Thursday, 30 November 2017

Gig Review: Ducking Punches & We Bless This Mess at Cassiopeia, Berlin 23/11/17

Whenever Emma and I book a trip away somewhere one of the first things I do is get on Songkick and see if I can find any cool gigs that are on whilst we're away. I like doing this firstly because I always find it interesting to see what punk shows are like in places I've not been to before and secondly because going to gigs is my favourite thing to do, so it makes sense to see what's happening. So when Emma and I booked our recent trip to Berlin I immediately opened the Songkick app on my phone and discovered that one our favourites, Dan Allen from Ducking Punches, was playing on our first night in Germany's capital city. Excellent.

The gig was actually only taking place a short 15 minute walk from where we were staying at a club named Cassiopeia. Cassiopeia is situated in a small little area that kind of resembles a shanty town, as there seemed to be tarpalling everywhere over various small buildings. Once we managed to find our way into the venue, we found the room for the show after going up some stairs and then down some others to find a great little space for a punk show. The stage was not the highest but you could get a great view of the performers from wherever you might be standing. It was well lit as well and we soon found out that the sound was fantastic. So this had all the ingredients for a great show, now were the performers up to scratch?

For this tour of Europe, Dan was being joined by Nelson from Portuguese band We Bless This Mess. A crowd of about thirty people had gathered for the show and settled in to see Nelson perform. By settle in I mean quite literally as a few people at Cassiopeia sat down for the set. I found this kind of strange but I guess it's because it was an acoustic performance they did this. Maybe it's a Berlin thing? I dunno. Either way I thoroughly enjoyed Nelson's performance. I knew absolutely nothing of him before his set but quite quickly fell in love with his music. He plays a passionate and heartfelt brand of punk rock - often times it was sad, on occasion it was uplifting but it was always relatable. Nelson comes across as a sweet and humble man on the stage who absolutely loves playing for a crowd no matter the size. This just endeared me to him even more. After seeing Nelson live I've since checked out his full band stuff with We Bless This Mess, it's fantastic. Go and check it out!

Ducking Punches are one of the very best punk bands in the UK scene and are gaining a loyal fanbase all over the world. Whether it's full band or by himself, Dan seems to have a relentless touring schedule and is always playing a show somewhere. I've seen Ducking Punches quite a few times over the past couple of years now, both full band and acoustic and they are one of the few shows that I always enjoy no matter the setting. Fun fact: Emma and I have now seen some version of Ducking Punches in three different countries, after seeing Dan play solo at Fest last year and now in Germany - and, of course, in the UK. Dan took to the stage saying that he would be opening up with some older songs before moving on to some brand new tracks from forthcoming album Alamort. Starting with the older stuff including the really old Secrets, I'm as always captivated by Dan on stage. He's among the best lyricists in the game, with every song painting a brilliant picture of the struggles people go through in life. Then it was time for the new stuff. Playing three songs from Alamort acoustically felt like a fantastic teaser for an album I'm very excited to hear. My memory of all of the song titles is a little hazy, as I'd been up since 3am that morning, but the first song was named Sobriety, the second I've completely forgotten but loved it and the third featured an incredible lyric along the lines of "life is for more than just living." (Disclaimer that might not be right, I was really tired and this was six days ago at the time of writing.) Alamort is already shaping up to be one of the albums of 2018. To draw his set to a close, Dan played a song off of Ducking Punches debut self titled album named Wolf. Dan explained that it's about how men are a disgusting species who prey on women. It's extremely fitting that he played this song given all of the accusations and allegations that having been making headlines in the news recently. He then finished up, as he always does, with the heartbreaking Six Years and the sing-a-long Big Brown Pills From Lynn. Six Years is a song that deals with the affects of suicide. Did you know that suicide is the biggest killer of men under 45 in the UK. That's a ridiculous fact. If there was less of a stigma around mental health then perhaps this number could start to fall. I'll always give Dan a huge amount of props for always making a point to speak about mental health whilst on stage. Big Brown Pills always gains massive crowd participation for its finale and it's no different in Cassiopeia, after Dan teaches those of the crowd who didn't know the words what to sing!

This was a great acoustic punk rock show to begin the first night of our holiday. We got to visit a cool venue, became a fan of one new act and got to see one of our favourites again. Lovely stuff.

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

Top Tens: Billy from Orange's Top Ten Punk Rock Influences

1. Against Me! - Reinventing Axl Rose
The first time I heard this record in 2002, it was like a bomb going off in my head. I'd never heard any music that spoke to me the way this album did. I used to listen to it on repeat constantly (I still listen to it all the time). Me and my friend Andy once listened to Pints Of Guinness on repeat all night. It annoyed the fuck out of our friends but we never got bored even for a second. I've loved AM since the moment I first heard them and, while all of their albums are important to me, this is the one with the most special place in my heart.

2. Rancid - Let's Go
This album made me want to be a bass player. Matt Freeman's playing on it made me (along with every other punk bass player in the last 25 years) want to play half as well as that. It doesn't hurt that it's Rancid's best record either. So many awesome songs!

3. Osker - Idle Will Kill
This album is criminally underrated. If it came out now it would be huge. It's full of perfect, angry, angst-filled bangers. With angular, inventive music and snotty, smart-arse lyrics. If you haven't heard it, do yourself a favour and check it out.

4. The Clash - London Calling
I didn't like it when I first heard it. I didn't really understand why every song sounded so different to the last. I liked it more every time I listened to it and even today I like it more with each listen. To me it's the definitive proof that punk isn't music, it's an attitude and a way of looking at life. It can sound like anything. I couldn't live without this album.

5. Capdown - Pound For The Sound
When I first started going to shows it felt like me and my friends were always at The Forum in Tunbridge Wells. I think we saw every Household Name Records band there. It was always a total blast and our soundtrack for the train from the coast to TW always seemed to be Capdown. It all seemed to happen over a single summer, it was probably over a couple of years, but Pound For The Sound was always playing.

6. Leftöver Crack - Mediocre Generica
This was the first real political music that I listened to. And it was the first music I listened to that my mum really hated. That's got to count for something, right? I got thrown out of Holidays In The Sun 2006 during LÖC's set too! (But, I managed to sneak back in, so it's all good)

7. Defiance, Ohio - Share What Ya Got
Another great example of what punk can be. Acoustic instruments, socially conscious lyrics, awesome music. They never really made anything better than this. But what a great album! I used to listen to this and want to be in a folk-punk band so much. It never happened but I still love this record!

8. Exploding Hearts - Guitar Romantics
Another band that are massively under appreciated but they have these awesome power-pop anthems that it's impossible not to love. More snotty, acerbic lyrics and massive hooks. They were sure to be one of the biggest bands on the scene, if they hadn't been killed in a car crash. This album makes me want to party and sing with my friends all night.

9. Lemuria - The First Collection
I only really started listening to Lemuria this year but they're already one of my favourite bands. This record helped me through a really dark time in my life. Every time I hear it it's like having a broken heart, getting lost, getting high, pulling yourself together and falling in love over the course of 18 songs.

10. Circle Jerks - Group Sex
I remember thinking this sounded like a machine gun firing out of my shitty speakers in my bedroom when I was 15 years old and wishing more than anything I'd been 15 in 1980 in LA instead of where I was. Every single 30 second song was so much fun. It cemented my love of punk rock and it's stuck with me ever since.

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Wednesday, 29 November 2017

Album Review: A Good Day For The Damned by Jaya The Cat

Since first seeing Jaya The Cat in 2012 they have quickly become one of my favourite bands to see live and to listen to. Their last album, 2012's The New International Sound Of Hedonism, became one of my all time favourites. Look out for a Future Classics column on the album soon. Now the band, from Amsterdam via Boston, are back with a long awaited brand new album titled A Good Day For The Damned. I had high hopes for this being another cracker.

If you've not heard Jaya The Cat before they play what is best described as reggae punk with hints of ska. Over the years the theme of much of the band's work has been living your life to the fullest - whether it's with loved one, having a postive attitude or enjoying all of life's excesses (legal or not). If you've ever seen Jaya The Cat Live you'll know that frontman Geoff Lagadec is often not particularly sober and stumbles around on stage. This all adds to the charm of the live show though, with a great sense of "who knows what on earth is going to happen?"

