Friday, 17 November 2017

Album Review: Foreign Skies by The Dreadnoughts (by Emma Prew)

This summer I got to see one of my absolute favourite punk bands who I had unfortunately never managed to catch live before, The Dreadnoughts. To say I was excited would have been an understatement. The band put on one hell of a show at The Underworld in Camden (you can read my gig review here) and during their set they announced that their long awaited fourth album would be released in November – I was, well, even more excited!

On the 10th November the wait was finally over as the band released their first full length album for 7 years (I’m not counting 2011’s Uncle Touchy as a full length). Foreign Skies is a 12 track album of songs dedicated to all of the people who lived through World War I – but also to those who did not. I didn’t realise the significance of the release date for the album until my first listen but, of course, it was released to coincide with Remembrance weekend. This was bound to be a special album.

Foreign Skies opens with a mournful yet atmospheric violin part which slowly builds into a track titled Up High. After 50 seconds or so the vocals kick in – ‘Come my brother, Come all fighting men, Come together while we may, We nay may meet again.’ – but the tempo remains slow and controlled. It was at this point that I suddenly thought ‘Wow, what a voice’. I feel a bit bad saying this but I’ve never really considered lead vocalist Nicholas Smyth, or The Fang as he is generally known, to have an ‘amazing’ voice. By which I mean I enjoyed his vocals previously and considered them good but now I have an increased appreciation for his vocal talent. The chorus of ‘Raise your voice up high, sing for victory… We remember.’ is pretty darn poignant. As I said, it is somewhat mournful but there is also a great sense of pride in the song. Next we have Foreign Skies, the album’s title track so it’s bound to be a goodun’, right? Correct. This song is more than a goodun’, it is a full blown epic in musical form – and I don’t use the word epic lightly. The end of Up High crescendos into Foreign Skies, which actually starts fairly calmly with gentle and melodic guitar… but this is The Dreadnoughts, and so it doesn’t remain calm for long! Setting a recurring theme throughout the rest of the album, this song flits between various Dreadnoughts sub-genres – basically showcasing their whole musical repertoire in one 5 minute song. It’s pure folk punk for about a minute, then there’s some polka thrown in for good measure, then more folk punk. It’s fast paced, then mid tempo, then fast again and keeps you guessing what’s coming next. There is an awesome instrumental breakdown midway through the song which lasts for over a minute before an emotional verse from The Fang accompanied by piano slows things down. The story in this song is set on a battlefield but there is a sense of hope that you might not expect from a war zone as the narrator proudly exclaims ‘I never will return to these foreign skies.’

At only two songs into Foreign Skies I am already beginning to feel that these songs are like a soundtrack to a film – except, no, they are more than that. These songs are a soundtrack to real life, real stories and historical events that happened during the war and that makes all the difference. This is perhaps even more apparent in the third track. Daughters of the Sun has a dramatic instrumental start, which gets increasingly louder before going full pelt punk rock after a minute and a half. The vocals and instruments are fast with the vocals in particular being more raw than on the previous two tracks. This is a head banging, mosh pit inducing track that sounds like classic Dreadnoughts circa ten years ago and their first album, Legends Never Die. At least, that is until another mighty instrumental breakdown with an excellent violin solo backed by pounding drums. The accordion also makes a welcome appearance for a final verse – something that I missed from their live show earlier this year. I love how these songs have so many parts to them, such a talented bunch of musicians these Dreadnoughts. Following Daughters of the Sun is Amiens Polka, an almost entirely instrumental track. Amiens Polka by name, polka by nature. The pace is kept fast for this song but it’s clearly more of a traditional European-inspired tune than your more typical punk rock – which is definitely no bad thing. Amiens Polka certainly got me dancing and when the rousing short chorus, which sounds like it is sung by a barroom of people, happens in the middle I wanted to sing along. The only problem is I don’t actually know any of the words as it is most likely not in English and isn’t typical lead vocal volume. Of course, this didn’t affect my enjoyment of the song one bit.

