Thursday, 31 August 2017

Top Tens: Johan Engdahl of Bash Brother's Top Ten Punk Rock Influences

I love everything that the Misfits has done but I've mostly listened to the Graves-era Misfits. My older brother introduced my to American Psycho and I was hooked!

How could you not be influenced by this band if you grew up in the 90's in Sweden and love punk rock? Life On A Plate is a favourite.

I remember hearing their song Master Celebrator when I was 14 and I've listened to them since.

Maybe not my favourite bands nowadays but they both are reasons why I love punk rock. I remember seeing the videos to Self Esteem and Basket Case on MTV as a kid.

I've probably listened to Enema of the state and TOYPAJ 1000 times combined.

Great band, too bad they're not still playing. State of the unrest is one of my favourite albums!

I discovered this band not too long ago and what can you say? WHAT A BAND! Fast, melodic and awesome. Bonsai mammoth is a killer album!

The perfect mix of punk rock and metal! Thunderblast is a classic!

Pure shred from Germany! You can always listen to some Straightline!

Check out Bash Brothers music here and like them on Facebook here.

Wednesday, 30 August 2017

Album Review: Science Fiction by Brand New (by Robyn Pierce)

So, it’s happened. Brand New have seemingly miraculously, with almost no warning, released a new full-length album. Perhaps ‘released’ isn’t the right word. After the band initially announced a very limited edition vinyl pre-order for the album (at quite a hefty price) to be ‘shipped in October’, information about the title and album art was sent to those fans who were able to order it, and not long after that Brand New’s latest record, Science Fiction, was leaked online. A few days later, it appeared legitimately on Apple Music and other streaming platforms. I don’t think I’m overstating it when I say that fans all over the world lost their minds. The sudden announcement, the limited vinyl, the leak – it all worked to hype up this release, and the internet has been buzzing. Brand New is no stranger to hype and they have legions of devoted fans. I should come right out and say that I am one of ‘those’ fans who will probably always love Deja Entendu the most and didn’t quite ‘get’ Daisy on the first listen (although I did loop At the Bottom for an entire afternoon). Nevertheless, I have come to really enjoy everything that Brand New has produced up until this point – because they really are such a unique and captivating band, and I was massively excited to listen to this album the moment it was announced.

In a similar fashion to Daisy, Science Fiction opens with an audio clip before getting into the first track on the album, ‘Lit Me Up’. The general mood of this record is sinister, desolate and other-wordly – the ‘real’ world often seems too terrible to actually exist, while attempts to escape are still plagued by inauthenticity. Despite these surrealist overtones, the subject matter of Science Fiction seems deeply personal, and this is set up nicely at the beginning with a clip recounting a woman’s dream during ‘intensive individual therapy’. Her voice becomes distorted as it speaks over a soft, eerie backtrack (not recommended for nights at home on your own). In a subtle layering of echo, reverb and fuzz, this atmosphere builds until Lacey’s first vocals finally ring out. The way in which the band gradually builds the sounds in this song is beautiful. It’s a slower start than I was expecting, but the deep groove is undeniably seductive. The second track, ‘Can’t Get Out’, smacks heavily of Deja – both in terms of the guitar tone and the song structure, which is a nice surprise. ‘Waste’ maintains the unsettling tone of the album by beginning with a woman’s scream and then sliding down into another groove-heavy track. It has all of the fuzzed, glistening guitar that you’d expect from Brand New (especially as found on Daisy), but here it is delicately spun and has a slight bluesy flavour. ‘Could Never Be Heaven’ also offers some really intoxicating, intricate guitar, but with a melancholic edge. The lyrics speak about a sense of drowning, of lingering on feelings of loss, and disillusionment. Once again, there is an audio clip to transition between tracks. This time, it’s a man talking about social conditioning and the fallacies of ‘free will’ and ‘individuality’. ‘Same Logic/Teeth’ is another Daisy-esque track that introduces the first yelling/screaming on the album (yay!) to great effect. ‘137’ sets up another deep, pulsing groove and delivers a glorious guitar solo at the end. I had hoped for more heavy rock sections on the album by this point, but I’m not disappointed with the highly refined and haunting melodies that Science Fiction has offered so far.

‘Out of Mana’ is the first song on Science Fiction that doesn’t really remind me of another Brand New record. It’s more of a straightforward alt-rock song organised around a great central riff. Getting into track 7, it feels as though the album is slowly ramping up, with each song since ‘Same Logic/ Teeth’ delivering a little more energy, a little more dirt and edginess in the guitar. This is slowed down slightly by ‘In the Water’, which has a brooding and bluesy flavour similar to the songs that have come before, but somehow feels more fun and optimistic. We’re also treated again to some lovely instrumental guitar work before a voice clip that links directly to Daisy. Although Science Fiction does feel like an extension of Daisy in many respects, it lacks Daisy’s more emotionally explosive moments; Brand New now seem to be ruminating in thick, luxurious melodies and more complex sensations. This trend continues with the dark and slightly sadistic ‘Desert’, in which Lacey sings “Don’t come running to me when they’re coming for you”. ‘No Control’ takes Brand New back to a much more grungy sound, but with the same care and artistry that’s evident on the rest of the album. Then, the muted beginnings of a heavy rock song slowly build into an actual hard rock riff and some creepy laughter takes you into ‘451’ – unequivocally my favourite song on Science Fiction. It’s a super fun, danceable grunge banger with some face-melting guitar thrown in for good measure. ‘Batter Up’ closes the album beautifully with some gently looping guitar that steadily soothes your mind and leaves you feeling calm and happy.

Once I reached the end of Science Fiction, I still couldn’t help wishing that it had a few more hard rock tracks despite the really wonderful ways in which the album moves between alt-rock grooves, acoustic melodies, intricate soundscapes, and ripping solos. Brand New have done an amazing job crafting an album that blends together all of these elements and which feels like a complete listening experience. Putting on Science Fiction feels like slipping into a distorted reality, with all the Brand New trademarks that you’d want and expect but in a more somber guise. I don’t think I love it as much as many other devoted fans, but I have a feeling this album is going to grow on me.

Stream and download Science Fiction here:

Like Brand New here:

This review was written by Robyn Pierce.

Tuesday, 29 August 2017

Album Review: Losing My Cool by Wayfairer

It doesn't seem so long ago that we were reviewing Wayfairer's debut EP, Drifting. Well just eight months later Wayfairer has released his second EP named Losing My Cool, which features five brand new tracks of acoustic punk goodness.

Losing My Cool begins with a song named Hollow Grave. We are greeted with a nice, welcoming guitar intro that eases you into the song. There is an upbeat feeling to Hollow Grave, despite the track being quite sad lyrically. Hollow Grave is about being angry and jaded at the world and wanting to be swallowed up by it to feel some comfort. This opening track explains why the EP was named Losing My Cool. Despite being a solo act, I enjoyed the addition of the second guitar on the track as it adds a fantastic extra layer to the song. Up next is Tentative. This song starts in quite a tentative manner with some simple guitar chords and some muffled vocals. I really love Wayfairer's vocals on this EP. I'm reminded of Matt Skiba, if Matt Skiba had a British accent. After the slow start, the song comes to life with some faster guitar and some excellent and passionate vocals that make you want to care about every word that Wayfairer sings. The third song on the EP is titled Dance. The Alkaline Trio influence is really evident here with some dark imagery including talk of demons. The track is about tackling those demons head on and finding your true self. I particularly liked the line "I Evaporate In A Puddle Of Empathy." This is a great metaphor. The penultimate song on Losing My Cool is Anchors Away. Anchors Away begins with a fast paced acoustic guitar that creates a massive amount of urgency. Wayfairer's vocals come in and travel along at the same fast pace. This is the first song on the EP that really has me moving. For an acoustic track to get me moving is an impressive feat. There is a feeling of anger in the song and you get the impression that he's really letting off some steam on Anchors Away. It's a great song. To finish the EP off we have the song Last Train. After the in-your-face manor of Anchors Away, things are slowed down and we hear a more tender side to the Wayfairer sound. As the song begins I found myself instantly drawn into the song. He paints a perfect picture of the setting of the track with the line "The Sun That Sets, Is The Colour Of Crimson." In my head I'm imagining Wayfairer sat at a train station waiting for the last train during a sunset with people walking past while he contemplates life. I love a song that can take me away and create stories in my mind.

