Posts Tagged ‘Punk’

4th June 2021 (Knight)

Kids… every year they get younger, right? It’s a poor quip poorly executed, one that cropped up when I was teaching at a university as lecturers joked about how every year the students got younger. Bands who aren’t yet old enough to drink at the venues they perform tend to be met with an equal blend of awe and scoffing. Both are equally unfair: why should anyone assume that age is a measure by which any musician should be judged? Being wowed because of ability that’s advanced ‘for their age’ is as discriminatory as commenting on how a band from the 70s are still ‘good for their age’. It’s also a criticism of sort, as if they’re not actually good on their own merits.

So instead of either being wowed by their youthful talent or knocking them for being a bunch of millennials with an agenda, let’s see what this quartet consisting of Noah Lonergan (vocals and guitar), Amber Welsh (bass), Michael Barlingieri (guitar), and Harry Heard (drums) are actually about.

They speak for Gen Z, with songs about global warming and toxic masculinity to racism and corruption. And yes, we need bands with conscience, and we need bands who are politically engaged. THIS is how the future happens. Anyone who decries a ‘woke’ agenda and bitches about ‘snowflakes’ can fuck off, because we know they’re all middle-aged, middle-class white men with a comfortable platform from which to decry ‘cancel culture’.

Polarized Eyes met in primary school and came together as a band in 2018. Tom Robinson loves them, John Kennedy (Radio X). Jack Saunders at Radio 1 also rated their single ‘Real Boys’, and they will probably dig this too.

It’s just shy of two minutes of guitar-driven, there-chord punk energy that’s pure punk, coupled with the raw power of grunge. Ther’s some wicked reverb going on with the vocal, and Lonergan belts it out with real force – but there’s something more to his voice than that, masking it one you want to hear more of. It’s a rush. It’s also a straight-up killer single by any measure.

AA

Its Not An Accident, Its Love_artwork_jpeg

26th May 2020

Christopher Nosnibor

Yes! Yes! Yes! This single cut from London four-piece Ravenfangs is appropriately titled. Clocking in at two and a half minutes, it’s an explosion of fizzy, grungy, overdriven guitars powered by angst and frustration, Recapturing the spirit of Nirvana and blending it with a certain punk sensibility, it’s lack of polish is a significant part of the appeal.

This is the best of DIY, and this is what happens when people have had enough. They don’t hang about, they don’t wait for opportunities or offers – they get on and make their own and do it all themselves. It was the emergence of punk that saw bands first shun the conventional industry-centred models, and the age of home recording and the Internet has finally rendered the production and release of music an egalitarian, open proposition.

The beauty is that truly anyone can pick up a guitar – hell, you don’t even need that, just a laptop or a phone these days – and offload all that emotion, everything that you need to vent, and put it out there.

Starting off with a thick, buzzing bassline played with a gut-punching urgency, ‘Rage’ crashes in full throttle with everything else all going hell-for-leather all at once. It’s unpretentious, unpolished, and exciting because it’s real, a sneering blast of righteous alt-rock, and packs a proper punch with no pretence, no pissing about. Raw, rough, ready, this is where it’s at.

AA

U1YpMVKI

Trash Wax Recordings – 14th May 2021

Christopher Nosnibor

Belgian four-piece The Distractors formed in 2019, and despite the last year and a bit not being the time for bands to build a fan base through live activity, they’ve managed to deliver their debut long player, which they’re the first to admit is an homage to their influences, as filtered through the band’s quirky, anarchic creative methods and general disregard for orthodoxy.

‘Everybody Hates Poetry’ is a straight-ahead punk three-chord thrash with gruff vocals that isn’t a million miles from The Anti-Nowhere League, and immediately establishes their style and credentials. And there really is nothing fancy about any of this. It’s a no-messing punk album, and you could pretty much leave it at that.

For a movement that was so revolutionary in terms of its achievements, a lot of punk music wasn’t nearly that innovative, although it’s perhaps a fair assessment that the most commercially successful and renowned punk acts of that first watershed were the least innovative and most accessible. The likes of Sex Pistols, Sham 69, and The Vibrators, on reflection, were just pub rock cranked up a few notches, and pretty tame. Real punk was Wire, Metal Urbain, Throbbing Gristle, bands that challenged both the establishment and musical convention. I say ‘was’, as punk rapidly transitioned from anti-establishment to an establishment of its own, a genre rather than an attitude.

But The Distractors combine both: punk style and punk attitude, and that’s the selling point behind Subversiv Dekadent, an album that does live up to its title, by and large.

