RECORD REVIEWS, JANUARY-JUNE 2018
ALBERTO Y LOS TRIOS PARANOIAS. Skite CD (Waxy Monkey) The ‘Berts (as they were affectionately known) existed for a decade between 1972-82, but it is their two EP’s ‘Snuff Rock’ and ‘Heads Down No Nonsense Mindless Boogie’ (released in 1977 and ’78 respectively) for which they remain best known. Although certainly not a punk band, they did share some common attitudes with the movement which was why they could get away with songs like ‘Kill’ and ‘Fuck You’ without sounding merely like cheesy parodies. Much in the same way that Spinal Tap were obviously fans of the music they were sending up, the ‘Berts could actually write good songs even though the performance might be tongue-in-cheek. It elevated what they were doing above the likes of the Barron Knights and Kenny Everitts of the time, even if it also meant they were unlikely to appeal to mainstream audiences. ‘Skite’ was probably their most successful album, maintaining their cult following from the pre-punk era and also appealing to the punks themselves. It includes a reggae version of ‘Where Have All The Flowers Gone ?’ (also with an authentic Dub version), a Doo-Wop version of ‘Anarchy in the UK’, an Ian Dury soundalike in ‘23’, a horribly accurate imitation of Abba / Brotherhood of Man (‘Juan Lopez’) and a wonderful pisstake of the OGWT’s Bob Harris in ‘Dead Meat’. The album remains a lot of fun, although you have to know the references to really appreciate it. Here repackaged to include three non-album b-sides from the same era, this is going to be a treat for anyone who remembers the band as well as being a lot of fun for any fan of the ‘77/’78 underground music scene.
AMYL AND THE SNIFFERS. Big Attraction / Giddy Up CD (Damaged Goods) I expect that most people that read FNL will have heard about this band by now. Bizarrely, the Melbourne-based created a real buzz about themselves in the UK even before they played here ! It’s come as a bit of a surprise even to those involved with them, but by the strength of the songs compiled on this album (a collection of their first two EP’s) it’s certainly deserved. The band have got a lot of character, plenty of attitude (think The Runaways mixed with the Hard-Ons’ velocity and sense of humour) plus a bunch of catchy songs that, at the very least, are going to have you smiling all the way to the bar. Singer Amy has just the right kind of snarlin’ tones to make the lyrics convincing, while the boys who make-up the rest of the band look like the kind of Aussie barflies that you know you shouldn’t drink with (but you’re going to anyway.) There’s not a single note or yelp on this album that sounds as if it was made without total conviction. If you can’t enjoy this, you really haven’t got a soul ! Of course, it all depends on how things go from here and how they manage the sudden interest and popularity, but this is one of those records that could really lead on to something special. Catch them now while they’re still fresh and keep your fingers crossed that they can take it even further !
ANGSTBREAKER. The Flying Cat EP (PCS) I’m really surprised I haven’t come across these guys before now. Angstbreaker are a German band (from Leipzig, to be precise) playing a brutal blend of hardcore, somewhere between the likes of (early) Agnostic Front, Negative Approach and more recent bands like Refused. They temper the more aggressive riffs with quieter moments and changes of tempo that really bring the best out of the songs. Lyrically, their songs are very much anti-fascist, anti-cop and anti-police, reflecting their DIY roots. Anyone wanting to find out more can contact the group via www.facebook.com/angstbreaker/. The physical versions of this release also include the tracks from their previous EP ‘MMXVI’. Great artwork, too !
ANNEX. Melu LP (Inflammable Material) Annex are a band with a hardcore background from Texas, but who are currently developing a sound that can best be compared to the first set of bands who took punk away from the three-chord template and into a darker, moodier realm. At the beginning of the Eighties, these bands were referred to as ‘gothic’, as a description of the atmosphere they created, but were very separate to what would later become known as ‘Goth’. These were bands that were still ‘punk’ at their core but who combined the influence of early Banshees and Ants with a darker version of Glam Rock, to create something more dramatic and theatrical. Think of bands like Bauhaus, UK Decay and Xmal Deutschland (I assume their artwork is a deliberate referral !), maybe even Joy Division, and you’ll get an idea of what I’m talking about. Annex follow this tradition and while it may seem strange that a band who play music with such a dark tinge should come from the glaring sunshine of Texas, just think of how young people with alternative ideas must feel, living just a short distance away from where Trump intends to build his hateful anti-Mexican wall. That’s isolation for real ! Annex reflect this with songs about real feelings and emotions, with guitars that develop different sounds and atmosphere, drum patterns that recall primal cultures and vocals that reflect individuality. They still retain the energy and attitude of punk but define it in their own terms. The only other band I can mention who have produced similar work is Ceremony on their recent ‘L-Shaped Man’ album. This is an invigorating record that, while it may not exactly be something new to those of us who remember the original bands, is also a vital and valid voice in these sadly-backward times. Make every effort to support this band !
ANTI-CIMEX. Victims of a Bomb Raid CD (Dissonance) Anti Cimex originally formed in 1981 and were, without doubt, one of the bands who defined Swedish hardcore. Taking their initial inspiration from the early Discharge EP’s (they recorded and released their first EP, the much-revered ‘Anarkist Attack’, even before Discharge released the ‘Hear Nothing’ LP) they took the intensity of what would eventually become known as ‘D-beat’ but gradually adapted it to create their own character. The first record was sung entirely in Swedish, but by the time of their second EP, ‘Raped Ass’, they had switched to English lyrics, which made them accessible to a much wider audience (even if their records were still difficult to track down.) By the time they released ‘Victims of a Bomb Raid’, they had perfected their sonic onslaught, keeping the lyrics to an almost haiku-style, stark-minimum, creating poignant images rather than preaching opinions. Musically, the sound was almost relentless, but in the short, brutal bursts that the limitations of 7” records allowed-for, they were perfect. A genuine kick in the eye before it was gone. In 1986, they released a self-titled mini-album (aka, ‘Criminal Trap’) on the UK label Distraught, which finally saw their music being made much more easily available, but then, typically, the original line-up decided to split. The record itself had a much stronger production than the earlier EP’s and, whilst maintaining the same intensity, also allowed space for better arrangements and the introduction of different sounds, including metal percussion. Similarly, the lyrics were more extended although still as direct as always. They surfaced again, albeit with a new guitarist, in 1990 and released the album ‘Absolut Country of Sweden’. This continued-on from the previous records with perhaps a more mainstream production and a few more metallic licks, but more in the style of Poison Idea or Antisect rather than any kind of dodgy crossover cop-out. They released a raw live album and separate live EP before recording their final album, ‘Scandinavian Jawbreaker’ in 1993, which, if anything, had an even more aggressive sound than its’ predecessor. This remains their final statement as, shortly after its’ release, they split for a second and final time, although members would go on to form bands such as Driller Killer and Wolfpack. That being said, their records have remained highly sought-after and their influence continues to be seen around the world,so it’s very timely that this three CD set has been released to gather all of their original (studio) releases together. CD One includes the first four EP’s, while CD Two and Three feature the albums. Although the record collectors / trainspotters will probably be most interested in the early recordings, there really isn’t a bad track on this whole collection. Anti Cimex never turned their backs on their original sound or intent and continued to make great records every time. With all of the recordings remastered and sounding better than ever, this is a truly vital release that remains as poignant now as it always did. My only gripe is that, although an extensive lyric-booklet is included, I would have liked more info about the bands themselves. But that’s just me. The music really speaks for itself and at the end of the day, that’s the important thing. If you can enjoy or appreciate genuinely passionate, extreme music, you really have to hear this CD set !
BEDFORD FALLS. Send More Bees CD (Boss Tuneage) This is the third album from this Welsh band (named after the fictional town featured in the movie ‘It’s A Wonderful Life’, no less) and I’m really surprised that I haven’t come across them before now, especially if they’re previous releases were as good as this one. They effortlessly recall some of the best noisy / gutsy American guitar bands of the 80’s / 90’s (I’m talking about the likes of Husker Du, Dinosaur Jnr, Buffalo Tom etc) whilst also adding hints of post-punk UK bands like The Chameleons, Red Lorry Yellow Lorry and maybe even the criminally under-rated TV21. There’s plenty of primal scream instrumentation to hit you in the gut, while the vocals deliver missives to stir your mind. Apparently, it’s been six years since their last album. Let’s hope they don’t keep us waiting that long for the next one !
BEECHWOOD. Songs From The Land Of Nod CD (Alive) A glorious mix of Sixties beat-pop and Seventies Glam, all pulled together in a wonderfully neo-psychedelic production. Beechwood are a young trio (when you hear the sounds they produce, you’ll be amazed there’s only three of them !) who encompass the New York underground music tradition without necessarily tracing their sounds directly back to it. In fact, if anything, you’ll pick up Sixties influences as diverse as The Seeds, The Doors, the Monkees and even the Beach Boys, while there are also healthy nods to Seventies bands like The Sweet and maybe even Brian Eno’s first two solo albums. Put this together with the sounds of Redd Kross at their finest, with a touch of post-punk inquisitiveness and you’ll be heading in the right direction. They manage to sound sleazy in a pleasant, inviting kind of way, and raw in an insistent, accessible fashion. It’s an album that sounds like more and more fun every time you hear it and, at just over 30 minutes, you’ll be blown away by how much they pack into it. This is one you really can’t risk missing !
MARTIN BISI. BC 35 LP (Bronson Recordings) In case you’ve been living under a squirrel for the past 30 years (each to their own) Martin Bisi is a New York-based producer who has worked on seminal records from artists as diverse as Sonic Youth, Swans, John Zorn, Helmet, Afrika Bambaataa, White Zombie, Dresden Dolls and even Herbie Hancock ! His roots go back as far as the primal No Wave scene and early Hip-Hop recordings, but it is his understanding and empathy for the so-called ‘noise-rock’ scene that really made his name. Over the years, Bisi has released several records under his own name but they have always, in reality, been collaborations with artists who he has obviously formed strong musical bonds. This latest album features many of these bands / individuals, gathered together in celebration of the 35th Anniversary of his legendary BC Studios (originally established alongside Bill Laswell and Brian Eno) and covers a broad spectrum of the sounds and methods he has produced over the years. The list of collaborators reads like a scroll of underground legends from the past few decades ; former members of Swans play alongside members of Cop Shoot Cop, Jim Thirwell (Foetus/Wiseblood) helps to conduct a spontaneous choir, Live Skull reform as ‘New Old Skull’ and three former members of Alice Donut reunite for the track ‘Synethesia !’ The 2014 documentary ‘Sound and Chaos’ has already related the story of the studio up until that date, but this album takes everything further, taking the existing forward to create new music that both reflects the past and heralds the future. ‘What a Jerk’ recalls the early moments of the noise-rock scene, while ‘The Animal Speaks Truth’ (a possible reference to the track by the Goldon Palaminos ?) reaches back as far as Krautrock and even Syd Barrett’s Pink Floyd.) ‘His Word Against Mine’ recalls Riot Grrl at its’ best, ‘Take This Line’, featuring the band White Hills, is probably the closet to traditional song structure, but still quite unnerving in its’ character (imagine a collaboration between Come and Thin White Rope) while final track ‘Soft Glitter Cosmos’ sounds like a parody of cold and pretentious early Eighties Germanic electro-music. Bisi’s input was mostly as musical director on this album, but he also plays guitar on various tracks ; it’s a fitting tribute and an indirect sampler for the work of a man who has helped to shape the sounds of contemporary underground music and, as such, it works both on its’ own merits and as an introduction. You would be a total fool to miss it !
