DECEMBER REVIEWS (31 new reviews inside)
Business as usual from Aussie rawk legends.
Let’s be honest, when it comes to AC/DC albums, would you prefer the band to merry toddle off for a few years to emerge proudly clutching a four CD album of freeform gabbacore and jazz funk interludes that consist of Angus Young playing the kazoo with his scrotum or came back with another round of granite solid songs with the word ‘rock’ in them, played at a million decibels and packed full of solos, blazing riffs, Brian Johnson’s dust ‘n’ bones pipes and lyrics about girls and the bad things he’d like to do to them given half the chance? Thought so. More of the same, but when the same’s so damn good, who’s complaining?
ANOTHER MUSIC IN A DIFFERENT KITCHEN / LOVE BITES / A DIFFERENT KIND OF TENSION
Sumptuous two-disc reissues of these pop-punk must-haves.
4/5 / 5/5 / 4/5
A near-faultless string of 45s between 1977 and 1980 has immortalized Manchester‘s Buzzcocks as the definitive punk rock singles act, but they could easily cook up an album’s worth of pop punk delirium. These reissues unite their original albums with the associated singles, b-sides, demos, radio sessions and live cuts. The evolution from the jittery, three-chord teen angst of ‘Another Music In A Different Kitchen’ (1978), through the more assured delivery and songwriting of their breakthrough ‘Love Bites’ (1978) and the powerchord-propelled ‘A Different Kind Of Tension’ (1979), shows how they consolidated their reputation as purveyors of catchy punk rock.
DESTRUCTORS 666/MARCH TO THE GRAVE
Spite and sniggers on this half ‘n’ half EP.
This is a welcome split from Stamford’s March To The Grave and new incarnation Destructors 666 (formed from the Destructors). Both acts donate a good mix of piss-take old school punk and horror-tinged GBH speed. It’s a shame to see March To The Grave with a smaller share of the record, but the three tracks provided are a laugh riot, especially opener ‘Bad Bob’. Destructors 666, a darker reanimation of their former selves, offer a few solid Destructors classics, a cover and new track ‘Hey There God Dammit’, which is presented in the band’s signature brutal approach. Let’s hope we soon see more of both bands.
DIE! DIE! DIE!
Well-titled if they added ‘broken’ at the end.
The blurb that came with this likened them to musical luminaries, along with plenty of words of praise about Die! Die! Die! such as, “New Zealand’s finest avant-garde punk band”. As you can imagine I was almost drooling as I put this in the player. Sadly the swirling, artsy punk noise that ensued was pleasant enough to begin with, but soon became tedious and at times downright dull. It would be unfair not to say it had its odd moment where there was a glimmer of hope that it might perk up, but it only disappointed again.
C I V I L W A R
Minneapolis punk heroes smooth their rough edges.
‘Midwestern Songs of the Americas’ (1998) and ‘Versus God’ (2000) are two punk classics in my eyes. So I was surprised when this long-awaited fourth album (six years since their last record, ‘Situationist Comedy’) didn’t instantly blow me away. This is a poppier, more polished album, with Erik Funk’s cleaner vocals dominating and more mid-paced, straightforward tunes than in the past. The melodies are huge on sing-along ‘Gainesville’, but it’s on more urgent tracks like ‘Like Eye Contact in an Elevator’, with (elsewhere sadly absent) duelling vocals, and ‘The Art of Whore’ that they do what they do best. Not D4 firing on all cylinders, but a definite grower of anthemic, melodic punk.
UK82 punks’ defiant return.
You gotta hand it to Stoke-on-Trent punk legends Discharge, they pretty much invented hardcore back in 1982 with the release of their seminal ‘Hear Nothing See Nothing Say Nothing’ album and indie chart hits like their ‘Why’ EP. In fact, up until Discharge steamed in, Britain and punk rock in general had simply never heard the likes of ‘Ain’t No Feeble Bastard’. Re-ignited since 2001 with the Varukers’ Rat on vocals, ‘Disensitise’ is the band’s second album since reforming. Titles like ‘Spoils of War’ and ‘Ignorance Your Surrender’ signal it’s business as usual, with thundering drums, searing speedcore riffing and apocalyptic war cries. Sounding like they would still slaughter most of today’s hardcore contemporaries with a single riff, Discharge still won’t let the bastards grind them down. And that’s good enough for me.
