JULY RECORD REVIEWS
21ST CENTURY BREAKDOWN
Ambitious return from legendary trio.
“Sing us the song of the century” sings Billie Joe Armstrong by way of introduction, lost in a static mist before the trio kick into the muscular power-pop of the title track and single ‘Know Your Enemy’, heralding the arrival of first act ‘Heroes And Cons’. As far as ambition goes, ‘21st Century Breakdown’ has it in spades, from the concept (main characters Gloria and Christian’s journey across the United (and not so united) States,
witnessing bonfires of ideals and morals from paranoia and the rise of the Christian right. Recalling the likes of The Who and U2 more so than, say, Black Flag, Armstrong, Dirnt and Cool have created an album that, were it a few tracks shorter, would be a masterstroke. However, the likes of ‘Before The Lobotomy’, ‘Peacemaker’ and ‘Restless Heart Syndrome’ bloat an album that would have been genuinely fantastic, muddying the narrative along the way. However, the sheer infectiousness of the Tom Petty-esque ‘Last Of The American Girls’ and ’21 Guns’, coupled with the rip and roll of ‘Murder City’ sees ‘21st Century Breakdown’ destined to climb the same heights as ‘American Idiot’ – perhaps even surpassing it.
‘American Idiot’ 2004
THE PEOPLE OR THE GUN
Plenty to say on Pittsburgh punks’ ninth full-length.
Anti-Flag’s first album with SideOneDummy was recorded at their own studio that they built in Pittsburgh so they could record an album ‘on their own terms’. They have come up with some material that is going to win them a whole host of new fans with songs like their opening track ‘Sodom, Gomorrah, Washington D.C.’ which is definitely as catchy as everyone is telling us swine flu could be. The topics of their angry (but slightly more melodic) and still furiously paced punk are bang up to date. Job losses, rebellion, politicians’ consciences and religion rammed down throats are all battered about with their trademark holler and chant-back vocals. Since the band had all the time in the world to put down this their new slab of anti-establishment it is perhaps surprising that the album is barely 30 minutes long (with a pretty throwaway hidden track to boot), though the 11 tracks are thought-provoking. That hidden song forgotten, maybe the clue is in the anthem of the closing track, the rabble-rousing ‘The Old Guard’, which could well be a joyous out with Bush and in with the Obama celebration. If correct, it would explain why Anti-Flag appear to be less venomous and pissed off, but the great tunes shine through, albeit only 10 times. Not angry enough to write ‘get mad about’ material in this dawn of a new age of hope maybe?
‘Die For The Government’ 1996
‘Their System Doesn’t Work For You’ 1998
‘A New Kind Of Army’ 1999
‘Underground Network’ 2001
‘The Terror State’ 2003
‘For Blood And Empire’ 2006
‘The Bright Lights Of America’ 2008
WHEN SWEET SLEEP RETURNED
Hallucinatory guitar grooves from San Francisco.
Assemble Head’s expansive guitar sound stretches out between California‘s sun-bleached canyons and the further limits of overdriven space-rock, with a heavy nod towards the acid-blasted sounds of the late-sixties west-coast and more than a hint of early Floyd and Hawkwind at work to boot. When Sweet Sleep Returned is an exploratory sonic sweep, propelled by limber psyche-rock grooves into shimmering, tranced-out realms. It‘s beguiling enough to have your hardened Cheese scribe driveling away like an old hippie, but this particular headspace is no bad place to be. So wipe that smirk off your face, punk, and don’t bum me out. It may well do the same for you.
(People Like You)
Punk rock supergroup strikes black gold.
Formed by Circle Jerks/Bad Religion axe-man Greg Hetson and Goldfinger guitarist Charlie Paulson, Black President are a brash collective comprised from some of the gnarliest punk rock talent the underground has to offer. But despite Hetson’s recent departure, this debut shows no signs of flaccidity: in fact it’s pretty damn hardcore! 14 tracks of classic punk rock built for bar room brawls, with a cheeky Motorhead number thrown in for good measure, can we really ask for more? Well, maybe a tour with Bouncing Souls this June. If you were wondering, the name came before Obama – ain’t life just hilarious?
Old Bristol punks deliver the goods.
When these long-running punks split recently, it proved to be so brief that it made TSOL’s hiatus look like a few decades in the wilderness. But hey, we’d have missed the old buggers if they’d stayed away. And the same goes for the Bolsheviks! This new album on their own Red Square imprint is darned good. The predominant influence on a lot of these 11 tracks seems to be old school NY punk, with plenty of nods to R&B (in the old sense) and the spirit of the Clash is never too far away. Crunchy funky closer ‘The Need’ is the stand out track, but there’s no filler here.
DRUGLORDS OF THE AVENUES
A definite grower from Swingin’ Utters vocalist’s new side-project.
