RECORD REVIEWS, JULY - DECEMBER 2017
ANTIBODIES. Happy New Year Zero CD (www.facebook.com/antibodiesuk/) Another CD that turned up with no info… which wouldn’t have been such a problem if not for the fact that there seems to be a band called The Antibodies in every country across the world, from Germany to Australia ! But I eventually found the right ones and this bunch are actually from the much more civilized (?) location of Harlow. Having been together since 1995, they’ve previously released cassettes and a CD of demos, plus a vinyl EP which came out on a Canadian label, but this is their first full length album. They’ve stuck to a defiantly basic street-punk style with a heavy guitar sound, solid drumming and snarling vocals. It’s a shame that they didn’t include any lyrics with the CD booklet as I would have liked a better idea of their subject matter. They do include a rather inspired cover of the Peter Tosh song ‘You Can’t Fool Me Again’ which is possibly the highlight of the album, while an unlisted bonus track at the end of the album has a great tune and loads of energy but some rather embarrassing lyrics (unless you’re Prince Charles, perhaps…) Anyway, for a bunch of old blokes who ought to know better, it’s a damn good thing that they didn’t. Give it a listen !
BED WETTIN’ BAD BOYS. Rot CD (Agitated.) Okay, I’ll admit it first. I took one look at the band name and the title of the record and immediately conjured-up images of crusties or worse. But trusting that Agitated is not a label that would indulge in such rubbish, I gave the album a listen and am happy to confirm it’s nothing of the sort. This Australian band plays a great brand of loud rock’n’roll with hints of powerpop that at different points recalls the greatness of Radio Birdman, Dinosaur Jnr, The Died Pretty and maybe even Redd Kross. To a lesser extent, you could probably even mention the likes of The Replacements or Guided by Voices, in the way that they craft simple, catchy songs but then elevate them to truly massive levels. Big guitar sounds propelled by adrenalin-fuelled drums, with great riffs that’ll stick in your ears even in your dreams. So, don’t even think about being put-off by the name. This is a band you really need to hear at the earliest opportunity. The best new album to come out of Australia for ages !
BLOOD TUB ORCHESTRA. The Seven Curses of the Music Hall LP (Phono Erotic) If you haven’t already come across this combo, their basic concept is a reinterpretation of original songs from the Music Hall era. After all, many of the lyrics are either strange enough or still poignant enough to perfectly fit with the avant-garage approach of the Blood Tubs. At different times, you have distorted bass riffs, clanging guitars, samples and metal percussion although, most importantly, the sounds never over-ride the songs themselves. ‘The Football Match’ retains an authentically quirky nature while ‘They Can Do Without Us’ veers towards a raucous pub-rock style. ‘Never Let Your Braces Dangle’ embraces a more comedic tone which contrasts perfectly with the sinister style and atmosphere of ‘We’re Glad You’ve Got A Gun’. The only song that’ll probably be familiar to most listeners is ‘The Daring Young Man On The Flying Trapeze’, although adapted to lo-fi garage style that Billy Childish would be proud to call his own. ‘Ain’t It Grand To Be Bloomin’ Well Dead’ is a great slab of dark humour and the record ends with ‘The Fine Old English Tory Times’ an effective and upbeat Kinks-style satire which resonates perfectly with the current state of the nation. As with many things, this is an album that you’ll either love or hate but just trust me that it needs to be heard. If you get into it, this is something that you’ll really enjoy.
