RECORD REVIEWS, JULY-DECEMBER 2020
A BUNCH OF JERKS. The Dead EP (Rum Bar) This bands’ previous EP (‘White Girl Wasted’) was a great slab of high-energy rock’n’roll invigorated with punk rock attitude. Their new record goes even further, recalling the Alice Cooper Band circa 1971 (I actually came to this conclusion before I discovered the final track on this release was a cover of ‘No More Mr Nice Guy’) perhaps mixed with the sassy delivery of the New York Dolls. The title track is a great, tempered slice of sleaze, while second song ‘Chad’ recalls the Dolls ‘Trash’ mixed with ‘Wipe Out’ style guitar runs. ‘No More Mr Nice Guy’ is faithful to the spirit of the original, although stripped down to the essential elements to ensure it doesn’t get too precious. And with a female-vocal perspective courtesy of the wonderfully-named Stabby, it opens a whole new side to the song. This is different to the previous EP but no less essential. Track down a copy for yourself and fall in love!
ACE OF CUPS. Sing Your Dreams CD (High Moon) Ace of Cups were a legendary all-female rock band who emerged from the Sixties Psychedelic scene in San Francisco. Unlike many ‘girl-bands’ of that era, Ace of Cups wrote all of their own material and played all of their instruments. For various reasons, they didn’t release any records during their original career, but they did support the likes of Jimi Hendrix (who also sang their praises in subsequent interviews) The Band and The Grateful Dead, as well as providing vocals on the Jefferson Airplane album ‘Volunteers’. They even played at the infamous Altamont Festival, where guitarist Denise Kaufman was seriously injured when a beer can was thrown at her head. They eventually split-up in 1972 and it wouldn’t be until 2003 that a compilation of demo’s, rehearsals and live recordings was released, finally allowing enthusiasts a chance to hear what an album may have sounded like. It received a positive response and, as the original band members had all continued to play music over the years, they were eventually asked to play at a concert celebrating the 75th birthday of their old friend, the legendary peace-activist Wavy Gravy. The success of the performance led to High Moon records offering them the chance to finally record their first album. Featuring guest appearances from Taj Mahal and Buffy Sainte-Marie as well as members of Jefferson Airplane and Quicksilver Messenger Service, the album proved to be a success, living up to their reputation and ensuring a whole new set of fans. Nearly fifty years since they originally split, the band were given a new lease of life, however unlikely that may have seemed before it happened. With this brand new album, they continue to make the most of the opportunity. Again, the album includes guest appearances, this time including Jackson Browne and Sheila E, but the music is all about Ace of Cups. It’s not just a re-run of the music they made in the Sixties, although the spirit is still very evident. They’ve brought different influences into the songs, including world music rhythms and even contemporary vocal styles, to compliment their original mix of Blues, Soul and psych-pop. And throughout, there’s a strong sense of women standing up for themselves, both creatively as a band and as individuals. ‘Sing Your Dreams’ may not appeal to everyone but it deserves your respect. If you listen to it and put it into the right context, you may well be impressed.
AIKO EL GRUPO. Va Totalmente En Serio… CD (Elefant) This is fun! Lo-fi indie pop with a raucous punky approach, jangly guitars and erratic female harmonies. Lots of short sharp songs that recall the more frantic moments of Unrest and the more tuneful moments of Riot Grrl. Or maybe a collision between Bis and the Modern Lovers? Squeeky, sometimes spacey, keyboards add to the overall atmosphere. The songs are what this album is all about and even if the musicianship is a little naïve at times, it really doesn’t matter because it’s the soul of this record that’s important. Similarly, not even the lyrics being sung in Spanish is going to spoil your enjoyment and you’ll be trying to sing along anyway. This will have you thinking about outdoor parties in Summer sunshine and, let’s face it, we could all do with a bit of that!
ANGELIC UPSTARTS. The Albums 1983-91 CD Boxset (Captain Oi!) Angelic Upstarts have been a much maligned band over the years and for the most-part, it’s been very much undeserved. As one of the original bands associated with the Oi-movement, the music (and even national) press chose to either ignore or deride them, despite their stance having always been socialist, anti-racist and anti-fascist. Admittedly, some of their gigs did attract trouble, but it was always down to those who wanted to disrupt what the Upstarts stood-for rather than the band encouraging bone-headed elements. Indeed, singer Mensi was one of the best lyricists of the Thatcher years, putting into words exactly what it was like to be part of a working class being beaten into poverty by that evil bitch and her cohorts. All that being said, it’s a lot easier to look back at their music now and appreciate it in a musical context. What will surprise a lot of listeners is just how varied and musically-capable the band were. This collection features six disks based around their many releases of that time. Most punk fans will be familiar with their earlier releases on EMI (it’s still incredible to think that a band as raw and uncompromising as the Upstarts could infiltrate the mainstream) but the six albums they released in this eight year period are perhaps less known. Finding a more compatible home with Anagram records, ‘Reason Why’ was a top twenty hit in the Indie charts, as was the single ‘Woman in Disguise’. The album had a less aggressive production, balancing the faster, punkier songs with their less obvious musical diversions. ‘Woman in Disguise’ was a catchy, accessible song with great lyrics that deserved to be heard by a much wider audience, while the title track is an effective reggae number. ‘Geordie’s Wife’ is a poignant spoke-word piece and ‘The Burglar’ is a tongue-in-cheek tale with an almost Ruts-like insistence. The CD also includes ten non-album tracks including previously unreleased demos. By the time their next album, ‘Last Tango in Moscow’ was released in 1984, the band had a new line-up as well as a new record label, Picasso. The single ‘Machine Gun Kelly’ employed an almost hardcore-style tempo (although still identifiable as the Upstarts) while other album tracks took a slower pace to emphasise the lyrical content. Mensi’s impassioned performance of the traditional vocal-only track, ‘Blackleg Miner’, really brings back the sentiments of the Miners Strike, while final song of the album, ’Nowhere to Run’, delves into hard rock territory. Ten bonus tracks include demos and alternate tracks from the album itself. 1985 saw the release of the self-explanatory ‘Live in Yugoslavia’ album, featuring a set culled from their career to date. Concentrating on their more direct, raucous material, they still found space to perform the almost folk-like ‘Solidarity’, but it’s classic punk tracks like ‘Teenage Warning’, ‘Last Night Another Soldier’ and ‘I’m An Upstart’ that really makes it an impressive set, even despite the muffled sound quality. The next studio album, ‘Power of The Press’, emerged in 1986 following the controversial single, ‘Brighton Bomb’ (included here) which referenced the IRA bombing of the Tory party conference. The album is a little more subdued than you might expect, recalling The Wall’s ‘Dirges and Anthems’ LP, perhaps. In the same way. it’s not as instant as other Upstart-records, but well worth the effort of repeated plays as the material is strong, even if the production is lacking. Continuing their busy schedule, ‘Blood on the Terraces’, appeared in late 1987, this time on Link Records. The album title and artwork were seized-upon by parts of the media and even a few MP’s, who were so quick to jump to the wrong conclusion they didn’t even notice the (admittedly) tongue in cheek ‘Heroin is Good For You’. The production veers more towards hard rock (rather than metal) but it certainly doesn’t spoil good songs like ‘Our Day Will Come’ or ‘Pride of Our Passion’. Bizarrely, the album ends with a cover of ‘Ruby (Don’t Take Your Like to Town)’… it isn’t bad, but it’s pretty out of character. Bonus tracks on this disk feature recordings from the legendary ‘Main Event’ gig at The Astoria in London, 1988. They sound really good, providing proof of just how great a live band the Upstarts have always been. It’s just a shame there’s only seven tracks here, because you’ll be wanting to hear more. The last album in this set, ‘Bombed Out’, didn’t appear until 1992 and was released by yet another label, Roadracer. That being said, the album did see the return of original members Ray ‘Mond’ and Decca Wade and the overall sound of the album was much more back to their roots, at least in terms of the energy levels. The songs are still varied, ensuring that the album keeps your attention from start to end. Perhaps surprisingly, the stringest track (for me) is the spoken-word ‘Proud & Loud’, capturing the anger and passion of the working class as they realise that politicians, left and right, have betrayed them. No bonus tracks on this disk, but when you hear the album as it stands, you really won’t need anything else. It really is one of their best and the highlight of a set that hasn’t had a single bad album. In a lot of ways, I’m surprised I enjoyed this set as much as I have, but at the end of the day, if a band remains dedicated and on top of their game, you have to give them the credit. You probably already know if you enjoy this the Upstarts or not, but if you’re curious, check this out as there’s some great stuff to be heard.
ANTILLECTUAL. Covers EP (Engineer) Dutch band who win the prize for best band-name of this issue! The idea behind this EP was to cover four songs that played a part in the early days of punk rock without picking the more obvious choices (although I’m not so sure that applies to ‘Search & Destroy’, an essential classic in any sense of the word…) Without knowing more about Antollectual, I have to just go along with the record itself and I’m happy to say that the results are a lot of fun. ‘Truth Hits Everybody’ was originally recorded by The Police and, while their involvement with the original punk movement was tenuous at the best, they did write some great pop songs and this was one of them (although at the same time I feel duty bound to say, ‘Sting is a Cunt!’). ‘I Believe in Miracles’ is one of the best songs from the later years of the Ramones (it’s hardly the early days of punk, but what the Hell, it’s a great song.) ‘Hanging on the Telephone’ is an awesome song, either original version by The Nerves or Blondie’s cover which made it famous, and finally ‘Search and Destroy’… enough said. I wish I knew a bit more about this bands’ own music (apparently, they’ve been together for nearly twenty years, releasing quite a few records during that time) so I could put this EP into a better context, but even without that info, this is a very enjoyable record that adds the bands’ own character to the songs and deserves your attention. Track down a copy as if your life depended on it.
ANTI-PASTI, 1980-83 3CD set (Captain Oi!) I remember going to a gig in Whitstable, sometime around 1981 or 82… it was in a church hall and featured three or four local punk bands. Among other memories of the evening, one thing has always stuck in my mind, that three of the bands each played a cover of Anti-Pasti’s ‘No Government’. Not that the bands were incapable of playing anything else, but it’s a good example of what made Anti-Pasti so popular at that point in time. They wrote incredibly catchy but also very simplistic punk rock songs, ‘No Government’ being the most popular. Whilst contemporary bands like Discharge or The Exploited tried to play their songs as fast and as aggressive as possible, Anti-Pasti were probably closer to the 1977 style of UK punk, keeping their music powerful but also accessible. Their first two releases - the ‘Four Sore Points’ EP and the ‘Let Them Free’ 7” – were raw but insistent, while their debut album, ‘The Last Call’, had a decent production and interesting arrangements that brought out the best in their songs. Even their version of ‘I Wanna Be Your Dog’ was presented in their own style rather than just sticking to the original… Things were looking very positive for the band and in 1982 came the release of their highly anticipated second album, ‘Caution in the Wind’. However, although it sold well, many fans were disappointed. It included good songs but the production lacked the power of the first album, even despite the addition of a second guitarist, and it seemed less focused. It sounded too clean and had none of the simplistic energy that everyone had loved about ‘The Last Call’. Evidently, the band were also disenchanted as singer Martin Roper quit the band in early 1983 and, although attempting to continue without him, the rest of the band called it a day soon after. Listening to these re-mastered recordings now pretty much bears out the above points. The first disc, featuring ‘The Last Call’, is still a lot of fun even if some of the lyrical references are noticeably dated. ‘Caution to the Wind’, featured on the second disc, is still let down by the lack-lustre production although at this distance, you can hear that the songs themselves deserved a lot more. The third disc, ‘Rarities’, is mostly made-up of tracks from their singles as well as live tracks from the ‘official bootleg’ cassette released by Chaos Tapes. A lot of fans may well have most if not all of these recordings, but the re-mastering has done a commendable job to make them sound better than ever. Together with a 16-page booklet telling the story of the band alongside plenty of rare photos, this is the perfect retrospective of a band that made a big mark on the early 80’s punk scene and who certainly had the potential to do a lot more.
ARYA. For Ever (werearya.bandcamp.com) Hard rock band from Rimini in Italy that seem intent on introducing many different genres into their music. Brutal metallic riffs collide with almost jazz-like guitar hooks and changeable rhythms, whilst dual vocals (male / female) provide contrast between almost Siouxsie-like operatics by Virginia Bertozzi and harder death metal style vocals from Luca Pasini (at least, I assume he’s responsible for the male vocals…) It’s all pretty intriguing and you really don’t know what’s going to happen next, even within the context of a single song. The track ‘Thymian’, for example, starts with a mellow introduction before suddenly getting louder and eventually evolving into something you might expect from Voivod in one of their more discordant moments. Some moments veer into almost Prog-like territory, although you can almost guarantee that it will switch into something completely different only moments later. It’s actually quite unsettling to listen to this, but I mean that in a good way… you’ll really be paying attention! I don’t know much about the bands’ background, other than this is their fifth album, but I certainly have to say that they seem to be worth investigation.
BC. The Day and the Night of the Body. CD (Lumbarton Trading Company) This is an album by Brian Conniffe, who has previously worked with the likes of Nurse With Wound. It consists of two lengthy pieces originally recorded between 2007 and 2009. The first is an atmospheric instrumental soundtrack, combining dark ambience and even classical elements to an unsettling effect. The second section features narrative vocals written and performed by Simon Morris, the late frontman of legendary Blackpool-based DIY band, Ceramic Hobs. It’s the narrative that propels this track, with the music providing an effective, improvised soundtrack. The different tones of the music sometimes distract you from the actual words, so you find yourself wandering in and out of the dialogue, but that just adds to the overall presentation. The two tracks are both powerful and insistent but in very different ways. Although completed more than a decade ago, Brians’ involvement with other bands and projects delayed the release of these recordings until now, but the music remains both interesting and entertaining. For those with an interest in the more peculiar fringes of electronic music, this is something that you need to hear.
BEEBE GALLINI. East Side Story EP (Ramo) Originally founded back in 2015, Beebe Gallini, it seems, didn’t get serious until 2019 when several personnel changes resulted in the current line-up, who are now releasing their debut EP. And I’m glad to say that it’s great stuff. Sixties Garage complete with vintage guitar riffs, fuzzy guitars, classic pop melodies and vocals that just make you want to sing along. Think of The Pandoras, make the sound a bit more trashy, combine it with The Seeds and then set it up for a grappling bout with Detroit Cobras… the result could go either way, but I’d place my money on this band. If they sound this good in the studio, the live experience must be awesome! There’s also a full album due for 2021, courtesy of the wonderful Rum Bar label. If the pandemic isn’t over by then, I’m sure the LP will stomp it out for good! In the meantime, get this record, play it loud and make your neighbourhood a much happier place.
BIPOLAR. Bipolar EP (Slovenly) These two displacements from Iran ended up in Brooklyn, forming a new band with a couple of friendly locals. The results are a snarling mix of three-chord punk and distorted keyboard sounds, somewhere in between The Screamers and The Spits, with a healthy hint of Suicide thrown-in for good measure. The vocals scream over the turbulent sounds, insisting that they be heard… it’s like a bar-brawl between the two aural elements! Noisy, exciting and invigorating, you need to experience this.
PETER BLACK. If This is the Hand That I’m Dealt CD / I’m Gonna Cheat as Much as I Can CD (Cool Bananas) Probably best known in the UK as Blackie of legendary Australian punk band The Hard-Ons, Mr Black is now releasing two solo albums simultaneously. Rather than being an overkill, the sheer range of styles and arrangements is guaranteed to maintain your interest from start to finish. This is a different side to Peters’ musical portfolio, moving away from the brash uptempo style of the Hard-Ons towards a more restrained but no-less insistent style. ‘If This is the Hand’ is more like a regular solo album, mostly based around acoustic guitar and vocals, but the catchy melodies and lyrics that seem more personal will steadily draw you in. ‘I’m Gonna Cheat’, on the other hand, is more of a mix of styles, ranging from Psychedelia and Sixties pop through to early-Nineties indie-pop. The more lively moments recall the best moments of the Lemonheads (‘Lick’, ‘It’s a Shame About Ray’) while the mellower moments will have you thinking about the Beatles or Brian Wilson. This may come as a surprise to those with only a passing knowledge of the Hard-Ons and their music, but the more avid fans will already know that the band always had a lot of diverse musical influences, in the same way that The Ramones embraced Phil Spector and Sixties Pop. The Hard-Ons were always about energy and loud guitars, but at the heart of it they always knew how to handle a good melody. These two albums are more a matter of stripping things down and presenting them differently. Whether you’re a fan of The Hard-Ons or you’ve never heard of them, these are two fine albums and you ought to check them out
BLACK & RED (Jaz Coleman & Ondrej Smeykal) One The Day The Earth Went Mad EP (Cadiz) Another intriguing project by Jaz Coleman, this time in conjunction with a Czech didgeridoo virtuoso, Ondrej Smeykal (really, if it was anyone apart from Jaz, you’d probably think this was made-up…) Having recognised the sonic possibilities of this ancient instrument, Jaz and Ondrej set about work to create a new piece of music reflecting the increasingly strange world that we all find ourselves in. Anyone who has ever really paid attention to the sound will already know that the didgeridoo has a unique, evocative, trance-like quality and its’ effects are not so far removed from some of Killing Jokes’ more drone-like tracks (‘The Hum’, ‘Communion’, ‘Inside The Termite Mound’) and, as such, this new release doesn’t sound all that far removed from Killing Joke, even though the performance and realisation are completely different. The only additional instrumentation was from an Indian Harmonium, creating an overall sound like nothing you’ve heard before. Especially in conjunction with the accompanying video, this is a powerful and unsettling piece of music that will appeal to Killing Joke fans whilst being very-much its’ own beast. You’ll be a fool to miss it!
BLACK CLASH. All Sales Are Final. Digital album (blackclash.bandcamp.com/) Based in Tampa, Florida, Black Clash play a Hardcore style but don’t stick entirely to that genre, bringing different ideas into their sound. The songs tend to be built around strong, repetitive riffs that stress the power of the individual tracks rather than just playing as fast as possible. In fact, most of the songs are played at a reasonably restrained pace and, I think, work all the better for it. The vocals have a pretty brutal, throat-shredding style that suits the songs pretty well (although deciphering the lyrics is pretty difficult!) Musically, you can hear influences ranging from early UK Oi! through to hardcore bands like (pre-Rollins) Black Flag and maybe even more recent names like Fucked Up. I don’t know much more about the band themselves, but this is their first full-length release and they put it all together themselves in true DIY fashion. It’s a very promising debut and I hope they can follow it up soon.
BLACK HALOS. Ain’t No Good Time to Say Goodbye 7” (Yeah Right) A genuine tribute to Canadian Punk Rock legend, Mr Chi Pig, who tragically died earlier this year, aged only 57. The Black Halos were friends of the charismatic singer, as well as having been inspired by his work, so it’s entirely appropriate that they release this record, from which all profits will go towards a permanent memorial to the man. (www.gofundme.com/f/larger-than-li…he-chi-pig-mural) Perhaps the best part of this tribute is that the song sounds great, somewhere between the Dead Boys and Johnny Thunders. It’s a powerful, emotive song that would blow you away whatever the circumstances, but as a tribute to a lost friend, it’s all the more effective. The b-side features the band tearing through a cover of the SNFU classic, ‘Rusty Rake’. You really ought to hear this record even if you’ve never heard of Mr Chi Pig or SNFU (although, if that’s the case, shame on you) and you can be assured that whatever you pay for it, the proceeds will be going somewhere worthwhile.
THE BOYS. On Safari CD Boxset (Captain Oi!) This is a pretty essential collection for any fan of The Boys and, even more than that, it ought to be high on the wants-list for any fan of original UK Punk Rock. After releasing their first two albums on the NEMS label, The Boys switched to Safari Records, releasing two more albums that kept the musical standards high. ‘To Hell With The Boys’ appeared in 1979, featuring songs like ‘Terminal Love’, ‘See Ya later’ and ‘Kamikaze’, all of which remain firm favourites in their live sets to this day. Their next album, ‘Boys Only’, was another fine record, including great singles like ‘Weekend’ and ‘Let It Rain’ as well as more fan-faves in the shape of ‘Wrong Arm of the Law’ and ‘Satisfaction Guaranteed’. However, due to changing trends and fashions, the record didn’t sell as well as it deserved and would prove to be the bands’ final studio album for several decades although, during the same time, the band had taken a break from preparing ‘Boys Only’ to record the (now legendary) ‘Christmas Album’ as their thinly-disguised alter-egos, The Yobs. Released, appropriately-enough, during December 1980, it appeared only a couple of months ahead of ‘Boys Only’, giving fans of the band(s) plenty to celebrate. They had already released Xmas singles under this guise in 1977, ’78 and ’79 so an album seemed the next illogical step. Featuring a selection of Festive tunes given the Yobs’ treatment, it could perhaps be accused of being shameless and tasteless, but if you can join-in with the bands’ sense of humour and not take things too seriously, it’s also a lot of fun! Now, while it’s great to hear these three albums properly mastered for CD release and sounding as great as ever, the real bonus for fans comes with the final two disks. The first, simply entitled ‘Rarities’, features 22 tracks made up of alternative recordings, different mixes and original demos. Some of the songs vary considerably to the versions which originally made it onto vinyl, but the quality remains high throughout the entire selection… you may even find yourself wondering whether some of these tracks should have been used on the original releases. Possibly of most interest is a set of demos recorded in Norway in early 1979, featuring four songs that wouldn’t even make it onto ‘To Hell With…’ Long thought lost, the original tapes were recently rediscovered and feature here for the first time. The final disk features ten songs recorded live in 1980 by the BBC for their ‘In Concert’ radio show. Although this has been previously released, it’s been out of print for some time and neatly ties up this era of The Boys. From older tracks like ‘First Time’, ‘Cop Cars’ and ‘Livin’ in the City’ through to tracks from ‘To Hell With…’ like ‘Rue Morgue’, 'Terminal Love’ and ‘Kamikaze’, this is a great set that shows just how tight this band were (and continue to be.) Although it’s always going to be their first two albums that get the most acclaim, their subsequent releases on Safari certainly didn’t lack the quality and standards that they previously established and indeed, included many of their best and most popular songs. Complete with a 28 page full colour booklet featuring Matt Dangerfields’ extensive sleeve notes, this box set is the perfect way for you to reacquaint yourself with these records or, if you’ve not heard them before, it’ll serve just as well as the ideal introduction. Either way, you really need to get yourself a copy of this collection.