Losing My Cool is a great release from a real up and comer from London's underground punk scene. To have released two fantastic EPs in less than year shows a real skill for songwriting and a fantastic work ethic. There is an honest and endearing quality about the songs that you can't ignore along with some completely spellbinding lyrics. Wayfairer is no doubt an act you should be keeping an eye on.

Stream and download Losing My Cool here:

Like Wayfairer here:

This review was written by Colin Clark.

Monday, 28 August 2017

Album Review: Allisk8r by Dododo

Dododo are a three piece emo band from Raleigh, North Carolina. On August the 11th the band released their first full length album, Allisk8r. I randomly found it whilst clicking around on Bandcamp and put it in my must review list. Here is that review.

Allisk8r begins with the song SportsReference. As is always the way, this opening track really sets the scene for what Dododo are all about. Here we have a sad song played in an upbeat manor. This style works great - the sad aspect makes the song relatable to a lot of people but the upbeatness is what will bring the listeners together and help them realise that they are not alone. Next up is a song named If Those Aren't Tears Of Happiness Please Stop Crying. The song is about getting to the end of your rope and wanting to just give up. This is a state of mind that many of us have suffered from time to time so again it's a hugely relatable song. Structurally the song is fairly simple with some quieter verses sandwiching a big sing along chorus. Out3rspace starts in an interesting way with just vocals and drums starting the song off slowly. After the first few lines of the song, the guitars kick in and then the song really comes into its own. Out3rspace is one of the more uplifiting songs on Allisk8r. It's about breaking out of your shell and following your dreams. That's until the final few lines of the song - "What If I Told You Couldn't, You're A Failure, What If I Told You Couldn't You're Not Good Enough." What a way to bring someone crashing back down to earth.

I'm I'm Not Not Home Home is the name of the fourth song on Allisk8r. Something I really enjoyed about this song is the addition of a rawer vocal harmony. This gives the track an added aggression they had been missing from the previous songs. It's a short sing along track that I can see being hugely popular at a Dododo gig. This brings us to the album's title track. Allisk8r is a really sad song about struggling to be around someone and it forcing you to drink and do drugs whilst you're in their company to push away the depression. Allisk8r is a real slow burner of a song. It starts out with some nice, tender guitar before exploding with a headbanging finale. This is a song that you probably need to hear. Makeup is a slow and tender emo song. The vocals on the song have a bit of an echo to them, this gives the song an extra somewhat melancholic layer which I love. The song builds slowly and by the end I was completely mesmerised by some beautiful harmonies. The Tribe Has Spoken is the title of the seventh song. What a fantastic song this is. Switching from a tender emo song to a full frontal punk assault in the flick of a switch, the song gives Allisk8r a real kick up the butt. This punk rock finale gives the song a whole heap of emphasis and will get a room jumping, moshing, slamming and singing along like their lives depend on it.

88mph is a shorter song which for the most part feels as much like a poem as it does a song. The majority of the song is just vocals along with muffled drums in the background. This technique really grabs your attention and pulls you into the song. 88mph is about falling in love with somebody who you know is bad for you but you do it anyway. The ending of the track brings a real surprise as we get a few seconds of some intense screaming of the lines "You Talk About Passionate, You Talk About Compassionate." The penultimate song on Allisk8r is named Fall Apart. Unlike a lot of the other tracks on the album, Fall Apart wastes no time in getting started immediately. There's no slow start, just a full on rock song. This song feels much rawer production-wise than the rest of the album, with the vocals and music all seemingly at the same volume. It has a dirty sound that takes some getting used to but once you do it's another decent song. Finger Guns brings us to the end of the album. It's about questioning if you think you'll ever get better as a person. The song goes through a series of highs and lows, taking you on a bit of a ride during its four minute duration. It's a fine way to finish the album.

I think I pretty much summed up my thoughts on the album whilst talking about the opening song. This is emotional punk rock that you can relate to and sing along to. It's definitely a cathartic album that will hopefully help people find some comfort in their lives.

Stream and download Allisk8r here:

Like Dododo here:

This review was written by Colin Clark.

Sunday, 27 August 2017

Gig Review: Tigers Jaw at Headrow House, Leeds 21/8/17 (by Richard Mair)

The early 6pm start hasn't just played havoc with my timetable getting across from Scarborough with just minutes to spare before doors open its clearly affected Tigers Jaw's plans for the evening. "We were at Reds... Ben had a massive platter" explains Brianna whilst the duo endearingly fumble through a set list they concocted on their phones ahead of tonight's low key acoustic session at one of Leeds hippest venues - Headrow House.

Certainly none of those in attendance mind; For many involved in the Leeds scene it's safe to say that Tigers Jaw are a special band and indeed it certainly feels that this is reciprocated as Ben and Brianna discuss their affection for the city, their appreciation of the local cuisine and looking forward to coming back for the festival appearance at the end of the week. So much is the fervour of which those in Leeds love the band their curfew disappears putting any final nails in the coffin of any planning the couple have done, opting for an epic set closing combo of "Plane vs Tank vs Submarine" and "I Saw Water", joined in full by the hundred or so lucky punters to get access to tonight's "free" show. To choose Leeds as the venue for such a low-key show with the support of one of the finest records stores in the country, Crash Records is clearly a winner all round.

As this was part of the "Spin" tour understandably much of the set was taken from this new album, which despite being released overseas and digitally much earlier in the year is only now getting a physical UK releases; the reception greeting each song however would suggest this has not been a barrier to many enjoying the delights of this new album; the band’s first as a duo following the unusual circumstances surrounding Charmer. Opening with the epic "Follows" it's clear that even in an acoustic setting the pair are completely at ease with the intimacy of the setting and the relative newness of many of the songs. Other tracks off of "Spin" such as "Bullet" are tailor made for an acoustic setting and really demonstrated Ben and Brianna's abilities to generate haunting melodies, and the strength of their song-writing. As many of the songs were led by Ben's vocals it must be said he has an ability to project his voice majestically and inject so much emotion and personality that even perched on a stool he was able to hold the audience’s attention with ease.

Each of the songs played could have been a highlight; however "Guardian" was truly stunning. For anyone who witnessed The Hotelier play "Sun" on their most recent tour would appreciate the brilliance of dragging out the bridge to build anticipation for the closing act of the song; for me "Guardian" has the potential to do this, and will inevitably be a fan favourite for years to come, with a superb chorus it was great to see how this was deconstructed for such a gig.

I should also state my love for “Charmer” as one of my favourite albums from recent years and both "Distress Signals" and "Teen Rocket" were special, with some of the more complex arrangements from the albums replaced with subtle underlying vocals from Brianna, who before the bands rousing conclusion to the evening delivered a passionate and stirring rendition of "June", one of the obvious stand-outs on "Spin". Instantly this reminds me off fellow Scranton-ite "Petal", and it's obvious the links with Kiley Lotz has had an influenced this particular song, and certainly live this perception was heightened. If they had finished there we would have all gone home happy as it was we were blessed with another couple of the big anthems from their self-titled, having been treated to "Chemicals" earlier in the night.

Finally recognition should be directed to the fine folks of Crash Records; for those not from the area, you can't underestimate how vital Crash are to the Leeds scene and from putting on such shows they are helping generate even more of a buzz around particular artists and supporting the local scene by offering things we can't get anywhere else; or would have to travel to other major cities to experience. Crash smashed this one with a great turn out, a slightly different experience to a traditional gig and a stunning performance from a couple of the humblest and nicest people in punk!

Like Tigers Jaw here:

This gig review was written by Richard Mair.

Friday, 25 August 2017

CPRW Playlist: August 2017

Here's what Dan, Emma, James, Lauren, Omar, Pan, Richard, Robyn and myself have been listening to in the month of August.

Thursday, 24 August 2017

Top Tens: Ten Bands Colin Wished He Was Seeing At Fest 16

Last October I had the pleasure to travel across the Atlantic ocean to Gainesville, Florida, to the greatest festival on planet Earth - The Fest. It's three days of the best punk rock bands in the world, attended by the nicest people around. Fest is basically the best on every single account. If you're reading this, you probably already know this. Sadly I won't be able to attend this year. Emma and I always said that due to the cost of a flight to Gainesville from the UK and accommodation we won't be able to go every year. Then this year's line-up was announced and I instantly wanted to go back on this plan. Then recently the stage splits were announced and my heart broke that little bit more. I'm really not going back to Fest this year. Because I'm a massive glutton for punishment I've decided to do a top ten of bands I'm gutted I won't be able to see at Fest. To make this a bit easier on me, there are a lot of bands I want to see, pretty much all of them really, so I've decided to add some rules to this top ten. Punks love rules right? For this top ten I'm not including any bands that are considered "big bands" or bands that I've seen before.

