Posts Tagged ‘Post-Punk’

Fierce Panda – 13th November 2020

Christopher Nosnibor

Fierce panda will be forever intrinsically linked to the cutting edge of indie in the 90s, emerging as it did in 1994 and immediately making a name for itself with limited edition 7”singles by big-name contemporaries initially including Ash, Supergrass, The Bluetones, and Baby Bird, not to mention Placebo, Keane, Coldplay, Embrace, and that record by Oasis.

More than a quarter of a century on, they retain that certain sense of cool-by-association, but also continue to release damn good indie singles, breaking new talent with astounding frequency. National Service are a perfect example: the label picked up the London quartet National Service from seemingly out of nowhere, releasing their debut single, ‘A Little More Time’ in the year of their formation. Three years on, and here we have their third single, a song that unpicks he seams of the mundane, the everyday, and the introspective pains of self-expectation.

‘I haven’t had a decent sleep in days / I’m overthinking when I should be happy doing something mundane / But I’m too busy thinking about the long run / That I rarely find the time to enjoy today’ laments Fintan Campbell against a welter of shimmering guitars and rolling drums.

Comparisons to The Twilight Sad aren’t unjustified, and the band mine that seam of post-punk revival / indie crossover that dominated 2002-2006 as represented by Editors, Interpol, The Cinematics and myriad others, and the bassline that cuts in at the midpoint is pure Carlos D circa Turn on the Bright Lights. None of this is in any way to suggest that ‘Caving’ is derivative or locked in time: it’s a genuine rush of a tune, and condenses all the emotional resonance into four and a half minutes. It’s taut, hooky, and packs a punch.

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Caving Artwork

31st October 2020

Christopher Nosnbor

While Lorna and Nathan have been keeping themselves occupied with their uber-lo-fi DIY side project Videostore during lockdown, their main vehicle, Argonaut have been on something of a backburner. As has been the case for so many bands, working remotely simply hasn’t been entirely feasible, or conducive to creativity and recording, although the band have been striving to pull together with virtual rehearsals and so on.

Consequently, after some nine months of effort (and eight years ager their formation) the London-based spiky indie-punk have delivered the first single written collectively (just before lockdown) by the whole band.

Less uptempo and energetic than previous releases, ‘13’ is a wistful, reflective song that’s more haunting post-punk than punk, and as much as it’s inspired by Nathan and Lorna’s son’s turning 13 and is a celebration of youth and that voyage of discovery, a song of encouragement and positivity, there’s a sad tinge coloured with a pang of loss and an awareness of the ageing process: the video illustrates the contrasting emotions, as elation and wonder are marked against the ticking clock.

It’s touching, and a great tune: understated, but effective and resonant on many levels, making it more than worth the wait.

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Blaylox Records – 30th October 2020

Christopher Nosnibor

My ignorance of The Wake clearly blows every last one of my goth / post-punk credentials: where have I been all my life? Pitched as for being for fans of all of my favourite bands from my teen goth period – which I never really left – namely The Sisters of Mercy, Peter Murphy, The Mission UK, Tones on Tail, Red Lorry Yellow Lorry, Psychedelic Furs, The Cure, the band emerged in the so-called ‘second wave’ of goth appearing on myriad compilations and extensive touring with peers including Skinny Puppy and Nine Inch Nails, The Wake secured their place in goth and roll history.

‘Everything’, the second single lifted from the new album – their first in a quarter of a century – features Red Lorry Yellow Lorry’s Wolfie providing additional guitar, which further bolsters the release’s heritage credentials.

Not that it needs it: it’s a solid album in its own right. ‘Daisy’ is a daringly bleak, low-tempo opener that may not be quite Reptile House EP barren, but is nevertheless a spectacularly dark, atmospheric trudge through oppressively dark terrain, and at nearly six minutes long, it’s hardly an easy entrance.

Things go very Sisters circa ’85 with ‘Marry Me’, and the guitar work is clearly heavily influenced by Wayne Hussey, as are the vocals: this is their reimagining of the Sisters’ ‘Garden of Delight’ demo and it’s taut and murky, and they’ve got that heavily-chorused / valve sound nailed, and it’s that circa ’85 / ’86 vibe that drifts like a creeping smog of dry ice from every corner of Perfumes and Fripperies, aided by a dense production. While the swirling guitars are most obviously the defining aspect of the sound, the bass is thick and boomy, to the extent that you don’t so much hear the basslines as feel them, and they fill out the sound without being able to specifically separate the bass. Said shuddering bass is welded in a tight 4/4 to the mechanised drum tracks, which are pitched relatively low but are relentless – precisely as they should be.

