Monday, 23 April 2018

Album Review: Salvation by The Penske File

The Penske File are band I've been in love with for a little while, since first hearing their incredible Burn Into The Earth album in 2016. It's a brilliant slab of heartfelt pop punk with splashes of folk. In October of last year the Canadian three piece released the single Come What May as a bit of a teaser for their upcoming new album. That album is now out and is Salvation. Released on the always great Stomp Records, this is an album I've been keen to hear for a while.

Salvation begins with a song named Kamikaze Kids. From the get go the track gets me pumped for the entire album with a great guitar intro and a massive scream of "yeah!" to really get the party started. Kamikaze Kids is a melodic pop punk song which has a bit of a feel of The Menzingers and The Gaslight Anthem, if you're a fan of those bands you'll definitely love this. I love a good build in a song and Kamikaze Kids has a great one towards its ending. It teases and teases and when you expect the song to explode the music drops out, the vocals remain and seem massive and this finishes off the song in a superb manner. Following this strong start to the album is the second track, Golden Futures. The song starts out slowly and fairly quietly before we are treated to a huge chorus. There is a feeling of epicness surrounding this chorus that not only hooks you in but gives you goosebumps. The lines "if we were to die, to die tonight, we wouldn't mind, oh it's alright" ring out throughout the song and I can only imagine just what a moment seeing this song played live would be. This is the first time on the album that The Penske File's patented harmonica makes an appearance. I didn't quite expect to say this in this review but the opening guitar riffs on Lakeshore kind of remind me of the Foo Fighters (what's a Foo? and why are they fighting it?). This doesn't last long though as the drums come in and drives the song forward with some urgency, whilst never losing any of its catchy melody. The track sees The Penske File in story telling mode as they sing about returning back to where they grew up and remembering all the little things that happened in different places.

The fourth song, Spin My History, starts out with a raw sound, immediately adding emotion to the track. It doesn't take long to revert back to the familiar Penske File sound and another massive chorus. This is a thoughtful song about looking back on your past. The lead vocalist does a fantastic job of giving a massive vocal performance, whilst also showing a great amount of restraint, as he delivers the lines. Fairgrounds picks the pace up with drummer Alex Standen delivering a huge rapid fire drum roll in the song's opening. This really catapults us into the track and gets us keen to see where it goes from there. Fairgrounds is about living your life to the fullest, living in the moment and not worrying about deep and meaningful things happening. Following this is the excellent American Basements. Here The Penske File slow things down as they sing a love song to the DIY punk scene. The American scene is the one referenced in the title of the song but they could easily be singing about DIY scenes all over the world. The harmonica is something that really attracted me to The Penske File's music when I first heard them so it's great to hear them use it in such a prominent role here. I haven't heard the band slow things down as much as they do here before but I have to say they do a fantastic job of it. The seventh song, Last Chance, is a real toe tapping, hip shaking kind of song. It brings in elements of street punk, skate punk and 60s rock 'n' roll to create one of the highlights of a great album. The tempo is high which encourages even more dancing! The song is actually about making sure you have the time of your life as you don't know when it will be "your last chance to dance."

The previously released Come What May is up next and fits into this album perfectly. It's a song that gets better and better every time you listen to it which is such a great quality for a song to have. This song is one big sing-a-long from the outset, something The Penske File really do specialise in. The simple chorus of "come what may!" repeated over and over in the middle of the song works brilliantly as a way of building towards a huge finale to the song. As soon as Yesterday's Getaway began I instantly thought of Party Time Liars from The Penske File's previous album, Burn Into The Earth, with that unmistakable harmonica sound and its big ol' chorus. I loved the pounding drums that accompany the chorus, really helping it to stand out. The band are in story telling mode once again as they recount some fight or flight scenarios that they've encountered and how they've dealt with them. I loved the intensity in Travis Miles' vocals on the final chorus. The penultimate song on Salvation is titled Young & Worthless and it's a banger. The song starts out slowly, hooking you with maybe the best guitar riff on the entire album. When the vocals come in you're ready to be taken on another fantastic ride. It's clear there has been a lot of thought put into the overall sound on production on this record. I loved the subtle harmonies on some of the vocals on Young & Worthless. It gives the song a whole new layer that you won't even realise is there unless you're listening extremely carefully. Last up is Blessed Unrest which has a great stop-start disjointed opening. After all of the glorious melody that we've been spoilt with on Salvation this is a little unsettling on the first listen but it certainly grows on you. The song's highlight and perhaps one of the biggest highlights of the entire album is the song's bridge which features some excellent gang vocals singing the simple line "we don't know, we don't know where we're going." A line so relatable to so many twenty-somethings in the world. A superb way to finish the album.

I truly believe that Salvation could be a huge breakthrough album for The Penske File, much like The ’59 Sound was for The Gaslight Anthem or On The Impossible Past was for The Menzingers. The Penske File have this special something that separates them from many of their peers. They write these incredible thoughtful songs and fill them with catchy choruses and huge hooks that will stay with you for a long time and will never get old. If you're not in the old The Penske File boat yet then now is definitely the time to climb onboard!

Stream and download Salvation here:

Like The Penske File here:

This review was written by Colin Clark.

Saturday, 21 April 2018

Album Review: Double Negative by Down And Outs

Down And Outs are a band that I've been aware of for a while but haven't really checked out. After a little research I found out that they are three mates from Liverpool who are influenced by bands such as The Clash, Cock Sparrer, Leatherface and Green Day. In February they released a brand new album on Boss Tuneage, All In Vinyl, Yo Yo Records and Waterslide Records named Double Negative.

Double Negative starts out with Astoria. Here we have, in what I've discovered is the norm for Down And Outs, a fine sing-a-long punk rock anthem. It's that perfect no thrills punk rock that's so brilliantly easy to jump on board with and shout along to as loudly as you possibly can. Basingstoke is a song that feature a bit of social commentary. During the song the band asks are people happy that choices they make cause people pain and make the listener question their compassion. If you are someone who makes these choices and lack compassion then you are not the same as Down And Outs. I kind of feel like this is an anthem for the good people in the world to take a stand against the dicks and proudly say who they are. The third track, Shots, is one that deals with the important subject of mental health. Particularly the feeling that you have nothing left to give people and not wanting to be around anyone. This is one of those songs that is so much fun to sing along with and it will make you feel better for doing so.

You Can Have This Country Back took me a little by surprise on my first listen as it's led by a piano, reminding me a little of the Boomtown Rats but much much better. This different way of approaching the punk rock sing-a-long works really well here, giving the song an extra piece of emotion. The song is about being disgusted by the direction that Great Britain is heading as a country and not wishing to be a part of it. Something I'm sure that everyone reading this can relate to. This is a song that is designed to get people thinking and the way that the band have slowed things down helps brilliantly to create that feeling. The fifth song, Tea And Sympathy, sees Down And Outs revert back to their big street punk anthems. This band have an excellent knack for writing superbly catchy tracks that hook you so quickly. The harmonies between lead singer, Mark Magill, and drummer and backing vocalist, Morgan Brown (also of Pardon Us), are superb and only add to the sing-a-long qualities that the song oozes out. You're Still Here is about trying to deal with the loss of someone that you care for and questioning why it has happened but also realising that the person lives on through your memories. This is one of the more emotional songs on Double Negative, understandably given the subject of the song.

I loved the opening guitar playing of What Did You Do In The Culture Wars? It fills the song with energy immediately and in doing so I'm so pumped to see how the song progresses on. By the time Magill's vocals come in, you're sat on the edge of your seat in anticipation for them to drop and when they do you're in and ready to shout oh so loudly along. The song features some interesting melodies with the song stopping and starting making you think that you are listening to the next song and then, to finish the song off, the melody changes for one last arms-around-your-pals shout-a-long. Free is another song about loss. It's about a friend who struggles with mental health problems who sadly dies and their friends hoping that they finally feel free. It's a very sad song but I love the positive sound of the lines "well I hope you're finally free." It puts a bit of a positive spin on a devastating situation. Heartbreak Radio is one of many highlights on Double Negative. It's a song about finding strength in music after going through a terrible time. That's one of my favourite things about music, it offers such a brilliant form of escapism from the rubbish that everyday life can throw at you. This is something I'm sure everyone relates to even if you're not a fan of punk rock music. The gang vocals on the chorus are great and I can imagine this song going down really well at a Down And Outs gig.

