Wednesday, 26 April 2017

Album Review: More Scared Of You Than You Are Of Me by The Smith Street Band

There weren't many new albums due for release in 2017 that were more anticipated than The Smith Street Band's follow up to 2014's album of the year (for me), Throw Me In The River. This month the band released a brand new album named More Scared Of You Than You Are Of Me, the first release on their new label Pool House Records. With the amazing Jeff Rosenstock again producing, I had very high expectations of this album.

The first song Forrest wastes absolutely no time in getting the album going. No soft introduction just an explosion of those trademark Wil Wagner vocals kicking the song off in great style. Musically this is a fast and pounding song that doesn't slow down throughout its duration. From the outset of More Scared you know that you are in for a massive ride with this album. Forrest is a song dedicated to a small country town in Australia, named Forrest, where the band recorded Throw Me In The River. It talks about how Forrest began to feel so much like home that returning to their normal headquarters, Melbourne, felt more like leaving. The second song Birthdays is one of the songs that the band released early to help promote the upcoming album. This song is everything I've come to expect from a Smith Street Band song. Musically it has loud, crashing moments mixed with some sweet and tender party. Lyrically it's incredibly deep and has a real life affirming vibe and it's so incredibly catchy. The lines that stood out the most on my first listen of the song are "We Are More That Future Housewives, More Than The Sum Of Our Past Lives." Wil Wagner has said that he wrote those lines because of a friend of his said that she was "nothing but a future housewife." Wagner was so upset by the notion of belittling stay-at-home parents he was inspired to write this love song. The third song is another that was released early by The Smith Street Band. They've actually be playing it live since at least last July when they toured the UK. If you were at any of those shows or have seen the Smithies since then you've more than likely already heard Death To The Lads. This anthemic track has a huge chorus that will get incredible sing-a-longs wherever the band play. It's about growing up, changing and trying to improve yourself. It's also is a direct hit out at lad culture that has polluted society in recent years and takes at stand against that "laddish" behaviour. A Song For You is about unrequited love and the feelings that come from that. In true Smithies fashion there is a wonderful building bridge section before a big finale for an extended chorus that will, again, sound incredible live. Smithies drummer Chris Cowburn plays a blinder throughout the song - some of my favourite drumming on any Smith Street song.

The fifth song on the album is named Passiona. Passiona takes more of a slower paced melody compared to the opening four songs on More Scared Of You. Incidentally the album takes its name from a lyric in this song. Passiona is a track about struggling through life and feeling bad about how you feel that society looks down on you and your friends. The line "I'm Having Panic Attacks On German TV" is actually something that happened to Wil as he and the rest of the band performed on German TV during a time when Wil's mental health was at a low point. Run Into The World continues with the slower songs. I like the song ordering here, calming things down after a breathless start to the album. This is an interesting song that starts quite bleak but finishes in a truly uplifting way. The Smith Street Band are joined by Laura Stevenson of Laura Stevenson and the Cans/Bomb The Music Industry fame and Tim Rogers who is an Australian musician best known as the frontman of rock band You Am I. Stevenson's part in particular is a highlight of the song, especially when Wagner joins her for some spectacular harmonies. The uplifting tone continues on the following track Shine. Similarly to the album's opening track, it starts with Wil's vocals immediately opening the song. If you own the LP version of More Scared Of You then this is the opening song of side B of the record. I like the symmetry of the first songs on each side. It's a lovely piece of synchronicity. Shine is a song about accepting who you are and making the most of your life as nothing is permanent. The pre-outro to the song is absolutely superb with a choir providing some incredible backing harmonies that make the track sound huge! I can't wait to see this song live. The eighth song, 25, is about growing older and making comparisons to the life of people who are the same age as you. Wil has a great skill to write honest and relatable lyrics. One that stood out to me was "When I Turn 25 I Was Terrified, Still Haven't Learnt To Do The Dishes" as it is painfully relatable to my life.

