JANUARY RECORD REVIEWS (24 new reviews inside)
GOOD SUITS AND FIGHTING BOOTS
Raw garage blues from Northern Irish duo.
This is proper ‘sell your soul to the Devil at the crossroads’ blues in its rawest form (none of that glossy, watered down stuff the likes of Clapton and Cray peddle these days) played with a garage punk sense of urgency. The obvious comparison to make would be Jon Spencer or Seasick Steve, although they’ve also been compared to the Black Keys and Rory Gallagher’s early work. Choc-full of songs about God, Satan, fighting, drinking, cars, sex, love and revolutionaries and with great titles like ‘One More Nail Outta Rock ‘n’ Roll’s Coffin’ and ‘The Belgians Are Coming’, they’ve hit on a winning formula.
PUNK ROCK ANTHOLOGY
Great package from underrated ‘77 punks.
Of all the original punk bands, the Boys are perhaps one of the most underrated and forgotten. Releasing their first single ‘I Don’t Care’ way back at the start of 1977, they were really there at the start when punk began. And, as usual, Cherry Red have done a great job in putting together this 2 CD, 47 track anthology. They always did a nice line in power pop/new wave and classic tracks like ‘Brickfield Nights’, ‘Kamikaze’ and ‘Livin’ in the City’ still sound great today. Having just played a couple of London shows, catch their Christmas alter ego the Yobs at December’s Rebellion Festival because they are still a great live act.
YOU CAN’T HIDE FROM THE COMPUTERS
Do blues and hardcore punk mix? Well The Computers make it!
Well the strap line says it all really. Hailing from Exeter, The Computers have really hit a niche that’s never really been explored before. A curios mish-mash of ‘80s hardcore, aka Black Flag and MC5 style garage punk and rock n’roll, riffed up with some classic twelve bar blues and you have, well, The Computers. It sounds like it wouldn’t work on paper but tracks like opener ‘Teenage Tourettes Camp’ have a groove and stomp about them the likes of which I haven’t heard in a long time. It’s raw and abrasive – everything punk and rock n’ roll was meant to be!
NEVER TOO LOUD
Further rock greatness form Canadian legends.
Danko Jones just don’t quit, and it shows in how tough and lean their music is. Their fourth album is stripped down musically, it sounds live and is simply recorded. It still packs one hell of a punch though. ‘City Streets’ has the astute melody and romance that Thin Lizzy were so good at, whilst ‘Still In High School’ is all dumb kid jokes set to riffs that chop like AC/DC. Danko Jones are so good at documenting, basically, a man’s life. This isn’t to say it’s chauvinistic – ‘Take Me Home’ is clearly them dying to go home (“take me home, to where my records are”) and is set to country harmonies and QOTSA guitar riffs. This album rocks, period.
THE GO SET
A JOURNEY FOR A NATION
Melodic Celt-punk from Melbourne.
The Celtic punk genre seems to be enjoying a bit of a renaissance at the moment, with contemporary acts like Flogging Molly, Dropkick Murphys and Neck flying the flag and veterans The Pogues still selling out venues the world over. The latest name to add is Australian quintet The Go Set, who having built up a following down under, look set to do the business in Europe. Rather than opt for a raucous, Guinness-soaked approach they’ve opted for a more subtle sound, recalling The Levellers or Dexy’s Midnight Runners circa ‘Come on Eileen’. Billy Bragg is cited as an influence and his ‘Waiting for the Great Leap Forward’ is covered here. A good set of uplifting tunes all round.
STREETBLOCKS AND CITY LIGHTS
(Let It Rock)
Impressive debut from bass-bothering Welsh trio.
This is an impressive debut mini album from the young Welsh trio, already making a name for themselves on the live circuit. This is hard rockabilly-inspired punk with attitude, and aptitude to boot. The classic formula for this stuff is pretty much followed – rattling guitar and chugging double bass with sparse drumming – but the Graveyard Johnnys have that something else. There is a freshness about this debut that bodes well for the future. Stand-out track is ‘Holloway’ with a stomping beat, sing-along chorus and atmospheric presence. Look out for these fellas.