The tenth song I Think I'm Falling Apart also features Magill on piano again - nice to hear it make an appearance in a couple of songs. It's the shortest track on Double Negative and is also the most heartbreaking. The song sounds almost ballad-like in its delivery and there is also a fuzziness in the vocals giving the track a raw emotional flavour. I Think I'm Falling Apart is about feeling as if your life is crumbling down around you after having your heart broken. About Time picks up the tempo and the mood. It reverts back to that fantastic sing-a-long punk rock that, to be quite frank, I really love. Down And Outs really excel at this style of punk rock. In a scene that's highly saturated with fantastic melodic punk rock bands it's refreshing to hear something that really stands out. The penultimate song, All In This Together, is a political number. It tackles the subject of class in today's society and questions why it is that the people with the least amount money are the ones hurting due to the economical mess that the country is in. The song could be used as a protest song with the chorus of "we're all in this together, why are we the only ones hurting" being used to rally people together. Double Negative is concluded with the song Norah Marie. Norah Marie is a short sing-a-long (obviously) looking back on the past and wondering what might have been. The example in the song being of an old love who is getting married and thinking about how it could, or perhaps should, have been you before coming to the conclusion that some things aren't meant to be. This is a lighter way to finish the album but is still one hell of an earworm.

Double Negative is an album containing thirteen fantastic sing-a-long punk rock anthems. It does everything you expect from this type of band and then some! This is one of the albums of the year so far from a band that I really wish I hadn't slept on for so long. Don't make my mistakes, check out this album.

Stream and download Double Negative here:

Like Down And Outs here:

This review was written by Colin Clark.

Friday, 20 April 2018

Gig Review: Sonic Boom Six at The Craufurd Arms, Milton Keynes 15/4/18

After not having a gig for almost two months Emma and I found ourselves at our second in three days last weekend when we made the short trip to Milton Keynes, specifically The Craufurd Arms in Wolverton, to see legendary ska punk band Sonic Boom Six along with local reggae/ska band Easydread and Birmingham punk rockers Templeton Pek.

First up were Easydread who we also saw on Friday night supporting the Popes Of Chillitown in Bedford. I'm not going to do another in-depth review again but I will say that they again absolutely smashed their set and I fell in love with the new songs even more. If you want to read my review of Easydread from the Popes gig check it out here.

Next up were Templeton Pek. The three piece have been going for a number of years now and seem to have built themselves a very good reputation but this was my first time seeing them. I was so impressed by the band. They play a harder form of melodic punk rock, perhaps making them an odd choice for this ska heavy line-up, but they definitely blew the crowd away. Out on the road supporting their brand new album, Watching The World Come Undone, I was so impressed by these guys. Cleary they are doing this because they love it as they put everything they have into their set. Under the hot lights of The Craufurd Arms stage, Templeton Pek played half an hour of powerful punk rock bangers. I was particularly impressed with bassist and lead singer Neal Mitchell's vocals. Blending a hard rock style with a punk attitude you believed in every word that he sung. Playing a mixture of old and new songs, they got the crowd very nicely warmed up for the evening's main event.

Now, Sonic Boom Six are a band I don't often to listen to anymore but whenever I see that they're playing a live show near me I make sure I can attend. That's because they are one of the finest live bands around. Playing a mix of ska, punk, hip hop, dub and sometimes even a little electronica, SB6 always but on a lively show. The crowd at the Craufurd Arms was not one of the biggest but they certainly didn't lack any enthusiasm for the evening's headliners. As soon as Laila K sang the first lines of set opener Sounds Of The Revolution we were off for a hour of joyful skanking. My mind is a bit blurry on the exact setlist but it was full of tracks from their entire discography so there was plenty for the old school "boomers" to enjoy as well as newer fans of the band. Something that always impresses with with SB6 is the amount of thought that seems to go into their setlist. Along with making sure there is something for everybody to enjoy, it all flows together seamlessly with the band knowing the perfect time to play each song. Last year they released a new mini album named Cardiac Arrest that I still haven't listened to (shame on me). Luckily they played a couple of songs from that release, the fast paced punk banger Learnt To Live With It and the ska heavy My Philosophy. Both new songs went down a treat with the Wolverton crowd. Other highlights of the set for me were Bigger Than Punk Rock, No Man No Right, Virus, Piggy In The Middle and New Style Rocka. There was also a surprise cover of I Fought The Law which was originally made famous by The Clash. This drew a big sing-a-long with Layla bringing the crowd close to the front to really belt out the chorus. More bands should cover The Clash. Finishing up with Sunny Side Of The Street, Sonic Boom Six did what they do each and every time that they step onto a stage - they blew the crowd away. I really can't think of many live bands that put on a better show than Laila, Barney, Nick, James and Luke do. It's always such a pleasure to see them.

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

Thursday, 19 April 2018

Top Tens: The Manchester Punk Festival Collective's Top Ten Special Performances

Here at MPF we don’t like thought of music being competitive as we feel we are all in it together as a community. So we’d like to stress that this isn’t a ‘top ten best performances at MPF’, but just ten performances that have all been a bit special for a particular reason.

We are as happy to see our favourite less-established bands smashing it to a packed room (we hope these are the headliners of future events) as we are seeing headliners that we never dreamed would want to play our event. The list would be endless if we listed all our favourite moments and I’m sure this would change every time we wrote it.

Also, not everyone in our collective has contributed, so you could get some very different lists depending on who wrote this.

But here are 10 performances that we’ll remember fondly.

I’m including Paint It Black for the sheer ridiculousness that they were playing the third MPF. How did we manage that? Kieran

Years ago, when I was still doing TNS Fanzine and I used to get sent stuff to review. I had a CD turn up in the post that I was truly blown away by. It was 'Raising Ruins For The Future' by Mighty Midgets from Denmark. It turned out that they did many of the same things as TNS did in their hometown of Aalborg - a DIY label (5 FeetUnder), promoted gigs and also played very fast music. We became friends and swapped loads of stock and even released a split EP. But then they split up before we got to see them live. Thankfully we got to catch their incredible live set when Revenge played in Denmark and they did a one off set, but it always frustrated me I'd never got them to Manchester. Last year, we managed to remedy that and not only was it one of my favourite MPF moments but also one of my favourite live music moments too. Andy

ONSIND (2017)
Punk rock has always been political for me, and ONSIND are one of the best around at balancing politics with socially aware lyrics. A basement full screaming "never trust a Tory" was inspiring. Kieran

I’m getting emotional in my old age and seeing one of the up and coming bands tearing it up to a packed room so early in the day always brings a tear to my eye. It’s so amazing to see the MPF crowd filling venues all day long and giving new music a listen. Bobby Funk are one of the most exciting underground bands in the UK right now and it made me very happy to see them getting such a great response. Plus seeing Ollie flying around stage with his leg in a cast (don’t dance to Cyndi Lauper - it’s dangerous). Andy

It would be hard to leave them out of this list. They always have the room bouncing around wherever/whenever I have seen them with a great live show that never fails to impress. It’s always great to have them on as they show up with smiles and leave you smiling with nostalgia. Tom

MR BLOBBY (2016)
It’s a shame he could only perform one song, although does he have any more? Not sure. He was very much deserving of the capacity crowd at our 2016 after show. It’s also very special for the other bands to be on the same bill as a living legend. Punk as fuck. Andy

CLOWNS (2017)
Watching Clowns tear apart the venue at the after-party. All our work was done, we could finally relax and party. Performance of the weekend for me. Kieran

MARTHA (2017)
Playing just before Paint It Black to a capacity crowd at Gorilla. It was brilliant to see a room full of smiles and fake Durham accents for one of the best and most promising bands in the country. Kieran

This much loved band headlined the Ducie Bridge on the first night of the first MPF and the atmosphere was incredible. The venue was absolutely packed. I think we all had that ‘we are actually doing this’ moment. Another one that bought a tear to my eye. Andy

They were our first real international 'headliner' and the emotions going through my head during their set were wonderful. A great band, packed crowd and one to really solidify why we do this. Kieran

Wednesday, 18 April 2018

Album Review: Don't Try So Hard by Breaklights

Breaklights are a four piece pop punk band from Austin, Texas. The band formed in January of 2016 and released their first EP Instructed to Fail in July of the same year. In January, this year, they released a second EP titled Don't Try So Hard on the always excellent Wiretap Records. Being on such a consistently great label had me very excited to check out Don't Try So Hard.

