RECORD REVIEWS, JANUARY-JUNE 2021
ANTAGONIZERS ATL. Kings CD (Pirates Press) I was originally contacted by Antagonizers ATL back in 2013, when they sent me a copy of their ‘Hold Your Ground’ EP. I was suitably impressed and hoped to hear more from the band, but for the next eight years that wasn’t to be. And then, recently, I received the news that Pirates Press would be releasing their new album, ‘Kings’. Shortly thereafter, I received a download and found that the band (despite a five year gap since their debut LP) still sound just as raw, catchy and exciting as ever. They play a style of street-punk that blends punk rock, Oi and even Mod elements (great use of shimmering organ in particular) to great effect. The songs are totally infectious, taking both UK and American influences to create something of their own. The production sound is huge, although each and every instrument is heard clearly and effectively. The choruses veer away from the terrace-chant style but are just as insistently singalong as it gets. Lyrically, the songs are positive and, although defiantly working class, have an optimistic direction that really lifts the whole album. Best songs ? Well, there’s not a bad one on the album but if you can check out ‘No Rest for the Wicked’ or ‘Hold On Hold Strong’ (find them on bandcamp) you’ll get a great idea of what this band can do. What are you waiting for?
GREG ANTISTA & THE LONELY STREETS. Under The Neon Heat CD (Primal Beat) Those who have been paying attention to the interview-section will recognise Greg as one of the guitarists in the excellent Californian-combo Foxy. Here, we find him with his own band and, although there are certainly some similarities in the musical styles of both bands, this is a very strong project in its’ own right. Following-on from their debut album, ‘Shake, Stomp and Stumble’, which was released to critical acclaim back in 2019, this is a record packed with catchy, powerful punk/pop songs, somewhere inbetween Social Distortion and Buzzcocks, with occasional forays into Country music. The major change to the band since their previous album is the addition of guitarist Frank Agnew (founding member of the Adolescents etc) which adds further depth to their sound ( you’ll spot surf-guitars, Mexicana-styles and classic rock along the way) and really helps to bring out the best from Greg’s songs. Most of the music is upbeat and instantly enjoyable, although the band aren’t afraid to slow things down on certain tracks, bringing contrast and a change of atmosphere to the overall album. Lyrically, the songs tend to address personal issues and the angst that continues long-after you’ve left you teenage years behind, although they will also tackle social issues such as the case of Kelly Thomas, a homeless man who died from injuries received when he was assaulted by six Police officers… (the video for this song can be found in the link below.) Overall, this is a very fine album and one that deserves to be heard by a wide audience. It’s fortunate that it’s being released now, just as many of the restrictions related to the pandemic are starting to be lifted – hopefully this give the band a chance to get out and perform the new set of songs to as many audiences as possible. We will have to wait to see whether they can make it to Europe as well, but given the right exposure, I’m sure they could win themselves a very healthy following over here... In the meantime, do yourself a big favour and be sure to hear this album! www.youtube.com/watch?v=mxBx5L9zsNk
AUTOMATICS. Irish Blessing (www.theautomatics.co.uk) This was an unexpected arrival! The Automatics were a punk band who were originally together from 1976-79, during which time they headlined The Marquee, played at Reading Festival and released one great, catchy single on Island Records called ‘When the Tanks Roll Over Poland Again’. An album was also recorded but remained unreleased until 2000 when it was resurrected by Destroy Records. It’s a great album featuring lots of upbeat songs with melodic hooks, not a million miles away from early Generation X. A couple of tracks even featured additional guitar by Johnny Thunders, who had befriended the band. Anyway, for whatever reasons Island chose not to release the album and the band fell apart, prompting singer Dave Philp to relocate to California. Once there, he formed a new band and also decided to continue using the name. Over the next two decades, he carried-on writing, performing and recording music, albeit on a part-time basis, until the eventual release of ‘The Missing Album’ prompted renewed interest in the band. Philp was invited to play gigs in Japan and went on to record and release new albums (which featured guest appearances from the likes of Steve Jones and Mick Rossi.) He has continued releasing music on a pretty regular basis since then, although it’s a lot more varied and not strictly ‘punk rock’ anymore. This new track is mostly acoustic with a typically Gaelic style, but is also very catchy and accomplished. It may not be the kind of thing that I’d listen to very often, but as part of Philps’ ongoing story, it’s more than worthwhile to catch up with this musician once again. The website contains access to music from 1978 through to now and has plenty of information to fill in the spaces. If you’re not already familiar with The Automatics, this is an ideal way to catch-up.
BABY SHAKES. Sweet’n’Sour 7” (Dimple Discs) This is such a good record and if you doubt my opinion, here are several good reasons that should pique your interest. Firstly, of course, is the fact that Baby Shakes are already a damn-fine band, combining glam rock, garage and power pop in a totally effective mix of upbeat, good-time music. You ought to know this already. Secondly, both songs on this wonderful slice of vinyl were provided by members of The Undertones, namely Damian O’Neill and Billy Doherty, who also provide guitar, bass and drums for these recordings. The a-side of this single is a new, more boisterous version of one of the best tracks from Damians’ recent solo album, ‘Refit Revise Reprise’. Here, the glam rock elements are given free rein to stomp all over the tapes in full-on Glitter mode, while the Baby Shakes provide the glamour and harmonies. If you can’t get up and dance to a song like this, you don’t deserve to be invited to the party! Over on the flipside, you’ll find ‘Really Really’, one of Billy’s best songs which originally appeared on the b-side of ‘Get Over You’. Again, the Baby Shakes add a different element to the proceedings. The Undertones always embraced Sixties and Seventies influences, but the female harmonies on this version really draw-out the spirit of the song, like the Shangri-Las reworking the Ramones. Put simply, this is a great combination. Each band perfectly compliments the other and it makes for a truly great record. If you need any more encouragement to buy this, then you’re just being awkward. No messing about – order a copy for yourself now! www.youtube.com/watch?v=PI3vC8iT7r4
BEEBE GALLINI. Pandemos CD (Rum Bar) I don’t know much about this band, but sometimes the background really doesn’t matter. Mark E Smith once said that he hated music journalists because they always had to have a reason why they enjoyed something, when in truth all you really needed was to hear something and say ‘yeaaahhh!’. That pretty much holds true for this album. Somewhere in between The Pandoras and The Muffs (the formers grasp of surf and girl bands, the latters raw garage sounds and vintage punk rock) this is a band that just does it just right. Great melodies, insistent harmonies, guitars fuzzed-out with the dirtiest sound ever… what more could you want? But however raw and dirty it may get, the tunes are always going to draw you in and wrap themselves around your soul. Play this loud and have the greatest party you ever attended, regardless of where you may be. What’s not to like about it?
BIRDPEN. All Function One CD (JAR) Fronted by Dave Pen and Mike Bird (which explains the name) this is an intriguing album that plays within a very English-sounding electronic rock style. It comes from a cerebral, inquisitive place, but instead of falling for any of the traps that often snare musicians working this way, it succeeds because the focus is always on the songs themselves rather than trying to be too clever and losing all the heart and soul of the music. The results are very accessible, with the melodies slowly but surely establishing themselves within your ears. References can be drawn with various bands, from Radiohead and Mogwai through to oythers like Wire (I’d possibly make the strongest comparison with their recent ‘Mind Hive’ LP) and some of the original Krautrock bands like Can. What Birdpen seem to be doing is to play with the regular expectations of a modern rock band, introducing elements from more left-field sources rather than just settling for the usual mainstream formats. Similarly, the lyrical themes deal with the problems of isolation and insularity, which have undoubtedly been on the increase in recent years and have been emphasised even more during the current pandemic. If Art is supposed to reflect its’ environment, these are exactly the kind of subjects that bands should be addressing. Surprisingly, Birdpen have been working together since 2003 and this is actually their sixth album, the surprise being that I’ve never come across them before now! Maintaining a restrained but effective pace throughout, this is an interesting album that raises points to be pondered but also remains entertaining throughout. Give this record time it deserves to sink-in and you may well end up being a fervent fan.
BLANK INK STAIN. Incidents CD (P.O.G.O) I didn’t receive much information about this band, apart from them being from France, but this is a good record and one that will undoubtedly appeal to fans of the noisier extremes of hard rock. Think of bands like Unsane or Cop Shoot Cop, combining elements of industrial music with the bass-heavy riffing of bands like Black Sabbath or Gore. It’s pretty unrelating, but the pace is kept at well-tempered tempo and creates its’ own oppressive atmosphere as it continues. It’s not something you’re going to listen to for entertainment, but by the end of the album, you’re going to feel a real sense of fulfilment. Like the artwork found on the album cover, this is unsettling but also very intriguing. Play it loud and let yourself be fully immersed into it.
THE BLUNDERS. I Can’t Believe it’s Not Better CD (www.theblunders.bandcamp.com) Based in Wiltshire, the Blunders have been around for a few years and seem to have been pretty prolific during that time (this is their fifth CD in as many years.) Musically, they’re like a cross between the more inventive moments of Anarcho-punk and some of the so-called ‘post-punk’ bands. The songs are powerful and compelling, with a strong rhythm section keeping things solid as the guitar sound builds a dramatic atmosphere rather than merely following the riffs. Lyrically, the songs tend to express the disappointment / disgust with the current situation in the UK, sometimes recalling Jason Williamson and at other moments hinting towards the likes of The Mob or (early) Omega Tribe. The whole album works as a very cohesive statement but at the same time the production and arrangements really help to let each song stand-up individually. There’s a lot of thought and creativity that’s gone into this music and that’s what makes it exciting – it’s Punk Rock but not in a style that you’ve heard before. Definitely a band that I’ll hope to see live (as soon as that’s possible.) In the meantime, check out this album on their bandcamp page and give them the support they deserve!
BORN INFECTED. Self Reflection CD (Engineer) Born Infected are a recently established Dutch hardcore band, although the various members have all been playing in other bands for quite some time. As such, it’ll come as no surprise that the songs on this release are powerful, tight and very focused. Their style is a mix of early New York hardcore (Agnostic Front etc) together with hints of bands like Infest and Cro-mags. There might be some metallic influences in the overall mix, but this is more about hardcore as its’ own entity, expressing its’ energy and ideas. Hardcore often gets accused of promoting a macho-culture, but the artwork that this band use belies that interpretation. Indeed, so committed are the band to their ideals, that they have arranged with the label for all profits from this release to be donated to various charitable organisations (Hardcore Help Foundation, Animal Rights and Sea Shepherd.) Born Infected seem intent on bringing awareness back to the hardcore scene and in doing so have also produced one of the best new Hardcore releases that I’ve heard in some time. Be sure to check it out!
BUZZCOCKS. Late For the Train – Live and in Session CD boxset (Cherry Red) The loss of Pete Shelley in 2018 was a sad moment for anyone who had ever enjoyed the music of the Buzzcocks. But it’s when you come across a collection like this, that you realise just how great they were, both in the studio and live onstage. Made up of live recordings and radio sessions, all of these tracks were recorded since the band reformed in 1989 and emphasises how focused they always remained, despite several line-up changes. With Shelley and Steve Diggle at the helm, they always employed the right people for the job! The live recordings come from gigs in Birmingham 1989 (on their reunion tour) Worcester 1993 (promoting their first new album in over a decade, the excellent ‘Trade Test Transmissions’) Paris 1995 (previously released as the ‘French’ and ‘Encore du Pain’ CDs) Finsbury Park 1996 (when they were one of the main supports at the Sex Pistols reunion) and London 2006 (their 30th Anniversary gig, previously released as ‘30’.) The final disk, ‘Buzzcocks at the BBC’, includes radio sessions recorded between 1993 and 2016, for the likes of Jakki Brambles, Mark Radcliffe and Mark Riley. Most of these tracks are versions of songs from their then-current album releases, with only a smattering of older favourites to keep listeners on their toes. In many ways, it was this desire to continue going forward with new material that was the essence of Buzzcocks during this period. Of the six studio albums they released since their reformation, none were a disappointment and some of them were among their very best. These radio sessions put it all in perspective and make you realise that the band never rested on their laurels and always strived to better themselves. The sound quality for the live recordings is generally very good, and even though it might be a little raw in places, it perfectly suits the bands’ chainsaw-guitar sounds. It’s obviously sad that we’ll never get to see the band with Pete Shelley again, but when you listen back to collections like this, you can relive the glorious moments that the band gave us and start to look forward to what they’re going to produce with Steve Diggles new line-up. Long live the Spiral Scratch!
CELEBRATION SUMMER. Against the Gun EP (Little Rocket) This is fine release that recalls the best moments of the DC punk scene from the mid-to-late Eighties, bands like Dag Nasty, Embrace and Ignition… Not a million miles away from what the UK’s very own Dealing With Damage are currently doing, taking those influences but using them to create something of their own. First track ‘Bitter End’ mixes an early Wire-style guitar sound with melodic hooks to grab your attention from the very start. ‘I Don’t Want to be a Burden’ has a livelier sound, somewhere between the previous references and the likes of Sugar or Buffalo Tom, while ‘My Devotion’ veers back towards Husker Du. The title track ends the EP in suitable style, starting slowly before bursting into life in a buoyant, noisy slice of melodic punk rock, somewhere between Leatherface and early Scream. This is a great, vibrant release that really makes its’ own mark, even if it does reference other bands along the way. Check them out here ; www.celebrationsummer.bandcamp.com
THE CHADBOURNE / GONZALES COLLUSION. Irresponsible Rock’n’Roll Shenanigans CD (CIA) Eugene Chadbourne has been an unconventional mainstay of avant garde / improvised music since the early Seventies, playing alongside the likes of John Zorn and Henry Kaiser, before forming the band Shockabilly with Mark Kramer and David Licht. This probably remains his best known project, deconstructing rock’n’roll in an irreverent style that often captured more of its’ primal spirit than any of the note-perfect revivalists. Shockabilly lasted only through the first half of the Eighties, before Chadbourne went on to play with a wide range of musicians, from Jimmy Carl Black (Mothers of Invention etc) and Fred Frith through to Cajun and Russian folk bands. This particular album is compiled from live recordings made during a series of performances in 2019, when Chadbourne played with the renowned rhythm section of Aaron and Stefan Gonzales. The first half of the set has Chadbourne playing banjo and has a more restrained, although no less effective, sound which recalls Delta Blues and Hillbilly music, whilst in the second half he switches to electric guitar and rocks-out, albeit in his own idiosyncratic manner. Most of the songs on this album are cover versions (‘Click Clack’ and ‘Lick My Decals Off, Baby’ by Captain Beefheart and ‘Who are the Brain Police?’ by Frank Zappa) but as you’d probably expect, these songs are just a starting point from which the band jump-off in whichever direction they are taken. There’s a great version of the Syd Barrett classic, ‘Lucifer Sam’, that both embraces and takes apart the original in a fashion that you can’t help but feel that Syd himself would have appreciated. The set ends with a suitably raucous version of ‘Summertime Blues’, taking the attitude of the original teenage delinquent anthem to its’ inevitably twisted conclusion. Perfect! This is one of those albums that manages to be both experimental and entertaining at the same time, which is always a trait that I admire. Play this loud and it makes total sense, but whatever way you decide to experience it, just be sure that you don’t miss it.
THE CHEAP CASSETTES. See Her in Action CD (Rum Bar) Seattle-based power pop band who, musically, aren’t a million miles away from the likes of The Fastbacks and the (much-missed) Exploding Hearts. This is music that’s made to be played loud, but at the same time it’s most definitely there to make you feel good and ensure that you’re having a great time. Perfect for any party where you wanna get everyone dancing, this EP gives you three new studio tracks and two recorded live, making it is a perfect introduction to the band. The live tracks actually reveal a few nods towards The Replacements as well, which certainly isn’t a bad thing. Be sure to hear this – your ears will love you for it!
