RECORD REVIEWS, JANUARY-JUNE 2020
A BUNCH OF JERKS. White Girl Wasted EP (Rum Bar) This is so good… three tracks and they all sound great. The title track, sung by their wonderfully named frontwoman Stabby, is a cautionary tale of (would you believe it) a white girl getting wasted. I hope for Stabby’s sake it isn’t biographical, although by the amount of attitude she displays on this song, I get the feeling she could handle her drinks…) The band restrain themselves and keep the pace steady to allow the story to be told, only getting raucous for the incredibly catchy chorus. Second track, ‘Tribute’, is another fine tune, recalling bands like The Fastbacks, while the final offering is an invigorating cover of The Rezillos’ classic, ‘Flying Saucer Attack’ which finds the perfect balance of being true to the original and adding a touch of their own character. Three tracks, three reasons to be happy …
AND YOU WILL KNOW US BY THE TRAIL OF DEAD. X-The Godless Void and Other Stories CD (Inside Out). This bunch seem to be obsessed with long winded titles, for themselves and for their records, but at least it makes things interesting. In this case, their name makes me think of Spaghetti Westerns while the album title conjures-up books by the likes of Edgar Allen Poe or HP Lovecraft. It’s a good start! Anyway, as you probably know, the band are from Austin, Texas and have been around since the mid-Nineties. The core members have remained Conrad Keely and Jason Reece and they’ve meandered between indie and major labels for much of their career without compromising their musical vision. Their reputation was originally established by their incendiary live shows, but they also backed this up with a succession of powerful and intriguing records. Now, some 25 years down the line, they’re still creating innovative music. Combining ‘Post’punk and Art-rock sensibilities with Hard-rock and Prog-rock (both at their more interesting points) And You Will Know Us By The Trail Of Dead have found something that’s new in both subtle and more obvious manners. One moment, they seem to be going for a full-on riff-fest, but then they’ll twist it in no uncertain terms, whilst elsewhere you’ll be comfortably listening to an ongoing track and then become aware of some sneaky undertone that turns the whole thing on its’ head. But whilst they may deal in (melo)drama, this is a band that also indulge in understated ego and never allow their music to get above itself. Even the vocals (for many bands the main ingredient) seem surprisingly restrained and more like a democratic piece within the overall work than the showboating antics that many vocalists try to put-down. This is an album that embraces both rock’n’roll and the avant garde, producing something that you’ll enjoy in a raw, primal fashion just as much as it’ll leave you thinking and considering what will come next. If a band are going to Rock, this is the way I want to hear it.
ARMOURED FLU UNIT. Crusading Nations 10” (Grow Your Own.) I’m really surprised that I haven’t come across this band before now, because this is a very powerful record and, if it’s anything to go by, they’re probably a great live band. Anyway… not sure what the name means, although it seems somehow appropriate at the moment, but the band are from the Southampton area and have been together since 2014. Musically, they have a sound that’s not far from ‘Increase The Pressure’-era Conflict. It’s not ‘D-beat’ but certainly in line with the harder sounds of early-80’s anarcho-punk and hardcore. The thing that really sets them apart are the interesting arrangements within the songs, varying the tempos and allowing dark and light to come through the music, stressing the different subjects. This 10” offers eight tracks and there’s not a bad moment on any of them. The packaging includes the extensive lyrics, which are well-worth reading, and altogether this release is a very convincing piece of vinyl. As I seem to be saying with increasing regularity, with all the shit that’s going on around us, we really need protest music like this.
ATARKA. Sleeping Giant CD (www.atarka.co.uk) Formed in Birmingham (the spiritual home of Hard Rock) this five piece band combine an aggressive but tempered sound with a rhythm section who deliver a real groove to the proceedings. For comparisons, I’d definitely mention Black Sabbath for the basic ingredients, with bands like Amebix and maybe even Killing Joke for the way they arrange and present the songs. The lead vocals are sung in a growling, almost Black metal style (although there are some pretty trad-rock secondary vocals that unfortunately sneak-in at times and seem completely out of place) while the guitar work is pretty solid and focused on the powerful riffs rather than solo’s and all that unnecessary stuff. It will be interesting to see where this band will go from here, as they’ve got some pretty ideas and the ability to build on them. Let’s hope they stick to their own musical integrity.
BADASS MOTHER FUZZERS. On The Run CD (Tone) Hi-energy rock’n’roll from a band based in Toulouse, France. Eleven songs in just over 30 minutes, so you know they’re not going to be messing about. There’s only three of them, but you’d never guess it from the huge sound they generate. Think of New Bomb Turks, The Sonics, early Damned, maybe even The Derellas ! They’ve got loads of great, snappy songs and deliver them with lots of energy, attitude and velocity. By all accounts, the band play live a lot (Europe and America so far, although I’m not sure if they’ve graced the UK with their presence…yet) and they’ve really developed into a tight, powerful unit as a result, which is clearly apparent on this album. Combining all the best aspects of Sixties, Seventies and current garage-rock’n’roll. This is a band who could really make a name for themselves and ‘On The Run’ is an album that you really need to hear !
BLACKLAB. Abyss CD(New Heavy Sounds) Whilst their first album, ‘Under The Strawberry Moon’ was a fine, powerful record in its’ own right, it consisted of recordings made over a period of time and from different sessions. The album worked really well as an introduction to the band, but ‘Abyss’ is the real thing. Totally focused and arranged as a singular experience, this is one Hell of an album. The fact that the band is actually a female duo from Japan just makes it all the more incredible. The obvious reference point has to be Black Sabbath (which is rarely a bad thing) but there are also moments when the brutal sounds will recall Ron Ashetons’ awesome guitar style from ‘Fun House’. The drums pound away with belligerent abandon, some times sounding almost at odds with the guitars, only to pull everything right back down into place. Vocals switch from almost indie-like melodic harmonies through to guttural, hardcore growls and screams. The riffs are incredible, combining unadulterated raw power and primal purpose, but always with an insistent groove to maintain the genuine momentum. Black Lab were due to make their first visit to London just recently, something that I was really looking forward to see, but plans were unfortunately curtailed due to the Covid 19 lockdown. I hope that they re-schedule as soon as it’s possible, because I can only imagine that Black Lab are going to blow us all away. In the meantime, consider this album as something you need to hear urgently.
BRAD MORINO. False Alarm CD (Rum Bar) Pop music with loud guitars, an insistent rhythm section, great vocals and harmonies that will keep this in your memory for years to come. On first listen you might detect a Ramones influence, but as you delve deeper, you’ll realise that it’s more the case that Morino is inspired by the same kind of music that the Brothers originally took to their collective heart. Sixties girl-bands, English invasion combos (even a few Beatles references) psych-pop, classic Garage punk… it’s all in here and put together with the right reverence and character. This is contemporary power pop at its’ best, with enough rock’n’roll style and attitude to have you boppin’ within seconds. I mean, if you don’t want to get up and dance to this record, then you’re either brain dead or paraplegic (possibly both…) Morino shows off his songwriting talents with confidence, but just to acknowledge his influences, he also covers ‘What’s My Scene’ (Hoodoo Gurus) and ‘Peggy Sue Got Married’ (Buddy Holly) to give you a clearer idea of the places he’s coming from. Life would be so much better if songs like these were on the radio all day long…
CHEAP GUNSLINGERS. S/T CD (Rum Bar) Main gunslinger Edo McGrady has a pedigree that goes back to Boston combos like The O’Hallorans and the GOTOHELLS, which, incidentally, he co-founded with my old buddy Hunter Oswald (ex-Down By Law / The Queers etc.) This latest band was formed for the purpose of celebrating and reinvigorating the original spirit of American punk rock. Indeed, the opening track on this album blatantly borrows the still-lively bones of ‘Roadrunner’ to celebrate that now-rarefied institution, the local independent record store. From here on, we great song after great song that wield the three chord format in all of its’ glory. Think of the Modern Lovers (obviously) the Ramones, early Buzzcocks, maybe even Richard Hell and the New York Dolls. Most of the songs are pretty upbeat, although ‘Water Table’ recalls the Ramones’ ‘I Wanna Be Your Boyfriend’. The album ends with the excellent adrenalin-dosed ‘Off The Rails’ and the moody bar-ballad ‘Bars of the Song’. There may be plenty of references on this album but the songs are still delivered with enough character and style that they stand up in their own right. You want rock’n’roll… these guys deliver. PS – a truly great album cover, by the way…
THE CHORDS UK. Get On In Life (thechordsuk.bandcamp.com/track/get-on-in-life-free-download) Here’s a treat for any Chords’ fans… Originally written in 1981 as part of what should have been the bands’ second album, it was also intended to be a single, but fate was cruel and it never got the release it deserved. Fortunately, Chris Pope’s has now resurrected the song, re-written the lyrics and re-worked the music to create an excellent new version for us all to hear. It might be 40 years later than intended, but it still resonates both lyrically and musically. The words address the world we all live in and the choices we face as we try to be true to ourselves. Few people really get to fulfil their dreams, but it’s not-giving-up that truly matters. At the moment, this is only available digitally, but I really hope that it’ll get a proper vinyl release in the not too distant future – because, as I said before, it deserves it! At the moment, it’s free to download on bandcamp but you can also make a donation while you do so and all proceeds will be going to the NHS… be sure to do the right thing!
CRADLE OF FILTH. Cruelty And The Beast (Re-mistressed) CD (Music For Nations) Not being a long-time fan of Cradle Of Filth, it’s difficult to review this re-mastered reissue of their third album as I’m not familiar with the original, which was first released in 1998. Conceptually based on the legend of Countess Bathory (the album also features spoken passages by actress Ingrid Pitt, who played the Countess in the classic Hammer film) it was undeniably an important step in the bands’ career, even though the original sound-quality was a controversial point with both the band and their fans. Cradle of Filth developed a style that combined the extreme characteristics of Black Metal with Gothic atmospherics and arrangements that veered towards the symphonic. Not as ‘extreme’ as some people would claim, but it’s certainly a powerful and emotive album and this new version (no new recordings or over-dubs were involved, with just the sonic quality being considerably improved) will certainly put most of the old complaints to rest. Dani Filth’s vocal style can get a bit repetitive at times but is tempered by other vocals, both male and female, to ensure that it doesn’t become too overbearing. Rather than adopting the often more-chaotic productions favoured by Black Metal bands, this record is actually surprisingly focused and dramatic in a very effective way. I can’t say that it will convert me to being a devoted fan, but I found it a lot more entertaining than I expected and as long as you don’t take it too seriously, there’s no reason why you won’t enjoy it as well.