The EP begins with the track Call It Off. Call It Off is a short opener that does a fantastic job in showcasing what to expect from Breaklights on this EP. It's the poppiest of pop punk sounds and contains some of the most infectious hooks. Lead vocalist, Charlie, sings in such a sugary sweet way and is backed brilliantly by the rest of the band, giving the song it's punk rock bite. The second track, Waterloo, really stood out on my first listen of Don't Try So Hard. Starting out with a simple drum beat that catches your attention immediately, you find yourself tapping your toes to a song about feeling like you are a loser in no time. Waterloo is a pretty downbeat song but is also a song that plenty of people will find extremely relatable. Relatable songs often add a great deal of catharsis for the listener. The EP's title track is up next. When a release has a title track I often think that this will add an extra bit of the pressure for the song to really stand out. Don't Try So Hard wastes no time in getting started as Charlie's vocals kick things off in great fashion. On the song he recounts a previous relationship and why it didn't work out. The song really allows Breaklights to show off what a great band they are musically as there are a couple of great instrumental moments during the middle and end of the song.

Runaways is another break up song, but a break up song with a difference. Instead of the usual theme of heartbreak, Runaways does a great job of putting a positive spin on the subject with the line "They say it’s better to love and lose it all, rather than never feel the fall. But I’m not so sure it’s true. Whatever we wanted, whatever we knew. It’s best to erase that now and break this hold on you." Charlie's voice is great on the track, at times remaining restrained before he stretches it to add more emotion into the song. The penultimate track on the EP is named Blank Stare. The song is about being promised that you can be anything when you grow up but in reality that's not always the case. It's a bleak subject but also one that again many people will find relatable and cathartic. How many of us are stuck in jobs that we hate and wanted so much more when we were younger? It's one of the angrier songs on the EP as Charlie lets all of his frustrations out. Lastly is the song Lonely. It starts out extremely bass heavy, really allowing the listener to focus on the vocals. It's a sad song about break ups, in particular knowing that a relationship is about to end but lying to yourself and pretending that everything is going to be okay. All releases, LPs or EPs, should finish with a bit of a flourish and that's the case here - a big ending with some "sha-na-nah"s adding a last layer to conclude the song.

Don't Try So Hard is a thoroughly refreshing pop punk release. It's one of those great releases in the genre that will please fans of the poppier side of pop punk just as much as fans who prefer their punk to have a bit of an edge.

Stream and download Don't Try So Hard here:

Like Breaklights here:

This review was written by Colin Clark.

Gig Review: Popes Of Chillitown at Esquires, Bedford 13/4/18

It's crazy to think that Emma and I haven't been to a gig since February. This is very much unlike us! Thankfully April has hit and we've got plenty of gigs lined up - the first being a local Bedford one at Esquires. London ska punks the Popes Of Chillitown were in town being supported by fellow Londoners Eat The Evidence and local act Easydread.

First up were Eat The Evidence who we first saw supporting Lightyear at their comeback London show last October. I really enjoyed their energetic set last year and looked forward to more of the same at Esquires. Eat The Evidence are one of the most more unique bands in the UK ska punk scene, combining ska, punk, reggae and two tone to create their own sound. They are, to my mind, the only ska band I've ever seen incorporate an accordion and slide whistle into their musical arsenal. As I've already said, the band put on a energetic set with lead singer Tom Lattimer bouncing around the stage throughout. He must have been knackered when they finished! Whether it's songs about the government, the British empire, falling in love or couscous, Eat The Evidence are very easy to fall in love with. I can't wait to see them again at Level Up Festival in South London in July.

Up next were Easydread. Whenever a ska show is announced in the Bedfordshire and surrounding areas you can bet that Easydread will be named as a support act. I have absolutely no problem with this as this reggae/ska band are one of my favourites of the past year and every time I've seen them they just get better and better. At Esquires this trend of being better each and every time continued as Easydread absolutely smashed it. Having forty-five minutes allowed the seven piece more time than usual so we were treated to a few new songs - that sound absolutely superb and I can't wait to hear recorded versions - as well as the older favourites such as Rebel, Cross Hatch Line, The Wake Of You and Scrotes. The room was pretty full for Easydread and they got such a good reaction with everyone dancing, skanking, singing along and having a wonderful time. The band are all about positive vibes and having a good time and this attitude was definitely adopted by the crowd who got more and more involved as their set progressed. The ska scene in the UK is currently enjoying another renaissance and Easydread have got to be one of the many bands in that scene that you will soon be taking a lot of notice of. They're so good!

Up next it was time for one of the most exciting bands in UK ska punk, the Popes of Chillitown. It's awesome to get a band as good as the Popes to come play a show in Bedford and it was clear immediately that everyone in Esquires was pumped up to see them. Being introduced on stage by a local punk who came dressed as the pope, the band quickly had the crowd whipped into a frenzy in a way that only they can. With the new album, Work Hard, Play Hard, See You In The Graveyard, due I kind of expected that the show would offer a taster of what was to come from that release but in fact they only played two songs from it. Instead we got plenty of bangers from their previous two albums with the highlights being Wisdom Teeth, Impatient, Dalking Man and Otherside. Popes frontman Matt is one of the most watchable people in ska punk, he has this unbelievable charisma and endless energy. He is a big part in what makes the Popes Of Chillitown an unmissable live act. I think this was probably the longest set I've seen them play and by its finale I was absolutely exhausted. I'd not had such a good skank for such a long time and it felt good!

The crowd had an amazing time and it looked as if the band did as well. Then sadly things took a bit of a downturn. The Popes returned to the stage for their encore and, for reason unbeknownst to me, two idiots down the front shook their beers up and managed to get it all over Matt's equipment. Unsurprisingly Matt was not impressed but decided to carry on and not let these two dicks spoil the night for everyone. Then these two morons continued to behave like morons during the first song so the Popes understandably decided to call it a night. Why these two people decided to act this way is beyond me. Like I said, it's not often that we get such cool bands in Bedford, if people are gonna act like idiots chances are said cool bands won't come back! Thankfully the Popes did come back on stage to finish their encore (after the idiots had cleared off) with a great rendition of Badman, saying that they didn't want to finish a fantastic night that way. You've got to give the Popes Of Chillitown a huge amount of love and respect for coming back, realising that two buffoons shouldn't put a dampener on what has been one of the best gigs of the year.

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

Tuesday, 17 April 2018

News: Bar Stool Preachers Album Launch At The New Cross Inn

Brighton based ska punks The Bar Stool Preachers are releasing a brand new album titled Grazie Governo! To celebrate they are having a launch party at the home of ska punk in London - The New Cross Inn on Wednesday the 2nd of May. To add to the party fun they are supported by Call Me Malcolm and Lead Shot Hazard.

Tickets are on sale here:

Check out the Facebook event to keep up to date here:

Album Review: Life Living Impersonator by The Berkeley Hunts (by Emma Prew)

The Berkeley Hunts are a folk punk band from Melbourne, Australia. Back in January they released their debut album titled Life Living Impersonator and, being a fan of all things folk punk, I took a listen.

Kicking the album off is a song called Poison Place. This is a short, raw and predominantly acoustic folk song about trying to overcome negative feelings about a certain place and about yourself. ‘I’m trying to find the good inside myself, And sometimes I worry if it even exists, ’cause holding my breath just isn’t working, I don’t want to hate the air that, I don’t wanna hate the air that I breathe.’ The Berkeley Hunts brand of folk punk also features a horns section and the trumpet makes an appearance towards the end of the song, teasing of what else is to come perhaps. Predicktor is the name of the second song on Life Living Impersonator and this is a fast and furious track from the outset. Predicktor is another short song – most of the eleven songs on this album are pretty short, as the whole thing is only 24 minutes long – but a lot of lyrics are packed into its short length. The song is about a pessimistic person who is always fearing, almost wishing for, the worst and how it can be difficult to feel anything but negative yourself because of this. ‘So you predict, You see the future and it’s bitter, And it’s bitter, You make it so damn hard to be happy.’

