Posts Tagged ‘Grunge’

19th May 2023

Christopher Nosnibor

A couple of months after the epic grind-influenced outing that was ‘I Am Weak’, Bournemouth-based quartet Solcura return with their fourth single since their debut album, Serotonin, released in 2021, ‘Imposter Syndrome’. They describe it as an ‘absolute rager’ and ‘a result of the miasma of deceit and media tyranny we are all forced to swallow every single day of our lives.’

Music that was so angry and overtly political was rare only a year or so back. Practically every other release was a lockdown project, or addressed the challenges and traumas of lockdown; the isolation, the depression, and it was only natural that that would be the case. Not everyone is over lockdown or has recovered from the impacts of the pandemic and its handling, not by a long shot. Many suffer from levels of anxiety – particularly social anxiety – not experienced before, and many still haven’t got back on track financially, either. So many people got fucked in so many ways, and the likelihood is that it will take years – and years – before people are back to themselves again.

But the mood has definitely shifted, at least here in the UK, and particularly in England. The zeitgeist is no longer one of reflection, and if the mood remains on the downside, it’s no longer directed inward, as the fallout of the Johnson administration has ignited an incendiary rage that eclipses any inward-looking darkness. As the corruption of our government becomes exposed with new revelations practically by the day, from the billions tossed to mega-rich buddies for PPE that either never materialised or was otherwise unfit for purpose, to the crumbling NHS and public network system, while top execs and shareholders gouge immense profits while workers – now striking en mass – are being told there’s no spare cash for wages because of inflation, the swell of anger at the sense not only have we all been had, but that we’re being utterly screwed and lied to, brazenly, has built from a mutter of dissent to a scream of rage.

For a time, Sleaford Mods and Killing Joke were pretty much the only acts telling it like it is, but the explosive rise of Benefits, on paper the band least likely to go massive and hit the festival circuit of all time tells you precisely where we’re at now as a nation. And this is where Solcura are at: they’re pissed off and are going to shout about it.

‘Imposter Syndrome’ finds Solcura exploring some richly atmospheric vibes at the start, with spaced-out, slightly trippy, stumbling guitar and mystical wordless vocals that radiate spiritualism. Then, thirty-odd seconds in, the guitar slams in on hard overdrive and bangs into Soundgarden territory, with a beefy riff. The drums really stand out among it all, the snare a sharp crack that cuts through the thick distortion, with a hint of Therapy? pulling through it all.

The commination of melodic, reverby vocals and chunky riffage also reminds me of early Amplifier, but then there are some dark overtones and screamy backing vocals that are more nu-metal than neo-prog, and the two elements combine to optimal effect. This is some savvy musical alchemy here, and ‘Imposter Syndrome’ is a dense work with depth and dynamics. Yes, it harks back to the early 90s, but that’s another reflection of the time we live in. Recycling is good, especially when it’s done this well. Believe the hype. Believe in Solcura.


24th March 2023

James Wells

One thing the Internet has definitely changed is the single format. Historically, songs were edited for radio play, and to fit on a 45rpm 7” single: for both, three to four minutes was optimal. Now, podcasts and lack of format-based restrictions mean that, at least outside of the mainstream, anything goes and has pretty much the same chance of getting aired at least by someone who digs it.

And so, with ‘I Am Weak’, Solcura may well draw on some retro references – the obvious ones being Soundgarden and Tool, as they mine a hefty grunge / proto-nu-metal sound with some thick, heavyweight riffing – but clocking in at an epic six minutes, it’s very much a contemporary single.

There’s certainly nothing weak about it: the guitars are strong, as are the vocal melodies, and it’s one of those songs that starts gently – simply voice and bass guitar – and then the guitar starts up and the riff slams in and it really gets going, with everything meshing together, interweaving to create a richly-textured sonic cloth where grunge meets prog-metal with a delivery that’s hard to fault. For all its tunefulness, it’s a song brimming with anguish in the grunge tradition, but there’s something eternally affecting about that kind of introspective emotional rawness tinged with self-loathing.

