ALBUM REVIEWS


NEW ALBUMS

ALAN DAVEY
CYBER TOOTH
(Earthquake)
Latest solo outing from Gunslinger main man and Hawklords bassist.
8/10

Adaptable as ever, you’ve got to hand it to Davey: he’s a master of versatility, and a prolific one at that too. With all instruments played by Davey himself, this really is a solo album in the truest sense of the word. Judging from some of the song titles and lyrics it might reasonably be construed that this is a concept album of sorts too, but don’t let that put you off. Alternating between pounding space rock, foreboding electronic soundscapes and bass-driven techno space chases parts of this album wouldn’t sound out of place on a sci-fi movie – just check out ‘Doomjuice (It’s Coming)’ or ‘Rootkit’. Elsewhere, the ambient electronica of ‘Polymorphic Code’ is a cross between Davey’s old band Hawkwind and Future Sound of London. Cyber Tooth really does have a nasty bite that’ll certainly leave its mark on you. 
Rich Deakin



ALVA

SAUDADE DO FUTURO
(Knuckle Soup)
Debut UK album from Brazilian rockers.

7/10

Drawing influence from bands as wide-ranging as Fugazi, The Clash, Helmet and Radiohead, this four-piece’s rock assault is a driving and refreshing sound that has nods to the classics. Opener ‘Deixe Sangrar’ has a touch of early Foo Fighters about it while ‘Acordei Bemol/Diminuto’ sounds a bit like if Queens of the Stone Age went on a prog jam. The likes of ‘Sonata Para Samsa’ mix crunching guitars with mellow horns while ‘Auto-exilio’ ends with some far Eastern sounding effects, stressing their complete lack of fear of experimentation and spreading their musical wings. With Spanish vocals and a totally unrestrained approach, Alva are a dynamic and tight unit, with many years as a band under their belts. Working on new material this Summer, ‘Saudade Do Futuro’ is hopefully just the first of many UK releases from these talented Brazilians.
Kelly Oliver

ANDRE WILLIAMS
HOODS AND SHADES
(Bloodshot)
Chicago rebel bluesman walks it like he talks it.
7/10

Authenticity goes a long way in country music, where songwriters have been creating songs out of troubled pasts for as long as the genre’s existed. Andre Williams spent stretches of his life on the hard streets of Chicago and has suffered from drug and alcohol abuse. That level of authenticity in Andre’s music shows – no one is born with this much grit in their voice. ‘Hoods and Shades’, Andre’s fifteenth album, is slightly more varied in approach than the bluesman’s previous output, but there’s nothing here that’s all too different from what’s come before in a career spanning over 50 years. ‘A Good Day To Feel Bad’ is a burst of raunchy roadhouse blues that’d make the perfect background music for a bar brawl, while ‘Mogo Hannah’ and ‘Dirt’ are similar foot-stompers, straight-forward and alluringly vulgar in their instrumentation.
Scott Zverblis

ANGEL WITCH
AS ABOVE SO BELOW
(Rise Above)
NWOBHM unsung heroes make a mighty comeback.
8/10


Chinese Democracy’ may have taken Axl 15 years to get together but it’s been no less than 26 years since London heavy metallers Angel Witch released their last studio album – 1986’s ‘Frontal Assault’. Best known for their thundering self-titled 1980 debut, which was a landmark release for NWOBHM alongside the likes of Saxon and Iron Maiden, vocalist/guitarist and driving force Kevin Heybourne is back with a new line-up (including metal guitar legend Bill Steer of Carcass) and a sound that harks back to the band’s classic early sound – avoiding the passing trends and playing with true passion on newly penned tracks like ‘Geburah’ and ‘Brainwashed’. ‘As Above So Below’ also includes songs that date back to their late ’70s heyday but never saw the light, such as live favourites ‘Guillotine’ and ‘Into The Dark’. Fall under Angel Witch’s spell.
John Damon

THE BERMONDSEY JOYRIDERS 

NOISE AND REVOLUTION

(Fuel)

East end punk-blues kings get radical.
7/10


A concept album of sorts – if you can handle that from the dependably no-nonsense Bermondseys – Gary Lammin’s boisterous blues-rock trio have teamed up with former MC5 manager and agitator par excellence John Sinclair for a punkily politicised rave up. It’s not such an outlandish notion on closer examination; Lammin has long carried the torch for UK punk’s kick-against-the-pricks ethos, and the raw energy of the Joyriders’ Faces-in-bovver-boots sound places the band in fairly close kinship to the 5’s Motor City roar. ‘Noise And Revolution’ is loud, fast, cheekily confrontational, and for all Sinclair’s drawled inter-song narratives, distinctly British – the humble cup of tea receiving its proper tribute, even above Sinclair’s preferred methods of herbal recreation. Lammin’s bluesy bellow is at peak flow throughout, and the rousing strains of his overdriven slide are a sure-fire thrill. 
Hugh Gulland

BOB WAYNE

TILL THE WHEELS FALL OFF
(People Like You)

The Outlaw Carnie hits the road hard.

7/10

Mixing outlaw country with a punkabilly snarl and spitting lyrics about drink, drugs, girls, hating the law and living on the road, this is the sound of rebel country, turned up to 11 and given a kick up the arse. The Nashville singer is backed by a host of instruments, including banjos, fiddles and upright bass, and writes cinematic and sometimes autobiographical songs that will have you hollering along in no time. Like his debut ‘Outlaw Carnie’, this second album is a raucous release that fans of the likes of Hank III, Zeke or Johnny Cash should drink down easy. Highlights include ‘A Pistol And A 100 Dollar Bill’ and the rousing title track opener. Punk as fuck and not interested in playing it safe – this guy is the real deal. Don’t say we didn’t warn you. 
John Damon

BRIAN JAMES GRAND CRU

CHATEAU BRIAN
(Easy Action)
Former Damned guitarist goes acoustic.
8/10

You’ve possibly never heard Brian James sound like this before. Gone are James’ trademark high-energy punk rock electric guitar licks only to be replaced by a collection of mostly tender and heartfelt acoustic numbers, but he wears it well… really well. With just an acoustic guitar, piano and accordion between them, the depth and range of musical emotions achieved by James and Mark Taylor is broad, and ‘Crawlin’ My Way Back Home’ is particularly atmospheric. James’ vocals lend themselves well to the blues guitar workouts and roots tunes, and with his Caribbean lilt there’s a distinct calypso feel to ‘Mango’. ‘Chateau Brian’ then is a high grade collection of great acoustic numbers, it may not be Damned good, but it’s still good nevertheless. Give it a listen.
Rich Deakin

BRUCE SPRINGSTEEN
WRECKING BALL
(Columbia)
The Boss addresses the financial crisis on seventeenth studio album.
8/10

Springsteen has said that “[this album is an] indictment of Wall Street greed and corruption and a look into the devastation it has wrought”, and it’s an album full of stories of economic struggle that only he can do justice to. From the patriotism meets disgust at the government of opener ‘We Take Care Of Our Own’ (think ‘Born In The USA’) to the Giants Stadium tribute/defiant anthem of the title track, the Celtic folk-infused rock of ‘Death To My Hometown’ and the gospel flavoured ‘Rocky Ground’, featuring a brief rap from Michelle Moore, this album’s the true definition of “a grower” and rewards you with more every listen. A critique of a country on its knees, it ends with the hopeful campfire song of ‘We Are Alive’, urging people to battle through hard times. There’s a reason they call him The Boss.
Ian Chaddock

CARDINAL 
HYMNS
(Fire)
’90s epic pop duo return with comeback album.

