Archive for the ‘Singles and EPs’ Category

12th August 2022

Christopher Nosnibor

While we swelter in the middle of the hottest, driest summer on record, during which wild fires and hosepipe bands sweep the nation, people are shitting themselves about paying for heating in the winter as the cost of living crisis bites ever deeper. When a tub of butter costs £7 and people are staying home because they can’t afford to put fuel in their vehicles, it’s clear that things are beyond fucked and that this isn’t simply some post-Covid dip. This is aa cataclysmic collapse, exacerbated by shit government and capitalist greed. You see, not everyone is struggling here. The top guys, the ones who make all the money from the work of their employees, their doing ok. The major shareholders in the companies raking in profit by the million, by the billion, they’re doing ok. Bankers are landing double-figure pay-rises while the people who keep the country going – from the teaches and nurses to rail staff and refuse collectors – are queuing at food banks at the end of their working day. This crisis, then, is a crisis of social division, a crisis of capitalism.

Formed in 2018, Bedroom Tax sound nothing like Benefits, but both bands are clearly part of a growing swell of stylistically disparate but politically similar bands who exist to voice dissatisfaction, and their very name reminds us of just how hard the Conservative government has pushed an agenda to fuck over the poor.

‘Kin’ is a hybrid amalgam of indie, alt UK rap, and blues influences and they’re probably the post-millennial answer to The Streets – only they’re better than that.

‘Kin’ delves into kitchen sink territory, and blends social commentary and disaffection – not so much bile but a whole lot of downtrodden day-to-day depictions, with the jittery drumming and scratchy guitars of the twitchy verses leading into a magnificently melodic chorus that’s buoyed along by some jangling guitar work. It’s genuinely beautiful, and so well-delivered you can forgive the rhyming of ‘issues’ and ‘tissues’ in the blink of an eye.

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12th August 2022

Christopher Nosnibor

It’s 30֠C in the shade up and down the country right now, and everyone is melting. It’s oddly quiet in the office at the back of my house, and had been for a while: some people have gone away on holiday, but most still seem to be at home – because most can’t afford to travel and are still working from home at least half the week – but hardly anyone’s sitting out in their back yards, It’s simply too hot.

You want to know what else is hot? Thins new single by Voodoo Radio. It’s a sizzling serving of primitive pop-flavoured punk that grabs you instantly. To unpack that, pop-punk or punk pop as we’ve come to know it in the contemporary sense is limp, bouncy and lame, but to trace the point where pop and punk converge to the late 70s, we’ve got Buzzcocks, X-Ray Spex, The Adverts , knocking out belting tunes that are bristling with the spiky attitude and gritty guitars of punk as it was emerging, but still packing strong melodies and hooks galore, and it’s in this bracket that Voodoo Radio sit.

There’s no pretence or hidden depth here, no subtext: this is straight up and direct song that’s pure nostalgia, a fond reminiscence about buying ice creams from ice cream vans, delivered with a sing-song tune with a high sugar content that’s guaranteed to make you bounce off the walls. The video, too, plays on that retro vibe, shot in that 70s solarized colour tone with a proper ice-cream van as the main prop.

But what’s special about the Cumbrian duo is their unashamed exposure of their northern roots, which have never been more celebrated than on ‘Ice Cream Man’, where Paige’s pronunciation is proper gritty with flat vowels and glottal stops galore, and this only accentuates the vibrancy and directness that simply makes this sing so much fun. It’s old school, but this comes with added sprinkles, and you won’t hear anything cooler, more fresh, and more exhilarating all heatwave long.

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Metropolis Records – 27th May 2022

Christopher Nosnbor

We’re playing serious catchup here: the band have been on such a (bacon) roll of late that I’ve struggled to keep abreast of their output. It’s quite a contrast to the early post-millennium period, which saw the emergence of Pigmartyr / Pigmata in 2004 or 2005 (depending on your location), fully five years after Genuine American Monster, followed by silence until 2016. It looked for all the world as if Watts was washed up, wiped out, sunk, spent, stopped. The phoenix-like re-emergence with first The Diamond Sinners EP, followed by The Gospel flexed muscles only hinted at on the tentative collaborations with Marc Heal and Primitive Race the year before, and found Watts reinvigorated, revelling in the glammier aspects of industrial sleaze and going the whole hog on the alliteration – and it turned out to be just the (re)beginning. It turns out that next month will see the release of The Merciless Light, the fifth PIG album in six years, and it lands hot on the heels of Baptise Bless & Bleed.