The thing I noticed on my first listen through of A Good Day For The Damned is how much more of a reggae sound that the album has compared to previous albums. If this album was released in May this would be the album of the summer. Instead it's doing a fantastic job of warming up our chilly winter. Geoff Lagadec has one of my favourite voices in the genre. There's a gruffness that you might expect from any orgcore punk band that works spectacularly well with this reggae style. It's something that really helps Jaya The Cat stand out from their reggae punk rock contemporaries. On all fifteen tracks of A Good Day For The Damned I felt completely mesmerised by Geoff's vocals as he tells us a charming story in every song.

Lyrically A Good Day For The Damned is absolutely beautiful. The album is jam packed with some of the most beautiful love songs I've ever heard and not just in the realm of punk. Songs such as Huddersfield Rain, Fucking In Love, Black Heart, A Good Day For The Damned and The Streets Of Shoreditch just made my heart swell with hope and happiness. It's all written in such a hugely positive way that it's difficult not to get swept up in it all. Geoff's in love, I'm in love, we're all in love!

As incredible as Geoff's lyrics are on the album a lot has to be said for the whole band's musical efforts here. Throughout the whole of Jaya The Cat's career there has been a big turnover of musicians joining and leaving the band so it will come as no surprise that Jaya The Cat have a new guitarist for A Good Day For The Damned, in the form of ex-Mr Shiraz member Karl Smith (who did previously provide live keys). Listening through the band's discography you can hear how the band have progressed. It is almost as if as the band has moved forward they've picked up better and better musicians along the way. Like on International Sound Of Hedonism, there are brief samples and bits of brass included, only adding to the awesome Jaya The Cat sound.

A Good Day For The Damned is another incredible effort from Jaya The Cat. They have to be thought of as one of the most prolific bands around and not just under their reggae punk umbrella. Like I said after I'd finished reviewing Aerial Salad's Roach album, A Good Day For The Damned is another album that has completely ruined what I thought was my top ten of the year. This could place very highly on the list - it's definitely the best from the ska/reggae world of punk rock. Go check this out and feel happy and in love.

Stream and download A Good Day For The Damned here:

Like Jaya The Cat here:

The review was written by Colin Clark.

Tuesday, 28 November 2017

Gig Review: The JB Conspiracy – This Machine 10th Anniversary Show at Boston Music Room 17/11/17

As well as being a staple in the UK's ska punk scene, The JB Conspiracy have become one of the most well respected and influential bands in the genre. They are also up there with the very best live bands in the entire world. This year the band are celebrating the tenth anniversary of their classic debut album, This Machine, by playing some special album shows. This was guaranteed to be a show not to be missed so Emma and I excitedly made our way to the Boston Music Room in Tufnell Park, London, for what we were expecting to be among the best gig nights of the year.

We shot across London to make sure we got to the Boston Music Room to catch the opening act of the night, a particular favourite of Emma's - it was Kingston's favourite Celtic punks, The Lagan. The Lagan were a fairly late addition to the bill and were on fairly early, especially if you were coming from work or lived outside of London. I had to finish work early to make sure I was there in time. This however didn't stop the six piece playing a very lively set. Although they were the only band on the bill that didn't really fit under the umbrella of ska or reggae it didn't stop them giving the small crowd that had gathered early a great time. For me, this shows an incredible amount of skill to get a crowd onside that wouldn't necessarily be into this type of music. Finishing with the song Same Shite Different Night, a ode to their hometown, The Lagan got the night off to an excellent start.

Next up were Welsh reggae act Tree House Fire. These guys had been on tour with The JB Conspiracy and have been getting rave reviews from all over the place so I was looking forward to seeing them again. Tree House Fire are so effortlessly cool and unbelievably slick on stage. All five members are obviously an extremely talented group of musicians who work together brilliantly and can write some great reggae tunes. It doesn't take them long to get the burgeoning crowd bopping along with big smiles on their faces. The band also come across as being an incredibly humble group of gentlemen, frequently giving props to and thanking the other bands on the bill. I really like Tree House Fire anyway but I did find this extra endearing. I really think with continued hard work and a little bit of luck, Tree House Fire could become the next big mainstream crossover band from our scene. There is something special about them that I can see not so diehard reggae and ska fans loving if they're given the chance.

I was particularly excited for the next band to take the stage - P.O. Box! I love these ska punk legends from France. I'd waited years to see them and finally got the chance back in July at Level Up Festival so getting the chance to see them again less than six months later was a real treat! The French six piece have been good friends of The JB Conspiracy for years so it only seemed right that they would share the stage for this special celebration. Playing a ferocious brand of ska punk similar to Destroy To Create era The Flatliners, P.O. Box stormed through their set and gradually got more and more people involved in the pit. Despite the crowd taking a little time to fully warm to the band, it didn't stop P.O. Box having plenty of fun amongst themselves whether it was their between song banter, particularly making quips about their French accents and French humour, or the band bounding around the stage like mad men - it was clear all six members of the band were having a great time. There was a nice moment where The JB Conspriacy's saxophone player Joe joined them on stage for a song and a nice, if a bit short, cover of Sublime's classic Santeria. Just like at Level Up the set was completed with the absolute classic Look What You Have Done, earning some massive sing-a-longs from the Boston Music Room crowd. That was great!

Next up it was time for The JB Conspiracy to play one of the most loved albums in UK ska punk history in full from start to finish. I've been thinking a lot recently about what sets apart The JB Conspiracy from their contemporaries. It's been well documented that they have somewhat of a different sound compared to other bands in the ska punk world. It always sounds so big; the four pronged horn attack and the keys somehow manage to just create an epic feeling with their songs, especially live where I believe the band really do excel. Obviously this being an album show there weren't many surprises during the main portion of the gig as we all knew what song was next. It did make me remember just how much I love this album though and it was great to hear songs that I haven't heard live for a while. JB lead singer and guitarist Lank talked about that band's history, starting out as Duff Muffin a long time ago and never ever expecting to be playing a ten year anniversary show. Clearly the band wanted the show to feel like one massive party and provided loads of special balloons for the crowd to play with whilst skanking up a storm down the front. This was one big party with people all around us gleefully singing and dancing like it was 2007. Once the main set had finished the band began their encore. Over the years the band has had a number of different members and many of them were in attendance of the show. Of course, they were invited on stage to join in with the encore. This meant that now there were eight horn players on the stage! Lank spoke about the band's influences as teenagers and how they had passed around a CD at school that was put out by Asian Man Records named Mail Order Is Fun. This lead to a fantastic cover of Slow Gherkin's Shed Some Skin. Not a whole lot of people knew the song but for those of us that did this really was a great feeling and for me personally a highlight from any gig I've ever been too. Then they played a cover of a song everyone knew - Less Than Jake's Scott Farcas Takes It On The Chin which went down a treat. To finish off what was a fantastic night they band played the first song off of their latest album, still with an eight person horn section, The Escape to an amazing reception.

What an incredible night of live music this was. All three support bands were great but JB, as they always do live, took things to a completely new level. The JB Conspiracy are a truly special band that are loved all across the UK. I'm looking forward to the tenth anniversary show for The Storm in 2023 and the twentieth anniversary show for This Machine in 2027 as well as many, many more shows inbetween with hopefully a new album? I'll go to the anniversary shows for that as well.

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

Album Review: Roach by Aerial Salad

Ever since I heard Manchester based punks Aerial Salad's last single, Check My Mind, I've been waiting impatiently for their debut album Roach to be released. Check My Mind was a great song and my anticipation for Roach being a fantastic record was extremely high. Then it was released and before I had a chance to hear it I'd read a ton of comments about just how good it was. Now I am FINALLY getting round to giving it a listen and am fastened into my seat tight ready to be blown away.

Roach begins with the song Habits And Problems. The thing that struck me on the first listen to the song was the similarity to Gnarwolves song, Smoking Kills. I don't mind this though as it really pulled me into the song and had me listening intently immediately. This is what you want from an opening song. If you haven't heard Aerial Salad before they play a style of pop punk influenced by 1990s Green Day. Habits And Problems is about having to work weekends and the problems that this creates in your life. Up next is Leave Me Alone. This song begins with a high amount of intensity with singer Jamie Munro screaming out the opening vocals basically acappella style. The track is just a short one minute and twenty-two seconds long but certainly packs one hell of a wallop. Listening to the song, it's as if Nirvana and Green Day somehow mated and Aerial Salad was the result. The third song is named Headspace. I really love that, even though we are only three songs deep into a twelve track album, there is so much variety in the sound but you can still tell you are listening to Aerial Salad. Habits And Problems is more of a pop punk track and Leave Me Alone sees the band lean towards a grunge influence. Headspace has more of a straight forward punk rock sound. The guitars are fantastic in the simplicity and Jamie's punch vocal attack adds so much attitude to the song.