THE CHORDS UK. Listen to the Radio CD (Epop) Two new tracks from Chris Pope and his band, both of them living up to the high standards of his other recent releases. ‘Listen to the Radio’ is an almost-anthemic tribute to the times when it was actually fun listening to mainstream radio. It’s upbeat, catchy and virtually guaranteed to have you singing along before you’ve even finished hearing the track for the first time. ‘Welcome to My World’ is a slower but no less stompin’ song, which I’m sure is destined to become a live favourite as soon as the band can start playing live again. As a stepping stone between the last album (the excellent ‘Nowhere Land’) and its’ eagerly-awaited follow-up, this is a release that’s going to have fans drooling with anticipation. Combining the best aspects of ‘Nowhere Land’ and confidently pushing them forward, this is a great single and bodes well for the future.
THE CHRIS ROLLING SQUAD. Cannonball Holocaust LP (https://chrisrolling.bandcamp.com/album/cannonball-holocaust) You’d never guess it from the furious sound of this album, but this band are from France. Not that there’s anything wrong about that, but the hard-hitting, hi-energy blast of rock’n’roll that they produce sounds as if it could only ever come from the very depths of Hell… or perhaps Scandinavia. Think, if you can, of a collision between Motorhead and the New Bomb Turks, perhaps with a touch of Turbonegro for good measure. Yep, it really does sound that good. And here’s another thing… they’re only a three-piece band, despite the songs sounding as if they have dozens of guitars playing at full velocity. But the point that really sets them up is that, despite all the insistent energy and adrenalin of the songs, they never lack the kind of melodies that ensure that they’ll remain unforgettable. Together with excellent harmonies during the choruses, there’s plenty in here that’s going to stay between your ears even after the very first listen. If this album is anything to go by, I can only hope that we get a chance to see this band live in the very-near future.
CLAYTON. Escape EP (https://weareclayton.bandcamp.com/releases) Clayton are a fairly new band from Nantes in France, although the individual members have all been involved with other bands prior to this. Their style of punk rock manages to be both melodic and raw at the same time, similar to the sort of songs that Leatherface used to produce. Mix with that a blend of Snuff, Samiam and perhaps even Moving Targets and you might get an idea of what to expect. These six tracks have plenty of energy and catchy hooks that ensure you’re not going to forget them any time soon. This is a band with a lot of potential and I hope they manage to get the attention that they so obviously deserve.
COME CLOSER. Pretty Garbage CD (Pirates Press) Come Closer is a new band put together by J Wang (yup, that’s the only full name he’ll admit to) previously of Tiltwheel and Dan Padilla. This batch of songs are all instantly enjoyable, reminiscent of bands like Superchunk and Ten Bright Spikes… The sound is definitely within the punk rock realm, but also unafraid to indulge in indie-style jangly guitars (think of early New Order, or perhaps Imperial Teen.) If the world was perfect, this is the kind of pop music that would be played on the radios each and every day. But as that isn’t going to happen (too many evil influences controlling the airwaves) this is the kind of album that you need to seek out. Influences come from all directions – Phil Spector’s Wall of Sound, the Replacements grasp of raw melody, Buzzcocks natural understanding of pop as provocation… Basically, this is a great album. Check it out and fall in love at your earliest opportunity!
CONFLICT. Statements of Intent 1982-87. CD boxset (Cherry Red) There was a point in the mid- Eighties when Conflict were perhaps the most important bands within the UK Anarcho-punk scene. They were an incredibly powerful live band, often combining impressive visuals with tight, dynamic performances to deliver statements that really left their mark on the audience. You didn’t have to agree with everything that they sang about, but they would at least make you think about it. While most of the original 76/77 punk bands had long ago split-up or moved on to more mainstream-friendly styles, Conflict presented a new way forward that was both intense and outspoken. This was also the height of the Thatcher / Reagan Reich and following the dissolution of Crass, Conflict became the new focus for the many different protest groups, from CND, anti-Cruise missiles, anti-racism and anti-fascism, through to animal liberation. Whatever your thoughts about Conflict, it’s undeniable that they were an instrumental part of bringing many of these issues to a much wider audience. So, after putting things in context, this new boxset puts together their first five albums and, even considering them on a purely musical level, it presents some truly great records. Their first album, ‘It’s Time to See Who’s Who’, was released in 1983 and while it failed to capture the intensity of their live performances, contained a lot of great songs including ‘Kings & Punks’, ‘Meat Means Murder’ (two years before The Smiths borrowed the title) ‘One Nation Under the Bomb’ and ‘Blood Morons’. They were already playing with expectations, starting the album with the tongue-in-cheek rock’n’roll instrumental ‘Young Parasites’ (complete with hilarious out-of-tune guitar solo) before blasting into their regular songs. Surprisingly, perhaps, the overall sound is closer to earlier punk than would be the case with later albums, but it’s still very-much their own sound and style, ensuring that it remains a great album. Also included on this CD are their first three EPs,‘The House That Man Built’, ‘To A Nation of Animal Lovers’ and ‘Live at Centro Iberico’. But it was their second album, ‘Increase The Pressure’ that gave the first real indication of the bands intensity, even though it was really just half an album (the second side being a live recording.) Songs like ‘From Protest to Resistance’ and ‘Cruise’ (referring to the missiles, not the popular gay pastime) were incredible blasts of energy, whilst never lacking great arrangements and even catchy melodic hooks. Also included on this CD is ‘The Serenade is Dead’, perhaps their best and certainly most thoughtful single. The lyrics and music come together perfectly and it still sounds amazing today, while the other two tracks, ‘The Positive Junk’ and ‘The System Maintains’ could easily have been a-sides in their own right. Having by this time established their own record label (Mortarhate, which would also release great records from the likes of Hagar the Womb, Icons of Filth and Lost Cherrees) the band moved onto their third album, ‘The Ungovernable Force’ in 1986, which presented a more fully realised record, both musically and with the full-colour artwork. Production and arrangements were the best they had achieved so far and made this an album that could not be ignored. Lyrically and musically, it’s not for the faint-hearted but is also breath-taking and inspiring. As with the previous CDs, this one includes additional tracks in the shape of the singles, ‘This is Not Enough’ and ‘The Battle Continues’ (which includes the superb ‘Mighty and Superior’.) The final two CDs in this set are both live albums (Conflict seemed to have a fondness for such things, either using them to benefit worthy organisations or to document specific events.) ‘Only Stupid Bastards Help EMI’ (the title aimed at the band New Model Army, who had recently signed to EMI despite their supposed ‘indie’ credibility) was recorded at the .Nagasaki Nightmare’ festival in Los Angeles, which commemorated the 40th anniversary of the Atom Bombs dropped on Japan. It’s an ‘official bootleg’ so don’t expect hi-fi quality, but it still captures the band at the height of their powers and was released to raise funds for the Anarchist Bust Fund. ‘Turning Rebellion Into Money’, on the other hand, is a recording of the infamous Brixton Academy gig, ‘The Gathering of the 5,000’, where the band were joined onstage by Steve Ignorant and performed a mixture of both Crass and Conflict material. Much that it was an impressive set in its’ own right, its’ legendary status was sealed when a full-scale riot erupted following the show, provoked by heavy-handed police antagonism. Regardless, the album captures an exciting performance, with all the songs being delivered with maximum energy and intent. Indeed, Steve Ignorant enjoyed the event so much that he remained part of the band for their next two albums… As an introduction to Conflict, you really can’t get better than this boxset. Including a 20 page booklet with thorough sleeve notes and full-colour artwork, everything you really need to know is included here. If you’re still not impressed, you’re really missing out.
CONFLICT. Statements of Intent 1988-94. CD boxset (Cherry Red) I have to admit, I’m a lot less familiar with the albums featured in this second collection of Conflict material. I’m not sure why, but for some reason I lost track of them… So it’s interesting to hear them now and realise that I should have been paying attention. Following the infamous gig at Brixton Academy, the band found themselves confronted with more problems than ever before, with legal threats and gigs being banned across the UK. However, they regrouped (now with Steve Ignorant as an integral member) and found that they had plenty of ideas and creative energy at hand, which would fuel enough new material for their next two albums. Released in 1988, ‘The Final Conflict’ was the first of these and it took a distinct side-step from their previous albums. Most notably, the duel vocals of Colin and Steve seemed to make the lyrical content even more prominent and intense, giving the listener plenty to consider, and there was also had a new guitarist, Chris Parish. The new material was still very-much Conflict, but the different input helped to take it in a new direction, adding different musical styles and confronting the negativity and opposition they were currently facing. It was a brave album to produce in the circumstances but also a perfect response, ensuring the band weren’t just treading-water and challenging their audience to keep up with them. The following album, ‘Against the Odds’, also recorded at the same sessions, was in some ways a more solid piece of work, still unafraid to take chances and introduce different ingredients, but also more cohesive and determined. Side one featured the title track, a 15 minute epic that slice-n’diced between different styles and emotions (similar to what the Subhumans had achieved on ‘From the Cradle to the Grave’.) Side two featured five songs of more-regular length, but again played with styles and delivery to maintain the attention of the listeners. From Punk through to folk, carnival music and even industrial- dance, you had to keep on your toes to fully appreciate what they were attempting to do. However, despite the success of these albums, things were destined to go quiet in the Conflict camp as, surprisingly, Colin became involved in the ‘Rave’ scene! But the old punk urges eventually re-surfaced and, in 1993, the band returned with a new line-up and a new album, ‘Conclusion’. It may have had more emphasis on keyboard-arrangements, but the kind of aggressive musical assault that you’d expect from Conflict was still very-much in evidence, as was the lyrical content. It’s an interesting, thoughtful album with plenty of energy to keep the audiences happy, but in some ways it does seem a little fatalistic, as if the band weren’t sure how to take things further. Indeed, it would be their last all-new album until 2003 and, for Conflict to remain valid, this extended hiatus was probably the best thing they could have done. But in the meantime, though, two further albums would be released. The first was ‘In the Venue’, a live recording of one of the few gigs they played around the release of ‘Conclusion’. Combining old and new material, the set is well-recorded and the band were on great form for this gig, suggesting that this line-up could have gone on to establish itself and create some really great music. Unfortunately, the ensuing hiatus meant that never happened. ‘It’s Time to See Who’s Who Now’ was actually been recorded back in 1985 when the band were having difficulties obtaining the rights to their early material from Southern Studios. They approached Derek Birkett of One Little Indian records (who had suffered similar problems with the debut EP by his first band, The Epileptics) and he offered to help them re-record the album, thus by-passing the problems with Southern. Given the benefit of hindsight, the new version featured a different track-listing, omitting some of the original songs to include tracks from their early EPs. As an alternative insight to how the first album could have turned-out, it’s an intriguing document. The band were at their best as a live band around this time and the recordings reflect how tight and powerful they had become, as well as making use of their improved abilities in the studio. The arrangements are more involved and polished, and don’t just try to make a replica of the originals. For some reason it wasn’t released as planned and wouldn’t appear until 1994, giving fans a chance to decide which version they preferred. It certainly shows how well Conflict could reinterpret their older songs, but at the same time, it missed the naïve energy evident on the original recordings. As a result, both are worth hearing for the different perspectives they present. Inevitably, most fans are going to prefer the earlier albums, featured in the first boxset, but there is still plenty here to make this collection valid in its’ own right. Be sure to investigate!
CATHAL COUGHLAN. Sons of Co-Aklan CD (Dimple) Cathal Coughlan was the frontman for the bands Microdisney and The Fatima Mansions, both of which are still held in high regard by fans old and new. Although not musically aligned to the style, Coughlan has always played with a punk attitude (one early-Eighties Microdisney album was titled ‘We Hate You South African Bastards!’) and has had a real knack of integrating political and social issues in his songs without ever sloganeering or becoming clichéd. This album, his first for a decade, adopts a very filmic sound that recalls his previous work without merely reiterating it. The music has a real sense of movement, something that draws you in, whilst the vocals steadily demand your attention. Combining understated electronics with both rock and acoustic instruments, the album carefully constructs the mood and atmosphere, giving Coughlan the space to express his voice in a near-crooning style which effortlessly leads the way. Working together with various musicians from his previous projects, Coughlan has recorded a fine album that plays with textures and emotions but is never less than entertaining. If you’ve never heard his music before now, this may well be a great place to begin to satisfy your curiosity.
CULT FIGURES. Deritend LP (Gare du Nord) The Cult Figures were a Midlands based band who released two singles on Swell Maps’ Rather Records label between 1979-80, the first of which, ‘Zip Nolan’, remains a bona fide indie classic. The line-up of the band seemed to be in a state of constant flux (with Swell Maps themselves acting as backing band for the ‘Zip Nolan’ single) but founding members Gary Jones and Jon Hodgson remained at the core. However, the band seemingly disappeared soon after their second single ‘In Love’ and would not be heard from again until 2009 when the album ‘Live at the Cedar Club 1980’ was released, documenting the unlikely occasion when they supported GBH! It was not until 2016 that Gary and Jon would decide to reform the band, playing gigs and resurrecting some of their (previously unreleased) original songs for the ‘War on Fun’ EP and the subsequent ‘The 166 Ploughs a Lonely Furrow’. True to form, several personal changes took place before they began work on this album, the first to feature all-new material. The results are a lot of fun, combining their original style and energy with an obvious maturity (well, it has been over 40 years since their original activities) but it certainly doesn’t feel old or tired, as some reformations have done when attempting to update themselves. The trick is that they still have great songs and the melodies are strong and catchy, while the lyrics and arrangements reflect their desire to remain different. ‘Zip Nolan’ remains a classic, but who would want a mere reproduction now? Instead, they take the basic elements and drive them towards something new. There are catchy punk/pop songs (‘Julie-Anne’ or ‘Silver Blades’) that aren’t far from Buzzcocks territory, whilst ‘Exile’ takes a slower, almost ‘post-punk’ groove, whilst chiming guitars ensure that the atmosphere never gets too gloomy. ‘White Noise’ delivers a riff that recalls The Stooges and in comparison ‘Concrete and Glass’ veers into almost psychedelic tuneage. The last track, ‘Privilege’, is probably the most raucous and direct song on the album and works well, bringing the album to an appropriate finale. Admittedly, Cult Figures aren’t a band who everyone will be familiar with, but whether you treat them as a new or an old band, you should be suitably impressed with this record.
THE DEAD COATS. Big Wish CD (Dissent) Based in Austin,Texas, The Dead Coats deliver a great mix of raucous Garage-punk and authentic early Seventies hard rock. Based around killer, fuzz-drenched guitar riffs and a solid rhythm section, the songs are driven and compelling, with superb vocals from Lauren V Warner, sounding like a cross between Janis Joplin and Deanna Ashley (Frightwig.) Lauren has an impressive vocal range and delivers some highly convincing shrieks, but always with a passion and authenticity which provides the ideal foil for the musical barrage. The album was recorded using analogue equipment and it sounds really great as a result, like a band playing live and loud and not having to rely on overdubs or studio effects. This is their third album, apparently, and it sounds as if they really know what they want to achieve. The record features just ten tracks, and with only the final song, ‘Good News Last’, reaching the four-minute marker, the whole thing clocks-in at around thirty minutes which is just about perfect (it gives you enough to get into, but leaves you wanting more…) With instantly likeable songs like ‘Fire Again’ and ‘Stoner Ray’, I could really imagine this band becoming pretty popular, although if it happens I hope they stick to the path they’re forging with this album. They’ve got something special going on and I just hope that they can take it even further.
