Tuesday, 20 March 2018

Album Review: Tropical Depression by Suburban Swamp Kids

Ska! I'm reviewing some ska today. I love ska. I don't ever listen to enough of it. Please send me more ska! Today I'm reviewing a seven song release EP by skacore act Suburban Swamp Kids from Hollywood, Florida. Titled Tropical Depression, it was released at the beginning of December 2017. Enough intro. I'm excited to get started on this!

Tropical Depression opens with the song Lost Cause. The track starts slowly with some soft guitar and a bit of brass before the song starts properly and we're treated to a scratchy vocal similar to what you might hear from skacore legends Against All Authority. Lost Cause is about wanting to be with someone who has a different sexuality to yourself. So it's sort of a new version of the Reel Big Fish classic She Has A Girlfriend Now. The brass sections on the song really stood out on my first listen and soon had me skanking around my living room. Jit Drunk is one of the more interesting songs I've heard recently. It starts out showing off the more hardcore side of Suburban Swamp Kids sound, with some rough and raw vocals. The pace is breathtaking and things just get more and more ferocious with the inclusion of some really primal screams. Then things calm down, the brass comes in and things turn into a party! When you use the term 'a wild ride' I feel like it was invented for songs like this. The third song is named Let Down and again starts slowly with a long bass solo before BAM! the fast and in your face hardcore punk brings the song to life. Soon enough things calm down and the song morphs into a melodic punk track before the horns come in again and we're skanking round the living room again. Suburban Swamp Kids do such a fantastic job of including their influences but never making it feel like there are too many cooks in the kitchen.

If you're a fan of the Against All Authority, The Suicide Machines or even Destroy To Create era Flatliners you'll love the fourth song, Very Smart. For the first time on the EP, the band stick to one style and just excel. This is one of those great occasions where less is indeed more. The song is a political and socially aware one about searching for your own truths and not just believing what you are told. This is just a fantastic song from start to finish. It has me dancing throughout and when the chorus hits I just want to scream along until my throat is hoarse. Turn For Worse is a really angry political number, even the horns have a downtrodden sound to them. It's about being extremely frustrated (to say the least) with the state of country due to the people who are supposed to be in charge of looking after it - i.e. the government and the police. I think there's a hint of sombreness in the snarling vocals, as if he's in disbelief that this is still happening in 2017. Towards the end of the track it turns into a full on protest song with the band asking for people to stand up and help to make the important change. The penultimate song on Tropical Depression is titled Damaged Goods. This track is about dealing with addiction and not being able to help yourself because you think you are worthless. This is never the case. Once you get past the fast paced ferocity of the song it's actually really quite heartbreaking. Last up is Nude Dude, the song title that really stood out to me when I was checking out the track listing of the EP. Nude Dude is a really fun phrase to say. Go on, do it now, you'll enjoy it. This is an upbeat and positive song about being comfortable in your own skin. On this track Suburban Swamp Kids have somehow managed to combine 80s metal with ska to create a brilliantly uplifting sound that I would never have thought possible. This is such a good track to end the EP on.

I surprised myself by just how much I enjoyed Tropical Depression. I mean I do love ska and all of its different forms but I just didn't expect to fall in love with this as much as I did. Suburban Swamp Kids are a serious band who don't take themselves too seriously. The messages in the songs are important and need to be paid attention to but it's also so much fun. What an EP!

Stream and download Tropical Depression here: https://swampkids.bandcamp.com/album/tropical-depression-ep

Like Suburban Swamp Kids here: https://www.facebook.com/suburbanswampkids

This review was written by Colin Clark.

Monday, 19 March 2018

Album Review: The State Of It All by Paper Rifles

On Friday 2nd of March one of the albums I've most been looking forward to being released in 2018 was released. Edinburgh's Paper Rifles released their brand new full length album titled The State Of It All. The State Of It All is Paper Rifles first release as a full band after frontman Jon originally started out the project as an acoustic endeavour and has released a handful of superb EPs. When I first heard the album would be released full band this really added to my excitement for the release. The album features some older Paper Rifles songs that are given the full band treatment as well as some brand new tracks. Enough intro-ing, let's give The State Of It All a thorough listen.

The State Of It All begins with one of my favourite Paper Rifles songs - the awesome Politics. When those familiar lyrics "Every young man pins his colours to a mast" get the song started only with the backing of an electric guitar, rather than Jon's trusty acoustic, I expect the song to launch into a loud and fast paced version. Instead it's a more mid-tempo number with the added full band making the song sound huge. I think starting with this slower number was a bit of a masterstroke as it eases you into the new Paper Rifles sound rather than being too in-your-face too quickly. Four Hours is another big favourite of mine and I suspect many other people's. It was on the first single Paper Rifles released back in 2014 and has also featured on a split release with Billy Liar so it's no surprise to see it making an appearance of The State Of It All as well. Seeing the evolution of this track has been just wonderful. Acoustically the song is bursting with passion but this new full band version just explodes. This is the full blown punk rock track I first expected from Politics, at the start of the album, and I love it. The electric guitar, provided by Elk Gang's Kevin Cameron, sounds great and really brings an already lively song into another world. Jon's vocals have always been superb and remain so here, even adding a little snarl to them – it's punk rock, you need a little snarl. The rocking continues on the third song, Faith Healer, which was the first single released in support of the album. Jon's voice continues to grow and grow on the track with some angry shouts I wasn't aware he was capable of. The tempo is high and gives the song an excellent feeling or urgency. Despite the fast pace, the punchy style that the vocals are delivered in make the song so easy to sing and shout along to.

