Posts Tagged ‘Post-Punk’

Cool Thing Records – 14th January 2022

Christopher Nosnibor

Asylums offshoot band Bait mark their return in blistering style with the ball-busting, ballistic blast of tension that is ‘Drama Drama Drama Drama’. Having dropped – or perhaps more accurately detonated – their explosive eponymous debut in 2018, showcasing a post-punk industrial crossover that crash-landed somewhere between PiL and Killing Joke, they reminded us of their existence in the spring of 2019 with the gritty grind of the single ‘DLP’ before falling silent.

In fairness, a global pandemic and a succession of lockdowns and limitations was never going to be conducive to the creation of new output, especially when core members Michael Webster and Luke Branch have been busy beavering away on a new Asylums album.

But, inter alia, they’ve also been working on the new Bait album, Sea Change, which is set for release in April, and ‘Drama Drama Drama Drama’ is one hell of a way of announcing it, distilling all of the pent-up frustration, fury, and anxiety of two years kept on edge into just under two minutes of eye-popping, adrenaline-fuelled sonic catharsis.

If the sneering edge of the vocal delivery sounds like it’s a put-down to those who’ve been panic stricken by the pandemic, it’s likely more a swipe at those who’ve chronically mismanaged the public’s expectations, left them separated, isolated, financially insecure, and unable to seek solace with friends or family while keeping them apart while quaffing drinks and generally having a jolly old time as well as getting minted off slipping multi-million pound contracts for unusable PPE and all the rest at the taxpayers’ expense. The reason the parties have particularly tipped people is because they missed the final moments of loved ones and suffered the immeasurable torture of enforced isolation.

The ‘drama drama drama drama’ in question here isn’t some lame Eastenders shit, this is life. The swirling turmoil and endless uncertainty of everything… On a personal level, when lockdown hit, I was inundated with messages at first, from friends, from family and especially work as WhatsApp groups were set up while we got sent home to work, and the channels of communication were beyond buzzing as everyone flipped out and I witnessed – and participated – in their panics in real-time. It was hectic, a blizzard, a blur… but it was when it went quiet I lost it. You get thrown into something so hard you have to swim. But when the armbands deflate…You text with no reply – that anguish is real and it’s intense. The minutes feel like hours. The tension rises, the panic rises, the palpitations flutter and the perspiration flows and in no time you’re a dishevelled, disoriented mess. You know it’s irrational, but panic is irrational. You struggle to steady your breathing. You can’t face the supermarket because it’s full of people. You can’t face meeting anyone. You can’t breathe. This is the drama, and it piles up and piles up and increases in intensity until it’s unbearable.

‘Drama Drama Drama Drama’ steps up the gritty edge of previous outings, and this time arrives somewhere between Killing Joke and Black Flag, which means it’s absolutely furious and relentlessly raging. It’s a killer tune with all the intensity, and the soundtrack to the now.

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Space & I Records – 21st January 2022

January is always a shitter. Whether you love Christmas or loathe it, or even if you’re largely indifferent, January is invariably a slump month of epic proportions. Those of us who aren’t mad keen on Christmas tend to cling to the light at the end of the tunnel that is new year, not because of the New Year celebrations, but because of the prospect of things getting back to normal, where everyone isn’t flapping about doing Christmas shopping and your mates aren’t in an endless conveyor-belt of work and other social commitments and might actually have time for just a pint and a chat, and because gigs and regular social activities resume and you can turn on the TV, radio or walk into a shop without hearing wall-to-wall fucking Christmas tunes.

But no, everyone’s skint, the ones who aren’t are doing dry January and not going out, and the days are short and cold and miserable and Christ, it’s bleak. And for the self-employed, the unsalaried, those in the arts, it’s even bleaker, especially during a pandemic. But then, as ‘Happy Birthday payday’ reminds us, staying afloat in the arts is hard at anytime.