The fourth song, Conservative Thinking, continues the theme of different styles with some ska punk. I must admit I wasn't expecting some ska upstrokes on Roach but I'm very pleased to hear them. Aerial Salad get political on the track, venting their anger towards the Conservative government that is currently in place in the UK. Switching from that ska verse to a big punk chorus adds some extra emotion to the track to help Aerial Salad really force their message home. 97 is a sadder song about struggling with mental health and desperately wanting somebody to understand what you're going through. The opening lyric of "I've Just Told My Mum I'm Gonna Kill Myself" immediately grabs you - it's so sad and shocking but you can't help but listen more. This is one of the album's slower and more melodic songs, which works perfectly given what the song is all about. Worst Case Ontario for me is one of the stand out tracks on Roach, reverting back to the Lookout Records era pop punk sound which is what I think Aerial Salad do best. The song is superbly catchy from the outset and stuffed with hooks. The long introduction to the song does such a fantastic job of building the song up before the vocals come smashing in. You get to the point where you feel like gasping with anticipation before things really get going and you are generously rewarded once they do. Top stuff lads.

The seventh song on Roach is the aforementioned Check Your Mind. This is another slower and more melodic number that really allows the drums and bass to shine. Check Your Mind is about feeling crippled by your mental health problems, wanting to make a change to your life but not being able to get out of the place you are in. I love how they again slowed things down somewhat for this emotional and important song. I believe it's a song that so many people listening could easily relate to. It's great that there are bands putting out songs like this and talking about mental health more and more. The opening lyrics to the following song, Dunhills, are great and again instantly relatable. The song starts with the lines "I Think About Society, I'm Struck By An Epiphany, What The Hell Are We Working For, Because It's Crossed My Mind, That Your Job Don't Pay And You, Get By Through Just Every Day, Living On What You Can Crawl." I'm sure everyone reading this has had the same thoughts. The song continues on with Jamie talking about starting a new life and following his own path and not one that is dictated to him. The vocal delivery in the next track, Throw It Away, is absolutely superb. It again grabs you immediately and is so full of energy. This is a song about the frustration in trying to help someone you care about but feeling pushed away.

On Alone Forever it sounds as if there is an extra sliver of venom in Jamie's vocals. Obviously the vocals take the majority of the attention in every song but on Alone Forever they really are the star of the show. The extra sliver of venom adds even more passion and energy into the song and makes it a high octane adventure throughout its duration. I'm sure you can work out what the song is about, feeling like you will be forever alone but wanting someone in your life that you can talk and share things with. This is another thing that anybody who has ever suffered with mental health problems can really relate to. The penultimate song on Roach is named Success. Success is a great power-pop song about finding achievements in activities that most people might find mundane and the meaning behind this. The sound of this song is so much fun and it a real toe tapper, it's almost impossible to remain still whilst listening to Success. I like that in a song. Staying still is boring. The first two lines of the chorus really stood out to me - "So We Bring Meaning To Our Own Success, Much More Important Than The Way We Dress." The meaning that I take from this is that where a big part of society puts a lot of stock into the clothes they wear, there are plenty of people who put more of themselves into achieving something they really struggle with. Last up is the song Patricroft. This is my favourite song on Roach. It's fast paced and again immediately has my attention with opening lyrics "Shut Down By Opinions Of Decisions That I Made, I'll Take Them To My Grave." Patricroft is about being in a small band and how it will always be difficult but will always be completely worth it. This is the perfect song to finish this fantastic album and I imagine will become the band's final song on their set list. This song really is Aerial Salad at their best!

So did Roach live up to all of my expectation and hype? In a word - yes. In five words - yes, it really bloody did! I've been working on doing my top ten albums of the year list in the past couple of weeks. I've been struggling and now this has really thrown a giant sized spanner in the works. Aerial Salad are a band that are clearly going to be the talk of the UK punk rock scene soon and, after listening to Roach many times now, I have to say it will be thoroughly deserved.

Stream and download Roach here:

Like Aerial Salad here:

This review was written by Colin Clark.

Monday, 27 November 2017

Album Review: Not Here To Make Friends by Talk Show Host

I've ummed and ahhed about doing this review. Firstly because it came out back in May so I'm quite late to the party. Secondly because I do have a list of more current things on my review list. However I enjoyed this EP so much I had to do it. The EP in question is Not Here To Make Friends by Toronto punks Talk Show Host.

The five track EP starts off with the song Dead Meat. Dead Meat is a lovely slab of melodic pop punk that gives you a great idea of what to expect from Talk Show Host. Musically, as you would expect from a pop punk song, it's fast and punchy with every musical line seemingly finished with an exclamation point. The song is about feeling like your world is ending and putting up walls to protect yourself. The second track, We're Not Here To Make Friends, really reminded me of MxPx so, of course, I thought it was great. It's a shorter song that takes aim at those bands who don't want to be involved in a scene and just want to get ahead and be famous. I really enjoyed the lyrics "I'll Play To No One, I Don't Care, We Backed The Right Horse In The Wrong Year, Your Manifesto, Sing It Loud and Clear, We're Not Here To Make Friends, We're Just Here To Win."

The opening of I Hate Men (I Hate All Men) put a huge smile on my face. The track begins slowly with just vocals and a bit of drums that pull you into the song and really allows you to focus on the lyrics and exactly what the song is about. In case the chorus doesn't make it abundantly clear, it's about what a terrible species men are. Soon enough the song starts properly and we're treated to a banger of a song. The lyrics are so brilliantly insightful and heartbreakingly true. Talk Show Host are joined on vocals by Madeleine Maynard for a verse and this just adds another excellent element to the song.

The EP's penultimate song is Watch Him Fall. Here the song takes more of an indie rock feel for a big portion of its duration. It's much more laid back than the previous three songs. That is until its finale where it finishes with a great big rock ending. The way in which the song builds is just delightful and leaves you wanting more and more. The final song on Not Here To Make Friends is the excellent A Nervous Wreck. A Nervous Wreck begins with some guitar and some nice "oooooh" harmonies before the vocals kick in completely. The track is another that builds spectacularly throughout its duration. It's about finding somewhere to fit in and feeling comfortable – namely the DIY punk scene where you'll accepted with open arms. The finale of this track is the hardest rocking section of the entire EP and ensures that it finishes with a bang.

Not Here To Make Friends is Talk Show Host's third EP and is an absolute triumph. Listen to their past two EPs – there is so much progress here and you can hear a band that are ready to make the next step up and become even wider known in the punk scene all over the world.

Stream and download Not Here To Make Friends here:

Like Talk Show Host here:

This review was written by Colin Clark.

Wednesday, 22 November 2017

Top Tens: Jeff from Expert Timings' Top Ten Punk Rock Influences

1. Descendents 
When I was in 3rd grade my neighbor's older sister had a copy of Somery. I had no idea what I was listening to but I knew it was different. It sounded raw and chaotic but was still catchy and full of hooks.

2. Slingshot Dakota
Tom and Carly are from the same small north eastern punk rock community that I had the amazing luck to be around in my formative years. Seeing them continue to work hard, make amazing music and be genuinely caring and authentic people is truly inspiring.

3. That Dog
After becoming obsessed with Weezer in high school I learned about the similarly great band That Dog. Their record "Totally Crushed Out" has the most blown out guitar sound.

4. The Weakerthans
Listening to the weakerthans opened my mind to how important lyrics are. John K Samson is a master story teller whose words paint vivid pictures.

5. Nirvana
When I first saw the video for Heart Shaped Box I was watching MTV waiting for them to play any Michael Jackson video and it scared the shit out of me.

6. Green Day
Having been a fan already, I bought a copy of Insomniac the day it came out. The kid working at the record store told me about an upcoming show at the local college. I convinced my dad to take me and the whole show blew my mind. This was the first time I ever thought to myself "I really wanna be in a band".

7. Okay Paddy
Combining 60s pop hooks with the 90s guitar vibes of bands like Pavement, Okay Paddy are one of my favorite bands of all time.