BLACKLAB. Under The Strawberry Moon 2.0 CD (New Heavy Sounds) I like this a lot ! There’s so many bands meandering around in the current Doom / Stoner scene and the vast majority are totally uninspired and derivative. Blacklab are something completely different. For a start, the band is actually two young ladies from Osaka, Japan and their riffing owes as much to avant-rock outfits like Gore and Godflesh as it does to Sabbath or Blue Cheer. ‘Symptom of the Blacklab’, for example, starts out with a blatant Sabbath riff but soon claims its’ own ground and runs with it. The vocals veer between melodic, almost ethereal harmonies through to throat-shredding growls, each highly effective. The thing that makes this work is that they have a real groove when they get going, a feeling that moves and makes you want to join in. Previously released as a limited CD in Japan only, this album has been remixed (hence the ‘2.0’) and now sounds harder and heavier than before. If this is their debut, you can only wonder what they will come up with as they get better at their craft ? Be sure to hear this album and be certain to play it loud. If it isn’t annoying your neighbours, you’re not doing it right !
THE BONNEVILLES. Dirty Photographs CD (Alive) A two-piece Hard Rock’n’Blues combo hailing from Northern Ireland but with one of those sounds that really could have come from either side of the Atlantic. Despite being limited to just drums and guitar (with occasional keyboard and cello contributions) they nonetheless create a huge sound that harks back to the likes of Led Zeppelin or Cream, while in their livelier moments recalling the Jimi Hendrix Experience. The whole recording has a real warmth to its’ sound, allowing you to relish every smash of the cymbals and every shudder of reverb. It’s amazing that a band can take such an established musical style and breathe such new life into it. For full effect, I guess you’d probably have to see them playing live, so it’s convenient that they have a full UK tour in the not-too-distant future (check the details on the FNL home-page…) This is a great album and certainly deserves to be heard far and wide.
CANSHAKER PI. Naughty Naughty Violence CD (Excelsior) Dutch band who channel the spirit of 1990’s American indie guitar bands to perfection. Think of Pavement in particular, although you also need to consider Sebadoh, Guided By Voices and maybe even The Pixies at different times. It’s one of those albums that has some great songs, a suitable production and plenty of catchy hooks, but you do get the feeling that you’ve heard most of it before. That isn’t to say it isn’t enjoyable, because the songs are definitely above average, but a big part of their charm is that they do sound so close to bands that you probably already like. Of course, by this point there’s a whole new generation that won’t be familiar with those original reference-points and I have no doubt that such an audience will happily embrace this band, which isn’t such a bad thing. Canshaker Pi play their songs with such enthusiasm you can’t just ignore them and, as a young band, they still have plenty of time to put their mark down on the music. In the meantime, just stand back and enjoy the tunes !
CASTRO. Infidelity CD (Boss Tuneage) Featuring members of Norwegian punk bands such as Angor Wat, Israelvis and, most notably, Katja Osvold, the former vocalist of Life…But How To Live It, Castro are a relatively new band but with plenty of experience and acclaim within their line-up. Musically, they play a mid-paced brand of punk rock with comparisons to be made with Washington DC bands like Dag Nasty, Government Issue and (early) Shudder To think, whilst also providing hints of bands like Jingo de Lunch and Sofa Head. There’s a lot of restraint in what they do, but in a way that only builds the tension and edginess of the songs rather than holding them back. This is the bands’ second album, following the self-released ‘The River need’ back in 2014, and this certainly shows them building their own identity and confidence in a very positive way. Let’s hope they get to play in the UK soon !
CHRIST ON PARADE. A Mind Is A Terrible Thing CD (Southern Lord) I’ve never thought that Christ On Parade ever received the credit they were due. Forming in San Francisco during the mid-Eighties (their members having already played in other punk bands for several years) they released their debut mini-album ‘Sounds of Nature’ in 1986 on the Mind Matter label and followed it with this LP in 1987. Much revered at the time, the band produced intense, aggressive sounds that saw them fit easily alongside established hardcore bands like Agnostic Front and Circle Jerks, whilst also being an integral part of the emerging, more political ‘Peace-punk’ scene in California. Musically, they were possibly somewhere in between the likes of Crucifix, MDC and No Means No, able to play high-velocity punk but also unafraid to break things down into peculiar time-signatures and off-key inserts. The one thing that perhaps let them down was the rather poor production quality (here, somewhat rectified with a fine re-mastering that gives the album much more clarity) but their musical ideas, musicianship and lyrical content have continued to have an influence on many others. They originally stayed together long enough to become involved with the early days of the Gilman Street venue but eventually split-up in 1989 (reforming briefly in 2009-10 for American dates and tours in Europe and Japan.) ‘Sounds of Nature’ was made available again a few years back, but this is the first time since its’ original release that ‘A Mind Is a Terrible Thing’ has been reissued. You need to track it down and give it a re-evaluation as this is a fine example of great hardcore from a very under-rated era. Listening to it now, it holds-up well and, in retrospect, you can easily hear the influence it’s had on so many others. Don’t miss it !
THE CITY LIMITS. To Hull And Back LP (Queen Mum Records) The City Limits were a New Wave / Powerpop band who formed in Leeds during 1977, playing regularly around the North of England and self-releasing their one and only single, ‘Morse Code Messages’ in 1979. Although it became a favourite on John Peel’s radio show, it sold poorly at the time and, as a result, a proposed second release (‘Dancing in the Heat’) was shelved and the band eventually called it a day in 1982. The irony is that, over the next thirty years, the single which had failed to sell-out of its’ original pressing of 500, became a highly-regarded collectors item, selling for high amounts of money. However, this had one great result for the band themselves, in that they were approached to release all of their original studio recordings as this album. Compiled with great attention to sound-quality and with comprehensive sleeve-notes and rare pictures, this really does hold the band up in a good light with their songs still sounding fresh and enjoyable. Musically, you could probably compare them to other similar bands of the time (Scandal, Longport Buzz, The Jags) in the way they adopted the energy that was sparked by Punk but attached it to a much-more Pop-orientated approach. The songs are catchy, danceable and lots of fun, while the vocals have an occasional tendency to recall Elvis Costello. When you consider that songs as good as this could just as easily have been lost altogether, you can only be thankful that labels like Queen Mum are out there to save the recordings for prosperity.
COMMANDER CODY & HIS LOST PLANET AIRMEN. Berkeley, Baby ! CD (Wienerworld) I became interested in Commander Cody a few years ago when I discovered that the Stooges’ sax-player Steve Mackay had played with them during the mid-Seventies. Unfortunately, this live recording doesn’t feature his involvement, but it does provide an excellent recording of the band at their best. Mixing Country music, Swing and Fifties rock’n’roll in a raw, upbeat fashion, the band also incorporated an anarchic sense of humour to their delivery with songs like ‘Truckin’ and Fuckin’’, ‘Seeds and Stems’ and ‘Roll Your Own’. Although the subject may seem rather tame by current standards, you have to realise that they were playing in a much more conservative environment and, having signed with Warner Brothers, were also being pressured to provide radio-friendly material. The fact that they didn’t has maintained their cult-status but denied them wider success. Imagine if Frank Zappa had formed a bar-band. This is possibly how it would have sounded. Listen to it just for fun and there’s plenty to enjoy.
COVENTRY AUTOMATICS (aka The Specials.) Dawning of a New Era CD (Waxy Monkey) I expect most fans will already know that The Specials had originally been known as The Coventry Automatics (not the be confused with early punk band of the same name.) In this form, during 1978, the band recorded an albums’ worth of demos and initially sent them out to various labels in a bid to win a record deal. Although most of the songs featured on the tape would eventually become hugely successful as part of The Specials debut album, no offers were forthcoming and the band regrouped under their new name with a new drummer and the addition of Neville Staples as second vocalist. We all know what happened soon after this… These recordings have been released a few times over the years but haven’t been available for some time, so this reissue will no doubt be welcomed by more recent fans. Of the twelve songs included, eight would eventually be re-recorded for the debut album, while the track ‘Racquel’ appeared on a rare Dutch-only release and ‘Rock’n’Roll Nightmare’ would be re-worked as ‘Pearl’s Café’ on the bands’ second album. There are also several tracks unavailable elsewhere, including the instrumental ‘Wake Up’ and the excellent ‘Jay Walker’. The production sound is a lot less full than their future recordings, but the songs certainly have the same energy and sense of purpose that the band would eventually become famous for. The arrangements are already much in place and although at times the keyboards veer towards an almost Madness-style funfair sound, it’s still easily identifiable. If you’re a Two Tone fan and haven’t already heard these recordings, you need to make this a priority-purchase.