BROWN GLOVE / OLD ERNIE. Split EP (Get In The Box) I received this 7” a while ago with no info sheet, so I’m still not even sure who sent it to me. But with the wonders of the internet, I’ve managed to track down a veritable beginners’ guide-worth of information about each band, both of whom are based in Oxford. Brown Glove are a duo featuring keyboards, vocals and guitars and their track ‘String Me Along’ bristles with a style that harks back to the early days of what would become known as ‘gothic’. Think of Bauhaus, Sex Gang Children, Blood & Roses (these vocals are female.) As such, it’s probably only going to appeal to existing fans of that genre, but it is put together very convincingly. Old Ernie, in comparison, are a grunge-based combo although with a much more experimental / noise element. Vocally, they’re more Kirk Brandon than Kurt Cobain and the two tracks presented here (‘Clowning’ / ‘Part Two’) take a quirky pace rather than just rocking-out, with hints of Primus buried somewhere in the mix. Overall, this is a neat introduction to both bands and for further details, contact firstname.lastname@example.org or http://www.brownglove.bandcamp.com
COCKNEY REJECTS. Peel Session 1979 EP (Pirate Love) It’s odd to think that, given the way Oi was later demonized by the music press, John Peel was a real champion for the Cockney Rejects in their early days. He recognized their raw talent as yet another new path in his musical landscape and was happy to support it, giving them two radio sessions that, I believe, have never been released before now (officially or otherwise.) What we have here are all four songs from their 1979 broadcast, capturing the band at their very best - loud, brash and straight to the point. Musically and lyrically, they weren’t too far away from being the East Ends’ version of the Ramones, keeping everything simple and catchy and singing about subjects that weren’t meant to be taken entirely seriously. Of course, things were destined to go askew for them but listen to these tracks and tell me that they don’t sound like a lot of fun ? Put it in the right context and you’ll be able to hear exactly what Peel enjoyed about them. Sound quality is great and the packaging is excellent (including lyrics, a photo insert and a sticker) but it’s limited to only 300 copies, so track it down quickly !
COCKNEY REJECTS. Peel Session 1980 EP (Pirate Love) Six months on from their first session and the Rejects are back at the BBC. Confident and brattish enough to be taking the piss out of punk rock stars (‘Greatest Cockney Rip Off’ takes a jab at Jimmy Pursey, even though he also supported the band) they were also starting to become musically more adept, creating a sound of their own that was destined to be imitated by countless others. The excellent version of ’15 Nights’ is probably the only track here that sounds a little more serious, lyrically, but it’s perfectly balanced by the raucous cover of ‘Blockbuster’ that keeps getting faster and faster until it sounds as if the band are just going to lose control of the whole thing. Somehow they keep it together, but it really is the ultimate version of this classic. Again, great sound quality and superb packaging. You really need to hear both of these EP’s because they’ll give you an idea of what the band were really about, before all the bullshit got in their way.
DEAD CROSS. Dead Cross CD (Ipecac) A band featuring the talents of Mike Patton (Faith No More etc) Dave Lombardo (Slayer etc) Justin Pearson (The Locust) and Michael Crain (Retox) was always going to be a cause for anticipation. Fortunately, this album not only meets but exceeds expectations. It has the brutal ferocity that you would expect from these individuals as well as the seemingly chaotic experimentation and switches between tempos, moods and genres. In many ways, though, it’s actually closer to a regular metal album than you might expect, with clearly defined songs even though you know that anything could happen within those borders. When people talk about ‘extreme metal’, it’s usual a rather dour affair, but this is clearly something that the participants are enjoying. It’s about people pushing themselves to see what they can create, but never about limiting its’ appeal. Perhaps the most unlikely moment on the album is a brutal yet atmospheric cover of the Bauhaus classic, ‘Bela Lugosi’s Dead’, taking a completely different approach rather than just trying to imitate the original and sounding all the more effective for it. Already undertaking an extensive tour in America, I can only hope we get to see this band in the UK because as great as they sound on record, I’m sure these songs are going to go even further onstage. As all the members are involved in other bands, this may prove to be a one-off or only occasional project, but on the strength of this release, I really hope there will be more in the future !
88 FINGERS LOUIE. Thank You For Being A Friends CD (Bird Attack) I remember seeing this band some 25 years ago and thinking that they were pretty decent, like a cross between the classic punk of their hometown, Chicago (Naked Raygun, Pegboy) and the more melodic punk that was being released by labels like Fat and Dr Strange around the same time. Unfortunately, this was also the period when melodic punk bands, both American and homegrown, seemed to be swamping the scene and 88 Fingers Louie kind of became lost in the crowd to some degree. After releasing three albums, they originally split-up in 1999 and the various members went on to play in other bands ranging from Alkaline Trio to Rise Against. They eventually reassembled to play a few shows in 2009 which proved to be so successful that they have continued on a sporadic basis ever since. However, this is their first all-new material since the original split and it seems that they’ve waited until the right time to record again. It’s a very confident album that provides certain proof that the gap between this and their previous records has not dulled their talent. In fact, if anything, this surpasses their previous records, making full use of their experience to produce something with much more depth. It sounds like the fulfillment of all the promise that their previous records suggested. The arrangements are more natural and the production brings out all of their power and melodies to full effect. Listening to them now, you have the time and space to really appreciate how much more interesting they were than so many of the other bands during that mid-Nineties period, while the fact that the songs sound so fresh rather than merely-nostalgic illustrates the passion that they’ve put into them. Obviously, this isn’t going to be to everyone’s taste, but for any fan of fast, melodic punk rock, this is going to be a real treat.
