RECORD REVIEWS JUly 2014 - MARCH 2015.
ADAM ANT. The Blueblack Hussar. DVD (Sunrise.) I was lucky enough to meet Jack Bond, albeit briefly, before Adam Ants’ Hammersmith gig last year and he proved to be a very pleasant, easily approachable chap. So I’m really glad that the documentary he has made about Adams’ recent return to regular live performance has turned out to be an insightful, amusing and entertaining film. Adams’ mental health issues have been well- documented in recent years, so it’s good that this film doesn’t wallow in that side of things but rather concentrates on his drive and determination to return to the stage. It’s something that many people have wanted to see for some time and in many ways, it’s his natural environment. Of course, that’s not to say there aren’t any hitches along the way, and Adams’ personality is clearly quite fragile at times, but just as often, he’s totally focused and maintains the qualities that made him a star in the first place. This is a great documentary and I’m sure it will appeal to anyone familiar with both the highs and lows of Adam’s story. It offers a glimpse into the life and mind of a true Pop Icons, and observes him building himself back up from a potential career-disaster to once again become a performer who regularly plays to a large and devoted fanbase. Good for him.
AGNOSTIC FRONT. Another Voice CD (Metal Mind) Timely reissue of the 2004 album from New Yorks’ seminal hardcore legends. This is undoubtedly one of their finest moments, capturing the perfect balance between their brutal delivery and a harder, more metallic production. It loses none of its’ raw anger whilst bringing a real clarity to both the guitars and drum sounds, drawing-out every note to full, powerful effect. Roger Mirets’ vocals growl their way through the lyrics, reflecting the hardships, choices and integrity of life on New Yorks’ real streets, a million miles away from the spoilt rich kids in Manhatten. You’ll probably either love or hate Agnostic Front, but there’s no denying that they’ve always stuck to their principles, and this album is certainly one of the best examples.
THE APERS.Confetti On The Floor CD (Monster Zero) This is their first studio album since 2009, but it hardly sounds as if they’ve been away at all. Rotterdam-based band who tour like Hell and take the Ramones ethic of keep it simple but straight to the point to the extreme. The songs are melodic and catchy, while the lyrics – not exactly to be taken too seriously – get pretty brutal in places, but I’m sure it’s all in the name of fun. There’s even a cover of ‘Eve of Destruction’ (though nowhere near the pace of the Dickies’ version.) Good stuff, you know what you’re gonna get, and Boy, do you get it !
THE BAT BITES.S/T CD (Monster Zero) Dutch band producing their first full length album and it’s a very confident collection of snappy, melodic tunes. Owing as much to the powerpop of Redd Kross, The Muffs or The Fastbacks as they do to the so-called pop-punk of NoFX or Greenday, the album is a neat balance between great melodic songs and big, loud guitars. Not a million miles away from the Ramones, at least in the way they embrace classic pop influences, but they definitely stamp their own identity all over the album. Great vocal harmonies (equal parts boy’n’girl) owe a lot to Sixties pop, while the big chords and sneaky melodic guitar lines nod towards Buzzcocks. This is just a great, good time party album and I’m sure you’ll enjoy it every time you hear it.
BLACK RAINBOWS. Hawkdope CD (Heavy Psych Sounds) Italian power-trio who channel the heavier aspects of 70’s hard rock (Black Sabbath, Blue Cheer) through the rougher edges of Sixties psychedelia and garage punk, to drag in kicking and screaming into the current rock climate. Unafraid to throw some offbeat elements into the mix, they owe as much to the space rock of Hawkwind as they do to the repetitive grooves of Stoner rock, even adding elements of Chrome in places. The vocals even add the snarl of punks’ abrasive attitude to really complete the picture. This has got to be one of the finest, heaviest rock albums we’re going to hear all year. Turn it up to eleven and let it drown you !
THE BOYS. Punk Rock Menopause CD (Wolverine) The first album of all-new material under The Boys moniker since 1981, and I must admit I had some reservations. The absence of Duncan Reid leaves quite a hole to fill, but I’m glad to say they’ve done a very good job. Featuring 13 songs written between Matt Dangerfield, Casino Steele and Honest John Plain, it’s instantly recognisable as The Boys, whilst lyrically placing itself very much in the present day. The emphasis is on great, catchy tunes, with the guitars high in the foreground whilst always leaving plenty of room for the keyboards and harmonies to carry the melody. The songs are as sharp and witty as ever (just check out the well-measured sarcasm of ‘I’m A Believer’) and the vocals are cool and confident throughout. The only thing that’s missing, as I said before, is Duncan Reid. He always provided a sense of balance to the proceedings. His vocals were always an important element and his bass-playing often provided a fluency that this album occasionally lacks, but even these negatives don’t really hold this album back. There’s more than enough here to make any old fan rejoice, and plenty to win over some new ones. It has all the qualities needed to ensure that it can stand up proudly next to all their old classics and, after such a long wait for a new album, I think we can justifiably say, they’ve returned with considerable style.
BUZZCOCKS. It’s Not You 7” (1-2-3-4) First new Buzzcocks material for a while, but it certainly lives up to expectations. The a-side is a great Shelley-penned tune that bemoans the failings of a relationship while musically the band play a mean, choppy set of chords that both contrast and compliment the sentiments of the words. It’s classic Buzzcocks, complete with a sneaky, simple guitar solo. The b-side is an easily recognisable Diggle song, more of a Who-style rocker with a harder edge to the lyrical poignancy. Together, the two songs sound as fresh you’d want from Buzzcocks, demanding to be heard on the radio just as much as their biggest hits. When you hear a single as good as this, it just makes you feel great !
CASTRO. The River Need CD / Nocturnally Yours 7” (Boss Tuneage) Not sure if they’re named after Fidel, or San Francisco’s most theatrical district, but these guys are a new band formed by ex-members of various Norwegian punk groups, including Angor Wat and Life But How To Live It. They take a harder rock approach to their riffs, trading power rather than tempo, with vocalist Katya delivering a truly distinctive display. The three songs on the 7” also appear as bonus tracks on the CD, but as we all know, they do sound better on vinyl !
CHASE THE ACE. Are You Ready CD (Z Records) This is a bit of a mixed-bag. The album starts out at a good pace, taking the more rock’n’roll and pop elements of 80’s Glam-metal and presenting some fine, upbeat tunes. Tracks like ‘Rock Bottom Rock’n’Roll’ even display a knowing, Spinal Tap-style sense of humour, and whilst they continue on this setting, they’re good fun. But unfor-tunately, there are moments when they delve into pretty predictable trad-rock territory, even sinking as far as a power-balled (the lowest form of musical expression !)
They’re much more fun when they’re not taking themselves too seriously and just kicking out the jams. This certainly isn’t a bad album, but which route they take next will be the important thing. If they drop the muso-moments and stick to the fun-stuff, they could well become a fine rock’n’roll band.
They’re much more fun when they’re not taking themselves too seriously and just kicking out the jams. This certainly isn’t a bad album, but which route they take next will be the important thing. If they drop the muso-moments and stick to the fun-stuff, they could well become a fine rock’n’roll band.
CHROME. Feel It Like A Scientist CD (King of Spades) It may be some 40 years since their original inception, and they may be missing half of their original creative core (Damon Edge passed away in 1995) but this brand new album finds them as creative, powerful and other-worldly as their legacy demands. Formed around deceptively simplistic riffs, they set the blueprint for both imaginative presentation and an unpredictable production. They never sacrifice any of the music’s drive and energy whilst allowing plenty of room for the sounds to develop in whatever direction it naturally takes. It can be equally disconcerting and rapturous, from the unsettling display of ‘Prophecy’ through to the bizarre playfulness of ‘Brady The Chicken Boy’. It may not be the easiest listening, but it’s never less than engrossing. Helios Creed is back where he belongs, at the helm of this unique band, taking their sounds and visions to yet another level. Play it loud and let yourself be overwhelmed !
CONSUMER ELECTRONICS. Estuary English LP (Dirter) Founded by Philip Best ( most renowned for his work with Whitehouse) Consumer Electronics has been his own occasional Power Electronics project since the Eighties. Currently working with Sarah Froelich and Russell Haswell, this record finds them in a similar territory to the later Whitehouse albums, using simple loops or pulsing rhythms to create a basis over which they layer electronic-generated noise and furious, indignant lyrical rants. It’s not polite or politically-correct, but it evokes real emotions, both positive and negative, whilst a sly sense of humour always seems present in the back-ground. After all, creating something as extreme as this would be pretty grim if you couldn’t also enjoy it ! As confrontational and full-on as it gets, you have to play it at the right time and place to really appreciate what they’re doing and then it’ll make perfect sense. It’s not going to appeal to anyone, but you should at least give it a chance and then perhaps you’ll find yourself drawn-in.
If you haven’t seen or heard the current Defects line-up, then this is an ideal place to start. A really great live recording of their return to the Ulster Hall in 2014, thirty years since they played there supporting The Clash in what would be the final gig by the original Defects. Nostalgia aside this set includes just as many new as old songs, and all of them sounding very good. ‘Riot Free Zone’ and ‘Hill Street’ may not have the pedigree of ‘Survival’ or ‘Brutality’, but they stand up shoulder to shoulder with each other and clearly match the quality of their predecessors. For the Defects, it’s very much been about validating their reactivation, and with new material that fits perfectly alongside the old, whilst taking themes that put them firmly in the moment, they’ve achieved their aim with style. Performed with plenty of energy, they’ve returned with a lot of credibility and this CD proves it beyond doubt. If you ever enjoyed their music in the past, be sure to hear this, because you’ll soon be wanting to see them again.