CRISIS. Paris ’18 CD (Crisis 001) As a perfect introduction to the new Crisis line-up, this is an ‘official bootleg’ recording of their recent gig in Paris. It’s live and raw, capturing them as they are and, for a band like Crisis, it’s an ideal way to hear them. There may be a few bad notes or dropped drumbeats, but it’s the energy and tension that they create that’s important and this album relays that perfectly. Admittedly, some have complained that only Tony Wakeford is present from the original line-up, but the chances of the full, original band playing together again are extremely unlikely (even an attempt to involve original drummer Luke Rendall fell through) and this line-up have certainly embraced the real spirit of the band. What really matters is whether it still sounds good and they don’t disappoint. Clive Giblin is a great guitarist and Lloyd James handles the vocals with just the right manner to carry them off. Just listen to the first three tracks (‘No Town Hall’, ‘PC 1984’ and ‘White Youth’.) If you’re not convinced by this point, you’re not listening to the same album I’m hearing ! As the set progresses, they deliver lesser known tracks like ‘Militant’ and ‘Kill’, whilst also returning to the original Crisis version of ‘(All Alone in Her) Nirvana’, plus there’s the bonus of a brand new track, ‘Hammer and Anvil’, which fits-in perfectly with the older material. It’s great to finally hear tracks like ‘On TV’ and ‘Alienation’ played live, while songs like ‘Red Brigades’ and ‘Kanada Kommando’ achieve a level of menace that surpasses even the original records. There will always be naysayers who’ll want to whinge about the new version of Crisis, but all I can say is, see them live or hear this CD. It sounds great, the songs retain their vitality and many of the sentiments are still valid. If you enjoyed all those old records, there is no reason why you can’t enjoy this new band. (By the way – this CD is limited to 1000 copies, so act quickly ! Further info from ; email@example.com
THE DAMNED. Evil Spirits LP (Search & Destroy) I think this album is going to take a lot of people by surprise. Even having heard a few tracks in advance, this certainly isn’t what many would expect, but be patient with it. After only a few listens you’ll become familiar with the new songs and start to love it. Everyone I know who has heard it so far has said the same thing ; it’s an album that really grows on you and I think it’s going to stand the test of time. Musically, it’s difficult to compare to previous albums, but if you could imagine that, after ‘Strawberries’, neither Captain or Paul had left the band so they moved in the direction of ‘Phantasmagoria’ with a more psychedelic approach rather than the Goth tinges that it embraced. Furthermore, ‘Evil Spirits’ has a really warm, vibrant production (courtesy of Tony Visconti) instead of the horrible, pompous Eighties-style production that ‘Phantasmagoria’ was stuck-with. ‘Standing On The Edge Of Tomorrow’ starts the album with a strangely optimistic tone. It mixes an almost epic, soundtrack-like quality with insistent melodies that really draw you in. Hot on its’ heels is ‘The Devil in Disguise’, an upbeat garage-rocker that recalls the Phantom Chords in many ways. Vanians’ vocals are perfectly-matched for this song and I’m sure it’s destined to become a live favourite. ‘We’re So Nice’ is the first of Captains’ songs on the record and recalls the kind of psychedelic pop that he played on solo albums like ‘Revolution Now’ and ‘The Universe of Geoffrey Brown’. Very catchy, but, lyrically, also making a strong anti-imperialist statement. ‘Look Left’ is probably the most downbeat track on the LP, but it also gives Vanian a chance to really show-off his vocal range, while Paul Grey’s bass playing is superb. The title track evokes the kind of music the band played as their alter-egos, Naz Nomad & the Nightmares. Think of the Stones during their psychedelic phase, perhaps ? Definitely one of the highpoints of the whole album. ‘Shadow Evocation’ is a quintessential Vanian epic, gothic (rather than Goth) moody and atmospheric, while ‘Sonar Deceit’ is another garage-psych ditty from Sensible, discussing the plight of sea-life being bombarded by man-made sonar noise. Quite a turn-up from a man who used to sport a ‘Sod The Whale’ slogan ! ‘Procrastination’ is apparently one of Monty’s songs and could well be his best to date. Fuelled by Pauls’ bass-lines and Sixties-style Farfisa keyboards, the lyrics are witty, humourous and all-too-easy to identify with ! ‘Daily Liar’ combines Syd-era Pink Floyd with The Kinks to create a classic pop tune, over which Vanian sings his diatribe against deceitful media practices. The album comes to an end with ‘I Don’t Care’. It sounds like a title for a punk anthem, but instead starts out with Vanian crooning along to piano and strings, before bursting into life and then finally ending in a suitably melodramatic flourish. I must admit, when I first heard the album, I was not instantly impressed, but tunes quickly started sticking in my ears and the more I listened, the more I enjoyed the whole thing. I expect that there will be a contingent who will listen once, decide they don’t like it and resort to uninformed whingeing, but don’t make that mistake. Take your time and let yourself really discover this album. After 40 years, The Damned still have the ability to confound expectations. Gawd bless ‘em !
DARK BUDDHA RISING. II CD (Neurot) This Finnish band are described in places as ‘Psychedelic Doom’ and although that is an indication of the music they produce on this album, it really doesn’t go anywhere near far enough to describe the depth of the music they produce. Psychedelia is clearly an important element, but veering more towards the classic Hawkwaind albums of the early Seventies rather than ‘Sgt Peppers’. Actually, I’d also include some of Syd Barrett’s more experimental jams with the early Pink Floyd, because this album has the same kind of instinctive feel to music produced, as if it comes together intuitively rather than being too pre-planned. Riff-wise, there’s a definite debt to Black Sabbath although not as down-tuned as many bands opt for nowadays, perhaps more in line with the likes of Gore. But the really interesting aspect is the way the music takes on an almost ritualistic nature, creating an otherworldly atmosphere. Split into two lengthy tracks. ‘Mahathgata I’ and ‘II’, the band are more energized on the first, whilst the second track takes more time to develop dramatically and in an almost industrial-like manner at times (think of Coil’s powerful, atmospheric works.) This is a very impressive record and certainly something that breaks away from any mere genres. Hear it yourself to see what you’ll make of it.
DAVE GODDESS GROUP. Last of the West Side Cowboys CD ( www.davegoddessgroup.com ) I wasn’t sure what to expect from this CD, but after several listens I found it more and more impressive. It’s that kind of soulful, Bluesy rock’n’roll that could only have come from New York City. Accomplished musicians for sure, but the important thing is that they’re clearly passionate about what they’re doing. For comparisons, I’d include the likes of Little Steven, Mink DeVille, possibly Jesse Malin, and even the dark country tones of Thin White Rope. They also channel the spirits of both John Lennon and Joe Strummer during the song ‘Roll Over’, questioning the way that optimism seems to have been replaced by resignation and acceptance, even as events in the world get progressively worse. It’s political but on a personal, observational level and works really well. Elsewhere, the title track raises the issue of workers becoming redundant as business and technology moves on. The lyrics have a real empathy and come across sincerely, something that is so often missing in modern music. With plenty of great melodies and hooks, I’m sure this album could appeal to music fans right across the spectrum.
DEAD BOYS. Down in Flames LP (Radio X) This is another one of those ‘semi-official’ live recordings that have been appearing recently, many of which have not been too exciting. However, this is as essential as it gets. A radio broadcast capturing The Dead Boys way back in November 1977, raw as it should be and barely holding things together as they propel themselves headlong through a ten-song set. What might be quite surprising is that, although this was quite soon after the release of their first album, the set actually includes three songs from their yet-to-be-recorded second LP and, no big surprise, they sound so much more powerful when you hear them like this. The band sound great, living up to every part of the legend, while Stiv is on particular form, baiting the audience at every opportunity (one heckler is put in place with ‘I bet your parents are a nice couple of guys…’) Ending with a truly blistering version of ‘Search And Destroy’, it’s all over way too soon, but that just gives you the chance to play it again. Great artwork, too ! Any true punk is going to need this record.
DEAF KIDS. Configuracao do Lamento CD (Neurot) Sao Paolo-based band creating huge, diverse blocks of noise. Evidently, in their earlier years, they were more of a straight-ahead hardcore band, but by this point they’ve evolved into something completely separate. Whilst the intensity and noise levels are still clearly there, the tracks have left behind any traditional sense of song-format and become individual slabs of sound, propelled by almost industrial-style rhythmic grooves, while the guitars and vocals create disturbing, acidic sounds and visions. In many ways, this is a perfect progression from intense hardcore, breaking down the rules set by its’ own genre to explore the next step forward. The music becomes an almost formless dirge that seeks to escape the usual confines of time and timings. It’s psychedelic in it’s purest form and, like a cross between Faust and Siege, deliberately contrives collision to create a natural conclusion. The results are less than 25 minutes long, but by the end, you’ll have lost track of everything. Seek this out at your peril, but be prepared for a blast !
DEATH BY UNGA BUNGA. So Far So Good So Cool CD (Jansen) Following hot on the heels of their fine ‘Into The Night’ 7” (see above) comes an equally enjoyable album. Similar to fellow Norwegians’ Turbonegro, Death By Unga Bunga channel choice moments from rock’n’roll’s illustrious history to create something new, invigorating and highly entertaining. Death By Unga Bunga go more for a powerpop sound rather than hard rock, but many of the prime influences collide ; Cheap Trick, Thin Lizzy and Ramones, for sure. But you can also throw the likes of Redd Kross, the Flamin’ Groovies and maybe even The Dictators to get where they differ. After that, there are plenty of other riffs and licks that’ll keep you guessing, but that’s the beauty of this album. It recalls many great moments from the past while defiantly taking it all forward and, again in a similar way to Turbonegro, it’s got a good sense of humour with it. They’re obviously serious about playing their music but it’s clearly intended to be fun. Given the right breaks and exposure, these guys could become very popular. It’s the perfect soundtrack for drinking beers on a hot Summer evening. Be sure not to miss it.
DEATHFLUX. Execrated EP (https://deathflux.bandcamp.com) Relatively new Nottingham-based metal outfit, although their members have gained experience in other bands prior to this. This self-produced set of songs certainly sets them apart, with a tough, tense set of riffs and an almost sci-fi tone creating a suitably discomforting soundscape over which the dual vocals maintain a menacing narrative. There are moments that recall Voivod, while others suggest the likes of Death Angel or Slayer at their more creative. It’s a great introduction to the band and the songs are certainly crying out for a massive production to fulfil their obvious potential. I hope there are some labels paying attention out there !
THE DeRELLAS. High Rise Supersize 7” (Rockaway) As great as the DeRellas are when you see them live, their recorded output is an entirely different beast. Just as rockin’, just as catchy, but more refined and produced to bring out their less obvious, more subtle elements, rather than just the full-on R’n’R blast of their gigs. ‘High Rise Supersize’ is another classic single that captures all that’s great about them. A mix of Dead Boys-style raw punk and a true grasp of pop sensibilities that resonates with early-Buzzcocks or Undertones, these three minutes have everything you want from a seven-inch slab. A really sharp sound, plenty of attitude, catchy choruses and guitar breaks that will tear you heart out. I’ve seen this band many times, but when they deliver a new record like this, it’s almost like being blown-away by them for the first time all over again. It’s fresh, it’s exciting and it’s vital. Do NOT miss this record !
DESCENDENTS. Fartathon LP (Suicidal) Semi-legit live album taken from a legendary TV broadcast, recorded in St Louis back in 1987. It’s pretty-much a full set recorded during the bands’ tour to promote the ‘ALL!’ album, with Milo, Bill, Karl and Stephen firing on all cylinders. Classic songs like ‘Coolidge’, ‘Silly Girl’ and ‘Clean Sheets’ vie for space alongside earlier bursts of caffeine-fueled nerdiness like ‘Pervert’ and ‘I Like Food’. There’s no faulting the bands’ performance but unfortunately, the sound quality does leave some-thing to be desired. Recordings of the original TV broadcast have been circulating for years so it’s annoying that this audio seems to have been taken from a less-than-great copy and certainly not the original source. It’s a nice item to have and I’m sure Descendents fans will want to have it, but it’s also disappointing that it could have been much better.
DIRTY WHITE. S/T EP (http://wearedirtywhite.bandcamp.com) New, Brighton-based band making their first set of songs available and they already sound very promising. They obviously have a bunch of American guitar-band influences but they’re already starting to exert their own ideas and developing their own style. Opening track ‘Enemy’ is kind of reminiscent of Foo Fighters, but without the rock-posturing. ‘Memories Fade’ is great, with more of a Redd Kross direction, mixing Sixties pop and J Mascis style fuzz guitar breaks. ‘New Years Day’ is not a U2 cover (thank fuck !) and goes for a much bigger guitar sound, employing the loud/quiet technique to good effect. It even has a few moments that brought Blondie’s ‘Maria’ to mind, which certainly isn’t a bad thing. ‘U-Turn’ heads into an area that’s not a million miles away from Bob Mould / Sugar, with catchy hooks and a loud sweep of guitars. Finally, ‘Friday Night’ is upbeat and insistent, a great burst of energy to finish the set. As a first introduction to the band, this is a surprisingly accomplished EP and certainly promises a lot more to come. Let’s hope we can get to see them live very soon.
