I love punk rock, I love the music, I love going to shows, I love the people I meet and I love what it stands for. The purpose of this blog is for me to review gigs and CDs and give my personal opinions on what gets me more excited than anything in the world - punk rock and roll!
Here is another blog I have done showing my quest to do 52 gigs in a year doublec11.tumblr.com
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Runrig The first music I ever really loved was this band. It won't win me many cool points, but I don't care. My Dad always hated them and dismissed them as a 'Scottish U2' - what an insult! U2 never had hooks like 'Every River' or 'Dance Called America'. The first live band I ever saw too.
Billy Bragg I was introduced to Billy Bragg by my Dad when I was 10, he'd taped a live recording off the radio. Billy Bragg hasn't written a good song since about 1991 IMO, but his classics still sound as strong as ever and he is quite rightly looked up to by most bands across our scene.
Sam Cooke Another singer I have loved since I was a child. I remember once watching a Sam Cooke documentary where they were interviewing his brother and playing 'A Change Is Gonna Come' and his brother said "now isn't that the greatest voice there ever was?" - I simply thought "yes".
Third Eye Blind Third Eye Blind's self-titled album often makes top ten lists for people in my music world, it's easy to see why. Outside of being full of radio hits, some of Stephan Jenkins's lyrics are amazing and surprisingly dark.
Blink-182 I heard 'What's My Age Again?' in the summer of '99 and was blown away - I didn't know music like this existed. I'd heard similar bands in the years prior to this, Green Day and Offspring for example, but they never did it for me. I found those bands boring and uninspiring. I bought 'Enema Of The State' and loved every song on it, that had never happened before. I remember being at school and wanting to go home just so I could listen to it.
Counting Crows I still listen to 'August And Everything After' all the time, I love Adam Duritz's voice, his melodies and his lyrics.
MxPx I have to thank Blink-182 for this one, it's because I got into them in 1999 that I discovered my favourite band of all time the following year. MxPx are the greatest band in this genre comfortably. They went from being one of numerous NOFX impersonators to become trendsetters. The mainstream press still ignores them, but they continue to be loved by those familiar with them in our world. After 26 years together, they're still making awesome music.
Good Charlotte First heard them on Napster when they had their first single ‘Little Things’. Saw them at the Barfly a couple of years later. If you ask anyone I know, they’ll tell you how much I love the Maddens. There’s a huge surge in their popularity right now but I still feel like they’re very underrated.
Lucinda Williams Lucinda Williams is an amazing Americana/folk singer and songwriter. I love this kind of music and she is probably one of the best at it.
Social Distortion I’m ashamed to say that I came to Social Distortion late, probably around the age of 23. But I’ve still had well over a decade to get to know their music properly (I even have their logo tattooed). It’s Mike Ness, I don’t think I need to say any more!
Chris plays guitar in Fintan Stack. Check them out on Bandcamp here and like them on Facebook here.
With Level Up Festival just around the corner I figured that I should get properly acquainted with some of the bands playing that I'm not so familiar with . One such band is Just Say Nay. Just Say Nay are a nine piece ska punk band from London and Kent. Their last new release came out in October of 2017 and is titled Logistical Nightmare. I assume it is named so because of the difficulties in having so many people in a band. Now, normally we wouldn't review something that came out so long ago but this EP was so much fun – I just had to!
Logistical Nightmare begins with the song Pass The Cloud. The beginning of the song showcases pretty much all you need to know about Just Say Nay's sound. Some shredding guitar and some irresistible brass grab your attention quickly and it's not long before your feet are tapping and you’re fighting the urge to get into a full skank. Go on, just do it anyway, it's fun. I loved how the song shifts between tempos seemingly at will, given the song a bit of a "who knows what's going to happen next" vibe. This again is perhaps being down to having so many members. Interestingly with so many people in the band, the song doesn't feel cluttered and like Just Say Nay are trying to shoehorn the all the different parts in for the sake of it. It does feel very natural. Up next is the song Jiggy Bean which is a total summer time ska punk banger. Lead singer Jak Coleman's chilled out sweet vocal is perfect on the song, particularly on the chorus where you are transported to one of those wonderfully relaxed summer barbecues. There is a section when the speed of the song really picks up, it's as if somebody punched the red button and the JSN horn section jumped into light speed.
KPSD begins in a similar way to Pass The Cloud with some shredding guitar and wonderful brass. The brass section are the undoubted stars of the show during the song's opening. Really adding a fun bounce to the song. From there the song transitions into a bit more of a serious sounding song where Jak sings about trying to improve himself as a person, as well as trying to live the best life possible. There is an urgency about the song which I really enjoyed, showing that Just Say Nay are just as capable of playing a more chilled out style as being able to add some oomph to their music. The fourth and final song on Logistical Nightmare is named Mr Plank Goes To Town. It starts out with some more superb horns – seriously are there many better horn sections in the UK ska scene that Just Say Nay's? When they're not blowing your mind when they're at the forefront of the song, you can hear them adding this superb extra layer of sound in the background with Jak's vocals. The song features a superb mix of fast ska punk and the odd touch of reggae that gives the song many ups and downs. It takes you on a bit of a rollercoaster ride that will have you singing your heart out and dancing as if your life depends on it!
