Now in its fifth year, the Red Rooster Festival has shaped up from humble beginnings to be THE go-to weekend for rock’n’roll, blues and roots music . Vive Le Rock donned its dungarees to check it out….


With a track record of good weather, Red Rooster is something of a rarity in the UK calendar. Better not jinx it! It’s also one of the easiest on the eye, when it comes to locations, situated in the grounds of Euston Hall on the Norfolk-Suffolk border, by wood and river. Moreover, it’s compactness means you don’t waste time and energy slogging everywhere, can easily find your mates and are generally in with a good chance of making it back to your tent before passing out.

Kicking off on the Thursday evening, just as most people are arriving, the mainstage offers a low-key bill of mellow country rock, headlined by Philadelphia’s Low Cut Connie, trading in a weird concoction of garage rock through a Queen filter.

The following morning, though, the fest sets off in earnest with London’s long-serving Cajun aces Joli Blon, who do an amazing job of shaking the masses out of their torpor. The day takes shape approvingly via the many-headed Cash-style country-punk of The Johnsons, ZZ Top-channelling newcomer Sam Morrow and Texan golden boy Jarrod Dickinson, who takes time to salute homestate legend Doug Sahm with a terrific cover of ‘I’m Glad For Your Sake’.

After a Prosecco-and-veggie-burrito break, Vive Le Rock returns to the mainstage for another of Texas’s finest sons, Dale Watson. Single-handedly saving country music one truckin’ song at a time, Dale’s on fine form, the crowd quickly getting into singalong mode on ‘I Lie When I Drink’ (“…and I drink a lot!”). Ever the consummate pro, Dale takes some beating, although Nick Lowe gives it a good go. Since teaming up with LA’s masked instrumental surf band Los Straightjackets, the Godfather of Pub has been reinvigorated: delivering an elementary ‘greatest hits’ set, rockin’ recent single ‘Tokyo Bay’ is as good as anything the great man’s ever done.

By Saturday both stages – and the sun’s rays – are getting into their stride, so we slap on the lotion to enjoy sets on the Little Red Rooster acoustic stage from fast-rising skateboarder-cum-country-blues-picker, Yorkshire’s own Serious Sam Barrett – drawing one of the biggest crowds of the weekend – and the country’n’rockabilly of The Haystingers, unphased by a mid-set power failure.

Over on the mainstage, it’s Euro-tastic with youthful French rockabillies Howlin’ Jaws delivering a blistering set, closely followed by Switzerland’s Powersolo and the homegrown Oh! Gunquit, featuring the finest hula-hooping, trumpet-blowing frontwoman of the festival.

East Londoner Errol Linton has been a reliable draw on the London scene for many years, so it’s great to watch him deliver a crowd-pleasing mid-afternoon set of his reggae-infused blues. He’s definitely deserving of bigger things. So too, Cedric Burnside: grandson of the legendary R.L. who kickstarted the noughties punk-blues scene, he delivered a blistering set, backed only by a hard-hitting drummer with an infectious beat. The two even swapped places at one point!

For the final act of the weekend, Vive was in a bit of a quandary, but sorely tempted by the soul-inspired space-rock of The Budos Band, we opted for the tried’n’tested Legendary Shackshakers on the Little Red Rooster stage. One of the most dynamic acts of the festival, it’s a shame they’re relegated to the smaller stage, but their fiery gothic-country-punk has zero airs and graces, quickly creating the atmosphere of the moshpit, frontman J.D. Wilkes risking life and limb (his, the band’s, the crowd’s) with his cavalier mic-stand antics. A brilliant punk-rock frontman, and quite possibly the only one armed with a banjo, Wilkes is a force of nature who deserves much wider fame.

The party kept rockin’ well into the night over on the Howlin’ Woods DJ stage, but totally spent from the Shackshakers, Vive (dis)gracefully retired. Out first Red Rooster successfully completed, we’ll definitely be back next year.

Red Rooster on Facebook

Pics by Ken Taylor

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Vive Le Rock recently hung out at London’s Hard Rock Cafe for Stevie Van Zandt’s live DJ set and radio broadcast of his Underground Garage Dance Party. The long-time member of Bruce Springsteen’s E Street Band and actor famous for The Sopranos series brought along his wife Maureen Van Zandt, who also plays his wife in The Sopranos.

A crowd of fans hoping to get their Van Zandt CDs and records signed gathered under the stage at the entrance of the Hard Rock. Van Zandt pulled up in a blacked-out 4×4 and entered through a side door to huge applause before grabbing the mic and opening his radio show with The Beach Boys’ ‘Good Vibrations’.

The appearance comes off the back of the new album Summer Of Sorcery from Little Steven & The Disciples of Soul, Little Steven’s first album of new material in 20 years. The band recently kicked off their live tour in May.

The show lasted two hours and featured Van Zandt’s usual mix of old school rock’n’roll embellished by his own stories as a fan and a performer. He took a break to meet everyone in the audience and spent a lot of time having pictures with fans.

Paula Frost

Pics © Hard Rock Café London

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Vive Le Rock visited Stupido Records 30th Anniversary party at Tavastia Club, Helsinki in late April to find out what makes this great Finnish record label tick.

Stupido Records was founded in 1988, and since then their empire has grown to include a record shop, a mail order service and a publishing company. They’ve signed 37 legendary Finnish  bands including Pelle Miljoona (pictured), Waltari, Tumppi Varonen (from Problems and Pelle Miljoona) and Villu Tamme / J.M.K.E.

This event was over two days and various Stupido Records artists performed, including  Finnish punk rock legends like Pelle Miljoona (Pelle Miljoona – singing and drums,  Tumppi Varonen, Veli-Pekka ‘Puka’ Oinonen – guitar). Pelle Miljoona is a pioneer in the Finnish punk rock scene. He recorded his first album in 1977 and the band line-up has changed over the years, hence most recognised names who played for the band over the years are Hanoi Rocks legends Andy McCoy on guitar and Sam Yaffa on bass.

On the night Pelle Miljoona played his hits like ‘Moottoritie On Kuuma’ (‘The Freeway Is Hot’), ‘Tahdon Rakastella Sinua’ (‘I Want To Make Love To You’).