THE CRAVATS. Hoorahland LP (Overground) When The Cravats released ‘Dustbin of Sound’ back in 2017, it took a lot of their fans by surprise. Up until that point, there had been no indication that they were planning to release new material and their live sets only featured old songs. But the new album suddenly appeared and it was rather bloody good, invigorating their gigs at the same time. Well, a mere three years later, they’re releasing another new album that takes their musical vision even further. The sound is really powerful, once again, and the arrangements bring out all the elements that make The Cravats so special. The bass guitar (courtesy of Joe 91) lays down the foundations for everything else with the most menacing sound this side of JJ Burnel. The legendary Sax of Mr Svor Naan provides an almost filmic atmosphere in some places, whilst becoming the dominant lead instrument in others. The Shends’ vocals are as idiosyncratic as ever, veering from dark, sinister tones through to pop-like jubilance, whilst his lyrics are amongst some of the most witty and intriguing that he’s ever written, with wonderful wordplay and thought-provoking lines. The bonus on this album is the guest-appearance of Jello Biafra, providing additional vocals on the track ‘Now The Magic Has Gone’. His vocals work really well alongside The Shend and add a further dimension to the songs’ demented-fairground atmosphere. I’m very glad to say that The Cravats have created something that not only lives-up to their previous records, it quite possibly exceeds them. The band are clearly at their most creative right now and this record certainly ranks amongst their very best. This is going to be welcomed by existing fans and, if there’s any justice, will also bring them to the attention of a lot more listeners. We should all be grateful for The Cravats.
DATURA 4. West Coast Highway Cosmic CD (Alive) Coming from a background that includes membership of various revered Australian garage rock bands (The Stems, The Drones, DM3) it may come as a surprise that Datura 4 actually take their template from early-Seventies Hard Rock (although the West Coast referred to in this title is very much Western Australia…) Think of American bands like Grand Funk Railroad or British bands like Deep Purple and you’ll have a good place to start from. The music is stripped down and Bluesy, with solid rhythms providing the groundwork for great harmonica breaks and fine guitar licks. As I listened through the album, I kept expecting the band to launch into ‘Roadhouse Blues’, it’s that kind of vibe. But rather than coming across as some sort of studied, retro affectation, the songs have a real sense of authenticity and plenty of energy to propel them along. I have to say, this won’t be to everyone’s taste, but if you enjoy the Boogie, you’re gonna love this band !
DEAR HEARTS. Old Shirts EP (dearhearts.bandcamp.com) Belgian punk rock’n’roll band with three of their own songs and a blistering version of The Misfits’ classic ‘Hybrid Moments’. They’ve got a big guitar sound, catchy hooks and great melodic vocals that recall the likes of The Clash and Social Distortion at their best, with perhaps a few nods towards the likes of Naked Raygun and early Snuff. It’s only available digitally at the moment, which is just not right as these tracks demand to be heard on vinyl. That being said, you really need to hear these tracks whatever the format. Great stuff – I bet they'd be great live as well!
DESTINATION LONELY. Nervous Breakdown CD (Voodoo Rhythm) Destination Lonely are a raw garage/psych band from the South of France and this is their third album. Packed with 17 tracks (the vinyl version fills an entire double album) they cover a whole range of styles in a convincing and confident fashion. The opening track, ‘Lovin’, is a raw blast, presenting an idea of how the MC5 may have sounded if James Williamson had jammed with them. The next two tracks are, surprisingly, both covers, the first being The Troggs’ ‘I Want You’, where the primitive ‘Wild Thing’ styled riff is taken to fuzzed-out extremes. Third track is The Stooges ‘Ann’ which sounds great, even giving the original version a run for its’ money. That being said, I’m not so sure that two covers so early in their set is such a good idea, but moving on, the band start to deliver their own songs and you’ll quickly realise that they’ve got plenty of their own style to offer. Slower tracks delve into the darker corners of psychedelia, whilst the noisier, more frantic moments recall the best moments of Mudhoney. ‘Blind Man’ sounds like a country tune being played at the end of a particularly fine drinking session, while the ensuing ‘Je m’en Vais’ and ‘Sentier Mental’ are both moody and atmospheric in a playful kind of way. ‘Schizo MF’ is a minimalist garage anthem that sounds somewhere between The Fall and The Cramps (both circa ’79.) The album comes to an end with ‘Electric Eel’ which, again, has a slower tempo but at the same time has so much angst and tension within its’ coils that it’ll have you on edge just waiting for it to go off… when they reach the fuzzed out, feedback-laden guitar climax, it really is a glorious end to the proceedings. But… there’s still a bit more to keep you dazed, in the form of two bonus remixes. The new version of ‘Nervous Breakdown’ extends to a pulverising 13 minute extravaganza, recalling Mudhoney once again, but this time sending them head-long into a collision with early-Seventies Hawkwind. The ‘electro-shit’ remix of ‘Schizo MF’ probably isn’t meant to be taken too seriously, but at less than 3 minutes, it’s not bad either. This is a really good album, garage punk at its’ very best and it certainly deserves your attention.
THE DIRTY TRUCKERS. Second Dose CD (Rum Bar) Originally formed in 1999 and featuring alumni of the Boston rock’n’roll scene like Tom Baker and Tad Overbaugh, these Truckers take a distinctly American direction in their hard rockin’ approach. Think of bands like Cheap Trick, Replacements, maybe even the Young Fresh Fellows, these guys blend it together with perhaps a few hints of the Stones and the Faces to create an unpretentious style that strikes you as being just at home in a small, sweaty bar as it would on much bigger stages. Great songs, big riffs, melodies that’ll hook you like a Marlin… Of course, the proper way to witness such a band would be live and in your face, so let’s just hope they decide to play somewhere nearer to home some time. This is a highly entertaining and exhilarating record – do your best to obtain a copy!
DOA. Treason CD (Sudden Death) There’s no denying that DOA have been one of the most influential punk / hardcore bands not just in Canada but in the whole of North America. Early records like ‘The Prisoner’, ‘Disco Sucks’ and ‘World War Three’ have remained true classics, whilst the album ‘Hardcore 81’ pretty much named the genre. But the music wasn’t their only contribution and, alongside bands like Black Flag, they established the original DIY tour circuit that would play such an important part in the spread of Hardcore across the continent. Indeed, they would also be one of the first Hardcore bands to play in Europe, blazing the trail for so many others. There have been a lot of line-up changes over the years, but Joey Keithley has always remained at the helm and now, heading into their fifth decade, the band are releasing their 18th studio album. It’s immediately recognisable as DOA, with the frantic rhythm section and snarling vocals as prominent as ever, while the lyrics tackle contemporary issues with all the attitude you’d expect. It’s a relatively short album (only 8 songs and clocking in at around 20 minutes in total) but the short sharp shock technique works really well for these tracks. The new songs, like the title track and ‘All The Presidents Men’, capture DOA at their best, while ‘It Was DOA’ displays their sense of humour. Elsewhere, they’ve updated their classic ‘Fucked Up Ronnie’ to give the finger to someone called Donald, and they also deliver a hard-hitting cover of Neil Young’s ‘Hey Hey My My’. This is a powerful, highly enjoyable addition to DOA’s recorded output and something they can be proud about. Let’s hope they don’t keep us waiting too long for their next album!
DORKATRON / 7 YEARS BAD LUCK. Split LP (Monster Zero) Six songs each from two Austrian punk rock bands. Dorkatron play a mix of catchy, melodic punk and New Wave quirkiness (think of bands like Weezer or The Epoxies, perhaps.) None of their songs go much further than the two minute marker and ‘My Girl’ only lasts 30 seconds, so there’s no chance of you getting bored with this set! 7 Years Bad Luck have a much harder edge, flirting with sounds that recall bands like Bad Religion or Pennywise and lyrics that have a more thoughtful direction. At first listen, the two bands don’t seem to have much in common, but their different styles offset each other pretty effectively and, anyway, why would you want to have two bands that just sound the same? This is a great way to check out two groups that you’ve probably never heard before and there’s no reason why you won’t enjoy both of them.
DREAM NAILS. S/T CD (Alcopop!) Debut album from this London-based all-female band whose songs address various feminist and queer issues but do so with a sense of humour in the lyrics and a lively sense of melody in the songs. The music has lots of energy and that in itself will draw people in, while the lyrics will hopefully also get listeners to think about things in different ways. I expect a lot of people are going to compare them to Riot Grrl bands like Bikini Kill, but to me they’re possibly closer to indie-pop bands like Tallulah Gosh, mixed with the wonderful punky chaos of Hagar the Womb and perhaps Rubella Ballet. The songs are pretty upbeat and danceable throughout so there’s plenty to enjoy even if you don’t want to get involved with the lyrical issues. Don’t be put off by preconceptions, because this is an album that you ought to listen to as it’s a lot of fun. Once you’re enjoying yourself, then you’ll be more open to their ideas and lyrics. Trust me, it’ll be worth your while.
ETERNAL ARMAGEDDON. In Light In Dark In Hate LP (https://eternalarmageddon.bandcamp.com/) I think I can honestly say that I never expected that, at any point in my life, I’d be reviewing at Black Metal band from Bangladesh! It sounds like a Spike Milligan sketch, ferchrissakes! (Pakistani Daleks, anyone?) Actually, to be accurate, they deem themselves ‘black thrash metal’, but as I don’t really know what that means, I’ve got to say that you’d never guess this band was Asian and they really do a great job in delivering a convincing extreme metal performance that could just as easily have come from any of the more traditional sources (by which I mean Scandinavia…) With musical references to the likes of Slayer at their most brutal, Mayhem and perhaps even the likes of Siege, this is a band who mix things up and don’t just settle into any one genre. Which, for me at least, makes it a lot more interesting. There are times when I receive music to review from unexpected places and I’ll give it positive coverage because, even if it isn’t so remarkable, the very fact that their making extreme / alternative music in a potentially-difficult location ought to be supported. But I can honestly say that this is a really great metal album that’ll rip through your skull in just the way it’s supposed to do. Play it loud – if it doesn’t blast you away, you’re already deaf!
FIFTY FIRST STATE. Plastic 10” (Grow Your Own) There have been more than a few two-piece punk bands over the years, most recently Lamo, 2 Sick Monkeys and Lightning Bolt, and going back further, even the magnificent No Means No started out this way. The problem that such bands face is often whether they can translate their louder, more direct live performances into a studio setting. Exeters’ Fifty First State have done pretty well on this mini-album, capturing a very raw performance that is enhanced by additional noise and sounds sneaking through your speakers. They use elements of Anarcho-punk, hardcore, dub, reggae/ska, and even veer towards Hawkwind-style space-rock at times. That’s a pretty impressive spread of influences for any two-piece and it’s also this diversity that helps to make this such a pretty impressive record. Just when the lack of further instrumentation threatens to make things sound too same-y, they go off in a completely different direction, confounding expectations and keeping you on your toes. The record comes with all of the lyrics, which are poignant and precise although not without a subtle sense of humour. I’m not going to say that this chunk of vinyl is going to blow you away, but I’m sure it’ll appeal to a pretty diverse set of music fans and not necessarily any particular genre. Of course, this is just the kind of band that you really need to see live for the full effect, but you can trust me on one thing – this is worth your investigation because you might just be one of those that really loves it!