It Kills Me To Have To Be Alive is potentially the saddest song title of the year. It suits the song however as it's heartbreaking. It is about Wil's struggles with depression and feeling unloved. Musically it's a simple song for the most part with just guitar, synth and vocals, as Wil lets out his feelings in a way that really pulls on your emotions. It takes a massive amount of bravery to be able to release a song such as this to the public, I don't know Wil personally but he's someone I'm incredibly proud of for having the strength to do this. Suffer is one of the angriest songs that The Smith Street Band ever written. I have to say, I really love angry Smith Street Band. The venom that comes from Wil's voice is powerful, you can tell he means every single word that he's singing. What's he so angry about I hear you ask? Suffer is about bands who only focus on the negative parts of being in a band. These days a lot of bands talk on stage about dealing with crowd violence and incidents happening at their shows and how it seems as if it's now a badge of honour to talk about these things even if it isn't happening at your shows. The penultimate song on the album is named Young Once. This is that epic masterpiece that appears on every Smithies album. Starting with some rough, raw sounding vocals accompanied by some acoustic guitar, it's a interesting and different way to get the song going. Of course, the song builds in a brilliant way that only The Smith Street Band can do. The guitar riffs for the chorus are among my favourites by the band. The track itself is about looking back on things and realising that some of the things you thought were the most important back then weren't really that important at all. Finally the track that we finish More Scared Of You Than You Are Of Me is titled Laughing - Or Pretending To Laugh. This is another slow builder where Wil sings about having a perfect night with a girl in New York and that happy, giddy feeling that you get by being around someone that you really like. Lyrically this song it absolutely perfect. It's sweet, smart, humourous and full of love - everything I've come to expect from Wil Wagner. This is a completely beautiful way to finish the album.

It was always going to be almost impossible for me to rate this album better than Throw Me In The River. Throw Me In The River came out at a time when I was seriously suffering with a lot of things in my life and that album helped me through a lot so I'm sure you can imagine that that album means a massive amount to me. That said, More Scared Of You... is a superb album - obviously, The Smith Street Band only release superb albums. It's been fun witnessing the band grow bigger and bigger with each release, starting with No One Gets Lost Anymore right through to where they are now. It's only a matter of time until they breakthrough to the mainstream and take their rightful place as one of the biggest bands in the world.

Stream and download the album here:

Buy a physical copy here:

Like The Smith Street Band here:

This review was written by Colin Clark.  

Tuesday, 25 April 2017

Gig Review: The Menzingers at Koko 19/4/17

How often is a line up announced that makes you go "holy-moly, I have to go to that show!"? That's what happened when The Menzingers announced a week of UK dates with special guests The Flatliners. Two of the most beloved punk bands of the past ten years on tour together, this was surely going to be pretty special. Both bands had just released new albums in the past couple of months as well with The Menzingers dropping After The Party and The Flatiners putting out Inviting Light, this added an extra element of excitement to the night at Koko in Camden.

First up were a new band who have been making waves in the punk scene. Like almost every other great new punk band that appears on my radar lately, The Dirty Nil are a band from Canada. The three piece have been making a name for themselves on the live circuit with their high energy, loud and fast rock n roll, drawing high praise from everyone who has seen them. Taking to the stage, I thought that The Dirty Nil had a bit of a swagger about their band. These three gentlemen knew they were about to rock the very quickly filling up Koko's world. And that they did! Barely pausing for breath throughout their half hour set, this was a fantastic, hard hitting and passionate performance. They had a few diehard fans in attendance as well who were singing along excitedly to every word. The Dirty Nil started the night out right. It surely won't be too long until they are headlining venues in London by themselves.

Next up were fellow Canadian's The Flatliners. This was my first time seeing the band in pretty much a year to the day after they headlined 2016's Manchester Punk Festival. Having only listened to Inviting The Light one time (whilst hanging up some washing, so I wasn't completely focussed on the melodic gruff punk stylings) I didn't really expect to know a great deal of the songs in the Flatliners' set. I was pleasantly surprised to find that they played more of a best of set with some sprinklings of new stuff thrown in. This was a fantastic ploy from the band to keep the crowd hot for the classics, whilst getting us pumped for new songs as well. Hearing some of the new tracks live definitely gave me the itch to listen to Inviting The Light some more. Highlights of the set for me were Count Your Bruises, Monumental and Eulogy. Eulogy in particular got a massive reaction from the Koko crowd. I could be wrong but I believe that this was the only track the band played from what is my favourite (non ska) Flatliners album, The Great Awake. Performance wise The Flatliners were as good as ever. Putting everything into their songs and looking completely stoked by the reactions they were getting from the crowd. The Flatliners are loved in London and all over the UK - this is why they are coming back for a massive headline tour in October.

