RECORD REVIEWS, JULY-DECEMBER, 2022.
ABRASIVE WHEELS. 1981-1984 CD (Captain Oi!) Forming in Leeds at the end of the Seventies, Abrasive Wheels were already touring by 1980 and released their debut single, ‘Army Song’, on their own Abrasive Records label in 1981. It’s initial success saw the band signing to the Riot City label who reissued the single and gave it a much wider distribution. 1982 saw two more singles, ‘Vicious Circle’ and the excellent ‘Burn ‘em Down’, but it was their album ‘When the Punks Go Marching In’, released at the end of the year, which really established their reputation. It was raw but the energy levels were suitably high and whilst some of the lyrics may have been a little naïve, the overall positivity of the songs really grabbed the moment and impressed the fans, sending it into the Top Ten of the Indie Charts. !983 saw the band switching to the Clay label, whilst they continued to tour and began work on material for their second album. Their next single, an unlikely cover of ‘Jailhouse Rock’, was the first indication that the band were intent on not just sticking to the style of their first album and while it certainly combined just as much noise and energy as before, it also featured a more adventurous production and a better use of melody. The artwork also saw the band moving away from the leather jacket / brick wall imagery that so many bands had been using, towards a more colourful / interesting style… they clearly didn’t want to get stuck in the past! Another single, ‘Banner of Hope’ was released before the end of the year, giving more indication of their new, more melodic direction. Their second album, ‘Black Leather Girl’, was eventually released in April 1984 and whilst some listeners were confused by the different sounds, overall sales were still strong and it reached the Indie Top Ten once again. The band also toured in America for the first time, playing to large enthusiastic crowds, but when they returned to the UK, they realised that things were no longer as enjoyable as it had been. Despite plans for a third album, the band broke up, leaving an impressive set of records as their legacy. This double CD collection compiles all of their original releases and really shows how much they had developed within such a relatively short period of time. Whilst ‘When the Punks...’ remains a classic example of the UK82 style, ‘Black Leather Girl’ has aged really well in its’ own right and is possibly even more appealing now than it was forty years ago. Either way, this is a perfect chance to rediscover the band and appreciate the great music they made.
ALICE COOPER. Live from the Astroturf. LP+DVD (E.A.R Music) Here’s the story… Back in 2015, Dennis Dunaway’s autobiography (‘Snakes! Guillotines! Electric Chairs!’) was being published. Chris Penn, owner of the Good Records music store in Dallas is a huge fan of the original Alice Cooper Group so he organises a book-launch and signing-session. Somewhere along the line, Dennis and Chris also arrange for the other two remaining members, Michael Bruce and Neal Smith, to attend the event and play a short set of songs along with a Q&A. For fans of the original band, this was something special in itself, but it’s here where Chris Penn got really ambitious. Knowing that Alice Cooper himself was on tour across the States at the same time, he got in touch with the management to see if Alice could be tempted to appear. Amazingly, he agreed, but only if the appearance was kept strictly secret. On the day of the event, the shop is packed with fans of the original band while arrangements have been made to sneak Alice into the shop via the rear office. The three members of the band arrive onstage and play through a great version of ‘Caught in a Dream’ with Michael Bruce on vocals. The fans are more than happy with this and the band are sounding great. But then, as they start to play the intro to ‘Be My Lover’, Alice walks out onto the small stage and the crowd become ecstatic. The crowd had been more than happy just to see Dennis, Michael and Neal, but no-one had been expecting Alice as well. It’s one of those great moments that fans can only dream about. Ryan Roxie (from the current Alice Cooper band) joins them on guitar to replace the much-missed Glen Buxton and the seven song set is amazing. Damn, I wish I could have been there! Fortunately though, it was this set that led to the 2017 Alice Cooper tour in the UK, which featured a short set from the original band. Of course, I would have preferred to see them in a small venue rather than Wembley, but it was still very special. I’m keeping my fingers crossed than a full-scale reunion may still happen at some point… In the meantime, this album will give you an idea of what we missed. The sound is great, capturing their original garage-band style perfectly and, as a bonus, the LP includes an instrumental version of ‘Desperado’ recorded during the soundcheck. The DVD features a documentary about the event, including footage of the entire show. The album is pressed on coloured vinyl and comes in a gatefold sleeve, including a large eight-page colour booklet. Seriously, this album just couldn’t be any better. Trust me… you’re gonna love it to death!
AMBER SQUAD. After All these Years 7” (Detour) The Amber Squad were a band based in the East Midlands during the early years of the Eighties, playing catchy songs that, similar to The Chords, were on the punkier side of the Mod revival. They only released two singles back at the time but both are now highly sought-after and very collectable. I’m not sure exactly what they band members have been doing over the past four decades, although they have been playing a few gigs in recent years. But the important thing for any fans out there is that this is a brand new single and I’m pretty sure that it’s going to live-up to all expectations. The A-side, as you’ve probably guessed from the title, is a new, retrospective look at their past with a great guitar sound and an anthemic, instantly-singalong chorus. The B-side, ‘Keep My Company’ is a previously unrecorded track from the bands’ early days, sounding like it should never have taken forty years to end-up on vinyl. I know that some people don’t like the idea of bands re-emerging years after their original lifetime, but really it all boils down to how well they can do it. If a band can still write and play good music, then why wouldn’t you want to hear them again? The Amber Squad have returned with a great new single that stands-up proudly alongside their original recordings and it ought to please both old and new fans. Give it a listen and be glad that you can enjoy every moment of it!
AMPLIFIER HEADS. Rectifier CD (Rum Bar) Another fine example of rock’n’roll coming out of the Boston underground. The Amplifier Heads even sing a song about it! Fronted by local legend Sal Baglio, these ‘Heads take the choicest cuts from the past fifty years of rock’n’roll, everything from Chuck Berry and early Beatles, through to Mott The Hoople and Cheap Trick. You’ll find Spector-esque harmonies, pure-pop melodies, plenty of energy in all the right places, swaggering Glam, catchy Garage-riffs that put the posers to shame and anthems that not only proclaim that Rock Rules, they prove the matter once and for all. Plenty of volume is essential, of course, but listen properly and you’ll soon be converted to the cause.
ANARCHITEX. Digital Dark Age LP (CIA / Mad Butcher) Anarchitex are a Texas band who were originally together from 1983-87, but only got to release one cassette during that time. Featuring ex-members of Really Red and Pain Teens, they reformed in 2007 and stayed together long enough to record this album of new material, which was then released on CD. They went on another hiatus between 2012-19 but have since reformed again and their album was finally released on vinyl via Germany’s Mad Butcher label. For any fan of Texas punk, this really is a record you need to hear. In a similar tradition to the likes of the Big Boys, The Dicks or The Stains (MDC) Anarchitex were not a band content to play punk-rock-by-numbers. Their music embraced different influences, from psychedelia to avant-garde and from post-punk to hardcore. At different times they used drum machines, keyboards and even had a sax player at one point. They also had a fondness for ‘guerrilla’ gigs, turning up to play unannounced sets in loading docks, car parks and even outside a Republican Convention in Dallas. Most of the songs that make up this album were written following their reformation in 2007 and, as such, capture the subjects that still matter to the band. Anti-authority, of course, but there are also witty lyrics about trying to maintain your punk rock ethics as you’re growing older. Personally, I think it’s great when a band take this approach because it’s a lot more honest than successful rock stars trying to pretend they’re still ‘one of the kids’. The frustrations we face as we get older are different to those we face when we’re teenagers, but they’re often just as important and if you can’t deal with them with a sense of humour, you might as well give up right now. At different times I was reminded of the Dead Kennedys, Jesus Lizard, maybe Alice Donut, but just as much in spirit as the sounds. Going by the songs featured here, I’m really surprised that Anarchitex aren’t better-known. Give this album a listen and I’m sure that you’ll agree. Limited edition on vinyl, so grab it soon!
ANGELIC UPSTARTS. The Singles 1978-85 CD (Cherry Red) It’s almost bizarre to think that during the late Seventies bands like the Angelic Upstarts, UK Subs and Cockney Rejects were having hit singles and even appearing on Top of the Pops! Admittedly, this wasn’t a situation that lasted very long, but it does go to show that punk was still infiltrating the mainstream long after ’77. In the case of the Upstarts, they self-released their first single in 1978 before it was reissued in a collaboration between Rough Trade and Small Wonder. Ironically, ‘The Murder of Liddle Towers’ wasn’t particularly representative of the bands’ sound (the b-side, ‘Police Oppression’, gave a better indication) but its’ success soon had major labels sniffing around and the band signed to Warners! Their early singles hit the charts and debut album ‘Teenage Warning’ was a deserved success. A second album was released by Warners featuring further successful singles including the superb ‘Out of Control’ and a poignant cover of ‘We’ve Gotta Get Out of This’, but despite their continued popularity the band switched to EMI/Zonophone. Initially things went well, particularly their classic single ‘Last Night Another Soldier’ and the band stretched their creativity to produce the semi-acoustic ‘England’ single (the first to feature their new drummer, former Roxy Music member Paul Thompson!) They also adopted a reggae style for the two singles ‘I Understand’ (about the suspicious death-in-custody of a young Rastafarian) and ‘Different Strokes’ (produced by Dennis Bovell.) In early 1982, their final single for EMI, ‘Never Say Die’, failed to chart, partly due to the appalling production (courtesy of Steve Levine, who later went on to work with Culture Club) and the album ‘Still from the Heart’ proved to be their final release on a major label. EMI were unhappy with their confrontational political lyrics while the band were unhappy with the label trying to tone them down. As such, the Upstarts returned to their independent roots by joining Anagram. Typically, the first release with their new label would be one of their catchiest songs to date, the excellent ‘Woman in Disguise’. ‘Solidarity’ was a fitting tribute to the Polish Trade Union with passionate vocals sung in Mensi’s instantly recognisable tones. However, the surprisingly lightweight ‘Not Just a Name’ was their last release on Anagram before they moved to Razor/ Picasso records for a one-off single, ‘Machine Gun Kelly’, which found them back on course. With another line-up change to boot, things were going well and 1985 saw them unleash the infamous ‘Brighton Bomb’ single on Gas records. This also brings this collection to an end and and, while the band certainly released some great albums during the same years, it could easily be argued that it’s these singles that really provide the best overview of the band. Play these discs loud and often… it’s the only way you’ll get to hear just how great the Angelic Upstarts could be when they were at their best.
APB. Something To Believe In CD (Liberation Hall) APB were a Scottish ‘post-punk’ band who formed in 1979, releasing five singles on the Aberdeen-based Oily Records between 1981 and ’83. They began to get airplay on Radio One and were invited to record Sessions for John Peel and David Jensen, but bizarrely it was in New York that they started to gain the most interest. Their second single, ‘Shoot You Down’, became a dance-floor favourite in clubs like Danceteria and The Mudd Club. A booking agent in New York arranged for the band to play a short East Coast tour, which proved to be a big success, and they also found time to record their next single in Manhattan. Back at home, they formed their own Red River label for subsequent UK releases, whilst also arranging for their records to be released by independent labels in America. A singles-compilation was released in 1985, while their first full album, ‘Cure for the Blues’, appeared in 1986. They continued to tour and record until the end of the Eighties, although since then there have been reunions and live appearances. Over the years since they split, many of their original releases have become highly sought-after, so this new reissue of their singles-collection is certain to be welcomed by both their old and new fans. Musically, the band began with a punky burst of energy on their first single, ‘Chain Reaction’, sounding somewhere between early-Gang of Four and Public Image Ltd. But by their second single, ‘Shoot you Down’, they were veering more towards a less aggressive punk-funk style that recalled the later Gang of Four (post Dave Allen.) The production had a sparser sound which recalled early albums by The Cure, but it was also much more accessible and could easily gain airplay whilst still being embraced by the underground scene. Unfortunately, in retrospect the songs do suffer from the Eighties studio-sound and don’t stand-out as much as some of their contemporaries, but you need to consider this band in the context of the times. Bands were only just beginning to combine funk with rock music and, especially in remote locations like Aberdeen, this would have been something very radical. Nowadays, it isn’t unusual at all, but APB were one of the bands who paved the way for others. You need to play this loud, give it your undivided attention and maybe even dance… Soon enough, you’ll discover what they were all about and enjoy every track.
