going wild. Between tracks there was the customary NOFX “banter”, including asking a parent why they’ve brought their child to see them before explaining what snowballing is to them. From there they played What’s The Matter With Parents Today? A song I recently rediscovered a love for after listening to Pump Up The Valuum for our album club podcast series. There was a great moment when Frank Turner joined the band on stage to sing NOFX’s version of The Ballad Of Me And My Friends. This was my second time seeing Frank sing with NOFX while they play one of his songs after seeing them do Glory Hallelujah a few years ago. Looking back at the setlist, it seems that they didn’t play a few of their traditional big hitters such as The Separation Of Church and Skate, Bob and, of course, the retired Linoleum. I did expect them to play Linewleum but sadly they didn’t. We did get to hear I Love You More Than You Hate Me from Single Album though. Looking at it appears that the band played a set featuring tracks from thirteen of their albums which was nice to see. My personal highlights were Leave It Alone, Radio, Eat The Meek, Franco-Unamerican (partly due to my pal Toby’s dancing) and the finale Kill All The White Men. NOFX closed the day with a massive punk rock party that left everyone leaving feeling great.

As I said way back at the start of writing this review I left buying a ticket to the festival until the very last minute. Gosh I’m glad that I did. After the last eighteen months of mostly being indoors and not seeing anyone this day was needed far more than I realised. It was a moment of forgetting all of the horrible things that have happened all over the world recently and a chance to remember what life was like before. The bands were all fantastic but to be back in a environment with friends and like minded folk who are all in good spirits was the best feeling. I had such an amazing time and I really didn’t want to go home. Massive thanks to the Slam Dunk and Punk In Drublic crews for defying the odds and somehow making this festival happen despite everything that was thrown at them. What a day!

This review was written by Colin Clark.

Monday, 27 September 2021

Album Review: Diverse Reality (Countdown to Pharmageddon 3) by Paranoid Visions (by Rich Bailey)

Dublin-based Paranoid Visions rode in on the second wave of punk around 1982 and followed more in the footsteps of anarcho-punks like Crass, Flux of Pink Indians and Poison Girls than typical UK ’82 bands along the lines of The Exploited, Anti Nowhere League or Chron Gen. They’ve had many personnel changes over the years and had some great guest vocalists – especially Steve Ignorant; and distributed many EPs, LPs and split singles, most of which have had limited releases on their own FOAD label (I’ll leave you to work out what the acronym stands for!). ‘Diverse Reality’ is the third long player that loosely links the two previous releases under the additional guise of Pharmageddon parts 1, 2 and 3 – namely Adverse Reality, Corona-Verse Reality and this one.

Alphabetty Spaghetti starts with a thudding bassline and a jangly, trebly guitar riff with a litany of guest vocalists (including TV Smith of Adverts, UK Sub Charlie Harper, Steve Ignorant of Crass, Segs from The Ruts and John Robb – Membranes & Goldblade – as well as journo from Louder Than War) reciting letters from the alphabet. The remainder of the song is a punked up version of “A is for …, B is for …, C is for …” etc. etc. I can pretty much guarantee you haven’t heard anything like this before!

Once Bitten Twice Shite is a short, punchy song that wouldn’t have sounded out of place on Dead Kennedy’s Fresh Fruit For Rotting Vegetables album; the vocal style is certainly reminiscent of Jello Biafra.

Solidarnosc 21 charts the rise of the far right in Poland whilst lamenting the demise of Lech Welesa: “Lech Welesa’s been forgotten, now the jackboots start to march; for a land that fought for freedom, to a land that lives in chains”. A great post-1989 Eastern European History lesson.

A&E, IOU (Irritable Vowel Syndrome) is a minute and half poem about a two tier health system (remember, this is a band from Ireland where the NHS doesn’t exist) that only helps the rich and insured “I’m sick and it’s not funny, and the Doctor knows it’s true; I’m in Accident & Emergency, and they don’t take IOU”. Reminds me of one of John Cooper Clarke’s more bleak recitals.

Stealing the Sun is quite a mellow number about living the best life you can whilst the world around you turns to shit. The opening bassline is very Stranglers-esque and the vocal and guitar arrangement evokes Magazine.

Alarm Clocks is a metronomic track about how everyone’s lives have become so timetabled and regulated that they can be depended upon to basically tell us what the hour is at any given time. Robotic and hypnotic; a true ‘wake up call’ (!).