DESERTORERNA. Life in Quarantine EP (D Records) Desertorerna are a long-establish Swedish punk band who have always sung and recorded in their own language. However, finding themselves unable to rehearse or play live during this pesky quarantine, they came up with the idea of re-recording a selection of their previously-released songs, now translated and sung in English (which is much appreciated by linguistically-challenged chumps such as myself.) The four songs presented here are powerful, well-played and given a strong production that really brings out the best of the bands’ style. It’s punk rock with perhaps a nod towards hard rock, but full of catchy hooks and melodies that will quickly have you thinking about checking-out their previous releases. Certainly, this EP has been a worth-while use of the lock-down!
DIAZ BROTHERS. s/t CD (Boss Tuneage) Diaz Brothers (hardly a traditional Sunderland name) are formed around the core of renowned melodic hardcore band HDQ. Original singer Dickie Hammond (also of Leatherface) sadly passed-away back in 2015, but his close friend Neil Cox (ex-Shutdown) was asked to join and, once they were up and running , they decided the appropriate thing to do would be to adopt a new name. The album features ten new songs that blast through at an uptempo pace with plenty of vitality and panache. Obviously, there are comparisons to be made with HDQ but in this context, they’re all very positive. The rhythm section is as tight as you’d expect them to be, having already been playing together for so long, whilst the guitar has a great, chiming sound that will fill your speakers whilst also allowing plenty of room for the melodies to come through. Neil’s vocals perfectly match the music and, although with a raw edge, also embrace the tunefulness. For any fans of the bands mentioned above, this is going to be an essential purchase and it’s great to hear a band finding such a successful way forward after such a tragic loss.
THE DOGMATICS. EST 81 DL (Rum Bar) This collection was previously released as a CD way back in 1996 (under the name ‘Dogmatics 1981-86’) but has been out of print for ages. Original copies are now highly sought-after, making this digital release more than welcome (especially as it also includes a bonus track, ‘Xmas Time’!) The band themselves were highly regarded in the early-Eighties Boston rock’n’roll scene, not exactly a punk band but with enough raw energy and attitude to appeal to fans of that genre. Perhaps if you think of a cross between The Nerves, the Replacements and the Dead Boys, you might get an idea of their musical style… They released two albums during this period and also toured across the States, playing alongside bands like The Replacements, Forgotten Rebels, The Fleshtones and even the Bangles! Their second album was released in 1986 and the band looked set to raise their profile even further, but at the end of that year, founding member Paul O’Halloran died in a motorcycle accident and the band, understandably, lost their momentum. They do still play occasional shows and even released a new EP in 2019 (their first new material in over 30 years) but it’s the material from their original incarnation that still impresses the most. With a combination of rock’n’roll, power-pop and new wave, this collection offers a thorough overview that will no doubt please all of their older fans as well as introducing them to a whole new audience.
DAVID DOVE & JAWWAAD TAYLOR. A Eyes Always On you CD (CIA) Consisting of one lengthy track (just under fifty minutes) the results of this collaboration are in a place where avant garde Jazz meets (early) Industrial music. David Dove plays trombone but, along with various effects and amplification, this is unlike any trombone music you may have heard before (think about Cosey’s use of cornet in Throbbing Gristle…) Jawwaad Taylor mostly works as a performance artist, but as part of this project he provides electronic manipulation, vocals and trumpet. The music they create together is minimal and interspersed with moments of near silence, while vocals only appear occasionally, almost like random snatches of overheard conversations. The effect of this is very atmospheric and quite unsettling. There’s nothing specifically disturbing about the music but it certainly succeeds in putting the listener on edge, almost like the soundtrack to some half-forgotten fever dream. This is music that reaches out and touches you, not in a particularly entertaining way, but rather in a primal, instinctive way that will undoubtedly leave an impression. If you want to hear music that leaves any expectations far behind, then this is an ideal starting place.
DRAGGED UP. D/U cassette (draggedup.bandcamp.com) This is an interesting set of songs from a Glasgow-based DIY combo. I think the obvious comparison would have to be the Velvet Underground but there’s also a lot more going on. Opening track ‘Neighbourhood Watch’ is a slow, unsettling introduction to the band with drawled female vocals, while ‘Heavy Chevy Malibu’ embraces fuzzed-up garage riffs and dual vocals that recall early records by The Raincoats. ‘The Jiangshi’ has a real Lou Reed jangly-guitar pop vibe, while ‘Return of Dafthead’ starts with a quiet, atmospheric intro before distorted guitars take over and propel things at high speed towards its’ conclusion. ‘Happy Birthday, Glen and Phyllis’ is a lengthy track which starts with noisy, slow-moving guitars before switching to quieter, more atmospheric sounds, while the vocals are in a more narrative style. Finally, ‘Voodoo Tabard’ is more upbeat and catchy, with melodic lines interspersed among the fuzzed-guitars. Obviously, this is a debut outing and suffers from the lo-fi recording, but it also has its’ own charm and creativity that suggests that this is a band that we should watch out for.
EARL OF HELL. Blood Disco (www.earlofhell.bandcamp.com) It’s hard to get a full impression of a band with only one song to go by, but if this track is a suitable indication, Earl of Hell could well-be a band to listen out for. Elements of hard rock, punk and garage come together on this single, at different points recalling the likes of The Scientists, Blue Cheer or maybe even early Nirvana. The vocal harmonies during the chorus offset the dirty bass sound and pummeling drums just perfectly, providing the kind of hook that will draw you in. Yup, this is catchy and intriguing, be sure to pay attention.
ELECTRALUXX. Buzz-O-Ramma CD (Rum Bar) Electraluxx are an authentic rock’n’roll band formed by two brothers from New Jersey. And by ‘authentic’, I mean this is going to appeal to fans of Elvis & Scotty, Buddy Holly and Gene Vincent just as much as fans of The Cramps or Reverend Horton Heat. But this isn’t mere revivalism, this band are playing it for real and it comes to them naturally. Guitar, bass and drums recorded with a real live-feel, not exactly lo-fi but with no unnecessary enhancements. You don’t need studio-tricks when the songs have as much inherent energy and style as this album. There’s not a bad song in this bunch and it’s a record you’ll listen to all the way through, not wanting to miss a single track. ‘Time Bomb’ has a vocal style that somehow reminds me of ‘Subterranean Homesick Blues’, while ‘St Marks ‘96’ recalls the spirit of the short-lived but much-missed ‘Coney Island High’ venue, where Electraluxx played many shows. I’ve been unable to find many details about this band but apparently they were around in the Nineties before taking a long break, but are now back and rockin’ like they never went away. If you enjoy vintage rock’n’roll, this will be an essential purchase.
FAST CARS. Once Again…I’m Lost for Words 12” EP (Detour) For every great band that came out of the Punk Rock melee of the late Seventies and achieved at least some success, there were a lot more who failed to get themselves noticed. Listening back now, it’s bewildering that so much quality material failed to make its’ mark although, at the same time, part of the pleasure in continuing to follow this music now is when you come across another one of those bands and discover a hidden-stash of seldom-heard songs. One such band are Manchesters’ Fast Cars, originally formed in 1978. They steadily made a name for themselves on the local scene, playing alongside the likes of XTC, Joy Division and Buzzcocks, as well as recording several sets of demos, although only one single ‘The Kids Just Wanna Dance’, would be released during their original existence and they eventually split-up in 1980. However, fate had further plans for them and over the ensuing decades, the single became a much sought-after collectors item, appearing on various compilations and bootlegs. Inadvertently, the band had created an abrasive style of powerpop that appealed both to Punk and Mod fans and demand for their material continued to grow, even in places as far afield as Japan! When the band members themselves discovered this situation, they decided to reform and played reunion gigs both at home and abroad. Such was the interest that they then went on to record their debut album, ‘Coming… Ready or Not!’, which more than lived-up to the expectations of fans, both old and new. Since then, Fast Cars have continued to play live on an occasional basis and have released several new singles and a second album, ‘Well… You started It!’, in 2007, which featured both old and new material. In recent years it started to seem that all of their original recordings had been made available, until these long-lost tapes were rediscovered. Recorded during 1980 at the behest of a supposedly-interested major label in London, these tracks represent a more anthemic, Mod-style that the band had been working towards, not a million miles away from the best of The Chords or the simple genius of The Undertones. Including a raucous cover of ‘This Old Heart of Mine’ and a bonus track in the shape of a live recording of ‘The Kids Just Wanna Dance’, these are probably the last tracks left in the Fact Cars archives, but are certainly not the least. Fans are going to love this record, and we can only continue to ponder just why the band didn’t achieve more back in the day.
FM EINHEIT. Exhibition of a Dream CD (Cold Spring) This is an enthralling and intriguing album, featuring fifteen tracks spread over two discs. FM Einheit, formerly of the legendary German band Einsturzende Neubauten, gathered together a group of musicians (including Susan Stenger and Robert Poss from Band of Susans) to record varying musical scores which were then completed by dream-based lyrics delivered by an array of guest vocalists, from the likes of Lee Ranaldo through to Genesis P-Orridge, as well as numerous visual artists. Originally conceived and constructed during 2017, the album was originally released on vinyl and was only available during an exhibition in Lisbon at the end of that year. Thankfully for those of us who were unable to attend, it has now been remastered for this CD release. It covers a range of different musical styles and atmospherics to suit each individual narrative, not unlike some of the albums by Coil. As such, it’s an album that maintains your attention throughout, as it works on an insistent yet instinctive level, inviting your participation as a listener to immerse yourself in the sounds and imagery rather than just sitting back and hoping to be entertained. Appropriately, much of the album was recorded in public at the Fondation Calouste Gulbenkian in Lisbon, reaching out to the audience in anticipation of their response. Interspersed with various instrumental pieces, this collection of music is both unique and compelling, eventually ending with ‘Creation Re/Created’, a lengthy track featuring the late Genesis Breyer P-Oridge, recounting a sci-fi styled space adventure. This is a very enjoyable album and, despite the large amount of input from very different sources, comes together as a solid, cohesive album. I can only recommend that you give it a listen and let yourself become a part of it.
FOOL’S ERRAND. The Machete Sessions EP (https://foolserrand702.bandcamp.com/album/machete-sessions) Four new tracks all the way from Las Vegas. Fool’s Errand produced one of my favourite albums of the past year and this new record takes their sound even further. With a style that’s somewhere in between The Business and The Professionals, Fool’s Errand add their own ideas and influences to create something that’s really fresh and new. First track ‘Gatekeeper’, is a powerful, driving chunk of street-punk, quickly followed by ‘Don’t Bring Your Guns’ which is another well-paced song, this time flavoured with some shimmering Sixties-style keyboards and a highly effective sax-break. ‘It’s Happening Again’ begins with a menacing bass riff which opens up into a huge guitar sound that’s reminiscent of Naked Raygun circa ‘Throb Throb’, with excellent lyrics as well. The finale comes with ‘Black Sheep Elite’, which veers more towards an almost hardcore tempo and provides the perfect closing statement. If you haven’t already checked-out this band, you need to do so soon. This is Oi! / street-punk at its’ very best, unafraid to do things differently and intent of delivering the music with total commitment. I suggest you make a purchase soon!
FORD’S FUZZ INFERNO. Deniers of Fuzz Will be Executed EP (Subunderground Control Authority) I wasn’t sure what to expect from this band / duo, but the tracks are all pretty damn impressive. Hailing from Holland (that’s a nice bit of alliteration, if I say so myself…) both members of this combo have been playing in punk bands since the Eighties, but far from sounding tired or jaded, these five tracks don’t mess about and get straight down to the point. Fast and noisy, along with lyrics that have a point to make, the band deliver distorted garage-punk with an almost Hardcore approach. None of the songs are over 90 seconds and blast through the speakers at a reckless pace, proving that although punk may at one point declared itself as something for the kids, in some cases it still finds a way to make its’ presence felt, even if the kids are several decades older. As the band put it themselves, they’re ‘young at heart, terribly good looking and more pissed off than ever!’ In such circumstances, there’s no better way to address the issues than a blast of Punk Rock! Musically, imagine Mudhoney at their fuzzed-out best, in a snotty, sneering collision with the Angry Samoans … trust me, it works really well. This is a great record and you really need to hear it!
FRAU BLUCHER & THE DRUNKEN HORSES. Smile LP (Pogo) Here we have the fourth album from this Belgian punk band and while I’m not sure that the band-name is particularly appealing (it’s taken from a character in the film ‘Young Frankenstein’) they certainly seem to be doing something right for their fans. They play a raw, basic style of punk rock that, at different times, recalls the likes of Motorhead, Vice Squad, L7, The Plasmatics and maybe even Amyl & The Sniffers. The lyrics veer from more-serious subjects (‘No Means No’, ‘God is Dead’) through to gutter-punk existence (‘Teenage Puke’, ‘You’ll Never Get a Girlfriend’.) The production is as raw and basic as the songs themselves and it somehow suits it perfectly. This isn’t the kind of record that’s going to change the world, but listen to it just for the fun of it and I’m sure you’ll find plenty to enjoy!
FRENCH GIRLS. s/t EP (Rum Bar) This is fun! Five tracks of punky-pop with hints of Glam and Garage. Think of a cross between The Epoxies, New Bomb Turks and The Muffs and you may get close to what these guys’n’gals are doing. Five songs and only one of them exceeds the two minute marker (the final track, ‘Make Me Die’ barely scrapes past 70 seconds!) This is the punk rock version of an SAS raid – straight in, do the necessary business and get straight out again. Who can argue with the effective simplicity of that? But at the same time, they deliver some great melodic hooks that’ll get stuck between your ears and stay there, making each and every day a better one for you. Opening track, ‘Crazy Yo!, even borrows a brief spoken interlude that recalls Sixties girl-pop legends the Shangri-Las. I have to say, I’m not sure if they’re all French or even all girls, but when they’re making fine sounds like this, who cares?
THE GLITTER BAND. Complete Singles Collection 3CDs (Cherry Red) Whilst Gary Glitter was undoubtedly the Leader, his original backing band also achieved considerable and well-deserved success in their own right. Their early hits may have been in a similar style but the important thing to note is that the group wrote their own material, which was quite unusual for pop bands at that time, as well as developing the huge, two-drummer sound that propelled the hits. Indeed, their influence on later bands as diverse as Adam & The Ants, The Outcasts and even The Fall is quite readily obvious. It’s not until you hear a compilation like this that you realise just how many hits they had and how many of them still sound great! In 1974, their first release, ‘Angel Face’, quickly rose to Number 4 in the UK charts, combining a terrace-style chorus and pounding tribal beats courtesy. It also reached Top Ten in Germany and Australia, confirming that the band had plenty of musical potential as a separate entity.. A mere four months later, ‘Just For You’ (another self-penned stomper) reached the Top Ten as well, showing that the band were much more than one-hit wonders and also serving as a taster for their debut album ‘Hey’, which reached the Top Twenty the following month. One more single ‘Let’s Get Together Again’ would also hit the Top Ten before the end of the year, whilst their first release of 1975, ‘Goodbye My Love’, reached number two in the charts and remains one of their best known tracks. ‘The Tears I Cried’, released in April, also reached the Top Ten and their second album, ‘Rock’n’Roll Dudes’, repeated the success of the first album by peaking in the Top Twenty. Their next single, however, saw the bands’ style evolving towards an almost Beach Boys style. The fans remained enthusiastic, though, and it scored another Top Twenty hit, but the follow up, ‘Alone Again’ was their first single not to reach the Top Forty, despite critical enthusiasm for their new musical direction. But, far from being past-it, their next single, ‘People Like You and People Like Me’ propelled them straight back to the Top Ten. As 1976 progressed, the band decided to shorten their name to ‘The G Band’, hoping to distance themselves from the ‘Glam/Glitter’ rock era and stress their own identity. However, this seemed to backfire and neither of their subsequent singles were hits. By 1977, the band seemed to be falling apart, with three of the members releasing a single under the less than inspired name ‘Air Traffic Control’. It would not be until 1981 that the band would re-emerge with the single ‘Until The Next Time’, which harked bark to their original glitter-stomp sound. Further singles sporadically appeared throughout the Eighties, none of which were hits but served to remind fans that the band were still out there and still a popular live act. As well as all of the singles and b-sides, this collection also includes rare demos and, for the first time on CD, the ‘Live at The Marquee’ album, originally recorded and released in 1985. For many fans, this is what it was all about, The Glitter Band delivering their inimitable boot-stompin’ sound in front of a loud, enthusiastic audience. Featuring all the hits that you’d expect to hear, plus well-played covers of The Who classics ‘The Kids Are Alright’ and ‘Substitute’ this live album really needs to be heard. Altogether, this is a great collection that will appeal to the die-hard fans for the selection of rarities as well as those who just want to relive the highpoints (of which there are plenty.) Put your platform boots on, wrap some tinsel around your neck and surprise yourself at how many of these songs you can still remember and enjoy!