There’s inevitably an element of comparing the motifs with precursive signatures: the tunnel-like vocal reverb is a Sisters signature that’s become a trope that so many bands have tried to emulate, with varying degrees of success.

The aforementioned ‘Everything’ is a hypnotic mesh of shoegaze that draws together early Lorries and All About Eve’s ‘Phased’, and Troy Payne’s vocals are treated with a steely metallic edge that replicates Chris Reed’s sound. Elsewhere, if the drum sound and overall structure of ‘Emily Closer’ is a Sisters / Rosetta Stone / Suspiria lift, the atmosphere is more Curesque, which the title kind of implies is the aim, and ‘Big Empty’ is hollow, brittle, a blanks pace of flanged bass and claustrophobically intense reverb.

‘Figurine’ marks a lurch into Fields of the Nephilim, and with the bombastic layers of female backing vocals wafting over some icy synths and a bassline that’s pure Simon Gallup on the last track, ‘Rusted’, it seems like The Wake have got all the goth bases covered. On the one hand, I should be irritated, as these things perpetuate the sameness of goth bands that’s been a bugbear of mine for years, largely because it feels self-limiting, like a genre trapped in time. But when it’s this well executed and the songs and production are this strong… you just can’t knock it.

Perfumes and Fripperies isn’t a great title, but it is a great album.

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30th September 2020

Christopher Nosnibor

Ben Wood & The Bad Ideas return to follow up on August’s ‘Black’ with ‘You’re The Crash I Needed’, and of this release Ben says, “We wanted the lyrics to reflect an awakening, a coming-to after a period of being insular and unaware of one’s own actions but for that to be entirely forced upon you by someone else. Musically ‘You’re The Crash I Needed’ was composed to mirror that sensation of when you fall asleep in front of the TV and then it seems explosively loud and totally overwhelms the senses when you wake up.”

That jolt… to nab the line penned by Editors, it kicks like a sleep twitch. We’re all guilty of sleepwalking through life at some point or another, oblivious of ourselves and the potential repercussions of our actions, and such somnambulance has become the characteristic behaviour in 2020 as we drift from one day to the next. The kick will happen, and no doubt the jolt will provide a real shock to many.

‘You’re The Crash I Needed’ is an indie-goth gut-punch of a song, with hell-for-leather drumming and interweaving guitars reminiscent of Rosetta Stone and early Mission and it’s got a vibrant energy and a kind of sweeping openness that’s simply not commonplace in contemporary music. Then again, nor is that kind of chorused guitar sound.

Balancing breeziness and shade, this is a tight and tense rack and a clear single choice, and while it’s retro it’s anything but cheesy. I for one am excited.

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Single artwork

Grunge-noise duo GHXST have recently announced the release of their new EP ‘Dark Days’ on 16th November.

Following up the release of ‘P.U.R.R’ back in September, the duo has now shared a second track from EP. ‘It Falls Apart’ was written when GHXST drove out to California leaving New York behind, after having lived there for over a decade. Hazy vocals are mixed with the downtuned riffs of a Marshall cab, a loving reference to two of their all-time heroes Jimi and Iommi.

SPV Records – 2 October 2020

Christopher Nosnibor

It’s easy to forget just how absolutely massive The Mission were at their peak, packing out headline shows at Wembley Arena, Finsbury Park, and Reading Festival.

There was a time when Wayne Hussey looked like being the new Bono. Or something. And now he’s gone and done Band Aid for goths, with a rerecording of ‘Tower of Strength’ featuring a truly immense roll-call of luminaries from the gothier end of the alternative / post-punk scene to raise funds for covid charities around the world.

The press release reports that alongside Mission frontman Hussey, the project involves Andy Rourke (The Smiths), Billy Duffy (The Cult), Evi Vine, Budgie (Siouxsie and The Banshees), Gary Numan, James Alexander Graham (The Twilight Sad), Julianne Regan (All About Eve), Kevin Haskins (Bauhaus, Love & Rockets), Kirk Brandon (Theatre of Hate, Spear of Destiny), Lol Tolhurst (The Cure), Martin Gore (Depeche Mode), Michael Aston (Gene Loves Jezebel), Michael Ciravolo (Beauty in Chaos), Midge Ure (Ultravox), Miles Hunt (The Wonder Stuff), Rachel Goswell (Slowdive, The Soft Cavalry), Richard Fortus (Guns N’ Roses, The Psychedelic Furs, Love Spit Love), Robin Finck (Nine Inch Nails, Gary Numan, Guns N’ Roses), Jay Aston (Gene Loves Jezebel), Steve Clarke (The Soft Cavalry), Tim Palmer and Trentemøller, the latter of whom has provided a remix of the new recording.