HISTORY OF GUNS
Bleak as you like industrial rock.
History Of Guns describe their sound as ‘Dark’ and they’re not joking. Opening track ‘Born Brutalised, Bought then Buried’ builds up ominously with a tinkling piano before a harsh voice barks “Welcome to the world, little cunt!” over a metal riff. It’s the musical equivalent of watching Ben Kingsley’s malevolent gangster in ‘Sexy Beast’. ‘It’s Easy to Go Blind’ is just as cheerful sounding, like Joy Division’s Ian Curtis providing vocals for Therapy? The musical backdrop owes much to the likes of Killing Joke and Nine Inch Nails. It’s very well executed but the overbearing nihilism wears you down after a while. Mind you, it’d make great stocking filler for the miserable goth in your life.
Devilishly sexy female-fronted rockabilly.
It sure is nice to see some females re-emerging in the rockabilly world – a scene that these days seems largely male-driven. Hepkittens like Wanda Jackson and Jean Chapel were frontrunners of the genre, even nurturing its birth, but when the revival came, so the ladies went. Imelda May is here to change things. As genuine as the 2000’s will allow, ‘Love Tattoo’ marries the smoky attitude of classic ‘50s rockabilly with the jaw-dropping sex appeal of piano-top jazz in an equal mix of ballads and bad boy bass. Topped off by Miss May’s honeyed vocals, that aren’t without their fair share of bee stings, ‘Love Tattoo’ is a deliciously devilish sophomore solo effort from this burlesque singing sensation.
BOOTLEGGING THE BOOTLEGGERS
Barrel scrapings with redeeming qualities.
Originally released in 1990, a five year gap from Thunders’ last album of original studio material, this ragbag of live cuts was received at the time as the stalling tactic of a washed-up punk legend, with at least some justification. You’d have to be psychotically obsessive to find any merit in a sloppy medley of ‘In Cold Blood/Stepping Stone/Hit the Road Jack’, nevermind the regrettable ‘banter’ between tracks. Even so, there’s a few goodies tucked away amid the dreck; ‘MIA’ easily betters its studio version and the acoustic renditions of Dylan’s ‘Joey Joey’ and The
Stones’ ‘As Tears Go By’ are genuinely soulful, touching moments. It’s hardly the definitive Thunders document, but since it’s going out low-price, who‘s to argue?
LET ME RUN
MEET ME AT THE BOTTOM
Great stuff but it all sounds familiar.
This has all the ingredients that are needed to make a great melodic punk album. There are excellent lyrics, rumbling bass lines, heartfelt vocals and a full and swirling production. The trouble is, when hearing something great here, my head kept screaming ‘Gaslight Anthem’, ‘Alkaline Trio’, ‘Hot Water Music’. The bits that would normally make a good album a great one were popping up over and over again, but to my ears they were ideas cherry-picked from other bands. Saying that, it is a very good album. It’s just that so little of it is original.
THE LUCKY DEVILS
One of the top ten rockin’ albums of the year.
This album simply mashes you into a quivering splodge of rockin’ rolling pulp from the opening bass line, and boy, oh boy, this is bass amp busting stuff. This is rockabilly/psychobilly of the highest order. There is very little original, but every element of it is 100% top notch and there are some additional musical flourishes. They take on some brave covers that work well, but to my ears the strength is in the originals. This is one of the best rockabilly-flavoured albums of the year so track it down.
BEG TO DIFFER/ PROVE YOU WRONG/ RUDE AWAKENING
Fancy digipak re-issues from New York’s finest metal three-piece.
