Tuesday, 30 September 2014

New Music September 2014

I thought it might be kind of fun and interesting to share with you the new additions to my music collection every month. Here are the new additions during September.

Apologies, I Have None – Black Everything

Billy Liar – All I’ve Got

Billy Liar – The Ghosts Of Punk Rock

Billy Liar – It Starts Here

Billy Liar – Live At Granton Pierhouse

Gnarwolves – Gnarwolves

The Holy Mess – Comfort In The Discord

Luke Hilly – Spending Time


Rob Lynch – All These Nights Spent In Bars Will Somehow Save My Soul

RVIVR – Bicker and Breath EP


Sammys Fatal Mistake – Rights, Responsibility & The Promise Of Instant Gratification

Sink Alaska – Double A Side

Skank Agenda – Hate This Shit

The Smith Street Band – South East Facing Wall

Various Artists – Friends Of Friends Mixtape Volume 1

Wank For Peace – Fail Forward

Young Attenborough - Isolations

Now listening to So It Goes by Slow Science

Sunday, 28 September 2014

Gig Review: Modern Baseball at The Borderline 26/9/14

There is a string of up and coming pop punk bands appearing from the USA. Bands like The Wonder Years, The Story So Far and Modern Baseball are becoming hugely popular on both sides of the Atlantic Ocean. Tonight Philadelphia’s Modern Baseball proved just how popular they are by selling out The Borderline after already having to upgrade the venue from the Old Blue Last due to demand.

First up was Losing Sleep from Kingston. I had already seen this pop punk four piece supporting ONSIND at Urban Bar earlier in the year and was really impressed by them. Second time around they impressed me again, playing to a much bigger crowd tonight and they seemed to relish the opportunity. Playing to anyone is a big deal but I imagine this crowd is just the type of people that Losing Sleeps music is made for. Musically Losing Sleep were tight, they are clearly a group of talented musicians who really love the music they are playing. It’s a matter of time before they are headlining places like The Borderline.

Up next was the recently reformed Spraynard from Philadelphia. I wasn’t really sure what to expect from the three piece having never really heard them before. They really blew me away. This was the kind of pop punk I love, fast and intense and never letting up the speed with big choruses with plenty of fist in the air moments. I can say just how much energy Spraynard put out and it certainly carried over into the crowd, many of whom I suspect were there to see them just as much as Modern Baseball. I loved that the band seemed genuinely so pleased to be at the show tonight and had were having a lot of fun. Definitely a band I am going to check out again and home to see again very very soon.

Now it was for Modern Baseball and the Borderline crowd were pumped up and ready. To be honest they were a little too pumped up tonight and for me kind of ruined the set. I’d never tell somehow what to do or what not to do at a gig (it would be incredibly un-punk rock of me) but it does disappointment when I see people not really looking out for one another at a gig. There were stage divers a plenty for the set, I say plenty to start with there were only two or three who kept doing it. As the set wore on more and more people started to do it and it just got out of control. It really didn’t seem like they had any regard for the poor people they were randomly diving on. I’m all for people having fun and having a stage dive if they want but make sure the people who you are expecting to catch you are aware so you don’t hurt them. Modern Baseball commented on it and told the crowd to look after each other and that we’re all in this together.

Crowd lunacy aside Modern Baseball were fantastic. Playing a healthy dose of songs from both their albums – Sports and You’re Gonna Miss It All the crowd really did love them. Hugely relatable songs that gain massive sing along’s. Some of the subject matter is about struggling to fit in or being rejected by girls, stuff that shouldn’t be joyous, but watching Modern Baseball play it live and seeing everyone singing with them you can’t help but feel uplifted. I guess it’s almost cathartic to sing along and see other people, probably strangers also feeling the same way. Perhaps I’m reading a little too much into it, perhaps people just think it’s a really good song. Either way Modern Baseball have really earned their place in the elite of the current crop of pop punk bands. They possess some really well written songs that work fantastically well live and on record, a sign of a brilliant band.

Check out Modern Baseball here: https://modernbaseballpa.bandcamp.com/

Check out Spraynard here: https://spraynard.bandcamp.com/

Check out Losing Sleep here: https://losingsleep.bandcamp.com/

Now listening to Cooke by Modern Baseball

Gig Review: Slow Science/The Dauntless Elite Album Release Show at Urban Bar, Whitechapel 25/9/14

This past Thursday 176 Records and Everything Sucks Music put on another great show at Urban Bar in Whitechapel. This night was the record release show for Slow Science’s and The Dauntless Elite’s new split release and it would also be the very last time Slow Science would ever play in London.

Up first were Big Wow. Featuring two members of the Dauntless Elite this relatively new band have just put out their debut release Teamwork Makes The Dream Work on Specialist Subject records, a label that have put out some of the best releases in UK punk rock so I was expecting big things. They certainly delivered with their live show. Fast and frantic power pop is the order of the day from Big Wow. Decked out on stage in matching blue t-shirts they storm through their songs without saying a word between them. This in itself was quite entertaining with a very long awkward pause halfway through their set before bassist Georgina screamed and the band burst back into life. Very entertaining set from this new band.