DESCENDENTS. Filmage DVD (Leaders & Flares) The long and glorious tale of The Descendents / ALL. You can’t go wrong with this, can you ? Featuring interviews with the current members and almost all previous participants, as well as fans and associates ranging from Mike Watt, Keith Morris and Bad Religion through to Dave Grohl, this is probably as thorough as it gets, tracing the story all the way back to High School in Hermosa Beach through to their more recent albums and reunion tours. It’s an epic and not always straightforward story but what becomes apparent is that the main factors in the Descendents / All is their friendships and their mutual love for the music they create. It’s not a career in the usual sense, it’s been more of a vocation, destined to endlessly pursue the Quest For All, never settling for second best. Everybody has input in the band, even though Bill Stevenson can often be seen as a steering influence, but with each member more than capable of turning out classic songs, no-one is likely to be left on the sidelines. And it’s that which has resulted in their longevity as a band that fans continue to love, whilst others continue to discover and embrace. The film-makers also delve into the misconstrued differences between Descendents and ALL, particularly the reasons why ALL never achieved the deserved-popularity of their brother-band. It is odd – the standard of songwriting was clearly maintained but because they did the honest thing and differentiated between the two groups, it seems that some fans took the opportunity not to pay attention and give them the respect they deserved in their own right. You have to wonder, had they chosen to continue as Descendents even with a new singer, would they have remained as popular ? (Well, it seems to have worked pretty well for Misfits, Dead Kennedys etc…) Regardless, the film makes it clear, there was no break in quality and it really doesn’t take much effort to appreciate the two bands as one. Anybody who’s seen Milo singing ‘She’s My Ex’ will know exactly what I mean. Anyway, back to the DVD itself, it comes with loads of extras (deleted scenes, additional interviews, including some great Tony Lombardo footage, plus some superb live clips.) The film is entertaining and enlightening, pulling no punches but also full of humour and a genuine spirit that always set the band apart. It’s a film that everyone should see because it puts everything in context and opens up the subject, even if you’re not a fan in the first place. Nothing short of genius – and I’m referring to both the film and the band !
DESTRUCTORS. Greatest Misses CD (Rowdy Farrago) A selection of tracks from the numerous releases the Destructors have unleashed on the world since their reactivation in 2005. By all accounts, they never meant it to be an ongoing reunion, but found themselves enjoying it and found they had an audience who felt the same way, so more power to them ! This is nearly an hours’ worth of hard-edged, grungey punk that works pretty coherently as an album in its’ own right, even though the tracks come from different sources. The lyrics are mostly aimed towards various newsworthy stories so they keep everything down on an easily identifiable level rather than getting bogged-down in complex political or emotional problems. You’ve just got to give it to them – they’ve put a lot of work into their music over the past ten years and it’s clearly paid-off.
DEVO. Something Else For Everybody CD (Booji Boy) A collection of demos and unreleased tracks from the 2006-2009 period, leading up to the release of ‘Something For Everybody’. It seems that, as they prepared for their first studio LP in 20 years, a lot of material was recorded but then discarded as they settled on the eventual track-listing. Hearing them now, it’s hard to see why some of them were omitted. ‘Monsterman’ is a fine piece of stompin’ Devo-pop, as is ‘I Luv Ur Gun’, with its’ lyrical content full of barely concealed sexual innuendo. ‘Think Fast’ is a great example of Gerry Casale’s dark sense of humour, parodying TV game shows, while ‘Should-a Said Yes’ is an absolute classic, harking back to ‘Whip It’ with it’s upbeat, catchy tune and the sorta lyrics that reveal Devo at their sharpest. There were probably reasons why they were missed from the album, but at least the band have now made them available on their own label. It’s not really an essential album for everyone, but if you’re a Devo fan, you will not want to miss out.
DEVO. Miracle Witness Hour LP (Futurismo) Official release of a previously unavailable live recording, captured in front of a small audience in Cleveland, 1977. Firstly, I have to mention the packaging, which is absolutely superb and totally justifies the relatively high cost of the album. Die-cut sleeve, elaborate, fold-out inner packaging, inner sleeve and beautiful, red-sparkled 180g vinyl. If this isn’t the best album presentation all year, I really can’t imagine what could beat it ! Once your jaw stops dropping and you get to the music itself, you’re in for more treats. A great quality recording dating well-before their debut album and featuring several tracks (‘Polyvinyl Chloride’ and ‘Huboon Stomp’) which never made it onto early releases. Great, raw versions of ‘Jocko Homo’, ‘Uncontrollable Urge’ and ‘Mongoloid’ maintain the insistence of the set and, alongside other early classics and a particularly twisted cover of ‘Secret Agent Man’, really display a band who had truly found their voice and were intent on realising their vision. Altogether, you just can’t go wrong with this album… consider it an essential purchase.
THE DICKIES. 1977 – A Night That Will Live in Infamy LP (Cleopatra) A very early live performance recorded at the Whisky-a-Go-Go in December ’77. According to legend, it was this gig that led to the band being signed by A&M and thus started their peculiar trajectory which, of course, continues to this day. By this point they were already a tight, high velocity unit and, even if there were a few elements still to be perfected, the bands’ basic ingredients were already in place. The real bonus of this recording is two otherwise unreleased songs, in the shape of ‘Loose Lucy’ (apparently written by a member of The Quick) and ‘Can Ya’, a track which would be temporarily shelved until it mutated into ‘I’m A Chollo’ for their second LP. And to complete the album, they’ve also included their first demo tape, four songs from their first studio-visit which catch them at an even earlier moment. Sound quality is pretty good throughout and, while it isn’t an essential purchase, fans are still gonna love it.
THE DICKIES. Live When we Were Five LP (Cleopatra) Second live album taken from the archives, this time a recording from City Gardens, Trenton, in 1982. Only Stan and Leonard remain from the original line-up, but with the added bonus of Jerry Angel (The Weirdos) on drums, the band are actually sounding better than ever. The set is an even selection of songs from the first two albums and the (then) still to be released ‘Stukas Over Disneyland’, plus there’s an early version of ‘Jim Bowie’ which wouldn’t be released until six years later… it’s a lot faster than the ‘Killer Klowns’ version and also includes a middle section which was destined to be omitted from the eventual recording. Overall, this is a really great recording that captures all the energy and entertainment of their best live shows and, as a final treat, there’s also a very rare ‘bedroom demo’ featuring just Leonard and Stan, running through a primal version of ‘Bowling With Bedrock Barney’ - it’s rough’n’ready, but great to hear it ! I’d actually say this is probably the best Dickies live LP to date, and certainly recommend it without reservation.
DOCTOR & THE CRIPPENS. Fired From The Circus CD (Boss Tuneage) Reissue of this UK Hardcore bands’ 1988 debut LP, featuring over 20 bonus tracks in the usual Boss Tuneage ‘value-for-money’ re-packaging style. Closer to the likes of GBH and Chaos UK than many of their contemporaries, Doctor & The Crippens created a big, sometimes murky sound that bridged the gap between punk and crust fans. Known just as much for their stage antics, they captured a moment that was loved by many, and then split before it became stale. This CD includes early demos and live recordings, plus their first Peel Session, which is possibly their best recording from the era. This isn’t going top be any album to everyones’ taste, but if you were ever a fan, it’s gonna be a treat.
DOCTOR & THE CRIPPENS. Raphanadosis CD (Boss Tuneage) Hot on the heels of the first LP reissue, here’s the bands’ second and possibly most popular album. They perfected their humorous take on thrashy punk with this platter, combining frantic tunes with a demented sense of fun. The album itself deliver 22 bursts of energy that’ll keep you on your toes while your ears adjust to the onslaught. But it doesn’t stop there, with bonus tracks from their second Peel Session, the ‘North Atlantic Noise Attack’ compilation and from their ‘Avant Gardening’ EP. Packaged together with extensive sleeve notes and plenty of photos, this is gonna be a must-have item for any fan old or new.
DOMESTICS. Routine and Ritual CD (TNS) Since their highly-promising debut CD ‘Keep It Lean’, Domestics have now landed on TNS Records and produced one of the best UK hardcore albums in a long time. It’s a very tight and powerful set of songs, taking its’ roots in the likes of Poison Idea or Negative Approach, but adding a very British character to the delivery. The vocals, in particular, owe more than a passing nod to original Oi bands like The Business or 4-Skins. The music maintains a furious pace throughout, while the lyrics deal with the anger and frustration of everyday life, or the contra-dictions to be found in the contemporary punk scene. Lots of catchy hooks to keep you chanting along and loads of energy to hold your attention, it’s all kept very much straight to the point. I’ve really got to see this band live, sooner rather than later.
EXCEL. Split Image CD (Southern Lord) I loved this album as soon as I heard it, way back in 1987, and my opinion of it hasn’t diminished at all. A lot of bands were delving into the so-called ‘crossover’ territory between metal and hardcore around that time, but for many of them, it simply meant an easy cop-out. Now, fair enough, bands are allowed to change or follow their career options, but for a lot of them, it resulted in their music going downhill fast. Excel, on the other hand, took time to create a real hybrid. Over the course of their two demos (included here for the first time) they found the right balance between hardcores’ intensity and righteousness, and metals’ hard-edged riff and musicianship. The vocal remain very much in a hardcore style, with none of metals’ histrionics, while the lyrics delve into youthful rebellion and frustration rather than metals’ more traditional subject matter. The guitars do pick out solo- spots, but the emphasis is always more on the overall raw power rather than being in the spotlight. The demos are particularly revealing. The 1985 recordings are much faster than the eventual album versions and sound as if the band are stretching their abilities as far as they can to make a point. By 1986, they’ve started to rein themselves in, still very raw but beginning to understand that they don’t need to just thrash to generate the power of the songs. By the following year, they were able to record an album that was as perfect as it gets, powerful, complex and straight to the point. Released at a similar time to Suicidal Tendencies’ ‘Join The Army’, ‘Split Image’ was in a fairly similar area but by far the better album and it really surprised me that they didn’t become more popular. Unfortunately, the album was only available on import and the only promotion it received was word-of-mouth, so many of the people who would’ve been interested just never got to hear them (typically, their second LP did get a UK release, but was nowhere near as good…) So, here we are in 2014, and this re-mastered, deluxe CD reissue sounds as great as ever. Hopefully it will find a whole new audience, as it certainly still deserves the attention.
EXTNDDNTWRK. Just Tracks CD (Fourth Dimension) A double CD of mostly-instrumental tracks from Andrew Fearn, the musical half of Sleaford Mods. It’s something of a sideways-step from what you might be expecting, although at times the loops and rhythm suggest possible works-in-progress, but generally speaking, this is something that’s very much its’ own entity. Musically, it switches between genres with a sly, casual style, from Ambient atmospherics to occasional dance beats, although usually in a darker, more sparse framework. Elsewhere, there are moments that rock-out and others that delve into a Lounge setting. Guitars and soundbytes float in and out, helping to maintain an almost unsettling edge, whilst the cover version of Big Blacks ‘Bad Penny’ is almost unrecognisable from the original, taking a much more restrained, muzak-like route. As long as you’re not just expecting Sleaford Mods, there’s plenty to enjoy here and enough ideas to make me hope that there’ll be further releases in the near future.