It’s ironic that while mainstream chart musicians are lauded and the pop icon is considered aspirational, those who actually commit themselves to the graft of being in a proper band – or pursuing creative activities like writing or visual arts as a means of earning a living are relentlessly knocked back for being dreamers or unrealistic. Granted, it’s only very few who achieve the heights of Coldplay or Radiohead, or JK Rowling or Damien Hirst, but that isn’t to say that an equitable living shouldn’t be out of reach for the many in the lower echelons, and it simply shouldn’t be the case that tends of thousands of streams on Spotify or iTunes translates to less than the price of a pint.

Moses aren’t a band who are willing to compromise to turn that pint into a round: ‘Happy Birthday Payday’ is culled from their second album, Almost Everything Is Bullshit, which is not only a cracking title but a verifiable fact in this time of endless fakery, but one that’s unlikely to see it garner much mainstream radio play. Similarly, while ‘Happy Birthday Payday’ is a strong tune, bursting with energy and hooks, and with a nagging quasi-rockabilly guitar-line and some storming bass runs, it’s hardly zeitgeist. It’s cut from the punkier end of post-punk, and could have been part of the early 90s New Wave of New Wave ‘movement’ hyped by the press. It’s fast, furious, and spirited, and exactly the kind of tunage we need on offer beyond the mainstream – which is why outsider acts need to be viable, because without them, we’re fucked.

10th December 2021

Christopher Nosnibor

Sense of Scenery first came to my attention way back in 2009 with the release of The Disaster of Imagination which landed with me for review. I fucking loved it, and still love it now: it’s an album that’s stuck with me, and still gets regular play now, although it carries a certain weight of nostalgia now as it comes bearing memories of past, perhaps simpler times, and it also reminds me of people and places, and how things have changed.

But then, it always hit me with a certain level of emotional resonance, there was just something about it.

Sense of Scenery have been slow in their subsequent output: an EP in 2012, a remix EP the following year, and an instrumental single in 2017 has ben the sum of the output prior to the emergence of ‘Through the Walls’ as a single in August as a taster for an upcoming album. And now there’s this, a second single and accompanying B-side.

SOS come out swaggering with bravado about this one, claiming it to be ‘Like a direct injection of Viagra into the flaccid, shriveled wiener of Rock’. Which is pretty fucking bold, however you look at it.

It arrives on a wibbly wave of organ with some warping tape stretches, and a crisp metronomic drum sound, and while it’s immediately apparent that their style is unchanged in its post-punk leanings, it is very much evolved. Sean Douglas’ compositions still revolve around cyclical chord repetitions and choruses that step up the vocals and pack a mean hook, but things are altogether slicker, especially the production.

The drums are bordering on the mechanical, and there’s a tightness and smoothness about the overall sound that brings polish, but more than that, it brings a sense of paranoia and heightened tension. B-side ‘Smokescreen’ really brings this all to the fore, bordering on dance, especially with its blooping synth line, but it sounds like the soundtrack to an 80s car chase sequence, and it’s dynamic and exciting.

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James Wells

In advance, we learn that ‘The songs on Beautiful Hell will take you on a tour of the wreckage that is the contemporary state of affairs brought about during the reign of the Orange Beast. There was the destruction and reversal of environmental policies like withdrawal from the Parris Climate Accord, termination of the Clean Water Act & turning back the clock on human rights’, and that ‘the title track ‘Beautiful Hell’ draws a juxtaposition between the beauty of this planet and decaying state of political affairs. The tune ‘Under his Eye’ is focused on what is seemingly a path toward a Neo-Nazi Christian state. ‘Night Bird Cries’ is a lament for the decline of our environment and morality, that increasingly vie for our attention but go unheeded.’

The sound of Orcus Nullify – headed by bassist / vocalist Bruce Nullify – on this release is very much vintage goth, with fractal guitars, heavy in chorus and flange and setting spindly frameworks around thundering bass and tribal drums, the murky production evolving the sound and style of early Christian Death.

The intro to the title track sounds very like that of The Mission’s ‘Severina’ before it goes all splintering, spirally Nightbreed-sounding second-wave goth. For the record, that’s no criticism, just a contextual referencing placemarker. ‘Night Dance’ showcases a raw, dingy sound where the guitars are trebly and the bass is muddy and everything combines to create something dark and intense. ‘Fall from Faith’ is The Mission amped up to eleven, it’s The March Violets, it’s Groovin’ with Lucy, it’s Rosetta Stone.