Next up was Break Ups guitarist Luke Godwin. Luke’s solo album Brand New Lands was one of my favourites of 2013 and I was really looking forward to seeing this superbly talented man perform live. After a little technical difficulty he began his set and was fantastic. I always wonder how an acoustic act will do when placed between two full bands on a gig line up. Will it bring down the energy levels of the evening? In this instance it definitely didn’t. Godwin’s voice was at its soulful best as he captivated his audience. The only downside of the set was that he didn’t play my favourite song of his – Let’s Walk Away. Luke Godwin is definitely someone to keep an eye out for.

The Dauntless Elite were my main reason for attending the show at Urban Bar. I randomly discovered them earlier this year and really fell in love with their gruff punk stylings. The Dauntless Elite are a “does what it says on the tin” sort of band. Their live show is what you would expect from a melodic pop punk band, not that that is a bad thing. The songs are top quality fist pumping anthems. Singers Lee and Joseph’s vocals both sound great with Joseph’s raw and rough singing complimented fantastically by Lee’s more clean style. I was super impressed with The Dauntless Elite playing live, brilliant band to watch, really entertaining when playing songs or partaking in mid set banter, Lee especially was hilarious. It’s such a shame that they don’t play more gigs because they are an excellent band.

Last up was Slow Science. I have to admit I had never even heard of Slow Science before this gig so the sadness of this being their last ever London gig was a bit lost on me. That was until about halfway through their opening song when I felt gutted this was my first time experiencing them as they were really really good. On their Facebook page they describe themselves as a “four piece, anthemic, indie infused, grunge driven, dual vocaled, punk rock” band. I would just describe them as awesome. They made a comment about not having played a gig for 18 months prior to this one but you couldn’t tell as they played so tightly. Al and Stacey’s rhythm section drove the songs on why guitarists Jon and Paul played so excellent riffs. The whole band are clearly brilliantly talented musicians and together they have made something really special. It’s such a shame they are splitting up and I really hpe they do some reunion shows somewhere down the line, it would be a travesty if they didn’t.

This was a excellent gig showcasing some great UK talent. On my way home I thought about the gig and wondered why exactly acts like these and countless other underground acts are still underground. The UK really does have an immensely talented scene and really needs to be discovered by a bigger audience. Thank god for promoters such as 176 Records and Everything Sucks Music for continually putting on some fantastic gigs filled with great bands. 

Check out The Dauntless Elite here: http://music.thedauntlesselite.com/

Check out Luke Godwin here: https://lukegodwin.bandcamp.com/

Check out Slow Science here: https://slowscience.bandcamp.com/

Check out Everything Sucks Music here: https://www.facebook.com/esmusiclabel

Now listening to Within The Range Of A Raven by The Holy Mess

Thursday, 25 September 2014

Gig Review: Masked Intruder at The Fighting Cocks, Kingston 24/9/14

The Fighting Cocks in Kingston was the setting for an eclectic night of punk rock. Those love sick criminals Masked Intruder (whose second album I reviewed here) were back in town joined by hardcore punks Throwing Stuff and Survival Tour alumnus Sam Russo.

A pretty sizeable crowd gathered early to see Haverhill’s Sam Russo. Arguably the king of the UKs underground acoustic punk scene Russo is a very endearing performer. His laid back style on stage manages to put everyone in the room at ease. Whether you know any of his songs or it’s your first time hearing him he manages to put you under his spell. A side from a couple of noisy folks at the bar everyone was hanging on his every word as Russo sang about divorce, heartbreak and letting go of love. Between songs there was some fun banter between Russo and the lads from Throwing Stuff –I remember the term “slicker than tears on a dildo” being used. I forget why. Highlights of the set for me were Dry Shampoo, Factory Rain and Holding On, where the Throwing Stuff boys added some do-do-doohs.

Up next was Manchester’s Throwing Stuff. Throwing Stuff are a band I have been aware of for ages, constantly seeing their name pop up o various tours but I’ve never had the chance to see them live or really listen to their music so wasn’t really sure what they would be like. Throwing Stuff hit the Fighting Cocks like a whirlwind, especially front man Ben who throws himself around the room whilst screaming at the top of his lungs. This is some fast aggressive hardcore punk and it’s sooooo much fun to watch. Despite having a stand in guitarist the band seems tight and storm through their set in no time at all. Honestly this style is not something I really listen to a lot but I love seeing it live. Great set by Throwing Stuff.

The Fighting Cocks was now very close to full and brimming with anticipation for Masked Intruder. The Wisconsin based pop punk four piece are one of the most entertaining bands to come out in a long time. I wrote in the album review about what good songwriters the band are and how they don’t really need the criminal gimmick to win people over. Well live they are absolutely brilliant and I forgot they were even wearing masks during their set, you just don’t notice them once they get playing, and you are too taken away with the brilliance of their songs. On record the songs are more pop than punk but live it’s a different story. Amps are cranked up to the max and Masked Intruder put on a full on punk rock assault. The sugary sweet vocals and the fantastic harmonies are still in full effect but played with a lot more intensity.

Kicking off with Stick ‘Em Up from their debut album the crowd are involved straight away. On stage with them today is Officer Bradford, watching over them. Before the power of rock and roll gets the better of him and he joins in the crowd singing dancing and crowd surfing. Intruder Green also got involved with the crowd, finding a partner to dance with during one song. I can’t say enough just how much fun Masked Intruder are when you seem them live, whether playing a song or engaging with the crowd between songs. Many pretty girls were spoken to whilst they abused their boyfriends.  The set was full of highlights but the main ones being Heart Shaped Guitar, where they got a lady from the crowd to sing Maura from Mixtapes lines (who done an excellent job), their cover of the NOFX classic Linoleum which the crowd went nuts for and I Fought The Law which was great live.