Yank/French split album.
As far as I can make out, this split between all-girl San Francisco outfit Fabulous Disaster and French crew Octoons has been released as a joint effort by several labels, including Cider City, Felony and Brokenheart, but the sleeve is none too clear on this point. The four tracks by Fabulous Disaster, who split up last year, are a punchy mix of punk/sleaze rock that gives the likes of the Donnas a run for their money. Them’s the breaks. Octoons are impressive at first, assaulting the eardrums with a potent blend of hardcore and metal guitar, but they disappear down a dark alley of widdly guitar solos and impenetrable tempo changes. No, I’m not sure what that means either.
GRAHAM DAY & THE GAOLERS
Seminal Medway garage rocker unleashes another belter.
Formerly of the legendary ‘80s garage band The Prisoners, as well as subsequent bands such as The Prime Movers, Planet and The SolarFlares and more, Graham Day is back with more of what he does best. The underrated UK hero of garage rock returns with his new band The Gaolers, joined by members of US band The Woggles. On retro blasts such as ‘Begging You’, ‘Pass That Whiskey’ and the raucous ‘Wanna Smoke’, they blend melodies with choppy guitars and see Day’s sublime song writing shine through again. Forget the White Stripes, if you want to hear how garage rock should sound then this is a pretty damn good place to start. A delicious brew.
IT’S A LIVING
Canadian puck-rockers skate into play with a live release.
Nomeansno’s belligerent alter-ego have somehow managed to throw together a live album between rink side scuffles, and the result is pretty much as expected: slushy. Amid the slurring and hockey banter however, there are some salvageable tracks and pretty hilarious interviews, all delivered in the band’s off-the-wall Ramones style. Classics like ‘Hockey Song’ and ‘Joe Had to Go’ stand out and there’s even an unreleased track, titled ‘Cabbage in a Bag’. The bonus DVD, entitled ‘All Grain Brewing With Johnny Hanson’ features tips on how to make your own ‘rockin’ ale’ from scratch, plus some live videos thrown in for good measure. Belch!
THE WILDEST CARD
The third album and the best yet.
The Hyperjax have been doing the hard yards touring over the last few years but it has paid dividends with an extremely impressive third album. There are some cracking songs on here, with some excellent guitar work and catchy sing-a-long choruses, that could well propel them into the higher stratosphere of stardom that they sorely deserve. The whole package is hugely impressive but a special mention has to go to the outstanding double bass playing that weaves the whole ensemble together and really makes the album.
HARMONY AND DISSIDENCE
Foos guitarist Chris Shiflett’s mod punks hit the bulls-eye with second album.
Jackson United’s 2004 debut ‘Western Ballads’ was a solid effort but ‘Harmony and Dissidence’ is a big step forward. Featuring Chris’ brother Scott (Face to Face) on bass, Doug Sangalang on guitar (ex-Screw 32, Limp and more) and Foos bandmates Dave Grohl and Taylor Hawkins providing studio drums, ‘Harmony…’ is sharper and more infectious. The urgent political new single ‘21st Century Fight Song’ gets things off to a great start, ‘Undertow’ shows reggae influences and a darker edge is shown on ‘Trigger Happy’. Second single ‘White Flag Burning’ is a soaring, punchy sing-along and ‘Stitching’ is a new mod anthem. The Foo Fighters may be on a break but Jackson United are on fire.
You know those annoying people that insist on getting their guitars out at parties?
There are some great singer/songwriters doing acoustic albums at the moment. For it to work the listener has to identify with the songs and the singer, otherwise it all becomes a bit like being force-fed a student’s self-pitying blog while he strums a tune on his guitar and hums a tale of lost love. Well that’s what Joey Cape’s (frontman of skate punks Lagwagon) new album sounds like, all dribbling with dubious lyrics and no entertainment value. No that’s unfair, the first song does mention the Ramones. Then it’s dull as dishwater until halfway through the last track, ‘Home’, where it kicks in all too late. Maybe just start there.
PAIN IS HER GAME
Blast off with this German punk n’ roll debut.
