ALBUM REVIEWS (SEPT)

AGNOSTIC FRONT
MY LIFE, MY WAY
(Nuclear Blast)
Another solid New York hardcore album from the originators.
8/10
Nearly 30 years in music is a stunning achievement in any genre and given the steady quality of Agnostic Front it is even more amazing. Straight from the opening of ‘City Streets’ it’s evident that the band led by co-founders – vocalist Roger Miret and guitarist Vinnie Stigma – are still on top form. From the socio-political rants to fast and furious hardcore street punk/metal crossover, it’s what they do best. Newly recruited guitarist Joseph James expands their sound, resulting in some of the best guitar work ever heard from the band. While the album doesn’t have an anthem to stand alongside classics such as ‘Gotta Go’ in their set, songs such as the title track will still guarantee a few windmills and leave others in the genre picking up change.
Jyrki ‘Spider’ Hamalainen

BEATSTEAKS 
BOOMBOX
(Warner)
Sixth album sees German punks master alt-rock.
7/10
Having gone from melodic punk heroes with 2002’s anthemic ‘Living Targets’ album, the Beatsteaks may be a name that has faded somewhat in the UK but in their homeland and all over mainland Europe they’ve been growing and growing, selling out multi-thousand seated shows and winning two prestigious EMA awards. In the last four years since 2007’s ‘limbo messiah’ they have clearly embraced a more mainstream sound, with rock and pop influences overshadowing their punk rock roots on ‘Boombox’ and nods to indie rock and the vocal stylings of Morrissey an obvious touching point. Long time fans will enjoy the likes of ‘Access Adrenaline’ and ‘Bullet From Another Dimension’ though, which show that, while they’re embracing a sound for larger audiences, they still know where they’ve come from. Arguably their bravest and most ambitious record to date, ‘Boombox’ is the sound of an admirable different direction for Berlin’s finest.
Ian Chaddock

THE BONGOLIAN
BONGOS FOR BEATNIKS
(Blow Up)
Fourth album of retro bongo-driven groove fusion!
7/10
The Bongolian (the alter ego of multi-instrumentalist and Big Boss Man frontman Nasser Bouzida) returns with a new record on respected ‘60s/Mod label (and famous club) Blow Up, and it’s another psychedelic trip that you’re going to love taking. A rhythmic. ‘60s-sounding fusion of funk, soul, Hammond, synths and Boogaloo, Bouzida plays all the instruments expertly and it’s no surprise that tracks like the rousing ‘The Clav Disco’, the blissful ‘Tortoise’ and the aptly titled ‘Hippy Trippy’ will appeal to fans of dance and hip-hop as much as collectors of old funk and soul records. ‘Bongos For Beatniks’ proves that the bongo is a versatile instrument that can be used to make cool, retro music that oozes funk fun. With live shows lined up for the year, The Bongolian is an experience you need to witness. 
Ian Chaddock

BUSTER SHUFFLE
OUR NIGHT OUT
(People Like You)
Madness from Cockney ska pop band.
8/10
It seems like the vast majority of ska bands these days combine the sound with a punk influence. That’s fine but it’s great to hear a new band breathing life back into witty, London ska pop. Certainly there’s a heavy influence of Madness throughout Buster Shuffle’s debut album, but fans of The Specials and The King Blues should also appreciate this four-piece. Frontman Jet Baker’s vocals, storytelling lyrics and infectious piano make songs such as ‘I’ll Get My Coat’, ‘Arthur McArthur’ and the bouncing title track burst with a fun-loving attitude and tales of everyday life – from nights out to bus journeys and anti-social behaviour. While there may be a little too much Madness worship for some, it’s great to hear a new generation keeping very English ska pop alive and skanking.
Rachel Owen

THE CARS
MOVE LIKE THIS
(Hear)
Cars back in the saddle after a 24 year hiatus.
6/10
All was well in the new wave world of The Cars for their first two albums. Killer singles and a sound that defined their genre came as standard. But as their fame grew so did the gulf between the sound that made them and their sound that was filling stadiums and making them huge with the track ‘Drive’ by the mid-1980s. So it was a relief to hear their first album in 24 years has more in common with their origins than their stadium-filling height. Album opener ‘Blue Tip’ has more than a nod to the mighty ‘Best Friends Girl’ of old and ‘Hits Me’ is a killer tune. Maybe it was the death of original bassist Benjamin Orr that persuaded them to look to their new wave roots for a comeback. Whatever it was, it was a good move.
Neil Anderson

CHAD VANGAALEN
DIAPER ISLAND
(Sub Pop)
Calgary maverick re-emerges with most cohesive album yet.
6/10
Although it won’t be to all Vive Le Rock readers’ taste, if you have any capacity for rough-hewn, minimalist melody, then ‘Diaper Island’ might be your bag. Vintage tape machines, guitar and voice are present, but there is little further undue embellishment, while the songs have shades of R. Stevie Moore, Pavement at their most oblique or even Kevin Coyne. Vangaalen’s voice, moreover, evokes the spirit of the great ’60s troubadours, and is maintained as a rich, plaintive thread throughout, despite the passivity of much of the songwriting. ‘Freedom For A Policeman’ is a strident exception, but the heart of the album is exemplified by simple, naked tracks like ‘Sara’ or ‘Wandering Spirits’, which gently recall the Fleet Foxes on a budget.
Alex Ogg

DEVILISH PRESLEY
THE DARK TRIAD
(November Tenth)
UK goth punks return with a brand new sound and the power of three.
7/10
With one of the loyalist fan bases in gothic punk rock, Devilish Presley were clearly taking more than a minimal risk when they decided to switch the line-up, with bassist Jacqui Vixen taking over lead vocals, but due to an unfortunate RSI injury, it seemed a reshuffle was inevitable. Thanfully, the Aussie singer’s vocal talents are a definite blessing to the band, with her balance of ethereal melody and raw, guttural bite providing the perfect accompaniment to the chugging guitars and horrorbilly overtones on highlights like lead single ‘The Beast Must Die’ and the virulent ‘Happy As Saturday’. Marking their fifth release, ‘The Dark Triad’ catalogues the self-made monsters of our society and delves lyrically into psychological themes, while adopting a harsher, distorted sound to match the cerebral mayhem.
Tom Williams

DEVILS BRIGADE
DEVILS BRIGADE
(Hellcat)
Rancid bass hero’s psychobilly band’s debut.
6/10
Formed over a decade ago, Devils Brigade, the long-awaited first album from the psychobilly side-project of Rancid’s Matt Freeman could be said to be an acquired taste. If you love psychobilly and/or Rancid then this record is certainly going to appeal. However, with Freeman taking on vocals as well as the upright bass, it may put off some. While Freeman’s nimble bass playing is second to none, his growled, rough vocals are certainly not, although it does admittedly suit the style of music. Backed by his Rancid bandmate Tim Armstrong on guitar and DJ Bonebrake (of LA punk legends X) on drums, there’s plenty of talent on board and tracks such as rumbling, driving opener ‘I’m Movin Through’ and the more Rancid-esque melodic guitar line-filled ‘Shakedown’. It’s far from perfect but it’s a bone-rattling listen and proof that Freeman can pen great rockabilly and psychobilly tunes.
Ian Chaddock