Like many recent PIG releases, this EP features four new tracks, accompanied by remixes of three of them, and the lead track is that quintessential PIG hybrid of low, pulsating synth that bubbled, bumps, and grinds while Watts croaks and groans breathless sleazy and seductive about pain and crucifixion, before it bursts into a bombastic blast of extravagant gospel propelled by a thudding kick drum and chugging guitar with serrated edges.

For all of the crossover with KMFDM and various other industrial contemporaries, not to mention Watts’ formative work alongside JG Thirlwell, the bottom line is that PIG sound uniquely like PIG, with a uniquely hybrid sound of techno and industrial at its heart, but then with glam, goth, and gospel all whipped into the mix, while thematically, it continues the thread that runs from ‘Shit for Brains’ on the 1988 debut single.

‘Shooting Up Mercy’ marks a change in tempo, slowing things down and ramping up the gospel chorus, before throwing in an extravagant guitar break of Slash proportions. There really is never a dull moment, and on this outing, Watts has gone proper maximalist, and it’s delightful, despite / because of its dark overtones.

The remixes are tidy enough, particularly the eight-minute reworking of ‘Tarantula’ that trudges and thuds along with bleeps and squelches along the way, before hitting a deep slow dance groove; it’s the most restrained track on the release, but has no lack of grunt or grind, and the solid chorus remains intact and infectious, reminding us – as if we needed it – that Watts has a knack for a hook, meaning that with this latest offering, we are indeed blessed.

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4th August 2022

Christopher Nosnibor

Back in November of last year, I gave ‘What If I Were the Boy?’ by The Vaulted Skies a massive double-thumbs up, having previously raved about their debut EP, No Fate back in 2018. And now ‘What If I Were the Boy?’ has been rereleased, this time as a remix courtesy of Mark Saunders, whose eye-poppingly extensive discography includes work with The Cure, Lloyd Cole, Depeche Mode, Siouxsie and the Banshees… and many others, including some truly huge names like David Bowie, but those I’ve picked out are relevant is they’re illustrative of his longstanding links with post-punk, of which The Vaulted Skies are emerging contemporary exponents. But Saunders also has a long history of wording on radio-friendly and more dance-orientated material, and it’s fair to say that his remix of ‘What If I Were the Boy?’ brings these two threads together very neatly.

The song itself draws on contrasts in its take on a ‘nostalgic tale that is filled with reflection and regret’, inspired by an encounter experienced by vocalist/guitarist, James Scott., who recounts how “In college, I was paired up in an acting assignment with one of the popular girls. She propositioned me and in doing so, verbally and indirectly alluded to a very troubled home life. I wish I’d recognized the cry for help underneath it all. This song captures the desperation I have felt when wondering what became of her.”

Saunders sensitively preserves the stark, haunted angst of the original, but subtly packs some extra oomph and wraps it in a dark disco groove. The chunky gothy bass of the original is smoothed into a more dancefloor-friendly sound, the drumming – the cymbals in particular – is slickened down and given a more buoyant disco twist. If the original sounded in some way tentative, despite its solid assurance, then the remix rolls it all out and effortlessly stretches it past the seven-minute mark in vintage 12” single style.

If the grit and flange of the driving guitar in the chorus is backed off a bit in favour of a more even sound, well, it works, as does the cleaner vocal treatment. In short, this version may lack the ragged punch of the original, but it by no means does The Vaulted Skies a disservice, and will likely be a major step toward connecting the band with the larger audience they so richly deserve.

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27th July 2022

James Wellls

Gasoline Thrill, have been building things nicely, and snagging James Lerock Loughrey, who, in addition to his renowned work with Skindred, Sumo Cyco also recently worked on the number one rock album by The Kut to record their latest single was a nice move, as was scoring Amir Khan to film direct, and edit the accompanying video.

They’ve been around since 2011 and have a path littered with rave reviews, particularly for their live shows, but after time out for pregnancies and with another inevitable stall due to the pandemic, they’re back all guns blazing with ‘Once’.

It’s a gritty, gutsy grunger that pulls no punches, and instead hits headlong and hard. It’s got the rawness and angst of Hole and L7 at their best, and yeah, it’s a thrill alright, and it’s fiery, too.