If Lemmy, Brian Setzer, a case of Jim Beam and a ‘Punk-O-Rama’ record were locked in a room together for a week, then Johnny Rocket could well be the end result. Despite their German heritage, this rock ‘n’ roll quartet sound like they just crawled home from some backwater Arkansas bar; playing a fusion of rockabilly, blues and biker punk. 11 tales of booze, babes and bust-ups make up this debut release. Each track is angry, throaty and written with fun-loving guile. And if that’s not enough, check out the cheeky snaps of pin-up vixen Fuel Durdan featured in the album booklet. Well, I do declare!
LONG TALL TEXANS
Re-release of Brighton psychobilly trio’s finest hour.
Brighton’s Long Tall Texans are veterans of the ‘80s psychobilly scene and are still a big draw on the live circuit. ‘Saturnalia’ was originally released in ’89, when the genre was moving on from the increasingly clichéd B-movie/horror schtick. It kicks off with the controversial ‘Get Back, Wetback’, which examines the treatment of ethnic minorities in the old West, resulting in them becoming the target of ill-informed accusations of racism. Other long-time live favourites included are ‘Cairo’ and a cover of the Golinsky Brothers’ ‘Bloody’. Two decades on, it stands up well without sounding dated and is highly recommended for newcomers to psychobilly. The sleeve notes by some reprobate called Simon Nott are well worth a look too.
COMPLETE JOHN PEEL SESSIONS
Howard Devoto’s post-Buzzcocks masterstroke.
A pivotal punk rock figure, one-time Buzzcock Howard Devoto was unwilling to stick to genre constraints, instead riding the movement’s energy with Magazine. Their consistently challenging output over the course of three years is neatly condensed in these sessions. From ‘Touch and Go’s opening chords in 1978, it’s plain that Devoto and co. could deliver where their contemporaries struggled to promise, with an intensity and needling tension that are arguably more pronounced here. 1979’s ‘Permafrost’ is majestically unsettling, even with its “I will drug you and fuck you” refrain edited for broadcast purposes, and ‘Song From Under The Floorboards’, from 1980’s superb ‘Correct Use Of Soap’ LP, is Magazine’s most wondrous ‘pop’ moment.
MORE MONEY LESS GRIEF
Young upstarts from Peckham show us how it’s done.
Raucous and with more than just cheeky cockney swagger, The Metros pack a punch with their debut album, sounding like Bugsy Malone crossed with Ian Dury. As well as indie rock they unleash infectious funk punk that thrashes its way through tracks like ‘Last Of The Lookers’, that are at once jaded and celebratory of the teenage generation of sexual adventure, excess and friendship. There’s plenty of tongue-in-cheek humour to boot. Having supported The Streets recently, they deserve success for creating such an original and witty take on the somewhat tired ‘indie’ genre.
Wash your mouth out with something fresh.
For a self-proclaimed ‘ska/pop’ band, it’s a massive surprise to the ears to be greeted by grinding electro beats. In fact, it’s mostly cheery, sing-along pop-induced tunes that are vaguely reminiscent of UB40 – which is a good thing I’ll have you know. It’s feel good music at its best. ‘That Girl’ is so undeniably happy that it’s irresistible and difficult not to bop along, despite the clichéd lyrical focus. Mouthwash proudly walk the line between Specials-style ska and electro-pop, with melodic vocal lines that stay the right side of gritty. ‘What I Don’t Know’ even features blazing guitar lines and booming vocals but is so catchy it could easily see them break into the mainstream.
COME OUT FIGHTING
The real deal in Irish folk punk.
If you are a fan of the Dropkick Murphys and Flogging Molly and you’ve not heard this, you want to get a move on down to your local CD outlet. This compares to that duo like any So-Cal Dickies wearing punk outfit do to The Clash. This is full on and in your face aural assault by a six-piece fronted by Leeson O’Keeffe who used to be a member of Shane MacGowan’s Popes. The live shows are rumoured to be legendary and if this is a toned down example of them, then they must go off in a big way. Fourteen tracks to knock your socks off.
Scorching rocksteady the way it should sound.
The sultans of riddim No.1 Station, along with label mates Pama International, are among the ripest crop of newly emerging UK trad-ska outfits. If you like your music oozing with soul and a Jamaican sound, then look no further. There are succinct horns, ethereal harmonies and rocksteady floor-fillers aplenty on this new release from premiere roots merchants Rockers Revolt and a nice mix of vocal styles, including guest spots from Ms. Moretti and MC Boss, complete the album’s non-instrumental tracks. Check out the haunting dub ditty ‘Player Hater’ and the summertime skanthem ‘Alpha Skank’ and you’ll release exactly why Mark Lamarr called No.1 Station “the UK’s premiere ska band”.