BANG BANG BAND GIRL, 12 Super Duper Extraordinary Girl Trouble Rock’n’Roll Tracks LP (Voodoo Rhythm) Well, the title of the album pretty-much gives it away, even though you’ll still have no real idea of what you’re in for! Bang Bang Band Girl is actually a one-woman project (although a couple of friends help out with saxophone and theremin contributions…) and the tracks for this album were recorded in various locations as far apart as Rotterdam and Lima (Peru!) The songs are all covers culled from the classic moments of rock’n’roll (although not necessarily the most obvious choices.) From ‘Funnel of Love’ (Wanda Jackson) and ‘Heartbreak Hotel’ all the way through to the ‘Call of the Wighat’ (The Cramps) ‘The Watcher’ (Motorhead) and ‘All By Myself’ (Heartbreakers) whilst in between we also have versions of ‘Bang Bang’ (Nancy Sinatra) and ‘No More Hotdogs’ (Hasil Adkins.) You’ll need to have some real taste and knowledge to keep up with this album! What the Bang Bang Band Girl does with the songs is to subject them to the kind of sounds and arrangements that you might expect from Fifties/Sixties B-movie soundtracks. While they’re all still recognisable, they’ve now been reinterpreted as if by a Sci-Fi Garage band on the Red Planet… The important thing is that whilst the songs might be treated in a quite eccentric fashion, they’re also treated with respect and not just pulled apart for a laugh. This is an album of songs being re-imagined and performed in a different context, but they still sound great! So do yourself a favour and get a copy of this record in time for your next social gathering!
THE BLACK HALOS. How the Darkness Doubled LP (Stomp) The Black Halos formed in Vancouver back in 1993 but, despite touring heavily, didn’t get to release their debut album until 1999. Further touring continued, playing alongside the likes of L7, Lazy Cowgirls and The Hellacoptors, before releasing their second LP, ‘The Violent Years’ in 2001. Although well-received (leading to support-slots with The Offspring as well as invitations to play on The Warped Tour and Edgefest) there were several line-up changes soon after the albums release, but the band continued and released two more albums, ‘Alive Without Control’ in 2005 and ‘We Are Not Alone’ in 2008. However, their activities came to an abrupt end later that year when their tour-van, complete with all of their equipment, was stolen after a gig in Montreal. It wouldn’t be until 2016 that they decided to reform again, this time with the original members, and found that there was still a demand for their live shows in North America and Europe. Taking their time to do things right, they have now completed their new album and look set to fully re-establish their reputation. Their music maintains their original mix of punk and hard rock, along similar lines to Turbonegro, The Dead Boys or maybe even The Professionals . The guitar sound is sharp and loud, Billy’s vocals are confident and convincing, whilst the rhythm section hold everything in place with real precision. The songs are mostly upbeat (fast but not thrashing) apart from ‘Ain’t No Time to Say Goodbye’, dedicated to the legendary Mr Chi Pig. Lots of hi-energy but also plenty of great tunes. This band deserve to be big!
THE BOBBY LEES. Bellevue CD (Ipecac) Having already released two albums (first one self-released, the second on the Alive label) the Bobby Lees have now found a home for themselves on Ipecac, which seems to be an ideal place for them to unleash their chaotic, unrestrained style of punk rock. Owing as much to early rock’n’roll as they do to any of the ensuing musical eras, this is a band who sound totally natural. They’re doing something that’s true to themselves, even if there are a few moments that will have you thinking of Dead Kennedys, Gun Club, Blues Explosion, or maybe even L7… the thing is, although these may be amongst the bands that inspired the Bobby Lees, they’ve put them all into one big melting pot and produced their own style, direction and delivery. Singer/guitarist Sam Quartin has a great vocal range, veering from moody’n’bluesy to psychotic screeches, providing just the right narrative for each song. Musically, although predominantly upbeat, the band are also adept at providing plenty of space for the songs to develop. The frantic moments are exhilarating, but all the more exciting when combined with the slower, quieter breaks. The production captures it all with a clarity that lets you hear everything that’s going on, whilst keeping it as raw as a live performance. I’m very impressed and I can only hope that we get a chance to see them live in the near future. In the meantime, do yourself a favour and play this album loud and often!
BRAD MARINO. Basement Beat CD (Rum Bar) taking some time away from his regular recordings, Brad Marino has produced a homage to the Ramones and, in the process of paying tribute, has created one of the most authentic Ramones-sounding records I’ve ever heard. The thing is, Marino has been perfectly capable of producing short, snappy songs that get straight to the point in his own style, so keeping things succinct is no problem for the guy. On top of this, he obviously appreciates the roots of the Ramones as well, from Sixties Pop and Girl-bands through to Seventies Glam rock. Too many bands just think it’s about three chords and lyrics about sniffing glue, but if you want to get it right, you need to understand their influences, their sense of melody, harmonies and humour. These were their individual strengths. Brad Marino clearly gets the whole deal and that’s why this album works so well and this is probably the closest we’ll ever get to hearing new songs from The Ramones again. Trust me, get this album and you’ll be bltizkreig boppin’ all night long.
THE CASSINI PROJEKT. Blue Ocean Event CD (cassiniprojekt.bandcamp.com) The Cassini Projekt is actually a one-man show at present, although presumably the name allows for the addition of extra contributors as and when necessary. In the meantime, this is an interesting mix of contemporary rock styles and classic influences dating-back as far as the Seventies, everything from Queen through to King Crimson. Main man Alex McDonnell obviously has a broad taste and it certainly helps to add depth to his music. It’s pretty technical stuff but also manages to exude a warmth and character all of its’ own, which is all too often missing from many such outings. At times the music is intricate and intimate whilst other moments are gloriously bombastic. This has a lot of potential and is certainly something that could develop a strong following in the near future.
CELEBRATION SUMMER. Patience in Presence LP (A-F) Based in North Virginia, Celebration Summer seem to have their roots in Washington DC’s musical heritage, in particular the bands that emerged via Dischord records during the late Eighties and early-Nineties. Think of bands like Fugazi, Scream, Shudder to Think, Jawbox etc, although their name obviously casts a nod in the direction of Husker Du. All that being said, it’s not as if Celebration Summer don’t add their own stamp onto this music. They take certain elements from the past but are very-much putting them to use in their own context. The lyrics, in particular, are relevant now and speak to the present. Musically, they tend towards upbeat rhythms, although never too fast, and add shards of guitar noise to bolster the raw power of their intent. But most importantly, there are always catchy melodic hooks at the core of the songs to ensure you won’t forget what you’ve heard. This is a great album with lots of energy and plenty of insistent tunes. Highly recommended.
CHRIS POPE & THE CHORDS UK. Big City Dreams LP (Epop) I reviewed this album almost a year ago, but due to unavoidable delays the vinyl version has only just appeared. It’s a great record and it looks and sounds even better on vinyl, so I’m going to update the review for a second inclusion because, basically, it deserves it. ‘Big City Dreams’ is the third album from Chris Pope’s current band and, whilst they’ve all been great records, this one sounds even better than its’ predecessors. In fact, much that I love the music released by the original Chords (and there’s more than a few classics in that discography) this latest album stands up as some of the best material Chris has ever written. His original Mod / Punk / Glam influences are still in the mix, but there’s also a lot more diversity in this set, adding further depth to the proceedings. The record opens with a huge, crashing guitar chord that’s almost like a statement of intent which the rest of the album has to live up to. But no worries on that count, as the first song, ‘Listen to the Radio’, is an instantly enjoyable anthem paying tribute to great moments of early-Seventies Pop music, combined with a nod towards the Ramones’ ‘Rock’n’Roll Radio’. ‘The Last Great Rock Star’ (have a guess who you think it refers to…) quickly follows and delivers another attention-grabbing song with great melodies and a catchy chorus. Third track, ‘Hey Kids! Come the Revolution’, takes a less- boisterous direction, although again it has a fine melodic hook and an insistent chorus that will have the whole audience singing along, while the lyrics are witty and poignant. ‘Keep Calm & Carry On’ is a nicely understated song, while ‘Veronica Jones’ reminds me (favourably) of The Undertones. Seriously, there isn’t a bad song on this record and, despite the different tones and tempos of the various songs it all comes together as a really solid album. ‘A Billion Things To Do’ has the kind of lyrics to inspire and keep you going, while ‘Twenty First Century Girl’ is an upbeat powerpop classic underpinned with a Ska rhythm that keeps it boppin’ along at a perfect pace… it really ought to be on all the radio waves! ‘Portobello Road’ celebrates the heyday of the West London street, when it really was an exciting place to visit… appropriately, the song also incorporates different musical styles, from reggae through to slide guitar and Celtic sounds. The album ends with the epic ‘Great Expectations’ which recalls the likes of Mott the Hoople. It’s possibly the track on this album that’s furthest from what you might expect from Chris Pope, but it works really well, full of passion and intent. Trust me, you really need to hear this record… Do yourself a favour and get yourself a copy soon.
CONTRAZIONE. Cieli Rossi Sull’Europa LP (Area Pirata) Contrazione were one of the first and most influential of the Italian Anarchist punk bands. They initially came together during 1983 in Turin, featuring members of various earlier bands. They produced and self-released the Franti/Contrazione split album in 1984 and the mini-album ‘Cineocchio Storia e Memoria’ in 1985, but came to be known by a wider, international audience when they were featured on the ‘P.E.A.C.E’ compilation, released by American label ‘R Radical’. As with many of the early Italian hardcore bands, they adopted a more metallic guitar sound but at the same time embraced different styles and ideas to make their songs stand-out, particularly making use of different vocalists within individual songs and even occasional bursts of saxophone. There are some comparisons to be made with MDC, although not so obviously to be derivative. Unfortunately, all songs are sung in Italian which is a shame for me as the lyrics were clearly a very important part of their music (I’m not sure if the actual LP contains a lyric sheet, let alone English translations…) Much like Crass and many of the UK anarcho-punk bands, Contrazione were also heavily involved as activists within their local environment and helped to establish the basis for an alternative scene that lasts to this day. This is a great overview of their music and it’s just a shame that the language barrier is going to prevent many of us from appreciating their full legacy. Regardless, it’s still a very interesting album that’s well-worth checking out.
THE DAMNED. A Night of a Thousand Vampires LP (E.A.R.Music) This more ‘theatrical’ event took place in 2019 as a one-off at the London Palladium, although as this album proves, the music more than stands by itself. The intention seems to have been to highlight the darker, more ‘gothic’ elements of The Damned, together with various additional performers joining the band onstage. The setlist included songs taken from right across their career, although perhaps unsurprisingly it did seem to concentrate more on material from ‘The Black Album’, ‘Strawberries’ and ‘Phantasmagoria’. But the choices were good and it all came together very well. Songs like ‘Grimly Fiendish’ and ‘Eloise’ have always sounded much better when played live (especially by this line-up) and the same can also be said of recent tracks like ‘Standing on the Edge of Tomorrow’ and ‘Black is the Night’. Additionally, they also added a couple of previously un-played cover versions for this evening, firstly The Doors ‘People Are Strange’ and then, during the middle of ‘Neat Neat Neat’, they veer into a suitably atmospheric version of ‘Bela Lugosi’s Dead’. Both of them sound great and work really well as part of the set, but the highlight once again is a stunning version of ‘Curtain Call’, together with an appearance by Emily Vanian, reprising her remarkable talents as a violinist. Awesome! Anyway, this comes as a double album in a gatefold sleeve, resplendent with new artwork from the redoubtable Graham Humphreys. It’s an impressive document that captures a very special performance. If you’re a fan of The Damned, you will need a copy.