Sometimes, it feels a bit pointless to write about music, especially when it simply grabs you by the throat and punches you in the gut. As a music reviewer, that makes life hard. But FUCK… you know the sound of asses being kicked. You know the sound of fury. You know the sound of taking no shit. And this is it, and I’ll tell you only once – hear this, suckers!

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Rare Vitamin Records – 5th August 2022

Christopher Nosnibor

It almost goes without saying, but I’ll say it – again – anyway: we live in pretty bleak times. Everything is fucked. But perhaps with the many things which have deteriorated, diminished or otherwise been eroded in recent years, from various freedoms and basic rights to quality of life, be it access to medical and mental health care to how far paychecks go, one of the most depressing in many respects is the rise of anti-intellectualism. It’s not even a question of dumbing down, so much as a culture that seems to mistrust, and even dislike intelligence, debate, and even artistry and creativity. To question the motives of funding of an individual or organisation is healthy: to denigrate and dismiss all ‘experts’ is insane.

England, in particular, has a uniquely worrying and ultimately debasing attitude which stems from members of its ultra-privileged, ultra-capitalist, right-wing government, which is disconcertingly open about nits agenda to attack the arts and culture, not only in having a minister for culture who has precisely none, but also an education department hell-bend on defunding and cancelling degree courses in the arts on the premise that they don’t dovetail into careers that pay. There’s clearly something wrong here, since the music industry generates billions of pounds a year in the UK – or at least it did, before the double whammy of the pandemic and Brexit screwed both grassroots venues and musicians alike.

The arrival of The Battery Farm’s ‘A Working Class Lad’, then, is something of a breath of fresh air. Taking its title from a poem from A. E. Houseman’s A Shropshire Lad collection (1986), it’s a song which addresses the uniquely British issue of class, and how class division can affect a family.

The Manchester four-piece may describe themselves as ‘gutter punk’ and promise ‘a ferocious, muscular, gnarly track that ebbs and flows with purpose, precision and venom’, but they’re unafraid to be open with their literary allusions and reflect on issues without lapsing into the common political / anti-government tropes through a bunch of half-baked slogans that are standard punk fare.

With a jet-propelled drums and a robust, chugging riff behind the sneering vocals, The Battery Farm prove in three minutes that it’s possible to be punky and abrasive but not dumb. Just as the song tackles duality and (inner) conflict while at the same time being a seething roar of vitriol, so ‘A Working Class Lad’ showcases some savvy songwriting beneath the fire of a throat-grabbing rager. It’s a rare joy to hear a song that actually says something, but is equally fine to take on face value as something to most around to and pump your fists at the raw energy.

With a brace of EPs under their belts and ‘A Working Class Lad’ being the first single from their debut album, out in November, The Battery Farm are a rare thing – the perfect combination of brains and balls, they’re a band worth getting excited about.

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30th June 2022

James Wells

‘i write weird songs for weird folks’ writes alien machine, all in lower case. ‘A solo artist pretending to be a 3 to 5 piece garage punk outfit,’ ‘the sea complains’ is their fourth release. Details of this US-based artist are sparse to non-existent, but it appears that having emerged in 2014, they lay creatively dormant before deciding to reconvene with racketmaking during the pandemic, which seems to be a common thing as people sought ways of dealing with the strangeness and the isolation.

This is raw, primitive, and psychotic. The skewed, angular, murky mess of the first track, ‘math’ sounds like it was recorded on a Dictaphone in the living room while the band play their first rehearsal in the basement. The overall effect is very much early Pavement (pre-Slanted, those EPs collected on Westing were betonf lo-fi) / Silver Jews lo-fi so slack as to not give a shit about being in time / holding a tune / anything at all really, and it’s played with the wild, frenzied mania of Truman’s Water. Then again, ‘coward’ is a pulverising screamo-fest that brings in elements of Shellac, the guitars sliding and jerking in all directions over a loping drum beat, and closer ‘aquaburst’ goes fill Truman’s, with clanging Big Black guitars and everything going off all at once, but not necessarily in the same key or time signature.

It’s a headache-inducing discordant buzz, and it’s wonderful.

There’s nothing particularly weird about this – although fans off mainstream chart music would likely disagree – but it is a hard-on-the-ears trebly racket, that’s so slack it can’t even be arsed raising a finger to production or concessions to clean sound. It doesn’t get much more DIY than this.