Simple chord sequences – no more than three or four – are standard, and the songs are very much cut from the simple-but-effective mould or energetic primitivism.

‘The Night is Young (and So Are You)’ has an element of wrongness to its lyrics, and also mines a surf-punk seem that’s big on reverb and swagger, with contrasting guitar parts that balance the choppy and the noodly to strong effect. ‘Love You to the Max’ isn’t exactly tender, but it’s heartfelt and brimming with passion, and with a picked, chiming guitar in the verses, it’s got dynamic range, too. ‘To Hell With Good Intentions’ is one of those full-throttle ragers that slams in hard and fast and is all over in under two minutes. It’s not pretty, but it is strong – and that’s probably a fair summary of the album as a whole.

The innovation and uniqueness ratings for Subversiv Dekadent are low, but that’s not the point: the fury and energy ratings are off the scale, with the driving, gritty guitars cranked up really high and the energy and passion going up to eleven. Subversiv Dekadent is loud, fast, and it’s exciting. And that’s what a punk album ought to be.

AA

Artwork

Chapter 22 Records – 31st March 2021

No question that these are tough times for bands and the grass roots music industry generally. It’s the smaller bands who depend on flogging T-shorts and a handful of CDs at shows who are among the worst affected: they’re not earning royalties from endless radio play, their songs aren’t being used on TV commercials or in film soundtracks, and they sure as hell aren’t covering the rent with Spotify streams.

It must be particular difficult when you’re self-styled purveyors of Revolutionary Punk Roots Rock‘n’Roll whose entire ethos is to never rehearse, but instead achieve tightness through relentless gigging. What’s more, they had just reached a new peak – and a still wider audience – with a tour supporting New Model Army before the proverbial rug got pulled from under their feet. Still, newly-signed to Chapter 22, this, their fourth album, should do their profile no end of good.

Despite what their tag connotes, this – thankfully – is no bog-standard festival-friendly folk-punk knees-up roustabout as favoured by beer-sloshing bozos just looking to whoop it up. There’s substance to Headsticks’ melee which is more anti-folk than folk, while at the same time fuelled by the fury of genuine protest music: as you’d expect from a band who’ve had Crass’ Steve Ignorant guest on a song a few years ago, and with songs like the rabble-rousing ‘Red is the Colour’, they’re left-leaning and unashamedly political. Lately, it seems everything has become political in some way or another, and even fundamental issues like being opposed to racism, or day-to-day issues like wearing a mask in shops and adhering to social distancing guidelines have become politicised, because we live in an insane world. And for that reason, what you might consider to be the more traditional politics espoused by Headsticks is welcome and refreshing. It may sound naïve, but I do genuinely yearn for the simpler times when artists, workers, and all and the oppressed people in society stood together in wanting to smash a scumbag Tory government, instead of the endless shouting that is social media. But if unity is to be regained, music is something that gives us hope. There’s nothing like standing in a room with several hundred people and standing together not just physically, but in solidarity.

Lead single ‘Peace & Quiet’ is representative: you can practically feel the fists pumping in this frenetic punky blast. Across the album’s twelve fast and furious tracks, it’s the Dead Kennedys that often come to mind, largely on account of the ultra-hyped energy, the fact that they sound like a 33 played at 45 for the most part.

Propelled by a piston-pumping drum beat, the high-octane blues blast of ‘Miles and Miles’ is reminiscent of The Screaming Blue Messiahs, while the stripped back, slower ‘Tyger Tyger’ pitches a more emotive experience, laced with strings and contemplation, and ‘Speak Put’ goes full Fugazi, with lyrics adapted from Martin Niemöller’s poem ‘First they came …’ – and it’s powerful.

While kicking against injustice and hypocrisy, Headsticks avoid being overtly preachy, and instead stick to keeping it simple and keeping it lively. It’s a solid approach, and the energy is infectious.

AA

Promo Image

19th February 2021

Thinking big is maybe the starting point for bands who want to go places. How many local bands have you seen or heard and thought ‘but these guys could, and should, be huge?’, and yet five years later they’re still plugging away at the pub up the road playing to maybe forty people. Yes, you need material and a decent show, but more than anything, progress takes drive – the drive to play further – and further – afield, and more often, to get some decent PR and do some marketing. Sadly, all the word of mouth in your hometown won’t lead to world dominance, even at a snail’s pace, however good your songs are.

This four-piece garage rock band from Newport, South Wales clearly have some motivation: starting as bedroom project in late 2017, they’ve won themselves a substantial fanbase on the Welsh circuit (playing their debut gig not in their hometown but in Pontypool, and working up to selling out 100+ capacity gigs in both Newport and Cardiff), and as a statement of their intent and ambition, they recorded their debut EP with Jeff Rose (Skindred and Dub War).