NORTH SIDE KINGS
US hardcore band excel at delivering every cliché in the tuff guy book.
Whether or not you like this CD very much depends on whether or not you think generic tuff guy hardcore is either a) a joke or b) really good fun. If you fall into the former category then turn away now, but if you sit the latter, and the idea of a band who sound like all the usual suspects (Hatebreed, Terror, Knuckledust) rocks your world, then you’re guaranteed to enjoy this album. Although the pseudo-gangster lyrics of the likes of ‘Street Trash’ and ‘Nice Girls Finish Last’ might require you to disengage your brain partially to enjoy them, ‘Suburban Royalty’ is a blast.
Vintage live album from Durham’s punk figureheads.
Finally available in their entirety, the two shows represented on this twin CD set, Thames Poly in 1978 and Newcastle City Hall in 1979, both see Ferryhill’s finest in sparking live form, albeit at very different stages of their career. The Woolwich gig sees Pauline Murray and boys riding high with debut album ‘Moving Targets’, undoubtedly the group’s finest moment and a landmark punk release. By October 1979, Penetration are playing for the history books, effectively signing off at their last hometown gig with a blistering career run-through. Around all too briefly in their original run, Penetration were a blast of unsullied idealism, and the adrenaline kick of their live shows is evident here.
Nice ‘n’ sleazy.
Currently on tour with the Stranglers, Isle of Man’s Poison Hearts may not be startlingly original, but they know how to hit you where it hurts. Jonny P’s drums pound most impressively, Paul Confused’s guitar chuggs and soars and Mark E Moon’s vocals alternate between earthy bombast and metal shrieking. The band tear through 13 tracks that take in street punk, early NY sleaze, Motorhead-style riffing and all conceivable points in between. Nice production job as well, and you even get a stick-on tattoo. Well, I got about ten – does that count as a bribe?
ONE MAN SKA EXPLOSION
(Do The Dog)
He’s back for more…14 tracks more.
Mr. Blake has his heart in the right place when it comes to his music. With the artwork of his second solo album a tribute to Trojan and his uplifting ska ditties, it’s promising. But, as always with ex-Whitmore man Mr. Blake, his downfall is his voice. ‘10ft Wall’ is one of the few tracks that he manages not to force his vocal style into a constipated growl and mostly sticks to a pleasant soulful tone. That said, the album isn’t horrifying, with plenty of surprises; such as with a gritty guitar intro of ‘Easy Come Easy Go’. This will keep some ska fans happy, it’s just a shame about his voice.
THE CRIME HAS COME
Thrashing Teutonic skate hardcore.
You gotta love this band’s name, it instantly cast a smile across my face. This, their second album, is a furious thrash metal artillery of sixteen breakneck songs in the vein of fellow Germans Spermbirds, plus a sprinkle of classic crossover
thrashers like Nuclear Assault. The guys have their tongues firmly stuck in their cheeks throughout tracks like ‘Run From The Cops’ and ‘Sin and Tonic’ race by with an unnerving ferocity harking back to the eighties. The only downside to Scheisse Minelli is that they are a little bit of a one trick pony, with little variety to be found from their thrashing blueprint. That aside it’s all good clean fun!
THE DIVIDING LINE
Crossover thrashers decimate everything in their path.
Short Sharp Shock (SSS) really live up to their name on their new album as they blast through 20 songs. ‘Purple Reign’ is possibly the most breathlessly fast thrash song ever created, the effort taking its toll on vocalist Simon Fox as he pants like he’s run a marathon at the end of the song. Another highlight is ‘Sk8+Destroy’, which features skaters Geoff Rowley and Howard Cooke on gang vocals. But these Scouse crossover thrash artists offer slight a slight breather from the pummelling with a couple of instrumental tracks. The riffs are heavy, the vocals vitriolic and super fast, and ‘The Dividing Line’ makes for a great punky, thrashy party.
STAR FUCKING HIPSTERS
UNTIL WE’RE DEAD
Crust/punk/ska super group pick up the baton from Leftover Crack.