The fourth song is Ophelia. Ophelia is one of Paper Rifles' quieter acoustic songs so when I saw The State Of It All's tracklisting I was very interested to see how it would work full band. The song shows brilliantly the importance of having a great chorus – it doesn't matter how it's played, I just want to sing along with the song. I really enjoyed the opening of the song, giving me a sense of the Elk Gang influence that makes up 50% of Paper Rifles full band – Elk Gang's other guitarist, James Johnson, plays drums for Paper Rifles. No Tunnel Light is the first completely original song on the album. Listening to the song there is a real feeling that this song was written as a full band song originally rather than an acoustic song. I loved the tempo of the song and the melody is just wonderful. The track is about feeling at a loss with the world despite being past your twenties and wondering if this feeling will ever end. Much like Politics at the start of the album, It Always Rains In Scotland starts similarly to its acoustic counterpart. This Paper Rifles love song doesn't really stray too far from the structure of its original incarnation with the full band style giving the song a fuller and more rounded sound. The seventh song is Pennies For The Dead. This political song sees Paper Rifles at their angry best as they play a song about how war is about making a profit and not worrying about the loss of life for so many innocent people. This version of the song certainly has more passion than the original and gets its point across in a different way. The original version carries more of a thoughtful emotion in it whilst this full band version has a feeling of "we're angry, we've had enough, we're not taking this anymore."

Sharp Tongues is another brand new Paper Rifles song and it's bloody ace indie punk at its finest. It's a big anthem that's accessible for fans of punk rock as well as people of a more indie persuasion. If I was playing somebody Paper Rifles for the first time this is the perfect song to ease them in. From its excellent song structure, the way that the vocals are delivered in a way that make them so easy to sing along to or the simple "ooooooh" harmonies that get stuck in your head, you can't help but be pulled into the song. Bad Blood is the ninth song on The State Of It All. Not straying too far away from its original sound, the electric guitars are subtle for the most part during the song, eventually building towards a big and emotional finale. I like that the band haven't decided to play as hard and as fast as they possibly can just because this is a full band effort and, for the most part, the songs have remained true to their original forms. It feels more like a natural evolution rather than a reworking for the sake of reworking. The penultimate song Made To Break is the other song from Paper Rifles' debut single from 2014. The guitars at the beginning of the track give you the impression that this will be a fast paced, punk rock sing-a-long. Well it's definitely another sing-a-long but its goes along at a nice mid-tempo speed, this allows you to get really invested in the song. The band give a great sense of urgency throughout the opening of the song with a simple beat and melody accompanying Jon's excellent emotive vocals. The band also provide some fantastic backing vocals during the track. Last up is I Was A Whaler. Paper Rifles goes old school here with an acoustic song to finish the album. This style is what made me fall in love with Paper Rifles music so it's nice to hear that the acoustic sound hasn't gone completely. This song finishes The State Of It All with more incredible emotion with Jon really tugging on your heart strings during the track.

Like I said at the start of this review, I was really looking forward to hearing this album. Often there are times when eagerly anticipated albums leave you feeling a little disappointed. This certainly wasn't the case for The State Of It All. The old favourite songs sound absolutely incredible full band and the brand new songs are brilliant as well. This is coming from someone who has been following the Paper Rifles project from almost the very beginning and it's just been an absolute pleasure seeing it grow and grow and just get better and better. If you're not a Paper Rifles fan yet, get listening to this album and you soon will be!

Stream and download The State Of It All here: https://paper-rifles.bandcamp.com/album/the-state-of-it-all

Like Paper Rifles here: https://www.facebook.com/PaperRifles/

This review was written by Colin Clark.

Saturday, 17 March 2018

Album Review: Only Strangers by Only Strangers (by Richard Mair)

Stoke-on-Trent. Home of Josiah Wedgewood, long ball football and a monkey forest... Genuinely that's as exciting as Stoke gets. As a Staffordshire native I'm allowed to say this about the sleepy Midlands city; it's certainly not somewhere one would instantly think of as a hotbed of punk rock. Challenging this view is the debut album by Only Strangers which is most likely to breathe more life into the city than the old pottery towers of its industrial heyday.