6/10

A historical curio, Cardinal’s debut dating from 1994 paired Eric Matthews (noted solo artist and producer of the Dandy Warhols, Elliott Smith and others) with Australian Richard Davies (solo, ex-Moles). It won fervent acclaim from the likes of the Flaming Lips (and even suggested new genre definitions; orch-pop and chamber-pop amongst them, before everyone wised up and moved on). This unexpected reunion pursues a similar musical leitmotif; harmonic flourishes and warm, undemonstrative brass overlay low-fi songcraft. It doesn’t sound revolutionary in any sense, but it has charm in abundance if you can get past its wistful insouciance. It thus works enchantingly on the Kinksy ‘I Am A Roman Gypsy’ or the ‘Carbolic Smoke Ball’ (one of several tracks redolent of Sergeant Pepper), but less well elsewhere, notably ‘General Hospital’, where the effect can be a little too winsome and self-conscious. 
Alex Ogg

DOWNTOWN STRUTS
VICTORIA!

(Pirates Press)

Uplifting melodic punk ‘n’ roll from Chicago. 

8/10

Having their praises sung by the likes of Face To Face’s Trever Keith and Street Dogs’ Mike McColgan, it’s easy to see why punk veterans are getting excited about this new band’s debut full-length ‘Victoria!’ Bursting with positivity and indie punk energy, with nods to the greats whilst still sounding fresh and modern (no small feat), tracks such as the incredibly infectious ‘Postcards’, rousing ‘Back to N.Y.’ and the driving ‘Tim’ and ‘Lost In America’ are drenched in melody and well-placed backing vocals, all creating upbeat sing-alongs that will embed themselves in your consciousness. Fans of the likes of the Bouncing Souls, the Menzingers and the Replacements should definitely give this a go. No wonder they’re strutting, they’re just getting started so imagine what the next record could sound like.
Ian Chaddock

THE DYNAMITE PUSSY CLUB
CHURCH OF YEAH!
(Motorsounds)
Maximum fuzz and a little bit of soul.
8/10

From the ashes of West Country garage rockers Rusty Springfield comes a new kind of kick in the shape of The Dynamite Pussy Club. When their bassist called it quits, the remaining duo decided to do down the original Cramps route by doing away with the bass altogether, recruiting another guitarist and doubling up on fuzz guitar. Introducing Detroit influences and some spooky Theremin into the mix, they’ve come up with a far groovier product than their previous incarnation. ‘Testify’ sounds like Mudhoney jamming with James Brown, while ‘Get With It’ and ‘Under the Groove’ give Jon Spencer a run for his money. Finally ‘Boogie Shoes’ climaxes like Therapy?’s ‘Teeth Grinder’ given a garage makeover. If you’re into King Kahn and the Shrines, Jon Spencer Blues Explosion or Kid Congo’s Pink Monkey Birds this’ll really float your boat.
Lee Cotterell

THE ENEMY

STREETS IN THE SKY

(Cooking Vinyl)

Coventry indie rockers soar with harder edged third album.
9/10

You couldn’t really see it coming that swaggering Brit rock types The Enemy, who enjoyed chart success with their Album Chart topping 2007 debut ‘We’ll Live and Die in These Towns’ and number two peaking follow-up, 2009’s ‘Music for the People’, would team up with Joby Ford of LA hardcore punks The Bronx as producer for their third record. But that’s exactly what happened and an album with a live-sounding, harder biting approach is unsurprisingly the result. Coming on like Oasis or Kasabian but with the balls of guitar-driven Britrock in the vein of Feeder at their most driving, it’s good that the swagger has muscle behind it. Highlights include boisterous first single ‘Gimme The Sign’, the punchy, upbeat anthem ‘Saturday’ and the suitably titled ‘Get Up And Dance’ all sound massive. Refreshed and renewed, watch them fly (again). 
Kelly Oliver

GALLON DRUNK 

THE ROAD GETS DARKER FROM HERE

(Clouds Hill)

Ferocious new sounds from the ‘Drunk.
8/10


The first new material under the Gallon Drunk banner from James Johnston and company in some years, ‘The Road Gets Darker From Here’ is a concise eight tracks, conceived during intensive sessions at Hamburg’s renowned Clouds Hill studio. From opener ‘You Made Me’, the ‘Drunk are back in business, rattling at the bars with raw savagery on ‘Hanging On’ and ‘A Thousand Years’, the latter replete with Stoogey saxophone squawks. Underground Railroad’s vocalist Marion Andrau adds a note of delicacy to the yearning ‘Stuck In My Head’, in contrast to the all-out dissonance of ‘Killing Time’ or the reeking grindhouse thrust of ‘Just Can’t Help But Stare’. Closing in style with the mesmeric pulse of ‘The Perfect Dancer’, this album captures the kinetic surge of Gallon Drunk at their snarling best.
Hugh Gulland

GRAHAM COXON
A + E

(Parlophone)
Blur guitarist and art/rock outsider with urgent eighth solo album. 

7/10


Speeding along with healthy doses of his buzz-saw guitar trademark and interspersed with shades of Krautrock, psychedelic undertones and the left-field spectrum of punk, this ten track outing oozes confidence and quirky introspection, rarely stalling or losing direction. Whilst opening track ‘Advice’ sets the pace well, second track, ‘City Hall’ feels a little out of place so early on but the loss of momentum is quickly regained with the rest of the album. Stand out tracks are ‘Advice’, ‘Running For Your Life’ (a dig at pop culture bullies) and ‘Ohh, Yeh, Yeh’. ‘A + E’ is a confident and multi-layered set proving that, with or without Blur, the world needs the talents of one of today’s most inventive and unique artists.
Tony Beesley



HAWKWIND
ONWARD
(Eastworld)
Space rock legends return with typically sprawling 25th album.
8/10

“Revealing ancient prophecies, aligning constellations, urban violence and touchy feely robots”. Only on a Hawkwind press release would you read a statement like that and actually agree with it. With their latest album Hawkwind don’t hold back, with a double-disc, 17 track epic that veers from driving classic rock (‘The Hills Have Ears’) to acoustic ballads (‘Mind Cut’) before switching it up with an energetic space punk attack (‘Death Trap’) and a blissed out dance track that’s sounds like a song that would be playing as you look at the Earth from a spaceship (‘The Prophecy’). And all that’s just the first disc. In the hands of lesser musicians this would all sound disjointed and forced but these seasoned veterans make these unlikely combinations gel and ebb and flow over an album that’s almost as huge and unlimited as space itself. 
Duncan Finn



HILLBILLY MOON EXPLOSION
RAW DEAL

(Jungle)
Anglo-Swiss-Italian rockabilly heroes’ collection drawing from three albums. 