Having properly got into The Mission by hearing ‘Tower of Strength’ during the weekly top 40 (I was 11 and my exposure to ‘alternative’ music had been quite limited at that point), the song has a certain special place on a personal level, and the likelihood is that it’s the same for many fans. Reworking a classic is risky, potentially an act of desecration or sacrilege (referential word-choice half-intended).

The EP contains four 2020 versions in total, with the regular single version, a radio edit, and three remixes.

In term of the instrumental backing tracking track, the single-version sound very like the original, only with some additional extraneous details and the meat where the bass and extra layers kick in stripped out. Meaning it’s ok, but while one of the major criticisms of The Mission has ben that they lean toward the bloated and bombastic, the fact is that was always a part of the appeal. But overall, it’s nicely done: the guest contributions, both instrumental and musical weave into one another pretty seamlessly, and there are no instances of any one person stealing the limelight with their overstepping delivery of a line. There’s no ‘tonight thank God it’s them instead of yoooouuuu’ moment, and this feels very much like a collective, collaborative, egalitarian effort, and I almost feel as if I could give it a virtual hug for that.

The nine-and-a-bit ‘Beholden to the Front Line Workers of the World’ mix comes closest to the basking, expansive glory of the original. It’s a song that’s meant to just keep going, and this version does just that.

Trentemøller goes technoambient with his reworking, and kudos for breaking the mould, and double for the fact that it works. It’s all in the strings, of course. The Albie Mischenzingerzen remix is drummy but doesn’t seem to bring quite as much to the party.

It might not quite pack the power of the original, but it’s not far off: the people playing on it are worth hearing, and it would be churlish to criticise a release made with such positive intentions. In bleak times, Hussey and his pals aren’t only a tower of strength, but a beacon of humanity, and it’s a powerful thing.

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ReMission International (cover artwork)

Hex Records (USA) / Bigout Records (Europe) – 23rd October 2020

Christopher Nosnibor

For what is essentially a side-project for some of its members, USA Nails have sustained a remarkable output since their inception in 2014, with Character Stop being their fifth full-length release.

It is less full-on, less manic, and less of a messy blur than the bulk of their previous works, but the energy is still very much present, manifesting in a sound that’s more defined, more sharply focused. Which means, in short, it’s more like being attacked with a saw than a hammer. That said, there’s no shortage of blistering punk assaults: ‘I Am Posable’ is a furious flurry of slurry, and hits the spot hard.

We’ve already been given a flavour of the album with the short sharp shocks of ‘I Don’t Own Anything and the opening track ‘Revolution Worker’ both of which combine the growling bass rumble of Shellac with skewed guitars and a motoric beat, and consequently comes on like an early Fall outtake being covered by Tar, and it’s fair to say they’re wholly representative of the album as a whole. Well, don’t you just hate it when you buy an album because of a great single only to find the rest of the album is absolutely nothing like it, and it’s crap to boot? Maybe it happens less now in the digital age, but I used to find that a lot back in the 80s and 90s. Anyway, what this means is that if the prefatory releases appealed, then you’ll be happy to get lots more of the same, while conversely, if the singles didn’t do it for you, then you’re really going to find this a chore.

Recorded in just four days at Bear Bites Horse in London with producer Wayne Adams, Character Stop is urgent, immediate, and raw, and the songs are all brief and more angular than a great-stellated dodecahedron. And yet for that, it’s not math-rock, nor does it really belong to any specific genre, unless jolting, jarring, slightly discordant shit is a recognised genre now.

The album’s longest track, clocking in at four and a quarter minutes, ‘How Was Your Weekend?’ slows the pace and darkens the tone, with a stark, post-punk feel, a tone vocal paired with a thumping metronomic beat at tripwire tense guitars, and likewise the stark, jittery ‘Preference for Cold’. The bass shudders as it runs hither and thither, while the guitars crash in splintering shards. Elsewhere, if ‘No Pleasure’ filters The Stooges through Black Flag and slips its way through at a hundred miles an hour in a torrent of sweat and angst, it’s still got a vaguely post-punk tint to compliment its hardcore hue, and ‘Temporary Home’ is all about the motoric thud. It’s also got something that sounds like a chorus and a bit of melody, although it’s soon swallowed up in a scream of nail-scraping feedback and racketous riffage.

You wouldn’t exactly call Character Stop a minimalist work, but it is often stark, almost contemplative, going beyond all-out thunderous noise to explore dynamics and contrast. In short, it’s a cracking album.

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Cruel Nature Recordings – 16th October 2020

New York’s Lip Critic return with their second album, imaginatively titled Lip Critic II. Now, I have a tendency – and I know it’s spurious – to associate numbered albums with prog and indulgence, ranging from Peter Gabriel to Led Zeppelin. But there is nothing remotely proggy or indulgent about Lip Critic’s second eponymous release, which crams nine tracks into 21 minutes of genre hybridity and maniacal mayhem. And make no mistake: this is intense and crazy shit, all going off in a boiler at once.

