RECORD REVIEWS, JULY-DECEMBER 2019
A BUNCH OF JERKS. Anguish As A Second Language CD (Rum Bar) Snotty punk rock mixed with hard-rock, Sixties-pop and maybe even some Glam… The songs are brash and certainly don’t get too complicated, with a tongue in cheek lyrical approach. I mean, ‘Hippies Can’t Tell Time’ is a great song title by anyone’s standards ! The female vocals seem to slur their way through the songs with a great style and attitude, while the guitars, bass and drums seem to be battling it out like a bar-room brawl. ‘No Sheetcake No Shrimp’ kicks-off in a countrified manner, before eventually blowing-up into a noisy thrash, while ‘Semi-Mental’ sounds like Joy Division getting drunk. Maybe this band are going to be Boston’s answer to Amyl and the Sniffers ? If that sounds like fun to you, then you need to track-down this album.
ALTERNATIVE TV / THE GOOD MISSIONARIES. Scars on Sunday CD (Winter Hill) Originally available only as a limited-edition cassette-only release, this album gathers together some truly remarkable material. ATV had just recently released their infamous second LP, ‘Vibing Up the Senile Man’ and had attempted to tour their new set, often confronted by audiences who only wanted to hear the bands’ punk rock catalogue. While the album itself was met with bemusement, the live performances generated anger on top of the confusion. After all, how dare this band, who had been at the forefront of the punk rock principle of ‘no rules’ now be refusing to play by punk rock’s new rules ? In truth, many of the original bands, intent on not repeating themselves, faced similar difficulties with their second albums (The Adverts, The Damned, John Lydon’s transformation from the Pistols to PIL) but ATV certainly made the most dramatic leap. Mark Perry had already done the three chord trick (with considerable success) and had since become more interested in other less restrictive sounds. Whilst facing accusations of ‘going hippy’, in truth ‘Vibing’ owed much of its’ approach to a mix of Dub Reggae and early Industrial music. There was a lot of space within the music, accentuating different moods and atmosphere, whilst giving the lyrics plenty of room to express genuine angst and personal issues. But in so many ways, the territory it explored was just too raw and unfamiliar for many of the listeners and it has taken many years for the material to be properly reassessed and re-evalued in a better perspective. What this release captures is the bands’ entire set from the Greenwich Theatre in early 1979, which ended with the plugs being pulled, a piano being dumped off the stage and intervention from the police ! Following this is an improvised selection recorded live at the Lyceum (supporting Red Crayola and Scritti Politti) and two final tracks recorded on their tour supporting The Pop Group as The Good Missionaries, including a truly scary version of ‘The Good Missionary’. As I said about the ‘Vibing’ album, time gives us a better opportunity to assess what Mark and the band were attempting to do with a clearer perspective. The Greenwich set actually begins with a track from the first album, ‘Nasty Little Lonely’, although here it’s stripped down to the bones with a genuinely menacing sound. ‘Release the Natives’ sounds much more powerful than its’ studio version, and ‘The Radio Story’ manages to combine excerpts of ‘Lost in Room’ and ‘Fellow Sufferer’ to great effect. In more recent years, Perry has combined material from the bands’ first and second albums even further in live performances and the results have been well-received. Perhaps a similar approach back in 78/79 would have worked more to the bands’ advantage, but evidently their enthusiasm was solidly focused on the new material and the transformation was just too startling for many of their previous fans. But by now, I would hope, most listeners are going to be able to appreciate this for its’ own excitement, courage and inventiveness. Alongside the excellent ‘Fire From Heaven’ album, this is probably the best representation of Alternative TV / The Good Missionaries from this era and it really needs to be heard. Of course, some are still not going to get it, but if you’re willing to indulge the intent, there’s no reason why you won’t enjoy this music just as much as ‘The Image Has Cracked’ or, indeed, anything else from Mark Perry’s prodigious career. This is incredible music and one thing is assured – it will provoke a reaction.
ALTERNATIVE TV. Primitive Emotions CD (Winter Hill) This is a collection of tracks that have been released as limited edition singles or on compilations, but rather than sounding like a disparate selection, the tracks actually work really well together, making this sound more like an album in its’ own right. But what it doesn’t sound like is some kind of retro-nostalgia. Mark Perry has always been more interested in what he can do next rather than meeting lazy expectations by just re-hashing previous efforts (as many bands tend to do, these days.) Alternative TV always moved forward, sometimes in quite unexpected ways, and looking back you can see the dynamics that they always propelled them. Their recent material has embraced a more experimental sound, although the songs do tend to stick to more regular formats rather than, say, the looser style of ‘Vibing Up The Senile Man’. Some of the tracks are quite abrasive while others are more moody or melodic, but the arrangements and production bring them together in a cohesive fashion. Marks’ lyrics are as direct and poignant as ever, even though perhaps a little more abstract at times (after all, where’s the fun in being too obvious ?) In many ways, this is actually some of the most ‘punk rock’ music that Alternative TV have produced since the Seventies, although it sounds totally different to those early records. But the intent and attitude is here and I think that’s what’s always mattered to the band. If you haven’t heard any of their recent releases, this is a perfect way to catch-up. You’d be a fool to miss it.
ANTI-NOWHERE LEAGUE. We Are The League DVD (Wienerworld) I’ve never been a big fan of the ANWL. To me, they always seemed like too much of a bad parody, even though they did release some great songs (‘I Hate People’, ‘For You’ and even the gleefully-obscene ‘So What’.) But this documentary puts everything into perspective, is honest about their roots and intentions, and is actually a lot of fun. Basically, the band came together in the sedate town of Tunbridge Wells and initially only guitarist Magoo was a punk fan, with singer Animal coming from a biker background. But they got together, starting enjoying themselves and, as much by chance as anything, started getting national exposure on the thriving punk circuit, resulting in the release of the ‘Streets of London’ 7”. While the a-side itself wasn’t exactly remarkable, the b-side ‘So What’ combined an insistent, simple riff with lyrics that could have come from a Derek & Clive album to create a moronic-but-memorable punk rock classic, which was catapulted to legendary status when copies of the record were seized by the Police ! Further singles and a debut album followed, together with extensive touring in the UK, Europe and America, but when it reached the time for them to record their next studio album, things started to go askew. The excellent single ‘For You’ (strangely, not even mentioned in this documentary… surely an oversight ?) had hinted at a more rocky sound (albeit in a Motorhead kinda way) but the subsequent album found them meandering, both in terms of style and image, and the band would finally split-up. It would be neatly a decade before a proper reunion was attempted but the band, with different line-ups, has continued ever since. The story itself probably isn’t that much different to many other punk bands of that era but what makes it stand-out is the diverse cast of genuine characters involved and the humour with which they still view their legacy. They may have been quite serious about some things, but they were also all determined to have as much fun as possible, something which they undoubtedly achieved. And while they may not have been to everyone’s taste, that wasn’t what they’d set-out to do. Watching this documentary gives you a real sense of the band and, ultimately, it’s hard to begrudge them any of their successes. Maybe they weren’t the greatest punk band, but they did things their own way, had a good time and left their mark. This is an entertaining story and only the most jaded among us would fail to enjoy it.
ANTI-SYSTEM Live in Durham City CD (Boss Tuneage) Anti-System originally formed in Bradford during 1981 and developed an impressive reputation as a live band, even though their handful of releases failed to capture their live power onto vinyl. Combining a brutal D-beat style with a more Crass / Conflict / Antisect lyrical integrity, the band should have been more recognised at the time but eventually split-up in 1986 after two of their members were imprisoned for Animal Rights activities. However, they reformed in 2014 and have since been receiving more interest than ever before, particularly with the release of the excellent ‘At What Price is Freedom’ EP in 2017. This latest release is a recording of the band playing a full set, live in a studio in front of a small crowd of friends. The results are blistering ; the recording really captures their live sound and all the energy that they create, whilst still maintaining enough clarity so that you can hear all of the individual parts and both vocalists (Ade and Emma.) The set includes songs that date all the way back to their first EP, ‘Defence of the Realm’, released in 1983, as well as a good selection from their 1985 album ‘No Laughing Matter’ and, of course, most of the tracks from ‘At What Price is Freedom’. It’s a great document of the band doing what they do best, delivering a powerful set of UK Hardcore with a strong message. If you’ve ever been intrigued by this band, this may well be your best introduction… if you’re already a fan, you already know that you’re going to be blown away !
ASPHALT. Your Lie 7” (Coaltar) Brutal Japanese hardcore, think of something in between Poison Idea, Motorhead and Siege… yeah, that good. Two short but incredibly powerful tracks, propelled by one of the best hardcore drummers I’ve ever seen or heard. Sometimes there’s not much I can say about a record except that it needs to be heard… you’ll either love it or hate it, but either way, it’s gonna get a reaction from you. Trust me, this all you need to know.
ASTROSAUR.Obscuroscope CD (Pelagic) This is an intriguing record. Entirely instrumental, it comes from an inherently Metal-based background but the band seems intent on exploring every possible connotation available. As their name suggests, there’s certainly a big element of Space Rock (from Hawkwind through to Voivod) but you can also hear influences from trad-metal, Stoner, Prog / Math rock and even Black Metal. The band were formed by three students from the Conservatory of Music in Kristiansand, Norway, but their interests obviously include much wider tastes as lead guitarist Eirak Krakanes has also played with bands such as Leprous and with Ihsahn, of Black Metal legends Emperor. The problem with instrumental metal records is they do have a tendency to get too technical for their own good, losing the sense of power and immediacy that the genre really needs to work well. Whilst there are certainly moments on this album where that can be the case, most of it takes a more natural path, working towards the overall sound and atmosphere rather than trying to be too clever. The album works through different moods, tempos and themes and has plenty of energy, not unlike bands such as Blind Idiot God or, more recently, Pelican. Of course, if you have no interest in Metal or Hard Rock to begin-with, then none of this is going to appeal to you, but if you are willing to check-out bands who are really trying to stretch the boundaries of what the genre can achieve, then this is something you should investigate
AUTOMATIC. Signal CD (Stones Throw) Automatic are a three-piece band from Los Angeles playing a minimal style of spikey new wave pop that recalls the likes of (early) Devo, B52’s and maybe even Wire or Joy Division (although taken in a more playful style.) With a strong rhythm section and keyboards instead of lead guitar, the band create their own atmosphere whilst maintaining catchy, melodic hooks throughout all of the songs. The vocals are wonderfully understated, almost spoken at times and often seemingly remote, although they also raise their tones for some excellent, insistent chorus moments. There isn’t a single weak song on this album and so many of the tunes just bury themselves into your head. You hear them once and you’ll find yourself humming the riff hours later. This is a remarkable record, particularly in an era when so many young bands allow their music to be over-produced. Automatic have clearly established what they wanted to achieve and followed it all the way through, ensuring that nothing unnecessary gets added to the results. Accordingly, the album unique, focused and very enjoyable. This is pop music with real intelligence and creativity. Trust me, this is an album you really need to hear.
THE BRIEFS. Platinum Rats LP (Damaged Goods) Despite having some great records from the likes of the Cute Lepers and Modern Action in between, it’s really cool that The Briefs walk among us, once again. And, as the icing on the cake, they’ve recorded a new album which, despite a 14 year gap since their last LP, sounds as if they’ve never been away. As soon as you hear the first track, ‘Bad Vibrations’, you’ll know they’re not messing about. Blitzkrieg-bopping from start to finish, they keep the tempos at a frantic pace and the melodies right upfront, with plenty of hooks and great singalong choruses. The lyrics are as sharp and witty as ever (‘The Thought Police Are on the Bus’ has got to be one of the greatest song titles ever !) It seems that the break from Briefin’ has done them a lot of good, because this easily stands up alongside their previous albums and standards haven’t dropped at all. You know, this band just work together properly and that’s something that you can’t ignore. Yup, The Briefs are back in town and long may they continue to blast us away !
BUCHA EFFECT. Incredible Shrinking Future CD / 7” (Pacific Trash Vortex) Bucha Effect are always good fun as a live band but sometimes it’s their sense of humour that gets remembered rather than the songs themselves. This new release helps to put it all back in perspective and, although the humour is still there, this six-song CD really brings the songs to the fore. Bucha Effect write some great, catchy songs and first track, ‘Uphill’, has great, thoughtful lyrics as well. ‘Tommy Hates Cheese’ is Deptfords’ new anthem, a homage to Mr Phobic himself, while ‘Bono’s Hat’ ridicules the most pompous twat this side of Donald Trump. ‘Dead Doggin’ and ‘Your Dad is in The Cult’ tackle serious social issues (or perhaps not…) while ‘Rolaaand’ is a flashback to the glory days of ‘Grange Hill’. What more could you want ? Well, they’ve also released two of the tracks, ‘Uphill’ and ‘Tommy Hates Cheese’ as a lovely, limited, red vinyl 7” single, to meet all of your plastic cravings ! So choose well and be sure to spend some cash in this direction…
BAND OF THE UNDERHAND. A Long Way Home CD (Jake Bear) Featuring former members of Under Two Flags and Lightning Strike, this may be a relatively new band but they already have plenty of musical experience under their collective belt. This is a double-CD package featuring music written and recorded between 2013 and 2019, but the selection of songs work really well as one cohesive album. The sound and atmosphere that Band of the Underhand are going for is very much in the realm of contemporary rock’n’roll and obvious reference points would probably be the Clash (circa ‘London Calling’) tempered by Bruce Springsteens’ livelier moments, but you can also hear hints of the Rolling Stones, Mott the Hoople and even Jesse Malin. Although working on a self-funded basis at the moment, it certainly hasn’t stifled their musical vision or ambitions. They go for a large studio sound and achieve it quite impressively, although it’s the soul of the songs that Band of the Underhand are all about. They take that emotional core and elaborate it with a great production which brings out the full character of the music. Having not seen them live as yet, I can’t really comment on how these songs sound onstage, but they have the kind of approach which you could imagine would be highly effective. Band of the Underhand have written some great songs and combined them with imaginative arrangements to produce a very interesting and entertaining record. I strongly suggest that you should investigate it at your earliest opportunity.