9/10

Based in Zurich and with a truly European line-up, Hillbilly Moon Explosion are influenced by a range of rock and pop – distilled into their retro-looking rockabilly, with the mesmerising male/female vocals of slap bassist Oliver Baroni and Emanuela Hutter. Compiling fourteen of their finest songs from their first three albums – their fourth album ‘Buy Beg Or Steal’ was issued last year on Goldtop – this retrospective brings you up to date with one of the most exciting bands in the genre right now. From the energetic opener ‘Maniac Lover’ to the unspeakably cool ‘Chick Habit’, the humorous ‘Johnny Are You Gay?’ and the aptly titled ‘Clarksdale Boogie’, this compilation shows exactly why they’ll be playing the Jazz Cafe and Rebellion festival in the same week.
Kelly Oliver

HOLLIE COOK

PRINCE FATTY PRESENTS: HOLLIE COOK IN DUB
(Mr Bongo)

Sex Pistol’s daughter’s reggae debut gets reworked.
7/10

The great thing about modern reggae style music is that it’s derived from a number of different genres and from a range of different cultures. A coming together of all cultures creating a beautiful blend of richly original music. The epitome of that originality is ‘Prince Fatty Presents: Hollie Cook in Dub’, Prince Fatty’s hypnotic reworking of Cook’s debut album. Fatty manipulates and reshapes Cook’s original recordings and cover versions in an utterly compelling way: weaving mellow reggae grooves and melodic bass lines around Hollie’s sun-kissed vocals. Songs like ‘Milk and Honey Dub’ and ‘That Very Night Dub’, fuse dub elements, roots reggae and jazz, while others, including a cover of the Andrew Sister’s classic ‘And The Beat Goes’, get ska makeovers. This is the perfect summertime record: the ideal soundtrack for drinking rum and coke under a swaying palm tree.
Scott Zverblis

HUDSON FALCONS
DANCING UNDERNEATH THE MOONLIGHT
(I Hate People)
New Jersey roots punk rockers.
6/10

Any fans of the likes of The Gaslight Anthem, the Replacements and the Ramones could do with giving Jersey veterans the Hudson Falcons’ latest album a listen. Fronted by Mark Linskey, there’s soul and passion to these driving anthems, evident on the likes of the rousing ‘Don’t Let the Bastards Get You Down’, the piano-driven, Springsteen loving ‘Everything’s Alright’ and the acoustic road song ‘Interstate Bound’. It’s a sound that’s being done a lot lately and, to be fair, better by others. However, the ‘Falcons definitely mean it and, after ten years together, are still playing with their hearts on their sleeves and a refreshing honesty in their down-to-earth lyrics. File under ‘Boss punk/rock’ and let ‘Dancing Under The Moonlight’ blast out of your car windows on a warm summer’s night.
Kelly Oliver

JACK WHITE
BLUNDERBUSS

(XL)

Raconteurs/The Dead Weather frontman aims for a solo career.
7/10

Produced by Jack White and recorded at his own Third Man Studio in Nashville, the ex-White Stripe and current vocalist of The Raconteurs and The Dead Weather has finally gone it alone with ‘Blunderbuss’, describing it as “my own colours on my own canvas”. He’s always been somewhat of an enigma – for every great garage rock song there’s a story about him doing something truly strange, like working with the Insane Clown Posse or Tom Jones. The blues rock and power pop of ‘Blunderbuss’ is as strange as you’d expect, it’s an angry and disillusioned recently divorced White who accuses evil women of causing all his problems, pretty much, on the likes of first single ‘Love Interruption’, ‘Freedom At 21’ and ‘Trash Tongue Talker’. Oddly though, his ex-wife Karen Elson performs plenty of backing vocals. Another weird but mesmerising White release? You bet.
Kelly Oliver

KING HAMMOND 

DANCING IN THE GARDEN OF EVIL 

(King Hammond)
Dark reggae and more from the prolific King.
6/10

Nick Welsh has a longer track record in ska/reggae than most people, having been a member of both Bad Manners and the Selecter in the late ’80s/early ’90s as well as his own Skaville UK. Two years ago he brought back one of his first musical projects, King Hammond, and ‘Dancing in the Garden of Evil’ is, believe it or not, the fourth album he’s released since then. Whilst its core is in reggae, ‘Dancing…’ sees King Hammond explore different territories, some of which resemble the Alabama 3’s darker side, especially on the title track, and ’70s new wave on ‘Fuck Arts Lets Dance’. Its mix of styles are all held together with some decent songwriting, which makes ‘Dancing…’, only available from the King Hammond website, an album worth a second look.
Andy Peart

LEE BAINS III AND THE GLORY FIRES
THERE IS A BOMB IN GILEAD
(Alive)
Former garage rocker evokes the sound of Mussel Shoals.
7/10

Lee Bains III is a veteran of cult Alabama garage rockers The Dexateens and now fronts the much mellower The Glory Fires, having swapped the buzzsaw guitars for southern-fried Americana in a Lynyrd Skynyrd/Allman Brothers vein. Fittingly, this album has one foot in the Mississippi and the other in the garage stronghold of Detroit, having been recorded in the former and mixed in the latter. Anthemic country-tinged songs abound, with pedal steel aplenty, but there are some nifty lyrical nods to his punkier roots, like “You can keep that t-shirt my brother got that time he saw the Ramones” (‘Everything You Took From Me’). With its melancholy piano intro, the title track closes the album with traces of gospel and Neil Young. One for fans of the Drive By Truckers/Jason and The Scorchers.
Lee Cotterell

THE LEVELLERS
STATIC ON THE AIRWAVES
(On The Fiddle)
A real return to form by the punk-folk institution.
9/10

With their new album recorded in the Czech Republic, there was patently something in the Czech air (or beer!) that brought out the very best in The Levellers. ‘Static On The Airwaves’ truly deserves the accolade of a return to form. It’s a confident and staggeringly effective album that finds the band revitalised, vocalist Mark Chadwick imposing a new authority, especially on the chilling ‘Our Forgotten Towns’, the boisterous ‘Raft Of The Medusa’ and the historical ballad ‘Mutiny’, where the poignancy in his vocal is thinly disguised. The whole band gels particularly well throughout, and they save possibly the best for last in a rip-roaring and timely reworking and rewrite of old anti-war ballad ‘Twa Recruitin’ Sergeants’ (‘The Recruiting Sergeant’), which is destined to become a live favourite.
Sean McGhee

LONDON

REBOOT
(Bin Liner)

Three and a half decades later, the London punks return.
6/10

London, the underground punk act from Britain’s second wave, reunites after 34 years with half of its first-album line-up intact; Riff Regan (vocals) and Steve Voice (bass). Hugh O’Donnell (guitar) and Colin Watterston (drums) fill in the gaps. You have to wonder what would inspire 50-year-old blokes to dust off their instruments and shout about the world’s problems like nothing had changed since ’78. Nevertheless, things come off pretty well for the band, who were once managed by legendary music manager Simon Robert Napier-Bell, and it’s amazing to think that, even after all these years apart, the band can record a fairly decent album. However, knowing the current climate of the music charts – saturated with guys with laptops – ‘Reboot’ may not get the amount of record sales that it deserves, which is a real shame.
Scott Zverblis

THE MEMBERS 

IN_GRR_LAND 

(AngloCentric) 

Re-Member ‘Sound of the Suburbs’?

