RECORD REVIEWS JANUARY-JUNE 2017
ANARCHISTWOOD / FLOWERS IN THE DUSTBIN split 7” (Grow Your Own) Having seen Anarchistwood only once (so far) it was an event that was quite bewildering. While the was a string politic undertone, the imagery took the form of twisted psychedelia, while musically they played a very anarchic form of post-punk that bordered on No Wave at times. Having seen them live, this single makes a lot more sense. ‘Bomb in a Luggage Rack’ is confrontational song with lyrics that subvert the imagery of TV reportage and the personal anxieties that they inspire. Meanwhile, on the other side of the plastic you’ll find ‘A Clown Too Many’ from Flowers in the Dustbin. As you possibly know, FITD were originally a part of the early 80’s anarcho-scene, playing a musical style that was inspired by the likes of Sex Gang Children, The Mob and Omega Tribe rather than the more usual anarcho-influences. The lyrics also took on a more personal context, not as obvious but just as effective. After reforming in recent years, this is a good indication that they’ve maintained their original approach with real intent. This is a great single and a fine way to investigate two bands that both deserve your attention.
ANTI-SYSTEM At What Price Is Freedom ? CD (Boss Tuneage) Originally formed in Bradford in 1981, Anti-System embraced both the political approach of the Anarcho bands and the more aggressive musical sound of bands like Discharge or Antisect. Although they were known as a ferocious live band, their original records were somewhat let-down by weak production, so it’s good to hear that this new record, their first since reforming in 2014, has an absolutely blistering sound. As with many bands within the so-call ‘d-beat’ genre, they have adopted a more metallic approach to their style and also a more ambitious structure to their songs (the title track is 8-minutes long !) but at the same time, they’ve also maintained the power and approach of their musical roots and have certainly not sacrificed their original intent in favour of technical-musicianship. Three of the songs featured here are new compositions while two are re-recordings of tracks originally released in the mid-80’s. I have to admit, I saw Anti-System live at AWOD a couple of years ago and wasn’t too impressed, but this CD has really surprised me in how good it sounds. I’ll definitely need to see them live again ! In the meantime, I’m more than happy to recommend this to any fan of the harder edges of Punk.
ANTHRAX (UK) One Last Drop LP (Grow Your Own) One of the best of the early ‘anarcho’ bands but, although they released two great singles (‘Capitalism is Cannibalism’ on Crass records and ‘They’ve Got It All Wrong’ on Small Wonder) and toured in both the UK and Europe, they didn’t release an album during their original lifespan which would have undoubtedly helped them gain a much wider audience. Fortunately, the band decided to reform in 2010, resulting in the release of their excellent album ‘All For The Cause’ and this compilation of material from their 1980-84 period. The vinyl version has been out of print for some time, so they’ve repressed it to meet demand. This time around, it’s available on red vinyl, together with a huge fold-old poster sleeve (including lyrics, notes and additional artwork) which makes an excellent presentation. The 18 tracks include their original demos (which are of very high standard) the two singles, a track previously only available on a Mortarhate compilation and a couple of live recordings. The sound quality is very good through-out, capturing both the power and individuality of the band. Musically, they could be seen as a link between earlier punk and the later, more aggressive styles of bands like Conflict or Dirt. The lyrics make their point in a direct but down-to-earth way which still stands up even now. Listen to this album and you will hear what I mean. Anthrax were / are a band that were never restricted by genre, which is why their music remains fresh and relevant. Buy this album and let yourself be impressed.
TOM BAKER & THE SNAKES. Lookout Tower CD (Rum Bar) No, it’s not the same Tom Baker who remains best known for his portrayal as Dr Who, although the idea of him fronting a rock band would certainly have its’ merits. This chap, and his entire combo, reside in Somerville, Massachusetts and specialize in the kind of melodic rock’n’roll that Tom Petty perfected during the Eighties. It also owes a debt to the Rolling Stones, Bruce Springsteen and possibly even Thin Lizzy. Either way, it’s a strong, feel-good album of catchy tuness, great playing and gutsy vocals. Every song is going to remind you of something you heard on the radio, back when they were still playing decent rock’n’roll on the airwaves. You should definitely give this disk a chance !
BAND OF THE UNDERHAND. Terminally Live CD (Jake Bear) A band consisting of former members of various bands, including Lightning Strikes, Under Two Flags and Big Audio Dynamite. I really wasn’t sure what to expect and, to be totally honest, I was expecting something a bit darker, considering Under Two Flags original post-punk releases. But this CD is actually full of exuberant upbeat songs that don’t really have too much direct reference to the previous bands. The music is brash and resilient, taking-in r’n’b and Soul from its’ original Sixties roots (rather than the flaccid dross that use those monikers these days) but dragging it through early Seventies Street Glam (Mott the Hoople) Punk and New Wave (Strummer / Elvis Costello) and even a hint of Springsteen, to bring it all firmly into the here and now. Seven tracks that bristle with energy and attitude. The lyrics and vocal delivery are very British (and more specifically, London) sounding even while they caste their net much further afield in search of musical ingredients. They’re obviously talented musicians but rather than just showing-off their abilities, the music retains a real authenticity and gut level accessibility that really ought to see them appealing to a very wide audience. It’s all a matter of whether they get the exposure they deserve, but in the meantime, all I can say, is catch them as soon as you can. The CD is a very limited edition so track down a copy soon, via; www.facebook.com/Band-Of-The-Underhand-485868624805258/
THE BARON FOUR. Walking Out 7” (State) Okay, so there’s more than a little nod towards the legendary Count Five (of ‘Psychotic Reaction’ infamy) but when this band is sounding so good, who cares if they if they’re wearing their influences of their sleeves ? ‘Walking Out’ is a total adrenaline rush c of garage rock with catchy guitar hooks, crashing drums and sneering vocals. Seriously, if you don’t want to get up and dance when you play this, then you might as well stop listening to records altogether. The flipside, ‘Can’t Find My Way’, is a more restrained effort, complete with twangy guitar sounds and a hint of Joe Meek in its’ arrangement, but it’s no less convincing. I was already impressed when I saw this band live, but this record just blows me away. Put it at the top of your wish-list !
THE BEATPACK. I’m Walkin’ 7” / Back, Behind and In Front EP (State) Originally based in the South East of the England, The Beatpack played frequently and released a handful of records in the late 80’s and early 90’s period. They went totally against the grain of the time, revealing an obsession with Sixties garage and R’n’B whilst instilling it with a snarling Punk attitude. Inevitably hooking-up with the like-minded Billy Childish for production-duties, they made their mark before vanishing from sight and sound in 1991. But now, with renewed interest from the vinyl buying public, they’re back. ‘I’m Walkin’ (backed with the equally enjoyable ‘Hey Senorita’) is recorded in suitably no-frills mono, capturing an authentic Sixties beat feel. But it’s the ‘Back, Behind an In Front’ EP that really welcomes them back with, four fine new songs that capture the spirit of The Monks and The Creation in a head-on collision. It may have been a gap of several decades, but they sound as fresh and sassy as they ought to and I can’t see any fan of fuzzy guitars and pounding beats being in the least bit disappointed with this return. Limited to only 500 copies, so be sure to snap up your own copies soonest !
RICHARD BONE. Age of Falconry CD (Mega Dodo) I really didn’t know what to expect from this release but it proved to be an enjoyable surprise. Richard Bone was born in the Fifties and first made a name for himself by creating soundtracks for experimental theatre performances. He then joined the cult-band Shox Lumania in 1981, whose music straddled both New Wave and No Wave. During the Eighties, he released several albums and EP’s through the independent UK label Survival. ‘Age of Falconry’ is entirely instrumental and consists of soundscapes that recall both the hypnotic repetition of Neu but also a real sense of pastoral awareness. Even tracks like ‘Damfino’ with its’ rumbling, almost menacing bass rhythm is tempered by spacious melodic sounds. This is something you really need to listen to when you can really immerse yourself into it, with no distractions or preconceptions. It’s interesting, insistent and totally compelling, like having a dream where you really don’t know where it’s going to lead. Give it a listen and you might just love it.