Not content with the array of musical styles that have already been reflected in the first four songs, Bay of Suvla is an acapella song with only a quiet steady drum beat backing. At first it is just The Fang who voices the song and once more I am astounded at how good his voice is. He also has the awesome ability to tell the tales of different people in his songs almost like he is acting in a play but not in a over the top way (so not like Freddy Mercury or similar). The other band members join in with the chorus making this true sea shanty style and this seems particularly apt as this is a song about navy soldiers. ‘It’s a way Suvla Bay, Hauling away to the Suvla Bay, Fare thee well my pretty young maids, We’re bound for the bay of Suvla.’ Something about the guitars at the beginning of the next song makes me think ‘Western film’ – not something I expected from The Dreadnoughts. Well, I said this album was varied! Anna Maria is track number six of Foreign Skies and the band show their ability to pull off another excellent instrumental intro. After 1 minute 20, the guitars get a distortion treatment and it goes more metal than Western but really it’s just classic loud and fast Dreadnoughts. Upon first listen I figured that Anna Maria was a song about a lost loved one and how the song’s narrator wants to have vengeance for his love’s death. Then I realised that Anna Maria isn’t a person at all, Anna Maria is the name of the ship that the narrator sailed on. I’ve always loved the nautical themes of The Dreadnoughts songs and this is no exception. This also happens to be one of the angrier and more violent themed songs of the album, showing the very darkest side of war (not that there’s much light in war either) – ‘Gonna find that coward captain, Gonna break his front door down, Gonna wrap my hands around his neck, And put him in the ground. Sweet Anna Maria, Never more, Never more, I see…’ As Anna Maria fades out we are not given too much pause for breath before the next track muscles in and metaphorically punches you in the face. Jericho is loud, fast, angry and urgent from the outset. Musically this is probably one of the more simple tracks on the album, generally sticking to the more typical punk instruments and playing them hard. That said there is an awesome guitar solo which you wouldn’t describe as ‘simple’. It’s no surprise that this is one of the shortest songs on the album – I mean, it is played at double the speed of most of the other tracks. Jericho is probably the song that would open the largest mosh pit and have the most people going crazy at a Dreadnoughts live show – and I can’t wait to witness that for myself.

Eighth track, Black and White, opens with a great swinging motion both in the music and vocal lines. The first verse is sung from the point of view of a soldier, ending several of the lines with ‘Sir’. It’s really great how each song of Foreign Skies tells a story as the album progresses through this period of history. It doesn’t feel like a ‘concept’ album as such although clearly all of the songs have their similarities due to the theme. Black and White is a prime example of really transporting the listener to another time and place. The verses of this song are mid tempo followed by faster musical interludes and it all kicks off for the chorus.‘Walk into the black and white…’ Gavrilo is next up and it is a song that combines many different sounds and influences from around the world. Opening with the lines ‘Hello my dear old friend, Good to see your face again. How is your little cell?’, Gavrilo sounds very Baltic-inspired but there’s also hints of Spanish style guitar in there – or maybe it’s just my ears! Either way, this is a great foot stomper of a track. It has a decent amount of heavy guitar and shouted backing vocals as well to ensure that you don’t forget that this is a punk band at heart. I haven’t done too much research into the specific subject matter behind each and every song on this album but I did look up ‘Gavrilo’. If like me you didn't know, Serbian Gavrilo Princip was the man charged with causing the outbreak of World War I when he shot Austrian Archduke Franz Ferdinand. But even if I hadn’t done my research, this makes for an excellent song nonetheless.

The tenth song of Foreign Skies is completely different, so much so that it isn’t really even a song. A Broken World is a spoken word piece voiced by Zoey Exley and based on the poem ‘September 1918’ by Amy Lowell. The reading is accompanied by sorrowful piano and it is as beautiful as it is heartbreaking. The line ‘Some day there will be no war.’ is particularly moving. I do feel that the placement of this track is a little odd. It is not quite at the end of the album nor the end of the first half, and not even the penultimate song either, but that doesn’t stop it from being poignant anyway. Just listen to it (or read the original poem, I guess). Drawing us towards the end of the album is Black Letters, a song that is fairly stripped back with an acoustic guitar in place of the electric. This is a much slower paced track than much of the rest of the album and it feels all the more thoughtful because of this. At first I thought this song might be quite hopeful as the end of the war is mentioned but after a few listens I think perhaps it is not quite the happy ending. ‘By the time you read these words there will be no more war… For me, There will be only peace.’ The author of the letters knows that they are going to die in war and will never see their loved ones again, but there is a sense of peace in knowing that they have served their country. It really makes you stop and think.