8. Dismemberment Plan
Synths, weird time signatures and super complex drum parts. What's not to love?

9. Saves the Day
In 11th grade I had 2 CDs in my car. Through Being Cool and Stay What You Are.

10. Piebald
Piebald taught me that music can be meaningful, poignant and unapologetically fun all at the same time.

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Album Review: Wear Me Down by Young Hunger

Why has nobody told me about Young Hunger before? Come on friends, I tell you about great bands all of the time! Young Hunger are a four piece band from Detroit, Michigan who play a mixture of pop punk and punk rock with a dash of indie rock. Back in July they put out their debut EP, Wear Me Down. I recently checked it out and thought it was absolutely fantastic. Let's check it out.

The opening song on Wear Me Down is named Every Promise I Ever Made To Myself. When I first clicked play I instantly thought "okay, here's another pop punk track" but it's so much more than that. The song moves between a modern pop punk to a melodic punk sound effortlessly. The song really comes into its own on the chorus with some superb gang vocals and a simple, but very effective, drum beat that drives the song forward, at times relentlessly. The second track is the song Haverhill. The opening musical sequence immediately gives the song a whole load of energy and, as soon as lead singer Ben's vocals hit, you immediately have that uncontrollably urge to sing along. Haverhill is about loving your town despite all of its shortcomings. There is a great guitar solo midway through the song that allows you to think about the message of the song before it finishes with the repetitive lines of "Who The Fuck Here Allowed This To Happen?" The intro to Holes In Your Tongue features a guitar pedal build being used to full effect with some interesting sci-fi like sounds. The beginning of the song is moodier than the previous two efforts and shows some great variation in Young Hunger's songwriting. Holes In Your Tongue is about a trying to help a bad person to change their ways and making them realise they'll only be able to change if they really want to. The song starts by listing said persons faults before the mood of the song is lifted when Ben gives out his advice, again supported by some excellent gang vocals.

The fourth song, I Woke Up Today, starts out slowly with some jangly guitar before the drums kick in. The drums on Wear Me Down have just been superb. The vocals again begin quite poppy before gradually turning into more of a punk rock shout on the chorus. Young Hunger have a gift for writing some huge hook filled choruses. I Woke Up Today is about realising you've been living in denial and taking the first step to helping yourself. The band really are at their best when they are belting out their tunes at full blast. There are some great fist in the air moments. The penultimate track Just One More Year is probably the poppiest effort on the EP. The guitars pack the song with a great energy and then the up tempo delivery of the vocals on the verses keep that feeling going but it's the chorus where things get interesting. The first chorus sees a muted delivery before that high energy verse comes in. By the time that the second chorus comes in we are treated to a primal scream delivery opposed to the muted style of the first. I loved this because it's not often that you hear such a contrast between choruses. The Things I Mean (But I Don't Say) finishes up Wear Me Down with aplomb. I think that this is my favourite song on the EP. It takes everything I've loved the most from the previous songs and packs it tightly into a brilliant three minutes and nineteen seconds of awesomeness. The drumming and guitar lead in at the start gets things going nicely, with the song gradually building towards some of the most passionate vocals on the EP. This is seriously a great song and the best way to finish the impressive debut from Young Hunger.

Young Hunger are a great new band on the scene and are really showing so much promise on Wear Me Down. I don't have any negatives to say at all and I urge everyone to check these guys out. You can then be that person who says I remember hearing their first EP when they become the next big thing in punk rock.

Stream and download Wear Me Down here:

Like Young Hunger here:

This review was written by Colin Clark.

Tuesday, 21 November 2017

Album Review: Grave Mistakes by Dead Rejects

I first became aware of Dead Rejects last year when they released a fantastic split with Positive Junk named Downers. Now the New Jersey skacore duo are back with a brand new album named Grave Mistakes which was released back in September.

Graves Mistakes begins with the instrumental track The Fire Fades. Serving as an introduction to the album it is a piano led song with spooky undertones before launching into some heavy punk rock. The piano followed by the punk rock works really well and gives the illusion of punk smashing down the more classical style. This all leads in nicely to Learning To Live, the album's second track. The song immediately reminds me of what I loved about Dead Rejects when I first heard them. It's crusty ska punk in a similar vein to Leftöver Crack but much more accessible. The dual vocals on Learning To Live are great with Shane Sparacello's croaky voice taking the verses and Mike Benus' more traditional punk rock voice executing the chorus brilliantly. Whatever Forever is a song about not fitting in with what's deemed normal in society and frankly not caring what people think about you. It's a song that really takes you on a ride musically. Starting out with some upbeat ska that will get you skanking, Whatever Forever gradually shifts through the gears and then by the end it is a full on angry punk rock annihilation of a song. Happy fun skanking at the song's smiley beginnings turns into a massive riot of a mosh pit. The fourth song is the album's title track, Grave Mistakes. What a good song this is. Grave Mistakes is about learning from mistakes and not wallowing in self pity. This is a good, strong, uplifting message. The chorus in particular is superb - "Raise Your Hand And Scream, Be Proud Of Who You Are, And The Things That You Have Achieved, 'Cause Scars Will Heal In Time, But It's Up To You To Leave The Past Behind." The dual vocals again are great and give the song a lot of energy.

Get Weird is about a night of excessive partying, taking some things it is not legal to and hoping that you haven't made a fool of yourself. It's a fast and frantic song that really shows off Sparacello's excellent raw primal screams on the chorus. This is one of the harder hitting songs on Grave Mistakes. Giving Up is a song that jumps between ska punk and ferocious hardcore expertly. The track is about the feeling of despair with the world and just wanting to give up on it. The anger in the chorus of "This World Is Gonna Burn" really hits the message hard and the verses do a great job of setting up this anger. The outro of Giving Up is a delight and the hint of gang vocals makes me think of rallying the troops together and rebelling against everything. Dead Rejects are joined by New York band The Stupid Stupid Henchmen on the following song, Worldwide Suicide. Worldwide Suicide hits you like a wrecking ball and continues to pummel you for much of its four minute duration. There is a slight restbite during some short ska sections of the song, kind of making you believe the assault is finished before it starts all over again. There is so much anger and venom on this song it's hard not to get caught up in the emotion of it all. The final song on Grave Mistakes in named 29. I must admit I was not expecting to see an almost five minute long song on a Dead Rejects release but that's what we have here. 29 is a song dedicated to Shane's brother Jimmy who sadly passed away last year. As you can imagine there is plenty of emotion in the song where Shane sings about missing his brother and how he will never be forgotten because he will live on through Shane and the rest of the band. 29 feels like a very fitting tribute to a departed brother.

Grave Mistakes is a very good skacore album. It's hard and angry but it's also a lot of fun. It has some great lyrics and fantasic musicianship. At just seven actual songs I thought it was a little short but when it's this good does it really matter?

(Also, if you stream and download from Bandcamp there are instrumental tracks of Get Weird and 29.)

Stream and download Grave Mistakes here:

Like Dead Rejects here:

This review was written by Colin Clark.

Monday, 20 November 2017

Album Review: I’m Not Really A Morning Person by Tim Hampshire (by Emma Prew)

I am quite partial to Australian musicians and songwriters, not just thanks to Wil Wagner and Lincoln Le Fevre but they’ve probably had something to do with my increasing love of Aussie accented vocals over the past year. However, today I have a new favourite Australian solo acoustic artist, Tim Hampshire from Portland, Victoria. I’d heard of him before, since Colin previously recommended him to me, and so when I saw his latest EP appear on Bandcamp’s new releases I happily took a listen. The doggy on the cover did help as well – I do judge albums by their cover art, a tiny bit.

I’m Not Really A Morning Person is a four song EP and track number one, titled Chasing Decency, kicks off at a reasonably fast pace. Despite being an acoustic track, there is a lot of energy and determination injected into Chasing Decency. The song is about trying to make the best of life with what you have,  aiming to be a decent human being while you’re at it. A fine start to this EP. ‘I’m no poet laureate, But I’m getting by with what little I have, As far as ability goes, Punch above my weight, Though I choose not to fight, Ignorance isn’t bliss anymore, Internally I’m not comfortable with this…’ Next up is a slower, more solemn-sounding track called Keep This For Later On. This feels like more of a heartfelt song than the first, allowing the listener to have a personal connection to Tim’s songwriting that they perhaps didn’t get so much with Chasing Decency. Although slower in pace, the acoustic guitar and vocals feel warm rather than entirely melancholic. There is also a sense of hopefulness in lines such as ‘I can feel the winds of change, And for once they’re blowing good things my way.’ and ‘I will embrace the chaos, This is not my final curtain call.’ which I love.