BORROWED TIME. Year of The Mayfly CD (Mayfly) Punk band based in the Gloucester area who play a mid-paced style that reminds me of Chelsea, circa ‘Evacuate’, while also incorporating some of the harder edges of early Eighties UK punk and even some of the more tuneful elements of early Californian punk (think of the Weirdos or Channel 3, perhaps ?) Since forming in 2013, they’ve been gigging regularly and this, their second album, sees them developing a really powerful sound of their own. Combined with a very solid production and interesting artwork, this is a very impressive release and if they’re able to promote it with continued live work, I’m sure this will take them to the attention of a much wider audience.
BULLETPROOF LOVERS. Shot Through The Heart CD (Rum Bar) Powerpop that veers towards the Garage side of things. Loads of catchy songs, lots of energy, even some glam-style swagger. Think of a cross between The Hives and Radio Birdman perhaps, or The Hellacoptors trading riffs with The Saints (‘77 version.) Even the slower tracks have the kind of attitude that make them utterly enjoyable. The group is made-up of American vocalist Kurt Baker, who currently resides in Madrid, plus members of various Spanish rock bands. They sound like such a perfect match and really make the most of their chemistry. A lot of people try to play hi-energy rock’n’roll but few manage to do it as good as this. It’s the kind of debut that just makes you hungry to hear even more, while crossing your fingers that you’ll get to see them live. Play it loud and play it lots !
THE CHEAP CASSETTES. All Anxious, All The Time. CD (Run Bar) If you like your pop music played with loud guitars and glam-stompin’ beats, this album is going to be essential listening. I’ll give you an idea… Redd Kross meets Cheap Trick, with healthy chunks of the Flamin’ Groovies and Hollywood Brats thrown into the mix. Still not tempted ? Add some extra Fastbacks and Replacements ! Now you’re getting the picture ? This is all about the songs, great catchy melodies with infectious choruses and harmonies that’ll make you want to have a shower, just so you can sing in it. I haven’t heard as great an expression of pure power pop since the Exploding Hearts album, it really is that good. Featuring two former members of the Dimestore Haloes who relocated to Seattle around five years ago, these recordings were apparently made between 2011-2014 and were originally released in limited amounts on their own label last year, so it’s great that Rum Bar are reissuing it to a wider audience. This is the kind of band that could cheer-up a funeral, so imagine what this record is going to do at your next party ! Not many could get away with a song entitled ‘Sieg Heil Means I Love You’, but The Cheap Cassettes do it with a stylish swagger and even have the confidence to end the album with a blastin’ version of The Vibrators’ classic ‘Whips & Furs’. Apparently, they’ve only played around their hometown so far, but let’s hope that changes soon in a UK-based direction. MAKE SURE YOU HEAR THIS !
THE CLAMP . Blend, Shake, Swallow CD (Heavy Psych) Playing a hard mix of rock’n’roll, this Italian band have supported the likes of Nashville Pussy and Valiant Thorr. Having played this album several times, I would suspect that they gave the headliners more than a run for their money. Musically, there’s a big hint of Motorhead, perhaps some Supersuckers (the rock rather than the country) and some of the rawest vocals this side of Antiseen. They manage to create such a big, dirty sound that you’ll be surprised that there’s only three of them, so they clearly know what they’re doing. Together with a great cover that recalls Ray Ahn’s artwork for the Hard-Ons, this is one helluva neat album and one you know you’ll want to play when you get that terrible urge to annoy the neighbours…
THE CONNECTION. Just For Fun CD (Rum Bar) A great collection of covers from this New Hampshire based band. If this selection is a good indication of their sound, I can’t wait to hear their own music. They don’t just play these songs, they make them their own. Kicking off with ‘Get Out of Denver’ (nominally, a Bob Seger song although the best version was always by Eddie & The Hotrods) before a blistering version of The Dictators ‘Stay With Me’. Elsewhere, less obvious tracks like ‘I Can Read Between The Lines (Gary Lewis & the Playboys) or ‘Get A Haircut’ (George Thorogood) are just as effective as better known tracks like Sylvains Sylvains’ ‘Teenage News’ or Cheap Trick’s ‘Southern Girls’. They even include a great country version of ‘Streets of Baltimore’ (as played by Gram Parsons.) This is just a good, fun album. Play it at your party and buy a beer for the person who recognizes the most songs !
CYANIDE PILLS. Sliced And Diced CD (Damaged Goods) Having been one of the best young live bands in the UK for the past few years, the Cyanide Pills have now produced a full album that totally lives up to their onstage prowess. 18 tracks that rip through your stereo like a sharp stiletto between the ribs. The nearest comparisons remain The Briefs and The Boys, but Cyanide Pills add something of their hometown attitude to proceedings that firmly sets them apart. This album really underlines their strengths, namely, plenty of energy, lots of catchy melodics and a clear sense of doing things the way they want to do them (and fuck-off to anyone who suggests otherwise.) In this case, that means mixing their classic short, sharp and snotty punk rock tuneage (‘Stop And Search’, ‘Still Bored’, ‘In the Back Of a Car’) with a more diverse set of influences. ‘Laid-Off’ has a great Rhythm’n’Blues beat, while other songs, like ‘Big Mistake’, ‘Government’ or ‘Razorblade’, take in elements of early Seventies rock (Mott The Hoople or The Who, perhaps ?) But they do it with style, making it their own rather than just adopting other styles. At the end of the day, Punk Rock was never meant to be just one thing and Cyanide Pills have taken that advice to make sure they never become stale. They haven’t made a bad record to date, but this is probably the best of the lot. Don’t think about it, just buy it !
DICK DALE. On The Pier LP (Rock Beat) Many people only know Dick Dale from the inclusion of ‘Miserlou’ on the ‘Pulp Fiction’ soundtrack, but there is so much more to the man’s talents than that admittedly great track. Facts … Jimi Hendrix was a fan of Dick Dale… Leo Fender developed his legendary range of amps to meet to the output of volume demanded by Dale’s style and volume… he uses extra heavy gauge guitar strings to cope with his heavy pick playing. And finally, most importantly, he still plays and sounds as great as he ever did. This album goes some way to documenting just how amazing his live performance can be. Whilst a mere audio recording is never going to replicate the experience of standing there in front of the stage, this will point you in the right direction. Unlike many musicians whose legacy stretches as far back as the late Fifties, Dick Dale has never settled in to a safe routine and has continued to push his music further, updating his original Hits to maximize their impact whilst continually adding new material to his setlist. He may be best known for his instrumental numbers, but recent tracks have included lyrics that highlight environmental issues and the plight of native Americans. He is a musician with a true sense of tradition but also possessed with an artists’ desire to take everything further. This live album, recorded at Santa Monica Pier in 1996, is both an excellent introduction to Dick Dale’s music and a great addition to any fans’ collection. Do not miss it !