Now it was time for who I think are the most loved punk band on the planet - The Menzingers. They seemingly strike gold with everything they do. After The Party is another absolutely superb album by the Philadelphians and I, like every single person in Koko, was extremely excited to hear some of the new material live. They wasted no time at all when showcasing the new material by opening with the brilliant Tellin' Lies. A song that starts with a fantastic guitar part and has a huge, high octane chorus of "Where We Gonna Go When Our Twenties Are Over" that got everyone in Koko singing along. Despite the fact it's a relatively new song it's incredible to see that many people singing their hearts out along with the band. This is a huge testament to the band's abiltiy to craft perfect punk rock. It's so superbly catchy and you can tell the song means a lot to so many people. It's not just a room of people just singing along because it's fun to sing along, it's a room full of people who have genuinely relate to the lyrics. You could use this description for pretty much every song in the Menzingers set and this is why they are so universally loved. Seven songs were played from After The Party and all got positive reactions but perhaps none more so than the album's title track. This song, about being whoever you want to be, has many massive sing-a-long moments but "Everyone Wants To Get Famous, But You Just Wanna Dance In a Basement" and "After The Party It's Me And You" particularly stand out. Of course, the classics from The Menzingers past two albums On The Impossible Past and Rented World are also massive highlights in a set which falls between the incredible and perfect in my opinion. I've now seen The Menzingers on nine different occasions at various sized venues and they've managed to outdo themselves on every occasion. You'd think, law of averages and all, that one time they would disappoint but I really can't see them ever being anything less than amazing.

This gig review was written by Colin Clark

Album Review: Eight Nights by Grand-Pop

Grand-Pop are somewhat of a powerpop punk supergroup with members from The Attika State (Warren, guitar and vocals), Attack! Vipers! (Tom, bass) and Caves (Lou, drums and vocals). Each of those bands have quite different sounds so it’s certainly going to be interesting to hear what music they can create together! Eight Nights is Grand-Pop’s debut album which has been a little while in the making – originally written in 2012 and ’13, before finally being recorded in 2015 and ’16. Eight Nights features 8 songs – hence the title, I imagine – and is out now on Specialist Subject Records in the UK and Discos Finu in Spain/Europe.

Drop Trow is the first song on Eight Nights and it does a great job of introducing the sound of Grand-Pop, who for most, me included, are a fairly new band – loud, bright powerpop to get your head nodding along to. The guitar, bass and drums are all pretty loud with Warren’s vocals remaining able to carry over the top – a good song to wake you up in the morning, especially if your head is feeling at all fuzzy! The second song, High Hopes, starts out with drums before a neat little guitar riff once again gets your head nodding. Warren sings the opening line – ‘I’ve found a way, A way of holding on…’ – with elongated ‘way’ and ‘on’s, which I’m figuring out is theme of his singing style. You’ve got to have a pretty good voice to be able to do that sort of thing and still sound good, I think anyway, and this man certainly does. Warren isn’t the only vocalist in Grand-Pop as Lou also lends backing vocals on Eight Nights and this starts to become apparent on the chorus – ‘…And I’m leaning on and falling off, With a space for my high hopes, High hopes, Holding on.’ They are only subtle backing vocals mind you so perhaps this is a taste of what is yet to come.

‘It’s my way back, It’s my way back, Oh-ee-oh oh-ee-oh oh-ee-oh, Woah-oh-oh-oh.’  is the opening line of track number three, Nova Scotia  which definitely lends itself to being a big live singalong. I mean, who doesn’t like screaming woah-ohs along with a band? The vocals seem more strained and urgent on this song, like Warren is really desperate to get away – and escape… to Nova Scotia. This is one of the shorter songs on the album and it needn’t be any longer as it gets straight to the point, which is sometimes just what a song needs to do. Nervous Nelly is next up and I would say that this is one of my favourites on the album. I mentioned earlier about Lou starting to be heard for backing vocals, well this is perhaps more apparent on Nervous Nelly. The verses are still sung by Warren but Lou joining the mix on the chorus adds another dynamic to the Grand-Pop sound. The screams of ‘Get up, Get up, And get up, Get up.’ by both singers really reminds me of RVIVR, another band with a great dynamic between their two vocalists – incidentally when we last saw RVIVR, at Fest 15, Lou played bass for them!

