Friday, 15 December 2017

Column: The Home Of Punk In London


In my opinion the New Cross Inn pub in South London is fast becoming the home of punk rock in London. I made my first visit back in 2015 to see one of Random Hand's last shows. I really liked the venue but didn't make it back again until this year for a pop punk all-dayer headlined by greek band The Overjoyed and then made the journey back the following weekend for the newly created ska punk weekender named Level Up Festival. I then returned in October for another all-dayer with Fat Wreck Chords band The Bombpops headlining. During these events I well and truly fell head over heels in love with the New Cross Inn.

First off because in terms of room size, it's my kind of size. The older I get it seems that I enjoy finding smaller and smaller venues. I've long hated going to the big academies and now even somewhere the size of The Underworld is a little too big for my tastes. The New Cross Inn is just the right size. It's not so big that you feel lost in a sea of people but also not so small that it feels completely cramped on a busy night. The atmosphere is always super friendly and welcoming. It feels like entering Cheers, the pub - that place you go where everybody knows your name. (You'll probably only get that reference if you're old and cool.) I think part of the reason that the atmosphere is so good is because the New Cross Inn is somewhere for the most dedicated music fans to visit. Not being in central London, the pub is a little more out of the way for most people to visit. More casual fans might have a bit of a ‘can't be bothered’ attitude towards the extra bit of travelling. That's their loss however, because they will be missing out on some killer nights.

Now let's talk about the musical portion of a gig, you know the actual reason I assume people go to gigs. The stage is a nice size that'll fit even the biggest of ska punk acts on comfortably and it's quite low giving you that fantastic feeling of being on the same level as the band playing. That's a part of the important message that punk for portrays, we're all at the same level. The sound is always superb, it's always possible to hear each instrument perfectly and I've never had issues hearing the vocals of any band. At times I've had difficulty making out the lyrics from some bands but that's more because of the singers' vocal style rather than the sound. The team who do sound at the venue always do a fantastic job setting things up between sets, ensuring that things are running smoothly. This is even more important for a venue which is a little out of the way like New Cross, for people like myself who don't live in London so have to keep an eye on the time for the trains home. You don't want to have to leave halfway through the headliner because there have big delays throughout the gig.

Ticket prices are always rediculously cheap for their gigs. I've have spoken to Paul who books gigs at the New Cross Inn with Be Sharp Promotions and he's said that he always tries to keep things cheap for people so they can afford to come to the shows. Again this is very beneficial for people coming from out of London who are already paying for transport. For the bigger academy shows, a night out can cost almost £50 when you add up ticket prices and train fares. And if you include getting a drink or two, perhaps some food if you've come straight from work and, of course, some merch then you're looking at a very expensive night out! This isn't the case at New Cross Inn and I love this attitude. Music should be for everyone and not just those who can afford it.

2018 is already shaping up to be a huge year for punk rock at New Cross Inn. The list of shows already announced is crazy! Here's a list of what's already been announced. Click on each for all the event details. No doubt you'll see me at a few of them.

Dead Neck / Eat The Evidence / Triple Sundae / The Burnt Tapes / The Sour Taste - Saturday 6th January

Great Collapse - Monday 5th February

Discharge / Butcher Baby / Etc / BKS - Saturday 10th February

New Town Kings / The Pisdicables / Codename Colin - Friday 16th February

F.O.D / For I Am - Saturday 17th February

Ray Rocket / Sam Russo / Alex Wonk / Dan Goatham (Spoilers) / Triple Sundae (Acoustic) / Stew Gush / Wayfairer / Lucias Malcolm (Call Me Malcolm) / Dan Peters (RxR) / SKIV (Acoustic) / Mark Noble / C-Rage - Sunday 18th February

Resistance 77 / The Straps / Boots'N'All / Freedom Faction / The Tokyo Rankers / The Mistakes / The Crash Landings - March 3rd

Dug Stock 2 with Counterpunch / The Murderburgers / Fair Dos / Almeida / PMX / Captain Trips / The Burnt Tapes / Mug / On A Hiding To Nothing / Billy Liar / Tragical History Tour / The SLM - Easter weekend

The Peacocks - Saturday 14th April

Get Dead - Monday 23rd April

The Bennies - Wednesday 25th April

Bar Stool Preachers - Wednesday May 2nd

Polite Riot Festival with A Wilhelm Scream / Teenage Bottlerocket - June 22nd-24th

Level Up Festival with Random Hand / Lightyear - July 20th-22nd

This Is A Standoff - Thursday August 2nd

Thursday, 14 December 2017

Top Tens: Joe Sullivan from Joe Sullivan & The Happiness Werewolves' Top 10 Influential Records


Top 10 influential records list (in life order).

Prince Buster – FABulous Greatest Hits
I had a lot of exposure to 60s music through my dad while growing up, and while ska was something I quite liked, it wasn’t till I heard the 1998 re-release of ‘Whine and Grine’ that I felt like I really ‘owned’ a song. My dad used to tape the original versions of recently re-released songs off his records for me, things like ‘Boys of Summer’ by Don Henley. ‘Whine and Grine’ was one such song and I vividly remember watching Prince Buster singing it live on Top of the Pops. Going back to the original version years later there are some questionable lyrics, to say the least… ‘Whine and Grine’ features on the expanded CD version of ‘FABulous Greatest Hits’, which adds seminal Buster tunes such as ‘Madness’, ‘One Step Beyond’ and ‘Enjoy Yourself’ to the original package.