ECHO LADIES. Pink Noise CD (Sonic Cathedral) Swedish trio who recall the early moments of The Cure, Cocteau Twins and maybe even later bands like Lush or Slowdive. But I’d like to stress this doesn’t mean that they’re particularly derivative. They use similar sounds and production, for sure, but it’s the way that they capture the spirit of those aforementioned bands that draws the comparisons. Dreamy female vocals drift in and out of the simplistic, repetitive riffs, while the lead guitar reverberates above the steady rhythms. It’s pop music, basically, but owing it’s basis to the Velvet Underground rather than the Beatles. They have an anthemic quality that could easily fill large venues but at the same time, delve into a sense of intimacy that should please anyone looking for a soulful soundtrack to their angst. Eight songs that fill their thirty minutes with style and emotion. I could easily imagine them gathering a very faithful following.
ELECTRO HIPPIES. Deception of The Instigator of Tomorrow CD (Boss Tuneage) Subtitled ‘Collected Works 85-1987’, this compilation brings together all the recordings that they made in the first half of their existence, many of which have never previously been officially-released. These range from their legendary John Peel session through to practice tapes, demos and early releases. All that being said, I have to admit there was something about Electro Hippies that I always felt a bit dubious about. I don’t really know why, but they seemed a bit haphazard, I suppose. Some of their music was fine and, in retrospect, you can certainly see their influence in many of the grindcore bands who subsequently followed, but at the time they seemed to generate a following that grasped onto the more dumbed-down aspects of punk rather than actually taking the possibilities that their music presented somewhere more interesting. This is the problem with music that sees itself as extreme ; if it just keeps doing the same thing again and again for the same secluded audience, then it just becomes ordinary. However, influenced by the likes of (early) DRI, 7 Seconds and perhaps Poison Idea, they did have the ability to create genuinely furious rhythms that could also combine surprisingly melodic hooks and lyrically, they mixed a genuinely DIY approach with politically-conscious subject-matter in a highly commendable way. Listening to all of this material now, it actually sounds a lot better than I thought it would and has stood-up pretty well, although with 60 tracks packed into less than 80 minutes, it’ll probably be a bit too much for many to appreciate in one sitting. But, as I said, I enjoyed this a lot more than I had expected, so it’s definitely worth giving it a new evaluation.
FINDING JOSEPH I – The HR from Bad Brains Documentary. DVD (MVD) Few would deny the incredible impact that Bad Brains had on the Punk / Hardcore scene. The records they released during their first ten years are all classics, their live performances during this time are the stuff of legends and if fate had been on their side, they should have become massive. However, their course was destined to be erratic and much of this was down to their unpredictable frontman, Paul ‘HR’ Hudson. His volatile nature caused the band to split on numerous occasions, often when they were on the verge of greater success. Those who saw the previous Bad Brains documentary, ‘A Band in DC’, will have seen his eccentric behaviour during a recent tour and were probably left with the impression that he had mental health issues. Unfortunately, the film ended with no conclusions to the issue, but ‘Finding Joseph I’ is far more satisfactory on this point. Focusing on HR himself rather than the whole band, this documentary tells the story of his upbringing, how he became involved in music, his Rastafari faith and his gradual descent into mental health problems. It’s this final subject that explains many of his actions, such as the way he fervently embraced Punk Rock, only to replace it several years later with an equally fervent adoption of Rasta and reggae. As is the case with many artists, the passion and mania that fuelled his creativity was also the emotional force that would seemingly sabotage the band. But while some would use this kind of situation to make a lurid, sensationalist film, ‘Finding Joseph I’ deals with the details in a compassionate, sympathetic way, explaining that HR often had no control over his actions. Although friends and band-members tried to help, it would not be until much later-on that he came to recognize the problems that he faced and sought medical treatment to rectify the situation. The film ends on a much more positive note, with HR clearly more capable and settled. For all that he has created, and despite all his past-errors, this is surely what he deserves. Combined with some superb music, rare footage and interviews with many of his old friends and associates, this makes for a great film which never hides the truth but still manages to end with a respectful conclusion. This is something that you need to see if you really want to know the full story.
FLACKOFF. The Flackoff EP (Inflammable Material) Reissue of the one and only record by the Leamington Spa punk band, Flackoff, originally released by The Shape’s label, Sofa records in 1980. For all those revisionists who like to claim that Punk was dead by 1978, this is one of those great, obscure records that show the original spirit was still alive and kicking long afterwards. It’s one of those wonderfully vital records that you might remember from a long-lost Peel Show and it’s a true pleasure to be hearing it again ! Great female vocals with lots of attitude and presence, while the band themselves ignore the prevalent Punk / Oi persuasions of the time and perform their own unique take on three chord creativity. Not a million miles away from what The Shapes were doing, this EP has lots of energy, great melodies and catchy choruses to ensure that all three songs are going to stick in your ears like glue. Musically, the sounds are deceptively simple but also have a tendency to break into sci-fi styled guitar breaks that really set them apart. You’ll have your work cut-out trying to find an original copy, so get your hands on this excellent reissue as soon as you can !
THE FLEAS. Square Peg LP ( www.thefleas.biz ) Reading-based band who blend anarcho-punk sensibilities with a more accessible indie-styled musical approach. In many ways it reminds me of the music made by Omega Tribe towards the end of their original lifespan, blending indie-pop-punk with soul, funk, folk and even a brass section. It’s always been a conumdrum ; should a band with something to say play music that reflects their outsider position or should they produce music likely to take their thoughts to a wider audience ? Rather than preaching to the converted, The Fleas play songs seem to tell stories that you can interpret for yourself and possibly gain real insight. I have to say, this album didn’t really connect on the first hearing, but repeated plays have really started to endear the songs to me. The production has a great clarity and the arrangements are put together with a lot of thought and imagination. At the moment, it’s only available as a download, but it seems unlikely it won’t be getting a proper, physical release soon enough. Also including their recent single, ‘Push’, this is an accomplished album that has a lot to say for itself.
JOE GERMLIN. No Master Dynamics 12” EP (Adaadat) Described as a ‘sound artist’, that’s exactly how Glaswegian composer Joe Howe approaches his music. It’s an almost collage-like style, breaking Hip-Hop beats down to bare minimum while cutting-in and out with samples and found sounds. Although being listed as an EP, this record plays at 33rpm and includes 11 tracks, allowing plenty of space for the ideas and sounds to develop. Side Two is possibly the more interesting, taking things further away from regular dance music and delving into areas that are simultaneously darker and yet more playful. It’s very frenetic but at the same time, there’s always a discernable aim to the proceedings. Only two tracks feature regular vocals, although even these (courtesy of Kiki Hitomi and Hardeep, respectively) are treated with appropriate effects to ensure their place within the album as a whole. Comparisons ? Perhaps Negativland remixing Sleaford Mods ? This is a genuinely experimental and enjoyable twist on modern dance music, and I can recommend it for anyone with ears open for new ideas.
GRAVE LINES. Fed Into The Nihilist Engine CD (New Heavy Sounds) A hard rock band based between London and Brighton who recall the likes of Neurosis or Ministry whilst also channeling the more atmospheric effects of bands like Bauhaus or Dead Can Dance. It’s a smart move because the heavier aspects of their music really stand-out when placed between quieter, moodier passages. There’s more tension and unpredictability rather than the more one-dimensional onslaughts that all too many other bands produce. Grave Lines understand that adding some drama to their music has greater impact than just maintaining a continuous aggressive tone, and it also gives more space for their lyrics to explain themselves and make a valid point. I’m sure this album is going to appeal to a pretty wide audience of rock fans, from gothic through to hardcore, and as such I think it’s destined to make a real impact.
THE HANG UPS. S/T EP (Monster Zero) Great debut EP from this Swedish punk band, harking back to the likes of Buzzcocks, Ramones, Naked Raygun and early Lookout! Records releases (Crimpshrine, Operation Ivy, even the primal Green Day…) Four songs, none of them over three minutes, but everything that you need to hear from a great pop song is packed-in, with all the energy you’d want from your punk rock as well. This is great fun, with tunes and choruses that’ll stick in your head for all eternity (or at least until the bar closes.) There really isn’t anything to dislike about this EP !
HEADCAT. Rockin’ The Cat Club DVD (Wienerworld) As you probably already know, Head Cat was an occasional band put together by Lemmy, Slim Jim Phantom and Danny B.Harvey (of The Rockats) to perform selections of their favourite rock’n’roll and rockabilly classics. It was never meant to be a full-time project (although they did release a few records) but rather an opportunity to perform a bunch of songs for which they shared a passion. Although at times referred to as a ‘supergroup’, the reality was as far from rock-star pretensions as you could get. ‘This is probably going to be a real fucking disaster’, says Lemmy as he introduces the first song, ‘but I’m good at those !’ This is a group of friends enjoying themselves and letting the audience join-in. Recorded live at Slim Jim’s Cat Club on the Sunset Strip, this film really captures the essence of the band. It’s great fun, very entertaining and a fitting homage to the music they love. Lemmy, for a change, is playing a six-string acoustic and handling it really well. Danny plays some great electric guitar and Slim Jim slaps the drums in his own inimitable style, while bassist Johnny Bowler keeps the rhythm pumping. I defy anyone not to enjoy it. The bonus comes after the show, with several added interviews. Lemmy and Slim Jim discuss how their individual careers were inspired by the early Rockers and how, inevitably, their paths crossed. Like the music itself, it’s both great fun and invigorating. The set may not include ‘Ace of Spades’ or ‘Runaway Boys’, but if that was all you were waiting, you missed the point. Turn the lights down, turn your TV up and get ready for some Good Rockin’ !
HERESY. Face Up To It ! CD (Boss Tuneage) Having not been a particular fan of Heresy back at the time, I haven’t really listened to them for a long time. But I have to admit, this album sounds immensely better than I remember it being and that, no doubt, owes a lot to the thorough job the band have done in restoring the original multi-tack tapes and then totally remixing / rebuilding the whole album in the way that it was originally intended. Not only that, but they’ve also included all of the additional tracks recorded during the same sessions (which were only ever made available as bonus tracks on the ‘Voice Your Opinion’ album in Japan) making this a massive 26 song opus. Thirty years since its’ original release, it now sounds better than ever and proves to be a real onslaught of late Eighties Brit-core. Somewhere inbetween earlier US bands like 7 Seconds and Agnostic Front and the contemporary emergence of UK grindcore bands like Napalm Death or Extreme Noise Terror, Heresy specialized in short, aggressive outbursts of brutal punk, focusing on social and political issues in an effective expression of angst. The new version of the album includes a revamp of the artwork, lyrics, new photos and extensive notes to put the album in its’ original context whilst also explaining the story behind this new version. It’s a great release for any old fans whilst also providing a perfect starting point for anyone keen to investigate for the first time.