Logistical Nightmare is a great release from one of the best up and coming ska bands in the country. It shows a group of amazing musicians and songwriters who have come together to create something really awesome.
Fair Do’s arrived on my radar at the very start of the year with the final band announcement for MPF 2018. Thanks to Colin’s recommendation I was immediately hooked on their 5 song EP Trying Times. I was excited to be seeing them at MPF and really hoping for a new release from them soon.
Fast forward a few months and the quartet did not disappoint, putting on an exceptional show at MPF and finally announcing their debut full length, Leopards. The highly anticipated album was recorded with Dave Boothroyd at Reel Recording Studio over almost two years’ worth of weekends and will be released by Lockjaw Records. I was excited by and jumped at the opportunity to preview the album and write a review.
The Queen of England starts the album off with an excerpt from a 2016 speech to the houses of parliament. Described as “most gracious” on the UK government website, her words are gradually drowned out by building guitars and drums culminating with a surrounding whoosh to kick things into gear.
There’s no holding back, right from the opening track ‘Royal Flush’. It offers some well-placed jabs at the royal family, its outdated traditions, unnatural hierarchy and its involvement in the economy and politics of the country. After the first song ends with a nice little flurry of notes, ‘Distress Call’ is introduced with a slower drum beat, overlaid with some nice guitar and bass riffs. One of the slower songs on the album, it provides a change of pace while still keeping up the energy.
‘Cowabunga’ is probably my favourite song on the album, combining both technical brilliance with some catchy hooks and a title referencing one of my favourite TV shows as a kid. Flawlessly flowing between some techy riffs and beautiful melody, the song encapsulates everything I love about punk. I can’t remember if they played it live at MPF, but I feel that it should definitely be a staple in their set.
If you’re not sure what to expect from a 6+ minute hardcore punk song, Fair Do’s have got you covered. ‘Hanging’, with a gut-punching minute and half intro that fills the space around you, builds into a song that brings all the best parts of Fair Do’s together, including a 35 second guitar solo that makes you want to lift your fret hand into the air and wiggle your fingers with joy. The song has just the right amount of everything needed to keep you captivated to the end.
‘Closing In’, which is the first single off the album, starts off with a catchy and pop-punky melody and then drives into a fast, technical skate punk song with a message of getting through difficult times and choices, staying positive, and always moving forward. It’s a great choice for a single and would be the song I’d choose to put on a mixtape. ‘Hostile Company’ was released with an accompanying video back in 2016 and is one of the more melodic songs on the album. With an impactful “pre-chorus” and some great sing-a-long parts, the song fits in perfectly with the rest of Leopards.
Following two single-worthy songs is the hardest and shortest song of the album. ‘Candleman’ definitely has a more hardcore feel, channelling the likes of Raised Fist showing us all that Fair Do’s are not going to be slowing down any time soon.
Maybe to offer some relief, ‘In The Mean Time’ starts with a slow intro, but it quickly escalates into some technical verse riffs separated by great breakdowns. The guitar work makes me think of Protest The Hero but definitely still with a Fair Do’s flavour.
The last two songs make sure the album finishes strong, ‘Lose My Touch’ includes some frantic stop-start riffs and a masterful melody, putting it on par with the catchiness of songs like Hostile Company. This is fast, technical hardcore punk at its best.
The final song, ‘Carried Away’, is a great way to round off the album (and apparently started with a Facebook post about St George’s day and the ridiculousness of being proud of where you’re born.). The song showcases the technical abilities of all the band members, and although technical ability doesn’t mean much if you can’t use it to construct a good song, this is something that Fair Do’s have proven not to be a problem for them throughout the album.
Despite the long and spread out time taken to write, practice, and record the album, all of the songs fit together cohesively and there is nothing that feels out of place. The band shares song writing duties and it’s clear that all of the members hold themselves to a high standard, delivering a tight and finely tuned collection of songs that exceed the expectations of a debut with ease. The vocals delivered by Danny, Josh and John are a perfect fit and all come together to create the Fair Do’s dynamic sound.
Not enough can be said about the musicianship on display here, I have seen some videos of Dave playing guitar and it is awe inspiring. His talent, as well as that of the other members, is evident throughout the album. The complex nature of the songs on Leopards is proof that each band member is at the top of their game.
Branded by many as skate punk, Fair Do’s also add some hardcore and metal into the mix to create something quite unique. While listening I can’t help but think of the number of influences these guys bring together, taking cues from the best of hardcore and punk while they precisely execute their melodic but not-straightforward brand of skate-hardcore-punk.
Whichever label you’d like to brand Fair Do’s with, Leopards is a fantastic album by a talented bunch of guys that showcases just how great the UK scene can be. It’s one of my favourites this year so far and I highly recommend pre-ordering it and checking them out while on tour.
Austrian melodic-punk rockers Astpai released their new album, True Capacity, on 22 June via Jump Start Records and Shield Recordings. I first heard of Astpai back in 2013 when they released a split 7” with The Flatliners, which turned out to be a good introduction to the band as they share many similarities with the Flats – including an affinity for combining high-powered melodies with uniquely textured vocals. Astpai have also often been compared to None More Black, because of the similarities between vocalist Zock and Jason Shevchuk. The Flatliners and None More Black are two of my absolute favourite bands, so you know I took to Astpai quite easily once I found them. But, while Astpai do share a certain likeness with these bands, they also bring a distinctly European flavour to their songs and are in some ways closer to a band like Antillectual in their ability to maintain both a fullness of sound and an underlying rawness in their music.