Sum 41 – All Killer, No Filler
In 2001 I was 14. I was disenfranchised and unmotivated at school, but with nowhere to focus my energy. I had a trumpet but wasn’t motivated to practise the dull concert pieces required for my Grade 5 in the instrument. I owned a guitar I couldn’t play, a Hondo Les Paul copy passed to me by my dad, who used to have it strung upside down to play left-handed. When I came into possession of it I don’t think it even had any strings. Music wasn’t a huge personal thing for me – I had a few CD compilations bought as Christmas presents, one album I had bought myself (‘Left of the Middle’ by Natalie Imbruglia - which is still ace, by the way) and a penchant for 60s ska and rocksteady. My friends were starting to get into rock music and had played me a band called Blink-182, who were fun enough. Then one night on the radio I head a song come in with the line “I don’t wanna waste my time, become another casualty of society, I’ll never fall in line, become another victim of this conformity”. This is me! I hate everything too! I clicked Record+Play on my tape deck and recorded the second half of the song, but had no idea who it was. For ages I carried that cassette around playing the second half of the song, labelled ‘I Don’t Wanna Waste My Time’ – Blink 182. No idea why I thought it was by them, it just sounded roughly like them. I found out it was Sum 41 eventually and grabbed ‘All Killer No Filler’ as soon as it came out. I joined my first band, learnt rudimentary guitar chords, and bought the official tab book of the album so I could teach myself the songs. ‘Fat Lip’ changed my life.

The Clash – London Calling
The Clash are the biggest influence on me musically and personally – from their sound to their experimentation, their intensity to their politics. Oddly, I’ve always been attracted to later-period Clash more than the earlier punkier stuff (save ‘Safe European Home’). Punk was the first genre that woke me up to be in a band, but it wasn’t my first love (ska and rocksteady) and wasn’t the music I grew up surrounded by (60s soul and surf guitar instrumentals). I first got ‘London Calling’ on CD in 2002 and it is still my favourite album – and what I consider as The Clash’s greatest achievement. It imprinted on me an appreciation of moulding together different sounds, genres, influences and moods.

Metallica – Master Of Puppets
‘Master of Puppets’ was really influential on my guitar playing. Jimi Hendrix is the pinnacle of guitar playing for me, but his wildly improvisational style was at slight odds with my preference for playing rhythm guitar and my appreciation of economical, precise technique. My earliest memorable exposure to guitar playing was through my dad’s love of The Shadows, and Hank Marvin’s laser-focussed precision on his lead breaks, and his understanding of how to sync his solos with the turns and changes in the rhythm section. This is something I found to be replicated in Hetfield and Hammett’s twin guitar attack – except this time with added fury. The chugging, individually downstroked and muted rhythm guitar parts are the stars here – the two intro riffs of the title track, the lumbering majesty of ‘Leper Messiah’ – and rather than exhibit flashy wankfests in the vein of Vai or Satriani, Kirk Hammett’s leads weave and bounce along in their wake, complementing the tumble and squall of Hetfield’s thundering riffs on the likes of ‘Battery’ and ‘Orion’.

Against Me! – Reinventing Axl Rose
I got into Against Me! at university in 2005, when I formed a band with some other new students and our singer Andy suggested covering ‘Pints of Guinness Make You Strong’. Listening to the record it didn’t click with me initially – I preferred the slightly less scrappy sound of their most recently released album, ‘Searching For A Former Clarity’. Over time I grew to love the scrappiness. It felt ramshackle, it felt alive, it felt REAL. The impassioned screaming of Laura Jane Grace about the music scene in ‘We Laugh At Danger’ and ‘Reinventing Axl Rose’ was a mission statement for my future musical endeavours. Even more important was the use of an acoustic guitar as a weapon of fury. To me, acoustic guitars were the calling card of the indie pop whiner. Against Me! claimed them back and used them to play shows in laundromats.

King Tubby – Declaration Of Dub
My own songwriting tends to be pretty wordy. Dub Reggae is the antithesis of this; emphasising the feel of a song, creating a thick, heady atmosphere, jarring the listener by dropping in samples, sound effects and snatches of guitar and vocals. It is a wonderful deconstruction of the traditional song format, something especially highlighted on ‘Declaration of Dub’ through the magnificent title track. Here, King Tubby strips back the Abyssinian’s ‘Declaration of Rights’ to its stark underbelly of bass and drums, utilizing reverb and delay to unsettle your stomach. The economy of dub music has always chimed with me as a great innovation. In a Jamaican music market dominated by throwaway singles, studio time was at a premium while new cuts were demanded for the dancehall sometimes daily. Taking one riddim (rhythm track) and versioning it through deejay, dub, instrumental and various vocal tracks simply cut down the workload. The creativity displayed by King Tubby has long influenced my own choices in recording and production of recordings for my various bands, those old dub traits of riffs dropping in and out on a whim and a pervading layer of reverb, remaining ever-present.

Bomb The Music Industry! – Goodbye Cool World
Bomb The Music Industry! were a complete revelation to me. I was sat on a beach in Bournemouth with one headphone in, talking to a girlfriend while this record started, only half listening. I finished talking and stuck the other ear in, just in time for the start of ‘Even Winning Feels Bad’. I had downloaded the record after a guy on an Against Me! community board had a label that was printing a super nice UK exclusive ‘mint swirl’ variant of the LP. I liked the look of it enough to listen to this band I’d never heard of, hoping they would be good enough to justify a purchase. “There’s a song tonight that I don’t wanna sing…”. It’s a scratchy, shouty guy with an acoustic guitar. Yeah, sounds about right. Then descending twin harmony guitars, panned to one ear each, cuts my head in half before lurching into the bounciest synth riff ever, smashing into my brain. BTMI! rightly get lauded for their incredible DIY ethic and attitude and it had a huge influence on me – I could make records in my bedroom, I could put out my music online for free – and it would never have happened if this record was not so deliriously, winnably brilliant.

