Wednesday, 26 July 2017

Album Review: The King of No Man by Captain, We're Sinking (by Richard Mair)

Stunning return from Barnett Brother B, and his post-hardcore shipmates.

I'm going to get the lazy / inevitable (delete as you feel applicable) item out the way early, yes it's the return of Bob Barnett, brother of punk rock royalty Greg Barnett of The Menzingers with an equally epic album as his siblings 2017 offering "After the Party".

Whether the success of this album is based on its own brilliance or the likelihood of people picking it up on the back of this lineage is a rather moot point, as whatever path they take to discover "The King of No-Man" the listener will be left feeling it's one of the finest releases of the year; but will it be enough to catapult Captain, We're Sinking and in particular Bob Barnett to the pinnacle of punk, sitting alongside his illustrious bro?

In addition to this familial expectation there is also the spectre of 2013s "The Future is Cancelled" hanging over this latest release; which no doubt graced many people's top 10 albums of the year; and those who extolled the virtues of that behemoth of an album will be chomping at the bit for another collection of angry, vitriolic anthems.

It's somewhat of a surprise then that TKN-M is more or a companion piece to its predecessor as opposed to a re-tread of similar songs or a complete departure of what made TFC so well respected. Take the inclusion of songs such as "The Future is Cancelled part 2" which supports this theory; a song that could have been lifted straight off the previous record; in fact feeling more like a song that has had a long gestation and development before being released. These moments though are few and far between, instead focussing on a more reflective and introverted perspective that whilst still retaining that Captain, We're Sinking flavour embraces their vulnerable side as opposed to the frantic nature of the most memorable parts of its predecessor; think an expansion of "More Tequila, Less Joe" than "Adultery". This shift makes TKN-M feel less schizophrenic than TFC and as a result much more cohesive; this album feels like a journey or a single entity as opposed to disparate songs, and the album is better off for this focus.

What does shine throughout the album is the lyrics. Bob Barnett has always excelled at crafting stories that tell of a time or place; and imbues enough emotion in them for you to really feel and experience what his protagonists are going through; "Hunting Trip" and "Crow" are possibly the two finest examples of this on the album, from describing the wind, the breeze and shaking drinks and awkward glances. This ability provide a stunning freeze framed moment where time stands still allowing Bob to describe them in detail whilst still progressing as the narrative of the song; there has always been a focus within Captain, We’re Sinking to focus on the aesthetic and making things feel real within the lyrics and on TKN-M this has really been taken to the next level.

Pleasingly there are also a couple of Easter egg moments for fans of The Hold Steady to grasp, with closing track "The King of No Man" drawing on a couple of THS songs (noticeably "Killer Parties"). As a complete fanboy of The Hold Steady these fleeting moments have always put a smile on my face, and show the bands influences firmly on their sleeves; perhaps not as noticeable this time round but still a worthy bonus!

The album is littered with gems, but kicks off with perhaps the most up-beat and catchy song on the album "Trying Year", which has an unmistakable Captain, We're Sinking vibe to it with poppy guitars and rhythmic drumming; it's perhaps the song that most people will identify with first and warrants repeated listens to fully appreciate how great it is, dealing with growing up and reaching that milestone cross roads in your life "...mid-20 something up to our necks in crippling debt; we're untouchable...". It identifies that unique part in many of our lives where we are still care free but realising we have responsibilities on the horizon we have to deal with. Other standouts include "Cannonless" which showcases a real vulnerability in Bob Barnetts voice with its wavers and fractures, it's a truly hauntingly beautiful song; whilst "Smash 2" starts quiet but explodes with frantic spasming energy, and it's perhaps the most anthemic song on the album; finally "Dance of Joy" reminds so much of Canadian alt-country legends Wintersleep, with its drum heavy rhythms and slightly subdued wavy vocals.

There really is a lot to admire on TKN-M, it's very much what you want to hear from Captain, We're Sinking in 2017. It's shown that they have developed, but not too much. It feels familiar yet different and that's why I'd argue it's a companion piece; it feels like the moment of clarity after the turmoil, anger and aggression of The Future Is Cancelled; it's highly likely then both Barnett brothers will be vying for the accolade of many a punk’s top record of 2017.