‘Rotten Bait’ opens the album with some delicate arpeggios, then slowly builds up the sound with more urgent drumming, and throaty ‘woahs’ before heading into an uptempo song with a driving melody. It’s a fantastic beginning, which really sets the tone for the rest of the album and includes many of the qualities that pop up all over True Capacity – like the mixture of shouty and smooth vocals, and engaging variations in rhythm and pace. ‘Lottery’ follows this up with a more playful, straight-forward melodic punk track about the role that luck plays in life’s ups and downs, and ‘Best Years’ completes this opening trifecta with an ultra-catchy pop/skate punk inspired banger that I’m sure will be a fan favourite at shows.
The band really shows off its skill and versatility in songs like ‘No Hero’, ‘Feel Your Pain’, and ‘Falling Trees’. ‘No Hero’ and ‘Feel Your Pain’ are both mid-tempo tracks that glide between faster and slower sections, picking up the different dynamics of a particular mood or emotion. The vocal harmonising at the end of ‘Feel Your Pain’ is a particular highlight. ‘Falling Trees’ has an increasing momentum that effortlessly pulls you down into the melody. I love the little guitar flourishes in this song, and Zock’s vocals are just amazing. Chris Cresswell assisted with the vocal production on True Capacity, and I think you can hear his influence here in the way that some vocals are filled out while other lines are left relatively raw.
‘True Capacity’ is a bit of a standout track in that it’s closer to hardcore than to melodic punk. The heavy, raspy vocals lend intensity to the lyrics about reaching breaking point because of an oversaturation of information and news. It’s a common feeling in today’s world that I think Astpai have captured well. In the next two songs, the album returns to a mid-tempo, melody-driven sound. ‘Saving Up’ takes you on a ride into middle-aged malaise, beginning with the line “I’ve got two tickets on this southbound train for me and my despair”. Despite this seemingly sad topic, it has a great central hook and an awesome key change towards the end. ‘Wear and Tear’ is another poppier track, which even includes some well-timed claps. The guitar in both these songs is quite bright and fun, and I’m reminded of None More Black because of the fantastic contrast between this playfulness and the ultra-gruff vocals (and the clapping here is reminiscent of NMB’s ‘Peace on Mars, Cause you Ain’t Gonna Get It Here’). The album ends strongly with ‘Body Parts’, which begins with some heavy and resonant guitar before kicking into a more fast and technical midsection. It feels like a finale, with lots of ‘woahs’ and a driving drum beat to finish.
With True Capacity, Astpai have continued their trend of putting out really high-class, technical, and engaging melodic punk. They offer the perfect blend of punk heaviness, grit, and intoxicating melody; and the work that they’ve put into this album can be heard on every single track.
There was a huge piece of new s for UK punk fans this week. Manchester Punk Festival announced the dates for next years festival. The fifth edition of MPF will take place between the 19th and 21st of April 2019 - Easter weekend and will now be three full days! In previous years MPF has been headlined by bands such as Propagandhi, Iron Chic, Paint It Black, The Flatliners, Strike Anywhere, Lightyear and Citizen Fish. It also plays host to some of the best of the current crop of UK bands such as Ducking Punches, Wonk Unit, Apologies I Have None, Martha, Darko, The Spook School, Roughneck Riot, Crazy Arm, The Burnt Tapes, Throwing Stuff, Revenge Of The Psychotronic Man and many many more! There will be more information on tickets, venues and bands coming in a few months. Like the MPF Facebook page here to keep up to date with future announcements here.
The best ska punk festival in the world – Level Up Festival – returns next week! The three day event, which takes place at the New Cross Inn in South London, is co-promoted by Be Sharp Promotions, Fishlock Promotion and El Topo Bookings. The original plan for this piece was to do a rundown of the entire festival but Makky Hall of Broken Arrow Magazine has already written a superb preview of Level Up so I feel like the Internet doesn't need another – you can check that out here. Leo of Just Say Nay also wrote a hilarious alternative preview which you should check out here.
So rather than me writing another lengthy preview, I decided to do a top ten picks for the festival. Obviously headline acts such as Random Hand, Lightyear, The Toasters and Dave Hillyard & The Rocksteady Seven will be highlights, as will Faintest Idea, so it seems kind of silly to include them on the list. I've picked ten acts that you might not be so familiar with but you should definitely check out!
Call Me Malcolm You may have heard this already but Call Me Malcolm released the album of the year when I Was Broken When You Got Here dropped in the Spring. I haven't been able to see any of the songs from the new album live yet as I missed the album launch due to illness, I'm still gutted. Seeing them back at the New Cross Inn, which is essentially their home ground, will certainly more than make up for that. Call Me Malcolm will no doubt be a highlight of the entire weekend.
Codename Colin Codename Colin are having a big year. This summer they've already performed at Slam Dunk Festival and supported the Popes Of Chilitown at their album launch party. Now they're back at New Cross Inn to entertain the crowd with their high tempo and energetic ska punk. In true ska punk tradition, Codename Colin aren't shy about putting in some unique covers into set along with some superb originals.