EVACUATE THE EARTH. S/T CD (www.evacuatetheearth.net/) This wasn’t at all what I expected, but that actually makes it even more enjoyable, like a cool birthday surprise. This three-piece Milwaukee-based band have produced an album that’ll make you think of a soundtrack to a great, lost Fifties Sci-fi movie, while mixing-in hints of Krautrock (Neu, Faust) possibly some early Brian Eno, The Residents (circa Mole Show) and perhaps some of the jazzier elements of New Yorks’ No Wave scene. As with soundtracks, the mood can change drastically within single tracks, from sedate and calm through to excitement and drama, evoking images within your mind to accompany the sounds. A lot of it is very rhythmic (I’m sure some very interesting remixes could be made from this material) and vocals are kept very much as part of the overall musical effect rather than taking centre-stage. But the important thing is that, however different it may be, there’s a lot of fun at its’ core. This is meant to be enjoyed and not just intellectualized about (something that many ‘experimental’ bands fail to grasp.) I’m very impressed by this record and equally as intrigued by the fact that the band also perform this music live on a pretty regular basis (now that would be something to see.) Not everyone is going to love this, but if any of the above references appeal to you, be sure to check this out.
LOUIE FONTAINE. The Sun Ain’t Black CD ( www.louiefontaine.com ) Louie Fontaine is a Danish-born songwriter who has made a name for himself across Europe with his band The Starlight Searchers. Having relocated to New Orleans in recent years, he has produced a new album that combines more of a Blues and Country feel, as well as occasionally touches of Soul and even Zydeco. But rather than it sounding like an outsider attempting to infiltrate a different culture, the music and vocals sound both natural and genuinely atmospheric. There are touches Nick Cave (in his more restrained moments) Chris Isaacs, Tom Petty and perhaps even Andre Williams in the delivery, while the music benefits from great arrangements and a production that bristles with energy and clarity. It’s not something that’s going to appeal to everyone, but if you keep your mind open, you’re bound to find some great moments on this album.
BAZ FRANCIS. Face That Launched A Thousand Shipwrecks CD (Magic Cat) Great title for an album (I just thought I’d mention that first…) The frontman of the previously-reviewed Magic Eight Ball releases a solo album featuring twelve self-penned songs that really display his songwriting talents. The first comparison I have to make is with the mighty Redd Kross and their intuitive grasp of powerpop and glam. Not that this album necessarily sounds like them, but the tone and atmosphere of the music inhabits a similar place. Baz isn’t afraid to be extrovert when the mood calls for it but neither is he unable to be understated when required by the song. There are a lot of elements in his music but the psychedelic era of the Sixties through to the Glam of the early Seventies are probably the best points to start. Think of The Kinks, Sgt Peppers, Jobriath, early Bowie, even as far as the likes of Cheap Trick… It’s a great pop record that stakes its’ claim to new territory whilst acknowledging its’ predecessors
BAZ FRANCIS. Trainwrecks in The Desert ( Baz Francis itunes store) There aren’t that many English musicians who can claim to have played in Egypt, let alone recording an album there. But that’s exactly what Mr Francis has done, hot on the heels of his recent solo album. This set, recorded at the Cairo Jazz Club, captures him with just an acoustic guitar (or a piano on a couple of tracks) playing a selection of songs from both his own record and the Magic Eight Ball back catalogue. Stripped down to these sparse performances, it really brings the beauty and intricacy of the songs to the forefront, highlighting the arrangements and allowing the vocals to really shine. As I’ve said before, his music is pop with hints of psychedelia and glam which is interesting and enjoyable at the same time. As a tangent alongside the recent solo album this live recording is a fine document that captures another side of the music. I certainly recommend that you hear ‘Face That Launched a Thousand Shipwrecks’ and, if impressed, be sure to investigate this live recording as well.