Stream and download The King Of No Man here:

Like Captain, We're Sinking here:

This review was written by Richard Mair.

Tuesday, 25 July 2017

Album Reivew: Warriors by Bad Cop/Bad Cop (by Robyn Pierce)

Bad Cop/Bad Cop’s second full-length album Warriors was released on 16 June via Fat Wreck Chords. I’ve been jamming to this album since it came out, but there’s been so much rad music released this year that I guess it’s been tough to keep up with all of the reviews (what a great problem to have). Bad Cop/Bad Cop established their fun and edgy pop-punk sound on their earlier Boss Lady EP and 2015’s LP Not Sorry, but I think that Warriors is the band’s best offering to date. So, let’s get into it.

Warriors leaps into action with ‘Retrograde’, which sets the tone for the whole record with its strong melody, catchy chorus and fantastic vocal harmonies. The song is about picking yourself up and carrying on, and it really lifts you up with exuberant defiance. The next two tracks are similarly fantastic pop-punk tracks (seriously, I couldn’t pick a favourite among the three). ‘I’m Done’ has a bit of a Bad Religion feel to it, but with a distinctly feminist agenda. I would have said that this is 2017’s feminist anthem until I got into the third track, ‘Womanarchist’, and realised that Bad Cop/Bad Cop are just churning out these beauties. This is really top-class songwriting, with clever and thoughtful lyrics packaged inside captivating hooks. The video for ‘Womanarchist’ is also pretty rad, with some awesome punk cameos. The album changes tone slightly in ‘Why Change a Thing’, which is more biting and critical than the first three tracks – lashing out at those who turn a blind eye to structural gender inequality. ‘Victoria’ is also more serious, offering a story about Victoria’s constant struggles with mental illness (including depression and dysphoria) and suicide. Although speaking on behalf of ‘Victoria’, the song offers some necessary reflection on a tragic situation that is all too real and often not directly addressed.

On my first listen, I would probably have said that the first half of this album is stronger than the second, but I don’t think that’s true anymore. The vocal harmonies in ‘Amputations’ are possibly my favourite thing on the whole of Warriors. This sixth track is also the most fun you can have while thinking about the need to cut destructive people out of your life. As Bad Cop/Bad Cop reminds us, “it’s not cruelty, it’s just self-preservation”. After this, ‘Broken’ hits you with some delectable bass lines in a song that could easily have been another single off of this album. Again, the band turns to a difficult subject with the aim of bettering or uplifting. You can’t finish ‘Broken’ without getting the chorus lines “I’m broken, what an easy way out. Justifications have ruled and defined me” stuck in your head, and so the song keeps on reminding you to let go of the excuses that get in the way of self-improvement. The next two songs, ‘Wild Me’ and the titular ‘Warriors’, dare you to find the wild warrior raging inside and to break out of society’s cookie-cutter gender roles. ‘Warriors’ is more bass heavy and would sit well in a film training montage, while ‘Wild Me’ makes it clear that Bad Cop/Bad Cop “will not back down”. The last two tracks on Warriors are a little more gritty and old-school, particularly ‘Kids’ – which talks about the darker side of suburbia and the domestic cycle of abuse. ‘Brain is for Lovers’ is quite sentimental, reminiscing about old times and how “it’s a shame that things have to change”, although the song ultimately shows that it’s necessary to move on. It’s a good track to end with and plays off the album with some rousing vocals.

While this record may be a bit poppy or slick for some, I think Bad Cop/Bad Cop have produced a stellar album that is both fun and empowering. The band treats difficult topics like sexism, mental illness, and abuse with an indomitable exuberance and a qualified idealism. The darker subjects show that the members of Bad Cop/Bad Cop are well aware of the world’s ills, but that they refuse to abide them. On Warriors, the band offers a stirring call to the punk community to come together as an army of warriors to fight daily injustices and give us an album packed full of the energy that all everyday fighters need.

Stream and download Warriors here:

Like Bad Cop/Bad Cop here:

This review was written by Robyn Pierce.

