Posts Tagged ‘Grunge’

Sargent House – 29th April 2022

Christopher Nosnibor

If you’re looking for the short version, Helms Alee’s sixth album is a belter – a rich, deep, and intense experience that combines the delicate and atmospheric with thunderous, grindingly heavy riff-driven assaults.

To expand on that… well, it’s hard to know exactly where to begin. It’s not really an album to dissect, because to do so would be to pick apart the magic – and yes, magic is what it is, something conjured from the air and pulling on all of the elements to create something… something beyond, and something bigger. And there are so many great tunes on Keep This Be the Way, too. Yes, real tunes, proper songs.

‘See Sights Smell Smells’ intimates a delicate chime of post-rock that builds to a crescendo, but it rapidly progresses beyond that, into a thunderous blast of tension that leaps out and scorches like a solar flare.

Helms Alee are by no means the first band to combine elements of post rock with a host of other styles and forms – And So I Watch You From Afar and pelican are among the first who come to mind when it comes to post-rock with the emphasis on rock that pack a real punch, but they’re still not particularly close comparisons: ‘How Party to You Hard’ is dreamy shoegaze but hard, like A Place to Bury Strangers covering Slowdive, and ‘Tripping Up the Stairs’ goes all out on the searing racket, explosions of noise that’s every bit as much Nirvana as it is Sonic Youth as they push their way around the dynamic range that flips between heavy and absolutely fucking raging.

Then you’ve got ‘Big Louise’, a soft, gentle, semi-ambient indie wafter that’s nice but unremarkable but for the immense reverb. You can’t exactly complain that there are a couple of cuts that seem to ease off the gas a bit, not least of all because sometimes, it’s simply impossible to any song to really hold its own in such illustrious company, and the fact of the matter is that the majority of the songs on Keep This Be the Way are so, so strong there’s only one way to go.

The seven-minute ‘Do Not Expose to the Burning Sun’ is a slow-burning serpentine twister, building around an insistent and ominous bassline into a dark, hypnotic squaller that calls to mind both The Pain Teens and The God Machine, while the yawning drone of ‘Mouth Thinker’ evokes the spirit of Ride and Chapterhouse, and boasts a breezy melody as well as scorching blasts of overdrive that emerge from nowhere to tower as shimmering walls of kaleidoscopic noise.

These contrasts provide much of the joy in listening to Keep This Be the Way. It’s an album that’s steeped in 90s vintage, and if you were going to pitch it anywhere, it would be in the indie bracket – but to pitch it anywhere, or align it to any one, or even any three genres, would be to sell the album short and grotesquely misrepresent it. Yet for all the hybridization and seemingly incongruous crossovers, Helms Alee manage to melt everything together magnificently, making not just music but pure aural alchemy.

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They’ve had records produced by Jon Spencer. Henry Rollins and Debbie Harry are fans. The Bobby Lees are HOT.

Un-tempered, no frills rock ‘n’ roll comes from The Bobby Lees as they release the video for the riotous new track ‘Dig Your Hips’, taken from the upcoming four-song Hollywood Junkyard EP on June 17th. The band are also set to tour throughout June and July, which will mark the band’s first shows in the UK and Ireland.

On the song, Sam (vocals) says "This song’s about a psychotic episode I had while partying in the desert, and the feeling of wanting to set fire to your life and run away from it with someone you barely know."

Drummer Macky adds, "this song is about exactly what it sounds like. With most things but most notably art there’s no such thing as objectivity, pretty ironic considering how objects are viewed as a pretty ubiquitous medium for artistic expression. Anyway, the way we relate with an object, surprisingly, has a lot to do with our own spacial and conceptual relationship to it. All that is to say that it’d feel a little too self indulgent to give a personal overview of the song as at the end of the day I’d just be forcing you to watch the movie, my movie, before you read the book, so to speak… That being said, this song is about exactly what it sounds like. I really hope you like it!"

The video, directed by John Swab, was shot in an abandoned factory whilst the band were on tour in Tulsa, Oklahoma in March.  Watch the video here:

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Photo Credit: John Swab

Philly area punks Five Hundred Bucks have announced an April 29 release date for their debut full-length titled ‘$500.’

Featuring members of The Holy Mess, The Bella Vista Social Club and Captain, We’re Sinking, Five Hundred Bucks’ debut is the follow up to their well-received 2020 singles ‘Shit Shape Heart’ and ‘Spinal.’