DUANE EDDY
ROAD TRIP
(Mad Monkey)
’60s rock ’n’ legend revs his engines again.
8/10
Twenty four years may seem like a long time between releases, but when you’re one of America’s most prolific rock ‘n’ roll icons, with a pair of Grammy’s, your own line of signature Gretsch Guitars and a place in the hallowed Rock ‘N’ Roll Hall of Fame under your belt, forgiveness comes as standard. Therefore, the 73 year-old Duane Eddy’s thirty-something release ‘Road Trip’ is definitely a cause for celebration. Conceived as a partnership between the ’60s guitar god and ex-Pulp guitarist, singer-songwriter and long-time fan Richard Hawley, the album drives a dusty, wild west landscape of blues, country and cowboy rock ‘n’ roll, all delivered in Eddy’s trademark twang tradition.  Hawley’s contributions are also well received, resulting in a smoky and scintillating release that’s imbued with over half a century’s worth of seasoned musical finesse.
Tom Williams 

ENGLISH DOGS
TALES FROM THE ASYLUM
(Winston)
’80s punks return with new EP. 
8/10
There have been several incarnations of English Dogs over the years, from the misconceived concept album ‘Where Legend Began’ to the metallic crossover of ‘All The Worlds A Rage’. Whilst this six-track EP isn’t the definitive line-up that recorded the seminal ‘Mad Punx And English Dogs’, it is their first release in over 15 years and is led by original vocalist Wakey, plus three new recruits. Wakey’s lust for all things punk have turned back the clock here to make sure songs like ‘Ya Buy One Bomb’ and ‘Fucked Up People’ are splattered in the spit and cider of old. Blessed with a 21st century production, ‘Tales From The Asylum’ is a raucous collection of pogo anthems delivered with Wakey’s signature irreverence and bile. Proof if need be that you shouldn’t let sleeping dogs lie.
Miles Hackett

FLOGGING MOLLY
SPEED OF DARKNESS
(Borstal Beat)
America’s finest Celtic folk punks with thrilling fifth album.
9/10
Known worldwide for their energetic and life-affirming live shows, Flogging Molly are a band that are undeniably exuberant and a fine soundtrack to any Guinness-soaked knees-up. However, matching that electric atmosphere of their gigs on record isn’t easy to do – which makes ‘Speed Of Darkness’, the band’s fifth full-length, all the more essential. The seven-piece have certainly tapped into working class Celtic punk concerns, adding some passion and depth to their party anthems, with stand out tracks such as ‘Don’t Shut ‘Em Down’ and ‘Revolution’ providing the perfect punk soundtrack to a fist-pumping rabble demanding their workers’ rights, where as the title track shows they can use traditional Irish instrumentation like old hands now. While it’s not quite on a par with their finest moment to date, 2002’s second album ‘Drunken Lullabies’, it’s more varied and certainly shows they’re thinking while they’re drinking.
Ian Chaddock

FORMER CELL MATES
PRESENTED AS A WORK OF FICTION
(Boss Tuneage/Poison City)
Angst-ridden rock/punk/country.
8/10
Sunderland outfit Former Cell Mates were formed in 2004 by singer/guitarist David Lee Burdon, former bassist with the mighty Leatherface, and have something of that band’s bruised tunefulness about them. This is their third album, following 2008’s ‘Who’s Dead & What’s To Pay’. Opening track ‘National Suite’ begins sparse and bass-driven, topped with Burdon’s melancholy but tuneful vocals, but soon builds into something sweeping and majestic with keyboards, horns and backing vocals – quite a little gem and a fair taste of what’s to come. ‘Right At Surrey Ridge’ is haunting, acoustic, country-style, and though the following ‘Violins’ begins that way, it’s soon bludgeoned by a pounding chorus. The afore-mentioned melancholy does become a little wearing by the end, but overall this is an eclectic, interesting and rather moving album.
Shane Baldwin

THE FUZZTONES
PREACHING TO THE PERVERTED
(Stag-o-Lee)
Sadly the title says it all.
5/10
Not always followers, this NYC foursome claim the foresight to have christened their fuzzbox-filmed guitar/’60s psychedelia fusion ‘grunge’ back in ‘84, when debut single ‘Bad News Travels Fast’ became part of garage punk’s gospel. Nowadays however, one suspects The Fuzztones are content to rest on that reputation. ‘Preaching To The Perverted’ is their first all-original collection in 15 years, but it’s barely the sound of a band brimming with imagination. Perfectly respectable but predictable Fuzztones fare, the dozen tracks here are all Sonics’ proto-punk stomps presented in a hammond haze (‘Between The Lines’) and kitsch, swampy voodoo blues (‘Don’t Speak Ill Of The Dead’). For the faithful there’s neither challenge nor cause for complaint, while for the curious agnostic will find far more spirit in first album ‘Lysergic Emanations’.
Alison Bateman

GENTLEMANS PISTOLS
AT HER MAJESTY’S PLEASURE
(Rise Above)
Leeds ’70s rock revivalists unleash another unstoppable volley.
9/10
Fans of Thin Lizzy, The Sweet, Sabbath and Free pay attention – Gentlemans Pistols could well be your new favourite band. Four of the hairiest northerners you’re likely to come across, these guys mean business and this second album, the follow-up to their 2007 self-titled debut, proves it. Right from the start, with the stomping and soloing filled, aptly titled opener ‘Living In Sin Again’. Elsewhere, it’s as sleazy and hazy as the ’70s were, with songs like ‘Some Girls Don’t Know What’s Good For Them’ and the spaced out, epic closer ‘Lethal Woman’ not only showing respect for the era that has clearly infuenced them but shows that it can be blasted into the 21st century with some mighty riffs and face-melting solos. ‘At Her Majesty’s Pleasure’ should mark Gentlemans Pistols out as newly crowned rock royalty.
Ian Chaddock

HILLBILLY MOON EXPLOSION
BUY, BEG OR STEAL 
(Jungle)
Rock ‘n’ roll revivalists going through the motions.
5/10
It’s not that this is a bad album, as it’s not. It’s a pleasing enough affair at times, it’s just that in the absence of a unique selling point of their own there’s little to differentiate Hillbilly Moon Explosion from any number of similar rock ‘n’ roll revivalists to be found in the roots rock ghetto. Having said that, this album does have its moments, such as the title track and the instrumental ‘Chalkfarm Breakdown’. Guest vocalist, Mark ‘Sparky’ Phillips, from Demented Are Go, is a welcome addition as he growls his way through an engaging duet with Emanuela Hutter called ‘My Love For Evermore’. Elsewhere, Hutter’s vocals are particularly alluring on ‘Broken Heart’ and ‘Goin’ To Milano’, but a spirited rock ‘n’ roll version of OMD’s ‘Enola Gay’ is too little, too late to save the day. Steal.
Rich Deakin

HOLLYWOOD SINNERS
DISTRATO GARANTITO
(Dirty Water)
High-octane garage rock ‘n’ roll.
(8/10)
This trio may hail from Toledo in Spain, but Hollywood Sinners sound more like they come from Detroit in the ’60s or the Medway in the mid-’80s. In fact, it’s only the fact that they often sing in their native tongue that gives the game away. They play no-frills garage punk the way it was always intended to be played – frantic, visceral and straight to the point – cramming twelve tracks into a breath-taking 25 minutes. Imagine The Kinks, The Standells and The Barracudas colliding with The Hives and dragging The Milkshakes along for the ride. It’s hard to pick a stand out track but ‘No Soy Bueno’,  ‘Huesos’ and ‘Have You Ever Been in Jail?’ all pack a hefty punch. Buy this if you like your rock ‘n’ roll loud and urgent.
Lee Cotterell