Catch Me If You Can is the third song of I’m Not Really A Morning Person and is an excellent combination of mid-tempo acoustic guitars – note the plural as there are definitely two wonderfully melodic guitars in parts – and catchy vocal lines. This is a head nodder of a song and probably my favourite of the EP. Catch Me If You Can features guest vocals towards the end of the song which add a little element of gang vocals that us punks love so much. And as much as I adore acoustic-based music, I found myself imagining this song as a full band affair – I think it would work fantastically. There’s also a moment when Tim’s vocals break a little as he’s singing ‘Catch me if you can’ at the top of his lungs that I love – less polished and more punk, as it should be. Unfortunately I’m Not Really A Morning Person must come to an end but it does so in style with the fourth track, Seedy Weekdays 2.0. This is another upbeat track with rapidly strummed chords throughout its duration. Tim’s vocals are full of fiery passion as he sings optimistically – ‘We have better things to worry about, Like how we’re going to go about changing the world, That way it is more suitable for the likes of us, I can’t think of any other way to spend this seedy weekdays.’ The song rounds off the EP nicely and I instantly go to hit play and listen again.

I’m Not Really A Morning Person can be downloaded and streamed on Bandcamp now. You can also find Tim Hampshire over on Facebook here.

This album review was written by Emma Prew.

Friday, 17 November 2017

Album Review: Foreign Skies by The Dreadnoughts (by Emma Prew)

This summer I got to see one of my absolute favourite punk bands who I had unfortunately never managed to catch live before, The Dreadnoughts. To say I was excited would have been an understatement. The band put on one hell of a show at The Underworld in Camden (you can read my gig review here) and during their set they announced that their long awaited fourth album would be released in November – I was, well, even more excited!

On the 10th November the wait was finally over as the band released their first full length album for 7 years (I’m not counting 2011’s Uncle Touchy as a full length). Foreign Skies is a 12 track album of songs dedicated to all of the people who lived through World War I – but also to those who did not. I didn’t realise the significance of the release date for the album until my first listen but, of course, it was released to coincide with Remembrance weekend. This was bound to be a special album.

Foreign Skies opens with a mournful yet atmospheric violin part which slowly builds into a track titled Up High. After 50 seconds or so the vocals kick in – ‘Come my brother, Come all fighting men, Come together while we may, We nay may meet again.’ – but the tempo remains slow and controlled. It was at this point that I suddenly thought ‘Wow, what a voice’. I feel a bit bad saying this but I’ve never really considered lead vocalist Nicholas Smyth, or The Fang as he is generally known, to have an ‘amazing’ voice. By which I mean I enjoyed his vocals previously and considered them good but now I have an increased appreciation for his vocal talent. The chorus of ‘Raise your voice up high, sing for victory… We remember.’ is pretty darn poignant. As I said, it is somewhat mournful but there is also a great sense of pride in the song. Next we have Foreign Skies, the album’s title track so it’s bound to be a goodun’, right? Correct. This song is more than a goodun’, it is a full blown epic in musical form – and I don’t use the word epic lightly. The end of Up High crescendos into Foreign Skies, which actually starts fairly calmly with gentle and melodic guitar… but this is The Dreadnoughts, and so it doesn’t remain calm for long! Setting a recurring theme throughout the rest of the album, this song flits between various Dreadnoughts sub-genres – basically showcasing their whole musical repertoire in one 5 minute song. It’s pure folk punk for about a minute, then there’s some polka thrown in for good measure, then more folk punk. It’s fast paced, then mid tempo, then fast again and keeps you guessing what’s coming next. There is an awesome instrumental breakdown midway through the song which lasts for over a minute before an emotional verse from The Fang accompanied by piano slows things down. The story in this song is set on a battlefield but there is a sense of hope that you might not expect from a war zone as the narrator proudly exclaims ‘I never will return to these foreign skies.’

At only two songs into Foreign Skies I am already beginning to feel that these songs are like a soundtrack to a film – except, no, they are more than that. These songs are a soundtrack to real life, real stories and historical events that happened during the war and that makes all the difference. This is perhaps even more apparent in the third track. Daughters of the Sun has a dramatic instrumental start, which gets increasingly louder before going full pelt punk rock after a minute and a half. The vocals and instruments are fast with the vocals in particular being more raw than on the previous two tracks. This is a head banging, mosh pit inducing track that sounds like classic Dreadnoughts circa ten years ago and their first album, Legends Never Die. At least, that is until another mighty instrumental breakdown with an excellent violin solo backed by pounding drums. The accordion also makes a welcome appearance for a final verse – something that I missed from their live show earlier this year. I love how these songs have so many parts to them, such a talented bunch of musicians these Dreadnoughts. Following Daughters of the Sun is Amiens Polka, an almost entirely instrumental track. Amiens Polka by name, polka by nature. The pace is kept fast for this song but it’s clearly more of a traditional European-inspired tune than your more typical punk rock – which is definitely no bad thing. Amiens Polka certainly got me dancing and when the rousing short chorus, which sounds like it is sung by a barroom of people, happens in the middle I wanted to sing along. The only problem is I don’t actually know any of the words as it is most likely not in English and isn’t typical lead vocal volume. Of course, this didn’t affect my enjoyment of the song one bit.

Not content with the array of musical styles that have already been reflected in the first four songs, Bay of Suvla is an acapella song with only a quiet steady drum beat backing. At first it is just The Fang who voices the song and once more I am astounded at how good his voice is. He also has the awesome ability to tell the tales of different people in his songs almost like he is acting in a play but not in a over the top way (so not like Freddy Mercury or similar). The other band members join in with the chorus making this true sea shanty style and this seems particularly apt as this is a song about navy soldiers. ‘It’s a way Suvla Bay, Hauling away to the Suvla Bay, Fare thee well my pretty young maids, We’re bound for the bay of Suvla.’ Something about the guitars at the beginning of the next song makes me think ‘Western film’ – not something I expected from The Dreadnoughts. Well, I said this album was varied! Anna Maria is track number six of Foreign Skies and the band show their ability to pull off another excellent instrumental intro. After 1 minute 20, the guitars get a distortion treatment and it goes more metal than Western but really it’s just classic loud and fast Dreadnoughts. Upon first listen I figured that Anna Maria was a song about a lost loved one and how the song’s narrator wants to have vengeance for his love’s death. Then I realised that Anna Maria isn’t a person at all, Anna Maria is the name of the ship that the narrator sailed on. I’ve always loved the nautical themes of The Dreadnoughts songs and this is no exception. This also happens to be one of the angrier and more violent themed songs of the album, showing the very darkest side of war (not that there’s much light in war either) – ‘Gonna find that coward captain, Gonna break his front door down, Gonna wrap my hands around his neck, And put him in the ground. Sweet Anna Maria, Never more, Never more, I see…’ As Anna Maria fades out we are not given too much pause for breath before the next track muscles in and metaphorically punches you in the face. Jericho is loud, fast, angry and urgent from the outset. Musically this is probably one of the more simple tracks on the album, generally sticking to the more typical punk instruments and playing them hard. That said there is an awesome guitar solo which you wouldn’t describe as ‘simple’. It’s no surprise that this is one of the shortest songs on the album – I mean, it is played at double the speed of most of the other tracks. Jericho is probably the song that would open the largest mosh pit and have the most people going crazy at a Dreadnoughts live show – and I can’t wait to witness that for myself.

Eighth track, Black and White, opens with a great swinging motion both in the music and vocal lines. The first verse is sung from the point of view of a soldier, ending several of the lines with ‘Sir’. It’s really great how each song of Foreign Skies tells a story as the album progresses through this period of history. It doesn’t feel like a ‘concept’ album as such although clearly all of the songs have their similarities due to the theme. Black and White is a prime example of really transporting the listener to another time and place. The verses of this song are mid tempo followed by faster musical interludes and it all kicks off for the chorus.‘Walk into the black and white…’ Gavrilo is next up and it is a song that combines many different sounds and influences from around the world. Opening with the lines ‘Hello my dear old friend, Good to see your face again. How is your little cell?’, Gavrilo sounds very Baltic-inspired but there’s also hints of Spanish style guitar in there – or maybe it’s just my ears! Either way, this is a great foot stomper of a track. It has a decent amount of heavy guitar and shouted backing vocals as well to ensure that you don’t forget that this is a punk band at heart. I haven’t done too much research into the specific subject matter behind each and every song on this album but I did look up ‘Gavrilo’. If like me you didn't know, Serbian Gavrilo Princip was the man charged with causing the outbreak of World War I when he shot Austrian Archduke Franz Ferdinand. But even if I hadn’t done my research, this makes for an excellent song nonetheless.