Nervous Nelly has a particularly good musical outro which leads into the next track, On and On. Melody is definitely one of the key components of a Grand-Pop song and is certainly evident by track number five. On and On is a song about returning to your hometown and seeing people from your past. There’s a sense of nostalgia but also the idea that you might meet up with people just ‘for old times’ sake’ – ‘The sentiment that keeps us stuck right here, In the same voice and dialect, That keeps us on and on and on and on… For old, For Old time’s sake’. All of the tracks on Eight Nights have been relatively poppy but the chorus of this next song, Saturday Night, is probably one of the catchiest on the record. I dare you to listen to the words, ‘To the sentimental, Woah-oh, Sentimental, Woah-oh, Sentimental, Woah-oh-oh’, and not be singing it ten minutes later. This is a band that loves a good woah-oh and there’s something incredibly feel-good about that.

The penultimate song of Eight Nights brings us into a place of intense emotional but in the best possible way. Soul Man is an energetic ride and is a great example of what Grand-Pop are all about. The chorus contains some of the stand out lyrics of the album and I can’t help but believe every single word – ‘You’re my soul man, And this is my heartbreak woah-oh-oh, I’d leave you if I fucking could, I’d leave you if I if I could.’ The majority of the song is quite full on with all band members and instruments at full volume but the end of the song is more stripped back, allowing the listener to take in all of Warren’s feelings for one more chorus. Only a few songs ago I mentioned how Grand-Pop love a bit of woah-oh-ing, well the final track on Eight Nights is simply titled Woah. I feel like the sound shifts a bit for this last song as the guitars sound a bit more distorted and more straightforwardly rocky – if that makes any sense. That said, it’s not long before the woah-ohs start – they had to really, given the song title – encouraging you to enjoy one last singalong with the band. The song definitely feels like an album, or even a set, closer with a long musical section in the middle of it that starts to slow the pace down. There haven’t really been many slow moments on this album and so it makes the last line of the song, and indeed Eight Nights as a whole, hit home all the more. ‘And I’m not, No I’m not, I’m not so invincible, If anything yeah these measures, They got bigger with time.’  

Grand-Pop describe their sound as being ‘somewhere between The Weakerthans, The Promise Ring and Weezer’ so if that, or any of my words above, connect with you then you can buy, download and stream Eight Nights now.

You can also find Grand-Pop on Facebook here.

This review was written by Emma Prew.

Monday, 24 April 2017

Album Review: We're Sorry We Missed You by THREES

Time for another fantastic Canadian punk band. This time it's THREES, a three piece band from Toronto. At the end of 2016 they released their only release to date, an album named We're Sorry We Missed You. In all honesty I can't find much else about THREES on the Internet other than that they seem to have played their last show and weren't especially active anyway. We're Sorry We Missed You is a fantastic album though so I decided it definitely needs some more coverage.

We're Sorry We Missed You begins with the song Rot Away. This song serves as much as an intro to the album as much as it does a standalone song. With some background noise of a children's playground, it features just vocals and some light percussion as a song about wanting to rot away is sung. A cheery way to get the album started. The album starts properly next with the song, Old Vans. Here we get the proper THREES sound. You've heard this sound before, it's that gruff, melodic punk rock that's oh so popular these days and THREES do it as well as anyone. Old Vans is a song about looking back at old photos of previous adventures and reminiscing about the good times. Dufferin Street Blues is one of the standout tracks on the album. It's a great big sing-a-long from the outset with the lines "Say Goodbye To The Only Constant In My Life" delivered in a way where it's impossible not to want to sing with THREES. The song, which is about struggling to deal with change, is only a short one but seems to pack a lot into it. With great lyrics and some big hooks, this is a perfect song to get a crowd good and rowdy. Up next is the song Out There which is a song about people who spend more time socialising on their mobile phones than actually speaking to people in real life. The song isn't quite as in-your-face, shout-a-long fun as the previous track but there's more of a serious, take a look at your life tone to it. I'm enjoying both styles of songs by THREES.

