ACID COBRA. Petrified Minds CD (Acid Cobra) A suitably unsettling, almost schizophrenic cover-artwork introduces this album of darkly-psychedelic guitar-based experimentation. Based around looping guitar riffs and repetitive rhythms, the mood switches from dark to light or from humour to tension in much the same approach (though not necessarily style) of recent Swans material. Well worth investigation.
ATTERKOP. CD (Riotska) Bristol-based combo who mix hardcore, punk, reggae and ska in a style more like those great, early Bosstones albums rather than Bad Brains, but certainly with as much energy and conviction as either of those bands. Fast and frantic, but with just enough breaks to let you catch your breath. It’s a fine balance that’s kept just right.
ANTAGONIZERS ATL. Hold Your Ground CD (antagonizersatl.com) It’s always great to get a surprise like this! Having been described as ‘street rock’, I didn’t have high hopes, but these guys really take it to town ! Chunks of early Clash and Blitz, but also hints of the Heartbreakers, US Bombs and even Slaughter & The Dogs. While the guitar and vocals really tear into the tracks, the rhythm section gives it a sense of swing, moving everything along just right. The songs are packed with catchy tunes and plenty of energy, keeping your ears glued to the speakers. I really hope to see them live in the UK, soon !
BERMONDSEY JOYRIDERS. Flamboyant Thugs CD / Brian Jones 7” (Fuel Injection) For my money, the Bermondsey Joyriders are the only current band who really, successfully create Punk-Blues. The reason, quite simply, is that they have the depth and pedigree to appreciate and understand both genres, and a genuine intent to create something new from them. They also knew, after the excellent ‘Noise & Revolution’, that they had a lot to live up to. But instead of seeing it as a daunting prospect, they faced it as a challenge that could be met with style. The results are self-evident, presenting another leap ahead. With a strong production (courtesy of former Buzzcock, Tony Barber) this album really moves. Effortlessly switching between classic rock’roll, movie references, righteous indignation and sly humour, the lyrics and music merge together to present a very solid set from start to finish. Chris Musto has claimed his position behind the drumkit with a dynamic performance, while John Sinclair makes another, albeit brief, appearance to maintain a sense of continuity from the previous album. There are plenty of references to pick-up if you’re listening carefully, but overall, this is focused on what comes next. Meanwhile, the single features two non-album tracks, both slightly older. Heart-felt tributes to Brain Jones and Johnny Thunders, respectively, they’re nostalgic without being tired and evoke the spirit of their subjects rather than becoming mere name-dropping. The Bermondsey Joyriders are about taking rock’n’roll forwards, and these records are certainly heading in the right direction.
BLONDIE. Ghosts of Download. Delux Edition CD. (Caroline) First-off, this is a truly beautiful package. Two CDs and a DVD housed in a slipcase, together with an extensive booklet and repro-memorabilia. That’s the good part. The downside is that the new album isn’t so outstanding. It’s not that it’s bad, but apart from Debbie Harry’s voice, which is strong and distinctive throughout, much of the album lacks the character that always set Blondie apart. Only one song, ‘Rave’, really stands out, while others sound good but seem to be lost under the production sound. To be honest, I suspect this may be the problem, as I’ve heard recent live recordings of some of these tracks and they sounded good, but on the album there’s little to set them apart. Perhaps an example of too much attention to the technology and not enough space for the songs ? I’ve enjoyed their recent albums, but this one just seems to lack direction. Similarly, the second CD, ‘Greatest Hits Redux’ (eg, new recordings of old classics) sounds good but generally stays so close to the originals that it ends up seeming a little unnecessary. But the DVD is the real treat – previously unreleased footage of a gig at CBGB’s back in 1977. Not exactly professional quality, but capturing a great set by the band, just on the verge of their first major successes. This is the kinda performance that made Blondie special, and no fan is going to want to miss it.
THOM BOWDEN. Searching the Brittle Light CD. Recorded and mixed by Steve Albini, this has the raw-edged, sparse production you’d probably expect. Musically, it’s direction is a little divided, one moment trying to rock-out the garage, the next getting into emo-acoustics, while elsewhere going for big the alt-rock riffs. There’s certainly potential in these songs, but I think the set needs more focus to really find its’ way.
BUZZARD LOPE. Pyrrhic Victories CD (Lost Toys) Eerie, filmic music from a Midlands-based trio, recalling an Anglo-cised Tom Waits, or perhaps Nick Cave in his more enigmatic moments. The songs are pleasant and enjoyable, but it’s really about the atmosphere they create. This is one to listen to in those dark, moody evenings.
THE CLASH. Red Angel Dragnet 7” (Go Feet ?) This is clearly not a ‘real’ Go Feet release, although it does feature two out-takes from the Combat Rock sessions that feature vocals from Ranking Roger of The Beat. As most fans will agree, the original Mick Jones mixes of the Combat Rock material were vastly superior to the watered down version eventually released and continue to offer an intriguing glimpse of what might have been. This 7” single is yet further proof.