DATURA 4. Neanderthal Jam CD (Alive) All the way from Western Australia, Datura4 are fronted by Dom Mariani, a founding member of the high regarded garage-punk band The Stems. However, despite one or two musical crossovers (‘Bad Times’ sorta reminds me of The Died Pretty) Datura4 are much more about 70’s hard rock and boogie. They’re also very good at it (after all, this is their fifth album so they really ought to know what they’re doing by now!) It’s the kind of music that will have you thinking about Hells Angels roaring along an endless highway, cutting through an unforgiving desert landscape. It’s not a million miles away from Steppenwolf’s ‘Born to be Wild’ or Golden Earring’s ‘Radar Love’, but despite the roots of their music coming from outside of the mainstream, Datura4 actually manage to keep their music surprisingly accessible. Flashes of psychedelia add flavour to the music, as well as hints of Blues and Country music. Inevitably, the songs do tend to embrace influences from some fifty years ago, but do so with a sense of humour (just look at the album title!) and this somehow manages to give it a contemporary edge. This is an album that celebrates music from a past era but does so in a way that prevents it from being out-of-place. That’s quite an impressive feat in itself, but hear this album for yourself and there’s more than a fair chance that you’ll end up loving it. Be sure to check it out.
DEAD KENNEDYS. Fresh Fruit for Rotting Vegetables – 2022 Mix. CD (Cherry Red) A remix of a classic album is always going to be controversial, but in this case with the ongoing antagonism between Jello Biafra and his former band-mates, it reaches a whole other level. I’ve heard convincing arguments from both sides but I still can’t decide if either is entirely right or wrong, so I’ll put all of that to one side and consider this release on its’ own merits. ‘Fresh Fruit…’ was undeniably an important, influential and inspiring album, qualities that it retains to this day. Their first couple of singles, ‘California Uber Alles’ and ‘Holiday in Cambodia’, were so exciting and different to anything I’d heard before, so I was really eager to hear their album. It didn’t disappoint. The lyrics and artwork are witty, intelligent and thought-provoking, whilst the music embraces a whole range of styles, from Surf Guitar to the Stooges. The Dead Kennedys didn’t sound like anyone else and that’s why this album still sounds remarkably valid today. However, the original production was not perfect. It was rather ‘tinny’ or ‘trebly’ and while that didn’t spoil the album, I’m sure I wasn’t the only person who thought that it could have been even better! So, forty-odd years down the line, the album has been remixed by a ‘big-name’ producer (Chris Lord-Alge…I’d never heard of him.) The results are interesting. There’s definitely more ‘bottom-end’ on some (if not all) of the tracks, giving them a deeper sound and more presence, plus there’s more clarity, allowing you to hear more detail, particularly from the guitar sounds and Jello’s vocals. However, the recordings certainly haven’t been diluted at all by the process and there’s just as much energy as ever. That said, I can’t say that this is the definitive version of the album and if you already have a copy of the original mix, you’re not necessarily going to need to replace it. I doubt that fans will be disappointed by this release but it’ll be down to personal taste as to which version you prefer. This mix certainly adds different elements to the original recordings and it’s well worth hearing, but don’t expect it to make the original mix redundant. Additionally, the CD comes in a kind of book-format, featuring additional text and artwork plus comments from various musicians etc (although it doesn’t include the original poster artwork, which is a shame.) You’ll have to make your own mind up as to whether you prefer this mix or not, but it’s definitely something you should consider.
DEAD KENNEDYS. Dead End Oregon LP (Suicidal) This label seems to be responsible for some pretty interesting ‘bootlegs’ at the moment and this is another worthwhile live recording. It’s a decent-quality tape from Portland in late 1979 and as well as featuring many of the tracks from their debut album, the set also includes two songs (‘Kidnap’ and ‘Gaslight’) which never appeared on any of the bands’ original releases, whilst ‘When Ya Get Drafted’ appears here in its’ original form as ‘Back in Rhodesia’. Being from a mixing desk recording, the sound levels are a bit messy at times, particularly at the beginning, but once things get a little more stable this is a pretty listenable record. If you want to hear what this band were all about before the woeful divisions and antagonism of recent times, this isn’t a bad place to start.
DEICIDE. Crucifixation – The Early Years 3CD (Cherry Red) Formed in Florida during the late Eighties, Deicide have courted controversy throughout their career with overtly Satanic themes and a brutal musical style that perfectly matched the lyrics. The band were initially known as Carnage, but changed to Amon when joined by bass player/vocalist Glen Benton. Their first demos were recorded under this name before changing again to Deicide, in time for their debut LP on Roadrunner. Musically, they can probably be compared to bands like Slayer, Exodus and Dark Angel, although Bentons’ vocals tend to veer more towards a style you’d expect from grindcore bands. This collection brings together their first two albums along with the original demos which had been recorded as ‘Amon’. The first self-titled album, released in 1990 has a very raw sound and almost relentlessly thrashing rhythms from start to finish, although with an incredibly tight and precise delivery. It’s the sound of a band transferring their live performance to the studio and it presents a style that will either draw you in or leave you bewildered... there’s no room to be undecided! Their second album, ‘Legion’, appeared two years later and took their sound much further, with a more accomplished musical performance and arrangements that brought out the best from the individual songs. Without losing any of the intensity of its’ predecessor, this album has a much clearer sound which allowed the intricacies to come through just as powerfully as the riffs. It’s more technical but no less brutal, with Benton’s vocals sounding even more guttural than before and it’s easy to see why so many of their fans consider this to be Deicide’s best album. Their third album, although released as a Deicide LP in 1993, would actually be the demo tracks originally recorded under the name ‘Amon’. The ‘Feasting the Beast’ demos were recorded on an 8-track in Glen Benton’s garage during 1987, so the sound-quality is lacking the full-on assault of their albums, but it’s certainly not lacking in energy and gives a good idea of where the band were heading. The band then decided to go to a regular studio to record their ‘Sacrificial’ demos in 1989, and you can certainly hear the difference. The sound quality is much-improved and they have a more focused approach to what they’re doing, giving an even clearer indication of what they were capable of achieving. Almost all of the tracks recorded across these two demos eventually ended-up on the first two albums, so it’s also interesting to hear how the songs developed in between sessions. If you’ve never heard Deicide before, then this is probably the best place to start. If you’re already a fan, perhaps you may want to reappraise their early recordings. Either way, this is something you really should check-out.
THE DICKIES. Idjit Savant LP (Dr Strange) Having been out-of-print on vinyl for a real long time (over 25 years, to be precise) this reissue is long overdue and full-marks to Dr Strange for getting the job done. Re-mastered and sounding better than ever, this is one of the classic Dickies albums (aren’t they all?) Definitely one of my favourites, it caught the band at a particularly creative time, mixing their love of punk rock, Sixties pop and early Seventies rock to perfection. The album contains some of The Dickies very best songs, including ‘Welcome to the Diamond Mine’, ‘Toxic Avenger’, ‘I’m Stuck in a Condo’, ‘Roadkill’ and ‘Just Say Yes’, as well as three great covers, ‘Golden Boys’ (Pat Smear), ‘Elevator’ (Grape Fruit) and ‘Pretty Ballerina’ (The Left Banke.) All three were great songs for The Dickies to cover but, not being as well-known as previous choices, left many fans thinking they were the bands’ own songs… Certainly, they made them their own in here! Other notable tracks on the album include ‘Oh Boy’ which Leonard and Stan had initially written for The Ramones, the bubblegum pop of ‘House of Raoul’ and the Baroque ballad ‘Song of the Dawn’, which ends the album in a bizarrely sombre mood. However, overall the most notable feature was the excellent production, courtesy of the band themselves alongside the mysterious John X, which totally contrasted to the lacklustre mix which had sadly let-down their previous LP, ‘Second Coming’. Aside from this, anyone who saw the band live around this time will undoubtedly confirm that the new songs fitted-in with their older material to great effect and it really looked as if the band were back at full strength, although various line-up changes and hiccups conspired to thwart them once again. But whatever happened, it doesn’t deter from the fact that this is a truly great album. Every fan of The Dickies has their own favourite albums… in my case, I tend to think that they’ve never made a bad album, but some are even better than the others. ‘Idjit Savant’ is clearly one of the best.
DISSENT. Knee Deep in Scheisse CD (firstname.lastname@example.org) The first time I saw South London-based Dissent, I wasn’t very impressed, but I now think it must have been due to a bad sound or whatever, because I’ve seen them several times since then and they’ve been getting better and better. This set of six songs is really good, fast punk rock played with plenty of energy and confidence. They mix older UK punk styles with more recent US punk, keeping the songs catchy and melodic instead of just thrashing away. They owe as much to Oi! as they do to pop-punk, but there are also hints of The Adolescents, Pegboy and maybe even Snuff along the way. Lyrically, they seem to have a mix of serious and humorous subjects (I wish there was a lyric sheet so I could follow them more) and this works well, giving them plenty of options for the future. Definitely a band to catch live and, if that’s not possible, track down a copy of this CD to hear what you’ve been missing!
DOGMATICS. Drop That Needle CD (Rum Bar) Five-song mini-album, but despite the lack of tracks to make it a full-on LP, this still manages to give a good overview of what The Dogmatics are all about. They’ve got elements of rock’n’roll, pub rock, Country, powerpop and punk in their bloodstream and it all comes out in the mix. More than a few reviewers have made the comparison with the likes of Dave Edmunds and Nick Lowe during their Rockpile days, whilst I think you could also include The Saints and maybe even a few hints of The Replacements. This album has actually been available since last Summer, but trust me, it’ll be a treat to catch-up!
DOMINANT PATRI. Heroes Glory EP (Demo Tapes) Dominant Patri were a punk band based in Luton from1982-1983. They only played a total of 15 gigs but did manage to record one demo tape, from which these tracks are taken. Although musically they were still quite basic, they also had a lot of good ideas and veered away from the more regular punk rock sounds of the early Eighties. For a start, they had two vocalists, Chris and Kate, which gave the songs an intriguing counterpoint, while musically they took elements from the more adventurous anarcho-punk bands of the time (Flux of Pink Indians, Antisect, Dirt, The Mob) as well as a few nods to their local predecessors, UK Decay. Unlike many of their contemporaries, they weren’t just interested in thrashing away as fast as possible. The title track is a brooding, atmospheric song that insists on your attention. ‘Experiment’ gradually builds-up and has the kind of sound that Flux of Pink Indians developed on their first LP, although Kate’s vocals provide a distinct difference. ‘Death of Thomas’ continues with this style at a mid-paced tempo with Chris providing the main vocals in a righteous style that recalls Antisect (Kates’ backing vocals are unfortunately low in the mix.) These three tracks offer much potential, so it’s a shame that the band didn’t continue for long after these recordings. Given a chance, I’m sure they could’ve made a really great record, but sometimes these things don’t work out. Let’s be glad that they did at least record these demos. Pressed as a one-sided 12”, which comes with a 16 page A4 fanzine, including photos, lyrics and original fanzine interviews, this is a great record that’s well-worth tracking down. Limited to only 300 copies, so you’d better be quick!
DOT DASH. Madman in the Rain (Beautiful Music) Dot Dash are a Washington DC based band and this is their seventh album since 2011, all of which have been released on this Canadian label. I’m surprised that I haven’t heard of them before now, partly because they include former- Youth Brigade (DC) drummer Danny Ingram, partly because they’re (presumably) named after one of my favourite Wire singles and also because they sound great! Despite their HC connections, Dot Dash play intelligent, catchy guitar-pop, reminding me of other great DC bands like Senator Flux and Unrest, whilst at certain points maybe even early REM, the Only Ones and Wire. I wish I knew more about this band, but I’ll definitely try to track down some of their previous releases. They may not be to everyone’s taste, but do your best to hear this album because Dot Dash might just become your new favourite band…
DOUBLE FISTED. Carousel 7” (Records With Attitude) I really wasn’t sure what to expect when this record arrived at FNL HQ. All the way from Arizona, with very little info, but the sleeve, insert and dark red vinyl all looked really nice and interesting. From the insert, the band is just a two-piece so I was half-expecting another Garage/Blues duo, but first-play soon dispels that idea. The a-side is a hard-rock instrumental, reminding me of the Dutch band Gore in some ways. Massive riffs, solid rhythms, no bullshit. Not a wanky guitar-solo in ear-shot. And also surprisingly catchy, something that will get you up on your feet in seconds. The B-side, ‘3AM’, starts out as an instrumental before vocals suddenly emerge about half-way through, in a Cronos/Venom sorta style (which isn’t a bad thing at all.) But it’s still the riff’n’rhythm that’s the important thing and that keeps driving all the way to the end. This is one lovely slice of power-riffing. Play it as loud and often as you can!