6/10

‘IN_GRR_LAND’ is the fourth studio album from punk/reggae band The Members, famed for 1979 single ‘Sound of the Suburbs’. Produced by Human League engineer and Cure producer David M. Allen, it features original members JC Carroll, Chris Payne and Nigel Bennett (also of Vibrators fame) with former Damned drummer Rat Scabies on four of the twelve tracks. The album is a basic ’70s punk style with moments of grunge and the odd spot of Celtic influence, as on the track ‘Remember us’, but nothing here particularly breaks new ground. The opening track is the anthemic ‘New English Blues Part 2’ and Chris Payne belts out a cover of the Move’s ‘Fire Brigade’ with an Eddie Cochrane/Ramones vibe. ‘IN_GRR_LAND’ certainly has the courage of its convictions to be exactly what it is: a brazen self-styled punk throwback. 
Mark Ottowell



OFF! 

OFF! 

(Vice) 

Debut full-length from the Californian hardcore punk supergroup.

9/10

Following on from their explosive EP boxset from 2010 is another sixteen tracks of Californian punk rock brilliance from former Black Flag/Circle Jerks frontman Keith Morris and his merry men, OFF! This blistering next instalment clocks in at just under sixteen minutes and is about as raw and pissed off as hardcore punk gets, with Morris snarling at the helm from start to finish. From the sneering vitriol of ‘I’ve Got News For You’ to the lesson learned of ‘Feelings Are Meant To Be Hurt’, OFF! repeatedly slap you in the face with an angry wake-up call. Sometimes the brief nature of the tracks doesn’t allow them to develop but, that said, OFF! aren’t here to win scene points, in fact they spit on the rule book and shit all over their contemporaries from a great height. Long may they reign!
Miles Hackett

THE POPES
NEW CHURCH

(Shake The Tree)
Former Shane MacGowan fronted band release fourth full-length. Praise be!
9/10

Originally formed in 1994 by Shane MacGowan when he left the Pogues, he recorded two studio albums and a live album with the Popes before they parted ways. ‘New Church’, the band’s latest album with vocalist/guitarist Paul ‘Mad Dog’ McGuinness is a rabble-rousing sing-along from start to finish. The likes of the driving opener ‘Storming Heaven’ and Celtic ‘How Many Bullets’ show they mean business, while the catchy, upbeat ‘Alice’ and ‘Throw Down Your Aces’, the latter featuring a guest spot from Howard Marks, shows they’re having a hell of a lot of fun. McGuinness’ harsh vocals combines with the rhythm section and fiddle playing to make this the perfect drinking soundtrack. As Irish as Guinness, The Popes have released one of their tastiest efforts yet with ‘New Church’.
Duncan Finn

THE PRIMITIVES 

ECHOES AND RHYMES 
(Elefant)
Welcome return from Coventry’s perfect pop heroes.
8/10

It’s been a fair while since the Primitives’ short, sharp pop songs brightened up the charts. However, twenty odd years on ‘Echoes and Rhymes’ finds them back with an album of fairly obscure cover versions mainly from the ’60s, all originally sung by female singers such as Nico and Dana Gillespie. The tracks were no doubt handpicked by guitarist Paul Court whose love of the genre is well documented. From Adam and Eve’s weighty ‘The Witch’ to Reparta and the Delron’s sprightly ‘Panic’, it sounds as if the reunited Primitives are having a lot of fun and Tracy Tracy’s vocals remain untouched by time. Court draws parallels with Dutch band Shocking Blue, also covered, in the sleeve notes because they “had a few other good tunes besides the one big hit they’re mainly remembered for”, though the Primitives had more than just a ‘few’. Good to have them back.
Andy Peart

THE RADIATORS
FROM SPACE
SOUND CITY BEAT
(Chiswick/Ace)
Cover their influences.
7/10

The Radiators From Space were there right at the beginning of punk hitting the top 20 of the charts in their native Ireland. The band shone brightly but briefly but left a couple of albums and a handful of singles still revered today. This is their fourth album (the third seeing the light of day in 2007 after a quarter of a century hiatus) and is a collection of songs that generally predate punk. Those songs have been carefully chosen and reflect a sometimes wistful lyrical look back at those good old days whilst oozing a feel-good vibe. The feel is maybe too laid back in places, sometimes maybe chilling too much to easy listening, but that is it exactly. 18 tracks and 54 minutes of personal nostalgia by a band going right back to their roots rather than to their old selves.
Simon Nott

RADIO MOSCOW
3 AND 3 QUARTERS
(Alive)
Iowan psychedelic blues rocker’s unreleased debut album.
7/10

The fourth release from Radio Moscow, this actually predates their three albums as it’s the previously unreleased debut that multi-instrumentalist Parker Griggs recorded by himself when he was 17/18. At the time Griggs recalls that he was in a high school punk/hardcore band but was disillusioned with it and recorded it as soon as they cancelled a tour halfway through. Influenced at the time by the likes of the Nuggets, the Seeds and Chocolate Watchband, amongst others, this is raw, basement-recorded garage/blues rock that shows the roots of where Radio Moscow would go from here as a full band. The likes of the blazing opener ‘You’re Doing It To Me’, the suitably titled, menacing ‘We’re All Troubled’ and the raucous ‘The Stomp!’ are simple but powerful slices of rock ‘n’ roll chaos. Great stuff – a thrilling blast from the past. 
Kelly Oliver

RAT CITY RIOT
BETTER THAN NOTHING
(I Hate People)
Gritty “street rock” from San Diego.

7/10


Celebrating their ten year anniversary this year and supporting Rancid in Germany, these raucous, raw-vocalled punk-infused rockers go straight for the throat. With high-energy anthems such as ‘Better Than Nothing’ full of driving rhythms and fist-in-the-air gang vocals, their sound is broader than most street punk bands, hence the “street rock” tag. Their sound isn’t particularly groundbreaking but it is good to hear a band that have almost as much polish as spit, resulting in shining stompers such as ‘Long Run’ and ‘Foot To The Floor’. A raw cover of Fugazi’s ‘Waiting Room’ is ill-advised though. Clearly reinvigorated and hungry again with their new line-up, Rat City Riot are well worth your time and ‘Better Than Nothing’ certainly doesn’t live up to its name, sure to get you singing along in no time. Well worth checking out.
Duncan Finn

THE REAL McKENZIES
WESTWINDS

(Fat Wreck)
Canadian Celt punks whip up a storm.
6/10

Vancouver’s Real McKenzies use their Canadian and Scottish heritage to create a Celtic influenced sound in much the same way The Dropkick Murphys explored their Boston/Irish roots. However, anyone accusing them of jumping on the Celt punk bandwagon deserves short shrift as the Real McKenzies have been plying their trade for no less than twenty years and had members of the Descendents, Avail and Good Riddance pass through their ranks over the years. While their latest studio album, the first album of new material since 2008’s ‘Off The Leash’, is no radical departure from its predecessors, it’s chock full of enough stirring, bagpipe-driven anthems like ‘The Tempest’, ‘Fool’s Road’ and ‘Barrett’s Privateers’ to keep the fans happy. They’re also far better than most of the bands they predate so getting taking notes, ya scurvy sea dogs!
Lee Cotterell