DANNY SAYS. DVD (Wienerworld) It’s very rare that someone on the business side of music is in any way as interesting as the bands that they have worked with, but Danny Fields is a major exception to the rule. During the Sixties and Seventies, he worked together with Elektra and Sire to bring The Doors, the MC5, the Stooges and the Ramones to the attention of the world. Admittedly, in the short-term some of these bands may not have been great commercial successes, but his gut-instincts and love of rock’n’roll have ultimately been proven accurate. Having moved to New York in the mid-Sixties, he soon became acquainted with Andy Warhol’s scene, watching the development of the Velvet Underground and becoming friends with the likes of Nico, Lou Reed and Edie Sedgewick. His early involvements with music involved The Doors and, for a while, Leonard Cohen, before he became directly involved in the signing of David Peel & the Lower East Side, who had unexpected success with their album ‘Have a Marijuana’. But it was his next epiphany, on seeing the MC5 and subsequently The Stooges in Detroit, that really sealed his place in rock’n’roll history. He persuaded Elektra to sign both bands and although neither met with great success from their initial releases, their legacy continues to be as strong now as it has been for the last forty years. This would have been enough to ensure respect from any right-minded music fan, but Danny didn’t stop there. In 1975, he came across The Ramones at one of their earliest performances and immediately became an ardent supporter, ultimately convincing Sire Records to sign the band. Again, their commercial success may not have been as great as he had hoped for, but their influence over the following decades continues to be undeniable. This documentary tells Danny’s story together with many great and often hilarious stories, interspersed with comments by many of the other characters involved (Iggy Pop, Wayne Kramer, Alice Cooper, Tommy Ramone…) In addition to the film itself, the DVD also includes a great selection of extras. Most notably, there’s the complete Nico clip, ‘Evening of Light’, also featuring Iggy Pop. And a burning cross ! On top of this, there are also various interview outtakes, a Q&A session between Danny and Bryon Coley, and the complete audio recording of Lou Reed discussing his appreciation of The Ramones. The stories you will hear are amazing and it is truly great that this film documents them for everyone to hear. Danny may well have received his ultimate accolade when the Ramones wrote ‘Danny Says’ about him, but this film will give everyone else the chance to understand his remarkable place in both rock’n’roll and mainstream culture. Put simply, this film should be compulsory viewing for everyone.
DARKO. Bonsai Mammoth CD (Lockjaw) Young Guildford band who describe themselves as ‘skate-core’ although I’m not really sure if that can be pinned-down anymore. In their case, it seems to refer to breakneck tempos, raw aggressive vocals and metallic riffs from the twin guitar assault. Their enthusiasm certainly can’t be faulted and they also seem intent on meshing interesting guitar lines and time changes within their songs to add their own style to proceedings. The problem I have is that, while individual tracks sound great, as a whole album it does get a bit too uniform at times. The only breaks from the full-on pace are on the first and last tracks, but stand-out because they are so different to the rest. Darko certainly have a lot of potential, but I think they need to find a way to really identify themselves if it’s going to work.
DEAD WITCHES. Ouija CD (Heavy Psych) Self-styled Occult-Doom metal band Dead Witches were put together in 2016 by former Electric Wizard drummer Mark Greening and Italian vocalist Virginia Monti. It’s pretty certain that it will appeal to fans of Greening’s former band, with a potent mix of hard-hitting drums, fuzzed-up bass, sneering vocals and monstrous riffs. Of course, the Sabbath reference is still very much a part of the deal, but that’s not a problem at all. Dead Witches have enough of their own character to stand-out and this album certainly paves the way for greater things to come. The only sad note is that, unfortunately, guitarist Greg Elk passed away shortly after completion of the album. As much as this must be devastating for the band, I hope they find a way to continue the work they started with him, as they would surely be the most appropriate tribute.
DEARLY BELOVED. Admission CD (Aporia) Although the band name doesn’t exactly inspire enthusiasm, this is actually a very convincing album. Based in their native Canada, you can tell straight away that this is a band who tour constantly, as the songs are solidly formed in a way that only happens when they’ve been properly road-tested. To follow-up this work, they have then chosen to go into the studio with a producer, Daniel Rey, who has both the technical ability and the raw knowledge of rock’n’roll to properly capture their sound. Combining guitars with an almost industrial electronic style, they’ve created an album that recalls the early live outings by Nine Inch Nails and Ministry (before they both became too heavy metal) with an alternating aggression and sense of space that recalls the likes of Faith No More or perhaps even Gang Of Four. At the heart of it, this is a Rock album, but it’s Rock made with a sense of adventure and character. In an age of conformity, this is a bold and exciting statement.
DESCENDENTS. Everything Sucks LP + 7” (Epitaph) It’s strange to think that this album is now twenty years old, as it really doesn’t seem that long ago that its’ release was announced and the band finally played in the UK. But in that time, it’s rightly became acknowledged as one of their classic records and probably served the most to win them the larger acclaim that they always deserved. Whatever you think on the matter, it’s a timely reissue, remastered from the original tapes for maximum effect. It really does sound as fresh and vital as it did when I first heard it, bringing together the bands’ trademark humour, passion, melody and coffee-fueled adrenalin in a perfect platter. Pressed on 180g vinyl, it also comes with a bonus 7” featuring two tracks that only featured on singles released back at the time and, if you were quick on your toes, the first 500 were on clear vinyl. I expect anyone who’s interested already has an older copy, but if you need an excuse to play it again, here ya go !
DESTRUCTORS. Pow ! That’s Killmusik Vol 3 CD (Rowdy Farrago) A compilation of tracks released on CD singles between 2012-2015. Anyone who has been paying attention will know that The Destructors have kept themselves busy in recent years, releasing both their own material and that of other bands on a series of split-EPs which often include some of their best songs. The idea of this collection is to put all of their material (minus the cover versions) in one place to allow it to be heard as a solid body of work. In many ways this is ideal, because it underlines their strengths and lets you appreciate the continuity of their approach. As an album in its’ own right, this works really well, with a harder sound throughout and a sense of purpose in the songs that gives it a real continuity. Lyrically, they address religion, violence, corporate greed and terrorism, but also have time for humour in songs like ‘Drinking 4 England’. To make the most of the space available on the CD, they’ve also added a few new tracks and a couple of covers, making this great value for money. Treat this as a full album rather than a collection of separate releases and I’m sure you’ll be impressed.
THE DISTRACTIONS. Kindly Leave The Stage CD (Occultation) The Distractions originally emerged as part of the early Manchester punk scene, releasing their first EP, ‘You’re Not Going Out Dressed Like That’ on the local indie label TJM in 1978, before the ‘Time Goes By So Slowly’ 7” on Factory records in 1979. They subsequently signed to Island for the excellent ‘It Doesn’t Bother Me’ 7” and debut album, ‘Nobody’s Perfect’, developing a great sense of pop accessibility while maintaining their own style and integrity. The album received critical acclaim but failed to achieve the sales that it deserved and the band eventually split in 1981. Founding members Mike Finney and Steve Perrin first attempted a reunion of sorts in the mid-90’s, but it wasn’t until 2010 that the results of this brief period of songwriting emerged with the release of the ‘Come Home’ EP in 2010. This time, their sound had matured in a more soulful direction, although Mike Finney’s distinctive vocals ensured that the continuity was clear. Their second album ‘The End of The Pier’ was finally released in 2012, more than three decades since the first, so it now feels as if, in comparison, their third and final album has followed fast on its’ heels ! Again, it contains a more soulful approach, this time with an almost mournful sense of loss, perhaps in response to their decision to make this their final project together. But whatever the case, the range of emotions are convincing and have the genuine feel of a band who doing this for no other reason than they want to do it. Musically, this is a band who may have moved a long way from their punky roots, but the same intent is still there. This isn’t an album for those only interested in nostalgia, this is there for people who want to follow the possibilities. This is a fine album and you should definitely hear it, but only if you are open to the genuine vision of the band now rather than just expecting the past.
DL BURDON. Accidental Aesop CD (Boss Tuneage) New band put together by Davey Burdon, one time member of Leatherface and the driving force behind the short-lived but much-rated Former Cell Mates. After a period of time living in America, he’s now back in the UK with a new band and a new set of songs that veer towards a Bluesy, C&W style of Americana, with emotive lyrics and atmospheric backing. In many ways it’s a very natural extension of his previous bands and will most likely appeal to his older fans as well as reaching out towards a new audience.