Druglords of the Avenues are a punk supergroup, comprising of Swingin’ Utters, Knuckle Up, Moonshine, Butterface and Hot Heresy members, so I didn’t think it was wrong to expect my bollocks to be blown off by this debut album. Unfortunately for my astronomically high expectations, we’re merely presented with serviceable street punk. Fronted by the haunting, gruff vocals of Johnny Bonnel (the man does have a beautiful voice), on first listen this just didn’t click. Repeat listening shows the record to be one of depth, lyrical intelligence and a stealth-ninja-style way of getting trapped in your head. Special mention goes to the fantastic artwork.
DUSTY RHODES AND THE RIVER BAND
PALACE AND STAGE
Swirling, huge sounds with no pigeon hole.
I suppose these days with the world’s biggest punk band releasing what has been described as rock opera, this isn’t totally out of place. This album is one you have to sit back and listen to while it swirls around you unwrapping its layers as it goes. And layered it is, you name it (possibly with the exception of punk) it’s all here. Folk, rock and country are probably the bedrock of this album as it takes you on a journey of harmonic vocal-related laments and misdeeds. The general feel of the album can be unnervingly dark in places, but it certainly is quality.
LIVE IN BORDEAUX
(Ter A Terre)
Live album and DVD from these often overlooked funk metallers.
Back in the funk metal explosion of the early ‘90s, poor old Fishbone blew up and then were somewhat left by the wayside. However, they still whip it up live, the thing they have done best all these years. Anyone who has seen this madcap circus will tell you what fun they are so this live album and DVD does its best to capture the madness. On the whole it succeeds, although I suspect just the DVD would be enough as its good to see and hear the mayhem. Somehow though, it just isn’t the same as seeing them in the flesh – you need to feel the sweat.
GENERIC / GONE FISHIN’ / PUBLIC FLIPPER LIMITED
Essential recordings from the SF artcore giants.
4/5 / 4/5 / 4/5
A vital influence on the 1980s hardcore scene, yet cussedly at odds with it, Flipper emerged from the San Francisco punk scene at the end of the ‘70s and trailblazed their driving dissonant noise across the US underground for the next half-decade or so. These two studio albums and the double live ‘Ltd’ collection reveal Flipper as an abrasive, provocative and highly inventive combo, melding their morbid humour with a nagging punk-core grind, their white-heat guitar noise shot through with an experimental jazziness that yields in places – the prime example being the classic ‘Sex Bomb’. The most demented don’t-give-a-fuck freeform flip-outs this side of the Stooges’ ‘Funhouse’.
WHEN THE FABRIC DIDN’T FIT THE FRAME
Lumbering and rumbling Joe hits low.
Joe Coffee hail from the mean streets of New York City and play gritty, mid-paced garage rock in a low down and dirty manner that will have aficionados of such sounds in raptures. The almost totally self-penned songs are as understated and morose as the fella on the cover (though thankfully better performed than he is drawn), although they do perk up a bit with the odd sax honk in the more ‘cheerful’ songs. The whole album sounds slightly ‘muddy’ but that does really go with the ambience that deep voiced Joe and crew are hoping to put across.
IRISH PUNK COLLECTION
Canadian paddy punk.
Fast approaching their 10th year in existence, the Mahones pull out all the stops on this, their eighth album. Like most bands playing this sort of thing, they lack the dangerous, slightly seedy edge that Shane MacGowan gives to the Pogues, but the Mahones are boisterous, uplifting and a hell of a lot of fun. Their own songs like ‘Drunken Lazy Bastard’ and ‘Drunken Night In Dublin’ (do we spot a trend here?) are top notch. Scruffy Wallace from Dropkick Murphys guests on ‘Amsterdam Song’, and there are also creditable versions of ‘Irish Rover’ and traditional song ‘Whiskey In The Jar’ that the likes of me know from the 1972 Thin Lizzy single.
HOLY CITY ZOO
Killing Joke’s Raven’s last recording.
With his sudden death, the colourful life of bassist Paul Raven was celebrated by a shocked rock world last year. And his death was not only a great loss to his long-term bands Killing Joke and Ministry, he was also in the final stages of recording this debut for the star-studded Mob Research. For fans of KJ and Ministry, it won’t disappoint. With Warrior Soul’s Korey Clarke on vocals and members from Queens of the Stone Age and the Mission, ‘Holy City Zoo’ is a sonic slice of 21st century rock ‘n’ roll. At times concrete-like heavy and with just the right amount of Warrior Soul swagger, Mob Research were looking like real heavyweight prospects. R.I.P Raven.
THE SOHO SESSIONS
(Moon Ska World)
Debut solo slice from the superstar of ska.