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1st July 2022

Christopher Nosnibor

Bristolian punk foursome CUFFS have been kicking out the jams – and the meaty, gut-busting riffs – since 20019, and they sure as hell haven’t let anything like a global pandemic slow their progress. It may have stalled their gigging activity for a while, where, on the live circuit in the south they’ve been building a reputation for their ‘chaotic’ live shows, but they’ve maintained a stream of hard-hitting singles which, as they put it, are ‘fuelled by angst and social frustration’. Oh yes, we feel it. At least, anyone who’s not on £80K a year does – especially if you believe plants on Question Time who spout off about people being on £80K not even being in the top 50% of earners, let alone the top five. Of course, such embarrassing outbursts only highlight just how divided the nation is between the haves and the have-nots, and how utterly fucking deluded and completely out of touch the wealthy are when they cry poverty because they have to drop one of their quarterly skiing holidays.

Listening to this on the day it was announced that British Gas owners Centrica saw their half-yearly profits increase five-fold to a staggering £1.34BN, against a backdrop of mass strikes from rail workers, barristers, and, imminently teachers, exam boards, health workers and more, because they’re so sick of being shafted and having to resort to food banks, everything comes together with a sickening thud. Profit before people, guns before butter, every time: the air is as hot with anger as it is climate change, and something has to give.

‘Cash Cow’ may contain a few obvious rhymes among its couplets, and even a couple that are awkwardly shoehorned, but they’re delivered with such passion and sincerity you forgive them in an instant. The guitars are a treble-mesh buzz, and ‘Cash Cow’ is a raw, blistering sonic assault, a blast of trad-punk but with a hard and hardcore edge and played with a furious ferocity that grabs you by the throat and screams at you to fucking listen. Wise up! The mega-rich are screwing us all. It’s time for change.

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3rd June 2022

Christopher Nosnibor

The best music is timeless. This four tracker from ‘lady fronted, post-hardcore influenced’ quartet, Fantømex, hailing from Asheville, North Carolina could have been released any time during the last thirty years or more, and that’s definitely a positive.

It slams in with the raging, angular grunge of ‘Fantomcatz’ that’s got strong echoes of early Hole or Solar Race, but amidst the screaming fury, there are some neat dynamics and a solid structure. ‘White Hole’ is lighter, popper – I mean, it’s all relative, it’s hardly fucking Beyonce – but it’s got something of a 90s Sonic Youth vibe to it, but then it goes full-tilt histrionic punk, before leaping back to being more Sonic Youth / Pavementy, and the guitars even jangle a bit, albeit briefly.

‘Gaslight’ is appropriately disconcerting, disorientating, and perhaps the most disjointed of the four tracks, but in context it works. It’s no sleight to draw a line to The Pretty Reckless with its more overtly ‘rock’ sound, before they round it off with a jarring slew off guitars that’s like a mathy mess squished into a melodic tune delivered with punk attitude, but at the same time, when she’s not spilling her guts, Abigail Taylor proves she’s capable of delivering a melody that can really tug at the heartstrings.

And so it is that in the space of around eighteen minutes, Fantømex whip together a whirlwind of musical styles and emotions, and do so with both style and force.

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29th July 2022

Christopher Nosnibor

There’s something quite unique about the Nordic / Scandinavian strain of contemporary post-punk. It’s not easy to pinpoint, nothing you can really put your finger on. But there’s something in that balancing of light and dark, and it’s something I probably became subconsciously attuned to at an early age, listening to A-Ha in the mid-80s when I was still in primary school. I would only later come to realise just how strong the currents of darkness and melancholy ran through their precise pop songs, and that this was what the enduring appeal was years later.

Sleep Kicks don’t sound like A-Ha, of course, although the same basic musical elements are there, not least of all something of an anthemic 80s feel (although that’s more In the vein of The Alarm or Simple Minds and bands with a more overtly mainstream ‘rock’ style). ‘No Chains’ picks up were they left off last year, and they’ve been honing the contrasting elements. The song is dark, but also light, with layers of guitar and a full production that gives it an expansive feel, but it is, also, without question, a killer pop tune with an immense chorus that’s bold and uplifting, with a sweeping choral backing, which makes for a big, fat, juicy earworm.

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