THE BUSINESS. 1980-88. CD Boxset (Captain Oi!) The Business were a band that should have been much more popular but when the music press decided that any band associated with the Oi! movement were right-wing thugs, regardless of the facts, they were denied any positive coverage. It wouldn’t be until the mid-Nineties, when they started touring abroad on a regular basis that they started to get the respect they clearly deserved, whilst in the UK they slowly began to be recognised as the important influence they had been on the hardcore and street-punk genres.. This box-set is a thorough collection of recordings from the bands’ first decade. The first disc, ‘The Original Business’ is probably going to be of most interest to fans of the band as it features rare recordings made by the very first version of the band. Although the roots of what would become the bands’ sound are evident, you can also hear other influences, including original Sixties Mod and early Seventies hard rock. Also included here are tracks from early singles and compilations which show the band developing towards a harder punk sound, although being sure to maintain the melodic elements that always set them apart from other bands. Their first single, the classic ‘Harry May’, was released in late 1981, quickly establishing the band in the independent charts but also resulting in a line-up change when three of the band decided they couldn’t commit to the touring that they were now being offered. Frontman Micky Fitz set about rebuilding the band, recruiting Steve Whale, Mark Brennan and Kev Boyce from local band The Blackout. The first release from this line-up came in early 1982 with the excellent ‘Smash the Disco’s’ EP, which reached the Top 5 in the Indie charts. Hot on its’ heels came their debut album, ‘Suburban Rebels’, which featured many of their best-known songs. Despite a good reception, the album failed to get the promotion it deserved as the record label, Secret, were on the verge of going bankrupt. The band understandably felt let-down and decided to split-up. Fortunately for fans, this would be a relatively short-lived decision and The Business regrouped in 1984, initially to record a ‘live-in-a-studio’ album, ‘Loud Proud and Punk’. The line-up featured a new drummer, Micky Fairburn, and for many this would be the classic version of the band. Enthused by the reception for the live album, the band began recording new material, resulting in the ‘Get Out of My House’ EP and the ‘Saturdays Heroes’ album, both released in 1985. Additionally, the original recordings for ‘Suburban Rebels’ had been recently rediscovered (after supposedly being ‘lost’ by the studio) and were released as the ‘Smash the Discos’ album (included in this boxset alongside the ‘Loud, Proud and Punk’ recordings.) The final disc in this set features the ‘Welcome to the real World’ album, released in 1988 and also featuring the return of original guitarist Steve Kent. Another strong album, it included live favourites like ‘Do a Runner’ and the title track as well as the bands’ first comments about Maradonna in the song ‘Handball’. This disc also includes bonus songs from the ‘Do a Runner’ EP, a couple of studio out-takes and live tracks recorded at The Astoria. Complete with a 24 page booklet featuring sleeve notes, rare photos and press clippings, this really is an essential collection for any true fan of The Business and a perfect starting point for anyone who wants to find out what they were all about.
THE CAVEMEN. Euthenise Me EP (Slovenly) The Cavemen specialise in raucous’n’rowdy garage punk, which is either going to appeal to you straight away or, if you have no taste, give you a headache. Think of a cross between the MC5 and The Damned (1977-version) – it’s all about the delivery and attitude. Lots of potent energy and a breath-taking tempo that sounds like it could all fall apart at any moment. Somehow, they keep it all held together until the end of each track. As primitive as their name suggests, but also a thing of sonic-beauty. Play it Loud!
CETERI. Tough Shit LP (ceteriofficial.bandcamp.com) Punk band from Milwaukee who play tuneful music with a restrained-pace. Not that it isn’t fast, but it’s certainly not thrashy and allows for a lot more options as the songs develop. They make me think of bands like Bracket, Dillinger Four and maybe even certain songs by the mighty Crimpshrine. I couldn’t find much information about them but I’d guess they’ve been playing for a while, because this set of songs is pretty solid and has a real sense of purpose. This is definitely worth checking out and making sure you keep your ears open for further releases in the future.
THE CHEATS. Cussin’, Crying and Carrying On CD (Screaming Crow) Pittsburgh based hard rock’n’roll band that would seem to owe as much to the spirit of AC/DC as they do to the Ramones. They’ve been active since 2001 and seem to take a similar approach to bands like the Supersuckers or Nashville Pussy, stripping rock’n’roll back to the bare essentials and not being afraid to be good at it. Singer Todd Porter has a growl that isn’t far behind John Brannon and the band are as tight as these kind of songs demand. With big riffs and never lacking a great melody, this is High-energy rock’n’roll that does a perfect job.
CITIZEN RAGE. Black EP (Wasted Wax) Brutal hardcore band from Calgary in Canada. Four powerful songs with a great production, sort of reminiscent of the best NYHC, like Agnostic Front, Cro-mags or (early) Madball. You could also add elements of Corrosion of Conformity or DRI to their mix, although Citizen Rage add their own determined character and presence throughout the record. Formed in 2014, this is their second release and really puts their own mark down on vinyl. If this is what they sound like in the studio, I can’t imagine how great they must be live! Fingers crossed that we’ll get a chance to see them at some point, but in the meantime, be sure to check out this EP.
COIL. A Guide for Beginners : The Voice of Silver / A Guide for Finishers : A Hair of Gold. CD set (Cold Spring.) Originally released in Russia during 2001 as two separate CDs, this new compilation is probably the best introduction to the music of Coil and if you don’t enjoy these selections of their music it’s unlikely that you’ll enjoy any of their other releases. Coil were a prolific and very eclectic, esoteric, even entertaining project, but they didn’t make it easy for just anyone to come in to their world. It’s quite remarkable that all four members of Throbbing Gristle went on to create exciting, innovative music in their ensuing projects, but for me Coil were the most effective. The combination of Peter Christopherson and John Balance was an almost perfect mix of ideas and influences, allowing for some truly astounding music. What this collection does is to present two very different sides to their work. (There were also a lot of other quite separate directions that they explored at different times but you can get to them later.) ‘A Guide for Beginners’ is possibly the more accessible of the two volumes, although this is still on Coils’ own terms. The music is mellower and, at first glance, more comfortable, but you barely need to scratch the surface to discover some of their darker observations. The opening track, ‘Amethyst Deceivers’, is a beautiful musical piece until you hear the first lines of the lyrics warning, ‘Pay your respects to the vultures, for they are your future…’ They present it in a carefully understated way, not in some trashy attempt to be shocking. Similarly, ‘Who’ll Fall?’ features a telephone message informing Peter Christopherson of a friends’ suicide and asking his advice on how to deal with the news… Again, it’s presented in a respectful, low-key way, with appropriately solemn music, to give the listener a chance to consider the questions that it raises. The music on this CD works well together, almost like an album in its’ own right, embracing influences ranging from classical, world music, soundtracks, pop and industrial to create something truly atmospheric. In contrast, ‘A Guide for Finishers’ presents the ‘louder’, more direct aspect of Coil, also highlighting how John Balance was equally adept with his more assertive vocal performances as he was with the more spoken style that you hear on the first disk. Opening with ‘Panic’ from their 1985 EP, this is Coil tackling electronic dance music but, as always, they deal with it in their own way. Where so much electronic music from the mid-Eighties now sounds rather dated, Coil always added enough of their own character and ideas to ensure that their music remained set apart from anyone else and, as such, it’s aged very well. It still sounds fresh and exciting, although it’s another ‘dance’ track included here, ‘The Anal Staircase’ that remains truly outstanding. It’s a brutal mix of beats and industrial noise with added sexual imagery to thwart conservative minds… Elsewhere, they play with the concepts of electronic dance music with minimalist instrumentals like ‘Further Back and Faster’, while tracks like ‘Red Skeletons’ hark back to their superb (but unfortunately unused) recordings for the ‘Hellraiser’ soundtrack. ‘Scope’ features a distorted bass guitar that takes them as close to ‘rock’ music as they would ever attempt, but in contrast, closing track ‘The First Five Minutes After Violent Death’, are a genuinely unnerving soundtrack for the darkest Film Noir that was never made. At present, it seems that many of the original (and often very limited) Coil albums are being reissued and I’m sure they’re going to find a whole new audience alongside the original fans. If you feel intrigued enough to investigate, I can’t recommend this release enough. If your mind is open and adventurous, this double CD may well open your heart to a whole new world.
THE COMPULSIONS. Ferocious CD (Compulsions) This is the third album from The Compulsions, a New York based rock’n’roll band fronted by Rob Carlyle, and their first release in nearly five years. That being said, the album sounds so fresh and determined that you’ll be thinking that this is a band who have been on an endless tour, only interrupting it to commit these songs to tape. There’s a tight mix of raw Blues guitars, nasty Glam and hardened riffs that could have come straight from the bass of Lemmy… Think what you might get of you re-located early-Seventies Rolling Stones to the present day with all the influences they could suck up from street-level and bring together in a contemporary studio setting. New York has a reputation for producing its’ very own brand of razor-sharp rock’n’roll, always drenched in its’ very own attitude. It’s that factor that really makes this album stand-out. Featuring guest appearances from Earl Slick and members of the recent New York Dolls line-up, Rob has brought together the perfect musicians to bring out the best in these songs. The results are a fine set of songs that cover a variety of styles and should find themselves appealing to a pretty wide range of fans.
CORRUPT MORAL ALTAR. Patiently Waiting for Wonderful things EP (APF) I received a copy of CMA’s first EP to review a while ago and enjoyed it a lot, but for some reason failed to keep tabs on them. So I was glad when this EP turned-up and sounded just as good as I hoped for. This probably isn’t the sort of sound you’d expect from Liverpool, but nonetheless, this band are determinedly creating their own brutal style and might well re-define the sonic reputation of the Mersey! They mix the more extreme elements of the Hardcore scene (power-violence, grindcore, crust etc) together in a maelstrom of discordant energy. The results are compelling, insistent and demanding your full-attention. There’s a great clarity to the production on this record, allowing you to hear everything that’s going on whilst never losing any of the raw power. Similarly, the arrangements really add creative-intrigue to the proceedings, making sure that you no other choice but to maintain full focus. If you enjoy music that takes things to the limit (be it metal, hardcore, jazz or industrial) you really need to hear this record.
THE CRAMPS, Born Bad at the Barrowland Ballroom. LP (Cthulhu Fhtagn) Glasgows’ legendary Barrowlands Ballroom is one of the best venues I’ve ever been to. Every time I’ve been there, it’s had a great atmosphere and the audience has been so enthusiastic. Combine this with The Cramps, one of the best live bands of the past fifty years, and you know it’s going to be incendiary. This album captures them during their 1990 tour promoting the Stay Sick album. The set-list includes tracks from each and every album up to that date, providing fans with a suitably-sleazy but entirely-satisfying show. This was the last tour before the departure of original drummer, Nick Knox, and his tub-thumping is close to perfection (for the purposes of The Cramps, anyway…) The album comes in a magnificent full-colour cover and the sound quality is top-notch, clear and raucous. Play this in the dark and wish that you’d been there!
(DAMN) THIS DESERT AIR. Nebulosity CD/EP (Engineer) Okay, I’ll admit I don’t get this ongoing trend for complicated band names, but perhaps that’s because I’m an old fucker. And in the greater scheme of things, it really doesn’t matter if the music they produce is good, which in this case is the, err…case. Apparently, this is the bands’ first release in seven years, although I have no idea why that hiatus occurred. Again, don’t worry about these things, just check out what they’re doing now. This New Jersey-based band have produced something new that’s more than worthy of your attention and that’s the important thing. Opening track ‘Body Anchor’ recalls the best moments of Quicksand, or perhaps somewhere midway between Helmet and Seaweed (if you don’t remember those bands, stop reading this and check them out now!) Taking an intense delivery but tempering it with melodic, catchy undertones, DTDA produce songs that are equally capable of drawing you into their emotive drama and blowing your senses away. Although very much a hard rock and punk scenario, there are also hints of REM and Mission of Burma deep in this mix, adding an unexpected but perfectly matched approach to proceedings. Featuring four great tracks, each with their own character and atmosphere, there’s plenty to enjoy on this release and even the ballad-like closing song ‘Cauterize’ has an underlying edge that will leave its’ mark on your sub-consciousness. This is contemporary rock as it ought to be, genuine, musical and creative. Be sure to check this out.
DEA. Crush The Machine EP (Southern Lord) ‘DEA’ in this case stands for ‘Dead End America’ and this record came together when guitarist Tony Avila suggested to his friend Steve Hanford (aka Thee Slayer Hippy) that they work together on some new songs as a ‘COVID project’. Their initial intention was something that sounded like a cross between Poison Idea and The Accused and they quickly laid-down the basic tracks for these four songs. After this initial burst of activity, some delays occurred, but gradually things came together, with appearances from various friends including Nick Oliveri (Kyuss etc) and The Accused’s singer Blaine Cook. The results pretty much live-up to their initial intentions, delivering four tracks of brutal, metallic hardcore that totally rips through your stereo. Lyrics are accurately aimed towards the Trump administration, the most obvious target for hardcore vexation since Ronnie Reagan himself. Sadly, Steve Hanford passed away just before the completion of this EP, but his drums, vocals and production skills are clearly in evidence here, providing the perfect tribute to his many talents. This is a record that delivers its’ songs with a true sense of passionate-rage and it’s a must-have record for any true fan of classic hardcore.
DEATH VALLEY GIRLS. Under The Spell of Joy CD (Suicide Squeeze) Formed in 2013, this is Death Valley Girls fourth album to date and certainly seems very focused and purposeful. The music is difficult to describe, just because there seems to be so much going into it. Dark psychedelia, Detroit proto-punk (Stooges, MC5 – just listen to the snarling riffs on ’10 Day Miracle Challenge’) and joyful experimentation (screeching saxophones recall moments from early Residents’ records, while the omnipresent reverberating organ sounds seem to reference lo-fi Sixties Garage bands. There’s a lot of repetition in an almost groovy, hypnotic way, sort of similar to the Velvet Underground although not particularly sounding the same. Hints of Sonic Youth circa ‘EVOL’ can also be detected, although not in a particularly direct style… Singer Bonnie Bloomgarden has a very distinct delivery, mixed within the instrumentation rather than over it, giving the vocals a more integrated part of the proceedings. But the truly wonderful thing about this album is its’ surprising accessibility. Despite all of its’ undercurrents, the songs all contain great melodies and there’s a definite Pop element, even if it’s a rather different, idiosyncratic version of the genre. Of course, Pop audiences aren’t going to be running to embrace Death Valley Girls, not with song titles like ‘Dream Cleaver’, but in a perfect world you know you’d want this record being played all over the airwaves… Whilst we wait for that utopia to arrive, do yourself a favour and be sure to hear this album.
THE DEECRACKS. Attention! Deficit Disorder LP (Monster Zero) Austria’s premier punk-pop band take the original Ramones’ formula but infuse it with their own adrenalin-rush and demented outlook to create something that stands up on its’ own skinny legs. This album was originally released in 2010 and has since become regarded as something. Put simply, it’s the kind of record that Screeching Weasel always wanted to make but never quite got there. Re-mastered with a new bonus track on both sides of the LP, this is the perfect way to celebrate its’ 10th Anniversary, and the fans also get new artwork and a free poster as part of the deal. Who could ask for more? This is truly Music for Pleasure, both yours and the band themselves. Buy it, play it loud, have a great time!
DEGURUTIENI. Dark Mondo CD (Voodoo Rhythm) This is an odd album, but in the best ways possible. Imagine Tom Waits producing the soundtrack for a David Lynch movie, with production courtesy of John Zorn… perhaps. The music has definite filmic qualities, like a fevered dream recalling a dark, atmospheric film noir. Alco Degurutieni comes from Osaka, Japan, but manages to gather influences and inspiration from all over the world to create his music. This album combines exotica, blues, movie scores and even occasional moments that recall the early, lo-fi experiments of The Residents. Indeed, many of these tracks were initially prepared on broken cassette decks and dilapidated record players, which adds to the authenticity and atmosphere of the overall vision. This is something that will seem totally new to you and yet, at the same time, strangely familiar and each time you listen, you’ll be drawn-in even further. Be prepared for an intriguing and entertaining musical adventure.
DIRTY STREETS, Rough and Tumble CD (Alive) Dirty Streets are a Memphis-based power-trio with an authentic grasp of early-Seventies Blues and Hard rock bands like The Faces or Humble Pie. But where they really make it their own is by bringing-in other influences, ranging from Motown, Soul and perhaps even some jazz, through to the Stones and maybe Creedence Clearwater Revival. The results are very insistent, with a tight rhythm section holding everything down while the guitar is given space to explore extended breaks. The vocals are strong and Bluesy, with no unneeded histrionics messing things up. The songs have a great, warm sound like an organic jam session and, indeed, the band tend to record their music in a live setting rather piece-by-piece in a regular studio. It’s a choice that works perfectly for them. This album is actually made up of tracks originally featured on their previous albums, plus two previously unreleased cover versions, ‘Walk a Mile in my Shoes’ and ‘Tell the Truth’, originally recorded by Joe South. As such, this serves as a great introduction to the band, as well as providing some great extras for existing fans. This isn’t going to appeal to everyone, but any fan of early-Seventies hard rock is going to love it.
DRIVE ME DEAD. S/T EP (Lostdog) A mix of Hard Rock and Horror-punk with more than a nod towards Danzigs’ solo career, I’d imagine. With song titles like ‘I’m Evil’ and ‘Skin Masks’, I’m sure you can quickly figure out the kind of entertainment that these guys are offering. Most of the songs tend to be of a mid-paced tempo, although the record gradually builds-up the speed as it progresses, coming to it’s end with ‘Day of the Dead’ and a decent cover of ‘Where Eagles Dare’ which maintains their own Hard Rock style whilst paying homage to the original. If you like your punk tempered with the likes of Motorhead or Metallica, this is going to be one for you!
THE DRONES. The Albums CD Boxset (Captain Oi!) The Drones are one of the more under-rated bands from the original Punk Rock scene in Manchester. Despite playing alongside bands like Buzzcocks, Warsaw(Joy Division) and even The Fall, they were never supported as enthusiastically by the music press as some of the others and, like Slaughter and the Dogs, built up their own following more by word-of-mouth and regular gigging. Trips down to London to play at legendary venues like the Roxy and the Marquee, supporting the likes of The Vibrators, XTC and The Only Ones, led to the recording of four tracks that they released independently as the ‘Temptations of a White Collar Worker’ in July ’77. They promoted this by supporting The Stranglers on tour, before releasing a second 7”, ‘Just Want to be Myself’ / ‘Bone Idol’ a mere three months later. By this point, they had signed to another Manchester indie label, Valer, who would also release their debut album, ‘Further Temptations’. This came out in December ’77, the same week that John Peel broadcast a session by the band. Opening with the classic ‘Persecution Complex’, the album was a great mix of raw, vibrant punk rock plus several slower, more brooding tracks like ‘City Drones’ and ‘The Change’, whilst ‘The Underdog’ was more experimental and almost post-punk in its’ direction. The Drones toured to publicise the album, but when this was completed, guitarist Gus Gangrene left the band and their activities seem to go on hold. One further release during 1978 appeared on the ‘Short Circuit’ compilation, celebrating Manchesters’ seminal but recently closed-down venue, the Electric Circus. Their track, a superb live recording of ‘Persecution Complex’, was one of the many highlights. The Drones didn’t appear again until 1980, when a new single, ‘Can’t See’ / ‘Fooled Today’, was released on the Fabulous label. Only singer MJ Drone and drummer Peter Howells remained from the original line-up, but were joined by John Ellis (ex-Vibrators) and bassist Riki Legair. The new songs had a different sound, more like New Wave, but failed to attract much new interest. The band finally called it a day by the end of that year and would not reappear until 1996 when they were invited to play at the ‘Holidays in the Sun’ festival. The positive response led to the release of a live DVD and a new single, ‘Sorted’ / ‘Johnny Go Home’. Further gigs ensued and in 1998, they were invited to play in Japan, where the live LP ‘Take Shelter’ was recorded. An American tour was also a success for the band and in 1999, they recorded and released their second studio album, also entitled ‘Sorted’. It was enthusiastically received by both old and new fans and, although the sound may not have been as raw as their original material, it was still easily identifiable as The Drones. After more than twenty years, they had produced a fine successor to their debut album, including ten new songs and surprising (but effective) covers of ‘American Pie’ and ‘I Heard it on the Grapevine’. Sadly, both MJ Drone and Peter Howells are no longer with us, although original bassist Steve Cundall has recently put together a new version of the band (featuring Mad Muffet from Slaughter & the Dogs and Al Crosby from The Nosebleeds) and have been playing live as well as releasing a new EP, ‘Will You Stand in Front of the Bullets’. This boxset features the ‘Further Temptations’ album (sounding better than ever) the ‘Sorted’ album and the ‘Take Shelter’ live LP, as well as an excellent disc of ‘Rarities’, which includes the original singles, various demos, their John Peel Session and even the version of ‘Persecution Complex’ from ‘Short Circuit’. With all this evidence gathered together, it’s clear that The Drones were a band that deserved a lot more credit and, although their original career was pretty short, they definitely made their mark. This is an enjoyable compilation from start to finish and if you haven’t heard them before, I’m sure you’re going to be very impressed.