DOWNTOWN DEATH RATTLE. EP (https://downtowndeathrattle.bandcamp.com) Las Vegas based Death Rock combo, although in this case the music is much-more stylised than the pseudo-goths who usually adopt that genre. This music is much-more about attitude and atmosphere, plus it also has deeper roots than most who try to jump on the ride. Downtown Death Rattle obviously have a clearer appreciation of what they’re putting together, mixing early LA punk bands with the more experimental elements of the Hollywood scene… think about X, Weirdos, The Screamers, 45 Grave and the Gun Club. This is a band who aren’t interested in sticking to just one genre… they mix rockabilly, punk rock, Garage and Glam to come out with something both exciting and entertaining. Given the right opportunities, Downtown Death Rattle is a band that could be very popular… check them out to be first on your block!
EDDIE & THE HOT RODS. The Singles 1976-85. CD (Captain Oi!) Eddie & the Hot Rods should have been much more successful than they were,but for some reason their career was derailed just as they were on the verge of major popularity. Some have claimed a curse was placed on them by Jimmy Page, but in reality it was probably more to do their refusal to jump on the ‘punk rock’ bandwagon, instead referring to themselves as a rock’n’roll band (albeit, very high energy…) This just didn’t fit-in with the narrative that the music press were promoting, so the Hot Rods were side-lined. However, especially in retrospect, the influence they had on the emerging Punk scene is very evident and in many ways (alongside their neighbours from Canvey Island, Dr Feelgood) they bridged the gap between the likes of the MC5 and New York Dolls and the UK Punk scene of 76/77. Indeed, Rob Tyner would go on to record a single with the Hot Rods (included in this set) and Johnny Thunders would borrow various members of the Hot Rods to help him record his classic ‘So Alone’ album. At the end of the day, how many compilations can claim to really document the original UK Punk scene if they don’t at least include ‘Do Anything You Wanna Do’? Which ever way you look at it, Eddie & the Hot Rods were an outstanding band and their first three albums are essential. Alongside those records, they also released many great singles and EPs, and this collection compiles all of those released during their first decade. Initially signed to the Island label, their first slice of vinyl was ‘Writing on the Wall’, an energetic and catchy rhythm’n’blues anthem, quickly followed by an enthusiastic cover of ‘Wooly Bully’. The ‘Live at the Marquee’ EP captured their powerful live sound, although only featuring covers, but next came ‘Teenage Depression’ (title track of their first album) which really set them apart. Full of angst, attitude and raw power, this was just the type of song that numerous new punk bands would be trying to compose a year later. Before starting work on their second album, the band brought a second guitarist, Graeme Douglas, on board and his contribution resulted in their most successful single, ‘Do Anything You Wanna Do’, as well as their best-known album, ‘Life on the Line’, which also included the excellent singles ‘Quit This Town’ and ‘Life on the Line’ itself. There was a gap before their third album, ‘Thriller’ was released in 1979, but it still included another couple of great singles, ‘Media Messiahs’ and ‘Power and the Glory’, both of which are amongst their best. However, they found themselves dropped by Island and signed by EMI, who promptly lost interest and did little to promote their ensuing album, ‘Fish’n’Chips’ and the single ‘Wide-Eyed Kids’, both released in 1980. The original band subsequently split-up, although many reunions and new line-ups continued over the years right up to Barrie Masters death in 2019. I saw various versions of the band on quite a few occasions and I can confirm, regardless of the different line-ups, they were always an impressive live-act. There were also other records released after 1985, but if you want to hear the best of the band, it’s that early era that you really need to listen to. This collection of their singles is probably the best place to start (although some of my favourite songs are album tracks.) Play this loud, drink some beer, and enjoy one of the best bands the UK has ever produced. If you’re not familiar with them already, it’s about time that you were.
EDDIE & THE SUBTITLES. Skeletons in the Closet LP (Slovenly) In many ways, Eddie & the Subtitles were the missing link between the Californian punk scene and the Garage punk scene of the Sixties. Eddie Joseph had been around for a while so he already appreciated the raw sounds and minimal chords needed to make exciting rock’n’roll. Initially he recruited members of The Middle Class and they started playing gigswith the likes of Black Flag, The Adolescents and Circle Jerks… not quite ‘hardcore’ at the time but certainly ramping-up the energy. They recorded this, their first album, in Fullerton and it was unleashed in 1981, featuring contributions from other musicians including Geza X and Nicky Beat (The Germs, The Weirdos.) But by this point, Eddie wasn’t just interested in the punk rock scene as he was also delving back into his love of early rock’n’roll, surf rock and new wave pop. (To give you an indication, his song ‘Gina’ was later covered by both Josie Cotton and the Stray Cats…) In addition, he also covered that classic tale of angst ‘We Gotta Get Out of This Place’ and the ultimate basement-party anthem ‘Louie Louie’, both with suitably snarlin’ attitude and aggression. As someone once explained, there’s punk rock as a style (Ramones/Clash) and there’s punk rock as attitude (do anything you fucking want to do.) Eddie & The Subtitles managed to be both on this album. For three-chord credibility, listen to both versions of ‘American Society’, but for stretching your imagination, try ‘Stream of Consciousness’. It’s not clear why, but the tracks have been re-sequenced for this release… that said the original version is pretty scarce so for new listeners it’s not going to make a big difference. This is a really great album, full of possibilities, raw power and attitude. Trust me… you need to hear it.
EL PERRO. Hair of El Perro CD (Alive) Revisiting my Spanish phrasebook for the first time since they refused to let me take the O-level, ‘el perro’ means either a domesticated dog or a lazy person. Not sure exactly how this relates to the band, who are a relatively new combo featuring Parker Griggs (guitar and vocals) and Lonnie Blanton (drums) both of whom have served time as members of Radio Moscow. As a starting point, think about early-Seventies psychedelic rock but be prepared to have it mixed with almost funky bass grooves, some truly sharp drumming and guitar breaks that at times recall Hendrix at his most focused. Meanwhile the vocals recall Gary Floyd (The Dicks, Sister Double Happiness) at his most powerful. At its’ best, this album will have you thinking of all the greatest moments from bands like Grand Funk Railroad or Blue Cheer, but you’ll also notice that there’s a lot more going into this sound, both old and new. The band members clearly know their musical references and do justice to them by creating something new, rather than just imitating the past. Be prepared to play this baby loud, because that’s really the only way it should be handled.
EYES OF TOMORROW / PERFECT SKY split LP (WTF /Dedication) Two bands sharing the space on one album. Eyes of Tomorrow are a German hardcore band that play a style which recalls the more brutal sounds of New York Hardcore, perhaps mixed with some Prong and Poison Idea. On the other side of this release, you’ll find Perfect Sky who are based in Austria. Their musical roots are also clearly to be found in the NYHC scene, but to this they also add a a slower, riff-heavy metallic style that at some points even leans towards Black Metal territory. Both bands have a lot of power behind their music and great productions to make sure that none of their energy is lost. Not bad at all.
FINAL. I Am The Dirt Under Your Fingernails CD (Fourth Dimension) Justin Broadrick is best known for his work with Godflesh and Techno-Animal, but he has also been involved with many other solo and collaborative projects. ‘Final’ was actually the name of his first musical efforts back in the early-Eighties and although it’s not one of his better-known projects, it’s one that he has returned to sporadically. The music he produced early-on was heavily influenced by the original Industrial scene, but since the revival of ‘Final’ in 2005, it seems to have moved more towards drone-like soundscapes and dark, atmospheric textures. It’s actually quite difficult to review because it’s music that will provoke different reactions in different people. Some will undoubtedly find it oppressive or uneasy, whilst others will find it invigorating, albeit in a slightly unsettling way (I lean towards the latter.) Final creates sounds that really capture the mood and the moment, so how you respond to it will probably depend on how and when you hear it. If you have enjoyed Broadrick’s music in the past, there’s no reason why you wouldn’t also enjoy this, but just be wary that this isn’t something that you can play in the background. You’ll need to let yourself become fully immersed in these sounds before you are able to properly understand and enjoy it. Follow your instincts and play it loud!
GEOFFREY OI!COTT. Carry On Oi!Cott CD (Boss Tuneage) An Oi band obsessed with Cricket? Okay, that’s not a bad idea, but it’s not something that’s going to remain funny after too many listens. Fortunately, the band seem to have realised this and moved away from a basic Oi towards a more accessible punk style, allowing the music to stand up for itself. As a result, this is actually a rather good album with plenty of energy and catchy melodies, something that will appeal to a much broader range of punk fans. Lyrically, they’re also not so fixed on the cricket theme, although it’s still in there. It’s just not so prominent this time around. In fact, the album starts with a song about darts (Hardskin did that first with ‘Jockey on the Oche’) and also revisit the Noble Art of Arrows in the excellent ‘Frimley Green Preservation Society’. But elsewhere the songs seem to veer between genuinely-amusing observations and Macc Lad-style crudity. Of course, it’s not supposed to be taken seriously, but it’ll be down to your personal taste as to whether you find it funny or just banal. For me, it doesn’t spoil the album because musically, the songs are pretty strong, but I still have to wonder, would this band be even better if they ditched the gimmicks? They’ve obviously got the talent to write catchy songs, perhaps they just need to take themselves a bit more seriously?
THE GUN CLUB. Live at the Hacienda ’83 LP (Cherry Red) Jeffrey Lee Pierce never achieved the acclaim he deserved during his lifetime, although his legacy remains evident. The Gun Club were an erratic band and the number of different line-ups suggests that Jeffrey may not have been the easiest person to work with, but when the elements came together they were an incredible outfit, both in the studio and live onstage. This album captures them at their most ferocious, hurling themselves through a set of songs taken from their first two albums, including ‘Fire of Love’, ‘Sex Beat’, ‘Death Party’ and ‘Goodbye Johnny’. The sound quality is superb, transcribing the raw power of the performance and the atmosphere of the show. At times it sounds as if the band are hanging-on by their fingernails as they roar through the songs, but that’s what rock’n’roll should be about. There are already a bunch of Gun Club live albums available but this is one of the best and I can’t recommend it enough.
GUNFIRE DANCE. Witness to the Crime LP (Easy Action) Gunfire Dance originally formed in Birmingham during the mid-Eighties. They forged a sound that mixed the brash sleaze of the New York Dolls with the swagger of ‘Raw Power’ era Stooges, together with a very British punk rock attitude. But despite a strong following, which saw them regularly selling-out gigs at the Marquee and even headlining at New Yorks’ legendary CBGBs, the band only managed to release one EP and a 7” during their original lifetime. Unfortunately, they just weren’t what the music biz were looking for and, under such blinkered eyes, the men behind the desks couldn’t see the bands’ real talent for what it was. Regardless, the band had a studio-session recorded by Brian James and Rat Scabies, which still sounds great and provides a good chunk of the material featured here. This album also features tracks from their ‘Killing Time’ EP (now a much sought-after and expensive collectors’ item) and their US-only 7”, ‘Suit & Tie’. During their time, they shared stages with the likes of Jayne County, Thee Hypnotics and NY Loose, whilst after their split, members went on to play with Brian James and Walter Lure. People who knew the real deal recognised them and embraced their sounds. After their premature demise, the band did attempt a return in 2005, but this was cut-short due to the untimely death of frontman Ant. This collection of original recordings, all remastered to full effect, will serve as their final testament, but what a great way to go!
GYASI. Pronounced Jah-See CD (Alive) Currently living in Nashville (having grown-up in the equally unlikely settings of West Virginia) Gyasi has somehow developed into a loud, brash performer who mixes many of the best moments of early Seventies icons such as Bowie, Bolan and Jobriath. This is his first album and, whilst comparisons are easily made, there’s plenty of unique character in these songs to raise it above mere nostalgia or imitation. The thing is, Gyasi seems to understand where all of those artists were coming from and instead of just taking the copycat-route, he digs into those roots to find those inspirations and then reassembles them to create something of his own. The results veer from electric to acoustic, from (hard) rock to pop and from Glitter to Glam. First and foremost, it’s meant to be fun, although I’m sure you’ll find the lyrical themes will also keep your intellect ticking. The production and arrangements (handled by Gyasi himself) really bring out the best from each song and are never afraid to add psychedelic flushes at one point, or adopt Glitter Band stomping at another. The album has a great flow from song to song, suggesting that Gyasi had a powerful vision of what he wanted to achieve, and he’s an impressive with a distinct vocal style that really helps to make his own mark. There isn’t a bad song on any of this and, if anything, it actually seems to get better and better as the album progresses (‘Kiss Kiss’ and ‘Godhead’ at the end of the LP are my personal favourites.) If you opt for the CD, there’s a bonus track at the end, ‘Sword Fight’, which is another great song and a perfect upbeat way to end this debut. Gyasi has made a bold statement with this album and the indications are that he has more than enough talent to build on it. Be sure to catch this record soon.
