Posts Tagged ‘Punk’

12th August 2022

Christopher Nosnibor

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

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

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

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

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1st July 2022

Christopher Nosnibor

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

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

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

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3rd June 2022

Christopher Nosnibor

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

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

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

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

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Fast & Bulbous Records – 22nd July 2022.

They’ve been described as sounding like the nagging repetitions of The Fall mixed with the fury of Black Flag, played at 100mph. band names don’t get much more punk than this. And they’re from Leeds, which has in recent years proved to be a hotbed of guitar-driven musical fury. This is what happens when a large city with lots of little venues finds itself in a different place from the rest of the country. Richly multicultural, innovative and entrepreneurial, with a large student population, it’s both a centre for tertiary industry and mass-scale redevelopment and gentrification as well as a place of terrible deprivation. So much for levelling up; so much for the northern powerhouse. But Leeds has always been apart, as its 80s musical heritage is testament to, and since the millennium, it’s been a hotbed of emerging styles, through post-rock and jerky, quirky indie, through math rock and all-out noisy shit, with countless bands emerging – and quickly fading again – in the process.

Scum have survived the pandemic, having formed in 2018, to drop a second EP, and the trio haven’t spent the time away figuring out how to make their millions writing pop songs.

On For Health and Well-Being, the trio are everything they’ve been described as, with a dash of Trail of the Dead tossed into the mix, and it’s a punky, energetic blend of styles that all point to energetic fury. The title tracks is a 25-second spoken word piece where a swell of noise and feedback rises in the background before halting abruptly and the full-throttle guitar attack of ‘Abuserism’ (the longest song at 3:30) piles in.

Blink and you’ll miss the 32-second ‘Vanity Support’: it’s the furious ‘Hard’ that really grabs the attention with its thick riffage and hardcore attitude, and the closer, ‘Intravenous Inconvenience’ powers it to a close.

Take same time out and give it a blast, and do it on work time. Because employers are all about supporting Health and Well-Being, right?

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Scum Artwork

22nd July 2022

James Wells

With their second single since whittling down to a duo, The Virginmarys continue to show that limited personnel and permutations of instruments does not equate to limited ideas or musical power.

‘You’re A Killer’ is unashamedly political, and articulates the anger of the many who aren’t millionaires and billionaires, coupled with the anxiety that pervades all aspect of life right now: ‘Working my bones and still earning a fraction / I’m hooked to my phone like a fatal distraction’ is as succinct a summary as you’ll hear all year, and that’s some nice wordplay in action too.

And it’s all blasted home in three minutes of jittery, choppy, raucous punk ‘n’ roll. The fire in their bellies rages hard and the chorus is 100% hook. There are hints of eighties rock in the mix too: imagine The Cult circa Sonic Temple played in the spirit of ’77.

The difference between the late 70s and early 80s and now is that Thatcher was at least up front and the working classes knew they were being shafted. Now, people are – literally – dying -starving as they queue at foodbanks and wait ten hours for ambulances and entire days in A&E while our leaders brazenly lie, and in recent years, the lies have become more threadbare and the bodies continue to pile high, heaped on the pyre of democracy as we sleepwalk into fascism.

The Virginmarys suck it all in and spit it out in a full-throttle guitar-driven blast of anger: global warming, the rich travelling on their jollies while the nation is sedated by the media, the new opium of the people, toward engineered social division.

The outlook is bleak, but this isn’t a bleak song: it’s a proper, raging protest song. Listen up, and wake up.

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The Virginmarys Artwork

Scruff of the Neck

Christopher Nosnibor

False Heads preface the arrival of their new album, Sick Moon, which is due at the end of September with the single ‘Thick Skin’, produced by Frank Turner.

Front man Luke Griffiths tells it straight when discoursing on the single’s inspiration and purpose, saying ‘“Thick Skin’ is about how much I f****** hate the current political discourse. To me, politics seems to be completely and utterly middle-class from left to right – class has been seemingly removed from a lot of left-wing politics.”