Film fans may recall that frontman Jeff Riddle co-produced, acted in, and wrote the music for the 2020 cult horror-comedy Uncle Peckerhead (which, for what it’s worth, currently has a 100% score on Rotten Tomatoes).

The band has released ‘Animal’, a track off the album, which can streamed here:

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You could say that feminist/queercore punk trio Shooting Daggers have been ‘nailing it’ since the release of their first single ‘Manic Pixie Dream Girl’ last year.

Amongst a clutch of rave reviews of the single, they have become a ‘must see’ on the grass roots punk circuit, on top of that the band were invited to support Amyl and the Sniffers at their recent London shows and also asked to play Desertfest 2022. Their upward trajectory seems inevitable.

Perhaps it’s because they are ‘the real deal’.  Shit kicking UKHC full of youthful fury and shorn of vacuous posturing. Fierce and committed in what they believe in, as how they play. Case in point being their latest track ‘Liar’. The band says …

‘Liar is a song about breaking the silence over abusers, a song that calls them out for who they really are with no more excuses. This is a really important song to us and we would like to spread this message, to not only the victims of rape and abuse, but also to the entire community, encouraging people to not engage with abusers and to stop trying to justify their rapist friends’

The video that goes with it (created by guerrilla filmmakers Punkvert TV) echoes that sentiment.

A furious cut up of images, by turns visceral and edgy, and definitely not for the faint hearted. Watch the video now:

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‘Liar’ is taken from Athames the band’s debut EP set to be released on 20th May by New Heavy Sounds. Landing on 7” eco mix coloured vinyl with an 8 page lyric booklet and full download included. Limited to 500 copies. The ep will also get a limited edition CD and audio cassette release as well as being available on digital platforms.

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15th April 2022

Christopher Nosnibor

It may sound a bit screwy, but then, we’re here on the Internet and I’m sure you’ll have read far screwier things presented in more enticing ways that are far more dangerous than my theory that individuals are somehow psychologically and biologically attuned to certain kinds of music. It’s a complex issue, and one I’m yet to fully unravel, but it feels like something that slots into the nature / nurture debate: are people born predisposed to appreciate darker music, or is it triggered by life events – or a combination of the two?

In 1983, at the age of seven or eight, I saw Killing Joke on Top of the Pops performing ‘Love Like Blood’. I was, in hindsight, enjoying a mundane middle-class upbringing, but this moment – and it was one of several – went a long way to cementing my appreciation of darker music. I’d never suffered any kind of trauma and hardship beyond maybe some kids taking the piss out of my coat or whatever, but still something drew me towards this kind of thing.

Nearly forty years on, and ultimately, nothing’s changed: the turn of the millennium brought a new wave of post-punk influenced acts, with the likes of Interpol and Editors setting the grounds of darker territory. And, in turn, we’re seeing bands emerging now that very much echo the sound and style of post-millennial wave of post-punk, or new millennium new wave if you will (there doesn’t really seem to be a label for it, but if that one ever gets used, I’m claiming it).

This is the long and meandering route to the arrival the new single from London-based alt-rockers The Palpitations who – like so many acts – emerged during lockdown out of a need to so something, and the foursome – Tom Talbot on vocals, Brett Rieser on guitar, Nishant Joshi on bass, Florin Pascu on drums – set out their agenda with the ‘Feed The Poor! Eat The Rich!’ EP.

But there’s a nugget in the Palpitations bio that shows they’re not just another bunch of musicians who were loafing around listlessly and decided to bung some tunes together to fill the time whole on furlough or unable to play live. Talbot and Joshi were, in actual fact, working as frontline doctors, and both were instrumental in protecting NHS staff with upgraded PPE, and also took part in protests that gained international attention. Joshi later took the government to court over their PPE failures, winning a landmark case.

It’s out of this passion and a sense of frustration that the music of The Palpitations comes, and ‘Denial’ is a belter, smashing together a spindly, soaring lead guitar, with cool, meandering synths and a thumping solid rhythm section; if Interpol collided with Bivouac and Eight Storey Window, you’d probably have a handle on their post-punk grunge crossover, although there’s perhaps more than a hint of Placebo in the blend, and ‘Denial’ packs some darkly melodic angst and significant tension into its four-minute duration. It resonates not just on an emotional or sonic level, but on  a cerebral and biological level – and it’s an instant grab.

Christopher Nosnibor

Tonight’s bill represents a Sheffield invasion of Leeds, with four noisy bands packed in back-to-back. And they may only be from across a county border, but it’s apparent these guys aren’t from around these parts (and I say that as someone who’s ventured from North Yorkshire, where things are different again). I mean, since when did thick silver neck chains become a thing? There’s a proliferation of them on stage tonight.