THE CRAMPS. Mad Daddy / Rockin’ Bones 7” (Vengeance ?) / The Band That Time Forgot EP (?) Two new Cramps bootlegs to keep the legend alive ! ‘Mad Daddy’ was originally intended as the bands’ third single and this 7” is an alleged repro of how that single would have looked and sounded. Not sure how accurate the results are, but it’s nicely put together and a fine record. The EP, on the other hand, is taken from a radio broadcast, recorded live at CBGBs in 1979. The title track was never officially released while the other four are great early songs that you’ll still love to hear again. Both records are well worth having, but the EP really shouldn’t be missed !
THE DAMNED. Carry On Tokyo. LP (Gato Gordo) As expected, hot on the heels of the previous ‘Tits Up In Tokyo’ LP here’s the second half of this excellent live recording from 2005. Capturing the remainder of the set from the ‘Grave Disorder’ line-up, the songs are great, the sound quality amazing and the artwork looks superb. If you never got the original CD version, this needs to be heard. One for the fans, perhaps, but the fans are going to love it.
THE DEAD ON. S/T CD (Boss Tuneage) Chicago band who harken back to the glory days of the Replacements and Soul Asylum, whilst adding more than a few hints of early 70’s Brit rock’n’roll (Stones, Mott the Hoople etc.) Plenty of catchy hooks and emotive vocals, fine stuff indeed.
DEATH BY UNGA-BUNGA. You’re An Animal CD (Jansen) Norwegian band playing an instantly enjoyable blend of 60’s garage, beat and pop. They have an authentic sound and it’s all the remarkable when you learn that the four members are all in their Twenties ! They’ve obviously done their work and know their stuff ! They’ve toured extensively and are as tight as you’d expect, creating a nice balance between retro and contemporary. Of all the recent Sixties-styled bands, these guys are one of the most enjoyable I’ve heard. Cool !
THE DEFECTS. Riot Free Zone 7” (Punkerama) I think I was a bit late with this release, but never mind as it’s still worth checking out. The title track is one of the best songs from their recent album, while the two-songs on the b-side are raw, demo versions of ‘Hill Street’ and ‘Repentagon’. All featuring the classic Defects sound (big guitars, great hooks, good lyrics) you really ought to track down a copy and keep playing it loud. It’s pretty limited, so make sure you don’t miss out.
DESTRUCTORS. Malchance CD / New York New York CD / Dolor Goggles (all on Rowdy Farrago) The onslaught of Destructors’ releases continues with three new albums. ‘Malchance’ features nine new original tracks, plus covers by Social Distortion, The Monks, Nirvana and the Beatles, all with the bands’ trademark chainsaw-guitar sound. ‘New York New York’ tackles the rock’n’roll lore of NYC, from landmarks like CBGBs and the Chelsea Hotel through to bands like the Dolls and Ramones, with an appropriate nod towards the sounds of that era. Finally, ‘Dolor Goggles’ pays a light-hearted homage to that punk rock accessory, Beer ! With appropriate covers of songs by The Pogues and Zeke, this one takes a bit more of a metal edge, but it’s all good fun. Check ‘em out !
DESTRUCTORS / DOGTOWN REBELS. Terrorismo CD (Rowdy Farrago) Four tracks from Ipswich punkers, Dogtown Rebels, blasting along like a mix of early Clash , Rancid and US Bombs, while Destructors offer a brand new song, a revitalised older track, and a cover of NoFX’s ‘All My Friends in New York’ that effortlessly out-punks the original. You’ve got to admire this labels output, and the CDs are always worth hearing !
DEVO. Live At Max's LP (Jackpot) / Butch Devo & The Sundance Gig LP (MVD) Two live recordings released for this years Record Store Day and both highly desirable. The first is taken from a vintage 1977 gig in New York, where the band were introduced onstage by David Bowie, no less ! The sound quality may be a bit less-polished, but it documents the band as they were just prior to the recording of ‘Are We Not Men ?’ and the sense of urgency and intent are immediately apparent. ‘Sundance’ sounds almost restrained in comparison, until you watch the DVD (included in the package) and see the whole gig, with the band obviously older but still in total command of the stage. Their visual presentation was always an important factor and when you see their moves and delivery, there’s no doubting that this performance was just as valid, although clearly set in a very different situation. There’s also a whole load of bonus material on the DVD, so I think it’s pretty easy to say that both of these releases should be considered essential.
DOT LEGACY. s/t CD (Setalight) A pretty unique take on contemporary metal, variously hinting at the likes of Faith No More and Black Sabbath, before twisting the corner into the likes of Ceremony or even Jesus Lizard. You really don’t know where it’s going to turn next, but somehow it manages to remain cohesive and effective throughout. You’ll want to know where it’s going next, and chances are you’ll be impressed. This is definitely an album that deserves to be heard.