THE GYMSLIPS. Rocking with The Renees CD (Optic Nerve) I remember hearing The Gymslips back at the time and not being too impressed, so I wasn’t expecting too much from this reissue. However, I’m glad to say that I was very-much wrong! This is a great album and all I can think is that I originally heard one of the bands’ less-representative songs, because most of the tracks included here are brash, catchy melodic punk rock. The Gymslips mixed raw punk (Ramones, Buzzcocks) with indie-pop sensibilities, Sixties Mod and witty, street-level lyrics. Attitude-wise, they were no-nonsense rockers (‘Renees’ was a slang-name for Mod-girls in the late Sixties) unafraid to turn up their guitars or their attitude. John Peel became a big supporter and they toured with the likes of the Dolly Mixtures. The album had a good reception when it was first released in 1983, but problems resulted in a big line-up change (only Paula Richards remained from the original band) by the time they released their final single, ‘Evil Eye’, in 1985, after which they broke-up. Listening to this record now, I really wish I’d paid more attention when they were around. Although their songs were mostly based around the three-chord ethic, they were also adept at incorporating insistent vocal harmonies and interesting twists within their arrangements, elevating their songs from good to great. You’ll often hear brief riffs borrowed from other bands appearing in their songs, whilst their excellent cover of Suzi Quatro’s ’48 Crash’ is offset against their less-likely version of the theme music from TV show ‘Angels’! There’s lots to enjoy on this album and you’ll also get a bonus EP (‘Silly Egg’) with this reissue, so no excuses, this is something you really need to hear. Go and get yourself a copy now!
HAROLD TURGIS. The Sentinels, cassette (Noble Lowndes Annuities) First thing, ‘Harold Turgis’ is the name of the project, not the actual person producing this music, and ‘The Sentinels’ is the second cassette from this experimental, electronic project. Musically, it recalls some of the early releases on the Industrial label, exploring minimalist sounds and rhythms whilst delving into different sonic moods and atmospherics. At times it produces soundtrack-like qualities, suggesting images that veer from dreamlike through to nightmarish. These recordings may be a bit lo-fi in approach, but the results are pretty impressive and certainly bode well for future releases. This is something that will appeal to fans of Throbbing Gristle and (certain releases by) Coil, where they explore dark ambient sounds. If that appeals to you, then you should investigate further; haroldturgis.bandcamp.com
INSONIKA. Pithos CD (insonikaband.bandcamp.com) Hard rock band from Jonkoping in Sweden, where the band have already self-released one EP and one album prior to this latest record. Having been together for over five years, they have developed their own style, based around stoner-rock riffs but also unafraid to temper the heavier chords with slower, more melodic breaks and even vocal harmonies. They also use keyboards to add further depth and it all makes for an intriguing and enjoyable sonic-excursion. The excellent production allows plenty of space for them to mix powerful repetition with catchy hooks and heavy rhythms with insistent vocals. It’s difficult to compare this album to any other bands because, frankly, I can’t think of anyone else doing anything like this at the moment, although certain moments had me recalling early Soundgarden and I’m sure that the likes of Black Sabbath and Led Zepellin are in there somewhere. They’ve already established a strong following on the live circuit in Sweden, so I can only hope we get a chance to see them in the UK soon. This album is highly recommended.
JAY ALLEN & THE ARCHCRIMINALS. Decriminalized CD (Rum Bar) Somewhere in between The Nerves and The Replacements, you’ll find Jay Allen & the Archcriminals. Great guitar sounds collide with instantly catchy melodies, razor-sharp lyrics and plenty of powerpop energy. The record kicks-off with three of their own songs which are all highly enjoyable and definitely the highpoints of this release, before they decide to have some fun with the remaining tracks and cover Tom Jones’ classic, ‘It’s Not Unusual’ in a suitably messy tongue-in-cheek version, before ending proceedings with ‘Effin’ Dreidel Song’, a raucous anti-tradition rant that takes the band almost into punk rock territory as they tear into it with a genuine sense of annoyance (in fact, you get two versions of this track, one toned-down for the more delicate listener whilst the other includes the full-on expletives.) Yeah, this is a lot of fun and I look forward to hearing more from this band!
KIRKBY KISS Ouroborus EP (https://kirkbykiss.bandcamp.com) Kirkby Kiss are a hardcore band from New Jersey, but while they obviously come from the roots of that genre, their real strength lays in the way that they twist and subvert their sound to draw-out the more interesting elements. As I’ve said before, extreme music ceases to be extreme if that’s all you play or listen to. In much the same way that Fucked Up have made their mark by bringing unexpected influences into their songs, Kirkby Kiss make music that’s powerful and at times brutal, but also temper those sounds with softer instrumentation and, whilst the vocals are raw and aggressive, they also effectively carry the melodies during the more chaotic musical moments. Kirkby Kiss create contrast within what they’re doing, ensuring that things don’t become one-dimensional or predictable (something that many supposed ‘extreme’ bands fail to grasp.) The results are invigorating and surprisingly enjoyable, although never relinquishing the raw power that underpins their sound. Kirkby Kiss are a band who take all the best things about hardcore but instead of playing-safe, seem intent on taking it forward. If you enjoy music that’s powerful and creative, this is something that I think you’ll enjoy.
KLEISTWAHR. Common Values CD (Fourth Dimension) This is the latest album by Kleistwahr, a project which has become quite prolific in recent years (ten albums since 2014…) For all intent and purposes, Kleistwahr is a solo effort from Gary Mundy, also known as the founder of the Broken Flag label and a member of Ramleh. But whilst this album will not disappoint fans of those other entities, Kleistwahr is very much its’ own beast. This is music that embraces different styles, from Industrial to Psychedelia and Krautrock through to Ambient, creating dreamlike soundscapes (both pleasant and unsettling.) Gary Mundy uses harsh sounds and at times the music can be quite confrontational, but just as often he creates tracks that are almost calming (albeit it with the underlying thought that the hounds could be let loose at any moment…) The opening track, ‘In a Blood Covered Land’, has an epic sound and a dramatic quality that drives itself along, before the following track, ‘Toward a New Land’, quietens the output with an unnerving, repetitive style that suggests a completely different source of concern. Throughout the album, there are appearances by an understated organ sound that for some reason, had me recalling the ‘Carnival of Souls’ soundtrack, and there are plenty of other moments that I’m sure will bring similar moments or images to your mind. The title track ends this album and begins with a snarling approach that recalls early Swans, before delving into a more tempered, soundtrack-like territory. Altogether, this is a really good album that suggests Kleistwahr is continuing to improve with age. If you have adventurous ears, you really should hear this.
THEE LONELY HEARTS. Treat Me Like You Just Don’t Care 7” (Detour) This is good…very good, in fact. The A-side is a great slice of guitar pop, with a big sound that recalls a collision between Joe Meek and Phil Spector, while the band create the vibe of Fifties rock’n’roll and Sixties pop, something like Roy Orbison penning a song for The Flaming Groovies. Meanwhile, the B-side, ‘Somebody Like You’, is even better! The band go for an epic powerpop-meets-garage rock style and achieve something close to perfection. Big guitar sound, stompin’ rhythms, insistent harmonies… Seriously, you need to hear this single. Go and get yourself a copy right now!
LOWEST COMMON DENOMINATOR. Live in Deppy (l-c-d.bandcamp.com/album/live-in-deppy) South London band Junko Fuse split-up recently, when singer/guitarist Jon moved away, but the remaining members, Russ and Steve have since started writing and rehearsing with a new bass player and a new band. This is their first set of recordings, featuring eight new songs recorded live at their rehearsal room. As such, the sound quality isn’t great, but you can hear everything and get a sense of what they’re doing. Admittedly, it’s still early days for the band, but at present they seem to be going for a mix between early UK punk and perhaps some of the better bands of the early Eighties. The songs are mostly upbeat, but ‘Won’t Believe Your Eyes’ stands out as it takes a slower, almost grungey pace. ‘Blue/Red’ is probably their catchiest song, with simple but effective chords, a strong melody and catchy vocals. Obviously, this is more of an indication of what they’re doing rather than a full-on demo-tape, but it’s a good start and they’ve got a solid set of songs to build-on. I think it’ll be worth keeping your eyes and ears open for this band.
LUKE HAINES & PETER BUCK. All the Kids are Super Bummed Out CD (Cherry Red) This is the second collaboration between the former Auteurs and REM members. Their first album, ‘Beat Poetry for Survivalists’, emerged in 2020 although the pandemic prevented it being properly promoted. However, the self-same lock-downs also presented the duo with plenty of time to work on their second album, which rapidly grew into a double-disc meisterwerk. Buck is responsible for most of the guitars and electronics while Haines is responsible for most the vocals and some of the guitars. Additionally, Scott McCaughey (ex-Young Fresh Fellows etc) plays bass and mellotron while Linda Pitmon (ex-Zuzu’s Petals etc) handles the drums. But, although there are a few hints along the way, this album is very separate from their previous musical outings, working on the hazy edges of pop and rock. The approach may lean towards lo-fi, but there is still plenty of warmth and character in these songs. Musically, there is a tendency towards Americana, but this is effortlessly tempered by the very English tone of the lyrics, creating something that succeeds on its’ own terms. In some ways, the music serves as a soundtrack for the tales and imagery relayed in Haines’ lyrics, although the subtle melodies and rhythms certainly stand-up effectively on their own merits. In fact, the closest connection to former bands is that this collection of songs takes its’ influences and inspirations from a wide range of styles (Sixties pop and psychedelia through to the more interesting moments of Seventies punk and Eighties indie.) The results are an album that delivers many great songs whilst presenting plenty of possibilities for further development. The overall tone may be reassuringly mellow, but don’t take any of it for granted as this is an album with surprising depths and deceptive twists, ensuring that you’ll never be able to be entirely settled as you listen… This is an album that deserves to be heard by a wide-audience and while it may not be top-ten material, it is a record that people will still be listening to and talking about in many years to come. Hear it now to stay ahead of the late-comers.
MARINE GIRLS. Lazy Ways / Beach Party CD (Cherry Red) The Marine Girls formed in 1980 and were highly influential on the ‘indie-pop’ scene that developed over the ensuing decade. Alongside the likes of Young Marble Giants and Television Personalities, they took the DIY ethic from punk but headed in a more melodic and often minimal direction, concentrating more of the song itself rather than the noise. Their first album, ‘Beach Party’, was recorded in a lo-fi home studio but soon became a favourite on the independent scene and resulted in the band being invited to record two John Peel sessions. The band members, however, were all still attending colleges in different parts of England, so there were inevitable difficulties in performing in recording on a regular basis, but their second album, ‘Lazy Ways’ was completed and released in 1983, reaching the Top Ten of the independent charts. However, shortly afterwards the band split-up, with Tracey Thorn going on to further success with Everything But the Girl. Although only together for a relatively short period of time, the Marine Girls proved to be very influential on the ensuing ‘indie’ scene, particularly on the so-called ‘twee’ bands like Tallulah Gosh and The Pastels. This collection contains everything you really need to know about the band and also includes the rare video for the song ‘A Place in the Sun’. If you’re already a fan or new to their songs, this is going to be something you need to hear!
MINOR THREAT. Live at Irving Plaza LP (Suicidal) Recorded in New York on 15th May 1982, this album features 15 tracks of Minor Threat at their prime. At a guess, it seems to be from a mixing-desk tape as the audience-noise is pretty low in the mix. But you can hear all of the band pretty clearly, even though the guitar really needs to be a bit louder. There’s a lot of chat between Ian and the crowd so it seems like it was a pretty raucous-but-friendly set and songs like ‘Straight Edge’, ‘Filler’ and ‘Out of Step’ are performed at a furious pace. Alongside their own songs, they also include blistering versions of ‘12XU’ and ‘Stepping Stone’, plus a short, presumably-improvised reggae jam listed as ‘Asshole Dub’. For fans of Minor Threat who enjoy hearing live recordings, this is definitely an album that’s worth tracking-down.