The tenth song of Foreign Skies is completely different, so much so that it isn’t really even a song. A Broken World is a spoken word piece voiced by Zoey Exley and based on the poem ‘September 1918’ by Amy Lowell. The reading is accompanied by sorrowful piano and it is as beautiful as it is heartbreaking. The line ‘Some day there will be no war.’ is particularly moving. I do feel that the placement of this track is a little odd. It is not quite at the end of the album nor the end of the first half, and not even the penultimate song either, but that doesn’t stop it from being poignant anyway. Just listen to it (or read the original poem, I guess). Drawing us towards the end of the album is Black Letters, a song that is fairly stripped back with an acoustic guitar in place of the electric. This is a much slower paced track than much of the rest of the album and it feels all the more thoughtful because of this. At first I thought this song might be quite hopeful as the end of the war is mentioned but after a few listens I think perhaps it is not quite the happy ending. ‘By the time you read these words there will be no more war… For me, There will be only peace.’ The author of the letters knows that they are going to die in war and will never see their loved ones again, but there is a sense of peace in knowing that they have served their country. It really makes you stop and think.

Phew, that was pretty heavy going. Where are the songs about drinking cider I hear you ask? Cue album closer, Back Home In Bristol. Kicking off with a generous helping of accordion and the lines ‘Bless me father I have sinned…’ , this song is pretty much all of the best bits of The Dreadnoughts’ musical repertoire all rolled into one. It’s no wonder this song has a video really – it’s a fine example of what the band are all about. Back Home In Bristol has a super catchy chorus and there is, of course, the mention of the band’s favourite West Country brew – cider! Well, this song is about Bristol after all. ‘Well I wish I were back home in Bristol again, Raising a cider with the West Country men.’ This song definitely has a feel good nature and a distinct sense of optimism about going home at last after the war. The drunken singalong bridge is bloody brilliant too. You can really picture the ship that is taking the soldiers home during the final instrumental of this song which plays out the song and the album as a whole – and brings us home in style!

I read a comment somewhere online about this album before it was released, therefore before I had listened to it, and it said that The Dreadnoughts had matured. ‘The Dreadnoughts mature? Nah!’ I thought but… now I get it. These aren’t simply songs about drinking cider, well aside from the last one which is a little bit about drinking cider. As much as I love good ol’ songs about cider, I didn’t know a Dreadnoughts like this was possible. I didn’t expect it. Foreign Skies is an album of many parts, each song consists of many parts. There are ups and downs, slow songs and fast songs, happier tunes and sorrowful songs, the themes are mostly serious but the music can be downright jolly and uplifting at times. The Dreadnoughts are masters of sea shanties, Baltic-inspired polkas, heavy rocking and rolling punk rock – and now they’ve well and truly mastered the historical epic as well. Is there anything this band can’t do? In summary: Foreign Skies is incredible.

Buy/stream/listen to Foreign Skies now on Bandcamp and you can also find The Dreadnoughts on Facebook.

This album review of epic length was written by Emma Prew (and I may never write another album review again).

Thursday, 16 November 2017

Top Tens: Mike from Umlaut Records' Top Ten Punk Rock Labels

How should a punk rock label be judged? Should a label be judged solely by the quality of the bands it has on its roster? Should they have a particular, identifiable genre or be eclectic and wide-reaching in their scope? Do we judge on their business acumen and the longevity that you only get through careful management of finances in a tough economy? Or do we prefer those who shun the “corporate” epithet, remain fiercely DIY and sail close to the wind as it’s considered more “punk rock?”

As usual in punk rock, there are arguments upon disagreements about quarrels and the types of label out there are run by communities as varied as the music they put out.

The DIY labels are not merely mimicking the big boys.

Those who set up these labels are not doing it for financial gain (there isn’t any) or global recognition (there isn’t any). The DIY label has a more important role, and while it is foolish and naïve to completely disregard the need for careful financial management in order to stay viable, the influence and desire to drive the community is often far more central to the ethos of the DIY punk rock label.

Here is a list, which is by no means exhaustive, of some of the labels that we at Umlaut Records feel have had a positive impact.

Fat Wreck Chords
Let’s be honest here and get this out of the way nice and early. Whatever your view about this label now, and the opinion that perhaps their best years are behind them rather than in front of them, there can be absolutely no denying the HUGE influence that Fat Wreck Chords has had throughout the entire genre. The list of seminal Fat Wreck bands is far too long to put here, but needless to say that they provided a gateway into punk rock for so many people who are now playing in bands that we all know and running labels which may be appearing on this list.

Lookout/Dischord/Hellcat/Epitaph/Asian Man
And while we’re on the subject of the big boys, it would be remiss to overlook a selection of the biggest. These could easily fill a list of their own, but it’s far more interesting to have a look at what is happening in the local scenes. The punk rock scene can be very nostalgic and every generation has its crop of influences. That’s not to say that we, as a community, can’t also be forward looking and optimistic about a future for the scene. As with Fat, the above labels have all launched countless bands into our collective consciousness and whatever the opinion of those who typically shun the mass market, their influence cannot, and should not, be overlooked.

Make That A Take
An absolute behemoth of the DIY label and a major influencing factor in the genesis of Umlaut Records. They work tirelessly to promote their bands, to promote their shows and to effect change within their community through charity and outreach. This year will be their 11th annual, “Book Your Ane Fest,” and it is an absolute highlight of the year for both bands and punk rock fans from far and wide. The bands they put out are always interesting. Similarly, the shows they put on and the touring bands they host are always impressive. The MTAT brand is viewed with great esteem by bands, fans and other labels and they are fully deserving of every ounce of it.

Another label which is incredibly proud of the community they help to support through their music. You simply can’t ignore a label that boasts Pizzatramp, Roughneck Riot and Wonk Unit. A Manchester based label, that has similar ethics to MTAT in that they don’t wish to simply be a machine that sells records, they want to help a whole community to share the music experience, whether that’s through records, shows or tours. Some of the best bands on the circuit are working with this label and you should definitely check them out.

Our good friends over at Lockjaw have been really helpful in the starting of Umlaut. Rob, of Darko fame, and his team run a tight ship, and have an exceptional ear for great music as well as an impeccable work ethic which sees Lockjaw pulling in some incredible bands, including the UK release of Belvedere’s last release. They are based in Guildford and, as well as Belvedere, they have also released Almeida, Antillectual and The Human Project. They do this simply because they look after their people and work relentlessly to promote and shine spotlights on the acts that approach them.

Disconnect Disconnect
Another great UK label from whose experience and friendship we’ve benefited. The guys at Double D (as nobody calls them) are equally adept at attracting the big talent, having released the likes of Hogwash, Larrakia and Local Resident Failure. As well as putting together exceptional comps, they also host the annual “Might as Well” Fest in London, which is another staple of the punk rock calendar.

Specialist Subject
This is a label that is on the up and up. Based in Bristol and boasting Austeros, Caves and The Smith Street Band amongst their releases, they are also doing really exciting things along the south coast and beyond. They recently opened a shop in Bristol which I understand to be something of a physical celebration of their own output as well as other fantastic artists you know and many you probably don’t. They are run by Kay and Andrew (of Bangers fame) and are one of the main players in the UK scene.

Bird Attack
Going stateside for a moment to relish the label that is Bird Attack records. They’ve put out bands like 88 Fingers Louie, Adrenalized and Authority Zero as well as some of our own local talent in Almeida, Darko and Fair Do’s. Their podcasts are a must listen to people who enjoy this music and their representation at events like the Manchester Punk Festival, Punk Rock Holiday and Fest are always interesting. Plus their footage is always excellent - these guys are truly engaging in terms of trying to reach out and get people to listen to what they’re all about.

Shield Recordings
Holland is a beautiful country and is home to some of our favourite DIY punk bands and Shield Recordings has been at the forefront of it since 2004. Slinging such releases as Astpai, Pacer, Atlas Losing Grip and, friends to Umlaut, Sweet Empire and Dowzer. Passionate punk rock peddlers and thoroughly decent people, Shield are an excellent gateway into bands from the continent that people may not have heard of before. Believe me, there’s some great stuff out there and these guys frequently remind us of this.