Almost People
Almost People are a power-pop-punk trio from Durham, North Carolina. For me they are one of those awesome discoveries you find whilst randomly checking out related artist bands on Spotify. The song that hooked me was Bored With Booze. I enjoyed the upbeat nature of the music along with the instantly singable chorus of the track. I feel like Almost People could be one of the surprise highlights of Fest.

Cold Wrecks
Brooklyn, New York, band Cold Wrecks are a band that CPRW reviewed earlier this year when we checked out the album Breaking. Cold Wrecks play emotional and relatable pop punk music. Think of bands such as PUP and Modern Baseball and add a little New York attitude, then you have Cold Wrecks. This is a band you shouldn't be sleeping on, I think they are clearly destined to be a household name in the punk world very soon.

Davey Dynamite
Chicago's Davey Dynamite is probably my favourite discovery of the year. His debut full length Holy Shit was released at the very end of 2016. If it had been released sooner I can only imagine it would have appeared on a lot of end of year top ten lists. He plays angry folk punk rock that really makes you think, with some of amazing socially aware lyrics. I have a feeling that Davey's Fest performance could be one where people can say "I was there when…" Gosh I want to see Davey Dynamite live.

Dead Bars
Dead Bars have released what is one of my favourite albums of the year with Dream Gig. The album is 9 songs of terrific gruff voiced shout-a-long punk fun. I can only imagine that this incredible album sounds even better live with a room full of sweaty punk rockers shouting along with Dead Bars singer John Maiello. I imagine the whole set would be drunken carnage.

The Penske Files
If I had a pound coin for every time I've said that Canada is like a factory for making great punk bands then I could probably afford to get to Fest every year for the rest of my life. Alas, sadly nobody is paying me to say that. I was first attracted to The Penske File because of their name, I do love a Seinfeld reference. Then I listened to their album Burn Into The Earth and I fell in love. They play sing-a-long pop punk (I'm sensing a theme here) with some added harmonica, giving The Penske File a different sound to many of their contemporaries. I was disappointed that they weren't playing Fest last year and now I'm upset that they are playing the year I'm not there! Hopefully a UK tour will happen at some point in the future.

The Raging Nathans
The Raging Nathans from Dayton, Ohio, played last year's Fest and also did a tour with Wonk Unit before The Fest but for some reason I didn't check them out. This was a big mistake. Since that time I've learnt that they are one of the best melodic pop punk bands around, who are only going to have an upward career trajectory. Their album Losing It, in particular, is fantastic - filled with bangers that will make you sing, dance and smile.

Spanish Love Songs
I first discovered Spanish Love Songs after The Burnt Tapes' (and sometimes CPRW contributor) Pan put them on his top ten albums of 2016 list, even though Giant Sings The Blues was released in 2015. It's an intense pop punk record with passionate, heartfelt lyrics. Lead singer Dylan Slocum has an incredible vocal that carries a huge amount of emotion but also packs an incredible punch. Spanish Love Songs seem like another band that are on the cusp of really breaking through and becoming the next big thing in the punk rock scene.

Teen Agers
Orlando, Florida's Teen Agers are another one of my great Spotify discoveries of the year. The four piece have been going for a few years now and I'd heard the name but never gave them a listen until this year. I'd really been missing out on some fantastic music from this awesome foursome. Fest 16 will have many great melodic pop punk bands playing this year, as they always do. Teen Agers are definitely among the best of them.

The Toms
The Toms are one of those bands who you are first drawn to purely because of their name. The New York based three piece (all named Tom in case you hadn't worked it out) offer a different style of pop punk to a lot of bands playing Fest. It's more of a lo-fi pop punk styling that has plenty of delicious harmonies. I also enjoyed their bio of "The Toms are a bunch of Toms that enjoy being Toms."

My Fest Friend, and CPRW contributor, Robyn checked out Wolf-Face at last year's Pre-Fest event and I've wanted to see them ever since. For those who don't know - this Floridian band take inspiration from the 1980s teen movie Teen Wolf and dress in wolf masks along with basketball uniforms. It all sounds rather gimmicky, but then so are Masked Intruder and everyone adores them. Robyn has told me just how tight they were live and this has made me really want to check them out.

This is just ten of the incredible bands that are playing a Fest 16. Like I said at the beginning of this post, there are many many more that I want to see. If I feel like punishing myself some more later on in the year I may well do another of these lists.

FYI: The two bands I'm gutted about missing more than any others are Squirtgun and The Lillingtons. I consider them both in the bigger bands category though so that's why they're not included on this list.

This top ten was written by Colin Clark.

Wednesday, 23 August 2017

Album Review: Thank You For Being A Friend by 88 Fingers Louie (by Richard Mair)

It's almost impossible to think of a band whose history is as tumultuous as that of 88 Fingers Louie and for them to be able to release an album a quarter of a century after first forming is even more impossible to fathom. So is the new 88FL release a nostalgia filled trip down memory lane or an essential release by one of the scenes forever underdogs?

Melodic hardcore is such a difficult beast to define; you could on one hand opt for the more metal tinged approach of bands like Pennywise or straight up hardcore of Boysetsfire or even the more emo take offered by bands such as As Friends Rust. My point is it's a varied and diverse term for a varied and diverse scene, with a few notable exceptions where the term is absolutely accurate. Whenever I think of the phrase "melodic hardcore" a small number of iconic 90s bands instantly spring to mind; legends of the punk rock world such as Good Riddance or Strung Out and perhaps the most self-destructive band ever 88 Fingers Louie.

When they split for the second time in 1999 they should have been riding on the crest of a mind-blowing second album "Back On The Streets" and an equally as good split single with Kid Dynamite. With a second wave of melodic punk rock led by bands such as Alkaline Trio and The Movielife about to break out, I'd argue 88FL could have been equally as huge as the obvious band that formed out of these ashes - Rise Against. Instead to many people they probably became a nice anecdote to remind them of the quality that existed outside of these larger names at a time when they were discovering the scene, or a footnote to the most curious Rise Against fan to discover. Given their explosive nature, the possibility of any new material seemed almost impossible; even the announcement of new material was greeted with a degree of scepticism that it might never see the light of day.

Imagine my amazement then that this isn't just new material by a band I'd loved as a teenager, but also that it's such a barnstorming collection that makes you feel that they never went away in the first place! Indeed, from the first drum beat and chords of "Meds" any fears of this being a quick pay cheque or a retrospective self-indulgence are blown away. Full of sing-a-long moments, gang vocals and machine gun guitars, it's a ferocious opening that doesn't abate through to second song "Advice Column", where Dan Wleklinski's distinct guitar style starts to shine. The first major hardcore beat down appears in the song's refrain; this opening is a great double salvo that will put a smile on many a long-time fan's faces. This isn't the sound of a band with 25 years’ experience churning routine songs out, this is the sound of a band with something to say and a reignited passion to say it.

Like all good hardcore albums there is a feeling of unity and supporting each other to many of the songs on offer; and whilst typical hardcore is often delivered from a peer-to-peer perspective by youths and young adults to youths and young adults the maturity and reflective manner of many songs helps lift the band above the typical cliches one might associate with the scene. So when Denis Buckley sings "This is our time so take some sound advice; A simple life is a life worth fighting for" (Advice Column) it comes from a real place, from experience and a perspective of a life that has lived and loved. It doesn't feel as abstract or forced as it might feel with a band just setting out on their careers.

The soaring "All the Right Words" is another highlight; instantly it reminded me of the classic "Summer Photos". It's pure melodic hardcore perfection, and Denis' vocals sound as strong as ever; slightly throaty slightly nasally they remain as unique and distinct as you would hope.

Almost all of the songs have something to love about them. "Turned to Grey" reminded me of early 00s Millencolin and again is an excellent song driven by Dan's guitars. Whereas the poppy feel of "Here's to that Innocence" is pure Desendents-esqe joy; and an inevitable singing and dancing song!

Other stand out tracks typify the band's approach to straight up hardcore; the introduction to "Catastrophe Awaits" is truly special, drawing on elements of Death By Stereo or even (dare I say it) Avenged Sevenfold. It's pure METAL! Likewise "Novembers Big Mistake" should no doubt instigate many a circle pit whilst the band tour the album.

Final track "My Final Story" is an apt closer, with a slightly nostalgic feel to it, a great beat down and typical hardcore style whoa-whoa gang vocals to finish, bringing the album full circle really. It's a great statement to close on - "Don't take my life away" - given it feels like 88 Fingers Louie have just returned. It gives the impression they are back for the long-haul and this can only be a good thing!

