Monday, 23 April 2018

Album Review: Salvation by The Penske File

The Penske File are band I've been in love with for a little while, since first hearing their incredible Burn Into The Earth album in 2016. It's a brilliant slab of heartfelt pop punk with splashes of folk. In October of last year the Canadian three piece released the single Come What May as a bit of a teaser for their upcoming new album. That album is now out and is Salvation. Released on the always great Stomp Records, this is an album I've been keen to hear for a while.

Salvation begins with a song named Kamikaze Kids. From the get go the track gets me pumped for the entire album with a great guitar intro and a massive scream of "yeah!" to really get the party started. Kamikaze Kids is a melodic pop punk song which has a bit of a feel of The Menzingers and The Gaslight Anthem, if you're a fan of those bands you'll definitely love this. I love a good build in a song and Kamikaze Kids has a great one towards its ending. It teases and teases and when you expect the song to explode the music drops out, the vocals remain and seem massive and this finishes off the song in a superb manner. Following this strong start to the album is the second track, Golden Futures. The song starts out slowly and fairly quietly before we are treated to a huge chorus. There is a feeling of epicness surrounding this chorus that not only hooks you in but gives you goosebumps. The lines "if we were to die, to die tonight, we wouldn't mind, oh it's alright" ring out throughout the song and I can only imagine just what a moment seeing this song played live would be. This is the first time on the album that The Penske File's patented harmonica makes an appearance. I didn't quite expect to say this in this review but the opening guitar riffs on Lakeshore kind of remind me of the Foo Fighters (what's a Foo? and why are they fighting it?). This doesn't last long though as the drums come in and drives the song forward with some urgency, whilst never losing any of its catchy melody. The track sees The Penske File in story telling mode as they sing about returning back to where they grew up and remembering all the little things that happened in different places.

The fourth song, Spin My History, starts out with a raw sound, immediately adding emotion to the track. It doesn't take long to revert back to the familiar Penske File sound and another massive chorus. This is a thoughtful song about looking back on your past. The lead vocalist does a fantastic job of giving a massive vocal performance, whilst also showing a great amount of restraint, as he delivers the lines. Fairgrounds picks the pace up with drummer Alex Standen delivering a huge rapid fire drum roll in the song's opening. This really catapults us into the track and gets us keen to see where it goes from there. Fairgrounds is about living your life to the fullest, living in the moment and not worrying about deep and meaningful things happening. Following this is the excellent American Basements. Here The Penske File slow things down as they sing a love song to the DIY punk scene. The American scene is the one referenced in the title of the song but they could easily be singing about DIY scenes all over the world. The harmonica is something that really attracted me to The Penske File's music when I first heard them so it's great to hear them use it in such a prominent role here. I haven't heard the band slow things down as much as they do here before but I have to say they do a fantastic job of it. The seventh song, Last Chance, is a real toe tapping, hip shaking kind of song. It brings in elements of street punk, skate punk and 60s rock 'n' roll to create one of the highlights of a great album. The tempo is high which encourages even more dancing! The song is actually about making sure you have the time of your life as you don't know when it will be "your last chance to dance."

The previously released Come What May is up next and fits into this album perfectly. It's a song that gets better and better every time you listen to it which is such a great quality for a song to have. This song is one big sing-a-long from the outset, something The Penske File really do specialise in. The simple chorus of "come what may!" repeated over and over in the middle of the song works brilliantly as a way of building towards a huge finale to the song. As soon as Yesterday's Getaway began I instantly thought of Party Time Liars from The Penske File's previous album, Burn Into The Earth, with that unmistakable harmonica sound and its big ol' chorus. I loved the pounding drums that accompany the chorus, really helping it to stand out. The band are in story telling mode once again as they recount some fight or flight scenarios that they've encountered and how they've dealt with them. I loved the intensity in Travis Miles' vocals on the final chorus. The penultimate song on Salvation is titled Young & Worthless and it's a banger. The song starts out slowly, hooking you with maybe the best guitar riff on the entire album. When the vocals come in you're ready to be taken on another fantastic ride. It's clear there has been a lot of thought put into the overall sound on production on this record. I loved the subtle harmonies on some of the vocals on Young & Worthless. It gives the song a whole new layer that you won't even realise is there unless you're listening extremely carefully. Last up is Blessed Unrest which has a great stop-start disjointed opening. After all of the glorious melody that we've been spoilt with on Salvation this is a little unsettling on the first listen but it certainly grows on you. The song's highlight and perhaps one of the biggest highlights of the entire album is the song's bridge which features some excellent gang vocals singing the simple line "we don't know, we don't know where we're going." A line so relatable to so many twenty-somethings in the world. A superb way to finish the album.