THE DOLLYROTS. Whiplash Splash CD (Wienerworld) Every-so-often, you come across a band who have been consistently releasing great records and playing the kind of infectious pop-punk that you’d expect everyone to go crazy over. But for some reason, hardly anyone seems to have heard of them. So, I’ll say it once again because sooner-or-later, the hordes are going to catch on… THE DOLLYROTS ARE A GODDAMN FUCKING AMAZING BAND ! When I say Punk, I mean The Ramones, The Muffs, The Fastbacks. When I say Pop, I mean The Bangles, The GoGo’s, The Monkees. When you put them together, you get songs that pack loads of natural energy together with tunes as catchy as bird flu. You can add a few other nods along the way, including The Pixies and Joan Jett, but either way, it’s gonna make you want to jump up and party. Kelly’s vocals have a genuine exuberance and the production takes moments from the 80’s and 90’s to create a totally entertaining set. The finale features a superb cover of ‘Walking on Sunshine’. Much that Katrina & The Waves hit version was great fun, The Dollyrots play it the way I always wanted to hear it. I’ll be playing this album a lot over the next few months. Loud. Take some advice and do the same.
DOWN LOVE. Trust CD (Boss Tuneage) Funnily enough, I got to see this band for the first time in the same week that this album was sent through for me to review. I was suitably impressed by both ! Down Love (is that a reference to the great Paul Westerberg song ?) play a style of music that recalls the period between the late-80’s / early 90’s when the UK was producing a virtual glut of great melodic punk bands such as Snuff, Senseless Things and Mega City Four, while North America was producing new bands like Green Day, Jawbreaker and the Doughboys. (You can probably also throw a bit of Husker Du and Vic Bondi’s various bands in to the mix.) What Down Love produce is great, tuneful songs with plenty of raw emotion but always keeping it accessible and entertaining. The vocals are raging at times, but they’re raging with you. The guitars are loud, but it’s passionate rather than aggressive. ‘Those Words You Said’ is a heart-felt tribute to former Mega City Four frontman Wiz, and it’s a fitting tribute to someone who obviously meant a lot to this band (as well as to many others.) This is a good album and a great debut. I can only imagine that this band are going to be making a real name for themselves over the next few years. Check this out to be the first on your block !
ELEPHANT HOUSE. Pony Ride LP (Adaadat) An excellent album of soundtrack-like repetition and drones, carefully building moody atmospherics and themes at a steady, evocative pace. The duo responsible for this album are currently based in London, but respectively originate in Greece and China. Christos Fanaras has already released many albums under different guises and comes from a more ambient musical background, while Shenggy Shen was a member of Hang On The Box, China’s first all-girl punk band. She has since taken a more avant garde direction and released records both under her own name and as part of the band White. Together, their music has depth and a sense of intrigue, drawing you in to their world with both calming and unsettling elements. Accessible and experimental at the same time, this is a record full of conviction and substance. Highly recommended.
THE FALLEN LEAVES. What We’ve All Been Waiting For CD (Parliament) I’ve seen The Fallen Leaves a few times over the past decade and each time thought to myself, I like this band, I must check out their albums. But for some unknown reason, I’ve just never got around to it. When this album arrived in the post, I put it on and promptly spent the next 32 minutes kicking myself. Why hadn’t I paid more attention ? This is a great record but it’s taken me until their fourth album to catch up ! Okay, I’ll be making up for lost time now, but if you haven’t already heard this band, don’t make my mistake. It’s starts with a glorious, reverberating chord that tells you, even before the first song starts, that this is going to be fun. Musically, the band are based around the English-branch of Sixties garage rock (The Who, Downliners Sect, Pretty Things) whilst also evoking the spirit of the Velvets (their livelier moments) and perhaps The Modern Lovers. But it’s all done with a very English Punk Rock approach, keeping things raw and idiosyncratic while maintaining the insistence and energy. Rob Symmons and Rob Green were both members of Subway Sect (although at different times) and drummer Brett Ascott was an original member of The Chords, which gives them a fine pedigree they effortlessly live up to. Trust me, whatever I write here means nothing because all you really need to do is play this album loud. If it doesn’t give you a kick in your taste-buds, then you just don’t deserve it. Pay attention !
THE FLEAS. Heartbreaker EP (Grow Your Own.) I haven’t seen this band live, yet, but hearing this EP makes that a priority. Three-piece Brighton band playing a raw, frantic style of punk rock. Female vocals and occasional saxophone gives it a unique twist on the punk genre, recalling the likes of X Ray Spex and Hagar The Womb as much as more recent Riot Grrl sounds. Good lyrics and a real sense of urgency in the recordings that can’t help but be infectious. This band sound like a lot of fun, be sure to hear this record !
GOSPELBEACH. Another Summer of Love CD (Alive) Brett Rademaker was previously a member of both Further and Beachwood Sparks, two bands who made critically acclaimed records but never achieved the popularity they so obviously deserved. With Gospelbeach, he is now making music that merits an even greater degree of success. ‘Another Summer of Love’ is a classic pop album that spans every era from the Fifties through to the present day, but with a timeless quality rather than one of mere nostalgia. Opening track ‘In The Desert’ makes a sly nod in the direction of The Jam’s debut single, although the mood is more in line with their ‘In The Crowd’. Other tracks recall vintage psych-influenced West Coast Pop while the very fine ‘You’re Already Home’ takes on a more mellow feel. ‘Kathleen’ is a jaunty, upbeat track that combines Cheap Trick style powerpop with a country twang and, almost in direct comparison, ‘The City Limits’ recalls John Lennon’s more reflective moments. The album ends with the only real rocker of the set, ‘Runnin’ Blind’, which provides the perfect exuberant conclusion to a great collection of songs. This is a band that really have the potential to go far and with a UK tour planned for later this year, I’m sure they’re going to be crossing over to a much wider audience very soon.
HEADACHE. LP www.facebook.com/thisisheadache/ Young band from the St Albans area who are steadily forging their own sound. Coming from current rock influences (Foo Fighters, Greenday) they’ve added their own mix of punk, grunge and a few less likely sounds (I can hear the guitar-sound from early ATV in places, though that may not be deliberate.) The songs are catchy because, at their core, they embrace powerpop-style melodies, with imaginative arrangements and interesting lyrics. The guitar sound is almost metallic (rather than ‘metal’) and at times refers to classic hardcore, but they never just thrash away, instead tempering their energy and enthusiasm with a range of breaks and tempo-changes. Final track ‘Wish’ is the outstanding moment, a song that’s begging for a place on vinyl. An insistent melody, great guitar hooks, good contrast between the dual vocals and loads of energy. There’s a lot of promise in this band and if they can maintain the progress they’ve made so far, there may well be great things ahead.
HEAT. Overnight CD (Topshelf) If you could imagine a cross between New Order and Pavement, this might be what you’d arrive at. The big hooks are based around the interplay of prominent bass lines and the deceptively simple keyboard melodies, while the vocals almost drone in dreamy but seemingly profound manner. Yet at the same time, the production is curbed to keep it at a very Indie level rather than going for an overblown approach that would make it far more ‘anthemic’ but lose most if not all of its’ own identity. The production certainly isn’t ‘lo-fi’, but tempered to allow the songs to find their own pace, while the arrangements have an inventive feel that add to the music rather than overwhelm it. It may not be the most original sounding album you’ll hear this year, but their approach certainly sounds fresh and you get the impression that they’re enjoying it as much as the fans. It’s good fun, don’t be scared to check it out !