Currently the UK punk scene is experiencing something of a gruff punk renaissance. Last year’s self-titled album by the Run-Up was easily a personal highlight and this first album by Only Strangers is already kicking 2018 off in the way 2017 finished. Despite its short run time, each and every song has something to really enjoy, from the excellent vocal deliveries of Declan O'Reilly and Adam Gater; wearing their influences on their sleeves it's easy to suggest one opts for a Chuck Ragan howl and the other a more melodic approach akin to Chris Wollard. Perhaps not as technical as the Gainesville heavyweights on their own debut, Only Strangers offer up an excellent take on the genre; in addition to the aforementioned The Run Up, if you are a fan of Iron Chic, The Menzingers, Worship This! or Red City Radio you'll instantly be at home.

Kicking things off is "The Last Time", wasting little time with an introduction hits home like Joe DiMaggio and is a clear statement of what to expect across the next 30 minutes. Given this is a debut, the maturity and skill with which this opener is composed is truly astounding and shows a brilliant level of confidence (and competence) to pull off, with excellently layered vocals, guitar work and drumming. It's an easy song to get sucked into and sets up the album perfectly. The second track only serves to up the ante; slightly slower and reliant on a more melodic vocal style "So Long, Etruria" shows a more refrained approach than the opener, relying on the melody as opposed to aggression to put a smile on your face.

In fact this style serves the band well, the middle third in particular is well balanced with more melodic and slower songs (Never Wanted This, with its notable Leatherface influences, Counter Attack and Fare Thee Well in particular shine) bookended by the more frantic ends of the album.

If the opening tracks serve to welcome you to the band the final three will make you hope they never leave. All three are stunning examples of what can be achieved within the genre. Whilst not necessarily ground breaking, they are delivered with aplomb. "Anyway, We Delivered The Bomb" is characterised by machine gun guitars and great sing-a-long lyrics, destined to get fists in the air. Following track "Creatures" will no doubt evoke memories of the finest moments of The Lawrence Arms and makes best use of the dual vocalists – it's a relentless, breathtaking song that doesn't let up.

Closing such a good album can be tricky, to be done properly it needs either an absolute banger or a slower acoustic number to help provide context. Opting for the former, Only Strangers see out their debut with a monstrous guitar driven epic that serves to pick the best elements of the previous nine tracks and build something greater than the sum of its parts. It is safe to assume “Hardest Thing” is a real fan favourite in the making; the little guitar flourishes reminiscent of Iron Chic, whilst the drumming in the bridge also provides a stand-out moment. There is so much to love about this song, you'll be replaying it over and over without realising it.

Overall this is a brilliant debut and, like most great albums, everyone who listens to it will have a different personal favourite so picking highlights is really difficult. Only Strangers they may be but within a few short months expect them to have many new friends up and down the country.

Stream and download Only Strangers here: https://onlystrangers.bandcamp.com/album/only-strangers-s-t

Like Only Strangers here: https://www.facebook.com/onlystrangersuk/

This review was written by Richard Mair.

Friday, 16 March 2018

Album Review: I Was Broken When You Got Here by Call Me Malcolm

Call Me Malcolm are a five piece ska punk band from London. In 2014 they released their excellent debut album We Did This To Ourselves which reached number one in the Bandcamp ska punk charts, quite the achievement. Now the band are getting ready to release a brand new album titled I Was Broken When We Got Here. I Was Broken When You Got Here is an album about the band's struggles with mental health, so it's going to be a fun album that also tackles an important topic. Before I had even gotten round to listening to the album, I'd been told to expect great things. Because of this I was really looking forward to sitting down and reviewing the album.

I Was Broken When You Got Here begins with an introduction named Guided Meditation. It's a short spoken word segment parodying meditation audio clips. Things really get going on the first actual song, The Gentleman And The Onion. From the beginning the song displays some big horns that are a trademark of the Call Me Malcolm sound. It's high energy throughout and will quickly get a crowd moving. After seeing Call Me Malcolm live last year at Level Up Festival I was so impressed with lead singer Lucias' vocals. They are stunning here, offering something slightly different to many of their ska punk contemporaries with a slightly poppy and more theatrical approach to singing. He also sings along to a horn section in one part which is just wonderful. Regular readers of CPRW are hopefully familiar with the next song, There's No "I" In Apocalypse, as it was recently featured in our Video Of The Week section. A big theme throughout the album is songs that sound absolutely massive and take you on a musical rollercoaster. This is none more the case than on this song, as Call Me Malcolm take us on a fast paced series of highs and lows. The beginning of the song will grab you immediately with the one-two punch of some rapid fire vocals followed by some stabby horn blasts. The chorus is a real earworm and you'll be singing along loud and proud with the band. The fourth track is arguably the best song on the album and I can see it being a big hit for the band. Titled Restore Factory Settings, the song sees Call Me Malcolm go for a paddle in the reggae pool. There's a really summery vibe to the song and you can easily imagine singing this song on a warm afternoon with your pals with a huge smile on your face. It's about realising you're unwell and finding a way to start again in an attempt to fix yourself. This is the first time on the album that Call Me Malcolm's trombonist Derryck gets a chance to show off his vocal skills as him and Lucias share vocal duties on the track with a huge amount of success. I love this song. Restore Factory Settings reminds me of the Less Than Jake classic The Science Of Selling Yourself Short – but this may be even better than that song.