Giving Up takes those pessimistic vibes from the previous track and runs with it. The pace is slowed and we get to hear some more typically folk instruments for this song with some banjo and mandolin. You can probably guess from the title that the song is about not believing in yourself and feeling like you should give up. However Giving Up is not written from an entirely defeatist point of view as the song actually ends in fairly hopeful and encouraging manor, with the lines ‘I’m giving up on, Every single little thing that causes my frustration, ’Cause I’m aching, I can’t take it and it’s tearing me apart, The world that we’re living in will try to fuck us over, I won’t let it, I won’t let it, I won’t let it. You won’t let it, You won’t let it, You won’t let it. Please don’t let it, please don’t let it, please don’t let it.’ The fourth song is the interestingly titled Yr Wires Are Showing And I Can Hear Your Worry, which uses robot-like descriptions as a metaphor for the idea that any faults you have are of your own making. This is a fast paced and impassioned song. I think the obvious musical comparison to make for this sort of raw and unpolished folk punk would be Mischief Brew but The Berkeley Hunts actually remind me of someone quite different on this song. It was early Ducking Punches that came to mind here – if you’re reading in Australia and you don’t know who Ducking Punches are, they are an excellent DIY punk band here in the UK that started out as a solo folk punk endeavour. Next up is a sad song called Leaky Lungs about losing someone to a terrible illness. Leaky Lungs has an appropriately slower pace and features a sorrowful trumpet melody which brings a lot of atmosphere to the song. There is a great sense of building towards the end of the song and it is the last minute [of its 2 minutes 50 seconds] that really steals the show. There’s a chorus that is just begging to be sung along to and, actually, that is what happens as one particular line is repeated again and again by multiple voices. ‘All the atoms in your body, they are empty, you’re empty, And you weren’t born with them, you won’t die with them, So maintain your connections, and speak to me, and speak to me, And I’ll mend your melting mind, just let me in, let me into, All the atoms in your body…’ 

How Does It Feel? begins fairly slowly with some gentle acoustic guitar that is soon accompanied by a plodding bassline from the double bass. So there I was thinking this was going to be another slow song but, no, the pace picks up as soon as those ragged vocals come in. I think Life Living Impersonator is an album that just gets better and better as it goes on, the first songs weren’t bad but this middle section is turning out to be really great. How Does It Feel? has another excellent chorus – ‘Why won’t you speak to them clearly, And get out of your head? I know it’s not that easy! But you’ve got sensory functions, And you know what’s real, At least I hope that you do.’ This song also has plenty going on instrument-wise with generous helping of banjo. How Does It Feel? slickly fades into the next song which is called Operate My.  This seventh song wastes no time in getting going with rumbling drums and, later on in the song, we are treated to some accordion as well – a combination that is bound to get your head nodding. Operate My uses the theme of the human body, that has appeared in previous songs on the album, and in particular is about deconstructing it – or operating on it – albeit metaphorically. ‘So won’t you break my bones, To operate my body.’ It’s interesting that until I actually started to write this review, having listened to the album more than a few times already, I didn’t realise there was a human body, illness, putting together/taking apart type theme to this set of songs. For Orlando, Forever Ago is a song that is a whopping 14 seconds long and in that time The Berkeley Hunts manage to get out a whole load of pent-up anger. Surprisingly, only about half of the song is super fast paced as it starts out slowly and in an almost care-free manor with the line ‘You’re a waste of fucking space…’ It continues in that vein… but faster.

As we draw towards the end of the album, The Berkeley Hunts show that they can write slightly longer songs with this next one, Hundred Minute Hours, lasting more than three minutes. I think this might be a love song or at least an ode to an especially close friend. Either way Hundred Minute Hours is a heartfelt and honest song that brought a smile to my face. The instrumentation is fairly simple, a combination of drums, banjo and acoustic guitar for the most part, which really allows the vocals – and the lyrics – to shine. The lyrics are really great throughout but there’s one line that stood out to me – ‘Because I see worst in everyone, and you see the best in me.’ The song is played out with some pounding drums and a splattering of the horns section, bringing us nicely to the penultimate song and the actually longest track on the album. Tonsillitis is a four minute epic and a fairly fast-paced track that fully embraces the classic folk punk sound. I think this is the first song I’ve ever heard that personifies tonsillitis, or any other illness, quite like this so bravo to The Berkeley Hunts for doing something new. (Unless it is all one big metaphor and I’m reading it all wrong.) I’m fortunate enough to have never had tonsillitis but it sounds pretty darn awful in this song and that shows some great songwriting. ‘You crawl down my throat, Make my brain explode, And dry all the liquids from my body, When I am sleeping, You’ll be busy working, To make my morning into misery, The lights are too loud, I can’t put my head down, But it won’t hurt if you don’t make it, If I maintain my distance, Find some kind of balance, Well maybe I can maintain my existence.’ Blue is Life Living Impersonator’s closing track and it takes a fairly stripped back approach, keeping the instruments to a minimum – guitar, bass and drums. The slow pace and somewhat melancholic atmosphere feels like an appropriate ending however. There are again some references to the human body in this song and the mention of the word ‘atoms’ again had me thinking that this song, and the album, was going to end with another singalong of ‘All the atoms in your body…’  Alas, it does not. The closing lines are ‘So I’ll live lonely, and you won’t have to, I’ll split atoms, without explosions, ’Cause I am empty and I am blue.’

I have to admit that when I first listened to The Berkeley Hunts, I wasn’t fully into them. The vocals, more than the instruments, are definitely raw and a little rough around the edges, in that sort of Andrew Jackson Jihad style, and are what might be considered an acquired taste. But when I properly sat down to review the album and listened more intently to each song, whilst reading the lyrics, I found a greater appreciation for Life Living Impersonator. I’m not saying that everyone should listen to the album as closely as I have but I highly encourage giving it a listen – especially if you are a fan of proper DIY folk punk which is what this is.

You can buy and stream Life Living Impersonator on Bandcamp and find The Berkeley Hunts on Facebook too.

This album review was written by Emma Prew.

Monday, 16 April 2018

Album Review: Brightest by Waterweed (by Dan Peters)

I don’t know a lot about Waterweed, from Osaka, Japan, but the fact that they are releasing their album in the UK with Lockjaw Records put them up in my estimation. I’ve seen them on bills alongside UK bands I deeply enjoy, like Dead Neck and Darko, so naturally I’m intrigued. Let’s dive straight in.

Waterweed wear their Melodic Hardcore on their sleeves, especially with opener ‘Red Eyes’ which is all double time and slick riffage with dirty vocals thrown in for extra good measure. If like me you’re brand new to the band, it’s a perfect declaration of what they are and wish to be as a band and invites in anyone, like myself, who’s a big fan of the genre. Not everything is blistering speeds and frenetic riffage though, Waterweed lean more on the melodic side of things and give off a gruffer No Use vibe with some serious Tony Sly influences throughout. ‘July 31’ in particular is a love letter to the Tony and his band and is a real stand out quality track on the album.

Quality is something Waterweed are not in short supply of with ‘Brightest’. It’s normally a bad stereotype to say that Japanese people have a habit of perfecting something to incredible levels but, to be honest, it fits incredibly well when describing this album. There is a love and care to every guitar stroke, every hit of the drums, every emotionally charged lyric that it puts some English-as-a-first-language bands to shame. Waterweed don’t shy away from their influences, instead creating something beautiful that anyone who is a fan of great music, and especially a genre freak, will appreciate.

As well as releasing the album over here, the band are coming over for a slew of shows surrounding the ever excellent Manchester Punk Festival this year. So keep an eye out - this is a rare treat not to be missed.

Stream and download Brightest here:

Like Waterweed here:

This review was written by Dan Peters.

Saturday, 14 April 2018

Album Review: Welcome by Abraskadabra

Trying to keep the promise to myself about discovering more great punk rock bands, today I bring you a review of Brazilian skacore band Abraskadabra's brand new album, Welcome. The seven piece from Curitiba have been going since mid-2003 and have shared the stage with the likes of Bad Religion and Flogging Molly along with ska superstars Less Than Jake, Reel Big Fish, Mad Caddies and Voodoo Glow Skulls. To get shows with bands of such a high status, there must be something quite special about Abraskadabra.

Welcome begins with the song Nothing New. As with most opening tracks on an album, it allows the band to set down a marker of what they sound like and what a good band they are. Nothing New starts out fairly surprisingly with some technical guitars and some crashing drums more reminiscent of a skate punk band than a ska band. There is plenty of ska to be found in the song however as it jumps between genres superbly. This is followed up by Heavy Hitters. Unsurprisingly the song starts off with quite a heavy style before quickly transitioning into a fast paced ska number. Everything about the song is high tempo, whether it's fast paced vocals or the infectious horns, it won't take you long to be skanking around your living room like a crazy person. Speaking of the vocals, this is the first time on Welcome that Abraskadabra show off their dual vocalists with both Bugga and Trosso taking turns on the verses and it sounds great. The third song, Left Corner, begins with some more infectious horns that will even get statues dancing. On this track Abraskadabra expertly mix 90s third wave ska with a more modern pop punk sound. Left Corner is about trying to keep moving forward rather than getting stuck fighting in the present.