FAITH NO MORE. Motherfucker 7” (Reclamation) Their first new material since 1997 and the first release on their own label, and it totally lives up to expectations. FNM have obviously taken their time since reforming to work on new material that will maintain their previous standards. ‘Motherfucker’ starts with a taut, menacing build-up that keeps you on the edge of your seat before it finally, briefly let’s rip at the end of the track. It’s clearly FNM, but at the same time it sounds unlike anything they’ve done before. Their strength was always their ability to confound expectations, twisting and corrupting the hard rock format into something new and very much their own. But at the same time as being groundbreaking they also remained strangely accessible, unafraid to reach out to wider audiences. ‘Motherfucker’ finds them continuing the tradition and I can’t imagine any fan, old or new, being in the least bit disappointed. The b-side features a suitably melodramatic remix by Jim Thirlwell, taking the essential elements of the original track to a Wagnarian extreme. If the rest of the upcoming album is set to match up to this first taster, then I really can’t wait to hear it.
THE FALL. Creative Distortion CD + DVD (Secret) An entire gig recorded in Blackburn, 2002, spread over two CDs and also on DVD (featuring interviews and behind the scenes footage) which must make this one of the most extensive Fall releases this side of the boxsets ! And, you’ll be pleased to hear, it’s rather good. I remember seeing this line-up around the same time and not being too impressed, but this gig found them playing a great set, mixing tracks as far back as ‘HexEnduction’ together with material from their ‘Beggars Banquet’ era, right up to contemporary tracks from ‘The Unutterable’ and ‘Are You Are Missing Winner’. But that’s the unpredictable nature of The Fall – sometimes you’ll hear something new and it won’t click straight away. But a few years down the line, it’ll end up being one of your favourites… Of course the problem with this is that, by the time it all sinks-in, the band themselves have already moved on to something else. But you wouldn’t want it any other way. Listening to this gig, it makes me wish I’d seen this line up again, as they was obviously a lot more to them and I suspect I just caught a bad night (well, it was ATP…) This is really one for the fans rather than someone wanting to investigate for the first time, but as such, a lot of people are going to love it.
FUGAZI. First Demo LP (Dischord) It’s actually quite difficult to review this album without putting it into the context of when I first heard these tracks. Featuring eleven songs recorded at their first studio session all the way back in 1988, most of the material was made available by the band via the then-prolific tape-trading community. I myself was sent a copy by the legendary Jabs at Wetspots Records and eagerly awaited my first hearing. The thing was, I really didn’t know what to expect. Of course, there were the Minor Threat and Rites of Spring connections, but I was also being reliably-informed that this was something totally new. Expectations were certainly not disappointed. The music still had the power and intent of hardcore, but it was clear that they were also delving into far broader roots. You could hear Dub rhythms, but as if played by Black Sabbath. You could hear the inventiveness of Wire or Gang of Four, but tempered with the grass-roots punk attitude of The Ruts or (early) UK Subs. And the lyrics were intelligent and concise, giving you room to think and interpret for yourself. Some stuck-in-the-mud hardcore puritans may have been whinging, but to me, this was what Punk should be about – openness, integrity, and some damn-fine music. From there, things seemed to move quickly – their debut EP was released and the band played their first European tour, leaving their mark on anyone who saw them. From there on, they just seemed to keep getting better whilst attracting a larger and more diverse audience. The impact they had cannot be under-estimated and the fact that they achieved this all on their own, independent terms makes it all the more impressive. So, listening to these tracks again, some 26 years later, it’s still a remarkable experience. The songs have lost none of their vitality or poignancy and still sound highly original (even having been imitated by countless drones in the intermediary years.) The excellent re-mastering is also a welcome improvement on the original second-or-third generation tapes we originally heard, plus there’s the added bonus of ‘Turn Off Your Guns’, a track which, for some unknown reason, never made it onto the original tapes and never surfaced on any other releases. So, back to my original point – it’s hard to discuss these recordings without putting them into context, but what I can say is that they still sound great, they still sound fresh, and they’re still just as inspiring. I can only try to imagine what someone hearing them for the first time will feel.
GANG OF FOUR. What Happens Next CD (Membran) Now down to the Gang of One, with only Andy Gill remaining from the original line-up, this album finds the band in a more restrained mood than the previous, excellent ‘Content’ LP. I think the key to this is that, overall, this is very much Gill’s own vision. He wrote virtually all of the music and lyrics on the album and, as such, it’s really more of a solo project rather than a band effort. That being said, new vocalist John Sterry gives a good performance, distinct enough to make his own mark whilst there are enough similarities with Jon Kings’ vocals to maintain a sense of continuity. There are also guest vocals from the likes of Alison Mosshart and Gail Ann Dorsey, adding further dimensions. But perhaps most surprising is that Gill’s guitar-play is generally pretty under-stated and it appears that he’s concentrated more on his other work as a producer. With that in mind, he’s certainly created an intriguing, state-of-the-art album. The only problem is that, generally, the album seems to be missing the momentum that always propelled Gang of Fours’ best music. ‘Content’ and even 1995’s highly under-rated ‘Shrinkwrapped’ were both identifiably the Gang of Four, even though they were very contemporary. This album works really well in its’ own right, but there are only a few tracks ( ‘Isle of Dogs’, ‘England’s In My Bones’) that you would readily know as Gang of Four. Now, that’s not necessarily a bad thing, because it’s also good for an album to forge its’ own identity. ‘What Happens Next’ is certainly impressive in its’ own right, but I would have to stress, you need to listen to this album with as few preconceptions as possible. Andy Gill is obviously a talented musician / producer and has assembled an impressive cast for this album, but you need to treat it in that way. I do get the impression that a lot of this material would take on more Gang of Four characteristics when played live and erhaps hearing it alongside some of the older material would give it a better perspective ? Anyway, this remains an album that you should definitely make an effort to hear. Repeated plays draw you in to its’ own atmosphere, but just be aware, this is Andy Gills’ vision rather than a whole band. If you listen to it as such, you may well find it to be intriguing entertainment.
GRISWALDS. Beyond the Television Scream CD (Monster Zero) Ramones-inspired, London-based trio producing 14 songs in 26 minutes. So you get the idea, right ? You’re not gonna get any big surprises, but plenty of fast’n’furious, snotty yet melodic punk rock tunes. Don’t expect political statements or emo-awareness, this is all about jumping around, probably with a beer in at least one of your hands, and having a good time. Not much to think about, but even less to dislike about it. Play it loud or don’t bother at all !
HAGAR THE WOMB. Life of Lies 7” (All The Madmen) It may be 30 years since their last EP but I’m so glad to say, the Hags still sound as wonderful as they always did. Imaginative punk rock with catchy tunes and observant lyrics, seemingly balanced on the very brink of chaos but just confident enough to keep everything solid. If age has changed them in any way, perhaps the sound has a harder edge to it, but that suits these songs. ‘Life of Lies’ builds from a simple, chugging riff into an insistent slice of angst, while ‘Distant War’ veers between melodic and aggressive moments, and ‘You Never Learn’ is another great, punky slice of fun. Hagar The Womb never sounded like anyone else and still don’t fit into any convenient categories. That’s the beauty of it, and I hope there’ll be more on the way soon. PS – one side plays at 45rpm while the other plays at 33rpm, which makes room for some interesting mistakes. Play the a-side at 33rpm and it sounds like Doom Metal, while the b-side at 45rpm sounds like the Dickies with chipmunk vocals… This is truly a band that gives you more for your money !
HARD-ONS. Peel Me Like An Egg CD (Boss Tuneage) It’s amazing to think the Hard-Ons have been around for 30 years ! It doesn’t seem so long ago that they were blowing everyone away at the George Robey on their first European tour, but there it is. For this album, they’ve bought back original member Keish into the fold, while bassist Ray Ahn’s artwork is as recognisable as ever. So there’s a kinda hint of nostalgia in the air, even though this very much remains what they’re about these days. It’s about their legacy rather than just looking backwards. Musically, they have a harder, rockier sound now, although their fondness for brash pop tunes is never a million miles away. In fact, the stand out song, for me, has to be the melodic ‘Close To The Ground’. But the Hard-Ons were never a band that were content with just one style and it’s that approach that really sets this album apart. The music may have changed, but the attitude stays the same.
HARDSKIN. Do You Like Hospital Food ? 12” EP (JT Classics) Six brand new anthems from the South London legends, still telling it like it is. Really good production, making the most of both chords – when they sound as good as this, who needs more ? I hear a bit of Cocksparrer in here, but then again, I’m sure those boys have been influenced by Hardskin as well. Side One features three songs dedicated to themselves, the boys on the street, while Side Two delves into more personal issues – the devastation caused when your car gets nicked, the joy of finding love with a working class bird, and the perils of loving the bottle too much. The vinyl is big and green (a bit like Fat Bob after 20 pints and a curry) and the songs are instant classics. Do you need to know any more than that ?
HARDSKIN / PERTTI KURIKAN NIMIPAIVAT. Split Tour 7” (JT Classics) Two of the sharpest Punk / Oi bands in the world join forces for a limited edition tour single, covering each others’ songs in their own style. As you’d expect, it’s great fun ! PKN cover ‘We Are The Wankers’ (although as it’s in Finnish, Kari could be singing anything…) Played at their own thumping pace, it powers along in fine fashion, with the vocals sounding like one big party going on in the studio. And they even add a cheeky Moog solo in towards the end – the only band who could get away with it ! On the other side, Hardskin cover ‘Why Won’t They Understand’, a sentiment that the South London boys can obviously relate to. Strangely, the vocals sound a bit like Billy Childish, but it still works really well. Yeah, this is what it’s all about, kids – Punks’n’Skins together !