As such, it’s not inventive, and Orcus Nullify clearly aren’t out to reinvent the genre, but to add to the body of the catalogue that could reasonably be labelled ‘classic goth’. Nothing wrong with that, and credit to the band, they’ve got the sound nailed, and some decent choons, too, with Beautiful Hell being a solid and dynamic EP.

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Unbound – 11th November 2021

Christopher Nosnibor

I may not have discovered The Sisters of Mercy until 1987 (being born in ‘75, I was simply too young to have been around in their first phase), like many, I have long been fascinated by those early years and their ascent from vaguely ramshackle indie act to the band who released the album which would essentially define the sound of ‘goth’ for decades to come. By ‘fascinated’, I really mean ‘obsessed’, particularly in my teens, but my love of The Sisters has endured. While the story of those first five years has been told, retold, fetishized and transformed into lore with elements of legend and myth blended in along the way (much of which having been perpetuated by Andrew Eldritch himself), it’s never been given truly detailed coverage, and for this reason, I joined many in pitching in for the crowdfunding of Mark Andrews’ biography. The wait felt like forever, and in the meantime, Trevor Ristow dropped Waiting for Another War (which I’m yet to pick up) on the same period. And so it is that Sisters bios are like proverbial busses, although that’s certainly no complaint: it simply indicates the impact and significance of a band who, despite having been in existence for over forty years and who haven’t released a record in the last thirty.

The book looks and feels like quality (although some have griped about the lack of capitalisation on the definite article both on the cover and throughout the text), but it’s on the contents that Andrews’ work should be judged. There is no two ways about it that Paint My Name in Black and Gold was worth the wait.

Two things immediately stand out: the quality and depth of the research, and the quality of the prose. The latter is particularly appreciated, and important: all the research in the world counts for little if not conveyed in a way that’s appealing. Put simply, Andrews writes nicely, and he writes well, accessibly but not pitched at those with a reading level of The Sun. Nor does he become so involved in trainspotting details of catalogue numbers or numbers of copies pressed or sold or takes in the studio. This is a very human biography, and the input from pretty much everyone involved with the band during the time (with the notable exception of Eldritch) not only brings it to life, but also gives it a real weight of credibility. Mark Pearman (Gary Marx) comes across particularly well, his reflections honest and considered, his position remarkably philosophical and even-handed.

The way in which Andrews places the development of the band in context makes for very interesting reading, with extensive coverage of the Leeds scene of the late 70s and early 80s, as well as the band’s strong links with York at the beginning (the Priestley’s signage remains at the top of Bootham, although it’s now a rather bourgeois homeware retailer). This alone makes for essential reading for anyone with an interest in the emerging post-punk scene, where writing about Leeds has been largely overshadowed by that on Manchester, and of course, London.

He moves things on at a steady but swift pace, but at the same time doesn’t skimp on detail, and pack the book with anecdotes and information about standout nights on particular tours and recording sessions, as well as various wild antics that seem so at odds with the seriousness of the music. Above all, Andrews captures the essence of the experience of existing in and around The Sisters during this time – the camaraderie and sense of community and even family, the buzz, the connection between the band, collectively and individually, with their fans. He also traces how the dynamic would shift and some of that proximity would diminish over time as the band got bigger. It’s also apparent that even in the early stages, the band dynamic and friendships thrived on the differences as much as the similarities of the members, and how much Eldritch was the driving force.

Andrews also presents an impressively balanced and objective perspective: while clearly a fan, there’s no idolisation of the band or any individual here, and his admiration for Eldritch – something that most of the interview subjects also express – is tempered by a realistic appraisal of his shortcomings and at times wilful stubbornness and perversity. That Eldritch is a stickler and prone to obsessive behaviour is widely known among fans, but Andrew really brings things to life when he writes of how Eldritch would literally spend long nights fiddling with EQ levels just to hear how they sound, and it requires no imagination whatsoever to comprehend the frustrations of band members and producers alike working alongside him. But more than even this, in Paint My Name, Andrews goes a long way to excavate the contradictions and complexities of the man who became Andrew Eldritch, how the nerdy, glam-obsessed Andrew Taylor would transmogrify into the beast that is Eldritch, and details the damage done to both himself – mentally and physically – and those around him along the way. The poverty and degradation are at times harrowing, and the long tours of ‘84 and ‘85 may have been among the band’s most memorable and seen them play to the largest numbers of fans of their career, but the way in which Andrews relays just how strung-out, fucked-up and fractured the band were behind the scenes renders their achievements all the more remarkable.