THE MUTANTS. Curse of the Easily Amused CD (Liberation Hall) Formed in 1977, The Mutants were an important part of San Francisco’s early punk rock scene. Like many of their contemporaries (Avengers, Dils, Crime etc) they may have been initially inspired by The Ramones but The Mutants took their own direction, combining music with an Art School attitude to create something not so far removed from what Devo or Talking Heads were doing around the same time. Although fronted by Fritz Fox, they also included two female singers, Sue White and Sally Webster, to add further depth to their delivery and their provocative live shows quickly built a strong local following for the band, spanning the punk, new wave and alternative-Art crowds. But for some reason, it took them several years before they would release their first record, the self-titled EP on local label 415 Records in 1980. It would then take another two years before their one and only LP, ‘Fun Terminal’, was released, but during that time they still managed to play further afield, particularly LA which they visited frequently and also cities like New York, Washington DC and Boston, receiving enthusiastic reactions along the way. Unfortunately, the original line-up began to fall-apart during the mid-Eighties, although different versions of the band do still continue to reunite on appropriate occasions, when it seems the right thing to do. This new, 14 song compilation is made up of previously unreleased tracks, including eight songs which have never been released at all. Perhaps because it took several years before they recorded their first EP, and then another couple of years before the album appeared, there seems to be quite a lot of material that was jettisoned along the way and is only now beginning to re-surface. But what was unfortunate for the band back then, is a bonus for fans finally getting to hear that material now. Many of these songs have been remixed to bring out the best in them, while others are entirely different versions to the tracks that are already available elsewhere. Musically, they still sound unique and that gives these recordings a vitality that makes them sound surprisingly fresh. If you’ve ever been interested in the early American Punk scenes, this is something you really need to hear. The Mutants took their own path and played their own way. Isn’t that what Punk was supposed to do?
NORRSKOLD. Prisma Aeternus CD (www.facebook.com/Norrskold ) Norrskold are a Swedish band that came together when guitarist Henrik Bodin-Skold left his former group, Irrbloss. Initially, it started as a solo studio-project but after their first few release, other members were recruited so the band could play live. However, at the moment it seems to have returned to being a studio-based effort once again, although you would never tell that from listening to this album. Musically, the aim was to combine elements of Black metal with more melodic rock sounds to come up with a different style of their own. Apparently, they also embrace influences from traditional folk music, although I really can’t comment on that as I know nothing of Swedish folk songs! But, to a great extent, they achieve their aim, maintaining fast (but not thrashy) tempos throughout, while the vocals are growled in a Black metal fashion. It produces a good balance between the two styles, tempering one style with the other to create an interesting combination. Not bad at all.
NO WAY. Live at the Beeb CD (Opportunes) No Way were a punk band from the Teeside area who only released one 3-track single in 1978 which is now highly collectable. However, the following year they were invited to record a session for BBC Radio Cleveland and they took the opportunity to record a dozen songs in quick succession, even though only a few of them would be broadcast. The mastertapes were then stored away until 2015 when they were rediscovered, transferred to digital and released as a vinyl LP in the UK and Italy. This revised version of the album not only appears on CD for the first time, but also includes a further 11 tracks, taped while the band were warming-up for the main session and getting the recording levels ready. This set of songs is mostly made-up of cover-versions (Sex Pistols, Clash, The Who, PiL) but gives you a chance to hear the band having a bit of fun and adds further depth to the character of the band. Musically, they were pretty raw but you can also hear that they clearly had more ideas than the generic three-chord combos who were ten-a-penny at the time. In many ways, this session presents a solid base from which the band could have developed into something really interesting, but as with many bands around the same time, they split-up in 1980 as musical trends started to change. Occasional reunions occurred over the years, but the sad loss of their singer Martin ‘Matey’ Powell in 2007 put a full-stop to the original band. So, unless any other long-lost tapes surface, this album serves as the bands’ final statement and it does so in fine fashion. They may not have made it big or sold many records, but they did manage to write and record some great songs which I’m sure plenty of people will enjoy all over again.
OFF! Free LSD (Fat Possum) Having enjoyed all of the Off! records to date, this new album still managed to blow me away. Although Keith Morris and Dmitri Coats are still fronting the band, there’s a new rhythm section (Justin Brown and Autry Fulbright) which helps to propel the music even further. Their first two studio albums were solid, vital examples of how hardcore can still be an essential form, but this record sees the band expanding into even more extreme territory. There’s a bigger, more metallic sound to the guitars, almost thrashing in places, but tempered by jazz-influences and other, more experimental sounds. The arrangement of the songs never allow the album to sound like straight-ahead rock, much that I doubt anything these guys would do could ever be straight-ahead… Keith’s vocals are more powerful and precise than ever, even if he does sound genuinely deranged at times. But for all the anger and righteous emotion, there are plenty of catchy riffs and melodies to keep the music accessible, even if it is whole-heartedly brutal at the same time. This is an album that embraces Californian Hardcore traditions, but also pushes them firmly into the present. No-one could ever accuse Keith Morris of sitting on his laurels. When he does something, you know it’s going to be 100%. Fortunately, he has a band who are more than up to the task of matching his performance. This is quite possibly the best Off! record to date, and considering the quality of their previous releases, that’s no mean feat. If you still love loud, angry music (albeit with a wry sense of humour) then this is an album you need to hear.
OMEGA TRIBE. New Peace Movement LP (Grow Your Own) I was pretty enthusiastic when I first heard that Omega Tribe were reforming. ‘No Love Lost’ is such a great album and has remained one of my favourites ever since I first heard it. However, soon after that record was released, the band line-up changed and their next record (‘It’s a Hard Life’) proved to be a complete change of direction and they subsequently split-up in 1988. When the band began playing again in 2017, I was hopeful that they would be playing some of the ‘No Love Lost’ material but apart from one or two songs, they seemed to be concentrating on new material that proved to be in yet another direction. I appreciate when bands decide that they want to develop or move away from their older material, but at the same time Omega Tribe were still using their original name, artwork and imagery when, for all intents and purposes, they were really a different band, with only Hugh and Daryl remaining from the original line-up. But here’s the thing; as I got to see them a few more times, I actually started to like their new material and now that they’ve finally released new recordings, I’ve found myself enjoying this album. They’ve found a good balance between their original sound and a more-mellow style that they now adopt for some of the new songs. The title track kicks-off the album and it’s a pretty upbeat, boisterous song that appraises the current possibilities for a fresh anarcho/peace movement in an optimistic and heartfelt manner. ‘Better Man’ takes a slower pace, albeit with sparse, ‘post-punk’ rhythms, while the lyrics are well-written, thought-provoking and direct to the point (actually, I have to say, the lyrics are rather good throughout this album.) ‘Sorry’, however, slows things down even further, to an almost Bolan-esque piece of folky-whimsy, while ‘Betrayal’ goes for light-weight pop. But then, ‘Ain’t Gonna Let ‘em’ bursts into life with a real sense of purpose and everything is back on track. This is probably the closest they get to the style of ‘No Love Lost’ and it works really well, but ‘Tomorrow’ ends side one on a note that can only be described as ‘hippy’. Fortunately, side two begins with ‘Jewel’ which reminds me of Wire or The Cure, perhaps, while ‘Shit’ delivers a stirring slice of three-chord punk rock that plays like an instant anthem. ‘Sometimes’ is slower but the buoyant rhythm and excellent lyrics will draw you all the way in. ‘The Streets’ is a bit unremarkable, but ‘Lies’ returns to melodic punk territory, something like a stripped-down version of The Clash? Finally, ‘Revolution’ ends the album on another slower tone, but the guitar and bass keep the atmosphere spikey and poignant, ensuring that the record finishes on a memorable note. On the whole, I’m glad to say that I enjoyed this album, probably more than I had expected and although it does, for the most part, sound very different to the original Omega Tribe, it still stands up as a valid statement in its’ own right. If you can listen to it in those terms, I’m sure you can enjoy it too.
POP ICONS / RUTTERKIN. Split Songs EP (https://popicons.bandcamp.com/album/rutterkin-pop-icons-split ) Pop Icons are a punk band from Phoenix, Arizona, while Rutterkin are based in Florida. I’m not sure how they got to work together on this bandcamp-exclusive release, but they’ve both provided two songs and all proceeds will be going to The Tampa Bay Abortion Fund. I’m sure many of you already know the problems facing Pro-Choice / Women’s Rights groups in the USA at the moment, so this is something worth supporting. Both bands play catchy contemporary punk rock, with Rutterkin leaning more towards the emo side of things and Pop Icons going for a brash, upbeat and very catchy style. All for songs are enjoyable and, as well as this release being for a very worthy cause, this is a record that you should be checking out because the music is great! It’s also a ‘pay-what-you-can’ release, so give them a listen on bandcamp and be sure to make an appropriate donation.
PUSS JOHNSON & SATAN’S RATS. Satan’s Cats EP (Salamander) Sometimes a new record comes along and all you can say is that, if you don’t enjoy this then there’s not much hope for you… Satan’s Rats were a short-lived punk rock band who formed in Evesham during 1977 and split-up in 1978. Nonetheless, they played gigs supporting the likes of XTC, Slaughter & the Dogs and the Sex Pistols, and released three classic punk singles that are still highly sought after to this day. After they split, the band members found a new singer called Wendy Wu and re-established themselves as The Photo’s, scoring a top-ten album along the way. Puss Johnson is the front-woman of Pussycat & the Dirty Johnsons, one of the best punk-rock’n’roll bands currently making great noise at venues around the country. I have no idea how this collaboration came about, but this EP features three original members of Satan’s Rats with Puss contributing her suitably raucous vocals to the proceedings. As an introduction to this new line-up, the band have resurrected four songs from the original Rats’ repertoire (‘You Make Me Sick’, ‘Facade’, ‘Sex Object’, and ‘Year of the Rats’) plus a visceral version of the Thin Lizzy classic, ‘The Rocker’. The original Rats recordings were great examples of three-chord punk at its’ best, with melodic hooks that were destined to stick in your brain. These new versions are obviously more accomplished (after all the band members have had over forty years to become better musician) but whilst they may be technically more adept, they certainly haven’t lost any of their raw power and Puss Johnson has just the right snarl in her voice to ensure that the songs still bite. The Thin Lizzy song also works in a similar manner, with the female vocals adding a sly-twist to the otherwise corny machismo of the lyrics. This is a truly great EP, with lots of style, energy and fun. Let’s hope that there’ll be more to come from this excellent combo!
THE RAH BAND. Messages From The Stars. CD boxset (Cherry Pop) If there’s any justice, The Rah Band will always be remembered for their instrumental hit ‘The Crunch’, which reached the top-ten in 1977. The band was in fact just one person, music producer Richard Anthony Hewson (RAH) who had previously worked with artists ranging from The Beatles and Supertramp through to Fleetwood Mac. But this release was something altogether different, a highly catchy and very danceable record that seemed to take hints from krautrock and early synthesiser music whilst also pre-dating the so-called ‘post-punk’ era. As would be expected, the success of the single was followed by an LP, ‘The Crunch & Beyond’, released in 1978. The album stuck to the instrumental format and included playful, catchy tunes which veered from variations on ‘The Crunch’ style through to more experimental, spacey sounds, mellow reggae and even soundtrack-styled music. It wasn’t a groundbreaking album, exactly, but it’s a lot of fun and certainly deserves to be heard, even now. The second album ‘RAH Band’ didn’t appear until 1981 but still stayed faithful to the instrumental format. It also included plenty of new production techniques, keeping it interesting for fans of the first album, but generally went for a more jazz-funk style, losing the edgy style of pop found on the first record. When the third album, ‘Going Up’ was released in 1983, it included more vocals and aimed for an upbeat mix of contemporary disco and jazz-funk. By this point, it all depends on your own musical tastes, as the songs are clearly aimed for the mainstream. To finish off this box-set, there are also two discs of ‘Remixes & Rarities’ although disappointingly there are no remixes or alternate versions of the material from the first album, which would seem to be a missed opportunity on a grand scale! That said, the remixed material does offer further depth and intrigue to many of the songs, which makes these extra discs more than worthwhile. As I said before, it will all depend on your own musical tastes, but I definitely recommend this for ‘The Crunch & Beyond’ and if you enjoy that, you may well find some great moments on the ensuing albums.