HEAVY METAL KIDS. Hit The Right Buttons CD (Dissonance) Originally released in 2003, this was the first Heavy Metal Kids album in 25 years and was met with considerable critical success. After the death of their original singer, the charismatic Gary Holton, many had doubted that the band would be able to continue in any valid form. But ‘Hit the Right Button’ proved that the new line-up, featuring core members Keith Boyce and Ronnie Thomas, could still produce a tough-sounding street rock album that both embraced the original bands’ attitude and contemporary production. New boys Danny Peyronel, Marco Guarnerio and Marco Barusso clearly understood the Heavy Metal Kids legacy, adding to it rather than merely trying to recreate previous material, but also opening the band up to new possibilities. Songs like ‘Message’, ‘Crool World’ and ‘Push The Right Button’ perfectly capture the spirit of the band and, especially if you’ve seen them live, you’ll know that they fit-in perfectly alongside the older material. Basically, this is Hard Rock as it ought to be done and if you can’t enjoy this album, then you just haven’t got a sense of fun.
HELLKRUSHER.Wasteland CD (Boss Tuneage) Formed in 1989 by former members of Hellbastard and Energetic Krusher, Hellkrusher soon became one of the mainstays of the UK Crust and D-beat scene. Sticking to their raw Discharge-influenced punk principles, Hellkrusher released this, their debut album, within a short time of their formation, setting a blueprint for the direction they would pursue in the following years. Although there have been various splits and hiatus along the way, Hellkrusher have continued to follow their brutal musical direction to this day. With a new album reportedly on its’ way later this year, this is the perfect time for their much sought-after debut album to be made available again, this time with additional liner notes and artwork. Hellkrusher are one of the true legends of the UK Hardcore scene and this is the album where it all started.
HYPOCHRISTMUTREEFUZZ. Hypopotomonstrosesquipedaliophobia CD (Ampersand) This is truly bizarre, in all the best kind of ways. There’s definitely a San Francisco influence at play in this bands’ chosen ground, at times making me think of Primus if they ever followed their Residents-obsession to furthest reaches, but also mixing moments that recall the drama of Chrome’s deepest space rock and Mr Bungle’s diverse drama. The other element I’d throw in to the mix would be No Means No (also fans of the Residents, it should be said.) The rhythms definitely have similar dynamics, even though used in different ways. The vocals veer from moments that recall Gary Numan, David Yow, or maybe even one of the Residents imitating Marilyn Manson… Yes, it really is that peculiar. Musically, there’s definitely a jazz-feel although it’s always pinned-down with a real bass-groove and a sinister undertone that threatens to erupt to the surface at any moment. Not very sure about the lyrics but I get the idea that they work more as an instrumental device (I could be wrong about this.) Besides all of this, I can only tell you that the band are based in Ghent where they are at the centre of a lively noise-rock scene. Their live performances are, by all accounts, even more intense than the record, which means they really will need to be seen. This is a perfect mix of interesting ideas and organic approach, combined together to create an album that will have you swaying along even while you’re considering what might happen next. For all these reasons, you really need to hear this record.
JUNKO FUSE. CD/EP (www.facebook.com/junkofuse) This may not be particularly representative of the band now, as original vocalist Jazz Oliver has since departed the ranks and they’re continuing as a three piece, but this is still a rather good set of songs. Produced by Pat Collier (ex-Vibrators) the tracks have a really powerful sound throughout, propelled by a compelling rhythm section that allows the guitar to really make its’ mark while the vocals make their point with real determination. You can hear different influences (everything from The Clash through to Nirvana) but they add something to it that ensures that it’s never merely derivative. Plenty of energy and just the right attitude, this is a band to watch out for.
KRIMEWATCH. Machismo. 7” flexi (Boss Tuneage) It’s been a while since I last saw a brand new flexi-disc release, but Boss Tuneage have decided to resurrect the format for a series of punk rock samples. First up are two tracks from a New York-based, female fronted hardcore outfit. The recordings are good demo-quality and a great way to introduce you to a very promising band. In case you’re interested, ‘Machismo’ is not a cover of the Infest song, although that band may be within the list of influences, along with older, classic hardcore like Minor Threat. In a genre all too often dominated by male attitude, this is a great twist and well-worth hearing .
ARTHUR LEE & LOVE. Complete Forever Changes Live CD (Rock Beat) Only the most hardened cynic would deny that ‘Forever Changes’ is a truly classic album. Combining rock, pop, psychedelia, orchestral and even flamenco sounds, it proved to be one of the defining albums of its’ era and, quite rightly, it’s reputation has only grown stronger over the subsequent decades. In 2002, after serving a five year prison term, Arthur Lee formed a new incarnation of Love and began to tour again, celebrating the 35th Anniversary of ‘Forever Changes’ and meeting with universal acclaim. This live recording comes from their triumphant appearance at Glastonbury Festival in 2003. Accompanied by the Stockholm Strings & Horns, they recreated the album in its’ entirety and then added a couple of treats for the encore, eventually ending with a phenomenal version of ‘7 & 7 Is’. The response from the audience, many of them not even born when the original album was released, was ecstatic and quite deservedly so. Arthur Lee had proved his point, as if he ever really needed to do so, and this recording provides the evidence. Together with sleeve notes from guitarist Mike Randle, this is an essential item for any fan and anyone else who wants to catch up.
LITTLE DEATH MACHINE. Midnight Blue EP (17 Records) South London based band creating an interesting mix of styles, something like early Nine Inch Nails crossed with Gary Numan’s more recent output, but also with an almost Glam Rock approach rather than metal. Driven by a throbbing bass loop, the track continues at a steadfast pace, at one point menacing but the next busting into life. You’d really need to hear more than just this track to get a full idea of what this band are capable of, but as a teaser for an upcoming album, this is very promising indeed.
MARK & THE CLOUDS. Cumulus CD (MegaDodo) Second album from this highly rated UK powerpop band. Combining the melodic swagger of The Kinks alongside the psychedelic playfulness of the Beatles later albums, the songs have plenty of zest and a distinctly British accent. Tracks like ‘You’re So Cold’ and ‘Sheltered By The Wall of Sound’ have a real bounce in their tempo that will have you up and grooving around your living room, while ‘The Endless Road’ and ‘Take My Sky’ are much more contemplative. The wonderfully titled ‘The Lady Was A Freak’, on the other hand, is a real stomper, something like ‘Get Back’ being rewritten by T Rex. Ending with the Baroque psychedelia of ‘Evil Fairies’, this is an album that is going to appeal to fans of Sixties music, but also has plenty of great tunes and melodic hooks to cross over to a much wider audience. Be sure to check it out.
MENZINGERS. After The Party CD (Epitaph) Menzingers were one of the new breed of ‘pop-punk’ bands that emerged a decade ago, in their case from Pennsylvania. Having released two albums on smaller (but no less worthy) labels, they signed with Epitaph in 2011 and this is their third LP with them. As with many of the younger successful ‘punk’ bands in America, you can almost hear the point when they suddenly realize that they’re not teenagers any longer and begin to adopt an almost introspective lyrical approach while musically, they start to become more ‘mature’ and ‘rock-friendly’. Which isn’t to say it’s a bad thing. At least they’re not desperately pretending to still be kids and have realised that the songs have to develop so that they’re not stuck in the past. The results in this case are certainly not displeasing. Their style reminds me of Social Distortion with a more contemporary rock-pop production, aimed for audiences with arms waving in the air. Every generation needs that, so it’s not a bad thing, but I prefer songs like ‘Bad Catholics’ which display their true originality and are just damn great songs, wherever you hear them. So, it’s an album by a band who are growing up and not afraid to admit it. I can respect them for that and I enjoy this album all the more for it !