The epilogue provides a condensed overview of the years which would follow, but it’s clear that none of The Sisters’ subsequent history could come close to being quite as gripping as the first five years, whereby the rise of The Sisters would reverberate indefinitely.

The hardback is sold out, but the e-book edition is still available via Unbound.

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Time to Kill Records (TTK) – 15th December 2021

Christopher Nosnibor

A good slogan or manifesto can say so much more than the words in themselves. And so it is that Vonamor introduce themselves with a bold statement that hints at Dada or perhaps the more arch and ironic Neoism in a way.

Vonamor state that:

VONAMOR is music and movement. VONAMOR is real and virtual.

VONAMOR is the end and the beginning. VONAMOR is from love, of love, for love.

Vonamor are more than simply a band, then, and more an aesthetic, a single-act movement. They exist in the space between simultaneous contradictions, the likes of which have informed poetical works since the Renaissance, with Sir Thomas Wyatt’s ‘I Find No Peace’ sonnet effectively setting a blueprint for modern literature.

Postmodernism, and Neosim in particular positively revelled in those contradictions, taking the avant-garde idea of self-awareness and self-destruction as a means of creating anew, and this, on the strength of Vonamor’s statement, is their primary objective: to be everything, and therefore nothing: to exist, they must cease to exist.

How seriously to we take this? They look pretty serious to me, but that may all be part of the performance. The next, and perhaps most important question is, does the music validate the bravado and high art bombast?

‘Take Your Heart’ is a smart slice of stark, minimal electronica, dark pop with a gothy, post-punk leaning, a collision of Siousxie and Florence and the Machine that’s both spiky and groovy, five minutes of mid-tempo doom-disco with an industrial edge – I’m talking more later Depeche Mode than Nine Inch Nails. It’s daring in the adherence to the adage that less is more: it’s tight and claustrophobic, and this gives the song a particular intensity.

No question this is a low-budget effort on all fronts, but that’s a significant part of the appeal. This isn’t some major-label act masquerading as something cult and underground to score kudos and cool cachet; Vonamor are clearly a fringe act with big, bold ideas and a strong sense of identity, and ‘Take Your Heart’ is understated but strong.

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Vonamor

Chapter 22 Records – 4th of December 2021

Christopher Nosnibor

Dawn After Dark first emerged in the second wave of goth in the late 80s, at the point where goth intersected with indie and straight-ahead rock to create something altogether more digestible for the masses than the dark, shadowy stylings of the like of The Sisters of Mercy and The March Violets (and this isn’t the time for the goth / not goth debate here, and no-one needs to hear my position on it: I’m going for the short cuts to provide context, nothing more).

The Birmingham-based act were pretty active during this time, playing in the region of 150 UK shows as headliners and support to acts including Balaam And The Angel, Wolfsbane, Fields Of The Nephilim, and Living Colour, and releasing 3 12” singles on Chapter 22 (the label that also launched The Mission in ’86 and released their first two singles, ‘Serpent’s Kiss’ and ‘Garden of Delight’) before calling it a day in 1991. 30 years on, they’ve finally delivered their debut album, and as the title suggests, its emergence is something like a phoenix from the ashes, since they’ve lain dormant all this time save for a one-off show in their hometown in September 2019.

Those three singles – ‘Maximum Overdrive’, ‘Crystal High’, and ‘The Groove’ are all featured here, albeit rerecorded using post-millennium technology and mastering, slotting in nicely alongside seven previously unreleased songs. It’s ‘Maximum Overdrive; that kick-starts the 11-track collection and is pure Cult, which is no shock given the original as performed by a band who sported long hair, leather jackets and bandanas back in the day. This version is much more polished and much more dense than the original, and you get a sense that this was how they always wanted it to sound. It’s less manic, smoother, but it still basks in rock ‘n’ roll excess and wild solos flame all over.

