DECEMBER ISSUE RECORD REVIEWS
13th Floor Elevators
A live helping of original 60s psychedelia
Compiled from the best of the live recordings of the Texan psyche-pioneers, Psychedelic Circus presents the Elevators in their on-stage glory, a snapshot from the trippy underground of 1966/67. The Elevators took a bluesy strain of garage rock as their staple ingredient but worked a mind-bending lysergic warp into their sound. The sensory trail they mapped out has proved a decisive influence on acts as diverse as Television, Radio Birdman and Spacemen Three, and heard here in its raw live setting, their ongoing appeal is plain. This set includes fine versions of Monkey Island, Fire Engine and Levitation and not least, that perennial garage-band staple, You’re Gonna Miss Me.
Second album from this Reno punkabilly three-piece.
Cobra Skulls’ 2007 debut album ‘Sitting Army’ was one of the most exciting punk albums of the year so the follow-up is eagerly awaited. Their ‘King Kurt in a fight with Against Me!’ sound is given a more punky leaning on the 17 tracks here. Classic rock ‘n’ roll guitar licks add a new dimension to their sound and the trio’s rousing call-to-arms choruses and pounding rhythms are spot on again. The only thing missing is the humorous lyrical slant of the last album, in favour of a more overtly political attack. If you like a heavy dose of rock ‘n’ roll with your punk rock then this is for you.
New material from ‘90s pop punkers.
Scousers Crocodile God began peddling nifty pop punk in 1992, racking up some impressive releases, before splitting in 2000. They reformed six years later, and now, hot on the heals of Crackle’s ‘Two Weeks’ CD that rounded up all the band’s back catalogue, here they are with seven new songs, plus three old demo tracks. I’m happy to report that Crocodile God still sound like Green Day with wind behind them and a rocket up their collective arse – what a pretty mental picture. The demo tracks are interesting to hear but rough as hell and mainly demonstrate that, although all the key ingredients were there, the band just needed a good studio.
DANGER’S CLOSE/DESTRUCTORS 666
Destructors 666 and friends. Again.
Rowdy Farrago’s quest for world domination (or at least to swamp the planet in CDs) continues unabated, and this time Destructors 666 team up with Ipswich outfit Danger’s Close. They are, basically, a sturdy and able rock band with some intricate touches, but the male and female vocals have an unappealing, hectoring edge. Destructors 666, meanwhile, return to the original Destructors’ back catalogue, covering ‘Nerve Gas’ and ‘Sewage Worker’ (as an unlisted extra track, clocking in at just 33 seconds). They also give us a new song entitled ‘Saturday Night (Let’s Fight)’ plus a decidedly odd cover of ATV’s ‘Action Time Vision’.
THE DURANGO RIOT
Underground riff-rock gem from the woodlands of Sweden.
Adding more substance to the plethora of Swedish bands showing themselves to be more than competent rock ‘n’ roll purveyors are The Durango Riot, whose debut full-length belies their infancy. The Durango boys’ delectable mix of grunge, indie and plain ol’ rock penchant for big and simplistic guitar hooks puts them in the same league as QOTSA and Open Hand. The darker moments hint strongly at early Cooper Temple Clause, with ‘Drivers’ incorporating harmonica to add another mystical layer to their moody rock. All in all, ‘Telemission’ is another piece of evidence that when it comes to music, those Swedes are an embraceable bunch of arty perfectionists.
EDDY CURRENT SUPPRESSION RING
EDDY CURRENT SUPPRESSION RING
Aussies influenced by The Stooges. What could go wrong?
Once the initial confusion and minor shock has worn off, this racket becomes listenable. This is ECSR’s debut album, first released Oz-side in 2006 and now let loose on the British public for all to hear. Heavily influenced by the likes of the Stooges, the Troggs and other such punk-influencing luminaries and with a garage rock ethic to back it all up, this is oddly compelling, if uninspiring, punk/garage rock. ‘Get Up Morning’ sets the album up perfectly – listen to it and you’ll know whether or not you’ll like the rest of the album. Simple.
IN WHAT WAY
(Paper + Plastick)
‘90s indie rock worship from Buffalo, NY.
Influenced by the likes of The Lemonheads, Gin Blossoms and The Pixies, this trio certainly has an ear for an infectious melody. Featuring current and former members of The Exit Strategy, The Grail and Lemuria, their experience and songwriting skills shine through on this organic and catchy second full-length. While the vocals veer a little too close to Morrissey on ‘The Fall Man’, the female backing vocals add a beautiful depth. The upbeat acoustic sing along ‘Comb’ and the warm guitar tones of ‘Cubist Camo’ are cheery, breezy highlights. This is nothing thrilling but it’s a solid and honest take on a classic sound.