GODSTICKS. Inescapable CD (KScope) Welsh Rock band entering their second decade with their fifth studio album. Their sound is a broad mix of trad-metal, prog-rock and contemporary ‘alternative’ metal, which means it has some moments that sound very enticing and others that don’t sound so good. Their technical abilities are pretty impressive and they’ve certainly tried to create something different with this album, so it is to be applauded for that. After all, it’s a lot more difficult to be genuinely inventive within an established genre and in the moments where they succeed, they present plenty of potential. But for me, though, there are too many moments that veer more towards Pearl Jam territory and that’s not going to maintain my attention. But they clearly have interesting ideas of their own and if they pursue them further, the next record could be something great. This album is worth investigation; at the very least as an indication of what they may achieve in the future.
GENYA RAVEN. Live at CBGBs (Rum Bar) Recorded at the legendary venue back in 2005, this is a great recording of Genya and her band rocking in front of a sold-out audience. Genya has a fine musical pedigree, from fronting bands like The Escorts and Ten Wheel Drive during the Sixties and early Seventies through to producing classic albums by the likes of the Dead Boys and Ronnie Spector. So she knows what rock’n’roll can do and knows how to deliver it. Admittedly, the musical side of this album is very-much based in the early Seventies era, with a Bluesy atmosphere and boogie rhythms, but it’s Genya’s vocals that really hit the spot. With a strong voice somewhere in between Janis Joplin and Debbie Harry (on the early Blondie albums, at least) she grabs your attention and keeps it all the way through the set. If you want to check out one of the true precursors to the mid-Seventies CBGB’s / New York punk scene, Genya is one of the less-recognised but no less important artists. This album displays why she’s still held in high regard by those that know.
GODDAMNIT / TRAVERSE split 12” (Creep Records) Four tracks from Goddamnit and three from Traverse… Goddamnit are a band from Philadelphia (where it’s always sunny…) and have been together for nearly a decade. They play a solid style of music that has its’ roots in punk and hardcore but also veers away from the more usual formulas and instead creates a more tempered and powerful sound, somewhere in the same sort of territory as Jawbox, Quicksand and maybe even the sadly-missed and highly underrated Alloy. There’s a big guitar sound with which the vocals seem to vie for prominence, but the balance is kept just right. I’m surprised I haven’t heard of this band before now as these tracks are really good. On the other side of the disc, Traverse are a French band with a lighter sound, combining punky elements with an almost indie-pop delivery. The songs are put together with intriguing arrangements and bounce along at a pretty catchy pace. This record is a good introduction to both bands and definitely something you should investigate.
GORLVSH. New City Vibe LP (No List) Pronounced ‘Gore-Lush’, this Canadian band present a genuinely brutal mix of metallic hardcore and industrial sensibility that sets them way-ahead of the pack. No live guitars, but much in the same context as HO99O9, they deliver the sounds in a digital style that doesn’t pull any of their punches. These guys aren’t worried about being popular, they’re going to make this noise as if their lives depend on it… and maybe they do. This isn’t something you do unless you really believe in it and, because audiences tend to want something easy, you’re not going to be worried about who you might upset. This is a great album and you need to check it out… it just might be your favourite for the whole year.
THE HI END. Class Kicks CD (Rum Bar) I can’t say I’ve ever heard of this Boston band before now, but this is a really cool record. They seem to refer to the dirtier strains of early Seventies hard rock’n’roll. Definitely a few hints of the Stooges (James Williamson era) the MC5 and the New York Dolls, although also unafraid to add elements of early AC/DC and Kiss. The tempos aren’t all that fast, but they cram so much raw power into their best riffs that it’s still going to blow you away. Now, I’m not going to say this album is completely great because there are some moments when they veer towards the dodgier realms of rock music, but the good moments are very good. I get the impression that they could go either way but I’m really hoping they decide to carry onwards with their own style and character. This album shows a band with a lot of potential so I hope they have the guts and integrity to make the most of it. Listen to the excellent ‘To Be Alive’ with its’ moody Replacements-style, or the upbeat grand finale of ‘A Way of Life’ to see what I mean. Be sure to keep your eyes and ears open for this band because they might just become something truly great.
HUMAN IMPACT. CD (Ipecac) New York band featuring former members of Cop Shoot Cop, Swans and Unsane, so it’s pretty much a foregone conclusion this is going to be pretty heavy stuff. Having said that, the tempos are actually a little more restrained than you might be expecting, with an almost Hard Rock delivery tempering the aggressive vocals and intense instrumentation. But that’s where the similarities with traditional Rock end abruptly. This band is much more about finding what sounds they can employ to enhance the emotive themes and lyrics and, at times, the tracks veer towards filmic soundtracks in the way that they relay the inherent drama. The rhythm section hold everything firmly in place, whilst the guitar sounds are imaginative and innovative. Recorded at the legendary BC Studios, with Martin Bisi in the control room, this is New York’s alternative rock scene at its’ very best and I have little doubt that in years to come, this album will be rightly hailed as a classic.
JUSTINE AND THBE UNCLEAN. Picking a Fight 7”(Rum Bar) Great female-fronted punk rock from Boston. I enjoyed their previous record, but this one is blasting! Imagine Jane Weidlin fronting the Ramones and you’ll get some kind of idea about how great this sounds. The b-side, ‘Sweet Denial’, takes a slower but no less powerful pace, coming across like Joan Jett teaching Lynyrd Skynyrd how to really kick ass! There isn’t much else I need to say about this. Two songs, they’re both great and they’ll make your day a whole lot better. There’s a new album on its’ way as well… if it’s all as good as this single, it’s gonna be a killer.
JUSTINE’s BLACK THREADS. Cheap Vacation EP (Rum Bar) Having already been enthralled by Justine Covaults’ vocals in her punkier power-pop escapades in Justine & the Unclean, I was really intrigued to hear this more countrified combo. I’m glad to say, that the change of style works really well. I’d previously compared her vocals as the frontwoman for the Unclean with Jane Wiedlin and I’d still draw that comparison with this project, which I mean as a big compliment. Unfortunately, I’ve only got to hear three of the five sings on this EP (damn those downloads) but they’re all very impressive and I really can’t imagine the other two being so far below these standards as to wreck the whole recording. ‘You and Me Against You And Me’ is a great, soulful Country tale with the perfect instrumentation to compliment the sorrowful saga. As mentioned elsewhere, ‘The Other Side of a Six Pack’ is a Tad Overbaugh song but reinterpreted here in a personal, idiosyncratic style that reveals even more aspects to the lyrics. Final track is the classic ‘Needles and Pins’, performed in a slower, more soulful fashion that really ought to storm the airwaves all the way to Number One. I’ve always loved this song and Justine gives it one of its’ best performances. I hope this band will continue on its’ own path rather than just a side project, because these recordings really stand-up in their own right and I’ll be looking forward to a whole lot more from them.
THE KAAMS. Kick It! CD (Area Pirata) Italian Garage rock with an authentic Sixties sound. The Kaams have been around since 2009, playing live and releasing several records in that time. This album sounds very accomplished with a production that recalls the legendary Joe Meek, keeping it raw but adding plenty of sonic flourishes. The songs tend to be pretty upbeat and have the kind of rhythms that’ll make you want to dance, while their overall sound isn’t too far away from the Phantom Chords, taking elements of Sixties Beat and Pop but bringing it very much into the current environment. Of the dozen tracks, all are under the three minute marker except for the finale, ‘Follow The Sun’ which stretches to nearly five, but takes a more tempered pace to create a fine psych-rock epic. This is good stuff, do your best to hear it.
KICKED IN THE TEETH. s/t CD (Rare Vitamin) New band based in the North West of England, playing a raw version of punk rock infused with hardcore attitude and a Motorhead-style delivery. Members of the band had previously played in groups such as The Business, Helsinki Seven, Incisions and Face of Christ, but this album really has a character and identity of its’ own. Ten tracks in less than 25 minutes, so they’re not wasting any time, even though none of the tracks sound short-changed. Think of a cross between Poison Idea and early Leatherface, perhaps, or at certain moments, maybe even Helmet in collision with Agnostic Front. The sound is huge and the production perfectly captures a brutal but insistent sonic assault. As with the aforementioned Poison Idea, the thing that sets this band apart from so many others is that, however abrasive the songs may get, they never fail to have a melodic hook at the core that draws you completely in to their sound. Their not afraid to play it slow when the song calls for it, but even those moments will maintain your full attention. The incredible thing is that the band have only been playing live for a little over six months, and yet they’re already this tight and focused…. (although by all accounts they’ve all known each other for many years and this band has obviously been a long-time coming.) If you can listen to this album without being blasted away, your senses just ain’t working… Can’t wait to see them live !
LAMENT CITYSCAPE. The New Wet EP (www.facebook.com/LamentCityscape) Powerful electronics-based industrial rock that creates a genuinely disturbing sound-scape. Imagine the raw power of Godflesh combined with some of Coil’s more filmic escapades. Opening track ‘Running Out of Decay’ sets the scene perfectly with an insistent rhythm, tortured vocals and an arrangement that builds towards the inevitable climax. ‘Seepage’ starts out as an instrumental piece, like an introduction to a very unsettling horror movie, before bursting into a fast and furious work-out. Final track ‘Borer’ serves almost like an industrial / noise version of ‘LA Blues’, an almost cacophony-like mix of sounds, rhythms and vocals within which you’ll need to pay total attention if you’re going to get to grips with the beautiful chaos. Trust me, it’ll be worth your effort!
LORELLE MEETS THE OBSOLETE. Re-Facto EP (Sonic Catherdral) I have to admit, I don’t know much about this duo, apart from the facts that they’re based in Mexico and have been releasing their music on a pretty regular basis over the last decade. It seems that much of their previous music has had a more guitar-based, psychedelic groove, but this EP takes things in a more electronic direction and works with considerable success. First track ‘Fosas Limitadas’, borrows a riff from Joy Division (‘Wilderness’ to be precise) but it’s done in a suitably subtle way so as not to overshadow their own songwriting. The EP is made-up of two original tracks and two remixes, but they all work so well together that it makes for a very solid, cohesive record. It’s dreamy in a dark, not quite comfortable way and the vocals, all sung in Spanish, add to the unsettling atmosphere (unless you understand Spanish, in which case they may have a completely different effect.) Sort of reminiscent of Julie Cruise’s work with Angelo Badalamanti, this is like a soundtrack for those moments where you’re only have-awake. Wonderful stuff, be sure to hear it.
MANSION HARLOTS. All Around A Fairground CD (Magic Cat) (www.facebook.com/mansionharlots) Frontman and songwriter Baz Francis was previously in a band called Magic Eight Ball, who I enjoyed and previously reviewed within this very website. Since then, Baz has relocated to America and established this new band, who have just released their debut album. Many of the elements that I liked about Magic Eight Ball are still evident, psychedelia, Glam rock and Sixties Pop, but with this band there’s also a definite West Coast feel (perhaps inevitable considering his recent travels.) Fortunately, Baz has just the right voice to deal with this style without having to lose his British accent. ‘Panda Eyes’ is a truly great pop song that should be a hit on every decent radio station, while ‘Until We Work it Out Tomorrow’ is a beautiful, emotive ballad (a second, solo version is also included as a bonus track.) Overall, this album is a lot more restrained than his previous releases, with ‘You Make It As Hard As You Want it To Be’ the only real rocker on the record, but that’s no problem when the songs are as immediate and enticing as this. It’s a very accomplished album and, given the right opportunities, this could do very well.