It’s hard to argue when the leader of the Labour opposition, supposedly the party of the workers, is a knighted ex-lawyer. Small wonder the workers are applauding RMT union head Mick Lynch as the voice of the people, since he’s the only one who’s really telling it like it is, and using his platform opportunities to explain just why everything is so fucked. No-one else is talking about how wages aren’t the issue in the “cost off living crisis”, it’s the fact that wages are being suppressed to preserve profits. People are struggling while CEOs rake in staggering salaries and bewildering bonuses and shareholders reap megadividends at the expense of the poor cunts who do the work and so effectively make those profits possible.

Griffiths goes on: ‘It’s also about social media politics. That kind of rage and vitriol is some form of lashing out for mental health problems and it’s like a form of addictive behaviour. I understand this, dealing with depression and having a history of drug abuse, and I understand how difficult it is to not let that rage inside you come out in vicious ways. But I just feel like social media has allowed a million different forms of religion, nationalism and tribalism to be completely normalised. Our brains are rotting and there is no hope, and every time I feel like there is I’m stung again.’

Again, it’s relatable on a mass scale. Religion is no longer the opium of the people: it’s social media, and it’s divisive, crushing, and debilitating.

‘Thick Skin’ packs all of this into two minutes and forty of guitar-driven grunge with a radio-friendly edge that sits between Asylums and DZ Deathrays, in that it balances attack with melody, big guitars with strong hooks. It’s a cracker!

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Dallas, TX, Sloth Fist are a 5 piece punk / rock ‘n’ roll band that combine the melodic sense of Descendents and Teenage Bottlerocket with the fierceness of bands like Motorhead and Turbonegro. The result is an eclectic mix of songs that will satisfy anyone who likes their music hard and heavy, but still catchy with hooks galore.

With lyrics written mainly during the pandemic, the band’s upcoming EP ‘Bombs Away’ (out October 7 on Mindpower Records) takes a much darker turn than past efforts.

The lead single, ‘Cut Through It’ deals with ‘The Great Resignation’ and lashes out at the current state of corporate greed.

Watch the lyric video for ‘Cut Through It’ here:

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17th June 2022

Christopher Nosnibor

Blackpool isn’t exactly a roaring flame on the musical map, hanging in the shadow of Manchester and being more geared toward tourism than seemingly existing as a place to live in its own right. Sure, Jethro Tull originated in Blackpool, along with – although some time apart – The Membranes, and Alfie Boe – but it’s hardly indicative of a cultural melting pot with a thriving scene to represent it.

Ivory Skies may – or may not – change that. Formed in 2019, they’ve released a couple of singles already, and scored support slots with Kyle Falconer from The View, and The K’s, which puts them on the fringes of the bigger leagues.

Perhaps it’s a coastal town thing: ‘Bring Me Up’ calls to mind the uptempo punk / indie crossover sound of Southend-on-Sea’s Asylums, and it’s buoyant, energetic – inoffensive, but certainly not lacking in a bit of bite, yielding four minutes of melodic, guitar-driven joy with a dash of realism.

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Christopher Nosnibor

I feel like I should keep a tally of the number of cover of Mission of Burma’s 1981 song ‘That’s When I Reach for My Revolver’. For an obscure band whose back catalogue is impossible to find, this song seems to exist in the ether, performed live on recent tours by The Sisters of Mercy, as well as Graham Coxon, as well as being subject to a truly blistering rendition courtesy of Moby during his 90s grunge phase on Animal Rights – and I have to say, that version is hard to beat. And no, not like Hard-Fi, who blow. Funnily enough, pretty much all of the covers have been better than the original, which is something of an inversion of the norm. I’m of the opinion that when it comes to a great tune you a) can’t beat the original b) can’t go wrong with a cover. So what is it with this track? Unfulfilled potential in the execution of the original? Perhaps.