Billy Bragg – The Internationale
Billy Bragg got me over (some) of my crippling confidence issues. Getting on stage with a band is fine, because you are a mini-army and your mates have your back if things are going south. You have people to moan about bad gigs with. After the first incarnation of my former band Bandit The Panther broke up, I went into hibernation. I was on the dole, living at my parents while my then girlfriend went to live in Ireland for a bit and I ended up spending a lot of time at home writing and recording. Bomb the Music Industry! had shown me that I could record and release music on my own. My head wasn’t happy with prospect of playing alone though. I had been into Billy Bragg for a while and liked a lot of his lyricism and style. However, it was watching the bonus DVD that came with the 2006 re-release of ‘The Internationale’, showing Bragg in 1988 playing his style of fast, lyrically intricate folk-punk to a crowd in the old Soviet Union that kicked me into gear. People were reacting to one guy playing solo – but it was someone playing upbeat, angry intense music, rather than the usual insipid acoustic dross you’d usually find down the local. Playing solo has taught me so much about performing and connecting with a crowd, when you don’t have other people onstage with you to rely on.

Sophie Porter – Self Titled EP
Norwich’s Sophie Porter only released one solo EP in 2012, before joining a few other bands, notably Ducking Punches. The EP is great. Sophie’s songwriting and voice covers a lot of emotional ground fantastically – check out ‘Staples’ for something especially sad, angry and raw. This EP is notable for me for two reasons. First, it nicely sums up the UK acoustic punk scene around 2011–2014, full of fantastic troubadours playing shows in kitchens, shouting incisive socio-political lyrics over furious acoustic strumming. It’s a scene I loved being a part of and Sophie Porter’s EP is one of the first records that springs to mind from that period (notable nods to ‘Anchors Up’ by Emma Hallows, ‘Damsel’ by Damsel, ‘Just Another Plea For A Better Tomorrow’ by Ash Victim and ‘From The First Chord’ by Lets Go Nowhere). However, Sophie gets the nod as it was released by Aaahh!!! Real Records. It was the first time I was aware of the label, meeting head man Ian a little later. Having a record out on an indie label was always a big goal for me and so far Aaah!!! Real have made me a happy guy by releasing several Bandit The Panther records, as well as my 2016 EP ‘Osbourne Heights’.

Bruce Springsteen – Tunnel Of Love
Displaying emotion doesn’t come naturally to me, aside from a tendency to wallow in self-loathing. I find positivity a difficult thing to approach – after hearing a demo of ‘I’m Not Alright, Not Really’, for what became the Osbourne Heights EP, my mum looked at me and said ‘this is really sad’. I managed to bum out my own mum by writing songs! ‘Tunnel of Love’ encouraged me to turn the light on myself a bit more and to explore more romantic and personal themes. Bruce Springsteen writes about the breakup of his marriage, what it means to question yourself and be vulnerable. Songs like ‘When You’re Alone’ and ‘Walk Like A Man’ speak to me, acknowledging that other people have same fears and worries I do and noting that sometimes you just have to be honest about what’s going on in your head.

Stream and download Joe Sullivan & The Happiness Werewolves music here: http://music.real-records.co.uk/album/osborne-heights

Like Joe Sullivan & The Happiness Werewolves here: https://www.facebook.com/joesullivanmusic/

Wednesday, 13 December 2017

Album Review: 1-2-3-4 Songs by The Hallingtons


My favourite Norwegian pop punks The Hallingtons returned in October with a brand new EP. Titled 1-2-3-4 Songs and released on Monster Zero, it promised some more top notch Ramones inspired pop punk gems. Looking over the tracklisting on the EP I'm quick to assume that this is going to be a pop punk whirlwind with all four songs on the release coming in at less than two minutes in length. This should be fun!


1-2-3-4 Songs begins with Annie T. I'm actually kind of reminded of The Undertones song Here Comes The Summer here, which is no bad thing. It's a simple and light hearted song that will bring a smile to your face whilst you bop along to the infectious beat. It's about having a big crush on the girl on the TV. Up next is Shithouse. Where Annie T was more of a softer, cheerier track, Shithouse definitely falls into the punk side of the pop punk sound. Musically it's very fast and the vocals are more aggressive. Despite only being one minute and seventeen seconds long it packs one hell of a punch, no second is wasted. As with all the best pop punk songs, there are plenty of "whoa-oh" moments for the listener to gleefully shout along too. The Hallingtons swap around the pop punk sound again on the penultimate song Library Girl. It falls excellently into that style that mixes The Ramones and The Beach Boys that The Queers played so well. Library Girl is a song about having a crush for the girl in the library and visiting just to see her. Doing things that you normally wouldn't just for the chance to see that person you've fallen hard for is something I'm sure we can all relate to. The last track on 1-2-3-4 Songs is titled She's So Cool. This is my favourite song on the EP, it mixes fast pop punk with sugary sweet vocals to stunning effect. It's incredibly catchy and you'll be singing the chorus of the song for days. It's another song about a girl and thinking that she's great despite any flaws she might have. Lyrically it's kind of silly but it's just a crazy amount of fun that you'll be, again, smiling from start to finish.

1-2-3-4 is short and sweet and utterly fantastic. I don't really have much more to say than that. If you're a fan of The Ramones, Teenage Bottlerocket, Masked Intruder, The Queers or any other pop punk of that ilk you should be checking out The Hallingtons.

Stream and download 1-2-3-4 Songs here: https://thehallingtons.bandcamp.com/

Like The Hallingtons here: https://www.facebook.com/hallingtons/

This review was written by Colin Clark.

Tuesday, 12 December 2017

Album Review: Fortitude by Arms and Hearts (by Richard Mair)


Named after a fan favourite Hold Steady B-Side it's no surprise that singer-song writer Steve Millar has delivered a delightful duo of vocal led gems that evoke the feeling of the Springsteen influenced bar band, The Gaslight Anthem or Chuck Ragan. Whereas these aforementioned acts may be the epitome of a nostalgic American dream, Steve produces songs that conjure the feeling of the rainy northern city of Manchester.