HDQ. When Worlds Collide 7” (Boss Tuneage) HDQ were one of the most respected bands of the late 80’s UK punk scene, combining the more melodic elements of contemporary US hardcore (Husker Du, Dag Nasty) with a distinctly British character to form a powerful yet equally tuneful sound. After they originally split, three of the members joined up with Frankie Stubbs to form Leatherface, but recently, HDQ have reactivated. Their latest album, ‘Lost in Translation’ was very well received, and this single represents the first new material since then. Old fans are gonna love it and new ones will be in for a real treat.
THE HEADS. Everybody Knows We Got Nowhere CD (Rooster) Timely reissue of the second album from this English psychedelic rock band. Since 1990, they’ve continued to release numerous records, so it’s good to be able to go back and hear where it started. Re-mastered from the original tapes and sounding better than ever, this dates back to 2000 AD but really places them alongside earlier UK bands like Loop and Spaceman 3. Their shared roots go back even further, exploring the same sonic territories as the Stooges, Hawkwind, Krautrock and the Velvets. It’s a fairly relentless offering, at times adopting an almost drone-like repetitiveness, but with plenty of hooks to maintain your attention. It really has to be played loud for full effect, but I’m pretty sure your ears aren’t going to mind !
THE JONES. Gravity Blues CD (BossTuneage) Featuring members of HDQ, Leatherface and Dub War, this album was originally released in 2000 AD but is now remastered to full effect and extended to include the two singles (‘Rats’ and ‘Satellite’) that preceded it. Sound-wise, it’s reminiscent of bands like Squirrelbait, who emerged in the post-Husker Du period, taking that bands’ abrasive yet melodic sound and twisting it further, for their own purposes. Not as hard-sounding as, say, Leatherface, but certainly not afraid to make use of a Lemmy-style bass-line when necessary. But it’s the tunes beneath the noise that make all the difference. The Jones may not have made such a big mark at the time, but their legacy, gathered here in one place for all to see, is certainly worth investigation and reassessment.
KILLER BOOGIE. Detroit CD (Heavy Psych Sounds) Formed by members of Black Rainbows and The Wisdoom, this Italian power trio live up to both their own name and the title of the album, merging the dirty fuzz riffs of early Blue Cheer together with the guitar assault of The Stooges and maybe Sonics Rendezvous Band. Add to that some serious shadwes of psychedelia and what emerges is a very strong, had driving album that confidently puts forward the case for this band as an entity in its’ own right, rather than just a side project away from the other bands. Hard rock with no pretensions, make sure you play it loud !
THE KILLJOYS. Naïve LP (Damaged Goods) The Killjoys were one of the first punk bands to emerge from Birmingham in 1977 and whilst nowadays their main claim to fame is that they were Kevin Rowlands’ first band, they did release one great little 7” single, in the shape of ‘Johnny Won’t Get To Heaven’ / ‘Naïve’, on the legendary Raw label. This album, unavailable since 1991, compiles a selection of studio and live tracks, plus a brief interview and a bit of messing around, which really captures the spirit of the band. Musically, it’s pretty basic, primal punk that’s more about that short, sharp burst of energy and excitement that Punk provided, but the fact that it provided Kevin Rowland with the initial impetus for the rest of his extraordinary career is also significant. While this may not be as outstanding as some of his later work, it’s still a lot of fun and, as Punk did for many others, kicked open the door and provided him with the opportunity to do something for himself. Enjoyable in its’ own right, this is a very worthwhile collection.
KLEISTWAHR. This World Is Not My Home CD (Fourth Dimension) As one of the frontrunners of the original Power Electronics scene (proprietor of Broken Flag records and also a member of Ramleh) Gary Mundy has maintained Kleistwahr as an occasional outlet for his solo recordings. This is his first album under this name for some eight years, but sounds entirely confident and focused. It delivers nearly 40 minutes of uninterrupted sounds, swirling through your speakers like a relentless storm of noise. It switches textures rather than directions, at times verging on almost drone-like territory, and becoming almost hypnotic in the process. It’s extremely powerful, at a gut-level, but never loses its’ sense of purpose. I have to say, this is an album where a mere review cannot do justice. It has to be experienced.
LIVING EYES. Living Large CD (Anti Fade) Young Australian band who happily evoke the spirits of several of their musical forebears, but update it kicking and screaming into the current day. They certainly have the urgency of early Saints, whilst countering it with the pop sensibilities of the Flamin’ Groovies and adding Radio Birdmans’ talent for interesting arrangements. But it’s what they add to it that is the really special ingredient. There’s a sorta sneering attitude behind the delivery and a keen sense that they’re intent on bringing it all in to the present time and place. They’re also unafraid to slow things down, even as far as Sixties-pop tempo’s at times, adding to the overall effect. It all amounts to a really confident, very fresh sounding album. Beyond doubt the best young Aussie band I’ve heard for a long time. Let’s hope they get to play over here, soon.
LOOKING FOR JOHNNY – The Legend of Johnny Thunders DVD. Directed by Danny Garcia (who also made the acclaimed ‘Rise & Fall of The Clash’) this is a worthy attempt to get behind that story of Johnny Thunders, legendary member of the New York Dolls and the Heartbreakers. Told in the words of numerous friends and associates (Sylvain Sylvain, Lenny Kaye, Bob Gruen, Leee Black Childers, Walter Lure etc) this is possibly the best way to try to understand the complex and often contradictory life of the hugely influential guitarist. It’s far more than just another dope fiend cutting-short his own existence, as there were obviously reasons why Johnny sought the solace of drugs, but once in their grip they just accentuated his own self-destructive nature. He had a charm that drew people to him on a personal level, but at the same time also played to the junkie myths that attracted the negative elements. For all his style and talent, he suffered from a mix of bad luck and bad timing, but just as often seemed intent on sabotaging his own chances. The documentary doesn’t hold him up as entirely innocent, but it also goes some way to explain why he was also so loved by those close to him. His ultimate demise, as much due to leukemia as the more-usually reported overdose, was both sad and a waste, and this film tries to show this with the sympathy that it is due. It works well, showing the flipside to the previous, rather-negative ‘Born to Lose’ documentary, even though the interviews miss input from several key names (none of his family are involved, and it would’ve been interesting to hear David Johansens’ views in retrospect.) But I doubt if anyone would be able to make a definitive statement, especially so long after the fact. ‘Looking For Johnny’ does as its’ title suggests, trying to discover a bit more about the man himself, and why his legend endures. It’s about time people forgot about the bad publicity and just remembered the music, because those are facts that can’t be denied. This documentary certainly helps the cause.
LOOKING FOR JOHNNY Soundtrack CD (Jungle) Double CD compilation of rare and exclusive tracks from Johnny Thunders solo career and his time with the Heartbreakers. Also included is ‘I’m Confronted’ from his pre-New York Dolls band, Actress. On top of this, there’s also a selection of Thunders-inspired tracks from the likes of Vic Godard, JC Carroll and the Bermondsey Joyriders. This is probably the kinda collection that’s really for fans-only, bu they’re certainly gonna love it.
JESSE MALIN. New York Before The War CD (One Little Indian) Former Heart Attack and ongoing DGeneration member Jesse Malin has built a solid reputation for himself over the past three decades, so much so that he can call on the likes of Wayne Kramer and Peter Buck to help out on his latest album. He’s something of a NY legend in his own right, finely balancing his music between the City’s underground rock’n’roll heritage and its’ more mainstream alumni like Springsteen and Ryan Adams. Here, he adopts a style that recalls The Replacements’ ‘Don’t Tell a Soul’ era, playing credible but highly listenable music. There’s certainly plenty of songs here that could sneak on to the airwaves and, let’s face it, wouldn’t it be good to have something with some real guts back on the radio again ?
MEATBODIES. S/T CD (In The Red) Deceptively, this might first strike you as noisy, back to basics punk rock’n’roll, but after a while you’ll find it taking you off in unsuspected directions. Certainly, a lot of the songs do maintain a Ramones-style pace and their underlying sense of melody, but you’ll also find yourself thinking about Nirvana for a few moments before hearing psychedelic pop and then revving up to a frantic punky pace. On top of this, plentiful shards of distortion are always waiting to drench the proceedings, but only when appropriate. Just when you think you’ve got a grasp on it all, the next song will double-back and ambush you from the opposite side. That’s not to say there’s no sense of continuity, but it’s always fun to have a few nice surprises and the songs actually mesh together quite effectively as one solid album. Just when you thought there was nothing new left to be done in rock’n’roll, Meatbodies put their own twist on it and make something great. Enjoy it or be damned !
DIETER MEIER. Out Of Chaos CD(Staatsakt) This is such a good album. Best known for his work with Yello, Dieter Meier takes a sidestep away from their more rhythmic approach to concentrate more fully on the songs themselves. Which certainly isn’t to say that this lacks any of Yello’s quirks or idiosyncrasies, but the emphasis is more on the structure and narrative. Musically, it takes elements from Lounge, Blues, Pop and French chansons, to create a diverse yet cohesive set of songs with plenty of drama and atmosphere. Meier’s voice is the most distinctive element, but while it inevitably recalls Yello, this album is very much its’ own creature. If anything, the closest comparison I could draw is Gavin Fridays’ excellent ‘Shag Tobacco’ album, but even that is more in terms of approach rather than sounds. Whatever this album is, it’s simply magnificent. Don’t miss it !
MILKY WIMPSHAKE. Encore, Un Effort ! CD (Fortuna POP!) I’ve always liked this bands’ name. Anyone who can be self-deprecating like this obviously has a good sense of humour and that’s cool. Having not heard them before, though, at first listen they do produce the kind of lightweight, jangly indie-pop that I expected, but when you delve a bit further into it, there’s a lot more to them. The lyrics, for example, actually address much heavier subjects than the music might suggest, from Class War and revolution through to homophobia and Situationist Art. It’s that juxtaposition between music and lyrics that is actually quite subversive, sneaking different ideas into the listeners’ head. But however deep the lyrics might get, there’s also a sly sense of humour running through the whole album, working to offset the overall effect once again. Musically, I suppose you could say there are influences from Tallulah Gosh-style indie-pop, but listen further and you can also hear Unrest or even The Smiths. It has to be said, this won’t be to everyone’s taste, but if you can spend some time with it, you may well find these songs burrowing into your brain-cells.
