ALBUM REVIEWS (NOV)
Socio-political punk rock anthems from Reno trio.
Setting their sites squarely on the struggling economy, the xenophobia that has increased since 9/11 and how prisons are run like businesses. Opener ‘Six Degrees’ show this anger before the upbeat and energetic ‘Iron Lung’ and ‘Now You Know’ kick in. Other album highlights are the mighty ‘On & On’, the speeding ‘Drones’ with its jazz/funk intro, and the ripping, fast-paced ‘The Minimum’. Cobra Skulls have done it again, with a varied and absorbing album that deserves to win them new fans whilst pleasing existing fans. Not much to get agitated about at all, just the rest of the world! Rachel Owen
THE DARK SHADOWS
Ethereal fem-led goth rock from Down Under.
Representing a largely overlooked corner of the alternative genres, Sydney based The Dark Shadows combine the brooding, vaudevillian mystique of The Damned, the cut-throat candy sweetness of Debbie Harry and the rockabilly talent of Gene Vincent into a wonderfully unique sound that’s both alluring and slightly sinister. This seven track EP marks the latest in a slew of mini-releases from the all-woman three-piece and serves as the perfect precursor to their upcoming European tour. Haunting and atmospheric, yet retaining all the heart of ’70s punk rock, fans of similar moody outfits like Siouxsie and the Banshees and The Cramps should definitely get involved.
THE DAUNTLESS ELITE
MORE BLOODY BAD NEWS
Another endearing slab of gruff Northern sing-along melodic punk.
Along with Wakefield’s Milloy, Leeds gritty but infectious punks The Dauntless Elite are the best band from Yorkshire. The long-awaited follow-up to their anthemic 2007 debut album ‘Graft’, the second album is always difficult but Dauntless have managed to come out with a great album. While it may not be as instant or powerful as ‘Graft’, these songs are still proudly Northern – listen to the accents and song titles like ‘Better Than Nowt’ and ‘Sod This For A Game Of Soldiers’ – and tracks such as opening sing-along ‘Saliva’ and ‘Sod This…’ prove they can still pen killer dual vocalled punk songs. Join the ‘Elite!
DEAD TO ME
MOSCOW PENNY ANTE
San Francisco punk rockers unleash third infectious full-length.
This follow-up to 2009’s superb ‘African Elephants’ features yet another different line-up, with guitarist/vocalist Nathan Grice replaced by Sam Johnson (VRGNS, New Mexican Disaster Squad and guitarist Ken Yamazaki (ex-Enemy You, Western Addiction), joining Tyson ‘Chicken’ Annicharico and Ian Anderson. The album grows on you quickly, with punchy opener ‘Undertow’ offering up plenty of energy and ‘Reckless Behavior’ and ‘Dead Pigeon Tricks’ showing Johnson’s vocals add a lot. Chicken’s singing is still powerful, with ‘The Trials Of Oscar Wilde’ and ‘The Monarach Hotel’ two of the highlights. Ante up again, DTM are becoming one of the best punk bands on the scene.
DON’T LOOK DOWN / THE DESTRUCTORS
JE SUIS RADIO
Peterborough punk rock double header.
Two punk bands from Peterborough from different eras with distinctly different styles team up. Don’t Look Down are the relative newcomers in this partnership. ‘The Duvet Song’ is very Bad Religion influenced, right down to the vocal harmonies, and that’s no bad thing. ‘People Are People’ meanwhile gives the old Depeche Mode standard a bit of a street punk makeover. Widely recognised as Peterborough’s most prolific punk band, the Destructors have been around since 1976 and include an inspired cover of Jonathan Richman’s ‘Road Runner’ and a psychobilly-tinged ‘Trash Man’. A nicely balanced split EP that does both bands justice.
DUM DUM GIRLS
ONLY IN DREAMS
Sublimely ghostly girl-pop.
Following on from their 2010 entrée I Will Be, this second album from the California-based outfit is a glorious melding of four-to-the-floor garage-band aesthetics with the timeless teen-opera sensibilities of the Ronettes or the Shangri-Las, which is no small order in itself. Tellingly, former Blondie producer Richard Gottehrer handles the faders here, and it’s an inspired marriage; Only In Dreams is a shimmering tour-de-force of Spectoresque femme-pop, a faultless progression of three-minute symphonies, front ‘Girl Dee Dee Penny opening up her inner diary to spill out her tales of smeared mascara. There’s a sharp emotional punch at the heart of this recording that goes far beyond the boundaries of teenage trauma, with the recent passing of Dee Dee’s mother and other personal upheavals directly informing material such as Coming Down and Teardrops On My Pillow; beneath the girl-pop sparkle, the sense displacement and loss hovers, infusing Only In Dreams with a curious disembodied spookiness.