The second longest song on the LP, Art Is A Hammer, is a lament about how safe art has become; it’s no longer a cutting edge medium that asks questions of the viewer, it’s just become safe and stale and shocking for the sake of it whilst trying to maximise profits and income for all involved. The vocal style is bored and humdrum to reflect what the band thinks art – in all its forms – has become.

Life No More is a pedestrian, straight forward track about the persistent lying of the “Welfare bastards and undeserving well-to-dos” with a great guitar solo in the middle section.

Another spoken word track, Times And Ages is a story from cradle to grave where time watches on unconcerned and unsympathetic as people go about their lives constantly clock watching.

Shepherd’s Warning is a classic example of what anarcho-punk is all about; dual vocals, pounding rhythm section and political lyrics – reminiscent of later outputs by The Mob.

The album closer and longest song Home Alone Forever has a gothic feel and reminds me of early solo Nick Cave. It’s a repetitive, poignant story about dying alone at the end of a long – and not necessarily healthy – life. “Alone, alone, alone, alone, forever; I’m alive but I’m dead inside, and if I die I will not cry … I breathe through these damn machines”.

This is an album that needs to be focused on; a little like a damned good novel.

Stream and download Diverse Reality (Countdown to Pharmageddon 3) on Bandcamp here.

Like Paranoid Visions on Facebook here.

This review was written by Rich Bailey.

Friday, 24 September 2021

CPRW Playlist: September 2021

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

Wednesday, 22 September 2021

Album Review: Ordinary Life by We Are The Union (by Brett Coomer)

We Are The Union released Self Care in 2018 and it turned out to be one of my favourite albums of that year. It felt like a new era for the band was being ushered in with Jer Hunter, of Skatune Network fame, joining the lineup and the band’s sound shifting away from the pop-punk sound of previous releases and embracing their ska side more. Even though I described them as fun, the songs on Self Care felt a bit darker and focused on more serious subject matter like anxiety, depression and despondency at the state of the world. For me, it was a perfect album for the time and I’ve regretted missing out on the vinyl of Self Care ever since.

Fast forward to 2021, We Are The Union are back with Ordinary Life and it’s one of my favourite albums of the year once again. Ordinary Life feels like a natural step forward for We Are The Union, diversifying their sound further but without straying too far away from the realm of third-wave ska and punk that has kept fans happy for years.

For those who are unfamiliar with We Are The Union or who have not kept up with the news within the punk scene, just a few weeks before the release of this album lead singer Reade Walcott publicly came out as a trans woman and it is pretty clear that Ordinary Life serves as an exploration and introspective look at Reade’s journey and reconciliation with her identity.

The struggle with transformation and acceptance is a fairly consistent theme and songs like ‘Morbid Obsessions’, ‘Broken Brain’ and ‘Big River’ carry a message that expresses the difficulty of change and the restless thoughts that accompany it. Even songs that focus on other topics, such as the breakdown of a relationship in the guitar driven ‘Short Circuit’ and ‘Everything Alone’, or substance abuse in ‘Wasted’, are underpinned by themes of grappling with acceptance and feeling isolated in the wake of transformational life choices.

The two most recent singles are great choices and show off the band’s pop-sensibilities but with a good dose of upstrokes and horns to make them skankable in all but the “punkest” of crowds. ‘Make It Easy’ tells the classic story of the awkward pursuit of new love and ‘Boys Will Be Girls’ doesn’t hold back with a clear message against the “tiny brains” and “ugly outlook” of prejudiced people. The latter has an especially catchy melody and chorus that does its best to make you want to dance and sing along and is one of the best songs on Ordinary Life.

Sonically the album is full of catchy choruses, big horn sections and great melodies. Songs like ‘Pasadena’, ‘Morbid Obsessions’ and ‘Ordinary Life’ would settle nicely in a setlist featuring favourites like ‘MTV Is Over If You Want It’ and ‘I Am Like John Cusack’, and I can easily imagine them being sung back at the band in a venue full of fans (post-COVID dreams are real).

The last song, ‘December’, feels like a self-addressed letter or diary entry from Reade saying goodbye to her old self with lyrics like “you’ll be dead in December, there can’t be two of us forever”, and not only accepting but embracing herself as “anything but ordinary”. It is a perfect way to complete the album.