They’ve already played Bloodstock and supported Pulled Apart by Horses, and with a new EP in the offing, 2023 is looking promising for these guys.

Solcura image 3

31st March 2023

Christopher Nosnibor

Birmingham quintet TNL VZN describe themselves as ‘the product when the aggression of 90’s alternative rock and grunge collides with melancholy and angst of 2000’s Emo.’ Certainly, what goes around comes around, and there does, almost invariably tend to be a twenty-to-thirty year cycle in music. It’s interesting to witness, not least of all because it seems less the case that the new generation rebels against the music of the one before, but instead recycles and recreates it. Formed in 2021, TNL VZN are dipping into the music from around the time they were being born, the music of their parents – but with heartfelt lyrics that speak to their own generation.

‘Night Terror’ builds from a simple verse that combines aching minor chords with a half-sung, half-mumbled vocal that feels remarkably intimate and soulful, before breaking onto a beefy riff-driven chorus and instant hook.

Their touchstones are Gilt, Paramore, Halestorm and The Pretty Reckless. I have to admit that while I’m not mad keen on the first three, I do have something of an appreciation for The Pretty Reckless, and would say that this is very much on a par, with some solid songwriting, a strong delivery and a tangible emotional quality that gives it that vital edge. When they say they’ll soon be ready to conquer the world, it’s hard to disagree.



Christopher Nosnibor

The best local bands tends not to stay local, so for RSJ to play a one-off reunion show seven years after calling it a day and singer Dan Cook replacing John Loughlin in Raging Speedhorn in their hometown is a big deal. Precisely what prompted this return isn’t clear, but it’s extremely welcome, as the near-sellout crowd indicates.

It’s busy early doors, and those who are present are rewarded with a killer set from York / Leeds metal act Disnfo. They’re young, loud, attacking and abrasive, pissed off and raging -against the government, society, the world. And too fucking right: there’s much to rage against, and it’s uplifting to see a band channelling that rage creatively, especially via thick, chunky low end riffs powered by some five—string bass action. The singer makes the most use of the floor in front of the stage. They lob in a Deftones cover about two-thirds of the way through the set, which gets progressively more melodic and overtly nu-metal toward the end of the set, but it’s supremely executed, and the interplay between the dual vocals is really strong and tightly woven.



Beyond All Reason are also tight and proficient, but also quite cringeworthy in their straight-faced and immensely earnest performance of some epic but highly predictable hair metal with all the fretwork. They’ve been going for almost twenty years now and clearly have a substantial fanbase, meaning that I’m in the minority when I say I just can’t get onto it. Combining the po-faced thrash of Metallica with the vocal histrionics of Rob Halford, they’re every inch the band who did the ‘Shepherd’s piiiiiiiiieeeee!!!!’ Oxo ad from 2004. There is, however, something amusing about a support act playing a 350-capacity venue like they’re headlining Knebworth.


Beyond All Reason

RSJ don’t look or sound like a band who haven’t played a gig together in donkeys and it’s full-throttle high-octane stuff from the second they hit the stage. There’s a lot of love for RSJ, and rightly so. Active between 2002 and 2017, they garnered significant acclaim in Kerrang and elsewhere, and knocked out four albums, while playing festivals such as Bloodstock and Sonisphere, as well as playing support slots for Slayer, Funeral for a Friend, Raging Speedhorn and Orange Goblin.

The band took their name from the construction term Rolled Steel Joist, and yes, they play some ultra-solid metalcore with no letup, whipping up a mega moshpit, but one that’s friendly – shaved heads and long beards hugging.



Leaning forward, bass dragging on the floor, the bassist hits all the lows and underpins a harsh, heavy guitar assault that just keeps on coming.

They switch to their original drummer halfway through the set for a handful of songs, and things get even heavier and more brutal: ‘Gordon’s Alive’ is a hundred-mile-an-hour frenzy.



It’s probably about half a dozen songs in that Dan announces that the next song is the last, which seems unfeasible. But if he announces it once, he announces it a dozen times over the next half hour, and it feels like a running joke in a good-natured set which reminds me why metal gigs are so often the best and the more brutal the music, the more docile and community-minded the band and crowd alike. The songs are all-out, but in between, the rapport between the band and their fans is heart-warming and a truly life-affirming scene.