DOWN & OUTS. Lifeline CD (Boss Tuneage) Liverpool-based combo who produce upbeat, melodic punk rock, like some sorta middle-ground between early Clash and Buzzcocks, perhaps with a few hints of the Descendents thrown-in for good measure. Definitely going in the right direction, check it out !
DUMBSTRUCK. It’s Still Broke CD (Boss Tuneage) Featuring members of various UK hardcore bands (Ripcord, Heresy etc) this relatively short-lived band played a high velocity, yet very catchy style of intense punk thrash. Their choice of covers – Poison Idea and Negative Approach – are a good pointer, but you could also add early Stupids and Adrenalin OD to the overall sound. Powerful, insistent stuff, that still sounds fresh and vital a decade down the line. Well-worth your investigation.
FUCKED UP. Glass Boys LP (Matador) It was always going to be hard to follow the epic ‘David Comes To Life’, but Fucked Up have succeeded by withdrawing from the more-expansive project and creating a more compact, solid work. It’s no less ambitious or inventive, just less extended. ‘Glass Boys’ has all the power, melodies and introspection of its’ predecessor, but puts it in a more regular album format. I’m sure that was no easy task in itself, but they achieved it with style. As an aside, initial copies of the album come with an extra version of the LP, recorded with half-time drums. At first, I thought this seemed like a bit of an indulgence, but after several listens, I’ve actually come to prefer this version. It allows more space in the overall production and gives you more room to appreciate everything else (after all, there’s always a lot going on.) Not sure how easy it is to track this version down, now, but well-worth hearing. Fucked Up continue to ignore their supposed-boundaries and the results are some of the best new records around.
GOD DAMN. Shoe Prints in the Dust 7” (One Little Indian) It’s hard to imagine that this is just a duo when you hear the huge noise they create. But just a set of drums and a guitar make these pummelling beats and sheets of sound, fronted by appropriately snarling vocals. Think of early, primal Nirvana, perhaps. Hard Rock with just the right attitude.
HAMMERSMITH GORILLAS. Shame, Shame, Shame EP (Chiswick ?) Made up to look like some obscure but original release, this bootleg features four rare tracks from Jesse Hector’s legendary proto-punk combo. The title track is the real gem, showing just how well they bridged the gap between the harder edge of Sixties Beat (The Kinks, The Who etc) and the oncoming Punk explosion. Even the more mellow moments on this EP clearly pre-date Wellers’ Mod affectations, and do so with considerable style. Altogether, this is a nice little item and deserves to be checked out.
HARDSKIN. Saturday Night 7”(JT Classics) Only available at recent gigs, so you should grab a copy as soon as you can to avoid Ebay extortion… Two exclusive tracks, with the a-side delivering a Glam-rock style stomper, straight off the terraces, while the b-side is another instant Oi-classic – loud, raucous and anthemic. Punch the air like you just don’t care, but make sure you don’t spill yer pint !
CHARLIE HARPER & CAPTAIN SENSIBLE. Too Much Reality EP (Time & Matter) This probably isn’t what you’d be expecting from either party, but when you consider their original influences, perhaps it isn’t so unlikely. It may take a couple of listens to adjust, but trust me, it’ll be worth your time. Four songs written by Charlie, harking back to Sixties Beat and Psych-Pop, perfect for Captain’s melodic input. Charlies’ vocals are less aggressive than usual, but this works perfectly in the overall production. Think of The Doors meeting The Kinks, perhaps ? Great songs, I hope they produce some more !
HEROD. They Were None CD (Mighty) Swiss-based band producing a sparse yet brutal brand of Hard Rock, taking extreme vocals and heavy riffs but dissecting them through an almost post-rock production. Very powerful and always teetering on an experimental edge, it’s all the better for it.
ICONS. Lifesigns CD (Icons) Impressive contemporary metal, loads of power and a great, sharp production. Aggressive vocals and a driving rhythm section allow room for the imaginative guitar sounds and unpredictable twists of the music itself. Another new band worth checking out.
KAKTUS. Kakofontkt CD (Fourth Dimension) Lengthy, mostly instrumental pieces (the only vocals work more as texture rather than lyrically.) This recalls Coil’s darker moments, although there are also comparisons to be made with Virgin Prunes’ early, more experimental work, and even ATV’s ‘Vibing Up The Senile Man’. It’s very atmospheric and tempered between varied moods, creating a genuinely unsettling sound-scape. A very impressive album, indeed.