THE JETZ. Live in Berlin CD (Queen Mum) The Jetz originally formed in Cheshunt during 1976 and signed a deal with Rebel Records (despite the title, actually a short-lived subsidiary of EMI.) They recorded two songs for a proposed single (‘Catch Me’ / ‘If That’s What You Really Want’) although the label then bizarrely chose to replace the b-side with an earlier demo track and decided only to release the record in various European countries, excluding the UK altogether. Regardless, the band toured extensively over the next two years (often in Europe) but no further records were released and they eventually split-up in 1979. Unsurprisingly, the excellent ‘Catch Me’ 7” is now a highly collectable item and, following a reissue of the single and the release in 2011 of the ‘Anthology’ album (compiling all of their original recordings) the band reformed for a handful of shows. Finding that they enjoyed the experience, the band began work on new material which would result in the ‘Cracked Up’ LP (see below.) To mark its’ release, they played a one-off gig in Berlin, combining the best of their original songs with the best of the new to deliver an insistent, high-energy set. The gig was recorded and this album documents just how great they sounded, nearly 40 years after their original lifespan. This doesn’t sound like a band trying to recreate their past, this sounds like a band that are loving being back onstage and effortlessly proving that the songs are still just as valid right now. When Pop sounds as timeless as this, you really don’t have to think about anything else. Just play this album for yourself and wish that you had been there !
THE JETZ. Cracked Up LP (Queen Mum) Featuring the first all-new recordings from the band since their recent reformation, this is an album that sounds remarkably vital, living-up to the reputation of their legendary 1977 single ‘Catch Me’ and almost bursting at the seams with great pop-tunes. With all five original members still onboard, their mix of Glam, powerpop and spikey energy is still intact, along with catchy lyrics that relate various tales of everyday life with great singalong choruses. The whole album has a real vibrancy and sounds as if they were thoroughly enjoying themselves as they made it. The best comparison I can make is with the early Carpettes records, although there are plenty of other references you could make… (early) Beatles, Eddie & The Hot Rods, ‘Shake Some Action’… If only there was a radio station that would broadcast music like this to a wide audience, I’m sure that a lot of people would love it. But lacking that kind of ideal situation, just take note and make sure you hear this album. Play it loud and get into it… There’s nothing about it you won’t enjoy !
LONDON DIRTHOLE COMPANY. Summerine 8.1 CD (Radiowave) Anyone who has witnessed a LDC gig will already know that you can never know what to expect. More / less percussion ? Different line-ups ? Louder / noisier ? All very important elements, but at the heart of it, there’s always a very raw spirit of rock’n’roll. In the Sixties, it would have been called Garage, in the Seventies Punk and these days, probably Lo-fi. Basically, it’s attitude over ability (even if the musicians have real ability.) It’s the songs and their delivery that counts. In the case of LDC, this album has it all in bucketloads. 18 songs, but the disc plays as one continuous track, meaning you have to pay attention, with titles that may or may not actually refer to the lyrics, instead being in-jokes that you’re never gonna get. The songs range from the opening ‘Everything Changes’, a raucous, noisy punk fest that comes across like Swell Maps jamming with early Neubaten, through to the Mod vibes of ‘Nitty Gritty City’, the hardcore thrash of ‘Elephant in the Room’ and the twangy guitar groove of ‘Debbie’s Dirty Secret’. Elsewhere, there are Faust-like drones complete with howling vocals (‘Kismet’), a homage to Jesse Hector in ‘Gorilla-a-go-go’ and a strangely atmospheric cover of ‘Jezebel’. It’s not going to appeal to everyone, but then again, I doubt if they’re trying to. Play it loud, grab a beer and just enjoy it !
LOUDMOUTH. Easy Tiger CD (Boss Tuneage) Featuring members of such renowned North Eastern punk bands as HDQ, Red Alert and Angelic Upstarts, Loudmouth have produced an album that brings together influences from far and wide. Opening track ‘Sink or Swim’ recalls The Professionals while others borrow a few tricks from The Clash. Further songs add American influences from the likes of Bad Religion and Rancid, although it has to be said the nods towards Sunderland legends Leatherface are never far from the mix. Occasional moments delve into reggae, ska and even country rhythms, but always with genuine intent and a real sense of purpose. This is an album with an unrepentant, massive guitar sound that will no doubt have fans punching the air all over the globe (or, at least, wherever they get to hear it…) All you really need to know is three little words : Play it Loud !
MAP 71. Gloriosa CD (Fourth Dimension) A well-deserved CD reissue of material previously available on long-since sold out cassette-only releases, plus several original recordings previously only circulated on CDR by the band themselves. The Brighton-based duo (Lisa Jayne and Andy Pyne) have been steadily building an intriguing reputation over the past year or so and this album is the ideal place to begin your investigation. Combining repetitive electronic sounds with expressive, jazz –styled drums, the music creates the perfect backdrop for Lisa’s narrative vocal delivery. It works on an almost trance-like level, like trying to catch the words of a conversation held somewhere in the distance while being diverted by the natural sounds that surround us. You try to concentrate on one element but are soon misled by one of the others before you’ve really discovered what’s going on. But it’s enjoyable rather than distracting, drawing you into their world and occupying your mind as the music continues. The only comparison I can make is with the San Francisco duo ‘The Classical’, who have a similar approach to combining vocals and drum patterns, although in their own distinct style. Either way, this is an album that really deserves to be heard and I certainly look forward to seeing them live as well.
RYAN MARTIN. Gimme Some Light CD (High Moon) Ryan Martin is a young musician who truly understands and embraces the history and soul of American music. Taking elements from Country, rock, pop and folk, he crafts haunting songs that will remind you of early Neil Young one moment, only for the next to have you thinking of Kurt Cobains’ darkest laments, before delving into the light-headed, jangly pop of classic REM. Originally from California, Martin began writing songs and playing live in his early teens before a traumatic car accident brought a downturn to his life, resulting in addiction problems and jail time. Fortunately, he was able to realise that his life needed a fresh start and relocated to New York, where he put together a new band and released his debut album, ‘For All the Beautiful Losers’. His experiences may have been dark, but they’ve certainly given him the emotional depth and realism that make his songs ring true. You believe him rather than just treating it as mere melodrama. With this album, he tempers the darker moments with lighter pop melodies and lively country style tunes which contrast perfectly to make each other even more effective. After all, despair is only believable when contrasted with redemption. This is a truly charming album and, given the right exposure, Ryan Martin is a musician who could easily end up earning a very large audience.
NEUROSIS. Pain of Mind CD (Neurot) The debut album from Neurosis, originally released in 1987 by Alchemy Records, was a brutal reflection of teenage angst and depression within a world of uncertainties and oppression. The band stood out like a sore thumb in an East Bay scene that was soon to produce the likes of Green Day and Jawbreaker (not to knock those bands in the slightest, but just to illustrate how varied that scene was.) Neurosis were initially a blatantly D-beat influenced band, although anyone who has followed their progress will realise that they took those early elements to much further places along the way. They were the epitome of emotional darkness in a scene that either embraced politics or pop as a way forward (again, not to knock either) but at the same time, valued intelligent, organic experiments with their sound and delivery. This album, recently remixed and presented with new artwork, is an essential piece of their make-up. This is where they began and everything they’ve produced in subsequent years derives from this initial primal scream. As with bands such as Amebix or Antisect, their original statement still remains vital, however much further they have progressed in subsequent years. Neurosis never played safe and that’s why they’re still so important. This was where they began and to understand the whole story, you need to embrace it. Trust me, it’s still going to blow you away.
The NIGHT SUNS. Human EP (www.thenightsuns.com) Three tracks from a new London rock band who combine mainstream, Grunge era influences such as Smashing Pumpkins and Pearl Jam together with the drama and bombast of Nine Inch Nails or maybe even Queens of the Stone Age. But the element that saves them from becoming merely derivative is their strong sense of melody, and an almost pop-like catchiness, even when the guitars are raging in the background. It’s this that could well see them appealing to a much wider audience and I could easily hear them being played on mainstream radio. Probably a bit too light-weight for my own tastes, but I wouldn’t be surprised if they did pretty well with this.
THE NOT AMUSED. Be With You 7” (Queen Mum) Punk, Mod and Powerpop all collide in this super-catchy single from the Berlin-based band, The Not Amused. They look sharp on the cover and the songs really reflect it. A mixture of German, Italian and UK members, they make me think of a cross between The Chords and Cute Lepers, playing with loads of energy and attitude whilst delving into the best Pop-Punk-Beat moments of both the Sixties and the Seventies. The b-side includes a fine cover of ‘Shape of Things To Come’, but it’s their own song, ‘Be With You’, that really rules this slab of vinyl. Insistent and instantly-memorable, it’s the kind of song that ought to be on every jukebox in the land ! I really hope I get to see this band live some day.
Ye NUNS. I Don’t Want To Do This Again 7” (State) Any fan of the Sixties garage-punk legends The Monks should know of Ye Nuns by now. Based in London, they’re an all-female Monks’ cover-band, playing the songs with an authentic passion that transcends the usual cynicism of tribute-acts. Such has been their success in the matter that they’ve become friends with original Monks bass-player Eddie Shaw, who offered them the chance to record two of his previously-unissued songs. This 7” is the excellent result. In classic Monks style, the drums pound away, bass and banjo lay down the menacing rhythms, the lyrics are kept to a repetitive minimum, the guitar creates enthusiastic bursts of noise, and the vocals / keyboards interact to drag the melody out from the depths of sound. That’s just the A-side ! Turn the record over and ‘Don’t Worry’ is even more frenetic, teetering right on the edge of chaos but determinedly keeping it altogether. There are few that could really capture the style and spirit of The Monks, but Ye Nuns do it perfectly. In a world where, it seems, no further original Monks recordings remain to be heard, this record is a true Blessing !