Waterslide Records
Going even further afield, Waterslide records have been operating in Japan since 1996. Japan has a long and fine history of punk rock culture and Waterslide have been playing a massive part in the perpetuity of the culture. Punk rock fans are usually quite mentally itinerant and don’t consider little things like geographical boundaries when it comes to seeking music to enjoy. Waterslide have many bands on their roster that people may not have heard of (as well as many that you will have - Antillectual and Dowzer for example.) For those looking to explore, you could do a lot worse than checking out their releases.

Check out Umlaut records store here and their Facebook page here.

Wednesday, 15 November 2017

Album Review: Y'all by UnderTipper

UnderTipper are a three piece band from Cincinnati, Ohio who formed late in 2015. The band, which is comprised of Tavis Disgraceful (guitar & vocals), Jeff Forton (bass) and Drew Bogner (drums) recently released their second album Y'all. I found out about this due to the greatest tool for music discovery (aside from going to gigs) - Bandcamp. I loved it instantly and had to give it a review!

Y'all begins with the song Stayed Up Too Late. On my first listen of Stayed Up Too Late I decided instantly that this is one of my favourite songs of the year. It's a simple song about not getting enough sleep. Starting with an alarm clock going off we have a mid-tempo punk track with a chorus to die for. The track moves up a gear and the whole band shouts "Stayed Up Too Late, Got Up Too Early." Love this song! The second track is titled Break Away. Though the song doesn't jump out at you like the previous song there is a restrained subtlety to the intro that gets you hooked. I like that already on the second track of the album UnderTipper show they can write a silly song (Stayed Up Too Late) and more of a serious song in Break Away. Break Away is about getting away from the bad situations you find yourself in and finding something better. The opening guitar of the third song Caffeine instantly made me think about 90s Lookout era pop punk music. It's a punchy song that uses drinking caffeine on a long journey as a metaphor for pushing your friends to their limit with your behaviour. I really enjoyed the ending of the song that featured a delightful breakdown with some great harmonious lines of "I'm Not Falling Asleep" that leads into one final chorus. Green Paper is another great song. Being from the UK it took me a little while to work out the meaning of the song but I think it's about not being able to be bought as a means of saying sorry. In the UK our money isn't green, hence my confusion. This is another punchy sounding song that makes the most of the band's ability to delivery fantastic gang vocals. All songs should feature gang vocals.

Contact is the name of the fifth track on Y'all. The song is more of a subtle and restrained song, almost like the band are having a bit of a rest midway through the album. This more restrained style really allows Jeff's bass and Drew's drums to shine through with the bass in particular standing out. Contact is about staring at your phone and longing for somebody you care about to message you. Something very relatable. The final section of the song was just great, there's a nice little breakdown and then some beautiful harmonies to finish the song off. Nothin's Ever Good Enough feels much heavier and darker than anything we've heard so far on Y'all. The upbeat pop punk sound has gone and has been replaced with a much more downbeat, straightforward punk song. Musically it's kind of similar to Hot Water Music but I do think the whole song could have done with a bigger sound to really drive home the downbeat nature of the track. Following Nothin's Ever Good Enough is Red Light. This is another song I really enjoyed and is one I can definitely imagine being superb live. It's about not doing what you're told and going full steam ahead with your plans even if it seems reckless. The mood is definitely upped again here. Bicycle is a fun little song about the love of your pushbike. It's all kind of silly but it's fun. I don't think we've had a good punk song about riding a bike since The Bouncing Souls stab at the topic with The BMX Song back in 1995.

Call The Police is song about the frustration with the police not seemingly being able to do their jobs properly. The band use some examples of shocking crimes and the nonchalant attitude of the force. It's an instant ear worm song. I really love the tempo of the track - it's bursting with an infectious energy and is difficult not to get wrapped up in. This infectious energy continues on the following song, Going Home Alone. Definitely moving into more of a pop punk territory with the fast paced sing-along track, the song is about the pitfalls of being that friend who always going home by themselves whilst their friends always manage to hook up and how lonely this makes you feel. It's a topic that isn't often spoken about in song but is another that I feel could be hugely relatable. The penultimate song on Y'all is named Taco Meat. Taco Meat is a bit of a silly song but it's also about people liking different things and that being completely okay. That's pretty much all there is to say about Taco Meat. Y'all is completed with the song Whadda Ya Say. I really felt like this song had a lot of pressure on it to finish a good album off on a big high. Well Whadda Ya Say certainly delivers. It is one of the catchiest songs on the record and will have you screaming the chorus at the top of your lungs. The track is about looking at your life and proudly questioning your decisions and perhaps realising it's time to make a positive change. I do enjoy it when an album finishes on a positive.

UnderTipper were another random Bandcamp discovery for me and proved again to be just an awesome find. If you enjoy gruff, melodic, sing-a-long pop punk that is inspiring, relatable and at times a bit on the silly side then you need to give UnderTipper a chance. I wanted to make a funny joke about how that's my OverTip but that's a truly terrible joke… I'm very sorry.

Stream and download Y'all here:

Like UnderTipper here:

This review was written by Colin Clark.

Tuesday, 14 November 2017

Album Review: The Run Up by The Run Up

For my money Bristol five piece punk rockers The Run Up are one of the UK's best up and coming bands. Earlier this year they released an excellent single named Sink Or Swallow / North. Imagine my excitement when I received an email offering the chance for a press copy of The Run Up's debut LP for review. It was high! The self titled LP is also being released on the band's brand new record label Real Ghost Records as well as Get Party Records in the USA.

The album starts off with the song WKND. I love the opening lyrics of the song - "We're Back, And It Feels As Good As It Ever Has." Just a perfect lyrics to begin a new release. For those who haven't had the pleasure of hearing The Run Up yet they play a great style of melodic punk rock similar in sound to Iron Chic, Red City Radio and Hot Water Music. It's passionate and will get you singing along, what more could you want? WKND gets the album off to a very strong start. Following this excellent opening track is the equally great Busted. Beginning with some sublime guitar work before lead vocalist Larry comes in and the song just explodes with energy. As the song goes on you can feel the energy building throughout, all the members of The Run Up do an fantastic job building this song up and making it hard for you not to want to be involved. What a great song Line 'Em Up Is! Starting off fast, the track hits you immediately before transitioning into a slower melodic section that will again get you singing along. The breakdown is ace, with Larry being joined by the rest of the band for some exquisite gang vocals. Gang vocals are always the best.

The fourth song on the album is Shark. Shark is one of those great songs where the vocals and guitars seem to go off on their own melodic paths during the verse and meet up again for the chorus. This technique somehow gives an even bigger emphasis on the chorus. More Colours brings us to the halfway point of the album. The beginning of More Colours is very interesting. It kind of feels like the track starts halfway through the song, like you've somehow skipped a big portion of the song. I don't think I've ever felt like that about a song before so I'm not quite sure how I really feel about it. It's certainly unique structuring. Following this song is Learning Loss, the song that stood out to me the most on my first listen through of the album. It starts off with some great layered guitar work from Nick and Charlie accompanying some thumping drums from Harry that just give the impression that when the vocals come in this is going to be great. And do you know what, it really is. This song does have just a little bit of Iron Chic about it but that is something that I'm always okay with. Learning Loss is an emotional song about struggling to cope with losing loved ones and working out how to grieve. The breakdown that slowly builds up to that final chorus is blinding. Potentially The Run Up's best song yet.

Hurting So Much It Laughs is the album's longest track and therefore has that feeling of epicness surrounding it. The highlights of the song start around the midpoint of the track with an extended breakdown that leads into another huge chorus. The shift in melody is superb and the music that backs Larry's vocals just drives the song on to its big conclusion. The "whoa-ohs" that kick off Before feel absolutely perfect for this genre of punk rock. I hadn't thought about the album missing any "whoa-ohs" until this moment and now they've arrived they weirdly feel very welcome. I can already imagine this song being played live and having some extended "whoa-ohs" with the crowd. What an atmosphere this would create. The penultimate song Terrance starts with more of a skate punk sound, this was a nice change of pace. It feels like one of the hardest hitting tracks on the album, as if The Run Up are angry. The Run Up have managed to switch up their sound a little bit whilst still remaining very much like The Run Up. Terrance is a song about the strong bonds of friendship. Finally we have Sociopath's Salute. Wow, I loved the opening guitar on this song. It's poppier than the previous songs and feels really uplifting. Sociopath's Salute is a song about chasing your dreams no matter how absurd they might seem. I love the line "Don't Quit Your Daydream." That's a tattoo worthy lyric and a mantra to live your life by.