It’s a small stage and a small venue, and a four-band lineup means it feels busy even before any punters turn up, and it’s one of those sweaty, drinking-like-it’s Saturday night intimate gigs that has something of a party vibe the moment you walk in, and it’s made all the better by a sound man who isn’t afraid to crank it up.

Spaff are on first, and their name certainly sets the bar low in terms of expectation. And visually… The singer’s questionable choice of office trousers and wifebeater vest (and seemingly obligatory chain) is paired with an iffy haircut. But the trio prove they’re not a load of wank, slugging hard and sound infinitely better than they look. Slamming down driving grunge riffs, they get properly heavy in places, while in others they’re more overtly punk. They showcase some particularly impressive drumming, with facial expressions to match, playing every beat with his mouth and manic eyes. There’s some innovative stuff going on with the arrangements, too, where the groovesome bass sometimes doubles as guitar, and it’s a solid sound. The last song is by far the best, with a genuine hook.

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Spaff

Apparently making their ‘technical’ debut after a number of previous debuts, Sickboy show off more questionable style, although it’s probably not intentionally an homage to Trainspotting: the drummer appears to be wearing scrubs while the bleach – haired guitarist has a knitted tank-top-cum-waistcoat, but again, musically they’re gutsy and loud, and they sound immense, with gritty guitars to the fore. The stage is a bit tight for four of them, so the singer spends much of the set in front. He prowls, hunched, menacing but awkward, anguished. There is a kinda 90s vibe with occasional hints of rap/rock crossover, and throughout they’re channelling a lot of angst, and in places sound a fair bit like Filter.

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Sickboy

Caesar Did It have one hell of a lot of effects and incorporate sequencers into their thick, post-grunge sound. It’s so dense, but also melodic, even a shade Alice in Chains or Soundgarden. Going slower, heavier, they venture into stoner rock territory, driven by some hard-hitting, expressive drumming. The guitarist has a short-sleeved t-shirt over a long-sleeved t-shirt that’s pure 90s, and has a chunky silver chain. He and bassist Kane share vocal duties to create a sound that nicely balances layers and thick, dirty overdrive.

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Caesar Did It

Another gig, another lineup as Weekend Recovery continue their heavy live schedule in promotion of their new EP ‘No Guts, All the Glory’. Lori’s gone for some permutation of the superhero outfit, only it’s her bra rather than her underpants on the outside. I’m not sure it’ll take off, but stranger things have happened. The band’s true superhero tonight is stand—in drummer Elaina from Caesar Did It, filling in for Dan (not to be confused with bassist Dan) who’s out due to work commitments (damn those dayjobs!), Playing two sets back to back is pretty hardcore, and best of all, she’s a good fit, being a hard-hitter and super-tight.

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Weekend Recovery

Dan’s bass is dominant in a good way: it fills out the sound and he plays with passion, throwing some shapes and lofting his instrument in true ‘axeman’ style, and everything looks and sounds cohesive throughout this punchy set. ‘In the Mourning’ is an early rocket, and ‘Yeah’ is back into the set after not featuring on their last trip to Leeds in January.

If ‘There’s a Sense’ feels a bit flat and short on breath, the crowd are too busy bouncing and throwing themselves about or falling over to notice, and they immediately pick up the energy and power on through and end with a searing rendition of ‘No Guts’. It’s a ripping finish to a fiery set.

There are probably going to be some sore heads in the morning.

25th March 2022

Christopher Nosnibor

For the uninitiated, JW Paris is a band, rather than a person, and a band who’ve been described by 6Music’s Chris Hawkins as sounding like Joy Division.

It was around fifteen years ago when there was a huge buzz around emerging acts Interpol and Editors where all the hype was that they ‘sound like Joy Division’, and I rushed to check them out, and while I immediately loved both bands, my first reaction was ‘no, they don’t really.’ Yes, baritone vocals and post-punk guitars, throbbing bass… the elements were there, the influence was clear… but neither band sounded like Joy Division. But then, such is the length and darkness of the shadow cast by Joy Division, comparisons are invariably likely to build unrealistic expectations.

So I don’t expect ‘Electric Candle Light’, the fourth single from the ‘90’s grunge and Britpop inspired three-piece’ to sound like Joy Division – which is perhaps as well, because it doesn’t. But I’m not disappointed, and there’s certainly a Manchester vibe about them, despite their London base.