RICHARD HAWLEY
STANDING AT THE SKY’S EDGE
(EMI)
Hawley goes stellar sonic.
8/10

To call this album simply atmospheric would do it a colossal disservice, in that respect it is stellar, it was recorded in Sheffield but sounds intergalactic. That language may sound a bit too ‘Star Trek’ but the intention of the album was to be a sonic assault on the senses and that is exactly what it is, whilst made up of a more traditional stripped down rock band line-up of drum, bass and guitars. You never quite know where you are as heartfelt lyrics and swirling guitar notes suddenly swirl in a cacophony of solo riffage and rocket noises and back again. Were LSD still all the rage this would be the perfect soundtrack to good trips being pulled back from the brink from bad ones in a guitar-driven aural adventure.
Simon Nott

STEVE SWINDELLS
THE LOST ALBUMS: THE INVISIBLE MAN / TREACHERY
(Flicknife)
Lost albums finally see the light for the first time in over 30 years.
5/10 / 7/10

Consisting of two sessions of demo recordings from 1980 that were ostensibly made as potential follow-ups to Swindells’ first solo album ‘Fresh Blood’, ‘Lost Albums’ is a bit of a mixed bag. ‘Invisible Man’ is typical early ’80s FM-lite rock – it’s high on emotions, but not nearly reminiscent of Hawkwind, for whom Swindells had previously been keyboardist. It does have its moments though, and Swindells sounds remarkably like Elvis Costello on the poppy ‘Dancin’ Shoes’. ‘Treachery’ is the more preferable of the two ‘Lost Albums’, sounding altogether more in tune with new wave, with echoes of Costello again at times, whilst ‘Love Propaganda’ is a skanking white reggae rocker. It has a heavier edge to it too, and ‘I Wanna Be Wild’ follows an exuberant Springsteen-esque template. Featuring Big Country’s rhythm session, and Pete Townshend’s brother Simon on guitar, ‘Treachery’ is also more musically rounded and accomplished.
Rich Deakin

THE TERRACES

THE TERRACES
(Blast)
English/Australian punk rockers unleash strutting debut.
7/10

Formerly founding One Way System in England, who would be the first band to sign to Cherry Red’s Anagram label and enjoy chart success in the ’80s in the UK and Europe, Gary Buckley has now moved to Melbourne and got together a new band of old school punks. From the band name and the chants of “United! United!” at the end of suitably titled opener ‘The Internationals’, there’s certainly an oi! influence. However, the reggae-influenced punk stomp of ‘Care About Nothing’ and the raucous ‘Union’ show this four-piece have got a few tricks up their sleeves. However, for better or worse, it’s mostly stripped back, simple and punchy – see the football-referencing ’25 Years’ and the self-explanatory ‘The Hustler’. The aggression is matched with melody throughout though, making this an enjoyable listen to sing along to with a fist in the air.
Duncan Finn

THE TOY DOLLS
THE ALBUM AFTER THE LAST ONE
(Secret)
Super-sharp veteran UK pop punks are back again, tongues in cheeks.
7/10

Sunderland’s Toy Dolls released their first single, ‘Tommy Kowey’s Car’, in 1980 and from the start they crafted a unique style of fast but bouncy punk tunes, with highly comical lyrics about soaps and mates. Olga’s distinctive, high-pitched vocals and dazzling guitar skills helped them score a massive hit with their fun cover of ‘Nellie The Elephant’ going to No.4 on the chart in 1984. This blistering new album finds the band getting topical with ‘Credit Crunch Christmas’ and re-visiting Corrie on ‘Molly Was Immoral’, but ‘Decca’s Drinkin’ Dilemma’, about the former Upstarts drummer, is a bit of a downer. However, overall it’s the Toy Dolls back doing exactly what they do best. There are also three bonus Olga acoustic tracks, including old favourite ‘Fiery Jack’.
Shane Baldwin

VARIOUS ARTISTS

THE JOURNEY IS LONG – THE JEFFREY LEE PIERCE SESSIONS PROJECT
(Glitterhouse)

An excavation of the Gun Club man’s unrecorded works.

7/10

For the sequel to 2008’s ‘We Are Only Riders’, a formidable troupe of the late Gun Club frontman’s admirers and collaborators has again gathered to breathe life into the archive of rough demos and unfinished works preserved by project coordinator Cypress Grove. With the exception of the 1987 single ‘Breaking Hands’ – captivatingly rendered here by Nick Cave and Debbie Harry – these are previously unheard songs. Since his death in 1996, Jeffrey’s talents have reaped far wider recognition than during his lifetime, and over the eighteen tracks here the quality of his songwriting is reconfirmed. With sterling contributions from a cast list including Steve Wynn, Lydia Lunch, Thalia Zedek, Barry Adamson and Mick Harvey, Jeffrey’s unique vision of ‘surrealism and blues’ is respectfully handled. 
Hugh Gulland

REISSUES

BAD BRAINS
RISE
(4Worlds)

Confused funk rock fifth album with members missing from 1993.
3/10

Bad Brains’ groundbreaking 1982 self-titled album, its 1983 follow-up ‘Rock For Light’ and 1986’s ‘I Against I’ were all landmark hardcore punk albums, the first two infusing reggae into the sound as well. However, 1993’s ‘Rise’ was a disaster. It was the first album from the Washington DC band on a major label. More importantly, and bizarrely, it didn’t feature iconic frontman H.R. or his brother Earl, instead replaced by vocalist Israel Joseph I on vocals and drummer Mackie Jayson (Cro-Mags). The result is one of the weaker records in the band’s back catalogue, with a sound that brings to mind the funk/rap rock of Living Colour and Red Hot Chilli Peppers. The opening title track and the aptly titled ‘Unidentified’ show the problems, while the reggae of ‘Love is the Answer’ is pretty bland too. Sadly ‘Rise’ fails to stand up to the test of time.
Ian Chaddock

BOB MARLEY & THE WAILERS
THE COMPLETE UPSETTER SINGLES: 1970 – 1972 (PLUS DUBS)
(Northworld)
Reggae legend’s early career’s 18 singles (and dub versions) compiled.
7/10

Cut pre-world stardom, and doubtless released to coincide with the current retrospective film treatment of Jamaica’s most beloved son, these recordings, with none-more-maverick producer Lee Scatch Perry, did much to cement the modern conventions of reggae (mystical, philosophical, moving away from its earlier ska and rocksteady incarnations). These suffrah’s anthems, including ‘Duppy Conqueror’, ‘Small Axe’ and ‘African Herbsman’, have all been well-thumbed in a million compilations, of course, but at least there’s some chronological sense here. The annotation also reminds you of how much at this stage the Wailers (alongside Perry, and his Upsetters) were a team effort, with Bunny Wailer and Peter Tosh a vital part of the creative axiom. For evidence, try the Irie Scooby Doo ghost story of ‘Mr Brown’ or check out its dub companion, ‘Dracula’, on the bonus CD.
Alex Ogg