This had been a fantastically fun and entertaining gig. Even with the random drunk guy who felt the need to kiss me because he liked my Murderburgers tee-shirt. Masked Intruder are probably now up there with the very best live bands in the scene and are a treat any time you get to see them live. 

Check out Throwing Stuff here: https://throwingstuff.bandcamp.com/

Check out Masked Intruder here: https://www.facebook.com/maskedintruder

Now listening to Hit Me With Your Best Shot by Pat Benatar

Wednesday, 24 September 2014

Album Review: M.I. by Masked Intruder

Gimmick bands are not something that is usually successful in the world of punk rock. For sure there are plenty of bands that don’t take themselves at all seriously but when all is said and done it is people being themselves playing music they love. Then there is Madison Wisconsin’s Masked Intruder. This pop punk four piece claim to be four convicts who met in prison and ALWAYS wear ski masks to protect their identity. Their songs are all about their criminal past and of course, like all the great pop punk bands – girls. What’s great about Masked Intruder is that the songs are so good they don’t need the gimmick to get the fans onside, it just adds to the fun. They are one of the most popular new bands going having put out releases on Red Scare Industries and then Fat Wreck Chords. Masked Intruder are currently on a short UK tour supporting their 2014 release M.I. Here is my review.

Starting off with the sound of a police siren before launching into the opening track I Fought The Law. When I first saw this title on the CD case I wondered and slightly hoped it was a cover of The Clash’s version of I Fought The Law. This song starts off with some buzzsaw guitar chords that you would expect from any pop punk band before lead singer Blue’s sugary sweet vocals kick in. I should explain that the band go by the nicknames Blue (vocals and guitar), Green (guitar), Yellow (bass) and Red (drums). This song combines both of Masked Intruder’s main song inspirations, the police and girls. It’s about the cops stopping them getting close to a girl and fighting against them. The song is littered with fun lyrics such as “I try to get close to you, instead I see flashes of red and blue.” This song is followed up by The Most Beautiful Girl. Obviously Blue is singing about the most beautiful girl he has ever seen. It’s a fun, simple and catchy song with some brilliantly harmonies.

The third track Crime Spree begins with a nice drum roll before going into a Thelma and Louise type story about two people in love committing crimes together. Saturday Night Alone is about being free and not spending time by yourself. With Beach Boys style harmonies and an a cappella section towards the end of the song it’s another song you will be singing along to very quickly. Track five – When I Get Out is a doo-wop heavy song where Yellow and Green back Blue superbly with some three part harmonies. Blues sugary sweet vocals take the lead in Stars as it begins with just that accompanied by some gentle clapping and what I think is a xylophone but could be mistaken before the full band kick in. Another song about love, Blue sings about wanting to be with someone forever even if they don’t want to be with him.

The biggest surprise on the album comes in the seventh song, Almost Like We’re Already In Love. This stripped back a cappella song again displays the bands impressive vocal section. Throughout the song you expect it to pick up but even the most ardent of punk fans won’t be disappointed that it never does. The album does pick up on the next song Hey Girl. Starting out with a drum beat and some Matt Freeman-esque bass lines before a Ramones inspired chorus of “hey girl, whatcha doin,’ whatcha doin’ baby?” which you will be singing instantly. At just one minute and fourteen seconds long it’s the shortest on the album but definitely hits the spot. With Don’t Run Away the music gets heavier as Blue sings about constantly getting rejected by girls as soon as they meet him “but as soon as I say hello, it seems it’s already time to go.”

The tenth song You’re The One To Blame tells the story of a man in love who has done some bad things because of it with the reasoning of “I did it for love.” Weirdo is M.I’s Heart Shaped Guitar where Blue gets a bit creepy and can’t take no for an answer despite being called “a freak, a geek, a weirdo, a positively creepy guy.” This song has a great Weezer and Nerf Herder vibe. I Don’t Want To Say Goodbye To You Tonight has a 60’s rock n roll feel to it and oozes with harmonies. There is a huge Ramones influence as well in Reds drumming. Masked Intruder strip back the music again for the beginning of the last song Locked Up and Lonely. The song is about being in jail and wanting the girl you love to come and rescue you (sort of like a reversed modern day Rapunszel). This is a fitting end to the album, after doing all these crimes for love you finish up in “the big house.”

M.I is a great second album from Masked Intruder. The production is of course first class and is done by Matt Allison who has also worked on albums from Alkaline Trio, The Lawrence Arms and The Menzingers to name but a few. M.I proves once and for all that Masked Intruder aren’t just a band with an amusing gimmick but they are one of the brightest bands to emerge from a burgeoning pop punk scene in America. 

Check out Masked Intruders Facebook page: https://www.facebook.com/maskedintruder

Now listening to Stick 'Em Up by Masked Intruder

Sunday, 21 September 2014

My Favourite Songs: True Believers

When Bouncing Souls front man Greg Attonito sings out the opening lines “I’ve met some people along the way” you know from the start that something special is about to happen. True Believers by the Bouncing Souls is one of the greatest songs (notice how I said songs and not punk songs) ever written. Taken from the 2001 album How I Spent My Summer Vacation, True Believers is a punk rock anthem if ever there was one. It’s a song that anyone who has ever believed in something and gone against the grain.