I truly believe that Salvation could be a huge breakthrough album for The Penske File, much like The ’59 Sound was for The Gaslight Anthem or On The Impossible Past was for The Menzingers. The Penske File have this special something that separates them from many of their peers. They write these incredible thoughtful songs and fill them with catchy choruses and huge hooks that will stay with you for a long time and will never get old. If you're not in the old The Penske File boat yet then now is definitely the time to climb onboard!

Stream and download Salvation here:

Like The Penske File here:

This review was written by Colin Clark.

Saturday, 21 April 2018

Album Review: Double Negative by Down And Outs

Down And Outs are a band that I've been aware of for a while but haven't really checked out. After a little research I found out that they are three mates from Liverpool who are influenced by bands such as The Clash, Cock Sparrer, Leatherface and Green Day. In February they released a brand new album on Boss Tuneage, All In Vinyl, Yo Yo Records and Waterslide Records named Double Negative.

Double Negative starts out with Astoria. Here we have, in what I've discovered is the norm for Down And Outs, a fine sing-a-long punk rock anthem. It's that perfect no thrills punk rock that's so brilliantly easy to jump on board with and shout along to as loudly as you possibly can. Basingstoke is a song that feature a bit of social commentary. During the song the band asks are people happy that choices they make cause people pain and make the listener question their compassion. If you are someone who makes these choices and lack compassion then you are not the same as Down And Outs. I kind of feel like this is an anthem for the good people in the world to take a stand against the dicks and proudly say who they are. The third track, Shots, is one that deals with the important subject of mental health. Particularly the feeling that you have nothing left to give people and not wanting to be around anyone. This is one of those songs that is so much fun to sing along with and it will make you feel better for doing so.

You Can Have This Country Back took me a little by surprise on my first listen as it's led by a piano, reminding me a little of the Boomtown Rats but much much better. This different way of approaching the punk rock sing-a-long works really well here, giving the song an extra piece of emotion. The song is about being disgusted by the direction that Great Britain is heading as a country and not wishing to be a part of it. Something I'm sure that everyone reading this can relate to. This is a song that is designed to get people thinking and the way that the band have slowed things down helps brilliantly to create that feeling. The fifth song, Tea And Sympathy, sees Down And Outs revert back to their big street punk anthems. This band have an excellent knack for writing superbly catchy tracks that hook you so quickly. The harmonies between lead singer, Mark Magill, and drummer and backing vocalist, Morgan Brown (also of Pardon Us), are superb and only add to the sing-a-long qualities that the song oozes out. You're Still Here is about trying to deal with the loss of someone that you care for and questioning why it has happened but also realising that the person lives on through your memories. This is one of the more emotional songs on Double Negative, understandably given the subject of the song.

I loved the opening guitar playing of What Did You Do In The Culture Wars? It fills the song with energy immediately and in doing so I'm so pumped to see how the song progresses on. By the time Magill's vocals come in, you're sat on the edge of your seat in anticipation for them to drop and when they do you're in and ready to shout oh so loudly along. The song features some interesting melodies with the song stopping and starting making you think that you are listening to the next song and then, to finish the song off, the melody changes for one last arms-around-your-pals shout-a-long. Free is another song about loss. It's about a friend who struggles with mental health problems who sadly dies and their friends hoping that they finally feel free. It's a very sad song but I love the positive sound of the lines "well I hope you're finally free." It puts a bit of a positive spin on a devastating situation. Heartbreak Radio is one of many highlights on Double Negative. It's a song about finding strength in music after going through a terrible time. That's one of my favourite things about music, it offers such a brilliant form of escapism from the rubbish that everyday life can throw at you. This is something I'm sure everyone relates to even if you're not a fan of punk rock music. The gang vocals on the chorus are great and I can imagine this song going down really well at a Down And Outs gig.