BEAR AWAY. Never in the Same Place CD (Engineer) Based around the Scarborough area (North East England) this is a relatively new band, although made up of members who have all been in other bands for some time before this combo came together. This all goes to explain why this, their debut release, is so accomplished. These guys know what they’re doing and have the good taste to choose the best influences. Think of Leatherface, the (original) Snuff, Minor Threat (the more melodic parts) and Husker Du… yup, they sound that good. Four songs in just over ten minutes, this band gets straight to the point and make sure you’re not going to forget it. Sometimes, you don’t need to explain why a band sound good, you just need to say ‘Fuck, yeah !’ That’s all I really need to say on this occasion.
BIZNAGA. Gran Pantella CD (Slovenly) Boisterous upbeat punk rock with power-pop undertones, jangly guitars and great melodic hooks. Think of early Clash mixed with Buzzcocks, perhaps ? All songs sung in Castellano, which is a shame as I’d really like to know what they’re singing about – the vocals sound very passionate, so I expect it could be pretty interesting… This is the bands’ third LP but the first where they’ve recorded it as an ‘album’ rather than just a set of different songs and it really comes across as a solid piece of work. The production gives the music a huge sound and the arrangements are very inventive, making this an album you’ll want to hear again and again.
CASPAR BROTZMANN MASSAKER. Der Aband Der Schwarzen Folklore CD (Southern Lord) This was the third CCM album, original released in 1992 and building further on the sounds that the band had created on their previous records. Brotzmann himself rates the title track and ‘Bass Totem’ as being the most accomplished songs the band had recorded to date and there’s not much that you could disagree with in that statement. This LP featured the bands’ new drummer, Danny Lommen, who had previously played with the amazing Dutch instrumental band Gore, and his playing certainly adds a new intensity to the proceedings. The bands clearly shared a preoccupation with sheer volume and an intention to take hard rock elements into an entirely new sonic realm. The results are stunning, with only the likes of Swans standing as possible comparison, but even that would be only on a vague basis. Brotzmanns’ guitar playing is exceptional, veering between brutal onslaught through to subtle slide effects. There are also more vocals on the album, although the style is consistently understated and never attempts to confront the louder musical excesses. The outcome is very atmospheric, creating an almost scary soundtrack to some kind of unsettling dream-world. Re-mastered and sounding better than ever, these recordings may be over 25 years old but still stand out as remarkable and unique pieces of work. This album is one that you really need to hear for yourself.
CASPAR BROTZMANN MASSAKER. Koksofen CD (Southern Lord) Originally released in 1993, this has proven to be one of CCM’s most popular albums. Following on from ‘Der Abend…’, it takes elements from its’ predecessor and explores them even further. There’s more space in the sounds that are created here, allowing room for each instrument to fulfil its’ own potential within the work. There’s a different kind of tension here (no Buzzcocks reference intended) where light moments of minimal rhythms and whispered lyrics suggest doubt and suspicion that can just as easily erupt into loud outbursts of chaos and confrontation. The album was recorded in Berlin during troubled times (East and West Germany had recently been ‘reunited’ but, socially and politically, the situation was one of confusion and uncertainty.) The music reflects these feelings perfectly, although it works just as effectively without that background knowledge. You just need to let yourself go and immerse yourself within the sounds, conjuring up your own thoughts and images. This is music that’s unlike anything else you’ve ever heard (even Brotzmann’s previous albums) and will give you plenty to think about and enjoy. If you miss this, you’ll be missing something very special.
THE CHORDS UK. The British Way of Life EP (Epop) Featuring four new recordings of classic songs by the original Chords, this EP is a great introduction to the live sound of Chris Pope’s current band. The title track was re-recorded for the soundtrack of the upcoming film ‘A View By the Sea’ and turned-out so well it that it encouraged the band to record their versions of three more tracks to release this record. The results are very effective and sure to appeal to fans both old and new. ’BWOL’ starts with a re-arranged, acoustic intro that instantly sets it apart from the original, but then bursts into the full-band treatment with a powerful performance that in many ways owes as much to the bands’ punk roots as it does to their Mod heritage. And before you start complaining about nostalgia-trips, just listen to the lyrics – they’re as relevant now as they were in 1980, which is a sad reflection on the way things have failed to improve over the last four decades. ‘Happy Families’ also strikes a similar lyrical poignancy and, again, with a new arrangement makes itself more than valid in this new context. ‘Now It’s Gone’ is possibly the closest of the four songs to the original version, but Chris Pope’s emotive vocals set an even more direct tone. Finally, ‘I’m Not Sure’ is possibly the most Mod-sounding track on the EP, but again the power of the delivery makes it appealing for a much-wider audience. As I said before, this is no easy-nostalgia trip. These are four songs which all retain their current-relevance whilst providing a perfect indication of the bands’ roots. The Chords UK are a distinct band from The Chords and in many ways are more about their current material (‘Nowhere Land’ is a superb album by anyone’s standards.) But at the same time, Chris Pope has written plenty of great songs in his past, so why shouldn’t he review them as he sees fit ? You don’t have to be a fan of The Chords to enjoy this EP, but by the time you hear it, you’ll certainly be a fan of The Chords UK !
THE CHORDS UK. Come On, It’s Christmas Day CD (facebook.com/TheChordsUK) Captain Sensible once said that every musician should try to make a concept album and a Christmas single during their lifetime… Well, Chris Pope has now fulfilled at least half of that, with a cheeky’n’cheerful single that adopts a stompin’ Glam-style drumbeat and a catchy chorus to celebrate the most inebriated time of year ! It’s a fine slice of fun, just as good pop music is meant to be. Additionally, you also get a different mix of the track ‘Take On Life’ from the first Chords UK album and to me, it sounds better than ever. This is a bit of fun for the fans, really, but only a grinch would fail to enjoy it.
COLD IN BERLIN. Rituals of Surrender CD (New Heavy Sounds) Formed in London back in 2010, this is the fourth album from this dark’n’doomy rock band. They present a heavy sound that’s a pummelling homage to the more brutal moments early Seventies Hard rock (Black Sabbath or Led Zep without the naff vocals…) while the factor that really sets them apart are the vocals, delivered by Maya. She has an impressive vocal range but it tends to be in a style that could well be described as gothic. There’s a real clarity to the production that allows the vocals to stand out and it’ll be that element which will undoubtedly decide things for you… If you like the vocals, you’ll probably enjoy the whole album but, if not, you probably won’t. But it’s interesting stuff, so at least give it a listen.
THE CRAMPS Vs THE STINGRAYS. Fuckedup’n’steamin’inPortsmouthGreatBritain LP (ISP) This is probably more of a curiosity than an essential album, but basically, it has one side of The Stingrays and the other side of The Cramps, both recorded live at Portsmouth Guildhall in 1986 (the ‘Date With Elvis’ tour.) It is a cool idea to have both the support band and headliners on one record, although it probably depends on whether you’re a fan of both. Sound quality isn’t great but certainly not terrible, and effectively captures the atmosphere of the gig. The nice twist is that the sleeve artwork presents it all as a trashy Wrestling showdown – ‘two bands enter, one band leaves !!!’ – which sorta makes sense of the line-up. But I’d have to say, this is one for the diehard fans rather than something you all need to hear. It’s good fun, but the sound quality isn’t the best, so, you know, caveat emptor and all that stuff…
THE CRAMPS. M-M-M-M-M-Mad Mad Daddies LP (Cthulhu FHTAGN) The Cramps were responsible for some awesome live performances and I count myself lucky that I saw some of them, but few bands can claim to have played a gig as legendary as the one they played at Napa State Hospital. How a band like The Cramps (and The Mutants) ever got a gig at a psychiatric hospital has been lost to history, but footage of the event proves that it happened and also proves that The Cramps were more than up to the challenge. ‘Somebody told me you people are crazy, but I’m not so sure about that… you seem to be alright to me !’, proclaims Lux. The audience was actually made up of Cramps fans who had travelled up from San Francisco (including Joe Rees of Target Videos, who filmed the event) as well as maybe 100 actual patients. The results are completely surreal, something that had to be real because it could never have been faked. Patients get up and dance with the band, some share the microphone with Lux, but the band never miss a beat. Watching the video footage is essential, but where this album makes up for lack of visuals is that it includes various short interviews with members of the audience, giving even more depth to the performance itself. But the thing is, none of this is patronising or derogatory. The Cramps played and the audience, whether patients or not, were all on the same level, loving the music and reacting accordingly. The only thing I can compare this to is when the Sex Pistols played at the kids Xmas party in Huddersfield… the footage shows that the kids loved it, much in the same way that the patients loved The Cramps. Some audiences don’t worry about the crap the media might be spouting and just enjoy whatever sounds like fun… Anyway, if you have the video footage this maybe isn’t something you really need, but it still sounds awesome enough to send a chill down your spine. What more do you need from a band ?
CRISIS. The Hammer and the Anvil 7” (Relaxomatic) I don’t think there was any intention of new songs being written when the new version of Crisis came together, but as the line-up played together and became more confident, it was obvious that there was a natural potential for new material as well. In this case, a collaboration between original member Tony Wakeford and the new singer, Lloyd James, has resulted in two excellent new tracks that fit perfectly alongside the original Crisis material whilst also taking things comfortably into the present day. Clive Giblin’s guitar sound is ideal, mixing the bands original style with a more intricate and fuller production, whilst Aurora Lee’s drumming keeps everything solid and precise. I know that some people have had reservations about the current version of Crisis, but I doubt that anyone interested in the band is going to be less than impressed with this record. Be sure that you don’t miss it !
CROSSED KEYS. Saviors EP (Hellminded) This is really good… the immediate comparison is with Naked Raygun / Pegboy / The Bomb (Chicago’s finest trio) although the more you listen, the more you’ll notice the likes of Leatherface, Dillinger Four and maybe even Husker Du. Based in Philadelphia (where it’s always sunny…) all of the band members have been playing in various bands for a while, but this combination has really come together to full effect. Tunes that will stick between your ears for ages, choruses where you won’t be able to resist singing-along and enough raw energy to blow the roof offa this sucka ! Loud, blaring punk rock just the way it’s supposed to be. I really hope they get to play over here sometime soon…
CUNTS s/t CD (Ipecac) Having given themselves such a name, you can pretty much assume that the kind of sounds they’re going to present are decidedly not radio-friendly. And from the offset, that’s certainly the case. The thing is, if you’re going to adopt a name like this, then you’re really going to have to live up to it. Fortunately, this LA based band are more than a match for such a statement of intent. Featuring vocalist Matt Cronk (Qui) and guitarist Michael Crain (Dead Cross, Retox) the band perform a brutal, noise infused version of Punk Rock, the sort of thing you probably would have heard on Amphetamine Reptile or Touch & Go records during the early 1990’s. But despite the confrontational façade of the band, it’s actually a healthy and highly enjoyable album. Guitar riffs that wouldn’t have been out of place on early Black Flag records contend with a pummelling rhythm section, whilst the vocals are screamed over the top in some sort of attempt to gain dominance. Tempos are switched from slower metallic sludge through to power-violence styled bursts of speed on the drop of a penny, whilst the arrangements are unpredictable but played with utter precision. If anything, you could possibly call them the ugly cousins of Dead Cross but at the same time it would only be a generalisation as it would really be difficult to pin them down to a one line comparison. If you like your punk rock loud, noisy and obnoxious, then you really need to have this playing at your next birthday party !
THE DAMNED. Riders on the Storm LP (Viva Retro) Recorded live at Brixton Academy in December 1987, this was pretty-close to the end of the ‘Phantasmagoria’ line-up maybe even their final London gig ? It taken from a mixing desk tape so the sound quality is generally good, but the setlist does reveal a band coming to the end of their run. Eleven tracks are included here (about two-thirds of the full set) which reveal a total of five covers (none of which are the then-recent versions of ‘Eloise’ or ‘Alone Again Or’.) At least ‘I Had Too Much to Dream Last Night’ had first emerged on the Naz Nomad album, but ‘Riders on the Storm’ and ‘Tonight’ were both songs by bands they’d already covered (The Doors and the MC5.) Most surprising, the gig opened with a cover of ‘She’s a Monster’ by Australian band The Stems, which was only a few years old at this point, and most tellingly they also included a ver sion of the John Leyton classic ‘Johnny Remember Me’ which would, of course, become the first single by The Phantom Chords a year or so later. There is one new song listed here as ‘Tear This Slaughterhouse Down’ (although elsewhere titled ‘Gunning for Love’) but although it’s interesting to hear, it’s certainly not one of their best. So, that’s what you get – it’s not The Damned at their best but it is intriguing to hear. The album-cover is also a nice pastiche of The Doors ‘LA Woman’ album (although the line-up on the photo’s is not the same as the one on the recording… D’oh !) Damned fans are going to want to hear this album, but don’t expect a classic recording.