Tumppi Varonen & Problems (Tumppi Varonen – singing, Heikki Hiekkasalmi – bass, Saska Ketonen – drums, Petri Peevo – guitar). Tumppi Vuorinen is a musician, writer and former municipal politician. Varonen made his first recording for Problems in the late 1970s.  Since then, he has been playing  on and off with Problems and Pelle Miljona’s bands. Tumppi Varonen &  Problems played ‘Katupoikia’ (‘Street Boys’), ‘Tiina On Punkkari’ (‘Tina Is Punk’) and the new single ‘Ihan Sama’ (‘What Ever’).

Tumppi Varonen & Problems

Pää Kii is a punk band founded in 2012. Soundi and Rumba magazines chose the band’s first album to be their 2012 album of the year. Pää Kii has also has been awarded in the Femma and Emma Gala. (Teemu Bergman – singing and guitar, Antti Leppäniemi – guitar, Vekku Vartiainen – bass, Heikki Laaksomies – drums) They played ‘Paskahousun Paluu’ (‘Return Of The Shitpants’), ‘Apinoiden Planeetalla’ (‘Planet Of Apes’) and ‘Sweet Home Kouvola’.

Pää Kii

All bands were really energetic and Stupido records can be proud of their long success in the music business as a independent record label.

For more information visit www.stupido.fi

Photos by Jari Flinck https://www.instagram.com/jariflinck.photography/

Text by Kati Brugnoli  www.katibrugnoli.com

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BEDLAM BREAKOUT Northampton Roadmender

Friday 15th March

With five great bands covering the whole spectrum of psychobilly, Friday evening at Bedlam is a cool way for the curious to check things out. Local band GOGO LOCO open proceedings and they’re an extremely likeable duo. Guitarist and vocalist Joe is like Chuck Berry with restless leg syndrome, pacing the stage like a student from The Ministry of Silly Walks. Original tunes like ‘Maraca GoGo’ and ‘GoGo Loco Twist’ capture the energy of the British R&B boom only cranked up to 11. Their energetic performance is well received and throws down the gauntlet for the whole weekend.

Rising to the challenge are THE X-MEN. They immediately evince a strong garage-rock influence: imagine The Stooges jamming with Them while imbibing hallucinogens. A superb swirling psychedelic sound hypnotises the audience as The X-Men pull out a cover of The Syndicate Of Sound’s ‘Little Girl’ along with their own classic ‘She’s A Witch’. Closing with a rendition of The 13th Floor Elevators ‘You’re Gonna Miss Me’ only endears them to the crowd further.

The aptly titled FRANTIC VERMIN are a pleasing amalgamation of of styles as rock’n’roll meets ska with a country twang. It’s no mean feat to blend different genres but Frantic Vermin pull it off effortlessly by underpinning their sound with a strong song sensibility. A trio who make a big noise they turn in a crowd pleasing set.

The ultimately silky voice from the coolest cat in town COLBERT HAMILTON brings his band to entertain Bedlam. Risqué without being rude, ‘Dirty Dog’ kicks his set off in fine style with Colbert working the stage like a pro and by the time we reach ‘Daddy Rolling Stone’ he has the crowd in the palm of his hand. Ably backed by his band the BAD BREED, ‘Rock Party’ turns the whole venue into a… rock party, and they bring a nice flavour to the evening.

Providing the missing link between rockabilly and psychobilly, RESTLESS hit the stage and immediately set the venue alight. ‘After Midnight’ is a definite highlight along with a high voltage version of Golden Earring’s ‘Radar Love’, a song they’ve now made their own. ‘Mercury Blues’ is performed with great abandon theirs is a nice set that ebbs and flows and ticks all the right boxes and provides a fitting culmination to the opening day.

Saturday 16th March

Opening Saturday are a late replacement on the bill: the GARBAGE BAGS. With a sound guaranteed to blast away any hangovers they remind me a little of The Cramps… only more hyped and amped. Drummer and vocalist swap slots for one song which, along with some neat changes in tempo, keeps things interesting. With a wall of distorted guitar and a hyperactive frontman it’s an entertaining start to the day.

ATI EDGE AND THE SHADOWBIRDS arrive from Hungary armed with an adrenaline charged brand of rock’n’roll. With songs about cars, girls and cannibals they can’t really go wrong. They plough through a crowdpleasing set of which ‘Rockabilly Boogie’ is a definite highlight.

Putting the psycho in psychobilly are Japan’s GIGANTIX who prove the scene is truly global. They turn in a fun-fuelled set and the crowd soon warms to their surf-tinged sound. A manic cover of The Animals’ ‘House Of The Rising Sun’ raises the level of insanity and they win the first encore of the day: ‘Space Song’.

THE ROCKETZ hit the stage like a well- oiled machine and treat the throng to a bawdy ‘I Want U Dead’ and an atmospheric ‘Before The Night’. Spawned from the fertile Los Angeles scene, they are part of the vanguard (along with NY’s Screamin’ Rebel Angels) who are taking rockabilly to a new audience. ‘Killing’ is a set highlight and the band should be on your radar.

The SURFIN’ WOMBATZ are always guaranteed to raise more than a smile and, like their South London counterparts The Gonads, they keep their tongue firmly in cheek. With a thirty-year history they’ve built up an impressive discography and they deliver a career spanning, best of set. ‘Bald Billy Boogie’ really rocks and the band relive their Klub Foot days with tracks from their debut album. They have a sound that incorporates different styles (like the ska-infused ‘Peter Cushing’) and they’ve finally written a surf song but in their own inimitable style: ‘Surfin’ South London’. ‘Lack of Beer’ initiates a huge sing-a-long before a raucous rendition of Bo Diddley’s ‘You Can’t Judge A Book By The Cover’ brings the afternoon to a fitting finale.

Berlin’s DAMAGE DONE BY WORMS are out of the trap like a greyhound chasing a hare and by second track ‘Beer’ they’ve won over any doubters and pulled the slackers in from the bar. ‘Tommyknockers’ from their debut album follows; each track is delivered with passion but ‘Butcher Of The Night’ is a definite highlight. They use catchy guitar lines to snare the listener as evidenced by a fiery ‘Gasoline’ and their cover of The Buzzcocks ‘Ever Fallen In Love?’ is a fitting tribute to Pete Shelley.

THE HANGMEN turn in a solid set but fail to really capture the crowd’s full attention. Thankfully, a period of recording inactivity has been broken and the new tracks debuted point to a bright future.

Now making their fourth appearance at Bedlam, the MILWAUKEE WILDMEN hit the stage and provide a master class in stagecraft. ‘March’ stomps like an army and ‘Get In The Pit’ is suitably raucous. Their sound really swings like a pendulum especially on ‘Die Alone’ while a rocked up cover of Dead Or Alive’s ‘(You Spin Me) Right Round (Like a Record)’ wins the crowd’s approval. They close their set with another cover, this time a warlike version of Stan Ridgeway’s ‘Camouflage’ which is segued with Matchbox’s ‘Midnight Dynamos’. Genius.

THE RICOCHETS are welcomed to the stage like old friends and a cover of ‘Brand New Cadillac’ only increases their standing as scene legends. ‘Paranoia’ follows along with the insanely catchy ‘I’m a Loser’. With no signs of slowing down, they hit us with an excellent version of Generation X’s ‘King Rocker’ and a fine rendition of ‘Woolly Bully’. ‘Black Magic Woman’ follows as the band turn in a well received set. ‘In Hell’ is a precursor to two well deserved encores which includes a delirious ‘Psycho’.

A tangible tension builds as we await NEKROMANTIX which is finally released when the band hit the stage. By second track ‘Night Nurse’, the entire venue is under their spell and the band turn in a set that proves why they’re undisputed headliners. Bathed in blood red light and with his trademark coffin-shaped double bass, vocalist Kim looks like a demented preacher and delivers a sermon in the shape of ‘Alice In Psycholand’ and ‘Demons Are A Girl’s Best Friend’. ‘The Blood Cure’ raises the temperature and initiates some serious wrecking in the pit and there’s a real chemistry in the band and they perform with an obvious joy. In the live environment the band become infinitely heavier and they wouldn’t seem out of place at a metal festival. Waves of affection radiate between crowd and audience and Nekromantix are the perfect band at the witching hour. Miss them at your peril.

Sunday 17th March

Suited and booted, there’s a touch of The Meteors in THE MIGHTY INTERCEPTORS’ performance. Their set is a short, sharp shock and there’s no better way to spend a Sunday afternoon. New track ‘Danger In Every Curve’ points to a bright future.

The SPACE WASTERS deliver a fine slab of garage thrash which shows a definite Stooges influence. Opening shot ‘Action’ doesn’t take prisoners and neither does ‘I Don’t Like You’ and ‘Leave Me Alone’. They cap an enjoyable set with a rocket like X-Men cover.

Norfolk’s FAT’N’FURIOUS certainly know how to please a crowd which they do by covering ‘Baby Blue Eyes’ and ‘Monkey Man’. However they’ve got some cool original tunes like the mighty ‘King Of The Asylum’ which sits easily next to a rendition of The Meteors’ ‘I’m Insane’ (which they fuse with the Pistols’ ‘Pretty Vacant’). Closing with ‘Good Golly Miss Molly’ means they won’t be forgotten in a hurry.

A late and welcome addition to the bill are Bedford-based HENRY & THE BLEEDERS. With a set largely debuting new material, ‘The Beast’ in particular stands out with its catchy guitar motif and signposts a majestic new record. Led by the hyperactive and effervescent Henry, the band deliver a turbocharged set and close with perennial favourite ‘(I Gotta) Rock On (For You)’ sees them bow out in style.

Fun with a capital F, the DEATH VALLEY SURFERS are a six-piece with a big sound. Plenty of brass and even some violin add a touch of brevity to their set but underneath the madness they’ve some great tunes like ‘She’s Not Home’. A cover of ‘Tequila’ evinces a real surf influence and their set is a riotous cornucopia of sight and sound. J.B. From the Space Wasters joins them for a frantic set closer ‘Johnny B. Goode’.

THE GRISWALDS open Sunday evening in suitably loopy fashion with a set that doesn’t waste a second. ‘Spasms’ really grooves as ‘Hooker’ and ‘Fright Night’ follow in quick succession. New track ‘Psychobilly Love Affair’ is set to the sound of Bad Manners’ ‘Skinhead Love Affair’ while ‘Crazy Jim’ brings a ska influence. A faithful cover of The Undertones’ ‘Teenage Kicks’ is well received before an encore of The Housemartins ‘Happy Hour’ brings thing to a conclusion in an appropriately surreal fashion.

With their heavy ska sound PADDLE CELL are something of a revelation. With a sound that’s heavily laden with brass they soon get the whole venue skanking. As you’d expect, ‘Waiting’ and ‘Montego Bay’ set the venue alight and Paddle Cell are rewarded with the biggest cheer of the evening.

After some tour tribulations and shenanigans, THE SURF RATS perform with a new drummer who only had 24 hours to learn a set – but you’d never guess. ‘Vampire Lover’ really rocks as does ‘Evil Girl’ and The Rats put their unique stamp on rock’n’roll. The adrenaline-infused ska of ‘Smash it Up’ adds some variety to their set and new track ‘It’s The End’ shows some real development. A well-deserved encore follows in the shape of ‘Welcome to Killafornia’.

BATMOBILE are worthy headliners and, as the first non-British band to perform at The Klub Foot they have a special relationship with the UK. Hitting the stage the band are like whirling dervishes and it’s obvious why they’ve stayed at the top of the game for 35 years and many would argue that new record ‘Brand New Blisters’ is a career highlight. Affection radiates between band and audience as they plough through a greatest hits set and with their back catalogue they can’t go wrong. Running close to curfew the band still manage to cram in all their well known tunes plus a few fan favourites ensuring nobody leaves disappointed.

Peter Dennis.

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(Puke Pop Records)

Riot grrrl on the loose in South Yorkshire


South Yorkshire has long been a plucky region. It has needed to be. Even its left leaning governments of the 1980s – which helped gain the whole area the moniker ‘The Peoples’ Republic of South Yorkshire’ – couldn’t stop Margaret Thatcher waving her malevolent wand and decimating the region’s coal industry. But it probably doesn’t matter one jot to Hands Off Gretel frontwoman Lauren Tate – she wasn’t even born. It was left to the likes of Saxon, Def Leppard and the Human League to provide the homegrown musical backdrop to the years of decline. But now there’s a new force of nature to be the voice of misfits, miscreants and nursery rhyme nightmares. Hands of Gretel were born in 2015. Inspired by the likes of Hole, The Distillers and Nirvana, this is acidic grunge-pop laced with South Yorkshire grit. Mental health, body image, loneliness – the topics covered aren’t for anyone having a bad day. Lauren Tate is a girl who has a lot to get off her chest and her cathartic release appears to be cooking up a true shitstorm in certain areas of music business who are naming Hands Off Gretel as a band to watch. I Want The World delivers vitriol and addictive sounds in equal measure. Album opener ‘Kiss Me Girl’ is music’s answer to a line of coke – you’re sucker-punched within seconds. But the title track is the killer tune and truly shows the quality of the band – hook-laden and instantly addictive, it is reminiscent of the very best of the band’s influences and more.

Neil Anderson

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Rising London street-punks EAST END BADOES launched their new album A Punk Rock Sound With An East End Beat last month – with a full supporting cast! – at London’s 100 Club. Vive Le Rock‘s Tony Ghirardi was there…

The 100 Club, London
The 100 Club was the evening’s destination for Human Punk’s four band offering of East End Badoes, The Violators, Knock Off and Geoffrey OiCott, and there was the added attraction of it being the Badoes album release gig.
The evening kicked off with Yorkshire Cricket based Oi band, Geoffrey OiCott. Dressed in their obligatory cricket whites, they warmed up the 100 Club with their tongue-in-cheek renditions ‘Dawn Of The Dickie Birds’, ‘Robin Hood Was A Yorkshire Man’ and ‘Glory Glory Garry Thompson’, which was changed to ‘Glory Glory Eric Bristow’ in recognition of the darts player’s recent death.

Knock Off (left) were next up, a three piece from Watford with a couple of cracking albums and singles under their belts. They are an ultra-hardworking band and it really shows with their tight professional set which included crowd favourites ‘Are You Offended’, ‘Jack The Ripper’ and their terrace chant, ‘Football, Beer And Punk Rock’ which always goes down a storm.

UK82 returned to the 100 Club in the shape of The Violators (below). Having been back together since last year’s appearance at Rebellion, great things were expected of them. After overcoming some initial bass amp problems, they put in a blinding set of old favourites, with ‘Summer Of ‘81’ and ‘Gangland’ being the highlights. 

The stage was now set for the East End Badoes to make their first ever album launch. There was a large following for them, most of whom piled down the front of the stage to join in the fun. The majority of tracks, as expected, were from the new album, like ‘Poplar Boys’ and ‘Trouble On The Streets’, all were very well received by those in attendance. The band played at full tilt and at one point Mark’s snare drum broke; until a new one was found, a member of the audience offered his prosthetic leg to use! A great, fun evening which ended with a few of the crowd on stage adding vocals for ‘Trouble On The Streets’ and their cover of The Professionals ‘1-2-3’.
Tony Ghirardi



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John Doe with Tom DeSavia and friends
(Da Capo)
First things first: John Doe is by no means the main author of this book. Founder and bassist of long-serving L.A. punks X (who even named their first album in the city’s honour), Doe is well placed to comment on the times, which he does with a dry, beatnik flair. But his scattered entries are slim, allowing a cast of musos, journos and other scenesters to contribute the real meat’n’potatoes. The best essays come from The Go-Gos’ Jane Wiedlin, then a wet-behind-the-ears student, enjoying this new explosion of music, drugs and sex while living in notorious punk apartment block, The Canterbury; and Mike Watt’s tale of the Minutemen, three plaid-shirted teenagers from the wrong side of the tracks. Elsewhere Robert Lopez (aka El Vez) comments from both the gay and Latino perspectives, while the Blasters’ Dave Alvin is the pragmatic rock’n’roller. A dark cloud descends with the arrival of the violent, male-dominated hardcore scene. Henry Rollins’ own view is typically that of the wide-eyed fan, but the arrogance and aggression of T.S.O.L’s Jack Grisham speaks volumes.
Gerry Ranson

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Last weekend, Vive Le Rock went north of the border to co-promote a show at Broadcast in Glasgow featuring three of Scotland’s finest up’n’coming punk bands. Neil Hodge was there to review the proceedings….

Take a Saturday night in Glasgow, a NYC record label, add three of Scotland’s premier punk bands, an intimate venue full of enthusiastic punters and you have the recipe for a superb night out. This was a hotly anticipated sold-out gig, with people travelling some distances to attend (Dublin, England, North of Scotland). They were most definitely not disappointed.

Tarbeach Records label-mates ReAction, Heavy Drapes and The Zips came together to provide a high octane, hundred-mile-an-hour punk rock romp. The running order had been kept under wraps beforehand to ensure maximum attendance for all bands and the ploy worked. The venue was rammed and the atmosphere was palpable as Airdrie’s peerless ReAction kicked things off in vigorous style with a selection of tracks from their debut album and recent EP. Opening up with ‘Dead Boy Racer’ the pace started at break-neck speed and didn’t let up throughout the set. The now familiar songs in the set were bolstered by some raucous new material including ‘Kamikaze Baby’, a song about Debbie Juvenile from the original Bromley Contingent, and closed with audience choice, their energetic version of External Menace’s ‘Someday’. By the time they left the stage packed-out venue was now a veritable sweatbox.

HD Kiss 3

There was no time wasted between bands and shortly after ReAction exited stage left it was the turn of Edinburgh’s Heavy Drapes. The band took to the stage with frontman De Liberate making his now familiar declaration “We’re Heavy Drapes and we are punk rock,” before launching into their musical manifesto with ‘Number 1’. Fresh from a triumphant gig on Rebellion’s main stage, this was the first gig for ex-Scars guitarist, Paul Research. He has certainly brought a new vibrancy to the band who were on blistering form. It was a colossal assault on the senses from start to finish. The set included all the now standard Drapes tracks – ‘Into the Blue’, ‘Janie’ – with the crowd in great voice too, especially on tracks like ‘Let’s Free The Working Class’ and set closer ‘(I Wanna Be) Maladjusted’, every song going down a storm with the partisan crowd.

Zips 3

It was down to seminal Glasgow punk legends The Zips to close proceedings. We were treated to a career-spanning set starting with the topical ‘Hear, Hear’ and ‘Thin Blue Line’ from the latest album. The tempo of the evening was kept up with the likes of the high-spirited celebration of ’40 Years of Punk Rock’ and the first live outing for older song ‘Take Me Down’, which features on Gary Crowley’s upcoming punk and new wave compilation, through to set closer, early single ‘Don’t Get Pushed Around’, The Zips jolted the already exuberant crowd into another level of euphoria, the resultant jubilation saw the night ending with a stage invasion.

With new songs, imminent albums and forthcoming gigs a-plenty from all three bands, the future looks dazzling for Scottish punk. If you haven’t already done so, seek them all out – or stay at home staring at your navel, the choice is yours.

Neil Hodge

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Because Vive Le Rock mag is crowded with great live reviews, we sometimes can’t get them all in!

So here’s a couple of extra reviews for yer…..


The LAST GREAT DREAMERS arrive in Oxford at the arse end of a nationwide tour in support of their latest release, the aurally agreeable pledge music, fan-funded ‘Transmissions From Oblivion’. Although struggling with man-flu the band deliver an energetic, heel kicking, Beechams assisted full throttle performance. Dressed in an array of hats, scarves, spotty shirts with obligatory black waistcoats, the band are Dickensian visual vagabonds and if ever a group sounded like they looked it’s the LGD. Set and album opener ‘Oblivion Kids’ initially suffers from streaky vocals due to said illness but front man Valentine digs deep and delivers a performance which grows in stature the longer he continues. Single ‘Glitterball Apocalypse’ avoids turning into the Euro 96 anthem ‘Three Lions’ by a goalpost and ‘Ashtray Eyes’ sees lead guitarist Slyder take over the singing duties. A finale of ‘Last Great Dreamers’ and the smash and grab closer ‘Dope School’ complete a spirited sixty minutes of Snot, Rattle and Roll.
Guy Shankland


FROM THE JAM open with a top ten treble of ‘Modern World’, ‘Strange Town’ and ‘Beat Surrender’ it’s a win win scenario that opens the nostalgic vocal floodgates. A rousing ‘Butterfly Collector’, ‘Down In a Tube Station’ and ‘That’s Entertainment’ are all given early set-list outings. Bruce Foxton confidently handles singing duties on ‘David Watts’, ‘Smithers Jones’ and ‘News Of The World’. ‘Going Underground’, ‘A Town Called Malice’ and ‘Start’ simply demonstrate the pure unadulterated song writing genius of a youthful Paul Weller. FTJ deliver these songs with energy, passion and breathe life into this timeless body of work. The songs all remain vital and provide an incisive snapshot of Thatcher’s Britain in the early eighties through the eyes of a young disaffected suburban male. A double finale of ’In The City’ and ’Eton Riffles’ puts the final cherry on a celebratory, Jam packed night. Twenty songs in ninety sing-a-long minutes, most sung word for word by the sold out, smiling, Sub89 crowd. That’s entertainment.
Guy Shankland



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Legendary Australian proto-punks Radio Birdman finally arrived in Scotland, almost forty years after their last thwarted attempt.

Support act The Fuckin’ Godoys kicked things off with an explosive set that demonstrated their love of 70s Brit-punk. Art and Steve have backed Birdman guitarist Deniz Tek on various tours and releases, but even as a stripped-down duo of drums and guitar, the twins generated enough energy to power the national grid.

The headliners opened with the atmospheric ‘Crying Sun’ before barrelling into ‘Smith & Wesson Blues’, guitarist Dave Kettley locking in seamlessly with bass legend Jim Dickson and the propulsive drumming of Nik Rieth.

Frontman Rob Younger was in fine voice and good humour, joking with the audience before the band tipped into a molten ‘Descent into the Maelstrom’.  The dapper Pip Hoyle showcased his keyboard skills on a rapturously received ‘Man with Golden Helmet’, while Deniz Tek gave us a masterclass in his influential guitar style.  The guitarist’s wife, photographer Anne Tek, kindly supplied the live shot for this review.

We got a slew of classics- ‘What Gives’, ‘i-94’, ‘Do the Pop’, ‘Aloha, Steve and Danno’, ‘More Fun’ and ‘New Race’, plus a surprise cover of Magazine’s ‘Shot by Both Sides’. ‘Anglo Girl Desire’ and ‘Alone in the Endzone’ were particular highlights, while an incandescent ‘Hand of Law’ included a snippet of The Chantays’ ‘Pipeline’.

This was an inspired performance by Australia’s finest- fingers crossed we won’t have to wait another forty years for a return visit.

Gus Ironside

Pic by Anne Tek

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Planning on going to any festivals this summer? JC Carroll of THE MEMBERS gives his views on some of the alternatives…..


THE BEST FESTIVALS IN ENGLAND (that you have never heard of)


I have just played three of the best festivals in England. And most of you will not have heard of them. There was no blanket coverage on BBC about them, there was not be articles in the national press about them. Later on in the year I should be heading off to play Rebellion in Blackpool and later still the great British Alternative Festival in Skegness

Skegness, Blackpool – smug southerners amongst you may chuckle. Sticks of rock, fish and chips, caravans, northerners on holiday, Butlins, how quaint.

Coldplay will not be playing or Kanye West or Adele or Jack Garrett or Sam Smith or Busted. You will not get an NME tent that comprises of people performing on a laptop.

You will get The Stranglers, Buzzcocks, The Damned, The Members and scores of younger bands like Knock Off, alt-rock, reggae, rockabilly, pirate shanties, folk music and every form of authentic music indigenous to these isles. People will travel from Australia, America, Berlin to attend because these are the biggest celebrations of alternative culture in the world.

These events will be largely ignored by the media and will sell out. The clue is in the name of the last festival, the word ‘alternative’.

In the 70s, the festival at Worthy Farm was alternative. It had David Bowie, Gong, Hawkind freaky hippie bands. Before punk we didn’t want pop, we wanted alternative music. John Peel championed it and punk grew out of it.

Three weeks ago we played at SOMETHING ELSE in Duns Tew, a completely solar powered festival in a field in idyllic Oxfordshire, organised by the legendary Gail Something Else. Gail is a Queen of the Alt scene, a scarlet-haired Tattooed Bodicea in a van. Her festival in Oxfordshire is totally off the grid: water from a well, solar-powered with wood fire pizza. It has travellers, punks, lawyers, doctors, civil servants and plenty of disabled people. Veterans of the Battle of the Beanfield, young punks, dreadlocked pirates – they are all there and they love my band The Members.

A week later we were celebrating 40 years of punk in a squatted building in Tottenham with a massive line up of punk bands old and new. Veterans of the 77 scene and younger acts. Audience age from 16 to 60. A squatted building, vegetarian food… Was this some sort of retro 70s themed party? No, this was BLANK GENERATION, London in 2016 where punk is not a retrospective token programme on Radio 2 or an exhibition at the photographers gallery. Where punk is a viable alternative to the soup of talent show cannon-fodder and landfill castrati-electronica pumped out of BBC and the commercial stations. Where punk is the antithesis of the commercial pouting narcissists that inhabit the front page of iTunes and the Google-owned Internet like a massive Westfield shopping centre in the sky hovering forever in our periphery vision

There’s that word again, the nemesis of alternative, ‘commercial’.

The third festival took place in a farm in a hollow in the South Downs, a more politicised bunch, double-decker buses ferrying people from Shoreham, Worthing and Brighton, men and women, taking their children to their first festival. Eighty different types of independent ales, ciders and perrys. No queues for overloaded chemical toilets here, it is largely run by a gentleman poet called Attila the Stockbroker with his hands firmly on the artistic tiller and the cheque book he promptly paid me with. A guest of mine and the veteran of many Readings and Bestivals cheerfully messaged me and said it was the best festival she had ever been to.

Many people only go to one festival a year and choose one with the most acts because it represents value for money. They try and make the best of the Syrian refugee camp accommodation and toilet conditions these large events with their corporate sponsors and the illusion of overpriced glamping offer. What they get is an official beer, more acts than they could consume in a month and hours of massive dehumanising queues in and out of the premises – a sort of Dystopian Babylon, a Hell on Earth, The Somme with Borough Market Vietnamese street food, Lana Del Rey and Ed Sheeran.

In Blackpool everybody stays in B & B and shits in a proper toilet. In Skegness you get a holiday apartment thrown in with cable TVs. There are no wellies, mud, chemical loos. Fish and chips, steaks and beer in a glass. Oh, and a roof.

Oh, and the other thing about alt festivals is they feed the band give you tons of beer tokens and pay you!

Bring it on !

With the exception of John Giddings’ Isle of Wight, the main festivals are punk-free zones preferring 80s and 90s revival acts to the cultural authenticity and grit of our generation .

Something Else, Blank Generation and Glastonwick are independent festivals run by brave people who champion the alternative, Vive Le Rock, Vive le Difference!


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THE DAMNED celebrated the festive season with low-key show at the O2 Academy, Islington in London on 20 December. Our man Andy Zel was there….

O2 Academy Islington

The Featherz warm us up nicely with their punky glam fare comprising the melodic buzzsaw guitar, crunchy riffage and spirited vocals of frontwoman Danie Cox. In addition to catchy originals such as ‘When Was The Last Time You Had Sex’ and ‘Takes One To Know One’ we’re treated to covers of T Rex’s ’20th Century Boy’ and Penetration’s ‘Don’t Dictate’ which go down very nicely and more or less sum up where this lot are coming from musically.

About to enter their 40th year, The Damned’s vigour seems to increase with age. Launching straight into ‘Wait For The Blackout’, they proceed to wire us up with an electrifying set, drawn largely from their classic trio of late 70s/early 80s albums – ‘Machine Gun Etiquette’, ‘The Black Album’ and ‘Strawberries’. Aside from the inevitable (and essential) ‘New Rose’ and ‘Neat Neat Neat’, only ‘Fan Club’ survives from the first album, but there are nods to the more commercial mid 80s era in the form of ‘Grimly Fiendish’ as well as ‘Eloise’ and a particularly exquisite version of ‘Alone Again Or’ – dedicated to Arthur Lee.

Standouts tonight include ‘History Of The World (Part 1)’, ‘Love Song’, ‘Machine Gun Etiquette’, ‘Smash It Up’ and the aforementioned ‘New Rose’. With it being the festive season we also get ‘There Ain’t No Sanity Clause’ and ‘Turkey Song’, the latter featuring guest appearances from fellow travellers Charlie Harper and Gaye Advert.

The Captain thanks us “for putting up with us for the last 39 years”. It’s been our pleasure sir. Here’s looking forward to the Albert Hall in May for the 40th!

Andy Zel


Photo by Dod Morrison

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MANIC STREET PREACHERS opened their The Holy Bible 20th Anniversary tour in Edinburgh last Saturday. Vive Le Rock’s Andrew Welsh was on the scene…

MANIC STREET PREACHERS / Usher Hall, Edinburgh

Few bands have enjoyed a relevance over the past quarter century like Manic Street Preachers.
Plenty have been around for at least as long and similarly prolific, like Killing Joke and Therapy?, but have long since ceased to puncture the public consciousness beyond a fervent, if limited, fanbase despite producing consistently excellent material. Then there are your Blue Nile types, those who pop up fleetingly with a new album every seven or eight years, take the critical plaudits and vanish again.

With 12 studio albums and the equivalent of at least another half dozen in assorted B-sides and rareties behind them since 1990, Manic Street Preachers have never been afraid of failure. Last year’s Futurology was a bold step into the realm of Krautrock, but surely their biggest gamble was 1994’s dark masterpiece The Holy Bible, a searing diatribe that covered subject matter such as anorexia, prostitution, the Holocaust, capital punishment and suicide with brutal honesty. Its principal lyric architect Richey Edwards went into meltdown post-Holy Bible and disappeared aged 27 in 1995, with his fate still unknown.

