MAY RECORD REVIEWS
A DEATH IN THE FAMILY
SMALL TOWN STORIES
Gruff punk from Down Under.
Following heralded debut ‘This Microscopic War’, Melbourne quartet A Death In The Family are back with this second album, mixed by producer extraordinaire J Robbins (Against Me!, Paint It Black). ‘Small Town Stories’ reflects life growing up in the small communities of Australia. Its powerful drive is fuelled by the same wayward angst as the likes of Hot Water Music or The Draft yet the band manage to cunningly fuse this with a classic Aussie rock feel to produce a sound that is distinctly their own. This is a good solid record and stands shoulder to shoulder with most of its contemporaries but just falls short of reaching outstanding.
LIFE AND TIMES
Former Husker Du frontman with eighth solo effort.
It’s only just over a year since Bob Mould’s impressive return to form that was the impressive alt-rock solo album ‘District Line’ and now he’s back with another record, produced and mixed by the man himself. Whilst ‘Life And Times’ is certainly a worthy addition to fans’ collections, it’s not as compelling as his last album, with an almost alt-folk rock direction and more use of electronics again. ‘City Lights (Days Go By)’ is a nice tune but many songs here lack the impact and infectiousness of ‘District Line’ material. ‘Argos’ proves he can still pen a brilliant melodic punk rock song and this is another solid effort from the punk/post-hardcore hero. Roll on album number nine!
GUILTY AS CHARGED / TWO MONKEYS
Pepped-up later albums from the Sparrer.
4/5 / 4/5
These two albums by East London street punk pioneers Cock Sparrer were originally released by German label Bitz Core in 1994 and 1997 respectively, but as the band have apparently never been happy with them, here they have been “re-recorded, re-mixed and re-mastered”. They sound great now – sharp, punchy and doing full justice to some classic later Sparrer works like ‘Because You’re Young’ and ‘Don’t Blame Us’, the stand-out tracks from ‘Guilty As Charged’. And as you also get the four tracks that comprised the 1995 EP ‘Run Away’ as bonus tracks with ‘Guilty’ and four unreleased live tracks with ‘Two Monkeys’. You can’t go wrong here.
Glam horror duo need to get angry more often.
‘Flesh Ride’ owes more to ‘70s glam and riffage than their previous more rocking releases. The songs are all about the sort of things that any self-respecting ghoul would expect by a duo from the dark side. Dead rockers get the nod in the lyrics (Billy Fury) and in the name of their drum machine (Elvis). Maybe it’s the fault of the King’s namesake, maybe not, but a good half of this album fails to ignite. Interestingly, when Johnny Navarro gets angry, on songs like ‘Bloodsuckers’ and ‘Losin’ Ground’, things start to spark and those moments are well worth it.
DUN2DEF / DESTRUCTORS 666
DEUS EX MACHINA
Another Destructors split album.
In this, probably the 232nd Destructors 666 split album, the Peterborough outfit team up with Milton Keynes’ Dun2Def, with pleasing results. The latter play decent enough old school punk, chugging along nicely with two of their own songs, ‘You’re A Disease’ and ‘Drinking & Fighting’, before having a fair stab at the UK Subs’ ‘Riot’ that misses Charlie Harper’s trademark growl. In contrast, Destructors 666 singer Allen Adams, the only survivor from the ‘80s Destructors, does a more than fair Colin Abrahall impersonation on GBH’s ‘Diplomatic Immunity’, and the band’s own songs here are proof that, through all these releases, they really are coming on in leaps and bounds.
BUBBLE AND SQUEAK
Snuff legend collaborates with friends on first solo album.
Duncan Redmonds has been the driving force behind UK punk heroes Snuff for the last 20 years, as well as Billy No Mates and Guns N Wankers. He’s currently playing in Toy Dolls and Duncan’s Divas too. Over the last four years, Duncan has put this record together, featuring guest collaborations with friends from all over the world. Highlights on the 22-track CD include songs with Frankie Stubbs (Leatherface), Fat Mike (NOFX), Simon Wells (original Snuff/Southport), Ken Yokoyama (Hi-Standard), Hard Skin and No Means No, to name just a few. ‘Bubble And Squeak’ shows exactly why Duncan Redmonds is a punk legend.
TO THE DEATH
Syracuse straight edge legends return with a bang.
While their militant straight edge stance attracted controversy over the years, NY’s Earth Crisis helped to define the metallic hardcore genre in the mid-‘90s; and anyone who remembers the awesomeness of ‘Firestorm’ and ‘Destroy The Machines’ is sure to be intrigued by what the band have to offer more than a decade later. It’s a pleasure to report that they’ve lost none of the things that made those albums so important – Karl Buechner’s raging vocals and a blend of chugging riffs and thrashy mid-sections that’s both bruising and dynamic. Sounding surprisingly fresh and energetic throughout, it’s great to have them back.