Phew, that was pretty heavy going. Where are the songs about drinking cider I hear you ask? Cue album closer, Back Home In Bristol. Kicking off with a generous helping of accordion and the lines ‘Bless me father I have sinned…’ , this song is pretty much all of the best bits of The Dreadnoughts’ musical repertoire all rolled into one. It’s no wonder this song has a video really – it’s a fine example of what the band are all about. Back Home In Bristol has a super catchy chorus and there is, of course, the mention of the band’s favourite West Country brew – cider! Well, this song is about Bristol after all. ‘Well I wish I were back home in Bristol again, Raising a cider with the West Country men.’ This song definitely has a feel good nature and a distinct sense of optimism about going home at last after the war. The drunken singalong bridge is bloody brilliant too. You can really picture the ship that is taking the soldiers home during the final instrumental of this song which plays out the song and the album as a whole – and brings us home in style!

I read a comment somewhere online about this album before it was released, therefore before I had listened to it, and it said that The Dreadnoughts had matured. ‘The Dreadnoughts mature? Nah!’ I thought but… now I get it. These aren’t simply songs about drinking cider, well aside from the last one which is a little bit about drinking cider. As much as I love good ol’ songs about cider, I didn’t know a Dreadnoughts like this was possible. I didn’t expect it. Foreign Skies is an album of many parts, each song consists of many parts. There are ups and downs, slow songs and fast songs, happier tunes and sorrowful songs, the themes are mostly serious but the music can be downright jolly and uplifting at times. The Dreadnoughts are masters of sea shanties, Baltic-inspired polkas, heavy rocking and rolling punk rock – and now they’ve well and truly mastered the historical epic as well. Is there anything this band can’t do? In summary: Foreign Skies is incredible.

Buy/stream/listen to Foreign Skies now on Bandcamp and you can also find The Dreadnoughts on Facebook.

This album review of epic length was written by Emma Prew (and I may never write another album review again).

Thursday, 16 November 2017

Top Tens: Mike from Umlaut Records' Top Ten Punk Rock Labels

How should a punk rock label be judged? Should a label be judged solely by the quality of the bands it has on its roster? Should they have a particular, identifiable genre or be eclectic and wide-reaching in their scope? Do we judge on their business acumen and the longevity that you only get through careful management of finances in a tough economy? Or do we prefer those who shun the “corporate” epithet, remain fiercely DIY and sail close to the wind as it’s considered more “punk rock?”

As usual in punk rock, there are arguments upon disagreements about quarrels and the types of label out there are run by communities as varied as the music they put out.

The DIY labels are not merely mimicking the big boys.

Those who set up these labels are not doing it for financial gain (there isn’t any) or global recognition (there isn’t any). The DIY label has a more important role, and while it is foolish and naïve to completely disregard the need for careful financial management in order to stay viable, the influence and desire to drive the community is often far more central to the ethos of the DIY punk rock label.

Here is a list, which is by no means exhaustive, of some of the labels that we at Umlaut Records feel have had a positive impact.

Fat Wreck Chords
Let’s be honest here and get this out of the way nice and early. Whatever your view about this label now, and the opinion that perhaps their best years are behind them rather than in front of them, there can be absolutely no denying the HUGE influence that Fat Wreck Chords has had throughout the entire genre. The list of seminal Fat Wreck bands is far too long to put here, but needless to say that they provided a gateway into punk rock for so many people who are now playing in bands that we all know and running labels which may be appearing on this list.

Lookout/Dischord/Hellcat/Epitaph/Asian Man
And while we’re on the subject of the big boys, it would be remiss to overlook a selection of the biggest. These could easily fill a list of their own, but it’s far more interesting to have a look at what is happening in the local scenes. The punk rock scene can be very nostalgic and every generation has its crop of influences. That’s not to say that we, as a community, can’t also be forward looking and optimistic about a future for the scene. As with Fat, the above labels have all launched countless bands into our collective consciousness and whatever the opinion of those who typically shun the mass market, their influence cannot, and should not, be overlooked.

Make That A Take
An absolute behemoth of the DIY label and a major influencing factor in the genesis of Umlaut Records. They work tirelessly to promote their bands, to promote their shows and to effect change within their community through charity and outreach. This year will be their 11th annual, “Book Your Ane Fest,” and it is an absolute highlight of the year for both bands and punk rock fans from far and wide. The bands they put out are always interesting. Similarly, the shows they put on and the touring bands they host are always impressive. The MTAT brand is viewed with great esteem by bands, fans and other labels and they are fully deserving of every ounce of it.