MONSTER JAW. Losing All My Friends CDEP (Cobra Kitten) Formed by members from various Northern towns, Monster Jaw play a brash style of indie pop with loud guitars and strong melodies to the fore. It’s pretty enjoyable stuff, with enough guts to ensure it grabs your attention whilst still maintaining an accessible, even commercial slant. Good luck to ‘em.
MYLETS. Arizona CD (Sargent House) Mylets is basically a one-man operation, the illustrious Harry Kohen creating a sound that most would assume was a full band. He uses his guitar as the basis, utilising a whole range of effects to create loops which, alongside a solitary drum machine, provide the rhythms around which Kohen then layers the evocative sounds, from melodic hooks to full-on riffs. His voice then completes the picture by adding lyrical harmonies. This is all the more impressive when you discover that none of the guitar sounds are pre-programmed, but rather created in real-time, to produce an organic, natural flow. The only other guitarist who works this way (and could possibly be an influence) would be Roger Miller from Mission of Burma, but sound-wise, they’re not really all that similar. Mylets veers between heavy anthems or shoe-gazing atmospherics, but remains insistent throughout. It deserves to be heard !
NEON HEARTS. Dangerous Planet CDEP (www.neonhearts.tv) The first new recordings from the recently reactivated Neon Hearts, nearly 35 years since they originally split. It’s always a bit worrying when a band you enjoyed that long ago returns with new material because it could be a big let-down, but these four tracks certainly live up to the legacy of the original band. Taking the elements that always set them apart (punks’ energy and attitude mixed with an Art-glam-rock edge) they’ve added a more polished production and a heavier sound that keeps it both in line with their original material and very much contemporary. The key here is probably the track ‘Synchronisation’ which dates back to 1980 and would probably have been a single had the band not split-up. Left on the shelf for all those years, it has now been recorded properly for the first time and provides the perfect link between then and now. It displays how the band were stretching themselves creatively and also fits well alongside their new songs. The strength in the songs comes from the tension they create, rather than just blasting through them at full speed. The guitar sound is big, but also allows space for more understated moments to create an almost sinister intent. Vocalist Tone Dial still has a great voice and unique character, at some points like a twisted, Bowie-esque croon, at others full of urgency, perfectly suited for the less-obvious subject matters. This is clearly a band that have taken their reunion with the right approach, intent on taking it all one step further rather than just living in the past, and by doing so they’ve maintained a great deal of credibility. Songs like the title track and ‘Retrograde’ open up a whole realm of possibilities and the prospect of further new releases is very exciting. Whether you’re familiar with their original records or not, this really is something that you should try to hear.
NO FUCKS GIVEN. Gold Tooth in Mouthful of Fillings CD (Nofukksgivengrind.bandcamp.com) A cacophonous mix of extreme metal styles, from Black Metal through to Grind and Crust, intersected with soundtrack dialogue, cut-ups and frequent tempo changes. Think of Rudimentary Peni being reinterpreted by Fantomas, perhaps, or Dillinger Escape Plan remixed by Spazztic Blurr. But for all the diverse and generally frantic input, the production is incredibly sharp and powerful and the bands’ delivery is precise and devastating. There’s also more than a hint of humour in what they’re doing - the sounds are serious but they’re also meant to be enjoyed. All in all, I’d say this was the best new metal band I’ve heard in a while and, while it’s not exactly easy listening, I can only encourage you to play it as loud as possible and jump right into it !
PERE UBU. Carnival of Souls CD (Fire) Pere Ubu’s previous album, ‘Lady From Shanghai’, was their best for sometime, but this new record eclipses even that. Recalling the best moments of their superb ‘Ray Gun Suitcase’ and ‘Pennsylvania’ LPs, while even nodding back as far as their classic ‘Modern Dance’ / ‘Dub Housing’ era, this is an album that exudes the very essence of Pere Ubu, whilst taking it to a whole new place, totally in the moment. The title comes from the classic movie, for which David Thomas and co have occasionally provided a ‘live underscore’, but these recordings don’t particularly try to replicate or reinvent the original film, instead choosing to focus of the tone and atmosphere of certain scenes to form the basis of their own songs. Lyrically, it’s quite detached from the film-script, delving instead into their own mythology, from rock’n’roll and road-trips through to a fond yet surreal vision of Americana. Musically, the band are tight and inventive, effortlessly veering between moods, tempos and density, yet always leaving plenty of room for David Thomas’ enigmatic vocals. Pere Ubu have never failed to make interesting music and, at their best, they are both thrilling and cerebral. This album, without a doubt, is one of their best. I can’t recommend it enough.
PISSED JEANS. Shallow CD (SubPop) Re-mastered reissue of the first Pissed Jeans album, originally released in 2005. Unforgivingly loud, this captures them in all their vulgar glory, like Black Sabbath being dismantled by Jesus Lizard, or Flipper grinding through the most primal metal riffs imaginable. The big surprise is that it even manages some surprisingly catchy hooks – ‘Boring Girls’ is like a pop song drawn out from the very depths of Hell ! But mostly, it’s about pummelling the sense out of the listener and creating its’ own twisted vision. Give into it and enjoy the assault on your consciousness !
PLAIN WHITE T’S. American Nights CD (Proud Bird) Somewhere in between Soul Asylum at their most radio friendly and Jesse Malins’ solo material, with perhaps a few hints of Greenday at their quietest and a selection of UK indie influences, this is a decent collection of songs that harkens back to the glory days of College Rock. Released on their own independent label, it’s none the less likely to appeal to a more mainstream audience, albeit the quirkier fringes of that marketplace. It’s unashamedly Pop-orientated, full of catchy melodies and memorable harmonies. They switch between styles quite effortlessly, from electric to acoustic and from the more rock-influenced songs to others that have an almost folk sound to them. They create differing moods that flow from song to song in a natural way, making it a very listenable album. It may not be ground-breaking but I doubt that was what they set out to do. This is a simple, effective album full of pop songs for Summer evenings. To that entertaining-extent, it works really well.
POISON IDEA. Confuse & Conquer LP (Southern Lord) Their first album since the loss of Pig Champion has been a long-time coming and much anticipated. I’m glad to say it’s unlikely to disappoint anyone except the most close- minded killjoy. Jerry A, together with Eric Olsen (a veteran from the ‘War All The Time’ / ‘Filthkick’ era) and Chris Carey (a constant member since the late Nineties) have added a new rhythm section which now has the band firing on all cylinders. The new album effortlessly combines their early, faster hardcore style with the more tempered, yet no less powerful, style of albums like ‘Feel the Darkness’ and ‘Blank, Blackout, Vacant’, to produce a record that combines their best elements and brings out the full potential of every song. The opening track, ‘Bog’, is a furious, driving chunk of hardcore that slams you right in the face as soon as the needle hits it. ‘Psychic Wedlock’ eases itself into place with a neat piano intro (perhaps referencing ‘Plastic Bomb’) while ‘Hypnotic’ adopts a slower, more tense rhythm, complete with Oi-style chorus chants (also to be found to similar effect on the much faster ‘Tripwire’.) Side Two starts with the vicious tones of ‘I Don’t Know You’, a put-down of some musical wannabe delivered with Rollins-style vocals and lyrics. ‘Cold Black Afternoon’ and ‘Rhythms of Insanity’ take the pace back into the realms of fast, sledgehammer-direct hardcore, before a brief respite in the slurred, bar-room Country & Western atmosphere of ‘Dead Cowboy’ – Darby Crash meets Tom Waits, perhaps ? Jerry A is the perfect vocalist to carry this off. And then there’s one final high-speed burst from ‘Beautiful Disaster’, before ‘Reprise’ brings back ‘Psychic Wedlocks’ musical theme to present an appropriately epic ending. Personally, I don’t think Poison Idea have ever made a bad record, but even by those standards, this one is up amongst their best. Many thought they wouldn’t be able to recover from the loss of Pig Champion, both as a songwriter and a friend, but I’m sure even he would be proud of the way they’ve continued his legacy with such style and purpose. In short, Long Live the Kings of Punk !
PRINCE & 3RDEYEGIRL. Plectrum Electrum LP (Warners) Easily the best Prince album for a long time and, unlike some of the records released over recent years, this one is good from start to finish rather than just containing a few great tracks backed up with a lot of fairly average ones. Prince seems to be totally re-energised, obviously enjoying himself playing with his new, all-female backing band. There’s a real variety of styles but it’s very much a guitar-based album, high-lighting rockers like ‘Wow’ and ‘Pretzel Body Logic’, but also finding space for some excellent psychedelic pop in the shape of tracks like ‘White Caps’ and ‘TicTacToe’ (which really should have been a massive hit single.) The finale comes with ‘Marz’ raising the tempo, before ‘Funk’N’Roll’ delivers a high energy slice of stomping Glam-Pop that would light-up any party. I’m so glad he’s released a new album as good as this, proving once again that he can never be under-estimated.
PRINCE. Art Official Age LP (Warners) Released alongside ‘Plectrum’ and featuring the same musicians, this is nonetheless quite a contrast to the harder, rockier edge of that album. This is a much more mellow record but, as with ‘Plectrum’, the song writing has returned to Prince at his best, combining state of the Art production with classic pop sensibilities, psychedelia and even his old swaggering attitude. Perhaps the best example is ‘Funk’n’Roll’, a track featured on both albums. Here, as opposed to the rockier guitar work-out found on ‘Plectrum’, the songs’ momentum is maintained with a production more in line with ‘Alphabet Street’ or ‘Kiss’. It’s as catchy as Hell and shows the range and diversity that Prince can master. There’s an odd, almost sci-fi narrative that runs between tracks, concerning Prince waking up in the future after some sort of cryogenic procedure, but I think this is more just fun rather than any deeper concept. Overall, I’d have to say that ‘Plectrum’ is the more instantly likeable album, but ‘Art Official Age’ works on different levels and steadily draws you in after successive plays. It’s a perfect companion to ‘Plectrum’, more subtle and seemingly in the opposite direction, but creating a perfect contrast and context. It’s a real pleasure to have Prince releasing such fine albums once again.