3/5 / 4/5 / 2/5
Back in the early ‘90s when Prong were in their heyday they were second to none in the offbeat noise/metal stakes. These re-issues chart their 2nd, 3rd and 5th albums respectively. ‘Beg To Differ’, their major label debut, is a joyous rhythmical affair which saw the band assert their sound into left of centre style. Following on was the mighty ‘Prove You Wrong’ a groove-laden affair that started to introduce samples into their crunchy metal mix. By the time ‘Rude Awakening’ hit the streets the trio were a force to be reckoned with as Raven from Killing Joke joined their ranks and the band were on the crest of a wave resulting in a bit a trendy industrial reworking. The groove and crunch however fell to the way side in favour of a machine like chug which leaves this album uninspiring and dull. Sadly not all good things come in threes, so grab the first two for some definitive Prong.
APPEAL TO REASON
The Chicago boys are still going strong.
There are so many bands that are so insistent in shoving their ‘message’ in your face that they sacrifice the quality of their music. This is definitely not the case with Rise Against. Sure, they’re doing their bit by using recycled paper and vegetable inks on their CD packaging, but opening track ‘Collapse’ is absolutely amazing. The lyrics are political, but you can’t deny it’s a fantastic song. Future single ‘Re-Education’ contains a shout-along chorus that will lodge in your head for days. ‘Saviour’ is a great love song, unexpected given the general seriousness of the rest of the album. Proving you can have purpose and write great songs, Rise Against are amazing.
ANARCHY IN THE U.V.
Quite colourful, and rather good, early anarcho types.
In punk terms, Rubella Ballet founding members Gem Stone and Pete Fender had something of a privileged upbringing, as their mother was none other than Vi Subversa, singer with anarcho legends the Poison Girls. This set is the first of two that will round up all the band’s output, this one spanning 1979-1985 – from two previously unreleased tracks from early 1979, ‘The Night Russia Died’, and ‘Napalm’, to the decidedly more commercial-sounding ‘Money Talks’ single, with Zillah sounding more than a little like Siouxsie. Not a bad thing, of course. Rubella Ballet were as political and committed as anyone else on the anarcho scene but delivered a pleasing tuneful and powerful, if sometimes doomy, sound.
The new Sham re-do the old classics.
Not unnaturally, many people wondered how Sham 69 would fare after parting company with founding motormouth Jimmy Pursey a couple of years ago, but in fact they seem to have gone from strength to strength. Now led by guitarist Dave Parsons – not strictly speaking a founder member, but the one that wrote and played on all the classics – the band have proved to be a much more active Sham incarnation than we’ve seen in many a year. Here you get the new line-up re-recording jaunty renditions of 23 of the band’s finest compositions, which, while sometimes lacking the bite of the originals, bode well for future live shows.
STIFF LITTLE FINGERS
LIVE AND LOUD / FLY THE FLAGS
Belfast’s finest caught in action.
This two CD release is pretty much a live ‘Best Of’ collection as it includes versions of Stiff Little Fingers’ finest moments, including ‘At The Edge’, Nobody’s Hero’ ‘Suspect Device’, ‘Alternative Ulster’ and ‘Wasted Life’. Disc one is from the band’s reunion tour of 1987 and features their classic line-up and a greatest hits set. Disc two is from a sell-out show at Brixton Academy in 1991, by which time The Jam’s Bruce Foxton had been recruited on bass. The recording quality is crystal clear and, whilst it doesn’t have the urgency of their seminal ‘Hanx’ live album, it’s a good starting point for new fans and a nice addition for die-hards.
NEW YORK BLOOD
No surprises on debut solo effort from Agnostic Front guitarist.
It’s taken 28 years in Agnostic Front for founding member Vinnie Stigma to get around to releasing his solo album, and I doubt anyone will be surprised by the fact that much of this album sounds an awful lot like his ‘day job’. As such, much of ‘New York Blood’ is characterised by fast-paced, boisterous street punk edged hardcore that’s really a lot of fun. Unfortunately, while the half of the album that sticks to the AF blueprint is great, the other half fails to hit the spot. There are more than a few uninspiring mid-paced numbers which do little to stick in the memory, while the handful of bar-room sing-alongs are reminiscent of a pub rock outfit – not good. One for staunch fans of Agnostic Front.
GET IT TOGETHER
The Supersuckers return to further demonstrate the evil powers of rock n’ roll.
You know exactly what you’re going to get when you put a new Supersuckers album in your stereo. Anthemic, straight forward, American rock n’ roll (unless it’s one of their country albums). Eddie Spaghetti and company are experts in creating fist-pumping, good time rock and ‘Get It Together’, their first album in five years, certainly shows that the band aren’t losing their touch. Highlights are numerous – the slightly melancholy ‘She Is Leaving’ is great while the more up-tempo ‘I’m A Fucking Genius’ is sure to go down well at gigs. It isn’t exactly revolutionary but when you can create rock n’ roll this good, why bother changing?
KICKED IN THE TEETH
The tartan psychobillies kick you in the chops.
It took almost 20 years for The Termites to come up with a follow-up to their now considered classic slab of psychobilly and debut album ‘Overload’. They have had a chequered past that has included a fair bit of booze and a liberal spanking of violence. The songs have been given a Celtic feel, with the addition of a frantic fiddler, but, that aside, this is the original line-up and they continue pretty much where they left off. The subject matter is often violent and sexual with no thought of taboo. This is tough but hugely enjoyable stuff.
Against Me! frontman goes back to his solo roots.
Tom Gabel is the next in a seemingly endless line of successful band frontmen to come out with a solo offering, although that’s how Against Me! started. As also seems to be the normal in these cases, the 7-track EP was pretty much knocked out in a couple of weeks, with sparse instrumentation and guest vocals from Matt Skiba and Chuck Ragan. But are these albums vanity projects or essential additions to the output of their respective bands? This is well written, but is it going to be an all-time favourite or just keep you going until the next Against Me! release?
IT CAME FROM THE BEACH
Rockin’ surf instrumentals – the antidote to winter.
This is just what is needed to brighten up a miserable winter’s evening – 26 rockin’ surf and hot rod instrumentals from the golden era of the style. Forget the Beach Boys, this is the stuff the hardcore draggers and surfers would have been listening to. As you would expect with an Ace release, this comes with a hugely informative booklet so you can read all about the bands that laid these tracks down. Have it ready for the car to play on your first trip to the beach next summer, all honking sax and twang for your thang you can almost smell the sex, wax, petrol and nitrous oxide.
VINCE RAY AND THE BONESHAKERS
A primal rockabilly audio-visual workout by Voodoo Vince.
This is the best of Vince Ray’s releases. This album really does capture the eerie B-movie feel you get from his artwork, though I’m sure that wasn’t the priority. It bounces along like the Elephant’s Head on a Saturday night. The rhythm section take no prisoners, while Vince’s guitar is sparse but more than enough to send this little beauty into orbit. There are thirteen voodoolicious tracks, including a superb version of ‘What’s Inside A Girl’. The blues get a bit of a look in too, but this is mainly stompingly good in your face rockabilly from the darkside. There’s even a free poster.
THE FINAL CHAPTER
Impressively raging hardcore punk retrospective from UK outfit.
Durham’s Voorhees may have died a death back in 2001, but they’re still talked about in reverential tones within the UK hardcore and punk scene. This 21-song collection, bringing together their contributions to a host of split EPs, shows just why. Their confrontational brand of in-your-face, fast and furious noise drew on the blueprint laid down by Discharge but also brought a definite hint of some Negative Approach worshipping to their short, sharp shocks. And, while there’s not much in the way of diversity or studio sheen here, there is plenty of pure, unfettered hardcore rage. That’ll do just fine.
THE WELCH BOYS
They sound like they’ve been drinking and you made them angry.
Tough street punk with a message relayed by growling vocals, sing-along choruses and lots of blood and thunder is what you get from this Boston five-piece. They have toured with the Dropkick Murphys and there are obvious similarities, not least the aggression with which the songs are delivered. You get the feeling that they mean it in all eighteen tracks. This is great stuff, I’m sure that they would all be great blokes to go out on the lash with and that the gigs would be a scream. The only drawback is that some of this sounds just a bit too generic. Great boozy nonsense but not essential.