OLD ERNIE. Imagined Memory CD / Black Cotton Wool CD (www.facebook.com/OldErnieBand) They’re not the best band when it comes to sending-out info about their new releases, but at least this time they did send me an email to say there would be any when I received their new CDs ! So, there’s two of them and although sort of companion pieces, there’s also quite a divergence in their directions. ‘Imagined Memories’ is, in a sense, the more experimental of the two, at times sounding like Pere Ubu and The Melvins working on ideas together, perhaps with The Residents in the production booth (which, when you think about it, wouldn’t be such a bad idea…) You get heavy, almost Bluesy bass lines over which all manner of distorted and treated sounds find their places. emanating from guitars, drums, vocals and electronics. There’s even a few moments that kind of remind me of early Tubeway Army records, in that peculiar, almost sinister sci-fi way they had. Some segments are pretty raucous, others are more tempered in an atmospheric, soundtrack style. There’s a lot going on so I’m sure that different people will pick-up different things, but that’s a good quality and certainly keeps it interesting. Strangely enough, the final track on this disk (‘Hollow’) is a
fairly good pointer towards the musical style to be found of the ‘Black Cotton Wool’ album. This has a more sombre and less frenetic tone, with instrumental passages that, again, are almost reminiscent of atmospheric soundtracks (Angelo Badalamenti reinterpreting some long-lost Spaghetti Western, perhaps ?) When the guitars come-in, they add to the power of the music rather than taking it over. This music takes its’ time to get to where it’s going, never rushing but always at the right pace to have maximum effect. The loud, grungy outbursts are off-set against quieter, more tempered moments, and it’s that balance that makes this so enthralling. Old Ernie have covered a wide range of sounds and meshed them together with style and inventiveness. Be sure to track down these albums. After this, you’ll really want to know what the band will be doing next.
PARASITE. Reverberation CD (Boss Tuneage) I’ve never minded a bit of metal in my hardcore, as long as it’s taken from good sources and doesn’t interfere with the end-product. For example, Poison Idea could always do it with style but English Dogs (after they left Clay Records) sucked the big one. I was never a fan of bands that played unnecessary guitar solos, and unfortunately, that is an accusation that can be leveled at some of the seminal Japanese hardcore bands. Parasite are a much more recent addition to the Japanese punk scene, having been around for a mere ten years or so, but have been stirring up a lot of interest recently. Their debut album sold-out within two weeks when released on vinyl earlier this year, so this limited edition CD version (featuring three tracks additional tracks taken from their first demo recordings) is now available and likely to become scarce in a similar time period. Musically, it has some great moments and others not so special. The vocals are delivered with a harsh aggression throughout and the music veers between a mix of Motorhead and GISM through to tracks that sound as dire as Saxon ! At times, apart from the vocals, it’s far more metal than hardcore and that just doesn’t work for me. If you’re a fan of the ‘crossover’ genre then you’re going to love this, but for me it’s all a bit too kerrang at times.
PETER KERNEL. The Size of the Night CD (On The Camper) This is the third album released by this duo, formed of Swiss designer Aris Bassetti and Canadian filmmaker Barbara Lehnoff. Perhaps not unsurprisingly, the musical results certainly veer most towards the Art-school / post-punk scheme of things, recalling the sort of art-pop combos who would be released by labels like 4AD or Some Bizarre back in the ‘80s. It seems a little too serious in places, but there is also a real sense of mood and atmosphere which prevents everything from becoming too detached. The fact that the band do play live quite consistently undoubtedly keeps them in touch with their audience.
PRIVATE DICKS. Exile in Neverland 7” (Queen Mum) Private Dicks were a New Wave band formed in Bristol during 1978. They released only one single during their original run, the highly-rated ‘She Said Go’ on Heartbeat Records in 1979, which combined the DIY approach of the Buzzcocks first EP with the glam-infused punk of Neon Hearts. After the recent release of an album compiling all of their original recordings, and an archive live recording from the Marquee in 1979, the band reformed for a few live appearances and whilst at it, recorded their first new tracks since 1980. The results are pretty impressive, still capturing their original punky-powerpop sound and delivering it with plenty of energy and attitude. It’s probably not going to change your life (I doubt the band ever intended that) but if you play it loud and grab a cold beer, you’re going to love it ! That’s all you need to know.
RAT THE MAGNIFICENT. The Body As Pleasure CD (TTWD) Currently based in South London, this is the debut album from a relatively young band with a refreshingly non-conformist approach to their music. You can pick out comparisons bit only as some kind of indicator, rather than tying them down to any particular influence. The Birthday Party and Jesus Lizard are possibly a good opening point, with the drums and bass holding down the irregular basis for the songs while the guitar blasts out sheets of sound, more as catharsis rather than decoration. In fact, in many ways, the relationship between the rhythm section and the guitar is similar to the way that Gang of Four used to operate, almost playing-off each other instead of playing together. But that’s what gives it an edge, that sense that playing it safe and genuinely taking chances with how it all comes out. The vocals howl over the melee in effective commentary, more like a demented rockabilly frontman than anything else. It’s very dramatic and certainly suggests that the band would be an awesome live prospect. Be sure to hear this album because, as an introduction, it certainly promises a lot of good things.
RENE SG. Fucko EP (Monster Zero) Presumably not a band with mainstream intentions, if the title is anything to go by (the first two tracks are also titled ‘Fucko’ and ‘I Don’t Give a Fuck’, which just emphasizes the fact that they ain’t going for radio play… None of the tracks are over two minutes long, most are well under 60 seconds, so this definitely isn’t a band that believes in hanging around too long. Frantic pop punk mixed with hard rock histrionics, it’s like Screeching Weasel meets Spinal Tap on way too much speed. Which sounds good to these old ears !
REPLACEMENTS. For Sale : Live At Maxwells 1986. LP (Sire.) The Replacements are one of those great American bands who never achieved the success they deserved. This was partly due to the music business and the unwillingness of mainstream media to give them the coverage they deserved (funny how those same shitbags were the first to namedrop the band once they split and were no longer something they actually had to deal with) but also as much to do with the bands’ own attitude. They were just as likely to set themselves up for a fall in displays of bratty contrariness, as on their infamous appearance on ‘Saturday Night Live’ (wreaking chaos and yelling ’motherfuckers !’ during a particularly awesome performance of ‘Bastards of Young’) and their equally awkward MTV video for the same song (it basically featured a film of a stereo playing the record.) All of this could well have been considered irritating and churlish were it not for the fact that the band were producing great records and performing legendary live shows. Whatever they were wont to do to their own career, everything could be excused when you heard the music they produced. Fortunately, Seymour Stein at Sire Records was smart enough to realise that the band needed to be captured at their best and so, at short notice, they were recorded live at a relatively small club in New Jersey. The familiar surroundings obviously appealed to the band and they delivered an incredible set, spanning every album up to the then-current ‘Tim’. It may not be note-perfect, but rock’n’roll / punk rock never had to be. It’s the spirit and attitude that counts and The Replacements had that by the truckload. Hi-octane versions of ‘I’m in Trouble’, ‘Bastards of Young’ and ‘Fuck School’ jostle for space in the set alongside the pop perfection of ‘I Will Dare’ and ‘Left of the Dial’, while a full-band romp through ‘Answering Machine’ is matched only by the jazzy-swing of ‘Waitress in the Sky’ in the ‘only-the-Replacements-could-get-away-with-it’ stakes. Of course, there’s also the usual, unpredictable selection of covers (‘Baby Strange’, ‘Nowhere Man’, ‘Black Diamond’ and an aborted attempt of ‘Fox On The Run’) which just about complete the spectrum as far as classic ‘Mats performances go. There may have been plenty of bootlegs over the years and many capture gigs just as great as this, but this is the first time an official release gets to tell the full story. Hear this album and you’ll get an idea why this bands’ reputation has continued to grow. If you already in the know, just listen to this album and enjoy them all over again.
SCREAM. No More Censorship NMC 17 CD (Southern Lord) Originally released on the reggae label RAS Records in 1988, NMC was Scream’s fourth album, following the three classics released by Dischord. This was their first on a different label – the independent RAS Records – and their first to feature a new drummer, Dave Grohl, who would remain with the band for the next few years until they eventually split in 1990. This new version of the album came about when the original mastertapes were rediscovered and restored before they deteriorated beyond redemption. Given that Grohl remains a close friend of his former bandmates and that his current status means he has his own studio, a decision was made to remix the entire album to bring out the very best in the songs, in a way that wasn’t possible three decades earlier. It certainly works effectively, bringing out a new vitality and freshness to the music that much better reflects their live intensity at the time. This was a period when Scream were developing away from their hardcore roots and embracing more hard rock elements to their songs, although never losing the forthright delivery and integrity of their early days. (Think of the way that Bad Brains maintained their presence as they moved on from ‘Rock For Light’ into ‘I Against I’.) Lyrically, it still works because so much has come around full circle since the late Eighties (from Reagan through to Trump) and the censorship of Art and Music is still as relevant now as it ever was. If you’ve never heard this album, there’s really no excuse not to do so now and it’ll serve you as a great starting point to delve into the bands’ other records, both earlier and later. If you’re already a fan, you still need to hear this new version as it adds whole new dimensions to the original. Just buy it, godammit !
The SENIOR SERVICE. King Cobra CD (Damaged Goods) Calling this an album of soundtrack-inspired instrumental tracks really doesn’t do it justice, although at its’ core, that’s exactly what it is. But it’s the energy and depth of reference that they put into the music that really makes it special. Recalling classic Sixties soundtracks from the likes of Burt Bacharach, Henry Mancini, Quincy Jones and Lalo Schifrin, we’re talking about music that creates a mood and atmosphere just as much as it sets a groove. Add to this, the kind of musicianship that you’d expect from the likes of Booker T, Dick Dale, The Ventures and even the arrangement-skills of Lee Hazlewood and you’ll be somewhere in the region that this album will take you. It’s music that you can jump-up and dance to, or if you’d prefer, sit down, close your eyes and let your imagination conjure-up the images and drama that the sounds suggest. You’ll swear that you’ve heard some of these tracks before now, and maybe you have, but only in your dreams rather than as themes for some great, lost movie. If you can’t enjoy an album like this, you truly don’t have a soul !
SEPTIC TANK. Rotting Civilisation CD (Rise Above) Featuring former Napalm Death and Cathedral vocalist Lee Dorian, this is very much a return to his hardcore roots, most obviously referencing the likes of Discharge and American Hardcore pioneers like Siege, (early) DRI and Septic Death (the name is a bit of a giveaway.) Formed in 1994 as an outlet for Cathedrals’ more frantic aspirations, they originally did little other than a few impromptu get-togethers. It took the best part of two decades until, nearing the end of Cathedrals’ career, the line-up decided to make use of some spare studio time to record their debut EP. Despite a limited edition release in Japan and a suitably enthusiastic response, no immediate follow-up was forthcoming but behind the scenes, plans were being made for the band to become something more than just a side-project. The eventual results are this album. Although it can at times be seen as a homage to the originators of this sound (see above) the band have actually re-emerged in a time that perfectly suits the rage and righteousness that this kind of music thrives upon. Trump in America, Tories in the UK, the Cold War sneaking back into the mainstream, the rich laughing as they screw everyone over … recognize anything familiar ? Musically, it’s a relentless onslaught most reminiscent of Discharge around the time of the (excellent) ‘State Violence State Control’ single, when they adopted a better production sound and some metallic licks but before they lost their original focus and energy (eg, when they collapsed into the awful ‘Grave New World’ era.) Unfortunately, I had to review this without a copy of the lyrics, but those that you can pick-out certainly seem to be spot-on and the delivery definitely matches the tone and subject matter. So, be sure to listen to this as a band in its’ own right. Don’t hold it up against any of their former bands but listen to it as a vital and contemporary statement. If you can’t understand the point of it, you’re not paying attention.