DUNCAN REID AND THE BIGHEADS. Don’t Blame Yourself LP (LBH.) Since departing from The Boys in 2011, Duncan Reid has, in musical terms, been keeping himself pretty busy. He released his first solo album, ‘Little Big Head’ in 2012, followed by the ‘Difficult Second Album’ (great title!) in 2014 and ‘Bombs Away’ in 2017… I should also mention the excellent Mattless Boys album from 2010, which he recorded alongside his former cohorts from The Boys, Honest John Plain, Casino Steel and Vom Ritchie. With this new album, that makes five LP’s in ten years, which is no small feat especially when the material has remained so consistent and enjoyable. In many ways, I think it can be said that Duncans’ music lean more towards the melodic, punk-pop side of The Boys, consisting of catchy, compelling songs that seem to stick inside your head as soon as you hear them. In addition, he’s also assembled a great band that really know how to deliver the goods. Anyone who’s seen them live can confirm just how tight and powerful they are, whilst in the studio they add creative arrangements to individual songs to get the most from them. Opening track, ‘Your Future Ex Wife’, is power-pop at its’ best, with an underlying punky snarl offset against melodic vocal harmonies. This is promptly followed by a gentle guitar intro before pounding drums herald the unlikely-named ‘Motherfucker’. I don’t think I’ve ever heard Duncan swear before, but somehow he manages to keep the song catchy and entertaining even with a title like that! ‘Welcome to My World’ has great lyrics, similar to the Buzzcocks’ classic ‘Something Goes Wrong Again’, which I’m sure most of us can relate to at one time or another. ‘Tea and Sympathy’ takes a slower, more narrative approach, followed by 'To Live or Live Not’, which adopts a more
energetic pace, adding keyboards and electronics to the production. ‘The Grim Reaper’, in contrast to its’ foreboding title, is a fine piece of Sixties-style pop, and the title track takes a slower, steadier pace, together with a T-Rex styled guitar riff. The album contains a wide range of styles but never fails to grab your attention and keep your foot tapping. I can’t wait to see these songs played live and, if it wasn’t for this pesky pandemic, no doubt we would have enjoyed that prospect before now. But as it is, I’ll have to wait, with the only comfort being that I know it’ll be worth it. In the meantime, be sure to hear this album - duncanreidandthebigheads.com/dont-blame-yourself/
energetic pace, adding keyboards and electronics to the production. ‘The Grim Reaper’, in contrast to its’ foreboding title, is a fine piece of Sixties-style pop, and the title track takes a slower, steadier pace, together with a T-Rex styled guitar riff. The album contains a wide range of styles but never fails to grab your attention and keep your foot tapping. I can’t wait to see these songs played live and, if it wasn’t for this pesky pandemic, no doubt we would have enjoyed that prospect before now. But as it is, I’ll have to wait, with the only comfort being that I know it’ll be worth it. In the meantime, be sure to hear this album - duncanreidandthebigheads.com/dont-blame-yourself/
EMBR. 1823 CD (New Heavy Sounds.) Now, here’s a story about an album title that I bet you’ve never heard before. Drummer Eric Bigelow had been waiting for a chance to have a kidney transplant for around four years. Just as the band were in the middle of writing the material for this album, the chance arose for the operation to go ahead. All that Eric and vocalist Crystal (Erics’ wife) were informed about the donor was that it had been a recently deceased female aged between 18-23. Hence, the album was titled in tribute both to the anonymous donor and the staff at Vanderbilt hospital in Nashville, where the procedure took place. It’s clearly a heartfelt tribute, but I do have to wonder if the recipients of this tribute would actually enjoy this music. It’s a pretty brutal mix of classic Black Sabbath and the contemporary ‘Doom’ genre, with the riffs and tempo maintaining a steady almost dirge-like pace throughout. The guitar sounds are loud and gut-churning, providing perfect contrast to Crystal’s more theatrical, soaring vocal style. Her voice may sound rather dramatic at times, but don’t under-estimate the power behind her delivery. As I was saying above, this isn’t an album that’s going to appeal to everyone, but if the heavier moments of classic rock appeal to you just as much as recent down-tuned sounds, then this is an album for you.
FOOLS ERRAND. Eastside Anthology LP (foolserrand702.bandcamp.com/album/eastside-anthology) This is a one-man Oi-band from Las Vegas, no less. I hope that unlikely introduction has piqued your interest, because this is a great album with a powerful production and loads of great songs. It may only be one person behind all the instruments (with a few guest appearances from members of The Lower Class Brats, the Loud Pipes, ½ Ast and Unfair Fight) but the sound he produces is so much stronger than most of the bands you hear in this genre (it’s only a shame that there isn’t a full line-up, as that probably means we won’t get to see these songs performed live…) Although mostly based around influences from the likes of Blitz and The Business, there’s also a lot of other styles coming in to these songs. The track ‘Dubbed in English’ is an instrumental based around a dub-reggae style, with loud guitar chords eventually building towards its’ climax. ‘Speed’ veers more towards the better moments of so-called ‘UK82’ punk rock, while ‘Working Poor’ makes me think of a Street-punk version of The Ruts and ‘What Goes Around’ has an almost NYHC feel to it. The lyrics are really good as well, with catchy-choruses and chants but also plenty of things to keep you thinking. And, as one of the bonus tracks, we get a great version of ‘Pull Down the Shades’, originally by one of New Zealand’s first punk band The Enemy (they were fronted by Chris Knox and later morphed into Toy Love.) What a fine choice for a cover, and they do it proud! This is one of the best Oi! albums I’ve heard for a while, partly because it doesn’t stick rigidly to the genre and isn’t afraid to try out different ideas, but mostly because it has loads of great songs. The vinyl version is apparently very limited so I’d advise you to track it down soon!
FREDDIE WILLIAMS & PLUTONIUM BABY. You Said I’d Never Make It EP (Area Pirata) Now, this is something I can really appreciate. Heading towards his 60th birthday, Freddie (journal and fan of great music) decided that it was about time that he committed his vocal skills to vinyl. Enlisting Rome’s Art-punk combo Plutonium Baby to handle the musical side of things, he then chose four songs from the early Californian punk rock scene (‘Climate of Fear’ by The Lewd, ‘Destroy All Music’ by The Weirdos, ‘Media Control’ by The Nuns and ‘Radio Dies Screaming’ by The Flesheaters) and headed towards a studio to complete the project. The results are very impressive, perfectly capturing the sound and attitude of the original recordings, with Freddie himself delivering an excellent, snarling’n’snotty punk rock vocal. If you like any of the originals, you’re going to love this because it’s completely authentic. Great songs, great versions and a damn good reason for recording them. Happy birthday, Freddie!
FUCK THE FACTS. Pleine Noirceura CD (Noise Salvation) Canadian Grindcore might be a genre that I know nothing about, but this is an interesting, powerful and impressive album. Initially started as a studio-project, Fuck The Facts became a full-on band in 2001. Since then, they’ve been touring on a regular basis and releasing records on various underground labels as well as producing their own DIY releases. The vocals are sung in both English and French but in true Grindcore style, you won’t be able to make out the actual lyrics either way, so no problems there! But it’s the music that matters and this band impress because they have a good, clear production that allows you to hear what’s going on and they also aren’t afraid to take their riffs on a tangent to the usual Grindcore formula, tempering the more frantic moments with slower, more restrained breaks to create a suitably tense atmosphere. I’m not a massive fan of Grindcore, but when a band do it as well as this, you can’t help but take notice.
GAD WHIP. Fanimal Arms LP (https://www.facebook.com/GadWhip) This latest release from the Lincolnshire-based Gad Whip has a much stronger guitar sound than the material I’ve heard previously. Veering between post-punk eclecticism and occasional hard rock riffs, the music creates the perfect atmosphere for Pete Davies’ lyrical observations. In some ways, the balance between the music and the vocals is reminiscent of Pere Ubu, although not necessarily sounding like them… it’s more a case of similar approach, taking two elements and blending them together to make the most of them as a whole. Pete Davies’ vocal style has evolved more on this album as well, with more of the lyrics actually being sung rather than spoken. Both options are still used but now they seem to be more considered and part of the overall arrangements. The production is also very effective and certainly brings out the best of these songs. I enjoyed their previous album, ‘Post Internet Blues’, but this one goes much further and is very impressive with it. Definitely a record you should strive to hear.
GALLOWS BIRDS. Quaranteenage Kicks CD (Rum Bar) Easily the best album title of the year! If the name-alone doesn’t get you interested in this album, then allow me to tempt you further. The music is a great mix of Sixties Mod sensibilities, Beach Boy styled vocal harmonies and simple but highly effective Ramones-style three-chord punky pop. Think of The Nerves, add a chunk of The Who (from their early days) and stir-in a decent helping of The Descendents. Ten tracks of awesome melodies, witty lyrics and a beach party atmosphere that’ll have you pining for the Summer that we never really had this year… If this is the kind of response to the pandemic that some people are capable of creating, then all is not lost. This is good-time music for people who just want a good time… if this fails to bring a smile to your face, you must be a Goth…
GBH. The Rough Justice Years. CD Boxset (Captain Oi!) This could equally have been entitled ‘GBH – The Metal Years’, as that’s pretty much what happened to the band during their tenure with Rough Justice records. Not that they were the only band who took that direction and they certainly didn’t change as badly as some others (Discharge, Anti-Nowhere League, English Dogs etc.) In fact, GBH’s song-writing didn’t change all that much at all, having been originally influenced by the likes of Motorhead anyway. If anything, it was the production and arrangements that veered towards the more metallic side of things, particularly with the later albums. GBH had found considerable success on their original label, Clay, but when they folded in 1985 the band had to find a new home. Rough Justice was a relatively new label but provided the perfect option for the band, who remained popular even though many of their peers from the ‘UK82’ era had faded-out. Indeed, Rough Justice provided better distribution and helped to build the bands’ popularity throughout Europe and in America, enabling them to continue as a full-time band. The albums included here are Midnight Madness’, ‘No Need to Panic’ (which includes their unlikely cover of the Tony Christie hit ‘Avenues ‘and Alleyways’) ‘A Fridge Too Far’, ‘From Here to Reality’ and ‘Church of the Truly Warped’. Each disk includes bonus material, either non-album tracks from EP’s or demos. ‘A Fridge Too Far’ is particularly interesting in this aspect, as it includes three cover versions from a 1988 demo session, namely ‘No’ (Rezillos), ‘I’m On Heat’ (Lurkers) and ‘Last of the Teenage Idols’ (Sensational Alex Harvey Band.) ‘From Here to Reality’ and ‘Church of the Truly Warped’ both veer away from GBH’s usual style towards a more metal crossover sound and, as such, are probably the least successful of these albums. They’re not bad but, unlike the previous albums where the band always sounded recognisable, these records come across as GBH trying to imitate someone else rather than being themselves. Overall, I doubt that this set is going to win many new fans for the band, but those who already enjoy GBH won’t be disappointed. Together with a twenty page, full colour booklet packed with information about each album, this set provides a thorough insight into the bands’ output between 1986-1992 and will be a real treat for the fans.
THE GENTLE SCARS. Songs for the Loveless CD (Detour) This is a rather interesting album. Taking their cue from Sixties Mod and garage bands, they combine those sounds with their own, contemporary interpretation to create something new and enticing. If punk begat ‘post-punk’, perhaps this could be loosely termed ‘post-mod’, but there’s much more to it than a mere label could define. Based in Liverpool, The Gentle Scars come from an interesting and diverse background (The Yachts, Pink Military, Mel-o-tones etc) and have mixed their influences to produce an album that’s powerful, intriguing and entertaining. ‘Lost Queens of Hollywood’ incorporates a sound that suggests a moody soundtrack, also featuring a great, fuzzed-out guitar break, but all the while remaining focused on its’ infectious melodic hooks. The title track borrows a hint or two from The Doors while ‘Mondo Trasho’ has an almost Glam-rock sensibility in the style of T-Rex or early Roxy Music, combining psych and rock in an instantly catchy slice of infectious pop. Elsewhere, ‘Burton Buzz’ bops along on a classic rockabilly riff and the last track, ‘Shadow of a Kiss’ begins in an atmospheric, twisted Blues styles before building into an unashamed Rock guitar finale. In most cases, something like this would be pretty cheesy but, as the band have already covered so many other styles, it works in a surprisingly effective, epic fashion. It takes a few listens to really appreciate this album, but once you’re there, you’ll love it. Make sure that you don’t miss it!
GEOFF PALMER & LUCY ELLIS. Your Face is Weird LP (Rum Bar / Stardumb) A co-release between these two fine labels. Geoff Palmer is probably best known as a former member of The Queers, The Nobodys or his current combo, The Connection. Lucy Ellis is, of course, Lucy of ‘& The Rats’ fame, who you should already know. Prior to this she was part of The Spazzy’s, back in her Australian past… This record came about due to the current Covid-situation, so it ain’t all bad! Geoff was sitting at home getting fed-up, so he decided to get in touch with Lucy and see if she’d be interested in adding vocals to a new set of songs, both covers and originals. Initial tracks were recorded in America and then sent to London for Lucy to add her vocals. The results are very successful, a mix of classic powerpop, punk and hints of Americana. This is all about the duets and these two voices really work well together… you’d never believe they were several thousand miles apart while these recordings went down! There’s a truly great version of Kirsty MacColl’s ‘They Don’t Know’ and even a take on the Burt Bacharach classic, ‘I’ll Never Fall in Love Again’. The record comes to an end with the Ramones-style ‘Crash of the Music’ and the countrified ‘Having a Party’, really underlining the fun these guys were having when they made this record. Perhaps it wasn’t made in the best of situations, but they’ve certainly got something great out of it. Let’s hope there’ll be more records from these guys in the near future.
THE GREAT LIE. Defying Extinction EP (https://thegreatlie.bandcamp.com/album/defying-extinction ) This is the third EP from a Long Island, NY band consisting of five veterans of the hardcore scene. Unfortunately, I can’t find out much more than this, because I would’ve been interested to learn more about them. But on the basis of these six tracks, these guys really know what they’re doing. Brutal hardcore with a metallic edge and a powerful, precise production courtesy of legendary New York producer Martin Bisi. The vocals are raw and aggressive but also clear and easy to follow, while musically, the band veer between faster riffs and slower moments that breakdown the flow of the songs in a style reminiscent of Cro-Mags at their best. If I can find out anything else about this band, I will certainly be letting you know about it.
THE GUILTY HEARTS. Guilty Hearts LP (Voodoo Rhythm) A fine and timely reissue of The Guilty Hearts debut album. Founded by former Blood on The Saddle member Hermann Senac, the full band also included former members of the Loafin’ Hyenas and The Rippers. The primal vibe is very much in the same spirit of the Gun Club, combining early rock’n’roll, Blues and Country in a noisy melee with a production that would have made The Mummies happy. Some squeaky keyboards sneak into ‘Turn It Off’, while ‘Him or Me’ has a riff that recalls the mighty Ron Asheton. ‘Ghost in my Room’ takes a moody, atmospheric twist complete with harmonica tones and ‘Pine Box Ritual’ will have you thinking about The Scientists. Yeah, this album really is that good. Appropriately, the album ends with a fine cover of the Gun Clubs’ ‘Jack on Fire’ and if that in itself isn’t enough to tempt you, then you don’t deserve to hear it!
THE HAWKINS. Silence is a Bomb CD (The Sign Records) Sweden seems to produce some great, noisy rock’n’roll bands. I don’t know if it’s something in the water (possibly Jack Daniels) but they do seem to know how to do things properly over there. The Hawkins will make you think of bands like The Wildhearts, but there’s also the melodic simplicity of the Ramones, emotive elements from the Replacements, the pop-rock balance of Cheap Trick and various unashamed nods back towards the glory days of early-Seventies Rock and Glam. Plenty of energy, great hooks and a great production with inventive arrangements, this is an album you can enjoy even if you’re not usually into guitar-based rock bands. Do yourself a favour and give it a listen!
HEAP. No Mas EP (Rave On) Heap are a hard and rowdy rock’n’roll band from New York City and have that loud, brash guitar style that really couldn’t come from anywhere else. Elements of New York Dolls, the Voidoids and even Bruce Springsteen (in his livelier moments) rub shoulders with classic Replacements and maybe even The Kinks to produce something that’s accessible and boisterous in all the right ways. A great production courtesy of Eric ‘Roscoe’ Ambel really brings out a sense of the band playing live and that’s the perfect way to hear something like this. These three songs are all very catchy, complete with powerful vocals, great lyrics and a healthy sense of humour. Check it out!
HIFIKLUB with RODDY BOTTUM. Things That Were Lost in The Fire CD (Toolong) Hifiklub are an experimental French rock trio who thrive on interesting collaborations with artists from a wide spectrum of contemporary rock music. They met Roddy Bottum (Faith No More, Imperial Teen etc) while they were working on an album in New York. Initially, they came together to record a track as part of a tribute-project for American poet, Emily Dickinson. Initially intended as a one-off recording, it evidently impressed the parties involved because, not long afterwards, they began work on a further project, this time a full-length album. Hifiklub created nine original instrumental tracks plus a peculiar, inspired cover of ‘Eye of the Tiger’ to form the basis of the record and Roddy then joined them in France to work on the production and arrangements as well as adding his perfectly understated vocals. If you’re only familiar with his recordings as part of Faith No More, this is going to sound like quite a step-sideways, although in some ways his vocal delivery isn’t a million miles away to the style he adopted on the track ‘Motherfucker’ from ‘Sol Invictus’. The more you know about his other extra-curricular musical activities will help to put this in better context. Musically, this could easily be soundtrack material, with subtle melodies appearing and disappearing and surprisingly strong rhythms driving certain parts of the project. Similarly, the vocals are either like spoken-word pieces or more forceful and rhythmic, depending on what’s called-for. ‘Eye of the Tiger’ is transformed into an almost ambient dance-track, ridding it of all the pompous melodrama of the original. This is a really interesting and enjoyable album, musically accomplished but also playful. Listen to it without any preconceptions and you may well find yourself becoming pleasantly impressed.
THE IDOLIZERS. Stranded (again) CD/EP (Rum Bar) Four tracks from this New York based Hi-energy rock’n’roll band. Just let yourself think of the MC5 re-assembled via The Heartbreakers, possibly with hints of The Boys and, more recently, The Briefs. The first three tracks are all uptempo and at times sound as if they’re recklessly racing to reach the end of the song, while the final track ‘She’s a Killer’ is a slower, more brooding song that recalls the legendary San Francisco band, Crime. The Idolizers are tight and clearly know what they want to do. The EP comes with some truly excellent cover artwork courtesy of Mort Todd which perfectly captures the spirit of the music. Trust me, if you like your rock’n’roll nasty, this one’s for you.
INDIANA BRADLEY. Ghost Star CD (https://www.facebook.com/indianabradleymusic/ ) This is an album that takes you on a real musical journey. The opening tracks have an almost melancholic atmosphere that will be of interest to fans of Lee Hazlewood, Johnny Cash and Angelo Badalamenti… They take a style that seems to be based within the darker edges of Americana and embracing the melodrama of so-called ‘murder ballads’, but there are also moments which erupt into loud outbursts of guitars. ‘Killing Time’ starts in a more restrained manner but gradually builds into a louder, more raucous style, whilst the following track, ‘American Psycho’ is an unashamed rocker from start to finish (and highly enjoyable for it!) Evocative whistling begins ‘A Girl Named Mariela’, which returns to the moodier side of things, with some excellent, haunting slide-guitar setting the perfect tone. ‘Fidel Castro’ is another song that gradually builds from soft to loud and does so in a very organic fashion, building naturally towards its’ conclusion. Bradleys’ vocals vary between styles but again, this seems to be a natural part of the arrangements, adding genuine depth and attention to the tracks. ‘Let You Go’ also features guest vocals from Sie Sie Benhoff, which add further dimension to the song. ‘Out To Get Me’ and ‘We Made It To Hell’ are effective rockers that seem to be steering the album towards a rowdy finale, but the title track proves to be an epic in its’ own right. It begins with a moody piano intro before the vocals and band join-in, eventually building-up to a satisfying and surprisingly noisy climax. This is a intriguing album and I think you’ll discover a lot to enjoy.
