Posts Tagged ‘Punk’

7th September 2018

Christopher Nosnibor

Argonaut are back with a new line-up and a new EP. You’d never guess from the title about there being a new EP. Having booked the studio for eight hours, the whole session was wrapped in six, with ‘minimal overdubs or embellishments’ as they put it. This honest, unlaboured approach gives the songs a directness and urgency which is integral to the appeal here.

All clocking in at between two and a half and three minutes, the four tracks on Argonaut’s latest offering are punchy, spiky, and with uncluttered arrangements and lo-fi production values, are perfect examples of punk/new wave crossover, delivered with the zeal of riot grrrl and grunge. And it’s great fun.

The band indulge their pop tendencies with a gloriously joyful rendition of Strawberry Switchblade’s ‘Since Yesterday’ (they do quite a line in covers, as it happens). It’s faithful to the original, but where the original was a shade twee, their take is free, vaguely ramshackle, and has a superbly messy guitar sound fizzing away.

With guitarist Nathan sharing the vocal duties on ‘March!’ – which is built around a simple, cyclical chord sequence played jangly and off-kilter – they come on like Brix-era Fall, and it’s the exuberance that crackles from ‘Girl Talk’ that pretty much serves to define the spirit of the EP.

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27th September 2018

Christopher Nosnibor

They’re still touring their debut album, Get What You Came For and already Weekend Recovery are moving on with a new EP that marks another step in their ever-advancing evolution.

If the album saw them ditch the Kerrang-radio-friendly Paramore-influenced alternative rock of their early efforts in favour of a more direct, punk style (nevertheless marked by a pop sass that passed a nod to Blondie), this latest effort finds Weekend Recovery get grittier and grungier. And once again, it’s a move for the better, and while it may not exactly be garage but more grunge, it is full-tilt and raw, while also benefitting from a fuller sound that showcases the material to best effect.

The band haven’t been around that long in real terms – I first caught them a couple of years ago in a basement bar in Leeds, and they were good, but clearly still searching for their identity, although Lauren came on like a star in the making, rocking up in a faux-fur coat and ready to kick ass. And not only live but on record, she’s really evolved as a performer, and behind the scenes, as an artist. The same goes for the rest of the band, too: this is solid and assured, and everything about In the Mourning marks a progression.

They’ve dug deep for this, and the press release points out that ‘Lori has doubled down on the transparent window into her own turbulent world that ‘Anyway’ [from the album] provided with a formidable and resonating track in ‘I’m Not That Girl’. The song in question finds the band mining an almost country seem albeit amped up to eleven with driving guitars dominating the chorus of this gut-spilling reflective confessional.

But it’s the choppy ‘Bite Your Tongue’ that grabs the attention as the EP’s opener, a thumping four-square bassline underpinning a quintessential grunge dynamic of chiming chorus-soaked verse guitar and overdriven chorus. And they totally nail it, with a hefty, heads-down riffcentric mid-section. Beneath the breezy woah-oh-oh-oh chorus, there’s a tension that’s both sonic and emotional, and the title track steps it up a couple of notches, propelled by a twisted disco groove that drives an explosive chorus. The guitars are up-front and meaty, and Lauren’s delivery balances melody with a raw passion that comes from churning internal anguish that has to find an outlet.

In the Mourning sees Weekend Recovery take another leap into forging their own identity, growing bolder and braver and more confident. Where they’ll be in another 18 months… I’m on the edge of my seat to see.

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Today, Uniform unveil the second single off their highly anticipated album, The Long Walk – coming August 17th on Sacred Bones. ‘Alone in the Dark’ is an homage to Jack Sholder’s slasher flick of the same name. Vocalist Michael Berdan explains that “in the film, Jack Palance, Martin Landau and Donald Pleasance star as a gaggle of mental patients who escape an asylum during a power outage and proceed to hunt down their psychiatrist. In our song, I’m referencing my personal feelings of isolation that come in the middle of the night, when I’m left with only the sensation of college level existential terror and prayers to a God who may or may not be listening, if even there at all.”

The Long Walk already looks like being one of Aural Aggro’s albums of the year. Get your lugs round ‘Alone in the Dark’ here:

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Uniform - Long Wak

IHeartNoise – 16th July 2018

Christopher Nosnibor

What am I being sent now? Admittedly, I have some time for IHeartNoise with their championing and general backing – not to mention occasional releasing – of music that most would like file under ‘weird shit.’ As the label remind us, ‘rock music with oddly-tuned guitars, varied rhythms, clouds of dissonance, and bursts of energy wasn’t too hard to come by in the 1990s’.