Monday, 24 July 2017

Album Review: Side Effects by Fastfade

I first discovered Fastfade when we arrived at The Unicorn in Camden for Forever Unclean's EP launch show. After a long walk to the Unicorn on a rainy day we walked into the venue to see three young men playing a cover of Lagwagon's Mr Coffee. I was already on board with this band before I'd even heard an original song. When they did play their own song, I was wowed by this fast, snotty in-your-face skate punk that harks back to the 90s heyday of the genre. Recently the wonderful Umlaut Records released Fastfade's brand new EP named Side Effects. As a lover of 90s skate punk and everything Umlaut Records have released so far I was excited for this one.

The opening track is named Mid-Point. I'm instantly transported back to the 90s with some guitars that really wouldn't sound out of place on a NOFX record. It's not long before lead singer Ryan Mansell comes in with an unmistakable English accent. My fear whenever I see a band from the UK is influenced by 90s skate punk is that they will try and sing in an American accent and just come across as a pretender. Thankfully this isn't the case with Fastfade. Mid-Point is a short song but does a wonderful job introducing listeners to the band's sound. On The Bottom Line we are treated to a long musical intro that leaves you anticipating the real fruit and fibre of the song. The band's musical ability is really shown off here and throughout the song. I loved that they used some musical interludes to fill out the song rather than just storming through and moving on to the next song. This gives the track an added depth. Slingshot is perhaps my favourite song on Side Effects. There is a poppier sound to the track. I'm reminded of Australian punks The Decline here and the smile on my face grows and grows with every listen of the song. Despite the more poppy and bouncy style that the song has there is still a relentless feel, particularly with the repeating chorus at the song's finale when Ryan and bassist Joe Papworth join forces to shout out the lines "Somethings Never Change." Speaking of Joe, he unleashes some quality basslines throughout Slingshot. Last up is My So Called Friend. There is a slight stylistic shift here again with Ryan laying down some more technical sounding guitar work before drummer Jake Marshall gets things moving with some superb pounding of the skins. The track speaks about being fed up with a friend who constantly lets you down. There is some real anger and angst in the song and you just can't help but side with the band on the song.

Fastfade are a real up and coming band to look out for. Despite their relative youth, these three chaps play incredibly well - not only on record but live as well. Side Effect has four fantastically written skate punk jams that will have you feeling nostalgic for times gone by but also excited for the future of UK punk rock.

Buy Side Effects here:

Like Fastfade here:

This review was written by Colin Clark.

Friday, 21 July 2017

Future Classics: Not Like This by Iron Chic

When I first thought about some albums that I think in twenty years time will be a seen as a classic, my first thought was Not Like This by Iron Chic. Before I go into why I think Not Like This is good enough to be considered a future classic, it would probably make sense to talk about what criteria is needed to been seen as such.

First up is 'Does it grab me on the first listen?'. If after the first spin are my thoughts "oh my Gandalf, that is the best thing I've ever heard!" Also 'Is there some longevity?', is it something I return to again and again. We all have albums that we put on if we're not sure what we actually want to listen to but know that we want to listen to something. 'Does the album move you in any way?', 'Do you take inspiration from the lyrics?', 'Do you relate to them somehow?' If so, it's likely you're gonna come back to an album time and time again. 'Do you think that the album is the band's best work?' 'How does it compare to the band's previous releases?' 'Does the album get the same reaction live as it does on record?' If an album matches all of those things then it's definitely a classic for me.

Not Like This without a doubt falls into my criteria for a future classic. After being released in 2010 on Dead Broke Rekerds, Not Like This made Iron Chic a huge deal in the punk rock scene and also made them pretty much everyone's favourite band. On my first listen I was in love. There's a great simplicity to everything on this album that makes it instantly accessible. I adore lead vocalist Jason Lubrano's style of speak-singing, this makes it so easy for the album to become an ear worm because it's so easy to pick up every word that leaves his mouth.

I didn't get to see Iron Chic live until after the band's second full length, The Constant One, was released. That is also a fantastic album but whenever any song from Not Like This is played live it always gets the massive reactions. It doesn't even matter which of the ten songs on the album are played or what order they are played in, they are all crowd pleasers. I've seen a crowd in small basements and/or bigger festival stages just go crazy for these songs in ways that not many bands will ever be able to replicate.