INDONESIAN JUNK. A Life of Crimes CD (Rum Bar.) Subtitled ‘Singles and Rarities 2009-2018’, that’s exactly what you’re getting from this fine collection. Indonesian Junk specialise in sleazy rock’n’roll that owes its’ dues to the likes of the Heartbreakers, Mick Ronson, early Kiss and maybe even Cheap Trick. Lots of energy, great tunes and just the right attitude. These songs are mostly culled from their previous 7” single releases, although they do include four previously unreleased tracks, including a fine cover of the Slaughter & The Dogs classic, ‘Situations’. There’s plenty to enjoy on this album, so be sure not to miss it.
JERRY LEHANE. s/t EP (Rum Bar) Jerry Lehane first came to notice as part of Boston band The Dogmatics, who originally made their mark between 1981-86 (and have been reuniting on an occasional basis ever since.) This set of five original songs dates back to 1991, when Jerry was between bands and managed to book some after-hours time in a local studio. Gathering together a set of locally-esteemed musicians, Jerry recorded these songs in a relatively short-time, which clearly suited them. Garage-rock with a strong pop sensibility, this captures the spirit of Chuck Berry, early Stones and maybe even The Replacements. Originally intended to be part of a lengthier project, including new recordings, Covid 19 disrailed plans but the decision was made that this session was strong enough to be released by itself. And that’s the truth – these recordings sound as if they’re fresh off the tape and the amps are still warm. No way will you be thinking they’re nearly 30 years old and when songs maintain that freshness, it’s always the sign of great rock’n’roll. Try them out for yourself… there’s really no reason not to enjoy them.
JOHNNY MOPED. Live in Trafalgar Square 12/3/1983 LP (Damaged Goods) In a bizarre turn of events that could only ever happen to Johnny Moped, a new, short-lived version of the band played a few gigs in early 1983 and amongst these dates they were invited to perform at an Anti-Seal Hunting rally in Trafalgar Square, right in front of the Canadian Embassy. This album is a recording of the entire set, featuring seven tracks by the band (including guest appearances by Captain Sensible and Beki Bondage) plus various speeches from the likes of Fiona Richmond, Gabrielle Drake and MP David Ennals. It was for this event that the classic ‘Save the Baby Seals’ was written and, for true Moped fans, the set also includes the otherwise unreleased song ‘Foxhunters’. The recording is taken from the mixing desk so it isn’t studio-prefect, but it captures the occasion as it happens and the sound quality is rather good. Packaged in vintage bootleg style and including an insert complete with rare photo’s from the event, this is something that any fan of the band will want to hear and, being a document of one of the Mopeds’ less-likely events, it really deserves to be heard. Anyone who appreciates true rock’n’roll needs to own this record!
JOLLY FUCKERS. At Home With…EP (https://jollyfuckers.bandcamp.com/album/at-home-with) A self-described band of ‘three 40+ Punk chaps who hail from the USA and UK’. I can appreciate that! I’m not sure if the band name comes from the Sleaford Mods song of the same title, but that would be really cool so I hope it does. Fact is, musically, they have little in common with the ‘Mods, so it’s not as if they’re trying to latch on to someone elses’ success… Anyway, I digress… Jolly Fuckers are a three-piece punk band featuring members from both sides of the Atlantic. God knows how they came together, as they haven’t told me, but these tracks were recorded at their own home-studio in Clearwater, Florida. Musically, they’ll admit to a love of late-80’s punk and hardcore and these tracks reflect that in a very good way… think of bands like Dag Nasty, Descendents and perhaps earlier UK bands like Wire or Buzzcocks., while the song ‘Ribbons’ recalls Naked Raygun. Catchy hooks, nice big guitar sound, solid rhythm section and great lyrics (‘I wanted to read a book, but the television wouldn’t let me…’) I’m not sure if these guys play live, but I could imagine they’d quickly pick up a following if they did… either way, let’s hope they’ll have more material on the way!
JUNKO JON. It Is My Intention to Destroy You…Digital via https://junkofuse.bandcamp.com/album/it-is-my-intention-to-destroy-you Jon Willis is singer / guitarist for the band Junko Fuse, but with this solo effort he heads-off in different directions. The songs take a much more diverse approach, combining different styles and a variety of instruments, from acoustic through to full-on electric amplification. In some ways it reminds of Grant Harts’ solo albums, unafraid to mess around with expectations and tackle new ideas as they come along, The success of the recordings is that they all come together as a coherent album rather than just a collection of disparate demos. But there’s still room for surprises and the final track, ‘Untitled’, ends the album with an atmospheric drone-like instrumental. Whilst you may be more familiar with Jon’s louder’n.rowdier vocals with Junko Fuse, his voice also works really well with these more under-stated songs and, at the same time, I can’t help but think that at least some of these tracks could probably be adapted for the full band. This is really worth checking out because, whatever you’re thinking upfront, it’s not going to be what you expect and I mean that in a good way.
KING BUZZO with TREVOR DUNN. Gift of Sacrifice CD (Ipecac.) King Buzzo is, of course, Buzz Osborne of The Melvins whilst Trevor Dunn is best known as bass player extraordinaire for projects such as Mr Bungle and Fantomas. Although this began as a solo outing for Buzz, it’s clear that Dunns’ presence raised the results to another level and it’s obviously much more of a collaborative effort. Perhaps unexpectedly, the songs that make up this album are mostly acoustic based, although anyone expecting wimpy singer-songwriter shit from that fact will be very much wrong. The music has a consistently darker-edge, like an unnerving folk tale set to music or maybe the most foreboding atmosphere summoned-up by the Blues. There are hints of The Melvins’ more metallic elements within the songs, but they’re subtle and lurking within the mix rather than coming to the forefront and this album is clearly a beast of its’ own nature. There are times when it’s genuinely unsettling, like the best horror movies, although melodies are also intertwined within the sounds to maintain your attention. The only disappointment concerning this record is that the ‘band’ were not able to play live, as had been intended, due to the Covid 19 situation. I think that seeing this music performed live would have taken it even further, so let’s hope that still happens at some point soon. But in the meantime, listen to this album and let it sink into your psyche. It’ll be the best nightmare you’ve ever had!
KOOL & THE GANG-BANGERS. Feel Bad Music LP (No Front Teeth.) Lo-fi Punk Rock that comes straight out of the garage and gets the job done without any unnecessary wastage. The album includes 16 tracks, but only a couple of them even manage to reach the two-minute marker! Reminiscent of The Queers, The Mummies and The Briefs, this is a band who are going to make a great record even if they might not have the technical ability… they’re still close enough for rock’n’roll, as a great man once said. Coming from Sweden but with a bratty approach that’s pretty universal (if you visit the right bars, at least) this is a band that may have no future, but are determined to stir up a storm on their way there. With song-titles like ‘Hate Your Guts’, ‘Television Victim’ and ‘Living With The Pigs’, this is fine stuff indeed!
LAANG. My Floating Corpse. Digital single (Talheim) I don’t usually review these digi-single things. Making one track from an upcoming album available on youtube isn’t, to my mind, a real release. Great for checking things out, but like hearing a song on the radio, you might tell your friends about it but you’re not going to review it. However, in certain cases there’s more of a reason to include such things and in this case… it’s Post-Black Metal from Keelung City in Taiwan! Come-on, I never even knew such things existed, so it’s great to get an email from someone trying to promote such a thing! The track is actually pretty good as well. The usual brutal vocal style, but the rhythms, whilst certainly very powerful, are actually not that fast or thrashy and in some ways, the repetitive riffs remind me of the Dutch band Gore. The production and arrangement is also pretty creative, using piano-style keyboards low in the mix to add to the overall atmosphere. I don’t think you’d need to be a Black Metal fan to appreciate this, as long as you enjoy powerful, dramatic music. The upcoming album will be released by the Talheim label (based in Austria) so it’s something you ought to be able to track down, but in the meantime you can check out this single here ; youtu.be/VeKCOp-0OU8
THE LAWRENCE ARMS. Skeleton Coast CD (Epitaph) Having been together since 1999, this band seem to have a history of lengthy gaps between albums (this is their first for six years and there was an eight-year gap prior to that…) But all that being said, they do still sound surprisingly fresh so they must have been spending their time wisely. Nominally, they could be called ‘pop-punk’ but their style really deserves much more than that. Similar to the musical approach of Dillinger Four or Snuff, they seem to combine an inherent melodic song-writing style with a real sense of punk rocks’ raw delivery. Their longevity also allows them to indulge in their musicianship, introducing new ideas into their arrangements and not being afraid to make use of their experience. This is a good album and I’m sure their fans will be happy that (another) long wait for a new album is finally over!
LEGENDARY CHARACTERS. What Now? CD (Cryptic Clue) I first came across this Essex-based band when they opened proceedings at the 100 Club one evening. Their mix of styles intrigued me and, fortunately, they’ve kept in touch. I’m still not sure if I can figure them out… the CD they had with them at the 100 Club didn’t really sound like their set that night, and the next CD sounded different once again. Now, another year further along, and the new album is something else yet again! Not that any of this indicates a lack of focus or direction, because each set of songs is very solid and coherent, making perfect sense in their own setting. But even knowing this about them didn’t prepare me for the opening track of this new album. ‘Third Degree Burn’ is a brutal, metallic instrumental that heralds a much heavier sound for the whole album. What has prompted this particular direction is unknown (at least to me) but despite the hard rock riffs, their sense of melody and vocal style maintains the continuity from previous recordings. The title track veers back towards Sixties psychedelia, albeit with loud guitars driving it along, while ‘Ghost Story’ seems to have an almost folk-rock style at its’ core, whilst also embracing distorted guitars. ‘Neutralizer’, another instrumental, bops along to a complex riff while saxophones come in to give it a fine swing. ‘Connoisseur’ is probably the catchiest song on the album, an energetic slice of punky pop that is instantly catchy, perfectly poised before the menacing undertones of the final track, ‘Drown’, which dissolves into a howling drone of wonderful feedback. It’s a good album and probably not what you’d be expecting, but to my mind that’s a good thing. Track this down and give it your undivided attention – you may well be impressed! Contact firstname.lastname@example.org
THE LEMON DROP GANG. I’m Not the One! CD (Rum Bar) In the tradition of The Muffs and The Fastbacks, the Lemon Drop Gang are a female-fronted powerpop band with plenty of punky attitude and the sort of tunes that may well stay with you for a lifetime. Hailing from Tuscon, Arizona, they certainly know their pop history with references to Fifties and Sixties girl-bands and one track, ‘Georgie’, which acts as a response to The Seekers’ hit, ‘Georgie Girl’ and the poor advice that it offered-up to the original heroine. Steph O’Halloran has a great voice and a range that crosses from sweet, catchy pop melodies through to abrasive howling! The noisier songs recall the more tuneful moments of Seventies Punk and Glam, but you’re also never far away from some killer guitar breaks as well. There are plenty of bands who play in a similar style as this, but very few do it as well. We haven’t had a chance for many parties this year, but this would have been the perfect soundtrack. Get yourself a copy now and you’ll be all set for next Summer!
LIVE SKULL. Dangerous Visions CD (Bronson) Live Skull were an integral part of the so-called ‘New York Noise’ scene during the Eighties, which also spawned the likes of Sonic Youth and Swans. They released several great albums and EPs on labels such as Homestead and Caroline, but for some reason they never seemed to generate the media interest that their contemporaries gained, even though they built a loyal following in both America and Europe. Their line-up changed a few time during their career, including former members of Circus Mort and Rat at Rat R, as well Thalia Zadek who went on to acclaim with her later band Come, as well as her solo material. Musically, they were quite distinct from most of the NY scene, with influences ranging from British post-punk (Gang of Four, Wire etc) as well as American bands such as Savage Republic and Mission of Burma. Their songs ranged from urgent, uptempo blasts through to slower, more brooding moments. They originally split-up in 1990, with various members going on to play in bands such as Chavez, Of Cabbages and Kings and Lubricated Goat, but it wasn’t until 2016 that four original members came back together at the behest of producer Martin Bisi, to take part in the celebrations for BC Studios 35th Anniversary. Evidently, the experience was a good one as the line-up continued to work together, eventually releasing a new album, ‘Saturday Night Massacre’ in 2019. Which brings us up to date with this latest offering, which is a mix of brand new material, live recordings and four tracks from their previously-unreleased 1989 John Peel session. Although the material may come from different eras, it works really well as a whole, presenting a cohesive album in its’ own right. Although the subject matter may be somewhat dark, the music is consistently exhilarating, producing real tingles down your spine. Live Skull still sound as unique and vital as ever, producing music that simply does not date, because there’s no way to tie it down. As I said, they never received the attention that they clearly deserved back in the Eighties, but it’s never too late to catch-up on music as exciting as this. Their return is most welcome - let’s hope we’ll be hearing a lot more from them.
THE MANGES. Punk Rock Addio LP (Striped) This is the fifth album from these Ramones-obsessed Italian punkers and, despite the album title translating as ‘Punk Rock Goodbye’, they apparently (and commendably) have no intention of disbanding or giving-up their three-chord musical career. Which is good news to anyone who wants to enjoy their vibrant, party-time punk-rock approach. They’ve been together for more than 25 years and haven’t strayed far from their original inspiration, but instead of becoming tired or dull, they’ve just got better and better at what they do. They understand where Da Brudders’ original influences came from - Sixties Garage bands, Phil Spector girl bands, Seventies Glam Rock and Beach Boys harmonies - so their results are a notch above all those bands who think they can sound like The Ramones without appreciating how that original sound evolved Indeed, CJ Ramone recognised that The Manges were the real thing and was so impressed that he hired them as his backing band for a European tour and also wrote the song ‘Off My Tree’ for them, which ends this album in style. The Manges aren’t just Ramones copyists as they add their own style and character to the mix, which is why this works. Produced by Lorenzo from Giuda, this is exciting and insistent in its’ own right and guaranteed to get any (decent) party boppin’. Do you need to know any more than that? No, you don’t…
MAP 71. Turn Back Metropolis CD (Fourth Dimension) This is the most effective Map 71 release to date, increasing the amount of electronic instrumentation alongside the drums and vocals, but at the same time integrating the different elements to a fuller extent. This is also their most adventurous offering so far, adding sounds to the songs that make them more accessible and more experimental at the same time. After all, it’s the easiest thing in the world of music to be extreme and radical whilst only attracting the attention of a handful of people, but creating something that’s new and challenging but also appealing a much wider audience should be the real target. In the case of Map 71, they may contrast minimalist moments and howling electronics, but they’re also adept at bringing melodic hooks to the forefront, making it an easier soundscape to explore. They draw on a rich musical heritage, recalling the likes of PiL (‘Flowers of Romance’ era) Young Marble Giants, maybe even some of Lydia Lunch’s earlier projects (‘Queen of Siam’ etc) but the music they’ve produced for this album is very-much their own. Similarly, Lisa Jayne’s lyrics and vocals may seem a little daunting at first, but her words and delivery prove to be more intriguing with every listen, allowing you to indulge in her imagery as you put it all together. This is an exciting album, not in the sense that it will have you jumping around, but most definitely in terms that it’s something new that still has plenty of further potential to develop. Be sure to hear it.
MARC PLATT. Beat on the Street EP (Rum Bar.) Marc Platt is probably best-known as the front-man of Californian powerpop mainstays, the Real Impossibles. He’s also had a notable career as a solo artist and he returns to this format for his latest record. This EP contains six songs written and recorded over the past few years and combines a variety of styles that always maintain catchy melodic hooks and strong deliveries. Opening track ‘Joe Strummer’ is a wry observation along the lines of ‘What would Joe Strummer do?’, commenting on the increasingly bizarre world we live in, while ‘Surfin’ in the Rain’ is a fine piece of pop-nonsense that you’ll want to keep close. Musically, the songs veer back towards the likes of The Kinks, Sixties psych-pop and maybe even the likes of Burt Bacharach. Full of talent and pure fun, this is a fine record.
THE MIDNIGHT CHOIR. English Ghosts CD (Winter Hill) I have to admit, I wasn’t previously familiar with The Midnight Choir, although they involved personnel who were from, or who would later become involved with, bands like Artery, Pulp and (eek!) The Mission, so it’s a little surprising that I didn’t come across them in one way or another. This double CD retrospective features the previously-unreleased recordings made for their proposed fourth album, ‘Berserker Joe’ plus a selection of tracks spanning all of their original releases. Originally formed in Sheffield during 1983 and continuing until 1989, the band seem to have had a constantly-evolving line-up, despite which they were pretty prolific on the musical front, releasing EPs and albums on labels such as Native (their own, I believe?) Probe Plus and A Golden Dawn. Musically, they produced a sound that was based around frantic rhythms and urgent arrangements which were likely to catch you off-guard every time you thought you knew what was going on. You could possibly make comparisons with bands like UK Decay /In Excelsis and maybe even 1919 or the Folk Devils, but only in a loose reference to the kind of sonic territory they were exploring. The first disk is mainly features tracks from the aforementioned ‘Berserker Joe’ album. This’ll be a treat for older fans, most of whom will not have heard this material before now. It’s an insistent, frantic and occasionally disjointed collection of tracks that’ll have you puzzling as to why its’ taken so long to be made available. Disk two features a selection of tracks taken from all of their previously released records and it’s clear that a lot of thought has gone into the choices as they work really well together, almost like a complete album rather than various separate selections. The music can be almost wilfully chaotic at times, recalling early Captain Beefheart in places. The individual songs may vary in tone and tempo but are arranged to compliment each other in a very effective fashion. This isn’t easy-listening by any stretch of the imagination, but if you can stick with it and really indulge yourself in their material, your effort and persistence will certainly be rewarded. As I said at the start, I missed out on this band back at the time, but hearing this retrospective, I really wish I’d been paying more attention.
MIDNIGHT OIL. The Makarrata Project CD (Sony CMG) Midnight Oil are a band that I know very little about, despite them having been active since the 1970’s and becoming one of the most successful Australian rock bands both at home and abroad. Since the mid-Eighties, the band have also been very vocal on the subject of Australia’s Aboriginal people, touring with indigenous bands and playing to audiences in the ‘outback’ rather than just the usual concert route. The band split-up in 2002 when singer Peter Garrett decided to concentrate on his political ideals and stand for the Labour Party in the 2004 General Election… his success even saw him being appointed as Minister for the Enviroment. During this time, his bandmates continued to work together under a different name, but the full line-up only played-together at two charity concerts, in 2004 and 2009. It would not be until 2016 that the band would announce a full reunion which resulted in extensive touring. However, this album is their first new material since 2002 and, in line with the causes they original supported, references the Uluru Statement, a manifesto launched by indigenous people calling for equal representation and respect within their own homeland. To add to the authenticity of this project, the band have included statements and vocals from Aboriginal artists, in both English and the Gadigal language. With a mixture of rock, almost folk-like instrumentation and insistent lyrical content, this is a worthy album, taking an important message to a more mainstream audience in an accessible and non-pompous way, rather than the usual ‘jump-on-the-latest-political-bandwagon’ path that so many uninspired rock bands follow. The subjects that the band are addressing are obviously very important and something that needs to be shared with as many people as possible. Musically, this may not be to my usual tastes, but when you put it all in context, it makes perfect sense. This album deserves to be heard and, more to the point, it needs to be supported.
MOVING TARGETS. Humbucker CD (Boss Tuneage) Undoubtedly one of the great Boston punk rock bands, even though they may not have attained the credit they deserve within the UK. After a long break, mainstay Kenny Chambers reformed the band with new members Emilien Catalano and Yves Thibault in 2018, primarily for a European tour, but it soon became obvious that the band was firing on all cylinders again and was more than capable of recording new material which would stand-up alongside that produced by previous line-ups. ‘Humbucker’ is the latest result and I’m sure it won’t be a disappointment to any older fans. Musically, you could make comparisons with the likes of Husker Du, Dinosaur Jnr, maybe even Bullet Lavolta (a band whom Kenny also played-in at one point.) But the important thing to bear in mind is that, while sonic similarities may exist, the original Moving Targets were contemporaries to those bands, rather than a band forming around those influences. Moving Targets have also continued to develop their music, asserting their own style and character into the songs while Kenny Chambers’ vocal delivery maintains a mix of classic punk rock pop in the style of Pete Shelley or Peter Perrett, along with a distinct drawl that provides further emphasis to his lyrics. In places (particularly ‘Jam in C’) you’ll hear the echo of Mission of Burma, whilst other moments will recall The Replacements at their best. Following-on from the ‘Wires’ LP, released in 2019, this is proof-positive that Kenny and Moving Targets are back and intent on taking their legacy even further. Whether you already know the band from their first time around or not, this is something that you really can’t afford to miss.
MUCK & THE MIRES. Take Me Back to Planet Earth CD (Rum Bar) Probably the best known of the current Garage bands operating out of Boston. This release brings six new tracks that illustrate exactly why they maintain their popularity. Formed in 2001, they’ve released numerous records and toured around the world, always leaving a horde of new fans in their footsteps. Their music crosses many different genres, one moment recalling early-Sixties Beatles and the next revving it up like the Ramones. They’ve shared stages with the likes of the Stooges, Bo Diddley, The Sonics and The Flamin’ Groovies, always being enthusiastically received by the headliners’ fans. Muck & The Mires are that kind of band… there’s really nothing there that you could dislike! With catchy, witty songs like ‘She Blocked My Number’ and ‘Zoom Break-up’, they’re not afraid to tackle the real problems faced in this modern world of ours, whilst simultaneously giving you a tune to whistle all the way home. Yeah, you’re going to enjoy this record or perhaps Covid has taken away your sense of good taste? If that’s the case, just keep listening until you make a full recovery.