FOREIGN LEGION / SLEDGEBACK
Two great punk bands for the price of one.
A great 12 track, split release from Seattle’s Sledgeback and South Wales punk stalwarts Foreign Legion. Arguably one of the most underrated Welsh punk bands of all time, Foreign Legion are the only band from the valleys to play at CBGBs and to have been produced by The Clash’s Mick Jones. With a Vans Warped Tour and Flogging Molly supports under their belts, Sledgeback are no slouches either. Sledgeback sound somewhere between The Freeze and Naked Raygun, complemented by Foreign Legion’s Ruts influenced punk. Rather than the bands having a ‘side’ each, the songs are interspersed, making for a more interesting listen.
THE DEVILS RAIN
First original album in over a decade from the horror punk legends.
The dark lords of horrorcore are back and what do the men behind the iconic skull have in store after all this wait? Well, Misfits 2011 is a stripped down beast, with ‘The Devils Rain’ snorting smoke through its sixteen tracks of punk ‘n’ roll horror clichés. Musically this incarnation bears resemblance to the likes of Volbeat, with its ’50s rock ‘n’ roll vibe and buzzing punk rifforama. Ever more cartoon-like, the vault of cheesy horror films has been raided to provide lyrical inspiration and bassist Jerry Only croons in a Danzig-esque style that should silence his critics. It’s a worthy Misfits record, if a little long. Still, spooky fun all the same.
Grimy, lo-fi surf punk from Canada.
This is an 11-track cacophony of sounds all held together in a thick blanket of fuzz and drenched in surf guitar. Hammond organ, thick bass lines and reverb drums up images of punked out ’70s ‘surfers’ that got no nearer the raging sea than the pavement, their skateboards and the sounds of The Barracudas, then follow them through the 1980s where they can dig the Pixies and The Cure. Odonis Odonis are a live band but were a studio project first and that sort of tells. Not for the faint-hearted, but if your pulse is pumping at the aural image my words have conjured up then you won’t be disappointed.
POP WILL EAT ITSELF
NEW NOISE DESIGNED BY A SADIST
Electro rockers’ sixth album takes you back to the ’80s.
Having blasted out grubby party anthems since 1986, Pop Will Eat Itself have kept that party going. Or at least sole original member Graham Crabb, who continues to work under the name, is. ‘New Noise…’ packs in the baggy-shorted stroboscopic electro rock, spruced up with the odd recognisable sample – ‘Old Skool Cool’ for example lifts a riff from the Psychedelic Furs’ classic ‘Dumb Waiters’ single. ‘Seek And Destroy’ meanwhile is a lot of belligerent shouting yammering over an acid-house chug. Although at times it sounds dated, at other points things lift off into some enjoyable electro-goth terrain.
BITE THE HAND THAT FEEDS
Fiery full-length debut from Stoke’s premier skacore merchants.
One of the newest acts to join the rapidly burgeoning TNS family are Rising Strike; a belligerent skacore act with an incendiary political agenda. Recently recruiting a saxophonist and taking a break from touring to record this, their debut full-length, the band are fully prepared to rip 2011 a new one. Fast, punchy and punctuated with brutal death metal vocals, fierce ska riffs, juggernaut drums and socially challenging lyrical themes, ‘Bite the Hand…’ is a winning first effort with a sound further honed from that of their ‘Not For Public Consumption’ EP. A sure-fire listen for fans of Voodoo Glow Skulls, Random Hand and Leftover Crack.
THE SLOW DEATH
BORN UGLY GOT WORSE
(Kiss Of Death)
Stunning debut full-length from Minneapolis punk supergroup.
Featuring (ex-)members of Pretty Boy Thorson and the Falling Angels, The Ergs!, The Soviettes, Dear Landlord and many more, it’s fair to say that The Slow Death are pretty much any melodic gritty punk/pop punk fan’s dream come true. And somehow this debut album lives up to all the high expectations too. From the male/female vocals of opener ‘Ticks Of The Clock’ to anthemic standout ‘Phantom Limbs’ and the country punk-tinged ‘Stay High’, these gruff, melodic and punchy tunes about Jesse Thorson’s drinking, relationships and living on sofa beds is nothing less than addictive. One of the albums of the year and an exhilarating new band on the scene. Catch them on tour in November/December. Ian Chaddock
TALES FROM THE WASTELAND
Second album of Celtic punk fun from Reading whiskey swiggers.