MEAN MOTOR SCOOTER. Mr Sophistication EP (Dreamy Life) Straight outta Texas come Mean Motor Scooter, a four piece band with a clutch of songs that’ll really get you hoppin’. They’ve certainly spent a lot of time mixing up influences from all over the place… Sixties Garage rock for sure, with the best keyboard sound heard this side of The Monks. But to that you can also add the short, snappy vitality of early Punk Rock (think of a cross between The Saints and Subway Sect) the Sci-Fi shenanigans of Man Or Astroman, and maybe even the mutant pop of Devo and the B52’s. ‘Aristobrat’ opens the proceedings with a frantic riff, snarlin’ lead vocals and bizarre but totally effective harmonies. ‘The Void’ continues in a similar style, only to be followed by ‘Portals’ which switches from mellow psychedelia to noisy freak-out like the Velvet Underground at their most twisted. ‘Zombie Cops’ (is there any other type?) launches itself into an incendiary pace, sounding as if every member of the band is racing to see who can end the song first! Final track ‘Put Me Down Like A Dog’ starts out with a Cramps-style riff before erupting with fuzzed-out guitars and demented vocals. This is one of the best EPs I’ve heard for a while, mixing great tunes and genuine recklessness to deliver a truly superb record. I’d love to see them live…
MELODY MAKERS: The Bible of Rock’n’Roll. DVD (Wienerworld) Melody Maker was the first weekly music magazine in the UK, making its’ original appearance back in 1926, although at that time it was intended more for musicians rather than music fans. It gradually embraced Jazz and then, during the Sixties, made the change towards rock and pop, which was finally established with a front-cover featuring The Beatles (prompting a section of their older staff to resign!) This documentary focuses almost entirely on the decade between the mid-Sixties and the mid-Seventies, when the magazine was at the peak of its’ success, using the archive of work from head photographer of that time, Barrie Wentzell, to illustrate the story. It’s basically a celebration of those times, when Melody Maker was the prime source for anyone who wanted to know what was happening in the contemporary music world. Former journalists tell enthusiastic tales of Keith Moon, the Rolling Stones and Syd Barrett, whilst musicians from the likes of Jethro Tull, The Animals and Yes explain how their paths crossed. At the height of its’ powers, Melody Maker was selling over 200,000 copies per week and even went as far as opening offices in New York (although plans to publish on an international basis failed to come together.) But in the mid-Seventies two factors came together to weaken their position. Firstly, tabloid newspapers started to become interested in the more sensational aspects of rock music and secondly, Punk music started to emerge and Melody Maker were surprisingly slow to feature the new bands, ceding ground to the likes of the NME. So far, so good, but it’s at this point that the documentary fizzles-out and barely mentions that the magazine actually continued to be published for another 25 years. Although some of the older writers see the mid-Seventies as the end of the classic period, if anything, Melody Maker remained an essential part of the UK music scene, competing with the likes of NME and Sounds to be the first to cover new and interesting bands. This helped to maintain a vibrant and thriving scene, with writers like Jon Savage, Chris Bohn covering up and coming bands whilst later on, the likes of Mick Mercer and Everett True became champions of the independent scene. Unfortunately, none of the later years are covered and that’s a real shame as it misses out a very big part of the story. But for those most interested in the earlier years, this is going to be a very informative and enjoyable documentary. I just hope that the rest of the story also gets covered with as much attention at some point in the not-too-distant future.
THE MENSTRUAL CRAMPS. Free Bleedin’ LP (Grow Your Own) I haven’t had much luck in seeing this band live, so far. First time, I turned up at the Hope & Anchor to see them, only to find out that the previous band hadn’t played so they’d gone onstage early. I think I saw about two and a half songs. A few months later, they were due to play in Deptford, but they had to cancel when their singer developed possible coronavirus symptoms! But I was able to get a copy of their album at the gig which, I’m pleased to say, lives up to the recommendations. All-female punk rock with a raucous, garage-rock guitar sound, catchy melodies and sharp lyrical content. I’m wary of using words like ‘political’ or ‘feminist’ because they can often put people off, but the thing that really works here is that, while the band certainly do cover such topics, they do it with both a real grasp of raw power and a sense of humour. There are obvious comparisons to be made with Riot Grrl bands, but with the Menstrual Cramps you get the feeling that they got together to enjoy the noise they could make just as much as finding a way to have their own voice. The album includes a zine-size booklet of lyrics and artwork that allows you to really delve into their world… ‘Boycott the Lot’ is an invigorating rant against tax-dodging corporations and companies that make billions every year whilst keeping their workforce on minimum wages. ‘The Smash’ declares a resolute ‘Kick the Tories out the door’ but also tempers it with the accusation, ‘Theresa May don’t even masturbate’. ‘Neo Nazi’ possibly derives from some of the online abuse they’ve received… Isn’t it strange that these Alt-right wankers are so convinced of their own beliefs that they can’t cope and resort to abuse or violence if someone else says something different? There’s other songs written from a more personal perspective and some lyrics which might be a little naïve, but overall, this is just the kind of album that young bands ought to be making when faced with the kind of shit we have in this country at the moment. Lots of attitude and plenty of passion, you really can’t ignore them. Now, if only I can get to see them live, I’ll be so damn happy!
MOANING. Uneasy Laughter CD (Sub Pop) Los Angeles based band who evidently started out with a fairly abrasive rock style, but gradually adopted a more ‘post-punk’ approach. Which, come to think of it, was pretty much what Joy Division did in the first place, so there’s no surprises that it works for Moaning as well. Funnily enough, ‘post-punk’ is a term that only really exists in retrospect (at the time, late-70’s/ early 80’s, no-one used the term.) But now, it refers to bands who are influenced by a diverse range of bands who, for the most part, grew out of the punk scene. Anyway, diversion over… Moaning adopt atmospheric synth sounds, moody vocals and arrangements with plenty of space, in much the same way as the aforementioned Joy Division, The Cure and perhaps even Echo & The Bunnymen. Forty years later, the style still sounds pretty striking, even if you are already familiar with the originals. Moaning have done what Ceremony did so well with their ‘Zoo’ album, creating something that might echo the past but also provides room for them to develop their future. It’s an effective, enjoyable album that suggests a lot of potential.
MOLLY. All that Was EP (Sonic Cathedral) Molly are an Austrian duo who play mellow, atmospheric music that seems to be part of the current ‘shoegaze’ scene. That being said, I’m not so sure that they should be confined to one particular genre, as this EP (featuring three remixes of tracks from their debut album, ‘All That Ever Could Have Been’, plus a new version of the song ‘Glimpse’) certainly displays plenty of ideas and different directions that set them apart from anyone else. There are comparisons that you could make, but they tend to be suggestions rather than statements. Certainly, some moments are sort of reminiscent of Cocteau Twins, although not in any obvious ways. It’s intriguing rather than compelling, but there’s definitely something about this EP that makes me want to hear more.
MORON’S MORONS. Looking for Danger LP (Slovenly) Frantic punk rock straight out of Warsaw, Poland, referring to the likes of New Bomb Turks, The Queers, early Angry Samoans and the Damned Damned Damned LP… you get the idea? This is no holds barred punk rock that’s not going to worry about your nerves and certainly isn’t worried about what the critics might be thinking about them. Maybe think of early GG Allin (when the music was great) and then blast the tempo up to full speed ahead. There’s no messing about on this album and you’ll be wanting to play it all night, at least until the cops turn up. This is the sort of album that I’m more than happy to recommend.
MUCK & THE MIRES. Quarantine-age Kicks CD (Rum Bar) What a great album title! Muck & The Mires have been touring the world for many years, so finding themselves locked-down at home, they decided to find another way of spreading their Garage-style power pop around the globe. This is the result, a nine-track compilation of rare and our-of-print tracks from their extensive back-catalogue. This selection is quite possibly the best way for you to discover and enjoy the band but if you want some kind of indication of what sounds you’ll be hearing, consider the Flaming Groovies beefed up by the Count Bishops, perhaps? And, for fans who enjoy their trivia, this album also includes the last two tracks (‘Double White Line’ and ‘Three Steps Closer’) produced by the infamous Kim Fowley. There’s plenty of reasons why you should check this out, but the only one you really need to know is that it’s rockin’. Enough said?
NAT FREEDBERG. Record Number Three CD (Rum Bar) The former Upper Crust frontman has been keeping himself busy recently, releasing his first solo album just a year ago and following it less than six months later with the excellent ‘Freeloader’ album. And now, just another six months later, comes his second solo album. You don’t find this kind of productivity this side of Robert Pollard and, more to the point, especially when the results are so successful. All three albums have presented different sides to Freedbergs’ song-writing talents and this latest offering has a distinctly melodic, pop sound. Channelling Sixties pop and psychedelia with occasional hints of hard rock, blues and country, the important things here are the songs which all maintain very high standards. Nats’ vocals are instantly recognisable and have the kind of delivery that demands your attention. It’s a rather unpredictable album and you really don’t know what’s going to come next, but it’s also very cohesive and something that you’ll want to listen to all the way through. First track, ‘Ain’t Nothin’ Sacred No More’, isn’t that far away from the Upper Crust although played here in a very different musical style. ‘Play With The Devil’ has a great country flavour, whilst ‘Man’s Inhumaity to Man’ is a insistent rocker with a fine stompin’ rhythm section. Oddly the album ends with the bizarrely-titled ‘Ode to a Ham Sandwich’, the only instrumental track on the album which brings lots of different elements together in a peculiar, quirky piece. There really is something for everyone on this album, but don’t be surprised if you end up loving the whole thing.
NEGATIVLAND. TrueFalse CD (Seeland) Negativland albums are almost like a commentary about the world around us. There’s no simplistic sloganeering or preaching, they just present facts and ideas in a musical setting that will hopefully entertain you and provoke your thoughts. ‘TrueFalse’ is their first album recorded in the so called ‘post truth’ era, a time where ‘false news’ is actively condemned and presented simultaneously by the very same people. It seems that if a lie is stated in the media with enough panache and populism that, even if it can be easily proven to be false, many people are willing to accept it rather than consider facts that might not be so convenient. Negativland explore this phenomenon within this album, providing music that veers from catchy pop melodies through to harsh cut-ups. It’s the sort of music that’s difficult to ignore, as with every listen you’ll discover something new to consider. It works best as an entire album, delivering different sides to the ideas, although individual tracks stand up just as well in their own rights. With vocals delivered both by the band members and from various tape sources, some, like ‘One Bee at a Time’, have an almost Pythonesque sense of humour, while others such as ‘Fourth of July’ are downright unsettling. Negativland have never been predictable but their balance of the serious and the humorous remains one of their true strengths. Admittedly, this isn’t an album that will appeal to everyone, but if you’re feeling adventurous, be sure to hear it.