In times of deep social division and shit on shit, we need more of this. And we certainly need more RSJ. Let’s hope this reunion isn’t the last.

25th February 2023

Christopher Nosnibor

There aren’t many singles that grab you with the opening bars, but silktape succeed with a tune that’s deeply rooted in both nineties and turn of the millennium alternative, spidery tripwire guitars spiralling around math-rock motifs against a hammering bass and sturdy drumming. They present all the angles with some shouty vocals atop guitars that some in from this side and that, with hints of Fugazi, …Trail of Dead, and Jacob’s Mouse cutting in alongside more recent reference points to make for a busy but solid and breath-catching sound, and they’re coming to the chorus now, and….

The chorus – well, it sounds like it belongs to a different song altogether. When they pitch it as being ‘’anthemic’, they’re absolutely right, but it’s from that vein of emo that renders it rather anticlimactic following the tense dynamics of the verse. It’s very much a cliché terrace-chanty ‘woah-hoah’ effort that would be more effective if it didn’t sound so template-drawn, down to the ‘ok not to be ok’, message, which is positive but somewhat uninspired and uninspiring.

The midsection, where they drop everything right down is brilliantly realised, and the song’s structure, paired with the contrasting guitar sounds, is outstanding. It’s early days for these guys – ‘Sink or Swim’ is only their second single, and they clearly have the songwriting skills and musical skills which demonstrate huge potential – and no doubt they’ll go far and almost certainly swim rather than sink once they decide for certain which audience they’re going for.



silktape by Will Fraser Creative

‘White Rose,’ the new track from Leeds drum machine-driven racketmongers La Costa Rasa, is about the ‘White Rose Group’ in WWII Germany and specifically about Sophie Scholl.

A German student and anti-Nazi political activist, she was She was convicted of high treason after having been found distributing anti-war leaflets at the University of Munich with her brother, Hans. For her actions, she was executed by guillotine.

Never Forgive, Never Forget.

Criminal Records – 24th February 2023

Christopher Nosnibor

Strange sense of deja-vu? Whatchoo talkin’ about? Whatchoo talkin’ about? Lori wants to know on the lateest kick-ass single from Weekend Recovery.

Yes, ‘No Guts, All the Glory’ was released as ‘No Guts’, the lead track to the EP of the same name, almost a year ago to the week, but a year on it’s getting a reboot thanks to an arts council grant, and the nomadic power trio currently based in Sheffield are releasing a rerecorded radio edit version of this solid tune as the second single from their upcoming third album, Esoteric, ahead of more touring activity.

Perhaps the hardest thing about being a band nowadays is maintaining profile. Social media and Spotify has changed the model, and we’re back to the 1960s when artists are conveyor-belt release-machines. You don’t release anything for six months and it’s like starting over: people have forgotten you exist and you may as well be a new band climbing the mountain of audience-building. Well, perhaps not quite, but still. While the nostalgia market for the over forties for whom time stood still from their thirtieth birthday, for the rest, memories are short.

Weekend Recovery have done a pretty decent job of keeping a flow of activity and output and social media engagement, and recently signing to The Kut’s Criminal Records imprint certainly hasn’t done then any harm. This timely release won’t, either.

Rerecorded it may be, but it’s certainly not hyper-polished and sanitised ready for Radio 1. Smoothed out with some eddying synths and Lori’s vocals switched up in the mix and sounding a bit cleaner, and clearer, it is more radio friendly than the original version, but it’s not totally cleaned-up and sugary: the guitar, bass, and drums are still absolutely driving and the song feels urgent, as if they’re playing like they depend on killing it. And they do. It’s a storming tune, and I for one am revved for the album.

14th February 2023

Christopher Nosnibor

The prospect of another cover of ‘Wicked Game’ did, I’ll admit, give cause for an eye roll. It’s a great song – a seriously song – that arguably can’t be improved upon, and yet countless have tried, or at least felt compelled to pay homage, to the point that it’s been done to death.