Another label which is incredibly proud of the community they help to support through their music. You simply can’t ignore a label that boasts Pizzatramp, Roughneck Riot and Wonk Unit. A Manchester based label, that has similar ethics to MTAT in that they don’t wish to simply be a machine that sells records, they want to help a whole community to share the music experience, whether that’s through records, shows or tours. Some of the best bands on the circuit are working with this label and you should definitely check them out.

Our good friends over at Lockjaw have been really helpful in the starting of Umlaut. Rob, of Darko fame, and his team run a tight ship, and have an exceptional ear for great music as well as an impeccable work ethic which sees Lockjaw pulling in some incredible bands, including the UK release of Belvedere’s last release. They are based in Guildford and, as well as Belvedere, they have also released Almeida, Antillectual and The Human Project. They do this simply because they look after their people and work relentlessly to promote and shine spotlights on the acts that approach them.

Disconnect Disconnect
Another great UK label from whose experience and friendship we’ve benefited. The guys at Double D (as nobody calls them) are equally adept at attracting the big talent, having released the likes of Hogwash, Larrakia and Local Resident Failure. As well as putting together exceptional comps, they also host the annual “Might as Well” Fest in London, which is another staple of the punk rock calendar.

Specialist Subject
This is a label that is on the up and up. Based in Bristol and boasting Austeros, Caves and The Smith Street Band amongst their releases, they are also doing really exciting things along the south coast and beyond. They recently opened a shop in Bristol which I understand to be something of a physical celebration of their own output as well as other fantastic artists you know and many you probably don’t. They are run by Kay and Andrew (of Bangers fame) and are one of the main players in the UK scene.

Bird Attack
Going stateside for a moment to relish the label that is Bird Attack records. They’ve put out bands like 88 Fingers Louie, Adrenalized and Authority Zero as well as some of our own local talent in Almeida, Darko and Fair Do’s. Their podcasts are a must listen to people who enjoy this music and their representation at events like the Manchester Punk Festival, Punk Rock Holiday and Fest are always interesting. Plus their footage is always excellent - these guys are truly engaging in terms of trying to reach out and get people to listen to what they’re all about.

Shield Recordings
Holland is a beautiful country and is home to some of our favourite DIY punk bands and Shield Recordings has been at the forefront of it since 2004. Slinging such releases as Astpai, Pacer, Atlas Losing Grip and, friends to Umlaut, Sweet Empire and Dowzer. Passionate punk rock peddlers and thoroughly decent people, Shield are an excellent gateway into bands from the continent that people may not have heard of before. Believe me, there’s some great stuff out there and these guys frequently remind us of this.

Waterslide Records
Going even further afield, Waterslide records have been operating in Japan since 1996. Japan has a long and fine history of punk rock culture and Waterslide have been playing a massive part in the perpetuity of the culture. Punk rock fans are usually quite mentally itinerant and don’t consider little things like geographical boundaries when it comes to seeking music to enjoy. Waterslide have many bands on their roster that people may not have heard of (as well as many that you will have - Antillectual and Dowzer for example.) For those looking to explore, you could do a lot worse than checking out their releases.

Check out Umlaut records store here and their Facebook page here.

Wednesday, 15 November 2017

Album Review: Y'all by UnderTipper

UnderTipper are a three piece band from Cincinnati, Ohio who formed late in 2015. The band, which is comprised of Tavis Disgraceful (guitar & vocals), Jeff Forton (bass) and Drew Bogner (drums) recently released their second album Y'all. I found out about this due to the greatest tool for music discovery (aside from going to gigs) - Bandcamp. I loved it instantly and had to give it a review!

Y'all begins with the song Stayed Up Too Late. On my first listen of Stayed Up Too Late I decided instantly that this is one of my favourite songs of the year. It's a simple song about not getting enough sleep. Starting with an alarm clock going off we have a mid-tempo punk track with a chorus to die for. The track moves up a gear and the whole band shouts "Stayed Up Too Late, Got Up Too Early." Love this song! The second track is titled Break Away. Though the song doesn't jump out at you like the previous song there is a restrained subtlety to the intro that gets you hooked. I like that already on the second track of the album UnderTipper show they can write a silly song (Stayed Up Too Late) and more of a serious song in Break Away. Break Away is about getting away from the bad situations you find yourself in and finding something better. The opening guitar of the third song Caffeine instantly made me think about 90s Lookout era pop punk music. It's a punchy song that uses drinking caffeine on a long journey as a metaphor for pushing your friends to their limit with your behaviour. I really enjoyed the ending of the song that featured a delightful breakdown with some great harmonious lines of "I'm Not Falling Asleep" that leads into one final chorus. Green Paper is another great song. Being from the UK it took me a little while to work out the meaning of the song but I think it's about not being able to be bought as a means of saying sorry. In the UK our money isn't green, hence my confusion. This is another punchy sounding song that makes the most of the band's ability to delivery fantastic gang vocals. All songs should feature gang vocals.