LEFT LANE CRUISER
JUNKYARD SPEED BALL
(Alive Natural Sound)
Power-blues duo getting down and dirty.
7/10
With one half of their line-up going by the name ‘Sausage Paw’ (responsible for ‘drums and shit’), you have a fairly accurate signpost to the territory these boys are coming from. The Fort Wayne based duo stir up a potent mess of diesel-reeking wrecker’s yard blues, a moonshine-soaked take on the pig trotter-punk sounds of Doo Rag et al put through a hellbilly filter, amply demonstrated on ‘Lost My Mind’ or ‘Circus’. But the more expansive sounds of tracks such as ‘Giving Tree’ hint of ambitions beyond the confines of the juke joint; the funky clavinet sounds on
‘Hip-Hop’ or ‘Pig Farm’, courtesy of the Black Diamond Heavies’ Reverend James
Leg, bring the somewhat unexpected hints of Bobby Womack or Stevie Wonder
to the mix, which combined with the ‘Cruiser’s innate power makes for one
powerful hybrid.
Hugh Gulland

THE LORDS OF ALTAMONT
MIDNIGHT TO 666
(Fargo)
More ground shaking, down ‘n’ dirty, west coast garage rawk.
8/10
With spectacularly titled former Cramps man Harry ‘Full Tilt’ Drumdini on sticks and the rest of the band carrying nicknames such as Sonic and Big Drag, it’s obvious this isn’t going to be a prog-rock album peppered with Rush and Genesis covers. What The Lords of Altamont do, and consistently have done throughout their ten year history, is fire out balls to the wall, distorted, retro garage rock. Reminiscent of late 1960s era bands such as the MC5 and The Sonics, ‘Midnight To 666’ is loud, primal and wholly unapologetic. The crazy, fists in the air, whoa packed ‘Bury Me Alive’ proves a particular stand-out track, but this album is best taken as a whole. Put on your biker shades, unzip your leather jacket, crack open a cold one, turn up the volume, sit back and enjoy.
Steve Lee

THE MAHONES
THE BLACK IRISH 
(True North)
Canadian Celtic punk veterans still going strong.
7/10
Bursting with Celtic energy and punk rock spirit, the Mahones’ 20 year career remains in top gear with latest offering ‘The Black Irish’. Though comparisons with fellow punk/folk rogues the Pogues are hard to dismiss, especially on the first four tracks, the Mahones stamp their own well-spirited identity all over ‘The Black Irish’. ‘Ghost Of A Whiskey Devil’ name-checks 1977 punk while ‘Girl With Galway Eyes’ – a particular favourite of mine – evokes a strong melodic feel and ‘The Blood Is On Your Hands’, and ‘Give It All Ya Got’ cast a stronger guitar vibe our way. ‘Paint The Town Red’ is an apt lyrical pointer to the flavour of this CD; a fine selection of songs all performed with a pureness of musical spirit this band have cornered so well.
Tony Beesley

THE MURDER ACT
TRAUM
(The Murder Act)
Shadowy tranced-out drone rock.
7/10
Having made waves around the Hoxton basements since forming two years ago, this London-based five-piece look set to break out to wider recognition with this debut mini-album, a six track sonic white-out of Krautrock-inspired drone and mesmeric comet-tail guitar noise. Rob Banham’s brooding post-Joy Division vocal mannerisms surf a wave of sparking guitar noise, culminating in a Wasted vs. Sonic Youth type of
affray. While ‘Repulsive Acts Of Penetrative Entertainment’ bangs on the Birthday Party’s front door, it’s the ominous trance-outs of ‘Sew My Eyes’ or the title track on which the Murder Act truly excel, the latter being the closing tour-de-force – a nine-minute moog-led trance-out which pushes out into impressive electronic vistas, practically pushing at the borders of space rock.
Hugh Gulland

NICK MARSH
A UNIVERSE BETWEEN US
(Belissima)
Swaggering solo rhythms from the ex-Flesh For Lulu frontman.
8/10
Probably most prominently known as the lead singer of ’80s goth rock outfit Flesh For Lulu and more recently as the progenitor of London’s signature carny-billy collective the Urban Voodoo Machine, Nick Marsh’s contributions to British rock ‘n’ roll have been significant, if not a little understated. ‘A Universe Between Us’ marks his solo debut, opening like a Spaghetti Western and continuing throughout in a lilting lounge and mariachi influenced vein, the record comes off sounding something akin to a gothic Morricone score. Lyrically complex in the majority, although not afraid to tread the tongue-in-cheek route with tracks like ‘Best Shag In The World’, and delivered in an alluring, ghostly baritone, the album is a definite must for followers of Marsh’s work, as well fans of Nick Cave, Tom Waits and Rufus Wainwright.   
Tom Williams

OBITS
MOODY, STANDARD AND POOR
(Sub Pop)
The new Radio Birdman anyone?
7/10
It’s fair to say that the members of Obits are veterans of their craft, but are by no means such as a band. The partnership of Rick Froberg (Drive Like Jehu and Hot Snakes) and Sohrab Habibion (Edsel) captivated fans on debut with ‘I Blame You’ and the euphoria is sure to continue after one listen of ‘Moody, Standard And Poor’. Seething with energy and a “no bullshit” attitude to their melodic brand of indie/garage rock, Obits hone in on the prowess of their former outfits, but strip down the aforementioned sound, incorporating elements of surf and rockabilly.The closest comparison I can give is Australian legends Radio Birdman, or a slowed down Saints with hints of a raw powered Iggy. Epic songs that sound  dirty, atmospheric but at the same time fresh and exciting. Obits are reinventing the wheel and keeping it real.
Max Barrett

THE OBJEX 
RESERVATION FOR DEBAUCHERY
(Crownn)
Sassy punk rock, Las Vegas style.
(8/10)
Since this quartet’s last album, ‘Attack Of The Objex’ they’ve changed drummers and honed their sound. They’re a damn fine punk band anyway but the factor that makes them stand out from their peers is their human dynamo – vocalist Felony Melony. Like a punk rock hybrid of Tina Turner and Skunk Anansie’s Skin, she’s a bit of a poster girl for the burgeoning Afro punk scene in the US. This time round they’ve returned with a more polished sound and a rockier edge. Kicking off with ‘Fingered’ – a statement of intent to stand up for ‘the sexual minority’ – before ‘RSVP’ explodes into life like a long lost Runaways number, they later enter  Dwarves’ territory with ‘Squeeze’.  An accomplished album from an underrated band, hopefully this will help them get the recognition they deserve worldwide.
Lee Cotterell