It's not all hits though - perhaps the only misstep is "Knock it Off" which is a little lacklustre, especially with what seems like a Red Hot Chili Peppers breakdown in the final third. It just seems a little odd and not quite in keeping. This aside though, what 88 Fingers Louie have done is not only put the band back together (again) but delivered a truly great addition to their brilliant back catalogue. It has all the elements you expect from classic melodic hardcore; it's unpretentious, honest, fast and at times potentially brutal - it's also one of the best 35 minutes of music you'll hear all year!

Stream and download Thank You For Being A Friend here:

Like 88 Fingers Louie here: 

This review was written by Richard Mair.

Tuesday, 22 August 2017

Album Review: Demos by Little Sparta OX1

Last year I reviewed a small band from Oxford named Little Sparta OX1's EP Hardcore!! Bootlegs!! and absolutely loved it. It was a great mix of acoustic punk, folk and ska. Now the band have a new demos EP out. I was quite looking forward to hearing how the band have progressed.

The EP begins with the track Trying To Be Serious. The first thing that you notice is that the band have become an electric band and they just have a much fuller sound now. There is an intensity about vocalist Joe's voice has he drives the song forward, while violinist Paula does a fantastic job adding more of an upbeat melody to the song. I'm hooked on the song within the first thirty seconds - I immediately want to sing and dance with the band. Up next is Last Man Standing. Last Man Standing has a rawer sound than Trying To Be Serious so isn't as instantly accessible. Once you get past the rawness, which doesn't take long, you are encountered by folk punk banger about going out with your mates drinking. The chorus is really what stands out. It's the kind of chorus where you put your arms around your neighbour and belt out the words "I'll Be The Last Man Standing At Your Fucking Wedding, First One Sleeping When We Go Drinking, When My Memory Starts To Fade, I'll Remember I'll Forget Your Name!" I loved the ending where the music gradually stops and Joe is screaming this acapella style. 0240 featured on Hardcore!! Bootlegs!! and reappears on this Demos EP. As much as I enjoyed the acoustic version of this song, the full band effort blows it out of the water. The song is about feeling alone and lashing out because you don't know how else to deal with it. The guitars, accompanied by Joe's vocals, add a lot of urgency to the song while the violin gives the song a heart. The fourth and final song is a five minute epic named Think About The Tourists. Starting out with an extended musical intro, that heavily features a pounding drum beat and the violin, the song already has a feeling of being huge about it. The extended run time takes away some of the urgency that the previous three tracks had. That urgency is replaced with a story telling element. The bridge in the song is so good. The extra, rougher vocal harmonises brilliantly with Joe and this leads to a big finale. What a great final song.

I bloody loved this EP. It shows a brilliant progression from the band's earlier work. Like I said earlier, becoming a full electric band has worked wonders and really added alot of depth to their sound. If you don't know Little Sparta OX1 then you really need to give them a chance. They are going to be huge one day.

Stream and download Demos here:

Like Little Sparta OX1 here:

This review was written by Colin Clark.

Monday, 21 August 2017

Album Review: Coitus Interruptus by Flabbercasters

Here's another of my randomly clicking around Bandcamp discoveries. This time it's a five piece band from Maryland, USA, named Flabbercasters. Flabbercasters formed in 2015 as a three piece before eventually growing to the five piece that are together today. They play a fun pop punk music, modelling themselves on Diarrhea Planet, a six piece garage punk band from Nashville. Many Flabbercasters songs are about being a wizard - so you know they are a fun, good time band that doesn't take themselves too seriously. In July Flabbercasters released a new album named Coitus Interruptus. All fourteen songs on the album were written in less than ten minutes and were tracked in two days. Flabbercasters are clearly a band that doesn't mess around.

First up is the song Mana Drought. The song is just under a minute long but gives you the complete feel of what Flabbercasters are all about. It's a fun pop punk song that's easy to pick up and sing along with. It's about not being able to cast the spells you want and feeling kind of bummed about it. After writing that sentence I feel like this will be a weird album to review. Next up is Winguardium Levio-Shut Up. This is a song that takes a shot at that cool guy at the bar who is a show off, everyone has seen that guy and I imagine you all despise that guy. I despise that guy so the song is hugely relatable - which is something I didn't expect to say about a wizard pop punk record. I Like You was the song that stuck out to me the most when I first listened to Coitus Interruptus. After beginning with a little bass solo, the rest of the band come in and we are treated to a little ditty about liking a girl and wanting to help her become a wizard. Lyrically it's one of the simplest song that you will ever hear, I love it for that. In fact there are only thirty-five words in the whole song. It's a case of sing and repeat, which works brilliantly as I Like You is one of the most infectious songs I've heard in a long time.

The fourth song, Dumped By Your Cleric, slows things down a touch and goes along at more of a methodical pace than the previous three songs. The song is one of the sadder ones (if still quite silly) on the album as it's about, like the title states, being dumped by your cleric. Towards the end of the song Flabbercasters show off some awesome vocal harmonies, hopefully it's not the last time we hear them on the album. Lvl 40 (Congratulations) is another track that starts off with a little bit of bass before launching into the song. Lyrically this is an even simpler song than I Like You. This song only has three words - Lvl 40 (Congratulations). Stupidly silly but stupidly catchy. I smiled the whole way through the song. Flabbercasters love a bass intro, we get another one on track six - Size Reduction Magic Potion. This track makes me think that Flabbercasters were the result of some crazy bit of breeding from Nerf Herder and Pkew Pkew Pkew. It's super nerdy and with the addition of the gang vocals and whoa-ohs there really is a feel of Canada's best pop punk band to it. It's a great song. The Wand Chooses You brings us to the halfway mark of Coitus Interruptus. This song took me by complete surprise - Flabbercasters have magically transformed into a hardcore band and they're coming along to punch you right in the face, musically. It's nice when a band can take you by surprise, it keeps you on your toes and listening keenly. I'm now hoping they also throw in a flamenco song to take me by surprise again.

On Remodelled Dungeon we return to that now familiar Flabbercasters pop punk sound. Here the band's lead singer boasts about his newly spruced up dungeon - obviously. Remodelled Dungeon has a great feel of everyone being involved in the song with the whole band playing their roles perfectly. Whether it's the gang vocals, the rumbling bass line, the pounding drum or the sweet guitar solos, it is a very well written song. JK I'm Totes A Drag, Bro is a slower song that builds toward a big finale. The first two verses of the song only feature guitar and vocals, as lead singer Nick Anthony admits that he's just a human and needs help. Then the song explodes into life like a firework and we learn in fact no! He's actually a dragon and you better not mess with him. Again silly but again brilliant. Fountain Of Youth is another track that begins with a bass solo (seems to be a Flabbercasters trademark). Gone is the upbeat tone that has featured on the majority of songs so far, on Fountain Of Youth there is a much darker tone to its sound. Hidden amongst the wizard references, this song is actually about not worrying about getting old and being mature and making sure that you live in the moment to do what you love. Amongst the silliness Flabbercasters have found a way to write a serious and uplifting song.

Lvl 40 (Reprise) is another surprising track. It's not the flamenco song that I was hoping for but it does have a jazzy pop flair to it. The first half of the song is just guitar and some sweet vocals before, after a great drum roll, we get the full band in the second half. This really gives the song some life and comes a bit out of the blue which is wonderful. The twelfth song, Medusa Goes To Bermuda, sees Flabbercasters change things up again with an indie punk sound. Anthony's vocal is more laid back and restraint throughout most of the song, this really amplifies the times where he does let rip and hit some higher notes. Medusa Goes To Bermuda is about falling for someone you know is bad for you, feeling that you're in way over your head but wanting to save them. Here the subject matter is obviously Medusa but this is a fun metaphor. Musically this is more of a laid back and at times sombre song rather than the upbeat cheery nature that I had become accustomed to. The penultimate song is named Hexes On Exes. Flabbercasters love a song that has very few lyrics. The majority of the song is just "We Like Casting Hexes, But Only On Our Exes" aside from a spoken word, almost preachy section about a girl who broke Anthony's heart so he turned her into a newt. From here the song again comes to life with the gang vocals almost sounding choir-like and a fantastic guitar solo giving the whole song an epic feel. Finally we have Offline Limbo. This is a silly but very sad song to finish the album off with. It's about not being able to get online to play a game and missing out on seeing someone, in the game, who you really like. It's such a silly subject but Flabbercasters have managed to turn into a hugely emotional song that will have you invested and hoping that eventually the hero does get the girl.