The song starts of slow with a few guitars strokes with Attonito singing “I’ve met some people along the way, some of them split some of them stay, some of them walk some walk on by, I’ve got a few friends I’ll love till I die, from all these people I try to learn, some of them shine some of them burn, some of them rise some of them fall, good or bad I’ve know them all.” Here the band are talking about meeting all manner of different people in your life and being open to them and trying to learn from them. Letting yourself experience different people is a very positive way to live your life. Being close minded and judging people before giving them a chance will no doubt leave you alone.

Then we get to the chorus. A chorus that gets a big a sing along from the crowd than any other that I can think of. The whole band join in for a rousing chorus of “we live our life in our own way, never really listened to what they say, the kind of faith that doesn’t fade away, we are the true believers.” This is so relatable for anyone who has ever had the belief in anything and never given up on it. It really is a fantastic chorus, even if you ignore the meaning the words it’s just incredibly catchy. Whenever you hear it you will want to sing along at the top of your voice wherever you are.

Then we move onto the second verse. Accompanied by some fantastic bass playing by Brian Kienlen Greg sings out “well you can fight or you can run, hide under a rock until the war is won, play it safe and don’t make a sound, but not us we won’t back down, true believers all the way, you and I.” Another fantastically relatable verse from the Souls. It’s about how being a true believer is about having the courage to be strong enough to do whatever you believe in despite what anybody might think.

True Believers will go down as one of the classic songs from this era of punk rock. Musically its full of great hooks and lyrically its superbly catchy and a great positive message. It is a great anthem for all the “True Believers.”

Saturday, 20 September 2014

Album Review: Black Everything by Apologies, I Have None

Apologies, I Have None’s debut full length London is one of my favourite albums of the last few years, if not ever. It’s an album full of intelligently written songs that make you think and will have you singing along at the very top of your voice. What I really loved about it was that this was a punk rock record that was accessible to everyone. The hardest of punks and someone the complete opposite of that could enjoy it. I believe the technical term for this is that it has crossover appeal. As you could imagine I was extremely excited when the band announced that they were releasing a new EP. Then I saw some bad news from the band, co-singer, lyricist and guitar player Dan Bond was leaving the band. What would this mean for the band? Would it affect the sound? The departure of one of the key members of the band surely would be a huge loss. The first time I listened to the new EP Black Everything there was a huge amount of trepidation on my part. In all honesty on the first listen of the EP I felt quite disappointed by it. This wasn’t the release that was going to catapult them out of the underground and into the mainstream. This was a dark and brooding effort very unlike the album I loved. With that I didn’t really listen to it again until one of the songs from Black Everything – Raging Through The Thick And Heavy Darkness Of A Bloodlust appeared on a few compilations that I had gathered throughout the summer and it began to grow on me. I decided to give the EP another go; this is what I thought of it.

Raging Through The Thick And Heavy Darkness Of A Bloodlust is the opening track on Black Everything. The feeling of darkness is apparent straight away with a slow, deliberate drum beat before drawn out guitar wails kick in. Josh McKenzie (who is now the sole lead singer of the band) vocals start of restrained before slowly building into an angst filled scream that carry the song along. Raging is about struggling with anger issues and how such anger can turn you into a whole different person. The song if full of some great lyrics including “if I offered explanations they would barely break the silence and would leave behind no reasons as to why I am unfound, a lost plot, raging through the thick and heavy darkness of a bloodlust.”

Two Bombs In a Box is my favourite song on Black Everything. It’s a slow tempo track that kicks off straight away with a very catchy chorus of “how the fuck did I not see this coming? I should have known.” I imagine that played live this gets a great crowd reaction. There is also a line taken from The Righteous Brothers You’ve Lost That Loving Feeling at the end of the song – “I’ve lost that loving feeling, not it’s gone, gone, gone.” I did smile when I first realised that was included.

Coffee, Alcohol, Codeine, Repeat finds McKenzie in a really bad mood. The opening guitar riffs sound like a darker version of the intro to 60 Miles, the opening track from London. I found the lyrics “she would always be the answer, always be the cure and I thought if I ever got my shit together I could try to be hers” to be very relatable. Sounds like how my mindset has been for the majority of this year. The song is about trying to sort yourself out for someone else before realising that that isn’t a healthy way to live, you should try and make yourself better for you and you alone. A surprisingly positive message in such a dark sounding song.

Black Everything is completed with the fourth song The Clarity Of Morning. This is a slow building song that showcases McKenzie’s voice at its angst filled best here. The Clarity Of Morning is about knowing that you are making a bad decision one night and hoping it will sort itself out the next day.

After giving Black Everything another go I can tell you it’s definitely a grower. Every time I’ve listened to it I’ve found something new that I love. Losing Dan was a big loss to the band but in Josh McKenzie the band still has an amazingly talented songwriter to carry on the band and to remain one of the best bands in the UK underground and the one of the best bands the folks “above ground” need to hear. 