It is precisely because his childhood friends James Dean Bradfield, Nicky Wire and Sean Moore subsequently went on to greater success that seeing them reconnect with Edwards’ uncompromising youthful lyrics in their mid-40s has an emotional significance for the band’s fans. The industrial rock opener ‘Yes’ set the tone at the Usher Hall, with the bouncing massed ranks firing back every word to the Welsh trio in their forces-style garb, the stage similarly bedecked in camouflage netting a la the band’s original Holy Bible tour 21 years ago.

Shafts of humour amid a set made up of such compellingly bleak material were inevitably few, but the chorus of pantomime boos that greeted mention of Margaret Thatcher in the haunting sample that pressaged the militaristic stomp of ‘Ifwhiteamerica…’ raised a smile from Bradfield. The rugged frontman clearly relishes the challenge of reproducing his astonishing guitar-and-vocals performance on the album, and in a century-old venue noted for faithful recitals the intricacies of such visceral tracks as ‘Archives Of Pain’, ‘Mausoleum’ and ‘Faster’ rightly came across as the technical achievements that they are.

The second half of the show was an enjoyable selection from the Manics’ bulky back catalogue. Bradfield went solo on a heartfelt acoustic rendition of ‘The Everlasting’, “something a little more touchy-feely” as he understatedly put it following the first hour’s confrontational content. By contrast, the Guns’n’Roses-like anthem ‘Condemned To Rock’n’Roll’ was a flashback to the original Generation Terrorists, all slogans and spraypaint, with Wire saying the song had never been played live by the four-piece because he and Edwards had been unable to learn it.

Futurology‘s ‘Walk Me To The Bridge’ stood up well beside MSP classics ‘Motorcycle Emptiness’ and ‘You Stole The Sun From My Heart’, while the leviathans ‘If You Tolerate This’ and ‘A Design For Life’ were delivered with feeling and intensity.

As the 20th anniversary of 1996’s Everything Must Go album approaches, speculation is rife that they might be about to embark on another themed tour next year. With the throng at Usher Hall made up of feather boa and mascara-wearing veterans and 20-somethings alike, all keen to grab a slice of thrilling ’90s celebration, there appears to be no shortage of demand. Certainly, if the trio handle their commercial breakthrough LP with the same reverence and total commitment as they showed to The Holy Bible then a must-see experience lies in prospect.

Andrew Welsh


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Third full length from these German glam punks.

2nd District’s first two full-length platters may be familiar to some, as ‘Emotional Suicide’ (2006) and ‘Poverty Makes Angry’ (2009) were released through People Like You Records. For the uninitiated, 2nd District pump out a kind of glam-tinted ’77 punk that has flashes of early Manic Street Preachers coupled with the driving anthems of the Buzzcocks and Placebo-esque vocals. The emphasis is less on the indie sound of these comparisons here though, as tracks like ‘The Bourgeois Attitude’ have a glittery yet razor sharp stomp about them. ‘What’s Inside You!?’ does have a bit of filler here and there, but on the whole it carries some fine glam punk tunes in its grooves and its heady mix of old and new are blended seamlessly to create some highly listenable songs.
Miles Hackett

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Aussie hard rockers kick out the jams on album three.

If you’re curious as to who will keep Aussie rock alive and kicking once AC/DC and Rose Tattoo are gone then Airbourne are the answer. Imbued with that true gang mentality that makes their influences so exhilarating, they’re the real deal. They live for rock, booze, women and cars, with opener ‘Ready To Rock’ setting the tone. Foot stomping riffs, massive guitar solos and a truly relentless tempo give the record punch and passion. Highlights include the anthemic ‘Firepower’, ‘Live It Up’ and building ‘Back In The Game’, with choruses as big as the riffs. The title track has a darker, underdog edge, while the sleazy ‘Woman Like That’ and Metallica-esque ‘Hungry’ show some slight changes from the winning formula. But overall, ‘Black Dog Barking’ is straight-up, good time, beer and sweat-soaked rock music, in true Aussie style. Play very loud.
John Truman
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(Rise Above)
Hastings three-piece take you on a mind-melting prog/hard rock trip.

Heavily influenced by the likes of Budgie, Sabbath and Quo, this trio, named after a 17th century English naval commander, lead the listener on a mighty adventure with their mighty debut full-length. With Johnny Gorilla’s gritty, half-shouted, half-sung vocals and massively fuzzed out guitar, Louis Comfort-Wiggett’s wandering bass lines and Bill Darlington’s thundering drum work, this is a big step up from their EP, ‘Return To Zero’. With riffs and raw delivery on the album highlights, including blistering opener ‘Mark Of The Beast’ and the ominous ‘Scratchin And Sniffin’ – the latter of which is very short by their standards at just (!) five minutes. Dirty, lowdown and bursting with a love for their influences, this is a hefty debut that deserves to be played, loud. Hear it… and fear it.
John Truman

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SAN Francisco, California: world renowned for Alcatraz, glorious sunshine and the Golden Gate Bridge. However on the 23rd and 24th of March, The Warfield was to hold the punk rock birthday party of the year! As American punk rockers Rancid and English Oi! legends Cock Sparrer celebrate their respective 20th and 40th anniversaries in style.
From the moment of sound check both bands were equally as excited to play together as they exchange merchandise, beers and laughs with not a frown in sight. By gig time the atmosphere was electric as the people cram this once-abandoned theatre to its full capacity as both shows are sold out.
As the lights dim the crowd roar with excitement as boots stomp and beer flies across the ceiling, Cock Sparrer enter with a siren sounding ‘Riot Squad’. Even a crowded karaoke bar multiplied by ten could not compare to this crowd singing every word, as the echo of chanting bounces the walls throughout the set.
Beating through tracks such as ‘Working’, ‘Teenage Heart/Droogs Don’t Run’ & ‘AU’ the boys from ‘Sparrer showed their younger counterparts and headliners Rancid how it was done. With Cock Sparrer having the classic equation of sing-a-long hooks and catchy riffs it would be difficult for the band to disappoint as they close their set with ‘England Belongs To Me’ and ‘We’re Coming Back’ with two thousand American voices helping out on the choruses.
However, the party didn’t stop there. Rancid, the punk rock ska chart toppers, turn in an explosive set, opening with ‘Radio’ followed by the infamous ‘Roots Radicals’ and throwing the crowd into a frenzy as the floor becomes a dance floor.
From there they dropped into ‘Last One To Die’, a poetic, fast-hitting punk song taken from the latest album, which you can’t help but nod your head to and barrelling through other songs such as ‘Old Friend’,‘ Blood Clot’ and ‘Maxwell Murder’.
Near the end Skinhead Rob of the Transplants made a brief but fantastic appearance, joining in on ‘Red Hot Moon’, proving his voice is still powerful and strong. Ending the set Rancid closed with ‘Tenderloin’ and ‘Ruby Soho’, two of their most loved and well-known songs, finishing off a fantastic set in fine style.
Throughout the two nights both bands tweaked their sets to give the audience a different flavour, so the crowd didn’t see the same show twice, but included the classics the fans wanted to hear.
On the closing show Rancid paid respect to Cock Sparrer, inviting them back onto the stage where both bands sang ‘Happy Birthday’ to each other.
A celebration of the highest order.