The fifth song, Last One Out, is another that goes with the more mid-tempo melodic sound. This track is one that deals with the subject of depression, in particular the struggles of getting up in the morning and not liking the person that you are. The opening lines are something many sufferers of depression could easily relate to - "This Time Of Morning, I Don't Know What I Hate More, My Alarm Clock Or Myself." The nest song, Scary Movies, took me a bit off guard on my first listen of it as We're Sorry We Missed You is a short acoustic track. Sometimes I find that this disrupts the flow of an album when an acoustic pops up at the midway point but here it works well and showcases a different side to THREES. Scary Movies is a song about hating somebody that won't leave you alone. Honest Son is a slower paced track that has plenty of hooks and sing-a-long moments. It's about coming to a crossroads in your life and realising that you might have to give up on your dreams and find yourself a job instead of constantly having to borrow money from your parents. I really liked the honesty in the lyrics and I feel like there is a whole lot of truth in the song. Wednesday, 25 Cents brings the album to its halfway point. THREES pick the pace up slightly on this shorter song that has plenty of punk rock attitude. It's about not getting stressed out about the troubles that occur in your life. The track finishes with the repetition of the line "I Don't Give A Shit About It" which I think could become a huge crowd sing-a-long moment.

Mother's Lament kicks off the second half of We're Sorry We Missed You in fine fashion. When I first heard it I was instantly reminded of Colorado's Elway, one of my favourite bands in the gruff pop punk genre. The song starts with some thoughtful and heartfelt lyrics that will hook you into the song immediately and have you singing along with every word. It's not a hard hitting song by any means but one that you'll love instantly. The tenth track is named L5-S1. This song is about holding in so much emotion that you can't relax. There is a raw, fuzzy sound on the recording of the song which adds a warmth to the track. I liked that the music is on a loop throughout the majority of the song with the vocals carrying the melody of the song. As it goes on, the guitars go their own way and set up a fantastic finale. Dirty Dishes is another short acoustic song. This is a bit of a love song that talks about wanting to finish a relationship because of the frustrations of little things that don't actually matter but realising how much you love the person. Remains is an interesting song that mostly features only the electric guitar before the full band comes into the song towards its finale. There is a feeling of loneliness when the guitar is on its own only accompanied by vocals. The song is about finding the strength and confidence to tell someone how you feel before it's too late.

Nowhere probably has my favourite intro of the whole album. The fast paced guitar at the beginning really adds a truck load of energy to the song immediately and I instantly want to see where the song is going to take me. The song is loud and fast and is one of the best tracks in this genre of punk rock I've heard in a long time. It's a brilliantly shoutable song about wanting to go somewhere in your life and not being content with where you currently are. It's a positive upbeat song that is inspiring. Wayside starts with some crashing guitars and some thumping drums before we slide into a more restrained (compared to Nowhere) sound. I'm reminded of the UK's own Bear Trade here with this mature and thoughtful style of punk. There are some fantastic harmonies on this song, perhaps the best on the album. I do love a good harmony. The penultimate song on We're Sorry We Missed You is named Mind Fuck. There isn't a whole lot to this song in all honesty. It's a short, simple song about having your head messed with. Mind Fuck has definitely fucked with my mind as it has now wedged itself into my brain. It's quite catchy. Finally we have the sixteenth song on the album, Fuck This World. Fuck This World is a song about finding a way to make sense of all the darkness that goes on in the world. The songs starts with some fantastic guitar chords that make me want to jump up and down before finishing with a fantastic chorus of "We're Sing Through The Night To Make Some Sense Of The Light." A wonderful way to finish off a great album.

Stream and download We're Sorry We Missed You here:

This review was written by Colin Clark.