Dave Grohl’s rock giants do the ‘best of’ compilation thing.
With Christmas coming up it’s ‘greatest hits’ time but this seems a little redundant. You should own the Foo Fighters albums already but if you’re only familiar with their hit singles, then this could be for you. With a CD including 13 huge hits and fan favourites, from ‘This Is A Call’ to ‘Long Road To Ruin’ and ‘Monkey Wrench’ to ‘Breakout’, as well as two new songs – the almost AOR ‘Wheels’ and ‘Word Forward’, as well as an acoustic version of ‘Everlong’. The accompanying DVD (and book) with the deluxe edition includes music videos and live performances but this is mostly a solid retrospective rather than anything more. Amazing songs though.
SIGNS OF INFINITE POWER
Eleventh album from stoner rock veterans.
If it ain’t broke, don’t fix it. That’s the approach that Californian punk-infused desert rockers Fu Manchu have taken on their new album. Compared to their heyday of ‘In Search Of…’ (1996) and ‘King Of The Road’ (2000), ‘Signs Of Infinite Power’ is merely a solid record rather than anything exciting. While old-school fans may appreciate the band sticking to their guns with the likes of the scuzzy, laid back rocking of ‘Gargantuan March’ and ‘Bionic Astronautics’ and it’s admirable that they haven’t tried to force a new direction into their sound, it’s still a little disappointing that this record seems lacking a spark. Powerful but not infinitely.
LIVE FROM AXIS MUNDI
New York gypsy punks with a live CD/DVD set.
If you’re a fan of Gogol Bordello then this is a must-have. As well as capturing their live culture clash at New York’s Irving Plaza in 2007, music videos and bonus episodes on the DVD for the first time, the CD collects unreleased tracks together. With fan favourite ‘Troubled Friends’, ‘Stivali E Colbacco’ from the ‘Super Taranta!’ sessions, an instrumental version of ‘Immigrant Punk’, six tracks from their March 2008 BBC sessions and more, this CD/DVD set is a great mix of live material and rarities that gives plenty to the fans to make it a more than worthy release. Wear purple and watch and listen to this.
Six String Bandit
Doyley and all-star mates cover some classics.
The follow-up to last year’s Guitar Slingers collaboration is an on-going project as Diablo head-honcho Doyley continues to record any rockin’ luminary that gravitates anywhere near his studio. The list this time includes Koefte (Mad Sin), Liz (Deadline), Nigel Lewis, and Jeroen Hammers (Batmobile) as well as some of the best instrumentalists in the current rockin’ scene. This album is excellent, although pretty much all the songs are covers so in content it’s slight weaker than the barnstorming previous one. But don’t let that put you off, these are great artists reworking classic tracks. Album three is already underway so watch this space.
GRIME AND PUNISHMENT
(Thirty Days Of Night)
Fun thrash punk with a carefree attitude.
With a title like that you know this is going to be slightly tongue in cheek. With “slob life” noted as one of Headcase’s influences, you could say that they could be quite hard to categorize. Take thrash punk with plenty of crossovers, and this is what you’ve got: a comical quintet made up of pipe-smoking and Frosty Jack cider drinking lads, who deliver an energetic EP consisting of five tracks that speak about zombies, partying and being grimy. Very fitting. ‘Grime and Punishment’ opens with ‘Bottoms Up/ Pipe Down’ which sets the tone for the duration of the EP; fast paced and infectious is definitely their method. Ending with the title track to seal the deal, these guys really are headcases… in a good way.
Always Looking Forward
Fun-loving ska from bonny Scotland.
Infectious and overflowing with energy, The Hostiles are Scotland’s answer to that ‘90s Gainsville ska punk sound we’ve come to know and love, with brass and bratty lyrics abounding on this debut album. Although not widely known outside of their northern territories, the six-piece are no novices when it comes to the big leagues, having played shows with Leftover Crack in addition to an upcoming Mad Caddies support slot. With tons of material still waiting for the studio, don’t be surprised to see a lot more of these rowdy rudie pipers in the near future.
