NOVEMBER ISSUE RECORD REVIEWS
SPEED IS EVERYTHING
Naked Raygun frontman’s melodic punk band unleash eclectic second album.
Vocalist Jezz Pezzati is a Chicago punk legend and this band, completed by former/current members of The Methadones and The Story So Far (amongst others) are somewhat of a supergroup. The follow-up to 2006’s ‘Indecision’ lets Pezzati’s distinctive vocals shine over punchy and experimental songs with nods to Husker Du, Samiam and Fugazi. The anthemic ‘Not Christmas Night’ and the powerful, more hardcore ‘Integrity’, featuring guest vocals from Paint It Black’s Dan Yemin, are highlights, although the mellow cover of A Flock Of Seagulls’ ‘Space Age Love Song’ is odd. With more guest vocals from Braid’s Bob Nanna and expansive production from J. Robbins (Against Me!, None More Black), this is a rewarding sonic journey.
Punchy ‘90s pop punk reissued.
Chopper, from Wakefield, were the first band signed to Crackle, releasing the label’s inaugural 7” in 1994, the basic but endearing ‘Said And Done’ EP. The band then recorded two rather rushed tracks, ‘My New Name’ and ‘Sad Sixteen’, for a Japanese compilation on Snuffy Smile entitled ‘Best Punk Rock In England, Son’, setting Chopper up with a relationship with the country that eventually led to two tours of Japan. The following year’s ‘Self Preservation Society’ was a massive improvement, zipping along and packed with poppy goodness. The band honed their sound to near perfection, with releases on various labels, before splitting in 1998, and here you get the lot, plus informative sleeve notes.
COME SING THESE CRIPPLED TUNES
Sleazy dirty blues from….the north of England?
Everything about this album sounds like it should be from the smoky depths of a whiskey soaked bar in New Orleans, with singer Dan Wilson’s spine-chilling, soulful vocals from the gutter rising out of blues infused, psychedelic tracks. It’s almost impossible to imagine this moody band hail from Liverpool. This is a trembling and yet raucous collection of songs, such as the lulling bitterness of ‘Everything You Touch’ and the debut single ‘Like Me, I’m A Peacock’. Think Tom Waits mixed with the Detroit Cobras into a heady cocktail. Lovely stuff.
GREATEST HITS VOL. 16
The female Ramones return with a ‘retrospective’ album.
Ah, the Donnas. They’ll just always be around, won’t they? And this eighth studio release is more of a treat than a new album. The band have re-recorded some of their old material, not necessarily a good thing as some of the tracks sounded better in their rougher incarnation. However, there are two new songs on here (well as new as a Donnas song can sound), and some unreleased b-sides. The highlight is the live version of ‘Take It Off’, which shows what a tight live band these girls are. It’s far from essential, but fans will dig it. It’s nice to know they’re still around.
ELECTRIC EEL SHOCK
It means ‘amazing’ and it’s true.
The Japanese veteran garage rock trio are back with another scuzzy album of AC/DC, Sabbath and QOTSA worship. What makes Electric Eel Shock so special is that their songs revel in the fun and excess of rock ‘n’ roll and ‘Sugoi Indeed’ is no different. The stomping, bi-lingual ‘Out Of Control’, complete with fret-bothering guitar solo and trademark heavy accents, is a beast, as are opener ‘Metal Man’ and the brilliantly titled ‘No Shit Sherlock’. This is the sound of EES doing what they do best and we wouldn’t want it any other way. The final verdict? Sugoi!
LAST NIGHT AT THE PALAIS
Mark E Smith, live and bloody-minded
30 years and who knows how many albums into his career, the Fall’s Mark E Smith remains as prickly, uncompromising and difficult as ever. This record captures Smith with one of a long line of Fall line ups, subjecting his audience at the legendary (but doomed) venue to an hour-plus of his misanthropic mutterings. Crowd-pleasing has never been a Smith priority; golden greats are conspicuous by their absence. This is two discs’ worth of the Fall doing what they do – pared-down metronomic arrangements. The Palais will doubtless go down in history for other gigs, but in terms of pure attitude, they can’t have put many on as real as this one.