THE SHACKS. Haze CD (Big Crown) New York based band playing a sophisticated mix of jazz, soul, indie and gentle psychedelia, that could certainly see them reaching out to a very wide audience. The music channels the spirit of groovy Seventies movie sound-tracks and smoke-filled jazz basements. The vocals are sung in an intimate, almost hushed manner, ensuring that you pay full attention. The production is perfectly sympathetic towards the songs, recalling early innovators like Phil Spector and Joe Meek, while clearly as sharp and precise and contemporary recording can be. There’s also a nice sense of innocence and naivety to the proceedings ; they sound like a band who are really into what they’re creating rather than people just trying to build a career. It isn’t the sort of thing that I’d usually listen to, but when something is made as well as this, it’s always going to be a pleasure to enjoy.
THE SHANGRILADS. Rapide 40 Slideout CD/EP (firstname.lastname@example.org) I first saw this band a couple of years ago and, although they certainly weren’t bad, they didn’t really stick in my memory too much. This CD shows that they’ve since become a lot more focused and have certainly worked on what they want to do. The title track is a great slice of TRex-inspired hard rock (as if a song with a title like this could be anything else !) It’s got a stompin’ rhythm section, big guitar riffs and a catchy glam-pop sensibility. Second track, ‘ShouldaCouldaWoulda’, is a punkier burst of chainsaw pop, somewhere inbetween early Buzzcocks and the Weirdos , while final song ‘The Routine’ has a slower, simmering tempo and reminds me of The Didjts (RIP) jamming with the Folk Devils. Trust me, this is a really great EP and it should be heard. Catch one of their gigs soon or check them out on facebook.
SKASSAPUNKA. Adalante CD (Kob) This is a great album ! There are so many bands peddling the ‘ska-punk’ sound these days, but few do it any where near as well as this. Heading into their tenth year together, Skassapunka deliver the perfect introduction to their catchy, upbeat musical style, combining six new tracks and five newly remixed older songs to give you a great overview of where they’ve been and where they’re going. The lyrics are predominantly in Italian so it’s a little awkward figuring out their subject matter, although the famous anti-fascist slogan ‘Adelante No Pasaran’ features repeatedly in the title track which certainly indicates they’re on the right side ! Musically, they’re sort of reminiscent of early ‘Bosstones material with equal measures of Ska, Punk and Metal blending together in a truly organic, paasionate way. The brass section finds its’ natural place, just as often the lead instruments rather than just a background feature and helps to add an almost Gypsy element at times. Already popular across Europe, I really hope they make it over to the UK some time. I know the language barrier can be off-putting for us Brits, but when you hear music as infectious as this, you’ll just want to dance ! Sometimes, that’s all you really need to know !
THE SLITS. Here To Be Heard DVD (Moviehouse Entertainment) I think it would be fair to say that The Slits’ place in the history of contemporary music can not be underestimated. I’ll go along with that and I’m not even a fan of everything they produced, but when you look at what they set out to do and achieved, you have to give the credit where it’s due. In a world where, as a fellow pioneer exclaimed, ‘little girls should be seen and not heard’, The Slits were determined to adopt their own style, make their own sounds and also have as big an as the other seminal punk bands around them. From the very start, they embraced the DIY ethic in the most basic fashion, but rather than merely trying to imitate others, they took their initial inabilities as a challenge to fashion their own way forward. It certainly wasn’t easy for them and during their original existence they had as many detractors as they had fans, but in hindsight it’s clear that they set an example that many were inspired to follow, both knowingly and unknowingly. The Riot Grrl movement obviously owes a lot to them, but even mainstream performers like Madonna or Lady Gaga clearly copped at least some of their attitude. This documentary puts it all in perspective, combining archival footage and revealing interviews with original members Tessa Pollitt, Viv Albertine and Palmolive to relate the story as it happened. Although unfortunately never directly interviewed for this project, Ari Up’s presence still dominates the narrative, both through the tales involving her and the images you see on the screen. It follows the band from their original formation through to the recording of the iconic ‘Cut’ LP and onto the more experimental ‘Return of The Giant Slits’. After their original demise, Ari continued with various, more occasional musical projects but it wouldn’t be until 2005 that she reunited with Tessa and a new version of The Slits began recording and performing live again. Sadly, the promise of this new project was again cut short in 2010 with Ari’s untimely death from cancer, but during that short time, The Slits had yet again inspired more young people to make their own stand. This film captures the spirit of the band perfectly and, while telling a great story, also serves to inspire once again. As I said at the beginning of this review, I’m not a fan of everything they produced, but I’m so glad that they did it !
SMASH FASION.Rompus Pompous CD (Electric Pudding) Smash Fashion are a band made up of diverse parts ; two of the current members are of European origin and the two Americans are both from the East Coast, but somehow they all came together in California, where their mutual love of classic powerpop, rock’n’roll and glam ensured that their paths were destined to meet. In a similar way to Redd Kross (although the results are pretty different) Smash Fashion combine elements from different eras to create great music of their own. The central piece would probably be Seventies Glam Rock (Bowie, Mott the Hoople, TRex) but in the same way those artists drew from earlier decades, so too do Smash Fashion. You can hear early rock-n’roll rhythms, the aggressive tones of Sixties Garage-psych, plus the melodies and harmonies of The Beatles. Combine with this the punky-pop of Cheap Trick and perhaps even early Blondie and you’ll come close to what Smash Fashion are doing. Opening track ‘Can’t Take You Anywhere’ is a stomping rocker with massive pop hooks, not a million miles away from ‘Strutter’, while ‘Soft As A Rock’ occupies the same neighbourhood as ‘Surrender’. ‘Proper Way To Eat a Muffin’ is an effective (and accomplished) homage to Marc Bolan, while album closer ‘Smiles and Daggers’ features a guest appearance from Bowies’ former pianist, Mike Garson. With excellent arrangements and production throughout, this really is a fine album that, in a better world, would be featuring on playlists all over the world. Failing that, be sure to lend your support and don’t miss this album !
SONS OF ALPHA CENTAURI. Continuum CD (H42) Not a band-name that inspires excitement, but this UK band certainly produce some interesting music. Having released their debut, self-titled album in 2007, the band then spent time working on various collaborative projects with other bands such as Karma To Burn, and have only recently re-focused themselves on their own second album. The results, fortunately, are well worth the delay. Try to imagine an instrumental band that combine the well-paced riffs of Stoner Rock together with the rock intricacies of Pink Floyd or King Crimson. Produced by former ISIS drummer Aaron Harris, who does a great job in drawing out the differing tones and moods of the music that the band create. This is genuinely progressive rock, rather than ‘Prog’, if you see what I mean. Powerful but in a different kind of way. Well worth your curiosity.
SPLINTERED. Moraine CD (Fourth Dimension) Originally released in 1996 as a limited edition, vinyl-only LP, ‘Moraine’ was the final album released by the original incarnation of Splintered and served as a perfect parting-shot. Both sonically and intuitively, the two original tracks that made up the album in its’ initial format take their time to develop and convincingly reach their goal. Here, both remastered and, in the case of ‘Humayan’, extended, they work as probably the most effective statement that the band released to the unwitting public. ‘Flagellum Dei’ begins with a careful pace, meandering in a moody, almost Coil-like infusion of suggestive, sinister atmosphere. It almost seems to be going nowhere but in fact is building an ideal sense of tension before, after some seven minutes, the bass and drums are introduced to create a self-propelling rhythm that changes the whole tone into something perhaps reminiscent of Faust. From here, the occasional vocals are included more as part of the overall music rather than stand-out commentary and all the elements come together to create one naturally-focused sound. ‘Humayan’ sets out at a faster tempo from the outset and vocals are more noticeably featured, although again they’re distorted and played-down, more as a sonic effect than a leading element. This works really well, creating a sense of suggestion rather than statement and, again, giving the entire track the ability to speak for itself. The rhythmic repetition is, in some ways, similar to early PiL or perhaps even Flipper, while at times the sound delves into more chaotic territory with rumbling electronics and skronk-like saxophone outbursts that recall early Residents. The final track, ‘Moraine Chase’ (no doubt a Pittis-pun) is an addition to the original material, a remix made from the original tapes courtesy of Bad of Pain. Veering so far away from the original tracks as to create something very-much of its’ own volition, it’s considerably shorter than the two main tracks and works as an effective footnote to the proceedings. I think I can quite comfortably say that this album represents Splintered at their most effective and if you wish to investigate, it’s an ideal place to begin. Just be prepared for the nightmares that it may provoke further down the line !
SPLIT CRANIUM. I’m The Devil and I’m OK CD (Ipecac) Crossover hardcore group made-up of personnel from both sides of the Atlantic, including members of Mammifer, Converge and Circle. This is their second album, some six years after their D-beat inspired debut, and it heads-out in a more varied style, featuring keyboards and melodic riffs to create contrast with the ferocious rhythms and gravelly vocals. In some ways, the results are similar to the more recent albums by Fucked Up, still maintaining their overall power but channelling it into new areas and creating ambient lulls to accentuate the harder moments. I have to say it’s not entirely convincing but certainly taking things in an intriguing direction. Definitely a band that will be worth keeping your eyes on and I hope they don’t keep us waiting another six years for the next release !
SPOILERS. Recently Re-issued CD (Boss Tuneage) Many years ago, we used to arrange gigs in and around Canterbury for bands like Snuff, Sink and Senseless Things. Few of them were particularly successful and we barely scraped together enough cash to cover the bands’ costs, but the music was always great. But it seems as if something from those gigs leaked into the local soil, because now we have the Spoilers, a young band from Canterbury (now based in London) playing a fresh, enthusiastic style of melodic punk that certainly recalls those older bands (Spoilers even recently toured with Snuff, as well as appropriate American bands like Face To Face and Lagwagon.) This album gathers together the tracks from their debut mini album ‘Stay Afloat’, songs from a selection of split-EPs and one previously-unreleased studio track (although don’t get too excited – it’s the fastest and shortest track on the album !) It’s a perfect introduction for anyone who hasn’t already seen or heard this band, and a lot of fun with it. They have plenty of really catchy songs, great arrangements and loads of energy. You can’t help but enjoy them !
TABLE SCRAPS. Autonomy CD (Zen Ten) This has got to be the best new garage-punk band I’ve heard in a long time. There’s no messing about with clever retro riffs or traditional blues scales, this band just make simple, catchy songs with a snarlin’ attitude. Based somewhere up in the Midlands, the guitar chords stick to the essential minimum, the bass lines do their job without any fancy elaboration and the drums sound as if they’re being pounded-out on cargo-crates. The vocals adopt a stylized-snarl, bitchin’ about things that matter in the same way that either Iggy or David Johansen would do it, but not actually sounding like either of them. Well, the vocals are female, so I suppose that accounts for some of it, but that’s not the point I’m trying to make. If anything, the only real comparisons I can make would be with a very primal, stripped-down version of L7, which certainly can’t be a bad thing, and possibly even The Scientists, which is another asset. Bizarrely, ‘Takin’ Out The Trash’ has a insistent riff that reminds me of Goldfrapps’ glam-stomping ‘Oh-La-La’, and while it’s certainly just as catchy, Table Scraps take it to the perfect, fuzzed-out conclusion. I haven’t seen these guys live, yet, but after hearing this album, that’s going to happen as soon as possible. This album rocks in all the best ways – make it a personal priority to hear it soon !