Rather than thinking of Ordinary Life and the subject matter conveyed through the songs as depressing or dark, I find that through listening to the album I’m able to find joy in the sense of freedom that comes with self-acceptance and the celebration of living life as your true self. Ordinary Life takes the pop-punk-ska formula we’ve all come to enjoy from the band, further reinforced by great horns, and adds some elements of power-pop to create a memorable album with some catchy choruses that will get stuck in your head for days. For me, this is the best version of We Are The Union we’ve heard up until now and I can’t wait to hear and see what comes next.

Stream and download Ordinary Life on Bandcamp here.

Like We Are The Union on Facebook here.

This review was written by Brett Coomer.

Monday, 20 September 2021

Album Review: Heat by The High Times

Last year, the fine folk of Booze Cruise were putting on regular live streams every couple of weeks which were jam packed with amazing acts from all over the world. One of my highlights was when Swiss punks Überyou put together a full band show. Added on to the end of that video was a short set from a new band featuring members of Überyou. That band was The High Times and I was instantly a fan. Back in April the band finally released their debut album Heat through Gunner Records and Say-10 Records.

The first of the nine songs on the album is the title track, The Heat. The Heat is a melodic pop punk banger that does a super job of introducing you to The High Times. The guitars have a warmth to them that welcome you in and Dom’s vocals stand out immediately. The track is also super catchy so you’ll be singing along with the band in no time. I particularly enjoyed the “whoas” that build up towards each verse. Sometimes starts off at a slower pace and you can definitely hear soome Überyou in the style. It’s a sombre feeling song about missing and yearning for someone from a past relationship and how it will make you feel more right with the world. There’s a nice familiarity to the music that’s like putting on old shoes. This might be partly down to the “whoa-ohs” that quickly get stuck in your head. The third song, Good Company, is an uplifting song about making sure people know that they’re not alone even when they’re at their lowest. Of course it’s another big sing-along, this will give the listener a wonderful feeling of catharsis. A song that I’m sure will be a big hit when The High Times play it live.

Lose Control has a great energetic melody to it. It’s not super fast but is played at a tempo that really gets you pumped. This makes perfect sense as the song is about what its title suggests – Losing Control. This is another song that I can see going down really well live. On the fifth song, Nothing Matters, The High Times begin in quite a heavy fashion. When Dom’s vocals come in the song turns into a bit of an anthem for living life your own way, ignoring what other people say. I really liked the switch in tempos between chorus and verse and the addition of a male vocal during the song’s middles section gave the track a fresher feeling. Trouble Again sees The High Times move into an indie and, dare I say, pop territory. This is the song that I would play someone who wouldn’t normally listen to punk music as a way to introduce them to the sound. Seems like a good starting point for a new fan. Dom’s voice is perfectly suited to this style and shows off what an excellent singer she is.

In The End sees the band revert to a more familiar style. Dom’s vocals feel more muted than at any other point of the album, particularly in the verses. This really made me pay extra attention to the lyrics of the song. In The End is about finding your own special place where you feel safe and fit in. This is something we all appreciate and it makes you feel better. I would guess that we’ve all missed our special places enormously over the past 18 months. The penultimate song on Heat is titled Blew Up My Radio. This track has a bit of an old school rock ’n’ roll vibe as well as a country music twang in the vocals. Writing that sentence makes me think that this shouldn’t work as a punk rock song but it really really does. Blew Up My Radio is about the frustration in the fact that a lot of modern music doesn’t have the same passion that it used to. I really related to the track as I certainly feel the same with not really getting a lot of new, mainstream music. The final track is Figure Out Impossible. Really mixing things up, the track starts out with some male vocals, something that hasn’t happened at all on the album until this point. This really grabs the listener for this final song. The track starts out slowly with the vocals adding a load of emotion to the song. It builds to a more high tempo chorus where Dom takes over the lead vocals. The use of both vocalists on the song is superb and something I kind of wish the band had done more on the album. This is a big way to finish – a big fists in the air sing-along to complete a fine album.

Heat is an excellent debut from The High Times. I can see them being a regular at festivals throughout Europe and hopefully further afield in the future. Big things are surely on the horizon for this band.

Stream Heat in the usual places and buy physical copies here and here.

Like The High Times on Facebook here.

This review was written by Colin Clark.

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.