FREAK GENES. Playtime LP (Alien Snatch) Manchester band that remind me a lot of Thee Spivs and Cyanide Pills, not so much in their actual sound but in the way they channel the spirit of 1977 punk rock (think of the bands featured on the ‘Roxy’ albums or ‘Short Circuit’ compilation ) and Medway garage/beat bands like the Pop Rivets or Headcoats. The trick is not to be held back by musical ability but to find a way to play great simple songs with sneaky little hooks that’ll stick in your brain long after you’ve heard them. That’s what the Buzzcocks did so well and why we still love their old records. It’s all about having ideas and pushing yourself as far as you can to put the songs across. I’m not sure if this lot play live, but I’d love to see them. This is just the sort of thing that would sound great onstage. In the meantime, don’t miss the record !
THE GENERATORS. Last of The Pariahs LP (Dr Strange) The Generators are veterans of the Southern California punk scene. Singer Doug Kane was formerly the frontman of the much-loved Schleprock and it was the break-up of that band that led directly to the formation of The Generators in 1997. This is a reissue of their eighth album, originally issued in 2011 but long out of print. Here, it’s remastered (by Tom Lyle of Government Issue fame) and available on vinyl for the first time. The album is a powerful mix of classic 1977 Punk, anthemic Californian bands like Social Distortion or Bad Religion and also, in places, on a very similar level to some of the great music that Down By Law have produced over the years. Over their twenty years of existence, they’ve supported bands as diverse as The Damned, The Specials, NoFX and Rancid, which gives you an idea of the way their music crosses many boundaries. Catchy riffs, intelligent, thoughtful lyrics and all delivered with total passion. It’s an utterly convincing album that makes you think, just why isn’t this band a lot better known in the UK ? Given the right exposure, that could still easily change. Be sure to hear this album and become a supporter !
HERCULES II. Temple of Poseidon CD (Radiowave) An album of instrumental, metallic drones that seem to be approached with a more ritualistic sense of purpose. Think of The Melvins at their most doom-laden or Flipper at their most wantonly chaotic, somehow managing to keep everything teetering on the verge of chaos without it ever quite falling apart. Hercules II allow their dirge-like riffs to develop at their own pace and give them the necessary time to reach their destination, rather than trying to keep them within any recognisable type of format. It’s all very epic and atmospheric, like the soundtrack for a very overpowering movie. This is not easy-listening by any stretch of the imagination, but if you allow yourself to be drawn into their process, you may well find yourself enjoying it a great deal.
THE JAM. 1977 CD boxset (Polydor) A lot of retrospective boxsets are released with much fanfare but very little actual content that will appeal to fans who have all of the original records already. This, I’m glad to say, is a great exception and has obviously been put together with those fans in mind. Documenting the first year of The Jams’ recording career over the course of 4 CDs and one DVD, this includes their first two albums, ‘In The City’ and ‘The Modern World’ (both having undergone the obligatory re-mastering process) plus both tracks from the ‘All Around The World’ single. One CD is entirely devoted to the February’77 demos (of which, six tracks have not been officially released before now) and another features the bands’ two John Peel sessions, plus an excellent, previously unreleased live recording from The Nashville Rooms in September ’77. A final disk (which I didn’t get, sniff) is a DVD featuring original promo clips and TV appearances. It also comes with an extensive booklet and postcards (which I also didn’t get, sob !) so altogether, this isn’t just another rehash of material that you’ll already have. It’s a great reminder of why the energy and enthusiasm of The Jam was embraced by the early Punk scene, even though their own aesthetic was always on a different tangent. This is one of the more tempting boxsets released in recent years and one that really does its’ job properly.
LES LULLIES. Don’t Look Twice EP (Slovenly) Frantic French punk rock band, much in the tradition of The Kids or (early) Sharpshooter. Four short, sharp shocks that mix the tunefulness of the Buzzcocks with the furious intent of the first Damned album. Add to that a clear acknowledgement of the Downliners Sect plus later garage-beat punks like Thee Headcoats and The Rip-Offs, and you’ll get the idea. Not much needs to be said, just play this loud and rip the place apart !