Thursday, 20 April 2017

Top Tens: Dan's Top Ten Songs from Tony Hawks Pro Skater

I got a little emotional when this topic for a top ten came up, as I imagine a lot of you guys did when clicking on the link. I know a lot of people will have their own favourite songs and I urge you guys to share your own too. THPS meant a great deal to a great many and the soundtrack is that of our subculture through and through.

The important question of which songs meant the most though, I think, can stem from how old you were in 1999. I was seventeen when I first played a THPS game and, for me, the experience was of listening to songs that I had in my album collection play over a computer game. Others may have a totally different opinion to me since they would be discovering punk/rock/hip hop for the first time as part of the experience. Let’s have a look and see…

10. 99 Quite Bitter Beings – CKY
If you were watching Jackass when I was a teenager you were a sellout. If you really wanted to get a proper experience you had to be watching Bam Margera's Toy Machine skate videos and his offshoot films, CKY. His brother provided the soundtrack to those films and one tune in particular found it’s way onto Pro Skater 3.

9. TNT – AC/DC
I shouldn’t really need to say anything about this tune. It’s a classic hall of fame rock anthem and makes every trick gain +1 swag!

8. B-Boy Document ’99 – The High & Mighty
Hip hop didn’t feature on the original THPS soundtrack so my first experience with skating in any form to it came with this track. Now a staple of skating or snowboarding for me, it all came from this one tune.

7. Vilified – Even Rude
I love the start of this track. It feels totally epic and goes so well with hurtling round a level at top speed trying to finish in quickest time. Even Rude are one of those bands, of which I’m sure we all have many, where I hear the song on the game and think “damn man I need to find these guys' album” but always seem to forget to do so once I put the game down. Maybe this time I’ll remember!

6. Ace Of Spades – Motorhead
I own no less than four different versions of this song. Even though I could listen to it anywhere it’s just that little bit extra special screaming the lyrics out through the airport whilst racking up a ridiculous score going round and round the baggage reclaim.

5. Seneca Falls - The Distillers
Every now and then I’m a little indifferent to listening to bands that I already know of in the games. Sometimes the lyrics have to be censored and the song itself shortened and it can spoil it. Not for the Distillers though, they are nigh perfect in any setting in every situation.

4. I’m Destroying The World – Guttermouth
As I mentioned earlier, I was a big fan of stupid tricks and pranks mixed in with my skateboarding. Because of this I was always (and still am) a massive Guttermouth fan. The silly nature of the games just feels perfectly encapsulated in the red neck riffs and lyrical stylings of Mark Adkins.

3. No Cigar – Millencolin
This was Tony Hawks' favourite track and the man had damn good taste. Off the best Millencolin album (imo), No Cigar is a skate anthem that’s universally loved for its awesome riffage and super catchiness. I would be flabbergasted to not see this on everybody's lists.

2. Superman – Goldfinger
For a lot of people this is THE song for the THPS soundtracks. It’s so instantly recognisable lived as the standout out track of the smaller but amazing quality first soundtrack. I could have put this at number 1 if not for the fact that early 2000s nightclubs played this song to death and nowadays I can’t really listen to it all the way through.

1. May 16th - Lagwagon
Lagwagon were a band I’d missed in my early punk rock education. When your only access to music is sifting through CD Warehouse or downloading mp3s over a dial up connection, you tend to miss some of the good stuff so it wasn’t until I played the games that I came across what I consider as one of the best written skate punk songs in all of existence. The funny thing is I’m not even that big a Lagwagon fan but this one song seems to stand for everything I love about the genre, the scene and was just kickass when it was on – and you’d worked out how to keep up a combo circuit of the hangar!!

I could mention a hundred other honourable mentions but instead I’ll leave it to you guys to add your own. This was honestly exhausting trying to do a top ten so I would genuinely love to here from you and all your best tracks too.

This top ten was written by Dan Peters.

Wednesday, 19 April 2017

Album Review: Tales of Interest by The Dopamines (by Robyn Pierce)

I became a big fan of The Dopamines in 2010 with the release of their second full-length, Expect the Worst. I’m pretty sure that album made a few lists for the best albums released that year. It was so well-received that all of the band’s subsequent albums are almost certainly doomed to be considered in light of it. When 2012’s Vices came around, I’m sure my expectations were way too high. The same elements were there, but it seemed too cluttered to me, too slick at times and lacking some of the raw, biting cynicism I’d loved on the previous release. However, after a few more listens I realized that this was just a slightly more grown-up Dopamines party, with the same sardonic spirit and punchy songwriting. Enter The Dopamines’ latest album: Tales of Interest, out on Rad Girlfriend Records.