I’ve always filed DAD alongside the likes of Rose of Avalanche, although it’s fair to say they’ve always had a rather harder edge, and this is pressed to the fore on their long-delayed debut album, to the point that on reflection they’re more ones to file alongside The Cult and Zodiac Mindwarp now (only without the preposterous excess of the Bradford hard rockers).

‘The Day the World and I Parted Company’ brings more gritty riffery, and sounds like Sonic Temple era Cult with a hint of The Mission thanks to the twisting guitar lines and all the hammer-on descending runs. It’s enhanced by some overloading chug in the rhythm department, although there’s an expansive psychedelic workout in the mid-section.

Apart from slower, more anthemic stabs like ‘When Will You Come Home to Me’, they focus on the bold rock riffing, and you can’t exactly criticise a late 80s rock band for sounding like a late 80s rock band – and yes, that is the sound of New Dawn Rising, a title that perfectly captures their history and belatedness of their debut. It’s like they’ve never been away, apart from the fact that they’re back sounding crisp, and dense and more 2021, in terms of production if not songs.

It’s a solid, ballsy, gut kicking debut that packs in back-to-back slabs of the kind of rock they supposedly don’t make any more… only, of course, they very much do.

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‘People’ is the first video from Flood Twin, the eponymous full length debut album from this determined, disturbing Atlanta trio. It was directed by Dean Carr, known for his work with Tool, Marilyn Manson and scores of others. The album was recorded at Madison Studios, in their hometown, produced by lead singer and bassist Grant W. Curry, an alumnus of New Orleans cult rockers Pleasure Club.

The opening track and lead single, ‘People,’ introduces the album and the band with a powerful swagger: howling guitar feedback and a “let’s get this mother started” kick drum pulse gives the bass an opening to set the tone for the album, hammering home a jarring bottom whereupon Hedberg conjures the demented surf guitar nerve-twitch of the early Cramps and their Australian disciples, the Birthday Party.

It’s one hell of an introduction and a hot taster for the album. Watch the video here:

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Flood Twin 2 pc Brian Manley for email

10th September 2021

James Wells

Whoever said goths and industrialists have no sense of humour? Or that they hate pop? It’s long been a myth perpetuated by outsiders pedalling stereotypes that goths and fans of industrial music are moody, po-faced twats who mope around looking glum while listening to depressing music and reading depressing literature. Cheer up goth – have an Irn Bru! The early noughties advertising slogan pretty much sums up the popular perception of anyone with dyed black hair and black clothes, but in a position of polarity to so many straights who are crying on the inside, you’ll likely find adherents of shadier subcultures are laughing on the inside, while rolling their eyes at the normies.

There’s a long history of whacky covers going right back to the post-punk roots of the genre, with Bauhaus and The Sisters of Mercy making some inspired cover choices spanning ABBA to Dolly Parton, not to mention Fields of the Nephilim’s stunning take on Roxy Music’s ‘In Every Dreamhome a Heartache’, and Revolting Cocks’ crazed, audacious ‘Da Ya Think I’m Sexy’.

And if the outré cover has over time become rather standard form, there’s always room for a good one, and this, people, is a good one, courtesy of LA-based quartet FleischKrieg, who you’d never guess were influenced by Rammstein and 3TEETH.

Lifted from the forthcoming FleischKrieg album, Herzblut, due out in October of this year, they’ve cranked up the sleaze for this one. It may be a fairly straight cover, but it amplifies the original eightieness and adds a while lot of grind. Instead of blasting up the guitars, the synths are more grating, the drums bigger, more explosive, and of course, it’s the gritty metal vocals that really define it. If it’s a shade predictable in its straight-up approach, then it makes up for it just by being so damn solid. Hurgh!