STRAIGHT OUT THE ALLEY
(People Like You)
The best home grown punkabilly album of the decade.
The Grit have come up with what will go down as an all-time classic album, simple as that. This has all the elements of what’s great about their genre bending style of punk rock. The songs are relevant and heartfelt, the tunes are infectious and the pace only lets up when it’s the perfect time to do so. This album also stands out because it is totally British and unashamedly so – from the lyrics, to the accent and slang – but not in a jingoistic way. This will assure their place right up there with the greats. Joe Strummer would be proud.
INSPIRATION (BACK FROM THE DEAD)
Finnish Trio have the right mix of power pop and punk.
Never judge a CD by its cover. One look at the trio trying to look whacky, with their daft glasses and even dafter expressions, had me not really wanting to play this. I’m glad that I did. The guys do nothing new, their sound could quite easily fit into the Hellcat roster (no doubt pissing all over a few of them) but they simply play power pop punk in a way that anyone who likes the genre is going to love. It’s all great sing-along, snotty fun that conjures up images of Californian sunshine. What more could you ask for?
PAINTED ON / UP THE EMPIRE / DOWN GINA’S AT 3
Reissues from the first lady of Medway Delta blues.
4/5 / 3/5 / 3/5
First coming to public attention as a member of the Headcoatees, the girl-group counterpart to garage hero Billy Childish’s Headcoats, Ms Golightly was to forge a distinctive solo identity for herself as a chanteuse from the mid to late 1990s, as these reissues reveal. Taking the Headcoats’ no-frills valve-amp credo as a starting point, Golightly’s songs vault stylistically from blues to jazz to ‘60s girly pop, with a measure of femme-punk sass to top things off. One in the studio and the other two live, this brace of reissues catches the stark authenticity of Holly Golightly’s lo-fi kitchen sink dramas rather admirably.
JEFFREY LEWIS AND THE JUNKYARD
EM ARE I
Further observations from folk music’s funniest punks.
Jeffrey Lewis mixes observational comedy and folk-pop; he even does wonderful Robert Crumb-esque illustrations and comic strips. So it’s a pleasant surprise when Lewis starts the album loose and dirty, bringing an Undertones/Replacements-esque punk rock riff to the punchy mess of ‘Slogans’. Throughout ‘Em Are I’ it’s clear Lewis thinks and ponders a lot, probably too much. His insecurities devour him on the perfect ‘Broken Broken Broken Heart’ and all Lewis can do is “try not to think”. ‘The Upside-Down Cross’ is a no funk free jam that pulls tightly until its verses explodes in messy feedback. ‘Em Are I’ is an excellent and rewarding album.
Drag The River and Armchair Martian frontman goes solo.
Having recently embarked on a UK tour with good friend Joey Cape of Lagwagon and Bad Astronaut fame, Jon Snodgrass’ first solo outing picks up where his other bands left off. His gentle, heartfelt croon makes acoustic alt-country tracks such as opener ‘Brave With Strangers’ and ‘Murderfield’ rub shoulders comfortably with the electrified country rock of ‘Remember My Name’ and ‘Fast In Last’, which bring to mind Lucero at points. A talented and deservedly respected singer/songwriter, ‘Visitor’s Band’ is the perfect laid back record to listen to while enjoying springtime out in the sun.
Blistering punk ska opus from the latest Hellcat heroes.
While frequently measured alongside label bosses Rancid, Left Alone have clawed a commendable position on the Hellcat roster since their welcome in 2005 and this, the third full-length from the Wilmington, CA crew, marks the highest point of their recording career: their own ‘…And Out Come The Wolves’ you might say. Following up from their ‘Dead American Radio’ sophomore success, this self-titled album is packed with catchy punk rock hooks, scuzzy street ska and a smidge of countrified home-cooking. Broadening lyrically into more serious topics, yet retaining the three-chord fun, this is definitely one Hellcat release that it’s hard to find a low point in.
DISH IT OUT
Seaside ska hi-jinks from Brighton’s signature 2tone troupe.
Summer fest favourites Los Albertos have beaten out a comfortable niche in the UK underground ska scene since their conception in 2002, along with similar modern 2tone acts like 3 Minute Warning and Smoke Like A Fish. With a definite British flavour, ‘Dish It Out’ merges clever tongue-twister vocals with sharp ska upstokes and bubble-popping brass. Easily as manic, intelligent and openly fun as its predecessors, this third full-length marks another solid effort for the Brighton six-piece and it’s a crop of songs we’re bound to be singing and skanking to in the upcoming sunny months.
LIVE AND INTERMITTENT
Ultra-rare live cuts from Devoto and co.