DANGER! MAN. Weapons of mass Distraction LP (Boss Tuneage) This particular band have been together since 2009, but their members had already been playing in Norwegian bands like Life But How To Live It, So Much Hate and Drunk for many years before then. Which explains why this band are so tight, confident and focused. Playing high-velocity punk rock (rather than hardcore) they combine great riffs, a powerful rhythm section and catchy melodic hooks to great effect. Nine tracks in just over 25 minutes, they don’t waste any time and pack everything they’ve got into each and every second. Plenty of ideas, great lyrics and tunes that you’ll never get out of your head… what more could you want ? Be sure to check this one out !
DARKTHRONE. Old Star CD (Peaceville) Darkthrone are considered to be one of the seminal Norwegian Black Metal bands, releasing three highly influential albums during the early Nineties. However, they haven’t seen the need to stay strictly within that genre and have gradually introduced further elements into their music. This latest release sees them embracing aspects of Punk, Hardcore, Black Sabbath-style Hard Rock and metallic rock’n’roll in a similar style to classic Motorhead or Venom. All the main elements of Black Metal are still there to be heard – powerful, mostly fast rhythms, throat-thrashing vocals – but they add more to their music to make it more interesting to listen to rather than just an all-out sonic assault. Lyrically, they also seem to veer away from the usual Satanic themes that this genre is often obsessed with, talking about different themes and presenting ideas that you can really think about… the lyrical content of ‘The Hardship of The Scots’, for example, could easily have come from one of the early Scandinavian hardcore bands (Anti Cimex, Mob 47 etc.) What Darkthrone have created is a very powerful album which works because it’s willing to try different approaches to their music and are intent on not being obvious or playing safe. Whether you’re a fan of Black Metal or not, you may well enjoy this album because, at the end of the day, it’s a really good record.
DEATH BY FUNGI. Die in Bombay EP (www.facebook.com/deathbyfungi) If you’ve been paying attention to my recent reviews, you will have noticed that I’ve been receiving material from bands based in India and Southern Asia. At first consideration, it seems strange that Punk and Hardcore has integrated itself into such different cultures, but as Globalisation continues it’s attempt to homogenise the entire planet, it’s no surprise that young people in those countries are feeling the same anti-establishment emotions and producing music that reflects their anger and discontent. Now that everything is available online, it’s not so unlikely that these kids will hear the more brutal, cathartic sounds that Hardcore can offer and set out to make their own statements. Of course, this doesn’t necessarily mean the results will be great, but in this case I am very impressed. Death By Fungi are based in Mumbai and have been playing together since 2013. Their sound is very powerful, somewhere between the early ‘Youth Crew’ bands like Youth of Today or Judge, mixed with the more eclectic styles of Fugazi and Quicksand, but also infused with the brutal delivery of Dillinger Escape Plan or Dead Cross. The lyrics veer between English and Hindi, providing a whole different aspect to their intent, describing personal situations as well as frustration with the outside world. But it’s the music that will mostly appeal to Hardcore fans on a wider scale. Trust me, this isn’t just ‘good Indian hardcore’, this is great Hardcore, full stop. I just hope they get a chance to tour internationally one day.
THE DEATHTRIP. Demon Solar Totem CD (Svart) Originally formed as early as 2003 by UK-based guitarist Host, the band recorded several demo sessions (eventually released as the compilation ‘A Foot in Each Hell’ in 2013) before unleashing their ‘proper’ debut album ‘Deep Drone Master’ in 2014. Enlisting musicians from both the UK and Scandinavia, Host intended the band to veer away from the more usual Black Metal traits, veering towards a more hypnotic, almost drone-like quality and that is exactly what they delivered. The debut album was well-received but its’ follow-up would keep fans waiting until now. Host, it seems, likes to take his time to fully realise his musical vision. By 2017, when the first recording sessions commenced, vocalist Aldrahn was already busy with a new project, Urarv, and could not commit to the new Deathrip LP. However, the band approached their friend Kvohst (who had briefly provided vocals back in 2007) and, having heard the new tracks, he eagerly agreed to rejoin. The results are now being released and I’m sure no fans are going to be disappointed. The sound delves even deeper into their original ideas, with repetitive riffs creating an almost Industrial-style wall of noise, drawing you into the bands’ dark psyche, whilst quieter, even melodic moments provide a necessary counterbalance that ensures the album doesn’t just remain one-dimensional. This is a very powerful album indeed, atmospheric and intriguing. It will appeal to regular Black Metal fans but also, I suspect, those with a taste for the more experimental.
DEFLORE with JAZ COLEMAN. Party in The Chaos CD (Subsound) Jaz Coleman has not collaborated with many bands outside of Killing Joke, but was apparently so impressed with this Italian band when he saw them in Rome that they made plans to work together in Prague. The results are stunning. Musically, it’s not a million miles away from Killing Joke except that Geordies’ distinctive guitar sound is replaced here by a more filmic use of keyboards and atmosphere. The title track is a powerful upbeat assault, while ‘Sunset in the West’ is an instrumental piece that really indulges the more soundtrack-styled elements of both Jaz and Deflore. Final track ‘Transhuman World’ is perhaps the most similar to recent Killing Joke records, with a powerful almost martial sound, although the arrangements and delivery are also quite distinct and ensure that the song stands up very much on its’ own merits. As an aside from Killing Joke, this still remains something that will appeal to their fans, but it also presents plenty of different ideas that suggest this project could be taken even further. Be sure to hear it !
DENIZ TEK AND THE GODOYS. Fast Freight CD (Wild Honey) Deniz Tek surely needs no introduction ? Radio Birdman, New Race, The Visitors… enough said. Steve and Art Godoy have been playing in Deniz’ solo band for over twenty years, so there’s no surprise that this three piece combo really know how to deliver the goods. Deniz grew up in Ann Arbor, Michigan before moving to Sydney in his late teens, so the fact that he adopted a sleazy approach to rock’n’roll somewhere between The Stooges and early-Seventies Rolling Stones seems only natural. He was a founding member of Radio Birdman in 1974 and, despite their limited success at the time, they proved to be one of the most influential Australian bands of the era. His subsequent musical efforts have tended to follow a similar path, and this album is no different (in all the right ways !) Indeed, ‘When The Trouble Comes’ and ‘Now That You’re Gone’ could easily have been outtakes from the original Birdman albums (although the new version of ‘Alone in the Endzone’ is rather distinct from the original version and well-worth its’ inclusion.) The final track, ‘Truck for Christmas’, is a surprisingly catchy instrumental with an almost surf guitar-like sound, ending the album on an enjoyably upbeat tone. So, yeah, this album is something you need to check out, not just Radio Birdman fans, but anyone who loves true rock’n’roll.
THE DOGMATICS. She’s The One EP (Rum Bar) Four tracks, three of which share their titles with other well-known songs, but none of these are covers. ‘She’s The One’ does, however, share some similarities with the Ramones, as well as early Replacements and maybe even a bit of early-70’s Status Quo ! ‘I Love Rock’n’Roll’ goes for a more garage rock style, complete with squeaky keyboards, while ‘The Ballad of Wilbur Ross’ gives a countrified blast of cowpunk. Finally, ‘Summertime’ takes a slower pace but still maintains the sneering attitude. It’s all good stuff !
DREAM NAILS. Corporate Realness ? (Alcopop) I have to admit, I’m not sure if this is available as a real, physical ‘single’ or just a download, but it still sounds really good. Someone has previously called them a cross between the Ramones and Bikini Kill, although I’d say they were closer to the chaotic genius of Hagar the Womb. Catchy melodies, good poignant lyrics and a suitable chaotic delivery… is there anything to dislike about this. Even Tom Morello (the only credible member of Rage Against The Machine) loves them and intends to release their album on his label in the States ! If this was on 7” vinyl I would insist that you buy it, but as I can’t find any evidence of that, here’s a free link… https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=f9rO89XQ0Q
ELEPHANT HOUSE. Chollima LP (Adaadat) The Adaadat label has been releasing some really interesting electronic music over the past few years and I’ve enjoyed most of it. But this album has really blown me away ! Elephant House are a London-based duo with Chinese and Greek heritage. I’m not sure if those factors have played a part in the music they’ve produced, but this record is something very special. There are echoes of The Residents’ early, more atmospheric offerings (think ‘Moles’ or ‘Eskimo’) as well as Coil in their more accessible, instrumental outing, as well lesser known artistes such as Startled Insects. And on top of this, there are sounds that recall the soundtrack to the infamous ‘Carnival of Souls’ soundtrack (have you seen this movie ? If not, why not ???) The results have the effect of easing you into a false sense of comfort before subtle elements start to unsettle the programme. My take on their efforts is that, although obviously utilising contemporary technology, this duo have found a way to strip things to the basics and then rebuild in a way that really allows maximum space for their imagination, rather than indulging in dull muso ramblings. There are so many different elements colliding on this album, but they all make total sense as a whole. Be sure to listen to this record, preferably with the lights turned low, and see where these sounds will take you.
ENVY. The Fallen Crimson CD (Pelagic) Envy are a Japanese band, nominally within the ‘hardcore’ genre although even a cursory listen of this LP will let you know that they’re certainly not constrained by the limits of that label. Having formed in Tokyo back in 1992, it has only been recently that the line-up has undergone any changes, most notably with the departure of vocalist Tetsuya in 2016, although he would surprise their fans by rejoining the band in 2018. This seems to have reinvigorated the band and this album certainly sounds as if they have exceeded expectations. Combining the intensity of Hardcore with the intricacies of Art-rock and maybe even Psychedelia, Envy have created an album that refuses to be predictable. Attitude-wise, you can compare them to bands like Fucked Up, Ceremony or Daughters, in the way that they’ve used punk or Hardcore as a springboard, but then dived headlong into whatever possibilities have presented themselves. The results veer from intense walls of sound through to fragile melodic interludes, each providing a counter-balance that only accentuates the other. This is a truly intriguing album and I have no problems in recommending it. It’s not going to appeal to everyone, but you should at the very least investigate.
ESCAPE ELLIOTT. Everything Here is Make Believe CD (Engineer) I received this CD through the post but it had no info with it, not even a return address. In fact, the copy I received didn’t even include label details ! Sometimes, this could be a problem, but once I started listening I enjoyed what I was hearing and certainly didn’t mind doing some detective-work to get the facts together. This band come from Belgium, playing a confident mix of punky, pop-rock and fronted by female vocalist Isaura who has a powerful but melodic voice that sort of reminds me of Dolores O’Riordan (this is meant as a compliment – I was never a particular fan of The Cranberries but Dolores had a great voice.) Musically, they bring a lot of different styles together in a totally convincing way. Some moments will remind you of Bad Religion, others will recall Dance Hall Crashers or The Muffs, and you’ll also pick-out metal, ska and even hardcore. Their skill is in the way they combine all of these elements but always ensure that it’s the song itself that’s the important thing. Plus, they sound as if they’re really enjoying themselves, which is always a good thing to hear. Consistently melodic, even in their more aggressive musical moments, this is a band who could appeal to a very wide audience if they get the exposure that they deserve. Great lyrics provide the icing on the cake, making this an album you can think about even while you’re dancing to it. Be sure to give this a thorough listening !
THE FALLEN LEAVES. Maximum Minimum LP (Parliament) I think it would be pretty difficult to capture the true essence of a Fallen Leaves gig on vinyl because you really need to be there, but this album goes a long way towards getting it. The band are a consistently great live-unit and their regular gigs at the Hope & Anchor always generate such an exciting atmosphere, that it’s wholly appropriate that they should document one such event. Drummer Brett Ascott and bassist Matthew Karas work together so well, creating the tight rhythm section that keeps the songs pinned-down,while Rob Symmons guitar veers between catchy riffs and massive Mod-Art noise, providing a real sense of drama. In between all of this, singer Rob Green delivers his witty lyrics, each one with an insistent tale all of its’ own. The sound, recorded by Pat Collier, is just like their gigs, loud but with a real clarity for each individual element. Songs like ‘Prodigal Son’, ‘Green Eyes FC’ and ‘Sylvie Says’ really stand out whilst longer songs like ‘Shining’ and ‘Trouble’ seem to adopt an even more dynamic sound as they’re played-out to full effect. The only aspect lacking in this recording is the visual side of the band and Rob Greens’ stage presence, which brings their sense of humour more forward when you see them live, but that’s just another reason why you need to see them live as well ! It seems bizarre that this band are not more well-known but in many ways, I think that suits them. They can continue at their own pace, work on music that they really want to play and present it exactly as they want to. Rob Green might boast that they are ‘the champions of the glorious under-achiever’, but in a lot of ways, I think they’re achieving pretty-much what they want to do. If you haven’t already seen The Fallen Leaves, this will give you a good idea of what you’re missing. It’s a great selection of excellent songs with a fine live sound that any fan is going to enjoy. But just remember - it’s still no excuse for not seeing them !