Buy and stream Black Everything here: https://apologiesihavenone.bandcamp.com/

Now listening to 100 Club by Apologies, I Have None

Friday, 19 September 2014

Album Review: Comfort In The Discord by The Holy Mess

One gig that I am really looking forward to in the coming weeks is The Menzingers at The Electric Ballroom in Camden with support from The Smith Street Band and The Holy Mess. By now you should all know what a big fan girl I am for The Menzingers and The Smith Street Band but what about The Holy Mess? The Holy Mess are a band I’ve been aware of for a while and have always enjoyed everything they have put out but have never really jumped fully into one of their records. By that I mean I probably couldn’t tell you many song titles or recite any lyrics to you. As I would be seeing them soon I decided to jump into their 2014 release Comfort In The Discord.

It’s All Fun and Games ‘Til Someone Gets Heard (Sunshine Is My Destroyer) is the name of the opening song on the album. I was fairly amused by the fact that the song actually has fewer words than its title. This opener serves as much as an introduction as it does as a song and dishes up some fast paced pop punk guitars with some angsty gruff vocals. Very much the sound of Red Scare Industries, a record label that The Holy Mess Once called home. This is followed up by Spencer Reid, straight away the Philadelphia three piece shows off their ability to write a hook. This song explodes with energy as they boys sing about being misunderstood and wanting to be cared about despite maybe being different.

Track three is called Liza and Louisiana. I suspect that this is a play on the NOFX song Liza And Louise. I don’t know what it is about this song but it reminds me of Coyote Shivers song Sugar High that is featured in one of my all time favourite films Empire Records (if you don’t know it shame on you). This is followed up by Positive Noise; straight away you can hear one of the bands influences Alkaline Trio coming through on the sound. The guitars sound noticeably darker as does the singers vocal styling’s. It’s a slow building song that bursts into life for the chorus which is what you’d expect from a band influenced by the Trio, super catchy.

Next up is one of my stand out tracks on Comfort In The Discord – Nervous Sister. What I really like about this track about blaming all your problems on someone that you have loved and lost is the use of both vocalists. The singing in the second verse really gives the song a great sense of urgency and will get a lot of fists pumping into the air. Track six is my favourite on the release, the excellent Speak Easy. A fast paced sing along pop punk song that starts off with a great guitar solo before launching into a hook filled song about recognising your own faults. At the end of the song there is another great guitar solo before some great gang vocals interestingly singing the last line of Positive Chords again “if we play the right chords they’ll make positive noise, lifting up this spirits as we drain them.” The Holy Mess are singing about how playing punk rock has saved them.

Worthless Original is a song that really hit home for me; I found the lyrics really relatable at this stage of my life. The song is about feeling alone and struggling to have motivation in your life. I have had this feeling a lot this year and it really sucks, I’ve had so many days where it’s been a struggle to even get out of bed in the morning so to hear this song was very refreshing. It’s good to feel like that you’re not alone in being that way. Vacation is another fast paced track that continues in a similar vein to Worthless Original. It’s about being on medication to make you feel better and the feeling you get when you come off it. You feel like a whole different person and sometimes it makes you feel like a sinking ship. Another very relatable song for me.

Track number nine is called For The Press and here The Holy Mess turn up the gruff vocals to eleven and there is an emergence of “whoa-ohs” for the first time on the album. Not a bad effort for the penultimate song on the album. This is another relatable song for any punk rock kid who has felt out of place. They sing about being at a party they don’t feel like that they belong at just to feel like they are doing something. Comfort In The Discord finishes with The Weight. Like every song on the release The Holy Mess don’t slow the pace down on this song about the weight of something holding you down. It finishes on a positive note with the band singing “the weights we have will never break out backs.” For me this means that whatever life throws at you, if you’re strong enough you won’t be broken or beaten. Wonderful message.

Comfort In The Discord is a brilliant release from The Holy Mess. One of the best I’ve heard all year. I really regret never given them more of a listen as based on this release they are absolutely fantastic songwriters. I hope more people seeing them on their tour with The Menzingers and The Smith Street Band will have given them a proper listen so we can give them the reception they really do deserve. I’m going to predict that if you’re not a fan before hearing them you definitely will be afterwards. 

Thursday, 18 September 2014

Album Review: Bicker and Breathe by RVIVR

Washington based band RVIVR’s 2013 album The Beauty Between was one of my favourite releases of the last year. It has been on regular rotation on my stereo ever since with particular highlights from the album being Spider Song and One Way/Wrong way. I also had the pleasure of seeing them live at the Black Heart in Camden last year where they put on a fantastic show. When I saw they were returning to England to play at The Montague Arms in October I excitedly brought a ticket straight away expecting them to sell out quickly. Before that tour they release their new EP Bicker and Breathe. Here is my review of it.

Bicker and Breathe starts off with the song 20 Below. From the get go this feels like a classic RVIVR song with Matt and Erica’s dual vocals setting them apart from their contemporaries. The song has the same qualities I loved in One Way/Wrong Way, the fast paced guitars and pounding drum beat combined with some excellent vocals and a extremely catchy chorus make this song stand out straight away. With Matt taking the first verse and Erica the second helps keep the song interesting and it flies by, it really doesn’t feel like a 4 minutes and 37 seconds long song. This is a very strong start to the EP.

Erica Freas (who I had the pleasure of seeing solo in July, read about it here) takes the lead on the second song – Goodbyes. This up-tempo song suits Erica’s raspy voice brilliantly, I think she has one of my favourite voices in the world of punk rock. The song is obviously about saying goodbye to your loved ones and how difficult it can be. The lyrics which stand out most to me in the song are “it’s enough to keep us home, cuz with the radio on it’s like we’re never alone, how to keep all our insides inside? We don’t wanna get good at goodbyes.”