Call Me Malcolm are really influenced by 90s third wave ska punk and that's no more evident that on the fifth song, Inside Out. If Less Than Jake were channelled on Restore Factory Settings then Reel Big Fish came through on Inside Out. It's an instant skanking song with some superb horns throughout the song. Inside Out is about the negative voices in your head and having a hard time not listening to them. The ending of the track is outstanding, getting slightly heavier before finishing up with a massive chorus. Jacob is I Was Broken When You Got Here's thrashy punk rock track. This is a real throwback to 90s skate punk/pop bands such as MXPX and Goldfinger. It's the chorus that stands out most, particularly the line "start a revolution, with a little dissolution." The band don't forget their ska roots on the song as there is a exceptional breakdown where the horns come in and build the song back up towards one big final chorus. The seventh song on the album is named In Treatment and is about being in therapy and feeling uncomfortable talking to someone. As somebody who has experienced this I found the song hugely relatable. It can also be a frustrating situation to be in, shown brilliantly by a really angry scream that's also used to build towards the end of the song. This is followed up by a musical interlude titled F.T.I.M. After another meditation audio clip we are treated to a horn lead instrumental song. Even though the song feels like an interlude there is absolutely no reason not to be skanking like your life depends on it throughout the song. This moves us nicely into more 90s third wave ska in the form of It's My Plagiary And I'm Going Home. The song begins with a mid tempo but upbeat horn section before some quick vocals from Lucias pick things up. His vocals steal the show here, he really has one of the best set of pipes in the scene. It's My Plagiary And I'm Going Home is such a fun song, it's pretty impossible not to smile the whole way through it.

Show Me What You Got starts out with somewhat of a funky beat before it launches into a hard hitting ska punk jam. It's about finding a way of letting out all of your rage and frustrations. It's a pretty empowering song with a big chorus to sing-a-long with and plenty of opportunities to give it your all on the dance floor. This song delivers a great amount of catharsis for its listeners. Up next is Now Wait For Last Year. Now Wait For Last Year is about trying to remain strong for somebody who sadly doesn't have long left. I Was Broken When You Got Here is full of personal moments but this song, without a doubt, feels like the most personal. Whenever a band or artist writes a song as deeply personal as this I always have the utmost respect for them because I think it's so brave to put out all your feelings in such a way. Despite its sad topic, in true ska punk style, it's another really upbeat song musically that I can imagine a room full of people having the best time dancing along to. On an album jammed full of amazing songs, Call Me Malcolm perhaps finish it with not only the best song on the album but maybe the best song they've ever written. All My Nameless Friends starts out with a reasonably long introduction that does a fantastic job of building towards the opening lyrics. The song is about being feeling better when you're around all your friends and those familiar faces that you see in your local punk scene. Call Me Malcolm are a huge part of the Be Sharp Promotions/New Cross Inn ska punk scene and there are plenty of subtle references to this spread throughout the song. This song is a great little nod to what is a really friendly and welcoming scene. There is no other phrase for the song's ending other than "fucking epic." I really don't like to swear ever, whether it's in everyday conversation or in my writing, so please know that if I do drop an f-bomb then I really am trying to emphasise my point. I'll say it again, the ending of All My Nameless Friends is fucking epic! After a long sequence of choruses, the song transitions into a ginormous whoa-oh section to finish the song. I can't wait to be at the New Cross for Call Me Malcolm to play this song, particularly for this section, I can only imagine the size of the goose bumps that will appear on my arm as this is belted out by the whole pub. Fucking epic. I Was Broken When You Got Here concludes with another guided meditation audio segment that suggests if you're still feeling terrible come the end of the album you should listen to it again. This made me laugh.

There's not much left to say for a conclusion to this review other than I Was Broken When You Got Here is 99% certain to be the ska punk album of 2018.

Pre-order I Was Broken When You Got Here here: http://callmemalcolm.bigcartel.com/

Like Call Me Malcolm here: https://www.facebook.com/CallMeMalcolmBand/

This review was written by Colin Clark.