THE FALLEN LEAVES. Green Eyes FC 7” / Begin Again 7” (Parliament) Doing things their own way (as usual) The Fallen Leaves have released two singles simultaneously, featuring four new recordings. Plain card sleeves, autographed by the band-members, they look really nice and, more importantly, sound wonderful. ‘Begin Again’ and ‘So Much More’ are both brand new and, as yet, unavailable elsewhere, while a different version of ‘Motorcycle Girl’ can be found on their last studio LP and ‘Green Eyes FC’ features on the current live album. But trust me, you need to snap-up both of these records before they run-out as they’re both rather superb. If you’ve seen the band live recently, you’ll already know that ‘Green Eyes FC’ is a real highlight of their sets and ‘Motorcycle Girl’ was / is one of my favourites already. ‘Begin Again’ recalls the raw vibrancy of ‘I Can’t Explain’ mixed with The Modern Lovers, while ‘So Much More’ is perhaps less direct but no less enjoyable… the more you hear it, the more sense it makes. Do you love this band already ? If not, it’s only a matter of time. Keep your ears open !
FITTED. First Fits LP (Org Music) Featuring Graham Lewis and Matt Simms from Wire, alongside renowned bassist Mike Watt and Bob Lee (Fearless Leader, the Freeks) this is a unique and exciting project. Initially coming together for an impromptu performance at Wire’s 2017 DRILL festival in Los Angeles, the musicians have taken things further to build on some of their initial ideas and the results are very impressive. The best point of reference would probably be the various records that Graham Lewis and Bruce Gilbert recorded during the early 1980’s (Dome etc) but there are also references to the more psychedelic moments of Krautrock, particularly in the way that the various tracks are built around repetitive, atmospheric rhythms whilst the vocals are narrated rather than sung. Although that’s certainly not to say that they lack any passion or intent and, in fact, there’s a real sense of creative intrigue throughout the entire album. They effortlessly combine an improvised approach with their obvious musical talents to produce something highly accomplished but never lacking a natural, organic delivery. Vocals are shared between Graham Lewis and Mike Watt, each with their own style but perfectly suiting the music that they work with, suggesting images rather than making definite statements. At present, I expect that this will be seen as a Wire side-project, but I really think this band have a great deal to offer in their own right and I very-much hope that this isn’t going to be just a one-off album. Trust me, this is a great record and you really need to hear it.
45 RALLY. Tweets For My Sweet CD (Rum Bar) Swiss garage-punk combo with an authentic Sixties sound, all twanging guitars, squeaky keyboards and great harmonies. But the real catch is that they’ve borrowed all of their song-titles from a actual tweets originally posted by Donnie Trump… so you can expect great pop ditties like ‘(I Love you) Bigly’, ‘Shithole Country’ (which actually adopts a Country-style) and the wonderful ‘Bad Hombre’ (which is a great name for a Garage-punk song either way you look at it !) the best thing about this CD is that although there is a kind-of joke at the expense of the orange asshole, the songs aren’t about him and stand up perfectly well in their own right, joke or not. This a great record and deserves to be heard – don’t miss it !
THE 4-SKINS. Unreleased Radio & Studio Sessions LP (Ttan Ttakun) The 4-Skins remain a bit of an awkward quantity. Their early releases are Oi / Street Punk classics, but their involvement in the Southall Riots (not that the band were actually responsible for the events) condemned them in the eyes of the music press and when the original line-up subsequently fell apart, later versions of the band never managed to capture their original vitality. But the early material still stands up surprisingly well and if it hadn’t been for the eagerness of certain journalists to vilify the Oi movement, they could have proven to be a positive force. As this album shows, they were just as able to incorporate Ska rhythms into their music as the raw punk style they are mostly known for (and this LP doesn’t even include the Pop-Ska classic ‘Plastic Gangster’.) A lot of their lyrics did involve violence or unsavoury characters, but in the early 80’s that was a part of life, particularly in places like the East End. (The same journo’s who condemn Oi will probably embrace Gangsta Rap, but where’s the real difference ?) At the end of the day, it’s all down to intent. Whilst I’m willing to say that later versions of the 4-Skins probably let the side-down, the original line-up (while Gary Hodges was still in the band) wrote and released some great punk rock and songs like ‘Wonderful World’. ‘Evil’ and ‘One Law Fore Them’ still stand up as real classics. There’s not much info included with this album although the five ‘Bumper Sessions’ tracks on side two have been previously released. I’m not so sure about the ‘unreleased demos’ and the radio session track-listing is surprisingly close to their Peel session, so you may need to make your own mind up on that one. The thing you need to know is that the sound quality is really good all the way through and the songs are some of the best the band ever recorded. If you want to be a snob, you’re going to hate this before you even hear it, but if you’re happy to hear some great street-level punk rock, this is going to blow you away !
FREELOADER. The Path of Least Resistance LP (Rum Bar) Featuring members of rock’n’roll aristocracy The Upper Crust, plus comparative whipper-snappers Justine & The Unclean, Freeloader are Boston’s latest hard rockin’ supergroup. Nat Freedberg already released a solo album earlier this year, but this set of songs veer back towards his obvious love for Bon Scott era AC/DC (the good stuff) with perhaps a few nods towards the likes of Thin Lizzy and some of the harder, boogie-ing Southern Rock bands. Much like Turbonegro, the reason this works so well is because the band obviously love this music and play it properly, whilst at the same time embracing the inherent silliness of the genre and, instead ridiculing it, play it with a suitably dry sense of humour. I mean, how else would you get away with recording an anthem called ‘Nobody Gives a Fuck’ ? There are two inspired covers on the album… the first, ‘Rag Doll’, combines hard rock riffin’ with a catchy powerpop accessibility, while ‘Will It Go Round in Circles’ (originally by Billy Preston) is transformed into a snarlin’ hard rock headbanger. Perhaps the most Spinal Tap moment of the entire album is the excellent ‘Highland Fling’, complete with bagpipe-style guitars and including the immortal lines ‘By the loch, I met a lassie… she was quite a piece of assey’ – Genius ! The album ends with the important observation that ‘Ten Songs Make An Album’… I hope the kids are paying attention ! This is a great rock album that doesn’t take itself too seriously but never fails to actually ROCK ! If you can’t enjoy this, then you’re really missing out.
GAD WHIP. Ward 24 7” (Fourth Dimension) This is a very interesting record, a real step-forward from their recent album. Tracks like ‘Ward 24’ seem to work better as stand-alone pieces, and although it’s hardly a ‘pop’ record in the usual sense, this could easily find itself appealing to a pretty broad audience. Although singer Pete Davies does share some similarities with Jason Williamson (Sleaford Mods) it’s more in the observational-style he adopts rather than the actual delivery and, let’s face it, the current social-situation in the UK provides more than enough subject-matter. But it’s the band behind him that really set things apart. ‘Ward 24’ has heavy, almost dub-like rhythms (not far from Ruts DC at their most inventive) but combine it with minimalist samples and guitar sounds to further the atmosphere. Contains the classic lyric ‘the cinema was sold-out so we went to Ikea…’ B-side ‘Trademark’ is a much noisier, punkier affair, faster and nastier, although again Pete Davies’ narrative underpins everything. Two tracks seemingly at odds with each other and yet a perfect combination. Track down a copy of this record now, as I’m sure there’s going to be a lot of interest in this band pretty soon.
GENYA RAVAN. Icon CD (Rum Bar) Genya Ravan is an important part of New York’s rock’n’roll history. Her career started in the early Sixties as the singer for a band called The Escorts before she formed Goldie and the Gingerbreads, who became the first all-girl rock band to be signed to a major label (Atco.) They went on to tour with bands like the Rolling Stones, the Yardbirds and The Kinks, and even relocated to London for a time, where they scored a Top Thirty hit with ‘Can’t You Hear My Heart Beat’. In 1969, she formed Ten Wheel Drive, who signed with Polydor records and went on to release three albums before she went solo and released four albums under her own name. In the mid-Seventies, she became interested in the new music emanating from the Bowery and began frequenting CBGB’s. Her enthusiasm led to being asked by Hilly Kristal to produce the Dead Boys debut album, which remains a classic to this day. Her career as a producer continued and in 1980 she worked on the ‘Siren’ album by Ronnie Spector, encouraging her to cover the Ramones’ ‘Here Today, Gone Tomorrow’ and instigating guest appearances from both Cheetah Chrome and Billy Rath. In subsequent years, she’s released further records, produced more bands, published her biography, ‘Lollipop Lounge’ and featured as a DJ on Little Steven’s Underground Garage radio show. So that’s enough background – here’s the important stuff. Genya has recorded a new album alongside original member of Joan Jett’s Blackhearts, Ricky Byrd, and it’s a lot of fun indeed. Genya’s voice is still has plenty of power, somewhere between Ronnie Spector and Janis Joplin, whilst musically this is a real mix of great influences. Obviously, the Sixties era plays a big part, with hints of original R’n,B, Girl-groups like the Shangri-La’s and the Ronettes, and even harder edged Blues. But alongside this, there’s also nods towards the early days of New York Punk Rock (‘Don’t Go In The Bathroom’ is a tribute to CBGB’s infamous facilities), New Wave (she includes a quirky cover of ‘Pump It Up’, the best single that Elvis Costello ever released) and classic powerpop (’He Got Me’.) I know that a lot of people aren’t going to get into this, but it’s their loss. What you need to understand is that the New York punk scene had influences going way-back to the early days of rock’n’roll and that’s why Genya understood what was happening and became a part of it. This is also the reason why she’s releasing a great new album right now. If you pay attention to the music you enjoy, then this will make total sense. If you don’t already know of Genya Ravan, make sure this album is you’re starting point.
GOODENOUGH. Alongside EP (Anxydad) I really like it that I now receive files to review from places like Indonesia. It proves that this music that I / we’ve loved for the last 40 years has reached out to people all over the world and it’s the passion rather than the commercialism that counts. You don’t play music like this because you think it’s going to make you a millionaire (if you thought like that you’d be lowering yourself to the likes of Oasis or U2.) In this case, Goodenough are a band from Bogor in Java… their roots go back to 2008 as a pop-punk band, but the singer, Bonar, quit to pursue different musical styles. In 2018, he formed Goodenough with a new style, referring to some of the more melodic moments of the Sub-Pop scene and bands like Buffalo Tom or the Lemonheads, as well as hints of Green Day and Offspring. The results are pretty impressive, four very catchy songs that dangle between rock, pop and punk. It sounds great, the band are obviously more concerned about the music more than instant success and you can only enjoy it. Maybe it won’t change the world, but it’s a part of a world that wants to change.
GOSPELBEACH. Let It Burn CD (Alive) There’s a sad undercurrent to this album, which already had its’ share of melancholy moments, as guitarist Neal Casal tragically died just before its’ release. It’s particularly poignant as his contributions had helped to make this the bands’ finest album to date, veering between brooding Americana-style rock like ‘Dark Angel’, the mellower pop of ‘Get It Back’ and the upbeat bar-room doo-wop of ‘Unswung’. But the real success of Gospelbeach’s music is the effortless way that they combine different styles and influences within their classic Southern Californian sound. Soulful organ work haunts some tracks, while others include guitar licks that could have come straight from Nashville. The title track starts with a surprisingly delicate intro before developing into a positive, redemptive narrative, whilst album-closer ‘Hoarder’ is driven along with a dirty, fuzzy bass sound. Main song-writer Brent Rademaker (ex-Further and Beechwood Sparks) has really defined the aim of the band on this album with some of the best songs he has ever written. They may emulate some of their influences from the past, but on this album Gospelbeach have truly established their own place as a force to be reckoned with. I just hope that the loss of Casal will not derail the obvious creative momentum that the band have developed on this album.
GUIDED BY VOICES. Sweating The Plague LP (GBV Inc) Their third LP in less than 12 months, but it still maintains high standards. The return of Doug Gillard to the fold has really invigorated GBV and whilst the album is perhaps a little rougher around the edges, this was always an essential part of the band. As I’ve always said, GBV are a truly vital mix of styles and I would have loved their music had I heard it forty years ago or only yesterday. Pop, psychedelia, prog, punk, post- punk, new wave… are you really all that bothered about genres ? GBV are great because they’re GBV. Enough said. Bob Pollard has never limited himself and, at present, the band fulfil all expectations, keeping up with every diversion Bob may take. I’m not going to claim that this is the most accessible album they’ve ever made, but anyone who really appreciates the way that Pollard works is going to recognise it as a classic. Mark E Smith once claimed that he only recognised Prince as a musical rival… Bob Pollard is in a similar position. In a perfect world, GBV albums would be recognised as the classics that they are. But in the real world, I doubt that he really cares apart from making sure that the records maintain their credibility. Pollard has never played for the easy score and this album is a perfect example. If you know your GBV, you’re going to love it, but if you’re only there for hipster-points, you won’t get it at all. But at the end of the day, GBV will be remembered and you will sink without trace. Fuck the hipsters, GBV rule !