Easydread I don't think I've seen any band more times in the past couple of years than I have Bedfordshire's Easydread. According to my super cool spreadsheet I have to track all the bands I've seen over the years I've seen Easydread five times in the past eighteen months and each time they've blown me away more than the last. This will be my first time seeing them in London and I'm looking forward to seeing them wow the New Cross Inn like they have me so many times already.
Filthy Militia Filthy Militia are one of my favourite discoveries of 2018. Their debut EP, Innocent Until Proven Filthy, is one of the best released this year. Unfortunately I missed their launch party earlier this year, due to being double booked, so I'm really looking forward to finally catching them live. Mixing the best elements of ska punk, two tone and reggae, the five piece are certain to gain plenty of new fans at Level Up. Make sure you're there early to catch them!
Koala Commission Belgium's Koala Commission were the only band on the Level Up line up I'd not heard of before. Naturally I jumped onto Bandcamp to check them out and discovered a band that blend ska, folk, polka, punk and plenty of other styles to create something fantastic. This nine piece are likely to be one of the most impressive acts of the entire weekend. They're going to be loved!
Just Say Nay Just Say Nay were one of our favourite bands from last year's Level Up Festival so I was very pleased that they were chosen as one of only three bands returning to the line-up this year. The eleven piece were so much fun to watch live with their bouncing horn lines and big sing-along choruses. The band are regulars on Be Sharp Promotions ska shows so I expect to see a very enthusiastic crowd for Just Say Nay. I'm also hoping that they play their cover of Cabin Fever from Muppets Treasure Island again. Please!
Last Edition Emma and I have a playlist on Spotify which we call Upcoming Gigs. Can you guess the theme of the playlist? A band that's popped up a lot that we've always thought "oh, I really like this" is Last Edition. Last Edition have actually been going for ten years and I'm yet to see them live so I'm really excited to see some happy, summertime ska pop from this band from Leicester. I can already imagine the sun shining through the New Cross Inn's massive windows as the Level Up crowd joyously have a dance to this great band.
The Pisdicables Last year's Level Up Festival was The Pisdicables' first show back following the tragic death of their organ player Mike Crampton. This year's Level Up will be The Pisdicables final show before they take an extended break from playing shows. The New Cross Inn is certain to give them a massive send off as they are a much loved band at the venue. The Pisdicables are a band that show that all ska doesn't sound the same with some fast paced reggae vibes and plenty of South East London charm.
Pokémon Liberation Army We all love Pokémon, right? And we all hope that they are looked after properly, I assume? Well that's what Bristol's Pokemon Liberation Army aim to ensure. This band are one I've wanted to see live since I first heard about them a few years ago and now I finally have the chance! I'm particularly looking forward to hearing their re-work of the classic Toasters song Don't Let The Bastards Grind You Down – Don't Let The Bastards Catch 'Em All. This is going to be a fun one!
Toodles (Toodles & The Hectic Pity Acoustic) This was a surprising announcement but also a very exciting one. Toodles & The Hectic Pity released one of my favourite EPs last year and I've been itching to see them live. I didn't expect my first time to be an acoustic show at a ska festival. I'll take it though. Toodles plays more of an folk punk style rather than ska, with songs that feature great hooks and big sing-along choruses. Toodles & The Hectic Pity are one of the most exciting new bands in the UK so make sure you take the chance to see them in these more unique of circumstances.
That's ten of my picks for Level Up Festival but in truth the line-up is so stacked I could have written at length about every act of the line-up. The other day we were at the New Cross Inn looking at the poster trying to decide on the best day of the festival. We never came up with a decision as it's packed with amazing acts who deserve all of your attention. Be Sharp, Fishlock and El Topo have done an incredible job putting this line up together. This is going to be one of the best weekends of the year, one that I'm likely to bore my friends by talking about it for a long time. See you there!
You can still buy tickets for Level Up Festival here. You really should!
WILL TUN AND THE WASTERS/IVO Like many, I first got into punk through discovering Rancid’s “…And Out Come The Wolves” and getting into such bands as NoFX, Operation Ivy, Choking Victim etc. through personally and politically relating to the music but it wasn’t until I was 19 that I feel I properly discovered punk lifestyles and the DIY scene. Meeting Will Tun and the Wasters in a small pub in Reading when they supported Tyrannosaurus Alan (a band I discovered a year before, supporting Sonic Boom Six) was the first time I went to a small DIY punk show and I guess it opened my eyes to it. I ended up going to see Will Tun and the Wasters a lot that summer and becoming good friends with them, it helped me see how a DIY punk band worked and how bands can survive without having to be a “big” band on a label and getting on TV etc. If I never became friends with people such as Joe and Ivo from WTATW I definitely wouldn’t ever had started putting on shows or moving to Bristol and my life right now would probably be very different. I include Ivo as an influence under this bracket as well, he used to put on a lot of the DIY ska shows in Reading before me and I guess his mentality and way he organised shows was a direct influence on how I wanted to put together shows, i.e getting your mates together and having a good time! Importantly also a lot of these times the main aim of everything was just to have fun with your friends and that is certainly one of the most important things about life.