THE MISSING SOULS. Sweet Sweet Sadie 7” (State) A French band (although you’d never guess it from the accents, dontcha know ?) playing fuzzed-up Sixties style beat-pop that’ll take you back to the wildest freak-out you’ve ever dreamt about. The b-side, ‘The Alligator’, joins that illustrious line songs dedicated to obscure dance moves, making you think of how the Fuzztones might sound if they adopted a British Invasion vocal style. Add to this a some seriously demented guitar breaks and you have yourself a whole lot of fun !
MOTHERSHIP. High Strangeness CD (Heavy Psych) Hard rock from Dallas, Texas that recalls the early-Seventies heyday of bands like Black Sabbath and Deep Purple. It works because the band combine obvious musical ability with a natural, instinctive sense of groove. It rocks and it also rolls, much in the same way that Motorhead always achieved. Unfortunately, the track ‘Helter Skelter’ is not a cover of the Beatles’ classic (now, that’s something that I would have liked to hear them handle) but their own composition is still one of the highlights of this album. I’m afraid the cover artwork is a bit too retro (in many ways) but don’t let that put you off. This is a very compelling album.
THE NATTERERS. Don’t Worry, Consume. 7” flexi (Boss Tuneage) Frantic punk rock with female vocals from Yorkshire (I don’t like having to specify between male and female vocals – if a vocalist is good, they’re good, whatever the gender. But sometimes, it’s the only way to give you an idea of what the band are like.) The only comparisons I can make are with the much-missed Sofahead and possibly The Gits. These are the four tracks from their first demo-tape, and are surprisingly tight and powerful. Although the pace is fast throughout, they never lose their melodic instincts and the vocals are clear and thought-provoking. Again, this is an excellent choice to give further exposure to a band that really deserve it. If they can continue in the same approach, I think this band are likely to produce some truly great records.
OBSTRUCTION. Demo 7” flexi (Boss Tuneage) If a band is going to play the so-called ‘D-beat’ style, this is the way they ought to do it. A really powerful sound but plenty of clarity, so you can actually hear what’s going on (Discharge perfected this around the time of ‘Decontrol’.) With two guitars, bass, drums and vocals in the mix, you need to have an idea of what they’re doing and not just an overall dirge. The way that Obstruction present themselves on this demo is incredibly powerful and exhilarating. The only thing missing are the actual lyrics, because it would have been cool to read what has inspired such rage and passion. Regardless, this in an incredible display of sonic assault and I can recommend it to anyone who loves punk rock in its’ more extreme manifestations. If this is only a demo, I can’t wait for a full-on release !
PHIL OCHS. Live in Montreal CD (Rock Beat) As opposed to the vacuous and insipid dross that is generally regarded as ‘singer-songwriter’ or ‘folk’ music these days, in the Sixties, protest singers like Phil Ochs were seen as a genuine opposition to the establishment. He spoke out against corruption, the police, War and the government, attracting large audiences and much attention from the authorities themselves. Hearing this double CD set, it gives you a real indication of how powerful a single singer/guitarist could be, mesmerising the audience and ensuring that his words and thoughts were heard. Songs like ‘Crucifixion’ and ‘Power And The Glory’ put ideas across without resorting to mere slogans, giving the listeners space to form their own opinions, while between the songs, Phil also displayed a sense of humour that tempered the more serious subjects he was addressing. A true entertainer but one who was never afraid to express his conscience, he was also one of the few musicians who appeared at the infamous Democratic National Convention demonstrations in Chicago, 1968 (alongside other underground heroes such as the MC5 and William Burroughs.) Considered by many at the time as a contemporary and equal of Bob Dylan, Ochs eventually succumbed to mental-health problems and alcohol abuse, sadly committing suicide in 1976, but his music still stands up surprisingly effectively even now. Hear this recording and you’ll start to understand why the man is still considered to be an important icon of the Sixties counter-culture.
OLDER THAN DIRT. Discography Part 1. 1990-1993. CD (Boss Tuneage) Older Than Dirt were a Southampton based band who, while proud to proclaim themselves ‘South Coast Hardcore’ also confidently incorporated diverse styles into their music. Certainly, they had the power and intensity of hardcore, but it doesn’t take many listens to hear elements of early UK punk and even some Ska in their influences. Of course, as they developed, further elements added to the sound and their style became more individual. This CD covers their early recorded output, including their ‘Harder Than Nails’ demo from 1991, their self-released four-song flexi-7” from 1992 and the ‘New Age of Rage’ 7” from 1993. There’s also an alternate version of ‘All Or Nothing’ and a selection of live recordings from the same era, which capture the band in their natural environment. While many bands from the early Nineties haven’t aged very well, this collection actually sounds remarkably vital, even 25 years on, and more than warrants the thorough reappraisal that this CD allows. Be sure to catch up on this band !
NICK OLIVERI. N.O. Hits At All Vol,1. CD (Heavy Psych Sounds) The former Kyuss / Queens of The Stone Age legend releases a set of songs that he’s fronted for other bands, including Winnebago Deal, Svetlanas, Death Acoustic, Komatsu and (Pustelnik’s) Groundhogs. As you’d expect from the diversity of bands, this is a pretty varied selection of songs (some released elsewhere, others not previously available.) Komatsu’s ‘Lockdown’ is the closest to the stoner rock genre, with a heavy, driving riff-fest that recalls Lemmy-era Hawkwind. Death Acoustic perform stripped-down rants, while Winnebago Deal race through an impressive and convincing cover of Black Flag’s ‘Revenge’, with Nick providing one of his more demented vocal takes. Svetlanas perform an enthusiastic version of Motorhead’s ‘Speedfreak’ with a suitably edgy rhythm section, and finally, the Groundhogs end the set with a great slice of their Acid Rock style in the form of ‘Eccentric Man’. Oliveri’s voice is the element that maintains the continuity and ensures that this selection work really well together. The tracks sound as if they were recorded as much for the fun of the bands involved as anything else, and that’s what makes this such an enjoyable record. Put it on your shopping list now !
PANDEMIX. Pathological Culture 7” flex (Boss Tuneage) Flexi-disc reissue of this highly-rated Boston bands’ first demo recordings from 2016. I only wish there was a bit more information about the band themselves on the sleeve, as I can’t find much about them online. Female vox vie with an intriguing mix of hardcore and post punk, while lyrically the subjects are tackled in a more thought-provoking, less direct fashion. The sound quality is obviously of demo-status, but this is a really interesting band and I certainly want to hear more (which, after all, is the whole idea behind this series of flexi-disc releases.) Definitely a band that you should check out.
PLASMATICS Live 1978-1981 Rod Swensom’s Lost Tapes DVD (MVD) Any fan of the the Plasmatics and their charismatic front-woman Wendy O.Williams is going to love this DVD ! A compilation of previously unreleased footage recorded by the bands’ manager (and Wendy’s long-term partner) Rod Swenson, this isn’t always the highest fidelity quality, but the access he had to the band guarantees that he covered the story as it happened, rather than merely reporting after the fact. Possibly the most intriguing clip comes right at the beginning, with film of an early gig at CBGB’s in 1978, performing ‘Want You Baby’, which was yet to mutate into the full throttle rampage of ‘Butcher Baby’. Wendy’s onstage persona is already busting to get out, even if the costumes hadn’t yet arrived. Further glimpses of the band in ’79, ’80 and ’81 see her develop her performance with confidence and abandonment. Part showmanship, part Iggy, part dominatrix and part diva, she created a presence that delighted fans and outraged those that needed to be upset, in equal amounts. Her blatant sexuality served to empower rather than demean and, as much of this occurred in the New York of the early-Eighties, it isn’t too much of a stretch to imagine Madonna taking notes in the wings. Ultimately, the Plasmatics were never destined to achieve the success that their reputation deserved, but they certainly blazed a trail for many others who came in their wake. Watching this DVD now, the performances are still fun and exciting. Some of the antics may not seem so outrageous anymore, but that’s only because so many have copped their act from this band in subsequent times However you look at it, The Plasmatics were there first and it would be an even more boring world had they not been out there at all.