GOVERNESS. Never Coming Home CD (GVRNSS) This Buffalo, NY based band seem to be on a mission to deliver hi-energy rock’n’roll and this album certainly does the business! The obvious comparison has to be Turbonegro (from around the ‘Ass Cobra’ / ‘Apocalypse Dudes’ era) but they have plenty of their own tricks to ensure this isn’t just a copycat. They’ve got a similar, no-nonsense punk attitude, but aren’t afraid to bring in the influences from the likes of the Dictators or (early) Kiss. You could also throw-in hints of the Backyard Babies, Hellacoptors or the Dead Boys, maybe the Alice Cooper band, perhaps New York Dolls… the list could go on, because these guys obviously know their rock’n’roll background and treat it with the respect it deserves. But that’s not to say they’re precious about it and, indeed, a sense of flamboyant fun permeates the whole of this album. The lyrics mirror the sleazy swagger of the riffs with a suitably tongue-in-cheek style that will, no doubt, upset all the people who deserve to be upset. Songs like ‘B-List Starfucker’ and ‘Bad Vibes’ have such a big, insistent sound that it really is impossible to ignore them. The album starts with a track called ‘1982’ and ends with another entitled ‘1983’. The songs inbetween are all interconnected with the tale of a young punk living through the most important of his formative years, which kinda makes this the ‘Quadrophenia’ of Death Punk… But don’t worry if you can’t follow it, you’ll be rockin’ out nonetheless. It goes without saying, you need to be playing this loud and often!
HAYLEY & THE CRUSHERS. Fun Sized CD (Rum Bar) This band remind me of their Californian forebears The GoGo’s, with a great mix of punk, pop, new wave, surf and glam. Great melodic hooks and vocal harmonies compare-and-contrast perfectly alongside fuzzy guitars and a pounding rhythm section. For some reason (Rum Bar are not usually this secretive) I only got to hear two tracks from this six-song EP, but both of them (‘Jacaranda’ and ‘Church of Flag’) are plenty of fun and, if the rest of the tracks are as good as these, then you’re really going to need to have this record in your collection. The final track is ‘Suzie is a Headbanger’, which I’ll assume is a cover of the Ramones’ classic (despite the different spelling of Suzy/Suzie.) If I’m correct on this matter, it’ll be an entirely appropriate homage and I’m sure it’ll be fun. I’ll be looking out for more by this band in the near future.
THE HEARTDROPS. East Side Drive CD (Rum Bar) ‘The Heartdrops’ was a name originally considered by The Clash before the settled on the latter. I wonder if they would have had the same impact with that moniker? Anyway, this album is from a New York band who existed for a few years around the end of the Nineties, releasing two albums and a few EPs on the Melted label. ‘East Side Drive’ was their second album and considered to be their best. Musically, you need to be thinking of the Ramones, The Pagans, Weirdos, maybe even bits’n’pieces of The Saints and the Dictators. Great rock’n’roll songs played with buzzsaw guitars and vocals that’ll tear at your soul. The songs are all upbeat, though never too fast if you know what I mean, and full of melodic hooks that will ensure your attention from start to end. This is a really great album and I’m surprised I’ve never heard of it before now. Be sure that you take this opportunity to familiarise yourself with this excellent blast from the past!
HEATWAVES. Complete Recordings (2017-2020) CD (Rum Bar) If you could imagine that The Shangri-La’s or The Ronettes had suddenly appeared in the year 2020, adding both classic power-pop and Seventies-style Glam to their mix, then you’ll have some idea of what this band are all about. Since all three of these genres are pretty entwined anyway, this is a recipe that works just perfectly, although as any good cook will tell you, success really depends on who is putting the ingredients together. In this case, the ladies behind this project obviously love their influences and treat them with the respect they deserve whilst remaining unafraid to create a whole new version of their own. Great vocal harmonies, plenty of energy, catchy tunes that’ll have you humming along before they even reach the second verse… the production captures all the elements to full effect and ensure that this really sounds cool. And for extra authenticity, they even include a couple of Christmas songs (‘Xmas Mom’ and ‘What Will Santa Bring’) which sound superb regardless of the time of year. This album is great fun and you don’t really need to know much more than that!
THE HI-END. Class Kicks CD (Rum Bar) When people keep saying that the music scene is dead and that all that’s left is the digital-dross served-up by the self-serving corporate labels, all I have to do is refer people to a label like Rum Bar. Consistently releasing great records by bands that would slip-under the radar of the more business-orientated labels, Rum Bar have carved out a fine home for themselves, which welcomes any true fan of rock’n’roll. In this case, The Hi End present their own twist of the Hi-energy rock’n’roll genre, somewhere between the MC5 and Blue Cheer. It’s hard and it’s heavy but it never lacks the kind of melodies that will stick in your head from the first time you hear them. If this had been recorded and released in the early-Seventies, it would now be classified as ‘proto-punk’ or some-such genre invented for lazy listeners who insist on everything being pigeon-holed. In truth , it’s basically a great rock’n’roll album that will blow your socks-off at thirty paces… Do you need to know anything else No, of course you don’t.
HIGGINS AND THE MAGIC OF THE MARKETPLACE. Dream Consumer Dream! CD (JSNTGM) The ‘Higgins’ in question is Andy, who has been running the ‘Just Say No To Government Music’ label for many years and is also currently an integral part of the very fine band Litterbug. This record, as far as I can ascertain, is a solo album with all instruments played by the man himself (with the possible exception of the drums.) It’s a very accomplished effort, presenting an album of catchy, powerful punk rock that sits somewhere inbetween early Stiff Little Fingers and the mighty Pegboy. The guitar sound is particularly impressive, delivering insistent riffs and power chords to great effect, whilst at other times chiming like Stuart Adamson’s style on the early Skids records. It also reminds me of the recent album by Fools Errand, as they are both playing punk rock but adding their own ideas and character to the music. The production and arrangements keep everything sharp and ensure that it maintains your attention from start to finish. Good, interesting lyrics throughout, sung in a raw vocal style that growls its’ way through the album. I have no idea if Mr Higgins intends to take this project further, but this album certainly deserves to be heard. Fingers crossed that he’ll have a full band ready to play as soon as the venues start re-opening.
HONSHU WOLVES. Cosmic Creature Capture CD (Voodoo Rhythm) The Reverend Beat Man, primal inspiration behind Voodoo Rhythms, has been getting excited about this release for a while, like a man on a mission… He was right to do so. This is something special. Capturing a similar Blues-infused atmosphere as The Gun Club, or the darker grooves of Creedence Clearwater Revival, Honshu Wolves produce an utterly convincing album of psychedelic swamp-rock. They’re only a three-piece band but, even when recorded in a suitably raw Garage style, more than capable of creating a truly captivating sound,. Incredibly, the band are actually based in Berne, Switzerland, hardly the place you’d expect such an authentic take on Americana to be found, but whatever they’re doing, they doing it right. Fronted by the superbly-named Maryanne Shewolf, they have a singer who recalls PJ Harvey borrowing Jeffrey Lee Pierces’ vocal phrasing, whilst at other times she adopts a style more associated with Jazz , Torch songs or perhaps even Janis Joplin. She has a truly impressive style and the band as a whole also have just as much range to their musical style to keep up with her. The tempo’s are kept restrained, although there are times it feels as if it’s going to take-off in a rush and at other appropriate moments, they’re not afraid to build the rhythms up into an almost motorik climax (check out the awesome ‘White Dress’.) This is real, contemporary rock’n’roll, considerate of both its’ past and its’ future, whilst combining genuine atmosphere and emotion to present something really amazing. Listen to this album once and you’ll be impressed, listen twice and you’re going to start getting really excited. Continue listening to it and it just keeps getting better and better. Albums as good as this don’t appear very often… be sure that you don’t miss it.
THE IDOLIZERS. Concretins CD (Rum Bar) The Idolizers are a New York band who play a hi-energy style of rock’n’roll in the same kind of tradition as The Heartbreakers or The Dictators, perhaps with hints of Generation X and The Boys thrown-in for good measure. It’s the sort of music best heard in dark, sweaty venues where the bar serves cheap drinks and the PA is at least a few decibels louder than it really needs to be. Some of the guitar work reminds me of Brian James at his best, while the choruses recall the best songs by either The Briefs or The Dickies. And, as with their previous record, the cover art is truly awesome! You don’t really need to know much about this band apart from the obvious fact that they’re the real deal. Play this loud and often!
INDONESIAN JUNK. Living in a Nightmare CD (Rum Bar) Indonesian Junk, from Milwaukee, have forged their own style and sound over the course of four albums and plentiful touring. You can pick out some of their influences along the way (Ramones, Dead Boys, Cheap Trick and Glam rock - both American and UK versions) but you could never pin them down to any one thing. This is a band that are obviously fans, but at the same time they respect their influences too much to just copy them. Frontman Daniel James has a great voice, somewhere between Joey Ramone and Stiv Bators, with added sleazy tones for a full effect. The music veers from powerpop through Glam to no-holds-barred three chord punk rock, with hints of Americana along the way. This is an album packed with lots of energy and great tunes, the sort of record that you really can’t help liking. Play it loud and often, this may soon become a favourite!
JADED EYES. Call of the Void LP (Boss Tuneage) This is the third album from the much-admired Leeds-based band and it’s certainly their best to date. They remind me of American bands like Dag Nasty, Husker Du and Government Issue, who had come from a more hardcore background but developed a style of their own, embracing musicality without losing any of the energy and power of hardcore. That’s not an easy thing to do, but when you hear a band achieving that aim as well as Jaded Eyes do on this album, it makes for a very impressive record. Going further back, it’s also the same thing that bands like The Ruts or The Wall achieved, taking the energy of early punk but injecting it with a new style and sense of purpose. Jaded Eyes succeed because they’re not content to stick to an established formula and seem determined to make their own statement. Interestingly, the vocals seem to owe much to the likes of Damien Abraham (Fucked Up) and Frankie Stubbs (Leatherface) both singers who use an aggressive delivery almost as a contrast to the underlying tunefulness of the songs. The different aspects serve to highlight each other and draw your attention to everything that’s going on within the music. If you haven’t already seen or heard this band, be sure not to miss this album.
JARS.III CD (P.O.G.O.) As the title suggests, this is the third album from this Russian punk/noise band. I’m surprised I haven’t heard about them before, if their earlier material was anywhere along the same lines as this. Imagine a mix between Big Black, Helmet and perhaps even some classic NYHC…This is a band that clearly have a definite idea of what they want to achieve and, in terms of musicianship and production, they really hit the target with this record. Although unafraid to employ thrashing rhythms where necessary, they ensure that the music itself is powerful regardless of the tempo, and replace familiar ‘hardcore’ tricks with a truly unsettling, uncomfortable sonic delivery. It’s difficult to review this because it’s the kind of music that will have a different affect on each person who hears it… but to my mind, doesn’t that make it even more desirable to hear it?
KEWPID. Tunnel of Love CDS (Rum Bar) Somewhere in between Cheap Trick and the Heartbreakers is the place where you’ll find this Rochester, New Hampshire based band, specialising in a finely-mixed blend of powerpop and rock’n’roll. Great melodic hooks are balanced alongside a big, crunchin’ guitar sound and a rhythm section that nails everything down in the right place. The only disappointment is that this disk only features two songs… surely they could have shared a few more with us, especially if they all match-up to this kind of quality? Whatever, this is still a great place to begin your investigations… fingers-crossed they’ll be back again, soon!
KIRKBY KISS. Bleeder CD (https://kirkbykiss.bandcamp.com/releases) Not too much information about this New Jersey-based hardcore band, but this is their first release and it’s rather good! The three songs are very inventive and veer away from the more regular hardcore styles – in fact, only the second song, ‘Snake Oil’, adopts a fast tempo. The other songs, ‘Fucking Headache’ and ‘Challenge Accepted’, are both based around slower, staccato riffs, emphasising the power of the music rather than merely thrashing away. All three tracks are compelling and unique, although if you could possibly imagine a cross between Helmet and Fucked Up, that might give you an idea of what you’ll be dealing with. The vocals are delivered in a brutal style and the lyrics are intelligent and thoughtful. It’s great to hear a relatively new band taking hardcore forward as effectively as this. Be sure to give it a listen!
KLEISTWAHR. In the Reign of Dying Embers CD (Fourth Dimension) This, the latest album from Gary Mundy’s long-running solo project, is an atmospheric, sometimes disconcerting excursion into a realm of drone-like textures and sonic exploration. Psychedelic undertones are laced throughout the recordings and, whilst vocals do play their part, they seem more a part of the musical whole rather than taking prominence. Rhythms and beats appear but again, aren’t the usual basis of the tracks, almost secondary to the way the music allows itself to develop. Whilst in many ways unsettling, there are also pleasant sounds that provide the necessary contrast, some of which are only momentary whilst others are given space to build. The overall effect creates something that is very natural, as if the music itself determines the direction in which it will go. It may well take a few listens to fully appreciate, but once you submerge into this album, you will find yourself in a very interesting world.
KNOXVILLE GIRLS. In a Ripped Dress LP (Bang!) The Knoxville Girls originally emerged in New York City during 1998, featuring Jerry Teel of the Chrome Cranks, Honeymoon Killers, Boss Hog etc on vocals and guitar, the god-like Kid Congo Powers on main guitar, Bob Bert (Sonic Youth, Pussy Galore etc) on drums and further musical input from Jack Martin and Barry London. As you’d expect from a line-up consisting of such pedigree, the Knoxville Girls present an authentic yet updated version of primal rock’n’roll, somehow passing through generations on a path that traverses early rockabilly and raw country tales, via The Seeds and the Velvet Underground, until it settles with genuine attitude in the middle of the classic mid-Seventies CBGB’s era. The songs are catchy and insistent, burrowing their way deep into your brain from the very first listen. Do you need to know more than this? Most of these tracks were written and recorded around 2000 AD, when the band were preparing material for their first two albums. The songs stayed in the vaults for two decades until Jerry Teel resurrected them, gave them the mixes they’d always deserved and unleashed them as a solid album in their own right. This certainly doesn’t sound like leftovers, this is the real deal. It doesn’t matter what decade it comes from, this kind of quality is timeless. Do not miss it!