MALA VISTA. Locked Away. digi-single (https://malavista.bandcamp.com/album/locked-away-single ) New York based punk rock three-piece who recall the adrenalin-charged sounds of early DOA, The Dils and maybe even The Wipers. Great catchy tunes, insistent vocals and loads of energy, this sounds great ! For my money, the second track ‘Shake My Soul’ is even better ! Lyrically, they’re intent on sharing their experiences as Latino-youths in the current American reality ; for them, the personal is the political, so rather than chanting slogans they’re talking about real life. Punk rock can still give people a voice, just like folk music in the Sixties and Hip-Hop in the Eighties ! It’s all valid when it’s played by real people and tells you about their real lives. Only available digitally or on cassette so far, if these tracks don’t make it onto vinyl it’ll be a heinous crime. Do not miss this music !
MDC. Mein Trumpf. CD (Primordial) Unsurprisingly, with all that’s going on in America at present, MDC are sounding as vital and relevant as they ever have. Taking the Trump debacle as their launch pad, they deliver a blistering critique of current society, where high wages can justify slaughter and drone technology has produced a sanitised version of warfare. Although musically, the album is predominantly hardcore, tracks like ‘Haldol’ recall the more abstract sounds of the ‘This Blood’s For You’ album, while ‘My Show’ is based around a funky bass riff that have you thinking back to the classic ‘John Wayne Was a Nazi’. ‘Just For Today’ adds a more melodic tone and even a tongue-in-cheek sense of humour to proceedings, perfectly balancing and emphasizing the harder sounds elsewhere on the record. The final track, their already heralded new version of ‘Born To Die’ with new anti-Trump lyrics, is a timely and precise declaration. I’d be tempted to say that this is their best album since their very first one, but that would be skipping over a lot of great records that have come inbetween. All you really need to know is that this is MDC on top form, playing powerful and diverse music with intelligent and poignant lyrics that will leave you thinking just as much as slamming. Do not miss this album !
CODY MELVILLE, Bonds Eye CD (Duetto Disc) He may not be a well-known name to a broader audience as yet, but in his hometown of New York, Cody Melville has had an illustrious career producing contemporary rock’n’roll that effortlessly embraces Blues, Soul and even Sixties Pop along the way. This is, in fact, his tenth album and over the years he’s worked alongside the likes of Mick Ronson, Andy Shernoff (The Dictators) and Brijitte West (NY Loose) although he usually prefers to record alone, playing as many of the instruments as possible. The overall tone of the music is reminiscent of Bruce Springsteen and Lou Reed as well as more recent songwriters like Jesse Malin. Vocally, Lou Reed is also a good comparison (I doubt if any rock band from New York is going to avoid that legacy for a long time) but I’d also reference more recent Elvis Costello and, although a bit more obscure, there are also moments that remind me of Jonas Almqvist of The Leather Nun in the way that his voice can sound understated yet highly emotive at the same time. Stand-out tracks include the duet ‘Remember, Ah Remember’ where Cody is joined by the soulful vocals of Dina Regine, the excellent opening track ‘I Don’t Want To Go’ and the fine cover of ‘The Empty Bed’, recorded as a tribute to the aforementioned Mick Ronson. This is an album with a lot of scope and broad references, something that you should take the time to check out.
MISSILES OF OCTOBER. Better Days LP (Pogo) Belgian band that make me think of a cross between No Means No and Helmet ! They have that big, aggressive sound but also the more complex rhythm patterns and differing tempos. One moment, they’re hurtling through the rapid fire delivery of the title track and the next, they reduce the pace to the Flipper-ish dirge of ‘Everyday’. This is hard rock with real attitude. Put them on tour with a band like Metz and I’m sure they’d end-up winning themselves a real big chunk of the audience. This is primal, direct stuff that goes straight for the gut. Make sure you hear it soon.
NEEDLES//PINS. Good Night, Tomorrow LP (Dirt Cult) Three-piece band from Vancouver BC playing a fine mix of styles, recalling the frantic, melodic punk of early Lookout releases, garage bands and perhaps some noisy elements that wouldn’t have been out of place among the early Amphetamine Reptile releases. The vocals recall the gruff approach of Bob Mould / Frankie Stubbs and, as with both those frontmen, backing harmonies fill-out the tunes perfectly. This is all about the sharp, snappy songs, regardless of how much noise might be built up around them. You’ll maybe find yourself thinking about the Replacements or perhaps Pegboy. This isn’t easy to pin-down, but that’s what makes it sound good. Give it a listen and figure it out for yourself.