This time I was more excited about how The Dopamines have been able to grow and develop their sound. The first song I actually heard off of Tales of Interest was ‘Ire’, which premiered a few weeks ago on the Anxious and Angry podcast (rather awesomely in the 150th episode. If you haven’t checked out this podcast yet, which places you in the intimate company of Ryan Young and his candid punk rock guests, I really suggest that you do.) This is definitely one of the stronger tracks off of Tales of Interest and showcases a number of elements that characterize this album – such as a heavier, darker sound, aggressive vocals and a pounding melody. The Dopamines are at their best when they’re spitting bitter truths and pithy burns, and that hasn’t changed here. ‘Ire’ hits you with some great lines about revenge, with Jon belting out “And I can’t think of a better way to throw it right back into your lying face”, because “it’s true what they say, revenge feels pretty sweet”. When I moved from this to the album, I was caught off-guard by the beginning; instead of dropping straight into one of the band’s leaping melodies, you’re eased into the album with what sounds like the band plugging in and warming up. This gives it a little bit of the feel of a live show, but it also just feels dirtier and more D.I.Y. – like the guys recorded the entire album in about four days while chugging beer the entire time (which they did. Again, you really should check out the Anxious and Angry podcast.) About halfway in, the first track kicks into gear with the heavier, getting-towards-metal type of distortion that is used throughout the album.

Once you get into the second track, ‘The King of Swilling Powers, Part I, II, II’, you can tell that the band have thought about the dynamics of these songs. It’s easy with this sort of in-your-face punk to keep everything bashing out at a similar volume, so that it all bleeds into each other. Here, as on “Ire”, the band strips things down to begin with – dampening the guitar so that the vocals come to the forefront and allowing for more of an impact when the full band comes in. The next song, ‘Business Papers’, starts out thick and heavy with a syncopated rhythm; in true Dopamines style, this is a song about corporate trappings and the frustrations of working in an office (think Office Space, but with more la la las). There’s also a broody breakdown with some tight drumrolls. Tracks 5 and 6 are both a little less heavy (mostly). ‘Common Rue’ brings in some palm muting with poppier vocals while, wait for it… ‘Midwesternplayalisticeconolinemuzik’ (yeah, they’re trolling us; just call it track 6) is really fun, with a jiving drum beat and guitar and vocals that burst out with angsty brilliance. ‘083133’ kicks you in the face again with something faster, dirtier and louder, before you slide down into the pop punk melody of ‘Pavlovian Fixations’. In Tales of Interest, it’s really clear that The Dopamines have tried to create an album with variety that keeps your interest, but which also has a set of songs that sit together comfortably and clearly belong on the same album. Each song is a ‘tale’ of daring, or a slightly cynical story in a drunken punk storybook for adults, with Jon’s yells urging you to turn the page.

‘Open Letter’ is essentially a glorious vent, with a chord progression that rises and builds beautifully. At one point Jon sings: “wearing kid gloves, trying new things, playing nice…I’d rather set your ass on fire!” (Ah man, I’d love to see Jon in the Johannesburg traffic. I can only imagine the deliciously horrible things that would come out of his mouth.) The album doesn’t really slow down in this last third, with the last five songs all delivering on pace and raw energy. ‘Expect the Worst’ does actually remind me of the album of the same name, but more polished. ‘Kaltes Ende’ seems to refer back to the first track on the album (Kalte Ente), but a quick Google search tells me that Kalte Ente just refers to the practice of mixing leftover wine to create a drink called ‘Cold Duck’ and I could find nothing for Kaltes Ende. So…the guys started out drinking and they’re drinking again? Or, this album is the swirled mix of all the cold leftovers of their previous songwriting attempts? After ‘Kaltes Ende’ the guys get really sweet in ‘Heartbeaten by the Police’, which reminds me of Masked Intruder simply because of its vocal harmonizing and love-themed punning. The beginning of ‘Business Papers (Reprise)’ is the slowest the album gets, but it’s really a slow burning build to the banged-out ending. ‘Everyone Dies’ is an old-school jam that ends off the album in a blaze (and with a great Cranberries reference).