NEKTAR. Space Rock Invasion DVD+CD (Wienerworld) Although all of the original members were English, Nektar formed in Hamburg during 1969 and, whilst there,1 soaked-up influences from the emerging ‘krautrock’ scene as well as elements of the so-called Canterbury scene from their own homeland. In doing so, they created a style of music that can possibly be regarded as the missing-link between Krautrock and the oncoming Prog-rock movement. Much like Hawkwind, they had elements of the latter but were also intent on creating something a little more creative and individual rather than just showing-off their musical prowess. So it’s entirely fitting that they were given the ‘Space Rock’ monicker, which was also used for Hawkwind, even though the two bands really didn’t sound like each other at all. Over the ensuing years, Nektar split and reformed several times and had many line-up changes, but two of the original members, Roye Albrighton and Ron Howden, have been the most consistent performers. Alongside two relatively recent members, Klaus Henaysch and the wonderfully-named Lux Vibratus, it is this line-up that’s captured here in all their glory. Filmed and recorded at the Key Club in Hollywood during 2011, this release presents the full gig as a DVD or double CD and both versions are well-worth your time. Admittedly, over four decades down the line, it’s hard to understand the impact they had during their early years and, as bands from a similar era (Pink Floyd etc) have gone on to be massively popular, it’s also difficult to fully appreciate the part that bands like Nektar played without thinking of them in terms of their more successful counterparts. But this is certainly an interesting document in itself and if you can watch/listen to it with an open mind, there’s a lot to enjoy. Sadly, this is also a poignant release, as frontman Roye Albrighton passed away in 2016, so this line-up will not be seen again (although other original members have re-joined Ron Howden in yet another new version of the band!) As I said before, Nektar stand somewhere in between Prog and Krautrock… if that intrigues you, then you really need to investigate this release.
NOT MOVING LTD. EP (Area Pirata) Three songs from this Italian combo, formed when friends from various garage-punk bands decided to form a new project together. It’s kept basic in all the right ways, with primal rhythms, a raw sound and suitable sinister vocals from Rita Lilith Oberti. You can reference The Cramps maybe, perhaps a hint of the Fuzztones and maybe even The Sonics. Any one of the three songs – ‘Lady Wine’, ‘Spider’ and ‘Suicide Temple’- is strong enough to be an A-side, so be sure to hear all of them!
OILMEN. Tremendous Menace LP (Adaadat.) This has to be one of the most eclectic record labels operating in the UK right now. I never know what to expect when a new release arrives and this album is yet another surprise. I suppose the obvious reference point for this collection of songs would be the so-called post-punk era and, more specifically, bands like The Pop Group, Rip Rig and Panic and The Box. But it doesn’t stop there, with hints of classic Funk, R’n’B and dissonant jazz vying for space alongside minimalist-noise and Hip-Hop. The vocals are often chanted, with curious lyrics that’ll have you trying to figure-out their purpose. This is one of those records that creates its’ own place in the world. The songs wouldn’t sound out of place on a late-Seventies No Wave compilation, but at the same time could just as easily be filling a dance-floor at one of the more adventurous clubs. The thing is, although this may be a bit too left-field for a lot of people, the main element running through it is a sense of fun. This is music that’s here to be enjoyed and, whilst it’s probably isn’t the easiest thing for everyone to listen to, it grabbed my attention straight-away and I keep returning to it. You really need to hear this record played loud, because if it piques your interest, you may well end-up really loving it. Great artwork, too!
OPPOSITION PARTY. Tales to Horrify EP (Pulverised) Originally inspired by early 80’s UK/HC bands like GBH, Chaos UK and English Dogs, Opposition Party attained notoriety as the first punk band in Singapore. Originally forming in 1986, they initially played a more punk orientated style but gradually adopted more metallic / crossover elements which saw them become one of the most successful extreme rock bands in their country. They’ve released numerous records in the subsequent years and this EP, their latest, finds them performing a style that recalls the early albums by Bay Area bands like Slayer or Death Angel. It may not be the most unique sound that you’ll hear, but they really do it well and, combined with a brutal production sound, it really will blow you away. Great cover art, as well…Don’t miss it!
OTZI. Storm CD (Artoffact) Three-piece, all-female band from Oakland, California, playing a style of music inspired by the post-punk, pre-goth era. Raw bass lines, sparse but insistent drum rhythms, epic guitar sounds and emotive, atmospheric vocals. Think of bands like The Chameleons, early Sisters of Mercy (although the vocal style is a lot lighter and more accessible) and early moments from The Cure. The songs are rather moody but also very catchy and enjoyable, avoiding the gloomy clichés that too many bands adopt when they delve into this style of music. Otzi are pretty lively at times and songs like ‘Scorpio’ raise the tempos, even adding some saxophone to accentuate their movement. ‘Ballad of Oiwa’ is probably the slowest track on the album, in an oddly Blues-like style, but also contrasts perfectly with the next track, ‘Contagious’, which tears along at a healthy pace. The album ends on a darker note with the title track, coming across like a collaboration between Joy Division and the Cocteau Twins. This is a surprisingly effective album and while it isn’t going to appeal to everyone, I think there’s still going to be an enthusiastic audience for this band and their music.
PABST. Deuce Ex Machina CD (Ketchup Tracks) Berlin-based band with a catchy mix of grungy punk and quirky pop. This is their second album and it sees them honing their songwriting skills and mixing elements from lots of different sources. There are moments that recall Nirvana, some that will make you think of bands like Wheatus or Weezer and others that will have you considering Marc Bolan at his prime. Overall, it’s a very entertaining album, although the band are certainly not afraid to get noisy when the songs call for it and, similarly, aren’t afraid to address serious issues like homelessness and gentrification (problems that are evident in their hometown but also occurring all over the world.) I know that a lot of people don’t like it when ‘politics’ are mixed into pop music, but Pabst do it in a way that will hopefully get people thinking without shoving it in your face. The album is very enjoyable, full of great hooks and singalong choruses. Given the right exposure, Pabst are a band that could easily become very successful.
THE PEAWEES. Walking the Walk CD (Wild Honey / Rum Bar) The Peawees are an Italian rock’n’roll band who have been touring extensively around Europe and the UK, honing their sound and establishing a loyal following. With loud guitars providing the background, the vocals bring the melodic hooks, ensuring that the songs will sneak into your ears and stay there. Think about a sound that’s equal parts the Heartbreakers, the Saints, the Undertones and The Sonics. Yup, it really is that good. To me, this is all you need to know, but if you’re still not convinced just track down a copy and blast it out loud! If this doesn’t clear away the cobwebs, nothing will.
PETER O’HALLORAN & THE HIRED MEN. Practice Recordings CD (Rum Bar) Just as it says on the cover, this is a dozen tracks recorded during rehearsal sessions, so don’t expect great sound quality. But, as the band themselves announced, this is just meant to be a bit of fun for the fans during the current weirdness (the CD is available at budget price while you can even download everything for free via bandcamp.) The band deliver their own brand of raw Celtic music, recalling the likes of The Pogues, the Waterboys and maybe even Dexy’s Midnight Runners (during the Too-Rye-Ay period, at least.) Of course, this is a genre that you’ll probably whether you’re going like or not, so all I can say is that if you are a fan, then this is a band who do it rather well and you should check it out!
THE PHOBICS. Burnt Rubber CD (Down & Out) It’s always awkward reviewing something by people that you’re friends with and especially-so in the case of The Phobics. I see them playing live on a pretty regular basis so I’m already familiar with most of the songs featured on this new album, but all that being said, I still have to say that this album came as a bit of a surprise as it sounds really, really good. Not that their previous releases have been disappointing, but their decision to record at Pat Collier’s Perry Vale studio was obviously a good choice. Pat, as an original member of The Vibrators, clearly has rock’n’roll in his blood and has helped the band to get the sound they deserve. From the very first track, the whole band come blastin’ out of the speakers with a powerful sound that captures both their energy and their melodies. As I’ve said before, their style is based on New York bands like The Ramones and the Heartbreakers, but they put it all into an authentic South London perspective. They don’t try to adopt phoney accents or American slang as they know who they are and they’re happy with it. The lyrics talk about the problems we all face (‘Gentrification’ and ‘Politics’ are the obvious ones) while others like ‘Don’t Lay Your Flowers On My Grave’ and ‘Path of Love’ address more personal subjects. Possibly the oldest track here is ‘P-H-O-B-I-C-S’, their adaptation of Lemmy’s homage to the Ramones which they’ve been playing live for quite some time. At first, I wasn’t sure if it would work on a record, but it’s come out as a brief burst of tongue-in-cheek fun that works perfectly in the middle of their other songs. The real highlight for me is the excellent ‘Burnt Rubber’, one of their more recent songs which takes a harder almost Detroit High Energy approach with a very effective, repetitive riff and insistent vocals. The album ends with ‘Hymn for the 12 Bar Dudes’, an atmosphere piano track that serves as a paean to the much-missed venue. Yes, this is an album that exceeds expectations and, if justice is served, really ought to bring The Phobics to much wider attention. It’s a bloody-good album, plain and simple.
TRAVIS EDWARD PIKE, Changeling’s Return CD (Otherworld Cottage Industries) Travis Pike has recently received retrospective acclaim for the music he made in the Sixties, with great reissues appearing on both State Records and Mousetrap Music. But he continued to develop and write music for a long time after that original period (you can check details in my interview with him, elsewhere on this website.) One such project was ‘Changeling’, originally envisioned as a ‘rock opera’ but later transformed in to a screenplay. A book of this was published in 2017, alongside a CD of songs intended for the project, but a screenplay isn’t the best way to tell a story, so Travis has now published a novel based on the story (check my Book Reviews for further details) and, in addition, a new album featuring updated versions of the original songs and a few brand new tracks. I will say that these recordings are probably more of an indication of how the soundtrack could sound, rather than a finished product, simply because these are songs that deserve a huge production, but regardless, this album has some really great music and plenty to keep you thinking. The mood and atmosphere recalls albums like Alice Coopers ‘Welcome to My Nightmare’, with esoteric themes and, at times, an almost Baroque tone. The album works best in conjunction with the novel, but many of the songs stand alone in their own right. Similarly, the lyrics reveal plenty of ideas that are valid even aside from the novel / screenplay. It’s intriguing and adventurous, mixing rock, psychedelia, folk and Prog at different points. It may not be immediately accessible, but give this album a chance and it will win you over. There are plenty of good songs, intriguing lyrics and an intent that can’t be faulted. It might not be the kind of thing that you’d usually listen to, but check it out because there’s a lot of it that you may well appreciate.