Star Fucking Hipsters are a who’s who of the NYC squat punk scene, featuring vocalist Sturgeon (Leftover Crack), drummer Ara Babajian (The Slackers), guitarist Frank Piegaro (Degeneracy, Ensign, Fanshen), bassist Ula Beeri (ex-World Inferno/Friendship Society) and vocalist Nico De Gaillo. Originally conceived around the time LOC worked on their ‘Deadline’ split with Citizen Fish, the band carry on where those songs left off. While Sturgeon has lost none of his angry vocal delivery (nor any of his socio-political lyrical bite), it’s often tempered by Nico’s more dulcet tones, like on ‘Only Sleep’ and ‘This Wal-Mart Life’. Therefore, this band is very much a natural progression from LOC.
PRIME CUTS / THE ART OF REBELLION / LIGHTS CAMERA REVOLUTION & STILL CYCO AFTER ALL THESE YEARS
Timely re-issues of a clutch of Suicidal’s classic albums.
4/5 / 3/5 / 4/5
It only seems fitting that some of the Venice Beach legends’ later material is dug out of the archives for the nice digipak-style re-release treatment. ‘Prime Cuts’ is a ‘best of’-type affair and only falls short of a 5/5 because tracks from their first two albums are re-recorded and fail to capture the venom of the originals. ‘The Art Of Rebellion’ is one of their last as a ‘metal’ band and lacked their usual punch. ‘Lights Camera…’ on the other hand is one of their finest, and a re-recording of their seminal self-titled album in the shape of ‘Still Cyco..’ makes it a tasty little double set. Anyway, buy ‘em all if you know what’s good for you.
LIVE FROM LONG BEACH
TSOL’s swan song. Or not.
“Right, so this is the end, after twenty five fuckin’ years of this.” So sayeth TSOL singer Jack Grisham on stage at The Vault, Long Beach, California, on 25th November 2006, one of the band’s two ‘farewell’ shows that weekend. It was quite a coup for Chris Valdez’s Bristol-based label Cider City to release this CD, capturing the legendary band’s final outing, but then TSOL rather spoiled things by reforming only months later. Some people have no consideration. Oh well, this is still a top notch 25-track round-up of the band’s finest moments, powerfully delivered, crisply recorded and chock-full of Grisham’s witty asides.
Pop punk master class from John Peel faves.
Firing out of Derry, Northern Ireland, the Undertones are only rivalled by the Buzzcocks as the masters of the 3-minute pop punk masterpiece. Swirling harmonies, Fergal Sharkey’s creaky vocals, and the O’Neil brothers chiming guitars still sound great on this 2 CD, 56-track collection of live, demo and studio tracks from their first 2 album period. And so, ‘Teenage Kicks’ may be John Peel’s favourite song of all time, but the likes of ‘Jimmy Jimmy’, ‘The Love Parade’, ‘Family Entertainment’ and ‘My Perfect Cousin’ all deserve to be in the top 100 punk songs of all time too.
BIKES ‘N’ LEATHER – ROCKIN’ AT THE ACE
The motorbike-themed rockin’ tribute to the Ace Café.
If you like rock and motorbikes (who doesn’t?), then you’re going to love this. The idea is to celebrate the legendary Ace Café. The mixture is fairly eclectic – ranging from new recordings by legends like John Leyton and ‘70s classics from Crazy Cavan and the Rhythm Rockers to psychobillies The Guana Batz. There are 20 tracks in total. The booklet gives a history of the bikers’ favourite greasy spoon, as well as a personal journal by veteran BBC rocking DJ Geoff Barker. Seasoned collectors may well have a lot of these tracks but if not you can be assured that it’s all great stuff.
WESTERN STAR PSYCHOBILLIES VOL 3
More great psychobilly and the like.
This is the third in the ‘Western Star Psychobillies’ series and it’s probably the best yet. Most of this material is still hot from the studio. For example, The Eyelids were only brought to Western Star’s attention in April but here they are with three great tracks boding great things to come. Other stand outs come from The Rock-It Dogs, the Hyperjax and Henry And The Bleeders. The majority of this collection is by refreshingly new talent, though Chuck and the Crackpipes and Frenzy get a look in too just to keep the young pups in check. By far the most disturbing track is ‘King Sperm’ by Popeye’s Dick, but don’t let that put you off!