I've used the word silly a lot whilst doing this review and I think it's a fair word to use. There is so much silliness involved on Coitus Interruptus but that's why I love it. Punk doesn't always have to be about changing the world, sometimes it can be about having fun and smiling. Flabbercasters so that brilliantly… in a very silly way.

Stream and download Coitus Interruptus here:

Like Flabbercasters here:

This review was written by Colin Clark.

Friday, 18 August 2017

Gig Review: The Dreadnoughts at the Camden Underworld 12/8/17 (by Emma Prew)

On Saturday night I ticked another band off on my still-to-see-live bucket list, a band that I presumed that I’d never actually get to see live – at least short of travelling to Canada to see them. The band I’m talking about are the cider-swilling, shanty-singing, folk punks from Vancouver, The Dreadnoughts. They’ve been over the UK a couple of times over the past few years but they tend to only play a handful of festival appearances like Boomtown and Rebellion, rather than actually touring around the country. This year wasn’t too different but they also added an exclusive non-festival date at the Camden Underworld. As soon as this was announced, I was EXCITED.

Unfortunately the gig was happening on a Saturday and Colin works Saturday nights so he was unable to join me for this gig. However, I wasn’t gigging alone as I invited my uni pal James along which made sense really as he was the person who suggested that I listen to The Dreadnoughts in the first place five years or so ago. 

Being a Saturday night at the Underworld, a venue where they have a club night from 11pm, the show kicked off early with the first of four bands on before 7pm. I didn’t know any of the support acts prior to the gig but I had read their descriptions and all sounded good to me! First up were Space Chimp, a band who were also from Vancouver – I realised later that two of their members, Drew on mandolin and Marco on drums are actually in The Dreadnoughts as well. The four piece played a fairly eclectic mix of songs with some sounding super country/bluegrass and others verging on reggae/ska. The band’s enthusiasm was great to see and they did a decent job of drawing people away from the bar to watch them. I particularly enjoyed the cowbell – as did the drummer! Not a bad start to the night at all.

Next up were a band by the name of Black Water County, who it turned out were a six-piece folk punk band from Bournemouth. The band were each uniformly wearing waistcoats and had a wide array of instruments on stage with them – certainly more instruments than members. My expectations were already fairly high as I knew this would be my sort of band and as soon as they burst into their set I was hooked. They instantly reminded me of Roughneck Riot although with less gruff, I guess more traditionally folky, vocals. The majority of their songs were upbeat and lively so this did a great job of getting the crowd, included myself, moving. The slower numbers were great too though! I particularly enjoyed the switching of vocalists for different songs between Tim and Shan as well as the rest of the band joining for more gang-style vocals. Black Water County are a band I cannot wait to see live again.

Then we came to the final support act. From their name, Calico Jack, I figured that they’d be another folk-influenced act – Calico Jack was a famous pirate, by the way – but I was wrong. The stage was cleared of instruments and microphones, leaving it looking oddly bare after Black Water County, as Calico Jack were a straightforward trio of drums, bass and guitar. By this point there were a bunch of eager music fans gathered at the front of the stage who obviously knew this band which was pretty cool for a non-headlining act. When Calico Jack eventually kicked off their set I discovered that, rather than folk, they had more of a funky alternative rock sound. It was not what I was expecting at all and I have to say that it made me feel like I’d suddenly been transported to another gig. It’s not that they weren’t good at what they did – far from it, they were a confident and talented bunch of young musicians – but, to me at least, it just felt out of place. Even their two-song Avril Lavigne cover medley didn’t really do much for me. But regardless of what I thought, there were plenty of people in the Underworld who loved their set so that’s all that matter really.

And so it was time for the band I’d been waiting for what felt like forever to see live, the mighty Dreadnoughts! Having never seen the band before or even ever watched any live videos, I didn’t actually know how many people were in The Dreadnoughts. It turned out that there were five, although I noticed that they didn’t have an accordion with them so potentially a member and/or musician was missing. The band members go by piratey nicknames so I won’t attempt to list them! Taking to the stage with a confident air, it wasn’t long before the band were making jokes about their great support bands, Metallica and The Beatles, as well as attempting a rendition of the English national anthem – ‘Eeennggeerrrlaaaand…’. The Dreadnoughts are clearly a band that don’t take themselves too seriously in a live setting and I didn’t expect any less to be honest. After this bit of tomfoolery, it was time for the tunes and time for the crowd to go absolutely nuts. I’m a big fan of The Dreadnoughts’ first album, Legends Never Die, so it was great to hear Antarctica, Elizabeth and the classic sea shanty Roll The Woodpile Down – the latter featuring a crowdsurfing, cowbell armed drummer to the bar and back for beer (not cider, interestingly). However, it was songs from Polka’s Not Dead that seemed to get the biggest reactions. Tracks such as Turbo Island, Poutine, Sleep Is For The Weak, as well as the album’s title track, went down a storm. Other highlights included two circle pits around the Underworld’s central pillar – something I’m surprised to say I’ve never actually seen there before, clearly I haven’t been to enough rowdy and raucous Underworld shows. They also got two members of the audience on stage to help sing what they said was a Wurzels song (it wasn’t Combine Harvester). All of these components made for an excellent gig but I particularly enjoyed one of a few brand new songs that they played. The song was titled Two Ciders Ago and is based on something that the band’s violinist said when she was drunk – ‘I’m two ciders ago’. I don’t know what the recorded version will sound like but the live rendition featured each member of the band taking a turn at singing the chorus, giving the song a real barroom feel. It was excellent. The Dreadnoughts are excellent.

The Dreadnoughts live show was everything that I had hoped for and more. I just really hope I don’t have to wait another five years to see The Dreadnoughts again. Oh, and the new album will be released in November by the way.

This gig review was written by Emma Prew.

Thursday, 17 August 2017

Top Tens: Paul from Be Sharp Promotions' Top Ten Bands He'd Love To Book

1. Goldfinger
They've been my favourite live band since I first saw them at the Astoria in 2001.

2. Lightyear
Because it's Lightyear.

3. Mustard Plug
I haven't seen them for over 10 years and they are the most amount of fun.

4. Buck O Nine
Last year I went to Asian Man Records 20th Anniversary in San Francisco and ended up seeing Buck O Nine 4 times, including once at Gilman Street (bucket list thing right there) and an INSANE show in Tijuana. Lovely guys, so much fun and they haven't played the UK since 2001. Long overdue.

5. Mad Caddies
One of my all time favourites. I'm still jealous that Jason El Topo put them on in Belgium last year.

6. Anti Flag
We got a bit ska heavy, so let's add a punk rock band in. After their 2 shows at Old Blue Last in 2015, I'd love a sweaty and intimate gig at New Cross Inn.

7. The Interrupters
On their first UK tour, I managed to get The Pisdicables and Call Me Malcolm supporting them. Since then it's been great to watch them get bigger and bigger. Such an incredible live band.

8. Talco
I had tickets to see them in Budapest, but they cancelled due to illness. When they played Boomtown, I got offered a pass about an hour after their set and therefore missed them. I had them booked at NXI in February but the tour got cancelled. I think I'm jinxed. Amazing Italian ska punk. Silent Town was my favourite album of 2015.

9. The Bennies
I just really want to book The Bennies for a Besharp party.

10. Less Than Jake
They played the Barfly in 2012, so are no strangers to small gigs. We'll have some of that.

Wednesday, 16 August 2017

Album Review: Reservoirs by Myelin (by Emma Prew)

Myelin are a four-piece from London, fronted by ex-Apologies, I Have None guitarist and vocalist, Dan Bond. On the 4th of August they released their first EP, titled Reservoirs, on Uncle M Records which features 5 brand new tracks. If I had to label Myelin’s music with a particular genre I would edge towards post-punk over poppier punk. I was a big fan of ‘Dan’s songs’ on Apologies’ early releases and therefore keen to hear how his music had progressed with Myelin’s debut EP.