Not Like This covers a few themes such as growing up, finding a release, making the best of things, being stuck in a job that you don't like and finding somewhere that you belong. These aren't exactly new topics in the punk scene but with the simple Iron Chic style I find myself relating to them even more so than normal. This is down to the everyman style that is the band's sound. As you sing along with these songs - live, in your car, your kitchen, your bathroom, your living room, your garden, under your stairs or anywhere else you might sing songs - you feel a part of Iron Chic. This is a really special feeling and why I think Not Like This is a future classic.

Thursday, 20 July 2017

Gig Review: The Overjoyed and friends at New Cross Inn 16/7/17

Over the years, the New Cross Inn has become renowned for the punk rock all-dayer. A day that starts early in the afternoon and has bands playing throughout the entire afternoon, evening and night. To my shame, I've never managed to get down to the South East London venue for one of these all-dayers despite thinking that they look amazing. At least, that was until the latest event which took place on Sunday 16th of July. Be Sharp Promotions and Kick The Crutches were coming together to put on an absolutely stacked line up of some of the best underground punk rock from London, as well as some special guests from Somerset, Leeds and some really special guests from Greece. Emma and I decided we would go as soon as we saw what an incredible line up it was. Online the price was only £3 and it would be £5 on the door. This was such a ridiculous line up we decided that £3 is far too cheap so we paid the £5 door price. £5 was still stupidly cheap for the level of bands that we would be getting to watch all day. We made sure we were there early so we could see all of the acts.

First up was former DropThis singer, Jordan, under the alias Sweater Songs. Where DropThis played some excellent melodic hardcore punk, Sweater Songs is Jordan's acoustic solo endeavour. It was also the perfect way to ease the crowd that were already gathering into the day. Only playing for about twenty minutes, Jordan managed to squeeze in a few covers, as well as his own songs, into the set. As well as attempting to promote the New Cross Inn's reasonably priced chicken snacks. There was a great laid back charm to his performance to go along with his fantastic vocals that had the crowd listening keenly throughout his set. I look forward to hearing more from Sweater Songs. Sweater Songs is great.

Up next was the first full band show of the day and it was a band I was really looking forward to seeing again. It was Kingston's Resuscitators. I first heard the Resuscitators when they supported Off With Their Heads at the Fighting Cocks in Kingston back in 2013. I loved their set that day and am amazed it took me another four years before getting to see them again. As soon as they started their first song memories of what I loved about them four years ago came flooding back. This is fast paced melodic punk with vocals coming from everywhere. It's not just that everyone sings all the time though, most of the time it's different combinations of Resuscitator members singing different parts of the song. It's clear a lot of thought has gone into this to help create the right sound for the right moment. Finishing with the excellent Little Victories, I hope it's not such a long time before I see Resuscitators again. Resuscitators are great.

Next up was Joe Sullivan and The Happiness Werewolves. Joe Sullivan is a former member of the excellent Bandit The Panther, before releasing a solo EP late last year titled Osborne Heights. Since then he's put a full band together going by the moniker Joe Sullivan and The Happiness Werewolves. Taking Joe's acoustic songs and filling them out with a rocking full band worked an absolute treat. If you didn't know of the band before the gig it's certain that you were a fan at the end of their set. Edging away from the more melodic and skate punk sound that the majority of the bands on the bill played, Joe Sullivan and The Happiness Werewolves were much more of a straight forward punk rock act with a hint of folk. This is a band that should be on everyone's radars and I'm really hoping they do some full band recording sooner rather than later. Joe Sullivan and The Happiness Werewolves are great.