OCCULT DETECTIVE CLUB
CRIMES
(Alive Natural Sound)
Garage rock-out with Brit-punk flavourings.
7/10
A live draw on the Texas underground circuit, this Denton-based four-piece bring a class of ‘79 dynamic to their garage thrash-outs, with a definite nod to the likes of The Clash, the Buzzcocks, the Ruts and most noticeably The Jam detectable here on their second album. Bristling with punk energy, ‘Crimes’ is packed to bursting with anthemic guitar-based rock-outs, getting straight to the task in hand with hook-driven fare such as ‘C’Mon Levi’  or the title cut, surefire triggers for some serious pogo action when ODC take this stuff live. True to their Brit-punk influences, this outfit
squeeze a hefty shot of social awareness into their doings, as with the accusatory rant of ‘Running With The Red Squad’ or ‘Oh Bureaucracy’, delivering commendably high-energy jabs to the machinations of power in quick succession.
Hugh Gulland

PAUL COLLINS
KING OF POWER POP
(Alive Natural Sound)
If you say so Paul.
5/10
Well he’s certainly nailed his colours to the mast there. If power pop is your bag, you can either hug this to your heart or argue the veracity of this album’s title. One man’s summery is another man’s saccharine, and while I’ve no beef with certain of power pop’s touchstones – Byrds and Big Star come to mind  – men with Rickenbackers, white Chelsea boots and inexplicable ambitions to sound like the Knack are a taste I’ll never acquire. That said, Collins’ album is consistently pleasant enough – bursting with hooky major chord riffs, surftastic backup vocals, Alex Chilton cover versions, a well-meant salute to the Flaming Groovies… what’s wrong with that, you may well ask. Go grab it if that’s your bag, leave me to syringe the sugar out of my ears.
Hugh Gulland

POLY STYRENE
GENERATION INDIGO
(Future Noise)
Final solo album from late X-Ray Spex vocalist.
8/10
While DJs everywhere cue up ‘Oh Bondage, Up Yours’ in tribute to Poly Styrene, a more rounded epitaph can be found on this final record, which was released a mere month before the singer lost her battle with cancer. The vast imagination and range of influences which Styrene displayed at just 19 on X-Ray Spex’s ‘77 debut were still expanding when she reached 51. With equal arch experimentalist Youth on board as producer and player, genre boundaries are daringly disregarded on ‘Generation Indigo’, and electro, dub and pure pop territories effectively breached by that ageless and idiosyncratic voice. From addressing global poverty with eloquence rather than clichés on ‘No Rockefeller’, to convincingly mastering a modern 19 year old’s vocabulary on ‘Virtual Boyfriend’, Styrene still refuses to be bound on this wildly eclectic epilogue to her career.
Alison Bateman

THE PUSSYWARMERS
THE CHRONICLES OF…
(Voodoo Rhythm)
Second album from Swiss musical adventurers.
7/10
Formed in the Italian-speaking Ticino region of Switzerland and sonically settled on a dimensional fault line between myriad cultures, continents and centuries, multi-lingual multi-instrumentalists The Pussywarmers make variety the spice of their high-spirited exotica brew. They combine Weimar cabaret sounds, blistering brass borrowed from Dixieland jazz, tankard-toppling, slur-along Bavarian drinking songs and punked up, double bass-pulsating big band. Even at these moments, when every instrument is thrown into the mix, The Pussywarmers record using a mere two microphones and maintain an eerie, authentic vintage aura throughout for their unorthodox methods. What is equally apparent at each stop on their tour of the world’s wildest dance floors, whether they’re singing in English, Italian, German or French, is that wherever they go The Pussywarmers are sure to find the best party in town.
Alison Bateman

RADIO DEAD ONES
AAA
(SPV)
Second album from boisterous Berlin punk rockers.
7/10
German punk rockers Radio Dead Ones’ ‘AAA’ contains all the essential elements that make up a good aggressive punk album; thrashing pogo beats, mile-a-minute guitar riffs and yelling-at-the-top-of-their-lung vocals. For the next 35 minutes, the band barely pauses for breath, furiously bulldozing their way through 15 punk anthems, all infused with hardcore and rock ‘n’ roll influences and energy, with a fierce intensity so unyielding it becomes exhausting. ‘Smoking’ starts with a whirlwind of rolling drums and erupts into a full-blown hurricane, while Beverly Crime’s powerful vocals tear through Rik Oldman’s frantic guitar on ‘Dirty Love Hotel’. The album rocks as hard and fast as many, but at the same time it’s melodic and catchy as hell. And that’s the way good music should be.
Scott Zverblis

ROY ELLIS
THE BOSS IS BACK
(Liquidator)
Mr ‘Skinhead Moonstomp’s third album in five years.
6/10
Vocalist with the Pyramids, who became Symarip, Roy Ellis was a major name on the reggae scene in the late ’60s and early ’70s who was then catapulted back into the mainstream when the Specials covered ‘Skinhead Moonstomp’ at the height of 2 Tone. His voice remains strong and on songs like the opening ‘One Way Ticket To The Moon’ he proves he can still cut it with the best of them. Elsewhere it’s a little hit and miss and the cover of ‘The Rose’, made famous by Bette Middler, is certainly an odd choice and sits uncomfortably with the reggae, rock steady and soul of the other tracks. It’s good to see Ellis still making records though and Symarip’s London show at the 100 Club in June looks like being a night not to miss.
Andy Peart

SAXON
CALL TO ARMS
(UDR)
Light at the end of the tunnel for enduring metal warlords.
6/10
If Saxon were in an endurance contest they’d probably win hands down. They’ve always seemed happy to soldier on whether anyone really cared or not. The band’s glory days were the late ’70s when they had the metal world at their feet but global success was short lived. But Saxon have enjoyed a bit of a resurgence in the past couple of years thanks partly to their appearance on ‘Get It Together With Harvey Goldsmith’ when the renowned promoter tried to kick the band into the 21st century. There’s a more confident aura around ‘Call To Arms’ than the majority of Saxon offerings since the mid-’80s. If, like many, you’ve been giving them a wide berth for a while check out ‘Hammer Of The Gods’, and there might be a hint of a return to good fortune.
Neil Anderson

THE SKUZZIES
THE SKUZZIES
(Easy Action)
Deptford trio’s driving rock ‘n’ roll debut.
8/10
Drawing heavily on singer Jerome Alexandre’s life-experience-stranger-than-fiction, The Skuzzies’ debut is every bit as curious and contradictory as a character who counts Peter Doherty as a close conspirator and co-vocalist for the ska-styled bonus track ‘On The Corner’, yet shows no interest in charming Babyshambles’ “Converse and furs” clad indie darling fanbase, as savaged on ‘Rich Girls’. Slightly more straightforward are ‘Shotgun Romance’ and ‘Brompton Cocktail’; two quick, gritty hits of minimal, wiry and wired Heartbreakers guitar, and gutter-grounded but starry-eyed sentiment. Still, like any act able to cram such immense energy and emotion into apparently simplistic sonic skins, the Skuzzies are, overall, anything but simple. Closing stormy soundscape ‘Heartache Accelerates’ says as much with its ominous, brooding silences as it does with the raw-voiced title refrain repeated ad infinitum, forming the intense, intriguing coda to a debut of enough depth to invite listeners to return to it again and again. 
Alison Bateman