SHITTY JOBS AND BEING DEPRESSED A lot of what drew me towards punk shows was basically just not having a good time in life and needing some more from life and something more alternative. Going to shows, either locally or to take the train out of town and the first one back in the morning, to hang with a bunch of mates and see some cool bands at a house show became my much needed escape from reality and a lot of the time was the only time I actually felt ok. When I first started putting on shows I was working a shitty job in a shop for minimum wage, getting shit every day for mundane things such as not stacking shelves fast enough. Getting involved with the punk community and putting on shows definitely gave me a place in the world and it was just what I needed at the time. How much I hated my job and my shit mood definitely spurred me on a lot to be proactive with organising shows and pushing that part of my life as much as I could.
FAINTEST IDEA The first time I ever put on a show it was mostly just intended as a 21st birthday party for myself, however I had been thinking about the idea of organising my own show for a bit but very much doubted my ability to. When it was leading up to it I was just about starting to flake out of the idea, and then Faintest Idea replied to my e-mail offering them to play – they were well up for it and just needed £100. Guess I was putting on a show then. There are many fond memories I hold with that night but one of the best things was my new friendship with Faintest Idea, the day after the show Dani text me saying something along the line of “if you can pull off a banging night like that you should just be a promoter”, this gave me a good bit of encouragement to do more shows so that text alone is an influence in itself. Also just generally getting to know Faintest Idea over the years and their mentality to running their band is a good influence. They are non-stop and hard-working, always up for touring, having new experiences and have a lot of fun along the way while being able to also push their political message.
CHEWING ON TINFOIL If you’re reading this, and you know me, I certainly don’t have to explain just how deeply I love this band. I find Chewing on Tinfoil an inspiration on just how much they hate the actual music industry (ha). The first time I organised a show for them I hadn’t done that many shows, maybe 3. I was absolutely miffed why a band quite as good as them would let me sort them a show but however they are always happy to take a chance on people. One of the first things that really made me respect them was when organising the show they refused to take an actual “guarantee”, they said how much money they ideally needed but made it clear if the show bombed they certainly wouldn’t be demanding money out of me. Their general attitude has always been great, I had only ever put them on at one tiny show in Reading when I e-mailed them and offered them to come from Dublin to play Reading again for my second Fishstock. The fact that they replied and were totally up for it was so fucking cool and I still really respect the fact they did that. Chewy always look out for people and most importantly just want to play fun shows and write incredible music, this year when they came over to make their return to Fishstock (now much bigger and in Bristol) they literally just came over for the one show, basically just to hang out and have fun. It’s not about getting big and pushing their band, they make good, honest music, which is how it should be – no bullshit.
JEFF ROSENSTOCK I can’t even remember how I got into the music of Jeff but I think it was mostly through Bomb The Music Industry. I definitely find the way Jeff does things a big influence, from the way he ran BTMI (spray paint t-shirts and all ages shows) to the way he supported bands he loved through Quote UnQuote Records, giving wide and easy access to a lot of bands that wouldn’t have got much recognition otherwise (I remember downloading the first Chewing on Tinfoil album from there!). Even now that he has started allowing himself to actually make a bit of money from music and releasing through bigger labels such as Polyvinyl, he still does things his way and doesn’t bow down to what is expected in the industry – such as his surprise release of most recent album ‘Post-‘ online for free at the start of this year. It’s also cool to see him doing bands such as Antarctigo Vespucci mostly just to have fun with friends. I love the note on their album – “Altogether this record cost roughly $300 to make. You should make a record too.” If people haven’t already seen it I very much recommend watching the documentary “Never Get Tired: The Bomb The Music Industry Story”, it’s the sort of film you watch and then immediately want to start a band.
THE BRISTOL PUNK SCENE The first time I ever visited Bristol, I ended up being taken to see The Sporadics at The Red Lion and then Magnus Puto at The Attic Bar and both of those shows I was kind of overwhelmed by the crowd. I was deep into promoting in Reading at that point and, although most of my shows were well attended, I realised that if I put those bands on in Reading I would have less than a third of the crowd. Inevitably I ended up moving to Bristol. Although now I think I’ve done pretty well for the local scene, when I first moved it was very daunting organising shows with already so much going on and so many promoters – I didn’t want to tread on any toes. Fortunately the vast majority of people involved with stuff are very friendly and helpful, there isn’t much ego going around just people wanting to make cool shit happen. Even though there is sometimes an over-saturation of shows, active people are very supportive of each other and everyone tries their best to work together. It’s cool seeing stuff happen, from people setting up squat shows to seeing venues such as Exchange run in such a pro-music manner – everyone is doing it for their love of it!
MAINLAND EUROPE TOURS If you have been lucky enough to tour around some of the mainland Europe countries then this is preaching to the choir. They really know how to do things over there, you can rock up to a random squat in a random Dutch town and they will give you a few crates of beer, have loads of delicious homemade food for you. The gig will be fun, everyone will be friendly and buy your merch, you’ll have a cool place to crash, you'll meet some amazing people and at the end of the night they will put a load of Euros in your hand. It’s so good. I’ve been lucky enough to have been involved with a few tours as well as booking some myself and it never ceases to amaze me just how well people get treated there and how incredible a lot of their spaces are. It’s a stark difference from touring the UK and every time I get home from one I’m a mixture of inspired to do cool stuff and depressed that I’m no longer on tour. It’s the best possible experience you can have and seeing the way some shows are run over there definitely makes me try and bring an influence of that with the shows that I put on.