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24th September 2021

Christopher Nosnibor

Pink Turns Blue have been around practically forever, having formed in 1985, and while they may not be widely regarded among the first wave of goth acts, they very much emerged from that milieu as a duo with a drum machine, and what they’ve achieved over so many of their peers while lingering on the peripheries is longevity. Having re-emerged in 2003 after an eight-year hiatus, they’ve continued to mine the classic post-punk seam that’s distinctively theirs, due in no small part to Mic Jogwer’s vocals. And of course, what goes around comes around. Their return in the early years of the new millennium was well-timed, coinciding with the point at which the post-punk renaissance bloomed with the likes of Editors and Interpol breaking through. There were of course countless also-rans, and bands who emerged but failed to fulfil their promise, but nevertheless, time has proven that the style has remained current, and the darker the times, the greater the craving for dark tunes, and this is where Pink Turns Blue really prove to be as contemporary and vital as ever.

Their eleventh album was written, recorded, mixed, and mastered during lockdown in their Berlin studio, and the first thing that strikes about Tainted is just how bleak it is. It’s achingly majestic, it’s magnificent, and possesses some wonderful hooks and choruses, but there’s an all-pervading atmosphere of sadness, of melancholy that’s draped over every beat and radiates from every note. Glimmers of positivity are dampened by an air of resignation, optimism doused with defeat. The next thing that soon becomes apparent is just how consistent the album is. It’s not only all killer, but had a remarkable cohesion. It’s true that that for cohesion you might interpret sameness, and they do operate with a fairly limited sonic palette. One suspect this is at least in part the result of the material being the product of three guys in a studio without any external input or interference.

But working within such limitations places the focus on the songwriting, on the tunes, on the delivery, instead of throwing in all sorts of fancy stuff.

The guitar to opener ‘Not Even Trying’ evokes the into to ‘Severina’ by ‘The Mission’, and it’s got that same solid four-four strike on every beat bassline that Craig Adams made his signature back in the early days of The Sisters of Mercy, and which has become something of a defining feature for so many gothy post-punk bands, and it makes the song an instant grab. ‘I’m not even trying’, Jowger admits blankly, as if admitting defeat from the outset, and setting the pessimistic tone that echoes through single cut ‘There Must Be So Much More’. It’s a song of yearning, of questing, and of determinism, and a song Editors would have likely killed to have penned for one of their first two albums.

This isn’t an album of depression, but the sound of downward-facing defeat, of staring at the ground and wondering where it all went wrong. ‘Never Give Up’ encapsulates the conflict, the inner turmoil of staring emptiness and defeat straight in the face and realising there are only two choices. But to never give up is not a positive thing, merely the stubbornness that comes from not knowing what else to do.

The bass and guitar are melded together in a tunnel of chorus and reverb, and tied to a relentless drum track, and it’s gripping and compelling. ‘Why Not Save the World’ has heavy echoes of mid-80s Depeche Mode and would sit comfortably on a She Wants Revenge album, while ‘I’m Gonna Hold You’ comes on like New Order as covered by A Place to Bury Strangers, with a nagging bass and brittle guitar that grips hard.

Just as Robert Smith can make a skippy pop song sound tear-jerkingly sad, so when Jowger sings of the joys of ‘a new day’, it’s with a wistful melancholy that aches deep and you feel something tug in your chest as you swallow it down, that inexplicable sadness. ‘Listen to the bumble bee’ he sings on ‘Summertime’, and it’s carried a way on a chiming jangle of guitars that are so wistful, while the tone is of deep nostalgia. A perfect sunny day can have its joy marred by the realisation that it isn’t quite as perfect as sunny days of a time gone by, happy, carefree times that will forever be trapped in the memory as magical, but now faded and never to be recreated.

The song structures are comparatively simple and straightforward, and built around repetitive chord sequences and guitar motifs, and there’s nothing fancy about any of the playing – which is absolutely key to the success.

Any fan of Interpol or Editors would do well to explore Tainted – but then again, so would any fan of not only post-punk, but anyone with ears and with a heart and soul. It’s a masterful work in music of the mood. The mood is low, the mood is sad, and this is an album of real depth that speaks and resonates beyond the immediate.

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