If you are an ‘Expect the Worst’ fan like me and hoped for more of a return to that sound, then Tales of Interest may not be for you – but I’d urge you to listen to it anyway because it’s a great record that delivers on the caustic, yet fun-loving, dirty, yet tight, Dopamines sound that you can’t help but enjoy. This is still The Dopamines you know and love, just a little more hardened and grown.

Like The Dopamines here:

This review was written by Robyn Pierce

Tuesday, 18 April 2017

Album Review: Pardon Us by Pardon Us

Pardon Us are a three-piece punk rock band from Liverpool. Earlier this year they released their debut self-titled five track EP with the fine folks at Every Thing Sucks. Shortly after that I saw the band live for the first time, at South East Fest, – and heard songs from said EP for the first time too. Its safe to say I became a firm fan from that moment. I added Pardon Us to my ‘Prew’s Reviews’ list but I must admit I’ve been slower than the band deserves at getting onto it…

The first song is called Goodnight Adam 12 and is a song that also has an excellent SEGA-style RPG music video. (You can watch the video here.) One reason I was immediately hooked on Pardon Us when I saw them live was that their music packed a certain punch without being unnecessarily aggressive. I’m pleased to say that this remains the case on recording. Goodnight Adam 12 is a good ol’ song about growing up and having to make decisions as to where your life is heading – hence why a RPG music video works so well. Next up is Sleepwalk, a relatively speedy little track that kicks off with some great guitar work before the opening verse. The verses of the song are accompanied by palm-muted guitar which, although I know a lot of bands do, is something that always reminds me of Cornwall’s Bangers (RIP). Pardon Us did remind me a bit of the Cornish trio when I saw them live as well, which is not a bad band to be compared to if you ask me. Sleepwalk is about how you can sometimes end up going about your day in somewhat of a sleepwalking or zombie-like state, not really taking everything in but carrying on anyway. Until you realise all the time you’ve wasted anyway. 

Carry On is probably my favourite Pardon Us song – although it is a close call as all the songs on this EP are top notch. With an empowering and encouraging sentiment that really makes you want to shout about it, Carry On is simply DIY punk rock at its best. If you ever feel like you can’t do something or are feeling like there’s someone who is putting you down, you need to listen to this song. Knock us down, but we still don't die, People ask us why we even try, But you and me, we're not the same as everyone, All my brothers and my sisters too, I still remember all I've learned from you, And to you I dedicate this song, We'll just carry on.’ Cue the punk rock woah-ohs. Perfect.

The fourth song is titled Flightless and it wastes no time in getting going with pounding drums and fast-paced guitar and bass from the outset. You’d be forgiven for thinking that this was a happy-go-lucky punk song, as Morgan’s vocal style doesn’t particularly carry a lot of venom but within the lyrics it is clear that Flightless is a fairly anger-driven song. And I've seen you at the top, As you spit down in my eye, But I will see you at the bottom, When you realise, you don't know how to fly.’ Then, before you know it, it’s over and it is tempting to press repeat. But at least there’s one more song to come. I’ve been trying to work out what the title of fifth and final track, OHM, stands for or means and… well, I haven’t had much luck. I know that an ohm is something to do with electrical resistance (and is represented by this neat symbol – Ω) but I’m not sure how relevant that is. Whatever the song title may mean, I can at least decipher what the song itself is about – OHM is about about Pardon Us’s hometown of Liverpool. I enjoy the Beatles reference (not that I like The Beatles) – The Beatles moved to London, Pardon Us? We're staying here’. And I’m sure the closing line of Roam all you can roam, but there's no place like home’ can be applied to any individual and their own relationship to their hometown.

Pardon Us are a great addition to the UK DIY punk scene and I look forward to hearing whatever they release next – maybe a full length album!

You can stream, download and buy the 7" of Pardon Us here.
And like Pardon Us on Facebook here.

This review was written by Emma Prew.