Lead track "Fortitude" is perhaps the most upbeat of the two musically with beautifully descriptive lyrics. It's a superb angst driven song where Steve's lyrics are impassioned and yearn to be sung along with, with plenty of fist in the air moments driven by the echo-ey drum beats.

Second track "Dagger Eyes" has a real Chuck Ragan tinge to it, particularly how it's paced and its vulnerability - it sounds like a song that could have been included on the legendary "Feast or Famine". It's very much stripped down in the first half with the vocal delivery providing most of the tone and melody. It feels isolated like a cold winters walk through dense woods during a crisp sunset; it's a truly remarkable feat to produce such feelings through song!

Finally the production of both songs is remarkable; every tiny detail is so vivid. Even more so the sheer epic feeling created by the drumming is very evocative of the production levels of Simon & Garfunkel's seminal "Bridge Over Troubled Water" album. Again this level of quality helps set Arms and Hearts above many contemporaries.

If you are looking for something to warm the heart in cold winter months this is a good shout and, even though it's only two tracks, it's one you'll repeat over and over again. Existing fans will no doubt lap this up, however if you are a fan of the likes of Brian Fallon, Frank Turner and Chuck Ragan this is one you have to check out!

Stream and download Fortitude here: https://realghostrecords.bandcamp.com/album/fortitude

Like Arms and Hearts here: https://www.facebook.com/ArmsandHearts/

This review was written by Richard Mair.

Monday, 11 December 2017

Album Review: Tuning Out by Wicked Bears


Wicked Bears are a three piece pop punk band from Salt Lake City, Utah. Featuring Casey Keele on vocals and bass, Nick Fleming on guitar and vocals and Ken Vallejos on drums and vocals, Wicked Bears recently released their debut full length album on Hidden Home Records. Titled Tuning Out, the ten song release promised to be a lot of fun.


Tuning Out begins with the song 2049. The track wastes no time in laying down some fast buzzsaw guitars, letting you know exactly what to expect from the band. Fast pop punk in a similar vein to Teeange Bottlerocket and Masked Intruder. 2049 takes a look at life in the future and still feeling like you want to escape from your life. What really attracted me to the song was the tempo and melody. It's fast paced and full of so much energy. The music goes along at a rapid pace whilst Keele's vocals deliver a fantastic melody. Following 2014 is the album's title track Tuning Out. Tuning Out follows a similar musical style to the opening song with the guitars and drums blasting us through the song, with Keele's vocals again laying down the melody. At the halfway mark there is a fantastic breakdown section in the song with the drums and a rumbling bass line shining through along with some great harmonies. Tuning Out is about modern entertainment and how it's brainwashing people. The third song is titled No Vacancy. To go along with the Wicked Bears pop punk sound there is a nice addition of some keys provided by Christian Lucy. This adds another interesting element to the Wicked Bears sound. The addition of some gang vocals in the chorus is also great, giving the song a bigger and more inclusive feel.

What a great track the fourth song Nickel Arcade is! It hooks you immediately with its fast paced opening with its simple technique of guitar and vocals. Straightaway Nickel Arcade is jam packed with an irresistible energy that's impossible not to get swept away in. The songwriting here is so smart. At first listen you just think that this is a song about hanging out with your mates but if you look deeper into the song it turns out it's actually a look at the current financial climate that the band don't necessarily agree with. Reebok Classics is up next and is a track where things are slowed down slightly. This is one of Wicked Bears more anthemic tracks with a chorus that especially needs to be sung along with. The drum and bass playing is again given a chance to shine on here with Vallejos' drumming in particular really standing out on the song. I think that the sixth song We Got Robbed is my favourite on Tuning Out. It's an interesting song in that it sounds very upbeat but it's actually a story about having their stuff stolen in Berkley. This is a song that just cries out for crowd participation with an incredibly catchy chorus and a delightful breakdown. This was lots of fun. The seventh song is named Cameron. Cameron falls into a more powerpop style of music. The keys are back on this song adding something to the sound that really helps Wicked Bears stand out. The song is about not understanding why someone loves death metal music but really wanting to.

Up next is 60 WPM. 60 WPM is about feeling stuck and being unhappy in your job and daydreaming about living another life. I like how the song slowly intensifies throughout its duration. It is only subtle but it works really well within the song. Wicked Bears do an amazing job of painting a picture in their songs. Their lyrics allow you to imagine what they're singing about. In my head I can kind of imagine a music video for this song. The penultimate song is titled Chattering Teeth. Somewhat surprisingly Chattering Teeth is an acoustic song with a tiny bit of keys for effect. There seems to be more emotion in Keele's voice here, though that may just be because the buzzsaw guitars aren't accompanying him on this song. It does make you realise what a great voice he has here though. Last up is Mega Powers. The full band are back here to finish Tuning Out with a big flourish. That is something that they certainly do. Mega Powers is a relentless pop punk track that never lowers its intensity. It feels like there is lot more emphasis on the music here with the drums in particular taking a real beating. I absolutely loved the final couple of lines of the song that go "Break The Fourth Wall For No Reason: 'Hello! We Hope You Like Our Show, And We Hope You Have A Good Weekend!'" It's just a really fun and quirky way to finish the album.

Wicked Bears have put out one of my favourite pop punk records of the year. There are a lot of bands in the pop punk scene and sometimes they can all sound a bit samey. Wicked Bears however have somehow found a way to sound fresh and exciting whilst not straying too far from what we all love about pop punk music. If Wicked Bears aren't currently on your radar I strongly suggest that you make the effort to put them on there. Dead in the middle, in the cross hairs. Seriously, don't sleep on this band. They're terrific.

Stream and download Tuning Out here: https://wickedbears.bandcamp.com/

Like Wicked Bears here: https://www.facebook.com/WickedBearsSLC/

This review was written by Colin Clark.