MUCK AND THE MIRES. Greetings From Muckingham Palace CD (Dirty Water) Having already released the mini-album ‘Take Me Back to Planet Earth’ (via Rum Bar) earlier this year, Muck and the Mires continue their prolific pace to release this longplayer, presenting another set of excellent Garage-pop-punk. There really isn’t anything to dislike about these Boston-based legends. Songs veer from fast-paced punkoid anthems through to slower (but never slow) grooves that bring out the mellow side of your emotions. There’s no lack of humour or wit in the lyrics and the emphasis is on fun, even though they’re obviously totally serious about their musical delivery. Wonderful squeaky Sixties-style keyboard sounds add an authentic element to the overall, snappy mix and if you can’t enjoy this music, you really haven’t got a funny-bone. As someone once said, ‘this is party music – for my kind of party!’ That’s about all you need to know. Keep it simple, play it loud and often!
THEE MVPs. Science Fiction LP (Eeasy) Raucous garage punk that seems like a head-on collision between The Mummies and the MC5’s more experimental moments (‘Black to Comm’ etc.) Their performance is suitable snotty and righteous at the same time, as they hurl themselves through this ten song set that revolves around a Sci-Fi based semi-concept. In the middle of the album, three songs, ‘HAL’, ‘SESH’ and ‘Highly Contactable’ suddenly take a slower, more tempered pace, although still maintaining the overall edginess of proceedings and providing a perfect contrast to the full-on delivery of their faster material. The album comes to an end with three longer tracks that take a faster tempo again, although this time a little less chaotic. Recorded in just a few days, this captures a great live sound whilst also bringing their melodic hooks to the forefront. Mastered by Bob Weston, the album is a great mix of raw energy and a highly focused sense of purpose. Definitely a band to investigate, as this album really promises a lot.
NANA. Selfish Propensities CD (Rumbar) This is a reissue of an album originally released back in the mid-Nineties. Nana was fronted by Tom Baker, an artist whose more-recent work you can find all over the Rum Bar label, also featuring Kevin Salem of the band Dumptruck. At the time, their disregard for current musical trends or fashions meant that they never really won the wider audience that they deserved, but listening to these recordings now, it’s hard to know why. Their overall sound is probably easiest to compare to the likes of the Replacements or Soul Asylum, in that they mix rock’n’roll with a punky attitude but aren’t afraid to slow things down or add hints of Soul or Country to the overall sound, while the guitar hooks will really get into your head and you’ll be humming them all the way home. The production has a great live feel to it, straight out of the Garage but capturing everything with an impressive clarity. The vocals are passionate and convincing, something you can believe in, while the whole album has a real swagger to its’ delivery that you can’t help but enjoy. Maybe, just maybe, 25 years down the line this album is going to get the respect it deserves.
NATALIE SWEET. Oh, By the Way, It’s… CD (Rum Bar) Anyone who was lucky enough to see The Control Freaks when the made a brief visit to the UK a couple of years ago would have seen Natalie not necessarily being Sweet but certainly as cool as a punk rock guitarist can be, providing all three of the necessary chords and backing vocals, as well as generously pouring shots her of Cuervo Gold Tequila directly down the throats of lucky audience members. Along the way, she’s also been a member of The Shanghai’s but, as far as I know, this is her solo debut. It was first released on Italian label Surfin’ KI back in 2019, but now that Rum Bar are involved, hopefully it’ll be getting heard by a lot more people because this really is a treat that we all need to hear. Power pop, punk rock, whatever… this is just great Hi-energy rock’n’roll and pop music with infectious melodies, buzzsaw guitars and more hooks than… something with a lot of hooks. Think of a cross between ‘Road to Ruin’ era Ramones, The Pandoras and Suzi Quattro. Yep, it really is that good. This is Bubblegum-pop infused with the finest spirits! Natalie has a great punk-pop voice combined with humorous, witty lyrics, while the arrangements really bring out the best of every song with plenty of creative and playful ideas. Her band includes Morten Henriksen from The Yum Yums and Travis Ramin (who’s also responsible for the excellent production) from Nikki Corvettes’ band, so you ought to know that this record is gonna be something special. It might be November as I write this review, but trust me, play this record loud and it’ll be Summer all year long! If you can’t dig this you can’t dig nothing, as a wise man once said. Who are we to disagree? Make sure this album is at the top of your shopping list NOW !!!
NEON BONE. Make it Last CD (Monster Zero) From the city of Munster in Germany, Neon Bone is apparently a one-man studio-project, although a full band line-up exists for gigs and touring. This is their fourth album and the basic ingredient here is The Ramones, although the songs go much further than mere soundalikes. The vocals owe more to singers from the Fifties and Sixties, while the guitar-breaks owe a nod towards Pete Shelleys’ simplistic-but-effective guitar style. The songs are kept short and to the point, with plenty of energy and melodic hooks that’ll keep your attention from start to finish. There are plenty of bands who try the Ramones style of punk-pop, but few do it as well as this.
999. The Albums 1987-2007. CD Boxset (Captain Oi!) I think you would have to be a total cynic to deny that the first two 999 albums and their early singles are absolute classics. They built-up a solid reputation during 1977 as an exciting and powerful live band but were never really accepted by the trendier elements of the Punk scene, perhaps because they didn’t confirm to the media’s interpretation of what a punk band ought to be. Either way, their fans appreciated what they were doing and, after self-releasing their first single, the band were quickly signed-up by United Artists. Their subsequent releases sold well but failed to hit the Top Forty, despite the band maintaining a high profile as a live act. They toured heavily in the USA and by the early Eighties, their next two albums, ‘The Biggest Prize in Sport’ and ‘Concrete’, both appeared in the Billboard Charts even though neither album did as well in the UK. After the demise of United Artists, they began to change labels on a pretty regular basis which probably didn’t help their subsequent albums, but regular touring ensured that their gigs would always attract good crowds. Although I’ve seen and enjoyed them on several occasions since the Eighties, I have to admit that I haven’t paid too much attention to their later album releases which, up until 1998, were appearing on a pretty regular basis. Hearing these albums for the first time, I’m actually pretty impressed and surprised that no-one talked me into checking them out back at the time. The first album included here, ‘Lust, Power and Money’, is actually a live set recorded at the legendary Hammersmith Clarendon in 1987. Including material from both their older and more recent albums, plus three tracks that have never been released elsewhere, it’s a fine example of why the band have always remained popular as a live act. ‘Emergency’, ‘Homicide’, ‘English Wipe Out’, ‘Obsessed’… great song after great song, what’s not to enjoy? ‘You Us It’ was released in 1993 and was their first studio album to feature Arturo Bassick of The Lurkers on bass (incredibly, although Arthur is their third bass player, all other members have remained constant since 1977.) The new album presented a solid set that captured their original energy with a bunch of catchy songs that combined inventive arrangements with insistent melodies. As their first studio album since 1985, it was a real return to form that certainly pleased the fans. Surprisingly, it would be another five years before the next album, ‘Takeover’, but it would prove to be worth the wait. Although harking back to the style of their original albums, if anything the songs had a sound that were more accessible and melodic than ever before, similar to the way that The Boys could always combine pop and punk so effectively. ‘Takeover’ is full of surprisingly strong material and, had it appeared in different times, could easily have found the band back in the Charts. The final album included here is ‘Death in Soho’, originally released in 2007. Again, the songs are catchy and instantly recognisable as 999, even though the production goes for a harder ‘rock’ sound rather than the more accessible style of ‘Takeover’. That being said, 999 songs can seemingly adapt to either approach and the results are always effective. Nick Cash’s vocals are as strong as ever and the band are tight and focused. There are no musical extras on any of these disks but the set does come with a full colour, 20 page booklet featuring sleeve notes for each album, rare photos and memorabilia, which puts everything into context. I really wasn’t sure what to expect from these albums, but I have to say, I’ve been suitably impressed. If you were ever a fan and you haven’t heard these records, you really ought to check them out as soon as you have the opportunity.
THE OCEAN. Phanerozoic I: Palaeozoic CD / Phanerozoic II: Mesozoic Cenozoic (Metal Blade) These albums are parts of an ambitious, extended project and the first thing that needs to be noted is that the packaging is very impressive. The CD comes in a fold-out sleeve with elaborate die-cut designs that in some ways could be said to reflect the multi-layered music that you’ll hear on the albums themselves. It’s certainly an eye-catching design and definitely makes you want to check out the music. The Ocean (sometimes known as The Ocean Collective) were founded in Germany during 2000. Their music soon began to develop its’ own style, often referred to as ‘progressive metal’, although in many ways this just means that they’re not afraid to indulge in different styles and influences, while never being afraid to push their own ideas in new directions. Due to line-up changes, the two parts of this project have been faced with delays, but now that they’re both available, the full effect of the concept can be appreciated. It may be difficult to grasp to begin with, but the albums are explorations of the different geological periods referenced in the titles. It’s a bit involved so I won’t go into it here, but you might want to investigate further. Certainly, it’s an original basis for a Metal album, but at the same time you don’t have to spend time in your local library if you just want to enjoy the music. It’s a very powerful, atmospheric and dramatic sound that veers from lengthy instrumental pieces through to vocal-led songs. There are moments that recall Seventies Hard Rock, some of the heavier moments from the Prog-rock era, through to more recent bands like Faith No More and Mogwai and various contemporary metal styles. Similarly, the vocals switch between an aggressive growling style and clearer, more melodic deliveries (lead singer Loic Rossetti is joined by guest vocalists such as Jonas Renske of the band Katatonia.) The music is allowed plenty of time and space to develop naturally and the results are very effective. These albums maintain a fierce yet accessible style that embraces metal but takes it forward. In many ways, these are albums that could well appeal to people who don’t usually enjoy Metal, and I’m sure they’ll receive an ecstatic welcome from older fans as well. From the artwork to the lyrical content and through to the music, this is a very intriguing project that’s been delivered with considerable style and content. It’ll be well-worth your effort to investigate.
ONE WAY SYSTEM. 1981-84 CD Boxset (Captain Oi!) Formed in Fleetwood, Lancashire during 1979, One Way System burst onto the UK punk scene with a run of popular singles and two albums. Helped to some extent by mohicaned-singer Gavins’ photo-friendly style, their raucous style of punk, mixing the likes of GBH, Discharge and Motorhead, brought them a considerable following. Their debut album, ‘All Systems Go’, was released in early 1983, reaching the Top Twenty of the Independent Charts and even winning the band a front-cover in Sounds. With a great production that captured the bands’ raw energy, the album proved very popular on the Punk scene and led to their second album, ‘Writing on the Wall’, being recorded and released within the same year. A similarly powerful production saw the band developing as their ideas and musicianship steadily got better and better. They were also releasing records at a prolific rate, with their cover of the Slade classic ‘Cum On Feel The Noize’ appearing as a single, revealing another of their influences. 1984 saw them visit America for the first time, playing alongside the likes of Circle Jerks and Suicidal Tendencies., while another EP, ‘Visions of Angels’ was released, with production by Mike Stone of Clay Records. Sadly, it would prove to be the final release by the original band as Gavin left the group even though they had already begun recording demos for a proposed third album. A replacement, Andy Gibson, was drafted-in but things didn’t work-out and the rest of the band called it a day in 1985. One Way System would reform a decade later and have continued to this day, albeit with a variety of different line-ups. This box set contains the first two albums and a third disc of Rarities, including demos and singles, as well as three tracks recorded for the proposed third album. It’s this collection that really shows how the band developed over a comparatively short time, from the rather basic tracks from their first demo session through to the early singles and on to their final recordings. If you’re an old fan or someone new to them, this is a great collection that gives you the chance to check out both their best recordings and plenty of rare material.
THE OUTCASTS. 1978-85 CD Boxset (Captain Oi!) The Outcasts were one of the great bands that came out of the Belfast punk scene and were one of the many supported by the legendary Good Vibrations label. That being said, their first single, ‘Frustration’, was actually released by the comparatively obscure ‘IT’ label in early 1978. Later that same year, they switched to Good Vibrations for their second single, ‘Justa Nother Teenage Rebel’ and this was when they started to get noticed further afield. In early 1979, they were featured on a double 7” compilation entitled ‘Battle of the Bands’, with their track, the rock’n’roll influenced ‘The Cops Are Coming’ and Rudi’s ‘Overcome By Fumes’ being the notable contributions. Later in the year their debut album, ‘Self Conscious Over You’, was released and despite a rough’n’ready production sound (which actually suited these songs) it climbed to the Indie Top Twenty, no doubt helped by another 7” which featured the albums’ title track. But by early 1981, the band had started to take their sound in further directions, mixing an almost reggae-like rhythm with power chords for the superb ‘Magnum Force’, backed by the equally powerful ‘Gangland Warfare’. Released on the GBH label, it was also their first record to feature their second drummer, Raymond Falls, who joined the band alongside original drummer Colin Gowan to expand their sound even more. ‘Programme Love’ was self released as their next single, taking yet another direction, before they recorded a cover of The Glitter Bands’ ‘Angel Face’ (making full use of the two-drummer line-up) which, despite being on the relatively small ‘OO’ label, still reached the indie Top 20. Sadly, though, this would also be the last record released by this line-up as Colin Gowan was tragically killed in a car accident. The band (Greg, Martin and Colin were brothers) almost didn’t continue, but fortunately for us, they decided to record the album they had been planning with Martin, ‘Blood and Thunder’, because it turned out to be a classic. Kicking off with the awesome track ‘Winter’ (there’s also a great video for this track that you can check out on youtube) this record was made by a band at the top of their game and with a real sense of purpose. Despite their recent loss, they delivered something that still stands up as special and unique today. Released by Abstract records, it reached the indie Top 20 yet again, but it truly deserved even more. Following this, the band were also becoming popular in mainland Europe, with their records being released by New Rose records in France, whilst in the UK they switched to Anagram. The next release was ‘Nowhere Left to Run’, released a s a two-track 7” or a four track 12”, which took a more rockabilly style, albeit with hints of Joe Meeks’ legendary production style. They continued both this style and format with ‘Seven Deadly Sins’, which came as a two-song 7” or a mini-LP version with extra tracks, including an atmospheric cover of David Bowies’ ‘Five Years’. 1985 would see the bands’ final release of their original lifetime, the ‘1969’ / ‘Psychotic Shakedown’ 12” EP. Fronted by their cover of The Stooges’ classic, it proved to be a worthy farewell from a band who had continually developed and created so much great music. This boxset features every track released during that era, including the two sessions they recorded for John Peels’ radio show. If you’re already a fan of this band (and you should be!) you’ll want to have this three-CD set as it really does include everything sounding better than ever plus the previously unavailable Peel sessions. If you haven’t yet heard the band, this is the perfect chance to rectify that massive oversight and reclaim your credibility… plus, unless you’re a loser of the very worst kind, you’re going to hear some music that’ll make you feel so much better!
PARADISE LOST. Obsidian CD (Nuclear Blast) This is the sixteenth album by Paradise Lost, true veterans of the UK gothic metal scene. Formed in 1988, they’ve been a major influence on subsequent bands such as My Dying Bride, Cradle of Filth and Lacuna Coil, but far from resting on their laurels they seem intent on bringing yet further elements to their own sound. Musical elements include Seventies Hard Rock, Metal, Goth and so-called Nu-Metal. You will hear elements of Bauhaus and Sisters of Mercy at certain points, while metallic riffs will rule the roost elsewhere. Vocals range from Andrew Eldritch style crooning through to melodic moments in some songs through to harder, almost growling rants during others. The thing that really sets Paradise Lost apart are the arrangements they create, never just happy to play through a song but intent on bringing out all the drama and emotion of each track. In many ways, this is a State of the Art example of the darker side of Metal, but that’s more because Paradise Lost have forged their own path and refused to be content with previous success. If you want to check out the best of this British subculture, you really ought to hear this record.
PARANOID VISIONS. Corona-Verse Reality LP (FOAD.) To celebrate their upcoming 40th Anniversary, Paranoid Visions embarked on an ambitious project to release a series of albums in a relatively short space of time, each taking the form of a boxset featuring a 10” vinyl version, a CD, lyrics, an Art-print and a chapter from Deko’s ongoing poetry/lyric book. The first part, ‘Adverse Reality’ was released in 2019, but due to pandemic-related restrictions, the second part was delayed until now and, obviously, has taken on further dimensions due to the situation we’ve all been through. Musically, this is another varied, thought provoking piece of work from Paranoid Visions. Still fiercely DIY, they forge their own path and speak their own ideas. Different tracks cover punk, hard rock, reggae, spoken word, sound-samples, and almost ambient pieces. Plenty of songs to enjoy and also plenty of things to think about, this is Paranoid Visions at their best and, in these times, this is just the kind of album that needs to be out there.
THE PARTISANS. 1981-84 CD Boxset (Captain Oi!) I saw The Partisans a few times in the early-Eighties and always enjoyed them but for some reason I only ever bought their first two singles, so this complete collection of their original releases is very welcome. The band were all still at school in South Wales when they first formed. Initially just playing covers, they soon started to write their own material and a demo-tape of their own songs won them a deal with the No Future label. Their first single, ‘Police Story’/’Killing Machine’, was released in the Summer of 1981 and presented a wonderfully snotty helping of youthful Punk Rock, frantic and full of attitude. Its’ popularity steadily grew and it eventually reached the Top 10 of the Independent charts. Their second single, ’17 Years of Hell’, was released in early 1982 and sold even better than its’ predecessor, reaching number 2 in the chart. It was another great record, punk rock with catchy hooks and plenty of energy. However, differences within the band were causing problems by the time they were due to record their first album and although it was recorded in just one day, it still captured their songs to great effect. It sounds raw but mixes strong melodies and accessible vocals to keep your attention from start to finish. At the time, it seemed as if the band might split-up altogether but in the end, three of them decided to move to London to see if they could take things further. Now with a new bass player, they released a new single, ‘Blind Ambition’, on the Cloak & Dagger label. It was met with plenty of enthusiasm, moving their sound forward with hints of The Professionals whilst still maintaining their own identity. Work started on their second album, but when their new bass player suddenly departed, they chose to continue as a three-piece. Perhaps due to these changes, the album was subsequently released with one side recorded in the studio and the second recorded live at a gig in Brixton. Although some of their older songs featured in the live set, the emphasis was on the new material and it was sounding really good, with more than a few nods towards (early) Clash and Channel 3, but always mixed in their own frenetic style. The record gained enthusiastic reviews and reached the Indie Top 20, but too many setbacks had taken their toll and, sadly, the band split-up in 1984. It wouldn’t be until 2000 that Andy and Rob would eventually reform the band. various Swedish musicians (as that was where Andy was living by then…) The first and second albums account for the first two CDs in this set, while the third includes two sets of demos, songs from the singles, compilation tracks and the original mixes of the studio tracks for ‘The Time was Right’, which the band have always maintained should have been the ones used on the album (you can judge for yourself…) This is a thoroughly enjoyable collection and shows how the band progressed from being a naïve bunch of school kids into a highly enjoyable and powerful band. It’s a shame that they didn’t get the breaks that they deserved as it would have been interesting to see what else they could have produced had they continued back in the Eighties. Check out this release and discover them for yourself.
PAUL COLLINS BEAT. Another World CD (Alive) Subtitled ‘The Best of the Archives’, this collection compiles previously unreleased material originally recorded between the late Seventies and the Nineties. All tracks have been re-mastered to bring out the best of them and carefully chosen to work as a solid album rather than just a disparate set of odds and ends. Paul Collins, of course, was a founding member of The Nerves, the legendary LA band who wrote and recorded the original version of ‘Hanging on the Telephone’ and helped to define the ‘powerpop’ genre. After The Nerves split-up, he was briefly involved in a band called The Breakaways before forming The Beat (soon changing their name to the Paul Collins Beat to avoid confusion with the UK band of the same name.) The band released six albums over the ensuing decade before breaking-up in 1989, although Paul has continued to use the name occasionally, albeit with different line-ups. Musically, the material on this album is mostly going to appeal to powerpop fans, although Collins has always been good at bringing different, appropriate styles to the table. His guitar hooks are always incredibly catchy and the vocal harmonies are perfectly arranged, but within that framework he’s not afraid to bring-in Country influences (‘Hey DJ’), Byrds-style pop (‘Witches Fall’) or even Ramones-style rock (‘Let’s Go’). Sound quality is generally very good, although the recordings vary between studio-quality and cassette-recorders. But that just adds to the charm and authenticity of the album, putting the emphasis on the songs rather than technicalities. Usually, when a band releases a collection of demos and outtakes, it’s only really of interest to existing fans, but this album is not only going to appeal to the Paul Collins’ faithful. because there’s plenty of great songs that could just as easily win over new listeners. Be sure to check it out!
PODIUM. Podium LP (Slovenly) A Spanish one-man band featuring a manic drum machine, abrasive guitars, melodic hooks (think Buzzcocks versus The Go-Go’s via early Gang of Four) and urgent vocals. Loud, proud and Punk is the name of the game, even if it doesn’t stick to the (over-used) formula. The songs are kept short but very-much to the point and even if you don’t understand the lyrics, there’s no denying the attitude behind them. If you’re going to ‘DIY’, this is an appropriate way to do it!