LICE. Wasteland : What Ails Our People is Clear LP (Settled Law) Having been around for a few years, this is the Bristol bands’ debut album. It’s exciting to hear a young band creating new music as different to prevailing trends as this is. At times, their avant-garde / experimental approach refers to the original Industrial scene (Throbbing Gristle etc) combined with the more disjointed style of bands like The Slits or The Pop Group. Their usage of self-constructed ‘noise-instruments’ also refers the work and ideas of Harry Partch, so there’s quite an impressive lineage behind them. The music veers between almost drone-like territory through to more rhythmically-driven tracks, whilst the lyrics revolve around a suitably experimental short story (included as a pamphlet with the album) that takes its’ cues from the likes of William Burroughs and Kurt Vonnegut Jnr. This is a pretty impressive debut and it will be interesting / intriguing to see where they can it next. I’ll certainly be keeping my eyes and ears open to find out.
LITTERBUG. Abstract Melodies Saying Terrible Things CD (JSNTGM) This is a great example of a band who mix the energy and melody of early UK punk rock together with the higher-velocity of hardcore to create an excellent, fast-paced mix of styles. You’ll be surprised when you hear them, that the band are just a three-piece, because the production gives them such a big sound. But at the same time there’s a great clarity that allows the vocals to be heard clearly and the tunes to really shine through. Based in Blackpool, they’re in the heart of ‘Rebellion’ country and they’ve obviously soaked-up the different styles and approaches that converge on the town every year (Covid permitting.) You can pick out certain references at different times, but you’d be hard-pressed to settle on any direct comparisons because whatever has gone into Litterbug’s ingredients have subsequently emerged as something that’s very-much their own thing now. Top tracks include ‘Cutthoat Capital’ and ‘Alienated’, whilst the track ‘Straight Edge’ isn’t a cover of the infamous Minor Threat song but their own composition discussing the effects of vices rather than pointing fingers. The CD includes the four tracks from their previous EP, ‘Countdown to Schadenfreude’ (the production isn’t as good as the album, but the songs are just as catchy) giving you a total of twenty tracks that seem to rush by in no time at all. One of the best UK punk albums of recent years, be sure to hear it!
LOCKED IN. Not Dead Yet EP (Epidemic) Italian hardcore band very much in the NYHC style. Locked In were originally active between 2007-2013, touring extensively around Europe before going on hiatus. This is their first new release since they reactivated the band and captures all the raw energy of their sound. Think of early Sick of It All mixed with bands like Moss Icon, combining inventive guitar lines with an abrasive rhythm section and a brutal vocal style. These five new songs are delivered with a genuine sense of rage and emotion, while musically they have great arrangements that ensure that the tracks will keep you attention from start to finish. This sounds like something that the band felt compelled to do, so the least you can do in return is to play it loud and often!
L7. Wargasm – The Slash Years 1992-1997 CD boxset (Cherry Red) I have to admit, I didn’t get to see L7 very early on and I don’t know why, subsequently missing out on several chances to see them live. In fact, it wasn’t until ‘Bricks Are Heavy’ was released in 1992 that I really started to appreciate them, even more so after seeing them live. Having released their two previous albums on Epitaph and Sub Pop respectively, they’d signed to Slash records who, to their credit, did a lot to introduce the band to a wider audience. However, despite near hits with the excellent pop-grunge of ‘Pretend We’re Dead’ and ‘Everglade’, L7 tended to confuse as many potential fans as they attracted. Basically, they were too Punk for many of the Hard Rock fans, too Hard Rock for a lot of the Punks and just didn’t sit comfortably with the music media and their interpretation of what ‘Grunge’ was supposed to be. Truth was, alongside Mudhoney and Nirvana, they were all of these things, which was what made them special. At the same time, they were too popular for those concerned with ‘indie-cred’ but also too raw and unpredictable for much of the mainstream… Well, guess what? Like many of the truly great bands, it took time for L7 to be fully appreciated, and their ongoing reformation in recent years has proved the point beyond any doubts. This new boxset contains the three albums they released on the Slash label, starting with ‘Bricks Are Heavy’ in 1992. Produced by Butch Vig (hot on the heels of his success with Nirvana and Smashing Pumpkins) the album combined the raw energy of the bands’ live performances with arrangements that gave them the opportunity of raids into the mainstream. ‘Pretend You’re Dead’ didn’t need much studio-trickery to bring its’ melodic-insistency to the fore and deservedly broke into the UK Top 30, with their next two singles, ‘Everglade’ and ‘Monster’, also enjoying similar success. The album itself hit the UK charts and, with the singles serving as an introduction to their rest of their music, it seemed certain that L7 would be going even further. The next album, ‘Hungry For Stink’ was released in 1994 and, alongside the single ‘Andres’, returned the band to the UK Top 30. That being said, the overall sound was a lot harder this time and the melodies that attracted listeners to the previous album were not as high in the mix. For established fans, this was no problem as it captured the band in their element, but inevitably also denied them as much media-coverage as it deserved. From a creative point of view, this was one great album and songs like ‘Freak Magnet’, ‘Fuel My Fire’ and the quirky ‘Riding with a Movie Star’ quickly became fan-favourites. ‘Hungry For Stink’ was clearly as great an album as any of its’ predecessors and everything was still looking positive for the band. However, their next album, ‘The Beauty Process’, would not be released until 1997, during which time bassist Jennifer Finch decided to leave the band. Understandably, this altered the dynamics of the band although new bassist Gail Greenwood would join the band before touring resumed. Despite the turmoil, the album turned out to be surprisingly focused and musically a lot more adventurous. The lyrics and attitude were still as sharp and snarling as ever, but the production and arrangements gave the band a lot more space to introduce different approaches to individual songs. The delivery lacked none of the power that they were known but they also played with slower tempos and even a wonderfully-slurred, acoustic ballad, ‘Me, Myself and I’. Creatively, the whole album was a success and demands to be heard from start to finish every time. Everything you want from the band is here – the energy, the tunes and sonic adventure. However, sales were not as good as expected and, even despite plenty of good press reviews, Slash promptly dropped the band. Not ones to give up at the first sign of adversity, L7 continued to tour to great acclaim and recorded another album, ‘Slap Happy’, which was released through their own label, Wax Tadpole, in 1999. However, the band would eventually go on hiatus in 2001, not resurfacing until 2014, which you can find out about for yourselves… The three albums included in this set (all of them including a bunch of additional tracks, as well as a hilarious radio interview from 1994) represent L7 at their very best, still rockin’ harder than virtually any other band of the Nineties, but also maturing without losing their attitude. Listening to these albums again brings back all the reasons why I loved them back at the time and also reveals a freshness that still resonates today. If you don’t already own these records, this set should not be missed!
MAP 71, Belladonna Sunsets DL/7” (Foolproof Projects) Map 71 just seem to get better and better with every release. If you’ve seen them playing live, you’ll already know how the two performers, Lisa Jayne and Andy Pyne, lock together as a musical unit so their ongoing progress should not be a real surprise, but it’s also Andy’s abilities as a producer that bring things ever-forward. He seems to instinctively know how to use rhythms and studio electronics to underpin or accentuate Lisa Jaynes’ vocals in just the right way. The results are atmospheric and highly enthralling, recalling the likes of Can or perhaps Faust in their more contemplative moments. Opening track ‘Nude’ has a brooding, almost menacing tone, while ‘Aces’ adopts a quirkier rhythmic approach with almost dub-like effects on Lisa Jaynes’ vocals. ‘Confessions of an Adrenalin Addict’, despite its’ title, takes a restrained, almost hesitant pace musically, placing more emphasis on the lyrics. Finally, ‘Girlface Occupation’ is based around repetitive rhythms interspersed with electronic pulses, whilst Lisa Jaynes’ spoken-delivery presents suggestions of images for you to grasp. In many ways, this track is the best on the EP, drawing you ever further into its’ minimalist heart. Released as a 4-song download or an ultra-limited two-song, lather-cut 7”, this is an ideal introduction to the band if you have yet to hear them, but will also be more than satisfying for existing fans. Be sure to hear it.
THE MELVINS. Working With God CD (Ipecac) Recorded by the original 1983 line-up (Buzz Osborne, Dale Grover and Mike Dillard) this is the sound of a band really enjoying themselves. From the opening cover of the Beach Boys’ ‘I Get Around’ (here re-cast in true punk rock tradition as ‘I Fuck Around’) you’ll soon pick up that this is The Melvins having fun. That’s not to say that they’re being sloppy with the music, as the delivery throughout this album is consistently powerful and perfectly executed. Even ‘I Fuck Around’ is complete with vocal harmonies that remain true to the original… Second track ‘Negative No No’ visits more recognisable Melvins-territory, based on a compelling riff that ranks among their best, while ‘Bouncing Rick’ takes a hard, almost Metallica-ish style but adds feedback and an underlying sense of menace to create something much more effective. Two tracks (‘Brian, the Horse-faced Goon’ and ‘Fuck You’) are doubled-up on the album, with two-parts to each song. ‘Brian…’ is treated to a short, almost cartoon-like introduction, before the main version kicks-in with a chugging, grungy style that, for some reason, reminds me of L7. A couple of tracks later, ‘Fuck You’ (not the DOA / Subhumans classic, but the unexpectedly expletive-tinged soft-rock anthem by Harry Nilsson) played as a sly, almost Cheap Trick styled boot-stomper, only to be followed by a ‘part two’ that starts, stops and screams within a matter of seconds! Also included here is a new version of ‘Hot Fish’, originally recorded for the excellent Melvins / Flipper collaboration EP, while the album eventually ends with another cover, ‘Goodnight Sweetheart’, originally recorded in the Fifties! It almost meets the ‘two-part’ criteria again, as the track begins with the recording playing backwards before the ‘correct’ version plays through in all its’ Doo-wop splendour! This is an album with a lot of surprises but also plenty of moments that capture The Melvins at their very best. I really enjoyed this record and, unless you’re a cynical old hack, I’m sure you will, too.
THE MISTAKES. A Head Full of Damage LP (Never Be Quiet) Here’s the latest album from The Mistakes, one of the best street-punk bands in the current UK scene. Based in the unlikely location of Poole in Dorset (hardly a town with the wildest punk rock reputation!) this is their second studio album and, much that its’ predecessor, ‘Anti-Social Media’, was a fine record in its’ own right, this new one really is a great jump forward, both in terms of songs and production. They have a style that recalls the likes of Swingin’ Utters or US Bombs, perhaps with a hint of Dropkick Murphys along the way, mixed together with hints of The Business and (early) 4-Skins. The ska-elements that appeared on the first album are less noticeable this time around, with only the two final songs, ‘Drifting’ and ‘Let’s ‘ave it’ adopting that style, although it’s mixed-up with punk rock riffs and done in the bands’ own unique way. Most of the songs take a full-on upbeat punk rock style, with entertaining lyrics, great tunes and singalong choruses. The song ‘Crossroads’ takes an entertaining twist on the old Blues legend, complete with intriguing-narrative and the selling of the drummers’ soul! Elsewhere, fellow South coaster and established fan of the band, Charlie Harper, makes a guest appearance on the song ‘Don’t Push Me’, perfectly matching the bands’ style, This is a great album, full of memorable songs and plenty of energy. If you’re not already aware of this band, you really need to hear this record!
MOUNTAIN CALLER. The Truthseeker CD (New Heavy Sounds) I have no idea what a ‘mountain caller’ might be, but this three-piece (mostly) instrumental rock band from London are definitely worth checking out. They are all about the riff, building a powerful dramatic sound that will draw you in and keep your attention all the way through the album. Quieter moments offer the necessary contrast without any unwanted histrionics or muso-meanderings. They remind me of the band Blind Idiot God, who also played a similar style of driving instrumental rock and were never afraid to bring-in less obvious influences (from classical music through to hard-funk.) The guitar sound is huge and the drums are allowed plenty of space to add colour, but it’s often the bass that propels the music along with a sound that, whilst holding everything in place, also maintains the vital sense of swing that makes this something special. I imagine they must be a pretty impressive live band and I can only hope I get a chance to see them soon.
NEON CHRIST. 1984 LP (Southern Lord) Formed in 1983, playing their first gig on New Years Day 1984 and releasing their debut EP a mere six months later, Neon Christ would also have their track ‘Ashes to Ashes’ included on the legendary ‘Peace/War’ compilation before the end of that year, bringing to the attention of a much wider audience. As their reputation grew, they found themselves supporting the likes of Circle Jerks, Dead Kennedys and Corrosion of Conformity, and also decided to add a second guitarist to the line-up to allow further musical development. However, during a break from touring in 1985, guitarist William DuVall quit the band to join Californian group BL’AST (he would also later go on to join Alice in Chains!) The other members would also continue with different musical projects, but unfortunately Neon Christ were no more. Unusually, the original band members all remained on good terms, even reforming to play a one-off show at the Ratlanta festival in 2008, but it wasn’t until last year that they were approached by Southern Lord records, to suggest a re-mastered reissue of their original EP. The band grabbed the opportunity and William DuVall also suggested extending the release to include tracks from a (mostly) unreleased studio session. The results, re-mastered using vintage analog equipment, are very impressive. Featuring the ten tracks from the original EP plus four from the studio session, the album shows the band developing their sound in a unique and powerful way. Their faster tracks recall early DRI, maybe Bad Brains and perhaps even early Excel, but as they go on, there are a lot more ideas coming in to play, providing a glimpse of how they would have moved even further forward had they remained together. Pressed on 12” vinyl at 45rpm (for best sound-quality) the new record comes in a full-colour gatefold sleeve complete with a twelve-page booklet detailing the history of the band and including many rare photos and images. As far as retrospective releases go, this is about as definitive a document on the history of a band as you’re ever likely to see or hear. They’ve done a really great job with these recordings, and the quality of the material more than deserves it. Be sure to get yourself a copy of this release.
OUTLIERS. Germinal LP (Outlier Communications) This is the debut album by Outliers, a Canadian duo creating experimental music in their own DIY fashion. At first listen, it comes across as almost free-form, but the more you hear, the more you’ll begin to detect patterns and purpose in the collective sounds. Rhythms appear and then fade away or become replaced by an alternative. Some sections are barely audible or even silent but remain integral to the overall effect. The music has a very filmic quality, suggesting a soundtrack for some long-lost avant-garde movie and prompts you to consider your own imagery. It’s difficult to explain or describe this album because it’s the kind of music that is going to affect people in very different ways, much like the early albums by Nocturnal Emissions for example. But if you’re a fan of Krautrock or the lo-fi playfulness of Caroliner, then this is an album you should investigate.
THE OUTSIDERS, Count for Something. CD boxset (Cherry Red) Originally formed in 1974, The Outsiders were fronted by Adrian Borland, who would later go on to front The Sound. However, The Outsiders were a notable band in their own right, developing a pre-punk style that would crossover with the emerging movement with more than average style. Much like The Only Ones, for example, The Outsiders were not strictly-speaking a ‘punk rock’ band, but had enough attitude in common to appeal to the new audiences. Indeed, their first EP (‘One to Infinity’) and album (‘Calling On Youth’) were among the earliest self-released records of the era, appearing on their own Raw Edge label. Musically, their early songs recalled much of the better sounds of the early Seventies, from Marc Bolan through to Lou Reed and Iggy, with other echoes resonating from a broad range of influences. They were up and running in time to become one of the first bands to play at The Roxy Club, but soon fell foul of the music press who really didn’t get the band at all. Undeterred, they continued to work on their music, recording and releasing a second album, ‘Close Up’ in 1978. This was an altogether more accomplished record, with a much more focused approach and less obvious influences. Indeed, much of this (then-) new material saw the band traversing from what was pre-punk through to post-punk territory, introducing and exploring new sounds in genuinely innovative ways. Unfortunately, apart from some encouraging reviews, the music press generally seemed intent on continuing to give the band a hard time and failed to acknowledge their progress. Faced with this, the band began to fall apart and Borland, now working with a new line-up, chose to change their name to The Sound. This new band would achieve critical acclaim even though commercial success still eluded them. Borlands’ mental health eventually began to worsen, possibly not helped by his heavy work load (The Sound, various collaborations and solo records) and sadly, he committed suicide in 1999. This collection of material from The Outsiders compiles their original releases plus extensive demo-recordings, previously-unreleased material (some of which would later be re-worked in the early days of The Sound) and a complete live recording from early 1978. Put together in conjunction with original drummer, Adrian Janes, this is pretty-much the definitive statement that this band always deserved. Care has been taken to ensure that the sound quality is as good as it can be throughout and an extensive booklet presents the story of the band, details of the recordings and lots of previously unpublished photos and artwork. Anyone that’s already a fan of Borlands’ later work really needs to investigate this band, whilst those with just an interest in music that was happening at a parallel to punk rock should similarly make efforts to hear this set. Perhaps at a different time, The Outsiders might have been more successful. We’ll never know, but at least you can hear this and figure out your own opinion now.