Friday, 8 December 2017

Gig Review: Jaya The Cat at The Camden Underworld 5/12/17


Fresh from recently releasing one of the best albums of the year in A Good Day For The Damned, reggae rockers Jaya The Cat were embarking on a run of the shows in the UK. Jaya The Cat are one of my favourite bands to see live and it has been ages since I've seen them, as they clashed with a King Prawn show last year, so this gig at The Underworld in Camden was a must.

Only one band was supporting Jaya The Cat tonight, the always fantastic Captain Accident and The Disasters from Wales. Because there was just the one support act Emma and I had some time to kill when we got to The Underworld so we checked out the Jaya The Cat merch table. Jaya The Cat seemingly have more t-shirt designs than most shops! I finally got my hands on a vinyl copy of The New International Sound Of Hedonism, my favourite Jaya The Cat album and Emma got herself a new t-shirt featuring a cat and a skull - two of her favourite things. The Jaya The Cat merch lady was one of the friendliest people I've spoken to at a merch table, taking the time to have a brief chat about our recent visit to Berlin. For context, we were talking about Berlin as I mentioned I'd already picked up A Good Day For The Damned at Core Tex Records in Berlin. Anyway, enough with the shopping experience - on with the show!

We first saw Captain Accident and The Disasters back in July at the excellent Level Up Festival at the New Cross Inn and were blown away by the incredible talent on the stage. Again, on a cramped looking Underworld stage, the five piece absolutely killed it. Mixing traditional ska and reggae with a rock edge they were perfect for getting the crowd warmed up. When a band is this good perhaps you only need one support act? The crowd at the Underworld, which already pretty large, took Captain Accident and The Disasters into their hearts and wasted no time in having a dance along with the band. Personally I do prefer the more uptempo ska songs that the band play - they really get my feet going - but I can't help but be mesmerised by the reggae songs as well. Captain Accident and The Disasters are a great band.


Now it was time for Jaya The Cat and by now the Underworld was full. Easily the biggest crowd that I've ever seen for the band, who originally formed in Boston and are now based in Amsterdam. It has been four long years between last album, The New International Sound Of Hedonism, and new banger A Good Day For The Damned and there was plenty of excitement in the building to see those new songs played live. Jaya The Cat wasted no time in playing those new songs, starting their set with new album opener Wine Stained Futon before launching into traditional opener Rebel Sound. From the outset the crowd was moving and there were even some early crowd surfers. It's always great to hear the old favourites such as Twist The Cap, Hello Hangover, Closing Time, Thank You Reggae, Final Solution, Fake Carreras and Here Come The Drums but the real highlights of the set were actually the new songs. Sometimes new material takes some time to get the crowd interested but not on this night. It says something about just how good A Good Day For The Damned is that the songs seemed to get the biggest reactions (save for Fake Carreras which always gets the best reactions). Along with Wine Stained Futon, they played A Rough Guide To The Future, Huddersfield Rain, Amsterdam and Sweet Eurotrash, all of which fit perfectly into the live set. I'm always amazed by the slickness of Jaya The Cat on stage - for a band that have a big reputation for enjoying a heavy drink, they always put on one hell of a show. And every time they get better and better. This was without a doubt the best I've seen them and had me smiling from ear to ear the entire time.


Despite only being two bands on the bill we had a great night. Reggae on a cold December's evening in a dark basement in Camden is a great way to spend a Tuesday. Captain Accident and The Disasters were great but Jaya The Cat put on a masterclass in being one of the best bands around.

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

Thursday, 7 December 2017

Top Tens: Jacopo from Ships Down's Top Ten Punk Rock Influences


​Hi Colin and hello everyone! Thank you so much for asking me to write this piece! I am a big fan of your blog's Top Tens series, especially the Top Ten Influences. I read them all with great interest, mostly because they give an unprecedented insight into what characterises a given band's sound - a 'behind the scenes' of a band's creative process, if you will - but also because they're a precious source of new bands or artists to listen to. Secretly, I've always wanted to write my own Top Ten Punk Rock Influences list; mind you, not because I think my choices will be particularly interesting! But because I kinda just wanted an excuse to look back at the music I've contributed writing and ask myself, which bands do I owe a tribute to? Who were the artists that really, deeply struck a chord in me and that I, consciously or not, was borrowing from when I wrote anything for my band? That, and frankly it's pretty fucking cool just be asked!

Without further ado, then, here are my Top Ten Punk Rock Influences.

Actually, one further ado: the following bands do not necessarily represent my 10 favourite bands or even punk rock acts (although they're all pretty great bands imho); nor, I should add, are these necessarily the other members of Ships Down's punk rock influences - we all actually come from rather different backgrounds and I wouldn't be surprised if we came up with 5 almost completely different lists.

Ok, here we go - THREE, TWO, ONE, GO!

First there was Fat Wreck Chords

Judging by the number of NOFX hoodies and t shirts that I see whenever I go to a gig, it’s not hard for me to believe that Fat Wreck bands have influenced most of us who dig punk rock nowadays. NOFX are possibly my favourite band of all time, however I don’t think I’ve ever been greatly influenced by NOFX in my songwriting. However, there are two bands with a signature Fat Wreck sound that definitely appear in my mind when I’m writing a song: No Use For A Name, and Strung Out

No Use For A Name

OK, maybe No Use For A Name are my favourite band ever…how can you really tell?! NUFAN, led by legendary – and gone-too-soon – Tony Sly, had a unique style in their songs, which combined linear simplicity with impact and heart, which characterised them all along their career spanning the good part of two decades. The ability to produce bangers never went away, despite the marked evolution in their sound that they went through. Favourite song (virtually impossible task that I’ve assigned myself): Slowly Fading Fast.