POISON BOYS. Mean Queen 7” (Hobo Wolfman) Chicago band with a sound that seems to be based firmly in the mid-Seventies, somewhere between New York and Hollywood. ‘Mean Queen’ is a great, trashy slice of primal punk rock that could’ve come straight out of a Detroit garage. Starting with the sound of a revving motorcycle and a riff that owes a nod towards the Runaways, the song quickly builds into a sleazy epic that wouldn’t have sounded out of place on the first Dead Boys album. The flipside has a great, snarlin’ cover of the Jerry Nolan song ‘Take a Chance On Me’ that really gives previous versions a run for their money. This is a great, boisterous punk-rock’n’roll offering and if it doesn’t get you jumping around your bedroom, then you haven’t been listening properly!
POP ICONS. Prelude EP (popicons.bandcamp.com/releases) New band from Phoenix, Arizona that seem to be mixing the sound of early Lookout! Records (Crimpshrine, Isocracy) with hints of older bands like Moving Targets, Pegboy and perhaps even ALL. Five upbeat catchy songs with interesting lyrics delivered by strong insistent vocals. This is really promising. The band sound confident and, although some influences are a little obvious, they’re clearly developing their own style and if they keep at it, they could soon be producing some truly great records. Investigate as soon as you can!
PROFESSOR AND THE MADMAN. Séance CD (Fullertone) The previous PATM album, ‘Disintegrate Me’, was notable for two reasons. Firstly and most importantly, it was a great album that blended melodic punk rock with psychedelia to create a fine set of songs. Secondly, it also reunited former Damned members Rat Scabies and Paul Gray (the best rhythm section that band ever had) to record together again for the first time in nearly thirty years. It was appropriate as the songs that former DI members Alfie Agnew and Sean Elliott were writing were not that far removed from some of The Damneds’ more psychedelic musical moments, particularly the period when Rat and Paul were working together (‘The Black Album’ and ‘Strawberries’.) Whilst never self-indulgent reproduction, the material that PATM were putting together had the same spirit and intent of The Damned, so when they managed to bring Rat and Paul onboard, it made total sense. Now, two years later, a new album surfaces and it’s even better. Perhaps surprisingly considering PATM’s location in California, they tend to veer more towards a vintage English-style of psychedelia rather than the West Coast sounds you might expect. Think of Syd Barretts’ approach towards pop music or some of The Kinks more playful moments and you’ll get an idea of what I mean. The record switches naturally between almost whimsical melodies through to faster, punkier tunes, but it all comes together perfectly. This is the kind of album where you’ll want to listen all the way through without missing a single track. I think it’s that focus which really makes the difference. While ‘Disintegrate Me’ was a fine album, it was the first time this line-up had worked together and, obviously, the individuals hadn’t entirely gelled at that point. But now, you can tell that they’re all really locked-in and know what the music needs. The production and arrangements bring out the best in every song and you’ll be really surprised when you hear this that most of the recordings were done by via file-sharing and the band were not altogether in the studio. But there’s obviously a real enthusiasm from all four members towards this music and while that continues, I can only see this band getting better and better. For me, this is easily one of the best records released this year and, trust me, you really need to hear it!
RAGING SPEEDHORN. Hard to Kill CD (Red Weed) Having been together for over twenty years (we’ll ignore their hiatus between 2008-2014) Raging Speedhorn have established themselves as a solid presence within the more aggressive realms of the UK Hard Rock scene. Combining an approach that’s not far away from classic Motorhead with a Hardcore edge (especially the vocal delivery) and more than a nod towards the heavier moments of Seventies’ Rock, Raging Speedhorn have forged a sound and style that merges effortlessly into contemporary rock trends. Their use of two lead vocalists has become their trademark over the years, although one of the original duo, John Loughlin, actually left the band just before the recording of this album took place. Fortunately, the other vocalist, Frank Regan, was promptly joined by new-boy Dan Cook who, if these results are anything to go by, has fitted-in perfectly, ensuring that the vocals still work effectively, adding different stress and tones to the lyrics. Although much of the album is pretty upbeat, the tempos tend to remain pretty tempered and rely on the power of the riffs rather than merely thrashing along as fast as possible. After all, fast does not always equate power and Raging Speedhorn clearly understand this. As a final twist to the plot, the album ends with a cool cover of the T-Rex classic ‘Children of the Revolution’. Raging Speedhorn make it their own without losing any of the originals’ glam-stompin’ charm. It’s a great way for them to end the album and manages to add yet another element to a surprisingly refreshing album.
REMA REMA. Wheel in Small Doses LP (Le Coq Musique) A limited-edition album released as a kind of compliment to the recent ‘Fond Affections’ compilation. However, as Gary Asquith explains in the liner notes, it became apparent that the tracks included here which didn’t make it onto ‘Fond Affections’ were just as important to the legacy of Rema Rema as those that did. The sound quality might not be up to current audio-standards but they still capture Rema Rema's energy and attitude just as perfectly and, as such, this is an album that fans of this legendary band will find essential. Most of these tracks were initially released as a very limited edition CD-r with ‘Small Doses’ fanzine, but it soon became obvious that they deserved wider distribution. This album is an extended version of the CD and even a first listen will quickly reveal it to be a vital release. The album begins with the brief ‘Coxoscillation Blues Intro’ before excellent alternative versions of ‘Feedback Song’ and ‘Rema Rema’, still sounding visceral despite the lo-fi quality. This side of the album ends with the almost quirky and otherwise unavailable ‘Laurence Harvey’, which reveals another dimension to the band. Side two includes more otherwise unavailable tracks, starting with the quirky, upbeat and danceable ‘Message to Sweetheart’ which merges into the wonderfully-titled ‘Robots Don’t Like Jelly’. An instrumental version of ‘Gallery/Oh Rock’n’Roll’ ensues which illustrates the complexity of the bands arrangements, even within their DIY approach, while the album ends with the peculiar (and more recent) oddity of a radio advert for ‘Fond Affections’, broadcast on Woodstock radio during 2019… The legend continues! The thing is, although this band were only together for a relatively short time, they produced some truly impressive and unique music, while the various members went on to produce further work with the likes of Mass, Wolfgang Press, Renegade Soundwave, Adam & The Ants and Psychic TV… clearly a group of very creative people and, as such, these recordings are a vital glimpse of works in progress and a strong suggestion of what might have been had they continued. With so little released originally, anything that appears now can only be considered essential. I just hope that there are still further recordings to be made available, because so far nothing has been a disappointment. If you miss this album it will be you’re your biggest loss of the year!
ROLLING STONE: The Life & Death of Brian Jones DVD (Wienerworld) Directed by Danny Garcia, who also made ‘The Rise & Fall of The Clash’, ‘Looking for Johnny’ etc, this is a thorough and well-balanced documentary about the Stones’ founding member. As a natural musician (several interviewees comment that it seemed as if he could pick-up instruments and play them almost instantly) he was vital to the band in their formative years, not only establishing their original R’n’B sound but also introducing them to more experimental influences. However, tensions gradually developed within the band, with Mick and Keith gradually taking control of the group and several high-profile drug busts stirring things up even further. Brians’ drug problems and his relationship with Anita Pallenberg (who would leave him for Keith Richards) eventually led to his ousting from the band and, only weeks later, his untimely death. It’s this final episode that remains the most intriguing as there remains much doubt that the circumstances were accidental, as recorded by the coroner. By all accounts, Brian could be a difficult person to deal with and its’ known that he had been arguing with a builder, Frank Thorogood, who had been completing work on his house. Thorogood himself was alleged to have violent tendencies and much evidence points to him killing Jones during an altercation. Initially, the police even thought this was the case but strangely changed their minds and decided not to investigate any further, content with a verdict of misadventure. Fifty years later, it’s highly unlikely that the truth will ever be known for sure, but this documentary certainly makes a compelling case that Brians’ death was not the drug and booze-fuelled tragedy that the tabloid headlines embraced. With the use of archive footage, this film tells the story of Brian Jones as effectively as you would hope for, displaying both his talents and his failings and ultimately under-lining his massive contribution to the Rolling Stones and British music as a whole. His loss at such a young age quite probably deprived us of much more great music and this documentary re-evaluates his work to give him the respect he so rightly deserves.
ROME. The Lone Furrow CD (Trisol.) It took me a few listens before I started to appreciate this album properly and I would definitely recommend that you spend some time with it before you draw your own conclusion. Based in Luxembourg, this band create an epic, soundtrack-like atmosphere with a musical style that veers between gothic chanson, folk-like simplicity and an occasionally unnerving undertone that recalls experimental moments from the likes of Boyd Rice, Death in June and Current 93. It’s not easy-listening (although it does borrow some elements of that genre along the way) and it’s not immediately insistent but it is a case where your attention will be well-rewarded. With guest appearances from members of Behemoth, Pallbearer and Primordial, this is an album that reaches out for new ideas and new territories which, for the most part, achieve something very interesting. It’s not going to appeal to everyone, but if this review piques your curiosity, this may well be something for you.
SATURDAYS HEROES. Turn Up The Music! CD (Lovely) Loud, infectious Street Punk from Sweden. The band have been together since 2008 and clearly know what they’re doing, with influences like The Business and Blitz apparent in the mix, as well as more recent American bands like Dropkick Murphys and Rancid. Most of their songs are pretty lively, along with chanted choruses and a great guitar-sound, although they’re also just as adept at playing slower songs like ‘Seven Seas’. The title track is a real epic that could easily see the band reach out to a wide, international audience. Without a doubt, Saturdays Heroes are one of the best Street Punk bands I’ve heard in recent years.
THE SHORT FUSES. Dawn of the Deaf. CD (Rum Bar) Hard rock band from Minneapolis with distinctive female vocals courtesy of one Miss Georgia Peach. Apparently, this is their first release in over a decade, but they certainly seem to have remained a very solid combo despite the hiatus. At times, this reminds me of the kind of high-energy rock’n’roll that the Supersuckers can produce at their best, whilst other moments will have you thinking about the early Blondie albums being re-produced by the MC5. I do have to admit that there are a few moments that are a little less-inspired than others, but if you enjoy hard rock with just the right attitude, there’s going to be plenty for you to enjoy on this platter. And, in case you haven’t already worked it out, play it loud!
THE SKULLINGTONS. En LP (Monster Zero) They may be from Norway, the land of Black Metal, and include a skull in their band name, but these guys are a much more fun-filled prospect. 14 songs in less than 30 minutes, the band play at a fast tempo and even the slower songs, like ‘She Could Be the One’ or ‘No Spark’, bop along at an insistent pace. As with most bands who adopt a more melodic approach to their punk rock, there’s obviously a love of The Ramones at the core of this album, although it’s not too blatant and you can also detect other inspirations, such as powerpop and maybe even some of the early releases on the Lookout label (Crimpshrine, Greenday etc.) The 24 second song ‘Sausage Fest’ nods back to The Descendents’ shorter tracks, while the vocal harmonies even seem to owe their style to early rock’n’roll records. That’s why this album succeeds, because they’re bringing a lot of different styles and deas into the mix. The results are a lot of fun and the perfect soundtrack for drinking a few beers and jumping around your bedroom!
SLADE. Cum On Feel The Hitz CD (BMG) It’s almost possible to review this CD without even listening to it, simply because anyone who’s been a fan of pop and rock over the past four decades is already going to know most of these songs. Slade may have been an unlikely band to have achieved so much success, but they have sold over 50 million records worldwide and were the biggest selling British singles-band of the Seventies. Many of the songs included here are such an integral part of English Pop culture that it’s not until you hear a compilation like this that you realise just how much they’ve been part of the musical landscape. That being said, their success was not immediate. The earliest version of the band emerged in Wolverhampton during 1966 as The ‘N Betweens but didn’t get a record deal until 1969, when they signed to Fontana records and changed their name to Ambrose Slade. Their first few singles flopped but the band did come to the attention of former Animals bassist Chas Chandler who offered to manage them (having previously worked for Jimi Hendrix!) During this time, the band adopted the skinhead style and shortened their name to ‘Slade’. Switching to Polydor records, they finally had their first Top Twenty hit in 1971, with a suitably raucous version of ‘Get Down and Get With It’. Ditching the skinhead look and moving towards the new Glam Rock style, bassist Jim Lea and singer Noddy Holder wrote ‘Coz I Luv You’ which would be their first Number One, kicking off an incredible run of hit record, including ‘Look Wot You Dun’, ‘Take Me Bak ‘Ome’, ‘Mama Weer All Crazee Now’ and ‘Gudbuy t’Jane’. ‘Cum on Feel the Noize’ went straight to Number One, the first time a band had achieved this since The Beatles, and the feat was also repeated by their next single, ‘Skweeze Me, Pleeze Me’. 1973 also saw them release their biggest-selling single, ‘Merry Xmas Everybody’, which continues to be a seasonal favourite to this day. However, during 1974, the band experimented with a less rowdy sound and although still scoring hits, the bands’ popularity started to decline. They continued to tour and release new material, albeit to smaller audiences, until 1980 when their persistence paid-off. Ozzy Osbourne had to cancel a headlining spot at Reading Festival and Slade were offered the gig as his replacement. Against expectations they stole the show, delivering a stunning set in front of 65,000 rock fans. With their reputation re-established, the subsequent single, ‘We’ll Bring the House Down’, became their first Top Ten single since 1976 and ensured that their ensuing live dates packed-out large venues again. The following years saw further hits and their first chart successes in America, before various ups and downs in their fortunes culminated with Noddy Holder’s departure from the band in 1992. Jim Lea also decided to hang up his boots, whilst Dave Hill and Don Powell chose to continue with new members as Slade II. Although this line-up would never match the success of the original band, Slade’s enduring popularity has remained and it’s down to their peculiar individuality. Although mostly known as a ‘glam-rock’ band, Slade were never just that. Their early days in the Sixties had introduced them to a wide range of influences, from Soul through to Psychedelia, while their original roots had been with primal rock’n’roll. The early Seventies had encouraged them to get louder and whilst they perfected that stompin’ glam sound, they also maintained a harder edge that would subsequently appeal to both Punk and Heavy Metal fans. Noddy Holder had one of the great and most recognisable rock’n’roll voices and along with Jim Lea formed a formidable song-writing partnership. Slade may have had fun with their visual image, but they were always entirely serious about the quality of their music. This album captures everything, both the hits and the less-successful moments, but if you can’t enjoy these songs, you really don’t have a sense of fun. Slade – one of the great rock’n’roll, pop, and Glam bands that England have ever produced. Actually, scratch that… one of the greatest bands England has ever produced, full-stop.
SLAUGHTER AND THE DOGS. Do It Dog Style CD boxset (Captain Oi!) Slaughter & The Dogs’ debut album has been available on CD before now, but none of the versions are a patch on this 3-disc expanded set, which gathers together all of the associated singles, demos and live recordings. I don’t think there’s anything here that’s previously-unreleased, but to have everything available with such great sound quality and a full colour 16 page booklet, is a real treat for the fans. Slaughter and the Dogs didn’t get the critical acclaim they deserved back at the time, often put-down as they’d started out as early as 1975 with a more glam-edge. But the fact remains that as they developed, they started to create their own harder-style and were the only band in Manchester deemed suitable to support the Sex Pistols at their legendary Lesser Free Trade Hall gig in July 1976. They also embraced the emerging DIY scene, releasing their first, classic single, ‘Cranked Up Really High’, on the Rabid label in May 1977, produced by Martin Hannett. Playing in London on a regular basis, they earned a strong following despite the lack of interest from most of the music press. But it was their move to Decca Records that really let them down. Decca was struggling to keep-up with the new punk and new wave scene, failing miserably to promote the bands they did sign-up (Adam & The Ants, Cocksparrer.) Singles like ‘Where Have All the Boot Boys Gone?; and ‘Dame to Blame’ were great, raw rock’n’roll while the album, released in early ’78, featured so many excellent songs that it’s difficult to understand why it didn’t do so much better. Decca have a lot to answer for! With this boxset, the first disc features ‘Do It Dog Style’, while the second gathers together demos and singles from the 77-78 era, as well as their tracks from the ‘Live at the Roxy’ compilation. The final disc features the ‘official bootleg’ album, ‘Rabid Dogs’, which caught the band live in Manchester during July 1977. Recorded through the mixing desk, it’s not Hi-fi quality but certainly captures the energy of the band at that time and gives a good indication of the excitement they could produce. As I said earlier, fans are going to love this set, but it’ll also be a real eye- opener for anyone new to the band… If you haven’t already heard them, do yourself a big favour and get yourself a copy of this boxset urgently!
SMALLTOWN TIGERS. Five Things LP (Area Pirata) Great three-piece. all-girl band from Rimini in Italy. The songs are raw but as catchy as they ought to be, sounding like The Ramones being fronted by Joan Jett. The vocals are delivered with a snarling attitude, while the drums stomp along like the greatest Seventies Glam and the buzz-saw guitar sound rips through the speakers, only easing up occasional to add some twangy, Surf-like breaks. Eight tracks in less than 25 minutes, they go straight in, do the job and get back out before your ears stop ringing. Be sure to hear this album and keep your fingers crossed that we’ll get a chance to see them live…
SO-CHO PISTONS. Knuckleheads CD (Monster Zero) All the way from Hiroshima in Japan, this band have been together for more than 25 years, playing a style of punk rock that sounds like the Ramones overdosing on adrenalin! The 18 song set speeds past in a blink of your eye, with great melodic riffs and a wonderful confusion of vocals (I’m not entirely sure, but the lyrics seem to switch between English and Japanese – not that it’s a problem, as the style perfectly suits the furious pace of the music.) This is the bands’ second full-length album but they clearly know exactly what sound they want and deliver it with plenty of style and attitude. Seriously, there’s nothing to dislike about this record and once you put the needle down (or whatever the digital equivalent might be) on the first track, you won’t be going anywhere until the whole thing has played through. Fun, fun, fun, that’s what I say…
SPANKING CHARLENE. Find Me out CD (Rum Bar) New York based rock’n’roll band who mix hard-edged R’n’B with stomping, almost Glam-style rhythms and front it all with Charlene McPherson’s powerful, emotive vocals. Almost like a missing link between Janis Joplin and Joan Jett, this is rock more than punk, but with just the right amount of street wise swagger to make it work.
SPLODGENESSABOUNDS. The Albums CD Boxset (Captain Oi!) It will probably surprise a lot of people that there are five Splodge albums, as I expect most of us are only familiar with the first few singles and maybe the self-titled debut LP. But the evidence is here for all to see… The problem that a band like Splodge had was that they had success with an early single (the classic ‘Simon Templar’ / ‘Two Pints of Lager’ EP) which propelled them into the National Top 10. Unfortunately, few of those buyers were really interested in punk bands and treated them as a novelty-act. Even though their follow-up release, the cover of ‘Two Little Boys’ also reached the Top 30, they would forever be judged as one-hit wonders. The other problem that faces bands who base their songs on comedic material is that the jokes can wear-off pretty quickly when repeated too often and audiences lose interest. But, for all of that, Splodge did have a some great music to back up their quirky sense of and at times it worked really well The first two EPs were probably the best example, pitched somewhere in between Music Hall and ‘The Young Ones’. Over the entirety of their debut album, though, it became a bit more hit or miss. There are some great moments (‘I Fell in Love with a Female Plumber from Harlesden NW10’ and ‘Desert Island Joe’) but other tracks just sound like fillers. The original band split around this time, leaving Max to release a solo single, ‘Bicycle Seat’, backed by the reggae band Matumbi… It didn’t do either of them any favours… A new Splodge line-up emerged in 1981 and released the ‘Cowpunk Medlum’ EP which found them back on their best form, combining good musicianship with genuinely infectious humour. Their cover of the ‘Hawaii 5-0’ theme, here re-titled ‘Yarmouth 5-0’, is guaranteed to bring a smile to even the most cynical face! A new album, ‘In Search of the Seven Golden Gussets’, was a lot more musical than its’ predecessor whilst Max’s sense of humour (part Les Dawson, part Spike Milligan, both pissed…) was still evident but not dominating proceedings. It worked a lot better, but unfortunately, the album didn’t sell very well and its’ follow-up, a collaboration between Splodge and Gary Bushell under the name ‘The Brothers Gonad’, didn’t help the situation. It would be another ten years before another Splodgestudio album appeared, this time entitled ‘A Nightmare on Rude Street’ (There had been a live album, ‘Live and Loud’, also included here, released in 1988, featuring ridiculously over-the-top audience overdubs, but actually recorded really well and includes all of their ‘hits’ as well as an otherwise unavailable version of the Bay City Rollers’ ‘Shang a Land’.) ‘Rude Street’ found the latest Splodge incarnation taking a hard rock / metal direction, with ‘tributes’ to Lemmy and The Quireboys among others. An attempted parody of Acid House (‘Lager in the House’) is surprisingly successful, while ‘Rude Boy’ had originally featured on the Angelic Upstarts LP ‘Last Tango in Moscow’ (with Max – an occasional Upstart – on vocals.) But the real highlight of the album is the cover of ‘They’re Coming to Take Me Away’, which in Max’s case, was quite possibly a genuine concern! It would then be close to another decade before the next Splodge LP, ‘I Don’t Know’, appeared in 2000. Produced by Dave Goodman and featuring members of the UK Subs, Chelsea and Cock Sparrer, the album had a much tighter, hard rock sound and was supposedly based around Max discovering that one of his ancestors was Genghis Khan! The final Splodge album, to date, was ‘The Artful Splodger’ released in 2001, produced by Dave Goodman once again and featuring contributions from former Motorhead guitarist Wurzel, Mick and Steve from The Business and Bermondsey Joyrider, Garrie Lammin. Overall, the album has a pretty hard rock style, although the unexpected cover of ‘The Laughing Policeman’ brings back the Music Hall roots. There’s also an updated version of ‘Two Pints of Lager’ which sounds surprisingly fresh and more than justifies its’ own inclusion. For Splodge fans, this is a pretty essential item, including loads of bonus material (rare demos, all of the non-album singles and EP’s) plus the usual, thorough, full-colour booklet that Captain Oi! always supply with these collections. If you only really know a few of the early songs, you may well find further material to enjoy here although, at the same time, it might be a bit too much to endure in one binge. So, if you’re curious, take your time and give the albums a chance to work their charms. May the Splodge be with you!