It’s ALL about the ENERGY with ‘Last Call’. The intro just powers in all guitars and guns blazing, positively popping and at a hundred miles an hour. The clean vocals keep it accessible to a wider audience, but it’s not a sanitised, cleansed, crisp and commercial cut: here, Finding Aurora prove it’s possible to do melodic and ballsy riffing at the same time. And what’s more they pack it into a tight three-minute burst. With a killer chorus backed by some big guitars, it’s pretty hard to fault, and you’d have to be deaf not to hear the mass potential here.

AA

Single artwork

Human Worth – 26th February 2021

Christopher Nosnibor

From the first twisted, dingy powerchords that herald the arrival of Fraught in Waves with the punishing – and appropriately-titled ‘Breakage’ – it’s abundantly clear that Gaffa Bandana’s debut album is going to be an absolute fucking beast. The rest of the album only verifies this as fact: Fraught in Waves is indeed an absolute fucking beast. It may only contain six tracks and have a total running time of half an hour, but the sheer intensity is ear-bleeding, eye-popping, and gut-tearing. Yes, this is a truly physical experience, one that’s exhausting and exhilarating in equal measure.

Gaffa Bandana is Gill Dread (Bruxa Maria) and Jennie Howell (So3ek, Sleeping Creatures, Gorse, Dooman Empire), and Fraught in Waves was first released as a digital-only effort back in September of last year.

While they’re pitched as a punk duo, the pair’s noise is a full-throttle hybrid of hardcore and sludgy noise, the guitars coming on like Fudge Tunnel covering Tad. The clattering drums also call to mind the heavy noise scene of the 90s: if obscure namechecks like Oil Seed Rape and other band on the Jackass label spark a light of recognition, then we’re speaking the same language. And the vocals are just terrifying: deranged, demonic, they’re at a pitch that’s rare in the fields of either punk, metal, or doom – it’s a cracked, guttural howl, bordering on a shrieking agony.

The contrasts are a major factor in its impact: the riffs are stop / start, and for all the density, there’s a lot of space where metallic clanging chords simply hang in the air before everything piles back in, hard, and deliberate.

There are hints of The Jesus Lizard about the churning ruckus of ‘Charm Offensive’ with its choppy guitar buzz and the hollering vocals low in the mix – but if you’re looking for more contemporary touchstones, Blacklisters and (early) Hawk Eyes are fair comparisons: jolting, metallic, uncomfortable and unforgiving, everything lurches one way and then the other, from stuttering stalls to incendiary riffage that absolutely burns, there is absolutely no room to breathe, not an inch to unwind in. This shit it tense, the kind of tension you feel in your chest and your stomach, and the seven-minute behemoth that stands as the album’s centrepiece, ‘Paralysis of Will’ is all the anguish, all the torture.

Every track feels more tempestuous than the last. ‘Evil Whispers’ has its moments of stuttering Shellac-like mathy judders as it stammeringly halts and resumes, but ultimately, it’s the relentless, balls-out, stomach-churning riffing that defines the sound. There isn’t a clean note to be found in this furious mess of noise. It’s rare for an album to grab you by the throat quite so brutally, and to maintain its choking grip without a moment’s respite, but Fraught in Waves is full-throttle from beginning to end. It is harsh, it is relentless, and at times borders on the psychotic. It’s pure catharsis, and it’s perfect.

cover

12th February 2021

You sometimes feel like the world spins faster for some than others. That’s certainly the case for Weekend Recovery: it doesn’t feel so long ago since the emerging alt-rock act from Kent were turning up at a basement bar in Leeds to play their Paramore-influenced radio-friendly rock with fingers crossed the local support would bring some punters. They’ve toured nonstop since their inception in 2017, and it’s worked well for them in terms of amassing a fervent fanbase, and relocation to Leeds, if anything, has helped set them apart from the sameness of the scene of female-fronted alternative rock bands in and around the capital right now.

So fast forward not that very long, but add a debut album, even more extensive touring including some high-profile festival slots, as well as a change of lineup, into the busy timeline, and Weekend Recovery 2021 slams in hard with a new album. With ten tracks clocking in at twenty-nine minutes, you get the idea: this is concise, punchy, and with no fat left untrimmed. Weekend Recovery have always penned focussed songs, but they’ve really nailed it right here.