London based record label Umlaut Records had a whole host of bands from their impressive roster playing the show. First up was Fastfade, fresh from recently releasing their second EP called Side Effects. The three young men who make up Fastfade are incredibly talented musicians (the days bass player is a stadn in due to Fast Fade's normal bass player being away) but also are an extremely fun loving band. Whether it's wearing their underwear on stage, bantering amongst themselves or with the crowd with some self-depreciating humour or trying to start a bit of controversy about North London (where they're from) being better than South London. This is all just part of the fun, the real talking point about Fastfade is just how good they are! If you're a fan of 90s skate punk then you really need to check these guys out live. Along with playing a host of their own tracks they also played a couple of Green Day covers, one that was planned (In The End) and one that was just done on the fly (FOD). This was a super fun set. Fastfade are great.

In a change to the original time slots, next up were On A Hiding To Nothing. On a Hiding To Nothing put on one of the more energetic performances of the day with bass player Jack Wiseman stomping around the stage with an unmatched ferocity. They plated a selection of songs from their previous two EPs, with the tracks from this year's Formaldehyde release really standing out. On A Hiding To Nothing are one of the London punk scene's best kept secrets. Playing fast paced skate punk, the performance is absolutely breathless, I get tired just watching them so gosh knows how knackered they must be by the time they finish their half an hour set. Lead singer Al has an instantly recognisable voice and is ably backed up by some great harmonies from Jack and Hassan (we'll see him again later). On A Hiding To Nothing are one of those bands that I feel like should be much more well known than they are. They are skilled bunch of musicians who write excellent music and put on a great live show. On A Hiding To Nothing are great.

The same can also be said about Cereal Box Heroes. This pop punk three piece are just the most fun to watch on stage. Guitarist Connor and bassist Dom play off of each other brilliantly. Whether they are taking turns in singing songs or singing together, they do a fantastic job of keeping the energy up. Cereal Box Heroes are clearly influenced by Blink 182 and you can hear that in their sound but it's definitely not a rip off. There was a nice moment where Hassan of Triple Sundae and On A Hiding To Nothing joined the band on stage for an impromptu stint as lead vocalist. Something I really loved about this whole day was the companionship between all of the bands that were playing. They're all mates away from the music and it just made the day feel like one long friendly party. Cereal Box Heroes are great.

Following CBH was a band I was completely unaware of. A three piece pop punk band by the name of The Splash took to the stage. This trio from Somerset play an in your face style of pop punk with some fantastic gruff vocals. The crowd gathered at New Cross Inn were quite keen to see The Splash - they clearly made quite the good impression on people. Their enthusiasm on the New Cross Inn stage was infectious and I found myself grinning throughout their whole set. The between song banter was just as enjoyable, making jokes about being from Somerset and being scared of London and how they've made a video for a song that's on YouTube so we must have know all the words. The icing on the cake for The Spash's set was their cover of East 17's Christmas hit Stay Another Day. July is of course the perfect time to play that song. The Splash are great.

On the 22nd of May I had never seen Triple Sundae live. On the 17th of July I have seen them three times and look forward to seeing them many more times in the future. There's an undeniable charm to a Triple Sundae set that just makes me love them. It's not just me though, they've drawn one of the biggest crowds of the day so far and everyone's extremely pumped up to see them. If you've not listened to Triple Sundae before (shame on you) they play a melodic style of pop punk that gets your feet really stomping. The band's friendship with Cereal Box Heroes is on display again as CBH's Dom fills in on bass for Triple Sundae and does a superb job. During one of the songs, singer Hassan (here he is again) passes his microphone down to CBH's Connor and invites him to sing the song, as well. More evidence of the great community spirit in this wonderful scene. Triple Sundae are one of those bands you know are destined to grow and grow. Triple Sundae are great.

Like Resuscitators earlier in the day, it's been a long four years since I had seen Eat Defeat. The four piece from Leeds have developed into one of the finest pop punk bands in the country in that time and their most recent release (on Umlaut Records, of course), Time & Tide, is an absolute banger. Sadly I was slightly distracted by a drunk man stumbling around in front of me for the first part of Eat Defeat's set but when he finally disappeared, what a great set of high octane pop punk this was. I was really impressed by the strength of lead singer Summer's voice in a live setting, not sounding too dissimilar to the records. Earlier in the day Eat Defeat had posted a picture of their van loaded up and ready to travel down to London for the show, curiously there was a surfboard in the van. The reason for this became apparent at the beginning of their set as it was placed in front of the stage and soon enough we were being encouraged to crowd surf somebody on the surfboard. This created an awesome image. Eat Defeat are great.