BUNNY MARRETT
I’M FREE
(Bristol Archive)
Timeless music for reggae/jazz lovers from influential Bristol figure.
7/10

Being shamefully neglected in the music business for more than twenty five years (with only a 12” with two tracks properly released back in 1981), reggae artist Bunny Marrett re-releases his 1986 recorded album ‘I’m Free’ and offers a Bob Marley-esque fusion of reggae and jazz that still sounds fresh today. Thanks to smooth percussions and a light-footed bass, as in the track ‘Times Are Geeting Harder’, this eight-track album offers you a joyous blend of American, English and Jamaican music styles. Accompanied by legendary Bristol band The Startled Insects, the fusion sounds on ‘I’m Free’, highlighted by song titles like ‘Jazzy Reggae’, ‘Jazzy Reggae Dub’ and ‘Hard Times Dub’. So, if you want to escape from the cold English weather you should give this album a go – it might elicit the sun in rainy London as well. 
Laura Reinberger



CRASS
TEN NOTES ON A SUMMER’S DAY – THE SWANSONG
(Crass)
The Crassical Collection reaches its climax with an atonal musical trip from the anarcho-punk architects.
5/10

While having released intricate classic albums such as ‘The Feeding of the 5,000’ and ‘Stations of the Crass’ the band decides to end their recording career with a rather obscure musical adventure. Basically what we’re facing is a track clocking around 10 minutes consisting of different parts – much like Green Day’s latter rock operas. Only this case it is atonal European avant garde inspired cacophony incorporating drum machines and choir built around some free form jazz piano plinking and plonking. Then when we get through that we get to hear it all again in its instrumental glory. At least this 1985 release made sure that Crass went out on their own terms and did not just conform to the rigid punk formula.
Jyrki “Spider” Hamalainen


FIREHOSE
LOWFLOWS: THE COLUMBIA ANTHOLOGY (’91-’93) / FLYIN’ THE FLANNEL & MR MACHINERY OPERATOR
(Columbia / Eastworld)
Former Minutemen’s following band’s final two albums.
8/10 / 7/10

Released soon after the announcement of the fIREHOSE reunion tour, ‘lowFLOWs’ compiles all the recordings during the band’s time on Columbia Records (and coincidentally the last few years they were together), while Eastworld reissues both the album separately around the same time. Unlike the legions of ‘80s alt and college rock bands that jumped onto a major label in the wake of ‘Nevermind’’s success, fIREHOSE were able to join Columbia’s roster months before there was any pressure to capitalize on grunge’s success. Consequently, the first of the two studio albums featured here, 1991’s ‘Flyin’ The Flannel,’ is as defiantly independent as their records for SST, while 1993’s ‘Mr. Machinery Operator,’ on the other hand, is much more uneven, feeling like a reaction to the burgeoning alt movement. Highly recommended to those who have overlooked this portion of the band’s lifetime.
Chris Kopcow

HANSON BROTHERS
SUDDEN DEATH
(Wrong Records)
Ice hockey loving Canadians’ glory days revisited.
7/10

Not to be confused with the squeaky-clean siblings of ‘Mmm Bop’ fame, Vancouver’s Hanson Brothers, like their heroes the Ramones, feature no family members of that name. They are in fact the alter ego of John and Rob Wright and Tom Holliston of long-lasting punks Nomeansno. The name, since you asked, is in homage to the classic ’70s hockey flick ‘Slap Shot’. Probably sole purveyors of “puck rock”, hockey-themed tunes are easy to spot on this reissue of their ’96 sophomore album: ‘The Hockey Song’, ‘Stick Man’, ‘Rink Rat’ and ‘Danielle (She Don’t Care About Hockey)’ to name but four. There are probably some more subtle ones too. The music, however, is far from subtle, with lively breakneck buzzsaw punk the order of the day, nodding towards thrash metal on ‘Third Man In’.
Gerry Ranson



THE HUMAN LEAGUE

DARE

(Virgin)
Sheffield legends celebrate their 35th anniversary with an expanded edition of a new wave classic.

6/10


It may have been reissued a few times now but The Human League’s huge, chart topping 1981 album ‘Dare’ is still a new wave/synth pop classic. And this being their 35 year anniversary, they’ve decided to reissue the album again, with songs such as the massive single ‘Don’t You Want Me’, opener ‘The Things That Dreams Are Made Of’ and ‘Open Your Heart’ still as infectious as ever. This double-disc expanded edition, with the 2002 remaster of the original album added to by the newly remastered 12-inch remixes and instrumental versions on the first disc, and nearly all of the band’s 1983 ‘Fascination!’ EP on the second disc. These are all bells and whistles though as it’s the album itself that makes this worth picking up, if somehow you haven’t already. Catch the band’s 35th anniversary tour in November/December.
Kelly Oliver


JOHNNY CASH
BOOTLEG VOL. IV: THE SOUL OF TRUTH
(Sony/Legacy)
The man in black’s spiritual songs on a double-disc collection.
6/10


Although he’s known as a pioneering icon of hell-raising rebel country, Johnny Cash was a very religious man and a devoted Christian – something that was evident in a lot of his music throughout his career. This latest bootleg release features songs from the ’70s/’80s, including his 1979 ‘A Believer Sings The Truth’ and out-of-print 1982 ‘Johnny Cash – Gospel Singer’ albums. Featuring no less than 51 tracks over two discs, this compilation of released and unreleased material comprises of “the source of his vision”, according to son John R. Cash – gospel music. It’s good but it’s worlds away from the likes of ‘Man In Black’ and ‘Cocaine Blues’, which is where Cash is at his best for me. A true blessing for Cash completists though. 
Ian Chaddock

JOHNNY MOPED
THE JOHNNY MOPED BOOTLEG TAPES VOLUMES 1 & 2

(Damaged Goods)

Possibly certifiable Croydon punk/rock god.

7/10

Johnny Moped, or Paul Halford to his mother, was a genuine 24 carat nutcase, even in the same pre-punk Croydon scene that threw up the likes of Ray ‘Captain Sensible’ Burns, his guitarist in the early days, which is surely saying something. He rose to fame, of sorts, when the classic ‘Hard Lovin’ Man’ was included on the equally classic ‘Live At The Roxy’ compilation, after which the band signed to Chiswick. Before that, though, Moped and chums recorded hours of bedroom/garden tapes, which were later compiled, with some live material, into two ‘official’ bootleg tapes. Moped’s rambling spoken word ‘links’ are amusing, as is a 1977 phone message from Sensible boosting the great man, but believe it or not, there’s also some fine punk, rock, psychedelia and even funk among all the weirdness.
Shane Baldwin



MUDDY WATERS BLUES BAND
MUD IN YOUR EAR
(Wienerworld)
Ragged and passionate full-blooded blues from Waters’ band.
8/10