The lazy hookline would be that the album’s first track, ‘Why Not’, sounds like The B52s on acid, but more accurately, it sounds like The B52s on acid and meth imitating a fictitious Dead Kennedys / obscure hip-hop collaboration for the Judgement Night soundtrack. But none of this really convey just how frantic, frenetic, fucked-up and actually quite how wrong this all is. Yes, the world of Lip Critic is a bewildering one that absolutely defines the concept of ‘crossover’, and the closest comparison I can think of is Castrovalva, who were ace but niche and probably for a reason. It’s so far into niche crossover it’s hard to determine the level of seriousness behind the hybridized mess of noise that is Lip Critic II: this is an album that goes beyond so many boundaries all at once.

I don’t know what this is, and I suspect it doesn’t either. And nor should it: music should exist for its own sake, free from any constraints of genre. But with Lip Critic, it’s brain-bending and bewildering: there is simply so much going on, and all of it’s incongruous and seemingly incompatible.

‘Dreamland I’ is out-and-out mad, not so much a mash-up or hybrid as a multi-genre pileup with gas tank explosions and flames and wailing sirens and probably some people being cut from cars by fire and rescue and others being abducted by aliens.

‘Like a Lemon’ brings garage, grime, and industrial-strength hip-hop together with mangled beats a punishingly heavy groove that provides a backdrop to a more narrative-orientated approach to the lyrics, describing a guy with ‘A double-breasted suit and tight shorts / they’re so tight they cut off the circulation to his legs / … he said ‘I’m going to fill you up with rhinestones’.

At every turn, Lip Critic deliver mind bombs of every shape and form: sonically, stylistically, lyrically, Lip Critic II is simply an explosion. With every song being so brief, one barely has time to realise it’s started before it’s finished, and by the end, the listener is left punch-drunk, bewildered and dizzy. I think it’s good. I think it’s horrible. I think it’s a mess. But I can’t be sure.

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NYC industrial trail blazers Uniform reveal the title track from their forthcoming album due September 11th on Sacred Bones. “Shame is the song that sets the thematic tone for the rest of the record, which seems appropriate for a title track. It is a portrait of someone riddled with regret in the process of drinking themselves to death. Night after night they sit in dark reflection, pouring alcohol down their throat in order to become numb enough to fall asleep,” vocalist Michael Berdan explains.

“I took inspiration from a few stories of alcoholic implosion, namely Sam Peckinpah’s Bring Me the Head of Alfredo Garcia and John O’Brien’s Leaving Las Vegas. The line ‘That’s why I drink. That’s why I weep’ appears in homage to Rod Serling’s Twilight Zone episode ‘Night of the Meek.’”

Listen to ‘Shame’ here:

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Photo By Ebru Yildiz

Wise Queen Records / Shapta – 4th September 2020

Christopher Nosnibor

Abrasive Trees may be the solo project of Scottish-born guitarist and singer Matthew Rochford, and this may be a debut release, but already the project has acquired a roll-call of contributors on a par with Pigface or The Damned. Amongst these are Peter Yates (Fields of The Nephilim), Mark Beazley (Rothko/Band of Holy Joy), Steven Hill (Evi Vine), and Jo-Beth Young (Talitha Rise/RISE/Yates & Young).

The sum of this three-tracker bears little obvious relation to its parts, in the best possible way: there’s no sense of baggage or of any of the contributors striving to define the sound with their various stylistic signatures, and what’s more, none of the compositions sound remotely alike, showcasing a creative openness and willingness to experiment and embrace different forms.

Emerging from a thick atmospheric mist, ‘Bound for an Infinite Sea’ has gothic overtones, with picked guitars echoing out over a deep, rumbling bass. With hints of early Cure, Skeletal Family and Salvation, it broods through shadowy shapes in a fashion that’s perfectly evocative of the early 80s post-punk sound, but it’s also spun with an ethereality that owes as much to the 4AD roster and 90s shoegaze. Rochford’s voice sounds dislocated, disembodied, as it floats into the air, lost, alone. The production is hazy, a vagueness hangs over the notes, with the instruments blurring together as the percussion lingers hesitantly in the background.

Beginning with hints of expansive post-rock, there’s almost a folky feel to the delicate instrumental ‘Brother Saint’, which washes into the more abstract, experimental semi-ambience of ‘Replenishing Water (Stripped)’.

Uncertainty, trepidation, and a certain sense of otherness permeate this set, and if Abrasive Trees’ identity and direction seems unclear at its conclusion, then it’s all to the good, leaving open all avenues and possibilities for exploration.

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