HAGAR THE WOMB. Hagitate 10” EP (Grow Your Own) Any new recordings from the Hags are always more than welcome in this household ! And whilst their live performances still remain as wonderfully chaotic and unpredictable as ever, it has to be said that their recent records have become a lot more accomplished. That doesn’t mean that they’ve lost their edge or character (after all, you can’t polish a Hag, even though Mitch would probably be up for it…) but they now have a better sense of arrangements and a production that brings everything to the fore, creating the perfect sound for the whole band. This EP features six songs, some of which have been in their live set for a while, and whilst the musical style is instantly recognisable, they’ve also moved things forward both musically and lyrically. ‘Visible Woman’ tackles issues of sexism and ageism, ‘Portrait’ discusses self-identity, and ‘Hated’ is a playful polka-romp, ranting against the Daily Mail ( a ‘news’ paper that supported Fascism and Hitler’s rise to power during the 1930’s.) Over to side two, ‘Showing Off’ is Karens’ attempt to explain why she’s still making noise, ‘Gaslighter’ is about recognising and dealing with emotional abuse, and finally, ‘Perfect Life’ is about the expectations that society places on individuals to ‘fit-in’ with everyone else. These songs will give you plenty to think about, even while you’re jumping around to the music, and isn’t that one of the things that the best punk rock was packaging as well, what more could you ask for ? supposed to be about ? Great packaging as well, what more could you ask for ?
HAND & LEG. Lust in Peace CD (Fourth Dimension) This album takes a few listens to properly appreciate, but once you get into it you’re going to find it interesting and exciting. Hand & Leg are a duo from Greece and their music is mostly based around drums and bass, bolstered by various electronic effects. Parts of the album recall Swans, some moments suggest No Means No and others suggest fuzz-drenched hard rock. Overall, though, it’s pretty indefinable, with the two sets of vocals (male and female) tackling different songs and occasionally coming together for certain tracks. You can detect the influence of early Industrial music as well as Krautrock, although the predominant use of a traditional rhythm section ensures that the music moves in a passionate, primitive style. This is noise with a purpose, setting out to draw-in the audience rather than just repelling them. Lyrics take an abstract direction, suggesting ideas and images rather than precisely defining particular statements and at times combine with the music to create unsettling, almost dreamlike segments. I wouldn’t want to recommend this album to everyone, but I can say that, if this review makes you curious you should definitely check it out. I have a feeling that if you like it, you’re going to like it a lot.
HARD SKIN. We’re The Fucking Mustard LP (JT Classics) The live prowess of Hard Skin is a truly legendary experience. Their studio recordings always capture the Sound of the Streets and the what the kids are feeling just perfectly, but onstage they take it to an entirely higher level. A bit like Canary Wharf compared to the Post Office Tower. Both are impressive, but one of ‘em has the extra inches (as the birds will confirm !) In this case, The Skin are captured live in concert showing the Froggies how to do it… Playing in the French town of Dijon, the band were admittedly pissed off when the rider included vintage wine, gourmet mustard and Gitanes instead of lager, Pies & Mash and regular fags, but they still delivered the goods. How could they not ? They’ve got songs like ‘Oi, Not Jobs’, ‘ACAC’, ‘We Are The Wankers’, ‘XR3’ and ‘Desperation Street’… this is class we’re talking about and no garlicky foreign food is going to spoil that kind of quality. You know you need this album. And you know the band need you to buy it… they’ve got a lavish South London lifestyle to live up to ! If you can’t enjoy this, then you are the wanker…
HARDSKIN. Beer & Fags 7” (JT Classics) For all of their Sarf London savvy, Hardskin recently fell for a ploy from ‘the man’. Offered a wad of cash to play at some Canadian wankers’ birthday party, they even re-recorded their classic anthem as a celebratory treat, only to find out that the supposed-geezer was a bearded yuppie arsehole with more money than street-wise sense. Faced with such duplicity (and lotsa readies) Hardskin took the cash and ran (via Business Class) showing two-fingers to yet another twat. But at least they got to record another great single out of this fiasco (lucky they didn’t waste a b-side on the Berkshire…) ‘Beer & Fags’ via the legendary ‘Hardskin’ intro… you’ll love it, you slags ! Get it if you can...
HARROWED. Chaotic Nonentity CD (Feast of Tentacles) UK band playing a brutal style of hardcore with more than a few elements borrowed from Black Metal and other more extreme rock sounds. They can handle fast tempos with an impressive style, whilst also happy to slow things down to the kind of riff-fest that Gore used to do so well. The vocals are raw but sung rather than just yelled-out, while the guitar-sound recalls Tony Iommi’s classic tones, although distorted to Discharge-like limits. The drums are sharp and clear, keeping everything in place. For a three-piece, they really manage to create a truly monstrous sound. Hear it to believe it !
HIGH COMMAND. Beyond the Wall of desolation CD (Southern Lord) Debut full-length album from this Massachusetts-based metal band. With a sound that harks back to the early US Thrash / crossover scene, High Command present a sound that will appeal to fans of early Slayer, Death Angel, DRI and maybe even Corrosion of Conformity. But this isn’t a band that are just trying to imitate their musical heroes, they take the genre and forcefully drag it into the contemporary realm. Lyrically, the songs tend to indulge in some kind of dungeons and dragons territory, although fortunately the gravelly-vocals are such that the imagery doesn’t get too overwhelming. The album features eight quite lengthy songs, delivered with a powerful production and plenty of energy. For any fans of the bands mentioned-above, this is going to be a real treat.
IAMTHEMORNING. The Bell CD (KScope) Iamthemorning are a Russian duo that combine classical instrumentation with contemporary, alternative Rock to create something entirely of their own. There are elements that you’ll recognise, but just as soon as they enter your mind, the moment will be gone and the album has moved on to something else. It’s almost wistful in a way, but rather intriguing with it. The band have achieved a considerable following with their previous studio albums, even winning awards for their previous opus, ‘Lighthouse’, and on hearing this it’s easy to see why. Their music is intricate enough to appeal to critics but also open enough to appeal to a wide fan base. If you want comparisons, I could probably mention Kate Bush and maybe even All About Eve (their more adventurous moments at least…) But this is something with a lot of individuality, drawing from disparate sources to create something new and unique. I’m not going to say that it will appeal to everyone and, indeed, it’s probably not the sort of thing that I’d usually listen to, but if you can spend some time to pay attention, I’m sure you’ll find something rather interesting here.
IGGY POP. Free LP (Caroline) This is such a good album. ‘Post Pop Depression’ may have had the all-star line-up and ticked all the boxes for the music-press, but this is just far better. Early reports that it was going to be a’jazz’ record were obviously confused and, while it’s not a ‘rock’ album in the general sense, it certainly has Iggy’s attitude running all the way through. If anything, he’s found a way to continue his music in an innovative way that also allows for the dignity of a man in eighth decade. Personally, I think this is something that he’s being trying to pursue for some time… going back to albums like ‘Brick by Brick’ and ‘Avenue B’, he was including songs that were lighter or even acoustic, whilst the lyrics were as caustic as his best. More recently, he released the ‘Preliminaires’ album, which embraced an approach not far removed from this. Unfortunately, although these were all great records, they were not given the respect they deserved, but with this, he’s made an album that really shows that he can move forward and doesn’t just have to live up to audience expectations. Iggy has made an album in a natural, organic way, from seeking-out the musicians he wanted to work with, borrowing lyrics from the likes of Lou Reed and Dylan Thomas, and adding his voice in a way that’s complimentary rather than over-bearing. It’s difficult to pick out individual tracks for consideration, because ‘Free’ works more as a whole, but trust me, you’ll get more and more into it with every listen. This is Iggy Pop at his best, staying true to his artistic vision whilst exploring styles and sounds that you may never have heard before. This is a great album and it deserves to be recognised as one of his best.
JACK AND SALLY. Who We Become CD (Engineer) Despite the misleading band-name (a ‘Nightmare Before Christmas’ reference, I believe) this is actually a three-piece, London-based band playing a blend of melodic rock that recalls the likes of Buffalo Tom, Moving Targets and perhaps even (early) Smashing Pumpkins. Although only featuring five songs, this is an ambitious record both musically and lyrically. The songs combine from track to track to tell the story of ‘Macy’, a character striving to inspire a revolution in a dystopian land, set in the not-too-distant future. The songs veer from slower, reflective melodies through to more upbeat pop-punky tuneage that could easily appear on mainstream radio without losing its’ edge. A strong production and great arrangements bring out the best in the songs and propel them ever-forwards. This is a confident debut and suggests there may be some great stuff to come from this band… watch out !
THE JACKETS. Queen of The Pill CD (Voodo Rhythm) This is the fourth album from The Jackets, a female-fronted Garage-fuzz band from Switzerland. They’ve been playing together for over a decade, establishing themselves as a vital live act as well as releasing great records. Their sound is firmly based in the Nuggets-era, but with an excellent contemporary production that makes every note, beat and screech leap out of the speakers. The guitar sound is fuzzed-up to almost Stooges-style levels while singer Jackie has a distinctive, powerful voice that grabs your attention and the songs possess great, catchy hooks that’ll make you want to groove all night long. If you could imagine the Fuzztones when they were at their primal-best, but give them a female vocalist and a better sense of pop, this is perhaps how they would have sounded. The songs are great, ten of them packed into a mere 32 minutes, but trust me, not a second is wasted. These guys know what they’re doing and deliver the good stuff with just the right attitude. You won’t want to miss this album !
JITTERY JACK & AMY GRIFFIN. Gonna Have A Time With… CD (Rum Bar) Authentic Fifties-style Rockabilly, stripped to the bare necessities but with guitar licks worthy of Poison Ivy herself ! In fact, if you could imagine a cross between the Stray Cats and The Cramps, this is the kinda results you might be hoping for. Maybe not as wild and reckless as The Cramps but it certainly has plenty of their attitude, whilst they also maintain a dedication to authenticity that the Stray Cats always grasped. Musically, it rocks in all the right ways, while the lyrics stay true to the lead and harmonies of the original era. Personally, I prefer the wilder moments, but there’s nothing here that’s going to disappoint. Listen to it loud and enjoy the party !
JOHNNY MOPED. Lurrigate Your Mind LP (Damaged Goods) It may have taken the Mopeds the best part of forty years to record their second ‘proper’ album (the ‘Xerxes’ LP, fun though it is, was really just a collection of demos) but once they got back on the bike, there’s been no stepping them and this new record has taken less than three years to emerge. Which is all the more remarkable as, unlike the (wonderful) ‘It’s a Real Cool Baby’, this album is all new material. In Moped-terms, that means they’ve been pretty bloody prolific ! But the important thing, of course, is that they’ve maintained the high standards of their previous records and this is another fine example of their eccentric style of punk-rock’n’roll. Tracks like ‘Catatonic’, ‘Hey Belinda’ and ‘Living in a Dream World’ stand-up proudly alongside classics like ‘Rock’n’Roll Rookie’, Panic Button’ or ‘Incendiary Device’. Sady, Dave Berk doesn’t appear on these recordings, although his place has been more-than ably-filled by Marty Love and there are also guest appearances from former members Captain Sensible and Zerxes. Elsewhere on the album, there’s a heartfelt tribute to Shergar and a nostalgic, autobiographical epic, ‘Black Witch Climax Blues Band Genetic Breakdown’, retelling the story of the bands’ early days. Basically (ahem !) this is a lot of fun from start to finish and only a pretentious snob would fail to enjoy it. If you’re reading these reviews, I can’t imagine you’d be one of those, so make sure you get this album soon !
JILTED JOHN. Live ! CD (Boss Tuneage) I doubt if anyone was expecting Jilted John to reappear onstage again, even if it was his 40th Anniversary. But that’s exactly what happened, when comedian Graham Fellows brought his fondly-remembered character back for a series of one-off gigs, eventually culminating in a full UK tour. Boss Tuneage did a great job when they reissued the ‘True Love Stories’ LP, so it’s appropriate that they get to release this live album, recorded in Manchester at the end of 2018. Backed by a highly proficient band, JJ rambles through his songs, mostly taken from his original album but also featuring a few previously unheard gems. The narratives are great little slice-of-life tales, full of teenage dreams and angst, complete with their own peculiar wit and not a million miles away from Jarvis Cocker’s lyrical efforts. Most of the songs begin with JJ telling stories during the pre-music introductions, explaining the background and then completing the tale as the song is played. Obviously, the whole Jilted John concept isn’t going to appeal to everyone, but in retrospect it’s a lot easier to see what Graham Fellows was trying to achieve and hearing it again really puts it in a clearer and more entertaining context. Featuring the full concert plus bonus material recorded during rehearsals, this is a lot of fun and if you can accept it for that, you’re gonna love it !