Matt Canino takes his turn at lead vocals In Waves. This is a slower paced song where Canino sings about how even the strongest people can be vulnerable at times. I’m really looking forward to hearing this song played live, especially the final part of the song. The lyrics “I know that something’s got to give, nobody taught you how to live” accompanied by some “oh-ohs” is delivered in a perfect way for a huge sing along.

The fourth song The Sound is another song played at a slower pace. Erica’s voice again stands out and gives the song more of a poppy feel. I can see this song getting a great reaction live with its catchy melody and chorus.

The EP picks up speed with its final song Bicker/Breathe. Kevin Rainsburys drums drive the song forward whilst stand in bass player Chris Bauermeister (most American surname ever?) from legendary punk band Jawbreaker lays down some excellent lines. The fantastic dual vocals come into full force hear as Erica expertly harmonises with Matt to give the song another dimension. The song itself is about earning everything that you want in life and you not being owed anything. A great message for today’s young people who might expect to get everything in life handed to them on a plate.

This is a fantastic effort from RVIVR, picking up exactly where The Beauty Between left us and living me salivating for their next full length.

Stream and buy Bicker and Breathe here: https://rvivr.bandcamp.com/

Here are some details for their London gig: https://www.facebook.com/events/537861393027130/

Now listening to: The Seam by RVIVR

Tuesday, 16 September 2014

Album Review: Hate The Shit by Skank Agenda

When I first put on West Yorkshires Skank Agenda new album Hate This Shit on I was taken aback by its sound. When I saw the name and read some of the song titles on the CD (We Would Like To Apologise For The Poor, Stuck On Destroy for example) I expected some fast political ska punk in the same vein as Florida’s Against All Authority (criminally underrated band). I was quite wrong with my guess. Hate This Shit is a stripped back acoustic ska punk album, a sound I hadn’t really heard all that much before.

Hate This Shit starts off with the song Kids Of The Caribiners. The rawness of the album is presented straight away with the song using only guitars and lots of gang vocals it sets it gives you a feel of what to expect from the rest of  the release. The first song that really stood out for me was Gary Oldman. This fun song about the Hollywood actor again features lots of gang vocals and a really catchy chorus.

We Would Like To Apologise For The Poor is the first song where a full band is used. This political song about being looked down upon if you’re not part of the 1%. The rawness on this record really gives the song an extra shot in the arm of passion that you might not get using electric instruments. Kind of like the energy and passion that was on Against Me!’s early EPs. This is followed by the song Me and George Clooney. Starting off with a calypso style guitar riff the song tells what I’m guessing is fictitious account of a day spent with Batman himself.

The light hearted feel of Me and George Clooney goes straight away on the next song, Numbers Game. This song is an all out assault on the people running the country and why they are hated. So much anger is spewed out of lead singer Alejandro's vocals. Accompanied by some harmonies that sound like they could be from a cult, it really adds some atmosphere. This is followed by the excellent Educating Richard. This is a song I can easily relate to. I’m always trying to get people to listen to punk rock music, I truly believe some of the greatest songs ever written lie in the genre and I get so frustrated when people refuse to listen because they have a preconception of what punk rock music is. That’s what Educating Richard is about.

Track nine, For You is another stand out. The fastest paced song on Hate This Shit is about the things Alejandro would do for someone he loves. If a punk rocker ever wants to declare his love for someone, this is the song to cover. Great fun! Pete On Drugs is about the struggles of drug addiction. This is the most heartfelt song on the album. The introduction of the female harmonies midway through the song was a masterstroke in giving the song some emotion. I found myself feeling slightly emotional during this section thinking of some friends who have struggled with addiction. It really didn’t expect to get this sort of feeling when listening to Hate This Shit, a testament to some great song writing by the band. The album finishes with the song Atonement. An acoustic punk song telling the government to take responsibility for their mistakes and to make up for them.

For me it did take a little while to really get Hate This Shit. This was probably due to the unique sound that really surprised me. Honestly I probably wouldn’t have given it a second listen if I wasn’t reviewing it but boy I’m glad I did! On Hate This Shit Skank Agenda have written a collection on very unique and interesting songs covering a wide range of topics. Everything you would expect from a punk album, songs about frustrations, drugs, politics and of course love. Give Skank Agenda a chance; you’ll be glad you did. I am. 

Listen to more from Skank Agenda here: https://skankagenda.bandcamp.com

Now listening to Those Anarcho Punks Are Mysterious (Acoustic) by Against Me!

Album Review: PUP by PUP written by Jon Buitekant

I picked up the PUP album after reading Colin’s Front Bottoms gig review and having listened to about 10 seconds of a random song of theirs on Spotify. A bit of a gamble but I’m so glad I did. Here’s why.

These four lads from Canada make one hell of a noise. Frenetic, diverse and horribly addictive, PUP have made one of the breakout albums of the year with their self-titled EP. I say breakout album of the year, it was actually released last October but a successful couple of tours supporting The Front Bottoms and The Menzingers has really helped them reach a wider audience.

Childhood friends Zack, Nestor, Stefan and Steve have been playing together for years including a ‘shitty ska band’ they formed during their high school years.  They’re certainly not a shitty ska band anymore. In fact it’s hard to pin down one genre in which PUP really belong. Technically they are punk rock but you’ll also hear straight up rock songs and punk pop. That’s one of the things which make PUP great, especially on the first listen when you’re not quite sure what might be next.