PORNSCARS. Momento Mori CD ( pornscars.bandcamp.com/ ) Berlin-based street-punk band who standout amongst the many others playing this rather basic style by adding their own ideas to the arrangements and creating a unique style of their own. Lyrically, they avoid the usual street-punk topics and go for their own brand of macabre subjects and darkly-humorous tales. You’ll find songs about Ed Gein and Jim Jones rather than football and beer (after all, Hardskin already do that best !) They still keep the best parts of Oi! (the catchy choruses and big guitar sound) but add more than a few of their own ingredients to make it their own. Any fan of street-punk is probably going to love this !
PROTO IDIOT. Leisure Opportunity LP (Slovenly) Like a mix of Manchesters’ primal punk rock roots (The Fall circa Short Circuit, Buzzcocks circa Spiral Scratch) mixed with the rawest garage-bands that you could ever imagine. But they also manage to add a few great tunes to the mix which make the songs ridiculously catchy. They also recall the likes of early Nightingales, Swell Maps, maybe Gang of Four… If only John Peel were still here, I’m sure he’d be playing this record until it wore out. Individual tracks are kept short and to the point, which is the best thing for abrasive fare like this. Even the slower tracks seem to bounce along with a life of their own. Basically, you need to hear this record and you’re only going to dislike it if you really have become old. Great stuff !
P.38PUNK. La Morte Della Nazioni LP (www.p38punk.altervista.org) Italian punk band celebrating their 25th year with their first vinyl album, featuring six new recordings. Apparently, two are original tracks, two are cover versions and the final two are updated versions of traditional ant-fascist partisan songs. With the lyrics and most of the information about the band only available in Italian, it’s a little awkward to provide further details, but musically they are very much based in 1977 punk (both UK and New York) with the raw approach of street punk and emotive vocals. ‘Spara Jurij’ has a great guitar riff that recalls the Dead Boys, while ‘Intervento Umanitario’ manages to bring both the Sex Pistols and the Subhumans (UK) to mind ! ‘Fischia Il Vento’ (presumably a cover) has the most straight ahead ‘rock’ sound, although it probably loses some of its’ effect in translation. From their website, you can gather that the band are very much anti-establishment and in Italy that still means a lot, so for them to have lasted this long must have taken some effort. This may prove difficult for a UK audience to fully appreciate, but I certainly urge you to give them your support !
RAMONES. Live at CBGB 15/9/74 7” (Pirate Love) Three tracks from what must be one of the earliest recordings of Da Brudders, hurtlin’ through ‘Now I Wanna Sniff Some Glue’, ‘I Don’t Wanna Go Down To The Basement’ and ‘Judy Is A Punk’. The songs are all there even if the band are nowhere near as tight as they later became. This is a surprisingly good recording and although it isn’t exactly hi-fi, you can hear everything that’s happening, including mistakes, false starts and arguments between songs, which really gives you an idea of what it must have been like at those early shows. At times, it sounds like a life-or-death struggle between the individual Ramones and their instruments, but that’s what makes it great. This was a band determined to do what they believed in regardless of their own abilities or audience expectations. For that fact alone, you had to love them. This is a release that’s both historical and extremely enjoyable. Every home should have a copy !
7 YEARS BAD LUCK. Great, Big, Nothing LP (Monster Zero) Austrian punk trio who play an exceptionally catchy, melodic brand of music. Having been together since 2001, it’s surprising to learn that they’ve only began recording albums in recent years (the first, ‘Bridges’, only came out in 2014) but they’ve certainly taken their time to perfect the style that they now present. They veer away from any more obvious influences, instead letting a mix of less-obvious (but no-less great) bands inform their own style. At times, I can hear (early) Sink, Jawbreaker, Cute Lepers, Sloppy Seconds and maybe even a touch of Leatherface. They keep the songs short and snappy (only a couple go over three minutes and I don’t think any of them go as far as four…) and play them with plenty of energy. With the right kind of exposure, I could see this band becoming very popular !