The Run Up have delivered on the early promise of their EPs and singles and created an absolutely stunning debut album. Despite this genre of music being filled with similar sounding bands, I can see this album being one I come back to again and again. I feel like it's going to be one I forever find new little bits that I love with every listen. If you don't know who The Run Up are yet, I feel like this is your chance to say I knew them when they just started before they become one of the most popular bands in the UK punk scene.

Like The Run Up here:

This review was written by Colin Clark.

Monday, 13 November 2017

Album Review: No Offence Meant, Plenty Taken by Melisandre's Beaver

Do you ever want to listen to a band purely because of the band's name? Sometimes I do. I did when I had an email asking to review Dover based band Melisandre's Beaver's debut EP No Offence Meant, Plenty Taken. I love Game Of Thrones and I'm fond of furry woodland creatures. Though I wasn't aware that Melisandre had her own pet creature, maybe it's at her home in Asshai. Anyway, let's see if No Offence Meant, Plenty Taken is some good stuff.

The opening song on the four track EP is titled Out Of Time. Out Of Time started out much slower than I anticipated, it is infact more of a 90s indie punk song rather than a full on punk rock assault. I particularly enjoyed the chorus of the song and its brilliant melody. Out Of Time is about feeling stuck where you are in your life and only having one more chance to make a change. The second song on the EP is named That Girl and has a sound that is much more up my street. The tempo is upped for this melodic pop punk number. It's a punchy number lead by a simple, pounding drum beat throughout with a vocal delivery that feels like every line finishes with an exclamation point. I love this no thrills, straight to the point punk rock. That Girl looks at topic of falling for somebody that you know will hurt you eventually. We've sadly all been there! Up next is a song named Get Gary Out. It starts out with a recorded phone call where band members talk about the song title sounding too much like blink-182 so they change the name to Get Gary Out. Here we have another melodic pop punk song that will get itself lodged in your head, it's so damn catchy. It's kind of a random song and I'm really not sure what it's about. I kind of wonder if this was Melisandre's Beaver's plan when they wrote the song when they include the lyrics "You've Clocked He's Not A Person, But Now You're Not Too Sure, A Tat, A Dick, A Fist? Or Maybe Even More?" I have no idea what's going on but I enjoyed the song anyway. The EP's closing song is the one that stuck in my head the most on my first listen. Never Be That Cool is a mid-tempo song with a chorus that catches the ear immediately. It's a song about feeling as if you'll never make it to the level of your heroes. It has some really relatable lyrics about watching some of your favourites on the TV after school and wanting to emulate their success some day. Despite the gloomy nature of the song I actually got quite an upbeat feel from it and it had me smiling and nodding my head throughout. I loved the vocals on the track as well, they suit the song perfectly.

Stream and download No Offence Meant, Plenty Taken here:

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This review was written by Colin Clark

Friday, 10 November 2017

Top Tens: Dani from Faintest Idea's Top Ten Books That Inspired His Lyrics

Just wanted to say a few things before the list. Firstly while I’m listing these books as ones that have influenced me, and in turn Faintest Idea lyrics, it doesn’t mean I agree wholly with all these peoples positions, that would be really weird. I just think they have interesting things to say and are worth reading. Secondly if you’ve read our lyrics it’s fairly obvious that there’s some strong themes of Anarchism in them (Mutual Aid is obviously named after the Kropotkin classic). I wanted to write a list of books people may actually be interested in reading and not just list a load of century’s old Anarchist texts. Although you should definitely read Mutual Aid.

In no particular order -

Inventing the future (Post Capitalism and a World without Work) - Nick Srnicek and Alex Williams
This book’s kind of split into 2 sections. The first is a critique of what the authors call ‘Folk Politics’ with the basic tenet being that while the Left has become quite good at organising at the local level it’s lacking any big grand vision that could seriously challenge global capital. The second section is a lot more to do with emerging technologies and the upset they could potentially cause in the labour market. A fair bit of talk on Universal Basic Income and other ideas of a post work world.

Good Cop, Bad War – Neil Woods
Neil Woods was one of the most experienced undercover coppers in the UK’s drug war. Realising that after years and years of work the number of users wasn’t going down, the amount of drugs on the streets wasn’t going down and all that was happening were that the suppliers were getting both richer and more and more violent. He resigned and joined an international group called LEAP (Law Enforcement Against Prohibition), made up of figures currently or previously in Law Enforcement who want the decriminalisation and regulation of all drugs using science based methods to ultimately end dependency and cripple organise criminal gangs.

17 Contradictions And The End Of Capitalism – David Harvey
David Harvey’s one of my favourite academics. He writes from a Marxist perspective but using accessible language so the ideas are actually useful to people outside of the academy. I highly recommend all his books but this one I think is a good introduction to his work. He also posts free lectures up to youtube if you ever wanted to read your way through Marx’s Capital chapter by chapter. Coz fuck trying to get through that shit yourself.

The Beauty Myth – Naomi Woolf
I spent the first part of my life being raised by just my mum and growing up through school my close friendship group was fairly mixed gendered but this was the first book that really hit home to me that women have to face certain things that men don’t. It would appear Woolf has gone a bit off the deep end in recent years with a lot of conspiracy theories about plots to overthrow the government but her earlier work is well worth a read.

Revolutionary Suicide – Huey P Newton
Huey P’s autobiography. Talks through his life, his views, how he came to be who he was and the story of the Panthers. Both inspiring and harrowing, which is kind of what you expect when the US government is at war with you and is assassinating your friends and colleagues.

Blowback Triology – Chalmers Johnson
Chalmers Johnson was a CIA intelligence operative during the cold war. With the fall of the Soviet Union he thought the US would wind down more of its military and intelligence services as its main adversary had been defeated. When he saw that wasn’t happening he started to view the US as more of an empire. The first book ‘Blowback’ talks about the problems that can arise when your empire inserts itself into foreign affairs and how this can sow the seeds of resistance and cause ‘Blowback’. That was released in January 2001.

How Non-Violence Protects the State – Peter Gelderloos

Been a few years since I read this but it’s a really well laid out argument against pacifism. This will probably be controversial to some people but regardless of your views on it, this is a well written and reasoned argument against sticking rigidly to non-violence as a protest tactic.

Autobiography of a Recovering Skinhead – Frank Meeink
Frank Meeink is who Ed Nortons character is loosely based on in American History X. Talks about how he was first recruited into the Neo-Nazi movement, his role in it and his subsequent departure. Obviously pretty brutal and violent at times but his conversion to anti-racism I think has some interesting ideas about how to change people’s minds through argument, even people as far gone as Nazi’s.

Unfair: The New Science of Criminal Justice – Adam Benforado
This book is written by an American about the American justice system but a lot of the conclusions ring true across different countries systems. Talks a lot about neuro-science, psychology and different unconscious biases the human mind has that means even if the justice system didn’t have racial, gendered biases already it still wouldn’t work as a fair system for all. Also if you’re ever tried for a crime in the States just make sure you have lots of money and you’re basically untouchable.

Nothing is True, Everything is Possible – Peter Pomerantsev
This book is both interesting and terrifying. I read this in late 2015 before the complete shit show that is Donald Trump had won the presidency. The parallels between this book and what’s been going on in the States are pretty striking. Peter Pomerantsev’s parents escaped Russia and set up life in the UK. Peter went to work in Russia decades later working in television where he soon came to realise absolutely every piece of media in Russia has some kind of ties to the Kremlin. They will fund all sides and spread outright lies with impunity with the result being that no one ever has any idea what’s true, what’s not, what’s real or what’s just a distraction. This idea is lightly touched upon by Adam Curtis in ‘Hyper Normalisation’. Interesting to look at if you’re trying to understand current propaganda.

Anarchism and other essays – Emma Goldman
This is a bonus book you should read just because Emma Goldman’s The Don. I’ve bastardise quite a few of her quotes and managed to fit them into lyrics.

Faintest Idea just released their classic album The Voice Of Treason on vinyl. You can buy it and their latest album Increasing The Minimum Rage from TNSRecords here:

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