Even the PR point out that ‘Wicked Game’ has been released over 800 times in different versions – 800! Imagine! Although HIM’s version is perhaps one of the best known, it’s always irritated me because it simply felt so obvious. The same can’t really be said of JW Paris’ rendition – after all, as they also point out, ‘nobody ever attempted to turn it into a sleazy Brit pop/indie anthem!’ adding ‘There is more Iggy Pop than Roy Orbison in it!’.

And I can only agree. JW Paris, who last graced our pages about a year ago, have packed some punk attitude into this effort. It’s certainly a lot less dark, a lot less broody than the original, and driven by a chunky bass, and the verse builds nicely into a rip-roaring rendition of the chorus that’s strong on energy, but succeeds in preserving the essence of the original – albeit with the kind of twisted anguish you’d associate with Kurt Cobain. ‘Fiery’ isn’t an adjective one would commonly associate with the song, but that’s exactly what this version is, and it comes as a pleasant surprise. Kudos.


Pic: c24photography

5th December 2022

Christopher Nosnibor

It’s perhaps fitting that after penning around seven hundred words of a review of this book, that I suffered a crash and the file corrupted irretrievably. Unlike most autobiographies, this isn’t really a ‘rise-to-fame’ or ‘rags-to-riches’ narrative, and nor is it a tale of rise-and-fall. Overdriven is more an endless succession of trips, stumbles, misses, and near hits, failures and not-quite-off-the-drawing board ideas. And so, as is the theme of the book’s narrative, in the face of adversity, you need to get up, and just plough the fuck on. Because if you don’t… no, not doing isn’t an option. You just do it, however hard it may be.

Everett True makes an unusual but valid point in his foreword, in that the ‘wrong’ people write rock history. Usually, it’s the successful ones for a start. If, indeed, they even write it themselves and don’t use a ghostwriter. Rock biographies and autobiographies invariably have an arc, but the starting point is that the subject is well-known, having achieved chart success at some point, and more often than not they have – at least at some point – been a household name. This, of course, is simply not representative of the lives of, well, pretty much every gigging musician, really, and this makes Charlie Beddoes’ book unique: Overdriven is the story of what it’s really like to be a musician slogging – and slogging, and slogging – in their quest to make it.

What even is ‘making it?’ Again, success tends to be measured conventionally in terms of units shifted and celebrity status, but that simply is not the reality for the vast majority of musicians. Success is simply being able to exist as a musician, and Overdriven really does show just how hard it is simply to achieve this, often relying on second jobs – interior design work, lecturing – during much of her career, having hauled herself up from living in squats to cruddy flats and shared accommodation.

Overdriven conveys all the crazy pace of things, and how life and relationships continue all around the ‘exciting’ ‘career’ stuff, and just how much of a maelstrom it can be. And relationships and being in bands, it seems, is often a conflict of interests, especially when the two cross over. Fucking hell, shit is messy at times in this book. But if – as I did – you often find yourself howling ‘nooooo!’ at the page, which what feels like constant acts of (albeit unintentional) self-sabotage, as the same time, what’s so striking is just how real, and how human is all is.

It’s clear, and not just from the ordered chronology of the book that Beddoes is someone who not only likes, but needs, order and organisation, yet has spent a lifetime struggling to find it amongst musicians. It’s a story packed with flaky, inconsistent and unreliable characters, not to mention the full spectrum of addicts, oddballs, and out and out psychos. But it’s also a milieu of people lost, lonely, confused, messed up, and some plain massive twats.

It’s also written in a remarkably even, matter-of-fact tone, and some of the dialogue reads rather like Kathy Acker. It’s unframed, direct, and it suits the style, because the narrative is straightforward and uncluttered. One may likely read it in one of two ways – the voice of someone level-headed and well-adjusted, or the voice of someone numbed by trauma, not least of all by her childhood years, where her mother’s mental health issues which normalised all that is not normal. Perhaps it’s a bit of both, but her recounting her childhood feels as important to the overall picture as anything in the book. Again, context counts, and joining the dots it’s clear that Charlie’s determination to make something of herself, despite spending years in squats and enduring endless shit is rooted in her childhood.