Strung Out

Just like NUFAN, Strung Out were one of the first bands that Fat Wreck put out since launching as a label in the early 1990s. Despite having been introduced to some of their most famous songs by my friend Dario more than 10 years ago, only relatively recently I converted to the cult of this Californian band. Maybe surprisingly, it was their newer albums that made me fall in love with them, and that kickstarted a reverse process of discovery of their discography. It’s the combination of biting vocals and sounds, fast drums, technicality and intricate melodies that does it for me; I wish I could write half as well as they do. Favourite song: Too Close To See.

Listen, we all flirted with emo at some point...

I’ve never considered myself an emo kid, but I did play in an emo band for a couple of years and it was what introduced me to a lot of the bands I still listen to, as well as to heavier sounds and more passionate lyrics. I don’t disavow that period of my life at all, and actually I think emo has and still does influence in my songwriting. Below are two bands which can be defined, broadly speaking, as emo, and that I still listen to on a regular basis.

Silverstein

A more appropriate definition of Silverstein might be post-hardcore, but in reality Silverstein have consistently made wide-ranging music reaching to different styles even within each individual record. Many of their songs are catchy as hell, but they’ve also never shied away from heavy breakdowns and faster, heavier tempos when necessary. Their guitar lines are often very creative and they introduced me to different ways of playing that I hadn’t considered before. Favourite song: Replace You.

Atreyu

I’m not going to apologise for this: Atreyu fucking rock. I know metalcore gets a bad rep, but honestly these guys knew how to write a banger! Great riffs, sick breakdowns, catchy choruses, and some swanky solo here and there. And how often do you see a drummer sing that well? Favourite song: Our Sick Story (Thus Far).

A new school of punk rock

I was still a largely incompetent guitar player when I started joined a melodic hardcore band at the age of 17; a newbie at the time, with limited access to a decent internet connection, I had no idea that something was changing in the trademark Fat Wreck™ sound that I had spent thousand of hours trying to replicate in my room. Indeed, my new friends introduced me to what among us we called “new-school melodic hardcore”, which, drawing inspiration from other genres and in particular East-Coast HC, was coming up with a fresher, more innovative sound. Little did I know at the time how influential some of these bands became for me.

Ignite

It is not unusual to see Ignite’s name pop up in an all-hardcore festival or even standalone gig. In fact, I would argue that if you took out Zoli’s voice – but why on earth would you want to do that? – it wouldn’t be hard to imagine the same rhythm section accompany a New-York-HC-style vocalist à-la Freddie Madball. Through a combination of sound and great riffs, Ignite manage to marry perfectly simplicity and impact, giving Zoli the space he needs to express his amazing skills. Favourite song: Three Years.

No Trigger

My friends know that recently I haven’t been able to shut up about No Trigger. The thing is, they are one of my favourite bands, and it seemed as if they were done, but instead they came back with a new EP and a tour, and I got to see them for the first time in August with Colin. And it was insane. The other thing is, they write simple songs that make you want to sing every syllable of, and combine simple punk rock tempos with more epic and unusual rhythms and chord progressions you don’t expect. Criminally underrated. Favourite song: My Woods.

Comeback Kid

Technically more under the hardcore umbrella than the punk rock umbrella, Comeback Kid have nonetheless always drawn audiences from our scene, and unsurprisingly so. Right after Wake The Dead came out in 2005, they became the leaders of a more melodic branch of hardcore punk, so that so that everywhere you turned your head there were bands trying to replicate their sound. And you know what: I don’t blame them. Favourite song: Wake The Dead.

Sicilian Punk Rock

I know it gets thrown about all the time in punk rock, but if there’s one thing any decent punk rock fan must do, is to support their local scene. I have always considered myself extremely lucky in that I found an extremely receptive and welcoming UK punk rock scene which adopted me the moment I moved here. The bands I’ve had the privilege to see, and sometimes even share the stage with, have blown me away, and I’m glad to be able to see with my own eyes a small but uplifting resurgence of this genre from a privileged view. And one of the best things that happen when you listen to your mates’ bands and go to their gigs is that you start influencing each other, and like that the scene becomes more than the sum of the bands that compose it.

Undoubtedly, the sounds of the many bands that composed the scene in Palermo, where I grew up, still influence the way I write songs. This is why, even though I’m somewhat cheating here, I’ve decided to use this space to honour the many bands that I share a past with, and why not, recommend them all to British readers who might find their next favourite band, so go check them out! Values Intact (New School HC) / Magilla Gorilla (Ska-Core) / A Last Failure (Emo) / Fingerbang (Skatepunk) / Almost Monkey (Ska-core); The Economist (Power Pop); Again I Hear (Skatepunk); Whales' Island (Skatepunk)

Faster, harder!

A Wilhelm Scream

Ok so another band I wasn’t able to shut up about recently are A Wilhelm Scream. I still remember the moment I listened to one of their most famous songs, The Horse, thinking: “what the hell, I didn’t know that you could write songs like that and still be considered punk rock!”. I mean, what the hell, I thought punk rock was for people who were to lazy to learn how to play their instruments properly! AWS however don’t just bring technicality to their music, their songs are catchy as hell, and they never sound dull. It’s no surprise that there is now a whole current of skatepunk that tries to replicate their sound, and that’s just great. Favourite song: We Built This City! (On Debts And Booze).

Darko

I don’t think anyone from Darko has ever made a “top 10 punk rock influences" list for this blog, but I wouldn’t be surprised if A Wilhelm Scream showed up in their list too. So why am I listing both in here? Well, first of all, Darko have a pretty distinct sound in my view, not at all the same as AWS’s – although clearly inspired by it. In fact, Darko’s gloomier sound is more naturally in tone with my own tastes. But on top of that, Darko have been an enormous source of inspiration in the last couple of years for me, for a reason that goes a little beyond the music itself. Darko were the first band I saw that made me realise that writing complex, ambitious, awesome and touching music is not only possible, is at the reach of any guitarist’s fingers. More than any other band in my life before, Darko made me want to try and be a better guitarist, and a better songwriter, as what I was seeing at that gig was not some intangible band from a remote place, it was a bunch of guys that achieved that quality level starting from where I’m starting too. So what excuse do I have? Favourite song: Timepieces & Lock Shaped Hearts.