THE PUKES. Too Drunk To Pluck CD (Hoo Ha) I was always a little wary that a Pukes album wouldn’t match up to the glorious melee of their live shows, but I’m happy to say they’ve proved me wrong and done so with considerable class. Getting the right balance in the studio was always going to be the key to the task, recording with enough clarity to really capture the tunes and harmonies whilst not sacrificing the raw edge of their stage performances. Similarly, the choice of songs was important, adding something to the usual set-list rather than just replicating it. They’ve achieved both these things, with a production that lets all the elements shine through, and the inclusion of their own original songs that capture their spirit perfectly. So, in between lively version of ‘Holiday in Cambodia’, ‘Banned From The Pubs’ and an excellent Discharge medley, we also get to enjoy their own ‘Fight Song’, ‘Will I Learn’ and the hilarious ‘Ballad of Micky Fitz’. It will never be the same as one of their gigs – how could it be ? – but this is just as valid and enjoyable, full of great songs and loads of energy. Trust me, this is the most fun you’ll have this side of a banjo !
RAMONES. Whiskey A Go-Go LP (East/West) Very nicely presented bootleg (splattered vinyl in a clear sleeve with Obi…) featuring a great live set from Hollywood 1977. With a selection of tracks from their first three albums, all played at breakneck speed, this really captures the original four bruvvers at their incendiary best. Pausing only when absolutely necessary, they’re as tight as they ever got to be. Joey’s voice is at its’ best while Johnny, Tommy and Dee Dee play as powerfully as only they could. It’s a pleasure to hear this recording, and the only shame is that we’ll never see them again. This is what they were all about and no amount of trendy wankers wearing their Top Shop t-shirts can take that away. Buy it and love it !
RANCID. Honor is All We Know CD (Epitaph) I haven’t heard any Rancid albums for quite a while, so I was pleased to hear that this latest release is much more back towards their earlier style, which I always enjoyed so much. Gone is the over-emphasis on Clash-isms that spoilt them for a while and back is the mix of Oi and frantic Operation Ivy style ska-punk. They were always much better at being themselves rather than going for someone elses’ schtick, and this album is a perfect example. Loads of energy, great tunes and a production that captures both the raw spirit and the musicianship (courtesy of Brett Gurewitz, who ought to know what he’s doing…) ‘Evil’s My Friend’ takes a nod towards The Specials, ‘A Power Inside’ is the only moment that closely recalls The Clash, whilst elsewhere ‘Malfunction’ offers a taste of Soul and ‘Everybody’s Suffering’ conjures the spirit of early Trojan releases. This is the kinda album I want to hear from Rancid, lively, sharp and full of different directions. They’re more than capable of doing this and it’s certainly what they’re good at. It’s great to have such a fine album from them again.
REVENGE OF THE PSYCHOTRONIC MEN + BOOTSCRAPER. The Bear And The Tiger CD (TNS) Here’s an interesting idea – ROTPM are a thrashy punk band from Manchester, Bootscraper are a self-confessed ‘aggro-folk’ band from Leeds. They met up at one of the Strummercamp festivals and hatched a plot to record an album of each band playing covers by the other, but in their own style. Somehow, it all works rather well, perhaps illustrating that the right attitude will always translate whatever the style and approach taken to deliver it. The bands have obviously had a lot of fun putting this together and that’s what really comes across. All you have to do now is join in !
ROUGHNECK RIOT. Out of Anger CD (TNS) Combining rock’n’roll and Celtic folk music, Roughneck Riot channel the raw energy of Social Distortion but add the Irish charm of The Pogues to create something not so far away from either Dropkick Murphys or Flogging Molly, but at the same time clearly stating an identity of their own. The lyrics are sharp and well-honed, making their point even while you’re jumping around to the music. Proof that you can make a worthwhile point and have fun at the same time ! Play it loud.
RUTS DC. Live On Stage CD (Sosumi) Anyone whose seen Ruts DC since their reactivation will confirm just how good they’ve been. While the recent ‘Rhythm Collision 2’ album (the instigation for the live shows) was solely reggae-based, onstage they’ve effortlessly merged the new material with original songs from both Ruts and Ruts DC to create a non-stop blast of energy and passion. There’s never any sense of mere nostalgia, as Segs and Ruffy remain one of the best rhythm sections you’re ever likely to hear, and new members Leigh and Molara add their own worthy dimensions to the proceedings. A mere CD is never going to capture the full-on atmosphere of a Ruts DC gig, but this one gives it a damn fine go. Don’t miss it !
7 YEARS BAD LUCK. Bridges CD (Monster Zero) Austrian band playing a brand of melodic, mid-paced punk rock that could easily be mistaken for American bands along the lines of Jawbreaker or Big Drill Car. Fast drum-beats and buzzsaw guitars, but basically they’re playing great, catchy pop-songs that will have your feet tapping while you add your own backing harmonies to the chorus ! Having toured extensively throughout Europe, they’re a tight little unit and also clearly know their way around in a studio. I don’t think they’ve evr made it over to the UK, so far, but if they do I could really imagine them winning a whole load of new fans. In the meantime, you should definitely give this album a good, loud blast.
SEX PISTOLS. Hello ! Winterland EP ( ? ) With very little of interest left unreleased (officially or otherwise) in the tape archives, most recent Sex Pistols bootlegs have been pretty pointless, merely rehashing material that’s already available. This, however, is a very nice little item. Recorded at the soundcheck for the legendary ‘final’ gig at San Francisco’s Winterland Ballroom, the band run through four songs, including a decent version of ‘Belsen Was A Gas’. Whilst there is some squabbling between the band members, Rotten is still clearly putting plenty of effort into the task, which lends support to his assertion that he didn’t decide to quit the band until the gig itself. Sound quality is very good, Cook and Jones are playing really solid, while poor old Sid tries his best but is clearly out of his depth… An interesting and worthwhile release, definitely something you should try to track-down, and deserving of your hard-earned cash.
SEXTON MING & THE LONDON DIRTHOLE COMPANY / DAVE CLOUD. Barking At The Half Moon split CD (Phono Erotic) Backed-up, quite appro-priately by the London Dirthole Company (the UK’s loudest and noisiest garage combo) Sexton Ming delivers his erratic vocals like a demented cross between DP Gumby and Nick Cave (before he decided to become a ‘real’ singer…) While Mr Ming is a self-declared legend on the London garage scene, Dave Cloud (who has regretfully passed-away since the release of this CD) was an eccentric fixture of Nashvilles’ musical under-ground. Stylistically, try to think of an unholy mix of Beefheart, Tom Waits and Hasil Adkins, a demented blend of crooning and Beat poetry. The music has its’ feet firmly ion the garage, but ain’t afraid to get a little weird, either. This is all interesting stuff and a great compare / contrast opportunity for both artists.
SHOT. S/T CD (Riotska) A relatively new band who play a compelling style of mid-paced punk rock, upbeat but not too thrashy and unafraid to break it down when necessary. The lyrics are also intelligently written and very poignant to the current times, while the vocals are shared between a male / female duo, which adds a nice balance and contrast. The rhythm section adds a really cool, almost ska-like swing to proceedings, creating an enjoyable, infectious sound while the lyrics really go for the throat of the corruption that infests contemporary society. Surely this is something that more bands should be aiming for ? This is an album and a band who deserve maximum support and respect.
SKANK AGENDA. Hate This Shit CD (One Step Outside) Two acoustic guitars, with occasional percussion and trumpet, plus one vocalist. It basically sounds like a bunch of annoying buskers. I can’t say more than that.
SKULLTHUGGERY. S/T CD (Rowdy Farrago) I must thank the good chaps at Rowdy Farrago for supplying me with a second copy of this album, after the first one jumped around worse than a hyperactive frog… And I’m really glad to hear it properly, too, as it’s quite different to anything the Rowdy’s have released before, even given their prolific and diverse output. Basically, it’s a rather successful attempt to mix punk rock with the Sea Shanty tradition, much in the same way that bands like Dropkick Murphys have blended punk and traditional Celtic roots. Lyrically, they’re celebrating the adventures and romance of the Golden Age of Piracy, with heroes like Blackbeard and riches to be won ! Of course, it probably wasn’t like that at all, but that’s not the point. This is all about fun, with lots of great little tunes played with plenty of energy. There’s even space for an unlikely cover of ‘Sling It’ by Steve Harley (although it fits so nicely into the set you’d probably assume it was one of their own.) The bands’ background is, appropriately, shielded in mystery, but I hear rumours there may be Destructors and perhaps even an English (Sea) Dog involved. So, if you want a suitably rowdy soundtrack for your next party, pour yourself a flagon of rum, walk the plank and play this loud. You may even get yourself a Jolly Roger (oo-err !)
SIEGE. The Lost Session EP (Patak) It was long-thought that no copies of this demo session were still in existence, until a long-lost cassette recently turned-up. These four songs were recorded in 199, when the band briefly reformed with Seth Putnam (Anal Cunt) on vocals. The line-up didn’t last long, described by band members as a ‘false start’, but the demos are still well worth hearing. Although not as raw,and a little more metallic than the Dropdead session, there’s still a brutal power to the songs and an intense velocity on all but ‘New World Order’ (which opts for a sinister, overwhelming riff-fest.) A more polished production as well, but never so much as to spoil the sonic assault. With so little material remaining from this highly influential hardcore band, I’m sure that fans are going to love hearing this at last and despite the usual moans of purist who’ll try to dismiss it as not being as good as ‘Dropdead’, it’s actually pretty impressive. But certainly not for the faint-hearted !
SLEAFORD MODS / CONSUMER ELECTRONICS / SUDDEN INFANT. @ The 100 Club EP (Harbinger Sound) For those who were paying attention when they bought their tickets, a special extended version of the tour single was also available, exclusive to this gig and, by all accounts, limited to less than 100 copies ! Packaged in an A3-size fold-out poster, featuring artwork by Philip Best, this comes as a double 7” package including extra tracks. It’s a great sampler of the bands who played that night – Consumer Electronics provide a track based around a distorted, pulsing rhythm, with confrontational vocals from Sarah Froelich. It’s the kind of aural assault that excel in, but also works surprisingly well as a single. Sudden Infants’ ‘Fat Nipple Uptight’ sounds much more interesting than I found their actual live set. This track is the kinda stop-start, angular post-punk style that I recall from John Peel shows around 1979, with agitated vocals to match. After hearing this, I really need to check out their albums. The first Sleaford Mods track, ‘You’re Brave’, is taken directly from the ‘Divide & Exit’ album so it’s likely you already know it (fine song that it is) whereas the second, ‘The Committee’, is a track only otherwise available on the ‘Chubbed Up’ compilation, released around the same time. It’s a great song for a single, with lyrical barbs like ‘Garry Bushell whoopee cushions under the arse of the next big thing !’ What a great image, a real gem ! So, most of this is going to be available elsewhere if you really want to hear it, but this is a great little package in its’ own right. Glad I caught it.