CRAZY RHYTHMS / THE GOOD EARTH
Influential guitar pop outfit reissued
3/5 / 4/5
At least partially responsible for shaping the indie rock template in the early ‘80s, these New Jersey boys peddled a smart line in tuneful hooks and understated melody, passing the inter-generational baton between successive waves of alt-rockers. Their 1980 debut ‘Crazy Rhythms’ proved a major influence on REM and pointed the way for that decade’s indie-janglers, but if anything the 1986 follow-up ‘The Good Earth’ was the more fully-realized album of the pair. Redolent of the likes of Jonathan Richman and Lou Reed with its clean-channelled guitars and snappy song writing, it’s an intelligently tuneful excursion, and a rare missing-link pop rock treasure.
ROCKIN’ AT GROUND ZERO
Lovingly repackaged twin CD (featuring overlooked sister band, D.I.s on the second) gives us a glimpse of LA in the early 80s. Somewhere between Rank And File, Fleshtones and the Blasters, the Gears melched big beat swing-blues with punk snarl and snap – though they were always a more good-natured proposition than some of their misanthropic peers. They had impeccable credentials too, drawing members from early LA Masque scene bands the Controllers and Shakers. Rockin’ At Ground Zero has always been something of a lost classic, caught between distinct waves of Cali-punk, but it’s great to hear songs like ‘Teenage Brain’ and the original 45 version of ‘Let’s Go To The Beach’ again – think the Ramones with surfboards.
Brighton bubblegum and beach lovin’ pop punk debut.
The Hotlines sound like the Ramones (circa ‘Rocket From Russia’) and the Beach Boys (circa ‘Surf’s Up’) going head to head on the waves. Having released a split 7" with the Queers, this full-length proves why this four-piece are kicking up such a fuss amongst true pop punk fans. Songs such as ‘The Way She Walks’ and ‘Psycho Girl’ are guaranteed to take up residence in your brain and have you "woah-oh-oh-oh"ing along. Like discarded bubblegum has stuck together all the catchiest tunes from the ’50s, ’60s and ’70s, this is sun-soaked pop punk fun that is guaranteed to make you long for summer to return. Grab your surfboard punk!
LUCIFER STAR MACHINE
STREET VALUE ZERO
Second album success for London sleaze rockers.
A lot of bands, no matter how good, suffer from what’s known as ‘the difficult second album’ syndrome. There’s no such problem where LSM are concerned. Four years after their debut, and with some heavy touring and a few personnel changes under their belt, they’re back – leaner and meaner. After a short ‘Introfucktion’ it’s down to business with ‘Devil On A Rampage’. Their tried and tested brand of Hellacopters brawling with The Misfits rock ‘n’ roll remains intact, with a hint of street punk added for good measure. ‘City Low Life’ with it’s “Kick in the Bollocks, slap in the face’ refrain is an unforgettable highlight.
Tried and tested pop rock.
On their third album for Hellcat, Orange are refreshed with a new line-up – hence the title ‘Phoenix’. With a positive outlook and a sound somewhat akin to that of Lit, Orange have come up with a collection of catchy, happy rock songs. Perhaps a little middle of the road and a touch dated, this is still a record of feel-
good, solid songs with a pop tinge. Singer Joe Dexter croons over alternating sections of jangly ska-esque guitars and searing full-on riffs. Some tracks have a more punk edge but presiding over all are the melodious vocals. These are infectious tunes that you’re not likely to forget in a hurry.
OUR TIME DOWN HERE
LIVE. LOVE. LET GO.
Southampton melodic hardcore boys unleash explosive debut full-length.
With The Steal calling it a day, OTDH are set to keep the flame of UK melodic hardcore burning bright. Their love of Kid Dynamite and Comeback Kid evident on fast-paced pit-fillers such as opener ‘Flip-Up Caps And Crew Neck Sweats’ and the future live favourite ‘Curtain Call’, they’ve also got some tricks up their sleeves. Energetic but melodic anthems such as ‘Big Guys Throw Cones’ and the stunning ‘Calendar’ show a Lifetime influence and a marked progression in Will Gould’s vocals, while ‘You Fucking Tragedy’ has an acoustic sing along at the end. Guest vocals are provided by members of The Steal, The Don Ramos Players and Sonic Boom Six. More varied and confident than their ‘Revelations’ EP, OTDH have grown into true contenders… and you know it!