Border Town has an upbeat reggae vibe. Beginning with one of my favourite horn lines on the entire album, Border Town gets off to a fantastic start and continues to get better and better. As soon as we get to the chorus the song has moved to having a hard hitting drum beat accompanying some melodic vocals. The contrast works extremely well. Worm's Song continues the trend of excellent horns to open up the song. It's one of those ska songs that is super upbeat in sound but is actually about a really sad subject as it is about missing a deceased friend. The track falls more into the punk rock with horns style of ska punk and has a big ending complete with some great harmonies and superb gang vocals. My favourite things! Wheel Of Fortune brings us to the halfway point of Welcome. It's slightly more subdued than the previous songs and isn't played at such a high tempo, showing some variety in the Abraskadabra arsenal. Here we have a melodic pop punk song with horns similar in style to We Are The Union. Maybe it isn't quite as danceable as the more uptempo tracks but man it's hard not to sing-a-long with this song. The track is about a relationship not working out due to bad luck and things just not falling into place.

She's Gonna Livia offers up a magical slice of ska and pop punk. The songs starts out firmly in the pop territory with opening guitar riffs reminding me slightly of old surf pop, transitioning into an upbeat and soulful verse. As the song goes on it builds towards a bigger and crunchier sound that ensures the song finishes with a bang. The song is about knowing that a girl is going to break a friend's heart and trying to tell them. The eighth song on Welcome is titled Catching Fog. When the song began I was expecting a fast paced ska punk song after some hard punk rock guitar but the song quickly switched to the most summery of ska songs. It's another song that will instantly get you skanking. I think that this is the first time that a keyboard/organ is used and this creates a brilliant extra layer to the Abraskadabra sound. I really enjoyed how laid back this tune was. The Tall One has quite an interesting sound. There's a great contrast between the music and the vocals on the track with the music being quite upbeat and in your face and the vocals having a bit of a restrained feeling to them. This really made me pay much more attention to what's being said as you do have to listen a bit harder.

The tenth song on Welcome is Street Of Order Square. There is a harder punk rock sound to this song that hasn't been heard quite as much as I had expected when I first listened through the album. There's still plenty of upbeat horn blasts and the vocals are as melodic as ever but there is also a lot more urgency in the song. This comes from the guitars and the drums which seem to have been played harder on this superb song. The penultimate song, Exactly When, is one of Welcome's stand out tracks. It's a song about life in a band with your friends, wondering if your big break will ever come but keeping on plodding along because you love what you do. It's a laid back and very retrospective song. The guitars are superb and have a bit of a Latino flavour to them which gives Abraskadabra something not many other ska punk bands have. Finally we have the track The Dream, finishing off Welcome in some style. The song starts out with a couple of huge sing-a-long moments before some big horn lines come in. The Dream is another track that features more of Abraskadabra's punk rock tendencies with fast paced guitars, pounding drums and plenty of gang vocals. It's a song that will get you moshing, skanking and singing with a big smile on your face.

If Welcome is your first experience of Abraskadabra you will be extremely impressed and as soon as it finishes you will want to also check out their back catalogue. Something I love doing is looking for bands in places you wouldn't immediately look for bands and discovering some real gems. This is certainly the case here as Abraskadabra have surely released one of the ska albums of 2018.

Stream and download Welcome here:

Like Abraskadabra here:

This review was written by Colin Clark.

Friday, 13 April 2018

Album Review: Aphorisms by Tragical History Tour (by Emma Prew)

Aphorisms is the debut album from Scottish cow punk Tragical History Tour. That’s actually quite an odd thing to say since Derrick Johnston, the man behind THT, has been making music for some 15 years. So to say that his debut album is a little overdue would be somewhat of an understatement. We’re big fans of Tragical History Tour over here at CPRW with both Dan and Colin having reviewed his releases recently. Now the task of reviewing the much awaited Aphorisms has fallen to me – no pressure!

Aphorisms opens with Fight For Light. This song kicks things off with some clean-sounding acoustic guitar played at a reasonably fast pace. The first lyric of the song is distinctly appropriate for an album opener – ‘I don’t know where to start…’. I love small details like that. Fight For Light has a very much country meets bluesy feel with Derrick’s distinct gruff vocals adding another layer to the overall sound. Speaking of layers, a second guitar adds an additional melody while the first guitar remains more rhythmic – this is more than just a man-with-acoustic-guitar song. The standout moment for me, however, has to be the big singalong chorus of ‘When I never had a home, You were my place to go…’ which actually reminded me a bit of Hot Water Music. What a great start! Next up is Come On Home, Hero. Now this is a song that has been previously released (and I know Dan reviewed it at some point last year) but it must have passed me by as this was my first time hearing the song. Come On Home, Hero begins with a slow first verse, complete with super gravelly vocals, soft acoustic guitar and percussion. However, by the second verse the pace has pleasantly picked up and things suddenly turn into a more full band affair. This is a protest song of sorts that not only looks at angry Brexiters but also the human race as a whole and how we’ve done a pretty good job of making a mess of things. Two thirds of the way through the song there’s a big electric guitar solo – Tragical History Tour is certainly not so acoustic punk anymore. The entire song is packed with great lyricism but it has to be the bridge that really shine above all else: ‘When there's nowhere left to run, We can't undo all the damage we've done, As a human race, at times we've been great, but mostly we've been a disgrace.’

The third song is titled Old Words. This is a quiet and sad acoustic track that I recognise from the CPRW tracks of 2017 playlist – I believe Colin reviewed the EP of the same name. Derrick’s voice is particularly raspy for this song which sets a dark tone. One of the great things about the more stripped back Tragical History Tour style is how those vocals contrast so wonderfully with the warmer guitar tones, whether they be finger-picked melodies or strummed chords. Old Words is a nostalgic and regretful song full of emotion. It turns out that this isn’t a purely acoustic track after all as there is in fact a big electric guitar outro – more great contrasts! Three Two is the the fourth song on Aphorisms. This is fast paced, lively acoustic folk punk that has previously been released as a Uniforms song. You’d have thought this was an American folk punk artist, Cory Branan for instance, especially with the California and Colorado Springs reference… well, aside from the strong Scottish accent that is. This is a fairly simple but effective song about being on the road. There’s a feeling of positivity to the whole thing and I love it – ‘If I make it through the day, I swear to you I will change my ways, All I need is to hear you say, “You’re not alone”, Give me strength now to be strong, And together we can conquer anything.’  Around the two minute mark there is a short spoken word moment where Derrick speaks about the difficulties of talking about his feelings. Further repetition of that chorus plays out the song with the addition of more than one vocalist – or is it just multiple layers of Derrick vocals? Either way, this is one of the standout tracks on the album.

What Would Vinnie Mac Do? is a semi-old song that appeared on the 2014–2016 collected recordings. The song is similar to Old Words in that the acoustic guitar is warm while the vocals are more harsh. This is also another fairly sombre song but there’s nothing wrong with that, I think the most touching and thought-provoking songs are the sad ones. What Would Vinnie Mac Do? is about feeling like you have no place to call home – ‘Sometimes home is more lonely than the road.’ – feeling lost and, maybe just a little bit, lonely. There’s no doubt that this is a song full of emotion but there’s also a sense of hopefulness towards the end of the song. This is reflected in Derrick’s shift in vocal style – it sounds sort of brighter – as well as in the words themselves. ‘We can drive forever, Better now than never, Maybe someday we’ll find home.’ Like with Three Two, this next song, Pink Couch, is a stripped back version of a Uniforms song. If you’re not familiar with the original however, like I wasn’t until Colin told me, then you wouldn’t think this song sounds at all out of place on Aphorisms. I can’t emphasise enough just how great a lyricist Derrick Johnston is but, if you listen to this song, I hope you’ll agree that he has a brilliant storytelling ability. (The start of the second verse for instance: ‘Trace your steps back to the start, Learn again and fall apart, There’s nothing left to fear…’) His voice sounds more mellow here, rather than the characteristic gruffness that we are perhaps used to, with this rendition of Pink Couch having more of an acoustic pop punk sound over the rawer folk punk. The song ends with a stomp-along percussive last chorus which is similar to the original but retains the stripped back style well. Great stuff.