KID CONGO & THE PINK MONKEY BIRDS. Haunted Head CD (In The Red) The illustrious Mr Powers returns with another fine album, ably backed by those Pink Monkey Birds. After the more eclectic, semi-biographical approach of the ‘Gorilla Rose’ album, this is much more of a band affair and, indeed, it’s a band firing on all cylinders. It’s rock’n’roll but unafraid to add a few unexpected twists of its’ own. Embracing jazz, psychedelia and soundtrack-atmospherics, this is all about the feel of the thing. Quite simply, it’s a great album, probably his best solo effort to date. Don’t miss it.
KING LIZARD. A Nightmare Livin’ The Dream CD (Bad Reputation) Trashy glam metal that leans more towards Detroit punk and resultingly stands head and shoulders above the more predictable Motley Crue side of this genre. Attitude rather than technical ability wins out with these guys, and more than a few good tunes keep it rockin’ along. Similarly, big noise rather than a big production gives it an edge and I’d much rather hear a band like this than something polished to tedium. Not bad at all.
LONDON DIRTHOLE COMPANY. The Sounding Alley Tapes LP (Squoodge) Dirty, sleazy garage punk, authentically raw and oozin’ a suitably trashy sense of humour. Drums pound away, guitars churn in and out of the wonderfully messy mix, and the songs mostly rush by in rapid bursts of frenetic energy. That’s all up until the final track, ‘Sub Prime Evil’ which lurches along for an entire seven minutes in some kinda Cravats versus Headcoats dirge. Fine album, this is where the Blues ought to be, these days.
LUDER. Adelphophagia CD (Small Stone) One of the more accessible bands playing within the Stoner Rock scene, mixing the likes of early Soundgarden and Pearl Jam with elements of psych and prog to create an experimental edge within their harder riffing. Female vocals add another dimension, giving the music a haunting, atmospheric sheen. This is one that will gradually dig its’ way into your mind, and you’re gonna like it !
MADNESS. John Peel Session EP (Bad Econo) A classic Peel session from 1979, catching Madness prior to their first album and still sounding hungry. From the outset, they had a real grasp of instantly enjoyable pop, but blended it with punk, ska and a genuinely English sense of humour to create a sound that still sounds remarkably fresh, even 35 years later. Britpop ? Pah ! This was the real deal, and it’s still just as easy to love it.
THE MANGES. All Is Well CD (Monster Zero) Punk Rock all the way from Italy, with three chords firmly fixated on the Ramones whilst still adding their own character to the mix. The songs tell their own unique tales, while the tunes put the likes of Screeching Weasel firmly in their place. Summer holidays, cold beers and jumping around – ain’t that a perfect teenage soundtrack ?
MINOR THREAT. Try Not To Forget LP (Vinyl Ink) Most of this LP is taken from a great mixing-desk tape of a gig at the 9:30 Club in Washington, early 1983. Tight and powerful, this gig featured their short-lived five-piece line-up, just adding to the sonic impact. It definitely captures a band at their best. The last four tracks come from their final gig, only a few months later, and include all three songs from the ‘Salad Days’ 7” (the only time they were all performed live.) Often imitated but never bettered, this is a great document of why Minor Threat continue to remain an influential force.
THE MOB. Rise Up ! 7” (All The Madmen) I’ve been looking forward to hearing this single ever since the band started playing this song live. This is their first new recording since reformation, and it’s surely not going to disappoint any old fans. ‘Rise Up’ is a tense, brash statement of intent, similar in mood to the classic ‘Witch Hunt’, while ‘There’s Nothing You’ve Got That I Want’ mixes folky-punk and an almost Lou Reed-like delivery to great effect. It was good to hear them playing all the old favourites live again, but when they’re coming up with new material as strong as this, it’ll be the new stuff that I’m really looking forward to hearing.
THE MOVEMENTS. Like Elephants 2 CD (Crusher) Eclectic Swedish psychedelic band unleash the second part of their ‘Like Elephants’ project and, again, it captures an authentic mood of 60’s West Coast psych-pop, from The Seeds to The Doors, whilst adding liberal hints of UK counterparts like Syd Barrett or Arthur Brown. An excellent, warm production brings out the best of the melodies while allowing the intricacies to work their way through the experience. Excellent, enticing stuff.
NEVER A HERO. Bleed Between The Lies CD (Never A Hero) Contemporary UK metal, mixing powerful rhythms with electronics and atmospherics to create something of their own. The basis is still fairly trad-rock, particularly the vocals, so it’s difficult to see where they want to go, but with a bit of imagination they could break into something pretty interesting.
NIGHTMARE BOYZZZ. Bad Patterns CD (Slovenly) Fuzzed-up, dirty, snarlin’ powerpop, full of energy, attitude and adrenalin. Think of early Buzzcocks in a head-on collision with the Ramones, with Redd Kross playing on the tape-deck. Straight outta Alabama, where it has to be real, this is creepy, cool and convincing !