Howcha Magowcha, the second album by Turkish Delight, originally released in 1988 (and which follows IHeartNoise’s cassette rerelease of their 1996 debut last year), isn’t quite as weird as all that, but it’s hardy accessible or mainstream. In the main, it’s a high-octane, helium-filled punky thrashabout, and really rather fun. And while punk-pop has very clear connotations in contemporary terms, aspects of Howcha Magowcha belong to the time when indie bands like Voodoo Queens and Rosa Mota and Huggy Bear were cranking up the amps and revelling in the juxtaposition of ramshackle punky noise delivered with a pop sensibility. And Howcha Magowcha is bursting with tunes – all delivered with a spiky, angular energy.

The feel is very much of the era. We’re not talking grunge or nu-metal, but are deep in the domains of the weird underground that emerged and occupied the pages of Melody Maker and the NME for a while, and would often be found spun by John Peel. Reference points are likely pointless given this level of obscurity.

Anyway: let’s skip comparisons and get to the music, which is about jolting tempo changes, jarring key switches, contrast between pretty-pretty female vocals with throaty male vocals, as evidenced no more keenly than on ‘Smooth Karate’. ‘Li Cold Vas’ has the jangle of The Wedding Present and blends it with the angularity of The Fall and the obtuse oddness of early Pram, while ‘Sea Quest’ goes Slanted era Pavement with additional full-throttle US 90s noise. ‘Metronome’ creates new levels of angularity, and explores lyrical avenues of abstraction that twist the mundane and really mess with ideas of the ordinary. ‘No Sky’ slows the pace and goes all moody, before it erupts in all directions… extra points for the epic closer, appropriately entitled ‘Close’ that goes from nagging verses to explosive tornadoes of noise by way of choruses and veers all over the place over the course of seven minutes – in contrast to the three-minute blasts of the rest of the album.

There isn’t one song on here that stands out as a single: Howcha Magowcha is very much an album, and a discordant, noisy one at that. There’s no time to settle into any of the songs: mellow moments are torn in half with propulsive drumming and low-slung bass, while the guitars fire off in all directions. It’s music that keeps you on edge, engaged, exhilarated. And however big the 90s revival gets, they’ll never make ‘em quite like this again.

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Turkish Delight

Sacred Bones – 17 August 2018

Christopher Nosnibor

Of all of the bands to make an impact recently, Uniform’s arrival has to have been one of the most hard-hitting. Wake in Fright was appropriately-titled: a terrifying mess of industrial and punk compressed into a brutal explosion of unproduced noise, it was the kind of tinnitus-inducing horror that rang in your ears as you sat bolt upright at 4am in a sweaty state of anxiety after a bad dream. When I say ‘you’, I’m presenting the personal as universal.

Yet none of this really prepares anyone for its follow-up. Whereas its predecessor was a ragged, raging sonic inferno, raw and trebly, having expanded to a three-piece with drummer Greg Fox (Liturgy, Zs) joining Michael Berdan (vocals) and instrumentalist Ben Greenberg, The Long Walk (the title of which references a Stephen King book) brings a newfound density to intensify the ferocity. That doesn’t mean they’ve toned it down: if anything, they’ve cranked it up and added new dimensions to the ear-bleeding brutality that defines the Uniform sound.

If I were being cynical, I might contend that Uniform only have one song, which they repeat with various minor adjustments. Michael Berdan’s vocals are hardy varied: a raging punk sneer smeared across a cyclical riff that grates and throbs amidst a tempest of overloading noise as the needles all quiver towards the top of the red. It’s a simple method, but often, simplicity is most effective, especially when the aim is to produce art that drills directly through the skull into the soft tissue of the brain. Maximum impact doesn’t require complex algorithms or theory. Maximum impact taps into the most primitive aspects of the psyche, targets the visceral, punches straight into instinct. And maximum impact isn’t necessarily about variety: that isn’t Uniform’s ambition: they’re out to batter relentlessly at the senses. The effect of The Long Walk is cumulative. And that effect, for those predisposed, is anxietising, stressful. Listening to The Long Walk actually raises my heart rate, and makes me perspire. And really, so it should: this is intense, claustrophobic, a different kind of aggression that speaks of derangement and blind rage.

The Long Walk is as raw as it gets, to the extent that its complete lack of refinement makes some of the most aggressive, antagonistic, and purposefully unlistenable songs even less appealing: you actually have to get through the jarring noise, the treble, the wilfully impenetrable mixing and what could safely be described as anti-production – to find the songs, let alone the appeal. The be clear: this isn’t just noisy: it’s fucking nasty, and is the work of a band deliberately pushing even the most accommodating of listeners to their limits, if not away altogether. It’s almost as if they don’t want any fans.

I can relate: as a spoken word performer, I discovered greater satisfaction in driving as many people from the room within the first couple of minutes than a smattering of polite applause from a full room at the end. Producing art is not about popularity. It’s about release, about channelling, about, catharsis, about being true to oneself or one’s aesthetic. If it’s commercial, it’s probably not art.