The tenth song I Think I'm Falling Apart also features Magill on piano again - nice to hear it make an appearance in a couple of songs. It's the shortest track on Double Negative and is also the most heartbreaking. The song sounds almost ballad-like in its delivery and there is also a fuzziness in the vocals giving the track a raw emotional flavour. I Think I'm Falling Apart is about feeling as if your life is crumbling down around you after having your heart broken. About Time picks up the tempo and the mood. It reverts back to that fantastic sing-a-long punk rock that, to be quite frank, I really love. Down And Outs really excel at this style of punk rock. In a scene that's highly saturated with fantastic melodic punk rock bands it's refreshing to hear something that really stands out. The penultimate song, All In This Together, is a political number. It tackles the subject of class in today's society and questions why it is that the people with the least amount money are the ones hurting due to the economical mess that the country is in. The song could be used as a protest song with the chorus of "we're all in this together, why are we the only ones hurting" being used to rally people together. Double Negative is concluded with the song Norah Marie. Norah Marie is a short sing-a-long (obviously) looking back on the past and wondering what might have been. The example in the song being of an old love who is getting married and thinking about how it could, or perhaps should, have been you before coming to the conclusion that some things aren't meant to be. This is a lighter way to finish the album but is still one hell of an earworm.

Double Negative is an album containing thirteen fantastic sing-a-long punk rock anthems. It does everything you expect from this type of band and then some! This is one of the albums of the year so far from a band that I really wish I hadn't slept on for so long. Don't make my mistakes, check out this album.

Stream and download Double Negative here:

Like Down And Outs here:

This review was written by Colin Clark.

Friday, 20 April 2018

Gig Review: Sonic Boom Six at The Craufurd Arms, Milton Keynes 15/4/18

After not having a gig for almost two months Emma and I found ourselves at our second in three days last weekend when we made the short trip to Milton Keynes, specifically The Craufurd Arms in Wolverton, to see legendary ska punk band Sonic Boom Six along with local reggae/ska band Easydread and Birmingham punk rockers Templeton Pek.

First up were Easydread who we also saw on Friday night supporting the Popes Of Chillitown in Bedford. I'm not going to do another in-depth review again but I will say that they again absolutely smashed their set and I fell in love with the new songs even more. If you want to read my review of Easydread from the Popes gig check it out here.

Next up were Templeton Pek. The three piece have been going for a number of years now and seem to have built themselves a very good reputation but this was my first time seeing them. I was so impressed by the band. They play a harder form of melodic punk rock, perhaps making them an odd choice for this ska heavy line-up, but they definitely blew the crowd away. Out on the road supporting their brand new album, Watching The World Come Undone, I was so impressed by these guys. Cleary they are doing this because they love it as they put everything they have into their set. Under the hot lights of The Craufurd Arms stage, Templeton Pek played half an hour of powerful punk rock bangers. I was particularly impressed with bassist and lead singer Neal Mitchell's vocals. Blending a hard rock style with a punk attitude you believed in every word that he sung. Playing a mixture of old and new songs, they got the crowd very nicely warmed up for the evening's main event.