JUNKO FUSE. Open Happiness CD (www.facebook.com/JunkoFuse) Five new tracks from Junko Fuse, recorded just before the recent departure of (fairly) long-term drummer Paul O’Shea. All of the songs have a good crunchy style and the overall sound is much harder than the previous EP, which suits this set perfectly. The guitar riffs have a certain similarity with some of the early Sub Pop bands, like Mudhoney or Nirvana, although they don’t necessarily play them in a ‘grunge’ style. They just keep things relatively simple and concentrate on bringing-out the power of the songs. The lyrics reflect current discontent with the ways that supposed-progress seems more intent on making divisions greater rather than spreading the benefits on a fairer basis and, as you would expect, are delivered with a raw passion. As anyone who has seen this band recently will confirm, they’ve been steadily improving and becoming more confident over the last year or so and these recordings certainly reflect that. I just hope that they can get their new drummer up-to-speed quickly so that their progress can continue.
KRONSTADT UPRISING. The Unknown Revolution EP ( Antitodo) I’m not exactly sure when this reissue appeared, but it’s still deserves to be mentioned. Originally released on the Spiderleg label in 1983, this EP features four great tracks that veer more towards the darker side of Anarcho-punk… think Rudimentary Peni or Amebix, perhaps. Furious drums set the pace while the guitar creates an intense wall of sound and the vocals are delivered in a harsh, frantic style that really suits the songs. Strangely, although it’s a noisy affair, the songs do contain surprisingly catchy little hooks (often provided by the bass lines) and it’s this counter-balance that makes this EP so effective. The lyrics are also well written and thought provoking (it can be hard to hear them clearly due to the vocal style, but fortunately they’re all included on the sleeve…) Unfortunately, this was the only vinyl release by this version of the band (a second EP emerged in 1985 but by then the band had changed their style in a more rock’n’roll direction … not that isn’t good in its’ own rights, but just that it’s pretty different to the first EP.) Anyway, this really is one of the gems of the early Eighties anarcho-punk era and, with copies of the original now pretty scarce, this reissue is well-worth tracking down. Most of the artwork remains the same, the pressing has a great sound quality and it also comes with a bonus Kronstadt Uprising postcard ! If you’ve never heard this before, be sure to do so now.
LEPROUS. Pitfalls CD (InsideOut) With a name like ‘Leprous’ and the fact that they come from Norway, you’d be excused for thinking this band were going to be raucous Black Metal. In fact, the reality is far from it. The band play an almost Prog-rock take of electronic-rock with gothic overtones which pitch them somewhere in between Depeche Mode and Radiohead (they’ve also previously released a cover of ‘Angel by Massive Attack, displaying another probable influence.) It’s all very epic, melodramatic and emotional, certainly indicating commercial ambitions and possibilities, but I’d have to say that it’s a bit too overblown for me. It just isn’t the sort of thing I could listen to very often. To me, it lacks a real sense of passion, but that being said, it could well take them to a massive international audience. Stranger things have happened !
JESPER LINDELL. Everyday Dreams CD (Alive) Mixing an authentic-sounding and very convincing blend of Sixties-styled Soul and R’n’B with hints of Blues and Country along the way, you could easily be mistaken into thinking that this must come from the heartlands of classic Americana, Nashville or New Orleans perhaps ? In fact, Jesper is only 26 years old and hails from Sweden, proving once and for all that great music comes from the soul and not from a geographical location. The album is full of wonderfully understated yet fully impassioned songs which will surely reach out towards a broad audience and not just rock aficionados. You get the feeling that this will initially appeal to fans of The Black Keys or maybe even Van Morrison, but could quite easily break-out on a much bigger scene. This isn’t the kind of thing I would usually listen to, but this is done so well that you can’t help but be impressed.
LOST CHERREES. Blank Oages LP (Grow Your Own) Lost Cherrees have been pretty busy in recent years, playing loads of gigs and releasing new records on a fairly regular basis. There may only be one original member left, but they’ve certainly worked hard to re-establish this line-up. They’ve also not been afraid to experiment with different styles (check out their excellent recent cover of ‘Common People’) although this album goes for a much more raw, punk rock approach, albeit with very catchy melodies at the core of what they’re doing. With twin vocals from Liss and Marie, the lyrics come across very effectively, covering subjects from domestic abuse and animal rights through to the huge inequality of pay within our society… the working class having to graft for every penny whilst the ‘bosses’ can sit back, giving themselves unreasonable pay rises and finding ways to dodge taxes. In many ways, Lost Cherrees are pretty different to how they originally sounded, but their beliefs and intentions are very true to their original ideas and the music has changed naturally to reflect the newer members as they’ve come along. Whether you’ve been familiar with them since the Eighties or if you’ve only just discovered them, this is a fine album that has plenty to keep you interested. Be sure to check it out.
LURKERS. Electrical Guitar 7” (Damaged Goods) There’s a confusing situation for punk rock fans at the moment, with two different versions of The Lurkers in existence. The version fronted by Arturo Bassick have been busy playing live for quite some time and have produced some fine records of their own, but more recently another version of the band, featuring Pete Stride, Manic Esso and Nigel Moore, have started writing and recording new material, although so far not playing live, which at least means the gig listings haven’t got too messy… This is their second single by the Stride / Esso / Moore line-up on Damaged Goods, and I’ve got to say, it’s really very good. Going back to their roots as West London’s answer to the Ramones, ‘Electrical Guitar’ is a glorious punk rock anthem that’ll have your toes-tapping within seconds. The b-side, ‘That Was Julia’, is another simple-but-highly-effective tune, this time with guest vocals by Danie of The Featherz, which provides a nice contrast to Pete Strides’ vocals on side one. This is a great record and I can’t say more than that. Whether this version will actually play live is debatable, but songs as good as these are really calling out for some stage-time… keep your fingers-crossed !
MINIMAL COMPACT. Creation is Perfect CD (Minimal Compact) Minimal Compact originally formed in Tel Aviv during 1980, but relocated to Amsterdam in 1981, trying to find a more responsive environment. They were one of the first bands signed to the Crammed label and proceeded to create music despite the fact that only Berry Sakharof was a musician in the usual sense. Mixing a sense of naivety and intuition with an insistent need to push their abilities as far as they could go, Minimal Compact produced a series of remarkable albums that mixed Middle Eastern influences with a very European approach and a ‘post-punk’ inventiveness. They began to gain critical and popular success in Europe, Japan and the USA, although strangely not in the UK despite praise from John Peel and the NME. They eventually made their base in Brussels, but eventually split-up in 1988, although all members have continued to produce music and the band have also reformed for occasional live performances since 2004. This new album features new versions of tracks from their original albums, plus one brand new composition, with the intention of capturing their songs in a more direct atmosphere, perhaps closer to their live sound. The results are very impressive and sound remarkably valid even now, a by-product, no doubt, of having forged their own style and ideas rather than following their contemporaries. The only comparison I will suggest is with the late-80’s output by Wire, although more in terms of their approach towards the music rather than the way they actually sound. (Colin Newman has also collaborated with the band on various occasions, including this album.) I have to say, in retrospect this material sounds even better than I remembered and makes a very powerful and enjoyable impression. I strongly recommend this album to anyone who wants to listen to a band following their own ideals and creating interesting, accessible music in a truly original way.
MOVING TARGETS. Wires CD (Boss Tuneage) Alongside bands like Bullet Lavolta and the Lemonheads (before they became just Evan Dando’s band) Moving Targets were one of the great Boston bands that forged a distinctive sound during the late ‘80’s. Centred around guitarist / singer Kenny Chambers, the band were highly regarded but never gained the wider success that many expected them to achieve (which will always remain a great mystery…) Initially formed as a more punk / hardcore related band, they quickly developed a more melodic sound, possibly influenced by the likes of Mission of Burma or Wire. Chambers’ guitar sound could skip between a huge, chiming wall of sound to more subtle, intricate styles while his vocals were always emotive and full of passion. The band originally split-up in 1994, but re-emerged in 2016, albeit with a new line-up. However, anyone who has seen them on recent tours will attest that they still sound as great as ever, so it was almost inevitable that a new album would appear, and here it is. Containing all the elements that made them so great in the first place, this sounds as if they’ve never been away, even though it’s actually been more than 25 years since their last album. The production is superb, giving the songs a real clarity whilst retaining their raw power, and the quality of the songwriting is as high as it could be. I can’t imagine any original fan being in the least way disappointed with this album and, indeed, it should also win them a whole bunch of new fans. This is one record you simply can’t miss !
MUDHONEY. Morning in America EP (Sub Pop) There was a time when all the critics were predicting that Mudhoney would be the ‘next big thing’ and Nirvana weren’t even getting a toe in the door. Of course, things didn’t carry on that way, but Mudhoney still did rather well for themselves and, three decades down the line, they’re still creating great records like this, so we’re all winners ! Opening track ‘Vortex of Lies’(previously only available on a limited Tour single) is possibly the closest they’ve ever come to the sound of The Scientists (Mudhoney have always sung their praises) and a damn fine job they do with it, as well. ‘Creeps Are Everywhere’ recalls their early days, snotty and snarlin’ in authentic fashion, whilst ‘Ensam I Natt’ is a cover of a song by The Leather Nun (here sung in English rather than the original Swedish… don’t ask me how accurate the translation might be…) which, again, shows great taste in older bands. The title track is a slow, brooding epic that addresses the current state of America. ‘Let’s Kill Yourself Live Again’ is an alternate version of one of the best moments of their previous ‘Digital Garbage’ album, with a great guitar sound and insistent lyrics. ‘Snake Oil Charmer’ is the longest track on the EP, with a musical arrangement that recalls the original Alice Cooper band, although sounding very much in the Mudhoney fuzz guitar tradition. Final track, ‘One Bad Actor’, is a new version of the song previously only found of the highly sought after split 7” with Hot Snakes, which will certainly be a pleaser for those fans who missed out on that goodie. It’s all over in less than thirty minutes, but every track is a classic-in-waiting… if you have any sense, you know you’re going to love this !
THE NEIGHBOURHOOD STRANGE. Russian Spy 7” / CD (Strange Recordings) A great Sixties-surf tinged record recounting recent events in the bands’ hometown of Salisbury. The guitar veers between the twang and the fuzz to great effect, steering the catchy garage punk in a strong, confident manner, whilst the vocals hold your attention with their raw but almost under-stated presence. The title track is based around the attempted assassination of Sergei Skripal and relates the story from the point of view of people having this event occur on their doorsteps. It’s great, the sort of story that should be told and combined with some great music. The 7” includes another fine track, ‘Many Secrets’, while the CD version includes an extra three, all of which maintain the high standards, especially the raunchy instrumental ‘Desert Sand’. Think of Naz Nomad and the Nightmares tackling ‘The Last of the Secret Agents’ and you’ll be in the right area. The 7” is the preferable format, but the extra tracks need to be heard too… so buy both versions !
NEUROSIS & JARBOE. s/t CD (Neurot) Originally released in 2003, this might seem like an improbable collaboration, but taking into account Jarboe’s varied musical career both with Swans and as an artist in her own right, it’s not so unlikely that she would want to collaborate with Neurosis, a band whose roots may be in hardcore but have continually pushed the boundaries of what ‘heavy’ music can involve and express. Jarboe’s vocals can range from neo-operatic through to almost folk-like fragility, whilst also able to shatter the sound-barrier with raw, visceral deliveries when appropriate, so it’s a perfect match. This new reissue comes with a fully remastered sound and new artwork, almost presenting the work for a first time (which, for many listeners, it will be.) Neurosis were intent on making the best use of the technology now available to create a definitive presentation of this record. The beauty of this album lies in the two distinctive characters at work together. At times, Jarboe’s voice seems almost the antitheses to the heavy delivery of Neurosis while at other times she seems focused on delivering vocals that belittle their efforts. But, as a whole, it works because they understand each other. Whilst many guitar-based bands have tried to imitate early-Swans material, most have only done so on a one-dimensional fashion. Neurosis, however, have understood the real dynamics of the sound and developed their own approach in an empathetic rather than superficial level. That’s why they can either counter-balance or embrace Jarboes’s vocals so efficiently. This isn’t an easy-listening album by any means, but if you can accept the emotional delivery and intent of this project, it’s certain to draw you in. The results will be almost physical, striking you in a primal assault. If you want to know how good this is, listen to it loud in total darkness… If that experience doesn’t stun you, then you have no soul.
NECRONAUTICAL.Apotheosis CD (Candlelight) Necronautical were formed in North-West England back in 2010 and have been treading the Black Metal path ever since, although to their credit they’ve developed their sound with interesting arrangements and good production values, ensuring that they create something more interesting than many in this genre. This is their third release and builds on the possibilities available to them, whilst still maintaining their roots and never giving any cause for older fans to be disappointed. The vocals are as raw as ever, the riffs still brutally efficient and the rhythms as powerful and tight as they need to be. But Necronautical also manage to integrate subtle melodies and an epic, almost cinematic, atmosphere to their songs, combined with a production that, at times, sounds almost symphonic. There are few bands brave enough to try and forge a sound that develops from something so raw to something more involved, but Necronautical certainly seem to be trying just that and succeeding to a great extent. If you enjoy aggressive music but feel disappointed when it remains one-dimensional, then this could well be an album you need to hear.