Thursday, 15 March 2018

Top Tens: Charlie Longman from PINTS' Top Ten Punk Rock Influences

…And Out Come The Wolves. The best album by the best band. Rancid were the band that made me say, “I’m going to do that”. I wanted to make noise my way with my pals and make someone feel the way I still feel when I listen to that record. I think they are the best band to start with when introducing anyone to punk rock music. Their career spans every type of punk rock there is and if you delve into their continuing and past musical endeavours you will discover a treasure trove of great music including: Operation Ivy, The Bastards, The Transplants, Devils Brigade, Old Firm Casuals and so on. Through them I got into the Hellcat Records’ Give ’Em The Boot compilations, which introduced me to many of my favourite bands. There is something to Rancid which goes beyond their music; it’s like discovering a family you never knew you had and I am forever grateful to them for that. It honestly would sound redundant for me to continue to go on about how much this band mean to me without repeating the phrase “this is sick, this track is awesome etc.” Just go and listen to some fucking Rancid and make sure you start with “…And Out Come The Wolves.”

Johnny Cash
I never had an interest in music when I was younger. I hated the radio and both my mum and dad primarily listened to soul music (something I wouldn’t appreciate until a lot later). I remember the first bit of music that sparked any reaction out of me was when my uncle took me, my cousin and my brother out on my 11th birthday. We sat in his car and he was playing A Boy Named Sue (the uncensored version - fuck you very much, Spotify) from the Live At San Quentin album. I was hooked and in my opinion, there isn’t a storyteller, lyricist or rebel since that tops The Man in Black. He was mean as hell and you hung on every word he said. It sparked a lifelong love of mine for country music. Country was punk rock before punk rock. It was working class, sang about what affected the people at the bottom and most importantly it was honest (unlike modern pop country bollocks). While rock ’n’ rollers were living the highlife and playing big stadiums, Johnny Cash played prisons and had a real connection with his audience. The year The Undertaker had “Ain’t No Grave” as his Wrestlemania intro music it blew my bollocks off.

The Misfits
As a kid (and now to be fair) I loved two things: Punk Rock and Horror Movies. So, to discover a band like the Misfits was a dream come true. When I read about them for the first time I immediately fired up Limewire and downloaded every song I could find. I’m a massive nerd at my core and I spent hours finding all the references in their songs to all the horror movies I could find. They are a band I cannot help but love, even to this day with Jerry Only on vocals you can still go to a show and, while it might not be as good as the glory days with whatever line up you prefer (Danzig or die), the fun is in the atmosphere and it’s amazing to hear those songs live. The perfect blend of horror movie nostalgia and my favourite time in American hardcore - seeing Danzig and Doyle play songs at the Garage a few years back was a life changing thing for me. No matter how good you think you are on stage, no one is quite like Danzig.

Jamie T
As a kid me and my pals were always crashing parties of the kids who went to Chigwell (a more “well off” part of Essex depending on what part you end up in) school. These kids had big houses with swimming pools and all that bollocks, so their parties were always a bit of a laugh. This was just as the show Skins had hit TV so all these parties had the same shit soundtrack comprising of bands that looked and sounded like northerners who had moved to London on their gap year from university to sell falafels during the day in Shoreditch and had an endorsement from Topman. It made no sense to me and seemed to be a million miles removed from my comfy punk rock bubble. Until I stumbled upon the CD Panic Prevention by Jamie T that is. There was this scruffy kid on the cover sitting in a room filled with Gang of Four, Ian Dury, The Damned records and all sorts. I ‘borrowed’ it off some kid and began to listen. Jamie T summed up in audio form what it was like to be a young kid street ratting with your mates and living day to day. The nights out you had with your mates and the trials and tribulations of your youth now had a backbeat to them. It was totally DIY and easy to fall in love with. He became the soundtrack not just to my youth but to my life as he somehow always manages to release an album at a significant time in my life, almost as if his fans and he are growing up together.

Street Dogs
I’m going to slightly cheat here and include (along with Street Dogs) the first Dropkick Murphys record: Do or Die, as Mike McColgan was the singer at the time of that record and the reason for loving both are so similar. Punk rock likes to give it the big’n. It’s all fuck the Queen this, smash the system that etc, but it rarely ever gives you an example, reason, or a way of doing so. I was hooked on Street Dogs from the moment I first heard Two Angry Kids. Powerful, catchy as hell and beautifully written lyrics as per always but it was songs like Unions and Law, Up the Union, Modern Day Labour Anthem or the title track of Do or Die that really struck a chord with me. In a 2-minute song I’ve already been taught about unions and policies that help me and my fellow blue-collar Joes find a way of being treated fairly and getting our voice heard when we believe our rights are being played with. It inspired me to enquire about a Union with every job I’ve had. I made a point of seeing Street Dogs every time they played London for about 4 years before finally being offered to open for them last summer. I had so badly wanted to thank the lads for all the music and stuff it taught me over the years but instead just drunkenly told them “I love your band man” over and over again like a drunk fanboy bellend. It was truly a huge honour though and hearing them give us a shout on stage was a career defining moment for me.