SIBERIAN MEAT GRINDER. Metal Bear Stomp CD (Destiny) Russian metal-hardcore crossover band, very much in the style of Cro-Mags or Agnostic Front, with elements of Slayer thrown-in for good measure. The production really captures the sheer ferocity of the music, while the vocals occasionally veer from hardcore delivery towards a brutal rap style. Occasional breaks let you gain your breath before the tempo resumes or switches into stompin’ moshpit rhythms. It’s strange that a Russian band would adopt so many traits of New York street punk but in many ways, it makes sense, embracing a rebellious, aggressive style that not so long ago would’ve been discouraged and not widely heard, if at all, in their home country. This album takes all the promise of their first record and produces a definitive statement that really puts this band on the map. With plenty of touring in their sights, I’m sure Siberian Meat Grinder are going to firmly establish themselves on the international scene.
THE SIDE EYES. So Sick CD (In The Red.) This is an album that brings forth a second generation of punk rock personality. Singer Astrid McDonald is the daughter of Charlotte Caffey (The GoGo’s, The Eyes) and Jeff McDonald (Redd Kross) so there’s plenty of great music in her genes. But that being said, The Side Eyes are much more than just her background. Brothers Kevin and Chris Devine provide fast and furious yet always melodic punk riffage while drummer Nick Arnold pins everything down with his frantic beats. It’s not quite hardcore, but at times the pace reaches the faster realms of punk. Lyrically, the songs are based around teen angst chants (‘I Hate Dates’, ‘Cat Call’, ‘Dead End Boy’) that almost verge on riot grrl subject matter although never without at least some sense of humour. Produced by (uncle) Steve McDonald, the songs are short and snappy but also maintain enough room for individual variation and tempo-changes that keep the individual songs memorable. Although Astrid may have some great musical talents as her parents, The Side Eyes don’t really recall either of their bands and even when they cover ‘Don’t Talk To Me’ by The Eyes, they make it their own. It’s a great album that’s full of energy and tunes that make you wish you were at one of their gigs. This is the proper use of youthful attitude. Be sure to hear it !
SITES’N’SOUNDS, The Night Is So Dark 7” (Slovenly) Reissue of this great Sixties Teenbeat single, not quite raw enough for the garage, but far to edgy for the mainstream. This Pennsylvania-based band were originally in action during the mid-Sixties, playing up and down the East Coast of the States but only releasing this one scarce slab of wax. The a-side is a moody slice of pop that no-doubt hipped the crowd-up, fired along by harmonious vocals and atmospheric organ sounds. The flipside, enigmatically entitled ‘T’, is a brief (1 minute 32 seconds) but frenetic instrumental that’ll have you exercising all manner of jerky moves around your room. Considering this is now 50 years old, it still sounds fresh and frivolous. You know you need to check it out !
16 TON ROCKERS. Shake Riot & Roll / Other Side of Midnight (https://open.spotify.com/album/0VUA5Ao8s7vGBPweN4VE6m) Swedish punk rock’n’roll band that ought to appeal to fans of The Nomads, Turbonegro and Hanoi Rocks. Think of cross between The Heartbreakers and Motorhead and it’ll give you some idea where these guys are playing their riffs. ‘Shake Riot & Roll’ (what a great title !) is more of a straight ahead rocker, while ‘Other Side of Midnight’ actually recalls the first Wayne County album, with a slower pace and sleazier tine. It’s all good stuff. Check ‘em out !
SLIME . Controversial / Loony 7” (Damaged Goods) There are a lot of ‘obscure’ singles from the early days of Punk Rock and a good deal of them deserve to stay that way. However, there are one or two real classics and this is one of them. Originally released on Toadstool Records in 1978, this was a one-off release instigated by Johnny Moped guitarist Slimy Toad (under the subtle pseudonym of ‘Slimy Tode’) during a period when Johnny had done one of his infamous vanishing acts from their regular band. Featuring a whole selection of blokes called Jock on vocals and other instruments, these two tracks really should have been recorded by the Mopeds themselves, effortlessly fitting-in with their trademark brand of rock’n’roll eccentricity, but instead came out under this monicker and were ignored by all but true connoisseurs until now when those bastions of good taste Damaged Goods ahve decided to make them available once again (on suitably slimy green vinyl.) Strangely enough, Mr Moped claims that the band did actually perform ‘Loony’ live back in the day, even though no-one else remembers this, but regardless, they are playing in their current set. Both songs are fine punk rock, but ‘Loony’ is of particular interest as many fans will easily spot a clear similarity between one of the guitar riffs that ended-up on ‘Suicide’ by The Damned… you can draw your own conclusions. They were mates, I’m sure no-one minded lending a riff for a good cause ! Either way, this is a great record that deserves to be heard again and you are not a good person if you do not indulge. Trust me.