TOMAS KALNOKY I often think I can achieve more but then sometimes I also think I’m too young or too old and can achieve nothing. Someone who I find a big influence in being productive (even if it's what feels like 1 zillion years between album sometimes) is Tomas Kalnoky, for example how utterly brilliant is the song-writing of the album Keasbey Nights? That album came out when Kalnoky was a few months into being 18 I believe Which in the time it takes to record, produce and release an album, you can assume that pretty much all those songs he wrote before he was 18? How mad is that, some of those songs are absolute perfection and the fact that he can write an album that well at such a young age should be an inspiration to all. Along with this the powerful music of Streetlight Manifesto and the poetic lyrics Tomas writes have certainly helped me through some pretty hard times and for that I’ll always hold him up as someone I have upmost respect for. Also respect for anyone who flees a country to avoid military service and anyone who spends a large amount of years, money and energy to get away from a maniac big label who just fucks bands over constantly while coming out the otherside owning all the masters for your own music and keeping your band going independently!
OUR BAND COULD BE YOUR LIFE BY MICHAEL AZERRAD This is the best book about music ever written. In great detail it takes you through 13 bands on the American indie underground scene between 1981 and 1991, including bands such as Black Flag, The Minutemen, Sonic Youth, Fugazi and a bunch more. All these bands were pre-Nirvana so didn’t get that chance for much wider appeal in the 90s. That means many of them were very much slogging it in small vans around the US, all these bands were doing it for how much they cared and were into the music and this book perfectly chronicles it. It shows the incredibly DIY and personal nature of these bands which is the interesting and influential part of this book. This is a must read for any band keen on going on tour and doing things their own way. A particular band I learnt a lot from in this book is The Minutemen, I very much appreciate their ‘We Jam Econo’ mentality, where they tried to survive on as little money as possible to push their band forward. In a day when your band can only get successful through paying for big PR campaigns and booking agents etc. I think that The Minutemen existed and said you don’t need loads of money or musical ability to write some interesting songs and go on tour and be a band – it is certainly inspiring. On the subject of The Minutemen, it’s definitely also worth watching the documentary on them called ‘We Jam Econo’.
FRIENDS I definitely don’t mean the TV show! I mean that my actual friends are the biggest influence on me. I’ve already talked about Will Tun and the Wasters, Faintest Idea and Chewing On Tinfoil so maybe I’m rinsing this a bit but, more so than anyone that I’ve grown up idolising, my friends are what really keep me going. Ever since my first show I’ve had lots of friends pat me on the back and give me encouragement to keep going but also bands I’m friends with keep making inspiring music and doing inspiring things that I can’t help but be influenced by these things myself. Seeing people such as Paul Smith smash out constant massive shows at New Cross Inn, Faintest Idea touring Japan, Captain Accident supporting Toots and the Maytals on tour, all my friends doing well either on a big or small scale is always good encouragement to keep going and making cool stuff happen. At Fishstock this year, part-way through Cistem Failure’s set, I was presented with a picture signed by many friends at the show and to see those nice messages from people saying to keep doing what I’m doing is so nice. I can get down and jaded a lot and it’s always bands that I’m friends with who help me through and pick me back up and the fun shows we have full of friends make me realise just how important this stuff is. On Friday night just passed, as I write this, a team of us had organised a show for Austeros’ last ever show and the actual night filled me with so much love from and for people that it really reminds me that I should keep going. Collaborating with friends is great, having a full venue where most people there are your friend, having a band like Austeros care about you enough that they’ll play the song they stopped playing over 3 years ago that you’ve been bugging them for ever since as their encore. It’s moments like that I live for and influence me to keep going – the night before I took the words ‘I’ve Got This’ from an Austeros song and had my friend stick-and-poke tattoo them onto my arm. Those words will live there forever as a reminder of how great this community is and how we should keep hold of it and keep going. Even when I feel hopeless, I will know that thanks to my friends, I’ve got this.
Fishlock is also one third of the promoters putting on Level Up Festival in South London on 20th–22nd of July. Check out all the details you need for the festival here: https://www.facebook.com/lupfest/
Swan Prince are a four piece pop punk band from Redditch. The band, consisting of Rachel Blewett (guitar/vocals), Jamie Ruston (guitar), Dan Marr (bass) and Josh Stockwin (drums), only formed in September of 2017 but are quickly making a name for themselves throughout the UK's underground punk rock scene. In June they released their debut EP Never Look Back. Knowing that Swan Prince are influenced by some CPRW favourites in the form of Bad Cop Bad Cop and The Bombpops, I was keen to check out Never Look Back.
Never Look Back begins with the song Disguise. This is everything you would expect from a melodic pop punk song. Immediately the melody catches you and hooks you into the song, like a fisherman with a tasty bit piece of bait. The song really comes into its own when it gets to the chorus. It's one you'll learn the words to very quickly and will remain in your head for a long time. Disguise is about learning the truth about someone and seeing through the pretence they have been putting on. The New Normal has a bit more of a downbeat feel to it and maybe even a slightly darker sound. Blewett's vocal reflects this as it doesn't hit the same highs as it did on Disguise. That said, it's a song packed with hooks. The "whoa-ohs" that begin the song quickly have me wanting to see where the song goes and I feel like they'll be fun at a Swan Prince live show. The New Normal is a track about dealing with mental health issues and trying to accept them in your everyday life.
Running On Empty brilliantly blends skate and pop punk. The band play hard and fast as an accompaniment to Blewett's sugary sweet vocal. Musically I'm sort of reminded of Pennywise, which is not something I really imagined I'd be saying about a band who describe themselves as a pop punk band. Josh Stockwin's drumming really stands out here. The final song is titled Find The Answer and is about trying to solve life's problems and to be happy. I've said many times on CPRW that I love when a final song on a release feels like a final song and Find The Answer definitely does that. There is a wonderful moment of building on the outro of the song that adds a feeling of epicness to the track, giving it a big feel.
Never Look Back is an EP that showcases a band with a huge upside. Swan Prince have written four great pop punk tracks that are not only great fun but lyrically very important. They help you to see that you're not alone and there are many people going through the same thing as you. The more bands that do this the better! Are Swan Prince on their way to becoming the next big thing in the UK punk scene? Perhaps it's too soon to say but I wouldn't bet against it.
O’Holy Ghost are a relatively new London-based four-piece that we have been aware of for a little while at CPRW HQ. Colin and I saw them play The Burnt Tapes’ EP release show (for Alterations) last summer which I believe was one of their first gigs together as a band – if not their actual first, I can’t quite remember. I do however remember that I really enjoyed watching them play and so when Colin mentioned to the team that he’d been sent their debut EP I was keen to take a listen. Featuring five brand new songs as well one that was previously released (on Spotify, at least), TRVTH is out on the 13th of July. Here’s what I thought of my early listen…
Kicking the EP off is a song called Across The Pond and, as this is the first ‘single’ from TRVTH, you can actually already listen to this one online – which you should, because it’s great. I was a little surprised when I first hit play on this track as I’m fairly certain that alongside the opening guitar melody there is some harmonica, adding a touch of folk to their straight-up punk rock sound that I recalled previously. If so, then you can consider me pleasantly surprised as I love a bit of harmonica – but I could also be completely wrong and it’s a guitar or something. The song is for the most part a relatively mid tempo one but that doesn’t stop it from packing a punch. Across The Pond is an anthem for escapism with the chorus offering a big singalong opportunity supporting this theme – ‘Let’s go anywhere, With anyone, Across the pond.’ What a great start. Next up is the aptly titled Grunger. I say aptly as, in contrast to the first song, this is quite a grunge-sounding number to begin with. Featuring a heavy bassline and some steady but firm drums, Grunger starts out with quite a slow pace. The opening vocal lines, which sound very polished and clean compared to the instruments, are distinct – ‘I’ve been trying to figure out, Why I’ve not been sleeping…’ As the song progresses, the instruments seem to get louder, faster and more intent – I was definitely doing a bit of headbanging whilst listening. Lyrically, O’Holy Ghost focus on repeating several lines such as those mentioned earlier and ‘You kept me up all night.’ There’s a great distinction between two vocalist in Grunger, particularly at the end when each voice is singing different parts, which works really well.
I Am A Jinx is the song I was referring to in my intro as having been previously released – and therefore I had already listened to it prior to hearing the full EP. Thankfully I love the song so am more than happy to see it included on TRVTH. Picking the pace up, I Am A Jinx has a lovely instrumental introduction that is a bit reminiscent of Iron Chic which is never a bad thing. The vocals, however, are not so Lubrano but they are delivered with such a great intensity and bring a feeling of urgency to the song. I Am A Jinx is about feeling like you’re always making a mess of things and bringing bad luck into certain situations. The highlight of the song absolutely has to be the bridge which starts out very softly as the two vocalists sing alternate lines of ‘Don’t you know the songs we sing, Don’t mean a thing to anyone / Chords and melodies forgotten, I was hoping you would sing along. (x2)’ before the intensity is once again cranked up for a superb singalong moment – ‘Well don’t say that it’s over, When the pen has run dry and you scream, Just one more verse.’ As if fuelled by the previous song’s fire, the fourth track, Tio, doesn’t waste any time in kicking off. The opening line of ‘Hey Tio, Good to see you’re doing well.’ is more yelled than sung but it’s passionate rather than simply being raw-sounding. Tio, slightly oddly, reminds me of Great Cynics and their song Want You Around – Chunky. Musically, the two songs are not all that similar but both tracks seems to be written about dear friends. This song is basically O’Holy Ghost’s way of telling Tio that ‘It’s good to know you, It’s nice to be known, And if you’re drinking, You won’t be drinking alone.’ Who doesn’t appreciate an honest song about friendship?
Saudade is the title of the penultimate track and, I must admit, I had to look up the word to even know what it meant. ‘Saudade’ is a word of Portuguese origin that means a feeling of longing, melancholy or nostalgia. Personally I love a bit of that in my punk rock. The song opens with a big catchy guitar riff and it isn’t long before those true punk rock singalong-inducing verses and choruses come into play. Despite the title of this song, it actually feels like the opposite of melancholy and more like an angry and defiant gesture against those that might want to drag you down. I dare you to listen to the chorus and not want to sing along – ‘We’ll do this forever, We keep telling ourselves that we’re doing just fine, We’ll do this forever, To the end of our days, And I swear I’ll see you in hell.’ Unfortunately that brings us to the last song of TRVTH, Divorce. Anger and frustration vented in the last song, Divorce begins with some pleasantly jangly guitars and some soft ahh-ahh-ahhs that feel more indie or dream pop than punk rock, at least until the slightly more rough-around-the-edges vocals come in. It’s a combination that not only really works but sounds fresh compared to the rest of the EP – in fact, the whole EP has a very nice variety in sounds. Of course, with a title like ‘divorce’ this is going to be a somewhat bitter track but it also offers up the idea that you can be forgiven for your mistakes and that you are not necessarily a bad person because of things you’ve done. ‘You’re not the first, You’re not the last, My friend you are forgiven.’
O’Holy Ghost are playing a free entry release show for the EP on Thursday 26th July at The Cavendish Arms, London, with Sam Russo, Mean Caesar and Modern Shakes. Check the Facebook event for all the details.
Like O’Holy Ghost on Facebook for updates on where you can find TRVTH when it is released on 13th July!
When I first found out the Chicago four piece The Brokedowns were releasing a new LP I was stoked. The band play some of the best Midwestern punk rock around and, in my opinion, are incredibly underrated. Hopefully the release of Sick Of Space on Red Scare Industries will help to change that and get them the recognition they really deserve.
The first of the thirteen tracks on Sick Of Space is named The One True Freak. Starting out with just guitar and vocals, The Brokedowns welcome us into the album in a way that quickly gets you invested. Soon enough the full band comes in and the track really explodes into life. Then before you know it we're onto the next song, The Fort. The Fort is not only my favourite song on the album but one of my favourites of the entire year so far. It starts out with a great bass line and a simple drum beat. The song isn't the most melodic musically, with the band choosing to go down a stabby to the point route. It's the vocals where the track gets its melody from. The contrast in stabby music and melodic vocals works really well and certainly grabs my attention. The third song, Cave Trash / Dumpster Embassy, really sees The Brokedowns at their most intense. Everything about this song feels ramped up to the max – drums are hit harder, guitars are strummed with more force and there is so much more venom coming out of the vocals.
Pardon The Light is a song about privileged people complaining about trivial things that most people wouldn't care about. You know the popular phrase "first world problems", that's what this song looks to fight against. The Brokedowns are brilliantly insightful on this song. I love the metaphor in the chorus of "from where I sit on roasting on the spit you seem fine." This is a great working class anthem. Trauma Czars reminds me of Off With Their Heads, which is always a wonderful thing. It brilliantly treads the line between fist in your air sing-along punk rock and something a bit harder and darker. Up next is the album's title track, Sick Of Space. This is a classic chunk of Midwestern punk rock music. It doesn't reinvent the genre but is a great addition to the classic songs of this style of punk rock. Musically it's pretty stripped back with some simple patterns that never look to over-complicate matters. The snappy vocals hook you in and when the whole band joins in for the chorus my heart does a little flutter. I do love me some gang vocals. The song is about how the people in charge aren't in touch with what the common working class person wants and needs.
I had a lot of fun listening to Shitty Little League. It, again, shows a nice contrast of styles with some in your face hard punk rock and then a more alternative rock style. I really enjoyed the hard punk rock particularly, The Brokedowns play this style so well and it got me so pumped up. The eighth song, Kings Of The Dust, is another big highlight on Sick Of Space. The tempo is upped for the opening verse of the track giving it a more conventional sound. When we get to the chorus we are treated to more delightful gang vocals. I loved the trade off between a single vocal and the gang on the chorus. It gives an extra element that really adds to the track. Guy Shit is a shorter track that deals with the problems being a man can deal you. The track is a rumbler with a slightly distorted sound making for some interesting listening. This distorted sound gives the song more of a serious and darker tone than you might expect from a band like The Brokedowns. America's Riff is another short one, coming in at only fifty-six seconds in length. It features an intense vocal declaring that the United States Of America needs a riff to unite the country and this is it.
The eleventh song is titled Led Zeppelin III. It has more of a classic rock and indie style to accompany the gruff Midwestern punk. These styles shouldn't work as well as they do here. The Brokedowns appear to have pulled off the almost impossible. There is a guitar riff that puts a massive smile on my face between having the urge to sing-along with every single word. The penultimate song is the brilliantly titled Mommy, Can I Go Out And Chill Tonight? This is a mid-tempo track that's almost a bit chilled out compared to the rest of Sick Of Space. This is quite welcome as there's been so much going on so far I'm exhausted. As it turns out, chilled out for The Brokedowns is superb. I'm more relaxed and I still want to throw my fists up and sing-along with every word. The final track on Sick Of Space is named Ancient Memes. The album finished with what is without a doubt in my mind the most serious song of the thirteen featured. The vocals feel genuinely angry here and a little scary. Even when we reach the chorus, The Brokedowns feel really pissed off. This is such a ferocious way to finish the album and I really dig it.
This album is The Brokedowns best work to date and should see them move on to even better things. It takes the Midwestern gruff punk formula and gives it a fresh coat of paint. This is one of the most varied albums in this genre I've listened to in sometime and it's brilliant.