Now, Sonic Boom Six are a band I don't often to listen to anymore but whenever I see that they're playing a live show near me I make sure I can attend. That's because they are one of the finest live bands around. Playing a mix of ska, punk, hip hop, dub and sometimes even a little electronica, SB6 always but on a lively show. The crowd at the Craufurd Arms was not one of the biggest but they certainly didn't lack any enthusiasm for the evening's headliners. As soon as Laila K sang the first lines of set opener Sounds Of The Revolution we were off for a hour of joyful skanking. My mind is a bit blurry on the exact setlist but it was full of tracks from their entire discography so there was plenty for the old school "boomers" to enjoy as well as newer fans of the band. Something that always impresses with with SB6 is the amount of thought that seems to go into their setlist. Along with making sure there is something for everybody to enjoy, it all flows together seamlessly with the band knowing the perfect time to play each song. Last year they released a new mini album named Cardiac Arrest that I still haven't listened to (shame on me). Luckily they played a couple of songs from that release, the fast paced punk banger Learnt To Live With It and the ska heavy My Philosophy. Both new songs went down a treat with the Wolverton crowd. Other highlights of the set for me were Bigger Than Punk Rock, No Man No Right, Virus, Piggy In The Middle and New Style Rocka. There was also a surprise cover of I Fought The Law which was originally made famous by The Clash. This drew a big sing-a-long with Layla bringing the crowd close to the front to really belt out the chorus. More bands should cover The Clash. Finishing up with Sunny Side Of The Street, Sonic Boom Six did what they do each and every time that they step onto a stage - they blew the crowd away. I really can't think of many live bands that put on a better show than Laila, Barney, Nick, James and Luke do. It's always such a pleasure to see them.

This review was written by Colin Clark. Photos by Emma Prew.

Thursday, 19 April 2018

Top Tens: The Manchester Punk Festival Collective's Top Ten Special Performances

Here at MPF we don’t like thought of music being competitive as we feel we are all in it together as a community. So we’d like to stress that this isn’t a ‘top ten best performances at MPF’, but just ten performances that have all been a bit special for a particular reason.

We are as happy to see our favourite less-established bands smashing it to a packed room (we hope these are the headliners of future events) as we are seeing headliners that we never dreamed would want to play our event. The list would be endless if we listed all our favourite moments and I’m sure this would change every time we wrote it.

Also, not everyone in our collective has contributed, so you could get some very different lists depending on who wrote this.

But here are 10 performances that we’ll remember fondly.

I’m including Paint It Black for the sheer ridiculousness that they were playing the third MPF. How did we manage that? Kieran

Years ago, when I was still doing TNS Fanzine and I used to get sent stuff to review. I had a CD turn up in the post that I was truly blown away by. It was 'Raising Ruins For The Future' by Mighty Midgets from Denmark. It turned out that they did many of the same things as TNS did in their hometown of Aalborg - a DIY label (5 FeetUnder), promoted gigs and also played very fast music. We became friends and swapped loads of stock and even released a split EP. But then they split up before we got to see them live. Thankfully we got to catch their incredible live set when Revenge played in Denmark and they did a one off set, but it always frustrated me I'd never got them to Manchester. Last year, we managed to remedy that and not only was it one of my favourite MPF moments but also one of my favourite live music moments too. Andy

ONSIND (2017)
Punk rock has always been political for me, and ONSIND are one of the best around at balancing politics with socially aware lyrics. A basement full screaming "never trust a Tory" was inspiring. Kieran

I’m getting emotional in my old age and seeing one of the up and coming bands tearing it up to a packed room so early in the day always brings a tear to my eye. It’s so amazing to see the MPF crowd filling venues all day long and giving new music a listen. Bobby Funk are one of the most exciting underground bands in the UK right now and it made me very happy to see them getting such a great response. Plus seeing Ollie flying around stage with his leg in a cast (don’t dance to Cyndi Lauper - it’s dangerous). Andy

It would be hard to leave them out of this list. They always have the room bouncing around wherever/whenever I have seen them with a great live show that never fails to impress. It’s always great to have them on as they show up with smiles and leave you smiling with nostalgia. Tom

MR BLOBBY (2016)
It’s a shame he could only perform one song, although does he have any more? Not sure. He was very much deserving of the capacity crowd at our 2016 after show. It’s also very special for the other bands to be on the same bill as a living legend. Punk as fuck. Andy