At the beginning of the summer The Burnt Tapes, via Umlaut Records, put out one of my favourite releases of the year with the EP Alterations. Unlike the majority of the other bands playing, The Burnt Tapes play more of a slower paced, gruff sing-along style of punk rock opposed to some of their more poppy counterparts. I've said many times before that I just don't understand why these four guys aren't more well known in the punk rock scene as they have all the ingredients needed to be a great band. The songs are exceptional and they are a great live band. Lead singer Phil's voice sounds fantastic live, guitarist Pan add some quality vocals when called upon, drummer Jordan absolutely kills it every time and bassist Tone has this wonderful charisma on stage that makes it hard not to watch him on stage. Every time I write about The Burnt Tapes I feel like I'm writing them a love letter but I just want everyone to know how good everyone who has seen them knows they are. Smashing bunch of lads as well. The Burnt Tapes are great.

It's not very often that you'll go to an all day gig and not know a thing about the headline act other than they are named The Overjoyed and that they are from Greece. Thankfully I was in the minority with my lack of Overjoyed knowledge as they were completely adored by the New Cross crowd. The three piece played a mix of skate and pop punk with a small dose of ska thrown in for good measure. Despite the long day, the crowd still had plenty of energy left for The Overjoyed and danced, moshed and skanked their way through their entire set. Despite not knowing any of the songs I found myself dancing along with the band and I was slightly mesmerised by the entire set. In case you're unaware, The Overjoyed are great.

This was an incredibly fun day and it really lived up to all of my expectations of the New Cross Inn all dayer. All eleven acts absolutely smashed it and the whole day was a great advertisement for the talent that resides in our underground punk scene. I was really impressed with how well the whole day was run as well. You'd expect an all day gig in a small pub to start to run late or the sound to not be so good. This was never the case, the day ran smoothly and the sound was spot on all day. Massive kudos to all who were involved in the day. Like I said, we had a great day and it only cost £5! Make sure you get yourself down to New Cross for the next punk all dayer, it's the best way to spend a Sunday.

This gig review was written by Colin Clark.

Top Tens: Aerial Salad's Top Ten Punk Rock Influences

Top Ten 'Punk' influences in no order. No calling out my choices for not being punk enough. It was very hard to leave out Sir Elton John.

You take your car to work. I'll take my board. Pinkerton is maybe one of the best albums ever written. I adore Rivers' songwriting, even though sometimes his lyrics make me cringe. 'I want a girl who will laugh for no one else'?! Chill out, son.

Green Day 1989–1996
What a shock that the band everyone compares us to are massively important to me. Yes, I fooookin love Kerplunk. Some of the most incredible songwriting ever. The melodies make me wanna cry, most of the songs do. Christie Road is THE most important song in my life. When I was in high school there was a field near a train line where me and all my mates would get stoned. We used to jokingly call it Christie Road but in actual fact it was somewhere near Ramsbottom in Bury – haha. There was a park near there (big up nutty P) and if I’d walk the extra long 2 hour walk home from my job at Maccies I’d go through it. On my last shift there, before moving to uni, I went the long way. I sat in the park alone, had a joint and listened to Christie Road in the rain and cried – knowing I'd never go back their again.

Fave band ever. At Rebellion 2016, Milo breifly put the mic in my face during Thank You. Through Whale-eqsue crying, I blurted out the chorus. Banging.

The actual band I try to sound a bit like. 24 Hour Revenge is incredible.

Wonk Unit
Before Alex managed my bands, I knew a now ex guitar player in Wonk who I’d do loads of drugs with. But that's not why they're a major influence. It’s because of Alex’s beautiful poet-like songwriting. He’s ma hero. Wonk Unit fucking rule!

My mate Jordan plays in this fucking RAD hardcore band from Manchester. Constantly preserving through roadblocks and always having fun. I love his band and they inspire me to have FUN.

The Sex Pistols
When I was 14–16, I was Johnny Rotten. My into to punk and in all seriousness a fucking killer band. RUINED by John Lydon being a c*nt. Fuck him and his racist butter pushing sexist demeanour.