Words/Photos: Sam Bruce


WITH the dents in his public goodwill still fresh over those recent episodes of buttery buffoonery, John Lydon’s return to the musical arena ─ with a PIL line-up that could hardly be described as ‘classic’ ─ has been greeted with some trepidation. Certainly the 2012 PIL, which retains guitarist Lu Edmonds and drummer Bruce Smith from the band’s late eighties incarnation, has its vices. Self-indulgence being one of them; with a set that runs well over the two-hour mark, PIL could comfortably have trimmed off forty minutes or so and probably been better for it. I would guess this failing stems from the organisation’s head, since Lydon ─ blowing snot from each nostril as he works the room like some council estate Arthur Askey ─ clearly relishes the spotlight, and seems intent in squeezing the most out of it.
Beefing aside though, there are points at which PIL are undeniably stunning. Bruce Smith and bassist Scott Firth are amply capable of reproducing that claustrophobic strain of earthquake dub that characterised the band at its most inventive. Edmonds ─ who looks as if he’s spent his time since PIL’s 1992 split splicing together unlikely combinations of stringed instruments on a desert island ─ summons up an impressive atonal squall. Over these foundations Lydon snarls and keens his way through choice moments from the PIL catalogue. There are moments of pure magnificence; few could argue with the very real sense of anger and betrayal packed into the iconoclastic ‘Religion’ or the accusatory ‘Albatross’, and the feeling of loss which Lydon still injects into ‘Death Disco’ is staggering. While the jury’s still out on the new material showcased tonight, top notch renditions of such milestones as ‘Rise’ and ‘This Is Not A Love Song’, and an unexpected encore of 1993’s Leftfield collaboration ‘Open Up’, ensure there is little call for the much-rumoured stagebound butter-pelting, which significantly did not materialise.
So that’s the contemporary Lydon then; bloody-minded, infuriating, and, quite frequently, brilliant. He could be wrong. He could be right.

Hugh Gulland

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Latest solo outing from Gunslinger main man and Hawklords bassist.

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


(Knuckle Soup)
Debut UK album from Brazilian rockers.


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

Chicago rebel bluesman walks it like he talks it.

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

(Rise Above)
NWOBHM unsung heroes make a mighty comeback.

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




East end punk-blues kings get radical.

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


(People Like You)

The Outlaw Carnie hits the road hard.


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


(Easy Action)
Former Damned guitarist goes acoustic.

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

The Boss addresses the financial crisis on seventeenth studio album.

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

’90s epic pop duo return with comeback album.


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


(Pirates Press)

Uplifting melodic punk ‘n’ roll from Chicago. 


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

Maximum fuzz and a little bit of soul.

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



(Cooking Vinyl)

Coventry indie rockers soar with harder edged third album.

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



(Clouds Hill)

Ferocious new sounds from the ‘Drunk.

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

A + E

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


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

Space rock legends return with typically sprawling 25th album.

“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


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


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


(Mr Bongo)

Sex Pistol’s daughter’s reggae debut gets reworked.

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

(I Hate People)
New Jersey roots punk rockers.

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



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

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)
Dark reggae and more from the prolific King.

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

Former garage rocker evokes the sound of Mussel Shoals.

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

(On The Fiddle)
A real return to form by the punk-folk institution.

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


(Bin Liner)

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

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




Re-Member ‘Sound of the Suburbs’?


‘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




Debut full-length from the Californian hardcore punk supergroup.


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


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

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


Welcome return from Coventry’s perfect pop heroes.

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

Cover their influences.

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

Iowan psychedelic blues rocker’s unreleased debut album.

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

(I Hate People)
Gritty “street rock” from San Diego.


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


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

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

Hawley goes stellar sonic.

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

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


English/Australian punk rockers unleash strutting debut.

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

Super-sharp veteran UK pop punks are back again, tongues in cheeks.

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



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


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



Confused funk rock fifth album with members missing from 1993.

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

Reggae legend’s early career’s 18 singles (and dub versions) compiled.

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

(Bristol Archive)
Timeless music for reggae/jazz lovers from influential Bristol figure.

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

The Crassical Collection reaches its climax with an atonal musical trip from the anarcho-punk architects.

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

(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

(Wrong Records)
Ice hockey loving Canadians’ glory days revisited.

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



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


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

The man in black’s spiritual songs on a double-disc collection.

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


(Damaged Goods)

Possibly certifiable Croydon punk/rock god.


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

Ragged and passionate full-blooded blues from Waters’ band.

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

MBV lynchpin remasters classics with mixed results.

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

(Bristol Archive)
Recorded in 1979 and lost in the archives, the band that would become Talisman have a proper release.

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 



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


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

Rare as hen’s teeth EP gets beefed-up re-issue.

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

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

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

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

Legendary label’s fuzztastic back catalogue compiled.

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

(Fantastic Voyage)
“Bloody ballads, prison moans, chain gang blues” says it all.

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




Serviceable punk/rock ’n’ roll comp.


“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

Just a great compilation of rocking tunes less travelled.

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


Sturdy (and badly spelt) ’80s hardcore.


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


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

(Big Beat)
A Big Apple original in The Big Easy.

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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