‘Guilt Trip’ kicks off the album and sets the tone for the first half of the album.  The pulsing drums, squealing guitars and distorted bass open the track with the catchy guitar hook taking off soon after. The pace is great, winding slowly through the main verses before ramping up the pace with explosions of aggressive guitar playing and vocals. The song culminates in a hectic minute of screaming and guitar thrashing before ending abruptly and leaving you instantly wanting more.

The second track, and my favourite, ‘Reservoir’ really showcases one of PUPs strengths. Frontman Stefan Babcocks vocals soar and growl all over this record but this is by no means a solo vocal effort. Gang vocals from all 4 members deliver a big punch to PUPs sound and this is where I think they’re at their best. ‘Reservoir’ is a prime example of this being used to great effect. The main refrain ‘meet me at the reservoir’ is repeated in this song and is catchy as hell. I can imagine this song is ridiculously popular at their live shows and must go down a storm.

PUP take the tempo down a notch or two after ‘Reservoir’ with the next few songs, ‘Mabu’, ‘Never Try’ and ‘Yukon’, but this is by no means a bad thing. ‘Yukon’ in particular is a brilliant track and proof that PUP have another trick up their sleeves. A slowed down, vocal driven song sees PUP depart from their usual punk roots to something a bit more rock orientated and it totally pays off. This is a band that isn’t afraid to go out of their comfort zone by the sounds of things which is great both for the listener and the band itself. Just as you think the song is winding down another curveball is thrown your way as the band crash and rattle through the last minute of the track just to remind you they can really step it up a notch when they want.  

As good as the first 6 songs are of this album, the following 3 kind of feel a bit like filler material. I’m not sure if this is because a lot of the other songs beforehand are so good or if they were maybe last minute additions to flesh out the album but they just don’t feel quite the same. Nevertheless they are still listenable and not tracks I would skip but it kind of feels like they don’t fit in. ‘Back Against the Wall’ is one of these tracks but I can imagine it being great as a live performance so perhaps I am being harsh. Thankfully the album closer ‘Factories’ reminds you just how good PUP are and why you’re going to listen through again. I’ve read other reviews that describe PUP as ‘if Weezer had made a punk record’ and I can understand that, especially on this track. Lyrically it’s one of the stronger efforts and the musical outro to the track really rounds the album off nicely.

That’s why I’m glad I bought this album on impulse. It’s not far away from being a superb record, a couple of songs in the same vein as the opening tracks towards the end of the album would have really helped. In spite of this PUP are still a great band with an edge. Great musicianship, heartfelt vocals and an album with enough catchy hooks and lyrics to stay in your head.

Apparently PUP stands for ‘Pathetic use of Potential’ according to the band. I hardly think so.

Buy the album here: https://puptheband.bandcamp.com/

Wednesday, 10 September 2014

Album Review: Gnarwolves by Gnarwolves

One of the first things I did when I started this blog was wax lyrical about one of my favourite and one of the very best bands in the UK punk scene, Brighton’s Gnarwolves. After another amazing summer for the three piece, where they played the main stage and Reading and Leeds Festivals they release their self titled debut album, one of the most highly anticipated releases of the year. Here’s a review of it.

The album explodes into life with some trademark Gnarwolves almost metal like chords before some vocals that switch between singing and screaming kick in. Mixing the vocal styles up is something Gnarwolves do really well and adds a layer or intensity to their songs. Straight away I can imagine the opening track Prove It being played live, with bodies flying everywhere and a huge sing along. Prove it is followed by Boneyard. Driven on by some fantastic drumming from Max the intensity continues as the band sing about drinking to get past the feeling of loneliness.

Everything You Think You Know starts off with some emo sounding guitar chords before Thom and Charlie’s aggressive singing style join the party. On first listen this was one of the stand out tracks on the album, a more poppy sounding song with another sing along chorus. This is followed by another stand out track named Bottle To Bottle. This songs begins with just Thom singing accompanied by a simple guitar strum before the rest of the band join in for one of the slower paced songs on the album.

The next song Smoking Kills was the first song released for the album. This song was a bit of a grower for me, I wasn’t completely convinced by it on first listen but after a few I loved it. The song is about being able to escape from a bad situation you were born into. Yet another catchy sing along chorus. The other song Gnarwolves released early was Day Man. This song has a pop punk feel to it, but unlike a lot of bands who feel the need to sing pop punk in an accent close to our American brothers Gnarwolves stick to their own accents and that gives Day One a refreshing feel. It’s about not being afraid to take a chance and explore something new and being brave enough to leave behind what you love. I absolutely love the bridge towards the end of the song that goes “if you must die then die for something, if you’re gonna follow lets yank the carpet out.”

The next song Hate Me (Don’t Stand Still) reminds me of Coffee from Gnarwolves Cru EP with the changes in tempo. It starts off at a mid tempo before slowing down for the second two thirds of the song. It’s an interesting technique and leaves you listening for more.

The next two song Ebb and Flow could easily fit into one song. Ebb is another slow burner before it jumps up a gear in Flow. I’m not sure why they didn’t just make this into one song, I’m certain when they play it live it will be played as one. Ebb and Flow are followed by the final song on the album – Eat Dynamite, Kid. The song showcases Charlie’s excellent bass playing whilst Max provides another driving drum beat. A fast paced song to close out a debut album with really lived up to its hype. Every time I have listened to it I have found something else I like. Gnarwolves are about to take over the world. 