CLOWNS (2017)
Watching Clowns tear apart the venue at the after-party. All our work was done, we could finally relax and party. Performance of the weekend for me. Kieran

MARTHA (2017)
Playing just before Paint It Black to a capacity crowd at Gorilla. It was brilliant to see a room full of smiles and fake Durham accents for one of the best and most promising bands in the country. Kieran

This much loved band headlined the Ducie Bridge on the first night of the first MPF and the atmosphere was incredible. The venue was absolutely packed. I think we all had that ‘we are actually doing this’ moment. Another one that bought a tear to my eye. Andy

They were our first real international 'headliner' and the emotions going through my head during their set were wonderful. A great band, packed crowd and one to really solidify why we do this. Kieran

Wednesday, 18 April 2018

Album Review: Don't Try So Hard by Breaklights

Breaklights are a four piece pop punk band from Austin, Texas. The band formed in January of 2016 and released their first EP Instructed to Fail in July of the same year. In January, this year, they released a second EP titled Don't Try So Hard on the always excellent Wiretap Records. Being on such a consistently great label had me very excited to check out Don't Try So Hard.

The EP begins with the track Call It Off. Call It Off is a short opener that does a fantastic job in showcasing what to expect from Breaklights on this EP. It's the poppiest of pop punk sounds and contains some of the most infectious hooks. Lead vocalist, Charlie, sings in such a sugary sweet way and is backed brilliantly by the rest of the band, giving the song it's punk rock bite. The second track, Waterloo, really stood out on my first listen of Don't Try So Hard. Starting out with a simple drum beat that catches your attention immediately, you find yourself tapping your toes to a song about feeling like you are a loser in no time. Waterloo is a pretty downbeat song but is also a song that plenty of people will find extremely relatable. Relatable songs often add a great deal of catharsis for the listener. The EP's title track is up next. When a release has a title track I often think that this will add an extra bit of the pressure for the song to really stand out. Don't Try So Hard wastes no time in getting started as Charlie's vocals kick things off in great fashion. On the song he recounts a previous relationship and why it didn't work out. The song really allows Breaklights to show off what a great band they are musically as there are a couple of great instrumental moments during the middle and end of the song.

Runaways is another break up song, but a break up song with a difference. Instead of the usual theme of heartbreak, Runaways does a great job of putting a positive spin on the subject with the line "They say it’s better to love and lose it all, rather than never feel the fall. But I’m not so sure it’s true. Whatever we wanted, whatever we knew. It’s best to erase that now and break this hold on you." Charlie's voice is great on the track, at times remaining restrained before he stretches it to add more emotion into the song. The penultimate track on the EP is named Blank Stare. The song is about being promised that you can be anything when you grow up but in reality that's not always the case. It's a bleak subject but also one that again many people will find relatable and cathartic. How many of us are stuck in jobs that we hate and wanted so much more when we were younger? It's one of the angrier songs on the EP as Charlie lets all of his frustrations out. Lastly is the song Lonely. It starts out extremely bass heavy, really allowing the listener to focus on the vocals. It's a sad song about break ups, in particular knowing that a relationship is about to end but lying to yourself and pretending that everything is going to be okay. All releases, LPs or EPs, should finish with a bit of a flourish and that's the case here - a big ending with some "sha-na-nah"s adding a last layer to conclude the song.

Don't Try So Hard is a thoroughly refreshing pop punk release. It's one of those great releases in the genre that will please fans of the poppier side of pop punk just as much as fans who prefer their punk to have a bit of an edge.

Stream and download Don't Try So Hard here:

Like Breaklights here:

This review was written by Colin Clark.

Gig Review: Popes Of Chillitown at Esquires, Bedford 13/4/18

It's crazy to think that Emma and I haven't been to a gig since February. This is very much unlike us! Thankfully April has hit and we've got plenty of gigs lined up - the first being a local Bedford one at Esquires. London ska punks the Popes Of Chillitown were in town being supported by fellow Londoners Eat The Evidence and local act Easydread.