T-MODEL FORD AND GRAVELROAD
TALEDRAGGER
(Alive Natural Sound)
Spooky magic from the veteran bluesman.
8/10
If it’s a colourful life story you’re after, octogenarian bluesman T-Model Ford – year of birth uncertain, yellow sheet as long as your arm – shows most other contenders up for the posturing pussies they generally are. Backed up here by sympathetic young bucks GravelRoad, the road-tested performer effortlessly summons up that time-honoured dark blues magic, a deceptively simple honey-from-the-fingertips three-chord trick that brings together the shades of Howling Wolf and Robert Johnson for some unholy dialogue. Moaning at the moonlight from some ramshackle porch, Ford and his able companions have tapped into something truly timeless here, whether on upbeat Saturday night stompers such as ‘Big Legged Woman’ or hypnotically world-weary laments in the vein of ‘How Many More Years’ and ‘Worn My Body For So Long’. T Model’s older than your granddad, but he’ll stomp your sorry ass.
Hugh Gulland

THE URBAN VOODOO MACHINE
IN BLACK ‘N’ RED
(Gypsy Hotel)
Finest bourbon-marinated offerings yet.
9/10
The Urban Voodoo Machine quite simply ooze atmosphere on every one of the twelve tracks here. The advice that you ‘Go East’ in the opener – a song that’s drenched in that classic gypsy sound, but just as those aurally name-checked, UVM are nomadic in their musical wanderings (though the roots are ever-present) and they just take on added flavour. Stomping is an apt term to describe the music, with the album cracking along at a pace that would keep ballroom chandeliers rattling as vocalist Paul Ronney relates tales of the sleazy underbelly of life that people too dull to try secretly yearn. The blues, rock ‘n’ roll and even a tequila-spiced Tex-Mex interloper get involved. ‘Goodbye To Another Year’ bids you farewell to a superb album but this could well be their best year yet.
Simon Nott

TV SMITH
COMING IN TO LAND
(Boss Tuneage)
Former Adverts frontman’s most accomplished work to date.
8/10
Following a superb and consistent flow of post-Adverts solo outings ‘Coming In To Land’ is TV Smith’s most confident yet. As lyrically relevant as ‘Bored Teenagers’ was to 1977 punk, this new set of songs sheds new light onto Smith’s musical vision and aspirations with a refreshing approach. Opener ‘Worn Once’, ‘Man Down’ and ‘Headhunters’ are classic uptempo songs in familiar TV Smith style sitting alongside the slower pace of ‘Dawning Of False Hopes’ and ‘Us And Them’ and the uncharacteristic and quirky dig at society’s moaners ‘Complaints Dept’. The Dylan of the punk generation; this is the work of one of our time’s true individual performers painting a potent musical and lyrical vision of the modern age!
Tony Beesley

VARIOUS ARTISTS
GYPSY HOTEL VOL. ONE
(Gypsy Hotel)
Retro blend of vintage rock ‘n’ roll, burlesque and, er, banjos.
6/10
Compiling a bunch of acts who, over the years, have patronised London’s Gypsy Hotel club nights, this is a real mixed bag. On the one hand, listening to Nigel Burch and the Flea Pit Orchestra espousing the virtues of the Pub With No Name over a twangy, 1940s style fiddle and banjo strumming gets a little tiring pretty swiftly. On the other, the insane, trebly, whooping rock ‘n’ roll of The Jim Jones Revue truly blazes. Other highlights come from Walking Wounded, with some lo-fi Balkan ska (yes, really), Pogues man Spider Stacy and the mellow vibes of The Mighty Stef. As a whole, this compilation’s a little too patchy to cut it, but the great tracks it does throw up are surprisingly cool.
Steve Lee

VARIOUS ARTISTS
RECORDS TO RUIN ANY PARTY – VOLUME 3
(Voodoo Rhythm) 
Eclectic 21-track compilation from Swiss rock ‘n’ roll independent label.
6/10
Now getting close to its one hundredth release, many of the bands/artists on this latest Voodoo Rhythm compilation have a trash bluesy lo-fi nature to their sounds, with more than a few nods to the White Stripes, though these bands are more likely to be originators than copyists. There are enough surprises to keep you interested though, such as the Dead Brothers’ understated ‘The Power A Secret Holds’, the garage punk of the Guilty Hearts and the impressive psychedelic soul of King Khan and his Shrines. Elsewhere there are all sorts of nuggets taking in everything from country through to folk. Not quite something for everybody but if you like primitive rock ‘n’ roll and all its strands it’s likely that Voodoo Rhythm will cater for at least one of your needs.
Andy Peart

V8 WANKERS
IRON CROSSROADS
(SPV)
German metal/rock veterans cruising rather than accelerating.
6/10
V8 Wankers’ sixth album – produced by Tommy Newton (UFO, Helloween, Guano Apes etc.) is slightly formulaic- and therefore unsurprising – but nonetheless is a highly polished and competent rock record with fast pace and bite. It more or less mirrors the band’s previous albums with its full throttle, hard driving metallic rock anthems. Not all songs are memorable, not all choruses deliver and in general the record is a little uneven. Opening track, ‘Sworn To Fun Second To None’ makes an excellent  first impression due to its blistering guitar riffs and revving engine noises, but what follows is an album that is way too generic to be appreciated by the casual listener. ‘Iron Crossroads’ doesn’t break any new grounds, but it certainly won’t disappoint any fans of Germany’s premier rock/metal band either.
Scott Zverblis

WATTS
ON THE DIAL
(Watts)
Nostalgic rock ‘n’ roll from Boston’s finest.
7/10
With a sound harking back to the good old rock ‘n’ roll days of Rolling Stones and Cheap Trick, Watts reignite that ’70s flame with their sophomore effort. The revival kicks off with the title track and highlight, featured on this issue’s free CD, with crunching riffs that carry a cracking melody and considerable swagger that will no doubt trigger any nostalgic reflexes. Taking the best elements of old school punk, new wave and British invasion, Watts charge out of the blocks with straight up rock ‘n’ roll anthems. ‘Girls On Holiday’ is a softer moment gets the nod, but any of these belters could make a soundtrack to your summer, including a cover of 1980s hit, ‘No Secrets’ by The Angels. While nothing here is groundbreaking, Watts prove that the classic formula still works, and nail it.    
Max Barrett

WONK UNIT
TROLLEYS THANK YOU / WONK UNIT SAVED MY LIFE
(Wonk Unit)
Sixteen songs of melancholy ala Billie Joe Armstrong.
7/10
The album kicks off like old Green Day records with poppy punk and stories of heart break and failed relationships. Excluding the occasional flirtation with indie sounds, the London based trio sounds like they could’ve been on one of the early Punk-O-Rama compilations. The bands main protagonist Alex Johnson draws his poetic inspiration from personal experience resulting in convincing honesty and delivery, which at times demands your attention. Some of the songs, especially on the latter side of the album with titles like ‘Wonk Unit Saved My Life’, come across as self-important fillers heard in semi-acoustic singer-songwriter nights at the local pub on a Tuesday night. But instantly grabbing songs like ‘Los Angeles’ make the band worth checking out for those with pop punk sensibilities.
Jyrki ‘Spider’ Hamalainen