PUNCH DRUNK. Sassy CD (JSNTGM) Forming in Nottingham just a few years ago, Punch Drunk are a three piece melodic punk band with a big guitar sound and tight, inventive rhythms, topped with emotive vocals that recall early Lemonheads, Moving Targets and maybe even Buffalo Tom. But although the obvious references are all American, it’s also important to note that they don’t come across as Americanised in any way, retaining a very evident English manner throughout. Ten songs in less than 30 minutes, they’re definitely not wasting time and keeping it all within a pop context as well. Actually, the whole album is kept pretty much to the point, with an approach that really doesn’t mess about. They do whip-up a big-sound, but always keep it in check so that it doesn’t overpower the underlying melodies or subtle hooks that consistently draw you further into the songs. I’d love to see this band live, because I’m sure this set of songs would be blistering in an onstage setting. And… they even have a cute cat picture on the album cover! If you like your music loud and strong, but with plenty of cool tunes to keep you tapping your toes, you really have to hear this!
RAMLEH. The Great Unlearning CD (Fourth Dimension) I can’t claim to know a lot about Ramleh as it’s only quite recently that I’ve started to take a proper interest in them. Having originally been a part of the industrial / power electronics scene of the early Eighties, in recent years they’ve moved more towards a guitar-based format, although the results are just as different and unrepentant as their older output. This double album was first released (vinyl only) in 2019 by the Nashazphone label, and is now made available on CD for the first time. Alongside core members Gary Mundy and Anthony Di Franco, with drummers Stuart Dennison and Martyn Watts, this album also see’s the return of their erstwhile collaborator Philip Best alongside his partner in Consumer Electronics, Sarah Froelich. The results are nothing short of remarkable and, indeed, several reviews have already called this one of the best Ramleh releases to date. Opening track ‘Futureworld’ is perhaps the darkest piece of psychedelia I’ve heard… if you could imagine the Syd Barrett of ‘Astronomy Domine’ and ‘Interstellar Overdrive’ jamming with Faust, you’ll get some kind of idea of the results. ‘The Twitch’ starts with a bass-riff that wouldn’t have been out of place on the first two PiL albums, before building into a powerful, compelling and repetitive track with suitably intriguing lyrics. Final track on the first disc, ‘Blood Aurora’, is possibly closest to their early albums, creating a genuinely unsettling tone over which guitar sounds are scattered in an effective, discordant manner. The second disk takes a direction more focused on their recent guitar-based work but, again, it’s not what many ‘rock’ fans would enjoy. ‘No Music For These Times’ is probably the most straight-forward track on the whole album, but serves as great contrast to the ensuing ‘Religious Attack’ and ‘Racial Violence’. The first is a brutal, insistent track that recalls the likes of Big Black (both musically and lyrically) while the second is a disturbing instrumental that recalls Chrome at their more deranged. ‘Your Village Has Been Raised’ is a disturbing narrative set to a slow, repetitive rhythm that recalls early Swans. ‘Procreation as an Imperialist Act’ is another more rock-influenced instrumental, with some great screeching guitar offset against the minimal drum machine rhythm. Finally, ‘Natural Causes’ ends the album with a slow, menacing rhythm and a distorted vocal that recalls early-seventies Hawkwind, albeit with a much noisier delivery. This isn’t an album that you’ll listen to every day, but if you catch it at the right time you’re going to love it. I can feel that I’m going to have to investigate a lot more Ramleh music after hearing this!
THE RATBOYS Click CD (Rum Bar) From the very first track, you’ll quickly realise that this band are big fans of The Ramones, but listen a bit more carefully and I’d say that the likes of Eddie & the Hot Rods and The (early) Vibrators also play a part in this punky power pop. Their recent single ‘Sonic Boy’ captures their approach almost perfectly ; three chords, solid rhythm section, songalong choruses and great melodic hooks. I have to say that the production could have been a bit better (the guitars are too low in the mix, although that might be due to listening to it on mp3) and the drums could have been sharper, but the songs are still great by anyone’s standards. And they’ve got a great band-name! Check it out!
RAZOR SHARP DEATH BLIZZARD. The World is Fucked CD (razorsharpdeathblizzard.bandcamp.com) This is a Scottish band originally formed in 2014. Their sound is a mix of metallic hardcore and down-tuned bass grooves. The results are pretty impressive, combining the power of their songs with intriguing arrangements and an imaginative production. I would imagine that they’re inspired as much by the likes of Antisect and the Amebix as they are with hardcore bands like Agnostic Front, Sick Of It All or early Carcass. The song titles and some of the lyrics that you can pick out could also suggest the influence of bands like Anal Cunt, although I also have to qualify that by saying, as I only received a download of this album, I didn’t get a lyric sheet and so can’t really comment with any certainty. The vocals have a brutal quality that’s perfect for the sound of this band, but it’s not easy to pick up the words! In a lot of ways, I tend to think they’re on a more nihilistic-trip similar to early Poison Idea and I have no problem with that, but you’ll have to make your own mind up on this point. But bear in mind, the final track, seven minutes of pulverising riffs, is entitled ‘Wizards, Castles and Shit’, so I’m pretty sure there’s also a sense of humour at work! Musically, though, this is a relentless, visceral blast of noise that’s impossible to ignore. Anyone interested in extreme music needs to hear this record soon.
RICOBELLIS. Battlestar Galactica CD (Monster Zero) This is the third album from this Italian band and there fascination with Dee Dee Ramone is obvious but not such a bad thing. Their sound obviously includes a big chunk of the Ramones melodic velocity, held together with a deceptive simplicity (it might be just me, but naming one song ‘I Don’t Wanna Go in Psycho Therapy’ is a bit of a give away…) But there’s also more than a few nods towards the likes of The Boys, The Misfits and maybe even the Buzzcocks, together with hints of Sixties pop and Beach Boys style harmonies. It’s not the most original mix of influences, but when a band play music like this with such enthusiasm and vibrancy, you really can’t help but enjoy it!
SALAD DAYS – A Decade of Punk in Washington DC, 1980-90 DVD (Wienerworld) When someone sets out to produce a film that documents such a vibrant and influential scene as this, there will always be detractors who will complain that they should have included other bands, interviewed other people or included different live footage. Of course, the answer to such gripes is that, when making a documentary that has certain time restrictions, you can’t include everything, however much you’d like to. Taking this into account, I think the directors of this documentary have done a very fine job and produced a film that’s about as definitive as you could get. The story is told by the people who were involved at the time, so there’s no critics theorising what and why things happened. The list of interviewees is pretty thorough ; Ian Mackaye, Brian Baker, Henry Rollins, Jeff Nelson, Sab Grey, Brendan Canty, John Stabb, J Robbins, Dave Grohl, Bobby Sullivan… the list goes on, but you get the idea. But rather than this ending-up as just an endless procession of talking-heads, the dialogue is interspersed with original footage of gigs and events that really capture the dynamics and vitality of the era. Starting out as a bunch of kids that just wanted to play in their own punk rock bands, the music and ideas quickly developed and presented something that was new, exciting and thought-provoking. Dischord records was set-up to document the (often short-lived) bands but also adopted a DIY, ‘pay-no-more-than…’ approach which was as effective and inspiring as Crass records had been in the UK. The initial Hardcore era only lasted a few years before negative elements crept into the gigs, but then a different style of punk developed, with bands like Rites of Spring and Embrace taken a more personal (though no less inspiring) direction. At the same time, bands like Dag Nasty, Scream and Government Issue began to develop more accessible sounds, although still producing great, powerful music. With all of this going on and the possibilities that this abundance of music presented, it was inevitable that the end of the decade would see the advent of new bands with highly original and influential sounds of their own, such as Jawbox, Soulside, Shudder to Think and, of course, Fugazi. From 1990, the scene continued to expand and diversify, but in many ways it was this original period that saw the most creativity across the board. It is that achievement that this documentary celebrates and it does so in a way that really captures the original spirit of the time. The DVD also comes with a load of bonus interviews and live footage, making it just about as essential as it gets. Whether you’re an established fan of DC punk/hardcore or only just becoming acquainted with the scene, this is a film that you really have to see.
SANCTION THIS. Wipe Us Out 7”(Grow Your Own.) I still haven’t managed to see this band live, which is starting to piss me off. But it’ll happen, especially after hearing this record. It has to be said that their sound does recall moments of the early-80’s Anarcho-punk scene, but the important thing is that it’s only the very best moments. Think of Amebix and Rudimentary Peni, certain songs by The System, maybe even Antisect. These three songs are incredibly powerful and, more importantly, totally relevant to the current state of the nation rather than just being a pointless nostalgia trip. Opening track ‘Erase Us’ starts with a menacing groove and Dead Kennedys style twangy guitars, creating a real sense of tension, before the song erupts (much like ‘I Will Refuse’, for anyone who remembers Pailhead…) The lyrics might be minimal but are all that needs to be said. ‘Media Trap’ addresses the Newspeak tactics of our media-state, while ‘Sanctify Genocide’ is propelled by a rhythm that certainly wouldn’t be out of place on a Killing Joke record. Yeah, I know this is a few years old but I only got a copy recently and regardless how late I am, this is still worth the coverage. Get yourself a copy and see if I’m wrong…
SECTILE. Falls Apart CD (www.sectileofficial.com) Five-piece band from Dublin playing what they refer to as ‘prog metal’. It’s not a label that inspires me as it conjures up thoughts of bands trying to be far too clever for their own good. But this actually isn’t that sort of thing at all, with most of the songs based around hard-edged riffs and a super-tight rhythm section. The vocals are delivered in a pretty straight rock performance which allows the lyrics to be heard. They do get a bit screechy at times, but not so much that I have to stop listening. The band are able to switch from the hard-riffs down to meloldic, almost classical guitar breaks, which work as a perfect contrast to the louder moments. ‘Black Cloud’ is strangely reminiscent of Voivod at their best (now there was a band who combined elements of both Prog and Metal to create something of their own) while ‘Boreal Void’ has a driving guitar sound that recalls Killing Joke and maybe even elements of Faith No More. For a debut, this is a very impressive album and really showcases the bands’ potential. I hope they can take it all forward to create something really special.
SEWER RATS. Magic Summer CD (Monster Zero) Debut album (I think) from this four-piece band who are based in Cologne, Germany. They play an upbeat, melodic brand of punk rock with the usual healthy dose of Ramones-influences, but also mixing different styles along the lines of Screeching Weasel and the Descendents, while ‘I Don’t Wanna Leave My Room No More’ recalls early Green Day. Great melodies, catchy hooks and harmonies that ought to be played all Summer long, spread over the top of some superb three-chord riffery. Lyrics range from the D-U-M-B (‘I Don’t Wanna Go To The Dentist No More’) through to the more thoughtful (‘Down For Life’) and make sure the band don’t get stuck in just one place. The title track comes right at the end and is probably the most radio-friendly song on the whole album, taking a much more Alt-rock approach, but it’s still a catchy little tune and, as with the whole album, deserves to be heard.
SHINER. s/t CD ( ??? ) I have no label or contact details for this mini-album, which is a shame as it’s a really good debut recording and deserves to be heard. Eight songs that sound like a mix of 77/78 punk rock, along with American bands like The Queers or maybe Crimpshrine. At times you can also hear hints of Oi-style melodies and even some Glam-style boot-stomping drumbeats. The tempo is fast without becoming thrashy and the songs have good arrangements that really bring out their individuality. The lyrics veer towards the kind of songs you’d get from the better end of street-punk, with plenty of chant-along choruses and down-to-earth subjects. ‘We Are The Legion’ betrays some Mod influences, while ‘Danger Zone’ makes me think of early Weirdos material and ‘Hamper Jets’ makes me think of a cross between Rudi and Slade !. This is a really good mix of styles put together with plenty of their own ideas to create a very enjoyable set of songs. I’ll do my best to find some more details about the band and add them here as soon as I have them, but in the meantime, keep a lookout for this lot. STOP PRESS !!! - here's an email if you want to chase this up - email@example.com
SMILING ASSASSIN. Plight of the Millennial (Warren Records) British hardcore / crossover band deliver their debut album with a considerable sense of confidence, especially as they’ve only been together for around a year. There are definite elements of bands like Agnostic Front, DRI and Sick Of It all in their sound, although I’d also include British bands like Discharge and GBH, as well as metal bands like Slayer. Their delivery is passionate and precise, delivering every riff and note as if their lives depend on it. Which is possible. Lyrically, they address issues that regular people are facing in the current world order and not just repeating trad-punk slogans. They’re also not afraid to adopt different styles to punctuate their overall delivery. The album is pretty short and over before you’ve even reached your second-breath, but all the more effective for it. This is a band that could become really-impressive in the next few years – be sure to catch them as soon as you can.
SPANKING CHARLENE. Find Me Out CD (Rum Bar) This is a convincing mix of rock’n’roll with an occasionally bluesy feel. The overall atmosphere conjures up images of smoky bar rooms (are they allowed anymore?) while the quieter moments have a darker, countrified approach. The female vocals are infused with soul and passion, whilst, unexpectedly, the drums (in the more upbeat songs, at least) tend to have a sort of Glam-rock stomp which is strangely appropriate and propels the tunes along. Be sure to hear this album because it’s a lot of fun.
SPHAEROS POSSESSION. CD (Pan European) Sphaeros is a French Psychedelic artist best known as frontman for the band Aqua Nebula Oscillator. His latest album is a multi-media project, featuring seven musical tracks and seven corresponding films, each created with an organic, spontaneous approach. The album has dark, even sinister undertones that really add an unnerving edge to the proceedings, whilst musical influences most likely include the likes of Syd Barrett (the early instrumental jams) The Seeds, early Hawkwind and possibly even Faust. Most of the tracks are based around simple, repetitive riffs while all manner of instruments, vocals and tape-loops build highly effective sound-collages. This is psychedelic music in its’ truest sense, presenting soundtracks for your own imagination, whilst the accompanying films (rather than ‘videos’) steer you in different directions. It can be scary in places and invigorating in others, but all along you won’t want to stop listening. This is an album I heard without having a clue about what to expect and I really enjoyed it. I hope you will as well.
SQUIRE. Get Ready To Go! CD (Hi-Lo Records) Most of the tracks included in this collection were recorded by frontman Anthony Meynell and his brother Kevin as ‘The Numbers’ between 1977-78. The Numbers never got further than these demos but eventually Anthony joined an already-existing local band called Squire who were mostly playing covers. His early recordings were presented to give the other members an idea of his songwriting abilities and also to provide the basis for their new set of original material. Despite this sounding like a possibly-haphazard start to proceedings, the demos actually sound exciting and accomplished with plenty of great tunes, good lyrics and, considering that they were basically home-recordings, a surprisingly solid sound quality. Having been recorded at a point when ‘Punk’ was still clawing at the mainstream, there were certainly more punky influences in their overall sound at this point, although various Sixties influences are also very-much in the mix. At certain times you can hear hints of the Buzzcocks, The Boys and The Clash, but Anthony was also embracing classic Mod and Pop-Art culture with the influence of bands like The Who and The Creation playing their part. Alongside this, you can also hear the melodic, powerpop sounds of the Flamin’ Groovies and Big Star, both bands who would play an increasingly important part as Squire continued to develop. In many ways, the ensuing ‘Mod-revival’ possibly did Squire as much injustice as favours over the next few years as, much-like The Chords, they became pigeon-holed as part of that ‘movement’ even though their sound and influences were a lot more diverse and interesting than most of the other bands. Listening to these recordings now, I’m just thinking, what a great set of songs! Squire released several records between 1979-84, but never achieved the wider audience that they deserved. Listen to this album now and I’m sure you’ll be just as bewildered as me, that they didn’t become a much better known band.
SQUIRE. September Gurls CD (Hi-Lo Records) Having just released the ‘Get Ready To Go!’ album, featuring the earliest (and even pre-) Squire recordings, this is a reissue of the original bands’ final release, from 1984. The beginning and the end, as it were, except in this case you can hear a natural progression from one to the other even if there is a six-year gap between the two. Named after the Alex Chilton / Big Star song with which Squire opened this set, they were bringing this to an audience who, for the most part, had no idea of the original (remember, this was still before Big Star started to gain the acclaim that they eventually received.) Obviously, there were less-punky influences of this album and, to a great extent, less (obvious) Mod influences as well, but Squire were taking things forward in a very organic style, bringing their Sixties and powerpop influences to the fore with plenty of panache. Jangly-guitars that would have made REM proud, harmonies that could easily have graced classics by the Beach Boys and snappy, insistent melodies that The Beatles wouldn’t have turned down. Squire developed from record to record, never turning their backs on earlier sounds and influences but at the same time confidently taking them forward. By this point, they were not really Mod and they didn’t sound like Punk, but the essence and attitude of both remained in there. Everyone likes to categorise because it makes things more simple (in the short-term at least) but Squire most definitely transcended that nonsense. As I said about the previous album, this is just a great set of songs. Listen to it without bias and there’s no reason why you won’t love it!
THE STILLSOULS. Half Drunk Preacher CD (Duetto Disc) Formerly known as the Cody Melville Band, this is a follow-up to their acclaimed 2018 album, ‘Bond’s Eye’. Starting off with the stompin’ ‘Old Guitars are Ghosts on the Sunset Strip’ (a fine collision between vintage Glam and raw rock’n’roll) the next few tracks are much more reserved, mixing Soul, Americana and Blues in an effective and enticing manner. ‘Local Honey’ is more upbeat and a great pop moment, combining melodic hooks with a great vocal performance, while ‘Blues with Michael’ is an atmospheric bar-room epic. ‘Kid 4’ starts slowly but builds into a lively work-out, while the following ‘She’s So Calm’ recalls the classic Bowie / Ronson partnership. ‘These Eye’s Don’t Cry’ is an almost filmic moment that really draws you into the narrative, and finally, ‘One Last Drink’ ends the album with an anthemic tone. It’s a good album, full of great songs and different moods, which should appeal to a pretty wide audience.
SUPERSUCKERS….Play That Rock’N’Roll CD (SPV) Writing a review of this album is pretty pointless because, basically, the album does what it says on the cover and that’s all you really need to know. But in the interests of spreading the message, I will persevere. The Supersuckers are a very different beast these days, now claiming the stage as a solid three-piece rather than the five-man assault that built their reputation back in their early days. But musically it’s still instantly recognisable even if, nowadays, it’s more about the riff rather than the tuneage, although catchy melodies still grab you in the most unexpected places. The band have evolved towards a harder rock’n’roll sound, which probably owes as much to the likes of early AC/DC, Motorhead and maybe even ZZ Top as it does to their more melodic roots, but they still combine clichés with class, delivering a sharp’n’sly version of The Rock. ‘You Ain’t the Boss of Me’ borrows riffs from Suzi Quattro and The Sweet to create something wonderfully familiar whilst punching it through a wall and elsewhere, ‘That’s a Thing’ brings Muds’ ‘Tiger Feet’ to mind, which certainly isn’t a bad call in my book… Eddies’ vocals maintain the character that propels the songs along and the lyrics leave you with plenty of great lines to quote. There’s less of their Country influences in evidence (even if it was recorded at Willie Nelsons’ studio) but you know the spirit is still in there. Metal Marty handles his first (I think?) set of lead vocals on ‘Dead, Jail or Rock’n’Roll’, whilst other guests help out on other songs, but the core of this album is very-much the current band, firing on all cylinders even as they take things away in their own direction. I can’t see this band calling it quits for a very long time, if at all… and isn’t that a great prospect?
TERMINAL HEADS, The Duncan Norbert Memorial Album CD (Golden Moose) Alright, if you can make any sense of who Duncan Norbert might be, in relation to this album, you’re a better man than I. Just check goggle… Plenty of Duncan Norberts and even a few Norbert Duncans, but none of them shed any light on this album. Please send your suggestions on a postcard to someone else… Anyway, following on from their previous album, ‘Back!’, this latest offering really puts Terminal Heads back on the map (of Kent.) 14 new songs recorded with a great, in yer face production that captures them at their best. Fast and tight, but never lacking great tunes, this is a fine album that achieves all the promise of its’ predecessor. It’s punk rock that takes-in so many different influences, from street-punk like The Business or (early) Peter and the Test Tube Babies through to the more melodic moments of anarcho-punk (Subhumans, Lost Cherress) and maybe even Hardcore bands like Minor Threat or Government Issue. The vocals are mostly sung at a furious pace and sound a bit like John Otway on speed (which is no bad thing) whilst the rhythm section effortlessly hold everything in place and the guitar provides an invigorating chainsaw-tone that recalls early Buzzcocks. This is a great record, one that really shows how good this band can be, capturing both the excitement of their live sets and the arrangements that they can create in the studio (their reference to ‘The Italian Job’ during ‘Self-Medication’ is genius!) If you’re a fan of raw punk rock that packs plenty of energy and tunes, you need to hear this!
TETEMA. Necroscape CD (Ipecac.) This is the second album by Tetema, a project established by Mike Patton and Anthony Pateras, although this time also joined by violinist Erkki Veltheim and drummer Will Guthrie. The music combines electro-acoustic rock instrumentation with an atmospheric arrangement of sounds that, in places, recalls early work by Throbbing Gristle. It can be calming at one moment and nightmarish in the next, an unpredictable soundtrack that, poignantly, is based around ideas of isolation in the surveillance age… I think we’re all felling that right at this moment! Pattons’ vocals, as is often the case, are presented more as part of the instrumentation rather than a narrative, whilst the rhythms often take off in dark but rather insistent grooves. The arrangements allow plenty of space for the music to either overwhelm you or shrink back into near silence. I’m not really sure if you’re supposed to fully understand this album but, much like the films of David Lynch, if you allow yourself to become immersed in the sensations that the album suggests, then there is plenty that you can take out of it. At the very least, you should hear this album, but make sure that you’re paying full attention.
TIM TIMEBOMB. Life’s For Living 7” (Wild Honey) Better known as Tim Armstrong (Rancid, Operation Ivy) Tim has contributed three tracks to Wild Honey Records towards their ongoing efforts to raise funds for the hospital in Bergamo, Italy, one of the areas worst-hit by the Covid 19 crisis. To boost its’ fund-raising potential, the single will be released on several different vinyl colours, so collectors can get excited and support a worthy cause all at the same time! The tracks are all performed acoustically, just Tim’s voice, a guitar and a harmonica, showing a different side to his music. ‘Life’s For Living’ has a very Celtic feel, possibly displaying a fondness for Shane MacGowan, whilst ‘It’s Quite Alright’ is a reworking of the Rancid song, and finally, there’s a stripped down version of ‘The Times They Are A-Changing’, sung with an appropriate drawl. It’s a step away from the music Tim is best known for, but any fan of his other musical efforts is going to enjoy this. And top-marks to the chap for supporting an urgent cause!
TONI CRIMINE. S/T LP (Area Pirata) Toni Crimine were last active around 15 years ago, so this album marks their return with a vengeance! Hailing from Pisa, the land of wonky architecture, they present a great, trashy version of rock’n’roll, combining everything thing from Hard Rock, Garage, Punk, Oi and Hardcore. They know their music and aren’t afraid to reference their influences (first track ‘Linoleum’ borrows a Poison Idea riff, whilst ‘Auto Pirata’ owes more than a few chords to AC/DC and even the artwork takes a nod towards Black Flag.) I could imagine that these guys would be a real blast if you got to see them live. The only problem (for me, at least) is that all of the lyrics are sung in Italian and I wish I knew what the songs are about. I tend to think, in line with their no-holds barred riffage, the lyrics would be pretty entertainment in all the right, irreverent ways, but at the moment I have no way of telling. In the meantime, if I tell you these guys are the closest that Italy has come to producing its’ very own Turbonegro, that should be enough to get you to track this down!
TONOTA 80. Everybody’s Famous CD (Moving Change) Kent-based band playing a melodic form of punk rock with input from styles as diverse as indie-punks Mega City Four and the Senseless Things through to harder-edged American bands like Husker Du and Moving Targets. For a three-piece, they whip-up a pretty big sound and the album gives you a real sense of a band that has a strong musical direction. They’re not afraid to vary the tempos, include vocal harmonies or add different instrumentation where it’s appropriate and the overall production is both inventive and convincing. ‘This Summer’ might be the slowest track on the album, with only acoustic guitar and keyboard accompaniment, but it stands out really well and also sets the mood perfectly for the following track, ‘Coffee in My Veins’, one of the liveliest and most instantly-likeable songs on the whole record. This is an album that draws you in from start to finish, but with repeated listens it just gets better and better. With the right radio coverage, this could prove to be a very popular album indeed. Good luck to ‘em!
TOTAL REJECTS. S/T LP (Slovenly) Frantic, lo-fi punk rock straight out of the Garage… the main difference being that this particular garage is located in Moscow! Think of the early singles by New Bomb Turks mixed with the best releases on the legendary Rip-Off record label. The vocals are so distorted it’s hard to figure-out what language is being used (though the clues suggest English) and the guitar is so cranked-up it’s hard to tell if there’s any bass behind it. The drums hold everything together with a wonderful clatter of cymbals punctuating the riffs. And somewhere in the middle of this melee, there’s even some decent, catchy tunes! Featuring covers of songs by The Creeteens, The Fatals and Russian punk legends 4 Tapakha, there’s not a single song that reaches the two minute mark – indeed the outro / epilogue is twice as long as most of the songs! Short, sharp and snotty – you’ve gotta love it!
TURN AGAINST. Memori CD www.facebook.com/turnagainst.bandcamp/ Five song CD from a hardcore band based in Commachio, Italy. They’ve been together for ten years and have obviously had time to develop their own style and sound. In this case, three of their songs are six or seven minutes long, interspersed by two short instrumental interludes (the second of which includes saxophone.) Although very powerfully delivered and featuring aggressive vocals, none of the songs are particularly ‘fast’ and rely more on their performance and arrangements to create the hardcore effect. If you could imagine a cross between Fucked Up and Quicksand, perhaps you’ll be somewhere close to what this band are producing. The vocals are all sung in Italian, but if you check-out the tracks on bandcamp, you’ll also find translations for the lyrics, which is very helpful for the lingo-challenged likes of me. This is really powerful and also very adventurous. Anyone who enjoys hardcore but gets fed-up with the clichés really needs to hear this band!
WAKE THE DEAD. Still Burning CD (Engineer) Wake The Dead are a French band who have been together since 2010. During that time they’ve released several albums and have developed a powerful modern hardcore sound that has many great influences. My first impressions reminded me of the highly underrated early 90’s American band, Alloy. The vocals, although much more aggressive here, do have certain similarities with Vic Bondi, whilst the mesh of guitar riffs and precision rhythms certainly has the same basic approach, even if the results aren’t exactly the same. Elsewhere, they also reminded me of Fucked Up, although again, not so much in the actual sounds that they create. But they’re certainly unafraid to use the more-elaborate arrangement-styles of 70’s hard rock (as opposed to heavy metal) to bring out the more powerful aspects of their music and do so with an interesting, intelligent manner. The instruments are loud in the mix and, as I’ve already said, the vocals are pretty intense, but they never overpower the subtle melodies that lay at the heart of this record. The lyrics are all in English, allowing this to appeal to a more international audience, and there really is no reason why this shouldn’t be very successful. Many bands attempt this style of hardcore, but very few manage to do it as well as this. I wasn’t sure what to expect, but from the very first listen, I was highly impressed. Be sure to hear it for yourself.
WARNING! S/T EP (Terminal Records) Warning! are a hardcore punk band from Athens, Greece, combining punk rock styles from both America and Europe (perhaps even Japan?) They definitely veer towards the d-beat side of things and certainly do it with plenty of style and energy, but I’d also cite things like early Poison Idea, Conflict (UK) and Anti-Cimex. The thing that really sets them apart from other bands that dwell in this genre is that the production and arrangements really allow for the overall sound to be heard clearly, whilst never losing any of the raw power that their delivery presents. Apparently, the four members are all involved with other bands so I’m not entirely sure if this is a full-time project, but with for another single and a full length album on their way, I’ll assume that we’re going to hear a lot more from this band. In many cases this brutal style of hardcore has been played-out, but when you hear a band performing it as well as this, it will still blow you away. Catch this as soon as you can!
WHICH WITCH. Reborn Against EP (whichwitchnj.bandcamp.com) A debut offering from this New Jersey based hardcore band (available as a download or limited CD.) Although they describe themselves as ‘hardcore’, don’t expect noisy histrionics and metallic riffing. These guys go for a much catchier punky style, sort of reminiscent of bands like Pegboy or Kraut rather than the more excessive sounds of, for example, Madball or Agnostic Front. Which certainly doesn’t mean that they’re lacking power as, in my opinion, they actually come across more effectively by adding catchy hooks and melodies. I haven’t been able to find much information about the band, other than they’ve been together for about two years and these tracks were recorded at the end of 2019. They certainly seem intent on creating their own sound and none of these three songs are predictable or lack lustre. At times, you might hear a hint of Buzzcocks whilst at other moments, it might be Helmet. However they put these songs together, they’re doing it very impressively. Be sure to check this out!
WORLD PEACE s/t LP (Green Doe) This is another album that arrived with very minimal information. Sometimes that’s a good thing as you won’t get influenced in advance by some dodgy press release, but in this case, the music is a pretty peculiar mix of styles and ideas so I really wanted a bit more background info. Fortunately, an email address was included and the band provided further details…They’re based in London and include veterans of various independent bands (Bloodless Coup, Tongue Kung Fu etc) that frequented the Bull & Gate, Amersham Arms etc over the last few decades, whilst their drummer has played with the likes of Massive Attack, Neneh Cherry and Duncan Redmonds (Snuff.) I’m not entirely sure how this album relates to their previous efforts, but to me it’s a pretty dense mix of punk, funky-rhythms and krautrock-sensibilities, reminding me of when I used to listen to the John Peel show in the early Eighties and hear bands like The Box, The Pop Group, The Slits etc. Mainstream music may have been predominantly poor during the Eighties, but scratch the surface and there really was so much great stuff to discover. The vocals make me think of a very pissed-off David Byrne with some of the mannerisms of Mark E Smith, which sort of makes it belligerent but entertaining. The final track, ‘Country Dumb’ maintains the repetitive riffs but gives it a harder overall sound that’ll make you think of Neu! jamming with the (early) Mekons. This is a good debut and certainly suggests some great things could be on their way. For more info – firstname.lastname@example.org
V/A. I WANNA BE WELL LP (Wild Honey) Punk Rock Raduno is an annual music festival in Italy and they’ve put together this compilation of live recordings to help raise funds for medical centres in the city of Bergamo, which has been particularly hit hard by the Coronavirus. Bands who have donated tracks include The Avengers, Pansy Division, Dan Vapid and the Cheats (ex-Screeching Weasel), The Copyrights, The Creeps and The Yum Yums, amongst others, so you know you’re going to get some great music whilst supporting a worthy cause. The album is already available digitally and a limited edition blue vinyl LP is also on its’ way… you can get either version via the Wild Honey Records website.
V/A. LAMP LIGHT THE FIRES #3. CD (Engineer) Subtitled ‘A compilation of quiet(er) songs’, that’s pretty much what you’re going to get. Sixteen songs from different artists, some of which are relatively new to the world of musical performance whilst others have been around for some time. But, as Engineer Records point out, the whole purpose of this release is to draw attention to bands and individuals who have caught their attention and to encourage new listeners to check-out the other music that they’ve already made available elsewhere. It’s a bit like a radio show introducing new bands, but all on one disc! The tracks here are all recorded acoustically (as I believe was the case with the two previous volumes, although I can’t personally confirm that) but that’s not to say that’s how all of the music from these guys is performed or recorded (I just don’t know...) Styles range from Country and Americana through to less defined singer-songwriter stuff, but the tracks that stood out fro me are those from Holler & The Hand, the Westerberg-ish track from The Stayawakes and the moody, atmospheric offering from Fairmont. Of course, you might find completely different tracks more to your taste, but that’s where this sampler really works. Check it out and you’re bound to find something that you’ll want to investigate further.
V/A. THE BENEFIT OF THINGS TO COME. (Wild Honey) (wildhoneyrecords.bandcamp.com) Bergamo in Northern Italy is the home town of Wild Honey Records. It was also one of the worst-hit areas during the outbreak of coronavirus in Italy. In response, the label has compiled an albums’ worth of tracks from the artists they work with and will be donating all proceeds to the new field hospital which has been established in the area to cope with the situation. Due to the urgency of the matter, the album is being made immediately available on bandcamp and features the likes of Radio Birdman, The Rubinoos, Bee Bee Sea, The Peawees and Doug Tuttle, among many others. Most of the tracks are either rare or previously unreleased recordings, so trust me, this is going to be worth your while and supporting an urgent cause at the same time. You don’t need any further instructions – buy it now!