First up were Eat The Evidence who we first saw supporting Lightyear at their comeback London show last October. I really enjoyed their energetic set last year and looked forward to more of the same at Esquires. Eat The Evidence are one of the most more unique bands in the UK ska punk scene, combining ska, punk, reggae and two tone to create their own sound. They are, to my mind, the only ska band I've ever seen incorporate an accordion and slide whistle into their musical arsenal. As I've already said, the band put on a energetic set with lead singer Tom Lattimer bouncing around the stage throughout. He must have been knackered when they finished! Whether it's songs about the government, the British empire, falling in love or couscous, Eat The Evidence are very easy to fall in love with. I can't wait to see them again at Level Up Festival in South London in July.

Up next were Easydread. Whenever a ska show is announced in the Bedfordshire and surrounding areas you can bet that Easydread will be named as a support act. I have absolutely no problem with this as this reggae/ska band are one of my favourites of the past year and every time I've seen them they just get better and better. At Esquires this trend of being better each and every time continued as Easydread absolutely smashed it. Having forty-five minutes allowed the seven piece more time than usual so we were treated to a few new songs - that sound absolutely superb and I can't wait to hear recorded versions - as well as the older favourites such as Rebel, Cross Hatch Line, The Wake Of You and Scrotes. The room was pretty full for Easydread and they got such a good reaction with everyone dancing, skanking, singing along and having a wonderful time. The band are all about positive vibes and having a good time and this attitude was definitely adopted by the crowd who got more and more involved as their set progressed. The ska scene in the UK is currently enjoying another renaissance and Easydread have got to be one of the many bands in that scene that you will soon be taking a lot of notice of. They're so good!

Up next it was time for one of the most exciting bands in UK ska punk, the Popes of Chillitown. It's awesome to get a band as good as the Popes to come play a show in Bedford and it was clear immediately that everyone in Esquires was pumped up to see them. Being introduced on stage by a local punk who came dressed as the pope, the band quickly had the crowd whipped into a frenzy in a way that only they can. With the new album, Work Hard, Play Hard, See You In The Graveyard, due I kind of expected that the show would offer a taster of what was to come from that release but in fact they only played two songs from it. Instead we got plenty of bangers from their previous two albums with the highlights being Wisdom Teeth, Impatient, Dalking Man and Otherside. Popes frontman Matt is one of the most watchable people in ska punk, he has this unbelievable charisma and endless energy. He is a big part in what makes the Popes Of Chillitown an unmissable live act. I think this was probably the longest set I've seen them play and by its finale I was absolutely exhausted. I'd not had such a good skank for such a long time and it felt good!

The crowd had an amazing time and it looked as if the band did as well. Then sadly things took a bit of a downturn. The Popes returned to the stage for their encore and, for reason unbeknownst to me, two idiots down the front shook their beers up and managed to get it all over Matt's equipment. Unsurprisingly Matt was not impressed but decided to carry on and not let these two dicks spoil the night for everyone. Then these two morons continued to behave like morons during the first song so the Popes understandably decided to call it a night. Why these two people decided to act this way is beyond me. Like I said, it's not often that we get such cool bands in Bedford, if people are gonna act like idiots chances are said cool bands won't come back! Thankfully the Popes did come back on stage to finish their encore (after the idiots had cleared off) with a great rendition of Badman, saying that they didn't want to finish a fantastic night that way. You've got to give the Popes Of Chillitown a huge amount of love and respect for coming back, realising that two buffoons shouldn't put a dampener on what has been one of the best gigs of the year.

This review was written by Colin Clark. Photos by Emma Prew.

Tuesday, 17 April 2018

News: Bar Stool Preachers Album Launch At The New Cross Inn

Brighton based ska punks The Bar Stool Preachers are releasing a brand new album titled Grazie Governo! To celebrate they are having a launch party at the home of ska punk in London - The New Cross Inn on Wednesday the 2nd of May. To add to the party fun they are supported by Call Me Malcolm and Lead Shot Hazard.

Tickets are on sale here:

Check out the Facebook event to keep up to date here: