THE NOISE BAND FROM BLETCHLEY
Sonic experimentalists from the land of concrete cows.
Milton Keynes based Action Beat are a (mostly) instrumental art/noise outfit not a million miles away from the likes of Sonic Youth and The Boredoms. They have a penchant for experimenting with sound, but they’re astute enough to keep things reasonably melodic, so as not to make their music completely inaccessible. They’re a loose collective of available musicians and, when playing live, can feature up to four guitarists, some bassists and between one and four drummers! There are snippets of Killing Joke, The Pixies and Fugazi in their chaotic sonic melting pot. They’re an acquired taste but if you like your music off-kilter this may be for you.
A DAY TO REMEMBER
Florida beatdown pop punk favourites drop third album.
Opening with an accapella beatdown before bursting into a real one, opener ‘The Downfall of Us All’ shows why ADTR can mix hardcore guitar work and huge pop punk melodies (not to mention a flutter of handclaps) better than most newcomers. This seamless combination continues throughout all 12 tracks and this is the band’s most solid and infectious album to date. If ‘NJ Legion Iced Tea’ doesn’t make you sing along and ‘You Already Know What You Are’ doesn’t cause you to start a moshpit in your room, then you should probably check your pulse. Not original but more hyper than a kid with ADD filled full of Red Bull.
...AND YOU WLL KNOW US BY THE TRAIL OF DEAD
THE CENTURY OF SELF
Art-rock monsters return for outing number 6.
AYWKUBTTOD have continuously dumfounded critics (and fans) with their melding of punk, art-rock, prog and desert rock. From their self-titled debut to the acclaimed ‘Source Tags & Codes’, the sextet have honed their sound. ‘The Century of Self’ is a typically bold statement from the Texan titans, with songs like ‘Halcyon Days’ and the poptastic ‘Fields of Coal’ standing out. However, it all feels a little too laboured to be up there with their best work and in parts reminiscent of the dull My Morning Jacket. A shame, elsewhere ‘The Century of Self’ really is rather good.
BLUE LIGHTS ON THE RUNWAY
Pleasant Irish boys return.
You may have heard these guys covering ‘Another Girl, Another Planet’ on a popular phone network commercial a few years ago or if you live in Ireland, where they’re apparently massive. Signs seem to point to this album being the one that gains them a wider following. The opening is a mellow, ‘80s tinged track with fantastic, quirky lyrics such as, “Like the ribs of a broken umbrella, sticking out of a bin”. ‘The Great Defector’ channels Talking Heads, maybe a little too much, but is still enjoyable. Paul Noonan’s impressive vocal range on ‘Light Catches Your Face’, is a brilliantly memorable ballad. A genuinely interesting band who are well worth a listen.
BILLY CLUB SANDWICH
THE USUAL SUSPECTS
Gold plated ghetto hardcore, fool!
Despite the suckapunch vocals and visceral guitars, I can’t help but smile whenever I hear Billy Club Sandwich: I mean who doesn’t love gangster hardcore? This 8 track EP follows in the bands usual frantic style, with lyrics ranging from the standard NYC angry topics to hip-hop spits about life in the hood. It manages to balance a fun style of heavy punk with all the brutal concussion of metalcore. With 3 bonus videos included and a lyric guide with regular, cracker and Spanish versions (just in case your struggling with the lingo), this little release is a 24-carat gem in the career of the Bronx’s most badass hardcore collective.
BONNIE 'PRINCE' BILLY
Audio drop-outs on promo copies are a very annoying thing. Except in this case.
The Bonnie one returns with yet another album of love, despair, hope and regret. A haunting mixture of Americana, folksy-punk and more, ‘Beware’ manages to be as uplifting as a slow-paced, thoughtful album could be. The familiar warble of the Prince is as relaxing as it ever was, especially on tracks such as ‘Death Final’ and ‘You Are Lost’, and is backed up by some wonderful guest vocalists. The flow isn't even broken up that badly by the constant “this is a promotional copy” interruptions that Billy personally litters the album with. Yes, so they won't be on the retail version, but shut up. Good stuff.
CHRIS WOLLARD & THE SHIP THIEVES
CHRIS WOLLARD & THE SHIP THIEVES
Hot Water Music vocalist goes back to roots (rock).
Many punk vocalists are turning their hand to self-indulgent acoustic side-projects these days but, as always, Chris Wollard side-steps convention and comes through with a truly immersive record. Mixing the early ‘90s influenced electric power-pop of infectious opener ‘No Exception’ and ‘All the Things You Know’ with the majestic, upbeat alt-folk/country of ‘Reason in My Rhyme’, ‘In the Middle of the Sea’ and the catchy ‘Oh Whatever’. While the odd track, such as ‘Up to the Moon’ lacks a solid hook and chorus, these 10 drawled tracks are full of soul and passion for music. Another triumph for Chris Wollard.
CHUCK & THE HULAS
ALL GOOD PIRATES GO TO HAWAII
Honolulu rock ‘n’ roll party.
I don’t know what it is about albums by Chuck Harvey, he gets away with what nobody else could. The genuine drug and booze battered lunatic of rockabilly has recorded an album of songs loosely based on fun and frolics in Hawaii, mostly classic songs just covered in Chuck’s inimitable fashion. There’s a smattering of reggae, rockabilly and country performed on double bass, ukulele, lap steel and ‘unprotected’ sax. ‘Remember You’re A Hula’ is even a loosely veiled 1970s kids TV programme theme tune! It’s a summery party album and it’s out while the snow around Western Star studio is a foot deep.
Massachusetts hardcore with plenty to deliver.
Defeater originally released their self-titled debut album on Top Shelf. Top Shelf is owned by a Bridge Nine employee and the label wisely decided to pick ‘Defeater’ up and give it a wider release. This intelligent band’s album works best listened to as a whole and heralds a vital new force in the hardcore world. The music is hardcore without being clichéd, displaying fresh variety both in atmosphere and style. There are aspects of traditional hardcore but also more experimental leanings too. Overall, it’s a clever and cohesive piece of work. It’s definitely worth reading the lyrics book as well because the album is essentially an involving novella about one man’s travels.
IM DORF DER VERDAMMTEN
Cult German gothabilly band’s comeback album.
Der Fluch (‘The Curse’) are hailed as the godfathers of German gothic rock in their homeland. They originally formed in 1981, recorded one album, split shortly after before rising from the grave, recording three more and calling it a day again in the early ‘90s. Cult status meant they wouldn’t stay dead for long, culminating in a return to the stage at the world’s largest goth festival Wave-Gotik-Treffen in 2007 and prompting them to re-record a bunch of their classic tracks along with three new ones. The result is an album which should appeal to fans of Rezurex and Zombina and The Skeletones. It’s all sung in German though, sprechen sie Deutsch, anyone?
LET'S START A WAR/LIVE AND LOUD!
Mohicaned Scots maniacs get a double-disc reissue.
This Exploited collection isn’t essential, consisting of the band's third studio album from late 1983, the last to feature the mighty Big John Duncan on guitar, with Link Records' 'Live And Loud!' compilation of live tracks from various gigs, with various line-ups, and variable results. Still, even if 'Let's Start A War' didn't match its illustrious predecessors on the material front, it showed that Wattie still had plenty of fire in his belly, and the live comp is fun, in a ragged sort of way. As always with these Anagram reissues, there are plenty of bonus tracks and great sleeve notes.
IT’S GREAT TO BE ALIVE
(Side One Dummy)
Riotous indie-punk-folk mash-up generally hits the spot.
Though they were last seen in the UK supporting melodic punks Smoke Or Fire, Florida’s Fake Problems draw from an altogether wider musical palette than simply keeping it fast and loud. The super-posi titled ‘It’s Great To Be Alive’ comes across like the bastard offspring of The Hold Steady and Against Me! (circa ‘New Wave’), with a touch of Flogging Molly. When it works, it’s great – creating a party atmosphere on record. It’s just when things get a bit too quirky, as is the case on ‘Don’t Worry Baby’ and ‘Level With The Devil’, that they begin to lose their charm slightly.
THE GUILTY PLEASURES
WHAT ARE WE FIGHTING FOR?
North Western punks unleash rousing political debut.
Hailing from the Lancaster/Manchester area, this three-piece are inspired by the likes of Anti-Flag, Rancid and Bad Religion and their first album is full of the kind of raging yet melody-filled modern politi-punk that would make Leftover Crack proud. With all three members providing gritty vocals, exemplified on opener ‘Fear, Hate, Lies, Deceit’ and infectious guitar lines, such as on the title track, this raucous and ragged bunch have the raw sound of the genre’s veterans (many of whom they’ve already shared a stage with) with the youthful power of the new wave. Catch them at Rebellion Festival to see what they’re fighting for.
HENRY AND THE BLEEDERS
OUT OF CASH, OUT OF LUCK, OUT ON BAIL
A driving license was sacrificed in the making of this album.
Henry and the Bleeders are one of the better of a whole host of young bands popping up to play rockabilly inspired music. While a lot of them are pushing the boundaries and getting involved in sorts of unholy and incestuous genre inter-fucking, H&TB are more than happy to belt out their take on the genre in a more traditional manner, with stomping songs about drinking. The album nearly didn’t happen at all after shenanigans at a local pub, a police helicopter and being generally naughty boys – read the cuttings in the sleeve!
JOHN PLAYER SPECIALS
(Do The Dog)
Sweet and soulful stylings from Wigan youngsters.
Softly does it with the debut release from these Northern boys. In fact it’s such a gentle record that all five tracks pass by without too much of a tempo change or a wee bit of aggression. But this is melodic two-tone ska and they do it very well. With lead vocalist Jordan providing a very tuneful and soothing voice to the EP that at times feels like he might be holding back, especially on one of the darker tracks ‘Identification’, hinting that he has the ability to deliver more power. It’s all very promising but feels cautionary. However, it’s a lovely record that’s likely to make you wish it was summer already.
THE LOVED ONES
Philly soulful punks unleash EP of originals and covers.
The Loved Ones have released two quite different albums on Fat Wreck - 2006’s energetic ‘Keep Your Heart’ and last year’s more Boss-influenced ‘Build & Burn’. This new EP should keep fans happy until the next album, but it’s hit and miss. Of the three originals, ‘Distracted’ isn’t bad (with the Hold Steady’s Franz Nicolay on keys) and ‘Spy Diddley’ was recorded in their early, faster days. The acoustic Springsteen classic ‘Johnny 99’ is ruined with an electric interpretation but the reworkings of Billy Bragg’s ‘Summer Town Revisited’ and Joe Strummer and the Mescalero’s ‘Coma Girl’, as a pop punk tune and a campfire sing-along respectively, are pretty inspired efforts. Roll on album three.
TOUCH AND GO: ANTHOLOGY 02.78 - 06.81
Two-disc career spanning collection from the newly reformed post-punks.
While Howard Devoto’s chilly lyrical preoccupations and his band’s angular arrangements may have sat Magazine rather awkwardly among their contemporaries, thirty years down the line their intense musical vision can still provoke a sharp intake of breath. This adroitly selected two-CD rundown balances the choice extracts from Magazine’s four studio LPs, with single tracks including the knife-sharp swipe at punk conformity that is ‘Shot By Both Sides’ and a smattering of rarities including a vein-popping take on Captain Beefheart’s ‘Big Dummy’. As overlooked and misunderstood as Magazine have been over the years, Devoto and co. boast an impeccable back catalogue, one that affords fresh revelations on each listen.
KINGS OF PSYCHOBILLY: A 5 DISC CAREER RETROSPECTIVE
Royals of the wrecking pit since 1980!
Ever wondered who was first responsible for taking the rockin’ spirit of the ‘50s and twisting it into the tortured, blood-spewing screams of psychobilly we know and love? For diehard fans, only one band can come to mind. Almost 30 years old and more demented than ever, The Meteors were there at the beginning – scratch that – The Meteors are the beginning. This 81-track retrospective picks all the choicest gory morsels from their career, right up to the present. The sleeve notes include a comprehensive history of the band via an interview with long-time member Mr. P. Paul Fenech. A must-have for any self-respecting gangrene greaser.
THE ONLY ONES
THE ONLY ONES / EVEN SERPENTS SHINE / BABY’S GOT A GUN
Pristine reissues of the lost legends’ original albums.
5/5 / 5/5 / 4/5
The definitive band-out-of-time, the Only Ones flourished briefly but brilliantly between 1976 and 1980, pancaking messily in 1981 after a marked lack of commercial success, all the more paradoxical considering their much lauded 1978 single ‘Another Girl Another Planet’. The song was no fluke either - over their first two albums, the Only Ones delineate their own particular twilight world of gloom and glitter, Peter Perrett’s bewitching songs delving deep into emotional torment and forbidden love. If the final album is the sound of the Only Ones falling apart, it takes a band this good to make career burnout sound so stylish.
Canadian punk favourites unleash again on fifth full-length.
Having set the bar so high with their previous albums, most bands would struggle to keep the quality up. Not Propagandhi. ‘Supporting Caste’ is another behemoth that again stunningly melds hardcore punk, skate punk, huge melodies (‘Human(e) Meat’ is a sing-along with a great guitar solo at the end) and an obvious love of metal (most evident on crunching opener ‘Night Matters’ and the raging ‘This Is Your Life’) to jaw-dropping effect. There is a slight feel that the band are holding back and it lacks the urgency of the mighty ‘Today’s Empires…’, but it’s still a powerful and welcome return from one of Canada’s finest.
PUSH THE GHOST
Aggressive? Check. Punk as fuck? Check. Set to be one of this year’s top bands? Double check!
This is pure punk rock spit and grit that comes tearing out of your speakers with this EP from the perhaps less punk rock Grimsby. Anthemic and frantic, ‘Listen Up!’ is a high-speed cocktail of Anti-Flag, Lagwagon and H20. It’s a mixture of ten dirty spirits in a big old jug that’ll knock you off your feet and leave you feeling the effects for weeks after. ‘Fnfg’ is a stand out track, invoking the melodic punch of Strike Anywhere. This is the kind of record that makes you want to go to a gig and get the living shit kicked out of you.
THE SEWER RATS
Excellent mash-up of all that’s good in punk.
The Sewer Rats’ debut album hits all the right spots from start to finish. The intro is by Mad Sin man-mountain Koefte De Ville but, apart from the use of the double bass, that is about all the nod there is to psychobilly. This platter owes much more to Social Distortion and Rancid. There’s plenty of snotty sneer in the songs, some heroic guitar riffs and double bass that actually contributes to the finished article, as opposed to being a visual prop, which all adds up to an album that should be tracked down and played loud.
THE SHAKING HANDS
THE SHAKING HANDS
(A.D.D./Kiss Of Death)
Fist-pumping street punk from Gainsville, Florida.
You read it right, street punk from Florida and not some wannabe Hot Water Music or Against Me! band! The Shaking Hands mix up ingredients from the punk fountain of youth, both new and old. Bits of the Clash, Youth Brigade, early Rancid and a little Bouncing Souls-style chant-alongs all go into the broth. This 11-tracker won't set the world alight in the originality stakes but it's played with passion, precision and has some damn fine choruses, like the rousing ‘A New Reason To Rise’. Overall The Shaking Hands deserves to be sought out if you like your punk stomping and raucous.
THE ABSOLUTE GAME
Tasty re-issue of the Dunfermline punkers’ anthemic third outing.
Originally released in 1980, The Absolute Game was the final Skids album to feature Stuart Adamson’s stirring guitar work, but while his longstanding writing partnership with vocalist Richard Jobson would shortly fall apart, the Skids’ third saw the two riffing powerfully on each other’s input. One of the finest guitar talents of the UK punk era, Adamson fires off melodic volleys to Jobson’s semi-historical mini-epics. The album’s high points – opening track ‘Circus Games’, with its Slade-style kiddie-chorus, the captivating ‘Woman In Winter’ and ‘Arena’s masterful outro – arguably eclipse the band’s earlier, and better-remembered, hit singles.
CURSE OF THE BLACKWATER
The hardcore elite take a deep breath and dive.
Chelmsford beatdown merchants Special Move are back to deliver their unique eclectic style of musical pain and aural destruction. Despite forming over ten years ago, with their original heritage hailing back to the mid-‘90s UK hardcore explosion, ‘Curse Of The Blackwater’ marks the band’s second full-length release and hits harder than the spin kicks in the face it’s bound to instigate. Without any loss of their trademark vehemence and cruelty, ‘COTBW’ marries angry and lyrically innovative vocals with equally angry drum blasts and choking guitars. A full-bodied and blistering release with a tangy metallic aftertaste.
(Thin Lizzy Productions)
What can you say…?
I normally avoid reviewing live albums because, let’s face it, most of them are shameless cash-ins or merely serve to satisfy contractual obligations. It would also be impossible to review this record without mentioning ‘Live and Dangerous’ (which this new record predates), considered by many to be a contender for one of the best live albums of all time. I am a huge fan of Thin Lizzy and this record captures probably the most effective line-up in brilliant form on the 1977 ‘Bad Reputation’ tour when the band were still buzzing from success. The editing is pretty brutal but you can’t fault it other than that.