Jack plays guitar for Ships Down. Check out their music here and like the band on Facebook here.

Wednesday, 6 December 2017

Album Review: You Can't Stay Here by Iron Chic (by Richard Mair)


Any announcement of new material by Long Island DIY punk legends Iron Chic was likely to be greeted by two things; great excitement and great trepidation. Whilst the band have consistently over delivered it’s only added to increase expectations. Coupled with the departure and subsequent passing of founding guitarist Rob McAllister, it's fair to say the process of getting a new record out has not been straight forward... however if one band can deal with such turmoil it's one whose only thing bigger than their choruses is their hearts. In typical fashion they have poured everything into "You Can’t Stay Here", which exorcises many demons and signals a triumphant return in their typical explosive fashion!


Everything you would expect to hear from Iron Chic is present; the album is loaded with gang vocals, 8-bit sound effects, pop culture references and scientific theory song-titles. In fact despite the 4 years since "The Constant One", Iron Chic have firmly retained the formula that has served them so well previously. The changes more subtle than full-on revolution; tweaks to the sound as opposed to any major departures. Whilst in some places that may seem like a bad thing, Iron Chic 2017 sounding like Iron Chic 2008 is certainly not.

The opening salvo of “A Headache with Pictures” and “My Best Friend (is a Nihilist)” set the tone for the album perfectly. Sure it’s familiar territory for anyone with a passing interest in the band; lots of “Whoa-Whoa’s”; static background noise and massive gang-vocal choruses. But there is also a more subdued, reflective tone to Jason Lubrano’s lyrics; at times the feelings of defeat and helplessness permeate through the upbeat music to lay bare the emotion of the band; it’s almost as if the music is a mask they hide their angst behind. Certainly this creates a feeling that it’s a more personal collection than some of their previous efforts and given the challenges faced over recent years it’s no surprise to see it rears its head in such a way.

The title track “You Can’t Stay Here” closes the opening quarter with a claustrophobic dense emotional song driven by a repeated refrain of the title over and over. There is a guilt and hopelessness around the song. It feels isolated and dark compared too many of the other songs on the album. In fact this approach of “up-beat” songs closed by a more reflective one provides much of the structure of the album with “Golgotha” and “Ruinous Calamity”, providing the other markers with which the album is punctuated. This approach helps create an emotional flow to the album and feels deliberate; almost as if it’s a representation of the cycles of grief and emotional turmoil the band have faced over recent times. What aids this in succeeding is the quality of these slower songs, think “Bustin’ Makes Me Feel Good” or “A Serious House...”. The inclusion of three such songs is probably the best reflection of the subtle development they have undertaken. It helps with the narrative and as a result creates a more nuanced balance to the album as opposed it feeling very one paced and one dimensional. Of the three, “Golgotha” is probably the strongest – starting very subtlety, almost lullaby-esque before building defiantly to a rousing, layered conclusion, dragged along by Gordon Lafler’s drumming.

Notable for their ability to create huge sing-a-long anthems, there is plenty for a casual listener to pick up here as an introduction to the band. “Profane Geometry” is typical of the band’s sound; feeling immediately familiar, where as “Invisible Ink” has the kind of Iron Chic lyrics that made Facebook page Pictures of “Cats with Iron Chic lyrics” so popular; “spent the night face down on the floor, gasping for air, until we can’t anymore” should be easy for a feline fan to knock something amusing together for the page!

Despite all of these aforementioned songs being excellent, Iron Chic even manage to commit three truly stunning tracks to the album – “Let’s.Get.Dangerous”, “Planes, Chest Pains and Automobiles” and “To Shreds, You Say?”. All three are near perfect; insanely catchy, these are the kind of ear worms bands dream of writing and I dare say the ones long-time fans will be clamouring to hear played live, sung along with full voices and half empty beers. Closing track “To Sheds, You Say?” is the perfect culmination of the emotional rollercoaster of the album. If the journey to it takes in the range of human emotion, it’s the acceptance and defiance of moving forward. “It’s been a long hard year, it started hard but ends in tears... Are you done with me...” sums up everything the band have articulated through the previous 10 songs. It’s certainly the most raw and angry track but brings with it its own optimism; when Lubrano sings about holding on to the memories of the best years of your life, it’s so heartfelt and sincere you can’t help but be stirred by it!

Overall “You Can’t Stay Here” is a monumental triumph. If both previous albums built a loyal almost rabid fan base, this deserves to take them to a much wider audience. In most cases I’m assuming anyone reading this will most likely already have the album; if not immediately get hold of a copy; lock yourself away for the afternoon and get lost in the finest 30 minutes of music you’ll hear in a long time!

Stream and download You Can't Stay Here here: https://ironchic.bandcamp.com/

Like Iron Chic here: https://www.facebook.com/ironchicband/

This review was written by Richard Mair.

Tuesday, 5 December 2017

Album Review: Homeboys by The Couch Bombs


I first reviewed The Couch Bombs back in 2015 following the release of Growing Pains. Now the four piece from Denver, Colorado, are back with a brand new seven song release named Homeboys. When presented with the chance to review Homeboys I was very intrigued to see how The Couch Bombs have progressed over the past couple of years.