Bruce Springsteen
My journey into discovering the boss man is something I’m quite proud of, because unlike so many older artists I’m into or most people I know who are fans of Springsteen, he was not introduced to me through anyone else. I discovered Bruce on my own at a time where I felt I really needed him. When I was 14 I was out with my pals getting pissed on cheap wine and after climbing a fence to get into a safe spot to take a piss I got my foot caught on it and broke my ankle. I spent a week in hospital and an entire summer (a lifetime for 14-year-old) pretty much bed bound. This being the last days of youth without smart phones and easy internet access everywhere, all I had for that week in hospital was whatever magazines where available in the shop and the limited channels on the hospital TV. One night when my boredom was reaching a critical boiling point and the painkillers I was on were wearing off, I flicked through the channels of the TV set and discovered a top ten of Bruce Springsteen songs. I was hooked from then on. Springsteen’s power doesn’t come from a big band or massive live shows (although it certainly is something to behold and live, Bruce and the E Street band are untouchable) for me it’s in his words and the stories his songs tell. Bruce has the power to turn the most mundane and average qualities of working class life and turn it into poetry. That summer on crutches and not being able to go out with my pals, I lost myself in the world that Bruce Springsteen and the characters he sings about created, so it’s something we try to do with our songs (except all of ours are about our pissed up mates). To this day there isn’t a bad day at work that can’t be cleared up by Bruce Springsteen, the only boss I listen to.

The Clash
I think a lot of people’s journey into Punk music is very similar. You start with the classic big three: The Sex Pistols, The Clash and The Ramones. You discover the first wave and it grows from there. You do your research and realise it lived on past, the 70s and the rest is a hodgepodge of bad haircuts and hours sewing patches on your denim jacket. But the Clash in my opinion are so much more than a band from way back when. In school you’re never taught about politics. You’re never told about the horrors of ending up on the dole or what the bloody hell is happening around the world and how it affects us. The Clash were that band for me and Joe Strummer is the ultimate punk poet. He was the start of my mouth getting bigger and my voice a whole lot louder. Stand up for what’s yours. Fight anyone who may take it away from you. The working class are not stupid; we just need to be more aware and I think The Clash are the perfect soundtrack to that realisation. 11 years in school or the 40 minutes it takes to listen to any Clash record? I know which one I’d prefer.

Cock Sparrer
Despite living and growing up in Essex, I spent all my time as a teenager in London, when I was first able to buy a Travelcard me and my friends would journey to London for any reason (most of the time it was a show at the Astoria or to get pissed by Trafalgar Square). Bands like Cock Sparrer are like an audio map of the big smoke. Their music resonated with me because they’re singing about things that are virtually on my doorstep and that I’d see every week while out with my pals. They’re unapologetic in their delivery and not afraid of their roots. Whenever PINTS start writing I usually surround myself with a lot of home-grown punk bands (Cockney Rejects, Sham 69, the Filaments etc.) but Sparrer are always at the top of the pile. True kings of the game. Still slaying live shows and, while often copied, are NEVER bettered.

Our Time Down Here
Our Time Down Here are the most underrated British punk rock band of all time. I’m happy to see them getting all the attention they deserve and more with their new band Creeper but I will never forget and fail to admire the work they did as OTDH. My brother got back from a tour with his band and said he reckons I would love the band they went out with. He threw me a copy of the Last Light EP and I listened to it solidly for weeks. When Midnight Mass came out I did the same and I genuinely mourned when they finally broke up. I also kick myself for not being in PINTS at the show where they supported them at the Fighting Cocks in Kingston. At a time where every punk band was trying to sound like The King Blues, a lot of hardcore bands became parodies of American bands and pop punk had started its descent into becoming an arena for sexual predators and fake, forced Californian accents they dared to do something different. Our Time Down Here showed that punk rock can mix some of the sub-genres best qualities comfortably by blending powerfully catchy songwriting and imagination.

Black Flag
When you’re young, the world is out to get you. At least you think it is. But when you’re that age it’s more than likely that you will think like that. The world is a scary place and everything around you is changing. So, when I first discovered Black Flag’s Damaged album it was a game changer. I stared at the cover with that guy smashing a mirror up and instantly related. I felt like smashing stuff up all the god damn time and once the music started it all fell into place; all the frustration of youth, feeling like an outsider, like you didn’t belong came screaming out. Every bit of venom I wanted to spit at someone and every fist I wanted to swing belonged in the comfort and confines of Black Flag’s music and I thank them for that. It’s something that I’ve always wanted with PINTS – to give people a place to lose themselves and have fun. PINTS at the end of the day, is all about having fun in a room filled with angsty, shirtless, pissed up nutters all letting loose from the world around them.

Stream and download PINTS music here: https://pints.bandcamp.com/

Like Pints here: https://www.facebook.com/ukpints

Wednesday, 14 March 2018

Album Review: Barfly by The Real McCoys (by Emma Prew)

The Real McCoys are a four-piece celtic-influenced folk punk band from Houston, Texas (via Uruguay, I think). In October 2017 they released an album titled Barfly on Folk Drunk Records (which I suspect may be their own label give that ‘Folk Drunk’ was the title of their previous album). The album was originally on Colin’s review list but I heard a snippet – banjo, mandolin, accordion, etc. – and we decided this was definitely more up my street. Me being a folk punk queen and all.