PROTEX. Tightrope CD (Bachelor Records) Among the likes of Rudi, The Outcasts and the Undertones, Protex were one of the Northern Irish bands that initially made their mark on the Good Vibrations label. They also forged their own particularly sound which combined the urgency of Punk together with an obvious passion for vintage rock’n’roll and a deft hand at creating great melodies. They originally split in 1980 after difficulties with their first album which would remain unreleased until 2010, when Sing Sing Records in New York tracked down the mastertapes and finally made the recordings available. Renewed interest in the band eventually prompted a reunion, featuring founding members Aidan Murtagh and Dave McMaster, which resulted in gigs as far apart as America, Spain and Japan. And now, they’ve returned to the studio to produce their first album in over 35 years. It’s certainly not going to disappoint any old fans and should also win them a whole generation of new ones. The rock’n’roll influences are probably even more pronounced on this album, with a clean guitar sound, great harmonies and hooks that will stay firmly in your ears. This is one of those albums where virtually every track could serve as a single release. Aidan’s voice is still instantly recognizable, with a wonderfully under-stated passion, and the songs are as catchy as anything they released in their heyday. For me, the production could probably have been a bit more solid but really, this is all about the songs and they are faultless. If you don’t fall in love with songs like ‘Waiting for The Sign’, ‘Truth’ and ‘Tightrope’, then you just ain’t got a heart ! Make it a priority to track-down this album.
THE RINGS. Rehearsal Tapes 10” EP (Neat Damned Noise) Celebrating the 40th Anniversary of their one and only 7” single, NDN are releasing six tracks recorded live in the bands’ rehearsal room in May 1977. The Rings featured Twink (a true legend of Ladbroke Grove’s underground music scene and former member of The Pretty Things and Pink Fairies) Alan Lee Shaw (who went on to play in The Maniacs, The Physicals and The Damned) and Rod Latter (The Adverts.) They bridged the gap between the harder edges of psychedelic rock and the emerging Punk scene and, rather than jumping on a bandwagon, really had every right to be doing so. Their background included involvement with The Deviants, Syd Barrett and even the MC5, so they certainly didn’t have a past to be ashamed about ! In this unfortunately short-lived configuration, the band honed a set based mostly around their own material (both sides of the classic ‘I Wanna Be Free’ / ‘Automobile’ 7” and two previously unreleased tracks, ‘I Wanna Get High’ and ‘Shoot You Down’) plus covers of The Pretty Thing’s ‘Get Yourself Home’ and the Pink Fairies ‘Teenage Rebel’. The sound quality isn’t Hi-Fi but it captures the raw energy of the band perfectly. After all, we’ve been waiting 40 years for new material to surface from The Rings so we can’t be too precious about it now. This is a great document from a fine band that at a genuine fell for Hi-energy rock’n’roll and it’s just a shame that they never got to release further records at the time. Play this loud and let it blast you away !
ROADKILL DOGS. Dog ! Dog ! Dog ! CD (firstname.lastname@example.org) Italian band who resurrect the spirits of the Dead Boys, Ramones and even (early) GG Allin in their own mission to promote raw, reckless rock’n’roll. Musically, the mighty New Bomb Turks are also a good reference point, with their high velocity approach always tempered by insistent tunes and catchy choruses. But alongside the debauchery, they also have several songs that support Animal Welfare, obviously a cause that’s close to their hearts. I can dig that ! This is their debut release and features ten songs that stomp along at a fine pace. If you’re lucky enough to have seen them live, you’ll know just how incendiary they can be and although this album doesn’t capture that display to full effect, this more than points you in the right direction. I’m looking forward to their next album and, hopefully, another set of dates in the UK.
SIGIL. Kingdom of the Grave CD (HorrorPainGoreDeath) Texas band who play a convincing variation of the classic Bay Area Thrash genre. You can think of ‘Reign in Blood’ era Slayer, or first album Death Angel, with vocals that veer towards the kind of delivery that Jerry A perfected in Poison Idea. Lots of insistent riffs merge with brutally-precise rhythms to make you wonder, just how powerful must this band sound in the live arena ? Hopefully we’ll get the chance to find out, one day. In the meantime, be sure to play this loud and enjoy the chaos as it takes the place apart !
STATE FUNERAL Tory Party Prison 7” flexi (Boss Tuneage) Six track flexi of the bands’ first demo recordings. Based in Brighton, State Funeral play a raw style of politically-charged punk rock that could’ve come straight out of the early 80’s. That being said, the current social climate is so similar to that era, no wonder new bands are latching on to this approach. A basic D-beat style underpins it all, with raging vocals spitting discontent. Not the most original sounding music, but you have to admire the intent.
STRANGLERS. The Raven 2016 LP (Coursegood) A remastered version of ‘The Raven’, truly sounding better than ever, plus an extra album of bonus material from the same era. ‘The Raven’ has certainly stood the test of time, still sounding totally unlike anything else and containing some of the Starnglers’ most enduring material (Duchess, Nuclear Device, Genetix and the title track itself.) This remaster really brings the inventiveness of this album to the fore, allowing more depth and clarity than ever before. The extra album includes various b-sides, rare versions of ‘Don’t Bring Harry’ and ‘Bear Cage’ plus a superb Radio One session recording of ‘Nuclear Device’ / ‘Genetic’ from 1982. Together with excellent packaging, this is something that any Stranglers fan really needs to own.
THE SYSTEM. Slave To The Machine LP (Grow Your Own.) Having heard the recent live album and the ‘Consumerism’ single, I was expecting this album of new material to be good. But all the same, I was really blown away at just how great it sounds. The System were one of my favourite bands from the original Anarcho-scene, even though they only released two EPs at the time. They always had a knack of producing great, catchy songs and then recording them with inventive arrangements and a powerful studio sound. Even despite an almost 30 year gap, they’ve maintained those elements and even improved on them. The sound on this album is huge, as if they’re in the room with you, and yet it has a clarity that makes the most of every instrument. Lyrical, there’s still a certain naivety but that adds to the credibility. They’re not singing these songs just to be clever, they’re singing them because they mean it. The vocal delivery should dispense any thoughts that it might be otherwise. The new version of ‘Consumerism’ featured here is even better than the single, while other tracks like ‘War & Money’ or ‘Apathetic’ are easily amongst the best that the band have ever recorded. It just makes me wonder, how popular this band might have become if they had managed to record a full album the first time around, and how far they may have developed had they stayed together ? Well, let’s not worry about that, let’s just be grateful that the band is back and clearly firing on all cylinders. This is, quite possibly, the best Punk album of the year. Be sure to hear it.
TOTALOVE. Lo Que Toco Lo Destruyo 7”flexi (Boss Tuneage) Full throttle punk rock with female vocals from Yucatan, Mexico (I’ve been there and found no punk rock, so I’m really glad to find that it exists !) The major problem is that even my basic Spanish doesn’t give me much idea what the songs are about, but the passion, energy and inventiveness that this demo imbibes is enough to realize, this is a band that are on our side. Isn’t it great that our culture has spread so far and wide ? You have to trust this music by instinct and I trust that most of you reading this are capable. Give it a listen, play it loud, offer your support.