NOT TONIGHT & THE HEADACHES. Love…CD (Boss Tuneage) Pop-punk very much in the style of ALL, the Hard-Ons or Big Drill Car (eg, before the big labels made the genre embarrassing…) Great, personalised lyrics, upbeat tempos and catchy choruses that will make you think of beach parties with the Ramones on the jukebox. Which makes it all the more unlikely that the band hail from Grimsby. No matter, just buy it, play it loud and jump around.
OFFICER DOWN. Deadlands CD (TNS) A band already well-known on the UK punk scene, stalwart-supporters of the DIY ethos and purveyors of the finest, high-velocity tuneage. Think of early Snuff mixed with chunks of 7 Seconds and maybe a bit of Crimpshrine. It’s joyful, insistent and full of purpose. Raw energy that you’ll want to hear again and again.
POLICE BASTARD. Confined CD (Iron Man) Formed by members of UK Crust legends such as Doom, Filthkick and Sore Throat, Police Bastard take their influences as much from the classic hard rock of Black Sabbath as from the more obvious aural assault of Discharge etc. Lyrically, they launch a vital attack on stagnant institutions, which perfectly articulate the rage felt in the music itself. It’s a righteous anger, primal but intelligently expressed, making this their best release to date.
PSYCHIC TV. Thee Fabulous Feast of Flowering Light. LP (Let Them Eat Vinyl) An archive recording of PTV live at Hammersmith Palais in 1985. This was a pivotal time for the band, as Sleazy had already departed, but both Alex Fergusson (ATV not MUFC) and Dave Ball were still in the ranks, providing interesting musical ideas to back up Genesis P-Orridges’ role as frontman. As such, it was also a crossing-point between their earlier, more experimental material and the soon-to-arrive ‘Hyperdelic’ excursions which, whilst fun in their own right, were probably not as interesting. As a result, the highpoints of this concert (tracks like ‘Unclean’ and an excellent ‘Ov Power’) still have a real bite to them, whilst ‘Roman P’ and ‘Godstar’ demonstrate how the band could also produce more commercially-viable material without necessarily losing their innovation. Unfortunately, other moments are relatively pedestrian and point towards later live performances which could be rather hit or miss. That being said, this recording shows a glimpse of what could’ve been, had PTV followed-through on their earlier potential.
PYPY. Pagan Day CD (Black Gladiator) A mix of fuzzed-out psych, Flipper-style guitar noise, punk rock urgency and demented, female vocals. You really won’t be able to guess what’s coming next, but it’s inevitably worth finding out. This is the real Trash, rock’n’roll as dirty as it gets.
QUI. Life, Water, Living...CD (Cobraside) This is a great mix-up of styles and approach. One moment crunching along with Melvins-style riffs, the next delving into subtle acoustics, before lurching into punk rock thrash. Meanwhile, the vocals veer from raucous rants to enticing harmonies and even Sparks-style dramatics. Genuinely unusual, in all the best kinda ways.
REMA REMA. International Scale 7” (Inflammable Material) Rema Rema remain one of the great lost bands of the late Seventies, releasing only the excellent ‘Wheel In The Roses’ EP before disbanding. So it’s really great that further material has finally been released, in this case, a limited edition two-song 7” released with issue #8 of Defiant Pose fanzine. It certainly lives up to expectations, with both tracks based around deceptively simplistic bass and drums, while Marco Pirroni’s guitar either schreeches feedback (on the a-side) or provides the melody on ‘Short Stories’. On top of this, Gary Asquith’s enigmatic vocals provide the drama, drawing you into their world. There are some elements in common with early Ants or Killing Joke, and the shards of feedback recall the noisier moments of the Velvets, but overall, this still sounds unique. I can only hope that there’s more material still to be released, and that it happens soon !
REVERTED. Sputter The Worms CD (reverted.co.uk) Hard rock that mixes the likes of Metallica and Sacred Reich with Slayer’s aggression and even a few of Voivod’s more idiosyncratic quirks. This could easily appeal to a pretty broad audience, whilst still remaining intent on maintaining its’ own identity. Worth keeping an eye on.
RIPCORD. Fast’n’Furious CD (Boss Tuneage) Subtitled ‘The Complete Demos’, that’s exactly what you get. Numerous tracks of frantic UK hardcore, somewhere in between early Discharge and Minor Threat. This is the first time this material has been released in its’ entirety, and for many fans, this will probably be a definitive release. With political lyrics, thrashing riffs and a generally sharp sound, this is exciting stuff from start to finish. With a booklet that thoroughly documents the band and their songs, this is an excellent release all round.
RITES OF SPRING. Demo 1984 EP (Dischord) Although these recordings have circulated as tapes over the years, this is the first time they’ve been officially released and, for most people, the first chance we’ve had to hear them in the way they were intended to sound. All six songs later featured on the bands’ one and only LP, but here you have them in a much more raw and direct fashion, with alternative arrangements possibly providing a sense of how they sounded in live performance. For a band that made such an impact but left behind a relatively small amount of material, this is going to be essential listening for anyone interested in the DC punk scene.