SPUNK VOLCANO AND THE ERUPTIONS. Barry Milner is Thick CD (Avenue) Having not been a fan of Dirt Box Disco (two members of DBD feature in SV&TE) I wasn’t expecting too much when I received a promo copy of their previous album, ‘Double Bastard’, but I found it to be a lot more enjoyable than I’d expected. As a 25 track double album, it was a bit much to fully appreciate straightaway, but I was pretty impressed. This latest album is even better and, at a regular album length, it’s instantly likeable. Mr SV was the guitarist in DBD, but here he concentrates on vocals and does so very effectively. Dirt Box Drummer Maff also pounds the beats in this combo with a solid, driving performance that nails everything down alongside bass-player Joey. The twin guitars from Tom and Scott deliver all of the sonic drama and are rewarded with an excellent, sharp production sound. The songs tend to go for the more anthemic side of punk rock, recalling Stiff Little Fingers or perhaps The Professionals, perhaps with a touch of the Cockney Rejects and The Business thrown in for good measure. You’ll also hear a few references to the likes of Motorhead as well, but that’s never going to be a bad thing. There’s a sense of humour to the lyrics (although some of them are a bit difficult to decipher) but it’s not something that takes precedence over the songs themselves. This is a great, upbeat punk rock album and, as I said before, I wasn’t expecting too much from this band to begin with. Be sure to check this out, because I’m sure a lot of people are going to be just as pleasantly-surprised by this album as I’ve been.
STATUES. Holocene CD (Lovely) This Swedish trio produce a huge guitar-based sound that recalls the best moments from bands like Husker Du (and Sugar, for that matter) Sonic Youth, Dinosaur Jnr and even Quicksand. The music is raw and noisy, but dig into its’ core and there’s always an intriguing melody at the heart of the proceedings. Although the Eighties are often dismissed as a dull period for rock’n’roll, the fact is that there were some great bands producing their own sounds and generally ensuring that guitar music continued to evolve and stay as vibrant as ever. Admittedly, you had to delve a little deeper to find it, but it was certainly worth the effort. So it’s no surprise that bands like Statues look back to this era for their inspiration. The results are very impressive, full of memorable tunes and plenty of energy. This is an album that you should track down as soon as you can.
STIFF LITTLE FINGERS. The Albums 1991-1997. CD Boxset (Captain Oi!) Stiff Little Fingers originally split-up in 1983 but decided to return for a reunion tour a mere five years later. Finding themselves to still be a popular live act, they decided that if they were going to carry on touring they would need some new material to make it more than just nostalgia. However, Ali McMordie decided to leave the band before any recordings were made and an appropriate replacement was found in their old friend Bruce Foxton. It all looked pretty positive but for whatever reason, the ensuing album ‘Flags and Emblems’ wasn’t the great come-back that fans had been hoping for. Most notably, SLF’s iconic guitar sound had been replaced by a much less impressive style that bordered on hard rock. Jake Burns’ voice was still recognisable but apart from that there was little to identify this as an SLF album. Perhaps in an attempt to reassert their legacy, their next album, ‘Pure Fingers’, was a live recording taken from a gig in Glasgow during 19932, featuring both old and new material. The new songs sounded much more effective in this setting, so again, expectations grew for the next round of studio recordings. Unfortunately, things did not develop as hoped and founding-member Henry Cluney was sacked by the rest of the band for reasons that have never been particularly clear. As a result, the album was completed by the three remaining members and, despite the difficulties, sounded much more focused and true to the bands’ roots. It would be another couple of years before the next album, ‘Tinderbox’ was recorded and yet again there were further line-up changes. Dolphin Taylor decided to leave due to family commitments and was promptly replaced by Steve Grantham, who had previously played with Jake Burns in The Big Wheel. Most of the album was subsequently recorded by this three-piece line-up although during the sessions another old friend, Ian McCallum, spent time with them in the studio and was eventually asked to join the band. The album itself was released to an enthusiastic response and, despite Jake now being the only original member, the songs were strong and it was certainly the best record they’d released since reforming. The only hiccup came in their bizarre decision to cover ‘The Message’ by Grandmaster Flash. Perhaps it should have been kept for their ‘silly encores’, but whatever the reason, it just did not work as part of this album. Anyway…this box-set also includes plenty of bonus tracks… ‘Flags & Emblems’ features remixes and demos, ‘Pure Fingers’ includes a great version of ‘Johnny Was’, recorded at the same gig and ‘Get a Life’ includes three songs recorded at an ‘unplugged session’. In addition, the set also includes a twenty page booklet with sleeve notes written by Jake Burns alongside information about each of the albums and loads of rare photos. Stiff Little Fingers now may be quite a different band to their original incarnation(s) but listening to these albums you’ll hear just why they’re still such a popular live band and how they’ve managed to continue evolving their sound so effectively.
STOP CALLING ME FRANK. Haberdashed CD (Rum Bar) For some reason, the first band I thought of as a comparison for this album was The Modern Lovers, which is odd because they don’t necessarily sound like them, but it seems to relate to the spirit and intent behind this combo (plus the Boston connection, although I only just thought of that as I was writing this…) But there is all that ‘pre-punk’ thing going on, ‘pub-rock’ if you like. Rock’n’roll stripped down to the necessary elements rather than elaborating itself more than is ever needed. Stop Calling Me Frank play their own brand of rock’n’roll with a vocal style that recalls Richard Hell at times, and a sax-sound that entwines itself within the classy r’n’b escapades. ‘King Tuts’ Tomb’ has that gimmicky garage-band theme that the Pacific North West bands (The Sonics, Wailers etc) used to embrace to such great effect while ‘Baby likes to Rock’ features harmonica and would give the original Dr Feelgood a run for their money. This album has a simple equation – if you enjoy genuine rock’n’roll, you’re going to love it!
THE SUTTLES. S/T LP (Les Disques A Rebours) This is a Mod-style, punky power-pop band from Paris and I believe this is their debut album. That being said, it’s very accomplished and rather impressive right from the first listen. The songs are sung either in English or French (about 50/50, I’d say) so even a linguistically-challenged oaf like myself can keep up with it. Musically, there’s a lot of references you can pick out, although there’s no particular obvious influence overall. Different songs make you think of different bands, but in a natural way rather than being plagiaristic. I can hear hints of the earlier albums by The Jam as well as some of the so-called ‘Mod revival’ bands like The Chords and The Jolt, perhaps. But further than that, there are also moments that recall bands like The Nerves and the Flamin’ Groovies, and the song-structures are sometimes kind of reminiscent to early Stiff Little Fingers, even though the overall sound isn’t particularly similar. There’s a lot of energy, even if the songs aren’t all that fast, and there’s a very catchy sense of pop-melody all the way through the album. Listening to this as a digital-stream, the production seems a little thin sometimes, but I’m sure it’ll sound a lot better on vinyl. Either way, the songs are really good and more than worthy of your investigation. If you can’t find a copy at your local musical emporium, you can also check this out on bandcamp – be prepared to dig-it!
SWANS ; WHERE DOES A BODY END? DVD (Wienerworld) Given the nature of Swans as an ongoing and ever-evolving project, it was obviously going to be a mammoth task to capture the essence of Michael Gira’s vision in a documentary. Fortunately, director Marco Porsia has been wise enough to allow the actual participants to tell their story rather than trying to interpret it himself. Concurrently, he has also allowed the film to take its’ own time and develop naturally rather than attempting to shorten it to a more consumer friendly format… At over two and a half hours, it matches up to the bands’ more recent live performances and has a similar, all enveloping effect. Starting with the story of Gira’s unsettled childhood, at first living with his alcoholic mother and then spending several delinquent years with his father in Europe, he eventually ended-up in New York, embracing the ideals of the Punk era particularly in the way it ‘swallowed-up consumer culture and then spat it back at you’. His first band, Circus Mort, lasted long enough to record one EP before disbanding, but by this point Gira had began to envision the kind of music he wanted to produce and Swans were born. Their early output, both live and on record, is best described by Kid Congo when he says it was ‘absolutely brutal, but absolutely beautiful’. In 1983, shortly after the release of their first album, ‘Filth’, Gira received a letter from a fan, Jarboe, in Atlanta. They soon met-up and she was destined to become an integral part of the band, as well as Gira’s partner. After tours in Europe, their aggressive music began to court controversy at which point, Gira chose to start work on the ‘Children of God’ album which, whilst maintaining the power of their previous music, now branched out to embrace different styles which found them appealing to a larger audience. The result was a short-lived contract with MCA which proved to be the bands first mis-step. As Gira explains, faced with new expectations, ‘I lost control of it’, even though many of the new songs were good in themselves. Fortunately, away from MCA, they were able to recover and return with the ‘White Light from the Mouth of Infinity’ and ‘Love of Life’ albums which put them back on a more focused path. Further successful albums ensued, but by 1996, the perception of Swans had become a straitjacket for Gira and he announced that their upcoming album and tour would be their last. He and Jarboe had also separated, so his next project, Angels of Light, would take an entirely new approach, based around acoustic performance. It would not be for another decade that he found himself writing songs with an angrier energy again, and began to consider resurrecting Swans. The subsequent albums, ‘My Father Will Guide Me Up a Rope to The Sky’ and ‘The Seer’, and the accompanying tours were met with much enthusiasm and larger audiences, establishing the band as a popular, ongoing entity. However, after further releases, Gira announced that the current line-up would be coming to an end in 2017, in what was seen to be his desire not to become comfortable. It is at this appropriate point that the documentary ends, with Gira determined to carry on – ‘Giving up is not an option… what else am I going to do?’ – but still pondering his way forward. This is the story that’s told by this documentary, but the film adds so much more, capturing the intuitive, organic approach and the almost shamanistic nature of the performances. It highlights the failures as well as the successes, understanding that both are important elements in the bands’ ongoing development. Most importantly, it shows what can be achieved when an artist pursues his ideals regardless of the outcome. This documentary is as definitive a piece about Swans as we are ever likely to see. Even if you are not a fan of the music, this really needs to be seen.
TAD OVERBAUGH & THE LATE ARRIVALS. Open Roads & Blue Sky CD (Rum Bar.) Countrified rock that recalls some of Paul Westerbergs’ finest musical moments. This is Country rock for people who think they don’t like Country rock, because this is all about the individual songs rather than the genre. Great melodies, great vocals and lyrics that you can immerse yourself in. There’s an anthem waiting for everyone somewhere in this retrospective collection and all it’ll take is for you to sit down and listen. Whether it’s the haunting ‘Banged Up, Black & Blue’ or the simplistic genius of ‘The Other Side of a Six Pack’, you’ll recognise something in these songs and once you do, you won’t want to let go. Don’t miss it!
THEME. Sacral Blood Warning. CD (Fourth Dimension) Originally released as a very-limited edition back in 2017, it’s a bit odd to be reviewing it again as it’s something that I’ve listened-to quite a few times since then. It’s now been re-issued as a more widely-available version and I have to say, the intervening years haven’t reduced my enthusiasm for the album. Recorded by the duo of Richard Johnson and Stuart Carter (both members of Splintered) their idea was to develop and extend the ideas they’d previously pursued on earlier releases. As I commented in my original review, the music has a genuinely unsettling, nightmarish quality, with vocals/voices heard in the background and often difficult to decipher, as if taunting the listener to figure-out what’s going on. From almost ambient (albeit in a darker sense) moments through to harsher sounds with brutal rhythms almost reminiscent of early Swans, the tracks often differ greatly from each other but as a whole, the album remains very focused and effective. I also previously made comparisons to the likes of Throbbing Gristle and (early) Nocturnal Emissions, which I think I’d still hold to, although this is very much its’ own work and not directly beholden to anyone else. The results are emotive and passionate, like the best music ought to be. I’m more than happy to recommend this to anyone with a wider taste in music and an open mind towards genuine experimentation.
TIRED RADIO. Patterns CD (Engineer) This is a great album! Having not heard of Tired Radio before, I wasn’t sure what to expect and the lo-fi, acoustic intro track was a bit misleading, but once the first proper track, ‘Making Plans’, kicked-in I knew this was going to be something special! Tired Radio is a band fronted by Brooklyn-based musician Anthony Truzzolino, initially as a solo project but with the addition of a full-time drummer, Kevin Daly, it’s now morphing into more of a complete band with a second guitarist, Ryan Baranes, and bassist Jason St Angelo coming onboard. Initial comparisons will possibly include Bob Mould at his more reflective and maybe even some of Vic Bondi’s later releases, but there’s a lot more to Tired Radio than just that. There’s a lot of amplified power in this music but it’s never content to just beat its’ way through the songs. The arrangements and instrumentation is highly creative and convincing, bringing out the passion and emotion of the songs whilst allowing them to unfold in a natural, organic way. Anthony has an impressive but strangely vulnerable voice, similar in effect if not in actual sound to Kurt Cobain, and it perfectly suits these songs. They have a loud, powerful delivery but are all founded on an insistent, melodic foundation, something that would be at home on the airwaves just as much as it will be in punk rock venues. It’s a short album, less than thirty minutes, but trust me, every moment counts. If we ever get past all of this Covid-nonsense, I really hope to get a chance to see this band live! Take note of their name, because this album could be the start of something truly great! Check out this video...
TOMMY & THE COMMIES. Hurtin’ for Certain EP (Slovenly) Four tracks of what the band themselves have titled ‘Hooligan Pop’. As soon as you play this, you’ll hear exactly what they mean. Think of the early recordings by The Clash or Buzzcocks, and more recently The Briefs , and although what you get is undoubtedly Punk Rock, the songs always have great catchy melodies which are going to appeal to a much wider audience. Tommy and The Commies keep their songs short and snappy, with plenty of energy and snotty vocals that’ll have you jumping around your room within seconds. There’s not a bad song on this EP and you’ll have difficulty choosing which is going to be your favourite. I don’t think I need to say much more… just be sure to hear this record!
TOXCOW. The Art of Deception CD (Lostdog) Skatepunk-styled band from Toulouse in France. Technically, they’ve been around for nearly twenty years, although there was a hiatus in between their original two EPs and this, their first full album. The lyrics are all in English, so no worries about not being able to translate, while the sounds recall bands like the Spermbirds, SNFU and No Use for a Name. Lots of energy, great melodic hooks and interesting arrangements to ensure that the songs all stand out individually as well as being part of a good solid album. Toxcow might take their influences from older bands but manage to add their own ideas and character to create something that’s very much their own. It’s certainly worth investigation.
TRIXIE & THE TRAINWRECKS. What Would You Do? 7”(Voodoo Rhythm.) Trixie and the Trainwrecks are actually a duo from Berlin who combine guitar, drums and harmonica to excellent garage-blues effect. Sort-of reminiscent of Holly Golightly, there’s definitely a Medway-delta influence at play here ,although Trixie’s great vocals and Charlie’s expressive harp-playing really set this apart. The a-side is all their own work, while the b-side is an emotive cover of the Gershwin classic, ‘Summertime’. This is the kind of music that you just can’t fake – you have to really feel what you’re playing if you want it to make a lasting impression and this, I’m glad to say, is the real deal. Play it loud – play it often!
TRUMPCARD Cult 45 CD (trumpcard1.bandcamp.com/music) Punk band from Austin, Texas, initially inspired (if that’s the right word) by Trumps’ election in 2016 to create satirical music and performance on a subject that deserves all the criticism it receives. Musically, the band hark back to original Texas hardcore bands like MDC/The Stains, Really Red and the Big Boys, as well as Californian bands like Fear and Dead Kennedys. The songs are raw, with a lot of the emphasis on the lyrics (let’s face it, Trump is a goldmine of subject-matter for any self-respecting punk band) and they also use actual quotes and samples to underline their points. That said, the songs are arranged in interesting ways so that the music doesn’t just become secondary and I’m sure this would sound good even if the lyrics were about something completely different. It’s been said before that bad times, politically, can inspire great Art… well, this is another good example.
UBIQUITOUS MEH! Fecund With Love CD (Buried Treasure) Well, they’re calling it an album even though the seven tracks clock-in at around 12 minutes in total, but as an effective portrait of the band, it works just as effectively as many recordings that would exceed the one hour mark. This reminds me of the kind of post-punk indie releases that John Peel would introduce on his radio show around 1979-80. Think of bands like Young Marble Giants or perhaps The Normal. Mostly based around simplistic keyboard sounds and minimalistic bass rhythms, the music provides a setting for the vocals which tend to be low in the mix, creating an atmosphere that can be both pleasant and unsettling. The title track also comes with its’ own video link (via bandcamp, at least) which adds further depth to the sounds. This pretty entertaining and intriguing at the same time. I suggest you track it down and see what you can make of it…
USA NAILS. Character Stop CD ( Bigout) USA Nails produce a frantic, discordant version of post-hardcore, with furious rhythms holding things down while the dramatic, unpredictable guitar sounds create their own disjointed melee. Against this background, the vocals tend to be almost understated and delivered in a straight-forward, almost plain-spoken style. It works really well, creating something to focus on while the sonic storm whirls around the words. If you’re looking for tunes or melodies, you’re not going to find them here but USA Nails are more about creating primal emotions rather than pretty pictures. This is their fifth album and they’ve clearly honed their style and sound to a perfect pitch, stating what they want to say with precision and decisiveness. This is an album for people who like their music to hit them in the gut!
VENUS FLY TRAP. Mercurial CD (Glass) This is a thorough retrospective charting the course of this Northampton-based band, including additional material recorded with associated bands such as Religious Overdose, Attrition and The Tempest. Spanning from 1978 through to 2018, the earliest track is by Isaws, presenting a brash punky blast of energy with suitably sneering vocals and chainsaw guitars. Next comes three songs from Religious Overdose recorded in the early-Eighties. ‘Control Addicts’ takes a much-more post-punk direction, complete with angular guitar riffs and alienated vocals, while ‘I Said Go’ has a much lighter, almost indie –pop style and ‘In This Century’ adopts a darker tone, more in line with Joy Division or early-Death in June. Two songs from The Tempest represent 1983-84 and are more in line with bands like 1919 or March Violets. ‘Feel the Backlash’, by Attrition reflects the more electronic-based music that mainstay Alex Novak was moving towards, before he began working with others under the name Venus Fly Trap. Their earliest tracks included here (‘Morphine’ and ‘Desolation Railway’) combine electronics and guitars to fine effect. The former recalls early Joy Division whilst the latter develops more of its’ own character. They also include a cover of Suicide’s classic ‘Rocket USA’, here accelerated in a raw, high-energy rock’n’roll style with contributions from Bauhaus member Kevin Haskins. Further tracks tackle more dramatic, atmospheric sounds while others divert into early dance music. The combination of electronics and guitars is manipulated throughout o tackle different moods and tempos and there’s even a gothic / electronic reinterpretation of ‘Human Fly’! The album ends with tracks from three later projects, ‘Nova State Conspiracy’, The Den’ and Spore’ and, as I said before, it’s a very thorough collection. If you’ve ever had interest in any of the bands included, this is something you need to investigate.
VICE SQUAD. The Albums 1981-84. CD boxset (Captain Oi!) I know some punkers out there might consider this a sacrilege, but I was never a big fan of the original Vice Squad. I thought their early material was pretty generic and the way certain elements of the music press fawned over Beki Bondage (daft name) was pretty cringe-worthy. That being said, their debut album ‘No Cause for Concern’ (presumably re-mastered?) sounds a lot stronger on this CD version, although I’m still not won over by the actual material. However, by the time of their second album, ‘Stand Strong Stand Proud’, they had started to develop a more focused musical direction and songs such as the title track, embracing hard rock and Glam influences, were sounding much more effective, whilst the bands’ musicianship was clearly developing in a more creative direction. For whatever reasons, this didn’t seem to sit well with Beki, who chose to leave and form her own band, Ligotage, in early 1983. Undaunted, the remaining band members enlisted new vocalist Lia, together with a second guitarist, and began writing new material. For me, the ensuing singles and album, ‘Shot Away’, were the best the band ever released. Lia had a strong evocative voice that perfectly suited the way the band were developing. They still sounded powerful and upbeat, but by now they had so much more depth and the Glam influence came to the fore with their fine cover of ‘Teenage Rampage’. Sadly, this line-up didn’t continue much further, but I still rate their album as the bands’ best. Additionally, this boxset includes their ‘Live and Loud!’ album (recorded in America during 1982) plus an ‘Odds’n’Sods’ disc including rare compilation tracks, demos and singles-tracks. For Vice Squad fans, this is a thorough collection that you’ll be more than happy to own. For others, you’ll be sure to find some good, interesting material that you quite possibly missed back at the time. Well-worth checking out!
