Posts Tagged ‘Punk’

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.

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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.

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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.

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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:

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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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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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23rd September 2020

Christopher Nosnibor

Just two days before the release of their new album, Forever on the Road, Healthy Junkies have dropped a cover of Nirvana’s ‘Something in the Way.’

To my ear, the Nevermind version was a shade lacking, and while it works well enough in the overall context of the album, the hard-to-find electric version has not only more bite, but also more passion and, perhaps unexpectedly, more atmosphere, the howling feedback that form the lead guitar line bringing a whole new dimension.

I can’t help but wonder if this was, at least in part, the template for Healthy Junkies’ take on the track, which places a unique stamp on it and adds a whole load of layers – and noise – in comparison to the version everyone knows.

It’s something of a departure for the band: instead of the punky grunge sound that’s their signature, they’ve adopted a decidedly shoegaze style here. The guitars cascade in deep, washing blurs, layered and rich in texture, and Nina Courson’s ethereal, breathy vocal is more Toni Halliday than Courtney Love. The result is haunting and possesses a real depth that draws the listener into the heart of the song. Understated, but strong.

NYC primal punks Uniform share another work of art, an astonishing new video (directed by A. F Cortes) for "Life In Remission" the latest single from their new album Shame, out today via Sacred Bones.

About the track Berdan comments, "The lyrics of Life In Remission deal with loss, guilt, and the facade of a stable life. It’s about the persistent voice in my head constantly telling me that I’m a fraud and urging me toward self destruction. It’s about becoming numb to tragedy. It’s about seeing those around me suffer and die and knowing all too well that it just as easily could have been me a million times over. It’s a song of equal parts anger, regret, and cold despondency.”

The video director A.F Cortes adds, "With this video, I wanted to use the body as a communication tool of chaos. A deconstruction story told through ritual and action. Two friends’ bond is gone wrong from a visceral and perverse perspective. Inspired by abstract expressionism, instead of playing opposites with the music, I wanted to match its intensity like a Jackson Pollock painting, a piece that feels filthy, messy, claustrophobic, yet beautiful and contained."

Watch the video here:

28th August 2020

Christopher Nosnibor

The idea of a single a month isn’t new: The Wedding Present did it back in 1992, and in doing so broke records (pun not intended) for the most chart singles in a year by any artist, erasing Elvis Presley from history in the process. Ok, not quite, but you get the idea.

That was back in the days of record labels and physical releases, meaning the logistics of a similar exercise now are far easier, although the chances of charting are considerably smaller. I’ve seen a number of artist release a single song a day / single or album a month / etc in recent years, and 2020 is the year that Ben Wood & The Bad Ideas decided to put out a single a month.

And so here we are with ‘Black’, the August instalment and eighth offering from an act pitched as being for fans of The Gaslight Anthem, Tom Walker, Arctic Monkeys, The Smiths, and Queens of the Stone Age – which is a pretty eclectic mix to say the least.

‘Black’ is a song about introspection and self-reflection, and it’s pretty punchy: clocking in at well under three minutes, there’s something unashamedly old-school punk about it. Fast, furious, and built around an unpretentious four-chord thrashabout played with passion and urgency, it’s got a sharp hook and all the energy, not to mention a broad appeal.

28th August 2020

Christopher Nosnibor

‘Last Day In L.A.’ is the lead single from the UK quartet’s forthcoming album Forever on the Road, which promises a mash-up of psychedelic rock, punk, grunge and goth. They’ve toured relentlessly since their formation in 2011, gathering a respectable international following along the way, and kicking out four albums and a bunch of EPs, too.

Listening to this reminds me that I had been due my first day in LA in May, on my first proper family holiday in over a decade, but the 2020 happened – or didn’t – and life activity was suspended. But, filtering through all of the shit of the last six months, the trade-off is that while the absence of live music has left a gaping chasm in the lives of many, including mine, (although I’m fortunate to only have been impacted socially and spiritually, rather than financially unlike so many bands, sound engineers, roadies, and so on), many artists have found ways of using the time off the road to record and release new material, and this is true of Healthy Junkies.

‘Last Day in L.A.’ may not represent a major departure from anything they’ve done previously, but it’s lively, vibrant, and has a proper late 70s / early 80s vintage feel, but equally, it’s got a grunge-pop element, as well as a corking hook and the kind of riff that totally grabs you.

There’s also a certain sassy spin thanks to Nina Courson’s vocals, ad it all adds up to an exciting single and an enticing prelude to the album.