After an audio clip about doing things in life just because you can and you want to rather than for anybody else, Last Call opens up Barfly with a flurry of folky instruments – the whistle and banjo standing out the most. It’s this opening melody that sandwiches itself between verses throughout the song and instantly gets stuck in your head. Much like the audio clip at the beginning, Last Call is about doing things your way with likeminded friends – ‘Until the last call we’ll still be here, Screaming our lungs out, Singing to deaf ears.’ It’s a short song at only a minute and a half long but it gets the album going with plenty of energy and has listeners eager for track number two, Trippin’ Up The Stairs. This song starts a little more slowly than the first but you can tell that it won’t remain that way for long. The first chorus comes in quite early – ‘And it’s one, two, three, You’ll be tripping up the stairs, Four, five, six, You’ll be tripping up the stairs, Anymore you’ll be crawling, Crawling.’ – before a furious instrumental section that sees the accordion make an appearance (and I love a bit of accordion). It’s great when a song is a bit more experimental in its structuring rather than simply being verse, chorus, verse, etc.

Up next is Lettuce (Jacob Berg) a song that kicks off with an almost nautical melody with the guitar, banjo and accordion generating a moderate swinging motion. It reminds me a lot of my favourite Canadian cider punks, The Dreadnoughts, and that’s definitely not a bad thing. This is definitely a song that would be best listened to with a pint of beer or cider in hand. Lettuce is a song about being there for a friend in need and offering the wise life advise ‘There’s no use in worrying when you can’t change a thing.’ Certainly one of my favourite songs on Barfly. Troubled Waters picks up the pace again, at least after an audio clip from Donald Trump (I think) saying the word ‘China’ a lot. Troubled Waters feels like more of an angry song than the previous three and rightly so given its political themes. The chorus, or is it the first verse as it actually starts the song, sees vocalist Josh repeat the lines ‘These troubled waters, These troubled waters…’ while a second vocal screams vehemently in the background. The whole song is fast paced and, like those before it, is also really short so its all over before you know it – giving the listener a small breather before we dive into the next song.

The fifth song is called The Loneliest Kill and things get going with a lone acoustic guitar before a second guitar and the vocals join in after a few seconds. ‘Well the sun is going down on the loneliest hill, Not a soul around for miles after the loneliest kill.’ The melodies and lyrics had me picturing scenes from a classic Western film although I have no idea if that was The Real McCoys’ intention. Either way, the tale told is a dark and atmospheric one with plenty to get the ol’ imagination going. I’m So Happy You Could Die is next up, starting out with steady drums and rhythmic guitar part that’ll have your head nodding in an instant. After the first verse the pace and volume are picked up a little and both the drums and guitar become more rolling in an almost country music stylee. This song is an apology to a friend, who is more of an acquaintance really, that may have not been treated as they deserved. ‘Farewell to a friend, I won’t be seeing you again, You weren’t the best but an okay friend, I couldn’t trust you, I hardly knew you, I couldn’t trust you as far as I could throw you, But I knew I threw you in the dirt. Sorry that it hurt.’ The song, as well as previous songs on Barfly, make me think of a combination between Streetlight Manifesto and Mischief Brew – two great bands.

Next we have a song titled Oh, Shane. After my first couple of listens to the album and this song, I settled with myself that the Shane in this song is the infamous Shane MacGowan of dodgy teeth, drunken antics and The Pogues frontman fame. It could in fact be a song about another Shane who likes a drink or two but the fact that Oh, Shane has the line ‘Ain’t no shame in waking on the sunny side of the street’ and The Pogues have a song called Sunnyside Of The Street has me convinced. This is a rousing celtic-influenced punk song that is sure to get a live audience dancing. Another song that opens with an audio clip is the oddly titled eighth track, Koala Bear Guacamole. When the song gets going properly it does so in style with an enthusiastic a cappella first verse featuring vocals from more than just the lead vocalist. ‘If I ever needed anyone, I needed you, Oh lord if I ever needed anyone, It might as well be you.’  If ever there was a perfect song designed for a rousing barroom singalong, it might as well be this one. Probably the song most likely to encourage mass singalong so far anyway. 