RELIGIOUS OVERDOSE. Strung Out on Heaven’s High LP (Optic Nerve) Although together for a relatively short time (1979-1982) Religious Overdose made a distinct mark that endures to this day. Coming from a punk/DIY background, the band were intent on creating their own sound, veering away from guitar-based songs towards a more eclectic style. Synths and drum-machines were offering new options, so they took the opportunity to see what they could create, whilst their musical influences embraced Krautrock as well as bands like Cabaret Voltaire and Velvet Underground. Although their songs could be highly involved and intricate, they also experimented with a more minimal approach rather than playing everything loud, in much the same way that contemporaries like Bauhaus and Rema Rema were doing. As a result, the songs allow plenty of room for the whole band to be heard and no one instrument dominates the proceedings. Religious Overdose released three singles whilst they were together (two 7”s and a 12” EP) hinting at what they could achieve had they continued. Sadly, they never made a full album which quite possibly would have brought them to the attention of a much wider audience, but this compilation brings together those original recordings and they sound very effective as a cohesive set. If you’re interested in the so-called post-punk era, then this is something that you will undoubtedly need to explore.
THE RESIDENTS. Triple Trouble CD (Cherry Red) This is a great album! I don’t think the Residents have ever made a bad record, but some are obviously more successful than others. ‘Triple Trouble’ is certainly one of the best they’ve made in recent years. Basically, it’s the original soundtrack recordings for the feature-film of the same name, which has also been recently completed by the Residents. According to the notes, the movie is a typically offbeat tale of a mans’ journey from the priesthood to becoming a plumber, during which, following a personal tragedy, he replaces his belief in God with an obsession for a mysterious white fungus. The tracks have been put together in a musical-collage style, similar in some ways to the classic ‘Pollex Christi’. It features brand new compositions and pieces from older recordings such as ‘Vileness Fats’, ‘Third Reich’n’Roll’ and ‘Wormwood’, but the older pieces have been chosen carefully to ensure that they fit-in perfectly with the atmosphere of the new music. However, they also serve as familiar reference points to draw you into the ongoing soundtrack and, similarly, brief pieces of dialogue allow you to delve into the film’s narrative and suggest the plot of the movie. Of course, this being the Residents, they have left much of what is happening up to the interpretation of the listener, so you’ll have to be willing to let your imagination run-free, but if you do so I’m sure that you’ll enjoy this album as much as I do. All I can add to this is that I can’t wait to see the movie!
RITES OF HADDA. Agenda Gender Bender EP (https://ritesofhadda.bandcamp.com/album/agenda-gender-bender-the-debt) Rites of Hadda have been around for six or seven years, but it’s only been recently that they’ve started to really make a name for themselves. Their live shows are always remarkable, with a band who know how to put down a solid base that allows their flamboyant front-person plenty of room for an unpredictable performance. Musically, I suppose it would be fair to call them psychedelic punk, with definite nods to the Anarcho-scene and Space rock. In fact, as a friend recently pointed-out, they’re not that far removed from Nik Turners’ Inner City Unit, especially with the saxophone wailing effectively in their midst. ‘Agenda Gender Bender’ is quite a snappy tune compared to much of their live material, bouncing along at a positive pace and clocking-in under three minutes. ‘The Debt’, however, takes more time to establish its’ purpose, formed around an insistent lyrical narrative whilst the music crawls along with a repetitive but convincing rhythm, something like the Butthole Surfers trying to play the Blues… (maybe this is an entirely new genre, Space-Blues?) Whatever you want to think, the thing is, it works, and if you want a first-introduction to Rites of Hadda before you see them live, this is the perfect place to start. This EP gives a good indication of what they do, from one side to the other. Check this out and then delve further if intrigued…
SENSELESS THINGS. The First of Too Many CD (Cherry Red) At the end of the Eighties, a loosely connected ‘scene’ emerged in the UK, featuring bands like Mega City Four, Perfect Daze, Snuff and the Senseless Things. They came from a punk rock / DIY background but at the same time were unafraid to embrace indie-pop melodies, making their songs both catchy and energetic. Ahead of the internet, the only way these bands could promote themselves was through prolific touring and as a result, they also became impressive live acts. Of all these bands, it was probably the Senseless Things who enjoyed the most commercial success, signing to Epic and scoring several hit records along the way. Fortunately for them, by the time they produced ‘The First of Too Many’, they had already released numerous records on independent labels and so had the necessary experience to know what they really wanted. The results were an album that most fans hold-up as their finest. Sounding like a cross between the Buzzcocks and The Replacements, the album is an invigorating set of songs which capture the raucous fun of their live shows whilst also highlighting their insistent melodies and infectious hooks. Songs like ‘Everybody’s Gone’ and ‘Got it at the Delmar’ were highly-deserved hit singles, but most of the other tracks could also have been just as successful. As a celebration of its’ 30th anniversary, band members Morgan and Cass decided to revisit the original tapes and remix the entire record, not to take anything away from the original but to enhance it with the studio equipment available now. The new version is very impressive and it’s great to hear the album sounding so fresh and contemporary. In addition, this release also includes the original mix of the album (so you can compare and contrast to your hearts’ content) plus a live set recorded at Camden palace in 1991, which really captures them at their very best. Sadly, following the untimely loss of Mark Keds, we’ll never get a chance to see Senseless Things live again, but this certainly serves as a fitting tribute and a perfect reminder of a truly great band.
SONS OF ADAM. Saturday’s Sons CD (High Moon) Subtitled ‘The Complete Recordings 1964-1968’ (just in case you need to know what you’re getting) this excellent compilation gathers together the bands’ original 7” releases, demos and outtakes plus eight previously unreleased live recordings from the Avalon Ballroom in San Francisco, 1966. Having formed in Baltimore as The Fender IV, the band played an instrumental Surf Rock style more in line with the twangy guitars of Duane Eddy and Dick Dale, eventually deciding to relocate to Los Angeles. After a chance-meeting and jam-session with Brian Jones and Bill Wyman (during the Rolling Stones’ first visit to LA) the band decided to adopt a harder-edged R&B rock sound, which saw them become a popular fixture on the Sunset Strip garage scene. It was around this time that they settled on ‘The Sons of Adam’ as their new name and signed their first record deal with Decca. However, the ensuing singles failed to be the successes they hoped for and squabbles with the band led to the departure of singer/guitarist Randy Holden (who would later go on to join The Other Half and eventually Blue Cheer.) The band released one more single on the Alamo label, but by then they had lost their momentum and eventually broke-up in 1967. However, interest in their music has remained and quite deservedly so. As this collection shows, The Sons of Adam were a tight, powerful garage band who could match the early Stones in terms of raw attitude (Randy Holden was known for his catch-phrase ‘Never turn down’ when he received complaints about the bands high volume) whilst also being more than capable of playing with quirky melodies in a style similar to the Blues Magoos or (early) Love. The singles and demos included here highlight a confident band with real potential, while the live recordings capture them at their very best. Also included here are original recordings by the Fender IV, showing how their harder-edged approach to Surf-rock provided a natural basis for their eventual transition to garage rock. Together with a full-colour, 48-page booklet including extensive sleeve- notes and many rare images, this really is a definitive document, so if you’re a fan of Sixties West Coast underground rock, this is an album that you really need to hear. You may not have heard of them before now, but you’ll soon be telling all of your friends.
STARS LIKE OURS. Stars Like Ours CD (Rum Bar) Stars Like Ours are a Boston band that recall that period of time during the Nineties when their hometown seemed to be producing all the great guitar-bands. Think about Buffalo Tom, The Pixies, Lemonheads, Blake Babies etc… Stars Like Ours are a female-fronted band who are solidly-set in the present but aren’t afraid to take their sonic foundations from that illustrious era. The first thing you’ll notice is the massive guitar sound that underpins the whole of this album, but then you’ll hear Michelle Paulhus’ vocals which effortlessly veer between sweet and savage, making sure you’re kept on your toes from beginning to end. This album is actually a compilation of tracks released on various singles and EPs over the past eight years, but the tracks have been chosen with care to ensure that this compilation sounds like an album in its’ own right. To put it simply – this is a damn-fine record and should be heard by everyone. This band deserve to be huge!
STEVE IGNORANT. Durham Punk Festival 2009. LP (FOAD) This album is taken from an audience recording, so don’t expect hi-fi sound quality. I know that some people don’t particularly like live recordings, let alone bootlegs, but I’ve always enjoyed them. It’s a chance to capture and document a specific performance, something that isn’t going to happen again, and while you might not get the nuance and details that are possible on a studio recording, you can get a sense of the energy and excitement that are generated by a good live show and that’s just as important. In this case, that’s exactly what you hear and feel on this LP. Steve and the band (Beki Straughan, Bob Butler, Steve Whale, Giz Butt and Spike Smith) played an incendiary set made-up mostly of old Crass songs, but also featuring several tracks from Steve’s later bands. It all comes together in a genuine and passionate statement that pays tribute to the original songs and musicians whilst also placing the original sentiments in a current and highly valid context. If none of these elements appeal to you, then don’t buy this album, but if you want to hear a recording of what was obviously a great gig, then you need to hear this.
THE STRANGLERS. The Raven Demo 7” (MIB) This is a nice single! The a-side (as you may have guessed) is a demo version of ‘The Raven’ (always one of my favourite Stranglers tracks.) I’m not sure ho many band members play on this, although obviously JJ Burnel, Dave Greenfield and Hugh Cornwell, whilst it sounds as if they’re using a drum machine on this recording (which may have been programmed by Jet Black…) It’s a tentative version of the song, but great to hear it while it was still in development. The b-side features a live version of ‘Tank’, recorded for the legendary TV show ‘Revolver’ during July 1978. It’s a frantic, riveting performance, guaranteed to give you a shot of adrenalin! I think this record is a pretty limited item, so grab a copy as soon as you can!
SVT. Always Comes Back CD (Liberation Hall) Sub-titled ‘The Authorised Recordings’, this album gathers together all of the official releases by this San Francisco based rock band, who existed between 1978-81. Their best-known member was Jack Casady, who had previously played in the bands Jefferson Airplane and Hot Tuna, whilst other members had also played, or would later play, with the likes of Huey Lewis, Roky Erickson and Tuxedomoon. However, this band took a different direction and veered more towards a harder, rock version of powerpop, which certainly had commercial potential but didn’t quite find the wider audience it required for mainstream success. That said, they have maintained a cult following over the years and this album, which makes all of their original records available again for the first time in many years, is bound to be popular with their fans. This is a good example of older musicians embracing the new music that was starting to appear in California and borrowing some of its’ attitude to create something new of their own. Admittedly, you can still hear some of the ingredients hanging over from earlier musical eras, but this still sounds pretty damn good. Especially if you have a taste for classic powerpop, this is something that you really need to check out!
SWARAJ CHRONOS. Sinners CD (swarajchronos.bandcamp.com ) I saw this band for the first time recently and was a little apprehensive as they included people I already knew, but I’m glad to say that I was pretty impressed (it’s so difficult when friends start a band and they’re not very good…) Swaraj Chronos don’t really sound like anyone else, which is always a good thing, and musically, they have a dense sound that draws in different styles and influences. I would suggest some anarcho-punk inspiration, combined with post-punk sounds, something like (early) Siouxsie & the Banshees combined with ‘Cacophony’ era Rudimentary Peni and perhaps even Anarchistwood. The band members may well disagree with me on these comparisons, but that’s also a good thing because it really is hard to pin them down. But they have a great, imaginative rhythm section, some fine, noisy psychedelic guitar noise and distinctive, clearly delivered vocals. The lyrics are interesting and intriguing, inviting your own thoughts along the way, while the production and arrangements are imaginative and effective. These seven songs are their first set of recordings but suggest a lot of potential and this is definitely a band I will be keen to see as they develop further. I suggest you do the same too.