‘Electric Candle Light’ is a ramshackle lo-fi chunk of shaking rockabilly post-punk with a raucous lead guitar line that needles its way over a loose swaggering rhythm and has some catchy backing vocals zooming around in the mix.

‘Are you / see thru?’ Danny Collins questions, sounding more Mark E Smith than Ian Curtis, although the overall effect is a collision of The Fall and The Dandy Warhols. forging a zesty, spirited tune with bags of energy. Woohoo indeed.

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Pic by c24photpgraphy

Grappling with themes of insecurity and isolation, the gritty new track combines tight instrumentation with jagged riff-roaring melodies. Calculated and convulsive in equal measure, ‘Wall of Noise’ comes as a taste of the band’s debut album, which is expected for release this summer.

Chewing through twangy vocals, angular guitar lines and a guttural garage-grunge feel, Berries cultivate a craggy landscape of layered noise-rock that is evocative of the “noise” that so many of us constantly find pervading our own thoughts. Pelting us from all angles with their meticulously frenetic sound, the band explain of the track: “Lyrically the song gives a nod to how self-doubt and how solitude can heighten and affect these feelings. Feeling lost or confused can produce the noisiest thoughts in your mind and that’s what we wanted to convey in this song.”

And, while its lyricism might deal with notions of self-doubt, the track marks a clear, confident and calculated next step in the band’s development.

Listen to ‘Wall of Noise’ here:

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Christopher Nosnibor

Three years on from the original Lips Can Kill Tour, which took place in December 2019, these four likeminded bands reconvene to showcase their contrasting but complimentary styles around the UK, landing in York on the second night after kick-starting things in Birmingham. And, while ostensibly London-based acts, this is very much an international affair, and it’s this range of flavours and elements of cultural context that make this such an exciting proposition.

On the one hand, I feel that making a deal of the fact any band is female-fronted is unhelpful in the scheme of things, as if being female-fronted is something particularly novel or to be applauded in itself, or, worse still, a kind of virtue signal or positive discrimination. It’s more a hindrance to equality and detracts from what the band actually does. Female-fronted is not a genre. I say this because context matters, and the fact that all four acts on this tour are female-fronted is precisely the point: it’s a package deal of strong female frontspersons working in solidarity: stronger together. But stepping back from that, the fact of the matter is that it’s a package deal with four fiery guitar-led bands that you can’t really go wrong for the seven quid or so entry.

With a revolving running order, the stage times on the door simply list bands 1-4, and the first is on early, just fifteen minutes after doors. It’s Tokyo Taboo up first after some last-minute pole prep. Their act and image has come on a fair way since I last saw them way back in 2018, and their set now features unreleased material and singles released since 6th Street Psychosis. For the most part it’s chunky, spunky, punk rock with a pop edge. ‘Pussy Power’, dedicated to the women of the bands on tour is strong and empowering. The second half of ‘Self Sabotage’ is sung from back by the bar after Dolly totters through the crowd on heels that are practically stilts. As it began, so it ends, and they’re back to low-slung stoner riffage for closer ‘No Pleasure Only Pain’.

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Tokyo Taboo

Healthy Junkies are up next for what seems to be a depressingly middle-aged male-dominated crowd, and they’re on form on their second time playing in York this year. They sound denser, louder, more driven and energised and get people moving from the start. They’ve got the quiet/loud dynamics and beefy grunge/punk riffs nailed and kick the songs out with swagger and confidence, but without coming across as cocky. They’re proficient and efficient, lean and strong. It’s the first tour for their new bassist. He’s young and energetic and delivers some solid Rickenbacker action. Chat is kept to a minimum as they pack in the tunes and play them hard. ‘Tricky Situation is pure spirit of 77 with guitarist Phil Jones taking over lead vocals. They’re joined by Frog from PollyPikPocketz for closer ‘Mayday’. It’s got novelty value, but the green haired old punk’s Lydon ripping is a shade anticlimactic in its predictability. Still, they look like they’re having fun and the crowd love it, so maybe it’s just me being cynical and jaundiced.

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Healthy Junkies

The night steps up a notch or three with the arrival of Yur Mum onstage. They immediately up both the volume and intensity. Something about cutting down to a duo seems to have given the band – who already kicked arse as a trio – a fresh impetus and incentive to kick arse twice as hard. If it’s a case of overcompensating, then fine: it works. Anelis’ rib-shaking bass packs a massive, phat, buzzing, booming punch, and it’s matched every note by Fabio’s stick-flipping hard hitting drumming. The jarring, jolting frenzy of ‘Tropical Fuzz’ is absolutely killer, and brings all the cowbell, too. Then they’re straight into the jungle… and there’s more amazing bass, with fast fretwork but it’s not wanky for a second. They really turn up the heat with ‘Sweatshop’ and, for my money, are the band of the night.