On the back of Magazine’s much-lauded 2009 reunion comes this 17-track live anthology, compiled from three live recordings spanning 1979-1980. Naturally there’s a little fluctuation in sound quality, but caveats aside, what you get here is the best document of Magazine’s live dynamic yet available. This group’s interplay was seldom short of dazzling and there’s ample evidence here; along with seldom-heard live renditions of ‘Sweetheart Contract’ and ‘Cut Out Shapes’, the crucial tracks from the Magazine repertoire are well represented, not least with a stinging performance of ‘Shot By Both Sides’ which captures the much-missed guitarist John McGeoch – sadly no longer with us – in fine flow.
MUSTARD CITY ROCKERS
Fiery debut from Norwich’s own folk punk minstrels.
Patched together in 2006 from a number of defunct Norwich outfits, Mustard City Rockers are truly a Frankenstein’s monster of music. Merging biting wit, punk rock and a heavy dose of folk, they end up with something that makes you want to jig like a drunken sailor. Fans of Gogol Bordello and Flogging Molly will be in mead-swilling heaven with this full-length UK debut. Utilizing an entire ensemble of traditional instruments and gruff vocals straight outta the gutter, the band are touring in the near future if you fancy ‘getting involved’. This is one band built for the barroom tiles.
THE NERVE SCHEME
THE NERVE SCHEME
Un-PC hard-edged punk pop.
This Virginian outfit have been knocking around, in one form or another, since the ‘90s, slogging around the US circuit and playing shows with the likes of Murphy’s Law, the Queers and Agent Orange, with an unpredictable live show that apparently involves dodgy smoke machines, confetti cannons and much politically incorrect banter. And listening to this self-titled EP that actually came out last autumn, one can certainly believe all of the above, especially the last bit. Here the current line-up of Hector XXX (vocals), Bobby Analog (drums) and Gary Sinn (bass) serve up six tracks of pop punk in the NOFX/Dwarves vein, which, while not exactly original, certainly packs a punch.
NICK CAVE AND THE BAD SEEDS
FROM HER TO ETERNITY / FIRSTBORN IS DEAD / KICKING AGAINST THE PRICKS / YOUR FUNERAL MY TRIAL
First steps to solo stardom from the post-Birthday Party Cave.
3/5 / 3/5 / 4/5 / 4/5
Having extricated himself from the wreckage of his seminal band The Birthday Party in 1983, Cave’s early solo efforts templated his subsequent success in their exploration of wracked blues, sea-sick shanties and a long-running Elvis fixation. The first couple of discs are mixed affairs, magnificent cuts fighting for space with morose dirges. The 1986 covers album ‘Kicking Against The Pricks’ saw Cave mapping out his diverse influences, re-working the likes of Gene Pitney and Johnny Cash, an appetiser for ‘Your Funeral My Trial’. Easily the most fully-formed of the early Cave albums, the sense of redemption hinted at lets some light in on that often overbearing Cave grimness.
ANAESTHETIZE THIS… ANNIHILATE THAT!
(Good Music For Good People)
Sing-along punk rock from Wales.
As much as we are taught to avoid judging things by titles, ‘Anaesthetize This…’, the follow up to 2002’s ‘Dry River Fishing’, did come across as a record that would back up the anger it clearly has within it with a blistering pace, but what we are presented with is a far more considered album. ‘Take That up the Arse… and Party!’, ‘Change’ and ‘Your Sport’ offer up great examples of what No Choice are about – righteous, sing-along punk rock with backing tunes to encourage a dance and a real message behind everything. Honestly, it isn’t anything you haven’t heard before, but you will get a decent listen out of No Choice.
PARANOID DELUSIONS/PARANOID ILLUSIONS
Epic, crushing doom-edged hardcore from Baltimore.
Further reinforcing Deathwish’s reputation as the home of hardcore bands willing to try something a bit different, this five-track EP sees Pulling Teeth displaying a diverse sound – from the full-blooded proto-thrash of opener ‘Paranoid Delusions’ to the epic, downbeat ‘Bloodwolves’ that brings proceedings to a close. What comes in between is pretty damn awesome as well, with the band proving they’re just as adept at slow-burning doom as they are full-throttle metallic rage. Perhaps the only criticism that could be levelled at ‘Paranoid Illusions’ is that, at just 23 minutes long, when the EP’s over, you’re left begging for more.
UNDERNEATH THE OWL
Texan punks struggle to capture their live energy.
The Riverboat Gamblers are a band with a wicked reputation as a live act, putting on intense shows to get the blood pumping and the walls a-bouncing. On first listen to ‘UTO’, it’s pretty hard to understand where this status comes from or how an album that opens so well, with the jagged ‘Dissdissdisskisskisskiss’, can descend into mediocrity so suddenly. Sounding like the offspring of a late night sojourn between The Donnas and The Bronx, ‘UTO’ – while not poisoning the ears – doesn’t live up to the initial explosion it opens with. However, there’s still a hell of a lot of potential with the Gamblers and they look like a band to watch on the live circuit.