I know that in my writing I’m prone to revert to various ‘paint’-related tropes when reviewing work of a certain volume and / or intensity. But Uniform absolutely fucking decimate. Everything.

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Uniform - Long Wak

James Wells

You’d never guess that this York-based band was hardcore, with a name like Rotting Monarchs. ‘Disorder’ isn’t a Joy Division cover, but a self-penned slab of churning, bile-brimming noise that comes off the back of last year’s debut EP and provides a flavour of their debut album, also entitled Disorder, set for release next year.

It’s 2:22 of trebly, shouty, full-tilt abrasion. It’s not pretty, and it’s not technical: instead, it slams in at a hundred miles an hour, fiery and full-throated, pissed off and petulant, and with a simple, hollering chant of the title by way of a refrain, it’s got a vintage punk vibe: uncomplicated, antagonistic, sloganeering. Its primitivism is much of its appeal: it’s direct, an uncomplicated shout of dissatisfaction.

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Rotting Monarchs

Christopher Nosnibor

On the face of it, it’s a fairly complimentary lineup, showcasing three similar but varied strains of angsty alternative rock. On closer analysis and observation, the three bands appear to have quite different fanbases, with only limited crossover. Surveying the demographic, I’ve no explanation, and it’s really quite odd, to the extent that it almost feels like three separate gigs. Not so much a partisan audience, as three, with limited crossover. Admittedly, I’m here for Weekend Recovery, having championed them from way back, but it strikes as strange that someone would pay £7 for a 3-band lineup and spent all but half an hour at the bar or outside. Maybe I’m just old-fashioned and have a thing about getting value for money. And given the bar – £4.50 for a pint of Stella Cidre is as good as it gets – the punters should be keen to get something to justify their outlay.

Weekend Recovery are up first, and after a few cable issues, they start their set, kicking in with ‘Turn it Up’ – and I find myself wishing the sound guy would do just that with the guitars. Nevertheless, they power through a set primarily culled from the debut album that they’re relentlessly touring this year with energy and panache. They’ve come a long way in 18 months.

Owen’s guitar lunges have developed to full-on rock posing: he’s a tall, burly fella and he dominates his space, and when she ditches the guitar for ‘Monster’, Lauren’s liberated and mobile. It’s a well-structured set, with ‘New Tattoo’ bringing a change of pace and mood at the mid-point, and culminating in a fiery rendition of ‘Get What You Came For’ followed by a breakneck blast though ‘Why Don’t You Love Me?’

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Weekend Recovery

There’s a degree of irony there: it’s a song about on-line dating and insecurity. Because everyone wants to be loved, to be subject of adulation… don’t they? Spending just a few minutes with Lauren before and after their show is quite eye-opening, and sustaining a conversation uninterrupted for more than two minutes is impossible. There’s certainly a lot of love for the band, and her – to the point at which requests for photos and autographs on tickets and body parts has become pretty much standard form. As I say, they’ve come a long way in 18 months, but it also brings home just how fucking weird people are, what life in a band – even at relatively low-level – is like, and how women in rock and in the music industry in general are subject to some shocking treatment.

Avenoir have a hard act to follow. They’re either really popular or have a lot of mates. Did they sell all of the T-shirts occupying the first two packed-out rows? Judging by how quickly they thin out over the course of the set, one suspect possibly not.

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Avenoir

The singer’s wearing a Misfits T and a torn black denim jacket with a Ramones back patch, and he implores the crowd to ‘go fucking crazy’. Three or four people bob their heads in response. They do manage to get half a dozen or so moshing at one point, but there’s just somethings lacking about their energetic but ultimately forgettable brand of alt rock. Songs, mostly.

Our Divinity have both songs and fans. Zara Saunders has immense presence, making for an engaging performance from beginning to end, and for a band who’ve only played a handful of shows, they’re outstandingly tight. Musically… well, there’s a risk of courting accusations of lazy journalism given that every third female-fronted rock band with a bit of grunt sound like Paramore, but the influence on Our Divinity is undeniable: they even throw in a Paramore cover near the end.

What sets Our Divinity apart from their peers is the density of the sound – benefiting as they do from duelling guitars that weave tripwire lead lines over chunky, overdriven rhythm – and the quality of the material. They may have only one single to their credit, but they’ve got an album’s worth on the strength of tonight.

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Our Divinity

The audience show their appreciation by climbing on one another’s shoulders and constructing human pyramids in front of the stage like it’s a 1980s Sisters of Mercy of Mission gig. For such early days, such adulation is remarkable, and if tonight is in any way representative, they’re building momentum for a rapid ascendance.