Sunshine summoning vibes from souled-out ska crew.
Doing their level best to summon some of the Jamaican sunshine to the gloomy streets of the UK, Pama International mix up reggae, ska and Stax-style soul on ‘Pama Outernational’. Mashing together the 1960s and 1970s and bringing them bang up to date on the likes of ‘Are We Saved Yet?’ and ‘Still I Wait’. Marrying dub to reggae on the likes of ‘Happenstance’ and ‘I Still Love You More’, Finny and The Specials’ Lynval Golding crank the vibes vocally while band leader Sean Flowerdew splashes organ lines all over the shop, backed by a hefty rhythmic force that really gives the speakers a proper workout. The first band to sign to the legendary Trojan Records in thirty years, Pama set up their own label last year, proving that with their DIY spirit, tenacity and great tunes there’s nowhere they can’t go.
FAITH DIVIDES US – DEATH UNITES US
Gloom golems return to the dark path.
After making music to drown kittens to for over 20 years, gothic metal pioneers Paradise Lost are back with their eagerly anticipated follow-up to ‘In Requiem’, and it certainly doesn’t disappoint. In fact, the Halifax based veterans take us on a journey back in time to the days of ‘Icon’ and ‘Draconian Times’. Without a doubt, this is the heaviest I have heard the band, but their catchy, swooning melancholia is still present – just check out the excellently cheerless ‘I Remain’ – but, overall, it seems Nick Holmes and chums have made an album that unites every element of their career; an enveloping album of metal misery.
LONG LIVE PERE UBU
Ubu delve into their theatrical roots.
Always on the more experimental fringe of the US wave of punks, Pere Ubu – whose revolving line-up currently includes the formidable chanteuse Sarah Jane Morris – go ferreting back to their formative influences by constructing an album around the bizarre stage play from which they originally took their name, Alfred Jarry’s Ubu Roi. The result is a jarring and unsettling work, a claustrophobic tale of amoral ambition; Ubu mainman David Thomas plays the suggestible usurper, with Morris working an impressive Lady Macbeth job on him at every turn. Jarry’s original play provoked riots at its early performances, and Ubu’s musical reinterpretation is unhinged enough to do it suitable justice.
KING OF JEANS
Claustrophobic and heavy but weirdly uplifting heartfelt grunge punk.
This kicks you right in the chops from the start and promises to be a brutal, up-tempo grunge bomb that goes off in your ears. It starts promisingly and and powers along for the first third or so of the album. Then it begins to implode, whic isn’t a bad thing if your bag is churning, grinding riffage – intended musical claustrophobia that sums up the feeling of songs like ‘Spent’ perfectly. By the time the last track rolled into the first again unnoticed on my player I had to listen to it all over to just feel normal again.
THIS IS ART
Exeter hardcore punk ‘n’ roll destruction.
Hailing from the same city as The Computers and The Cut Ups, it’s no surprise that this four-piece’s new EP is a raucous, no holds barred attack on the senses. A collision of classic American hardcore and more modern punk and rock influences, these six tracks are scuzzy, frantic assaults that any fans of Gallows and Comeback Kid will lap up. Dre Amesbury’s vocals are savage and the crew shouts and hectic riffing and rhythms on the title track and the suitably titled ‘Lets End The World’ could see Rat Attack propelled to the upper realms of the UK hardcore punk scene. A true rager.
IN AND OUT OF CONTROL
Danish pop perfection.
If there’s ever been a finer pop album than In And Out Of Control, then it must be truly wonderful, because The Raveonettes’ fourth effort is an absolute joy. Opener ‘Bang!’ is the best summer sing-along you’ve never heard – and as the title suggests is a sure-fire hit. Similarly ‘Last Dance’ is a gorgeous love song. Better still, there’s a seriousness throughout that adds considerable depth to the album – making it far more than just a disposable ‘pop’ record. Beautifully layered, textured and performed, The Raveonettes have unleashed a stellar album that references everything from Spector to Buddy Holly to Abba. Losing control’s never sounded so good…
HIGH SPEED ACCESS TO MY BRAIN
(Paper + Plastick)
Second album of fast-paced punk melodies from LTJ man’s side-project.
I loved Rehasher’s ripping 2004 debut ‘Off Key Melodies’ with Roger Manganelli’s (also of Less Than Jake) soaring, powerful vocals and speeding skate punk songs. Five years on Rehasher have produced a very similar sophomore effort. Speeding, positive opener ‘Turn Around’, the anthemic ‘My Compass Must Be Broken’ and the passionate ‘Lose My Limits’ are stand-outs and, although it’s hardly fresh, a track called ‘Out Of Ideas’ pokes fun at themselves (and hardcore breakdowns bizarrely). The less said about the closing cover of Blondie’s ‘Hanging On The Telephone’ the better but, overall, these high speed tunes will definitely have no problem gaining access to your brain.
THE REVEREND HORTON HEAT
LAUGHIN’ AND CRYIN’ WITH THE REVEREND HORTON HEAT
The Rockin’ Rev’s back with a vengeance
After a bit of a sojourn and some Hammond organ based shenanigans with Rev Organ Drum, the good Reverend has strapped on his Gretsch and got back to playing good time rock ‘n’ roll. This is easily the best thing he’s done in years, upping the country and western influences and making good use of his trademark wry sense of humour. There’s not a duff track to be found here and if songs like ‘Just Let Me Hold My Paycheck’, ‘Beer Holder’ and ‘Death Metal Guys’ don’t bring a smile to your face, then nothing will.
FIST N SHOUT
Minimalist, scuzzed up garage rock.
Bath based trio Rusty Springfield formed in 2005, apparently as a result of a fateful meeting in the medical tent at Reading Festival. They play dirty garage rock ‘n’ roll and sound like the consummation of an unholy wedding between The Cramps and The Stooges presided over by Jon Spencer. The snappily titled short sharp songs (‘Anti-Psychotic Medication’, ‘Rusty Springfield Declare War’, ‘Pest-A-Cide’) are over in the blink of an eyelid and they keep the lyrics to a minimum. With 10 songs weighing in at just over 18 minutes (now that’s punk rock!) they are the antithesis of those bands currently embracing the excesses of prog-rock and are all the better for it.
Catchy as hell keyboard-driven garage punk.
Hailing from Ottawa and playing punk/power pop with a respectful nod to ‘60s garage. They’ve been favourably compared to a whole host of the bands including Murder City Devils, TSOL and 45 Grave and I would add The Damned circa ‘Machine Gun Etiquette’, The AKAs and, on the slower numbers (not that there are many), The Prisoners. The pace is frantic and they’ve got some great tunes but it’s that big Hammond organ sound that really sets them apart, particularly on the intro to ‘Cannot Calm Down’. This music could have been made at any point in the last 30 years, sounding timeless rather than dated, and that’s a good reason to give ‘em a listen.
SHUDDER TO THINK
LIVE FROM HOME
Legendary ex-Dischord band release live material from 2008 reunion.
Last year, 10 years after the seminal DC post-hardcore band originally broke up, Shudder To Think reunited due to popular demand and played some rousing shows – some of which are captured on this live album. This album manages to get away with the live angle that are the downfall of so many live albums by being well recorded and performed by excellent musicians. Any band that has ever been associated with Dischord is going to have a killer live show and STT’s angular alt-rock translates well on ‘Live From Home’. The songs even grow more intense, track by track. Certainly an interesting listen.
Cheery ‘90s pop punk reissued.
This double CD set traces the career of UK pop punks Skimmer, from their debut 1994 single ‘Better Than Being Alone’, produced by Mega City Four bassist Gerry Bryant, to the 1998 ‘Vexed’ album. You also get all the band’s singles, EPs, split tracks and four 1993 demos, as well as five songs that accidentally made their way onto the CD version of ‘Vexed’. So, pretty comprehensive then. As the title track of this collection hails from their 1995 ‘Happy’ EP, it’s no surprise that it sounds quite like early Green Day but, on the whole, Skimmer were more lightweight and quirky, with eccentric, high-pitched vocals. Still rather good though.