SPARKS. Hippopotamus LP (BMG) It starts as soon as you see the artwork. It’s a great image that recalls classic albums like ‘Propaganda’ and ‘Indiscreet’. Sparks have always been masters of the entire package, both the image and the songs. Once I saw this album cover, I knew that this was going to be exceptional, even for a band who have spent the last 45 years releasing remarkable records. Opening with the melodramatic intro of ‘Probably Nothing’, the album starts in earnest with ‘Missionary Position’, another of Sparks sly commentaries on personal relationships, that begins with an almost Baroque piano sound before embracing a full band arrangement that lifts the pace and ensures this is going to become a live favourite. ‘Edith Piaf (Said It Better Than Me)’ is almost a companion piece to ‘When Do I Get To Sing My Way’, with a similar musical and lyrical tone that’s also just as insistent. ‘Scandinavian Design’ is a homage to furniture (who else but Sparks would find amusement in such a subject ?) while ‘What The Hell Is It This Time’ returns to the full-band style and you could almost imagine it having its’ origins in the early-Seventies, a real glam-stomper even if the production here is utterly contemporary. The title track is a quirky re-imagination of ‘The Old Lady That Swallowed A Fly’, this time documenting the increasingly bizarre items that are overcrowding the swimming pool ! ‘I Wish You Were Fun’ is another deconstruction of relationships with an almost Thirties-style melody and ‘So Tell Me Mrs Lincoln’ is a witty alternative-perspective on historic events. ‘When You’re a French Director’ (featuring a genuine French director) delves into a subject close to the Mael brothers hearts, complete with a suitably Parisian soundtrack. ‘A Little Bit Like Fun’ is the final outing for the fuller, band-sound, all be it with a near orchestral arrangement, and finally, ‘Life With The Macbeths’ (possibly the original reality show ?) ends the album on an appropriately operatic tone. In essence, this album has all the elements of a perfect Sparks album, from pop through to drama and always with plenty of originality and imagination. That they are still producing albums as great as this is a true testament to their creative powers. In a world where so many bands are content to rehash themselves and coast along after they’ve had their first taste of success, Sparks have continually challenged themselves and never stopped moving forward. Someone asked me if I was going to give this a five-star review… I don’t think five stars is anywhere near enough !
UPCDOWNC. I, Awake CD (http://upcdownc.com/) It’s difficult to get much information about this band, even on their website, but they seem to be based in North Kent and have been together since 2001, releasing various projects either on small indie labels or by themselves. This current album is rather intriguing, consisting of instrumental, often repetitive and dream-like music, rather like the tone and tension of recent Swans releases. They go from soundtrack-like atmospherics right through to brutal hard rock riffing almost at the flick of a switch. Could you imagine Savage Republic jamming with an Ozzie-less Black Sabbath ? (If not, you ought to at least consider it…) Unafraid to use synth sounds to bolster and expand the guitars, this album takes the best ideas of prog-rock and the real physicality of hard rock to create something that is both cerebral and primal. I enjoyed this a great deal and can only urge you to check it out for yourselves
WARWOUND / WAR-PLAGUE. Forlorn split EP (Dr Strange) Warwound originally formed in Birmingham way back in 1982, recording three sets of impressive demos before splitting-up two years later. The demos were eventually given an official album release in 2015 and the positive response they received prompted original member Damian to put together a new version of the band, featuring Rat from The Varukers and Steve from Hellkrusher. As you would expect, they’re still playing powerful, d-beat punk together with though-provoking lyrics that will compel you to listen On the other-side of this split release, are War//Plague from Minneapolis, who go for a style of hardcore that crosses between Poison Idea at their hardest and Antisect’s ‘Out From The Void’ era. Also very powerful, but they add more variety to their riffs rather than just relentless thrash. Really good production as well, capturing the sound authentically but also giving it plenty of clarity. I actually like both sides of this record but I’d have to say that ‘War//Plague’ is the best of the two. It’ll be well-worth your time to track down this EP as it’ll give you an idea of how powerful hardcore can still be.