REISSUES

ALAN DAVEY
FOUR-TRACK MIND – VOLUMES 1 – 4
(Earthquake)
Impressive career retrospective from former Hawkwind bass monster, spanning 1986 to 2003.
8/10
Originally only available as four individual volumes, ‘Four-Track Mind’ has now been released as an attractively packaged metallic picture CD box set. This collection of demos encompasses virtually every aspect of Davey’s musical career, including Hawkwind, Bedouin and other solo material, although it does pre-date his current ultra-heavy power trio Gunslinger. Immerse yourself in the lush, electronic ambient soundscapes that Davey creates on the likes of ‘Bird Nebula’, and ‘R.E.M. Time’. You’ll love the fearsome speed on ‘Hitze Seeker V’, or the motorik intensity of ‘Deep Space Rock’, while ‘Motor Pink Head’ is a gut rumbling, bass heavy adaptation of the Pink Panther theme tune. It ain’t for nothing that Davey has been named “Bass Assassin #2” by Lemmy himself.
Rich Deakin

BAD MANNERS
FORGING AHEAD
(Pressure Drop)
London 2 Tone jokers’ 1982 album still a decent effort.
6/10
Heading up the 1979-’82 ska revival scene and fronted by the larger than life character  Buster Bloodvessel, Bad Manners chose to concentrate on humour and fun while the likes of The Specials and The Beat became involved in campaigns and social commentary. As a result the band enjoyed chart success, although this fourth record saw their success declining after the hit 1981 album ‘Gosh It’s… Bad Manners’ saw them peak with number 18 in the UK Album Charts. However, the album is still one hell of a good time as always, with ska favourites such as ‘My Girl Lollipop’ (a cover of Millie’s ‘My Boy Lollipop’) and the single ‘Got No Brains’. Certainly not their best work but well worth picking up if you’re a fan of ska who’s somehow lacking Bad Manners records.
Ian Chaddock

BO DIDDLEY
BO DIDDLEY’S BEACH PARTY
(Geffen)
Guitar legend’s raucous first live album gets reissued.
6/10
‘Bo Diddley’s Beach Party’ was recorded (pretty raw if this is anything to go by) live on Myrtle Beach, South Carolina on July 5th, 1983. His pioneering mix of rock ‘n’ roll, blues and R&B playing scored him a series of hits in the ’50s and ’60s but this ten track live album shows he was still going strong in the ’80s – in fact he performed well into the noughties, until his death in 2008. This high energy and celebratory live set includes raucous renditions of fan favourites such as ‘Gunslinger’ and the incredible ‘Hey Bo Diddley’. However, this recording is not great and it’s certainly not the clearest or most impressive live album you’ll hear. This is one beach party you’ll wish you were at, even if this recording doesn’t quite do the electric atmosphere justice.
Ian Chaddock

COCKNEY REJECTS
THE PUNK SINGLES COLLECTION
(Anagram)
All the singles from Oi!’s founders.
8/10
The Oi! movement, though much maligned, has proved to be one of the most durable of the many music press-manufactured genres. Cockney Rejects had, through sheer cheek and bravado, come under the managerial wings of Sham 69 singer Jimmy Pursey and Sounds features editor Garry Bushell and released the classic single ‘Flares ‘n’ Slippers’ on Small Wonder in August 1979. When a reviewer from another paper sneered that Rejects singer Stinky Turner did little but shout ‘Oi! Oi!’ between songs, the seed was planted in Bushell’s head, and before long EMI were releasing influential compilation ‘Oi! – The Album’. The Rejects were the movement’s most successful act, scoring three hit albums and six hit singles, and this set rounds up all the tracks from the latter. This is almost all top notch Oi!, though some may baulk at the later metal material.
Shane Baldwin

CRASS
CHRIST – THE ALBUM
(Crassical Collection)
Fourth release in remastered series of anarcho-punk pioneers.
9/10
Despite influencing everything from US hardcore to post-punk since forming in 1977 and imploding in spectacular fashion in 1984, the legend of Crass has bizarrely remained a cult concern. However, this latest remastered and beautifully repackaged Crass album, which feature previously unreleased tracks, illustrated booklets and live recordings , will no doubt help the legend of Crass grow and hopefully pull in a few more fans along the way. Crass always had a knack for the accessible and melodic, but it always came with an anarchic twist, as evident here. ‘Sentiment’ is almost wistful, ‘Mother Love’ distorts, while the ska-tinged ‘Reality Whitewash’ swings. However, it’s when both Steve Ignorant and Phil Free’s guitars go into full-on sneer on ‘The Greatest Working Class Rip-Off’ that ‘Christ – The Album’ bears the ripest fruit.
Scott Zverblis

THE DRONES
FURTHER TEMPTATIONS
(Anagram)
Manchester combo not to be confused with their more recent Antipodean namesakes.
8/10
The Drones emerged in the wake of the first wave of English punk to produce one of the great unsung albums of its era. Seething with punk vibrancy, ‘Further Temptations’ is littered with lyrics about alienation (‘Underdog’, ‘Lift Off The Bans’), anti-monarchy (‘Corgi Crap’), work (‘Bone Idol’), individuality and herd mentality (‘Lookalikes’), and is still as rousing as it ever was. ‘Movement’ is a relentless Stooges style assault, whilst a staccato version of The Ronettes’ ‘Be My Baby’ is the obligatory pogo-a-go-go cover. But there’s musical expertise at play too: just check out their 1980 single ‘Can’t See’, included here as a bonus track along with their other singles and B-sides.  It was a more commercial stab at new wave than punk, but it did mark the end of the band’s first incarnation.
Rich Deakin

THE GONADS
GREATER HITS – VOLUME ONE: PLUMS
(Randale)
Fifteen cuts of Monty Python-esque Oi! and an AC/DC cover.
6/10
The Gonads are fronted by controversial journalist Garry Bushell, who is known for coining the term Oi! and declaring punk dead. Ironically the compilation sets off with ‘Punk Rock Till I Die’ and includes hilariously titled songs from their 30-odd year career, such as ‘I Lost My Love To A UK Sub’ and ‘Hitler Was An ‘Omo’. Bushell’s polemical lyrics are the carrying force of the group that might get mistaken for an Anti-Nowhere League covers band. The man who once had his eyebrows shaved by Ozzy Osbourne manages to name-check even more than Jimmy Pursey on speed, with parody songs like ‘Wild Thing’ to ‘Doctorin’ the Tardis’. Overall it’s pretty much the same old chords and emotions, with Bushell’s grandmother’s former favourite ‘Big Balls’.
Jyrki ‘Spider’ Hamalainen

THE HITMEN
DANCING TIME ‘78-’79
(Shock / Savagebeat)
Muscular post-Birdman Oz punk.
6/10
With the 1978 break-up of Sydney’s high energy rock ’n’ rollers Radio Birdman, guitarist Chris Masuak and bassman Warwick Gilbert joined forces with Birdman associate Johnny Kannis, forming the nucleus of this psyche-trash-surf outfit. Hitmen line-ups would fluctuate over the next few years, with former Saints sticksman Ivor Hay providing the backbeat for a stretch. Pulling together extensive material from various demo sessions and live shows, ‘Dancing Time’ provides a two-disc window into a somewhat neglected chapter in Australian rock ’n’ roll, and the Masuak penned originals here prove that away from the Radio Birdman power-jostle, while Klondike Chris was a pretty respectable songwriter and guitarist in his own right. ‘Feast Of Words’, ‘Wings Of Steel’ and ‘Wrath Of God’ burn the same fuel that powered Birdman’s sonic air strikes. Classic trash-rock influences are touched on throughout, notably the Flaming Groovies on cuts like ‘It’s So Wild’, and the Detroit punk energy of the MC5 is seldom far from the mix.
Hugh Gulland