Rowland S Howard
Former Birthday Party guitarist breaks a long silence
It’s ten years since Rowland S Howard last broke cover with some new material, so no prizes for the work rate. For its tardiness though, Pop Crimes finds the post-punk legend with his instincts sharply honed; clambering the chasm between the darkest blues and the bittersweet dramas of sixties girl pop, Howard wrenches the sound of frayed nerves from his battlescarred Fender Jag. Trading verses with HTRK’s Jonnine Standish on Girl Called Jonny, the artist stakes a claim as a disreputable modern-day Lee Hazelwood, an impression born out on cuts such as Ave Maria or Wayward Man. The title cut itself is a masterpiece of lurching distopian dread underlined by Rowland’s signature guitar twang. It’s too long since we last heard this; here’s hoping the old reprobate stays motivated.
THE MASTER ALCHEMIST
(This Is Music)
London psych metallers get scuzzy.
One thing you can’t accuse this three-piece of being is generic. With their sludgy, scuzzy guitar sound (using only a three stringed guitar!), the high-pitched soul-sounding vocals of Chan Brown and aggressive drumming make this a thrilling and refreshing debut. Heavy in a way that’s not tired and overplayed, this album is bursting with a raw energy and imagery of wizards, dragons and fantasy subjects. ‘Spells Of Deception’, ‘Conjure War’ and ‘Evil Forest’ are all highlights. Recorded on analogue in four days and played entirely live, this is one trip that fans of Hawkwind and Monster Magnet have to take. The Invasion has begun…
Classic Stiff album with bonus tracks and bonus DVD.
It gets top marks because you couldn’t wish for a better value package than this. Of course you have to like King Kurt to like but there are plenty of reasons to love the sax honking, guitar twanging bequiffed madness. This was the album that launched the early ‘80s King Kurt phenomenon that even bothered the UK pop charts and culminated in an appearance on Top Of The Pops. The messy, infectious nature of King Kurt is captured here in all its glory, both with the album and 7 bonus single tacks, including the bombastic ‘Wreck A Party Rock’. The DVD features really rare footage, proving why they’re legends almost 30 years after their formation. Nuts!
THE LAWRENCE ARMS
BUTTSWEAT AND TEARS
Chicago punks celebrate 10-year anniversary with anthemic EP.
Over the last decade The Lawrence Arms have released five albums of dual-vocaled gritty yet melodic punk. With their latest full-length, 2006’s ‘Oh! Calcutta!’, arguably their finest effort to date, this EP (the idea and title of which was thought up when the band formed) lives up to that high standard. ‘Spit Shining Shit’ and ‘Them Angels Been Talkin’’ are energetic and gritty blasts, ‘The Slowest Drink…’ is slightly more introspective and ‘The Redness In The West’ has a country influenced opening. Digital only track ‘Demons’ sounds like a track from Brendan Kelly’s side project The Falcon. Not many bands sound this fresh and exciting ten years in. Kudos guys.
LE RENO AMPS
TEAR IT OPEN
Glaswegian rockabilly punk rock excellence.
The debut album form four-piece Le Reno Amps comes as a refreshing slap in the face. ‘Outlaws’ jitters and smashes whilst telling of inevitable destruction. If the Cramps met Green Day, ‘Outlaws’ would be the result. This album plays out in two ways. The first is the Johnny Cash folk-stomp of ‘If You Want A Lover’ that matches tight harmonies with dark messages and clanging bass. Route two is the balls out, Proclaimers pissing on the White Stripes rock of ‘The Gilded Road’, which sounds like a ho-down in the deep South. It’s rare for a band to make upbeat anthems sound dangerous and still fun, yet Le Reno Amps do exactly that.
(Thirty Days Of Night)
Harmonious heavy hardcore.
This five track EP may be another hardcore release but it’s definitely not the same old bullshit you’ll hear time and time again. ‘Carcaroth’ opens with ‘The Paper Over The Cracks’, a three-minute instrumental that will leave you craving for more. ‘Stonehill’ produces a raw rage that fans of Gallows will enjoy, ending with the ironic lyric “I need silence in my head” as they batter their instruments and shred their voices. The intensity of Lonewolves’ onslaught is nothing short of staggering. The changing tempo of the crushing guitar solos is what keeps the album’s black heart beating. This EP is definitely music to my ears.
Masters Of Reality
New album from Chris Goss’ psychedelic legends.
It must be almost 21 years since the highly-revered Masters Of Reality unleashed their debut album to much critical acclaim. Frontman Chris Goss has since produced stoner rock legends like Kyuss and QOTSA, so it’s unsurprising that the Masters are only now releasing their sixth album. ‘Pine’ is a tripped out journey through desert and sky, twisting via ‘60s psychedelia and the Palm Springs desert rock scene. This album will no doubt appeal to fans of Hawkwind, Cream (of whom drummer Ginger Baker was once a member) and getting stoned. An odd record that is a bit of a square peg in a round hole, it’s interesting enough to devote your time to.