Contact is the name of the fifth track on Y'all. The song is more of a subtle and restrained song, almost like the band are having a bit of a rest midway through the album. This more restrained style really allows Jeff's bass and Drew's drums to shine through with the bass in particular standing out. Contact is about staring at your phone and longing for somebody you care about to message you. Something very relatable. The final section of the song was just great, there's a nice little breakdown and then some beautiful harmonies to finish the song off. Nothin's Ever Good Enough feels much heavier and darker than anything we've heard so far on Y'all. The upbeat pop punk sound has gone and has been replaced with a much more downbeat, straightforward punk song. Musically it's kind of similar to Hot Water Music but I do think the whole song could have done with a bigger sound to really drive home the downbeat nature of the track. Following Nothin's Ever Good Enough is Red Light. This is another song I really enjoyed and is one I can definitely imagine being superb live. It's about not doing what you're told and going full steam ahead with your plans even if it seems reckless. The mood is definitely upped again here. Bicycle is a fun little song about the love of your pushbike. It's all kind of silly but it's fun. I don't think we've had a good punk song about riding a bike since The Bouncing Souls stab at the topic with The BMX Song back in 1995.

Call The Police is song about the frustration with the police not seemingly being able to do their jobs properly. The band use some examples of shocking crimes and the nonchalant attitude of the force. It's an instant ear worm song. I really love the tempo of the track - it's bursting with an infectious energy and is difficult not to get wrapped up in. This infectious energy continues on the following song, Going Home Alone. Definitely moving into more of a pop punk territory with the fast paced sing-along track, the song is about the pitfalls of being that friend who always going home by themselves whilst their friends always manage to hook up and how lonely this makes you feel. It's a topic that isn't often spoken about in song but is another that I feel could be hugely relatable. The penultimate song on Y'all is named Taco Meat. Taco Meat is a bit of a silly song but it's also about people liking different things and that being completely okay. That's pretty much all there is to say about Taco Meat. Y'all is completed with the song Whadda Ya Say. I really felt like this song had a lot of pressure on it to finish a good album off on a big high. Well Whadda Ya Say certainly delivers. It is one of the catchiest songs on the record and will have you screaming the chorus at the top of your lungs. The track is about looking at your life and proudly questioning your decisions and perhaps realising it's time to make a positive change. I do enjoy it when an album finishes on a positive.

UnderTipper were another random Bandcamp discovery for me and proved again to be just an awesome find. If you enjoy gruff, melodic, sing-a-long pop punk that is inspiring, relatable and at times a bit on the silly side then you need to give UnderTipper a chance. I wanted to make a funny joke about how that's my OverTip but that's a truly terrible joke… I'm very sorry.

Stream and download Y'all here:

Like UnderTipper here:

This review was written by Colin Clark.

Tuesday, 14 November 2017

Album Review: The Run Up by The Run Up

For my money Bristol five piece punk rockers The Run Up are one of the UK's best up and coming bands. Earlier this year they released an excellent single named Sink Or Swallow / North. Imagine my excitement when I received an email offering the chance for a press copy of The Run Up's debut LP for review. It was high! The self titled LP is also being released on the band's brand new record label Real Ghost Records as well as Get Party Records in the USA.

The album starts off with the song WKND. I love the opening lyrics of the song - "We're Back, And It Feels As Good As It Ever Has." Just a perfect lyrics to begin a new release. For those who haven't had the pleasure of hearing The Run Up yet they play a great style of melodic punk rock similar in sound to Iron Chic, Red City Radio and Hot Water Music. It's passionate and will get you singing along, what more could you want? WKND gets the album off to a very strong start. Following this excellent opening track is the equally great Busted. Beginning with some sublime guitar work before lead vocalist Larry comes in and the song just explodes with energy. As the song goes on you can feel the energy building throughout, all the members of The Run Up do an fantastic job building this song up and making it hard for you not to want to be involved. What a great song Line 'Em Up Is! Starting off fast, the track hits you immediately before transitioning into a slower melodic section that will again get you singing along. The breakdown is ace, with Larry being joined by the rest of the band for some exquisite gang vocals. Gang vocals are always the best.