SONIC BOOM SIX
CITY OF THIEVES
SB6 return with plenty to say.
Sonic Boom Six have always been one of the most diverse and inventive bands to get lumped into the British ska punk scene. The follow-up to the outstanding ‘Ruff Guide To Genre-Terrorism’ sees the band in equally thrilling territory. ‘City of Thieves’ is something of a concept album as it focuses on city life, from schools and consumerism to binge drinking and traffic issues. The combination of vibrant, eclectic music, dub one minute and RATM vocal samples the next, with some slightly bleak lyrics paints a lively example of the various elements that make up British culture in 2009. It’s smart, joyous music that has plenty to say and does so eloquently.
SORRY AND THE SINATRAS
Familiar sounding punk ‘n’ roll.
Listening to ‘Highball Roller’, the band’s debut album, I couldn’t help but think this sounds a lot like The Wildhearts. Which is obviously no bad thing. Turns out singer/guitarist Scott Sorry is currently playing bass with The Wildhearts, so I guess it’s not that surprising. Sorry and co. kick out a mean blend of raucous yet melodic punk ‘n’ roll that puts a smile on your face. The album rattles along at a fair old pace, featuring plenty of choruses and spitting infectious energy out of the speakers with skill and good humour. If you like The Wildhearts, you’ll be hard pressed not to get drawn in by this.
PROTOTYPES AND PAINKILLERS
Rare and unreleased compilation from these metallic punk stalwarts.
Strung Out have been kicking around now for an incredible 17 years, so I guess Fat Wreck felt it was about time to release this huge 25 track compilation. As you might expect though the quality of material here is hit and miss and, let’s face it, some tracks are unreleased for a reason! That said, it’s safe to say that about 70% on here is killer. Overall, it’s an interesting comp from an innovative band. It’s probably one for the fans only but the covers alone (‘Bark At The Moon’ and The Descendents’ ‘I’m Not A Loser’) are probably worth buying it for.
LIVE AT CBGB
Somewhat pointless live album from LA hardcore heavyweights.
There are few things more hit and miss in the world of music than live albums, and this effort, which brings you a set at CBGB’s from 2004, is a case in point. While Terror are always a fantastic live band, and this showcases some of their very best songs – ‘Overcome’ and ‘Lowest Of The Low’ – it’s also hampered by a shocking mix, with absolutely no power in the guitars, and the vocals way too high up in the mix. You do hear singer Scott Vogel’s typically ‘enthusiastic’ between-song rants, but the CD comes nowhere near capturing how great Terror are live. One for rabid fans of the band only.
TOM ALLALONE AND THE 78S
MAJOR SINS PART 1
Sharp-witted rockabilly/soul with a very English slant.
Kent has proved a fertile patch for the garage rock underground and Tom Allalone’s Gravesend-based outfit pack enough sharp-edged rockabilly twang to align them loosely with the Medway sound lineage. They’re distinguished, however, by Allalone’s very individual – and very English – way with a song; witty, and unflinching with it. Allalone forays into the darker sublevels of smalltown Britain in ‘Dogshit Creek’, tangles with nightclub jitters in ‘I’m Just The DJ’ and cocks snooks at social expectation in the amusingly-titled ‘Sign On You Lazy Diamond’. A grimy-edged musical postcard from a dirty old south coast English town, this album brings all the trials and tribulations vividly to life.
WAU Y LOS ARRRGHS!!!
Rockin’ latino-garage party.
Down there in the Iberian peninsular, the locals appear to have drunk from the well of frat-shack retro-rock rather enthusiastically, and if the number of exclamation marks in the title are any kind of indication, those latinos must be an excitable bunch. And while my comprehension of the lingo is near-zilch, it appears that a sweaty Chelsea-booted, Farfisa-propelled rave-up is much the same in any language. So while these chaps couldn’t be said to be advancing the art form in any significant way – ‘Viven!!!’ is party music with no pretensions otherwise – they sound the perfect accompaniment to a few Friday night cervezas, and that counts for plenty.
WHITE LIGHT PARADE
HOUSE OF COMMONS
These Bradford indie punks should be huge.
This Yorkshire quartet have already had songs riding high in the UK indie charts and featured on ‘Grand Theft Auto IV’, not to mention support slots with the likes of The Jam and The Subways. Thankfully, this debut album more than explains the buzz. From the energetic opener ‘Burn It Down’, you know this is something special. The melodies are bigger than houses and all tracks are crisp and infectious, whether it’s the nod to The Clash of ‘Hundrum’, ridiculously catchy single ‘Wake Up’ or the massive sing-alongs of ‘Wait For The Weekend’ and ‘We Start Fires’. They’ll be on festival main stages in no time…