Released here for the first time on CD, this 1969 album (recorded in ’67) was the result of producer Alan Douglas (before his historical alliance with Jimi Hendrix) approaching Muddy Waters about making an album. Muddy couldn’t do so because of contractual commitments to Chess, but instead suggested Douglas recorded his band, fronted by singer/guitarist Luther ‘Snake’ Johnson, instead. Snake was from Georgia and had played with the likes of Howlin’ Wolf and Junior Wells before joing Waters’ band. The result of the collaboration is a raw and powerful Chicago blues sound that was loose and passionate, on highlights such as ‘Long Distance Call’ and ‘I’m So Glad’. Waters may not have been able to sing but he did provide backing guitars and a few solos. More like pure joy in your ear than mud.
Ian Chaddock

MY BLOODY VALENTINE
ISN’T ANYTHING/LOVELESS/EPS 1988-1991
(Sony)
MBV lynchpin remasters classics with mixed results.
4/10

Since they first announced themselves in 1983 in a blizzard of noise pop, My Bloody Valentine have astounded and frustrated in equal measure. For every story of how ‘Loveless’ reinvigorated the UK indie rock scene upon its 1991 release, there’s another of how much of a headache band leader Kevin Shields was (Creation Records head Alan McGee, who released ‘Loveless’, famously had a massive falling out with Shields, essentially disowning ‘Loveless’ for a time. He’s since come around). Not a man to do things by half measures and unbending when it comes to working until he feels something’s finished, Shields has been remastering ‘Isn’t Anything’ and ‘Loveless’ in one form or
another of years (they were originally due out in June 2008). Now, four years later, they’re finally here, along with a compilation of the EPs.
Undeniable classics in their own right, this is a needless exercise – and that’s coming from a fan.
James Sharples

REVELATION ROCKERS
JAH PRAISES
(Bristol Archive)
Recorded in 1979 and lost in the archives, the band that would become Talisman have a proper release.
8/10

A time capsule to 1979, this entire recorded legacy of Bristol’s Revelation Rockers, on a vinyl only release as it would have been back in the day, is the first proper release of the band before they became Talisman. ‘Jah Praises’ is an insight into ’70s Britain suffering from racism, massive unemployment, industrial unrest and poverty. It’s scary how relevant it all is in 2012. With the likes of ‘Culture’, mourning the loss of cultural identity due to the legacy of slavery, ‘Wicked Dem’ – a song that would become a popular Talisman track but is here in its raw form – and closer ‘When You’re Away’, complete with horns. Thankfully this “lost” roots reggae album has been unearthed because it’s a diamond.
Duncan Finn 



SIGUE SIGUE SPUTNIK
DRESS FOR EXCESS

(Eastworld)

British new wave/glam punk “fantasy band” 1988 second album gets another go.

7/10

Formed by former Generation X bassist Tony James as a “fantasy band”, Sigue Sigue Sputnik enjoyed success from their first release. While 1986 debut album ‘Flaunt It’ produced hit singles ‘Love Missile F1-11′ and ’21st Century Boy’, as well as peaking at number 10 on the UK Album Chart, the London new wave band’s 1988 follow-up fared less well. There are still some great, punchy tunes here, such as ‘Albinoni vs Star Wars (Parts 1 & 2)’ and ‘Boom Boom Satellite’, it lacked the infectious sound of the debut and failed to capture people’s imaginations like their debut’s ads in-between songs. They may have been just a fun band for James before he joined the far darker The Sisters Of Mercy (and much later Carbon/Silicon with The Clash’s Mick Jones), but their music never took itself seriously, and was a blast because of that.
Kelly Oliver


SOUTHERN CULTURE ON THE SKIDS
ZOMBIFIED
(Kudzu)
Rare as hen’s teeth EP gets beefed-up re-issue.
7/10

This is an old recording by SCOTS but there’s a good chance that it will be new to a lot of you as it originally only saw the light of day in Australia as an EP back in 1998. It has been given the re-master treatment and sounds as fresh as if it was dug up yesterday. The original concept of the EP was as a tribute to low-budget horror and exploitation movies and features song themed accordingly. The style and influences range from steel-driven country to ballads, albeit about torture – complete with screams. It’s hard to tell if the ‘new’ material is new or just rescued from a vault somewhere, which probably speaks volumes from a band that are a jack of all musical trades and have mastered them all over the years.
Simon Nott

SUGAR / BOB MOULD
COPPER BLUE / BEASTER / FILE UNDER: EASY LISTENING / BOB MOULD (HUBCAP), THE LAST DOG & PONY SHOW
(Edsel)
Extensive reissues of former Husker Du singer’s huge indie rockers and solo material.

10/10 / 8/10 / 7/10 / 7/10


Sugar were huge due to Bob Mould’s songwriting on their classic 1992 debut ‘Copper Blue’, including the infectious ‘Hoover Dam’, ‘A Good Idea’ and ‘Changes’. The ‘Beaster’ EP that followed in ’93 showed a denser side to Sugar, with heavier guitars and the dark religious imagery of ‘Judas Cradle’ amongst its six tracks. The three-piece’s final full-length, 1994’s ‘File Under: Easy Listening’, enjoyed more chart success and secured their seminal, yet short-lived, status. The final reissue compiles some of frontman Bob Mould’s solo material – his 1996 self-titled third album (also known as ‘Hubcap’) about withdrawing and isolation after Sugar’s split and ’98’s ‘The Last Dog and Pony Show’, a farewell to guitar-driven rock for Mould for some time. All these reissues come with additional material, including a disc of a live show from the year of each album’s release. Well worth picking up.
Ian Chaddock

SUZI QUATRO
ROCK HARD / UNRELEASED EMOTION
(7T’s)
Glam might have fallen off a cliff but Suzi rocked under the radar.
7/10 / 4/10

Diminutive and leather clad, firebrand Suzi Quatro reigned supreme for much
of the 1970s. Sharing the same songwriting team as fellow glam rockers Sweet, hook-laden rockers like ‘Can the Can’ made her every female tearaway’s idol and every boy’s wet dream. Quatro hardly bothered the charts in the 1980s and, although she never stopped recording and releasing, she was probably better known for acting in everything from ‘Happy Days’ to ‘Minder’. Now, encouraged by the critical success of her 2011 comeback album ‘In The Spotlight’, there’s two slices of rare Quatro being dug up from the archives from her very own dark ages. ‘Rock Hard’, her seventh album, is quite a return to form following a few chequered outings leading to this 1980 release. The stomping ‘Rock Hard’ single contained just scraped into the top seventy in the UK. Far more obscure is 1982’s ‘Unreleased Emotion’ which was wasn’t actually released at all until 1998.
Neil Anderson

TALK TALK
THE PARTY’S OVER/ IT’S MY LIFE/ COLOUR OF SPRING/ SPIRIT OF EDEN
(EMI)
Mark Hollis’ four-piece journey from new wave to ambient abyss.
7/10 / 8/10 / 7/10 / 6/10