The fourth song on the album is Shark. Shark is one of those great songs where the vocals and guitars seem to go off on their own melodic paths during the verse and meet up again for the chorus. This technique somehow gives an even bigger emphasis on the chorus. More Colours brings us to the halfway point of the album. The beginning of More Colours is very interesting. It kind of feels like the track starts halfway through the song, like you've somehow skipped a big portion of the song. I don't think I've ever felt like that about a song before so I'm not quite sure how I really feel about it. It's certainly unique structuring. Following this song is Learning Loss, the song that stood out to me the most on my first listen through of the album. It starts off with some great layered guitar work from Nick and Charlie accompanying some thumping drums from Harry that just give the impression that when the vocals come in this is going to be great. And do you know what, it really is. This song does have just a little bit of Iron Chic about it but that is something that I'm always okay with. Learning Loss is an emotional song about struggling to cope with losing loved ones and working out how to grieve. The breakdown that slowly builds up to that final chorus is blinding. Potentially The Run Up's best song yet.

Hurting So Much It Laughs is the album's longest track and therefore has that feeling of epicness surrounding it. The highlights of the song start around the midpoint of the track with an extended breakdown that leads into another huge chorus. The shift in melody is superb and the music that backs Larry's vocals just drives the song on to its big conclusion. The "whoa-ohs" that kick off Before feel absolutely perfect for this genre of punk rock. I hadn't thought about the album missing any "whoa-ohs" until this moment and now they've arrived they weirdly feel very welcome. I can already imagine this song being played live and having some extended "whoa-ohs" with the crowd. What an atmosphere this would create. The penultimate song Terrance starts with more of a skate punk sound, this was a nice change of pace. It feels like one of the hardest hitting tracks on the album, as if The Run Up are angry. The Run Up have managed to switch up their sound a little bit whilst still remaining very much like The Run Up. Terrance is a song about the strong bonds of friendship. Finally we have Sociopath's Salute. Wow, I loved the opening guitar on this song. It's poppier than the previous songs and feels really uplifting. Sociopath's Salute is a song about chasing your dreams no matter how absurd they might seem. I love the line "Don't Quit Your Daydream." That's a tattoo worthy lyric and a mantra to live your life by.

The Run Up have delivered on the early promise of their EPs and singles and created an absolutely stunning debut album. Despite this genre of music being filled with similar sounding bands, I can see this album being one I come back to again and again. I feel like it's going to be one I forever find new little bits that I love with every listen. If you don't know who The Run Up are yet, I feel like this is your chance to say I knew them when they just started before they become one of the most popular bands in the UK punk scene.

Like The Run Up here:

This review was written by Colin Clark.

Monday, 13 November 2017

Album Review: No Offence Meant, Plenty Taken by Melisandre's Beaver

Do you ever want to listen to a band purely because of the band's name? Sometimes I do. I did when I had an email asking to review Dover based band Melisandre's Beaver's debut EP No Offence Meant, Plenty Taken. I love Game Of Thrones and I'm fond of furry woodland creatures. Though I wasn't aware that Melisandre had her own pet creature, maybe it's at her home in Asshai. Anyway, let's see if No Offence Meant, Plenty Taken is some good stuff.

The opening song on the four track EP is titled Out Of Time. Out Of Time started out much slower than I anticipated, it is infact more of a 90s indie punk song rather than a full on punk rock assault. I particularly enjoyed the chorus of the song and its brilliant melody. Out Of Time is about feeling stuck where you are in your life and only having one more chance to make a change. The second song on the EP is named That Girl and has a sound that is much more up my street. The tempo is upped for this melodic pop punk number. It's a punchy number lead by a simple, pounding drum beat throughout with a vocal delivery that feels like every line finishes with an exclamation point. I love this no thrills, straight to the point punk rock. That Girl looks at topic of falling for somebody that you know will hurt you eventually. We've sadly all been there! Up next is a song named Get Gary Out. It starts out with a recorded phone call where band members talk about the song title sounding too much like blink-182 so they change the name to Get Gary Out. Here we have another melodic pop punk song that will get itself lodged in your head, it's so damn catchy. It's kind of a random song and I'm really not sure what it's about. I kind of wonder if this was Melisandre's Beaver's plan when they wrote the song when they include the lyrics "You've Clocked He's Not A Person, But Now You're Not Too Sure, A Tat, A Dick, A Fist? Or Maybe Even More?" I have no idea what's going on but I enjoyed the song anyway. The EP's closing song is the one that stuck in my head the most on my first listen. Never Be That Cool is a mid-tempo song with a chorus that catches the ear immediately. It's a song about feeling as if you'll never make it to the level of your heroes. It has some really relatable lyrics about watching some of your favourites on the TV after school and wanting to emulate their success some day. Despite the gloomy nature of the song I actually got quite an upbeat feel from it and it had me smiling and nodding my head throughout. I loved the vocals on the track as well, they suit the song perfectly.