Sirens Of Light slow it down and goth it up, hard – to the point that the verses are barely recognisable and the choruses are dark and grinding. It’s once of those covers where you don’t even recognise the song until it reaches the chorus. What have they done?  They’ve certainly taken ownership (note the title change, too), stamped their mark, and all that cal. In terms of execution, it’s taut, dense, bleak, brooding. It sneers and it’s imbued with a lip-curling sneer.

While it works presentationally and sonically, it feels like they’ve stripped the guts and angst out of the song. That doesn’t mean it’s bad, and it’s all a question of intent. The chorus is well-executed, and hits hard… but seems a shade lacking somehow.  Blown away? Maybe not, but it’s still got a fair bite.

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Christopher Nosnibor

With neither band having previously played in York before 2022, it’s three months to the week since Healthy Junkies and Yur Mum last played in this very room, and on the same lineup as part of the Lips Can Kill Tour, and it’s the third time here for Healthy Junkies, who supported The Kut here in January. And it’s great to have them both back, and although it’s a bit of a standard York on a Wednesday night turnout, those present more than compensate the small numbers with their demonstrations of appreciation, getting going down the front.

It is a while before things get going. Sure, I’m here to write about the music. But a long wait for the music when I didn’t think to bring a book makes for some tedious downtime. Scheduling and communication do matter, as the time I missed the headliners because they were due on around midnight, a full half hour after the last train back to York from Leeds illustrates perfectly. These things are ok if advertised in advance, but can be problematic if not. Opening doors at seven but not having a band on before nine without advertising stage times – or the fact that the headliners have pulled out – beforehand wasn’t the absolute worst, but sitting around on your tod for an hour and a half when you’ve got stuff you could have been doing is a bit of a chew, and midweek, I’d take an early finish over a late start any time.

Still, there’s decent beer on tap at fair prices, and supping a couple of pints of Oakham Citra while they spin some decent tunes over the PA is far from the worst way to kill time. And the bar staff are great, and the bands are without doubt worth the wait, and one thing about the Vaults is that the sound is spot on – and at a volume appropriate for the bands.

One thing that probably doesn’t get much comment is the fact that Yur Mum – Anelise and Fabio – are both great musicians. Anelise plays bass like a guitar and cranks out some monster sound, while Fabio plays the whole kit all at once. They’ve both got outstanding presence – Despite singing and playing, Anelise manages to be pretty mobile around the stage, and Fabio has an exuberant style that goes the occasional stick-spin. Above all, though, they play with chemistry and energy, and the intuition that comes with hard touring. The slower gothic tones of ‘Black Rainbow’ stand out in a powerful set that features a piledriving rendition of ‘Sweatshop’ as the penultimate song.

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Yur Mum

Healthy Junkies are another band who tour relentlessly, and it shows – not because they seem jaded, but because they’ve got that tightness that comes from time on the road (their last album, Forever on the Road is appropriately titled). And unphased by the smaller crowd, they play hard and put on the same standard of show as if the place was absolutely rammed. They’re not just pros, they pour every ounce into every song.

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Healthy Junkies

Nina Courson is a whirlwind of flailing limbs and hair, at times channelling Katie Jane Garside, and utterly compelling – to the point that sometimes you forget the songs, and the solidity of the band as a collective. Guitarist Phil Honey-Jones takes lead vocals on a handful of tracks, making for a nice contrast and highlighting the depth of the band’s talent. The rhythm section don’t do anything to draw attention, and do exactly what’s needed – keep it solid, and with drive. They wrap up with the fan-favourite cover of ‘These Boots Are Made for Walking’, and that is indeed what they do.

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Healthy Junkies

Any disappointment over the absence of Witch of the East – and I for one was disappointed, as I’d been looking forward, while I suspect other got word and stayed home – was compensated by the quality of the two bands, both headline acts in their own right.