ROCKET FROM THE CRYPT. Shy Fly 7” (Swami) A series of limited, one-sided singles were made available at the recent RFTC UK tour, a different cover version for each different venue, no less. London was treated to a pretty obscure Status Quo song, dating all the way back to 1970. Of course, given the Rocket-treatment, you’d probably never guess where the song had come from, but it’s a fine little treat regardless. Try to avoid paying silly money for a copy, but be sure to hear it.
RUBELLA BALLET. Planet Punk CD (Overground) Their first album of all-new music since 1986, and it finds Rubella Ballet with a harder sound, somewhere between their older records and contemporary punk, with even a few metal licks thrown-in for good measure. The lyrics also address more recent issues, from 9/11 through to government cover-ups. This is clearly a band not intent to rest on their reputation and very much into taking things forward. I’m sure any fan is going to appreciate it.
THE RUTS. Live At Deeply Vale LP (Dandelion) Apparently released without the knowledge of the remaining band members, you ought to be wary of this LP, especially considering the high asking-price. The track-listing varies quite considerably to the previous CD version of this gig, and since that was released by the same people, you would have thought there would be some consistency ? On top of that, the obvious separation of tracks seems to suggest the recordings actually come from different sources, although it’s hard to figure out these things. On the positive side, the sound is generally pretty good and the sleeve has been nicely designed. It’s just a shame that (whoever-it-was) decided to mess around with the original tapes, as I would have much rather had the whole gig documented, as it was supposed to be…
DAN SARTAIN. Dudesblood CD (One Little Indian) A short, sharp album that packs a real punch, without being afraid to take a few diversions away from the expected format. You’ll get some great, raunchy rock’n’roll, but also some bizarre, lounge-style love songs, frantic punk and a few Country ditties. And all of this fronted by vocals that range from a Ramones-style snarl through to Bolan-esque crooning. There’s plenty to enjoy on this album and you could easily be missing-out on your next favourite thing if you don’t give it a try !
SCHESSE MINNELLI. Sorry State of Affairs CD (Destiny) Adrenalin-fuelled skate-punk, like a cross between RKL and (early) Stupids. Being a mix of Californian and German members, they also have a few interesting twists of their own to include. Great lyrics with clear, snarling vocals and just the right mix of aggression and melody. Just the sorta thing to make you wonder why you ever gave your deck away…
SENSIBLE GRAY CELLS. A Postcard From Britain LP (Easy Action) It’s been a long time since Captain Sensible released a solo album, so I’m sure this new project alongside long-time collaborator Paul Gray (for my money, the best bassist The Damned ever had) is going to please fans no end. Delving into his trademark pop and psychedelia, this is more under-stated than their more raucous work with The Damned, but remains instilled with a real creative energy. There are more than a few nods back towards the Sixties, but it’s not done in a merely retro style, and the lyrics are adamantly aimed towards recent subject-matters, from media celebrities to political treachery. It’s an album that’s full of warmth and wit and packed with great tunes. This is the kinda pop I want to hear – let’s hope there’s more to come.
TIMOTHY J.SIMPSON. Oh, The Endless Fears CD (Concentration City) A step-up from the usual, dull, singer-songwriter stuff, using a full band to fine effect whilst allowing plenty of space for the songs to shine through. The production allows the dynamics to develop naturally, taking their own route and getting to where they ought to be. Somewhere between Buffalo Tom, swampy blues and country rock, this has a charm of its’ own and deserves to be heard.
JOHN SINCLAIR. Mohawk CD (Iron Man) The former MC5 manager and underground legend let’s loose with his beatnik-style lyrical riffing, ably backed-up by multi-instrumentalist Steve Fly in an effective soundtrack. Beautifully packaged with suitably modern psychedelic cartoon imagery, this is cool-jazz brought fully up to date, both musically and lyrically. Thoroughly enjoyable and thought-provoking, be sure to hear it.
SLEAFORD MODS. Mr Jolly Fucker 7” (Fourth Dimension) When you hear a single like this, you end up wishing that Top Of The Pops was still around, just on the off-chance that it might make it into the Top Ten ! Sleaford Mods actually work well as a singles-band, with a weird sorta catchiness behind their minimal rhythms and forthright rants. In fact, the b-side here (‘Tweet Tweet Tweet’) could well be their most accessible song to date… If only radio stations had the guts to broadcast this sorta stuff. It’s says more in five minutes than the last twenty years of Chart music…
SLEAFORD MODS. Divide & Exit CD (Harbinger Sound) I’ll admit I was a bit late getting into Sleaford Mods, but it’s certainly been a good case of better late than never. Building on the excellent ‘Austerity Dogs’, this latest album takes the gritty vocals and looped rhythms another step further, with lyrics as sharp and poignant as they ought to be (‘I can’t believe the rich still exist, let alone run the fucking country !’) There may be a bitter taste on the surface, but underneath there’s a real intent and purpose. Surely this is how young bands should be kicking-off, instead of leaving it to someone older ? The place has become a shit-state and it’s about time someone was trying to shout it down. It’s not all about politics, of course, but Sleaford Mods pick their targets well and rarely fail to hit the mark. At the same time, the music can actually prove to be deceptively catchy, so they certainly don’t seem afraid to take it to a wider audience. If they can continue this momentum, I can only see it as a good thing. If you haven’t already done so, catch them soon.