While much has been made of cult alternative band Rub Ultra, which Beddoes co-founded, Overdriven places it in context – a relatively brief period of her life, one that was defined more by struggle than any sense of accomplishment, with her having been ousted from the band prior to the release of their debut – and sole – album. What really comes to the fore is the precarity and volatility of life in a band. Charlie’s book is unstinting in its honesty in approaching the constant flashpoints which make simply getting to, and through, the next gig an heroic achievement. This isn’t just Beddoes’ take, or the story of how things were in Rub Ultra. This is representative of the expectations of so many musicians and bands. You realise that achieving any degree of success is beyond miraculous, when most bands don’t even make it as far as a gig or two, let alone recording anything. It always seems like a good idea in the moment to get together for a jam…

So many of the rock ‘n’ roll anecdotes are often brilliantly bathetic, and instead of trashing hotel rooms, we get a tale of accidentally setting off smoke alarms at a Travelodge while smoking a spliff, and Charlie turning down groupie action. The numerous potted reviews are amusing, too with her brief assessment of Idles on seeing them as an emerging band in 2012 is exemplary: ‘I don’t really get it, they are kind of post hardcore and very grumpy and they don’t look like they are having a good time’. There are some pithy observations, too: she sums up social media reactions perfectly in one sentence, observing how she could release an album to thirty likes, but post a pic of her cat hours later and receive a hundred. Yep. Books and reviews are the same. And if only likes had any correspondence to sales.

Overdriven also conveys the eternally tangled web of people on ‘the scene’ from musicians to roadies to A&R and label types, promoters and engineers. The same people crop up again and again, and occasionally they’re in bands who broke through – at least for a time.

And so the ‘peak years’ of relative comfort and security and ‘making it’ as a touring musician arrive later, not even playing her own music, and Charlie Says proves to be another near-miss failure, before her most recent vehicle, the mighty Nasty Little Lonely – which was essentially a continuation of Rock in Your Pocket, rebranded to increase the band’s appeal on the Bristol scene, and – and which ultimately sees her making the music she always wanted to, if only with a cult following and no major labels offering hods of cash – occupy only the last few chapters and the band is secondary to the turmoil of life.

It’s the last few chapters which hit the hardest. Unexpectedly, it’s Charlie’s account of her experiencing the onset of menopause that’s perhaps the most affecting part of the book, packed in near the end. For all the disappointments and deaths – a lot of people die, especially in the post-millennium years – all the years of soaring highs and crushing lows and endless rejections and dead-end auditions and all the rest, not to mention the endless conflict over not being considered ‘fit’ and wanting to be recognised for her musical abilities – and during all this time she rolled with the punches, this brings home just how life-changing it is. And it’s still not talked about nearly enough, not seen as a serious issue, even, as she writes, by younger women in the medical profession.

As much as this is an autobiography – and one well—told and well-written at that – this is a story of being a musician, with Charlie being a WOMAN in rock secondary to what really doing this is like. There are no two ways about it: Overdriven is essential for anyone with an interest in the music industry – but also for anyone who cares about life struggles and what it is to simply get through.



28th January 2023

James Wells

Honeybadger’s bio describes the Brighton trio as ‘spiky’ purveyors of ‘gutter psychedelia/grunge’, and ‘Cold Wind’ certainly delivers on that. Fast and gritty, lo-fi and fuzzed out, the guitars are all the grunge – but then the break brings a full-on tremelo-happy wig-out that’s out of this world!

But if the song is carried by an energy that invites comparisons with early Arctic Monkeys, the bassline runs away in a completely different direction, with one of those wild grooves that runs here, there, and everywhere: Luca – age just twenty-one – is possessed of magic fingers. Or perhaps he’s just possessed. Either way, these guys pack in so much dynamic and raw talent into three-and-a-half minutes that it’s dizzying, and it’s a proper rush.


Honeybadger Artwork