Reservoirs opens with the not so cheerily titled Die. Before I go any further – or before you read any further – I should probably point out that if cheery, happy-go-lucky songs are what you’re looking for then Myelin probably aren’t for you. Die starts slowly and quietly with gentle, sombre guitar and Dan’s restrained vocals. However there is a great sense of building as the song progresses towards the chorus. This building continues through the second verse and things really kick off in the second chorus, as Dan screams ‘Some things were born to die…’ A particular lyric that stood out to me was ‘I thought I was nothing without resilience, well I am nothing now.’ as it seems to be a nod towards the AIHN song Foundations which uses a similar phrase. The second song, Fifteen, has more of a melodic feel to it from the start with more intricate guitar playing. Fifteen is a song about reflecting on feelings you had when you, and those around you, were younger as well as dealing mental health issues as an adult. The lyrics are pretty direct and hard hitting – ‘Now we're both looking at the other like "I am done with this, I am done with you, you'll never be happy" and we're both thinking "I don't feel anything about anything, I don't know what's wrong with me.”’ This song could have easily finished after 3 minutes and been good but it doesn’t. There is what feels like a short musical interlude in the middle of this track before the lines ‘Is it all in my head? Because I can't tell. Is it all in my head? Because I can't fucking tell anymore.’ are repeated over and over. This makes Fifteen more than just good. I imagine this will be equal parts amazing and emotional to watch played live.

The pace picks up a little for Gaps with another melodic guitar introduction. At first glance, or listen I suppose, this song sounds like another downcast tune but I think that that’s not necessarily all there is to it. Gaps is about having someone that you love more than anything, despite how much of a struggle it is and despite how difficult it might feel sometimes. Even though there are ‘gaps’ in a person’s personality or a relationships compatibility, that’s okay because there’s no such thing as perfect. ‘It's complicated but I love you, every part that's still intact and the devil in your gaps.’ Horror is the penultimate track on Reservoirs and it is a powerful and honest song about dealing with anxiety. I imagine that writing this song was a form of release from all of these negative feelings that you can have when dealing with any sort of mental health problem. It is easy to nod your head along to this song with its rhythmic guitars and pounding drums and get lost in the music but I think you’ve really got to listen closely to the lyrics (or read them on Bandcamp, as I’ve done!) to fully connect with this song. The last line of the song is one that fully deserves to be spread far and wide – ‘Sometimes to get better you've got to get worse first.’. The last song, Cave, begins with a fair amount of reverb, giving the song an echoey and dream-like feel. This song closes the EP in much of the same vein as that which came before it. But that’s not to say that it sounds exactly the same as the previous four tracks. It certainly sounds like an album or set closer for one thing. Cave also helps to bring Reservoirs full circle, using the line ‘We are caged animals down here, waiting to die.’ to link up with the first song on the EP. 

Reservoirs is a pretty heavy going EP emotionally, and musically as well in parts, but that does not mean that it does not deserve your attention. On the contrary it is songs that deal with these difficult sort of subjects that need to be heard more so than songs about drinking or partying or whatever, especially when so many people struggle with mental illness. Myelin deserve yours ears.

You can download and stream Reservoirs on Bandcamp and find Myelin on Facebook. Facebook is also where you’ll find details of the EP release show happening in London on 17th of August, featuring full band Sam Russo as well. What a treat!

This review was written by Emma Prew.

Tuesday, 15 August 2017

Album Review: Adult Braces by No Trigger (by Robyn Pierce)

It’s always a special day when No Trigger brings out some new music. I’ve really grown to love this five-piece melodic hardcore band from Massachusetts, but they can leave fans a little starved for new music (the six year wait between Canyoneer and Tycoon was so.damn.long.) While we don’t have another full-length album yet, No Trigger have just released a 4-track EP entitled Adult Braces out on Bird Attack Records. No Trigger’s previous EP (Be, Honest) came out right at the end of 2010, less than a year and a half before Tycoon was released in 2012, as a between-albums snack to keep fans going; so, I hope that’s what is happening here and we can expect to have even more music from these guys in the next little while. Right now, the question is whether the new EP measures up to the quality of No Trigger’s previous releases.

The first song off of Adult Braces that the band put out was ‘Dogs on Acid’, which came a little earlier than the full release with a goofy and slightly trippy music video. It starts, perhaps not so strangely, with some acoustic guitar. Despite being pretty fast and loud, No Trigger is adept at slipping some softer moments into their songs to really great effect (it is the tender guitar ringing out at the end of ‘The Honshu Underground’ that makes that song so damn perfect). It’s not long before ‘Dogs on Acid’ bursts open with Tom Rheault’s familiar vocals and some exhilarating guitar. When I first listened to this, I clicked the link on Facebook where someone had written in the comments that this new song was “worth the wait”. Although this seemed like a painfully predictable response, it is 100% correct. ‘Dogs on Acid’ has all of the pounding melody you’d want in a No Trigger song, and Tom’s vocals are complete perfection. I’ve since found out that Adult Braces is produced by Bill Stevenson and Jason Livermore of The Blasting Room, who also produced Canyoneer – arguably No Trigger’s best album, and so many other awesome albums that CPRW should probably do a Blasting Room top ten (if we haven’t already/if it’s even possible).

First up on the full release is ‘Sleeping Bags’, which opens with a few stirring chords before sliding into a fast-paced verse and chorus. Like ‘Dogs on Acid’, this song sits so well with everything else that No Trigger has already produced, but it doesn’t feel tired or boring. I found myself dancing along to the chorus almost immediately, and it’ll make for a great singalong at live shows too. The second track, ‘Holy Punks’, keeps up the energy with a narrative-style song about getting thrust into adulthood and making the most of it. I love everything happening with Tom’s vocals on this track. The backing reverb on the refrain “We’re all just holy punks in a burning church” is scrumptious. Then, on Adult Braces’ last song ‘Hyperaware’ you can hear why No Trigger has sometimes been compared to A Wilhelm Scream. Despite being quite long, it’s hard and fast – gradually building and ending the EP with some furious chanting.

As a long time No Trigger fan, I’m more than satisfied with this latest offering; I really just wish there were more songs on this EP. If you’ve never listened to No Trigger before, Adult Braces would serve as a great introduction (and, if you like melodic hardcore, you really should check them out!). If you’re a fan, you’ve probably already listened to this EP multiple times because you’ve been waiting FOREVER for some new music from No Trigger. As expected, it’s worth the wait.

Stream and download Adult Braces here:

Like No Trigger here:

This review was written by Robyn Pierce.

Monday, 14 August 2017

Album Review: No Solidarity by The Over Everythings (by Dan Peters)

New school pop punk done good.

I’m not too sure when I first came across The Over Everythings but it’s a happy mystery I’m glad occurred. As far as I can tell, I stumbled across them as a fledgling pre gigging band back in 2015 and decided I’d keep my beady eye on them.

Almost exactly two years later, I sit with No Solidarity in my lap and it seems like the guys have been busy perfecting their craft. The debut album of these Hertfordshire pop punkers is a polished and fine tuned thing and adds to the fact that the last few months have been a landslide of incredible punk rock.

No Solidarity opens to the decidedly heavy and blisteringly fast Union. Everything that sets off my great band radar is present from the get go. Heavy riffs, double time drumming and gorgeous vocal harmonies all wrapped around a frenetic but coherent song structure.

The Over Everythings strike me as a band that would fit so perfectly on a late 90s punk bill. I could see them fitting right into a gig with Captain Everything, 4ft Fingers and Caffiene. It’s that brand of tongue in cheek fast skate/pop punk that was pretty prevalent back in the day and it’s seeing a resurgence amongst bands like On A Hiding To Nothing and Captain Trips too. There are touches of heavy riffage in places but nothing so involved as the Melodic Hardcore crew and although the vocals are perfectly coiffed and the harmonies are crisp and tight they aren’t too overboard or overproduced like the new school pop punkers.

Instead The Over Everythings have carved themselves out a niche as something original in style and flavour whilst also remaining accessible to a huge range of tastes, a job many try and fail at.

Stand out tracks on the album were Medicate And Move On which is an instantly catchy tune and sounds like single material, Shrapnel which is fast yet melodic and has an incredible Fat Wreck feel and Blue Nightmare which is my personal favourite for being as close as you could ask to an MxPx song.

All in all No Solidarity shows a band that were good to start with who have perfected and honed what they do into the best possible package for us all to consume. You may have noticed I have deliberately name dropped several bands and styles into this review. If any single one of these strikes a chord with you then I am 100% certain there is something for you here for you to love.

Stream and download No Solidarity here:

Like The Over Everythings here:

This review was written by Dan Peters.