TRAVIS PIKE & THE BRATTLE STREET EAST. Watch Out Woman 7” (State.) This is the sorta deal that legends are made from. Way back in 1966, Bostonian Travis Pike discovered his love of music and released two singles. The first came with two tracks, one under his own name and the other backed by The Montclairs. But it was his next single, the highly-rated ‘If I Didn’t Love You Girl’ that sealed his reputation amongst lovers of classic psych-pop. During the next few years he also spent time playing at the Star Club in Hamburg, wrote the title track for the short film ‘Demo Derby’ and eventually recorded ten songs for the legendary film ‘Feelin’ Good’, which although intended as a good-time Teen movie fell victim to racism and censorship in many parts of America (due to the inclusion of a mixed-race band !) But now, some 50 years since its’ original production, Travis relocated most of the original film-reels, had them digitised and posted the music sequences online. To celebrate this, State Records are releasing a limited edition 7” featuring two of the original songs. ‘Watch Out Woman’ is the more raucous track, with a fine garage-psych sound bolstering a catchy tune and great vocals. On the flipside, ‘The Way That I Need You’ takes a more soulful approach, combining early R’n’B with Elvis Presley’s crooning style. Both songs are very fine, but it’s the A-side that’s gonna get the most attention. Be sure to get an invite for this party !
URBAN DOGS. Attack CD (Time & Matter) Apart from the fairly recent ‘acoustic’ album, this is the first full-on Urban Dogs album for quite a long time, but it still sounds as confident and natural as a band who were playing and recording on a much regular basis. Still featuring the original four members (Charlie Harper and Alvin Gibbs from the Subs, Knox of the Vibrators and Matthew Best (who has also played drums for Psychic TV in his time…) they obviously have a real chemistry, both as friends and musicians because this comes together in a very organic style, rather than sounding like a disjointed, occasional project. To a certain extent, I expect it is an outlet for songs that may not be appropriate for their regular bands, but the way they all play together make it something unique and valid. Charlie starts the proceedings with ‘Dancing on the Heads of Snakes’, a great, hard-rockin’ song that could’ve easily come from one of Iggy’s better solo albums. Knox then provides a cool contrast with his ‘Little Song’, which is all about the melody and the gentle sentiments of the lyrics. Alvin gets in on the act with ‘Sidewalk Baby’, a Dolls-style stomper that bounces along with an insistent tune and contagious chorus. The band cover different styles, from punk through to blues via glam and pop, and introduce both harmonica and keyboards to bring out further character in the songs. As with their earlier records, there are several covers – the perennial ‘Stepping Stone’ and a wonderful ‘You Can’t Put Your Arms Around A Memory’, adapted in their own way rather than just trying to replicate Thunders’ masterpiece. The finale comes with Charlies’ excellent ‘Whisky Song’, which ends the album on a more sombre, emotive, but also very melodic tone. It sounds as if the band had a lot of fun making this album. Now it’s your turn to enjoy it !
US AND THEM. When I Was Walking 7” (Mega-Dodo) Two tracks that contain the most mellow psychedelia that you’re ever likely to hear. Not that this is a bad thing. Far from, in fact, as the serene pace beckons you into their dreamlike vision, with the vocals gently talking you through the journey. This isn’t going to appeal to everyone, but if you like your pop music to be both cerebral and a bit different, then you may well like this record a lot.
WHIPPING POST. Taste The Whip. 7”flexi (Boss Tuneage) Hardcore that veers towards a style inspired by Black Flag in the later Rollins-era. Which is kind of fitting as early Rollins band records were recorded in Leeds UK, where this band hail from. It’s a metallic variation on the hardcore theme and while this demo doesn’t really capture the power that this band are more than certainly capable of producing in a live environment, it still gives you a good indication that this band could produce something really great. Give it a listen and make a note to listen out for further product.
WHITE. S/T LP (Adaadat) Featuring Shenggy Shen (most recently found as part of the fine Elephant House project) and Zhang Shouwang (member of Carsick Cars) this album was produced by Blixa Bargeld and originally released in 2007. This reissue celebrates its’ Tenth Anniversary and will hopefully introduce it to a whole new audience. The music remains timeless and certainly hasn’t lost its’ effect. As with Elephant House, the sounds are based around willful repetition, but rather than becoming monotonous or predictable, the album builds in a subtle, positive manner. Rhythms and melodies are evident in a carefully understated, almost subconscious manner and the overall effect is akin to a soundtrack for dreamlike visions. Musically, it references Krautrock more than Industrial, with even a few hints of the Residents more filmic projects. It’s an album that effortlessly states its’ own identity but at the same time, allows you to draw your own conclusions. Hear it with an open mind and you’ll find plenty to enjoy.
WIRE. Silver / Lead CD (Pinkflag) This is an album that grows on you with each play. The wonderfully entitled opening track ‘Playing Harp For the Fishes’ establishes a deceptively sombre mood, with Graham Lewis delivering one of his finest vocals, perfectly relaying the cryptic words. But just as you settle back, ‘Short Elevated Period’ bursts into life, a brash, insistent rush of a song that stands up proudly next to Wire classics like ‘Dot Dash’ or ‘Map Ref’. ‘Diamonds in Cups’ is another catchy tune, albeit at a much more restrained pace. Initially, it appears that Colin Newman’s vocals are the main interest, until you start to delve into the musical arrangement and realize how much is going on. Grahams’ second lead vocal appears on the next track, ‘Forever & a Day’, which in some ways recalls the records he released under the ‘He Said’ banner, although the way that the music is held together by the tight, tempered rhythm section is very much Wire. ‘An Alibi’ takes a stripped-down psychedelic tone, almost like a tangent from the ‘Red Barked Tree’ sessions, while ‘Sonic Lens’ recalls some of Colins’ earlier solo albums. ‘This Time’ maintains the restrained approach but on this occasion, Grahams’ vocals are actually quite optimistic and combined with a sly sense of wordplay. The sparse musical arrangement for ‘Brio’ stresses the lyrics, while ‘Sleep On The Wing’ has an intriguing sense of melody even within its’ sedate pace. Finally, ‘Silver / Lead’ brings the album to its’ conclusion, staying true to the overall tone of the record rather than trying to create a grand finale. Considering the release of this album coincides with the bands’ 40th Anniversary, it remains almost incredible that they are still producing unique music of such high quality. Admittedly, by this point there are bound to be references to some of their earlier work, but they tend to be more along the lines of curiosity and what may have happened had they pursued a particular direction, rather than merely retreading previous successes. Wire have always been about moving forward, but also enjoyed the occasional, interesting diversion. ‘Silver / Lead’ is another fine record and, while it may take a little more time than some of the others to be fully appreciated, it highlights a band who will always keep you intrigued.
V/A. KOBAYASHI NIGHTS – INTERGALACTIC CHAMPIONS CD. A fine little compilation put together by the folk behind the ongoing Kobayashi Nights gig collective who on DIY gigs at various venues around London.This is a selection of a dozen of the bands they’ve worked with and the first thing you’ll realize is that they don’t restrict themselves to any particular genre, but rather to the spirit and approach of the bands. Most of those included are totally new to me, which makes it all the more reason to check them out. That being said, there is a brand new track from The Ethical Debating Society, which is a real treat. Still instilled with their crashing’n’smashing guitars and drums, ‘Paywall’ incorporates a catchier sound and a more tempered vocal style. It’s really good, I can’t wait to hear their next record. Elsewhere, Dog Chocolate offer a demo version of ‘Wish For A Cat’ which will have you thinking of all those obscure singles that Peel used to play in the early 80’s. Bands like Mega Emotion and Megaflora (not related despite the similarity of the names) take a much more Pop approach, while Mardemarmo present an instrumental track that begins with an expansive guitar sound before easing into a quieter, more contemplative middle section. Finally, Goldblooms (who somehow balance their lives between London and Barcelona) end the album with ‘Hellomire’ which mixes catchy melodies with abrasive guitars and choppy rhythms to create something that’s both entertaining and challenging. So, yeah, I won’t say every single track on here is amazing, but there’s plenty of good stuff to check out and I’m sure you’re going to find something you’ll like. Which is the whole point of the album, I suspect. It also comes with a very peculiar homemade comic (aliens and football… what more could you possibly want ?)