THE SYSTEM. Dogs of War EP (Grow Your Own) This is a reissue of one of the my favourite records from the early-80’s anarcho-punk scene. Sadly, the release is partly in tribute to bassist Jimi Maguire, who recently passed away, but it’s also a celebration of the band and their music which still sounds vital and relevant even now. Originally released in 1982, the new version has been remastered from the original tapes and really does sound better than ever. The title track has an immense guitar sound, the bass and drums are tight and compelling, and the vocals are delivered with a righteous snarl. ‘Their Corrupting Ways’ starts with an almost delicate guitar line which gradually builds-up as the rest of the band join-in and then bursts into rage and indignation when they reach the chorus. Final track, ‘Nervous Breakdown’ is another great song, powerful and insistent. Musically, you could make comparisons with early Crass, Flux of Pink Indians and maybe even Subhumans, but the best thing about The System was their ability to combine raw punk rock with catchy hooks and imaginative arrangements. Despite the noise they created, the songs were also surprisingly melodic and guaranteed to stay in your memory. Also of note with this reissue is the adjusted artwork. The record was originally intended to be released on Crass records, but in the end came out on Spiderleg. The new artwork has been redesigned to reflect the way it would have been if it had been issued by Crass, which is an interesting and effective addendum. Anyway, you’re instructions are simple… buy this record. If you’ve never heard it before, you need to and if you’re already a fan, no doubt your original copy will be worn out, so buy a new copy and continue to enjoy this excellent EP.
THE TYPES. A Blast from the Past EP (Time for Action) The Types were a band who formed in Hamburg during 1979 and were mostly considered to be a Mod revival band, even though they were equally influenced by the likes of The Clash and Buzzcocks. They played frequently and developed a strong local following, which bought them to the attention of Polydor records. They were invited to a recording session at Brunwey Studios where they recorded these four tracks, but for some unknown reason Polydor then got cold feet and the recordings never received the release they so obviously deserved. Fortunately for us, a former fan tracked down original band member Jon Flemming Olsen and they were able to re-discover a tape of that legendary session, and so four decades later, The Types finally release their debut EP! The songs (all sung in English) still sound remarkably fresh and reveal their varied influences. ‘(I’m in love with my) TV’ reminds me of powerpop bands like Tonight or The Donkeys, while ‘The Cure’ veers more towards ‘post-punk’ sounds. ‘Quite Right’ is another catchy slice of powerpop, whilst ‘Gloomy Monday’ is probably the closest they get to the UK Mod scene and bands like The Jam or The Chords. It’s a real shame that they never got a chance to make a full album and criminal that it’s taken these recordings so long to be made available. All I can say is, hear them and enjoy them, now that you’ve got the opportunity.
UK SUBS. Work in Progress / XXIV / Yellow Leader LPs (Captain Oi!) Originally released in 2010, 2013 and 2015 respectively, these three albums have all been unavailable on vinyl for some time, but are now being reissued as double 10” editions with gatefold sleeves and coloured vinyl. The reformatting also allows for some bonus material as well, making these versions highly desirable for any dedicated Subs fans. Recorded during a period of time which saw one of the most solid line-ups that the Subs have ever had (Charlie Harper, Alvin Gibbs, Jet and Jamie Oliver) it was also a period that saw the band re-establish themselves as a reliable and powerful live band. All three of these albums were co-produced by the band and Pat Collier, which is obviously a partnership that works well and brings out the best from every song. The first of this trio, ‘Work in Progress’, features 14 tracks with all four band members contributing to the songwriting. Songs like ‘Creation’ and ‘Hell is Other People’ among the best songs the band have released from any era, whilst ‘This Chaos’ was co-written by Charlie and Lars Frederickson (of Rancid and also a former Sub.) There’s also a great cover of The Sonics’ classic ‘Strychnine’ which I wish they’d play live…
It was three years before the next album, but it was definitely worth the wait. ‘XXIV’(now including a previously-unreleased track, ‘Workers Beer Company’) continues with the sound and direction of ‘Work in Progress’, but takes a few more twists and turns along the way. Alvin’s song ‘Coalition Government Blues’ is particularly notable, with lyrics critical of the despicable Nick Clegg and his sell-out to the Tories (although many of the sentiments in this song are still relevant) while ‘Wreckin’ Ball’ goes back to Charlie’s musical roots, complete with Bo Diddley-style twang and rockin’ harmonica! It’s unexpected moments like these songs that help to make this album stand-out.
‘Yellow Leader’ features all 18 songs from the original album (previous vinyl versions had only included 14 tracks) so you’ll be hearing the whole set as it was meant to be. The production is actually a bit cleaner in places and the style of the songs is more varied, although they never lack the power that you’d expect from the band. If anything, the variety just accentuates the way that the energy is distributed. By this point, the line-up were at their very best, writing some of their best songs and bringing different ideas to the studio to enhance the arrangements. Although it’s still instantly recognisable as the UK Subs, they still seem intent on taking the music forward and not just resting on their laurels, which after more than 25 albums, is more than admirable. Sadly, over the last few years this line-up has come to an end and although Charlie and Alvin remain, a new guitarist and drummer have now joined the band. The future will let us know how well the new members work out (recent gigs have certainly been on top form) but the situation right now makes this a perfect time to go back and appreciate the line-up who made this three excellent records.
VIRUS. Introvert Extravert CD (Grow Your Own) The first thing you’ll notice when you hear the latest Virus album is that they seem to have gone for a more sparse, less aggressive sound, but as your ears attune to it, you’ll quickly realise that it certainly haven’t sacrificed any of the raw power found on their previous releases. Instead of repeating themselves (musically) the band have decided to explore the possibilities presented by the individual songs, giving themselves plenty of space to develop the different ideas. It’s difficult to really pin-down the results, because there are no obvious influences or inspirations going in to this album, but as a rather simplistic indication, try to think of early-Subhumans mixing with No Means No. As with both of those bands, the music is very idiosyncratic whilst maintaining a melodic accessibility and the lyrics are equally important, with the vocals presented strong and clearly. Subjects range from slavery and sweatshops through to ecology, the monarchy and the failings of former punk rock icons… The lyrics are well-written and thought-provoking, with each song presenting its’ own observations about subjects which deserve your attention. The more I’ve listened to this record, the more I’ve enjoyed it and, if anything, I’d say that this is quite possibly the best Virus album to date. Be sure to hear it
THE WALL. Left Behind The Wall EP (Last Years Youth) For those of you that have been paying attention, three limited edition CD’s have been released over the past couple of years featuring previously unreleased demos from The Wall. Since I first heard the band, I’ve always thought that The Wall were very underrated so I was very happy when these releases were made available. The first two CD’s featured demo tracks recorded in 1978, plus the two singles released on Small Wonder, whilst the most recent release featured two tracks (‘Manchuria’ and ‘My Perfect World’) written by the original singer, Ian Lowery, back in 1978/1979 but never properly recorded at the time. The songs have recently been resurrected by band members Al Gregg and Mark Gibson and recorded alongside two new songs for this release. This limited edition 7” EP has now been released featuring six tracks from the above recordings, making them available on vinyl for the very first time. The sound quality is excellent and the all-new artwork looks great, using previously unpublished pictures, details about the sessions and copies of the original handwritten lyrics. If you haven’t already got the CD’s, then this EP should be considered a must-have item, while if you’re a fan and already have the CD’s, I’m sure you’ll want this EP too. Trust me, it’s worth it just to hear the version of ‘Ghetto’ with Ian Lowery on vocals… Great band, great release!
WEREWOLF JONES. Rot Away LP (Big Neck) This is a Detroit-based band and, thankfully, they seem to have inherited the raw power approach of their home-town predecessors. Not that I’d say that they particularly sound like any previous Detroit bands but they certainly have a similar approach, concentrating on making a big noise with catchy hooks and plenty of attitude. Think of the nastiest Garage band you could imagine, combine them with high-velocity hardcore, vocals that wouldn’t sound out of place on a Rudimentary Peni record and then mix in Scratch Acid at their most belligerent… The thing is, despite their confrontational approach, it still sounds like a lot of fun! Instead of trying to imitate, Werewolf Jones seem to be determined to create their own style and sound and on this, their second album, they certainly seem to have achieved something special. If you enjoy music that’s raw, frantic and nasty, this is an album that you need to check-out.
WINTER WOLF. Unwell EP (Academic Punk) I always found it sad that when Punk emerged in ‘76/’77, many of the bands and fans embraced reggae music as an obvious ally but very few black musicians / kids embraced Punk (obvious exceptions being Don Letts, Bob Marley and later on Bad Brains.) However, four decades down the line it seems that bands are appearing from the black community who not only appreciate but also bring punk sound and attitude into their own music. Ho99o9 are perhaps the most prominent, but in the UK we have Bob Vylan and now, here are Winter Wolf from New York/New Jersey, adopting aggressive rhythms and confrontational lyrics to put their side across. This shouldn’t be surprising, considering the seminal influence of Bad Brains on both white and black audiences, but it’s taken longer than it should have. Regardless, it’s great to see things coming together and the more that people see that real emotions apply to everyone, the better it’ll be for all of us. Whether it’s relayed in one genre or another, it can still be real. Check this out and see how much more positive you feel at the end of it.
THE YOUNG HASSELHOFFS. Life Got in The Way CD (Rum Bar) Just to keep you on your toes, this album starts with a low-key ballad called ‘Little Poems’, which will really confound any expectations that you might have. But once they kick-in to the second song (the title track no-less) you’ll find yourself confronted with a brash, bouncing slice of hi-energy powerpop that with have you smiling and dancing within moments. The Young Hasselhoffs specialise in s style of unashamed pop music, infused with the energy of bands like the Buzzcocks or Undertones and more than a nod towards the early days of Greenday. Plenty of catchy melodies, great production and arrangements, together with frantic guitars and vocal harmonies. This is an album that only a very cynical or contrary loser would claim to dislike. It’s pop music as it should be… Fun!
V/A. 1980 - BRAND NEW RAGE. CD boxset (Captain Oi!) Whilst many writers like to claim that Punk Rock was ‘dead’ by 1980, this compilation provides evidence that the situation was certainly quite the opposite. Admittedly, things had changed, bands had developed and different sounds were being brought into the mix, but Punk as a positive attitude was still out there and in some cases, still sneaking into the mainstream charts. This box-set, featuring 75 tracks spread over 3 discs, has more than enough to remind you of what was actually going on. Starting, appropriately enough, with UK Subs’ ‘Brand New Age’, the first disc moves along with excellent contributions from the likes of Theatre of Hate, Adam & the Ants, The Damned, The Wall, Discharge, Angelic Upstarts, The Professionals and Sham 69, all interspersed with lesser known but no less worthy bands like The Satellites, The Rivals, Victim and The Straps. There are a few obscurities and rarities along the way, which will appeal to the serious collectors and keep you concentrating so you don’t miss anything you may have previously missed. Disc 2 bursts into life with Stiff Little Fingers ‘Nobody’s Hero’, followed by Knox’s peculiar (and highly entertaining) cover of the Syd Barrett classic ‘Gigolo Aunt’. Then there’s the Anti-Pasti anthem, ‘No Government’ before the tracklist veers away in a more eclectic direction. There’s a great selection of tracks from bands as varied as The Fall, Athletico Spizz 80, Tenpole Tudor, The Dickies and the Stranglers, as well as cult-favourites like Auntie Pus, The Quads, Manufactured Romance and Girls At Our Best. This disc contains more of what would now be called ‘new wave’ or ‘post-punk’, but at the time all that mattered was whether you enjoyed it or not! Finally, Disc 3 instantly sets a high standard with ‘West One’ by The Ruts and then delves into an even more varied selection of sounds. How many other compilations do you know of that can have bands like The Boys, Skids, Cockney Rejects, UK Decay, Discharge, Splodge and Menace all alongside each other and making perfect sense? Well, that’s how it was. If you listened to the John Peel show in 1980, you never knew what he was going to play next but you could make a safe bet that it wouldn’t sound like the previous record! Together with a full-colour 36 page booklet providing details about every band, this is a musical collection that really gives you an indication of what was really going on back in 1980. As the sleeve notes comment…’Is it Punk? Is it Power Pop? Is it Mod? … Who cares!’