Stream and download No Offence Meant, Plenty Taken here:

Like Melisandre's Beaver here:

This review was written by Colin Clark

Friday, 10 November 2017

Top Tens: Dani from Faintest Idea's Top Ten Books That Inspired His Lyrics

Just wanted to say a few things before the list. Firstly while I’m listing these books as ones that have influenced me, and in turn Faintest Idea lyrics, it doesn’t mean I agree wholly with all these peoples positions, that would be really weird. I just think they have interesting things to say and are worth reading. Secondly if you’ve read our lyrics it’s fairly obvious that there’s some strong themes of Anarchism in them (Mutual Aid is obviously named after the Kropotkin classic). I wanted to write a list of books people may actually be interested in reading and not just list a load of century’s old Anarchist texts. Although you should definitely read Mutual Aid.

In no particular order -

Inventing the future (Post Capitalism and a World without Work) - Nick Srnicek and Alex Williams
This book’s kind of split into 2 sections. The first is a critique of what the authors call ‘Folk Politics’ with the basic tenet being that while the Left has become quite good at organising at the local level it’s lacking any big grand vision that could seriously challenge global capital. The second section is a lot more to do with emerging technologies and the upset they could potentially cause in the labour market. A fair bit of talk on Universal Basic Income and other ideas of a post work world.

Good Cop, Bad War – Neil Woods
Neil Woods was one of the most experienced undercover coppers in the UK’s drug war. Realising that after years and years of work the number of users wasn’t going down, the amount of drugs on the streets wasn’t going down and all that was happening were that the suppliers were getting both richer and more and more violent. He resigned and joined an international group called LEAP (Law Enforcement Against Prohibition), made up of figures currently or previously in Law Enforcement who want the decriminalisation and regulation of all drugs using science based methods to ultimately end dependency and cripple organise criminal gangs.

17 Contradictions And The End Of Capitalism – David Harvey
David Harvey’s one of my favourite academics. He writes from a Marxist perspective but using accessible language so the ideas are actually useful to people outside of the academy. I highly recommend all his books but this one I think is a good introduction to his work. He also posts free lectures up to youtube if you ever wanted to read your way through Marx’s Capital chapter by chapter. Coz fuck trying to get through that shit yourself.

The Beauty Myth – Naomi Woolf
I spent the first part of my life being raised by just my mum and growing up through school my close friendship group was fairly mixed gendered but this was the first book that really hit home to me that women have to face certain things that men don’t. It would appear Woolf has gone a bit off the deep end in recent years with a lot of conspiracy theories about plots to overthrow the government but her earlier work is well worth a read.

Revolutionary Suicide – Huey P Newton
Huey P’s autobiography. Talks through his life, his views, how he came to be who he was and the story of the Panthers. Both inspiring and harrowing, which is kind of what you expect when the US government is at war with you and is assassinating your friends and colleagues.

Blowback Triology – Chalmers Johnson
Chalmers Johnson was a CIA intelligence operative during the cold war. With the fall of the Soviet Union he thought the US would wind down more of its military and intelligence services as its main adversary had been defeated. When he saw that wasn’t happening he started to view the US as more of an empire. The first book ‘Blowback’ talks about the problems that can arise when your empire inserts itself into foreign affairs and how this can sow the seeds of resistance and cause ‘Blowback’. That was released in January 2001.

How Non-Violence Protects the State – Peter Gelderloos

Been a few years since I read this but it’s a really well laid out argument against pacifism. This will probably be controversial to some people but regardless of your views on it, this is a well written and reasoned argument against sticking rigidly to non-violence as a protest tactic.

Autobiography of a Recovering Skinhead – Frank Meeink
Frank Meeink is who Ed Nortons character is loosely based on in American History X. Talks about how he was first recruited into the Neo-Nazi movement, his role in it and his subsequent departure. Obviously pretty brutal and violent at times but his conversion to anti-racism I think has some interesting ideas about how to change people’s minds through argument, even people as far gone as Nazi’s.