Friday, 11 August 2017

Future Classic: London by Apologies, I Have None

Today we are continuing our Future Classics series. This nomination is for what I believe is the best UK punk album of the last decade. It's an album that brought me back to UK punk rock after a few years of solely listening to American punk music. I'm trying to write a long winded introduction that leaves you in suspense about what album I'm talking about but now I'm thinking what is the point? You're reading this column so therefore you've probably read the massive title at the top of the screen. If not you can probably see the artwork below this paragraph. If you've done neither of these things then the album that I think is a Future Classic is London by Apologies, I Have None.

Apologies, I Have None formed as a guitar and drum two piece featuring Josh McKenzie and Dan Bond in the early 2000s. During the early stage of their career they released a handful of EPs and eventually grew into a full band with Josh and Dan both taking guitar and vocal duties, while they were joined by Joe Watson on drums and PJ Shepherd on bass. This was the band's line up when they released London in 2012.

London was self released on CD by the band and the brilliant London based record label Household Name handled the vinyl release. It was also later put out in Germany by Uncle M Music.

Now being a full band, the Apologies sound grew from an acoustic almost folk style punk rock to more of a melodic sing-a-long style and I think this style is why the album is so universally loved. It's accessible to anyone. It doesn't fall into the fast, shouty, super aggressive genre of punk rock but it's also not so poppy and cheery that it would put off the most diehard of punk rock fans. It's fantastically played punk rock that you can shout along with at the top of your voice. That seems to be the way that punk music has grown over the years. It's not just 1000mph three chord punk rock with snarling and snotty vocals. Punk rock has morphed into expert musicians playing these songs that can move people, teach them things and help them grow. London ticks all of those boxes.

Lyrically the ten songs on London tackle a whole range of subject matter but also fall under the universal topic of what it's like living in London. Subjects tackled include learning from your mistakes, growing as a person, getting through bad times, dealing with mental health and blaming others for your own wrong-doings.

London features two of my all time favourite lyrics. The first of which is in the second track, Sat In Vicky Park - "The Worst Mistake To Make Is To Be Afraid To Make Mistakes, And I Can't Believe This Took So Long To Learn, It Should Be So Obvious, Like A Man Cannot Be Measured By The Number Of People He's Fucked, Like Numbers On A Payslip Are No Indication Of Worth" and in the fourth song Concrete Feet - "You'll Always Make Mistakes, You'll Always Fuck Shit Up, You Will Sometimes Make Bad Choices And Blame That Shit On Bad Luck, You Will Often Face Decisions That You Do Not Want To Make, And You'll Find Yourselves On Paths That You Did Not Mean To Take, There Is Always An Answer, There Is Always A Lesson, A Lining Of Silver Around Every Situation, And Asking For Help Is Not The Same Thing As Failing." These are my two personal favourite lyrics but the album is jam packed with more great ones.

I always think an album should be judged on how great it sounds live as well as on record. London live probably eclipses London recorded. Being in a room with sweaty like minded individuals belting out these songs like our lives depend on it. Even five years later singing along to any of these songs, though they don't play half of this album anymore since Dan left the band, still has an extremely cathartic and gratifying experience. Since London's release, Apologies have released the EP Black Everything and the album Pharmacie, which are both incredible releases, but it's still the tracks from London that get the biggest reactions. They are timeless.

This is why I consider London by Apologies, I Have None to be a future classic. An album that when people talk about defining albums of this generation of punk rock will be mentioned a lot.

Stream and download London here:

Like Apologies, I Have None here:

This column was written by Colin Clark.

Thursday, 10 August 2017

Top Tens: Kurt from Sounds Of Swami's Top Ten Punk Rock Influences

Kurt from Sounds of Swami’s Top Ten Punk Rock Influences… in alphabetical order.

At The Drive-In
Like most noughties teenagers, I was drowning in a swirling pool of baggy pants, back to front caps and wallet chains with the sound of Limp Bizkit and Staind blaring at every house party I stumbled into. Seeing the DIY video for ‘One Armed Scissor’ on MTV2 from Relationship of Command kept me afloat through all that; then came the purchase of In/Casino/Out and Vaya. No one does chaos like ATDI. We’ve been trying to rip them off ever since.

Since falling in love with Fugazi, I made a conscious effort to hear literally every band on Dischord Records (you really should check out Evens, Hoover, Jawbox, Nation of Ulysses, Scream and Q and not U for starters!) and Bluetip were like nothing I’d heard before. Punk N Roll before Punk N Roll with intelligent lyrics, interweaving guitars and someone that could actually sing. I’ve always how big they sounded with stripped back production (J. Robbins!) Compression isn’t everything…

Dead Kennedys
Like all bands, we’ve transcended through lots of influences and styles but without Dead Kennedys, we wouldn’t be the noise factory we are today. We’d all been through (and still love!) the likes of Sex Pistols, Ramones, Minor Threat et al… but Dead Kennedys were the band that made us realise that you can push the boundaries of the punk sound and still be classified as punk (whatever that means). On Fresh Fruit’, it was Jello Biafra’s theatrical performances and satirical lyrics and East Bay Ray’s delayed discordant guitar playing that set us up from the start.

Drive Like Jehu
No videos, no singles, no bullshit. They released two of the finest noisy punk rock records ever committed to tape and then split up. Much like a lot of the bands in this list, their brand of locked-in bass and drums provided an open landscape for two guitars to play absolutely anything over them. From dissonant noise to clean melodies, the twin guitar interplay is still mesmerizing to me. A couple of years ago I had tickets to see them until ATP fucked that up. Still hurts.

I could sit here and talk about Fugazi all day (the ‘End Hits is such an underrated album’ conversation has killed more than one party) but I’d say overall, they are our biggest influence… although I wouldn’t say we sound like them all that much. Fugazi really hit home that the song is all about the performance both on a stage and in the studio. Because of their manic live shows, they found it hard to capture their intensity in the studio… so they’d just do it live for the most part. Both our albums have been recorded mostly live with the most recent straight to tape. It’s all in the performance.

Hot Snakes
The band that followed Drive Like Jehu. When I first moved out of home, I moved to Leeds and spent my entire student load on drinking and buying records. I went straight to Jumbo Records and bought their third and final album (they’re recording a new one right now!) Audit In Progress on clear Red vinyl. What a revelation and what a record. The rhythms and quirky subject matter grabbed me instantly. Not to mention, it’s where we got our name. I listened to side one, flipped it over and there it was: Swami Records. Cool name for a band… but someone had it already so we added the ‘Sounds of’ part… still not as good!

There must be something in air in Seattle. The Sonics, Green River, Melvins… to many they won’t be seen as punk but to me, it’s all there in the attitude. Its the same with Nirvana; proud devotees of punk wearing the likes of the Wipers, Stooges and Flipper on their sleeves. However we go about it, a big chorus usually comes into play when we’re writing and it comes from Nirvana. The ‘grunge' sound looms heavy and that’s just fine.
There’s a formula emerging before my eyes; punk bands that push the sonic boundaries of punk. It’s fair to say that we all danced to New Noise in clubs years before buying The Shape of Punk To Come. One thing that is annoying about our music is that you can’t dance to it (maybe we should strive to rip Fugazi off a little more) but with the bulk of Refused’s third album, you could. Punk, Jazz, Metal, programmed Beats… and why not.

I’m not sure Reuben really falls into the punk category but you’ve got to give it to them for achieving what they did in a mostly DIY fashion. I love early punk and I love the many mutated angles it’s evolved into. You can see the clear evolution though Reuben’s three albums and it’s final magnum opus In Nothing We Trust has been blaring in our van for years whilst on tour. The intended raw production and genre defying music is something we took with us into the recording of Furniture For Modern Living.

SlintAdmittedly I’d heard about Spiderland for years but I didn’t buy it until I found a secondhand CD in a charity shop about 5 years ago. Their first album Tweez was very much of the Touch and Go / Jesus Lizard ilk but by the time they’d arrived at Spiderland, they’d turned their attention to a style of playing that was anything but that. A lesson in dynamics and story telling; they took the extremes to the extreme. Despite it’s dark and emotionally draining character, I’ve found that it’s the only album I own that I can listen to whatever mood I’m in. Spiderland had a huge effect on our new album.