TANCRED. Nightstand LP (Polyvinyl) Tancred (great name, by the way – it just sounds great !) is basically the musical project of Jess Abbott, formerly a member of the band Now, Now. This is her second album under thistitle and it’s a very accomplished set of guitar-driven American indie-pop. Opening track ‘Song One’ is a deceptively mellow, almost filmic introduction, before ‘Queen of New York’ raises the tempo with an instantly enjoyable slice of perfect pop, like a cross between Blake Babies and Imperial Teen. Jess has one of those seemingly-effortless melodic voices that you can’t fail to enjoy and subtle harmonies just bolster the effect. ‘Clipping’ takes a more measured, moodier pace with emotive lyrics, only to be followed by the excellent upbeat ‘Something Else’, which combines an almost Nirvana-style riff with loud guitar and drum beats to demand your attention. ‘Strawberry Selfish’ deserves a mention just for its’ title, but certainly doesn’t disappoint musically, delivering a great, dreamy melody with appropriately understated vocals. ‘Reviews’ is a simmering pop classic, its’ energy gradually building-up as the song develops, while the album ends on a more sombre note with ‘Rowing’ which almost recalls Bob Moulds’ musical style (certainly not the vocals !) in an enticing, enthralling manner. This is a great album, lots of fine songs and hooks that will really draw you in. Be sure to check this out.
TERMINAL HEADS. Back ! CD (Golden Moose) Originally formed in North Kent during the late 80’s, Terminal Heads released a bunch of cassette-only EP’s during the Nineties and then, seemingly, took a break for a while before returning and, now, fully re-establishing themselves with this album. With so much experience behind them, it’s not surprising that this is a rather accomplished set of no-nonsense punk rock. It reminds me of a cross between the Subhumans and The Business in many ways, combining the best elements of street punk with good arrangements and an imaginative production. The songs are mostly new (only ‘Locked Away’ seems to date back to their older days, although it still stands up well alongside the newer material) and are played enthusiastically with plenty of energy. Similarly, the lyrics tackle contemporary issues with an intelligent but easily accessible manner. Altogether, this is a fine album and you can’t help but think that, if they get the chance, this is a band who could come up with something really great. Let’s hope that happens, but in the meantime, this is a record that should still appeal to a pretty wide audience.
THEME. Sacral Blood Warning CD (Fourth Dimension) Recalling Throbbing Gristle in their more visceral, macabre moments, this latest album from Theme (aka Richard Johnson of Splintered etc) is a rather impressive, albeit disturbing, soundscape. Pulsing electronic rhythms underpin the tracks, over which vocals and other effects are layered, suggesting images rather than stating them definitively. For me, this was what the original ‘Industrial’ music scene was all about, exploring individual ideas and their interpretations. Projects like this are as much about the listeners’ reaction as the artists’ presentation. In a lot of ways, this album reminds me of the excellent Nocturnal Emissions LP ‘Drowning in a Sea of Bliss’, in the way it skips from one mood to the next and conjures up images with an almost dream / nightmare like quality. The important thing, though, is that this is still music that moves. It’s not just a cold, theoretical statement, there is a real sense of passion and intent in these sounds, something you can connect to rather than just admire from a distance. That’s something that is often missing from many experimental or extreme projects, but this album gives you a real impression of purpose. As an extension to the music itself, the CD comes with a 7” booklet, containing imagery, dense text and cut-up lyrics that add to the intrigue. I’m glad to say that I’ve been very impressed by this release.
JOHNNY THUNDERS. So Alonesome LP (Remarquable) Having already celebrated the 40th anniversary of the classic ‘So Alone’ LP with what is surely the definitive version (see previous reviews) Remarquable have taken it one step further with this companion album, which features alternate takess, early versions and brand new mixes of previously unreleased recordings. And while there have been many fairly disappointing compilations of ‘rare’ Thunders-related tracks in the past, this album really does stand-up in its’ own right. For a start, it doesn’t just stick to the original track-listing but instead presents a new version to show just how many great options were available at the time. ‘Pipeline’ is the obvious opener again, heard here as the first of the alternate. A different mix of ‘Dead Or Alive’ then replaces ‘You Can’t Put Your Arms Around A Memory’ and sounds incredibly fresh and feisty. ‘Great Big Kiss’ is a new mix of the Sixties classic, adding a larger sound and really showing-off the character of Johnny and Patti Palladins’ duet. ‘Leave Me Alone’ is an earlier and wonderfully raw version, featuring Peter Perrett and Mike Kellie from the Only Ones as well as Paul Gray (The Damned, Hot Rods) in what was obviously a truly killer line up ! The real gem for fans will probably be the final track of Side One, a raw and (sadly) unfinished version of ‘So Alone’, featuring what is probably the last studio recording to feature Johnny, Walter Lure and Billy Rath (joined here by Paul Cook.) Left in its’ original basic-take without any overdubs, it’s a primal, exciting track that gives a real idea of the musical chemistry that existed between these guys. Side Two stays closer to the original format, opening with ‘Daddy Rollin’ Stone’, although this version features yet another line-up, featuring Mike Kellie, Phil Lynott and Henri-Paul. It also features Johnny playing guitar throughout (on the regular album, Steve Jones took the guitar duties while Johnny sang.) ‘London Boys’ is another fine alternate mix, while ‘Untouchable’ and ‘Subway Train’ are more early takes featuring the Perrett, Kellie and Gray line-up, both presenting snarlin’ alternatives to the regular versions. Final song is a cover of Marc Bolans’ ‘The Wizard’, featuring Phil Lynott and Mike Kellie once again. Further sessions also included additional harmonica from BP Fallon, sax from Chrid Wood (The Automatics) and conga from producer Steve Lillywhite, all included here. The original recording had been intended as an extra track for the ‘You Can’t Put Your Arms…’ 12” but was inexplicably shelved (that version appeared on the recent ‘So Alone’ reissue.) Here, a new mix adds further vitality to an unusual but inspired cover version, one that really brings out the sense of fun that the musicians were having in the studio. Remarquable have outdone themselves once again, re-discovering rare but truly vital recordings and presenting them with excellent artwork and thorough information. Any Johnny Thunders fan is going to need this album. It’s not just a collection of alternate tracks, it’s a valid album in its’ own right and stands as further testament to the quality of the music Thunders recorded in 1978.
VARVARA. GO. CD (Haminian Sounds.) Varvara hail from Finland, although musically you would never guess it. Having been releasing records since 2011, they have a very accomplished and focused sound which, to my ears, strongly recalls early-Nineties bands like Buffalo Tom, some of the more melodic moments of Dinosaur Jnr and perhaps even Shudder To Think. The guitars are very-much up-in-the-mix, although never too overpowering. The important thing is that the melodies are allowed to soak through and the vocals, even though at times taking-on a dreamy, almost slurred quality, are always clear and perfectly set within the overall production. The songs shift effortlessly between moods, evoking quieter more introverted moments before bursting into heavier, more intense garage riffs. It’s a very enjoyable album and I can see it doing very well if it gets the international radio play that it deserves. As I said at the beginning, you would never guess where they came from and that’s a positive. They cross borders because the music has a character of its’ own. Let’s hope we get to see them live !
VIOLATION WOUND. With Man In Charge CD (Peaceville) Violation Wound are a California-based three piece fronted by Autopsy member Chris Reifert. But this is a much more hardcore-punk inspired outfit, with the albums’ sound certainly influenced by the D-beat genre, with the most obvious references being Discharge themselves (’Never Again’ / ‘State Violence’ era) and early Antisect. It’s a pretty relentless assault, twenty songs in just over 30 minutes, but they temper their brutality with several surprisingly catchy, melodic tracks, such as ‘Don’t Believe it’ and ‘Destroy The Factory’, which prevent the more blatantly aggressive songs from becoming predictable. The production really captures a great guitar sound and the sharp, precision drumming, while the vocals veer more towards Bay Area thrash style(Slayer etc) while still maintaining a suitably righteous tone. All that being said, the band do also allow for a sense of humour, notably with their frantic cover of ‘Somebody’s Gonna Get Their Head Kicked In Tonite’ (bet you never expected a Fleetwood Mac song to appear on a D-beat album ?) and that also adds to the overall effect, allowing a brief moment of respite from the ongoing assault. Overall, it’s a really good album, made by a band that obviously have an understanding of the hardcore / punk sources rather than just a metal band trying to gain some credibility. This is a vital burst of energy with its’ intentions in exactly the right place. With all the appalling stuff going on in the world right now, albums like this are more valid than ever.
VITAMIN X. Age of Paranoia CD (Southern Lord) Vitamin X are a Dutch hardcore band who have been operating for two decades, honing their sound in a style reminiscent of early Suicidal Tendencies and DRI, with a vocal delivery possibly more in line with the early NYHC bands (Agnostic Front, Cro-mags etc.) They’ve released numerous EP’s and albums since 1998 but are clearly far from running out of steam. This album captures so much energy that you’d imagine they were playing right there in your room. Musically, they have their own direction but aren’t afraid to include references to earlier bands (‘Reverse Midas Touch’ includes ‘wo-oh-oh’ backing vocals that are straight off those classic Naked Raygun albums and album-closer ‘Shock Value’ features a riff that recalls early Kiss) while lyrically they veer from the kind of personal politics found on early Straight Edge releases through to the hard-rockin’ ‘Road Warrior, which recalls Motorhead at their best. They’ve played all over the world during the last twenty years, from South America to Japan, so they’re as tight as you’d expect and have earned a reputation strong enough to attract guest appearances from the likes of JMascis (Dinosuar Jnr, Deep Wound) and Bubba Dupree (Void.) At a time when so much hardcore seems to be getting tired or derivative, this is a real blast of righteousness and something that demands to be heard.
WAU Y LOS ARRRGHS. El Mananero 7” (Slovenly) American reissue (complete with brand new artwork) of the farewell single from this soon-to-be-legendary Spanish garage band. Sometimes you hear something and you can instantly sum it up in one word. In this case, that word is ‘raucous’. Wau Y Los Arrrghs are very much in the tradition of The Mummies , mixing primal Sixties sounds with the kind of punk rock adrenalin rush that you hear on the first Damned or Dead Boys albums. The two songs are so frantic that it all sounds as if it might fall apart at any moment, but somehow they keep their grip on the tunes right until the very end. And the fact that the vocals are sung in Spanish doesn’t present any problem – it just adds to the wonderful chaos ! Snap up a copy for yourself and you’ll hear exactly what I mean !