Unfair: The New Science of Criminal Justice – Adam Benforado
This book is written by an American about the American justice system but a lot of the conclusions ring true across different countries systems. Talks a lot about neuro-science, psychology and different unconscious biases the human mind has that means even if the justice system didn’t have racial, gendered biases already it still wouldn’t work as a fair system for all. Also if you’re ever tried for a crime in the States just make sure you have lots of money and you’re basically untouchable.

Nothing is True, Everything is Possible – Peter Pomerantsev
This book is both interesting and terrifying. I read this in late 2015 before the complete shit show that is Donald Trump had won the presidency. The parallels between this book and what’s been going on in the States are pretty striking. Peter Pomerantsev’s parents escaped Russia and set up life in the UK. Peter went to work in Russia decades later working in television where he soon came to realise absolutely every piece of media in Russia has some kind of ties to the Kremlin. They will fund all sides and spread outright lies with impunity with the result being that no one ever has any idea what’s true, what’s not, what’s real or what’s just a distraction. This idea is lightly touched upon by Adam Curtis in ‘Hyper Normalisation’. Interesting to look at if you’re trying to understand current propaganda.

Anarchism and other essays – Emma Goldman
This is a bonus book you should read just because Emma Goldman’s The Don. I’ve bastardise quite a few of her quotes and managed to fit them into lyrics.

Faintest Idea just released their classic album The Voice Of Treason on vinyl. You can buy it and their latest album Increasing The Minimum Rage from TNSRecords here:

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Future Classic: The Voice Of Treason by Faintest Idea

Future classic time again. This time we're looking at Faintest Idea's third album The Voice Of Treason. Over the past few years Faintest Idea have become one of the big hitters in the UK punk scene due to their incredible live show and back catalogue of great songs. If I were to try and single out a big landmark in the musical career of Faintest Idea it has to be the release of The Voice Of Treason, hence why it is my choice for a Future Classic.

I first became aware of Faintest Idea sometime between the release of their second album Ignorance Is This and The Voice Of Treason. I'm not sure how exactly I became aware of them but I instantly became hooked on their blend of street punk and ska and began to listen to Ignorance Is This and particularly the song 2 Years Conscription - the lyric "If You're Not Pissed Off Then You're Not Paying Attention" is superb. Then the band announced the release of The Voice Of Treason and accompanied that with videos for brand new tracks Youth and Bull In A China Shop. I was stoked. This was going to be the best thing ever. After seeing them for the first time supporting The Toasters at the Waterfront in Norwich, I picked up a CD and it became a permanent fixture in my listening habits.

The Voice Of Treason starts off with what has become Faintest Idea's trademark live show opening …Back To The Asylum. When playing live, the Faintest Idea horn section start the set in the crowd and blast the now classic brass melody. I challenge anyone to hear it and not be humming it for days afterwards. It's a perfect song to get a crowd warmed up and it's an even better way to start an album.

Many of the songs on The Voice Of Treason are still a big staple of the Faintest Idea live set and probably get the biggest reactions of any. The aforementioned Bull In A China Shop and Youth are potentially the most popular of all. Bull In A China Shop is just a great party song. With an instantly danceable tune and a chorus that you can pick up easier than learning how to play snap. Once you get through the first chorus you'll be singing along like you've heard it a thousand times. As fun as the song is it's actually about a serious topic. It's about feeling as if you're in the minority with trying to stand up and make a change. Youth is another hugely danceable song that, if you've got the energy for shouting along alongside some fast paced skanking, I predict you'll definitely lose your voice too.

The album also features other classics such as House Of Cards, Mutual Aid, 36 Barrels, These Words Are Our Weapons and Battling The Cage. These are more songs you'll be dancing and singing until you have no strength left in your body. They're also all songs that will make you think, teach you things and hopefully empower you. Like many punk bands Faintest Idea try to spread their own political message to the masses and as fun as the music is I've always found that their own particular messages are what sets them apart from many of their contemporaries in the scene. This is protest music. It's about getting an organised group together to learn and fight for the things that matter to them. And if you can have a great time whilst you're learning and whilst your fighting well that's just even better, isn't it?

If you're a fan of UK punk and ska then The Voice Of Treason should be an essential album in your collection.

Order the recently released vinyl version of Voice Of Treason from TNSRecords here:

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This Future Classic was nominated by Colin Clark.