Now listening to Fine, Great by Modern Baseball

Tuesday, 9 September 2014

Album Review: Suck by The Johnstones

Walking home from the train station Friday night I was listening to The Bennies Rainbows In Space album I was thinking about the last time I got as excited about a ska punk album before this one. That would be back in 2012 when Canadian band The Johnstones released their third album Suck. Sure they’re have been some great ska punk albums released since then like The JB Conspiracy’s The Storm and Less Than Jakes See The Light but none caught by attention like The Johnstones Suck.

I feel I should talk about my history with The Johnstones before I go any further. I first discovered them around 2008 after randomly finding the video for Gone For A Long Time on YouTube. I instantly fell in love with them; this was the fast, fun, danceable ska punk that I adored. I quickly got their debut album Word Is Bond and listened to it constantly. I then did the same with their newly released EP Sex and a year later when they released their second full length Can’t be Trusted. For me everything they released was golden. I loved this band so much I even named my work football team after a lyric from one of their songs. This Ones For All The Ladies FC was never a force to be reckoned with in the football world but we did have an amusing team name. My love for The Johnstones became a slight obsession in 2010. That summer I managed to break my leg playing football and was off work for ten weeks. Around that time the band released their live DVD Get On Board, I must have watched that DVD at least thirty times during the time I was off of work and listened to one of their albums every single day. I just couldn’t get enough of this band. After that release it was a quiet couple of years for The Johnstones until they finally released Suck towards the end of 2012. Here is a review of it.

When I first got the Suck I wondered which Johnstones I would be listening to. Would it be a more Word Is Bond style Johnstones with its fast, raw ska punk sound or would it be like the more poppy and catchy as anything sounding Can’t Be Trusted? That question was answered very quickly. Opening track Bad, Bad Dream showcases the sound of Suck brilliantly, combining my favourite elements of both previous albums. The dual lead vocals of Ryan Long and Jarek Hardy have always been a strong weapon in The Johnstones arsenal. Long’s gravelly style works brilliantly with Hardy’s more clean cut sound.

Track two, The Wanderer sees The Johnstones go to a more punk rock sound that they haven’t previously done much on their previous word. The dual vocals on this help keep the energy up and make it feel like a party. They follow this up with the slower paced Jennifer’s Jacket. Long’s voice is perfect as he croons the opening first before both he and Hardy rap a verse each between another catchy chorus.

Following this is the poppy ska sounding The Ocean. This song is hugely danceable, listening to it as I write I find myself wanting to have a skank. This is the first song on suck to really show off The Johnstones excellent horn section with Julian Warme on trombone and Rene Gillezeau on trumpet. Both are both incredible at their instruments. Track six is called Mic In Hand. This song is about shunning education in favour of joining a band and saying the conventional education route isn’t for everyone. The theme of being in a band continues in the next song – Million Dollars. In this Long and Hardy sing about how they would rather have the experiences they made from being in a band than being rich. The Johnstones have certainly had some experiences in their career, including getting banned from Disney World and having the Millwall firm after them. Million Dollars is another seriously catchy song.

Track number seven is a mid tempo pop song named SOS. This song questions who will save them when they get older after all of their notorious partying. The dual vocals keep the listener hooked as both singers confess to some of their actions.

Up next Rene Gillezeau get’s to take centre stage on the song Mr. Gillezeau’s Opus. The Johnstones resident MC “spits rhymes” on easier the most aggressive song they have ever written. A fun fact about this song is that when The Johnstones went to release Suck they were told they had to change the some of the lyrics to this song as they were too offensive.

After this aggression The Johnstones return to the ska sound on These Are The Times. Long, Hardy and Gillezeau all take turns on verses on this song, Long and Hardy singing there’s whilst Gillezeau raps his. The rap thrown in halfway through the songs really gives the song a burst of energy. The song itself is about living life in the moment and trying to make as many memories as you can. This is followed up by my favourite song on the album, Live Forever. This fast packed ska punk anthem is about the band keep on going even when it’s not successful anymore because it’s what they love. The vocals appear to come from all angles on this song and again make it feel like a party. Warme’s keys are also outstanding on this song.

The penultimate song Come Out Me Tonight (previously titled Let’s Get Fucked Up Tonight) is rockier sounding song about going out and getting very very drunk. Hardys vocals come into their own on this song as he sings about his excitement for the night ahead. The final song on the album always puts a big smile on my face. It’s a cover of the Kylie Minogue hit Locomotion. Imagine you’re at a party, everyone has had an amazing time and the night is winding down, everyone wants a sing along to end the night. The Locomotion is the perfect song for that; it’s a fun song that everyone knows the words to. This is why it’s a brilliant way for The Johnstones to finish Suck with. The whole album is a party, and it’s great to finish it with a fun sing along that get’s people smiling.

Suck really is a brilliant album. Like I said it combined the raw, fast paced ska punk from Word Is Bond and the catch pop from Can’t Be Trusted. After the first listen I pretty much knew the words for every chorus, a testament of some great song writing. I really hope The Johnstones do Live Forever.

Check out The Johnstones here: http://www.thejohnstonessuck.com/

Now listening to Tonight by The Johnstones