THE OUTTA PLACE. Prehistoric Recordings LP (Area Pirata) The Outta Place were a five-piece garage band from New York in the early Eighties. They released two albums on the legendary Midnight label during their brief career, before singer Mike Chandler went on to front the Raunch Hands. They earned a name for themselves by taking the garage revival sounds that were popular at the time but then subjecting them to a snarling makeover to create something new and nasty, albeit also rather catchy. This album releases the tracks from their first demo sessions, recorded back in 1983, along with a handful of live recordings taped at the wonderfully named Dive club in 1984. The demos (songs from which appeared on their first EP) are a little rough‘n’ready soundwise, but this actually suits the material and gives it an appropriate authenticity. The live tracks are loud and raw, capturing the genuine excitement and energy of the band in their natural environment. If you like Garage music that really doesn’t mess around and goes straight for your throat, this album is something you need to hear!
PALE LIPS. After Dark LP (Rum Bar) We all get to feel down sometimes and when that happens, there are records that you can play which might just get you back to feeling good (and maybe even groovy…) This could well be one of those records. Pale Lips are a four-piece, all female punky pop band from Montreal, who know their Sixties references (Girl bands, Garage punk) and bring them upto date via the likes of the Ramones, Undertones and The Muffs. Loads of melodic hooks and great choruses that will sneak into you brain and stay there, alongside all the energy and adrenalin that guitars, bass and drums can deliver. There really isn’t a bad moment on this album (apart from when it ends) and if you need a boost to get you through a bad day, this is going to do the job. Buy this album, play it loud and have a nice day!
PISTOLS AT DAWN. Nocturnal Youth EP (www.pistolsatdawn.com) A 4-track self released CD from this Atlanta-based band (not to be mistaken for the London band of the same name…) They’ve been together since 2015 and have slowly but surely created their own sound which is best described as contemporary hard rock. Based around an insistent rhythm section that’s finely-balanced against powerful yet melodic vocals, the band recall the earlier releases by Soundgarden or Faith No More, owing more to less obvious influences (Killing Joke, Black Sabbath) rather than regular metal. For me, that’s their strength ; they’re not just trying to meet expectations, but bringing their own tastes and ideas to the table and offering them up as something fresh and new. They create a big sound, but there’s also plenty of space for subtlety and it’s that which will keep you listening to the songs again and again. They sound confident and focused, and seem to have a genuine desire to make their own mark on the current music scene. This is well-worth checking out!
MARC PLATT, Colors of the Universe CD (Rum Bar) Best known as part of The Real Impossibles, Marc Platt has a distinctive song-writing style that comes to the fore on this solo album. He has a sly, tongue-in-cheek lyrical talent that looks at life but refuses to take it too seriously. Musically, the songs combine classic power pop with a sound that wouldn’t have been entirely out of place on an early REM album, whilst employing a production that, at different points, recalls dramatic Sixties pop like The Shangi-Las, the Beach Boys or The Kinks. The songs can veer from ballads through to upbeat stompers and this creates perfect contrasts to keep you on your toes as you listen through. This is a fine Pop album that ought to be on the airwaves everyday of the week.
THE POPEBOY COLLECTIVE. Cautionary Tales CD (CIA) The Popeboy Collective is a band based in Houston, Texas, featuring Jim Craine and Dan Workman (formerly of Culturcide) and Bob Weber (ex-Really Red.) A pedigree like this should be enough to pique your interest, but don’t be expecting mere retreads of either band (although the sonic approach, if not necessarily the sound, is probably closer to Culturecide.) The Popeboy Collective present an electronics-based selection of tracks, albeit featuring live drums and guitars. Musically, this is moody and atmospheric, often recalling soundtrack music, whilst vocals are provided by Mary Munson McGee in a narrative style that really holds your attention. It has an experimental edge but is also very compelling and surprisingly accessible. Built around hard-hitting rhythms, the music develops organically, occasional with catchy melodies and elsewhere with dark jazz tones. As befits music like this, the first six tracks are joined by three remixes, exploring further possibilities and adding even more depth to the project. It’s difficult to compare this to anything else, but perhaps you could consider certain tracks by Coil (‘Amethyst Deceivers’ etc) or maybe even Foetus (circa ‘Nail’.) Really, all you need to know is that this works really well and after a few listens it’ll be stuck deep in your subconscious.
THE REDUCERS. Live : New York 2005 (https://reducers.bandcamp.com/album/live-new-york-city-2005) Originally formed in Connecticut during 1978, The Reducers soon established themselves as local heroes but for some unknown reason never really achieved the acclaim they deserved on a wider scale, often finding themselves referred to as one of the most under-rated rock’n’roll ands of the past four decades. This live recording certainly provides evidence to support that claim, capturing an incendiary performance recorded in New York. Sadly, the band came to an end in 2012, after the loss of original member Steve Kaika, but they’ve left an impressive recorded legacy and interest, albeit on a cult-level, has remained strong. Musically, they share some ground with the likes of The Replacements and Radio Birdman, in that they combined a raw rock’n’roll style with a punk rock approach and were also unafraid to infuse less-likely influences to create something unique. For every moment that recalls those classic, early Dr Feelgood albums, there will also be another that’ll have you thinking of the Only Ones or The Wipers. This is possibly a perfect introduction to the band, illustrating the full power of their live shows and featuring songs taken from across their entire career. If you’re not already familiar with The Reducers, this is something that you should rectify soon. Check out this album and discover what you’ve been missing!
DUNCAN REID & THE BIG HEADS. Live at Akkurat D/L (https://duncanreidandthebigheads.bandcamp.com/album/live-at-akkurat) Duncan Reid has kept himself rather busy since his departure from the Boys, releasing four studio albums with The Big Heads and playing live on a pretty regular basis. With one foot firmly placed in Duncans’ 1977 Punk Rock roots, The Big Heads also bring their powerpop influences to the fore with a great selection of instantly catchy songs. They’ve produced some really great records but I do have to say that it’s as a live band that they really excel. They’ve got a great stage presence which, combined with plenty of energy and onstage amplification adds the final ingredient that elevates the songs to the very best. This release is their first official live album, currently only available as a download from their bandcamp page but, once you hear how good it sounds, you’ll be hoping that it gets (at the very least) a CD release in the not-too-distant future. Taped on the last night of their 2018 tour of Sweden. this is a superb recording that really captures all of the aforementioned energy. The set is evenly split between tracks from each of their first three albums, from ‘Montevideo’ and ‘Kelly’s Gone Insane’ through to ‘Let’s Skip to the Good Bit’ and ‘C’mon Josephine’. With such an impressive repertoire of their own material, the band don’t need to rely on songs from Duncans’ illustrious past, but they usually perform one or two along the way and on this occasion (with an appropriate dedication to Honest John Plain) they deliver a storming version of ‘First Time’ that’s guaranteed to please all the fans. Bringing things back to the present day, the band were unable to properly promote their most recent studio album, ‘Don’t Blame Yourself’, due to the pandemic putting live music on hold, so they decided to release this live recording as a stop-gap for the fans whilst they await the all-clear to get back onstage and do what they do best. If you need a nudge to recall just how good they are live, or if (for shame) you’ve yet to see them onstage, then this is something you really need to purchase.
REPTILIANS FROM ANDROMEDA. Must be Destroyed! LP (Ada Muzik) Much that the internet can be a real pain in the arse (yes, I realise the irony of writing that on a website…) one of the things that I really love about it is that it provides a means of communication for bands and other like-minded people from the most unlikely places. In this case, here’s a punk rock band from Istanbul, hardly a place where most of us would even suspect such music would even exist. But here’s the proof and it’s great to know that our community continues to infiltrate places all around the world, particularly countries like Turkey which have less than liberal governments. Impressively, Reptilians From Andromeda are actually worth your indulgence because they’re a rather good band in their own right, regardless of where they come from. Fronted by strong female vocals, courtesy of Aybike Celik Ozbey, the band have a strong, inventive rhythm section and a great guitar sound from Tolga Ozbey, at times coming across as a cross between The Ramones and Vice Squad. There are some more metallic elements in play, but nothing that takes the band too far from their punk rock core. I could imagine these guys would go down really well if they could get to Rebellion Festival… In the meantime, check out these links because this band deserves your support -
THE RESIDENTS. Freak Show – pREServed 3CD edition (Cherry Red) Originally released in 1990, ‘Freak Show’ was an album that saw The Residents progress and evolve in new directions which are possibly easier to appreciate in hindsight. Musically, they began to embrace a more direct, narrative style which would continue through much of their subsequent work. Their more experimental creative ideas remained important, of course, but in a more subtle way, much like subversive undertones. The theme of the album wasn’t so much the exploitative aspects of the ‘freak show’ tradition, but more an exploration of the characters themselves, giving them their own stories and revealing their humanity. The individual tracks are mostly (perhaps surprisingly, considering the subject matter) catchy and melodic, whilst lyrically the songs are insistent and fascinating. In addition to the album itself, ‘Freak Show’ also saw the band expand their outlook into different formats, including an excellent graphic novel and most notably CDRom, which presaged the entire computer game format. The Freak Show CDRom, made in collaboration with noted visual artist Jim Ludtke, was a much-lauded project and the ‘Harry the Head’ video, in particular, pioneered the kind of animated-graphics that would soon be prevalent across the world (in much the same way that The Residents’ early video projects foresaw the MTV format…) ‘Freak Show’ has been made available in different packages over the last 30 years, but this latest release has plenty to make it an essential purchase for both the adoring fans and the curious. The original album has been re-mastered from the original tapes, while the second disc includes previously unreleased recordings of the material (I won’t call it ‘demos’) that would eventually become the finished album. The third and final disc contains live recordings of tracks from the LP, recorded on various live outings between 1991 and 2018. Again, in the same way that it’s interesting to hear how the original ideas developed into the completed album, the live recordings give you a chance to see how they continued to develop over the years, giving the songs new relevance within different projects… The Residents can never be accused of standing still and that’s why we still love them! If you’re not already familiar with this album, this is a great way to discover what you’ve been missing! It’s a classic in its’ own right and one that you can’t afford to miss.
REVERSE. Empty Spaces LP (Boss Tuneage) Reverse have been around for quite some time, originally forming in 1990 and releasing several well-received singles on the Damaged Goods label. They specialised in catchy, melodic punk much along a similar path to the likes of Senseless Things and Mega City Four. They split-up for the first time in 1997, reforming briefly to record an album, ‘Chasing Ghosts’, in 2011. But they’re now back again with this fine album, that draws together all the best aspects of their previous records and delivers a powerful, upbeat set of songs that will have you singing along in no time. When you hear an album that sounds like the band are having so much fun, you can understand why they keep returning to it. You can’t really say that they’ve changed their style much over the years, but they’ve certainly got even better with it and this album sounds fresh and exciting. I hope we won’t have to wait another ten years for the next one!
REYNOLS. Gona Rubian Ranesa LP (Outlier Communications) I really wasn’t sure what to expect from a band described as ‘Argentinian Psychedelic Rock’, but it proved to be a pretty interesting escapade. This is the first new studio album from the band in 17 years and, by all accounts, finds the original four members taking their style and sounds forward rather than just rehashing their past. Musically, this is closer to Krautrock bands like Faust or Can than ‘regular’ psychedelia, although you can also detect moments that recall some of The Seeds’ more experimental leanings. The songs are pretty lengthy and, whilst not exactly free-form, the sounds are allowed to develop at their own natural pace. At its’ best, the music has a really dream-like quality that draws you in and lets you imagine your own narrative. The vocals tend to be low in the mix, adding to the dreamy elements like misheard segments of a distant conversation. This isn’t going to appeal to everyone, but if you’re a fan of the more experimental edges of alternative music, this is something you really need to check out.
ROME. Parlez Vous Hate CD (Trisol Music) I enjoyed the previous Rome album, ‘The Long Furrow’, but this record finds them more confident, more focused and creatively even more successful. Although the project is mostly-based around Jerome Reuter, this album sounds like a full band working together towards a definitive goal. The title track opens the album with an upbeat almost anthemic quality and has an immediate, insistent quality that draws you straight into the record. Rome are usually associated with the so-called ‘Neo-folk’ scene, but this album is certainly not content to stay within those, or any other, confines. Lyrically, the song addresses the current political situation across Europe, where cheap populism and the right wing are being allowed to lead people into cultural dead-ends (indeed, Reuters’ forefathers fought against the Franco’s fascists in Spain and the Nazis during World War Two: obviously he now feels a duty to speak against such trends in the current world. ‘Born in the EU’ (a tongue in cheek reference to Springsteens’ classic) speaks of the pride and shame you feel towards your homeland, whilst also declaring the need for countries to work together rather than sitting back in selfish independence. Musically, the album progresses through different styles and atmospherics, from some that are more attuned to neo-folk (‘Der Adler Tragt Kein Lied’, which translates as ‘The Eagle Wears no Song’) through to the almost Celtic-sounding ‘Toll in the Great Death’ and the filmic qualities of ‘Feral Agents’. ‘You Owe me the Whole World’ speaks of optimistic demands for the future, protest that isn’t just in reaction. Superficially, you could call this album melancholic or bleak, but scratch the surface and you’ll soon find a positive stance, demanding a way forward rather than just accepting the stagnation. This isn’t the sort of music that I listen to, but it’s also an album full of drama and melodic positivity that you just can’t ignore. Trust me, the title track will hook you and the whole album will surprise you. Do your best to hear it.
SAFETY. Greetings from the Sunshine State. EP (Jetsam-Flotsam) Originally forming in Florida in the early Noughties, Safety have steadily built-up a solid following on the East Coast of America, combining DIY ethics with an impressive studio sound that they’ve honed over the subsequent decades. Imagine a cross between Buffalo Tom, Rites of Spring, Soul Asylum (circa ‘Hang Time’), Senator Flux and Husker Du’s more tempered moments. Not being familiar with their earlier releases, I can’t really say where this EP fits in with their ongoing development, but as an individual release, it’s powerful, catchy and emotive all at the same time and makes me want to hear more. Fingers crossed that won’t take too long!
SCARY HOURS. Margins CD (Engineer) Based in New Jersey, Scary Hours is the project fronted by singer/songwriter Ryan Struck. Having started his musical career in punk and hardcore bands, he eventually adopted a less-aggressive style for his songs, although always maintaining a confrontational approach towards his lyrics. In early 2020, he returned to his hardcore roots to release ‘Bullet Fairy’, combining the music and lyrics as an appropriate, raw protest against America’s recent trend towards right wing policies. It was met with enthusiasm, so this latest release takes that idea even further. ‘Margins’ features eight tracks (one of which is an impressive cover of the Bad Brains classic ‘How Low Can a Punk Get’) which combine fast, aggressive hardcore with interesting arrangements whilst also bringing-in melodic elements from different genres (Emo, post-punk etc.) It’s an effective collection of songs that feature an impressive diversity of styles, but still comes together as one very solid album. This is well-worth your investigation and I’m sure it’s going to appeal to a wide audience within the hardcore community.