WAYNE COUNTY & THE ELECTRIC CHAIRS. The Safari Years. CD Boxset (Captain Oi!) Wayne / Jayne County is someone who deserves so much more respect. After making more than a mark on the New York alternative scene during the early Seventies, she arrived in London in 1977, forming her new band The Electric Chairs and performing alongside many of the original UK punk bands. She found that her music – a raw mix of nasty rock’n’roll, sleazy Glam and Drag-queen sensibilities – was a perfect fit for the new punk rock scene. Strictly speaking, her music wasn’t really ‘punk’ in the 1977-sense, but her attitude and lyrics matched anything that London could offer and she soon had a new and enthusiastic audience. The bands’ first record, the ‘1977’ EP, was released by Illegal Records and featured songs that pre-dated The Electric Chairs, so it wasn’t until Safari released ‘Fuck Off’ that fans would get a real representation of the new band. ‘Fuck Off’ proved to be one of the undisputed classics of the era although, obviously, a total lack of radio play meant that it didn’t reach a wider audience. The record label, Safari, even chose to create a one-off imprint, ‘Sweet FA’, for the release, to try to hide from any potential obscenity charges. The debut album followed at the beginning of ’78, delivering a set of trashy punk rock’n’roll including ‘Bad in Bed’, an updated version of ‘Max’s Kansas City’ and the new single, ‘Eddie & Sheena’, the tale of a Teddy Boy and a Punk falling in love… Romeo and Juliet with creepers and safety-pins! After a three-month European tour and a couple of line-up changes, the band returned to London to start work on their next album, ‘Storm the Gates of Heaven’. Preceded by the ‘Blatantly Offensive’ EP (featuring ‘Toilet Love’, ‘Mean Mutha Fucking Man’, a great cover of the Sixties garage classic ‘Night Time’ and another chance to hear ‘Fuck Off’) the new album included tracks like ‘Man Enough to be a Woman’, ‘Speed Demon’ and the excellent cover of ‘I Had Too Much to Dream Last Night’, retaining the raw edge of the first LP whilst also stretching their ideas and creativity. Another single was released from the album, ‘Trying To Get On the Radio’, which included a list of all the radio stations that had so far refused to play anything by the band. Things were further complicated when Jayne was forced to relocate to Berlin due to Visa problems, which delayed the bands’ promotion of the album, although it did provide Jayne with lyrical-inspiration towards the next record. ‘Things Your Mother Never Told You’ was released in 1979 and proved to be the bands’ last album, although also their most adventurous. Produced by David Cunningham (of The Flying Lizards) the album veered away from the lyrical content of its’ predecessors and, although tracks like ‘Wonder Woman’ and ‘Boy with the Stolen Face’ were just as raw musically, the record also adopted a more experimental atmosphere. Songs like ‘Berlin’, ‘C.3’ and even the title track were more in line with Bowie’s ‘Low’ or Iggy Pop’s ‘The Idiot’. The new style was an adventurous mix of rock’n’roll with technology and had it appeared a year or two later, it could easily have appealed to the early Eighties electronic scene. Sadly, The Electric Chairs had found themselves pulling in different directions whilst recording the album and, after further touring, Jayne returned to America with guitarist Eliot Michaels, effectively ending the band. She and Eliot put together a temporary line-up to play some dates at the end of 1979, and the New Years’ Eve show in Toronto was recorded and released as ‘Rock’n’Roll Resurrection’, the final album included here. It’ll never be the same as actually seeing Jayne onstage, but it still manages to capture a great set that includes many of her classic songs and some cover versions that can only be heard on this record. In addition to the four LP’s already mentioned, the CDs also include plenty of extra’s, including songs that only appeared on singles, early mixes of tracks from the first LP, plus their one and only John Peel Session from 1979. Together with a superb 20-page, full colour booklet that includes a thorough biography of the band and extensive illustrations, this really is an excellent collection that contains everything you need to know about Wayne County and The Electric Chairs. On a musical level, you need to hear this because they really were an exceptional band and produced a lot of great music. But it’s about time that Jayne was given the credit she deserves, both for her music and her open and fearless determination to follow her own path. In these days of trans-awareness, isn’t it about time that Jayne’s example is properly acknowledged? If you’re already a fan, there’s plenty of extras here to make it worthwhile, and if you’re new to the band, it’s about time that you checked them out. Either way, just buy this boxset!
WOODSTOCK - 3 DAYS THAT CHANGED EVERYTHING DVD (Wienerworld) Having celebrated its’ 50th Anniversary recently, it’s unsurprising that there’s been a lot of new books, documentaries and general interest in the Woodstock phenomenon. I actually reviewed a previous DVD release, ‘Woodstock Diary 1969’, a little while ago, which featured original footage of the event and most of the artists that appeared. For many, it’s probably going to be what they want to see, but this latest documentary delves into the nature of the event, the haphazard way that it evolved and the undeniable legacy that it left behind. It includes interviews with the organisers, Michael Lang and Artie Kornfield, as well as artists that appeared over that weekend, such as Richie Havens, Arlo Guthrie, Country Joe Mcdonald and John Sebastian. The first hand reminiscences provide a real sense of the atmosphere at the event, especially the anarchic way that everything came together. The original festival site had been cancelled only a few weeks before it was due to go ahead and the Woodstock location was found at very short notice. As such, much of the organisation you would expect for something like this was either last minute or abandoned altogether. The line-up was not officially announced in advance, as the promoters were still trying to persuade bands to appear – somehow they managed to secure a stellar line-up including the likes of Creedence Clearwater Revival, Ravi Shankar, The Who, Janis Joplin, Grateful Dead, Jefferson Airplane and Jimi Hendrix. Many memorable moments came about by chance… John Sebastian had arrived just to watch the show, but was promptly introduced onstage when heavy rain meant that only acoustic music could be played safely! Similarly, Crosby, Stills and Nash were joined part-way through their set by Neil Young, as yet not an official member of the group, to play their first public performance together. But there were further innovations offstage that added to the event. By the time the organisers were due to erect fences around the site, several thousand people were already in situ, so the decision was made to make it a free festival. Furthermore, instead of employing professional security, members of the Hog Farm commune were enlisted to provide food, first-aid and ‘trip-tents’ for anyone suffering from drug dalliances. In effect, this documentary serves as a fine companion to the previous films that concentrate on the music itself and explains why its’ legacy lives on. It puts everything in context and explains just why Woodstock became known as ‘the greatest peaceful event in History’.
WRONG WAR. Fixed Against Forever LP (Council) Chicago based hardcore/punk combo featuring former members of bands such as Current, The Phenoms and Salvo Beta. Musically, they produce an impressive sonic assault, recalling older bands like Rites of Spring or Born Against, as well as some of the better releases by Gravity Records during the early Nineties. The rhythms are mostly played at a frantic pace, although often broken-up by slower, harder riffs that build the songs in to insistent arrangements. The vocals are harsh but the words remain clear and the lyrics tend towards political subjects but always remain more thoughtful rather than resorting to mere slogans. In between songs, various sound effects and voices fill the gaps and keep your attention active. This is a very good album, I hope it gets across to the wider audience that it deserves.
THE YUM YUMS. For Those About To Pop! CD (Rum Bar) Norwegian power-pop-punk, although you’d never guess their location from the sounds they create. Lots of Ramones references, with vocal harmonies that wouldn’t have been out of place on a Beach Boys album. The Yum Yums take the three-minute pop song aesthetic to new heights, recalling the likes of The Real Kids, early Greenday and maybe even The Undertones along the way. Apparently, this is their fifth album, so they’ve obviously had plenty of time to perfect their style and present it without a single flaw. It’s a perfect Summertime Pop album and, let’s face it, right now we can all do with one of them!
ZIPGUN BOMBERS. Paper Airplanes EP (Rum Bar) Based in Cambridge, Massachusetts, Zipgun Bombers originally released this excellent EP back in 2012. Rum Bar have had the good taste to reissue it now just because, it needs to be heard. Punk-pop (rather than pop-punk) this recalls early Greenday, Samiam and Buzzcocks, featuring five songs packed with melodic hooks and the sort of tempos that’ll have you jumping all around your bedroom (or whichever room you listen to it…) The songs sound so natural, as if they’ve come together simply, but listen deeper and you’ll hear some finely crafted melodies, great lyrics and passionate vocals. Ending with the title track, you’ll find an insistent, haunting acoustic song that provides the perfect ending to this all-too brief record. Trust me, you may have missed this first-time around, but you really need to make an effort to hear it now.
V/A. The Last White X-Mas. CD ()Area Pirata) Originally released way back in 1983, this album was an attempt to document the flourishing hardcore scene in Tuscany. All of the best bands from the area came together to play in Pisa and, fortunately, they were all recorded. BCT (Bad Compilation Tapes) in San Diego released the highlights over two cassette-only volumes which have remained highly regarded ever since. A very limited CD version was released in 2000, but this is the first version to be available since then and is now extended to a double CD collection with extra tracks and a few changes to the featured bands (unfortunately, Raw Power are now missing but in their place we get Cheetah Chrome Motherfuckers, who weren’t featured on the previous CD…) Other bands included are Brontosauri, Juggernaut, Stato Di Polzia, Putrid Fever, Dements, Useless Boys, Wardogs, A’ufschlag, I Refuse It and Traumatic. The recordings are raw but capture the real excitement and atmosphere of the event. With over 70 tracks in total, this will be an essential purchase for fans of the original Italian hardcore scene.
V/A. NO FUTURE – Complete Singles Collection – The Sound of UK 82. CD boxset (Captain Oi!) The No Future label, founded in 1981 by Chris Berry and Richard Jones, was one of the seminal labels of the 80’s Punk Rock scene. Based in Malvern and started almost naively, the label soon made its’ mark with two great releases – Blitz’s ‘All Out Attack’ EP and The Partisans’ ‘Police Story’. Quite simply, great punk bands with their own style and delivery, both of which still stand up well today. Unbelievably when compared to todays’ standards, the first Blitz EP sold over 25,000 copies and their subsequent album even reached the national Top Thirty… all in an era when the music press was telling everyone that punk was dead! With so many bands getting in touch, No Future decided that their next release would cover as much ground as possible… ‘A Country Fit For Heroes’ was sold as a 12” EP but featured songs from eleven different bands. The tracks were all taken from demo tapes, so the sound quality varied, but a lot of fine bands got their first vinyl exposure here. Possibly most noticeable were The Violators, the only band represented by two songs. The band had two vocalists, Sean and Helen, both with very distinct styles, so it made sense for them to have one song each and, as many fans will confirm, they were both great, ranging from Helens’ almost gothic tones through to Seans’ harsher more hardcore style. Combined with the bands’ uptempo but catchy punk rock musicality, this was a band who really stood-out. Alongside them, there were plenty of other great bands to check out, many of whom went on to further releases… Blitzkreig, The Samples, One Way System and Attak are all bands that you should be familiar with, whilst many of the lesser-known bands are also well-worth checking out. ‘A Country Fit For Heroes’ was a great way to showcase the kind of music that No Future wanted to support, but it was the next few singles that really established them. Peter & the Test Tube Babies’ 7” ‘Banned From the Pubs’ remains a bonafide classic (especially with the wonderful ‘Moped Lads’ lurking on the b-side) kicked-off a great run of releases, quickly followed by Red Alerts’ ‘In Britain’, Blitz’s second 7”, ‘Never Surrender’ and the ‘Today’s Generation’ EP by Attak. It seemed as if No Future couldn’t put a foot wrong… Admittedly, there were plenty of less-impressive or downright awful bands around at this time, but No Future clearly had good quality control. Next along we had Blitzkreig, followed by The Violators’ excellent ‘Gangland’ 7” and the ‘El Salvador’ Ep from The Insane, before the labels’ first release by an American band, ‘I’ve Got a Gun’ by the superb Channel 3 (still a favourite of mine nearly 40 years later!) People were buying every release on the label simply because it virtually guaranteed a worthwhile record. The second Partisans’ 7”, ’17 Years of Hell’ appeared next, followed by another by Red Alert, a debut from The Samples and Peter & the Test Tube Babies’ second helping, ‘Run Like Hell’, with more from Blitz and Attak soon after. Lesser known bands like Crux and Crash were able to release their first singles alongside more from The Violators and Red Alert. No Future would also release the final recordings by the criminally under-rated band The Wall, in the shape of the ‘Day Tripper ‘ EP (featuring four tracks on 7” and 10 on the 12”!) as well as the ‘Megalomania’7” by The Blood (by far their greatest moment.) Early 1983 saw the release of a second volume of ‘A Country Fit for Heroes’, although this time, the selection of bands were not as inspiring and lacked the vitality of the first volume. However, No Future were still discovering new bands that deserved their support, including Rose of Victory (a one-off project put together by Nidge and Mackie from Blitz, covering Bowies’ ‘Suffragette City’ as well as one of their own songs) and Screaming Dead from Cheltenham, with their own brand of ‘horror punk’. Mistakenly considered ‘goth’ by those who saw the imagery but didn’t listen to the music, Screaming Dead were, musically, somewhere between early-Misfits and The Damned. Melodramatic perhaps, but they had some great songs to back it up. (No Future also co-released several other records with the bands’ own label, Skull records.) However, Chris and Richard were beginning to feel the stress of so much work in such a relatively short period of time (they’d also released seven full-length albums by the likes of Blitz, Peter & the Test Tube Babies, The Partisans and Channel 3 during just two years) and the label came to an end with two final EPs, ‘There’s a Guitar Burning’ by Red Alert and ‘Die With Dignity’ by The Violators (compiling tracks from their previous releases.) In many ways, it’s cool that No Future only lasted for such a short time, partly because it meant they never went off-the-boil and also because their back catalogue now encapsulates the period so well. This collection includes four CDs and almost five hours of music. Not that I’m saying you’ll love everything, but I’m sure that you will be surprised and impressed by the variety of styles and the creativity that many of the bands display. It’s probably a bit too much to listen to everything in one go, but be sure not to skip anything because it may be a song by a band you’ve never heard of that will really knock you sideways!
V/A. Oi! The Albums CD boxset (Captain Oi!) The Oi! genre was treated with contempt virtually from the outset. While much of the music press was pronouncing that Punk was dead by 1980 and had no interest in any of the new bands that were emerging, Garry Bushell, working at Sounds magazine, began to cover bands like the Cockney Rejects and the Angelic Upstarts and, as more bands appeared, started to champion a loosely-defined movement consisting of working-class punks and skinheads. Bushell coined the name ‘Oi!’ and promoted the idea that, although many of the early Punk bands had sung about working class kids from the streets, these new bands really were from that background. With the backing of EMI, he put together a compilation featuring some of the best new bands (the Rejects, Upstarts, 4-Skins, Peter and the Test Tube Babies) alongside tracks by older bands who had clearly been an influence (Slaughter & the Dogs and Cocksparrer.) The album featured some great songs, lots of attitude, plenty of energy and even humour (check out The Postmen who, in reality, were the Rejects having some fun!) Including lots of exclusive recordings, it was a great album and still sounds exciting. But within a year, things went horribly wrong, with two incidents providing all the ammunition that the naysayers needed. Firstly, Bushell compiled and released a second compilation, entitled ‘Strength Thru Oi!’. Whether by design or honest error, the title was based on the original Nazi slogan ‘Strength Through Joy’. If that wasn’t bad enough, it also transpired that the aggressive-looking skinhead featured on the album artwork was Nicky Crane, a notorious racist thug who was closely involved with the Nazi band, Skrewdriver. As the controversy built-up, the album was quickly withdrawn, but further damage was done just a month or so later when an Oi! gig at the Hamborough Tavern in Southall resulted in a riot and fighting between the fans arriving for the gig and local Asian youths. The press immediately blamed the violence and trouble on ‘racist skinheads’ even though it clearly wasn’t as straight-forward as that. Southall was already a very volatile area long before this gig was announced and, unfortu-nately, Oi! gigs did attract some nasty elements, but to condemn an entire movement without knowing all of the facts was also wrong. The sad thing, in musical terms at least, was that ‘Strength Thru Oi!’ was actually another good compilation, featuring more tracks from the 4-Skins and Cocksparrer (‘Runnin’ Riot’ is by far the best thing they ever recorded) and songs from new bands like Infa Riot, The Strike, The Last Resort and even the punky-pop of The Toy Dolls. There were also several contributions from East End punk-poet Garry Johnson which provided a whole different view of the scene. ‘STO’ wasn’t as good as the first album, but there were certainly some great tracks on there to make it more than worthwhile. After the negativity that followed ‘STO’, something special was needed to put things back on track and, fortunately, ‘Carry On Oi!’ proved to be the best of all the albums. Starting with another poem by Garry Johnson and a Ska version of ‘The Dambusters March’ by the JJ All Stars, the line-up of bands was very strong, including several, like Blitz, The Partisans and Red Alert, that weren’t exactly ‘Oi!’ but whose sound and approach weren’t so far removed. This was also the first album to feature tracks from The Business, who would become one of the best and most influential bands on the scene, plus more contributions from Infa Riot, Peter & the Test Tube Babies and the 4-Skins. (It also included a debut appearance from The Gonads, featuring Mr Bushell on vocals… let’s just say, he didn’t give up the day job!) ‘Oi! Oi! That’s Yer Lot’ was another strong and varied selection, opening with the superb ‘Real Enemy’ by The Business and including new bands like The Oppressed, The Warriors, Attak and Coming Blood (soon to be better known as The Blood.) Two tracks are provided by Ska legend Judge Dread and two from Attila the Stockbroker add some humour, while Frankie And The Flames contribute some raunchy piano-infused pub rock. Interestingly, the original album also included ‘Revenge’ by Black Flag, after Henry Rollins got in touch (although this time, SST were unwilling to have it included on this reissue.) However, you do get a bonus with the inclusion of the five tracks from the ‘Back on the Streets’ EP, featuring great songs from The Strike and East End Badoes plus the infamous ‘I’m Thick’ by Skin Disease… in reality, in a satirical mood! ‘Son of Oi!’ continued with less of the well-known bands but plenty of new talents. That being said, Cock Sparrer start proceedings with a live version of ‘Chip on My Shoulder’, followed by a powerful track, ‘Onwards’, by New York band Kraut. It transpired that quite a few of the bands included were really just studio projects rather than full-time bands, but there’s still plenty to enjoy. Tracks from The Business, the 4-Skins and Angelic Upstarts kept things on track, while new names like Clockwork Destruction, Vicious Rumours and Maniac Youth make great debuts. Unfortunately, there does seem to be more than a few fillers included, but there’s still some good stuff to be heard. ‘The Oi! of Sex’ is the last album included here and, apart from Cock Sparrer, featured no particularly well-known bands. That being said, several of the new bands more than made up for the lack of bigger names. The Burial, from Scarborough, offer two great songs ; ‘Old Man’s Poison’ is a great catchy mix of ska and punk which recalls the 4-Skins’ classic ‘Plastic Gangster’, while ‘Friday Night’ is a Ruts-style punk anthem. Vicious Rumours were also back with two more, starting with a powerful track called… ‘Vicious Rumours’, followed by ‘Take the Blame’. Rat Patrol were represented with the most un-Oi!-like ‘Rat Trap’ that sounded more like some sorta indie-funk! Crossed Hammers borrowed a tune from The Damned and substituted their own lyrics, playing it with raucous intent. Overall, this wasn’t a particularly great album, although I’m tempted to say you should hear it just for the tracks by The Burial, but you’ll find other highpoints as well. This is a boxset that includes plenty of great moments and a few that are not-so-great, but if you really want to know about the origins of Street punk, this is essential listening.
V/A. Rock’n’Roll Manifesto Vol 1. EP (Stamp Out Disco) Rock’n’Roll Manifesto is a long-running radio show on the East Coast, USA, run by Greg Lonesome. He’s been a champion for underground punk and rock’n’roll bands for over 500 episodes and now, in association with the Aussie label Stamp Out Disco, he’s instigated a series of compilation EPs that will feature some of the best high velocity bands currently emerging from their garages. First off is Tiger Touch from Portland, Oregon with ‘Problems’, not the Pistols song but an original delivered like a mix between early Seventies Glam and snotty 1977 punk attitude… at less than 90 seconds long, it’s perfect! Fret Rattles, from Minneapolis, take a direction that’s somewhere in between (early) Saints and possibly even Poison Idea (circa ‘Plastic Bomb.) Flip over to side two and the vinyl blasts off with JJ & the Real Jerks (you mean there are fake jerks out there?) These guys are from Los Angeles, but recall those great early records by New Bomb Turks, adding their own mark with a Sax-break that rips through the middle of the song. Finally, the Missile Studs add their offering, ‘Spazz Out’, the only Australian band on this EP but staking their claim with very good reason. Fast, frantic and catchy, sorta like Modern Action or the Control Freaks. Basically, this whole EP is going to test your stereo to its’ limits and leave you desperately trying to catch your breath. Limited to just 500 copies, stop reading this and buy yourself a copy before you miss-out!
V/A. Rock These Ancient Ruins – Mamma Roma’s Kids LP (Area Pirata) A fine compilation of 14 bands currently keeping the punk / glam / trash scene alive and noisy in Rome. Ranging from catchy Ramones-style punk-pop (Beats Me) through to raw, almost Oi-style streetpunk (Blood’77) and from hard rockin’ riffs (Alieni) through to fast, catchy hardcore (Human Race) this is a collection that covers a lot of different styles, so you’ll have to pay attention, but it also means that there’s a lot of great new music to discover. Most of the bands sing in English so there’s no problem keeping up with the lyrics and I’m sure you’ll end up making notes to check out further releases by at least a few of these bands. This is a compilation that does a very good job!