ICICLE WORKS
THE SMALL PRICE OF A BICYCLE
(Cherry Red)
Liverpool post-punks’ 1985 second album gets the deluxe treatment.
7/10
Never my favourite Icicle Works album on release, this deluxe reissue – the original ten tracks having quadrupled across three discs – is a pleasant rediscovery. It reminds of how vibrant, and diverse, the Merseyside post-punk scene was, with no identifiable sound beyond a state of permanent enthralment at pop music’s melodic possibilities. Ian McNabb’s voice is a perfect conduit for the typically grand themes explored in his songwriting herein, and works most appealingly on the hard-rocking ‘Perambulator’, the closest antecedent to the band’s still wonderful debut. It explodes ala the band’s millstone/milestone hit ‘Love Is A Wonderful Colour’. While McNabb’s talent has been grudgingly acknowledged by critics down the years, Icicle Works arguably possessed the finest Merseybeat drummer of his generation in current Beady Eye member Chris Sharrock – check out ‘Book of Reason’ for evidence.
Alex Ogg

LEE PERRY 
REGGAE GENIUS: 20 UPSETTER CLASSICS 
(Spectrum)
A reminder of the huge impact of Perry in the ’60s/’70s.
9/10
Lee Perry’s understanding of the importance of the vibe and mood of a track was second to none during the 1960s/’70s and is demonstrated here to great effect. From the legendary Bob Marley tracks and Junior Murvin’s iconic ‘Police And Thieves’ to lesser known cuts like The Gatherers’ ‘Words Of My Mouth’, there’s a groove that Perry could instinctively locate to let the sounds breathe. Whether recording himself with the Upsetters or producing bands such as the Heptones and the Congos there’s a consistency with these recordings which allows them to sit naturally next to each other and also provide a useful snapshot of exactly what could be achieved forty years ago, long before the digital age started to take the soul out of the recording process.
Andy Peart

THE OUTCASTS
VIVE LYON!
(Spit)
Excellent live material from early Northern Ireland punks
8/10
Spit Records is a new label set up by Sean O’Neill, co-author of the book ‘It Makes You Want To Spit’, which does a terrific job of covering the Northern Ireland punk scene from 1977 to 1982. He aims to set up a label which provides us with previously unreleased material from this most productive, inspired, and, naturally, volatile of punk scenes. Spit’s roster is opened by a release by one of NI’s most revered crews the Outcasts, which brings together two razor-sharp live sets, both recorded at the West-Side Club, in Lyon, France, in 1983 and 1984. Stand-outs include ‘The Cops Are Coming’ from the 1979 split EP ‘The Battle Of The Bands’ and their trashing of the Kenny Rogers weepy ‘Ruby…’. Add to this a 24-page booklet with excellent sleeve notes, including quotes from band members and the likes of SLF’s Henry Cluney, and you can’t go wrong.
Shane Baldwin

SCRITTI POLITTI
ABSOLUTE
(Virgin)
Scritti’s 34-year career comes full circle. 
4/10
As Green Garside seems to be on extended leave again, Virgin have decided to plug the gap with a retrospective spanning 34 years. Scritti Politti enjoyed their biggest mainstream success in the heady days of the mid-’80s and this album kicks off with most of them, back-to-back. The band’s immaculate, state-of-the-art pop topped off with Garside’s sugar-coated vocals had the world eating out of their hands at their height. ‘Wood Beez (Pray Like Aretha Franklin)’, ‘Absolute’ and then onto US top 10 smash ‘Perfect Way’ were the soundtrack for a generation. Though ‘Absolute’ offers extras for completists and it’s always nice to have a catch-up, this feels pretty patchy at best and it doesn’t help that the band have only averaged one album every seven years. A strange mix of top ten glitz, hip-hop comebacks and post-punk roots. 
Neil Anderson

SPIZZ
WHERE’S CAPTAIN KIRK? – THE VERY BEST OF SPIZZ
(Cherry Red)
Beam me up Scotty – it’s a career spanning Spizz retrospective!
7/10
This compilation includes nearly all Spizz’s single releases, some b-sides and some album tracks too from 1978 to 1982, when the band was renowned for changing its name on an almost yearly basis, as well as several latter day Spizz projects from the 1990s. Best remembered for the Spizz Energi incarnation though, their most famous songs are probably ‘Where’s Captain Kirk?’ and ‘Soldier Soldier’. But, if songs such as ‘Captain Kirk’ and ‘Spock’s Missing’ displayed a keen sci-fi sense of humour, then earlier songs like ‘6000 Crazy’ and ‘Cold City’ belied an edgier punk sensibility. As for the ’90s material, ‘On My Own’, is a stab at New Order-lite techno pop that’s not entirely without charm, but the gimmicky ‘The Sun Never Sets On Aston Villa’ is an acquired taste. Best remember them by their early idiosyncratic post-punk output then. 
Rich Deakin

TALISMAN
DOLE AGE – THE 1981 REGGAE COLLECTION
(Bristol Archive)
Arguably Bristol’s finest ’70s/’80s reggae act’s lost gems unearthed.
7/10
Bristol Archive Records have done it again. Alongside Black Roots, Talisman (originally formed under the name Revelation Rockers back in 1977 before the new moniker stuck in the early ’80s) were not only Bristol’s, but one of the UK’s finest reggae bands, earning them support slots with The Clash and The Rolling Stones. However, they never got a major record deal and their two singles from 1981 and two later LPs, ‘Takin’ The Strain’ (1984) and ‘Jam Rock’ (1990) are difficult to find to say the least. But thanks to Bristol Archive, this collection combines the two original 7” singles and seven previously unreleased live cuts of shows from Glastonbury and Bath University. Although more recorded material rather than live would have been desirable given the quality of these tracks, it’s still another release that shows how vibrant the Bristol scene was.
Ian Chaddock

THE TUBES
WILD WEST SHOW
(Secret)
White punks go west in London.
6/10
These ’70s San Francisco rockers’ outrageous stage reputation of old included mock bondage rituals, simulated sex and machine gun-toting terrorists kidnapping members of the audiences and imprisoning them in cages on stage. There was also a cast of outrageous characters including crippled Nazi Dr Strangekiss, country singer Hugh Heifer, punk star Johnny Bugger and, most notorious of all, Quay Lewd, an androgynous rock star with fright wig and teetering platform boots. The Tubes’ 2004 Shepherds Bush Empire show was rather less shocking but there’s plenty on this live CD/DVD set to keep the die-hards happy, including a guest appearance from Vice Squad’s finest, Beki Bondage. ‘White Punks On Dope’ will always stand out as the band at their finest – satirical rock ’n’ roll at its most addictive – and the live version here is great. But there’s another 165 minutes to go at.
Neil Anderson