It’s Cool, I’ve Got This is the seventh song on Aphorisms. The song opens with a lovely, gentle finger-picked acoustic guitar intro before the vocals begin. The gentle guitar playing continues throughout and offers another great contrast in sound as those harsher, gruff vocals are back here. It’s Cool, I’ve Got This is a bit of a melancholic song with a positive twist. The lyrics speak of knowing that whatever life throws at you, you’ll be able to take it, no matter how difficult things might seem – you can do it. ‘And it breaks my heart to believe it, And it burns my lungs to breathe in, Shatters my voice to scream it, But I’ve got this.’ Up next is a song called My Little Ray Of Sunshine. This track takes a turn in a slightly different musical direction, it has a kind of jazzy, bluesy feel to its mid-tempo melody – I think there might even be some keys in this song’s intro. The percussion is sure to get heads nodding along too. Despite all of these sunshiney, happy sounds – not to mention the title of the song itself – the vocals feel almost grungey and angsty. My Little Ray Of Sunshine is a song about someone who seemingly has it all figured out and lives a perfect life – while you don’t. There’s another big electric guitar outro, complete with those aforementioned keys, giving My Little Ray Of Sunshine a very much Americana feel. I wasn’t expecting so much variety in sub-genres from this album if I’m completely honest!

No Advice is the name of the penultimate song and it begins with dual acoustic guitars playing a slow and melodic yet atmospheric introduction. The opening lines set a sombre mood – ‘I’ve got no advice, No quick fixes for you.’  – in Derrick’s classic gravel-infused tones. No Advice is about admitting that you are not able to solve someone’s problems, nor your own, but you will be there for that someone when they need you anyway – you are never alone. This is another tune that is packed full of emotion and it reminds a fair bit of City And Colour. You know, if Dallas Green was a whiskey drinking Scotsman. ‘Given time scars will fade, But they will never wash away…’ The aptly titled tenth and final song of Aphorisms is Final Intervention. Featuring quiet warm-sounding strummed acoustic guitar chords for the first twenty seconds of so, the volume slowly increases as the vocals come in. Those keys from My Little Ray Of Sunshine join the mix after the first verse and, once again, the warm and soft sounding instruments contrast well with the rougher vocals. Similar to earlier tracks, this song takes a look at some of the things that are wrong with the world and this country. ‘It’ll take more than protest songs, To explain all that’s gone wrong.’ / ‘If we can’t even save ourselves, There’s no hope for anything else.’ This last song is by far the longest on the album at over 6 minutes long but it feels entirely appropriate. I almost expected it to crescendo to having a full blown orchestrated finale. It doesn’t quite have that but it’s still pretty darn impressive all the same. In fact the end of the song has a spoken word section, which is a really lovely and humbling, complete with a final set of whoa-ohs. ‘If you don’t understand without an explanation, You’ll never understand.’ So just check it our yourself, please.

Aphorisms is released on 20th April on Make That A Take (of course), as well as Aaahh!! Real Records and Team Beard Records. The vinyl release is going to be a pick ’n’ mix of various colour options, so you won’t know what to expect – pretty cool!

You can find pre-order details here and check out Tragical History Tour on Bandcamp and Facebook.

This review was written by Emma Prew.

Thursday, 12 April 2018

Top Tens: Robyn and Brett's Top Ten Bands To See At Manchester Punk Festival 2018

I think I can safely say that Brett and I would not be going to MPF this year if we had not met Colin and Emma. Brett is my fiancé and a huge punk fan. Since we began chatting to Colin and Emma in 2016, we’ve talked a lot about the UK punk scene and Colin speaks with such joy and pride about the success of MPF that it’s impossible not to be won over. Living in South Africa with a weak currency makes it difficult to get to many festivals, but we’re lucky enough to be able to go and we cannot wait for this amazing introduction to the best of contemporary British punk. As Brett doesn’t really enjoy writing, I’m usually the one on CPRW sharing my views. But he’s so excited about going that I’ve managed to convince him to take the time to contribute to this list. It was tough to get this down to just five a piece, but here are the bands we’re most excited to see at MPF 2018. ~ Robyn

Robyn’s Top Five

Drones (Friday at Gorilla 17:15–17:45)
Drones recently dropped their album Exiled on 9 March and I am completely addicted to it. The band play in-your-face socio-political punk similar to that of Rise Against or Anti-Flag (and, for some reason, I’m reminded of Useless ID too). As such, they’re the sort of band you can really dig into because they’re hoping to spark a conversation with the music they’re releasing. But they also just sound so damn good on the record that I can’t wait to see what they bring to their live performance.

Apologies, I Have None (Friday at Gorilla 19:55–20:40)
Apologies is one of the first UK bands that Colin introduced me to, and I was immediately taken with the single ‘Love and Medication’ off of their album Pharmacie. Both Pharmacie and the band’s earlier album London offer beautifully-crafted, moving, meditative music that I’m not sure I could tie down to a specific genre (post-punk perhaps). I go to shows to have a good time, but it’s also often an emotional experience (my first Fest was just all of the feelings). This promises to be a fantastic, emotionally-charged set.

Spoilers (Friday at Zombie Shack 20:50–21:20)
I’ve been rocking out to Spoilers’ EP ‘Stay Afloat’ for a while now, which offers some awesome pop punk jams as well as some faster melodic punk songs. This four-piece from Canterbury in Kent seem to be adept at creating really fun and catchy melodies, and I am determined to fit them into my schedule even though I have to change venues between AIHN and Lightyear. They seem to tour quite a bit and are heading out on a European tour with Lagwagon and The Lillingtons later this year, but of course this is the only chance I’ll get to see them.

Happy Accidents (Saturday at Rebellion 15:35–16:05)
Brett got to see Happy Accidents at the band’s recent album launch in London, and I was so jelly. This pop-punk trio lured me in with head-bopping tunes like ‘Leaving Parties Early’ and ‘Running’, but I also really like their latest album, Everything But The Here And Now. Brett was super impressed with their performance, so I can’t wait to finally see Happy Accidents in the flesh.

PMX (Saturday at Zombie Shack 17:20–17:50)
PMX really remind me of A Wilhelm Scream with all of their thrashy, fast-paced, rip-roaring goodness. This four-piece from Perth in Scotland have been around for a while and toured quite extensively (with the likes of AWS, Mute, and Propagandhi no less), so I think I can look forward to an awesome high-energy set from these seasoned professionals.

Brett’s Top Five

Fair Do’s (Thursday at The Bread Shed 20:50–22:20)
MPF will be one of my life’s best experiences, and I haven’t even been yet. With every announcement my excitement has grown, but so has the list of bands that I didn’t know anything about. Fair Do’s were part of the final band announcement and Colin recommended them to me immediately. What a great recommendation it turned out to be. Once you get to know me, you learn that my criteria for great punk can be met by only three attributes: fast, technical, and melodic. Fair Do’s are all three and their 5 song EP is the only thing I have to tide me over until Thursday night at MPF.

Aerial Salad (Friday at Rebellion 15:35–16:05 and Zombie Shack 22:35–23:05)
I only started listening to this band late last year after reading a review of the album Roach on CPRW. Being described as pop-punk influenced by early Green Day is a sure way to get my attention. Roach went on to make Colin’s top 10 list on CPRW; the band totally deserved it and let’s face it, it’s better than anything Green Day has put out in the last 15 years. I’m stoked to see these guys play some of their songs early on Friday and I really hope I can get in to their Green Day cover set later on as well.

Darko (Saturday at Gorilla 16:20–16:50)
Growing up during the hey days of the compact disc, I always had to find new bands by reading the “thank you” section of liner notes or noting who my favourite bands were touring with in far-away places. My habits haven’t changed much and I learned of Darko from watching an interview with The Decline (AU) where they mentioned Darko as one of the bands they were excited to share the stage with. Giving me some subtle hints of both AWS and Shook Ones, Darko hooked me immediately with their fast, aggressive punk rock, and unique vocal delivery. Their album Bonsai Mammoth was one of my most played albums of 2017 and I am anticipating an energetic live set from these guys that will no doubt leave me beaming with happiness and sweat. PS. If you’re in Australia in early April, you can be blown away by both The Decline and Darko at one of their shows.

Counterpunch (Saturday at Rebellion 19:00–19:40)
Although they’ve been around since 2004, I hadn’t taken notice of Counterpunch until their album Bruises was released on El Hefe’s (NoFX) label, Cyber Tracks. That album, as well as their previous release, is full of catchy, melodic skate punk influenced by the likes of No Use For a Name (my all-time favourite) and Pulley with some more modern frills thrown in there for good measure. The song ‘Blueprint’ in particular has some clear lyrical and melodic references to the No Use song ‘Under the Garden’ which makes me happy every time I hear it. I love watching bands like Counterpunch live; good hooks and great crowd sing along moments mean the shows are always fun and well worth the hype and excitement.