Last year’s ‘Popping Up The Floor’ set the bar quite high for Smokey Bastard but they’ve cleared it with ease with sophomore effort ‘Tales From The Wasteland’. When they’re going full tilt on the likes of single ‘Yuppie Dracula’ or ‘Aspirations, I Have Some’, they’re enormous fun. There’s more of a trad-folk feel to ‘Bad Reception’. More varied and dynamic than most folk punk albums, ‘Tales From The Wasteland’ is well worth a read. Fans of Flogging Molly and The Pogues take note, Smokey Bastard are a band you need in your life. Cheers! John Damon
HITS ARE FOR SQUARES
Sonic Youth ‘best of’ in a different guise.
Sonic Youth being Sonic Youth were never going to just release some kind of lame ‘Greatest Hits’ type package and so they have come up with the rather novel idea of having their friends and admirers choose their favourite aspects of their ridiculously brilliant career to date. Mike D, Radiohead, Chole Sevigny and Michelle Williams, amongst others, have curated a record which to Sonic Youth fans says as much about them as it does the band’s back catalogue. The choices span the decades and in a wonderful way exemplify all that is undisputedly special about the work of one of the most astonishingly brilliant bands it has been my generation’s privilege to enjoy. James Batty
STATIC RADIO NJ
WE ARE ALL BEASTS
(Kiss Of Death)
Change of direction for New Jersey punk rockers.
Static Radio NJ’s last two releases have seen them emulating to their melodic hardcore heroes such as Kid Dynamite but this first album for Kiss Of Death Records is an evolution in their sound that sees them trying to find their own sound, with some success. After almost a decade together, their songwriting has taken on elements of their New Jersey heritage, with the mature yet melodic punk rock of opener ‘Favorite Name’, the infectious ‘Kill The Harmony’ and the album highlight ‘Addict’. However, on the acoustic ‘Geeks’ and closer ‘Incestuous Friends’, they take a clear Nirvana obsession too far. I can’t help but miss the energy of their earlier days but at least they’re switching things up. Ian Chaddock
BLACK AND WHITE MEMORIES
Garage/pop punk infectious anthems on second album from East Londoners.
The way that Thee Spivs manage to take the buzzsaw pop punk sound of the late ’70s finest (Buzzcocks, Ramones, Undertones) and add a modern freshness is what makes them so appealing. First single ‘TV Screen’ seems a little dated now – with most people not watching TV but a computer monitor or an iPhone screen instead but it’s still a buzzing slice of retro punk. There’s a good chance that you won’t have heard songs as fun as ’15 Minutes’ and ‘Flickin’ V’s’ all year. Thee Spivs may have black and white memories but today they’re a colourful and irrepressible good time. Join the fuckin’ party!
No Use For A Name frontman’s second acoustic solo album.
Last year’s ’12 Song Program’ was Tony Sly’s first dip into the punk frontman turned acoustic troubadour territory and, following lots of touring with the likes of Joey Cape and Jon Snodgrass, he’s back with a more confident, angry and emotional second acoustic album, in the form of ‘Sad Bear’. With lyrics about poverty, love, self-medication, getting older, faith, having kids and still being as confused as ever. With this new level of honesty and added instrumentation (that thankfully avoids the Americana trap), songs such as ‘Dark Corner’ and ‘Hey God’ are some of the best material he’s written in years. There’s definitely filler and he’s not the greatest singer/songwriter type, but ‘Sad Bear’ proves Sly has good reason to cheer up.
VINCE RAY AND THE BONESHAKERS
THE SOUND EFFECT OF SEX & HORROR
The soundtrack to the weird and rocking world of Vince Ray.
Vince Ray’s artwork is revered worldwide in the rockabilly community and has graced the covers of many a goliath of the scene. What may surprise fans of his art is that he has been pumping out quality music for some years, ranging from garage to rock ‘n’ roll. This is without a doubt the strongest offering yet, whilst firmly planted in the furiously-paced slap bass rockabilly camp he does a fair bit of genre blending here too, creating a ripping audio experience to equally match the delightfully twisted imagery he creates.
Raw hardcore rage from the early ’80s gets a second outing.
They may have never had the profile of peers like Black Flag and Dead Kennedys but, alongside bands like Government Issue and, of course, Minor Threat, Void were one of the bands that helped to establish Washington DC as one the most important bases in the burgeoning late ’70s/early ’80s American hardcore scene. As such, this 34-track compilation of unreleased and rare-to-find tracks is a valuable document of the youthful abandon that helped to shape hardcore. Sure, the production is far from amazing and the playing is sloppy but numbers like ‘Organised Sports’ and ‘Controller’ still perfectly convey the rebellious danger of those early days.