THE SEX ORGANS. I Hate Underpants 7” (Orgiastic) The Sex Organs are a self-styled ‘Intergalatic Garage Duo’, who were previously exposed by the excellent Swiss label, Voodoo Rhythm. There’s been a trend for two-piece garage bands in recent times, but most of them have completely missed the point by taking the whole thing far too seriously. The Sex Organs, in comparison, get the deal just right and inject their noise with plenty of FUN rather than concentrating on musicality. As such, what we get are silly songs that capture the excitement of the moment and melodic guitar hooks that’ll get you wanting to bop around the dance-floor within moments… It’s rock’n’roll, garage, glam and punk rock at its’ most basic form and it’s all the more wonderful for it! The b-side, ‘Where is my Dildo?’ has the kind of catchy singalong chorus that’ll have every uptight prude in the audience throwing caution and inhibitions to the wind. Trust me, this is a great slice of fun!
THE SHAN. X-Flies EP (https://theshan.bandcamp.com/album/x-flies) Three-piece, Edinburgh-based Garage-punk band that create a huge, trashy sound that owes as much to the Stooges as it does to The Cramps. They may be a total DIY operation, but they obviously have a highly-focused vision of what they want to achieve, as these three tracks prove. First song, ‘Grave Love’, keeps a steady pace that allows the drums, bass and guitar to do all the damage they’re capable of committing. ‘Bits of Shit’ stomps through the speakers like a buffalo with a bad attitude, while ‘Bullets’ raises the tempo to take things to a suitably-dynamic climax. The distorted guitars and thumping rhythms might rule this roost, but there are also plenty of melodic hooks that will keep your attention while you’re turning the volume all the way up. By the evidence presented by these three tracks, I really wouldn’t want to be in a band that had to go onstage after them!
THE SHANG HI LO’s. Kick it Like a Wicked Bad Habit CD (Rum Bar) This is great! A five-track EP introducing this new Boston band. The members have all been playing in other bands for quite a while, so they obviously know what they want and how to achieve it. In this particular case, what they’re aiming for is a well-balanced mix of punky-pop and older rock’n’roll traditions from the Fifties and Sixties. Think of The Ronettes hiring the 1978 version of Blondie as their backing band, or maybe the Muffs being produced by Shadow Morton. Like the New York Dolls or (early) Cheap Trick, there’s plenty of drama in these songs but the important thing is always the melody. The boy/girl vocals and harmonies work so well and rally draw you into the overall sound. You could imagine these songs forming the soundtrack for some really cool movie about juvenile delinquents (as long as it has a happy ending, of course, although songs like these pretty much guarantee that outcome.) I just hope we get a chance to see these guys live at some point, because I’m sure it’ll be a blast!
THE SICK ROSE. Shaking Street LP (Area Pirata) The Sick Rose originally formed in 1983 and are regarded as Italy’s premier Garage rock band. This album was first-released in 1989 and consists of twelve great tracks, including a surprisingly sensitive version of the MC5 classic, a cover of ‘Raining Teardrops’ by obscure Australian singer Barrington Davis and a stomping version of ‘Up is Up’ by the Real Kids. But it’s their own songs that really make the mark, twisting the raw sounds of The Seeds and coming out like a nastier version of The Fuzztones. Plenty of melodic hooks that’ll keep you attentive even when the guitars are fuzzed-up to maximum, and vocals that will soon have you singing along. This is the kind of album that’ll have you searching the internet to hear everything else they’ve recorded… in the meantime, be sure to hear this. Light the fuse and get up close!
STARE TASMY. Kryzys Czytelnictwa CD (Fourth Dimension) As you can probably tell be the name and title, this band ain’t from these parts… Stare Tasmy are from Krakow in Poland and combine different styles ranging from post-punk through krautrock, jazz, no wave and improvisational music, to create something that’s very much their own. Some tracks recall the kind of rhythmic groove that Faust could create at times, whilst others go for a more jazz-punk style with the sax wailing in the foreground. The vocals are spoken and instead of a regular song-style, the narratives are taken from newspaper-texts, both current and older. Additionally, they intersperse the voices of politicians found on old, discarded cassettes (the bands’ name actually translates as ‘The Lost Tapes’…) Overall, Stare Tasmy produce an almost filmic atmosphere which ensures that you’ll pay attention and want to know what will happen next. This is a really interesting album and I could imagine that it would appeal to people with different musical tastes. It’s very atmospheric and, even though the vocals are all in Polish, it doesn’t really distract from the overall effect. This is something that you really ought to hear!
STAY AWAKE. Portraits EP (www.stayawakeofficial.bandcamp.com/album/portraits) Stay Awake are a contemporary, melodic hardcore band based in Bangkok, although the members are from various different countries. Musically, their sound is a very accomplished mix of styles, at one moment recalling Bad Religion or Dag Nasty, while the next veers towards Rise Against or Hot Water Music. There are some hard rock influences as well, adding further depth to the overall production. Having toured throughout South East Asia and Japan, the band have honed their style effectively and bring it to the studio with a real sense of focus. For anyone who thinks punk rock died out in the Seventies, here’s proof that it lives on and keeps spreading the message, even to far-flung places like Thailand!
THE STAYAWAKES. Pop Dreamz CD (Engineer) This is a convincing mix of early UK New Wave (The Jags, The Starjets) classic American Powerpop (The Nerves, The Quick) and perhaps with hints of US Nineties US indie (Buffalo Tom, Dinosaur Jnrs’ more tuneful moments.) The Stayawakes seem completely unashamed by their melodic, accessibly approach to guitar music and that’s why they do it so effectively. Every song will remind you of something you’ve heard before, but you won’t be quite able to put your finger on the source. The Stayawakes aren’t here to change the world, or change your life, their here to .provide a soundtrack for beach parties (and coming from the South Coast of England, they may even find some.) Different moments will recall anything from Cheap Trick through to Greenday, but they’ll have moved on to the next song before you realise it. If you want a great Pop album, this is what you’re looking for. Sadly, it probably won’t be played on the radio waves, but that’s where it deserves to be.
THE STEREOTYPES. Forward CD (Only Fit For the Bin) The Stereotypes were a short-lived punk-band from Ilford in Essex, formed in 1979. According to legend, they only played one gig before having a big argument and promptly splitting-up! However, they did manage to record one EP, ‘Countdown’, which has since become one of the most sought-after singles from that era within the collectors market. After being informed of the continued-interest in the record, the original band members decided to take the opportunity to reform and record their original songs (plus a few new ones) and the results are now to be found on this album. It’s actually a rather good record… 42 years down the road, they’ve managed to capture the spirit of the original era and whilst no-one is going to be making claims about them being one of the great lost punk bands, they certainly had a good idea of what they wanted to achieve and they wrote songs that weren’t just imitations of the popular bands of the time. Songs like ’40 Years Too Late’ (with anti-fascist lyric that sadly remain relevant) embrace a basic but effective three-chord punk style, while others, like ‘Watch Your Step’, take more of a Sixties-garage style complete with authentic twangy guitar, illustrating that the band had plenty of ideas and weren’t just content to stick to one style. Indeed, had they not split-up so soon they may very well have become a very interesting prospect. Of course, that didn’t happen, but it’s great when bands like this get a second-chance and really make the most of it. This is a fine album that more justifies their return to the punk rock world!
THE STRUGGLE. Tension Rising / It’s Not Too Late –digital-(Pirates Press) I’m surprised I haven’t come across this band before now, as these two tracks sound great. Having said that, they were based in Darlington so perhaps that’s why a pasty-faced southerner like myself never crossed paths with the band… And now, by all accounts, they’ve split-up so I’m way too late to the party… Anyway, fortunately they recorded these two songs as a farewell gesture and, as I said, they’ve very impressive. Loud, brash street-punk with elements of American bands like Pegboy or Swingon’ Utters. Great production as well, with the guitars sounding big in the mix but also leaving room so everything else remains clear and effective as well. At the moment, these tracks are only available digitally, but keep your fingers crossed because they really deserve to be on vinyl. On top of all this, all profits from this release will go to support the excellent Leeds’ music venue, Boom (as with many other venues, currently struggling to keep itself viable during the lockdowns.) So be sure to check this out – I’m sure you won’t be disappointed. www.thestruggleuk.bandcamp.com
SUNDAY STATE. S/T LP (Snappy little Numbers) This is something of a Pacific North West special, featuring as it does a fine selection of musicians from those latitudes. Michael Carothers and Kurt Foster have been involved in the Portland music scene for several decades but only recently began to work together. The results were clearly encouraging as they soon gathered other friends/musicians together, including Mudhoney’s Steve Turner, to fill-out the band. The results are pretty impressive, although quite possibly not what you might at first be suspecting. This album covers a lot of ground, from country and blues through to powerpop and fuzz-tones. Foster has the kind of voice that can tackle different styles with panache, evoking real emotion and sentiment, while the band pulls together a musical mesh that sort of recalls the likes of Thin White Rope or Young Fresh Fellows (whose Scott McCaughey also makes a guest appearance.) Given the right coverage and radio play, I could imagine this album becoming very successful, although these days it’s just as likely that it’ll be missed by most of the potential fans. Don’t make that mistake yourself – be sure to check this out!
TOMAHAWK. Tonic Immobility CD (Ipecac) It’s been eight years since the last Tomahawk album, so this release could not be more-welcome. Together with the super-tight rhythm section of Trevor Dunn (Mr Bungle) and John Stanier (Battles), Tomahawk is based around the unique guitar style of Duane Dennison (Jesus Lizard etc) and the inimitable Mike Patton. Together these musicians have a singular chemistry that comes together to create dramatic, mini-soundtracks with truly epic sounds, each song suggesting great cinematic themes. But however lofty these results may be, they also remain very accessible and enjoyable. Indeed, it’s been commentated on previous occasions that the music that Tomahawk creates is the closest to Faith No More that any of Pattons’ projects have been. To some extent that’s true, as the approach, pace and delivery does cover some similar ground, but when you dig further into the individual nuances of each band member, there are plenty of differences that make Tomahawk a very distinct beast. Furthermore, I get the impression that it’s actually Dennisons’ input that really drives this album, and he has plenty of his own style to not have to lean on those of someone else. As a result, the songs effortlessly cross between hard rock, avant garde and hard grooves, owing as much to the likes of Scratch Acid or Laughing Hyenas as it does to their own previous works. Unafraid to slow things down to slow, sparse tempos to build the tension and contrast with the more direct moments, this is an album of subtle surprises and it’s that which keeps you on your toes. I have no idea whether Tomahawk will tour again and, even if they do, will they make it back to the UK, but hearing this album really makes me want to see them live again. Regardless, be sure to hear this album. As they declare themselves, “We are Tomahawk and we approve this message”.
TV PRIEST. Uppers CD (Sub Pop) How this London-based band ended up on Sup-Pop was the first question that entered my mind ,although once the album started playing it didn’t seem to matter any more. ‘Big Curve’ kicks off the album with an awesome, repetitive bass sound that recalls Big Black at their best, whilst the vocal style is somewhere between Mark E Smith and Joe Talbot (Idles.) The drums propel the rhythms along in an almost industrial beat, while the guitar sound tends to veer away from the more usual noise you might associate with this style of music, opting for more atmospheric or filmic tones. The vocals are fairly monotone at times and do take a few moments to get used-to, but once they settle-in they work pretty effectively. There are hints of Joy Division at times and even a few moments that recall the more raucous moments from David Bowie’s late Seventies’ albums. The production and arrangements make the most of the raw material to present a pretty effective album and overall this is a very promising debut LP. Whilst the band may still need to really stamp their own character into the songs, this is something that suggests that they may well be on the verge of producing some really great music. In the meantime, this is something that you should be investigating.
UNGRAVEN / SLOMATICS. Split LP (Blackbow) Three tracks from each band, all of which are going to please any fan of slow, powerful riffs. Ungraven feature Fudgetunnel bass player David Ryley and, whilst they do tend to stick to their riffs, it’s the percussion that really gives their tracks a sense of movement and progression. The guitar tones sometimes remind me of The God Machine at their most intense (tracks like the awesome ‘Home’) and the effects they create are almost drone-like at times, even bordering on psychedelia. Their second track, the epically entitled ‘Onward She Rides to a Certain Death’, is probably the best song on this release, deceptively catchy whilst driving forward on a barrage of drum beats. Slomatics, who come from Belfast, are more indebted to the Black Sabbath influence, with vocals that veer more towards Ozzy’s style, or perhaps even Buzz Osborne (The Melvins.) But it’s the relentless, repetitive riffs that are going to hook you and refuse to let go. For my money, Ungraven are the best of the two but both bands deliver some great tracks. If you enjoy being sonically pummelled, this release is for you!
VENUS FLY TRAP. Time Lapse 1989-94. CD (Glass Modern) This is a collection of tracks original released on the three albums ‘Totem’, ‘Pandora’s Box’ and ‘Luna Tide’, released in 1989, 1991 and 1994 respectively. But instead of just serving as a sampler, the songs have been compiled as a new album in its’ own right, offering a suggestion of how a complete record might have been had these tracks all been available in the same time-frame. It’s a much more interesting way to revisit these recordings and, despite their different origins, the songs do come together very effectively. The overall sound is an electronic-based rock-style rather than avant-garde or experimental, creating powerful, emotive songs that deserved to reach a much-wider audience. Some tracks, like ‘Sidewinder’, explore darker, atmospheric territory, similar to some of Gavin Fridays’ solo material. Others, such as ‘Achilles Heel’, deliver a much harder rock sound while ‘Shedding Another Skin’ takes a style that recalls lounge music! The important thing is that the diverse styles actually compliment each other, creating a solid album that sounds surprisingly contemporary, illustrating how ahead of the game this band were. Closing with the haunting acoustic track ‘Heretic’ is a bold way to end the album, but all the more effective for taking that chance. Having released numerous albums over their lengthy career, this is a great way to discover this particular era of the band and presents the perfect gateway for further investigation. If you’re interested in the development of electronic music and the different styles that it embraced and influenced, this will be a great album to hear and enjoy.
VIRUS. Pathogens CD (Grow Your Own) This album was actually released in 2019, but as I’ve only recently got to hear it, I’m including a review here as, while we’re waiting for their next record, this is still very- much worth checking out. Virus were originally together between 1983-86 and, apart from a one-off reunion on 1996, it wouldn’t be until 2006 that they became active once again. ‘Pathogens’ is the third album they’ve recorded since then and, whilst the earlier material certainly isn’t bad, this is by far the best. The music, while firmly based in their anarcho-punk roots, is now more varied, combining elements of hardcore (UK and US) with occasional Ska riffs, melodic hooks and imaginative arrangements, all brought together with a great production. In some ways, although not necessarily sounding like them, this album reminds me of the way that the Dead Kennedys would bring together unlikely elements to make their individual songs stand out. It ensures that they never lose your attention and remain enjoyable throughout the album, rather than settling down into a predictable style. Lyrically, the songs are also more focused and, with so much to protest at this moment in time, the subject matter is all there to be addressed. Perhaps most interesting are the songs ‘Duplicate’ and ‘Pretence’, which seem to be aimed towards bands who reform without any of their original intent or purpose, or individuals who adopt the punk style as little more than a shallow image. Virus themselves may have reformed after a lengthy gap, but have clearly done so to create new music and to express their current concerns. This is the kind of validity I look for when a band returns to the fold and this record more than justifies their second time around. This album is also available on 10”vinyl, featuring the latest eight songs, whilst the CD includes nine additional tracks from previously-released singles, so be wary which version you decide to get (or just go wild and buy both!) Either way, you really need to hear this album.