SLEAFORD MODS. A Little Ditty 7” (Emotional Response) One of my favourite tracks from the ‘Divide & Exit’ album, here sounding as if it might be an alternative vocal version, but just as much fun. The b-side offers a brand new track in the shape of ‘I’m Shit at It’, another vitriolic yet humorous jab at modern life, this time also featuring occasional collaborator John Paul. Sleaford Mods have made some great albums, but so many of their tracks stand up individually in the single format, especially when they’re packaged as nicely as this one. I hate to say it, but you probably need them all…
SLICE OF LIFE. Love and a Lamp Post CD (Overground) Steve Ignorants’ latest musical venture will come as a bit of a surprise unless you’ve any of his recent gigs. Stripped-down to a mostly acoustic musical accompaniment, this leaves plenty of space for Steves’ semi-narrative vocals, telling tales of everyday life in a personal, easily identifiable style. It’s very-much a performance piece, with scraps of dialogue placed between tracks to add to the atmosphere. The lyrics are very approachable and, while the delivery may be far-removed from his noisier past, many of the sentiments, reaching out for direct contact with the audience, remain the same. Indeed, one song, ‘The Way ThingsAre’, dates back to his days in Schwartzeneggar and, while much less boisterous, remains just as powerful. While this album probably isn’t going to be to everyone’s taste, I really think you should take the time to listen. You may very well find it a worthwhile experience.
SNFU. Don’t Trouble Trouble until Trouble Troubles You LP (Cruzar) This album was actually released some time ago, but I had problems tracking it down. The thing is, it’s really good and I wanted to give it a mention. With only Mr Chi Pig remaining from the original SNFU, you might be wary that this wouldn’t be up to standard, but one listen and you’ll be assured that it contains all the hallmarks of their classic sound. Tight rhythm section, great, loud guitars and melodic hooks, plus Chi Pigs’ vocals soaring over everything. His vocals are a little more restrained these days, but they’re still dramatic and insistent, while the twisted lyrics narrate bizarre situations and personal issues. They may appear dark at times, but there’s always a sense of humour lurking in the background to bring them to life. They even have room for a surprisingly effective cover of ‘New Rose’. SNFU have never made a bad record, but this one is exceptional. I’m really glad they’re still out there, and very impressed that they’re still making records as good as this.
SOA. First Demo EP (Dischord) Nearly 35 years down the line, the first demo recordings from SOA are finally given an official release in their entirety. Best known as Henry Rollins / Garfields’ first band, that ignores the fact that all the other members also went on to play in other prominent bands on the DC scene, including Faith, Embrace and Iron Cross. They certainly had their talents and, even though SOA was their first musical effort, it’s curious to think how they would have developed had Henry not received a call to join Black Flag. Regardless, these demos are raw but still pretty sharp, mixing punk, Oi and hardcore influences to create a furious raging sound of their own. It may be a little naïve in places, but it’s a fine statement of intent and still sounds vital as such. There are no songs that didn’t end up released elsewhere, either in this form or re-recorded, but it’s still exciting to hear the bands’ first efforts in a studio in such great quality. For a group that left behind such a small amount of material, this is a real treasure from the archives.
SPARKS. Left Coast Angst CD (Sonic Boom) It’s an odd fact that during their 40 rear career, Sparks have found themselves popular in different parts of the world at different times. Their most successful period of time in America turned out to be the early-80’s, when albums like ‘Whomp That Sucker’ and ‘Angst in My Pants’ were embraced by the New Wave scene. This CD, culled from two live radio broadcasts, captures that era, surprisingly featuring none of the earlier hits that had made them popular in Europe, but actually sounding really good in the process. With a full band providing a more gutsy sound than the studio albums, they actually end up in a sorta similar style to Devo’s early 80’s output and it’s a lot of fun. There’s even a guest appearance from Jane Weidlin, so it’s certainly worth hearing, especially as this incarnation of the band never made it to the UK. Now we know what we missed…
SPECTRES. Dying CD (Sonic Cathedral) Four piece band currently based in Bristol, who recall the spirit of loud guitar experimentation in the late Eighties (bands like Sonic Youth pre-Daydream, or maybe Loop.) There’s also more than a few hints of Krautrock legends like Faust and Neu, especially in the way they create simple riffs or rhythms and then attempt to take them as far as they can go. It’s quite hypnotic but always with an unsettling element lurking in the background, ready to jump to the fore when the volume is turned up to maximum effect. Occasionally, they do wear their influences a little too openly, but at least they’ve picked some good ones and there’s still plenty of time and space to develop things for themselves. Spectres are certainly an exciting prospect and, especially at a time when so much music from young artists just lacks any guts or integrity, surely this is a necessary reaction ? Hear it soon and prepare to be impressed.
SPEEDBALL JNR. Loose/ 1970 7” (Drunkabilly) Belgian band playing instrumental versions of these classic songs with a special appearance by The Stooges’ sax-man Steve Mackay. ‘Loose’ is pretty close to the original version, but adds more of a swing to proceedings, allowing Steve plenty of space to wail over the guitars. A nice Ventures-like guitar break and Sixties-style keyboards add to the overall atmosphere. ‘1970’ kicks off with a Cramps style guitar intro and then builds with keyboards higher in the mix and Steve playing a more reserved, almost Lounge-style sax, rather than the full-on break that he delivered on ‘Funhouse’. Speedball Jnr manage to maintain the spirit of the songs while adding their own character to them, making something recognisable but new. It’s a great little single !
SPEEDBALL JNR. Tiki PI 7” (Dawn Patrol) Cool mix of surf-instrumental and groovy, Sixties-style soundtrack music. You’ll half-expect Steve Mcqueen to come walking through the door as this is playing ! Nice, authentic use of keyboards, bongos and twangy guitars to complete the effect. The b-side, ‘Khamisa Khan’, is just as good, playing in a similar fashion but adding Voodoo rhythms and another guest spot from The Stooges’ sax-man Steve Mackay. It’s lots of fun, and Speedball Jnr are obviously a band who love this style of music and know what they’re doing. Altogether, a fine slice of vinyl !
STAR SCREAM. Sexploitation CD (Roseblood) Glam-rock meets the Cyber-age, with stomping pop-tunes enhanced by both modern technology and more traditional musical sources like piano and strings. It’s all quite dramatic, but always in a very entertaining way. This is music to get you up and dancing – think of Goldfrapps’ ‘Ooh LaLa’ being reinterpreted by Marilyn Manson, but without any Hammer Horror overtones. Indeed, there are a few Goth-references to be found here, but they’re all in the name of fun rather than any darker intentions. This album is more about Pop than anything else and the songs are always the important thing. If they get sufficient airplay, I could really see these guys being quite a success.
TERMINUS. Back Among The Blind CD (Boss Tuneage) Originally released in 1992, this was the bands second and final album. Although considered a part of the3 UK hardcore scene, Terminus were always at odds with the more generic hard/fast bands of the time, prepared to take a more tempered approach to their music which probably owed as much to the NWOBHM and even post-punk as it did to the likes of Discharge. It actually remains more interesting because of this and the change of direction between songs is always unpredictable, even though their intent remains focused. The album is let-down in places by the murky production, but overall it remains a good record that still stands-up and deserves to be heard again.
THIRTY SIX STRATEGIES. Strategy Three CD (Boss Tuneage) A relatively new band, although their ranks are filled by former members of bands such as Shutdown and Decadence Within. Their previous releases and live shows have already generated a lot of energy and excitement so this, their first full length album, has been eagerly anticipated. It certainly doesn’t let anyone down, with a musical style that, it has to be said, owes a lot to DC bands such as Dag Nasty, Soulside and even Rites of Spring. But what really sets them apart is Marie Vockin’s impressive vocals. She’s got a great voice, powerful enough to handle the harder, rock moments, but also more than capable of handling the melodies and more subtle pieces. The nearest comparison I can think of would be Yvonne Ducksworth (Jingo de Lunch) although that’s more in terms of the approach they take rather than actual vocal similarities. Thirty Six Strategies have the kind of sound that could easily stand alongside many different types of bands and appeal to their audiences, so it will be interesting to see how they develop. They have plenty of power but also know when to hold back, to let the songs find their own pace, and even have the confidence to be able to end the album with a cover, originally by The Partisans (although here, Thirty Six Strategies make it very much their own.) This is a band that needs your attention, and if you haven’t already investigated, this is the ideal place to start.
JOHNNY THUNDERS. 1978 EP (Remarquable) Excellent 10” EP featuring four previously unreleased tracks, produced by Steve Lilywhite during rehearsals for Johnny’s first post-Heartbreakers gig. Enlisting the undeniable talents of Eddie & The Hot Rods’ rhythm section, Paul Gray and Steve Nichol, Johnny once again had a real, solid unit behind him and it was these collaborators who would provide the momentum for what would eventually become his classic ‘So Alone’ LP. But at this stage, they were still rehearsing for a gig and so played a mixture of older material (‘London Boys’ and ‘Leave Me Alone’ aka ‘Chatterbox’) plus a couple of covers that would be forever associated with Mr Thunders (‘Great Big Kiss’ and ‘Pipeline’.) It captures him at a really focused moment, enjoying the songs and the company. His guitar tears the place up and his vocals drawl in his finest New York style. Paul and Steve hold everything down but also provide the swing that the songs deserve, while the production, although not meant to be a finished product, captures the energy and attitude perfectly. Together with some excellent packaging (pink vinyl and a fold-out insert featuring sleeve notes and rare photo’s) this is a record that has been released with real care and the attention to detail that it merits. There’s a lot of Johnny Thunders reissues out there, but this is certainly one of the best. Put it on your shopping list, now !