She Put The Baby In The Microwave
(Stroked And Bored)
And they fucked a zombie and wrote a gay love song for Nick 13!
This is twisted and brilliant. Mutilators hail from San Francisco and have embraced the essential element that is missing from a lot of modern psychobilly – humour. The title track is hilarious and ‘Gay Love Song For Nick 13’ isn’t giving the great man a hoot as you might presume. ‘I Fucked A Zombie’ is pummelled along with a glorious slap bass with just the right tempo to perform that sick act. Thankfully it doesn’t rely on gimmicks and shocks, that’s just an added bonus in an album brimming with great psychobilly tunes. Track this down!
WINDS OF OSIRIS
Debut full-length from gritty Leeds hardcore rockers.
What happens when you get a band that seems to love the rawest of classic metal and rock as much as feral punk and hardcore? The mutated snarling beast that’s born as a result is The Plight. Despite taking a few songs to find their feet, with the first couple of tracks stumbling along, before they stand tall and proud with the likes of the groove-laden hard rock of ‘Into The Night’ and the instrumental ‘70s love of ‘Lifted To The Sun’. From then on you get elements of doom, prog, metal and hardcore that gels brilliantly and is pretty fresh. Like Sabbath and The Bronx in a punch up, The Plight are fighting dirty.
SECOND LONG PLAYER RECORD
Junk shop glam artifact recently uncovered
One of many never-made-its of seventies pop, David ‘Kubie’ Kubinek has a long and convoluted discography behind him, of which this 10-song set seems to be a hitherto missing piece. Recorded at Trident Sound in 1974 with no subsequent release, the master tapes then disappeared forever. This release was remastered from a cassette copy and doesn’t sound too bad for it. The Rats seem to have straddled the divide between 70s rock and bubblegum glam, and on evidence of this recording may well have gone further; Second Long Player is hardly the classic lost album the sleeve notes would seem to suggest, and there’s nothing here to equal their ace Turtle Dove 45, but for an also-ran it’s an interesting enough slice of pop history with a certain period charm to it.
THE BERLIN SESSION
(Do The Dog)
Ska kings strike back with a new singer.
After the announcement that vocalist Sharon Devenish was leaving the band, the future of trad-ska warlords Rebelation seemed set for undesirable change. Fortunately, fellow Do The Dog patron Ruby Taylor has stepped up to the mark and this 5-track mini album is the first evidence of this brand new partnership. Recorded over two days during 2008, The Berlin Session captures the band at their most spontaneous and as usual, their trademark rocksteady style is delivered with aplomb. Taylor’s addition is more than welcome and her crisp, soulful harmonies dance alongside the reggae riddim in perfect cadence. A perfect addition to a lazy afternoon and a teaser taste of brilliant things to come.
HELL IS EMPTY
Bleak second album from Baltimore’s hardcore punk bruisers.
Recorded with the mighty J. Robbins (Against Me!, Modern Life Is War) in their hometown, if you’ve ever watched a season of ‘The Wire’ you’ll understand why this Baltimore-based bunch aren’t the cheeriest guys. Themes of desolation, disillusionment and self-loathing abound on ‘Hell Is Empty’, which sees vocalist Rob Sullivan at his darkest lyrically, with his raw, gravely (yet still clear) vocals grating against downbeat but melodic hardcore music. This album sees the band up their game with a record that fuses hardcore, punk and rock into a snarling beast that will appeal to fans of all these genres. Highlights over the 10 ten tracks include the declarations of despair ‘Dead Weight’ and ‘Solitary’ and the confrontational ‘Two Words’. Embrace the negative.
LIVE AT THE BBC
Priceless early Slade, live and very loud.
Slade’s glitter rock heyday may have guaranteed them a household name but, prior to their stomp-along hit singles, there was an unacknowledged backlog of material from their formative years. This gives a rare insight into the band’s development, from late-‘60s live-circuit contenders to glam rock ‘70s chartbusters. Through the stylistic meanderings of their early BBC appearances, their live energy is apparent, not to mention their increasing confidence in their own material; originals such as ‘Dirty Joker’ and ‘Raven’ are early indicators of Slade’s massive potential. By the time of the live set on disc two (1972), the hits are coming thick and fast, and Slade have truly found their identity.
Welcome To The Nightmare
Excellent darkness from sunny California.