Operation Ivy

The Stone Roses
I know they’re not punk but fuck you they are one of my fave bands ever and are MASSIVELY influential on my songwriting.

The Flatliners
The first band I ever saw live. Bombed 1 gram of mdma and had the best nights of my life. Chris, after Daddy Wonk, is my hero.

Check out Aerial Salad here.

Wednesday, 19 July 2017

Album Review: Silent Unspeakable by Bear Trade (by Richard Mair)

The North-East's latest gruff punk heroes return!

This latest Bear Trade release, Silent Unspeakable, delivers what many albums try to do but very few achieve. It's a nuanced, clever and complex collection of songs whose secrets lie deep within it; and like any great album will most likely lead to a variety of interpretations and theories over coming years.

On the surface, it's clear any expectation weighing on The Bears hasn't impacted on their ability to put together a series of honest, personal and reflective songs that will only further enhance their reputation as one of the UK's finest exponents of heartfelt punk rock. Yet dig a little deeper and it's clear this is a very clever, articulate and passionate if somewhat nostalgic album that deals with British society. To fully appreciate this it’s best to start at the end.

Closing the album is "Transgressions in the Toy Shop"', an incredibly sombre and reserved song, delivered in a stripped down manner. It's a serious song, describing the state of the UK following Brexit. It's this poignant song that helps provide the context and helps bring the album full circle; take closing lines "All aboard the world, a ship with no sail and no anchor … that's the worst part cast me off", then opening line on the first track ("Sea Legs") "Not waving, but drowning…". This relationship with the sea is critical to the economy and life in the North East, and the album lives and breathes in the North of England in the best possible way, however these two songs in particular provide an external context of what is happening in the world at this moment in time and I'm certain this is a way of Bear Trade flashing their political teeth and saying how the decision to leave the EU will affect us all. The magic of the album is to bookend itself with these two songs but in between tell personal introspective stories of life and love that can be all affected by these external factors. It provides glimpses into real life with real people and situations that are all in some way affected by this bigger picture. Yes it's an honest album, but it's about doing the right things, admitting our mistakes and supporting each other and it deals with this subject matter majestically.

Aside from the aforementioned songs there are some notable highlights to enjoy; "As Long As We Have Tea" is possibly my favourite track on the album. From the quintessentially Britishness of the title, it's a massive song about being in love that plays to the strengths of the whole band. Personally I love the hi-hats in the bridge, it ratchets up the tempo slightly and really grabs attention but everything from the solo to the vocal delivery is done with care and passion and it shows how heartfelt this song is. "Family Planning" is another highlight, sitting in the middle of the album its opening lines remind us of the context of the album ("I'm sick of reading the news because this news is not news"), yet is really another personal monologue about growing up and not letting the future pass you by, all wrapped up with their big driving guitars and likeable north-east tinged vocals. In fact this personal approach to many of the songs helps give an insight into what real life is like for The Bears; "Bibojibs" is written about hot chilli sauce videos and is really a homage to the wonderful things family do (check out the Bear Trade Facebook page for more on this). It's moments like this and "Good But Best", dealing with the illness of a loved one, that give the album a beating heart. "Silent Unspeakable" covers a full range of human emotions and the wonder of life in such a poetic and passionate way that it requires repeated listens to fully appreciate.

Following debut album "Blood and Sand" was never going to be easy; it's an instantly catchy and accessible album, one that repeatedly finds its way on to my iPod. What Bear Trade have delivered with this follow up is truly something special; it's the sign of a band perfecting their craft but not straying too far from the formula that worked so well first time round. It's still fast, it's still gritty at times, it has all the fist-in-the-air moments delivered by songs like "Charge" or "Son of the Manse" just delivered with more guile and confidence.

Bear Trade have previously said they play sad punk for happy drunks. Certainly many of the songs deserve to be heard in a live environment where the beer is flowing, surrounded by friends and on the basis of this release I'm certain they will be making many new ones!

Stream and download Silent Unspeakable here:

Like Bear Trade here:

This review was written by Richard Mair