TWISTED SISTER
COME OUT AND PLAY / LOVE IS FOR SUCKERS
(Armoury)
’80s glam metallers’ last two studio albums remastered.
6/10 & 3/10
Although Twisted Sister still perform live to this day they haven’t actually released a full studio album since 1987’s ‘Love Is For Suckers’. Originally intended as a Dee Snider solo album this was the last before their split in the 80’s and it shows. A sloppy mix of the pop rock that gained them notoriety, intermingled with a hashed return to their metal roots which couldn’t save this from the bargain bins. However its predecessor, 1985’s ‘Come Out And Play’ is a stronger affair. A rousing cover of The Shangri-Las’ ‘Leader Of The Pack’ is the highlight here, with other notable fist-banging anthems like the stomp of ‘I Believe In Rock ‘N’ Roll’. These re-issues may not be Twisted Sister’s finest hours but there is fun to be had amongst them.
Miles Hackett

THE UNDERTONES
TRUE CONFESSIONS (SINGLES = A’S + B’S)
(Salvo)
Away from the politics of 70’s punk, stood Ireland’s finest band.
9/10
Looking beyond the troubles of their Derry home, they embraced the bubblegum Punk of the Ramones with their own songwriting craft. From 1978’s ‘Teenage Kicks’ Feargal Sharkey and co. careered through a catalogue of gems adding melody to the grim early Thatcher years. ‘Get Over You’, ‘Jimmy Jimmy’, ‘Here Comes the Summer’,’ You’ve Got My Number’ and ‘My Perfect Cousin’ all sound as immediate and fresh today as the day they were conceived. When the band attempted to present a more mature extension of their sound, most successfully with the soul-flavoured beat of ‘It’s Going To Happen’, sadly their star began to wane and by 1983 the end was inevitable. This 2-CD compilation houses all of their singles along with often over-looked flip sides.
Tony Beesley

VARIOUS ARTISTS 
AVON CALLING 2: FORGOTTEN GEMS & UNKNOWN CURRIOS
(Bristol Archive)
Terrific post-punk from the South West.
9/10
In the late ‘70s and early ‘80s, regional compilations were very much in vogue, particularly the Brighton ‘Vaultage’ sets that introduced the likes of Peter And The Test Tube Babies and the Piranhas. So, when John Peel referred to Heartbeat Records’ 1979 compilation ‘Avon Calling’ as “the one that all other compilations must be judged by”, it was no small compliment. The South West was a thriving hotbed of post-punk activity, with many startlingly good (and some just startling) bands on the scene, and Heartbeat boss Simon Edwards was something of an archivist, storing up much of their unreleased work. Now we have the best of it on ‘Avon Calling 2’, with gems indeed from the likes of Social Security, X-Certs, Europeans, 48 Hours, Apartment and Joe Public. 
Shane Baldwin

VARIOUS ARTISTS
CROSSROADS IN COWTOWN
(Fantastic Voyage)
Vintage hillbilly, swing, boogie and western boppers.
7/10
This is a humdinger of a collection of tracks highlighting that, although the rock ‘n’ roll revolution was four years away when the earliest cuts were released, Elvis and co. only gave what was already proliferating from the late ’40s a bit of a tweak and added pink and black. Ranging from 1950 to ’58, the variety of styles showcased here become a mixture in the pot with swing boogie and hillbilly being mangled together as successfully as blues and hillbilly. The emphasis on this collection is on up-tempo dancefloor fillers strong on rhythm with delicious instrumentation. The lyrical content of some of these tracks will testify that while the style they sung over may well have been dated even by the end of the 1950s they were rockin’ it up in lifestyle long before the kids who thought they invented it.
Simon Nott

VARIOUS ARTISTS
KRIS NEEDS PRESENTS… DIRTY WATER 2: MORE BIRTH OF PUNK ATTITUDE
(Year Zero)
Kris Needs casts his net wider into the depths of ever dirtier water. 
9/10
‘Dirty Water 1’ was never going to be an easy act to follow, but Needsy has done it again, with 39 songs of rock ‘n’ roll, ‘60s psych,  garage, be-bop, free jazz and reggae, all imbued with punk attitude. While this second volume strays into more well chartered waters at times too, with Bowie, Velvets and the ubiquitous MC5, there are still plenty more surprises. The Rudements’ ‘Imagination’ from 1978 is a real revelation, whilst Needs himself is given a helping hand by sundry members of The Clash and Generation X, with his own band The Vice Creems on ‘Danger Love’ from the same year. With yet another exhaustive booklet penned by Needs – 84 pages to be precise – this is a more than worthy successor.
Rich Deakin

VARIOUS ARTISTS
SASSY SUGAR – THE PURE ESSENE OF NASHVILLE ROCK ‘N’ ROLL
(Fantastic Voyage)
When it was good it was good.
7/10
Nashville did to rock ‘n’ roll what it did to country – made it palatable to the masses. Some of the tracks on here will have the toes curling to snapping point, while others salivating in anticipation. There are some big names here, including Elvis, Johnny Cash and Carl Perkins, but it’s the largely unsung who are the stars, the session-men like guitar legend Grady Martin who were drafted in to ensure that the no-hit wonders that were being given a shot got the best chance to crack that one song. Sugary choruses and backing vocals without a doubt bloated many a lithe hipshaker, just witness how it tamed some ex-Sun wildmen, but filter that out and there are still plenty of gems – Ronnie Self’s ‘Black Night Blues’ being one of them – to make this an excellent compilation which Stuart Coleman’s excellent notes bring to life.
Simon Nott

VISIONS OF CHANGE / THE DEPRAVED
VISIONS OF CHANGE / THE DEPRAVED
(Boss Tuneage)
Exhaustive, and pretty exhausting, reissue of mid-1980s posi-punk.
7/10
Emanating from the unlikely suburban surroundings of Leamington Spa, The Depraved were pioneers of the nascent British posi-punk scene. Taking influence from the personal politics and intelligence of North American straight edge they truly represented the punk DIY (not EMI) ethic, playing some pretty spectacular and energetic lives shows along the way. Captured on the first disc of this reissue are both their albums and various compilation cuts. By 1987 The Depraved had mutated into Visions Of Change, cranked up a hammond organ, learnt to play a lot better (by their own admission, according to the comprehensive sleeve notes) and, in the process, created what can only be termed psyche-punk. This stuff soundtracked my misspent youth and it’s amazing how fresh, intense and vital these songs still sound.
Steve Lee

WAYNE COUNTY AND THE ELECTRIC CHAIRS
ROCK ‘N’ ROLL CLEOPATRA
(RPM)
The pre-Jayne punk years revisited.
6/10
As a fearless pioneer in trans-gender identification and a vital mover and shaker in New York’s 1970s glam-punk crossover, Wayne, later Jayne, County’s cultural significance is hard to overstate, although it might be fair to say there’s more to this artiste than his/her recorded output yields; the County oeuvre brags some indisputable high points – tranny-punk smut blasts such as ‘Fuck Off’, ‘Mean Motherfucking Man’ or ‘Toilet Love’ are undisputed triumphs. But the more pedestrian dog-ends of County’s recordings amount to little more than bargain basement heavy metal (albeit
with camper than usual vocals), and the Max’s live roster at the time certainly had better acts on offer. There’s a certain filler quotient to the twenty tracks compiled here, but if you can wear a certain percentage of derivative press-forward moments, the aforementioned nuggets should justify this purchase.
Hugh Gulland
 

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