OLD ERNIE. Flowers for Hardcastle CD (oldernie.bandcamp.com) Oxford-based band (which may or may not feature a member of Anarchistwood) who combine elements of Hardcore, punk, grunge and metal in a genuinely innovative and experimental way. Just as you think you’ve pinned down what’s happening with a particular track, it’ll veer-off at a tangent… so imagine what it’s like with an entire album ! If I have to make any comparisons, I could mention The Melvins or perhaps SteelPoleBathTub, but nothing about Old Ernie is as straight forward as a direct comparison. In many ways it’s closer to mention bands like Chrome, Primus or (early) Butthole Surfers because, although they don’t really sound anything like any of those band, they do seem to have a similar approach and attitude towards how the dissemble their musical ideas. Also, their sound is very much ‘British’ rather than Americanised, which really sets it apart. The more I hear of this band, the more I enjoy them… be sure to hear this album because they could well become one of your new favourites.
OMNIGONE. No faith CD (Bad Time) East Bay punk band that mixes hardcore, skate-punk, reggae and ska-rhythms. Omnigone themselves are a relatively new band, but were formed by ex-Link 80 members, so they do have plenty of experience to draw on. Lots of energy, plenty of melodic hooks and catchy vocals delivered in a raw but harmonious manner, plus great choruses that will have you singing along. The production is a little bit murky at times, but the dynamics of the album will really grab your attention, changing tempos from fast thrashers through to slower, almost dub-like moments. As a debut album, they’ve been very ambitious and for the most part it works really well. This is well-worth hearing and suggests that there’s going to be some great stuff from this band as they continue to develop.
PERE UBU, The Long Goodbye CD (Cherry Red) During 2017, Pere Ubu had to cut-short their US Tour when David Thomas was hospitalised. Returning to England after emergency treatment, it appeared that his condition was very serious. Faced with such a diagnosis, he determined that he should start work on one final Pere Ubu album, to bring an appropriate end to the bands’ story. Working alone for a month, he prepared the tracks before sharing the recordings with various friends and musicians. The response was very positive and further recording sessions were then arranged to complete the tracks with band members. The results are quite remarkable. Based around Raymond Chandlers’ legendary Private Eye character, Philip Marlowe, the album certainly captures the atmosphere of hard-boiled novels and film noir. David Thomas adopts a vocal style that’s more narrative than usual, possibly more in line with his previous work with The Two Pale Boys, whilst the music works almost as a soundtrack to the tale. David Thomas has always been fascinated with the darker side of Americana and this is what he presents to great effect here. There are plenty of references to pick-up and finding them just enhances the process. In addition to the studio album, there is also a second disc featuring a recording of a live performance in Montreuil, France, which saw one of the first live performances of this material. As an extension of the album itself, it was deemed to be an important part of the story and was therefore included here as the next vital step forward. Listening to all of this material as a whole is compelling and rewarding, just as the best Pere Ubu albums have always been. As a footnote, soon after the Montreuil gig, David Thomas was hospitalised again, but this time a new treatment was tried and slowly started to work. David has been making a slow but steady recovery, so it’s unlikely that ‘The Long Goodbye’ will be the final Pere Ubu album. So you can listen here and start to imagine just where they might be taking their music next…
POISON IDEA. Live in Catalonia 2004 LP (Trashtocat) I’m a little late reviewing this album, but then again, it’s never too late to say how goddamn awesome Poison Idea sound live. There have been several live albums over the years and none of them have really captured the sheer power of this band, although at the same time, they’ve never been lacklustre. Basically, you need to be there to ghet the full experience, but if that’s not possible, this record will give you a very good idea of what you’ve been missing. From older songs like ‘Hangover Heart Attack’ and ‘Getting the Fear’ through to later classics like ‘Plastic Bomb’ and ‘Punish Me’, this recording captures the band at their best (even without Pig Champion, RIP) and stands up to anyone who tries to claim the band were too fucked up to deliver live. In reality, Jerry A always ensured that the band were firing on all cylinders and this album is all the proof you’ll ever need. I really don’t have to write anymore than that. Poison Idea are one of the bands that truly captured the essence of Punk Rock and took it to a level all of their own. If you don’t like Poison Idea… you don’t like rock’n’roll !
POP.1280. Way Station CD (Weyrd Son) It’s been a while since I last heard ‘industrial rock’ as effective as this. So many of the originators (Ministry, Nine Inch Nails) either adopted a more mainstream-rock approach or in other cases (Young Gods, Skinny Puppy) went on to explore different directions which, although valid in themselves and often very worthwhile, left the original genre in a place sadly-filled with mere imitations. Pop.1280 have gone through considerable upheaval since their last LP (2016’s ‘Paradise’.) They lost their original drummer Andrew Chugg, completing their US and European tours with temporary stand-ins, before their synth player, Allegra, also decided it was time to move on. However, instead of becoming despondent, founding members Chris Bug and Ivan Lip decided to take the opportunity to reassess and rebuild the band. Their efforts have certainly worked in an effective way, stripping down their previous ideas to the bare-minimum and then using the raw-bones as the basis for new creativity. Eventually they were joined by a new synth player, Matthew Hord, and their new album began to take shape. The results are an album that takes elements of older bands like Skinny Puppy or (early) Swans but then places them in a very contemporary setting. At times brutal, at other points atmospheric, the album reflects both personal and global issues, from the closest relationships through to the possible extinction of mankind. By the time many bands reach their fourth album, they are often running out of the creative sparks that initially inspired their music, but in this case Pop.1280 have given themselves a new leash of life and this album is a remarkable statement.
THE PRETENDERS With Friends DVD set (Wienerworld) As far as formats go, this release has got it covered – Blue Ray, DVD and CD ! But it’s the quality of the material that really counts and this is a fine document of The Pretenders, live in concert with a selection of special guests. Recorded at a special event in Atlantic City, this is a perfect demonstration of Chrissie Hyndes’ talent for creating thoughtful pop songs whilst still embracing her rock’n’roll roots (early Stones, the Stooges etc.) Live, the mixture really comes to the forefront. Opening with ‘The Wait’ from their debut album, you get a great mix of raw guitars and catchy tuneage. ‘Back on the Chain Gang’ is the first big hit to be played, and again, it uses that blend of styles to full effect. The first guest of the evening is Shirley Manson of Garbage fame, sharing vocals on an excellent version of ‘Talk of the Town’ and a cover of the Garbage song ‘Only Happy When it Rains’. After another Pretenders track, ‘Day After Day’, the band are then joined by members of Kings of Leon which, for my opinion, is a rather pointless exercise, as is the following appearance of Incubus. Neither of these are particularly interesting in their own right and fail to add anything to the performance, so I would have preferred to just see The Pretenders playing their own material. In fact, there’s a really big, missed opportunity with the next song, ‘Precious’… they could have brought Johnny Moped onstage for a duet (Chrissie was once a member of the Johnny Moped band and ‘Precious’ dates back to that period !) Now that’s something I would have loved to have seen ! Maybe tomorrow (as the song goes…) But the final guest is the real highpoint… Chrissie introduces ‘the greatest human being in the world – Iggy Pop !’ Well, who can argue with an introduction like that ? Firstly, he sings ‘Fools Must Die’, probably the most appropriate of Chrissie’s lyrics for this occasion, and then they duet on a stunning version of ‘Candy’, not an obvious choice but nonetheless, one of Iggy’s most underrated songs. For me, this is the highlight of the show. Chrissie and Iggy really work well together and I would have been happy with more of this, but it’s time for The Pretenders’ finale, a great rendition of ‘Brass in Pocket’, before the encore brings the band and all of the guests back onstage for ‘Middle of the Road’. Despite my reservations about the appropriateness of some of the guests, this is a great recording of a truly one-off event and it’s highly enjoyable. If you want to get a good idea of what The Pretenders have always been about, this is an essential recording. Be sure to see it.
PSOTY. Sunless CD (Candlelight) This is an interesting album, owing as much to the likes of Killing Joke as it does to more regular metal influences. Driven by a massive guitar sound, they nonetheless save space for melodic hooks and almost anthemic vocals, creating something that’s surprisingly catchy at the same time as it’s pulverising. The music really moves of its’ own volition, taking its’ time but never outstaying its’ welcome. That’s the thing that so many rock bands don’t understand… let the music take its’ own natural path. It’s about dynamics much more than about technical ability and the two things often get mixed-up. PSOTY ‘get-it’, if you know what I mean. They allow the music on this album to develop organically. When you consider that this is only their second full-length album, it really is a confident statement. Their combination of heavy riffs and melodic hooks comes together so well and gives established bands like Mogwai more than a run for their money. I hope we hear a lot more from this band in the next few years.
RADIOACTIVITY. Erased 7” (Wild Honey) Two great tracks here for your pleasure… ‘Erased’ is an upbeat slice of punky garage rock, featuring insistent riffs and catchy hooks a-plenty, together with some fine melodic vocals. Flipside ‘Fear’ takes a slower pace but is still just as raw, reminding me of Australian bands like Radio Birdman or Celibate Rifles. Definitely worth checking out !
RAMLEH. It’s Never Alright 7” (Fourth Dimension) I’ve got to admit, I haven’t followed Ramleh’s music as much as I probably should have, especially considering their long and interesting career. So I was pretty surprised when I heard this single for the first time, partly because both tracks are pretty-much guitar orientated rather than the electronic noise-fest that I was perhaps expecting. But it’s also the style of the tracks that really provided the gob-smack… ‘It’s Never Alright’ is built around an almost glam-rock, boot stompin’ drum beat, with vocals chanted in a similar style, somewhere between Slade and the Glitter Band, although very much in the Ramleh scheme of things. Then, turn over to the b-side and there’s a longer instrumental track, ‘Kerb Krawler’, which delves into Psychedelia and Krautrock in a very convincing manner. This is a great single, not what I was expecting at all and all the better for it. I think I’m going to have to investigate Ramleh a lot more closely.
RED LIGHT RUNNER. Under the Weather CD (Engineer) I always have a soft-spot for bands from Kent, as I know how awkward it used to be trying to get things going down there. This band were originally around for a few years before going on hiatus in 2008, but re-emerged in 2014 with a single and subsequent CD. Now, they’ve hooked-up with Engineer records and this EP is very impressive indeed. A shallow review would possibly call them ‘pop-punk’, but there’s really so much more to these songs. They owe as much to bands like Weezer, Redd Kross or Flop (remember them ? If not, check them out not) as they do to the more obvious references and I can even hear similarities with Boston bands like Lemonheads or Moving Targets. Plenty of energy and great melodies run through every song and make them as catchy as crab-sticks. This is definitely a band you ought to investigate…
RUSSIAN CIRCLES. Blood Year CD (Sargent House) Originally based in Chicago but now all living in different States, instrumental rock trio Russian Circles have come back together to deliver their first album in three years. Blending hard rock riffs and rhythms with an approach that’s almost Krautrock in its’ use of repetition and space, the band create soundscapes that suggest filmic visions whilst consistently maintaining high energy levels. Bridging the gap between trad-rock and the avant garde, Russian Circles create music that is both powerful and thoughtful, building a large sound that takes no prisoners and yet, at the same time, has no problems in breaking the boundaries that are all-too-often set for what rock music can achieve. This is band intent on taking rock to a new environment whilst never losing its’ primitive edge. This is one that’s definitely worth checking out.
SLEAVE. Don’t Expect Anything CD (Engineer) Hailing from Richmond, Virginia, Sleave are a band who clearly have roots in Punk and Hardcore, but have expanded their sound to embrace a much more accessible ‘alt-rock’ style. The passion and intent of their delivery is very much to the fore and the fact that they’ve been playing live on a regular basis for the last few years has obviously given them a clear vision of how they wanted this album to sound. Ranging from slower songs to harder, more aggressive styles, Sleave cover a lot of ground and do so confidently. They certainly have no desire to get pigeon-holed and this debut indicates that we should be paying close-attention to their progress.
SNIVELLING SHITS. Bring Me The Head of Yukio Mishima 7” (Damaged Goods) Just when you thought you had everything, two new tracks recorded by the original Snivelling Shits back in 1978-ish have surfaced. Being a long time fave-band at Damaged Goods, they couldn’t wait to get them released, so here we have this lovely, highly limited 7” and, in case you don’t know if you want to buy it, I’m here to tell you that you do ! ‘Bring Me The Head of Yukio Mishima’ and ‘Et Moi, Et Moi, Et Moi’ (a song originally recorded by Jacques Dutronc, no less) were both included on the ‘I Can’t Come’ LP, but these are two very different versions and more than valid in their own rights. This was a band whose output was sadly limited, so any new ‘finds’ like this are a real treat. There may even be further tapes soon to resurface, so be sure to keep your eyes and ears open !