Homeboys begins with the song Insomnia. Insomnia is a song about not being able to sleep and, when you do, having horrific nightmares. It's a bouncy pop punk song that hooks from the start with some catchy riffs that will have you bopping up and down immediately. The way that the song is written allows for the entire band to show off their musical skill with some nice guitar and drum sections and some fantastic bass playing. Minimum Wage again starts with some catchy guitar work that fills the song with an instant energy. It feels like there is plenty of anger and passion in singer Ian Rothenstein's vocals on Minimum Wage. It's a song about the frustration of working in a dead end job and feeling let down by the system. It's a song that I can easily relate to and I'm sure that there are plenty of people in the punk scene who also could. The third song is titled Lawrence, Kansas. This is the first song on Homeboys where the band add some of their ska influences onto the track and this works stupendously. Jumping between pop punk and ska keeps the release sounding fresh as well as showing variety in The Couch Bombs songwriting skills.

Cold Pizza is a thirty-four second pop punk blast of unadulterated fun. That's all you really need to know about that song. Up next is Evil Deeds, which has more of a melodic punk rock feel. It's played at a slower pace than a lot of what we've heard so far. I think that this allows more scope for the listener to become more involved in the song from the outset. The ending is just superb. What a great guitar solo. It's not often in punk rock that I feel the need to get my air guitar out of its air case and tune up those air strings and really air wail (I'm not sure air wail really makes sense but I'm going with it)! The penultimate track on Homeboys is named Skasege Fest. I'm sure you've worked out from the song's title that this track is more of a ska song. As you might imagine, this song had me wanting to dance from its beginning with some fun upstrokes being played. The Couch Bombs are not ones to put hidden meanings into their song titles so you might be able to work out what the song is all about - there being a lot of ska bands at a show. For me this is never a bad thing - ska is the best! Homeboys finishes up with another pop punk/ska tune. I think this is where The Couch Bombs really excel as they blend the two stlyes together effortlessly. I Don't Care is about getting over somebody who breaks your heart by announcing that you simply don't care about that person anymore. The chorus is incredibly catchy and I can imagine a live crowd just singing this joyously.

What a fun release Homeboys is. The Couch Bombs have come on massively since Growing Pains. They have got a solid sound that, whilst it doesn't reinvent any wheels, still sounds fresh and you don't get a sense of "oh, this again" which is crucial in a genre that is packed with great bands. There are a lot of small bands I have the pleasure of listening to and The Couch Bombs are really standing out amongst the pack.

Stream and download Homeboys here: https://thecouchbombs.bandcamp.com/

Like The Couch Bombs here: https://www.facebook.com/TheCouchBombs/

This review was written by Colin Clark.

Monday, 4 December 2017

Album Review: Buffalo Buffalo by Spanish Love Songs (by Emma Prew)


My favourite Californian sad punk rock band Spanish Love Songs made an excellent return in October with their first release since 2015's debut, Giant Sings The Blues. I couldn't stop listening to the aforementioned debut album – although I was almost a year late to discover it – and so was keen to hear more from the band when it popped up out of the blue on my Spotify. Released just before the band played Fest 16 and to coincide with a run of dates with the UK's own Ducking Punches, Buffalo Buffalo is a three track EP and here's what I thought of it.


The first track is also the title track, Buffalo Buffalo, and kicks off with some big melodic guitars that sound like a slightly poppier Menzingers. The Menzingers are a band that Spanish Love Songs seem to get compared to a fair bit judging by their reviews on Bandcamp and musically I can see why but the lyrics and vocals are something else. There’s something about Dylan’s self-deprecating lyrics yet amazing voice that I can’t stop listening to and I’m happy to say this hasn’t changed with this latest EP. In faithful Spanish Love Songs style, Buffalo Buffalo has an excellent chorus that you’ll be wanting to sing along to until your voice cracks – ‘Would you meet me in the middle? Would you meet me north of Buffalo? Escape into the winter, Build a house where no one wants to go.’  This is a song about wanting to run away to get away from everything that’s getting you down, except maybe having just one person with you. The one person that you can be yourself with.

Next up we have The Boy Considers His Hair Cut, which has great bit of mid-tempo drumming to get things going before those sweet melodic guitars are back. I’m going to go right ahead and quote the whole first verse because it’s so good – ‘My dad says that I’d probably have more fans if I learned to sing about some happier shit, Instead of wallowing in my shortcomings, My gross insecurities, Be less narcissistic, And show some humility.’  I mean it’s utterly self-loathing but that’s part of what makes Spanish Love Songs the band they are and would they write such good songs if they were a jolly feel-good bunch of guys? I’m not so sure. The Boy Considers His Hair Cut is about sometimes being afraid to do things in case you fail or, in the case of getting a new hair cut, not wanting to end up looking like a Nazi. Nobody wants that (except Nazis – boo!).

Rounding off this release comes a song with a title that doesn’t translate so well into British English, Hot Faucet Cold Faucet. It’s a good thing I don’t judge a song by its title – and I know that a faucet is a tap – because this is another first-class Spanish Love Songs tune. It feels a little more frantic than the previous two tracks particularly with the drum and guitar parts. In fact, the start of the song almost sounds like a timer or stopwatch ticking away. Dylan sings of wanting to turn off a faucet by which he means controlling the unhappy and insecure thoughts and feelings going on in his head. This is a song about needing reassurance that you’re doing okay and just wanting to be able to cope with everything that’s going on in your life – and your head. Something that many of us will be able to relate to. ‘I wish that I could shut it off…’ 

Spanish Love Songs haven’t strayed too far from the sound they laid down in Giants Sings The Blues with these tracks but that’s no bad thing. Consistency in this case is consistently good and not consistently samey or boring. The worst part about Buffalo Buffalo is that it is only three songs and not a full-length album, so hopefully we won’t be waiting too long for album number two! And maybe before that they will hop over to this side of the pond and we can lose our voices screaming along to these engaging and emotional songs.

Buffalo Buffalo is out now and you can stream/download it on Bandcamp and find the band on Facebook as well.

This album review was written by Emma Prew.

Friday, 1 December 2017

CPRW Playlist: November 2017


CPRW Playlist: Here's what Dan, Emma, Omar, Pan, Richard, Robyn and myself have been listening to this November.