‘Radiator’ opens it up – and bleeds – with a nagging guitar motif, before the band plunge into megalithic hard rock territory, coming on more like Black Moth or Cold In Berlin than their usual selves. And it’s good: where there was a simmering tension to their songs, which cut jagged and raw on Get What You Came For, you feel like False Company is the album they always wanted to make but couldn’t, for various reasons. That, or it’s the album that shows what life experience can do: while they certainly weren’t afraid to crank it up and let rip previously, False Company is harder, heavier, and altogether darker.

That isn’t to say they’ve lost their pop edge one iota, and there’s a keen ear for melody on display throughout. And it may well be down to the melody, but ‘Can’t Let Go’ sounds like a glam/metal reworking of ‘These Boots Were Made for Walking’. It’s fitting, as it’s a proper stomper, and whereas the energy on previous releases stemmed from a combination of froth and bounce alongside the fizzing guitars and turns of pace, on False Company it’s more centres – the sound is denser and more-up front somehow.

Single cut ‘Going Nowhere’ – a reflection on stasis that’s specifically about relationships but could equally be a metaphor for the last 12 months – stands out as a furious post-punk pop banger with the spiky angst of Siouxsie and Skeletal Family, not to mention hints of X-Ray Spex melted into a song with massive accessible appeal. ‘It Doesn’t Seem Right’ is the ferociously fiery alt-rock corker they’ve always threatened.

‘Surprise’ is the quintessential album slowie, and sounds suspiciously like a power ballad to my ears. Single cut ‘There’s a Sense’ provides a dash of levity, an airy pop tune that harks back to ‘Why Don’t You Love Me?’ from the previous album and it does feel a shade throwaway in context, a tune dispensed at pace to grab the ear. Likewise, ‘You Know Why’: on its own sounds a bit like a hook with not so much meat, the ‘na-na-na’ refrain sounding like it’s leaning on My Chemical Romance just a bit too hard to be cool, but in context of the album its bubblegum buoyance feels more tempered, and in fairness, it’s a full-tilt punk blast with hints of X-Ray Spex.

Elsewhere, ‘Yeah?!’ has large elements of Nymphs in the mix, capturing that blend of grunge and classic rock and spinning it with a strong hook, and finally, in its juxtaposition of guitar lines and vocal melody, plus aaaaallll the dynamics, closer ‘Zealot’ feels like their most evolved and sophisticated song to date.

In terms of the ‘difficult second album’, the machinations behind the scenes – not to mention timing – may have made its coming together a major challenge, and the cover art speaks volumes – it was a mountain to climb, an endless staircase to where? But none of this is evident from the finished product: instead, False Company is darker, harder, stronger, denser, more assured-sounding and more evolved, and every aspect is a step up from its predecessor: Weekend Recovery have really upped their game and expanded their range, delivering an album that really is something special.

AA

139669184_484273482976162_2931459315862235505_n

Mr. Bungle, who recently released their first album in over two decades, The Raging Wrath of the Easter Bunny Demo (Ipecac Recordings), have partnered with acclaimed Director Derek Cianfrance (“The Place Beyond The Pines,” “Blue Valentine”) for the band’s “Sudden Death” video.

"If you lived in Lakewood, Colorado, during the early 1990s, there’s a slim chance you would have seen and heard a 16 -year-old boy driving slowly around town in a white, 1974 Mustang II, with his windows rolled down, disrupting the neighborhood by blaring the music of Mr. Bungle. That 16-year-old kid was me, and that music that I listened to, over and over and over again, set the bar for my life as an artist,” explained Cianfrance. “So, 30 years later, when I got a call from Mike Patton asking me to direct a music video for one of the songs on their new album, The Raging Wrath of the Easter Bunny Demo, I questioned whether my life was really a dream… I informed Mike that I had never directed a music video before, but he wasn’t dissuaded. I listened to the album and asked if I could work with the song “Sudden Death.” It reminded me of the feelings of angst I carried throughout my youth while growing up in the shadow of a looming, forbidding thermonuclear war. I decided I could make a short film (well, not so short – the song is almost 8 min!) about these fears that haunted me. I was also interested in meditating on the theme of desensitization in modern society, where citizens are gradually and systemically numbed to the possibility of cataclysmic consequences. Since the song was written in the mid-‘80s, I determined that the video should feel like it was made during that time and imagined it as some sort of rediscovered relic. Shooting during a global pandemic proved a fitting backdrop to the malaise of the song. It also presented a unique challenge as I was too nervous to work with actors – so I had to come up with another solution. making this video with a small team of trusted collaborators, and working with my life-long heroes, was nothing short of a total dream come true."

Watch the video here:

AA

index

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.

AA

AA

a3844203491_10

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.

AA

a4096156322_10