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Yur Mum

PollyPikPoketz present an interesting dynamic – and pack a hell of a lot of energy. The guitar and bass are – specifically those wielding them – are old punk/metal with their Lemmy / Rotten stylings respectively, and are probably older than singer Myura’s parents. It makes for an odd dynamic, visually at least. Sonically, though, it works a treat, combining experience with sass and energy. They’ve got some killer riffs, too, and hit full-throttle gut churn at times, simultaneously calling to mind early Therapy? and The Adverts.

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PollyPikPoketz

In all, it stacks up for a quality night, and where many package tours feature bands who sound alike – which can get tedious pretty quickly, because no-one needs four shouty punk bands or instrumental post-rock acts back to back – Lips Can Kill 2 offers stylistic range sonically and visually, not to mention top-notch entertainment all night.

18th February 2022

Christopher Nosnibor

So a quick scan back tells me I’ve been covering Salvation Jayne since they released ‘Burn it Down’ back in April 2017 – which actually predates their formation according to the bio on their own website. No, I’m not here to be pedantic, or explicitly to gloat about having been one of the first people to have ‘discovered’ them or whatever, but… well, there’s always a certain element of pride to know you spotted a talent, even of the talent introduced itself first.

They’ve come a long way since, and their debut album, A Mouthful Of Magnificent Spite is a very different beast from where they were back then. That said, they’re still big on attitude and choruses, only more so, and then some. You wouldn’t expect anything different from Chess Smith, who demonstrates a fierce – but friendly – drive to succeed where her musical career’s concerned. Salvation Jayne have never been hesitant about coming forward, and have sold out multiple headline shows as well as scoring notable support slots with the likes of Milk Teeth, Rews, Saint Agnes and The Subways.

That Mouthful is a proper album rather than an assemblage of tracks from previous EPs and singles – of which there is easily an album’s worth – tells us where the band is at. Forward-facing, creating, moving, and at pace. There’s a nod to ‘Burn it Down’ in the form of a fifty-second snip that acts as a bridge between ‘Diadem’ and ‘No Antidote’ (which is an instant classic, bringing together urgent and energetic drumming, chiming 80s indie guitar verses and a belting chorus with all the vocal power) but none of their previous singles make the cut here. Even 2021’s ‘Violent Silence’ is absent, and it makes sense: it’s too pop and doesn’t sit within the sequence, and it’s clear they’ve spent a long time working on making this a document of the band now. If ‘Cortez’ and ‘Coney Island, Baby!’ showed that they could do proper solid rock tunes with some chunky riffs, then A Mouthful Of Magnificent Spite realises that promise with wall-to-wall riffs.

‘Apathetic Apologies’ was perhaps an obvious choice for a lead video-single release: it’s kinda crisp and clean (although still boasts a thick bass sound) and eases the listener in with manifold layers and some nice production. It’s got big guitars and big production, and it’s overtly ‘rock’ but at the same time it’s easy on the ear and has clear radio airplay potential. Reflecting on this, for many bands, this would be an album or EP closer: it’s got anthem written all over it. So where do you go from here? Well, Salvation Jayne go into goth-tinged 80s alt-rock territory with the sultry, brooding ‘Diadem’.

They really crank up the riffage with ‘I Am Simply Not What You Thought’, a song they’ve been honing live over the last couple of years, and which has evolved substantially over that time. While the vocals remain melodic and harmonious, they’re not weedy or emo: this is full-lunged, solid rock to the core. And it’s sincere, and that sincerity imbues it with power beyond the drive of the guitars and powerhouse percussion. A Mouthful Of Magnificent Spite is brimming with passion, and you feel it .

The title track is a rollercoaster of emotion and stylistic switches, but hangs together perfectly, highlighting the band’s songwriting skills. The title track takes a turn for the heavy with some monster riffage in the last minute, and they go stoner on ‘Cody’, and they’d probably start bracing them selves for an arm-wrestle with Queens of the Stone Age before long.

‘Drink you Down’ swerves into 80s electro pop with a hint of shoegaze. It’s misty, but so, so buoyant, and the guitars take a back seat. You couldn’t say A Mouthful Of Magnificent Spite isn’t varied. It’s a fiery and exhilarating album that kicks arse from beginning to end.

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Artwork - Salvation Jayne