WALKING ABORTIONS. Child Labour ’94-’97 Cassette ( thewalkingabortions.bandcamp.com ) The Walking Abortions originally formed in 1992, when two 12 year old punk rock fans contrived to write their first song, ‘Four White Walls’. Taking things forward, they recruited two more members and, once enough songs were written, started playing live. Coming to the attention of Jimmy Pursey in 1994, they ended up supporting Sham 69 on a tour around the UK before this initial line-up promptly split. They re-emerged in 1995 as a three-piece and after further gigging, recorded an EP for renowned German punk label, Incognito, before yet another line-up change saw them back as a four-piece again. More and more gigs led to them recording a second EP for Damaged Goods in 1996, but despite things seemingly going well for the band, they then split-up for good in 1997. All of this before any of them had even turned 18! This compilation brings together the tracks from their two EPs plus previously unreleased demos. The band stuck fast to their original influences, playing a raw, lively style of punk rock that really didn’t care if people liked it or not. Think of the bands that appeared on the legendary ‘Raw’ label, like the Killjoys, The Users and Some Chicken… With song titles like ‘Love Virus’ and ‘You Give Me an Ulcer’, they were obviously not worried about being accessible, but at the same time, many of their songs contained really catchy melodies that still stand-out to this day. Although the recordings don’t have the greatest sound quality, it somehow suits these songs perfectly, adding to their authenticity in the same way that lo-fi often works so well for Garage bands. Appropriately, the tracks from their second EP were co-produced by Andy Blade of Eater, another band (originally) noted for their underage abilities, while the tracks from their final demo in 1997 show a band who were getting more inventive with their songs, also including a great cover of ‘Vertigo’ (originally by Open Sore and featured on the ‘Farewell to the Roxy’ album.) If you ever saw or heard the band back at the time, you may have an idea of what to expect, but give this a proper listen because many of the songs sound surprisingly fresh and have stood-up well over the years. I thoroughly enjoyed hearing them again!
THE WALL (feat IAN LOWERY). A New Way to Peroxide CD (Spectacle Music) With the sad loss of original member Andy Griffiths, it seemed as if we would not be hearing anything more from the criminally-underrated band The Wall. However, it turned out that Spectacle records had been attempting to release a set of demos recorded way back in 1979, featuring the bands’ first singer Ian Lowery (who later went on to front other excellent bands like Ski Patrol, the Folk Devils and King Blank.) Indeed, the demos had been recovered and remastered by Ian’s brother, whose original plan was to issue a CD featuring these previously unreleased tracks alongside the two singles (‘New Way’ and ‘Exchange’) that the band recorded with Ian whilst they were signed to the seminal Small Wonder label. The latter part of this project was delayed as the rights to the singles were owned elsewhere, so initially a limited CD just featuring the demos was released. But eventually, Spectacle got the permission needed and the complete project is now available. The tracks from the singles sound as great as ever, taking the raw energy of punk rock but adding their own ideas and character to create something that was taking it all forward. But it’s the demo tracks that will be the real treat for fans. ‘Another New Day’ is a fine, lively version of a song that would appear on the b-side of the bands’ third single, while the version of the a-side, ‘Ghetto’ is incredible! This is already one of my all-time favourite singles, but this demo version is even more abrasive than the single, with a brutal guitar and drum sound propelling it along at a hectic pace while Lowery’s vocals nail it perfectly! Trust me, there isn’t a bad song on this album, but it’s worth buying even if you only play this track! To complete proceedings, there’s a version of ‘One Born Every Day’, which would appear on the bands’ first album, and the otherwise unreleased ‘Peroxide’, a fine blast of (early) UK Subs-styled punk rock. Finally, if you’re paying attention, there’s also a ‘secret’ track, ‘Casual Labour’. Unfortunately, this is taken from a rehearsal tape so the quality isn’t so good, but it features a song not properly recorded by The Wall which Lowery subsequently took to his next band, Ski Patrol, giving an indication of how The Wall may have continued had they not parted ways with their original singer. Overall, this album is an essential purchase for anyone who appreciates that ‘punk rock’ was never supposed to be just three-chord copycats. The Wall produced some truly great records and were always an incredible live band. This release just adds to their legacy.
V/A THE DOG THAT WOULDN’T DIE CD (CIA) This is a very worthy and cool reissue. Originally released as a cassette back in 1986, this was a compilation that had no boundaries. It set about to document bands who were intent on producing something new and vital, regardless of genre. As such, you get chunks of punk, experimental, industrial, noise and hardcore, all stating their case effectively and with a relevant amount of entertainment. Just because you’re trying to be different, doesn’t mean that it can’t be fun! The album kicks off with wonderfully named ‘Field Marshall Reverend Dr Fred Lane with Ron Pate’s Debonaires’ and a genuinely demented helping of rockabilly entitled ‘Upper Lip of a Nostril Man’. Those are the kind of titles that are either going to appeal to you or put you off, so it’s a good place to start and a fair indication of what you’re going to discover. Keeping in mind that these recordings are now over 35 years old, many of the bands are even more obscure now than they may have been at the time, but that certainly doesn’t mean that their contributions don’t hold up in retrospect. Some of the bands, particularly The Pain Teens, MyDolls and Culturcide, went on to wider appreciation (on an underground level, at least) but there are also great tracks from the likes of Colera, Anderson Council (with their mellow, laid-back version of ‘Anarchy in the UK’) and the unlikely named Party Owls, with their short but unforgettable ‘Check Your Dick for Spots’. Problemist, with ‘Reagan’s Colon’, present a genuinely unsettling piece of industrial psychedelia, while Solid Waste Division mix wailing saxophone with metallic percussion and heavy bass to great effect. Naked America remind me of recent Anarchistwood material (a good thing to my ears) and while the final track, ‘Ca-Ca-Convention’ from the Anarchitex combines punk, funk and jazz to deliver a perfect conclusion. With a total of 25 different bands/artists involved, you’re bound to find something you like on this record and every listen is going to give you something else to get into. The album comes with an extensive 32 page booklet, featuring the artwork and info from each band that was originally featured in a fanzine with the original release. I’m not going to say that this will appeal to everyone’s individual tastes, but if you like your music with more than a few unexpected twists and turns, this is something that you should be investigating,
V/A. REBELLION – NEW BAND STAGE 2020 CD (JSNTGM) I know this was released last year, but I only received a copy recently and, due to the unfortunate cancellation of Rebellion, not as many people would’ve been able to check this out. So I’m reviewing it here and now, because it’s a very worthwhile release and you should do your best to support it…One of the positive things about the Rebellion punk festival is that they’ve always included a separate stage highlighting the many new bands that are continually appearing within the punk rock world. Since 2017, the JSNTGM Label have been annually producing compilations featuring many of those new bands, so if you attend the festival you can get a sampler featuring some of the bands you may have seen and investigate further. In this case, you’ll get two CDs featuring tracks from 51 different bands, including the likes of Genn, Rabies Babies, T-Bitch, Danger! Man and way too many more to mention here. Plus, far from being any type of dodgy cash-in, this will only cost you a mere £5.00 from www.jsntgm.com which makes it a bargain than you can afford to mis!. Obviously, the Covid situation put-paid to Rebellion last year, but much effort had already been put into this release – if you can support it now, you really should do so.
V/A. RIOT CITY – COMPLETE SINGLES COLLECTION – THE SOUND OF UK82. CD boxset (Cherry Red) Alongside No Future and Secret, the Bristol-based Riot City label was one of the leading record labels to emerge during the resurgence of UK Punk in the early-Eighties. Politically, the country was in an even worst state than five years before, with Thatchers’ neo-fascist regime attempting to crush anyone who got in their way. Also, a new generation of kids who had been too young to get involved during the first wave of Punk were now in the position to get involved and the rise of independent labels gave them the means to be heard. Most of the music media were not enthusiastic but, once again, John peel encouraged many of the new bands and numerous fans started their own fanzines to promote the new music. Formed as a collaboration between Shane Baldwin of Vice Squad and Simon Edwards, who had run another local label called Heartbeat, the initial plan had only been to release Vice Squads debut EP, ‘Last Rockers’. However, the record was much more successful than expected, with Peel giving it plenty of airwave time and Gary Bushell writing-up a feature in Sounds, so they decided to continue. The Insane, from Wigan, were the first ‘signing’ and delivered the ‘Politics’ single, quickly followed by Abrasive Wheels and their ‘Vicious Circle’ EP. The next couple of bands were Bristol-based - Court Martial delivered the ‘Gotta Get Out EP, while Chaos UK made their debut with the ‘Burning Britain’ EP, heralding the start of their long career and featuring the infamous ‘Victimised’. All of the releases were selling well, regularly appearing in the top twenty of the Independent charts. The Undead and The Expelled appeared next, together with a second EP from Abrasive Wheels. Hot on their heels came one of the most controversial releases on the label, the ‘Fuck the World’ by Chaotic Dischord. Having been dreamed-up by Shane Baldwin and bandmate Dave Bateman after an argument with Simon Edwards about the quality of some of the bands around at the time, they then recorded a demo in secret as a parody and sent it to Edwards via a third party. Edwards subsequently offered them a place on the upcoming ‘Riotous Assembly’ compilation, promptly followed by an EP of their own. The irony was that, by the time Edwards discovered the truth, they were actually selling enough records to warrant even more releases! Their second EP, ‘Never Trust a Friend’ was actually a surprisingly competent record, while their ‘Don’t Throw It All away’ EP, released in 1984, contained a much less crusty sound and featured guest appearances from the likes of Captain Sensible, John Perry (of The Only Ones) and Knox. Even after Riot City came to an end, they continued releasing new records for several years, including ‘Live in New York’ (despite having never played live) and one album that was recorded by a completely different line-up! In retrospect, Chaotic Dischord may not be to everyone’s taste but if you want to explore, you can actually find some great songs in their back catalogue… Regardless, Riot City continued with more from Court Martial and Chaos UK (the excellent ‘Loud, Political & Uncompromising’ EP) as well as debuts from Mayhem, The Ejected (the legendary ‘Have You got 10p?’) Abrasive Wheels delivered their finest moment with ‘Burn ‘em Down’ and more new bands like Resistance 77, No Choice and Emergency released well-received singles. The Sex Aids, with their ‘Back on the Piss Again’ 7”, unsurprisingly turned out to be Chaotic Dischord under yet another alias, whilst Ultra Violent featured vocals from Adie Newton who would go on to front English Dogs during their ‘metal’ years. Towards the end of the labels’ tenure, they would release two singles and a 12” EP by The Varukers and also scheduled a one more single by The Ejected, although this was never released due to the demise of the label (the three tracks, however, are included here for the completists among us…) Finally, the aforementioned ‘Riotous Assembly’ compilation is also included, featuring exclusive tracks from Vice Squad, Abrasive Wheels, Chaos UK, Mayhem, Lunatic Fringe and, of course, Chaotic Dischord. Over the course of four disks, you have a thorough history of this seminal label, including sleeve notes provided by Simon Edwards and Shane Baldwin, info on each and every band and plenty of original artwork. As with most labels, it’s unlikely that you’re going to love everything featured here, but you’ll certainly discover some real classics. While the UK Punk scene in the early Eighties may not have had the cultural impact of the ‘76/’77 movement, it certainly shouldn’t be dismissed (as happens in almost every Punk retrospective.) This collection helps to put things in perspective and treats the early 80’s scene with the respect it deserves.
V/A. SOUTHEND PUNK volume one CD (Angels in Exile) The Southend / Canvey Island music scene is best known for the proto-punk bands it delivered, in the shape of Dr Feelgood, Eddie & the Hot Rods, Kursaal Flyers etc. But the early days of punk rock also spawned a notable slew of new bands emulating the those emerging down the road in London. Although many of them got as far as recording demo-tapes, only a few (The Machines, Kronstadt Uprising, Steve Hooker Band, The Sinyx) actually managed to release singles, but such was the case for many local scenes at the time and doesn’t mean that those unreleased bands were any less worthy. It’s just the way things were… unless you were lucky, releasing a record was a DIY effort and not all bands were able to get it together, which is why compilations like this are so important, documenting what was actually happening in a certain place at a certain time. This album includes some great tracks, many of which haven’t been previously available, and there really isn’t a bad song among them. A sixteen page booklet includes informative details about each band as well as great photos and artwork, illustrating the Southend scene as effectively as it deserves. Also, instead of sticking solely to the 1976-78 period as some compilations do, this collection acknowledges that ‘punk’ didn’t die out when the media lost interest but instead continued to develop and evolve in to the early Eighties, with bands finding a way forward with their own style and sounds. Particular highlights ? The Machines, perhaps the first punk band in the area, who went on to play at legendary London clubs like The Roxy and The Vortex, as well as releasing a now highly-collectable EP. The Vicars included a certain Alison ‘Alf’ Moyet on vocals, possibly her earliest recordings? Bands like The Psychopaths and The Shocks deliver some great punk rock, whilst others like The Deciballs play a style that wouldn’t have been out of place on the ‘Farewell to the Roxy’ LP. Kronstadt Uprising are represented by ‘Blind People’, probably their best song (from the ‘Unknown Revolution’ EP) while Allegiance To No-One take a more ‘post-punk’ direction with ‘Aftermath’ and The Burning Idols, with ‘Give Me a Chance’, produce a sound that wouldn’t have been out of place on the Good Vibrations label. This is a great overview of the original Southend punk scene and there may even be a second volume to come… If you think you know all about punk rock, this album will give you something new to consider. Don’t miss it!
V/A TEACHING YOU THE FEAR…AGAIN (A TRIBUTE TO REALLY RED.) CD / LP (CIA) Alongside the Big Boys and The Dicks, Really Red were one of the earliest and best of the bands to emerge from the Texas punk/hardcore scene. Between 1979 and 1985, they released two albums and four singles on their own label CIA (still run by original member Bob Weber) which continue to resonate even four decades later. Their music has remained so effective and influential because they were never content to remain within any set style. They may have started out as a punk rock band, developing with the early stages of Hardcore, but they were just as adept at integrating jazz or psychedelia into their sound. If you wanted to fully enjoy Really Red, you had to keep up with them! They sounded like no-one else and that’s why their records have remained relevant. This compilation captures the true spirit of the band, as the contributors interpret the songs in their own individual ways, not just settling for imitations of the original songs but adding their own character and intent to these new versions. There’s a very broad range of bands involved, so many in fact that not all of them are included on both formats s (so you’ll need to be careful which one you get…) There are four different versions of ‘Teaching You the Fear’, but they’re all delivered in such individual styles that it doesn’t get repetitive at all. The Bellrays play the song with their own hard-soul approach, while Hamell on Trial offer a quirky, lo-fi acoustic interpretation. Jello Biafra croons his way through the song with the almost-traditional sounds of Polkapocalypse. Finally, and perhaps closest to the original, comes avibrant live version by the Texas Biscuit Bombs, who featured the much-missed vocals of Randy Turner (of the Big Boys etc.) Lyrically, this song (based on three different cases involving the murders of three men at the hands of the Houston Police Department) has an obvious affinity to recent events and the BLM movement. Elsewhere, different bands offer their own takes on other classic songs like ‘Modern Needs’, ‘White Lies’ and ‘Crowd Control’. There are a lot of bands that I’d never previously heard of, although I can honestly say, there isn’t a bad track on the album, while there are also plenty of familiar names to draw you in… The Dicks, Verbal Abuse, Hickoids, Mudhoney and the wonderfully named Jesus Christ Superfly. Even if you’ve never heard Really Red themselves, this is an album that’s packed with genuinely exciting and unpredictable music that is sure to grab your attention and set you up to investigate the Really Red back catalogue. Trust me, hearing this album could be one of the best things you do this year!