Propagandhi (Saturday at Gorilla 21:00–22:00)
There are no words to describe how excited I am to see Propagandhi but I will try to come up with some for the sake of this write-up. I have been a fan of the band since a friend burned me a copy of How To Clean Everything and I finally had the chance to see them perform at Fest 15 in 2016. Last year they released my favourite album of the year, and Robyn and I were lucky enough to see them in LA on the US leg of the Victory Lap tour. It’s 2018 and even though I’ve seen them a few times now, I am as excited as I was back in 2016 and would not miss their set at MPF for anything.

This top ten was written by Robyn Pierce and Brett Coomer.

Wednesday, 11 April 2018

Album Review: City Of Strangers by Five Minute Major (by Emma Prew)

Five Minute Major are a four-piece, once upon a time acoustic but now more of a straight up folk punk, band from Montreal, Canada. The band was formed by longtime friends Francis Morelli and Frank J Leonard back in 2013 and now have the addition of Justin Judd and Matthew Leduc – the latter being the newest addition, bringing drums to the Five Minute Major sound for the first time on their third album. City Of Strangers is the title of that third album and it was released back in January on Leamel Music. This was another random Bandcamp find for me but I liked it more than enough to give it a review.

The first track is titled Cabin In The Woods and uses the sound of cracking open a beer to signify that City Of Strangers is off with a bang. This is immediately followed by an acoustic guitar and before too long we are treated to a bit of harmonica as well – I’m a sucker for a bit of harmonica. When the vocals come in they are gruff and plenty ragged around the edges, in a good way. Cabin In The Woods is about feeling like you don’t fit in in the wider world but being able to find comfort and happiness with just a few close friends, and some beers, around you – in a [maybe metaphorical, maybe actual] cabin in the woods. Next up is Parting Ways Part III (note: there isn’t actually a Parting Ways Part I or II) which kicks off with some warm acoustic guitar playing that is subtly backed up by the drums, or well it sort sounds like a tambourine to me but I guess it is the drums! This is a rousing acoustic punk anthem – featuring multiple vocalists in true punk rock singalong style – about parting ways with someone who is important to you but hoping that by writing a song about it they will be able to be reminded of you whenever they hear it. It’s a sad song wrapped up in a feel-good attitude. ‘And when night time comes around, I'll be humming this song, But when you'll hear that empty sound, I hope you keep these words, So they can remind you of me.’ Certainly one of my favourites on the album.

Burning City is the third track of City Of Strangers and it begins with some sombre yet nostalgic thank yous to an old friend ‘For all the good and bad things we've done.’ Now, since the first song on this album, I’ve been thinking that Five Minute Major sound like someone and by this third track I’m finally able to put my finger on it. Five Minute Major remind me of New York’s MakeWar or, perhaps even more so, their earlier and more acoustic-based incarnation of Sad And French. MakeWar/Sad And French are not actually French but there’s a verse in Burning City that is sung in French – the band being French-Canadian and all. I don’t understand French but it doesn’t affect my enjoyment of this wistful acoustic tune – plus there’s more harmonica. If Burning City was a sad song, this next song is simply heartbreaking. Father Of The Year is the fourth song on the album and it is about a father who is the exact opposite of father of the year. The song is clearly full of anger, and rightly so given the situation, which is passionately conveyed in the lyrics of the song. ‘I got hundreds of problems, You don't see me run, Now I face future like a loaded gun, My world went completely upside down, When you abandoned the ones you love at the train station.’ The main message that I took from this song is that although these circumstances have been painful to go through – and still are, inside if not so obvious on the outside – the author knows that they will always try their best to deal with whatever life throws at them rather than running away, like a certain father did.

The shortest song on City Of Strangers is Marmen at less than two minutes in length and, I must admit, that I’m at a loss to explain what this song is about. Musically the song has a wistful almost Western-like guitar intro before the vocals kick in and are full-on snarling anti-folk. The song only features two verses but the shouts of ‘Marmen! Marmen!’ that play out the song will be stuck in your head for days nonetheless. I did a quick Google search, as I often do when I’m not sure what the main word in a song means, and discovered that Marmen Inc. is a machine manufacturer located halfway between Quebec City and Montreal – they make wind turbines. This doesn’t really help me in figuring out exactly what the song is about but I am still singing ‘Marmen! Marmen!’ to myself so nevermind, eh? The next song is the most full-band sounding song yet with the drums sounding ever more prominent alongside the acoustic guitars. Trophy Kids is a song about thinking or worrying too much about whether what you’re doing in your life is good enough, always trying hard but knowing that the expectation is for you to try even harder. It’s certainly something that I’m sure many of us can relate to and I think that just knowing that you’re not alone is a comfort. The whole song is great but I particularly enjoyed the bridge which, alongside a melodic guitar melody, features some slightly odd, slightly Beach Boys-esque background ‘Ooh-oohs’ while the main vocal remains raspy – ‘I don't sleep anymore, can't stop the howls, When raised by wolves, bit by the man, When you grow up, I expect you to be, to be nothing at all.’

M.I.A. is a love song of sorts about a girl called Mia – rather than being an abbreviation for someone ‘missing in action’. The song features a great exchanging of vocals between two different singers that make me think the subject of this song is more than just the problem of one single person – it could easily be about many guys (or girls) all around the world. As the song goes on, you soon realise that Mia is actually an out of reach person from another world, aka. the movies, rather than being a real life love interest. M.I.A. is sort of sweet and only a little bit creepy, the lyrics say so themselves – ‘You know my love for you is creepy and shallow.’ Sins Of Yesterday is the title of the eighth track on City Of Strangers and it opens with a muted first few lines of the song before the volume is cranked up a notch for another rousing head-nodder of an acoustic punk tune. Sins Of Yesterday is about trying to put the past behind you and dealing with things today, rather than sinking into your old ways. The chorus, which kicks off with a yell of ‘Scream out and wake the dead!’, is begging for a barroom singalong and I think, in doing so, would help to reaffirm the idea that the author of the song is doing the right thing in leaving the past behind. ‘Got no one to blame, Can't wash dirt off my hands, I snuck into the past, Craving sins of yesterday, Now I must stand tall for this little boy, Got to deal with how I feel, So sorry for disorder we have provided.’

The penultimate song on the album is called Blackbeard, The Sinking and, sorry if this disappoints you, is not a song about pirates. But what this is is another excellent and relatable singalong acoustic punk rock anthem. A swaying motion carries the song, perhaps brought about by the nautical references. Instead of Blackbeard, The Sinking being a song about a ship, Five Minute Major use a sinking ship as a metaphor for how your life might be going and how you try to stay afloat despite the obstacles that are thrown at you. It’s not exactly an original idea but I can’t help but get swept away (pun intended) by the song. These lines specifically need to be heard – ‘Suffocating on your jaded ways, You suck at being the anchor, Can't you hear our needs or what? Don't go down with the ship, With wind in it's sails, set the rudder, Play the part you chose, please don't go down.’ Damn Straight is the last on City Of Strangers and, not wanting to keep things the same, Five Minute Major start this song with a deep drum beat and bass guitar. The acoustic guitar doesn’t even make an appearance until almost a minute into the song. What does make a prompt re-appearance however is more of that lovely swapping of vocals that we heard earlier on the album. More than one vocalist, I feel, always gives a song that community feel and that’s exactly what punk rock, acoustic or otherwise, is all about. Damn Straight is about carrying on each day despite nothing changing for the better and trying to stand up for what you believe in. This, along with that sense of community, is perfectly summed up with the song’s bridge – ‘We just want you to sing along, We raise our middle finger to this song.’ An apt ending for a fine set of songs.

You can stream and download City Of Strangers on Bandcamp. And give Five Minute Major a like over on Facebook.

This album review was written by Emma Prew.

Tuesday, 10 April 2018

Album Review: Like A Ghost by Reuther

I get excited whenever Lauren of Mills On Wheels PR sends me an email. She always, without fail, sends me such exciting bands to review. So when she sent me an email for the band Reuther, claiming that the band is for fans of The Loved Ones, The Swellers and The Flatliners, I was very keen to check them out and get started on a review. Reuther, who are a three piece from Detroit, Michigan, are releasing their debut album Like A Ghost on the 27th of April via Get Party Records and Too Hype Music.