The Stellar Corpses play a very American take on psychobilly. The standards of a whacked-the-hell-out-of slap bass and rockabilly guitar are there in abundance but there is a definite AFI-esque horror punk crossover going on here. It’s hardly surprising when you consider the label that they are on. Big choruses and sweeping arrangements are coupled with deeper than your average psycho lyrics, whilst not smothering the rockabilly undercarriage. If this was given the airplay it undoubtedly deserves Stellar Corpses could easily find their fan base much wider.
(Not On Your Radio)
One of the finest UK punk albums in years? Quite possibly.
Standing proud in the face of today’s abundance of pop rock bands and side-partings, Newport’s Strawberry Blondes are resolutely punk rock to their very core. Influenced by the likes of The Clash they’re also immediately identifiable as a UK band, from their accents down to their gleeful mixing of genres such as punk, hardcore, ska and reggae. Bringing to mind the feel good vibes of a Rancid album, ‘Fight Back’ (the follow up to
‘Rise Up’ flits between rough and ready street punk anthems such as ‘Goodbye Inspiration’ to groove heavy, head-nodding reggae numbers. Not content to plough the same tired furrow, the Blondes have aimed for the stars with their second album – and reached them with ease.
AGENTS OF THE UNDERGROUND
Californian punk veterans celebrate their 20th anniversary in style.
It’s crazy to think that these seminal metal-infused skate punks have been around for so long. This is their seventh studio album and it’s their strongest album for some time. While 2007’s ‘Blackhawks Over Los Angeles’ sounded like they were resting on their laurels, tracks such as opener ‘Black Crosses’, ‘Ghetto Heater’ and ‘The Fever And The Sound’ show that they’ve rediscovered their urgency and infectious melodic punk sound. Melding the speed of 1996’s skate punk classic ‘Suburban Teenage Wasteland Blues’ with the musicianship of 1998’s ‘Twisted By Design’, while playing down the metal influence that often ruins their sound in my opinion. Melodic/skate punk fans rejoice, Strung Out are back to their best!
The Best Of Western Star Psychobilly Vol 1
Rocking and varied taster of right here, right now.
I’m not sure why this is on Step 1 and not Western Star but, whatever the reason, it’s a decent sampler of what is being pumped out of Alan Wilson’s studio week in, week out. There are 19 tracks here, ranging from Lord Sutch covers from old-school legends Frenzy and The Sharks to the steaming fresh songs from the likes of The Eyelids and Henry and the Bleeders. There are 18 artists strutting their stuff. The Frantic Flintstones’ closing stomper ‘Westerland’ is little short of epic.
MAINSTREAM MUSIC IS SHIT
Ska punk comp bursting with underground energy
Another riotous release from Manchester’s A-1 ska punk machine That’s Not Skanking, ‘Mainstream Music Is Shit’ marks the label’s second pick-and-mix record and features a generous 37 tracks of independent and unsigned bands from all over the UK. From their own homegrown punk fare like Stand Out Riot and The Fractions, to the cream of Do The Dog (and others), like Jimmy The Squirrel and Rasta4Eyes, and just a whisper of psychobilly from The Hyperjax to top it off, there’s little more to ask from this ambitious release. This clearly shows that the fires of the underground are still burning strong. True punk rock talent in its rawest form.
SAINTS AND SINNERS
Genre-spanning punk rock comp from Germany.
Preserving Germany’s unrivaled reputation for the world’s best punk ‘n’ roll are Wolverine, a record company conceived in 1992 with now over 150 sleazy releases under their belts. ‘Saints And Sinners’ is a 21-track showcase of their finest fare, with sounds changing from paddy-punk to horrorbilly and from swing to ska in pleasing succession. Notable tracks include ‘Revolution Radio’ from new UK signees Strawberry Blondes, along with Pipes And Pipes (AKA the European Dropkick Murphys) with their salty ode ‘City By The See’, but to be honest, pretty much every track is a winner in its own way. This writer may have fallen in love with Wolverine, and it’s only partly due to the name!
WORN IN RED
IN THE OFFING
Virginian hardcore rockers with powerful debut.
Hailing from the seemingly rich punk scene of Richmond, VA, this album is full of the kind of raw, throat shredding post-hardcore that you know is absolutely blistering live. You can’t argue with a debut album that’s as intense and passionate as this. The likes of ‘When People Have Something To Say’ and ‘Mise En Abyme’ combine intricate musicianship, melodic guitar lines and driving rhythms with incredible, gravel-gargling screamed vocals that naturally fit the music’s ebb and flow. Fans of Planes Mistaken For Stars, Attack! Vipers! and Glass And Ashes should definitely check this out. Turn it up to full volume and listen until your ears bleed.