DAVE SMALLEY. Punk Rock Days CD (Outerloop) A selection of songs recorded acoustically, some dating back to Dag Nasty, others from Down By Law, and several brand new. They’re all recognisably the work of Mr Smalley, and it’s that which gives this album a great sense of continuity. With strong tunes and sharp, observant lyrics, these songs work just as well in an acoustic format as they do with a full band behind them, which is always a good mark of how powerful a song truly is. With several guest appearances to bolster the sound in places (Sam Williams, Brian Baker) this is a very enjoyable album that any fan of Dave Smalley’s previous work is going to appreciate.
SMASH FASHION. Big Cat Love CD (Electric Pudding) A truly international line-up (American, English, Finnish) combine to produce a fine set of glam-powerpop-rock’n’roll tunes. This probably owes as much to the likes of Cheap Trick or Mick Ronson as to more recent bands, but that’s certainly not a problem when they add plenty of their own swagger to the sound. Also good to hear former Dils-member Tony Kidman back in action, even if musically it’s somewhat removed from his punk rock days. Regardless, this is a lot of fun.
THE SOCKS. s/t CD (Small Stone) Start from the classic, early Sabbath albums, mix in some serious acid-rock and The Doors at their wildest… This is an utterly convincing freak-out, riffing like crazy with a sound like Hell coming apart. I know, that sounds a bit over the top, but play this loud and I’m sure you’ll get the idea !
STALINS OF SOUND. Tank Tracks CD (Slovenly) San Diego band who combine electronic rhythms and keyboards alongside distorted guitars and bass to create a vicious, snarling sound. Big Black might be the easy comparison, but also think of early Devo, Chrome, maybe even Frontline Assembly, as well as more recent noiseniks like The Spits. Upbeat and obnoxious in just the right way to also be a lot of fun !
SUGUS. Ciclotes. CD (Monster Zero) Frenzied Spanish punk rock, with lyrics that switch between English and Spanish for an international flavour. Think Ramones as starters, then pump it up ‘til it’s ready to burst. Loads of catchy tunes, singalong choruses and fist in the air anthems. There just isn’t anything to dislike about this album !
SULTAN BATHERY. s/t CD (Slovenly) garage punk with Sixties Psych and Beat influences, from an Italian trio who cast their net as far as America and India in search of influences. An authentic, murky production mixes fuzzed-out guitars, snotty vocals and epic guitar breaks (somewhere between Hendrix and Dick Dale!) Party music for those who don’t want to sleep at all.
TALCO. 10 Years CD+DVD (Destiny) Italian band playing a frantic style of ska-punk that also blends folk and polka influences to create a sound that’s very much their own. Although already very popular around Europe, they’ve still to break into the UK or US scenes. It’s possible that their Italian lyrics may make them a little difficult for English-speaking audiences, but once you hear the insistent music, I’m sure you’re still gonna want to get up and dance. The album also includes a DVD documentary (including subtitles) that ought to serve as a perfect introduction to a fine band. They need to get over here and play, let the audiences hear what they’re missing. In the meantime, this release will you a good idea of what they’re all about.
TERMINUS. Graveyard of Dreams CD / Going Nowhere Fast CD (Boss Tuneage) ‘Going Nowhere Fast’ is a reissue of the bands first album, while ‘Graveyard’ is a reissue of the long out-of-print singles compilation. They both serve as timely reintroductions to a band who made a name for themselves in the late 80’s UK punk scene. While their music may have veered towards a harder, more metallic sound, their lyrics remained political, committed and focused (at one point gaining them the comparison ‘Motorhead meets the Mob’ !) The recordings are sometimes letdown by messy productions, but for intent and purpose alone, these albums remain a worthy legacy.
TOUGH. Four CD (Monster Zero) Italian punkers playing homage to the Ramones with a tight delivery, punchy production and plenty of catchy hooks. But, like Da Brudders themselves, their influences clearly run deeper into the depths of classic pop, from The Monkees through to Lookout Records finest moments. This is what makes them the real deal – instead of just being an imitation, they let their influences inspire their own twist on the sound. Real good fun !
US AMONGST THE REST. Follow The Truth CD (Two Star) Young band hailing from York, producing a very accomplished album that sits comfortably amongst contemporary rock sounds. Catchy riffs and melodic harmonies are prominent amongst a hard-edged guitar sound, making this an album with plenty of vision and a lot of promise for the future.