Talk Talk’s first album, ‘The Party’s Over’, is pure synth pop heaven and is very much in the vein of then labelmates Duran Duran with ‘Talk Talk’ being a massive hit. Things took an about turn when a new look band appeared with follow-up, ‘It’s My Life’. The sound had matured, they’d dispensed with synth-supremo Simon Brenner and resulted in hits on both sides of the Atlantic. Their third album, ‘Colour Of Spring’, continued in the same vein. Big budgets were allotted to their fourth album, ‘Spirit Of Eden’. Deadlines went out the window, budgets kept mounting and mainman Hollis even refused to let the record company hear any advance recordings. Though garnering huge critical acclaim, the album went down like a bag of cold sick with EMI who tried to sue the band for making a totally uncommercial album.
Neil Anderson

VARIOUS ARTISTS
ACE RECORDS SAMPLER VOLUME 3: GARAGE, BEAT & PUNK ROCK
(Ace)
Legendary label’s fuzztastic back catalogue compiled.
7/10

Born out of punk-pioneering indie Chiswick Records in 1978, West London’s Ace Records made a name for itself snapping up obscure label back catalogues right, left and centre over the years, all the while providing an outlet for more contemporary acts. Compiled by label Big Cheese, Roger Armstrong, the quality across these twenty classic cuts speaks for itself. Kicking off with the seminal mid-’60s North Western sounds of The Sonics’ ‘Have Love Will Travel’ and The Wailers’ ‘Out Of Our Tree’, we move quickly to Chiswick flagship bands The Damned and The Radiators From Space. A quick detour through Damned psych side-project Naz Nomad and The Nightmares, brings us to the flourishing ‘80s Medway sound, deservedly given broad scope courtesy of Thee Milkshakes, The Prisoners et al.
Gerry Ranson

VARIOUS ARTISTS
CRIME AND PUNISHMENT
(Fantastic Voyage)
“Bloody ballads, prison moans, chain gang blues” says it all.
9/10

While any discerning music fan should, quite rightly, run a mile from anything resembling a concept album, this Dostoyevskian collection offers the exception to the rule. Harvested across decades and decades of American country, blues and folk, disc one focuses on the crime side of the illegality equation with many a tale of guns, murder, bootlegging and serial killing. Highlights come from the sonorous voice of Mississippi John Hurt, Paul Robeson’s epic boom, the Everly Brothers’ irresistible sibling harmonies and the haunting Billie Holiday. The companion disc successfully explains the flipside of the criminality coin, focussing on prison, chain gangs and that ol’ hangman’s noose. The Cricket’s ‘I Fought The Law’ – yes, that song – sounds as superb as ever but there’s barely a bad track in this superbly selected, epic, eye-opening compilation. Appalling sleeve art, though.
Steve Lee


VARIOUS ARTISTS 

DEEP ROOTS OF THE RAMONES

(Sireena)

Serviceable punk/rock ’n’ roll comp.

6/10


“Recordings that influenced the The Ramones” it says here, although confusingly some of the tracks originate at a point by which the New Yorkers’ trademark sound and look were already formed. And the Sky Saxon track dates from 2004, which rather counts it out. That aside, this is an acceptable compilation of punk and rock’n’roll benchmarks, encompassing punk’s originators with The Stooges, Dolls, MC5 and Groovies, and original rock ’n’ rollers such as Gene Vincent, Carl Perkins and Link Wray. With a conspicuous absence of any of Phil Spector’s production works ─ and let’s not forget the Bay City Rollers who had a direct influence on the Ramones’ writing ─ this comp doesn’t quite give the complete picture, but does score points with the ultra-rare Ramones cover of the Stones’ ‘Street Fighting Man’ with Heartbreakers man Walter Lure on lead vocals.
Hugh Gulland

VARIOUS ARTISTS
DOO WOP AND ROCK N ROLL CELEBRATION
(Ace)
Just a great compilation of rocking tunes less travelled.
7/10

Ace have released a series of four CDs to celebrate their 30th anniversary of releasing retro goodness and this is one of them. All the tracks are taken from previous releases on the label and each are listed and pictured in case you are hearing something for the first time, can’t get enough and want some more of the same. The compilation is basically a best of doo wop, rock ‘n’ roll, boppers, strollers and some just plain crazy wild rockabilly. The tracks included would contain some at least new to all but the most dedicated collector and also acts as an excellent sampler as to what is out there but, unlike some, quality is not forsaken for rarity kudos.
Simon Nott

THE VARUKERS
VINTAGE VARUKERS – RARE AND UNRELEASED 1980-1985
(Antisociety)

Sturdy (and badly spelt) ’80s hardcore.

6/10


The Varukers were formed in 1979, in that hotbed of rock ‘n’ roll Leamington Spa, by singer Anthony ‘Rat’ Martin and a line-up that would change frequently, having already had several changes by the time they recorded their demo in 1980. This collection opens with the four tracks from that session, three of which – ‘Punk Ain’t Dead’, ‘Varuker’ and ‘No Education’ – have never been released before, while ‘Government’s To Blame’ was re-recorded for debut 1983 album ‘Bloodsuckers’. Two un-used tracks from the ‘Bloodsuckers’ session, ‘Good Time Girls’ and ‘Dance Till You’re Dead’, also appear here for the first time. Elsewhere, bruise your ears with two tracks from a Germany-only 7”, various compilation tracks of varying rarity and some 1986 live tracks. Interestingly, the early tracks, though speedy, are noticeably more old school punk than the all-out hardcore they’re best known for.
Shane Baldwin

VICE SQUAD 

VERY BEST OF / STAND STRONG STAND PROUD
(Anagram)
Bristol punks’ early recordings and second album reissued.
7/10 / 7/10

In the late ’70s/early ’80s so many young punk bands emerged it was hard for some to stand out. Bristol’s Vice Squad distinguished themselves with a successful debut single ‘Last Rockers’ and the follow up, ‘Resurrection’, sealed their reputation as notable players on the UK punk scene. Unfortunately predictable cries of ‘sell out’ were to come when they signed to EMI for their debut ‘No Cause for Concern’ LP. Listening to the ‘Very Best Of’ now, you can still hear the anger and vitality in those early singles despite the relatively lo-fi recording. Their association with EMI brought better sound quality, particularly on their second ‘Stand Strong Stand Proud’ album and later singles, but a change of vocalist when Beki left to front Ligotage inevitably led to diminishing returns. With Beki currently fronting a new Vice Squad line-up, the name lives on but it’s worth investigating these earlier recordings.
Lee Cotterell



WILLY DEVILLE
IN NEW ORLEANS
(Big Beat)
A Big Apple original in The Big Easy.
7/10

Featuring remixed and reworked tunes from the late Willy DeVille’s albums ‘Victory Mixture’ (1990) and ‘Big Easy Fantasy’ (1995), plus additional Orleans-themed oddments, this album hangs on the hypothesis that it was ‘the Big Easy’ which gave this unlikely CBGBs staple his mojo back after his stock had dipped. Frankly, listening now to highlights of ‘comeback’ album ‘Victory Mixture’ (enhanced here with added instrumentation from key collaborators), and having not so long ago reviewed another DeVille reissue for VLR, its hard to believe the man’s following could ever so dramatically shrink and swell. Loyal fans will surely have long loved these blues and soul-based cuts, yet the potential to pick up newcomers whilst appeasing that core crowd seems much the same as during the days DeVille was a sore thumb in CeeBee’s listings.
Alison Bateman

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