Portland fuzzed up scuzzy punks with fourth self-titled album.
What happens when The Misfits, The Ramones and Devo get wasted and drunkenly decide to loosely jam out fuzzy, crazy songs that rarely break the 2-minute mark? The Spits, that’s what. Hailing back to the first wave of US pop punk, (thanks to a raw, retro production from Rocket From The Crypt legend John Reis) and infusing it with subtle synth and tunes about the police, aliens and a futuristic metropolis, this fun album is over in under 20 minutes and is as simple as it gets. Maybe that’s the genius? It isn’t life changing but it brilliantly spits in the eye of all the sanitised modern ‘punk’ out there.
THE STEADY BOYS
(Do The Dog)
Pretty ska punk to please the old-school lovers.
For fans of all that Do The Dog releases, The Steady Boys will be right up your street. It’s happy-go-lucky punk that stays on the edgier side of ska, like early Streetlight Manifesto. ‘Rewind The Mess’ is a sweeter track that sees the north east foursome demonstrate their enjoyable vocal skills – this isn’t spit-in-your-face punk. In fact it’s all rather pleasant and harmonious, apart from ‘Dead End Jobs’ which seems to hint at a Clash and Specials influence. It’s your usual fare of shout-along choruses and driving tunes that punk rock fans will lap up.
THEY CAME FROM THE SHADOWS
Leather jacketed, black-clad Wyoming pop punks with mighty fourth album.
Fans of pop punk greats such as the Ramones, Screeching Weasel and The Ergs! need this album. What makes Teenage Bottlerocket stand out from the other three-chord rebels is the strength of their hooks and their irrepressible urgency and power. This effort is their finest to date, relentlessly blasting out anthemic choruses and catchy guitar lines on songs about ’80s skating (‘Skate Or Die’) and insulting Detroit glam rockers (‘Bigger Than Kiss’). There are even nods to The Misfits (‘Forbidden Planet’) and ‘80s hardcore (‘Fatso Goes Nutzoid’). In fact, there’s no filler on this lean and infectious record. A strong contender for pop punk album of the year.
PAID IN BLACK II (TRIBUTE TO JOHNNY CASH)
It’s official – everyone loves Johnny Cash.
It’s hard to believe just how many artists from so many different genres the late king of rebel country influenced. No matter how old they there are or how far removed their music is from Cash’s, they all love him. It’s no surprise then that this is a tribute to the man in black from a whole host of bands loosely pigeon-holed as horror punk. Well I suppose they wear black too. Half of these covers are okay, others feel like the band just went along with it to get on the album. I’m off to put on a Sun record.
PUNK VOLUME III
Fine punk ‘n’ roll compilation.
German label Concrete Jungle are certainly a classy outfit, with an impressive roster and high production values, and this is borne out by this, their latest compilation of punk ‘n’ roll. Stand-out tracks include Rejected Youth’s boisterous ‘Black Army’, Ashers’ chugging ‘Cold Dark Place’, Shark Soup’s brooding ‘Dark Stars Inc.’, Riot Brigade’s fast ‘n’ furious ‘Nationalism Sucks’, Stockyard Stoics’ almost plaintive ‘Land Of Opportunity’ and the mighty Filaments’ superb ‘Brainwash’. But honestly, there isn’t a duffer to be found here. Impressive indeed, especially in these dark days.
ON THE RAG TIME
He’s playing ragtime and has played with Rancid. So you’ll like it?
It’s weird and wonderful what you get sent to review, this is a guy playing ragtime style piano. Something like this wouldn’t normally get a sniff of a review in a rock mag, the difference of course is that this guy is Vic Ruggiero, best known as a Slackers member and someone who played keyboards on several Rancid albums as well as with the Transplants. Okay so you have to respect the guy and you may well love this old time piano playing with basic accompaniment but don’t expect to just because of his credentials.