TV SMITH. I Delete CD (TVS) This is probably the most immediate album from TV Smith for a while. That’s not to say that its’ recent predecessors haven’t been enjoyable, but the recorded versions of his songs usually differ quite considerably to the stripped-down energy of his live performances, where the songs are very direct and instantly appreciable. His albums are often more subtle and take more time to register, but on this LP, ably supported by BB Quattro and Vom Ritchie on bass and drums, there’s a much more band-like feel that gives it a real accessibility and impact. Opening track ‘Replay’ is upbeat and catchy, while the lyrics talk about the barriers we can find when trying to move forward. The title track starts out at a simmering, understated pace only to burst into life with loud, raging guitars. ‘First One To Sign Up’ is a well-aimed sneer at the kind of people who talk-up their political convictions as nothing more than a career move, while ‘Festival of Fools’ is another faster song, probably the closest TV Smith has got to three-chord punk rock since his days in The Adverts ! But then, ‘It Don’t Work’ provides a total contrast, with a much more sombre tone, both musically and lyrically. That’s really the beauty of this album, it moves from song to song naturally, creating a balance between the different styles. The CD version also includes the tracks from his recent ‘Violent Playground’ EP, music written for a stage play. Although quite different again (one song is in German and the arrangements include brass and strings) they actually work surprisingly well with the rest of the material, creating a different atmosphere but somehow complimenting the LP and providing a perfect conclusion to the set. I know I always recommend his records, but this one is exceptional. Don’t miss out on it.
UK SUBS. Yellow Leader CD (Captain Oi!) Almost at the end of their alphabetical quest, the Subs release an album that, in some ways, veers away from their classic sound, but still maintains their impetus and attitude. There’s a much more varied production on this album, giving Charlie an opportunity to really stretch his vocal range, while the band are adventurous and diverse with the styles they deliver in the songs. There’s a generally heavier sound throughout the album, but always very much from a Punk perspective rather than going down the metal road. This line-up has been stable for quite some time and I think that’s the key to it. They’re confident in a way that bands can only become when they really get to know each other and have confidence in their mutual capabilities. Opening tracks ‘Sick Velveteen’ and ‘Artificial’ take the types of songs originally heard on ‘Brand New Age’ but twist them in different directions, while ‘Feed The Whore’ and ‘Prime Evil’ visit hard rock territory. Supposedly a taboo in Punk circles, but on this album it’s just one more dimension. ‘Heathens’ and ‘Cry Wolf’ take a more hardcore approach, and then ‘Rebellion Song’ turns out to be a folk / protest anthem. ‘Archaeology’ is beyond doubt the most experimental track on the whole album, presenting a peculiar slice of sci-fi jazz, before the instrumental ‘611’ delivers a great rock’n’roll finale to the proceedings. You know, there was a time when a new UK Subs record was nothing to get excited about, but nowadays, with this line-up, they’re once again a force to be reckoned with. I’m really glad to be able to say that !
VEILBURNER. The Three Lightbearers CD (veilburner. bandcamp.com) Self-released album by a Pennsylvania band that currently exist only as a two-man studio project. That makes it all the more remarkable how accomplished this album actually is. Coming from a basis of Black and Death Metal, the duo add both industrial and ambient elements to make it a far more experimental effort rather than the more usual straight-ahead assaults often found in those genres. They mix the tones and tempos with atmospheric breaks to keep you on your toes, adding odd guitar twists in the same way that Voivod do so well. The results are an unpredictable album that never lacks raw power, but neither lacks ideas. There’s a lot of thought gone into this production and it’s paid-off, delivering an record that maintains a sense of intrigue throughout. Certainly one of the best albums I’ve yet to hear from a more extreme metal band.
VICTIM. Empty Men 7” (Spit) Very limited single release featuring two tracks recorded in 1980 and one from 1982, all previously unreleased. Originating from the Belfast / Good Vibrations punk scene, Victim chose to move to Manchester in 1979 to follow their ambitions. Possibly closest to Rudi in musical terms, they mixed a raw edge of Heartbreakers-style rock’n’roll with a great sense of powerful pop. Core members Joe Moody and Wes Graham remained constant in an otherwise often changing line-up, finally joined by drummer Mike Joyce (shortly before he jumped ship for The Smiths.) By 1982, their sound was still evolving, but sadly they never achieved the success they deserved. It’s just great that there are still a few gems like these tracks out there to keep us reminded of what should have been.
SONNY VINCENT & SPITE. Spiteful LP (Ultramafic / Still Unbeatable) I can’t claim to be a fan of every record released by Sonny Vincent, but this one really is an instantly enjoyable album and certainly one of his best. Sonny has been an unsung hero of the New York underground punk scene since the mid-Seventies, and gathered together the undoubted talents of Rat Scabies, Glen Matlock and Steve Mackay to create one Hell of a record. Put those guys to work on some of the best songs that Sonny has ever written, and you know it’s going to come out good. Most of the album, like the openers ‘Dog in The Subway’ and ‘Disinterested’ are fine slices of New York-style punk rock’n’roll, but Sonny can also pen slower, more melodic tunes like ‘Now That I Have You’ and ‘Beg For Love’ to balance the proceedings. There’s even space for less obvious tracks like ‘Shameless Face’ and the final twist comes with the last song ‘Clouds’, the slowest and quietest on the record, which none the less is a great way to end. It all flows together perfectly, with Rat and Glen locking everything together and Steve wailing over the top to add further character and dimensions. I don’t know if this line-up is ever likely to play live together, but what a show that would be ! Trust me, this album has firmly re-stated Sonny’s place in the history of underground rock’n’roll – consider it an essential purchase !
VIOLENT ARREST. Life Inside The Western Bloc CD (Boss Tuneage) Featuring ex-members of Ripcord and Can’t Decide, this is a brutal blast of UK hardcore. Having already released several records on other labels, this is their first to feature their new vocalist, but he certainly fits the part, providing a harsh but clear delivery. Lyrics take a stab at the contemporary political situation and reflect the anger and frustration felt by many. The CD also includes bonus tracks and outtakes from previous releases. Powerful, forthright and precise, hardcore as it should be.
WAND. Golem CD (In The Red) Any band that can cite both Crass and Black Sabbath among their list of influences has got to be worth checking out ! Fortunately, the results actually live-up to the bait, and add a whole lot more to the proceedings. I would certainly say there are strong pop influences, with just as many melodies hiding within the cacophony as hard rock riffs, Acid Rock, and psychedelia is present throughout the whole affair, from the classic sounds of Syd-era Pink Floyd through to the Butthole Surfers at their twisted-best. The way it works is by off-setting Melvins-style riffs with Cory Hanson’s haunting, harmonious vocals, and equally balancing brute force chords with prog-style complexity. Wand manage to contrast the darkness and light aspects of the work as a whole and that’s not an easy thing to do, especially when each of these things sit alongside each other and have equal prominence. It’s a nightmare and a sweet dream, a glorious anthem and a dirge. And they’re due to play in London in a few months time so, if you’re a sensible music lover, buy this album now to prepare yourself for something that could well be very special.
WEDGE. S/T CD (Heavy Psych Sounds) Berlin-based trio who, I would guess, take their influences from the likes of Jimi Hendrix Experience or Cream. It’s got a much more trad-rock approach than many of the bands on Heavy Psych, and it’s certainly not as heavy or psychedelic as, say, Black Rainbows, but in some ways that actually helps it to stand out. The music still has a good sense of momentum and even when the band members get to show-off their musicianship, it never gets in the way of the songs themselves. I have to be honest and say I prefer my rock to be heavier, but Wedge certainly still have their merits and there’s surely going to be a very appreciative audience out there for them.
WILD EYES. Above Becomes Below CD (Heavy Psych Sounds) Californian band taking the Grand Funk Railroad but doing their best to dirty it up with a few choice Sabbath riffs and plenty of Blue Cheer-styled fuzz-tones. But the real difference is made by the vocals, impressively delivered by Janiece Gonzales, who provides a really gutsy performance that brings to mind the likes of Janis Joplin or Lisa Kekaula. The music moves along at an insistent pace , while the vocals soar above the riffs to add a really classic feel to the proceedings. This is Acid Rock with a real sense of drive and purpose, that will force its’ way into you mind. I could really see these guys becoming pretty popular.
WIRE. Document And Eyewitness CD (Pink Flag) Perhaps as a footnote to the recent ‘Change Becomes Us’ album, Wire have re-mastered and reissued the original source material used as its’ basis, together with previously unissued demos and rehearsal tapes to complete the overall picture. If you’re familiar with ‘Change Becomes Us’ (you should be !) and haven’t already heard ‘D&E’, this is a really intriguing and worthwhile exercise. The original material was written and recorded in a rather awkward stage in Wire’s career (they had recently been dropped by EMI, but instead of courting a new label with their best known songs chose to present a set of new, raw and experimental material.) Add to this the hostile reaction they received at the Electric Ballroom performance, and you get a rather unorthodox live LP. It’s certainly not their most accessible album and some tracks certainly don’t work as well as others, but it was an honest, open experiment so it’s important to acknowledge the failings alongside the successes. There are plenty of interesting, exciting ideas that could’ve formed the basis of a great fourth album, but such was not to be. In the end, it took them over thirty years to revisit the material and damn lucky we are that they did. Delve into this collection and you will certainly find some inspired moments, as worthwhile as any of their albums.
WRAY. S/T CD (Communicating Vessels) Psychedelic, melodic guitar pop that owes more to the trance-like drone rhythms of Krautrock than it does to shoe-gazing indie. The repetitive patterns draw you in almost hypnotically, while deceptively simple melodies make their presence felt. The vocals are generally kept to the background, adding to the dreamlike quality. But for all its’ eclectic input, it’s also strangely accessible, making it well-worth your investigation.
YOUR FAVOURITE ENEMIES. Between Illness and Migration CD (Graphite) Starting out with some spine-tingling feedback, this album smoothly transcends into some very confident alt-rock, recalling early NIN, Sonic Youth and even hints of The Cure, whilst vocally and lyrically it also reminds me of the wonderful but sadly long-lost Senator Flux. Their mix of Hard Rock, psychedelic pop and contemporary production is both commercially accessible and creative, making it an intriguing debut indeed. It’s easy to see how the band have achieve considerable success in their native Canada, and with European tours coming up, I wouldn’t be surprised to see them making a similar impact over here.