Like A Ghost begins with the song Statement. Instantly we are greeted with a pounding drum beat and some fast jangly guitars. As soon as lead singer and guitarist James Vee's vocals hit I get this feeling that this record is going to be super infectious and a lot of fun. The vocals are poppy and clean and omit a great energy. Backed brilliantly by some very urgent sounding music, it's hard not to get swept away with the song. Tuxedos And Jetskis is a stand out track. This is one of those brilliantly simple songs that doesn't try and overstretch itself. Other than that killer guitar solo that really comes out of nowhere! I really enjoyed the way Vee's vocals are delivered on the verse, it's kind of punchy but also manages to keep the melody of the song flowing. Every line is delivered with half of an exclamation mark, if you can imagine that. So Predictable has a slower start than the opening two tracks. There is a plodding nature with the bass guitar of J.D. Wright adding a bit of life to the methodical beginning. The track goes along for the most part at a mid tempo pace which allows for some massive sing-a-longs for the chorus. There is a strange section towards the end of the song where all the music drops out leading you to believe that the song has finished but there's some guitar riffs placed kind of randomly before that large big chorus. I wasn't so keen on that breakdown on my first couple of listens but it grew on me and is a great way of building up the last part of the song.

The fourth song Highways reminds me of New Jersey pop punk/emo heroes Saves The Day. This is no bad thing - Saves The Day are great! There's a laid back charm to this song. It never really hits any massive highs despite its upbeat tempo but it does take you along a lovely ride. The different melodies in which the music is played and vocals are sung is an absolute treat and make this song vital listening. Up next is the album's title track, Like A Ghost. When a song title is also picked for the album title I always think that puts extra pressure on the song to be great. On this occasion that is certainly the case. Things feel like they are being hit that little bit harder or strummed that little bit faster. Dare I say this feels a little more punk rock? That guitar riff quickly has me wanting to pogo around the room. The vocals have me wanting to shout along with my fists up high. It's all just energy, energy, energy and I bloody love it! So Permanent starts out with a funky drum beat that gets me bopping in my seat every time I hear it. This is the longest song on Like A Ghost so for me it has the role of being the album's epic track. It features a superb vocal performance from Vee as he really does a great job of carrying the song's melody. There is a moment of brilliant atmosphere, as the vocals almost sound haunted, while Vee sings along to a steady drumbeat before we get another great guitar solo that really builds the song to its fast paced conclusion.

Last Call was the track that Reuther put out to the world before the actual release of Like A Ghost. This was an excellent choice as it really shows off the best of Reuther. It's an upbeat and energetic song that again features some excellent vocals. The band barely pause for breath throughout the entire song save for the ending that ends on a more tender note. The penultimate track is named Light This Town and has an exceptional guitar intro. It has a kind of a surf rock sound but a surf rock sound on a ridiculous amount of caffeine. As you can imagine, this has me pumped for the song immediately - like I've also had a ridiculous amount of caffeine. This is exactly how I love my pop punk music, hyperactive guitars and great sing-a-longs. I'm reminded of the early 2000s Drive Thru Records era of pop punk here (one of the best eras of pop punk) and it just fills me with a nice sense of nostalgia. Like A Ghost is concluded with the song Sleeping In. Like the track Like A Ghost, this feels like more of a punk rock tune. At one point it almost sounds like a bit of gruffness comes through on Vee's vocal. The harmonies add a fantastic extra layer to the song and this has me wondering why they didn't use them more - harmonies are great! For me, Sleeping In is the best track on the album.

Like A Ghost is a strong debut full length from Reuther. This is an extremely well written album from a band that are showing a lot of promise. Pop punk music in this style is getting more and more popular in the punk world and the mainstream and I can see Reuther really being able to capitalise on that. I suggest you check them out now so you can be that person we all hate, but feel very smug when it's us, that can say "I knew that band back before they were famous".

Stream and download Like A Ghost here:

Like Reuther here:

This review was written by Colin Clark.

Monday, 9 April 2018

Album Review: Illuminate by Traits

Traits are somewhat of a punk rock supergroup from Yorkshire. Featuring members of The Human Project and Random Hand, the band play some fast paced punk rock tunes. In March of 2017 they released their debut EP Limits and to my surprise, given that the band are busy with their other projects, they are getting ready to release a second EP named Illuminate. Traits put the EP up on their Bandcamp page early before its physical release so we could all have a listen. Limits was a very well received EP so I was curious to see if the band could strike gold again.

The opening track of the five song EP is named Less Fortunate. This is the sort of song that you fall in love with immediately. From its heavy opening, the moment Jonny Smith starts singing all the way through to its final note I'm hooked. The power of positivity in the song is strong, it's about taking time out of your life to try and help people who aren't as well off as you. Less Fortunate gets Illuminate off to a blistering start. This flows into the poppier sounding The Good, The Bad & The Down Right Ugly. It starts out slowly with a little guitar work before we get into a really punchy track about going down the pub with your mates and celebrating all the good things that you have in your life and being thankful. Like Less Fortunate there is a great feeling of positivity oozing out of this song.

The third song, Paradigm, is about how all humans are the same despite our backgrounds. It doesn't matter how much stuff you do or don't have, person A is the same as person B who is also the same as person C. As soon as people realise this then we can start to make a positive change for everyone. Musically the song is fairly simple and this really helps make the song's social message become even more impactful. The introduction to the penultimate song, Drop The Status, is superb. Dan Powell's drumming is great on the entire EP but for my money he really shines here. The drumming gets the song going in a powerful fashion and adds so much life to the track throughout its duration. It's about not caring what people think about you and doing your own thing. The fifth and final track is titled I've Made My Bed. I've Made My Bed is one of the heavier sounding songs on Illuminate and finishes the EP off with a bang. Starting out with a mosh pit inspiring introduction before Jonny's soaring vocals come in. Those vocals are great on the entire EP, grabbing my attention from start to finish, leaving me hanging on to every word. The track is about sticking by your choices and being strong enough to get on with things if it turns out to be a wrong decision.

I'm just going to come out and say it - Traits are among the top skate punk bands in the UK and the skate punk scene in the UK is jam packed with amazing bands. It's no surprise that this rules given the other bands some of Traits are in but I don't think I was quite prepared for just how good Illuminate is. This is ace.

Stream and download Illuminate here:

Like Traits here:

This review was written by Colin Clark.

Sunday, 8 April 2018

Album Review: Nap All Day, Sleep All Night, Party Never by Fintan Stack

Fintan Stack are a new punk rock band from London who will soon be releasing their debut single Nap All Day, Sleep All Night, Party Never along with the B-side I'm Done. Now normally I'm not so keen on reviewing singles but, after giving the songs a spin, I knew I had to! This is some seriously fantastic punk rock music that needs to be heard by all of you, and your families, and your mates, and that person across from you on the train, and your boss, and the person in the toilet cubicle next to you. Seriously - everyone!

As soon as I first heard the opening of Nap All Day, Sleep All Night, Party Never I knew this was going to be really incredible. Starting out with a great guitar riff over some simple pounding drums before some clean punk vocals come in, I can already imagine a big crowd singing every word back at the band. From there things just get better and better. When the second vocalist joins, I'm in love. These harmonies are just wonderful. The song is crafted brilliantly with subtle tempo shifts, big hooks, catchy choruses and an incredible build towards its finale that will blow you away. It's not often you hear punk bands with two vocalists as good as Fintan Stack. Their voices do that thing of not only meshing together brilliantly but also contrasting each other so well. What a song this is!

I'm Done continues in the same vein as Nap All Day, Sleep All Night, Party Never. The vocals steal the show but the quality of the musicianship cannot be ignored. With both of these songs it feel as if Fintan Stack are determined to take the listener on a rollercoaster ride with their music. The tempo feels like it has risen on I'm Done as the band thunder through the track. The short harmony section at the song's conclusion - you probably won't hear a more beautiful part of a song all year. I mean - WOWZERS! I'm Done is about being fed up with the town where you live and wanting to get away and start again. I'm sure we've all been there.

I have the pleasure of getting to check out a lot of new bands doing CPRW and I can say in all honesty as someone who gets really excited about a lot of bands that I can't remember the last time was this excited. When reviewing a new band the thing to do is to compare them to some of their contemporaries but I can't really think of a band that sounds that much like Fintan Stack to do that. There is a brilliant freshness about them that is all too rare. Basically if you can hear a little bit I will say that you'll love them, if you have perfect hearing in both ears you probably won't want to listen to any other bands for a while - just Fintan Stack. Seriously this is phenomenal, excellent, brilliant, exquisite, magnificent, outstanding and all the over words that mean the same thing!

You can pre-save Nap All Day, Sleep All Night, Party Never to your Spotify here:

Like Fintan Stack here:

This review was written by Colin Clark.