THE SPEEDWAYS, Just Another Regular Summer CD (Rum Bar) Is this the first UK band released on Rum Bar records ? Quite possibly, but when you know the kind of music on the Rum Bar roster and hear the sounds that The Speedways produce, the hook-up is no big surprise. A lively mix of Mod, powerpop and punky melodics, this in an album packed with catchy songs, great guitar sounds and insistent vocals. They sort of remind me of the sadly-missed Exploding Hearts, maybe with a few hints of Protex or The Nerves along the way. They also include a very fine version of ‘They Don’t Know’, which will break your heart for all the right reasons ! Be sure to hear this album soonest !
SPERMBIRDS. Go To Hell Then Turn Left CD (Boss Tuneage) Spermbirds have been together and releasing albums for more than thirty years, coming to the attention of hardcore and punk fans with the release of their first LP ‘Something to Prove’ in 1986. Formed in Germany but featuring an American vocalist, Lee Hollis, they played a fast yet melodic style of punk rock with a dark sense of humour often infused into the lyrics. To me, their closest comparison would’ve been the mighty SNFU, but Spermbirds always had a distinctive sound of their own. They had an enthusiastic following in the UK and I’m sure that if they had toured here on a regular basis they would’ve become a lot more popular but for whatever reason, that didn’t happen. Their releases and touring have become less frequent in recent years, but they’ve remained together as a band and they’re now releasing their ninth studio album. It captures them in fine form, with all the elements that made them special in the first place still very prominent in the mix. Catchy songs, witty lyrics, lots of energy… these things just seem to come naturally to them. It’s been a long time since we last heard from this band, but this album makes it feel like they’ve never been away. Be sure to play it loud and you’ll enjoy every moment of it !
SUB DIO. Sub Dio EP (Underground Communique / Side With Us) A collaboration between two labels brings forth this excellent EP and I’m damn-pleased they decided to work together. Sub Dio is an Bay Area (‘Bay’ as in ‘San Francisco’, for the geographically-challenged) punk band who combine elements of punk, hardcore and (so-called) post-punk to very good effect. Main songwriter Brian Moss has previously played in bands such as Great Apes, Olehole and The Ghost, but this band are very much an item in their own right. The first thing that’ll grab you is the excellent combination of male / female lead vocals, creating an immediate compare and contrast situation that’ll keep your attention completely focused. Musically, they veer between hardcore tempo’s and slower, more tense rhythms that will keep you on the edge of your seat. The music is deceptively aggressive, whilst underlying melodies weedle their way into your brain. Second track ‘Skeeters’ vaguely reminds me of Rocket From the Crypt, while ‘Peachey Keen’ recalls Down By Law at their best. ‘Credible Fear’ employs an almost reggae style riff to create space for the vocals, allowing them to state their case, whilst final track ‘Pardon Me’ leans towards DC Hardcore in a totally effective delivery. This is such a good EP, I hope we get a chance to see this band live in the UK one day !
THE TOUCH. Lost and Found CD (Touching Flames) In recent years, many relatively obscure bands from the original Punk era have found a demand for their records, even though at the time they may have had difficulty generating any interest at all. In quite a few cases, this has resulted in reissues, compilations of previously-unreleased material, band-reunions and even brand new songs / records. Of course, the actual quality of the bands involved can be quite debatable. Just because something is obscure doesn’t mean it’s going to be great and, more often than not, the opposite can be applied, but we’ve certainly had some great re-discoveries along the way. Obviously this isn’t a phenomenon restricted to Punk bands - fans have been seeking out little-known gems from the rock’n’roll, Sixties Garage and Psychedelic eras for a long time. And now it seems the same is happening with the late Seventies ‘Mod Revival’ scene. The Touch are a prime example of this interest and their story (as told in the sleeve-notes for this release) is a fine vindication for a band whose original career didn’t go exactly to plan. The Touch were together between 1979-81, during which time their manager released some of their demos as a highly-limited album, confusingly entitled ‘The Mods Lost Touch’. With no other info included on the sleeve and the word ‘Bootleg’ stamped in one corner, it wasn’t even clear who the band were ! After they split-up, the band members went their different ways and remained unaware that in the interim years, the album had become a sought-after collectors’ item and had even been bootlegged several times ! It wasn’t until recently that original guitarist Son Jack Jnr (now living in Seattle) came across the album on an internet site and discovered how much interest the album had subsequently generated. As chance would have, in 2018, the band members were contacted by Detour Records who wanted to reissue the album officially. A deal was struck and, to celebrate, the band agreed to play their first gig in nearly 40 years ! Coming back together for rehearsals, the four original members found that they still had the same chemistry that had resulted in the original album and the ensuing success of the gig itself quickly made them decide, Let’s see what else we can do ? Well, this album is the answer and a very good one at that ! The recordings include nine tracks dating back to the original band, whilst five are brand new. The sound isn’t as raw as the recordings on the first album but the song-quality is certainly just as high. The Touch have a style that harks back to the Mod bands of the Sixties (The Who, The Creation etc) but with an attitude and delivery that owed something to the Punk movement as well, albeit with catchy, melodic songs to the forefront. This is an album that neither the band or their fans ever thought would happen, but I’m sure that they’re all going to be more than happy with it. Forty years down the line, The Touch have created a new album that more than lives-up to their reputation… and isn’t that great !
THE VIBRATORS. The 1976 Demos LP / The 1977 Demos LP (Ttan Ttakun Irratia) Previously only available on a long-out-of-print CD, so if you’re a fan of the band, you’re definitely going to want to hear these recordings. Not unsurprisingly, the ’76 demos tend be a bit slower and less rowdy than the bands’ eventual releases, but the Vibrators had been playing on the Pub circuit for some time before ‘punk’ emerged and, while they might have had long hair initially, they were still developing their own sound which was already a lot more confrontational than the standard pub rock fare. ‘We Vibrate’ appears in a much more Pop-style while ‘Whips and Furs’ is still in its’ original ‘Dance To the Music’ incarnation. Meanwhile, ‘Young Lust’ includes some guitar noise that wouldn’t have been out of place on a Captain Beefheart album.. In truth, these recordings are classic ‘proto-punk’ (as the journo’s like to call it now) and shows a band who were developing a style somewhere between the better elements of pub rock and what was to become Punk. There’s also an inspired version of ‘Day Tripper’ which manages to integrate the riff from ‘Interstellar Overdrive’… God knows how they came up with that idea, but it works !
By the end of ’76, whilst still true to their raw, rock’n’roll roots, The Vibrators were also becoming immersed and influenced by the emerging Punk Rock scene. Many have accused them of jumping on the bandwagon but in truth, they had already been heading in a similar direction and had also written many of their best known songs by the time Punk came to national attention…they’d played at the 100 Club Punk festival and their first single, ‘We Vibrate’ was even released before ‘Anarchy in the UK’, so the bandwagon hadn’t even started ! Listening to these demos, you get a mix of tracks that seem a little tentative and others (‘Automatic Lover’ are actually more raucous than their officially released version. Together with a bunch of tracks that didn’t get released during the bands’ original incarnation, this is all good stuff and something that deserves to be heard not just because of its’ historical significance but because the songs sound really good. If you’ve never liked the Vibrators, these albums are probably not going to change your mind, but if you have ever enjoyed those records, these are a great addition to their legacy.
VIOLATION WOUND. Dying to Live, Living to Die CD (Peaceville) Fronted by Chris Reifert (of the bands Autopsy, Death and Abscess) Violation Wound were formed to give the members a place to exercise / exorcise their more Hardcore related influences. The results sound as if they’re enjoying themselves. This band may only be a three-piece but the sound they create is massive. Combining heavy riffs and ear-shredding guitar-breaks (rather than ‘solo’s’, if you know what I mean) this is much closer to the idea of ‘crossover’ than most of the lame rubbish that usually claims that title. Maintaining the speed and aggression of Hardcore, Violation Wound mix it with metallic elements to create a genuinely unrelenting sound. Reiferts’ vocals are suitably raw, adopting an almost demented delivery at times, as far from regular metal-vocals as possible. Put this all together with great arrangements and a production that allows clarity whilst losing none of the bands’ brutal power, and you have a really impressive album in your hands. The lyrics are generally short but very-much to the point, reflecting the fucked-up world around all of us. This is a genuine adrenalin-rush of an album and I can only hope that they keep releasing material as good as this for years to come.
WARDOMIZED. A Heated Exchange CD (Sudden Strike) Debut album from this Northern Irish band who combine Crust, Hardcore, Anarcho-punk and even some elements of Black Metal. Having been playing since 2014, they’ve really refined their approach, creating a total onslaught of sound that batters your speakers into submission. The big difference between Wardomized and many of the bands who try to play a similar style is that they aren’t afraid to include actual tunes in their songs, something that will stick in your mind and you’ll actually remember afterwards. That’s a really positive thing because, no matter how heavy and aggressive the music may be, there’s something to hold on to and enjoy whilst the brutality of their delivery overwhelms you. The band have earned a pretty impressive live reputation, having toured in the UK, Ireland and Spain, and it’s easy to imagine how powerful their live shows must be. The album is slightly let down by an unimaginative production, but that’s something they’ll get to grips with as they continue. This is certainly one of the most promising crust / hardcore albums I’ve heard for a while and it’s well-worth checking out.
WOLF BRIGADE. The Enemy ; Reality CD (Southern Lord) Originally formed in 1995, this Swedish band have refined their sound over the years, combining elements of classic Swedish hardcore and death metal to create a highly impressive wall of sound. Some moments will have you thinking of Poison Idea or Agnostic Front, while others will recall Fucked Up (at their brutal-best) and perhaps even Slayer. This album is an outstanding example of just how powerful current hardcore can be when the band have interesting ideas and make their own mark rather than just trying to be loud and fast. One of the major things that sets this album apart is the song-arrangements, which add so much depth and character to the record as a whole. The solid production really brings this to the fore and will undoubtedly ensure that the songs are quickly set in your memory banks. Lyrically, the songs often take dark, almost mythological imagery, as analogies for existence, veering towards nihilism in many ways. But that being said, the overall sound is also very life-affirming and passionate. Wolfbrigade certainly have a righteous intent and it’s that sense of purpose which allows them to create such brutal yet uplifting sounds. This is hardcore taken to an accomplished extreme and, as such, it’s something that could very-well appeal to an audience that isn’t just defined by genre. Be sure to hear this album !
DAVID WOODCOCK. Fixtures And Fittings 7” (Blow Up) The description ‘singer-songwriter’ is usually enough to put me off something even before I’ve heard it (and, in most cases, hearing it tends to confirm my doubts) but this single really transcends all of that nonsense. Going by this single, David Woodcock really belongs more to that loosely-related circle of eccentric artists who, back in the Seventies, would probably have ended up either on Stiff or Small Wonder records. Think of performers like Patrick Fitzgerald, Ian Dury or maybe even (early) Billy Bragg (before he started to take himself too seriously.) These were all people with a genuinely original, quirky take on music which produced catchy but genuinely unique songs. David certainly fits in with that approach and this is a great song that really ought to be getting loads of airplay. It deserves to be heard just for the use of the classic Kenneth Williams’ reference (‘Infamy !’) but you’ll be humming along to the rest of the tune even before it gets that far. Make sure you check this out !
THE WRAITH. Gloom Ballet LP (Southern Lord) I’m not sure if this is my usual sort of thing, but it’s certainly an intriguing prospect. The Wraith come from Los Angeles and indulge in a mixture of punk and gothic rock, but whilst most bands who try this kind of thing inevitably lean too far towards goth-cliches, this band have managed to find an appropriate balance between the raw power of punk and their more intricate, gothic tendencies. Their sound often owes more to Killing Joke rather than All About Eve, and more to Southern Death Cult rather than The Cult, if you see what I mean. The Wraith are more in line with UK Decay, Theatre of Hate or early Bauhaus rather than awful bands like The Mission or (later) Sisters of Mercy. Of course, the early Californian punk scene had a tradition of bands such as Christian Death, TSOL (yup, they had a goth period) and 45 Grave, so perhaps this development isn’t so unusual. So many sounds could originally be embraced within the Punk scene and it was only when everything started getting categorised and separated that things went wrong…As I said at the beginning, I’m really not sure how often I’d listen to this, but The Wraith have certainly taken some diverse influences and given them a new breath of life. Plenty of energy and a strong production make this something that you really ought to check out.
YAN HART-LEMONNIER. Le Partages Des Griefs LP (Adaadat) The Adaadat label has been releasing some of the most interesting electronic-based music of the past few years and their production values are always very high. Great vinyl-pressings and excellent artwork combine to ensure that their records always stand out, whilst on top of this, they maintain an eclectic and intriguing range of artists. This album comes from a French musician who has already released numerous records (often under different names) although by all accounts, this offering is more introspective and perhaps a little more unsettling than his previous work. Like an ambient soundtrack composed by one of the more credible Prog-rock musicians, this at times recalls some of Chris Carters’ solo work, with occasional nods towards Krautrock and some of the early Residents releases. The title translates as ‘The Sharing of Grievances’ and refers to personal feelings that are sometimes difficult to relate in words. The moody, atmospheric tracks relay those feelings perfectly, conveying a real sense of emotional intent. Sometimes quite downbeat, other times much lighter, and works very well. Anyone interested in the type of electronic music that is genuinely interesting within an accessible format, should definitely make efforts to hear this album.