Pre-order Sounds Of Swami's new album Furniture For Moder Living here:

Gig Review: The Planet Smashers at the Camden Underworld 8/8/17

2017 has been a year of seeing bands that I've wanted to see for the longest time but never had. Back in April I finally saw Strike Anywhere at Manchester Punk Festival, in June I got to see the Descendents and Flogging Molly at The Forum in Kentish Town (not together) and in July I got to see French ska punks P.O. Box at the New Cross Inn in South London. A few days ago I finally got to see a band that I never ever expected to see, especially without jumping on a plane to Canada. Who is the band I'm talking about? Ska superstars The Planet Smashers from Montreal in Canada. The band formed in 1994 and I first heard them after Golf Records released their 2003 album Mighty. I just adored the ska pop with attitude style of the band. From then on I was a massive fan, checking out their entire discography and excitedly getting new releases when they came out. But I never managed to catch them live. That's until a couple of days ago when they returned to the UK for the first time in nine years to tour with Faintest Idea for a week leading up to their performance at Boomtown Festival. The London show of the tour was at The Underworld in Camden and also featured the Popes Of Chillitown. You already know that this was going to be a stellar night.

Kind of surprisingly, Faintest Idea were first up despite being the main tour support. I guess this was because London is a hometown gig for the Popes Of Chillitown. There was a small crowd gathered early to see Faintest Idea and anticipation was high. As is tradition with a Faintest Idea set, the band's superb horn section of Bobble, Sara and Dan ventured into the crowd to start the set with Back To The Asylum. The horns even made their way round to the Underworld's bar area to round up any stragglers to let them know that the show was starting. Kind of like a punk rock pied piper. Going from that straight into Circling The Drain and Youth got the crowd well and truly warmed up early. I've seen Faintest Idea many times over the past few years and they are always great at throwing a surprise into their set. Tonight they did too. Firstly a new song named Stomp Them Down (I think), which sounded great and has gotten me looking forward to a new record from the band. Secondly was the special guest appearance from Eve from Lead Shot Hazard supplying some additional saxophone on the last three tracks - Corporation, Bull In A China Shop and Too Bad.

Next up were the Popes Of Chillitown who joked about the long journey they'd made from South London. Fourteen stops on the Northern Line! Last month at Level Up Festival, the six piece showed why they are so highly thought of in the UK ska punk scene with a performance to match any ska band in the world. Emma and I were talking after their gig and we agreed that this performance topped that showing at Level Up. The difference between the two performance for me was this time the band seemed a lot more relaxed on stage and were having a lot of fun during and between songs. The forty minute set was packed with songs from second album, To The Moon, with the highlights being Wisdom Teeth and Vamos a la Luna. Wisdom Teeth in particular is just incredible live and always gets a crowd moving. The Popes have also been working on some new songs despite almost always playing shows all over the place. I believe that they played three at The Underworld, to appear on some great ska releases over the next year.

Now it was time for The Planet Smashers and boy was I excited! Taking to the stage in matching work shirts - which I want one of! - the band, lead by singer and guitarist Matt Collyer, were full of smiles as they opened with Fabricated. It took no time at all for the Underworld to start skanking and this didn't stop for the entire time the band were on stage. The crowd, who had been waiting years for The Smashers to make their return to these shores, were clearly in the mood to have a party with these legends. Playing a set that spanned their long and brilliant career, there were songs from their first album (Planet Smashers) that was released in 1995 through to their newest release Mixed Messages that came out in 2014. Highlights included Life Of The Party, Surfing In Tofino, J'Aime Ta Femme (I Like Your Girl), Pee In The Elevator, Raise Your Glass, Tear It Down, a cover of The Specials song Night Club and the encore of Super Orgy Porno Party and Skate or Die. There were some fun moments where they teased playing King Of Tuesday Night and then launched into another song and during Pee In The Elevator when during the outro they included the "whoa-oh's" from Mustard Plug's Beer (Song). This was a great little nod to another legendary band from the third wave era that needs to find their way back to England sooner rather than later. The top gig moment for Emma and I was when The Hippopotamus was played. For those who don't know The Hippopotamus is a song about a dance made up by The Smashers called The Hippopotamus. For the week leading up to the gig Emma and I have been trying to learn this dance and were excited to show off our moves at the show. When it started I don't think that I've ever seen Emma more excited to hear any song ever at gig - she had the biggest grin on her face. And so did I. The Planet Smashers were incredible. I'm not sure any other band this year will have me smiling and dancing as much as these six Canadians did. Being worth the wait is an understatement. Please don't leave it another nine years before coming back again.

On a side note, here's a tip for anyone who uses a Fitbit. If you are ever short of steps for your daily target go to a ska show and skank away. When I left the house for the gig I was on less than 2,000. By the end of the gig I was on almost 17,000.

This gig review was written by Colin Clark.

Wednesday, 9 August 2017

Album Review: The Knife by Goldfinger (by Dan Peters)

John and His Talented Pop Punk Friends

I’ve spoken a lot about bands who disappeared for a long time and have in very recent times come out with a “return to form” album in which they play songs reminiscent of their 90s heyday rather than the more experimental thing everyone started doing in the mid 2000s. Goldfinger were one incredibly special band to a lot of people and I can’t remember going to an alternative club from the age of 17 to 23 without Superman coming on at some point. Being one of the most memorable tracks on the most memorable THPS soundtracks meant that Goldfinger were on top of the world. Then 2002 rolled around and Open Your Eyes came out. A very stylized album that drew more from the IT bands at the times, like The Hives and The Vines, than from their So Cal pop/ska punk origins and it was also incredibly serious. Almost bleakly so. I don’t remember seeing Goldfinger around from that point on. I had to check the Internet to find out if they had released anything after 2002 (apparently so but I couldn’t tell you a song from either release) and they became just another 90s band I used to love, occasionally putting on Stomping Ground and Hang Ups and remembering when learning how to pop shove it down a stair set was the most important thing in my life.

Cut to last Friday and with seemingly no build up or preamble, a brand new Goldfinger album lands in my lap. Calling the band 'Goldfinger' however is a little bit of a stretch. The rest of the band in the 2010s have moved on to other things whilst John himself has been producing music and raising up a new set of pop punkers to take his place. This iteration of Goldfinger is a true pop punk super group with my personal idol Mike Herrera of MxPx taking bass duties, drumming living legend Travis Barker of Blink-182, Boxcar Racer, +44, Transplants, Yellawolf and of, course, Travis Barker – Give The Drummer Some fame is waving sticks whilst Story Of The Year's Phil Sneed is guitaring. If this wasn’t enough, there are a smorgasbord of other featured musicians on the album. In fact what this really is at its heart is a love letter to all the best bands you’ve loved over the last 20 years.

So after what is an exceptionally long preamble, we can get to the album itself. You can probably imagine just by the way I’m typing that I’m a fan of this album. I’d say don’t be silly, it’s deeper than that, but I’ll get to all that later. For now, let's check out the album:

Things kick off incredibly quickly with A Million Miles, which is suitably as fast as the name implies. Get What I Need is the first ska track and is catchy like lice in a reception class. Am I Deaf is a tongue in cheek old man rant about the “music today” which is particularly ironic since Mr Feldman is responsible for a lot of it. Tijuana Sunrise is a chill out reggae groove about drinking. Put The Knife Away may as well be an MxPx track with John singing on it. Don’t Let Me Go is another pop reggae banger. Beacon is a classic sounding Goldfinger pop punk anthem. Who’s Laughing Now is everyone's new favourite skank-a-long. Say It Out Loud is more of that good times old school pop punk that’ll have you singing at the top of your lungs. Orthodontist Girl is weird, hilarious and an all round good time. See You Around feels like a Blink-182 tune with complimentary vocals from Mark Hoppus. Lift Off is a summertime stoner nod-a-thon. Milla is a fitting send off that’s fittingly chilled to round out your experience.

So let’s get back to what this album represents. There are a pretty large demographic of guys who were/are utterly in love with 90s emo-punk (it wasn’t called pop punk until after All The Small Things had the term coined) but can’t seem to quite get behind the newer more saccharine pop punk that has dominated a music video dominated 2000s and this album is a modern dose of what we’ve craved for so long. It’s all well and good listening to the same albums for 20 years but it’s an incredible thing to be handed something brand new that triggers all of your greatest childhood memories whilst at the same time being fresh and new and invigorated. I hope this album does incredibly well because if it does it’ll hopefully allow more of this. I want guys stood in their garage right now with their 40 quid strat copies and beat up old drums to hear this and be inspired to make more because in my dreams we’re all awash with The Knife and albums as lovingly crafted and beautiful to listen to as this forevermore.

p.s. Just a quick note to Lauren Murphy of The Irish Times. Shut up mate, you’re talking out your arse and your review is basically lies, falsehoods and a deep misunderstanding about the demand for exactly what The Knife provides us. You can cram your 2 star review and get in the fucking sea with the rest of the Darwin awarders.

Buy The Knife here:

This review was written by Dan Peters.