Nick Welsh (aka King Hammond) has run the 2-tone gamut in his time, lending word-slinging and musical skills to bands as diverse as The Selecter, Bad Manners and Skaville UK, to name but a few. ‘The Soho Sessions’, his first solo effort, compiles all the choicest morsels from his accredited writing and recording career in kickback acoustic format and, truth be told, the man has never sounded better. From leisurely classics like ‘Return Of The Ugly’ and ‘Memory Train’ to lesser known, but equally smooth, tracks like ‘Outrageous’, this one’s bound to have you digging in the attic for those 7” originals. Set your skank to slo-mo: this record is a chair dance extravaganza.
Anglo-Finnish rock ‘n’ roll machine.
Containing past and present members of the Vibrators, the Wildhearts and Tokyo Dragons, and a European mix of half Finnish, half English, No Direction convene under a united flag of pure, full-on rock ‘n’ roll. Taking a trademark Scandinavian sound of greased up riffs, sideburns and songs about their ‘Dead End Generation’, ND have made a fresh sounding mix of Social Distortion and the Backyard Babies at their ‘Total 13’ best. And with potential hits like ‘Skip Tomorrow’ and ‘Right Today’ along for the ride, they are most definitely heading in the ‘right’ direction. BC is trying to get them to play our Vive Le Punk club night, so you’ve been warned!
Long-awaited second album from Michigan gruff punk rockers.
Celebrating their 10th anniversary this summer, fans of this Grand Rapids, MI band will be excited to finally hear their new album, following a two year lull between recording and release. Thankfully, it was worth the wait. Their raw, dual-vocalled punk songs sound more powerful and honest than ever, and instrumental stretches (and perfect cover art) add to their helpless but not hopeless lyrics. Hot Water Music and Jawbreaker fans will enjoy the heart-on-sleeve grittiness of ‘Bridge Jumpers’, ‘All This Time’ and upbeat closer ‘Siblings’ – the light at the end of the tunnel with the final lyrics “I’m strong now, so much stronger than I’ve known”. Album three is on the way too…
BEWARE OF THE GOD
Reformed Irish anarcho punks.
Paranoid Visions formed in Dublin way back in 1981, joining in the anarcho punk scene with gusto, releasing records on their own FOAD label, licensed to All The Madmen, and playing with bands like Poison Girls, the Subhumans and the Instigators before splitting in 1992. They reformed in 1996 to support the Sex Pistols, then again in 2001 and 2005, and have continued since, releasing a new album, ’40 Shades Of Gangreen’, a couple of years ago. And here they are again, still dark, brooding, and angry as all hell, with a rather spiffing, nicely produced new album. ‘I Am The One’ is especially fine, a pumping crowd pleaser, but there’s really nothing to disappoint here.
THE UNQUOTABLE A.M.H.
(Paper + Plastick)
Rousing third full-length from Seattle melodic hardcore punks.
With two storming albums of Kid Dynamite-loving melodic hardcore punk and an exhilirating live show, Shook Ones are one hell of a band. As hinted at with recent releases, ‘The Unquotable A.M.H.’ is their most uplifting and melodic (but pleasingly not overproduced) record to date, with vocalist Scott’s raw voice mixing perfectly with infectious guitar lines and hooks on ‘For Collards’ and the melodic punk anthems ‘For Flannel’ and ‘They’re Very “Yes”’. More None More Black than Kid Dynamite here, this is a stunning album right up to the passionate crescendo of closer ‘Tip The Weatherman’ and looks set to be my soundtrack of the summer. Play it loud and sing along.
MOONSTOMPIN’ AT CLUB SKA
(Moon Ska World)
Skinhead reggae originators reform to shake your ass!
They’ve gone by The Bees, Seven Letters, Zubada and The Pyramids since their late ‘60s origins, but Symarip are undeniably one of the most iconic bands in ska history, accredited with kick-starting the skinhead movement. Now brought back to life 35 years on by former members Monty Neysmith and Roy ‘Kaleb’ Ellis, this is truly as authentic as British ska can get. Recorded live at London’s premier ska club, the album oozes West Indian riddim’ and good times and by the end you’ll be green with envy that you didn’t get your tickets. Luckily, there’s a bonus 90 minute DVD to show exactly what you missed.
LOS SUAVES NEGROS – TURBONEGRO TRIBUTE
Bossanova Turbonegro covers, assuming you need ‘em.
That‘s right, this is lounge/bossa Turbonegro, and the ugly spectre of the funny-for-five-minutes Nouvelle Vague looms large. As with the latter’s punk-samba efforts, this is agreeable enough for a couple of tracks, but the compulsion to hit the eject yelling ‘Okay, I GET it’ is overpowering. In other words, life’s too short. That said, it’s pleasant enough taken as easy listening ear candy and maybe says something for the adaptability of the ’negro’s songs, if adaptability counts for anything with a song catalogue as cock-fixated as the Scandinavian leather boys’.