The ninth track of Barfly is Arguing On The Internet About Politics which begins with a slow banjo melody and vocals that sound slightly distant. This serves as a short introduction before the vocals become clearer on the second verse. For the most part this is a slow and thoughtful song, quite different from the rowdiness of many of the previous tracks. As you might have gathered from the song title, Arguing On The Internet About Politics is about people voicing their opinions somewhere where they know that they won’t have to deal with the consequences in quite the same way as in the ‘real world’ – ‘Shut the door, The world is too cold and uncertain.’ Barfly started out with a lot of shorter songs, less than 2 minutes in length, but this song is verging on 3 minutes. It uses the extra time to gradually build in volume and emotion until all instruments are back – there’s even a guitar solo. Wait For Summer is perhaps more of a straight up punk rock track compared to the folk punk sound of much of the album. The guitars, drums and bass guitar hold the forefront on this one and the chorus is a little bit poppy and hella catchy. ‘It’s harder to shut it off when you know you’re wrong, Brushing it off just moves it around, But it always collects and drags you down, It’s harder to shut your mouth when you know you’re right, Kick back, Wait for summer…’

Too Far Gone is the title of the penultimate song of Barfly and it features a guest appearance from Jesse Sendejas of DIY folk punk pros, Days ’N’ Daze. Too Far Gone is one big singalong-able, get drunk and merry to folk frenzy. The song is about it being too late to turn back from the path you’re heading down so trying to make the best of a bad situation. ‘We’ve too far gone to turn this ship around, The captain’s already corrupt…’ I enjoyed the references to sailing on a ship as they seem appropriate for this type of music. Too Far Gone speeds by at an alarming rate so much so that I feel tired just listening to it and before we know it we have come to the last song. Closing out Barfly is an appropriately titled song – The Hangover. Things are toned down here for a song about the morning after the night before – we’ve all (probably) been there. There’s a sense of all being in this together in the gang vocal chorus of ‘la, la, la, la…’. After one final verse, the acoustic guitar, banjo and xylophone play out the song before a final round of la la las. A fitting ending to a fine piece of folk punk.

I’m a little bit late to the party with Barfly but, as is often the case, it is better late than never. These 12 songs have the right balance between DIY rawness and skilled musicianship and the album is full of catchy melodies and fine lyricism. With most of the songs being less than 2 minutes in length, the whole album is only 25 minutes long – so there’s no reason for you not to be able to fit a listen into your life. Check it out!

Stream and download Barfly on Bandcamp here. And like The Real McCoys on Facebook here.

This album review was written by Emma Prew.

Tuesday, 13 March 2018

Album Review: Settler by Hardaway

Hardaway are a four piece band from Memphis, Tennessee. Influenced by the likes of Jawbreaker, Lifetime, The Replacements and Black Flag, among others, the band put out their debut EP titled Settler back in December of 2017. This was one of those brilliant Bandcamp Discovery discoveries where I clicked on the band purely because of their album artwork and I instantly knew I had made a great decision.

Settler begins with the song A Damn Decade. Starting out with just vocals and guitar, we are treated to a gruff punk song that fans of bands such as Red City Radio, Western Settings or Dead Bars will adore. It's a mid-tempo paced song that immediately cries out to be sung along with. Something I really enjoyed about the song is the use of gang vocals. They do this great thing on the verse when they switch between a lead vocalist and gang vocals on each line and it sounds brilliant. A Damn Decade is about wishing for your younger days when life seemed easier. The next song is named What's Worse. Here we have some more mid-tempo shout-a-long punk rock that I just love. This is that everyman punk rock that makes you believe you don't have to write these complicated melodies to create a great song. The passion that comes from the vocals is what hooked me into the song, they're rough and raw and, as soon as it started, I knew this was going to be a song for me. When I first heard the third song, Devils In The Dugout I quickly said to Emma (who was sitting next to me at the time) that this reminds me of the much loved and missed UK punk band Bangers. The deep, rumbling vocal style made the song boom out of my speakers. There is a downtrodden quality to the song where you feel genuinely bad for the band. This slow, plodding way in which the track plays out musically allows for plenty of emotion to come out of the vocals.

13point3repeating is the title of the fourth song on Settler. Beginning with a nice little drum roll that pulls you in immediately before we quickly transition into some more shout-a-long punk rock fun. The track is about drinking and getting high to escape from a bad relationship. The hook of the chorus is the standout portion of the song and is guaranteed to get a crowd singing along. The penultimate song is named About It/Out Of It. What a great chorus we have here too! It's bloody huge! With some fantastic gang vocals, the words "I'll be alright, I'm doing just fine, I've just got a lot on my mind" are repeated throughout the song and act as a great method of catharsis for anyone who needs to reassure themselves. This is a really powerful song. Last up on Settler is Journey To End Of East Memphis. (Do you see the play on the Rancid classic there?) The song starts slow and does a nice job of building towards its chorus. It's a song that looks back on the first time you met a good friend. It feels as if there is a great story telling element on this track and really helps you get invested in the song. This is a really strong way to finish a fine EP.

This is a really strong debut from Hardaway. Settler is a short EP is full of punk rock passion and energy. The raw sound keeps the album feeling grounded which I enjoyed but at times it did make the lyrics difficult to decipher which was disappointing. With a few tweaks in the production I think I've discovered yet another hidden gem thanks to Bandcamp.

Stream and download Settler here: https://hardawaytn.bandcamp.com/

Like Hardaway here: https://www.facebook.com/hardawayTN/

This review was written by Colin Clark.