THE VACANT LOTS. Departure CD (Sonic Cathedral) Although only a duo, Vacant Lots produce a large, convincing sound, evoking early Joy Division alongside Sonic Youth’s more accessible moments. Mixed by former Spaceman 3 front-man, Sonic Boom, the album contains swoops of psychedelia, insistent rhythms and catchy tunes, all working together towards highly entertaining results. I could see these guys getting pretty popular, all they need is the right kind of exposure. Play it loud and let the neighbours enjoy it as well !
WIDOWS. Death Valley Duchess CD (Bad News) Powerful hardcore-metal crossover, sorta reminiscent of the first time you heard the likes of Biohazard or Pantera… Relentless, sledge- hammer riffs’n’rhythms that keep it driving along from start to finish. There’s nothing subtle about it, but sometimes that’s just what you want to hear. One to play while you’re bouncing off the walls.
WILKO JOHNSON & ROGER DALTREY. Going Back Home. LP (Chess) Firstly, I have to say that this album has been presented with real style. Nice, vintage-style sleeve, great artwork, high-quality vinyl and an excellent 8-page insert. Someone took a lot of care with this. And musically, it’s just as accomplished. Revisiting highlights from Wilko’s impressive career, plus an effective Bob Dylan cover, the music sounds great. Norman Watt-Roy and Dylan Howe provide the perfect rhythm section for Wilko’s distinctive guitar sounds, and really, that’s all we need to know. In fact, if anything, it’s Daltrey’s vocals that let’s this down a bit. Instead of the angst and spirit of early Who (My Generation, Substitute etc) we get a much more mature Blues vocal style and, while it sounds strong and certainly has its’ place, doesn’t really match the music and lyrics. But that’s a minor point – crank this up loud and there’s still more than enough to enjoy.
THE WISDOOM. Hypothalamus CD (Slovenly) One of the heaviest albums you’re likely to hear this year, combining the sludge riffs of Earth with the heavier, psych-tinged song-craft of The God Machine. Mostly instrumental and boasting a superb production sound, this is a band who really know how to take a riff to its’ extreme, without losing the sense of purpose. If you want to get pummelled with style, this is the one for you. Just be careful who you share it with.
DAVID WOODCOCK. s/t CD (Blow Up) Great pop songs that variously hint at moments of Lennon, Sparks, Madness and maybe even Mott the Hoople. This is classic English pop, the sorta thing that most songwriters could only ever dream about. This is entertaining without being patronising, referential without being obvious and even commercial, though without the usual desperate trappings that usually entails these days. You could actually imagine any one of these songs sneaking onto the airwaves and becoming a well-deserved hit. This is what pop music should stand up and sound like !
THE YOOHOOS. Heart Attacks EP (Monster Zero) Great snappy punk rock tunes that will have fans of The Queers or the Mcrackins salivating in an instance. Upbeat, contagious and demanding repeat plays, you won’t be able to do anything but love it. This is a band who know what they want to deliver and keep it short and sharpened. Simple and straight to the point, it needs nothing else.
ZATOPEKS. About Bloody Time CD (Monster Zero) German band producing melodic punk that finds its’ place somewhere in between NOFX and The Boys. Combining rock’n’roll licks with short-sharp bursts of three-chord energy, they have plenty of catchy tunes to have you jumping around your bedroom for the entire duration. Like all the best pop-punk, this really just boils down to having a load of fun, but it’s also a craft that needs to be done properly. These guys obviously know the score. Play it loud and enjoy !
ZOO HARMONICS. Business in The Front CD (Pet Harmony) Pop-punk in a style that wouldn’t sound so out of place on either Fat Wreckords or Lookout. Think of bands like Lagwagon or No Use For A Name, perhaps. Which probably makes it all the more unusual when you find out Zoo Harmonics are an Israeli band ! Certainly not what I’d expect, but then again, it’s always good to get your preconceptions burst, once in a while ! Lyrics are more personal than political, but perfectly suit the high energy bursts of melodic punk. Definitely one to check out !
V/A. 4 BANDS SPLIT Vol.One CD (Heavy Psych Sounds) Packaged in a suitably dark design (imagine Hawkwinds’ worst psychedelic nightmare !) this kicks off with two tracks from the sinister yet tempered NAAM, recalling recent Swans material in some ways. White Hills take up the gauntlet with some drone-like space rock, owing as much to Kraut rock as metal. Black Rainbows veer more towards Stoner rock, though no less effective, and finally, the Flying Eyes seem to mix elements of all the others, starting with a Stoner-style basis with which to launch all manner of psych-experiments. This is where Hard Rock ought to be going in the 21st century, not just sticking to the format but stretching it as far as it will go. There’s some great stuff to investigate here, so don’t miss it.